Thanks again to Green and Yindagger for their work as beta readers and for giving me much needed help and encouragement and to dutchbuffy2305 and Fitofpique for their thoughtful feedback. This is the sequel to Predatory Acts and is set two years after that finishes.

Preying On My Mind



Chapter One


Sunnydale November 1999

Spike sighed as he settled himself into the chair, trying to anticipate which position would be most comfortable for the long hours ahead before he was tied in place. The last two nights had been enough to teach him that it was unlikely it existed. He’d wrenched his neck trying to scratch an itch on his nose the first night, his backside was still numb from the second and if Xander made the ropes bite in any harder tonight, they’d snap.

Silent, his face puckered with distaste, Xander came over to Spike and began to wind the ropes around him. As Spike had guessed, he pulled them tight.

“Why do you hate me, Xander?”

The words came out with a thread of genuine interest woven through them and Xander’s lips thinned. “You’re a vampire, dumbass. Your kind’s killed more of my friends than I can remember.”

“Yeah, whatever. Wasn’t what I asked. Why do you hate _me_? What have I ever done to you personally? Apart from knocking you out that time. Oh, and the night -”

“Maybe you talk too much, Spike. Yes, in fact you do. Maybe I should gag you as well as –”

He paused. Something dangerous had flared in Spike’s eyes and his hands curled into fists. When he spoke, his voice was mild, almost gentle. “I really don’t advise it, Harris.”

Xander backed down but the sullen anger in him smouldered as he finished tying Spike’s ropes. As if it wasn’t bad enough that he had to let Spike stay here, now he was getting threatened by him.

“So - no answer. Figures. Not got the balls to admit you just get off on all this?”

Too much. Two nights of pretending to sleep with Spike a few yards away had exhausted Xander. He was losing the last scraps of control over a situation that time had failed to make easier to bear. Making a noise that was halfway between a sob and a curse, he stalked over to a locked cupboard, opening it and fumbling around inside. He came back to stand in front of Spike, mutely holding out a small object. Spike frowned as he recognised a memory charm. “How’d you get hold of one of those?”

“You gave it to me.”

Spike’s eyes flew up to meet Xander’s, startled and wary. “I bloody well didn’t, mate. Do you know how much they cost?”

Xander’s lips curled disdainfully. “Didn’t cost you much. He owed you a favour and you traded it for one of these. Except it wasn’t one. It was two. Not that I knew that of course. Not then.”

Spike groaned with frustration. “You’re not making any sense. You’ll have to do better than this. Tell me straight or shut the fuck up.”

Xander’s fist whipped across Spike’s face, throwing his head back against the chair. It was the first time he’d touched him, skin on skin, and it felt good to hurt back, good to leave his mark, if only for a moment. “You want to know? You sure? Want me to tell you all about the night – two nights – we spent fucking each other till we couldn’t stand? How you gave me this so I could forget about it all? You want to know now but you chose, deliberately chose, to wipe it out of your memory. You wiped me clean away, Spike. What’s the matter? Big Bad can cope with the memories of a century of slaughter but not with anything involving feelings or, or...”

Xander’s tirade faltered, his face working helplessly to stop the tears from spilling down. He sat down on the edge of the bed, one hand clenched on his knee, the other cradling the charm protectively. Spike stared at him, silent in the face of clear insanity. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said at last, forcing a sneer to his lips in an effort to hide his reaction. “Nice one, Harris. Almost had me there. ‘Course the fact that you’d cut your bloody dick off before you’d let it touch any part of my tainted, soulless body was a bit of a giveaway. Now piss off. This just isn’t funny.”

Xander looked up, anger stemming the tears. “Oh, it’s touched you, Spike. It’s been in your hand, your mouth, your ass. It’s rubbed against your body in a dozen places. I came over your back, your front, your face. The air in the room was thick with our scent. You filled me, held me, made me think I wasn’t alone. Said we were the same, even when it was just me, not the hyena, you said it. Then Angel offered you my neck that night and your eyes....they were empty. You didn’t know me, you didn’t care. All you were interested in was him. Just like Buffy. All she saw was him. I was nothing.”

The bitter, furious words sputtered from his mouth. He felt drained, spent, but it hadn’t helped to leech the poison from his soul. He was empty and hollow. He’d given Spike enough ammunition in one minute to fuel years of taunting but it didn’t matter. He’d felt like a child who had breathed on a snowflake and made it vanish. The only thing he’d had left were his memories and now he’d flung them at Spike’s feet to be ground into the dirt.

Spike opened his mouth, a dozen questions demanding to be asked, changed his mind and then said simply, “When?”

Xander brushed a shaking hand across his eyes and sighed. At least Spike wasn’t laughing. In fact, he looked – concerned? That couldn’t be right. “Years ago. About five, six months before you came here with Dru. We met in an alley behind the Bronze. I was possessed by a hyena spirit – God, even the field trips are dangerous in this town – and you were, well, you were feeding. The blood called to me and you – shared. We fed and you took me with you, back to your place.”

Spike closed his eyes, letting himself go back to that night. “Yeah, I remember that woman, but not you. I fed, went back to my digs, got drunk...spent a day or two kissing up to the Master and went back to Dru.”

Xander shrugged. “Yeah. You said she was ill and you were going back for her. Well, we all know how that turned out. She dumped you. Guess you chose the wrong one.”

Spike glared at him. “You stupid, useless wanker. You don’t know jack about what happened and you don’t get to comment. If what you say is true, though God knows I’m having a hard time accepting it, then there’s only one reason I can think of that I can’t remember it.”

“What?” said Xander, a flicker of interest in his eyes. Spike being insulting was soothing, a return to their normal relationship. He could cope with him angry or sarcastic.

“Dru. She would have plucked you out of my memory like an eyeball from a skull. She’d have come for you. If I took one of those charms, and I suppose I did, I saved your bloody life, mate. Trust me on that.”

Xander looked at him, biting his lip. There had been too many nights spent restlessly fingering memories until they became dulled with handling, too many days spent denying everything the brief time with Spike had taught him about himself. Accepting that Spike had acted out of concern meant releasing a grudge that had turned into a prop.

Spike watched him think, his own mind working furiously as he came to terms with what he had learned. Xander and he had been lovers? And Xander must have felt something or he wouldn’t have bothered to hate him so much. Spike knew better than anyone what excesses frustrated love could produce. A faint warmth kindled in him. Wanted. He’d been wanted. It wasn’t much in the wasteland that his life had become but it was something. His eyes raked Xander appraisingly, approving the strength of the body, remembering the courage he’d shown in a dozen fights. Lad had a mouth on him, of course, but so had Spike. Xander’s description of their time together had made him so hard, so ready, that he was having trouble sitting still. He felt his muscles tense and relax in a rhythm that matched Xander’s breathing, as he tested the ropes that bound him.

“It doesn’t matter,” Xander said finally, breaking a long, thick silence. “You forgot, and I should too.” He looked at the silver sphere and then directly at Spike. “Going to get rid of you, Spike,” he said, his voice taunting and vindictive. “Going to forget you –”

His hand moved towards his mouth and Spike felt the demon rise. His. Xander was his and he was going to break that link? No. Wasn’t going to let him. With a low growl, he pulled against the ropes. The knots had been tied cruelly tight but it didn’t matter. Spike could always have broken free if he’d wanted to. Just didn’t seem worth mentioning. Xander glanced up in alarm as the ropes snapped and Spike came for him, game face on, golden eyes blazing with anger and desire. Spike’s hand clamped firmly but gently around Xander’s wrist as he bent over him, going from a rush of speed to stillness in a heartbeat. “Drop it. Now.”

“No,” snarled Xander. “Not going to suffer like this any more. Do you know what it’s been like? Watching you, wondering if you’d remember, if you’d tell them all. Wondering if you were pretending, just waiting for the right moment. Wishing I could just ask you, but not daring to. Too much. It’s just too fucking _much_”

He squirmed, trying to break Spike’s hold, but the vampire clung to his wrist. “Xander, I keep this up and the bloody chip’s going to have me on my knees. Please. Give it to me and give me a minute to think.”

Xander’s lips set stubbornly and Spike let the panicked rage surge up inside him, riding out the pain that sizzled through his head as he squeezed Xander’s wrist hard enough to numb it so that the charm fell to the floor. Spike pinned Xander in place with a warning look and then slowly bent to pick it up, slipping it into his jeans pocket. “Right. Now suppose we fill in some details.”

“No.”

“Oh, I think yes.” His limited patience exhausted, his head throbbing, Spike gathered Xander’s shirt in his hands and hauled him up the bed, letting him fall and straddling his body. Xander could have thrown him off easily enough but he lay still, dark eyes searching a face that had sharpened with emotion until it looked all straight lines, angular and hard. Spike leaned forward slowly, sliding his hands along the crumpled sheets, not touching Xander’s body. He could feel Xander’s cock harden beneath him, see his breath catch in his throat; hear the pulse hammering away in the hollow of his neck. With a deliberation he’d forgotten he had, Spike paused, straightening his arms so that he hung over Xander, suspended above a body that was quivering with need against his. “You’re still mine, aren’t you? Don’t know what I did, but it marked you. Tell me. Tell me what we did.” His voice was husky, slow and knowing.

The last flicker of defiance in Xander’s eyes was quenched when Spike dipped his head and nuzzled into his neck, letting his body rest lightly against his. “I’d bite you just here if I could. You know that?” Tongue and teeth worked his flesh ruthlessly. “But I can’t. Can’t do anything any more.” Anger roughened his voice, “And you tell me you’re going to turn your back on me?” The edge smoothed away and he chuckled. “Only when I tell you to, Xander. Not until.”

Xander stared up at him. “I thought you didn’t want me,” he whispered. “Thought I wasn’t – good enough.” There it was, all the pain in two short sentences. Spike felt the words pierce him. Not wanted. Not good enough. Oh, he knew all about that feeling. He was getting the sense that he was almost there, almost solving the puzzle that he’d wondered about now and then – that deep down look of scorching anger in Xander’s eyes. He should probably take it slowly, not jiggle the precariously poised pieces but that wasn’t his style. He could be subtle, but patient? Not so much.

Spike sighed, sitting up again reluctantly and smoothing back his hair. “Doubt it. If I’d just fucked you, Dru would’ve understood. Made me pay, mind you, weak as she was, but she’d have not cared all that much. No, must have been more to it than that, but unless you open up, I’m not going to be able to tell you.”

Xander closed his eyes. “Get off me then,” he said. “How can I think when you’ve got me so fucking hard it hurts?”

Spike laughed. “Ten out of ten for honesty, mate, but don’t expect any sympathy. I’m not exactly relaxed myself.” Xander’s eyes flicked down automatically and Spike grinned, knowing that his cock was thrusting eagerly against the soft, worn denim, his arousal on display. Rolling off Xander, he lay beside him on the bed and waited. After an endless silence of about ten seconds he heaved a weary sigh and slid an arm around Xander’s neck, pulling him close. “There. Now you don’t have to look at me. Talk. Or I’ll...”

“What?” said Xander, breathing in a scent he thought he’d remembered and discovering he hadn’t come close to capturing it in his memories. “What can you do to me now?”

Spike grabbed his hair, pulled his head back and leaned in to kiss him, his lips hard, rubbing away another layer of denial. “What _can’t_ I do?” Spike murmured.

Xander’s mouth opened under his and just for a second, it felt familiar to Spike, but it was like trying to catch water. The ghost of a memory hit the barrier of the spell and dissolved into nothingness. Spike pulled back, frowning, but before he spoke, Xander came to a decision.

“I’ll tell you. Some of it, well, it’s fuzzy. Once the hyena spirit left I could still remember everything, but they weren’t my memories in a way. I can’t relate to them, so they don’t seem real.”

“Whatever. Just talk.”

“You know it already. We spent two nights together. The first night I was possessed, the second I wasn’t.”

“Hang on. I can see the first night happening but you came back for more? I wasn’t chipped then. Weren’t you scared of me?”

Xander smiled at the affront in Spike’s voice. “Terrified,” he said. “Scared stiff that you’d lick me to death.”

“Hey!”

Xander propped himself up on his elbow and looked at Spike. “You came up to me on the street. Said we had unfinished business and if I’d let you finish it, you’d give me the charm. Meant I could forget I’d fed on a human. I could do whatever I wanted with you – and that covered a lot of ground, trust me – and then forget it all. You’d go on your way and I’d be happier. Didn’t tell me you had a charm too.” He lay back against Spike’s shoulder, the tiredness tugging at him. So comfortable here, so safe...

Spike frowned, his hand stroking Xander’s back automatically, feeling him curve against him. “So why didn’t you take it, Xander?”

The final puzzle piece fell into place as Xander’s drowsy voice answered automatically. “I thought you loved me.”

Spike groaned. “Oh, God.”

Xander froze, his body going from pliant to rigid as his own words echoed in his head. “I didn’t mean that! I just didn’t want to forget, that’s all. Didn’t trust you. Could have been poison or some weird magical mojo.”

“Too many reasons. Keep it simple when you lie, pet.”

Xander shrugged off the arm around him and sat up, his face tight with anger. “I’m not your pet. I’m not your anything. We had sex. Two years ago. It was hot, yes. But it’s nothing that we have to do anything about. You tell anyone and I’ll dust you.”

Spike made a contemptuous sound that flicked Xander’s raw nerves like a whip. “No you won’t, and yes we do.” He studied the flushed, furious face, noting the panic, and set himself to calming him down. “Strip.”

“What? No!”

Okay, it hadn’t worked. “Xander, you’re so jumpy you’re making the bed shake. Let me just –”

“Fuck my cares away? Not going to happen.”

Spike shrugged and skinned off his T shirt, his hands going to his belt. Xander’s eyes got large. “Stop that!”

“Nope. Getting comfortable. Do you sleep in your clothes? Not a good idea.”

Spike’s jeans followed his shirt onto the floor and he lay back on the bed, relaxed and at ease. Xander gritted his teeth. “Very clever.”

Spike smiled happily. “Like what you’re trying very hard not to look at, pet? Going to tell me I’ve lost weight, or I must have been working out?”

Xander swallowed and then deliberately relaxed, letting his eyes wander openly, taking his time. “You look about the same. Probably something to do with being an ageless, undead vampire.”

“You think? Can still get out of shape you know. Have to work to look this good. You _do_ think I look good, don’t you, Xander?”

Xander nodded casually, refusing to respond to the smirk on Spike’s lips. “You look good for your age, yeah. So?”

Spike crossed his arms behind his head and stared up at the ceiling. “You think I’m trying to tease you. Or seduce you maybe? I’m not.”

“Then why are you naked in my bed with certain bits of your anatomy standing to attention?”

“You were an animal. You know what I’m doing.”

“Help me out, Dr Doolittle.”

“You’re not working with me here, are you? You’re clothed, I’m exposed. You’re in control, I’m open. I’m trying to make you feel better.”

“Well, it’s not working! All I feel is...is...”

Spike glanced over at him. “Yes? Share a little, huh?”

Xander rolled on top of Spike, grabbing his wrists and holding them in place. “I feel like I want to kill you.”

“Not from where I’m lying you don’t.”

“Didn’t say I wouldn’t fuck you first.”

“That’s my boy.”

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11,12,13

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