Much as he had two days ago, Xander stared up at the front door and hesitated. Much as he had two days ago, Xander thought about choice, the lack of it, the need for it, the lack of need for it. Choice can be overrated, he now accepted.
He counted the steps, then he ascended, counting again. He listened at the door, not exactly knowing what he was listening for, but unable to hear anything over the deafening pounding of his heart. Cautiously opening the door he stepped inside, standing there awkwardly despite a part of him instantly recognising that this was where he belonged.
It was possible to see into the kitchen from the hall and Xander stared at Spike: he was sitting at the table, head propped up on one hand, staring blindly at the unopened newspaper before him. He looked devastated, and the fact he hadn’t even noticed someone walking into the house said a great deal about the level of his preoccupation. Xander wanted to take that away devastation and return the vampire to the state of relative peace he’d seen when he arrived; Spike’s happiness was paramount, he realised, the Consort realised, and the peculiar sensation he experienced might have been the metaphorical ice encasing his heart beginning to melt.
Xander put down the bag collected from the bus depot and shakily made his way to the kitchen doorway. But even if he hadn’t have been shaking right now he’d have been shaking.
Spike jumped out of his daze and stood jerkily, turning to stare at Xander, fighting to keep a hold of his inscrutable expression and the emotional privacy it afforded him. Poker-faced maybe, but his eyes were another matter, reflecting the morning’s anguish.
“You left,” he accused.
“My stuff.” Xander gestured up the hall to his bag.
“You left,” Spike repeated, tell-tale tremor in his voice.
“I came back.”
“Were you always going
at the floor and shook his head, ashamed of his
“So what happened?”
“At first it was too difficult to stay. Then it was too difficult to go. I think there’s something to this Consort business. Or it could just be…” The dark head came up, and Xander straightened his back and stood tall. “I made a choice.”
“You made a choice?”
“Yeah. ‘Cause… I think I’m trash. I think I’m worthless. But I know I’m yours.”
Spike turned away, crossed to the counter and switched on the kettle, taking mugs in hands that trembled as thoroughly as Xander’s and fussing over making tea. After a moment he just stood, tensely gripping the edge of the counter, and Xander couldn’t resist whatever drew him to the vampire, didn’t particularly want to. His left hand rested beside Spike’s on the counter, his right slid around his waist as Xander pressed close to his back.
“Am I allowed to do this?”
It took everything that Spike had not to lean back into that trembling heat.
“You don’t have to.”
“That isn’t what I asked.” It was impossible for Xander to explain just how much he wanted to touch Spike; his hand ran over the tight stomach, feeling muscles twitch beneath his palm. “You’re very sensitive.”
“To me?” Xander’s voice was loaded with excitement and fear.
“Consort,” came as a fervent whisper.
Xander pulled Spike’s t-shirt out of his jeans and ran his hand beneath, gliding over the smooth, cold flesh before fingertips began to explore. Spike’s hand suddenly slapped over his, stopping all movement.
“You owe me an apology.”
Xander nuzzled the back of Spike’s head, spoke softly.
“I owe you more than that.” He paused, dragging up some courage from who-knows-where. “I’m sorry I left this morning. I’m sorry I upset you.”
“You frightened me.”
“No. No-one scares Big Bad.”
“I haven’t been him for a long time, Xander.”
“You’ll always be Big Bad to me.”
“And what about you? Who are you?”
“I’m ready to be whoever you want me to be.”
“I want you to be Xander Harris. Think you can manage that?”
“I can try.”
There was a long pause as Spike regrouped and Xander stroked, rubbed his face in Spike’s hair, felt the deepening acceptance of what he was becoming.
“Sit down, Xander.” Xander reluctantly left Spike and sat at the table. “I want you to eat something.” This time the stricken look passed quickly. “You’ll do that for me?”
“If you’ll match me.”
Xander nodded and waited, back to counting squares in puzzles, while Spike cooked some eggs and put the plate between them, picking up his fork as Spike mirrored the action. An uncompromising gesture, and Xander took a first forkful and ate. Spike smiled his approval and followed suit.
“I phoned Angel last night. While you were sleeping.”
“To crow. ‘I made the deadline. I have a Consort and it’s Xander Harris so stick the, ‘He’ll never,’ up your arse and spin on it,’ basically.”
“Has a nice ring to it.”
“You think?” Spike asked, evidently surprised. “Selectively or all of it?”
“All of it.”
Surprise gave way to shock. Several dozen questions tried to escape Spike but he bit them back, biding his time, not wanting to pressurise Xander. Not wanting Xander to look too closely at, or think too deeply about, his situation.
“Eat.” Xander ate; Spike ate. “I didn’t relish the thought of ringing him back today and telling him you’d done a bunk.”
“What would he have done?” Xander frowned, experiencing a swell of protectiveness and becoming irritated with the older vampire in anticipation.
“Just taken the piss unmercifully. Given me the, ‘I told you so, what would Xander want with you?’ speech.”
Xander positively glowered at that and Spike watched with a mixture of confusion and delight. He’d pursue Xander’s feelings later, when the human was stronger.
Xander didn’t want to think about Angel right now. He picked up the day’s newspaper and found the crossword puzzle, counting boxes, scanning clues. He took another mouthful of egg and swallowed it down without thinking.
“One across, ten letters: a compulsion to exaggerate. I’ll be disappointed if you don’t know that.”
Spike threw Xander an unconvincing look of disdain before taking a glance at the structure of the puzzle.
“What’s one down?”
“Umm…nine letters: distinctive behavioural trait.”
Xander filled that in, letters wobbly but legible.
“Compulsion to exaggerate, first letter’s m.”
“’Kay…spelling that phonetically and hoping for the best. Y’know I can’t actually spell ‘phonetically’. Course, I could if it was spelt phonetically. Three across…”
Xander ate; Spike unobtrusively laid his fork down and sat back contentedly in his chair.
Food finally gone, puzzle half-finished, and Xander was beginning to fade. Without a word, Spike helped him up, guided him to the first floor, into the bedroom and started to undress him.
“You’re tired. What did you do all morning? Walk?”
“I wanted to see some of the old haunts.”
“In case you never came back?”
“I was staying by then. I thought maybe you’d never let me out of the house again.” Spike chuckled and hesitated at Xander’s boxers; a moment’s deliberation and he left them on. “The sheets need changing,” Xander pointed out dozily. “There was blood…” He touched his neck. “And stuff,” he blushed.
“I changed the sheets.”
It had been too tormenting for Spike: not to have Xander but to have his scent surrounding him. He’d changed the bed first thing.
Yeah, I may be tired,” Xander
conceded as he keeled
“I get tired a
being tired here
rearranged and covered him, sitting and stroking his hair
as he fought
“I’m sorry, Spike. For walking away.”
“You came back.”
“I missed you.”
Spike swallowed at the lump that had filled his throat.
“I missed you too.”
“We’re okay then?”
“We’re okay. You’re forgiven.” Xander’s eyes opened and focused on Spike, and the significance of what he’d said struck the vampire. He carried on stroking and smiled. “You’re forgiven.”
Pain again. Xander flinched and burrowed and shivered. Soon he slept. With a quick farewell kiss, Spike headed for the tunnel in the basement, knowing he had to get out for a while and wreak havoc underground, destroy a few physical and figurative demons.
Back here, Xander acknowledged comfortably as he hauled himself to wakefulness, judging late afternoon before the consideration of Spike’s whereabouts rapidly pushed all else from his mind. He should be here, with me, Xander sulked, caught himself sulking, launched an anti-sulk campaign immediately in his head. He had the energy for a decent stretch and made the most of it, spreading himself out in the bed… Nice bed, Spike’s bed, where the hell is he? …and relaxing his muscles again.
He’d been aware of the differences in his attitude and expectations when he’d woken that morning before the rot set in; now the changes were more pronounced and they thoroughly battered him. Consort. He liked. He smiled. He wanted .
“Spike,” he called, knowing that if the vampire were in the house he’d hear and be there in seconds. No response. Xander cursed to himself, spent a few minutes analysing why Spike’s presence was so essential and ended up back at a single word, Consort, and swore again. In frustration and disappointment that Spike still wasn’t there. At this precise moment he had no problems with Consort at all. Consort said life and chosen and wanted and security and sex-toy and if he was mind-blowingly lucky, it might even say love one day. Strangely enough, and as Spike had promised, it also said freedom. That made little sense until Xander considered what he wanted to be free from.
A faint noise downstairs and Xander tingled; minutes later the door was silently pushed open and Spike entered. So did…
“What is that…smell?” Xander grimaced.
“Had a bit of a run-in with a Keskarauli. Not the most fragrant of demons when you pop their guts,” Spike grinned. Xander switched the lamp on for a better look. Spike was gunged from head to toe and looked surprisingly happy with it. “How are you? You look brighter.”
“How am I?” Xander deliberately pondered aloud. Spike waited. “Different. More different. I was feeling different this morning and now the differentness seems more definitely…different.”
Short pause for bemusement.
“It’s a positive different.”
“Are you going to stand there and stink all day?”
“I’m heading for the shower. I wanted to check up and make sure you were…”
“Here,” Spike admitted. “I knew you were, I could feel you were, but I had to see.” Xander nodded his understanding and Spike started to strip out of his gunked clothes. “If you had to put a word to the differentness what would it be?”
“I feel… It’s embarrassing after the fuss I made. The, ‘Did you think I’d wake up and it would be different and I’d be your Consort?’ I should have kept my mouth shut because that’s just what happened.”
“That’s the difference?”
“Yeah. I feel kinda…Consorty.”
“Consorty,” Spike repeated with a smile.
“Kinda. And it’s getting stronger.” Spike saw Xander’s interest in his semi-naked form and took a step in the direction of the bed; Xander held his hands up defensively. “Get that stench away from me. Go shower. And take your clothes with you.”
“Can I kiss you? Just…” Spike held up one finger.
“Only after surgery to remove my sense of smell!”
Spike thought about heading straight for the bathroom but decided to finish undressing where he stood, aware of Xander’s gaze fixed to his body and the increased rate of the young man’s heartbeat. Subtle, Xander was not, and as a naked Spike collected his discarded clothes and walked back to the door Xander leant up on his elbows for a better look.
“I thought you’d seen it all before.”
“It hadn’t fucked me then,” Xander replied quietly, still preoccupied with the view.
“What do you think?”
Spike tried to sound casual but was unnervingly concerned by Xander’s opinion. Xander tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling.
“I think… I think I’m hungry.”
That felt uncannily like a reprieve.
“You know where everything is. Help yourself.”
Xander’s gaze returned to him, flickered over his body.
“Thanks. I will.”
As Spike occupied the shower, jerking himself off over a look, Xander found a clean t-shirt and pair of jeans to wear and went to the kitchen to stare in the fridge. The cheesecake seemed synonymous with his guilt and he wondered if Spike would be peeved if he threw it away. The smell of the chocolate made his mouth water and he fought to recall the taste and sensation as Spike had fed him that one finger-full, but all he could remember clearly was the cold finger between his lips, sliding in and out like the best fuck he’d ever had.
He poured a glass of milk, mopped up what he’d spilled through suddenly worrying about spilling it and subsequently triggering a big shaking fit, and sat at the table. He unhurriedly counted the squares left to fill on their crossword puzzle and glanced over the clues again. Not a chance. He re-counted the squares and pushed the paper away. Another look in the fridge and he noticed the soup Spike had bought for him; the fact that it came in bags quite similar to the blood bags of old wasn’t lost on him and he smiled as he took a pack out and peered at the heating instructions.
The smell alerted him to Spike’s approach and he opened the door to the utility room so the reeking clothes would come and go as fast as possible. He heard the washer start up and Spike returned, rinsed his hands, and liberated the soup pack from Xander.
“There’s a delicatessen a couple of
blocks from here and they make this as a speciality,” he
explained as he filled a mug and placed it in the
restaurant attached to the
I’ll take you
you’re better if…” Spike didn’t finish the sentence and Xander had a few goes for him.
“If I’m ever better enough? If you’re brave enough to be seen in public with me? If we last that long?” Spike silently fell back on diversionary tea-making. “It’s that one, isn’t it? If we last that long. Think you’ll get tired of me and throw me out?”
“Then you think I’ll leave.” Spike was reliving his gripping-the-counter-till-it-creaked manoeuvre from earlier in the day. Xander got as close to his back as he could without touching. “I will have to leave.” He saw the vampire tense and felt quite moved. “I’ll leave. Get the rest of my stuff. Come back. Come home.”
“I could help,” Spike volunteered uncertainly.
“That’d be good. You’ve got a car, right?” Spike nodded. “I don’t have much really. There’s stuff I don’t want to bring. Stuff with memories attached.”
“I don’t expect you to forget your past.”
“There’s something in me today that’s insisting the future is what matters, and the past is past and gone, but I don’t know if that’s me looking for an excuse or if it’s real.”
“To let it all go. Start letting it go. I know that’s wrong…”
Now Xander fell silent as he thought.
“Isn’t it obvious?”
Xander thought some more until the something in him today staged a revolution and pushed all such concerns over the philosophical ramparts and, quite frankly, for all of thirty seconds he couldn’t give a damn. Spike sat him down and gave him the soup and tea, standing at his back and running his fingers through the thick hair.
“Tell me, Xander. Tell me you want to live.”
Xander knew the implications of what Spike was asking. It was a fairly loaded question with all that living now entailed. He'd never imagined Spike to be so insecure. But he had his own problems.
“It hurts,” he confessed. “Still hurts.”
Spike leant forward and buried a kiss in his hair.
“Be a miracle if it didn’t, love.”
“Is it force of habit?”
“Love. Calling me love.” Xander’s voice thickened with the words.
“No, not habit. It’s…you.”
There was a stilted pause before Xander abruptly pushed away from the table and spun around to Spike, clumsily bringing him close and burying his face in his chest as he clung to him. Spike held Xander tightly back and tried to calm the furious trembling.
“I’m scared,” Xander whispered. “I’m so fucking scared. I’ve forgotten how to live. I’ve forgotten how to be loved.”
“I’ll show you. I’ll teach you. Nothing to be scared of here.”
“Would you let me go if I asked you?”
“Not easily,” Spike admitted haltingly. “Don’t ask me.”
Xander shook his head briskly.
“I won’t. I’ve hated being alone. I won’t let you be alone.”
They held one another in silence for a while, individual worries seeping away and leaving behind the closest thing to peace of mind they were likely to experience under the circumstances. When Xander relinquished his hold he felt the familiar desolation hovering at the periphery of his senses and instantly wanted Spike back but still wasn’t sure what he could take, or how to ask for what he needed; he watched Spike reheat the soup and drank it without argument, stretching his legs out under the table to where Spike sat, touching his toes to Spike’s calf and finding relief in that minor contact.
They’d almost finished the crossword puzzle when the phone rang. Spike answered and after an initial hello made appropriate noises as he wrote copious notes on a pad he produced from the pile of newspapers like a magician whipping a rabbit out of a hat.
“I’ll look that up now,” he finally said and gave the handset to Xander before going into the library.
After staring at it in alarm for a full minute Xander decided he couldn’t leave whoever was on the other end in complete silence, and maybe this was a good time to start making the acquaintance of Spike’s associates. He tried channelling the gregarious Xander of old.
“Umm…hi, this is Xander…”
“Xander!” a delighted voice greeted him. “Spike informs me that you’re going to save the world. Aren’t you getting a little long in the tooth for that?” it teased.
“Giles?” Xander asked in amazement, “Giles?”
Identity affirmed and Xander wanted to whoop or howl or dance for joy, but instead, settled into a conversation that lasted the best part of two hours.
“Thanks for not telling me who it was. I doubt if I could have talked to him if you’d told me.” Spike looked up from his books with a brief smile. “He didn’t ask about this – us - and I didn’t offer. I wouldn’t have known what to say.”
“He knew my intentions so he must’ve figured the rest out. After all, you’re here, aren’t you?”
Xander’s eyebrows shot into his hairline.
“You told him you wanted me for your Consort?”
“The day the Powers made the demand I rang him to ask his advice – not about you, not then,” Spike quickly established. “And I spoke to him when I’d made my decision.”
“Did he think you were crazy again?”
“He thought it was an unusual choice but trusted my instincts.”
“Unusual as in bad?”
“Unusual as in unusual. He’ll be happier now he’s spoken to you.”
“He said…” Spike looked over curiously. Xander took a breath. “That I wasn’t to blame. That Buffy was wrong to go into the school alone and he warned her to wait.” Spike nodded a sad agreement. “I thought he blamed me for not being there in time.”
“The only person to blame you was you.”
“I think I’m starting to get that.” Xander wandered around the table to Spike and paused behind him, reaching out to lay one tentative touch on his back before moving on and sitting. “Can I help?”
“Go and have something to eat.”
“I really can’t right now.”
Spike took a long assessing look at Xander before relenting on this occasion.
“You’ll eat later.”
“Later, I promise, when I’m not so wound up.”
Spike scribbled a few pieces of information on a fresh page of the pad and peeled it off, rising and fetching a few books which he placed in front of Xander.
“Okay… These are the demons I’m looking for…” He tapped the names on the paper. “…but I need references to them working together. One or the other alone is no good to me, but you have to check all the references in case one is referred to by description not by name. This is the clan name of…” Spike glanced to Xander to make sure he was following, but Xander was entirely lost in admiration of the vampire, studying him closely as he rattled off instructions. Spike was flattered and aroused by Xander’s interest; he was also amazed by his appalling timing. “Get your mind on the books, Harris. Find this and then we can…” Fuck? All night? Please? Want me, Xander, want me. “…grab something to eat and see what’s on the box.”
Xander turned to study the notes Spike had made, recognising the, ‘You have no choice. Be here by Friday,’ writing and feeling rather stunned that Friday was only two days ago.
“I’ve only been here two days,” he told Spike.
“It feels longer,” Spike agreed, allowing himself to be distracted. “What do you think of the house? Happy to stay here?”
“Don’t you have to?”
“No. But it’s convenient. So, you…?”
“Fine. Needs work: your crypt had more character.”
“There are some things in storage that Willow and Dawn gave to me before they left. They might make the place more…homely,” Spike suggested uncomfortably.
“Okay,” Xander replied in kind.
“You wouldn’t like that?”
“Whatever you want.”
“No. Whatever we want.”
“Then I want some us stuff. One day I’ll be coping-with-the-past-man, but until then…”
“Us stuff?” Spike grinned.
Xander flushed furiously and reached for a book to bury himself in. Spike couldn’t remember Xander being much of a blusher and thought it was delectable.
“If I stay,” Xander said to deliberately wipe the misinterpreted smile from Spike’s face. Oh, yeah, I have the power. Made him look fucking miserable again, that’s something to be proud of. Can’t bear it, can’t bear to see him unhappy, what the fuck has happened to me? Consort. “Which I will. Stay.”
Spike went back to his seat and returned to his work.
“Do what you want with the place,” he told Xander, coolly now. “Just leave this room alone.”
“I need to get on.” Xander nodded and flicked to the index of his book. “Leave that, eh? You go and watch the telly.”
“I want to help.”
“I’m used to doing this alone.”
It was as if Xander was watching all of Spike’s defensive shutters slamming into place, cutting him off. A few smart words, one cheap shot, and he’d lost the Spike who was keeping him grounded and feeling safe and he had no idea of how to get him back. He carried on checking the index.
“You’re not alone anymore,” was all he could think of to say.
Spike’s jaw clenched and he turned a page.
Xander soon tired. He’d lost the ability to concentrate over the last few months and reading was hard work, but he was loath to be apart from Spike while the vampire was still upset with him. Knowing he was missing more than he was finding, Xander pushed his book away and crossed his arms on the table, laying his head on them.
“Go upstairs and rest,” Spike told him.
“If you’ll come with me.”
Xander was becoming quite accustomed to that look of surprise but he couldn’t help liking it better every time he witnessed it.
“I can’t. I have to figure out how to kill these creatures and then go and do it before they eat too many people. Rupert says they should be arriving in Sunnydale…” He glanced at the wall clock. “…any time now.”
Xander turned his head and peered at Spike through his hair.
“Not a chance! Don’t even think about it,” Spike snapped. “If anyone’s going to kill my Consort in the next twelve hours it’s going to be me.”
“Okay,” Xander agreed without hesitation. Spike begrudgingly smiled at that and Xander witnessed a definite loosening of the tension in Spike’s body. “Can your Consort ask if you think you’ll be out for long?”
“You know how it goes. It’ll take as long as it takes.”
“Can your Consort ask you to please be careful?”
Xander got the desired reaction: there was the surprise again. Spike reached across and stroked the hair out of Xander’s face, kept stroking. Contact made all the difference and they both relaxed.
“I’ll be careful.”
An hour later Spike was preparing to go out and Xander hated it. He kept pressing and pressing the emotion down inside him, watching with growing dread as Spike pulled on a coat with pockets the size of dumpsters and proceeded to fill them full of weapons.
“Nothing to worry about,” he told Xander in soft, reassuring tones. “I do this all the time and rarely get a scratch.”
“Just—” Xander stopped sharply and Spike took a closer look at his shuddering human.
“You’ll have to get used to this, Xander. Start now.”
“Just come back, all right?” Xander demanded.
Spike took a step toward Xander, wanting to hug and reassure him, but then he remembered Xander the previous night, apparently needing to set the physical parameters to this relationship, and he would allow him that.
“Stay calm or you’ll rattle yourself to pieces. Eat. Go to bed. I’ll be there before you know it.”
The thought of bed and Spike was perfect but Xander had no way of telling the vampire that without being the whore he didn’t want to remind Spike of. But Spike was walking out of here and… Instinct took over from intellect, and Xander went straight to Spike, took his face in his hands and kissed him: not passionately but sincerely.
“I need you to come back.”
Their eyes met and shared a few hundred truths that couldn’t make it out of their mouths, and all at once they melted into one another, lips meeting in a tender caress, hands gliding lightly, touching delicately, worshipfully.
In the midst of this perfection, Xander was aware of the front door opening and someone entering the house; Spike reacted protectively and ferociously, game-faced and snarling, out into the hall, catching the intruder by the throat and heaving him a foot off the floor and flattening him against the wall. Xander followed, in awe of this terrifying creature that he’d been sharing gentle kisses with seconds before.
“Spike, Spike, it’s me,” the young man in Spike’s grip choked.
“I think you should put him down before he goes blue,” Xander advised.
With another snarl Spike dropped the human and took a deliberate step between him and Xander, morphing out of his demon guise when he felt Xander’s hand between his shoulder blades.
“That wasn’t a clever move,” he growled, grabbing a wrist and dragging the man to his feet before turning to Xander. “Xander, this is Casey.”
“Friend of yours?”
“Twat with a death wish.”
“Clever move?” gasped Casey.
“In future you knock, you don’t walk in. Things are changing and you’ll get yourself killed if you’re not careful.”
“In future I’m knocking.”
“What are you doing here?”
“There’s a couple of big beasties in
one of the
breathless, Casey positively bounced with
might need some
noticed Xander and gave him a smile, reaching out to shake
his hand but snatching his arm back at a further growl
Spike into silence and introduced himself, seeing Casey’s
eyes widen as the name finally sank
“Xander? The Xander.”
“I presume so,” Xander agreed suspiciously.
“Saved the world, right? After the slayer…”
Spike grabbed the man by the collar and literally threw him out of the front door, turning back to Xander and approaching slowly, angry to see his Consort smarting again at the reminder. He inched his way into Xander's arms and hugged him hard.
“You don’t have to rely on him for anything?” Xander checked.
“Fine. If the fight is to the death make sure it’s his.”
Spike nodded and gave Xander a quick kiss before leaving. Left alone Xander wandered miserably around the house – his home, as he supposed he should start thinking of it – passing through the kitchen twenty times and knowing how pleased Spike would be if he ate, but left alone he simply didn’t have the resolve. Back to the library and Xander found a book that discussed the Master/Consort bond and he read until his concentration was shot. More wandering and eventually he went to the bathroom, shaved and showered, studied the mark on his neck in the mirror and felt somewhat dissatisfied by the fact it wasn’t somehow more. When it healed it’d be unremarkable. If he were to be the Consort of a Master vampire he should at least have a brute of a scar to advertise the fact. He’d talk to Spike.
Into the bedroom; before he got into bed he took another look at the family portrait and for the shortest possible time considered calling Willow and telling her what was going on. The shortest possible time. He climbed beneath the covers and, resolutely not thinking about Spike and the perils of Sunnydale, counted the light patterns from the lamp until he dozed off.
Xander jumped to alertness at the sound of the front door, heart pounding, tremors rushing through his body. This was ridiculous, but he couldn’t feel safe in Sunnydale without all possible precautions and tomorrow…
“I’m going to put locks on the doors,” he told Spike the moment he walked into the bedroom; Spike simply nodded.
“I told you: do what you like to the place.”
Xander smelt the food Spike had brought with him and his stomach rolled, unable to decide between hunger and nausea. Spike put a tray of take-out containers on the bed beside Xander.
“What is that?”
“It’s from the Italian place I told you about. I thought you could manage some pasta.”
“I don’t think I can.”
“Just a little. Try for me?”
“Maybe. Let me wake up first.”
Spike undid the containers and twirled some spaghetti around a fork, offering it to Xander and waiting obstinately until he leant forward and took it.
“Nice,” Xander agreed indifferently.
“I wasn’t particularly selective, just grabbed what they had handy.”
“I didn’t want to hang about, wanted to get home to you.”
Spike looked ready to pursue his feeding-time-at-the-zoo approach so Xander found his own fork and prodded unenthusiastically in various containers until he found something he vaguely liked and made the effort to eat.
“You get the demons you were looking for?”
“Yeah. If it’d been just me I’d’ve run them out of town and left it at that, but the slayer…” Spike rolled his eyes and that was explanation enough.
“You get a chance to feed?”
“Like I said, I wanted to get home, so Casey gave me a couple of pints.”
“When you say…?”
“I’ve fed off him before, he thinks it’s…”
Xander dropped his fork onto the tray as his other hand slapped over his mouth. Spike stared after him as he scrambled out of bed and ran for the bathroom, following quickly and arriving in time to hold Xander’s hair back as the small amount he’d eaten re-emerged. A few heaves and Xander was angrily shoving his hands away as he sank to the floor, wiping his mouth on the back of a hand.
“Go away,” he told Spike tersely, furiously mopping his watering eyes and nose.
“The food? Too rich?”
“No! Fuck off! It wasn’t the food. Just…fuck off!”
Spike reluctantly stood and retreated a few steps. Xander glared and Spike began to slowly pace as he thought.
“This is about me feeding…”
“Don’t say it again!”
Spike held his hands up placatingly, kept pacing.
“Get out of here, just leave me alone.”
“Can you explain…”
“No! Fuck off. If you can’t see it… Jesus, I can’t believe you spent years calling me ‘Bollocks for brains’.”
“Xander…” Spike tried again.
“Have you fucked him?” Xander demanded furiously, not exactly sure why he was furious but it felt pretty good in an awful way.
That stopped an authentically stunned Spike in his tracks.
“No. I bit him, he was food.”
“Have you ever fucked him?”
“But if he turns up tomorrow I’ll see this…” Xander pointed to the bite mark on his neck. “…I’ll see this on him.”
“It isn’t the same.”
“It’s not something I want to see. You do it with strangers, you don’t do it with people there’s a chance of me setting eyes on. When I’m strong you can do it with me, but I don’t want to see this on anybody who walks into this house.”
“It isn’t the same,” Spike repeated, almost patiently.
“I don’t - fucking - care,” Xander spelt out, fingers going back to the mark, voice dropping. “It’s too personal.”
“You can’t compare my food with my Consort. If there weren’t rules I’d have drained that annoying little tosser and snapped his neck. Whereas you… You, I claimed with my mind, my body, my soul.”
“Promise me I won’t see this on anyone else.”
“I promise,” Spike vowed.
Xander grudgingly allowed himself to be mildly placated, but letting the anger go allowed the equally irrational upset to creep in.
“Great. Now…fuck off,” the voice trembled, matching the body.
A little more pacing and Spike came to Xander, gracefully sinking cross-legged to the floor in front of him.
“I’m not a mind-reader. I didn’t know you’d object to… I believed that you would only object if I killed a human, and I don’t do that.” Spike looked into Xander’s unforgiving face and sighed. “I am doing my best to treat you with respect and consideration. It should be mutual. If you get upset I would prefer to discuss your problems and find a solution that doesn’t involve you overreacting and talking to me like I’m…” Spike refused to lose his temper. He made himself quiet, staring at his hands in his lap, habitually picking at nail polish he no longer wore. Xander forced his attention away and counted tiles until Spike stood. “Do you want any more of this food? I can reheat it.”
Spike crouched, took Xander’s chin firmly in his hand and pulled his head round, making him pay attention. When he spoke his voice was measured, silky smooth and very scary.
“I’m going to make something for you and you’re going to eat it. If you choose not to, I will force it down your throat. I would rather choke you to death than watch you starve. Do you understand me?” Xander knew this wasn’t posturing; he gave a shallow nod. “Consider it a sign of my affection that I’m prepared to kill you rather than see you waste away.” A second nod. “I’m glad we agree on this particular subject.” Spike rose and crossed to the door, determined to keep walking before Xander drove him crazy.
“Spike.” Xander sounded subdued and apologetic. Irresistible. Spike turned back and waited. “I’ll have what’s there, it won’t be cold yet, it’ll be fine.”
“It won’t take a minute…”
“Don’t go away,” Xander pleaded.
Recalling a thousand taunts and stifling an unhealthy degree of satisfaction at having intimidated Xander into submission, Spike strolled back and offered his hands; Xander took them and let himself be lifted to his feet. Spike pulled him close and rubbed his lips lightly over a cool cheek before giving him a single kiss.
“I don’t know which of us scares the other more,” came the whisper that sent an icy shiver through Xander to contrast with the virtually perpetual hot shivers. “C’mon, back to bed, you feel cold.”
Xander eased out of his grip.
“Let me just clean my teeth.”
“I’ll warm the food up, get you a drink.”
“Downstairs and back: that doesn’t count as going away. Or fucking off,” he smiled before leaving the room.
Xander brushed his teeth and gargled the taste of bile away, caught sight of the shower in the mirror and wanted to be in there but knew Spike would be waiting. He quickly counted the tiles on one wall and returned to the bedroom.
Eating was a protracted business but Xander persisted for what seemed an age before Spike took pity on him and removed the tray. Mumbled thanks and Xander shuffled down the bed, getting comfortable and closing his eyes. He listened to Spike stripping and wanted to look, wanted to study every inch of that amazing body and learn it with his eyes and hands and mouth but Spike had looked so mad when he’d admitted his whorish ways. He felt Spike climb in alongside him, come close but not close enough.
“So… Fancy a bit of grunt and groan? Or in your case, deathly silence broken by the occasional no?”
Oh, God, YES! No. Don’t be such a fucking whore!
“Can we talk?”
“We can talk,” Spike told him warmly, and Xander could hear the smile on his face.
Now Xander looked, because he couldn’t believe the patience of this creature and wanted to see the pretence. No pretence. Spike lay on his side, head propped up on one hand, watching and waiting. Waiting? Talk.
“Aren’t you angry?”
“Having to talk instead of fuck.”
“Not angry, no. I can even make a few dozen excuses for you.”
“I assumed a lot. Beyond being curious, which is natural, I don’t even know what you think when you look at me. I’d like to believe that something lights up in you and you think, ‘Yes, want to fuck that,’ but I don’t know, and yesterday I didn’t give you a chance to say.”
“That? ” Xander repeated irritably. “Want to fuck that ?”
“And just because you’ve slept with men in the past, doesn’t mean…”
“You don’t talk about yourself like that to me, all right?” Xander snapped. “I don’t think of you in those terms and I don’t want you presuming I do.”
Xander, Spike acknowledged. Real Xander, my Xander, stroppy, mouthy, heated Xander.
“I wasn’t expecting this.”
“You to be so protective.” Xander shrugged. “Like when I said about Angel taking the piss out of me.” Spike saw the anger flare. “You really don’t like that.”
“Of course I don’t like it!”
“Because you’re my… You’re my… You’re… Mine.” Wonder took the place of the anger. “You’re mine. I am allowed to say that?”
“I’ve spent so much time thinking about being yours that I missed out on that. You being mine.”
rolled onto his back and laughed
braver, surer; he followed, laying a hand on
Spike’s arm and stroking the flesh with his thumb.
“You’re different too. I told you I felt different but you’re different too. Apart from the whole prowling the graveyards and tearing apart demons aspect.”
about what I
kill me if I don’t
surprise that I feel protective in return; maybe you’d
have felt that before but you’d never have shown
I’m having a hard time accepting so much affection.”
“I’m going to become an embarrassment to you, Xander. I’m always the same. I fall for someone and get soppier by the minute.”
“You’ve fallen for me?” Xander asked quietly, unconvinced but flushing with pleasure nevertheless.
Spike fixed Xander with a heated look before gently pressing him onto his back and crawling over him; nose-to-nose and powerfully intense.
“Shall I tell you about my hunger?” Xander nodded, pupils dilating until his eyes were black. “I have an unquenchable hunger. A deep. Dark. Yearning. A craving.”
“You, Xander. My hunger is for you.”
“Okay,” emerged, but only just.
“When I was in you…” His demon visage shimmered over his features and Spike drove it away, closing his eyes and concentrating on serene Spike, civilized Spike, sane Spike, trying to break free of the all-consuming desire before he scared Xander too much, because the depth of his need was certainly scaring him.
“Hey, you okay in there?”
Caring touches made it easier and harder to get back; Spike opened his eyes to be confronted by Xander’s concern and didn’t so much continue to fall as spin out of control, crash and burn. He slid back to Xander’s side and attempted to let it all go, feeling Xander staring at him.
“What?” he asked.
“Confused, I guess. One minute you’re saying…what you were saying, and the next…you’re not.”
“Yeah, well, I’m confused too.”
“About me?” Spike said nothing, the implication being that Xander was stating the obvious, which he pretty much was. “Want to tell me about it?”
“Not a lot.”
“Is this about you not having any real choice?”
“I chose you, Xander.”
“But you didn’t necessarily want to choose anyone, did you? You were pushed into it.”
“That isn’t what I have a problem with,” Spike sighed.
“For once I’d like to be with someone who wants to be with me, all right? I hated being used before the soul and now I have these fucking sensibilities that leave me terrified of loving and losing.”
No way Xander was brave enough to pursue the loving; he opted for the losing.
“You think you’ll lose me?”
“Let’s just say that however much I want to believe you’ll stick this out, I’m already getting ready for the, ‘You’re beneath me’ and so long. It’d be funny if it wasn’t ludicrous: I picked someone strong enough to leave me. You say you won’t but you’ll get back to normal and see who – what - you’re with and know it isn’t what you want, and why the hell would you stick around then? I won’t be able to make you stay, I can never make anyone stay. I’ve got a few months with you, that’s all. And however much I want to fool myself that we can make this work for just those few months I’m reluctant to be confronted with proof of your underwhelming interest in me. This…arrangement isn’t about sex, I know, but you’re here and I need you and I want you to be hot for me, hard for me, and without being bullied into it.”
Xander was silent and thoughtful for a while, juggling words in his head so this came out right.
“Can I say something now?”
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
“Don’t,” Spike advised with a glare.
“Okay. Earlier on you said to me…” Spike was up and dressing in an instant. “What…? Where are you going?”
“Away from you.”
“Crisis of conscience. Let me tell you, for a vampire with a soul that’s a fucking big crisis.”
“I’ve been very cruel to you, Xander, and I’m sorry, truly sorry.”
“You turned up here for the right reasons and got mistreated for the wrong.”
“Please stop saying that. What have I done to you, you poor sod? I took away your choice, tried to take away your life, pretended I was doing it for you, to save you, and it was about me all the time. But it’s like you said: who else would I be doing it for?” Spike headed out but stopped at the door. “Anything good I said to you, about you, was true, Xander. It wasn’t just me trying to get what I wanted.”
And Xander watched in stunned silence as Spike did the one thing his Consort truly feared: he walked away.