orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
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Nothing the Same, Book 3, Ch. 13/?

Nothing the Same, Book 3
Chapter: 13/?
Pairing: S/X
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapters will carry specific warnings.
Feedback & concrit: yes, please
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Primarily season 4, but anything from Season 1 on.
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same & Nothing the Same, Book 2
Previous parts here
 

 

Chapter 13

Reluctantly unpeeling himself from Spike just enough to let them walk, Xander kept one arm wrapped firmly around Spike’s waist, half afraid that if he let go for even a second, Spike would disappear again.

“So,” he said as they moved slowly in the direction of the factory, trying for normal despite the sappy grin he knew was plastered all over his face. “Angel and I are working on a rescue plan, want to help?”

Spike lifted an eyebrow, obviously struggling a bit to regain his own cool demeanor. Probably chanting to himself ‘vampires don’t giggle’ or some such mantra, Xander thought fondly.

“How’s that going for you?” Spike asked.

“Pretty good,” he said judiciously. “Although we’ve run into a little snag - it seems our rescue-ee has already saved himself.”

“Ah. Pity,” Spike agreed, wicked amusement dancing in his eyes.

“Well, it means I’ve got some free time now. Any suggestions?” Xander knew he was deliberately ignoring everything they should be talking about. But Spike was clearly healthy and as giddily happy as Xander was, despite his efforts to hide it, and he just couldn’t bear to break the euphoric mood by questioning Spike about where he’d been and what had happened. Now that Spike was back, they had plenty of time and Spike seemed to be totally on board the denial train with him.

“Have a couple of ideas,” Spike purred in his smoky, bedroom voice, sending an anticipatory shiver up Xander’s spine. “What say we kick my Sire out and shag like bunnies.” It was clearly not a question.

“Oh, yeah,” Xander agreed wholeheartedly.

Spike pulled him in for a kiss which he enthusiastically returned, letting himself get lost in the taste and feel of his lover, so miraculously restored to him. Spike’s strong hands slid into his hair, holding him as their tongues dueled and their bodies pressed against each other and it was like Spike had never been gone. Like the lonely days of worry and aching loss were some horrible nightmare that he’d just woken from. It was only after long moments that Xander’s brain reluctantly kicked into gear again and he remembered that making out with a vampire outside when dawn was rapidly approaching was a bad idea.

He ignored Spike’s protest and pushed himself back just enough to speak, remembering as he did that they had another problem. “We can’t kick Angel out. It’s almost dawn.”

“He can sleep downstairs,” Spike muttered unsympathetically, still kissing his way along Xander’s neck, his tongue tracing along the veins in a way that made Xander’s toes curl.

“Ok, if you keep doing that, we’re never going to make it inside.”

Spike laughed and lifted his had and Xander immediately regretted putting a halt, even temporarily, to Spike’s assault on his senses. “C’mon, luv.”

They walked up the outside stairs, arms still wrapped around each other and Spike grinned as Angel’s voice greeted them at the door. “Are you two finished behaving like children?”

“Nope,” Spike said cheerfully, smirking at his Sire as he blatantly slid a hand down to grab Xander’s ass. Mindful of the fact that they were on the verge doing it in front of Spike’s dad, Xander seized Spike’s hand to stop it from wandering further, reluctantly moving it to a less compromising area.

“We’ll be good,” he told Angel, trying to sound like he meant it.

“Speak for yourself.” Ok, so Spike wasn’t on board with the don’t have sex in front of Angel plan.

“Spike, what happened? Where have you been?” Angel scowled, “And why the hell did you attack me?”

“Were interfering with my Claimed, weren’t you?” Spike answered unrepentantly. “Don’t be a baby, I hardly touched you.” His pleased grin gave the lie to his words.

Xander sobered somewhat, realizing that Spike didn’t know what had been going on while he was gone and curious himself about why Spike had attacked Angel. “Spike, Angel’s been great. He’s been out looking for you every night and keeping a lid on the Court.”

To his surprise, Spike greeted his explanation with a growl, his features shifting as he glared in yellow-eyed outrage at Angel. “He’s been doing what?” he demanded.

Angel held up a calming hand. “Xander asked me to cover your absence with the Court.” Spike shot a disbelieving look at Xander but Angel continued before Spike could say anything. “I thought it was a crazy idea, but it worked. I told the Court you were looking for the Gem of Amara and…”

“You told them what?” Spike roared. “That child’s fairy-tale? Why didn’t you tell them I was looking for the lost continent of Atlantis while you were at it? Or the fucking tooth fairy? Bloody hell! Were you trying to make me a laughing stock? How am I supposed to take control again without dusting half the Court?”

“Spike, it’s my fault, I made him,” Xander said anxiously, inserting himself between the two vampires. Angel really didn’t deserve getting beat up again for something he’d wanted no part of. Plus, this time he could see that Angel was ready: if Spike attacked him again, it was going to be a real fight and he really couldn’t deal with that now.

“Besides,” he put both hands on Spike’s shoulders and looked him straight in the eye, “we both know that you’re gonna go downstairs, tell them it’s none of their fucking business what you were doing this past week and if they’re thick enough to believe what Angel told them, then that’s their problem; and that’s going to be the end of it.” Angel let out an amused snort at his imitation of Spike’s accent and, to his relief, Spike started laughing.

~~~~

Maybe it was just reaction, maybe he was still high from the rush of elation he’d felt at realizing that whatever the soldiers had done to him no longer worked, or maybe it was the sheer absurdity of the situation, but he couldn’t help laughing at his boy’s reasoning. Trust Xander to come up with a plan as crazy as having one Master vampire stand in for another and to actually pull it off. He felt a surge of pride in his Claimed as he pulled Xander into a hug. “Only you, luv. You’re as crazy as I am.”

“Hey!” Xander protested although his eyes were dancing with mischief and his full-wattage grin was back. “I’ll have you know it was a brilliant plan. Worked too,” he pointed out smugly.

“Probably because the minions were too bloody confused to know what the hell was happening.” Spike shook his head in disbelief. “Vampires don’t babysit other vampires’ Courts, luv.”

“That’s what I said,” Angelus muttered.

Spike was surprised to find his initial fury at the revelation that Angelus had been interfering with the Court had vanished in the rush of amusement at Xander’s hasty explanation. Xander came up with the weirdest ideas sometimes because he didn’t think about things in the same way demons did but a lot of his plans actually worked despite how crazy they seemed.

The Court could very well have erupted in his absence - in fact, he’d expected to find that there had been trouble and someone else had taken over. Less than two hours ago, he’d been arming himself in the hope that he could bluff his way through long enough to learn what had happened to Xander. Now, thankfully, none of that was an issue. He didn’t even have to fight to regain control of his Court - Xander’s summary of how he was going to handle his return had been very nearly spot on. Which didn’t mean he wasn’t still annoyed at being made to look like a complete idiot. The Gem of Amara indeed. Where the hell had Angelus come up with that old chestnut?

Despite the fact that only Xander could have come up with such a bizarre plan and somehow managed to convince his Sire to go along with it, Angelus babysitting his Court in his absence had been a good thought. A show of authority, a couple of dustings, and he would be back in control without even breaking a sweat - and he was looking forward to kicking some ass after the humiliations of the past week. Just let any of those wankers question him and they’d see who they were dealing with. He was still Master here.

No, he’d give this one to his Sire. It seemed that Angelus really had been trying to do right by him, no matter how it looked on the surface. Angelus had protected Xander by his actions and by his mere presence in the apartment and Spike owed him for that. It really had been good of his Sire to step in to protect Spike’s Claimed.

More importantly, the idea had kept Xander out of danger although he was sure that hadn’t been his Claimed first priority. Or even his fifth, Spike thought in fond exasperation, smiling at Xander and pulling him in for another hug. It felt like far longer than it could possibly have actually been since he’d been able to touch and smell his Claimed. After the worry and frustration and agony of the last few days, he just wanted to take his boy to bed and feel Xander’s warm body next to him as he buried himself in the taste and smell of his Claimed.

~~~~~~

Xander watched Spike’s face anxiously, relieved when he slid back into human face, obviously getting over his sudden flare of anger. He’d known that Spike would freak over having Angel at the apartment but hadn’t anticipated that he’d be so upset over Angel babysitting the Court. Which was probably really dumb on his part - of course Spike would resent his Sire covering for him. Not only were vampires territorial by nature but Spike had Angel issues that went way back, most of which had to do with the power dynamics between the two of them.

Well, he’d created the situation, so it was up to him to smooth it over. “How about we sit down and talk about what’s been happening without destroying the furniture,” he suggested brightly. “Deal?”

Ignoring the way both vampires rolled their eyes at him, he tugged Spike over to the couch and pulled him down to sit beside him, wrapping his arms around the slim, strong body - partly because he wasn’t ready to give up physical contact with his miraculously returned lover and partly because entangling Spike in his arms made it harder for him to attack Angel. Angel prudently sat down in a chair halfway across the room as Xander began his explanation.

“Spike, when you went missing, I asked Angel to help find you. He’s been staying here on the couch. I was worried about what would happen with the Court without some sort of cover story for your absence so I asked him to cover for you.”

“What did happen?” Angel asked. “Where have you been?”

Xander’s lips tightened at Angel’s blunt questions but he knew they’d have to deal with this sooner or later. He’d just been in the later camp himself.

“Bunch of soldiers and lab coat types got an enormous base set up underneath the college campus,” Spike said flatly. “They’re holding prisoners, mostly demons, and they’re experimenting on them.” He shrugged, “Didn’t like the accommodations, so I left.”

“What do you meant ‘experimenting’?”

“Are you alright?”

Angel’s and Xander’s questions overlapped and Spike smiled reassuringly at Xander. “’m fine, luv.” He turned to face Angel. “Don’t know exactly what they’re doing but it looks like they’re trying to find a way to control demons.” He looked back at Xander.

“It’s alright, luv. I’m fine.” Xander realized that his arms had tightened convulsively around Spike and forced himself to relax his anxious grip.

“Sorry,” he muttered.

“Nothing to worry about, pet.” Spike said reassuringly, rubbing his thigh comfortingly.

“What do you mean, ‘mostly demons’,” Angel asked.

Xander’s head snapped around at that and he stared at Spike. Not that holding demons and experimenting on them was a good thing since he doubted the government was making any distinctions between good and bad demons, not to mention that kidnapping the Master Vampire of a Territory was absolutely guaranteed to start a vampire war - something they’d avoided only by the skin of their teeth and the fact that Angel and Spike were distinctly not your average vampires - but he could see the government justifying it to themselves since demons weren’t human. But they were holding humans as well? That went way beyond anything he thought the government would let itself get involved in.

Spike shrugged. “Don’t have a list but they had a werewolf locked up and they’re barely demons.” Seeing Xander’s sudden flash of worry, he added: “Not your wolf, pet. Was a female.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He ended up giving Angelus and Xander a rundown on everything he’d seen while he was held prisoner, although he didn’t tell them what they’d done to him. It hadn’t taken very long to summarize what he knew and guessed about the place. He’d been unconscious during his time out of the cell when they’d messed with him and his escape had been largely through deserted hallways. Despite itching to pull Xander into the bedroom, or to go knock heads together downstairs, he stifled his impatience and answered their questions, knowing it was important. Above and beyond what they’d done to him, this was an organized, government-backed action against demons, not something they could ignore or take lightly.

Once or twice while he was talking, Xander had given him a sharp look but hadn’t questioned his edited account. Spike simply told them that he’d escaped in the daytime, gotten burned and had to feed before going to the mansion to find Xander gone, then heading here.

He hadn’t even lied to his Claimed, he thought virtuously. He’d just left out a few details like the fact that the blood he’d drank was bagged not fresh and exactly who had had something done to them that left them unable to fight. Nothing they needed to know now that it had worn off. He’d even told them that he didn’t know if what they’d done to the demon had been permanent or temporary, just that the poor bugger had seemed to be in a lot of pain whenever he tried to fight.

Both Xander and Angelus grasped the larger implications at once and all of them sat silently for a moment after Spike had finished, thinking about what he’d said. Xander’s arms tightened around him again, and Spike pulled him closer, resting his head on top of Xander’s dark hair as his boy thought about what he’d learned.

Xander was the first to speak, and he filled Spike in on what he and Angelus had learned that night while following the soldiers who must have been hunting for Spike. While it was possible that some of the others he’d set free had gotten away, Spike doubted it. The two demons with him had been recaptured for sure and the other two had run in the direction of the center of the base and Spike assumed they hadn’t gotten far.

It was good to learn there was more than one entrance to the base. If it came down to an assault on the place, multiple entrances would make things easier.

“We need to talk to Giles and Buffy and Mr. Olsen and Sgt. Morgan about this,” Xander finished. “They need to know what’s going on.”

“Agreed.” Angel looked troubled, staring down at his clasped hands as if they held the secrets of the universe. “Spike, would you mind if I stay here until the meeting? I don’t like the sound of this.”

Spike was pleased to be asked. “Good idea. You can have the mansion back while you’re here,” he offered graciously and Xander fought back a laugh.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike strode down the long hallway past the rooms set aside for his Lieutenants. He’d taken time for a shower and change of clothes before heading downstairs to the main Court. The clothing he’d been wearing for far too many days had reeked of sewers and chemicals and the humans who had handled him. If he’d been thinking clearly, he would have washed up at the mansion before returning home and it rattled him a little to remember just how low he’d sunk - he hadn’t even noticed his appearance until he was getting ready to go downstairs.

For Xander’s sake, he needed to deal with the Court before anything else. Angelus had admitted frankly that the Court was restless and that, if Spike hadn’t returned so fortuitously, he couldn’t have kept things under control for much longer without actually taking over as Master. Spike had surprised them all by simply nodding in agreement - although a good idea, Angelus covering for him had never been anything more than a stopgap measure. No Court would put up with a temporary Master for long. He suspected that the situation was so unusual that the Court had been slow to react and, he thought smugly, too wary of Spike’s return to act precipitously, especially against Spike’s much older Sire. Spike grinned as he opened the door at the top of the stairs leading down to the factory floor, the Court vampires must have been desperately trying to figure out what was really going on the entire time Angelus had been there. Masters were either in control or they were dust. Vampires didn’t share power.

He’d hated leaving Xander so soon, without even time for a proper greeting but Xander had understood and he blessed the fact that his Claimed had such a firm grasp of strategy. Xander himself had pointed out that, if Spike delayed going downstairs, it would be mid-day and the vampires would all be sleeping. Appearing at dawn, before any hint of his return could filter through the Court, would catch them off guard and unprepared, giving Spike a distinct advantage. Not that he really needed one but a dramatic return when no one was expecting him would be much more effective than letting rumor precede him and steal his thunder. In addition, returning at sunset from the apartment would tell the Court that he had lingered with his Claimed before returning to deal with the Court. It would send the wrong message - that he was weak and sentimental, and vulnerable through his Claimed. It was true, but he couldn’t let the Court know that.

Xander had also pointed out, with a throaty chuckle that nearly sent Spike’s resolve out the window, that Spike would be better off coming back home to an impatient and horny lover instead of returning from the Court full of adrenaline when Xander was already thoroughly sated and sound asleep.

Couldn’t fault Xander’s logic on that on.

He descended the stairs quietly, not stealthily just not calling attention to himself, wanting to make as dramatic an entrance as possible. He was almost to the factory floor when a minion, obviously headed up to the third floor rooms to sleep, caught sight of him and froze, staring in shock.

Spike ignored him, although he was gratified to see the minion jump hastily out of his path, pressing himself against the wall as Spike swept past. Michael met him at the foot of the stairs and Spike saw his other Lieutenants converging on them, Jose moving with calm deliberateness as suited his senior Lieutenant, the others with a bit of nervous scurry to their approach. He stopped on the last step, leaving himself clearly visible to the minions who were rapidly becoming aware of his presence as silence fell over the Court and the minions all turned to watch him greet his Lieutenants.

“Anything to report?” Spike asked, with as little concern as if he’d seen them all the night before, and had to fight back a smirk as his Lieutenants exchanged nervous glances, obviously unsure if Angelus was something to report or not. Not surprisingly, Jose took the lead.

“Nothing of note, Master Spike,” he said calmly, his voice carrying just a bit farther than usual in the pool of silence surrounding them. “Master Angelus put the minions through their paces to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. We can give you a report on the results for those minions new to the Court, if you are interested.”

Spike waived a dismissive hand. “I assume my Sire dusted anyone not up to my standards. Let me know if anyone showed any useful talent.” He gave Jose an approving nod. Xander had told him about Jose’s actions during his absence. He’d chosen well when he’d made Jose his senior Lieutenant and his unswerving loyalty to Xander was gratifying.

“Master Spike, were you successful?” Michael asked eagerly.

“Successful?” he asked blandly.

“Yes, Master Angelus said that you were looking for the Gem of Amara.” Michael’s voice trailed off as he met Spike’s raised eyebrow and amused look.

“And you believed him?” Spike shook his head disapprovingly. “Gonna have to do better than that, Michael if you want to keep your position. Had some business to take care of but it most certainly was not hunting for magical objects that don’t exist.”

He let his gaze sweep the others Lieutenant, amused by how quickly their expressions changed from interest to disapproval, trying to show that they had never been taken in by that ridiculous story and couldn’t believe Michael had been. Arkady actually edged away from Michael a step or two as if afraid of being contaminated with his disgrace.

“Anything else?” He was met with head shakes all around. “Good. Full Court session the day after tomorrow to take care of any business. Jose, who’s the best we’ve got with a quarterstaff?”

Jose considered for a moment. “I would suggest Guillermo.” He glanced at Anthony who gave a confirming nod.

“Right.” Spike smiled ferally. “Let’s see what he’s got.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Taking the steps back to the apartment two at a time, Spike couldn’t help grinning. The minion had been good and had given him an honest fight - minions had long since learned that “letting” Spike win was bad for their health. Anyone he sparred with fought to win or they didn’t survive the match.

He’d always liked the quarterstaff for practice bouts - only partly because he was better than most with the weapon. The rapid-fire blows and parries the weapon called for suited his fighting style, and quarterstaffs were a flashy, stylish weapon when used properly.

A good opponent could do serious damage with one and Guillermo had been one of the better fighters Spike had faced with the weapon. Thrashing him soundly had been extraordinarily satisfying, like every blow struck was a blow against one of the soldiers or lab coats, every crack of wood meeting wood as they had parried and blocked a reminder that he had beaten them and was himself again.

He’d sent the minion crashing to the floor with a series of rapid moves that had first knocked him off balance and then swept him off his feet, his weapon sent flying as he lost his grip. Spike had laughed and spun his own staff in a flashy move before reaching down to help the minion up, much to the younger vampire’s astonishment. “Good job,” he told the surprised minion. “Gave me a workout.” The minion had been smugly pleased with the rare compliment, despite the broken arm the last flurry of blows had given him. Spike was not generous with his praise and the broken arm and the compliment would make him the envy of the Court for a few days.

Having made his presence indelibly felt again, Spike was able to relax, knowing his absence wouldn’t be questioned and he was still firmly in control. The Court might wonder, but they wouldn’t do it out loud. He paused for a few private words with Jose, quietly letting him know how much he appreciated Jose’s loyalty to his Claimed before bounding up the stairs to return to Xander and reap the rewards of homecoming.

Angelus met him at the apartment door, having heard him approaching. “Everything go alright?” he asked.

“’Course,” Spike assured him breezily. “You expect anything else?”

Angelus shook his head and Spike was secretly pleased at his Sire’s confidence in his ability to handle things. “You off somewhere?” he asked.

Angelus shrugged, looking a little sheepish. “Thought I’d head out through the tunnels, let you have your apartment back.”

Spike couldn’t help smirking. “That for your own comfort or Xander’s?”

“Both,” his Sire answered and started to walk past. He hesitated and then said quietly: “Spike, I’m glad you’re back.”

He almost said something flippant but found he was genuinely touched by the sincerity in Angelus’ voice. “Thanks. For everything,” he said. Feeling unaccustomedly awkward, he added: “Don’t be a stranger.”

Equally awkward, Angelus nodded and strode off without another word. Spike watched him go, until he turned the corner at the end of the hall. It felt surprisingly good, to have Angelus’ approval, unspoken though it was.

~~~~~~

Xander looked exhausted. He was stretched out on the couch and had fallen asleep while watching television. Spike took a moment to study him, seeing the fatigue in the lines of his face that the earlier glowing happiness had concealed. He looked drawn and pale underneath his tan and his eyes, even closed, had the pinched, sunken look that came from not eating or sleeping properly. He’d been eagerly anticipating taking his boy to bed and renewing his Claim, but now he hesitated. Xander obviously needed sleep more than he needed shagging.

Repressing a sigh at the general fragility of humans - they just didn’t bounce back the way vampires did - Spike gently lifted Xander’s head off the arm of the couch couch and sat down beside him, settling Xander down again with his head resting on Spike’s thigh.

“Spike?”

“Hush, luv. Go back to sleep.”

Typically, Xander didn’t do as he was told. Instead, he shifted until he was looking up at Spike, giving him a drowsy welcoming smile. “How’d it go?” he asked, stretching in a way that made him look unbelievably hot - like a dark-eyed harem boy, all sleepy sensuality and beckoning promise. Spike’s resolution to not ravage his boy immediately was seriously put to the test.

“Nothin’ to it,” Spike told him smugly, shifting so they were both lying a bit more vertically. Xander made a contented sound and snuggled closer.

“Told you,” he mumbled and Spike chuckled as he realized Xander was waking up a bit, turning his head and beginning to nuzzle into Spike’s stomach, muttering about inconsiderate vampires who wore shirts to bed.

“Not in bed, luv,” he pointed out, running his own hand down the length of Xander’s back loving the feel of warm skin and solid muscle beneath the fabric of his shirt.

“Why not?”

“’Cause someone fell asleep on the couch.”

Xander smiled up at him again. “Did not,” he lied shamelessly. “I was just resting my eyes.”

“‘Course you were,” Spike mocked gently. “The snoring and the drooling were just a coincidence.”

“I don’t snore,” Xander countered. “You just think I do because you don’t breathe.”

Spike chuckled, stroking his hand through Xander’s wavy hair. “Missed you, luv. More than I can say.”

Xander hitched himself upright and looked searchingly at him. “Are you really ok? You look like it was a rough week.”

“Had better,” Spike admitted quietly. “How ‘bout you? You look like you haven’t been taking care of yourself.”

“Everything’s good, now that you’re back.”

He pulled Spike to him, kissing him gently on the lips. Not the wild, desperate kisses from earlier, this was a quiet coming home. Lips and tongues tasting and exploring, learning each other all over again, reassuring each other that they were back together, that all was right in their world again.

Gradually, the kisses grew deeper and hungrier and Xander twisted around until he was straddling Spike’s lap, his hands fumbling to pull up Spike’s t-shirt, searching for the smooth, cool flesh underneath. Spike leaned back into the couch, letting Xander take control of the kiss, his own hands cupping his boy’s ass as he pulled him closer, grinding their rapidly hardening erections together.

Xander suddenly reared back and glanced wildly around the room. “Oh god, are we doing it in front of Angel?”

“No. Had a sudden attack of consideration and left us alone.”

“Oh.” Relieved, Xander settled back down. “That was nice of him.”

“Gone a bit prudish, Angelus has,” Spike said judiciously. “Guess voyeurism doesn’t go with his shiny new soul. Certainly used to get off on it.” And who would have thought that he’d ever be making casual jokes about Angelus’ soul? When had it ceased to be a mark of shame and a point of permanent division between them and become just another fact: his Sire had brown eyes, used too many hair products, and had a soul.

Xander made a face, collapsing limply against Spike and dropping his head against Spike’s shoulder. “Great. Way to kill the mood, Spike. That’s something I did not need to know.”

Spike laughed and flipped them both in one swift move so that they were lying full length on the couch, himself on top, staring down into Xander’s face, drinking in the sight of his Claimed, still flushed and aroused and staring back up at him with loving eyes, like Spike was the most important thing in his life.

More than anything, he needed to renew his Claim. Beyond the intense pleasures of sex, the joy of feeding from living flesh, the heady rush of power that came from dominating his Court, or the exhilaration of defeating an opponent, renewing his Claim would banish the humiliation and shame of the past week. The worst moments, the lowest ebb had been the realization that he couldn’t protect or hold Xander in his crippled, helpless state. Against all odds, he had beaten them, escaping when no one else had and winning free of whatever they had done. He proved to himself and the rest of the world that he was whole and strong and capable of defending his Territory and, most importantly, his Claimed. He was still William the Bloody, Slayer of Slayers and Master of the Hellmouth, still worthy of his Claimed.

Settling himself comfortably between Xander’s legs, Spike began rocking their hips together in a maddening rhythm, a pleased smirk growing on his face as he watched Xander’s eyes dilate and felt him pushing up with his own hips as he sought more contact. Spike drove his hips down harder, pressing Xander into the cushions as their arousal grew and their movements came faster and more frantically.

Xander arced his head back against the cushions, exposing the long line of his neck with the visibly throbbing pulse and Spike couldn’t wait any longer. Sliding into his true face, he lowered his head, letting his needle-sharp fangs penetrate the freely offered flesh, anticipating the heady taste of his Claimed’s blood filling his mouth after the long absence.

His fangs had barely pierced the skin when lightning tore through him and he screamed uncontrollably in pain, his muscles convulsing, arcing his body backwards as the horribly familiar pain burned like holy water in his veins, until he couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t feel anything except pain. He wasn’t even aware when he rolled off the couch in an ungainly sprawl, his hands clutching his head as he rode out the pain.

“Spike! Spike! What’s happening?”

Xander’s panicked voice was the first thing he was aware of as the pain ebbed abruptly, leaving him shattered and broken on the floor, unable to even try to cover or pass this off as something trivial. Xander rolled off the couch, landing with a thud beside him then his arms were around Spike, holding him and he leaned into the warm embrace, his body shaking with reaction, his mind unwillingly adding up the evidence.

He hadn’t beaten them at all, he realized dully. And now Xander knew. There would be no hiding his humiliation. Humans had leashed him, domesticated him like a dog brought to heel on a choke chain. He should have known. Why would they care if he could hurt, even kill demons? That might even be their goal - creating tame demons who would hunt other demons on command.

He could still be Master, still control his Territory, still tackle demons three times his size for the sheer fun of it, but they’d taken Xander from him as effectively as if they’d killed him. He couldn’t renew his Claim, couldn’t protect him from human threats, couldn’t sink himself deep inside his warm body and take him. A Claiming bite was much like sex: an exquisitely erotic journey along the knife-edge of pain. Whatever they’d done to him clearly didn’t stop him from fighting or biting, it stopped him from hurting humans. Stopped him regardless of whether that pain was desired or not. The pain had been the same, neither more nor less intense, when he’d tried to bite Xander with Xander’s full and joyful cooperation as when he’d tried to feed from an unwilling victim.

Could he bear to be with Xander knowing he couldn’t mark him, couldn’t take him sexually? Was it fair to Xander to make him live such a colorless, joyless existence?

Grateful for Xander’s silent support, Spike buried himself in the strong arms holding him and mourned the loss of everything in his life that had meaning.

TBC

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