Two blocks over from the Bronze, not ready to head home yet, Spike stopped as he heard a sound half-way down the alley from behind a large dumpster. "Here demon, demon, demon," he sang out as he walked down the alley, relying on echolocation, the subtle differences in the sounds that bounced back, to give him as vivid an image of the alley as his sight did. As he kicked aside a sheet of plywood, a cat dashed out from underneath his feet, vanishing further into the darkness with a loud yowl. Spike carefully looked around until he was sure there were no demons. "Damn," he shouted, slamming his fist into hard brick.

Sagging against the wall, Spike pulled out a cigarette. "Can't go home, not without a good fight in me. I'll beat him to a bloody pulp." Opening his clenched fist, Spike let the tobacco fall to the ground. "And I'm talking to myself. Can't be good. Never was when Dru did it; isn't now." Standing back up, Spike added, "Right. Willy's. Always good for a fight."

As Spike strolled into the bar, three vampires, one sitting on a barstool over near Willy and two at a table, quickly rose and slipped out the back, trying but failing to look casual. "Spike please," Willy said, not moving, keeping the bar between Spike and himself, "you keep coming here and upsetting my customers, and I'll be outta business."

"Upsetting? Is that what you call it?" Spike asked, looking around the bar which was empty except for a Fyarl sitting alone in a booth. When Spike stepped over to it, the Fyarl, with a nasty grin, asked for another beer. As Spike replied, speaking four short words in a guttural tongue, Willy winced. The demon, as he leaped up from his seat, knocked the table into the next booth before lunging at Spike who sidestepped the attack.

"Guys," Willy called out, "could you at least take it outside?"

As the Fyarl started rushing forward, Spike tossed a chair at it's legs. The demon hit the floor as a pile of limbs and chair legs. Spike pulled it up and punched a fist into it's gut. The Fyarl blinked a few times, as if wondering why the vampire was tickling him, before punching back with a couple of wide swings. "Now this is more like it," Spike shouted in delight, jabbing an undercut to the Fyarl's chin.

Willy ducked, hiding behind the bar, as a chair came flying at him. "Come on," Spike taunted. "You've got to have more than that." As the Fyarl charged, Spike jutted out his hip, tripping the demon, and grabbed it's arm, pulling upwards as it fell forward, sending it crashing onto it's back. Throwing himself after, straddling the Fyarl, Spike started punching it's face, shouting and emphasizing his words with blows. "You dirty." Punch. "Little." Punch. "Whore." Punch. "Is this how you like it?" His fist flew three times in quick succession, striking the unconscious demon, bam, bam, bam. "Don't you go staring at me with those big brown eyes."

Willy peered over the bar, just enough to see the demons. Fyarls common had blue eyes, sometimes purple and on rare occasions red but never brown.

"And don't," smack, "go acting," smack, "like you love me." Smack. "You're my whore. That's it." Tears ran down Spike's face as he hit the demon.

Willy ducked behind the bar again, wishing he had a Star of David, a Hand of Fatima, or pretty much anything that might save him. "A Rosary would be pretty good right now, especially one with a huge frigging crucifix," he whispered. He looked over his shoulder but didn't raise his eyes over the bar, hoping Spike hadn't heard him.

The sounds stopped. Spike's words stopped. The crying stopped. Even the punches stopped. "Oh God, oh God, please look favorably upon," he'd started to whisper when Spike interrupted.

"Here's some money for the damages."

"That's OK," Willy stammered. "Just leave the money on the bar."

"Gimme a bottle of Jack."

Willy clenched his hands together as if in prayer.

"Sometime today."

Willy stood on shaking legs and got his first good look at the damage: tables and chairs were smashed, there was a huge hole in one of the booths, and the juke box and gotten tossed onto it's side. "Here ya go," Willy said, grabbing a bottle from the shelf, not bothering to see what it was, and putting it on the bar as far as he could without getting any closer to Spike.

"Will that cover it?" Spike asked, nodding toward a pile of cash.

"Um, yeah, I think that'll do it." When Spike didn't reply, Willy added, "I'll reimburse you if it's too much."

"Whatever," Spike said, grabbing the bottle and heading toward the door.

Willy had just breathed a sigh of relief when Spike turned back. "You know, if anyone were to learn anything I said here tonight," he trailed off menacingly.

"Sure, no problem," Willy said. "Everybody knows I can keep my mouth shut. Right?" When Spike didn't reply, he added, "Besides, what was there to hear? Nothing. I mean, I'm deaf, in both ears, and couldn't make anything out anyway."

Spike stared at him, long enough that Willy was sure he was toast. "Make it two bottles," Spike finally said.

"Sure, anything you want Spike," Willy babbled as he handed over another bottle.

With a snort of what could have been amusement, Spike walked out, looking less confident than when he'd walked in, leaving Willy and the unconscious Fyarl alone with the mess.

Guzzling down the first bottle, which had turned out to be vodka, Spike made his way to Shady Rest Cemetery, where he tossed himself onto the ground and stared up at the sky. "Dru used to talk to the stars," he said. "She said they'd sing and chat with her, tell her things." Thinking about Dru, about how she'd left him, about how she'd hurt him, Spike sat up, blinking in surprise as he realized his heart didn't hurt anymore. Looking down at his chest, he called out "Dru" and felt only a twinge, an echo of love. "Buffy" he said next and then "Gelus", but neither name hurt even as much as Dru's. Without realizing he was about to say it, he heard himself call out "Xan." His heart bloomed like roses in springtime. "Oh hell, do I have to be a bloody awful poet even now?" was his first response. Then, realizing what it meant, he started banging his head against a tombstone. "I did not fall for the dolt I've been blackmailing."

Leaning back, he guzzled down a third of the vodka and propped himself against the tombstone, sitting there, taking the occasional swig, until he heard a scratching coming from underneath the ground, two graves over. By the time the Fledge, some brunette bint, was pulling herself out of the dirt, Spike had moved to loom over her grave.

She smiled, flashing into vamp-face. "So," Spike said, "if you were blackmailing somebody and they started, let's say acting up, what would you do?"

"You aren't human, are you?" she asked.

"Sorry, but you'll have to wait for dinner," Spike replied.

With a look of disdain she walked away.

Leaping after her, Spike grabbed her hair and slammed her head five times into a gravestone. "Let's have some manners here."

"Yes, um, sir?" she said.

"Right, where was I?"

"Something about blackmail?"

"Oh yeah. Say you're blackmailing this bloke, and he starts acting differently, like he's changing the terms of your agreement, or no, more like he won't act like he's being blackmailed at all."

"He stopped doing what you wanted?" she aked.

"No, more like he's doing it because he wants to."

The Fledge started wiping blood from her face. "Kill him."

"Hey, I'm shagging this guy here."

As she raked her eyes up and down Spike, her mouth dropped open. "You had to blackmail someone into fucking you?"

"No, I didn't have to blackmail him. Just saw an opportunity and took it, didn't I?"

"He's must be weaker than you. If you wanted him, why didn't you just take him? Why this whole," she waved her hand around in small circles as she searched for a word, "rigmarole?"

"You can't just take humans," Spike sneered. "They don't like it, do they?"

"Human?" she asked. Spike's hand clenched into a fist as her fear gave way to contempt. "And you want him to like it? What the hell am I doing wasting my time with you?"

As she turned to go, Spike called out, as he lit his cigarette with a match, "I wouldn't if I were you."

"If I weren't so hungry, I'd kill you now," she said. Her head turned back, for one last look at Spike, just in time to see the flaming book of matches catch her hair.

Spike waited until there was nothing left but ashes. "Love him, don't I?"

He hadn't taken three steps before he stopped and slapped himself on the head. "Of course! I love him, and I know he doesn't love me, that he's only being blackmailed into the sex, even if it is bloody marvelous," he added, full of pride, "but he keeps acting like he cares, doing stupid little things, like warming my blood to the perfect temp or adding those little marshmallows that I like. It's ambiguous, isn't it? Makes me think he feels something I know he doesn't." He paced back and forth as if working something out. "All I've got to do is remember that he's pretending, that he doesn't care for me, hell he might not even like me, that he's acting that way... why? Oh," he said, puffing his chest out, "because he's afraid of the Big Bad."

Suddenly pissed off again, Spike stalked back to the tombstone, where he'd first laid down, and took a swig of the bottle there. "Right, can't torture him into loving me. Didn't work on Dru, and it sure as hell won't work on a human. So, all I've got to do is remember that he doesn't love me. It's nothing more than a good shag for him, well that and making sure the girls don't find out what a perv he is." Spike smiled reminiscently, rubbing his crotch before shaking himself back to reality with a sigh.

"If I feel something more, that's my business. Can keep it to myself and keep this relationship strictly professional. I'm in charge 'cause I'm blackmailing him. No ambiguities to make me crazy. As long as Xander doesn't do anything romantic, and why should he, then I'll get along just fine."

With everything straight in his mind, no longer fighting against himself, Spike made it to Xander's house in no time. At the top of the basement steps, from the flickering lights below, Spike could tell the room was lit entirely by candles. "Xan?" he called out tentatively, his stomach sinking. Why couldn't the little arse just stay blackmailed?

The basement looked like a scene out of a romance novel, candles, ranging from tiny tea lights to three-wicked pillars, sitting on any surface that would hold them, rose petals scattered across the floor, Xander, wearing nothing but leather briefs and a collar, was displayed on the bed, looking sexier than Spike had ever seen him.

His eyes flashed yellow with rage. How was he supposed to know where he stood when Xander kept messing with the rules? As he stalked to the side of the bed, Xander's smile faltered. "What's all this then?" Spike challenged.

"Um, Merry Christmas?" Xander asked.

Spike dropped to his knees and ran a finger over the collar. "You did all this for me?"

Xander's look said, as clearly as words, you are an idiot. "Well, yeah. Who else would I do it for?"

Spike leaped to his feet. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"I," Xander started.

"No," Spike shouted, shattering the bottle against the wall, splattering glass and whiskey across the rug. "I'm blackmailing you, ya git. You're not supposed to scatter roses; you're supposed to grin and bear it, well not bear it since I am a bloody amazing lover, but you aren't supposed to act all lovey dovey."

As he stared into wounded puppy dog eyes, Spike froze, resisting the urge to lash out and hit the lad. "I thought you'd like it," Xander said. Spike could see him fighting back tears.

"Like it? I'd bloody well love it if we were on some sort of solid ground, but you have to go and make things confusing. How'm I supposed to know where we stand if you keep pulling crap like this?"

Xander's voice sounded dead. "Crap like what?"

"You keep acting like you're not being blackmailed into this," Spike shouted. "You keep acting like this is more than just sex."

"It is more," Xander said.

Spike backed away a step.

Xander pulled into himself, looking uncertain for a moment, but then his face took on that look, as if he were resolved to speak, no matter what the consequences.

"Oh no," Spike said. "Whatever it is, don't say it. Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. I'll never tell the chickies about, well anything, and we'll pretend this never happened, any of it. We never got together. How's that sound?"

Xander looked more wounded than before. "No," he replied, shaking his head.

Spike didn't wait around to hear more but bolted for the door. He was halfway down the street when he heard Xander calling out his name. Glancing back, he saw Xander standing by the door, as undressed as before, hoping from foot to foot against the chill. "Idiot's gonna catch his death, or Pop'll come out, catch him like that and beat him to death," Spike muttered, his heart sinking as he realized he'd just let Xander go, but it was for the best. Really. A White Hat shouldn't be messing around with the Big Bad in the first place.

As Xander vanished into the house, the door slammed between them.

Spike stared at the closed door. It didn't open. "He can't be too upset if he gave up that quickly, but that's good. I told him to forget about it. This'll let him move on." Pulling out a cigarette, he looked at it for a moment before letting it drop from his fingers. "God, I need a drink."