The Honeymooners, or Why They Should Never Have Let Spike and Xander Into England

Xander looked like a drowned rat, complete with tail -- a clip-on ponytail at the back of his neck, tied with a dark ribbon. Cordelia had given it to him when he'd complained that his hair looked too twenty-first century for Victorian England, even Victorian England in the twenty-first century. His real hair, above the clip, was plastered to his skull. His clothes were plastered to his body, as well, which didn't look at all ratlike, of course, but there was something a bit too girly about thinking he looked like a drowned love-god. Even though Spike did. Think that.

"They couldn't have put us down in the lobby," Xander was saying bitterly as he pulled off his coat and wrung it out. Spike watched as a good half-gallon of water spattered onto the carpet of the Hotel Russell, and simply disappeared into the thick pile. Posh, this place was. Built the same year that the Poof had gotten himself all souled-up, in the real world. In this one, who knew?

"May I take the gentleman's coat?" A tarted-up manservant type in togs that matched the hotel's deep-blue carpeting and wall decorations reached out an arm for Spike's coat, which he hadn't taken off yet.

Spike blinked at him, and pointed to Xander. "You can take *his*."The thin-lipped vamp sniffed, and held out his arm for Xander's coat as if he was afraid it were dripping holy water instead of the rain they'd just walked through for five blocks. Xander handed it to him with a shrug, and Spike finally got a nice look at his soaked-through white dress-shirt, while Xander was still muttering.

"No, they had to land us in an alley. With horse poop." He lifted one boot, which was covered only with mud as far as Spike's sniffer could tell. The action caused his leg to flex in those equally-soaked-through trousers, though, so Spike didn't enlighten him. He simply leaned back against one of the marble columns and stared happily. Xander looked up at him. "Oh, don't you *dare* say 'I told you so, this is all about people wanting to get rid of me.' *I'm* the one who landed with his foot in a watering trough.""Did I say anything?" Spike lifted an eyebrow, not bothering with trying to actually look innocent. Or put-upon, because he'd been cold and wet often enough in his unlife that it really didn't bother him. Especially not when he had a cold, wet, Xander next to him who obviously needed warming up.

"Wonder where our luggage landed?" Xander asked, looking around. "Wow. This place is spiffier than...um...anyplace. Even Cinderella's castle."

"You've been to Cinderella's castle?" the manservant asked, showing real interest. Spike recalled that this place catered to vampiric tourists from *all* dimensions.

"Disney version," Spike explained, still watching Xander. No doubt about it, they were keeping these clothes when the vacation was over. Possibly getting a whole wardrobe....

Xander was looking at him now, an amused expression on his face. Only vaguely amused, however, because there was a healthy amount of lust and being-stared-at-by-a-horny-vampire there, as well. "Should we go check in?" he asked.

"Hmmm?" The fabric of his shirt was so *thin*. Spike could *almost* see right through it. Cold, wet muscles were almost completely bared.

"Sooner we check in, the sooner I can get into something dry," Xander said, leadingly.

"Er? Oi! I'm not dry!" Spike blinked, then realized the bloke with Xander's coat was turning a funny color and making choking noises. What, they'd never had honeymooners in their hotel, before? Spike scowled and grabbed Xander by the arm, taking them both towards the front desk.

A pretty young thing in a shirtwaist and skirt looked up at them, and smiled politely. "How may I help you, sir?" she said, directing her question to Spike. He was looking at Xander again. Braces. Xander was never going to wear a belt again, if Spike could help it. Red braces that made the fabric of his shirt mold to his body like-- "Pardon me? Sir?"

"Don't mind him," Xander said, grinning at her. "He's just under the influence of not being under the influence of a de-lusting spell anymore." She looked doubtfully at him, then back to Spike.

"The gentleman wishes to check in," the coat-holder informed her in a voice that implied Spike was anything but. That was fine -- he *was* anything but.

Spike reluctantly tore his eyes away from Xander's chest. He was aided in this by Xander whapping him on the head and saying "Hello? Ground control to Major Tom..."

"Commencing countdown, engines on..." Spike muttered, then turned to the desk girl. "Er. Yeah. Should have a reservation for two, name of--" Bloody hell. "Xan?"

"Yeah?" Xander was watching the guy with his coat, looking like he was afraid the snooty, butlerish vamp would disappear with it and he'd never see it again.

"Name. What's our name?" That question, of course, had both of the hotel employees staring at them. Like Spike cared. As long as they weren't staring at Xander's chest, of course.

Xander looked at him like he was crazy, then laughed. "Oh. Giles. It ends in Giles."

"Yeah, but Princess made the reservations a month ago. So would it be your name or my name, or you think she'd have tried to guess at what we'd end up with?"

"Hmm. Good point." Xander closed his eyes, and looked like he was concentrating hard, for a moment. Then with a grin, he spoke to the girl behind the desk. "Alexander and/or William Harris Bloody Wyndham-Pryce Gunn Chase Summers Rosenberg Jones Giles." He opened his eyes and looked proudly at Spike.

Spike narrowed his eyes. "The Bloody comes first."

"Only in *your* name."

Spike blinked, then shrugged. "How the hell can you remember all that?"

Xander was still grinning, which wasn't helping with Spike's being-able-to-concentrate-on-non-sexy-things problem. "Wes came up with a pneumatic memory thing. It's obscene, of course, since I asked for something you could remember, too. I'll teach it to you later. So, Miss, did any of those ring a bell?"

Still frowning slightly at Xander -- though more as if she were confused, than as if she didn't like him -- the woman opened her reservation book. It was a Macintosh I-book disguised with a worn leather cover to look just like a vintage sign-in ledger, Spike noted -- except the apple had fang marks in it, and blood dripping down the side. A discreet beep later, she said, "We have a reservation for William and Alexander Chase."

"Yup! That's us," Xander said cheerfully. "Cordelia's bouncing baby boys. She found us under a cabbage leaf. Naked." The hotel clerk looked even more confused.

"May I see some ID?" she asked, even as she began typing rapidly.

"Huh? Oh..." Xander began patting his pockets, which made Spike forget the question.

"Want some help?" he asked, when Xander apparently didn't find his wallet right off.

"Nah, I've got it," Xander replied, then dug into *Spike's* trousers and pulled out a folded leather pocketbook. Spike blinked and tried to remember that Xander would frown at him if Spike tried to have sex with him in a hotel lobby. The parts of his body nearest the pocket were tingling, though. Xander opened the wallet, ignoring Spike's distress, and pulled out a laminated card. "See? That's me, that's William, and those are our kids. Gomer, Goober, and Hubert."

The clerk took it reflexively, looking at it, then back up at Xander, then at Spike. "Um. Er, yes, sir," she managed, and handed the card back. She went back to typing, then handed over a small form. "If you would please fill this out?"

Spike reached for the card and a pen -- real ink pen, complete with ink well -- and looked it over. He quickly checked the 'daily service requested' box and scribbled Angel's address, then signed the card as 'Spike Harris' in an elongated, flowery signature. The clerk took it, glanced at it again, and nervously set it aside. "You're in our Honeymoon suite, booked for two weeks," she told them, again with a brief, worried glance at Spike. "Here are your keys."

But Spike was staring at Xander again. Not at Xander's chest, though. At his face, and the utterly banjaxxed expression that probably matched the one on Spike's own. The keys dangled from the woman's hand, jingling a bit, like windchimes in a soft breeze. "Sir?" she said to Spike. She'd probably said it several times; he wasn't counting. "Sir?" she finally said to Xander, who blinked, then smiled goofily.

"Um. Honeymoon," he told her.

She turned back to Spike, who had finally managed to blink, himself, after hearing Xander speak. "Sir?" She held out the keys.

"Er... honeymoon," Spike responded. Why did it sound so weird, when they'd been talking about it for months now? Why did it make his mouth tingle to say it out loud? Why was he grinning like the sort of loon who would have voted Dru in as Miss Mental Health of 1880? The keys were making windchime noises again. It was soothing.

"Bags?" A nasal voice whined in his ear.

"What?" Spike turned his head, growling slightly at whomever had interrupted his Zen-like moment. It turned out to be the fellow still holding Xander's coat.

"May I have our bellboy take your bags, sir?"

"Haven't any bags, you blind git." Spike held out his empty arms.

"I believe they're here," the desk girl said, lifting a yellow ticket out from under the oaken counter. She flashed it at Spike, who pretended to care enough to read it when all he really wanted to do was get Xander up to the room and -- "Sir?"

"I'm gettin' awfully sick of that word," Spike grumbled. The girl opened her mouth as if to say 'Sorry, sir,' then shut it wordlessly, reaching out to tap a bell on the desk instead. A uniformed bellboy appeared from around the corner and brought the bags out from behind the counter, setting them in front of Spike. "Yeah, okay, that's our luggage. Where the hell are the keys?" Xander held out two keys. "Right, well, then why are we still standing about when we could be upstairs shagging?"

Xander gave the clerk a wink. "He hasn't had sex in almost six hours."

"Oh, yeah? Neither have you," Spike pointed out. "You wanna go out and start looking at all the scenic spots?"

"Um," Xander replied. "It's still raining. Guess we should stay inside?"

Spike half-growled, half yelped for joy as he realized that everyone was simply waiting for them to *move*. Upstairs. Where they could get naked without Xander saying things like 'not here, Spike.' The bellboy was already heading towards the lifts with their luggage. Spike grabbed Xander and hurried after him.

"Um, you're supposed to carry me over the threshold, not across the lobby," Xander said casually.

"Yeah? I will."

"I think you're also supposed to carry me in your arms, not over your shoulder."

"I think you're a mouthy git who's gonna get a spanking if he keeps criticizing my technique."

The bellboy gave Spike a dirty grin. Spike resisted ripping it off, because it would only delay the naked-getting and Xander-shagging.

"Your shoulder's bony and uncomfortable, and you're walking much too fast," Xander continued as they entered the lift.

"What?" Spike realized that his hand was on Xander's arse. A moment later he realized he'd missed Xander's reply; Xander was thumping him on the back to get his attention. He tried not to think about the firm, warm buttocks under his hand and listen to Xander; then he tried again after Xander thumped him a second time.

"I said, you said you'd spank me if I criticized. Is that enough, or should I keep going?"

Spike just whimpered. He heard Xander laugh - soft and breathy, like maybe Spike wasn't the only one having trouble thinking, or staying dressed. The lift doors dinged and opened, and Spike was out and into the hallway before he realized he had no clue where their room was. He growled at the bellboy to hurry. The unimpressed brat just sneered back, baring as much fang as Spike belatedly realized *he* was showing, and sauntered towards a door.

It was a big one, at the end of the hallway. Seeing as this was a toffee-nosed sort of place, there wasn't any giant pink heart-shaped double entryway, or other honeymoon-in-Vegas folderol, though. Just a thick wooden door, heavily polished, with '207' painted on it in thin gold numerals. The bellboy reached for Spike's keys, and Spike handed them over. It made for a momentary distraction from looking Xander's arse, which helped Spike to concentrate on checking out his surroundings.

The door swung open to reveal a truly cavernous room. It was about the same size as their suite in the Hyperion, but this was all one large chamber, as far as Spike could see from the corridor. Directly across from the doorway, a gray stone hearth housed a cozily roaring fire. Spike blinked. Fire? "Er, is that thing safe, mate?" he asked the bellboy, pointing into the depths of the room.

The look on said bellboy's face was easy to decipher: 'Feh. Tourists!' He snickered. "It's a fake log, innit. Not like anybody wants the folks in the honeymoon suite to set 'emselves on fire before they've paid up, after all."

"Um... Spike?" Xander was wiggling over his shoulder. It might've been doing something for Xander, but wasn't giving Spike anything more than the occasional happy glimpse of Xan's bum in an attractive flex -- which, okay, was all well and good, but the bellboy was still standing there, watching. If Spike wanted to give a free show he'd film it, himself.

The boy also had his hand out, in a time-honoured gesture that Spike was more than willing to ignore; he wasn't about to set Xander down to look for the wallet his husband had stolen back from him. Spike started to growl at the bellboy, then he realized what he'd thought. He got a funny feeling in his stomach, and growled softly, anyway.

Xander wriggled around and nearly de-shouldered himself, reaching into his pocket for the wallet. He held something out, and the bellboy must have approved, because he took it, left the bags, and buggered off without much of a sarcastic comment. Spike just concentrated on keeping Xander where he belonged, until he could get him inside the suite and naked.

"You can carry me across the threshold, now," Xander told him. Then he said, "Hey, wait. Why don't I get to carry you?"

"Um." Spike thought about it. Almost had an arugment formulated when he realized that discussing it was gonna keep them outside in the hallway, away from the bed and the hot tub and the toys they'd packed away which better have survived the trip or certain witchy and wizardy folk were gonna get really growled at, later. "You can do it next time," he allowed, and stepped over the threshold with Xander firmly slung over his shoulder. Romance it might not be, but it kept him from falling over backwards trying to balance Xander's taller frame, holding him in his arms.

"Next time?" Xander asked as his head thumped against Spike's back. "And by the way, you can put me down now."

"When we get home -- you can carry me back into the flat." Spike spun around, taking a good gander at the facilities. Nice digs. Lots of red and blue. Chinese screen over to the left that had best be hiding a hot tub. To the right, the only thing Spike really gave a toss about at the moment, besides the soaking wet man he was carrying over his shoulder -- a four-poster bed about the size of the flat Xander had been living in when he'd first moved to L.A.

"Down?"

"Why?" "Because I want to kiss you, and this isn't a good position for it. Unless you want me to kiss your ass." Before Spike could frame the obvious response, Xander was stretching downwards to do so. Then he pinched.

"Watch it, Mister Chase. You're already in trouble, you know," Spike warned Xander as he carried his -- there was that word again -- husband over to the bed, and dumped him down on it.

Xander gaped up at him. "I'm in trouble? *I'm* in trouble? How could I possibly be in trouble? I've only been here for half an hour; I haven't done anything. You're the one who stole those bagels off the cart."

"I did no such thing!" Spike protested, even though he had. It had been at DisneyWorld After Dark, though, and he felt that anyone hanging around outside offering *bagels* at ten p.m. was just asking for them to be nicked. "And yes, you're in serious trouble."

He folded his arms, and looked down at his husband. Sopping wet, clothes pressed to his body, looking back up at him with a half-delighted, half-outraged little grin. He needed to be kissed, thoroughly. Except he *was* in trouble. Not point getting distracted this early. They had two weeks; Spike could get distracted all he liked, later. An hour from now, say.

"What'd I do?" Xander asked, leaning back on the bed, propping himself up on his elbows as if he knew exactly what his position was doing for Spike's libido.

"For one thing, you're getting the bed wet."

Xander snorted. "Yeah, like they don't expect to wash the bedclothes every day?" He suddenly looked down, and wrinkled his nose. "You think they've cleaned the comforter recently?"

Oh, for...Spike rolled his eyes. He was not about to have his Xander-spanking interrupted by human fastidiousness. He grabbed the edge of the comforter and yanked, hard.

Xander looked at him, eyes wide, from the bed. "Can you do that with plates and a tablecloth, too?"

"Yeah. Er. As long as you don't ever want to use the plates again."

Xander grinned. "You could try it with that hideous set of purple unicorn dishes that Harmony bought us, I suppose."

"You're trying to distract me from informing you of your transgressions." Spike thought he'd got the tone just right. Somewhere between a schoolmaster he'd once had, and a strict Victorian husband straight out of one of those off-colour Barbara Cartland parodies Cordelia liked to read when she thought nobody was watching her. He supposed the smirk on his face might have been a little incongruous, but nobody was perfect.

Xander seemed to appreciate it, anyhow. At least, from the way his eyes unfocused and his breathing got a little faster. He blinked, then asked, "Have I ever told you I *really* like it when you do that accent?"

Spike tried hard to remain stern when he said, "Base flattery won't get you out of this, young man." It might get Xander out of his clothes in about two seconds, though.

"Okay, so what else did I do, besides get the bed wet, which is your fault since you dumped me here in the first place?" Xander was still grinning brattily at him. Spike folded his arms. "You criticized my threshold-carrying technique."

Xander looked instantly, utterly, innocent. It was an amazing transformation, and one that Spike kept begging Xan to teach him how to do. Xander always insisted that it was impossible -- Spike wasn't capable of looking utterly innocent. What rubbish. There had to be a trick to it.

Spike, however, did have the trick of looking quite stern, and he continued doing so, now. "As I recall, I threatened to punish someone if he slandered my technique."

"If I slander your punishing techniques, do I get spanked some more?"

"No. You have to demonstrate *your* technique on *me*."

Xander suddenly looked torn between his options. Nearly-believable innocence warred with craftiness, and it rather made Xander look like he was trying to decide between pop-tarts and donuts for dinner. Finally he said, "Um, I can't very well criticize your technique before you spank me, right?"

Spike started to grin, then caught himself and looked stern. "Right. So you're ready to accept what's coming to you?"

"Yea!" Xander bounced, then looked suitably chastised.

"Then why are you dressed, and lying on your back?"

It wasn't quite two seconds, but it *was* close. Spike didn't know if it was a record; there was that time Xander had gone from business suit-with-tie, down to bare-nekkid-nothing in exactly three seconds, but he'd cheated and let Spike help that time.

This time he'd managed it all by himself -- though Spike had to deduct points for the fact that he hadn't quite got his trousers all the way off, pooled as they were at his ankles. Xander had taken one look at the knots in his muddy boot-strings and declared that either Spike was going to have to bite them off, or they'd just have to stay on for the moment.

Then again, the sight of Xander's otherwise naked body bent over the end of the bed, with those braces flopping over the sides of the pile-o-trousers at his feet... Well, nothing else was feeling particularly floppy, so maybe no points lost after all. Spike arched an eyebrow and made the sternest face he could come up with -- then realized Xander couldn't *see* him, and almost ruined it all by laughing. Instead, he ran a hand lightly over one bare, quivering cheek.

"You're cold," he said. The skin was warmer than his own, of course, but nothing like Xander's usual comforting heat.

"No shit, Sherlock. I've been wearing soaking-wet clothes, remember?" Xander wiggled a bit, which made Spike blink happily, then added suddenly, "Hey -- do you think he's here?"

"Who?"

"Sherlock Holmes? All the Victorians are still around, right?"

Spike rolled his eyes. "He might be -- if he'd ever existed in the first place, nit. Repeat after me: vampires are real, Sherlock Holmes is fiction."

"Vampires are fiction, because there's supposed to be one making my ass warm, but all I hear is somebody trying to shatter my illusions of Victorian England with boring old facts." Spike narrowed his eyes and set about proving that vampires were indeed real. "Wow, was that a breeze hitting my ass?" Spike slapped him again. "Yeah, I think it was. Spike, you wanna check the windows?"

"Grr." Spike scooted back, slightly, and gave him a right good wallop.

"Ow."

By now Spike *knew* the difference between a good ow and a bad ow. It didn't stop him from hesitating, but it did stop him from saying anything out loud which would prove to be embarrassing, like, 'You OK, luv?' Instead, after he'd quickly recovered from his momentary lapse, he spanked Xander again. Pretended he'd been distracted by looking at Xander, by doing so now.

Naked, bent over, still wet, a trail of water snaking down from the false tail of dark hair at the back of his neck, down his spine, to pool in the dip right above the swell of his buttocks. Trousers around his ankles, and an arse that was only barely turning pink. An arse that wriggled, a bit, as Spike watched. He spanked it, to see if it'd move again. Yup. There it went.

Spike grinned. This really was a lot more fun than staying home; much as he didn't mind knowing someone might bang on their door at the Hyperion at any moment and yell "Come on, let's go kill things!", there was something to be said for the freedom of being several dozen dimensions away from Angel and the zoo crew. Nobody here was going to be yelling "Spike!" in that incredibly annoyed tone of voice, and put him off his stride.

Gleefully, he went back to spanking Xander and watching as that lovely round arse grew pinker and warmer.

Much wriggling and smacking and happy squeaking later, Xander was making those little noises where he was trying not to breathe in too loudly, for fear Spike would stop, but couldn't quite get in a full breath, because Spike *hadn't* stopped. Spike recognized those noises; if he wasn't careful, they could actually precede an amusing-but-ill-timed case of the hiccups. So after a few more firm whaps, he stopped -- just in time to hear a light knocking on the door.

It occurred to him that it might have been going on for some time, considering how focused he'd been on the sound of slap and gasp and the sight of wiggle and pink. Spike bent close to Xander and said, "Ignorant sodding bastards, interrupting a man on his wedding night. Send them off, shall I?"

Xander took a deep breath, only slightly ragged. Then, of all things, he laughed. "Heh -- it's probably," ...gasp... "That snooty...guy with my coat. Hee. We should give him a show. Blow his tiny mind."

Spike was amazed that Xander could say anything more than "Guh." It barely occurred to him to be further amazed that Xander was suggesting something he wouldn't usually have done round home: exhibitionism in front of complete strangers. Though he might get seduced into a bit of such in the heat of the moment, he *never* initiated it. Then again, they were a dimension away from anybody who'd ever see them again; Spike shrugged, and barked, "Yeah, come in."

"Eep!" Xander said as the door opened, letting in a blast of cooler air from the corridor. "I didn't... oh well." He wiggled a bit, and buried his face in the sheets. "If I can't see them, they can't see me, right?"

"Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, also fiction," Spike said absently as he turned to look at the young girl standing in the doorway.

She looked about twelve, dressed in full servant gear: black skirts, frilly pinafore, white mobcap. The kind of little tweeny who'd served in many a respectable house during his lifetime, running errands for the cook and popping up with tea and cakes on short order. The girl who'd worked in his own home used to giggle, blush, look down at the ground, and scuttle away if you smiled at her. It took Spike back for a moment, and he had to blink hard, as it hit him for the first time that this *was* his lifetime, in a way. This little bit of a thing, who was unlikely to ever blush again, might well have been around long enough to have been a downstairs maid, back then.

Nor did she look like she was tempted to blush, even if she could; she was sporting a little grin at the sight before her. When Spike growled at her just a bit, she went all proper and respectful, though. "I'm surely sorry, sir. It's just I've been sent up to ask if you'd like anything from the kitchen. The honeymoon suite always gets a complimentary dinner for two on the night of check-in, y'see."

Xander groaned. Spike looked back to see him burying his head even deeper under the sheets. If he thought it possible, Spike would bet untold amounts of Xander's money that his second set of cheeks were blushing even pinker than Spike's efforts had made them. "Oh God, it's a kid..." Xander wailed into the bedclothes.

Spike chuckled. "No, she's a vamp. Probably as old as... How old are you, girl?"

"Hundred twenty-seven. Been round since the beginning, I have." She sounded quite proud of herself.

And well she should, Spike thought as he glanced at her again. Considering how long child vamps usually lasted, between human hunters and stronger vamps looking to get rid of the weaker competition, she was a real survivor. Since the beginning of what, though? Hers was a respectable age, but there were any number of older vamps running about -- at least in *Spike's* world. Maybe things were different here, though.

"See, she's almost as old as me."

"And this makes it better? Spike, order dinner and let her go away." Xander's voice was still muffled by the sheets. Spike felt a pang of guilt, though he waved it away with the thought that Xander shouldn't have *said* anyone could come in, if he hadn't meant it.

There was a brief flash of a look on the girl's face, then she simply asked, "Do you have a type and race preference? Do you want to feed your pet, too?"

Xander raised his head. "Pet?" He gave Spike a pleading expression. "You have to clean up after me and take me for walkies."

Spike growled, both at Xander, and the chit. "He's not my pet. And yes, he gets fed! Whatever the special is, and don't send it up for at least two hours!"

The girl curtsied, not looking very taken aback by Spike's growl -- she'd probably dealt with grumpier guests. But she was leaving, which was good, and shutting the door, which was better, and saying to someone in the hallway, "It is!" which made absolutely no sense.

Spike frowned, then caught sight of the naked backside before him, and happily forgot about anything else. "Er...where was I?"

"You were saying how you wanted to wait on me hand, foot, and ass, for the next two weeks, and did I want a backrub?"

"Was not! Er...do you?" Spike placed one hand on Xander's back. Well, backside. Close enough. He rubbed it a bit.

"I think...ermmmm...ahh...you spank like a girl." Xander sighed and buried his head in the sheets again, but this time it was only because he couldn't hold it up anymore. Spike kept rubbing.

"Really?" he asked conversationally, his mind just functional enough to recall the stated penalty for critiquing his punishment style, but willing to put it off in order to mess with Xander's head. "Which girl's been spanking you? Cordelia? Willow?"

"Spike, haven't we had the discussion about you saying Wi-- that name, when you're touching my ass? It's icky-squicky."

"Icky-squicky? What're you, nine? You're a married man now -- you'll have to learn to talk like one. The correct phrase is 'willie-wilting.' " Spike's hands were firmly kneading the now-warm muscles, and Xander was twisting his fingers in the bedsheets. Spike couldn't *see* to know for sure, of course, but he doubted there was any actual wilting going on.

"Willie? Aside from the fact that I'm not going to refer to *my* dick with *your* name, how is that any more mature than..." Xander stopped suddenly. There was a distinct lack of breathing sounds.

This time Spike gave in, and ignored the knowledge that he was asking something that was going to get him laughed at. "You OK?" With his chip turned off for this sort of thing, he wasn't always sure if he hadn't gone a bit overboard, though Xander had never complained. Not in a way that sounded like he was *really* complaining, as opposed to bad-vampire-you-hurt-me-gotta-kiss-it-and-make-it-better.

Xander's deep breath of air was reassuring, and his nervous little laugh was even better, since it meant he wasn't full-on chuckling over Spike's neuroses. "Um. Sorry. Married man." Another deep breath. "Glurble."

"Heh. Know what you mean. Wanna pretend we're just good mates and have a friendly shag?"

Xander rolled over, a bit, onto his side and looked up. He stared at Spike with the sort of gaze that made Spike want to willingly give up smooshing things forever if Xander asked him to. His eyes were warm, brown, and so deep that Spike knew he was gonna fall in one day and never been seen again.

"I wanna make love to my husband," Xander said quietly.

Glurble. Spike fidgeted, wanting to ask if that included spankings. Or being fucked on the living room carpet while being told Xander loved him. Or even washing his socks.

"Mmr?" he managed, and Xander reached out a hand, rolling the rest of the way over onto his back. Spike took the proffered hand and climbed onto the bed. "Er, hang about." He stopped and quickly undressed, even managing to get Xander's boots untied without biting the laces off. *Then* he took Xander's hand again, and laid down.

They snuggled and wriggled, fitting themselves together in a position so familiar they could do it in their sleep. Often had. Spike waited until he was comfy, despite the fact that his ignored erection was pressed against Xander's. He gave them five seconds to lay quietly before someone said-- "Wanna spank me?"

Xander chuckled. "You couldn't ask before you laid down?"

"Well, I didn't wanna be spanked before I laid down, did I?" Spike asked reasonably. Lied through his fangs, but that hardly mattered anymore. Then Xander smiled, and leaned closer to kiss him. Spike forgot his question.

Spike forgot Xander had to breathe, as well, until the hand softly carding through his hair started pulling at it a bit. Secret signal, that. Unfortunately, he'd forgotten whether it meant, keep going, more, more, or wait, let me go so I can do other things with my mouth, after a second of recovery time.

He decided to err on the side of keeping his husband alive and happy, so he pulled away. Far enough away to be able to look at Xander's face, which was flushed and slightly damp from Spike's hair having dripped on it, but otherwise perfectly content. Postively debauched, in fact.

Spike mimed a pout. "One gets the feeling you've done this sort of thing before. Perhaps I should ask for my money back -- I was promised a virgin bridegroom."

"By who?" Xander demanded, sounding outraged.

"Whom," Spike corrected, and he gave the tip of his husband's chin a kiss. Glurble. That was going to stop soon, wasn't it? He'd been happily living in sin with Xander for years, now. How did a big party and lots of presents and someone saying 'til unlife do you part' change things?

"Whom promised you a virgin bridegroom? Who the hell is whom?"

Spike had to stop before kissing said husband's neck, and look up at him. "Whom is the hell what?"

"Whom promised you a virgin bridgroom?"

Spike blinked. "Who is Whom?"

"That's what I'm asking you!"

"What the bloody hell are you asking me? No -- don't answer, I don't want to know; I'm going to lick your neck and not think about it." His husband-glurble was insane. But that was OK, he could deal with insane, because Xander was naked, and scrumptious, too.

He also made wonderful noises when he was about to be nibbled on, just like that one. "Rugmuwa," Xander moaned again, as he exhaled.Spike nibbled. Then he gave himself a firm mental whapping, to stop himself from asking what Xander *had* been talking about. He didn't want to know. He was having sex, or just about to be, and he didn't want to stop and ask Xander why he was babbling. Nope. "Xanrrrr..." he found himself muttering anyway. Maybe it was just to elicit that yummy little shiver that ran through Xander's whole body whenever Spike spoke against his skin. Yeah. That was it.

"Urgumur?"

"Wha...you on 'bout?" Hard to talk with a mouthful of nipple, and yet for some reason Spike's tongue was insisting on trying. "Whowhawhomwhat?"

"No, he's on third," Xander said perfectly clearly. "I dunno's the shortstop." Then he made a sound that humans only made when being eaten, or... well, being eaten. Except Spike was only slurping on his stomach, so he must have really been doing a good job. Spike smiled against warm skin, as Xander breathed out again and added, "Huh?"

"*I* didn't say anything," Spike lied, then snaked his tongue into Xander's navel. The hands were back in his hair, giving that same signal, but since Xander's mouth was unoccupied, Spike assumed it meant 'more, more,' and went on about his business.

"Oh!"

Spike stopped at Xander's sudden cry. Well, he stopped *moving* his tongue, anyway. "Wha?"

"Who promised you a virgin bridegroom?"

Spike rolled his eyes and lifted his head to look up at Xander. "My mummy, of course. She said all good boys went to their wedding night unspoiled."

Xander looked at him, then his eyes slowly narrowed. "This is the same pharoah's daughter married to a fishmonger who found you washed up on the shore in a tuna can while she was out gathering bulrushes?"

"Er," Spike said, trying to figure out what Xander was talking about. Probably quoting something Spike had said, like he was supposed to remember every detail that didn't involve the catalogue of Xander's reactions to various actions of Spike's? He tickled Xander's ribs, lightly, and got swatted on the head. Yep, just like the catalogue said he would. "Can I get back to despoiling you?" he asked, not wanting to try to answer Xander's question and risk being asked even more difficult questions.

"Huh? *You* started this! I didn't tell you to stop licking my stomach, you did that all on your own."

Spike thought back. "But you said...uh. Oh, you're right. My fault, sorry. Maybe you should spank me?"

Xander grinned. "Maybe I should...."

Spike scrambled up and draped himself over his glurble-husband's-glurble lap before Xander had time to change his mind or decide that Spike owed him at least a few more stomach-slurps. There was time for all that later, after all, Spike thought as he wriggled himself into a position that was at least *somewhat* comfortable, and waited, grinning, to get his unjust rewards.


A soft knock at the door startled Xander from his semi-doze. He wasn't *really* sleeping; he'd just been staring intently at the tangled light-brown curls on the top of Spike's head -- which was resting heavily on Xander's chest, because *somebody* was actually asleep.

Not Xander, though. He'd been looking at Spike's hair for fifteen minutes or so, getting lost in the whorls and thinking about nothing in particular -- like whether he could run his fingers through them without waking Spike up. Whether there really was a hot tub on the other side of that oriental screen over there, and whether they'd remembered to pack Spike's favorite baby shampoo, so he wouldn't bitch about soap getting in his eyes when Xander washed his hair.

The knock sounded again, and Xander realized he'd gotten lost, again. He tapped Spike on the shoulder, then, when that didn't get him any response, whapped him on top of the head. "Hey. Wake up. Somebody's here."

There wasn't even a mumble. Xander sighed, and began to slowly extricate himself out from under Spike. He'd made it halfway out when Spike shifted, and glommed. Xander froze, then sighed again.

"Spiiiiiiiike," he tried again, trying to make it sound like being awake would be a *good* thing, that there would be blood and mayhem and nakedness if he woke up. Spike mumbled this time, and tightened his grip around Xander's waist. Fine. He'd tried. Xander called out, "Come in!"

There was a pause, then the door opened and a young woman came in, carrying a tray. She looked to be about twenty or so, dressed like she worked in the kitchen. "Where would you like your dinner placed?" she asked Xander, not seeming at all put out by the naked, sound asleep vampire sprawled across Xander's equally naked, but hidden under Spike, body.

"Over there's fine." Xander pointed at the table across the room. He whapped Spike again. "Wake up! Dinner's here!"

"Hmmuwha? Dinner?" What a surprise. *Now*, Spike lifted his head and blinked rapidly at Xander. He'd been known to snap out of a sleep so deep you'd assume he was in a coma if he weren't already dead, at the scent of chicken parmesan wafting out of the microwave.

"Yes, dinner, id-boy. Willow was right -- men *are* all about the pleasure principle. Food, sex, sex, food."

"M'not, either," Spike mumbled. "I like Masterpiece Theatre, f'r chrissake."

"You watch it for the women in tight corsets."

"True enough."

Spike was scrambling out of bed and over towards the table before he finished speaking, which left Xander to realize in short order that he'd lost his naked-vampire blanket, and needed to scramble, himself, to yank the sheets up. Not that the girl was looking at him, he saw after he'd done so. She was too busy nervously eyeing Spike, who was lifting the silver tray-cover and sniffing at the food like he hadn't eaten more wedding cake and stolen bagels and Dumbo-shaped elephant ears in the last 24 hours than any living human other than Xander could have consumed.

"Mmm. Roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. And baby carrots, and..." Spike stopped his litany of menu offerings -- which did smell damn good, even from the bed -- and looked up at the girl. "There's only enough for me -- what's he gonna eat?"

The woman looked slightly confused. "The food is for him," she said, her tone revealing that she'd thought that was obvious.

Xander kept the sheet wrapped around himself, and scooted off the bed. "We ordered the special, didn't we?" He walked up behind Spike and peered down at the tray. The smell suddenly combined with the sight, and his stomach told him he was starving. "Want food!" He picked up a fork and left Spike to fend for himself.

"Where's mine?" Spike asked, sounding a touch little-boy-lost. Xander snickered. Like he was gonna give up *his* dinner because the hotel kitchen couldn't send up two plates? Well...maybe, yeah. But not until they knew they couldn't just order a second dinner.

"I'm your dinner," the woman said. Xander dropped his fork. Spike looked stunned; his jaw had dropped and was now trying to climb back up into 'closed', and kept falling back down into 'stunned'. "Er, you...what?"

She gave him a suddenly tender smile. "I forgot, you're from off-dimension. It's all right, sir. I assure you I'm here by my own choice. You're entitled to take two pints -- it was outlined in the brochures the hotel sent your office when the reservations were made. While you're a guest in our hotel, meals will be made available up to four times every twenty-four hours, two pints each. Around town, you can only drink from those humans wearing a special pink strap around their throats; those with dark blue collars are off-limits." Both men were still staring at her, mouths moving to no discernible effect. "It *was* all in the brochures, sir," she scolded lightly. Then she bared her neck.

Spike gaped even harder. Xander was trying to remember if he'd read the brochures -- if *anyone* had read the brochures. They'd looked through the first one, as far as looking at the pictures...then they'd had sex. After that, Cordelia and Carla, his executive assistant, a.k.a. boss, had pretty much handled all the arrangements. "You're on the menu?" Spike asked, looking like he expected someone to jump out and yell that they were on candid camera. Except that sort of thing wasn't unusual around the Hyperion.

"She's the Dish of the Day," Xander said, and got a quick, disapproving look from the woman. But she didn't say anything. Xander looked back at Spike, who still looked gob-smacked. It occurred to Xander that if this was the only source of blood, Spike would *have* to feed.... He realized he had no idea what he thought about that.

Or -- could Spike even bite her? He could defend himself from humans now, to an extent, but the only one Xander was *sure* Willow had told the chip it was okay to feed from, was Xander himself. He wondered how Spike would take to *that* suggestion -- 'Hey, what if I pig out all the time and eat lots of iron-rich food, and you drink from *me* for two weeks?'

Happy thoughts. Happy Xander. Happy Xander Junior. Spike sniffed, then looked up sharply at him. "I dunno what you're thinking, but I want food, first. *Then* more sex." He turned to the girl. "And I mean *food*. On a plate. Blood, in a glass, please. You wanna donate, fine, nip off and cut yourself humanely, but I don't plan on biting anybody but him. *After* consuming said food."

The Dish of the Day looked terribly confused, when Xander glanced at her over his spoonful of baby carrots in gravy. "You want your blood...in a glass?"

"Yeah. No, wait -- a mug. Warmed up with some of those little marshmallows."

"Oo, yeah. Could I have some hot chocolate with marshmallows, too?" Xander asked.

She blinked, then nodded, slowly. "Er. Yes. Of course. We can do that. I'll just nip off and... get you another plate. And a..." She shook her head again, plainly still befuddled. "A mug. With marshmallows."

She left the room, still shaking her head, and Xander grinned around his roast beef. Spike looked at him, stole a Yorkshire Pudding and dipped it in the gravy, then asked, "What got you so perky all of a sudden?"

Xander smacked his hand and snatched the little popover away. "Mine. Get your own."

"Fine." Spike grabbed another off the plate and soaked *it* in gravy. "So what had you smelling like you wanted to ravish me right in the middle of the baby carrots?"

"That's *also* mine," Xander said, reaching for the second popover. Spike just raised an eyebrow at him, and put it in his mouth. "I didn't want to ravish you," Xander said with a scowl. "And if I'm supposed to take my food back now that it's been in your mouth, eew. Also, eew."

Spike chewed for a bit, then started swallowing. Then he asked, somewhat coherently, "Whom did you want to ravish, then? Not *her*, miss menu?"

"Not ravish. Be ravished. I was thinking how much fun it would be to feed you for the two weeks we're gonna be here-- and I don't mean my Yorkshire Puddings, so put that back."Spike was already shaking his head. "You'd get sick by the third day. Not gonna--"

"I know that. I was just thinking," and Xander could *feel* his eyes losing focus. "It'd be nice."

Spike was giving him a funny look -- or maybe it just seemed that way to unfocused eyes. But he smiled a bit, and said, "Yeah?"

Xander answered by baring his neck. Spike made a strangled noise, then was sitting on Xander's lap, straddling his legs, and pressing his mouth to Xander's throat. Xander dropped his fork, and the roast beef bounced onto the table. Yeah. He'd rescue it later. Much, much.... "Oh, god, Spike." He wrapped his arms around Spike, held him close.

It wasn't like Spike rarely drank from him. It wasn't even like he hadn't done so three nights ago. But even when it was just a taste, the tiniest sip, it always felt like this. Xander's eyes rolled back into his skull as Spike's fangs pierced his skin, and he felt the first, gentle sucking. He whimpered, and tried to rub his cock against Spike without dislodging him or making him stop.

He'd wondered, the first time, back in the dawn of prehistory and pre-Spike, if it would hurt. If it would feel like needles, which he didn't particularly like. If he'd be scared, once it started. It turned out that he hadn't been scared at all, when Spike had just been nibbling human-faced at his throat, and had asked. Now? Can we try it now?

It had been only unbelievably erotic, except for the moment when he'd started to realize just how good it felt, and had thought for a second, what kind of twisted mutant human weirdo *am* I? Then he'd become lost in the sensation, in the knowledge that it really was himself, flowing into Spike. Lost in the icy hot fire at the place of the bite, which felt nothing like needles, and everything like being struck by lightning must feel.

Now, of course, he knew exactly what kind of twisted human mutant weirdo he was -- Spike's kind. The kind who was holding his husband on his lap in a room decorated like the nineteenth century and being ravished into the twenty-second purely by the presence of said husband (glurble) and his unbelievable mouth at Xander's throat.

It was over far too soon, as it always was. As always, he could hear the words in the back of his brain: don't stop, don't stop, keep going. *That* scared him, a little. Not so much anymore since he knew what would happen after Spike drained him. He'd get fed some of that wonder blood and wake up with a sun allergy. The prospect had frightened him less and less over the years, until sometime... about a year ago, it had vanished all together. The only thing left was the lizard brain's fear of death, not caring that the rest of him knew it would be only temporary.

As Spike licked his throat, and continued to ignore Xander's erection, the big meanie, Xander wondered. Tonight? Now? His heart beat faster. He had no doubt it would be sometime soon -- and what better place to be a fledgling than a Victorian England ruled by vampires? Spike could show him the ropes, then they'd go home and be coddled and fussed over by their friends, and they could settle into their new life together as dead people.

Spike was giving him a lecherous grin, which Xander replied to in kind. "Wanna be ravished," he half-whined, half whispered because he'd stopped breathing normally, some moments ago.

Spike licked the sore spots on his neck. "Do you?"

Xander whimpered. "Please, please, please, please, please." He thought about throwing himself backwards onto the floor, spread-eagled so Spike would have no trouble misinterpreting his request. But that involved moving, so it would have to wait until later.

Spike moved, which was a good sign. But he didn't move *off*, or yank Xander off the chair and save him the trouble of trying to get to the floor under his own locomotion. He just...moved. Which was...ern...urk. Also good. A strange little noise made its way out of the back of Xander's throat. Part sigh, part strangled moan. "Or you could do that again."

Spike was just in the middle of doing 'that again', *again*, when the knock at the door came. Xander bit off a word that Spike would probably have taken as a request, which it was, but fulfilling it now wouldn't make whoever was at the door go away, so Xander could be ravished in peace. "Spike, door."

"Who'm I, Jeeves?"

"You're on *top* of me. Not like I can answer it."

"Right, good point. -- Go away!" Spike shouted over his shoulder.

"Room service, sir. I have your second dinner, and your blood... and... er... marshmallows?" It was the voice of the young girl who'd gotten the lovely view of his bare, spanked ass, a few hours ago. Xander blushed, then blinked, then forced himself to remember that she was *not* a young girl. She was only six years younger than Spike.

Spike growled. "Best let her in, I s'pose. Want those marshmallows." He got up off Xander's lap, which afforded Xander a view he didn't particularly want to share with the serving girl, no matter how old or dead she was.

"Fine, but put something on. That's mine, there," he pointed, "and I don't want you waving it around at the staff." Spike shrugged, and made as if to grab Xander's sheet. Xander grasped it firmly. "Nuh-uh. Robe. In the big bag."

Spike rolled his eyes, but stalked over to the large suitcase and pulled a fine red bathrobe from it. Then he grinned. Xander blinked at his choice.

"*That's* not gonna cover much of anything." Then he realized which robe it was.

Spike grinned again, and slipped Ethan's wedding present on, tying the belt.

A few seconds later, the door opened. "Where shall I...sir?" The serving girl looked around the room, past the open door, then at Xander. He grinned, as she watched wide-eyed while the tray removed itself from her grasp, then floated over to the table, apparently under its own levitational power.

"Thanks," Xander called to her. "You can shut the door, now."

She just gulped, then jumped to grab the doorknob and pull <the door> it shut. Xander could hear Spike giggling and thought about trying to smack him -- or he could grab his hot cocoa before it got cool enough to drink without burning his tongue. Xander sighed, and reached for his mug of cocoa.

"What's wrong? They not give you enough little marshmallows? You're not getting any of mine," Spike said, pulling his mug out of Xander's reach. The mug appeared to slide across the table by itself for a moment, until Spike suddenly appeared in the seat opposite Xander, one hand just letting go of his robe's now-untied belt.

"Like I *want* bloody marshmallows?" Xander retorted. "Have I said 'eew' not enough times? Bloody marshmallows in cocoa? Double 'eew'."

Spike blinked. "Actually, that sounds good. Hot cocoa and blood -- here, lemme have your mug."

Xander held it away. "Not a chance, deadboy's-boy. Call room service. Get your own." Spike sat down in the other chair, pouting at him. Xander ignored him. He waited until Spike was on his third sip of blood, before he asked, "Did you read anything in the brochures about pink collars?"

"I'm not wearin' a pink collar -- all my shirts are white. I'd get laughed off the streets," Spike grumbled.

"Were you listening at *all* ? The pink collars the Dish of the Day was telling us about -- that the humans it's okay to drink from wear."

"Eh. No. I was a bit too gobsmacked with realizing I finally found a place that delivers, now that I've pretty much turned vegetarian."

Xander snorked, and pointed at the large piece of roast beef on Spike's plate. "Vegetarian?"

"You know what I mean. Doomed to an unlife of pig, cow, and red cross parcels, all heated up in the microwave, with the occasional slurp of Xander for dessert."

"Yeah -- in your very own mug that says 'Lips of Spike were here' and as many little marshmallows as your heart desires. You've got it rough." Xander slurped his cocoa. "Why don't you get out the travel package? I think it was packed under the robes. I wanna know a little more about this place, before we actually walk back out into the streets."

"What's to know? It's home. I know the streets like the back of my hand." Spike flashed his palm at Xander and grinned.

"So when you were a kid, humans walked around wearing pink collars to indicate they could be eaten by vampires?"

Spike didn't reply right away. Xander smiled as he watched Spike try to come up with a witty retort which didn't involve saying "ok, you're right". Finally Spike said, "Er," and walked over to the bags. Xander snickered into his mug of cocoa.

As he bent down, Xander said, "Excuse me? Mr. Chase? You're wearing a robe."

Spike looked back at him, clearly thinking Xander had suddenly gone off his rocker. Then he glanced down at himself, and shed the robe faster than human eyes could watch -- which was all right, because the rest of it was done nice and slow: the naked bending down, the naked crouching while searching through the luggage, the naked aha-ing.

Then there was the naked "What the fuck?" which Xander wasn't expecting.

"What?" he asked, not actually getting up to find out. That was what husbands were for -- bringing things to you when you were all comfy and couldn't be bothered to move.

Spike held up a pair of small silver balls, tied together with a short string. Xander's thoughts ranged freely for a moment, before he focused on the words printed on each ball: "SQUEEZE" and "ME." It was Willow's handwriting.

Very carefully, so as not to choke on his cocoa, he swallowed, then said, "My best friend is a sick, sick woman. Go on, then. Squeeze Willow's balls."

Spike stared at him for a moment, before shaking his head wildly. "Uh-uh. She's *your* best friend. You do it." He tossed the silver balls through the air to Xander.

Xander caught them without a major cocoa mishap, and studied them for a moment. "I'm gonna regret this, I'm sure..." He took one in each hand, and squeezed gently.

For a second, nothing happened. Then Xander felt his palms getting warm. Very warm. He was about ready to drop the hot pieces of metal, when he felt them dissolve in his hands. A silvery stream of light poured out from each of his closed fists, rising in the air over the table, and mingling, to form a wavery image -- Willow's face.

She blinked for a moment, then grinned. "Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope!"

Xander threw a Yorkshire Pudding at her, which passed right through, and bounced off Spike's chair. Willow stuck her tongue out; Xander wondered if this was a live broadcast, or she'd just known he would do something like that.

"Sorry. Wrong movie. This one would be 'My Best Friend's Wedding.' I just snuck away to the library to record this; things were getting scary at the reception. Somebody found the karaoke machine, and I can hear Spike trying to sing 'Macho Man,' even from here." She shuddered. "Anyway, if you're keeping track, and I know you are, Spike, you haven't opened my wedding present yet. That's 'cause this is it."

"A pair of dissolving anal beads? You shouldn't have," Spike snarked at the image.

"Was that enough time for Spike to bitch?" she said after a second, then shrugged. "Hope so. No, it's not the good luck message, dork-head. It's the spell attached to it." Willow smiled nervously. "Hope you like it -- Spike's chip is now completely turned off, until you two get back to L.A. and I can perform the reversal spell."

Xander's mouth fell open at the same time as Spike's did. Spike recovered more quickly. "All right! I can go beat up..." His crowing quickly faded. "Er... vampires."

"There's humans here," Xander reminded him. "Maybe I can get somebody's pet to look at me funny, and you'll have to beat him up to protect me!"

Spike looked doubtful, but then grinned. "Yeah, and if I manage to get to Gunn before Red fixes the spell, I can bonk 'im on the head for slippin' that 'no sex in the truck bed' clause into our wedding vows."

"Don't even think about it, Spike," Willow said. She wasn't exactly looking directly at him, but her timing was uncanny. Xander wondered if she'd been taking lessons from Buffy's mom. Or possibly...Ulp.

"Are you *sure* she can't see us?" Spike asked, hands on his naked hips.

"Of course I can't see you," Willow said before Xander could answer. Then she turned her head slightly, glanced downward, and giggled.

Spike flipped her the two-fingered bird, but she just kept giggling.

Finally, she calmed down, and said, "Anyway, I hope you guys have a good time, and please don't go looking for random bad guys to beat up, just to test out the spell. I worry about you." She started to fade out, the image flickering, then she was there again. "Oh, and Cordy says to read the damn brochures now -- she and Carla made notes, and highlighted all the cool places. Plus the things that'll get you killed if you do 'em, and says she'll kick your asses if you *do* get killed, so be careful. To which I say, what she said. Bye!"

Phantom-Willow blew them a kiss, then faded away completely. Xander stared at the empty space for a moment, before looking back at Spike. "Have I ever mentioned that girls are scary?"

Xander couldn't see Spike's expression when he said, "Uh-huh," because he was being treated to a view of Spike's ass again, as his...glurble...rummaged quickly through the suitcase. After a second, he stood, triumphantly holding a pile of brochures in his hand.

Xander looked at them, then looked at the naked Spike who had walked over to him and was standing in front of his chair. Looked back at the brochures. Nakedness. Brochures. Nakedness. Brochures. "Um...you willing to risk Cordy's wrath by waiting just a *little* bit, to read those?" he asked.

When Spike hesitated, Xander pulled open his sheet and leaned back in his chair. Spike dropped the brochures.

"Right. Read 'em later. Princess can't see us." Spike got down on his knees, and Xander gave himself over to whimpering and making glurbley sounds. It occurred to him as his eyes decided to come loose from their moorings and roll around inside his skull like the marbles he'd lost long ago, that they might not *need* to read the brochures, or make use of Willow's present, because they might never leave the suite.

Of course, he was never going to admit that to Spike, because that would imply that Spike had been *right* about why-bother-to-even-leave-the-Hyperion. There were rules about admitting Spike was right. Like, it was only allowed when Spike had something of yours in his mouth and was refusing to do anything with it until you said uncle. Since Spike already *had* something, et cetera, and wasn't doing any refusing, Xander kept his own mouth shut, except for the occasional masimawoogle.

Eventually, he looked down at Spike, who was looking up at him with a mostly satisfied smile. "Argle. Erm. Brochures now?" Xander asked. Spike gave him the most incredible pout #17 he'd ever seen. Xander wanted to applaud. Instead, he asked, "Did you want to do something else, instead?" as if he couldn't see the way Spike's own et cetera were waving around because nobody'd had *them* in their mouths lately.

Spike nodded, and started to lean backward onto the floor, in exactly the same position Xander had been contemplating, earlier. Xander turned to the table.

"Yeah, we *should* finish dinner before it gets cold. You can read me the brochures while I eat your Yorkshire Puddings." There was a whimper, then there was a vampire biting Xander on the leg. Xander looked down. "Hello?"

"Rggaugrg!"

"OK, but only in three pieces."

There was a pause, then Spike rolled his head a bit so he could glare upwards at him without letting go. "Ruwuh?"

Xander nodded. "After six, yes." Spike blinked. Then he bit down harder. Since he wasn't using his fangs, Xander ignored it. Instead, he reached out and grabbed a Yorkshire Pudding from Spike's plate. He 'eeped' and dropped it, then glared at Spike. "If you hurt those, you can't play with them later."

Spike removed his teeth from where they'd strayed, and glared back at Xander. "Are you trying to get spanked again?"

Xander tilted his head, then rolled his eyes, then contemplated once again whether the many whaps on the head he'd given Spike had actually caused brain damage, or he'd always been this stupid. "Are you offering?"

"No!"

"Ah. Well, then, no." Xander picked the Yorkshire Pudding up again, and proceeded to butter it and cover it with gravy. He could feel the strength of Spike's pout even without looking at him. It was a full-on pout number 21 -- nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I'm gonna go outside and eat worms. "I wouldn't bother -- it's still raining. They're probably all drowned and icky," he said calmly, then bit into the pastry.

"You're crazy -- and what's all drowned and icky?"

"The worms."

"If you're trying to do a willie-wilting number on me -- with drowned icky wet worms..."

Xander stuck a fork into Spike's roast beef, making sure not to look at his husband if at all possible. "Now why would I want to do that?"

"So you can sit there and eat my dinner and pretend you don't owe me turnabout is fair play." The pout was developing into an actual sulk, from the sound of things. Xander grinned -- and reached for his hot cocoa, which was reasonably warm now, instead of happy, burn your tongue hot.

Warm enough to swig. Warm enough to get a large mouthful of melted marshmallows and warm chocolate. Some of which he swallowed as he slid off his chair and bent down over Spike, and some of which he didn't.

"Er...gah...rrr," Spike said, no longer sulking. Then, eventually, "That better have been your cocoa, and not my blood."

"Sing the chorus with me, Spike. Ewww. Yuck. Ewww. D.S. al coda."

"Since when do you read music?"

"Since when do you care if I slather your cock in blood?"

"Don't. As long as it's *extra* blood, and not my nummy marshmallowy treat."

"Extra? You want me to call room service?" Xander decided he wasn't going to ask himself why seeing Spike apparently give that question some serious thought didn't *really* squick him. Maybe he'd finally become completely inured to the thought of bloodplay with Spike. Maybe he had just reached the point where almost anything was arousing, as long as it involved a certain snarky, usually-blond vampire? Maybe he was just too tired to think about it.

That wasn't to say he was going to stop giving Spike a hard time...so to speak...about it. He reached into his mug of cocoa and trapped a remnant of melted marshmallow, then brought his finger to his mouth and licked it off. He repeated the process with another tiny mass of melted goo.

"We need more marshmallows."

Xander looked over at Spike, who was still sprawled on the floor, and watching him closely. "Nah, I've got enough here," Xander told him, catching up a third little bit of marshmallow, and sucking it off. Spike's eyes were getting bigger. Xander looked into his mug, and saw there were no more floating masses of fluff. He shrugged. "Huh. Guess I was wrong. All gone."

Spike scrambled to his feet, grabbed his mug, and handed it out to Xander.

Xander stared deeply into the swirly red-and-white mess. Right. Not like he hadn't tasted blood before. Just about impossible to live with a vampire and not. But it was usually his *own* blood, which was all tied up with feeding and warm Spike thoughts and things that made his eyes glaze over just as much as Spike's probably were at the sight of him staring into the mug, as confirmed when he glanced up.

Just a little human blood, right? Voluntarily donated, possibly by the pretty blonde Dish of the Day. No big deal. In fact, well... He ought to be trying to get used to it, right? Xander glanced at it again. If he squinted, and didn't smell it, he could pretend it was whipped cream and raspberry syrup.

Maybe he could just call down to room service and *order* some whipped cream and raspberry syrup?

Another look at Spike, whose wide eyes had gone from blue to yellow, and whose other evidence of interest in the proceedings was practically pointing at the ceiling. Xander smiled, and sniffed the contents of the mug, so Spike knew he knew exactly what he was doing. Then he dipped a finger in, and lifted it to his mouth.

He was going to do it. He was *ready* to do it. Even if just for the look in Spike's eyes, he *wanted* to do it. Xander was slightly surprised, therefore, to find that the mouth that was gently sucking on his finger was not, in fact, his own. "Er?" he managed, sounding nearly as coherent as he always did when Spike sucked on his fingers. He had to wait until Spike was finished sucking, then licking clean, then nibbling just to make sure, and finally let his finger go, before he could say, "Erm?"

Spike's golden eyes were still staring at him, holding him still as though Spike were trying to suck him in just by looking at him. Xander shivered. "Need more marshmallows?" he asked, not entirely sure what he meant, but at least it was English.

"Nah. Just thought...um, might not be clean, s'all."

Xander blinked. Clean? "How can you get marshmallows dirty? Seeing as how they're floating in blood, I hate to ask what *counts*."

"No, the blood. Didn't think you'd really...hoped you'd make 'oh, disgusting vampire, need to be spanked' noises, then let me lick your fingers."

Now Xander grinned. In his best lecherous-old-man voice, he asked, "You wanna lick blood off my fingers, little vampire?"

"Er," Spike said. The glance downward betrayed him. Xander waggled his hips back and forth, and Spike's gaze waggled back and forth as well.

"Why wouldn't I?" Xander asked, now that Spike was too distracted to answer clearly.

"Er...whahuh?"

"Why wouldn't I drink the blood?"

"Cos...um..." Spike managed to actually look up -- Xander suspected it was only because he was conditioned to prick up his ears at the sound of the b-word. "Ewww? Yuck? D.S. al coda?"

"First of all, how many ewww yuck things have you convinced me to do in the last seven years? And I do include the thing with the clothespins and the hot mustard, because that was *not* my idea, and it won't ever have *been* my idea, no matter how many times you say it was."

Spike looked as if he were seriously trying to count, for a moment, the number of eeew, yucks. Xander could see his lips moving. But Xander could also see him getting lost in the details of each experience, by the time he hit number four. So Xander whapped Spike on the head. First, to get him back on track, and second, because it was fun. The third time was because Spike was glaring at him, but not answering his question. The fourth time was because he'd got into a rhythm, and the fifth time was on the down-beat.

"Grr?" Spike sounded as if he didn't know if he was supposed to object, or start humming. Xander stopped whapping him, just in case he really wanted to try answering Xander's question. Spike shook his head once, gave Xander a kiss, then said, "You ate my pudding."

"Um, duh? Several minutes ago."

"You left the carrots."

"Again with the 'duh'." Spike looked like he was gonna pout again, so Xander asked, in a normal tone of voice, "How could the blood not be clean? It came right out of...er, somebody. Didn't it?"

"Yeah, but she might've been sick, or something. You think it's easy catching a cold by breathing on somebody? Try drinking their blood."

"You don't catch colds," Xander began, then quickly added, "because you're a vampire. I'm not. Okay, brain working now."

Spike smiled. "Oh, well, we can't have *that*, can we? On your honeymoon and all, Mr. Chase Giles Harris."

"You can call me Mr. Gunn," Xander said in a breathy tone, because Spike's fingers were already doing things to parts of his body that had been goosebump-free a moment ago. He shivered, and pressed himself up against Spike as if seeking heat. Spike's fingers kept doing that thing, right there, that made him go "Muuuuuuuh."

"Brain off, now?" Spike asked softly.

Xander inhaled. "No, actually, it's wondering why the marshmallows don't soak *up* the blood. Or did they? Aren't they porous?" Then he got whapped on the head.


"Are you sure that's big enough for everybody to see? Maybe I should give it another go," Spike suggested, studying the rather large hickey he'd created just above Xander's collar. They were standing in the hallway outside their suite, actually attempting to leave their room for some sight-seeing.

"Not that I mind in the least," Xander replied, "but if you start sucking on my neck again, we may never get out of the hotel -- and I thought you wanted to show me where Jack the Ripper hung out?"

Spike frowned. It *did* look perfectly visible to him -- not that he'd mind doing some more sucking either -- but was it obvious enough to qualify as a 'mineminemine' mark, like the travel package guide said he should do?

Xander must have read his mind, because he grinned, and added, "Come on, like the sound of you growling at anybody who comes near me isn't gonna be enough, all by itself?" Well... possibly he had a point. But Spike wanted to make *damn* sure none of the locals decided Xander was a freefloating meal, lack of pink "Eat at Joe's" collar notwithstanding. Humans, according to the glossy holiday package literature, didn't get killed around here unless they were incredibly stupid, or actually picked a fight with a vamp, but that might be just the line they fed to the tourists. Spike wasn't about to literally risk Xander's neck to find out if these brochures were more truthful than the ones that claimed L.A. was a cultural Mecca with clean streets and smiling film stars on every corner."You do know we can just buy me one of those dark blue velvet collars?" Xander asked, and Spike had to work very hard at getting his brain cells to start working again as the last word left Xander's mouth. Dark blue. The ones that 'pet' humans wore, as opposed to the pink-collared petty criminals and dole recipients who voluntarily walked the streets waiting to get sucked on, and were apparently trained to struggle realistically, if you wanted them to.

He opened his mouth to say something, possibly in response, and the image of Xander in a dark blue collar hit him. Hard. Right in the groin. He heard someone growling, and looked around -- only to discover it was Xander. "What? What're you growling at?" That was as far as he got, because suddenly his mental image had the sound-effect added. Why hadn't they stayed *home* and shagged for two weeks, again? Since they obviously weren't leaving their hotel room at all? Ever?

"Thought it'd get your attention. Are you listening?"

"No?" Xander could wear a loose, white, fisherman's shirt, open to the waist, and tight blue breeches made of the same blue velvet. Knee-high black leather boots, collar, growl a bit, and what was the question again?

"Are we *going*? You said you wanted to show me around the city." Xander sounded amused. The wanker was doing this on purpose.

"Yes. We're going. And we're buying you a collar and you're *wearing* it. The whole two weeks, even if that means we don't get any sight-seeing done."

"If we don't leave the hotel, I won't need a collar," Xander pointed out.

"Will," Spike replied. Xander grinned, and, yes indeed, he was doing this on purpose. Spike growled at him. "You should be nice to me. S'my honeymoon."

"What was the bath, earlier, then?"

"Er--" Spike had woken up from their last nap, first, and got the hot bath started. When Xander had woken, he'd proceeded to slowly sponge-bathe Spike. The hot water, scented soap, and husband's hands had all ensured that Spike had been unable to get out of the bath until half an hour after the bloody thing had run cold. Xander, by that time, had been fully dressed, including hickey, and ready to go.

"Come on, let's go before you decide you have to ravish me again." Xander tugged on his hand and led him toward the door.

Spike followed obediently --instinctively, which made Spike wonder just who was supposed to be wearing the collar here. Not that he'd mind such, either. But his would have to be black leather. With little Spikes. Little *metal* spikes, not little 'Little Spikes'. Though that would be amusing, too.

Spike was well aware that he was babbling internally as his husband led him down the hall and to the lifts. Part of it was the sight of Xander in the outfit he *had* chosen, which involved black, black, and more black, and a splash of black for decoration. There was also a red carnation in his lapel, and he was wearing a Homburg. It was very possibly the hat that did it. Especially with the way it made Xander's hair crinkle down over his ears and into his face.

The other part was the fact that once they were out walking the streets of a vamp-infested London, he wouldn't have the *luxury* of acting like a complete lovesick buffoon, even if he was one. When they reached the lift doors and Xander had hit the down button, he turned and looked at Spike. Spike managed to not trip, by dint of freezing in place. Had he brought a camera?

"Spike?" There wasn't any teasing in Xander's voice, this time.

"You look--" Spike began. But he couldn't find any words. He'd not been a terrible poet for nothing, proven now by barely being able to think of more than 'grr' and 'mine' to describe how stunning his husband appeared.

Xander grinned, shyly. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Rr. Anyone touches you and I break their arm off." Xander didn't laugh. He wriggled his fingers for Spike to come closer, which Spike did eagerly. When he was close enough, Xander took hold of his hand. It was warm, and just a tiny bit sweaty. Spike leaned forward and kissed him. "Rrr. Mine."

"Rrr, right back atcha." Xander's smile made Spike think that maybe, instead of a camera, they should stop somewhere and have a portrait done. Oils and canvas would come closest to doing this man justice.... "The lift's here," Xander said after a moment. "We gonna make it downstairs?"

"If we're gonna make it, we should prob'ly go back to the room," Spike replied, only partially in jest. Partially, because he didn't really care if they made it right where they were, standing in the carpeted hallway in front of the lifts.

Xander laughed, and hauled him into the lift. "Come on. If we stay here, then I can't show you off to the English vampire people."

Spike blinked. "Show *me* off?"

"Yes, show *you* off. Show everybody out there that I've got the hottest vampire in the line of Aurelius, making goo-goo eyes at *me*. So there, snooty coat guy."

Goo goo eyes? Spike was *not* making goo goo eyes. He hadn't made goo goo eyes at Xander -- or anybody -- since last Christmas, when he'd fallen into the bowl of eggnog while fishing about for Goober, who was really too young to be swimming in that stuff, no matter what Dru thought. He wasn't drunk enough to make goo goo eyes, now.

"Spike?" Xander asked, a moment later.

"Huh?"

"Could you ask snooty coat guy for my coat? We've been stopped in the lobby for five minutes now."

"Right. Just wanted to make sure it was safe to leave the lift." Spike didn't think he'd fooled Xander, but it was the attempt that mattered.

"Mm-hmm." Xander followed him out of the lift and into the lobby, then towards the front desk. Snooty coat guy was nearby, and Spike went up to him.

"Where's his coat?" he growled.Snooty coat guy didn't even bat an eyelash. He turned and headed to a door, which opened to reveal a small room. Spike wondered if being married had made his growl go all soft. Then again, this *was* the land of the vampires. They must all just be used to it. Oddly, that didn't make him feel much better.

"Here you are, sir," the man was saying a moment later, holding out Xander's coat to Spike. Spike started to growl again, and the manservant jumped a bit, and handed it out to Xander.

His -- glurble -- husband took a look at the coat, then shook it, as if he were making sure there weren't any fleas or cooties or other nasty little buggers on it. Then he examined it again, and finally slipped it on. Spike didn't bother to resist snickering. "Who's a clever pet, then," he whispered, knowing full well that half the vamps in the room could hear him.

"Shall we?" Xander said, offering his arm.

Spike ignored it, in favor of grabbing Xander's hand. He wasn't precisely keeping in period, judging from both his actual memories, and the vamp couples strolling in and out of the hotel lobby -- but it allowed him skin-to-skin contact. Xander seemed to appreciate that fact as well, or maybe he just knew, despite Spike's mature, dignified behavior, how nervous Spike was about going out on the town with his glurble. He grinned, and nodded, and this time it was Spike who was tugging Xander out the wide front doors, into the clear, warm night.

"So where are we supposed to be going, first?" Xander asked, as they walked down the fairly busy street. Spike was looking left and right, seeing everything he hadn't had the chance or the patience to focus on during their muddy trek to the hotel earlier. The buildings he'd grown up with, or at least those he'd known as a young man. No glass-walled business towers. No council block tenement housing. Just big old wood-and-brick structures fronting streets still paved for horse travel, instead of automobile. Cars existed, but they weren't allowed inside the city limits of London -- to preserve the atmosphere or some such.

They'd done a good job. It even smelled like a century ago -- except a bit less polluted. The scent of rain and horse and, as Xander had pointed out hours ago, what horses left behind, was strong. If he didn't breathe in too deeply as people strolled past them in long skirts and frock coats, Spike could even imagine that they were human.

He blinked as he heard Xander say his name again, but he continued gazing about the street. He realized that he probably looked like a bloody tourist -- which he was, and did he care if he acted like it? Finally he turned his attention back to his...right, if he didn't think the word, maybe he wouldn't make the squeaky sound. There was a curious expression on Xander's face which made Spike wish he could blush.

"What do you wanna do first?" Xander asked, and that 'isn't he adorable' expression bled into his voice as well. Damn right Spike was adorable.

"Er," Spike began, then realized he couldn't recall what he'd suggested. They'd read over the brochures, finding out more about the collar thing, as well as studying the guide to tourist traps - both literal and non. The study session had ended up like the previous one had, when they'd been trying to settle on a honeymoon spot on the first place. Was it Spike's fault that lying on the floor with Xander made him think of things not related to reading? "We were gonna visit Whitechapel," he finally remembered, though the first thing that popped into his head was "go back upstairs and shag". "A church? We getting married again?" Xander looked dubious at the prospect, although this time there was no Princess to stop them from shagging in front of the minister, so Spike wouldn't have especially minded.

Still, he rolled his eyes. "Whitechapel's the neighborhood where Jack the Ripper did all his work. We can go find out if this place had a vampiric equivalent."

"Er, not to be obvious or anything, but how could anyone tell? Vampire killing a bunch of women? This stands out how, exactly?"

"Points for creative effort? Mad Jack was all about taunting the coppers, in our world. Sticking out his tongue at all the folks who thought they knew who he was." Now why was Xander looking at him suspiciously? "It was *not* me!" Spike protested. "I didn't do it!"

He wasn't exactly sure why he was protesting -- shouldn't he be looking mysterious and smug about the whole thing? Not like he *wouldn't* have done it, if he hadn't been busy ripping people's necks open and sucking them dry, at the time. Somewhere in Darbyshire, if he remembered rightly. The Poof -- who would've ripped *Spike's* neck open for calling him that in those days -- had been in a tizzy over following Jack the Lad in the newspapers. Thought he might look the fellow up and turn him.

It was utter coincidence that the minute he started going on about that, Spike and Dru had got themselves in a little drained-the-entire-local-hunt-club sort of trouble, and the four of them had had to high-tail it out of the country for a couple of years. Nothing at all to do with jealousy. Angelus had bought that story, anyhow; Darla hadn't, but hadn't minded leaving England. Spike doubted Xander would believe him either, so he just kept his mouth shut about the whole thing, and instead suggested -- "Fancy a hansom cab ride?"

Xander frowned at him slightly, and Spike just waited. "They have ugly cabs, too?"

"Yes, they have ugly cabs. Come on, m'not gonna stand here all night jabbering, when we could be out having fun. Since we're not in having fun."

Xander let Spike grab his arm, and start hauling him towards the edge of the street where a few cabs were waiting for fares. "We have to leave the hotel at least seven times," Xander said.

Spike stopped, and gave his husband-glurble a confused look. "What for?"

"I did some calculations before we left -- actually, about two weeks before the wedding, when I could still think clearly. That's how often we have to stop having sex in a two week period so my privates don't fall off."

Spike had been about to grab hold of the door to the hansom; he missed his grab, but managed to not throw himself forward into the mud. Xander laughed, then opened the door and climbed inside. Spike growled. "Whitechapel!" he yelled up at the driver, and followed Xander inside. Somebody was going to find out just how much room there was to maneuver inside a cab.The cabbie leaned round and peered in the window, and Xander waved up at him from where he lay sprawled over Spike's lap, with his hat in one hand. Spike growled. "You got a problem, mate? We're having a private discussion, here."

"No, just need to know *where* in Whitechapel. Street address?"

Huh. Spike shrugged, not lifting his hand from the back of Xander's shirt collar. "Anywhere, really. Thought I'd give him the Ripper tour, so I guess we could start with Buck's Row."

"The who tour?" The cabbie sounded truly clueless, and Spike wondered if maybe he shouldn't drag Xander out the other door and find somebody who actually knew the difference between Islington and Perivale (better pubs) to drive them.

"Hey, cool -- they have Giles-music here," Xander said cheerfully. "He's always bitching about them breaking up."

"Who?"

"Yeah, them."

Spike decided to ignore the blatant request for him to start spanking, since Xander would just pretend he hadn't asked for it and yell at Spike for doing it in front of the driver. He concentrated on the idiot cabbie for a moment, instead. "Ripper, comma, Jack the? Mad Jack? Scotland Yard's bonnie boy?"

The driver frowned at him. "Sorry, mate. Not got a clue what you're on about."

"Guy who killed a bunch of women in eighteen... when was it?" Xander twisted pleasantly on Spike's lap in order to look back at him. The current pop hit "What Was The Question Again?" began to play in Spike's head.

Xander grinned and thumped him on the knee, and at last he muttered "Eighteen eighty six.""Eighteen eighty-six?" the bloke scoffed, and he sounded like John Cleese saying, 'You sold me a dead parrot?' "How would anybody 'ave noticed? Streets were awash in blood, those days."

"Nyah-nyah, nyah-nyah, boo-boo," Xander sang. Spike gave in and smacked him one, though it obviously didn't do any good through his coat and trousers. Xander just chuckled, which meant he was going to be all puritan and annoying and not let Spike take those trousers down in a public place. 'Public place' being something that only Xander was allowed to define, of course; he been perfectly willing to shag in the back seat of their *own* car on numerous occasions. The only explanation he'd ever given was, "If it makes me uncomfortable, it's public." How fair was that?

"Stop pouting," Xander ordered Spike.

"M'not."

"Spike, I find myself wanting to kiss you repeatedly until your lips get all puffy and your hair stands up like Angel's, without the aid of a single dollop of mousse."

"Rrrr. Yeah?"

"Which means you're pouting. Stop it."

It was easy to spot the flaw in Xander's logic. "Er, I'm supposed to stop doing something -- that I'm not doing, but if I were, you'd want me to stop -- that makes you want to kiss me stupid? Why exactly?"

But Xander just grinned. "Because I'm not gonna. I'd just want to, and get all frustrated until I'm grumpy." He sighed, rolled his eyes at Spike's continued pout, and told the driver, "Look, just take us someplace touristy, where he can enjoy lots of blood and killing and vampirey stuff. K?"

"Right, House of Lords do you?" the driver asked.

"Sounds fine to me," Xander told him, and the driver's face disappeared from the window. Spike lost his wasn't-pouting pout, and leered hopefully. "Nope," Xander said.

"Nope what?" Spike asked, sliding his hands over Xander's bum.

"You're not shagging me in a cab. So you can just take your hands offa me, buster, and put 'em where they belong."

"If I take my hand off of you, you're liable to fall onto the floor. I'm only thinking of your safety," Spike replied.

"You're thinking you're gonna make me forget the cabbie's listening to us, even if he's pretending he isn't."

Spike raised an eyebrow, and pounded on the front of the cab. "Oi, you up there? You listening to us?"

The cabbie's voice came echoing back immediately, "No, sir. Wouldn't do a thing like that."

"See?" He looked hopefully at Xander again, not that he really expected it would work.

Nor did it. Xander rolled his eyes and scrambled into a sitting position next to him, only giving Spike time for one good grope before he was upright and peering out the window at the homes they were passing. Spike considered settling into a real pout, but figured it wasn't worth the extra facial exercise, especially since Xander truly did seem to be interested in the scenery. That was why they'd picked this place, right? So Spike could show him off...er...around. Still, Spike couldn't resist a little sniffle.

"Could at least come and sit on my lap, like a good little velvet-collared kept-man," he murmured, wistfully.

"I don't have a collar yet, and there's nothing on your side of the cab but traffic." Xander looked out the window for a second longer, then grinned, and pulled Spike onto *his* lap. "Happy?" he asked, as he pulled the window-curtain aside again and gazed out.

"Er," Spike tried to think if saying yes was gonna get him into any trouble he didn't mean to be in. He didn't think so, but he'd been rather distracted with the Xander-butt he'd been staring at for all too short a time. "Yeah," he finally said. He leaned over to see out, as well.

"This is better, anyway," Xander said a moment later, interrupting Spike's comment about the building they were just about to pass.

"What? I mean, yeah, of course, but how do you reckon?"

Xander snickered at him. "Excuse me? Who among us is the kept man?"

Spike raised his hand, and blinked at Xander like he didn't possibly understand how being kept could be cause for the keeper snickering. Between working for an unliving or hanging around the hotel, Xander's office, and the alleyways of LA -- he'd rather be kept. He got lots more sex, that way.

"Maybe I should get *you* the velvet collar, then." Xander was looking at his neck when he said that, and Spike saw his pupils contract slightly before they lost all focus.

Spike wriggled a bit, rubbing his butt against the not-too-tired-at-all cock in Xander's trousers, and preened, stretching his head to one side to show more neck. "You think it'd go?"

"Go where?" Xander asked distractedly, shifting beneath Spike in a manner that let his husband know exactly what he was thinking should go where.

"Erm..." Spike leaned back against Xander's shoulder. "Anywhere you'd like to put it, I s'pose." They'd been talking about something specific, hadn't they? A collar, round somebody's neck. Velvet. Right.

Xander took a deep breath, then asked in a tone that was almost conversational, "Why do I get the feeling we should've asked Cordy for some of that de-lusting powder to bring along with us?"

"Relax. We're both fully clothed, and--" The cab hit a genuine vintage London mudhole, and Spike bounced up a good two inches off Xander's lap, then down again. "Sorry, what was I saying?"

"You were saying why you weren't kissing me?"

Spike blinked. "I was? Stupid me, then." He leaned down the few necessary inches and kissed Xander. Kissed him as long as he could until he forgot why they were still dressed, and could only remember that something bad would happen if he removed Xander's clothes. He leaned back and looked at Xander, and could tell that his husband didn't remember why, either. So he reached forward and started pulling Xander's shirt open. Xander slapped his hand.

"What was that for?"

"No shagging."

"I wasn't! Er, now, I'm not. You can shag me." Spike got his hands as far as his belt, when he got slapped again. "Er...I'm guessing that's another 'no Spike, no shagging'?"

"We're in a cab, remember?"

"Er. Yeah? Oh!" He reached over and closed the curtains. Then he tried to undo his belt, again.

There were fingers on his, but they weren't smacking him this time. Probably a good idea, that -- what had possessed Xander to think that engaging in blatant foreplay would encourage him *not* to want to shag? Xander's hands were just holding his, firmly. Not that Spike didn't have twice the strength required to break out of such a grasp, if he wanted to, but why would he? Especially when he was being kissed again.

A small part of his mind was telling him that this would only lead in a vicious, if pleasurable cycle, but he ignored it, the way he usually did. It was always telling him things like "Do the dishes, Spike," and "Don't touch the button marked don't touch, Spike," and where was the fun in that? He was just getting back round to the bit where he opened Xander's shirt a little further, when the cab lurched to a halt, and Spike was bounced forward and back again.

"House of Lords, sir," the driver called back.

After a moment of enjoying the impact, Spike lifted the curtain, looked about, and frowned. "This isn't the House of Lords-- we're in the middle of bleedin' Green Park!"

Spike heard a very softly muttered, "Offworld tourists..." before the cabbie said patiently, "Yessir. House of Lords meets outside. Have since the early fifties. Ever since they burned the place down for the third time in the same year over whether they should try to tax the folks as raise homebred humans the same as those that buys 'em at the marketplace."

Spike took a look at Xander's raised eyebrow and asked carefully, "Who won?" Not as if he really cared, since if he had to pay a tax on Xander, it'd be Xander who ended up actually paying it.

"You find out, let me know, mate," the cabbie chuckled. "They're still arguing over it."

Xander's eyebrows were still hiding under his bangs -- which, since he'd taken to cutting them short again, like that horribly geeky year of high school, was saying a lot. Spike shrugged. "You're a privately owned human. Worst that can happen is someone will offer to buy you." He was pretty sure he sounded confident, even if he was considering having the cabbie take them back to the hotel.

"Oh, not to worry. Offworld humans pay tax outside the gates. Er, when you paid for your hotel, taxes were all included. *That* one they all agreed on right away off." The cabbie smiled.

"Thanks," Xander told him, scowling at Spike.

"What?" Spike couldn't think of anything he'd done to deserve being scowled at. Xander just scooted towards the door, and stepped out. Spike followed him quickly -- not because he was nervous or anything, but because if anyone got a gander at his husband, he wanted to it be a gander of Spike's husband as attached to Spike. The cabbie was waiting, patiently. Spike started to reach into a pocket, then stopped and looked at Xander. "Any idea what the going rate is?"

Xander blinked at him. "You're asking *me*?" He sighed. "Just pay him. We're gonna get overcharged anyway, might as well give him what he asks for."

"Five bob," the cabbie said promptly.

"Five bob? For a cab ride from Holborn to Green Park? I thought highway robbery went out with Dick Turpin." Spike was just arguing for the hell of it, really, and to give himself a longer period of groping in Xander's pocket for his wallet. "Or haven't you heard of him, either?" He asked this as he handed over the requested note, which the cabbie peered at just long enough to not quite be insulting about it, then pocketed.

"Of course I've heard of him," the driver replied. "He went about robbing humans at gunpoint. Nasty criminal element. Nothing like that goes on round here now. They're a protected species."

"Great," Xander muttered. "I'm a humpback whale."

"Does that mean I can--" Spike stopped as he found a hand over his mouth. He settled for raising one eyebrow in an eloquent gesture that meant 'can I lick it?' and waited for Xander to scold him again.

"Let's go see if they're in session, or whatever the English Vampiric equivalent is," Xander said, grabbing Spike's arm and hauling him away from the cab.

When he dropped his hand, Spike said, "Is that it?"

Xander stopped walking. "Is what it?"

"That all the scolding I get? Doesn't seem right."

Spike straightened the lapels of his coat, and began striding towards a small knot of vampires, standing about. They were dressed like Lordly assistants, rather than Lords themselves, and he figured he stood a better chance of getting some real information from them than the snobbery kind. He tried to make himself look as important as possible.

Xander followed, saying nothing. Spike imagined there was a bit of eye rolling and sighing going on behind him, perhaps some smirking at his expense. Nothing new.

As they drew near, one of the younger men glanced over, then broke away from the group and hurried over. Spike stopped, wondering if they had 'tourist' written on their foreheads, or if visitors just weren't allowed to watch.

"Master Spike! We weren't expecting you. How may I assist you?"

Spike halted. Behind him, after a moment, Xander began laughing. "What're you laughing at? Obviously they've heard tales of my great adventures in..." Spike tried to think about where -- besides Xander's bed -- he'd had some adventures great enough to have gotten gossiped about in another dimension.

"Fish-breeding?" Xander offered. Spike scowled at him. It wasn't as if the Father of the Year had known that Piranha don't give live birth, either, until the Host had told them both.

The fellow in front of them was still looking worried and solicitous, so Spike graciously pretended he hadn't heard Xander's comment, and said, "Er, yeah. They in session?" He pointed towards the group of better-dressed men, who were sitting about on wooden park benches, surrounded by riots of yellow daffodils, and talking quietly amongst themselves.

"Oh, very funny, sir. That's a good one." The younger vamp leaned towards Xander and said, "He's a great wit, is Master Spike. As if they could be in formal session without at least three bloodfights going on at a time." The vampire grinned. Then he sniffed once, and glanced at Xander's throat in confusion. "Er, Master Spike. Is this...evidence? You did know the blood-tasting's been canceled for today? Not, mind, that anyone would object to sampling him if you offered, *unofficially*."

"He's *mine*," Spike growled, without even thinking about it.

"Of course! Of course, never meant to imply otherwise, Milord. Would...would there be anything else I could assist you with?" The young vampire seemed eager to get his neck off the chopping block, or at least send Master Spike and his human on their way.

"Nah. S'nothing else. Go away." Spike looked over towards the gaggle of Lords, dismissing the servant as befit someone of his apparent, but mystifying, stature. The vampire bowed and hurried away. Xander poked Spike in the back of the head.

"What?"

"Master Spike?"

"I like hearing you say that," Spike grinned. "Yeah. Get you all collared up, a little bit of the yes, master going on...."

Xander just rolled his eyes. "You realize what this means?"

"Yeah, it means they've heard of me. Means we have to find you a blue collar so you don't get nabbed by somebody. Er, what?"

"Did either of us think to ask if we already lived in this dimension?"

"Love, I realize your brain's all full up with images of me leading you round on a chain, and of you wearing nothing but that collar and a smile and the extra set of handcuff keys, but I'm pretty sure I know which dimension we live in." Spike patted Xander's head tenderly. "It's the one where Angel's a big dork, and they took Passions off the air three years ago, the bastards."

Xander just looked at him, as if he were waiting for Spike to catch on. Truth was, Spike had caught on the minute Xander said it, but it wouldn't do let Xander stop thinking he was the only smart one. Then Xander might have time to catch on to the fact that they shared the title of 'The Cute One' too, no matter what Buffy said.

"Oh," Spike finally said, as if he'd just twigged. "You mean there might be another us. The homebrewed versions."

"Yeah." Xander's eyes lit up. "Hey, maybe they're evil and have goatees, and we'll have to overthrow them to save the local population."

Spike jerked a thumb in the direction of the peacefully chatting vampires. "Hate to point this out, but the local population *is* evil. That was sort of the point of the trip, remember?""Then maybe they're good, and we'll have to overthrow them...?""Why would we want to overthrow them, if they're good?" Spike smacked himself on the head as soon as the words came out of his mouth. "I used to be evil, you know. It was natural, didn't have to think twice about killing innocent people. Now I find myself wanting to say 'but it's *wrong*'. Xan, help?"

Xander stepped close, and smiled. Spike was willing to agree that helped a great deal. Then Xander opened his mouth, ran his tongue along his lower lip, then said, "You remember how I look when I've crawled out of Angel's hot tub, and I'm lying on the bench, too relaxed from the hot water to move?"

This was a trick question? Spike nodded.

"You feel like killing anyone now?"

"Yeah - Angel, if he walks in on us, or Wes, if he turns us into newts."

"Besides them," Xander waved a hand, as if they didn't count.

"Erm...no. I don't." Spike pouted, this time for real. "But I *used* to be a badass vampire."

"Now you're mine," Xander said softly.

That made Spike grin. He turned it into a leer, since they were in public, and all. "Yeah. Grr. Wanna go say hi to the Lordly Vampires? See if I'm really hot stuff in this world?"

Xander rolled his eyes, and pushed Spike in that general direction, by way of a shove on the arse. He also whispered, "You know damn well you're hot stuff on any world."

"Be cold on Pluto," Spike whispered back, to show that he watched the Discovery Channel for more than just the wildebeest mating.

"Eww," Xander shot back as they neared the gaggle of vampiric politicians. "You couldn't be cold on Goofy? He's at least vaguely anthropomorphic."

"You're perverted," Spike declared. He grinned as a well-dressed fellow who was obviously the Honorable Something of Something looked sharply at them, then began walking over.

"Spike, old boy. So...pleased...that you decided to join us."

Spike didn't think he sounded especially pleased, but there was nothing specific that he could point out in the man's demeanor, to prove it. He cocked his head and studied the specimen before him for a second or two. Well-turned out, carefully-coifed brown hair that could give Angel a run for his money in the fussiness department. Neatly trimmed mustache, and a look of cultivated boredom that brought back such a stab of familiarity that Spike wondered, for a moment, if he'd actually known this man -- or rather his counterpart -- when he was alive. After another second, he concluded that he hadn't -- it was just a type. Young, rich, following in Lord Daddy's footsteps, and dreadfully full of himself.

"He even dressed up for the occasion -- we *are* honoured," said another vampire, coming up behind the first. The newcomer was cut from the same cloth, though he had blond hair and a nasty overbite in his human teeth.

Spike glanced down at his own clothes, which were on the plain side of respectable, since tonight was all about showing Xander off to the world, from a safe distance. Not as fancy as these toffs were dressed, for certain, but as far as he could tell, nothing was torn, stained, or purple.

"I told'ja you didn't need the cock ring," Xander said, and Spike grinned as the two pompous arses looked surprised.

The two Lords looked at Xander, then each other, with obvious uncertainty. Spike felt no need to explain who Xander was, nor even offer lies. He enjoyed needling these types of blokes. When he'd known them before, he hadn't been able to without getting tossed in the mud. Once he'd become a vampire, they'd become his food, and his toys. Now... Xander slipped his arm in Spike's, and leaned against him a little.

The two Lords looked even more surprised. "I didn't know you'd taken to..." the second one started, then apparently changed his mind about whatever he was going to say. After a pause, he said with a sneer, "Keeping human pets." He still looked somewhat confused.

"Pet. Singular," Spike replied, holding back the growl. He felt Xander's hand tighten on his, briefly. The two Lords gave Xander the once-over, long, measuring looks. The first gave a half-shrug and said nothing. "That's me," Xander confirmed. "I'm cheap to feed, and litter trained, and I don't even hump the neighbors' legs, unless I'm asked politely."

Spike didn't bother to hold back his chuckle, at that. Though he did point out, "You're not cheap to feed. You eat more than any human I know except Cordelia -- and she doesn't count, 'cos I swear she has some sort of dimensional gateway in her stomach, to eat like that and never gain a bloody pound."

"I think she just sold her soul to the Tae-Bo guy, actually," Xander told him.

"An American pet?" The second Lord finally said, still sounding a bit bewildered. "Don't they have a six-month quarantine?"

Spike was about to say something witty about Xander having been immunized against catching most of the nasty English bugs going round, like pomposity and general berkishness, when the first man answered.

"I expect such considerations are waived, for members of certain families." Oddly, his voice held a note of warning in it, as if he was hinting to his comrade that he should tone down the snobbery. Just who was Spike supposed to be in this world, then? Somebody they looked down on and feared, at the same time?

"Of course," the second vampire was muttering, and he edged away, as if he'd like to leave if they would just take their attention off him for a moment. Spike was tempted to do exactly the opposite. And Spike was so bad at resisting temptation....

"Is there something wrong with that?" he asked, his question in response to the first Lord, but he looked at the second as he spoke. "What's the point of having power, if you can't be comfortable?" Although he did wonder what sort of power he had. Or perhaps, what power his family had. Who held the power? Angelus? Angel? Had they even made that bloody awful trip to Romania in this universe, or decided to holiday in Italy, like Drusilla had wanted?

Spike was momentarily mind-blipped at the thought, so it startled him a bit when he heard the second Lord answer, "There's nothing wrong with comfort. But what's the point of power, if you can't do something with it?"

"Darcy, really," the other vampire said, the 'hush up' apparent in his tone.

"No, I think it's a fair question. We're trying to run a country here. Maybe we're fools, to think that vampires could ever be loyal to anything but their own appetites, but we've done something, in the last century. Kept alive some sort of loyalty to queen and kingdom, and created a society that works, out of a bloodsoaked mess..." Here, the blond, buck-toothed vamp stopped, as if he'd suddenly realized he might've gone too far, and looked at the ground.

Spike, for one, was less offended than curious, and as always, eager to poke at any apparent hornets' nest to see what came buzzing out. "I like a good bloodsoaked mess," he said, keeping his tone neutral. "But do go on." Next to him, he could feel Xander gearing up to give him the head-whapping of a lifetime, if he got them into more trouble than they could handle.

The mustached vampire Lord looked torn between apologizing for his friend's apparent rudeness, and sneering at Spike himself. "I think perhaps we shouldn't. They're about to open session again, after all."

"No, really, it's fascinating -- " Spike was about to needle the pair again, when he felt a sharp pain in his left foot -- caused by Xander stepping hard on his toe. He glanced at his husband, to find the 'we are not amused' look plastered all over Xander's face.

"Maybe we should just find a seat and watch, Spike?"

Darcy snickered. When Spike gave him the raised eyebrow, he stammered, "Surely you wouldn't...allow a human to observe? The safest spot for him would be on the top of the Careo building with a spyglass." It sounded as though he thought there was such a thing as taking power and privilege too far, and Spike thought about just how bloody politics could be. Perhaps it would be a better idea to observe the session from half a mile away.

He also thought about finding out just how much power he had around here.... Could he declare that he and Xander were going to watch, right here, and there was damn all they could do about it to stop them? Let the Lords decide if it was worth antagonizing...whoever they were afraid of, by not keeping the fight out of Spike and Xander's way? It might be fun to find out.

There went that sharp pain in his toe again. "It isn't like anyone would hurt *you*," Spike reassured his husband. "Give you a sharp stake and a spot on the grass over there, you'll be fine." He grinned, though he knew he wouldn't *really* do it. Maybe. It would be fun, though.

Xander was still being not amused. The first Lord suddenly gasped. "I don't believe it," he muttered.

Spike turned back to him. "Don't believe what?"

"Are you seriously asking your pet for *permission* to attend the session? My god, you are. What sort of sick--"

Spike was growling game-faced at him before he got the chance to finish the question. Xander's hand on his arm was the only thing that stopped Spike from being up in the other vampire's face, and possibly ripping it off. "Spike, calm down. We're las touristas, remember? You really want Angel to have to come bail us out in another *dimension* ? He was pissed off enough when he had to drive to Fresno."

"In another dimension?" Darcy repeated slowly.

"With voyeuristic intention," Xander replied, grinning. He yanked back on Spike's coat collar at the same time, pulling him yet further away from what would've been a really satisfying throwdown, for what-- an impromptu midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Show? A brief image of Giles in fishnets flashed before Spike's eyes, and he couldn't hold his gameface and stifle the giggles at the same time. Dammit! He *used* to be a badass vamp...

The dark-haired vampire was gamefaced as well, but was looking confused. Darcy, though, was tapping him on the shoulder. "Fairfax... I think I understand."

"Wonderful. The world shall continue to spin on its axis because Jeremy Darcy understands. What, precisely, do you understand?" Fairfax asked huffily.

"That he's not your Spike," Xander explained, his hand never loosening its grip on Spike's collar. "He's my Spike."

Fairfax still looked confused, and now a bit disgusted, which had Spike ready to try another break for his throat. Darcy turned to his friend. "They're tourists. *Offworld* tourists."

Fairfax' expression changed instantly to one of comprehension. Spike found he was a bit disappointed -- apparently he wasn't all *that* not evil. A good fight would be just the thing...since he wasn't getting shagged properly. Fairfax was saying, "You're...remarkable. Truly...you resemble our Master Spike...quite...." He looked Spike up and down, again. "Physically, at least," he added, in a somewhat doubtful tone.

Darcy, however, just laughed and held out a hand. "I'm Jeremy; this old grouch is Percival Fairfax. Pleasure to make your acquaintances."

There was only the barest hesitation before he added the plural 's', so Spike didn't growl too loudly as he accepted the bloke's hand. Xander shook hands, grinning but not apparently ready to slap them on the back and ask for the nearest pub.

"So...astounding," Fairfax was still talking to himself. "Vampires and humans co-exist in harmony in your dimension, as well? If you would...how does your government rule? Can we--" He stopped, as Xander failed to hold back his snickering.

"Sort of a rare thing, this is," Spike indicated himself and Xander. "Mostly the humans don't really know we're about."

"And those that do, tend to use sharp, wooden 'vamp-be-gone'," Xander added. "Not many of us... Well, ok, all of *my* friends are sleeping with vampires." He got a thoughtful look on his face. "You think it's me?"

"Eh?" Spike said. "Is it time for you to take your medication again?" Said medication being a right proper shagging, of course.

Xander rolled his eyes. "Do you think I cause all my friends to want to sleep with vampires?"

"No, don't be silly. If anything, *I* would cause all your friends to want to sleep with vampires. 'Sides, Willow doesn't sleep with vamps."

"Werewolf, though. And married a witch. Still evidence of me being a weirdness-magnet."

"What about Rupert, then?"

"Slept with Ethan?"

"Right, I withdraw the example, since I'm still not sure *what* the fuck Ethan is, besides scary." Spike thought hard. "Aha! Cordelia!" Xander just gave him an arch look. "No. Who the hell..."

"I promised I'd never tell."

Fairfax and Darcy were looking more and more mind-blown, which amused Spike no end. Amused the part of Spike that wasn't busy trying to figure out which vampire Cordelia had slept with. Surely not the Poof? The only other option was Harmony. Which, all right, wasn't...that.... Spike shook his head.

"You're just saying that to make me need to wash my brain out. With lye." Spike shuddered. Lord Fairfax looked as though he wished to interrupt the conversation. "Yes?" Spike asked, not entirely sure it would be more amusing than verbal-free-for-all with Xander.

"Humans are more...plentiful, in your home dimension?"

Spike and Xander nodded. "Dominant species, that's us!" Xander said proudly, then whapped Spike on the butt when Spike scowled at him for telling falsehoods.

"Then...he is *your* pet?" Fairfax pointed to Spike, then to Xander.

Spike tried scowling again, but didn't get his mouth open before Xander said, "He's really good at keeping the video cabinet dusted. Not so good with the dishes."

"I am *not*--" Spike stopped as Xander turned to him and mouthed 'velvet.' "Right. I am. Know where we can buy those blue collars?"

There was a moment of even greater confusion on the two Lords' faces, then Jeremy not-so-discreetly sniffed the air. He grinned, somewhat leeringly. "Imagine. Angelus' boy is--" He stopped, because even though he didn't need air to breathe, he did need it to speak, and Spike's hand was cutting off all air circulation.

"I'd think very carefully before you finish that sentence," Spike said. Dangerously polite, and as cultured as he never let himself sound unless he was either extremely drunk or feeling particularly ancient. Or impersonating Wesley on the phone while ordering rental-porn DVD's with the Angel Investigations credit card number.

Spike noted that Xander wasn't holding him back anymore. In fact, Xander was standing with his arms crossed, smiling almost as politely as Spike had been speaking. Bloody hell, *that* was a scary look.

"He doesn't like it when people insult Angel." Xander paused. "Except for himself. And me. And Wesley. And Gunn. And Buffy. And Cordelia, and..."

"There's a limited list," Spike agreed, not loosening his grip on sniffy-boy's collar. "You're not on it."

"It's a short, but exclusive list," Xander said. "You can petition to get on it, but I don't think you'd pass the exam."

Darcy was waving his hands, now -- he'd have been passed out by now if he'd been human -- and Spike finally loosened his grip. A bit. "I'm sorry. I was just--" He gulped. "I'm sorry, Master Spike. It won't happen again."

"Thought it wouldn't." Spike grinned, and let his hand drop.

"Ambercrombie's," Fairfax said, eyeing his companion with a resigned air, as if Darcy was forever getting himself nearly dusted. "Ask for Mr. Martin. As for watching the session," he continued, glancing over at the Lords who had nearly all gathered. The volume level was slowly rising, and Spike could hear snatches of legal by-play. "I really do suggest the rooftop of the Careo Building."

Spike shot a glance across the street to said rooftop, which looked like it was probably covered in pigeon droppings, and made a face in Xander's general direction. Xander grinned, and said, "Or maybe we'll just try Ambercrombie's. They do custom fitted collars, I assume?"

"Of course," Fairfax assured them. "Though you might want to make it clear up front that you...er..."

"Want matching collars?" Xander supplied. Spike was too busy thinking about himself and Xander in matching velvet collars -- and nothing else -- to wonder if he should be growling at Lord Foot-In-Mouth again. It occurred to him that, while he mightn't be happy about Angel -- even this world's Angel -- being insulted in front of him, or happy about his own manhood being called into question, did he give a toss about his counterpart's reputation?Spike hid a grin, and arranged his face into Pout Number 1.25. "I want a matching cock ring. Can I have a matching cock ring, Xan? Pleeeeese? Pleeeeeese?"

Xander gave him a quick glance to see if he was really serious, then hid his own grin, just as fast. Spike saw it dancing in his eyes, though. "What did I tell you about whining at me, Spike? Do you *want* me to spank you in public?"

"Um, yes?"

"We'll disrupt the Lords' session," Xander countered.

Spike glanced towards the vampires, now quietly debating some issue or another. It was difficult to tell which issue, between the insults and wordless growls. "I doubt it. Could probably drop my trou right here, and-- but of course I won't," he finished, before Xander could complete the motion he'd begun.

"Actually, I imagine you're correct," Darcy said. "We're debating water rights in the lowlands, and whether or not it's worth going to war with the damned Scots over. No one will notice a thing."

Spike grinned at Xander.

"No. No, no, and again -- no. Do you know why, Mr. Harris?"

*This* was a trick question. He knew it. Trouble was, he didn't know the proper answer. "Because there's no lube handy?" he ventured.

Whap. "Incorrect. Would you like to try again?"

Spike pondered. "Because people might think I'm the local version and he'd get a reputation as a masochistic little wanker, which frankly sounds as if it might be a step up from what they currently think of him?"

Whap. "No. Last chance, for the washer, dryer, and all-expenses-paid trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania, with Cheryl, our lovely spokesmodel?"

Spike resisted the urge to look around for Cheryl, since he knew it would only get him whapped again, which wasn't a bad thing, but not as good as getting spanked. "Er... because you can't spank me without fucking me, and you're still too goody-goody to fuck me in public?"

Whap. Spike narrowed his eyes. "Hey, what was that for? I know I was right."

"That was the consolation prize, since Cheryl took off with the washer and dryer while you were busy standing there with glazed eyes for five minutes, imagining me fucking you in public."

Spike looked around to see that indeed, time appeared to have passed while his brain was giving him a visual background to go with his third and final guess. Darcy and Fairfax, for instance, had wandered off towards the other Lords, though they were both shooting dubious glances back towards Spike and Xander.

"Er, so, you wanna head over behind those trees, then?" he asked, still feeling a bit dazed.

Xander grabbed him by the lapels, and hauled him forward -- easy enough to do when Spike wasn't resisting in the least. There was a moment when they were nose to nose, and Xander was giving him one of those Looks. Then Xander kissed him.

When he let go of Spike, he said, "Come on, let's go find Ambercrombie's."

"Wow." Xander tried not to rubberneck -- the phrase probably didn't mean what it meant back home, anyway. Vampires, necks, rubber... It made him think of vampiric condoms, which would be about as useful as turn signals on Anya's car. Still, this place was impressive.

"Yeah, it's big, it's overpriced, it's fancy. Come on!" Spike tried to plow through the crowd, away from the entrance to Ambercrombie's, probably intending to head directly for the collar section. He got about one foot from Xander's side.

Xander smirked. "They're having a sale. You're never gonna make it if you try going through the women's departments."

Spike grumbled as they scanned the crowd for a likely path. "Worse than shopping with Cordelia, this is."

Xander frowned at him, then pointed at an apparently unpopular aisle of women's blouses. "It looks like we might be able to get to the men's section through there." Spike immediately took off, dragging Xander behind him. Xander wasn't sure which he should protest first -- being yanked along like a kid on one of those spiral leash things, or being told he shopped like a girl. "Look, just because I stopped to look at that rack of ties inside the door...""Boring. Dress-up clothes. Girl-stuff." Spike looked back at him with a little sniff. "S'pose I should feel lucky you didn't ask me to hold your purse."

Xander rolled his eyes. "You expect me to believe Cordy trusts you with her purse? I think not. Anyway, I was thinking of buying four of those ties."

Spike yanked him a bit further down the aisle, then looked up curiously. That is, he looked up and feigned complete lack of interest, but Xander knew better. "Why four?" he asked, as if the answer would have as much value to him as Angel's explanation of why they shouldn't steal Gunn's truck to go offroading.

"One for each poster of the bed," Xander explained. When Spike's eyebrow began to raise, he added the finishing touch. "They're silk." See, now that was a much better expression. Utterly dumbfangled. Xander grinned and pushed his husband out the end of the aisle -- straight into the women's underwear section.

There he stopped, and felt his face take on an expression much like the one that had been on Spike's. Had been, because now Spike was chortling. "What's the matter, never seen unmentionables, before?"

Xander ignored him, and moved closer to the display of what he realized were corsets. He hesitated to actually touch one, but he found it impossible to believe... "Women actually *wear* these? Are we in the leather, bones, and bondage department?"

"No, dearie, the bondage department is upstairs," said a matronly woman who was passing by, wearing a nametag. She was giving him the same appraising look every vampire in this dimension had given him -- only this time he felt like she was only measuring him for how much commission she'd get if she were nice to him.

"We're just trying to get to the men's department," Xander stammered. He had a horrible feeling she was going to escort them...then *assist* them in trying things on. Hadn't Fairfax recommended a *man* at least, to help them? It was bad enough when female clerks tried to help him buy his underwear. He needed one who reminded him of Willow's mom, helping him buy a velvet collar?

She smiled kindly. "Are you sure you don't want a corset? They're on sale, and I'd be happy to help fit you for one. That model, for instance, is very popular." She pointed to one that had more laces and straps and things Xander couldn't even identify hanging off it than... than anything he'd ever seen in Morrie's. If there'd ever been any doubt in her mind that Xander was human, he was sure there wasn't any now. Shopping and gossiping vamps as far as twenty feet away were glancing over at him -- to see what had caused the sudden rush of blood to one part of his body, Xander assumed. And it wasn't even one of the parts he *liked* having blood collect in.

It didn't help remotely that Spike was looking him up and down, an appraising glint in his eye. "No," Xander said firmly.

"You don't have to be shy, young man. All sorts of people shop in this department, you know. I sold one of these to Oscar Wilde, just last week." When her dimples flashed, she looked less like Willow's mother, and more like Xander's own grandmother, which was not conducive to getting actual words to emerge from his mouth.

Spike, however, came to his rescue, in his own psychotic way. "Oh. Forget it, then. Don't want one." At the saleswoman's look of mild surprise -- she'd obviously noticed Spike's leering appraisal; hell, she'd have to have been blind to miss it -- Spike made a face. "Don't want my pet in anything that great pansy'd wear, do I."

The woman made an obvious mental back-pedal, and Xander took the opportunity to move a few more feet *away* from the corset and towards what he hoped was the men's department. Or shoes. He could deal with shoes.

"Perhaps you'd like to see this style?" she said, and Xander realized she'd turned her attention to Spike. Xander was torn -- go back and rescue his husband, before said dead man bought a corset for Xander, thereby forcing Xander to become a widower on his honeymoon? Or keep going, and pretend he didn't know Spike and didn't know who he was buying presents for.

Or he could veer into the belts and buckles department, which he could now see around the display of black lace and scary things. He left Spike to fend for himself -- who had the wallet here, anyway, smart guy? -- and went to look at the belts. Possibly nicer than ties...not that they couldn't get both. They did have a credit card verified for use in this dimension, after all, even if Spike didn't know anything about it.

Eventually, Spike showed up at his side -- with a shopping basket on one arm, something black and suspiciously corsetlike nestled in the bottom. Xander gave him a Look. "If you even think I'm gonna wear that..."

Spike gave him a Look right back. "Who said it's for you?"

When Spike finished rubbing his head and was about to launch into some pouting complaint about having been whapped, like they both didn't know he got off on it, Xander cut him off. "Who are you buying underwear for, Spike?" He tried to sound as jealous as possible, though anybody for whom Spike was likely to buy something like that would either give Xander hours of amusement as he watched them take their revenge, or they'd accept it graciously, and he and Spike could have hours of amusement imagining them wearing it. No real way to lose -- so the jealousy was just to make Spike wonder if he really was."Not gonna tell you, now." Spike stuck out his tongue.

Xander peeked into the basket -- not like he was gonna actually *touch* the thing -- and studied the garment. Black, black and black, with blood red satin laces. He frowned suspiciously at Spike. Then he felt the blood rushing to that other place, the one he liked much more than his own face, as a thought entered his head. The thought looked around, found no company to speak of, and proceeded to set up housekeeping, scrawling pictures of Spike and corsets on the walls of Xander's eyes by way of decoration. "Uh..."

"I figure we can have our own little private screening after we get home," Spike purred. "I'll pick up some fishnets, and some rice we can throw at the screen, and we'll have to clear a space on the living room floor so there's room to do the Time Warp..."

There were fingers snapping in front of Xander's face. He blinked, which cleared at least some of the crayola illustrations from his vision. "Huh?"

"You can be Brad, if y'like..."

Xander tried to remember who Brad was. "Bibble?"

Spike nodded, a serious expression on his face. "You can be Bibble, if you like."

Somehow, Xander managed to get the image out of the front of his brain, and packed near the back with all the others. Two brain cells fired up, and he frowned at Spike. "You're going *right* to the collar department--" which made the image come back, full force, only this time Spike was wearing the corset *and* the collar.

Xander felt his brain melting, and dripping out of his ears. He whimpered. How was this fair? He'd only wanted to enjoy his honeymoon, and here he was in public, totally unable to make Spike look like he did in Xander's head, singing and swaying his hips.

"Xander?" Spike's tone was that usually reserved for those conversations that began 'Did you get another concussion?'

Xander replied by slipping his hand into Spike's free hand, weaving their fingers together, and deciding that Spike, who apparently was capable of speech and therefore thought, could be in charge. Spike could lead him around, and Xander would just be brain-dead.

"Were you gonna buy that belt?" Spike asked, pointing at the one Xander had been fingering when he walked up. Xander managed to nod and make a sound composed almost entirely of consonants. Spike wrapped Xander's free hand around the basket handle, then dropped the belt in.

"No speaking Welsh on our honeymoon," he added sternly before he dragged Xander towards the men's counter at the back.

In the collar section, a youngish-looking guy in shirtsleeves and suspenders with garters around both of his upper arms gave them a polite smile. "Are you being served, sirs?" Xander knew there was supposed to be something funny about that, but his brain wasn't firing rapidly enough for him to remember what.

"Yeah, we'd like to see Mr.... " Spike turned to him. "Xan?"

"Guh?"

"Wotsisface? What's the bloke's name that Fairfax said we should see?"

Something kicked in on instinct in Xander's head, and he felt his mouth slowly forming words. "No, What's the third baseman. Fairfax said we should see Mr. Martin."

"Mr. Martin?" The gentleman's eyebrows rose rapidly, then his face became composed once more. "Of course, sirs. Right this way, please."

Xander let Spike lead, again, trailing along behind as though they were here to get only *him* fitted for a collar. His mutinous brain tried to predict what it would feel like to have a bit of velvet wrapped around his throat, which would then be caressed by Spike's long fingers....

"Watch it!" Spike's sharp tone broke through his reverie, and Xander looked around to find himself walking over the foot of a rack. "Best sit you down in a chair someplace, hadn't I?"

Xander nodded, and Spike looked around, then guided him over to a large, well-stuffed chair sitting beside a display rack of collars. Not just velvet -- there were leather collars, and silk collars, and metal collars, and collars made of things he didn't want to look more closely at. Spike set the basket at Xander's feet, and went to peruse the selections.

He looked quite serious, frowning at one collar, nodding slightly at another. Xander hadn't seen him take a shopping excursion so seriously since they'd gone to pick out wedding rings. Spike looked over at him, sharply. "Xan?"

"Glurble?" he repeated.

"You still with us?"

Xander nodded. "Uh-hunmmmm. With us. Yes."

Somewhere deep in his head, the little guy who paid attention to such things was burying his tiny head in his tiny hands and bewailing the fact that Xander's next line was probably going to be "Tell me about the rabbits, George." Xander blinked. Did he actually care, when the little guy who was holding the crayon had slithered to the front of his head again, and was drawing pictures of Spike wearing that fake barbed-wire collar that was hanging just above his head? At least, Xander hoped it was fake.

"Xan, watch my lips. Do you want me to get a blue one or a red one?" Spike was pointing to his own neck, where Xander obediently looked. He was also enunciating each word slowly and clearly, rather like he was Angel, telling them again why they shouldn't steal Gunn's truck.

"Yes." He tried to figure out why this answer, which he thought was a good one, made Spike look at him funny. There was a scrap of velvet cloth around Spike's neck, and Xander could see the plush, all laying down flat and begging someone to brush it back the other way. Xander reached out and did so, the deep, soft fabric barely catching on the ridges of his fingertips.

"Gaaaaaah," Spike breathed. Xander brought his hand back, and Spike stood there, blinking for a moment. Then he straightened up and turned to someone else. "This one."

Looking over, Xander found they'd been joined by another employee of the store, a man dressed in snazzier clothes than anyone else Xander had seen here, yet. He wasn't wearing a nametag, but he nodded at Spike's direction and moved forward to take the velvet collar. "If sir will allow me to take a measurement, we will have one made up for his Lordship by this evening."

"You're taking it off?" Xander protested, as he saw the man's hands going to his husband's neck.

The man -- Mr. Martin, he presumed -- paused, but only said in a calm tone, "This is the floor model."

"Um, yeah? It fits?" Xander looked at Spike.

The gentleman gaped for a moment, and Xander worried that he was going to swallow his tongue. Finally, he said, "Off the rack?" as if he'd found Spike and Xander tracking demon bantha poo into the dressing room.

Spike just gave him a look. "Yeah, off the rack. He can put me on the rack later, if he likes. Now -- you got one for him? Maybe an inch longer, midnight blue, yea wide..." As Spike described the collar with his fingers, it occurred to Xander that he hadn't even registered the color of Spike's, which was a carmine red that just matched the laces on that thing in the basket that Xander wasn't going to look at or name, even mentally, lest he have to reboot his brain yet again. He was having a hard enough time as it was -- red was definitely Spike's color; blue would just confuse the natives, anyway.

Mr. Martin knelt down, staring at Xander's neck as he reached for the gold-tipped tape measure that he was wearing around his own. After a second, Xander heard a familiar sound -- the building of a growl, low in Spike's throat. "I need to measure him for the collar, sir," Mr. Martin said calmly. Very calmly, for a man with Spike's hand wrapped tightly around the place where his tape measure used to be.

"Then do it," Spike told him, not relaxing his grip.

As the salesman -- or store manager, or whatever he was -- leaned over and brought the tape up to wrap around Xander's neck, nowhere near as tightly as Spike was holding on, Xander blinked. It suddenly dawned on him that this was a vampire with his face within inches of Xander's throat. A not-Spike, not-Angel, not Dru-the-fish-Auntie vampire.

He focused on the grip Spike had on the gentleman vampire's neck. Looked like a nice, solid, grip. Said gentleman moved away a moment later and nodded, still poised and acting as though nothing untoward had occurred. Nothing had, except Xander was surrounded by people who wanted to nibble on him, and he was buying an accessory which would tell them all that only one vampire was so allowed.

"When I was fourteen, the weirdest part of my life was math class, and Dana Miller's short skirts."

Spike blinked, almost completely hiding the worried, bite anyone who comes near you look in his eyes. "What's so weird about a bird wearing a short skirt?"

Xander shook his head. "Dana was a guy."

Spike appeared to consider this revelation for a moment, before asking, "And you chose to share this with me because? Or, er, did you want me to buy a skirt, as well as the corset? Perfectly happy to -- god knows I've got the legs for it."

"No. Um... no. I don't think so. Ask me again later. I meant..." Xander wasn't quite sure what he meant, just that he was looking at Spike with an expression of bewilderment and general confusion that he hadn't felt on his face since the day he'd been standing in the library, where the books live, and had overheard Giles giving Buffy the first of a billion Chosen One speeches.

He'd lived every day with weirder than Dana Miller's skirts, since that afternoon in the library. Gone from finding out vampires were real to helping kill them, to falling in love with one and trying to teach him how to do dishes when they got dirty so they didn't build up in the sink until you ran out of clean forks and the takeout people wouldn't deliver anymore because they were afraid of the sounds coming from your kitchen.

He was also back to speaking Welsh, apparently, because nothing with an identifiable vowel sound was coming out of his mouth. Xander looked up at Spike, to find that there suddenly wasn't very much up to look, as Spike sank to his knees in front of the chair. A long, slim finger reached out and touched Xander's face. "Hey," Spike said softly.

"Grr?" Xander replied. Spike grinned, briefly, before leaning close enough that Xander could see every speck of blue in his eyes. Then he could feel cool, soft lips pressing against his, and for a moment that touch was the only thing he could feel at all.

"Love you," Spike whispered, though he needn't have bothered. Mr. Measuring Tape sniffled, and looked like he wanted to get a tub of frozen chocolate and blood flavoured ice cream. That thought, oddly enough, didn't distract Xander in the least from the man kneeling in front of him, looking up at him with eyes now flecked with as much gold, as blue.

Except for the part where the first attendent-vampire was saying to the second, "Isn't that the most marvelous thing? I couldn't imagine at first why they were *both* getting collars, but, it's just so wonderful. I think I'm going to cry!"

"Your name wouldn't happen to be Mr. Humphries, would it?" Xander asked without looking away from Spike.

"No, it's Spike William Abelard Bloody Harris Wyndham-Pryce Gunn Chase Summers Rosenberg Jones Giles. The first," Spike answered.

"You're planning on there being more of you, not that I was talking to you?" Xander replied.

"I was thinking we could get Gomer to name one of the fry after me," Spike told him, looking as serious as he ever did when they were talking not-pregnant-but-possibly-egg-laying kids who had gotten them into this marriage thing in the first place.

Xander leaned forward and pressed his lips to Spike's, since there wasn't anything he could say that could possibly top the silliness of that remark. The gonna-cry-guy was making awww noises.

Xander looked over, and gave them a smile. "So when will these be ready?"

Mr. Martin showed no signs of having been watching, as he said, "Our tailor shall begin work right away, sirs, and you'll be able to pick them up within the hour. The red collar, of course, will require only a slight adjustment."

Xander was mildly surprised at the short amount of time -- but then again, how hard could it be to cut and hem a piece of velvet? He started to nod, when he realized this meant he and Spike would have to amuse themselves for an hour. At Ambercrombie's. With a credit card billed to home.

"Do you need us here?" he asked, not really knowing what was involved with tailor-made collars. Despite the weird turns his life had taken since he was...three, actually, the first time things started to get bizarre...Xander didn't have much experience with velvet collars and the fitting thereof.

"You're welcome to shop, of course, sirs. We'll need to check the fit of the collars once they're finished."

Xander stood up slowly, though he was reasonably sure he wasn't likely to collapse from the overwhelming must-shag-him-now-ness of the whole thing, anymore. Mr. Martin was re-hanging his tape measure, and looked like he was about to head for the back rooms behind the counter, so Xander, without even thinking, reached out and tapped him on the arm.

Hello, tapping bad-and-unchipped vampire on the arm, his mind tried to tell him. But it was a feeble protest, much like when he was lying in bed in the morning and Spike was tangled up with him until he didn't know whose arms and legs were whose, and his mind was saying 'Work? Don't you need to get up and...' Like it hadn't learned already that no, as a matter of fact, he didn't, not if he didn't want to.

Xander smiled when he realized that at least his forebrain had finally realized -- I'm with Spike, and he won't let anything bad happen to me.

So the dangerous vampire turned to look at him like any employee in a high-class department store once he'd established that, insane or not, Xander and Spike did possess a valid credit card, and said, "Yes, sir?"

"Which way to the postcard section?"

Mr. Martin pointed, and Xander dragged Spike off, this time. "Postcards?" Spike was protesting. "How touristy can you get, Xan?"

"Carla made me promise to send some back to the office. You think I'm gonna argue with her? Now behave," he ordered in his best 'I own this company and you *will* do as I say' voice, which he'd never dare use it on Carla, "or I'll mail you back by Federal Express, and you can explain it to her personally."

He waited for a snarky response from his glurble, but none came. Instead, Xander was getting looked at. He knew this look. Finally Spike said, "Do that again."

Xander rolled his eyes. "I'll talk dirty to you later, back at the hotel. Remember me saying 'Not in public'? I still mean it."

"Xaaaan," his big bad vampire whined. Then Spike looked cute at him. Xander rolled his eyes.

Then he grinned. In his best commanding tone, he said, "Spike, I want you to shop for stationary with me."

Spike blinked, then shook his head. "Naw, not quite right. It's more of the 'I'm not ordering you, I just expect it to be done' tone. Like when you tell Carla that you expect the proofs to be on your desk by Monday -- right before she laughs at you."

"You're critiquing my style?" Xander put an extra note of shock in his tone, noting that Mr. Aren't They Sweet was watching, again.

"Er... If I am, will you..."

"No."

Pout Number 1.25 again, second time today, and Xander firmly shook his head. "No. No and no. You can give me that look all night -- you can even try Number One on me, and the answer's still the same: no. Not until we get back to the hotel." When Spike reacted by slipping into something that really *was* dangerously close to Pout Number One, Xander gave him the sternest look possible, and added, "Do you understand me, young man?" He added a raised eyebrow, to complete the effect.Spike merely took his hand, and led him towards the stationary section. The pout had been replaced by a truly shit-eating grin, however.

The little guy with the crayon in Xander's head was *writing* on the walls now, and Xander could read it, if he shut his eyes. It said "You not only have to wait around here for an hour before you can get those collars and take Spike back and shag him sillier, but you have to play the Dominant One for that hour, without turning Spike on so much he forces you to drag him kicking and screaming into a fitting room." Some people would have pointed out that there was a contradiction in terms somewhere in there, but those people didn't know Spike, and they certainly weren't married to him.


Xander grinned as he flipped though his new collection of semi-naked vampire postcards -- though why he was getting turned on by something he saw every day, both at home and at work, he wasn't sure; maybe it was the Victorian underwear.

"Oi, look at this one!"

He turned his attention to the items on the shelf that Spike was now pointing at. "What are... where are we?" He looked around, realizing that in his contemplation of Victorian underwear, which had led him back to thinking about Spike in that corset, he'd missed noticing which section of the store they'd headed for after they'd left the stationary area. "Spike? Tell me these are not sex toys."

"Why not? Bet we could use 'em to enhance our sex life."

Xander laughed. "Like we *need* any enhancing." And wasn't this the perfect way to avoid having sex in public, or even semi-public? Talk about it until they couldn't help themselves?

Spike was grinning at him, though, and Xander had to stop worrying about public indecency and how much the batter beater he was holding up might hurt, in order to enjoy the look of sheer blissful perversion on Spike's face. Xander could feel himself slipping into the brain-dead zone, but he couldn't help himself. Spike just looked so...happy. It made Xander want to kiss him--

"Stop it!" Xander scowled at him. "Why can't you be annoying, or something?" There was a time when Xander would have shot himself for even thinking those words, much less uttering them. He missed the good ole days, when Spike was somebody he could threaten, then forget about. For a few minutes. Right? The good ole days when he didn't have to constantly slap Spike's hand before it crept inside Xander's pants, in the middle of a department store filled with vampires.

Of course, Spike had *always* done what he did next -- which was pout when he got told he wasn't being annoying or evil or scary enough to make a little old librarian lady nervous. Granted, Xander didn't used to *know* it was a pout-- he'd once thought it might be a sign that somebody had finally gotten wise and spiked Spike's bloodbags with garlic.

"Can be, if I want." Spike cranked the egg-batter-beater in Xander's face, and as he watched the two metal paddle things whirl around, Xander decided it was one enhancement their sex life could do without.

"Put that down," he ordered.

Spike stuck out his tongue, and clasped the kitchen utensil to his chest. "No. I want it. S'my wedding present."

Xander reached for it, then thought better of that idea. Touching Spike would only make things worse. "First off, Cordelia gave us the food processor from hell, just so you'd stop going down to the kitchen and bugging her when she's trying to make brownies--"

"Won't work," Spike interrupted.

"I know that. Second, I *gave* you your wedding present already. It involved you, me, and the babysitter. Remember?" Yes. Also a bright idea. Remind Spike and himself of *that* little adventure, as a way to take their minds off sex. Why didn't he just drag Spike off someplace, like a fitting room, and *have* sex? Other than the complete mortification that would follow?

Xander shook his head, and felt the guy with the crayon go flying around, losing his grip so that he and the crayon both careened off the walls of Xander's head, and for a moment none of them could remember the question, or the objection thereto. Spike was holding a see-through apron.

Luckily, Spike then ruined the moment by saying, "We should get one of these for Princess."

Xander blinked. "What? Why? I mean, why her? I thought you--" He stopped as Spike gave him a grin that was both knowing, and preening. "Yes, big surprise, I like thinking of you, naked. Why would we give Cordelia a see-through apron? Do we *want* her to cook?"

"What about Angel?"

Xander had to dig around for the hand-crank to his brain. When he got it re-started, he scowled at Spike. "I am not thinking about Angel, naked, while I'm on my honeymoon. Not unless we're playing 'Angel and Wesley' in the privacy of our own hotel suite."

"Eww. That's disgusting," Spike protested loudly, just like he hadn't invented the game.

Xander looked around, but no one in the immediate vicinity seemed to care that his insane glurble was implying that *he* was the perverted one, so he simply shrugged, and picked up another item from the discounted merchandise shelf. "You think Cordelia would like one of *these* ?"

Spike looked at it, widened his eyes, tried not remotely to suppress a grin, then leaned over to whisper into Xander's ear.

"Oh, it is *not*!" Xander studied the item in his hand, and succeeded in not turning the color of a tomato. Mostly. "It's in the kitchen section."

Spike just lifted an eyebrow and said, "Like you can't do that in the kitchen?"

Xander turned the item over, and read the label off -- "Pineapple ring stand, for use as a decorative centerpiece. And you say *I* have a dirty mind?"

The look Spike gave him was reminiscent of the second ever look Spike had given him. It said 'you're a looney.'

"You *have* a dirty mind. S'why I love you, git." Xander whapped him lightly on the back of the head. Spike didn't even blink. Xander put the decorative pineapple ring stand back on the shelf, and picked up another item which he *knew* wasn't a sex toy, even if he had no idea what it really was. "You're going to tell me you don't know that's a nuts-squeezer," Spike said.

This time, Xander whapped Spike with the garlic squeezer, as he'd discovered it was labeled. "Is there *anything* in this store you can't claim is used for sex?"

Spike gave him another 'you're insane, why am I with you?' look, before saying, "Xan, what sort of store do you think we're at?"

"Um, just guessing here, but - department store?"

"That caters to vampires."

"So...you're saying they sell stuff for eating blood, looking mysterious and sexy, and...oh. Oh!" Xander looked around, as he suddenly realized. "We're at Morrie's!" Or, Morrie's if Morrie contracted his clientele to vamps, and expanded his product line to...well...everything. Including tea cosies.

With that in mind, Xander looked around again, and... Spike was right. Yes. Well. *That* was going to be helpful in the whole not-having-sex project. Considering that Morrie's was one of the select list of places in L.A. for which he'd lifted the not-in-public rule, precisely because it was impossible to be around Spike and that many sex toys and not drag him into one of the tryout rooms. This place was like one of *Morrie's* sex fantasies.

Xander blinked. Then he decided that, while normally, imagining the sex fantasies of a human-sized duck was *not* on his to-do list, it was just perfect for the spot he was in right now. Cooled that 'must shag Spike now' fire down to a low smolder. "Neat. Hey, do you think we should bring some stuff back for him?"

Spike looked at him like he was loony, again. Or possibly still. "For Morrie? I'm not buying sex toys for Morrie. That'd be like..."

"Offering him a marketing deal? For a cut of the profit if it catches on in the local vamp community?" Oops. Spike's eyes were doing that contracting-pupils-spinning-in-circles thing. "Stop that!" he commanded. 'You're not helping here,' Xander saw scribbled on the back wall of his skull. Apparently somebody had found his crayon. "Spike, I mean it!"

"But you're being all ruthless. How the hell can I help it if that makes me want to be shagged?"

"Spike, there is no way I am going to have sex with you in this building. Or near it, or anyplace else that isn't our hotel suite. And we are not leaving this building until we have our collars." Because that would do so much for ensuring they made it all the way *to* the hotel without sex, right? Xander sighed. "I mean it, Spike." He knew he wasn't playing fair -- using that tone. The 'I'm not fooling around anymore, this isn't a game' tone.

Right. Glurble. What was the question? Spike was already taking his hand again, and pulling him close for a soft, almost non-sexual kiss. Right when he was about to say something nice and touching, and growly protective, Xander grinned triumphantly. Spike's expression froze, then he glowered. "That's not fair."

"Oh, and you going all growly on me is fair? Think not, bubba. Hands *off*. Where I can see 'em."

Spike slowly raised his hands -- and Xander realized too late that Spike was holding something. It was probably originally meant to be a cooking utensil. But all Xander could think was 'yeah, now *that* would fit'. He thumped himself on the forehead.

"That's not fair either," Spike whined. "No foreplay for me means no foreplay for you."

Xander looked up. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"You don't get to whap yourself on the head, if you won't do it to me."

The temptation was strong, but Xander resisted. Instead, he asked, "You think it's been an hour yet?" Spike made a great show of pulling his pocket watch out of his trousers, and popping open the cover to check the time. Xander knew quite well that he just did it so the little music-box mechanism would start playing 'Black Velvet' and Xander would have to reach over and-- "Spike?"

"Fifteen minutes."

Arrrrgh. "Maybe we should shop in opposite corners of the store."

The look Spike gave him for that was akin to the one he'd received when he'd tried to suggest they go look at the squirrels in the zoo -- the ones that were safe behind glass so they couldn't get him -- in order to desensitize him to that little phobia of his. "Alone?"

"It would be difficult to shop in opposite corners of a store this size and stay together." Spike's mouth quivered, ever so slightly, and slowly Xander saw something he hadn't seen in a very, very long time. It was a new pout. He suspected it was a 'you just married me, and now you want to go more than two yards away from me?' pout. "Otherwise I'm not gonna survive the next forty-five minutes," he tried to explain.

Spike's pout slipped into a more familiar one. "You don't wanna shag me," he complained.

Xander resisted the urge to hit him. "D'uh! What have I been saying? I don't want to shag you. Or be shagged by you. Or grope, or be groped by you. *In* *public*."

"Can we--"

"No."

"What about--""No."

"You're no fun."

Xander rolled his eyes. "Get used to it, pal. Maybe once I get turned I'll lose my mind and my morality enough to not care if people see me getting it on. But right now, I do, I have, and I'm *not*."

Spike didn't say anything for a moment, looking vaguely disquieted. But all he said, was, "Don't you love me, Xander?"

Xander laughed. "You'll have to try harder than that-- no! I didn't mean it. Shit, shit, shit. I'm going to look at shoes."

All Spike had done was waggle his eyebrow. But it was the *way* he waggled his eyebrow. Like eyebrows were independent creatures who only lived on people's faces because it was convenient, and *Spike's* eyebrow was in the mood to get together with Xander's eyebrow and make lots of little eyebrows, so it was doing the Forbidden Dance of the Sacred Eyebrow Mating Ceremony. And it had to be the one with the scar. Asshole.

"Please? I'll be good." Which statement should have had Xander rolling on the floor laughing his ass off, if it weren't delivered in a soft, subdued voice that, while it didn't *really* sound hurt, did almost sound as if Spike meant it.

"Spike, you can't be good. You might not exactly be evil anymore, but good isn't even a remote possibility."

"I can if I want to." Now he sounded more like a grade-schooler than he usually did. Like Xander had just told him he couldn't eat a spoonful of ketchup, grape jelly, sauerkraut and baked beans without throwing up.

"And why would you want to?" Xander retorted, not sure why he was encouraging Spike to misbehave. Masochism? Or was he just *really* that horny? Okay, that second was a distinct possibility. But no matter how horny he was, and no matter how adorable and fuckable and sexy and cute and edible Spike looked, he wasn't...going to.... "Spiiiiiiike."

"What? I wasn't doing anything! Both my hands are right here." He held them up, showing how they weren't touching anything of Xander's.

"Stop lookin' at me."

"Or what? You'll kiss me? Give me the shagging of my unlife?" Spike grinned, apparently thinking he was about to be triumphant in the 'Let's Get Xander' game.

"Or I'll buy this," Xander grabbed the first thing off the shelf that he could reach. "And I'll tell Angel you bought it to use on Gunn."

Spike blinked. He looked at the item in Xander's hand, and blinked again. It was clear he was weighing the pros and cons - getting killed by his Sire, or not getting to have sex with Xander in the middle of Ambercrombie's. "Er...Xander?"

Xander looked down at the item in his hand. Which was an egg-timer. A flat, squat, can't possibly think of anything sexual you could possibly do with this, egg-timer. Spike looked a bit smug, until Xander said, "He'll think you're saying Gunn would only last three minutes."

"Gunn? Naw, I'd clock him at a good hour, at least. We could give that to him and tell him it's to time the Sire, though. *That's* believable."

Xander began to believe he might just *never* get it through Spike's thick skull that public sex anywhere that hadn't been pre-approved wasn't an option. The Hyperion was okay -- it was home. The office was okay; it was his private place. The car was okay, depending on where they were parked, and he truly didn't have a choice about Morrie's. Everywhere else... he had to think about. Spike had known this about Xander since the days when he was dating Anya and pretending he didn't like playing pool with Spike -- but it never stopped him from trying.

Not that Spike was *directly* begging to be shagged right now, but silly, pointless arguments were just as much foreplay as eyebrow-waggling, or butt-pinching, or standing there giving him that perfectly innocent look that Xander kept telling Spike he was incapable of, because if he *knew* he could do it... gah.

This line of reasoning was only going to lead him into trouble -- having sex with Spike, in public. Normally the trick was to get as un-public as he could manage, before dropping his pants. But Xander felt like he should stand firm about getting back to the hotel first. He *didn't* want to have sex at Ambercrombie's, and anyplace outside, like the alleyway, was likely to be inhabited by vampires.

He tried to think of a way to distract Spike again...assuming he'd actually managed to distract him, before now. The problem was, just about anything counted as a prelude to sex. Arguing about who fed the fish last was a prelude to sex. *Feeding* the fish was a prelude to sex. There was just no way Xander was going to be able to say 'no', in a store full of sex toys and egg timers. He glanced up in time to see Spike's grin broaden, like the silly vampire knew Xander had lost the internal war.

Xander sighed. The guy with the crayon in his head was writing 'and why is this a bad thing?' over and over, in purple. Xander blinked. In fact, the kid kinda *did* look like Harold. He shook his head, fast, and thought about ways to use pepper shakers as a marital aid.

That kept him happily confused, and not entirely turned on, long enough for Spike's triumphant grin to turn doubtful. "Xan? You wanna buy the egg timer?" He nodded at the item still in Xander's hand.

"What? No. Um, yes. Give it to Gunn and tell him it's for Angel. Then we run. Or we can mail it to him... *Can* we mail stuff from here?"

Spike shook his head. "Don't think so. Think I remember seeing something about it in the brochures. Y'know, before we did unspeakable things on top of 'em." Hopeful grin again. "If they're unspeakable, why are you speaking about them?" Xander asked, hoping to forestall the apparently inevitable. "And I suppose we can just get Wes to give it to them. He's always looking for an excuse to get in trouble."

While Spike got that hazy undetermined look on his face, wherein he tried to decide whether he was going to try to top Xander's sane human logic with his own insane Spike logic, or pout because Xander hadn't picked up on his oh-so-subtle hint, or just pout because pouting stood a good chance of getting him shagged, Xander was suddenly struck with a thought. He suspected for a second that it might just be crayon-boy throwing his purple crayon at the walls of Xander's skull and giving up in disgust, but no, it was actually a thought. And it didn't even involve nekkidness on the part of himself or Spike. Might even distract Spike, for at least thirty seconds.

"Hey, who do you think won the poll?" he asked Spike, whose expression was still fighting with itself in a disturbing manner. Disturbingly cute, of course.

"Which poll?"

"The 'how long does it take Angel to get off his ass, realize how unbearably cute we are, and ask the zoo crew to marry him so he can try to be as cute as us' poll."

"Dru." Spike didn't even seem to have to think about it.

Xander blinked. "They let her play?"

Spike just shrugged. "You think anyone would say 'no' to her? You've seen her pout, Xan. Even Angelus and Darla went weak in the head when Dru pouted."

"Huh. True. But how do you know she won?"

Spike stared at him, and this time it was the 'you *are* an idiot' look, and not the 'you're insane' look. "You remember Drusilla, don't you? Loony psychic vampire chick? About yea tall? Talks to stars?"

"Spike! Are you saying she cheated-- what am I saying? Of course she cheated. Spike, whap me on the head, will you? Ow. Thanks."

"Does this mean I can shag you now?"

Xander groaned. Harold was scribbling 'told ya so' on his mental walls. "Spike? If I *say* no, what will you do?" Xander knew it was pointless, asking. He knew what Spike would do-- keep trying. But the longer they stood here and talked about having-not-having sex, the closer they got to getting to go try on their collars and go back to the hotel for actual sex. He made a note to himself -- *not* sex in the cab.

"Is this a trick question?" Spike was frowning, now, as though Xander had just over-taxed his reptilian brain.

"Probably. Are you going to answer it?" Was this a conversation? Was Spike actually holding a Victorian butt-plug in his hand, or was Xander just too far gone to be able to figure out what on earth that thing could possibly be used for that *didn't* have a sexual connotation?

Spike tossed the thing up and down in his hand for a moment, plainly enjoying the way Xander's eyes followed it, before finally sighing, setting it on the shelf and saying, "Fine. I'll play fair if you'll play fair."

Xander tore his gaze away from the shelf, and tried to decide whether to laugh or look serious. Spike looked serious, but Spike looking serious almost always lead to something utterly psychotic coming out of his mouth, rather than to him actually *being* serious. Xander settled for vaguely amused but willing to play along, and hoped he didn't come off looking as psychotic as *he* felt at the moment. "Okay, I'll bite. 'Splain this to me, Lucy."

"You tell me up front it's really not gonna happen, and I'll stop tryin' to change your mind. Not so much fun, maybe, but if it's *not* gonna happen, we could always pick out pressies for the gang, instead of wasting our time."

Whoa. Xander felt his eyebrow, the one that had wanted to go off and do the mating dance with Spike's a little while ago, try to crawl up his forehead and hide in his hair, like it was frightened of the strange creature in front of it. Xander knew how it felt. "You would actually stop trying to seduce me?" Which, Okay, wasn't...completely...unheard of. Usually there was bloodshed involved, in the form of a fight to be had. When had Spike ever just taken 'no' for an answer?

Of course, how often had Xander just *given* him 'no' for an answer, rather than play around until he said yes anyway, or got them both so distracted that 'no' wasn't necessary anymore? Xander tried grinning: small, cute, and adorable. Spike sighed and rolled his eyes. "Am I a git, now, Spike?" Xander asked.

"You're *always* a git," Spike said, fondly. "But you're *my* git, and right now I say we git to the cookbook aisle and find something for Peaches."Xander nodded, not even bothering to groan -- he still couldn't think clearly enough to respond to bad puns -- and began to follow Spike out of the dangerous cooking utensil aisle.

An evil thought occurred, which he tried to bat down. Really, sincerely, tried to bat down. Watching Spike precede him down the aisle, humming happily as he lead them off to find something that would make Angel yell at them, yet still look like a thoughtful present, Xander found it difficult to bat it down entirely. Spike's ass had a tendency to make Xander think evil thoughts. It didn't matter if it was covered by a coat; Xander knew what it looked like, underneath the linen.

Now that Spike had agreed to *take* no for an answer...how mean would it be of him, to start flirting?

Xander fought back a giggle. Very. Positively evil. Well, not *too* evil. Mostly not evil. Maybe he needed some practice in mostly-not-evil, though. Seeing as how, at some point, he was going to become a mostly-not-evil vampire. Wasn't like he could just take lessons from all the other souled vamps around. He didn't want to accidentally become a dork, after all, and the only other choice was Harmony, and Xander *already* knew how to be evil better than *she* could.

So he followed Spike to the cookbook section, and looked around for something suitable. Took a whole...oh...twenty-five seconds. "This is a good one," he told Spike. "Cooking with blood. Let's see..." He flipped through the pages at random, looking for a good recipe. "Oo. Yeah. Type A stew. Angel's a Type A if I've ever seen one. You bring the blood to a low simmer, add a pinch of season salt. Hmm." He pursed his lips. "It says you're supposed to serve it warm, on your lover's back. Spoon optional. You pour it into that little dip... Wow. The number of utensils they had back in the other section, you'd think these Victorian guys would be able to come up with a soup bowl, or something." Xander didn't show Spike the front of the book, which actually read 'Erotic Cooking With Blood.'

"We *have* soup bowls," Spike protested. When Xander looked up, raising one eyebrow at him, Spike said, "I mean we did. These blokes might not -- no, there they are. Dining sets with plates, bowls, cups, and eyeball scoops."

"Can I say 'eew' and pretend you didn't just say that?" Talk about spoiling the flirting mood. Probably not for a vampire, granted. But Xander was still human, and didn't plan on changing his mind about the erotic or edible uses of eyeballs. Raw pig, sure. But he'd let Kyle eat the eyes.

"Lemme see that." Spike tried to take the book out of Xander's hands, and Xander pulled the book away casually, while he kept reading, as if he hadn't even seen Spike grab for it.

"Look, here's a recipe for mousse. Blood mousse? Does blood *set* properly? Huh, I guess it does." The recipe only called for enough blood to provide taste, but still.... Xander shook his head. "Leave it to vampires to come up with a blood-related *dessert*."

Spike sniffed. "What, we're not allowed to have dessert, just because we're evil?"

"Yes, Spike. That's sort of the whole point of life. When mothers send their children to bed without their strawberry shortcake because they shaved the cat, it pretty much sets the pattern for everything that follows. Shave the cat, no dessert. Become an evil bloodsucking creature of the night, still no dessert." There seemed to be a lack of accounting for degree of evilness there, so Xander amended himself. "Pardon me -- shave the cat, no dessert. Evil bloodsucking, no dessert *and* you have to stand in the corner."

Spoken with utter innocence, and absolutely no overt recognition of the fact that to Spike, standing in the corner invariably preceded some sort of erotic punishment game followed by much hearty shagging. "You're saying we don't get dessert?" Spike said again, sounding like a four year old who'd shaved every cat in town.

"I'm *saying*...forget it. This book proves that some vampires, at least, get dessert. Maybe it's only for vampires who are good. Or really, really bad." Xander flipped another page, and discovered the chocolate and blood section.

"Um," Spike said, a moment after Xander had quietly read the chapter listing.

Xander read all the way through 'Chocolate, Blood, and Candied Yams' before he looked up. "Yes?"

"Are we getting that book for Angel, or for us?"

"You're saying we can't steal it from him?"

"Right. Do we need any kitchen stuff Angel hasn't got, already?" Spike leaned forward to read over Xander's shoulder. Xander flipped to the 'What You Will Need' preface.

"Spike? Tell me I'm not seeing that."

"Which one? The picture of the whipped blood and cream, or the spice rack?"

"The *eyeball* scoops!"

"Well, I'm sure you don't need 'em for *every* recipe. Anyhow, it can always double as a melon-baller." Spike tugged at the book, but there was no way Xander was letting it out of his hands. "Speaking of which, did you know you can drill a hole..."

Xander rolled his thankfully unscooped and planning to stay that way eyes. "Yes, Spike. I believe you told me that the second time we ever went shopping together. My answer now is the same as it was then -- eww, what a waste of a perfectly good melon, and why would I want to when I have you?"

"You never said that about the cucumbers."

Xander shrugged. "Everybody's got a kink." He looked up from the recipe for Grimm's Black Forest Cake, drizzled with blood and topped with black cherries, to find the expression on Spike's face was the one he'd expected to produce. Disbelief wrestling with Spike's usual reaction to thinking about cucumbers and melons and other fresh vegetables.

"*A* kink?"

"Yup. All my other weird sexual deviancies come from trying to please my own personal weird sexual deviant, a.k.a. you." So did his ability to tell utter bald-headed lies like that one with a straight face, Xander reflected with an internal grin.

Spike looked as if his head were about to explode. "You are *such* a... Right, you mean you can stand there in public with a cookbook in your hand, and honestly tell me that you didn't like having your backside smacked before you ever met me?"

Xander wasn't sure what the cookbook had to do with anything, unless he was supposed to be swearing by it, but he was delighted that Spike had given him an open target, via his phrasing. "Before I met you?" he whispered, leaning close to Spike's ear. "Spike, honey, I was a virgin when I met you."

Yup, there went the pupils, doing the contracting into little black dots thing, as Spike's crayon-guy scribbled words like "deflower" on the walls of *his* skull. Even if he hadn't been there for the actual steering-round-the-curves event, Spike was more than capable of going off into a little mental wonderland of what-if. He'd taken Xander there a few times. It was a really nice place.

Crayon-guy was scribbling really fast in Spike's head now, from the glassy sheen that had appeared in his eyes. If Xander looked deeply into them, he could almost see the little bastard. He had fuzzy blond hair, huge blue eyes, and he was soaking wet. In the hand that wasn't holding the crayon, he had a grape lollipop. Xander groaned, slightly. This was *not* the plan.

Spike's eyes were regaining a little focus. Xander swayed from side to side a few times, until, yep, Spike's eyes were following him. Wondering what the hell he was up to, of course. But tracking, again. "You were *not*," came Spike's retort.

Xander laughed. "I was, so! Would I lie about a thing like that? Geez, Spike, don't you *remember* the first time you fucked me? How--" And he didn't even have to say 'tight I was' because Spike's eyes had gone all golden and unseeing. At least, Xander was pretty sure Spike was seeing something that wasn't in the middle of Ambercrombie's.

He waited, grinning, until Spike's brain finally kicked in, once more. "Er, hang on! That doesn't count -- you weren't a virgin when we started sleeping together -- and I *wasn't* the first one to ever spank you. Or fuck you, thank you very much."

"Doesn't count? Being offered up as a snack doesn't count as a meeting?"

"Er..." Spike's eyes went out of focus, again, and Xander suspected that crayon-guy was writing something like 'Angel *gave* him to me, as a present. He's mine, mine, mine! Can I eat him, huh, can I?' Xander figured that because it was pretty much what Spike said every time he got jazzed up on sugar and blood, and was trying to have sex with Xander on Angel's desk, while Angel was still in his office."And anyway," Xander went on, just as if he had no idea what he was doing, or saying, "Anya fucking me doesn't count. I mean, the spanking counts, I guess, but the dildo doesn't. It has to be the built-in model, before it counts."

Spike blinked. "How romantic -- I was the first person who ever fucked you with something that wasn't attached by straps?"

Xander suspected, but wasn't sure, until he saw the smile spreading across Spike's face. He was serious about the romantic part -- which was why it was both cruel and kind of Xander to look at him just as seriously and say, "Spike, you're the *only* person who's ever fucked me with something that wasn't attached by straps, or not attached at all."

Only in this insane thing that Xander called his life, could that possibly be a romantic enough statement to make Spike kiss him softly in the middle of a vampire department store, with absolutely no attempt to feel him up in the process.

"Oh that's just so *adorable*. Rupert, come over here, you have to see this. The human's got him and me both all misty eyed."

Xander opened his eyes to find Spike looking at him. They both turned their heads -- breaking the kiss only incidentally -- to find a matronly vampiress, and a stodgy vampire, standing at the end of the aisle watching them. The woman looked liked his grandmother had, at the wedding -- about to cry, wringing her hands, and looking around for cake. Of course, hearing the name 'Rupert' had made Xander reflexively start to peel Spike's jacket off just to see how far he could get before Giles yelled 'Stop it!'

Spike seemed to be trying to regain enough composure to growl threateningly, but his hands were entwined with Xander's, and he was moving his mouth back to nibble on Xander's lips as though it was controlled by a mind of its own.

"Marielle, leave those children alone, and come along," stodgy Rupert was saying. Xander felt a Spike-growl pressed against his chest, and knew that Spike wanted to say he wasn't a child -- but doing so meant cutting off the kiss that was rapidly becoming less romantic and more sexy.

Xander leaned back, breaking all contact except for their hands. He found Spike blinking, then Spike focused on Xander and smiled. "Really?"

"Yes, really, doughboy." Xander didn't quite manage to inject the proper amount of casual joking into his voice, but suspected Spike wouldn't mind not being properly teased. "Let's go spend a lot of money, then try on our collars."

"Doughboy?" Instead of responding aloud, Xander poked Spike in the stomach. "Oi! Hey, what was that for?"

"To make you go squeak, like Poppin' Fresh. And don't say it. Just, whatever it is, don't say it." Because the second the words 'Poppin' Fresh' were out of Xander's mouth, Spike had got a calculating look in his eye. Xander hoped -- truly, really hoped -- that whatever was going on in there didn't involve Spike putting on a chef's hat and Buffy's extra puffy work-out suit.

"Did I say anything?" asked suddenly-innocent Spike.

Xander sighed, and guided him vaguely in the direction of the men's counter. Maybe the collars would be finished early?

"Hey, look at this!"

Or maybe he could just let Spike buy anything he wanted, and by the time the collars were done, their arms would be too full to have to worry about feeling each other up. Xander turned to look at what Spike was holding up, wondering if he'd be able to identify it. Or want to.

Spike stood on the narrow pavement and inhaled deeply. The scent was a shock to his enhanced senses, rather like when he and his mother had moved to London in the first place, and it had been all new and strange. An adventure. He snorted. It was a bloody good thing he didn't *have* to inhale now -- this wasn't really the sort of smell he wanted to get used to again. Still, it did bring back memories -- not all of them were good, of course, which was probably why he'd waited several days to get around to showing Xander this part of town.

He pointed to a side street. "That's where I ate Dirk. He was an annoying bloke, used to work for his daddy's firm, acted like it made him all important that his father had bribed the constabulary to let him run a whorehouse out of the warehouse." He found Xander looking at him with that long-familiar expression of doubt. Was Spike joking, or was he serious? Xander didn't seem able to decide which would be scarier; Spike wasn't about to help him. "Oi! And over there, that street? S'where I ate Candice. Now *she* was a tasty treat... Shame, really. I could'a liked her if she hadn't been such a bitch."

"Spike? Are any of these trips down memory lane going to involve something other than people you killed?"

Spike looked over at Xander, suddenly realizing that Xander might not actually be appreciating the stories; despite Spike's domesticated status now, he *had* once helped kill his way across Europe. He recognized the look of resigned amusement, though, and figured he wasn't in any serious trouble.

Not like last night, when Xander had sat in the corner and pouted -- at the *wall* -- for ten minutes before letting Spike make it up to him. Spike really *hadn't* known the chambermaid had slipped into the room to fetch the trays, right when he'd got Xander's trousers where they belonged: around his ankles. Still, might be a good idea to show him that London held something besides memories of people he'd killed, annoying politicians, and high-priced department store/sex shops.

He tried to think of some. There was the tower, of course, if they headed back to the traditionally touristy part of the city. But that was apparently still in use for its original purpose around here -- prison-cum-execution-chamber -- and wasn't open to tourists. Ditto Windsor Castle, and of course, Buckingham Palace.

Not only had the Queen been vamped, so had all of her millions of children, and most of them had stayed in the country instead of being married off and happily spreading hemophilia throughout the crowned families of Europe, so they were all unliving in the royal residences. You could walk around the outside of the buildings -- which they hadn't bothered to do yet, as there didn't seem to be much potential for mischief in it, even if Xander pretended that wasn't why he didn't want to go -- but that was about all.

So what sort of creative tourist thing could Spike find for Xander, that wasn't utterly vampified? This whole city was meant to be a tourist trap, but for *vampire* tourists, not humans. Something that didn't have to do with death. Right. Xander was looking at him again.

"Er... wanna see where Dru killed me?" Yeah, that would do it. Spike suppressed a groan.

Xander was giving him 'you're insane' expression Number Five. But then he laughed, took Spike's arm, and nodded. "Sure." Spike looked at him suspiciously. Was it *his* fault vampires only enjoyed killing, eating, sex, and football?

"We could go see Big Ben, " Spike suggested, finally thinking of something they could do that wouldn't make Xander think about dead people. "And don't ask who he is, please. It's-- "

"It's the big clocktower. Dork. I'm not that uneducated. I may've graduated from Sunnydale High, but I did have a British librarian."

"Bad Rupert, if he taught you that. Big Ben's not the tower, it's one of the bells. The clocktower's just... the clocktower. But it's the only bit of Parliament the smarmy gits haven't managed to burn down, and since they don't meet there anymore, it's open to tourists. Wanna head over that way?"

"Nah, I wanna see where Dru killed you. You can tell me about that party, and I can get all righteously indignant and think about how cute you were with long hair and glasses."

One of which, Spike remembered, he had *now*. Right now. He started to suggest they go back to the hotel and he could stand there in *just* his long hair and let Xander admire him, but Xander was frowning, and shaking his head.

"Later, Spike. We've stayed in our room for the last twenty four hours. We agreed - every other day, we get out and sight-see."

"Like there's not enough sights to see in our room?" Or backs to soap, or toes to suck, or skin to lick? There was plenty to keep them busy.

"I've got the rest of your life -- until I kill you for putting your hand there after I've told you not to, so take it away now, Spike -- to see *those* sights. How often are we gonna be in Victorian London together? Come on, let's go see where Dru played kitty c'mere with you."

"She did *not*," he protested, but he led Xander down a side street, then an alley. "I was just sitting down on a nice comfy bale of hay so I could have myself a private think about how long I should wait before I beat bloody heck out of George Halliwell and every mindless wanker at that boring excuse for a party..." He realized as he said it that they were just crossing the street below Halliwell's house, the scene of said infamous party. Which meant that little alley with the stables in it should be right round the corner.

"Or as some would have it, namely Angel and Dru, you were either a) crying like a baby-man -- which phrase I know he picked up from Cordy-- or b) all shining eyes and glistening seas of silver tears, with the heart in you burning like a baelfire." Xander's impression of Drusilla was more than uncanny, and made Spike wonder if perhaps they'd been spending too much time together unsupervised. "Also, there was something about baby fish, which I'm hoping she made up, otherwise she's even freakier than I thought."

"I was not crying," he objected, on sheer principle. Xander was *his* husband, which meant he was supposed to believe whatever *Spike* said - not listen to Angel or Dru. Right? He was pretty sure that was in the marriage contract, somewhere.

Xander shook his head. "Uh-huh. I have pictures."

"You don't. Nobody around with a camera." Spike turned the corner, and saw the alleyway. Hadn't changed a bit -- he was surprised, though, how seeing it hit him. He realized he hadn't ever gone back, since they'd left, a week after he'd died.

"Angel drew pictures," Xander was saying. Then his hand slipped into Spike's, and he said nothing.

Spike remembered sitting right over there, trying his best not to break down. He had *not* been crying. At least he hadn't been by the time he'd sat down and been approached by Drusilla. He'd just been... lost. Bewildered, then bedazzled. He'd had no idea what he'd been saying yes to. Then Xander's words registered. "Angel drew pictures?"

He looked back to find Xander smiling at him, something soft in his gaze vanishing as soon as Spike turned around until he was only grinning, happily, as he teased Spike. "Yup. A whole series called 'The Birth of an Infuriating Vampire'. He's even done one in colour."

Spike sniffed. "Made it up out of his own head, he did. *He* wasn't here. Well, he wasn't here when she turned me. Wasn't there until I woke up."

Eyes opening slowly to let in light, like the first light in the world. Like he'd never seen light, like he'd been sleeping since he was born. Dru's face hovering above him, smile as wide and red as remembered blood. Angelus staring down at him as well, caught between a grin and a glare, not sure what to make of this blinking sputtering thing that was being softly cooed over and petted by Drusilla. And somewhere out of his line of sight, Darla's voice, asking, "Is he awake, then? Good. You can bring him along. I'm hungry; I have a taste for society girls tonight."

"Spike?" Xander's voice drowned out the echo of Darla's, and Spike blinked at him, as if he were just waking up again.

"Angel took you up to his room to show you his etchings, did he?" Spike managed to put enough of a leer in his voice to convince his own ears that he really was awake, and in the twenty-first century with his twenty-first-century husband, no matter how much the familiar alleyway tried to trick him into thinking otherwise.

But instead of whapping him on the head, or even leering back at him, Xander was putting his hand under Spike's chin. His fingers were warm -- burning, really, against the cool night air and Spike's own undead skin. Then there were was more burning, as lips touched his, and a kiss as soft as it was determined. Spike opened his mouth involuntarily -- helpless, despite the habit he loved of kissing Xander, and feeling Xander's tongue press against his own.

Then Xander pulled away, and gave him that same, barely seen smile as before. He wanted to demand to know what Xander was thinking, that made him look at Spike that way. But he didn't, and he wasn't entirely certain it wasn't at least partly due to fear. Not that he was afraid of his glurble...husband -- but there were very few people who had the power to get inside Spike's heart, much less what passed for his soul. Xander was one of them, and he could do the most damage simply by loving Spike.

"Where'd you go after you woke up?" Xander asked, dragging Spike's attention away from kissing, and back to the past that lay all around him, real as life -- or death. He wasn't sure he wanted to tell Xander, though, about that first night. The killing, the feeding...it had been a frenzy, a dark and powerful thing he hadn't understood, had only been able to feel as it pulled him along in its wake. Besides which, if he was going to not talk about death, there wasn't much he *could* say.

"Not to Disney World," he finally managed to utter.

"Well, duh. There wasn't any, and anyway, I can't see Darla in Mickey Mouse ears. So..." Xander stopped. "Oh. Right. Blood and gore and a fun time was had by all."

"Well, no, not everybody," Spike responded a bit lamely.

It wasn't as if Xander didn't *know* what he used to be like. What they all used to be like, what Dru still was like, though she was more or less under control around 'my boys and my daddies and the babies and all the people I'm not allowed to bite or they'll be cross with me.' But that first night, when he really had felt new-born... It was something else entirely. Changed in an instant, changed as thoroughly as he'd been in these seven or ten odd years of Xander and chip and too many silly people Dru wasn't allowed to bite.

"Was it...." Xander trailed off, and his lightly begun question faded into a curious, but unsure expression. Spike figured Xander couldn't decide if he wanted to know -- *really* know, or not. It was one of the things they had an unspoken agreement about, things you didn't ask about, or mention: drunken uncles, vampiric feeding frenzies, missing IRS forms, Cordelia's nail polish, and Angel's shoes in their closet.

He wasn't surprised Xander was starting to ask, now, though. Surrounded by what was essentially Spike's own past - his world as a vampire, the years when he was a new-born, the things that formed him as much or more than any of the travels and experiences he'd ever had, since. Not even loving a mortal could change how much he'd loved killing them. But it could make him regret that he didn't have anything better to say.

"Why don't I show you where Manfield lived," he began, changing the subject to something he could talk about that wouldn't bother either of them. A bloke he'd known as a human, who hadn't been so outright mean to him that Xander wouldn't go all protector on him. Not that there was anything wrong with Xander being in his 'protect Spike' mood. It just would have looked a bit out of place with the strip of blue velvet on his throat.

Xander's expression faded from unsure, to something Spike couldn't read at all, to blank, then back to his usual silly, gentle smile. As if he'd never asked the question. "Why don't you show me where *you* lived?" he asked. When Spike didn't respond immediately, still trying to puzzle out what he'd missed or thought he had, Xander twined an arm through Spike's. "Unless you don't want to. That's cool. Not like we go touring past the scene of *my* twisted youth on a regular basis, anymore."

"I lived in your basement; it doesn't get any more twisted than that." It was a reflexive statement, part of a years long pattern of parry and thrust that -- aside from putting sexy fencing images in Spike's head -- gave him a chance to collect his thoughts and consider Xander's suggestion.

It wasn't like he had any particularly *bad* memories of his house. He hadn't seen it since the night of the party. Since *before* the party. It was one place he hadn't returned to on those nights of blood and night-winds and hunger. No reason, beyond he hadn't wanted to see it again, so far as he knew. No special need to go straight home and eat every member of his family; he'd leave that sort of Oedipal bollocks to Angel, the old poofy perv.Did he want to see it again, though? If he never looked, it would always be just the way he remembered when he'd walked out, notebook in hand, thinking... yes. Perhaps tonight, after all, I'll tell Cecily... If they went to look at it now, would that change his memory of it?

Xander was watching him, and Spike realized in an instant what a moron he was being. No matter how much it *looked* like his London, this wasn't. It was just a place that was something like, that he could show his husband round, and say, as he was saying now, "Yeah, fine. Show you the window where I wrote my first godawful poem. Whereupon I blew the candle out, went to bed, tossed off for ten minutes, and felt horribly guilty for the next two days." He grinned and tugged on Xander's arm. "It's this way."

"You *must* have changed," was all Xander said, after he'd trailed alongside Spike for several steps. Spike almost stopped to glare at him, before he realized he wasn't sure exactly which bit Xander was talking about.

"You're not saying my poetry's got better?" he asked, dubiously.

Xander looked at him, with a very composed expression. Yep, Spike knew what he was about to say. "Spike, I love you dearly, but I will never, ever think you're a clever poet. Just a heart-felt one."

"You liked my naked Angel limerick," he pouted, and began pulling Xander down the sidewalk again.

"I laughed. It's not the same thing."

"Then how'd I change?" he asked, before it occurred to him that asking might be about *that* -- the killing and bloodlust and things they didn't really talk about.

"Guilt? Hello, Mr. I Want To Shag You In Public? Feeling guilty? Did I wake up with the wrong sexy vampire this evening?""Dunno. Not sure you ever *did* wake up." Spike lead them past Manfield's house, and around a corner onto a street that looked stunningly not a thing like what he remembered. He relaxed, slightly. Maybe his house wasn't even there. "Took me long enough to prop you upright and get you into your underclothes." He gave Xander a stern frown, the one he'd stolen from his schoolmaster when he was fourteen.

"Um? That was because you were trying to pull my underwear *down*."

"Cos you had 'em on wrong."

"On my ass is not *wrong*, Spike."

"It is when I'm trying to suck you off," he said logically. "Anyhow, I got over feeling guilty about little thinks like wanking, about the time I had my first taste of just what the Poof meant by family togetherness," Spike explained, while they walked past houses that began to look vaguely familiar.

Just... they seemed smaller, Spike realized. It was silly; it wasn't as if he'd grown any, since he was turned, but the houses seemed lower to the ground. Dingier -- and this hadn't ever been the street of streets, even back then. Fading gentry and fourth youngest sons who married tailor's daughters. Stable owners. Young businessmen who hadn't made it yet. Good enough, just not quite good enough *enough*."So which one of these is it?" Xander asked, looking at the more prosperous side of the street. Spike tapped him on the chin and directed his gaze the other way. "It was..." He studied the two identical brick houses jammed up against each other, and tried to remember which one was which. The one with the green flowerboxes, or the one with the tortoiseshell cat in the lower front window, where the woman in the gray dress was struggling up the steps with an armload of shopping bags, about to lose one of them?

"Er, that one," he said, pointing somewhere on the middle. Xander, however, was already sprinting across the street to help the woman pick up the tins and boxes that had just tumbled out of the bag she'd dropped and were rolling down the steps. Spike followed, thinking things about white knights and how tight their arses looked when they were bending over to help ladies in distress. He was glad he'd made Xander get a short coat to wear with those trousers.

It was when the woman stood up, saying, "Thank you, dearie," that he froze. She turned to look at him, and it had honestly taken that long for it to hit Spike, though he'd recognised the walk, the plump, middle-aged shape. His mother. Alive. Staring at him with eyes that he thought he'd forgotten, but now could see clear as day in his memory, looking at him from the front step as he walked away.

That same small smile asking him if he'd remembered to wear clean knickers, because he didn't want to get hit by a carriage on his way to the party and be found with dirty underwear when they dragged him to hospital, did he? Shocked, he'd scolded, "Mother!" and she'd just laughed...

Spike shook his head. Not his mum. Not even alive. He could feel the lack of body heat from here -- the only one around here giving off any physical warmth was Xander. Who was looking at him too, apparently concerned for his alleged sanity.

His mother gave Xander a lovely smile, then she glanced over when Xander looked at Spike. "William! You've...come to visit me?" His mum's voice shook, ever so slightly, as she spoke with sheer amazement. Xander immediately looked back to her. He kept looking, from her, to Spike, and back, obviously realizing how much Spike resembled his mother -- even his doppelganger's mother. Then Spike wondered just how often his brainless wanker of a doppelganger *visited* his mum, to make her look at him with such touched disbelief. He stepped forward and said nervously, "Sorry, I'm... Xander and me're visiting here, from another dimension. M'not your William."

She blinked a few times, and quickly hid the disappointment -- which was quickly replaced by curiosity. "You're Xander?" Spike's husband nodded, politely. "You're human," she continued, sounding puzzled.

"Well, for the moment," Xander agreed, smiling in that way that charmed everybody's mother, everywhere Spike had ever gone with him.

For the moment? What did that mean-- that he thought he might be replaced by a pod person any minute now? Spike shook his head. No danger there -- what alien would want to share a flat with a vampire who couldn't do dishes and left his dirty socks all over the bedroom floor? Translating Xanderspeak was interesting at the best of times, and Spike was still fairly flambangled, after his one fumbling attempt at speech. He just stared at the woman in front of him, lost in memory."Sorry," Xander said to Spike's not-mum. "I'm sure you raised *your* son up right, but this one was born in a barn. Introduce us, dimwit," he said to Spike with a corresponding whap.

"Er, uh, mum, s' Xander Harris... Um...can't remember the rest of it. Got a lot of names, took 'em when we married. Xan, this is my mum." He knew he was babbling like an idiot. He was, and there was really no help for it.

His mum looked at him like maybe he'd been whapped one too few times, growing up, to knock any sense into him -- then she smiled, and held out her hand to Xander. "Adelaide Witherspoon," she said to him, and it occurred to Spike that Xander knowing his last name might be a disadvantage, later. But right now he was watching Xander's face break into a delighted smile, and seeing his husband take his mother's hand and give her an un-self-conscious peek on the cheek.

"My pleasure, Mrs. Witherspoon."

She sniffed, and grinned like a girl. "Call me Adelaide. Or -- well, I'm not, really. But...you're welcome to call me mum, as well. Won't you boys...come inside?"

There was another echo of doubt in her voice, that she knew this wasn't her son, despite however much she might be seeing him in Spike's face. But they could pretend, for the space of a few hours. They could have something they'd neither of them had in a very long time.

Spike returned her smile. "We'd love to, mum. Here, let me get that." He bent down to get the last of the bags, and hefted it.


Spike was trying not to let the cat climb up on his lap. He was having as much luck as Xander had when asking someone politely not to climb on someone else's lap at the office when he was trying to conduct a conference call on the speakerphone. Which meant there was a brown and orange and black and cream cat with large green eyes, curling up for a nap on Spike's lap right now. Xander didn't bother to resist chuckling, though it only lasted a moment.

He was still too busy looking around the house. Like the wing chairs they were sitting in, the rest of the furniture was old, but sturdy. Little tables in various parts of the room that Xander guessed was supposed to be a parlor. Small lamps, with delicately embroidered shades. Bookshelves all along the walls. The kind of place he suddenly knew for a fact that Giles had grown up in. Obviously not fancy on any local scale, but like nothing Xander had ever lived in, or even any of his classmates. Who in Sunnydale had a *parlor*, even one with threadbare rugs on the floor?

Spike was looking around too, the same shell-shocked expression on his face as when he'd first seen his mother on the steps, and realized who he was looking at. Xander leaned over and touched him on the arm. "Hey -- should I ask her about what it was like to grow up as a pharaoh's daughter, or is that all top secret hush-hush?"

Spike didn't answer, his attention suddenly fixed in one direction. Ear cocked towards the sounds of Mrs. Witherspoon bustling about in the kitchen, putting things away and "getting them up a proper tea." She was humming something, or singing -- it was hard to tell over the sound of cupboards opening and shutting.

"I know that song," Spike said slowly. He hummed a little of it, face set in concentration as if he was trying to remember, then sang haltingly, "Oh no, we never mention her; her name is never heard. My lips are now forbid to speak that once familiar word. From sport to sport, they hurry me, to banish my..." Spike shook his head. "Something."

"Regret," Mrs. Witherspoon said cheerfully as she carried a heavily-laden tray, in the center of which was a large teapot, into the room. "To banish my regret. And when they win a smile from me, they think that I forget." She had a pretty, almost-young voice, just on the edge of wavering-- though Xander was still hearing Spike singing, in his ears.

It wasn't often that he could whine or tease Spike into singing something that wasn't either filthy or punked up or utterly silly, after all. He tried thinking of ways he could get Spike to do it again. Maybe ask his alter-mum to remember other songs they'd known? Then, after they got home, once in a while Xander could mention one, and wheedle his way into getting Spike to sing. Or, more likely, he could say 'Spike, I'll lose one piece of clothing for every verse.'

He caught Spike looking at him funny, and realized he had a grin on his face which threatened to give away his intentions. To cover, he said, "William never told me his last name was Witherspoon. I guess after I found out about 'Abelard,' he didn't have the nerve." Spike glared at him, which seldom affected Xander in the slightest, and certainly didn't now. "Is *your* son in denial about his middle name too?"

"Abelard is a fine name. It was his grandfather's uncle's name." Mrs. Witherspoon gave him a half-smile, but then shook her head. "My boy...he's never been one for keeping up with his family. That's why I was so surprised...." Her voice dropped, and Xander was sorry he'd mentioned it. "It's been decades since he's been to see me. I couldn't imagine...." She shook her head, suddenly, and Xander didn't have to look over to see the dirty glare of Spike's that *did* make him feel guilty.

"Maybe we should have Gomer name one of the kids 'Abelard'?" Xander suggested.

"Maybe we should have Gomer name one of the kids 'Xander's standing in the corner for the rest of his life'?" Spike retorted.

Xander stuck his tongue out at Spike, then responded to Spike's mum's perplexed look. "Gomer's our daughter--"

"A daughter? You have...oh, I've a grand-daughter?" Xander watched, worried, as she went to that scary grandmother-place. Pretty soon she'd be buying dozens of toys and clothes and whatnots, for them to take home. "She's a piranha," he said hastily. "We've got three -- Hubert and Goober are the boys. Gomer's pregnant," he added, realizing it probably wasn't necessary, as soon as the words left his mouth. "Or about to spawn, or something."

Whatever result he'd been trying for - stymieing her grandmotherly shopping spree -- it obviously hadn't worked. Her face had lit up. "Three! Do you have pictures?"

Xander had to remind himself -- she was a vampire. Ergo, she was as weird as Spike, Dru, and the rest of them. Then again, who was he to talk -- since he *did* have pictures. He grinned and fished in his pocket for his wallet. Didn't *find* it, of course, but he remembered where it was.

"Spike?" He was *not* going to fish in Spike's pocket for his wallet. Not in front of Spike's mother. He grinned a little wider when Spike raised an allegedly innocent eyebrow. "William Abelard?" Xander said, in his best 'Exactly who's going to be standing in the corner for the rest of his unlife?' voice.

"What?"

"William Abelard Witherspoon?" Spike gave him a look that could curdle blood, and handed over the wallet. Xander nodded smugly, and pulled out the plastic flippy-thingy of pictures. "See, there's Goober and Gomer eating the bubbly diver together. And that's Hubert sniffling in the corner 'cause they got to the head first. He likes the helmet best, for some reason."

"Yes. I can see he takes after my Will. He was always sulking in the corner if he didn't get the lolly or the new book he wanted," Adelaide said knowingly.

"I never did!," Spike said, jutting out his lower lip. "I was so good at pouting that I never didn't *get* a lolly, if I wanted one." Xander watched, trying very hard not to laugh, as Spike's mum gave him a look. She didn't say anything, but a moment later Spike said, "I never sulked." But he was sulking as he said it.

Xander and Adelaide exchanged a grin, and as Spike muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like 'I *didn't*', Xander showed the next picture. They managed to draw Spike out of his sulk by the third picture, which was the one Spike insisted was the cutest Gomer picture in the world. Privately, Xander thought his husband was insane -- but since he also thought it publicly, he didn't mind voicing his usual rejoinder: "Spike, she's just *swimming*. How cute can a fish be?"

"But look!" Spike pointed to the picture, angling it towards his mum. "See the flick of her tail? And the way the light glints off her teeth?"

Adelaide sniffed. "My grand-daughter. So adorable!"

Xander let his face drop into his hands. "I've married into a family of weirdos."

Spike tapped him on the shoulder. "You were already in a family of weirdos."

"Yeah, but now it's official."

His husband's voice, word-breath tickling the hairs in his ears as Spike bent close to him. "But you get to call Angel 'daddy' now. It'll drive him round the bend."

Dear God. How many years of living with Spike, how many months of wedding preparations, and that thought had never occurred to him? Xander lifted his face, sharing his joyous grin with both his husband and his new not-mother-in-law, who was looking at Spike curiously.

"Are you still part of the Scourge of Europe, then?" she asked. Xander couldn't tell if her incorrect assumption disappointed her, or not -- her face was caught in the light from one of the lamps in just such a way as to make her expression impossible to interpret.

"Er, we call ourselves the Scourge of Los Angeles, now," Spike said, a cocky grin on his face. "But after Angel got himself cursed with a soul, Darla got herself turned to dust, and I got a chip in my head, -- we sorta changed sides." He looked suddenly sheepish as the last words came out, and Xander could see him realizing that his mum -- being a vampire - might not like the idea that her little boy had finally become one of the good guys.

"A chip in your head?" She was frowning, now.

"Yeah, bloody government did it. S'all right, got a witch friend who fixed it up for me -- turned off right now, actually, so's I can make sure no one hurts Xander while we're here. But it kept me from biting humans, and I sorta...." Spike sent a quick look to Xander. "Ended up falling in love with dork-boy, here." Well, that was the short version, Xander thought, as he tried not to think 'glurble.'

"They put a chip in your head?" Spike's mum was repeating, and Xander *knew* that tone. He'd heard Willow's mom, Buffy's mom, even *Giles* get that tone. "Somebody *hurt* you?"

Xander saw Spike blink, then he explained quickly, "It's a computer chip -- not like a dent out of m'skull."

"Yes, that's what I thought you meant, William; we're not a technological wasteland, you know. It's *still* the twenty-first century." She waved a hand at a rolltop desk in the corner, and Xander realized that what he'd first taken for some kind of weird Victorian musical instrument was in fact an elaborately decorated PC, encased in a polished wood frame.

She was glaring at him, Xander also realized. Or at Spike. Or someone who wasn't there, and she was just aiming it at the nearest someones she could find. "So are you saying they *didn't* hurt you?"

Spike shifted in his seat. "Well... yeah, it wasn't exactly Sunday in the park with George. They zapped me and cut a hole in my head and stuck a little bit of wire and plastic in." He shrugged. "I survived. Obviously."

She sat there quietly for a moment -- hands in her lap, frowning very slightly. She looked for all the world like a proper English Lady who was about to order that someone be disemboweled. "And where are these people, now?" she asked in a deceptively calm tone. Perhaps not 'deceptively,' Xander corrected -- from the expression on Spike's face, he figured he wasn't the only one thinking maybe they should use the hotel's e-mail system to warn Riley and his buds.

"Most of 'em are dead now, mum," Spike said quickly. "The Slayer and her lot killed the bad ones for me." Spike glanced over at Xander, his eyes twinkling. No doubt he was remembering fondly the fight and the copious amounts of bloodshed and mayhem.

"The who?"

"Never mind," Spike told her, shaking his head and dismissing the supernatural creature bent on destroying the vampiric species in favour of asking, "Can I have another chocolate-and-blood-cream biscuit?"

She turned a look on him that was almost equal in strength to the pre-disemboweling one, but far more frightening, at least to Xander. It was the look with which Joyce Summers had managed to quell an entire bachelor party full of horny and misbehaving men, starting with themselves. The Mom-look. The effect of Joyce's had been diluted slightly (only slightly) by its having been pre-recorded; *this* mom-look was undead and in person, and Xander cringed slightly to even be witnessing it. Spike, the direct recipient, appeared to be blanching, no matter how impossible that was for a vampire to do.

"Er...mum...I meant..."

"*May* I have another chocolate-and-blood-cream biscuit?" Xander asked quickly. He was caught somewhere between laughing at his husband, and tucking Spike under his arm and running for safety, given the look his not-mother was still directing at his unmannered husband. The mom-gaze swung over to focus on Xander, though, at his words, and the disapproval melted into a sweet smile faster than any change of mood Xander had ever seen before, even in Drusilla.

"Yes, of course you may," his --ulp-- mother-in-law informed him.

"Er, without the blood, that is."

She handed him the plate, then turned her head back to scowl at Spike, who was sticking his tongue out at Xander. Xander merely grinned as he picked up one of the 'safe' cookies. He hadn't *meant* to ask for himself; he'd just been covering for Spike. But that, as they say, is the way the cookie crumbles.

Spike sucked that tongue in faster than a naked vampire running out of his Sire's quarters in the pre-newt-spell-days, and pretended to be deeply involved in scratching behind the tortie-cat's ears.

His mother rolled her eyes. "As for you, William. Really. I'd be tempted to think Xander is right, and you *were* born in a barn..." Here she stopped, sighed, and glanced up at something over Spike's head. "If it weren't for the fact that your manners are still three times as good as my own boy's. Or as good as they were the last time he bothered to stop in."

The silence that followed was awkward; at least Xander felt such, and Spike looked like he didn't know what he was expected to say. Xander found himself glancing around the room, reflexively searching for some way to change the subject, when he saw a picture of Spike. The *other* one, he realized a moment after he'd opened his mouth and said, "Hey, is that--"

Of course it was. The vampire in the photograph looked just like Spike did now. Long light-coloured hair, curls pulled down into waves by the weight of it. Cheekbones so sharp you could cut yourself on them. The blue of his eyes wasn't visible in the sepia-toned picture, but their brightness was, and so was the insolent sneer on his lips, one that popped up often enough on his own Spike's mouth, usually to be immediately kissed away. There was something in this one's gaze, though, that told Xander that he would never mistake the local Spike for his own, if they met in person.

Adelaide followed his gaze, and she nodded. "Yes, that's my William. The last time he posed for a portrait, that I'm aware of -- Angelus had to box his ears to make him stand still."

Spike's low growl startled Xander, and he looked away from the photo to the real version. Rather, *his* version.

"Sorry," Spike said, though he didn't look contrite. Big surprise there, Xander thought. "Annoying as Angel is, I like the idea of meeting up with Angelus even less."

His mother looked confused, and Xander still didn't know -- did she like the idea of her boy being on the side of goodness and light, more or less? Then as she repeated the word "Angel," as if trying the sound out on her tongue, he caught on.

"After he got his soul, he turned into a real do-gooder. Changed his name and all. Well, he turned into a bum for a hundred years, *then* a do-gooder," Spike explained.

"He's okay, for a dork the size of a Mack truck. As long as we stay out of his hot-tub and don't do anything nasty to his lover's pickup, or hide old french fries in his socks, or..." Xander paused. "So, about once a week, he's an okay guy. Angelus, though... the last time we met up with him, when Angel lost his soul... Let's just say the only happy camper on campus was Dru, and even she didn't stay all that thrilled, once she realized he was still jonesing for Buffy."

The expression on her face didn't exactly grow clearer. Spike rolled his eyes at Xander. "You're in Victorian England, luv. That speech practically required a universal translator."

"Then we should've stopped off in the 'Star Trek is real' dimension, instead of staying an extra two hours at Disney World because you wanted to ride the teacups again," Xander shot back.

"I'm not sure what Star Trek is, but I believe I understood the gist of what Xander said," Mrs. Witherspoon informed them. Xander stuck out his tongue at his husband, feeling vindicated. "Cats eat more than cream, young man," she added with a sharp look at Xander.

"Huh?"

Spike was chuckling. "She means if you stick out your tongue, the cat'll bite it off." The cat was showing no signs of interest, but Xander made sure his tongue was properly inside his mouth, just in case. It *could* have been the Victorian mother's version of 'Your face will freeze that way' -- but in a dimension ruled by vampires, Xander wasn't going to take any chances that Fluffy Kittikins wasn't more than she seemed.

"Weren't we talking about Angel?" Xander asked, trying to recover some of his dignity.

"Angelus," Spike corrected him. "And how we don't want to meet up with him particularly, in this or any other dimension." He seemed sincere enough, though Xander knew Spike had a soft spot for the old, pre-Buffy, Angelus, no matter how nasty he might have been.

"I doubt you shall, as he's out of town at the moment." Mrs. Witherspoon gestured to a newspaper lying folded on the desk next to the ornate computer. "At least according to the society pages. He and his Sire are on a diplomatic mission to Ireland."

Xander watched as Spike's jaw went down, then up, then down, then up, then down. Then up. Then down. Watching was more fun than noticing if his own jaw was doing the same dance. Finally Spike sputtered, "Diplomatic? Angelus? Diplomacy? What nutter sent *him* and Darla on a diplomatic mission to anywhere?"

Xander goggled for a moment at Spike. "I was gonna say 'society pages? Angel and Darla are on the society pages?'"

Spike nodded. "That, too."

Adelaide, however, was watching them both with motherly amusement. It gave Xander the shivers. "The 'nutter' who sent them was Queen Victoria. Those two--" but whatever else she was going to say got lost in the resultant blinking.

"Queen Victoria? *The* Queen Victoria? Angelus and Darla know *Queen* Victoria?" Xander discovered he was bouncing in his chair. He turned to Spike. "Can we go meet her, huh? Can we? Can we? If Angelus knows her, maybe other-Spike does, too."

A strange, squeaky sound seemed to emanate from Spike's general direction. Not like Spike's 'Oh shit, Cordelia caught us doing something naughty and unlike Angel, she really *can* kick our arses' squeak. Not even like his 'Omigod, that's a squirrel out there on the window ledge' squeak. This was something else entirely. Xander was tempted to label it the 'I'm so impressed I'm speechless' squeak, except he'd never actually seen that happen before, so he couldn't be absolutely sure that was the case.

Another option was that Spike had accidentally pinched the cat. But since it wasn't scratching merry hell out of him, Xander was leaning towards his first hypothesis, especially when Spike spluttered, "The Queen? Visit... the Queen of England?"

Xander grinned. So much for his story about letting ferrets loose at the Great Exhibition. "Yeah -- Cordy'll turn green!" Xander blinked, then grinned even wider. "Wesley'll turn *purple* !"

"Your friends make a habit of changing colours?" Adelaide asked. "Hmm. Fashions these days. Still, I remember when somebody couldn't leave the house without having his hair properly curled, so I suppose things haven't changed all that much."

"But we *can't* visit the Queen," Spike was protesting, which sounded awfully funny coming from a man who sang 'God save the Queen, she ain't a human bein' in the shower every morning.

When Xander pointed that out, Spike did his not-really-blanching trick again. His mother simply blinked. "Well, of course not. She's a vampire. Though I'm not sure you should be singing about the Queen while you're naked, William."

"Mother!" Spike sounded absolutely aghast, though Xander couldn't tell if it was from the idea of Queen V. and Spike's nakedness being combined in any way, shape, or form, or simply the horror of his mother imagining him naked. Even his counterpart's mother. Possibly *anyone's* mother. "Anyhow," Spike said after he stopped doing his mouth-open-mouth-shut impression of Gomer, "That's the other Queen. I wouldn't sing that about Queen Victoria. She's...well...she's the Queen!"

"And my husband's insane. Don't mind him." Xander leaned forward eagerly. "So, does this-Spike, your Spike, that is, know the Queen?"

She nodded, an expression of mixed emotion on her face. "Yes. Angelus and Lady Darla are her... political enforcers, I suppose you might say. Darla does the actual diplomatic work, and Angelus tortures the right people, in order to keep things running in various arms of the Empire. There's a small rebellion in southern Ireland at the moment; they want to secede from the Empire and form their own country. Angelus and Darla were dispatched to practice their own brand of diplomacy on the leaders."

Xander's treacherous imagination provided him with a number of nasty images of Angelus' idea of diplomacy. They weren't scribbled in crayon, however, but splashed across the screen of his mind in full 16 mm, with Dolby surroundsound. The look on Spike's face indicated that he was attending a similar screening, probably without benefit of popcorn and jujubes.

Spike's mother was continuing, not so much oblivious of their discomfort as lost in her description of the activities of the rich and famous -- including her son. "William and Drusilla sometimes go along on these jaunts, but more often, lately, they've been staying here in London. William likes to wait until Angelus is out of town, then stir up trouble among the upper crust. Crashing fancy-dress balls, interrupting political talks. Throwing their own parties, which are quite the rage among the younger set -- the ones who've been changed in this century. Or so I've heard."

Something in her tone of voice had been niggling at Xander, something familiar beyond the 'My son doesn't visit me anymore' sadness. Her eyes flicked towards the newspaper on the desk again, and it finally snapped into place. He'd heard the sound in his own mother's voice, a couple of centuries ago when he was still in high school and she was going on about Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere having split, or Madonna's new baby, as she paged through the latest issue of People.

"You have a scrapbook, I bet," he said with a grin.

Spike's eyes went wide, and the accusation in them made Xander think of that time he'd eaten the last of the buffalo wings without telling Spike there were any in the first place. Adelaide was smiling, and reaching behind her towards the bookcase. "It's a small one, not really much beyond a few newspaper photos and a couple of articles...."

The book she drew out was at least three inches thick, however, and Spike was holding his head in his hands. Xander elbowed him, hard. "Relax, moron. It isn't you, remember?"

From behind his hands, though, Spike's voice came, "She'll be pulling the other ones out, next."

"Other ones?" Xander stared at his mortally embarrassed doofus of a husband-glurble, and it hit him. The *others*. "*Baby* pictures?!" Spike groaned again, and sunk into his chair.

"William, sit up properly." Spike instantly scooted back up, then he froze, lowered his hands, and glared at the wall. "I do have some paintings, and a few photographs, of William as a child." Adelaide was still holding the scrapbook on her lap, however. Xander scooted his chair forward.

"After we look at this, can we see them?"

Adelaide beamed at him with sheer maternal approval. Xander wanted to crow about it to Spike, who looked like he wished he could sink back down in -- or under -- his chair again. "They hadn't invented cameras back then," Spike mumbled, trying to pretend he wasn't interested in seeing the scrapbook, himself.

"They had so," Xander reminded him. "They were called daguerreotypes. For God's sake, we've seen pictures of Darla from the 1830's." Xander scooted even closer, and Adelaide opened the scrapbook and held it a bit sideways.

"Yeah, well, these won't be photos of *me*, will they?" Spike rejoined.

"But you look *exactly* like my son," his mother said. "I'm sure the baby pictures will be accurate, down to the little curl on your forehead you had as an infant."

Xander stared at Spike, mind trying to process 'little curl' and 'infant.' Spike's face morphed rather easily into a small, round, angelic little face, with one tiny brown curl. Xander laughed, and Spike flipped him off.

Spike was still muttering and grousing an hour or so later, when they finally did make it around to the pictures of Spike in all his living, nerdy William-ness. They'd consumed enough tea and cookies to ruin a normal person's dinner -- so it was lucky neither of them fit that description. The cat had run off, finally, tired of losing its comfy perch every time Spike alternated between slumping in embarrassment, sitting up straight when his mother gave him the eye, and leaning over with undisguised interest when he thought no one was watching him.

At the moment, he was in slump-mode. Adelaide pointed to a large formal photo. "And there he is on his twenty-first birthday. It was the first time we realized he needed reading glasses, so I gave him a copy of Sonnets from the Portuguese, and a pair of spectacles." William, in the picture, was looking both flustered and pleased, as he held the small book in his hand and peered at the camera over the top of his spectacles. Spike, in the chair next to Xander, looked like he was ready to pout the walls down.

Xander glanced at the picture again, then over at his husband. "Are you *sure* you don't still need glasses, Spike?" Spike growled quietly, giving Xander a look that said he'd be flipping Xander the bird, if doing so wouldn't get his hand slapped again. Xander tilted his head. "You're squinting. You must still need 'em."

"I'm not squinting. That was a deathy glare." Spike glared again, more emphatically.

Xander shook his head slowly. "You're squinting. Isn't he squinting?" he asked Spike's mum.

Adelaide looked vastly amused as she handed the current album over to Xander, and stood up. She went over to an armoire, and pulled open a small drawer. From it, she took out a small leather case, which she brought over to Xander.

Xander didn't comment on the way Spike was once more leaning forward with interest; he just opened the case. Inside was a pair of antique-styled wire rim glasses. He held them out to Spike, who looked at them like they were a pair of pink fuzzy slippers. "Put them on," Xander told him.

"What for?"

"Because I wanna see you in them."

Now Spike was looking at *Xander* like *he* was a pair of pink fuzzy slippers. Or like Xander had just asked him to roll naked in extremely slimy cucumber slices, with no hope of reward afterwards. "No. Don't be daft."

"Yes." Xander tried a variant of the stern look that Spike had gotten such a kick out of when they were shopping in Ambercrombie's. Spike seemed about to fold, then he shook his head.

"No."

Okay. Time for a new plan of attack. "Pleeeeeeese? With whipped cream and marshmallows and blood on top?"

Xander was expecting the fuzzy, glazed look in Spike's eyes. The matching one in Adelaide's made him a little nervous. Only for a second, though, because Spike was shaking his head and frowning. "No. No, no, and no. Don't need 'em. My eyesight's perfect; has been ever since I got turned."

Xander sighed, then glanced across at Mrs. Witherspoon. Carefully, with the eye that Spike couldn't see from where he was sitting, he winked. Then he turned back to Spike. "If you *loved* me, you'd put them on." The snarl that greeted him would've made lesser men cower in fear. Xander just grinned, basking in the knowledge that he'd won.

"Fine. Rassenfrassen... But I'll look like an idiot, and it bloody well won't be my fault. Don't say I didn't warn you." Spike slipped the spectacles on, hooking the curved temple pieces over his ears. Then he looked up at Xander.

"Spike?"

"Yeah?" Spike groused, obviously waiting for the requisite teasing.

"Take 'em off."

Spike blinked at him -- from behind the glasses, which did absolutely nothing to help. "Er, what?"

"Take. Them. Off."

There was a slight frown of genuine hurt, then, and Spike asked, "Why?"

"Because if you don't I'm going to have to fuck you in front of your mother, and it's bad enough that they've made me *say* 'fuck' in front of your mother. Take the glasses *off*." Xander waited another half-second before reaching forward, himself, hoping his hand would obey command and go directly for the glassed, and not touch any delicious-looking Spike parts.

Spike was suddenly preening, and making no immediate move to remove the glasses. He did pull back out of the way of Xander's hand, though, leaning back in the chair until he was sprawled on the velvet. His face was transformed into something Xander had never seen before, brown curls dangling around the very edge of the frames only heightening the effect of...whatever it was.

It wasn't a softening of his face -- Spike's hard edges and vampiric blood showed even when he was sound asleep and relaxed beyond all measure. It wasn't even the effect of making him look younger, like the lollipops did. He couldn't tell exactly what it was, and Spike wasn't taking the glasses off, which was making Xander think that maybe the little tube of lubricant Spike had slipped into his coat pocket, not realizing Xander was watching, would come in useful after all. Except there was still Spike's mother, sitting right in the same room.

Xander glanced over at her. "Oh, don't mind me, dear," she said, and smiled, showing her dimples. Xander squeaked.

Spike shot straight up in his chair, and tore the glasses off his face. "Mother!"

For a moment, he was every bit the prim and proper young man in the picture Xander had balanced on his lap, except without the glasses, thank God. Prim and proper young *vampire* -- there was no denying that -- but still, Xander thought he could see what Dru had seen, that night in the alley. *I* was a geek in high school, Xander thought. How come *I* never looked that sexy?

"What, dear?" Spike's mum was saying. "I might be a Victorian, but I'm still a vampire. I'd never say no to a good bout of sex, violence, or music-hall burlesque."

"Mother!" he said again. If possible, Spike looked even more aghast. And the tips of his ears were turning pink! Xander filed that one away for further study, determined that he would manage to reproduce the effect somehow, without resorting to stealing Wesley's Angel-painting pink nail-polish.

She winked at them. Xander chose to take this as a sign that she was just kidding, and she knew damned well that Xander wouldn't have allowed himself to do anything with *anybody's* mother in the room, much less Spike's. He chose very *hard* to take it that way. He also thought, not quite as hard, that she had more confidence in him than he had in himself. Xander swallowed hard, and tried very, very hard, not to keep thinking the word 'hard' while simultaneously pretending he didn't know vampires could smell sexual arousal, even when somebody had a large leatherbound book in their lap, covering up the evidence.

"Um..." he ventured. "I don't suppose we could keep these?" He held up the glasses, then quickly put them into their case when the mere sight of them brought back an image of Spike wearing them, with all the accompanying problems.

Adelaide laughed, and the sound made Xander want to run very far away from any place that had mothers, or vampires-besides-his-own. Hiding under the bed, say. With a naked husband-- Xander scolded the part of his brain that had thought that, and tried not to watch as the crayon on the walls started drawing diagrams about how Spike would look naked, wearing only the glasses.

"Of course, dear. If William ever comes to his senses and realizes he *does* need them," She gave Spike a stern look which had Spike sitting up straight again even though he hadn't been slouching, "He can buy a new pair. Perhaps if Drusilla saw him in them, he'd take to wearing them again," she mused.

"Thanks, mum," Spike said, sounding suspiciously gracious. "I reckon we ought to be heading off, now." Both vampires glanced at Xander, who glared back at them. It was *his* fault he was making the room smell like turned-on-human? Who'd brought the glasses out in the first place? "It...it was nice meeting you," Spike finished, sounding a lot more formal than he had all day. Or possibly all year.

"Oh, it was lovely!" Adelaide was exclaiming, and there was suddenly a lot of hugging and cheek-kissing and wasn't it lovely and you're always welcomes.

Xander decided not to mention the goose Adelaide had given him the second time she'd hugged him. It was bad enough having had a threesome with your Siress-in-law (not that said threesome had been bad, just strange), without thinking about the Freudian implications of being felt up by your husband's *real* mother. Sort-of real mother. Ack. No. Think deeply about getting Spike home and undressed and sitting in front of the fake fire reading erotic poetry while wearing nothing but the glasses. Yup. That worked.

Except for the part where his alternate-mother-in-law's voice cut in, saying, "And if you *do* decide to visit my boy, you might mention that if the picture in last November's paper is anything to go by, he needs a haircut."

Then they were out the door and on the steps, then waving up at the window from the street below, where Adelaide's smiling face shared the backlit square with the green-eyed cat. The cat arched and stretched, then settled into the fluffy ball-shape that they had first seen filling the window as they approached.

Spike was quiet for another block or so, just walking with his arm through Xander's, and watching his feet with some interest. Not that Xander could blame him, given the sort of things you could step on around here, but Xander kept checking the tips of Spike's ears anyway, to see if the pink had faded yet. Finally, when they'd once again passed the opening to the little alley where Dru had turned him, Spike looked up at him, a small, strange smile on his face.

"That was my mum."

Xander found himself returning the smile, even though he wasn't quite sure what Spike was saying. "Yeah. Kinda neat, huh? Was she...like yours?"

Spike's smile went wider, and he nodded. "Just said she was, didn't I?"

"Oh. You mean--"

"That was my mum." Spike's smile turned into a grin usually reserved for receiving presents. Which, Xander realized, this might well have been.

"You know, we can come back here, whenever. All we have to do is remind Angel that it'll mean getting us out of the hotel for a while, and he'll be ordering Wes to spell us back over here."

Spike's look brightened, then inexplicably darkened. "Well, she might not want us dropping in all the time. M'not her William, not really. Though...I suppose we could visit for Boxing Day, or something."

Xander thumped him on the arm. "Or something? Weren't you listening? She told us we could come back for Sunday tea, as well as dinner Thursday, and we're invited over for every major holiday on the books, including Banking Holidays. Hey! You think she'd want to come visit us?" He paused. "Huh, not like our world's got all that much to offer visiting vampires. It'd be fun to see her harangue Angel, though."

Spike snorted. "Right, give her an hour and she'd have the entire lot of 'em in line. Hmm. Think she'd get along with Princess, or would Cordy think Mum was encroaching on her territory?"

"I think your mom, Cordy, and my grandma, together in one city, would be very, very scary. They'd love each other and the rest of us would have to behave for the rest of our lives."

Spike made a face. "Maybe we should make sure they only get to see us on alternate weekends -- like a custody arrangement," he offered. Then he did that little grin again. The boyish, diffident, 'may-not-can I have another pineapple-and-tomato pizza,' grin. "She liked you." Xander grinned the same grin back. "You think?" She could've just been being nice, after all -- or polite and Victorian and lonely. When Spike nodded, Xander pretended he'd never had a doubt. "Well, of course. Everybody's mother likes me. I'm the good boy with the safe car who always remembers to say ma'am."

Spike cocked his head. "Hmm. True. Wonder why on earth I love you, then."

"I spank hard."

"Yeah. That must be it." Spike leaned in to kiss him, in the shadows where the overhangs of two buildings met. When he pulled away, he added, "Can't be the snogging, 'cos you not only shop like a girl, you kiss like one."

Xander narrowed his eyes, and decided he'd prove Spike wrong on all counts except the one they'd just agreed on, before the night was over. Starting with another kiss.

Spike thought, privately, that this might be a Very Bad Idea. They were standing outside Buckingham Palace -- the real, actual, looked the exact same in every dimension from which he'd ever seen photos of it, Buckingham Palace. The guards were ignoring them, as they were supposed to, and the other tourists only ever said a word to them if it was 'will you take our picture?' Granted, it being a bad idea wasn't about to stop him. But he did want to take a second to consider the consequences of barging in, and finding out that it was an Extremely Bad Idea.

It wasn't that he really cared if he pissed off the servants or minor royals, or even if he annoyed Xander into making Spike think he'd have to actually sleep on the couch this time and I mean it, don't try looking cute at me, mister. The thing that was making Spike stop and ask himself if this was really what he ought be doing was -- if he pissed off the Queen of England herself, Cordelia would laugh at him for the rest of his life. Not to mention, he'd have pissed off the *Queen*. Not even Angelus had ever pissed off the Queen. Eaten a Duke or three, sure. Who hadn't?

"So, you think William the Bad Son has a standing invitation?" Xander asked him, jolting Spike out of his reverie. "We gonna just march right up and say 'hi, let us in?'"

Spike looked at his glurble, and grinned. "Yeah!"

Xander groaned. "I was *kidding*!" But Spike could hear him following a second later, anyhow.

There were four guards at the gate proper; if Spike remembered his traditions rightly, that meant the Queen was in residence, or at least a high-ranking member of the royal family. Of course that could be just about anybody, given the number of royal offspring her Majesty and the Prince Regent had managed to produce before he died.

As they neared the gates, Spike could see the inner guards more clearly. These were the serious guards, Spike realized, unlike the ones at the outer wall, who were just there for the ceremony of it all. *These* blokes seemed to be standing up straighter even than their ramrod stiff co-workers, but Spike could sense that coiled, ready to knock your block off energy in them. He grinned again. Since Spike and Xander had been hanging round the touristy outer gate, being, well, tourists, these guards hadn't yet had the chance to ignore them heroically.

Spike aimed to spread the joy, as he pulled Xander by the hand, right up to the gate, and said loudly to the fellow on the left, "Two tickets for the spinning teacups ride, please, and yes, I bloody well am tall enough to ride it."

"Not without tossing your tea and bagels, though," Xander commented helpfully.

Not a flicker of a glimmer of a spark of a smirk on any of the four guards' faces, not that Spike was expecting one. He was expecting some sort of reaction when he led Xander past the center pair of guards, though. Death threats, or at least being picked up by the scruff of his neck and tossed ceremoniously back out, neither of which was a remotely unfamiliar experience for Spike, living as he did in the same building as the Great Poof and his large, pickup-driving, 150 pound-bench-pressing lover and his skinny, beer-hogging, newt-turning other lover.

He *wasn't* expecting the guards to continue to stand there, straighter than John Wayne at a Gay Pride march, while he and Xander passed through the gate and onto the path up to the Palace. Only when two Asian vampires in impeccably cut black silk suits attempted to follow them, were the bayonets politely crossed in front of the gate. Spike heard a very firm voice behind him, telling them that Her Majesty was not accepting visitors today, and the gentleman who had just entered was a Royal Advisor, and resident of the Palace.

Spike wanted to look back to catch the expressions on the other tourists' faces, but Xander was using his free hand to shove Spike firmly up the path to the nearest entrance. "Try not to get us arrested this early in the game, huh, O Light of My Eternity and Feeder of My Fish?"

"Oi, you heard him -- we're allowed." Spike ignored the fact that technically *he* wasn't anybody's Advisor, as well as the fact that he'd started letting Cordelia feed the fish when Xander was at work. Not because he didn't want his piranha to grow up big and strong, but because he really, really didn't want to have another incident like Helga's, and a month ago he almost had.

"And that means we won't be arrested?" Xander was asking, in a tone that Spike knew all too well. As if it were *his* fault the LA cops had a special file -- and cell -- for them? He actually thought the plaque with their names on it was a nice touch. He wasn't sure if Xander, or Angel was the one who paid the arresting officers bonus pay for encountering them, though.

"It means as long as you don't act like a rube from the highlands, we'll do fine." Spike did stop at the first cross-corridor they came to, and looked around. Xander folded his arms, and watched him. The Palace looked a lot like it always had...in the pictures he'd seen. "Besides, maybe you can get accosted by some unruly human, and I can see if my de-chip really works!"

Xander just grinned, indulgently, like Spike was clamoring for a lemon ice. "So, bright boy? Which way?"

"Er..?"

"You've never been inside, have no idea what the floorplan is, and as soon as we have to ask directions they'll know who we aren't?"

"Er, yeah. Come on, let's see what's down this way." Spike grabbed Xander's hand and pulled him down the right-hand corridor. They might as well explore, before they got caught out.

Actually, he thought as they tiptoed past several portraits of disapproving royal ancestors, and he managed to come up with a different face to make at each one of them, this wasn't much different from being at home, when they were playing the 'how close can we get to the hot tub without setting off the newt-spell' game. Xander was even providing the background music for the Grand Adventure, though this time it was the Monty Python's Flying Circus theme that he was humming, instead of the more common Mission Impossible music. Every so often he segued into 'Colonel Bogey,' but Spike forgave him for that on the grounds that he himself had done much more annoying things in the last five minutes.

"Left or right?" he asked, pulling Xander into the next left-turn without waiting for an answer.

"Right," Xander responded as usual, as he followed Spike down the corridor. "Hey, check out the Mr. Clean Queen," he added, pointing to a portrait above them of a redheaded ruler with an extremely high forehead.

"That's Queen Elizabeth, you git. It's a wig. She was completely bald by that time, they say."

Spike was about to cut off Xander's inevitable attempt to keep up his image as a horrible student by pretending he didn't know *which* Queen Elizabeth Spike meant, when a firm female voice cut *him* off. "I bloody well was *not* -- that was a rumor started by one of those endless Essex brats. Still brassed off at me for chopping off their cousin's head after four hundred years..."

The voice was coming from the painting. Spike blinked, and the image of Good Queen Bess winked at him, but said no more. Xander tugged him further on, muttering, "Does anybody besides me suddenly miss good old Phantom 'has to write you a Post-It-Note to communicate with you' Dennis?"

"Depends. Are we talking about those bright green post-its, or the normal yellow kind?" Spike hesitated as a servant entered the hallway. He could feel Xander tense up beside him, though it might have simply been because the servant was a large vampire. The servant only inclined his head as he walked past, and a moment later he felt Xander relax again.

"Tell me why we don't just go up and ask someone if we can see the Queen?" Xander asked in a low voice.

"Xander, how rude! Marching in and demanding to see the Queen. Didn't Willow's mum teach you any manners?"

Xander stuck his tongue out, which made Spike grab it with his lips. He enjoyed himself for a bit, sucking on Xander's tongue and feeling the way his husband wriggled and made half-hearted protesting noises. When he finally let Xander go - despite not having a clue as to why he had to - he realized the servant was still in the hallway. He looked over, but only saw the tails of the servant's coat disappearing around a corner.

"Willow tried. She used to hit me with her Barbie whenever I did something mean, rude, or tacky." Xander puffed his chest proudly. "That's what made me the girly-man I am today."

Spike gave him a measuring look. "I like it when you squeal like a girl." He reached over to pinch Xander's arse, hoping for just such a squeal, and got hit on the head, instead. It was a reasonably acceptable substitute, though Spike spared a moment to pout over the knowledge that if Xander wouldn't get up to anything questionable in Ambercrombie's, there was no *way* he'd be following up on any foreplay in the hallways of Buckingham Palace.

When they reached the end of the hallway and turned in the direction towards which the servant had disappeared, the carpeting got a little more worn, and the paintings on the walls a bit more decorative, and less formal. A residential part of the Palace, he supposed, judging by how discreetly the suite names were placed.

So maybe he could grab a local, and con his way into getting a guide to the Queen's public chambers, and an introduction? Was that the plan? Spike realized suddenly (though not for the first time; he simply tended to shove the realization to the back of his head every time the sneaky bastard conked him in the brain) that he didn't *have* a plan. Oh well; he usually worked best that way; Spike had a history of fucking up every plan he'd ever made. Not that he didn't fuck up when he *didn't* have a plan, but there was no way of proving it, was there, nyah-nyah.

He listened and sniffed, doing his best vamp-reconnaissance on the corridor. No smells or sounds of at-home occupants except for the faint tinkle of some sort of music box or victrola at the very end of the hall, coming from a partially-opened door. Curious, he headed down the hallway, Xander-weight still in tow. He was expecting an 'are you sure this is a good idea?' at any moment, or possibly an 'are you nuts?' but got neither. Instead he heard someone singing, and stopped, right before they stepped up to the door. The voice was eerily familiar.

Xander grinned at him, and rapped on the door. "Dru? You home?"

Spike wondered just when his perfectly sane, rational, healthy-sense-of-self-preservation husband had turned into...well, *him*. The singing stopped, and Spike could hear nothing. Nothing at all until the soft whisper of the door as it was opened, and Drusilla stood there, looking slightly annoyed. And, Spike noted, not at all in the least bit insane.

She looked at Spike, one eyebrow raised. "What have you brought? A snack before dinner? You know I don't like the boys when they're this old, Spike," she pouted. Then her face brightened. "Is this collar for me?" She reached towards Xander's neck, and Xander pulled away, just out of her reach.

Spike wasn't sure he shouldn't grab Xander and run. But Xander just said, "No, it's for Spike. Only he gets to bite me."

Half-familiar, dark eyes widened. "You brought home a *pet* ? *That* sort of pet? Without asking? Daddy will be very cross with you when he gets home." She sounded like the little girl she often did, without the edge of psychosis that made it endearing. Spike shivered.

"Ooh, you're in trouble now, Spike," Xander said, his expression a perfect mix of taunting schoolboy and leering lover. Husband. Glurble.

Drusilla focused completely on Spike, now, and her eyes did that *thing.* That scary, otherwordly, utterly familiar thing, where she stared straight through him for a second, her body swaying to a rhythm that had nothing to do with the music playing behind her in the room. He reached out to grab her and stop her from falling. A habit as ingrained as sighing or pouting or using his cheekbones to get his own way, kept fresh by the transfer of his post-vision catching-duties to Cordelia, in recent years.

Drusilla straightened suddenly, though, pushing his hand away, her eyes as clear as he'd ever seen them. "You're not my Spike."

Spike stepped back, slipping his arm through Xander's again. "Well, no. Not exactly." Nor was she his Dru, insofar as any Dru could be considered his, anymore. That clarity in her gaze was more unnerving than any number of star-sent visions or doll-whispers.

"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" she demanded, eyes losing just enough focus, once more, to make Spike think they might have a chance at the grabbing and running thing. He could point behind her and yell 'Edith's fallen off her shelf' to distract her for a second.

"He's Spike. I'm Xander. We're from California...in another dimension. Is the Queen around? Spike wants to meet her."

Spike had to consider the merits of strangling his husband, right here and now, and deal with the question of what to do with the body as a much easier one than answering the confused, but *amused* look that had appeared in Dru's eyes.

"Tourists?" Drusilla repeated. Then she laughed, and the full-throated, low laugh was, oddly, the most familiar thing about her. She sounded like herself as she laughed at them, and Spike wondered if it would be worth it to get offended. "The guards just let you walk in, didn't they?" Her eyes were glowing, now, with delight. Spike figured there were going to be a couple of dead...more dead...guards, soon. "At least that explains why you're so much better dressed."

Drusilla purred, then, giving them both a long, slow look, before reaching out and caressing Spike's vest. For a second, anyway, before Xander lightly slapped her hand.

"Mine."

Was that a growl? Coming from Xander? A real, honest-to-Saint-Vigeous vamp growl? It was. Spike couldn't help preening, not that he tried to stop himself. But Drusilla was laughing at him again. Or perhaps at Xander. Must be at Xander, since *Spike* hadn't done anything worthy of being laughed at, like unconsciously beginning to subvocalize as Xander put a hand on the small of his back.

"I've changed my mind -- I *do* like this one. If you get tired of him, can I have him?" she asked Spike.

"Mine!" he replied, just as quickly as Xander had, but with the undertone to his growl that only a real vamp could pull off. Dru just laughed again.

"You *must* come in and meet my Spike. He'll be coming home any minute now, and won't he be surprised." Her eyes sparkled with sudden delight. "We can pretend I've found a new Spike, and don't need him anymore." Drusilla beckoned them into the room as she spoke, and Spike followed against his better judgment -- because Xander was ahead of him, following Dru, and he wasn't about to let his husband alone in the room with a somewhat sane Drusilla.

Xander looked equally uncertain. "Um, is your Spike someone we wanna annoy?" Then Xander slapped himself on the forehead. "What am I saying? Of course we'll stay to meet him!" He smiled brightly at Drusilla, who beamed.

"Er, hey! I'm pretty sure I'm insulted by that," Spike said. He made certain to stay right beside his idiot husband, one hand firmly in Xander's to ensure no one tried stealing...either of them. Xander looked back at him when he squeezed maybe a little *too* tightly, and smiled -- which made Spike smile, which made Xander smile, which made Spike...look like an utter moron, probably. Or just a newlywed. They stayed that way for...a while, looking like morons at each other.

"Oo, wonderful, pretty boys...can I watch? While we wait, Spike isn't home yet and you both smell *so* lovely." It was, Spike decided, proof that this wasn't his Dru. Hearing her say that gave him the shivers again -- not the good, let's get naked now kind.

Fortunately he could blame it on Xander. "Sorry, pet," the word slipped out, despite it feeling wrong. "Xan's all prudish about having sex in front of others."

"I'm prudish? Because I won't let you strip me naked and fuck me in a *department* store? Because I won't let you give me a blow job in a cab? Because I won't fuck you in front of your mother? Because I won't give you a blow job in a closet at Buckingham Palace?" Xander actually managed to look serious, and suitably shocked as he listed Spike's indiscretions.

"Yeah! Hang on, I haven't asked you yet about doing anything in the Palace." Xander just looked at him. Spike shrugged. "I said *yet*." He didn't bother pointing out that Xander had already had sex *with* Dru, so he shouldn't feel oogly about doing it in front of her. He was afraid this Dru would take it as an invitation and lose her dress before they could stop her, because... because... right, because Xan would be mad at him, afterwards.

He glanced around for a suitable closet, just in case, but saw only a well-furnished parlor, with a door leading off towards what he assumed was the bedroom, or possibly bedrooms, given the size and general opulence of the part of the suite that he could see. It made their room at the Hotel Russell look like a two-hour rental at the Sunnydale Motor Inn.

Alter-Dru, meanwhile, looked like she was about to pout over not getting to see them shag. A certain detached part of Spike wondered if this Dru was as good at it as their version, and if so, could she maybe actually convince Xander... The sensible part of him, which, contrary to popular opinion, did exist, whapped that first part over the head with a large mental trout -- no doubt engendered by Xander having managed to get the Monty Python theme stuck in the back of Spike's head. The party of the second part knew it was an idiotic idea to let Xander be naked anywhere near this Dru, and said trout-wielding party won the day.

Problem was, Spike didn't have a real trout with which to whap Dru over the head, to distract her from pouting. He settled for asking, "So, where's your Spike, then?"

"He went out," she said, still bordering dangerously on the edge of a pout. "Nasty place, the Cobbler's Club. I don't like it."

Spike wasn't sure he wanted to know what could possibly be wrong with a place to make it someplace Dru wouldn't like -- and that he would. Even his alter-him. From the eyebrow raising occurring on Xander's face, he wasn't the only one trying not to think of details.

"Er, so, Dru... how long have you two been living in Buckingham Palace?" Maybe if they kept the conversation light, and focused on normal things like killing people and royalty, he could avoid wondering if the Cobbler's Club was anything like the Poet's Society Club he'd belonged to for a brief two months, back when he'd been human. One more item on his list of things to never, ever, let Xander find out about.

"Ever since Daddy turned the Queen. She lets us stay here, gives us nice things, lets us feed on anybody we want to." Her face darkened a little. "Almost anybody."

Spike's jaw dropped. He waited for it to bounce up off the floor and back onto his face, so he could talk. Angelus? *Angelus* had turned the Queen? How the bloody hell had he gotten close enough?

Xander looked just as flummoxed, though he was laughing through his surprise. "Angel killed the Queen? Wait 'til I tell Wesley; he'll make Angel sleep on the couch for a month."

"*Our* couch." It was an old gag, but a good one. Spike snickered. One of these days Wes would actually make good on his threat, and they'd have the chance to make Angel *truly* miserable. It would probably have to involve Spike and Xander having sex in the next room, loudly.

"Who's Wesley? Is he another tasty boy like this one?" Drusilla asked, tracing a long-nailed finger through the air an inch away from Xander's jaw, as if she were stroking his chin by remote control. Xander stepped back, but didn't stop grinning.

"I don't know how tasty Wes is. Think we should ask Angel when we get home?"

"No, thank you," Spike told his husband, pulling him a bit closer. "I don't particularly care to see Gunn make mince-pie out of you."

Dru's eyes lit up. "Mince-pie? You have a chef who can make mince-pie out of humans? Do you think he'd like to come work for us? Nobody here can make a decent minced-human-pie."

"Sorry, don't think you'd want him," Spike told her. "He'd bring Wes and Angel along, and then you'd have two of the broody, daft poofters. Not sure any one dimension could handle that." Dru pouted again, and Spike could see she either wasn't trying her best, or she simply didn't pout as well as his Dru.

Xander interrupted the pout-fest. "So, um, can we meet her? I mean, if she isn't gonna eat us or anything? Although, huh, the thought of being eaten by Queen Victoria doesn't give me nearly the wiggins that it ought to." Xander frowned, thoughtfully. Spike stared at him, wondering just when Xander had lost his mind. Didn't matter - *he* was getting the wiggins, thinking about Queen Victoria eating Xander.

"Oi! What the bloody hell--" came a familiar, if peevish voice from behind them. "Who're these yoiks?"

Spike and Xander looked back to find Spike, the other, standing in the doorway gaping at them. There was as much outrage in his voice as if he'd found the three of them in a pile of naked, sweating, tangled limbs, instead of standing fully clothed in the middle of the drawing room.

Drusilla sniffed. "I ordered a new Spike, from offworld, since you'd rather play at the Cobblers Club than with me. And he brought his pet along. Don't they look lovely together?"

"They look like something my horse left on the side of the road." The newcomer curled his lip and echoed her sniff. "That's never me. I'd never dress like a toff, no matter what universe I was from."

Spike took a good look at who was critiquing his wardrobe, and laughed aloud. His other self had absolutely *no* sense of fashion, or style, or possibly even sense. He looked like...well, fine, he looked like Spike had a hundred or so years ago, right after he'd been turned. Before he'd got his self-confidence enough to start dressing like a punk who didn't *care* what anyone else thought.Xander was laughing even louder. "Spike! Your hair...!"

Spike prided himself on the fact that he did *not* immediately put his hands to his own head to make absolutely sure the monstrosity standing before him really *was* his alternate self, and not some magically-appearing reflection.

Bad enough he had to stand about like the butchest thing on two legs, practically screaming "look at me, I'm a big man now," with every thrust of his jaw. The grime-covered workboots and dingy ploughboy's coat might have allowed him to pull off the rough-boy act on the streets, but in these surroundings, the whole effect came across as...well....wanna-be.

Except for the hair, which came off as "I've been shagging in a briar patch." Spike couldn't blame Xander for snickering. His double's hair was standing out every which way, and decorated randomly with dried leaves and small sticks.

"Did you climb over the back wall again, Spike?" Dru asked, not really sounding as if she cared. Or sounding as if she meant to sound like she didn't care. Spike would've been able to tell, with his own Dru, but not this one.

"Of course I did, you silly bint. What else would I do -- stroll in through the front gate like those toffs in the Queen's Council?" Other-Spike's voice was rough, the guttersnipe accent fully in place. Spike had never realized just how silly he sounded. Perhaps *he* hadn't ever sounded this silly, though. He glanced at Xander, who was still snickering. Other-Spike was now busily glaring at them like he wasn't amused, and he didn't even come *close* to Xander's skill with that look.

Spike just arched an eyebrow at him. "Sneaking in because he wasn't supposed to be out?" he asked, in his normal -- original -- accent. Xander was right. There was just something about this other Spike that made Spike want to annoy him. Xander looked minutely startled, for a second, no doubt at hearing him sound like Wesley.

"I can go anyplace I please," the other Spike sneered, and it was all Spike could do to keep from laughing. Perhaps it wasn't fair -- perhaps he ought to feel sorry for this sad reminder of just what he'd been like, himself, before Angelus and Darla had left him and Dru to their own devices for a hundred years.

But on the other hand...he couldn't help himself. "As long as you aren't seen doing it?" he added, only a little worried at how easily he'd slipped back into the cultured accent of his childhood.

His other, sillier looking self snarled, then lunged. It was a clumsy lunge, the sort Spike had out-grown shortly after Angelus had left him alone on the streets of Berlin for a week. Spike stepped aside, watching as his other self stumbled. When he looked up and growled, in full vampiric guise, Spike just looked at Xander with the air of one mildly confused.

"Spike, don't play with yourself." Xander grinned. Spike chuckled. He was about to point out that Xander usually *liked* watching him play with himself, when he saw his double's gaze suddenly shift to Xander.

"That's Master Spike, to you, human." The snarl that accompanied the words made the otherwise stunning (in Spike's unbiased opinion) vampiric countenance look uglier than a three-days-dead gorilla.

*Nobody* snarled at Xander like that and unlived to tell about it, except possibly Cordelia. Spike darted for his double's throat, intending to pick him up by it and toss him against the wall as a prelude to re-introducing him to the proper company manners that Adelaide had no doubt drummed into his head as solidly as Spike's own mum had. A strong hand on his shoulder -- a human hand -- stopped him in mid-lunge.

"Hey," Xander said, in a voice guaranteed to freeze him in his tracks no matter *what* he was doing. He turned to Xander, who grinned at him again. "Don't beat yourself up over me. It's disturbing." To the Spike who stood before them, snarling with only his face now, Xander said, "I wasn't talking to you, dork."

"Who the fuck are you calling a dork?" Dork-Spike snarled. Did he even know what one was? He at least understood that Xander was insulting him, which showed he wasn't *completely* brainless. Spike ignored him, because that tone when Xander had said 'hey' was still running up and down his spine, doing little macarena steps along his nerves. Had there been a closet nearby? Was there any chance he could drag Xander into it?

His double was growling, again, and Spike reached out to shove him out of the way. Spike really didn't know where he was, though, because Xander was still staring at him like he knew what Spike was thinking. Xander was grinning, and his tongue came out and licked his lower lip.... Spike growled and lunged, and managed to only grab Xander close and kiss him, rather than strip him naked and shag him, because...because.... He had no idea why.

Xander let him kiss him, though, which was a Very Good Thing and made him forget all about other things he'd been doing. Xander's hands slipped under Spike's coat and held him close, and it wasn't until he heard Drusilla's happy cry that he was able to break himself away.

"Ooo! Spike, they're going to let us watch!"

Spike jerked his head back and glared at Drusilla. He didn't let go of Xander, though, and was pleased to find Xander wasn't letting go of *him*. Dork-Spike, however, was back to human guise and was looking at them as though he'd found Engelbert Humperdink albums in his collection.

"What the bloody hell is *that*? Fuck, you're too disgusting to be me!"

Spike regarded him with confusion. Disgusting? The only person who'd ever described him kissing Xander as disgusting, was Cordelia, and he knew bloody well that she protested too much. Even Angel and his crew, though they might make ecch-noises upon witnessing a SpikeXander snogfest, usually did so just before sneaking off to their own rooms to do something sadly vanilla.

"We're disgusting?" Xander was asking, with a similarly perplexed tone. "This coming from a man with horse-dung on his boots? I'm not even a vampire, and I can smell it from here."

Spike couldn't, which meant Xander was making it up as he went along, but the other Spike glanced reflexively down at his feet, so go Xander, anyway. "Maybe he means we didn't put enough effort into that kiss," Spike suggested. "I mean, it was okay, but hardly one of our best." He sucked on his lower lip, and winked. "Wanna try it again?"

"Sure, Master Spike." It might've been the words, or it might've been that 'hey' tone, or maybe it was just the fact that Spike was pretty much a goner when it came to the smile that Xander was currently giving him. Whatever. Who the fuck cared. His lips and tongue were dancing with his husband's again, and Xander didn't care who was watching, for once, so why should Spike?

"Hell, they're a couple of poofters!" he heard his own voice say.

Spike didn't feel like breaking off a perfectly enjoyable kiss just to glare at a stupid version of himself. However, someone else seemed to prefer it, because he was pulling his perfectly edible lips away from Spike's, in order to look over at dork-him.

"Poofters?" Xander repeated. He looked at Spike, with an expression of surprise. "You're a poofter? You never said!"

Spike narrowed his eyes. "You *really* enjoy needling me, don't you? Any version will do?"

Xander grinned, and it made him look so scrumptious that Spike wanted to nibble on his lips again. So he did. He could hear his double grumbling something, but it couldn't have been anything more important than what he was doing.

Then he broke the kiss, and looked at himself. "Cobbler's Club? Funny, back in our world that's a low-rent male stripjoint." It wasn't anything of the sort -- he'd never heard of the Cobbler's Club. But he'd visited any number of places with similar innocent-sounding names. Even one in his Poetry Club days, hat pulled down over his eyes, in an outfit even more patently fake-slum than his double's. By the angry snarl that came from the dork, his dart had hit the target better than a drunk, blindfolded Wesley could - which was pretty damned good.

"Maybe in Poof-World," OtherSpike said. "Here it's a pub. Place where real men get together and drink, and--"

"Grunt and scratch and puff put their manly chests?" Xander finished, nodding almost understandingly. "Yeah, I've been to a few of those. Good places to get just drunk enough to come home to your girlfriend and be able to pretend you weren't checking out some other guy's ass at work that day."

Since the incident where Xander had managed to lodge three darts in Angel's arse -- and all three had honestly been accidents, as far as Spike could tell-- his husband-glurble had been permanently relegated to the position of 'Spike's Cheerleader' when the game was played in the Hyperion bar. He seemed to be holding his own in this verbal version, however.

OtherSpike opened his mouth, then shut it, then looked at Dru with a funny little shake of his head, before flinging himself pseudo-carelessly onto a brocade-covered settee. As if he were exhausted not only by whatever activities he had or hadn't been engaging in during his adventure-over-the-wall, but by the whole conversation. He crossed one muddy boot over the other, and Spike did catch a whiff of stableyard in the muck that flaked off and landed on the clean furniture.

"Take your boots off, lackwit. Your mum would box your ears if she saw you," he said mildly. His double just snorted, flipped him off, and stayed sprawled where he was as if he owned the place. He probably did own some of it, but that was no call to be rude. Spike shook his head, and said to Xander, "She's probably better off."

"Least she has you," Xander replied, smiling, but with some concern in his eyes. Spike wanted to tell him not to be -- he really didn't care if this dolt was indifferent to his mother. Even if she didn't deserve it, and even if she were a nice old lady who *ought* to have a son who brought her freshly dead corpses and lilies.

There was a slight thump, as Dolt-Spike's boots hit the floor, and suddenly he was standing there, facing Spike. It was eerie, not unlike his last good memory of looking into a mirror. "What's this about my mum?" he demanded.

Spike wanted to laugh at the little-boy-in-a-schoolyard tone. "She makes good tea cakes," was all Spike said. There was a growl, then, and Spike had to step back and bat away a clumsy, if enraged, grab. "What? S'not like I said she wears combat boots, is it?" Spike added.

"How the hell do you know anything about my mother?" Spike's double snarled.

Spike just shrugged. Not like she wasn't the same as *his* mum had been in the tea-cake department, since with a few pointy exceptions, she *was* his mum. Then he grinned, sensing an opportunity for more mischief -- or maybe just to make his double feel guilty, if that were possible. "Popped in for a visit, didn't we? Least we could do, seeing how we came all this way. Wanted to introduce her to Xander." He gave his husband a smile, as if that had, indeed, been their plan all along. "Besides, it's not like you've been keeping her up to date on *your* life. She was perfectly happy to hear all about ours."

The face of Spike's other self went utterly blank, and he blinked, slowly, staring at Spike as if unsure of what he'd heard. "You--- took *him* to meet my mum?"

"Yeah. Sweet lady. Reminds me of my grandmother. Showed us your naked baby pictures," Xander said. Spike didn't bother pointing out that they hadn't *had* cameras around for home-use when he was a baby. The expression on his mirror-face was too priceless to be distracted from.

Dru's voice was petulance in liquid form-- you could almost grab it out of the air, bottle and sell it. "You never showed *me* your naked baby pictures."

Her Spike didn't answer, or even turn his head to look at her. He just sank slowly back down to his seat, feet planted squarely, if not steadily, on the floor this time. He grabbed an embroidered pillow and began worrying at a loose thread, fingers finding it without a glance, as if he did this sort of thing so often he had the worn spots memorized. He probably did; Spike could remember picking loose an entire cross-stitched image of Windsor Castle, in one of his own more nervous moments.

The seated Spike stared blindly at the wall beyond his visitors' heads. "You took a man to meet mum. Christ. Prob'ly kissed him in the bloody front parlor where God and all the neighbors could see through the window."

"And the cat; don't forget the cat," Xander said. Spike decided he'd keep Xander after all, just for the confused look his comment produced on the other Spike's face.

Only lasted for a moment, though, before the look of blank despair returned, and OtherSpike closed his eyes. "Fuck. My mum thinks I'm a shirtlifter now."

Now the confused look was on Xander's face. "Um..? Girls don't wear shirts in this world?" He looked at Drusilla, as if to check what she was wearing. Drusilla smiled prettily at him and batted her eyelashes in a way that made Spike want to growl at her again. What part of "mine" hadn't she got?

"It means 'poofter'," Spike explained, and got himself thumped for his effort. "What? Why'd you *ask*, then?"

"I meant...never mind. So mom thinks you lift guys' shirts, not that she seemed to care about us doing it. This is news? In a hundred years you've never done the dirty deed with Angel? Loud enough for the whole street to hear? With structural aids and kinky boots?"

Spike looked at Xander, in some amazement. "Just what sort of stories has Angel been *telling* you? Or is this a fantasy of yours, in which case, soon as we get home we'll go enact it?"

But dork-Spike was sputtering. "*Angel*? Are you completely off your nut? Why the fuck would I have *sex* with *Angel*?"

Spike and Xander looked at him. Spike glanced at Drusilla, and saw a dreamy expression on her face which either meant she was thinking about Angel, sex, and possibly Spike, Spike II, or Angel, Spike, Xander, and Spike. Or she was thinking about blackberry scones.

Then Spike looked at Xander, who said, "Um, Angel? Tall guy, built like a brick, kind of a doofus, but wears leather pants *real* nice?"

Spike continued to look at Xander. "You said you didn't notice the leather pants when he went soulless. You were all 'What? Leather pants? Really? Angel? No, I was too busy frenching Cordelia in broom-closets to pay attention to Angel's arse.' Liar."

Xander rolled his eyes. "Duh... Besides, I meant at the New Year's party, dingdong. Or were you too nogged-up to realize that Wes convinced him to wear leather and silk?"

Spike blinked. Angel had been wearing leather and silk? Soulboy? And he'd missed it? "Silk what?" he asked, knowing he was getting distracted from the task at hand -- making his double cringe -- but not really able to stop himself.

"Good question, since he wasn't wearing a shirt. But Gunn swore he was wearing silk *somewhere*."

The mental image of his Sire in leather trousers and no shirt and a mysterious silk *something* was not helping Spike concentrate on teasing his double. Then again, from the look on AlterSpike's face, said image was doing Spike's job for him anyway -- which was good, because part of Spike's brain kept insisting on pointing out that it had been *he* who spiked the eggnog in the first place, so it was his own fault he didn't remember the actual event.

His double was scowling. "Why on earth would I pay attention to Angelus in leather trousers? *I'm* not a blasted poof."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "You must not have ever *seen* him in leather trousers. Either that or your version of His Poofiness is a complete do-- uh, more complete dork. Or bald."

Xander laughed once, then looked at Spike, his eyes dancing in that way that meant he was drawing mental pictures. That was proven a second later when Xander began laughing uncontrollably. Pleased, Spike watched him, ignoring once again his more idiotic self. His smile grew wider as Xander kept laughing, and he knew he'd be laughing himself, just from the sound of it, in another moment.

"He's not bald," Drusilla was saying, in a slightly bemused tone. She'd moved closer, towards Xander, and Spike glanced over to see her watching his husband as well. Her expression was difficult to read -- which gave Spike a quick jolt. It wasn't quite dreamy, nor was it one of hunger. Somewhere in between the two, as if a sane Drusilla couldn't *quite* get lost in the sound of Xander's laughter, and wanted to.

Spike took Xander's arm, pretending to do it to help Xander maintain his balance. In reality he wanted to be sure no one got any ideas about biting anyone they didn't have rights to. Drusilla's gaze flickered up to him, and her expression cleared. For a moment she looked like she had on those rare nights when her thoughts and eyes had been clear, and her focus had been on the night around them rather than the fantasy world inside. Spike wasn't at all sure what to make of this; then Drusilla smiled, and turned back to her own Spike, who was still scowling like a grumpy child.

"He would, you know. If you let him. If you didn't spend all your time trying to prove you're more of a man than he is, by stirring up trouble."

"You're not making any sense, woman. He would what?" For all that her Spike spoke as if he didn't understand, Dru's resigned little sigh spoke louder. It seemed to say that this was a conversation they'd had so many times in the last hundred years that the pattern had worn its way into her tongue, and she was weary of it. "Anyhow, we're vampires. We're supposed to stir up trouble. It's fun."

"Sometimes. But you don't really *like* it anymore, do you." Dru turned to Spike. The real Spike -- at least from his point of view. "Daddy keeps trying to get him to go along with him and Grandmamma on one of their diplomatic missions, or sit in on a session at the House of Lords, but he only goes if there's a chance to embarrass Angelus."

"Well, there's nothing wrong with *that*," Spike responded. "It's one of the great joys of my unlife. That and the knowledge that I can eat all the Twinkies I like and never worry about cholesterol."

"And I fall where on this list?" Xander asked.

"Oh, I can swallow all of your cream filling and never have to worry about cholesterol either," Spike assured him.

"Just so we're clear on that."

Dru smiled briefly, then frowned at her own Spike. "I like playing Annoy the Daddy as much as the next girl. But you don't really get any fun out of it anymore. If you want his attention, there are easier ways of getting it."

"Who says I want his attention?" Spike shot back. "Who says I give a rat's arse for his approval, or Darla's or--"

"Or mine?" Dru asked, in a clear tone that was just, in Spike's opinion, wrong wrong wrong. Her childe didn't respond, though he looked up at her with troubled eyes. Though he might be ruder to her than Spike had ever been to his own Dru, there were still some lines he wouldn't cross, apparently.

"You used to like tormenting him as much as me," he said finally. "We tore up this cesspool of a city, Dru, you and me, just because he told us not to. Turned enough people to take over London for ourselves. Made a playground for all of us. And what's he do? Turns the Queen and half of Parliament, eats William Gladstone for her, and settles down to quietly control the bleedin' British Empire, with Darla at the helm. He's no fun anymore. Hell, *you* don't even know how to have fun, anymore."

Drusilla was still frowning lightly, but she didn't answer. Spike had the sudden and unexpected feeling of discomfort, as though they were witnessing a conversation they shouldn't. He told himself that was ridiculous -- this was his double, and *Dru*. What could they possibly have to say that should be private from him?

"You two made all this?" Xander was asking, in a subdued tone. "You're why London's over-run? Well, that and because there's no Slayer here?"

Drusilla looked at him. "What's a Slayer?"

Spike chortled. "Oh, we should have brought her with us. Imagine the fun she'd have had!"

Xander thumped him. "Behave, Spike," he said, uselessly.

But the other Spike was looking proud. He'd straightened his coat and preened a bit, and Spike could see flashes of something else there. Something besides the cocky, bored, repressed adolescent. "Yeah. Me and Dru did all this. Made enough vampires that in twenty years we had the place almost completely to ourselves. Would have taken it completely over, if, you know... we needed *something* to eat."

Xander was looking at *him*, now, and Spike wanted to ask what he was thinking. The thoughtful expression on his face warned him he might not like hearing it. Xander half-smiled, then said in a low tone, "You scare me."

Spike shivered, pulled himself up against his husband, and tried wrapping his entire body around Xander's. His spine was doing the macarena again -- as his glurble darn well knew that tone would have made it do, so what was with him saying things like this then insisting he wasn't going to follow-through when someone was watching?

"What did *he* do?" the other Spike demanded. He was back to sounding like a petulant schoolboy. "We're the ones that did it!"

Xander didn't take his eyes off Spike. "Yeah, and normally I'd be very, very unhappy with the making of vampires out of humans thing. But...wow. Sometimes I forget what you're capable of." Xander was the one who shivered, that time, though his eyes never left Spike's, and his tone never lost that element of awe, and lust.

Spike wasn't sure what the bloody hell Xan was on about, but who cared? "Yeah, I can kill four spiders with one rolled-up newspaper, too," he bragged as he stepped closer to Xander. "Grrr." And he was almost up to the point where he could watch Rocky and Bullwinkle without hiding behind the sofa when the flying squirrel came on.

Then Xander was kissing him, and he was thinking maybe if Xander kissed him like that a whole lot more, he wouldn't care if there were squirrels dancing on his head, or ferrets down his trousers, or pouty alternate universe doubles watching, or anything. Though there mightn't be room for the ferrets, come to think of it, given the current goings on in his trousers.

Some part of him that was still the wanker who needed glasses and felt guilty about tossing off, noted that if those people from back home who thought they couldn't keep their hands off each other *before*, could see them now, the teasing would never end. Spike told that part of him to bog off, and licked the roof of Xander's mouth.

Another part of him noted that Dru was sighing happily, and the other Spike was utterly silent -- no ecchs of protest from him now. Spike told that part that it was nice and all, but could it please go bog off with the other part? Then he pressed his pelvis closer to Xander, just in case his husband had missed the fact that there was at least one part of him that could concentrate on the important things in unlife.

"Spike? What the hell're you doing?" Funny, Spike didn't remember having packed his Sire among the baggage they'd brought along. Spike didn't let go of Xander, because Angel's showing up had never meant 'stop kissing Xander.' Even when they were naked in Sire's hot tub and were about to become -- or had already become -- newts.

There was a whoosh of almost-sound, though, and suddenly Xander's lips were no longer pressed against his, and Xander was yelping with annoyance, and a very irritated Angelus was holding Xander by the back of his coat, glaring at them both.

Spike snarled at him and made sure he didn't let go of his grip on the *rest* of his husband. "Do you bloody well mind?" he snapped. "We were in the middle of something!"

Angelus was growling back, his gold eyes not doing at all well at hiding the confusion behind his rage. Spike would have flipped him off, but that would have meant letting one hand go of Xander.

"Oo, daddy, you made them stop," Drusilla complained.

Angelus' expression grew more confused. "Dru? Is this your--" Then he stopped, because he'd turned to look at her, and in doing so saw Spike. Other-Spike, standing beside Drusilla. Angelus looked back at real-Spike, who was hanging onto Xander and still growling, and at Xander, who was looking amused, despite also looking like he resented being interrupted. "Spike?"

"What?" the double asked, in a tone that was probably meant to be sardonically amused. It came out sounding just strangled.

Angelus did the rubber-necking at all the extra faces in the room thing again, before finally letting go of Xander. Xander tugged at his coat with the hand Spike hadn't had hold of. "Thanks, deadboy."

"Dead who?" Ah, now there was the Angelus whom Spike remembered, complete with ludicrous Irish accent. Confused, growly, and thick as a bucket of pig swill. In other words, Angel. The soul hadn't made him any more of a dork; that was a myth. He'd just hidden it better when he'd been willing to rip your head off and spit down your throat if you pointed it out.

"Angelus?" came an irritated female voice from the hallway. "Were you planning on helping me with the bags, or should I just leave them in the hallway for the servants to trip over?" Darla waited all of ten seconds for an answer that never came, before she appeared in the doorway. "Angel--" Her mouth shut promptly as she took in the sight before her. "Hell. There's two of them! Drusilla, what've you done? One Spike is bad enough, but two...."

"Is any good boy's dream come true?" Spike finished for her. Xander whapped him, and he turned his head. "What? Oh, tell me you didn't think about it-- just for a minute."

"I didn't think about it just for a minute," Xander responded. Spike eyed him sharply, then returned his attention to his great-grandsire. Or was it just grandsire, or...hell, he'd lost track of how to refer to Darla, over the years, except for the eternally accurate title of 'annoying bint.'

It was Angel who spoke, though. "What the hell is going on, Spike?" He addressed this to his own version, in a growl that Spike could've told him would provoke sneers and snarls and chest-puffing, but would he have listened? He never had before.

"Why ask me? Like you'd care what my explanation is anyway?" Yup, there was the growling and the posturing. "They're some sort of off-dimension tourists Dru invited in for tea."

Angelus growled right back at him. "So why were you *kissing* one of 'em?"

"Spike was kissing himself?" Darla asked.

"*I* wasn't kissing anybody, you great moron," the local Spike shouted at Angelus, ignoring Darla entirely, a choice of which Spike heartily approved. "Least of all a bloke. Why would you think I'd do something like that?"

"Satan and his bloody imps only know," Angelus grumbled.

"Can I say it?" Xander asked, and Spike saw his eyes dancing with evil mischief. A second later he realized what Xander wanted to say.

"No, I want to. It'll be better coming from me." Spike returned the knowing smile, and turned his attention back to his alter-Sire. In his best, most cultured, non-Spike's-a-bad-boy voice, he said, "Xander and I are here on our honeymoon." Then he simpered at Xander. Xander simpered back, and for a moment they simply made goo-goo eyes at each other. Spike heard his double make a gagging noise.

"What is this?" Darla demanded. Spike glanced over and found Angelus staring at them, open mouthed. Spike extended his hand to show them his ring. Xander extended his, as well.

"You can't *possibly* be a vampire," Spike's double said. Angelus was still gawping.

"What? Just because I've found true love, and a decent tailor?" Spike asked, delighted to have got the reaction he'd been going for. Annoying Angel was fun in any dimension, but making him look totally gob-smacked was always infinitely better. A lot harder, of course. But that was why it was better.

"You call that foppish thing 'decent'?" Dork-Spike asked, back to his sneering and posturing. Then he caught Angelus' gaze, and faltered -- he hid it well, but Spike had no trouble reading his own face. "What?" he demanded, when Angelus said nothing.

Spike had seldom seen any expressions on his own unsouled Sire's face besides hunger, lust, malicious delight, murderous rage, or complete dumbfoundedness. He'd certainly never witnessed Angelus looking wounded, or disappointed, or indescribably hurt and trying desperately not to show it -- but he'd seen it on Angel-with-a-soul, and he recognised it now. "A hundred and twenty-seven years," Angelus pronounced slowly.

"What?" the other Spike said again, sounding less sure of himself.

"A hundred and twenty-seven years," Angelus repeated. "And after the first twenty, after the first fifty-odd times you pretended you didn't know what I was talking about, or acted drunker than you really were, or turned the whole thing into a fists-and-fangs-for-all, I finally got it through my thick head that you just weren't interested in men. That I must be daft, and reading all the bloody signals wrong." He glanced at Xander and *his* Spike with great brown cow-eyes that Spike had been *positive* only the souled version possessed, then back at his own Spike. "So what does *this* mean? That all this time it's just been *me* you didn't fancy?"

That Spike opened his mouth to say *something*, but Darla interrupted. "Really, Angelus, as if it matters. He's a spoiled, immature little street-rat who spends most of his time gleefully tearing down everything we've worked to build up, or drinking and whoring the night away. He's you, if you'd stayed in that little pig-trough of a town in Galway, only he's been that way for a century. Why you even bothered is still beyond me."

Both Spike and Angelus rounded on her, but neither said a word in retort. Spike was fairly sure it wouldn't help matters to mention that *his* Angel had killed Darla.... Instead, Spike's double gave them all a deathly glare, and stormed out of the room. When Angelus stormed after him, Darla's haughty expression faltered. Drusilla, on the other hand, looked satisfied. Spike just stared at the doorway, where the two vampires had vanished, and tried not to think about might have beens.

"Are you staying for dinner? Say you'll stay, Victoria will be so pleased to meet you." Drusilla was smiling, cheerful as though nothing had happened.

"Do you think I could get a photograph when we meet her?" Xander asked, sounding equally cheerful. Spike could hear an undercurrent of something else, though. "We have friends back home who'll never believe we met her if we don't have proof. Besides which, Grandma made me promise to take lots of pictures. Said something about it would force me to get out of bed once or twice during the honeymoon."

"I *told* you we could take pictures in bed," Spike reminded him.

"And do *you* remember what I said about showing my grandmother pictures of us in bed?" Xander asked, reasonably.

"Er...something about...feeding me to the chipmunks?" Sufficiently dissimilar from squirrels that he wasn't at all worried about the little rodents, but when he saw them, he couldn't help *thinking* about squirrels....

"I want pictures," Drusilla chimed in. "Grandmum, can we take pictures of the pretty boys?"

"*Why* do you keep calling me...oh, never mind. Go get a camera, then, and we'll--"

"No, we won't," Xander said flatly. Then he smiled, and Spike remembered that ability to charm everybody's mum. And grandmum. Apparently that included annoying bints of indeterminate relationship. "I mean, not that I'm not flattered, but we really *would* like to meet the Queen, and we only have a little time left on our honeymoon."

Like four more days, Spike thought, but who was counting. Besides, it wasn't the words that turned Darla's dour expression into a coy little simper; it was Xander's voice, and sincere, guileless eyes, and that perfectly innocent look that implied he had absolutely no idea how cute he was."I'm sure she'd quite like to meet you -- she likes pretty boys almost as much as Dru." Darla stepped closer to Xander and ran a finger up his arm. "She might even decide to let us keep you -- the place could use a bit of decoration."

Spike's hand closed around her wrist in perfect time with his growl. Just a little pressure. Just enough to let her know that she wasn't dealing with the Spike she knew, who would most likely stalk off and hide in a corner if challenged by Angel's Sire. Just a little pressure on the delicate wristbones...

She looked up at him in surprise, and he bared perfectly normal teeth at her. "I don't think you want to be touching what's mine, Darla. Not if you don't want to end up the same way our version did." No need to elaborate on the fact that Spike hadn't been responsible for Darla's dusting -- either time. Not when Angel had killed her to save Buffy, and not when Gunn had done the same for Angel, without batting an eye-- though Spike had been present the second time, and had seen that same look of disbelief on her face as he was seeing now.

It didn't matter who had done it -- it had been about family, and choosing the people you loved over the ones who were trying to hurt them. The only reason it had been Gunn and not Spike was that, fast as a vampire diving from the top of a staircase might be, a flying crossbow bolt is still faster. Less likely to fracture its coccyx when it lands on a polished tile floor, too -- though the crossbow bolt hadn't gotten the full benefit of getting to lie face-down in bed while Xander put ice-packs on its arse and waited on it hand and foot and told it what a good and clever crossbow bolt it was.

Darla was still looking at him, the disbelief warring with surprise on her face. She didn't try to move her hand away, but neither did she try to press. After a moment she narrowed her eyes, and stared at Spike. Spike stared back, not interested in giving her an inch, figuratively or mentally.

Xander wasn't moving, either -- still firmly ensconced in Spike's embrace, but casually, not with the posture of one who was cowed, and hiding in his protector's arms. Spike wasn't entirely sure he *could* protect Xander, if Darla, Drusilla, and the Queen's guards decided that Darla would have her toy. He began to wish that Willow had given him super-vamp-strength or something, instead of shutting off his chip. The temporary ability to thump a human upside the head wouldn't do a blind bit of good against a palace? full of vampires. Maybe Victorian England had been a bad choice. What was so wrong with Oz, again? Oh, right - no sex.

Compared to no Xander...

"No one's even going to ask me if I *want* to stay?" Xander asked, lightly. He was totally relaxed, in fact, pressed against Spike's body -- not quite as distracting as it should have been, but still enough for Spike to appreciate. As soon as Darla stepped back.

"You don't want to stay with us in the palace?" Drusilla asked, half-purring, half-pouting. It was a typically Drusilla mind-blowing combination of sultry seductress and give-me-what-I-want little girl. Spike tightened his grip on Xander, then discovered he needn't have worried. "You'll almost as good as that as our Dru is, Xander told her. "But she pouts better -- sorry. But she's insane, so -- fair trade. Hey, I wonder if she knew we were gonna meet you. Is that why she said we should take her to dinner at Eddie's? I thought she meant when we got *back*." Xander was babbling, but it was aimed at Spike, this time. Spike still hadn't relaxed, though, and wasn't about to let go Darla's wrist until she backed off.

Even as he thought it, she gave a half-shrug, and stepped away, pulling her arm free as if she hadn't noticed anyone holding it. "If we're going to dinner at Eddie's," Darla said smoothly, "I suppose we should get you in to see the Queen first. She tends to nod off rather early after one of our diplomatic debriefings."

"I can't imagine why." Spike rolled his eyes. Xander stepped on his foot. It was comfortingly familiar.

Honestly though, who wouldn't fall asleep after an hour or so of Darla going on about political alliances and upper crust fashion trends, and Angelus interjecting the occasional, "Aye, and then I dislocated his elbow, just to make sure he was payin' attention..." Lord knew *Spike* always had, if he couldn't find any mischief to get up to while he was allegedly listening.

Darla glanced at the door behind which Angelus and the other Spike had disappeared. The snarls and thumps and sounds of no-doubt valuable things being smashed were still going strong. "Well, *they'll* be growling at each other for a few hours, at least, if Angelus doesn't wise up and snap his head off. I suppose we should leave them to it. These fights of theirs get more tiresome every time we come home."

"Yes, you're right, of course," Drusilla agreed, "We should go." She motioned for Spike and Xander to follow her out the door. The tiny smile that played about her lips seemed to say that she had different reasons from Darla's for leaving the other two men to work out their differences.

"Does she like to be called Victoria? Or Your Majesty? Or Your Highness?" Xander was asking as he pulled Spike along by the hand, Darla having swept past Drusilla to lead the way down the hall. Spike was holding onto that hand for dear life, in Darla's company -- Xander's life. Just in case.

Darla glanced back at them, her expression coy. "She likes to be called 'Yes, Mistress'."

As they followed her down the hall, Spike tried to decide if he thought Darla was kidding.


Xander waited until they were half a block away from the palace grounds proper, before he bounced. Not because Spike would think he was silly, but because he didn't want the guards telling anyone in the palace that he was being silly. Plus, the street lamps were further apart in this section of town, so the silly-visibility for any other stranger-vamps wasn't so much of an issue anyway.

He bounced twice. "She thinks I'm cute! The Queen thinks I'm cute!" He saw Spike stifle a grin, opting for rolling his eyes, instead, trying to affect a world-weary unimpressed air. It wasn't working, because Spike was about to point out that the Queen also--

"She thought *I* was adorable." Spike looked smug.

"Yeah, she was comparing you to *whom* -- Dork-Spike?" Xander nudged him, then ran ahead several steps as Spike growled and made a lunge for him. Laughing, Xander ducked around a few pedestrians and started to put on a burst of speed to tease Spike - and found himself pulled up short, Spike's hands on his arms. "Cheater. No fair using vampiric speed against me."

"That's not what you say when you ask me to undress you."

"Yeah, well, I'm not asking you to undress me, am I?" Xander was grateful, in fact, that Spike *hadn't* been asking him to get undressed. Not that Xander didn't like being undressed by his husband, glurble, but *not* in the Queen's court. No matter *what* everyone else had been doing.

He'd never known much about English royalty, but he was pretty sure the undead Queen Victoria's court was *nothing* like the one back home had been. He couldn't imagine the little old lady he'd seen in his World History book, with her mourning veil hanging from the back of her head and the profile of an English Bulldog, putting up with her advisors getting naked in the audience chamber, for instance. Or giving reports on the state of trade relations with Paflagonia while velvet-collared humans knelt at their feet and performed other kinds of relations entirely. Not to mention the trapeze hanging a few feet above her throne.

Then again, he couldn't imagine that home version of Victoria in a leather catsuit, holding a riding crop, either. No, wait, he could. It was scarier than... a room full of half-naked, unchipped vampires in a world with no Slayer. Luckily for his mental slate, there was the image of *this* world's Queen Victoria. She looked nothing like a female Winston Churchill, and everything like a well-maintained version of Cathy Gale from The Avengers. With a crown.

"Is it, like, a treasonable offense if I point out that the Queen is hot?" he asked Spike.

"I think it's probably required that you *do*," Spike responded. He hadn't yet removed his hands from Xander's arms. He'd been acting a bit funny ever since they'd met Drusilla -- Xander wasn't sure if he should ask about it, or pretend he didn't notice. Was he thinking about what it would have been like, to have a Dru that wasn't crazy? Wondering if they would have stayed together, or split apart that much sooner?

Xander tried wriggling, though, to see if Spike was gonna let him go. No luck, so he let his head fall back, a bit. The blue velvet against his neck would now be the most prominent thing in Spike's vision. He felt Spike's erection against his leg, and watched as Spike's eyes turned gold, and dilated. Really, the man was *so* easy.

Then again, Spike was probably desperate -- he hadn't so much as hinted to Xander that they join in the courtly festivities, despite the invitation the Queen had extended. Xander had been prepared to use every trick he knew, to fend Spike off -- but Spike hadn't asked.

That might've been because he was too busy hemming and hawing and generally looking like a nervous sixteen year old boy, when they were in the Queen's presence. It wasn't the dominatrix gear, he suspected -- it had thrown Xander a bit, but he couldn't see it bothering Spike -- but just that it was the Queen. The. Queen.

Xander could read it on his face. No matter that Spike's own version would have been the I'm A Little Teapot queen -- short and stout -- and this one looked like something out of every boy's teenage Mrs. Robinson In Leather fantasies. She was still The Queen, and Spike had acted just like Xander would bet his human self would have: polite and a little flustered, but generally charming. In other words, adorable, and not just as compared to the local Spike.But he had still behaved himself above and beyond the call of duty, in terms of keeping his hands in places that would have been considered polite even in the other Victoria's court. Xander was impressed. It was probably a record for longest time spent not doing *something* vaguely naughty. His Spike, for instance, could never have, and hadn't, managed to go a hundred and hummeda-hummeda years without getting boinked by Angelus.

Then again, that was stupidity, not restraint, on the part of the local version-- and Xander should have known never to underestimate any Spike's capacity for being an idiot. Or for diving into a Good Thing once he'd had it rubbed in his face in a way that he couldn't help but notice.

They'd left the court with Darla and Dru a little later than they'd expected, because the Queen had spent so much time talking to them. She'd asked about local vampire politics back home, which was to be expected. She'd also asked things like who'd won the last World Cup, and had they ever met Count Dracula. Spike had rolled his eyes at that one and told a story involving eleven pounds and a naked three-legged-race that Xander suspected was about three-fourths true. Other chit-chat, and were they sure they didn't want to stay? No? Really? Not even for a foursome? Threesome? Twosome and the other could watch? By the time they'd got back to the Suite-O-Scourges, it was pushing midnight.Drusilla had gotten a self-satisfied look on her face the minute they'd walked through the door. Darla's expression was more questioning. Spike had twitched an eyebrow at Xander and led him over to the closed interior door behind which Angelus and Sulky-Boy had disappeared hours ago. Darla and Drusilla already had their ears pressed to the wood.

Xander hadn't had to listen for very long to recognize the sounds. He'd made them himself, lots of times, had heard Spike make them, and overheard Angel, Gunn, and Wesley making those noises. He'd even heard Angel yell *that* particular command involving tongues, hands, and a belt, before.

He and Spike had traded smirks, and left Darla and Dru at the door. They'd had to endure another round of 'won't you stay' and settled for accepting an invitation to stop by again before they left for home -- Drusilla had promised to have some gifts for them to take back. While Xander wasn't so sure he wanted to know what those gifts would be, he *did* want to visit again, if only because how red would Cordelia get, once he told her they had standing invitations to visit Buckingham Palace?

"So, you think they'll get out of the room before we visit again?" Xander asked. Not that he was all that eager to see Dork-Spike again, but it would be an opportunity to rub the alternate's face in it.

"Nah. Three days? Four? Angel and *I*-- er, well. Vampiric stamina, you know." Spike glanced away as he spoke, trying not to look nervous, which only made him look -- to Xander, who knew his face so well -- more nervous.

Xander grinned. "Ah, something to look forward to!" The look Spike gave him at *that* surprised him. "Spike?"

"What?" Spike had looked away from him, again, looking at the sidewalk as if wondering where he'd left his Doc Martens.

"Spike, what's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong." Spike was still looking away. "Just don't think you need to be worried about vampiric stamina. I've got no bloody complaints in that department."Xander stopped walking, and leaned against a lamppost. He cocked his head, a move he'd absorbed from Spike so gradually that he hadn't noticed it -- until one morning a couple of years ago when Cordy had said something particularly weird, and he'd tilted his head at her. She'd burst out laughing, and danced around, pointing at him and giggling, until he'd had to go look in the mirror to make sure he hadn't put his jeans on inside-out again or something.

"You mean you think I might be worried 'cause Dopey-Boy's getting it on with Angelus? That I'm wondering if you still think about Angel that way?" Spike couldn't be that stupid, could he? Hell, they'd hashed that out years ago.

Spike shrugged. "The thought occurred. Angel's one thing, but that's pretty much the bloke I knew back when, that we met tonight. I just didn't want you thinkin' I was lost in could've-beens." He still wouldn't look at Xander, which made Xander wonder if that was all there was to it.

"Are you?" Xander asked, not because he thought Spike might be lying about it. But Spike wasn't telling him *something*, and the only way to make him spill was to keep him talking until Xander could figure out what he wasn't saying. The other method of making Spike confess a) involved leather objects they didn't have with them and b) required much more lemonade than was sold in Victorian England.

Spike gave him a sharp look. "Just said I wasn't."

"I don't mean about Angel," Xander said quietly.

Spike blinked at him, then his face seemed to very carefully not change expression. "I'm not--" He looked away, and sighed, and Xander could practically see the cigarette Spike wasn't smoking -- held in his hand, taking a deep, delaying drag, then tossing it away in frustration. All just something to do, other than answer.

"You're not still in love with her?" Xander asked. He knew, he finally knew how Spike felt about Drusilla. He'd *never* be out of love with her. But Spike had finally realized that whatever he and Dru had between them wasn't an every day, for eternity kind of thing. More importantly, Xander had realized it. Every so often, like now, with the cold air on his cheeks and the cold iron against his back, and the smell of horse manure in his nostrils, Xander could admit that he knew it, too. Glurble. He tried not to fall.

"You know I'm not leaving you for her, Xander," Spike said sternly. Xander nodded.

"I know. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying...might-have-beens. Drusilla. Is that where you were?"

Spike looked a little startled. Like he hadn't expected Xander to figure that one out? Or maybe like he hadn't realized, until now, what *had* been bothering him. It wouldn't have been the first time. Spike had been known to be a little less than frisky on the uptake concerning his own thoughts, in years past. It had taken him three months away from Sunnydale and a disastrous fling with a bottle-blond moron named Marc, for instance, before he'd realized that what he wanted was for Xander to come and live in L.A. By that time Xander had already been living in an apartment down the street from Wesley's building for two months, just waiting for Spike to come to his senses. Xander grinned.

Then Spike shrugged. "Maybe. Dunno. Just a little freaked out by the whole experience, I guess."

"Hmm," Xander said, pretending to think deeply about it. "You met your twin and your old girlfriend and your old boyfriend and somebody who's been killed *twice* already in our world, plus the Queen thinks you're adorable. I guess you can't get much more freaked out than that, huh?"

Spike was still looking a bit like he wanted a cigarette, though now the twitch in his fingers was much less pronounced -- like he was thinking about it, but he'd still be able to turn it down if somebody handed him one. Just a *little* bit morose. There *was* a way to deal with Spike when he got like this, that didn't involve tobacco products. Xander took a deep breath, and thought deeply about it for a second, while Spike grinned lightly. "Yeah. I'm utterly unfreakable now. I have reached the pinnacle of freakiness."

That did it. "Oh yeah?" Xander asked, raising an eyebrow. Spike nodded. Xander leaned back against the lamp-post, suddenly aware of just *how* cold the metal was, even through his coat. He grinned, hoping he looked saner than he felt. Whatever it was, was still bothering Spike. If he couldn't get his husband to confess, maybe he could at least make him feel better. Besides, if he were ever going to do this, now would be the time. "Wanna shag?"

"I beg your pardon?" The cigarette that Spike didn't have dropped from his mouth, and the voice that came out was pure Adelaide-Witherspoon's-son.

Xander stood up and slipped his coat off, then leaned against the post again, coat over one arm, the other shoulder supporting his weight. Tilting his head just so, to let the light from the lamp show off the contrast between the skin of his throat and the dark velvet around it. He pulled at one of his suspenders, not slipping it off, just stretching it a bit, then letting it snap against the cloth beneath it. "I thought you might want to, you know. Lift my shirt."

Spike was blinking at him, as if wondering when he'd dropped his husband along the sidewalk and mistakenly picked up a demon in disguise. Yep, there, he even glanced behind him as if looking for the real Xander Harris. Or possibly Skippy, the candid camera. "Er...what? I'm not saying no, mind, just..er? What?"

Xander grinned. "Do...you...." he said very slowly, enunciating for the poor bedeviled vampire, "want...to...shag...me?"

"Er..yes?" Spike still looked befuddled, and he wasn't making any moves towards actually touching Xander. Xander waited a moment for his husband's brain to kick in, then he raised his hand and waved his fingers, encouraging Spike to move forward. He did so, as if tied to Xander's hand by a string. "You're not going to kiss me, then say, sorry, not outdoors, let's go back to the hotel, are you? Because that'd be mean. Well, not the shagging at the hotel bit, but the making me wait bit, would be."

"Spike." Xander reached out and grabbed Spike's lapel, yanked him forward, and planted a very hot, wet, fuck-me-now kiss on Spike's mouth. With his other hand, he reached down to touch Spike's erection through his trousers. Then he moaned as the pain blossomed in his lip, from where Spike had bit him.

The sound seemed to shake Spike out of his dazed condition, and into overdrive. It usually did; any sort of noise from Xander during lovemaking drove Spike crazy. Was it something about being a vampire, that predator's need for prey-squeak transformed into a man's insatiable desire to hear his lover's cries of pleasure? Or maybe Spike was just a vain little bastard. Either way, the sound set Spike's hands scrabbling at the fastenings to Xander's pants, even as his lips moved over Xander's, kissing and licking and sucking, tasting the blood that even Xander could smell, and healing the pain with the same mouth that had caused it.

Xander tightened his grip and squeezed lightly, and he felt Spike bite down again. "Fuck, what'd you do to these things, glue 'em shut?" Spike asked, pulling his mouth free for a second.

Xander knocked Spike's hands away, and reached down to undo his trousers himself, leaving those Spike-hands to roam freely over his shirt, popping a button here and wrinkling it beyond any hope of repair, there.

Quick-like-a-bunny, he thought. The faster you do it, the less time you'll have to think about just what the hell you *are* doing. Oops. A bit too much thinking, there; Xander bent his head quickly to Spike's neck and began to suck, letting the sudden startled sputter of purring drive any second, third, or fourth thoughts from his mind.

It wasn't that he got rid of the awareness that they were standing outside on a sidewalk in London, late at night which for vampires meant everyone was still out, doing whatever they did. Like step around a pair of sex-crazed newlyweds, going a bit farther than making out, against a lamppost. But the more he thought about Spike's hands, and Spike's mouth, and Spike's skin, and Spike's cock, the less it seemed to matter. Or so he reminded himself, as Spike's hands slid into his trousers and started doing things.

Happy things, which made Xander moan louder, and rub his own hands harder on Spike, which made Spike purr and rub and grind and suck. A vicious circle, Xander had once gasped in a rare moment of being able to breathe in the midst of such circular activities. All it meant was the chance he had of telling himself this was a bad idea grew exponentially smaller, until the voice in his head that was saying "We can't!" was shouted down by the five or six shouts of "who the hell is gonna care?" and "yes, oh, god, yes, do that again!"He was still surprised he'd said it. Even as Spike's teeth did things to his lips that made him forget his name - first, middle, and all the lasts - he could spare a thought to be surprised. That he was actually kneading his hand over the hard, bared length of Spike's erection, that his own was out in the wind and the night air and the cool, firm grip of Spike's hand. He was doing this, he had asked for it, he had actually given in to the lust he'd been barely able to repress there in the Queen's court watching, hearing, smelling everything he had forced himself to pretend he hadn't noticed.

Even his determination could be turned to jelly after a few hours of watching and not watching uninhibited sex. Add to that the revelation that no one *knew* them. Total strangers who would never see them again, who could -- the fatal blow to his insistence that he couldn't do this -- care less if a mortal man was getting ravaged by his vampire lover-cum-owner. They probably rather expected it.

Xander, on the other hand, was not expecting to feel quite so reckless. He hadn't thought the exposure would make him want to groan louder, or clutch at Spike harder and scream. He could feel himself riding higher, faster, than a simple hand-job and suck-fest was supposed to do.

His own noises, as always, had Spike going crazier. Another vicious circle, like the circles Spike's left hand was making on his back, pulling at his shirt until the tail came loose from Xander's trousers, and there were cool Spike-fingers against his spine. Rubbing up and down in the same rhythm as Spike was grinding against him, traveling further into shirtlifting-land with every pass. Xander could only nod his head against Spike's shoulder, could only make noises that sounded vaguely to his own ears like yeah, uh-huh, do it, yeah, yeah, grr... but might've been Welsh or Swahili for all he knew.

Then there were fingers doing things to him that would've made poor little William Witherspoon stammer and blush and have to wipe the steam from his glasses, so wasn't it lucky that Spike wasn't wearing those glasses, and wasn't it a bad, bad idea to think about Spike wearing them, considering the case was still in Xander's breast pocket from yesterday.

But they were in Xander's coat, which was lying on the pavement next to him, and Spike would have to move at least one of his hands, the one doing things in front or the one doing things in back, and Xander didn't particularly want either of them to move anywhere. Except possibly there, or there, and the glasses would just have to wait for another night, because there wasn't any way either of them was breaking this circle until they both flew straight up out of it.

"Close your eyes and think of England," Spike whispered suddenly, and moved the fingers of his left hand.

Xander didn't scream. He didn't scream only because his mouth closed on Spike's shoulder, and he bit down hard enough through the fabric of the shirt to make Spike gasp, and cry out.

Spike came all over Xander's hand, something Xander only noticed later, when he was able to breathe, then open his eyes, then remember what his name was and that he *had* hands and a husband's cock in one of them. When he *did* open his eyes, he realized he was braced against a lamppost, and Spike was braced against *him*. He wrapped one non-sticky hand around Spike, and held him close.

They stood there for several moments, neither moving beyond a shuffle for balance and a surreptitious wipe of a hand on someone else's shirt. Xander bent his head once to kiss the tip of Spike's ear. Spike made such an interesting noise that he did it again. He was about to give it a third, good lick, when Spike raised his head and looked at him. His expression was far too serious for someone who'd just been having sex on a London sidewalk.

Xander suddenly wanted to thump himself. Not even an *alleyway*. No, this was a 'pardon me, while I step around you' sidewalk. At least he couldn't recall having heard any applause. He did glance down to see if anyone had left coins. When he looked up, Spike was still staring at him with that same expression.

"What?" Xander said, almost defensively. "Do I have something on my face?" He was reasonably sure he didn't. Mostly sure. Sure enough that he managed not to remove his not-at-all-sticky hand from Spike's back to reach up and wipe at his forehead.

"What the hell got into you?" was Spike's response, in a tone that demanded some answer besides 'Huh?'

Xander grinned. "You did, or at least a couple of fingers worth."

Oh no. That really *was* a let's-be-serious scowl. Spike's eyebrows furrowed dangerously. "I mean it. What turned you from Puritan Boy to 'Dear Penthouse, my husband and I just shagged on a streetcorner,' in two minutes flat?"

"It took longer than two minutes." Hadn't it?

When Spike simply continued to glare at him, Xander shrugged. He wasn't about to explain that it had been *Spike's* sudden case of the moody blues that had prompted him to cheer his husband up. Besides, that was really just the catalyst for it happening, not the reason he'd been willing to let it happen.

"It just kind of dawned on me, I guess. Seeing all those vamps doing whatever, and then some, in plain sight. *They* weren't worried about who might see -- they were getting it on in front of the Queen, for God's sake. And then there was you. I mean, the other you. All hung up for a hundred years on whether admitting he liked guys would make him look like a sissy. Geez, it only took *me* six months."

"Counting from when -- the first time Anya popped into your flat unannounced and caught you watching 'Muscle Studs of the Internet' ?" Spike's mouth was grinning, but his eyes were still serious.

"It was 'Carnival in Rio,' thank you very much."

"Oo, with that one bloke in the bandanna?" Spike's eyes never lost that questioning stare, and his mouth caught back up with them while Xander was trying to remember what the guy in the bandanna had looked like. "Really, though? That was it, going to London to see the Queen did it for you?"

Xander shrugged. Sure. Mostly. That and the thought that he might want to get used to wanting to do that kind of thing, if he was going to become one of them, even a souled one.

"The vamps didn't make you nervous?" Spike asked. "Not even Darla?"

Xander shook his head. He'd got over that whole eek-a-vampire thing sometime between being fitted for his collar and actually wearing it out the door of Ambercrombie's. "Why would they? I was in your arms the whole time, bubble-head."

"Yeah?" The question left Spike's eyes, to be replaced by something else, something more familiar. Something that, if it had a name, would probably be known as glurble.

"Yeah." Then Xander was back in Spike's arms. Well, more in Spike's arms. To the point where his face was pressed against Spike's shoulder and he had a sharp chin resting on his own shoulder. "Besides," he added, "I knew if one of them even tried to go after me, you were closer. If it got that far, you could always turn me before any other vamps got near."

Xander wasn't sure why what he'd said made Spike squeeze him like his own vampire had forgotten he still had to breathe, and bury his face in the crook of Xander's neck, but he wasn't going to question the position. He just held on tight, and hoped they'd both have the strength to make it back to the hotel. Eventually.

Spike bounced on the bed. It wasn't so much that he wanted to put off getting up for as long as he could -- because they still had a night left to do anything and everything, so he didn't *have* to get up if he didn't want to. But getting up off the bed--even to join Xander in whatever he was doing over there in the corner -- would make him think about the fact that there was *only* one night left. Instead, lying here bouncing, he could pretend his life of decadent eat, drink, and shag, would never end.

"Xander? What the bloody hell are you doing?" He watched with some surprise as Xander moved from the dresser to their bags, engaged in some silly activity that didn't involve being on the bed with Spike. And that silly thing was? Packing. Packing? "Xan? We don't leave 'til tomorrow. Unless you're tired of me already." He leant back a bit, trying for a somewhat dramatic pose. In truth he was just waiting for Xander, who was dressed only in breeches and looking quite delicious about it, to notice how *he* was dressed.

"I'm packing. You know if you leave it 'til the last minute you always leave half your stuff behind." He was rummaging around in a drawer, now, muttering about whether this was something the hotel had provided or something of theirs. Like it mattered?

"So? The hotel can send it after us." Spike shrugged, and propped himself up on an elbow. Not quite a dramatic pose, but a good one, he thought. If only Xander would look *over* at him.

But Xander just kept packing. At this rate, he'd have them both completely packed and ready to go in another half an hour. That would leave him with nothing to do, after, and would allow them to stay in bed naked tomorrow until the very last second. Spike considered approving... but he wanted to shag *now*. Not watch Xander scurry around the room, ignoring him.

He considered whining. 'Xaa-aannnn' was always a good opening gambit. But he wanted to do justice to his ensemble, and it really wasn't a very whiney sort of outfit. What there was of it. So Spike cleared his throat, very gently, and said, "Er, Xander?" in his best 'May I speak, Mr. Partridge, or would you rather I just stood in the corner like a good boy' voice.

Yet another one he'd learned from his schoolmaster, though perhaps Mr. Partridge would be more flattered that Spike had picked up the stern-teacher voice, than that he still remembered how to be William Witherspoon, the timid student. Spike didn't care about his long-dead teacher, however; he cared about the man standing in front of an open suitcase and dropping a folded pair of trousers in, before finally turning around to look at Spike. He also cared about getting shagged, of course-- but that was pretty much a forgone conclusion, once Xander stopped blinking."Um...huhwhahuh?" Spike's husband finally burbled.

"I was thinking, perhaps...if you had a moment free..."

"Uhwhuh?" Xander seemed to be having trouble with his packing, Spike saw. The shirt he'd picked up was sliding from his hands, and would drop on the floor in another moment. How terrible.

Spike leant back a bit, and moved one leg, just so. "Are you finished packing, yet?" he asked, almost sounding guileless. He didn't have to sound like *anything*, because he doubted Xander was listening. "Should I put something else on, and help?"

Xander nodded, still staring. Bemused, Spike rose to his knees. The bedsheets were still wrinkled, messed from their earlier attempts to wear themselves out. They'd managed to lie there for an hour before Xander had jumped up, put on his breeches, and begun his insane activity of packing.

Spike had lain on the bed and watched, until he hadn't been able to take it any longer. Then he'd reached over and picked up his doppelganger's pair of spectacles, and slipped them on.

Now, naked except for the wire frames, he asked his brain-fried husband, "You *want* me to put some clothes on?"

Xander started to nod again, then he blinked, and shook his head. "No! No clothes. Clothes bad...um...gah. What was the question?" His eyes were losing their focus, once more. The shirt suddenly slipped completely out of his grip. Somehow, its silent fall startled Xander, and he quickly bent to pick it up. Spike scooted off the bed, and walked over towards the closet - away from Xander.

"Right, then, I'll just get a robe--" He stopped as he felt the hand on his arse. "Yes?" Then he yelled, rubbed his butt-cheek, and turned his head to give Xander a stern glare, for pinching him.

Xander laughed. "Don't try it, buddy -- for I am Packing Man, and Packing Man is immune to the Glare of Dea--" Xander stopped, and swallowed. "Ulp."

Spike let his lower lip slip further out. "What?" he asked sullenly.

Xander backed away, towards the bed. "No. Stop. Don't do that. Please."

"What?"

"I'll do anything. Just don't pout at me with those glasses on!"

'Note to self,' Spike thought. 'Keep glasses handy when I want to get my way.' In other words, start wearing them all the time. Maybe with plain glass lenses, since he really *didn't* need them to read, anymore.

He didn't do anything so silly as stop pouting, though. Instead he turned fully around to face Xander, moving forward until his husband was backed up against the bed, both hands out in a warding-off position. Spike tried to look as innocently put-out as possible. "I don't understand. What is it you think I'm doing?"

"Stop that! You look like a Precious Moments figurine. If they made naked, well-endowed ones."

"Stop what?" Spike asked again, though he was suddenly hard pressed not to laugh. He had an image in his head of a Precious Moments figurine Angel, dressed in leather pants. Or the Precious Moments Xander, bent over for a spanking; all of a sudden it was easy not to laugh. "M'not doing anything," he repeated, pouting.

"You are intentionally trying to make me shag you!" Xander accused, pointing one finger at him.

Spike paused. He ran the words through his head again, just to make sure he hadn't misunderstood. "Um, yeah?"

"I...I forget why that's bad." Xander looked confused. But, Spike noticed, he was *not* shagging Spike.

"How could it possibly be *bad*? Haven't heard you complaining, ever, in the last six years. Er, except for a couple times I tried doing it in the magazine's lobby."

"You tried seducing me *four* times, in the lobby. I've had to give my security guards permission to shoot on sight, you know. If they ever see any part of your naked butt--" Spike gave Xander a look of shock - which then quickly became a pout. Xander screamed in frustration. "I am *not* shagging someone that cute!"

Spike blinked. Maybe Xander needed food? Sleep? He certainly wasn't making *any* sense. Maybe he needed a good shagging. Spike moved a bit closer -- now he was standing about three feet away, and Xander had those hands up again. If he'd had a cross in his pocket (as opposed to just being happy to see Spike), he would've undoubtedly been holding it up. As it was, he was creating a makeshift version with his forefingers crossed in front of his face.

"Back, evil cute demon!"

Well, the last three words made sense, at least. Spike understood them perfectly, and agreed with them a hundred percent. Especially the cute part. But he didn't quite get the first word. Or at least he was going to pretend he didn't. He cocked his head to one side, and frowned slightly, as if trying to translate what Xander had said into normal-people-speak.

Xander sat down on the bed with a thump. Spike tilted his head the other way. Xander dropped the finger-cross, and just groaned.

"You know, for your own safety," Spike informed Xander as he moved to stand in front of the frowning, blinking man, then put his hands on his hips, "I think you should know that the finger thing only works to ward off cooties. Not vampires."

"Obviously." Xander stared straight ahead, not up at Spike's face, not down at anything else that might've done almost as good a job at capturing his attention as the glasses. There was a solution to that, of course. Spike sank to his knees in front of his husband, rested his arms on Xander's breech-clad knees, and looked up into a silly, discombobulated face.

Xander avoided his gaze at first - looking at the wall, staring at the bed, finally settling his gaze on the top of Spike's head. Spike waited. Xander should almost be ready to pounce him, and *he* was more than ready to be tossed onto the bed...floor, whatever...and pounced.

But Xander didn't move. Nor did he meet Spike's eyes. Spike suddenly realized that Xander was...nervous? What the hell? He rubbed his hand along Xander's leg, just to get his attention, not to seduce him into getting pounced. "Xan? What's up? Why *are* you packing, anyhow?"

"I'm not packing anymore, bubble-head," Xander retorted.

"Yeah, whatever. The last time I had to try so hard to get you to have sex with me, in private, while I was naked, I... Actually, I've never had trouble getting you to have sex with me under those conditions. Maybe back when I was still trying to kill you."

"I never saw you naked, then," Xander reminded him.

"What's wrong?" he asked quietly. Xander shifted on the bed, not trying to move away from him, but not trying to actually answer him, either. Spike reached up and touched Xander's chin, placed one finger alongside his jaw and pulled his face gently back to look at Spike. "Xan? What's wrong?"

"You...you haven't...this is our last night here, Spike."

Yeah, he'd noticed. That was sort of the point of wanting to get in as much honeymoon sex as possible. After all, in a few days, they'd be an old married couple, and only be fucking four or five times per diem. Or so he'd heard. "What haven't I done?" he asked, trying to figure Xander out. "Had tea with my mum. Met the Queen again, and gave her an extra pair of Mickey Mouse ears. Bought all sorts of pressies for the folks back home, picked up some packages from Dru that truly frighten me, especially the ones *for* Dru. Shagged my husband against a lamppole. Not listed in order of importance. I miss something?"

Xander closed his eyes, which was cheating, and only fair if you were the evil one, which Xander wasn't. "Yeah. No. I don't know. Maybe I did. I kinda thought..."

"Thought what, love? Tell me."

Xander sighed, then nodded, but didn't open his eyes. After a second, he said, "I was talking to that little vampire maid girl, when she came with breakfast. You were still asleep, and she was kind of looking at me funny, so I asked what was up, and she started telling me how romantic it all was. How they all thought you were crazy, shacking up with a human in the Honeymoon Suite, until they realized."

"Realized what -- that I'm not their Spike, and we really are married?"

Xander shook his head, eyes still closed. "No. Not that." He was quiet for another moment, then continued. "She said now the girls can't stop ooh-ing and ahh-ing. It's sort of the biggest compliment you can give around here, I guess, 'cause nobody dies except the humans, and there's only so much room..." Xander *really* wasn't making any sense now, and Spike was about to interrupt him, but the look of intense concentration on Xander's face stopped him. Made him hold his tongue lest Xander freeze up all together and never explain what was bothering him.

Even if maybe, just maybe, Spike had something of an inkling, that he wasn't willing to admit to anyone, least of all himself. He was holding fast to the hope that Xander was talking about something completely silly, though, like the fact that they hadn't yet mooned anybody from the hotel room window. That was fairly romantic, wasn't it?

"So they've got a poll going. What night would it be. And this is the last night, and she picked tonight, because it would be so damn romantic, but she wanted to make sure it hadn't already happened and they'd missed it somehow..." He trailed off, and Spike tried to think of something to say. Something that would sound like he still didn't have any bloody idea what Xander was on about. But Xander picked up again, softly. "I told her to mind her own beeswax, and she could find out in the morning, like everybody else. But... is anything gonna be different in the morning? I thought it would be tonight, too, but... You don't even know what I'm talking about, do you?"

He sounded tired, or maybe it was miserable. Spike hadn't ever heard Xander sound really miserable, so maybe it sounded like worn out don't bother me anymore I just wanna go to bed.

"Xan..."

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Spike. She was listening for a heartbeat. Checking out my neck. Trying to make sure I was still alive."

There it was. Not quite out in the open, but open enough that Spike could only find two options for a response. Pretend he didn't understand why that was so important, and piss Xander off and they'd spend their last night -- and possibly the next several days -- not speaking to each other. Or he could acknowledge that he knew exactly what Xander was talking about, what everyone in the whole bloody hotel was talking about, what even Dru had asked him about the last time they'd visited the Palace.

He could acknowledge it, and then Xander would ask why he hadn't done anything or said anything and Spike would tell him, and Xander would get pissed off and they'd spend the last night and possibly the next several days not speaking to each other.

He'd told himself three weeks ago he was a bloody moron, but he hadn't listened. Hadn't listened two weeks ago, one week ago, two days ago, or even three hours ago when Xander had been sleepily murmuring in his ear. Not that that wasn't excuse enough -- how could *anyone* be expected to think clearly when they had a naked, sleepy Xander blowing in their ears? Xander was staring at him now, exasperation and frustration clear on his face. It would soon be followed by anger, and then yelling and storming out of the room and not even naked glasses-wearing pouts would stave it off.

"Er, I--" Spike began, not knowing why, because he still had no clue what he was going to say.

Xander's face suddenly fell, then became almost instantly expressionless. "You've changed your mind, haven't you?" he asked, his words quiet and uninflected enough to completely shatter the room.

"No. No, of course not, I haven't--" Spike shook his head wildly, but Xander seemed to just be looking *through* him, now.

"I mean, it's been a long time. Since you asked. You've had the chance to think about it. And maybe you're right. I mean, I guess I wouldn't make a very good vampire. I'm too polite. Even your *mom* likes me. People's moms aren't supposed to like you, if you're gonna be a vampire."

"Xander..." Spike searched for something truthful to say, but all he could come up with off the top of his head was "You're babbling." While it was true enough, he doubted it would help much. Eventually, he thought of something else. "Don't be silly. Buffy's mum likes *me*. Mums are a law unto themselves."

"I know that." So Xander was listening to him, at least. At some level. Even though he barely seemed to be in the room, eyes focused somewhere above and behind Spike now. Second star to the left and straight on 'til morning. Spike picked up the hands that Xander had let fall limply in his lap. At least Xander didn't pull them away. That was a good thing, right? Xander looked down at them for a second, as if just now realizing that he had something attached to the ends of his arms. "So what was this? This trip? The wedding?" Xander asked quietly. "Just something to keep me happy?"

Spike's mouth opened, and he stamped down the wise-arse remark that had popped into his head. Now was not the time. He gave Xander's hands a squeeze, and said quietly, "Don't want to lose you."

Xander started, and suddenly looked directly at him. "Won't you do that anyway when I die of old age?" There was a hint of bitterness in his tone, but only a hint.

"What if I lose you when you're turned?" he whispered. The same day he'd asked Xander, locked there in a closet playing mind games and groping each other, he'd thought about it. He'd considered the vampires he knew -- but he hadn't known any of them, before they'd got vamped. Spike couldn't tell if he'd become a different person, himself. He'd tried to remember what he'd been like before, what he'd been like, after. He knew there'd been *some* change -- but he changed when he got mind-blastingly drunk, as well. He couldn't be sure. For all he knew, if he turned Xander, the man he loved would be gone when the vampire awoke.

That wasn't all of it, but it was the part that every moment he'd had with Xander on this trip had tossed back in his face. Every time he'd watched Xander laugh at something silly, seen him charm a middle-aged vampire lady into adopting him, or give in to his own desires and what he knew his lover wanted, and make love to Spike in the middle of the city in front of God and everybody... It had struck Spike harder than Angelus' closed fist ever had. What if he lost this?

He wanted to keep it forever, but what if the world was laughing at him, as it had laughed at Angel once? What if it took the one thing he loved more than anything, more than himself or his fish or his Johnny Rotten whiskey decanter, away from him forever?

"Like *I'm* gonna change my mind? You think I'll leave you, like Dru did?" The words were blunt, but Spike had thought them himself too many times, early on, to wince at hearing them in Xander's voice now. "That I'll get bored with *you*? I thought you trusted me more than that."

"S'not what I mean. I mean, maybe you won't be *you* anymore."

There was a moment of silence, where Xander looked at him like maybe Spike wasn't speaking the same brand of English that Xander was. Then he just said, "Oh. Isn't the soul-spell thing supposed to take care of that, though?" he added. All signs of frustration and anger were gone, now. Just confusion, and a little bit of Spike-induced-patience. Somewhere underneath, there were still traces of misery, though.

"What if it doesn't? Just because you don't go all evil...what if you aren't you? Didn't you say Red turned into a dominatrix when she got turned in that other universe?"

There was a twitch in the corner of Xander's mouth. "No, actually I didn't. She *did*, but I never said it. But -- that was alter-Willow. You've seen *your* doppelganger, here -- is he exactly like you?"

"He might've been, before he got eaten by Dru."

Another subdued, "Oh," and Xander sat quietly, again. He didn't try to pull his hands out of Spike's grip, but neither did he give Spike that little tug that said 'climb up here and lie on top of me'. As Spike waited, Xander diverted his gaze and still said nothing.

"Xan?"

"Why didn't you say something? I was...all excited. I thought this was gonna be it, you were gonna turn me and teach me how to be a vampire and we'd go home and unlive happily forever after. I even--" He sighed. "It doesn't matter." He shook his head.

"Even what?" Spike prompted.

Xander sighed, then looked at him once more. "I kinda made some changes to my office. It was already vampire friendly, but...I figured if I was gonna be a vampire, I wanted my office to be...comfortable." There was a half-smile, and it looked fake.

"What, you made it all red and plush? Velvet everywhere? Or did you go for the 'I have a soul, and I must brood' decor?" The words were hard to force out, but Spike didn't want to be having this conversation. He didn't want to think about any of it, but he especially didn't want to be talking about losing Xander - losing his soul, or losing him completely, as he died.

"I...um...put in a blood fountain. It's like a water fountain, only it's blood, and you have to bite the dispenser to get it to work... It's kind of a novelty thing; Morrie found it for me."

Spike had seen them in a catalog; they came with little replaceable dispenser-covers, so you could pretend you were biting off the head of somebody you didn't particularly like. He almost wanted to laugh. Almost. "I thought about gettin' one of those for home, but I figured you'd complain about the blood on the carpet."

Xander closed his eyes again, and did laugh. Just a little. Not as if he really thought it was funny, though. "And that's different from now, how exactly?"

"Er... the splash-patterns would be different?" Spike almost thought he had him, for a second. Thought they could get off into a kvetching-match about housekeeping and Spike's lack of skills therein, and how club soda really did jack shit to get out the kind of stains Spike was always leaving all over the place. He saw Xander open his mouth, and he was sure the next words would be, 'I suppose we could solve that by getting a rust-colored carpet...'

But they weren't. Xander closed his mouth again, and didn't say anything.

"I would rather have you with me for a few short decades, and watch you leave me, than to lose you tonight and know I'd killed you, myself." Spike spoke clearly, but softly, knowing the harsh words were probably over-done. But he didn't care -- he had to make Xander understand.

Xander's gaze flickered, slightly. "What if it is me, when I wake up?"

"What if it isn't?" Spike countered.

Xander frowned, ever so slightly. "How do you know I won't be me? I'll still have my personality, I won't be evil -- how do you know I'll have changed?"

"How do I know you won't?" Spike countered again, his voice rising in desperation.

"How do you *know*?" Xander repeated, voice rising as well until he was nearly shouting. "Haven't you *asked* anyone?"

Spike blinked. He didn't answer. He *hadn't* asked, hadn't wanted to broach the subject with anyone who knew enough about it to get to root of his questions.

Xander, however, was suddenly staring at him. "You didn't ask? Spike, did you research this at *all*?"

"Er. No?" There was a light thump as Xander hit him with a pillow. Spike looked at his husband, hopefully.

"Bang -- zoom. To the moon, Bubble-head. Straight to the moon. You didn't even ask Angel or anyone?" The rest of the anger had melted away; even the misery seemed to be gone. Only thing left was a bit of frustration, and that, Spike was used to jollying his husband out of. Or seducing.

"No?" Spike kept looking cute. It seemed to be working -- he was, after all, still naked but for his glasses. He was also on his knees in front of Xander, a position which often made Xander's eyes do that funky thing where they lost all colour and rolled back into Xander's head.

"So you just assumed I'd wake up somebody else?" Xander was almost smiling now. His eyes were beginning to get a little dilated, too.

"Well, everyone always *says*...." Spike did the cute-dumb-me look, and waggled an eyebrow. "Am I out of trouble?"

"No." Though Xander's sudden frown was Mr.-Partridge-stern now, not angry. "You didn't tell me. We never talked about it; you just kept laughing it off, and I laughed it off too, because I thought everything was okay. You can't *do* that."

Well, obviously he *could* -- he did things like that on a regular basis; it was called being male. Xander should know that. Still, Spike thought it was worth trying the cute look again. Precious Moments, he thought. I'm a Precious Moments figurine. Those kids *never* get in trouble. "We do it all the time," he finally ventured, when Xander's stern look faltered, then held firm.

Xander blinked at him for a moment, then nodded, slowly. "Okay. Fair enough. But not about stuff like this. Not anymore."

"But it's okay if I don't tell you that I ruined your favorite pair of Snoopy socks last time I tried doing the wash, right?" For that he got his nose flicked. Spike didn't let his expression change. 'Cute. I'm cute, I'm adorable, I'm wearing my glasses.' How could he possibly still be being frowned at? Well, because he'd seriously fucked up and hadn't actually let Xander know he knew it, yet. "I'm sorry. I won't do it again. Er, I won't *mean* to do it again."

"When we get home, we're gonna research it, right?" Xander folded his arms and looked stern, some more. Spike nodded. "And if it looks like I'll wake up as myself, you'll turn me?"

Spike hesitated. Then, carefully, he asked, "How much 'looks like' is looks like? If we're only sort of sure--" He stopped because Xander's finger was on his lips. He gave them a lick, which Xander apparently ignored.

"We won't decide now, Spike. We'll do the research, and we'll talk to everyone who knows. I don't want to leave you, either, but I don't want to die of old age because we're too scared to do this. *Besides* -- every vampire I know, didn't change personalities. They just got evil. Even Leatherwillow was a lot more like our Wills than we knew at the time. Except for the not liking pink thing. And Harmony..."

Spike licked Xander's fingers again, then moved his mouth away. "Xan, if you're gonna turn into *Harmony* after you get turned, I'm not turning you. End of discussion."

Xander grinned. Just when Spike was going to try licking his way up Xander's body and back into his good graces, Xander said, "Not end of discussion. You did *what* to my Snoopy socks?"

"Bought you a new pair," Spike reminded him.

"You told me they were a surprise gift, for being so cute while wearing them."

"And you are!"

Xander narrowed his eyes, then whapped Spike with the pillow again. "Not the point. And Harmony's not the only person I ever knew before and after they were vamped. Just the only one I've ever got the chance to play strip-Yahtzee with. And *she* didn't change -- human, vamp, evil, soul, she still can't add two numbers together without counting on her fingers."

"Yeah, too bad Red and wife won so quick -- I wanted to see the Slayer naked. Again."

A familiar accusatorial tone: "When did you see Buffy naked before?"

"Red's wedding, dork-boy."

"That was a solemn and holy occasion. You weren't supposed to be checking out the naked chicks."

"Xander, she was standing on a table singing 'It's raining men, hallelujah, it's raining men, amen."

The tone softened. "Oh, you mean *after* they served the wine."

"Yeah. Well, what else was I supposed to do? *You* wouldn't take your shorts off, so I couldn't stare at you."

"You're supposed to love me for my mind."

Spike blinked at him. "I'm what?"

Then he laughed, because Xander was whapping him again with the pillow, and this time -- finally! -- he meant it in a someone's about to get kissed way. Spike rolled back onto his heels, almost out of Xander's reach, and let go of Xander's other hand. Xander responded by whapping him again, then sliding off the edge of the bed and onto Spike. Spike caught him, and let himself fall easily onto his back, carrying Xander along with him. When they landed, Spike on the soft carpet and Xander lying fully on top of him, Spike reached up and cupped Xander's cheek before kissing him.

"Spike?"

"Yes, luv?"

"You know, when you wear those glasses, it *really* makes me want to fuck you."

Spike raised one eyebrow. "Does it?"

It wasn't wrong to start thinking of ways to integrate those glasses into their everyday life, right? Like...er...pretending he was going blind? Spike blinked a bit, experimentally. Xander blinked too, then said, "Stop that. You don't have to bat your eyelashes at me. I told you you're getting fucked."

But he wasn't. At least, not yet he wasn't. He just had a nice warm husband lying on top of him, looking at him like he was a Super-Duper Belly-Buster Triple Scooper Sundae and Xander couldn't decide which part to bite first. Spike obligingly offered his throat.

He didn't miss the symbolism, but it was all that he could offer, right now. Just himself. Xander hesitated for a moment, as if he, too were thinking of fangs he didn't have. But then human teeth, rough and slick at once, were sliding across Spike's skin, to lodge just above his collarbone in a sharp, hot bite.

"Ow," he said calmly, pretending his body, brain, libido weren't screaming at him.

Xander froze, then, without letting go of the fold of skin between his teeth, began laughing. Spike was laughing already, holding most of it in, but grinning as widely as he could without splitting his face in two. Xander was bouncing on top of him, now, from the rapid rise and fall of Spike's chest as unneeded air was pulled in and pushed out by the reflex of his laughter.

Xander's tongue reached out from behind his teeth, and laved the spot of skin. Spike groaned, laughter dying quickly, and arched into the touch. Xander let go, kissed his neck, then looked up at him. "Spike?"

"Yeah?"

There was an odd look on Xander's face -- one which Spike had been seeing rather often, these last few months. He still wasn't exactly sure what it heralded, but he *thought* it might be the glurble face. Xander leant down and kissed him softly on the mouth, and said, "I love you," his warm breath coating Spike's lips before he moved away and left them tingling.

Spike considered this for a moment, as if it were a new piece of information finally added to the puzzle at the last minute, and now everything was starting to come clear. "Oh. That explains a lot." Xander frowned at him, and Spike grinned, then darted up to steal that frown away. One hand in Xander's hair, he tugged lightly, and whispered, "Git. Don't you ever think I don't love you. That I don't want you for always. Hell, I'd swallow you whole an' carry you round inside me all day if I didn't think you'd bitch about the cramped conditions."

"Mmm. Phenomenal cosmic powers, eeeeety-bitty living space."

"Which phenomenal cosmic powers would those be, then?" Spike challenged as he scraped a fingernail deliberately down Xander's bare back.

"Er...ooo...aaaaaaaaah, that one."

Spike raised an eyebrow. "*That* one? The phenomenal cosmic power to scratch your back?"

Xander didn't move out of his cat-arched-back position, and shook his head slowly. "The power to make me stop thinking anything except 'must have Spike now'."

Spike snorted. "That's not a phenomenal power, Xan. That's a natural extension of my--hey!" He halted the reflex jerk back, away from Xander's hand, which was now firmly grasped around one of his testicles. "Careful with that, I just had it washed."

"You afraid I'll get it dirty?" Xander asked, and started sliding down Spike's body with a distinctly evil expression on his face. Spike eeped with as much dignity as he could.

"Er, perhaps if you...ah...clean it...oh god...after you're...oooooooh, done. It...yeah, oh, god yes."

Xander thumped him on the stomach. "Bubble head. I'm not doing anything yet."

"Maybe not out there, but up in my brain you're already halfway done. Oi, why're you calling me bubble head, anyway? I know a lot airier airheads than me. My double, for one. Then there's Buffy, and Harm, and-- you're playing with my dangly bits, again."

"They're not dangling. That's false advertising."

"So's calling me a bubble head."

A fingernail stroked gently up the underside of his biggest non-dangly bit, and Spike made a noise that probably wasn't likely to land him in MENSA, no matter how cute he looked in these glasses. Then there was very warm breath blowing across it, and Spike was squirming in place, as Xander splayed one hand across his hip, the other taking hold of his cock with a proprietary grip that made Spike smile even as he gasped. Because Xander knew damned well that it did indeed belong to him, like everything else attached to it -- and in Spike's admittedly biased opinion, his cock was a much better wedding present than a set of purple unicorn dishes.

"I've been calling you a bubble head because you remind me of the bubbly diver in the piranha tank."

Each separate puff of air that accompanied Xander's words was doing its level best to turn Spike into a bubble head if he wasn't one already, since all thought was fleeing from his mind. Still, he managed an "Erk?" that might have been a question.

"Why? Because," Xander dipped his mouth closer, and Spike felt what might have been a very moist puff of air...or possibly a tongue. It had been too brief to tell, but he was willing to have it happen twelve more times so he could decide. "I wanna bite your head off," Xander finished, before doing just that.

Xander's lips closed on him, and Spike yelped as teeth grazed his skin, and Xander's mouth began pulling and sucking and Spike was pretty sure someone was screaming. The tip of his cock was on fire, his entire body pounding with burning sensations that he'd felt a thousand times, and never, ever, could remember feeling quite this way before. Each time Xander touched him, everything else just faded into nothing -- even all the other times Xander had touched him.

He heard someone --himself? -- murmuring in a foreign tongue, while a very familiar tongue did things to his cock. He could almost detect a pattern, before the swirl of contact brushed thought aside, again, and he just wanted more, now, and couldn't manage to make his voice work enough to give the command.

That was okay, though, because Xander knew all about what he wanted, always seemed to know, and gave it to him, pulling and stroking, one hand firm around his length, one wandering about, teasing him. Now holding his hips down from pushing up, now stroking the inside of his thighs, the back of his balls, the place behind them that always made him shout things out in French even though he swore in public that he didn't speak it.

And if there was a thought left in his head, it was being sucked out of him by that beautiful mouth. Perfect, in the way he did things, in the way he pulled everything that Spike could be out of him -- like he was sucking a soul out of some dark place where it had hidden for the century plus before he'd met and somehow tripped and fallen over this silly human person who was... sucking the unlife out of him.

And Xander thought he wouldn't make a good vampire? Lord, he already was. Spike thought about telling him that, but then his brain exploded and he couldn't remember how to speak, at all.


Xander was packing his duffel bag. Again. Only this time he meant it. There was no turning back, no digging through it for his other sock, no yelling at a certain annoying vampire because he'd taken everything out and tossed it onto the floor.

However, there *was* an annoying vampire helping him pack. Sort of. "Here, put these in there."

Xander looked over to see the towels Spike was holding out. They were very clearly embroidered with 'Hotel Russell' in one corner. He rolled his eyes. "You do know they sell those things at the front desk."

Spike gave him a look that said he -- Spike -- had married a moron. "What's the point, if you're not gonna nick 'em?"

"What's the point of what? Staying at the hotel? Nice big bed to have sex in, so we don't have to fuck in alleyways." Xander put the towels down on the table next to his bag.

Spike picked them back up. "We've got one of those at home."

"Yeah, but there I'd have to do the dishes after every meal. And we wouldn't have met your mother. Or the Queen." Or growly butch dork-boy-Spike, who, as of their last visit, *still* hadn't come out of Angelus' bedroom. Xander thought deeply about vampiric stamina, but said nothing on the subject. Instead, he added, "Or mooned the House of Lords."

"Yeah, that was fun." Spike nodded, and Xander smacked his hand, which was trying diligently to slip one of the towels into the open suitcase next to Xander's bag.

"Stop that -- for God's sake, we have an entire brand new set of Naked Demon towels at home, from Carla."

"I'm not dryin' my arse off with a naked Teecha demon. That's just...eew."

Xander gave him a look. "You'd do it for Randolph Scott."

Spike blinked. "What the bloody hell does Randolph Scott have to do with anything?"

With a sigh, Xander shook his head and decided that very soon, they would have to have a Movie Night. Force Angel and his harem to join them.... Cordelia would need to encourage them to come, and she'd probably even rent some of the movies for them. 'The Wizard of Oz,' for one, though why Spike was always calling Tara 'Glinda' if he'd never seen the movie or read the book was something he should remember to ask. Later.

Now, he slapped Spike's hand again, then asked himself why he still thought that sort of thing *discouraged* his husband. Glurble. Xander looked up at Spike.

"Er, what? What?" Spike looked down at himself, looked around behind him, and looked at the towel. "For god's sake, Xan, you can't get all mushy-eyed at me because of a bloody towel."

"I'm not. Look, have you even got your own stuff packed yet?"

"Course I have! I've been packed for hours." Spike looked offended, and plopped himself down in a chair, letting the hotel towels fall into his lap.

"Uh-huh. Because you never unpacked from yesterday, when I had all your stuff and most of mine packed already?"

Spike looked innocent. Xander rolled his eyes, and looked around for something for Spike to do, so he couldn't distract Xander by being cute. The words 'lost cause' popped into his head, but he ignored them resolutely.

"Here -- re-pack the dirty-clothes-and-souvenir bag," he ordered, handing Spike the large softsider that Cordelia had sent along with them for this very purpose, because 'Trust me, you never have enough room for all the stuff you'll buy. Always take an extra suitcase.'

Not that she'd been right or anything. Not that it was full to bursting, and needed the dirty clothes at the bottom refolded to make room for the kitchen utensils and the cookbooks and the extra collars and the things that looked like kitchen utensils but weren't, and the hand-stitched sampler Mrs. Witherspoon had made for their door that said 'Spike and Xander's Place. Beware of the children.'

Spike took a look at the bag and pursed his lips. "You know if I re-pack that, I'll have to take everything out. And then I'll start playing with the toys."

Damn vampire picked the most annoying times to be logical. Xander put down his duffel bag and sighed. "Fine. You pack my clothes. No towels. I'll re-pack the souvenirs."

He sat down on the floor next to the canvas suitcase, and started pulling things out, resisting -- just barely -- the temptation to play with said toys himself. Like the little gyroscope, or the wind-up wooden soldier, even though he knew those weren't the toys Spike had meant. Eventually, he'd separated out the layers of gifts and souvenirs from the layers of dirty clothes, and was re-folding things, starting with the oldest and dirtiest, to put on the bottom.

"Dear God, what did we *do* to make these tux jackets smell so awful?" he asked, holding his own away from him at arms' length, and trying to air it out a bit.

"You mean you don't remember?" Spike asked, sounding horribly hurt. Xander threw one of the jackets at him, which Spike caught and immediately dropped. "You *do* remember that I have a keener sense of smell, don't you?"

"Aha - the real reason you didn't want to re-pack the dirty clothes. Seriously, I don't recall having sex on these jackets...then rubbing horses down with them. But that's kinda what they smell like."

"Must be because they got squished underneath everything else that was dirty," Spike said in a reasonable tone.

Xander started to give him a suspicious look, wondering what he was up to, when he realized there was something in the pocket of his jacket. He pulled it out, knowing he'd never remember when it was time to actually do the laundry. It turned out to be an envelope. He turned it over, and opened his mouth to ask Spike if he knew what it was -- when he remembered.

Giles' wedding present. He'd shouted something to Xander as they were leaving, about looking in his pocket for a gift. Xander had half-suspected he was referring to Spike's hand, since it had been shoved into Xander's trouser pockets at the time, but he must've meant the tux jacket. Gleefully, he tore the envelope open.

"What's that?" Spike asked, from right behind him where he hadn't been a second ago. Xander didn't bother 'eeping', because he was reading the neat, precise script that explained what their wedding present from Giles, was. "Another wedding present from Red? That de-chipping spell did bugger-all good, since we never came across a human who needed thumping."

"You're just cranky because you didn't get to eat anybody."

Then Xander got to the end of a sentence, and stared at the next one. And read it. And read it again. And again, just to be sure. He threw the certificate at Spike, and shouted.

"Giles! Giles! Giles!" He jumped up and down and wondered just how long it would take them to get home. Did they have to be *completely* packed? The hotel would ship anything home that they forgot, right? They could leave now?

"Yeah, well, that was communicative," Spike snorted. "What the hell's got you so chipper? You didn't bounce *that* much over the non-bald variant Picard figure I got you for your birthday." Then he flattened out the paper, and began to read. Out loud. "To be redeemed by Alexander Harris Bloody Wyndham-Pryce Gunn Chase Summers Rosenberg Jones Giles, and only Alexander Harris Bloody Wyndham-Pryce Gunn Chase Summers Rosenberg Jones Giles."

Xander was still bouncing, but he'd managed to get into a rhythm -- one bounce per name. When he looked at Spike, he noticed that Spike's head was following him -- up, down, up, down -- and he'd stopped speaking. "Go on! Get to the good part!"

"But you're bouncing."

"So?"

"And naked."

"Hmm. Good point." Where Xander would normally have stopped or thrown a robe on, just to piss Spike off, this time he climbed up on the bed, then started bouncing again. "This better?"

"Um... yeah. It's... higher." Spike's head was making bigger up-and-down motions now.

"Read it, bubble brain."

He watched as Spike sighed, shrugged his shoulders as if being asked to take on the weight of the world, and began reading again. "This certificate entitles the bearer (see above) to one evening, at a location to be agreed upon by the above named, the spouse of the above named, and the presenter of--" Spike stopped. "For crying out loud, can't he just say what it's for?" Spike appeared to skim the rest of the certificate. Then his eyes got big.

Xander bounced harder. "Who-hoo!" he was shouting, now."What does this mean, I can't touch?" Spike pouted, but Xander could tell it wasn't entirely for real. Even if it was - who cared? He wasn't going to give up his wedding present because Spike pouted. Well, he would if he thought Spike *meant* it.

"Then don't watch. Or get Angel to do you..." Xander was suddenly struck with a Mental Image, drawn hastily but quite accurately by the guy with the crayon. He stopped bouncing, and fell on his ass onto the bed.

He blinked a few times, then there was a vampire on top of him, kissing him like he'd been starving for Xander-air.

"We're never gonna...mmpgh...mrrrrrrrrrmmmmrr. Never gonna get packed..." he mumbled around Spike's tongue. The buzzing feeling only encouraged Spike, of course.

"We'll let the maid do it," Spike said after a second, then busied his mouth with licking Xander's chin.

"She'd better not lose that gift certificate."

The snort of breath on his face was cool, and smelled of honey from their late midnight breakfast. "Right, cause I'm sure he won't do it if you don't bring the proper paperwork along."

"No, but it also entitled us to half the film rights."

Only Spike. Only Spike's cock, to be specific, would possibly twitch at the sound of the words "film rights." Also, there were two very large blue eyes, thankfully sans glasses, staring at Xander.

"He's never letting us film it?" Spike actually stuttered. "He's never letting us film it?" Spike actually stuttered. He sounded a lot like Cultured British Man (TM), a.k.a. Wesley. Xander tried not to think about the fact that the thought did *not* make him lose any of his arousal.

He decided it was just because Spike was naked, and wriggling, on top of him, and he *did* sound so sexy when his voice dropped back into its original accent, and the way he was gaping dumbly made Xander want to poke his finger in Spike's mouth. "He knows we will anyway, so he's just making sure he gets his cut." Xander explained, then kissed Spike's chin.

Spike just blinked at him a couple more times. Then, with a bit of a shift which rubbed things exactly the right way, Spike propped his chin on his hand, resting the elbow on Xander's chest. Xander started counting to twenty, before he tossed Spike off.

"Did he say half the net, or half the gross?" Spike asked.

"Gross. It's only fair -- it's his gift. And we don't *have* to film it."

Great. Pout Number 9 -- the 'I'm Being Cheated' pout. "Bloody well do. Once in a lifetime opportunity. *And* he knows it. He should take his cut from the net -- not like he gave you a dowry or anything."

Xander grabbed. Hard. Spike eeped. "You're saying Giles should've *paid* you to marry me?"

"No," Spike said carefully. "I'm saying Giles should reward me for making such a discerning choice in husbands, who has such a cute, spankable arse."

"That *is* your reward, dipshit."

"My reward for putting up with you grabbing onto things like they were detachable?" Spike proffered. Xander just squeezed said detachable. "If it's a gift, we shouldn't have to pay him?" Spike tried one more time, acting like he wasn't squirming in Xander's grip.

"Thank you for playing," Xander told him. "Wanna know what was behind door number three?"

"Oi! You're not gonna let me shag you, just because I want my fair share of the profits? What sort of evil vampire do you think I *am*, anyhow?"

"I think you're the kind of evil vampire who is going to get off the bed, finish re-packing the dirty clothes, finish packing my suitcase, and get everything ready to go." Spike's eyes narrowed, and Xander finished his threat. "While I lay here and provide scenery."

"Er. You gonna be doing anything?"

"Depends on how well you pack, now, doesn't it?" Xander leered at him.

Spike started to push himself off the bed, and stopped. "You gotta let go of the Burrower, or I can't pack anything but you."

Xander stared at him. Then he laughed. "You named it *what*?"

Spike looked vaguely hurt. "The...cos it... oh, sod off. It's just a nickname. Its real name is William Abelard..."

"... Harris Bloody Wyndham-Pryce Gunn Chase Summers Rosenberg Jones Giles, the Second!" Xander finished along with Spike. Then he shoved Spike off him, bent his head, gave William Abelard et cetera et cetera Junior a kiss, then William Senior, then pushed him off the bed entirely, and onto the floor. "Go pack, slave-boy."

Spike's head popped up from the floor, pupils slightly dilated, and Xander knew the fantasy would keep Spike going until at least the dirty socks were packed, if nothing else. "Can I wear the blue collar?" Spike asked.

"Only if you wear your glasses, too."

Vampiric speed was a wonderful thing, Xander decided. In seconds, Spike was kneeling beside the duffel bag, naked, wearing his collar and his glasses and nothing else, calmly folding the dirty laundry.

Xander wondered just how long *he* was supposed to last, doing nothing but lying on the bed...and touching himself. He smirked. Good thing they had six hours 'til they actually had to leave.

The only questions left were whether Spike would get the packing done before he jumped back onto the bed, and whether he'd remember to leave out any clean clothes for them to wear home. Though Xander was seriously considering remaining naked for the rest of his life -- as long as Spike would, too.