Olivia Blivious (gertinator) wrote in bloodclaim,
Olivia Blivious
gertinator
bloodclaim

Bound, 3/?, S/X

Title: Bound 3/?
Author: gertinator
Pairing: Xander/Spike
Rating: NC-17 overall, but this part is just a tease
Warnings: slash and low to mid range kink
Notes: Back by popular demand, and now there is an actual plot to go with the smut! Well, sort of. Some well worn and beloved cliches worked in... hopefully I give them new life. :) Oh, and I promise never to call Xander's eyes "chocolatey" but I do confess to mentioning Spike's "alabaster skin". *shrugs* There are no original thoughts, right?
Summary: Spike has saved Xander from being a demon's slave... or has he?

part 1 | part 2





"Spike! Xander!" Angel shouted out in relief, jogging towards them from the far end of the sewer.

Xander had a moment to imagine how they looked, like the triumphant ending of an action flick where the hero carries the not so bright but very pretty (and in modern times, generally ass kicking but still not as good as the hero) girl out to safety. Maybe it only completed the picture for him to moan and hide his face in Spike's neck, but he couldn't help himself.

Couldn't Angel have found us after I was actually standing on my own two feet? Xander thought, embarrassed. Then added, No, no, of course not. My life doesn't work that way. But at least I'm pretty. He groaned into Spike's collar bone. Too bad I'm only pretty to demons. And now a days they don't even have to be female demons.

"Can't remember the last time the Poof looked so good," muttered Spike.

Spike liked to keep up appearances by throwing smart ass remarks at Grandpa, but there were times when it felt good to have that much power at his back. Would have been better the night before - maybe - but now was good, too. Angel might have a car they could use above ground, and he could go in and clean out the slaver's hide out, make sure all portals were closed and revenge seekers dead while Spike took the boy home. Spike felt justified in calling Xander a boy now that he was childer, or something close.

"Do you think it's a new hair gel?" quipped Xander, using his second favorite face saving tool: humor. His number one favorite, denial, was in full force though straining under the weight of current circumstances like a fourth grader trying to play Atlas.

"Probaly paid 20 quid for it," Spike chuckled, and the slight wince from Angel meant his little bat ears had caught the remark. And it was probably accurate. Spike grinned. Good, didn't want the ponce to think they needed him. Even if they did.

Take that, Angel, Xander thought feebly. I may be playing the damsel in distress, but I can still spear you with my razor sharp wit. Or um, my lame and somewhat pathetic wit rubbing in an old stale joke. Beware the Xan-man, Mr. Broody! Xander tucked his face back in Spike's neck and pretended he was manly and dressed and standing on his own two feet. Hmm-hmmm. Denial. Denial is so my friend.

"Xander, are you hurt?" Angel asked as he reached them. He seemed genuinely concerned. "Spike? Did the Naad...?"

"No, no, the whelp's okay." Spike could feel the burning flush of Xander's embarrassment against his cool skin and felt strangely protective. He'd give Angel the details later, but the rest of the group didn't need to know what was going on. "Lost his shoes..."

"...and my dignity," muttered Xander, buried in the leather coat and trying to make himself invisible. Angel can not tell I am naked, he sing-songed to himself.

"Spike - ?" Angel's small sniff and sharp tone told Spike Angel had scented the oddness to Xander's smell and was not happy about it.

"Bloody pillock. Ears? Still has a pulse, yeah? Hit the wrong end of a spell, is all." Spike said pointedly, but cryptically enough that the whole cavalry didn't get the gist. "But he's right knackered and needs kibbles and a kip."

Angel gave Spike a sideways glance. He knew what William originally sounded like. Whenever the accent and slang got heavy, Spike was trying hard to be... well, Spike. And that meant something had him shook up.

"And a shower," came the mumble from Spike's neck, where Xander had decided to remain permanently hidden. If he couldn't see Illyria or Gunn, maybe they couldn't see him. It was a nice thought, and his good friend Denial was willing to back him up on it.

Angel stared at the two for a moment, eyes narrowed and thoughtful. Spike was clearly hiding something, and Xander was acting far too meek. And the human smelled wrong - familiar, almost, but wrong. Spike mentioned a spell but clearly didn't want to give any other details. They'd have to deal with that later. Angel couldn't waste time squeezing info from Spike when there might be people in need of help back in the slaver's pens.

"Naad's dead but you should check the hidey hole," suggested Spike, knowing the best way to distract Angel was to give him a heroic task. He filled the rescue team in on the situation quickly, itchy to get away from the older vamp's questioning gaze. He could almost hear the gears a twirlin'. "Couldn't leave the whelp unprotected long enough to suss out that git's op, thought I'd leave that to you and the Avengers. Prolly got a portal going somewhere."

Spike pushed past them, trying to get some distance between himself and his Grandsire's pointy little nose. It was too much to explain now, and he didn't want to worry Xander. "You got a Poofmobile parked up above?"

Gunn tucked a key ring into the coat with Xander. "We retrieved your Mustang and parked it near the sewer exit. Just go around the corner, then up the ladder you see on the left." Gun waved down the dark hall. "You're parked up the block, across the street from the porn shop. Figured you'd have no trouble finding that," he smirked.

"Thanks, mate," Spike said sincerely, giving Xander a little reassuring squeeze. The boy had barely said a word, and that was not normal, even for Xander 2.0, the mature and collected man. He wanted to get them home and safe. For once demon, man, soul, all agreed. Leave the dirty work to Angel and get Harris back home.

******

"God, I feel so much better now that I've washed the demon cooties off me," exclaimed Xander, scrubbed pink and shiny and dressed in fresh jeans and a t-shirt. At Spike's raised eyebrow, he stuttered, "Uh, no offense. Your cooties aren't so bad. I was talking about the other demon cooties. Big and Scaly's cooties. Though I was a little sticky and itchy from your... but that's... gah. I'm rambling aren't I? Just call me the Rambling Man. Damn, I thought I'd grown out of that. Gonna just stop now," Xander added, face bright red. He ducked his head, then looked sideways at the vampire through a wet lock of hair.

Spike just smirked at him. It had been a good long while since he had seen Xander so flushed and babbling. He rather enjoyed it. The whelp seemed to have dropped years, as well as a large weight off his shoulders. It pulled at Spike somehow, reminded him of simpler days before the soul and all the mixed shades of gray that seemed to comprise his new life in Las Angeles.

"Right, then," Spike said after a moment. "Washed the demon cooties off me, too." He winked, and Xander smiled. The boy was bouncing on the balls of his feet, that antsy Harris stance Spike remembered so well from Sunnydale. Spike's chest tightened and he tried to distract himself. He picked up the phone, fidgeted with the buttons. "Thought we'd order you some Bernie's and maybe call up something on the telly."

"Can we go out, Spike? I've got too much energy to stay here, and I'm not ready to spill my guts to Big Daddy just yet. Please?" Xander tapped a little tune out on his thighs, then gave the vamp his best puppy dog eyes. The eyes said it all, and Spike practically melted under the pleading mixed with hero worship. It was a good thing he didn't need to breathe, 'cause that look would have stopped any mortal breath.

Eyes. As in plural. Spike did a double take. "Xander?" he asked, his voice suddenly raw with emotion. He took a shaky unneeded breath to give him a focus to calm himself and tried to make a joke. "Find somethin' in the shower, lad? I've heard about that making hair grow on yer palms, and making ya blind, but never heard about it restorin' an eye."

"Oh. Uh. Yeah." Xander touched the lid, blushed a little. "Forgot about that. It's actually a fake. Willow gave it to me a while back. It has a minor glamour on it, makes it look more like the real thing, tracking and all. Digital camera inside, too, my Wills always goes for the best techie widgets." Xander shrugged. "Couldn't stand wearing it before with the itch and ache-age, but I thought it'd be cool to try it out now that... well, it doesn't hurt any more. What do you think?"

Xander looked anxious, and Spike wanted to reach out and stroke his cheek. Touch the face that had been restored to that of the White Knight Spike had known back in Sunnydale, the boy who was all heart and worship of his friends. The boy who was now giving Spike the kind of look he had previously reserved for the Slayer, and the witch, and sometimes Giles, when the old Watcher wasn't paying attention.

It made Spike ache to know it was only a spell, not real, and he wanted to keep it, keep Xander. The soul told him it wasn't right, and Angel wouldn't let him anyway. Spike sighed, then realized Xander was still waiting for an answer, and was now looking sad and downcast, fidgeting and twisting a bit of his shirt in his hands.

"Looks mighty fine," Spike said, watching how the boy lit up at his approval and feeling it all the way to his dead and shriveled heart. Harris was too damn antsy to notice the catch in his voice, thank the gods. Whatever gods watched over soulless killers who regained their souls and tried to hide their own soft hearts. He would never admit to anyone the guilt he carried about not making it to the whelp sooner, soon enough to save his eye, but the fact that it stood out high on the list of a somewhat repentant murderer marked the degree of its importance.

"Deserves a pint and some chili fries and half a bloody cow to celebrate. Bernie's is calling," Spike stated, grabbing his coat. "I'll even pony up the dosh. Well, Angel's dosh, you know. 'm not that generous."

"Right. Right." Xander bounced his way to the elevator. "Gods, I feel good, Spike. I know I should be worried about the whys of that, 'cause the mojo is oh so involved, but right now, I'm just enjoying feelin' so good. I feel good!" Xander said, channeling James Brown. He did a little shuffling dance step that made Spike bite back a laugh.

"S'alright, pet," said Spike, reaching a hand out to the whelp's shoulder. "After all you've been through in the past 24, you deserve a bit of alright. We'll get you fed, then we'll hit the books."

"Hey, can I drive the 'stang, Spike? Considering all I've been through?" Xander batted his puppy eyes at Spike.

Spike was not about to admit the two-eyed look hit him like a Mack truck, and snorted in derision. Big Bad answered with all his bluster. "Cheeky prat. You'd've had to 'ave 'ad an amputation and maybe the plague afore I'd consider lettin' ya touch me baby. Even then, wouldn't put a tosser like you in her driver's seat. She's a real lady."

"She sure is purty," Xander agreed in gushing admiration. "What year?"

"'67," Spike informed him proudly. "Purrs like a newborn for all her years." Xander hadn't noticed how Spike's hand continued to rest on his shoulder, and Spike couldn't bring himself to move it. In fact, Spike noticed they were very much in each other's space, and Spike could clearly smell the freshly bonded childer scent rolling off Harris. The demon was practically doing somersaults at the idea of a claim on the boy.

Spike surreptitiously took a big whiff of the scent, smiling broadly as Xander continued to prattle about the mustang. Harris had adoration and hero worship written all over his face and it made Spike want to preen. It had been a long time since he had felt the devotion of a minion, and he had never sired any childer. It was a heady feeling. Somehow, the soul, and the fact that it was Harris, made it all the sweeter.

Old Broody would make them break the bond eventually, but unlike his guilt-spelled grandsire, Spike had no problem enjoying the positive benefits of his magical fuck-ups for as long as they lasted.

******

"Ugh, Spike. I need another shower," Xander complained as they returned home three hours later. He held up a bruised and blood stained fist. "No demon cooties this time though."

They had actually walked, which was nearly unheard of in LA. But Spike didn't tire easily, and Xander needed to work off some energy. They had gotten more exercise than they planned for, though, when five guys had tried to jump them on the way back.

"Naw, just bloody stupid gang bangers. Trying to mug a vamp," Spike shook his head in disgust. He had to use all his will power to keep from licking the blood off Xander's knuckles.

The fight had at least given him an outlet, given them both an outlet, for some of the pent up energy crackling around them. It was a pleasant workout, kicking human asses. Though they had stopped before doing any permanent damage to the delinquents. Xander's rules, and the soul agreed. Spike hadn't even had a snack, and normally he would have considered that his due. Any pillock who tried to mug a vamp deserved to play blood donor.

"You put those cheeky gits in their place, though, whelp," Spike smirked. "Brass knackers on you. I hardly had to do anything."

"Yeah," Xander sighed happily in remembrance, then frowned. "It's the spell, I know, but man, it was nice to have super powers for once."

"Not quite super, lad," Spike corrected, teasing. "You're just a little... enhanced. I could still take you and not break a sweat."

"You're dead. You don't sweat." Xander gave him a playful push. Spike wondered if Xander had noticed how much more physical he was with the vampire - pushing, punching, touching. Spike wasn't going to mention it, but he had certainly noticed. And so had his cock.

Be a wank tonight, Spike thought grimly. And I'll be picturing the boy. Out loud, he said, "You shower. I'm gonna grab some books." He punched the lift button for the research level, and waved a good bye when the door dinged at his floor.

Spike decided to take the edge off by giving himself a tug in his office. Likely the boy was doing the same in the shower upstairs. Spike groaned at the thought and tugged harder, going to just the edge of pain. Xander had been throwing off pheromones like a Xglock demon going into heat ever since the fight, and it was killing him.

It reminded Spike of the Slayer, how fighting always got her all hot and bothered. The Slayer, and any vamp you'd come across. And if it had been the Slayer, or another vamp, Spike would have slammed them up against the alley wall and fucked their brains out.

But it had been Xander Bloody Heterosexual Harris, and one walk on the wild side in 24 hours was probably all his manly dignity could take. So Spike had ignored the diamond hard bulge in his jeans and played the male bonding game. Until they got home.

Now he was in the privacy of his office and he was getting himself off to the memory of the boy's newly quickened reflexes and sharp fighting style. He saw the two deep brown eyes, the real one giving him a wink, after the fight was over. A wink and a friendly punch to the shoulder, and then twelve blocks of walking so close they brushed against each other every few seconds, Harris chattering away happily, reliving every solid punch he had thrown.

Spike sighed and let himself remember the tight heat of entering the boy, the demon's howl of claiming and that was all it took to make a real mess of his desktop.

"Oi. Gotta get me a tumble, and soon," Spike muttered to himself, wiping up with a handful of papers snagged out of the garbage. "Turning into the pouf, I am."

Spike gathered up his books and headed upstairs, ready to tuck in and read while Xander finished showering.

Angel found them, hours later, settled in the commons room between their apartments. Xander's commando was kicking ass on the X-box, while he sat on the floor in front of the couch, back pressed into Spike's legs.

Spike was sprawled comfortably, reading a book and taking notes, one hand on the pen that tapped his lips and occasionally got chewed, the other buried in Xander's hair in a casual but affectionate way. Neither one seemed aware of the odd domestic picture they presented, and Angel stood speechless for several minutes.

Of course, Spike knew the minute his grandsire entered the room. Vampires can't really sneak up on one another, especially when they are from the same line. Still, Spike was enjoying Angel's reaction and felt no need to cut it short. Their relationship had changed drastically a number of times over the more than hundred years since their lives had become entwined, but there had always been an element of competition. And every time Spike annoyed or surprised the broody one, he won a point in the over all game. Besides, the boy's hair was silky under his fingers and felt right nice.

"Do I even want to know?" Angel finally ground out, still staring at the two. Never in all of his centuries had he imagined seeing the sight before him - the two biggest pains in his ass the world had ever created, cozied up like lovers. Buffy would flip.

For some reason the thought of Buffy sent him back in time, and he flashed on the first time he had ever met Xander. And the first time Xander had met Spike, clamped under Angel's arm and stinking of fear, yet still mouthy and brave. And that was when he noticed it. Xander's eye. Eyes.

"You got your eye back?" Angel asked, incredulous, wondering what the hell kind of spell the two had tangled with. Knowing the pair of them, it was probably a sign of the apocalypse. Another damn apocalypse. God, why had he ever agreed to let Xander work for him? And what on earth had made him pair the boy with Spike? It was begging for trouble.

Xander looked up from his game, toed the pause button on the box. "Huh? No. No such luck. Just wearing the marble Willow got me." Xander contemplated their fearless leader and whistled. "You look done in, Dead Boy. Even worse than I did when I got home."

Angel's normally perfectly styled hair was flattened and Xander could see bits of leaves, twigs, and other unnameable things stuck in it. The vampire's expensive clothes were equally tattered and stained with foreign substances that just screamed Bad Times in the Sewer. Xander squinted and blinked and hoped his eye cam caught a picture. He hadn't quite mastered the trigger mechanism yet, but seeing Angel so dirty and disheveled was inspiring him to try. His conscience twinged for half a second, then justified it as fair compensation for his own earlier humiliating appearance.

"Illyria had a little..." Angel ground his teeth together, "Glitch while disabling the portal. Never mind." Angel waved a hand and got down to business. "Spike said something about you two and a spell?"

"Under control," Xander answered dismissively, toeing the xbox back to play and continuing his pixelated fight. "Spike's researching."

"Spike?" The fact that Spike had not said anything made Angel very suspicious. He was tired and his patience was worn thin. He glared at Spike and suddenly recognized the book Spike was holding. Ramblegh's Lore of Vampyre, the only known book with chapters on siring childer written by an actual vampire.

Angel stepped closer to the pair, took a breath and suddenly knew. He had scented the strange... tang on Xander in the tunnels, and now he understood exactly what he smelled. It was impossible considering the steady thump of Xander's heartbeat, and Angel suddenly remembered how Spike had taken care to point that out earlier. Now he knew why. His voice took on a dangerous edge. "Spike?!"

Spike glanced up at him with studied casualness. "Stumbled into a binding spell. Give ya the details tomorrow, you look right knackered."

Angel didn't buy the concern from either of the pair before him, but damned if he didn't just want a hot shower and maybe a back rub from Nina. He'd deal with the Aggravation Twins later. He shot Spike once last glare and turned on his heel, mumbling a goodnight.

"See, that's why I'm here." Xander joked after Angel was out of hearing range, watching the last of his digital opponents flare up in a tinny explosion. The victory music played as he advanced to the next level. "He's like a bright ray of sunshine that soothes my weary soul."

Spike smirked. "Like sunshine on my back, too," he agreed, tugging at the lad's hair and going back to his book. One thing they agreed on, for sure. Jokes at Angel's expense.

*******

Xander looked over Spike's shoulder and realized not only could he not read the language, he didn't even recognize the letters. "How many languages do you speak?

"Hmmm. Few." Spike answered modestly, nose still in his book. "Had a proper British education. Unlike you yanks, we had to learn things in school."

Xander kicked him. "So you speak snob. What else?"

"Learned Greek, French and Latin in school. Picked up some German from an Austrian cousin of me mum's. Once you know the base of the Romance, it's pretty easy to learn the rest..." Spike marked his spot with a finger and looked up. Xander was clearly feeling chatty, and honestly, Spike didn't mind.

"So you learned so many languages 'cause you're a sexy bastard?" teased Xander.

"Romance, like based in Roman, Roman empire, nitwit. Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, what have you." Spike paused and considered, then added. "Though I am a sexy bastard." He spent a moment posing to show off his sexiness. "Dru liked the sound of Russian, so I picked that one up... learned some Cantonese after I did up the slayer. A bit of Japanese and Korean... got a smattering of demon languages, too, though 'm not really fluent in more than four or five. Just 'cause I can say, 'Sorry I ate your sister, mate' in F'leckan don't mean I can translate a text."

"F'leckans tasty then? I always thought they looked a little... moldy..." Xander inquired facetiously, settling onto the floor at Spike's feet and paging through one of the texts scattered around.

"You want something, pet? Or you just come around for a visit?" Spike asked. Since the bonding spell, Xander seemed to spend more time in Spike's office than his own and Spike wasn't complaining. Funny how easy it was to get used to, having a person seeking him out for company. Three, four days and it replaced the habits of a lifetime.

"Just got sick of staring at the computer." Xander was by no means a programmer, but he had managed to make plenty of contacts over the years, and gleaning information from emails and phone calls was one of his chief skills. He spent half his day on the computer keeping up those relationships and spreading across the web to make new contacts. Who would have thought the ability to make friends could be an asset to a research team? "Thought you might want to spar for a while."

"Hmmm. Sure. Let me finish this bit," Spike made a few more notes on his paper, then bookmarked his page. "You reserve a fight room?"

"Naw. You know they always clear one for us." Xander grinned. "Sometimes it's fun to be a teacher's pet. Maybe I should leave an apple on Deadboy's desk."

Spike chuckled, put his book down on top of the stack and stood. "S'nice having you around, Harris. I only have to work half time annoyin' the pouf, knowin' you've got the other half covered."

"Ah, you are my idol when it comes to irritating the Big Man," Xander responded, batting his eyelashes. He always wore the false eye now, and the patch seemed almost like a bad dream.

Spike ruffled the whelp's hair as if he were a child, which he almost was in Spike's mind. Best to think of him as a child, anyway, 'cause the other thoughts were only for the privacy of his bedroom. Spike stopped himself from going down those tracks and threw out the topic he least wanted to discuss.

"Any word on your end on the binding?" he asked casually as they reached the elevator.

"Hmm? Got a few feelers out. There's a man I knew in Africa, but he's not wired up. His granddaughter haunts the internet cafes, though, and she's promised to drag him to town and get him on a phone. Maybe tomorrow." Xander shrugged. He knew he should feel some urgency to break the spell, but he just couldn't muster it. There were plenty of other more interesting research projects. Besides, he liked the bennies, and hadn't noticed any real down sides. He wasn't in any hurry.

It had only been a few days, but he and Spike were developing a routine. Spike seemed to need less day sleep and Xander needed less night sleep, so they were around each other much more.

Without consciously agreeing on it, they finished most of their work while the other was asleep, so that mutual wakefulness could be spent sparring or playing video games, or even out dancing in clubs.

It was an irony, or course, that the guy whose chief recommendation as a job skill was a large network of knowledgeable friends, felt like this was the first time in a long time that he had really had a best friend.

Not that Spike compared to Willow in Xander's mind. Willow would always be The Best Friend. But Xander hadn't had a male BFF since Jesse, and he missed it. Willow was the best, for sure, but she was also a girl, with girl interests and girl emotions, and a girl's style of communication.

Spike new the value of a good hard fight and a few glasses of beer.

Xander was fascinated with his new improved reflexes, and Spike was teaching him how to use them most effectively. The late afternoon sparring matches were the highlight of Xander's day. Xander kind of liked to hope it was the highlight of both of their days.

A fight, some dinner and beer, then dancing or television, or sometimes a round of Halo and Xander would go to bed and Spike would go back to his research. It worked well for the two of them, and neither one mentioned that it had started with the bonding spell and might just as easily end when the spell ended.

"Maybe tomorrow," Spike agreed.

"How about you?" Xander asked, noticing from Spike's tone he wasn't that particularly urgent about it either. "That research wasn't about spells or the Naad..."

"No, no, that was a bit for Gunn. He's writing a contract for some demons and didn't like the legal precedents. I've been looking for some historical niblets to back up his angle." Spike sighed and itched his head. "You came at a good time, pet. A bit o' punchin' and kickin' and I'll be able to put that lot of gibberish into something that makes sense to the lawman."

Xander gazed at Spike with something like awe. "It's so weird to see your inner Wesley, Spike. It's a whole new side to you."

"Don't compare me to Percy, ya git. Though the watcher showed he was more than yer average pillow biter there at the end." Spike glanced away from Xander, a little embarrassed to have been caught so deep in his books. It just didn't work with his image.

"No, it's cool, Spike. You're like a puzzle box, you always keep me guessing. There's so much more to you than just an evil bloodsucking fiend," Xander added in a whispy mock bodice ripper voice, batting his eyelashes furiously.

Spike glared at the boy suspiciously. He had taken to batting his eyelashes an awful lot, and Spike wasn't sure if it was him being all flirty with the spell or him using the damn camera in that false eye. Xander had shown him the file titled "Deadboy Blackmail" and it was truly hysterical. He had denied existence of a file on Spike, but the vampire didn't believe it.

There's a touch of evil to the whelp, all right, Spike thought proudly. I wonder if that's my influence.

"Do I want to know what you are thinking about with that look?" Xander asked, giving him a playful punch.

"Had this idea of a prank we could pull on Angel," Spike suggested, remembering a funny idea he had earlier.

They were laughing together by the time the lift doors opened on the gym. Angel was so not going to be laughing later, though.

"You know, Spike," Xander said suddenly. "I really think it was the right choice for me to come here. I wasn't sure before, but... it feels good. You know?"

"Yeah. It's been a lark, having you 'round to help me keep Peaches on his toes. And you're a right hand at research now, aren't ya?" Spike patted Xander's back and pushed down all his doubts. The spell might be enhancing things, but the friendship was real. Wasn't it?

*****

Xander stepped out his door to hear the sound of Spike and Angel arguing loudly. Not anything he hadn't heard before, and in the last few days it was pretty much a given. As usual, it stopped as soon as Xander entered the room.

"I can hardly believe it's possible, but he's actually gotten more annoying since he bonded with you." Angel huffed at Xander and turned to leave.

Xander watched Spike, could almost see the layers of armor going back into place and really really wished he would have caught some of the conversation. Whatever Angel had said had crumbled Spike's usual defenses and left Xander a glimpse of the man hidden in the demon, but at the sight of Xander, the walls were erected again. Angel and Spike's relationship intrigued him, it was so clearly not human. And yet it brought out the humanity in both of them. Xander crossed the room to Spike and gave him a wink.

"Did the Big Bad Bleachie hurt your feelings?" drawled Xander in a talking to baby voice, watching Angel from his comfortable spot resting his chin on Spike's shoulder. "Want me to beat him up?"

Angel turned and gave Xander a hard stare. "Have you ever noticed," Angel said carefully, "How you are always touching each other lately?"

Xander started, pulling his head back from Spike's shoulder. He really hadn't noticed it, not until Angel mentioned it. And how would Angel know, anyway, he had been avoiding Xander even more than usual lately. Though the pranks he had been pulling with Spike might have been part of the cause.

Xander didn't care if he was acting juvenile most of the time these days. At least he was only in his mid twenties. Spike was over a hundred, and if he couldn't act like a mature adult, well, then Xander didn't have to either. Besides, there was something about Angel that just made you want to poke him until he finally reacted. Baiting a bear, maybe, but so much fun.

Angel glanced back and forth between the two. Xander had clearly been surprised by his comment, Spike had not. And that worried him. Spike had a soul, now, and a conscience, but that didn't mean he was good at making rational decisions.

"How's the research going, anyway?" Angel asked in the same quiet, careful coice. "Spike says he's come up dry. Have you found anything?"

"Uh, no." Xander answered, and Angel seemed to draw out the guilt in that admission, as if Xander had openly declared his lack of interest in the search. Should have known, Xander thought, Angel's got a built in guilt-o-meter. It attracts him. Like a rat to cheese, or a Harris to chocolate.

"If you don't find something soon, I'm going to put a word out on my own," Angel said and left. Angel's statement should have been words of support, but it sounded far more like a threat. The look on Angel's face on the way out reminded Xander of Willow's face before she gave the shovel speech and he was even more confused. He wondered who would get the shovel, him or Spike?

Angel and Spike were so thoroughly tied together, despite their constant snarking, that Xander kinda suspected he himself was the candidate for the shovel. Which was weird on so many levels, from the dating implications right down to Angel being protective of Spike. If Spike weren't so clearly constantly annoyed by the older vamp, Xander might have even been a little jealous. But they seemed to feed on the irritation, constantly working the rough edge of the relationship as if they enjoyed the friction.

Suddenly, something clicked in Xander's head. "I get it," he said. "Rimmer."

"What?" Spike had firmly locked his usual leering and uncaring mask in place. "Don't mind a bit now and then, but never expected you to ask."

"Angel's Rimmer," Xander clarified, not getting the innuendo.

"Not even. Wouldn't go near the pouf. Now a shapely lad like you..." Spike leered again.

It took Xander a minute to get it, and then, "Ew? Strangely titillating and yet, ew. And can I say again? Ew. And Angel." Xander shuddered. "Not what I meant, sexually perverse vampire creep." Xander still used the old insults, but these days they were completely affectionate. He punched Spike's arm.

"Pull your mind out of the gutter and remember who you're talking to, Bleachie. Nerd here. I meant Angel is Rimmer to your Lister. Like on Red Dwarf. Lister needed someone to annoy him to keep him sane." Xander frowned as he started to find flaws in his analogy. "Though actually The Powers That Be sent your ghost to annoy him, so maybe you're Rimmer." He shook his head. "No, no way. Angel is so much more a Rimmer than you are."

"Could have told you that," said Spike with a wink, still not willing to give up the dirty pun. Xander rolled his eye. "I'm too cool to be Lister, anyway. I always fancied myself more like Cat. And I'd say the pouf was Kryten. WIth the big forehead and that whole vacuuming thing."

"Angel wouldn't have a soul if he could get happy that easily," snickered Xander. "But the guilt! Kryten's always guilty over something. And he wants so bad to be human..." Xander was giggling hysterically at the comparison. "You are so right, Spike. Angel is Kryten. Captain Forehead, the guilty clean-up robot."

"Oi, ain't that the truth." Spike flopped down on the couch. Nothing like a little Angel bashing to clear the air between him and his boy. The pouf had been uncomfortably close to the truth, accusing Spike of not bothering to try to break the spell. Grand Daddy had a good nose on him, could tell Spike had been lusting after Harris. Not that that was real news, but the touches added a new level to it.

The soul troubled him a little, thought he should have a good honest conversation with the lad about the way the spell was shaking down. Trouble was, they were two men, and the spell seemed to be digging into some poncy bird territory, what with emotions and touching and all that. The boy didn't want to go there any more than Spike did.

Xander interrupted his thoughts by challenging him to a game of the newest Grand Theft Auto and he settled in to the competition. The whelp's reflexes and the fact that he had been born playing video games gave him an edge and Spike had to concentrate to actually beat him. The whelp managed to win two out of three.

"Don't feel bad, Bleach Boy," Xander soothed as they reset the game so they could go three out of five. "I beat Illyria twice yesterday. And you know what a game maniac she is."

"Yeah, well. Why don't we go down to the workout rooms, and we'll see how you do there." Spike could still take the boy down pretty easily, though they were far better matched now than they had been in the past. Anyway, it was as much for the pleasure of the physical workout as any need to win. And Spike was so not going to think about physical pleasure when he was that close to Xander. That was dangerous territory.

"Ohh, tough vampie gonna kick my ass," crowed Xander, pushing his shoulder sideways into the vampire. Spike pushed back and soon the controllers were thrown down and they were wrestling good naturedly on the floor.

Spike let Xander think he was going to win a few times, and told himself it was not just to prolong the feeling of the boy rolling around and grappling with him. Finally, his hard on was starting to hurt and he knew his luck was going to run out soon and Xander would actually notice it. Of course, judging by the hormonal perfume coming from Harris, he had a stake of his own to keep hidden.

Oh, for a game of stake the vampire using that stake! But it was not to be.

Spike pinned Xander in one quick flip and licked the boy from chin to forehead in triumph before pulling back to sit on the couch.

"Ew, ick! Vampire spit. Cooties! Cooties!" Xander wiped his face and laughed. Damn it felt good to just mess around with Spike like this. It reminded him of his younger days, before he knew anything about vampires. When the world was mostly good and there was plenty of time to screw around.

Spike was laughing, too. "Should know better than to mess with me, boy. Yer still just a lowly human, even if you've finally grown a pair."

Xander stared at the vampire, realized he had just been playing video games and wrestling with a 150 year old master vampire. Who acted like a twelve year old. And he realized something else.

"What?" Spike asked, indignant, trying to regain his cool. He smoothed his hair. "What're you looking at?"

"Just." Xander paused. "I just realized he's right." No need to say who he was. "Ever since he mentioned it, I've noticed... how much I touch you. I can't seem to help it. I try not to touch you, and... it's difficult."

"What? Like a compulsion?" Spike had noticed an urge to touch Harris, too, but he still felt like he was in control. He could stop himself anytime. He just didn't usually want to. Xander didn't seem to have as much awareness or control.

"Not that strong," Xander said thoughtfully. "I can leave the room, no problem. And I'm okay when we're apart," though I do spend a damn lot of my time thinking about you. Xander decided he wasn't ready to share that. "But when I'm with you, it's like staring at chocolate cake. I just wanna..." Okay, maybe his subconscious was gonna share without his permission, because that sounded dirty.

And Spike caught it.

"You just wanna... take a taste?" the vampire leered.

"Uh," Xander choked and blushed. And released a cloud of pheromones that made Spike dizzy.

"So I'm the nummy treat now, eh? Moist and delicious, yeah?" Spike wiggled an eyebrow suggestively.

"No!" squeaked Xander. "Why do you have to remember that? Vamps aren't elephants."

"Hmmm," teased Spike, enjoying himself as he turned on the smarmy charm. He was pretty sure Harris' attraction to him was due to the spell, and he wasn't going to push the whelp past his comfort zone, but he could still enjoy a good tease. "Weren't you hungering for some elephant souffle just a few days ago? I'm Spikealicious, wanna try me?"

"Oh stop it," said Xander, swatting at the vampire. "You make it sound so... so..."

"Dirty and wrong?" suggested Spike in a way that implied so wrong it's right.

"Stop." Xander was blushing now, and leaning into Spike, though the vampire was sure he didn't realize it. Didn't realize he was flirting like a girl. Spike lapped it up, and yes, maybe he was a little out of control, because he only wanted more and he wasn't sure he could stop the teasing even if he wanted to.

"It's not like that." Xander blushed again. "Well, it is, but more in a horny teenage boy way. It reminds me of... well, I just feel close to you. Likeyou'remybestfriendorsomethingandIhaven't feltthatinalongtime." Xander rushed through the words, closed his eyes and remembered the last time he had felt that way. Jesse.

Spike was touched, despite himself. In his whole lifetime, human or vampire, he had never been anybody's best friend. He was so caught up in his own swirl of emotions that he didn't quite register the change in mood from Xander. Not until he smelled the salty edge of tears.

"Xander?" he asked, in a gentle voice few people on the planet had ever heard him use. "What's the matter, pet?" If the spell was bothering the boy that much, he was going to fix it.

"Just remembering," Xander gulped, and wondered if he could blame the spell for making him more emotional. "My best friend. The last time I had a friend like this..."

"The witch?" asked Spike, confused, but relieved it wasn't because of him.

"No." Xander shook his head, counted the loops of yarn in the carpet. "Jesse. Used to be me and Willow and Jesse."

"Used to be?" prompted Spike.

"He got vamped." Xander laughed bitterly. "It was Darla, too, so you guys were actually related."

Spike stared at Xander's down turned head. The scent of tears was heavy now, like an ocean breeze, but stale with sorrow. Spike was at a loss. There hadn't been any Jesse around in any time he knew, that and the tears led to a logical conclusion. He didn't have any words for Xander, though, so he just stayed quiet.

"I - " Xander choked. "He tried to kill me and I staked him. And Giles said, Giles said a vamp is just a demon using the body, but you, you seem so human, you did even before the soul and sometimes I wonder..."

The silent sobs were manly and discreet, and Spike wasn't about to call attention to them. He put a hand on Xander's shoulder.

"Things made so much more sense then, and I thought I knew who was good and bad, but now... now I don't always know and the easy markers, well, sometimes they don't tell the whole story... If I knew then what I know now..." Xander stopped, his shoulders shuddering with withheld emotion.

"You'd do the same thing, pet. 'Cause if he tried to kill you, he was lost to the demon." Spike patted Xander's shoulders and resisted the urge to pull the boy onto his lap.

"Doubt Darla did more than make a minion out of him," Spike continued. "Takes more effort, more sire's blood to make childer. Takes a commitment, and Darla wasn't much for those." Spike's hand gradually slowed into comforting circles and he slid down on the floor next to Xander.

"But Harmony... If I wouldn't have staked him, he could maybe..."

"Power surges from the Hellmouth affected some minions, plus some people just take the change better than others. Harm was a soulless bitch to start with. Demon barely made a difference." Spike smiled a little fondly. "God made Adam from a handful of dust, yeah? Some men have more metal in them, they can take the shape, be molded without it changing what they are."

Xander wiped his cheeks quickly and looked up at Spike in astonishment, his face more bemused than sad. "Did you just quote some Bible thing at me?"

"Maybe," said Spike with a smirk. "Wasn't born evil, you know." He paused, remembered himself as William. The soul made it barely tolerable; he could see some of the good points of the man he had been, though mostly it made him cringe.

"I tried to sire someone once," Spike continued seriously. "Me mum, actually. And she wasn't right afterwards, didn't hold herself." He paused, not sure how much he wanted to share. Then he decided to just go for it. "Staked her myself, 'cause it was wrong. Seeing her that way, I knew it was wrong. Even without my soul."

"You were a mama's boy? Ha, I knew you had some deep dark secrets," Xander joked, but his eyes said Thank You and Spike was not at all offended.

"This mama's boy can kick your bloody ass," Spike said, standing up and giving Xander a hand. "Go get your kit, I'll call down for a fight room."

"Do you think I'd turn right, Spike?" Xander asked hesitantly, quietly, not sure why he was even asking. The thought of being turned had always been his worst nightmare.

"How many times have you been possessed and gotten yourself back?" Spike asked, smiling. The boy was a bloody magnet for runaway magic. He added, honestly. "You're gold, as far as humans go. That's why the demons can't resist you." Spike suspected that was part of why the binding spell had taken the way it had, claiming Xander in an at least partially vampire way without damaging the boy.

"You telling me to stay gold, Ralph Machio?" Xander asked, a twinkle in his eyes. Spike's answer cut too close to the emotion riding on the surface, and he had already bared far more of his soul than he intended. Knowing SPike actually admired something about him made him feel weak in the knees. He clung to the safety of the humor. "Well, you did burn up to save people, so I guess you can say that. But I'm telling Ponyboy you stole his hair gel." Xander laughed as thought occurred to him. "Hey, I'm gonna call Angel Ponyboy for a while. He won't get it, and it'll drive him crazy."

Spike chuckled and shook his head. If he had been looking for someone to sire, Xander would have been a damn good choice, just for the sheer joy he got from annoying the grandsire. "Move yer arse. I need some violence."

"Yeah." Xander agreed. "Will do." He turned when he got to the door. "Thanks, Spike," he said, took a breath then repeated sincerely. "I mean it, thanks."

Spike watched him go before reaching over to the phone. He needed some mayhem and physical exertion right quick. The whelp was turning him into a bleeding nancy boy. Next thing you knew, they'd be painting each other's nails.

Spike sighed. He liked it, damn it. Poncy thoughts and all, but it wouldn't do to get used to it. Angel had given the warning. If they didn't get their asses cracking on a fix, the Great Brooder was going to do it for them. Gotta make all right in the world and all that rot.

"Got a room open?" Spike growled to the gym attendant. It wasn't really a question, but it was polite to give a little advance notice so the attendant could decide who to bump if that was necessary. "We'll be down in five."

"Yes, sir," gulped the attendant and Spike smiled. Life was made up of little pleasures and this was one of them. Intimidating peons, and sparring with his boy. It would be a good afternoon.

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