Shame the Devil

Yin Again

Part One

Xander Harris thumbed through the neatly sorted stacks of mail that were precisely arranged on his borrowed desk. The desk itself was in a cramped office that was nestled deep in the bowels of the God-knows-who Memorial Coliseum, Arena or Civic Center in Atlanta, Kansas City or possibly Memphis, but he just wasn't sure. Each stack of mail had a yellow sticky note on top of it and they were labeled in Anna's precise handwriting. Not surprisingly, the smallest stack was marked "personal". It consisted of a single thick, heavy, cream-colored envelope - the kind that invitations and announcements came in. Xander was about to open it when he heard a tentative knock at the door.

"Come in, CJ," he said, and cursed under his breath. He hated doing this, and he hated the reason he had to do it. CJ, a tall, thin guy with glasses, entered the room and perched uneasily on the folding chair set up in front of the desk. He would not raise his head to meet Xander's sharp-eyed gaze, instead looking nervously around the room and smoothing wisps of his sandy hair where they had escaped from a scraggly ponytail.

"Fuck, CJ - why are you doing this to me?" Xander asked, running his hands through his own shaggy, dark hair. "You know better than this. You fucking know I have to fire you. It's Rule #4 - the Springer Caveat."

CJ slumped in his chair. "I know, man. He's just so ..." his voice trailed off miserably.

"Yes, CJ - I know. That's why when I hire you guys, I make it a point to specifically ask you if you can hold out against him - you said you could." Xander's voice softened. "I know he can be terribly convincing - it's his nature. I understand." Xander sighed. "However, that doesn't erase the image that's burned on my retinas of having to pry Spike off of that woman and her sixteen year old daughter. And then she bitched me out about it! You know the rule - no mother-daughter teams. Christ, CJ - not only is it annoying, disturbing and illegal; it's the second time this week!" CJ merely hung his head.

"Get your severance from Anna - your confidentiality waiver is still in effect," Xander said as he stood and held a hand out to the younger man. "I'm sorry, man." CJ took Xander's hand and shook it, then left with a resigned sigh. Xander echoed the sigh and rested his head in his hands. He was contemplating the envelope again when he heard his name being frantically shouted from down the hall. Fuck, what now, he thought as he raced out the door.

Isha, one of the bodyguards, was standing outside another anonymous door thirty feet down the corridor, gesturing for Xander to hurry. Xander rounded the corner at a dead run, and Isha snagged his arm to slow his momentum and push him toward the door. Bursting into the dressing room, Xander swept his eyes around to assess the situation. Another beefy bodyguard, Ace, was standing in the middle of the room. Spike's much smaller body was wrapped around the larger man in a parody of an embrace.

At first sight, it looked like Ace had Spike in a headlock, but Xander knew better. Spike's head was cradled in the crook of the bodyguard's arm, but it was not restrained there - the vampire had his fangs buried in the soft flesh of the inside of the large man's elbow and was feeding. Ace was pale and struggling, his eyes were beginning to look panicked.

Xander tried not to notice that Spike was lost in the ecstasy of the blood, his eyes rolled back in his head, his tongue working against the flesh in his mouth, his hips pumping his erection against the body in his arms. Ace was trying to pry the vampire's mouth away from him, but Spike easily held the man in place as if he didn't weigh well over 300 pounds and have biceps as big as Spike's thighs.

Stepping up to the entwined men, Xander reached forward and twisted his right hand into the vampire's blond curls. He tightened his hand viciously, ignoring the angry growl that emanated from Spike.

"Let go, fucker," Xander hissed, being careful not to give in to the urge to shake Spike's head until his teeth rattled, so he wouldn't hurt Ace further. "You're draining Ace, you dick." Spike's eyes flew open and he stopped feeding. After a long moment, he carefully eased his fangs out of the larger man's flesh. He tried to push the bodyguard's arm away. Seeing that Ace was free, Xander gave in to the impulse and shook Spike's head sharply by the hair several times.

"Lick it. You aren't leaving him with a scar just because you can't control yourself," he said, and Spike did as he was told, laving the puncture wounds on Ace's arm until they closed. Xander and Isha ignored the small moan that Ace couldn't suppress. Xander kept his hold on Spike's hair, not allowing the vampire to raise his head. With his other hand, he gave Ace a gentle push toward the other bodyguard.

"Get him out of here, Isha. Take him to Julie for a shot, get him a steak, and reshuffle the roster so he gets a couple of days off." Xander sighed; giving both men what he hoped was a smile that was equal parts apology and reassurance. As soon as the door clicked shut behind them, Xander pulled Spike upright and looked into his face.

The demon visage had receded, but the blue eyes were spacey. Xander looked at the vampire's pupils and cursed again. "CJ?" he asked. Spike nodded. "Well, I already fired him, so that's that. How much?"

"Nine." Spike's voice was low. Xander cursed again, and let go of Spike's hair. The vampire stumbled slightly, and Xander automatically reached out to steady him. Spike sidestepped and moved in, pressing his body against Xander's side. He rubbed his crotch against the human's hip.

"Xanderrrrr," Spike growled. Xander knew that a blood-lusting, horny Spike with nine thousand dollars worth of heroin in his non-streaming bloodstream wasn't likely to listen to reason, so he merely wrapped his arm around the narrow waist and tilted his head back as he shoved one of his thighs between the insane vampire's legs. Spike clamped his own thighs against Xander's, wrapped his arms around him and started thrusting. His lips came to rest against Xander's throat, and he eagerly mouthed the warm flesh, taking care not to touch the human with his teeth.

Spike muttered and moaned against Xander's neck as his pace sped up, and if the human heard his own name in those growls and groans, he didn't dwell on it. The vampire climaxed with a shudder and a sigh, and hung limply off of Xander's larger frame for a moment. As soon as Xander felt dampness soaking into his jeans, he unwound their bodies and half-walked, half-carried Spike to the attached bathroom.

He shoved the still-unsteady form into the shower and turned the cold water on full blast. He ignored the indignant curses and howls that rang through the small room, but did relent and reach in to turn the hot water on. He waited for ten minutes; studiously ignoring his hard on until it finally gave up and subsided, then peeked into the shower. Spike was on his feet, washing listlessly, his clothes scattered on the tile. He turned his head and gave Xander a sheepish smile. His eyes were less spacey and he was regaining some of his characteristic grace. Xander withdrew.

The shower turned off, and Spike pulled back the curtain, sluicing water off of his hair with his other hand. He stepped out of the shower and shrugged gratefully into the thick terry robe Xander handed him. The human draped a towel across Spike's shoulders and took his arm, leading him back out into the main dressing room and over to a large, plush sofa that was covered in an electric blanket. Spike sank down onto its warmth and started blotting his dripping hair with the towel. Xander sat beside him and pulled another blanket off the arm of the sofa, wrapping it around Spike.

"Sorry," Spike muttered, not looking up.

"Sorry for what? Ace? I know you aren't sorry about the mom and daughter team - either one of them, or the smack," Xander replied in an even voice.

"Yeah, Ace. Didn't mean to - I just got caught up. Is he mad?"

"I don't know, Spike. Probably not - Ace is pretty mellow. You're lucky it wasn't Jack - he would have probably punched you." Spike could hear Xander's smile, but still didn't look up.

"'M sorry about the other, too." The vampire's voice was still low.

"What? Humping me?" Xander laughed. "You are so not sorry - you just wanted to get off. I could have been anyone. Now, stop pouting. You know it doesn't work on me. You have to be onstage in two hours. Wanna sleep a little?"

"Will you stay?" Xander sighed yet again at the tone in Spike's voice. It was that tone he used every now and again; the one that made Xander almost believe there was a shred of actual emotion in the vampire's unbeating heart. The tone that sounded lonely. Biting back another sigh, Xander raised his arm, allowing Spike to fold himself to his side. He propped his chin on top of the wet curls and let himself relax. A fleeting thought - the word "envelope" - flitted across Xander's mind, but he didn't bother to chase it. Within minutes, they were both asleep. They stayed that way until the hairdresser, makeup artist and stylist arrived an hour later to work on Spike before the show.

Part Two

"No. No, no, fucking no."

"Yes, you twat - we're going."

"What part of 'fucking no' do you not understand, Spike? I'm. Not. Going. You're a grown up vampire - you want to go, go. I'm not." Spike crossed the room and laid a hand on Xander's shoulder. As soon as stormy brown eyes met his own, he smiled gently.

"We need to go, Xan. It's for Dawn. Little Bit will never understand if we miss her graduation, and you need to face them - you need to face Buffy and hash it all out once and for all." Spike's smile twisted into a smirk as he continued, "besides - if I go, you have to go. I'm completely co-dependent and couldn't find my ass with both hands without you. At least, that's what you tell everybody."

Xander batted the vampire's hand off of his shoulder and sat down heavily into another anonymous desk chair in another anonymous office in another anonymous venue. He dropped his dark head into his hands and sighed.

"I don't want to do this, Spike," Xander said. "I don't want to go back to Sunnydale with my tail between my legs and crawl to Buffy's feet to beg forgiveness for being an asshole. On my list of top ten things I don't want to do, this ranks pretty damn high."

"She forgave you a long time ago, you stupid git," Spike said. He leaned against the desk and propped one of his booted feet on the corner of Xander's chair.

Xander straightened in his seat and lifted his head to eye Spike suspiciously. "How do you know that? When did you talk to her?" he said.

The vampire rolled his eyes. "Uh - once a month for the last eight years? I am paying for her sister's education." Spike enunciated each word carefully, as if Xander were very drunk.

"When did she tell you what I did?" Xander's voice was much less forceful than before, and Spike hated the shame he heard there.

"She didn't," he answered.

"Then how do you know she's forgiven me?" The suspicious tone was back in Xander's voice.

Spike looked at the human for a moment, and then placed his hand on the slumped shoulder again. "I asked her what was between the two of you. She said that you both did and said some things you didn't mean and that she'd forgiven you and hoped you'd forgive her and yourself."

"She didn't do anything wrong," Xander's eyes dropped from Spike's and back to the floor.

"She says she did," Spike said softly.

"No," Xander said miserably, "It was me."

Spike awkwardly patted his friend's shoulder. "What did you do, pet? You can tell me - not big on judging, you know."

Xander raised his head to meet Spike's eyes, and the vampire saw a dangerous glint there. When Xander spoke again, his tone was harsh, and his eyes glittered. "You want to know what I did, Spike? Well, just remember that you asked, OK?" Xander took a deep breath and leaned forward. Neither man noticed that Spike's hand slipped a little to curve toward the back of Xander's neck. "I helped drag her out of Heaven - but you knew about that. And you made your feelings pretty clear - with the yelling and the leaving." Spike's mouth opened and Xander made a quelling gesture.

"Shut up - you wanted to hear this and I'm only saying it once. So, dragged out of Heaven because her friends were stupid - that was major. But, then it got better. You were gone, and she was a mess - she couldn't deal with anything, couldn't feel, she said. And then, I got my wish. Buffy finally turned to me for comfort. I finally had the girl of my dreams in my arms, begging me to love her."

Xander laughed bitterly. "I was still in shock after Anya died, you'd gone, Willow and Tara were miserable, Dawn was terrified, and Buffy - God, Buffy wanted to fuck me. She wanted me to make her make her feel anything. For a while it was enough just to fuck. All the time, anywhere, any way - whatever she wanted. She nearly killed me, Spike. I could barely keep up with her. And then I couldn't. And then fucking wasn't enough. There had to be screaming and yelling and arguing."

Spike wanted to stop the recitation - the look in Xander's eyes was scaring the hell out of him; the restrained violence in the other man's voice was arousing his demon as much as it was unnerving the human part of him. Xander paused and took a breath, then kept speaking in a low, vicious voice. "Then, one day, screaming and yelling wasn't enough - she pushed me. I pushed her back. She made some smartass remark, and I - I hit her."

In an instant, Spike's hand moved from the back of Xander's neck to gather a fistful of the front of the human's shirt as he jerked them both to their feet. His eyes glowed a baleful yellow as he stared into Xander's face. A small part of his brain noted that Xander wasn't exhibiting any signs of fear, simply returning the venomous look with one of rage and shame.

"You. Did. What?" Spike gritted out.

Xander calmly removed the vampire's hand from his shirt and stepped back. "Don't make me rethink my decision to stop carrying a stake, Spike." They both settled back into their original positions, Xander in the chair, Spike leaning against the desk with his hands clasped on his knee hard enough to make the small bones creak

"To answer your question," Xander said, "I hit her. I hit Buffy in anger. Then I left. Six months later, I met up with you again."

"Did you hurt her?"

"No. I don't think it actually even registered for her at the time," Xander's tone betrayed the disgust his still felt for his actions.

Spike felt all of his righteous anger leave him in a flood. "What did it do for you?" he asked.

Xander laughed bitterly and wiped a hand across his mouth, as if he could wipe away the taste of his shame. "Made me sick. Made me want to die. Proved to me that, if nothing else, I am my father's son." The bitter laugh again. "It scared the shit out of me, Spike. It made me leave every person I ever loved, because, not only was I useless at protecting them from vamps and demons, I couldn't even protect them from monsters like me."

They stared at each other for a long moment, and Xander noticed that Spike's eyes had changed back to blue. "Your Dad hit your Mum?" the vampire asked softly.


"And you?"


"How long?"

"Forever. Doesn't matter."

Spike reached out one more time and laid a hand on Xander's shoulder. "It does matter, pet. It matters to me. You want me to kill him?"

"I already offered," Xander said, "she wouldn't let me."

Spike snorted. "And people say demons are fucked up."

Xander sat very still, drawing a tiny amount of comfort from the cool hand on his shoulder and the easy camaraderie that seemed to surface between them at the oddest moments.

"I still don't know why she'd ever forgive me," Xander said.

"It's what she does. She's the forgiving sort," Spike replied, squeezing the shoulder under his hand, and then releasing it with some reluctance.

"I don't deserve it," Xander sighed.

"Xan?" Spike said.


"Get off the bloody cross, would you? Accept the forgiveness, give her yours and move the fuck on." His smile was gentle. "Besides, you know broodiness gives me hives."

Xander smiled back. "Well, I wouldn't want to be responsible for marring your pretty skin."

"Damn right."

Part Three

"I can't tell you how excited I am that you guys are coming!" Willow was so giddy that Xander had no idea how she was keeping the pitch of her voice out of dog-ears-only range. She and Xander had been on the phone for over five minutes - the longest they had talked in years. So far the conversation was mainly Willow squealing and Xander laughing. "OK, what's the plan?" she asked, and could sense that she had her "detail-oriented face" on.

"Two more shows in wherever the hell we are - Indiana, I think?" Xander realized that he truly didn't know, and reminded himself to look at the front of the phone book as soon as he got out of bed - the phone book always knew where it was. "Then we'll fly back to LA and drive to you, so we'll arrive Thursday night. Party's Saturday, right?"

"Yep. Do you want to stay with us?" she asked hopefully.

"Nah - we're set up at the Delta. I hope it's up to Spike's extremely prissy hotel standards. We have to bring the obligatory rock star entourage, and what with being mostly nocturnal it'll be easier on you if we just hotel it." Xander kept his tone light. He didn't want Willow to suspect that he had very specific reasons for not wanting to put himself and Spike into close quarters with the others.

"How many in the entourage? I'll need to tell the caterer for the party," Willow said, and Xander could hear a pen scratching on paper.

"Just the two of us and the four bodyguards - skeleton crew," he joked.

She snorted. "Spike needs four bodyguards? His body's not that big. Oh! Does he need a source for blood?"

Xander didn't speak for a moment, and then replied carefully, "We'll bring what we need, but thanks. The guards are two shifts, just in case. He tends to get mobbed."

"Yeah, I get that - that photo on the cover of his latest CD is drool-worthy in a big way. Gah!" Xander could hear her blush.

Xander's thoughts raced back to the photo shoot for the album cover in question. The photographer had been a prancing sissy who drove Spike absolutely insane, and the vampire had very nearly stormed out of the studio several times. Finally, Xander had made everyone leave the room. He had sat Spike down in the center of the floor and made him laugh until he nearly cried by doing imitations of Angel in the old days. After Xander had improvised a three minute riff called "the Magnificent Poof and the Case of the Missing Hair Gel" that had left Spike lying weakly on the floor in near-hysterics, he had allowed the photo crew back in, with the caveat that none of them speak. They'd gotten some good photos of a much more relaxed Spike.

The photo that had eventually become the album cover was the last one that had been shot. The photographer had gestured that they were finished, and Xander had jokingly blown a kiss at Spike, to thank him for cooperating. Out of the blue, a bolt of - something - something hot and coiled and electric - had shot between the two men. The photographer had snapped one last digital frame that captured Spike crouched down on the floor in front of a blood-red backdrop, wearing all black. His hands were dangling down between his spread knees, his head was tilted, and he wore a look that was direct, primal, appraising and raw - part predator, part seducer. It was an image that graced a million teenagers' walls, and the fantasies of many of their parents. Xander felt parts of him responding to the memory of being the object of that look. At the time, the photographer had started shrieking about what a great shot it was, and Xander had been forced to move quickly to keep Spike from killing the shrill little man, totally wrecking the mood.

"Hello? Xander?" The tone of Willow's voice told him this was not the first time she'd called his name.

"Sorry. Got distracted. What?" he babbled.

"I said, tell Spike he has to make a speech at the party - the other girls' parents are doing it, and Buffy and Spike are pretty much Dawnie's honorary Mom and Dad."

"What about Giles? That seems like a Giles thing," Xander said, thinking about how loud Spike was going to yell when told he had to make a speech.

"Giles is..." She hesitated. "Giles is kind of...not himself right now."

"What does that mean, Willow?" Xander asked, and she was suddenly glad that she couldn't see his face, wondering if it was half as fierce as his voice right then.

"He's recovering from what we think is a magical backlash - he cast a spell that backfired on him. He's a little...nuts. But, he's getting better." She sounded desperate.

"How long has he been nuts, Willow?"

"A couple of days. I've consulted some others in my coven - we're working on a fix. He'll be fine, I promise. Tara and I are taking good care of him - and he's going to be just fine." Her fervent tone told him that she was reassuring herself as much as him.

Xander decided to let the subject drop for the moment. "OK, you want me to call you when we get into town or wait 'til Sleeping Evil gets up on Friday?" he asked.

"You better call when you get in - Dawn will be bouncing all over the place." She hesitated. "Xander, have you talked to Buffy?"


"Will you please call her? You guys really need to get all this stuff between you settled before you arrive," she said.

"OK," he sighed, "I'll call her tonight as soon as I get Spike safely on stage."

"Can I ask you something?" She sounded as if she were afraid that she might anger him, and Xander felt his guts twist a little at the thought that she might fear his reaction.

"Anything," he replied.

"What's the deal with you and Spike, anyway?" She sounded genuinely curious, and he had to laugh a little.

"It's...complicated. And, yes, I know that's not much of an answer. Technically, I'm his business manager - I hire, I fire, I book the tours, I sign things. I yell at people who fuck up and give Porches to people who don't. Xander giveth and Xander taketh away," he joked. "I do all the stuff that Spike hates, and he goes out there and sings and dodges panties and makes millions of bucks."

"I know that," she replied, with an edge of impatience. "I meant personally."

"Personally?" His voice squeaked a little at the end of the word. "We're friends, I guess. Business partners. Why?"

"Oh," she said, and she sounded - disappointed? "I just thought maybe you were together. It's just that all the nice little cards and presents and things are always signed 'love, S+X', and he talks about you a lot when he calls and stuff."

Xander was momentarily speechless. Nice little cards? Presents? Spike calls Willow? Spike calls Willow and talks about me? Xander-brain shutting down now...all unsaved work will be lost. Please press any key to continue.

"Sorry to disappoint you, Wills, but there's nothing romantic going on with me and the evil undead." Xander-brain failsafe engaged, sarcasm released. Crisis averted.

"Well, is there anybody else special? For either of you?" Willow sounded wistful.

"Depends on your definition of 'special', I guess," Xander replied ruefully. "Spike nails a lot of groupies. And roadies. And strippers and waitresses and God knows what else."

"Xander!" Willow sounded outraged.

"What? Hello - gorgeous, immortal, stud-muffin rock star. The guy gets laid a lot."

"Well, I guess that's not much of a surprise," she conceded. "But, nobody for you?"

"I get by." He smiled into the phone, hoping that the sentiment transferred down the wire. "Wills, we don't have a normal life, OK? I mean, neither of us has lived anywhere but hotels and vacation rentals for over five years. Neither of us owns a car. If we aren't recording or touring, we're raising hell in some beach town 'til it's time to record or tour again."

"It seems lonely," she said.

"It isn't. We have a great group of people. Take Annie - she's the brains of the operation. She's been with us for seven years. She makes sure we eat and bails us out of jail and makes us pay our taxes and stuff - she loves us. And the guys - the bodyguards - they've all been with us for at least two years. We have a strange little family, Willow, but it works for us."

"Tell me more, Xander - I want to know about your family." Her voice was so hopeful and sweet that Xander found himself falling back into the warm cushion of scoobiness that he'd left behind so long ago. He balled up a pillow and propped himself up comfortably.

Over the next hour he told her more about Annie and the four bodyguards - individually Ace, Jack, Isha and Carl; collectively "the guys". He related funny stories about Julie, their fitness trainer/ nurse/ chef; Dave, the guitar technician who had been giving Xander lessons for six months; the members of the touring band; the sound and lighting engineers and the assorted assistants, administrators and hangers-on who populated their insular little world.

Xander explained to Willow how they kept Spike's vampiness a closely-held secret, with only the inner circle being privy to the knowledge. She was fascinated with his descriptions of how they controlled his public appearances, photo shoots, interviews and other details. Throughout the conversation, Xander had been steadfastly ignoring the cell phone that was trying to vibrate off of the bed table. Finally, he knew he had to get back to the demands of his job.

"I'm sorry, Wills - but I've got to go. People are screaming for me." Xander was surprised to find that his reluctance to hang up was entirely genuine.

"OK - Mr. Famous Guy," she mock-whined. "But, I get lots and lots of your undivided attention when you're here, OK?" She was quiet for a moment, and then added, "I've missed you, Xander."

Speaking through the lump in his throat, Xander said, "I've missed you, too. I promise - lots of catching up time." He hung up the room phone and picked up the cell.

"What?" he snapped. He listened for a moment. "Call Annie - I'll be down in an hour. If she can't help you then it can wait a fuckin' hour." He clicked the tiny phone shut and turned over onto his back with a sigh.

Thoughts of the conversation with Willow turned to thoughts of the photo shoot where they'd taken the album cover shot she had mentioned, and Xander felt his cock twitch and start to fill. He slipped a hand down his naked body and loosely circled himself with his fingers. He concentrated on the look that had been in Spike's eyes - the look that had pinned him on the spot with raw, electric, seething need, and he was instantly fully erect.

He squeezed his shaft and felt a small gush of fluid at the tip. He rubbed his thumb over the slit and used the pearly drops to lubricate the slide of his palm. It wasn't enough. Rolling onto his side, he reached into the drawer of the bedside table and pulled out a nearly empty tube of lubricant. It was a sad testament to the state of his love life that he'd only used it on himself. Shrugging off that thought, he squeezed some of the slick gel onto his fingers and began stroking himself in earnest.

Xander let his other hand trail down to roll and cup his balls, pulling lightly on the heavy, velvet sac and rolling it against his body. He let his thoughts drift to an incident that had happened on their last tour.

There was a certain point in each show where Spike left the stage. While the guitarists and the drummer each took a long solo, Spike was able to change clothes and get some blood, Jack Daniels, drugs (if Xander had been less than diligent in his pre-show sweep) and usually a blowjob from a handy groupie before resuming the stage. On this particular night, Xander had walked into the backstage area just in time to see Spike, naked from the waist down and knee deep in girls, draining a fifth of JD. As the empty bottle had been flung aside, Xander's gaze locked on the girls at the vampire's feet. On was in front of him, deep-throating his cock. The second was crouched between his legs, sucking his balls. The third girl was kneeling behind Spike, with her tongue buried between the firm globes of his ass.

Spike had one hand buried in the hair of the girl blowing him, roughly fucking her mouth. The vampire's head was thrown back, eyes closed, and a steady stream of filthy language was pouring from his mouth. Out of the four of them, Spike was the only one to notice Xander, just as his eyes flew open preceding his orgasm. The vampire and mortal had locked eyes, and Spike's free hand had flailed out to grab one of Xander's, squeezing their linked fingers with punishing force as he came. The two men had stood unmoving until the girl on her knees in front of Spike had released his cock with a small "pop". Shaking himself, Xander had dropped Spike's hand, turned and left the room.

The memory of the fire in the depths of Spike's eyes at that moment of release brought Xander to the edge, and he stroked himself harder. It still wasn't enough. Stopping, he squeezed the remainder of the lubricant onto his hands and rubbed them together. He returned his right hand to his straining erection, and raised one leg so he could bring the other hand down to circle the puckered entrance to his body. He slid a finger inside and gasped. He stretched himself and added another finger, hissing at the burning sensation.

He let his mind wander to the memory he saved for occasions like this - when the normal beat-off fantasies weren't enough; when it had been too long between lovers; when he had one of his infrequent, usually drug-fueled, semi-sexual encounters with Spike that confused the hell out of him. The memory of a night several years past, when he had stormed into Spike's bedroom to yell at him for some transgression - drugs, underage groupies, something - and found the vampire sprawled across his bed with a young man crouched between his legs.

At first, it had looked like a garden-variety blowjob. Xander wasn't shocked - Spike was just as likely to get one of those from a man as a woman, or even a non-human, depending on where his fancy took him on a particular night. But this was different. The man had straightened, Spike's heavy cock slipping from his mouth, and Xander had seen that his entire hand was pushed inside Spike. The word "fisting" crossed Xander's mind - he knew what it was, but had never even seen photos.

Spike was on his back, with his knees bent and his feet flat on the bed. His hands were at his sides, curled tightly into the sheets. His hips were canted forward, and his back was tense. His eyes were open, awash in tears. Xander had never seen a look like the one on Spike's face - pain and pleasure and need and bare, open lust, all watered by the tears that streamed from huge, shining blue eyes. Those eyes had met Xander's as one of the vampire's hands had shot forward to grab the wrist lodged at the center of his body to keep the other man from withdrawing.

"Close," Spike had rasped, "So close, don't stop." At his plea, the young man had carefully rotated his hand and pushed it up into Spike. The motion had caused the vampire's back to bow further, and he came with a harsh cry, white spurts arcing into the air and landing in heavy drops on his pale chest and abdomen. The young man had repeated the rotating motion and slowly pulled his hand out. As the knuckles exited his body, Spike had cried out again, coming dry. As Spike panted harshly, Xander had closed the door.

On the bed, Xander twisted his fingers sharply and found his prostate. He rubbed it hard and tightened his hand around the swollen, reddened head of his cock. One more rub, and his balls drew up; one more hard stroke and he shot all over the sheets. Xander wiped his hands on the bedclothes, caught his breath, then got up and walked unsteadily to the shower, ignoring the vibrating telephone on the table.

Part Four

Packing - concentrate on packing. Don't think about achy knuckles and how they got that way. Don't think about the all-over soreness that comes from fucking Buffy ten ways to Sunday for weeks on end. Put the clothes in the bag, folding is optional at this point. Don't feel the tears threatening, there's no time for that pansy shit now. Besides, monsters don't fucking cry - they don't have the right.

Clothes, shoes, toiletries - all in the bag. The little apartment is almost bare anyway - couldn't keep any of the stuff after she died. Every piece of furniture, every trinket and useless little bit of glass or wood or cloth had her all over it - smelled like her, felt like her, called her name. It had all gone like magic - hell, with Willow around it could have actually been magic.

Two days after the tower he'd signed the paperwork and stood by the bed as the machines were turned off and Anya's mechanical breathing had ceased. The next day they had put Buffy into the ground in the hidden little grove. They'd done it after dark, for discretion and out of respect for Spike. Xander had stood just inside the protective circle the witches had laid to keep them safe from demons and to keep the Slayer's grave private, and allowed the grievously injured and slowly healing vampire to lean heavily on him, ignoring the pain of his own bruises and stitches.

Tears had poured silently down both their faces as Giles had haltingly eulogized a girl who saved the world a lot. Willow, Tara and Dawn had formed a small knot of misery that seemed to collapse more upon itself every second. Giles and Xander had filled the grave themselves with the others sitting on the grass, silent in the moonlight, helping Willow light candles and burn herbs to protect Buffy's rest.

When the work was finished, they had piled into Xander and Giles' cars and carried the urn containing Anya's ashes to the beach, where the others had stood back and watched as Xander waded out knee-deep in the waves to gently sprinkle her remains into the void. He also dropped her engagement ring into the swirling, dark water. He'd stood, tide eddying about his knees, until he felt a cool hand on his shoulder. Spike had stood next to Xander for a long moment, watching the moonlight play on the black surface, then led him haltingly back to the shore.

Their losses had bonded them over the summer. They'd found support in one another; patrolling, killing demons and vampires, and sitting quietly in Spike's crypt or Xander's new, Spartan, Anya-free apartment drinking and watching mindlessly violent movies. As the summer drew to a close, Xander made the decision to keep the plan for Buffy's resurrection from Spike. Once the ritual had been completed, Xander had taken the brunt of the vampire's anger, disappointment and fear, and then watched him walk away in tears, warning of the dire consequences of such dark magic.

Consequences. Well, weeks later, Xander finally understood about consequences. Wasn't it enough that his fiancée had died? That he'd had to bury one of his best friends? Wasn't it enough that his other best friend had been required to tap into forces better left alone to try and make it right? Was it worth the overwhelming joy of seeing Buffy again, alive and whole? Was that moment of joy worth the moments of agony he'd felt upon realizing that Spike had really left? When Buffy had told him in confidence that she had been ripped out of Heaven on their selfish whim? That she was frozen and cold and still half-dead, aching to feel anything to make her know she was alive?

And if that wasn't enough, was there a word for the feeling that swept over him when Buffy, his fantasy, his crush, the girl of his dreams had turned to him and melted into his arms with a kiss equal parts hope and desperation? Was there a whole dictionary devoted to the study of the words for the feelings that threatened to burst out of him as he had finally, sweetly slipped inside her heat, burning himself on the wave of fire that swept through them?

What could be the consequences of having this woman fulfill every fantasy he'd ever had, tearing him apart and putting him back together with the furor and fierceness of her love? And, finally, he had learned the truth of it - that she was using him. Worse than that - in the end he wasn't enough for her. He had done everything he knew how to do, and even learned some new things - but it wasn't enough. Her overwhelming need for more, stronger, faster, harder, more violent emotions had pushed him too far.

Consequences. The consequences of loving Buffy all boiled down to a sore hand and the peculiar brand of self-loathing that was born in his heart when he realized that a small part of him had enjoyed hitting her. Amidst all the love and pain and sorrow, there was the smallest twinge of satisfaction gleaned from the singular sound of knuckles meeting flesh in anger. That twinge was what had sent him reeling away in horror to run back to the small apartment and pack his few remaining belongings.

Xander shouldered the bag and walked out to his car. Running away never solved anything, they said. Fuck them.

Comfy barstool, flowing booze and the band wasn't too loud behind his back. Xander thought he could get to like this place. This place in ...New York? New Orleans? New Something. Whatever. He'd been on the road for six months. The half of Anya's insurance money that he'd allotted himself for fucking off with was running low, and he'd have to settle somewhere soon, at least long enough to work a little and build up his cash reserve. Again, whatever. Yes, nice bartender, I would like another. Thanks.

Six months of driving, stopping whenever a town looked interesting or he'd needed to do laundry had taken their toll. The clothes he'd brought with him hung on his gaunt frame, and his hair was long and wavy, generally shoved impatiently behind his neck with little thought. Shaving happened occasionally, this morning being the latest occasion. Drinking happened every day, at least a little - enough to get by and not think too much past the next shot or beer.

He normally didn't go places that had live music, but this one seemed OK. The band wasn't overly loud, and the singer didn't speak between numbers, simply moving from one mid-tempo rock song to the next with a minimum of distraction for the drinkers. A nice bar was Xander's only requirement - a place where he could be reasonably certain not to get assaulted or mugged, a place where everyone minded their own business - most assuredly not a place where everyone knew his name. Some days he wasn't even sure what his name was - he'd not heard anyone say it in so long.

That's probably why it took a second for his brain to register that the singer behind him had actually said what he thought he'd heard. A low bass line began to roll through the bar, and Xander turned to look at the singer. The singer who was Spike. The singer who had just announced quietly that the next song was for "my old friend, Xander". The vampire simply stood behind the microphone with his hands in the pockets of his duster, swaying slightly to the hypnotic music. He was wearing black jeans, a black tee and his scuffed Docs. His platinum hair was worn a little longer than in Sunnydale, and wasn't gelled quite so ruthlessly to the planes of his skull as before, allowing some natural curl to show. His crystal blue eyes glittered in the stage light. He cut his eyes to Xander and locked them on the human's face as he began to sing in a low growl.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Xander felt like Spike was singing directly to him, and felt the blood drain out of his face. During the short pause in the lyrics, the vampire's hands came up to wrap around the neck of the mic, his eyes never leaving Xander's.

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died

Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose
Everybody knows

Spike shifted the mic from the base and moved the stand to one side. He eased his body down into a tense crouch, elbows resting on spread knees, still looking up at Xander, who felt pinned to his seat. The human raised his drink and drained it, never looking away from the stage.

Everybody knows that you love me baby
Everybody knows that you really do
Everybody knows that you've been faithful
Ah give or take a night or two
Everybody knows you've been discreet
But there were so many people you just had to meet
Without your clothes
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Spike rose gracefully to his feet and placed one hand on the microphone stand, turning his profile to most of the audience for the final verses of the song, eyes still boring into Xander's.

And everybody knows that it's now or never
Everybody knows that it's me or you
And everybody knows that you live forever
Ah when you've done a line or two
Everybody knows the deal is rotten
Old Black Joe's still pickin' cotton
For your ribbons and bows
And everybody knows

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast
Everybody knows that the naked man and woman
Are just a shining artifact of the past
Everybody knows the scene is dead
But there's gonna be a meter on your bed
That will disclose
What everybody knows

And everybody knows that you're in trouble
Everybody knows what you've been through
From the bloody cross on top of Calvary
To the beach of Malibu
Everybody knows it's coming apart
Take one last look at this Sacred Heart
Before it blows
And everybody knows

Everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

Oh everybody knows, everybody knows
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

The song ended and the stage lights blacked out. The small crowd clapped enthusiastically, at least, until the lure of the next round made them forget the striking spectacle of Spike singing Leonard Cohen. Xander was still sitting half-turned on his barstool when a full glass replaced the empty one in front of him. He turned around and nodded to the bartender. Xander heard the creak of leather as Spike slid onto the barstool next to him and suddenly found the glint of light off of the JD in his glass endlessly fascinating.

They'd sat in silence and finished off several more drinks before Spike took the stage for his second set. Xander had listened to the songs with his back resolutely toward the stage while drinking a soda and drawing patterns in the condensation on the side of his glass. After the second set, Spike had appeared again at his side.

"You got somewhere to stay?" he asked, lighting a cigarette.

"Nope. Just got into town today." Xander drained the dregs of his soda and crunched the last piece of ice between even, white teeth.

"I've got a friend's place while he's out of town. Wanna crash?" Spike looked supremely indifferent as to Xander's response.

"OK, thanks. It's early yet - what do you do in this town for fun?"

"Come on. I'll show you."

Just before dawn, they stumbled into Spike's friend's apartment. It turned out to be a nice two-bedroom in a decent building. Every window in the place was securely covered, so Xander assumed Spike's friend was also of the vampire persuasion. He didn't really care, as long as he got to lie down. The struggle to remain upright on the precariously tilting planet was becoming a strain. As soon as he was ushered to a nicely appointed guest room, he wasted no time in passing out face-down on the bed.

The next day, the two men had picked up their friendship as if they'd never fallen out. Xander got Spike to tell him all about his burgeoning singing career, and the vampire was pleasantly shocked to find that the human had some good ideas for maximizing his potential.

Over the next several weeks Spike found that having an associate who could get around in the daylight was useful, and Xander found that he enjoyed wrangling with club owners to get gigs for Spike. They fell into an easy working relationship. When the apartment's owner returned home, Spike and Xander set out for Los Angeles to see if they could capitalize on the vampire's growing following in the music world. Sunnydale rarely came up in conversation. Spike never asked why Xander had left, and Xander never offered any information.

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