The Road to Sex, Lies, and Duct Tape


by
Bytemi66



Part Twenty-Nine

The next week went by smoothly and quietly. Xander had worked on Buffy’s birthday present. She’d had such a tough year; he wanted to give her something extra-special. His hand felt good enough now to do the carving on the top of the chest. The feminine design looked beautiful carved into the blond wood. He was almost done; soon, he could sand it and stain it a warm, honey color. He’d put it on casters so it would be easy to move around and gotten an ornate, brass latch to keep prying eyes away from the weapon-y contents. He couldn’t wait for her to see it.

Everyone was more worried about Buffy after Christmas. The whole thing with Angel and Connor seemed to be the final straw for her. She barely spoke to anyone, but she patrolled, and patrolled, and patrolled. More than ever. Spike said she probably needed to pound on something.

As he smoothed out a curve in the carving, Xander thought about last night. New Year’s Eve. He and Spike had a quiet evening at home together. They drank champagne and danced in slow circles to the CD that Willow had gotten him for Christmas, Spike showing him some of the dances they did back in the day. The kiss they shared at midnight quickly became passionate and they’d adjourned to their bedroom.

Later, Spike and he had been lying in bed after a round of distinctly un-vanilla sex. For some reason, lately Spike wanted the kinky sex. He got really submissive. Wanted to be tied up and restrained. Spanked. But it wasn’t like their usual play; they’d never taken it all that seriously before. It was weird; it was almost like Spike craved punishment. He'd pushed at Xander for more, harder. Xander felt kinda uncomfortable about it, but it was what the blond insisted he wanted. He liked a little kink as much as the next guy, but when he’d seen the first tear roll down Spike’s cheek, he’d come to a full stop. He’d undone the restraints and cuddled Spike in his lap.

“Hush, baby. What’s wrong? Did I hurt you? I don’t want to hurt you. Ever. Please, Spike.”

“I don’t deserve you.”

Xander had just frozen. That was the last thing he’d expected Spike to say. “What?”

“I don’t deserve you,” Spike had repeated. “The things I’ve done…if you knew.”

“It’s in the past, baby. The past. It doesn’t matter now. Is this what this has been about this past week? The tie me up-age? You want me to punish you? That’s nuts.”

“No. I dunno. Maybe,” Spike had replied at first. “It’s just a demon thing, Sweetness. Sometimes we just need a little pain with our pleasure.”

“If it’s what you need, fine. But I don’t like to really hurt you. You know that, right?”

“Xander. You’re not hurting me. Let me show you how much you don’t hurt me,” Spike had said, twisting in Xander’s lap to straddle his hips and capture Xander’s mouth with his own.

Afterwards, as they lay there with Xander’s head pillowed on Spike’s firm abdomen and tracing the fine line of hair there, he’d brought it up again. “Spike, you know if there is something bothering you, we can talk about it. You can tell me anything.” He’d looked up to let Spike see the sincerity in his eyes. He could feel the unspoken words in the room. Elephant, much?

“It’s nothing, Sweet.”

“Okay,” he’d said, not wanting to push. Knowing that Spike would tell him when he was ready.

“Worried about the Slayer a bit, though.”

Well, that hadn’t exactly been a surprise, since he’d known that Spike was getting ready to steer him away from their previous topic of conversation, but still, a little odd there. Spike generally kept his comments about Buffy in ‘the need for a swift kick in the bum’ category. Xander’d shrugged mentally and allowed himself to be diverted.

“Yeah, me too. She keeps saying she can’t feel anything. I don’t think that’s it, though,” he’d said thoughtfully, swirling his thumb in Spike’s bellybutton. He had a cute little innie. Just the right size for the tip of his tongue.

“No?”

“It’s not that she’s not feeling anything. I think it’s that she’s feeling everything. She’s overwhelmed by what she’s feeling to the point that she’s trying to shut it all off. It’s like a steam valve. Sooner or later, it’s gonna blow if the steam build-up isn’t released gradually. The kind of releasing she’s been doing has been of the diddly and squat variety. Buff’s gonna blow.”

Spike’s eyes had gotten wide at that. “That’s bloody brilliant, Luv. You’re a ruddy genius!”

“Huh?”

“You had an epiphany, Sweetness. That’s it. That’s exactly it! We’ve got to get the Slayer to blow.”

“Um, Spike? That’s not exactly what I said…”

“Diddly and squat, remember? Girl’s not gonna release it a bit at a time. It’s not in her nature. Buffy’s going to blow, Xan. Better to have her do it when the time is right than wait till there is more fuel to add to the fire.”

“I don’t know if that is the best course of action, there. When a steam valve finally blows, it can burn everyone around it.”

“We’ll just have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“Spike, don’t…”

“Don’t what, Luv?”

“Please. Please be careful; be patient. I know you’re not exactly the patience poster boy, but let’s not stir up a hornet’s nest.”

“Nah. Just gonna watch her on patrol for a bit. Get a feel for what’s goin’ on in that head of hers.”


~*~*~*~*~


As Xander picked up a square of fine-gauge sanding paper and began to sand inside the curve of the flower he’d just carved, he hoped that everything was going to be alright.





Part Thirty

Wednesday. His first day back at work. He hadn’t slept well, despite his vampiric snuggly bunny. He’d been up well before his alarm went off and turned it off before it could wake Spike. He went in the bathroom and began to get ready for his day. Christ, he was nervous. It was probably a good thing he had that electric shaver; he’d probably slit his throat, since his hands were shaking so much. He jumped when he felt cool arms encircle his waist.

“You okay, Luv? Your heart is hammerin’ outta your chest.”

“Just nervous. First day back jitters. What if…what if I suck at this, Spike? What if…”

“None of that. You’ll be bloody brilliant, Xan. Knock ‘em dead, you will.”

Xander gave a shaky smile to the non-existent reflection in the mirror before he turned around and gave his lover a good-morning kiss.

“Mmm. Xander kisses. The best way to start the day. You’ll. Be. Fine. Promise,” Spike said, giving Xander a brief, smacking kiss as punctuation between each word.

He helped Xander get ready for work, picking out shirt and tie to go with the khakis of choice. He stepped around Xander and tied his tie for him since Xander was all thumbs. He’d gotten some newer, spiffier work boots that looked a little more polished than the previous pair. Although he had saved the others just in case. Spike had relegated them to the back of the closet, inside two Hefty bags with several opened boxes of baking soda.

When Spike stepped out into the kitchen, Xander took the opportunity to take a few deep, calming breaths. Whatever happened today, he could handle it. He could.

Spike handed him a thermos and his lunch box. “Play nice with the other kiddies, Pet. I’ll see you this afternoon. It’ll be fine. I’m proud of you, Luv.” One more kiss and he was out the door.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike had barely slept. Xander definitely hadn’t. His boy normally tossed and turned, but last night it was like a bloody spin cycle. This morning, he could hear the thudding of his boy’s heart increasing in speed. He was surprised. Xan liked his job usually. He must be having anxiety starting the new position. With all that had happened, he supposed Xander was entitled to be freaking out a bit. God only knows, he was.

As soon as Xander walked out of the flat, Spike began to worry. Xander was out there in daylight where he could not follow, could not protect. Surrounded by humans. Surrounded by heavy machinery, and steel beams, and power tools…and humans. He swallowed down the impending panic. He didn’t have to worry about the shark demon’s human minions. He was taking care of that and the loan shark wouldn’t risk brassing him off before this deal was complete.

No. His boy would be fine. This job was safer than the previous one. His boy would be fine. Christ, he needed a cigarette. He’d been trying to avoid smoking too much around Xander. Boy would cough and wheeze but never complain. As soon as he noticed, his smoking decreased dramatically.

He paced over to the phone to double-check that the ringer was on high. Then he stalked into the bedroom to check the phone in there, his unlit cigarette between his lips. God, the flat seemed so bloody small. He felt like a caged animal. He knew that it was Xander’s habit to call and leave a message on the answering machine at lunch. He sat down next to the phone in the living room to wait.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander took a few deep breaths before plastering a smile on his face and getting out of the car. This new site was a lot different; the last one had been an office building, this one was an apartment complex. They’d sent the plans over by messenger last week. It was going to be nice. The buildings were going to use a lot of brick and stone with old-world touches like hardwood and marble floors and stylized lighting. In other words – expensive.

He spotted the office trailer and made his way towards it, smiling and waving at faces he recognized. Most of whom didn’t smile or wave back. He swung through the door and said ‘Hi’ to Mary before he made his was to his new desk. There was a brass name plate that said ‘Mr. Alexander L. Harris, Site Foreman’. He picked it up and the first real smile of the day crossed his face. Mr. Harris. Wow.

Pete called him about an hour later to go over details. He wouldn’t visit this site for a day or so and since he normally worked on the larger sites, he’d only be stopping by occasionally. This site was Xander’s baby. Most of the material was being delivered over the next two days and there were two crews with backhoes digging and clearing the site, preparing it for the foundation. He was meeting with the crew chiefs in just a few more minutes. His nerves had begun to subside a little. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

When Manny and the other chiefs came in to go over the plans and course of action for the next few days, Xander steered them over to the round Formica table in the corner and invited everyone to grab a cup of coffee and a chair. He should have known there was going to be trouble when Manny wouldn’t make eye contact. Two of the other guys radiated hostility and the last guy just seemed, really, really uncomfortable. Xander swallowed around the lump in his throat and did his best to put everyone at ease.

“Hey, guys. Thanks for coming in. I got information from Pete about what’s going to be going on for the next few days. Manny and Phil, you guys are going to be clear-cutting the south-east corner. That should take up the next few days. Jimmy, you’re going to be clearing the south-west corner. There’s not as many trees or undergrowth, but that spot is really rocky. Still, it’ll probably only take a couple of days. Um, I’m sorry; I’ve never worked with you before. Your name is?” he asked the uncomfortable guy.

“Cal. Cal Lawrence.”

“Nice to meet you, Cal.”

“Um, thanks,” Cal said, his eyes nervously darting over to the others.

“Okay, Cal. Since the northern part of the site has already been cleared, I’ll need you to work on digging the foundation. Any questions?”

Xander was met by silence. As everyone filed out, he tried to catch Manny’s eye, but he just looked away nervously. Looks like this wasn’t going to go as easy as he’d hoped.

When he’d gone out later to check the site, Linda had been the only one to voluntarily speak to him. He’d plastered the smile on his face until he felt like it was going to crack and fall off. He had to force himself not to sprint back to the trailer. When he reached his desk he flopped himself down in his chair, put his head down on the desk, covered it with his arms and whined, “They hate me. Why do they hate me?”

Mary came over and patted his hand. She’d told him that morning that she’d specifically requested to work with him. It had made him feel better. For a few minutes, at least. When he lifted his head, she sat a chocolate cupcake in front of him. “They don’t hate you. They just have to get used to it. You’ll see. Now call up that cute boyfriend of yours…it’s just about lunch time, you know.”

“How’d you know about that?” the brunet asked, surprised.

“Honey, not much goes on around here that I don’t know about,” the woman said, nodding her salt-and-pepper hair and winking at him. “Now, make sure you eat your lunch before that cupcake.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thanks, Mary,” he said with a weary smile as he picked up the phone to call Spike.


~*~*~*~*~


After the first hour, Spike had gotten up and started to straighten up the flat. Anything to keep his mind occupied. He straightened up the junk drawer in the kitchen. He lined up the remotes on the coffee table. He alphabetized the CDs, DVDs, and Videos. He lined up the cereals and canned goods in the cupboards and matched up the lids to all the cheap-knock-off Tupperware. That killed off about an hour and a half. Finally, he collapsed on the couch and turned on the telly. He snorted and changed the channel. He’d had enough of Bob Barker to last a lifetime. The old bastard brought back unpleasant memories. Luckily, they had cable.

Fuck. There was nothing on cable. Infomercials and ‘Cops’ re-runs. Hitler would be doing figure-eights in hell with Dorothy-friggin’-Hamill before he’d voluntarily sit through a movie on Lifetime. He was so preoccupied; he hadn’t realized that he’d been watching the sodding Weather Channel for over twenty minutes when the phone finally rang. He had to sit on his hands to keep from pouncing on the phone on the first ring. He was able to wait for the second. “Xan?”

“Hey, baby. What you doing up?”

“Just lying here, thinkin’ ‘bout you. How’s your day going?” Spike asked, trying to make his voice sound calm and nonchalant.


~*~*~*~*~


When Xander hung up, he felt guilty. He’d lied to Spike. Not just not mentioning something – he’d actually lied. “Everything’s great, Spike!” Liar, liar, pants on fire. Everything was so not great. He couldn’t wait for the day to be over. He just wanted to go home and crawl onto Spike’s lap and have the blond tell him everything was going to be alright. But he still had four more hours to go.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike heaved a sigh of relief when he hung up the phone. Boy’s voice sounded a little strained, but he said everything was going okay. He felt his eyelids droop and decided to go in and lie down for a few winks before Xander got home. He climbed into their unmade bed, buried his face in Xander’s pillow, and fell sound asleep.

He woke up when he heard Xan’s key in the lock. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and padded into the living room. The brunet immediately pinned him against the wall and kissed him soundly.

“God, Spike. I missed you so much today.” He dove in for another kiss before wrapping his arms around Spike and holding on tight.

Xander was so warm. He could actually smell the sunshine on him. He smelled a little dust from the construction site and a little vegetable soup from the spot on his tie, and Xander. Just Xander. He loved that the boy was taller and larger built than he was. Loved being able to feel surrounded by his love. Lost in a cocoon of Xander. He pulled the hem of the shirt out of the khakis so he could touch the bare skin of Xander’s back.

“Mmm. Missed you too, Sweetness. How was your day?” All of the sudden and just for a brief moment, it was like embracing a two by four. His boy just went rigid. He pulled away slightly to look at Xander’s face. “What? What is it, Xan? Did something happen?”

Xander pulled away and went over to the couch. As he plopped down he answered, “Nah. Just tired. It’s just a little weird telling these people what to do and how to do it. I mean, some of these guys were there before I was.”

Spike still had the feeling that wasn’t exactly it, but he decided not to press. Boy seemed stressed out and tired enough. “It’ll take a little getting used to, Xan. Just give it a day or two and everything’ll be coming up roses. You’ll see.”

“Thank you, Ethel Merman.”

“Oi! Take that back, right now. Naughty whippersnapper.”

“Ooo. Say it again, baby. Makes me hot.”

Spike arched his eyebrow. “Say what? Whippersnapper?”

“God, yes!”

“You’re one strange bloke, Xan.”

“Come on over here, you dirty old man and let me snap your whipper for you.”

After Spike’s whipper had officially been snappered, they decided to move the next event into the bedroom. Xander couldn’t wait to be buried deep inside Spike. He rooted through the nightstand for the omnipresent tube of lube. “Um, Spike? Where’s the lube?” He went over to the other nightstand and looked in that drawer, too. Nada.

“What? Isn’t there some in there?”

“No. Is there anything in the living room?”

“No. I was in the drawers earlier. Didn’t see any.”

“Shit. We’re out of lube.”

“Fuck.”

“Not without lube. Wait. I have an idea.” Xander stepped out into the kitchen and began to dig through the refrigerator. He came back brandishing a blue and yellow tub.

Spike raised his eyebrow for the second time that night. “Margarine, Luv?”

Xander popped the top off. “Haven’t you heard, Spike? Everything tastes better with Blue Bonnet on it.”


~*~*~*~*~


Spike reluctantly slipped out from under Xander’s embrace and into the bathroom for a quick shower. When he came out, there were two whiskey-flecked eyes peering at him.

“Where ya goin’, baby?”

“Just out for a bit. Be back soon. You want anything?”

“Nah. Just gonna make a sandwich and get ready for bed. Oh! Lube. Get lube. We need to stop having sex with food. It’s just too darn messy. I’ll change the sheets, too. Hurry back.”

“Will do, Luv.”

A half-hour later there was a knock on the door. Xander looked through the peephole first – Spike had nagged that habit into his head – saw Clem, and opened the door. “Hey, Clem. What’s up?”

“Hey, Xander. Funyun?” the floppy-skinned demon offered, tilting the open bag in his direction.

“Thanks. Care for a sandwich?” he asked, scooping out a handful of the snack.

“Nah, thanks. Spike here?”

“Nope, he went out about thirty minutes ago.”

“Oh. Okay, I’ll just check for him at the crypt.”

“Crypt?”

Clem grimaced, like he said something he really shouldn’t have. “Did I say crypt? Nah, I-I meant to say…”

“Why would he be at his crypt, Clem?”

The friendly demon looked defeated. “Don’t tell him I told you, okay? He’ll pull my ears off.”

“I won’t. What? Do you guys have your poker game down there?”

Clem latched onto it immediately. “Yeah. That’s it! The poker game. Yeah. At the crypt. Great ambiance…ooo, scary. I-it’s like a clubhouse!”

Xander smiled at the idea of a demon clubhouse. He wondered if they had a secret handshake. It was kinda weird, though. Spike hanging out in that run-down old crypt. Well, it had been nice in the lower level. As Spike would say it, it had been rather posh. It wasn’t like the apartment was all that demon-friendly, and Spike definitely wouldn’t think about bringing some of his poker buddies around here. At least he knew where he’d been hanging out without seeming like he was nagging Spike for details.





Part Thirty-One

After Spike checked on things at his crypt, he decided to follow Buffy on patrol. It took him about twenty minutes before he spotted her. He stayed back in a copse of trees so she wouldn’t see him or sense his presence. Chit seemed alright. She staked one vamp quickly and was working on another. Sure, she was drawing the kill out; this fledge wasn’t much of a challenge. Just some frat boy - somebody’d probably turned ‘cause he was pretty, by the looks of him. He saw the Slayer shove the vamp through the rickety door of the abandoned building. The sounds of punching and grunting seemed to stop abruptly. He supposed she had finally finished toying with him. Unfortunately, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

He crept closer when Buffy didn’t come out immediately, cocking his head at the curious situation. He wasn’t worried that the vamp had taken her. Even with the demon, the frat boy’s moves were pathetic. Nibblet could have kicked his arse. No, something was definitely going on. The sounds started up again. Grunting and the slap of flesh against flesh. But different. Rhythmic. No. She couldn’t be. He heard the girl cry out and stepped up to look through the broken door just in time to see her, naked from the waist down, stake the half-naked vampire beneath her, the fledge’s hands crumbling to dust and disappearing from the chains in which he had been restrained.

“Slayer! What the fuck are you doing?” he shouted out in incredulity.

Buffy turned around in shock, her eyes as large as saucers. “Spike! What are you doing here? Were you following me?” She reached over and started to grab for her clothes.

“Obviously someone needs to, since you’re doin’ a little stake and tickle with the local fledgling population. What the fuck were you thinking, Buffy?”

Her eyes grew hard. “Turn around.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Christ, Slayer. It’s not like I haven’t just seen you riding that fledge like a bloody circus pony. Get over yourself.” But he did turn around. As he heard Buffy rummaging around for her clothes, he thought about the conversation he and Xander had the other night. Now might just be the time to make that valve blow. He saw something on the floor and bent down quickly to pick it up and shove it in his back pocket. Might come in handy later. He cautiously looked over his shoulder to see if she’d noticed. Luckily, she hadn’t.

When he heard the zipper of her jeans go up, he slowly turned around on the heel of his boot. “Well, well, well, Slayer. Looks like I had you pegged right all along. ‘Slutty the vampire layer’ couldn’t have been more apt. Quite the groupie, aren’t you, Luv?”

“Shut up!” she yelled, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

He smirked at her and said, “Just sayin’. Vampires get you hot. If I’d known how easy it would be to get into your pants I wouldn’t have bothered with the ‘bot.”

“Shut up!” she yelled again. “A vampire got me hot. One. But he's gone.”

“Oh, so this one was just convenient. That it? Tell me, pet. Just how many times have you come across a convenient vamp? Plenty, I’d say. Step on out to the local cemetery to pick up a little cold comfort? Treating Restfield and Our Lady of Eternal Peace like they were your own, personal dating service – slash- Super America?” He felt a little bad for pushing when he saw her lower lip begin to tremble.

“Stop it,” she said weakly.

“So, Buffy. When did this little obsession with convenience start? Before or after Peaches minced into town with his merry band of do-gooders in tow? Let’s not forget the little one. The brat he had with Darla. Guess the old poofter could get it on after all, huh? Just not with you. Well, Darla does have centuries of experience…”

Stop it,” she said with a sob. “Why? Why are you being like this?”

Spike stepped forward and shook her a little. “Because you’re fucking up your life! We’ve all been trying to help you, but you keep pushing everyone away. Not gonna let you do it this time, Slayer. Now, tell me. This wasn’t the first time you’ve done this, was it? Was it?

“No,” she admitted tearfully, unable to look anywhere but the floor.

“Didn’t think so, what with the chains ‘n all. Why, then?” he asked, shaking a little more for emphasis.

“I need…I need to feel, Spike. I-I can’t feel anything. I…”

Spike gave her a little shove and stepped back, lighting a cigarette and leaning against the wall by the door. “Bollocks. It’s not that you don’t feel anything. You feel everything. Every moment of life is blown out of proportion. You’re overwhelmed by what you’re feelin’ to the point that you tamp them down to keep from feeling them. Shagging the undead isn’t about feeling something. It’s about power. Your power. The only thing in your whole sodding life that you have power over.”

“No! Stop it, stop it, stop it!” she yelled out before she launched herself at Spike.

Spike dropped the cigarette, expecting a punch. He didn’t get what he was expecting. Buffy pinned him against the wall and kissed him fiercely, desperately. Spike pried his lips away. “No.”

“You wanted me, Spike. I know you did. Here’s your chance.” She tried to pull his mouth back towards herself.

“I said, ‘No’, Slayer. ‘N I meant it. I love Xander. Xander. Your best friend, you stupid bint. I’m not going ta let you use me to ‘feel’.” He grabbed her by the shoulders and held her away from him.

“Don’t touch me!” she cried, pulling out of Spike’s strong grip. “Then what good are you, Spike? You’re nothing. You’re a thing.” She pulled back and hit Spike hard; his head snapped around.

Before he could stop himself, he reacted to her punch instinctively by returning with one of his own. He grabbed his head in anticipation of the pain before she pulled back and hit him again. Harder.

He was down on one knee when she said, “You're a thing, Spike. An evil, disgusting, thing.” Then she ran out. He stayed there, down on one knee, stunned. Not because of what Buffy had said. Because there was no pain.

He had hit her and there was no pain.

A/N: This chapter contains dialogue from ‘Smashed’ and ‘Wrecked’.





Part Thirty-Two

Spike walked toward the dorms in a daze. He knocked on the door and waited for it to open. “Hello, Petal.”

“S-spike?”

“Yeah, Luv. Can we talk for a bit?” Either there was something wrong with the chip or with Buffy. He didn’t know which he dreaded more. He used to think he would be bleeding ecstatic when the chip stopped working, but now. Now, what would Xander say? How would he react?

“What’s wrong?” the little blonde witch asked, concern obvious on her face.

“I have to ask you an odd favor, Petal.” When Tara nodded, he continued, “Can I pinch you?”

Tara’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline. “W-what?”

“Look, I’m not trying to hurt you…much. Just need to check somethin’. You don’t have to let me in. Please.” He could see the inner struggle played out on her open face. He saw the decision slide into place.

“Alright.” She nodded and held her arm out through the doorway.

Spike moved slowly, so as not to startle her. He reached forward with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand and pinched. He immediately cried out and fell to the floor, crying out in pain.

“Oh! Come in, Spike,” Tara said, coming out to help the vampire to his feet and draw him into her room. She sat him down on her bed, went over to her shelves, and brought back a little vial of oil. She put a slight amount on her fingertips and knelt behind him to massage his temples. As she stroked warm fingertips across his forehead, the pain subsided. She got off the bed and sat down in the chair by the desk. “Now. Do you want to tell me what all this is about?”

“Had a little confrontation with the Slayer earlier, trying to get her to come out of her funk, ya know?”

“Go on.”

“Must have touched a nerve ‘cause she hauled off and clocked me a good one. I wasn’t thinkin’, just reactin’, ya know? Slayer hit, vampire hit back.”

“You hit Buffy?” she asked, aghast.

Spike hung his head a little. For some reason, he didn’t like the little witch to think badly of him. “Didn’t mean to. Just reacted. That’s not it, though.” He looked up and made eye contact before he said, “It didn’t hurt. Didn’t hurt at all, Petal. Buffy came back wrong.”

“No! She couldn’t have!”

“Then why? What other explanation do you have? After a few weeks, girl seemed fine, and then she started withdrawing even more, pushing everybody away. It would explain how she’s acting.”

“No, Spike. There has to be another explanation. T-there’s this spell I could do, but I’ll need something of hers.”

Spike dug in the back pocket of his jeans and held up a pair of white lace panties. “These do?”

Tara looked shocked. “Do I even want to know?”

“No, Luv, you really don’t. Just let me say that it was completely innocent on my part.”

Tara merely raised an eyebrow.

“Right. That was hardly anything you’d expect to come out of my mouth, luv. Or ta have it be true, at least. Evil through ‘n through, Petal. But, you know I’d never hurt Xander that way, don’t you?”

“I know, Spike, I know. But I bet the explanation is pretty interesting,” she said with a small, wry grin.

“Why, you naughty little minx! Sorry, pet. Don’t think the Slayer would appreciate me telling tales outta school. Gotta keep close wraps on this one. Suffice to say; what she was doing tonight was most definitely out of character.”

“Spoilsport.”

Spike’s eyes widened at the girl’s playful banter. He was delightfully surprised. This little girl had hidden depths.

She reached over and put her hand on top of his. “Don’t worry, Spike. We’ll find out what’s wrong.”

He put his other hand on top of hers. “Thank you, Petal.”

Spike dragged arse back to the flat. It had been a bloody rough day. He just wanted to curl around his boy and go to sleep. Needed to take a shower first, though. He’d been smoking like a fucking chimney all night. Boy didn’t like it when his hair was too smoky. He put the small tube of lube, which was all that the berk at the all-night store on the corner said they’d had, onto the nightstand, before he quietly went into the bathroom for a quick shower. He was just too damned tired to soak.


~*~*~*~*~


The next week was really rough on Xander. It was getting worse at work. No outright insubordination, but comments like ‘faggot, homo, fairy, etc.’, were whispered under their breath or said out loud after his back was turned. His hardhat was painted pink, had a lot of call-ins for work, had sophomoric signs placed on his back, the latter of which was what bothered him the most. Because someone had to slap it on his back in a false show of support.

He’d worked months, even years, with some of these guys. Shared beers with them after work, looked at their baby pictures, and sympathized with them when they divorced. Worked extra shifts to cover for them when they had to call in sick or had a death in the family, which unfortunately, being Sunnydale, happened often.

What was so different about him? What? That he preferred the gay lovin’? He’d never even looked twice at any of these guys. Never thought of them like that. Well, maybe Gabe. Once. The day last year when he worked with his shirt off. But Gabe was also straight. Like ramrod straight. Hell, at that point Xander thought of himself as straight. And he had Spike who was more handsome than anyone else, in his eyes. He had plenty of man-candy at home.

He kind of got the whole ‘uncomfortable around what you don’t understand’ thing. Who doesn’t? But it’s not like he flaunted his gayness. Maybe all it took was time. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the trailer door. “Come in.” He was surprised to see Manny and Kenny. “Hey, guys. What’s up?”

“Xan? Can we talk for a few?” Kenny asked with a pained expression on his face.

“Sure,” Xander answered, indicating the table at the other end of the trailer. “Coffee?” he offered before they sat down. Both men shook their heads. There was a minute of uncomfortable silence before Manny finally broke it.

“Look, Xander. We’re sorry.”

“For what?”

“How can you ask that, man? We’re the ones who spilled the beans about you bein’ a-a…”

“Homosexual?”

“Yeah,” Kenny said, hanging his head in shame.

“That’s okay.” When both men looked at him in shock, he continued, “I don’t mind everyone knowing. It’s who I am. I’d hate to come into work everyday and pretend to be someone I’m not. What I don’t get is why it seems to be such a big deal. I mean, prejudice much? Everyone here got along before, for the most part anyway. It didn’t matter what color or race someone was, what gender. I mean, there was some kidding around and some comments, but nothing too bad. Except for Lloyd and Darryl, anyway.”

“Since I’ve gotten back, the only people to voluntarily talk to me have been Mary, Pete, and Linda. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt. Manny, you taught me everything I know about electric, which I still so totally suck at, but hey, it’s the thought that counts. Kenny, we had lunch together almost every day. You used to tell me all about Vangie. How’s the baby by the way?”

Kenny’s face lit up. “Olivia? She’s beautiful. Xan…” He stopped, sighed, and said, “I don’t care that you’re gay, really. It’s kinda weird ‘n all, and I can’t understand it, but you’re still the same guy we worked with every day.”

“Xander? I’m sorry for being such an asshole, man. It just threw me for a loop. I never got a gay vibe off of you, ya know?”

Xander’s face lit up in a goofy grin. “Well, it’s nice to know you guys don’t think I was prancing around like Big Gay Al. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

The other two smiled at their friend, relieved to have everything out in the open. “One more thing, Xan. It’s not just the gay thing. There’s a lot of guys out there that resent you being promoted so quickly. Some of them were ticked when you made Crew Chief so fast. So, now they’re really pissed about this one.”

“Do you feel that way?” Xander had never actually considered this; he was just so happy to actually be good at something.

“No. I’ve worked with you. We both have,” Kenny said. “You learned this stuff so fast. You’re really good at it. Remember, Manny and I were the ones who trained you. Just a few months later, you were the one showing us how to do stuff. You’ve got natural talent for this, man. You work hard. You deserved this promotion. The other guys will either come around or they won’t. I’m betting they will. Just don’t hide in the trailer so much. Get out there.”

“I’m not,” Xander began to protest until he heard Mary clearing her throat in the background. “Okay, maybe I am. Thanks, guys. This really means a lot to me.”

“No problemo, man. Sorry we’ve been such dicks.”

“S’okay. I like dicks.”

The other men groaned.

“Hey, maybe you and your, um, boyfriend?” Kenny asked.

“Spike.”

“Yeah, Spike. I’ve asked Vangie and we’d love to have you both over for dinner. Manny and Dorrie, too.”

“Sure! I’ll check with Spike and let you know. Thanks.”

That day, he went home feeling better about his job than he had in a long time.




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