Title: A Matter of Control
Author: Kay
Feedback: Do you really want to see me beg?
Archive: Hey, just ask first <g>
Series: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel
Pairing: Xander/just about every guy on the shows
Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the characters of the show don't
belong to me in anyway whatsoever. I'm not that lucky. This story is
written for enjoyment, not for profit. Again, I'm not that lucky.
Litigation would be a waste of time, people. I'm a member of the Starving
Student Sect. Summery: Xander gets hit with the effects of a fairly nasty
demon.  He's going to need Spike's helps, along with Angel and Doyle's, if
he's going to live through it. Warnings:  spoilers in general for the
first season of Angel, and the last season of Buffy, and for the
characters' general situations in them.  Other than that, I'm not really
going by canon, so who knows what will happen?

An extra warning:  there is some talk of suicide in this fic, just so
everyone is warned.

K, so here's another fic.  I've got no idea where this plot bunny came
from. There I was, studying for finals, when this monster appears out of
nowhere.  I can't take it anymore, so I'm going to work on it now, so
maybe it'll leave me alone.

Does anyone else find the muses in this fandom particularly pushy?  Add in
Jinn begging (heya, Jinn), and watching House on Haunted Hill, I'm on a
Spike high, and I really just have to write this.  Thanks for listening to
me ramble...in reward, here's some fic!


Sliding down the wall for what felt like the thousandth time that night,
Xander began to seriously consider going home.  Did this fight really even
concern him?

He picked himself up off the ground.  As soon as the world had mostly
stopped spinning, he launched himself back into the fray.  The demon
barely seemed to notice as he climbed up its back.  Not that he was
complaining.  He hoped it would continue to ignore him, and let him put it
in a choke hold, or something.  Anything to put this bastard out of

The demon, which had a name Xander wasn't even going to try to pronounce,
had been wreaking havoc in the university's frat and sorority houses.
Apparently, the creature gave off massive amounts of pheromones, which
tended to make the members of the Greek houses extra frisky.  Add in a
weekend of partying and beer, and it was total chaos on Greek Street.

Once Buffy and Giles had figured out what was going on, they called on the
rest of the Scooby Gang to act as reinforcements.  Xander was game.
Watching Giles stammer every time he or Willow called the creature a
'lust-demon' almost made the whole thing worth it.


The lust-demon spun about, and once again, Xander was up close and
personal with the wall.  As he pulled himself back to his feet, he cast an
exasperated look at Buffy and Riley, who were spending more time glaring
at each other than they were fighting the damn thing.  Riley had gotten
affected by the pheromones, and Buffy had caught him in a clinch with
another girl.

Xander would be more than happy to hold the Initiative soldier's arms
while the Slayer whaled on him, but only if she got her ass in gear and

He'd made the lust-demon slow down a bit with the choking maneuver.  The
dark-haired man decided to try it again.  If he could just hold on a
little longer, maybe it would work better.  He started to climb up the
demon's back again, dodging past Willow and Giles, neither of whom were
busy fighting with significant others, and so could concentrate on the
giant, scaly problem at hand.

Apparently, the demon was getting a little tired of the
distant-relative-to-the-monkey on it's back.  It reached down and grabbed
Xander by the arm and flung him away.  He was vaguely aware of thin lines
of pain on his arm as he flew through the air.

Right into the wall again.  One more encounter like this, and in some
cultures, him and the wall would be legally married.

Ignoring the lines of fire on his skin, the brown-eyed man staggered to
his feet once more.  He swayed over toward the fight, and watched as Buffy
finally finished her staring contest with Riley, or whatever the hell they
had been doing, and began to lay the Slayer-smackdown on the lust-demon.
A few seconds later, it was all over.

Xander made his way over to stand beside Willow.  Giles, looked over
everyone carefully.  "Is everyone all right?" he asked, panting a little.

Everyone nodded, including Xander.  The scratches on his arm didn't count.
He'd gotten worse by looking at his parents the wrong way.

"Good," breathed the Watcher.

"Good," echoed Buffy.  "If that's over with, I've got patrolling to do."
She ran off, with Riley right behind her, still trying to explain that
what had happened wasn't his fault.

Giles and Xander walked Willow back to her dorm, and then left the campus
together.  Keeping his injured arm hidden, Xander scowled as something
occurred to him.  "Hey, Giles.  Why were you so big on no one letting
themselves get hurt?  I mean, besides the whole fact that getting hurt is
in general bad."

The Watcher yawned.  "A...er...lust-demon is really quite dangerous,
Xander. Besides the pheromones it emits, its talons are really very
hazardous.  If a person is scratched by a...lust-demon, he will be taken
over by lust."

"A horny high?"  Xander laughed.  "That sounds like what was happening on
Greek Street."

"Oh, no.  With the scratch, it goes beyond heightened arousal.  Anyone
injured like that will have an ever increasing need for sex, until he
becomes violent, and dangerous.  The effects won't fade, like the
pheromones.  He will also experience a rising fever, one that will
eventually burn his life away.  It's horribly fatal."

"Fatal?" choked Xander.

"Yes.  That's why I'm so glad no one was hurt.  If someone was...well, the
only thing to be done then would be to kill them, before they could hurt
anyone else."

"You mean there's no cure?"  There had to be a cure.  There was always a

"None that I know of."  Giles glanced down at Xander.  "I say, are you
feeling all right?"

"Oh, just peachy.  I think I'm a little punchy from soul-kissing the wall
so many times.  I think I'm just gonna go home now, and write a letter
telling it I don't want to see it any more.  I don't think I'm cut out for
dating masonry."  Keeping up a steady line of babble, Xander bolted,
practically running home.

Once he was safe in his basement, the brown-eyed man tore off his shirt.
He stared down at his left arm in horror:  three lines, looking as though
they had been drawn in golden fire, ran up his inner arm between wrist and

"OK," he said out loud.  He always thought better when he was talking.
"OK. I got scratched by a lust-demon.  Which is invariably fatal.
Maybe...maybe it didn't scratch me bad enough to have an effect."  He
checked himself for lustful thoughts.  Nope, just stark terror.  Xander
decided to wait it out. Maybe he wasn't effected.

Three hours later, Xander was fighting off panic, and was winning.

So much for hoping that the scratch hadn't infected him.  He could feel
need creeping through him, flooding his veins, curling through his limbs.
This went beyond red-blooded-male-at-his-sexual-peak feelings; this was a
hunger that was beginning to frighten him.

What the hell was he going to do?  Xander tried to consider his options,
when he realized that he didn't have any.  There were no choices, only a
single plan that he just had to have the will to follow through on.

He couldn't go to the Scooby Gang for help.  Giles had already told him
that there was no cure, no way to stop the progression of the need inside
him.  All his friends could do for him now was stop him from hurting
anyone.  The fire was smoldering, the hunger manageable, but Xander knew
they wouldn't stay that way for long.  Soon, they would be raging out of
control, and he had no trouble believing that he could hurt someone, so
blind to everything except the burning within that he would actually
resort to violence and rape to find relief.

The only thing his friends could do for him now was kill him.  Oh, he knew
they wouldn't do it right away.  Willow would fight it, kicking and
screaming, working to find a spell to save him up to the last minute, no
matter what Giles said about a cure.  Xander couldn't let that happen.  If
she delayed too long, there was the chance that he could hurt someone.  He
could hurt her, or Buffy, or Giles.  Especially Giles.

Beyond that, Xander wasn't going to force his friends to be responsible
for his death.  For a moment, sick horror overwhelmed everything else as
he remembered Jesse.  He'd had to kill Jesse, to save himself, to save
other people, and to save Jesse in the end, even though by then it was
really too late.  He wasn't going to condemn the Scooby Gang to the same
overwhelming guilt and self-hatred that had eaten away at him.  Killing a
friend, no matter how necessary it might be, was a hell that he wasn't
going to let any of them go through.

Not when he could take care of the problem himself.

Xander began to move quickly, swinging into action before he could have
too much time to think.  First things first.  A note for the gang; they
had to know what was going on, and why.  He quickly scrawled out an
explanation.  He knelt on the floor, and pulled a box out from under his
bed.  Inside were all of his "in the event of my death" letters, messages
for everyone in his life that he wanted to pass on.  He was almost glad
Anya had left town a week ago, looking for greener pastures.  He didn't
have a note for her, and in his current state of mind, he'd never be able
to write one.  He bundled all the letters together and put them in the
center of his bed.

He then changed his clothes, pulling on his favorite cargo pants, t-shirt,
and oversize flannel.  If he had to go out, then he was going out
comfortable. Pulling on his tennis shoes, he glanced around the basement.
There was really nothing left to do.

He locked his door behind himself, and put his keys in the mailbox out
front. There was no telling when his parents would sober up enough to
remember to check for mail, but when they did, the key would be there
waiting for them.

As he walked away, he didn't look back.  He didn't want anything to
distract him, to slow him down.  If he slowed down, he might start to
think about what he was going to do, and he couldn't chicken out, couldn't
back down.  He had to do this for his friends.

It helped that he had a plan.

He'd had one for years, now.  Whenever things seemed darkest, most
hopeless, whenever he'd been nearly convinced of the futility of his life,
of the non-existence of his future, he'd pull it out and look it over.  It
was almost comforting, in a way, knowing that there was a way to end
everything, a way to escape his pain.

By accident, he'd discovered that one of the tall office buildings in
downtown Sunnydale had an extremely accessible fire escape.  He'd climbed
to the top more than once, testing out his idea.  The fall from the roof
would kill him. Best of all, his body would be discovered by a security
guard, so he wouldn't end up traumatizing some little kids or old ladies
or anything.

Of course, this being Sunnydale, he might end up getting eaten by demons
on the way there, but that was all good too.  Either way, he'd be dead.

Feeling almost feverish, Xander tried to hurry.  He had to get this over
with, before he lost his nerve, or before the growing compulsion inside of
him overrode his control.  Heading for the cemetery, he began to take a

Look out, eternity.  Xander Harris was on his way.


Yawning mightily, Spike stood at the open door of the crypt he had
appropriated for himself and looked over the cemetery.  The night had been
overly quiet; even looking for trouble, he hadn't been able to find any.
He was about to give up, call it an early night.  Maybe see if he could
fiddle with the reception of his latest stolen television.

Taking one last look around, movement caught his eye.  There, at the east
end of the cemetery.  Thanks to his vampiric sight, he could make out the
two figures perfectly, even in the dark.  The first was the Slayer's
current lap-dog, one of the damn soldier boys who had put the chip in his
skull.  He was struggling with another figure, but dark hair and all the
thrashing about made it difficult to distinguish who exactly it was.
Probably a fledging vampire.

Well, well.  Looks as though Mr. Secret-Operative was in a bit of trouble.
Spike was tempted to leave him to it, but thought better of it.  He
sauntered over to the fray.  Much better to save Buffy's pet.  That would
probably buy him a few more minutes running time when he finally got the
chip out of his head, and the shaky truce they had was over.

Besides, this way, he'd get to kill something.

When he reached the scuffling pair, he reached out and grabbed Riley,
pulling him free.  "There you go," he said condescendingly.  "Let Spike
see what big bad monster was bothering you."  He moved to squarely face
the other figure.

Dark hair mussed, faced flushed, Xander Harris stared back at him.

"Bloody hell.  What the hell is going on?" the blond man demanded.

"I don't know."  Riley raked his hand back through his hair.  "I was
trying to find Buffy when I saw Xander here.  I called out to him, and he
took off.  I tried to make him stop, and he started fighting me."

Xander started to back away.  "Just let it go, Riley," he said warningly.
"Just forget you saw me, all right?  Go away and leave me alone."

The taller man shook his head.  "What's wrong?  Is it something about

Xander laughed raggedly.  "Get away.  Stay away from me!"

"I can't do that.  If something's wrong, let me help."  He took a few
steps closer, bringing him face to face with the panting man.

The dark-haired man stared up at him.  "Just leave me alone."  His
movements were at odds with his words; he swayed forward, moving closer to
Riley.  "It's getting worse.  You have to stay away."

"What is gettimmmph!"  Riley's words were cut off by Xander's lips pressed
up against his own.  Spike watched in disbelief as the Slayerette's hands
wandered over the soldier's body, even as the younger man deepened the

In a sudden switch, Xander shoved Riley away from himself.  "God, I'm
sorry. I...just stay away!  Both of you, stay away!"  He took off running,
moving fast toward downtown Sunnydale.

Riley moved as if to go after him, but Spike stopped him.  "I think I'd
better take care of this."

"Why you?"

Shit.  What lie to tell him?  "I've seen this before.  Sometimes the boy
just goes funny.  I'll go make sure he doesn't hurt himself."

"He just goes funny?  Does Buffy know?"  The soldier was rubbing his
fingers across his lips, but seemed unaware of the motion.

"Oh, they all know.  They just don't talk about it - too embarrassing, you
see.  I'll take care of him."

Riley nodded dazedly.  Taking that as assent, Spike took off, relying on
vampiric speed to help him catch the fleeing mortal.  What the hell was
wrong with the boy?  Spike was leaning toward him being under the
influence of a spell or a curse.

He caught up to Xander before he could exit the cemetery.  He grabbed
Xander and forced him to stop.  "Hold on, there."

The dark-haired man struggled to get free.  "Not you.  Let me go, Spike.
This is none of your business.  Why don't you go gum Riley's neck, or

"Oh, no, pet.  I wouldn't want to make you jealous."  The vampire firmly
wrapped his fingers around the boy's left sleeve.  He was going to figure
this out.  He hadn't completely lied to Soldier-boy.  He rather thought he
had seen something like this before.  But where?  And what was it?

Xander flushed even darker.  He continued to try to escape, tugging at his
shirt, trying to free it from the vampire's hold.  "Shut up.  Better yet,
why don't you run and tell Buffy what you saw?  I bet you can hardly wait.
 Hurry up; news this bad won't come around often for you to spread."

Spike wasn't stupid.  He was capable of thinking; he just didn't often
want to bother.  It was obvious that Xander was trying to get rid of him.
Why?  What was he up to?  "Would you stop that?"  He moved closer to
Xander, trying to figure out a way to restrain him without setting off the
chip.  He had a feeling that figuring this out was going to be enough of a
headache without adding that in.

The mortal finally stopped struggling, and Spike decided to take it as a
good sign.  Pressing the advantaged, he continued his questions.  "What is
going on with you?  Does the Slayer know something is wrong?  Did a demon
do this?  Is it still alive?"

His voice trailed away as he realized Xander wasn't really listening to
him. All the other man's attention seemed focus on Spike's mouth.  His
eyes were locked on it, and he didn't even seem aware that the vampire was
speaking. "What the hell are you lookimmm!"

Just like Riley, his words were cut off by Xander's mouth descending over

His first impulse was to push the other man away.  His second was to
Enjoy the ride.  He understood know why Riley had looked so dazed.  Hot, wet,
sweet...the other man's lips moved over his, before Xander's tongue delved
deeply into his mouth, and invited Spike's out to play.  The vampire had
never felt anything so hungry, so blatantly pleading and needy.  He
responded immediately, taking possession of the dark-haired man's mouth,
feeding the hunger that he was feeling coming from him, building the fire
between them higher.

Again just like Riley, Xander suddenly tore away, trying to shove the
vampire away.  Spike maintained his hold on his sleeve, however, so he
didn't go far. The mortal's face was set in an expression of horror, and
self-loathing.  "Let me go," he demanded, beginning fight for his freedom
in earnest.

Spike held on harder.  "Oh, no.  You're going to explain what is going

Xander ignored him, and continued fighting.  His struggles became frantic,
and Spike could hear threads begin to rip in the other's shirt.  A few
minutes more, and the sleeve the vampire was holding onto ripped off.  It
pulled away down Xander's arm, but caught at his wrist.

Spike's gaze locked on the mortal's lower arm, and the thin golden lines
that marred the skin.  "So that's it," he breathed.

The other man stopped fighting.  "That's it," he admitted grudgingly.
"You recognize it?"

The vampire nodded.  "What the hell are you doing running about in this
condition?  Why aren't you with the Watcher and the witch while they come
up with a cure?"

"Because there isn't one."

"So what are you doing out here?"  No cure?  The Scooby Gang would still
have been working on trying to find one.  The Slayerettes were a
persistent group of buggers.  Just one more reason to hate them.

"I'm gonna take care of this on my own terms," Xander's voice was
resigned, but determined.  "If you would just back off, I could get to

"What?  You've decided to jump Buffy's toy?  I wouldn't do that, pet.  She
doesn't seem to share well with others."

Xander laughed sarcastically for a moment, then managed to break free with
a massive wrench.  "No.  I'm trying to avoid having her kill me."  He
started to back away.  "I'm gonna take myself out, thank you very much.
If you want to come watch, get moving.  At least someone will enjoy

Spike stared after him.  Take himself out?  Hell, the boy was planning to
commit suicide.  He frowned.  Something was wrong.  He wasn't anticipating
this with his usual glee.  Instead, he felt - upset?  Reluctant?  He
didn't want to watch Xander die.  He didn't want him to die at all.

Still not believing his own reaction, the vampire ran after Xander and
caught him by the shoulder.  "I can't let you do that."

Xander glared at the vampire, then stared down pointedly at the hand on
his arm.  "Get off me," he growled.

Spike didn't take the hint.  He continued to hold on, his cool fingers
like ice against Xander's skin.  Blessed coolness, surprisingly strong
despite their slenderness, brushing firmly over his skin...

The dark-haired man shook his head.  He was barely hanging on, and he
could feel the little control he did have rapidly slipping away.  He
didn't have time for this.  He wasn't sure how much longer he'd be able to
hold on to his purpose, how long until he was consumed by the fire burning
beneath his skin.

With an irritated snarl, he tore the ruined remains of his sleeve off his
left wrist.  What was the point in hiding the scratch that was killing
him?  "You can't let me?  What the hell choice to you have?"

The blond man shook his head stubbornly.  "You're not thinking.  I know
it's hard for you to do right now, but you've got to see this isn't the
way.  Come on.  I'll take you to see Rupert."

"There's no point!  He already told me there isn't a cure."

"The Watcher doesn't know everything.  Give him a few hours to do
research, and I'm sure he'll work something out."  The vampire muttered
something under his breath.  It sounded an awful lot like "I can't believe
I'm saying this."

Xander couldn't believe it either.  He was probably delirious from fever;
it seemed almost like Spike was trying to help him.  He shook his head
firmly. "I'm not going anywhere near Giles, or anyone else.  I can't.
Besides, do you think Giles would've let Buffy face the lust-demon without
a cure if he could help it?  He's already checked for one.  If it existed,
he would've found it."

"Well, maybe he can come up with one," the blond man said, sounding
exasperated.  "Let's get moving.  You aren't going to last long, not like

"That's the point!"  Why couldn't the other man understand?  "I can't go
to him.  You've seen me.  I've got almost no control left.  What if I hurt

"Buffy and Willow probably aren't even there."  Was that an attempt to
sound soothing?  The vampire managed it surprisingly well.

Xander wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.  He was arguing with Spike
over whether or not he could commit suicide, and Spike was on the 'no'
side.  And now this.  "Haven't you gotten it yet?  For a big bad ancient
vampire, you're not all that swift on the uptake, are you?"  He settle on
laughter.  The situation was too ridiculous to be believed.  "I'm not
worried about hurting Buffy or Willow.  I'm not so far gone that they'd be
in any danger."  Spike was staring at him, comprehension beginning to
bloom in his eyes.  "I'm scared I'm going to hurt *Giles*."

The look on Spike's face sent him off into a fit of near hysterical
giggles. He knew it was the stress and the fear, mostly, but the vampire
did look funny, staring at him in near-disbelief.

"You're...you're..."  Spike was actually stuttering.

"Gay, Spike.  Or a pouf, or bent, or whatever bit of undead-English-guy
slang you want to use."  He shut off the sarcasm.  "Don't you see?  I had
a raging crush on him for years.  I can't go anywhere near him.  If I'm
this out of control around Riley, and I'm barely attracted to him, what
could I do to Giles?"

With a massive exertion of effort, Xander managed to calm himself down.
He pasted an encouraging smile on his face.  "Come on.  Come with me.  If
you're really good, I'll let you push me."

To his disappointment, the vampire refused to take the bait.  "Sorry, pet.
I'm not going to let you do this."

K, time to try another tactic.  "What makes you think you're in any
position to stop me?  Spike, you of all people should be staying as far
away from me as possible."

"What are you taking about?" Spike asked.  "You got a raging crush on me?"

Xander stepped up close to him.  "Oh, yeah.  Have for years now."  He
moved even closer.  "And if I can't keep myself in check, you're going to
be in serious trouble."


"Yeah.  Because there's not a damn thing you can do to stop me if I decide
I want you."  He shoved Spike to the ground and followed his fall,
straddling the vampire as he lay on the ground.  "You can't fight back,
you can't resist. You can't stop me."  He lowered his lips to cover the other man's, taking his mouth in a voracious kiss.

After a few moments, he tore himself away, and sprang to his feet.  "You
especially have to stay away.  I could hurt you.  I could..."  Xander
couldn't even force himself to say the words.  Instead, he turned to walk
away.  He had to end this, end it before he became the worst sort of
monster he could imagine.

It was with complete disbelief that he felt a cool hand descend on his
shoulder.  "Hold on a second.  You're worried about hurting me?"

Xander shrugged.  He really didn't want to get into this.  He'd hoped to
maintain some dignity before he died.  "I don't want to hurt anyone," he
said quietly.  "And I especially don't want to hurt you."

He watched as blue eyes widened as Spike realized what he was saying:
that he cared about Spike, and that he really was attracted him.

He shrugged.  "It's either do this, or run the risk of hurting someone.
I'm not going to do that."

The vampire nodded.  "All right.  So the Watcher can't help you.  We'll
just have to find someone who can, then.  Let's get going."

"Go where?"


"LA?  What?  To ask for help from Deadboy?  He'd never help me.  Besides,
I'd never make it there."  It was true.  It was getting harder and harder
to think, harder to stand firm, harder not to lean over and grab Spike, to
throw him to the ground once more, to climb on top of him, and...with a
start, he realized Spike was speaking.  "What?"

"I said I'll get you there."

"You can't.  Haven't you been listening?  You said you knew what I was
going through.  I could hurt you.  I will hurt you.  I could hurt someone

"No, you won't, pet.  I'll make sure of it.  You'll get to Angel safe and
sound, and I won't let you hurt anyone else."  There was a faint echo of
wonder in the vampire's voice, and an even stronger one in his eyes.

Xander shook his head.  He couldn't think.  He did know he didn't want to
die. But to trust Spike, to put his life, and the lives of other's, in the
vampire's hands..."Why?  Why are you trying to help me?"

Spike shrugged uncomfortably.  "I want to," he said in a low voice.  Then,
more normally, he continued, "Besides, maybe if I help you with this,
Rupert will finally get his ass in gear and work on getting this bleeding
chip out of my skull.  It might even convince Angel to help me out."

Xander really didn't think that was the complete truth.  There was
something in the way Spike was looking at him, something in the strangely
soft light in those blue eyes that betrayed the casual demeanor for the
lie it was.

The mortal licked his lips.  "Fine.  We try for LA.  But the minute I make
a move to hurt you, to hurt anyone, you find a way to take me out."

"Of course, pet.  If you really want me to kill you, I will."  The evil
smirk on the blond's face was more usual, and it had the odd effect of
comforting Xander.  "Now come on.  Let's go steal a car, shall we?"

Shaking his head, Xander followed.  At least if everything went wrong, he
wouldn't live to regret anything.


In what was quickly becoming an ingrained reflex action, Spike glanced
over at the man in the passenger seat of the car.  It was almost a twitch;
every thirty seconds, he looked over.

Normally, out on the highway in a stolen Cadillac, the vampire would be
raising hell, speeding for all he was worth, maybe even forcing a few
other drivers off the road.  He viewed driving as a contact sport, and he
played to win.

This time, he was taking precautions.  Humans at the best of times were
overly fragile.  Xander definitely wasn't at his best.  Spike glanced over
at him again.

The dark-haired man was curled into a tight ball, knees drawn up to his
chest and his arms wrapped around his legs.  His eyes were squeezed shut,
as though trying to block everything out.  Fine tremors were running
through his frame, and his face was flushed, lightly sheened with sweat.

Spike hadn't had much experience in providing comfort.  Oh, sure, there
was Dru, but comforting someone who had forgotten what being sane was even
like was a far cry from what this situation demanded.  Xander wasn't
crazy; instead, he was terribly aware of the changes over taking him, of
how they were twisting his body's reactions and his thoughts.

Turning his eyes back to the road, at least for the next half a minute,
the vampire tried to figure out what exactly he was up to.  Why was he
doing this?

The reason he had given Xander was perfectly plausible.  Saving the kid's
life would put Slayer and her groupies squarely in his debt, and the
Watcher might even begin to make an effort to try to find a way to cure
him.  Hell, this stunt would probably even get Angel working on it.  His
Sire had always had a soft spot for the Slayerettes.  Even Xander.

Especially Xander.

But the chance to ingratiate himself with the team in the white hats
wasn't the real reason he was helping the mortal.  Looking over at his
reluctant passenger, he felt something close to wonder course through him.
 What Xander had said was true.  He should stay as far away from the kid
as possible.  He'd seen beings under the influence of the infection that
was coursing through the other man, and it was never pretty.  The damn
chip in his head made him an easy target if Xander lost the little control
he had.  All his vampiric strength and speed wouldn't do him any good.  He
wouldn't even be able to fight back if the other man turned on him.

So why was he putting himself in the direct path of danger?  Dimly, he
heard the echo of Xander's words:  "I especially don't want to hurt you."
Sure, the kid was one of the good guys, but that didn't explain it.  None
of the rest of the Scooby Gang had any problem with banging him about.

Thinking back, Spike was unable to remember a time when someone had been
concerned about him, when someone had cared whether or not he was hurt.

Not when he was human.

Certainly not with Angelus.

Not even Dru had cared if he was hurt or not, so long as her mad whims
were catered to.

He wasn't quite sure he had ever met someone like Xander.  He usually
mocked people who were more concerned for the welfare of others than their
own as fools.  But then, he'd never had someone show that sort of concern
for him.

He couldn't mock it.  He couldn't walk away from it.  It compelled him to
try to help the mortal, to do everything he could to keep him alive until
a cure could be found.

The vampire grimaced.  To do that, he'd have to pull over at the next
hotel. Keeping Xander alive would be a lot easier if he wasn't on fire,
and dawn was coming on fast.  They'd made too late a start to reach LA
that night.  It would have to wait until the next night.

Xander roused a bit as they pulled off the highway.  "Why are we stopping?
This isn't LA."

"No.  But unless you want to do the rest of the driving, I've gotta get
out of the sunlight."

The dark-haired man jerked upright when he saw their destination.  "Are
you crazy?  We can't go to a hotel!"

"I'm not spending all day in the trunk.  There's no air-conditioning in
there. Or room service."

"Room service doesn't matter.  You can't ring the kitchen and have them
send up a bell boy.  He won't do you any good."

"I'm not sleeping in the trunk," the vampire said firmly.  "Don't worry,
pet. I'll take care of the bill."

"We can't stop here.  Do you know what they have in hotels?"


"Beds, Spike.  Beds!  I can't go anywhere that has beds!"

"Technically, pet, you shouldn't go anywhere with a horizontal surface.
Or a vertical one."  Spike smiled a little as he parked the car.  He was
trying to stop Xander from panicking, but the smile was only slightly a
form of comfort.

It was mostly pleasure; even now, with the fever inside of him making him
tremble more and more noticeably, Xander was more concerned about the
possibility that he might hurt Spike than anything else.

Wide brown eyes made him pause before he went to secure a room.  "I'll tie
you to a chair, if it make you feel better, all right?"  The relief and
gratitude in the feverish gaze stunned him.

As soon as they reached the room, Spike did two things:  secured the
curtains, and imprison Xander in a chair.  Duct tape came in extremely
handy for both tasks.

Once Xander was firmly bound to the chair, Spike sat down and faced him on
the bed. "I need to get some sleep, pet.  As soon as the sun goes down,
we'll get going.  We'll be at Angel's before you know it."

The dark-eyed man nodded.  "Thanks," he mumbled, dropping his eyes.

Hesitantly, the vampire reached out and laid a gentle hand on Xander's
shoulder.  "We'll get you through it."  The other man nodded, but didn't

Spike rolled over to lay on the bed.  He was tired, and the rising sun
beckoned him to sleep.

A few hours later, he woke up.  Momentarily disoriented, he quickly
remembered where he was, and why.  And with whom.  He sat up and moved to
check on Xander.  When he reached the mortal's side, what he saw stopped
him, rendering him motionless.

Shaking almost continuously, Xander was gripping the seat of the chair so
tightly his fingers had bleached white.  His breath was coming in hitching
sobs, and tears ran down his face, even as he screwed his eyes shut in an
effort to stop them.

"Xander?"  Spike's hand hovered over the mortal.  He didn't know if
touching him would help, or make matters worse.

Shining brown eyes caught his gaze.  "It hurts," Xander whispered.  "It
burns, it's twisting me up inside, it hurts so bad.  Just end it, Spike.
Please.  I just want it to stop."

His plea tore at Spike.  He'd never heard such hopelessness in the other
man's voice.  There was a time when he would have reveled in it, but not
now.  Now he thought furiously, trying to come up with a way to relieve
the mortal's pain.

Thinking back, he tried to recall every detail of his encounters with
people in Xander's situation.  Soon, he realized that there was one thing
that had provided relief to the victims of the effects.  It was only a
temporary help, but it was better than nothing.  He couldn't just watch
Xander suffer.  Not if the most resilient person he'd ever met was begging
for death.

Decision made, Spike pulled out a knife and began to cut away the tape
binding Xander.

"Thank you," the mortal said softly.  "How are you going to do it?
Without hurting yourself, I mean."

Pulling Xander to his feet, Spike placed his hand on the other man's
cheek. "I'm not going to kill you, pet," he promised.  Ignoring Xander's
confusion, he leaned forward and pressed his lips to the brown-eyed man's.

The determined kiss snapped the fragile thread of Xander's control.  He
pulled Spike flush against him, molding their bodies together as he
deepened the kiss, taking control of the other man's mouth.  He couldn't
get enough of the feel of the vampire against him, of the rough wet glide
of the other's tongue against his, of the smooth, hard body in his arms.

It wasn't enough; with a feral growl, Xander pushed Spike back onto the
bed. He followed quickly, climbing on top of the blond man and taking his
mouth again.  Straddling the vampire's hips, the dark-haired man worked
feverishly to untuck the tight black t-shirt beneath his hands.  He jerked
it up impatiently, breaking his exploration of Spike's mouth just long
enough to tear the shirt up and off completely.

He returned to that intoxicating mouth, his hands now free to roam over
the bare chest beneath him.  Finger sought and found nipples, and Xander
ruthless played with them, causing them to tighten as the man below him
writhed and moaned.

Rocking his hips against Spike's, Xander pushed himself up on his elbows
and stared down at the vampire.  He'd never seen him looking like this.
He'd never seen Spike with his lips wet and swollen, his pupils dilated in

He'd never seen Spike...


With a cry of horror and betrayal, Xander leapt from the bed.  "No.  Oh,
no," he murmured.

Spike levered himself up on one elbow.  "What's wrong?"  His voice was

"I can't do this."

"You making a bloody good try of it.  Why are you stopping now?"  The
vampire sat all the way up, swinging his legs over side of the bed.  "Pet,
listen. This will help you.  It will stop the pain for a little while. It
will get you LA, to Angel."

"Because it's not worth it.  I'm not going to become a - a rapist for the
chance to save my life.  I'd never be able to live with myself."  He shook
his head.  "I'd rather go lie down on the freeway."  That was a good idea.
Where were his shoes?"

Spike stood up.  "And what makes you think it would be rape?  I kissed

There they were.  Xander walked over to the sneakers, fighting the fire
that was burning him, consuming him from the inside out.  "Yeah, well,
you're insane.  Getting on Angel's good side can't be worth it.  You don't
want me, so just stop it, all right?"

He bent down to pick up the sneakers, but never reached them.  He was
grabbed from behind and thrown on the bed.  Before he could react, he was
covered by an extremely irritated-looking vampire.

"Do you want me?" Spike asked, voice intense.

Xander was shaking with the effort to remain still, to not touch, to not

"Of course I do.  What the hell kind of question is that?  I want everybody.
I want everything.  Sheep look fucking good to me right now!"

The vampire shook his head impatiently.  "Did you want me before?"

The brown-eyed man glared at him.  Spike just couldn't let him die with
any shred of his dignity intact, could he?  "Yes, all right?  Yes."

"Good."  A real smile crossed Spike's face.  "Because I wanted you, too."

"What?"  Maybe he'd gone insane.  Insanity might be the final step before
the end.

"What, you think I never noticed you?  I didn't make a move because
getting staked isn't a part of my usual foreplay."  He reached out with a
cool hand and cupped Xander's cheek.  "It's mutual, pet.  I want you."
His smile turned dangerous.  "And I'm going to have you."

"I can't," Xander whispered.  "I can't take the chance..."

Spike didn't relent.  "Then I'll just take the lead.  That way it's my
fault. Would that convince you?"_ Xander froze.  He'd never considered
this possibility.  The fire in his veins urged him to accept, the thought
of relief for the pain pushed him, but it was the hope and desire
intermixed in the blue eyes above him that decided him. "Yes," he

Spike didn't reply.  Instead, he lowered his mouth to cover Xander's.
This time, the vampire did the claiming, and Xander gave himself over to
it, surrendering control and losing himself in the sensations that
threatened to overwhelm him completely.

The blond man's hand were everywhere, their coolness blessedly soothing to
Xander's heated skin.  Even more so were the cool lips that trailed down
his jaw, then onto his throat.  With a frantic whimper, Xander tipped his
head back, begging wordlessly for more.  Spike obliged him, licking and
nipping at the tender skin.

The dark-haired man was vaguely aware that one of those wonderful hands
had left him, and was fumbling with something beside him on the bed.  His
questions were answered when a slick finger probed beneath him, seeking
and finding the entrance to his body.  Xander felt himself prepared with
more care than he would have believed possible, the sensations ringing
desperate pleas for haste and more from him.

The feeling of Spike sliding smoothly inside him brought forth a gasp.
There was no pain, only a gradually lessening of the agony that was
twisting inside of him.  Long, powerful thrusts rocked him, and he was
only distantly aware of murmuring the vampire's name again and again, so
lost was he in a haze of ecstasy.

His orgasm took him by surprise, and he shouted out his pleasure.  The
thrusts didn't stop; instead,, they increased in force, and Xander was
soon hard again, whimpering out broken pleas for Spike to never stop.

He opened his eyes for a moment, and was startled to see Spike in full
gameface.  He didn't have time to panic; the vampire kissed him carefully
and said, "It happens, pet.  Don't worry.  You're safe, I swear it."

Xander stared at him, then relaxed back into the rhythm between them.  He
had to trust Spike.  More, he wanted to.  He reached up and trailed a hand
over the inhuman face above him before losing himself once again in the
sensations filling him.

The vampire bent his head and began to lick at the dark-haired man's neck,
the coolness of his lips and tongue yet another source of pleasure.
Xander tilted his head even further, and heard himself whisper, "Do it,
please, do it, you can, please..."  He didn't care if it was insane; at
that moment, he wanted nothing more.  The blond man hesitated, and then
sharp points pricked at Xander's skin.  A moment later, he felt them sink
into his flesh, and any pain that might have occurred was lost in the
ecstasy that followed.

With a strangled cry, Xander came again.  He heard Spike echoed his shout,
and then he knew no more.


Propped up on one elbow, Spike stared down at the man beside him.  Xander
had passed out, then made the transition to natural sleep without ever
having awakened.  The dark-haired man lay still, peaceful; it seemed that
Spike's memory hadn't failed him.  Sex had helped, and was getting the
other man a few hours of decent rest.

Licking his lips, the vampire imagined that he could still taste the
lingering traces of blood, *Xander's* blood, hot and sweet and oh so
alive.  That had been a surprise.  First, the other man begging him to
bite, and then the fact that he was able to without so much as a whisper
of pain from the chip. Apparently, since he hadn't been out to hurt
Xander, the bite didn't count.

The fact that the kid apparently *really* liked probably helped, too.

He hadn't taken much.  All he had done was bite Xander, really, and then
drink what rose to the surface.  He didn't want to hurt the mortal, after
all, and draining him, or just drinking a little too much, could weaken
him to the point where he wouldn't be able to resist the effects of the

There was a tempting thought.  Spike was half-inclined to try to keep
Xander the way he was.  Right now, he was a perfect bed-slave, a perfect
toy.  Always ready for sex, always eager, and he didn't object it all to
Spike taking a nip from him.  As for the fact that Xander wasn't
completely in control, was losing his grip on reality...well, Spike had
managed to handle Dru; the kid would be easy, compared to her.

Reaching out his hand, the vampire lightly brushed his fingers over the
other man's hair.  His eyes took in the lines of pain and exhaustion that
were just beginning to ease around Xander's eyes and mouth, and knew he
couldn't.  The damn kid would probably turn all suicidal on him.  He
ignored the voice inside that whispered to him that it wasn't the only

It was time to go.  The sun was down, and Spike wanted to get moving.  The
sooner they reached LA, the sooner Angel could get working on saving the
kid. He debated just carrying Xander to the car, to try to let him sleep
as long as possible, but he wanted to try to get some food into him before
they hit the road.  He was going to need strength, if he was going to

He moved his hand to cup Xander's cheek.  "C'mon, love.  Time to wake up."

Incoherent mumbles were his only answer, and the mortal moved closer,
trying to hide his face in Spike's chest.

The vampire firmed his resolve.  They had to get going.  Although maybe a
second round would help Xander make the trip to LA more comfortably.  He
tried to convince himself that lust was all he was feeling right then.
"No, no, love.  We need to go find Angel, remember?"

Xander groaned.  "Why do we need to find Deadboy?  One of us needs
brooding lessons?  We'll just rent some French movies, we'll be fine."  He
burrowed closer.

Spike chuckled, and waited.  It took a moment, then Xander's head shot up.
"Spike?"  He glanced around the room in a panic.  He half-sat up, scooting
away, until he visibly remembered where he was, and why.

The blond man held himself still.  Here was the point where Xander would
completely freak out, if he was going to.  How was he going to react to
what they had done?  Brown eyes met his, and Spike braced himself for his
next words.

"Are you all right?"

Spike blinked.  He hadn't expected that.  "Me?  I'm fine.  What about

"You're sure you're all right?  I didn't hurt you?"

Was Xander insane?  "Of course you didn't hurt me!"  Spike realized that
the other man was still convinced that the vampire had some how been
coerced into having sex with him, that he had forced him into it some how.

Was it really so difficult for him to believe that Spike had really wanted
him?  That he still wanted him?  The only thing that had stopped him from
pursuing him before was the certainty that Xander would try to kill him if
he got too close.

Well, that and Angel.  And Angelus.

Spike leaned forward, trying to catch Xander's gaze.  "You're the one I'm
worried about.  Did I hurt you?"  It was still so hard to believe, that
the other man was more worried about hurting Spike than his own welfare.
Xander's concern was calling up some dangerous emotions from within the
vampire, and the most powerful of them were protectiveness and

The mortal's hand crept up his neck, so he could finger the bite mark
there. "I'm...I'm good.  The fire is still there, but I can stand it."  He
shuddered a little.  "For now.  It's building again."  He met Spike's
gaze.  "Thank you."

"My pleasure," the vampire responded, ignoring the warmth that coursed
through him.  "Now we'd best get going.  Get dressed; we'll stop at the
restaurant here, then head out back on the road."

Xander nodded, but Spike could still see self-doubt and blame in those
dark eyes.  He reached out a hand and pulled the other man to him.
"Almost forgot," he murmured, then lowered his lips to cover Xander's.
After a leisurely exploration of the other's mouth, he pulled back and
smiled.  "Good evening."

Xander stared up at him.  "Evening," he echoed.  He licked his lips.
"What was that?"

"I don't know how you humans work it now, but it used to be traditional to
greet one's lover like that."

The brown-haired man swallowed with an audible click.  "Lover?"

Spike cursed silently.  Where the hell had that come from?  Wishing he
could call back the words, he shrugged.  "Sounds better than
person-I-slept-with-because-I-wanted-to, now, doesn't it?"

Xander nodded shakily.  "Lots easier to say."

Spike grinned at him.  "I almost want to suggest we do it again before we
leave.  But we can't.  We need to get going."

"Right," Xander agreed, sounding dazed.  He slowly climbed out of the bed
and looked for his clothing.

Spike watched him get dressed, then got up and pulled on his own clothing.
They'd be in LA in a few hours.  He hoped his Sire would live up to
reputation, and be able to help Xander.

He also hoped that Angel would stay out of this development, and not ruin
his fun.  He didn't want to give Xander up, and he wasn't sure what he'd
do if the other vampire tried to come between them.  Shoving his worries
away, he ushered Xander out the door.


Angel sipped at his coffee and flipped the page of the newspaper.  On the
other side of the desk, Doyle fiddled with the racing page, calculating
odds and trying to find an inside angle.  It was a quiet night, part of a
week of quiet nights.  With Cordelia gone on a visit to her parents, they
were alone, and Doyle hadn't had a vision in days.

Angel looked over at him.  The green-eyed man was mumbling quietly to
himself, something about nobbling.  As if he felt Angel's gaze, he looked
up.  "Look, staring at me won't make a vision come.  Just give it time."

"How much time?  I don't like this.  What kind of game are The Powers That
Be playing?"

Doyle shook his head.  "There's something coming."  His voice was quiet,
serious.  "This is just the calm.  I wouldn't go rushing the storm, if I
were you."

Angel's reply was forestalled by a knock at the door.  After an ugly
incident involving a pack of Nursin demons crashing the office, they'd
decided to leave the door locked.  At least the door gave them a few
moments warning before trouble descended upon them.

The banging continued.  Angel frowned.  That wasn't knocking.  It sounded
more like someone was kicking the door.  What kind of client kicked at a
door? "Doyle..." his tone was a warning.

He reached the door and pulled it open.  All his readiness drained away.
There was no way he could've prepared for what he was seeing.

Spike glared at him.  "Would you get out of the way?" he demanded.  "He
doesn't have much time."  The blond man stood on the stoop, cradling a
body in his arms.

Angel stood firm.  He leaned forward, peering at the face of the man in
Spike's grip.  Dark hair obscured a face that was soft in sleep, but the
dark-haired vampire could see that face was marked with lines of strain.
The sleeping man shifted, and the dark hair fell away.  "Xander?"

"Yeah.  So would you get out of the bleeding way?"  Spike pushed past
Angel, carrying the mortal inside.  "Where's your bed?"

Doyle stood up in alarm.  "You!"

Spike ignored him.  "Downstairs, is it?"

Angel moved to block his way to the elevator.  "What's going on?"

"I'll explain later.  I want to get him settled down first, all right?"

Beneath the belligerent front, Angel could see pleading in his Childe's
eyes. "Fine," he relented.  "It's downstairs.  I'll come with you."  He
escorted Spike downstairs, and pointed out the bedroom.

Spike disappeared inside.  After a few moments, he returned.  "I don't
want anyone near him, you hear?  Where's the actress?"

"She's not here.  Spike-"

"Food first.  I'm starving.  I'll explain while I eat."

Angel followed the other vampire into the kitchen.  On the way there, he
saw Doyle come down the stairs.

"I'll check on him," the half-demon murmured.

Angel nodded and continued on his way.  Giles had told him about the chip
in Spike's head, so he wasn't surprised by the request for food.  He was
losing his patience.  "What are you doing with Xander?"

Spike glanced at him as he removed his mug of blood from the microwave.
"He needs your help."

"My help?  How?"  That made no sense.  Xander hated him.  And if he did
need Angel, why on earth was *Spike* the one to bring him?

"There was Lrkantishnt loose in Sunnydale.  The Slayerettes helped your ex
take it down."  He took a sip.  "It managed to nick Xander."

Angel hissed.  That was bad; that was very bad.  Xander didn't have much

"Why'd Giles have *you* bring him up *here*?  There isn't time to waste."

"The Watcher doesn't know we're here."  He held up a hand to stop Angel's
outburst.  "He told Xander there wasn't a cure, that anyone who got hurt
would have to be killed.  He didn't let anyone know it caught him - he'd
decided to take care of the problem himself.  It was pure luck that I ran
into him before he could throw himself off a building."

Angel stared at his Childe, then looked over in the direction of the
bedroom. That sounded...exactly like Xander.  The kid had always been to
quick to conceal his own hurts, to hide what was important and try to
handle it himself.  "So why bring him here?"

"Because you're the only one I could think of who could help him."  Spike
shifted impatiently.  "We need to get moving.  Things are getting bad
again, and I'm not sure how long he'll stay-"  His words were cut off by
the sound of shouting and a crash from the bedroom.

"Doyle," Angel said, starting to move.

"I told you not to let anyone near him," Spike growled, knocking past him
and running for the bedroom.

Angel arrived right behind the blond man, and stared for a moment,
horrified by what he saw.

Xander had Doyle pinned done on the bed, despite the Irishman's struggles
to break free.  The brown-eyed man's face was twisted in an expression of
despair, and he was speaking.  "Please, get away, stop me, go, hit me,
damn you, get away, stop me," he begged continuously, even as he moved to
get a better grip on Doyle's wrists.

Angel had to stop this.  Once again, however, he was too late.

Spike was across the room in a matter of moments.  He grabbed Xander and
pulled him off the bed, off of Doyle.  He held the mortal tight against
him, pinning his arms to his sides.  Xander sagged against him, hiding his
face in the curve of Spike's neck as he slowly relaxed.  The blond vampire
murmured soothingly into Xander's ear, his hold on him becoming more
comforting, less restraining.

Angel helped Doyle up.  "What happened?"

"I have no idea.  I come in here to check on him, and the minute I got
close, he jumped me."  The half-demon frowned.  "He kept going on about me
needing to get away, but he wasn't letting me go."  He rubbed at his
wrists ruefully. "He's stronger than he looks."

A ragged sob pulled the brown-haired vampire's attention back to the other
two men.  Xander was shaking his head.  "I can't do this."

"Yes, you can, love.  We made it to Angel, everything will be all right."

"You saw what just happened.  It's no good.  It's not worth it."

"I'm sorry I left.  I won't do it again, I promise.  It's be all right, it
won't happen again."

"Get the tape."

"What?"  Spike sounded honestly confused.

"The tape.  You've got to go get it, or kill me.  I'm not going to take
any chances."  Xander drew in a shaky breath.  "It's started to hurt
again.  It's gonna get bad again."

Spike's gaze sought and found Angel's.  The older vampire stared back, and
nodded.  He felt sick inside, seeing Xander brought to this point.  Where
was the kid who never gave up?  Who faced down vampires and demons on a
nightly basis, with little more than a a couple of stakes and a headful of

Angel pushed away all his questions concerning Spike's behavior and
involvement with the mortal.

He was going to help.  He had to.


Doyle stood beside Angel, absently rubbing at one of his wrists.  He
wasn't actually hurt; severely surprised was more like it.  He'd heard
Angel talk about Sunnydale, and had gotten even more information from
Cordy about the people who lived there, so he had thought he'd known what
to expect if he ever met Xander Harris.

According to Angel, Xander was...a boy.  A boy who wasn't very fond of
Angel. The half-demon frowned.  Come to think of it, Angel never did talk
about Xander all that much.  Of course, that fit in perfectly with the
whole laconic-broody-vampire thing he had going, but still.  He talked
less about Xander than he did about Buffy.

Cordy on the other hand was a completely different story.  His princess
had plenty of stories to tell about her ex, and from them, Doyle had come
to expect a somewhat doofy, somewhat eager kid, always ready with a quick
comment or quip.

Nothing had prepared him for what he had found in Angel's bedroom.  He'd
gone in to check on the kid, sure that no one looking unconscious and in
the company of Spike could possibly be all right.  Xander had been laying
so still, and Doyle had leaned in to get a better look.

That was when the other man's eyes had flared open, and he had grabbed
Doyle, wrestling him to the bed.

Doyle felt a surge of resentment.  Cordy had never mentioned that the kid
was some kind of maniac.  Or that he had some kind of attachment to the
blond psychopath, judging by the way Spike was holding him.  He glared
over at Xander for a moment, and then began to listen to what the
brown-eyed man was saying to Spike.  At the sound of those broken words of
regret, his anger melted away.  Xander sounded so disoriented, so
frightened, so horrified and regretful.

"I just woke up," the younger man said distractedly, "and it was back.
Not as bad as before, but when he surprised me, there was nothing I could
do.  I didn't want to..."

He listened as Spike tried to soothe the young man.  "Look, love, no harm
done.  It was an accident, and no one got hurt.  You didn't do anything."
Intense blue eyes met the half-demon's in a commanding stare.  "He's going
to come over and show you all right?  He's not hurt, and he doesn't hate

Doyle approached carefully.  Apparently the reason Xander had attacked him
was tied up with the reason he and Spike were here looking for help.  It
sounded almost like the kid might be possessed.  After an encouraging look
from Angel, he moved to stand right behind Xander.  "S'all right, Xander.
No harm done at all, see?"  He tried out a smile.

The smile faltered a little as Xander turned carefully in Spike's arms to
look at him.  Those brown eyes were dark, with both emotion and pain.  The
young man stared at him, eyes gaze searching Doyle's for a moment, then
moving to inspect his face and body.  A frown creased his brow.

The Irishman managed not to flinch back when Xander raised a hand and
moved it toward Doyle's face.  Gentle fingers brushed his cheek in a
feather light caress.  "There's a bruise.  I did that, didn't I?  I'm

Doyle resisted the urge to lean into the touch and got a hold of himself.
What was he thinking?  "Don't worry about it," he said, smiling
reassuringly. "I've gotten worse falling out of bed."

"Or falling toward the bed, and missing," Angel added.

Xander didn't look convinced.  "You're sure?  I didn't hurt you anywhere

"I'm sure.  Consider it forgotten, eh?"  He waited until the other man
nodded hesitantly, and then grinned.  "So let's get cracking on getting
you better."

The brown-eyed man shook his head.  "First, Spike goes and gets the tape.
Or rope; Angel, you have rope, don't you?"  His voice was bleak.

Behind him, Spike shook his head.  "That isn't going to work, love.  We
tried it-"

"And I stayed put, didn't I?  Go get the tape.  I'm not going to risk
hurting anyone else.  I'll just sit quietly in my chair until you get
things figured out, or you give up."

"That's not going to happen," Spike said fiercely.  He glared at Xander
for a moment, then transferred the baleful look to Angel.  "C'mere and
hold him," he said.  "I gotta go back to the car."

Angel crossed the room and grasped Xander gently by his upper arms,
holding him still.

Doyle debated following Spike, just to keep an eye on him, but somehow he
couldn't bring himself to leave Xander.  He wasn't sure where the
fascination was coming from, but he didn't want to let the younger man out
of his sight. He watched as Xander shifted uncomfortably in Angel's grip.

"Hi, Deadboy," the tired-looking man said quietly.  "I don't want to ask
another favor of you-"

"Ask anything you want," Angel interrupted.  "I'm going to find a way to
help you, Xander.  I promise you that."

Xander nodded jerkily.  "I know.  But if things go wrong, I need you to
promise me something else."

"Things won't go-"

"Promise me!"

"Promise you what?"

"That you'll kill me."  Xander looked up, and Doyle caught sight of unshed
tears in his eyes.  "I know it's asking a lot, but I don't think Spike'll
be able to manage it, and I can't trust myself anymore to follow through
with it. I need to know that I'm not going to hurt anybody else, that I'm not
going to be a mess that Buffy's going to have to come and clean up."

Angel shook his head.  "Xander..."

"Please, Deadboy?  Angel?"  A shaky smile twisted Xander's lips.
"Consider it payback, if it makes it easier."

"No!"  Angel pulled Xander to him hesitantly, enfolding him in a loose
embrace.  "There's nothing to payback.  Nothing," he repeated, overriding
Xander's protests.

"We're going to find a way to save you," Doyle added.  "We will."

There was a strangled noise from the doorway as Spike entered the room.
He moved quickly, and pulled Xander away from Angel.  "There's a chair out
here," he said shortly, dragging Xander with him into the other room.

Doyle and Angel trailed after them, and watched as Spike taped Xander's
arms to his sides, and his ankles together, before taping him to one of
Angel's chairs.  After he finished, he knelt in front Xander.  "This isn't
going to work for long," he said.

"It's gonna have to."  Xander's tone was fatalistic.  He glance over at
Angel. "And of course you wouldn't have a TV here, would you, Deadboy?"

Angel took a step forward.  "I could try to find one."

"Don't worry about it.  I'll just sit here and brood for a while.  If you
don't find a cure soon, you might find your run as the reigning champion
of broodiness in danger, after I've gotten in some practice."

Spike shook his head.  "Call if you need anything, all right, love?"

Xander nodded.

Doyle followed the two vampire up to Angel's office.  Once there, he
asked, "So what do we need to fix him?  And what's wrong with him?"

Angel briefly explained what was wrong.  "But a cure isn't going to be
easy to find.  I don't know of one."  He walked over to his collection of
books and began to pull volumes loose.  "We're going to have to look
through these."

Doyle accepted his share of the pile and sat down.  He skimmed through
them carefully, but couldn't find any reference to a cure for the effects
of being injured by a lust-demon, only a list of the symptoms and a
suggestion that any sufferer be killed immediately.  Either that, or
enjoyed thoroughly, and then killed.

After two hours, he hadn't had any luck with any of the books he'd gone
through, and neither had Spike with his share.  Angel had shifted to the
computer, but judging from the scowl on his face, things weren't going
well for him either.

The Irishman stood up and stretched.  Neither of the other two men
noticed, so involved were they in their research.  Doyle decided to go
downstairs and check on Xander, and make sure the other man was all right.
There hadn't been any shouts for assistance, but it would make him feel
better to see with his own eyes.

As he rode down in the elevator, Doyle found himself hoping that Angel
found the answer soon.  He now knew how much Xander was suffering, and he
didn't want that.  Something about the kid made Doyle wish he could just
take the problem away, so he wouldn't have to hurt anymore.

In the living room, he stopped dead once he realized what he was seeing.
Xander was rocking back and forth quietly, sobbing erratically, quietly.

Doyle debated going to him, but instead went back upstairs.  Angel would
be able to help better, he was sure of it.  Once he got upstairs, he
half-ran to where the other two men were.  "It's Xander," he said, getting
ready to explain.

He never got the chance.  As soon as he spoke, Spike leapt to his feet and
made a dash for the stairs, bypassing the elevator.  In his flight, he
knocked Doyle over.  Angel helped the half-demon to his feet, and together
they chased after the blond man.


Spike slid to his knees beside the chair in which Xander was bound.  He
reached out a hand and forced the dark-haired man to look at him.  Well,
at least face him:  Xander's eyes were shut tightly, as if to block out
everything around him, to try to deny the situation he was in.

The blond vampire could feel the tremors wracking Xander's frame, worse
than they had in the hotel room.  He knew he couldn't just leave the
mortal like this; he had to be in a lot of pain, and Spike wasn't going to
let that continue.  Not when he could do something about it.

"All right, love," he said, tearing away the tape binding Xander's ankles,
"we tried it your way.  Now it's time to try mine again."  The brown eyes
flew open at that, but he didn't give Xander a chance to protest.  "You
know it will help.  It did before."

"I can't make you do that again..." the seated man whispered.

"You're not making me do anything, love, you know that."  He continued to
tear away the tape until Xander was free.  "C'mon.  Let's see about making
you feel better, eh?"

Warm hands reached out and grasped his face with surprising strength.
Xander stared down at him intently.  "Tell me you want this.  Tell me!"

The scent of blood hit Spike hard.  Taking Xander's hands in his, he
turned them palm up.  A row of crescent moons on each was bleeding
lightly:  the dark-haired man had clenched his fists so hard that his
nails and cut into his flesh.  The vampire drew his tongue wetly across
each of the bloody rows, lapping up what liquid he could.  "I want this,"
he said, holding Xander's gaze.  "I want *you*."

Xander pulled Spike up to him, devouring his mouth hungrily.  Spike
responded eagerly, uncaring of their audience of two.  He wasn't sure that
Xander was even aware of Angel and Doyle in the room, or if his present
state made it irrelevant to him.

The vampire finally pulled back, but Xander followed his motion, wrapping
his arms around Spike to prevent him from getting too far away.  Shrugging
mentally, the blond man allowed it, and returned the embrace.  Locked
together, Spike managed to maneuver them over into Angel's room.

Once inside, he tumbled Xander to the bed.  Of course, since the mortal
refused to release him, Spike fell down on top of him.  Both men began to
tear at the other's clothing, eager for the sensation of naked flesh on

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Of course Angel couldn't just let this happen, could he?  Oh, no, he had
to go sticking his nose in.  Spike had expected it, but he resented the
intrusion just the same.  With supreme effort of will, he managed to tear
his mouth away from Xander's.  "What does it look like I'm doing?"

"Get away from him."

Spike shook his head.  "This is the only thing we've got that can help
him. I'm not going to let him hurt, Angel."  He watched as his Sire slowly
nodded, but the older vampire made no move to leave the room.

Spike wasn't surprised.  Angel had always been protective Xander, in a
strangely furtive fashion.  Angelus had been more direct, forbidding
anyone to take any action against him at all, jealous of any attention
paid to him.  The blond man didn't know if Angel was still possessive of
Xander, but judging by his continuing presence, he probably was.

If he wanted to watch, fine.  It wasn't as if Spike hadn't performed in
front of an audience before, and Xander was in no condition to notice his

The vampire returned all of his attention to the man writhing beneath him.
A few more minutes of concentrated effort, and they were both naked.  As
much as Spike might like to draw out the encounter, he knew that teasing
Xander in anyway would just prolong his pain.

That in mind, he made his way down the dark-haired man's body, moving
unerringly toward the erection awaiting his attention.  Xander only
withstood a few minutes' attention:  Spike was too skilled, and the mortal
too eager, for him to hold out any longer.

The blond man crawled back up the bed, blanketing the body beneath his.
He waited for Xander's breathing to return to normal.  When the brown eyes
opened once more, Spike began to kiss him, hoping to seduce him all over
again. Xander responded enthusiastically, his hands moving over Spike's
back, leaving tantalizing trails of warmth on his cool skin.

With sudden effort, Xander flipped them over.  Spike stared up at him, a
growing smile on his face.  The dark-haired man returned the smile, then
bent his head so he could lick his way down Spike's neck, marking a wet
path to his throat.

The vampire groaned appreciatively, tilting his head to the side to allow
him better access.  The mortal took his time, lavishing attention on the
vampiric hot spot.  Finally, he began to continue his way southward.

As much as Spike wanted to allow him to do so, to feel that hot mouth
wrapped around him, he couldn't.  This was about Xander.  He grabbed the
other man and pulled him back up so he could look him in the eye.  "How
'bout we try something, love?"

Xander licked his lips.  "Like what?"

"Like maybe this time you could fuck me."  Spike smiled in what he thought
was a winning manner.  He wasn't usually ruled by a sense of fair play,
but he wanted to do this for Xander.  Hell, he wanted to do it for

Xander's reaction was immediate.  "No.  I can't do that, I can't..." he
started to pull away from Spike.

Cursing inwardly, the vampire pulled him back down.  He should have
figured that Xander's fear of forcing him into something would linger,
even after he'd told Xander he was a willing participant.  He made
soothing noises, wrapping his arms tightly around the younger man so he
couldn't escape.  "Never mind, love.  Never mind.  What would you like to

After a few moments, the dark-haired man met his gaze.  "Could we do what
we did before?"  The flush in his cheeks wasn't just from arousal, but his
gaze was steady.

Spike pulled him down for a long, heated kiss, thoroughly claiming the
other's mouth as his own.  When he finally released Xander, he grinned.
"Course we can, love."  Now it was his turn to flip them over, so he could
be in the perfect position to bring as much pleasure to the mortal as

He set himself to the task of making the dark-haired man incoherent with
ecstasy.  He soon had Xander nearly sobbing it, completely prepared and
ready for him.  He entered the younger man with a single smooth thrust,
eyes drinking in the sight of Xander's face contorted in pleasure and

He soon came to realize that Xander's gasps were modulating into words.
"All of it, please, do all of it..."

With an electric shudder, Spike understood what the brown-eyed man was
asking for.  He couldn't resist.  He leaned down, continuing his thrusts,
and sank his fangs into Xander's neck with exquisite slowness.

With an ecstatic wail, Xander came hard, then lay still, again passing out
with the force of his release.  The contractions of his body wrung Spike's
orgasm from him, and he withdrew his teeth from the smooth flesh to cry
out his own completion.

He collapsed down on top of the unconscious man.  After a moment, he
turned his head to the side so he could lick at Xander's neck, cleaning
away any lingering traces of blood with greedy possessiveness.

"I thought that implant stopped you from biting people."

Spike had almost forgotten his Sire's presence.  Gathering Xander closer
into his arms, he turned a little to face Angel.  "It stops me from
hurting humans," he corrected.  "Xander seems to be an exception."  He
returned to his ministrations to the sweat-slick neck before him.

"I'm not going to let you hurt him."

"Piss off.  I'm not going to hurt him."  Spike resisted the urge to get up
and show Angel that vampires weren't protected by the chip.  There wasn't
time for that.  Besides, he had a now-sleeping Xander laying warm and
heavy in his arms.

Angel shifted in the doorway, but apparently decided the shelve the
argument as well.  "I'm going to go find some of my sources, see if they
have anything they can tell me.  I'll be back soon."  There were only
traces of a threat in his voice.

"Run a bath before you go, will you?  I want to clean him up."

Angel didn't answer, but Spike knew he'd do it.  It was for Xander, and
Angel still had whatever attachment he'd had for him before.

The blond man pushed those thoughts from his head, and continued to lick
at the flesh he was holding so close to him.  Angel could wait.  Xander
was what mattered.


Xander didn't want to wake up, but there was no use in resisting; he could
feel himself rising inexorably out of sleep toward full consciousness.  At
the feeling of hands moving over his body, his eyelids flew open.  At
first, he wasn't sure that he was actually awake - the scene that greeted
him was that bizarre.

Spike was kneeling beside him on the bed, and was in the finishing process
of pulling a pair of pyjama bottoms up Xander's legs.  Looking down at
himself, the brown-eyed man saw that he was already wearing the top.  He
could possibly have accepted this, but it was the pyjamas themselves that
were throwing him off so badly.  Electric yellow and fluorescent orange
ducklings frolicked on a dark purple background.  They were quite possibly
the ugliest things Xander had ever seen, and living on the Hellmouth, he
*knew* from ugly, was a veritable expert on the subject, even.

Xander finally forced himself to look away and glanced up, right into
Spike's blue eyes.  The vampire hovered over him, looking faintly anxious.
"How are you?"

The younger man took a moment to find out.  He did feel better, just like
after the last time they'd had sex.  And just like last time, he could
feel that the fire inside him was barely banked, and was just needed time
to become the agony it had been.  "I'm good," he answered.  "I can think
again, at least."

"Do you hurt anymore?"

Xander shot a slightly bewildered look at Spike.  Why should that matter
to the vampire?  So long as he was alive, Spike was doing his good deed
for the day.  "No, not anymore."  He hesitated, chewing on the inside of
his lip. "Um, thank you."

The blond man smiled, which confused Xander even more.  Spike didn't
smile. He grinned, or he sneered, or he smirked.  But that was definitely
a smile there, on his face.  On his chiseled, strong-featured, handsome
face...Xander bit down harder on his lip.  He didn't have the frantic lust
to excuse his thoughts right now.  He had to watch himself; he didn't want
to get attached to Spike, and then lose him when this was all over.

Uncomfortable in the silence that had fallen, Xander raised one of his
hands to rub at the back of his neck.  He flinched away, surprised to find
that his hair was wet.  "What?"

Then Spike was beside him, sitting close on the bed.  He reached out and
ran his hand over the mortal's wet hair.  "Gave you a bath, didn't I?  You
were dead to the world, but I thought it would be a good idea."

Now he was even more confused.  Why would it be a good idea?  Because it
made Xander feel better?  He was beginning to be more freaked out by Spike
than the rest of the situation.

The pyjamas weren't helping, either.  "Where did these come from?"

"Found'em wadded up in the back of the closet there.  I didn't think you'd
want to get back into your own clothes, so I took these."  A slightly
wicked grin crossed his face.  "I'm just waiting for Angel to get back, so
he can see them.  I can't wait to hear his explanation."

Xander found himself grinning back.  He played back Spike's words in his

"When Angel gets back?  Where is he?"  He didn't comment on the fact that
Spike was continuing to stroke his damp hair.  The vampire didn't seem to
notice what he was doing, and Xander was rather enjoying the experience.

"Out running down a few of his contacts.  He thinks one of them might be
able to help find a cure for you.  The other one is up on the computer,
looking for information on the Internet."

The brown-eyed man ruthlessly squashed the warmth he felt at the thought
of Angel helping him.  Reviving an unrequited love right now would *not*
be helping the situation.  But thinking of Angel helping him brought up
the inevitable question:  why was Spike helping him?

Licking his lips, Xander dredged up the courage he needed.  "Spike?  Why
are you doing this?  Why are you helping me, really?"

The hand running through his hair paused for a moment, then continued its
motion.  "I'm not sure, love," the vampire said honestly.  A sudden grin
crossed his face.  "It's been fun, though, I must admit."

Feeling unaccountably disappointed, Xander looked down, focusing on the
hideous pyjamas that hung on him.  A cool hand under his chin forced his
head back up.  Spike was right there, scooting closer and invading
Xander's space. Blue eyes searched his face closely.  "You're looking
better," the vampire commented.

Xander pulled his chin free.  "What do you care?  So long as I'm alive,
that should be enough."  He was tired of being confused, tired of being
scared to relax because he had no idea where he stood, or what the vampire
was going to do next.

Silence ruled for a moment, and then the hand was back under his chin.
Spike was even closer than before.  "I don't know why, but I do care," he
said softly.  "It matters to me, if you're hurting or not."

Xander stared at him, startled into speechlessness.

The vampire slid into the bed beside him, and pulled him into his arms.
"I think you could do with some more sleep."  His arms were strong, and

Xander was tempted to do just that, but he was tired of sleeping as well.
He settled down into the vampire's arms.  "So you care?"

"You're not going to just leave this alone, are you?"  Spike only sounded
mildly exasperated.

"Of course not.  Mr. Big Bad Evil Undead Fiend admits he cares about me?
And the world doesn't come to an end?  Of course, I'm going to ask
questions." Behind the joke, Xander was hoping very much for an answer.
It would be nice to have someone really care, for once.

With a sigh, the blond man pulled Xander closer, wrapping his arms around
him even more tightly.  "I'm about as confused as you are, love.  I just
know that I'm not going to let you die, that I'm not going to let you hurt
if I can help it."

That was enough for Xander.  He hadn't even expected to get that much of
an admission from the other man.  He felt himself finally begin to relax.

Of course, that was the moment when the bedroom door swung open.  Doyle
poked his head through the opening, peering cautiously into the room.

Xander half-expected Spike to jerk away, now that they had an audience,
but the vampire did no such thing.  Instead, he just cocked his head to
the side and stared evenly at the half-demon.  "What do you want?"

"Oh, I just came down to check on the two of you."  The Irishman seemed a
little nervous.

The brown-eyed man regretted that, and he blamed himself.  How else should
Doyle feel?  The first time Xander had come anywhere near him, he'd tried
jumped him.  "I'm doing all right," he said reassuringly.  "I'm a lot
better now."

"That's good," Doyle replied, bobbing his head quickly.  His gaze darted
from Spike to Xander and back again.  "I also came to tell you that Angel
isn't back yet, and I'm not having much luck on the computer.  I'm not
trying to scare you, you understand, I just want to let you know what's
going on."

Xander burrowed closer to Spike.  He hadn't really gotten his hopes up,
but it was still disheartening to hear that they hadn't found anything
yet.  "Have you learned anything at all?"

"A bit.  A few things that might be helpful."  The green-eyed man cleared
his throat uncomfortably.  "Er...this temporary cure you've been using?
In the end, it's going to be as dangerous as the fever.  Either one will
burn you out, or the other will exhaust you beyond recovery."

Xander felt Spike begin to draw away, and he wrapped his arms around the
vampire, holding him in place.  "Thanks," he said to Doyle.  "I really
appreciate what you're doing for me."

The half-demon shrugged, but the smile on his face looked pleased.  "I'm
going to get back to researching.  I'll let you know if I find anything."

"No, actually, you won't," disagreed Spike.

"What?" Xander and Doyle looked over at each other as they spoke in

"You're going to research, and keep an eye on Xander."  The vampire looked
at the dark-haired man seriously.  "I've got some contacts of my own in
town, and I want to go check them out.  Maybe one of them can help."

Xander nodded.  "All right."  With a twinge of regret, he let Spike go.

The vampire pulled on boots and his jacket quickly.  Fully dressed, he
turned to glared menacingly at Doyle.  "If anything happens to him while
I'm gone, anything at all, not even Angel will be able to save you."

"Spike!" Xander protested.

The blond man ignored him.  "You understand me?"

Doyle glared back at him.  "I'm trying to save him, too.  Don't waste time
with threats; just go find your friends."

Spike turned back to Xander, and walked back over to the bed.  "I won't be
long," he promised.  He leaned down and caught Xander's lips with his own.

At first, Xander was completely shocked by the gesture, but soon he lost
himself in the mouth consuming his.  When Spike finally pulled back, the
brown-eyed man was unsurprised by the noise of protest that welled up from
within him.

Spike smiled down at him.  "I'll be back soon," he repeated, and then he
was gone.

Xander was vaguely aware that Doyle was staring after the vampire, but he
was too busy doing the same to give it much notice.  He was still
confused, but almost in a good way.  He still wasn't sure what was going
on, but at least he wasn't alone in it anymore.  Spike was with him, and
was going to stay with him to see it through.


Doyle finally managed to tear his eyes away from the path the blond
vampire had taken.  He glanced back over at Xander, who was still staring
out the door.  The Irishman took a few hesitant steps into the room.  He
fully admitted to himself that he was feeling nervousness bordering on

Not from Xander, not anymore.  He knew now that all of Xander's actions
toward him had been caused by the infection in his veins.  All except the
apology - according to Angel, that was pure Xander.  No, all his fear was
coming from Spike's threat.  He had no doubts that the vampire would make
good on his threat if anything happened to Xander.

It was strange.  Spike was a soulless, remorseless killer, but he was
obviously attached to the brown-eyed man.  Doyle wasn't sure what exactly
lay between the two men, but he was going to do his best to stay out from
between them.

Never mind how appealing Xander looked, even in the most god-awful pyjamas
that he had ever seen.

"So," Doyle said, drawing Xander's attention back to himself.  "If you're
feeling better, maybe you'd like to help with research a bit?"

The dark-haired man smiled.  "Research I can do."  He swung his legs over
the side of the bed.  "I'm not so sure that I can do these pyjamas,

"Where did you find those?"

"Spike dug them out of Deadboy's closet, actually."  Xander's grin was
wide and delighted.  "I think I'm going to leave'em on.  I'd like to see
his reaction when he sees them myself."

As they rode up in the elevator together, Doyle commented, "'Deadboy', is
it? I take it you and Angel didn't get along, then."

Xander's grin faded a little.  "Yeah, you could say that."  His voice was
quiet.  "A lot of it was me, you know?  But I think he must've gotten over
it, if he's helping me."

Doyle nodded his agreement.  Angel was going quietly insane trying to find
a cure.  It was actually a relief when the vampire had gone out to the
street - he was beginning to make Doyle a little crazy.

He settled Xander down in a chair with a stack of books, while he got back
online.  The research time actually passed fairly quickly.  Xander moved
rapidly through his pile of books, skimming them with intense
concentration. He hardly seemed aware of the sarcastic commentary that
fell from his lips as he responded to what he was reading.

Doyle noticed it, and loved it.  It was a refreshing change from the usual
mood of silent urgency in which he was accustomed to working.  He
discovered that Xander was used to doing research, and could manage to
read and hold up one side of a conversation, albeit one with long pauses
in it.

Soon, the Irishman became aware of the fact that it had been quite some
time since he had been able to feel his ass.  He stood up and stretched.
"I'm going to make a quick refreshment run.  You want anything?"

"Just not doughnuts."  There was a bitter twist to Xander's lips.  "But
chocolate would be good."

"I'll see what I can do."  Doyle headed down to Angel's kitchen, and
managed to scrounge up some food, including some chocolate cookies.  He
carried it all back up to the office.  "Here you go," he said, leaning
down to hand Xander his share.

As Xander reached up to grab the napkin loaded with sugar-laced goodies,
his hand brushed over Doyle's.  A soft hiss came from the seated man, and
his hand continued to move upward, caressing its way up the half-demon's

Doyle froze as Xander's gaze locked onto his.  With an alluring smile, the
brown-eyed man sat up and drew Doyle closer to him.  The Irishman knew he
should resist, but there was something about that smile, about the clean
scent of the man so close to him...his eyes slid shut as their lips met.
He moaned as Xander deepened the kiss, and the goodies dropped from his

The cookies fell into Xander's lap, and that seemed to break the moment.
The dark-haired man shrank away from Doyle, hands coming up to cover his
face. Muffled protests spilled out from behind them.  "I am so sorry.  I
didn't know it was so bad, please..."

"It's all right," Doyle said, hovering anxiously.  He wasn't upset, except
maybe with himself.  He couldn't believe he was taking advantage of
Xander. Just because he found the kid attractive was no reason to do this.

Even if it had felt better than anything had in a long time.

"I'm all right, everything is fine."  He smiled when Xander dropped his
hands. "Is it starting to get bad again?"

"Yeah," Xander nodded shakily.  "It goes so slow, I really didn't notice.
The research was a good distraction, too."  He licked his lips.  "I think
it's time for me to get back in the chair again."

Doyle hesitated.  He didn't like the idea at all.  "Are you sure?"

"Yeah.  I'd feel a lot better."

Doyle followed him back to Angel's sitting room.  As he wrapped the
remaining duct tape around Xander, he told him, "You call me if you need
me.  Don't try to wait for the others to get back; you let me know if
things get bad.  We'll figure something out."  He could tell that even
thought the other man nodded, he had no intention of calling him.

Fine.  Doyle worked with Angel.  He was used to this overly noble sort of
shit.  He'd just come and check on the kid often.

Back upstairs, Doyle continued his research, but he was somewhat
distracted. Where the hell were Angel and Spike?  They'd been gone for
hours.  He knew both of the vampires could take care of themselves, but
still.  Spike at least should've come back, knowing that Xander wouldn't
be able to hold out for too long.

He soon became absorbed the research, once he came across a site that
promised to have a way to help Xander.  Unfortunately, the help looked
like some sort of incantation, and it was in a language he was completely
unfamiliar with. He tried to decipher it, to translate it, but it was
beyond him.  Finally, he gave up, printing it out.  He'd show it to Angel
when he got back.

Speaking of Angel...he glanced over at the clock.  Shit!  He'd gotten so
caught up in trying to translate the web page that he'd completely lost
track of time.  A few hours had passed.  He ran to the elevator, and
shifted about in agitation during the ride down.  How was Xander?

His question answered when he entered the room.  As he had suspected,
Xander had refused to call out for help.  Instead, he was rocking back and
forth, as far as the tape would allow him to, moaning quietly.

"Shit.  I'm sorry, Xander, I'm so sorry."  Doyle ran over to his side.
How could he help?  He could only come up with one idea.  Licking his
lips, he stared down at Xander.  He knew he was attracted to him.  At
first, it had been purely physical; the kid was hot.  But listening to him
joke around in the office, talking with him, seeing him struggle and bear
up so well in the situation he was in, this made it more.

He could do this.

He squatted beside the chair.  "Xander, I need you to listen to me, all
right? I'm going to let you loose now."

"No!  Just wait.  I'll be fine."

"It's only going to get worse.  You and I both know that.  We can't wait
for Spike to get back.  Are you going to be OK with this?"  He forced
Xander to look at him, not letting the younger man avoid his gaze any

"I can't ask you to..." the dark-haired man's whisper was barely audible.

"I'm the one doing the asking."  Doyle tried out a smile.  "I want to help
you, Xander.  And it's not as though it would be some sort of sacrifice on
my part."  He changed his hold on Xander's face to a caress, trying to
comfort and seduce him at the same time.

The brown-eyed man hesitated, then nodded slowly.  "But leave my hands
bound, K?  I don't want to be able to hurt you."

"Now, are you sure that isn't just a sneaky way to get me to agree to
kinky sex?"  Doyle was pleased and enormously relieved when Xander smiled
back at him and shrugged non-committally.  He quickly finished cutting
away the tape from the other man, except for that on his hands.  That
done, he helped him stand.

They walked together to Angel's bedroom, both silent.  Doyle was nervous.
He knew he had to do this, knew it was the only way to help Xander, but
still. This was moving fast, even for him.  With a sudden rueful insight,
he realized that he would've liked to maybe pursue the boy under normal

Well, as normal as circumstances ever got in his life.

Once they reached the bedroom, Doyle's nervousness returned a hundredfold.
He knew he couldn't hesitate - every moment brought Xander closer to the
edge, both physically and emotionally.

Xander was staring down at the floor.  Doyle moved to stand next to him.
He reached out and plucked at the loose pyjamas.  "What say we get rid of
these? I don't know about you, but I tend to find waterfowl a moodkiller."

A startled laugh burst forth from Xander.  "Me, too.  Especially
fluorescent waterfowl."  Between the two of them, they managed to tear
away the tank top, ripping it down the seams and throwing it to the floor.

Doyle pulled off both his over and under shirts, leaving them on the floor
as well.  He pulled Xander to stand beside him.  "You all right?"

The brown-eyed man shrugged.  His hands crept up to rest on Doyle's
shoulders. "I'm sure I'll get better."  He swayed toward the Irishman, lips parted in anticipation.

There was no way Doyle could resist that.  He angled his head and pressed
his lips to Xander's.  That contact was all it took to destroy all of both
of their nervousness.  Hands roaming in frantic exploration over the body
in his arms, Doyle moved them toward the bed, falling to the mattress with
Xander still held firmly against him.

Sharing long, slow kisses, they built the fire between them higher.  One
hand roaming inquisitively over Xander's chest, Doyle reached down with
the other to tug at the other man's pants.  As soon as he grasped the
elastic waist of the pyjama bottoms, the door to the bedroom flew open
with a thunderous crash.

"What the hell is going on here?"

Doyle looked up, and saw Spike coming toward him, vamping out into full
gameface, murder clear in his jealous, glittering gaze.


Angel was following Spike through his apartment.  He'd found a collection
of papers abandoned at the printer in the office, and was reading them as
he walked.  It was an incantation of T'k'esh demon origin, and he thought
it just might be the key to helping Xander.

His attention was jerked away from the paper by Spike's enraged shout.  He
looked up, and over his Childe's shoulder he was able to see what had
upset the blond man so much:  Doyle and Xander, half-naked and entwined as
they lay together in his bed.

Ignoring the twisting of his own emotions, Angel lunged forward and
grabbed Spike, hauling him backwards.  A few quick moves, and he had
Spike's arms pinned to his sides.

On the bed, Xander and Doyle sprang apart.  The Irishman slowly rose to
his feet.  "Now, Spike," the half-demon said, and outspread in a placating
manner, "you just need to calm down.  Xander needed help, and we had no
way of knowing when you'd be getting back.  I couldn't just leave him be,
now could I?"

"Yes, you could," the younger vampire hissed, straining against Angel's
hold. "You shouldn't have touched him."

"He needed-"

"He needed me!  Not you, half-breed.  Me.  Xander is mine!"

Angel was stunned to hear those words coming from Spike's mouth.  He had
no idea that the other vampire was so attached to Xander, to be making
such a blatant claim on him.

Especially when Angel had made it clear he was to do no such thing.  Of
course, when he had done so he had been Angelus, and warned his Childe off
because he had some plans for Xander himself.  His demon regarded the
mortal with a sense of predatory proprietiness, as though he were a
possession he hadn't quite gotten around to claiming yet, the way a wolf
might look upon its prey.

Once he had returned from his sojourn in hell, Angel had done his best to
ignore his feelings toward Xander, which lingered even after his soul was
restored.  They had refused to fade, however, and seeing the boy was
bringing them all back to the forefront of his awareness.  Which might
actually be a good thing, since hearing Spike try to claim *his* Xander
was giving Angel the strength he needed to stop the other vampire from
tearing Doyle's throat out.

The argument between the two men raged on.  "I was only trying to help!"
the half-demon protested.

"I know what you were trying to do.  It won't work, you hear me?  You just
stay away from Xander."

"You'd been gone for hours, what was I supposed to do?  I wanted to help

Spike suddenly relaxed in Angel's grasp.  "And that's the reason I won't
kill you for it.  Just don't let it happen again."

"Let it happen?!"  Doyle was indignant.

Cautiously, Angel released Spike.  The blond vampire was back in human
guise, and the only action he took upon being freed was to take a step
forward and continuing his bickering with Doyle.  The two men were so
caught up in their discussion that they didn't notice when Xander slid out
of bed and slipped out of the bedroom.

Angel saw.  He left the other two men to their argument, and followed the
mortal.  He watched as Xander made his way into the bathroom.  The
dark-haired man tried to rinse off his face, but was hampered by the fact
that his wrists were still taped together.

The tall vampire waited until he was finished, then asked softly, "How are
you doing?"

Xander shrugged.  "I guess I'm all right.  Just a little
extra-hormonal-teenagery.  Just like being me, only more so.  Way more

Angel smiled in spite of himself.  He'd missed Xander's special brand of
sarcasm.  "I mean really, Xander.  Without the spin you usually put on

The brown-eyed man shrugged.  "About the same, then.  It keeps getting
worse faster, though.  I think I'm running out of time."  He tried to
brush past Angel through the doorway, but miscalculated, and tripped.
With his hands bound, there was no way he could catch himself.

Angel's reached out and grabbed him, holding him steady while he got his
feet back under himself.  "Careful," he said,  more to himself than to
Xander. This was dangerous, and foolish...

...and Xander was staring up at him with dark eyes, pupils so dilated they
looked black, and he smelled of want and need and something else,
something small and hidden and hopeful and completely irresistible.

With a low sound deep in his chest, Angel bowed his head and pulled Xander
close to him.  He hesitated for just a moment, the last vestiges of his
control still in place.  Xander was under no such constraint.  He surged
upwards, sealing his mouth to Angel's.

That was all it took to destroy Angel's control.  He leaned into the kiss,
exploring the warm heat beneath his lips with insatiable curiosity.  His
hands roamed over the smooth bare skin pressed so close to him, greedily
stealing its warmth.  He never wanted it to end - it had been so long
since he had felt anything like it, and he'd been fighting this pull
toward Xander for so long. Finally, he pulled back, knowing that Xander
had to breathe.

Heavy-lidded brown eyes slowly swept open to stare up at him.  Angel could
see thought return to Xander's gaze, and watched as the other man's face
contorted into weary self-loathing.

"You see?" Xander said, hanging his head as if it was too much effort to
hold it up.  "I'm getting worse, and I'm dragging everyone down with me.
Spike, fine.  He seems to be enjoying it.  But Doyle, and you..."  His
voice trailed away.

No.  Angel couldn't let him think that.  "Xander, you don't understand."

"I'm too tired to understand.  How much longer do I have?  A few days?  I
know my life's always been an enormous joke, but I thought maybe I could
at least get my death right.  You should just kill me now."

"No!"  Angel grabbed Xander and pulled him close once more.  "You can't
think that.  And you can't give up hope.  I think we've found something.
One of my sources is a T'k'esh demon, and he thought he'd heard of cure,
performed by his clan's shamans.  Doyle found an incantation in T'k'eshi,
and I think it might be just what we need."

"Really?"  There was unwilling hope in the dark-haired man's gaze.

"I just need to look it over a little more, but yes.  I really think so."
He paused, then licked his lips.  "But you need help, and spells take time
to prepare.  If you don't want to rely on Spike, then I...I can help you."
He hoped he wasn't making things worse with his admission.

"I don't understand."  Xander's voice was confused, and a little

"I mean that I could help you.  That I want to help you."  He moved a
little closer to the man in his arms.  "I don't want you thinking you're a
burden.  I might wish the circumstances were different, but I can't regret
having a chance with you."  It was true.  He'd barely been able to resist
the urge to push Spike aside when he'd seen him tumble Xander to the bed,
to force his Childe to move aside and take his place.  The only thing
stopping him had been the fact that he didn't know if Xander would welcome
his advances.  Now that he knew, though...

Xander shook his head.  "Are you sure I'm not just hallucinating this?
I've had dreams like this before, and they never end well.  At least not
for my sheets."

Only Xander could make Angel feel honored to be the focus of wet dreams.
"Not a hallucination," he promised.  "Do hallucinations feel like this?"
Once more he leaned down to capture Xander's lips in a kiss.

This time, there was no resistance in Xander, and Angel reveled in the
feeling of the warm man so close to him.  Soon, Xander's bound arms were
looped around Angel's neck, pulling the mortal even more firmly against
the vampire.  This went beyond any of Angel's fantasies; it was real, and
he wanted more.  With a desperate moan, he pulled Xander up off his feet.
He could carry him back to the bedroom, and not lose a moment's contact
with the intoxicating mouth that was vying for dominance with his own.

His plan was interrupted by an indignant howl.  "Now what the fuck is

Spike.  And *Doyle*.  In unison.

This was not good.


Spike couldn't believe it.  First the mick, and now Angel?  Who the hell
did they think they were?  Xander was *his*, and he hadn't given either of
them permission to touch him.  For all the arguing they had just done, he
still hadn't gotten Doyle to admit that he'd been wrong.  The half-demon
seemed to think that he had some sort of chance with Xander, showing no
consideration whatsoever for Spike's claim.

And now this.  He'd come out here to find Xander, and to tell Angel to
keep his friend in line, or else Spike would see how much the chip in his
head would let him get away with where half-breeds were concerned.  And
what had he found?  Angel and Xander, wrapped around each other so tightly
it was like they were trying to become one person.

Sire or no Sire, he was going to kill Angel.

At his, and Doyle's, shout of outrage, Xander and Angel disentangled
themselves hurriedly, and turned to face them.  Spike growled low in his
throat at the sight of Angel's hand, lingering on Xander's shoulder.

He glared at Doyle - what the fuck right did he have to be upset? - then
stalked forward.  Time for Angel to die.

He was distracted when Xander stepped forward.  He glanced over the kid -
just to be sure he was all right, of course; checking for any marks left
by Doyle or Angel was just a secondary effort.  When he saw that the
dark-haired man's hands were bound, he lost all control.

In full vamp-mode, he rounded on Doyle.  "Why are his hands tied?  Was he
a little reluctant?  Were you-"

Warm fingers on his face pulled his attention back to Xander.  "It wasn't
like that," the brown-eyed man said.  "I told him to leave them like
this."  His fingers ghosted over the brutal ridges of Spike's brow.  "I
know I couldn't really hurt you, but I didn't want to risk it with him."

That warm, careful touch soothed Spike; somehow, tearing out Doyle's heart
and forcing the half-demon to eat it seemed much less urgent when Xander
was so close.  "Do you want me to cut you free, love?  I'm here now.  You
don't need it anymore."

Xander hesitated, then shook his head.  "Best to leave them for now.
Angel thinks he-"

Angel!  Spike glared at the other vampire over Xander's shoulder.  "Don't
think I've forgotten about you, Peaches."

"It's not his fault."  All of Spike's attention was instantly back on
Xander. "He didn't do anything.  It was me - it's beginning to hurt

Bullshit.  Spike wasn't stupid.  He could see what Xander was doing.  The
kid was trying to distract him, trying to excuse what the others had done
by blaming himself.  It wasn't going to work.  Spike knew about Angelus's
- and Angel's - attitude toward Xander, and Doyle's reaction to seeing
Xander and Angel together proved that the Irishman was more than
interested in the boy.

The blond man allowed himself to be distracted.  Xander didn't want him to
kill the others, so he wouldn't.  For now, at least.  He pulled his face
back into its usual human guise.  "What were you saying, love?"

"Hm?  Oh, Angel thinks he may have found a cure.  He needs some time to
study it, and to set it up."  Xander glanced between Angel and Doyle.
"Angel, you should probably get going on that."

The dark-haired vampire hesitated.  "Are you sure you can wait?"

Spike bristled.  He'd caught the veiled offer.  "If he can't, I'm here,
aren't I?  Piss off."

Xander shook his head shortly.  "I've got some time left.  You and Doyle
just hurry, please?"

Angel walked over to stand directly in front of Xander.  "I meant what I
said. I'm here for you.  Anything you need.  *Anything*."  He stared down at
Spike, a clear challenge.

And as if that wasn't enough, Doyle walked over too.  "The same goes for
me, Xander.  You've got me if you need me."  He glared at Spike, then
followed Angel over to the elevator.

Spike was half-tempted to follow them and show them what they could do
with their challenges, but was distracted again.  By Xander.  Of course.
The dark-haired man was dancing a little, shifting his weight back and
forth on the balls of his feet.  "Are you all right?"  Stupid question.
Of course he wasn't all right.

Xander smiled at him a little, obviously knowing what Spike meant.  "I
think so.  I've got another couple hours left in me, at least."

"Don't go trying to prove something and getting yourself hurt, you
understand me?"  Before Spike could say anything more, a rumble from
Xander's stomach stopped him.  "Christ, you probably haven't even eaten
yet, have you?"  He grabbed the mortal and dragged him toward the kitchen,
muttering to himself. "I should've known better than to leave you with
them.  Idiots probably have no idea how to take care of you.  I've lived
with you; I've seen the way you eat.  Peaches damn well better have
something in these cabinets you can stomach..."

Once in the kitchen, he began to root around through the pantry.  Luckily,
it appeared that Doyle had made sure that he'd be able to eat in the
apartment, so the vampire was able to pull out a variety of things for the
mortal to eat.

Not that he had to be all that fussy.  The kid had appalling eating habits.
So long as it was basically recognizable, and  wasn't actually moving, it
seemed to be acceptable to him.

He put all the food on the table, then when hunting for plates and

Humans made eating such a huge affair.  His meals - well, his usual meals,
anyway - came in nice, disposable containers.  Drain'em and leave'em in an
alley.  No muss, no fuss.

He looked up from all his arrangements and found that Xander was staring
at him, head cocked to the side with an amused smile on his face.  The
vampire scowled.  "What are you looking at?  You need to eat, don't you?"

"I do," the mortal agreed.  He sat down at the table and began to pick at
the food.  "Thank you."

Spike shrugged uncomfortably.  He wasn't used to thanks.  He wasn't used
to caring.  He wasn't quite sure how to react at all, to any of this.  He
sat down on the other side of the table, perched on its top, and watched
Xander eat.  His gaze wandered over the other man's body, the broad
shoulders, the surprisingly muscular arms and back.  He stared with pride
at the nearly-healed bite mark on the neck - he was going to have to give
him another one soon, else it would completely fade away.

"Stop looking at my neck."  There was a peculiar smile on Xander's face.
"If you're hungry, there's stuff in the fridge, I'm sure."

"I'm not hungry, love."  A leer crossed the vampire's face.  "Not for
blood, at least."  He watched in fascination as Xander flushed, the
delicate blush spreading down his throat and chest.

"Spike," he said, a husky warning that was anything but deterring.  He
swallowed hard.  "So, if Angel's got a cure, this is going to be over
soon. What are you going to do?  Run back and tell Buffy that you managed
to fuck one of her groupies?"  His tone was quiet, melancholy.

The vampire was on his feet immediately, moving to stand in front of
Xander. "Do you want me to tell her?"

"No!  Of course not."  The brown-eyed man looked down and muttered, "Not
like that, anyway."

Cursing the thrill those barely-audible words sent coursing through him,
Spike leaned down closer to Xander.  "Then I won't tell her."

"Why not?  It's the perfect opportunity to make her crazy, and you won't
have to lie, even."

"Because you don't want me to, love.  Simple as that."

Xander looked back up at him.  "You really do care, don't you?"  The
warmth in his eyes was more than lust, to Spike's pleasure.

"Said I did, didn't I?"

"I should've remembered.  I mean, after all, I'm *yours*."  Spike wasn't
so sure he liked the glint that was now in the other man's gaze.

"You heard that."  He wasn't sure he could explain the possessiveness he
felt toward Xander, and he wasn't sure that the other would accept it.
"From now on, don't go near Peaches or the half-breed, you hear?  You come
to me.  Leave those wankers alone."

Xander's reply was lost because of a voice from the doorway.

"That will make performing the cure difficult," Angel commented.  He
walked into the kitchen, gaze locked on Xander.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Spike asked, moving closer to the seated

"Doyle did find a cure.  The incantation will do it, if it is recited at
the right moment."

"What's the right moment?" Xander asked.

If Spike wasn't so worried about the mortal, he would have reveled in the
uncomfortable look that crossed Angel's face, in the way that he fidgeted
in place.  "The moment when you've been completely sexually stimulated for
an hour.  At that minute, the incantation has to be recited, and you'll be

Xander stared at him.  "Wait, I think I've seen this movie.  It's in the
porno section, right?  What was the title...'Mystical Michael's Magic

Angel shrugged.  "I know how it sounds.  If you knew T'k'esh demons, you'd
understand.  It's our only chance.  There's a little more to it, some
things that are supposed to be burned at the same time.  Doyle's gone out
on a supply run to pick up what I don't have on hand.  He'll be back soon,
and then we can get started."

"What's this 'we' shit?" Spike demanded.  "I'll take care of it.  You just
worry about doing the talking, and leave the fucking to me."

"You can't do this on your own, and you know it.  If Xander's going to
have a chance, then he's going to need all of our help."  Angel was still
staring at the dark-haired man.

Spike shook his head, but didn't argue any further.  If it was going to
save Xander, then he'd do it.  He just didn't have to like it, was all.
"So we start as soon as the mick gets back?"

Angel nodded.  "Xander?  Are you going to be all right with this?"

"Do you think it will help?"  When Angel nodded, Xander shrugged.  "Then
I'm going to have to be, aren't I?"

Spike dropped his hands to Xander's shoulders and kneaded them
comfortingly. "Of course you will, love."  Spike would make sure of it.
Xander *was* his, and Spike protected what was his.


Xander knew Spike was upset.  He could feel it in the tension in the hands
on his shoulders, could see it in the jerky motions that the blond man
made.  He didn't want to upset the vampire, not after they'd finally
reached some sort of agreement, but if this was his one chance for a cure,
then he had to take it.

The fact that Angel and Doyle were included in the deal was just a bonus.

That thought brought on a massive wave of guilt.  He was dragging them
into his problems, far more deeply than he had ever intended.  That wasn't
going to stop him, though.  Not when the chance to be healed was so close.
Not when he might be free of the fire inside.  Not when the fire wanted
all three men so very badly.

"We're going to have to wait for Doyle to get back to begin, right?"
Spike's voice was tight.

Angel nodded.  "It won't be too long.  There's a supply store nearby."

The blond vampire dragged Xander to his feet.  "Then we'll wait for you in
the bedroom."  He pulled Xander along behind him as he stalked through the

The brown-eyed man threw a glance at Angel over his shoulder, but he
didn't resist.  Whatever was bothering Spike, they were going to have to
get a handle on it, or else it could interfere with the upcoming ritual.
Once they were in the bedroom, he planted his feet, refusing to allow
Spike to pull him around any more.  "What's the matter?"

Spike opened his mouth to answer, then stopped.  After a moment, he began
again.  "Why don't we lie down for a bit, love?  Rest up a bit before the
whole thing starts."  He didn't wait for Xander to answer, but instead
tugged his own shirt off, then pulled the mortal down onto the bed.

Xander considered objecting, but gave it up.  If nothing else, the cool
skin lying so close against his own stopped him from being quite so aware
of the heat inside of himself.  He wriggled around for a moment, turning
about until he was comfortable, head resting on Spike's chest, his legs
entwined with the other's.  "What's the matter?" he repeated.

Shaky laughter rumbled throughout the smooth chest beneath his cheek.
"I'm just not so sure that I want you to get better, love.  If you do, I'm
going to lose you."

Xander levered himself up so he could look down at the other man.  He'd
never expected that sort of admission from the vampire.  He licked his
lips, and decided to take a chance.  "Do you want to lose me?"

"No!"  Spike's gaze and tone were fierce, and his hands spasmed on
Xander's back, suddenly gripping him with almost painful force.

"Then you won't," Xander promised softly.  He leaned forward and hovered
over Spike, his face inches from the vampire's.  He couldn't kiss him,
even though he wanted to; he was too afraid of setting off the hunger
inside of him again.

Spike seemed to understand.  An open look of wonder on his face, one of
his hands cupped Xander's cheek with what felt like reverence.  He stared
at the brown-eyed man for a moment, then pressed his head back down to his
chest. "Rest now, love.  I've got you."

Xander half-closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of strong arms wrapped
around him so tightly, of being held by someone who cared.  He did care
for Spike, far more than he had ever expected to.  Drifting inside his own
head, Xander wondered why if he cared for Spike, he was so drawn to Angel
and Doyle.

Aside from the obvious, of course.

He'd always been half-in love with Angel; hey, Buffy hadn't been able to
resist him either.  Tall, dark, mysterious, handsome - what wasn't to
love? He'd lived with his attraction, masking it in true elementary school
style, with insults and threats.

As for Doyle...the connection he'd felt with the other man was immediate.
It had only deepened during the time they'd spent doing research together,
until he felt as though he knew the older man incredibly well.

No matter what he felt for Spike, he couldn't deny his attraction toward
the other men, or his anticipation about what was to come.

Which only made him feel guiltier, of course.  Here he was, looking
forward to the ritual in a dirty little corner of himself, and he knew,
*knew*, that Angel and Doyle never would have gotten involved with him
under any other circumstance.

Xander shifted restlessly, and cool arms tightened around him, and a soft
voice shushed him, soothing him back into the daze in which he had been
drifting.  Gentle kisses on his temple and hands sweeping up and down his
back in long strokes kept him quiet, imparting a feeling of security,
almost safety.

Long moments passed.  Xander gradually became aware of two things:  first,
Spike had gone rigid beneath him; and second, there were too many hands
roaming on his back.  He opened his eyes, and found that Angel was sitting
on one side of him, and Doyle on the other.  Both were rubbing his back in
small circles, cool and warm.  Spike had gone absolutely still, and was
glaring back and forth between the two men.

Swallowing hard, Xander sat up.  Spike moved with him, not letting him
move away, but instead sitting up and pulling him into his lap.  Xander
let him; it helped to ease his own guilt, if he could make the blond man
feel a little better.

He stretched a little, and rubbed his eyes, trying to wake up again.  "So
you're back?  Does that mean we should get started?"

Angel nodded.  "I don't want to wait any longer.  If this isn't going to
work, then I want to have as much time as possible to find another
solution."  He glanced over at Doyle, who was setting up bowls around the
room.  "Doyle will light the candles, and the other things, and we'll get
started.  At the right time, I'll recite the incantation."

"And then?"

"And then hopefully this will be all over.  You'll be saved."

Xander nodded slowly.  Soft scents and barely-there smoke were arising
from the various bowls, slowly filling the room.  Finding himself the
focus of the gazes of the other three men was playing hell with his
control.  "So I guess we begin, then."

"No," Spike said, pulling Xander around to face him.  "*We* begin.  Those
sods can wait their turn."  He didn't give the brown-eyed man a chance to
respond, but instead jerked him forward into a hard kiss.

Not that Xander was protesting.  There was nothing he could do, except
give himself over to the sensation, let the last lingering remains control
burn away under the hungry cool mouth attempting to devour his own.

He tried to react, to reciprocate the caresses that were flowing over his
skin in maddening waves, but he couldn't.  Spike gave him no chance:  the
vampire's hands were everywhere, dominating, commanding, possessing.
Finally, he gave up and just reveled in the feelings coursing through him,
feeling the heat inside of him building higher and higher until it was all
he knew.

Each sensation bled into the next, until he was only vaguely aware of them
as separate events, so immersed was he in a sea of ecstasy.

A cool mouth encasing him, delicious suction wringing his first orgasm
from him.

Slick fingers sliding inside of him, preparing him with such exquisite
care, such thorough attention that he came from that alone.

Long, hard thrusts into his burning body, a cool body draped over his
back, cold lips whispering heated words of love that he could barely
understand, until razor teeth sliced into his shoulder, and he came again
with a scream.

Then all the wonderful feelings stopped, and Xander became aware of Spike
growling.  He pried his eyes open, and saw Spike staring, full vamp-mode,
at Angel and Doyle.  Most of his ability to think had disappeared, but
Xander knew he didn't want Spike to be upset.  He reached up and stroked
the demonic visage.

The blond man looked down at him, and his gaze softened.  The vampire
leaned down and claimed a final kiss, lingering and passionate.  He pulled
back, and began to move away from Xander.

The brown-eyed man was confused, but then Angel was there.  The older
vampire was naked, pale flesh glimmering in the light of the candles.  He
reached out hesitant arms toward Xander.

The mortal knew no such reluctance.  All he knew was need and want.  He
was vaguely aware of how much worse he must be, if he was still hard,
still *conscious*, after all Spike had done for him.  He moved forward
eagerly, finally in Angel's arms, finally in the place he had dreamed of
for so long. He licked lazily at the pale length of throat, long, wet
strokes of his tongue.

With a strangled noise of pure desire, Angel grasped Xander's face between
his hands and took his mouth in a desperate kiss.  The human responded
eagerly, pushing himself closer and closer to the vampire, reveling in the
cool hands traveling over his flesh...all four of them.

As Angel pushed him back, Xander landed not on the mattress, but on a cool
body.  He tipped his head back, and Spike caught his lips in a rough kiss,
his hands stroking slowly up and down the dark-haired man's flanks.

Xander was soon sandwiched between two smooth bodies, both vampires
determined to outdo each other when it came to manipulating his body,
making him cry out.

Before his eyes slipped closed for what felt would be the last time, since
they were rolling back into his skull, he caught a glimpse of Doyle,
staring at him with dilated eyes, one hand wandering across his own chest.

Cool hands pulled yet another orgasm from him, and still the fire burned
hotter within him.  He arched up helplessly, begging for more, begging for
anything, begging for everything.

He didn't resist as he was turned over, pressed full length against Spike.
He sought out the blond man's mouth, inviting the cool tongue to come
play with his own.  He felt cool fingers once again inside him, longer
fingers, broader, and then he was filled, crying out into Spike's mouth,
sobbing out his pleasure and need and relief.  The blond man's kiss became
frantic, and one of his hands crept down to encircle Xander's hardness,
strong strokes in time with Angel's thrusts into his body.  Those thrust
sped up as Angel ran his tongue over the bite on Xander's shoulder,
circling the small wound wetly, repeatedly.

Xander was lost in a storm of sensation, where rising waves of ecstasy,
hunger, and exhaustion threatened to drown him.  Each was growing
stronger, and he couldn't do anything to resist any of them.  He screamed
his release into Spike's mouth, nearly insensible after the slow climb to
orgasm, but still his body craved more.

Slowly, he became aware of something new.  Warmth.  He'd given up on ever
opening his eyes again, so moved blindly toward the heat, wanting to feel
more of it.  He was turned once more, still lying in a cool embrace, but
now heat straddled him, caressed him.  Hands running through his damp
hair, warm breath on his face.  There were words, but Xander was too far
gone to understand them.  He understood the tone, though, understood the
hard length pressing into his stomach.  He strained upwards toward the
warmth, and was rewarded with a kiss, slick heat dueling with his own in a
dizzying spiral of pleasure.

Still barely afloat, Xander reached down, groping around between himself
and Doyle - it had to be Doyle - until he had both of their erections in
his grasp.  He set up a slow rhythm, not able to force himself to move any

It was so good - the hot mouth moving down his neck, scraping across his
chest, lavishing attention on his nipples.  The feel of a cool tongue at
one of his ears, sharp teeth worrying the lobe.

Finally, finally, he came again, and Doyle shuddered above him, following
him into completion.  There was more, endless cycles of cool hands and
warm, all focused on him, on wringing the last drops of pleasure from him,
until he was near the end of everything, until he *was* drowning in
exhaustion and ecstasy and still the fire was there, burning him alive
from the inside out.

And then it was just Spike, Spike inside him again, thrusts desperate and
fast, kisses desperate and fast, words desperate and fast.  And Xander
could hear Angel, the older vampire's voice hoarse as he rasped out words
in an inhuman language.  Everything continued to build, climbing higher as
Angel's voice grew louder, until all Xander could feel was the pleasure
and weariness and fire, mixing together into a more exquisite agony than
he had ever dreamed existed.  Angel reached the end of the incantation,
his words a commanding shout.  The waves buffeting and crashing over
Xander reached their highest point, and then broke - and he was coming,
screaming as all the fire and the ecstasy drained out of him.  When his
cry finally died away, all that was left was exhaustion.

Feeling cool hands on his face, Xander opened his eyes.  He thought it
might have been the hardest thing he'd ever had to do in his life.  He
looked up into the worried yellow gaze above him, and then glanced at
Angel and Doyle. Meeting Spike's eyes once more, he whispered, "It's gone.
The fire's gone."

Cool lips were pressed to his, and he could taste relief on them.  He
could hear triumphant shouts, but couldn't respond to them, or the kisses
that followed, as he was pulled down into warm darkness, finally overtaken
by exhaustion.

As Xander's body relaxed bonelessly into the mattress, the three other men
in the room all heaved sighs of relief.  One at a time they disappeared
from the room, taking a few quick moments to get cleaned up.  When they
were all once again dressed, they met again in the bedroom.

Doyle stared down at the disheveled bed, and even more disheveled man in
it. Without speaking, he left, and the sound of water filling the bathtub
were heard soon after.  Spike gathered Xander into his arms and carried
him into the bathroom, with Angel following close behind.  With a few
possessive glares, and a couple muted growls from Spike, they began to
bathe the unconscious man.


Gently massaging shampoo through Xander's hair, Angel marveled at the
chance he had been given to even touch the other man.  Throughout their
antagonistic relationship, he'd always been painfully aware of the human's
attractions.  At first, they had made him jealous, worried that somehow
Xander would manage to take Buffy from him.  Then, they made him crazy, as
he was drawn more and more to the younger man, knowing that he would never
be able to get close enough to him.

The way Xander never gave up, never let anything stop him from doing what
he had to do.  He might joke about running and hiding, but he had been the
one to force Angel to go help Buffy when she needed him, and he had been
on the front lines during the battle during graduation.

No enhanced strength, no magical powers, no supernatural gifts; Xander
faced the dark alone, with nothing except the half-remembered memories of
a soldier, and his own courage.  He never backed down, never tried to use
his 'mere-mortal status' to try to get out of helping his friends;
instead, he insisted on joining them, even when told that it was too
dangerous for him to do so.

With a rueful shake of his head, Angel realized that he was
underestimating Xander again.  There was nothing 'mere' about him.  He was
making the same mistake that Spike had, that the mayor had, that Angelus
had.  All of them had failed to look any further than the surface.  Well,
Angelus had seen Xander's potential, but he hadn't acted on any of his
half-formed plans in time.

Curling his fingers around the thick dark locks that clung to them, Angel
vowed never to underestimate Xander again.  Of course, to keep his
promise, he'd have to correctly estimate Xander, and that meant he'd have
to be near the human.  Take his measure.  Take *him*.

He and Spike were going to have to talk.


Doyle ran a soapy sponge over Xander's shoulder, carefully washing away
all lingering traces sweat that clung to the insensate man's skin.  He
would have preferred to use his hands, to run them over the smooth flesh,
to clean the lax body with that sort of special care.  He wanted to be
close to Xander, to not lose the connection that had formed between them,
in the office and in the bedroom.

Unfortunately, he thought Spike might just eat his liver if he did, so he
stuck to using the sponge.  It would be hard to do anything with Xander
with a gaping chest wound, so he could resist the urge.

As he dragged the sponge across Xander's skin, Doyle glanced up at his
face, wanting to see those brown eyes open, wanting to be sure that he was
safe. Judging from the way Angel kept looking in the same direction, the
vampire was feeling the same anxiety.  Spike never looked away:  he just
sat and stared fixedly at the mortal's face, waiting for him to open his

The Irishman found it hard to believe that he could want something this
bad, especially after having known Xander for such a short period of time.
Even so, he found himself willing give anything, do anything, in order to
hear Xander laugh again.

He gently ran the sponge over the dark-haired man's throat, cleansing the
bite marks there that were already beginning to fade.  Seeing them made
him think of the conversations he'd had with Cordelia about living on the
Hellmouth. He'd also heard quite a bit about Xander's personal experiences
from her as well.  From everything he'd heard, the other man's life had
been one of constant danger and menace.  The half-demon didn't even want
to think about the stories about his love life that he'd heard.  How
Xander managed to laugh, let alone crack jokes and make others do the
same, was a wonder.

When Doyle's life had been rocked by his connection to the demon world,
his entire world had spun out of control and fallen apart.  Somehow Xander
had held it together, mostly.  Doyle wanted to talk with him more, spend
time with him, see how he'd done it.

Well, that and have another chance to tumble him to the mattress.  He
wanted a chance with Xander, when there wasn't urgency and haste hanging
over them.  He had a feeling that there could be laughter and fun with the
other man.

He also wouldn't mind having an encounter with him alone.  His gaze slid
over to Angel, and then to Spike.  Not that it was bad with them; far from
it.  But he would like something with Xander, preferably something
involving them, several days, and a waterbed.


Spike dragged his attention away from Xander long enough to glance at
Angel and Doyle.  His Sire was completely wrapped up in the mortal.  Spike
wasn't sure the older vampire put as much care into washing his own hair
as he was taking with the kid's.  The blond man wasn't surprised; he'd
seen Angelus's obsession with the boy, and later Angel's careful avoidance
of him.

Angel wasn't going to be a problem.  Unconscious or not, Xander had him
wrapped firmly around his finger.

As for the half-breed...Spike watched as Doyle took the time to wash each
of Xander's fingers.  The long, lingering sweeps of the sponge spoke of
lust, of course.  How could anyone resist his nummy treat?  But there was
caring in those touches too, almost bordering on reverence.

That was good.  Doyle was completely under Xander's spell, too.

How did the kid do it?  How did he manage to attract them, and fascinate
them, until they were his, without even realizing he was doing so?

Not that Spike was immune.  He didn't go around laying claim to every
person he had sex with.  There was something special about Xander,
something he found irresistible.  The vampire had some idea of how he had
fallen.  It was the way that Xander always put Spike's welfare first, his
life and safety above Xander's own.

That had never happened to him before, and he wasn't just going to let it
pass him by.  He wanted more, to experience that again, to experience
*Xander* again.  The mortal was his.

Even if Angel and Doyle didn't quite understand that yet.  It didn't
matter anyway.

Once the others were done washing and rinsing off Xander, Spike shouldered
them aside and pulled the dark-haired man out of the tub.  He held the
other man up and dried him off, then carried him back to the bedroom.  He
waited while Angel changed the sheets, and then wrapped Xander warmly in
new blankets.  He wanted to stay, wanted to wait for Xander to wake up and
watch his eyes open, but there were things he had to take care of first.

He led the other two men out into the living room, half-closing the
bedroom door behind him.  He turned to face Angel squarely.  "Right then.
You like him, eh?  So you won't mind him staying with you until I can find
him a place."

Angel frowned.  "Why would you need to find him a place?  He's been cured.
He can go home now."  Spike could see that Doyle had picked up on the
tangible reluctance and regret in the older vampire's voice.

"Why would *you* be finding him a place?" the half-demon asked.

Spike suppressed a smile.  Doyle was already right where he wanted him to
be. He wanted Xander to stay, and he wanted to stay involved.

The blond man shook his head.  "I'm not letting him go back to Sunnydale.
Not now, not ever if I can help it.  He's better off here, with me."

"His friends are there.  His family is there.  And what say do you have
over what he does?"  Angel's behavior was far more challenging than the
situation demanded.

Before Spike could reply, he heard a crash in the bedroom.  He turned and
ran for the door, the other two men at his heels.


A quiet moan escaped Xander as he came awake, spilling forth before he
could stop it.  He felt strung out, and sore, and exhausted.

He also felt completely in control of himself, free of the fire that had
been burning beneath his skin for so long.  His eyes widened in surprise,
and he sat up.  It was true - he was back to normal.

Normal, with a few more aches and twinges.  Xander's eyes widened, and his
jaw dropped as he remembered exactly where those twinges had come from.
What had he done?

Cheek flaming in mortification and shame, the dark-haired man scrambled
out of bed.  The sight of his own nakedness only reinforced his
self-loathing, and he looked about frantically for his clothing, for
anything that would help to hide the blatant reminder of what he had done.
 His own clothes were nowhere to be found, so he finally grabbed a pair of
slacks and a shirt out of Angel's closet and pulled them.

After what he had done, what was a little petty theft?

He searched the room for shoes, but was coming up empty.  He didn't want
to try to make his way back to Sunnydale in bare feet.  Where the hell
were his sneakers?  Become more jittery by the minute, he was hit by a
sudden wave of light-headedness and staggered.  He tried to catch himself,
but fell into the bedside table heavily.  The lamp on it crashed to the

A few seconds later, the door to the bedroom flew open.  Spike stood in
the doorway, with Angel and Doyle on either side of him.  "What happened?"
asked the blond man.  "What are you doing up?  How are you feeling, love?"
Behind him, the other men stared at him, naked concern in their gazes.

Love.  The endearment, and the concern in Angel and Doyle's eyes,
devastated Xander.  How could they still care after what he had done?  He
backed up a few steps.  "I'm sorry.  I know it's not enough, but I really
am.  I'll be out of here before you know it.  I just hope you can forgive

Spike looked confused.  "What are you talking about?  Where do you think
you're going?"  He took a few steps forward.

Xander stumbled back, shaking his head.  He didn't want to explain, he
just wanted to get away, disappear as fast as possible.  "I'm sorry," he
repeated desperately.  "I'll be gone as soon as I can find my shoes."  He
took another step back, and was caught by another wave of dizziness.  He
stumbled, and would have fallen except for the strong arms that closed
around him, supporting him.

The dark-haired man tried to pull away, but it was no use.  The embrace
only tightened around him, and then he was pulled off his feet, and
carried over to the bed.  Soon, he was cradled in Spike's arms, the other
using vampiric strength to hold him close, in Spike's lap upon the bed.

Xander watched as Angel and Doyle slowly walked over to sit on the bed.
The dark-haired vampire's gaze caught his.  "Now, what are you apologizing
for, and why are you leaving?" Angel asked quietly.

Self-loathing coursed through the mortal.  He could practically feel the
tenderness in the vampire's voice.  "You can't want me stay.  Not after
what I've done.  How can you care, how can you be so nice after what I've

Cool fingers stroked his face.  "And what is it you think you've done,

Soft lips brushed his temple, and Xander flinched away.  What was wrong
with all of them?  Even Doyle was staring at him as if he had no idea what
Xander was talking about.  He swallowed hard.  Did he really have to say
it?  "I..." He forced the words out.  "I'm a monster.  How can you even
look at me? I've...coerced all of you into having sex with me."  His
throat closed up, and he shut his eyes in despair.  He'd become what he
hated and feared.  He hadn't actually raped anyone, but this was no
better, no different really.

He tried again to escape from Spike's arms, but the embrace tightened once
more, becoming fierce.  Xander tried to break free once more, and then
gave up, tears slipping miserably down his face.  He couldn't open his
eyes, couldn't look at the men surrounding him.  "I know it's impossible,
but I hope you forgive me someday."

Dead silence reigned in the room, and it threatened to crush Xander.  He
just wanted to run away, but knew that he deserved whatever was to come.

Fingers twined in his hair, carefully forcing him to turn his head toward
Angel.  "Xander, there's nothing to forgive."  His voice was surprised,
and infinitely gentle.  "You should be the one who is upset.  You're the
one who should feel used."

The dark-haired man's eyes opened in shock.  "What are you talking about?
Are you insane?  Did the last few days happen different for you than for
me?  All of you had sex with me, and none of you wanted to!"

He saw Angel getting ready to object.  "And don't tell me it doesn't count
because I didn't physically forced you into it.  There was no way that you
could have said no.  Your good-guy license wouldn't let you.  You couldn't
let me die, or you'd just get way too broody and depressed.  Not too
mention how much you feel that you can't let Buffy down.  No way could you
let one of the Slayerettes die - you'd never be able to face her."

"What about me?" Doyle asked.  "I don't owe the Slayer anything."

"No, but you've got a good-guy license, too.  You just went along with

Cool hands rubbed up and down his arm.  "And me, love?  Why did I do it?"

Xander shuddered, resisting the urge to hid his face against Spike's
chest. "Because you could.  Because you could use the information to make
Buffy's life miserable, or blackmail me into whatever you need.  You said
yourself Giles and Angel would be more likely to help you if you helped
me."  His breath hitched in his chest.  "Because you're an evil soulless
vampire.  What more reason do you need?"

The tears were coming faster now, and they were impossible to stop.  He
was still exhausted from the past few days, and now he was forced to
recite his crimes.  He had used all of these men.  To save his life, true,
but it wasn't as though he wasn't attracted to them already.
Circumstances had allowed him to drag their realities into his fantasies.
He was a monster, and there was no way he could atone for what he'd done.

Angel stared at the quietly weeping man for a moment in complete
disbelief. Did Xander really believe what he was saying?  Had he forgotten
about Spike's possessive claims on him, or Angel's own admissions?

With a silent groan, Angel realized he did believe.  The vampire knew
guilt, knew how it could twist a person's thinking and way of viewing the
past. Xander hadn't forgotten the declarations; he was just disregarding
them because of the guilt he was feeling.

Angel scooted closer to Xander.  He ignored his Childe's growl of warning,
and the way the other vampire pulled the mortal closer to him in a
blatantly possessive gesture.  There would be time later enough to correct
Spike's misapprehensions about to whom Xander really belonged.  Right now,
he had to get Xander to see the truth of what had happened, to help him to
dig himself out from under the weight he had placed on himself.

"You're wrong," he said firmly.  "You didn't coerce us into anything.  We
all wanted to help you."  He forestalled Xander's protests by placing a
single finger on his lips.  "I know you can remember everything we said to
you. Everything *I* said to you."  He stared into the dark eyes, so close
to his own.  "I meant it, Xander."

Still, the younger man shook his head.  "You never would have done any of
this if I hadn't asked you to.  You wouldn't have come to me."

Angel thought he could hear the slightest hint of hope in Xander's voice,
so he pressed on.  "You're right about that.  I wouldn't have gone back to
Sunnydale, but only because I never thought I'd have a chance with you.  I
never thought there could ever be anything more between us."

He ran a caressing hand across Xander's jaw, then down to stroke his
throat. "I regret that it took such extreme circumstances, that you had to
go through the effects of the demon, but I can't regret the chance I have
with you now. I don't regret anything that we did either."  A small smile
crossed his face. "I hope we have a chance to do it again, under better

He took it as a hopeful sign when the mortal didn't object.  Instead,
Xander stared at him, the disbelief and self-loathing slowly disappearing
from his eyes.  Angel felt himself being drawn in by the brown-eyed gaze,
and he leaned closer to the younger man.  He wanted to reassure Xander, to
feel his warmth, to taste his mouth again.

An impatient throat clearing distracted him, and he glanced over at Doyle.
The Irishman was glaring at him mildly.  "Do you think I might have a
chance to talk with him, too?"

A small smile touched Angel's lips.  He'd gotten so wrapped up Xander that
he'd forgotten about the others in the room, that they also had an
interest in the human.  He sat back and inclined his head, watching as
Xander shifted in Spike's arms to be able to look at the half-demon.

The green-eyed man smiled a little lopsidedly, but his gaze was intense
and sincere as he held Xander's gaze.  "I know we don't share a history,
or anything like that, but I want you to believe a few things.  First, if
I don't want to do something, everyone around me knows it.  I'm perfectly
capable of protesting, kicking and screaming, all the way through anything
I'm forced to do."  His smile grew into a grin.  "I do recall doing a bit
of screaming with you, but I assure you complaining had nothing to do with

"I don't have a long-standing old longing for you, but I did want you.  I
*do* want you."  He reached out a hesitant hand and brushed his fingers
over Xander's shoulder.  "I hope you really won't be leaving so soon.
I've been hoping that you feel something like I do, like there might be
something between us.  I really want to find out that there is."

Xander's eyebrows drew together.  "But you don't even know me..."

"I know enough.  Sitting in the office with you, I began to feel it, and
it's only gotten stronger.  I hope you maybe felt something, too."

The brown-eyed man stared at him, then glanced back at Angel.  "I do feel
something, for both of you.  Angel, you must have suspected back in
Sunnydale..." his voice trailed away.

Angel nodded.  "I did, but I could hardly believe it was true, and then I
didn't trust myself enough to do anything about it.  And it was never the
right time, for either of us."

Xander smiled a little in agreement, then glanced at Doyle.  "And I began
to feel something in the office, beyond what the fire was doing to me.  I
don't know what it will become-"

"All I want is a chance," Doyle said.  "Well, a chance, and you," he
corrected with a grin.

"And what about what I want?" Spike interrupted.  Angel was surprised that
his Childe had managed to remain silent for so long.  He shifted a little
where he sat, getting ready to intervene if necessary.

Xander wriggled around in the vampire's arms until he was facing him.
"What do you want?" he asked, his voice very quiet.

"I already told you, love.  I want you.  I don't want to lose you."  He
turned an angry glare on Angel and Doyle.  "So you two can just back off
and wait in line.  Xander's mine."

Angel watched Xander carefully.  He seemed a little frightened by Spike's
possessiveness, but he didn't shrink away or back down.

"I'm yours?" he said quietly.

The blond vampire transferred his attention back to the man in his arms.
"Mine," he reiterated.  "I want you, I don't want to let you go."  He
pulled Xander closer to him, nuzzling at his neck.  "I won't tell the damn
Slayer or anyone else what's happened, I won't do anything that you don't
want me to.  I want you.  You're mine."

Angel heard the truth in his Childe's voice, and was surprised by it.
Spike had fallen, and fallen hard for Xander.  Of course, he himself was
quickly following Spike, and he knew Doyle wasn't far behind.

Xander tipped his head back a little, clearly accepting the caresses.
"I...I'm mostly confused," he admitted, voice a little husky.  He glance
at the men around him.  "But I really want to believe everything you've
said." He hesitated for a moment.  "All of you."

Angel felt a surge of triumph.  "Whatever it takes to convince you,
I'll...*we'll* do."  Spike and Doyle both nodded.  The older vampire
watched Xander relax, relieved that he wasn't going to try to run any
more.  He had the urge to hold his breath as he waited for the other man
to come to a decision.

Spike stared avidly at Xander's face, desperate to read what the dark-eyed
man was thinking while he struggled for words.  It was hard to wait, hard
to stop himself from just kissing the boy into submission.  Or trying to,
anyway.  He remembered that Xander had never been an easy one to push into

Xander shook his head slowly.  "This isn't happening.  It's a dream - I've
had some really vivid dreams before.  Although none of them were as nice
as this one."

"This is no dream," Spike said quietly.  "It might not make a lot of
sense, but it's real."  He raised his hand and skimmed his fingers over
one of Xander's cheeks.  "I know it seems crazy, but I care about you.  I
want you in my life; I'm not going to let you go."

He watched as the mortal took in his words, and tried to will him to
believe. Spike knew he had it bad.  Why else would he be longing to smooth
away the furrows in his brow?  Why else would having Xander's cooperation
be so far down in his estimation of importance, far below having his love
and his trust?

When brown eyes caught his own blue, the vampire returned the stare
evenly, refusing to give into the urge to look away, to hide what he was
feeling. Evidently, the human saw something in his gaze, because Xander's
brow smoothed, and a wondering look came into his eyes.

With a low growl, Spike leaned forward and captured Xander's mouth in a
gentle, probing kiss.  He pressed closer, not able to get enough of the
taste, the warmth of the other man.  He tried to prove his words true and
reassure him using his lips and tongue.  After a few moments, he pulled
back and waited for Xander to open his eyes again.  "I know you need time
to think, love. Take as much as you need; I'll be here waiting for you."

A final short kiss, and Spike tore himself away from the man in his arms,
knowing that he had to let him be alone, to come to a decision on his own,
and hating it.  He settled Xander down on the mattress, and then got ready
to shove himself to his feet.  Before he could, a warm hand wrapped around
his wrist.

Xander stared at him intently.  "You're telling me the truth, aren't you?"

"Course I am," he replied, leaning over for one more kiss.  His lips
millimeters away from Xander's, he whispered, "I'm always going to tell
*you* the truth, Xander.  Never going to hurt you, or let any thing else
hurt you either."  Other promises were inside him, but he didn't voice
them, not wanting to push the other man too far too fast.  He gave the
dark-haired man a final, almost chaste kiss.

*Almost* chaste.  He was kissing Xander, after all, he had never claimed
to be a saint, or that strong.

He walked out of the room, with Doyle reluctantly at his heels.  As he
walked through the doorway, he heard Angel say very quietly, "He's telling
the truth, Xander.  I can tell."  Then his Sire was leaving the room as

Spike led the others up into the office.  He didn't want Xander to hear
what he had to say, not yet anyway.  First he had to get the two men
behind him to agree to his plan before he persuaded Xander to go along
with it as well.

Inside the office, he perched himself on the edge of Angel's desk and
crossed his arms in front of his chest.  He fixed his Sire with his most
sardonic stare.  "You want the kid, too, hmm?  So you're not going to give
me anymore trouble about him staying here with you for a little while.
It'll make things easier for you, then."

Angel frowned.  "This again?  I don't understand - why do you want Xander
to stay here?  Why are you so against him going back to Sunnydale?"  The
older vampire wasn't objecting, Spike could tell.  He was asking
questions, but he wasn't against the idea.  That attraction to Xander was
obviously still strong and functioning.

"There is no way I'm letting him go back there."  A simple statement of
fact. No way was he going to budge on this.  No way.

"Why are you so adamant about this?"  Doyle asked.  "Not that I'm
complaining, mind.  I don't want him to leave.  But I'd think you'd be
eager to take him home, get him away from the rest of us."

"Why should he go back to Sunnydale?  So he can be ignored by his
so-called friends?  So they can eventually get him killed?  They came damn
close with this fuck up; I don't want to give them any more chances.  Even
without them, the place is crawling with demons, and Xander's charm
doesn't seem to work on them."  He watched as Angel nodded.  Good; he had
the other man almost hooked.
 Now for the kicker.  "And if you ignore all that, that still leaves his
parents.  I'll stake myself before I let him get within miles of those
fucking bastards."

"What are you talking about?" Angel demanded.

Spike stood up and began to pace restlessly.  "I can't believe no one ever
noticed.  Or maybe those friends of his just never really cared.  Of
course, none of them ever lived with him, and I did, for a little while.
Most of the time he was hurting and bruised, it had nothing to do with
whatever the Slayer had dragged him into the night before.  It was his

"His parents?  They hit him?  Why?"

"Because he was breathing?  Because the sun rises in the east?  Because
they're a couple of useless drunks?  Who knows?  All that matters is that
they do, and that I'm never going to let them do it again."  He turned and
advanced on Angel aggressively.  "As soon as this chip is out of my head,
I'm going to pay them a little visit.  Maybe drop in on his friends, too."

"No," his Sire said firmly.  "If for no other reason, than because Xander
wouldn't want you to kill them."  He paused.  "You're sure about his

"Positive.  Why do you think he's so hung up on coercion?  He's escaped
unscathed, but from what I saw, his father isn't above using it on his
mother. Xander hates the bastard; he'd probably rather die than become anything
like him."

Doyle nodded.  "Some of the things he's done...the way he uses humor as a
good, but obvious, defense, the way he doesn't believe people could want
him for him...it sounds like the signs I was trained to watch for, to help
to figure out if a kid was being abused."  His jaw hardened.  "If it's
true, then I might just go back to Sunnydale with Spike.  There's no chip
in *my* head."

Spike raised an eyebrow and smirked.  Looked like the half-breed might
have some potential after all.  He might just be worthy of Xander, at
least a little.

Angel sighed heavily.  "Neither of you are going to Sunnydale, and no one
is going to be killed."  For a moment, his brown gaze flickered golden.
"At least, not yet."  Then he had control over himself.  "But Xander can
stay, as long as he wants."

Spike controlled his sense of triumph.  No need to get his Sire's back up,
not after he had what he wanted.  Xander was going to be able to stay in
LA, far from anyone who might interfere with his pursuit of the mortal.
Far from the people and creatures that had hurt him.

The vampire's smirk became somewhat self-mocking.  It seemed as though
he'd found a new purpose in life.  Xander had been willing to die before
hurting him.  Now all he wanted to do was be sure that no one, that
nothing, ever had a chance to hurt the mortal again.

If that meant letting Angel and Doyle help, then so be it.

If Xander wanted it that way, then he would have it.

Doyle watched as a satisfied smile slid across Spike's face.  The
Irishman's eyebrows drew together in a frown, and he crossed his arms in
front of his chest.  He took an aggressive step forward and caught the
vampire's gaze. "Why do you care?" he demanded.

"What?"  Spike looked confused, but that didn't mean anything.  Doyle had
almost no trust for the blond man.  Only the fact that the vampire seemed
focused on Xander's well-being stopped Doyle from completely distrusting

"Why do you care so much about Xander?  From everything I've been told,
you've tried to kill him more than once.  Now everything's changed?  The
evil soulless vampire has changed his tune?"  Doyle was vaguely aware of
Angel moving to stand nearby, to intervene if necessary, and while he was
grateful, there was no way he was going to back down.  Not if Xander's
welfare was at stake.

The smile slid away from Spike's face.  "I'd suggest backing off," he said
quietly.  "Xander seems to like you, and so I'd really rather not have to
kill you."

Doyle shook his head stubbornly.  "I'm not going to let him be hurt,
especially not by you."

"What the fuck business is it of yours?  Four days ago, you had no idea
who he was, and now you're trying to challenge me?"

The half-demon blinked.  He really didn't have an answer.  He didn't know
why Xander was so important to him; all he knew was that the other man
mattered, more than anything else had in a long time.  With no answer, he
settled for glaring at Spike and refusing to back down.

To his surprise, Spike grinned at him.  "Makes you crazy, doesn't it?
Xander's special.  Why do you think I was never able to kill him?  There's
just something about him, and the more time you spend with him, the more
you'll realize it."

Doyle nodded.  "There is that.  But am I supposed to believe that him
being special is a good enough reason to trust you anywhere near him?"

The grin disappeared once more.  "Look, half-breed.  I don't have to
explain myself to you."  The blue glaze wandered over Doyle's shoulder to
rest on Angel for a moment.  "But I will," the vampire relented.  "When he
first ran into me, Xander made it clear that he wasn't going to hurt me,
that he'd rather die than hurt anyone.  Including me.  He's always been
more worried about forcing me into something than about saving himself.
I'm not going to let him go, and I'm not going to let anything hurt him.
You understand?  That includes his family, his friends.  It includes you."
Spike's voice was fierce.  "Xander is special.  And he's mine."

Doyle shook his head.  "No.  Xander is his own.  That means I have a
chance to have something with him."

Spike growled and took a step forward.

Then Angel spoke.  "It means I have a chance as well."

Spike hesitated, then nodded reluctantly.  "Fine.  Xander seems to like
you two, god only knows why.  So long as neither of you does anything to
so much as upset him, I'll let you near him."

Doyle glanced over at Angel.  The taller vampire shrugged.  "I didn't
expect to get that much out of him.  So long as we've all got Xander, and
keeping him happy and safe foremost in our minds, I think we can make this

The half-demon nodded his agreement, and after a moment, Spike did so as

"Good.  Now that that's settled, Spike, grab your boots.  I'm almost out
of blood, and you're going to help me get more."

"No.  I'm going to go back downstairs and check on Xander."

"No, you're not.  You're eating my food, you can help me get more."  Doyle
could hear an odd note of command in Angel's voice.  With a small shiver,
he realized that the vampire was calling on his authority as Spike's Sire
in order to command the other man.

The blond vampire snarled, but stomped over to the elevator.  Angel
watched him go, then looked over at Doyle.  "We'll be back soon, but
you'll have a little time."

Doyle stared at him.  How did Angel know?  He'd wanted a chance to talk to
Xander alone.  Spike and Angel both had a past with him.  The Irishman
wanted to be able to assure Xander that his feelings were real, and to
just talk to him, get to know him better, even though he felt like he'd
already known the other man forever.  "Thanks," he said gratefully.

As soon as the two vampires were gone, Doyle headed back downstairs.  He
paused in the doorway, staring in at the man sleeping in the bed.  Angel
had warned him while they were gathering materials for the spell that if
it worked, Xander was going to be worn out for days afterwards while he
recovered from the infection that had coursed through him.

He walked into the room and sat down on the bed.  He reached out and
stroked his hand over the dark hair, enjoying the feel of soft hair under
his palm. Xander was lying face down, arms curled tightly around the
pillow he hugged to his chest.

With a quiet interrogative murmur, Xander opened his eyes.  He stared at
Doyle for a moment, and smiled tentatively.  "Still not a dream?"

Doyle grinned back at him.  "Not a dream," he answered.  He moved his hand
so he could brush his fingers down Xander's cheek.  "It's all real."

The brown-eyed man went very still for a moment, then relaxed into the
caress. "It's still hard to believe," he admitted, sitting up.

Doyle swallowed hard and moved a little closer to the other man.  "Are you
all right with what you do believe?"

Xander nodded.  "I'm having an X-Files moment here.  I want to believe,
you know?  In what happened, in what I feel."  His voice dropped into a
whisper. "In what you all say you feel."

The Irishman did know what Xander meant.  He desperately wanted Xander to
believe as well.  He reached out and slowly pulled the other man into his
arms.  "Is this all right?" he asked quietly.

"More than all right," Xander answered, wrapping his arms around Doyle's

Doyle tilted his head so he could speak directly into Xander's ear.  "It's
a lot to take in, I know.  But I'm going to be here for you, we all are,
and we want you take as long as you need to figure out if this is what you
want.  If we're what you want."

The brown-eyed man laughed a little, and moved closer into Doyle's arms.
"Oh, I definitely want.  I just don't know if I can have."

There was something lost in his voice, and Doyle was reminded of some of
the other stories Cordelia had told him, about Xander's disastrous forays
into love.  He tightened his embrace.  "You can have anything you want."
Listening to a rumbling noise, he laughed.  "And right now, I'm thinking
you want food."

"This is almost as good," Xander murmured.  He pulled back a little.
"It's strange.  I feel like I know you already."

"Like there's a connection between us?  I feel it too."  Doyle licked his
lips.  "I like it."

"So do I."  After a moment of hesitation, Xander leaned forward and kissed
Doyle gently.  The half-demon responded eagerly, losing himself in the
feel of the real Xander, without the desperate edge that he'd known so
far.  After a few minutes, he leaned back.  "There's something you should
know about me."

Xander looked at him questioningly.

"I'm...not completely human."

"Well, of course not."  The brown-eyed man shrugged, and grinned wryly.
"No one I get involved with is."

"Oh.  Right.  Cordy mentioned something like that.  I'm half-Bracchen;
that's a sort of demon."  Seeing Xander make no move to pull away, Doyle
allowed himself to slip into demon form.

The younger man inhaled sharply, then reached up and ran a gentle finger
over one of the spikes protruding from Doyle's skin.  He met the
Irishman's eyes evenly.  "I'm OK with this," he promised.  "If you're with
Angel, that means you're not a havoc-wreaking sort of demon.  So long as
you're one of the good guys, I'm fine with this.  I feel the connection to
*you*, not how you look."

Heaving a huge sigh of relief, Doyle pulled himself back into human form.
He kissed Xander again, but pulled back at the sound of more muted rumbles
from the other man's stomach.  "Food?"

Xander's stomach answered for him, and he smiled ruefully.  "Food," he

He climbed out of bed, but didn't follow Doyle immediately.  He paused,
And grabbed the pyjama bottoms he'd been wearing earlier; they were wadded up
in a corner of the bedroom floor.  "I still want to ask Angel about these." Sharing a grin, he followed Doyle to the kitchen.


Xander ran his finger around the edge of his plate, scraping up all the
crumbs he could, before licking them off.  He glanced up to see Doyle
staring at him.

Flushing a little, he said, "I like tuna melts."

"I like you liking them," the other man said, gaze still fixed on him.

Xander realized that he was still licking his finger.  He blushed harder,
then looked away.

Immediately, the half-demon was beside him.  "Hey, I didn't mean to
embarrass you or anything."  Gentle hands touched his shoulder in
comforting strokes.

The brown-eyed man looked up.  "It's ok, really.  This is just going to
take some getting used to."  Doyle nodded encouragingly, and Xander kept
going.  He felt like he could say anything to the other man.  It was a
part of that connection, and it was something he missed.  He'd felt like
that with Willow, once.  Not any more, though.  Not for a long time.  "I
mean, the idea that someone is even interested in me, you know?"

"No, I don't.  I can't imagine someone not being interested."

Xander smiled, even though he was beginning to think his blush was
becoming permanent.  "And it's strange that I can be interested back.  I
mean, for so long, Angel and Spike were like these dirty little fantasies
that I should have been ashamed of myself for having, and now they're my
reality."  He leaned in a little closer to Doyle.  "And you're my reality
too, but it still doesn't feel real."  He paused.  "Am I making any sense
at all?"

"Yeah.  My reality is a little weird anyway.  You're definitely one of the
nicer parts of it.  I don't have to endure migraines to have you.  Of
course, I'm not so sure Spike is all that much better..."

"Migraines?" Xander asked.  He turned to face Doyle more fully.

"Yeah.  I get visions from The Powers That Be, sort of a guide for Angel.
They come along with great splitting headaches that hurt like a son of a

Xander grimaced in sympathy.  "That sucks.  And I bet Angel hates it, too.
He doesn't think anyone should feel pain but him."  It was true.  Angel
never wanted to share the angst.  He always worried about everyone else...

"Shit!"  Xander jumped to his feet, nearly knocking Doyle over.  "I can't
believe I forgot!  I am so fucking stupid..."  He began to pace around the
kitchen, feeling trapped by the walls in the room, but he didn't want to
leave them either.  How could he have been so stupid?  What was wrong with

As he paced, he was aware that Doyle was following him, trailing in his
wake, but he couldn't stop to answer any of the other man's questions.  He
had fucked up royally, and he couldn't see anyway that he could dig
himself out of the pit he'd dug for himself.

He kept moving, blind to everything except the mistake he'd made.  He
continued pacing until he crashed into something.  He stopped and looked
up, directly into Spike's worried gaze.

"What's wrong?"  The blond man shoved the bag he was holding at Angel,
then grabbed Xander by the arms, holding him forcibly still.  "Are you all
right? Did the cure not work?  Love, what is it?"

"This is all your fault!"  Xander poked the vampire in the chest.  "You
didn't let me kill myself, so it's your fault!"  He knew he wasn't making
sense, but it was true.  It was all Spike's fault.  Now he had someone
else to blame, so maybe he wasn't a completely giant fuck up.

"What are you raving about?"

"When I left my house I thought I was going to die," Xander explained.  "I
left all my death stuff on my bed.  Suicide note, apologies, a fucking
will for all of my pathetic shit.  Willow and the others must be going out
of their minds.  I can't believe I forgot them..."  Listening to himself
list the problems just drove home how colossally he had screwed up.
Xander could feel himself begin to hyperventilate, and he sucked in air

Spike shook him gently.  "Calm down.  Breathe.  What are you worrying
about? So they think you're dead.  They'll get over it."

Xander glared at him, but he couldn't put any heat into it.  He really
hadn't expected anything else from him.  He knew how much Spike hated the
Scooby Gang.  He turned to look at Angel, hoping for some sort of

The tall vampire placed all the bags in the refrigerator, then walked over
to stand beside Spike.  He scowled down at his Childe, then pulled Xander
over to stand by the counter.  "You can use the phone to call them, let
them know that you're safe."

"Good idea.  No, wait, bad idea!  Very bad idea!  What do I say?"  How the
hell would that conversation go?  'Oh, by the way, guys, I *am* alive, and
I had sex with Spike and Angel and a guy I just met?'  Suddenly, it became
very hard to breathe.

Cool hands cupped his cheeks, and he was forced to look into worried brown
eyes.  "Breathe Xander."  Angel leaned closer, brushing his lips over
Xander's forehead.  "I'm right here.  We're all here, and we'll get you
through this."

The mortal nodded shakily and gulped in air.  As he did so, he felt a warm
body embrace him from behind.  A few moments later, and there was a third
set of arms encircling him from the side.  Again, a sense of unreality
washed over Xander.  Could this be real?  Three people who cared about
him, who were there for him?  He wasn't sure how to react at first, but
then decided to go with his heart.  He relaxed into the embrace, drawing
comfort from it.  After a few moments, he murmured.  "Where's the phone?"

Angle stepped back and smiled at him.  "We'll still be right here," he
promised, picking up the phone and handing it to him.

Xander nodded gratefully and quickly dialed the number to Buffy and
Willow's room.  As the other end of the line began to ring, he felt his
breathing begin to speed up.  Cool arms around his waist steadied him, and
he leaned back gratefully into the embrace.  To his surprise, it was Angel
who had moved to hold him.

//Hello?//  Good, it was Willow.  Somehow, he knew he wouldn't be able to
talk to Buffy, not with Angel holding him so close.  He didn't feel
guilty, exactly, but it would've been way more awkward than he was capable
of handling.

"Willow, please don't freak out.  It's me.  Xander."  God, he hoped she
wasn't too upset.  He knew that it would destroy him if he lost her; she
had been such a huge part of his life for so long, even with the distance
there was between them now.

//Xander, are you feeling all right?  Why would I freak out?  Is something

Only Angel's arms kept him upright.  As it was, the brown-eyed man swayed
dangerously before he regained his balance.  His eyes slipped close, and
he swallowed hard.  "No, nothing's wrong."  He couldn't believe his voice
was so steady.  It was like the words were coming from someone else,
someone whose heart hadn't just stopped beating.  "I was just worried that
you might be worried, since I haven't seen you in a few days, and I didn't
want you worrying, so I called-"

//Xander, calm down.  I'm fine.  You're fine.  You are fine, right?  You
sound a little funny.//

"Me?  No, I'm good.  Now that I don't have to worry about you worrying,
I'm great.  So things are ok?  I didn't miss an apocalypse?"

//Things are fine.  Buffy and Riley are still making up, but they'll have
to stop soon, or they'll wear themselves out.  I've been kind of into a
spell Tara and I are working on.  Speaking of...I've got to go.  I'll see
you soon, ok?//

"Sounds good, Wills.  I'll catch you later."  He hung up the phone and
stared at it, not moving, not speaking.

"Xander?"  Angel's voice rumbled in his chest, the vibrations carrying
through to the mortal's back.

The dark-haired man started, then shrugged as nonchalantly as he could
manage with his stomach twisting into tiny knots.  He cleared his throat
and began to speak without turning around.  "They're all doing really
well.  Everyone's safe, and the world isn't in any danger of ending, at
least not anymore than usual."  He could hear his words blurring together,
but he couldn't slow down.

Strong hands forced him to turn around and face Angel.  The vampire stared
down at him, understanding and sympathy and muted rage in his eyes.  "They
didn't find the notes?" he asked gently, but his voice said he already
knew the answer.

Misery intermixed with shame rose in Xander's throat, and he nodded.
"Didn't even notice I was gone," he admitted, blinking back tears.

Spike slammed his fist into the wall.  "That's it.  I'm going to kill
them. All of them.  It's going to take days."

The hands on Xander's shoulders tightened for a moment, and then Angel
said, "You don't have days.  You've got one, and you'll be too busy to
hunt them down."  He stared down at Xander.  "You can go back to pack your
things and say good-bye.  That shouldn't take more than a few hours.  Then
you're coming right back here."

What was Angel talking about?  He stared up at the other man.  "I don't

"You're not going back to Sunnydale except to pack."  He smiled and
stroked his hands up and down Xander's arms.  "I don't want to be apart
from you.  I want you to come to LA, live here.  With me would be perfect,
but anything, so long as you're near."

Xander gaped at him.  He knew Angel cared; the vampire had told him so,
and he was pretty sure he believed him.  But to ask him to move to LA?  He
hadn't expected this.  Fantasized about it, yes, but never expected it.
"But, I'd have to leave home.  Leave Willow and Buffy and Giles."

"Good."  The fierce declaration came from Doyle, and Xander turned to
stare at him.

"I don't want you to go, either.  I don't think my apartment is good
enough for you, but I could find another.  Or stay with Angel.  So long as
you stay."

He walked over to stand in front of Xander, and raised one hand to cup
His cheek.  "They don't deserve you.  I'm not saying I do, but I want you to
stay."  He leaned forward and kissed Xander softly.  "Please."

The brown-eyed man shook his head.  He didn't want to leave them.  He
hadn't even thought about the future, about what he was going to do now
that he was cured.  The fact that he even had a future was rather
unexpected.  But stay in LA?  Leave everything he had, everyone he knew?

He heard a muttered curse, and then Spike was pulling him away from the
other two men.  "Bloody idiots, rushing things.  No idea how to ask you."
Blue eyes fixed Xander with an intense stare.  "You're not going back
there.  Your friends don't deserve you, and it's too dangerous.  I'm not
going to lose you, not to some demon who gets in a lucky shot.  This last
time was too close."

Xander got ready to object.  He'd survived high school on the Hellmouth,
thank you very much.  He could take care of himself.  Before he could say
anything, his mouth was claimed in a kiss that tasted of desperation.  He
soon found himself returning the caress with equal urgency.  Finally, it
came to end.

"Please, love," the vampire whispered against his mouth.  "Please don't
leave me.  Don't leave *us*."

The dark-haired man looked at the three men who were staring so hopefully
at him.  Brown eyes filled with sympathy and pleading, green filled with
hope and anger, and blue filled with desperation and the lingering hints
of murderous rage.  And all of them contained love and want and need - all
for him.

He nodded slowly.  "I'll stay."  Why not?  Here he was loved and wanted.
He could probably even help Angel and Doyle out.  He'd just been shown how
little difference he was making in Sunnydale.

Spike shouted triumphantly, and kissed Xander again, and then Doyle was
there, and Angel, all three trying to prove how pleased they were.

After the impromptu celebration, Xander sagged heavily against Spike, all
his energy draining away.  "I think I overdid it," he murmured.

The blond man held him upright.  "Back to bed with you."

"But I don't want to keep putting Angel out," Xander protested.  "The
couch will be fine."

"I hate sleeping on the couch.  The two of us will barely fit there,
anyway. Come to the bed."

"What makes you think I won't be joining you?" the tall vampire asked.
Ignoring Spike's glare, he leaned down and kissed the mortal again.  "If
you like, I'll lay down with you, keep you company while you rest."

"Only if you don't wear pyjamas," Xander said, a sly smile crossing his
face. "I don't want to have nightmares."  He watched in delight as Angel

"I'll only say this once," the tall vampire said.  "Cordelia.  Gift.
*Never* worn."

"It doesn't matter, anyway.  I'll be there," Spike objected.  "He doesn't
need you."

"Yes, I do," Xander said quietly.  He didn't want to hurt Spike, but he
had to tell the truth.  "I need, and want, all of you.  I don't know if
that makes me greedy or lucky or insane, but it's the truth.  Not too much
is making sense right now, but I know this.  I know it's real."

"Then you've got us," Doyle said.  Angel nodded.

After a long pause, Spike's embrace tightened.  "You've got us," he agreed

Xander turned and kissed him hard.  He'd seen Spike's possessiveness, and
knew how hard this was for the vampire.  The blond man returned the kiss
fiercely, refusing to end it, instead walking Xander carefully to the
bedroom while continuing it.

When they finally reached the bed, Xander was exhausted, worn out by the
phone call and his panic and his decision.  He cooperated, barely, as
Spike pulled away his shirt and pants and moved him beneath the covers.
As he slid into sleep, he felt Spike climb into be with him, and pull him
to lie on top of a cool body.  A little while later, he felt cool arms
embrace him from one side, and warm from the other.

Blissfully content, Xander lost himself to his dreams.


Angel shifted the body in his arms and hugged the warmth closer to his
chest, still more asleep than awake.  He hadn't expected to sleep, but
casting the spell had taken more out of him then he had thought, and he'd
quickly joined Xander in slumber.  It was strange to be sharing his bed
with three other people, but having Xander close to him more than made it
worth it.  He inhaled deeply, breathing in the scent of the man lying on
top of him.

Who wasn't Xander.

The tall man's eyes snapped open, and he looked down to see that it was
Doyle he was cradling so close, Doyle whose warmth was spread so
deliciously across his skin.  The half-demon was still asleep, soft and
pliant as he continued to dream.  So if Doyle was on him, where was

He turned his head to the side and got his answer.  Xander was lying off
to the side, almost completely hidden beneath Spike.  The blond vampire
was wrapped around the mortal, his face buried in the other man's neck.

Angel was tempted to be jealous.  Why did Spike get to hold Xander?  Angel
cared about him, too.  He stared speculatively at his Childe.  Spike had
always been reluctant to share his toys with others, but this was more
than that.  Xander wasn't a toy to the younger vampire.

In fact, it looked like he was rapidly becoming everything to him.

Vampires were capable of love.  Of course, it usually ended up being
twisted by the demon within them, turning violent and dark.  Angel had
seen Spike caught up in that sort of tainted love; as devoted as the blond
man was to Dru, the connection between them was marked by violence and
twisted by evil.

Fortunately, there was nothing of that in Spike's actions toward Xander.
Angel remembered what Spike had said during his last confrontation with
Doyle, about Xander refusing to hurt him.  He had no illusions about the
way he had treated the other vampire; Angelus was a sadistic bastard, and
his Childe had often been the target of his violence and manipulations.

Of course, being a vampire, Spike had probably enjoyed some of their time
together, but Angel wasn't sure.  Angelus hadn't cared, and Angel had
never had the opportunity to ask.  Perhaps he should.  He knew he wasn't
going to let go of Xander, not now that the man had agreed to move to LA,
and Spike had made his desire to stay with Xander clear.  If they were
going to both be with Xander, some sort of peace would have to be worked
out between them.

At least they had a starting point to build from:  Xander.  Both of them
cared about him.  Angel was mildly worried that he might have to watch
Spike to be sure that the other vampire didn't overprotect Xander with his
usual enthusiasm.  Apparently, the fact that the mortal had tried to
protect Spike had won the vampire completely to his side, and Spike was
going to return the favor.  As angry as Angel was with Xander's friends in
Sunnydale, he didn't want to see them dead.  Anyone who hurt Xander was
going to have to watch his step.

And if Spike didn't get him, then Doyle probably would.  Angel hadn't
expected this; not Doyle and Xander, and certainly not Doyle's fierce
protectiveness of the younger man.  As unexpected as it was, he was glad
of it.  Anything that would help to guarantee Xander was kept safe was
fine by him.

Just so long as Doyle and Spike didn't join forces, he was fairly certain
he could keep them under control.  And if that failed, he knew that both
men would obey any wishes of Xander's.

Just like he would.

Before he could begin to consider just how deeply he had fallen for the
mortal, Angel was distracted by movement from the man in his arms.  With a
sleepy murmur, Doyle slowly came awake, his eyes drifting open lazily.
The half-demon froze as he realized where he was, embarrassment staining
his cheeks.  He began to pull away.

Before Angel could think, he reacted, tightening his hold on the other
man, preventing him from leaving.  He realized that he didn't want Doyle
to go; he cared about the other man, more than he'd realized.  He'd always
recognized how attractive the green-eyed man was, and if they were going
to be this close because of Xander, he'd like to have a chance to maybe be
even closer.

He raised a hand and trailed one finger down Doyle's cheek.  "You don't
have to move, if you don't want to.  I don't want you to."

The half-demon flushed even more, but he relaxed back into Angel's arms.
"I'd like to stay," he admitted.

The tall vampire hesitated for a moment, then leaned up to capture Doyle's
lips in a soft kiss.  After a moment he lay back down, watching the other
man carefully.

The green-eyed man licked his lips.  "I liked that.  But I'm not sure I

"We both care about Xander.  If he really wants all of us with him, we
need to get along.  And I've always been attracted to you.  I'd like to
find out where this can go."

Doyle relaxed even further against him.  "Me, too.  I know I don't want to
give up Xander, but even Cordy knows I've been attracted to you."  This
time it was he who initiated the kiss.  After it ended, they grinned at
each other.

"Now that you two have settled all that, would you shut the hell up?
You'll wake him up with all that chattering.  He won't let me kill you,
but I can still kick the shit out of you."

Angel turned his head at the sound of the hissed warning.  Spike had
turned his head, and was glaring at them venomously as he wrapped himself
even more firmly around Xander.

"What about you?" Angel asked.  "Anything you want to get settled?"

"What's to settle?  I want Xander, Xander wants you.  So long as I can
have him, nothing else matters."

"It's not that simple, and you know it."

Blue eyes narrowed, then softened, just a little.  "I know.  I can handle
this."  A long pause, and then, very quietly, "Things weren't always bad
between us."

Angel nodded.  "There have been times that I've missed you, more than you
might believe."

Spike returned the nod.  "Same here."  Then the familiar sneer twisted his
lips.  "But I'm only putting up with you because of Xander.  The same goes
for you, half-breed.  Now shut the hell up and let him sleep."  He glared
at both of them for a moment, then turned his head and buried his face
once more in Xander's shoulder.

Angel glanced at Doyle and smiled a little.  //I'll explain later// he
mouthed.  The Irishman nodded, and then settled down on top of Angel,
resting his head against his chest.  After a few moments, his deep, even
breathing revealed that he had fallen asleep.

Angel's smile remained.  Even after all that had passed between them, he
could still read his Childe, still know what was going on behind his blue
eyes. Spike didn't hate him, or Doyle, no matter how much he might like
them to believe he did.  The fact that he was willing to lie in bed with
both of them showed that.

Nothing could make Spike do something that he truly did not want to do.
Angelus and Angel had both discovered that on numerous occasions.  If he
really didn't want to be near Angel and Doyle, then he wouldn't be.  Angel
knew that Spike probably missed him as he missed his Childe, and he had
seen definite signs that Spike was softening toward Doyle.

It was probably the half-demon's dogged determination to protect Xander
that was winning the other vampire over.  The fact that Spike had limited
himself to just bickering and arguing with the green-eyed man instead of
attempting to eat his heart revealed much about Spike's true feelings
toward the other man. Very little restrained the blond vampire's killing
instinct, and even Xander's wish might not have been enough to stop all
violence between them.  There had to be something more making Spike
restrain himself.  Feeling more optimistic for the future, Angel closed
his eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep again.

When he next awoke, it was to the sound of voices.

"Back off!"

"No fucking way.  You don't like me here, *you* can back off."


"I don't really care what you like.  This is about Xander."

"It about your hands on *my* Xander!"


"Your Xander?  *Your* Xander?"

"Fuck, I thought you were smarter than you looked.  You'd almost have to
be. *My* Xander."

"Guys, you're going to wake up Angel."

"Too late," Angel said, rolling over and opening his eyes.  "I'm up."  He
had to repress a grin when he saw what all the bickering was about.  Doyle
was sitting on the edge of the bed, one of his hands on Xander's chest,
while Spike was curled up behind the dark-haired mortal, his arms wrapped
possessively around his waist.

The half-demon looked imploringly over at Angel.  "I was just trying to
wake up Xander, when this idiot started to get involved."  He glared at
Spike. "He's not yours."

Spike just bared his teeth and growled as answer.

Xander caught Angel's gaze.  "Are they both usually this bad about
sharing?" he asked, a tired grin on his face.

"I think this is even worse than their usual - which I didn't know was
possible," Angel answered.  Ignoring his Childe's growling, he leaned past
the blond to kiss Xander, leisurely exploring the warm mouth with his
tongue before pulling back.  "Hello, Xander."

"Hey," the brown-eyed man replied, his voice a dreamy husk.

Still hovering over Xander, Angel leaned a bit farther and kissed Doyle.
He then looked down at Spike, hesitating.  How far could he go?  What
would Spike permit?

The snarl faded minutely from the younger vampire's face, but his tone was
impatient.  "For fucks sake," he muttered, before lunging upwards and
pressing his lips to Angel's.

Angel froze in shock, then responded, relearning the taste and the feel of
his Childe, rediscovering what he'd thought he'd lost forever.  Spike
finally ripped his mouth away, and Angel's eyes opened once more.  He
looked first at the other vampire's glittering gaze, and then at Xander.
He smiled at the bemused expression on the brown-eyed man's face.  "Just
how awake are you?" he asked, a small leer escaping him.

The other man grinned at him.  "Very awake."  A flush began to creep
across his face.  "I'm just not up to anything...too strenuous."

Angel nodded.  "Nothing strenuous," he promised.  He leaned down once more
and kissed Xander again.  He heard Spike's protest, and in retaliation, he
allowed his weight to fall completely upon the blond vampire, even as he
deepened the kiss he shared with the mortal.  Ignoring his Childe's
complaints, he ran his hands over Xander's body, glad that someone had
thought to pull Xander out of his clothing before he went to bed.

A mighty heave from Spike pushed the tall vampire back to the other side
of the bed.  The blond man glared at him, and Angel resigned himself to
hearing more possessive claims on Xander.

"What about me, Peaches?"  Spike spread his arms invitingly.

Angel blinked, then grinned.  He straddled his Childe, working away at
both their clothing.  From the corner of his eye, he could see Xander
stripping Doyle, matching grins on their faces.  He focused back on Spike,
settling himself down on top of the other vampire.  Their first thrust
against each other brought back a rush of memories.  Angel ignored the
darkness in them, not wanting to destroy this moment with guilt.  He
focused on the pleasure, on what he remembered of how to make Spike moan
and writhe beneath him.

He was distracted by the crash of bodies against himself and Spike.  He
looked over at Xander, who had rolled Doyle beneath him, driving both of
them into the vampires.  Xander stared unrepentantly back at him, before
tilting his head and kissing Angel hard, not losing his rhythm of
thrusting against the half-demon against him.

When Xander finally released his mouth, Angel looked down at Spike.  His
Childe's gaze was locked with Doyle's.  The two men made no move to touch,
beyond the point where their shoulders rubbed together, but nor did they
try to get away, to separate.

Angel glanced over at Xander, who grinned and winked at him.  Angel
laughed out loud.  It looked like there might be hope for the other two,
as well.

Spike looked up at him when he laughed, and Angel immediately focused on
the blond man once more.  Knowing that Xander wouldn't last long, he drove
himself and Spike mercilessly, not wanting to outlast the mortal, wanting
to finish with Xander and Doyle and share in their afterglow as well.

Faster, harder...Angel bent his head down and mouthed Spike's neck,
wanting to do more, but not sure if he could.  He couldn't, wouldn't, just
take.  Not anymore.  Fortunately, Spike tilted his head back with a
strangled moan, offering up his neck, offering up his surrender.

Groaning deep in his chest, he bit into the pale flesh, the shock of cold
skin and warm blood flooding through him.  This, this he had missed; he
couldn't believe he'd never realized how much until this moment that he
had it back.

Orgasm slammed into him, and he bit down harder, tearing completion from
Spike as well.  Angel collapsed on top of the other vampire, winded by the
force and power of it.  Beside him, he heard Xander's cry, and Doyle's
soft gasp as they came against each other.

Feeling incredibly relaxed, content, Angel rolled off of Spike, freeing
the blond so he could grab Xander and pull him close once more.  The
dark-haired vampire watched with interest as the other vampire devoured
the mortal's mouth, reestablishing a connection to him.

Angel looked up, catching Doyle's amused, aroused gaze.  He knew it was
time to get up, to get moving, but he wasn't sure they'd ever be able to
get the other two out of bed.

Watching them, he wasn't so sure he was all that eager to get out of bed,
either.  With a rueful grin, he realized that this was going to be a major
test of his resolve.

He just didn't know if he wanted to pass.


Doyle craned his neck as he twisted in the passenger seat, glancing back
at the trunk of the car.  "Are you sure he's all right back there?"

"Do you see any flames shooting out of the trunk?"  Xander kept his eyes
on the road as he drove.


"Then he's fine."  The brown-eyed man grinned and glanced over at Doyle.
"Don't worry about him.  He's wrapped up in a blanket, and Angel's already
made sure his trunk is light proof.  Trust me, it's safest for all of us
this way.  There's no way he could ride inside the car with us, and if it
was dark, he'd insist on driving.  I don't remember much about the ride to
LA, but I remember enough to know not to let him anywhere near the wheel."

The half-demon relaxed into his seat.  If Xander wasn't going to worry,
then neither was he.  He was just going to relax and enjoy the ride, and
the company.  He'd been worried about making this trip to Sunnydale.  He
knew that Spike would be going back with Xander - he couldn't imagine the
blond man allowing Xander to get that far away from him voluntarily.  The
vampire had protested long and hard about having to ride in the trunk, but
Xander was determined to move to LA as soon as possible, and that meant
leaving during the day.

He'd been surprised by the brown-eyed man's request that he also come.
Angel had wanted to come, too, but Xander had refused to let him.


"Sunnydale is dangerous," Angel said, almost imploringly.  "I want you to
make it back here safely."

"I will," Xander promised, moving to stand directly in front of the tall
vampire.  "But we both know things will be easier if you stay here.  I'm
going to have to say good-bye to them.  You know this."

"You're worried about Buffy."

"Mostly, yeah," Xander admitted.  "This is going to hurt her."

"Good," interjected Spike.

The human glared at him, but otherwise ignored him.  "I'd rather give her
some time to adjust to the idea.  You and me is going to be hard enough to
explain. She'll be less hurt if it seems to happen after I've been in LA for a
while." He moved even closer.  "Spike and Doyle will be with me, and we'll be back sometime tonight."

Angel nodded tightly, then reached out and pulled the man before him into
his arms.  They shared a fevered kiss, lasting long moments.  Finally,
Angel drew away.  "You'll be back tonight?"

"Late tonight, but tonight, yeah."  Xander smiled.  "You won't even have
time to miss us."

Angel's eyes denied that, but he said good-bye to them all, and let them
leave without him.


The Irishman could understand the logic of leaving Angel behind.  Things
were going to be hard enough for Xander, what with moving out of his house
and saying good-bye to his friends.  Adding in revealing his relationship
with one of his friends' ex-boyfriend would be pushing things too far.  He
was glad that Xander had asked him to come, though.  He wanted to see
Sunnydale; he thought it might help him come to understand both Xander and
Angel a little more.

Plus, being asked meant that he didn't have to follow Xander on his own.
He knew Spike wouldn't let anything demonic hurt the dark-haired man, but
Doyle wanted to be there, just in case something human, like his parents
or his friends, gave him trouble.  He'd never met either, but from the
stories he'd heard, he was ready for the worst.

The time flew by; Doyle put his chance to good use, and talked to Xander,
learning as much as he could about the other man.  His attraction to him
had only deepened, grown more intense, as time passed.  He felt like he
could never know enough about him, never make up for the time he'd lost
when he didn't know him.

All too soon, the turn-off for Sunnydale appeared, and Xander took it.
Doyle stared out the window, taking in the sights as the sun began to set.
There wasn't anything especially hellmouthy about the town - it looked
just like every other SoCal town he'd been in.  OK, so the alleys were a
little darker, the bad vibes a little stronger.  It didn't reek of evil,
like he'd imagined it would.

Xander guided the black convertible through town, until he came to
middle-class neighborhood.  He stopped the car at the end of the street,
and glanced over at Doyle.  "Um, I li...my parents live a few houses down.
I'm going to park here...it's just safer."

The half-demon nodded.  "Whatever you want.  I'm good for carrying things
a bit of a ways."  He took this as proof that Spike's accusations against
Xander's parents were real.

"I don't have that much," Xander shrugged.  He got out of the car, and
waited for Doyle to follow.  He led him to a house that revealed a
distinct lack of upkeep:  weed-choked yard, peeling paint, hanging
shutters.  The brown-eyed man paused by the mailbox and reached inside.
He pulled a single key out of it.  Shaking his head, he laughed bitterly
and led Doyle around to the back of the house.

"I don't think they noticed I was gone," he said quietly as he unlocked a
door.  "All my stuff is here in the basement.  I don't think anyone's
home, but let's be quiet, all right?  I'd rather not have a run in with

The green-eyed man nodded.  "Whatever you say."  He followed Xander into
the small basement, appalled by the thought of the younger man living in
such a dark place.  Of course, Angel's apartment wasn't exactly filled
with light, but it felt better than this place did.  He needed to get the
other man away from here as soon as possible.

Xander was right:  he really didn't have all that much stuff to move.  He
watched as Xander pulled out a few bags from his closet, and began to toss
clothes into them.  Doyle winced at the sight of some of the shirts
disappearing into the bags; he knew he wasn't exactly a fashion plate, but
some of those clothes had to go.  Xander wore his clothing in too baggy a
style, anyway.  He needed something a little more fitted, shirts and pants
that would reveal the muscled body, rather than hiding it away.

Doyle shook himself as he realized he was slipping into a fantasy of
dressing Xander in new clothes.  He'd definitely been spending too much
time with Cordy.

He helped Xander pack up clothing, and then turned to his shelves.  "No
stereo?" he asked as he placed a small collection of CDs into one of the

"Not any more, apparently.  I had one when I left.  The TV and VCR are
gone, too.  They must have needed to pay off a bar tab."  Xander didn't
seem upset; he was more resigned than anything else.

That was fine; Doyle was angry enough for both of them.  What kind of
parents stole their kid's things?

The kind that didn't get to see him anymore.  He packed faster than ever.
Two trips to the car later, he was fairly certain that they'd managed to
get everything that Xander wanted to keep.  "Anything else?" he asked.

"No, I think we're fin-"  There was a muted bang from up above them, and
Xander's words cut off immediately.  "Someone's home," he whispered,
almost inaudibly.

Doyle didn't miss the automatic hunching of his shoulders, or the utter
stillness that fell over him.  He reached out for him, and found himself
pulled into a tight embrace.  "Let's get out of here," the half-demon
whispered into his lover's ear.  "We'll make Angel buy you anything else
you need."  He kissed Xander's ear, his temple, and then both his eyes.

The young man nodded, then placed a fast, hard kiss on Doyle's lips.
"Just be quiet on the way out," he warned.  "They can move pretty fast,
even when they're drunk."  He led the Irishman out of the basement,
pausing only to toss his key back onto the bed on his way out.  Together,
they walked over to the car.

Once they reached it, Doyle noticed the tremors running up Xander's arms.
He grabbed the last bag out of the other man's hands and tossed it next to
the pile of the rest of his things.  "Are you all right?"

Xander nodded jerkily, then attempted a grin that came out crooked.  "I'm
not sure, actually.  But I know I'm glad I'm not going to have to ever go

"Never," Doyle swore, stepping closer to him.  Before he could do anything
more, he was distracted by the sound of pounding coming from the trunk.
Muffled curse words leaked through the metal.

"I know you can hear me, you bastards.  Let me out of here!"

The half-demon sighed.  Spike had woken up.  A glance at the sky proved
that night had truly fallen, so there was no legitimate reason for leaving
him in the trunk.  It looked like his private Xander-time was over.

Oh, well.  They needed the trunk space for Xander's things, anyway.

He watched the younger man open the trunk.  Spike leapt out as soon as
there was room enough.  He stretched for a moment, complaining all the
while. "Nobody makes a trunk big enough for a person to curl up in,
anymore.  After a few hours, they're all torture.  And what the hell took
you so long?  I was beginning to think I'd have to claw my way out, and I
don't want to imagine the whining Peaches would do if I damaged his car.
You should see the way he carried on when I'd get careless with his

The vampire abruptly seemed to realize where they were.  His gaze swept
over the pile of baggage beside the car.  In an instant, he was beside
Xander, his hands running restlessly over the other man's body.  "Are you
all right?  Did you get everything?  Were they there?  Did they-?"

Xander placed his hands over the blond man's mouth, cutting off the flow
of words.  "We got everything.  I'm find.  We never even saw them."  He
had no opportunity to say more, because the vampire's mouth was covering
his in a hungry kiss.

Doyle was mildly surprised to feel no jealousy.  Sure, he'd like to be
kissing Xander, but he'd have his chance.  It was a little hard to get
upset with Spike when the vampire was so obviously concerned for Xander.

Besides, it wasn't as though the sight of the two men together was hard on
the eyes.

The half-demon began to stow Xander's bags in the trunk.  By the time he
had finished, Spike seemed to be reassured that the brown-eyed man was
completely unharmed, and Xander was far steadier, if a little flushed.
"So, where to next?" he asked, even though he knew the answer.

"Giles's house."  Xander's voice was sad, but his gaze was steady.  "I
need to say good-bye."


Spike peered down through the railing on the second story of Giles's
house, hunching down into a squat so he could have a clear view of the
living room downstairs.  Beside him, Doyle did the same.  So far, nothing
down there interested him.  The Slayer and the witch were flipping through
magazines, while the Watcher and the witch's girlfriend were going over
some manuscript together.  He wasn't allowed to kill any of them, so he
stayed quiet and waited.

Xander had parked the car a block away from the Watcher's house, worrying
that Buffy might recognize it, and that the whole situation could go from
rotten to completely unsalvegable in a matter of moments.  He'd also
ordered Spike and the half-demon to stay by the car and wait for his

No chance of that happening.  The vampire had been on his way over to the
Brit's house as soon as Xander was out of sight, and Doyle had been right
on his heels.  Running through back yards, they made it there before the
mortal did.  Once there, Spike had hesitated on how to monitor the
situation without Xander catching wise to his presence.

Doyle had solved the problem for him.  Surveying the small house briefly,
he had shimmied up a tree, and then jimmied open one of the second floor

Seconds later, he was inside, smooth and silent as any professional Spike
Had ever seen.  Wearing an appreciative grin, the blond man followed his
example, joining him inside the house.  Then it was his turn to show Doyle
where to go to be order to see.

Spike cast a sidelong glance at the half-demon.  That had been a nice bit
of breaking and entering, there.  Obviously, Doyle's past was a little
more murky then he'd been led to believe, probably more than Angel knew,
as well.  Add that in to the other man's obvious caring for Xander, and
Spike might just be able to live with his presence in his lover's life.

If nothing else, the other man could help him shake up his Sire whenever
the other vampire got complacent.

Spike's attention instantly focused back on the scene downstairs when the
doorbell rang.  Xander.  He watched as Giles rose and crossed the room,
and answered the door.  A few moments later, and Xander was standing in
the middle of the living room.

"Hey, guys."  The dark-haired man gave his friends a nervous little wave
as he shifted from one foot to the other.  Spike wanted to go down there
and take him out of the house, save him from having to put himself through

The vampire stayed where he was.  This was something Xander wanted to do,
alone.  But if any of those humans down there made a false move....From
the corner of his eye, he could see Doyle tensing, getting ready to move
if necessary.

"Xander!" Willow exclaimed, looking up from her magazine.  "Are you
feeling better?  No more worrying by proxy?"

A small smile staged a valiant effort to cross Xander's face, and made it.
Barely.  "Yeah, I'm doing a little better."  He paused, chewing on his
lower lip for a moment.

Spike licked his own in sympathy.

"Guys?"  The nervousness was stronger in Xander's voice, but so was the
determination.  "There's something I need to talk to you about.  It's

Buffy looked up from her magazine.  "Oncoming apocalypse important?"
There was a small grin on her face.

"Not exactly," Xander said, returning the grin.  "More...me leaving
Sunnydale important."

"Another road trip?" Giles asked in the sudden silence that descended.

"No.  More permanent.  I'm moving to LA."

"What?"  Willow dropped her magazine.  "I don't understand."

"What's going on, Xander?  All of a sudden, you have the urge to move to
the big city?"  Buffy shook her head, frowning.

"It's not the city.  It's someone living there."  He shrugged a little
uncomfortably.  "I'm so close to being in love that I can't tell the
difference anymore.  I can't stay here, and not be with them."

Spike swallowed hard.  Someone living in LA?  Xander was in love with
Angel? He fought down the killing rage inside him, waiting to see what
else the human had to say.

"Xander, this is all rather sudden," Giles interposed.

"I know it seems that way, but I know what I'm doing.  I've known them for
a while, and this has been building.  It all just kind of came out in the
past few days.  They love me, too, and I don't want to miss out on a
chance to be with them.  They're going to be in LA, so I am, too."

Spike caught on to the use of 'them'.  So it wasn't just Angel; it was all
three of them.  He felt Doyle relax beside him, and realized that the
half-demon had shared his fears.  With a start, he realized he was
beginning to like the half-breed.  Damn it.

Willow shook her head.  "You can't go, Xander.  We need you."

"No, you don't," he said gently.  "You guys haven't needed me for a long
time now.  I'm going to miss you like crazy, all of you, but I have to do
this.  I *am* doing this.  I just wanted to say good-bye."

"You mean you're leaving now?"  The red-haired woman's voice cracked.

"Will, I'm not going far.  LA's right down the freeway."  He quickly
crossed the room and knelt beside her, catching her in a hug.  "I'll call
you as soon as I have a number for where I am.  We'll still see each
other, and I'll always be here for when you do need me.  It's just...this
is what I have to do now."  He stared at her seriously.  "For the first
time, my heart's telling me where to go.  I have to listen."

She nodded slowly.  "I kinda understand.  But you better call, you hear
me? If you don't, I'll figure out some sort of vengeance spell that will
make Anya look like a cute fuzzy bunny."

He laughed.  "I got it, Willow.  I'll call."  He looked over at the
Slayer. "Buff?"

"I don't understand it, either," she admitted.  She stood up and began to
pace.  "I mean, you've fallen in love and you're moving to LA, and this is
the first you're telling us any of it?  I need to know more.  I need to
know who. I need to know how."  A knock sounded.  "I need to answer the
door."  She walked over to the door and opened it.

Spike suppressed a groan as the Slayer's boyfriend walked in.  It was too
much to hope that the commando had forgotten about his last encounter with
Xander, wasn't it?

Oh yeah.  Riley stopped dead as soon as he saw Xander.  "Xander, hey."  He
began to blush furiously.  "Are you, um, feeling better?"

Xander grinned at the other man's discomfort.  "Tons.  Look, I'm sorry
about the other night.  I wasn't exactly myself."

"Oh, no, I understand.  Spike explained...sort of."  Riley's fingers were
brushing across his lips, but the soldier seemed completely unaware of the

"What are you talking about?" Buffy asked suspiciously.

"Nothing," Riley said hurriedly.

"It's nothing, Buff," Xander reassured her.

The Slayer glanced back and forth between the two men.  "Oh, I get it."

"Get what?" asked the dark-haired man.

"Why you're leaving.  You've got some friend in LA you're going to crash
with, right?  You're going there to hide-out because you're worried that
Riley will tell me!"

"Tell you what?  There's nothing to tell!" Riley blurted.

"You don't have to cover for him," Buffy said.  "I know that Xander's
jealous of you.  What did he do - pick a fight with you?  Did he hit you
or something? Now he's trying to cover his ass by running off to LA and waiting for this to all blow over."  She looked at Xander sadly.  "I thought we were past this.  I know you're upset that Anya is gone, but this isn't the way to
handle it."

Spike growled.  She was about three words away from having him come down
there, chip or no chip.  He could ignore the agony if it would give him
the chance to tear out her throat.

Giles moved to stand beside Xander.  "Buffy, that's enough!"  Spike agreed
with his words, but the Watcher was standing entirely too close to *his*
Xander.  Judging by the mutters coming from beside him, Doyle agreed.

"No, Giles, it isn't.  He's running away, and it's hurting Willow.  He's
abandoning us, just because he can't deal with the fact that Willow and I
have someone, and he doesn't."

That was it.  Time to go down there and earn his nickname all over again.
Spike gathered himself to stand, but was pressed back down into a crouch
by Doyle.

"Stay here," the half-demon hissed.  "Meet us outside."  With that, he was
on his way down the stairs._ Spike watched as he crossed the room,
ignoring the Scooby Gang's surprise. Doyle reached Xander, and pulled him
away from Giles.  "That's enough," the Irishman said firmly, his focus
completely upon the man in front of him.  "You don't have to listen to
that.  You said good-bye.  Let's go."

"Doyle, it's all right.  I'm fine," Xander protested.

"I'm sure as hell not.  Can we get out of here for my sake, then?"

"Who the hell are you?" asked Buffy.

"Me?  I'm gone - and so is Xander."

"No, he's not.  Neither of you are, until I get some answers."  She
stepped forward.

"You want answers?  I'll give you answers."  The nasty edge to Doyle's
voice impressed Spike.  "Here's one:  what happened a few nights ago was
Xander almost died.  None of you noticed he was in any trouble.  None of
you gave a damn that you hadn't seen or heard from him in days.  You live
on the Hellmouth, and it still didn't faze you."  He stared at Buffy and
the others with obvious contempt.  "None of you realize what you have in
Xander.  None of you deserve him."  He turned to face Xander again.
"Please?  Can we go?"

Xander nodded shakily, then glanced over at Willow.  "I'll be in touch."

"Is it true?" she asked.  "Did you almost die?"

Xander hesitated, and glanced over at Giles.  "Yeah.  It was a near thing.
Closer than ever before, actually, but it's over now.  I'll tell you about
it later."  He grabbed Doyle's hand.  "I want to get back home."  He led
the half-demon over to the door, then paused and looked back at his
friends. "I'll be in touch."

"You can't just leave," Buffy objected.

"Yeah, I can, Buff.  I'm tired.  Tired of being left behind, tired of
being a hanger-on.  I'm tired of not being needed."  He shrugged.  "I'll
call.  We can do this later.  I really just want to go home."  With that,
he and Doyle were out the door.

Spike was tempted to go downstairs and add to the misery down there, but
the urge to be with Xander was too strong.  He left the same way he had
entered, and ran back to the car.

There, he found Xander wrapped tightly in Doyle's arms.  The mortal was
breathing deeply, obviously trying to hold back tears.  The half-demon was
swaying gently back and forth, whispering soothing words into the dark
hair beneath his lips.

Green eyes met blue, and Spike nodded in approval at the sight of the rage
and contempt that filled them.  Good.  Doyle had his priorities straight:
first Xander, then everything else, including the good guys fighting the
good fight.

The half-demon kissed Xander several time, slow, soft caress that weren't
meant to entice, but rather comfort.  "Time to head home, eh?"  Once the
man in his arms nodded, the Irishman said, "So why don't you get into the
car. The backseat, and Spike can ride with you.  From what you said,
there's no way I'm going to let him drive, so you keep him distracted for

A weak smile crossed the brown-eyed man's face.  "Anything.  If riding him
was that frightening when I was out of my head, imagine how bad it would
be now."

"Hey," Spike objected, but it was out of principle.  He was going to get
to spend some quality time with his Xander.  So what if someone else was

He followed Xander into the car.

As soon as he was seated, he pulled Xander into his arms.  The mortal
resisted for a moment, then relaxed and sank into the embrace with a
grateful sigh. "You saw?" he asked quietly.

"Yeah," the vampire answered.  "If you want Doyle to turn the car around
so we can go back and kill them, just say the word."

"No!" Xander protested.  "I don't want that.  They're my friends - how
else were they supposed to react?  I just throw the news that I'm in love
and that I'm leaving at them; what else should I have expected?"

"Some support, maybe?"  Spike inhaled the scent of his lover, using it to
keep himself calm.  No point in upsetting Xander further.  "They could've
tried to understand, but they didn't give you a chance.  And you don't owe
them anything, not after they never noticed you were gone.  A few days
without talking to someone on the Hellmouth is damn near criminal."  It
was.  Even if Xander hadn't been in LA, what else could've happened to him
while his friends were too busy with their own lives to take notice of

Xander burrowed closer to Spike.  "I don't want to talk about it anymore.
I just want to go home."  He might not want to talk about it, but he was
still thinking on it - the vampire could smell the salt of barely
suppressed tears, and feel the elevated heartrate in the chest so close to
his own.

Spike didn't say anything more; he just held Xander closer, kissing him
gently from time to time, offering comfort in the only way he knew how -
through physical contact.  It worked, because the brown-eyed man's
breathing soon evened out, until he was dozing in Spike's arms, murmuring
contentedly from time to time as the vampire continued to pet him.

The blond man looked up briefly, and met Doyle's eyes in the rearview
mirror. The half-demon nodded solemnly, approvingly.  Spike returned the
nod, before focusing all his attention once more on Xander.  They were
going home.

Somehow, the fact that home included Angel and Doyle didn't upset him as
much anymore.  There had always been something unfinished between himself
and his Sire, something that he now wanted to pursue.  And the Irishman
was definitely showing signs of having definite possibilities.

Besides, they made Xander happy.


Xander murmured contentedly as he began to wake up, arching up slightly
into the hands that were stroking over his back.  He was more asleep than
awake, but the hands were insistent.  Besides, he really didn't want to
resist them, anyway.

Slowly drifting up out of the depths of sleep, he experienced one of the
new pleasures he had found in life, one that was intensely personal, one
that he hadn't shared with anyone.

He woke up gladly, without feeling weighed down by the usual dread and
resignation that used to greet him every morning.

It was so small a thing, but it reminded him all over again how much his
life had changed.  The hands on his back were a large part of that.
Finally finding a place where he was needed and wanted and loved had
changed his life, changed the way he viewed the world and himself.

The hands were more insistent, trying to persuade him to wake up faster.
As much as he wanted to heed their call, he still resisted waking up, just
a little; it had been a long night, although not an unusual one.  Evil.
Havoc-wreaking demons.  Copious amounts of slime.  Celebration.

It was the celebrating that had really worn Xander out.  Angel, Doyle, and
Spike were all overprotective of him; none of them were willing to risk
him being hurt if they could help it.  As much as it irritated him, Xander
saw their actions for what they were:  demonstrations of how very much the
three men cared about him, how very important he was to them.

The hands gave up on waiting, and pushed him over onto his back.  Before
he could open his eyes, a mouth covered his, tongue probing deeply and
twining playfully around his.  Raising arms still heavy with sleep, Xander
sank his fingers into his lover's hair and responded with growing

The faint taste of whisky, slight traces of stubble against his own,
warmth. Pulling back, Xander murmured, "Doyle," and opened his eyes.

The half-demon stared down at him.  "Finally," he teased, gaze soft with

"I was beginning to think I'd have to do something drastic to wake you up."
He settled himself down on top of Xander, and bent back down to continue
the kiss.

The brown-eyed man tried to pull him even closer.  He could never get
enough of this, of Doyle, of any of them.  It was intoxicating, to know
that he could reach out and touch whenever he liked, whenever he needed.
Even more heady, he knew that his touch was craved, his every caress
desired and returned with the same love with which he gave.

The kisses gained in intensity, and soon Xander was thrusting up against
the dark-haired man, the delicious friction wringing appreciative moans
from him. His hands roamed eagerly over the skin so close to his, sparing
a brief moment to be thankful that they'd all given up on wearing pyjamas.

Especially since he'd seen the sort Angel owned.

Cool hands intruded on the heat he and Doyle were building between
themselves, pulling the half-demon up, rolling Xander over on to his side.

The brown-eyed man opened his eyes and glared at the two vampires staring
down at them. "Hey," he objected.  "I'm in the middle of something, here."

Inwardly, he was filled with anticipation, and relief that it was Cordy's
day off.

"No, you aren't," Spike corrected, his hands sliding down Doyle's
shoulders. "There were just two of you.  You need at least three people in
order to be in the middle of something."

Angel nodded his agreement.  "At *least* three."  He looked at the two men
on the bed.  "You two need to learn to share."

"And who's going to teach us?" Doyle challenged.  "You?"

"And me," Spike countered, turning the Irishman even further and kissing
him wetly.

Xander watched, licking his own lips.  Spike and Doyle had been getting
closer as weeks passed, and it looked as though they were through dancing
around each other.  The dark-haired man was glad.  He had watched as Spike
and Angel gradually came to some sort of understanding between themselves,
that was separate from their relationship with him, and he had seen Angel
and Doyle do the same.

He didn't feel any jealousy.  He'd never wanted to be the single common
link that held the other three men together; he didn't need that guilt,
knowing that they didn't want to be together, that they only did what they
did for him.  Now that he could see that he wasn't the only tie existing
among them, he felt more confident about the strange relationship they
were all in, and really believed that it would last.

Cool lips brushed his ear.  "Do you just want to watch?" Angel asked as he
slid behind Xander and pulled him back against his chest.

"Watching's fun.  Playing's better," Xander answered, tilting his head
back to nuzzle at the pale length of neck.  Strong hands spun him around,
and he was pressed back into the mattress as Angel climbed on top of him.

"But I - oh God, do that again - I wanted to play - ooh- with Doyle."  He
managed to gasp out a protest as Angel licked his way down his chest.

"Doyle's busy right now," Angel shot back, before nibbling at Xander's

The brown-eyed man looked over at the two men beside him, and his eyes
widened.  Oh yeah.  Doyle was very busy.  Judging by the sounds he was
making, he was very happy, too.

Xander snapped his attention back to Angel.  He tugged at the vampire,
pulling and persuading him to come back up and face him.  With a grin, he
managed to roll them over, so he was on top of the taller man.  Of course,
his little maneuver also rolled them over into in the other two men.
"Oops," he muttered, completely unrepentant.

Spike glared over at him.  "Watch it," he mock-growled from on top of

Xander ignored, him, leaning down to kiss Angel thoroughly.  With a wicked
grin, he leaned over and pushed past Spike, claiming a kiss from Doyle as
well.  He then focused back on Angel, completely ignoring the blond

Chuckling his approval, Angel began to thrust up against Xander.  The
dark-haired man began to lose himself in the sensations once more,
enjoying the feel of skin on skin, the way the fire was rising in him
again as he moved forward toward orgasm.

His journey was interrupted by cold hands clamping on his shoulders and
shoving him until he was lying on his back, pinned to the mattress once
more. Above him, Spike shook his head.  "Tsk, tsk, love.  You should know
better than to tease."

Xander cast an appealing glance toward his other lovers.  Doyle shook his
head ruefully from his perch on top of Angel.  "You really should know
better," he chided.  Beneath him, Angel nodded before pulling Doyle down
for a kiss.

The brown-eyed man tried to smile up at Spike.  "I can explain."

"It'll be hard to do that, with your mouth full, and all."

Xander frowned in puzzlement, until Spike manhandled him around for a
moment. The vampire leaned back against the head of the bed, holding
Xander in front of him.  One eyebrow raised, he glanced down at his
erection, and then back to Xander.

Mouth full.  Right.  A thought occurred to him, and Xander ducked his
head, moving forward quickly to hide his grin.  He hadn't mentioned his
talk with Angel to Spike yet - the one in which the older vampire filled
him in on a few ways to push Spike's buttons that the blond man wasn't

Bracing himself with his hands on Spike's thighs, he licked delicately at
the hard flesh awaiting his attention.  Hearing the vampire's appreciative
groan, Xander scooted closer, and began to apply the advice Angel had
given him.

Apparently, he'd paid attention well when the tall man had been talking:
after a few minutes, Spike grabbed him and once again pinned him to the
mattress.  Xander stared in fascination at the brutally ridged face
staring down at him, amazed as always that it took so little for the
vampire to loose all control around him.

A cold tongue plunged into his mouth, thrusting in and out with desperate
intensity, even as slick fingers probed at him, stretching carefully
despite their haste.  And then Spike was pressing into him with exquisite,
torturous slowness.

Xander wrapped his legs around his lover's waist, pulling him closer,
impaling himself on the cold length of flesh within him.  He gasped out
his pleasure, incoherent words spilling from his lips until his mouth was
captured once more in a fevered kiss.  Cool fingers locked around his
heated length, pumping in time with the ever-quickening thrusts.

The brown-eyed man could hear rising moans coming from the men beside him.

He glanced over, and watched as Doyle sank slowly into Angel.  The sight
and sound was nearly enough to push him over the edge.  Nearly.  He needed
something more.  That in mind, he bit down on Spike's lower lip.

The vampire drew back slightly, yellow gaze darkening with increasing
lust. "You sure?" he panted, not slowing his thrusts a whit.

In answer, Xander let his head loll back onto the pillow, exposing his
throat fully, even as his hands drew Spike's head down.

That was all the invitation that the vampire needed.  With a muffled cry,
he buried his teeth in Xander's shoulder, sharp fangs slicing through
skin, summoning the thick blood that coursed beneath.

Xander screamed as he came, the sensation finally too much for him.  He
felt Spike shudder above him, and then relax to lay heavily on top of him.
A cool tongue ran over the bite in long, leisurely stokes, wet circles of
soothing pleasure.

He exchanged slow kisses with his lover, until Spike pulled back with a
contended sigh.  "Love you," the vampire murmured quietly, before burying
his face in Xander's neck, his tongue still creeping out to lave warm

"Love you, too," Xander whispered, before turning to look at Angel and
Doyle, who were basking in their own post-orgasmic haze.  "Love all of

Angel repeated his words back to him, the truth of them shining in his
eyes. Doyle didn't reply verbally, but instead leaned over and kissed
Xander, letting his actions speak for him.  As he pulled back, the
half-demon caught up one of the mortal's hands, and held it pressed
between himself and Angel.

The brown-eyed man relaxed back into the bed, eyes slowly slipping shut.
It was time to get up, but first he'd lie back and soak up the sensation
of being surrounded by love.  It was like nothing he'd ever known before,
and he didn't want to miss a moment of it.  Buoyed by love, he drifted in
a haze of contentment, finally at peace with his life, and with himself.


That's all, folks.  <sniff>  But hey, this means I get to move on to the
next fic, right?  Thank you, to everyone who has been great enough to send
feedback to me.  I really appreciate it <g>


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