Xander leaned in the doorway to the Summers’ kitchen and watched as Spike helped Dawn with her homework. He'd been at the site when he realized that he was getting close to being a two-year hire, and that meant that Spike had been there for nearly two years himself.

It was odd. In some ways it felt like Spike had always been there, hanging around, mooching, hogging all the hot water no matter where Xander lived. Then again, it seemed like it was Thanksgiving again and Spike was all pale and huddled under a blanket and, even though he'd been sick with the magical curse version of every STD there ever was, he'd kinda felt sorry for him.

Of course, Spike had to ruin that by opening his mouth and being a jackass but, hey, that was Spike. Even when Xander had hated him he'd been fascinated by all the different sides of Spike. More than once Xander had called him Sybil, if only in his head. And now, after two years of living in the same place at different times and fighting both with each other and together against other demons, Xander had finally come to one conclusion.

Spike was an evil vampire, who, given the chance, would kill without a thought or remorse. But at the same time Spike was a good man, and one to be trusted. And it had taken him nearly two years of watching Spike throw himself at one brick wall or another to come to that conclusion. It was kinda life changing. Maybe for both of them.

Xander still had that damned shirt that even he admitted was ugly that Spike was wearing the night he tried to stake himself. At first he had kept it to taunt the vampire with, but now he kept it as a reminder that even the strongest person could feel depressed.

In the past two years everything had changed. Anya had left almost as quickly as she had picked him up and it had been Spike who had brought him a bottle of booze to get drunk on. The Initiative had made everything weird and, as much as he hated most demons, it had seemed unnatural, like something out of a bad X-Files episode.

When Spike had double crossed them to help Adam in order to get the chip out, he hadn't been surprised. He'd totally ignored the jibes about the Army, figuring it was just Spike being Spike. He'd been totally shocked that the others had believed the crap that the vampire had spewed. Spike was evil and he wanted, needed, to get the chip out. At some level Xander understood, and if it was him getting the unwanted shock therapy he knew he would have wanted it to stop.

He didn't get to say “I told you so”, though, not with the First Slayer scrambling his brain but good. He had wanted to, though, because it amazed him how the others treated Spike like a juvenile delinquent out on parole. Given the chance, Spike would kill again. He didn't feel remorse or guilt or anything like that because he wasn't human.

But, still, Spike could be good. He’d proved that in the past year. No matter what his motives might be, he'd protected Dawn with all his might. It might have started out so he could get into Buffy's pants but that's not how it ended up. It hadn't even been about that when Spike had told Buffy about Riley. It would have been much easier on Spike if he had just gotten one of the vamps to kill Riley while he was sitting there getting his rocks off. Instead, Spike had brought Buffy there because it was the right thing to do.

Just like it was the right thing to do not talking to Glory about Dawn. Sure, the girls ewwwed over the robo!Buffy but Xander, he kind of understood. It was creepy and stalkerish, sure, but, considering that Xander figured Spike's idea of romance was to give Buffy the entrails of her enemies, well, it could have been worse.

When it came down to when it counted, Spike had fought at Buffy's side. She had trusted him. Made him promise to take care of her friends. He had cried when they picked her broken body up off the concrete.

Things were different now. Giles had caught Willow and Tara checking out some of the bad books and had put a stop to their idea of raising Buffy. Now that he wasn't confronted with Willow eyes, Xander knew that was the right thing to do. Buffy's death had been her gift and, while it hurt, Xander decided to accept it finally. The two witches were with Giles, off on some sabbatical in England or wherever trying to come to terms with...whatever.

Instead of living in his crap basement he lived in what used to be the Summers' house. He and Spike took care of Dawn, made sure she was doing okay in school and all that fun stuff. It was nice, having Spike there. This deadly creature who could snap the necks of most demons would make omelets at five am and both Xander and Dawn would wake up early to have breakfast together.

But Xander never forgot what Spike was. He couldn't. Not that he thought Spike would kill him or Dawn, but still he knew that the chip wasn't working anymore. For the most part Social Services left them alone and they just trotted out the Buffybot once in a while, but one worker got a little too nosy about Dawn's home life.

And two days later her obit was in the paper. There wasn't a cause of death except for exsanguination. Xander didn't, couldn't, approve of that but, again, Spike was evil. To point out how wrong that was was as useless as explaining what blue looked like to a blind person. And while Xander winced internally, he'd only mentioned that maybe they shouldn't buy the paper anymore. Spike had looked at him as if he'd expected more and then smirked.

Because Xander never forgot that Spike was evil, and maybe, maybe Spike appreciated that.

Dawn knew it too, at times. He'd heard her joking with her friend Janice about how Spike “wasn't a tame lion”. But Xander couldn't find it in himself to stop Spike from hunting, and maybe that was wrong but for the most part the Hellmouth was quiet with him as the Master of it. No demon ever dared attack Dawn or her friends for fear of what Spike might do to them. One fledge had tried and Spike had made him an example and, even though Xander had no emotional ties to the minion whatsoever, he had felt sorry for him.

Spike had even ordered what vampires there were to leave the Bronze and certain other areas alone. No vampire could create another vamp without Spike's permission so there weren't that many packs roaming the streets and the other demons either pretty much followed the rules or Spike would tear them apart.

So maybe, thanks to Spike, he wasn't such a good man anymore but Xander just couldn't find it in his heart to care. Maybe that's why they hadn't fought in months, at least about things like life and death; Xander still got onto Spike every morning he tripped over the damn vampire's Doc Martins on the way out of the house.

Maybe that's why Spike had been flirting with him for the past two weeks, long glances and leering and whispered words when Dawn wasn't there that made Xander so hard so fast it wasn't even funny. Promises of being faster, stronger. Being able to watch over Dawn for the rest of her natural life.

Promises of being loved for eternity. Of being cherished for who he was. Soft words that spoke of the kind of touches Xander had never really thought about until Spike had leaned into him that first night and brushed against Xander's groin with his thigh.

Xander shook his head and walked into the kitchen and let his hand brush against the back of Spike's neck as he teased Dawn. He figured if Spike could be good and evil all at once then maybe, just maybe, Xander could be too.

The End

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