Better Living Through Chemistry: Redox Reactions
by Sajinn

Title: Better Living Through Chemistry, Part 2: Redox Reactions
Author: Sajinn and Chrysalis
E-Mail: [email protected]
Pairing: Spike/Xander, Buffy/OMC, Tara/Willow, Cordelia/Gunn. (Eventually: Willow/Doyle, Tara/Oz, Angel/OMC, Wesley/Giles)
Rating: NC-17
Summary: As we continue our romp through the lives of Spike and Xander...our boys find out that change is often energetic.
Disclaimer: No, they aren't ours. We just put them in pretty dresses and make them fight each other.Feedback: Makes a body good! Send lots!
Archive: Lemme know if ya wanna. Can be found at my wee little homepage,
A/N: This story is a sequel to 'Stoichiometry,' which may or may not have been posted previously but is available on my homepage.

[Redox Reactions (n): of or relating to oxidation-reduction. ]

[Oxidation-Reduction (n): a chemical reaction in which one or more electrons are transferred from one atom or molecule to another.]


"No, I don't think that more Goldfish would make the party mix better," Spike said tiredly as Xander waved a box of crackers in front of him. The vampire was dead tired, no pun intended, of watching his mate scurry around in anticipation of their New Year's party.

Due in large part to the overwhelming success of Xander and Spike's hosting of the annual Christmas-Hanukah-Solstice party, Buffy's response not withstanding, the couple had been drafted to host the next major positive Scooby event-New Year's. This time, Willow and Tara had agreed to help decorate, which was supposed to take some of the work load off Xander. Of course, he was still running himself ragged. Giles had agreed to attend, and had promised to drag Joyce and Dawn along, under the requirement that the racy stuff be left for after the youngster's departure.

"Please, please, please stop moving around," Spike pleaded as Xander literally jumped from one side of the living room to the other. "Red will be here soon." Just as he said that, the doorbell sounded.

Xander ran across the room to let Willow and Tara inside. "Hi, witchy women!" Xander shouted. "Here for the party?"

Willow grinned. "In about two hours. It's time to decorate, eh?" Tara grinned as Spike tried to tickle her. "Hey! Hands off, Blondie!"

"So, did Tex's plane land ok?" Xander asked snidely. He had been more than a little miffed that Buffy was planning to miss all but the very end of their party to get 'reacquainted' with Austin after his extended family visit. The fact that she wasn't even going to bring him to their party made him even more upset. Well, no one was really overwrought that he wasn't going to be there, since he fit in about as well as the average polar bear, but her exclusion made them feel like she was trying to shield her latest boy-toy from her old friends' more.unusual off-duty behaviors.

"Buffy and her Mom went to pick him up an hour ago. She was griping about her lack of driving ability, and having to greet him in front of Joyce," Willow replied with a smirk. Everyone knew what that meant- Buffy would have to go without nookie until they got back to the dorms unless they found an empty bathroom stall.

"Enough talk about Slutty and her stupid Angel-surrogate. We need to start the decorating. Everyone will be here soon." Spike got up and started to go through the items they bought the night before from Wal-Mart.

Silence followed by the occasional 'Where do you want this?' encompassed the four. Tara scowled a little each time Willow used magic to float a decoration here and there, although she said nothing about it. They finally finished with an hour to go before the official start of the party, so in honor of their industriousness, they started drinking. For this occasion, Xander had unearthed a distant relative's rum punch recipe, which proved to be even more potent than the eggnog.

The two couples spent the next hour getting slightly foxed and dancing to big band music, courtesy of Tara. Their pre-party was interrupted by the doorbell.

"That must be Giles with Joyce and Dawn," Spike said as he threw open the door. Not only were the aforementioned guests in the hall, but also Buffy and Austin as well.

"I guess they couldn't find a place," everyone thought to themselves. Xander plastered on a huge grin.

"Greetings, everyone! Happy New Year! Grab yourselves a glass of rum punch-and for you Dawn, sparkling cider." Xander climbed over the couch to get the new comers a drink.

"Aw, you shouldn't have," Dawn remarked as she accepted a champagne flute full of the nonalcoholic drink from Spike. He smirked and winked at her. She knew he'd let her taste the rum punch later-just a sip, so that she'd know it tasted like cough syrup. He was good that way, and she knew that mom wouldn't care. After all, if he gave her too much, and Joyce found out about it, the wonderful hot chocolate with extra miniature marshmallows would disappear.

"Ah, excellent rum punch. Xander's burgeoning bartender skills again?" Giles inquired as he sipped his glass.

"Of course," Xander exclaimed, smiling slightly. Spike just nodded. He liked seeing this group appreciate Xander, even if it was for something as inane as rum punch. "So, who's up for naked twister?"

Joyce laughed softly and shook her head. "Only if I get to spin."

"Nope, I have to spin. Underage person here," Dawn exclaimed.

"That means you can't watch either," Willow replied. Buffy just watched in disturbed awe as her sister and mother chatted casually with her friends about naked party games, as though it was nothing special at all. She was more than a little put out that Joyce wasn't upset about Xander being with Spike. Then again, her mother was a bit strange over all.

Austin wandered away from Buffy to study the Manet print on the wall. It was a very nice one, framed to bring out the colors and tie them in with the rest of the room. He would have loved to have something like that in his dorm, but between his linebacker roommate and Buffy, it never would have happened. Nope, it was Dallas Cowboys and Men in Black posters for the quarterback of UC Sunnydale.

"Can we turn on Dick Clark's show?" Dawn asked after a few more minutes of chatter. Xander lobbed the remote at her while Spike fiddled with the stereo. Soon the sounds of a local radio station filled the little apartment and the group was dancing once again. Spike and Xander took turns whirling Dawn around the room, mostly so that they didn't do too much groping in front of Joyce. Willow, Tara and Dawn didn't care what they did, and Dawn even encouraged them. It just wouldn't be appropriate to scandalize Joyce, which would just make Giles scowl. And of course Buffy would start to threaten Spike with a stake. And Austin would stare. Well, maybe that wouldn't be so bad.

As midnight approached, Dick Clark became the center of attention, everyone laughing about his age and the bands that played. At 11:59, each couple unconsciously prepared for the traditional kiss by clasping hands, and everyone joined in the countdown.

"5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Happy New Year!" They all shouted. Buffy and Austin gave each other a chaste kiss on the lips, as did Willow and Tara in deference to the TWO elders and the minor. Giles gave Joyce and Dawn a peck on the cheek. Spike and Xander, on the other hand, attempted a simple kiss, but couldn't stop once they started. Everyone individually tried to subtly interrupt them, but only a group "ahemm" reminded the men about the visitors in their home.

"Oh, Sorry. I guess we kind of got caught up in the moment." Xander managed to look sheepish, while Spike had a cross between a smirk and frustration on his face.

Everyone else took that as their cue to leave.

"It was fun, but it's time Dawn went to bed. Ah, Rupert could you give us a ride home?" Joyce looked at Buffy entwined around Austin pointedly. They may have all arrived together, but that didn't mean they had to leave the same way.

Willow spoke up with a secret smile on her face, "We can take the lovebirds home with us, that is if you don't mind."

Giles looked quite relieved to not have to stare at the nauseating pair in his rearview mirror. "Yes, thank you Willow. We must be off now." He gathered the two Summers women and left the apartment.

The couples looked at each other, all three of them wanting to be alone with their respective partners. They all said hasty goodbyes, and the three girls left with Buffy dragging Austin along with them.

Xander closed the door behind them, "I thought they'd never leave." He slinked towards the blonde.

"They interrupted one of the best New Year's celebrations I've had in a while. Come 'ere." He pressed his lips to the brunette's, opening them to allow his tongue to enter the familiar recesses of Xander's mouth. The darling boy tasted of rum and fruit juice and Spike, which made the vampire ecstatic. Xander just laughed as Spike released his mouth only to push him toward the bedroom. Their huge, comfortable bed was waiting and neither man was the least bit tired.

Spike tossed Xander onto the bed and crawled on top of him, pushing at his clothes as he went. Xander grinned and helped Spike out of his own. He'd been waiting all evening to get Spike where he wanted him-naked, growling and impatient. Unfortunately for Xander, Spike had other ideas. Once he'd gotten Xander where he wanted, the vampire was in no hurry-they had plenty of time. Besides, it was New Year's Day-they were supposed to spend it celebrating. Actually, neither of them needed the least excuse for sex.

"Strawberry or chocolate?" Spike murmured as he ran his hands over Xander's stomach. The brunette squinted and frowned.

"Huh?" Xander wasn't sure why Spike was rattling off tasty foods in bed, but he'd play along just to speed things up.

"The lube, luv. Strawberry or chocolate?" Spike replied, grinning. "And before you ask, no, we're not using the passion fruit stuff. It makes me sneeze."

Xander laughed. He vividly remembered the disastrous time he'd brought home a new scent of lubricant-how was he to know that Spike's sensitive, demonic nose would object to passion fruit perfume? The blonde had insisted he throw it away, but Xander kept it-for company. He figured that if they ever had any guests, they could use it. "What do you think?"

"I think that you'd like to watch me sneeze all night," Spike replied, scowling. "But then you wouldn't get any, would you?"

Xander thought for about half a second. "There's some vanilla in the other night stand." Spike quirked an eyebrow and reached over. Sure enough, inside the drawer was an unopened tube of vanilla-scented lubricant.

"Dare I ask why you got this?" Spike inquired. He was still unsure of why plain lube was unacceptable. He preferred it; perfumes tried to mask the lovely scent of his partner. Some humans had rather puritanical beliefs about body odor. Oh well.

"Smells like cookies," Xander murmured, squirming. He wanted Spike to get on with it, already. New Year's was not when he wanted to argue about lube.

"If you say so," Spike murmured as he opened the tube and squeezed out the stuff onto one hand. He used his legs to spread Xander wide open. The boy helped by pushing a pillow under his hips, raising himself up. Spike wasted no time in preparing him, enjoying the sounds of Xander sighing and moaning as he worked his fingers inside, loosening muscles and slicking him up.

"Spike," Xander growled some time later. The damned vampire was playing with him, and while it was nice, it wasn't what he wanted. "Get up here."

"Yes?" The blonde murmured as he crawled up Xander's body. He continued to move his fingers inside Xander's hole, twisting and scissoring them.

"Please?" Xander whispered brokenly, his body arching under Spike's. His lover could deny him nothing, so he withdrew his hand and eased himself inside. Lovely, encompassing warmth met him both inside and out as Xander wrapped himself around the blonde and arched to meet him mid-thrust. Spike's head dropped down to Xander's shoulder and he shuddered. Every time they did this, Spike marveled that he even had the chance.

Their coupling, for all of Xander's initial impatience, was slow and silent. Hands wandered here and there, touching and smoothing. They moved as one, the thrust and slide of their interlocked bodies accented by the soft touch of lips and tongue. Spike moved to capture Xander's mouth as the boy climaxed, catching his moan. Xander returned the favor a moment later as Spike shuddered and convulsed in ecstasy.


"Good New Year's?"

"Of course," Xander said as he walked onto the worksite. He endured the smiles and laughs of his coworkers. They'd noticed some time back that his mood had improved, and had of course laid such changes at the feet of some mystery woman. Since Xander wasn't in any mood to discuss the particulars of his blonde bombshell with them, they razzed him unmercifully. The young man didn't mind one bit; after all it was better than what they might say if they found out that his squeeze was a guy.

"You gotta hook me up with Sophie's sister," One guy said, using the name the crew had given Xander's mystery girl. Xander choked on a laugh. The closest thing Spike had to a sister was Dru, and he didn't think that any of these guys really wanted to meet up with the loony vampire.

"Sorry, no sisters," Xander said as he clocked in. "Don't we have work to do?"

The good-natured commentary continued until lunch; by that time one of Xander's coworkers had dropped a hammer into the works of one of the site's cranes, ending everyone's fun. Xander and his carpentry crew were called off their own job to help with crisis management as the crane blew up in a spectacular display of sparks and flames. It was a mess of the first order and everyone was forced over to finish with basic cleanup. They couldn't leave the site as it was, so they had to work after the fire department left, slogging through mud and slush to retrieve building materials and secure the site.

Xander took one look at himself, then glanced at his car. < This is so not fair. > His car was nice, moderately new, and very clean. Spike didn't even smoke in it, now that he knew the amount of effort Xander expended to keep it clean. The only problem was that Xander was now covered in mud, ash, sawdust, and a few other things he'd rather not think about. Actually, his appearance reminded him of how Austin had looked once during his attempts to help Buffy slay. There was no way he was getting into his car, not like this. Looking up at the sky, Xander decided that he'd better call Spike. It was going to be dark in about ten minutes and he was way late getting home-and since he wasn't about to drive his car, he'd be even later.

It took a moment or two to find some change, and a bit longer to clean it off. Not surprisingly, Spike answered the phone before the first ring had finished. "Hi, Spike," Xander said brightly.

"Where the bloody hell are you?"

Xander grinned. "There was an accident at the site-no, I'm not hurt-so we had to work over a bit. Um.I'm really dirty. Do you think-" Spike's aggravated snarl cut him off.

"Look in the trunk, Xander," Spike said sharply. "You put plastic drop cloths there after the last time you had to have the car detailed."

"Oh," Xander mumbled. He'd forgotten about that. There were some wet wipes in the trunk as well. "I'll be home in ten, ok?" The only response he got was a dial tone. Wincing, he hung up the phone and walked back to the car. Sure enough, the trunk had three large plastic sheets that would do nicely to protect his car. He wiped himself off as best he could with the wet wipes and retrieved a stake before he shut the trunk. There was just no telling what he'd meet in this town.

Spike was waiting outside the apartment when Xander pulled up. The sun was just down, and the vampire's pale skin glowed in the dim evening light. Even from across the parking lot, Xander could tell that he was royally pissed. Shrugging, the young man extricated himself from the car, rolling the plastic sheets up so that they didn't contaminate anything else. With nothing else to do to procrastinate, Xander headed toward home and one irritated vampire.

Spike snarled when Xander drove up. He was angry at the boy-not for being late, but for not calling, and then for having the gall to think he might walk home, just because of a bit of dirt. The blonde knew that that was just what Xander wanted to do, too-walk home in Sunnydale, with a stake in one hand. Yeah, he was a Scooby, but that didn't make him invincible. Hells.He was about to light into Xander when he saw just how dirty, tired and generally miserable the young man was. Instead of railing at him, Spike reached for the plastic sheets and led Xander upstairs. Before he turned around to enter the building, he saw the surprise on Xander's face. Yeah, the boy had been expecting an ass-chewing, and he deserved one. Maybe later.

"Spike, I'm sorry I didn't call, but I couldn't-we were." Xander's voice faded when Spike turned to look at him as he opened the door. The vampire's expression told him to just shut up. "I'll just go take a shower."

"Strip here," Spike said, pointing to the kitchen. Xander obeyed silently, pulling off his clothes and balancing them on the plastic that Spike had put on the floor. Once he was unclothed, Xander went to the bathroom to wash off the day's grime. To his disappointment, Spike didn't follow him.

While Xander was bathing, Spike took the filthy clothes and plastic downstairs to the laundry. While they washed, he rinsed the plastic sheeting off in the industrial sink by the dryers. Once the clothes were finished, he moved them to the dryers. Once that was done, he jumped on top of one washer and reached up into the metal trestle supports that covered the ceiling. After a moment, he pulled down a small book. Dusting it off, he curled up on top of the washer and opened it to the middle.

Xander looked around the apartment, searching for Spike. He knew that he'd been in the shower for a long time, but he was really dirty. The vampire, however, was nowhere to be found. After a couple of minutes, Xander realized that his dirty clothes were missing, so he figured that Spike had taken them downstairs. He never ceased to marvel at how thoughtful Spike could be. He'd realized rather quickly, though, that it was better to just not mention it-the blonde was very sensitive to things that might tarnish his image as a badass.

Sure enough, Xander found Spike sitting on a washer, reading. Despite the fact that he was engrossed in some book, Spike still looked mad; he was tense all over and a severe frown graced his face. Xander felt even worse for having caused that distress. "Spike?"

"Clothes'll be done in fifteen," The vampire said, not looking up from his book. "Plastic's over there."

Xander bit his lip. Apparently now wasn't the time to talk to Spike. He retrieved the plastic and walked back to the apartment. Once he'd folded the sheeting up and stored it in the spare closet, the boy busied himself fixing dinner for himself and Spike. Taking a chance, Xander warmed Spike's blood mixed with sweet red wine, hoping that it would mellow the vampire a little. Spike liked the drink, although he didn't partake of it very often.

When Spike returned, bearing clean clothes and the same frown, Xander flashed him a weak smile. He took the clothes and gestured for Spike to sit. "Trying to get me drunk, pet?" Spike asked when he tasted his dinner.

"No, I just thought." Xander slumped down at the table, pushing his macaroni and cheese around the plate. He hated it when they argued, fought, or had any negative tension around the apartment.

Spike sighed and reached over to pull Xander against him. "I worry, Xan. I can't help it."

"We were too busy to call," Xander defended.

Spike said nothing for several minutes. "I'll try, ok?"

"Me too," Xander replied. "Is the blood ok?"

"Very," Spike said, taking up his glass again. "No patrol tonight. You need to sleep."

"Are you going?" Xander inquired as he polished off his dinner.

"Later, perhaps," Spike said as he carried his glass to the sink. Xander knew what that meant-Spike would wait until he fell asleep before going out. The vampire's midnight forays bothered Xander a great deal-not because he was killing demons, but because he was putting himself at risk. There were a lot of evil humans out late at night, and they wouldn't hesitate to attack Spike. Of course, he didn't say anything about it.

Spike ushered Xander to the couch, where they curled up together to watch whatever was on television. Tonight Xander insisted on watching ESPN, since the football playoffs were in full force. Spike endured, knowing that Xander would do the same when Manchester United was on the telly. Xander usually became so engrossed in what he was watching that an apocalypse couldn't draw his attention, so Spike was surprised to feel the boy turn around to burrow tight against him. A hot, moist mouth pressed against the base of his neck, sucking hard enough to draw the tight flesh up. "Pet?"

"Bed now," Xander mumbled as he released Spike's throat. "Need to sleep, remember?" Spike grinned and turned off the telly. Xander giggled when the blonde picked him up and carried him into the bedroom, but struggled to get down before he could be tossed onto the bed. Before long the pair was ensconced under a huge pile of down comforters, twined about each other. Maybe he wouldn't go out for a bit of bloody good fun tonight after all.

Part 2:

"Duck!" Willow shouted as she hurled a handful of herbs toward the vampire pursuing Giles. The Watcher dutifully hit the ground just as the scattering material fluttered around the vampire. A flash of light and sulfurous smoke burst around him as the demon exploded.

"Ah, thank you," Giles said sarcastically as he picked himself up. "I suppose that was one of the new breed of stake-resistant vampire, that requires the use of spells to defeat?"

Willow rolled her eyes in exasperation. "No, but you weren't in a good position to stake her, and I wanted to try out the revisions on this spell Tara and I found." Giles was about to argue with her when Buffy appeared, jumping out of the bushes.

"I heard something, what happened?" The Slayer inquired, looking around for vampires. "There are several vamps heading this way."

"Willow was simply using a nuclear device to swat a fly," Giles murmured as they spread out to take on the vampires. Their newly arrived attackers were fledges and not very bright. Giles and Buffy dispatched most of them with stakes, while Willow used her new spell. She was about to toss the stuff on the last vampire, a newly arrived one, when a slim hand caught her wrist.

"As much as I hate to stop you, Xander would be very mad if you dusted Spike," Buffy said to Willow. The redheaded witch looked over at her foe with wide eyes. The blonde vampire looked from her closed hand to Buffy, eyes wide.

"You're only going to hear it once, but thanks," He said to the Slayer as he moved back and to the side, out of range of Willow's hand. He wasn't completely sure what she had, but from the look on both her and Buffy's faces, it wasn't good.

Giles reached over and pushed Willow's hand back into her herb pouch. "Perhaps we should continue patrolling, no?" When everyone nodded, he stepped back to stand next to Spike. "Where is Xander, if I may ask?"

"Long day at work, needed sleep," Spike informed the Watcher as they split from the girls and headed back toward Restfield. "What was the witch pitching back there?"

Giles sighed. "A spell she's been tampering with. It's a combination of sunlight spell and holy water."

Spike shivered slightly. That sounded utterly atrocious. "Sounds dangerous." He loved Willow like he would a sister, but her forays into magic frightened him occasionally. Yes, he appreciated her efforts, particularly when they eased the defeat of a big nasty, but sometimes.well, if Buffy hadn't stopped her, he'd have been a big, bad pile of dust.

"It is, but I cannot seem to impress upon her how risky her experiments are," Giles complained. "It may take a serious accident for her to understand what she plays with."

That comment gave Spike pause. All too often it was Xander who suffered the consequences of this group's carelessness. The idea of something happening to the boy frightened the Master vampire. Shaking his head to whisk away such dreary thoughts, he motioned for the Watcher to speed up. "They're not going to stay in the cemetery all night, Rupes. We'd better get going."

While Giles and Spike were ruminating over Willow's magic use, the witch in question was wrapping up the last part of her patrol with Buffy. The Slayer walked her to her dorm building, stopping to say a brief goodnight.

"Take care and say hi to Tara for me," Buffy said as Willow opened the door. "And, um. what's with all the spells lately, Wills?"

Willow groaned. First Giles, now Buffy? "I'm trying to make your job easier, that's all. You know, the whole 'kill baddies' thing?"

Buffy nodded. "Be careful, that's all." She didn't like saving Spike, but then again, it could have easily been Xander-and while her personal relationship with him wasn't so hot, he was still a friend, and human to boot. She forcibly made herself not think about the possibility that it could have been Dawn out with her friends, or some anonymous college student drawn to their location by the noise of fighting. Willow's spells weren't always so discriminating that they were harmless to innocents.

"Well, good night," Willow said as she went into the building. Giles and Buffy's complaints had put a damper on her good cheer. Why couldn't they be grateful? When she got to her room, Tara was waiting for her. The blonde witch had stayed at home that night studying for two tests she had that week.

"How went the patrolling?" Tara asked as Willow shut the door.

"Fine," Willow replied as she flopped down on the bed. "Giles can't seem to stop complaining about my spells. They work, and work well. What's his problem?"

Tara closed her eyes briefly. She was torn on this subject. On one hand, she enjoyed and valued the spells that she and Willow made. They were good practice, fun, and useful. On the other hand, though, she understood Giles' worries. Willow was rarely satisfied with a 'good enough' spell or potion. Instead of creating something that got the job done, she made things that were overkill, or simply bigger and more complicated than the situation warranted. And that didn't even delve into her habit of altering spells willy-nilly. That was even more frightening.

"Maybe he's remembering his own past," Tara said after several minutes. Giles, she knew, had spent several years in his youth pursuing the shadier sides of magic. Maybe he didn't want to see Willow do the same.

"Well, I'm not 'Ripper,' I don't want to go around summoning demons. He's got nothing to worry about. I just wish he wouldn't treat me like a kid!" Willow exclaimed. Tara nodded but didn't comment. After Willow had gotten ready for bed and turned out the light, though, the blonde stayed awake for a long time, thinking about the situation.


"Ah, good, you're here," Giles muttered as Willow walked into the Magic Box. It was way earlier than she liked, but there wasn't anything to be done about it. After all, she'd taken a position at the shop-she'd even offered to open.

"I thought you were going to sleep in," Willow said tiredly as she flipped the sign to 'Open.' Normally she opened and Giles closed, but for some reason the Watcher was in early.

"I needed to pick up some paperwork that's due soon," Giles replied, hefting up a cardboard box of materials. "Could you call in the order on the counter? We're running low on trinkets again."

Willow nodded and stored her purse behind the counter. Once Giles had walked out the door, she went into the back and put water on for some tea. She hadn't gotten enough sleep and needed the pick me up.

The order was ridiculously simple to send in, although she marveled at how many people wanted to purchase cheap crystal necklaces. They weren't pretty, and without some serious skills, they weren't any good for mojo. Oh well, at least it kept her employed.

After a few hours, Willow found herself without anything to do. She looked around the Magic Box. There weren't any customers, but then again, why would there be? It was five minutes after eleven on a Wednesday morning, not exactly the most popular time to purchase magickal supplies. Hells, she rarely visited the store at this time of day unless she was working. Muttering to herself about ungodly hours and mean Watchers, she fessed up to herself that she was bored.

That just wouldn't do. A Rosenberg didn't get bored-boredom was a sign of ignorance. Perhaps now would be a good time to work on her potions. Crafting them had always been her weakest ability-gods knew how many mistakes she'd made here and there. The arts of substitution and power infusion were things she was still learning. Tara helped a lot, as did Giles, in his own way. Still, it frustrated her that she couldn't just do these things. Unlike mundane stuff, she couldn't chant and poof! a potion appeared. Nope, she had to make them.

Since no one was in the store, Willow climbed the ladder to the 'restricted' section. She saw no point in practicing her abilities on some useless, cute glamour potion. Why not learn to build something truly useful? A banishing potion would be excellent-they were so very powerful, though quite delicate. However, if she could learn to make one, they'd be all the stronger for it. There would be no need to actually fight some of their demonic foes-they would simply need to touch them with the potion and they'd be sent straight to hell, where they belonged.

Fortunately for the curious witch, Giles had an extensive collection of potions-they'd used them once or twice before. Willow scanned the spines until she found a promising text. Pulling it down, she opened it and began to look through the recipes. To her great delight, the text was full of demon-banishing potions. "Fyarl? Nah, they're easy to kill," She muttered as she turned the pages. "Moloch, Tinriele, Hacksaw, Enthos,, no, no!" Well, it had looked like a good book.

Just before she was about to toss it aside, a potion caught her eye. "Bhavca demons? Hmm." She started to read the recipe. It didn't seem too difficult-all the ingredients were downstairs. Hells, she'd have it done before Giles showed up at noon to take over the cash register. Scurrying down the stairs, Willow slapped the book on the counter and began to select jars and bottles.

"Ah, asafoetida. I wondered if we'd ever use this stuff. Wow, that stinks," Willow commented as she mixed up the potion. There were a few words to say, which she spoke in a strong, confident voice."

'Majhit-ka dail'te fiell
Prudnaih krae disz
Cetneirkmu tiened-uh, diened'

"Why couldn't they write better in these books? I can barely read that!" Willow swore as she stumbled over the words. Finally, though, it was done. She imbued it with a bit more power, since she didn't want it to be a dud or anything. Her eyes widened as the muddy, chunky liquid began to glow a deep blue. A light flashed; when it dimmed she saw that the potion was now nearly black, and little light reflected off of it. Looking around, she searched for a bottle to use. The tinkling of the doorbell caused her pulse to rush. < A customer? >


< Giles! Oh, shit! > Willow closed the book and put the last of the herbs away. Searching frantically, she spotted a plastic tumbler under the counter, one of Xander's. She poured the potion into it and set it on the counter. Giles wouldn't care if she had a drink in the shop, now would he? After all, they had tea all the time. "Hey, Giles, I'm over here!"

Giles looked over at a very innocent-looking Willow. She was smiling a bit too brightly for his tastes. Of course, he had left her in the store by herself, so she'd probably gotten into a book she shouldn't have. "Go ahead and put whatever you're reading back upstairs," He said absently. "Don't you have class this afternoon?"

Willow nodded, hiding her relief. She was a bit predictable; today that flaw had worked in her favor. Giles expected her to be naughty and had given her the perfect opportunity to finish hiding her little project. She scampered upstairs and shelved the book carefully. "So, do we have a meeting tonight?" Willow asked as she went back to the main floor.

"Yes, we do," Giles answered. He scowled at the plastic cup on the counter. Couldn't the children keep such things back in the work area? He carried the cup over to the research table and set it beside the stack of blank paper there. Whoever had left it could claim the drink when they showed up that evening. The Watcher thought that perhaps he would have a cup of tea, so he went in the back to heat up some water. While he waited for it to boil, he washed up some of the other dishes left sitting around. Perhaps he should make something for the others to drink for the research meeting-he was sure there was some lemonade mix around somewhere.

"Oh, there you are!" Willow said as she poked her head into the back room. "I was wondering-" Her voice faded away when she saw her tumbler sitting, upside down, next to the sink with the other clean dishes. < Damn it! > Giles had dumped her potion. Well, didn't that just figure? He ruined her work, even without knowing it. "I'd better get to class," She said shortly, heading out the back. Giles frowned at her abrupt exit, but shrugged it off. Willow had been quite moody lately. He was more than a bit concerned about her magic use-it would certainly explain the mood swings and irritability. The Watcher wished that she'd take his advice and slow down, but she obviously felt she knew more about magic than he did. Oh well. Something would happen to teach her-just as things had occurred to put him on the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, his lesson-Ethan Rayne-didn't seem to want to fade graciously into oblivion.


"Aw, you shouldn't have," Xander murmured as he closed the door to his and Spike's apartment. The blonde vampire had fixed dinner for him and was already pulling off his filthy work clothes. "Really. I can bathe myself, Spike." Of course, he didn't really mind having his lover do things like this for him, even if it was a thinly veiled attempt to get sex. Hey, he was a guy, too.

"You smell," Spike growled.

"Picky, picky, picky," Xander taunted. That got him another growl and a brief shake. He knew that Spike hated it when he smelled like anything besides himself and Spike-preferably more like Spike than Xander. The smell of sweat alone wouldn't have bothered the vampire either, but combined with sawdust, cement and chemicals, Xander was sure that he was really offensive to the ultra sensitive demon.

Spike pushed and tugged Xander through the apartment until they reached the bathroom. Much to Xander's surprise, the little room was already steamy and warm. "You've already taken a shower, so you don't need to-" His words were cut off as Spike slid him into a warm, soapy bath. The heated water made him relax instantly. Spike pushed on his shoulders so that he could lean back into the bath. By the time Spike began to work shampoo into his hair, Xander was in no position to protest. The only thing he said was 'harder' when Spike began to massage his skull.

"Better?" Spike asked. A low groan was his only answer. The vampire smiled softly. He knew that Xander's friends would cackle and scream if they saw him being 'domestic', but they'd never find out.

Once he was done washing Xander's hair, Spike stood and stripped off his clothes. He was careful not to disturb Xander as he eased into the tub and slid underneath the boy. Xander turned slightly and curled up on Spike's cool chest, nuzzling the smooth skin there. Spike rested his head against the tile wall and tightened his arms around the youth. He wanted to turn the boy over and slide inside him, reveling in that wonderful, tight flesh. But Xander was tired and needed his rest. There was a meeting tonight, so he should probably be considerate and hold back his own base desires. Spike had just about convinced himself to remain the chivalrous knight when he felt a warm, callous hand slip between his legs. He couldn't quite hold back a moan as Xander's mouth latched onto one nipple as he began to milk the vampire's cock.

"Xander." Spike groaned softly. Well, if the boy wanted to play, it wasn't Spike's fault. He pulled Xander up and captured his mouth in a soft, open-mouthed kiss. Xander rubbed himself suggestively against the vampire, enjoying the sloshing of cooling water against his skin. Spike abruptly released his mouth and yanked the boy upright, bringing him up to straddle his chest. Xander sighed as Spike engulfed his erection and laved it with his cool, smooth tongue. The blonde's hands swept up to Xander's hips, encouraging him to move. Xander braced himself against the wall and thrust gently, crying out as Spike dragged his teeth along the underside of his cock. It didn't take Spike long to bring the boy to a climax. Xander melted down against Spike, curling up against his chest again.

After a few minutes, Spike felt Xander's hand snake between them a second time. The human took Spike's erection in a soft grip, bringing his head up to nestle in the curve of Spike's neck. The blonde leaned back and closed his eyes, enjoying the feel of a slow, relaxed Xander toying with him.

Xander had different ideas. He reached over slightly to nibble on Spike's ear, darting his tongue out to taste smooth flesh. Spike shuddered. "Love you," Xander whispered softly. The vampire's cock twitched and swelled. Xander kept pumping his hand slowly, using his other one to stroke down one ivory arm. Since his quiet words had had such a nice effect, he repeated them.

Spike couldn't help quivering when Xander began to chant 'love you' in his ear while touching him so lightly. His arms wrapped around Xander and pressed them together, hard. This orgasm was a rush of sensation along his spine, accentuated by the warm breath on his neck.

"Do we have to go to this meeting tonight?" Xander asked a moment later.

"Yes," Spike growled. "You promised to go and I promised to make sure you went."

"But you're an evil vampire. You aren't supposed to care if you break promises," Xander replied. Spike's arms tightened again.

"I don't break promises," Spike said quietly. Xander looked up, startled.

"That wasn't what I meant, Spike," He said, worried. Spike stared at him for a long moment before nodding.

"I know," The vampire murmured. "We should get ready."


Part 3

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