It was supposed to be simple.  Bumbling Boy had got himself into another jam again and it was Spike to the rescue.  Well, okay, it was Spike to the daily-delivered blood, cable tv including the BBC channel, nice posh digs, and a decent stipend for his booze and his smokes.  All he had to do was take care of the brat.

He’d gotten in the way of some spell or something; Red mucking about with something and, surprise surprise, not only did she cock up what she’d tried, she got her chums involved too.  Lovely girl, that one.  Enemies were bloody safer.  Xander had been hit hardest with whatever it was.  From nine to five, he was okay.  Got up, worked his job, made his bread, even hung out a bit with his friends.  When he came home, however. . .

Home was when he fell apart.  Willow had worked and worked until she could give him that daylight window, but once it was dark her preventative measures failed.  He’d have fits—true epileptic fits that rattled the teeth in his skull and bruised his skin from the inside out.  His mind would wander, sometimes.  Not often and not to the point of true insanity, but he definitely needed a caretaker.  If Dawn hadn’t decided to give him a call and heard the crackling in the background, he really could have burned the place down.

So, Spike had been persuaded—bullied, threatened, and finally bribed—into playing the butler.  He’d care for Xander in the evening hours, chauffeur him whenever Xander was desperate enough to go to a Scooby meeting, and play bodyguard on those days when the boy forced his friends to allow him to patrol.  He was to take over the cooking as much as his limited ability to cook, and greater ability to dial a phone, could manage and generally make sure that Xander stayed as hale and whole as possible.

It wasn’t that bad of a deal.

Xander wasn’t much work, preferring to be left alone when he was sane and quite companionable when he wasn’t.  Almost reminded him of Dru, with the crazed mumblings and the occasional need to be held until the shaking stopped.

That hadn’t happened quickly.  The first few times Spike had ignored him, going about whatever he’d been doing until the tremors had stopped.  If he was coherent enough, Xander would take care of the aftermath.  If not, Spike would toss the boy on his bed, clean up any messes and go back to ignoring him.

When her Buffiness found out she’d ripped him a new one.  Literally.  There had been a nice little fight about how much the Scoobies needed him and what they’d do if he was gone, which had been neatly answered with Giles’ iron pronouncement that they’d hire a nurse.  Spike was simpler and more efficient—although not all that much cheaper —but there were other options.

Assured of his uselessness, Spike had given in.

From there it had followed fairly naturally.  When the fits came, Spike was there to ease the physical pain and whisper crooning reassurances.  When Xander conversed with the ceiling or decided ants had taken permanent residence in his skin, Spike was there to remind the boy that walls couldn’t talk and ants liked things that didn’t have such lovely, hot, sweet blood pumping through them.

He had no idea when it had gone from a job taken under duress to a twisted form of affection, but it had.  It was probably because the crazed rambling was so much like Dru’s own brand of insanity, but he didn’t like dwelling on their similarities.  It made him uncomfortable, especially when those dark, fathomless eyes turned his way, full of pain and knowledge and still fearfully innocent.

Then the nightmares came.

They’d probably been happening for a while, since Spike did sneak out to do his own thing in the wee early hours when he was sure Xander was asleep.  That, and the whole being dead thing made for very heavy sleeping, once he got used to having a heartbeat so close by him.  The dreams would start slow, not much more than the occasional whimper and the toss of sweaty limbs.  Then moans would mix their way in, and not the good kind Spike made when he was tossing off right before Xander—

Mustn’t let that lad remember he had another male living with him, oh no.  Slayer had been right clear about that, the one time she’d seen him wake up with a stiffy.  The argument about why a dead body would react the way a normal human’s would had been entertaining, at least.

 —came home.

Moans and whimpers, thrashing about on the bed clothes, occasionally even a few full-out screams.  Terror-scent pouring out of soft golden skin—he’d been holding the boy for weeks, ’course he knew it was soft—eyes scrunched up in horrified denial of whatever he was seeing inside his own mind.

Willow was adamant that the nightmares were not part of the spell, not even an unforeseen side-effect and had been less than helpful about what to do to ease them.  Oh, Spike knew the standard cures after caring for Drusilla for so long, but he hadn’t wanted to use those methods until he’d exhausted the Scoobies.

That was complicated, however, by his reluctance to actually tell someone other than Red.  His attempts at subtle hints had been met with confusion by the Scoobies, warning glances by Red, and an overpowering combination of hatred and shame from the boy himself.  He knew Xander was aware of the nightmares, since it sometimes took prodding to get the boy moving in the morning—something he’d get in trouble for if Xander missed work—and occasionally he’d smell the salt of tears.  Sometimes.

It kept him quiet long enough that giving in was easier than finding other methods.

The rain had been drenching that night.  Xander was left fast asleep while he hit a bar or two and got nicely snockered.  He was giggling by the time he reached the apartment, a bottle of tequila in his belly and the blood of at least three demons staining his clothing.  A good dinner of actual human blood hours before, and all of it combined to make a very happy, relaxed vampire.

The sudden screaming had startled even him.

“Buggering hell!  How’m I gonna sleep through you screaming like a bloody banshee, eh?  Idiot brat.  Gotta make you shut the hell up. . .”

He did remember to clean himself up at least a little, toeing out of his boots and unbuttoning his jeans just in case.  Then he crawled his way into the thrashing tangle of Xander’s bed and held him close.  The boy had struggled, earning both of them a few good jolts until Spike got his arms around the tense, sweaty body and began crooning.  A low, soothing hum, two steps below actual singing, two steps above the purr that too many stupid people said vampires could make.  They couldn’t.  But this was close.

It took time, almost twenty minutes, before the low sound and the soothing touches brought Xander out of his nightmare.  Once he was calm in his arms, Spike debating on leaving the boy and returning to the cubby-hole that was his room, but remembered what Dru was like when her nightmares had been this severe.  He stayed.  Even slept a little.

Xander said nothing in the morning.  Woke up, got out of bed and went through the routine he’d gone through every morning since the vampire moved in and probably before.  Spike watched it all from the warm spot Xander’s body had left.

That was the first mistake.

The next night, when the nightmares came, Spike hovered in the doorway, considering.  The part of him that knew what was expected of him—by the idiot Scoobies, by the boy himself, by the conditioning he’d built for himself—wanted him to go and soothe the boy as he had the night before.  But he was a vampire, dammit.  And he’d loved Drusilla.

Two more nights went by before he crawled back into Xander’s bed.

It was gradual.  Spike tried to fight it, trying to prevent a pattern, a habit from forming.  He failed.  By the end of the month, Spike was spending five or six nights out of the week in Xander’s bed, whether or not the boy had nightmares.  He would hold the boy, rocking and crooning and whispering nonsensical words as if Xander were a frightened animal unable to distinguish word from tone.  Petting him at night and playing with him during the day as if he were Drusilla.

That was the second mistake.

One of Spike’s primary objections to moving in with Xander was how much he expected the two of them would fight.  They could barely stand each other during the five minutes they usually interacted and living together put a whole new spin on any relationship.  Besides, he’d done that once before and he knew he didn’t want to room with a bloke who didn’t know how to clean a toilet.  Crypts were dirty, yeah, but it was the dirt of nature—not human bowels.

It had shocked him to see just how far the screwed-up spell affected the boy.  The humorous spark, the irrepressible courage, the donkey stubbornness were all gone.  He barely spoke when he wasn’t rambling and what he did say was usually only as much as absolutely necessary.  Everything else was eschewed for the sounds of television, radio, or the turning of pages as the boy devoured book after book.

That should have warned him.  Not the book thing, although Xander reading Tolstoy had been a shock.  It was how docile he’d become.  How malleable.  During the day, he played the role of Xander the Construction Worker well enough that no one at his job even guessed.  At night, he was a puppet, strings attached to his friends, the spell—and to Spike.

Spike had learned to sleep soundly in the human’s bed.  During the night, he would wake when Xander woke, just in case it was due to a nightmare or an episode, but otherwise it had become as much his bed as he could ever claim one.  The sounds of Xander in the morning no longer affected him.

He still felt it.

It took him a while to realize it was deliberate, but he was aware of it.  Every morning, he was wakened by a thigh pressed in between his, moving.  Not quickly or with much force, but still moving so that the big muscle and occasionally the hip-bone would rub against him.  Within days it became a hand.  For nearly five full minutes, Spike had thought of excuses for why Xander’s hand was between his legs, rubbing lightly at the hard-on he sported.

By the time he’d decided he didn’t care, the hand was gone.

This went on for a few days, Spike left to furiously wank himself the minute Xander left.  He wasn’t sure if he liked the teasing or hated it, but knew he wasn’t going to interrupt it.  It was a lot more interesting attempting to puzzle out what the hell was going on than just watching sodding day-time television again.

Then it was Saturday.  Construction work often meant odd hours and since the weather was good, Xander’s job had become six days a week.  Saturday was Xander’s only free day and was usually spent running errands and attempting to hang out with his friends.  This particular Saturday, however, had no errands to be run and no friends wanting to spend time.

Spike had made damn sure of that.

He had woken abruptly, as he always did, careful to keep his body motionless despite being fully aware.  Movement on his part would end the tentative exploration and he wanted to give Xander no reason to stop.

The boy’s heat was scorching against his own luke-warm skin, scalding along flesh made hyper-sensitive by gentle stroking.  Xander had never objected to Spike sleeping nude, had in fact hardly seemed to notice when Spike shucked first shirt, then jeans, then the boxers procured specifically for the boy.  It had left Spike wondering why he’d bothered with the consideration—other than Buffy’s threats towards her friend’s virtue—and why the boy had ignored it.  Why it had taken one quiet comment for Xander to begin sleeping in the nude as well.

The touch on his cock was always hesitant.  Always with a gentleness rarely found in any male Spike had known, tentative and unsure, yet sweet for all the insecurity.  Like when Drusilla would play the fumbling virgin, frightened and nervous but intent on pleasuring her ‘captor’. . .

It had taken all his will power not to moan or start shifting his hips when Xander began to stroke with a little more force, now actively trying to bring the vampire off.  Never as hard as Spike would like or as fast, but still deliciously meek and oh, so hot.

He came with a gasp of pleasure, soaking the sheets directly above him and coating the boy’s hand.  Unmoving, he had waited as Xander disappeared into the bathroom to fetch a damp cloth to clean him up.  Feeling oddly sated from that one hesitant hand-job, Spike had resisted the urge to stretch contentedly—until he heard the sounds of sucking.

Xander was licking his hand clean.

Instantly hard again, Spike had forced himself not to grab the boy and instead waited until the shower started.  Then he’d furiously jacked himself off, images of Xander in all kinds of depraved positions dancing in his mind.

All he had to do was be patient and, despite the Scoobies’ opinion, he could be patient when he needed to be.  Sometimes.

Daily hand-jobs were a great way to ensure his patience, as was the introduction of blow-jobs.  The first time had been clumsy and pretty bad, but Spike hadn’t cared.  A hot, wet mouth was on him, suckling him sweetly as he lay immobile on the bed.  He’d come so fast and so hard he’d been afraid the boy would choke on it—but Xander just swallowed and went on his way.

The question was why.

Spike knew that Xander hadn’t been overcome by the vampire’s unbearable sexiness and fallen to his knees in awe.  He would’ve liked that to happen, but he wasn’t stupid enough to believe it.  He also knew that Xander wasn’t really gay.  Spend time with another bloke, even one under a spell that made him shake and babble, and you learned things.  Xander was very definitely hetero—

Yet he seemed addicted to Spike.

At first he’d thought that it was just the come that Xander was addicted to, since it always ended up inside the boy.  It got to the point that even the hand-jobs ended with Xander’s lips firmly attached to the tip, so not to miss a drop.

It was during a trip to the Watcher’s that he realized that it was much, much more than just an odd fascination with vampire ejaculate.  They’d always been careful to maintain a distance between themselves when others were around, emotionally at least.  Spike didn’t want to be seen as the mushy fool he knew he was and Xander wanted to retain at least some dignity, so their actions had been kept as professional as possible.

Buffy had been on the war-path.  Why didn’t matter, but she’d frightened Xander.  He’d tried to hide it, locking his body tight and fitting himself in a corner so no one would notice.  Buffy had finally realized what was happening, going over to make amends—

—sending Xander into a full out fit.

Only a few weeks before, any of the Scoobies had been able to calm him.  Maybe not as completely as Spike, but he would’ve settled into a half-state under their ministrations.  This time, though, everything they had done made him worse.

Dawn had been dispatched to take Spike away from his dinner and into the main room.  Then she and the rest of Xander’s friends had all watched as Spike held the boy, crooning and petting like he did after a nightmare, reassuring the boy that he was safe and protected.

The rest of the night had been spent with Xander either in his lap or leaning against his legs.  The boy couldn’t stand being separated even for a little and Spike had allowed it because it flustered the Scoobies so much.  Besides, the boy was soft and warm against him. . .

When they’d returned home, Xander had barely waited until they were undressed and in bed before sucking him down.  His mouth had demanded, confident for the first time, pulling the orgasm out of Spike. 

It was when Xander cleaned the softened member and returned to his own side of the bed that the beginning of an idea formed.  The next morning while Xander’s head bobbed up and down, Spike had slipped his hand underneath the warm belly, searching for an erection he was certain he’d find.

Xander was erect, but the instant Spike’s fingers found their goal, the boy shifted himself away and redoubled his efforts on Spike’s cock.

Spike remembered cursing the world very violently at that point.

He should have noticed it.  He should have seen it, been aware of it as he certainly had dealt with it before.  This was Drusilla, hurt and terrified at her weakness, unable to do anything but depend on Spike.  This was Drusilla, lost in her insanity, knowing that she owed Spike for the care she received, even though Spike repeatedly told her she did not. . .

If the Scoobies found out, Spike would be staked.  He knew that, despite the careful way they’d treated him since the boy’s last public fit.  They wouldn’t understand what it was to have everything taken from them, leaving them nearly invalid and dependent both in body and mind.

In the interest of preserving his own skin, Spike had known he needed to stop this.  Xander had to be forced into regaining his sense of self again, to understand that while Spike was there to deal with the things he couldn’t, the vampire wasn’t the center of Xander’s world. 

He had attempted to do so by moving back into his old room.  He would still care for Xander during his nightmares—which increased to a frightening intensity—but he did not stay the night and refused all advances. 

That was the third mistake.

Within two weeks, Xander had become a ghost.  His foreman had called several times that Xander was making dangerously stupid mistakes and that perhaps he needed some rest.  Spike had refused, knowing the increased time spent with him would only make it worse.  The spells and fits became more pronounced, but Spike remained as detached as possible while dealing with them.  Xander had stopped eating except when forced and sometimes slept at the foot of Spike’s closed door.  Even the boy’s friends had noticed that something was wrong, first anxiously worried and then frightened and angry at Spike.

Spike, however, had refused to be swayed.  He was not going to coddle a human brat just because the brat was damned good at a blow-job.

It was supposed to have been easy, a no-strings arrangement that kept Spike in blood and beers, and Xander safe and healthy.  It was supposed to have been professional, just two blokes living together and making sure each got what they needed.

And that’s basically how it turned out.

The final straw had occurred almost six months to the day Spike moved in.  Four weeks since he’d gotten his end away, despite several attempts to pick up various partners.  None of them had been appealing enough, not with Xander waiting and ready back home.  Two weeks since Buffy had demanded that Spike fix whatever was wrong with her friend, and no, she wouldn’t stake him so long as Xander was okay again, was he listening to her?  Four days since he’d been successful at making the boy eat anything.

He’d always known what Xander wanted.  Since that one fateful night, he’d known that the boy would forever content himself with offering his body to Spike. . . but it wasn’t what he really wanted.

Had Spike always wanted that, in turn?

It made sense, he’d rationalized to himself.  Even when she’d been strong, Drusilla had required constant care and supervision.  His life had been built around her needs and her wants, because she needed him to make her life function.  Left to herself, Drusilla ran the great risk of dusting herself through her own inability to be, well, rational.

The Slayer had promised that so long as her friend was taken care of, he would be safe.

Spike had always been good at taking care of things.

That night, he’d slipped back into Xander’s bed while the boy tossed and turned in sleep.  Coaxing him through the nightmare, he’d made sure that Xander was awake and coherent before flattening him to the bed.  Grinding his hips down, he’d rubbed their cocks together, faster and faster until he’d covered the boy in his come.  Then, settling back on his heels, he had taken Xander’s cock and jacked it as hard as he felt the chip would allow.  Xander came, hard, body shuddering in the first orgasm he’d had in what probably was several months.

That was the last mistake.

Xander seemed normal, now.  Got up in the morning, worked his job, hung out with his friends.  He even started helping to save the world again, sometimes offering crucial bits of information.  He’d become quite the researcher.  His friends were grateful.  Willow swore she’d found the right combination, regularly dropping off a potion Spike tipped down the drain.  Buffy watched careful, concerned and untrusting of the calm, genial, even helpful vampiric attendant that followed Xander everywhere. 

Giles said nothing at all.

And Spike?  Spike got exactly what he wanted.  Blood, beers, smokes, a good telly.  A good fight when he wanted one, since the boy still attracted demons like he was a bloody lode-stone.  A good shag anytime, since Xander had no modesty or shame left in him.  Hell, they’d even done it in the Watcher’s house, waiting for the rest of them to come back one night.  Sure, he missed the thrill of the hunt, but when you came right down to it—

It was simple.