4th in The Hour Series series

The Hour Series

Yin Again

Anchors and Holds

Part One

Xander's fingers were twisted tightly into the white-blond hair of the man kneeling in front of him. He threw his own long, dark curls out of his face as he slammed forward, burying himself brutally into his partner. He lunged forward, mouth open, zeroing in on the spot where neck and shoulder met.

"Spike!" he groaned, as his orgasm thundered through him. Just before his teeth could connect with tanned skin, the blond man spoke.

"Christ, Xander - no biting - I have a shirtless scene tomorrow!" Xander rolled to his side, still unable to speak through the loud panting of his release. He stripped the used condom off of his softening erection and flung it toward the trashcan. It missed.

The blond rolled in the opposite direction and reached onto the bedside table for a bottle of water. He looked at the dark man appraisingly.

"I know we're just fuck buddies and all, Xan, but if you aren't going to call me by the right name, could you just fall back on the generic "Baby" or something? You're gonna give me a complex." Xander reached up to resettle his slightly askew eye patch, and then tucked both hands under his head. He looked into the other man's green eyes, which were shining with suppressed mirth.

"Jason," he said patiently. "You are an actor - I'm not gonna take responsibility for you having a complex of any kind." Jason pouted for a moment, then smiled and relaxed onto the bed. He reached out and tousled Xander's hair.

"Who's Spike?" he asked kindly. At the question, Xander sat up and propped himself against the headboard. He rubbed one hand across his face.

"He was ...my friend, my lover. He died." Jason reached out again and squeezed Xander's shoulder.

"Oh, man. I'm sorry. How long ..." Xander cut him off with a short laugh.

"We knew each other for five years or so. We were more or less friends for a year or two. We were lovers for six days."

"Is that his name or something?" Jason asked, gesturing to the small tattoo on the back of Xander's right wrist. It was a Chinese character, located where the face of Xander's wristwatch would cover it. Jason had noticed that Xander always rubbed it after they had sex, but this was the first time he'd asked about it. This was also the first time Xander had called out a name during sex. Xander looked down at his own fingers as they traced the strokes of the mark. He smiled.

"It says 'six days', actually," he said in a low voice, "so I don't forget." Jason nodded.

"How long has he been gone?" Xander took a deep breath and released it slowly.

"A hundred and forty-one days today," he said. The blond man considered that for a minute.

"Oh - did he die in the earthquake?"


The earthquake. Xander snorted to himself as he stepped into the hotel room's shower after kicking Jason out. That's how the rest of the world had categorized the closing of the Hellmouth and the destruction of the entire town of Sunnydale. Earthquake. Biiiiiig earthquake. He giggled helplessly for a moment, and then got a grip on himself before the giggles could turn to sobs. Nudging the handle to make the water just a little bit cooler, he grabbed the bottle of body wash and scrubbed himself clean.

The body wash was an expensive designer scent for which he paid entirely too much. Xander didn't care. One benefit of the whole earthquake ruse was that Sunnydale had been declared a state and federal disaster area. Both FEMA and the State of California had flitted around, handing out checks to any "Sunnydale Survivors" they could find. Xander had collected one of each happily, and then had been shocked to receive several more - he had been listed as Anya's beneficiary. He'd gotten not only her disaster relief checks, but also her fairly large life insurance policy and her very impressive investment portfolio.

Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Robin, Giles, Andrew and those of the new slayers who had established residency in Sunnydale had also received checks. The money had gone a long way to ease the transitions they were all going through. Buffy and Dawn had settled in at the hotel with Angel. Buffy and Angel were trying to get to know one another as friends, while the girls were trying to reconcile with their father. They were both in school. Buffy had started at UCLA, and Giles had found a private school that catered to a diverse student body - Dawn was taking both college prep and ancient and demonic language courses.

Giles had taken Willow, Kennedy and Andrew with him to England to help rebuild the Watcher's Council. Willow was to be Kennedy's Watcher, while also teaching magic at the Watcher's Academy. Andrew, who had become much more serious and subdued after the final battle, was working as the Council's librarian. Faith and Wood had struck up an odd but solid romantic bond, and had taken a group of slayers to Cleveland, to patrol what was now the main Hellmouth. Some of the other girls had returned to their parents, some had gone to England, and a few had stayed in LA to work with Buffy.

It had seemed to Xander at the time that everyone except for him had a place. Angel and his crew were busy running their formerly evil law firm (a concept Xander still couldn't get his head around); the slayers and proto-Watchers all had things to do; everyone had a life to lead. Except him. Xander found himself, for the first time ever, with the freedom and resources to do pretty much whatever he wanted. As it turned out, the first thing he wanted was to drink himself into an exquisite state of numbness every single night for three weeks.

After the twentieth night in a row that Angel or Wes or Gunn or Buffy had pulled Xander's limp form out of the bushes and into the hotel in the early morning hours, his friends had staged an intervention of sorts. Their main argument had been that "Anya wouldn't have wanted him to be like this". He couldn't argue there - she probably wouldn't have. Not that he cared. He told his friends what they wanted to hear, then went up to the roof with a gallon of water and a bottle of Advil and stayed there until he was completely sober. It took a while.

During that long day, he had forced himself to sit in a lounge chair on the roof of the hotel and let the feelings come. He had cried until his shirt was soaked, then laughed until he cried again, remembering every single detail of the six days that he and Spike were lovers. Then he went back and tried to remember every snide remark, insult or joke the arrogant vampire had ever tossed his way. Finally spent, he had closed his eyes and slept. When he awoke, the sun was rising. He looked into the first rays of the sun and admitted to himself that he loved Spike. He whispered the words onto the soft breeze that heralded the sunrise, then gathered up his things and walked downstairs to start his new life.

That afternoon, he had gone scouting for a new apartment, settling on an overpriced one-bedroom three blocks from the beach in Santa Monica. He had called around to some other "Sunnydale Survivor" contacts and had found a job as a construction foreman for a television production company. He had done the LA thing - going to IKEA and blowing $6000 on quirky Scandinavian furniture and accessories. He had then blown twice that much on electronics, simply because he was male and had the money and he could.

Upon moving in to his new place, he had finally completely unpacked the duffle bag that had accompanied him out of Sunnydale. The moment his fingers had closed on Spike's Zippo, he'd lost it, folding himself onto the floor and sobbing like a brokenhearted child. The digital camera had sat untouched for days, because he knew what it held. In a moment of disgust with himself for being such a pansy (ponce - he had thought to himself, giving the word a special Spike inflection) he had downloaded the pictures to his brand new, state-of-the-art computer and printed them on his brand new photo printer. He had tucked the two of himself into a drawer. He had spent a good hour staring at the two of Spike.

The one of the just-kissed vampire drew him strongly, but the other - the one of Spike's typical sardonic, too-cool-for-the-room countenance had torn him apart. He couldn't stop the tears. Xander had sat on the edge of his bed and let them flow, mourning his lost love. When the storm of emotions had passed, he had gone out and purchased wood and tools, then spent the next two days making a pair of beautiful frames for the photos, placing them on his bedside table with the lighter.

His new job was fun - building sets for one of the weekly shows produced by his company, a military drama. Xander made friends with a few other crewmembers, and a couple of the actors, one of whom was Jason, the male lead of the series. Jason was openly bisexual, vain, and flighty, and Xander found him easy to be around. Jason rarely asked Xander to reveal anything personal; he was much more interested in detailing the wild and crazy life of a successful young star to his quietly amused friend.

Xander counted the days. On the fiftieth day after Spike's death, Xander had gotten the tattoo. On the one hundredth day, he had gotten completely drunk with Jason and several other friends, and had woken up with a massive hangover, accompanied by the particular brand of soreness and lethargy that indicated that he'd gotten royally laid the previous night. He had called Jason in a blind panic. The actor had assured his friend that they had been safe, that their friendship was unaffected and that Xander had been a tiger in the sack. Xander had hung up the phone and stumbled to the bathroom to throw up until there was nothing left inside him.

After a weekend of self-recriminations, Xander had dragged himself to work, where the crew hounded him about his alcohol consumption and Jason acted like absolutely nothing had changed. Xander spent two days studiously avoiding his friend until Jason cornered him and demanded to know what the problem was, laughing away the awkwardness and explaining to Xander that sometimes you just needed a fuck buddy in this weird world - it didn't have to mean anything if they didn't want it to. They'd slept together four or five more times, never in Xander's bed, and the arrangement suited them both.

This most recent encounter happened while the show was shooting location work in upstate New York, where Jason complained endlessly about the lack of nightlife and excitement until Xander finally invited him into his hotel room with an offer of "something to put in your mouth so you'll shut the fuck up." Jason happily accepted. They had four more days to go on the location shoot, and Xander found himself missing his new home acutely.

Once out of the shower, Xander slipped into workout clothes and pulled his wet hair back into a short ponytail. He smiled as he did so, remembering his vow to kill Dawn if she referred to it as "My Pretty Ponytail" one more time. She had laughed and threatened to find a baldness curse for him if he tried. He grabbed his keys and cell phone, dropping the instrument on the floor when it rang as soon as he picked it up.

"Harris," he barked into the tiny phone.

"Xan, it's Buffy."

Xander smiled, happy to hear from his friend. "What's shakin', Buff?" he asked.

"Um, when are you coming home?" Her tone was uncertain.

"About mid-day on Friday," he replied. "Why, you need me for something?"

She hesitated. "There's something here that you need to see," she said.

"Gosh, Buff - evasive much?" he replied. She sighed, but didn't say anything. He waited, and then spoke, "Is this Hellmouth-y stuff?"

She sighed again. "You could say that."

He nodded sharply, forgetting that she couldn't see him. "OK. I'm there. I can probably get a flight out tomorrow afternoon. I'll call you when I get into town."

Her relief was almost palpable. "Thanks, Xan," she said.

He smiled into the phone. "I'll be there as soon as I can. Love you," he said.

"Love you, too," she replied, and disconnected the call.

Xander closed the phone and placed it back on the dresser. He smiled as he thought of Buffy's parting words. Since the "earthquake", all of the Scoobies had gotten much more demonstrative - exchanging kisses and hugs hello and goodbye, and always telling each other "love you" when they parted. Even Giles had gotten in on the overflowing Scooby-affection, though in typically British fashion. He was more likely to give Xander the "One-armed Hug of Uptight Manliness" and he signed off his telephone conversations with either "take care" or "be well", but it was progress.

The LA gang had been completely freaked out about it at first, but Cordelia and Fred had jumped right into the spirit of things quickly. Angel, Wes and, to a lesser extent, Gunn were still terribly uncomfortable with the casual affection and bore the occasional spontaneous hug from the women with good grace and pained expressions. Dawn in particular loved to torment Angel, making a point of hugging him at least once a day, which made her the coolest person alive in Gunn's eyes. The two had formed an odd sort of friendship and often spent hours on the Playstation in the hotel lobby. Dawn seemed to help take the edge off Gunn's standoffishness, and Xander often thought that she helped ease the dark man's pain over the loss of his sister.

Xander picked up his phone again and called his boss in LA. He explained that he had a "family problem" to take care of and received permission to leave the set and take the rest of the week off. He then called his lead carpenter and gave instructions for the rest of the work to be done, as well as the dismantling of the sets and their shipment back to California. Several phone calls later, and he was hurriedly packing for a late flight that would get him to LAX in the early hours of the next morning.

After the plane landed, Xander stumbled through the airport along with the other late-night travel zombies and decided that he'd call Buffy as soon as he got up later in the day. He fell asleep during the cab ride home, over-tipped the driver, and then dragged himself to bed. Waking at about ten-thirty, he was happy to see the early fall sunshine of his home state - much appreciated after the overcast dreariness of New York.

He showered, shaved and dressed in a pair of impeccably fitted khaki shorts, a blue, silk tee shirt and expensive leather sandals. The girls had insisted that part of his newfound wealth be spent on a decent wardrobe, and Xander had to admit that the clothes did indeed help to make the man - he looked good and he felt good. He left his hair unbound, knowing it would dry into loose waves that had been artfully cut to frame his face and partially cover the eye patch.

Xander exited his building and stopped at the Starbucks on the corner, grabbing a complicated coffee drink and a huge muffin before retrieving his car from the underground parking. In light of the beauty of the day, he put the top down and cranked the stereo up to top volume. He ejected the CD that was in the player, a mix of Patsy Cline, Blue Rodeo and Leonard Cohen that Buffy called the "Disc of Despair", and replaced it with the latest effort from Fatboy Slim - a gift from Dawn. Halfway to the Hyperion, he realized he had forgotten his phone. Oh, well, he thought, somebody's bound to be up and about.

Twenty minutes later he was ready to offer a ritual sacrifice to the gods of parking when a space opened up only a block from the hotel. He pulled in, put the top up and levered himself out of the car, brushing muffin crumbs out of his lap. He walked to the hotel and let himself in through the ornate double doors.

"Hello? Anybody around?" he called. Buffy came bounding into the lobby and flung herself at her friend. He lifted her off the ground and swung her in a circle, kissing her lightly on the lips before setting her on her feet. She was wearing a halter top and shorts, her hair was clipped messily on top of her head, and she was barefoot.

"You made it!" she exclaimed, "And so fast - you're like Superman."

Xander gave her a look of mock offense. "I'll have you know I wear my underwear under my pants, thank you very much." He took her hand and they started walking through the lobby. "So, what's the big what that made me get on a plane in the dead of night?"

Her hand tightened on his convulsively for a moment and she gave him a nervous smile. "There's something you need to see, Xan. In the courtyard," she said. Xander followed obediently, not really noticing her nervousness. They approached the doors to the courtyard, and Buffy released his hand. She turned so that they were face-to-face, and she looked at him very seriously. "There's nothing I can say to prepare you for this, Xander, so I'm not going to try. Go out there - there's someone waiting for you." He tilted his head and opened his mouth to ask a question, but she cut him off. "Just go." She started pushing him forward. As he opened the door he glanced back at her. "Love you, Xan," she said, and turned and walked down the hall.

He stepped out into the bright sunshine and saw a person standing in the center of the courtyard with his back to the doors. Xander took in the man's bleached blond hair and black jeans and tee before his legs buckled and he sank to his knees on the ground with the words "Love you" still falling from his lips.

Warm hands caught Xander's upper arms, and glittering blue eyes peered into his face. Xander's mouth fell open, but no words came. Spike smiled and dropped to his knees, still holding Xander up.

"I missed you, love," he said quietly. Xander raised his right hand and placed it in the center of Spike's chest. He stared open-mouthed while Spike's heart thudded strongly beneath it.

"Are - are you real?" Xander asked, staring up into his lover's eyes. Spike gently enfolded the shaking man in his arms.

"I'm real, and I'm alive, and I'm back, Xander. I'm here with you." Xander wrapped his arms around Spike and crushed the slighter man to his chest.

"I love you," he whispered. "I love you, Spike. I love you."

Part Two

They stayed on their knees in the courtyard for long moments, clinging together until Spike finally shifted away and rose to his feet, pulling Xander along. The dark man wiped his face and ran his fingers under the patch to brush away the tears there. Spike stepped back and swept his eyes over Xander from head to toe.

"You look good," he drawled, leering. Xander's laugh threatened to turn into a sob, but he got control of it at the last second.

"You...you look pretty good yourself. A sight for sore eye, even." They exchanged a smirk.

"A hundred and forty one days and you don't have a better eye joke than that?" Spike asked.

"A hundred and forty two days," Xander corrected automatically. Spike tilted his head.

"Nope, today is a hundred and forty two - but it doesn't count, now does it?" Xander placed his hand on Spike's face. "You're so warm. It's so weird," he marveled.

Spike laughed and covered Xander's hand with his own. "It has taken some getting used to," he said dryly. Their hands moved together gently against Spike's cheek, and the blond's eyes closed in pleasure. He opened his eyes and looked into Xander's face. "Did you mean it, pet?" he asked, his voice cracking with emotion.

Xander leaned forward and rested their foreheads together. He swallowed convulsively. "Yeah, Spike, I meant it. I mean it." He stepped back and put a little space between them. Xander reached down and pulled off his watch.

Spike looked down at the uncovered tattoo. He reached out one finger to touch it. "What's it say, Xan?"

Xander reached down and traced the tattoo with one finger alongside Spike's. "Six days," he said quietly. Spike brought the other man's wrist to his mouth and kissed the spot with warm lips and a tiny hint of tongue. Xander shivered. Their gazes locked and heat flared between them. Spike released Xander's wrist, and they each took in a deep breath.

Xander was ready to pull the slighter man to him and kiss him senseless when Buffy's voice came floating through the courtyard.

"Yeah," she said, "let's eat out here - it's not like we're gonna get Spike out of the sun anytime soon, anyway." Her comment was met with appreciative laughter from Fred and Cordelia, who trailed behind her.

Xander took a self-conscious step back from Spike and turned to meet the two brunette women with hugs and kisses, which they happily returned. Buffy led the group over to a large picnic table situated in the shade, where they all settled, with Xander making sure to sit next to Spike, leaning slightly against the other man to reassure himself that he was real. "Where's Dawnie?" he inquired casually.

Buffy turned and grimaced at him. "I made her go to school - she had a test this morning."

Xander grinned at her. "Fyarl or Babylonian?"

Buffy's grimace turned into a rueful smile. "Math," she said.

Xander's eyes widened. "Oooooh, scary!"

Buffy nodded her head. "No kidding. She better not flunk it, either!" They laughed together.

Spike looked up at Buffy hopefully. "Did you say something about lunch, Slayer?" His voice was pitiful, but his eyes shone with mirth.

She reached over and patted him on the shoulder. "Relax, Food-boy - Wes is bringing Thai," she said in a teasing tone.

Spike and Xander both said, "Yum!" and then laughed at each other. Xander was happy to see that Spike and Buffy treated each other more like friends or siblings than former lovers.

As the girls chattered happily, Xander looked at Spike. "When do I get the story?" he asked.

Spike took the other man's hand under the table and squeezed it. "Over lunch - some of the others have bits and pieces, but it'll be easier if I just tell it through once." Xander squeezed back, and the two men exchanged brilliant smiles. Neither noticed all three women's "Awwwwww" looks and soft smiles.

The doors to the courtyard opened, and a bag-laden Wesley strode out, followed by Dawn, who was skipping along beside him, carrying a large tray full of paper plates and beverages. Dawn plopped her burden onto the table and flung herself at her sister. They hugged.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you for letting me come back after my test - which I'm pretty sure I passed!" Dawn squealed. The bouncing teenager made a circuit of the table, exchanging hugs and kisses with everyone. She squeezed herself between Spike and Xander, who parted reluctantly, and started dealing plates around the table like cards. Wes and Xander exchanged more subdued greetings, and Cordelia and Fred unpacked lunch and passed paper cartons around the table.

Xander laughed out loud at the sheer volume and variety of food that Spike placed on his plate. The blond grinned at him and dug in. They chatted and laughed while they ate, passing the cartons around, stealing from each other's plates and generally having a friendly meal. Finally they packed all the trash away and everyone's eyes turned to Spike, who preened under the attention until Dawn dug an elbow into his ribs.

"OK, OK - keep your sharp little bits to yourself, Bit," he complained. "I'll tell." He shifted around on the bench, and then looked longingly at the sun-drenched green lawn outside the shady area where they were seated. Xander noticed and spoke up.

"Hey, can we move out in the sun? I've been in the New York fog for days and my tan is suffering." Amid laughter they relocated to the lawn and sprawled into comfortable positions.

Spike leaned back onto his hands and looked up at the blue sky.

"I still can't believe I'm in the sun. " His tone was so quiet and wistful that the others unconsciously leaned toward him, and Xander pressed his shoulder lightly against Spike's. The blond man looked around at the faces of those gathered and smiled.

"I woke up in a hospital - a loony bin, really. They said I'd been there for a week, in a coma. Once I woke up, I couldn't remember much. I - uh, well, apparently, I freaked out the first time the sun fell on me." He ducked his head against his shoulder, and Xander was startled to see a faint blush on the other man's pale skin.

"Screamed like a schoolgirl, I did," Spike continued. "'Course, once I realized I wasn't on fire I noticed a few little things like having a heartbeat and a pulse and all.

"Over the next few days I started remembering things a little at a time. I slept a lot. They eventually started telling me stuff. There were several other people there who'd been found in the desert after the 'earthquake'," Spike snorted, and there were rolled eyes and nods from the others. "I was brought in by campers who found me - about a month ago." He shook his head, still not able to believe all the things that had happened in such a short time. "Over the three weeks I was awake at the hospital I remembered things little by little. Two days ago I finally remembered a key piece of information - Angel's cell phone number. I called, and he sent Watcher, Jr. here," he gestured toward Wes, who grinned, "to pick me up. Any questions?'

"Yeah - what happened to you under the school?" Xander asked.

"The amulet channeled sunlight - it went through me and killed all the uglies," Spike explained. "That was the 'cleansing power' Angel talked about. It burned right through me and vaporized everything. It was ...it was awesome. And it hurt like hell." Dawn laid her head on his shoulder and wrapped her arm around his waist.

"Where did you go after that?" she asked.

"Dunno, Bit. I don't have a bloody clue - all I know is that I woke up in hospital with everyone lookin' at me and asking me questions." Spike ran his fingers through Dawn's long hair and twirled a lock around his fingers.

"So, what exactly happened?" Xander asked. "How can you be alive?" He couldn't keep his voice from cracking just a little on the final word.

Wes looked at Xander. "Shanshu," he said.

"God bless you," Xander joked. "No, seriously; what's a shanshu?"

Wes sighed. "There's a prophecy that the vampire with a soul, once he has completed his purpose, will be made human. We, um, always assumed it referred to Angel." Everyone was quiet for a moment.

Dawn broke the uncomfortable silence. "What did you remember first?" she asked.

Spike frowned. "I would remember faces and voices, then odd little flashes - like I remembered sitting in my old crypt with you, telling ghost stories, but I couldn't remember who you were. I remembered being chained up in the Watcher's bathtub. I remembered being inside the Initiative. Everything was out of order." Xander noticed Spike's pensive look and decided to introduce a little levity.

"So, you freaked about sunlight ...what else made you, ah, 'scream like a schoolgirl'?" he asked. The blonde scowled at him playfully.

"Well, being hungry for food for the first time in a century was different. Then I realized that everything tasted so good - even hospital food!" The others laughed at the joy in the former vampire's voice.

"Yeah, but now you're gonna have to work out, so you don't get fat," Xander teased, and Spike laughingly cuffed the other man on the arm. They all chatted happily, asking questions and offering advice for the new human until Cordelia glanced at her watch.

"Oh, crap!" she exclaimed. "It's nearly four - I have an audition." The others struggled to their feet and hugged her goodbye. Dawn and Gunn took the trash from lunch and excused themselves.

"No Playstation until your homework is done!" Buffy hollered after them, but they both pretended not to hear her.

Xander turned to speak to Spike, but noticed that the blond was deep in conversation with Wesley and Fred, the three of them sitting cross-legged in the grass. A small hand slid around Xander's waist, and he turned and lifted his arm so Buffy could slide under it.

He smiled down into her face, noting the worried look in her eyes. "Angel's not taking this well." It wasn't a question.

She frowned. "No, not really. He - he wanted to be the one to wear the amulet, and I said he couldn't. He's ..."

Xander took and released a deep breath. "Jealous," he supplied.

Buffy nodded. "I mean, he's happy for Spike, but he's ...broody. Major, intense broody."

She looked miserable, so Xander hugged her to his side and dropped a kiss on top of her head. "Is there anything I can do?" he asked.

Her green eyes sparkled as she looked up at him. "Yes, there is," she said. "Can Spike stay with you for a few days? Then maybe I can get Angel to come out of his room."

Xander couldn't help the grin that spread across his face, but decided to play coy. "What makes you think I want to room with the newly human?" he said.

"Um, experience?" she said. "Both with Spike and the newly human. That and the fact that you're in love with him?"

Xander's mouth fell open, and he closed it with a snap. "That obvious, huh?" he asked ruefully.

She shook her head. "No, not to regular people - just people who know either one of you. He loves you, too, you know. You're the first one he asked about when he got Angel on the phone, and he kept asking when you were going to get here."

Xander felt tears prick behind his eye. "Are you OK with that?" he asked.

She gave him her most brilliant smile. "Yeah, Xan - I'm great with it. I want you to be happy. I love you both and I want you both to be happy. Besides, I'm prettysureI'minlovewithAngelagain," she mumbled, looking down.

He reached down and tilted her face back up to his. "I heard that," he said. "You forget that I speak "fast mumble" - I have known Willow for twenty years." He searched her face and, seeing only happiness there, he smiled down at her.

Spike, Fred and Wes chose that moment to join them. Buffy and Xander broke apart, and Xander rested a hand on Spike's shoulder. "You want to come stay with me for a while so Angel can brood in peace?" he asked the blond. "I live near the beach," he added in a wheedling tone.

Spike rested his hand atop Xander's briefly, then said, "Thanks for the hospitality, Buffy, but I got a better offer."

She laughed. "Can't blame you, Spike - you'll love Xan's swinging bachelor pad."

Spike excused himself to go gather his few belongings from the hotel; the others meandered into the lobby, where Dawn and Gunn were playing a martial arts fighting game on the Playstation. Fred disappeared upstairs, and Wesley followed soon after. Buffy and Xander sprawled onto the couches and rooted for Dawn to kick Gunn's butt. Within a few minutes Spike came down the stairs, resisting the urge to slide on the banister, but looking at it longingly. Xander noticed, and they shared a mischievous smile. Spike was carrying a small duffle bag. Xander gestured to it. "Is that it? Oh, we've got to get you some stuff - you can't be a human without a bunch of stuff!" he exhorted the other man.

They said their goodbyes and stepped out of the hotel. After a couple of steps, Spike turned. "Xan, what's with all the hugging and kissing with the coming and going? That's new."

Xander laughed and threw an arm around Spike's shoulders. "Yeah, after the end of the world everybody got a lot more free and easy with the affection - life's short and all that," he explained.

The blond shifted his bag to his other hand and wound his arm around the taller man's waist. "I like it," he said, smugly.

"Me, too," Xander agreed. "This is us," he said, gesturing to his car. Spike's eyes lit up and he looked up at Xander.

"I'm guessing you want the top down?" he laughed.

Once they were settled in the car, Xander turned. "Spike, I..." His voice was stopped by the touch of lips on his own. Spike wound his hands into his lover's long waves and pulled their mouths closer together. Xander's hands came up to the blond's shoulders and he crushed their upper bodies together, opening his mouth to deepen the kiss. Their tongues tangled, and Xander could only marvel at the heat of Spike's mouth and the absolute joy of holding this man in his arms again. Eventually, they both needed air and broke the kiss. Neither one wanted to move away, so they stayed, mouths a scant inch apart while they panted.

"I lied," Spike said, breathlessly. "When Dawn asked me what I remembered first - I lied. The first thing I remembered was you, Xan. For a day and a half after I woke up I remembered every single thing about you. I remembered every touch, every kiss. And finally, finally I remembered your name - it was the first word I said." Xander cupped a hand around the back of Spike's neck and peppered his face with small kisses, overwhelmed by emotion. He pushed the blond head down on his shoulder, and buried his face in his lover's neck.

Once the pounding of his heart slowed and he got a grip on himself, Xander straightened in his seat and placed both hands on the steering wheel in the two and ten o'clock positions. "OK," he said, blowing out a breath, "we have things to do. You need stuff, there is no food or beer at my house, and we'll get arrested if we do what I want to do right now, here, on the street, in a convertible with the top down."

Spike also straightened in his seat, and then reached down to adjust his erection. "Right there with you, love," he said. "Bank, then food - everything else can bloody wait."

Xander turned the key in the ignition, nodding, and then turned to look at Spike. "Bank?" he asked. With a flourish, the blond pulled a familiar-looking envelope out of a side pocket of the bag on the floor. Xander opened it and pulled out two disaster relief checks made out to William Montgomery. "Who's William Montgomery?" he asked.

Spike smirked. "He's me." At Xander's look he added, "OK, he's kind of me. I had a couple of sets of ID, and Montgomery was the one in my wallet when I was found. Angel had set it up for me a long time ago. Turns out that Mr. Montgomery owned a house in Sunnyhell. The hospital reported me, and some nice government chaps brought me these lovely checks. They also paid my hospital bills." Xander smiled, then smirked, and then laughed out loud. Spike joined in, crowing at the irony.

An hour later, they were at the door of the apartment. Xander flung it open and gestured for Spike to enter. The blond hesitated at the doorsill, and then snorted when he realized that he didn't need a verbal invitation. He took two steps into the foyer. "What's this?" he asked, taking in the fully decorated apartment.

"IKEA - summer catalog, pages 88 through 94," Xander said. Spike's quiet laugh was cut off as the taller man pushed him up against the back of the door, hemming him in with large, tanned hands on either side of his head. Xander stopped with his lips an inch from Spike's and savored the feel of the other man's warm breath ghosting across his lips. He looked into his lover's bright blue eyes. "Have I mentioned how good it is to see you, Spike?" he asked, his voice husky.

The corners of Spike's mouth turned up slightly. "Don't tell me, pet - show me." Millimeter by millimeter, Xander closed the distance between them, watching as Spike's dark lashes closed. Their lips brushed in a feather-light kiss once, and then again before passion overwhelmed them and they crushed their mouths together.

Their arms twined around each other and their bodies slammed together. Spike turned them and pushed Xander back, curling one hand protectively against the back of his head as it impacted with the wall. Rising up on his toes for more leverage, the shorter man pressed his denim-covered erection into Xander's. They both gasped, and Xander's hands came down to cradle Spike's ass and speed the pace. They thrust against one another mindlessly, hands clutching; lips, teeth and tongues exploring one another's necks and ears.

"Oh, God, Spike," Xander groaned. "You feel so good, want you so much."

Spike sucked hard on Xander's neck, leaving a red mark. "You've got me, love, 'm not going anywhere, I'm right here with you."

Xander snaked a hand between them, freeing Spike's leaking cock and then his own. He wrapped his hand around both straining shafts and stroked them. "So hot," he panted. "Not gonna last."

Spike was on the edge of orgasm, barely able to form coherent thought. He wrapped his hand around Xander's, tightening their mutual grip. He looked up at his lover. "Say it, Xan," he gritted out. "Tell me."

The dark man threw his head back and howled, "Love you, Spike, love you," as he came, spurting his release over both of their hands. Spike followed him over the edge a second later, keening Xander's name.

Their hands slowed and stopped on sensitive flesh, and they rested, foreheads pressed together and eyes closed for a moment. Xander stepped back and pulled off his tee shirt, using it to clean them up a little. He balled up the shirt and threw it aside, then laughed.

"What's so funny?" Spike asked.

"You," Xander said simply, gesturing to the other man's state of disarray; hair standing up in tufts, shirt rucked up, jeans undone. Spike leaned forward and kissed him softly then pushed off of the wall, trying to straighten his clothes.

"Why don't you go clean up?" Xander said. "I'll put this stuff away and be there in a second." Spike nodded and wandered off toward the bathroom. Xander put the forgotten grocery bags on the table and quickly put away the beer and snack food they'd picked up in a hurry on the way home. Carrying the large tube of lubricant he'd picked up at the store, he headed for the back of the apartment.

When Xander walked into his bedroom Spike looked up from his seat on the bed. He was holding the Zippo lighter and looking at the two framed pictures on the bedside table. When he looked up, Xander could see that his blue eyes were awash with unshed tears. Kneeling on the floor, he took both of Spike's hands. "What is it?" he asked.

"I just ...I'm..." Spike stuttered.

"Freaking out?" Xander supplied, and smiled when the other man nodded sadly.

"I can't imagine how you felt, Xan - when I left you all alone."

Xander enfolded Spike in his arms and crooned softly in his ear. "It's OK. You're here now; you're here with me." He pulled back and looked into his lover's crystal blue eyes. "It was all worth it, because you're here with me." Xander shifted up to sit on the bed and reached into the drawer of the bedside table. He drew out the two pictures of himself and handed them to Spike. As he had hoped, the other man couldn't help the smile that spread across his face.

"Frames," he said. "I need frames for these."

Xander smiled. "I'll make you some." He took the photos and the lighter and placed them on the table. Xander stood, drawing Spike up with him. He tenderly eased the blond's clothes off, then his own. "I'm still a little sticky," he said. "I'll be right back." He dropped a quick kiss on Spike's lips, pushed him lightly toward the waiting bed, and then went into the bathroom.

After a quick cleanup Xander returned to the bedroom. Glancing at his bed, he stopped short. Spike lay on his stomach, with one arm reaching toward the empty side of the bed, the other curled up and around the pillow. His pale skin and hair contrasted beautifully with Xander's navy sheets, which pooled around his hips. Spike's sleepy blue eyes blinked open, and he smiled. Crossing the room, Xander carefully slipped under the sheet. Spike curled onto his side, pressing his back against the warm body behind him. Xander wrapped an arm around Spike's narrow waist and placed his hand over his lover's wonderfully, miraculously beating heart. He drifted off to sleep, mesmerized by its steady cadence.

Part Three

Xander woke up alone and automatically reached into the empty space beside him. He let his hand rest for a moment in the warm depression Spike's body had left in his bed. He heard an odd sound and cocked his head, trying to identify it. A huge grin spread over his face as he realized what he was hearing. Never in a million years would he have believed that the sound of Spike peeing would make him so happy, but it did. However, the sound of the toilet flushing set off an automatic response in his own bladder, and he levered himself out of the warm bed to avail himself of the facilities.

The two men passed one another in the center of the room and kissed lightly before continuing in separate directions. Xander marveled for a moment at how normal and domestic it seemed. When he exited the bathroom, he noticed that Spike had not returned to the bed, so he padded naked into the front room of the apartment. He found the blond seated cross-legged on the floor in front of the open sliding glass doors that led to the patio. The night sky was just beginning to lighten in the east, heralding the approaching sunrise. Xander went to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee, then returned to Spike, slumping down on the floor behind him to wrap the smaller man with his long arms and legs.

They sat silently until the gurgling noises of the coffee maker tapered off. Xander got up and reached a hand down. "Come on," he said. "Get some clothes - the view of the sunrise from the beach is much better." With a brilliant smile, Spike allowed himself to be pulled up against his lover's body. After a quick embrace, Spike went to the bedroom, Xander to the kitchen. Spike returned to the kitchen in his black jeans and tee, carrying Xander's shorts from the night before and a clean tee shirt. He found the other man pouring coffee into two large insulated cups, and then liberally dosing one with milk and sugar before pulling on the proffered clothing.

The two men walked back into the main room and found their shoes. Xander grabbed his keys, and they left the apartment, walking the three blocks to the beach in happy silence. They reached the beach access, and kicked off their shoes. Xander slipped his sandals into his pocket and reached for Spike's boots. He tied the laces together and slung them over his shoulder while Spike rolled up the cuffs of his jeans. They walked across the sand until they came to a natural hollow nestled in the dunes. They arranged themselves so they could see the beginnings of the sunrise. Xander leaned against Spike and felt the answering pressure from his lover's shoulder against his own. They sat quietly and sipped their coffee as the first rays of the morning sun slipped over the horizon.

Once the sky had brightened from dark blue, through a hundred shades of red and orange and pink to the cool blue of the California morning, they turned and looked out over the Pacific Ocean. Spike pressed the bottom of his coffee mug into the sand and leaned harder against Xander. The brunet wrapped his right arm around his lover and dropped a kiss on his temple. "Good morning, Spike," he said.

"Good morning, love," the blond replied. He ran his fingers gently over the tattoo on the wrist that rested on his shoulder.

"Hey!" Xander said suddenly. "This is day seven - my tattoo's obsolete."

Spike looked up from where he was absently drawing patterns in the sand with his big toe. "You can get a new one," he said. "Maybe this." He dragged his toe in the sand to make a mark that looked like the number eight on its side. "Infinity - except we don't have that." His voice was sad.

Xander rubbed the mark out with his own foot, looking down. "We never did," he said. "You did. Are you sorry it's gone?"

Spike sighed. "Xan, do you know the worst part about knowing you're gonna live forever?" Xander shook his head. "It's knowing that you're gonna live forever. Before...caring about humans was awful. Every time I let one of you into my heart it was just one more I was gonna have to outlive." He looked up into Xander's face. "Being here - being human, alive - it lets me love you without having to hurt for it."

Xander looked down at Spike and smiled suddenly. "So, what you're saying is that you love me?" he asked.

Spike smirked. "Way to distill the complex existential issues down to 'this affects me how?'"

Leaning down until their lips were only a breath apart, Xander repeated, "So, you love me."

Spike darted his tongue out to trace a wet line along his lover's full lower lip. "Yeah," he said quietly, "I love you."

"My tattoo's still obsolete." Xander said, just before their lips met. They kissed softly until they were interrupted by the loud rumbling from Xander's stomach, which was immediately joined by an answering rumble from Spike's. Laughing, they gathered their belongings and turned toward home and breakfast.

After breakfast, Xander puttered around the kitchen, doing the dishes and straightening, to give Spike the opportunity to prowl his new home. The former vampire had been quiet throughout the walk home and breakfast. Xander desperately wanted to glue himself to his lover's side, but also wanted to give Spike some space to adjust to the huge changes he was facing. When he heard the shower turn on, Xander left the kitchen and settled on the sofa with a notepad and a pen and started making a list of items Spike would probably need if they ever got around to leaving the house.

Xander had halfway filled the page when he heard the water turn off. He jotted down a few more items, and then put the pen down. He couldn't stand it any longer. Wandering into the back of the apartment, he was greeted with the sight of his beautiful lover standing in the bathroom wearing only a towel wrapped low on his narrow hips, staring at himself in the mirror. Spike's wet hair was pushed carelessly back from his face, and drops of water were scattered across his shoulders and back. He was running a finger over the scar in his eyebrow when he noticed Xander behind him and smiled. "Hello, love," Spike said, sighing and leaning back as Xander's arms slipped around his waist.

The taller man leaned down and began licking up the drops of water shining on Spike's pale skin. Xander's tongue paused. "Hi," he said briefly, and then turned back to his task, leaning back to lick up any drops on Spike's back. One large hand was circling on Spike's stomach, tangling in the fine hairs, sneaking up to dip into his navel, tracing the contours of his defined abdominal muscles. Xander's other hand climbed higher and began teasing first one, and then the other pink nipple, rubbing the responsive tissue into taut peaks. Spike stretched and arched his back as Xander's lapping tongue moved down to the center of his lower back then back up to his shoulders again.

Xander stood and wrapped his arms around Spike, at the same time divesting him of the towel and kissing a line up and down the tender, sensitive flesh of his long, pale neck. Blue eyes fluttered closed, and a groan issued from between Spike's suddenly too-dry lips.

"What are you doing to me, Xan?" he asked.

"I'm trying to drive you crazy. Is it working?" Xander's tone was light, but it throbbed with suppressed lust.

"Working...yeah, it's bloody well working, pet," Spike gasped. "Think we can take this to the bed?" Not bothering to answer, Xander kept up his exquisite torment, but he did turn his lover and start walking them towards the bed.

As soon as Spike was standing in front of the bed, Xander pushed him lightly onto it and quickly stripped out of his clothes. Spike started to turn over, but Xander placed a hand in the small of his back to pin him down.

"Nope," he said. "Stay there. I want to play." Spike shuddered visibly, but stayed in place. He shuddered again when he felt Xander's tongue stroke the hollow at the very bottom of his spine. The warm point traced a circular pattern, and then drew a thin, hot line all the way to the blond curls at the nape of Spike's neck. The tongue was replaced for a moment by teeth, which nibbled lightly, making Spike moan into the pillow. The moan became a yelp when Xander's teeth bit hard into the trapezius muscle on the right side of his neck.

"God, that's good, Xan," Spike murmured, and Xander made a small sound of agreement before he started licking his way back down.

Reaching the small of Spike's back, Xander latched onto the skin there and began sucking, pulling blood to the surface to leave a mark. Spike's back arched and flexed, alternately pushing into the sensation and seeking to escape it, while he choked and babbled Xander's name. Releasing his mark with a "pop", the brunet insinuated himself between the spread legs of his prey and sat back on his heels to admire the effect of the hickey staining his lover's alabaster skin.

"Pretty," he murmured, tracing it with hot fingers. He dipped his head back down and slid backward on the bed, stopping with his breath barely gusting over the juncture of Spike's thighs. Xander placed his hands on the firm globes of Spike's ass and flexed his fingers into the hard muscle, eliciting a groan. The squick factor tried to kick in, but he ruthlessly suppressed it, remembering the incredible sensations he'd felt when Spike had done this very thing to him on their very first night together, a million years and a world of pain ago.

He slid his thumbs into the crease and opened his lover's body to his gaze. Spike shifted backward and raised his hips in supplication. Xander placed his tongue flat against the strip of skin behind Spike's balls and licked all the way up to the blood-dark mark he'd made earlier. He paused thoughtfully - it seemed that skin was pretty much skin; salty and slightly spicy and pure Spike. Xander leaned in and repeated the motion twice more. On the third pass he let the tip of his tongue trace lightly around the entrance to Spike's body and grinned broadly when he received a muffled gasp for his efforts.

Taking a deep breath, he leaned in yet again. This time, he stiffened his tongue to a point and pressed it as far inside Spike as he could. The feeling of hot, internal muscles clenching down on his tongue was different, so he thrust in and out a few times. When he pulled out to catch his breath, Xander was stunned to see that Spike was trembling all over and pressing his face into the pillow.

"Is it good?" he asked, hating the uncertainty in his voice. Spike pressed his fisted hands into the mattress and levered up to look back at his lover. His face was bright red and he was gasping.

"It's fucking incredible! Don't stop now!"

Xander laughed and dove back in. He kept up the torture for the next five minutes, swirling his tongue around, stabbing it in and out, thrusting as hard as he could to touch as much of Spike as he could reach, until the blond launched himself forward on the bed to escape Xander's teasing mouth. Spike rolled onto his back and grinned up at Xander with one hand wrapped snugly around the base of his own dark, dripping erection.

"No more," he pleaded. "Don't want to come like that - have to come inside you this time. Need it," he panted.

Xander smiled and wiped his face with his hand, pushing back to stand beside the bed.

"Where are you going?" Spike demanded.

"Hello, Spike? You're a human now, and you've probably got the immune system of a kitten at this point. Let me go clean up a little so I can kiss you." He looked down at the straining flesh in Spike's hand. "Hold that thought."

After a quick round of teeth-brushing and Listerine, Xander was back at the foot of the bed. He knelt on the mattress and panther-crawled up the bed, lightly brushing his chest against Spike's for maximum effect. By the time he reached the top of the bed, Spike's blue eyes were nearly black with arousal. Their lips met in a teasing kiss that instantly deepened when Spike curled both hands into Xander's hair and tugged to make him gasp. The smaller man hooked his calf around a tanned thigh and rolled them so that he came to rest on top.

For long moments they simply kissed, relearning the contours of one another's mouths, figuring out how to accommodate the fact that both of them now needed to breathe, instead of just Xander. Before long, they were thrusting their lower bodies together urgently.

"Need to be in you, Xan - I can't wait anymore," Spike panted, and Xander answered him by sweeping the tube of lubricant off the table and pressing it into his hand. Spike coated his fingers and reached between Xander's spread legs. He let the tip of one finger circle the puckered opening, purposely mimicking the actions Xander had taken with his tongue. Gently, Spike eased just the tip of his finger into his lover and started moving, pressing in a little bit more on each thrust. Soon, he had worked his whole finger inside.

"Jesus, Xan. You feel so good," Spike groaned, and Xander's answering groan spurred him to thrust harder. Pulling out, Spike put more lubricant on his hand and carefully pressed two fingers inside, feeling the tissues stretch to accommodate him. Xander pushed down on the fingers stretching him and began thrashing his head from side to side on the pillow. Spike began twisting his fingers, searching for the prostate. He knew when he found it because Xander bucked hard against him, arching up from the bed with a muffled curse.

Spike kept up the pressure, happy to remain hovering over the other man, watching his every reaction. He finally pulled back, waiting for his lover's eye to open. As soon as they were staring at each other, Spike smiled.

"You ready for three, love?" he asked.

"God, yes!" Xander groaned, and Spike started working three lubricated fingers inside, carefully stretching Xander wider and wider. Finally, the dark man could stand it no longer.

"Spike, you've got to fuck me now - I can't wait. Please - inside me, now!" he begged. Spike pulled his fingers out of the tight channel, chuckling at Xander's small sound of loss. He opened the lube again and spread a handful over his hard cock. He hooked one of Xander's knees over his elbow and pushed the other leg to the side to open the man beneath him fully. Wrapping his fingers around the base of his erection, he moved the head in line with Xander's hole.

"You ready, love? You want me?" he asked. Xander's lust-darkened eye swept Spike's face and saw the vulnerable expression there.

"Want you. Love you, Spike," he whispered. The admission nearly made Spike lose control. Exerting his iron will, he started the slow slide that would connect the two men fully, not stopping until he was completely sheathed inside Xander.

"Love - you're so tight. Feel so good. There...hasn't been...anybody..." Spike stammered.

"Not this," Xander gasped. "Was never going to be anybody else to do this - not after you. Only you." The words were Spike's undoing. He couldn't stop the emotions that ran through him at Xander's pledge. Bracing his hands on the bed and his forehead against his lover's he began rolling and shifting his hips, driving himself mindlessly into Xander's body. He felt strong arms and legs contracting around him in the same rhythm as the grasp and pull of Xander's hot passage. Sweat slicked both of their bodies, and Xander's cock was trapped between the hard ridges of their stomachs.

Spike thrust in, balls-deep, and stopped. They both held completely still for a long moment, eyes locked on each other's faces.

"I can feel your heartbeat inside me," Xander said, and Spike nearly cried at the look of wonder on his lover's face. They stayed still, and both felt it - once, and then again - their hearts beating in tandem. It was too much. Xander wrapped his legs around Spike's waist and buried his head in his lover's neck as Spike resumed his motion. He fucked Xander as hard as he could, wanting to drive ever more of himself inside. Xander merely held on and rode the waves of sensation that threatened to engulf him.

Xander felt the sensation pooling in his lower back and knew that his orgasm was near. He threw his head back and found Spike's eyes with his one. "Now, Spike - coming now," he said, and bit his lip as he felt the cock inside him swell and then pulse, shooting Spike's hot release deep into his body at the same time as Xander's spilled between them.

"Love you," Spike said, on a long groan. "Love you, Xan."

Xander floated calmly in a sea of contentment. His fingers moved languidly up and down the staircase of Spike's ribcage, pausing now and then to do Fred Astaire-style kicks and leaps before climbing up and sliding down again and again. Beneath his ear, the steady beat of Spike's heart was utterly normal, utterly human and utterly amazing - all at the same time. The fingers began their climb once again; going halfway up, reversing; a skip, a jump, and then a long, slow slide to the bottom, skimming down to the jut of a hipbone, skating over it; thumb stroking the hollow before moving in to rub against the firm pad of muscle blanketing the center of the pelvis. The fingers joined the thumb, they folded under so knuckles could press into the spot beneath Spike's navel that made his abdominal muscles jump involuntarily and quiver just the tiniest bit.

Spike's fingers were exploring the infinite variations of swirl and texture created by Xander's thick hair as it slid over and around his stroking hand. The locks separated and reformed under his ministrations; the waves ebbing and flowing to reveal the tender paleness of the scalp beneath. Silken strands caught on the faint roughness of the whorls and patterns of fingerprints, and Spike pressed the pads of his fingers lightly against Xander's skull, as if branding him with those unique imprints, marking the pale flesh with invisible signs of ownership. He mapped the contours of the delicate arch of bone behind Xander's ear, the hidden crease beneath the lobe, the hollow at the beginning of the tanned neck.

Spike sighed. He was loath to break the comfortable silence, but couldn't help himself. The burning, consuming possessiveness of the vampire was long gone, but the ego of the man remained.

"So, there was somebody..." he began; his finger's stilling in Xander's hair.

"Jason. He's a friend. Occasional fuck buddy," Xander explained. His voice was supremely relaxed and even. "It...wasn't you, Spike, but it helped - when things got to be too much. You OK with that?" Spike's fingers resumed their motion while he pondered his lover's words.

"It's done now, right?" he asked. Xander turned his head to press a kiss to the skin of Spike's chest.

"Duh," he answered.

"Why a...fuck buddy, Xan? Why not..." Spike's voice trailed off. Knuckles dug sharply into the top of his pelvis as Xander levered himself up to look into wide blue eyes.

"Because a fuck buddy doesn't care if I call out your name when I come; he doesn't care that I won't kiss him or cuddle with him after or let him fuck me. Jason is a good friend who likes to get fucked. He didn't care that I was pretending he was you, Spike." The former vampire couldn't help the broad grin that spread across his face. In a completely bizarre, yet completely logical way, it warmed his heart that Xander had sought out a partner that knew he was being used as a stand-in, even when he thought Spike was dead. Xander took in the gorgeous smile and smiled back.

"You like that, don't you?" he asked. When Spike nodded enthusiastically, he laughed and sank back down to his previous position.

"You're a sick twist, baby," he said. "I dig it."

Spike smoothed the dark waves back from his lover's forehead and grumbled, "Formerly evil former vampire, here - don't you forget it." Xander rubbed his fingers lightly over Spike's abdomen.

"There's not one thing I've forgotten about you," he whispered, and the formerly evil one found himself swallowing hard against the lump in his throat. Once he regained his composure, he looked down at the relaxed face pressed to his chest.

"What do we do now, Xander?" he asked.

"You mean that in the 'big, existential question of life, the universe and everything' kind of way, or in a 'what's for lunch' kind of way?" Xander asked.

"The first one," Spike said. Xander watched his own fingers climb up his lover's ribs to rest in the hollow between his pectoral muscles and tap along to the rhythm of his heart.

"That's easy," he said, fingers still tapping lightly. "We live."

The End

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