The Dark Cavalier


By Saber ShadowKitten






Part Eleven







Xander decided to join the girls in the passing out competition within seconds of them dropping bonelessly to the floor.

When he returned to consciousness, he found himself laying on the floor with his head in Spike's lap. The vampire was gently running his fingers through Xander's hair as he argued with Giles about something or other. It felt... it was... no one had ever...

Xander's eyes popped open and he glared up at Spike. "I thought I told you to stay inside no matter what," he growled.

A bare-chested Spike looked down at Xander with a quizzical expression on his face. "Hello to you, too, poopsy."

"It's not a joke, Spike," Xander snapped. "The Choata could have been playing opossum, or whoever has it in for me could have been lying in wait. You could've been killed!"

"What's that you say?" Spike mocked, stopping his petting to cup his ear. "Thank you for sewing my guts back into my body?"

The loss of Spike's touch was... Xander couldn't label the feeling, and his angry scowl deepened. He quickly climbed to his feet, ignoring the pain wracking his body. He materialized a crutch beneath his arm, the other one having disappeared when he'd passed out. He was angry and male, but he wasn't stupid. Collapsing to the floor again like a ragdoll would not only hurt, it would cut his authority to shreds and right now he needed to be control.

"Don't go anywhere, Spike," Xander ordered. He turned to the four in the living room, who were alternately looking at him with wonder and shock. Willow, Tara and Buffy each had a damp washrag in their hands, which served to make Xander's skin itch from the dried blood covering him. "Willow, I thought I told you to undo your spell."

"I- I- I," Willow stammered, but Xander disregarded her.

"Just do it," he said.

The brunette hobbled into the kitchen, the crow on his back flapping awkwardly from his use of the crutch. He winced as his jeans rubbed against the wounds on his legs. "Giles, I'm going to use your shower," he told the Watcher, who was standing protectively by the girls.

"Er... that's- that's fine," Giles said. "Do you need--"

"No," Xander answered before Giles finished. The Dark Cavalier opened the refrigerator and smiled humorlessly when he saw three blood bags stacked on the shelf. Good old Giles, keeping amenities on hand for all his guests.

Xander grabbed two of the blood bags, shut the refrigerator door, and started for the bathroom. He could feel his body wanting to shut down from blood loss -- he was adept at diagnosing and treating his own injuries -- and he didn't relish the idea of replenishing the blood in front of the others. They didn't need to know more than they already did.

"Damn it, Spike," Xander cursed. Why hadn't that idiot vampire listened to him? Hadn't he made it clear to Spike that he was to stay inside? If Spike would have listened, Xander wouldn't be faced with mortals who weren't supposed to see him. Especially those mortals; the ones who had been friends with the mortal Xander Harris.

In the bathroom, Xander shut and locked the door before hobbling to the tub. The crutch vanished as he carefully leaned down to turn on the taps. Scalding hot water began to fill the tub.

Straightening, Xander hissed in pain and saw black spots dance in front of his eyes. He managed to grab hold of the edge of the sink before he fell. After he was sure he wasn't going to pass out again, he looked down at his stitched-up torso. Spike didn't do a half-bad job. He'd have an interesting scar for a century or so before it faded completely, but it was no worse than other injuries he'd had.

Xander raised his head as he tossed the blood bags into the sink. He frowned at the mirror, ran a filthy hand through his matted hair, then gently touched his scratched face. Hell, he wished he still had a reflection. As Death would say, he probably looked a fright.

"Speaking of fright," Xander murmured as he magically divested himself of his remaining clothing. How the heck did the Choata find them? Coincidence? Could the second Choata reported stolen have been in the area and simply latched onto their scent? Or was it more than that?

Xander attached one of the blood bags to an IV pole he'd materialized. The transfusion needle went easily into his skin and he taped it into place. He released the drip stopper and watched as blood filled the clear tube from the blood bag to his arm. Luckily, like gas in a car, it didn't matter which blood type he used, as long as his tank was full.

Was it possible that the Choata was the same one that'd attacked them before?, Xander wondered. The Choata couldn't move between realms without direct contact with a Collector, much like Xander had dragged Spike through the oak tree. Could someone have corralled the Choata and used the Hall of Doors to send it directly after them so quickly? It wouldn't be too difficult a task, as long as whoever knew approximately where Xander was and didn't mind risking being eaten by the death-hunter. But who the heck would chance that? And why?

Xander wheeled the IV pole closer to the tub, shut off the taps, and carefully climbed into the water. The scalding heat penetrated his skin, sending zings of pleasure-pain throughout his system. The water was only deep enough to cover his legs, so that he wouldn't get his stitches wet. He grabbed the soap from the dish and began to scrub the itchy blood from his skin.

He heard a key turn in the lock and his eyes shot to the door. He didn't need to guess who it was, the lack of knocking prior to picking the lock gave it away. "Spike, what do you want?" he growled as the door opened.

Spike entered the bathroom, carrying a folded pile of clothing and wearing what was obviously Giles's oversized pullover shirt. The slight vampire swam in the dove grey garment, the long sleeves shoved up to his elbows, the hem of the shirt ending near his knees. It looked as though he'd just thrown it on and was uncaring of the fact that he resembled a ten-year-old in big brother's clothes.

Xander felt his lips twitch and had to remind himself that he wasn't happy with the blond. So what if Spike looked adorable? The Dark Cavalier wasn't swayed by all things cute and kissable.

"You knicked my blood," Spike answered, giving the IV pole an odd look as he set the clothes on the sink.

"I left one in the fridge," Xander said.

"Still hungry," Spike returned. He gestured to the pole. "I thought you were immortal?"

"Immortal, yes," Xander replied. "Invincible, no."

"Ah," Spike said. He found the second blood bag in the sink and picked it up. "But why didn't you just whip up your own blood bags, like you did the pole?"

"Death cannot create life," Xander answered. "Blood comes from the living, so I can't materialize it." He studied Spike. "I know you didn't really come in here for the blood or to bring me clothes. What gives?"

Spike pursed his lips and dropped the blood bag back into the sink. "The Monty Python crew were performing their version of the Spanish Inquisition, and it wasn't funny."

"What did you tell them?" Xander asked sharply.

"The truth," Spike said with a shrug. "You're their Xander, but you're now Grim Reaper, Junior, too."

"Damn it, Spike." The words were more of a sigh than an angry curse. It didn't really matter what Spike told them. As soon as Xander was mostly clean and dressed, he was gone and, with luck, he wouldn't see any of the mortals again.

The hot water in the tub was red from Xander's blood. He continued washing, carefully avoiding the stitches and ignoring the vampire who was now prowling around the small bathroom.

When Xander felt he was as clean as he was going to get, he popped the drain, removed the transfusion needle from his arm, and gingerly climbed out of the tub. He grabbed for a towel... and ended up with an armful of Spike.

"Wha--" Xander's startled question was swallowed by Spike's mouth. Cool hands were on the brunette's hips, holding him flush against Spike's lower body, but there was no pressure against his injured chest.

The kiss was hard, wet, and involved lots of tongue. Xander's lips tingled under the assault, and a certain portion of his anatomy became jealous of his mouth.

Spike finally broke away, leaving Xander breathing erratically. Dark brown eyes blinked open and stared with lustful-confusion at the vampire. "What was that for?"

"Because I know once you're dressed, you're leaving and not coming back," Spike said, rolling his hips against Xander's budding erection. The vampire pouted prettily. "And you promised me sex."

Xander groaned and gently bit that pout. Fingers tightened on his hips. Pulse, pulse went his cock. Still... "You're very persistent with this sex thing," he said. "It makes me wonder why."

"I like you," Spike answered bluntly.

Xander was stunned. Spike liked him. "Why?"

"Why? What do you mean, why?" Spike scowled. "It's bad enough that I like you, now there has to be a reason?"

Xander nodded. Spike liked him. "Why?" he repeated.

Spike heaved a dramatic sigh. "If you must know, you're funny, clever, cruel, have a bloody great job, can kick some major arse, have a deliciously naughty relationship with Death, you don't roll over for everyone like you used to, you desire me, and so on and so forth, dot, dot, dot." He winked. "You're also naked, wet, and nummily bruised, so it could just be my dick talking."

Spike was flirting, Xander could tell. Spike liked him. "There has to be a catch," he said.

The blond rolled his eyes. "No catch, you insecure git."

Spike was just horny. Spike liked him. "You're just horny," Xander said.

"Of all the--," Spike sighed for real, "Yes, I'm horny, but for some idiotic reason I'd still like you even if we don't shag in the W.C."

"Oh," Xander said. Oh. Spike liked him. What was he going to do about it? Spike liked him. Why couldn't he seem to move? Spike liked him. Why did those three words keep popping up in his mind? Spike liked him.

"No one's ever liked me before," Xander whispered in astonishment. Mortals didn't like him because he had a tendency to kill them. Samuel had a case of hero worship. The other Collectors pretended to like him because he was Death's number one apprentice, or because they were being friendly, but no one had simply liked him for him.

He didn't know what to do. Spike liked him.

He felt funny. Spike liked him.

Spike liked him.

"You're not going to have a heart attack, are you?" Spike asked with a frown. "Can immortals have heart attacks?"

Something stung Xander's eyes. He blinked rapidly, trying to make it go away. Instead, his vision blurred. What the hell was wrong with his eyes?!

"Hey, pet, none of that." Spike's voice was soft, concerned, with a hint of frustration. Xander's damned blurry eyes prevented him from seeing the blond's expression. "Don't cry, luv," the vampire said. "I'm sure other people like you."

Crying? The Dark Cavalier didn't cry.

Xander was moved. Urged to sit. Cold toilet seat lid. Cool lips on his cheeks. Familiar-feeling fingers brushing back his wet hair. Shushing.

"I don't cry," Xander croaked.

"I know," Spike said, brushing his thumb across Xander's wet cheek. "You just have something in your eyes."

Xander managed to focus on the vampire. "Why are you being so nice?"

"I told you," Spike smiled sincerely, "I like you."





Part Twelve





Spike was out of his soddin' mind. "I told you, I like you." Any moment now the violins would start. Satan save him from dark-haired, dark-eyed beauties.

The tears had stopped, but the vulnerability Xander projected was still at top form. Spike found it hard to believe that no one had told the brunette he was liked before now. The guy was 835-years old! Add to that the twenty years he was a normal human, and Spike figured someone had to have told him he was liked at some point.

"Um, will you grab the other blood bag please?" Xander said in a shaky voice. He scrubbed his hand over his face.

"Sure, mate." Spike's fingers lingered against Xander's ear before he did as asked. After handing the blood off, he stood back and watched as the brunette hooked it up to the IV pole and attached the line to his arm. A questioning lift of his brow was all it took for Xander to explain.

"Immortal bodies can't produce new blood cells," Xander told him. "When we lose a lot of blood, we have to replace it. If we don't, we run the risk of becoming immobile husks, and then the only thing we're good for is decorating the Graveyard."

"What if you don't have any blood bags handy?" Spike asked, truly interested.

Xander sent him a sly grin. "Corpses work."

Spike chuckled, leaning back against the sink. "So, you lot are nothing more than glorified vampires."

"Basically," Xander agreed.

"No wonder I like you."

The pleased blush that crept over the brunette's cheeks sent a happy zing through Spike. Bloody hell, he was turning into such a poof. One little blush and he was practically dancing with joy.

Spike cleared his throat, crossed his arms, and put on his "I'm evil, damn it," face. "You really are leaving when you're done, aren't you?" Oh yeah, pouting is real evil, and full marks for sounding like a sissy-girl.

"Yes," Xander replied. He glanced down at his lap, frowned, and was suddenly wearing dark blue jeans and blood-spattered, scuffed old boots. "I'm betting that Willow won't have removed her spell, and I don't want to play Twenty Questions with the mortals."

"'The mortals,'" Spike repeated. "You make it sound like the Sweetness-and-Light Brigade aren't your friends."

"They're not."

"What do you mean, they're not?" Spike stared at Xander like he'd grown a second head. "Xander, those twits in the other room cried for a month straight after you died."

Xander cocked his head slightly. "And what did you do?"

"Cheered," Spike lied.

"Then why do you care if I say they're not my friends?"

Spike pursed his lips. He was going to throttle the brunette. He hated when people asked questions like that. "Why do you care?" He didn't care, he just wanted to know the bloody answer! "Xander, they're the same people who were your friends before you died. Why wouldn't they still be your friends now?"

"How many people have you killed, Spike?" Xander asked in return. "If you killed one a day that would be, what? Three hundred thousand? Four?"

That many?, Spike thought gleefully. Ooh, look at him. Who's the Big Bad? "Probably more. I've helped in a few massacres, you know."

Xander smiled. "I'm not surprised," he said. "Tell me, what does Buffy or Giles think about your record?"

"Strict 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy there, pet," Spike replied. "The Slayer's got an itchy trigger finger as it is, and I happen to like being not dust."

"On average, I end fifteen lives per day. Multiply that by number of years I've been Death's apprentice," Xander held out his hands, palms up, "and these hands have killed over four million mortals." He dropped his hands to his knees. "Now, tell me, what do you think Buffy or Giles will think about my record?"

"I see your point," Spike conceded. He was the Big Bad Gnat compared to Xander Harris. He was also hornier than ever. Talk of death and destruction always gave him a hard on. "Right, then. Quick shag, and you're on your merry way."

Xander looked at him a moment, then burst into completely girly giggles. He rocked on the toilet, holding his hand protectively over his injury. He thumped his feet on the tile floor.

Spike knew he should be offended. The cheeky whelp seemed to laugh at him every time he brought up sex. He could get a complex if the brunette kept doing that. But, right then, Xander's laughter simply made him feel good.

"Oh hell," Xander gasped. "I haven't... you... hee!... ow..."

An off-kilter grin graced Spike's mouth as he watched Xander's laughing fit. If Xander wasn't careful, he was going to hurt himself again.

Xander's mirth finally tapered off and he blinked rapidly against the tears coating his lashes. He wiped his cheek and glanced down at the wetness on his palm. His expression changed from laughter to wonder. "I'm crying again."

"Happens when you laugh like that," Spike said. "It's normal."

The brunette shook his head quickly. "I don't cry."

Spike chuckled. "Hate to disprove you, luv, but you've done it twice now."

Xander raised his head and his wide dark eyes met Spike's. "I never cry, Spike. Don't you get it? I never cry."

"Ever? I find that hard to believe," Spike said. "Even I shed a tear or two every great once in a while."

"I haven't cried in over 750 years." Xander looked at his damp palm again. "Not once."

"Well, pet, that's not such a bad thing," Spike commented unsurely. He didn't know if Xander was upset or not. "Crying is quite nancyish. Plus, there's the snot, and, of course, you never have a tissue handy."

Xander was silent. Then, barely audible, "I like it."

He raised his eyes again and gave Spike a tremulous smile. "I like you, too."

Spike never realized how four little words could affect him so much. His heart contracted and his throat tightened. His return smile was a bit trembly. "No one's ever liked me before, either," he confessed in a rough voice before he could stop himself.

It was the truth, too. Drusilla had loved him when he was strong or while he took care of her, but she couldn't stand his "weaknesses." Angelus had seen him as Dru's toy; Darla put up with him because she had to; and a master vampire never got chummy with the minions. He didn't have any real friends. The closest he came were the Scooby Gang and... Harmony.

Why was it he hadn't staked himself yet?

Xander disconnected himself from the IV and crossed the bathroom to Spike. He stopped in front of the vampire, reached up, and brushed the backs of his fingers against the blond's cheek. "I'm lucky," he said quietly. "If you weren't my mortal bondmate, you never would have seen me, and I wouldn't have gotten to... to feel."

"There's still more of me that you haven't felt yet," Spike said gruffly, embarrassed by Xander's frankness.

Xander chuckled softly. "Tomorrow, Earth time. I promise."

"Why not tonight?" Spike batted his lashes, going for the comedy before he completely turned into a pansy. "Pwease?"

"Because tonight," Xander gave him a peck on the lips, "I have," another kiss, "to make sure," and another, "the other Choata," and a fourth, "is caught."

Spike heaved a sigh. "Fine. I understand."

The hand brushing his cheek slid back around his neck and his mouth was captured in a very unchaste kiss. When Xander let go, Spike wondered if it were possible for a vampire to spontaneously combust from passion-fire.

"Mmm," Xander hummed. "Sweet. Time won't pass quickly enough."

Spike barely stopped the disappointed whimper coming from his throat when Xander stepped back. All aboard the poofter train!

Xander glanced around and, as his eyes landed the IV pole and used blood bags, they vanished. A dark green tee-shirt materialized in his hands and he slipped it over his head. He grunted as he pulled it into place. "This should be fun."

The brunette suddenly tapped Spike on the nose. "Stay with Giles until I come and get you," he instructed. "I don't want the other Choata to kill you before we've had a chance to play."

"But they're gonna ask me questions," Spike whined.

"And you're going to lie through your fangs when you answer," Xander said. He brushed a quick kiss on Spike's lips. "See you tomorrow."

Spike quickly straightened as Xander walked through the closed bathroom door. The blond grabbed the doorknob, opened the door, and hurried out after him. Therefore, he was witness to Xander striding casually across the living room and through the closed front door without saying a single word to the others.

"Spike!" Buffy's shrill voice erupted from couch. "Get out here now!"

"Uh... no," Spike said, quickly returning to the bathroom. "I think I'll stay in here for awhile."





Part Thirteen





Xander was smiling as he stepped past Giles's door, he was smiling when he joined the other Collectors, he was smiling when they caught the Choata, he was smiling when they retrieved the Choata he'd decapitated, he was smiling on the walk back to the mansion. He winced when Death removed his stitches but started smiling again when he remembered who stitched him up to begin with.

"Spike likes me," Xander said, smiling dopily, unable to contain the newfound feeling of happiness.

Death let out a tiny sigh, his long fingers nimbly working the needle and thread as he expertly re-stitched Xander's wound. "Yes, Dearheart, so you told me."

"I know," Xander said. "But it's worth repeating. Spike likes me."

Hazel eyes rolled, but an indulgent smile curved Death's lips. "And what are you going to do about that little revelation?"

"Have lots of sex."

"I take it you don't mean with me," Death said dryly.

"Sorry," Xander said, his dark eyes dancing with happiness. "But Spike likes me."

The Last Lover chuckled as he tied off the thick, waterproof thread. "It sounds as though you like the mortal, too."

Xander nodded emphatically. "He's cute and funny, and he likes me, and he's smart and naughty, and he likes me, and he thinks what I do is neat, oh, and he likes me." The brunette beamed.

"Well, you have your fun." Death patted Xander's leg and stood, the needle and thread vanishing. "Just remember, he's mortal. He won't be alive forever."

The smile was replaced by a stricken look. "You can't take him!"

"When the Time comes, I can and I will," Death said, heading for the door.

Xander scrambled from the bed as if something were propelling him. "No! Master, please," he grabbed Death's arm and held tight, his brown eyes pleading, "don't take him. Make him one of us."

Death removed Xander's hand from his arm. "I've already asked. He said no."

"But... but...," Xander's eyes filled with tears, "...but he likes me."

"Oh, my sweet Darkling," Death pulled Xander into his embrace, "I know he likes you."

There was a strange ripping pain in Xander's chest that had nothing to do with his injury. Unlike before, the tears that came this time hurt. He knew he was acting totally out of character, but he couldn't seem to stop. It was as if Spike had opened the lid on the jar labeled "Xander's feelings" and everything had come pouring out, leaving him vulnerable.

Xander didn't like it. He didn't like not being in control. He wanted a refund on the whole feeling package. However, all he could do was bury his face against Death's shoulder and cry into the soft material of his black oxford shirt.

"Hush, Boy," Death comforted softly, rubbing his hand over Xander's back. "Tears aren't necessary. Vampires live for a very long while, if they're careful. Shh..."

The rapid flap of wings and the familiar coo of a pigeon finally slowed Xander's tears. He sniffed loudly, and he remembered what Spike had said about snot and lack of tissues. He laughed hollowly, pulling away from Death and wiping his nose with the back of his hand.

"Okay, Darkling?" Death asked with concern.

Xander nodded and turned away. He picked up his tee-shirt from the end of the bed and put it on, wincing as he did. He could feel Death's eyes on him as he struggled to regain control.

"You can go if you want," Xander said in a tear-roughened voice, his back still to his Master. "I'm fine."

"Very well," Death said. "I have work to do at the Academy. You can find me there if you need me."

Xander nodded again, but didn't turn. After a moment, he heard the bedroom door click shut.

The brunette's shoulders slumped, and he rubbed his moist eyes. He hadn't realized that liking someone, or having someone like him, hurt so much. He wanted to go back to being the uncaring Dark Cavalier. This feeling thing sucked. It was making him act like such a... a... a mortal.

Rusty cooed again and ruffled her feathers. Xander glanced over at her and sighed unhappily. "Hi, Rusty. Another day, another damn list, huh?"

Xander dug his notebook and pen out of the jeans he'd been wearing when he'd fought the Choata. He tossed both on the bed and went over to the window to untie the scroll from Rusty's leg.

The tiny blue ribbon that tied the scroll to Rusty looked familiar. As the bird flew off, Xander studied the ribbon. The light abruptly went on, and he quickly left the bedroom.

"Mystery solved," Xander commented to himself, matching the blue ribbon to the one still sitting on the hall table where he'd put it the other day. Normally, he pitched the ribbons in the trash with the scrolls after he'd transferred the names to his notebook. He wondered how this one had gotten into the hallway.

Xander grinned as he scooped up the ribbon and returned to the bedroom. The one he'd found in the hall must've been trying to make its escape. It probably had a family of ribbonlings it wanted to get back to, or maybe a frilly pink ribbon mate.

A picture of Spike giving him a "you are weird" look popped into Xander's brain. A sad smile replaced his grin, but then the Spike in his head suddenly had a hairful of blue ribbons tied into bows and the immortal laughed out loud.

Instead of tossing the two ribbons into the garbage can, he pocketed them before starting to transfer the ten names from the scroll to his notebook.

*****

Collectors could enter any structure through a doorway, even if the door itself was shut, locked, electrified and alarmed. It was a handy trick when the mortal supposed to die refused to come out of the house. It was also a benefit when fetching a soon-to-be lover ordered to stay inside no matter what.

The sun had set a half hour before, and Xander had finally finished Collecting the mortals on his list. A few of them had been stubborn, hiding from him and dragging out his workday. He hadn't thought he'd ever finish.

Anticipation had stoked Xander's libido, and he was practically salivating at the thought of getting Spike naked and pliant beneath him. The horrid feelings from earlier had been buried deep, never to be examined again if he had anything to say about it.

Xander skipped walking down the steps to Giles's courtyard, instead leaping the distance from the top to the stone picnic table. He tapped a quick time-step on the hard surface, his boots thumping rhythmically, then flipped off the end of the table like a gymnast.

A hungry smile graced Xander's lips as he strode to Giles's condo and through the closed door. A glass shattered, a curse was exclaimed, and a female squeaked at his sudden appearance. He sighed. "Willow."

The redhead at the desk blushed. "Sorry," she said weakly.

Xander gave her a hard glare, but he was in too good of a mood to think of a suitable punishment. His eyes flitted around the room, looking for his evening's entertainment. Willow, Tara, Giles, Buffy and Riley. "Where's Spike?"

"Right here, mate," Spike said, coming down the stairs from the loft, dressed in familiar black jeans and a tee-shirt.

Xander's hungry grin returned and his eyes glittered with wicked intent. "Have you been good?"

Spike stopped in front of Xander and winked. "Not even close."

"Giles," Buffy hissed.

Giles cleared his throat. "Er, X-Xander--"

"Xander's dead," Xander interrupted, his eyes never leaving Spike's sparkling blue gaze. "He's been Gone for close to two Earth years, and he won't be coming back. Remember the mortal fondly, but know that the immortal version isn't someone you'd like."

"Pretty speech, pet," Spike commented. "Can we go now?"

"Anxious, my lickable one?" Xander teased with a smirk.

Spike's answering grin was devilish and he spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. "Anxious to get your bollocks to the wind and plunder that delightful body of yours."

"Going now," Xander said quickly. He latched onto Spike's arm, opened the door, and dragged the vampire out into the night.

Spike laughed heartily at the protests coming from Giles's through the open door. They'd be all over him for more answers when he resurfaced, and he looked forward to describing in great detail what he and Xander were about to do. Perhaps he'd turn the Witches' faces permanently red.

"Spike, do you have a home, or am I just going to throw you down in the middle of the street?" Xander asked, his face alight with hungry anticipation and happiness.

"I still have my crypt," Spike replied, taking the lead. "Complete with lock on the door and comfy bed."

The blond suddenly spun around, grabbed Xander by his shirt and backed him up against the yellow wall of the condominium across the street from Giles's. The overhanging trees filtered the streetlight, casting them in partial darkness.

"But," Spike continued huskily, "I can't wait that long."

Xander put his hands on Spike's hips and yanked the blond against him. Their denim-covered bulges ground together as the immortal rotated his pelvis. "Good," he rumbled. "Me, neither."

Spike's nostrils flared in excitement a second before he dragged Xander into a voracious kiss. Wet and sloppy, their mouths and tongues met in a frenzied battle of lust. Blunt teeth cracked against each other. Unconscious moans and whimpers accompanied harsh panting. The sounds of the night -- the rest of the world itself -- disappeared completely.

Xander broke away and hauled Spike's black tee over his head. His mouth latched onto a light-colored nipple, tugging at the pebbled peak. Hands ran down his back and pulled at the material of his own tee, untucking it from his blue jeans. He let Spike remove the obstructing garment before the brunette attacked the other nipple.

Inhumanly strong fingers plunged into Xander's hair, and he was yanked upright and into another ravenous kiss. He allowed Spike free access to his mouth as he fumbled with the vampire's belt buckle and fastenings on his jeans.

Xander shoved the denim down immediately upon success, and he grabbed the taut buttocks exposed. His fingers bruised the pale skin as he roughly massaged the muscular globes.

Spike tore his mouth away from Xander's, tugged at the other man's waistband, and snarled, "Off."

Xander wasted no time in complying. In a blink, the rest of their clothing vanished, and the brunette had Spike pressed face first against the wall. Xander kissed, licked and nipped at the vampire's spine, starting from the nape of his neck and moving lower. Spike moaned and arched under Xander's assault, shivering from the warmth against his cool skin.

Xander dropped to his knees and feasted his feverish gaze on the smooth alabaster body before him. Without hesitation, he parted the taut buttocks and ran his tongue along exposed sensitive skin. Spike's nails scraped against the wall when Xander's tongue darted into the rosy hole and the vampire made a throaty sound of want.

The brunette gave him what he wanted and more. "Aaah, fuck, Xander," Spike gasped, pushing back against the tongue invading him. The rough wall scratched him as he uncontrollably rolled his forehead against it, fighting against the searing desire to come.

The tongue abruptly disappeared to be immediately replaced with the knobby end of Xander's cock. Spike made himself relax, but it didn't matter because Xander slid easily inside of him, bringing him the burning pleasure and fullness he ached for.

"Spike," Xander groaned, pressing himself firmly into the blond. "Oh hell, Spike."

Xander began to move, and the world could have fallen down around them without either noticing. Xander did not hesitate to wrap his hand around Spike's body and grasp the vampire's swollen length. With a firm fist, the brunette stroked in opposition to his thrusts, eliciting breathy mewls of pleasure from Spike.

Sex was well and good and fun, but it had never felt like this, Xander thought, his eyes rolling beneath closed lids as the velvety tightness repeatedly grasped his shaft. He felt a connection with Spike that was more than just sexual, maybe even more than just liking him. It felt as though he'd been waiting 840 years for this very moment.

"Shit, Xander, I'm going to come," Spike rasped, writhing against Xander. Sparks danced behind the blond's eyelids, and he couldn't seem to catch the breath he supposedly didn't need. White-hot pressure pooled low in his belly, and his sac tightened as his body prepared to explode.

Spike's words sent Xander careening off the precipice into a whirlwind of intense pleasure. He heard a roar, but couldn't tell if it came from the vampire or himself. The body in front of him jerked and spasmed, and his cock felt as if it was being squeezed by a vice. A grey haziness swarmed around him, and he was falling... falling... falling...

At first, Xander thought the Choata had returned, and he rolled up to the balls of his feet, searching the semi-darkness for the beast. It took him a moment to realize that the low rumble was coming from the vampire curled on the ground like a lithe albino cat.

Xander's lips twitched and he relaxed his guard. He knelt beside the prone mortal and ran his fingers through the blond's hair. The sound increased in volume and pitch. Bright blue eyes blinked open and a sated smile curved pale pink lips.

The brunette tilted his head and studied Spike for a moment. His heart expanded in his chest and he burst into a delighted laugh.

"You laugh at me whenever I speak about sex, and now you're laughin' at me after we've had sex," Spike murmured after his purr tapered off. "My ego has been effectively squashed."

"I like you, Spike," Xander said emphatically, tracing his finger along the shell of Spike's ear.

A beautiful, purely happy smile spread slowly across Spike's face, lighting up his features and creasing the corners of his eyes. "I like you, too, luv."

Xander leaned forward and caught that smile, reveling in the feel of Spike's lips against his. His body tingled all over, an ecstatic-hyper-want-more-sex tingle that ran from his head to his feet.

His mouth lingered on Spike's when he reluctantly broke the kiss. Opening his eyes, he focused on a magickally re-clothed blond and gave him a salacious grin. "Let's go try out that bed of yours."







Part Fourteen



It was purely by chance that Xander glanced behind them. He had been so involved in listening to Spike that he'd allowed his guard to drop completely. The blue ribbon he had surreptitiously tied into the vampire's hair had kept a humorous hold on his attention on their trek to Spike's crypt. But by dropping his guard, he'd endangered himself... and Spike.

The stake traveled end over end at high speed, heading directly for the blond vampire. With a screamed "NO!", Xander whipped around and caught the stake in his palm. The sharply pointed wood pierced his skin and lodged halfway into his hand, centimeters from Spike's back.

Spike spun around and dropped into a defensive stance. The scent of Xander's blood hit his nose, but he ignored it.

"Ow, damn it!" A slight wind stirred as Xander yanked the stake out of his hand and gripped the bloody object tightly. He searched the night for whoever had thrown it, planning on shoving it into that person's throat to see how they liked being staked. If it turned out to be Buffy, he'd be really mad.

"Are you protecting this mortal, Xander?"

Xander started as Death emerged from the shadows where the stake had come from, joining them in the street. "Of course I'm protecting him," the brunette said with confusion.

"I hadn't wanted to believe it...," Death trailed off and gave Xander a disheartened look. "I'm disappointed in you, Darkling."

"What?" Xander was stunned. "Why?"

"I know you like him, but you know the Rules, my Dark Cavalier," Death said. "When a mortal's Time has come to an end, he must be Collected, no matter what your feelings are."

"I know the Rules," Xander said, confusion returning. He tucked the stake into the waistband of his jeans.

"Then I gather you're simply waiting until closer to the deadline to Collect Spike?"

"What?" Dark eyes widened in shock, and Xander quickly grabbed the notebook from his back pocket. He flipped it open to the last written page and scanned the list of names. His pounding heart began to calm. There were only ten names, all crossed off, just as he'd thought. "Spike's not on the list," he said.

"List?" Spike looked very concerned. "The to-be-killed list?"

Death shook his head sadly, removed a small scroll from his pocket and unrolled it. "This is your Collection list for today. It bears your watermark..."

Xander snatched the scroll from Death's hand. Each of the Collectors had their own watermarked scrolls to prevent tampering of the lists. The names on the lists were also handwritten by an individual scribe assigned to each apprentice to discourage forgery.

The Dark Cavalier's hand began to tremble. The watermark was definitely his, and the names on the dated list matched the names in his notebook... all except for the last one.

No. 11 -- Spike.

"No," Xander shook his head rapidly, "this isn't my list. This is a forgery."

"Xander--"

"No!" Xander thrust the scroll and his notebook at Death. "I copy the names into my notebook after I receive the list, you know that! This is a forgery!"

Death glanced between the two, but the sad expression remained on his face. "I am sorry, Darkling, but--"

"Damn it!" Xander interrupted with a shout, the wind whipping through his shaggy hair. "It's a setup, don't you see?! Being assigned to my mortal homeplace, the Choata... the ribbon!" The immortal snatched the tiny blue bow from Spike's head, making the vampire yelp when his hair was torn out. "I found a ribbon in the hallway outside my bedroom. I always throw them in the trash can with the scrolls. Someone must've dropped it when they stole one of the lists from the garbage!"

"Enough of this nonsense," Death snapped, his jaw tight. "You have until midnight, Earth time, to Collect the mortal known as Spike. Do not disappoint me, Boy. You will not like the outcome if you do."

Xander stared at Death's back in stunned disbelief as the Master Over Life strode angrily away. The small scroll and blue notebook lay on the ground where Death had dropped them, taunting the Dark Cavalier.

"Xander?" Spike said, tentatively touching the brunette on the shoulder.

Xander jerked away, bent down and snatched up the scroll and notebook. He then grabbed Spike by the upper arm and forcefully dragged him toward the closest oak tree.

"Oi!" Spike exclaimed in protest.

"Shut up," Xander growled. Into the oak tree, a quick turn-around, and they were back outside of Giles's condo. The immortal did not release his punishing grip on Spike's arm as he pulled the vampire across the street and down into the courtyard.

At Giles's door, Xander suddenly spun Spike around and slammed him against the hard wood. He smashed his mouth down upon Spike's, kissing the blond roughly. The wind kicked up again, flicking the leaves in the trees and ruffling the back of Xander's hair.

Xander broke the kiss and stared hard into confused blue eyes. "I hate you," he stated harshly.

Spike blinked. "What?"

"I wish you never saw me," Xander went on in a rough tone. "I wish I could kill you without a second thought."

Xander shoved away from Spike and started out of the courtyard. Spike took two steps forward, hurt hidden under a cold mask. "So, that's it?" the vampire said angrily. "Thanks for the fuck, but now I have to kill you?"

"You should be used to it; isn't that what vampires do?" Xander called over his shoulder as he climbed the steps.

"You forgot lying," Spike sneered. "Like when I said I liked you."

Xander's head whipped around and he pinned the blond with an icy glare. "Do you think I wanted you to like me?"

Neither of the men noticed that Giles's door had opened. Spike advanced closer to Xander, stopping near the stone picnic table. "I think your blubbering like a baby when I said it answers that question," the blond taunted.

Faster than the eye could see, Xander grabbed the stake from the waistband of his jeans, spun around, and threw it. The wood splintered, its cracking hidden under the whistling of the wind, as it imbedded into the stone surface of the picnic table next to where Spike stood.

"I hate you!" Xander spat. "You've made me feel things that I haven't felt in over seven hundred and fifty-fucking-years!" He stalked down the stairs, each step punctuated with an angry sentence. "I am the Dark Cavalier; I am Death's Boy; I've killed over four million mortals and I didn't care about a single one!"

The trees in the area bowed from the wind. Window rattled. Dirt, fallen leaves, and garbage lifted and swirled in the air. The five in the open doorway stared on with horrid fascination.

Xander stopped directly in front of Spike, his dark eyes flashing with otherwordly sparks of light. His voice was cold as he continued. "I came to Sunnydale to do my job, just like I've done it in countless other realms. I didn't come here to fall in love with you."

"Yeah, well, I didn't plan to fall in love with you, either," Spike snapped back.

The violent wind abruptly stopped. The instant silence was shocking. When Xander next spoke, his voice seemed overly loud in the sudden quiet.

"I can't kill you, Spike," he said in a jagged whisper. "At midnight, I will trade my eternal death for yours. Congratulations, you've beaten Death. Very few can say the same."

Spike opened his mouth, closed it, wrapped his hand behind Xander's neck and kissed him hard. Then, he pressed his forehead against Xander's and looked deep into his eyes. "No one's dying tonight, pet," the vampire said roughly. "Not you, not me, not even the stupid Slayer, unless I can help."

"Hey!" came from the direction of Giles's door.

Xander smiled tremulously, his dark eyes filled with tears, and Spike pressed another quick kiss to his lips before releasing him. "Now," the blond said. "Didn't you say something about a forgery?"

"Yeah," Xander cleared the knot in his throat and dashed away his tears, "I swear that your name wasn't on the list from Rusty."

"Could this Rusty bloke have changed it?" Spike asked, surreptitiously wiping at his own cheeks.

The brunette snickered. "It'd be kind of hard to do, considering she's a homing pigeon."

"Right," Spike said, glancing towards their audience. "It's not the bird, and I'm not the idiot who suggested it was." He focused on Willow. "How 'bout this, luv: first we prove the forgery, then we concentrate on the whodunit."

Xander removed the scroll from his pocket, unrolled it, and studied number eleven with a troubled frown. "How? All the writing matches."

"Red, I know you're listening," Spike called over to the Witch.

"Um...," Willow hesitantly stepped outside, wringing her hands, "...well, I could, uh, you know, scan it into the computer and run it through a handwriting analysis program. I don't have one, but I can probably find it on the 'Net. That is, if you want me to." Xander looked over at her, and she back-peddled nervously. "Or-or not. I don't have to help. It was a dumb idea, anyway."

"No, it's good," Xander corrected, returning his focus to the scroll. "It's a very good idea."

Xander cleared his throat again, straightened to his full height, and turned to the group at the door. "My name is Xander Harris. I am Death's Dark Cavalier. I am in love with my mortal bondmate, and I would appreciate any assistance in preventing his demise."

There was a small squeak from his left, and he shot Spike a quizzical look. Spike hooked his hands over his belt, put on his "I'm evil, damn it," face, and said, in a deeper-than-normal voice, "Swallowed a mouse."

*****

Spike watched Xander from his vantage point in Giles's kitchen. The brunette was crouched in front of the over-packed bookcase, running his fingers along the book spines. Earlier, he'd prowled around the living room, picking up and examining items curiously. He wouldn't allow anyone to touch him, and his answers to questions were vague.

Spike was uncomfortably aware that everyone was uncomfortably aware of the dead man in the living room. After Xander's initial explanation of who and what he was, the Slayer and her ex-military beau had surreptitiously taken up positions where they could easily attack the immortal or defend their friends. Spike wasn't very happy about the fact that they ignored him completely. Another chunk was viciously cut from his ego when he realized the Fighters of Evil didn't think him to be a threat at all.

"Giles," Xander said, pulling a slim green book from the shelf. "Uj et wruiths olm Neth?"

Giles, who was sitting at the counter opposite Spike, blinked rapidly behind his glasses and stammered, "P-Pardon?"

"I asked if you spoke Neth," Xander started to page through the book, "but I guess you don't."

"You speak Neth?" Giles asked in amazement.

"I speak everything," he replied absently.

Interested, Spike dug through his brain for an obscure demon dialect he'd learned. "Aaroush Husbwif?"

"Januu apri ita repassesh eht litnu lanoititdda, noishaasf emocni."

Pause.

"Spike, are you blushing?"

"No," Spike scowled, despite his pink-tinged cheeks. Why couldn't they be ignoring him now?

Xander began to laugh, causing all eyes to swing back to him. The rich, warm sound rolled through the living room, stunning everyone, except for the vampire, because it'd been so long since they'd heard that laugh. Spike simply glared at the brunette over the cut-out counter.

After putting the book back on the shelf, Xander straightened and crossed to the kitchen, disregarding the way Buffy and Riley tensed when he did so. Dark brown eyes twinkled in merriment as he stopped in front of the pouting peroxide-blond vampire. Leaning closer, Xander whispered, "Ecnedive ni yrammus ith daip dah rettaam."

The pink tinge darkened. Spike shifted, crossed his arms over his chest, and glanced over at the others, who were watching with unabashed interest. "Cut it out, pillock."

"Tush ni sih," Xander raised his hand and brushed his thumb against Spike's lower lip, "a redro emitaah eht otereh."

"Yeah, well, it's not reciprocated," Spike grumbled uncomfortably. He pointedly ignored the gushy feeling that had taken root in the center of his chest. So what if Xander spouted flowery nonsense about beautiful vampires that made him happy? Spike was neither beautiful nor happy-making. He was evil; a bad, bad man. Grr, hiss, spit.

"Tush ni sih," Xander repeated softly. ~You're so beautiful.~

"Oh! It's done," Willow announced from her seat in front of the computer. Giles moved from his spot at the counter to examine the computer screen.

"Is it a forgery?" Buffy asked, exchanging a quick glance with Riley before they both looked expectantly at the hacker.

"It's a great big phoney-baloney," Willow confirmed. She pointed to the screen, and Giles and Tara leaned closer. "See here, the slant is off, indicating it wasn't written at the same time as the other names. And this letter, the 'e', it's too stiff. A ruler was used to draw a perfectly straight cross-line."

"Very good, Willow," Giles praised. He straightened and turned to the kitchen. "Now that we know it's a forgery...," his words trailed off, catching the gang's attention.

Buffy, Willow, Riley and Tara all looked over the counter and into the kitchen. Xander and Spike were clinched in a lover's embrace, their mouths moving hungrily against one another's. Spike was on his toes, his hands buried in Xander's thick hair. Xander's arms were around Spike's lean body, his hands spanning the vampire's ass and holding the blond firmly against him.

Giles cleared his throat loudly. "Shall I book the kitchen for you two overnight, or only charge by the hour?"

Spike dragged his mouth from Xander's, breathing heavily, albeit unnecessarily. His face was flaming again, and Xander refused to release his indecent hold, increasing the vampire's embarrassment further. "Xander," he begged quietly. What was it about the immortal that turned him into a flustery, blushing virgin?

Xander dropped a kiss on Spike's nose. "You're too cute."

Oh no, Spike's hard-as-nails reputation wasn't ruined forever after that. Not at all.

Spike glanced over the cut-out counter to see the Slayer giving him a sappy, all-too-female look. The two Witches were equally as mushy-looking. Giles was shaking his head in his normal "sigh, children" way. Riley wore a smirk that rivaled one of Angelus's smirks.

Midnight was too long to wait for death.

"Wills, forgery, right on," Xander said, sliding around behind the vampire to rest his chin on Spike's shoulder, his hands hooked over Spike's belt buckle. "Can you, uh, print that?"

"Sure," Willow agreed.

"So wh-what's next?" Tara asked from beside her girlfriend.

"Now we try to figure out who the hell the forger is," Xander replied. "Right, Spike?"

Hellmouth? Yoo-hoo, apocalypse? Anytime now, Spike was mentally pleading, due to Xander's let's-turn-Spike-into-a-girl position. What was worse than the embarrassment he felt over the position was the fact that he liked having Xander hold him like this. He glanced down at his shirt, wondering if there was a giant 'P' on the front, for 'Poof.'

A tongue flicked his ear. Spike squeaked. Colored again. 'Poof' to the tune of Spam -- his new theme song -- started revolving through his brain. "What?" he snarled in a manly fashion.

Xander chuckled, the vibration against Spike's back sending shivers down his spine. "We're to the whodunit part, Spike. Pay attention."

"It's hard to pay attention with your lover plastered to your back like a bloody cheap coat," Spike bitched.

"Oh look, a lover's quarrel," Buffy said, grinning evilly at Spike. "How cute."

"Bite me, Slayer," Spike said.

"Nuh-uh-uh," Xander tisked, releasing Spike. He started back into the living room. "The only one who gets to bite Spike is me. I'm possessive like that."

Spike dropped his head and groaned as Buffy and Riley snickered. He was never going to live this night down. Never, never, never. And it was all Xander and his silver cock-piercing's fault... which Spike would have to tell Xander to leave in the next time they shagged.

Xander accepted the printout from Willow with a "Thank you" and a smile. He walked over to the couch and perched on the arm, nibbling his lower lip as he studied the paper.

Spike pulled himself out of Humiliation Hell and ventured into the living room. They had a whodunit to solve before Xander suffered for an eternity -- something Spike definitely wanted to prevent.

Because, despite his emasculation in front of the others, he was head-over-effin'-heels in love with Xander Harris.

It wasn't that surprising of a revelation to Spike. When he fell in love, he always fell hard, fast, and completely. Of course, the downside was, when his heart was broken, his entire world came tumbling down, and it took a long time to rebuild it.

Spike dropped down onto the couch beside Xander, snatching the paper from the brunette. "Start with the simple questions first, Watson," the vampire said. "Who would like to see me dust?"

"Ooh! Ooh!" Buffy raised her hand and waved it like an enthusiastic student. "I would! I would!"

Spike flicked her off.

"I don't think the forger was targeting you," Xander said, half-leaning onto the back of the couch behind Spike. He began to card his fingers through the peroxide-blond's hair.

Spike started to purr, noticed what he was doing, shifted and cleared his throat. "Er... my name's on the soddin' list," he pointed out. "I'd say that paints a big bulls-eye on my arse."

"Who do you think it'd hurt worse if you died?" Xander inquired softly. "You, or the guy who loves you?"

"Xander's right," Willow piped up. "When the bad guys want to really, really hurt Buffy, they go after Angel." Mortification crossed her face. "And Riley! And anyone else she loves... or has loved... or even will love in the future..."

Buffy glared at the redhead. "Although someone's now off that list."

"Don't worry, Willow," Riley spoke up, only slightly stiffer than usual. "I know what you meant."

"I believe the next step would be to narrow down the list of those who wish to hurt you, Xander," Giles said, returning to the subject at hand. "This person would have to have a- a strong anger towards you to go as far as to add Spike's name to your, er..."

"Collections list," Xander supplied. "Still, it could be anyone."

"No, it couldn't," Tara countered. She ducked her head when everyone looked at her. "It- it could only be someone who, um, kn- knows who Spike is."

"She's right," Spike said, desperately trying not to rub his head against Xander's hand like a bleedin' cat. "Far as we know, that Anthony bloke didn't spread the news about me."

Xander's eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "Anthony Hodgkins."

"That annoying git, Samuel, knows who I am, too," Spike said. "Oh, and Death."

"Do you really think Xander's own boss would want to hurt him?" Willow asked.

"If he was testing me," Xander answered. He twined a lock of blond hair around his finger. "But it doesn't fit with how the Big Kahuna acted when I told him about being assigned to Sunnydale, or with the Choata."

"What about jealousy?" Riley suggested, so obviously not glancing at Buffy. "People have been known to do some crazy things when they're jealous."

"Jealous?" Xander laughed. "Do you know how hard it is to be Death's number one apprentice? My Master is a perfectionist, which means I have to be even more perfect." He shook his head. "I wouldn't wish anyone into my place. It's only been in the last two hundred years that Death has treated me more like a companion, rather than a whipping boy."

Xander began petting Spike again, his eyes growing distant. "I remember wishing that I'd said 'no' during the first fifty years of immortality. Gods, it was so hard trying to learn everything he wanted me to learn, and you know I wasn't ever any good at school, Wills."

"You've always been smart, Xander," Willow countered quietly.

The brunette laughed sardonically a second time. "If that'd been the case, I probably wouldn't have gotten my ass beat so much."

A deep, rumbling growl floated up from the couch. This time, Xander's laugh was one of amusement, and he leaned forward and kissed the top of Spike's head. "Sweet mortal. My ass is just for you, now."

"Eew, TMI, TMI," Buffy shuddered. "Waaaaay Too Much Information."

Xander sent her a lopsided grin. "Anyway, the jealousy idea is a good one. Anthony and I have been at each other's throats since we met."

"So you've decided it's him?" Spike asked.

Xander nodded. "He's got the motive, the means, and he knows who you are. I wouldn't put it past him to have used Samuel's friendship with me to get into the mansion, or to learn where I spent my mortal life."

"What about this Samuel guy himself?" Willow said. "On A&E, it's always the person least suspected that's the culprit."

"Too obvious," Xander discounted. "At most, I'd say Samuel's helping Anthony, because of how buddy-buddy they are."

"It seems as though you have a prime suspect, as well as proof of foul play," Giles said. "What is your next step?"

"I'm going to have sex with Spike, and then I'm going to call Anthony out," Xander replied.

Spike didn't fight the grin caused by the brunette's bluntness. He tilted his head back to look at Xander. "I love you."

"Of course you do," Xander said with a wink. He lightly tugged at Spike's hair before he stood. "Well, guys, it's been...," he thought for a moment, and a true smile blossomed on his face, "...actually not that bad, to see you again. When it's your Time, I'll see if I can get Death to offer you a job."

The brunette took Spike's hand after the vampire had stood. "I'll bring the Bleached One back after I screw him stupid... er."

"Very funny, mate," Spike said dryly.

"I thought so," Xander said. "Bye all."

"Yeah, uh, bye," Spike called over his shoulder as he followed Xander out the door.

Before the door closed, the blond vampire poked his head back inside. "Oh, and fetch me some blood and a pack of smokes before I get back. I have a feeling I'm going to need 'em."


Continued