“Ow! God dammit, ow!”
Xander scrambled into the room, crying, “What! What!”
Tall and buff with hair a few shades lighter than Xander’s own—helped along by the containers stored underneath the sink and a cap Xander never wanted to see again—Brian twisted his arm up to his mouth. Normally, that was a good sign. The eight bleeding scratch marks weren’t. “That’s so it,” Brian muttered in between sucking. “You hear me? I’m done, Alex.”
Xander winced; no matter how many times he corrected it, he was always ‘Alex’. He hated being called Alex. “Er, done with those sheets, because yeah, I’m thinking we need new ones.” Navy blue flannel was slashed to expose white mattress pad underneath. Man, those flannel sheets were expensive too! “You okay?”
“No! No, I’m not okay!” Whoever said preppy jocks were the staid type never met Brian. He whined more than Buffy did on her bitchy days. Hell, he whined more than Xander did, and that was just not fair! “Your fucking cat hates me, Alex.”
Xander blinked, arms automatically cradling the leaping bit of black fluff that headed towards his chest. “Bri, George doesn’t hate you.” Snuggling down contentedly, George began washing his paws, totally certain that he wouldn’t be dropped. Which he wouldn’t be. Not if Xander valued his toes un-punctured. “He’s just testy if you wake him up too early. See? You overturned his bed when you got up.”
Brian glared at him, not even looking down at the little bed Xander had painstakingly found for his picky cat, now battered with a tiny bit of down peaking through a seam. “My name is not ‘Bri’,” he said, nose in the air. “It’s Brian. And if you’d move its stupid bed, I wouldn’t trip on it. Anyway, I didn’t this time. He just attacked me!”
Uh huh. Xander bit his lip, carefully not mentioning that George only liked his bed a certain way—otherwise he slept on Xander’s head—and that he knew for damned sure the bed hadn’t sported a foot-indentation when he’d left the room twenty minutes earlier. Plus, it hadn’t been on its side then, either. “I’m really sorry, Brian,” he said instead. “Here, why don’t I put him outside and make it up to you.”
Wounded prima-donna boyfriend was not interested in the patented Xander Harris apology-fuck. Brian sniffed and folded his arms. Xander quailed; sniffing and arm-folding was a bad sign. Years of training by Buffy and Willow had taught him that. He tensed, knowing that it was going to be bad.
“You love that cat more than me, Xander,” Brian pouted.
Oh god. “No, I don’t.”
“Yes you do!” All he needed was foot stomping, and Brian would be a ten year old Dawn in a snit. It wasn’t a good comparison. “You never care about me, just what George needs. When we go shopping, it’s what would George like? Is this brand of cat-food good? Would George like this toy?” Pouting the soft, blow-job lips Xander had fallen for, Brian actually sniffled. “When you asked me to move in, Alex, you had to ask George first.”
“Wha—well, he was here already!” Xander spluttered. “I mean, he’s kind of like a roommate too and he needs lots of space or he gets really—” Yeah, that really wasn’t helping his case. Okay, time to pull out the big guns—puppy dog eyes and scrunching his body done until he looked smaller than Brian. “Look, I don’t know why George doesn’t like you, but we—we’ll figure it out, okay? I promise we will.”
“No. No, I’m not going to let you do this to me again, Alex Harris.” Dear god, was he going to wave his hand now? His voice had already gone really falsetto which was not helping his standing in the Closest To Dawn In A Snit contest. Or maybe it was? “I’m sorry, but we’re done. I’m not going to take second place to a cat. Especially one named after George Lucas! I mean, come on, Alex.” Gay-boy in a tear vanished into preppy-boy being preppy and snottily superior. Xander hated that. “You don’t have to be a geek anymore.”
Low. Blow. Any concern Xander might’ve had vanished. “Hey! I happen to like being a geek!”
Brian sniffed again. “I know. Loser.”
And that was pretty much that. Several hours later, the partially moved-in Brian was out of the apartment and out of Xander’s life. Windows open to try and air out the smell of burned ego—remarkably like Obsession for men or whatever it was Brian regularly dunked himself in—Xander sat on the sofa, petting a curled up George in his lap.
“Great. Just great. You know, I thought coming out would make it easier. No more miserable failures for the Xand-man, cause now he’s batting for the right team and he’s gonna smack one right out of the park!”
George meowed and flopped onto his side, radiating long-suffering patience. No one could do long-suffering patience like a cat.
“Oh, no, you don’t get to pull that on me, Mr. Really Evil Cat. Don’t you think I’m not up on what you’re doing. First Howard with the constant jumping, then Keith with the face-butting just to make his rash come out, and now Brian with the scratching? You are an evil, evil kitty and you’re ruining my love life!” His eyes narrowed even though his hand never stopped. “I bet you’re really an anti-cupid demon in disguise.”
George rolled back over to blink up at him.
“Oh, fine, you’re not. Or, you know, if you are, please don’t tell me. While I’d really like my pet to be non-demonic, I’m okay with denial. But you are still evil.” That part George, of course, agreed with. He was a cat. Sighing, Xander petted until he was totally relaxed, regarding the lamp-light yellow eyes that stared right back at him. “You know what the really sad part is, George? I don’t know if I should chuck you out or thank you.”
George blinked slowly, tail twitching in a cat-grin. Everything was going perfectly, as far as he was concerned. Now that Always Screeches And Kicks was gone, it was time for George to make his move. Cats were so good at chess.
* * * *
“Hey, where’s your latest boytoy?” Plopping herself down on the floor, Buffy started going through his CD collection. “And what happened to all the Cher? And the. . . wow. Xander, do you know there’s mostly hard rock bands here, now? I’m ignoring the country, because country music does not exist. But there’re no Techno Now! mixes! Or—or—” her limited interested in music not played at the Bronze failed her, and she went back to stereotyping. “My god, what happened to all the glitz and glam?”
“Glam-rock is something entirely different,” Willow said from the couch. “The whole eighties big-hair stuff? That’s glam rock. What you’re talking about, Buffy, is the dance-club sparkly stuff.”
Trapped in the kitchen, Xander glanced down at his feet. “Go distract them. Please. They’re discussing music. My music.”
George stared at him disdainfully before sauntering into the living room, tail high in the air. Two squeals could be heard as George completed his mission successfully, leaving Xander free to finish cutting up the veggies and check on the lasagna baking in the oven. The bread wouldn’t go in for another twenty minutes, so he was good. He’d discovered he actually liked cooking from Jason, who would forever be known as the First Official Boyfriend. Jason had loved to cook and had infused at least an appreciation of it in Xander before a new job had forced him to move across the country. Sometimes he wondered if—nah.
Grabbing his platter of veggies and dip, Xander headed back out into scary land: two girls, on the hunt for gossip. What he found, however, was one girl petting a thoroughly satisfied cat and another putting a CD into the player. “Snacks, ladies? Freshly bought from Whole Foods.”
“You know, of all the really ‘gay’ things I thought you’d pick up,” Buffy said as she popped a carrot into her mouth, “this whole health-food obsession was never one of them.”
“We all can’t have Slayer metabolism,” was all he said. Settling on the sofa next to Willow, he pouted at his cat. His cat looked up at him and didn’t move one iota away from Willow’s hand. “If you steal my cat I’m going to be very upset with you.”
Instead of Willow’s normal rejoinder—usually something about how they didn’t need little Miss Kitty Fantastico’s—she glanced over at Buffy. Way too much significance in that look, thank you. “So another one bit it, huh?” she asked.
“Bit it? No one bit anyone, Wills.” The soft strains of early R.E.M. filled the room, piano crying a lonesome song. “There may have been, um, some hissing, though. Also scratching. And bleeding.”
“I knew it!” Tucking herself into the corner on Xander’s other side, Buffy nearly bounced as she waited for the good stuff. ‘Waiting’ lasted about two minutes before she prompted, “So Brian’s gone?”
“Brian is indeed gone. We had the final blow-out last weekend.”
More significant looks. These bordered on triumphant. “I’m so sorry, Xan.”
“Liar. Friendly liar, but still, liar. You didn’t like him anymore than George did.”
“Well he was kinda high-maintenance,” Buffy put in. “Brian, not George. Cats are always high maintenance. Anyway, you know if I’m claiming someone’s high maintenance. . .” Her arch look spoke volumes. No, wait, it was the leading quality in her voice that spoke volumes. Or both. Plus the words. “He wasn’t good for you, Xan.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Xander sighed, trying to keep his hands in his lap. Stupid celery always getting caught in his teeth. “He was high-maintenance, he wanted to turn me into something I’m not, he wanted me to hang out with you guys less, and it was just bad. Well, no, the sex was pretty—”
“Anyway, it doesn’t matter. He’s gone in a righteous snit and I am going to wine and dine the two most important ladies in my life.” Grinning, he didn’t even need to hold up his arms before he had two girls tucked against his shoulders and a cat warming his lap. The smell of cooking lasagna and melting garlic butter completed the moment and Xander was feeling pretty damned good. Brian’s leaving hadn’t been heartbreaking—hell, not even his dick missed Brian and those fabulous lips that much. “So, who wants to help me butter the bread?”
Willow wrinkled her nose up at him. “If that’s an innuendo, Xander.”
“It’s pretty lame, considering I’m the one you can dish about guys with,” Buffy laughed. Pecking him on the cheek, she stood up and held her hand out to him. “Speaking of, bestest guy friend of mine who helps me vet my choices, when do you go back on the hunt?”
Yanked onto his feet, Xander’s withering look glanced right off Buffy’s bouncily swinging hair. “Hunt? No, no, no. You misconstrue the patented Xand-man method of getting guys. It starts by going out to the one and only gay-friendly club in town. There, I will order myself a drink and sit at a table all by myself. People then come up to me and feed me a wide variety of cheesy lines. The cheesier the line, the more likely I’ll actually go dance with him or drink a beer with him. There is no hunting. I am the hunted.”
“Xander, that’s not really a good strategy.” Tossing the salad to mix the dressing, Willow set it out on the table and moved to uncork the wine. “Not gonna give you the safety lecture again, I promise, Xan, but. . . don’t you want to actually look? Maybe meet someone you like, instead of someone who thinks you’re cute or thinks shy-boys are a turnon?”
Saying ‘but it worked for you’ was probably going to get him rightfully slapped by Buffy and turned into a toad by Willow. “Hey! I’m already cute and I can’t help it if they think I’m shy!”
His girls were not impressed. Dammit, time to be serious. He didn’t want to be serious. The garlic bread sizzled as it slid under the broiler. “Guys, let me worry about my love-life, okay? I’ve done pretty okay so far, Brian the walking stereotype dipped in Gap aside. He wasn’t a bad guy, you know, just. . . not right for me. That’s all.”
“Well, then,” Buffy said firmly. Picking up George, she cuddled him for a moment—Xander owed him a great deal of treats for that, according to the face George wore—and then placed him in the living room, away from the food. “We’ll just have to find a guy who is right for you.”
George meowed agreeably.
* * * *
“A month. It’s been a month!” Xander forced the lock open, almost falling into his apartment. “Hey, lemmego. I’m not drunk.”
The disbelieving snort was the greatest kitty-call there was: George streaked through the apartment to the tune of tiny thuds of his tiny feet, skidding to a halt by black boots and meowing anxiously. “Nuh fair,” Xander slurred. “George likes you better’n me.”
“That cat is devil-spawn. ’Course he likes me. And oi, that’s not the ground you’re tryin’ to walk on, you inebriated lummox. Come ’ere.” Really strong hands yanked him upright before he could try and walk on the not-ground, half-carrying him over to the sofa. He landed with an oof that made his stomach churn, but thankfully everything remained where it was supposed to. “Not gonna upchuck, are you?”
He had to laugh at that, except he kept laughing way longer than he meant to. “No, I’m not going to upchuck. I’m just going to stay here until the floor stops moving, ’k? Y’can go now, Spike.”
Spike, crouched so he could see Xander’s face, snorted again. George couldn’t run to him, being already there, but he did do little kitty jumps of joy. Or maybe that was hunger. Wait. Did he feed George today? Xander struggled upright, only to be pushed back down again. “Where do you think you’re goin’, eh?”
George looked at him, sniffed, and went back to butting Spike’s boots. “Your cat’s right here, imbecile. And why’d you name the blighter George, anyway? Harvey’s a much better name.”
Spike gave him a cross-eyed look. “Harvey. Big pink bunny Harvey?”
Xander looked cross-eyed right back at him.
“One day, I’m gonna grab all the Jimmy Stewart I can find and lock you in, you mark my words.”
“Jimmy Stewart? Was he the one in the wife beater that wore eyeliner?” Huh. Apparently giving a perfectly legitimate answer made Spike goggle at him. He checked for two heads growing out of his shoulders, just in case: Hellmouth; you never really knew. But no, no two heads, and Spike was still goggling and looking down right disturbed. “Spike?”
“You were saying somethin’ about a month?” he said in a strangled voice. “Lets talk about that, shall we? What’s been a month?”
Energy flooded his system as Xander remembered why he was so pissed—the angry way, not the drunk way, except he was that, too—and he sat back up again. “Her! Both hers! Those evil conniving she-devils!”
“Buffy and Willow! It’s been a month! Every weekend I’m out where they tell me to go, wearing what they tell me to wear, and I go because they’re trying to help which is good and accepting and stuff but oh, my god! Their taste in men is appalling!”
“We’ll Buffy’s is. I knew that already,” Spike said, smarmy grin firmly in place. “But—wait, that’s what you’ve been doing whenever I see you out, lately? Lettin’ the Slayer, with her crap taste in men, and Red who doesn’t even like men, set you up?”
Throwing himself against the back of the sofa with a groan, Xander nodded. “Buffy and Willow find guys and vet them during the week. Then I get to meet them. So far, I’ve met a guy who was so geeky he thought George’s name was too prosaic—his words—and something from the Battlestar Galactica oeuvre was much cooler, a giant block of tofu, a jock who was in to backroom activities I don’t want or need, especially when they come in baggies, and a guy who makes high school freshman Willow look like Chatty Miss Cathy!”
“Er. Oh. Sounds rough?”
Hey. Xander knew that voice. Forcing his eyes open, he tried to make them glare. He wasn’t quite sure he succeeded, but he still. “Don’t patronize me.”
“Fucking hell, I’m not, all right?” Sounding truly aggrieved, Spike left Xander on the couch and started rummaging around his refrigerator. Xander heard the can opener whirl—ooo, nice Spike, feeding George for him!—and the microwave run. That was weird. Why was Spike running the microwave?
Xander couldn’t figure it out until Spike came back with two mugs. One held the richly enticing aroma of crappy instant coffee. The other held blood. “Hey, is the otter working out?” he babbled. “I heard that it tasted better than pig, so I thought maybe mix it up? Since pig is closest to human, chemically. Um, it is, right? And erk. I shouldn’t have thought of that. Herbert.”
“You say the strangest bloody things when you’re drunk, Harris. An’ yeah, the otter tastes fine.” Spike sounded weird when he said that, but fortunately, Xander was too drunk to care. “Think you didn’t feed Mr. Big Head before you left, either, the way he was whining at me.”
“Oh, he just likes you. And—wait a minute.” Mmm, coffee. Gradually the room wasn’t spinning anymore. “Mr. Big Head?”
Maybe he was drunker than he thought? Because Xander was pretty sure Spike was grinning at him. Not smirking or sneering or being a poseur asshole. He was grinning, the way two friends would, and hell, this one was even kind of sheepish. Spike! Sheepish! Oh, he was really, really drunk. “George as in George Lucas, right? Him who thinks he’s got the right to destroy the classics, just cause he had the idea for ’em?”
Wow. Spike understood a geek reference. The world was probably ending soon. Fortunately, Xander’s body chose to hasten that doomsday, forcing him into unconsciousness. The last thing he heard was Spike yelping about coffee.
When he woke up, he was tucked under the blankets of his own bed, George curled up by his shoulder, purring mightily. “Why’re you so happy?” he demanded. His tongue felt wrapped in old socks already and Xander was pretty sure he hadn’t even reached the hangover stage yet. He was still too drunk to be hung over. “Hey, where’d Spike go?”
“Spike is still here,” came from the living room. “Sun’s near up, so you’ve got me for the rest of the day. Go sleep it off.”
Xander didn’t sleep it off. Instead, he crawled out of the bed to find he was dressed only in his boxers and there was a tall glass of water leaking condensation onto a magazine he’d thought he’d thrown away already. Wait, he probably had, since it was all crinkled like that. Did Spike fish it out of the trash? Weird. Drinking down most of it—mmmm, water! complete with Ralph Wiggum’s voice—Xander tugged on a pair of sweats and stumbled his way over to the sofa.
“Hi,” he said when he was finally sitting down. Spike’d had to help him get his butt on the sofa and not the floor. “Why’re you here?”
Something in Spike’s eyes went frigidly cold, blowing icy winds against Xander’s naked chest. “Sick of me already?”
“No, wondering why you bothered to walk me home. Since, as we all know, you hate my ass.” Spike stared at him. “Oh, right, look wounded, you big liar-man. It’s what you said the last time you went patrolling the same time I did. And I quota, ‘Make sure you don’t pair me up with carpenter-boy, I hate his droopy ass’. So, since you hate my droopy ass when it’s not trying to fall out from under me, why’d you help me home?”
“You know, you don’t sound drunk anymore.” The coldness was gone. Xander counted that as a win, not that he knew what he was winning or losing.
“I’m drunk. Trust me. If I wasn’t, I’d be all avoidy and just obsess about it for a while.”
Another honest-be-to-god Spike smile, this one amused and kinda shy. Freaky. Also, deaky. “Saw you about to take a header into the guy built like a mac-truck. Figured I’d earn goody-goody points walking you home.”
A familiar purring sound made Xander glance down. “Huh. George likes you. Weird.”
“Er, why’s that weird? He’s a good cat.” Long fingers—wow, really white—scritched the spots at the back of George’s ears that made him turn into kitty-goo. “Like him just fine.”
“See, George doesn’t like guys,” Xander explained. He knew he’d side-stepped Spike’s explanation, but he wasn’t sure what he felt about it, so distractions and two-stepping were good things. “Girls he likes fine. Um. Most of the time. If I tell him he has to. But guys he really really doesn’t like, unless it’s me or Giles.”
“And how’ve you come to this conclusion?”
“Well, there was the lady at the pet store that was surprised George took to me,” Xander recited, ticking off a finger per name. “Then there was Darren. And Howard, and Keith, and Brian, and oh, there was a Mark in there somewhere too.” He squinted, trying to think. “And maybe a Timmy? And then a whole bunch of guys that the Buffy and Willow Matching Making Team keep telling me to bring home, which I do sometimes. I brought home Steve for a few hours, I think.” He paused, suddenly, struck by something. “Oh, my god. I hook up with boringly-named people. It’s a curse! It’s retribution to being friends with people named for trees and British stuffiness and whatever the hell created ‘Buffy’. Save me!”
Head buried in his hands, Xander didn’t have to see to know Spike was goggling at him. He was surprised about the laughing, though. Usually Spike sounded way more mocking when he did that. “Seven plus blokes? What’re you running, a youth hostel?”
“Huh?” That made no sense in Xander’s head. “No, I slept with all of them. Well, not sleep-sleep. We didn’t make it to the bed a couple of times.”
Silence. Really booming silence because George had even stopped purring. Melodrama loving evil cat. “You what?”
Xander lifted his head to free one eye to see Spike’s face. Wow. So that’s what pole-axed vampire looked like. “I’m gay,” he annunciated slowly. “You did know that, right?”
No, obviously, he didn’t, because Spike pushed George off his lap and twirled his duster around to settle it over his shoulders within fifteen seconds of Xander saying the words. “Gotta be off.”
“What—wait! Sunrise! Oh, come on Spike, I’m not gonna jump you in your sleep!”
Doorway half open, Spike paused long enough to half-turn back towards him. “Not worried about that, mate. Just. . . didn’t know you were sleepin’ with them, is all.” And then he vanished, the door shutting with a little click behind him.
“Well, shit!” Xander looked down at George, who was looking smug. Really, really smug. “You know what that was about, don’t you?”
George looked inscrutable and mysterious.
“Fine, right, don’t ask you. I know better. Okay, I’m going to bed and I’ll deal with huffy vampire tomorrow. Still don’t know why he’s upset. I know he knew I was gay. And that, hello, I don’t jump anyone who doesn’t want to be jumped!”
Still grumbling, Xander completely missed George’s expression. That probably saved him some unmitigated terror. Calculation on a tiny kitty face was never a good thing. Neither was extreme satisfaction, and right now, George was extremely satisfied.
* * * *
Doorbell. Doorbell? Why was the doorbell ringing? Confused, Xander opened the door. “Hey, you know I never lock it for—Buffy. And Willow!” Uh oh. “Hi?”
Two girls, two identical expressions and crossed arms. Bad expressions. The coldly disappointed, you-stupid-male-you-fucked-up expressions. Crap. “Brad just called,” Buffy explained curtly. “He said you canceled on him. That’s the second week in a row, Xander!”
“I. . . am really tired lately and very sorry?”
Two eyebrows arched, mouths pursed into thin little buttons of displeasure.
“Oi, didn’t tell me we were inviting others, Harris. I’d’ve told Clem to join.”
Xander glared. “No, we are not inviting others, Spike. I mean, okay, we could, but not tonight, please? We’ll hang out with Clem tomorrow night.” He could hear synapses burning as the girls followed Spike into his apartment, coming to all kinds of wacky conclusions. Not that reality was any less wacky—there was last week to consider. Xander still didn’t know what Spike had been doing bent over like that. Or why George had been watching him do it so intently. Or why he had.
“Xander? Um, why is Spike here?”
“Because he brought the movies tonight?”
Yeah, Willow obviously wasn’t playing like that, the way two lines appeared between her eyebrows. She’d already figured it out. Buffy just looked confused. “You dumped my choice of date for Spike?” Her voice said she clearly did not understand.
“Ladies, ladies, as much as I love how interested you are in my love-life,” hey, look, no sarcasm even! “It’s got to stop. You guys pick the worst dates.”
On the couch, already pawing through the bags of chips and feeding them to George—Spike was so cleaning up the inevitable puke—Spike laughed. “You tell ’em about whatshisname? The one who wanted to eat you before I found out where the hell he’d taken you?”
Xander grinned at their blushing. “Ha! I wish Spike meant they way you two pervs are obviously thinking. Nuh uh. You, you fabulous ladies, set me up with a Vir’na demon. You know, the ones Giles warned us about recently? Looks human, weird tastes in prey. . .?”
Willow caught on first, eyes widening to flying-saucer size. “Oh, god. We didn’t.”
“You really did. Oh, stop looking so stricken. Gary didn’t do anything to me—hell, before Spike finished beating the tar out of him, he swore he only wanted a taste, nothing fatal or damaging or anything. I really took it as a compliment.”
Buffy was in Slayer Position One—arms crossed, legs spread, serious expression—looking between him and Spike and back again. “You’re really okay? I’m so sorry, Xander.”
He hugged her, forcing her out of Slayer Position and back into Best Friend Two—guilty and sheepishly smiley since forgiveness was assured—kissing her forehead with a loud smack. “Relax. Did you miss the mention of Spike and tar-beating? He almost killed the guy.”
“Only reason I didn’t is cause you’re too faint of sodding heart.”
“He wasn’t gonna hurt me, Spike.”
“Just cause he said that in the middle of being beaten up—”
“And what the hell was that pat-down afterwards for, huh? With you all glowery and bloody and getting me all bloody? Also, I’ve told you before. If you don’t stop feeding my cat potato chips I’m going to hold him above you and shake.”
“’Cept then I’ll never bring you movie and beer again, will I? What with me never coming here to see you and your projectile vomit again.”
“Eh, we’ll just have to meet at the Bronze all the time, then, where the pool tables live.”
“Speakin’ of, you’re game for Sunday, right? Clem’s got a buddy he wants trounced. Figure I pair him up with you and he’s gonna lose for sure.”
“Oh, ha bloody ha.”
“Okay!” Willow’s brightly cheerful voice reminded Xander that people other than Spike were in his home. He sometimes had a problem remembering that. “Um, so we’re just gonna go. Away. And leave you two to the movie watching.”
“Right!” Buffy’s head nodded like one of those bobble-headed dolls, with the big glassy eyes. And why was she clutching Willow’s arm like that? She wasn’t still upset about the sex-demon, because hello, Xander was fine. “Going. That’s us. Going now. Er, Will? When was Gary again?”
“Two months ago,” Willow said out of the corner of her mouth. “Maybe closer to three. Lets just go, okay? Wig later.”
“Wigging later. Going now. Check.” Raising her voice, like they hadn’t actually heard her aside, she waved brightly and said, “Bye Xander! Bye Spike! You two, um, have fun? Fun! Lots of fun! Safe fun.” She gave a speaking look to Spike. He gave her a cock-eyed ‘you’re insane’ look back.
Except then he smiled.
“Guys? You can stay if you want. We’re gonna order a pizza and watch Night of the Living Dead again. You really are welcome.”
This time, the identical looks exchanged were of extreme terror. “Nothankswe’regoingnowbye!” The door banged behind their fleeing footsteps, George hissing in their wake.
“Yeah,” Xander said to the door. “I don’t get it either. Thoughts?”
Spike shrugged. It was a. . . speaking shrug, but for all they were hanging out almost every day now, Xander still couldn’t read all of Spike’s unspoken words yet. “Birds just bein’ birds. Order the pizza. Hey, you get that deer blood I wanted?”
“I did, and if you make a mess on my counter again, I’m going to make you lick it up.”
“Promises, promises.” Spike grinned, tucking his hands behind his head and kicking off his boots. Comfy vampire. Mm.
Wait, no, bad thoughts. Xander knew those were bad thoughts and he had to stop thinking them. He would, too. Any time now. Anytime when Spike’s shirt wasn’t riding up to expose a tiny bit of belly and a trail of surprisingly light colored hair running downward. Mm.
Hurriedly dialing the pizza place they favored, he ordered an extra-large deep dish with onions, pineapple, and spicy barbeque chicken. George watched him the entire time, head cocked, tail twitching languidly.
George didn’t move.
“Harris, who the hell’re you talking to?”
Xander tossed a mug filled with a deer-something mix into the microwave. He always had blood on hand now—very useful, since Spike dropped in at the weirdest hours, whether or not Xander was home. Not that Xander minded. There was something kind of nice to come home to find Spike already there. “George. He’s looking at me.”
“S’what cats do.” Spike’s voice grew closer, the vampire himself appearing and leaning against the kitchen counter. “Just stare an’ stare till us lowly servants do whatever it is they’re wanting.” George agreed, since he jumped up onto the counter, totally certain that Spike would pet and scratch him. Which Spike did. “See?”
“I still don’t get why George likes you. Really, he’s insanely picky.”
“Oh, two of us have an agreement goin’. He understands certain things, and I don’t make it a point of runnin’ him out of here.”
Xander laughed, because it was probably supposed to be a joke. He wasn’t sure what the funny parts were, though. “You’re not getting rid of my cat, Spike. He’s my cat.”
“Yeah. But I trust me, if I wanted him gone, he would be.”
“Oh yeah?” Xander folded his arms over his chest. “Just how would you convince me to get rid of George, not that I’m going to.”
“Course you’re not. Don’t want him gone, like I said.” Spike’s body did a slithery predatory thing as he came closer to Xander. “He and I got an understanding going.”
“A what?” Laughing harder only sounded forced but hey, there was weird viby-ness going on! And Spike hadn’t stopped moving, yet. “You’re crazy, crazy-vampire. First you say you can get rid of him, but you don’t want to, and—what?” Close! Really close! Like arms on either side of Xander, personal-space in serious violation, wow Spike’s eyes were so dark close.
“Xander. Shut up.”
One very, very long kiss later, Xander knew how many teeth Spike had and that he tasted spring-rain clean, and that his tongue was wicked and clever enough to require hours and hours of study. Years. Decades, even. “Still don’t understand.”
* * * *
When the buzzer sounded, George pondered the door thoughtfully. He wouldn’t lower himself to procure food for his human, and he was fairly certain the vampire would get testy if he was disturbed just then. Not that a testy vampire was something to bother George—they’d already had that particular war over spilled blood on the counters and floors and the way George had already lost all but two of his preferred sunning spots—but displaying dominance right now was only going to confuse George’s poor human. Better to wait. He’d remind the vampire who was truly in control later.
From the bedroom, laughter turned into moans. Not quite as interesting as the yowls lady cats sometimes gave off, but George was too busy thinking finally to worry—again—about why he didn’t chase those interesting yowls. Getting his human into a position to see the vampire’s attraction had been difficult. It had almost involved work from George, real work instead of just chasing the unsuitable males away. The vampire could be so shy sometimes, really! Unbecoming in a creature cats knew to be lesser copies of their own superior selves. He’d nearly bitten the vampire when his human shooed the female humans who scratched correctly out of George’s home.
But now all was well. No more insufferably annoying human males—except George’s personal human, of course—traipsing in and out of his domain, bothering George’s routines and making his human miserable. Now everything was perfect.
Of course, opposable thumbs would be nice. Can openers were just impossible without them. It had to be a human plot to prevent cat-kind from total take-over.
When the phone started ringing, George very deliberately kicked the hand-set off its cradle, nudging it under a pillow so the constant drone would be muffled. He was enjoying the noises from the bedroom very much and didn’t want anything to disturb his listening pleasure. In fact, he’d probably go in later and maybe see if the visuals were as good as the audio. But later. His human deserved some privacy. George wasn’t out to be cruel, after all. His human took good care of him, and the vampire knew the proper ways to keep George content, one reason why George had supported his desire when the vampire first made it known—well, known to George. George’s human was so dense. Not anywhere near as intelligent as a cat.
There were those opposable thumbs, though. George just wanted one of them. It really was just not fair.
Stretching mightily, George wandered into the bedroom to watch. It was passably entertaining, but he was more interested in what would happen after the groaning and thumping stopped—there was a spot right between those bodies, warm and cool and perfect, that had his name on it. Just like everything else.