Divided


by
Jackson



  2   3




Part One

Xander had a list of least favourite places, and the city dump was up in the top five. Not as bad as the Morgue because at least the dump didn't have dead people but definitely worse than the local Bus Station, cos okay there were less winos at the dump but he really did have to deduct marks for the stench. Still duty called and here they were.

Ah the city dump. If I'dve known this was where we were gonna end up I . . .probably would have still worn this. Even he had to admit the clothes he was wearing tonight made you reach for sunglasses if you looked at them too long but his mom had broken the washer again and at least they didn't smell. Or hadn't before coming here. If the demon is so damn sophisticated howcome he hangs out in a dump? Oh that's right he's only sophisticated when it comes to killing people. Not a comforting thought

"People say they're recycling." Riley said, interrupting his inner rant as he shook his head sadly. "They're not recycling."

Xander bit back a grin as he patted Riley comfortingly and continued to bring up the rear behind Buffy and Giles. And Riley and Willow just to be on the safe side. Not that he was nervous or anything of this huge robed demon that used pain inducing weapons and could be lurking behind any pile of rubbish . . .

He heard some scuffling sounds nearby and tensed but the look on Riley's face reassured him slightly. It was the 'oh no not you' look rather than the 'oh crap how many times can that thing kill me before it gets tired' look. Xander peered over Riley's shoulder and relaxed. Though it was a demon lurking it was more the annoying, impotent kind that seemed to turn up every damn place you go, rather than the robed, sophisticated type.

"What are you doing here Spike?" Riley asked threateningly.

Spike's ice blond head raised itself up as he looked at them in frank disgust. Yet again with the Slayerettes and the farm boy missing the blindingly obvious. Didn't these guys have anything better to do than apparently follow him around and catch him doing things he'd rather have kept private?

"Oh, there's nice lady vampire who's set up a charming tea room over the next pile of crap" he said witheringly to hide his embarrassment at being caught. "What do you think I'm doing, I'm scavenging ain't I?" Scavenging. Yeah, that was a good word. Put a slightly better complexion on picking through other peoples less than sweet smelling rubbish.

He waved a lamp at them, which Xander actually thought was pretty nice. Would go a lot better in the basement than a crypt. Then again the two were probably even. The basement also featured on his list of least favourite places.

"Very pretty" Willow chirped.

Damn right Spike thought slightly mollified. Red had taste. He almost smiled then caught Buffy's glare and thought better of it, instead throwing a wave at her as he walked away.

Giles looked apologetically at the others then called out.

"Spike erm . . ."

Spike rolled his eyes. Of course, don't let me hang on to my last tatter of pride will you Rupert? But he turned back, if nothing else at least the Scoobies kept him alert to any new demons he could kill.

"We're looking for a demon." Giles continued. "Tall, robed, skin sort of hanging off, deep voice."

Spike's eyes widened slightly as he looked behind Giles at what was advancing on them silently. Maybe he'd let the Slayer take this one. There was split second temptation to keep quiet and watch them get hit, but he couldn't resist seeing the look on their faces.

"You mean a great tall robey thing like that one?"

Crap, crap, crap, next time I'm staying in the middle Xander thought manically as they all whirled around. Assuming there is a next time. Great, tall robey thing just like the vampire said. Oh and did he mention it looked absolutely petrifying? Raising it's weapon as it stalked towards them and fired what looked like a bolt of light right at them. The Scoobies all scattered and he threw himself on the ground hearing it hit somewhere behind him.

"Take cover!" Riley yelled.

/Yeah thanks Ri. If it hit's me be sure and let me know I'm dead won't you?/ Xander thought frantically, eyes darting around to see if everyone was safe, if Buffy could start the slash and dice anytime soon. Spike was open, maybe he could help . . .

"Hey big guy, kick her ass!" Spike yelled.

Maybe not. When the hell was it gonna sink in Spike was an evil, annoying, ungrateful . . . Xander watched with some satisfaction as Toth obviously not liking the 'all demons together' thing Spike was selling, fired at him, smashing his lamp.

"Oh very nice!" Spike yelled affronted. "I was on your side!"

Toth ignored Spike, sensible demon, and raised his weapon again, directly at Buffy. Xander launched himself at her and threw her out of the way as Riley rushed at Toth, knocking his arm and deflecting the bolt so it flew scant inches past Buffy, straight at Spike who looked up from his mangled lamp just in time to see it heading straight for him.

"Aw shi . . ."

Spike disappeared from view as the power of the blast knocked him off his feet, making him fly over a pile of garbage. They gaped in horror, before whirling around to fight Toth again . . .except Toth was nowhere in sight.

"What the . . ."

"Where's Toth?"

"He's gone!"

As the others scrambled around looking for Toth, Xander clambered over the mound of rubbish to check on Spike. Not that he was concerned but because . . .okay he couldn't think of a good reason, but he still stumbled over the garbage, trying not to think about what he might be putting his feet in.

He spotted Spike at once, groaning as he shifted on the rubble and slithered over, crouching in front of him.

"Spike! You okay? Can you get up?"

Spike was not happy. He stunk, he hurt, he'd been caught pawing through rubbish by his enemies, he was lying on something that somehow felt both pointy and slimy and his lamp was broken. And now some idiot was asking if he was okay? He felt snappish and had a strong desire to sulk. He swallowed back the annoyed retort that rose to his lips and opened his eyes to find himself gazing into what could very well be the biggest, softest, hottest dark brown eyes he'd ever seen, with long eyelashes, blinking through the soft brown hair that was tumbling into them . . .

Xander looked at Spike, who was staring at him mutely, opening and closing his mouth. Crap. I bet it's fried his brain, that's all we need, Spike acting like a goldfish

Xander shook off the image of Spike with scales and waved his hand in front of Spike's face.

"Spike, are you alright?" Spike blinked rapidly, Xander, he of the velvet eyes, was waving at him and seemed to want an answer. He felt wonderfully, giddily, dizzy and couldn't quite get a hold of the words he wanted to say.

"Xander?" He asked confused. He felt . . different. Kind of trembly and, for a change, not really wanting to find the demon that had hit him and rip out it's spine. More like he needed a cup of tea and a sit down. Being hit had been quite a shock.

"Spike." Xander said impatiently. "Are you gonna get up or what?"

"Umm yes." He said shakily, his anger vanishing. "I think so. Thank you."

Xander raised an eyebrow. Spike saying thank you? That blast must have packed a hell of a punch. "Okaaay . . .here." He held his hand out and Spike slowly placed his own in it, a small tingle going through him as Xander's fingers closed over his own.

Xander stood and heaved, Spike came up, stumbling on the shifting bags a little and found himself looking up at Xander. Xander that he was suddenly standing very close to.

Xander, his expression a little bemused raised his eyebrows at Spike then looked pointedly down to where, Spike realised with a sudden flame to his cheeks, he was still holding on to Xander's hand.

"Xander! Are you okay?" Buffy's voice cut in.

"Yeah Buff" Xander yelled back, dropping Spike's hand and moving back to his friends.

Spike stood there for a moment, bewildered. His hand still felt warm where Xander's fingers had touched him. He frowned, trying to place the unfamiliar feeling running through him. Sort of warm and looked after. It had been kind of Xander to come and check on him. No wonder he felt odd. Usually he didn't have much time for kindness. Or for Xander come to that. He'd known Xander for ages, even lived with him for a while, and basically found the lad to be a waste of space. An irritating, sanctimonious one at that. So why was he suddenly coming over all shy and girl-like, staring into his eyes? He clambered over the rubble, losing his footing and hitting the bags with a surprised "Ooofff" sound.

"Blech." With a kind of scrabbling run on all fours, he lurched over the mounds and then ducked down to peer over the top to watch as Xander walked away with the others, he strained to hear snippets, frowning slightly. That blast must have really thrown him off, he didn't usually have this much difficulty tuning in to conversations.

" . . .he okay?" Red.

"Stunned, not to . . .Happened . . .Toth?" Xander.

"Better . . .next time . . " the soldier.

Xander and the other's vanished from view and Spike managed to get to his feet and stagger back to the path. He shook his head crossly. The garbage stench must be sending him crazy. Either that or his head was still spinning from the blast from Toth's stick. That was it. Nothing to do with Xander. No. Not a thing.

Slowly, he made his way home, wincing slightly with each step, and the demon, green and feral, out of sight and stunned under a broken table, opened it's red eyes.





Part Two



The demon crouched close to the ground, listening for any sounds of danger. Every muscle in his body tensed, ready to leap, to kill anything that threatened him. His eyes darted around, taking in his surroundings. He didn't know how he'd got here, all he could remember was a bolt of pain, then darkness and now this. He whipped his head from side to side, trying to take in the abundance of stimulus suddenly bombarding him. Scent, sound, sight, everything was amplified to an almost unbearable pitch, the slight creaking as the bags shifted slightly under his feet, the overpowering stench of the rubbish surrounding him, the scrape of leather and denim against his skin.

All around him was still and he relaxed slightly. Whatever this place was, it held no danger. He stood and flexed his body experimentally. Strength coursed through him, he felt released, like he had been cooped up in a cramped space for far too long and was finally free.

With grace and ease the demon leapt from one mound of rubbish to another, each time inhaling deeply. Beneath the overpowering stench of the garbage around him, he could catch the scent, faint and tantalizing of something. Something he wanted.

He tore his way through the rubbish, tossing it to one side. He didn't know what he was looking for exactly, but it wasn't here, his rage mounted. Too much to keep hemmed in. No room for thoughts, no need for them. Only feelings. And he felt hungry. The faint tinge of pink in the sky and the change of the wind strengthened the scent of what he wanted. People. Blood. Food. It called to him, a pull that was impossible to refuse; he could almost taste the blood already in his mouth, the coppery warmth spreading throughout him.

With a growl of triumph he began to make his way towards the scent, only to throw himself back under cover, howling with rage as the burning pain from the sun struck his skin.

***

Spike woke at sunset, but didn't stir from his uncomfortable bed. Still half asleep, he replayed last night's events. A dreamy smile spread over his face and a warm bubble of happiness expanded in his chest at the memory of Xander helping him after Toth's attack.

That had been so nice of him! Xander had been concerned about him. His smile grew and he sighed happily. Maybe he could get hit by a blast again and Xander would be there to help him up. Only this time, instead of dropping his hand, Xander would tighten his grip. His eyes would flick to Spike's mouth. He'd slowly pull Spike to him, lean in, and Spike would raise his mouth up for the kiss . . .

Spike jolted himself out of his half-dream before imaginary Xander had a chance to close the gap between their lips. Flushed and appalled, he shot up in bed. He didn't just fantasize about kissing Xander! However, a certain part of his body still tingling slightly under the sheet was providing a silent, but eloquent argument that he had, and that he'd enjoyed it quite a bit.

He couldn't possibly like Xander! Had he suddenly gone crazy? Why Xander? Why now? Besides, even if he did . . .um, like Xander, it would be pointless. Xander had a girlfriend, he would never be interested in him. He couldn't fall for anyone more out of reach than Xander if he tried.

But . . . he thought hesitantly he's so nice. It was just last night. That small show of concern that he'd had no reason to deserve or expect. With that one gesture, Xander had walked straight into his heart, and now he couldn't imagine why he hadn't noticed him before. As though he was seeing Xander through new eyes and suddenly noticing all the things he'd known for years but never appreciated. He was kind and brave, funny and gorgeous and always smelled so good, looked so good . . .he remembered nights tied to the chair, watching Xander clamber into bed, only wearing his boxers . . .the long line of his neck, the play of the muscles in his arms, skin gleaming in the dim light. . .

A slightly dazed expression came over Spike's face as a small, besotted smile tugged at his mouth. He could have stayed there daydreaming indefinitely, but a low growling sound interrupted him. His stomach.

Still a little starry-eyed, he got out of bed, shivering slightly as he slid into his jeans and looked with distaste at his tiny, portable fridge. The only thing in there was couple of bags of cold pig blood. He'd really better look into finding a microwave. In human terms his fridge held the equivalent to some gone off bacon and half a can of flat beer. But still. Hungry. He swallowed back his odd nausea at the thought of drinking blood and bit into the bag, struggling against the plastic before the blood spurted into his mouth. And Spike promptly spurted it back out again.

"Urrrgh!" Spitting it out in disgust, he wiped his mouth vigorously in an attempt to rub all the taste away. He knew pig's blood wasn't exactly fine dining, but it had never tasted that bad before. Despite its bitter taste, it usually satisfied some deep part of him, but apparently not today. It must have gone bad or something. He shuddered at the memory of the taste, but his stomach was still roaring for food.

He counted the money in his wallet. Twenty-three bucks. Not much, but enough to get him a fresh bag, then he'd head over to the Bronze for a beer. Maybe Xander would be there. Excitement he couldn't hold back raced through him. Not that he'd do anything, it would be stupid to even hope that there was any chance that Xander would feel the same. He'd tried that too many times in the past, reaching out to people, overcoming his shyness only to have it flung back in his face. But if he could just see Xander, spend a little time being with him, looking at him, listening to him, that would be enough.

With a smile Spike just couldn't wipe from his face, he finished dressing and set off, slowly strolling, enjoying the warm breeze, the velvety duskiness of the evening. He hadn't felt this happy, this peaceful in longer than he could remember. The constant tension and frustration he'd been feeling lately just drained away.

So he was chipped. So what? There were worse things. His problem was he didn't have a hobby. He needed to keep busy, maybe he could join the library, borrow some books off Giles. He used to love reading, writing, playing with words, making them into a beautiful form. Maybe he just hadn't had the right inspiration for a while, but for the first time in over a hundred years Xander was making him feel the urge to pick up a pen and try to write a poem again. Why not? It wasn't like anyone would ever see what he wrote.

His head still in the clouds, he hardly noticed the two giggling girls walking by. They whispered together, waving flirtatiously as they appraised him appreciatively. Spike dropped his eyes and blushed from the tip of his toes to the roots of his hair.

As he passed the Bronze on the way to the butcher shop, he paused. He was sure they served chicken wings in here, which was suddenly a lot more appealing then a bag of animal blood. The hunger kicked in again, ten times stronger than before. He needed food. Right now. Real food, like chicken. And fries. And chocolate.

Entering the Bronze, he blinked a little, letting his eyes adjust to the dim light before heading straight for the tables. As he hungrily perused the menu, a waitress appeared in front of him.

"What can I get you?"

Spike's initial thought was he wanted everything, several times over.

"Umm ..."

***

Some time later Spike was surrounded by empty dishes and making fast work through a plate of chicken wings. Oblivious to his surroundings, all that mattered was the food, even though his stomach felt like it might just burst from how much he'd eaten, he just couldn't get enough of it. He'd spent nearly all his money and frankly didn't care. He'd never tasted anything as good as this in his life. Of course he'd had food now and then since he'd been turned, even more since he'd been chipped and couldn't sample the variations in the blood of different humans. An all pig blood diet all the time got boring, but never had he tasted food so strongly, never had it felt so utterly there.

His waitress passed . . .again, and smiled at him, with more than a touch of professional interest, amused at the speed he'd been gulping his food down at.

"Good?" She twinkled at him.

"Oh yes, delicious thank you " Spike replied bashfully.

"Can I get you anything else . . .anything at all?" She asked, leaning forward a little.

"Actually . . ." Spike said thoughtfully, "I'd like another beer please."

Slightly miffed, she moved away, and Spike returned his attention to his plate.

"Well, if it isn't short, blond and gruesome," came a voice from behind him. Spike promptly choked on his chicken wing as Xander moved around to stand in front of him.

"Xander!" Cough. Choke. Splutter. Cough. Swallow. He managed an embarrassed smile while dabbing at his streaming eyes. "Um ...hello"

He wanted to be cool, witty, sophisticated, but Xander was here! Right in front of him! Talking to him!

It was overwhelming. Spike was frozen with nerves, his tongue just didn't seem to want to talk properly, and he could feel a blush was just waiting to happen. His skin hummed with excitement, he couldn't have felt more acutely aware of Xander's presence if he had taken him in his arms.

Fortunately Xander seemed completely unaware of the affect his presence was having on Spike as his eyes flicked casually over Spike, glanced around the Bronze, then looked back at Spike, as he paused before moving on.

"I see you're all recovered from the blast." Xander said, his eyebrow arched quizzically, his eyes dark with amusement as he took in the mountain of empty plates.

"Blast?" Spike said blankly as he tried to keep his hands steady, his mind was in a daze, completely unable to grasp anything other than the fact that Xander was here. Suddenly this crush was blosoming into something a whole lot bigger than he'd first thought.

His waitress returned, placing his beer in front of him, casting an indifferent glance at Xander before giving Spike a brilliant smile.

Spike barely even noticed she was there, but Xander's eyes narrowed as he watched her move off.

Xander really does have the most amazing eyes Spike thought dreamily. Eyes that gleamed, teemed, beamed with heat and humor and . . .did he just rhyme? He'd have to remember that and write it down. Later.

"Gee what is it with women and the undead?" Xander asked sourly, his eyes still on the waitress. "Why doesn't the guy that works his ass off saving them from vampires ever get a little appreciation?"

"What?" Spike pulled himself back from his contemplation of Xander's eyes with an effort. "You think she . . .uh, liked me?"

Xander shot Spike an exasperated look. "She was practically drooling."

"Really?" Spike asked, surprised. Maybe it was a good thing that Xander noticed other people finding him attractive. He actually sounded a little jealous. "I didn't notice."

"That's a surprise." Xander said cynically. "You're usually loving the attention."

"I am?" Spike wondered aloud. "Well not anymore. I'm not interested in . . ." He trailed off.

Something more pressing had his attention. Xander had chocolate. Spike's wide eyes followed as Xander brought the bar to his mouth and bit into it. When he lowered the bar again, Spike didn't follow it. Somehow his eyes were stuck on Xander's mouth. His luscious, delectable, fully edible mouth.

Xander chewed on his chocolate and noticed that Spike was staring at him.

"What?" he asked through a mouthful of chocolate. "Do I have something on my face?"

Spike blinked. "Um .. .no, nothing." Unable to tear his eyes away he reached for his beer.

Xander shrugged, swallowed the chocolate and licked his lips lingeringly. Spike promptly knocked his glass over, and the beer flew across the table drenching Xander.

"Hey!" Xander snapped.

"Oh, I'm sorry" Spike stammered, feeling a flush of embarrassment rise up. "Did it splash you badly?"

"I guess those famous vampire reflexes ain't what they used to be," Xander grumbled as he dropped his chocolate and grabbed a bundle of napkins, mopping at his jeans. Spike stood, grabbed another bundle and reached towards the damp patch on Xander's jeans.

"Woah!" Xander exclaimed, pointedly moving out of Spike's reach. "What are you doing?"

"Well I was . . ." Spike looked at the bundle of napkins in his hand, where he'd been about to start mopping, Xander, with his eyebrows raised expectantly, and wondered why the room wasn't glowing red along with him.

"Oh ... dear." Where was a trapdoor to hell when you really needed one?

Xander frowned, and looked at Spike a little closer.

"Spike are you blushing?"

"No! Of - of course I'm not blushing." This was dreadful. Xander was sure to guess, and then he'd either laugh at Spike or kill him. Neither option was particularly appealing. How would he have acted before he started liking Xander?

"Vampires don't blush. Stupid." In an attempt to look confident and relaxed he leaned on the table, his hand slid in the beer and he stumbled, falling against the table and banging his hip painfully on the corner. Inside he was screaming, but he resisted the need to rub what was sure to be one hell of a bruise and jump around shouting "ow". Instead he froze where he stood, leaning on the table and gave Xander a pained smile.

Xander looked at the table, then Spike. His eyebrows climbed a little higher.

"Your hand's in a pool of beer." He pointed out.

"I know." Spike said defensively.

"What is up with you tonight? And why are you talking like that?" Xander asked, his frown deepening.

"Like what?"

"Nicely. So . . .proper. You sound like Wesley, what happened to the working class accent?"

"Nothing. I just . . ." Spike trailed off. Xander had a point. What had happened to the accent?

He shook his head; he couldn't worry about that right now, despite his vow not to hope for anything from Xander, here was a golden opportunity to buy Xander a drink, to apologize for splashing him, and also to thank him for his help last night. Maybe Xander would begin to look at him in a new way. Not in that way, but at least in a way where Xander didn't hate him.

It was easier to speak now Xander wasn't looking at him, he was mopping at his jeans again.

"Xander" Spike began, pleased that his voice was only shaking the smallest amount "are you here on your own?"

"I'm waiting for Anya." Xander replied distractedly. "We're having a little R & R, before I go patrolling with Buffy on the lookout for Toth. Oh, and thanks so much for the help there by the way."

"Help?"

" 'Hey big guy kick her ass?'" Xander quoted glaring at him.

"Oh. I was just trying to . . .um, distract him. I didn't really mean it, you know." Spike babbled quickly.

"And I'm sure Buffy won't really mean it when she kicks your pale annoying ass."

This really didn't seem like the ideal moment to offer to buy Xander a drink. Spike had a feeling that the only chance he had of Xander looking at him in a new way was if he started walking upside-down. But he had to start somewhere. Spike licked his suddenly very dry lips. "Xander. A-as an apology, would . . .would you let me . . ."

"Xander!" Spike felt himself wincing at the loud voice cutting between them. Anya appeared and grabbed hold of Xander's arm possessively, giving Spike a dirty look.

"Why are you talking to him?" She pouted up at Xander.

"Something I've been asking myself since the conversation, - and I use the term loosely - began." Xander smiled down at her and kissed her briefly on the mouth.

Spike looked away, he felt so stupid. An unwelcome third. This was what he got for letting his defenses down, getting his hopes up. The pain welled up inside him at seeing the two of them together. It wasn't even so much the kiss as Xander's smile. Indulgent, entertained and loving.

"He's probably trying to steal your wallet." Anya continued.

Xander looked thoughtful. "He did make a grab for my jeans."

"See!"

"I wasn't trying to grab your wallet!" Spike protested horrified.

Anya narrowed her eyes. " What were you trying to grab?"

"Well I was . . ." Spike stumbled on the words, this conversation was spinning way out of control. He looked at Xander beseechingly.

"I would never steal from you," he said sincerely, desperate for Xander to believe him. Oh. Except sometimes he did steal from him.

"Well I won't from now on." Spike added frantically.

Xander looked up, an expression of utter disbelief on his face. Spike tensed in readiness for the next slam, but Xander was distracted by Anya.

"What happened to your jeans?" she asked. "It looks like you peed."

Xander shot Spike a black look. "Spike killed the evil beer. I got caught in the crossfire."

"Poor baby." She smiled consolingly at him as a slow song started to play. "Let's dance before you have to go kill more evil things."

"Sure your arm will be okay?" Xander asked, lightly touching her sling.

Anya nodded and led Xander away, and Spike grabbed his coat, blinking rapidly. Suddenly he wasn't hungry anymore.

Unfortunately, his broken heart would have to wait as something came crashing through the main entrance, bringing the door and a fair portion of the wall with it.

Shrieks of shock and fear drowned out the music as the demon bounded around the Bronze, whipping its head around, like it was trying to take everything in. Spike froze in terror. It was huge, green, with burning red eyes. It was immensely strong, flicking a table aside like it was nothing but a feather. The table flew into the wall, smashed beyond repair. The screams echoed through the building as people tried to escape. The demon grabbed a girl and bent her head back, exposing her throat.

"Hey!"

Spike's head whirled around, along with the demons to see Xander throwing chunks of broken table at it in an attempt to distract it. It worked, almost too well. The demon roared with anger, threw the girl to one side and bounded over to Xander.

"No!" Spike snapped out of his paralysis and tried to snap the leg of his chair for a weapon, but it wouldn't come off. He pulled so hard his hands ached but it wouldn't budge.

He looked up in horror to see Anya help Xander batter the beast with pieces of wood and debris. The demon roared and lashed out at Xander, landing a hard blow across his face. Spike winced as Xander flew across the room and crashed into the wall. Xander's nose was bleeding and the scent of blood in the air attracted the demon like a magnet, it bounded towards Xander. Spike dodged around the fleeing people, the horror was pounding through him, he had to get to Xander before the demon did, nothing mattered but that, but his feet just wouldn't move fast enough and the people banging into him kept knocking him off course, it was already way ahead of him, it was hopeless.

Spike grabbed an empty glass and heaved it at the demon.

"Hey! L-leave him alone!"

His voice was drowned out in the sounds around him, and the glass didn't even hit the demon, it hit the ground and shattered behind it, but still, somehow he must have caught its attention because, just before it reached Xander it stilled. Sniffed the air. Then turned to stare straight at Spike. Their eyes locked on to each other's.

For a long moment, oblivious to the screams and fleeing figures around it, the demon stared at Spike. Spike stared back, unable to move, fear crawling over his spine, his scalp. Like he was trapped underwater, all sounds became a dull roar far away.

Then the demon growled. Low and long. Its eyes narrowed and it coiled itself up, ready to pounce. Spike knew that, but he couldn't move, couldn't run, couldn't shout. Then suddenly:

"KILL IT!! KILL IT!" A girl screamed hysterically. She grabbed a stool and hurled it at the demon. More by luck than judgement it hit the demon square on the back of the head.

The demon broke its stare on Spike, howling in pain, whirling around to fend off the attack the people were launching on it. Sound and color rushed back into Spike's world, and more importantly the ability to move. He stumbled away out of its sight as the demon crashed outside, in search of easier prey, Spike and Xander, for the moment forgotten. Spike watched it go, his knees buckled under him for a moment, but he couldn't think about this now. Right now he had something else to worry about. His eyes darted around the Bronze.

"Xander!" Spike caught sight of him slumped against the wall and scrambled over to where he was groaning on the floor.

"Xander are you alright? Please be alright!" He said frantically, stroking Xander's face tenderly, trying to take all the pain away from him through gentle touch.

Xander's eyes fluttered, began to open, and Spike watched him with his heart in his mouth. He knew it was crazy, but Xander was going to open his eyes and see him, the same way he'd opened his eyes and seen Xander last night, maybe, just maybe . . .

"Hey! What are you doing?" Anya yelled protectively as she darted over to Xander.

"Nothing!" Spike jumped guiltily. "I was just trying to. . ."

Spike suddenly found himself face down on the dusty floor as Anya shoved him to one side and knelt over Xander.

"Get away from him, he's hurt!"

" . . . help." Spike finished, wincing as he got up from the floor.

Anya ignored him as Xander finally managed to prise his eyes open.

"Ahn?" He croaked.

"I'm here Sweetie." She crooned gently. "Are you okay?"

"Don't stop . . .touch me . . .like that . . .again." He mumbled, his eyes falling closed.

Spike started, joy bubbled up inside him, he took a quick step towards Xander, the words "That was me!" about to come out, but then he froze. The two of them were locked in their own world. Anya was gently wiping the blood away with the hem of her skirt. Xander reached a hand out to cover hers gratefully. Spike's shoulders slumped and the words died in his throat.

"I have to get you to the hospital." Anya said, her fingers feeling the bump on his head.

"Nah. I'm good." Xander sat up, winced, and continued. "Well maybe not good, but I'm not dead. I know because it hurts too much. Call it a plus. Come on, help me up, we've got to tell the others."

"Can you see?" She asked worriedly.

With an obvious effort Xander tried to focus on her. " Sure. I can see all three of you. And they're all gray and fuzzy. Like bunnies." He finished with a weak smile.

"Xander that's not funny. Come on. We have to get Buffy." Anya announced decisively.

With her good arm she tried to hoist him to his feet, he came up reluctantly.

"That's my girl and can I just say 'ow'?" Xander groaned, leaning heavily on her as they left the Bronze.

Spike watched them go with a pang. Anya could take her place at Xander's side so easily, and all he could do was watch.

Then he looked around at the state the Bronze was in. It was bad, but could have been so much worse. They'd got off pretty lightly. A cold chill crept down his spine as he played back those endless moments where the demons eyes had locked with his. Whatever that thing was, it was powerful, bloodthirsty, and why the hell was a demon he had never seen before, from a species he didn't recognize wearing exactly the same clothes as him?

The demon crouched close to the ground, listening for any sounds of danger. Every muscle in his body tensed, ready to leap, to kill anything that threatened him. His eyes darted around, taking in his surroundings. He didn't know how he'd got here, all he could remember was a bolt of pain, then darkness and now this. He whipped his head from side to side, trying to take in the abundance of stimulus suddenly bombarding him. Scent, sound, sight, everything was amplified to an almost unbearable pitch, the slight creaking as the bags shifted slightly under his feet, the overpowering stench of the rubbish surrounding him, the scrape of leather and denim against his skin.

All around him was still and he relaxed slightly. Whatever this place was, it held no danger. He stood and flexed his body experimentally. Strength coursed through him, he felt released, like he had been cooped up in a cramped space for far too long and was finally free.

With grace and ease the demon leapt from one mound of rubbish to another, each time inhaling deeply. Beneath the overpowering stench of the garbage around him, he could catch the scent, faint and tantalizing of something. Something he wanted.

He tore his way through the rubbish, tossing it to one side. He didn't know what he was looking for exactly, but it wasn't here, his rage mounted. Too much to keep hemmed in. No room for thoughts, no need for them. Only feelings. And he felt hungry. The faint tinge of pink in the sky and the change of the wind strengthened the scent of what he wanted. People. Blood. Food. It called to him, a pull that was impossible to refuse; he could almost taste the blood already in his mouth, the coppery warmth spreading throughout him.

With a growl of triumph he began to make his way towards the scent, only to throw himself back under cover, howling with rage as the burning pain from the sun struck his skin.

***

Spike woke at sunset, but didn't stir from his uncomfortable bed. Still half asleep, he replayed last night's events. A dreamy smile spread over his face and a warm bubble of happiness expanded in his chest at the memory of Xander helping him after Toth's attack.

That had been so *nice* of him! Xander had been concerned about him. His smile grew and he sighed happily. Maybe he could get hit by a blast again and Xander would be there to help him up. Only this time, instead of dropping his hand, Xander would tighten his grip. His eyes would flick to Spike's mouth. He'd slowly pull Spike to him, lean in, and Spike would raise his mouth up for the kiss . . .

Spike jolted himself out of his half-dream before imaginary Xander had a chance to close the gap between their lips. Flushed and appalled, he shot up in bed. He *didn't* just fantasize about kissing Xander! However, a certain part of his body still tingling slightly under the sheet was providing a silent, but eloquent argument that he had, and that he'd enjoyed it quite a bit.

He couldn't possibly like Xander! Had he suddenly gone crazy? Why Xander? Why now? Besides, even if he did . . .um, *like* Xander, it would be pointless. Xander had a girlfriend, he would *never* be interested in him. He couldn't fall for anyone more out of reach than Xander if he tried.

/But . . ./ he thought hesitantly /he's so nice./ It was just last night. That small show of concern that he'd had no reason to deserve or expect. With that one gesture, Xander had walked straight into his heart, and now he couldn't imagine why he hadn't noticed him before. As though he was seeing Xander through new eyes and suddenly noticing all the things he'd known for years but never appreciated. He was kind and brave, funny and gorgeous and always smelled so good, looked so good . . .he remembered nights tied to the chair, watching Xander clamber into bed, only wearing his boxers . . .the long line of his neck, the play of the muscles in his arms, skin gleaming in the dim light. . .

A slightly dazed expression came over Spike's face as a small, besotted smile tugged at his mouth. He could have stayed there daydreaming indefinitely, but a low growling sound interrupted him. His stomach.

Still a little starry-eyed, he got out of bed, shivering slightly as he slid into his jeans and looked with distaste at his tiny, portable fridge. The only thing in there was couple of bags of cold pig blood. He'd really better look into finding a microwave. In human terms his fridge held the equivalent to some gone off bacon and half a can of flat beer. But still. *Hungry*. He swallowed back his odd nausea at the thought of drinking blood and bit into the bag, struggling against the plastic before the blood spurted into his mouth. And Spike promptly spurted it back out again.

"Urrrgh!" Spitting it out in disgust, he wiped his mouth vigorously in an attempt to rub all the taste away. He knew pig's blood wasn't exactly fine dining, but it had never tasted that bad before. Despite its bitter taste, it usually satisfied some deep part of him, but apparently not today. It must have gone bad or something. He shuddered at the memory of the taste, but his stomach was still roaring for food.

He counted the money in his wallet. Twenty-three bucks. Not much, but enough to get him a fresh bag, then he'd head over to the Bronze for a beer. Maybe Xander would be there. Excitement he couldn't hold back raced through him. Not that he'd *do* anything, it would be stupid to even hope that there was any chance that Xander would feel the same. He'd tried that too many times in the past, reaching out to people, overcoming his shyness only to have it flung back in his face. But if he could just see Xander, spend a little time being with him, looking at him, listening to him, that would be enough.

With a smile Spike just couldn't wipe from his face, he finished dressing and set off, slowly strolling, enjoying the warm breeze, the velvety duskiness of the evening. He hadn't felt this happy, this peaceful in longer than he could remember. The constant tension and frustration he'd been feeling lately just drained away.

So he was chipped. So what? There were worse things. His problem was he didn't have a hobby. He needed to keep busy, maybe he could join the library, borrow some books off Giles. He used to love reading, writing, playing with words, making them into a beautiful form. Maybe he just hadn't had the right inspiration for a while, but for the first time in over a hundred years Xander was making him feel the urge to pick up a pen and try to write a poem again. Why not? It wasn't like anyone would ever see what he wrote.

His head still in the clouds, he hardly noticed the two giggling girls walking by. They whispered together, waving flirtatiously as they appraised him appreciatively. Spike dropped his eyes and blushed from the tip of his toes to the roots of his hair.

As he passed the Bronze on the way to the butcher shop, he paused. He was sure they served chicken wings in here, which was suddenly a lot more appealing then a bag of animal blood. The hunger kicked in again, ten times stronger than before. He needed food. Right now. Real food, like chicken. And fries. And *chocolate*.

Entering the Bronze, he blinked a little, letting his eyes adjust to the dim light before heading straight for the tables. As he hungrily perused the menu, a waitress appeared in front of him.

"What can I get you?"

Spike's initial thought was he wanted everything, several times over.

"Umm ..."

***

Some time later Spike was surrounded by empty dishes and making fast work through a plate of chicken wings. Oblivious to his surroundings, all that mattered was the food, even though his stomach felt like it might just burst from how much he'd eaten, he just couldn't get enough of it. He'd spent nearly all his money and frankly didn't care. He'd never tasted anything as good as this in his life. Of course he'd had food now and then since he'd been turned, even more since he'd been chipped and couldn't sample the variations in the blood of different humans. An all pig blood diet all the time got boring, but never had he tasted food so strongly, never had it felt so utterly *there*.

His waitress passed . . .again, and smiled at him, with more than a touch of professional interest, amused at the speed he'd been gulping his food down at.

"Good?" She twinkled at him.

"Oh yes, delicious thank you " Spike replied bashfully.

"Can I get you anything else . . .anything at all?" She asked, leaning forward a little.

"Actually . . ." Spike said thoughtfully, "I'd like another beer please."

Slightly miffed, she moved away, and Spike returned his attention to his plate.

"Well, if it isn't short, blond and gruesome," came a voice from behind him. Spike promptly choked on his chicken wing as Xander moved around to stand in front of him.

"Xander!" Cough. Choke. Splutter. Cough. Swallow. He managed an embarrassed smile while dabbing at his streaming eyes. "Um ...hello"

He wanted to be cool, witty, sophisticated, but Xander was *here*! Right in front of him! Talking to him!

It was overwhelming. Spike was frozen with nerves, his tongue just didn't seem to want to talk properly, and he could feel a blush was just waiting to happen. His skin hummed with excitement, he couldn't have felt more acutely aware of Xander's presence if he had taken him in his arms.

Fortunately Xander seemed completely unaware of the affect his presence was having on Spike as his eyes flicked casually over Spike, glanced around the Bronze, then looked back at Spike, as he paused before moving on.

"I see you're all recovered from the blast." Xander said, his eyebrow arched quizzically, his eyes dark with amusement as he took in the mountain of empty plates.

"Blast?" Spike said blankly as he tried to keep his hands steady, his mind was in a daze, completely unable to grasp anything other than the fact that Xander was here. Suddenly this crush was blosoming into something whole lot bigger than he'd first thought.

His waitress returned, placing his beer in front of him, casting an indifferent glance at Xander before giving Spike a brilliant smile.

Spike barely even noticed she was there, but Xander's eyes narrowed as he watched her move off.

/Xander really does have the most amazing eyes/ Spike thought dreamily. Eyes that gleamed, teemed, beamed with heat and humor and . . .did he just rhyme? He'd have to remember that and write it down. Later.

"Gee what is it with women and the undead?" Xander asked sourly, his eyes still on the waitress. "Why doesn't the guy that works his ass off *saving* them from vampires ever get a little appreciation?"

"What?" Spike pulled himself back from his contemplation of Xander's eyes with an effort. "You think she . . .uh, liked me?"

Xander shot Spike an exasperated look. "She was practically drooling."

"Really?" Spike asked, surprised. Maybe it was a good thing that Xander noticed other people finding him attractive. He actually sounded a little jealous. "I didn't notice."

"That's a surprise." Xander said cynically. "You're usually loving the attention."

"I am?" Spike wondered aloud. "Well not anymore. I'm not interested in . . ." He trailed off.

Something more pressing had his attention. Xander had chocolate. Spike's wide eyes followed as Xander brought the bar to his mouth and bit into it. When he lowered the bar again, Spike didn't follow it. Somehow his eyes were stuck on Xander's mouth. His luscious, delectable, fully edible mouth.

Xander chewed on his chocolate and noticed that Spike was staring at him.

"What?" he asked through a mouthful of chocolate. "Do I have something on my face?"

Spike blinked. "Um .. .no, nothing." Unable to tear his eyes away he reached for his beer.

Xander shrugged, swallowed the chocolate and licked his lips lingeringly. Spike promptly knocked his glass over, and the beer flew across the table drenching Xander.

"Hey!" Xander snapped.

"Oh, I'm sorry" Spike stammered, feeling a flush of embarrassment rise up. "Did it splash you badly?"

"I guess those famous vampire reflexes ain't what they used to be," Xander grumbled as he dropped his chocolate and grabbed a bundle of napkins, mopping at his jeans. Spike stood, grabbed another bundle and reached towards the damp patch on Xander's jeans.

"Woah!" Xander exclaimed, pointedly moving out of Spike's reach. "What are you doing?"

"Well I was . . ." Spike looked at the bundle of napkins in his hand, where he'd been about to start mopping, Xander, with his eyebrows raised expectantly, and wondered why the room wasn't glowing red along with him.

"Oh ... dear." Where was a trapdoor to hell when you really needed one?

Xander frowned, and looked at Spike a little closer.

"Spike are you *blushing*?"

"No! Of - of course I'm not blushing." This was dreadful. Xander was sure to guess, and then he'd either laugh at Spike or kill him. Neither option was particularly appealing. How would he have acted before he started liking Xander?

"Vampires don't blush. Stupid." In an attempt to look confident and relaxed he leaned on the table, his hand slid in the beer and he stumbled, falling against the table and banging his hip painfully on the corner. Inside he was screaming, but he resisted the need to rub what was sure to be one hell of a bruise and jump around shouting "ow". Instead he froze where he stood, leaning on the table and gave Xander a pained smile.

Xander looked at the table, then Spike. His eyebrows climbed a little higher.

"Your hand's in a pool of beer." He pointed out.

"I know." Spike said defensively.

"What is up with you tonight? And why are you talking like that?" Xander asked, his frown deepening.

"Like what?"

"Nicely. So . . .proper. You sound like Wesley, what happened to the working class accent?"

"Nothing. I just . . ." Spike trailed off. Xander had a point. What had happened to the accent?

He shook his head; he couldn't worry about that right now, despite his vow not to hope for anything from Xander, here was a golden opportunity to buy Xander a drink, to apologize for splashing him, and also to thank him for his help last night. Maybe Xander would begin to look at him in a new way. Not in *that* way, but at least in a way where Xander didn't hate him.

It was easier to speak now Xander wasn't looking at him, he was mopping at his jeans again.

"Xander" Spike began, pleased that his voice was only shaking the smallest amount "are you here on your own?"

"I'm waiting for Anya." Xander replied distractedly. "We're having a little R & R, before I go patrolling with Buffy on the lookout for Toth. Oh, and thanks so much for the help there by the way."

"Help?"

" 'Hey big guy kick her ass?'" Xander quoted glaring at him.

"Oh. I was just trying to . . .um, distract him. I didn't really mean it, you know." Spike babbled quickly.

"And I'm sure Buffy won't really mean it when she kicks *your* pale annoying ass."

This really didn't seem like the ideal moment to offer to buy Xander a drink. Spike had a feeling that the only chance he had of Xander looking at him in a new way was if he started walking upside-down. But he had to start somewhere. Spike licked his suddenly very dry lips. "Xander. A-as an apology, would . . .would you let me . . ."

"Xander!" Spike felt himself wincing at the loud voice cutting between them. Anya appeared and grabbed hold of Xander's arm possessively, giving Spike a dirty look.

"Why are you talking to him?" She pouted up at Xander.

"Something I've been asking myself since the conversation, - and I use the term loosely - began." Xander smiled down at her and kissed her briefly on the mouth.

Spike looked away, he felt so *stupid*. An unwelcome third. This was what he got for letting his defenses down, getting his hopes up. The pain welled up inside him at seeing the two of them together. It wasn't even so much the kiss as Xander's smile. Indulgent, entertained and *loving*.

"He's probably trying to steal your wallet." Anya continued.

Xander looked thoughtful. "He did make a grab for my jeans."

"See!"

"I wasn't trying to grab your wallet!" Spike protested horrified.

Anya narrowed her eyes. " What were you trying to grab?"

"Well I was . . ." Spike stumbled on the words, this conversation was spinning way out of control. He looked at Xander beseechingly.

"I would never steal from you," he said sincerely, desperate for Xander to believe him. Oh. Except sometimes he did steal from him.

"Well I won't from now on." Spike added frantically.

Xander looked up, an expression of utter disbelief on his face. Spike tensed in readiness for the next slam, but Xander was distracted by Anya.

"What happened to your jeans?" she asked. "It looks like you peed."

Xander shot Spike a black look. "Spike killed the evil beer. I got caught in the crossfire."

"Poor baby." She smiled consolingly at him as a slow song started to play. "Let's dance before you have to go kill more evil things."

"Sure your arm will be okay?" Xander asked, lightly touching her sling.

Anya nodded and led Xander away, and Spike grabbed his coat, blinking rapidly. Suddenly he wasn't hungry anymore.

Unfortunately, his broken heart would have to wait as some *thing* came crashing through the main entrance, bringing the door and a fair portion of the wall with it.

Shrieks of shock and fear drowned out the music as the demon bounded around the Bronze, whipping its head around, like it was trying to take everything in. Spike froze in terror. It was huge, green, with burning red eyes. It was immensely strong, flicking a table aside like it was nothing but a feather. The table flew into the wall, smashed beyond repair. The screams echoed through the building as people tried to escape. The demon grabbed a girl and bent her head back, exposing her throat.

"Hey!"

Spike's head whirled around, along with the demons to see Xander throwing chunks of broken table at it in an attempt to distract it. It worked, almost too well. The demon roared with anger, threw the girl to one side and bounded over to Xander.

"No!" Spike snapped out of his paralysis and tried to snap the leg of his chair for a weapon, but it wouldn't come off. He pulled so hard his hands ached but it wouldn't budge.

He looked up in horror to see Anya help Xander batter the beast with pieces of wood and debris. The demon roared and lashed out at Xander, landing a hard blow across his face. Spike winced as Xander flew across the room and crashed into the wall. Xander's nose was bleeding and the scent of blood in the air attracted the demon like a magnet, it bounded towards Xander. Spike dodged around the fleeing people, the horror was pounding through him, he *had* to get to Xander before the demon did, nothing mattered but that, but his feet just wouldn't move fast enough and the people banging into him kept knocking him off course, it was already way ahead of him, it was hopeless.

Spike grabbed an empty glass and heaved it at the demon.

"Hey! L-leave him alone!"

His voice was drowned out in the sounds around him, and the glass didn't even hit the demon, it hit the ground and shattered behind it, but still, somehow he must have caught its attention because, just before it reached Xander it stilled. Sniffed the air. Then turned to stare straight at Spike. Their eyes locked on to each other's.

For a long moment, oblivious to the screams and fleeing figures around it, the demon stared at Spike. Spike stared back, unable to move, fear crawling over his spine, his scalp. Like he was trapped underwater, all sounds became a dull roar far away.

Then the demon growled. Low and long. Its eyes narrowed and it coiled itself up, ready to pounce. Spike knew that, but he couldn't move, couldn't run, couldn't shout. Then suddenly:

"KILL IT!! KILL IT!" A girl screamed hysterically. She grabbed a stool and hurled it at the demon. More by luck than judgement it hit the demon square on the back of the head.

The demon broke its stare on Spike, howling in pain, whirling around to fend off the attack the people were launching on it. Sound and color rushed back into Spike's world, and more importantly the ability to move. He stumbled away out of its sight as the demon crashed outside, in search of easier prey, Spike and Xander, for the moment forgotten. Spike watched it go, his knees buckled under him for a moment, but he couldn't think about this now. Right now he had something else to worry about. His eyes darted around the Bronze.

"Xander!" Spike caught sight of him slumped against the wall and scrambled over to where he was groaning on the floor.

"Xander are you alright? Please be alright!" He said frantically, stroking Xander's face tenderly, trying to take all the pain away from him through gentle touch.

Xander's eyes fluttered, began to open, and Spike watched him with his heart in his mouth. He knew it was crazy, but Xander was going to open his eyes and see him, the same way he'd opened his eyes and seen Xander last night, maybe, just maybe . . .

"Hey! What are you doing?" Anya yelled protectively as she darted over to Xander.

"Nothing!" Spike jumped guiltily. "I was just trying to. . ."

Spike suddenly found himself face down on the dusty floor as Anya shoved him to one side and knelt over Xander.

"Get away from him, he's hurt!"

" . . . help." Spike finished, wincing as he got up from the floor.

Anya ignored him as Xander finally managed to prise his eyes open.

"Ahn?" He croaked.

"I'm here Sweetie." She crooned gently. "Are you okay?"

"Don't stop . . .touch me . . .like that . . .again." He mumbled, his eyes falling closed.

Spike started, joy bubbled up inside him, he took a quick step towards Xander, the words "That was me!" about to come out, but then he froze. The two of them were locked in their own world. Anya was gently wiping the blood away with the hem of her skirt. Xander reached a hand out to cover hers gratefully. Spike's shoulders slumped and the words died in his throat.

"I have to get you to the hospital." Anya said, her fingers feeling the bump on his head.

"Nah. I'm good." Xander sat up, winced, and continued. "Well maybe not good, but I'm not dead. I know because it hurts too much. Call it a plus. Come on, help me up, we've got to tell the others."

"Can you see?" She asked worriedly.

With an obvious effort Xander tried to focus on her. " Sure. I can see all three of you. And they're all gray and fuzzy. Like bunnies." He finished with a weak smile.

"Xander that's not funny. Come on. We have to get Buffy." Anya announced decisively.

With her good arm she tried to hoist him to his feet, he came up reluctantly.

"That's my girl and can I just say 'ow'?" Xander groaned, leaning heavily on her as they left the Bronze.

Spike watched them go with a pang. Anya could take her place at Xander's side so easily, and all he could do was watch.

Then he looked around at the state the Bronze was in. It was bad, but could have been so much worse. They'd got off pretty lightly. A cold chill crept down his spine as he played back those endless moments where the demons eyes had locked with his. Whatever that thing was, it was powerful, bloodthirsty, and why the hell was a demon he had never seen before, from a species he didn't recognize wearing exactly the same clothes as him?





Part Three



"Buffy!" Anya helped a groaning and bruised Xander into Giles's house. "Is Buffy here?" she snapped at a startled Giles. "She'd better be here."

Giles spared a moment's silent salute to the library. Longing for the golden days when the masses converged in the library instead of trampling through his home without ever knocking. He nodded to the kitchen where Buffy stood in the doorway with Riley hovering behind her.

"Oh God, what happened?" Buffy asked, hurrying over to relieve her of Xander's burden. Anya willingly relinquished him, wincing in pain as she readjusted her sling.

"Man, you look trashed, are you okay?" Riley asked Xander.

"Yeah, yeah." Xander sank down on the couch in relief. "It looks worse than it is. I hope." He tried a reassuring smile. "Ow!" He touched his lip where a cut had started bleeding again.

"Who did this?" Buffy asked angrily.

"A demon." Anya snapped.

"What kind?" Buffy asked.

"A big one." Xander groaned, lolling back on the couch. "At the Bronze, the place was trashed. Again."

"Are you alright?" Giles asked, pouring him out a cup of tea.

"Yeah, just took a bump on the head." Xander said, tentatively touching said bump and wincing.

"It threw him across the room."

"Thanks Ahn, I was trying to go for the silent heroic suffering there."

Buffy glanced over at Giles. "Looks like our research party just came to an end. I'd better get out there."

"Now, let's not just rush in." Giles frowned. "You need to know what it is first. Xander, what did it look like?"

"Umm. Green. Red eyes."

"Any markings?"

"I couldn't see. It was dressed."

"Dressed in what?"

"Jeans." Xander said slowly. "Black jeans, and a T-shirt and . . . a duster."

"Just like the kind Spike wears," Anya piped up helpfully.

"The demon was dressed like Spike?" Giles asked, his brow furrowed.

Anya nodded thoughtfully. "Exactly like him."

"So what, Spike is giving the demons fashion tips?" Buffy questioned.

"Now that really is terrifying." Xander quipped. There was a moment's pause as they all pictured thousands of demons, all dressed like Billy Idol.

"Quite terrifying." Giles agreed fervently as he began polishing his glasses, obviously needing some kind of soothing routine. Possibly the memory of Spike as his houseguest had left scars that made the thought of a thousand demons like Spike not only mind-boggling but also nightmarish. Riley patted his shoulder comfortingly.

"So maybe I need to have a word with our non-friendly neighbourhood chipped vampire for this one." Buffy suggested. "Was he there when all this was going on?"

"Yeah, he was!" Xander started up with excitement, then reluctantly sank back as his bruised back twinged in protest. "I should have known he was up to something, he was being way too polite."

"So maybe Spike is controlling it somehow?" Buffy suggested. "Trying to get it to do his dirty work? Giles, what do you think?"

Giles frowned thoughtfully. "It's possible I suppose, he could have found a spell or something. Though I've never heard of any controlling spell affecting a demon's dress code, did either of you see if the demon had any contact with him?"

"It didn't talk to him, " Anya said. "But it did stare at him, does that count?"

"It stared at him?" Giles repeated in bewilderment.

"Yes." Anya frowned as she tried to remember. " The demon was going after Xander, then Spike threw something at it. The demon stopped and stared at Spike."

"Oooh, like he had it in some kind of mind meld thing?" Xander suggested excitedly.

"The demon looked like it was going to kill him." Anya pointed out. " Why would Spike make it go after himself? That would just be like killing himself. Only in a painful way."

"Yeah," Xander agreed disconsolately. "There's no way Spike would do something that we could all enjoy."

"And why would Spike stop it from attacking Xander?" Riley pointed out. "Surely Xander would be one of the first people he'd want killed."

"Hey!" Xander said indignantly.

Riley paused at the filthy looks he was being shot from Buffy and Giles. "I'm just saying," he said defensively.

"Yes," Giles replaced his glasses. "Riley does have a point. Even if the demon has nothing to do with Spike, it's still surprising that he chose to help Xander."

"Spike was acting weird," Xander admitted.

"Weird how?" Giles asked.

"Kind of like Wesley actually."

"Uggh." Buffy and Giles took a step closer together.

"Wait a minute," Buffy said turning to Giles. "Spike was hit by Toth's stick last night, and now there's a demon dressed like Spike in town, and Spike's being all helpful. I don't think that's coincidence. Could the stick be doing some kind of magic, maybe making demons draw on Spike's energy or something?"

"And copying his dress sense?" Riley remarked, unimpressed.

"I said 'or something'" Buffy protested.

"Possibly," Giles conceded, "as always I'll need to research."

"Well since Spike is being so helpful maybe I'll just go and see if he feels like helping me." Buffy suggested.

"There's certainly no harm in keeping an eye on him," Giles agreed.

"Right." Buffy turned to the others. "Riley you go to the Bronze, see if you can track where this thing went, recon only I don't want you getting hurt. Giles, call Willow. If Toth is working some kind of mojo she could break it, and can you still keep looking into Toth?"

Giles nodded.

"What am I gonna do?" Xander asked.

Buffy paused for a second taking in his battered state. "You and Anya stay here, try and figure out what kind of demon attacked you, that could be important."

"Hey, I can do more than look at demon mug shots!" Xander protested. "How come Riley gets to do all the cool 'recon' stuff?"

"Because Riley isn't a walking bruise with a bump on his head so big it deserves its own name." Buffy answered dryly. "Plus recon usually involves a lot of walking and following, and you're lucky you can sit up straight right now."

"Good point." Xander admitted.

"What are you going to do?" Giles asked Buffy.

"I'm going to have a word with Spike. See if 'talk or bleed' gets results."

"Be careful. If this demon is linked to him somehow, I don't want you getting hurt."

"Oh, believe me Spike is going to be the one getting hurt." Buffy said confidently.

"If there is a spell we may need him to reverse it." Giles said, "Maybe you'd better bring him here."

Buffy nodded as she swung out of the house, Riley close behind her.

Xander glanced at Anya, who was fidgeting uncomfortably with her sling.

"Is your arm okay?"

"It's sore."

"You need to be careful." Xander said, reaching out his hand to run down her arm gently, but she shifted away.

"I was trying to be careful when a demon started attacking you." Anya tried to move it and flinched. "It was nearly better. Now I think it's worse again."

"Maybe you should go home, rest."

"Yes," Giles said, looking up from the bookcase. "I can drive you if you're not feeling up to research, and on the way back I can pick up Willow." Apart from anything else Anya was tiring when she was in a good mood. The thought of trying to research with her when she was irritated was not a happy one.

"I would like to go." Anya agreed uncertainly.

"Then go," Xander encouraged. "I'll stick around and make like the Research Boy."

"Alright." She opened the door.

"Hey, and tomorrow we can go look at the new apartment okay?"

Anya paused, but didn't look at him. "I guess. I mean sure. Why not." She went out, followed by Giles.

Xander watched with worried eyes as the door closed behind them. He'd really thought that he and Anya had been on the verge of putting the current bad patch behind them, but now thanks to the demon attack they seemed to be right back in it. Maybe he was paranoid but it was almost like he could feel her slipping away. If it was finally sinking in that she wasn't invulnerable anymore, she could seriously be considering her mortal state. She may well decide someone with his kind of lifestyle was just too dangerous to be around, and all the beautiful apartments in the world weren't going to help.

The thought made him shiver. He wanted Anya with him. She was gorgeous and entertaining and incredibly sexy, and if sometimes he felt like there was something missing then hey, life was never perfect. He shook his head trying to dislodge the fear in there. Of course she wasn't going to leave! She obviously still cared about him. Only tonight when he'd been knocked out he'd felt her. Cool, slender fingers stroking his face, then the rough rasp of cotton as he'd opened his eyes to see her. He'd never known such tenderness in her touch before. It was the closest he'd ever come to falling in love with her.

***

Spike couldn't sit still. Nerves kept him pacing up and down his crypt. Worry for Xander combined with worry about himself was causing a knot in his stomach.

Ever since he'd been hit with Toth's stick he'd been feeling strange, acting strange, not like himself. The demon was dressed just like him. Wasn't that a bit weird? He had spat out blood. Wasn't that a bit weird? He had been hungry for food. Wasn't that a bit weird? He hadn't been able to snap the leg of a chair - wasn't that a bit weird? All added together it was . . . well it was weird. Whatever it was. Something was going on, he just didn't know what. Whatever it was it was far more important than some embarrassing, and hopefully temporary crush.

Xander had the warmest smile in the world.

Spike sighed sadly. He desperately wanted to go and check if Xander was alright after hitting the wall at about 30 miles an hour, but Xander didn't want to know him. Anya was probably kissing Xander better right now.

He threw himself down in his chair, and flicked the T.V on, trying to distract himself from the torturous images in his head of Xander kissing Anya. Of Xander dancing with Anya. Of Xander holding Anya. No! He wasn't going to think anymore about this.

He stared at the T.V trying to concentrate on 'Ally McBeal'. Great, the picture was blurred, even his T.V was rubbish. He half-heartedly tried to retune it then gave up and switched it off, resuming his pacing. This was awful, all this misery and jealousy. He wished he could stop these feelings as quickly as they'd started. If there was anything more humiliating and pathetic than unrequited love he didn't know what it was.

Suddenly a loud crash preceded his door flying open. Spike jumped as the Slayer flounced - there really was no other word for it - into his crypt.

"Spike," she said casually before punching him in the face.

"Ow!" Spike promptly hit the floor. He groaned as his head hit the stone floor with a thud. Okay, maybe there was something more humiliating than unrequited love. He knew for a fact that it hadn't been one of her harder punches, wasn't even close, but he'd never wilted so easily before. Today really was going to have to go on his list of 'Worst Days Ever'.

He opened his eyes warily, to see she was still standing over him.

"Hows about you and me have a chat?" She smiled sweetly.

"Well y-yes, of course. W-what can I do?" he babbled as he scrabbled to back away from her before standing awkwardly.

Buffy raised her eyebrows at him. "New demon in town, you saw it at the Bronze. The weird thing? It was dressed exactly like you."

"I noticed that," Spike said eagerly, "I don't know why though."

"Really?" Buffy said unimpressed. " Anya said it seemed pissed off with you. Care to clear that up?" As she spoke she pulled out a stake, toying with it casually as her eyes bored into him.

"No!" Spike blurted fearfully, backing away. "I don't know what it is." He tried to look stern, like Giles had when he'd left a blood ring from his cup on the table. He crossed his arms. "I don't think I can help you."

"Spike do you want me to punch you again?" Buffy said brightly, advancing on him. "'Cuz I can keep up that game for hours without getting tired. For example . . ."

She punched him again, slightly harder this time.

"Oww! Ow!" Spike stumbled back a couple of steps, banging into his chair and collapsing into it.

"So lets talk about Toth," Buffy suggested. " What about when you got hit last night? Any strange things been happening?"

"Um . . ." It couldn't possibly be connected could it? His feelings for Xander beginning after he was hit with the stick? Of course not. "Well . . .I don't seem to be quite as strong as I used to be I suppose." He said nervously. " Why?"

"I'm asking the questions here. Anything else?"

"No. I really don't know anything. You're wasting time here, you should get out there and kick some . . .some . . .um . . ."

He trailed off. He just couldn't bring himself to say that word in front of lady. Even a lady who was currently hauling him up by his T-Shirt and marching him out of the crypt.

"Well, Spike" she said conversationally as she pushed him towards the door, "as much as I would love to keep hitting you until you talk, I'm sorry to say I believe you, but you're still gonna have to stay with me until this is over."

***

Xander looked up from the musty volume he was currently reading as Buffy burst in with Spike, Spike stumbling as she shoved him inside.

Spike did a double take as he saw Xander. "Xander! Um, hello." He said, blushing furiously. If only he'd had a minute or two to prepare!

"Hey Buff." Xander greeted her casually, ignoring Spike.

"Where's Giles?"

"Taking Anya home, she wasn't feeling so good."

Spike restrained himself from dancing with excitement even though it felt like the room had just lit up. Anya wasn't here! She wasn't kissing Xander better at all! This was great!

"She okay?" Buffy asked.

Xander shrugged. Such a good question. "I don't know. So what does fangless here know?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "I'm thinking nothing."

"Nothing useful?" Xander raised his eyebrows. "There's a surprise."

"Of course, there's never any harm in making sure . . ." Buffy suggested.

The phone rang interrupting them, and Buffy answered it much to Spike's relief. He'd felt another punching session coming on.

"Hello?"

She paused, then said. "Right I'm on my way, keep your eye on it and stay back."

She slammed the phone down and turned back to them.

"Riley's found the demon. It's by the movie theatre. I'm gonna go see if I can bring it down." She frowned and jerked her head at Spike. "Keep an eye on him?"

"Can do." Xander saluted her as she swept out of the house.

Xander settled down to the book he was looking at. Spike perched on the edge of the chair opposite and watched him surreptitiously from under his eyelashes. This was a fantastic opportunity for them to talk, for him to help Xander, for them to work together, like comrades, pals, buddies . . .

"What?" Xander asked, looking up in exasperation. "Quit staring at me!"

Spike felt his cheeks flame. " I was just . . .Do you want me to do anything?" He offered awkwardly.

Xander shrugged. "Other than leave town on a dustpan?" He pretended to consider it for a moment. "No."

"Oh." Spike felt his spirits hit rock bottom and begin to try to bury underneath.

Xander, oblivious, continued to study the books. Spike managed to keep his eyes away for a full 15 seconds before giving in and looking at him again. Trying to do it a little more discreetly than last time he let his eyes pass over him yearningly. Xander looked . . .like hell. Disheveled, dusty, pale and unhappy.

"Is everything alright?" Spike asked suddenly.

Xander looked up in irritation. "What?"

"Well you look a little . . ." Spike began to whither under Xander's barely concealed impatience. "Never mind."

Xander dropped his eyes back to the book, but knocked the pile next to him, sending some tumbling to the floor. Xander bent to retrieve them then froze as his aching bruises screamed in protest. "Ow!"

Spike shot over to help pick them up. Xander looked at him quizzically as he piled them back on the coffee table.

"Okay what gives?" Xander questioned.

"What?"

"This, " he tapped the pile of books, "the Bronze, you're not acting like your usual self." Xander thought about that for a moment. "Which is good, but still disturbing."

"Well I, I wanted to help."

Xander sighed; he was too damn soft-hearted, but Spike had - apparently - helped save him tonight. He tossed a book over to him. "Fine. Start with that one."

Spike smiled gratefully. "What am I looking for?"

"Demon at the Bronze," Xander replied. "You got a good look at it right?"

"Yes." Spike nodded.

There was a moments pause and Xander looked meaningfully at the book. "Sooo, you gonna look it up?"

"Oh. Yes. Right then."

Spike hurriedly sat next to him on the couch and opened the book, and Xander settled back down to his reading, Spike turned the page to give the impression that he was taking in what was in front of him, though for all he could understand it could have been written in Chinese. He couldn't look directly at Xander anymore but was acutely aware of him only inches away. If he concentrated hard he could smell the faint aftershave. Just out of the corner of his eye he could see Xander's hand holding the book, and could hear his steady breathing.

With a huge effort Spike forced himself to concentrate on the book. He was going to be helpful if it killed him. He began to read, but frowned, the words were blurred like his T.V had been earlier. What was the matter with his eyes tonight? He automatically reached for a spare pair of Giles' glasses lying on the table and slid them on. The words were suddenly magnified to a huge degree. Giles obviously had weaker eyes than he did, but at least he could read.

Xander glancing up, gaped at the sight. Spike reading, not only reading but also wearing a pair of glasses.

Spike's attention was attracted by a choking noise from Xander - he looked up to see Xander appearing to be in the grip of some violent emotion.

"What's wrong?" Spike asked cautiously.

Xander swallowed down the wild burst of laughter trying to get out. "I've finally figured it out."

"Figured what out?"

"Come on, Spike, I know the truth. " Xander said seriously, though his eyes were still dancing. "Admit it."

"Wh-what?" Spike stammered. Could Xander have guessed about his crush? Was Xander even now preparing to deal out a mocking rejection breaking his heart?

"Giles is your hero. You want to be just like him. That's why you've dropped the accent and are wearing his glasses."

Spike half laughed, his head filled with exclamation points. Xander didn't know! Xander was smiling at him! Xander was joking with him! If only he could think of something witty to say back to keep Xander's interest. "Oh well . . . yes . . .Giles." Oh God. How embarrassing. That was the best he could do? What had happened to his quick tongue? Xander was still watching him with a growing smile, then he hissed with a sudden pain.

"Damn. Keep forgetting about that." Xander muttered, touching a small cut on his mouth.

"Giles must have something for that." Spike said, quickly getting up and finding the small first aid kit Giles kept by the bookcase. He proffered it to Xander who took it with a raised eyebrow.

"What do we have here?" Xander mused as he shuffled through the kit. "Treasures of bandages, band aids and antiseptic lip ointment!" He finished triumphantly. Spike smiled weakly, watching as Xander smeared a small amount on the cut.

"What?" Xander asked again. "I'm officially getting paranoid. Why do you keep staring?"

For a second Spike was non-plussed then said. "You um, have a little dust." He tentatively brushed the small smudge of gray dust off Xander's cheek with his finger, his face burning.

"Cool hands." Xander said his voice slightly amused, but then his brow furrowed slightly as he looked at Spike. Confusion, in that dark gaze and Spike felt something in his stomach. A leap of fear? Excitement? The way Xander was looking at him, like he was just on the verge of . . .

The sound of the phone peeling out in the room made them both jump and Xander turned away with a frown to answer it.

Spike sank down on couch weak with relief and a touch of disappointment and picked up his book again with shaking hands.

"Yeah? . . .Oh hey Buff. No Giles isn't back yet. Why? Oh, are you okay?" Xander's voice quieted and Spike looked up with worry. Something was wrong. "Don't worry, I'll keep looking into it, and Giles will be back soon. Yeah he'll know what to do." Xander hung the phone up.

"What's wrong?" Spike asked.

"The things on a rampage, Buffy couldn't take it down and two people are dead." Xander recited flatly.

Spike winced. "I'm sorry."

"What, sorry you couldn't be out there helping it?" Xander snapped.

"No!" Spike protested. "Of course not."

"Yeah right," Xander rolled his eyes. "Spike you said yourself, you're evil, you live . . .or rather don't live for stuff like this. Just because you can't do it yourself anymore doesn't stop you getting a happy when something else is doing it."

"No, it's not like that!" Spike faltered. "I don't want that anymore. I've changed."

"That chip isn't change." Xander spelled out, "its something that was done to you and you should be glad for it. Its only because now you kill demons we put up with you hanging around."

"Oh." Spike said slowly, watching his finger trace a meaningless pattern on the page. "That's the only reason you like me, because I can kill things?"

"Weren't you listening Spike? I don't like you at all."

Spike managed to look up at Xander. "If I helped to stop it, would that prove I've changed?"

Xander shook his head in disgust. "Spike there is nothing you could do that would prove to me that you are someone worth knowing." And with that he left the room.

***

In the bathroom Xander splashed his face with cool water and drank a little. After a few moments he had cooled down a little. He winced when he thought of what he'd just said to Spike. He hadn't meant to lash out like that, it hadn't been Spike he'd been mad at, it was his own frustration that he'd been taking out on Spike. Besides there had been a seriously weird atmosphere in there for a moment, of course he'd just been imagining things, but it had almost been a relief to put things back to normal by yelling at him. Besides the good thing about Spike was you could say what you wanted to him, because hey, it was only Spike, it wasn't like it mattered. But still Xander felt a twinge of guilt. It might have been true, but maybe there hadn't been a need to say it. Spike was a menace, but he had been trying to help tonight and had seemed genuinely upset at his outburst. What he'd said had maybe been slightly uncalled for. It could be time for a peace offering.

"Hey Spike" he called as he came out of the bathroom. "Do you want a beer?"

There was no answer. /Great. Now I'm stuck with him sulking/

"Come on Spike its a free beer . . ."

He trailed off as he entered the room. The room was empty and Spike was gone.

Part 4

Spike sniffled miserably as he edged warily down the road, his eyes darting nervously around him. He'd always know Xander and he weren't friends, but he hadn't imagined that Xander hated him quite so much. More than hated him. Despised him for what he was. He felt so stupid, it was just like Cecily all over again, he'd fallen in love with someone who ...

Wait, wait, wait. Spike jerked to a stunned halt as he processed that last thought. In love? He wasn't in love with Xander, that was impossible. A crush was bad enough but to actually love him ...

I love him he thought again, tentatively testing the words in his mind. I love him, I do.

They sounded right. They felt right. Spike leant weakly against a wall as he tried to take this in. He loved Xander. This was so unexpected, insane, amazing. He couldn't explain it, but it made more sense than anything else in his life had for a long time, like he'd found himself again. A smile began to break across his face as joy bubbled up inside him. He loved Xander! He wanted to laugh, dance, yell it from the rooftops - he was in love and it was fantastic! He was in love with the bravest, most wonderful guy in the world ... who would never love him back.

His smile faded as the unwelcome fact marched through his mind. Xander hated him, and everything he stood for, he would never forgive Spike for being what he was. Xander would never even like him.

Once he would have given up but he didn't want to do that. Not with Xander. Of course he was never going to speak of his feelings, but he was going to do what he'd come out here to do. Because if actions did speak louder then words then maybe there was a way to show his devotion, a way to gather up a few crumbs in the form of his respect at least. He would show Xander that he wasn't all bad.

Spike swallowed down his terror and determinedly set his jaw, gripping Giles' axe a little tighter as he resumed his journey.

***

Xander swore softly as he saw the empty front room. Typical! Just typical! And to think he'd actually been feeling guilty for yelling at him! This was how helpful Spike was, so helpful the second he was left alone he took off. All that being kind, picking up books for him, helping him research was just a nasty, sneaky trick to make him drop his guard, and he'd fallen for it! Damn the vampire with his deceitful ways and lying and cool hands...

He shook his head vigorously. /God what is that?/ He wondered in bewilderment. Why the sudden fixation with Spike's hands?

For a second he considered going after him, but his head was still throbbing with pain, and hell, Spike could take care of himself. Instead he carefully lowered himself into a chair and picked up the book he had been looking at.

He aimlessly flicked through a few pages feeling irrationally annoyed. Why didn't Giles ever have any slim volumes written in clear English? Concentrating on the fuzzy pictures and obscure text was hard, too much stuff was bothering him, his injuries, Anya, Spike.

Not that he felt bad that Spike was gone. Of course not, he just felt bad that Buffy had asked him to do something and he'd messed up. Xander drummed his fingers restlessly on the page in front of him as his glance travelled restlessly around the room, his gaze passing over the glasses Spike had worn.

This place sure felt empty.

***

Spike was exhausted; his stamina was apparently just one more thing that was on the blink today. His feet hurt, his legs ached, and he'd been on the receiving end of a lot of weird glances as he wandered around town clinging to his axe.

It will be worth it he reminded himself. It's for Xander.

The thing was he felt quite unreasonably terrified. Despite the fact he been fighting and loving it for years, he really didn't want to do this. He didn't want to fight a demon. He wanted to go home and daydream about Xander. Dreams were so much safer, nicer. Although he liked the idea of being a hero in Xander's eyes ... Spike traced his hand over the claw marks that had been scraped across the wall opposite the movie theatre ... this thing didn't look like the stuff dreams were made of.

He turned away, his shoulders already slumping in a way they hadn't for over a hundred years. The way he had hated but had never been able to stop. That defeated, half-ashamed way, whenever he told a joke no one laughed at, when he was ignored and patronised. When he knew he was a better card player than any of the other men at the table but never had the confidence to pull it off. Who was he kidding? He couldn't beat this thing, he was just going to go home.

Spike, there is nothing you could do that would prove to me that you are someone worth knowing.

Xander's voice echoed in his head stopping him in his tracks. Saying what everyone else had thought back then. Then he'd met Drusilla and she'd given him power - oh so much power! He'd had so much attention and fear! It had been like a drug, a dream come true. But now he could see, even then he hadn't been someone worth knowing. Someone worth fighting, or someone to fear. But not knowing.

He didn't know why he'd changed this past day or so, why he suddenly felt so different, but he did know that sentence had the power to crush him if he didn't do something about it. Not just for Xander - for himself. He was someone worth knowing. He looked again at the marks on the wall.

The demon wasn't here any more - but it had either come, or gone this way. Taking a deep breath, and wishing his legs would stop shaking quite so hard Spike turned into the dark street.

***

As the front door opened and Willow and Giles came in Xander felt a surge of relief - at least now he could stop pretending to research. But under his relief he actually felt a twinge of disappointment. That made no sense - who else was he hoping to see?

Anya, his mind suggested swiftly, and this conclusion was so comfortable he didn't examine it any further.

"Hey guys," he greeted them slightly nervously. He wasn't looking forward to explaining he had goofed up on a) research, b) watching Spike.

"Hi Xander."

"Xander have you made any progress?" Giles asked, his eyes already lighting up at the prospect of doing some research.

"On finding out what the demon was at the Bronze? A big no, but Buffy ... "

The door flew open again as Buffy burst in with Riley behind her.

" ... is here." Xander finished.

Buffy's coat was torn, her arm bleeding and Riley didn't look much better - he had a gash on his forehead and one side of his face looked red and sore in a way Xander recognised was going to come up into one spectacular bruise.

"Buffy!" Giles grabbed his first aid kit and hurried towards her. "Are you alright?"

"Well my pride took a beating." Buffy said wryly, "but apart from that I'm okay. Giles this thing is scary. Its strong, quick, I couldn't stop it."

"Well Xander hasn't found it in the books yet, maybe we'd better push on with trying to find Toth."

"We so don't have time, this thing is out there now - I only came back for weapons. The only good thing is it's not exactly low profile, it shouldn't be too hard to track it."

"You said it was killing people, what's its style?" Xander asked, trying to keep her distracted from noticing that Spike was gone.

"General ripping out of throats and draining their blood." Buffy answered briskly as she shrugged out of her coat.

Willow and Xander grimaced.

"Like a vampire?" Willow asked.

"But to the power of ten." Riley said grimly as he took the first aid kit from Giles and began wrapping a bandage on Buffy's arm. "Vampires feed maybe once, twice a night. This thing is still hungry."

Giles frowned, wandering over to his bookcase, he regarded the books there thoughtfully.

Buffy looked around the room expectantly. " Speaking of vampires, Xander where's Spike?"

"Ah, yeah, good question." An uncomfortable laugh came out of his mouth.

"You let him go?" Riley asked incredulously.

"I didn't let him go, he just sneaked out!"

"You left him alone? Oh nice going!" Buffy said in exasperation.

"Well he was being so helpful! I thought he'd at least stay still."

"Spike was being helpful?" Willow's eyebrows raised in surprise.

Giles, who had picked a book out of his bookcase, was reading it intently, obviously not listening to them. "Oh, dear lord," he said quietly.

"I should have known it was a trick - he's never been so..." Xander frowned trying to place the right word. " ...nice before."

"I said, 'Oh, dear lord'." Giles muttered affronted.

"You always say that." Buffy pointed out impatiently.

"Well, it's always important!" Giles said, with perfect truth. He came over to them with the book he'd been examining. Why, Xander didn't know since he was obviously going to explain it anyway. Giles lived for these moments. " I think I know what's wrong with Spike."

"Apart from the obvious he's not dust?"

"What? No. Toth, uh, the rod device he used, it's called a ferula-gemina. It splits one person in half, distilling personality traits into two separate bodies. As near as I can tell, Toth was attempting to split the slayer into two different entities."

"Two Buffys?" Riley asked, a gleam coming into his eye. Xander couldn't blame him. If he was Buffy's boyfriend he'd be intrigued as well. That idea had all sorts of, um, interesting possibilities.

"Yes. One with all the qualities inherent in Buffy Summers, and the other one with everything that belongs to the slayer alone ... the, uh, the strength, the speed, the heritage."

"So when that blast hit Spike..." Buffy said, slowly working it out.

"I think it separated him into his human and demon sides."

"That's what the demon inside a vampire actually looks like?" Buffy asked.

"Yes, apparently in it's undiluted form."

"Yikes." Xander said quietly.

"So does this mean Spike is human now?" Willow asked bewildered.

"No, well it's his human side that was here I believe, that would explain the difference in his manner that Xander noticed, but he's not alive as a human would be, with a uh, heartbeat. It's the demon that keeps him alive, even now they are separated they're still connected. While his demon side lives so does his human side, and vice versa."

"But which one's the real one?" Riley asked.

"They're both real. They're both Spike. There's nothing in either of them that Spike didn't already have."

Two Spike's. Xander turned the thought over in his head. Amazingly it made sense. No wonder Spike hadn't been acting like the annoying, arrogant, sarcastic vampire they all knew and loathed. With the demon out of him he must have felt so different. His eyes widened in dismay as he realised what he'd done. Spike hadn't been playing tricks - he'd really been that helpful, oddly shy guy that had been here tonight. He'd yelled at a relatively innocent guy. Perfect. Could anything make him feel any worse?

"I have a question," he said suddenly to distract himself from the unfamiliar, unwelcome feeling of guilt that was demanding to be noticed. "This demon side to him is killing, so what happened to the chip? How come that wasn't copied like his clothes?"

"It probably was, but it was manufactured for a human brain, demon physiology is completely different."

"Besides" Riley said thoughtfully, "it reacts on what Spike perceives, when Spike tries to harm someone he knows it's wrong - he doesn't care - but he does know, and that's what sets off the chip."

"But the pure demon wouldn't perceive anything it was doing as wrong," Giles finished. "It's reacting purely on instinct, it has no thought, no conscience."

"I still don't get the original plan." Riley said bewildered." I mean, why do it? The slayer half would be like slayer concentrate, pretty unkillable."

"But the two halves can't exist without each other. Kill the weaker Buffy half, and the slayer half dies."

"So the same goes for the Spike's." Buffy said, suddenly perky. " Bring them together and grab some popcorn! Two dead, no waiting!"

"Buffy!" Willow examined. "We can't do that!" Xander felt a slight smile pull at his mouth. Willow was such a sweetheart.

"Yeah," he agreed, "I have to say I'm not completely on board with that idea myself."

"Why?" Buffy asked sulkily. "It wouldn't even be like killing him ... exactly."

Giles sighed regretfully. "I think Willow and Xander are right - although the idea does have its appeal, we should probably just put them back."

Buffy rolled her eyes in exasperation. "I should have known Spike was involved in this."

"It wasn't really his fault," Xander pointed out, the others looked at him with identical looks of surprise, he couldn't blame them - he could feel the same expression on his own face. What was wrong with him tonight?

"Well," Giles said wearily, "Spike can control the demon, we need to put it back in him. Willow we'd better start looking at how to break the spell from Toth's stick."

For some reason Xander wished Giles hadn't phrased it like that. He knew it was the only thing to do but saying they were going to 'put it back in him' sounded kind of crappy on the human side of the guy.

"What's up Xander?" Buffy asked.

"Huh? Oh - nothing," he said hurriedly "it's just . . .I never really got before how hard it must be for him to control it." He shifted uncomfortably. Sticking up for, or feeling sorry for Spike was not a feeling he was used to. The sooner they got this over with and things back to normal the better he'd feel.

"So not our problem," Buffy shrugged. She opened Giles' weapon cabinet. "Okay pulling this thing in is not going to be easy, we need tranquillisers, chains and a really big axe."

Giles shot Buffy a glare that had taken years to perfect.

Buffy held up her hands in surrender. "Just as a kind of a comfort blankie thing."

"Pretty scary comfy blankie," Willow said sotto voice to Xander and Riley.

"Tell me about it." Riley agreed with feeling.

Buffy was investigating the weapons cabinet. "Giles where's the big axe?"

"Its not there?"

For a moment they all frowned with confusion when Xander shot to his feet ignoring the bolt of pain from his bruises as they protested at his sudden movement. "Spike!"

"What about Spike? Do you think he stole it? Gee his human side is almost as big a pain in the ass as..."

"Nu-uh! He's going to try to fight this thing!"

"How do you know that?" Willow asked, her brow creased as she looked at him with surprise.

"I just do! We have to stop him!"

"Xander chill!" Buffy ordered. "Why do you think Spike is going on a 'certain death' mission?

"I uh, might have kind of given him a hard time." Xander muttered.

"Xander!" Buffy and Willow crossed their arms and Riley shook his head. Even Giles looked as though he was feeling a twinge of sympathy for the absent Spike.

"I didn't know it was his human side!" Xander examined defensively. "Look we can yell at me later but right now we have to find him, he doesn't know! He's out there trying to kill himself and he'll be dead!" Oh great. Really winning awards for being articulate here. He didn't care - human Spike was going up against the real big bad all because he'd pushed his buttons after the guy had tried to help him. Great, apparently something else could make him feel worse.

"Okay" Buffy stood up, "Willow, Giles you set up here what you need to break the spell."

"No!" Giles said quickly. "I'm putting my foot down with that. I want no demons wrecking my house for at least another week, we'll do it at the magic shop."

"Fine. I'll take town, and get the demon. Riley, in case I don't find human Spike with the demon, you look for him, get him to the magic shop, try his place, the Bronze, anywhere that he might go."

"Oh fun," Riley muttered.

"I'll do it." Xander surprised himself by blurting out.

Buffy paused mid breath. "Huh?"

"I'll look for Spike - Riley can go with you, help bring the demon down."

"You're hurt..."

"I'll be fine! I want to do this." He really did. He didn't know why but if he didn't get out there and help he was going to go crazy. His jaw set determinedly as Buffy's eyes flicked over him for a long moment, then she gave him a quick, terse nod.

"Fine, Riley you're with me, let's go."

"Uh Buff? What if Spike's found the demony part to himself?"

Buffy looked at him. "Reach minimum safe distance."

***

Spike's palms were sweating but the rest of him felt cold. Very, very cold. He slowly crept down another dark alley, no slashes on the wall this time, but some overturned trashcans had made his innards curl up in fear. He tried to raise his spirits. He should feel excited, ready for the fight. Death or glory!

He felt sick.

His eyes darted all around him and a sudden flare of sound from behind him had him whirling around in a panic. Fortunately it was only some people walking past the entrance to the alley, laughing and chattering loudly. Particularly fortunately as when he had whirled around he'd tripped over his own feet. He landed on the ground banging his knees painfully and the axe flew out of his grip landing a few feet away.

"Ow!" Sighing he picked himself up disconsolately, only thankful that no one had been around to see that. He brushed himself off. The chatter of the people nearby still carried to him faintly, then ... his heart leapt into his mouth. The laughter had turned into screams. He stumbled over to the axe and grabbed it tightly. Terror urged him to run, run as far away as he could but he forced himself to race out of the alley.

Panting with exertion and fear he looked up the street to see the group of people pelting away at high speed.

Then he heard a growl behind him, a muffled groan, and very slowly turned around.

A young guy was lying on the ground, barely conscious, holding his head and groaning, but crouched over him, sniffing him cautiously was the beast that had attacked at the Bronze. It hadn't noticed him yet. He could run. He could hide ... but he couldn't leave the guy, alone and helpless, he couldn't leave him to die!

"Hey!" His voice came out loud, nervous, but determined.

The demon looked up - its eyes glowed with interest - anger, and Spike tightened his hold on the axe, stamping out the urge to run he stood his ground.

The demon sniffed the air and as it caught his scent, it growled. It hated him; he knew that, yet he didn't know why. Turning its attention away from the guy on the ground it jumped - it was so damn fast! Spike whirled around again to find it behind him. It took a swipe, not a murderous one, it was only playing yet. But Spike felt the rush of air fly past his face, heard the whistle as it's claws raked the air by his face. One of it's claws caught the axe and Spike felt it shudder in his hands despite his tight grip. Biting back a whimper of terror he thrust the axe down, trying to catch the demon on it's head - one swift chop would have all this over with - but when did this axe get so damn heavy? His aim was way off even if the demon hadn't moved - which he did, the axe whistled through empty air and with a swift blow the demon knocked the axe free from his hands.

Spike croaked in terror, his shaking legs taking jerky steps backwards, his eyes still fixed on the demon. It watched him, shifting slightly, preparing to jump. Spike's legs tensed, it all came down to this, it was only a question of what came first. The demons leap, or his.

***

It was two hours later, and Xander had checked every place Spike had ever even heard of. Or at least it felt like it. Now he was just wandering around the alleys behind the Bronze, for no other reason then he couldn't face going back and admitting he'd been unsuccessful. He felt sick with worry, which was just the crowning irony of a weird day. Worried about Spike dying had to be a first, but he didn't want any harm to come to the bleached moron - not this way at least. He already had enough to worry about late at night when he couldn't sleep, he didn't need Spike guilt on top of it.

I bet he'd love this He thought bitterly. Going out and making it my fault. Well it ain't gonna happen Spike! You are going to end this night safe and sound or I will kick your ass myself.

To distract himself from his worry and the fact that he really wasn't getting anywhere he complained bitterly.

"Knew the bleached menace was at the bottom of this, how come I have to be Spike's sitter, when I get hold of him..."

He shut his mouth as a couple passed by him, their arms wrapped around each other. He felt a slight pang inside. He missed Anya, the way she used to do that with him.

"I can't believe the Bronze is closed again!" The girl complained.

"What are they saying this time - some animal attacked the place? Some gang more likely."

"No it could be - I heard this guy in the ice-cream place telling his friends about an escaped gorilla that attacked him around here! He said a punk guy saved him."

The guy chuckled. "Whatever he's on he should cut the dose."

They disappeared down the street and Xander's heart leapt - Spike could still be around here! Of course he could be dead - but that was something best not to dwell on. He couldn't believe Spike had faced off with his demon side to save someone. The brave moron!

Please be alive Spike He thought fervently as he continued down the alley. Please be alive. Oh yeah - and please don't let the 'escaped gorilla' still be here. I like my spine exactly where it is

He gazed around him, nothing moved, but his eyes alighted on trashcans that had been knocked over. Something had been here alright. He listened carefully. Nothing.

But something was glinting slightly in the moonlight. Stepping closer he recognised Giles' axe. As he bent to pick it up he heard a sound, tiny, muffled. Kind of like a gasp.

"Spike!" Woah he thought - slightly embarrassed at the excitement and relief in his tone. Okay I'm pleased he's not dead, but lets take the enthusiasm down a notch! In a slightly more muted tone he yelled again. "Spike? Hey c'mon I know you're here!"

Nothing stirred and he looked around in frustration, it wasn't like there was any place to hide ... His glance passed over a dumpster, half hidden in the deep shadows and he groaned inwardly.

Oh no. No, no, no - I don't feel that bad about yelling at him.

"Spike!" He called up at the dumpster. "I know you're in there."

Nothing.

Briefly he toyed with the option of just pretending Spike wasn't in there - but this was apparently what he had to do as the price for opening his big mouth. With a long-suffering sigh he hoisted himself up and lifted the lid. The stench hit him like slap in the face - a very hard, rancid slap.

"Spike - c'mon - don't make me come in there or I'll kick your ass! Jeez what is it with you and garbage lately?"

That bag of rubbish sounded like it was crying. With a grimace Xander lowered himself into the dumpster, wincing as his bruises yelped again in protest. He began to move the garbage aside. Spike really owed him big for this one. He tried not to think about what he was touching as he shifted the bag, half worried he was going to pull it aside to reveal that he was about to get up close and personal with Spike's demon side again. Frankly a little of that went a long way, but he saw the familiar glint of white blond hair.

"Spike!"

Spike, curled up into a little ball, looked up at him nervously, tear tracks were mingling with dirt on his face.

A smart remark hovered on his lips and although there would be moments later when he would doubtless regret it - 'cause this was a stinger alright - Xander swallowed it down. He'd never seen anyone look so scared in his life.

"Hey," he said gently, touching Spike's shoulder. "Its okay. Its me."

Spike's eyes flicked to Xander's hand on his shoulder then back to Xander's face. "Xander?"

It was crazy but something swelled up inside Xander, almost painful compassion and concern, dampening his annoyance, making him want to be gentle with him. He kept his voice low and soothing.

"Yeah, come on, its gone, give me your hand."

Spike put a shaking hand in Xander's and Xander hauled him up.

"It's gone?" Spike asked nervously.

"Yeah - can we save this until after we get out of the dumpster?"

Spike nodded and Xander swung himself to the ground in relief, Spike followed him slowly. He had obviously stiffened up from being crouched in the dumpster and fell against him awkwardly.

"Whoops!" He grabbed Spike, ignoring his own soreness, and helped to right him, keeping an arm braced about him firmly to keep him upright. Not the sort of thing he'd usually do for Spike, but something about his extreme vulnerability was touching him in completely unexpected, but not unpleasant ways. Like he wanted, he didn't know, to give him a friendly punch or something. Make him smile, comfort him. It was a nice feeling - he just wasn't sure he liked that it was directed at Spike

"What happened?" he asked neutrally.

"I was looking for it."

"I'm guessing you found it," Xander observed.

Spike shuddered all over and Xander tightened his hold around those thin shoulders. "It jumped at me and I rolled, towards it, it was the only thing I could think of - it overreached and we heard Buffy coming. It was distracted and I, I ... hid." Spike's voice broke slightly on the last word. "I heard them fight, but I couldn't make myself get out and help. Really brave of me."

"Hey," Xander gave him a comforting squeeze. Spike was still shaking slightly in the circle of his arms and oddly he felt no burning desire to let go of him. "You did the right thing. And you were pretty smart. You got away from it. It would have killed you, and you were brave - I hear there's a guy singing your praises about saving him from an escaped gorilla."

Spike half smiled lifting his eyes hopefully to his. "You really think I was brave?"

For some reason Xander couldn't quite look away, it was like Spike's eyes had some kind of tractor ray attached to them. "Yeah," he said, his voice sounding like it was coming from a long way off. "It must have been really ... scary."

Something here still felt scary. Maybe not exactly scary, more like weird. Oddly tense, something hovering too damn close to the surface. This sure didn't feel ... safe.

Xander realised with a jolt his arm was still tightly wrapped around Spike.

He hurriedly dropped his arm, clearing his throat uncomfortably. "Look never mind that now - come on. The sooner we find Buffy and get you guys back together the safer I'll feel."

"What? Get what together?"

Oh great. Real smooth of me.

"Oh - yeah I meant to bring that up." He took a deep breath. "Spike that thing is ...well it's you. It's your demon side."

***

Xander was looking at him with a wary, worried expression, and Spike wondered briefly if he'd taken a blow to the head that was making him hallucinate this entire encounter. It could be. Xander had found him, praised him, held him tightly, and now like most dreams it was taking a swing into freaky territory just as things were getting really good.

However the night air was cool, and the smell of the garbage lingered in the air. Apparently it was real. Xander thought that thing was him? Maybe Xander was the one that had taken a blow to the head. Spike ignored the tiny frightened lurch in his stomach that was somehow frightening and knowing.

"What? It, it can't be me. I'm me."

"It is you. Toth's stick. It worked some kind of mojo on you, it split you in half."

"You're wrong." Spike denied angrily. " You're completely wrong! No way can that ... that foul creature be part of me."

"Okay." Xander said agreeably. "Put your game face on."

"Fine!" Spike drew in a deep breath and tried to flick that switch in his head that let the demon show itself. His face remained smooth and human. He frowned, slightly panicked, and tried again, trying to crease his brow in just the right way, trying to pull on the power that should be there.

Nothing.

He gulped in fear as Xander watched him calmly with raised eyebrows. "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" He tried to growl, but instead of turning into an animal-like sound it tapered away into a wheeze.

"Convinced?" Xander asked.

"No! I could put my game face on - I just don't feel like it right now."

"Spike it's you. Sorry, but why would I lie? Toth's stick split you into two - your demon side and your human side." He paused. "You're the human side. Um obviously."

Spike's legs suddenly felt like they were about to give way again, he moved away from Xander and walked a couple of steps before collapsing in a perilous position on one of the overturned trashcans.

"Are you okay?" Xander asked helplessly.

Spike looked down at his hands. So that explained it. "I think ... I think I knew," he said softly.

"I know it's a shock but try not to freak out ... Woah. Woah, woah woah." Xander stared at Spike in utter disbelief. "Lets take that again. What do you mean you think you knew? Why the hell didn't you say something?"

"Maybe I didn't want to. Would you want to admit that that thing was a part of you?"

"Was that why you were trying to fight it?" Xander frowned.

"No."

"So why?"

Spike raised his eyes to Xander's.

"Because you asked me to."

Spike almost smiled. For the first time in his life Xander - fast-talking - Harris looked utterly lost for words, and for a moment there - just a split second he was sure some kind of understanding flashed over Xander's face before he broke the silence saying;

"Huh? I didn't ask you to fight it! Come on Spike we don't have time to play games. We'd better get back to the shop, fix this."

"When you say fix it ...?"

"Put you together again."

"No."

"What?" Xander asked bewildered.

"I don't want to 'fix it'."

"What are you talking about?"

"I don't want that thing back in me!"

"But Spike it's you!"

"It's not me!" He jumped to his feet passionately. "I told you - I'm me! That thing invaded me and it makes me crazy, makes me hungry, makes me hurt people. It's snarling and angry and I have to contain it all the time, and I don't want it back inside me!"

He stopped, panting for breath as Xander bit his lip.

"I'm sorry," he said at last. "I get now how hard it must be for you to keep it under control. And if I was you I wouldn't want it back either, but I don't think there's anything else we can do. We can't just let it roam around, unchipped."

"You could lock it up!" Spike said defensively.

"Yeah, that'll work." Xander said sarcastically.

"Then kill it."

"It's you Spike, we kill it, we kill you."

"But ..." Spike said helplessly, "you said yourself, you wouldn't want it in you. Why should I take it back? I like being me."

"You took it in the first place," Xander said softly.

Spike dropped his eyes from Xander's miserably. Of course he had. That night in the alley when Drusilla had offered him everything he'd ever wanted. It was just he'd forgotten how much a human life had to offer. He liked being peaceful. He liked being himself. He liked loving Xander. He didn't want to let go of all this, and he knew he would.

Suddenly Xander's hand was under his chin, lifting his face, until Spike's eyes met his. "Spike there's no way we can control it, but you can. I was an idiot tonight. I said there was nothing you could do to prove to me you were someone worth knowing. I was wrong."

"But if I do it - I won't be me anymore." Spike whispered.

Xander frowned. "That is actually a good point."

For a long moment Spike stared into Xander's eyes, then suddenly he burst into laughter, helpless, giggles that welled up from inside him, until his eyes watered, until his stomach hurt with it, he'd forgotten he could laugh like that, a laugh where nothing else mattered.

It took him a moment to realise Xander had joined in. Roaring with loud laughter they clung on to each other.

"I'm glad ... the irony isn't lost on you," Xander gasped.

"No - I love these little twists of fate," Spike agreed gulping for breath.

Eventually the laughter died away and they leaned companionably against the wall.

"It's been a hell of day," Spike said shaking his head ruefully.

"Sounds it," Xander agreed.

"But worth it," Spike said daring to look up at him.

Xander's eyes were warm as they met his. "Good."

Spike shook his head slightly at his own foolish hopes, glancing away from Xander, as he felt a lump rise to his throat. He couldn't speak up - not now, not when he was about to change back, but he would hold on. Xander was right - him, William, he controlled the demon now, and whether it liked it or not he would cling on to his love for Xander. No demon could stop it.

"C'mon ... William," Xander said at last. "Lets get you together again."

With a nod he agreed. Xander shot him a supportive smile and side by side they turned in the direction of the magic shop.

***

Xander led a subdued Spike into the magic shop where Willow and Giles were busy chalking a shape on the floor. He felt Spike shiver next to him and clasped his shoulder in a wordless gesture of support.

"Hey Xander, Spike." Willow said looking at him with curiosity.

"Hello Willow," Spike said politely. "Giles."

"Spike," Giles greeted him with interest, looking at Spike as frankly as Willow was. For some reason Xander really had to bite his tongue to stop himself from telling them to knock it off.

"We ready to go?" he asked tersely.

"Yes, I think so," Giles gestured to the drawing on the floor. "Buffy has the demon in the back, uh Buffy! We're ready!"

Buffy came into the room, the demon following doicily on the end of a chain.

"I remember it being angrier than that." Xander observed.

Riley grinned. "It's got enough tranquilliser in it to put down a herd of elephants."

"Wow!" Willow's eyes flicked between the two of them in fascination. "So that's the two of them?"

Riley nodded enthusiastically. "Psychologically speaking this is fascinating," he said cheerily. "Doesn't it make you want to put them in separate rooms and do experiments on them?"

Spike's shivers became a little worse and Xander shot Riley a look that promised a world of pain, as Giles, Willow and Buffy turned to Riley with identical incredulous expressions.

"Okay," Riley said uncomfortably. "Just me then."

Xander shook his head in exasperation. You could take the boy out of the Initiative ...

"What about Toth?" he asked Buffy.

"He's history," Buffy said happily.

"Right!" Giles said, "take your places please."

Buffy led the demon into the centre and backed away, though still keeping a tight hold on the chain.

Xander nodded, turning to Spike. "You okay?"

Spike nodded bravely. "M-maybe I'll still, you know, be me. Maybe now I've been me again, I'll remember."

"Maybe," Xander agreed softly.

Spike nodded, then moved away from Xander, standing warily next to the demon. Looking at him as though he was trying to imprint his face on his mind forever. As though he thought he'd never see him again, and bizarre as it was Xander didn't feel the slightest urge to look away.

"See you on the other side," he nodded supportively at Spike and Spike nodded back before closing his eyes.

"You sure you know what you're doing Will?" Xander asked.

"It should be pretty simple," Willow said. "Toth's spell is doing all the work at keeping them apart, I just have to break it. Okay. Let the spell be broken!"

***

Let the spell be broken? Spike echoed in his mind in disbelief. Was the Witch mad? This was some serious mojo they were working with! Geez she may as well just say abracadabra, there was a better chance that might work.

Spike shook his head, his eyebrow raising in utter disbelief. "Yeah, like that's gonna work" he said sardonically.

"Open your eyes." Willow sounded like she was smiling.

Spike opened his eyes and he felt ... different. Sharper. Colours were brighter, sounds were clearer, He felt more impatient. Wanting to be out, moving, not hemmed in like this. Stretching his body and it felt so much more responsive, faster, the power humming in his veins again. And he could smell again, so much, it was a whole other dimension to the world. Perfume, shampoo, aftershave, under that, sweat, heat, pheromones. Could hear all the heartbeats in the room, all that lovely, rich blood pumping, pumping all around him ...

"So, you okay?" Xander asked nervously.

An evil smile spread over Spike's face. The kind of smile human Spike wouldn't know how to do. "Yup, just the two of us."

"Oh," Xander said looking at him searchingly. "Um... good."

"Damn right - an' get these soddin' chains off me Slayer - I don't want you using this to act out one of your little fantasies." He leered at her happily. Oh it felt good to leer again! Good to piss people off, good to be him!

With a 'tsk' of exasperation Buffy unlocked the chains. "Its him all alright - all back to normal." She paused as a thought struck her. "He's chipped again right?"

"Let's see." Spike punched her in the face with a surge of satisfaction, just a little pay back for earlier.

"Arrrgh!" The sizzles of pain ripped through his head, easing off just as Buffy punched him back.

"Ow! Bitch," he growled, though with no real heat. The tranquillisers in his system were still making him feel woozy.

"Do you have like two sets of memories now?" Willow asked with curiosity.

"Don't remember much at all," Spike said thoughtfully, "but what I do know is I've spent far too much time with you people tonight."

He strutted out, lighting up a smoke happily as they watched him.

"Knew we should have let him kill himself," Xander voiced. The others nodded in agreement.

***

Spike kept up his confident cocky walk into the alley behind the magic shop where nobody could see him, then he sank to the floor with a whimper. He couldn't believe it! A crush! A crush on XanderbloodyHarris! Oh the shame! Oh the humiliation! Oh how was he ever going to live this down!

Any tiny satisfaction he gained from the demons memories of maiming and killing were drowning under a tide of humiliation as he remembered some choice things his human side had said tonight. "'Because you asked me to,'" he mimicked viciously. "'It was worth it'. Did I actually say that? Why didn't I just bend over and spread myself?!!" He finished the sentence on a roar, hitting his head repeatedly with his hand. If he could grab hold of William he'd shake him until his teeth rattled. Every part of him burned in helpless mortification. He couldn't believe it! William the pathetic, sneaky little bastard had resurfaced! He thought he was gone forever.

He is gone. Spike thought feverishly, tonight never happened. It was a bizarre, freaky occurrence never, ever to be repeated. No wonder his demon side had been so pissed with his human side - it had sensed that this snivelling human git was what had been controlling it. He embraced his demonic side back into him like a long lost brother. Never leave again! See what happens when you leave!

He sat huddled there moaning with shame for awhile before he could begin to pull himself together (pun definitely intended) and calm himself down.

"Okay," he muttered eventually, trying to apply some damage control. " Its not that bad. I don't think Xander knows. I was out of my mind. It's over now."

So saying soothing things like that he picked himself up and as the tranquillisers began to wear off, he started to walk unsteadily home. His hands deep in his pockets he felt a crumpled bit of paper. He pulled it out, reading it easily in the moonlight.

'Blood has flowed, But my heart has been cold, Until you set me alight, With eyes so warm, so dark, so bright ...'

'Urrgh!" He writhed in embarrassment, feeling a very unromantic urge to heave. Shuddering, and unable to bear reading the rest of the poetic, pathetic drivel, he viciously tore the paper in two, then grabbed his lighter and hurriedly set fire to the crumpled pieces, grinding the ash into the ground with his boot.

He needed to shower, he needed to throw up, he needed to rip someone to shreds - with finesse not like the demon did, all fangs and teeth - he had to do something to get this crap out of him. It was disgusting!

Okay, it's all over.He thought frantically, From now on no more even being polite - I'm going to be the meanest, rudest, nastiest bastard I can possibly be. Especially to Xander -monkeyboy-Harris. All that madness is over now.

***

It was a couple of days after the whole being 'split into two' incident and Spike was watching T.V in his crypt when Xander burst in, his eyes blazing with anger.

"Okay Spike - I have had enough of you! Just because you've got a demon in there again doesn't mean you have to go back to being prick boy!"

Spike raised his eyebrow coolly as his gaze raked over the dishevelled lad; he looked considerably hot under the collar.

"Really?" He felt a smile pull at his mouth. At least he wasn't the only one effected by his recent split. "And why not?"

"Because you said you wanted to hold on, you said you liked being yourself again!" Spike still looked at him coolly, waiting for more and he finished more quietly. "I liked you okay? I liked you."

"Oh you did, did you?"

He rose in one fluid motion and stalked over to where Xander was standing. Xander looked a little taken aback at Spike walking over to him but stood his ground.

"How did you like me pet?" He said, inches away from Xander. Xander's eyes were wide and confused, with a hint of hunger lurking in their dark depths as his glance flicked between Spike's eyes and his mouth and back again.

Spike swiftly grabbed Xander in a grip of iron, but Xander made no move to get away.

"Like this?" Spike asked a hint of desire heating his cool voice, and kissed him, hard. Demanding, and Xander matched him, beat for beat, holding on to him tightly, responding eagerly, frantically, the kiss went on and on and on ...

Spike's eyes flew open and he shot up in bed, looking around the empty, dark crypt, panting heavily. Just a dream he reassured himself frantically, just a dream. Then he felt himself turn even colder. I ... just ...dreamt .... about ... kissing Xander, and I ... liked it.

"Oh bloody hell!" Spike whispered appalled.



The End





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