crazydiamondsue requested serious UST between Spike and Xander. I ... am not actually so good at UST but here's what I've got. Actually, this is part one of what I've got, as I'm continuing to write more. Feed me!! :D

Oh, this is btvs despite the coolness of the GIP :)

And man, they don't give you much warning before your picture-subscription is up, do they? Yeesh.


Lady Cat

Part One

Patrol, again. Buffy is seated on the high wall that separates the two halves of her world, idly kicking her feet as she twirls a piece of gum. She feels all of thirteen, maybe even twelve, and kind of loves it. Willow and Tara aren’t due to arrive for maybe a half an hour—class, or work, or something that’s probably a euphemism—and Riley’s tracking down something resembling a job. It didn’t come as a shock to her, but Riley’s taking his loss of job and focus hard. She tries to support him as best she can, but hey. She’s in college, too, and patrolling and dealing with her friends and her sister and her mom, who’s finally back home to stay. She’s got things to do! She’s Slayer and student and as much as she loves him, his constant requests to go patrol, or research or just spar are starting to get old. And it’s getting in the way of her school-work. After years of hating school, she’s not doing anything to jeopardize enjoying it now.

So there’s an interview. It’s just a position in a gym, but it’s something to do and the pay isn’t total crap. Plus, it comes with the buddy-buddy of hanging with a bunch of guys, something Buffy knows he misses. She keeps telling him that Xander really likes him, but ... well, there are complications.

Which are arriving right on schedule.

“Stop bumping me.”

“If you’d keep your giant arse to yourself... ”

“You’re bumping my arm.”

“Which isn’t all that teeny, either. You need to do more than just the bench-pressing you love so much, wanker, or you’re gonna be lopsided. Well, more.”

“I am not lopsided. This is all muscle, buster!”

“And that makes you less like a modern Quasimodo how, precisely?”

“Oh, like you should talk. Have you seen your head—oh, wait. You haven’t. Oops.”

“Painful, Harris. Real painful. Try that again with some more obsequiousness and it might actually bother me.”

“So... you’re feeling up the back of your head because you’re totally unmoved by my comments.”

“A bloke can want to check his hair, particularly with the handicap you think bothers me after a hundred years.”

“Riiiight. And the timing, not the least bit questionable.”

“Not even a bit.”

There’s several seconds of silence. Buffy thinks very deeply about looking over in their direction—and doesn’t. She doesn’t want to know. Nuh uh.

“It’s fine, Spike, stop preening.”

“I am not preening!”

“If you had a mirror, and boobs, you’d be preening. And hey! Stop bumping me!”

They’re close enough now that she can’t look away. Turning, she plasters a smile on her face as they meander closer. They don’t seem to be in any great hurry, actually, which Buffy appreciates. Right now she can at least tune them out—or laugh. When they’re right next to her, she either has to screech at them to shut the hell up, stop scaring away the things-to-be-beaten-up or deal with the two of them pouting at her when she tells them they sound like two year olds.

Come to think of it, they pout when she tells them to shut up, too. They’re just less chummy about it.

“Hey, guys,” she greets, trying for neutral.

Her fabulous attempt at remembering that these are her friends—well, one of them is—goes ignored. “You’re such an asshole,” Xander says.

He’s resorting to actual swearwords before they even start patrol? Uh oh. Buffy winces and wishes she could put her face in her hands.

“How original.” Spike leans against the wall right below Buffy’s dangling foot. He looks like sex and sin incarnate, his brilliant hair highlighting the cheekbones and the exposed buckle of his belt, the night too light compared to the inky darkness of his coat. “You always flatter me with your wit, Harris. Such consummate magnificence.”

Buffy contemplates to how tempting a target his big, fat head is.

“What’d I say about using SAT words, huh, wannabe punk poseur?”

“You said your brain was to insignificant to converse the way adults have learned. That’s why your books still have pictures.”

“Oh, no way are you not bringing up comic books again! Besides, who’s started reading my Alan Moore collection, huh? Brainy enough for you?”

Buffy can tell by the expression on Spike’s face that Xander’s actually scored something significant. It’s all in the pout, the one that says that actually hurt instead of I have the bestest come-back ever and plan to make you squirm; this is just me softening you up for the kill. And since an actually-hurt Spike means a sullen, pouting Spike who isn’t distracted by Xander and therefore goes after her—an interruption might be timely.

“So... we’re here to patrol, right guys?” Hopping down onto her feet, she gives them the most impish look she can come up with. “Shall we?”

For the first time all night, Xander actually looks at her. “Wow, regressing much, Buffy?” he asks, linking her arm with his. “I thought you gave up the playing with your gum thing around the time you, er, gave up gum all together?”

Spike flashes them a look so full of ire that for a second, Buffy wants to reach for her stake. “Lame, construction-boy,” he judges.

Xander picks up the pace a little, tossing a cross-eyed, little kid face over his shoulder. “Oh, hey, speaking of construction, and yes, this is an actual segue—how’d Riley’s interview go? Cause Union 319's still got a place for him, if he wants it. I mean, I know it’s not much, but the hours don’t suck, the pay isn’t too terrible, and he’s already got an in with the foreman. Just as a stopping-point, of course, till he gets back on his feet.”

Very, very privately Buffy thinks that Xander is probably the most surprised out of all of them—Riley included—that Riley’s having such a hard time finding a job. The first time they brought it up in mixed company, Xander got the most adorable look of confusion on his face: the sky was, obviously, purple. That’s the only way a guy like Riley—who is everything Buffy knows Xander thinks he should be—isn’t having his pick of offers.

Even more privately, Buffy sometimes wonders at the choices she’s made. And whether she should have said ‘yes’ so long ago.

“I’ll let him know,” is all she says. “He’s got enough money stashed away that he can afford to wait for a little longer. More, if he gives up his apartment. I’ve been thinking about that, actually. Mom still needs someone to help her around the house, and Dawn could use someone else capable of physical violence towards her person...”

The cemetery is still and quiet as they walk. There are vampires around, probably, but right now it’s almost a pleasant stroll with one of her best friends instead of a nightly requirement of her destiny. That’s a good feeling to have, and Buffy allows herself to lean against Xander’s shoulder for a moment.

Huh. His arms really are kind of freakishly proportioned to the rest of him. But comfy. Warm against the night’s chill and Xander-y.

Xander remains quiet as they walk past the first set of mausoleums—always a prime spot for baby vampires who think jumping out from behind buildings earns them scary points. There are none tonight. “If he needs a place to crash,” he abruptly says, “I’ve got room. Okay, I’ve got a couch and a tiny room I’ve dumped all of Anya’s stuff in, but I could clear it out.”

Buffy had actually considered that, back when Riley first brought up his financial concerns. It was a nice, neat way to help her boyfriend and her recently-broken-up-stuck-in-a-too-big-apartment. There were just two problems with that. The first was that Riley was as likely to take up Xander’s offer as he was to take up Buffy’s—possibly even less likely. The second problem—

“Oi! No way in hell are you letting that Iowa cretin where I kip. Bastard’ll stake me!”

Buffy hastily unclenches her fist. She loathes the way Spike goes shrill and whiney about certain things. “Spike, it’s Xander’s apartment. You don’t ... whatever you just said there.”

Sleep, you uncultured ninny.”

There’s obviously more he wants to say, but Xander’s already stopping and looking seriously at Spike. “There’d be a lot of rules he’d have to follow, if Riley does stay at my place for a little. Rule number two being ix-nay on the ake-stay of the pire-vay.”

Both Spike and Buffy blink at him.

“No staking,” he translates.

Buffy opens her mouth, but Spike again beats her to verbalization. “And why’s that the second rule, huh? What’s more important than potential murdering of poor, defenseless creatures?”

Xander’s expression shifts from earnest to annoyed—the swallowed-a-bug kind of annoyed. It’s not a good look for him, and Buffy surprised to notice Spike ... softening. Or maybe growing serious—but wasn’t he serious before? And when did Spike start sleeping at Xander’s place!

“The first rule,” Xander’s snapping, “is to not leave mugs full of caked, dried blood in the sink. That’s three more you owe me and good luck finding another Space: 2001 one!”

“Oh, for the love of neurotic women everywhere, it’s just a freaking mug! It’s not worth causing world bloody war three, and you need to get over your little obsessions. Never gonna get a girl with sci-fi geek hanging around your head like a neon sign.”

For a third time, the conversation shifts into a different level of seriousness, but this one Buffy doesn’t recognize. It’s charged, like an exposed electrical wire. The air almost crackles with energy—and for the first time, Buffy gets genuinely concerned.

Xander goes stock-still, an unreadable expression on his face. “What did you say?” he demands.

“Hey,” Buffy tries.

Spike takes an aggressive step forward, grass whisking around his boots while bugs sing a halo around the two of them. “Yeah, that’s right,” he breathes, smoke billowing into Xander’s face. “You heard what I said. I know all about your little attempts to go to the bars, Harris. Heard about the little redheaded bird you were trying so hard to chat up, too.”

Xander slowly turns a dull red, those freakishly large arms of his bunching in a way Buffy knows means business.

“Hey!” she says again, louder. Neither one looks at her so she pushes between their shoulders, a hand on each of their chests. “Don’t think I won’t throw both of you into the nearest headstone,” she threatens. “Now, I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you two, but it’s stopping. Now. Get me?”

There’s a tense moment when the only sound is Xander’s harsh breathing. Even the insects are quiet. Then, slowly, the warm thud of a heart beneath her palm grows slower, tense muscle finally relaxing. “Yeah,” Xander says. “I’m good.”

He’s still angry—genuinely angry—and Buffy makes a mental note to figure out just what the hell Spike is talking about. Until then, though, she gives him a glare she’d never level on Xander. “Do I need to throw you around?” she asks sweetly. “Cause tonight’s pretty dead and I could use the exercise. Or practice.”

Oddly, it’s Xander who tenses are her words. Spike just gives her a sneer that in no way emphasizes the darkness of his eyebrows or the pink fullness of his lips—he has to wear make up!—and backs up a step or two. “Sorry, Slayer. Not interested in playing victim to your pms. Go find Soldier Boy if you want a straw man to play with.”

His words are directed at her, but after the first sentence, Spike’s gaze is locked on Xander’s. Buffy has no idea of what’s going on, but she knows she’s had enough. “Good,” she snaps. “Now that we’re clear, Spike—you will walk on my left side and not talk. Xander, you will be on my right side, and if I so much as hear a peep out of either of you, so help me I will make you babysit Dawn. Without help!”

That works for maybe five or ten minutes. It’s not the most comfortable of five minute walks Buffy’s ever had, but it’s quiet—she’ll take it. She’ll totally take it and probably do a dance in celebration. And then ...

“You’ll make him babysit Dawn by himself?” Xander asks, doing a very bad job of suppressing his laughter. “Are you sure you’re okay with that, Buff?”

Beside her, Spike makes a sound that defies any kind of translation. “Oh, like you’re any better. What’s that, you want chocolate for dinner?” Spike imitates, his voice going up half an octave. “Sure! Who cares that you’ll get so hyper you never fall asleep and Joyce comes home to a wrecked house and a daughter who makes coke-addicts look calm?”

“That was one time! And I cleaned all of that up, no thanks to you.”

“I was busy.”

“You were smoking!”

“Well, yeah. Kept the rest of the neighborhood from thinking you were burning down the house.”

“It was one tiny little stove-fire. It didn’t even set off the smoke alarms!”

That’s it. Buffy throws her head back and screams.

Part Two

Author's Note: Still unbeta'd, although this chapter verges on R with some naughtier concepts. S/X still firmly in UST land.

Willow knows that she’s a lot of things. She’s smart, she’s capable, she’s actually pretty cool under pressure, after the need to babble hysterically passes. She’s sometimes funny, particularly if Tara’s the one who’s giving her that slow half-smile that makes her insides melt. She’s the best friends of two pretty awesome people, a position she values highly. She’s good with advice or listening, when people need to vent or have some questions they want answered.

People being the key, here.

“Er. So.”

Willow tries not to look annoyed as leather creaks beside her. She knows that leather is noisy—she remembers those pants in her nightmares and a couple fantasies Tara keeps wanting to hear about—but it’s a different kind of noisy when you aren’t wearing it. Then, the noise is caught up in your own body, like a squeaky shoe you can’t help but squeak over and over again. Or maybe a loose tooth that you keep wiggling, even though it kind of hurts, because then the pain is expected and almost rhythmical, because you’re the one creating it.

Listening to someone else shift back and forth nervously is more like fingernails on slate. Random fingernails on slate. Random long fingernails with those acrylic points that sound even worse, which she knows because once the always helpful Cordelia had demonstrated the difference for her.

“That is ... ”

Another shift, another squeak and Willow can’t take this anymore. Whirling, she puts on her best ‘I’m the mommy and I say so’ glare. “Can you stop fidgeting?” she asks. Pointedly. “Please? You’re worse than the two year old I just finished babysitting and I already have a headache.”

“All right, all right.” Spike has the gall to look offended, but he does stop shifting back and forth. Instead, he pulls out a pack of cigarettes and starts worrying at the cellophane covering.

Willow switches from mommy glare to die, vampire, die.

Spike freezes, eyes widening until he actually looks genuinely frightened for a moment—then covers it with a sneer. “Prude,” he mutters, sliding the pack back into his pocket.

“Spike. There was a reason you came here to talk to me, one that doesn’t involve calling me a prude. At least, it better not if you don’t want me to try out some new spells on you. There’s this one that involves sunshine, or, ooo, the one where I need a lifeless body to stay still for hours and hours... ”

The sneer fades away, replaced with a look of genuine respect—Willow’s certain of this because, frighteningly, she’s seen this look before. “All right,” he says, voice hoarse despite the lack of smoking. “Damn, Red, who gave you fangs? That was evil.”

“Coming from you, that’s a compliment,” she says. Well, asks, really, because she’s never been good at the snappy comments with any other male but Xander. Not even Giles, once she got over her massive crush on him sometime roughly between when Oz left and she realized just what, exactly, she wanted from Tara. So she’s slow about some things—it’s allowed!

Spike smiles at her, finally relaxing. Of course, that means he shifts so that his dirty boot is planted on her sofa and she’s got a great crotch-shot if she was into that kind of thing, but Willow decides not to comment on either. Spike is the worst kind of toddler and after three weeks with little Caleb, she’s learning to pick her battles.

“Well, yeah,” he admits, grinning in that boyish way that never fails to disarm her. “There’s a reason it was you I found, right after the Initiative.”

Only in her life could this be a fond reminiscence. “You came looking for Buffy.”

“Well, yeah, but I always intended to find you, too. Little firecracker.”

“Oh-kay, Uncle Richard is never, ever allowed to call me that ever again, now. And you wanted to drain me, Spike.” She can’t help grinning at him because yeah, this is almost fond. Good times, back when she was terrified and Spike was worried abut ... performance.

Wait a minute.

“Is that what you think?” he demands, bringing his raised knee down so he’s roughly two feet closer to her.

If he didn’t look so indignant and offended, she thinks she might be a bit worried—she’s got this thing about men who are taller than she is. And given how short she is, well, even Spike falls into that category. “That you wanted to drain me?” she asks. “I know you did.”

“Oh, no, love. Wanted to turn you. Yeah, I was gonna drink till you were pasty instead of pinky-pale—but then I’d cut my arm and press it to your mouth. Let a few drops slide inside, work your throat until you couldn’t help but swallow it down.”

Willow hates that she’s leaning forward, unable to breathe as the pale-blue sky of Spike’s eyes swallows her whole. “Uh?” she says.

“They don’t see it, love, but I do.” Spike’s practically purring now, head lowered and tilted so that his face fills her vision. His voice twists and weaves the way some of her spells do, surrounding her until all she can think of is the picture he’s painting. “I see the need in you crackling to get out. Think I was going to blow this town without something—someone—to keep me company? Slayer I was gonna kill. But you, pet, oh, you I was going to keep. Play with you till you screamed with the ecstasy of it, let you really experience the magic inside you. Give you the things you’ve always wanted, pet. Show you the fire and beauty inside you ... ”

Willow squeaks when a hand touches her thigh, throwing herself backward and furiously denying the damp heat that’s built up in her middle. “Spike! What the hell are you doing!”

He’s got his knee up again, elbow poking out into empty air as he runs a thumb over his mouth. “Well, it worked on you,” he mutters, looking disgruntled. “Why the hell isn’t it working on him, then?”

“Him? Spike! The hell! What!” She’s breathless, smoothing her hands repeatedly over her skirt as if she can remove the, er, problem by rub—er, no! No problem! She has no problem, and when does Tara come back from classes again? Maybe Willow can try that empathic spell and tell Tara to maybe hurry and ... “Spike?”

Still looking thoughtfully into space, Spike cocks an eyebrow at her.

She takes a very deep breath, reminding herself that Spike, while a vampire and as amoral as a politician, is kind of on their side. And something resembling a friend. “That was a ... you were testing something?”

“Well, I didn’t plan it, if that’s what’s got your knickers—er, twisty. As it were.”

Her death-glare reappears, bringing along some nuclear capability just in case sheer heat isn’t enough.

Spike grins at her, completely unperturbed, the sick bastard. “Sorry, love. I really didn’t mean to fash you so much. Just, well, having a bit of bad luck and needed some ... validation, maybe? S’hard to tell some things with this chip buggering up my rhythm, you know?”

No, Willow doesn’t know. But she’s remembering a few key details, the puzzle pieces arranging themselves in her mind. She doesn’t have the shape of it yet, and she thinks she’s probably missing more than a few—but there’s enough color and detail on the pieces she does have to give her an idea of what the whole might be. “So ... you were trying to seduce someone?” she hazards.

“Oh, no.” Spike denial is immediate and totally sincere. “Seduce? Hell, no, why would I want something like that?”

She isn’t going to rub her forehead. That’s something her mother does when she thinks Willow is being particularly trying, and Willow is not inheriting that particular gesture, no sir. The ache behind her eyes isn’t going away, though. “You were trying to seduce me, though, weren’t you? With the ... talking and the husky voice. The way you said things ... ”

“Well, er, I was trying to seduce you, yeah,” Spike admits slowly. He’s shifting again, uncomfortable and—if he were anything but a vampire—Willow thinks he’d probably be blushing. “Nothing personal, Red, I know you and your girl are good together. Now, a threesome—”


“Right. Er. See, the thing is, I ... well, there’s this, er, guy.”

Willow gives in and rubs her forehead. “A guy. That you want to seduce?”

“No! No seducing! It’s just that, well, I want to freak him out a bit, see, and innuendo usually sends him right through the roof.”

“And ... it’s not lately?” she asks. There’s a very bad thought on her mind. She wants it to go away now, please.

Spike snorts, losing his awkwardness as he warms to his subject. “He’s as dense as one of those football blokes you were tutoring a few weeks back. Wouldn’t know a hint if it grabbed his arse. Well, no, that he’d notice. Wouldn’t undestand, but he’d notice it. But usually, he’s good for a game or two, at least. Or at least he was up until about a month or so ago—it’s like some switch went off or sommat. My best material, real A game stuff—doesn’t work! Nothing does!”

Willow watches, wide-eyed as Spike climbs to his feet and begins pacing back and forth. He’s not smoking, but his hand travels up to his mouth, then back down to his hip as if he so angry that he can’t remember he doesn’t have a cigarette. His coat snaps and flares as he tramples the weave of her campus-furnish carpet into mutilated fibers. He’s sparkling with anger and frustration and a kind of desperation Willow recognizes far too well.

“So,” she says slowly. “About a month ago—” her voice wavers on that word, “—all the normal innuend-y word games that you and ... this guy ... used to play with each other stopped working?”

“Yeah! And it’s driving me bloody spare, too!” Spike throws himself back onto the sofa, his weight shoving it an inch closer to the wall. “Red, you gotta help me. Nothing works anymore! Oh, we’re still bickering and all, but all the sex stuff—it just doesn’t work anymore!”

“Do, um.” It’s a measure of Spike’s agitation, she thinks, that he hasn’t noticed hers—he’s usually so good at that. “Do I know this ... guy?”

“What?” There’s another switch, and tilt-a-whirl Spike changes emotions again: flustered denial, now, with false laughter that Willow’s pretty sure she’s never, ever fallen for. “Know him? Oh. Er. No. No, you don’t know him. It’s a ... guy at the bar, that’s all. Met him a while ago, er. Actually, he’s a demon. Always call him a bloke, because I’m, uh, British. Language isn’t so good for calling demons by nicknames. Or. Yeah. That.”

Willow has to try very hard to resist patting him on the head. He might try to bite her, if she does so. More likely he’ll leave, and now that Willow’s pretty sure she understands exactly what this is about, she’s too busy mentally calling him so adorably cute to want him to. There’s way too much fun to be had, first. “Of course,” she says smoothly. “He’s a demon guy you met months ago and I totally don’t know him.”

Spike eyes her, but she’s got innocent-face on and eventually he gives up. “Right. So ... do you have an advice? I could really use your help.”

She smiles, reaching out to pat his hand. She thinks about mentioning a conversation she had almost exactly a month ago, but since she’s pretty sure Spike doesn’t get why he’s so bothered, it’s more entertaining to let him dangle. “Well, the first thing you need to know, is that you are not allowed to hurt this, er, demon. Thing. Because ... because even though he’s a demon, he’s a—an individual! With feelings and friends who’ll be very upset if he’s hurt. At least, I think he does—he should, anyway, and you better be wary of them, mister, because they aren’t going to let their friend get hurt!”

Spike doesn’t call her on her slip, too busy watching with wide, earnest eyes. “Right,” he nods. “Careful of the friends. Except, I just wanna annoy him, not—er. Are you sure you’re old enough to want to know what vampires do in their spare time?”

Willow meets his gaze squarely. “Spike, you made me wet. Something I’m going to tell Tara.”

He looks flustered again, and this time she’s certain that, if he’d been human, Spike would be blushing. It’s surprising how cute he looks, too, like a little boy who has a secret he’s afraid to share. “I’ll tell her, don’t worry. Just a bit of a misunderstanding on my part, that’s all.”

“So?” When he just stares at her, she sighs. “Things little innocent me isn’t supposed to know?”

“Er, right. Well, it’s not like I want to, er, fuck him. Just annoy him a bit.”

The choice to say ‘fuck’ is totally deliberate. Willow’s gotten a lot better at reading people over the years, and Spike over the summer. He’s trying to show her just how little he cares about this ‘demon’ he’s obsessing over, and if he thinks that one little swear-word is going to bother her, he’s obviously not as smart as he thinks he is.

“Right,” she nods. “Just annoy him. With innuendo and that voice-thing you do that makes the lesbian wet.”

This time, Spike meets her gaze with a leering grin. “Well, you’re not blind, Red. Always thought you had good taste.”

“Flattery’s getting you no where, Spike.”

“It’s getting me that nice blush you’ve got going.”

She doesn’t press the backs of her hands to her cheeks, but it’s a hard thing. This conversation needs to end, and soon, because Willow is not good at keeping secrets. “Well?”

“Well, I ... want his attention back. And I’m not sure how to get it.”

Finally, something Willow can handle and probably without giving anything away—not that it’s a problem if she does. Spike’s so firmly into his ‘it’s not me, it’s my friend’ that he’s never going to realize that she knows just a little too much. “Why don’t you go make me a cup of tea, since you hate it when I do, and there’s a box of cookies there, too. And when you come back, we’ll ... talk.”

Willow’s always been good at putting puzzles together. This one’s design still isn’t complete and there are still large chunks that are grey out. But she’s pretty sure she knows what the final picture’s going to be—which makes her smile while Spike bustles about her little campus-stove. Being good at puzzles means she’s good at some other things to: like manipulation. And given the, er, pieces involved, she feels totally justified in moving them around a bit. It’s just one of her gifts.

The End

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