“Tara?  It’s Anya.”

“H-hi, Anya.  H-how are—”

“Is it working?”

Tara smiled against the phone in her hand, amused by the ex-demon’s abrupt demeanor.  Anya had always been so intimidating to her until they started spending time together plotting and arranging everything.  It was still nerve-wracking to be around someone so, well, abrupt, but she wasn’t afraid anymore.

“I think so,” Tara said.  “Has Xander w-woken up yet?”

“No, he’s still sleeping.  That’s good, right?  That he’s still sleeping?  He looks. . . happy.”  A touch of sadness in the last word, making Tara ache for the other woman.  The kind of strength it took to do what she was doing. . .  “They’re happy together,” Anya continued, “wherever the spell took them.  That’s good.”

Tara glanced down the middle of the room where Spike remained sprawled.  A circle of shimmering blue powder—which was going to be very difficult to clean up—surrounded him, candles burning at the four points.  A scrap of gold silk lay next to the eastern candle, a bit of black silk by the western one, with a second line of sand joining them underneath Spike’s body.  He’d collapsed the moment the final syllable had left her and hadn’t moved since.  That had been two hours ago.

“I d-don’t know that it’s going to work,” she cautioned again, despite the feeling in her gut that told her it was.  She knew not to trust that feeling without proof.  “There are s-so many ways for sp-spells to go wrong and we don’t even kn-now that they’re t-together.”

“Well, it can’t be because the ingredients are bad.  I had to look long and hard for the powder from a unicorn’s hoof.  Do you know how difficult it is to make them hold still?”  Anya sounded like she herself was the one to collect the pulverized hoof.  “They’re either trying to spear you or they’re turning funny colors.  And forget it when a non-virgin comes near them!”

Tara muffled her giggle; Anya did not like it when people laughed at her.

“I know Mark wouldn’t have given me a bad spell,” Anya continued, oblivious to how Tara was tuning her out.  “Sure, there’s some rivalry between me and the vengeance demon of men scorned, but it’s really not very much at all.  Although there was one time we were both called, for this couple in Paris. She had been tired of being beaten on and decided that she was going to have as many lovers as she could and he was upset because she had denied them sex for years and once she started sleeping around, she made sure everyone knew why.  Well, I can tell you, Mark and I were—”

“Did he—” she interrupted suddenly, immediately easing off when she heard how loud she was.  “I-I mean, um, i-is Xander m-moving?”  Not that movement was a bad thing, necessarily, and for all she knew it just mean that they were waking up.  Except the powder was supposed to turn white before that happened. . .  “Just now, d-did he move?”

“What?  No, he’s just lying on the bed like a great—his hand just moved.  Is that supposed to happen?  You should have let me help cast this spell!  I used to be good at this!”

Tara wasn’t offended by Anya’s shrewish comments, knowing the harshness was born of fear for Xander, not true anger.  Carefully, she knelt at the very edge of the circle, watching as Spike twitched, his arms shifting position restlessly.  “D-did he just, um, shift a little?  To his r-right?”

“Yes!  But now he’s not moving anymore.  Well, he’s breathing, but—Tara, should we have done this?” 

“Yes.  Yes, w-we should have.”  It had surprised Tara just how vulnerable Anya could sound, once she let her guard down a little.  More like a little girl than a woman who had a thousand years as a vengeance demon to draw experience from.  When she’d caught Tara snooping around for a spell for Spike, her first reaction was to jealously protect the Magic Box’s wares.  It had taken some very fast talking to convince her that Tara was going to buy any ingredients she needed and, while doing so, she’d spilled out why she wanted to do a spell in the first place.

Two days later, she’d shown up at Tara’s dorm room asking if they could do a slightly different spell so it could include more than just Spike.

It was odd being the strong one and Tara wasn’t sure she liked it very much.  She was certain, though, that what they were doing was the right thing.  She didn’t often get such a clear feeling of rightness, but when she did she knew to trust it.  And, anyway, Anya wasn’t doing this just because she wanted Xander to be taken care of when she finally left.  She wasn’t doing this out of a sense of guilt, either—at least, not much of one.  She was doing this for the same reason Tara was.

“I don’t want to hurt him, Tara.  I—he doesn’t deserve it.  And I’m going to hurt him so badly.”

“No, Anya, you aren’t.  If what you t-told me is true—”  She had to believe that, both of them did, or what they were doing—no, they were right.  Tara had made them wait an extra week while she looked for the things Anya had told her about and found them to be true.  This was going to work out okay.  It was.

“Are you saying I lied to you?  Because I didn’t.  I know that Xander has been dreaming about Spike for weeks now and you saw how they watch each other!  He isn’t cheating on me, I know that—but he isn’t happy with me, either.  I want him to be happy.”

“Then he w-will be.  They b-both will.”  She clicked off the phone after Anya’s grumpy good bye, still watching Spike.  He did look happy, as much as anyone asleep could.  He looked innocent, without the forceful aura of strength and aggression that he maintained with such care; she wondered if anyone realized just how much effort he put into the façade.  He didn’t look dead—she’d been afraid he would.  His chest didn’t move and he didn’t make the sleepy sounds most humans made, but it just made him seem solemn and quiet.  Then again, he’d never felt dead to her, no matter how many times Willow cautioned her about the vampire.

Sighing, Tara pressed her fingers at the edge of the spell, willing it to work correctly.  She loved Willow for loving her and she was truly grateful to Buffy for instantly coming to her aid, but it was Spike that had exposed the lie that had bound her for so long.  They had defended her—while Spike freed her.

“Find the happiness to find yourself. . .”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Sleeping with Anya was like sleeping with a cat.  Her tiny, petite body didn’t look like it would take up that much room, but it always did.  Granted, a full-sized bed really wasn’t big enough for two adults who didn’t always sleep spooned together, but somehow Anya always managed to use over half the bed every night—leaving Xander scrunched in the corner.  Ever since they’d moved to the new place, Xander always woke up with a crick in his neck and his back already aching.

Which meant something was very wrong.

He was warm.  Comfortable.  His body rested easily against something that rose and fell occasionally, creating an irregular rocking motion that felt nice.  Hard, strong. . . well, something’s were wrapped around him, holding him tightly against whatever he was sleeping on.  A light, feathery touch was tracing patterns on the small of his back.

Oh, god.

His first instinct was to run.  Screaming.  Away.  Anyway.  Some vague vestige of common sense, however, was painting a graphic picture of why leaping up and disturbing his unusual pillow would be a very bad thing.  Which gave his hormones a chance to realize that the slow, haphazard rhythm was doing a great job rocking his suddenly not-so-soft cock against an equally not-so-soft cock.

Maybe he could pretend to be asleep again?

“I know you’re awake, brat,” a sleep-rough voice rumbled up through his chest before his ear heard the actual words.  “So either get me off or get off me.”

He was lying on Spike.  It made sense, lying on Spike, since the last thing he remembered—

Oh, god.

“Right.  Okay.  Getting o—I mean, getting up.”  Which would involve moving.  “Um, Spike?  You have to let me go, first.”

“Oh, right.  Sorry.”  Slowly, agonizingly slowly, the snug, comfortable arms wrapped around him loosened and slid off entirely, making damned sure to rub and tickle and caress—in a totally casual way, of course—every inch of Xander they could.

Oh, god.  And I should probably be looking for something more creative to say instead of calling on a god I’ve pretty much ignored my whole life.  Which made absolutely no sense, either.  Shaking his head, Xander forced gummy eyes open, determinedly ignoring the expanse of pale skin that met his blurry gaze.  Working his own arms out from under Spike took some effort and he refused to even contemplate why they were there.  No speculations by this guy.  Nu-uh.

“We had sex.”  Okay, so he had the resolve of a wet-blanket, as Spike had called him once.  Also, his mouth was not attached to his brain—of course not.  Otherwise I’d be babbling about God and religion and me having a crisis of conscience and I really need to stop thinking now.  “I mean,” he continued as he struggled to his feet and backed away, “that was sex right?”

“Yeah, that was sex.  You still respect me, now it’s morning?”  Spike made cow eyes at him, snickering when he got a glare in return.

“Funny.  You slay me with your devastating wit.”  Yawning slightly, Xander stretched—and then eeped, loudly.  Naked!  I’m naked—again!  Scanning the ground frantically, he dived for the ornate pants Spike had worn, ignoring the loin cloth.  He needed layers and layers of cloth between him and the leering amusement he felt on his back.  Struggling to get the delicate, gauzy material to behave, he managed to get at least the top part securely fastened.  The bottom however—

“Oh, very classy, Harris.  Always wanted to see you in a skirt.”  Gracefully climbing to his feet, Spike caught his arm and twirled him a little.  “Nice flare an’ gold’s a good color for you.  You should talk to the witches, see if they can dress this up with some spangles or—”

“Fuck you!” he snarled, yanking himself out of Spike’s hands and back towards a vine-covered wall.

The amused, leering smirk twisted.  “Funnily enough, Harris, you’ve already done that.  Why, want another go?”

How can he—how does he do that?  I know that he’s not so hung up on the gender issues, and thank you, Anya, for those painful conversations, but—it was me.  It was me  inside him, feeling him tighten around me so much that I could hardly even move and—

“Oi, pet, that wasn’t supposed to be a trick question.  Are you—fine, then.  So this is the garden, huh?”  Spike wandered away, totally unconcerned that he was still naked, examining the flowers.  “Nice place.  Some serious dosh went into this.”

Spike, groaning in my ear, legs hard around my back, heels digging into me as he moved and writhed and—

This was not the right time to get horny.  Really.  Glaring at his wayward penis while Spike went exploring, he began mentally conjuring the grossest, most disgusting things he could think of—and it was only after he had started on baseball statistics that he remembered he should be thinking of Anya.

Anya?  Why would she care?  Okay, yeah, girlfriend and ex-vengeance demon and possibly going to be very, very angry at me, if we ever get out of here, but she’s been pushing me at him for weeks. 

Whoa.  Stop.  Rewind.

She’s been pushing me at him for weeks? 

That was a new thought.  Tilting his face up toward the fabric ceiling, Xander closed his eyes and reminded himself that yes, he had a brain.  He should probably be using it to figure out a way to get home or cover up the whole gay-sex thing, but right now he really needed to think about—

She has been pushing me!  She always wants me to patrol with him.  And she made me invite him over last week, when she bought blood for him and then refused to let me out of bed so I had to just shout through the door.  And then when we were Dawn-sitting, she wanted to go do inventory at the Magic Box so she had Spike come over and keep me company.  And—

There were more, lots more events that his mind was suddenly very intent on cataloguing and presenting to him in picture-perfect clarity.  He’d just assumed that she was trying to be nice, since she always talked about how Spike could be one of those elusive male friends he never seemed to make—and maybe that would take care of the dreams he wished he’d never told her about.  He hardly even remembered them, really, but sometimes if she asked him right after waking he’d babble details that would be forgotten the instant he said them.  She seemed to take the dreams as proof that Spike and Xander needed to become bestest guy-buds.  Now that they’d had sex, though, he wasn’t sure that was really possible.

Except, we didn’t have sex.  Ali the Slutboy and, what’s his name, Nu’man had sex.  Multiple times in various positions and there was nothing on this earth or any other that was going to make him remember what had happened right before he passed out.  Because Spike had been having sex with Ali, not Xander.

Of course, that didn’t explain why Spike had called his name or—no!  What part of ‘not thinking about it’ did we miss!  I am not thinking about this!

“Harris!  Oi, come-breath, did you even hear me?”  A quick movement and Spike was suddenly there, crowding into his personal space, head tilted with his eyes scrunched up like he was actually concerned.  Surprised—Spike moved so damned fast—Xander twitched back and would have fallen if Spike hadn’t grabbed his arm to steady him.  “Xander?”

“Huh?  Get off me!”

“Oh, bloody hell.  You aren’t gonna have a break down, are you?  Cos I really don’t have time for you to start ‘questioning your or-i-en-ta-tion’.”

Ah, yes.  Yet another Anya-induced bondage—I mean, bonding exercise.  Watching teenage self-help videos about how to tell if you’re gay or not.  That had been one of the first times they spent any time together, not long after classes started back up for the girls and Mrs. Summers began working late at the gallery.  Sitting downstairs in the Summer’s home, trying not to get drunk on the beer Anya bought for them or laugh too loudly, thereby waking Dawn, at the videos she insisted they watch.  Ridiculously stupid, overproduced videos.  About men who were afraid of coming out. 

Um.  And I’m only questioning why she did that now?


“Okay, okay, get off!”  Smoothing down the billowing make-shift pants that really didn’t work without the bottoms being tied right, Xander tried to get his head back into reality.  “Sorry, what were you saying?”

“You were, weren’t you?  About whether you might be a poof.”  Spike’s expression was speculative, something nameless and frightening dancing in eyes that were darkening.

“No, I wasn’t!  I—I was thinking about Anya!”  Lying was good, right?  Lying was normal, at least, since he regularly lied to Spike all the time.  Except now Spike was giving him this vaguely hurt expression and turning slightly away which meant he was actually hurt and trying not to let anyone know.  And I really shouldn’t know that.  Really.  Okay, distraction I need a—bingo.  “Spike?  We gotta go.”

“Course we do, Harris.”  The vampire’s ability to switch gears on a dime was always disconcerting, but the whole smirking, hip-cocking, eyebrow-raising, disdaining-sarcastic switch was making Xander’s brain melt. “And you’ve suddenly sussed the way back home?”

Well, at least the snark-factor was the same, no matter what the weird look meant.  “The sun is rising, Flamma-boy.  And unless you’ve got a handy new sun-screen you wanna try out, we have to move now.”

Cursing, Spike scooped up the loin-cloth and hurried down the path back to the safety of the shaded interior.  Xander followed behind more slowly, trying to shake away the sexy thoughts and concentrate on the important ones.  His own mixed feelings about Spike were far less important than figuring out how to get home.  And how to make sure Slutboy doesn’t take over again.  That’s a good way to not have sex with Spike anymore.

Spike was waiting with an amused, long-suffering expression by the time Xander actually got to the hallway.  “I know that you love the gardens, my pet, but we are both sticky and could do with a bath.”  He reached out, taking Xander’s unresisting hand and tugging him down the hallway.  “I know how you’ve missed them.”

There was absolutely no mistaking that look.

Which meant—oh, great.  Now I get to have sex with Nu’man instead of Spike.  And when did more sex become a thing to avoid?

The bathing room appeared just about the same time Xander realized that he should probably be trying to figure out where they were going and maybe how to get back.  Especially since it looked like Ali was still wherever he was when he wasn’t in Xander—leaving me with my ‘master’.  Ooo, yay!

Nu’man tsked lightly while Xander looked around a room as fully opulent as any of the others they’d been in, only this one had pools—six, three steaming, three not—dotted around tile that as some kind of impressionistic, formless representation of sand and waves.  “Ali, my sweet, sweet Ali.  Did I not tell you that you were to be naked at all times?”  Spike’s most leering smirk flashed up at him two seconds before his hips and upper buttocks stung from the force of cloth being ripped off.

“Hey!  That hurt!  I mean—sorry, Master?”  Possibly not the greatest save in the world, but hopefully it would have to do.  Nu’man didn’t seem to mind, running his hands all over Xander’s chest and abs, lightly tweaking at nipples already stiff and hard.

“You are so beautiful, my Ali,” Nu’man whispered, looking up with eyes that never turned that blue except when Spike was feeling some deep, intense emotion.  The kind Xander had only seen once before and had promised to never talk about to anyone.

“It has been far too long, my pet.  We have much to make up for.”

Something witty and submissive-sounding without actually being submissive was on the tip of his tongue.  He just knew it.

Fortunately, he was pushed into the pool before he had to say it.

Spluttering to the surface, body dancing from the heat prickling up his sides, Xander shouted bloody murder as soon as he had enough air to speak, promising dire retribution.  “. . .because I’m done with this!  I don’t know what’s going on, or who the hell you are, or why I’m here, but I am done playing imitation Whoreboy for whoever you are and I—oh, merciful Zeus.”

Eyes wide and staring, Xander sank down into the water, thankfully onto a conveniently created bench so he didn’t drown.  And drowning was a very real possibility, because there was a mouth on his cock.  A very skilled, very talented mouth that apparently had no need for breathing because it slid up and down his length long after a normal person would have had to come up for air.

The water was nearly scalding hot, forcibly relaxing muscles that he hadn’t even known were tense, yet even the extreme heat couldn’t stop him from shivering when a sharp, pointed tongue traced the biggest vein up and down his erection.  Gasping and flailing from the one thing guaranteed to make him pop every time, he hardly noticed when his hands were grabbed and placed firmly in thick, curling hair.

“Oh, god,” he panted, absently tugging on a particularly long curl, rewarded with a particularly fierce suck.  “Oh, my god.”  Spike was blowing him.  Okay, so maybe it was Nu’man, but either way, he was getting the best blow-job of his entire life. 

Mouth hot from the water, suction stronger than any mere mortal could possibly create.  Xander was afraid it was going to get suctioned right off his body, like a demented form of vacuum cleaner, cleaning his body of unnecessary fluid.  Agile tongue finding every good place to flutter and poke and draw absent little shapes on.  Clever hands, bigger than any Xander had felt before, even his own, tugging on his balls and reaching up and behind to tickle and then press against the place Anya had taught him about.  The one that always made him come like a geyser when it was pressed, with jagged red shocks flashing behind his eyes.

It was stroked again and again until Xander couldn’t see the brilliant blue ceiling anymore, with its random white shapes mimicking clouds and maybe that was a bird?  All that mattered was the mouth bobbing on him, water swirling around his body from the force of head and neck moving, hands playing with him and the way his rhythmic tugging made that mouth move faster and harder and—


The scream around his cock made Xander scream too, especially when two rows of teeth scraped up, then down and then he was coming hard enough to leave every single muscle drained and limp.  Especially the muscle that was telling him that it was never going to function correctly ever again.  Ever.  Okay, maybe in an hour or two. 

“Oh, my god,” he said to the ceiling.

“God had nothin’ to do with that,” was the sardonic reply.  “And you do realize that I now owe you a good coring.”

“Coring?”  Was that what he thought it was?  “You owe me a—Spike!  You’re you again!”

Spike snorted, stretching luxuriously in the water, still mostly between Xander’s wide-flung legs.  Which he was not telling Spike about.  He noticed, too, that Spike didn’t actually look that upset at having done what he did.  There was none of the spitting or ick-faces Xander remembered from his what-the-hell-did-my-body-do moments.  “That’s twice now I’ve come to with bits of you in me.  You owe me, brick-layer.”

“Oh, please, I blew you twice!”  Okay, so reacting with typical hostility and anger was probably not the best thing to do, but hey, it was what made him Xander.  Glaring while the vampire grabbed a bar of soap and began scrubbing, Xander refused to watch the tan bar skim over milk-white skin.  Because he already knew what that skin tasted like and—  “Okay, you know what?  I don’t care.  I just want to get out of here.  I’ve had more than enough of my life as Sinbad.”

“Sinbad?  Oh, Wa’il, have you been reading him more of those silly fantasy stories you enjoy?”  The voice was rich with disdainful amusement, thick as kohl and as darkly mysterious.  “Really, my husband, you spoil your slave too much.  Should not I, Khalida, deserve such devotion as your wife and Sultana?”

A dark-skinned woman dressed in gold and purple undulated her way into the room, glancing from one face to the other with a casual arrogance that made both men swallow heavily and then look at each other.  The same thought clear on both their faces: Wife.  Oh, shit.