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The bad man clutched his treasure to his chest with one hand and scrambled deeper under the stacked tables. The frantic little animal screeched, and scrabbled at him with filthy teeth and claws. Its reek offended his sensitive nose, but he reckoned that was all part and parcel of the punishment. This was his place, a forgotten corner of the basement, below the regular world. Beneath everyone, that was him to a T. Beneath her. Don't think of her, you don't deserve it, he told himself sternly. At least he thought it was his inner voice talking; it was a real talkathon in there these days. Couldn't be sure of things anymore, not even his own brain. Especially not his own brain.

He scrunched himself in tightly, his back to the cold seeping walls, arms and legs hemmed in on both sides. Nice and tight, no funny business. He readied the appalling, squirming little morsel for the bite. His face changed. Even that hurt more than before; the two warring forces got louder when he was in game face. He bit through the disgusting layer of fur and fat below the skin until the blood spurted into his mouth. Two, three mouthfuls and it was empty. He wrung the little corpse out like a dishrag for the last precious drops and placed it neatly in the drawer next to the row of its little brothers and sisters. At least they had some company in death. It was no fun to be dead and alone. He shut the drawer quickly.

Twenty three little ratty pals. Maybe that meant he'd been here twenty three days, maybe not. Everything was topsy turvy. He thought he ought to feel the sun going up and down like a yo-yo as it was wont to, but truth was he was often far away in his thoughts and forgot all about time. Bloody thoughts, they were. Nasty bloody thoughts, but he had to think them all day long, being bad and all. Needed punishment. Needed a good caning, but there was little chance of getting that. He was not exactly alone here in the dark, but nobody down here was real enough to hold a real cane. He was crazy, but he knew that much.

The bad man pressed his hands against his eyeballs to keep the darkness away with pretty red and purple pictures.

A bright light splattered through his fingers and into his brain. It hurt. His tables were peeled away from him like paper and he was exposed to a bright gaze, like a worm that's been torn pink and naked from the earth. He wriggled silently, hoping that the gazer would take him for that lowly creature, but it was pointless.

"Bloody hell," a strange and yet familiar voice said. "I'd forgotten how bad it was."

He peeked out through his fingers and saw an angel staring at him fiercely. He cowered back against the wall, unable to withstand that burning blue glare.

"Here, now, it's just me. Come on, mate, I've come to help you. Here, touch my hand so you know it's me."

He knew quite well what touching hands would lead to. Burning up, that's what had happened to him before. Or maybe not yet, that wasn’t so clear.

Cool hands gripped his, traveled upwards over his arms and gripped hard. He was slowly but inexorably pulled out of his safe corner. He whimpered and struggled faintly; because he couldn't help himself, not because he thought it would be any use.

His head was roughly drawn against smooth leather. The jangling voices quieted and he could take in the scent of the strange apparition and feel with how much strength and the confidence he was held close against the other’s chest. Safe. He was safe. This was, not his sire, but someone who'd shield him against the world much like a sire did, just by being there. Maybe this not-sire would punish him. That would be wonderful. Someone to dole out his punishment like he deserved. A caning would be just the thing. He never got it quite right if he cut or beat himself.

Hands stroked his hair, and he liked that, his nose safely pressed into a collarbone. That scent. Like a father, but with a faint undertone of her up close. That frightened him anew and he started to struggle in earnest.

"Shh," the voice said, sounding quite rough and hoarse all of a sudden. "Hush now. I'll take care of you now, lad, we're gonna take a trip and take proper care of you. Hold on tight."

There was a moment of coldness and bright light, and all he could do was huddle into that solid chest and trust he'd be looked after.

The strong hands gently pushed him backwards until he felt something soft hit him in the knee. He moaned, startled and afraid, but the hands pushed him down on the smooth softness. He didn't want to sit on the dead cow; the floor was more his level, but he wasn't allowed to slide down.

"You can look around now, mate. You're safe. This is my flat, alright?"

His hands were peeled away from his eyes. The other’s scent told him he was safe, smelling of power and certainty, but he still felt small and afraid and kept his eyes tightly shut.

"Open up those eyes, you little…."

There was more than a tinge of exasperation in the voice now. It told him he was getting closer to the desired punishment and he relaxed. That was how it should be. He'd do everything wrong, and sire would punish him hard, cane him, roger him so it hurt. As long as he knew he existed, that he mattered, it was fine.

He opened his eyes. It was actually rather quiet in his head now. Just him for a change. Of course he knew the place he'd been hiding in was a bad place, made him worse, but that's why it suited him so well. Badness for badness, clear as crystal.

The face that stared at him with concern and that hint of annoyance reminded him of the face he used to see in the looking-glass when he was shaving. When he hadn’t been a bad man yet. He'd wanted badness, but he hadn’t whipped up the pluck to do something about it yet. Strong dark eyebrows, fierce blue eyes and that odd angel hair on top. He stuck a hand out to touch it and the vampire flinched away for a moment before surrendering to his questing hand.

"You're not my sire," he said wonderingly. “I thought you were. I'd hoped for a good bollocking, don’t you know?"

A hand cupped on his cheek. "Here now, there's gonna be no bollocking or nothing. Gonna look after you. Get you fed and cleaned up, coz you bloody well need it."

"You're a vampire, like me. I thought you were sent from upstairs to punish me, but I didn’t think I deserved His attention. It’s the other one sent you, isn’t it?"

An exasperated sigh from his mirror likeness. "Nobody sent me. I was fool enough to touch one of our Willow's little devices and it brought me straight to you. Just couldn’t leave you there like that, eh? I remember only too well what it was like back then. You will have to go back there, I know that, but the least I can do is get your tum full of blood and do something about that smell of you. She's gonna rag me about it anyway…"

It seemed his alter ego was just as much her dog as he was. He was a little disappointed.

"Have your pick, mate, shower or brekky first?"

He wanted to point out he'd had breakfast, and it ought to be called lunch, when he heard a key snick into a lock and the other vampire stiffened.

"Blast. Now we're in for it. I figured herself'd be in late today."

The vampire, who wasn’t bigger than him at all but who’d seemed to be, deflated and looked uncertain. Had he been bad too?

"Spike?” her voice called out. "I'm back!"

Her perfume floated into the room before she did. She looked just like she did when she visited him in his hidey-hole, sleek and tanned and beautiful. But no, she never wore perfume when they talked. She never wore any kind of smell at all. He stretched out his hand to see of she was really there and she recoiled.

"Spike? What the hell? Who's? Oh God no."

Her frown, the real girl's frown, started to furrow her smooth brow. From the magnitude of his panic he knew for certain that this was the angry girl he feared so much.

"Are you out of your mind? You went and played around with that thing Willow left there? I've heard you rant about magic and consequences thousands of times, and now look what you’ve gone and done!"

Spike hung his head. The bad man followed this with interest. He sensed no fear from Spike, just embarrassment.

"Was an accident, love. I was just moving it out of the way and it went off. Took me straight to the highschool basement and to him, dunno why. Couldn’t leave him there when I found him, could I? Look at the poor bugger. He's starving and filthy and…well."

The angry girl's glance strayed over him, soft with pity, sweet as a caress. He cast down his eyes and tried to step backwards. He didn’t deserve that softness from her. It made her seem like the other one, the smiling girl, who he feared much worse than the angry girl.

"Yeah, but Spike, what do you intend to do with him? What’s the point of bringing him here? He has to be there. He has to turn into you, and that won’t happen if he's not there where he belongs.”

The bad man's heart clenched painfully at this. He knew that, he knew that had to get back there, but for a moment he'd felt so safe here, in this clean, warm, sweet smelling place. It smelled of the strong vampire and her and their loving. He didn’t know how that could be, but it was on every surface, in their every touch and glance.

Spike raked his hand through his hair, making it stand up and curl like his own. He touched his hair to check if it was still where it belonged.

“I know, love, but I figured I'd give him a bath, a feed and a good night’s rest so he's better prepared for what’s coming."

Her arms crossed before her pretty body, which he oughtn’t to even to look at. He cuffed himself and they both gripped his hands as one.

"Don't," she said. "Don’t hurt yourself."

The bad man nodded. He understood. They would do it for him. Their kindness brought tears to his eyes, and he licked them from the corner of his mouth. Useless buckets of salt, but he couldn’t afford to lose any.

“All right,” the girl said. "Go get him cleaned up. I'll get him some clothes of yours."

"Thanks love,” the Spike said.

The bad man was gently shoved towards another room, a bathroom. Bathrooms were places he avoided like the plague, for good reasons, but this one was orangey yellow with wooden slats on the floor. The sunset color and the lack of echoing tile reassured him. As long as he and Spike were alone in here he'd be alright.

"Get these clothes off you, mate. You stink to high heaven. Not that you can help that, with what eating rats and all, but it’s not nice to be around. Be right back.”

Spike went away and he almost panicked when it took longer then he'd anticipated, but he could sense Spike rummaging around somewhere in the flat. He could sense the girl too, but he shied away from her fiery presence.

Spike returned with a big gray bin bag. For his clothes, he supposed. He meekly stepped out of them and waited.

"Christ, mate, can't you do anything for yourself? Get in the tub and turn on that shower. No use drawing a bath when you're that filthy. Get on with it, then."

He didn’t like being made to do stuff either, but he knew he was expected to obey. Spike must know best, and he didn’t have the gumption to refuse him anything. He stood with bowed head under the hot stream and he had to allow that it felt pretty good.

Spike grabbed a washcloth and scrubbed at his hands, which looked almost black against the whiteness and cleanness of Spike’s hands. When Spike was done, he held out his other hand mutely. It wasn’t quite right, because Spike muttered and rolled his eyes, but as he went on cleaning, it couldn’t have been that bad.

After he was deemed sufficiently clean, Spike pushed him roughly down in the bath. He sat down on the cold enamel floor of the bath and shivered. His ribs went up and down like piano keys and he got lost in their play until the water had raised enough to cover them. The water smelled sweet and girly. Spike must have poured it on to cover his stink. Smelly Willy, that was him. He looked up quickly but Dru wasn’t there. Good. He didn’t like to see her used like that, it was as if she was being mocked for her craziness, and that wasn’t fair.

Spike moved, from just behind him beside the bath and he twitched and banged his head.

Spike sighed. “Did you think I’d gone? Christ, you’re weird. Probably a blessing I don’t recall all the details.”

He ducked his head and stared at his almost clean nails. Spike was expecting him to say something, but he was reluctant to use his voice. Who knew what would happen then. The whole dream could go poof and that was the last thing he wanted. But perhaps he oughtn't to enjoy it so much. He ought to be doing penance instead of wallowing in physical luxury.

The door banged open and she came in. That was not so good. She was too real, too vivid. He couldn’t stand being close to her, it made everything tingle and hurt. The bad memories became rowdy and jostled to first place. He bore it meekly, though. What he deserved.

“Hey, honey. I changed my mind, I wanna help. Shall I wash his back? You can do his nails?”

Spike’s mouth opened and the bad man knew exactly what he was thinking. But I already did his nails!

He snickered and they turned to him with blank faces. See? Making sounds was a bad idea. He dunked his head to be rid of their glassy stares, but Spike hauled him back up by his hair. That hurt, but he’d been waiting for that.

“Come on, lad, we‘re not gonna punish you over a giggle. Laugh away all you like.”

The hurting stopped and she got a sponge and started rubbing his back. She did it very differently from Spike and he tensed to steel himself against it. Spike had been rough and matter of fact, getting rid of the dirt in a manly fashion, but she took her time about it, stroking up and down his back slowly, putting pressure on the thick ropes of muscle there and it felt much too good.

Now she’d reached his neck and there she sponged more carefully, sliding gently around to his throat. He could feel that her body was less than an inch away form his naked back, radiating heat and breasts and his body reacted helplessly. He moaned in distress and shame and jerked his hand away from Spike’s hard brush.

“Buffy…” Spike said, after a glance at his lap, and to his embarrassment, she understood immediately and stopped her well-meant efforts.

She sighed. “I’ll do his hair then, okay? That’s not gonna be too….you know what.”

The bad man wasn’t deaf. He knew what she meant. He just wished she gave him straight pain, and not this kind of torture again. If he’d been made of stone, he could have withstood the pleasure of her touch. Maybe he could pour himself into concrete and wait out eternity that way. No wicked thoughts could ever reach him if he was encased in concrete.

The spray of hot water on his head was blessedly neutral and he relaxed a bit now that her hands were no longer on him. The relief lasted only seconds. A glop of coconut-smell landed on his head and for a moment, he resented the implication that he was a flower-bedecked savage to be soothed. The electricity shooting from her fingertips straight to his groin distracted him from that strain of thought. As if a touch would never be wicked because it was above the neck. Buffy sighed but persevered with her kneading and twisting and he couldn’t but endure the humiliation of being seen to crave her touch. He shook and twitched but endeavored to bear it staunchly.

“Leave off now, Slayer,” the Spike said in a low angry voice. “This is cruelty.”

“I don’t mean to be…” Buffy said.

Spike’s eyes stared hard at her, over his head, until she lifted her heavy hands off him and stalked out of the room.

“Sorry ‘bout that. She meant well.”

He still shivered, although the bath water was hot. He sighed, and his jaws hurt from clenching his teeth so hard. The shivering lessened and he realized it had been from anger, not fear. Anger was an emotion that was definitely not allowed and he started rocking in the bath, trying to hurt his elbows and his head before Spike noticed.

“For God’s sake…” Spike said.

Rough fingers grasped his chin and forced his head upwards. He clenched his eyes tightly shut, resisting stubbornly, hoping that punishment would result form his waywardness.

“Look into my eyes, you silly sod,” Spike said, not so rough anymore.

He slumped and looked up; reckoning that another chance at getting some pain out of Spike had passed. The blue eyes burned with unholy fire in the flame colored room.

“Not going to hurt you, no matter how hard you’re begging for it. That’s not the way, mate. You could flog yourself to bare bones on a daily basis and it wouldn’t be enough. The only way to matter, to atone for a fraction of the things we did, I did, is to become a better man. Become her equal. Not hide away and whine.”

The bad man hesitated. If he nodded, would Spike expect something of him? Perhaps resisting would gain him a bruise or two.

Spike let go of his chin and raked his hands through his hair.

“Never mind. It’ll come to you when you’re ready. Come on out of here, let’s get you dried off. Buff’s heating blood, can you smell it yet?”

In fact, he tried to shut down his senses and notice her as little as he could, as he seemed unable not to express his continued desire for her. If only one could cut that out, together with one’s soul and one’s heart, he’d be clean and empty. Winds could blow through him and starlight could penetrate him and eventually he’d be dust.

Spike tugged and wrestled him into clean and reasonably well-fitting clothing. The jeans had to be belted or they’d fall of his bum. Spike must be living well.

The scent of blood hit him square in the face when he was pulled into the kitchen on Spike’s hand. He liked the way Spike didn’t let go of him, as if he knew how much it meant to be touched by another being in kindness. To be touched at all was a bloody miracle. It steadied him and kept the voices silent.

He was given a cup of blood. He tried not to gulp it but his hunger got away from him and he looked up from the empty bowl and into raised eyebrows and tightly compressed lips. Oops. He handed the bowl back to placate them, but they gave him more instead. It was blood of an animal he’d never tasted before, and it was brilliant after all those months of sipping rats and never having enough.

After the second cup he was done and he suppressed a belch behind his hands.

“May I have a napkin?” he said politely and the look they exchanged was like a blow.

“He has nicer manners than you, Spike,” Buffy said in a low amused voice, but not low enough for his vampire hearing.

Spike grimaced and shrugged, throwing him a meaningful look. What does she know, eh, that look said.

A shrill little scream made him leap behind Spike and cower there until he'd identified the danger. She rolled her eyes and went to open the door. She gestured and talked to an invisible being and white oblong packages floated into her hands.

She set them down onto the kitchen table and Spike let go of him to get plates and utensils. The pressure in his head increased immediately and he grabbed the hem of Spike's shirt so that he couldn't leave him or disappear into nothing.

"Not going anywhere soon, mate," Spike said, emphasizing it by laying a hand on his shoulders and squeezing it.

He nodded, pretending that the words meant something. He saw straight through such promises. Empty they were, not like the certainty of a hand in your own.

She and Spike sat down and ate. Spike gestured to a chair where he was supposed to sit down, he guessed, but he didn’t like that it was at such a distance from Spike. He went and stood behind him and put his own hands on Spike’s shoulders. Spike bore it with a sigh and a movement of his head in Buffy's direction. The bad man couldn’t see their expressions, but he had no trouble imagining them.

Spike offered him a dripping pink morsel but he declined. No baby rats for him, and certainly not in soy sauce. He'd once found some in the belly of a drained rat and tried them out, but they were mostly gristle and slippery spongy flesh.

After dinner, they put him on one end of the couch and sat down on the other end themselves. Spike's solid shadow looming over him, which had been keeping away his tormentors, shortened and he felt exposed to the world’s malice again. But they turned on the telly and surprisingly, the blare and splatter of sound and color snagged on something in his brain and left a squashed kernel free to rear up its head and take stock.

Christ, he was loony. Stark raving mad, in fact. He knew damn well he was still squatting over the Hellmouth, but these past hours seemed disconcertingly real. Look at him, imaging a happy future between him and Buffy. Pathetic. He felt the scuffed leather of the couch but it remained bafflingly solid.

Well, there was only one way to test it. He inched slowly towards the two figments of his imagination, who were intimately entangled while they watched telly with half an eye. The other Spike twitched when he touched his arm with diffident fingertips, but he too was material, like the couch.

She stuck her head around Spike and looked at him gravely. "Don't be afraid, William. We won’t disappear."

Spike frowned. The bad man ducked, afraid he’d done something wrong, but it wasn’t directed at him.

"I wish there was a way to reach Willow before March. Three weeks are going to seem really long like this," she said.

Spike sighed and ruffled her hair. “I know. I said I was sorry. Don’t know what else to do though."

"Ask Giles? Andrew?"

"A bit late for that. We'll try them tomorrow, okay love? Give the poor sod a good night’s sleep and another meal."

“Okay,” Buffy said and kissed Spike on his lips. "Promise?"

"Promise."

They bent their heads together even closer, shutting him out, and the talk about Willow in the underworld, with her girlfriend with the weird name and other people he didn’t know or refused to remember drifted over his head. The president looked the same, which was disappointing, but he couldn’t remember why.

She climbed onto Spike’s lap and lay back against his chest while they watched TV. Spike played with her hair. He watched them, sneakily from the corners of his eyes, not moving in the hope that they might forget about him. Spike’s hands snuck under Buffy's shirt. A sweet smell rose from her in waves, caused by the throbbing of her blood close under the skin.

He sat petrified, hardening shamefully, trying to turn to stone all over. They ignored him and even though he could have touched Spike he didn’t dare to anymore. Maybe he had turned invisible. He must have made a small sound, because Spike noticed him again with a little start.

"Don't be sad, old man. It's only a couple of years. You can wait that long."

Could he? The melancholia rose up and engulfed him as it would when the voices let him alone long enough. That's why he always ended up inviting them back in, because he couldn't stand the black cloud burning in his eyes and throat.

Spike freed one arm and flung it around his shoulders. "C'mere, then. I'm taking care of you now. Try and rest a bit, eh?"

Her green eyes slid over him, cold where they touched and he was glad when she looked away. Her body pulsed hotly, but her eyes and thoughts were so cool when they turned to him. He was glad for Spike, because her chilly eyes warmed when they touched Spike’s skin, caressing it like fingers. Lucky Spike.

He tried to watch the telly, but he couldn’t help looking where Buffy’s little golden hand was stroking Spike’s thigh, gliding up and down softly and rhythmically. Spike stirred and held her tighter and it wasn’t long before they switched the telly off and told him to go to sleep.

She gave him a pillow, sheets and blankets and made up the couch. He stood away from her and watched her breasts flow down when she bent over to smooth the sheets and saw her slacks strain around her hips. He burned as he had before, and he couldn’t even gain the temporary relief that had been acceptable then. It was all part of his penance and she was worth it, but it hurt, and he wished for the clean pain of a blow or a cut. Perhaps he could find a knife in the kitchen when they’d gone to sleep.

Spike waited until he’d installed himself under the blankets and tucked him in like a child. He didn’t even resent it. The voices did, telling him to go kill Spike, who'd witnessed his humiliation and who wasn’t doing penance anymore. He didn’t quite get why Spike had to pay for things he did, but he was strong enough to keep the voices silent until Spike had shut the bedroom door behind him.

 

Perhaps they were trying to be silent, perhaps not, but they could never have hidden what they were doing from his vampire hearing and his vampire nose. He writhed under his clean sheets and wished that the other presences in the room would stop jeering at him and just kill or beat him. Nobody touched him, and he wasn’t allowed to touch himself and it hurt. If only Spike would hold his hand he'd be fine, he could bear it then, but Spike was one whole door away from him and  paying attention to nothing but her.

Spike made her sigh and scream, and he remembered only too well doing that. Only there were no acrid word or blows afterward, just sweet cuddling and sweeter kisses. He could hear the rasp of Spike’s hands sliding over her sweaty breasts, the slick wet sounds when she opened up her butterfly lips for Spike, her moaning, the bed creaking happily beneath them.

The people in the room screamed at him louder and louder and he tried to keep them away by clapping his hand over his ears or grinding his thumbs in the sockets of his eyes, but he had only two hands, and his nose brought him the scent of seed and her salty come and it was all too much. He needed Spike to calm him down. He wished Spike happiness with her, but he had to be closer to him to be able to shut his tormentors out. He slid of the couch and crawled silently towards the bedroom door. Perhaps that would be enough.

He put his fingertips on onto the door. Vibrations shivered through the wood. It didn’t help. He straightened soundlessly and pressed his hand palms and his cheeks against the rough-smooth surface of the door. He closed his eyes and tried to pretend he was all alone in the sitting room, and it was almost enough. Almost, but now the voices rebelled and fought to recapture his attention. They became louder and louder and he couldn’t hear Buffy's panting mewling sounds anymore. It wasn’t enough.

He moved his head until his left eye was over the key hole. His chest pressed against the door, he peered and twisted until he caught sight of two creamy hillocks clenching and unclenching.

He knew perfectly well what Spike was doing, and he clearly remembered doing it himself, but his mind, or maybe his soul, shied away from naming it and preferred it nameless and shapeless. Dark hollows seeping moisture, red throbbing apertures, swords sheathing and unsheathing, he circled his desire like a predator who cannot name the mouse he wants to devour.

He burned and suffered while they doused their fires in sweet juices and fell silent again. Air escaped from him in a small steady stream, and he thought himself unnoticed. He watched his own hand steal to his shame. It was nearly there, and he’d have had to punish it harshly if it had reached its goal, but then he tumbled inwards into the bedroom and a naked and angry Spike stood looming over him.

“Bloody hell,” Spike hissed. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing? Playing Peeping Tom now, are you?”

He couldn’t answer for fear one of the voices would grab his tongue but he clasped Spike’s naked foot in his cold hands. The foot was warm, hot even. Spike’s whole body radiated heat, and the bad man colored when he took in the flushed wheals where Spike had been in contact with Buffy’s sweating body, the thick cock bobbing purplish red at eye height, still half-erect.

The touch of Spike’s body calmed him, as he’d known it would, and he sighed and rested his head against Spike’s leg. After a moment, a hand came down on his head and he could trust himself enough to speak.

“You keep the voices away.”

“Aw, shite.”

Spike knelt next to him and embraced him closely. He’d never been touched by a man like that, so warm and friendly and without a hint of menace. Like a brother, maybe, if he’d had one. Or a father, but he didn’t really remember that heavily bewhiskered gentleman, just his Daguerreotype standing on the mantelpiece.

He nestled in close to Spike’s warm broad chest and a big hand pressed his head even closer. The jangling voices went away and he felt like himself for the first time ever since he’d returned to Sunnydale.

“How d'you do it, mate?” he said. “How d’you live with it day in day out?”

“What?”

“The soul! It burns and pulls at me. It turns over all the stones and there's a woodlouse under each of them.”

“Yeah,” Spike said softly and stroked a hand through the bad man's curls, which hurt because they were so tangled. He liked that.

“At first, maybe. You get used to it eventually. It’s still inside me, o’ course, but I don’t notice it that much. Its just there.”

“But how?” He had to swallow and start again. “It’s like all these voices in my head, squabbling, driving me bloody bonkers.”

Spike shifted a bit. “Soul needs time to settle in, like,” he said. “You don’t just plug it in like a sodding webcam or some such. Like a seed, you know? Starts out small but it’s gotta send out shoots pretty quick to function and grow like it should. And it uses stuff, whatever, that your demon used first. Decisions you used to take. Notions, whims. It’s gotta have a hand in everything.”

Spike rearranged his dick, which had gotten a bit squashed between their bodies. Their cocks were like two friendly slugs resting amicably side by side.

“Maybe like a spiderweb, too, you know. Gotta have all of you, but it’s not the same as you, just part of it.”

“Well, yeah,“ the bad man said, “But what about the voices? Who are they? They’re dinner but they're talking to me. One of em’s gone, and she was the worst of the lot, you know, pretending to be B…Her, or Dru.”

Spike nodded against his cheek. “That’s the First.” He sighed helplessly. “You know this is the future, don’t you? Now you’re all cool as cucumber for a bit?”

He nodded back, liking the rasp of check against cheek. “I know that now. Apt to forget any moment, though. You won’t mind?”

“Nah, that’s fine. I remember bits of it. Pretty gruesome, won’t tell you no lies about that. But it’ll pass.”

Spike was getting restless, shifting about, scratching his balls. That was a pity; the bad man would have liked to be quiet with him for a bit longer. Being really quiet together had made all the difference.

“Let’s get some kip, then, eh? Need your beauty sleep, you do.”

He stood up reluctantly, knowing that all the horrors were waiting for him the moment he let go of Spike. He made a movement in the direction of the couch, but Spike stopped him.

“Are you crazy? Well, yeah, of course you are, but I mean, I’m not gonna let you go back to your couch all on your sad lonesome. Come back to bed with me. We’ll be very quiet and not wake Buffy.”

He had to steady himself against Spike, so dizzying was the gratitude he felt. It was followed by fear though.

“Not…not with her,” he said, “I can’t. It’s ever so kind of you, but I'm not worthy.”

“Not reverting already?” Spike said, and he could hear the frown on his face. “You’ll sleep on my side, with me in between. No part of your evil body will sully hers, right?”

“Right.”

He was sort of relieved that Spike acknowledged that he was evil

They snuck back into the room like truant schoolboys and crept into the toasty warmth of Buffy and Spike’s bed. He nestled in close against the smooth springy solidity of Spike’s back, his buttocks pressing in his belly. He could smell her, and hear her quiet snuffling and the small rushings and throbbings of her sleeping body, but without those eyes that saw straight through him it wasn’t as daunting. He felt himself sink into sleep as safe as a father’s embrace.

 

He woke with a pounding, burning heart and sweat standing up on his brow. While his brain sleepily tried to process what was wrong with both these things, his body decided to open its eyes to check out the danger. He saw a naked Buffy leaning over him, her small hot fingers branding a hand-shape in the skin over his dead heart. It was her heartbeat that pounded out to him and filled him with dread. His cock leaped in answer to the haze of lust that surrounded her and he lay very still under her scrutiny, wary of the anger that might take the place of arousal at any moment.

She bent forward, the tips of her breast brushing his chest and brought her lips close to his ear.

“Shh,” she said. “Let Spike sleep. Sorry I woke you.”

“That’s fine,” he breathed back.

He lied. If she knew what he was thinking, she’d curl her fingers into talons, rip out his heart and pulverize it in her hand. Her other hand traveled down his belly and found his cock, which had been reaching eagerly up to her.

He stilled even more and waited for the punishment.

At first, she studied his chest, where the cuts of his unsuccessful attempts to remove his soul or his heart hadn’t healed yet, but then she rubbed a finger over his dick, on the spot near the top where his foreskin began and he twitched in response. She watched avidly.

“What do you feel?” she whispered.

“Fear,” he admitted.

That surprised her. She let go of his panting cock and instead settled over his hips, leaning her forearms on his shoulder and staring into his eyes. More fear, more arousal. She must know that he would feel that. He couldn’t help it when she was around.

“I won’t hurt you,” she said at last. “You know I love Spike. You. Or well, I will.”

“You’re so angry,” he said.

“I’m not angry anymore,” she said, surprised. “I’m happy.”

Their whispers tickled sibilantly over his mouth and he was close enough to breathe in the very breaths that had just escaped her lips. The sweetness of it was unbearable.

“Let me go,” he said. “I can’t.”

“Can’t what?”

“Stop loving you.”

Her pleased smile warmed him. The tips of her hair caressed his ears and he found his hands on her arse. He wanted to take them away and apologize, but the start of his movement made her shudder and he knew, astonished, that she wanted him.

“Why?” he said.

She seemed to understand him. “I don’t know. I just want to give you something. Seeing you like this again makes me feel bad. I want that feeling to go away.”

She lowered her soft smiling mouth over his lips and he opened them. He couldn’t not. The taste of her transported him straight back to their last kiss, their one and only really loving kiss, the day she broke up with him. He turned his head away so she wouldn’t notice the involuntary tears in his eyes, but she did something she’d never done before, she acknowledged his sadness by licking them away.

“Why are you crying?”

“We never kissed like this, except once, when…” he fell silent.

She knew, though. What had happened to her to change her so?

“I’m sorry about that. That was the worst moment to break up with you, I guess.”

“Why did you?”

He could ask it now, with Spike solidly lending him strength, guarding his back.

She nibbled his earlobe while she thought. Such a small, thoughtless gesture, but it told him so much.

“Maybe you could have become a good man without the soul. But I think not. And I guess I needed to do some growing up, too. Lay some ghosts to rest.”

She kissed him in earnest now and he gasped and shivered under her hands. Her cunt slid over his cock, hot and wet and he wanted so to hide in there and not come out but he held back. Never again without a written invitation.

She slid off him, and he prepared for a goodnight kiss and lying awake after, but she turned to her side and grabbed him firmly against her. It left him with his arse in Spike’s groin and his cock between her legs. He bit his hand to keep from moaning aloud as she slid him inside and it was both the same as he remembered and better. She was softer and rounder, more relaxed beneath his stroking and squeezing, but her womanhood was as hot and tight as before. Her breasts spilled over his hands and her nipples eagerly greeted his thumbs.

“Love,” he breathed helplessly into her neck.

“Unh,” she answered.

It was enough. His body remembered what to do, which was good of it, because he was too confused to give it directions. His hands positioned her in the right angle to please her most, and all he had to do was be along for the ride. His finger found her clit in the old place, and knew when to touch and when not to.

He closed his eyes so he could smell and hear more clearly what was happening to him. He was clasped by the hot velvet glove of her cunt and their slow pulsating movements painted pictures on his eyelids the color of wombs.

Just when he imagined he was in control it slipped away from him and a cruise missile raced up his spine, ready to blow out his skull. A cool hand slipped around the base of his cock and stopped it from happening. A thick throbbing object slid between his legs and blunt teeth bit his shoulder. He moaned and shuddered and the disaster of not pleasing her was prevented.

“Spike,” Buffy breathed, and reached over his head to touch the other.

He was the bologna in their sub and he could have remained like this forever. Sheltered at the back and challenged with fire and demolition at the front. It occurred to him that this feeling was called happiness. He stilled his pumping hips to savor it a little bit longer.

Buffy kept kissing him and Spike in turn, and it should never, ever stop. Nothing could be better.

A questing finger slipped between his legs and slid in to Buffy, next to his quaking, impatient member. He made ready to pull out, to give up the privilege to its rightful owner, but he was pressed back in and the finger traveled somewhere unexpected yet familiar.

He tipped his head back, offering his throat to her and the thick muscle in the shoulder to Spike. He was ready, let Spike go where he would  and use him, penetrate him, hurt him and make him bleed. Those were his due now that he had trespassed into Spike's territory. He would have preferred to kneel with his head in the dust, but that would have placed him above her and he couldn’t bring himself to do that. So they would rut into each other side by side.

Spike's hands pried his buttocks apart and he gasped and shivered with both anticipation and fear. Angelus had been a master in combining pain and pleasure and he expected nothing less form the pupil.

Spike opened him up and coated him with her juices. He was ready and eager, bucking his hips forward for her and backward for him. Spike went in, his cock burning at first, but it was a good burn, hot coals for him to walk on. The bad man groaned into her neck. His face creaked in warning and he ground his teeth to keep from changing. He was getting flustered, anxious from too many impulses at once. Some to be suppressed, some to be given free reign, but which was which?

Her hot, sweaty neck was between his teeth and he clung to the certainty that he shouldn’t bite, but his teeth were rebellious and worried at the skin, elongating and retracting  while he fought to order the sensations thrusting in on him from all sides. Someone, maybe it was he himself, was making agonized animal grunts.

Spike thrust inside him all the way with a loud pop and he shouted in agony and joy. His own cock plunged deeper into Buffy and she flexed and clenched around him. His teeth, bad, evil teeth, pierced the skin, raising blood, but it wasn't the hot living stuff he’d expected. He was biting Spike’s dead hand, thoughtfully rammed into his mouth to keep him safe. He could let go. Spike had everything in hand and he needn't worry his weak head with what to do and what not. He relaxed his hold on all his fears and gave over to the sensations.

He couldn’t separate the feelings and he didn't want to. Was he thrusting or receiving? All burned with hot slippery feeling, filling him up to bursting with flesh and seed, threatening to spill over on all sides and it didn’t matter at all anymore. He opened his eyes, determined to see, trusting that what he would see was real. She glowed underneath him, golden and flushed, panting hot breaths and making delirious sounds of surrender to him as she shivered into release. She was so beautiful, a living flame against the cool whiteness of the pillowcase. Her hair snaked around her, animated by her lust, red fangy mouths hissing and biting, but only love entered his veins, not poison.

A white hand clung to her sweaty breast, squashed between their bodies, his own? Her nipples had reddened into hard fruits ripe for biting. He squeezed instead and the red milk flowed out, sweet and warm, giving life back to him.

He burst open, a geyser of burning seed in his gut, spending his love and trust into her at the same time.

"Buffy," he gasped and would have torn his tongue out for defiling her name.

"Spike," she said, and he didn’t know whom she meant. He wasn’t the man she loved.

"You will be," she said, or was that his imagination?

Sleep claimed him completely for the first time since Africa. His last defenses had been stripped away from him and he could no longer deny her hungry embrace.

 

He awoke in such peace that he checked for his body with his palms, thinking that he might be dead. But then he chided himself. Death would not take him to such tranquil realms but to the eternal fiery torments below. He didn’t open his eyes, so he could postpone the inevitable disillusion. It seemed to him that he lay in a safe tangle of scents, rank and sweet combined, but speaking of love. His nose itched; he retrieved a hair from it blindly. It was slightly rough along its long length, but ended in a smoother, thinner inch. He gave in to the temptation to check his perceptions and found the hair gold, with brown at the root. He smiled. He could tease her for dyeing her hair.

But, fool that he was, he’d opened his eyes and he was alone. Not where he’d expected and feared to be, but alone nonetheless. A great expanse of white bedding spread before him. Its occupants had gone, leaving him naked and defenseless. The voices came rushing back in and pummeled him until he crawled back under the covers and hid his head under her pillow. He needed his tables and chests of drawers. All this softness made him sleepy and weak. He needed the hard edges to keep alert.

She'd tricked him and woken the snake and enticed it into the woodshed. He checked himself; he wouldn’t be the first fool who'd woken less than men from the teeth in her second mouth.

A door banged open and a hand shook his shoulder. He ignored it as best he could. Don’t look, don’t listen, don’t move were, his new mottoes and they worked best. The monkeys knew what they were doing.

"William! Spike! Whatever you call yourself, wake up. Breakfast is ready."

Breakfast again?

"Haven't had supper," he mumbled truculently and flinched in advance for the pain his small rebellion would bring. He shifted his body deeper under the covers, away from the insistent voice and he twanged in deep private places, where nobody had been for a long time. Angelus had been at him again, hadn’t he? Angelus' voice sounded different this morning.

She entered the room, all souvenirs of last night’s loving washed off her body as if it had never happened. It probably hadn't.

She put a cup of something delicious on the nightstand and touched his shoulder. He whimpered at the touch. His evil flesh wanted to crawl into her hand and hide there and he wasn’t allowed to.

"I think he's back the way he came in," her voice said, a little bit sad but mostly resigned. "So it didn’t help after all."

"There’s more wrong with him than one good shag could repair, Slayer," Spike said brusquely. "Course it did good. Hand me his clothes, will you? I’ll dress him. Get some blood into him."

He struggled and protested, but Spike forced cold stiff clothes on him and made him drink blood. At least he couldn’t make him open his eyes.

An arm around his shoulder steadied the world a little and he peeked fearfully through his lashes. Spike seemed the same as last night, patient and sure and he relaxed a bit. Spike swallowed and blinked. He knew something awful was going to come out of his mouth, at the very least a lie.

"Contacted the witch this morning. We know how to send you back. Thought we'd best do it right away."

He clapped his hands over his ears. This wasn't happening. He'd been a sandwich. They couldn’t take that away from him now.

They did it anyway. Spike dragged him into a brightly lit space. He could see the sunlight even through his closed eyelids. See? They were going to burn him up, although Spike didn’t burn, strangely enough. They were false. Figments. Evil things leading him astray. Two hands on his shoulders calmed him.

"Don't take this the wrong way, mate. You gotta go back. History needs to run its course. You'll bee back here, coz you'll be me. You understand?"

No, he didn't. He might be crazy, but he knew he was a bad man and Spike was someone else. Someone Buffy loved, someone who deserved her. He shook his head violently and pressed his knuckles in his eyes. Spike sighed and gave him a small push.

Bright light seared him to the bone, exposing all of him to the prying eyes, skin, muscle, gristle, bone, marrow, thoughts. Desires. He’d tried to let go of desires, of movement, of everything. Tried to be really still and become invisible, become nothing, but the bad girl always found him and taunted him with his sins and his weaknesses. His tears shriveled and dried up.

At least he still had his tables. He crawled and wedged himself between the wall and the chest. Nice and tight, no funny business. He checked his brothers and sisters in the drawer. Twenty three. He’d had breakfast though. He shut the drawer again and tried to be still. Breathe out. No need for breath, there was gonna be no talking. No breathing or moving or thinking. Just silence, so he could suss out which were his thoughts and which weren't. He wasn’t making a lot of progress, but he'd get there eventually.

But not today. His skin was drenched in her and Spike's juices. His legs shivered with the memory of pumping into her depths, his tongue licked the taste of kisses of his lips and his hair uncoiled meekly as it remembered her caresses. Today he would scream and bang his head against the wall and beat his evil flesh until it bled.

END