Long Time Gone

Yin Again

Part Thirty-One

Xander’s butt was getting numb. He’d been sitting on the back steps of the Summers house for three hours, and he was still sore from the exertions of the night before. He shook his head to dispel the vivid memories, not wanting to lose focus. Spike, Angel, Buffy and three potentials were combing the nearby streets and woods, circling back to the house every so often to check in with Xander. There had been no sign of Dru or any other nasties. They had all long since burned through any adrenaline or excitement, and everyone was tense from the fruitless waiting. Xander stood and stretched. He walked up the stairs and into the kitchen, where Dawn was sitting at the table with Willow, drinking coffee. “No luck?” the witch asked. “Fuck, no,” Xander sighed, leaning against the wall dejectedly.

“I think this patrol is a bust,” Dawn said. She picked up the phone and called Buffy’s cell, telling her to gather the others and come back to the house. They were all perplexed and disappointed by Drusilla’s absence. They’d plotted and planned and prepared, all on the assumption that their target would have the decency to show up, and they were all more than a little edgy. Dawn’s snappishness had finally encouraged Jase to take Sara into the den to watch a video, and the only reason she and Willow were able to sit together was that they’d called a silent truce when they realized that not only were they getting on each other’s nerves, they were getting on their own nerves.

The back door flew open and bounced off the wall behind it. Spike stalked in with a murderous look on his face, and then turned and shouted back out the door, “Would you two just shut the fuck up already? One more soddin’ word and I swear I’ll kill you both!” He whirled and went to stare moodily into the refrigerator, looking for a beer. Angel and Buffy came in the door with abashed looks on their faces. They were shooting each other dirty looks, and Xander could tell that Spike had cut them off in the middle of an argument. Xander spent a few minutes pondering the safest course of action, and decided that sliding down to the floor to sit quietly was his best option. Spike finished glaring at the food and joined him on the floor, handing him a beer with a sigh. Buffy and Angel sat at the remaining seats at the kitchen table and exchanged foul looks. Willow and Dawn looked deeply into their coffee cups.

The heavy silence of the room was broken when Jase stuck his head in the door. “Dawn, I’m going to take Sara to the store and get some ice cream. Where are the keys?” Dawn looked up with a cross expression on her face, then sighed and ran a hand through her hair. She stood and walked to the door, digging the keys to the SUV out of her jeans pocket. She pressed them into her husband’s hand and kissed him lightly on the lips. “I’m sorry I was so bitchy, honey. We’re all on edge. Will you get a whole shitload of ice cream? And maybe some cookies?” He rubbed his hand over her hair and smiled at her, nodding. Spike drained his beer and pushed up off the floor. “I’ll go with you – no telling what’s out there.” He strode toward the door, then turned back to Xander and pulled him to his feet. The vampire kissed him gently. “We’ll be back soon, then we’ll figure this whole mess out, OK, luv?” Xander smiled and nodded, and Spike followed Jase out the door. Xander took a seat at the table and looked around at all of his friends. “This sucks,” he said.

Spike settled into the passenger seat of the SUV and buckled his seatbelt. Jase started the engine and eased out of the driveway. He glanced over at the vampire. “How are you holding up, Will?” he asked. Spike snorted. “Well, mate, I’d be a damn sight better if I could kill something.” Jase nodded. “I can understand that.” They drove in silence for a few moments, and then Jase cleared his throat and spoke hesitantly. “Will, if you don’t mind my asking, why is Dru after Xander? Is there some backstory that I don’t know?” Spike thought for a moment, and then began speaking. “Dru wants him because she wants him – because the stars told her to, or her dollies like him, or any number of insane reasons – doesn’t really matter. What matters is that she’s trying to follow Angelus’ old system, whereby she will stalk him, destroy everyone and everything he loves, drive him insane, and then turn him.”

“So, I’m right in being pretty glad I never met Angelus, huh?” Jase asked. “That you are,” Spike agreed. “I just want this to be over,” he sighed. “I just want Xan to be free of all of this.” They stopped at a red light, and Jase turned to face Spike. “Once he’s free, what happens?” he asked gently. Spike looked at him, and was struck by the similarities between Jase and William – it was almost like looking in a mirror, he thought. “Well, in my deepest, darkest nancy-boy dreams it means that Xan decides to stay here with me. I don’t know if that’ll happen either way. Even if it doesn’t I still owe him a lot. He made me realize that I was holding back, that I was so afraid to take a chance that I was just muddling through, hiding.”

Jase nodded. “I know what you mean. Dawn did that for me. When she told me about her past, I almost ran. It was a close thing. Finally, I decided that she was worth it – that I wanted to be with her no matter what; whether her life was unnaturally long or unnaturally short, or we couldn’t have kids, or whatever. I decided to embrace the weirdness, and celebrate every day we had together. That was the day she made me free.” The light turned green, and Jase drove on, smiling a little at the sight of a Master Vampire staring at him with his mouth hanging open, and then shutting it with a snap. They pulled into a parking space in front of the grocery store and Jase turned the engine off. As Jase’s hand closed on the door handle Spike’s closed on his shoulder. He turned to see the vampire smiling brilliantly at him. “You know, Jase, I always used to say that I was love’s bitch – I think you might be love’s bitch, too.” From the back seat, Sara spoke up. “Love’s bitch,” she trilled, and both men groaned.

They couldn’t decide which flavor of Ben & Jerry’s was the most appropriate for the situation, so they just got one of each flavor. They stepped out of the market, Spike had Sara in his arms and Jase had four plastic bags full of pint containers looped over his wrists. They were laughing at Sara’s antics when the first fledgling rushed them. Spike pushed Sara into Jase’s arms and whirled, sweeping the hapless vampire’s feet out from under him. Seconds after its back hit the asphalt, it was dusting under Spike’s stake. He turned to check on Jase and Sara, and was dismayed to see Jase being held by two more fledges, Sara screaming in his arms.

“Hello, my bad doggie.” Spike stiffened at the sound of her voice. It still sounded like water flowing – sweet and delicate, with an undercurrent of power. Drusilla stepped into the circle of brightness cast by the overhead lights. She walked up to Spike and cupped his chin in her hand, looking into his eyes. Hers were dark and remarkably clear, and Spike felt his stomach drop. He ruthlessly crushed the fear down and stared back at her, one hand rising to flick her fingers off his face. “Not your doggie, Dru. Not anymore,” he said, his voice tight. She clasped her hands in front of her and smiled. “No,” she said, “not my doggie.” She tilted her head and looked at him quizzically. “All the hardware has come out and your demon is free, except for that pesky soul, eh, Spike? Must be cramping your style something awful.” He gave her a grim smile. “My style is none of your concern. Tell your pet to let my friend go. Now.” His tone brooked no argument.

Drusilla turned toward Jase, and Spike wanted to stake himself for drawing her attention to the human and his child. Drusilla sauntered over to Jase and looked closely at him, grabbing his chin when he tried to turn away. She looked back at Spike with wonder in her eyes. “Oh, Spike! Look at him – he’s just like William. He’s everything you were so long ago. Beautiful and innocent and alive.” She clapped her hands gleefully. “Oh, I must have him! I can make a new Spike, one who won’t be taken from me. No, Daddy cannot have this one – he’ll be all mine. And look at this,” her gaze turned from Jase to Sara. “A little one, so fresh and pretty. I’m sure she’ll be delicious.” At her predatory glare Jase hugged Sara tighter to him.

Fury swept through Spike and he changed into game face. He grabbed Drusilla by the shoulder and threw her backward. Before the two fledges could react, their dust was settling on the ground. Spike grabbed Jase’s shoulder and spun him toward the car. “Go! Get Sara home, now!” Jase took off for the car as the vampire whirled to intercept Drusilla as she bore down on them. Glancing back over his shoulder one last time he saw Spike crumple to the ground as Drusilla tazered him.

Drusilla stood over Spike for a moment, and then gave him another blast from the tazer as a precaution. She looked off into the darkness. “Come along, dear one, we have a new toy,” she called. A broad-shouldered man stepped from the shadows and hoisted Spike in a fireman’s carry. Drusilla leaned up to kiss him, and his fangs tore into her lips. She moaned, and they both licked the blood from their mouths as they parted. “You’re a naughty boy,” she chided, as they walked into the darkness.

Jase ran into the house still clutching Sara to him, the forgotten grocery bags of ice cream still hanging off of his arms. At the sight of his dusty, tear-streaked face Dawn shot up from the table. “Oh my God,” she cried, “what is it, Jase?” He reached out and pulled her close, so that their bodies were wrapped around their daughter’s. Jase’s eyes met Xander’s over Dawn’s head. “Oh, God, Xander, I’m so sorry – Dru’s got Will.”

Part Thirty-Two

Xander was on his knees in the middle of Spike’s bedroom. He inhaled and exhaled deeply, searching for the soothing rhythm that would allow him to sink into meditation and quiet his screaming mind. After Jase’s arrival, Xander, Buffy and Angel had torn out of the Summers’ house, searching for Spike. They’d wandered Sunnydale, relying on Angel’s inherent sense of his childer to lead them to Dru’s lair. Unfortunately, the rising sun had chased them away before they had any clear idea of her location. Dawn had insisted that they get some rest while she sent teams of potentials out to search in the daylight. Cordelia, Brooks and Oz had arrived shortly after daybreak, and Oz and Willow had driven an exhausted Xander back to Spike’s Victorian. Xander had stumbled into the bedroom and dropped to the floor, seeking peace the only way he knew how. Finally, he gave up and rose to his feet long enough to propel his body onto the bed. Once there, he gathered Spike’s pillow in his arms and allowed the tears to fall.

Across town, Spike hung limply from the chains that had been used to bind him to the wall of the warehouse. Buggering fuck, he thought, how do I get myself into this shit? Go to the store; protect Jase – it all sounded so simple. What a cosmic joke. The blazing headache from the tazer jolts was much too reminiscent of the pain from the unlamented fucking chip, and he was not in the mood for Drusilla and her newest childe. Her childe – buggering fuck again – only Drusilla would be insane enough to do what she apparently had done. Spike muttered a curse as his “little brother” entered the room. Riley fucking Finn – a vampire; FarmVamp. Jesus Christ. In his human face, Riley looked exactly like the bland, angsty prig who had stabbed Spike in the chest with a simulated wood-grain plastic stake so may years ago.

Awakening in chains with a splitting headache, just to have this wanker beat the shit out of him was not exactly Spike’s fondest memory to date. It seemed like little brother had some pent-up anger that he’d needed to work out, and Spike’s battered face and body bore testament to it. The son of a bitch was strong, and his military training gave him very precise, very painful insight in just how to cause the most damage. Spike had listened grimly as several of his ribs had broken under Riley’s fists, along with his nose and a couple of his fingers.

Riley stood at the back of the room and looked at Spike eagerly. Spike lifted his head. “What’s the matter, Soldier Boy? Can’t have any fun without orders from Mummy?” he taunted. Riley growled, but did not advance. Spike spit some blood out onto the floor and laughed harshly. “Are you the best she could do?” he asked. Riley vamped out and launched himself toward Spike. He stopped in his tracks when Dru stepped out of the shadows and barked, “No!” at him. She crossed her arms under her breasts and slowly walked toward Spike. Once she reached him, she lifted one hand to run her fingers over his bruised and swollen face. Dropping her hand from his lips, she stepped closer and tilted her head, bringing her neck to Spike’s mouth. She whispered into his ear, “Drink, childe. I don’t wish to look at you like this. Drink and be pretty for me, darling Spike.”

He turned his face away, and found her hand in his hair, wrenching his head around with unexpected strength. She shook his head sharply and pulled him back to her neck. “Do as I say, Spike. I haven’t time for your little games. You will find that I have learned how to deal with insolence since last we met.” Spike lifted his head and looked at Riley, who looked at the ground. He looked so much like a chastened puppy that Spike had to laugh. “Swat you on the nose with a rolled up newspaper, did she, Farm Boy?” he taunted, and found his head shaken roughly again for his trouble. “Ow! Dru,” he said mildly, “I’ve a bit of a headache if you don’t mind.” She tugged his hair again.  Well, buggering fuck again, Spike thought, might as well. The sire’s blood would heal him, and he wasn’t exactly in fighting form as he was. He slid into game face and ripped into Drusilla’s throat with neither finesse nor care.

Her blood was hot and strong, and the taste exploded on his tongue with raw power. Spike moaned unconsciously into the torn flesh of her neck, drawing as hard as he could. Drusilla moaned in answer and pressed herself against his body, maneuvering her legs to straddle one of his, thrusting against his knee. He angled his hips, trying to get some friction on his instantly hard cock, but she was lost in her own pleasure. Spike heard her scream and felt her shudder against him. She leaned heavily on his body for a moment, and then pulled away, laughing.

Spike stared at her for a moment, stunned, then licked the blood off of his lips and smiled at her. He could feel his cuts closing and his ribs and nose knitting. He could also hear Riley growling and whining behind Drusilla. “Thanks, baby – I needed that,” he smirked, “was it good for you?” Another growl emanated from Riley. Spike threw him a sardonic look. “Do fuck off, puppy – the grownups need some alone time.” He brought his eyes back to Dru’s. “Come on, luv, let’s save the chains for another time. Let me loose and we can finish this little game.” He cocked his leg lewdly to emphasize his erection and leered at her. She closed the distance between them and pressed her hand against his hardness, rubbing him roughly through his jeans.

“You’d like me to believe it, wouldn’t you, Spike?” she hissed. “You’d like for me to fall for your lies and right back into your open arms, yes?” She squeezed his erection painfully, smiling when a gasp was wrenched from his lips. She did it again, and he groaned in pain. “Not likely, Spike. His scent is all over you. I’ll not forgive your indiscretion easily.” She released him and stepped back, smiling as he sagged against the chains. Riley stepped up behind Drusilla and wrapped his arms around her waist. He smiled at Spike over her shoulder and moaned as her hand slid behind her back and between his legs. Spike continued to look at the floor as Riley swept Dru into his arms and carried her to some other part of the warehouse. Shag her good, mate, he thought, I’m going to need some time to get out of these chains.

Xander, Willow, Oz, Cordelia, Brooks, Angel and Buffy sat in the living room at the Summers’ house and waited for the sun to set. The potentials had spent the day searching and had determined the locations of a couple of warehouses that could be Drusilla’s lair. Once the sun was down Xander, Willow, Buffy and Angel would head for the most likely site; the potentials were already staking out the other. Cordelia, Brooks and Oz would stay at the house to guard Jase and Sara, with a group of potentials to give extra muscle.

Xander and Angel sat side by side on the couch with matching scowls. Periodically, they would exchange a few quiet words, but they did not speak to anyone else. Willow confided to Buffy that Xander hadn’t spoken more than five words to Oz and herself as they’d gotten ready and on the trip over. Buffy told her that Angel had been much the same. Each man was lost in his own thoughts of Spike.

Finally, darkness fell. Xander and Angel rose from their seats and strode to the door, weapons at the ready. Buffy and Willow followed.

Part Thirty-Three

Spike was free of the chains. He’d had to dislocate both thumbs to get loose, but the pain was worth it. The sire’s blood he’d drunk would mend the thumbs quickly enough. He took a moment to look around the warehouse. There were three fledglings in a front room, playing cards and bullshitting. Two more lingered by the back door. Dru and Riley were still going at it in an interior room; Spike could hear the shrieks and moans. It sounded like Riley was doing most of the shrieking.

Seeing no easy way out of the warehouse, Spike found a chair and sat down, propping his feet on a convenient pile of junk from which he extracted several stake-sized slivers of wood. With his back to the wall and a makeshift weapon stowed in each boot, he waited.

Eventually, a battered and bleeding Riley limped into the main part of the warehouse. Spike could see the long welts that were already closing on the beefy vampire’s back. Sex with Drusilla had always involved much blood, both spilled and drunk, so Spike knew that the other man’s strength would not be much diminished. Spike laughed out loud at the dumbfounded expression on Riley’s face as he looked at the empty chains and scratched his head. “You really aren’t very bright, are you, G.I. Joe?” Spike’s voice was low. Riley spun around and growled at him. Spike carefully stood, flexing his hands to make sure his thumbs were healed. They were. He leaned against the wall in a casual pose.

“So, mate,” he began conversationally, “how’d she get ahold of you?” Riley glanced back at the door through which he’d entered the room, and then shrugged. He crossed the floor to stand about ten feet from Spike and also leaned on the wall, mimicking the older vampire’s stance. “She got us in South America. Our squad was clearing out a nest of hostiles. It turned out to be her nest. She had a bunch of minions and some demons. There was one big Chaos demon that was her mate. I killed him.” Riley looked smug as he recounted the story. “Bet she appreciated that,” Spike said.

Riley snorted. “No, she did not appreciate that. She went berserk. She killed most of the squad and turned me.” Spike looked the other vampire over. “Seems like you came out OK, mate,” he observed. Riley grinned evilly. “Well, once I woke up, I had a new perspective on things.”  They looked at each other in silence for a moment. “So, whatever happened with you and Buffy?” Riley asked. Spike grimaced. “Broke up. You know how those things are – summer fling and whatnot. How’s the wife?” Riley grinned again. “She was delicious. How did the soul come about?”

“I took a little trip to Africa. You pick up the oddest things when you travel.” Spike’s voice was flat. “You’ve trained Dru.” It was not a question. Riley laughed. “Yeah, had to. She was fucking nuts. She’s adaptable, though. I’m pleased with her progress.” His voice was brave, but Spike noticed that Riley glanced behind himself as he spoke. “I see she’s trained you, too,” Spike said.

Riley’s eyes hardened to ice and he straightened. “When did you start fucking Harris?” he asked. Spike also straightened. “Just this week, as a matter of fact. I intend to continue doing so for quite some time,” he answered. Riley began to circle Spike slowly. Spike turned with him, keeping the other man facing him. “You’ll like him better once Dru turns him,” he hissed. “The improvement in stamina alone is worth the loss of the body heat.” Spike pushed his sudden rage away and forced himself to stay loose. “Luckily, that’s not a problem for my boy,” he smirked.

The two vampires continued circling one another, and Spike suddenly realized that the strange sensation he was feeling at the back of his neck was his awareness of Angel. Angel was near. If Angel were nearby, Buffy and Xander would undoubtedly be with him. He decided he’d better speed things up a bit. “So, Captain Cardboard,” he said, slowly closing the distance between them on each circle, “you asked about the soul. That was kind of your fault, actually.” Riley gave him a disbelieving look. “True,” Spike asserted. “Just after you left, Buffy decided she was through with me. I heard about a demon in Africa who could make me what I was, so I decided to become a better man for her.” He laughed bitterly.

Without warning, Spike stopped circling and lashed out at Riley, catching him with an uppercut to the jaw. Riley reacted, and the two spun across the warehouse floor, throwing punches. Despite his military training and size advantage, Riley was the weaker fighter. He landed a couple of blows, but was dangerously outclassed. Spike continued talking as he heaped damage onto Riley. “Being a better man for Buffy? That didn’t quite work out to plan.” Each word was punctuated with a punch to Riley’s already-battered face. “Turns out I wasn’t the vampire she wanted. She went back to Angel, and I went insane.” Spike kicked Riley between the legs as hard as he could.

Riley dropped to his knees, cradling his damaged balls with both hands. Spike grabbed him by the hair and savagely pulled his head back. He looked into the other vampire’s pain-filled eyes. “I found insanity, as a lifestyle choice, to be vastly overrated. But I guess you know that, having spent quality time with Dru. Don’t,” he said, when Riley’s mouth opened to call for her. “The point of my story – and I do have one,” he said, “is this. I was crazy for a bit, but I got better. And then I realized that having a soul wasn’t a curse. Then, recently, I found out that it’s actually a blessing. Because I have a soul, I get to have friends who love me. And I get to have Xander, who will.” Riley opened his mouth as if to contradict Spike, who used his hand in the other vampire’s hair to shake his head violently. “Don’t interrupt your elders,” he admonished, “it’s rude.” Riley’s mouth closed again.

“So, I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you,” Spike continued. “If my having a soul is your fault, then I owe you some gratitude. So, thanks.” Spike loosened his hold on Riley’s hair, and the other man took the opportunity to surge to his feet and launch himself at Spike. Whereupon he immediately found himself impaled on the sharp piece of wood that Spike had pulled from his boot and held in front of his chest. Spike had to laugh at the cow-eyed look of surprise on Riley’s face as he dusted. Spike tossed the sliver of wood away and brushed Riley’s dust from his hands as he turned. Which also happened to be the exact same moment that Drusilla attacked him.

She came out of nowhere, swiftly and silently. Spike was stunned by a hard kick to the face. He could feel his recently healed nose break again with a gush of blood down his throat. He rocked back on his heels, but did not fall. He jumped backward, and when Drusilla rushed him again, he swept her feet out from under her. She went down hard, but was back upright instantly. Spike wiped blood from his face and casually flicked it on the floor at her feet. “That hurt,” he said mildly. Her eyes were huge and bright in her pale face, and she was shaking with rage. Her voice rose in pitch as she moved closer, aggressively invading Spike’s personal space, stopping with her nose barely an inch from his bloodied one.

“You idiot! You killed him!” she shrieked. “He was mine and you killed him. We were going to be a family – just my three boys and me. You were to be my perfect loves – and you killed him!” Spike looked her in the eye for a moment, then placed both hands on her chest and shoved her. He was surprised when she only moved back a step – he’d expected to throw her across the room. “You made him, Dru, and you’re calling me an idiot? I’m pretty insulted by that – ow!” he yelled when she reached out and dragged her sharp nails down the side of his face, leaving behind four bloody gouges from the corner of his eye to his jaw.

Spike retreated a step and leaned down lightning fast to pull a stake from his boot. Even faster, she stepped forward and snapped his wrist, handily palming the stake and turning it toward him. Cradling his broken wrist – oh, fuck, he thought, when he saw the bones sticking through the skin – he backed away from her. She lunged at him just as Buffy and Angel burst through the front door of the warehouse and the back door exploded under the force of Willow’s spell. Spike turned slightly to look past the petite witch, trying to catch a glimpse of Xander. As he turned, Dru plunged the stake into his shoulder, driving him to his knees. As he fell, Spike heard Xander shout, “Will!” Drusilla kicked Spike savagely in the head and smiled when he fell onto his already broken wrist.

Buffy dusted the second of her three fledglings easily and gestured for Angel to help Spike. At the same time, Willow yelled something in Latin that caused the two fledges at the back of the warehouse to glow brightly for a second and then disappear. Seeing this, Xander turned toward Spike and Dru at a dead run.  Angel tackled her from the other side as Xander slid to a stop on his knees in front of his lover. He gently turned Spike over and tried to straighten the horribly bent wrist. The sliver of wood was still lodged in the vampire’s shoulder, and his face and nose were bleeding freely; he was barely conscious. Xander looked into his eyes, and Spike tried to grin. “Get that fuckin’ thing out of my arm, would ya, Xan?” he asked weakly. Xander grasped the stake and pulled it out. Spike groaned.

Xander looked up as Willow and Buffy joined them. Angel had Dru facedown on the floor, and was holding her down with a knee solidly planted in her back. Willow walked over to them and exchanged a few words with Angel. At his nod, the witch spoke a spell and gestured toward Dru with a spiraling motion of her hand. Glowing ropes of energy encircled the female vampire, and she levitated off the floor, caught in Willow’s binding spell. “I can hold her for a bit,” Willow gritted out, “but not forever – help Spike.” Angel turned back to Xander and Spike, and his mouth fell open as he watched Buffy use the dagger from her boot to slice Xander’s wrist. The human pressed the oozing cut to Spike’s lips.

Spike drank for a moment, and then pulled away. When he did, Xander and Buffy changed places, and he took the knife to slash her wrist. Spike’s eyes flew to Xander’s. “Drink it, Will,” he said. “Her blood is strong, and you need it.” Spike lowered his mouth to Buffy’s arm, and nearly bit her when Xander took advantage of his distraction to pull the compound fracture in his wrist straight. The blond vampire howled as the bones aligned, but Xander was happy to see the ragged tears in his skin begin to close. Angel laid his hand on Buffy’s shoulder, then slipped into gameface and used a fang to cut his own wrist, which he then offered to Spike. Spike took it and drank for a moment. He released Angel and climbed to his feet.

Spike ran his hands over his bloody face, feeling the gouges in his cheek seal, and closed his hand over his nose. With a sharp jerk, he straightened the bones, grimacing. He held a hand down to Xander and pulled the taller man to his feet. As they came face to face, Xander ran a hand through Spike’s hair. “You look like shit, baby,” he said with a wan smile. Spike leaned in and pressed his forehead against his lover’s. His eyes closed. “I’ve felt better, luv,” he said. Angel and Buffy climbed to their feet just as Willow said in a strained voice, “I hate to break up the reunion, but I can’t hold this spell much longer.” The bands of energy that held Dru were weakening, and she was howling and thrashing in rage. Xander, the two vampires and the Slayer ranged themselves in a loose circle around Dru, and Xander signaled to Willow to release the spell, which she did with a sigh.

Dru fell to the floor in a heap, but was up in an eye-blink, swinging at Spike. He ducked, and Buffy kicked the female vampire hard in the knee. Drusilla whirled to face Buffy, and as she did, Spike and Angel each grabbed one of her arms. Using her own momentum, the two male vampires turned her body to face Xander as Buffy tossed him the stake from her pocket. Looking her straight in the eyes, Xander stepped forward and plunged it directly into her heart. As Drusilla dusted, Angel, Spike and Xander collapsed together into a heap on the floor. Buffy and Willow rushed to them.

All three men were silent. All three looked stricken. Buffy and Willow exchanged a look of alarm. Buffy pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and spoke into it briefly, while cradling Angel’s head to her chest. Willow wrapped her arms around Spike and Xander, who sank against her, their free arms rising to embrace one another. That was how Dawn, Jase and Cordelia found them, fifteen minutes later. The new arrivals pulled everyone to their feet. Dawn assisted Willow; Jase and Cordelia flanked Spike and Xander, and Buffy helped Angel out to the van.

Part Thirty-Four

How are you feeling?” Xander’s voice was soft; Spike could barely hear it over the roar of the shower. Xander’s warm fingers were scrubbing the blood and dust out of his hair, smoothing it over the contours of his skull with infinite gentleness. Spike shrugged. “Could ask you the same thing,” he replied. Xander finished rinsing his lover’s hair, and then rested his forehead between Spike’s shoulder blades. “Relieved. I feel relieved. It’s finally over.” He turned so that his cheek rested against Spike’s tense back and wrapped his arms around the vampire’s narrow waist. “I’m also sorry. I don’t know what to say to you. It’s got to hurt to lose your sire.” Spike barked a bitter laugh. “It does. Now I know how Angel felt when he had to dust Darla.”

They stood in silence for long moments, and then Spike straightened and reversed their positions, bringing Xander under the shower’s spray and turning him so they were face to face. The human’s brown eyes closed as the water cascaded over his face. Spike took the opportunity to look at him, staring unabashedly. He wondered what the future held for them. He had been telling the truth - Dru's death did hurt him. But what hurt him more was the fear he felt in the pit of his belly – the fear that with his vendetta completed, Xander might decide to return home and leave him. Xander’s eyes opened, and he looked at Spike for a moment with a sad smile. He then leaned in and kissed the vampire sweetly. They clung together until the water started to cool, and then exited the shower together.

Xander stood on one leg to dry the opposite foot. His balance faltered and Spike steadied him. “You look pale, pet,” he observed. “I think I took too much blood from you back in the warehouse.” Xander smiled. “I’m a little faded, but I’ll be OK. I know Angel and Buffy’s blood probably did more for you, but it was important to me that you have mine, too.” Spike walked Xander into the bedroom and pushed him down to sit on the bed. He used the bath towel to gently dry Xander’s hair, and then knelt between the human’s feet, looking up into his eyes. “That little bit of your blood did more for me than a gallon of sire’s blood or Slayer’s blood, Xander.”

Xander smiled and raised one hand to trace over the spot on Spike’s neck that he’d bitten previously. “I’m sorry my mark couldn’t stay,” he said wistfully. Spike’s eyes widened. “You’d want it to?” Xander rubbed the spot harder, but didn’t answer. He leaned down and bit the spot gently, digging his teeth in harder when Spike groaned. Xander’s hand reached blindly for Spike’s and brought it between the human’s legs to press against his erection. “I want you,” Xander hissed, and cool fingers curled around him and began to slide up and down. Spike rose to his feet and pushed his lover back on the bed, never breaking contact, and coming to rest beside him against the pillows.

Xander shifted onto his side and pulled Spike close, bringing their lengths into contact. They started to move in a gentle rhythm. Xander curled his hands into Spike’s hair and brought their mouths together in a deep kiss. Their tongues moved at the same pace as their hips, and their groans and whimpers escalated. Xander pulled his lips from Spike’s to drag in necessary breaths. He tilted the vampire’s head to one side, pressing wet, open-mouthed kisses to the pale column of his neck, following up with tiny nips to sensitive spots.

Spike’s hands roamed Xander’s warm back, pressing into firm muscle and gliding across sweat-slick skin. A million words were running through his mind; some of them even made sense. He wanted to open his mouth and pour them out, but was afraid that if he started talking he’d never stop. He wanted to tell Xander what he was feeling; to articulate and catalogue every sensation the human was causing in his body.  Lust, fear, hope and love broke over him like waves each cresting and receding, pulling him between them. Finally, he gave up and let his mind drift in the maelstrom of emotions as he dragged Xander’s mouth to his and crushed them together, snaking one hand between their bodies to encircle both of their erections and pump them in a rough rhythm.

Xander felt himself ready to come much too soon and broke the kiss to try and catch his breath. Spike was also close to orgasm, so he refused to let the pace slacken. When Xander started to gasp, Spike turned his head to one side, again baring his neck to his lover. Xander licked a long, wet line up the pale length and then whispered “together” into Spike’s ear. Spike nodded, slipping into game face. They each bit deeply into the other’s neck, pushing them over the edge into release.

Spike was careful to take only a tiny amount of blood from Xander, but let the human drink deeply from him for a moment. They lay quietly together, fingers tracing idle circles on muscled backs and through damp hair, listening to the sounds of nighttime that filtered in through the open window. Finally, Xander shifted to retrieve the towel and cleaned them both up, wiping away semen and blood. He balled up the towel and flung it toward the bathroom, then ran his fingers gently over Spike’s cheekbone. The vampire turned his face to the side and kissed the warm hand. His voice was muffled as he asked, “What’s next, Xan?”

Xander turned onto his back and placed one hand behind his head. With the other hand, he drew Spike’s head down onto his shoulder. “Well,” he began, haltingly. “I need to ask you another favor, Will.” Before he could stop it, the word “anything” slipped out of Spike’s mouth. Xander hugged the slightly smaller form to him and laughed. “Don’t say that until I ask – you might get yourself into trouble.” Spike raised his head to smile at Xander. “That’s where I stay, mate. What is it?”

“I want you to come back to Atlanta with me,” he said. When Spike’s eyes widened, he added, “you and Angel and Buffy. I need to fulfill a promise.” At Spike’s quizzical look, he explained, “I promised Shari’s father that I would find the person who killed her and Lex and make them pay. I thought it only right that the three of you should come with me. I think that it will give him and her mother some peace.” Spike simply nodded, then laid his head back onto Xander’s shoulder.

Xander’s stomach growled loudly, and Spike laughed. He rolled out of the bed, dragging Xander with him. The two men crouched naked on the floor, digging through the duffel bags they had neglected to unpack in their hurried arrival. They each found boxers and t-shirts and pulled them on. “What’s this?” Spike said, snagging the corner of a wrapped box he spied poking out of Xander’s bag. Xander smiled nervously. “That? Oh, it’s a present.” Spike lifted an eyebrow. “For me?” Xander reached out and ran a finger over the plain blue paper. He cleared his throat, and then simply gestured for the vampire to open the package. Spike ripped the paper and opened the box. He pulled out a v-necked, pale grey silk t-shirt. He pulled it out of the box and rubbed the soft fabric against his face.

He looked more closely at it, and then looked at his lover. “Um, Xan – this is nice, but it isn’t my size.” The human reached out to touch the fabric lightly and took a shuddering breath. “It’s for me,” he whispered. Spike looked from the shirt to Xander and back again, not getting it. He looked at the shirt. The grey shirt. The grey and not black shirt. “Oh,” he said. “Oh,” Xander repeated, looking down at the carpet. Spike gently draped the shirt over Xander’s shoulder and rubbed his hand over it. He waited until their eyes met, and said, “When you’re ready, luv, when you’re ready.” Xander stood and folded the shirt and placed it on the dresser. He reached down and pulled Spike to his feet, kissing him lightly on the lips. Yet another loud growl from Xander’s stomach sent them down to the kitchen for a snack.

Part Thirty-Five

Spike kicked the back of Buffy’s seat one last time, and then ducked the magazine that was tossed at him over its high back. Leaning forward, he reached between the seats and pulled her ponytail. She popped up onto her knees in the seat and glared at him. “Why aren’t you asleep?” she whispered, glancing pointedly at Xander, who was sleeping peacefully in his fully reclined seat with a cashmere throw draped over him. Angel was asleep in his seat also. “Wired,” Spike explained. She smiled, “Me, too.” Spike stood up from his seat and gestured to the other side of the small private jet they’d chartered for the flight, where two seats stood opposite a small table. The chairs were made of cream-colored leather and the shade of lamp attached to the table was Tiffany glass. As they slid into the comfortable chairs, the door to the cabin opened and a steward entered.

By the blue tone of the demon’s skin, not to mention the short horns on its forehead, Spike knew it was a Mithrasil. The race was known to be mildly prescient, so it figured that they would be useful in service industries – they’d pretty much always know when you were ready to order, if not what. The steward bustled to the back of the cabin to access the small kitchen, and then returned with cups of coffee for both of them, pointedly announcing, “Decaf,” as he placed them on the table. Spike snorted and reached for the sugar, while Buffy poured enough cream into hers to make it light brown. They sipped in silence for a moment.

“You love him,” Buffy stated baldly, watching Spike over the rim of her cup. He nodded, looking across the aisle at Xander’s sleeping form. When his eyes met hers again, she asked, “Does he love you?” Spike smiled, and it was a pure, open smile, with no guile or smugness in it. “He will.” She nodded. “That’s good,” she said. “I think it’s your natural state – both of you – being in love.” At Spike’s open-mouthed look she smirked. “What, I can’t be insightful?” He closed his mouth and then took another sip of his coffee. “I never said you couldn’t, Slayer, but it still gives me the wiggins, to quote you – and him.” They shared a smile.

They sipped quietly for a few moments, and then Buffy said, “You know, Dawn and Jase are going to try to have a sibling for Sara.” She blinked as the brilliant smile lit up the vampire’s face again.  “That’s great,” he said. “When are you and Angel going to make a baby?” She spluttered, “Us? We can’t … vampire …” He laughed softly. “Well, I was thinking that with Red in town, you could get her to invoke the mojo and actually make one.” Her eyes widened. “You mean, like, in the kitchen with the herbs and chanting and the mortar and pestle kind of making?” He nodded. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. She tried again. “I don’t know if he wants … if we’re ready … um … I have to think about that, a lot.” She grimaced at Spike. “Now I’ll never get to sleep.” He sipped his coffee and grinned. The steward reappeared and started clearing their cups, telling them to return to their seats for the descent into Atlanta.

Xander flopped backward onto the king-sized bed as Spike pressed a bill into the bellhop’s hand and slammed the door behind him. The vampire noted that his lover had already kicked off his shoes and untucked his black shirt so that it rode up over his lean belly. Xander had one forearm draped over his eyes as he sprawled bonelessly on the huge bed amid a dozen throw pillows. “I’m really digging the whole you being rich thing, Spike,” he said. “Does that make me shallow?” Spike kicked off his boots, stripped off his sweater and joined his lover on the bed, mimicking his pose. “I dunno. Would it make you feel any better if I told you that Angel is paying?” Xander rolled onto his side to gape at Spike, who peeked out from under his forearm, blue eyes twinkling merrily. “You made him pay? For the flight and the hotel? Classic,” he pronounced. “Limo, too,” Spike reminded him, and Xander flopped back down on the bed, giggling. “Let’s order a whole shitload of room service, then.” He reached for the phone.

“OK, you win – that’s grosser than me dipping French fries in my milkshake,” Xander conceded, watching Spike eat a slice of apple pie drenched in blood. “What?” the vampire replied, “It’s All-American, innit?” Xander merely shuddered. Spike happily munched his pie and watched Xander alternately eat bites of chocolate mousse and key lime pie, sometimes mixing the two together before shoving the whole green and brown spoonful into his mouth. Reaching over, the vampire snared the maraschino cherry that decorated the dollop of whipped cream topping the mousse. Xander deftly snatched it out of his hand and popped it into his mouth, stem and all. He chewed happily, and then smiled at Spike’s outraged look. “Mine,” he explained. “’Sides, I have to show you my one and only bar trick.” Spike watched as Xander contorted his face for a couple of minutes, and then grinned broadly when the human stuck out on his tongue.  The cherry stem rested there, tied in a neat knot. Spike swooped in and kissed Xander, then broke the kiss to spit the knotted cherry stem across the room.

They fell back onto the bed; travel-weary and full, happy to simply lay side by side, hands lightly touching. Spike was loath to break the mood, but needed to ask Xander a question. Rubbing his hand lightly up the human’s tanned arm, he looked up at the ceiling and asked, “How do you want me to play this with your in-laws, Xan?” Xander covered Spike’s hand with his own and pressed down. “I’m thinking partial truth. I’ll just introduce you and Angel and Buffy as my friends and leave it at that. It’s not really any of their business, and it would be cruel to rub their faces in it.” Spike remained quiet for a moment, and then spoke. “Which d’you think would bother them more, that you’ve got somebody new, or that the somebody is male?” Xander leaned his head against Spike’s shoulder. “I dunno,” he sighed. “Does it matter?” He shrugged, and then turned to lay a light kiss on the vampire’s neck.

“So, you’re saying I’ve got you?” he asked. Spike’s eyes opened sleepily. “Huh?” Xander met his eyes. “You said I’ve got somebody new. That’s you. So I’ve got you, right?” Spike’s eyes closed and he sighed. “Do we have to be all soft and fluffy and talk about feelings now?” he mock-whined. Xander lightly bumped their heads together. “Yes,” he laughed. “Yes, we do – my soft and fluffy little heart needs it. Spill.” Spike hauled himself up on one elbow so he could look down into Xander’s face. “You had me at ‘hello’,” he quoted. Xander giggled. “Except I never said ‘hello’. You opened the door before I could knock and you growled at me and I said ‘Spike, it’s me, Xander.’”

“That’s true,” Spike conceded. “Actually, Xan, you had me from the moment you told me that you burned for me – in my kitchen, against the refrigerator. You’ve got me – as much as you want for as long as you want.” He watched as Xander’s eyes darkened, and heard the human’s heartbeat speed up slightly. “That was hot,” he rasped, tongue darting out to moisten suddenly dry lips as he savored the memory of the kiss. “Stopping you was so hard; I didn’t want to, but I needed to.” Spike nodded. “I know, pet, I understood. Besides, you were worth waiting for. That fluffy enough for ya?” Xander’s smile softened and the bright flare of lust mellowed. He leaned up and placed a soft kiss on Spike’s cheek, then rubbed his own cheek over the spot he’d just kissed. They both shifted their weight so that they could wrap their arms around one another, with Xander lying half on top of Spike, their faces still pressed together.

With cool fingers carding through his hair, Xander tried to put a name to the way he was feeling. Safe came to mind, and warm, and loved, but none of those words seemed to cover the entire concept. He tightened his arms a little more, and smiled at the answering pressure from Spike’s. Home, he thought. I’m home. Not Atlanta – Spike. Glancing at the window to make sure the blackout drapes were in place, Spike flipped the corner of the bedspread up to cover them and drifted off to sleep.

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