Uncommon Distractions


by
Kay



Part Three

Finally sure that Xander was truly asleep rather than unconscious, Graham left the bedroom and headed for the phone in the living room. He would have liked to stay and watch Xander sleep and just reassure himself that the dark-haired man was breathing and alive, but he needed to make a phone call and he wasn't going to risk waking Xander. He picked up the phone and dialed.

"Yes?" Riley picked up immediately on the other end.

"He woke up," Graham said, not bothering to hide the relief in his voice. "He woke up and he's going to be all right."

"Good. Do you need me to come back over?"

"I think we'll be ok. I'll keep you posted. I'm going to hang around here and make sure...I'm just going to make sure."

"Don't worry about it, Graham. I'll cover for you. I'll tell the major that you're monitoring the situation, if I have to."

Graham smiled. Riley had his back. Of course. "Thanks, Ri."

"Just keep me informed and call if you need me."

"Will do." Graham hung up the phone and sank down on the couch. The past few hours had been hell. Waiting for Xander to wake up had nearly destroyed his nerves and having to keep Spike calm hadn't helped. The vampire had been torn between going back to the cemetery and killing the Cynon and pacing ceaselessly around Xander's room, gaze pinned on the unconscious man.

Now that he knew that Xander was going to be all right, Graham allowed himself to relax, releasing the tension and fear that had driven him for the past few hours. He watched Spike put Xander's glass away in the dishwasher. Something pulled at his attention. "When you offered Xander something to help with his headache, you weren't talking about aspirin, were you?"

The blond man watched him with speculation clear on his face. "No, I wasn't. The kind of headache he'll have when he wakes up, aspirin won't do him much good. Blood can take away his pain and I'm not going to let him hurt." The vampire lounged on one of the chairs. "A little blood can't hurt him. It won't turn him or change him; it heals him." The vampire stared at him mildly. "I would never hurt him."

Graham sat up straighter. They'd manage to get along for the past few hours, mainly because they were too busy worrying about Xander to do anything else. It looked like the temporary truce was over. Fine. It was time to end this. "Are you trying to imply that I would hurt him?"

"I don't have to imply it. You already have."

Graham looked down at his hands. The vampire was right. He knew he'd hurt Xander, hurt him badly when he'd walked away from him in the cemetery, but he'd been hurting himself. He wasn't proud of what had happened then, but he wasn't going to just give up. He'd made a horrible mistake and it had almost cost him Xander. He wasn't so stupid that he could make the same mistake twice. "I know that. I also know what I could have lost. I'm not going to risk that again." He looked back up at Spike.

"So no more walking out on him?" Spike's gaze was serious.

"As long as he wants me near, as long as he'll let me be here, I'm not going anywhere." He couldn't stop it from coming out as a challenge. "I love him."

Spike held his gaze for several moments. "Fine. So do I. Where does that leave us?"

Graham knew he couldn't fall back on accusing Spike of lying. He'd seen the vampire be willing to fight, kill, and die to protect Xander. Spike did love him. Graham could also admit that he understood what Xander saw in Spike: not only was the vampire protective and a good friend to the dark-haired man, but he was also the sexiest thing in leather to cross Graham's path in a long time. Involuntarily, he felt himself begin to flush as he studied the curve of the other man's mouth.

Spike rose to his feet and crossed the short distance to join Graham on the couch. "We've got to come to an understanding," he said quietly. "Now. Otherwise, we're not going to be able to do anything to help Xander."

"What kind of understanding?" Graham was finding it difficult to think rationally with Spike sitting so close. He could smell the leather of the ever-present duster and the blue gaze that held his own was even more powerful up close.

"Humans," Spike muttered. "Do you always have to make everything so hard? You love Xander. I love Xander." His eyes darkened as he deliberately looked Graham up and down. "And you're not so bad yourself. You helped me get past some very boring hours while I was locked up inside your damned base."

Graham blinked. "What?" He could feel himself reacting to Spike's blatant perusal, lust stirring within him as a result of the other man's nearness.

"Had to occupy my thoughts somehow, didn't I? Vengeance fantasies are well and good, but they got boring after the third day. Fantasies about blue-eyed soldiers, now - those can keep me occupied much longer. I saw you in the hall right after I was brought in. I saw you and I wanted you and I remembered you. Most fun I had in that place was thinking of you and putting on a show for the camera."

Struggling to swallow with a throat gone suddenly dry, Graham forced himself to reply. "You weren't just performing for the camera. I was watching."

"You were?" Looking very pleased, Spike moved closer.

"Every chance I got. If I had a single shift in the observation room, I'd rewind the tape, so I could watch it again and again." The admission wasn't hard to make, not with Spike smiling at him like that, hunger so evident in his eyes. "I wanted to watch you. I wanted you, too."

He didn't have to wait for Spike's reaction. The vampire slowly leaned forward, clearly telegraphing his intentions. Graham didn't try to stop him; instead, when Spike's lips brushed over his own he welcomed the kiss. It was hesitant and uncertain and when Spike sat back Graham wasn't sure if he was sorry it was over or not. He stared at Spike for a moment, then it was his turn to lean forward. He pressed his mouth to Spike's, the kiss that they'd just shared giving him the confidence he needed to deepen the caress, licking at Spike's lips. The blond man responded willingly, parting his lips and inviting Graham's tongue inside to play with his own

That was all it took for the lust Graham had so carefully buried to emerge full-blown and nearly out of control. He wrapped one arm around Spike to pull him closer and was met with strength greater than he'd expected. Not that Spike was resisting; instead, he was pushing closer to Graham, seeking more contact with him as the kiss deepened. Cool fingers twining in his hair, Graham slid his arms inside of Spike's duster, hands wandering over the wiry muscle of the vampire's back. It felt hot and exciting and far more right than he'd ever imagined it could. It wasn't like it was with Xander but that was all right because it was good in a different way.

It was the thought of Xander that brought Graham back to his senses. He wrenched away from Spike, pulling his arms free and staring at the vampire. He shook his head. "What was that?"

"That was promising," Spike said. "I think you'll work out just fine, pet."

Graham stared at him. It couldn't be that simple. He and Spike kiss and everything is all right? "It doesn't work like that."

"Why the hell can't it?" Spike stood up and paced irritably. "I'm not saying life is going to be roses and puppies from now on, but life never is. I'm saying that we've got a start. You're a nice bit of all right and I'm not feeling any urgent need to gut you. We both love Xander and I'm willing to admit that I could easily begin to care about you." He came to a stop and glared down at Graham. "Stop thinking about it. Thinking can't solve this. Just feel."

Graham stared at him, tracing his gaze over the vampire's lean body. He knew he wanted Spike, had known ever since he first saw the blond man. He'd been angry when he realized that Spike was competing with him for Xander's attention, but he'd never wanted the other man dead. Now that he knew how much Spike really did love Xander, he couldn't hate the vampire. He licked his lips. "We both love Xander."

"We both want each other."

Graham nodded slowly. "So long as we agree that whatever happens, we don't let it hurt Xander."

"Or each other," Spike added. "I don't want to hurt you either, pet."

A small smile tugging at his lips, Graham nodded. "I don't want to hurt you, so I guess we're even." He smiled at Spike, then glanced over at the door to Xander's bedroom. "How long before he's awake again, do you think?"

"Soon, I hope. He needs to rest, but I'd feel better when I've given him a drink. Then I'll know he's going to be all right." He sat down next to Graham once more, glancing side long at him. "You know that it won't hurt him. I'd never do anything to hurt him."

Graham nodded. "At least that's something we can agree on. Neither of us would ever do anything to hurt him."

"Are you sure about that, pet?" Spike's stare was frankly skeptical.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike watched Graham react to his comment, surprise blooming in his blue eyes as he realized that Spike was doubting him. He knew it was risky to do this so soon after he and Graham had made fragile peace between them, but he couldn't let this go. He had to make sure that Graham was truly committed to this before he let him get anywhere near Xander's heart again. He also had to do this to protect himself; he was under no illusions about his own tendencies to become attached quickly and he had no desire to be hurt.

Well, not hurt like that, anyway.

Graham leaned forward. "I know I was wrong for what I said to him. I was hurt and not thinking and now that I've almost lost him I'm never going to make that same mistake again. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it up to him."

"Damn right you're going to, but that's not what I'm talking about."

Graham's Jaw tightened. "In case you've forgotten, I'm not the soulless demon here. I'm not likely to hurt Xander just for the sheer fun of it."

Spike inclined his head in acknowledgement of the point. "Since this particular soulless demon loves him, that's not something to worry about."

"Quit dancing around whatever you're trying to say and just say it. I thought we were getting past this."

"We will be, pet. Just as soon as I'm sure that you're not going to spit on Xander's love again, we'll be just fine."

"Haven't you heard anything I said? I'm not going to hurt Xander. I love him."

"Fine. And when your Initiative decides that the crisis here is finished and they tell you to head back out to the jungle for another two years, what are you going to do then? Kiss Xan and me good-bye and promise to come up and visit us when you've built up enough leave time?"

Graham blinked. It was obvious that he hadn't really thought about it. Not giving him a chance to recover, Spike leaned forward to get into the other man's face. "Are you really going to convince him to trust you, to give you his love and then walk away from him and tell him to wait for you? After everything he's been through, I'm sure he'd be just fine with having little or no word from you, never knowing if you're alive or hurt. It's a completely fair and reasonable request to make, asking him to live without you and worry in exchange for spending a few weeks a year with you." Spike had to consciously force himself to lower his voice. He had more than a few abandonment issues himself and he didn't want to wake Xander up with them. He cut off his words and watched Graham closely, waiting for a reaction.

Graham leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes. "I hadn't even thought that far ahead," he said quietly. "I never thought there could be anything with Xander, you know? He was with Anya and then he'd never be interested and then there was you...it just never seemed like I needed to think about this because it was never going to matter."

"Then think about it now. It matters. You can't play with Xander."

"Or with you." One blue eye opened briefly and looked directly at him. "You're a part of this as well."

Spike was pleasantly surprised. Graham was proving to be more perceptive then he'd given him credit for. "Oh, sometimes I like to be played with," he said with a faint leer, willing to lighten up now that he had Graham's attention. "But not like this, no."

"I'm going to get out of the Initiative."

"I can't see transferring into another part of the military as helping. You'll be more accessible, but there's still no base in Sunnydale. You'll still be too distant."

"No, I mean I'm going to get out of the service altogether."

It was Spike's turn to blink in surprise. He hadn't expected that. "Isn't that a big step?"

"Yeah, but it's been coming for a while. I stayed because someone has to do the job and I'm good at it. Besides, I didn't have anything else tying me to anywhere else. Now I've got two very compelling reasons to stay in Sunnydale and I can keep on doing the same work."

Spike nodded, allowing his pleasure to show on his face. It was exactly what he wanted to hear, but he had a few more questions before he'd be completely satisfied. "I'll admit to not knowing much about it, but isn't it difficult to get out of the military? Don't you have to serve out terms?"

"Not in the Initiative. It's a special assignment, for volunteers only. I can get out at anytime; there's always a list of guys more eager than they are bright trying to get in with the special unit. The work is too dangerous to allow any sort of burn-out, so getting out is just a matter of signing non-disclosure agreements and I'm on my way." He sat up and met Spike's gaze seriously. "I didn't have much else to do with my life. I'm good at fighting monsters and Riley was still in the unit so it was the best thing I had going."

"Riley's still in the unit." Spike understood the power the familiar could have over a person. He figured that the closeness offered by the military unit was like what he'd experienced living with Angelus and Dru. He knew how that closeness could call to a person and he didn't want to risk Graham not being able to go without it. It was all well and good for Graham to be able to get out, but he had to be able to stay out and he could be drawn back in by Riley.

Graham shook his head. "Not for long. His heart went out of it when he left Buffy. He's not going to leave again. I think Xander convinced him to try to talk to Buffy, to see if they can give things another try."

"What if she won't take him back?" Spike didn't feel any real worry over beyond how it could effect Graham. He had no regrets over running Riley off.

In love or not, he was still the Big Bad.

"Then he'll do something else. Neither of us finished grad school and I know I'd like to. I'll find something to do that will let me stay with Xander." Graham smiled a little. "That will let me stay with you."

Spike allowed himself to smile back. He knew this wasn't going to be easy. Humans were funny about love even under normal circumstances. Guiding Xander and Graham through the ins and outs of a three-way relationship was going to be hard, but if Graham was committed to making it work then they actually had a chance. Xander was definitely worth it and he was beginning to believe that Graham was, too.

"You know this isn't going to be easy, don't you, pet?" Spike finally let himself relax back into the chair. "I mean, beyond the obvious. Xander hasn't had any luck at all with love. Add in the fact that his friends hate me and don't really like the Initiative much and we've got an interesting time ahead of us."

Graham groaned. "I don't want to think about that. Convincing Xander to go along with this is going to be hard enough, without worrying about everyone else." A small grin played around the corners of his mouth. "I think we should try convincing him while he's still feeling the effects of the head injury. It might make things easier."

Spike laughed. "You've noticed how stubborn he can be, then." Another thought occurred to him and he leered at Graham. "Since we're getting to know each other better, pet, there are a few more things I'd like to ask."

"Are you sure you wouldn't just rather I show you?" Graham leered right back at him.

Better and better. "In time, yeah. This is something we actually need to talk about, though. How much experience do you have with men?"

Graham shrugged. "Enough, I guess. I haven't had many long term relationships. Being in the military doesn't make being gay easy." He grinned a little. "I put my special training to use, though, so I've been far from lonely in the past. There's not too much I haven't done." He shot Spike a challenging look. "What about you?"

Spike as sprawled in the chair as provocatively as he could, loving the way Graham's gaze was focused completely upon him. "Me? Pet, I'm a vampire. Humans don't even have words for some of the things I've tried." He shifted a little in his chair, keeping Graham's attention. "Gender doesn't make a difference to us. Hell, species is little more than a passing concern. I think I can pretty much cover any gaps in your knowledge."

Graham swallowed hard. "Can't wait," he answered with darkened eyes. "What about Xander?"

"Oh, I'll show him, too," Spike promised.

"That's not what I meant," Graham said.

"I know." Spike decided to stop teasing the other man. "Xander doesn't have any experience with men. No one in his little group of friends can keep a secret and I'm sure it would have come up by now. He's been involved with nonhumans before, so that won't be too much of stretch for him, but everything about sex with men will be new for him."

"Then we'll just have to take things as slowly as he needs us to and show him everything he wants us to." Graham grinned. "And I know I'll want you to show me things."

Spike decided Graham deserved a reward for answering all the questions basically the way that Spike wanted him to. He stood up and shifted over to sitting on the couch, leaning into Graham's space. "I'll show you anything you want," he promised, leaning forward to flick his tongue over the blue-eyed man's lower lip. Warm hands immediately clasped his shoulder and pulled him closer and he went willingly, resting his weight against Graham's chest and delving deeper into the other man's mouth, kissing him with curiosity and desire. The warmth was like Xander, but the similarity ended there. Graham was far more aggressive, more confident, and he tasted nothing like Xander. Not that any of that was bad; it was different and delicious and Spike wanted more. He slid his hands down to the hem of Graham's shirt, but before he could make a move to remove it, a sound from the other room distracted him.

He pulled away from Graham for a moment to listen better. A few seconds later and he was sure. He kissed Graham once more, hard, and then sat up. "Xander's awake."


~*~*~*~*~


"Mrrrf." Xander rubbed his cheek against the pillow and reluctantly opened his eyes. He looked around the bedroom and found it empty. He sighed. No Spike, no Graham. It must have been a dream when he thought he'd seen them here. Disappointed, he closed his eyes again. He could just go back to sleep, then, and try to get back into that dream.

Wait. He'd done this before. His eyes snapped back open. He'd woken up before and Spike and Graham had been here. He rolled over and sat up, wincing as he did so. He felt battered inside and out. His head hurt, but he thought the throbbing was due to the Cynon's tampering than whatever had knocked him out. Rubbing wearily at his temple, he swung his legs over the side of his bed. Dream or not, Graham and Spike weren't with him now and he had to get up and moving. If he wasn't dead, then he had to get back to the business of living.

First thing on the list: downing a bottle of aspirin.

He shoved himself to his feet, hissing a little as the aches and pains caught up with him. Even worse was the way the feeling of rejection and loneliness that pressed down on him, making his heart and his limbs feel heavy. He was so focused on the way he felt that the voice that came from the doorway startled him completely.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Spike glared at him. "Get back in bed."

Xander was surprised enough that he overbalanced and sat down heavily on the bed. He could see Graham standing just behind Spike. It was really no dream, then. He was confused; he still wasn't quite sure why both men were there. They should have had enough time to get over their fear from his near-death and come to their senses and left. That in mind, he glared mutinously at both of them. "I don't want to sleep anymore. I'm awake and I'm thirsty and I'm going to get up." He realized that he was wearing nothing more than boxer shorts and his T-shirt. "I need to get dressed."

Spike looked ready to stand in the door all day, but Graham grasped his shoulder and pulled him away, then reached out to close the door, leaving Xander alone in his room.

Xander blinked. He hadn't expected Spike to give in without a fight. He hurried and pulled on a pair of sweat pants, then took a moment to steady himself. He was feeling an urge to crawl back into bed and hide until the two men went away, but he couldn't do that. He had to go out there and find out why they were so damn determined to stay in a place where they couldn't really want to be.

He opened up the door and walked into the living room. Graham was sitting on the couch and Spike was leaning against a wall, obviously waiting for him to come out. Xander braced himself for another argument about why they should be gone. He never got the chance to start in on his reasons why they should leave, though.

Spike was instantly at his side, cool fingers brushing lightly over Xander's forehead. "How's the head, luv? Does it hurt much?"

"Yeah." Xander realized he might have given them reason to stay, so he added a quick amendment, "Not too much, though."

"Right." Spike's direct glare told him that the vampire didn't believe him for a moment. "Sit down and I'll get you something to take care of the pain." He led Xander over to the couch and had him sit down beside Graham.

"I can take care of myself. I'm fine. You two can go."

"Not a chance," Graham said quietly, a warm presence by Xander's side. "I told you that I'm not going anywhere, Xander. I don't want to lose you. I'm not making the same mistake again." When Xander tried to object again, Graham shook his head and hesitantly laid his hand over Xander's. "I don't expect you to trust me right away. I know that I have to earn that right back. I will do it. There's nothing I want more."

Xander searched Graham's blue eyes carefully, but all he saw was sincerity and hope and love. There was no deception, no lingering resentment, just truth. He felt the couch dip slightly on his other side and found Spike looking at him with the same expression. All his resolve to force them to leave began to waver. When Spike took his other hand and raised it to his lips at the same time Graham kissed the back of his neck, Xander gave in. He was probably going to regret this in the future. This was crazy and foolish and they were all going to end up hurt in the end...but for right now, he couldn't care. Graham and Spike were both here and they loved him and for the moment that was enough. It was all he needed or wanted and he was going to accept it for as long as it lasted. He relaxed back against Graham, boneless and trusting in his arms. At the same time, he turned his hand in Spike's grasp to cup the vampire's cheek. "You win," he said quietly. "You both win."

"No, luv," Spike said gently. "We all win."

"All of us," Graham agreed, kissing the side of Xander's neck.

Xander winced a little as his head reminded him just how badly it ached. He was willing to ignore it, though. He was being held by the two people he cared about most in the world; what was a headache compared to that?

Spike apparently disagreed. He caught sight of the wince and his hands were instantly cradling Xander's head in a gentle grip. "Head still hurting, luv?"

Xander shrugged. "More from the Cynon than anything else, I think. I've been hit in the head a few times before and this feels different."

"Let me take care of that for you." Spike pulled a knife out of his boot, flourishing the blade to catch the light from the lamp in flashing glints. He put the point against the delicate skin of his wrist. "Ready?"

Xander froze. How was Graham going to react to this? Letting Spike drink his blood was one thing; drinking vampire blood was something altogether different. Spike and Graham had come to some sort of understanding and this could ruin it all.

Warm lips brushed his ear. "Go ahead. I don't want you to be hurting. It's all right." Graham tightened his arms around Xander's middle.

Xander relaxed and nodded, holding Spike's gaze. "Please," he said simply. He watched as Spike sliced deeply into his own flesh, dark blood quickly welling up out of the gash. He lifted Spike's wrist to his lips and fastened his mouth over the cut, drinking deeply as blood rushed to the surface. Again, he was surprised by how easy it was to swallow. There was the metallic taste he knew from tasting his own blood from a hundred different skirmishes at Buffy's side, but there was so much more. Power and seduction in a heavy liquid that slid smoothly down his throat...and then Spike was tugging his wrist away. With a final reluctant lick, Xander released the vampire's arm.

Blue eyes dark, Spike ran his tongue over the gash. "Give it just a few minutes and then you'll be much better." He leaned forward and kissed Xander deeply.

Feeling slightly dazed, Xander responded eagerly, wanting to taste more of Spike however he could. He protested when Spike pulled away, but Graham was there immediately to take the vampire's place and his protests died away under the assault of warm lips and a tentative curious tongue. When he finally drew away from Graham, Xander's headache was rapidly disappearing.

Still leaning back against Graham, Xander watched with wide eyes as Spike once again drew near to him. This time, the vampire didn't even attempt to kiss him. Instead, Spike passed him by completely in favor of kissing Graham. Breath coming faster, Xander watched as Spike pushed Graham further back against the couch, watched as Graham countered with a hand sliding up under the hem of Spike's black shirt. It was strange to see them together. Strange and arousing as hell. He watched with growing appreciation and lust as they moved against each other, bumping against him in the process. Finally, the kiss came to an end and Graham and Spike broke apart to look over at him. "Wow," he said. "Um, when did this happen?"

Graham's expression was a little shy. "Just a little while ago, actually. We both admitted to a few facts we'd been denying."

"Like wanting to shag each other," Spike added.

"Yeah," Graham agreed.

"You're sure?" Xander asked. This was amazing. He hadn't imagined...all right, maybe in a few fantasies he wouldn't have admitted to previously he had imagined, but he'd never really believed that Spike and Graham could ever do anything except quietly loathe each other.

Spike leered at Graham. "Oh, I'm very sure."

Xander kissed Spike hard, then did the same to Graham. Spike sat back up, giving Graham and Xander both a little more room. Xander settled more fully against Graham's chest. "So what happens now?"

Graham sighed and wrapped his arms around Xander once more. "I'm going to quit the Initiative, for starters."

"What?" Xander tried to turn around, but Graham held him fast.

"It's time. I was only staying in because I had nowhere better to be and I was good at my job. I've found someplace that I'd rather be." He nuzzled at Xander's ear. "It's not a hard choice to make. You're here. Spike's here. This is where I'm going to be. Besides, I want to stay and help make sure that Sunnydale doesn't go up in flames. I want to stay here and discover everything about both of you and what we can have together."

Xander pinched his own arm. "Ow!"

"Why the hell would you do that?" Spike asked, catching Xander's hands and holding them between his own.

"Just checking. I had to make sure that I wasn't dreaming."

"Does this feel like a dream?" Graham asked, slipping his hands under Xander's shirt and smoothing them up over his stomach.

Xander shivered deliciously. "I'm not sure..." He let his voice trail off plaintively.

Spike didn't disappoint him. The blond man moved in on Xander with a look of animal pleasure and anticipation. He knelt up on the couch to loom over Xander. "Does this feel like a dream?" he asked, then leaned down and claimed Xander's lips.

Xander arched up into the caress, writhing against Graham as warm hands slowly wandered up his chest. Xander reached out to pull Spike down to rest against him, craving more contact. He grasped the hem of Spike's shirt and pulled upwards, impatient to see and feel more skin. Spike cooperated and allowed him to tear the shirt away. Graham took that as encouragement and worked Xander's shirt off as well. Thoroughly pleased by this, Xander dropped his hands to the fastening of Spike's jeans. He'd dreamed of Spike and Graham, fantasized about being free to touch and explore and love them for so long that he was impatient to finally begin. Nothing was enough: not Spike's lips at his throat, not Graham's tongue in his ear. He had to have more.

When Spike's hands interfered with his purpose, Xander growled impatiently. Spike wasn't fazed by it; he just held Xander's hands tighter. "Xan, wait, luv."

"I can wait later," Xander said. "Right now there are things I'd really rather be doing."

"Xander, slow down."

Xander froze. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Graham said reassuringly.

"Good." Now that was settled, Xander returned to important matters, like getting Spike out of his jeans. Then he could move on to the equally important task of getting Graham out of his clothes, too.

"Xander!" Spike grabbed his hands once more.

"What?"

Spike laughed. "You're making it very difficult to take this slow."

"Who the hell wants to take things slow?" Xander was beginning to get confused.

Graham shifted behind him. "Xander, I...we don't want to push you into anything. I mean, being with a guy, much less two guys, is different than being with a woman. I understand that you might need some time to get used to things, and we'll give you as much time as you need. You don't have to prove anything to us." Spike nodded throughout the speech, throwing his support in with Graham.

Xander blinked. It took a few seconds for the reason behind their hesitation to sink in. When he finally realized what they thought, he began to laugh. He pushed himself up and off of Graham, forcing Spike to move over. He slid off the couch, turning as he did, so that he was kneeling on the floor, facing the two men on the couch. He managed to get his laughter under control as he stared up at their obvious confusion. "Guys, I'm touched that you'd worry about me like that, but you don't have to. I'm not a blushing virgin here."

"Anyone who was ever anywhere near Anya knows that, Xan," Spike said. "But-"

"Not inexperienced with women," Xander agreed patiently. "And not with men, either." He watched the surprise bloom on their faces, feeling fairly satisfied. He'd never told anyone about the man he'd met while working in Oxnard. The green-eyed man had been watching Xander shake his little tush on the catwalk of the Fabulous Ladies' Nightclub. He'd caught Xander's eye and they'd spoken on one of his breaks. He'd been calling himself Alex, and he was pretty sure 'Alan's' name wasn't his usual either. That hadn't detracted at all from the charm of Alan's sense of humor or Irish accent. They'd been friends, nothing more, but that meant their explorations in bed had been filled with laughter and gentleness and fun. Xander had learned a lot and enjoyed every moment of it. He had left Oxnard after he had enough money to fix his car, and Alan had to return to Los Angeles - something about working for the power company, or something. Xander hadn't seen him again, but he still thought of him fondly and hoped he was well.

The brown-eyed man shook himself loose from his memories and focused back on the two men on the couch. He frowned. They both looked confused, and Spike was beginning to look pissed. "What?"

"Who was it?" Spike demanded.

Xander got ready to make a joke about Spike's possessiveness, but then he watched as Graham's lip curled up in a snarl. "Guys? What is this?"

"None of your friends ever mentioned you being with a guy before," Spike said, ignoring the question.

"Because I never told them." He hadn't wanted to share that with the rest of the Scoobies. He'd kept the truth about his job at the club and Alan to himself. It wasn't something he was ready to share. He'd wanted to protect it by keeping it private.

"So who was it?" Graham was definitely snarling.

Xander decided that he was going to keep Alan's name to himself. He had no idea how to find the Irishman, but he wasn't going to give either Spike or Graham the chance to go looking for him. "No one you know. I haven't seen him in over a year, and I don't think I ever will again." He held up a hand to stop the questions he could read in both pairs of blue eyes. "He was a friend. We had a lot of fun and I learned a lot and it's over now." The fire didn't go out of either man's eyes and Xander decided that he was never going to mention Alan again. He licked his lips, trying to think of a way to distract them.

Spike growled and hauled Xander up onto the couch, roughly teasing Xander's lips apart with his own in a bruising kiss. Just as Xander was getting dizzy from lack of oxygen, Spike pushed him away - straight into Graham's waiting arms. Xander gasped a bit and then wrapped his arms around Graham's neck, sinking his hands into the other man's hair as he kissed him. He felt Spike's hands tugging at his sweats and wriggled happily.

At first the sound he was hearing didn't make any sense to him. It took him a few moments to figure out that the high-pitched tone was his doorbell. He wrenched his face to the side, breaking the kiss with Graham. "Shit."

"Maybe if we ignore them they'll go away," Graham suggested.

"Xander? Are you in there?" Willow's voice was muffled as she called through the door.

"Shit," Spike said. "Maybe we can stay quiet enough to make her think we're not here?"

"No good," Xander groaned, pushing himself up and off of Graham. "She's got a key." He grabbed his shirt from the floor and pulled it back on, then tried to smooth his hair back down. "Get yourselves together," he said, heading for the door, even as he heard Willow's key slide home in the lock.


~*~*~*~*~


Graham hurriedly raked his hands through his hair, trying to make sure he looked just plain rumpled, as opposed to debauched. He watched Xander frantically straighten his clothes, and even Spike was making an effort to put himself back together, grabbing his shirt and pulling it back on. Graham got up and moved over to the chair, leaving Spike on the couch alone.

There was a nervous fluttering in his stomach, which was absolutely ridiculous. He'd faced down demons in the middle of darkest jungle nights. This was Willow; she was just a college student. Riley's voice floated through his mind, telling him about a threat involving a shovel, but he did his best to ignore it. She was Xander's friend and she had no idea what was going on.

Xander opened the door even as Willow began to push it open, so the redhead nearly fell into the room. "Xander!"

"Hey, Willow." Xander helped her to steady herself, then stood aside so she could enter. "What are you doing here?"

"I hadn't heard from you in a few days and I was beginning to worry." Tara entered the apartment right behind Willow. "Tara baked cookies."

Tara ducked her head and held up the covered plate in her hands. "Chocolate chip."

Xander grinned delightedly and took the plate. "Watch it, Wills. I think I may try to steal her away from you."

Willow looked around the apartment and spotted Graham and Spike immediately. She waved a little at Spike, but her brow creased as she looked at Graham, clearly trying to place him. He decided to save her the trouble. "Graham Miller," he said. "I'm a friend of Riley's."

"I thought the Initiative pulled out of Sunnydale." Willow and Tara moved closer together, nearly blocking his view of Xander in the kitchen. He saw Xander hurriedly put the plate down on the counter then return to the living room.

"They have," Xander said. "Mostly."

"What do you mean mostly? And do Buffy and Giles know about this?" She glared suspiciously at Graham. "What do you want with Xander?"

Graham struggled to find an answer that wouldn't violate national security. He was saved by the doorbell chime. "Door," he said helpfully.

Xander shot him a warning look and opened the door. "Riley?"

"Hey, Xander. So you're up and around now? You must be feeling better." Riley looked the dark-haired man over carefully as he walked into the apartment.

Graham smothered a groan. He knew Riley; not only did he want to check on Xander and be sure that he was all right, but he was also undoubtedly here to make sure that Spike didn't do anything to hurt Xander or Graham. Overprotective Riley to the rescue, only this time he was going to make things worse. Graham heard a muffled snort and he turned to glare at Spike, who stared back unrepentantly even as he tried to stifle his laughter. How could Spike laugh at a time like this? Meeting Willow was like...the only thing he could come up with was meeting the in-laws. This was probably more important than that, and Riley had just blundered right into the middle of it.

"Riley?" Willow's expression was dangerous.

After making a sound suspiciously like 'eep', Riley raised one hand in a half-hearted wave. "Hi, Willow."

"What are you doing back here?" she demanded.

Riley took a step back. "Give me a chance to explain." Wow. Riley actually seemed afraid of Willow. Maybe he should have paid more attention when Riley was talking about her.

Xander jumped in to the conversation before Riley had a chance to even start. "They're not here as a part of the Initiative, Wills. They just got into town. Spike and I ran into them and they've been helping us out on patrols the past few nights. They're here to help." Riley nodded enthusiastically.

Willow didn't relent. "Have you seen Buffy yet?"

Riley shook his head. "I've been working myself up to it. I'm headed over there next." He met Willow's gaze firmly. "I needed some time and some help to get my priorities straight. I know what's important now."

Graham was happy that Riley had finally come to a decision, and he thought it was the right one. Riley wasn't happy apart from Buffy. He didn't know if they could be happy together after what happened between them, but they both deserved the chance to find out.

Willow stared at Riley, then nodded. "I don't usually let people have second chances. You won't get another."

"I understand," Riley said.

Willow watched him for a moment and then her stern expression softened. "Go see her soon."

"I'm on my way. I just wanted to stop in to check in on Xander." He looked over at Xander. "You look better. How are you feeling?"

Willow turned her gaze to Xander. "Xander? Are you all right?"

"Just tired," he said quickly. "It was a late night last night and I got knocked around a little. You know - the usual. Don't worry about me. Speaking of being tired, how are you two ladies doing? I didn't expect to see you up and around so soon."

Tara yawned hugely, then flushed. "We're still feeling the effects of the spell," she admitted. "But it's getting better. We're staying awake through classes now."

"Speaking of," Willow looked down at her watch. "We're going to be late to our science class. Xander, do you want us to stay?"

"No, you get to class. I'll be fine." Xander grinned at her. "Go on. You need to get to class and I've got more babysitters here than I can handle." His smile slipped a little as he said the last part. He hugged Willow, then made a big show of hugging Tara, before closing the door behind them as they left.

Riley watched Xander. "Are you sure you're all right?"

Hearing Riley ask about Xander again made Graham take a closer look at the dark-haired man. Xander still had shadows underneath his eyes, but he looked far better than the first time he had awoken. There was an unhappy twist to his mouth now, though, that hadn't been there before. Graham straightened up on the couch. What was this?

Xander shrugged off Riley's concern. "I'm fine."

"Huh. So what's going on?"

"Ask Graham or Spike. I don't have any idea." Xander leaned back against the wall and refused to look over at the men in the living room.

Graham looked over at Spike, but the vampire looked as bewildered as he felt. What the hell was going on? What had happened to the good mood and laughter they'd just shared? He wanted to find out, but he didn't want to get into it in front of Riley. He caught his friend's worried glance. "Everything's fine, Ri," he said reassuringly. "When are you going to go see Buffy?"

"Today. Now. As soon as I leave." Riley wasn't exactly jittery, but he wasn't far from it.

"Ri, it's going to be fine. You have to find out, right?" After Riley nodded, Graham smiled. "You can do this. You know how to reach me if you need me."

"All right. I'll catch up with you later." Riley nodded toward Spike and Xander, then headed out the door.

Graham hoped everything turned out all right for Riley, but right now he was more concerned with finding out what had happened to Xander. He licked his lips in preparation for asking, but he never got the chance.

Xander pushed away from the wall. "I'm tired again," he said quietly, refusing to look away from his feet. "I'm going back to bed. Lock up when you leave." He walked into the bedroom and shut the door firmly.

Graham stared over at Spike. "What the hell just happened?"


~*~*~*~*~


Spike sighed and shoved himself to his feet. Bloody humans. They couldn't ever make anything easy, could they? He headed for the kitchen. He needed a drink and he needed to eat if he was going to have to put up with this.

"Spike? What the hell is going on?" Graham followed him into the kitchen. The soldier sounded utterly bewildered.

Pouring the contents of a blood packet into a mug, Spike turned to face the other man. "Think about it. What did the Cynon tell us about Xander's state of mind?"

Graham's expression grew solemn. "It said that he was upset. Suicidal. But he was so happy, just a little while ago."

"Going to the Cynon screws with Xander's emotions," Spike said quietly, warming his blood in the microwave. "He doesn't like to let it show but if you pay attention you can see it. It's been getting harder and harder for him to push away what the demon makes him feel. Yesterday he was depressed enough to try to get himself killed. He's not just going to snap out of that."

Graham's attention immediately shifted to the bedroom door. "You don't think he's..."

"No! No. I don't think he's going to get that low again. But he's not going to just shrug it off, either. He's been hurt, he's still hurting and it's going to take time to heal." Seeing the worry in Graham's eyes, Spike reached out and touched his cheek. "What's the saying? Nothing that's worthwhile is ever easy." Xander was going to need them to be patient, would need them to be willing to wait and be there for him as long as it took for him to regain his equilibrium. Spike knew he could do it. It was an unexpected gift from his Dark Princess: he'd learned patience from her. Not that Xander was anything like Dru. He wasn't crazy; he was just overwhelmed and in need of care.

Spike stepped close to Graham and pressed a gentle kiss to the other man's lips. "We're going to be here for him," he said quietly.

"And for each other," Graham added, before leaning down to return the kiss.

Pleased, Spike drew out the kiss for several moments before stepping away. He quickly drank down the heated blood. A chaser from his flask and he was ready to go talk to Xander. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a can of Coke. He gestured toward the cupboard. "Pull out one of those plastic wrapped cakes for me, would you, pet?"

Graham rooted through the cabinet until he found the snackcakes. "You want dessert?"

"It's not for me," Spike said, irritated until he saw Graham's small smile. "Idiot," he said quietly, not meaning it. Graham's sense of humor was good; not only did Spike like it, but it would be good for Xander. Leading the way, he walked over to the bedroom door. He knocked, but he didn't wait for an answer. He knew he wasn't going to be given permission to come in, so what was the point?

Xander was in bed, covers wrapped tightly around himself and a pillow tucked over his head. A muffled voice emerged from beneath the bedding. "Wrong door. The front door is to the right of the kitchen."

"We weren't looking for the door out, Xander. We're not going anywhere." Graham's voice was gentle but determined.

A weary sigh, and then Xander was rolling over, shoving the pillow to the floor. "What do you want?" he asked. His eyes were infinitely tired, but there was confusion in them as well.

Spike knew that Xander didn't want them to leave; the Cynon's influence was clouding his perceptions. He walked over to the bed and held out the can of soda. "You need to get something more in your system, luv." Beside him, Graham held out the cake.

"I'm not hungry." Xander's tongue crept out and swept across his bottom lip.

"What a coincidence. I'm not going anywhere." Spike met Xander's glare steadily.

"Please," Graham added.

Xander sat up and held out his hand. "Fine." He took the soda and cake. His indifference was belied by the haste with which he tore away the plastic wrap and consumed the small dessert. It only took him a little less time to drain the soda. When both the treats were gone, he stared levelly at both men. "So what do you want?"

Graham reached out toward Xander but stopped just shy of touching him. "Xander, what's wrong? Please, please let us help."

"The only way you can help is by leaving." Xander shook his head. "I'm sorry. I don't know what I was thinking earlier. This is all happening too fast. It's insane. You have to know that this can't work." He held up his hand to stop Graham or Spike from saying anything. "This isn't real. It's a lovely dream and one that I wish could be real, but it isn't. This is going to go bad and fall apart," he swallowed hard, "and I don't know if I can handle that. I don't know if I can take losing everything. I want to believe, but I can't. I can't risk it."

Graham sat down on the edge of the bed. "Xander, I want you to think about something for me. Could you do that?"

Xander sighed but nodded. "Will you leave, after?" The weariness in his voice made Spike want to hunt the Cynon down and carry out all the threats he'd made against it.

"We'll talk about it again after we're done," Graham promised. "Do you remember how you felt the first time you talked to the blue demon? The Cynon?"

"Tired," Xander admitted. "And my head hurt a little."

"What about the second time you went?"

"I was tired again, and my head hurt worse."

"So every time you went to go see it, you'd get more exhausted and the headaches would get worse. How about the way you felt?"

Spike began to see where Graham was going with his questions and he approved. It was a better way of getting Xander to see reason than tying him to the bed and refusing to let him up until he started to believe them.

He was still holding that plan in reserve, though. Just in case.

Xander frowned a little. "I already told you how I felt. My head hurt and I was tired."

"No, beyond that. I meant your emotions. How were those after you'd gone to the Cynon?" Graham moved a little closer to Xander.

The brown-eyed man squinted suspiciously at him. "They began to get a little strange," he admitted. "It was like they started to linger after it dredged them up, or something. Some times it would take me a few days to shake them off, but I always got back to normal. It wasn't anything that I can't handle."

"What was the last emotion that the Cynon wanted from you?"

"Rejection. It was pretty bad," Xander admitted.

"And you only went to the demon yesterday."

"Yesterday...god, it seems like longer. Yeah." Xander blinked. "Wait. You think that it's the Cynon that's making me tell you to go?"

"Kinda, yeah. I think that the emotions the Cynon made you feel are effecting how you're thinking. I think that the rejection you remember is making you doubt everything you're feeling now." Graham traced the back of his hand over Xander's cheek. "I love you, Xan. I know that, and I don't want to lose you to a demon's manipulations."

Xander's gaze flicked over to Spike. The vampire was ready for that. "Me, too, luv. I'm not letting that blue bastard ruin this." He leaned down and carefully kissed Xander, not wanting to push too hard. When he felt Xander respond, he finally began to relax. He stood back up and waited for Xander's decision.

Fingertips brushing over his lips, Xander glanced back and forth between Graham and Spike. "Um, maybe I should give the decision a few days, then? Just in case it is the Cynon giving me the wiggins."

Spike barely restrained a whoop of triumph. They had him. They were going to be able to convince him to stay with them. "So we can stay, then?" he asked, once he got himself under control.

"You can stay." Xander hesitated, then added, "Please stay."

Graham leaned forward and kissed him. "Of course we will. Now, were you really tired, or was that a ploy to get us to leave?"

"It stared out as a ploy, but now I'm actually sleepy. The Coke isn't even enough to perk me back up." Xander mangled his last few words with a yawn.

Spike stripped off his jeans even as Graham stood up and worked at the fastenings of his own. Spike moved over to the other side of the bed and got in as Graham persuaded Xander to scoot over toward the middle of the bed. Spike spared a grateful thought for Anya's demands that Xander get a large bed for them to play in. He watched as Xander got settled on the bed, and then nodded approvingly as Graham spooned up behind him. Spike then moved to wrap his arm over Xander's waist and link his fingers with Graham at the small of Xander's back.

Maybe there was hope for them yet.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander came awake slowly, his first thought relief that he was finally waking up without pain. If that was getting to be a highlight for him, he really had to look into changing his lifestyle. As awareness returned to him fully, he realized that he wasn't alone in bed. He opened his eyes but otherwise remained motionless. He smiled as he took in the sight of Graham lying sprawled over his chest. The soldier was still sleep, his face nestled on Xander's shoulder and his arms wrapped loosely around him. Xander moved his shoulder a little. It felt damp. With a grin, he realized that Graham had drooled on him.

The grin faded as he had more time to think. Graham was in bed with him. He could remember agreeing to let Spike and Graham stay. He remembered Graham's idea about the Cynon being responsible for his fear of a relationship them. He wanted to believe that: it would be nice if the fear that filled him would just disappear. He could still feel the terror of rejection running through him. He wanted to think that it was weaker than it had been yesterday, but that could just be his own hopes influencing his perception.

Graham nuzzled his shoulder and tightened his embrace, protective and wanting, even in sleep. Xander concentrated on the heat and weight of the other man for a moment, taking comfort in the sensation of being held. Maybe if he couldn't trust himself, he could trust Graham and Spike. Speaking of Spike...Xander craned his neck one way and then another, looking for the vampire. When he looked over to the left, he found him. "Spike?" he whispered, confused. Spike was sitting on the floor, staring at him and Graham.

"What am I getting myself into?" Spike asked quietly. "You and Graham. Human. Limited." He was holding himself very still and his gaze was somber.

"What?" Xander tried to turn so he could better see Spike.

"You humans think too much and half the time you're thinking wrong. You can't make rules for love. Love can't be wrong or right. It just is. There aren't limits on love: not on who you love, not on how many you love. Love is love and you take all you can for as long as it lasts." Spike glanced at Graham's face and when he met Xander's gaze again the seriousness had faded in his eyes, replaced by more familiar wicked amusement. "And of course there's the shagging. You do that as often as you can, too."

Xander smiled at Spike, feeling some of the negativity inside of him ebb away. How typical was this for his life: a soulless vampire understood love better than he did. If he was going to trust Graham where the cause for his emotions was concerned, he could trust Spike about what love could and couldn't be. He looked down at Graham, tentatively stroking his hand over his back. "What about Graham?"

"I do fancy him," Spike admitted. "Always thought he was good looking." He knelt up beside the bed, putting his hand over Xander's. "I like him, luv. There's a potential for more. Both of us want to make a go of it; we'll see what happens."

"You've got good taste," Xander said. A devilish impulse made him say, "Of course, you've always liked the tall, commanding type." He snuck a peek at Spike.

The vampire stared at him for a second, and then he was smiling in sardonic acknowledgement. "He's better looking than Angelus." The smile slid off his face. "Xan, I love you. Believe that. I love you and so does Graham and I want you to give us a chance to show you how good it can be. I swear to you that you won't get hurt. If it means my unlife, I won't let you be hurt."

As Spike finished speaking, Graham's arms tightened around Xander and the soldier turned his head to look up at him. He didn't say how long he'd been awake. He just held Xander's gaze and kissed him gently, then said, "Spike said it all. I want a chance from you. Please, Xander. I'll make sure you never regret it for even a moment."

Xander stared at Graham and then Spike and then back to Graham again. He didn't know what the future was going to bring for them. There was no way he could know. The best thing he could do was just live and love and hope for the best. If Spike and Graham both wanted to live and love with him, then why should he do it alone? Especially when he loved them both so much?

"Yes," he said simply.

"Yes?" Graham said, hope flaring in his eyes.

"Yes," he repeated. "Besides, I'm never really going to get rid of you two, am I?"

"Never," Graham vowed, before claiming Xander's lips in another kiss. It was enthusiastic and rough and the only that made the ending of it bearable was that Spike was there, mouth voracious and consuming.

This couldn't be wrong. Not when every stroke of Graham's hands, every brush of Spike's lips made him feel complete. Made him feel like he'd finally found home. He smiled as Spike leaned back, arching up a little to fully appreciate Graham's weight against him. His eyes widened as Graham angled his head to take Spike's mouth in a searing kiss. He shifted as he grew hard, thrusting up against Graham lightly in a search for friction.

Graham broke away from the kiss with Spike to stare down at him. "See something you like?" he asked, grinning as he thrust back.

Xander nodded. "You two together..." he let his voice trail away and settled for thrusting up against Graham again. "Do it again?" he asked.

"I don't know if I want to," Spike said petulantly.

Graham just laughed at him and grabbed a fistful of the vampire's shirt, hauling him forward for another kiss. Xander watched as they battled for control, eyes closed in pure animal pleasure as they moved against each other. Graham continued to thrust against Xander, his rhythm gone and his movements erratic. That was fine; Xander could do the work himself, so long as he got to watch.

Graham turned his head to the side and panted for breath. He raised an eyebrow as he met Xander's gaze. "You're quite the voyeur, aren't you?"

Xander didn't bother to answer; he just thrust with increased urgency.

"Like to watch then, do you?" Spike asked with interest.

"Watching is good," Xander agreed. He reached out and cupped his hand around the back of Spike's neck and jerking him into a bruising kiss. Graham's hands and Spike's tongue and finally having made the decision to trust in their love all combined, creating in Xander a sensation of fulfillment that he'd never known before. This was right; this was where he wanted to be, where he needed to be.

The doorbell chimed.

Spike looked up disbelievingly. "She already checked on you once!" he protested.

They all froze and listened intently. If it was Willow again, Xander was going to have to kill her. He loved her, but interrupting twice in one day was going too far. He didn't go over to the dorm and stop her and Tara from...making spells, did he?

Muffled but clearly excited, Riley's voice came through the door. "Graham? Guys, are you in there?"

Graham groaned and banged his forehead lightly against Xander's chest. "I'm going to kill him."

"Right after you open the door and find out what happened, right?" Xander asked. He smiled at Graham's surprise. "Hey, I've got a best friend with a rotten sense of timing, remember?"

"I have to talk to him," Graham said. "He was going to see Buffy."

Spike swore under his breath, but he shoved himself to his feet. "After he's gone, I'm going to rip that fucking chime out of the wall." He pulled on his jeans, muttering to himself the whole time.

Graham got to his feet as well, searching for his pants. After he pulled them on, he deliberately stepped in front of Spike. "Hey," he said. "I'll make it up to you."

Spike kissed him savagely. "You bet your ass."

Xander sulked as he sat up. "You're not going to make it up to me?" He was pulled to his feet with dizzying speed and Graham kissed him breathless.

"It goes without saying," Graham said seriously. "I've got a lot to make up to you." He licked delicately at Xander's lower lip, then pushed him gently toward Spike. "Get dressed."

Xander flipped him off, but he pulled on a pair of sweat pants. He followed Graham out of the bedroom, then Spike took his arm and dragged him into the living room. The vampire sat down on the couch and pulled Xander down to sit beside him. Xander flopped down, making sure he landed mostly on Spike. It didn't seem to discourage him at all; Spike just pulled him closer.

"What are you doing?" Xander asked, watching Graham unlock the door.

"I'm getting all the foreplay out of the way. Once Riley goes on his merry way, I'm going to have mine." Spike slid his hands under Xander's shirt and stroked his stomach.

Xander considered protesting, but Spike did have a good point. In light of all the interruptions, they really shouldn't waste any time.

Riley entered the apartment with a grin on his face. "She talked to me!"

Graham shut the door behind him. "Without kicking your ass?"

"No violence." Riley slowed down as he caught sight of Xander and Spike. "Hi."

"So what happened?" Xander asked. He smiled as Graham walked over and joined them on the couch, leaning back heavily against him. He accepted Graham's weight and gleefully hoped that Spike got a little squished. Just because.

Riley stared at them, but continued with his story. "She was surprised and she wasn't happy to see me, but she was willing to talk to me." He paced around the room as he spoke, punching his fist into his open palm. "It was weird talking to her after so long. Weird, but good. It was so good to see her again. She looks tired, but she still talked to me and she wants to see me again." He stopped in and drew in a deep breath. "She wants to see me again."

"Ri, that's great," Graham said.

Xander nodded. "It is. I'm happy for you. I'm happy for her, too. I think you two can make this work."

Riley waved a finger in their direction. "And, uh, how about you?" He stared at the way all of them were sitting on the couch.

Graham smiled. "We're thinking that this is going to work out, too."

"And what is this? If I can ask."

"This is me and Xander...and me and Spike." Graham held up his hand to stop Riley from speaking. "I know, all right? It's not something that I ever imagined but it's making me happy."

"Graham, are they making you accept this? Some sort of condition of being with Xander?"

Xander started to sit up. "I wouldn't do that!" he objected.

Graham soothed him with a caressing hand on his cheek, then turned back to Riley. "I wouldn't let that happen. This is what I want. Some of it's just what I didn't want to admit to myself."

Riley stared hard at his friend. "You're sure?"

"As I've ever been of anything."

Xander wrapped his arms around Graham's waist and nuzzled at the crook of his heck and shoulder. "Thank you," he murmured, feeling honored that Graham was willing to stand up for them.

Riley nodded slowly. "If you're sure and this will make you happy, then I'm behind you. Anything you need, right?"

"Same here, man." Graham stared at him. "You know that."

Riley smiled a little. "So I guess I'll be heading home alone tonight, then?"

Graham nodded. "Yeah. I'll catch up with you tomorrow."

Xander wriggled out from between Graham and Spike and followed Riley to the door. He met the blond man's gaze squarely. "I won't hurt him," he said quietly.

Riley flashed a crooked half-smile at him. "I won't let you," he said just as quietly.

Xander nodded his understanding and closed the door behind Riley. He turned around and found two avid blue gazes raking over him. He leaned back against the door, weakened by the emotions that swept through him.

Terror and hopelessness. He couldn't do this. What was he thinking? This was insane. He was just going to end up hurting them and getting his own heart torn out in the process. He had to stop this, end it before it turned bad.

"Luv?" Spike stood up slowly. "You're heart's going a mile a minute."

"Nothing," Xander said. "Nothing. I'm just tired all over again. I'm going to go back to bed and see you tomorrow, OK?" He bolted for the bedroom but he wasn't faster than Spike.

The vampire blocked the doorway and grabbed him by his upper arms. "What happened?"

"Nothing," Xander said, unable to meet his penetrating gaze.

Warm hands on his back startled him. "It's not real, Xander." Graham's voice was soft in his ear. "It's the Cynon, remember?"

"It feels real," Xander said uncertainly. It was so strong. Could it really not be real?

Spike cradled his face in his hands. "Xan, you need to calm down. You can't go back to bed. You need to eat something first."

Graham's hands stroked up and down his arms. "Sit back down on the couch. Eat. Then go back to bed. Give the fear some time to pass. Give yourself time to get control."

Xander closed his eyes. He could remember deciding to trust them, could remember how right that felt and wished that he could feel it again. It seemed very far away just then. He nodded shakily. "All right." He allowed himself to be led back over the couch.

"We'll get you past this," Spike promised, sitting close to him while Graham headed for the kitchen. "It's going to get easier. It's going to get better." He reached out and took Xander's hand, petting it.

Xander tried to focus on the sensation of Spike's gentle touch as a way to keep the fear at bay and it worked. He managed to stay on the couch long enough for Graham to finish making sandwiches, managed to stay long enough to eat. After he was done the fear remained, but it was manageable. Barely. He put his plate of the coffee table. "Now what?"

"Now you go take shower," Graham said.

"And when you're done, you'll go back to bed with us holding you for the rest of the night." Spike stared at him seriously. "I'm not going anywhere, luv."

"Never leaving again," Graham added.

Xander summoned up a smile. He still felt freaked out and half ready to run, but he knew he didn't have to. They had to love him if they were putting up with him.

They had to love him if they were getting even more protective than Willow. "Sounds like a plan," he said. He got up and walked into the bathroom. A shower actually sounded very tempting and he was soon under the hot spray, finally feeling clean for the first time in a long time. When he got out, Graham and Spike were waiting for him in the bedroom, stripped down for sleeping.

"Sleep now?" he asked. He laughed nervously. "I guess I'm Cave Xander tonight."

"So long as you're here," Graham said.

"This goes at the pace we all need," Spike added. "Even if it is a bleeding crawl."

"I can handle crawling," Graham agreed.

"Maybe I'll be up to walking tomorrow," Xander suggested. He climbed into bed, feeling incredibly awkward. There was too much attention focused on him. It made him feel jumpy. Of course if he jumped, the two men would just jump with him and that would maybe wake up the neighbors and he really was tired again and not ready for a fight.

And he was babbling in his head. "I have to go to sleep now."

Spike spooned up close behind him, while Graham wormed his way half-under him. Gentle kisses pressed his eyes closed as careful hands soothed away the lingering tension in his frame. He felt too wound up to really sleep, feared that he would just lay there all night, wound up tight. The kisses and the hands slowly worked an elemental magic on him, lulling away the fear and worry. Surrounded by comfort and love, he fell asleep.


~*~*~*~*~


Graham leaned back against a tall headstone, taking a break from the killing. Xander and Spike were doing just fine without him; the little gang of vampires they had come across had been quickly reduced to only two survivors. Xander was in the final process of maneuvering his opponent out of position so he could end the fight with his stake, while Spike was blatantly playing with the one he faced. Graham watched appreciatively as the two men fought, enjoying the sight of their bodies moving with deadly grace as they finished off their opponents.

Life was good and it was getting better. His request to be released from the Initiative been approved and he was now the proud owner of a generous post-service scholarship that he intended to use at the university next fall. Riley had left the service as well and from what he told Graham, he was slowly on his way to reconciling with Buffy. Graham was happy for his friend, but even better was what was happening between him, Xander, and Spike.

They were still moving at what felt like an excruciatingly slow pace, but it was necessary. Xander was still trying to shake off the Cynon's influence, and even a week after visiting the demon the effects still lingered. Graham was horrified by this; he hadn't understood what Xander was going through every time he went to make a deal with the demon. If the terror of rejection was lingering this long, how long had Xander struggled with feelings of depression or loneliness or loss each time the Cynon had demanded them? It was the realization of how shaken Xander was that made the waiting possible.

It was more than a little maddening. He loved Xander and wanted him fiercely. One moment, Xander would be laughing and kissing him, obviously as eager as Graham was to take things further. A few moments later, Xander would be withdrawn and quiet, certain that Spike and Graham were both about to walk out and leave him alone forever. The periods of depression were coming farther and farther apart now and they didn't last very long, but as long as they lingered the relationship was stalled in limbo. Graham was ready to finally make love to Xander and was sure Spike was as well, but the time wasn't right. Graham had talked to Riley about it, wanting the benefit of his friend's training in psychology. Everything Riley told him meshed perfectly with what Graham felt: so long as Xander was filled with doubt, they couldn't push anything. They had to wait for Xander's mind and heart to be free of the Cynon's influence, or else he'd never be able to trust the love that they shared.

The sight of Xander killing his opponent brought Graham back to the present. He grinned widely as Xander brushed dust off his sleeves. Xander grinned back at him and walked easily into his arms, claiming a kiss as he reward for killing the vampire. Graham was more than happy to reward him, pulling Xander close and using his height to his advantage in order to dominate the kiss, the taste of the dark-haired man something he could never take for granted.

"Hey!" Spike's objection caused them to end their kiss so they could look at him. "What about me?" the vampire asked. "I killed one, too."

Graham unwrapped one of his arms from around Xander and reached out to grab Spike and pull him in for a kiss. It wasn't like kissing Xander at all: Spike was cool and powerful and utterly confident. It wasn't better or worse; it was just different. He leaned away from Spike with a lingering smile. That was one benefit of all this waiting: he and Spike had moved beyond mutual lust. He wasn't sure it was love, yet, but it was getting closer and closer to it.

He rolled his eyes as Spike grabbed Xander and pinned him up against a tombstone. That was one thing that definitely hadn't changed: both of them were utterly in love with Xander. He watched for a few moments, then forcibly separated them. "We're in a cemetery," he said.

Spike looked utterly unrepentant, but Xander nodded. "Right. Ew." He reached out and slid a caressing hand over Graham's ass. "Just wait till I get you two home."

Graham shared a quick assessing glance with Spike. Xander had been complaining more and more about the slow pace they'd all agreed to follow. It had been nearly a full day since his last attack of terror over rejection. The Cynon's influence might actually be gone. Graham didn't want to get his hopes up over this if he was wrong, but Xander's complaints could be a sign that he was finally back to being in control of himself.

Graham was about to suggest that maybe they should head back to Xander' apartment and test the idea out when his cell rang. He answered quickly. "Yeah?"

"Nice way to answer the phone," Riley chided. "Wait, I wasn't interrupting anything, was I? Don't tell me if I was, just tell me you can't talk."

"Ri, shut up. What do you want?"

"Buffy just called me. She'd tried to get a hold of Xander earlier and wanted me to see if I could find him through you."

"Is something wrong?" Graham held the phone a little away from his ear so Spike and Xander, who had drawn near, could hear as well.

"I don't think so. She just said that she wants him to come to her house."

Xander grabbed the phone. "Riley, get off the line so I can call her."

Riley laughed. "She's right here."

There was a pause, then Buffy's voice came over the line. "Xander?"

"Buffy, what wrong?" There was concern bordering on panic in his voice. Graham took a step toward him, putting his hand on his shoulder in a gesture of comfort.

"Nothing. Nothing, I promise you. I want you to come to the house as soon as you can."

"I'm on my way now," Xander promised. "I'll see you in a few." He hung up the phone and handed it back to Graham. "We have to go."

Spike looked slightly mutinous, but he nodded. "Let's go, then."

Graham shook his head as he followed Xander. This could get ugly. Spike still didn't like Buffy all that much, although he seemed to be growing fonder of Willow as time passed. He just hoped Spike kept himself under control. If he instigated a confrontation with Buffy, Graham and Xander would be forced to interfere to make sure neither one of them were hurt.

An all out brawl was really going to be a mood-killer, and Graham had plans for the rest of the night.

They made it to the Summers house quickly and Xander ran up the steps and banged on the door. The door was opened by a man Graham had never met. He recognized him from briefings, though.

"Giles!" Xander said. "What's going on? Is everyone all right?" He looked closely at the other man. "Are you all right? You look awful."

Xander was right. Tactless, but right. Giles looked as though he hadn't slept for a week, the lines around his face deep, drawn. For all that, there was a clear light of triumph in his eyes and a sense of satisfaction intermixed with his weariness.

The older man smiled at Xander. "I'm fine," he said. "Nothing is wrong. In fact, we have some very good news for you." His brow furrowed. "Spike, what are you doing here? And this is?"

Xander placed one hand on Spike's shoulder and the other on Graham's arm. "Spike's here with me, Giles. And this is Graham. He's a friend. He's been helping us."

"Graham!" Riley's voice came from the living room. "Xander, Spike. Glad you could make it, finally. You're the last ones. Willow and Tara beat you, even."

Willow and Tara followed him out of the kitchen. Willow walked over and looked Xander over carefully, obviously checking up on him. "We only beat you by a few minutes," she assured them. "And maybe now that you're here, Giles will finally spill about what's going on."

"I'll tell," Buffy said, surprising them all as she came down the stairs. She looked even more tired than Giles, but she was smiling widely. "Dawn is healed. Giles figured it out. She's going to be all right."

Xander whooped even as Willow clapped and Riley ran up the stairs to embrace Buffy. Xander wrapped his arms around Spike in a fierce embrace, and Graham could see Spike's face. The vampire looked enormously relieved, reminding Graham of comments the dark-eyed man had made about Spike's friendship with Dawn. Then it was his turn for a hug as Xander released Spike and grabbed him. Graham could feel all the pent up fear leaving Xander in that embrace and realized how much worry for Dawn the other man had been hiding. This made him return the hug as tightly as he dared, glad that Xander and Spike could both stop worrying now.

Xander released him and grabbed Willow, laughing with her before stealing Buffy away from Riley so he could lift her off her feet. Everyone was celebrating, sharing hugs and joy and relief. Graham didn't know Dawn, but he could see how much she meant to everyone. Even Spike, who pretended indifference to everyone except him and Xander was looking damn near ecstatic. Graham knew no one else was going to hug the vampire, so he helped himself to an armful of Spike. He got a pinch to his ass for his trouble, but that came with a fully honest smile from Spike, so it was worth it. Graham stifled a laugh as he watched Xander force Giles into a brief hug, then turn on Tara and pick her up and swing her around. After that, Xander was back beside him and Spike, grinning like a madman. "So when can we go see Dawn?" he asked. "It's been just about forever, it feels like."

Back in the circle of Riley's arms, Buffy shook her head slowly, the smile slipping off her face. "I think we've got something to talk about first," she said, looking significantly from Xander over to Spike and Graham.

Graham froze. She'd noticed the hugs, then, and wasn't going to dismiss them to overexuberance. Everyone in the room went silent as they waited for an answer. Willow's eyes were wide and she held Tara's hand tightly, while Giles stood up straighter.

The blue-eyed man wasn't sure what to do. They hadn't really discussed telling anyone about the relationship; they'd had enough to worry about just among themselves to get that far in their thinking. He knew he wasn't ashamed of anything: he loved Xander and he was falling for Spike, and that was all the explanation that he owed anyone. He knew Spike felt the same way. Hell, the vampire would probably rub the others' faces in it, just to see them squirm.

Xander glanced over at him and Graham could read the indecision in Xander's eyes. He knew the dark-haired man well enough to guess what he was thinking. Xander didn't want to upset his friends, but he was a basically honest person so lying wouldn't sit well with him.

Graham decided to do the talking for Xander. The other man would no doubt yell at him for it later, but that was fine. If he took the attention off Xander, then he'd be the one to take the brunt of any possible abuse. If he could shield Xander from that, then any scolding that got him would be well worth it. "I'm in love with Xander," he said simply.

Buffy's gaze cut over to Xander. "Xander?"

The dark-eyed man nodded. "It's true, Buff. And I'm in love with him."

Buffy blinked a couple of times, taking a few moments to absorb the information. She nodded slowly. "All right. I'll expect details later," she said with a steely look at Xander, "but I can accept. So what's the story with Spike?"

Graham shrugged. "He's got a great ass and I think I'm falling for him, too." He didn't want to have to explain things he was still figuring out for himself. The flippancy just sort of slipped out; continued exposure to Xander and Spike was definitely affecting him.

Buffy stepped away from Riley, her eyes hard and her hands curled into loose fists. She looked pissed. Willow took a step forward and her eyes were scary, dark and determined and looking as though they could look right through him.

Maybe being flip hadn't been the best way to go.


~*~*~*~*~


Spike watched Buffy and Willow eye Graham and was fairly certain that a fight was inevitable. He thought it was a fairly good idea; a nice little fight would relieve tension and he'd get the chance to maybe see Buffy get smashed upside the head. Of course, Red would most likely turn him and Graham into rabbits or kittens or some other sort of harmless furry creatures before any real smashing took place, so maybe a fight really wasn't a good idea.

Xander apparently agreed with him. The dark-haired man moved to stand between Graham and the women he faced. "Buff, Wills, just hang on a second, all right?" He raised his hands in a placating gesture.

Willow cocked her head to the side. "What's he talking about?"

"It's not like it sounds." Xander laughed a little nervously. "Well, actually it is like it sounds, but it's not a joke. Graham and I really are together."

"Um, Xander? You're not gay." Buffy sounded reluctant to point that out.

"No, I'm not," Xander agreed. "I'm bi." He glanced over at Willow. "I just kept it to myself longer. I'm not as brave as some people."

"So what about Spike?" Buffy asked. "There was huggage there, too."

"Yeah. I'm with Spike, too. I love him."

"And you're ok with this?" Buffy shook her head. "Xander, that's nuts. It's Spike and you're in love with Graham."

"I'm also in love with Spike. I love both of them."

Spike felt his smirk slip. Xander's voice was quiet, confident. He didn't lapse into doubt or uncertainty when his emotions were questions. Two days ago he probably would have. The Cynon's taint was finally gone.

"Xander, you're talking about Spike. Evil, remember? Soulless vampire?" Buffy took a step toward Xander, her expression frank and worried.

"I know exactly who I'm talking about." Xander's smile was gentle but determined. "He's the one who moved in with me when I needed someone around to get over the silence Anya left behind. He's the friend that had my back for the past couple of months, making sure I lived through fights I couldn't have gotten out of on my own. He's bandaged me up and made me laugh and kept me alive and kept me sane. He loves me and I love him. He's not going to hurt me. He wouldn't. He can't."

Spike watched in concern as Willow dropped back beside her girlfriend, the two of them whispering back and forth so quietly he couldn't understand them. They were the ones that worried him. He didn't think Buffy would stake him or kick Graham's ass - not too badly, anyway - but he didn't want to send Red off into a fit of overprotectiveness.

Buffy nodded her head as though responding to something only she could hear, then shifted her weight so she was looking past Xander at both him and Graham. "So, Fangless, Soldier. Tell me again what you're doing with Xander. Tell me the truth."

Someday he was going to find a way to make her pay for all the cute nicknames she liked to give him. He was going to make her scream out her apologies and beg for mercy.

Or maybe he'd just make another round of the town with his trusty permanent marker, writing out her phone number and 'for a good time call Slutty the Vampire Layer' on any surface that would take a mark. Xander and Graham would probably object to hurting her, so he'd be better off with the marker.

Swallowing his anger, he met her glare evenly. "I love Xander. I'm falling for Graham and I'm not going to hurt either one of them."

Graham moved to stand closer to him. "Same here. I love Xander and I'm not far off from loving Spike and anyone who wants to get to them will have to go through me."

Willow and Tara's voices rose as they chanted in unison, speaking words in a non-human tongue. As the spell came to a climax, a bright flash of light appeared and swept through first Graham and then Spike. Spike jerked as it passed through him. It didn't hurt but it felt decidedly strange. "What the hell was that?"

"Truth spell," Willow said, smiling. Her eyes and softened and she looked much less frightening. "They're telling the truth," she declared.

Buffy nodded. "Fine, then. I guess nobody gets their asses kicked."

Xander shook his head, a wry smile on his face. "Most people live in terror of having to introduce people to their parents, doing the whole meeting the in-laws thing. Lucky me, I get to worry about my lovers meeting my friends."

"There's nothing to worry about, Xan," Buffy said. "We know all the best places to hide the bodies. If they slip up, no one will ever find them."

Spike glanced over at Graham, watching the other man's eyes widen. He could read surprise in his blue eyes, mingled with a small amount of relief. Spike moved closer to him. "You all right?"

"I think I will be," Graham muttered quietly. "We passed the test, didn't we?"

"Yeah. Lucky for both of us, we get to leave with our balls." Buffy could be an absolute raving bitch, but she had a strong protective instinct where her friends were concerned. If she believed that he or Graham were a real threat to Xander then there was no way they'd just be walking out of the house with him.

Spike watched Giles draw Willow and Tara away a little bit, eavesdropping shamelessly even as Buffy told Xander and Graham how she and Giles had healed Dawn. He listened in as Giles scolded Willow and Tara for performing the spell without warning or preparation. Spike knew that the scolding wasn't going to do any good. Willow would continue to do whatever she thought she had to in order to make sure that Xander was safe and unhurt. Crossing her would be a very, very bad idea. Spike would rather have Buffy pissed at him then Willow. Buffy would only kick his ass and stake him. Willow would do interesting and probably messy things to him with magic before she killed him, once she'd grown tired of listening to him scream for mercy.

As Giles stepped away from Willow, his gaze raked over Spike and Graham. The vampire was very glad that Graham missed that look; it might have sent him scrambling for the door. Spike had seen the way Giles looked at the children that surrounded him: under all the overly patient exasperation was pride and love so fierce its strength was nearly breath-taking. If he ever made an enemy of Giles by hurting the man's surrogate son, Spike knew he was better off facing Buffy or Willow. Giles wouldn't kill him. Giles would make him hurt, take him apart and put him back together in horribly painful ways. Giles would allow him to exist so he could suffer eternally, making sure the pain never ended.

Spike was distracted from his scary thoughts by Xander's hand on his arm. "Do you want to go see Dawn?"

"Of course, pet. Lead the way." Spike stayed close to Xander, completely abandoning Graham to the Scoobies. The man had to get used to them if he was going to stick around. They weren't going to go away; they were too important a part of Xander's life.

Dawn was in her bedroom, propped up on pillows and buried in blankets. "Hey, Niblet."

"Spike! Xander!" She looked exhausted, but her smile was real.

Xander walked over to sit on the edge of her bed. "How're you doing, Dawn?"

"Better. I'm really feeling better."

"Good." Xander smiled at her, and Spike thought he did a good job of suppressing the shakiness in it. Xander hadn't talked much about Dawn being ill, but the vampire knew that he'd been worrying about her silently ever since she'd gotten sick. "I don't think you should get sick again."

"No," Dawn agreed. "This wasn't any fun."

Xander started to say something, then just shook his head and gently pulled her into a hug. "Missed you, Dawnie," he said quietly.

Watching made Spike realize all over again how much Xander cared about his friends. He was going to have to learn to play nicely with them to keep Xander happy. He was going to have to get along with them if he wanted to keep Xander, period.

Dawn buried her face in his shoulder and nodded silently. After long moments passed, she sat back. Xander pushed a lock of hair back off her face and smiled. "I'm going to let the rest of your adoring fans come up and get a look at you. You left your public alone for too long. I'll be back to see you soon, though, K?"

"Ok." Dawn looked at Spike. "Are you coming back?"

"Course I am. Couldn't keep me away." Spike grinned at her and waved as he followed Xander out the door. As they headed down the stairs, Spike saw that Graham's eyes were looking just a little wild. No telling what the Scoobies had done to him. They might have been grilling him for details on his relationship with Xander, or they might just have been reminiscing on some of their high school adventures.

Xander shifted his weight back and forth. "I think it's about time we got going," he said. "It's been a big day." He glanced at Willow. "Dawn would like to see you."

Willow nodded. "I'll be talking to you later, then." It wasn't a question.

"K, mom," Xander teased. "I'll call you." He looked seriously at his friends. "It's going to be all right," he said. "I love them. They love me."

Spike glared at Buffy, daring her to doubt. She glared back at him, but said nothing.

"Be sure to call," Willow said. "And Spike, Graham? I'll be needing to have a talk with you."

Spike wasn't sure why that statement sent Riley off into a choking fit, but he didn't think that the reason was one he would like.

Xander shook his head. "I'll call." He ushered Spike and Graham out the door. Graham waved goodbye to Riley and Spike resisted the urge to flash an obscene gesture as he passed through the door.

Hey, it was a start.

As they walked, Graham looked shakily over at Xander. "You have a very strange group of friends."

"Yep," Xander agreed easily. "Try looking at it this way: you have to meet them, but you don't have to meet any in-laws. It all kinda works out in the end."

Spike wanted to head off this conversation. He knew about Xander's parents and didn't want to depress the dark-eyed man by making him think about them. "What should we do with the rest of the night? Hit a bar and toast Dawn's recovery?"

Graham shook his head. "I'm a little tired; I don't know if I'm up for a bar. We could catch a movie, maybe."

Xander shook his head. "I was thinking that maybe we could stay in for the rest of the night. You know, at the apartment and, uh..." He flushed as his voice trailed away. He waved one of his hands back and forth in a vague gesture.

Graham raised an eyebrow. "You want to play ping pong?"

Spike thought he knew what Xander meant - he knew what he hoped he meant - but he couldn't resist the urge to tease him. "You want to play charades?"

"No..." Xander flushed harder.

"If you can't say it, Xan, we can't do it." This was important. If Xander was really over the Cynon's influence, then he was ready to move on. But not if he couldn't say it. If he couldn't say it, then he wasn't ready to do it.

Xander glared at him. "Fine. You go to a bar. Graham can go to a movie. I'll go home and jerk off, since no one wants to have sex with me." He turned and walked back toward the apartment.


~*~*~*~*~


The dead silence that followed his challenge was terrifying. Xander was finally ready, finally secure enough in his love and the love offered to him to insist that Spike and Graham stop treating him like he was going to break and get on with things already.

He loved waking up in a tangle of limbs, pressed so closely to the other men that he couldn't quite tell where he ended and his lovers began. The sweet kisses and gentle caresses were wonderful, and he'd never grow tired of being cuddled on the couch, wrapped up in comfort and love, strength and warmth, laughter and desire. He suspected making love might be even better though, and he'd really like to find out.

Xander understood what his lovers were doing. They weren't going to let anything happen before he was ready for it, weren't going to let him do anything that he would regret or could prompt him into leaving the relationship. He loved them for it, loved the fact that they were willing to wait on him and put their own desires off to the side. The time had come for it to stop, though. It was making him crazy. He loved them, needed them, wanted them. The crushing fear and doubt that had shaken him so hard had finally disappeared, leaving behind only love and trust and desire.

The silence behind him stretched, tearing at his nerves. He stopped walking and turned around, finding that both Spike and Graham were staring after him. He cleared his throat, fighting down nervousness. "If you two don't want to split up, you could always rent a movie and pick up a bottle on the way home. I can close the door to the bedroom so I won't disturb you while I'm taking care of business, since no one seems interested in-"

He didn't have a chance to finish the sentence; Spike and Graham covered the distance between them with gratifying speed. Spike grabbed his left arm and Graham wrapped his arm around Xander's waist from the other side and together they began to hustle him back toward the apartment.

Xander couldn't help the laughter that bubbled out of him. He was a little surprised that his feet were allowed to touch the ground; Graham or Spike could have just picked him up and run back to the apartment to make faster time. "Guys," he said, trying to rein in his amusement. "Guys, this isn't a race. The apartment is going to be there no matter what time we get back."

Spike didn't bother to reply; he just held Xander's arm more tightly and increased his speed.

Graham shook his head. "Xander, where are we?"

"Um, Elm Street?"

Blue eyes laughed at him. "Think bigger."

Xander thought for a moment. "Oh. Sunnydale. The Hellmouth."

"Right. Do you really want to take it for granted that the apartment will be there?"

Xander stopped trying to slow the others down. "I think running would be going too far, though."

Graham upped the pace another notch. "I'll settle for speed walking."

Xander was worried that they'd get jumped by a group demons, but apparently all three of them were putting off such strong vibes of determination that all the night creatures steered clear of them. It felt like it took forever, but they finally reached the apartment.

Once they were inside, Xander half-expected to be propelled into the bedroom and for everything to follow from that point. He was surprised and a little relieved when they stopped in the living room.

Spike moved to stand directly in front of him, getting in his space and staring solemnly into his eyes. "Last chance, luv. If you're not ready for this, tell us now."

Xander nodded. "I'm ready. I don't feel the Cynon's influence anymore. Everything I feel is coming from me. Love." He flushed a little. "Lust."

Spike's eyes darkened. "Good." He reached up and traced the tip of his finger over the swell of Xander's lower lip.

Behind the vampire, Graham shifted nervously. "I don't know," he said quietly. "I want this - god, both of you know how much I want this - but what if you're wrong, Xander? What if after we do this you get hit with a wave of panic? I don't want to see you go through that again."

Xander didn't try to reassure Graham with words. He knew that Graham was only worrying about him, trying to protect him, but he didn't need to anymore. Xander wanted this more than he could remember ever wanting anything. Still, after waiting so long, words weren't going to convince the blue-eyed man. Knowing that, Xander stepped in front of Graham and reached out to cradle the back of the taller man's head in his hand, drawing him down into a kiss. He invaded Graham's mouth aggressively, pushing his whole body into Graham's. Needing Graham to understand how much he wanted this, he ground his erection against the other man in order to erase all lingering doubts.

It worked. Graham's hands slid down his body, coming to rest on his hips. Gripping them hard, Graham began to push Xander backwards, moving with him to continue the kiss and the contact. Xander allowed himself to be moved. lost in the taste of Graham, in the feeling of the other man's heat pressed so close to him. He stopped moving when he backed into the bed. Graham felt him stop and pulled away, breaking the kiss to see what had happened. When he realized they'd reached their goal, the soldier grinned at Xander before placing his hands on his shoulders and giving him a deliberate shove.

Xander toppled over, bouncing heavily on the bed. "What the hell was that?" he asked.

Graham didn't answer; instead, he dropped to his knees and unlaced Xander's shoes. He pulled them off gently and removed the socks as well.

Xander propped himself up on his elbows so he could better enjoy the sight. Graham looked up and caught him staring. Holding Xander's gaze, the soldier slowly crawled up the bed, hands and knees straddling Xander's body. He stopped moving once he reached Xander's waist, hands smoothly undoing the fastenings of the supine man's jeans. Xander was so fascinated by the sight of Graham's large hands that he jerked in complete surprise when the bed dipped under Spike's weight as the vampire sat beside him.

"Enjoying the show, luv?" Spike was also watching Graham's hands with interest.

"Yeah." Xander wasn't going to waste precious brain power looking for words. He had to watch Graham tug on jeans. He extended himself as far as a raising his hips up off the bed so the other man could tug his jeans and boxers down his legs. He murmured happily as his erection was freed.

"Then you'll enjoy the encore," Spike promised. He grabbed the bottom of Xander's shirt and pulled it up over his head.

Xander wriggled on the bed, a little embarrassed to be the only one naked. The frank appreciation in his lovers' eyes made the embarrassment disappear under a wave of lust. "Um, I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure you two need to be naked, too."

Spike widened his eyes in mock-surprise. "I do believe you're right." He tossed Xander's shirt to the floor and knelt up on the bed, facing Graham. A wicked little smirk on his face, he pulled Graham's shirt apart, scattering buttons across the bedspread and down to the floor. Ignoring Graham's small noise of protest, Spike finished pulling away the shirt and attacked the soldier's slacks. Graham recovered quickly from the loss of his shirt and removed Spike's clothing with enthusiasm, although he didn't do any damage.

Xander held himself motionless, watching as Spike pushed Graham off the bed so he could drag his slacks down and off. While Spike was bent over, Graham pounced, latching onto Spike's jeans and tugging hard. The two men wobbled dangerously as they each struggled to strip the other. Xander couldn't help it; a snicker escaped him.

Two pairs of blue eyes fixed on him. Xander clapped his hand over his mouth but it was too late. He'd been caught. Spike and Graham kicked off the remains of their clothing and straightened. Xander tensed, wondering what sort of revenge they'd take.

Spike took a step forward, then turned and wrapped his arms around Graham's neck, dragging him down into a fierce kiss. Xander stared unabashedly at the two men, watching as they moved against each other, hands roaming freely over bare skin as the kiss went on and on. Xander's hands crept down his body, curling around his erection. Gaze never wavering from the two men before him, he slowly slid his hands up and down the column of flesh, leisurely pumping himself. A small moan escaped him as he increased the pace slightly.

Spike tore away from Graham. "What are you doing?"

Xander froze for a moment, then resumed his leisurely strokes. "I told you that if no one wanted to have sex with me, I'd jerk off." To add to the provocation, he arched his back and moved his hands a little faster, a little rougher.

He blinked and then Spike was there, pinning his hands down to the bed on either side of his head. "No, no, no, luv. That's not what going to happen."

"So we're going to have sex?" Finally.

"No." Graham's hands ceased in their exploration of Xander's legs.

"No?"

"What?" Spike and Xander's questions overlapped.

Color rose faintly on Graham's cheeks. "We're going to make love," he said firmly.

Xander sat up and cupped Graham's face in his hands, kissing him firmly. "Thank you."

Graham smiled at him, then pushed him back down onto the bed. Spike was immediately there, demanding a kiss. Xander gave in, arching into the feeling of cool hands moving over his arms, warm hands sliding up his inner thighs. Xander tried to respond, wanting to stroke his hands over Spike's perfect skin, wanting to taste every part of Graham, but neither man gave him a chance.

"Let us, Xander," Spike whispered, nipping at Xander's ear. "Please, luv."

Xander gave in, giving himself over to whatever his lovers wanted. He parted his legs to give Graham better access to his erection, moaning into Spike's mouth when Graham took him up on his invitation. Wet warm surrounded him and he arched upwards, wanting more of Graham's mouth. He was held mostly still by Spike's weight over his chest. He couldn't touch Graham so he concentrated on Spike, on the voracious mouth that covered his. He licked at the teeth that occasionally clashed with his own. Spike nearly mewled into his mouth when he did that, so Xander kept it up. He felt Spike's face change against his, felt fangs lengthen and grow. He curled his tongue around one of them, cautiously testing its edge.

Spike whimpered.

Xander increased his efforts, lapping and sucking at first one fang and then the other, rubbing Spike's back as he arched into the feeling of Spike's fingers on his nipples, Graham's mouth around his flesh. Then Graham's mouth was gone and Xander shouted his protest. He'd been close, so close to finding release.

Spike petted and shushed him. "We'll take care of you," he promised, shifting back to his human guise. His words caught in his throat as he spoke. "Soon, Xan."

Xander twisted a little, wanting to see what Graham was doing. He watched as Graham curled one hand around Spike's hip, using the other to slide lubricated fingers into the vampire, stretching and preparing him.

Spike shifted, turning to kiss Graham. "Thank you, pet."

Graham smiled and moved so he was lying beside Xander. He kissed Xander and the dark-eyed man could catch faint tastes of himself. Xander returned the kiss with enthusiasm, until his erection was slowly encased in cool tightness. He gasped, moving away from Graham and staring up at Spike as the vampire slowly lowered himself onto his hardness. Hands fisting the bed covers with the effort of holding himself still, Xander watched as Spike carefully moved so he took in all of Xander.

Spike raised an eyebrow. "Waiting for a written invitation, are you?" He raised himself up then dropped back down.

Xander didn't need any more provocation. He thrust upwards, panting at the feel of tightness and friction and Spike, the closeness he was finally feeling enough to make him dizzy. Graham reached out with his still-lubricated hand and loosely fisted Spike's erection, pumping him in time with Xander's thrusts. Xander joined his hand to Graham's, lacing their fingers around the hard flesh. Together they stroked Spike to orgasm, which triggered Xander's own. With a final thrust upwards he came, a sigh shuddering out of him as he relaxed back onto the bed.

Spike leaned down to kiss him leisurely, swallowing Xander's whimper of disappointment as he slipped from Spike's body. Graham's fingers remained tangled with his own, stroking a little in a calming gesture. Xander turned to face him and saw that the blue-eyed man still hadn't come. He wriggled underneath Spike, wanting to rectify that. "Spike..."

The vampire raised his head. "Hm?" He caught the direction of Xander's gaze. "Can't have that, can we, pet?" he asked, leering at Graham. He stretched, then easily slid over so he was on top of Graham. Xander summoned up enough energy to roll over to his side, giving them a little more room and himself a better view.

Spike straddled Graham's legs, looking over the muscled body with obvious appreciation. "So very edible," he murmured, tongue sweeping across his lower lip. "Where to begin?"

Graham thrust upwards. "How about with dessert?"

Leaning down, Spike shifted his aim at the very last moment so his lips trailed over the edges of Graham's pelvis, snarling a little as he gently scored the delicate skin with his teeth. Ignoring Graham's muttered curses, he worked his way upwards, licking a path to the blue-eyed man's nipples.

Xander leaned in closer, not wanting to miss any of it. Graham was muttering threats the entire times as Spike worked the puckered nubs with lips, teeth, and fingers, but his hands were buried in the vampire's hair, encouraging him to continue. Spike slowly retraced his path downward, this time obeying Graham's pleas and swirling his tongue over the head of his erection. Using one hand to control Graham's frantic thrusts, Spike used the other to stroke the panting man's stomach, balls, and inner thighs, teasing him as he slowly took in more and more of the hard flesh. Not able to just watch any longer, Xander moved closer and licked away the sweat on Graham's collar bone, then kissed his way over to one inviting nipple. He lapped at it gently, then scraped his teeth across it. Graham's breath caught and he came, one hand splayed over Xander's back to press him close.

A glance down the length of Graham's body revealed Spike looking almost insufferably smug. Xander decided a little sulking was in order, just to see if he could get that look off his face. "Selfish," he accused. "I wanted Graham to fuck me."

Laughter rumbled up inside of Graham's chest, pleasant vibrations that made Xander cuddle even closer. "I think we could do something about that," Graham mused. His voice became serious. "I want to make love to you."

Xander turned his head so he could face the other man. "Make love," he agreed again. So long has he didn't tell anyone about, he supposed it wasn't too unmanly that he melted every time Graham insisted on calling it making love. He pulled himself up the blue-eyed man so he could kiss him, telling him in actions how he appreciated that insistence. Graham pulled him closer, sweat easing the friction between them so their chests slid in wonderfully slippery ways against each other. Just as he was beginning to wonder where Spike was, Xander felt slippery fingers gently brush over the entrance to his body.

He jumped a little, and Spike was instantly there, murmuring reassurances in his ear. "It's all right, love. I'm not going to hurt you. I could never hurt you."

Xander relaxed, tilting his head to give Graham's nipping teeth better access to his throat. "I'm good. You surprised me, that's all."

"You sure, luv?"

"If you stop I'm going to have to hurt you," Xander said. "That might ruin the mood."

Spike pressed a wet kiss to the nape of his neck and then the fingers were back, probing gently. Xander concentrated on kissing Graham, on the feel of hot flesh against his own. It had been a while since he'd done this and it took a little while for him to get accustomed to the feeling of being stretched. Spike took his time and Xander was soon rocking in time with the movements of Spike's hand. The fingers disappeared and after a pause, Spike moved to grasp Xander's hips, shifting his position. "Luv?" the vampire asked.

"Please," Xander said, smiling as Graham held him even tighter. He gasped a little as Spike slowly entered him, moving forward in a single slow glide. It didn't hurt, exactly; the initial burn was something he'd missed once he and Alan had parted ways. Spike held himself motionless, cool hands moving in soothing patterns over Xander's back. Not wanting to set off the chip, Xander gave himself plenty of time to get used to the sensation of being filled, then thrust back against Spike. The blond man responded with another slow thrust, and then again. As Xander regained his confidence, the languid thrusting became a maddening tease. He tried to push back harder in order to encourage Spike to speed things up, but the vampire didn't take the hint. Frustrated, Xander began to rub his erection against Graham's seeking friction and release that way. Just as he found a rhythm that was working, Spike pulled him backwards, thrusting deep within him and pulling Xander to kneel up over Graham. Xander tried to drop his hands down to bring himself relief, but Graham caught his wrists. Xander hissed his frustration.

All wide-eyed and innocent, Graham stared up at him. "I thought you wanted me to make love to you?"

"After," Xander agreed. "After I come." He thrust back harder against Spike, but couldn't quite get enough stimulation to send himself over the edge. "Please."

"Wait your turn, luv," Spike purred into his ear, worrying at the lobe with his teeth. He began to thrust faster and harder, rubbing over Xander's prostate but denying him the little extra touch that was needed for the dark-eyed man to come.

"Evil," Xander gasped out.

"Yes," Spike agreed. After a few nearly violent thrusts the vampire buried his face in Xander's neck, sucking hard at the skin as he came.

Wincing a little as Spike pulled out, Xander glared down at Graham. "Thanks."

"You're welcome." Graham beamed up at him before launching himself upwards, knocking Xander over so their positions were switched: Xander was pinned to the mattress as Graham stared down at him with laughing eyes.

Xander watched as Spike slicked lube over Graham's hardness, pale fingers teasing even as they prepared. "That's mine," he growled.

Spike laughed at him, then kissed Graham thoroughly before lying down close beside Xander, gaze avid as he watched both men. Xander flushed a little under the scrutiny, then wrapped his legs around Graham's waist, gasping a little as the other man carefully entered him. Like Spike, Graham refused to move until Xander nodded and pushed back against him, giving him permission. Graham set a steady rhythm of thrusts, straightforward and without teasing, staring down into Xander's eyes, watching him carefully the entire time. When a cool hand curled around his erection, Xander cried out and thrust raggedly between Spike's hand around him and Graham's hardness within him, chasing completion. A few more moments and he came wailing, feeling Graham shudder above him and come as well.

Panting hard, Xander shared weary kisses with Graham, slow and sweet. He looked for Spike and felt a moment's panic when he couldn't find the vampire. Before he could get upset, Spike returned to his view, damp washcloths in hand. Xander allowed his lovers to gently clean his skin: if they wanted to coddle him, who was he to complain? Graham tugged the bedcover off the bed and shoved it to the floor, leaving them with clean sheets.

Xander settled down between his lovers, shivering when Spike's lips ghosted over the bruise on his neck. "You didn't bite," he said quietly.

"No," Spike said. "Time's not right."

Xander nodded. He knew that not everything was settled. Making love wasn't an end; it was a beginning. Xander realized that not with dread, but with happiness and anticipation. He could hardly wait to find out what would happen next for them. There was no way he could know the future, but he didn't need to. So long as he trusted Graham and Spike, that was all the assurance he needed. "I love you," he said quietly, kissing Graham and then Spike, near chaste kisses that were barely more than the lightest brushes of lips.

"Love you, Xan," Spike said, expression solemn.

"Love you," Graham agreed, nodding seriously.

Xander watched as Graham and Spike leaned over top him to share a brief kiss and a smile. The words might not be there for them yet, but they would be. The feelings already were.

He closed his eyes, concentrating on the feeling of being so close to the two people he loved most. It was a helluva beginning, and he was going to believe that it would only get better. He was going to trust in his lovers and trust in himself. He had finally found it: the place where he belonged.




The End




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