New Year's Kiss

Kahuna Burger

Anya started their New Year's kiss at around "Seven!" on the countdown, and by "TWO!" Xander found himself surreptitiously observing the other holiday appropriate lip locks happening in their corner of the Bronze. Willow and Tara with an almost chaste 'we're not dating now but maybe this can work out' peck, Dawn enthusiastically macking on a guy Xander would need to intimidate and maybe check for demonic leanings later, and...

Spike spinning Buffy into his arms for a quick 'snog' right at the stroke of twelve. Whatever else you could say about the guy, and Xander had said most of it, he had guts. He smiled into Anya's lips when he saw that Buffy looked flustered but not totally displeased, and Spike had stepped back, not leering or smirking but smiling softly and saying what he was almost certain was "Happy New Year, luv."

As Anya was finally pulling back to breathe, he saw what almost looked to be an answering smile starting on the Slayer's far too drawn face - until she turned slightly and caught his eyes. Embarrassment and anger slammed into the space that had almost held happiness for what seemed the first time since they had brought (yanked, tore) her back to them, and she dragged the now nervous looking vampire towards the back door.

"What's wrong, Xander?"

"Oh!" He blushed, his mind and eyes probably shouldn't be wandering this much with his fiance in his arms. Still, she loved rumors. "The great room temperature one took a chance on a new year's kiss with the Buffster."

"Really? That was both foolishly brave and considerate of him. I was going to suggest that you kiss her at midnight, but I got all caught up. It's nice that she got a kiss."

"Yeah, I don't think he even tried for a grope, he... Wait, you would have wanted me to kiss Buffy? Didn't you visit furious vengeance on men for centuries for non-fiance-directed kissing?"

Anya laughed as she retrieved the drink that had been set aside for their clinch. "New Year's Eve is a special circumstance. It's like a grownup game of Spin The Bottle. As long as it stops at a kiss, that is."

After a moment of musing on the never ending mystery that was his girl, he caught sight of Buffy coming back in, through the front doors. "Hmm, no sign of the Bleached Menace... Do you mind if I go..." he gestured vaguely towards the back door, not sure what business it was of his if Spike was sulking after his rejection, but Anya only smiled.

"Go ahead, you two need to make up anyway - you haven't had a movie night since... Dawn started school."

'Since he found out you'd kept him in the dark about bringing Buffy back,' was left unsaid. Anya knew the two had become somewhat close after the 4th, and hadn't objected when she occasionally came home on one of their movie nights to find Xander sitting on the floor by the couch getting a shoulder rub or Spike curled against his bulkier frame enjoying the warmth. The undemanding physical comfort had helped them both hold the world together for the girls over the summer, but he knew it had also heightened the vampire's feeling of betrayal.

It would have helped, he mused as he headed out into the alley, if he had been able to come up with a good, or even coherent reason for the exclusion. At least he hadn't stammered out, 'Willow said not to.' Sometimes honesty had to take a back seat to your shreds of male pride.

Easily spotting the familiar black clad shape sitting on a crate he did his best Olympic Judge voice. "We're giving top marks for seizing a socially appropriate moment, but style points were deducted f- Oh crap!"

For a brief moment his mind flailed about trying to concoct another explanation for the split lips, rapidly blackening eye and a cheekbone that might be broken. Maybe there had been a demon out in the alley, or a drunk human, or Glory had come back, or...

Gently lifting Spike's chin and doing a now familiar check for any damage that wouldn't heal with some blood, he forced himself to ask. "You push it or was this just for the kiss?"

A bloody smirk brought back memories from a dozen post patrol arguments of whether the vampire had provoked this demon or toyed too much with that fledge. "Could have gotten away with only the eye if I'd kept my mouth shut, perhaps. But I suppose she needed to vent a bit."

Xander could only gape a moment at the sheer amount of wrong implied in the two brief sentences. "What did you say to her?"

A shifty look preceded the massively unsubtle distraction of an elaborate cigarette lighting ritual. "Private conversation, Harris. 'Spect if the Slayer wanted you to know, she'd tell you."

Shaking off memories of being mocked in front of his friends then dragged into a closet, he sat overtly upwind of the puffs of smoke. "Whatever excuse you gave her, needing to vent doesn't justify this, Spike. I know she's hurting, but that's not your fault..." He faltered, knowing full well whose faults it was.

"Well, I can take a punch better than anyone whose fault it is, now can't I?" A bump of shoulder against shoulder startled him out of the incipient descent into guilt wallowing. "No one's fault, yeah? Well... maybe Red. But still, best intentions all around." Spike had his 'I'm supposed to say this stuff, but seriously, why do we bother?' tone and somehow it cheered Xander up more than sincere platitudes would have. Or maybe it was the touch, the first between them since their confrontation in the Fall.

"Yeah yeah, good intentions, road to Hell, etc, etc." Taking a risk, he put his arm around the vamp as he would have over the Summer when he had taken a hard beating in a fight. "Look, I'm just saying, I know you're all about giving the people you love what they need, but if Buffy 'needs' to smile when you kiss her then flip out when she realizes someone saw, or hurt you to vent her spleen... maybe what she really needs is to talk to a professional."

A variety of looks passed swiftly over Spike's face, but the only one to stay long enough to be sure of was resignation. "Sure, a professional who will help her with having died in a mystical battle defending her newly created sister from a Hell goddess and being removed from heaven to claw her way out of her grave. You want her better or committed?"

Xander, not for the first time, took his life in his hands. "Do you want her better or do you want her to need you?" For a moment he thought he was going to get a bloody nose, chip or no chip, but then the tension evaporated, and the vampire slumped against him with a comfort seeking trust that he would, under a moderate amount of torture, perhaps admit to having missed.

"She's always needed you Harris, you don't know what it means for her to finally need me... Maybe even want me, though she doesn't want to want me. I should want her to get better-" He cut himself off with a harsh laugh and broke away to pace the alley. "What the hell am I saying, I should want her dead! I'm supposed to be evil, here, not some neutered lap dog worrying about her feelings. This bloody chip has fried my brains!"

"Spike..." he interrupted one duster flapping pass to pull the other man back down beside him. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you were drinking cocoa and chatting with Joyce before the chip and letting Buffy and a room full of Happy Meals go to save Drusilla even before Acathla. I respect your full commitment to evil and feeding on the masses, but there's nothing new about you being able to care... to love."

A less bitter chuckle. "Strain anything admitting that, Harris?"

"More than you could imagine, Fangless. If we find a counselor who can handle hellmouth induced issues, I'll be scheduling the appointment after Buffy's."

"Could ask Clem, you know. 'Bout someone for the Slayer to talk to, I mean. He knows a lot of the more relaxed demon types and the half breed and crossover community. Might actually be options."

"Yeah, Giles or, dare I say it Deadboy, could have some ideas too." Xander glanced over, noticing that while the injuries weren't as bad, the healing was less than he was used to. Then again, with Buffy back and Giles gone there wasn't as organized a Feed The Vamp campaign as over the summer. "Dawn and... the rest of us still need you too, you know. Maybe a little less desperately for muscle, but still..." He mentally flailed for phrasing that would leave him some shred of masculinity.

"Haven't had a proper movie night in a while." Spike didn't look at him, and the tone was just bland enough to pretend it was a non sequitur rather than an acceptance of the olive branch. "Kinda miss... that."

"I'm still free Friday nights. Be a nice break from wedding planning. And there might be some frozen blood left in the freezer."

A small smile, with a hint of smirk. "Think I could free up some time. You should head back in to Demon Girl before she starts to get suspicious. Don't need any vengeance, do we?"

Standing, he couldn't help remembering Anya's earlier words and in a flash of calculation decided he'd drank just enough for plausible deniability. "Actually, she has a vengeance escape clause tonight. So..." Xander moved fast enough not to lose his nerve, but slow enough that Spike could dodge if he wanted to. He wouldn't claim to be fond of the taste of cigarettes or residual blood from the split lips, but the overall experience was pleasant and comforting with just a hint of potential passion. "Happy New Year."

He expected a smirk, a leer, maybe some teasing, but instead saw the same soft expression that Buffy had been graced with. "You too, Xander. I'll see you Friday."

And he went back to to his fiance while Spike walked away to his crypt. But he felt lighter than he had in months and looked forward to Friday.

The End