Pairing:  Spike/Xander
Rating:  NC-17
Disclaimer:  Don't own them.  I would like to.
Summary:  Xander's got a little something on the side.  Alternate season 5ish where nothing whatsoever is happening to any other characters.
Feedback:  YES, especially for this (see note)
Warnings:  I don't think so, except as to long note to follow.
Note:  So.  When I started to write S/X last year, I assumed I'd be writing them some sex.  At the time, I would hardly look at any S/X without at least an R rating (now, of course, I'll read about them shopping for a bathroom tiles if it's well-written).  But somehow, I found it very difficult.  Either it didn't seem to fit organically in the story, or if it did, I just didn't know how to do it.  When I read sex scenes, I know what I don't like (the kind of laundry list of "He touched that, and it made him shiver.  Then he touched that and it made him shudder) but it's harder to get a handle on why I like what I do.  That is, what makes the sex scene good, hot, emotional, etc. And I've really struggled with this. I've tried to read as much as I can about sex-scene writing by authors I like and that sort of thing.  So months ago, I sat down and just started writing something sex-centric as an exercise, but I kept abandoning it, and taking it out again, and abandoning it, ad nauseum.  And it turned into this very, very long thing, which is pretty much all sex scenes held together by a thin membrane of something I wouldn't presume to call plot.  I don't have a beta, and no one's read it, and I've been looking at it for so long that I have no perspective at all.  I'm basically terrified to post it.  So I decided to post the first part, before the sex gets heavy, hoping I'd get some feedback to see if I'm on the right track.  And maybe someone would be willing to take a look at the rest?  Anyway, if this note hasn't sent you running for the hills, here it is.

And All Was Said


by
Baudown



Part One


Thursday nights, the Magic Box stays open until midnight.

Thursday nights, Anya works late.

Thursday nights, Xander has sex with Spike.

Not that he ever says those words aloud -- "has sex with Spike" -- or even much thinks them.  But that's what it is, what he's been doing, and it's no longer an aberration, but a firmly ensconced routine.  Every Thursday night, his "poker night," as he's told Anya, guiltily, at first, and later, with surprising ease.  She hasn't questioned him, or protested.  "Male bonding is essential to healthy ego development," she says, and she must be quoting from one of her magazines.  "Wager carefully!" she tells him, when he calls her at work to let her know he's leaving.

****

It starts, as things so often do on the Hellmouth, with a near-death experience.  Xander's supposed to meet Buffy and Willow for patrol, and he's running late already, when Anya waylays him at the door.  She's clearly gunning for a fight; it's something that's been happening lately, and the subject rarely varies:  too much time with the girls, not enough time with her.  And so he tries to be inconspicuous about checking his watch as she ticks off each item on her checklist of unmet needs, and spitballs phrases like "quality time," and "prioritize the relationship," and "life choices" at him.

Xander is only just beginning to recognize these episodes for what they are:  signposts along a road, marking the shortening distance to a turn-off.  To an exit.  Things between them are unravelling, and though it's unacknowledged, it's sorely felt.  Their responses to the situation are diametrically opposed, and speak to an essential difference between them:  Xander pretends it isn’t happening, while Anya, in her frenzied, take-charge way, is bound and determined to fix it, dragging them through date nights, dancing lessons, desperate dialogues, like this one.

Tonight, he nods and murmurs and promises in a way that seems, temporarily, to appease her, because he manages to extricate himself in under twenty minutes -- a new record.  Still, when he arrives at the cemetery gate, the girls are nowhere to be seen.  He's a little annoyed -- at Anya for holding him up, at the girls for not waiting -- and maybe this distracts him, because by the time he notices the vampire, darting toward him from behind a dilapidated crypt, it's already too late.  Xander reaches for his stake, but the demon is right there, knocking it from his hand, and he knows that this is bad, really, really bad.  The vampire's got him by the arm, and somehow he twists out of its grip; but as he stumbles away he trips, landing on his back with the wind knocked out of him.  There's a knee in his chest, and his head is wrenched up and to the side, and all he can think is, kill me, don't turn me.

He doesn't see Spike, but he hears him, one snarling "oi," and the sticking sound of the stake.  And before Xander has time to wonder where Spike even came from, he's choking on a mouthful of dust, and Spike lands flat on top of him.  There's confusion for a few seconds, before Xander coughs out a thanks and Spike begins to push himself up.  But when he moves, his crotch brushes against Xander's.

It's obviously unintentional, an accident of proximity, and it shouldn't mean a thing, but Xander's body seems to think it does.  What's more, it seems to be acting on its own, because his dick immediately starts to get hard, and his hips jump, and he's pressing himself with unmistakeable purpose into Spike.  Spike looks baffled for a second, and then his eyes lose focus and fall shut as he rolls his hips and pushes back.  Xander's only thought is, oh, fuck, yeah, before his brain catches up to the rest of him, and he gasps and pulls away.

He stands up, and his legs are shaking, all of him is shaking, and he turns his back to hide how hard he is.  But it's a vain gesture, and he knows it.  Spike's already seen it, Christ, he's felt it.  And as Xander walks weavingly away, he can't help thinking that he's just blithely handed an ax to his own executioner.

He goes home and makes love to Anya, and it’s good, better than it’s been for a while; and he’s thinking of her the whole time, only of her.  He tells himself, relieved, that the thing with Spike was an anomaly, a purely biological response, a mercifully brief betrayal by his body.  Embarrassing, maybe, but not indicative of any sexual confusion on his part.  Of being attracted to men.  Of being attracted to Spike, of all people, if Spike can even be included in that category.  He tells himself this, with real confidence and assurance.  Still, the prospect of seeing Spike looms ominously, like the ax over the chopping block.  Exposure is no mere threat, but a dismaying certainty; a question not of whether, but when.

Of course, it's just his luck that over the next week, Spike manages to be around...every...fucking...minute.  Popping up when they're enjoying a night at the Bronze.  Helping them take out a nest in the new construction down by the warehouses.  Offering up inside information about incipient evil-doing, like a cat happily depositing a dead rat at its owner's feet.  Xander's waiting it out with breath-holding dread, but to his uncomfortable confusion, the ax never falls.  There's nothing: no humiliating disclosure in front of his friends; no devastating revelation to Anya; not even a private, self-satisfied smirk at him.  If it’s a campaign to put him on edge and keep him there, it’s working.

But it doesn't take long for Xander to notice what it is that Spike's doing.  And what Spike's doing is watching.  Watching Xander, all the time.  Directly, and out of the corners of his eyes.  Frank, open stares, heavy-lidded gazes, blinking, sidelong glances.  Tracking him, like prey, and Xander's not sure if this is what it feels like to be the object of Spike's animosity, or his affection.  Or maybe they both feel the same.  Vampire, after all.  Hate and love not mutually exclusive.  Or hate and lust, anyway, because if there's one thing that's certain, that Spike is making abundantly clear, it's that he wants Xander.  As if that moment in the graveyard flipped some switch in him, turned him on, and he won't be turned off.

The problem is that the switch got flipped in Xander, too.

He tries to ignore it; and when he can't, he tries to deny it, and that doesn't work, either.  He looks at Spike, and Spike looks at him, and his heart speeds up, and his skin gets hot, and his mouth goes desert dry.  And he can tear his eyes away, but his dick is less cooperative.  It hardens and rises and points toward Spike like it's a compass needle and Spike's due north.

Xander thinks that maybe it's some kind of mojo Spike's working.  Willow could get to the bottom of it, probably, but he can't exactly consult with her; not about this.  Merely imagining that conversation makes him sick with shame -- shame that would increase exponentially were she to determine that no spell's been cast.  But whether it's magic, or he's just one screwed up bastard, it has to stop; and as unpleasant and mortifying as he knows it will be, this entails a conversation.  An actual conversation, with Spike.

Spike's been a fixture at the Magic Box for most of the day, having agreed, with suspicious good cheer, to help Giles translate a series of Thaxis texts; and when he announces, his voice carrying conspicuously, that he's going upstairs to consult some lexicon or other, Xander follows.

Spike's standing at the very back of the stacks.  He's not looking at a book.  He's looking at Xander.  He's waiting.

Xander walks over, leaving a few safe feet between them.  A no-fly zone.  He takes a deep, steadying breath.  "Listen," he begins.

It's only the one word that he's able to get out before Spike's hand shoots toward him, fingers closing tight as a manacle around Xander's wrist, yanking him forward.  His other hand is between Xander's legs, touching him through his jeans in a way that makes Xander shudder and throw back his head.  Baring his neck, like an invitation, personally addressed and hand-delivered, to a vampire.  An invitation accepted, as Spike's flat, wet tongue licks a path from the hollow of Xander's throat, up and along the line of his jaw.  Such shivery goodness that Xander's hips jerk forward, and then he's pushing, pushing, pushing into Spike's hand.  Spike's mouth is on his neck, tasting him, hungry, and there's the slight scrape of teeth, sending a thrill through Xander that zings straight to his dick.  He can't help it, he lets loose a tiny, breathy moan, and the heel of Spike's hand rubs harder against him.

Noise floats up from downstairs, Willow, chattering excitedly about something, and the sound snaps him out of it.  He starts to pull away, but Spike still has him by the wrist and by the dick, and he won't let go.

"Don't," Spike says, low and rough, his lips at Xander's ear.  "Gonna make it good for you. You'll see."

The tone of that voice, the feel of that mouth, the flavor of those words, and Xander's knees go weak, they literally go weak, and his legs start to buckle.  Spike has to grab him under the arms to keep him upright, and Xander gets a hand to Spike's chest, shoving him away and reeling backward.  Invitation revoked.

"Fuck, Spike," he says.  He feels his heart stuttering crazily.  "What the fuck?"

Vampires are cold-blooded, he knows this, but Spike's eyes glow like embers, and he seems to pulse with heat, with sex.  Xander can't stop looking at Spike's hands, clenching and unclenching at his sides.  Those hands were just on him, and he wants them there again, and he shakes his head, as if to banish the thought.

"What are you playing at, Harris?" Spike says.  He's angry, it's obvious, it's practically shimmering off him, but his voice is even and controlled.

"Playing?" Xander says, the word rising to an effeminate squeak.  He clears his throat.  "Me?  I'm the one who's playing?"  He stabs his finger accusingly in Spike's direction.  "You're doing this.  It's one of those vampire trance things."

Spike stares at him, incredulity stiffening into scorn.  "That what you're telling yourself?  Make it easier for you?"  He tsks, pityingly.  "Don't do thrall.  Never have."  And then, preening, with a sly, annoying grin: "Always been able to rely on my good looks and charm."

The thing is, lying's just not one of the weapons in Spike's arsenal of evil.  Oh, he tries it, now and again, but he's oddly transparent, and can never carry it off for long.  Xander feels the truth hit him like a solid fist to the gut.  Not a spell.  Just him.

Spike rolls his eyes at Xander's pained expression.  "Oh, for fuck's sake," he says.  "Not asking for your bloody hand!  You want something, I want something.  It's simple."

Simple for Spike, maybe.  Simple for a vampire.  But not so simple when you're Xander Harris, who can't stand vampires, in general, and Spike, in particular.  Who's involved with someone, seriously.  Who's cheated once, in the past, and vowed never to do it again.  Who's straight, or at least, thought he was.  Who's never even thought about guys in that way.  Hardly ever, anyway.

And yet, Spike isn't wrong.  Xander does want something.  He's hard, aching, standing there, watching Spike, hating himself for wanting it.

Spike takes a step closer.  His eyes roam slowly down Xander's face, and up again.  It makes something slither, treacherously, low in Xander's belly, and he expels a short, harsh breath.  Spike crooks a summoning finger, and Xander leans in, swaying, mesmerized, but not by magic.  Spike doesn't touch him, or even move.  He doesn't say a word.  They stand like that, face to face, inches from each other, for what seems like a long time, feeling the current that hums between them.  And then, Spike steps back, and smiles, as if something's been settled.

Spike turns to go, and he's already halfway to the stairs before Xander hears his own horrified whisper: "Thursday.  Thursday, she works late."





Part Two

He spends the better part of the next three days engaging himself in every obvious, rational argument against taking this step, understanding all the while, and with no shortage of self-loathing, that he's going to take it.  Scenarios, fantasies, play like tapes in his head, and he ruminates over them, obsessively, altering the details, re-working the sequences, editing his own, private, dirty movie.  Jerking off to the images with adolescent frequency and fervor.  His desire so overwhelming that at times it renders him motionless, speechless, breathless.  But equally consuming are fear, and fury: at himself, for his helplessness to it, and at Spike, for being its object.  But mostly at Spike, whom he knows, he knows, is reveling in Xander's weakness.  He can see the future, plain as day, and it's awful: Spike's snide and knowing smile as Xander steps inside the crypt and goes to him.

****

Spike greets him at the door with a beer and a smile that can best be described as sunny.  The irony isn’t lost on him.

“All right, then!” Spike says brightly, and Xander’s only ever heard him this cheerful when he’s hurting something.  Which, it occurs to him, for about the millionth time, may be exactly what Spike’s doing.  He peers at his bottle warily, although he guesses that the chip would probably preclude poisoning.  Anyway, it’s more the smile that worries him.

“Christ, Harris.”  Spike is shaking his head, and the smile has dimmed.  "The look on your face.  Like you're about to heave.  Not very flattering, that."

"Flattering?" Xander says, bristling with nervous anger.  "Forgive me for not feeding your over-inflated ego."

"Not meant to be some kind of bloody ordeal," Spike continues, huffily, as if Xander hasn't spoken.  "Meant to be fun."

"Well, color me crazy, but I'm not convinced your motives are quite that pure."  

"Oh, they're anything but pure, mate."  Spike's face is midway to a leer, when it suddenly changes course and turns quizzical. "You mean...you think I'm taking the piss?  That it?"

"If that means fucking with my head and ultimately humiliating me, then, yeah, the possibility had crossed my mind."

Spike contemplates this idea, seemingly for the first time.  "Not a stupid thought," he says, musingly, amused.  He studies Xander in a considered, reassessing way that makes Xander feel like he's about to get his tires kicked.  Spike smiles again, but it's a different smile this time, one that makes Xander's heart do a quick, jerky backflip.

"But no," Spike says, and his voice is sultry and slightly threatening. "Not what I had in mind.  Not at all."  And then, Spike comes toward him, and his walk is like sex and his eyes are lit and it doesn't matter if it's all bullshit, doesn't matter if it's the dumbest of all the dumb mistakes he's ever made, doesn't matter if it ends in soul-crushing shame and disgrace.  Because right now, right this instant, all he can see is Spike, and he's never wanted anything so much in his whole stupid life.

Spike is standing close to him, so damn close, but Xander wants him closer.  He's suddenly aware of his own blood, racing through his veins; how it pounds in the too-fast beat of his heart; the heat of it, spreading beneath his skin and rising.  He's painfully hard, and he can feel it, not just in his dick, but everywhere.

Spike places a hand flat on Xander's chest, and Xander's heart violently rattles its cage.  "Oh," Spike says, with the slightly bewildered air of a man who realizes, mid-sermon, that he's preaching to the choir.  And then he closes his eyes and bows his neck, resting his forehead on the hard edge of Xander's collarbone.

There's something patient and subdued in Spike's posture.  Something yielding and unguarded that gives Xander courage, makes him feel pleasantly reckless and bold.  He runs his palms up Spike's sides, and down again, and his hands itch for skin.  He pulls Spike's shirt loose and slides his hands underneath, circling around to his back, knuckles bumping up the spine, fingers curling over shoulders.  A man's body, and it's harder, different, good.  Spike makes a low, needy sound, mouthing the skin just behind Xander's ear, and Xander feels the vibration shimmy through him.  A smooth cheek rubs against the scratch of stubble on his jaw, and then Spike's lips are there, ghosting toward Xander's mouth; and Xander shifts his head away slightly, thinking for one confusing second that Spike might kiss him.  But he doesn't, and Xander's grateful, because that's not what this is about, is it?  Not about kissing, but about what's happening below the belt, where they've started rocking together.  Where Spike has worked a thigh between Xander's legs, a thigh for him to rub against.  Where Spike's hands are palming Xander's ass, and Xander is gripping Spike's hips, pulling him forward, grinding their bodies together, desperate and dirty.

Xander hears himself making high-pitched, whimpering noises; they're coming from the back of his throat, like something bigger and louder is trying to work its way out.  Girlish sounds, he thinks, but he's not embarrassed, it's fine, and he couldn't stop, even if he wanted to, because it feels so...fucking...good.  The hands and the noise and the rhythmic rubbing meld into a brain-numbing buzz; and he's only foggily aware that Spike's worked a hand between his legs, grazing lightly against him through his pants; and then Spike is stroking him with just the tips of his fingers; and then scratching with his nails, a prickling, dick-twitching sensation that finally forces the sound from him in a guttering burst.  Spike gets Xander's pants undone, and Xander helps, shoving them roughly below his hips, and he drives forward as Spike's hand closes around him.  And he was right, right to have come here, right to be doing this, because this is what he wanted, it's what he wants, he wants, and Jesus, it's -- it's --

"Fucking beautiful," Spike says, huskily.  "Look."

Xander casts his eyes down.  His dick is hard and dark and glistening at the head, where Spike's thumb is rubbing in wet circles, dizzying him with shocks of pleasure.  Then Spike lets go and Xander gives him a frantic, pleading look, but Spike doesn't see.  Spike is looking at the hand that's just been touching Xander, raising it to his mouth, licking it.  Xander's breath catches.

"I knew how you'd taste," Spike murmurs.  "I knew it."

Spike's face is distant and dreamy; but suddenly, something like panic jitters across it; and then he looks stunned.  "Oh, fuck," he rasps, and now he seems almost angry.  Xander doesn't get it, he's lost the thread of what's happening, but there's no time to puzzle it out, because Spike's hand is on Xander's dick again.  And it's not gentle now, the way Spike's touching him, it's rough, it's furious, it's perfect.  Perfect, and how does Spike know?  Perfect, but he's too close, too close, and he wants it to go on and on.

"Don't," he pants, plucking limply at Spike's wrist.  "Stop.  I'm gonna...I'm gonna..."

Spike's hand doesn't slow, and his voice turns silky.  "Come," he says.  And Xander does, a tumble into mindless pleasure, and he keeps coming, thick, spattering ropes of it, until he's a jellied, quivering weight on Spike's shoulder.

When he's breathing again, when thoughts begin to cohere, when he's sensate, Spike's hands are stroking his back, and once more, they're strangely gentle.  

"You with me, mate?" Spike asks, laughing; but it's not a Spike-laugh, not a laugh that's a precursor to the infliction of mental torture.  It's more a laugh meant to be shared by two people who've just done something fucking fantastic together, so Xander laughs, too.  He straightens a little, and as he does, his leg nudges against Spike's dick.  Spike swallows, hard, that's all.  He's waiting to see what Xander does next. 

Xander knows he has to return the favor, which isn't really a favor, because he wants to do it.  But he feels anxious and clumsy as he reaches down, cupping Spike in his hand.  Spike lets loose a long, "Mmmmmm," and his hips hitch forward, and Xander's nervousness ebbs a little.  He rubs and squeezes and Spike moans again and starts pushing harder.  Just a layer of cloth between his hand and a dick that isn't his, and the thought is both frightening and hot, but hot wins out.  Xander tries to unbutton Spike's jeans, but it's difficult, because Spike has plastered himself to Xander's thigh, and why the hell is he wearing a belt, and the pants are fucking tight; so eventually Spike takes over and pulls himself out.  Xander draws in a breath, reaches, and there it is, this is it, he's touching another man's dick.  It's not quite as scary as he thought, and he tries a few tentative strokes, but something feels off and his hand stills.

"What is it?" Spike asks, tightly, and his muscles are taut with restraint.

"Sorry," Xander says, awkward now.  "It's just...kinda weird.  Another guy's...you know...like I'm doing it sorta in reverse or something."

Spike's head snaps back to stare at him.  "Are you...you're saying...you mean to tell me you've never been with a bloke before?"  Shocked, like Xander's said something truly bizarre: I don't like chocolate, or, there's no such thing as vampires.  Xander shakes his head.

"Shoulda told me," Spike mutters.  "I'd've..."  He trails off.  Neither of them says anything for a minute, and then Spike smiles a little, and then a little more, until it's a full-on grin.  "C'mon," he says, beckoning with a tilt of his head.

He follows Spike through a door in the floor, down a ladder, to a kind of basement.  Xander's been in the crypt once or twice before, but he didn't know about this room.  There's a bed, and rugs, and even a nightstand, holding a clogged ashtray, a reading lamp, and a book, splayed open, face down.  Spike notices Xander's curious expression as he takes in the surroundings.  "What?" he asks.  He sounds oddly defensive.

"It's just...almost normal.  Nice.  You know, setting aside the whole final-resting-place thing."

"We don't sleep in coffins, Harris," Spike scoffs, and then shrugs.  "Least, not if we don't have to."

Spike strips off his shirt in an easy, fluid motion that makes the muscles in his abs and chest and arms flex and ripple.  In a way that strippers would envy.  In a way that makes Xander start to harden again, though the phenomenon defies basic physiology.  Spike's pants are shed and tossed in a corner, and now Xander is self-conscious about the prospect of getting naked, because Spike is like some ideal of the male body that's never actually been achieved in anyone else.  Hard and lean and sinewy; skin pale and gleaming as moonlit marble; everything perfectly proportioned.  His dick is big -- not freaky, porn-star big, but definitely in the upper percentile of dick-bigness.  Uncut, leaking, so stiff it's practically bobbing against his flat belly.  Xander can't stop staring, eyes wide, mouth open.  He's never seen a body speak so bluntly of its desire -- for him.  No need for guesswork, or fumbled questions -- do you mean? are you ready?  -- because Spike's body is unequivocal.  It says: I.  Want.  You.  Xander feels suddenly like a sex object, in the best possible way.  An incredible turn-on, and blood travels in a rush to his groin.

"Let's get your kit off, yeah?" Spike says, giving Xander a come-hither look that makes Xander come-hither.  He starts to pull off Xander's shirt, fingers spidering over his waist, his ribs, tracing goosebumps onto his skin, making him tremble.  Xander reaches his arms over his head like a little kid, but he doesn't feel like a little kid, because Spike is rubbing his chest against Xander's, and then mouthing and licking him there.  Spike's lips are cool, and his tongue is cool, and his hands are cool; but heat flares everywhere he touches, a snaking trail of flame.  And once Xander's out of his jeans and boxers, he's not self-conscious anymore, because Spike is looking at him with eyes that are lustful and admiring.

"Get on the bed," Spike says.  Almost an order, and Xander obeys, zombie-like, tripping over his feet and groping blindly until he's sitting up against the headboard.  Spike begins to touch himself, a few long, lazy pulls, and Xander feels a swimming light-headedness, and has to close his eyes.  When he opens them again, Spike is on the bed, too, and he settles himself between Xander's legs, back to Xander's chest.  Naked, in bed, touching from head to toe, and he's imagined doing this, exactly this; imagined all that cool, smooth skin against his, and Spike's hair tickling his neck, his cheek.  Xander runs his hands up Spike's forearms, his biceps, his shoulders; over his chest and down, down; fingertips brushing against Spike's pubic hair, softer than his own, and Spike's sigh burrows into him, like need.

"I want," Xander chokes out.  "I want..."

"You want this?" Spike murmurs, as if it's a question, and takes Xander's hand, curling it around his dick.

Yeah, Xander thinks.  This, this, this.

"Like it's you," Spike says, and Xander gets it.  He starts, and it's easier, familiar, it's movements that are ingrained in him from years of practice, he knows how to do this.  And he likes it -- the feel of Spike's dick, thick and heavy in his hand, its urgent, searching thrust.  Jerking Spike the way he jerks himself, fingers coiled firmly, cupping the head on the upstroke, and letting his calloused palm rasp over the tip.  His own dick is fully awake, nerves tingling and sending out sparks inside him; and he wants to fuck something; has to fuck something; just needs to fuck, the way Spike is fucking Xander's fist, making low, encouraging noises.  Spike's rhythm is slightly different than his own, so he adjusts to it, and gets rewarded with a drawn-out, sibilant hiss; and the sound makes him buck and slide his dick up along Spike's back.

"That's it, rub off on me," Spike mutters.  "Come all over me."

He almost does, at the words, hips leaping and stuttering; but then, unexpectedly, Spike stills himself, and pats Xander's thigh, as if he's telling Xander, take you're time, whenever you're ready.  Xander can't wait, though, he really can't.  He's shoving up against Spike, and Spike raises himself a little, palms on the bed, thrusting backward against Xander's dick and forward into his hand.  And they're moving together like that for a while, easy at first, and it gradually gets more and more heated, until Spike gasps out, "Harder, yeah?"  Xander tightens his grip, speeding up, twisting his wrist; and Spike makes a strangled noise.  Xander's dick is slipping wetly against Spike's back; and hot little tremors travel up his legs and down his spine, melting and pooling there; and then he heaves up and comes again, streaks of white on Spike's white skin.  He's half-sobbing, "Fuck, Spike, fuck," but his hand never stops moving; and then Spike's muscles go rigid, and his whole body spasms, flipping him sideways, and he spills, with a fierce, full-throated cry.  His come isn't warm, like Xander's, but it's not cold either.  Xander's fingers go unthinkingly to his mouth.  Spike tastes sharp and salty and fine.

He's out for a while, and he's not sure for how long, or if Spike sleeps, too, but when he wakes, he's hard, and so is Spike.  They do it again, Spike braced above him, their dicks slicked up and sliding against each other.  And he didn't know, couldn't have known, but still, how can he have gone his whole life without feeling this?  This pure delirium of skin on skin, and he's drugged and dazed with it; greedy for it.  

Spike angles his hips, dipping down, surging up.  “How’s that?” he asks, a gleeful growl, and Xander's only answer is to writhe and squirm and clutch at Spike, furiously, anywhere he can reach.  Using his teeth and his fists, and it's okay, because he can't hurt Spike, he can't; and Spike's face is beautiful, contorted in ecstasy.  Spike holds them together in his hand; and he's breathing, but Xander isn't; and then Spike's words, an unrelenting chant: "Good, it's good, it's so fucking good.  Tell me, tell me, tell me it's good."  Xander can't speak, he's trying, but there are only gasps, until finally he manages "good," in a gravelly whisper.  But good doesn't come close to describing what this is.  He'd need a new vocabulary for that, or a whole new language; or maybe it defies description, because no one has ever felt it until this moment.

Afterward, coming down, when his body's still buzzing, when Spike is a slack-boned blanket atop him, when his fingers are absently tracing elliptical lines across Spike's back, he thinks, fleetingly, that if Spike were a woman, they'd be kissing now.  But he's not, and they don't, and Xander wouldn't change a single thing about what's happened tonight, not one thing.  Not a glance, not a word, not a touch.





Part Three

They don't talk about it, afterward.  It's not necessary.  They both know that it will happen again, that it has to.  The week passes, but not fast enough, damn it, crawling sluggishly forward at its own stubborn pace.  Too much time to think.  Guilt makes it's presence known, of course: an accusing knock knock knock at his door, the rebuking call of his name.  It waits impatiently for Xander to listen, to answer, to stop.  But he doesn't, he won't.  Because he wants this.  He wants it.  Wants something for himself, selfishly, and why not?  Why not now?  Why not him?  And so he simply covers his ears, la-la-la, I-can't-hear-you, until the guilty static recedes, quieting to a faint, white noise.  Sometimes, he doesn't notice it at all.

When the second Thursday comes, Spike is on him, ravenous, before he even steps inside.  Pulling him through the door, pushing him into a chair.  Brusque and eager, not even a word spoken between them, just Spike's hasty hands, stripping him of his pants.  Spike's head dipping down, showing the bare curve of his neck.  Spike's mouth.  

It's the first time Spike blows him, and Xander nearly comes before it happens.  Worried that he's making a habit of that, and that Spike may run out of patience.  But -- it's the sight of Spike folding to his knees, on his knees at Xander's feet.  Spike gazing up at him, glassy-eyed.  Spike on his knees.  For me, for me, for me, Xander thinks.  He feels the sensation creeping up his legs, and then higher, a warning, and he can't look anymore, or it's over.  He drags his eyes away, a gargantuan effort of will, and he grasps his dick, hard, at the base.

"Just...just give me a second," he breathes.

Spike grunts his assent, but Xander can feel the tension in his waiting, the roiling pressure of pent-up lust.  And it takes more than a second, but his usual silent litany -- naming all his teachers, from nursery school on up, and then a second time -- does the trick.  He fits his hand to the back of Spike's neck, thumbing the soft nape, drawing him near.

And then there's the firm, wet curl of Spike's tongue, honing his dick to sharp-edged hardness, pleasure knifing cleanly through him.  Long, smooth swipes, from his balls to the tip, and teasing circles around the head.  Flicking in and out along the length of him; then lapping, rough and insistent.  A hand gliding up and down the spit-slick shaft, squeezing, and Xander spreads his legs wide, and wider, sinking lower in the chair.  His head falls to the side, and he hears his breathing turn to panting.  Everything feels charged and hot.  His dick is leaking in a steady stream, and Spike rubs the fluid over his lips.

"How you taste," Spike murmurs.  Xander looks down at Spike's hovering mouth, and he's desperate to be inside it.  And then he is, hips lifting, and as he's losing himself in the perfect, sucking wetness, there's a thought: different, when someone really, really wants it.  There's nothing here that's part of an unspoken quid pro quo, a negotiation.  No concession to someone else's pleasure.  No service being bartered for something in return.  He can feel that Spike loves doing this; that he's getting off on it.  He can see it, in the helpless flutter of Spike's dark lashes, in the pleading flex of his hips.  He can hear it, in the lush, dirty noises Spike's mouth is making around him.  He's watching his dick slide in and out of that mouth, disappearing into its swallowing pressure; he's gripping Spike's hair and thrusting with total, blissful abandon.  And he's not thinking of anything at all, when he comes, deep in Spike's throat, moaning his name; doesn't have to think.  Not about holding back, or being careful, or respectful, because Spike wants this as much as he does.  Maybe more, because -- because, yeah, Spike's coming, Spike's coming, his hands not on himself, but on Xander, where they've been the whole time.

"My god," Xander says, blearily, some time later.

"One good blow job and I'm a deity."  Spike grins lewdly up at him.  

It's precisely the kind of snarky Spike shit that would usually annoy him.  But right now, he finds it...funny.  Strangely sweet.  Amazing, how the most irritating qualities appear charming through the gauze of post-coital contentment.  It's what allowed him to fall in love with Anya, really.  It's what's making him smile at the sight of Spike's hair, all in disarray, bright tufts sprouting like crazy weeds.  The mussed hair somehow smooths out the angled facets of his face, giving him an open, boyish air; and Xander understands now why he slicks it back.  He doesn't look menacing, like this, and Xander thinks, I did that to him.

He doesn't quite get it though -- the appeal of being the giver of that particular pleasure, rather than the receiver.  Doesn't get why Spike gets off on doing it.  That is, until they're back in bed, grinding against each other, and he feels the weight of Spike's hand, pushing him decidedly downward; and then Spike says, hoarsely: suck me.  It's part request and part command, and Xander feels a whole new wave of desire crash through him, turning his limbs to water.

"Say it again," Xander whispers, begging in a shameful way that excites him even more.

"Suck me, Xander."

It's almost a growl, and it's those words, and it's his first name, for the first time, and he hears a high, keening sound, and it's him.

Xander crawls backward between Spike's legs, spreading him open at the knees and just looking.  Surveying the territory, so to speak, because he's not really sure where to start.  He knows how this should work in theory -- well, duh -- but as a practical matter he's a little less confident.  Spike's dick suddenly seems enormous, and daunting.  There's no way that's fitting in his mouth.

"Sometime this century, yeah?" Spike says, and puts a hand to the back of Xander's head.  An oddly reassuring touch -- not really holding him there, just gently urging -- and it calms him.  But then Xander must want something different, because he's saying harder, make me; and Spike says, oh, yeah, his hand tightening, shoving Xander's face further down, sparking another matchstick flare of arousal.  He rubs his cheek against Spike's dick, which twitches in response.  And okay, he's on the right track, so he rubs his whole face against it, feeling satiny skin, and movement underneath; and suddenly, he goes a little nuts, rubbing his face everywhere, wildly, over Spike's thighs, his belly, his hair.  Sniffing hard to get the scent of him -- faint, like turned earth, and ashes.

"In for a penny," Xander mutters into Spike's pointy hip, and Spike laughs; but the laugh skids into a groan, because Xander's licking him -- experimentally at first, and then eagerly, fast and flat-tongued.  Xander's mouth is wet, and his dick is wet, and he stretches out on his stomach, wriggling to get some friction.  Spike's hips come up, and Xander hears him start to breathe; and it's fucking hot, getting Spike breathing like that; and when he looks, Spike's head is rolling heavily from side to side, and his face is slack with lust.

It makes him want more, and he opens his mouth wide, hungry, sucking, tasting iron and salt.  Taking Spike in as deep as he can, which he knows isn't that that deep, but hey, first time; and what he lacks in skill, he's making up for in enthusiasm, because he's loving it: the solid weight of Spike's dick on his tongue, the slick slip-slide of it between his lips, the persistent, prodding rasp along the roof of his mouth.  Loves the animal sounds he's pulling from Spike's throat, and the rise and fall of his body.  It's good, all of it so good, that he doesn't care when his jaw begins to ache and his eyes sting with tears, or even when he chokes a little.  Spike's hands tangle in Xander's hair, twisting, just this side of painful, changing the rhythm, forward, faster.  He's saying something, pinched out words in a strained voice, unintelligible except for Xander's name.  And then Spike's hips hitch and lock, and he's thrashing, he's coming.  Coming in Xander's mouth, and Xander keeps at it, he doesn't pull away, doesn't want to pull away.  Swallowing and coughing, and when Spike stops flailing, Xander crawls on top of him, thrusting his dick along the perfect crease of Spike's wet thigh, coming in one, two, three quick strokes.

It's some time before either of them speaks.  "Full of surprises, aren't you, pet," Spike says, and that's all.  But Xander guesses it means he did okay.

Later, Xander glances up from gathering his scattered clothes, and catches Spike staring at him.  He's still in bed, a naked, casual sprawl, but his gaze is as shrewd and calculating as a card-sharp's.

"What?"  Xander asks, cautiously.

Spike shrugs.  "Didn't figure you for a natural," he says.  And then he breaks into a radiant smile.  "Reckon I was wrong about that."

And it's like the weirdest thing in the history of ever, but Spike is -- Spike is paying him a compliment.  Spike is complimenting him on his dick-sucking abilities.  Spike is complimenting him on a (blow) job well-done, and what's even weirder is that Xander feels his chest puffing up, and he's blushing like he's -- proud, maybe?  Which, no, it's too bizarre, embarrassing, and he needs to shake it off before Spike sees.

"I live to serve," he says, aiming for jokey, but it somehow comes out low and serious-sounding.  And maybe it's the tone, or maybe it's the words, but Spike's eyes go all cloudy, and his dick is turning dark and stiff, and Xander's mouth begins to water.  Like Pavlov's fucking dog, but who cares, that dog knew what it wanted, and so does he.  He wants it right now, again, but it's late, nearly midnight, and he has to go.

"Don't worry, pet," Spike says, slinking toward him with predatory ease.  His voice honey-thick, and Xander feels he could drown in it.  

"We'll be quick," Spike adds, nodding toward the floor, and Xander's going under, taking one deep breath, dropping blindly to his knees, and then he's gone.

He gets it, after that.  Spends a lot of time thinking about having Spike's dick in his mouth.  Spends a lot of time having Spike's dick in his mouth, because it's all he wants to do, for a while.  Crowding Spike up against walls, flinging him onto the bed, shoving him into chairs.  Burying his face between Spike's legs, mouthing him through his pants, starving for him.  Sucking Spike's dick as Xander fists himself, or rubs off in the sheets.  Twisting gymnastically to clamp Spike's leg between his and humping it as he swallows.  "Like a fucking bitch in heat," Spike murmurs, but fondly.  "You bloody...cocksucking...bastard," Spike hisses, right before he comes, and it sounds like an endearment.

****

That's how it is at the beginning, hectic and hurried, a pace Xander associates with passion.  So he's not surprised, when, after a few weeks, the tempo changes, slowing.  He thinks, what goes up, must come down, and this holds true for passion, too -- this kind of fire can't sustain itself.  But he quickly discovers that he's very much mistaken -- the fire isn't dying.  It's simply finding new outlets, flames rising not only to the ceiling, but curling down hallways, creeping through doors, licking deep into dark closets.  Spike is taking his time.

Spike is taking his time, and making Xander take his time.  Exploring Xander's body languorously, leisurely, a slow, slow build of sensation.  Denying him release -- not yet, not yet, not yet -- until Xander is unthinking and incoherent.  Until he's just a body, begging.  Until Spike finally whispers, now, now, come for me now, unleashing orgasms of such intensity that Xander's left nearly shattered in their wake.

Spike's taking his time to study Xander's body.  Learning the meaning behind each sigh and grunt and moan.  Learning what he likes, what he likes even more, what he likes more than that.  Learning what he dislikes, and finding ways to make him like that, too.  

There's the nipple thing, for example.

See, Xander's never liked having his nipples touched.  Physically, it just doesn't do much for him.  He's not especially sensitive there; but worse, there's something about having his nipples played with that makes him feel -- childish.  Unmanly, somehow.  The whole nipple thing just turns him off, shuts him down, and every time Spike goes there, Xander pushes him wordlessly away.  But Spike's a persistent bastard, and he won't give up trying, until Xander's forced to say it aloud, protesting feebly, "I don't...I really don't ..."

"Yeah, I know," Spike says.  "But let me, won't you?  Not for you.  For me."

And okay, he's not a selfish guy.  If Spike wants this so bad, he should probably just suck it up and take one for the team.  He sighs, resigning himself to it.  "Go to town," he says, waving an arm magnanimously at his chest.

Spike pushes him flat, and Xander laces his hands behind his head.  "Lie back and think of England," Spike says, grinning.

Xander isn't familiar with the expression, but he figures he's been given permission to space out while Spike gets his weird nipple groove on; and so he does, waiting out Spike's fingers and mouth and wondering whether the rain will hold off long enough to get the new foundation laid; and if the lumberyard over by Broad Street is more reliable than Martinson's; and is there enough milk in the house for both cereal and coffee in the morning.  

Under the circumstances, he's using the time pretty productively, until he gets distracted by that loud huffing noise, and huh, it's coming from him.  His breathing's gotten heavy at some point; he's panting, in fact.  Plus, there's this warm feeling, rolling all through him, and it gets hotter and hotter, and oh, yeah, he's hard.  He lifts his head, chin brushing Spike's hair, and he can see that Spike has his tongue on one nipple and his fingers on the other, and no question, that's the source of the heat, right there.  Like a live wire running straight to his dick, surging and humming, making it throb.  He's aching to be touched, but when he reaches for himself, Spike bats his hand away.  Xander's hips are straining to come off the bed, but he's weighted down by Spike's leg, slung heavily over his; and so he arches and twists, trying to rub off on Spike's body, anywhere, but Spike won't let him.  He just keeps up the slow, steady torture of stroking and pinching and licking and sucking; keeps it up for a fucking eternity, until finally, finally, he skims his fingertips lightly up Xander's dick and palms the head, which is all it takes.  Xander comes, with a startled yelp, bouncing so hard he nearly throws Spike off the bed.

When he surfaces from that muzzy gray nowhere, Spike is rocking against his leg, relaxed and languid; but Xander feels the broad smirk against his shoulder, like a stifled: told you so.

"Yeah, yeah, okay," Xander answers, a grudging, pleasure-won concession.  And then he turns on his side, reaching down; and his hand is too busy with Spike's dick, and his mind too blissfully blank to contemplate how it is that Spike understands Xander's desire so much better than he does himself.

****

Things go on like that, week after week, and it's all amazing, everything they do.

****

It's heady and thrilling and gratifying to a degree Xander's never known; it's euphoria.  And if, occasionally, he worries that he's never felt this with Anya, or with any woman, he simply pushes the intruding thought aside.  Tells himself it's not fair to make comparisons, that it's apples and oranges.  Although, not such a great analogy, because, hey, both tasty in a fruit salad.  More accurately, it's familiar ground versus unexplored terrain.  Female versus male, each to be appreciated in its own, particular way.  These are legitimate points, sound arguments, beliefs necessary to maintain a dual existence.  Which he's got to maintain, because losing either half of the equation is unthinkable.  

There are signs, of course.  If he were paying attention, there are things he would notice, even from the beginning.  Like how Spike starts patrolling with them more often, pitching in for a price, or the fun of a fight.  Or how he starts keeping food around, after Xander half-jokes that there's nothing but blood in the fridge, and, news flash, humans get hungry after sex.  Or that Spike no longer eye-rolls or ignores him when he speaks, but instead, makes listening noises as Xander babbles on about half his crew showing up drunk after lunch; or the latest episode of Futurama; or his most recent fight with Anya.  Or when one Friday evening, Spike surreptitiously slips Xander his wallet, inadvertently left at the crypt the night before, glancing hurriedly away when Xander blinks up, dumbfounded at finding most of the money still inside.

Other things, he does notice.  He lives his life in two distinct places, two clearly defined compartments: real life, and Spike-life.  But the lines begin to blur, or move, or something, because Spike-life gradually encroaches, coming closer and closer, catching him unawares.  He doesn't try to deny it: the power of their attraction, the intensity of his desire, and he decides that these moments are simply that -- raw, animal lust -- and that he needs to be more vigilant, more guarded.  Calming himself with the comforting thought that this can be controlled.  But it can't be, and over time, he's taught that lesson, again and again.

Bent to one knee on the floor of the Magic Box, back to the door as he works a stubborn knot in his shoelace, Xander hears the announcing jangle of the shopkeeper's bell; and he doesn't need a voice or a visual to know who's just entered.  He vibrates with it, like a tuning fork pitched perfectly to the key of Spike.  The reverberations so strong, he has to flatten his shaking hands to the floor to keep from tipping over.

At work one bright morning, and Paul is grousing about his younger brother, the fuck-up, and semi-apologizing that he might be showing up at the site to borrow money, again.  Xander nods, barely paying mind, but a few minutes later, an old beater blaring Rancid screeches to a stop by the cement mixer.  The kid steps out, bottle-blonde, leather jacketed, cigarette dangling from his pouting lower lip.  One glimpse, and Xander's rock hard.  He's forced to make a quick exit, jogging away, painfully, purposefully, to jerk off in the smelly confines of the Port-O-San.

All of them at Giles's, hours of unsuccessful research, and Xander pushes back from the table, tired, disgruntled, fingers pressing hard at his temples.  

"Bugger this," he says.

All at once, every set of eyes in the room is on him, and Buffy laughs, "Get you with the British.  Spike must be rubbing off on you."

The unintended double-entendre sparks sudden heat, blood flushing his face, rushing to his dick.  And when he risks a glance, Spike's face is half-hidden behind a book, but he's grinning with lunatic delight.

They're patrolling one night, and the vamp they're tracking is a fast and wily fucker, so they've split up, and Xander's with Spike.  Skirting a statue of two ascending angels, Spike stops abruptly, listening for a trace of its tread; Xander, oblivious, plows clumsily into him.  The briefest contact, and lust gathers and rolls through him, sudden as a summer storm.  He's drenched in it.  One arm circles Spike's waist; the other snakes across his chest, tugging Spike back against him.  He buries his face in Spike's neck, breathing him in, and breathing out with a groan.  Spike's hands are scrabbling at the sides of Xander's thighs, and his head drops back on Xander's shoulder.  And then something scuttles by them, and they hear Buffy shout: "That way!"  They unlatch limbs, hastily, and just in time, because Buffy's right there, passing them at a sprint, turning toward them, without stopping, to yell, "Come on!  Why are you just standing there?"

Sometimes, without warning, he flashes on something -- Spike's fingers grazing his scalp in that way that makes him tingle down to his toes; Spike bending over him, face feral, joyful, stroking himself and coming on Xander's belly; the feel of Spike's tongue on the back of his knee, soft and teasing and wet -- the sensations so powerful, so palpable, so present, that the real world turns distant and dull.

Sometimes, just the thought, I'm getting away with it -- a gleeful, guilty whisper inside his head -- is enough to make him hard.

The threat of being found out is ever-present; and it's dangerous, and terrifying, and exhilarating.  Rushing recklessly toward detection, and then, a timid, tiptoed retreat.  There's a constant, unspoken negotiation about where the uncrossable line really lies.

Spike is careful never to leave marks, even ones that wouldn't hurt.  But Xander can feel his leashed desire, the trembling effort of holding back.  A hand abruptly retracted, as if touched by sunlight.  Teeth, grazing over flesh, hesitating, and then, the wrenching turn of his head.  Resisting some innate urge, a craving, to see himself on Xander's skin.  Xander's pretty sure the chip wouldn't fire over scratches, or hickies, or the speckled bruises of a too-tight grip; and he’s also pretty sure Anya would spot them in a second.  He's never asked for Spike to rein himself in like this, but he's grateful for the consideration.   

One night, when Spike is tracing his tongue along Xander's inner thigh, nuzzling at the tender flesh, gnawing just a little, Xander hears him gasp, and feels a sharp jerk as Spike tears himself away.  He opens his eyes, and sees Spike, still human-faced, teeth sunk into his own forearm, rocking mindlessly, like a man lost in prayer.  

He's stunned by it: the depth of Spike's self-imposed self-denial.  Wonders what it would be like if Spike truly let himself go.  Xander has never experienced sex as untamed and intense and extreme as this, and it's nearly impossible to imagine anything surpassing it.  Almost frightening, to contemplate what more would mean.  

What he chooses not to think about is the cause of Spike's restraint.  About the reason for this generosity; about where it comes from, or whether Xander's earned it.  About the fact that Spike even has the capacity for such thoughtfulness.  It happens again, from time to time: Spike, helpless to his own need, turning the bite on himself.  Leaving twin, half-moon imprints, like a shadow of his longing, on a strong, white arm.  There's a dark, twisting pang that comes with bearing witness to this.  But the marks fade as the night passes, and the time arrives for Xander to go home.





Part Four

Xander’s put his foot down.  Anya can come if she wants, or she can stay home, but he’s going to the double feature of Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon.  Period.  And he does, although he doesn’t have time to stop for popcorn, delayed, as he was, by guilty minutes spent knocking at the locked bedroom door, half-heartedly persuading her to join him.  The lights are just dimming when he steps inside, and the theater’s mostly empty; so he spots Spike immediately, slouching in the second row, boots propped up on the seat in front of him.  It stops him in his tracks.  Xander’s not sure why he’s so surprised, except that he’s never really pictured Spike at the movies.  And he realizes that he’s never actually pictured Spike doing anything, other than -- you know, evil.  That, and the stuff they do together.

****

He slips as quietly as he’s able into the seat diagonally behind Spike, covertly examining his profile.  Impossibly young, impossibly handsome.  Fucking unfair, that the guy doesn’t have a bad angle.  Spike’s absorbed in the credits, and doesn’t seem to notice Xander at all; doesn’t turn, or even flick a glance in his direction.  So it’s startling when he speaks, eyes still focused on the screen.

****

“If you’re gonna sit there, keep your gob shut.  Man’s an artist.”

****

Xander stifles the urge to point out that Spike’s the one talking, and settles back comfortably.  An hour and forty minutes later, the house lights come up between features, and when Xander returns from the bathroom, Spike’s standing in the lobby, holding a large tub of popcorn and too many boxes of candy.

****

“Here,” Spike mumbles, mouth full of something sticky, shoving the popcorn Xander's way. “Yours.”

****

And the surprises keep on coming.  “You paid for this?” Xander asks, flabbergasted.  

****

Spike snorts derisively.  “Bloke at the counter’s a Gyrysh demon.  Half, anyway.  Owes me money.”  His lips are stained red, but with candy.  “Love these Swedish Fish,” he adds. 

****

Xander follows Spike into the second row, but leaves an empty seat between them.  A holdover habit from the time Jesse's older brother came upon the two of them, sitting side by side at the movies, and accused them of "homo-ing" each other.  Spike quirks an eyebrow at him, and Xander thinks how Eskimos have a hundred words for snow, and Spike has one eyebrow quirk that means a hundred different things.  This one means: what are you doing, you stupid git?  And so Xander moves nearer.

****

It feels oddly intimate, sitting so close to Spike, outside of the crypt.  Watching a movie with Spike, sharing an armrest with Spike, eating popcorn that Spike -- okay, didn't exactly buy for him, but sort of treated him to, anyway.  All the trappings of a date, and Xander wonders, disquieted, if he's unexpectedly stumbled into one.  Remembering movie dates with Cordelia, and the moment their eyes would turn from the screen to each other, kissing and kissing and not stopping until the end credits rolled.  But he and Spike never kiss, never have, so that prospect can't be the source of this niggling discomfort.

****

It's a disconnect, is what it is.  Incongruous, to be alone, in the dark, under date-like circumstances with someone you fool around with or whatever, and simply sit there, like the two of you are nothing more than friends.  Plus, they aren't actually friends, are they?  Which is kind of freaky, if you think about it, which he usually doesn't.  The whole thing is distracting.

****

Xander squirms uneasily in his seat, canting himself farther and farther away from the familiar body beside him; until eventually, Spike scowls at him, disgustedly.  "Don't flatter yourself," he snaps.  "Not looking to hold your hand.  Not your bloody girlfriend, am I." Spike huffs and hunches, arms crossed.  A muscle tics fitfully in his cheek.

****

Xander's about to retort that for someone who's not his girlfriend, Spike is sure acting like it, when it occurs to him that maybe Spike has a right to feel insulted.  It's a real fuck-you: hey, feel free to suck my dick in private, but don't expect me to sit next to you in public.  He's been at the bad end of that bargain himself, in the early days with Cordy -- good enough for the broom closet, but not good enough for the Bronze.  Hurtful, but he hasn't let himself think much about Spike as someone with feelings that can be hurt.  And while he doesn't see him quite the way he used to -- exclusively evil, and annoying to boot -- it hasn't hit him until now that Spike might think of Xander as a friend.  Maybe his only friend, since Dru.  A friend who's just treated him like total crap.  

****

Xander elbows him in the ribs, but Spike ignores him, pointedly.  He does it again, and this time, he's answered with an irritated noise.

****

"Hey," Xander stage-whispers.  "I'm an asshole."

****

"Just sussed that one out, have you?"  Spike grumbles.  "Stop the presses."

****

But the mood lightens after that, and when Xander peeks over, Spike is lounging lazily, loose-limbed and unruffled.  His face has stopped twitching, too.

****

Later, Spike walks with him to the car, and they shoot the shit for a while, talking martial arts, and movies, and Bruce Lee, whom Spike claims to have met, twice.  Spike reenacts some side kicks and the one-inch punch, pretty creditably, putting a boot-shaped dent in an innocent mailbox.  It's nice, doing guy stuff for a change, and Xander can see, hypothetically, the appeal of having a boyfriend -- karate films and kinky sex, all in one neat package.  Not Spike, obviously, but some faceless, fuckworthy Mr. X.  But he doesn't consider it for long.  He likes women, loves Anya, and he's always envisioned a particular kind of future: marriage and kids and honey-I'm-home.  The dream life of his childhood.  He's pretty sure that it's still what he wants.

****

It was fun, though -- the movies, with Spike -- and they hang out a few times after that.  Outside the crypt.  Outside of Thursdays.  Anya's recently renewed her acquaintance with a few friends from her demon days, and she gets together with them, now and then; and these are gatherings from which Xander firmly absents himself.  Has a couple of beers with Spike, and plays some pool.

****

He's nervous, the first time he proposes it.  Has the same sort of is-this-a-date jitters that he'd felt at the movies.  And it doesn't help that Spike stares at him, speechless, for uncomfortably long seconds, before recovering enough to shrug casually and say, maybe, if nothing better turns up.

****

He's nervous, waiting at the bar, too.  Wondering if Spike is even going to show, and worried that it'll be awkward and stilted if he does.  But Spike arrives, upbeat and effusive, having kicked some upstart fledge's arse on the way over, an event he happily recounts in vivid, blow-by-blow detail.  That turns into a story about Spike as a fledge, making short work of some tosser who fancied himself the big bad, which somehow leads him to reminisce about a vamp from back in the day who went about in a nun's habit and lived in a catacomb in Parma.  

****

They do a few shots and down a few beers, and Xander must be drunker than he thought, because he winds up telling Spike the story of losing his virginity to Faith.  He's never talked about this with anyone, beyond the mere fact of it, and he gives it a comical slant.  Spike laughs, but when he says, "First time, with a Slayer," the words are tinged with jealous admiration.

****

Spike presses for details, and Xander grows increasingly reticent, not particularly keen on discussing the incident's ugly aftermath.  But Spike has an unerring instinct for seeking out pain, or maybe simply for seeing it, and he prods and probes, like a tongue at a tooth, until Xander divulges the coda to the tale.  And immediately wishes he hadn't, because Spike is irate.

****

"Bitch could've killed you," Spike seethes, staring at him.  "And Angelus playing the fucking hero."

****

"Angel," Xander corrects, although the distinction seems lost on Spike, whose eyes have narrowed, his face gone hostile and dangerous.  Xander recognizes the expression: Spike wants to put the big hurt on someone, but not for fun.  And he isn't sure if it's Faith that Spike's mad at, or Angel, or both; but perversely, his anger starts Xander's dick stirring, and his mind mulling over the logistics of a hurried hand job in the men's room.

****

Instead of following that impulse, and for reasons he can't quite comprehend, he blurts out, "You weren't around, back then."  He isn't even sure what he means by it, or why it should mollify Spike, but somehow it seems to.  The pinched, fierce look slowly smooths itself out, and Spike blinks a few times, and rolls his neck, as if collecting himself.  He smiles at Xander, tightly, at first, but eventually in his usual, sardonic way, and then things return to normal.  Or what passes for normal, between them.  A plate of wings, some drunken talk, Spike cursing the paltry selections on the jukebox, hissing, Celine Dion in the sort of horror-stricken tone usually reserved for Hitler.  The night breezing by as if they're just a couple of ordinary guys, hanging together; except that when they separate on the sidewalk, Spike gives Xander a smoldering look that makes him weak and wobbly at the knees.  Spike leaves, laughing, a satisfied glance tossed over his shoulder; and Xander's eyes stay fixed on his receding shape, until there's nothing left but a grayish shadow, and then only darkness.

****

It's not a regular thing, but Xander finds himself looking forward to the occasional night out with Spike, in a different way than he looks forward to Thursdays.  He hasn't had a male friend in a long time; not since Jesse, and never as an adult, if that's what he is.  Spike's better than decent company, with a century of stories to tell, and no one's ever accused Xander of being short-winded.  Their conversation finds a relaxed kind of rhythm, words bumping up against each other and rubbing shoulders companionably.  But they're quiet, too, sometimes, sitting together over their drinks in easy silence; and this is new to Xander, and good. 

****

It's one of those nights, and Anya stops by to pick him up on her way home from dinner.  Xander's been chuckling at a Seinfeld rerun, playing on the bar's enormous flatscreen.

****

"Can't believe you like that whinging wanker," Spike is grousing.  "Nattering on about nonsense.  Now, if we're talking comedy -- Lenny Bruce.  There's a man had something to say."  And then, at Xander's blank-faced lack of recognition, he's sputtering "genius," and "junkie," and "rebel" with righteous indignation.

****

Xander pulls up a stool and tells Anya they'll just be a minute.  But it's more than a minute, as Spike launches into a lengthy tale about New York in the sixties, and some post-performance melee at Cafe Au Go Go during which he cold-cocked three cops.  It's probably equal parts truth and bullshit, like most of Spike's stories, but it's entertaining; and Xander, engrossed, fails to notice Anya shifting restlessly in her seat, or her frustrated, theatrical throat-clearing.  Until finally, her limited patience reaches its limit, and she says, dripping acid, "Maybe, Xander, you could tell your boyfriend that your girlfriend is tired, and she wants to go home."

****

It's a nasty comment, sarcasm, that's all.  It's not as if she knows something, or even suspects.  But it cuts a little too close to the bone.  Spike breaks off, mid-word, his mouth hanging open, before it skews into a sneer.  He laughs meanly, and he's about to say something scathing, but Xander shoots him a pleading look.  And remarkably, Spike shuts up, the snide expression replaced by one of puzzlement, as if astounded and appalled at his own dog-like compliance.  Xander takes Anya by the arm, and hustles her out of there, whispering hushed, fervent apologies that he's humiliatingly certain Spike can hear.

****

There's an irony about Anya's anger, and it's this: things have been better between them since he's taken up with Spike.  Oil on troubled waters, somehow.  It's as if Xander's found a hobby to distract him, making the grind of everyday life more tolerable.  Or maybe not so much a hobby -- Spike-sex isn't exactly ships in bottles, or cataloging coins -- but more a private indulgence, a secret luxury.  With Spike in the picture, he's less impatient with her complaints and demands; not as apt to lash out over petty irritations.  Even sex with her, though infrequent, has improved, as if the cool, angled strength of Spike's body has revived in him an appreciation for its opposite: her soft flesh, her rounded curves, her yielding warmth.

****

That night marks the end of their outings together.  Xander avoids the subject, and when Spike finally raises it -- "wouldn't say no to a beer" -- Xander declines, offering a perfectly plausible excuse.  He begs off the next time, too; and after that, Spike doesn't ask again.  It's a relief, not having to explain, or justify himself; not having to feel guilty for not giving more than he's able.  If it were Anya, there'd be discussion, debate, drama.  But if Spike's disappointed, he doesn't say.  Xander isn't sure whether this is merely a difference of personality between Anya and Spike, or whether it speaks to a broader, more basic difference between men and women.  Either way, he appreciates it. Still, he resolves to make more of an effort with Anya.  They go dancing, and bowling, and one day he sees a necklace in a shop window -- delicate, intertwined silver loops that he can picture draped over her collarbones -- and he buys it for her on an impulse.  She twitters happily, holding up her hair so he can clasp it for her in the back.  The gesture is utterly feminine, lovely; the curve of her neck graceful and relaxed.  Nothing like Spike, whose neck is a column of tight sinew and twisting tension.  And he knows it's totally inappropriate to be thinking of Spike as he drops a kiss on Anya's shoulder, but he can't help it.  No matter what he does, no matter how hard he tries, Spike is simply there, elbowing his way into Xander's thoughts.  And Xander has a lot of thoughts.

Like, there's this one idea, see?  About something they can maybe do together?  And it's been running through his head for days.

It involves this pair of leather pants -- the really, really tight ones Spike wears sometimes, that show off the shape his dick, the long, thick bulge of it against his thigh.  And maybe Spike is wearing those pants, and nothing else.  He's shirtless, and shoeless, and maybe the top button's undone, and the tips of his fingers are tucked in at the waist, plus the zipper's unzipped just a little.  And he's moving toward Xander, coming closer and closer, cool and slithery, like a snake getting ready to shed its skin.  Looking at Xander with hooded eyes, and any second now he could strike, any second.  And he's saying things -- no, demanding things -- in that low, steady sex-voice that shuts down the part of Xander's brain that has a choice.  So Xander just has to do it, see, he has to do whatever Spike wants, which maybe includes some crawling, and a lot of kneeling, and working Spike out of those pants with nothing but his teeth.  And maybe Spike uses him then, just uses his mouth, just fucks it, ruthlessly, like he owns it, like it doesn't matter one bit if Xander wants it or not; and all the while he keeps on saying things, filthy, disgusting things about how hot Xander's mouth is, and how tight his throat is, and how he was made to take it hard.  Maybe Xander's not allowed to come until Spike finishes, until Spike's dick jerks and throbs and spills, until Xander swallows down every pulsing drop, until he feels like he's drowning.  Maybe he keeps Spike's dick in his mouth, holds it there as it softens, and then Spike slips out and says, ask permission, ask me nice.  And Xander says, please can I come, and Spike says yeah, I want to see you do it, get on your back and open your legs for me.  So Xander does, Xander spreads himself out, his hips straining up and his dick hard and wet, and when Spike nods okay, Xander strokes himself fast and so rough that it almost hurts.  He's moaning and arching up, and Spike stands above him, watching, watching and licking his lips.  And maybe Spike's saying, gorgeous, never seen anything so gorgeous, such a good boy, you are, a good, good boy, and maybe that's what pushes Xander over the edge and he comes.

Maybe something like that.

Thursday takes its own sweet time rolling around, and when it finally -- finally -- gets there, Xander's worked himself into a state.  Vibrating with anticipation as he heads to the crypt, bouncing on the balls of his feet, smile dumb and dreamy.  He can practically taste the leather on his tongue, and he flings the door open and barrels in, and --

It's red-eyed, and droopy-eared, with a face like melting wax.  It seems perfectly at home, planted comfortably in Spike's chair, shoveling Bugles messily between a crumpled bag and its mouth.  Xander gawks at it, and then at Spike, who cuts his eyes covertly in its direction, then shrugs a silent apology.

"Xander, this is Clem," Spike says, as if the situation calls for polite introductions.  "Clem, Xander."

"Nice to meet you, man," it -- Clem -- says.  " Any friend of Spike's."  He offers a flipper-like, pointy-nailed hand.

Xander takes it, shakes it, mutely, reflexively.  

"So, you from around here, Xander?  Or do you guys know each other from before?"

"Oh, no, uh, we don't, you know, know each other," Xander begins.  He feels the blather slip its leash and begin to run wild.  "I mean, obviously we know each other, because, well, I'm here, and I guess you've noticed that already, so yeah, we know each other, but, you know, not in the biblical sense -- heh heh, not that you were thinking that or anything, I mean, why would you.  No, see, I just came by to -- came by to..."

"Xander came by to bring me a message from the Slayer, isn't that right, Xander?"  Spike interjects coolly.  "Very hush hush, I suppose.  Guess you'll be wanting to chat in private."

Clem looks back and forth between them, raising the loose flesh where his eyebrows should be.  "Ohhhh," he says.  "Right.  Sure, you guys need your privacy.  To, um, to talk.  Hey, don't mind me, I was leaving anyway."  He gets to his feet, brushing crumbs from his chest, and lumbers loudly away.  "Later," he calls, flashing a peace sign as he shuts the door.

Spike crosses his arms and gives Xander a disbelieving look.  "Not in the biblical sense," he repeats slowly.  "Oh, you are smooth, aren't you?"

"Shut up, I was flustered," Xander snaps.  "Do you think he knows?  About us?"

"What, with your quick talking?  Never."  Spike barks out a short, mocking laugh, but when he sees Xander's panicked expression, he adds, dryly, "Don't worry, Harris.  Your secret's safe.  Clem's not so stupid he'd tell tales on me; and besides, you two don't run in the same circles, now do you?"

Xander's tensed shoulders ease down a notch or two.  "What was he doing here, anyway?"

"Oh, nothing, really.  There's a card game sometimes, back of Willy's.  Stopped off to let me know some bloke thinks I cheated him.  Asking after me, apparently.  Been making some threats."

Xander opens his mouth, but Spike cuts him off, exasperation creeping into his tone.  "Yes, I cheated him, and no, he doesn't scare me in the least."

"That wasn't -- I was just gonna say, be careful, okay? I don't want to see you get hurt."  

It takes an awful lot to surprise a century-old vampire; but Spike freezes, open-mouthed, gobsmacked.  Staring with blue-eyed astonishment, as if Xander's turned up on his doorstep bearing flowers, or a beribboned bag of blood.  Xander blinks back at him, equally stunned -- by his own blurted speech, and by how very much he meant it.  Something shifts between them, invisibly, like atoms rearranging themselves.  A change in the air, in the atmosphere, the quiet weight of a coming storm.

Xander clears his throat, studying a loose thread on his sleeve as if it's the most captivating loose thread that's ever existed in the history of loose thread.  "Anyhow," he ventures, steering the conversation in no particular direction, but anywhere else would be fine, thank you.  "That was nice of him.  Clem.  Watching your back like that."

"Clem's all right," Spike says, with quickly recovered aplomb.  "Good for a laugh, and he brings his own snacks, but I thought I'd never be rid of him."  He hooks a finger through Xander's belt loop, pulling him close, and drops his voice to a suggestive whisper.  "Gone now, though, isn't he?  And I'm wondering: do you want to spend the rest of the evening talking about Clem?  Or did you have something else in mind?"

"Well," Xander says, lust erupting again like a geyser, "I kind of maybe had this idea."

****

Afterward, stretched out lazily, Xander thinks that life doesn't get much better than this.  Crazy-hot, fantasy-surpassing sex, culminating in a brain-jellying orgasm, followed by Twinkies.  And beer.  In bed.  He sighs contentedly around a big bite of fake cake and chemical cream.  Which - oops -- makes for kind of a food-spitting mess.  It's okay, though -- Spike isn't the type to fuss over crumbs in the sheets.  It's probably never crossed his mind.

"Want some?" Xander asks, making sure to swallow first.

"Ta," Spike nods, taking one.  He dips it into his mug, and it comes out crimson.  He chews thoughtfully.  "Hmm.  Little sweet for my taste, but not half bad."

Spike slips out of bed and moves toward the makeshift shower, stopping on the way to put his lighter to a candle.  It's a few moments before Xander notices that the candle is perched atop a skull; it's a few more before he notices that this observation doesn't wig him in the least.  And apparently, his wig-o-meter is on the fritz, because Spike just ate a Twinkie dunked in blood, and that didn't wig him either.  When did this become normal?

"Oi!" 

Xander looks up as a damp towel hits him in the chest.  He dabs at himself desultorily, distracted.  

"Here," Spike says, snatching the towel back and taking over the job.  Xander gazes at him, thinking, when, and how?

"Spike?" he asks.

"Hmmm?"  Wipe, wipe, wipe.

"Do you ever think this is -- you know -- strange?"

Spike looks up sharply. "This?"

"You know -- human, vampire."  

"It's hardly unprecedented," Spike says, something cautious in his voice.  "Specially amongst your set.  Not surprising, really -- dating pool in this town being what it is."

Xander mulls this over.  He makes a quick mental list:

1. His bestest, oldest friend in the world has dated a werewolf and a witch.
2. His other best friend is still carrying the torch for a vampire who seesaws between guilty depression and homicidal mania.
3. He is presently involved with an ex-vengeance demon responsible for more death and mayhem than even Spike can shake a stick at.  Plus, there's been Praying Mantis Lady, Mummy Girl, the Dark Mast -- okay, so not going there.
4. His parents are...with each other.

"Point," he concedes.  "But, okay, what about me and you, specifically?"  Xander waves a hand floppily between them.  "You couldn't stand me before.  Right?"

"Made my skin crawl," Spike agrees cheerfully.

"So then, what changed?  What made you -- uh -- attracted to me?"

Spike chucks the towel to the floor.  "Dunno, really.  Don't second guess my cock, as a rule."  He affects a sinister sneer, and the tone to match.  "I follow my blood."

Xander nods, pausing for a moment to ponder.  "Well, do you ever wonder why I'm attracted to you?"

Spike glances down pointedly at his naked self, and then up again.  "No," he says, matter-of-factly. 

Xander snorts.  "Yes, it's your modesty that's so appealing."  And then, sheepishly, "But again, point."  And finally, "Seriously, though."

Spike tilts his head, brow furrowed, like he's really considering the question.  He picks up the last of the Twinkies, and waggles it in Xander's direction.  "This shite you eat like it's going out of style," he asks.  "Why do you?"

"Um...because they're moist and delicious?"

"And?" Spike says, drawing out the word with exaggerated patience, like a teacher prompting a particularly dense student.

"And..." Xander muses.  A few clueless seconds slip by before he gets it.  "Because they're bad for me?"

"There you are!" Spike says, triumphantly, and the sneer stretches into a smile.  

Point, Xander thinks, grinning back.  And it's game, set, match.

****

Sometimes, in the drowsy candor of afterglow, Xander finds himself telling Spike stuff.  He thinks it must be the orgasms, turning his mind to mush, which then dribbles uncontrollably from his mouth.  Because it's private, what he talks about with Spike.  Nothing earth-shattering or anything, but the kind of stuff you don't tell just anyone.  The kind of stuff he hasn't told anyone.  Like about how he worries, sometimes, that Willow's taken the magic thing a little too far.  And about his mom's new habit of calling him, drunk and weepy, to warn him slurrily against repeating her "mistakes."  About feeling like a fraud at work half the time, and the fear of getting caught.  Spike takes it all in, occasionally offering a story of his own, asking a question here and there; but mostly murmuring in a quiet way that lets Xander know he's being heard.

He tells Spike stuff about Anya, too; and it's liberating, finally having someone to confide in.  He's never been able to discuss her with the girls -- they agree with him too heartily, compelling him, resentfully, to defend her.  But Spike lets him vent, listening with a bland, unreadable expression, never saying a word.

Xander's going on one night, about her latest brilliant plan, which is to sign them up for ceramics classes.  

"Ceramics," he harps, incredulously.  "As if I have time for ceramics, between work and patrol.  And even if there was time, why ceramics?  Have I ever expressed an interest in pots, or clay, or, Jesus, crafts?  It's like she's trying to find ways to bug the crap out of me.  Like she's doing it on purpose, and she -- "

"Leave off," Spike says, his flinty tone startling Xander into silence.  "Christ, Harris.  I wonder, sometimes, if you're really as dim as you seem.  Silly cow loves you, doesn't she?  Scared you don't feel the same.  Trying to make things work, is all.  Not her fault you're at sixes and sevens.  Not her fault that you're -- " He stops himself, abruptly.  Xander looks up, catching the tail end of a complex, knotted expression on Spike's face.  But it's gone before he can untangle it, face impenetrable again.  Xander's not sure what Spike was about to say, but the unspoken words hang heavily in the air, like something corrosive and damning waiting to come between them.

Spike must sense it, too, because he doesn't complete the thought, averting his eyes and muttering, "Doesn't want to lose you, is all.  Just trying to hold on."

And something is very, very wrong with this picture.  Spike isn't shutting him up out of mere impatience, or disinterest.  That would make sense -- sometimes Xander annoys himself, what with all the bitching and moaning.  But it feels, to him, like Spike is angry, actually angry, and on Anya's behalf.  And this, he doesn't understand -- that Spike should take Anya's side.  That Spike should even care.

Except that -- and God, he really is dim, isn't he?  Because Spike's been there, done that.  Spike's walked in Anya's shoes; walked in them for a hundred years.  A hundred years trying to keep hold of someone who hadn't loved him quite enough.  Who'd eluded his grasp in the end.  Who'd left him heart-sick and shattered.  It's empathy Spike has for Anya, and Xander's never even considered this possibility: that such a thing could exist in the absence of a soul.  Everything he's ever learned about demons tells him it can't.  But it seems he's been wrong.  The proof's right there, lying next to him in bed, like an answer to a question that he hadn't known to ask.

Spike is still mumbling, something about feeling peckish, and does Xander want anything from upstairs.  Xander watches him cross the room, naked, unselfconscious, mounting the ladder with the easy grace of an animal or an athlete.  He thinks he could watch Spike climb ladders all day, and never get bored. 

Spike's halfway through the door, visible only from the waist down, when he pauses.

"Do you love her?" he asks, sounding far off.

The question should have an unequivocal, yes-no answer -- and the answer should be yes.  But it turns out to be more of a multiple choice thing, or maybe an essay, and Xander hesitates, carefully considering which response is most accurate.  He wants to get it right.  Spike's never asked him anything like this before.  Spike's asked nothing of him, really, beyond his body, and a few hours each week; and the least Xander can do is tell him the truth.

"Of course I do," he says, thoughtfully, a quiet moment later.  "But...that doesn't solve our problems."

"No," Spike agrees, words echoing hollowly, like stones dropped down a well.  "It doesn't solve a thing."   Then he steps up, and up, and up, until he's out of sight.





Part Five


Being with Spike is an eye-opener.  He's unfathomably creative, sexually speaking, which Xander figures comes with a hundred years of experience.  Although, in terms of experience, Anya has centuries on him, and...well.  So maybe Spike's just naturally gifted, because he raises even the basics to an art form.  Still, they've never done IT.  IT being the original and sophisticated euphemism Xander has chosen to apply when he contemplates the idea of Spike actually fucking him.  Not just fucking around, but fucking-fucking.  Being fucked.  The whole enchilada.  The real deal.

There have been a few times when Xander's thought IT was about to happen.  Like when Spike's dick is riding the cleft of Xander's ass, rocking him with slow, sliding strokes that turn harder, probing, insistent.  Spike's need so dense and palpable that Xander feels it, like one of those auras Willow and Tara talk about, an entity pulsing with its own ardent demand.  But Spike never yields to compulsion.  Stopping short, fighting momentum, like a man pinwheeling precipitously at the crumbling edge of a cliff.

At first, Xander's relieved, when IT doesn't happen.  He's not ready for IT yet; not sure he ever will be.  He's curious, though, at Spike's determined avoidance; and over time, his relief is tinged with a vague disappointment.  And disappointment turns to dissatisfaction, as he comes to sense a corresponding desire in himself.

IT isn't something he wants to talk about, and he wouldn't know what to say if he did.  But the next time Spike reluctantly inches away, Xander reaches an arm back to hold him in place.  Pulls Spike's hip forward, and presses deliberately against him.  Spike stills, his dick throbbing persistently in the crease of Xander's ass, the rest of him gone rigid.

"You can," Xander offers, haltingly.  "I mean, it's okay with me, I guess."

Spike rolls onto his back, so they're not touching.  "I can't," he says, and there's something like shame in his voice.

Xander hasn't anticipated conversation, and he's hot and hard, so the timing sucks.  But he turns, resigned, and props himself up on an elbow.  "Why not?" he asks, and then, with a prickle of comprehension: "Are you...are you worried about me?  Because it's gonna hurt?"

"Because it's gonna hurt me," Spike says.

It clicks, then, and he remembers, with a sorry pang: the chip.  And, oh, the indignity of it; the humiliation Spike must feel, having been diminished in this way.  He wishes he could squash those Initiative bastards, all over again, this time purely on Spike's behalf.  It's maddening, infuriating, and he realizes he's angry for himself, too.  It's only then that he feels the certainty of what he wants; and the bone-deep dismay of being denied it.

"Oh," he says, trying manfully to keep his voice regret-free, because he's damned if he's going to make Spike feel even worse.   "Hey, listen, forget about it.  It's no big."  But a moment later, he can't help adding, "So -- no way, huh?"

Spike sits up, cross-legged, looking at Xander earnestly.  "Well, I think we might do.  See, if we just..."  And the words spill out in an eager torrent as he describes an elaborate scheme for accomplishing the act with a minimum of pain.  Those lucid hands darting here and there as he gestures and mimes, sketching the details, illustrating the finer points, drawing diagrams in the air.  He reminds Xander of nothing so much as an eight-year-old excitedly explaining a project for the science fair.  In fact, he reminds Xander of a specific eight-year-old: Willow, her trebly voice ringing out, reporting to the class about Saturn, and Mars, pointing animatedly at paper mâché planets the size of her head.

The difference is that Spike's enthusiasm isn't focused on the solar system, but on the singular science of how to fuck Xander, and it's too much.  Xander feels the laughter take shape and balloon inside his chest, rising to his throat, threatening imminent escape.  He can't let it loose -- not when Spike is so serious and fired up and purposeful -- and he swallows it down, hard.  But there's nothing he can do about the smile that's making its presence known, twitching at corners of his mouth.  

Spike doesn't notice at first, intent on demonstrating something with the circle of his forefinger and thumb, but when he does, he stops, mid-sentence.  His hands quiet and drop defeatedly to his sides.

"What?" he asks, wanly.

"No, nothing."  But he's lost the struggle for composure, and an amused grin breaks over his face.  "It's just...you seem to have given this a lot of thought."

Xander can hear the wheels spinning in Spike's brain; can practically see the defensive retort, like it's written in a thought bubble bobbing above his head: Fine, fine, leave it, then, wasn't me begging to be shagged, never said a bloody thing, did I.

But Spike bites back the words, even as they're forming on his lips.  He shrugs.  "Well, yeah," he admits, sheepishly, not meeting Xander's eye.  Xander thinks, if vampires could blush, Spike's face would be scarlet right now.

He pauses long enough to allow Spike's embarrassed discomfort to percolate, because, hey, a little Spike torture is not without its pleasures.  Lets a few teasing beats go by, before he finally prompts: "So, you were saying?"

Spike looks at him, reluctantly, before launching ahead.  "I reckon -- you really wanting it is half the battle."  He hesitates.  "Do you want it?" 

Spike seems so tentative, shy almost, like he's expecting Xander to say no.  Like he's waiting to be disappointed.  Like he's used to it.  Xander feels a sudden twinge of tenderness, strong enough to take his breath.  He puts his hand to Spike's face, running a thumb over the razor ridge of cheekbone.

"I want it, Spike," he says, softly.  "I really do."

****

It's another week of waiting, and by the time Xander makes his wobbling way down the ladder, his apprehension, his unease, is like a presence in the room.  Like an unwelcome visitor, intruding upon what Xander realizes is an established intimacy between them.  His stomach is queasy, his palms are sweating, his second thoughts are having second thoughts.  How did I get here, he wonders, and his heart gives a sideways lurch.  I took a wrong turn, should have stopped for directions, wound up in the wrong part of town.  But Spike is here, so it's probably all right.  Or is that what's wrong?  He doesn't know anymore.  

Spike is sitting naked at the edge of the bed, watching Xander closely.  He reaches out and takes his wrist, tugging gently, maneuvering him forward until he's standing in the v of Spike's legs.  Looks up at him, and smiles.  

"It's okay," he soothes, like he's talking to a skittish horse. "Know what I'm doing."

Spike taps his fingers against the top of his own thigh.  "Foot," he says, and Xander obediently raises first one foot, then the other, for Spike to remove his sneakers and socks.  He bends at the waist, so Spike can get at his shirt, which he strips from Xander with precise, efficient movements.  He slides Xander's pants past his hips, his knees, until they're pooled at his ankles.  "Lift up," Spike says, a steadying hand on the back of Xander's calf; and Xander steps out of one pant leg, and the next.  Spike's commands are issued in a tone that's neutral, mild; and his hands on Xander are firm and business-like; and by the time Xander's standing in nothing but his boxers, he's slightly less jittery.

Spike strokes his hands up the back of Xander's thighs and over his ass. He reaches up and smooths a hand down the center of Xander's chest, his stomach, fingers hooking into the waistband of his boxers.  His other hand kneads the flesh over Xander's hipbone for a moment, and then moves lower to stroke the soft skin of his inner thighs.  Xander trembles.

"Shh," Spike whispers. "Easy."

His thumb grazes the head of Xander's dick, lightly, lightly, through the thin cotton.  Barely moving, so light, it's excruciating.  Xander rocks forward, he wants more contact, but Spike takes his thumb away, and stops him with a strong hand at each hip.

"No," he says.  "Be still.  Be quiet."

Spike's voice isn't raised.  His tone is patient and matter-of-fact.  But there's a vein of unbendable steel that runs through the words, foreclosing protest.  Xander feels those words, like blood, throbbing in his dick.

Spike's hand returns, fingertips barely touching him through the cloth, up and down his shaft, over the head, under his balls, behind them.  Xander doesn't move, and he doesn't make a sound, but it's like all that suppressed sound and movement flow into his dick, seething and pulsing there, and then radiating out.  He's shivering, as if he's cold, but his skin is boiling hot; he's boiling inside, too, and the heat is leaking from him.  He sees through slitted eyes, Spike fingering the damp spot on Xander's shorts.

"Nice," Spike murmurs.  "Wet for me."

Spike takes his hand away, and Xander's eyes fly open, but he still doesn't move or speak, and Spike glances up at him, not smiling, exactly, but pleased.

"Very good, pet," he says, and there's not steel in his voice anymore, there's something alive and prowling in it.  Spike slips the boxers partway down, exposing just the head of Xander's dick, and bends forward until his mouth is not quite on it.  Xander's in agony, waiting to feel him there; but instead of touch, there are words.  Spike is looking at his dick, like he's talking to it.  Crooning to it.

"I love this cock, you know.  Do you know?  That I love it?  Love everything about it.  How it looks when it's ready for me, when it's hard and twitching for me.  How it fits in my hand, the taste of it.  God, the taste of it.  There's nothing tastes like that, I fucking crave it.  Love what it does to me, the feel of it against me, against my cock, between my legs.  Want it all the time.  Want it in my mouth, sucking it, all the time.  Want it all over me, everywhere, want it rubbing off on my face, in my hair."

And Spike means it, Xander feels how much he means it.  No one's ever burned for his body with such single-minded intensity.  There's a groan rising up in his throat, and he tries to smother it.  He's shivering madly, with pleasure, and with the effort of control, and his breath is coming in short, rapid bursts.

"That's how it is, you see?  How it is for you, too, isn't it?  How you feel about my cock?  How you fucking love it.  Can't think about anything else.  The way you look at it, the way you hold it, the way you suck it, like you adore it.  'Cause you do, don't you?"

And it's true, Xander knows it's true.  As if those are Xander's words on Spike's lips; as if Spike's spirited them out of his head.  True, because he's felt it, on his skin, and with his hands, and in his mouth.  He makes an inarticulate, garbled sound, but Spike seems to understand.

"That's right.  Yeah, that's right.  Live for it.  Need it, like air, don't you?  Need it everywhere.  Need my cock like I need yours.  Want it inside you, 'course you do.  Want it fucking you, fucking you.  I can feel how much you want it.  My cock, inside you, fucking you.  Gonna give it to you, all of it, so fucking deep, where you fucking need it.  Just ask me, pet, and I'll make you scream.  Just tell me, and it's yours.  Say the words, that's all."

Xander does: "Fuck me, Spike."  Spike shoves his boxers down, and then the hand is back, no, two hands, one pressing right there, behind his balls, the other stroking and squeezing his dick.  And god, that's it, he's coming, and when he's done, Spike tongues him clean, like a cat.  He has a fuzzy notion that he's being moved; and by the time he partially gathers his wits, he's already on the bed, loose-boned, blissed-out.  He can't do anything but smile dopily as Spike touches him.  Giving his body over to Spike's hands, to the strength in them; to Spike's hands, turning him over, spreading his legs, arranging his limbs.  Xander's ready, now.  It's time.

The thing is, he's tried this before, or an approximation of it, with Anya.  But Anya's sharp-nailed fingers had been nervous and hesitant; and her mouth had balked and retreated.  And when he'd turned his head to see her fumbling with the embarrassing apparatus, the whole thing had just seemed sad and silly and wrong.  Desire fled him, and when their eyes caught, he'd seen it was the same for her.  They'd relegated the thing to the back of the bedroom closet, and chalked it up as a failed experiment.

But Spike's fingers aren't hesitant, and his mouth is eager.  His mouth is doing things that turn Xander hot and melting; that start him rumbling, like a revving engine.  The tip of a tongue, teasing wetly against him, inside him, and then the whole tongue, hard and probing, and each slippery thrust feels like it's going to spin Xander into a million flying pieces.  He's moaning, Spike, Spike, and Spike answers back with his own moan, deep inside, and Xander feels the sound squirm through him; and it makes him squirm on the bed, rubbing his dick against the mattress, mindlessly humping.  It's almost too much, but he wants more, and he rolls back onto Spike's tongue, and rolls back, and rolls back.  He gets a hand underneath himself, clumsy around his dick, but his arm is pulled away, and Spike sits up.

Xander's body keeps moving for a few seconds, as if Spike's tongue is still there.  But then he feels the absence, awful and empty, and he's almost crying, fuck, Spike, please.  Spike is shifting sideways, doing something behind him, and then Spike is spreading him open, slicking him up, and working one finger into him, and then a second.  Xander immediately starts rocking, and the fullness is so fucking good, it can't possibly get better.  But Spike turns his fingers, and it does.  It gets better than anything he's ever felt, or thought he could feel.  Lights spark behind his eyelids, and his body rises off the bed, his entire body, like he's levitating.  Spike does it again, and again, and Xander's clutching at the sheets; and there are sounds like words, but meaningless, pouring from him.  And when Spike takes his fingers away, Xander moans, don't go, please don't go.

Spike runs a hand up his back, and leans over him, whispering, shhh.  "All right, pet?" he asks.  His voice like whiskey, smooth and dark.

Xander tries to speak, but he can't, and he nods his head instead.

"I think you'd better say it, pet."

"I want you," Xander croaks.  "I want you to.  Want you to.  Fuck me."

Spike gives a short, desperate bark, but he's not wasting time, he's right there.  Xander feels the slick, blunt prodding, and tenses against it at first, but Spike has told him how it's going to be, and what to do, the way to relax and loosen, so he breathes through it and thinks about how Spike's tongue felt, and his fingers, and how much he needs to feel this, too.

"Want it," he pants.  "Put it in me, Spike, I want it."

Spike pushes, hard, and he's in; and fuck, it burns, it fucking hurts.  He doesn't want to yell, but a pained grunt escapes him.  Spike is making terrible, anguished noises, and Xander knows the chip is firing and it must be ghastly.  And he wants it to stop, for Spike, so he bears down and pushes back, the way Spike said, until Spike's all the way in.  And he's praying that this will get better, but it doesn't, it doesn't, it doesn't, until, suddenly, it does.  The pain seems to curl in on itself, growing tighter and smaller, and then it unfurls into an altogether different feeling.  Not pain, any longer, but something unfamiliar, skirting a wavery line between pain and pleasure; and he needs to cross the line; needs to be in the next place, and his body knows how to get there, opening to Spike, and then closing around him.  Spike's cries ebb into low whimpers, and then stop entirely, and then he's saying, so fucking tight, and he's saying, god, oh, god.  And then he begins moving inside Xander, stroking him there, on the inside; slow and deep, fast and shallow, one angle after another, and they're all amazing.  So amazing that Xander can't believe it, and for some reason, he starts to laugh, and Spike is laughing too, because who could believe that anything could ever feel this fucking good, and what else is there to do but laugh about it?

His body shakes with laughter, and then it just shakes, or really, quakes.  Like an earthquake, a huge and seismic force of nature that’s shifting the ground beneath him, rocking the foundation inside him, making him crumble and fall apart; only somehow it’s putting him back together, too, different, and better.  He can hear Spike's cracked whisper, and the words break off and float all around him: I'm in you, I'm in you, I'm in you.  There's a feeling, a tingly, cresting, on-the-verge feeling, only it's not in his dick, it's somewhere new, somewhere way down that he's never felt.  He’s going to come like this, yeah, just from this, he doesn’t need friction, doesn’t need a hand, doesn’t need anything touching his dick, because he's being touched, everywhere, from the inside.  And when he’s just about to let go, Spike’s hand is there, anyway; and his voice, saying, yeah, and, fuck, and, Xander, Xander.  Bright light behind his eyes, and muffled sounds like singing, and he’s coming, coming, coming, but it's so much more than coming; it's Spike's hand on him, Spike's voice saying his name, Spike's dick inside him, still moving, still moving in him and moving something inside him.  It's about being fucked, about being fucked and opened up and gutted and exposed; it's terrifying and euphoric and irrevocable; and it's not only in his body, it's in his head, and Spike didn’t tell him about that part, which is maybe the best part of all.

Xander drifts for a bit, in a stoned, slackened stupor, and it's only when Spike rolls them onto their sides that it registers: Spike’s still inside him, and Spike is still hard.  He hasn’t come yet, but he doesn’t move, other than to nuzzle at the back of Xander's neck, licking at the sweat drying there.  Xander feels content in his body, with Spike in his body.  He feels like he's been fucked to heaven and back, and he tells Spike this, and Spike answers with a smile against Xander's neck and the slightest push inside.  Xander arches back, and with a long, aah, like he’s sinking into a hot bath, Spike starts again, easy and unhurried.

He keeps on like that, as if he could go on forever, just lazily rocking inside Xander’s warmth, a hand on Xander’s heart, measuring it’s beat.  Waiting for it to speed up again, for Xander's dick to flush and stiffen with blood again.  It takes a while, but not as long as Xander would have thought, if he were capable of thought; and then they're into it, really fucking again, Xander scrabbling for purchase against the sheets, trying to push back harder onto Spike's dick.  Wanting to take all of it, to feel Spike in every part of him.  Shifting and rising to meet every stroke, and Spike pulls out for a moment, no, no, no, no, no, and maybe he shouted it, because Spike says, shh, okay, and then Xander's on his back, legs over Spike's shoulders, wide open, and Spike's there, so deep.  Xander twists and lifts, searching to find that place inside; and there, and there, and there it is, jolt after jolt of blinding bliss, shivering all the way through him.  Spike's hand on his dick, warm now, with Xander's own heat, wet with his come and sweat, a thumb rubbing the underside of the head, and everywhere he moves, he's met with pure pleasure.

His body heaves up in a rigid arc, and his head presses back into the mattress, mouth working like it's shaping words, but there aren't even sounds this time when he comes, just hands reaching for Spike.  His legs loosen and slip from Spike's shoulders, but Spike is still going, and he keeps going, and Xander tries to stay with him, but his limbs are quivering and weak.  Manages to wrap his knees slackly around Spike's jerking hips and maneuvers onto his elbows, for leverage.  Gives a few answering thrusts before flopping laxly back to the mattress.

"Sorry, sorry," he slurs.

"'S'all right," Spike pants, and grabs Xander by the shins, pushing back and folding him neatly in two.  Changes the rhythm, shoving way in and staying there, screwing his hips slowly, for however long it takes Xander's exhausted body to spasm despite itself.  His dick wants to get hard again, but hello, human, and it has its limits.  

"Spike," Xander groans, "I can't keep...how long can you..."

"Don't wanna, don't wanna stop."  Spike is breathing hard -- huge, ragged, unneeded breaths.  "I love...fucking you, Xander.  You feel so fucking good.  So good to me."

"You...yeah...you,” Xander murmurs.  "But I want...I want to feel, just want...please.  Please, Spike, come in me.  I want to...oh, fuck, I want to feel it."

And that does the trick, because Spike's face seizes up and his body convulses as he gives a few, final, haphazard thrusts.  There's a cool, trickling wetness inside Xander, and he watches Spike go loose and liquid on the outside, too.

****

When Xander blinks back into wakefulness, Spike is sitting up, angled against the headboard, one arm behind his head, smoking.  He stubs out the cigarette and looks down at Xander's blurry, sex-soaked smile.  His own smile seems oddly cramped and cautious, though he puts out a hand to brush the hair from Xander's face.  There's nothing in Xander's brain but a pleasant, swirling fog, and maybe that's why he blurts out: god, Spike, you're the best, the best; and when he hears his own words, he blushes.  But for a brilliant split-second, Spike's smile bursts free, clear and refreshing as a glass of cold water.  Replaced instantly, inevitably, by the twist of lemon smirk.

"'Course I am," Spike says, smugly, reaching for another cigarette.  "And quit acting like a bleeding ponce."

****

Things change between them, after that; small, barely noticeable things.  When Xander, fucked-out and spent, slips into brief, dreamless sleep, he always wakes to Spike's touch: fingers combing carelessly through his hair as Spike smokes and reads; or Spike absently bumping a thumb back and forth over Xander's knuckles, like he's soothing himself with a string of worry beads.  Occasionally now, Spike allows himself to fall asleep while Xander's there, and Xander has the chance to look his fill.  Head pillowed on his arm, gazing greedily at that face; thinking, no one can be this beautiful.  And if Xander climbs upstairs to grab a bite to eat, he always returns with a mug of blood, and there's surprise and gratitude in Spike's face, as if he hasn't expected to be remembered; although the most he'll ever offer is a gruff thanks as he turns his head and drinks.

Things change between them, small things.  Comes a Thursday when Xander is sick -- just a cold, but he's feverish and sweating and miserable.  He wants nothing more than to stay tucked in bed, but a picture plants itself in his head, and no matter how hard he tries, he can't uproot it: Spike waiting, wondering, pacing in impatience.  Cursing to himself and thinking Xander's blown him off.  It nags at him and it won't let him rest.  So he drags himself from under the piled covers, across town and to the crypt, feeling ridiculous, because, really, would Spike give one missed Thursday more than a few minutes thought?

Spike seems strangely shaken, seeing Xander's flushed face, and at the heat rising from him.  Asks uneasily if it's anything to do with his lungs -- "no joke, lungs," he says --and frowns dubiously at Xander's assurances that he'll be better in a day or two.  And even after Xander explains that he's incapable of doing anything more than lying down and impersonating a vegetable, Spike tells him to stay.  So that's what he does, watching TV with his head nudged up against Spike's leg, sipping at a glass of pretty good whiskey, and dozing.  After a while, Spike rests a hand on Xander's forehead, and keeps it there, until Xander has to leave.

Things change between them, and there are times that the thought of kissing Spike crosses his mind.  Or more accurately, the thought of not kissing Spike, and why they don’t do it.  Not that he spends much time imagining it -- the press of Spike's mouth to his, the taste of his tongue.  Not that he ruminates over it, or pictures how Spike's lips would look, kiss-bruised and swollen.  Not that it bothers him or anything.  But when he does think of it, he’s forced to admit that it’s a little weird.  Weird, even for their -- whatever this is -- which is saying something.  And whatever this is, or isn’t, even Xander can’t deny that it’s big, and it's important.  That sex with Spike is an entirely new world, with strange geography, exotic customs, its own, alien language.  It’s a place that’s beckoning and wide open; and each time Xander journeys there, it's with the joyous expectancy of a man taking his first steps on the moon.  Feels transformed, being there, feels himself, for once, and shouldn’t kissing be a part of it? 

But habit has taken hold, and the moment to break it seems to have passed.  Like not knowing somebody's name when you already should -- a time comes when asking is awkward and odd and almost an insult.  Xander wouldn’t know how to bring it up, or even if he wants to, and so he doesn't.  Doesn't want to rock the boat, and risk ruining what he has.  He isn't stupid -- he knows this isn't his to keep -- but he's damned if he's giving it up just yet.  It belongs to him.  It's his.  Not forever, but at least, for now.

Things change, and not just between them, because he finally stops sleeping with Anya.  Sex has been sporadic, for a while, and pretty perfunctory when it happens.  The topic is territory even Anya's been afraid to tread, opting instead to air her discontent at his lack of ambition, his fixation on fighting evil, his frustrating failure to be the man she's imagined.  But now, she ventures forward, asking unanswerable questions, and accusing.

He offers up exhaustion as an excuse, but it doesn't satisfy; and, really, why should it, being pure and utter bullshit.  Tries "all couples go through this," and wishes that this was the truth.  But Anya is unconvinced, and keeps at him, all the time.  He mostly stands mute; accepts the anger as his due.  The fault is his -- the cheating, the lying, the secrets.  The creeping, unwelcome awareness that his body hadn't betrayed him that night in the cemetery, but had known with certainty what he wanted.  That maybe, just maybe, the problem isn't not wanting Anya anymore.  That maybe the problem is not wanting women anymore. 

But that's ludicrous, isn't it?  He's not attracted to men; not really.  It's just, he's attracted to Spike.  Not so much a gay issue as a Spike issue.  Overwhelming and consuming, yes, but anomalous, and temporary.  Like a fever raging through him that simply needs to run its course.  To flare up and burn out.  An intense craving, like when his Aunt Candace was pregnant and ate only liverwurst -- three meals a day, until Kirstin was born, and then never touched it again.  It's like that, with Spike, he thinks.  Like liverwurst.

A matter of time, is all.  He just needs to hold on.  To wait it out.  He just needs a little more time.

Part Six

Xander's agitated, excited, a little manic.  He ping-pongs between hyper-alertness and distraction: one minute gesticulating wildly as he shouts instructions to his crew; the next, staring into space, grinning stupidly, as he zones out mid-phone call.  He spends the better part of the morning tearing apart the trailer office, hunting for the monthly invoices, only to find them hours later, exactly where he left them, smack in the middle of his desk.  In a folder marked "Invoices."

It's Thursday.  

It's Thursday, and when he closes his eyes, he sees Spike: Spike's dick, and mouth and hands, yeah, but also, the smooth slope of his shoulders; the contours of his back; the jutting hipbones framing the shallow v of his pelvis; the sleekly muscled calves and thighs; his pale, elegant feet.  The tightly-strung tension in his arms, braced against the bed, as his body coils and flexes and undulates.  His neck, taut and corded, head thrown back.  Spike's face, suspended above his, eyes closed, mouth working silently, urgently.  His eyes opening, blazing, flame-blue.

Xander's hard, on and off, for most of the day, fighting a silent battle to keep himself from jerking off.  It's an agony of self-discipline, aggravated when an end-of-day visit from a planning commission lackey delays his departure for close to an hour.  By the time he leaves, dusk is waning, sooty streaks of gray and umber seeping into a cobalt sky; and he's churning with frustrated lust as he heads to the car.  Where he finds Spike, waiting in the back seat.

He's sprawled out indolently, legs splayed, shoulders propped against the door.  His lower lip is caught between his teeth. His eyes are heavy-lidded, hot on Xander.  One hand rests loose, low on his stomach.  The other is at his crotch, fingers curled on his inner thigh, thumb lightly tracing a line up and down, up and down the length of his cloth-covered dick.  Which, from what Xander can see, is very, very hard.  Spike looks like the waking version of some deliciously dirty dream Xander hasn't even dreamt yet.  He knows, right then, that he'll be jerking off to this image for the rest of his life.

"What are you doing here, you nut?" he asks, smiling eagerly as he opens the door and begins to climb in.  And then he pauses, as the answer comes to him: Spike's here because he's as insanely aroused as Xander's been all day, or more; because desire has overwhelmed him, driven him here.  The knowledge leaps gleefully inside him.

"C'mon," Spike says, impatient, reaching up and hauling Xander on top of him.

"Couldn't wait, could you?" Xander says, his voice teasing, smutty, Spike-like.  "Needed me, didn't you?"

Spike says something unintelligible around a mouthful of Xander's neck.

"I'll take that as a yes," Xander says, giggling, as he drags his lower half heavily against Spike's.

He keeps giggling, for a while.  It's funny, the two of them, humping away in the back seat of a car, like a couple of horny kids.  But the laughter stops, and his focus narrows to the friction between their legs, as they thrust and strain, rubbing off on each other, frantic and clumsy.  Xander's muttering hoarsely, and it's not a joke, now: you needed me, needed me, needed me, repeating the words over and over, like a mindless invocation, like a warning, until finally Spike gasps, yes, oh fuck, yes.  Spike never comes before Xander, but tonight he does, gripping Xander's shoulders and crying out incoherently.  There's a sweet satisfaction in that; and the feeling stays with Xander, long after he leaves the circle of Spike's arms.

****

Spike is covering Xander's face with the loose cage of his hand.  Xander likes this, sometimes.  It turns him on for reasons he doesn't care to think about, and if Spike tauntingly slides that hand away, Xander will hold it there, grabbing him by the wrist and biting at the meaty flesh between the heel and the thumb.  Spike likes this, too.

Tonight, though, Xander's hands are distracted by the back of Spike's thighs, his ass, the sweet small of his back; and when the fingers trail from Xander's face to his throat, he doesn't pay it any mind.  Spike's hand rests there as he rubs himself against Xander, their legs tangled, cycling in the sheets.  The pressure of the hand builds gradually, until the palm is a solid weight on his Adam's apple, thumb and forefinger digging up and in at the soft spaces just below either side of his jaw.  It's not painful, exactly, but his breath becomes constricted, and it makes the blood pulse harder in his dick.  The hand stays firm on his throat.

A murderer's hand on his throat, comes the thought, and it slams into his brain like a heavy blow, snapping his eyes open, shocked, terrified.   A murderer's hand.  A vampire's hand.  Choking him.

Spike reacts instantly -- of course, a predator senses fear.  Maybe he can hear it, in the scudding beat of Xander's heart, or smell it in the clammy sweat filming his skin.  Spike jerks back violently, snatching his hand away, as if it's been curled over a crucifix.  Still, the blue eyes are uncomprehending, if troubled.  He blinks, searchingly.  Sees it, then, unmistakeable, in Xander's frozen face.  Recognizes it.  Knows why it's there.

Xander's hand goes protectively to his neck, and Spike flinches.  He rolls onto his back, an arm slung across his eyes.  Silence skulks between them, sharp-toothed and dangerous.  

"I can't hurt you, Xander," Spike says at last, without taking his arm away.

"I know that," Xander replies, automatically; and it's only after the words leave his mouth that he understands: Spike isn't talking about the chip.

Another spate of silence, and then Spike, dull-voiced: "Ask me."

"Ask you what?"

"Whatever it is you need to know," he answers.  "What I've done.  Anything.  All of it."  Offering up his entire, ugly history for Xander's examination, judgement, condemnation.

Xander has a little trick, developed with years of practice, for packing away the parts of a person that he prefers not to see.  Like his mind is an attic storehouse of cartons that he can choose to open and rummage through, or keep taped up, ignored, growing dusty in dark corners.  It's the trick that's let him love his mother, looking only at the surprise of a new skateboard, brownie batter off a spoon, cool lips on a feverish forehead; and setting aside nights with no dinner, drunken insults, eyes averted when he's the object of his father's rage.

He's been playing this trick, or a version of it, with Spike.  Not that he's actually forgotten what Spike is.  The broad strokes are always there: vampire, evil, restrained only by the grace of a chip.  He's simply chosen to focus on the other Spike.  The Spike whose snarky banter fits his own like tongue and groove; who fights at his side and has his back.  The Spike who's shared his body; who's taught him the truth about sex, and what it can mean; who's shown him ecstasy, and even tenderness.

It's his own, deliberate schizophrenia that's at the root of tonight's terror.  He's tried to box up Spike's demon, but it's gotten out.  He has to look it in the face, now.  It may well send him running, and for good.  Clearly, Spike knows this, too.

Spike shifts a little, edgy and unsettled.  Drawing up a knee, drawing Xander's eye.  There's a mark there, on Spike's knee, that Xander hasn't noticed before.  A faint, crescent scar.  He traces it with the tip of a finger, and Spike drops his arm, levering up on his elbows to see.

"What's this?"

Spike frowns, as if trying to place it.  He shakes his head slightly.

"From...before.  When I was a boy.  Horse kicked me.  Playing where I shouldn't have been, I reckon."

"Must have hurt."

"Suppose I thought so, at the time."  Spike smiles unhappily.  "But then, they say it's all relative, don't they."

It starts Xander thinking, about Spike as a boy, once upon a time, with a home and family and friends.  Wearing fussy, old-timey clothes; and playing games, and going to school; getting into mischief, and getting hurt.  About Spike as a baby, with a mother who held him, and sang to him, and probably loved him more than anything in the world.  And as a young man, not much older than Xander himself, his whole life just waiting to happen, only to have it stolen away when he was made into a monster.  Xander hasn't ever looked at this Spike, at all.

It makes him wonder if the man Spike was still lives inside him.  If he's been a silent prisoner to the demon all these years, showing himself only now that the demon's been caged.  Is it the man who's their ally, who cares for Dawn, who shares a peculiar, British affinity with Giles?  Is it the demon he’s seen, summoning up a semblance of the old, angry swagger, as if struggling into a coat that no longer fits, but has to last another winter?  

And then it comes to him that he's looking at it wrong.  Thinking of Spike as some kind of Jekyll and Hyde, as if two separate beings occupy that body, when really, there's only the one.  Xander's been trying to avoid the demon, but it's been right in front of him, all along.  The demon is Spike and the man is Spike, too -- a monstrous, marvelous paradox, an eternal, confounding contradiction, and Xander sees all of him, with clear eyes, for the first time.  Not a prisoner of the chip, but a sort of exile, banished to a wasteland between home and an unfamiliar country.  Separated from everything he’s known and loved for more than a hundred years.  Not fighting his way back any longer, not seeking what he's lost, but stumbling forward, toward a new world, although the road that leads there is sunlit and dangerous.  Not hoping for a reward at journey's end, or even safe haven, but still, plowing obstinately ahead, changing just a little with every lonely step.  And not blindly, but by choice.  By stubborn, fucking will.

Xander thinks he's never seen anything so brave.

He doesn't know where it all ends; but he knows who Spike is, right now.  And he believes, with utter certainty, that what Spike says is true: he can't hurt Xander, and it's not just about the chip anymore.  

"Didn't know you'd scare so easy, is all," he hears Spike say.  The tone is deliberately casual, Spike’s face denuded of expression.  But Xander can feel the effort he's expending to achieve the attitude of indifference; and he wants to tell Spike, no, you don't need to do that, not with me.  He wants to tell Spike, I see you.  But they don't speak to each other that way.  They never have, and Xander doesn't know how to start now.

"Tie me up," Xander says, instead.   But what he means is, I trust you.  

Spike's eyes go wide, as if he can hear the words under the words; though he turns away with a skeptical frown, a shake of his head.  The reluctance remains, until Xander takes matters into his own hands, unearthing a length of rope from under the bed.  Only then does Spike acquiesce, offering up a handful of scarves, and an uncertain smile.  They'll do this again, in the future, and it'll feel risky and reckless and wild.  But tonight, Spike's hands touch Xander so humbly, and with such gratitude, as if he finds solace in the tying of every knot.

****

Xander feels like he's been hit in the head with a two-by-four, and it's because he's been hit in the head with a two-by-four.  The new kid, wheeling around, oblivious, catching him with a solid thwack that makes light flare and fade like a flash going off in his eyes.  He's woozy enough that he doesn't protest a trip to the hospital.

It's a busy day in the ER, the fall-out from two car accidents and a bad house fire landing him at the end of the triage list.  By the time he's discharged, hours later, with a dose of Tylenol 3, and an assurance from the weary resident that he isn't concussed, the bruises have already blossomed.  His eye is grossly swollen, a shiny, pale purple that will deepen to eggplant by morning.  The skin along his cheekbone is scraped and raw.  There's a reddened gash near the bridge of his nose, covered by a small web of butterfly stitches.  He's achey, bone-tired, nauseated.  Shaking with exhaustion, and if he doesn't sleep soon he's going to topple, but it's Thursday, and he makes his way to Spike.

Spike's been watching TV, sprawled easily in an easy chair, a leg draped and dangling over the arm; and he's already twisting toward the door, halfway to a pleased, oi-you're-early smile, when Xander steps inside.  But the smile's progress is halted as he takes in Xander's mottled face, and his lips draw back in a snarl.  Xander doesn't even see him close the distance, but all at once, Spike is on him.  Sparks of amber and yellow flicker in his eyes, and there's a furious movement under his skin as he struggles to hold onto his human features.  His hands are gentle, though, holding Xander's face like a precious object, ten fingertips arrayed along the skull, turning his head this way and that.  

"What did this to you?" he asks, lethally calm.  And then, almost pleasantly: "It's going to suffer first, before it dies."

"It was just an accident at work," he replies, feeling both weirdly flattered and guilty at the misplaced, vengeful ire.  "Hey, we have a common enemy -- it was a piece of wood!"  His laugh sharpens into a wince.  Facial gestures clearly not of the good.  "Seriously, Spike," he adds, this time close-lipped, like a ventriloquist, "I'm really okay."

But Spike isn't satisfied by words, and his certain, steady hands, and keen, discerning eyes inspect Xander, inch by careful inch.  It's different than when Anya fusses over him, all accusing questions and clucking concern.  Spike stays silent as his fingers creep under Xander's hair and explore the surface of his scalp.  A thumb sweeps in soft arcs over bumps and bruises.  Palms travel from neck to shoulders, lightly pressing and palpating.  His head is rotated, front to back, side to side.  Spike peers intently into his pupils.  The hunt for damage, methodical, meticulous.

Spike's hands on him are usually about sex, and even affection.  But this is something else, something Xander doesn't quite recognize.  It's not about caring, precisely.  More about care-taking.  Spike handles him in a way that's unmistakably proprietary.  Possessive.  Territorial.  As if he's acting on some primal, animal instinct -- a lioness tending a wounded cub.  There's a persistent rumble in Spike's chest, and it passes into Xander's body, thrumming; and there's a language in the sound and the vibration.  It says, protection.  It says, you're safe.

Spike leans in close, his face proud and savage, and he's...he's smelling him, and Xander knows that he's scenting for blood.  For evidence of injury that's hidden from the hand and eye.  And that does it, it cracks him open, cracks him wide, wide open.  He feels himself give way inside; feels the puddling warmth of submission suffuse him.  Xander's bigger than Spike; he's got a good four inches on him, and at least thirty pounds.  But he suddenly feels small, needs to feel small.  Longs for it.  He finds himself bending at the knees, scrunching his shoulders, lowering his head.  It's not quite enough, though.

"Can we...can we just..."   Low, pleading sounds, trailing off as he waves a hand vaguely in the direction of the chair.

Spike moves, sits, arranges Xander in his lap.  One arm hitched around Xander's legs, the other along his back, fingers stroking.  Xander feels the tip of Spike's tongue, tracing lightly over his wounds.  Feels Spike's brief, violent shiver as he licks at a stray spot of blood.  The touch settles deep inside him.

"You're all right," Spike murmurs, assuring himself as much as Xander.  "You're all right, you're all right."

Xander tucks his face against Spike's neck, and his hand latches onto Spike's shoulder.  "Please?" he whispers, a helpless, hapless kind of question, and he's not really sure what he's asking.  But when Spike's arms tighten around him, drawing him even closer, it's the exact right answer.  He feels himself harden, slightly, and he can feel that Spike's hard, too, but it's not important; or maybe it's just a part of what's important, and they're in synch in not needing to do anything about it for now.

Years ago, another lifetime, when he and Willow first miraculously found each other, they would sit on the floor of her room, backs against the bed, taking turns tickling the insides of each other's arms.  Sheltered and together in that tiny, perfect world.  Flower-sprigged wallpaper, the smell of lemon furniture polish, a lawn mower's distant drone.  The lingering taste of licorice on his tongue, the soothing scritch of bitten nails on skin.  Raising gooseflesh, sighing, dreamy.  Loving her.  It was the first time he'd ever known peace like that, and he hasn't known it since, until right now.

Xander closes his eyes.  Spike is watching over him.  He can rest.

Part Seven

Tonight, Xander's on his back, and Spike has been working him over for what seems like hours.

Teasing him, torturing him, with his fingers and hands; his mouth and teeth and tongue.

Making him buck and squirm.

Bringing him right to the edge, then pulling him back; firing him up to a boil, and lowering him down to a simmer, again and again, until Xander's body is one heated, anxious, jangling nerve.

Until he's begging.

Until, finally, he wrenches away and begins to position himself, starts to raise up on his knees.

"No," he hears Spike say, and when he looks, it's Spike who's on his knees, elbows on the mattress, forearms reaching above his head, face buried in the pillow.

Xander freezes for a moment, it hasn't clicked, until there's a muffled "please," and you don't have to ask him twice, nope, once is plenty.

He scrambles into place, rests one hand on Spike's hip, and runs the other down the cleft of Spike's ass, and, oh, fuck, Spike is ready, he's already slicked himself up.

He's slicked himself up before Xander got here, and the lewd, lovely image of Spike doing that, the idea of him wanting and waiting and preparing to get fucked -- to get fucked by Xander -- is the hottest thing imaginable.

At least, until he actually pushes inside and feels all that strength closing around him.

Until he starts to move.

And oh.

Oh.

He's fucking Spike.

Fucking him.

****

So tight, so tight, his dick feels huge inside, bigger and thicker and harder than it's ever felt before.

Like a bludgeon, like a battering ram, opening Spike up, making Spike tremble with it.

And okay, it's the first time he's done this, but he's got it, he's got it down, and -- ohhhh.

Oh man, that's good.

Good for Spike, too, because Xander hears, "Fuck, yeah.

Fuck, like that, god, Xander, just like that.

Oh, Christ, fuck me, don't stop, please."

Curses and prayers in a steady, groaning stream that spur him on, thrusting harder, holding fast, fingers kneading bruises into Spike's bony hips.

Below him, the blur of a tossing blonde head.

The muscles straining in Spike's neck, his shoulders, his arms.

The frantic, backward motion as Spike works himself onto Xander's dick, like he can't get enough, but he'll kill himself trying.

The hypnotic, slap-slap chorus of flesh against flesh.

His dick, hard and wet, sinking into Spike's ass, which makes him squeeze his eyes shut, or he'll lose it, he can't.

Twisting up, around, finding angles that force shocked, guttural noises from Spike's throat.

Spike clenching around him with a fierce, filthy pressure, and that's what it feels like.

Like every nerve in his body is firing, like he's on fire, like he's going to explode from a massive pleasure overload.

Fucking Spike the way Spike fucks him, and he knows, he knows now, what that is.

Fucking so he can touch Spike everywhere, to make Spike feel him everywhere.

Fucking to get closer, as close as he can, to go so deep that Spike is all around him, like a second skin, like another self.

He wants to see Spike's face; he needs to; so he pulls Spike up against him, and Spike's face is rapturous, beautiful, changing under Xander's stroking fingers.

Like he's straining for something, just out of reach, head thrashing, jaws snapping, still beautiful, beautiful; and Xander's reaching, too, for something nameless, or unnamed, beyond the flame of his spine, beyond his bow-strung muscles, beyond his beating heart, his blood, his flesh.

So close, almost touching, almost there, and his hand is on Spike's dick, feverish and fast, and --

"Come with me, come with me, Spike."

And Spike does, Spike's body ripples and pulses around him, and if that feeling could just go on, just go on, because he never guessed, never hoped, never, never even dreamed that giving and taking could be the same thing; and he thinks, Spike, oh Spike.

And there are strangled cries and roaring, and he comes, passing himself into Spike's body as Spike spills into his hand

****

He's somewhere white, white, white for a while, and then he comes back to himself.

Back in the crypt again, back in Spike's bed again, still inside Spike.

He slips out, slowly, sighing, and collapses onto his back in a sweaty, wrung-out heap.

Smiling up at the ceiling and thinking, wow.

He never would have asked for this, not ever.

He's fantasized about it, of course, in minute and lurid detail -- but in the same abstract way that he holds a lottery ticket in his hand and meticulously plans how he'll spend his millions.

It's remarkable to him that Spike wanted this, wanted Xander like this; and he's joyful and sated; sleepy and spent.

Most of all, though, he's profoundly grateful.

But not just for tonight.

Not only for this.

And he doesn't say these things out loud, but he doesn't think he has to, because he's said them already, with his body.

It's how they speak to each other, with their bodies, and it's better than words.

****

He drops his head to the side, toward Spike, and Spike is looking at him, his face human and soft and open.

And Spike lifts up on one arm, and puts a hand on Xander's face, and kisses him.

****

That kiss is Spike's body speaking to him again, and he hears what it's saying, with perfect clarity.

He knows, now, why they haven't kissed before.

Because that kiss is Spike speaking about love, and what it says is too loud and too hard and Xander doesn't want to listen.

****

It's a shitty thing to do, he knows it, it's awful, but Xander jerks away.

And worse, he wipes a hand across his mouth.

A shredded sound rasps from Spike's throat, something raw and ugly, like he's swallowed ground glass; and for the briefest moment, he looks at Xander, hollow-eyed, barren, his face like a wound.

Xander's cold, suddenly, but he's pouring sweat, and a panicked, warning voice in his head is screaming: don't do it, this is Spike, this is Spike!

He wants to take it back, if he could just rewind those last seconds, but it's too late now, it's done.

Spike's eyes have gone flat, and his face is a smooth, white mask, and it's business as usual, nothing to see here, folks, move it along.

Spike swings around to sit on the edge of the bed, his back to Xander, and there's the clink and scrape of the lighter and the curling brown smell of tobacco.

****

"Gone half-past," Spike says.

"Witching hour, nearly.

Best shower and get home, before you're missed."

His voice is even and unperturbed, betraying nothing.

"There's clean towels," he adds, with mundane finality, and his head tilts back as he blows a stream of blue-gray smoke heavenward.

 

Part Eight

Spike's AWOL for nearly a week, returning tense and tight-lipped, with a vicious slice across his cheek, and a limp.  No one inquires about his absence or his injuries, and he volunteers nothing.  

Xander expects rage, or bitterness, or scorn.  He's earned those things, deserves them, and he waits hopefully for punishment, but Spike doesn't deliver.  Instead, there's a strained solicitousness between them, a kind of after-you-no-after-you exaggerated courtesy.  But it settles down into something approaching a distant normalcy, and no one would guess that there had ever been anything out of the ordinary between them.  That they had touched each other with stroking hands and tasted each other with hungry mouths and clung to each other and cried each other's names when they came.  And when Thursday passes, and then the one after that, and then the next, Spike doesn't say anything, and neither does he.  They nod hello and patrol and wipe out a nest of Gak demons.  They share a table at the Bronze when Spike comes upon them celebrating Willow's birthday.  It's like it was before, more or less.

****

Except.  Except.

****

Except things draw to a close with Anya, and when the end comes, it's neither with a whimper, nor a bang.  

Thinking back on it, in a tardy attempt to make sense of their history, Xander remembers a time, early on, when he'd seen Anya the same way everyone else did.  Annoyed and put off by the rude bluntness, the embarrassing faux pas, the giddy greed.  The way she stuck to him, with gluey persistence.  But as days bled into weeks, and weeks into months, his thoughts adjusted themselves, like gears click-clicking into place; until one day, without his even noticing, those very things became a part of what he loved about her.  Became the reasons that he loved her.

Then, in equally imperceptible increments, the gears commenced shifting back.  And at precisely the same time, Anya began to see that neither a new apartment, nor a big promotion, nor her own valiant efforts would succeed in changing him.  Understanding, despite herself, that the divide between who he was, and who she'd hoped he would be was probably insurmountable.  That to him, she would never come first.  Hating him for it, and herself, too.  Holding on tight, because what else could she do; but injured, and desperate, and always, always angry.

All these months, he'd told himself that being with Spike allowed him to be more generous toward Anya; to see her again with loving eyes; to make her happy.  Of course, these were lies.  Deceiving himself, so that he could behave obliviously, callously, like the greedy prick he really is.  His father's son, after all.  Taking what he wanted with grabby hands, as if he were entitled to it.  Sex with Spike, and a life with her.  Using them both, and it disgusts him.

Anyway, Spike's gone now, or good as gone, and the less he dwells on that, the better.  Nothing for it, as Spike would say, and Xander can practically hear his shrugging inflection.  But Anya's still here -- tenaciously here -- and he vows to make it up to her.  He comes home wielding flowers.  He feigns interest in ceramics.

He's too late, though, by far.  Things have worsened while he wasn't looking, and he stares helplessly at the mess he's made.  For a time, the arguments escalate, and their life together is a minefield -- every misstep unearthing old allegations or fresh accusations, and then, the inescapable explosions.  But somehow, teeth gritted, nerves steeled, they pass through the perilous landscape, and into a safe, accepting, day-to-day dullness.  They grow polite and careful with each other, saying nothing that might give offense.  Saying nothing much at all, really.

They're eating dinner one evening, talking over the day's detritus -- a misrouted shipment of K'retl musk, a stolen bale of copper wire, a tune-up for the car.  And suddenly, he feels a nervous flutter beneath his ribs; and it takes a moment, but he recognizes the sensation as nostalgia.  He's nostalgic for nights like this, for the two of them, as if remembering, with wistful fondness, a time long past.  He breathes in sharply, and when he looks up, stricken, there are tears on Anya's face, and she's smiling a sad, crooked smile.  And although the next weeks bring harsh words and raised voices, that night, at least, they're kind to each other, sitting together on the couch, hands clasped; and lying in bed, holding each other close, until morning comes.

The apartment seems big, when she leaves.  Ghostly outlines hang below vacant picture hooks; drawers yawn emptily without her clothes; the kitchen's been stripped bare.  There's a sense of things gone missing.  Occasionally, he stumbles across something of hers, left behind -- an amethyst earring misplaced months before, an article about money-market funds torn from a magazine -- and these evoke in him a loneliness that's nearly unbearable.  

Xander walks through his days on mechanical feet.  Work, patrol, home.  Held together by the stitches of routine.  Forced forward only by momentum, and he's thankful for it, but it's not enough.  And there are times when the stitches no longer hold, and momentum no longer propels, and there are too many hours when he finds himself able to do little more than lift a glass.  Calling in sick, now and then, and begging off patrol, with one parroted excuse or another.  He sleeps poorly, restlessly, waking always in the uneasy grip of an unremembered dream.

It's true, he'd always been terrified of losing her.  But when the time finally came, it had been unavoidable, necessary, and he'd even believed himself ready.  So he's surprised, in some murky way, by his own response to her departure.  He must have been even more deeply anchored to her than he knew; or at least, to the idea of her, and of their life together.  Now, unmoored, he drifts.  Leaving the house seems like a lot of work.  Food can be delivered, if you want it.  Liquor, too.  Laundry piles in corners, and he decides to grow a beard.  Or anyway, he stops shaving.  It seems such a useless exercise, when it just grows back, and it's always the same stubbled face reflected in the morning mirror. 

The epiphany comes one morning, over coffee with Willow.  He's been dreading the one-on-one, face-to-face, post-break-up post-mortem.  Keeping to himself as much as possible, even when he manages to suffer the company of others.  Avoiding her phone calls, declining her invitations, dodging each attempt to cull him from the group for a private chat.  But she corners him at the apartment early one Saturday, appearing unannounced, with lattes and donuts and resolve face.  He holds up his hands in surrender.

Xander sees her consternation as they pick their way through the littered living room, sidestepping pizza boxes and beer bottles and dirty, discarded clothing.  He guesses it's pretty bad in here, but he can't bring himself to care.  It's comforting, in a way, to have his outsides match his insides.

She blithers for a bit about school, and Tara, and some research she's doing with Giles; and then, preliminaries dispatched, she turns to item one on her agenda.

"I know break-ups are difficult, believe me," she begins, "but you can't isolate yourself.  You can't just shut down like this."

"You're right, you're absolutely right."  He summons the will to nod energetically. "I'm gonna get better about that."

She looks around at the chaos with a frown.  "And, no offense, but -- well, I'm kind of amazed that you're taking it this hard.  I mean, don't get me wrong, of course you're upset.  But even so, I have to say, it's always seemed pretty much -- um -- inevitable to me."  She pokes idly at an overturned shot glass, and he watches it roll in a sticky arc between them.  "What I can't figure out," she continues, genuinely perplexed, "is how you never saw it coming.  Other than by being total avoidance-guy, that is.  Like, the two of you fought constantly!  And what did you talk about when you weren't fighting, anyway?  I could never imagine it.  What did you have in common?  You were like apples and oranges!"

"Although, tasty in a fruit salad," he says, a memory stirring at the feeble joke.  It's a reflex, really.  He's not arguing.

"Oil and water, then.  Unmixy things.  Let's face it -- you're not just from different worlds, you're from different centuries!  I mean, the age difference alone!  And, uh, the whole demon thing pretty much screams bad relationship choice."  

He nods some more.  Her logic is irrefutable.  It was doomed from the start.

She places a hand on his, and smiles a warm, encouraging smile.  "And, hey, best friend here!  Don't forget -- it's my sworn duty as such to ply you with cookie dough ice cream until your broken heart is fully mended."  Her brow scrunches thoughtfully.  "Or is that just for girls?  I don't want to undermine your masculinity, not that I could, 'cause you've got buckets of it, mister."  She pauses, processing the possibilities.  "Some kind of...sci-fi marathon, maybe?" she offers gamely.  "Or -- or whatever it takes to put her behind you."

Her.  Put her behind you.  She's been talking about Anya, of course; he knew that.  But he's shocked anyway, hearing clearly in that instant the telltale truth of his heart.  Beating away at him, from behind a bricked up wall.

He's been living for weeks with a hard, empty fist inside him; an absence as basic and consuming as hunger or thirst or grief.  It's Spike that he misses; Spike he's been mourning.  Spike's face he's seen, every night in his dreams.  Spike's face as it looked the moment Xander had answered.  The moment he'd told Spike no.

He feels battered, suddenly -- by regret, remorse, desire -- so powerful that he's punch-drunk and reeling with it.  Bright spots blaze before his eyes, and Willow's words recede into meaningless noise.  He isn't sure if time is moving slowly, or quickly, or just standing still.  But even when he's able to focus on her face, shining with misdirected sympathy, when he can hear her voice over the rushing in his ears, all he can think is that he needs to see Spike.  That he has to see Spike, right now.

He behaves for the interminable remainder of her visit like an actor in a well-rehearsed play.  Willow delivers her lines, and he gestures and smiles and answers on cue.  And the moment she exits stage right, he's grabbing his keys and he's gone.

He doesn't run the entire length of the cemetery; only the last hundred yards or so.  Still, he's winded, panting noisily as he bursts into the crypt.

"What's after you?" Spike shouts, tearing toward him.  He plunges heedlessly through the door, coiled and ready to pounce; but sunlight forces him to beat a reluctant retreat.  He's singed, and smoke trails from him in thin, climbing tendrils.

Xander blinks at him, eyes adjusting from daylight to darkness.  Spike looks pale and thin, which is stupid, because he's always pale and thin.  But this is different, somehow.  He seems brittle-boned, skin ashy instead of alabaster, the filigree of blue veins starkly prominent.   

"Nothing there now," Spike says.  He gives Xander a close, searching look.  "You hurt?"

"I...no, uh, I..."  It strikes him that it might've been the wiser course to prepare in advance what he was going to say.  Because all at once, he's utterly uncertain of what that is.

Spike eyes him narrowly.  "What are you doing here, Harris?"

"I guess...I guess...I came to see you," Xander says, but it isn't nearly what he means.

Spike raises his chin, head cocked at a stubborn angle.  He makes a sound that's not really a laugh.  "Did you, now?  So -- your girl tosses your sorry arse out, and what?  You come crawling back to me?  Take what I can get, that it?   As if I've been hanging about, just waiting for the likes of you to pay me a call.  And I'm supposed to be grateful, I reckon?  Roll out the red carpet?  Welcome you with open arms?"  His lip curls disdainfully.  "Or is it just my arse you want?" 

"It's not like that," Xander says, lamely.

"No?" he asks.  "I think our sordid little history proves otherwise."

Xander cringes at the words, at what's in Spike's voice, because it isn't rage, or bitterness, or scorn -- it's disgust.  As if Spike can't stand the sight of him, as if he hates him, the way he used to hate him, back when Xander couldn't care less whether Spike hated him or not.  When he welcomed Spike's hatred, even sought it out, provoked it.  But it feels to him like that was such a long, long time ago.  

Spike's pacing stiffly, fists and face clenched.  He whirls around, slamming his knuckles into the wall; and his hand comes away torn and bloody, though he seems not to notice.  I'm sorry hand, Xander thinks.

"I'm a fucking vampire, understand?  I'm the bloody big bad, I'm evil, I'm...I'm...and over a human, a child, a pathetic tosser who didn't even know how to fuck properly 'til he met me!"  He stops and fixes Xander with an icy stare.  And then he flinches, and there's a rippling under his skin, like he's about to slip into game face.  But when it passes, his face is still human, defenseless and bare; and when he speaks, he sounds resigned.  He sounds ruined.  "What do you want?" he asks.  

And there it is -- the million dollar question.  He wants Spike, of course, but the answer isn't that simple.  He wants what they had before.  But it seems like too much to ask, or too little, because Spike is after something different, now.  Something more, and Xander doesn't know that he can give it.  Doesn't know that he's got it in him.  And it's not about admitting to himself, to everyone, that he's...okay, that he's gay.  That part is surprisingly easy -- it only tilts his world a little.  But what spins it off its axis is the thought of being with Spike.  Of really being with Spike.  Of opening his life to this dead man.  Because whatever Spike's become, the fact is, he's still a vampire.  He always will be, and Willow is probably right.  It's probably impossible.  It's probably doomed.  It's foolhardy and dangerous, and Xander isn't brave.  And he'd have to be, wouldn't he?  To make room in his heart for a heart that doesn't beat?  To make room in his heart?

And yet, he yearns for Spike.  For the embrace of his body, for his shuttered kindness, to look forever on the shadowed planes of his face.

"I don't know," he says, weakly, ashamed. 

"You really don't, do you?"  Spike scoffs, and his face and voice are glacial again.  "Take on every nasty that comes your way, and you're still a bloody coward.  Worst kind of coward -- man who can't accept who he is.  What he wants.  Disgraceful, that.  Well, I'm not gonna do it.  Not again."

"Do what?" Xander asks.

"Waste my time mooning after something I can't have.  Not gonna wait around and play the lapdog while you get yourself sorted.  Got another thing coming if you think I will.  You're a thoughtless, self-centered, unfeeling...You're a rotten, selfish bastard, and I won't.  I won't.  You're not worth it, Harris.  It's me saying no this time, all right?  I don't want you."

Xander shuts his eyes, nodding, and in some ways, it's almost a relief to hear the worst.  He hasn't understood, until now, that he's been clinging by his fingertips to a hope he's kept even from himself.  Barely aware of the exhausting effort it's taken, and now he can let go, fall, crash.  It's not a surprise to him, not really.  The surprise is what happens next, because when he opens his mouth to say okay, to apologize, to offer a goodbye, what comes out instead is a loud, ragged sob.  And he's crying, in great, unstoppable, hiccuping gasps, sliding to the floor, curling in on himself, covering his face.

Spike is standing next to him, immovable and silent as stone.  Time passes with a tense tick tick tick.  And then, Spike sags a little, sighs a little, and eases himself to the floor.

"You're a right mess, you know that, Harris?"

Xander scrubs clumsily at his face.  "I need -- I need -- a shave," he chokes out between sobs.

"You need a shower," Spike says, sniffing at him with mock distaste.  Xander feels a palm glancing over his ribs.  "And a proper meal, looks like," he adds, which makes Xander weep even harder.

Spike puts a hand to the back of Xander's neck.  "It's all right," he says.  His thumb is rubbing in smooth, calming circles.  "Xander, it’s all right.  I'm not going anywhere.  I'm here, love.  I'm staying right here."

It's so selfless and unexpected, and he's so thankful for it, that Xander thinks he might never stop crying.  But instead, Spike's hand and voice, his words, his certain, solid presence, bring the tears to an end; and he feels himself relaxing, breathing more evenly.  He wonders whether this comes naturally to Spike, or whether it's the result of a century of practice: this ability to gentle someone out of feeling distressed, despairing, crazy.  This talent for tending to broken things.

He feels Spike's eyes on him.  Stares up into that endless blue gaze.  

"What do you want, Spike?" he asks.

Spike seems startled by the question, by Xander's emphasis on the word you, and it makes Xander ache for him.

"Doesn't matter," he replies.  But he's looking intently at Xander's face.  At his mouth. 

Xander takes a breath, and turns to rest his head on Spike's shoulder.  It's not quite right, it's not an answer, and they both know it.  But it's what he needs, what he can manage; and maybe it will get him by, maybe it's enough for now, because after a moment, Spike's head dips down, and he buries his face in Xander's hair.

They sit like that for a bit, and it's nice.  Xander feels peaceful and unhurried.  Spike's not pressing him, and he's not going to.  Spike wants more, he wants a world of more, but he's not going to demand it.  Xander could sit here forever, if he chose, with his head on Spike's shoulder; and Spike wouldn't push him away.

Xander gets it, then.  Gets that this is how Spike loves him: by waiting, and trying, and accepting what's given.  By taking care of what he holds dear.  By wanting, above all, for Xander to be okay.  For Xander to be happy.  And suddenly, it's more than just nice, sitting there with Spike, because Xander gets that he is happy -- really and truly happy.  That he's happy being with Spike.  That he's happy because of Spike.  That he can make Spike happy, too.  That he can love Spike, if he lets himself.  And he thinks that probably he's known this all along, and it's scared him, but he's not scared, anymore.  

A kind of serenity washes over him.  A perfect contentment, like he's where he's supposed to be in the world, and it's a pretty great place.  As if he's floating safely in the vast, gentle warmth of an ocean; and he can feel its rise and fall, see a wind-swept shore; and there are sun-capped waves like phosphorescence, the taste of salt, a sea-bird’s cry; and buoyancy, and bliss.  

He wants to stay just where he is; to never move again.  He's afraid to break the spell, to lose this moment.  But he can't help it, he shifts and wraps his arms around Spike, fingers twining in the cloth of his shirt.  He fits there so right that it makes him sigh with his whole body.  And he thinks that Spike gets it, that he knows what it means, but he lifts his head to see.

Spike is looking at him like a man who's touched a little piece of heaven, and isn't letting go.  Lit up inside, glowing, incandescently beautiful.  There's a light in his eyes, too, warm, and steady; and his lips are slightly parted, showing just the tip of his tongue.  Xander's pulse quickens, but his mind turns slow and dull with longing, and love.

Xander should say something, and he tries to think; but who knows, maybe a part of his brain has shorted out.  There are thoughts in there, but they keep skittering away before he can make out their meaning.  He can only grasp individual words as they drift through his head, disconnected from one another.  Words like yes, and you, and yours.  Words like please, and always, and us.  Until finally, one thought snags, and catches, and holds, long enough for him to understand it clearly; and this time, he even says it aloud.

"I'm here, love.  I'm staying right here."

Then he gives up trying to think, as he closes his eyes, and opens his mouth, to the vampire's kiss.




The End




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