Part 10

 

 

His ass hurt.

Xander tried not to grin like an idiot as he shelved bottles of pickles.  It was empty enough in the supermarket that no one would see him.  Not that anyone would really care that the stock-boy looked like he was totally insane, but—there’s the principle of the thing.  That, and Spike will never let me live it down if I do this at home.

So maybe he should do it here, and not give Spike the chance.  Yeah, that might be good.

Mechanically, he reached for the bottles, stacking them neatly before moving on to the next section.  His eyes were trained on the shelves, but it was obvious that he wasn’t seeing green bottles of all shapes and sizes.  A wavering, blinding grin, goofier than his usual, stretched across his face, making it clear to any onlooker that someone was very happy.

“Xander?  Wow, Anya do something special last night?”

“Wha—Buffy!  And Riley!  Hi!”  Jumping nearly out of his skin, Xander immediately went into idiot-goofy mode, the quickest way he’d found of distracting people.  If he was acting like a five year old, no one wanted to be around him for more than a few minutes, let alone take him seriously.  “And how is my favorite couple doing on this lovely day?  Or should that be only couple?  Unless Willow’s not telling us something. . .”

Which could be more than possible, if he’d read the looks between her and the blonde girl she’d been hanging around with correctly.  Quiet, shy, and very sweet, ah, the things that attracteth the Willow.  Ignoring the insanity that was me.  And, actually, this might be a good idea.  Cause I’m thinking the Buffmeister is not gonna be thrilled when she finds out that both her best friends are gay. 

Oh, my god.  I’m gay!

 He choked, coughing roughly while Buffy pounded on his back.  “Ow!”  He glared at his friend, making sure to grin once he could breathe again.  Okay.  Let’s leave the earth-shattering revelations about male vampire sex when I’m not standing in front of Homophobia Man, and his girlfriend, the Vampire Slayer.  Right, brain?  Good.  No more thinking of bad thoughts.

It was probably not fair of him to peg Riley as a homophobe, but unfortunately Xander was sure he was right.  The soldier in his head had some stomach-churning memories that Xander didn’t like to probe too closely.  Lesbians he’s probably fine with.  Maybe even interested in.  But two guys gettin’ it on?  Uh uh.  That goes against the Natural Order Of The Universe.  Stupid git.

“Xan?  What are you talking about?”  Buffy had that cute perplexed look, where she titled her head and scrunched up her face like it hurt to think so hard.  Cute, silly Buffy.  Or maybe cute, concerned Buffy, because Xander finally realized what he’d just said.

“Um. . . yeah.  About that.  Anya—kinda left me.  Got offered her old job back and decided human boyfriend didn’t match her new ensemble at all.”  Xander bit his lip, eyeing the two blondes nervously.  Please don’t make a big deal out of this.  Please, just let me enjoy the fact that my butt hurts in a really good way and Spike is being so sweet and nice to me that I’m terrified something bad is going to happen and for once I just want to be able to really enjoy the good before the bad comes, okay?

Yes, of course he could babble in his own head.  Where else would he get the practice?

“Anya left you?”  He had visions of Cave-Slayer, cautiously sounding out words like she was unsure of their meaning.  “Anya, your girlfriend, left you.  To become a demon.  Again.”  When he nodded, her face darkened into that look that scared him even as it made his heart turn to mush.  The look that said: Something hurt my friend.  I’m going to kill it.  Slowly.  Painfully.  With many witty puns and much ass-kicking, because nothing gets away with hurting my friends.

Smiling happily right now would probably not be a good thing.  Didn’t stop the desire to, but he managed to reign that in when Riley folded his arms.  “Anya’s a demon?  Great.  So I take it we won’t be hunting down this one, either?”

“Oh, there will be hunting,” Buffy hissed, looking exactly like Spike had when he’d scented the nest of vamps Monday night.  Oh, crap.

“Hey, Buffy, c’mon, please?”  He relaxed just a touch when she finally met his eyes.  “No hunting, okay?  It wasn’t—I’m not really upset.”

“Hey, that’s right!”  The predatory look softened into confusion.  “You were grinning!  Great big Xander’s-had-chocolate grin!”

“That’s because I’m not upset,” he explained patiently.  He hoped, anyway.  “I’m not, Buffy, please don’t try and kill my ex, okay?  Besides, I think she’s in Venice.”  That’s what the note had said, anyway.  Including a bunch of stuff that still hurt to think about, so he was just going to concentrate on calming down Buffy.

“Xander.  She just dumped you to become a demon again!  How can you possibly say you aren’t upset?”

“You knew Anya was a demon the whole time?” Riley added, looking more and more annoyed when Buffy hardly even glanced at him.  The hyena in Xander’s head growled; Buffy may no longer be his pack-leader, but he’d been a part of this particular pack for a long time.

“In a minute, Riley.  Xander.  Please explain this to me, using words with small syllables, because I’m missing something.  You’re happy Anya’s gone?  I thought you two were, well—happy.  Together.”

It was impossible to be annoyed with her right now.  He wanted to, since he was scrambling to find answers that he could give her without mentioning lean, blond, and gorgeous back in his basement, but he really couldn’t.  Because her anger was for him, against the one who had supposedly hurt him.

And all this, while standing in the middle of the grocery store with my boss two aisles away.  Time for my break.

“Come outside with me?” he suggested, ushering them down to the door, his dolly and their basket left behind.  He snagged his boss’ eye on the way out, jerking his head towards the clock and mouthing ten as loudly as he could.  His boss grimaced and nodded, waving him out.

Thank god he can’t short me on break time, Xander thought with deep relief as they walked over to where Riley’s car was parked.  “So, you two planning a big evening?”

Buffy’s eyes narrowed to slits and she folded her arms across her chest, spreading her legs just a touch.  Crap.  Slayer-Buffy will not be foiled.  “Xander, what happened?  Are you okay?  Really?”

“I’m fine, Buffy.  Honest.  Anya. . . well, she was never really good with being human.  She’d get so mad at me when I’d correct her.”  He grimaced, remembering quite a few of their fights.  “So when she got this chance, she took it.”

“And left you.”

“So, what kind of demon was she?  Should we be watching out for attacks of some kind?”

Both Scoobies turned to glare at Riley and Xander was feeling just flustered enough that he didn’t close his mouth in time.  “Can it, soldier-boy,” he snapped.  “This has nothing to do with you, so just back off.”

Riley blinked, going blank-faced in shock.  Then he rallied, getting that condescendingly earnest look that made Xander see red.  “Xander, if she’s a demon—”

“She’s a demon in Venice, Riley.  If you want to go hunting her, be my guest.  Don’t be surprised when she kicks your ass.”

“Xander, Riley has a point.”  Xander turned his astonished expression on Buffy, who started shifting nervously.  Not that much of one, huh, Buffy?  When are you going to figure out that this guy is all bluster and bluff?  At least with Angel, he was the real deal.  He could watch your back, when he wasn’t watching your ass.  “Is Anya gonna be. . . vengeance-y?  Around—you?”

He sighed, losing his anger.  Riley was worried about whatever he and the Initiative worried about.  Buffy was just worried about her friend.  Nice to realize she still thinks of me as one.  Sometimes I’m not sure. . .  “No, she won’t.  She. . . there was a note, and—”

“She broke up with you through a note?  Xander!  Why aren’t you getting all vengeance-y!”  The aghast look made Xander grin and suddenly he felt a lot better about this.

“Because it’s better for both of us.  Really.  I’m not angry with her and she wasn’t angry with me.  In fact, she gave me a gift before she left.”  And no power on this earth is going to make me tell you what it is.  Even Spike doesn’t know—although seven locks may not keep my curious vampire out if he really wants to know what it is.  I should probably hide it somewhere better.  “She needed to do this, for herself.  Nothing to do with me.  So I’m okay.  Really—oomph!”

Buffy threw her arms around him, squeezing tightly enough that he was going to have to remind her of Slayer-strength.  In a minute.  Or maybe five.  Don’t make me lose this, Spike.  Please.  Because as much as I need you, I need them too.  Please don’t make me choose.

The bad feeling hovering around the edges of his mind became minutely darker.

Smiling into Buffy’s vanilla-scented hair, Xander hugged her as hard as he could.  “Thank you,” he whispered.  “But I need to breathe.”

“Oh!”  Blushing, she released him and stepped back.  “You’re a pretty incredible guy, Xander Harris,” she said with a sweet smile.  “Not many boyfriends are so understanding about a girl’s job.”

She didn’t look at Riley when she said that, so Xander didn’t either.  Instead he shrugged and gave another goofy grin.  “What, I was gonna tell her no?  When she could’ve turned my insides out with a wink?”

Riley stiffened while Buffy just grinned and tilted her head.  “You think that was a possibility?  Really?”

Well, yes, before I read her letter, I did.  I was cheating on her.  Except she says I wasn’t.  Which I don’t think I want to understand.  “No, I don’t.  She said she hesitated a little because of me.  She wanted to make sure that she wouldn’t be hurting me, not really.  She said. . . she said she thought she loved me.  Could’ve, if this hadn’t happened.”

Another hug, this time not as hard.  “How could she not?” Buffy whispered before pulling back.  “So, no broken heart to get over?”

“Nah.  Heart’s doing pretty good.”

“Good.  Now, um, don’t suppose you have that lovely employee discount card with you...?”


It was past six by the time Xander was done, leaving him tired and frustrated.  He repeatedly counted the cash he’d just taken out, passing by the stairs on the side of the house that led to the basement—and Spike.

Just drop the money and go, Xander.  It’s really easy.  Drop money on table, turn around, leave.  Hell, they might not even be here.  Please don’t be here.  Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the door to the main house and entered.

It shouldn’t be this hard, he knew, but it always was.  Every time he did this.

His body felt even bigger and clumsier than usual as he shuffled through the foyer, the living room, the dining room, past the kitchen and into the Bar Room.  This was the room his parents spent most of their time in.  It had the tv, the comfy chairs, and most importantly, it had the stacks of bottles, cans, glasses, and mixes.  Everything two serious alcoholics might want.

Xander stopped going into that room when he was four.

His father was in the brown chair, watching some broadcast of some game on the television.  “That you, boy?” he asked without turning around

“Yes, sir,” Xander said quickly; hesitating was dangerous, he’d learned that early on.  “I, um—here’s the rent.  Sir.”

Mustn’t forget to call him ‘sir’.  Oh, no.  Cause then he gets pissed.

“Gimme.”  Xander laid the envelope down on the counter next to him, waiting while blunt, thick fingers stained from work and hard living rifled through the contents.  “You’re short.”

“Wh—” cutting himself off, Xander swallowed and regained control of himself.  “I’m sorry.  I thought I put the right amount in.  How short am I?”  I know I put the right amount in.  I only check several dozen times.

“Two hundred.”

Two—two hundred dollars?  I am not short two hundred dollars!  That—son of a bitch, he’s raising the rent on me?  For one precious moment, Xander felt anger coursing through him, heard himself give a wordless growl that would’ve made Spike proud, tensing his muscles and curling his fists.

Callused knuckles cracked into his cheek, roughly sending him to the ground.

He blinked away the tears, instantly schooling his features into blankness while he rubbed at the mark he knew was forming on his face.  He was yanked to his feet, backhanded again, and then punched in the same place.  When he was finally dropped, he was careful to stay exactly where he landed.  “You talkin’ back to me, son?”

“No, sir.”  He wiggled his tongue, not surprised when a rush of coppery liquid drenched his tongue.  Shit.  He swallowed quickly, ignoring his distaste in a panic to hide the blood from sight.  He always gets worse if he sees me bleed—and oh, crap.  There’s a bloodsucking vampire in my basement.  Shit.

“You think we charge you too much?  Then go get a real job, you worthless piece of shit.  And stop making all that racket!  Kept your mother up last night.”  His father leaned forward, breath making Xander gag and choke, an evil glint in his tiny, squinted eyes.  “You know what happens next, don’t you, son?  I don’t know how much longer it’s gonna last.”

Oh, fuck.

Scrambling backwards, he babbled assurances that he’d have the money, that he’d behave, and that he’d keep the noise down.  He was never precisely sure what came out of his mouth in times like these, but the babbling usually got one of two reactions.  The first was to piss his father off, and get hit some more.  The second was what happened more often—thank god—the very drunk man turning away, holding his head like his brains were going to fall out.

“Shut up!” he slurred, stumbling back into his seat and grabbing at the glass he’d set down moments before.  Taking a deep swallow, he turned bloodshot eyes back on his cringing, and still prone son.  “Two hundred.  Get it.”

“Yes, sir.”  Struggling to his feet, Xander hesitated by the doorway.  “Can—Sir, may I go to my room?  The upstairs room?”  Gotta clean up, or Spike—oh, god, what is Spike gonna do when he finds out?

His father waved, already turning back to the game and his drink.  I might as well not exist to the drunken asshole. . . but just in case.  Xander managed to get his thank you out, the words choking in his throat as he turned and frantically headed up the stairs.

He spat blood into the sink, wishing his head didn’t spin so much in the downward position.  Glancing in the mirror, he almost gagged.  His cheek was a brilliant red, and his left eye was just a touch swollen.  Shit.  Double shit.  Spike is gonna be pissed that I went and got myself hurt.  He’s always telling me that he’s the only one who’s allowed to. . . he’s gonna be so mad at me.

His body began to shake, the usual after effects of a run-in with his loving family taking hold.  More blood filled his mouth, a bit of it trickling down his throat.  Gagging at the taste, he managed to get to the toilet before his body forcibly removed the blood—and anything else he’d eaten in the past day.  Which wasn’t much.  Well, Spike made me eat breakfast.  But there was no evidence of actual food in the mess, just blood.  Lots of blood.

He dry heaved for a long time, careful to keep his eyes tightly closed after the first time—watching always made him get sick again.  Once he was certain he was done, he closed the lid and turned back to the small first aid kit he still kept up here.  The much bigger one was downstairs, but there was no way he could go down there looking like this.

Spike’ll kill me.  Who cares about the chip?  If Spike finds out that I let someone else hurt me, he’ll kill me.  Then them.  That’s okay, don’t care about them, but Spike will. . . god, he’s. . . he’ll be so mad.  I’m sorry. . . not—please, I didn’t mean. . . don’t be mad. . .

The shaking got worse as he gargled with salt water, ignoring the pain when the salt touched his split cheek.  He had to stop the bleeding.  It took several repetitions and tears were streaming down his face before he was certain that it was clean and dry.  Then he brushed his teeth.

A lot.

Ten minutes later he realized his teeth had to be clean by now and that his time was running out.  It was barely seven o’clock on a Thursday night, and his father wouldn’t be drunk enough not to remember how long Xander had been up here.  Washing himself as thoroughly as he could, he began applying his ‘standard’.

Wouldn’t the girls laugh to know I put makeup on better than they do?

Five minutes and he looked—tired and obviously not in the best of health, but not injured anymore.  The makeup on his cheek was thick enough that it would hide the bruising he knew was coming, and his eye wasn’t as badly swollen as he’d thought.  Thank god.  I can hide most things, but not a swollen-shut eye.  Spike would definitely notice that.

So, Xander would just have to distract him.

He cleaned up his mess, flushed and headed towards his bedroom.  His old bedroom.  He never stayed in that room for more than a few minutes—too painful.  Ignoring the posters he’d love to transfer down to the basement—need an excuse for being up here—he headed towards his few stacks of books. 

Yes, Wills, I do actually read for fun.  And since I’ve got an attention-deficit vampire in my basement, I need to find some distractions for him.  Telly’s gonna get old.  He’d seen the signs of a bored vampire before, and wanted to head them off if he could.  Spike was dangerous when he was bored.

Stuffing his assortment of mystery and horror novels into a bag, he hesitated, and then changed his clothes as well.  He wasn’t sure how good Spike was at smelling him, but he wasn’t going to take any chances.  The clothes he shoved on were too small and even more threadbare than usual, but since they were his brightest clothes—prints on both shirt and pants—hopefully that would distract Spike from noticing either of those things.

Please don’t be mad, Spike.  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.  Just don’t be mad at me.

“Alexander!”  The shout ricocheted off the walls, sharper than any gunshot.  Xander jumped nearly out of his skin, then hurried down the stairs, cloth bag bumping his legs.  His father waited at the bottom, a nasty glare darkening his reddened face.  Xander swallowed and lowered his head submissively.  It never worked, but that didn’t mean he was above trying to use it.

Never works cause he’s too dumb to see it for what it is, he thought venomously.  That, and the hyena whose habits he was copying was not happy about submitting to someone who was not pack, nor alpha.  In fact, it wanted to hit the man—the soldier, too.  Neither could understand the paralyzing, child-like fear Xander felt every time he ran into his parents.

“Yes, sir?”

“Aren’t ya done yet, boy?”  He swayed, and grabbed onto the banister with a white-knuckled hand, making Xander blanch pure white under the makeup.

“Yes, sir.  I’m leaving now, sir.”

“Good.  Stupid brat.  Outta m’way.”

Xander flattened himself against the wall, keeping his head down while his father lumbered past him.  Don’t look at me, don’t see me, there’s nothing here, just a waste of space.  Don’t see the cover job I’ve done, because that always makes you madder, and then you call me a fag for wearing makeup.  Which is true, you asshole.  Only for a week, but you won’t care, will you?  You figure out that I give it up to guys, and well, that’s proof you’ve been right for years.  Although how a four year old was one thing or the other I’ve never understood. . .

Just don’t see me at all, okay?  Just go upstairs, please. . .

He didn’t start breathing normally until he had raced down the stairs to the basement, door dead-bolted behind him.  Not gonna do much if he’s serious enough. . .  But he felt better, knowing that several locks, only two of which his father had the key to, and a deadbolt were between him and the loving bosom of family.

Spike was asleep on his bed, stark naked with the blankets bunched up around his feet.  He’s so beautiful.  He set the books down, dumping the clothes in the washer and pouring soap on top of it.  His hands shook so badly that most of the soap landed on the floor. 

Hopefully, that scent of the soap would muffle any other  scents until he could actually run it.  Then he turned back to the bed.  Men aren’t supposed to be beautiful.  Handsome, yeah, but not beautiful, like some statue.  Michelangelo?  Is that who I mean, Will?  He must have either been starving or worked out fanatically when he was human.  Because the vampire, ladies and gentleman, is ripped.

The familiar, panicked babble started up, and he was helpless to resist the thoughts tumbling inside his head.

Why is he so beautiful?  Moving closer, he watched as the pale white chest moved up and down, breath softly whooshing against the cotton of the pillow.  If Xander put his hand there he knew it would be cold and dry, totally unlike a human.  In and out, in and out. . . that’s what made me see it.  When I realized that it was more than just the hyena.  Watching him inhale and exhale, even while asleep, like he was human.  Like he was Buffy with the super-strength and the super-speed, except he doesn’t have the sun and the laughter that she does.  And I think he misses it.

His legs abruptly gave out.

Tears burned, and if he’d been alone he would have curled up into a ball and shook until he was afraid the teeth would rattle out of his skull.  But he wasn’t alone.  And if Spike found out. . . he’ll be so mad at me.  I’m sorry, I don’t want to make you mad.  Please don’t be mad at me?  I’ll be good, I promise.

He felt a whimper growing in his throat, and suddenly he knew what he needed to do.  Don’t be mad, please don’t be mad, Spike?  Please don’t be mad.  He searched for the little vial Spike had told him about that morning, about how it dulled pain without dulling the pleasure.  It was a magic vial.

Just a little.  Not too much.  He skimmed out of his clothing, tossing the brightly colored clothes into a corner where Spike would see them.  See, nothing wrong with me.  Nothing to be mad at.  He poured a small amount—tiny, tiny—on his finger and reached behind himself.

Ohhhh, Spike.

The finger slid in easily, filling him, making his inner muscles feel like he was suddenly in a sauna, or getting a professional massage.  His dick filled and rose without a single touch of his other hand, which was busy holding himself open.  It felt. . . not perfect, perfect was when Spike was inside of him—but close.  So close.  So good.

He carefully stretched and prepared himself, stopping only when three fingers moved in him easily.  Then he took one of the other bottles, and slicked himself up with something that smelled of rain and thunderstorms.

Xander paused once he was ready to begin.  Spike was still deeply asleep, body moving in quiet, gentle rhythm.  His penis lay soft and small, nestled in curls that matched the color of his eyebrows.  Legs tossed wide, like he was saying he knew he was the alpha and everyone else could just stop and stare.  His manhood was impressive even softened in sleep, and everyone should know it.

The whimper leaked out his pursed lips, the shaking returning now that he wasn’t concentrating on manipulating his own body.  To stave both of them off, Xander laid down in between those spread legs and nuzzled into Spike’s balls.

Smells good, he thought, frightening himself with the intensity of that thought.  It smelled wonderful, like he never wanted to move from this position again.  His mouth belonged here, licking along the crease of the sac, flicking lightly at the head of the penis as he withdrew slightly.  Then down, to that small strip of skin that Spike could drive him wild by just running a finger over.  He licked and sucked, trying not to grin when the statue-perfect body jerked under his mouth and parts of it definitely woke up.

Xander played some more, humming and sucking and occasionally even nipping, until he was sure that Spike was totally erect.  Then he used the flat part of his tongue to lick all the way up to the tip of Spike’s cock—and then swooped down to the base.

He worked his throat, remembering how much Spike had loved when he’d done that by accident, trying to ignore the growing constriction in his chest.  When it got to be almost too much, he worked his way back up, inhaling huge amounts through his nose.  Knew being a swimmer could be good for something.  It burned slightly along the left side of his face, the skin stretching painfully and pulling at the cut in his mouth, but he ignored it.  So long as he didn’t bleed, pain wasn’t important.  He concentrated on licking and sucking, thrusting the tip of his tongue into the tiny slit, hands coming up to fondle the neglected sac while he nipped hard right where the foreskin began.

Spike’s body shifted, legs changing their angle, but other than an explosive bit of exhaling, the vampire appeared to remain asleep.  Not for long, a devilish part of Xander grinned.  But the mischievousness felt forced, even in his own mind.

He licked back up to the top like a lollipop, sucking on the precum he found there and wishing he could swallow it.  It tasted so good.  Instead, he dribbled it along the length of the shaft, wondering if he even needed anything more.  Deciding that it was too soon to take chances, he scooped out another finger-full of the faintly blue-ish gel and smeared it all over the proudly straining erection.

Do I want to know how Spike is sleeping through this?  Quick glance at the top of the bed, where the sculpted face was still relaxed and open the way it never was when Spike was awake.  No.  Just. . . don’t be mad at me, okay?  I just want to please you.

He straddled the narrow hips and slowly, agonizingly, sat down.  Full.  Like home—and here he could almost smell that scent that made him feel so good—like perfection.  Oh, god, Spike you feel so good inside me.

Stifling his moans, Xander used the muscles of his thighs to lever himself up and down.  He started slow, concentrating on the feel of Spike slipping in and out of him.  The bumps and ridges and veins were easily distinguishable when he squeezed tightly.  Memorizing the feel, he felt brave enough to start going a little faster.  Not much.  Just enough that a pleasant tingling started deep within him and traveled along the length of his aching cock.

He changed the angle just a little bit, to take some of the pressure off his knees, and couldn’t stop the deep groan.  Oh, god, there, Spike, right there. . .  Every little movement brought a new kind of pressure to his prostrate, pushing him closer.

No!  Too soon, pack-leader isn’t—not until Spike is ready.  Have to wait!  He reached down to grab the base of his own erection, glancing up half-instinctively for permission.

Two eyes glowed eerily up at him.

Xander froze.  Moonlight from the far window bathed Spike’s white flesh in an ethereal glow.  Shadows obscured his face, hiding everything but those shining eyes.  There was nothing human or earthly to the vision before him.  This alien being made of marble and beauty, watching him with eyes that dazzled.

“Don’t stop.”  The words were whispered, floating along the air currents to tug at the strings controlling Xander’s movements.  No longer in danger of finishing too soon, Xander brought his hands back down to his knees and began a rolling, rocking rhythm that seemed to twist even as it moved up and down.

“Yesssss,” Spike hissed.  He made no move to grab onto Xander’s hips, something he’d half-expected.  Instead Spike pushed fists deep into the bed, his arms straining and cording in the silvery light.  “Faster.”

Instantly, Xander was leaning forward just enough that he could gain speed.

“No.  Lean back.  Yessssss.”  That same hiss of pleasure, the reflected light disappearing for an instant as Spike closed his eyes.  “Faster.”

Throwing his head back, Xander did as he was told.

There were no words, which was unusual.  Spike was very vocal in his pleasure, able to form coherent words up until the final moment.  Now, though, Spike was silent but for the panting and the occasional commands.  Just watching him as he moved up and down and up and down, squeezing himself tightly so that Spike would have nothing but pleasure.

Then, suddenly, one hand was clamped down hard on his hip, the other fisting his penis harshly.  Xander bit his lip until it bled, trying hard not to cry out from pleasure so strong it hurt.  “Now,” Spike gasped, “cum now, boy.  Xan—”

Xander swallowed his scream at the last instant, feeling his muscles contract in his release, which brought Spike to his.  Spike, too, was silent in his orgasm, although Xander could hazily see the distended muscles in the body below his.  I did that.  I made him happy like that.  Then the exhaustion kicked in.  Wavering, he gripped his knees even harder, forcing himself to remain upright, with Spike still deep inside him.

Spike gave a weak chuckle.  Hands reached up and pulled him down flat, so that he covered Spike’s body almost totally.  “Warm, you are,” was whispered into his ear.  “Like a bloody furnace.”

“Sorry,” he managed to mumble into Spike’s collarbone.  Mad?  He tensed to try and force himself to move.

“Don’t be.”  Arms snaked out from underneath his own, circling him snugly.  Xander relaxed, happy that Spike was pleased.  His body sated and content, wrapped up in Spike’s strong embrace, all the emotions from the previous hour slipped away.  He was safe here with pack-leader.  Safe with Spike.

Spike held him a little tighter, a rumbling sound vibrating between their bodies.  Xander smiled.  He loved this part of sex with Spike.  Well, no.  He loved sex with Spike, period.  But this, this holding and just being with your partner?  He’d never had that before, and hadn’t known how much he wanted it until he did.

Cordelia, he had never done something as, well, quiet as this.  She was too busy ripping me to little Xander-pieces every time she opened her mouth.  Including when it was just to stick her tongue down my throat.

Anya hadn’t liked it much, either.  A little after sex was okay, but far sooner than he liked she was pushing him off, complaining that he was too hot and heavy.  Watching movies meant each person on ‘their’ side of the couch, except if Anya wanted something rubbed.

Spike likes it, though.  Amazingly, it didn’t even have to be post-sex.  They’d spent all of Sunday curled up together in a human-demon pretzel, watching movies and munching on blood-drenched popcorn.  Spike’s bowl, anyway.  Each night was passed in a tangle of limbs, sleeping on and under each other—and Spike hadn’t ever made a single move to get rid of his human leech.  Big Bad Cuddler.  The thought made him muffle a snort in Spike’s skin.

“Whasso funny?” Spike slurred, twisting so that he could see Xander’s face.

“Nothing.”

Spike arched an eyebrow but didn’t press.  Instead he gently rolled Xander off, stretching his arms up over his head and twisting his lower half one way, then the other.  He looked up, blinking at whatever he saw on Xander’s face.

God, he really is like a statue.  The way the muscles play under the skin. . .he’s so beautiful.

“Luv?  You okay?  Look a bit fuzzy there.”  Amused confusion turned to concern.  “Doesn’t hurt, does it?”

“You’re beautiful.”  Spike looked startled for an instant, then smirked, preening a bit before tugging Xander back towards him.

“Mm.  So’re you.  C’mere.”  Xander pressed back in, sighing contentedly when Spike began petting his hair.  He could go back to sleep just like this, no problem.  “Are you okay?  Want to sleep some?  You were gone too long.”

“I only worked five hours today, Spike.”  Xander quickly checked through his various aches and pain, assessing just how tired he was.  Which was very.  But he wasn’t hurt too badly and he’d run on pure enthusiasm before. . . Spike said he had a surprise for me.  I. . . I want that.  More than sleep.  “I’m okay,” he said into Spike’s shoulder.  “Tired.  But okay.  So what are we doing tonight?

“Told you, pet.  It’s a surprise.”  He could hear the smirk and the anticipation in the vampire’s voice.  Smiling, he felt some of his tiredness slip away—a picture of Spike bouncing like Willow does when she’s like this helps, of course.  “You sure you’re okay, luv?  Gonna work you, I am.”

“Thought you just did.  I’m fine.  And I’m not pretty.”

A light smack to the back of his head.  He grinned up at Spike, amused.  “Please tell me?  Pleeeeease?”  Xander tried his hardest to look cute and pathetic, mentally steeling himself to slip back into the goofy mask he hid behind.

Spike hesitated for a brief moment and nodded.  Then the smirk came back.  “Training, boy.  Tonight I start teachin’ you how to fight, for real.”

“And Monday wasn’t?”  His grin became slightly less forced, body tensing as a new surge of adrenaline cut through the last of the exhaustion.

“Nah.”  Spike pushed them both to their feet and over to the shower.  “Monday,” he explained while they soaped each other down, “was to see what you could do.”  Xander moaned quietly as Spike sank to his knees and began kneading his calves.  Ohhh, nice.  No idea what he’s doing, but I’m not going to complain.

“Lift an’ flex,” Spike ordered, peering through the water to watch as Xander obeyed.  “Good.  Movin’ better.”

I’m huh?  “Spike?”

Spike settled onto the back of his heels, looking upward while the water continued to pound on his back.  His hair was totally plastered to his head, which was tilted in that totally Spike way that said ‘I’m thinking about something’.  He looked incredibly serious.  Almost blank-faced. . . and then he smirked, and the seriousness faded as if it never existed.  “Got a problem with me touchin’ you, puppy?”  Xander blinked, totally confused, but obediently shook his head.  No, he really didn’t.  ”Come on, then.”

Xander could feel Spike’s eyes on him as they dressed.  “Sure you’re not hurtin’?”

“No, that stuff you have works great.  No pain at all.”  And did he get that to fool the chip, or did he really not want to hurt me?  No, shut up brain.  Think about fighting.

“Meant anywhere.”

For one precious instant Xander met Spike’s blue, blue eyes—and relaxed.  Quelled the urge to babble for all he was worth; Spike would know something was wrong for sure, then.  “Nope, all good.  Not a twinge or a peep.”

Please don’t press.  Please.

The worst part was that he wasn’t badly hurt.  The worst was his left eye wanting to swell; everything else was so minor it was easy to ignore.

He’d had enough practice at it

Spike seemed mollified with Xander’s casual dismissal, herding them out of the basement and into the cool, crisp air.  “Off we go.  Half the night’s already gone, thanks to you.”  The glare had no real heat to it and the sated pleasure told a different story.  “So, we gotta hurry.  I wanna watch you sweat.”

Classic Spike-smirk, and Xander was sufficiently distracted as they walked toward the docks.  The walk helped, the quiet giving Xander a chance to take firm control of himself again.  Three blocks before it really was nothing but wooden dock, Spike turned to an old abandoned building and unlocked it.

“Um, Spike?  Not to sound like a stupid human or anything but—”

“Relax, puppy,” Spike interrupted.  He sounded wearily aggrieved and Xander tensed before he realized it was manufactured.  “Totally legit.  I know the bloke who owns this place.  He doesn’t mind us using it.”

“Bloke, meaning demon.”

“Yeah, a Than.  Decent sort of demon; you do them a favor, they’re right quick to return it.  Handed the keys over no questions asked.”

And if I believe that’s the whole story, then I’m as dumb as Willow and Buffy think I am.

He didn’t press, content to trail behind the flapping black duster and look around.  The main room was obviously meant for storage or distribution area.  It was huge, several stories tall of metal and cement and filled with dust, debris, and the accumulation of random junk.  Drifters had obviously used this building as temporary relief from cold or wet, but none of it looked recent. 

Spike led him away from the main room, through what had obviously been an office to oversee loading and unloading whatever the merchandise had been.  In the back was a metal door.

Spike forced it open, growling under his breath about upkeep and rust.  Propping it open with a cinder block found on the floor, Spike flicked at the light switch.

“There we go.”  It took almost a full minute for the florescent lights to come on, illuminating a—huh? 

Mats, not new but not old enough to be in total decay, were propped up against the walls and scattered about the hardwood floors.  Dirt was less plentiful here—no human would have been strong enough to get in, given the way Spike had been straining to open the door, and the no windows only helped.  Perfect place for vampires to nest—

Or work out?!

Several aerobic machines and quite a few weight machines lined three of the walls.  The fourth was for a wide assortment of free weights and a bar like a ballerina used, all of which reflected back at him from the line of full-length mirrors.  An ancient refrigerator hummed in the far corner, matching the sound of the lights.

“Great, he got it,” Spike exclaimed, heading over to the fridge and rummaging around.  “Perfect.  Gotta thank him.”

“So, we’re what?  Going to train me to be a body-builder?”

“Heh.  No.”  He headed for the mats stacked by the wall.  “You ain’t gonna use those until we get some basics into you.  Tonight, puppy boy, you learn how to fall.”

Xander hesitantly entered the room, still looking around in wonder.  The walls, except for the one with the mirrors, were painted black.  “Are you gonna stand there all soddin’ night or help me?” Spike growled, tossing a mat down with a whoosh and a loud bang.

“What are we doing again?”  Despite his nervousness, Xander grabbed the one nearest to him and began wrestling it over.  Spike began setting them up, creating a large area.  “Cause I’m thinking I know how to fall, Spike.  I’ve had a lot of practice at it.”

He couldn’t stop the bitterness in his voice.  Staring at his feet as he went for more mats, he hoped like hell that Spike just thought he meant when helping Buffy patrol.

“No.  You don’t.”

Xander froze at the quiet, pensive sound of Spike’s voice.  The skin of his back shivered, the hairs raising at the old, old pain he heard in the voice of an eternal teenager. . .

Use humor, Xander.  That’s what you do, remember?  “Nah, I’m thinking I have a lot of practice,” he said cheerfully, doing his damndest to look like an idiot kid who hadn’t heard the undertones and was taking the words at face value.  “There have been a lot of demons who’ve had the pleasure, shared by many a bully from school.  Oh, Angelus threw me into a wall a couple times.  And every time I go patrolling with Buffy, I fall at least once.  Sometimes she’s the one who throws—”

“Boy.”  Same quiet, spooky tone of voice and Xander shut up.  Babble was just going to piss Spike off.  Deep in his gut the thing he’d tried hard to ignore uncurled with a wail.  Please don’t be mad?  I’m sorry, I’ll be good, just don’t be mad. . .

Spike gave him a glare, and the trembling terror relaxed minutely.  “Not talkin’ ’bout gettin’ thrown, wanker.  Talkin’ about falling.  Correctly.  So you don’t get hurt, and you can get up as fast as you can.”

“You don’t mean getting tossed around, like I usually do.”

“I mean, learnin’ how to not to get tossed around like you usually do.  Learnin’ how t’ stay on your own two feet.  Get that, an’ half your problems disappear.”  Spike sighed and stared at the ceiling briefly before meeting his eyes again.  “Look, pet.  You’re strong, even for Average Joe Human.  You’re stupidly brave, chargin’ into a fight like a bloody puppy when you know you’re outgunned.  You’ve watched the Slayer for enough years to pick up on some technique.”

Xander snorted, embarrassed by the twisted compliments.  “Then why am I so damned bad?”

“Because Slutty’s got the whole supernatural gig workin’ for her.  You’re just a boy who isn’t comfortable in his own body, yet.  She’s got instincts and a feel for fightin’, the kinda thing you just know.”

A bitter laugh caught them both by surprise.  Gotta calm down, he thought fiercely.  Spike’s worried about something.  He was—Xander could see it in the dark blue eyes that tracked every movement he made.  “So what you’re telling me, is that I’ll never be as good as Buffy.”

“Hell no.  Y’ain’t the Slayer, luv.  But you sure as hell can do better’n that git, Riley.”  Spike sneered the name, adding a falsetto twist.  “You got brains an’ you got heart.”

“Yeah, but no instincts or that feel for fighting.”  Bitter sarcasm is not going to convince Spike that all is well in Xanderland.

Spike didn’t seem to hear it, though, shrugging nonchalantly.  “So, you learn it.  Can learn to do just about anythin’, luv, even if you ain’t got no feel for it when y’start.  You think readin’ an’ writin’ is natural for humans?  No.  You practiced.  You learned.  An’ you got yourself a bang-up teacher to show you.”

Spike removed coat, shirt, boots and socks, while he spoke, now clad only in the sweat pants he’d borrowed.  Xander hesitantly did the same, nervously trying to not cross his arms self consciously.  He knew his body looked horribly pudgy and misshapen.  Turning back to face Spike, he was grateful that the vampire met his eyes and held them.

“Okay.  I get that, I guess, but how can you train me?  The chip?”

Spike shrugged, digging out a bag and rummaging through it.  “Told you before.  Don’t need to hit ya to show you how to do it.  An’ you can hit me no problem.  For the rest. . . we’ll see what happens.”

“Like if you try not to hurt me, it might let you?”

“We’ll see,” was all he said, but Xander was pretty sure that’s what the vampire was going to try.  “Ready to start?”

“Um.  Sure, okay.  What, exactly, are we going to be doing?”  It’s not that I’m really scared of you, Spike, except that you terrify me.  Especially when—gulp—you get that look in your eye and your waaay too close and—eep?

Spike just smirked evilly, inches from his nose.  “Now we learn.”  Then he dropped like someone had just smacked into him and—what the hell?  Buffy doesn’t do that!

“S’called ‘slap the ground’.  You’re gonna do it over an’ over an’ over again till you bloody well get it right.  Hands like so,” Spike demonstrated, “shift your weight into the throw, so you can move your body to where you want it.”

Spike pushed himself upright and looked at Xander, expectantly.  Um.  He wants me to, what?  Throw myself onto the ground and slap it?  My life sucks.  I wanted weapons!  A sword, or a whip, maybe even an ax.  What do I get?  Slap The Ground.

Nervous, he tried to copy Spike’s movements.  “Not bad,” was the pronouncement.  “Keep more on your hands, but not so much that your wrists hurt.  We’ll do some strengthening exercises later, an’ then we gotta work on your flexibility.”

Oh, joy.  I can’t wait.

“Now, up, an’ do it again.  Get good enough tonight, an’ I’ll try throwin’ you on your back.  Teach ya how to deal with that.”

Let’s not forget, Xander thought wearily as he got back to his feet.  I wanted to do this.  In fact, I nearly begged for it.  Memories of Monday night before Spike consented to take him out floated through his mind.  Okay, so not so nearly.  I am so stupid.

Under Spike’s direction, he turned so he could watch himself in the mirror.  He glanced over to his left, reassured to see Spike when there was nothing visible in the silvered glass in front of him.  Hate that vampire thing.  It’s worse than the no-sunlight rule.  Sighing, he did what Spike told him, over and over, concentrating on the accented voice that controlled his movements with the skill of an accomplished puppet-master.

He wondered if he was glad he couldn’t see Spike’s face.

Part 11

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