A Gauntlet With A Gift In It

God answers sharp and sudden on some prayers,
And thrusts the thing we have prayed for in our face,
A gauntlet with a gift in it.
~Elizabeth Barrett Browning


"You think we should call him again?" Xander had his head stuck round the edge of the velvet curtain, gawking out the window, so Spike was being treated to a view of his husband's jean-clad backside. It *was* a treat, no matter how many times he'd ogled it -- but he still felt the need to chide Xander for his silliness.

"Luv, you called him ten minutes ago, and he was halfway between here and Sunnydale. They're not likely to be pulling up the drive anytime soon."

"That sports car's fast. You never know."

Spike stood up from the sofa, and tossed his copy of last month's _Demon Lovers_ aside. "Unless you had it equipped with a tesseract when you gave those Knobloch Beasts the specs, it's still gonna take him at least forty-five minutes to get here. Come on and sit down, Xan."

Xander's face appeared from behind the curtain, looking twitchy and confused. "One of those wrinkle in time thingies?"

"So you *have* read at least one novel in your life."

"Does it count if Willow read it to me?"

"Depends on if you listened," Spike allowed. "Er, and how old you were -- I don't think I want you being corrupted with grown-up stories when you're a tyke." Spike frowned at his husband, glurble. Then he blinked and tried to remember what the point of the conversation was. Right. Trying to keep Xander from giving himself a heart attack from too much bouncing.

Xander was grinning, and walked over. Bounced over. "What if I was? You gonna call her up and scold her? Because I wanna listen in on the extension."

"So's you can hear her laugh at me," Spike guessed.

"Yup." Xander nodded, bounced, and went back towards the window. "I bet if--"

He'd just get jumpier, staring at the empty drive below. Spike lunged forward, grabbing him by the back of the collar. His t-shirt collar, not *that* collar. Spike had to remind himself again, why he couldn't just suggest Xander go put *that* collar on -- and nothing else. Not now. Later, maybe. Ten seconds after Giles left. He sighed. It was hard, having to be the sane one. "You can manage to wait forty-five minutes, can't you?"

Xander cocked his head to one side, and looked at him funny. "That sounds so bizarre, coming from you."

Spike flipped him off.

Xander laughed and stuck his head past the curtains, again. "Giles *is* a spell-caster. He might've...done something. Spelly."

"Not since the last time he tried putting a spell on the Mustang, and it turned into a *real* one. Anya screeched him up and down the block, for making her arrive at La Cerise on a horse. Especially in high heels."

"The horse was wearing high heels?"

Spike got the feeling, somehow, that Xander wasn't paying complete attention to him. "No, Giles was wearing high heels," he said a bit irritably. The couch springs squeaked as he flopped back down on it. Xander didn't respond. After deciding that irritating, or being irritated by, his husband was infinitely more entertaining than Miss-or-Possibly-Mr. February, Spike looked up at Xander's arse again. "You get this excited waiting for *me* to get here, when I'm gone?"

There was a small rustle in the curtains. "When are you ever gone?"

"You saying I should go away more often?"

He allowed a small sniffly sound to creep into his tone, mixed with a liberal dose of 'We've been married for three weeks, and you're already tired of me?' His only answer was the sight of Xander's behind, still bouncing. Granted, it was *still* a nice view. But it was a facing away from him view, and Xander was just *not* cooperating with the distractionary techniques.

Spike sighed, actually meaning it this time, and looked around for something else. "Could take the kids for a walk." There wasn't a response from Xander, for a moment. Just the bouncing of his arse, and muscles under the denim making Spike think very grumpy thoughts about the need for waiting.

"Huh?" Xander was looking at him, again. Confused, again.

Spike sighed, louder. "Christ, d'you listen to anything I say?"

His husband looked honestly startled, for a second, and Spike was about to start apologizing and swearing he hadn't meant it that way and was there anything he could do -- when Xander grinned, and stuck out his tongue. "Nope. Why would I? It's your turn to take the kids for their walk, anyhow."

On the upside, Xander *did* come over and sit down on the couch next to him. Both knees started bouncing.

"Should hook you up to the mattress, have my own jiggly-bed."

Xander looked at him clearly for a moment. "That sounds good. Handcuffs or ropes?"

Spike rolled his eyes. "I'm not tying you up; you'll just rub off on the mattress, and what'll I get out of it?"

Xander blinked. "Um, duh?"

Spike shook his head. "Come on -- we talked about this."

"We did? We talked about you tying me to the bed?"

He honestly sounded sincere. Like he couldn't even concentrate enough to be aggravating Spike on purpose-- which was almost insulting, somehow. "We talked about waiting. And if you don't relax, I'm gonna tie you to the coatrack. With your hands over your head, and a pitcher of ice down your trousers."

Xander's bouncing knee stopped still, for a moment. "You think that would work?"

"Probably not. 'Sides, I don't want you to get frostbite. I'm the only one allowed to bite you down there."

Bounce. Bounce. "Down where?"

"In Australia, where the upside down people and the kangaroos live. Xander, stop that, or I'll... I'll..."

Xander grinned. "You'll what?"

"I'll get Cordelia in here to come up with a threat that you wouldn't actually enjoy."

"She's out. With Lorn. Hotel's empty. Nyah nyah boo boo."

"So you're familiar with current events, then; you just can't concentrate on anything *I* say."

"Were you saying something?"

Spike flipped him off again. Then he flipped the page from Mr./Ms. February, and started reading the advert for penis-enhancing cream on the reverse side, just for something to do. "I can't believe you're selling this muck, Xander," he muttered, frowning. "Increases your ejaculation by eight hundred and fifty one percent? I'd be blowing holes in the wall. Or, er, in you. Who the hell tested this stuff?"

"Forgwath Demons." Xander held his jitterbugging hands out, about a foot and a half apart. "They use it on demolition crews. Anyway, it's not for use by humans or humanoid demons. Read the fine print."

Spike peered at the tiny words underneath the clip-out coupon. "No humans, vampires, tax accountants, or people of elfin descent need apply. Arrives in a plain brown wrapper with the words 'Not Penis Cream' stamped on it in large, bold letters. Xan, this mag worries me sometimes."

"Sometimes?"

"Er, well, doesn't worry me when I'm actually looking at some naked... er... humanoid." Spike flipped through the pages again. "Which there aren't any of, this ish. What's up with that?" he asked, as though he really cared.

As though he *looked* at the pictures in _Demon Lovers_ in order to see nakedness, demonic or otherwise. He should probably be worried about reading a skin mag mostly for the articles, but he'd always been rather easily satisfied. Spike realized that sounded bad, and was glad there was no one in his head to hear him. What he *meant* was that seeing Xander in various states of not-dressed, dressed, partially dressed, costumed.... Xander was all he needed. Glurble.

Spike closed his eyes and tried to re-focus on the problem at hand. Namely, one glurble who was going to kick a hole in the floor with his foot, if he didn't stop with the bouncing. "What's with all the slimy ones this time?" he repeated. It was worth a try. Anything to make Xander slow down and think, instead of vibrating himself into another dimension.

"Our readership is only 21% human, and 14% humanoid. Over 52% of the sentient life forms reading the magazine have tentacles. And 72% --" Xander stopped babbling, as Spike placed a hand over his mouth. So much for slowing down.

"But I'm your most important reader, and *I* want naked humans."

Xander's hand flew to his shirt.

"No! Not-- damn, what am I saying? Right! No! Xander--"

"You said you wanted a naked human. As president and owner of the magazine, I feel it's my duty to make sure my most important reader is happy."

Spike scowled. "If I thought you stripped off for any bloke or blokette who asked you...."

"Oo! How about a staff issue? See all your 'behind the scenes' personnel in their birthday suits."

Spike looked at him in disbelief. "You really wanna see your CFO naked?"

"Stephanie? I wouldn't mind. She looks a bit like Tawny Kitaen."

"If she ate a wildebeest, shaved her head and painted herself green, maybe."

"You're thinking of Furglenox. He took a job with R & D last year." Xander frowned at him. "When's the last time you came up to the office?"

"Since you told the security guards to shoot on sight?"

"That was just if they saw you getting naked in the lobby."

"Well, if you'd take longer lunches, I wouldn't have to get ready on the way upstairs, would I." Actually, it *had* been a couple of months since he'd been to see Xander at work, mostly due to wedding plans being in full swing, and Carla having banned him from the premises when she caught him snooping round her office for some sign of what Xander was planning on getting him. Or anybody else's pressies -- Spike wasn't picky. He looked up, to see that Xander's *eyes* were bouncing now, too. Great -- what had he said now? "Xan?"

"Getting ready? We could do that, right?"

Spike almost felt sorry for Xander. Almost. "Do you really think you could hold out if we started getting ready now? You've already had two showers -- what else is there?"

Xander looked worried-confused for a moment. Then he started to brighten. "The room--" He cut off, and he scowled. "Which we cleaned up within an inch of its unlife, yesterday."

Spike nodded, as if commiserating. Yesterday morning had started off normally: getting out of bed an hour after the alarm had gone off, and licking Xander's back until he relented and called in to work. Spike hadn't mentioned that he'd told Carla that Xander was taking the week off *after* their honeymoon, as vacation time. After they'd finally dragged out of bed, Xander had commented on possibly changing the sheets -- which had led to a panicked "Oh my god where is Giles going to--" and they'd spent the next several hours cleaning. Well, Xander had.

Spike had whined, of course, because they lived in a hotel, for god's sake. Why not just borrow a room? He'd even suggested they use a room far away from the Terrible Trio's suites, after Xander thumped him on the head for suggesting they *use* his Sire's digs. Half the videos in Morrie's "re-creation" series were shot in an exact duplicate of those rooms, he'd pointed out at first, with professional actors replacing the Zoo Crew. Why should it make any difference if *this* video were shot there? Who'd know? But he'd been duly bopped, because *Giles* would know, and then he might not do it, and did Spike want to ruin Xander's wedding gift?

He'd actually been smart enough, for once, not to answer back with his first thought, which was that it was *his* wedding gift too, wasn't it? -- because Xander had been just antsy enough to threaten him with not sharing, if he pushed his luck. So Spike had simply suggested an empty room at the far end of the building, and ducked the oncoming whap. By the time he'd realized there wasn't going to *be* one, just a "No, I wouldn't feel comfortable there," Xander had been bouncing around their own suite, cleaning like that Heloise chit on overdrive. And was Spike going to complain if Xander did most of *his* housekeeping duties too, in a fit of hyperactivity? Well, yes, but only to draw attention away from the fact that he wasn't actually working.

But now, of course, there was nothing to do, and Xander was bouncing more than ever. "We could watch telly," Spike suggested, reaching for the remote.

"No porn flicks," Xander said, throwing himself down beside him.

Spike pouted at him, and got whapped for it. He turned the set on and blinked. "Who was watching the HGTV channel?"

"Er--" Xander said, and wriggled. Spike watched, reminding himself he shouldn't make Xander wriggle again. "They mightabenamumamun."

Eyebrow raised, Spike looked at his husband, who was now steadily *not* looking over at him, and blushing slightly.

"What was that?" Spike asked.

"Nothing. Change the channel."

"No, I want to hear this. Either you're hiding something from me because you want to surprise me later -- or it's embarrassing. Both of which mean I want to know." Xander glanced his way, then stuck his tongue out at him. Spike whipped his hand out and caught the tongue, before Xander could pull it out of the way. "Now what are you going to do?"

Xander rolled his eyes. "Uh-muhwah wah."

Spike let go. "What?"

"How can I tell you, if you've got my tongue?" An evil glint appeared in Xander's eyes. "Wanna grab my tongue again?"

"Er, no. Not sure I trust you." Spike leaned back against the couch and looked at the telly. Some woman was talking about gluing paper to chairs. He looked over at Xander again. "Decoupage? You were watching a show on decoupage?"

Xander rolled his eyes. Or bounced them in a rolly sort of way. Spike held one palm beneath Xander's chin, just in case they decided to bounce clean out of his head. "No, dork. I was watching a special on 'Feng Shui for Your Fishtank.' Figured we could redecorate the new tank, so the kids don't get all jealous and moody when the babies hatch." Then he frowned. "How do you know what decoupage is, anyway?"

"How do *you* know?"

They glared at each other for a moment, before Xander asked, "Wanna change the channel?"

"Yup."

"Wanna forget we had this conversation?"

"Yup." Spike's fingers sought out the familiar buttons for BBC America.

"Re-run," Xander announced.

"It hasn't been made since 1989; of course it's a bloody re-run."

"Yeah, but I saw this last week. See that tunnel? There's a Dalek inside, and they get rid of it by throwing something over its eyestalk."

"Could you narrow that down for me a bit? That happens about once per Doctor."

Xander frowned at the screen. "Oh. This *is* a different one. Last time it was his granddaughter. This time it's the girl with the fake American accent and the tiny bikini top." He bounced a bit more, in tandem with the contents of said top, and Spike shook his head.

"If I switch the channel to Blue's Clues, will that turn you on, too? Or is it just interior decorating and robots with phallic bits sticking out of them?"

"Hey! I never said the Dalek was turning me on." Spike just glanced down at Xander's crotch. Xander shifted, and tugged at his jeans. "Well, maybe Bikini Girl. Or possibly the Doctor. How about you change the channel?"

Spike thumbed the 'channel up' arrow, and they landed on Nickelodeon. Some cartoon or another was playing -- Spike could cheerfully and honestly say he did not know which one. For at least thirty seconds.

It was 'Bullies and Puppies'. Spike carefully didn't say anything out loud -- but he did wonder if he didn't need to spend less time at home during the day.

"Spike?"

"Yes?"

"Can we change the channel again?"

"Don't tell me little Annie Grable is turning you on." He pointed at the cartoon eight year old girl, giving the two-dimensional boys the what-for. When he didn't get an answer right away, he looked over. Xander was staring at him. "What?"

"Annie Grable?"

"Well what am I *supposed* to watch? The kids get tired of 'Animal Planet' all day, and PBS doesn't make shows for young fish."

The corner of Xander's mouth twitched. It twitched again.

"Do it, and die, you...human."

Xander laughed.

Spike reached for him, then stopped. "You're just trying to provoke me."

"Is it working?"

"No. I'm a grown vampire, secure in both my adulthood and my masculinity, and I can watch cartoons all day if I want. So there. Not like you don't watch 'em when you get home."

"Not Little Annie Grable."

"I like her. She's spunky." Spike refused to look at him, while he laughed.

"Spun..."

"Shut up." Hee. Chortle. Bounce, bounce, as the couch shook with Xander shaking with laughter at Spike. "I get no respect around here."

Snort. "I respect you, Spike. Hee. Really." Giggle. "I mean, how could I not? You're all spunky, and everything."

Spike hit him with a pillow. Xander laughed and wrestled the pillow away. Not that Spike didn't *let* him have the pillow, because there was another one right behind him, to grab. He did so, and whapped his glurble with it. Xander hit him back.

Several thumpings later, Spike realized this was *not* helping with the 'wait til Giles gets here' plan. He pushed Xander off him, and watched with only a little guilt as Xander landed on the floor, on his ass.

"What was that for?" Xander asked, not sounding really perturbed.

"Er, commercial. Gotta change the channel." Spike aimed the remote at the television. He ducked out of the way of the flying pillow, and clicked upwards to something new. Disney?

"Children, children of the night.... what sweet, sweet music they make..."

Xander threw a pillow at the tv. "Off! Off now!"

"It's really not a bad movie, all things considered, Xan."

"He made me eat *bugs*. He does *not* deserve a Disney movie about him. Turn it off."

Spike dutifully flipped the channel, though he suspected Xander was really just trying to avoid having to hear him hum the "Crunchy beetles, squishy flies" song all afternoon. Xander hadn't kicked up a fuss when Spike had filled Queen Victoria in on his adventures with Drac in days of yore, after all.

"Wonder if they have Disney movies about me, in Victorian-world," Spike pondered, as Steve the Crocodile Hunter filled the screen.

"They don't have *movies* in Victorian-world," Xander scoffed.

"Do. Read it in the guidebook. They're just all released on the internet, so there's no TV aerials or picture houses about to spoil the atmosphere."

Xander looked over at him, a disturbing grin splitting his face suddenly. "So...we could sell some of your Mac-edits there, couldn't we?"

Spike sat up straight. "Oo, yeah! I could film the Spike and Xander show, and slip it across to Mum, and dork-me can get humiliated in homes all across England."

But Xander was shaking his head, and Spike could see the gleam in his eye. "No. I mean... Well, yeah, let's embarrass Dork Spike all we can, sure. But the entire *line*. We could...." Xander leapt off the couch. "I need to call Marty!"

Marty was the were-hamster in charge of marketing for the side-line items, besides the actual magazine. Spike watched Xander head for the phone -- wondering why it had taken him this long to put two and two together, and also glad that the phone call would keep Xander distracted for at least--

"Okay! He's on it." Xander came back and sat down.

Spike blinked. He glanced over at the phone -- had Xander got into some time-bending spell he wasn't sharing?

"Channel, Spike!" Xander said in a tone that meant he was serious, this time, and if certain vampires didn't want to eat their blood with Cheetos, they had better do as they were told.

Spike pouted, but changed the channel again. So far they'd managed to waste almost ten minutes. Not bad, if he said so, himself.

"Spike."

"Er, what?" He looked around, trying to figure out what he'd done wrong *now*. He'd changed the channel, like he'd been asked. Then he saw what the show was -- Baywatch, South America. "Sorry."

"Change the channel!"

"You know, this thing has great plots -- all sorts of danger and drama, and--" He gave his husband another pout, after he'd been whapped. But he changed the channel again.

Dogs. Whatever it was, it was a show about dogs. Spike set the remote down. Xander seemed to relax, next to him, and even leaned back against the couch.

They managed to sit there for almost two minutes before Xander started vibrating again. "Xander, I really think you should've told me *before* we got married, if Airedales spin your crank."

That got him another pillow in the face. "You really are disgusting. Why did I marry you again?"

"For my money," Spike replied, deadpan. Xander laughed. "Oi, don't mock -- Giles still owes me half that haul from the Initiative vaults. If you're nice to me, I'll buy you a puppy when he gives me my cut. Maybe even an Airedale, long as you promise not to molest it."

"The kids would get jealous." Xander bounced up and bounced over to the fishtank, and stood in front of it, bouncing. It was making Spike want to take some Dramamine, at this point. "You think Gomer's lonely?"

Spike stood and walked over to join him, studying Gomer as she swam happily around by herself in the smaller tank, occasionally pausing for a nibble on the airline of her personal bubbly diver. "Nah. She's fine. It's just til the eggs are laid, anyway, so the others don't eat 'em. Then she can go back in the big tank."

"Maybe we should give her another bubbly diver," Xander said, in a thoughtful tone.

"What for?" Spike got off the couch and headed over. "She's got-- oh. Fast, isn't she?"

"I think she's been eating more, lately. That's good, right? Well, if the eggs need plastic, to grow." Xander put his hands in his hair, and made a sound like he was being strangled. "Spike, I'm not gonna make it. Not gonna, not gonna, gonna go insane!"

"Insaner?" But Spike reached out and took his husband's arm. "Come on, Xan. Come sit down and we'll turn on CNN. That'll distract you."

"No, no, don't wanna," Xander dragged his feet as Spike tugged him towards the couch.

"Xan, now, you *know* it's for the best." Spike didn't quite cheat and use his super strength to haul Xander back to the couch.

"But I'll start yelling at the tv, then I won't *want* to...um. OK, I don't think even CNN could get me out of the mood."

"We can try it, at least."

"Try what?" came a voice from the doorway, and Xander screamed and was out of Spike's grip before Spike could even complain about some people with sensitive, delicate, vampiric hearing being deafened.

"Giles!"

A smaller man, Spike reflected, might get jealous, to watch his sulky husband jump up and greet another bloke with a smile so bright you'd think the sun was shining out of Rupert's trousers. Spike, however... Well, all right. He was a *little* jealous, but it was all in a good cause.

Besides, he wasn't the only one. "So what am I? Finely ground organ meat?" Anya stood in the doorway, hands on hips, as Xander bounced over to Giles, started to give him a hug, then suddenly backed off, looking sheepish. Or possibly shy. Bloody hell, it was a bit late for *that*.

Xander grinned at Giles, then made his way over to Anya, whom he *did* hug, exuberantly. "An, you're the finest ground organ meat I've ever had the pleasure to know in the biblical sense," he said, as he let her go.

Giles looked at Spike. "He's gone completely barmy, hasn't he."

"Oh, since about eleven last night. Kept me up all night begging me to sing him lullabies to get him to sleep, then interrupting every time I got into one, to tell me how they weren't helping."

Xander looked back at him, one arm still around Anya. "Spike, you were singing make-out songs. 'Do That to Me One More Time.' 'Slow Hand,' for God's sake."

"Hey, you weren't complaining when I made it into an audience participation song." He hadn't been about to let Xander go *that* long without -- he didn't want to clean bits of exploded husband out of the carpet.

Xander just looked at him defiantly for a moment -- then stuck his tongue out. Spike rolled his eyes.

"Perhaps we shouldn't have let you know we were coming up, today," Giles said thoughtfully.

Xander's eyes went wide, as if Giles were saying they *weren't* coming up today, which was flatly ridiculous, since here they were. Spike suspected his husband wasn't thinking clearly. How could he, though, since all his blood had gone south hours ago, and stayed there since?

"Next time, we'll know better," Giles continued, smoothly, and Xander made a squeaking sound that Spike was *definitely* not jealous of, but Xander had better make that sound for him sometime, or he'd...be mad.

"Next time?"

Spike thought maybe all the mice in the baseboards had heard him. And only the mice. Well, and super-sensitive vampires, of course.

Giles coughed, and looked nervous. "Er, a figure of speech. That is--"

Spike had seen the expression on Xander's face before; it was the look he got when he opened a present and couldn't decide if he really, really liked it, or was rather afraid of whoever'd gotten it for him -- which was usually Spike. Once again, Spike had to think it was a little late to be sending this one back. What was he going to exchange it for, anyway? Store credit?

"That is, if it ever happens again, *I* get a cut of the gross," Anya said. "Running the camera for free is all well and good for your wedding gift, but after that, if I'm putting in the work, I expect to get part of the pay."

Spike wasn't entirely sure why she *was* running the camera -- Skippy could run itself, and they had enough minicams to do a variety of angles. Xander had explained to him that Anya needed to feel like she was participating, without actually...er...participating. It was only fair.

Right, Spike had replied as they'd sat in bed after Xander had got off the phone with Giles several nights ago. He got the fair part. But why couldn't she just er-participate? Not like she hadn't done it before. Xander had just turned an interesting colour, and said that it wasn't the same thing at *all*, and would he please get back to biting Xander's ear, like he was supposed to be? Spike was of the semi-private opinion that his husband was a few apples shy of a barrel, but he was willing to put up with it for the great sex and the fact that Xander never teased him about his squirrel phobia. Well, hardly ever. He hadn't asked, but still wanted to know, how *his* sitting in the room and not being allowed to touch anyone, was fair and participatory. He'd figured he was the chaperone, to make sure that...well...what could possibly happen that wasn't supposed to? Spike shrugged, not for the first time. "So, er, perhaps we should get started? Otherwise we'll all just stand around acting awkward, until Xander explodes from sheer frustration."

Giles half-grinned at Xander, who looked like he was about half a second away from doing just that. It made Spike want to throw him down someplace and have his way with him. Except he couldn't. Not this time.

"Suppose I should show you where the set-up is," Spike said to Anya. Not that he wanted to leave the room, but the sooner they started, the sooner they'd...be started.

Anya looked surprised. "Oh, I know where it is. I came by last week and checked it all out. Cordelia showed me all the controls and I'm certain I won't have any questions."

"Oh." Spike blinked. Princess knew how to run Skippy? That could be very, very dangerous. Of course, it wasn't like they got up to anything that she wouldn't figure out sooner or later anyhow. The point was more what she might *do* with whatever footage she acquired. Nasty things. Embarrassing things. Things like Xander calling him pookie-butt, and Spike not hitting him for it. Shudder. He didn't want to think about it. Instead, he asked Anya, "Right, anything you need, then? Popcorn? Peanuts? Tissues?"

She stared at him. "Spike, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm a girl."

"Oh. Right. No tissues, then."

She patted her handbag. "I meant, I carry my own. I won't turn down the popcorn, though."

"I'm just going to stand over here and pretend I'm not hearing this. Is that all right with everybody?" Xander asked, moving towards the window again. He poked his head past the curtains and looked down at what Spike assumed was Rupert's car, parked in the courtyard below. "Just, you know. Let me know when it's safe to come back from the state of denial."

Spike saw Giles giving Xander a worried look, but Giles made no effort to go after him. Well, of course not -- that was Spike's bailiwick. Spike went over and put his hand on his husband's back. "You know, we could play cards all afternoon, pretend nothing else was ever going to happen."

Xander looked at him. "Are you *insane*?"

"Er--" Apparently so. He knew better than to try to follow Xander's train of thought. "You just...seemed to be having second thoughts. Phrases like 'state of denial' and all."

But Xander shook his head. "That's because everyone's standing around and talking about it. I feel like I'm at a staff meeting. I--" He glanced down, glanced over at Giles, then looked at Spike again. Very quietly, he said, "Spike if you don't *want* to do this, it's OK. *You* can go somewhere, come back in a few hours after they're gone--"

"*What*?"

Xander looked confused. "Um, not it? Because...you don't seem real excited about this." He pressed his fingers against Spike's stomach, but Spike realize he meant something else. A bit lower.

Spike grinned. "Oh, that." He'd almost forgotten. If he *had* forgotten, there would've been one really unhappy Princess when she got home from her date, since it was her idea. He walked over to the liquor cabinet, and pulled out a small bottle. Xander followed him, still wearing that doubtful look.

"Spike, if you have to get *drunk* to go through with this, maybe we shouldn't do it at all," he said quietly.

"S'not booze," Spike replied as he uncapped it. He drank it down in one swallow, grimaced at the cough-medicine taste, then grinned again. "It's the antidote to that fairy-dust her highness put on us for the wedding. And let me say, I'm bloody glad we let it wear off naturally at the reception, because *this* stuff tastes like crap."

Xander blinked at him. "You mean you...let somebody put that de-lusting spell on you again?"

"Wes, yeah. Before he left this morning."

"Why?"

"So's I could concentrate on keeping *you* under control!"

Xander looked torn between laughing hysterically, and, er, fainting hysterically. "*You* voluntarily let yourself not be turned on, not under orders from Cordy?"

"It was her idea, but she didn't say I had to."

"Heh..heh..bwaha--- hey! Wait a minute! Why didn't you share it with *me*?"

Spike looked at his husband sideways, to see if he'd make any more sense from that angle. "Where's the fun in *that*?"

Xander whapped him -- big surprise, there. Spike could hear Giles trying to stifle laughter, behind them. Xander was grinning, and Spike suddenly felt much better. "So, you're not... not okay with this? You like?"

"Like, hell, Xander, I'd been bouncing off the walls harder'n you if my balls hadn't been put in a sling."

All the tension seemed to run out of his husband's body. "I thought, maybe...I should've said no. Except you never said I should and you *talked* like you wanted to but then you kept moping around."

"Git."

"Moron," Xander retorted.

"Wanker."

Xander grinned, and he looked totally evil. "Not exactly." Spike shivered. "Er, so - can we start? Are we ready? Any other last minute crises we should deal with?" Xander was back to almost-babbling, again, and it would only be another moment before he was bouncing off the ceiling.

Spike knew he was probably asking for trouble, but he sighed, and asked, "You sure you want me in here with you?" Taping or not, Xander might prefer to pretend he didn't have an audience.

But Xander's pole-axed expression said otherwise. "Not want...Spike, I can't do this without you with me." He looked -- again -- like he was worried Spike would back out. Really worried.

"Easy - I'm not goin' anywhere. I just wanted to make sure you wouldn't rather..."

Xander shook his head, rapidly. He moved very close to Spike -- close enough that Spike could fold him into his arms. Never being one to miss an opportunity, Spike did. Xander whispered into his ear. "You get that I'm scareder of this than Anya is of Peter Cottontail, don't you?"

Spike pulled his face away from Xander's a bit, just far enough to be able to look in his eyes. He mentally rewound the day's events, putting the bouncing and the grinning and the inability to string two coherent sentences together into *that* perspective, and realizing it still worked.

He wasn't about to ask Xander whether *he* really wanted this gift -- he'd been over the moon since he opened the envelope, and that was almost a month ago. Besides, it would just lead to another round of silliness while Rupert and Anya looked awkwardly at each other and pretended they couldn't hear, and that antidote worked a hell of a lot faster than the 'leave it to wear off' method.

Xander noticed that about the same time Spike did. "Guess you don't wanna go sit with Anya and eat popcorn, then, huh?"

"No, and I guess you don't wanna play poker all afternoon. Come on, Xan. Let's..."

"Get this over with?"

"All that anticipation and now you want it *over* with?" Spike leaned closer again, and took his last opportunity to do a little illicit touching.

"Well, maybe I meant, started."

Spike pulled away, ignoring the little noise of protest, and they both turned to face their guests. Anya waved at them over her bag of microwave popcorn --Spike hadn't even heard the bing. He was about to ask her if he could have half the bag. Just to see the look on Xander's face, or maybe to get himself whapped, for the sheer normalcy of it. He didn't, though, as he glanced over and saw the look on *Giles's* face. Tolerantly amused, in a way that made Spike want to whap *him*.

"You might've discussed this before now, you do know," Giles remarked.

Xander was pretty sure he was going to ask Wesley to teach him a few spells, after this. Assuming he recovered. The 'teleport something into the hotel pool' spell would be really useful, right now. Not only would it get him out of what was threatening to be the most embarrassing experience of his entire lifetime -- save the one which Carla had on tape and promised never, ever to show anyone, including the entire company at the annual Dear-God-We-Survived-Another-Year-Without-Getting-Sued party -- but it would also deal with the raging erection he had. Because apparently his nether bits didn't care how much blood was rushing to Xander's face.

"We couldn't," he said easily, retaining his composure by sheer dint of having lived with Spike for however many years it was, now, and having dated Anya before then, and Cordy before.... Come to think of it, he ought to be the most composed man on the planet by now. "We've been on our honeymoon -- who has time to talk?"

Giles cleared his throat, and looked like he was trying to figure out how to say 'good point' without actually thinking about Spike and Xander having sex. Which -- irony, here?

"But you didn't find out what the pressie was until the last day," Spike spoke up. Xander gave him a look. Apparently his husband wanted to get whapped again.

Except he couldn't. He had to just watch. Nyah, nyah. Xander grinned, and stuck his tongue out. "Well, then we had to go rescue Wesley. Trying to get those three to stop acting like idiots is a full time job."

"And here I thought they let you two stay here out of the kindness of their charitable hearts." Giles wasn't even bothering to hide his amusement now. Why wasn't he as nervous as Xander? It wasn't like he was any more used to this concept than...unless... Xander shuddered, and wiped all thoughts of Buffy and Willow from his head -- or at least, he pretended to, and wished deeply that he actually had the ability. Just temporarily.

Maybe that was it. Maybe Giles had hit Willow up -- or even Anya, considering that she was back to doing the odd spell these days -- for an anti-nervousness charm, like Spike's anti-lust spell. Xander stopped himself, just in time, from following *that* thought to its logical conclusion, and looking. He would *not* look, or they'd all laugh at him even more than they were silently doing now.

"Nah, the digs were part of the benefits for signing up to be their caretakers. Room and board, use of the hot tub as long as we don't get caught, and weekly boring speeches about why you shouldn't wax the ballroom floor and go skating in your socks, free of charge." Xander still wasn't sure, after all this time, if Spike came up with this bullshit off the top of his head, or if he spent the time Xander was at work thinking them up, and hard-coding them into his brain for later use on occasions like this.

Giles was still smiling at him, and Xander wasn't quite sure if he should get the awkward part over with and chase Anya out-- assuming the awkward parts ever really stopped -- or keep her in here for as long as possible. It wasn't that he wasn't eager, exactly. Sort of. He just had this insane desire not to *look* eager. Exactly. Sort of.

"Much as I'd love to hear about Spike not listening to that speech, and breaking his head open on the ballroom floor--" Anya began.

"Did not. Just got a minor concussion. Cleared up in about two hours. And Wes made up a spell for me, afterwards, to clear 'em up faster the next time."

"--I'd rather be watching free home porn." She held out her hand. Xander stared at her. What exactly did she want? There were videotapes a plenty, in the camera room. After a moment, she sighed and shook her head. "Gift certificate?"

Spike snorted. "Come on -- not like you really need it."

"Does no one but me recognize the value of keeping accurate receipts? No wonder--"

Xander reached into his pocket, and pulled out the carefully folded piece of paper. "No. I've got it." He tried not to look at Giles, for fear he'd know Xander had been carrying it around with him for weeks now.

Anya took it, and nodded approvingly. "Good. I'm going to the little room with the cameras now, and if somebody doesn't start doing something entertaining in five minutes, I'm going to tell you guys all the secrets you've told me about each other. Starting with when Xander was in high school and Giles was lecturing him for going after Buffy when he'd been told not to, and Xander was thinking it'd be so much nicer if he'd just--"

"Right, it's two doors down, on the left." Xander found himself escorting Anya out the door and into the hallway, speaking loudly over her, and feeling vaguely guilty about the deja vu that caused. "Don't spill popcorn on the keyboard; it takes forever to get the salt out."

"I won't. Have fun." Anya gave them all a smile, and left. Xander stood there in the doorway and didn't turn around. Five minutes. Could he do this? He could do this. He'd had sex with Spike up against a lamppost, for god's sake, in the middle of a sidewalk in London. True, no one who'd seen had known him, or was ever going to see him again.

But this was Giles. Giles, and Spike, and Anya. All of whom he loved and trusted and cared for. So was this an incredibly bad idea? He shut the door and turned around, to find Giles and Spike giving him nearly identical looks of faint worry. It made him laugh, and that made the faint looks grow slightly more worried.

"Xander -- if you really don't want to--" Giles began.

"I do!" he blurted, not wanting to hear Giles say he wouldn't. "I do," he repeated, feeling more certain about it. "I just...not my usual thing, you know?"

There was almost a smirk on Giles's face. "Yes, I'm sure I would have remembered if you'd done this before."

Xander scowled. "I could have done it with Angel. Except Gunn and Wesley would have turned me into a newt the hard way." He saw Spike's eyes flash gold, briefly, and began to think, deep in his brain, of ways to talk Angel into doing this sometime.

"Yes. Well, we seem to have permission from everyone concerned." Giles nodded towards Spike, and his eyes flickered towards the door, where Anya had gone. "All that remains is...you. Get over here."

Xander gulped. He found his feet obeying, before he could decide that he didn't mean *now*. They still had two minutes left before Anya started telling secrets -- which, wait, Spike told Anya secrets?

But he found himself standing next to Giles, standing close enough that he could feel the man's heat and smell the aftershave he'd used that morning, maybe even smell a hint of something underneath it. Close enough that he could reach out and have his arms around him, maybe even kiss him -- if either of those things had been on the list of events for the day. Were they? He suddenly realized he didn't know.

Then Giles's hand was on his arm, and he was being pulled along, and dumped over -- somehow Giles had got underneath him, and he was across Giles's legs. Xander got one hand onto the couch, and held himself up enough to not suffocate against the cushions. He turned his head to ask what was going on -- and Giles hit him.

Xander eeped.

It was a not-very-hard slap on the seat of his jeans, so the eep wasn't exactly a squeal of pain. More one of surprise, and confusion. Not that it had happened -- what, like he hadn't re-read that gift certificate at least five times a day since he'd opened it? But surprise that it had come so soon, no matter how not ever ready for it he wasn't going to have been, and confusion, because... across the seat of his *jeans*?

No sooner had he thought the words than it happened again, and most of his ability to think about why he was confused flew right out the window. The confusion remained, but the clarity of *why* was drowned in the faint warmth that Giles's hand had imparted to his butt. Just a little sting, nothing that wasn't already fading, but it was *Giles*. Spanking him. He let his head fall again.

As the heat faded, enough thought crept its way in to cry, "But...!" As in "But I thought," and "But when Spike and I do it, we always," and "But isn't he gonna? Or did I read too much into that, and should I be really embarrassed now?" More embarrassed than he already was that he was butt-up across the knees of the man who'd given him away at his wedding, and he was, beneath the confusion, enjoying it immensely.

Well, if that was really all Giles had in mind, Xander was determined to enjoy it for as long as it lasted. The next slap was a little harder, and came a bit faster. And the next. It was developing into a sort of slow burn that didn't really fade in between, because Giles was heating up the denim of his jeans just as much as his ass. He'd have to remember that -- point out to Spike that not everything was better naked, all the time.

Spike. Xander managed to lift his head just a bit, and saw him, sitting in the chair across from the couch. Watching. When he caught Spike's eye, there was a smile that made Xander's head fall again, feeling the flush bloom hot across his face.

It was ridiculous. This was his *husband*. Spike had seen him in every position a human brain could imagine, and a few that only a warped demonic mind like Spike's could come up with. Seen him naked and half-naked and -- though he was sworn to secrecy about this, and if *that* was the secret he'd told Anya, he was *so* in trouble -- wearing a saddle. What was it about Spike seeing *this* that had Xander feeling like there was much more blood in his body than humanly possible, enough for the girly-blush, and for his trapped hard-on to press even tighter against the inside of his jeans?

Maybe it was the way Spike, despite his encouraging leer, was gripping the arms of the chair so tightly that Xander could hear the leather creaking under his fingernails. He told himself that Spike -- if his blood circulated -- would be blushing, too, right now. William Abelard Witherspoon most *certainly* would have blushed, and it was a fair bet it'd have been a terminal case, too. Xander let that thought reassure him as Giles -- *smack* -- hit him again.

Xander heard a garbled noise come out of his throat, and wondered if Giles could interpret it as any version of the 'But' question. Oddly, he had a brain cell left over to chuckle at the pun, then the slap came again and Xander was wondering if he could scoot up, just a little, so he could rub his trapped erection against something more solid than denim and air.

He opened his mouth to try and ask -- something. Anything, to show that he was actively participating. All he could say was something that sounded like 'Guh!'

He also, somehow, seemed to be trying to get his ass up, into the air, to meet Giles's hand all the sooner. Apparently his body was not in cahoots with his brain. Then Giles smacked his ass again, and his brain asked itself why it was trying to interrupt this with pointless questions? He gripped the corner of the couch, and tried to find someplace to put his feet, so he could get some leverage.

"Stop wriggling," Giles said sternly.

"But I--"

*SMACK*

Xander eeped again. "You did that on purpose," he muttered -- and heard a surprised, if delighted, sounding laugh from Giles.

After a moment, Giles said, still in that tickled tone of voice, "You sound as if you think you're supposed to be enjoying this."

"I'm--" Smack! Gasp. Wriggle.

"I said *stop* that."

"--not?" At least his body and mind agreed on their disagreement with that point. They might have been frustrated in their attempts to *increase* that enjoyment, but there were definite tingles of pleasure coming from all sorts of places, and Xander assumed one of them was his brain.

"You're being punished, aren't you?"

Xander was supposed to answer rationally when he said things like that? When *Giles* said things like that, in his best, "That library book is so overdue, only a sacrifice to the nine Hellgods of Lower Effluvia could possibly make up for your transgression" voice?

"Um...yes?"

Whack! Hard enough to shove him forward, but not far enough that he could rub against anything, dammit. "You don't sound very sure."

"Well..." Xander tried lifting his head and looking up at Spike, but all that got him was a stare as bemused as his own, and the sight of Spike's left hand creeping towards his own fly, then after a second, being forcibly returned to the chair arm.

"You have no idea why, do you."

"Um...no?"

"I should probably stop, then."

This was punctuated by Giles not stopping, rather soundly. Xander couldn't quite figure out how to shout, "No!" without Giles possibly taking it for a request to stop doing what he'd just done that he'd said he should probably... "No!"

"No, I shouldn't stop? But it can't be doing any good, if you don't know what you're being punished for."

"I do! I mean... um... for that time I accidentally conjured Beelzebub into your living room and he wouldn't leave until you'd sung, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" for him? Twice?"

There was a choked-up laugh from Spike. "You did that, and I missed it?"

From Giles, there was a dry, "No, but thank you for reminding me of *that* experience." And a succession of three quick swats that were just heavy enough to have Xander squirming for more, and just light enough not to be *enough*. Damn, Giles was mean.

"Can I just say that I didn't mean to?" Xander offered, not supposing it would get him out of trouble -- but, then, he wasn't sure he was *supposed* to be getting out of trouble. Trouble meant more spanking, right? Of course, more spanking along with some rubbing would be better. He tried to pull himself upwards, again, so he could get at least the tip of his cock against-- *Smack*.

"Don't move," Giles said in that deceptively mild tone that meant someone was about to lose his spanking privileges.

"But--"

"Xander."

Xander's mouth was open, but there was no air coming out. Or possibly in. He'd become a vampire and no one had told him. Who knew you had to be spanked by a Watcher, to become a vampire? His hands were still gripping the couch, and he could see his knuckles turning white. See? Proof -- pale skin. Vampire. He glanced over at Spike to see if his husband had noticed, and found two unblinking eyes staring at him.

Spike was moving -- the unsympathetic bastard. Moving around in his seat, tugging at his jeans, one hand giving his erection a swift rub. Xander narrowed his eyes -- if Spike got off *now*, he was going to...to...tell Angel that Giles had spanked Spike. There was another swift, hard smack on his ass, and he whimpered. Spike's eyes went gold, and his hips jutted upwards as if someone had asked to fuck him. Maybe Giles would give Xander five minutes to go do so, then they could resume the spanking?

A finger slid down the seam of his jeans, right between his butt cheeks, and Xander felt a strangled groan come out of his throat. Spike whispered something, and was unzipping his jeans.

Spike was *so* dead, if he made Xander watch him jerk off when Xander couldn't even get his bare ass spanked til *he* came. "Spike?" Giles said quietly, whip-crack of his voice making Spike freeze with his hand almost wrapped around his cock. "I said, 'no touching'."

"Bloody..." he rasped through sharpened teeth. "You can't be serious. Him! No touching *him*! You didn't say no touching *me*."

"I said, no touching."

"You sadistic son of a bitch."

"Thank you."

Xander struggled to come up with something he'd done that Giles could possibly be getting him back for. Correction -- he struggled to narrow it down to *one* thing he'd done, recently enough that Giles hadn't already taken his revenge. "Your car? I got you a new one."

"You mean, *another* new one?" Xander found himself being whapped lightly, almost playfully, this time.

"No, just the one. I mean, two. The one you knew about and the one you weren't supposed to know about but did because it didn't have that new car smell and can't you just *tell* me?"

"What sort of learning experience would that be?"

'The kind where I get off without my brain exploding and leaking all over your nicely-tailored slacks!' he wanted to shout. All that came out was, "Uurghh..." as Giles hit him again, by way of demonstration, of...something. What was the question, again? Oh yeah. What was he being punished for.

"Overdue book?" he offered wildly.

Twin chuckles, though Spike's was strained. "When did you ever check one out in the first place?" Giles asked.

He hadn't. But he'd thought about it. Every so often. In one of those fantasies that Anya and Spike were *both* dead if they repeated. Checking out something vaguely valuable monetarily, but not in a demon-hunting sense, and strolling back into the library three weeks later, claiming to have lost it. And of course, he hardly had the money to pay for it, and the little rat-principal was just waiting for a chance to haul him into a detention room that made the Breakfast Club look like a slumber party at Buffy's, by comparison. Couldn't Giles think of *anything* he could do to make up for it?

Not that he ever would have done it. Not that he didn't know Giles would never have taken him up on the offer, even if he hadn't been underaged, even if one or both of them hadn't spontaneously combusted while he was getting the words out. That wasn't the point; it was a *fantasy*. One which Giles might even accept in place of whatever he'd *really* done wrong, if Xander could manage to spit the words out now. "Um...they were kind of..." But Xander's vocabulary had gone off to Giles's office in the library -- watching Xander stand in front of the desk, hands in pockets, scraping the floor with the toe of his tennis shoe -- and couldn't be reached for comment.

"Imaginary library books," a grinning, too-knowing husband supplied for him, explaining no further.

"Imaginary--?" Giles began, then didn't pursue the question. He simply spanked Xander again, and made both Xander and Spike moan.

Xander didn't know if he should keep guessing, or if that would throw Giles off his stride. What he *really* wanted was to pull his jeans down and feel the slap against his skin -- warm and tingling as the feelings in his ass were right now, he wanted more. But he was pretty sure asking for more would get him...um...well, not spanked.

There came another hard smack, then Giles rested his hand on Xander's ass. He could feel his butt muscles tensing, reflexively. He heard a whispered plea crawl up his throat, and choked it back, not sure it would help. Giles waited, and Xander waited, and Xander was pretty sure Spike was waiting because he wasn't getting yelled at to stop whatever he was doing or he'd have to go downstairs.

"I can see this isn't working." Giles's words made Xander nearly jump -- had they fucked up, already? Was this too much, crossing the line? Xander began to scramble to his feet, and found Giles was...helping him.

He choked back an apology, not entirely sure how to say it. How did you say you didn't mean to make someone spank you? But he caught a glimpse of Giles's face, which was not looking up at him -- but rather focused on Xander's...eep. Xander swallowed, then froze as Giles's hands went to the fly of his jeans and began undoing them.

Yes, this would *definitely* help. Xander could already think of a dozen things he could confess to doing, even two that Anya had actually done. He'd happily take the blame. Giles was ripping his jeans down and Xander bit down on a hysterical laugh as his erection popped free. "You'll put your eye out with that thing," he babbled. Giles laughed, then he grabbed Xander and yanked him back down onto his lap.

Suddenly Xander realized his mistake. He was back in his original position -- now with not even denim touching his cock. Nothing but air. How the *hell* was he supposed to get off, rubbing air? "Not fair..." he muttered.

"No, it really wasn't," Giles replied agreeably. Then the palm of his hand hit Xander's bare ass, and Xander had to admit that the new situation was *something* of an improvement, as heat spread through his skin. His eyes closed involuntarily, and little red and purple sparks swirled in the darkness. When he opened his eyes and glanced up, the lights were still twinkling in the air between him and Spike's gobsmacked, grinning face.

Better. And worse. Because as good as the skin-to-skin contact felt, the lack of being able to *do* anything about it was that much more tormenting, now. Xander shook his head, dismissing the dancing sparks, and tried to summon the right words. "Giles... help?"

"You want a clue, is that it?"

"Please?" If that word sounded as pitiful to Giles as it did to Xander, as desperate and frustrated and needy as it felt... then maybe Giles's unseen face looked something like Spike's did, without the ridges. The vampiric countenance was no longer grinning, and looked almost as helpless as Xander felt. As if he'd gladly come up with the answer if he knew it -- or was likely, in a minute, to just grab his husband away and smack him to orgasm, himself, if the sight before him wasn't so damn *good*.

Giles said, "It happened this year."

"That's a *clue*?" Xander squeaked.

"Can I guess?" Spike asked, in a breathless tone. It sounded as though he were trying to sound helpful -- though usually when Spike sounded that sincere, he was up to something.

"No, you can't *guess*," Giles replied sternly. "This is very serious." *He* sounded sincere, and there was another hard smack, punctuating his point.

Xander groaned. He tried to pull his hips upwards, though he had hardly any leverage, and got spanked again for his efforts. He could hear Spike groan, too. Xander swallowed, and tried to think. There was a hand hitting him on the ass, and his skin was warm, where the impact was. The rest of his ass was cool, and his cock was begging for something. Anything. A stiff breeze would be good, no pun intended. Oh, no, there was something else he was supposed to be thinking about.

A hand brushed across his ass, and he shivered. "Please, please, please," he begged again.

Fingers ghosted along the top of his thighs and he involuntarily spread his legs -- hampered by the jeans around his knees, and he wondered if he could tear them off without not getting spanked. It was hard to tell, since whenever he did something *bad*, to judge by Giles saying things in the stern librarian voice, he also got a smack on the ass. Which was good. Right? Xander decided it wasn't nice to confuse somebody while they were being spanked. Especially somebody who'd pretty much started out the day confused enough already.

He shifted his legs as much as he could, trying to convince his jeans to fall down by tele...something or other. That levitaty thing Willow could do with pencils, or large men with swords, when she was really pissed. It wasn't working. The jeans were lodged firmly around his knees, and see if he ever let Spike pick out his clothes again, just because he was too distracted to dress himself properly.

"Stop that," came the stern snap. Followed by a slap to the back of his thigh that had him squirming even harder.

How was he supposed to *stop* that, when every touch made his body hungrier for contact? Made him want to grind his cock against furniture or flesh, or anything that was conveniently standing still, made him want to open himself up until every inch of skin he possessed was bared to the smack of Giles's palm. Made his body want these things so much that it didn't care if his mind agreed or not, it just begged for them. Made his breath come in short, deep gasps, and his tongue give way to babbling like an idiot. "Pleasegilesplease... tellmetellme... pleeeeeeese...."

He heard a faint chuckle, and decided that later -- much, much later -- he was going to get Giles back, for this. Sign him up for a lifetime subscription to "Dealing With Demons, a Homeowner's Guide." Except Anya would probably just spank Giles for it, and that wasn't exactly revenge.

Another smack, and Xander could no longer hold his head up. He wasn't entirely sure he was still breathing -- two more in rapid succession, and he knew he wasn't. Panting, and hanging on for dear life, and ready to promise him anything, if he would only keep spanking. Except he was, still, as Xander's body and especially his ass, could attest. Butt muscles clenching and releasing, in anticipation of each next blow, though Xander could discern no pattern to predict them by. The next one took him by surprise, the one following he tensed for, the one after that spurring another moan, and a strangled noise from his husband. Glurble.

The long, low moan that was coming from Xander's throat couldn't possibly be him, could it? The feeling, coiling deep in his belly, couldn't possibly be the orgasm he was going to reach from just knowing Spike was watching this, from nothing but that knowledge and the smacks and the every so often light touch on his skin?

His moans broke into harsh pants, and he tried to hang on to *something* and there wasn't anything. Hands scrabbled for purchase against the air, against too-smooth couch cushions, and he felt his hips jerk. Then one strong arm was wrapped around his waist, and a hand came down on his ass, harder than any, before. Xander cried out. That arm held him, as he came.

Pushing against air, still, but it no longer mattered, because Spike was looking at him, watching as Giles opened him up, body and soul. He just let go, knowing it was Giles, knowing it was okay. The deep-down fear that he'd be laughed at, or disapproved of, for wanting this, exploded into nothing, as he bucked against the grip of Giles's arm, once, twice, then fell. Spent.

Supported by that same strong arm, for a moment, while he breathed, Xander blinked away brighter stars than before. Looked up at Spike to see two round yellow-fire eyes, pupils shrunken to black pinpoints, as if what he was looking at was almost too bright to bear.

Then he was being pulled up. Up and back and his hands finally had that firm grip they'd been seeking, now that he no longer needed it, on Giles's shoulders. Except he did need it, because Giles was standing close to him, and the question he'd been to embarrassed to ask earlier, by *looking*, was answered for him. Most of his questions were answered, the ones about just how far are we taking this, and did I make a mistake, what was I thinking...

Giles made it very clear, by leaning close enough to him that he *couldn't* be mistaken, then asking, "Do you want me to fuck you, Xander?"

The first "Yes!" almost made Xander stop and ask his husband, "Is your name Xander?" He didn't waste the breath on it, though, busy as he was with saying the same thing, only louder.

"Can you tell me what you were being punished for, now?" Giles's voice was low. Ragged. Barely in control, and yet it was. He was, still. Xander shuddered, wondering if he could *ever* hold it together that well, for that long. Wondering how tiny he could make Spike's pupils go, while he was trying to learn.

"For real? Something I did this year?" His brain was sort of back, though Giles's free hand, lightly rubbing his stinging ass, wasn't helping. "Made you dance with Spike, at the wedding?"

"Before that." There was no clue on Giles's face, nor any indication of the strain that was present in his voice.

"Almost let Cordy make you wear a teal bow tie?"

"After that." Lower still. Rougher. The sound scraped against something in him that made Xander want to bury his face in the cushions and be fucked until he blacked out, and he fought the urge to scream at Giles to just do it. Please. Now. Whatever, he was sorry, he'd never do it again unless it meant this would happen again in which case please tell him what it was, but most of all, please? Please now?

"I don't know. Giles, I really don't know."

There was a sigh, then a hard slap on his ass. "You got me drunk."

Huh? "I got you *drunk*? That's it?" Did this mean Giles was going to fuck him now? Or not, since he hadn't guessed? Xander tried to step back and get some perspective, but that arm was still around his waist, so he couldn't move very far.

"You got me very, very drunk. Then you asked me to do this. Whined at me that I wasn't playing fair if I *didn't* do this."

Oh. That. "Well, yeah, but... It wasn't like you would've, really."

Another slap. "The only thing that stopped me -- the *only* thing -- was that I thought *you* were too drunk to know what you were asking." If he wasn't going completely crazy, Xander thought he actually heard a little anger in there, along with the painfully grinding need. "Do you know how close I came? Do you have any idea?"

Judging by how close he was now, yeah. Xander had an idea. One he hadn't had before. "Um. Sorry?"

For a moment, Giles's expression changed. Cleared of most of the arousal, and faint anger. "I'll accept your apology on one condition," he said, gently, but seriously.

"Okay." Xander was willing to agree to anything. Even if he *didn't* get fucked, the spanking had been worth it already.

Giles leaned closer, and placed one finger on Xander's lip. "Don't do it again...unless you want me to spank you," Giles said firmly.

Xander grinned. There was a stifled sound from Spike, that sounded suspiciously like a cheer. "You can fuck me now," Xander told Giles, and wriggled his still-warm butt.

Giles spun him around, and he thought he heard a whispered, "Thank god."

Rupert didn't stop, again -- sure he would somehow talk himself out of this, if he did.

Not as though everyone involved weren't perfectly willing and perfectly able to indicating their willingness, for this to happen. But somehow, even when he'd decided on giving this as a present to Xander and Spike, he'd expected to not get everything he'd wanted. In the back of his mind, he was still waiting for someone to say 'stop,' after which he'd have to go find a cold shower -- or Anya -- before he could even think of driving home.

But Xander was here, before him, leaning over the end of the couch without even a glance backwards. The sight of him made Rupert want to hold him down, hold him tight. Fuck him. Something he wasn't supposed to have been thinking about, not quite daring to want, for years, now.

Because he was the Watcher, the librarian, the father figure. Somebody's rakish uncle if he was lucky, but not the one who seduced the innocent lad with the attractive stammer and the eyes that went black when something turned him on, even when he was pretending otherwise. No, Rupert was the rakish uncle who bought the children inappropriately expensive Christmas gifts and let the not-quite children get away with plundering his collection of rare supernatural literature for descriptions of vampire mating rituals. So they could surprise their undead lover, who *was* the type to seduce the one with the stammer.

But now - now word and deed were telling him that it was only not all right to think about, because he was supposed to be *doing* it. Even Spike, or perhaps especially Spike, was giving him pleading, get on with it looks, accompanied by a faint growl that Rupert wasn't even sure the vampire knew he was growling. "Under the middle cushion, for god's sake, Giles!"

He lifted the cushion, the one Xander had been clutching at. Lubricant. Pineapple scented, as if he cared right now whether it smelled like orchids, or essence of candyfloss. He was more concerned with covering his fingers with it. Sliding one hand over Xander's arse-crack and watching him jump at the touch. Cool slick fingers on warm skin, the same fingers that had made it warm in the first place. Then hot, hotter inside than he'd managed to make the outside, and Xander moaning louder than he had while he was being spanked. Louder than he had while he wasn't, and was begging for more.

Spike, sitting, looking at them. Utterly rapt, the hyperactivity that had driven Rupert insane while Spike stayed at his flat, channeled into one beam of intense concentration. Watching them. Staring at Rupert's fingers thrusting in and out of his husband. At Xander, pushing up against them. The single-minded heat of that gaze made Rupert glad, suddenly, that the demon across from him *wanted* this, as much as he did, as much as Xander. Otherwise he feared he'd entertain thoughts of slaying Spike, if he interfered. Perhaps turn him into a newt, since it seemed to work so well for Wesley.

Then he had Xander ready, and Rupert was beyond ready, and he gripped Xander by the hips. Positioned himself behind him, and paused. Looked at the bent back, the lines of muscle, and he wanted.... For a second, he allowed himself to wish. Then he shoved the thoughts aside and placed his cock at Xander's arsehole. Xander whimpered, and pushed backwards onto him, drawing a gasp from Rupert, and Spike.

He glanced over and saw the vampire watching, still, rapt gaze unwavering. Not breathing, not moving an inch. The only sign of life was the contraction of his pupils and the flick of his tongue between fangs, descended at some point Rupert hadn't even noticed. Rupert thrust deeper into Xander, and lost track of his thoughts concerning Spike.

He pressed his body up against Xander, briefly considered pulling him upright to feel Xander's back against his chest, and hold him close. He didn't -- not afraid of the intimacy it would display, but worried they would fall over and break their necks. He'd done this before, with both participants barely undressed, and been lucky not to do more than break his arm. Granted, they hadn't been in a well-furnished living room, at the time. He put his hand on Xander's back, instead, and braced himself before thrusting, again.

Steady. One forceful stroke, hard enough to make Xander squeak, well-placed enough to make him shiver and tighten when Rupert hit the spot. And again. As if he could do this for hours, until Xander was writhing and covered with sweat, and begging him to come already. Instead of the truth, which was that despite anyone's complimentary use of the word 'stevedore' in connection with his lovemaking stamina, Rupert Giles was a breath away from losing every bit of control he possessed. That close to just pumping himself into oblivion, regardless of Xander's pleasure, though he suspected the man was beyond caring at this point.

Except - perhaps not. Because when the next stroke rammed home, there was the expected noise. Groan-hiss. Then a hand, reaching back, to grasp his own wrist, where it rested against Xander's left hip. Pulling at him, desperately, and it couldn't have meant deeper, because there wasn't any deeper to go. That was it: the straw, the camel, the everything, the break in his control. As Xander's hand slipped away, so did everything else except the rhythm that Rupert's body had been urging him towards since... well, since he'd walked into the room.

Taking, claiming, possessing, someone who for a moment, had been willingly loaned to him. Plunging into the heat of a body he'd wanted to touch like this for longer than he'd ever tell anyone, even the ones who were giving him this moment. Slamming into him faster and faster, hearing the groans of pleasure that seemed to be coming from every direction at once, in three voices, one of which must be Rupert's own.

Closing his eyes as the pre-shock rumbled through him like thunder, and freezing on that last thrust. Holding as tight to Xander as he could, trusting his hands to know how not to hurt, because his mind only knew the shaking, shivering, muscle spasms of pleasure that flooded through him, and finally, out.

For the longest time, neither of them moved. Perhaps Xander wanted it to be over as little as Rupert did -- because he knew, as soon as he pulled away, and let go, it would be over. There was not going to be a next time, no matter the teasing, or flirting, or pretending to get drunk. It was almost enough to make him hold on and not let go -- but he couldn't. With a sigh, Rupert stood up, softened cock slipping out of Xander's body, and then there was only his hand on Xander's back.

Xander straightened, slowly, then turned around. The bright, if exhausted, smile that greeted him warmed away any doubts, or regrets Rupert might have had. Not for what they'd done, but for what he'd miss doing, again. He leaned in and took a kiss, lips closed but somehow still everything he might have wanted from kissing Xander. Lips pressed to his, arms around his body, and...something, utterly familiar and welcoming, that made anything at all, all right.

There was a quiet whimper, and they broke apart, turning their heads to look at Spike. Sitting in his chair, obviously having obeyed orders rather well, and *not* touched. He looked as though he were in a great deal of pain, however -- hands tightly gripping the chair arms, face straining, eyes so gold Rupert wasn't sure he could actually see.

"Am I allowed to touch him?" Xander asked, in a teasing voice.

Rupert started to say yes -- then he considered. Re-considered. Let go of Xander, and moved forward. Carefully, giving Spike, or Xander, time to realize and stop him. Then he was standing before Spike, and Spike was looking up at him, pleading silently.

He didn't give himself the luxury of time to think, that he'd offered the other two. He simply gave a warning glare to Spike, to keep his hands where they were, locked white-knuckled around the leather-padded chair arms -- then leaned over. Put one hand on the back of the chair near Spike's head, and used the other to unzip him -- the rest of the way, since he'd never gotten himself fully rearranged after Rupert had shouted at him the first time.

His hand around Spike's cock. His left hand, his spanking hand. Half-cool flesh would almost have been soothing against the fading sting, if Spike weren't shifting his hips wildly at the touch.

Rupert hissed at him, on principle, but he could see it was out of Spike's control, at this point. He held firmly, and let Spike buck against his hand, barely moving, allowing the vampire to do all the work. Three, four jerks of the narrow denim-wrapped hips, and Spike was spilling across Rupert's hand, head thrown back and wide-open eyes definitely seeing nothing, now.

He sprawled there for a moment, still as a rather lewd statue, and unbreathing. Rupert was struck by the odd fancy that he'd just killed a man with a hand-job, and the thought made him grin. There were worse ways to go, certainly. Then Spike's eyelids were fluttering, and he was sitting up, grinning almost as widely as Rupert was - probably not at the same thought, though you could never tell, with Spike.

Xander handed Rupert a cloth, to wipe his hand off with, and he did so automatically, before looking down to realize it was the t-shirt Xander had been wearing. When he glanced up, Xander laughed. "Don't worry. That's what they're here for, trust me. Clothes are for Spike to rip off me, and cleaning up afterwards. Just ask him."

"Not true. They're also for making the tourists jealous, cos' only I get to have what's inside 'em. With limited exceptions, of course." Spike winked at Rupert, and for once, Rupert really didn't have the urge to hit him with something. A temporary aberration, no doubt.

"Yes, well," Rupert began, then realized he didn't feel awkward -- but thought he ought to, which was making him feel almost awkward, but not quite. He handed the t-shirt back to Xander, and reached down to quickly close his trousers. Waited for someone to say something, wondering if he should just make his goodbyes, and gather up Anya, to leave. Xander looked like he was ready to collapse into bed for a nap, after all -- which would mean Spike would go with him, and Rupert and Anya would be best going, at least for the afternoon.

"Who wants lunch?" Spike suddenly asked, sounding wide awake.

"Oo! Raiding the fridge downstairs? Order in? Make Giles cook?" Xander rattled off, sounding just as wide awake.

Rupert narrowed his eyes. Had *Xander* had some sort of spell put on him before they'd arrived? One of endurance? "I'm not cooking," he informed his hosts, still looking suspiciously at the stretching, yawning young man.

"Let's see what Charles has left in the fridge," Spike suggested, standing up and re-arranging his jeans.

"Didn't he say he would have Wesley turn you into a small newt if you called him 'Charles'?" Rupert asked. The mood had not, as he'd feared, ever turned uncomfortable. He relaxed, letting himself not worry about it -- there was always next time they saw each other, after all.

"Spike enjoys being a newt," Xander said with a grin.

"I hesitate to even ask." Rupert didn't want to know -- kinky, he could do, but he was afraid to know just what about it appealed to Spike.

Spike opened his mouth to answer -- no doubt in great detail -- so Rupert was utterly grateful when the door opened, and Anya came hurrying in.

Then he was worried, when she frowned slightly. "Anya?"

"Could you do that last part again? From the point where Rupert pulled down Xander's jeans?"

Spike cursed. "You mean you didn't get that on tape? It's automated! What the hell did you do to my cameras, woman?!"

She just blinked. "Of course I got it on tape. I just want to see it again."

Rupert intercepted the t-shirt as it flew past his head. He was vaguely annoyed to note that it was Spike's clean one - if he'd known that, he would have let it hit her. "Anya, we're not going to do that again." He managed not to sound remotely regretful. Surprisingly, he managed not to *feel* all that regretful, either. Just vaguely wistful, and mostly satisfied.

"At least not until after lunch," Spike added. "Xan and I are still young and fresh, but Rupes'll need some protein replenishment, first."

The urge to hit him returned, full force, despite Xander having done so the minute Spike shut his mouth. Rupert welcomed his sanity back with a smile, then threw the t-shirt at Spike's head.

From underneath the shirt, Spike asked, "So, who else wants blood and tater tots for lunch?" Not surprisingly, he got whapped, again. Spike pulled the t-shirt off, and gave Xander a pout. "That's not fair. You got whapped on your arse; all I get is whapped in the head."

Then Spike looked at Rupert. Hopefully.

"Lunch, first," Rupert announced, without batting an eye. And then hell freezing over, he didn't add. After all, Spike didn't need to know that. Not when he could be strung along until...oh, at least his tenth anniversary, or so. Rupert grinned, and headed for the door, wondering if ordering take-away Oysters Rockefeller would be going too far.