Knock on Wood

Maude M

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Part One

Xander Harris, you are THE man. Not just a man, oh no, one of distinction and importance, as defined with the article, "the" he thought to himself, tugging his screaming blue shirt back into a comfortable drape over his chest. This was his day. In fact, this had been his week. Oh, oh, he thought, knock on wood. Looking quickly around the dimly lit men's room of the Bronze, Xander found no actual wood, and knocked on the wet Formica of the counter instead. I'm sure it works in a pinch, he grinned to himself through the streaked reflection of the mirror.

"You done makin' yourself 'purty' for the women folk?" A snide British voice from behind him asked.

Xander turned around and slapped a hand on the blonde vampire's shoulder. "Spike, you reflectionless wonder, even you cannot get me down tonight. For tonight I am a man."

"I thought you became a man when the demon started squeezing orgasms out of you like bloody lemonade." Spike flicked a lighter across the end of his cigarette.

"As always, it has been a distinct displeasure talking to you, and I hope to run into you... well, how does never work for you? Is never ok?" Spike shrugged, then opened the bathroom window and began to step through. "Can I ask why you're leaving through the bathroom window, buddy?"

"Well, I guess you'll find out soon enough, won't you?" With that, Spike was out the window, and Xander figured he'd spent about enough time in the bathroom. The club was moving at its typical pace for 11:00 on a Friday night, swarming with tanned, teenish bodies grinding to the band on stage.

Xander was accosted by a tornado of blonde hair and designer clothing. "Xander, did Spike go out the bathroom window?"

"If by Spike you mean the vampire with bad accent and even worse hair, and if by window, you mean the pane of glass sealing an opening in the bathroom wall, then the answer would be yes." He grabbed his friend by the arm. "Don't worry about him, Buffy, how 'bout a dance?"

As Buffy looked up to answer the slayerette, Xander realized why Spike was running, and tried to stifle a laugh. "Oh, ha, ha," she fumed, "I am going stake him so many times that his ashes are going to have ashes."

"But how..." Xander started to ask, breaking into even more laughter at the words 'Property of Spike' written in black marker across her forehead.

"I fell asleep for a minute," Buffy mumbled. "You know, it can really be draining fighting the forces of evil all the time. People need sleep sometimes, you know, people need sleep!"

"Ok, OK, calm down. Why don't you go try to wash it off," he said kindly, then added, "before Spike comes back to claim ya."

Xander grinned as Buffy stomped off to the bathroom. He headed back to the table where Anya was awaiting his return, and Willow and Tara had taken a break from dancing to nurse their soft drinks. "There's our Taco boy," Willow smiled, her hand on Tara's.

"That's Assistant Manager Taco Boy to you," Xander grinned, sliding in next to Anya.

"A toast," Willow proposed. They all held their glasses high. "To promotions, and new apartments," she looked at Tara, "and loved ones, of course."

"Cheers," they clinked in unison.

"I probably better go help Buffy get Spike's love note off of her face," Willow sighed kindly and stood.

"I'll help," Tara said shyly.

"Come on," he said breathily to Anya. "I need to shake my groove thang."

"Xander, I just want to remind you that for every second we spend gyrating here, we have lost a second gyrating at home," Anya pointed out as he led her to the dance floor.

"I know, but sometimes you gotta give the people what they want."


3:00 a.m.: Anya had gone home an hour ago and Xander was dreaming. He was six years old, at a Willow's birthday party. Buffy was there, and so was Tara, both iniature versions of their older selves. Mini-Anya was standing in the corner, chastising another child for being selfish with the party favors.

Willow's mother places a blindfold on him, and gives him a stick to aim at a tree-shaped piñata hanging from a low branch. With a determined swing, Xander impales the papier-mâché plant, sending candy spilling down all around him. He yanked off the blindfold in time to see all of the children diving for foil-wrapped candies that gleamed like jewels in the sun. Xander move, he stood there, smiling, when a voice from behind asked, "Xander? Aren't you going to get some candy? Xander?"

"Bloody hell, wake up, you."

Xander shook his head and blinked a few times, trying to adjust to the lighted room. "What? What?" He squinted and groaned as Spike came into focus. "Why are you here? You don't live here anymore, remember? You were happy to go, I was happy to see you go; we were both happy. Why can't we be happy now?"

"I gotta stay here today," Spike said bluntly, lighting up a cigarette.

"Nononononononononono. No. No. Go home. And put that out. This is a non-smoking basement. Not that it matters, since you're leaving. Now go. And when did you get a key made? You don't get a key. Give it to me, Chippy." He put his hand out, waiting for the key, which was not produced.

"Sorry, mate. Can't go home. The roof collapsed, so I gotta cool my heels at the Sunnydale Roach Motel," Spike plopped himself beside Xander on the couch, making him scooch over, unwillingly. "One day. And did we not already have a conversation about where you sleep? You sleep in the chair, the comfy red..." Xander groaned as he looked at "his" chair, lying in a broken heap in the corner. "Chair's broke, Xanny-boy." He grinned lasciviously. "Guess we gotta share."

"Was that really necessary?" Xander whined. "I mean, you could have just said, 'No, I would prefer not to sleep in the chair. I find the chair uncomfortable, and it deprives be of my ugly-sleep'."

"I didn't say that because," he said, slowly, blowing out a long stream of smoke. "You would have made me sleep in it anyway."

Xander suddenly realized that under the thin sheet he was sleeping in, he was still sans clothing from his previous encounter with Anya. Embarrassed, he reached over to fish his boxers from the floor. "Shagged the demon tonight did ya?" Spike asked as he flipped on the television with the remote. "No need to get modest on my account. Just think of me as the gorgeous younger brother you always wanted."

"Damn it, Spike. Now I have to go wash my ears out with Lysol. Can you just try not to say anything while you're here?"

"I'll try..."

"How did your crypt cave in?"

"Pissed off Slayer did somethin' to it. Hell if I know why."

Xander frowned and erupted. "You drew on her head!"

"Calm down, twit. You don't want me getting' artistic while you're sleepin', do ya?"

Xander cleared his throat, and quickly slipped his boxers on under the covers. "Talk like that'll get you kicked out of this nice warm basement and into the cold hard sunlight, junior."

Spike affected a pout. "Oh, please Xanny. Please let me stay. I'll do whatever you want. I mean whatever. Any little impulse that pops into that big, empty head of yours, you just let me know, and I'll get right to it. Any little twisted thought..."

Xander plugged his ears with his fingers and began to hum loudly "La la la la la la la la..." He closed his eyes too, before he had to see too much of what Spike was doing with his tongue.


Improbable as it sounds, the night passed without bloodshed, and Xander woke up tenish the next morning to begin assembling moving cartons. Willow and Tara arrived about a half an hour later to help with the packing. "We brought extra tape," Willow said proudly, producing a giant roll of packing tape. "There is nothing worse than interrupting the packing to have to go get more... Eep! Spike in your bed!"

Willow and Tara backed up, looking at the sleeping creature dubiously. Xander shot a disgusted look in Spike's direction. "Yeah. Buffy did something to his crypt after we left last night, so, honor of honors, he decided to bestow his presence upon me."

Tara looked at Spike dubiously. "Then he should help. I mean, yeah. He should pack things."

"Good idea," Xander nodded, and went over to shake Spike. "Ok, Sleeping Vampy. Time to get up and earn your keep."

"Sod off," the vamp mumbled through the pillow.

"Sorry, bud. You picked moving day to crash at Uncle Xander's. Now you have to help pack boxes. Let's get to packin'."

"Is Anya coming?" Willow asked..

"Can't. She's at the dentist. I think it's some kind of Karma for being a vengeance demon for so long."

By the time that Buffy arrived to begin moving boxes to Xander's new apartment, the four of them had all but finished packing. Buffy was somewhat surprised at the presence of Xander's houseguest. "What is he doing here?"

"You destroyed my home Slayer. My friend here was just helpin' me out." Spike wrapped an arm around Xander's shoulders.

He quickly squirmed away. "I wasn't in the mood to argue. Anyhoo, you two lovebirds can make pretty-pretty some other time. Now is the time for moving."

They packed boxes into Buffy's car and the heap that Xander had only recently bought, With my very own money, thank you very much. As they prepared to drive the boxes to Xander's new apartment, Tara spoke up. "There's not much room in either of the cars. Willow, why don't you ride with Buffy and I'll go over with Xander."

Willow only hesitated for a brief moment before skipping over to Buffy's car and climbing in. Likewise, Xander and Tara situated themselves inside of the beat-up blue Taurus and were off down the road. "Okay," Tara started. "So I need your help with something. I mean, you know Willow better than anyone else..."

"Why yes, I do hold several degrees in adolescent Willow Rosenberg studies. Fortunately I use this knowledge for good, and not evil."

"Right. Well. I just, seeing how her birthday is next month, I'm not sure what to get her. I can always go with witchy-stuff, that is, there are bunches of books at the shop that she's hidden so she can buy them when she gets the..."

"Really? How devious of her! I like it."

"But then maybe I'd like to get her something more girlfriendy like..."

"Oh, yes go for that one. More girlfriendy."

" jewelry. Maybe a bracelet or a locket or something."

"Oh," Xander was somewhat deflated. Helping Willow's girlfriend pick out lingerie would have made for a very good afternoon. "Well, let's think. Willow always likes books, but I know that Giles is giving her some. And you could go for computery goodness, but I have that covered," Xander said smugly, thinking of the digital camera he had on order. "Buffy will probably take her shopping, so I would have to say, yes. A nice shiney something-or-another would be the way to go."

"I'm glad you said that," Tara said happily, slipping her hand into the pocket of her coat. "Lookit." She produced a tiny silver ring from her pocket. "Read the inscription."

Xander looked down to read the tiny words etched into the silver band: Love Tara. "I like it," he mused. "Simple, understated..."

"Xander, watch out!" Tara screamed. It was too late. Xander had cruised right through a red light. In a flash of color and an explosion of twisting metal, Xander's car was fused with one sailing through the intersection. Xander swam for a moment, hovering between confusion and terror; then everything turned black.

Part Two

Xander woke up in a darkened hospital room. His eyes fuzzily began to sort through the details of the room: monitors attached to his body, a needle in his arm, tubes in his nose. Every part of his body hurt, especially his head. "Owww..." he cried out weakly, attempting to move. He saw a figure rise from the corner of the room. "Don't move, Xander. I'll get the nurse."

"Giles? Giles wait," Xander called out, his voice a mere squeak.

Giles turned around and came to his bed. "What do you need? I'll get it for you."

Xander sifted blindly through the events leading up to the hospital, but was unable to make sense of them. "What happened?" He asked, his forehead wrinkling in pain and confusion.

Giles cleared his throat. "There was an accident. You were driving to your apartment..."

Memories began to wash over him, "Yes, I remember. Me and Tara... Omigod. Is Tara ok?"

Giles didn't speak for a long moment. He again cleared his throat, and spoke softly. "Xander. Tara was hit directly-she suffered a lot of internal bleeding..." "What are you saying to me?"

Giles shook his head sadly and took his arm. "She didn't make it, Xander. Tara died."

Xander's mind swirled. "Omigod, omigod, omigod. This is my fault. I can't... omigod." Tears fell down his face.

"Xander, you need to calm down. You are not well yourself."

"Nononononononono," he chanted, gasping for air.

Giles quickly exited the room and returned with the nurse. She calmly strode to his morphine drip and pressed a button. Moments later, Xander was asleep again. He awoke in the same room, hours later, with the same tubes in his body and soft beeping in his ear. He was also in the same pain. Tremendous pain. He stirred, feebly, attempting to shift his position in bed. A doctor stood over him, shining bright lights into his eyes and prodding him with different instruments and speaking what Xander believed to be gibberish. "Alexander? Do you understand me?"

Xander shook his head and focused on the doctor. "What? What?"

The doctor nodded. "I said I am Dr. Hunt. Do you know what day it is?"

Xander squeezed his eyes tightly, trying to remember. "I, uh. Saturday."

The doctor made a note on his clipboard and looked back to Xander. "You were in a coma for two days. I'm going to let you rest some more, and you can talk to some of your friends, but I'm going to have some tests run on you later. Please, try not to move." The doctor patted him on the arm distractedly and walked out the door.

Moments later, the Scooby gang filed into the room. Giles looked as he had when Xander woke earlier, tired and disheveled. Buffy and Willow were both swollen and red from crying, and Anya had a look of concern on her face that seemed to confuse her.

"Hey you," Willow spoke first, her voice cracking. "We're glad you woke up."

"You scared us," Buffy said seriously.

Xander looked back to Willow, who he knew was struggling to keep herself together on his account. "I am so sorry, Wills. I am just so sorry..."

Tears squeezed out of her red eyes, and she dabbed them with a mostly-soaked tissue before throwing her arms around him softly. With his bandaged arm, Xander weakly patted her head. "Xander don't be sorry. I know it was an accident. I-I'm glad I didn't lose both of you."

Willow's sobs began to increase, and Buffy retrieved her from Xander's embrace. "C'mon. Let's not make Xander upset," she said gently, leading her to a chair. Willow nodded defeatedly.

Anya rubbed her hands together and spoke abruptly. "I'm glad you didn't die. I mean, I'm not happy that you are hurt, but I'm glad you didn't die. I mean, what would I do if you died?"

Anya's speech renewed Willow's sobs, and she shifted uncomfortably. Giles jumped in to the conversation, hoping to get things back under control. "Are-Are you in very much pain? Are you thirsty? Hungry? Can we get you anything?"

Xander swallowed dryly. "I guess I could use something to drink."

Giles poured water from a small plastic pitcher into a smaller plastic cup and stuck a straw in it. He held it for Xander to drink. Xander greedily emptied the cup. "So, uh, what's wrong with me?"

"Well, let's see. You had some serious head trauma, obviously, a broken arm, and your spleen ruptured, for which you had surgery."

"And some broken ribs," Anya chimed in helpfully.

"What does a spleen do, exactly? Am I going to have problems in the future, when I need a working spleen?"

"Well, I hope not, because now you are spleenless," Giles explained. "And most likely you won't, because, well... Your spleen works as a filter before blood goes to your liver..." Seeing Xander's eyes widen in horror, Giles decided to opt out. "People live without spleens all the time. You'll be fine, I'm sure."

Xander nodded slowly. He looked back over to Willow who was sitting numbly in a chair with Buffy's arms wrapped around her. "Wills?" he asked softly. "Are you ok?"

She forced a smile. "Hanging in."

Xander nodded and drew a painful breath before beginning to relax. His morphine drip automatically began to dispense, sending Xander into a fuzzy realm of muted pain and forced sleep. "Where're my parentssss..." he asked, fading out before receiving his answer.


Over the next few days, Xander managed to regain control over his consciousness, and managed to get the morphine drip removed. His room was constantly stocked with visitors; even his parents managed to drop in few times. The one person who had not made an appearance after the first night, however, was Willow. On the sixth night of his hospital stay, Xander awoke in the dead of night to find Spike sitting in a chair in the corner of the room. "Evening, luv," Spike tossed out casually.

Xander groaned. "What in the name of all that's good are you doing here?"

"My shift."

"Your shift?" Xander asked in disbelief.

"That's right, Harris. We've divided the visiting into shifts, and they decided, since I was still makin' use of your facilities, that I should take a shift." Spike dropped something small onto the table next to him.

"Why? I don't want anyone here that doesn't want to be here. In fact, I don't want anyone here at all," Xander's lip began to twitch in anger. "Especially you. You leave."

"Can't do that, pet, not after all the trouble it was talkin' them in to lettin' me come after hours," Spike grabbed the television control from Xander's bed and flipped quietly through the channels. "Calm down, it's not like I wanna be here. I just figured I owed you."

"Owed me?"

"Well, you did let me stay in your dank little hole a few times."

"This is ridiculous. And what on God's earth are you doing?" Xander snapped, pointing to a small object in Spike's hands. "Is that origami?" The disbelief in his voice was overwhelming.

"What? What am I going to do? I have a stupid chip in my head preventin' me from doing any bloody thing I enjoy. All I can do is watch the flippin' telly. I happened to catch a show on the Home and Garden channel, and well, got me a hobby, I do," Spike gestured to a tray-table that held a line of tiny paper figures.

"I'm in the Twilight Zone," Xander muttered.

"This one is a Chaos demon, and this one is a dandy little mace with all kinds of spikes, and this one is a coffin, see the little lid actually moves..."

"What is that?" Xander pointed to one of the figures on the end.

"A ladybug."

"A ladybug? Oh, buddy. That chip has turned you into a.... well, as you would say a poof. Yep, a giant poof," Xander laughed a bit, despite his aching torso.

"Sod off. I won't be insulted by something below me on the bloody food chain," Spike growled, knocking the paper figures into a wastebasket.

"Oooh, I'm scared. I guess you'll be giving me one hell of a paper-cut..."

Spike narrowed his eyes. "Yeah pet. I can think of strategic places that a paper cut would be especially painful. In fact, I can give you a demonstration..."

"Spike?" Xander interrupted him with a serious tone. "You've been hanging out with them, right?"

"The Burger King Kids Club?" Spike asked incredulously. "Well, hanging out is awfully strong. More like they keep findin' reasons to bug the living hell..."
"Come on, Spike. One question. Seriously. How is Willow?"

"Red?" Spike thought for a second trying to think of something lascivious to say, then gave up. "Actually, I haven't seen the Witchy Morsel lately. Guess she's probably locked up, pining away since you killed her woman."

Xander cringed. Cringed wasn't even the word for the convulsion that seized him as Spike vocalized his own thoughts. "I did, didn't I?" he said, not to Spike, but to himself. "I killed her."

Spike snorted. "Don't give yourself so much credit. S'not like you clubbed her to death, or tore out her heart. You smashed a car, for Godssake. Any idiot can get in a car and smash it up. The whole incident decidedly lacks style."

Xander lunged at him suddenly, managing to grab the collar of Spike's duster for a brief moment then recoiled immediately in pain. "God," he cried out. "You are such a fucking bastard!"

"Oh, Xanny, Xan, Xan. Your sweet-talk won't work on me," Spike grinned. After a moment, his tone changed. "Seriously Harris. Calm down. Accidents bloody happen. I'm sure Red will forgive you; you Slayerettes are a bloody sappy bunch."

Xander shook his head, small drops of moisture falling from the corner of his eyes onto the hospital sheets. "I don't know. I know she'll want to forgive me, but I don't know that she will."

"Oh for Pete's sake," he mumbled to himself. He reluctantly reached a cold hand out and patted Xander lightly on the shoulder. "Cheer up then. Tomorrow's another day, and all that rot. No use in working yourself up now, when you haven't even talked to the girl."

Xander looked up slowly, his face a mixture of confusion, despair and bemusement. "What the hell is that?"


"Are you comforting me?"

Spike withdrew his hand quickly. "No! I mean... well, I don't know, I just want you to shut your yap and go back to sleep so I can watch cartoons."

"As long as your intentions are selfish..."

"Oh, they are, mate. Believe me."


"So I just don't know what to do. I can't really take care of myself, and they won't release me unless they know that someone will be taking care of me..."

"I suppose your parents are out..." Giles shook his head.

"You kidding? They practically danced a jig when I told them I was moving out."

"Well, I'd let you stay with me, except that I'm not home much, running the shop and all," Giles told him apologetically.

Xander nodded. "I know. And Buffy has that whole 'Slayer' thing to take care of, and Willow... well. I don't even know what's going on with her."

Giles patted his arm. "Give her some time. She just needs to sort through her feelings."

"I know."

"What about Anya?"

Xander looked at Giles disparagingly for a moment. "Giles. Do you know why Anya doesn't have a cat?"

"I suppose you're right. She's not the most nurturing person in the world. Here's a thought... Why don't we ask..."


"No!" Spike exclaimed vehemently. "I am not going to play nursemaid to the geek. No."

Giles frowned at him. "Spike, you owe us. We have given you shelter, sustenance, and have turned our heads on your assorted evil deeds. Now we need a favor. And besides, sooner or later Xander's parents will realize that you are staying in their basement."

"Listen to me, Watcher. I'm not the appreciative sort. You asked me to stay the night with 'em, I did. I'm not Mary Bloody Poppins," Spike stomped around the room.

Giles was beginning to lose patience. "Spike! Three weeks of your unending life! Three blessed weeks!"

"You going to make it worth my while?" Spike asked, seeming slightly amused at Giles frustration.

"I can't do anything about the chip."

"Well I know that, old man. How about we put a monetary value on my services?"

The following morning, Buffy and Giles arrived at Sunnydale General to drive Xander home. Still bandaged and sore, Xander stepped into the wheelchair to be wheeled to Giles' car. "Is this really necessary? I can walk you know. You don't need a spleen to walk."

The large nurse didn't bother to look up from her clipboard. "Insurance reasons. You get hurt at the hospital, our fault. You get hurt in your driveway, your fault."

Xander took a deep breath. "I think that it was truly the caring staff of professionals that helped me most on my road to recovery."

The nurse "accidentally" ran the chair into a door, eliciting a "yow!" from Xander. "Sorry 'bout that," she said unapologetically.

Buffy and Giles helped to get Xander settled into the car. "Ready?"

Xander nodded from the back seat. "I never guessed that my first night in my own place would be after all this."

"You'll be fine, Xander. You'll have the friendly seeing-eye-vamp to help you on your way," Buffy snorted, rolling her eyes. "Which one of you came up with that stroke of genius?"

"He did," Xander and Giles said in unison.

"I thought so."

Part Three

With considerable assistance, Xander made his way up to the second story of his apartment building and unlocked his new apartment. To his surprise, his belongings had been unpacked and furniture arranged neatly. "Wow. Did you guys do this? I was expecting... well, I don't know what I was expecting, but this isn't it."

Buffy helped him over to the sofa. "Well, you aren't exactly in the best of shape for moving furniture, are you?"

"Um, hey," Xander asked in a casual tone. "You didn't unpack a box labeled 'Bottom Drawer', did you?"

Buffy narrowed her eyes. "Yes, and can I just go ahead and say 'EW'? Next time, I suggest that you rethink your casual labeling method."

Xander laughed nervously. "I don't know what you're talking about."


"The only things that we have not yet unpacked are the ones still in your car," Giles interrupted. "Which is being held for you at some horrible place called 'Big Mike's'. Since the car is totaled, they just need you to gather your belongings so they can salvage it."

Xander nodded. That little task was just going to have to wait. He couldn't imagine having to sift through the mess that had ended Tara's life. The bedroom door opened and a disheveled Spike poked his blonde head into the living room. "Close the bloody blinds, will ya?"

"Come close them yourself," Buffy taunted him, but to her disappointment, Giles strode across the room and closed the blinds.

Pulling a tee-shirt over his bare chest, Spike went into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. Xander frowned. "I thought you were hiding out in my parent's basement, Spike. I don't remember saying you could stay in my new apartment."

Spike shrugged as he tore open a bag of blood and emptied it into a mug. "Figured since I would be making the tremendous sacrifice of waiting on you for three weeks, it would only be fair that I have a decent place to stay in the meantime."

"I don't even want to know how you have a key."

"Went through your things at the hospital. Found the key and made me a copy," he explained as he popped the mug into the microwave.

"Well I can see that you two are going to be just fine, so I need to be getting back to the shop," Giles said, picking his car keys back up off of the counter. "Buffy?"

"Yeah, I have class. You going to be all right?" she asked Xander. "If you want, I can stake him now and be done with it."

"Nah, run along. I'll do the honors when I'm good and ready," Xander told her.

Spike licked his lips, leaving a faint red smear. "What, no goodbye kiss, blondie?"

"Don't think so. I will have to eat, eventually."

With that, Giles and Buffy left the apartment, leaving Xander alone with Spike. Spike stood in the kitchen, sipping blood from the mug, looking almost human, as if he was drinking coffee. "What?" Spike asked.

"Nothing," Xander shot back. "Well, I guess I find it a little grody that you've been sleeping in my bed, and drinking blood from my cups. Did you bring your own toothbrush, or should I look forward to red bristles?"

"We'll just leave that a mystery. In fact, later, we can play, 'What things in the apartment DIDN'T Spike lick?' Sound like fun, does it?"

"And later, we can play, 'At what point will Xander stake me in my sleep?' If could be today, it could be next week, that's the great thing - you never know it's coming!"

Spike glared at him from the rim of his cup. "So this lookin' after you thing. What exactly do I have to do?"

Xander thought a moment. "Well let's see. You can bring me a soda, and a pillow, so I can lay down here. Then you can bring me the remote so I can watch TV."

"Don't have any soda. In fact, the only thing to eat here at all is of the O negative liquid diet variety."

"Well, then I guess that you'll have to go get me something, Bleachy."

"Right then. I'll just put on my flame-retardant jumpsuit, and be on my way."

"How much longer until sundown?"

"Oh, about eight hours. I don't know about you, Xanny, but I'm going back to bed."


Xander picked up the phone and dialed Willow's number. It was the first time he'd been brave enough to talk to her since she'd visited the hospital. He let it ring until her answering machine picked up. "Hey Wills," he started off shakily. "I'm, um, home now. I just thought we could talk or something. Well, call me ok?"

He hung up the phone as someone began to knock at his door. "Spiiiiiiiike! Doooooor!" Spike stumbled back out of the bedroom, unlocked the door and walked right back to the bedroom. Xander sighed. Three weeks, he thought, only three weeks, knock on wood. Being out of reach of the coffee table, he rapped on his head softly. "Come in!"

Tentatively, Anya poked her head in the door. "Xander? Are you here?"

"Yep, come on in. I'm afraid the butler is an evil creature of the night." He held out his arms like an expectant three-year old. "I'm glad you came."

Anya walked to where he was laying, and perched herself precariously on the edge of the sofa. "How are you feeling?"

Xander thought a minute. "Better. I feel better. Sore, still. Wanna see my scar?"


I have found the only woman on earth that line actually works on, he thought. Yay me! He pulled up his shirt to reveal a bandage on his abdomen, then carefully peeled up a corner to expose the long line of stitches from his surgery. "Does this make me... Dangerous?" He raised his eyebrows at her.

"I suppose it does," she thought for a moment, then shook her head. "Listen. I want to talk to you about something."

"I sense that I'm not going to enjoy our little chat."

She frowned. "Do you have psychic abilities?"

He let out a breath and shook his head. "Oh crap. You had to do this the day I get out of the hospital? Have some compassion."

"You are psychic! And I thought I was being compassionate. I decided to break up with you while you were in a coma," she said matter-of-factly.

"Anya! Why are you breaking up with me? This is ridiculous!"

"Well, I just think, well, I think that human life is a little too fragile. I think I may go ahead and look to species that are a little harder to kill," she said thoughtfully.

"What? But you're an *ex*-demon. Are you forgetting that?"

"Listen, I'm not saying that this isn't a little hypocritical. I realize that. But what you need to know is that we really aren't going to see each other anymore."

Xander leaned back into his pillow, stunned. "Ok. Well, thanks for stopping by..."

"We could have sex one last time, if it would make you feel better..." she offered cheerfully.

"What? No, are you nuts? I just got out of the hospital. Even if I wanted to, which I *so* don't."

"Ok, then. I'm going to go. I'll see ya... well I guess I won't. Try not to get yourself killed, ok?" She smiled and patted him on the head, then walked out the door.

Xander sat still for several minutes, attempting to contemplate what had just happened. What kind of person dumps you after you get out of the hospital? The bedroom door opened. "Tough break, ducks."

Xander was getting fed up. "Thank you for eavesdropping. Now I have the distinct pleasure of knowing you witnessed that embarrassing scene. Congratulations forces of darkness!" He threw his hands in the air dramatically. "You really know how to kick a guy when he's down!"

Spike plopped himself on a chair in the living room. Wordlessly, he tossed Xander a bag of M&M's. Xander eyed it suspiciously. "What's this?"

"What does it look like, you dolt?"

"Why are you giving it to me? You hate me."

"Well, I know that. I just figured that after gettin' to hear you be sacked in such an undignified way, I owed you at least this. I'll take it back if you don't want it."

"Is it poisoned?"

"Could be."

Xander ripped opened the bag and popped a few in his mouth. "Not dead yet."

"Congratulations." An evil smile spread across Spike's face. "So I guess you won't mind if I give the demon sex-fiend a call? After all, she is looking for someone with a longer life-expectancy."

Xander narrowed his eyes. "You do that. In fact, you have my blessing. The two of you deserve each other. A match made in the Hellmouth."

"Come on now, don't be jealous. After all, we're roomies for the next few weeks, so you'll still see plenty of me," Spike batted his eyes.

"I'm being punished. For what?"

Spike grinned at him suddenly. "I have an idea. S'almost sundown. How's about I go get us a bottle of somethin' alcoholic, and you can drink away the demon, and I'll drink away havin' to spend twenty more days playin' house with you. What say?"

"Um, hello? On massive quantities of painkillers here. Honestly, Spike. You are so obvious. I'm not going to kill myself, so you may as well find something else to amuse you."

"You're no bloody fun."


"Willow!" Xander exclaimed as he threw open the door. "I am so glad you decided to come."

Willow hugged him, careful not to squeeze his broken ribs or surgery wound. "Me too. I'm sorry I haven't been able to... I've spent some time with my parents..."

"It's ok. I understand. You're here now."

"How are you?"

"Good, great, fine. Can't wait to get back to kickin' butt."

She eyed his cast and bandages warily. "Well, you can't be that great if you're still wrapped up like a mummy."

He shrugged, determined to be as upbeat as possible. "Please don't worry about me."

She sat down at the small table in his "dining area", which consisted of half the living room and part of the kitchen. "So, where's Spike?"

He rolled his eyes. "Made him leave. It was harder than you might expect. For something so determined NOT to help me, he seems to be having a grand old time making use of my apartment. You wouldn't believe the argument we had when I told him he'd have to give up the bed and sleep on the couch. That chip was going off like firecrackers."

She smiled. "Glad you're getting along." She thought for a moment, then picked up a tiny paper heart impaled by a miniature dagger from the table. "What is this?"

"Don't even ask. It's Spike's new hobby."

"Oh." Pause. "How's Anya?"

Xander sighed. "Well, I don't know. She dumped me."

Willow's eyes widened. "I am so sorry."  Xander shrugged. "It's been really weird, how we've all been separated. With you stuck here and Tara gone..." She trailed off.

"I'm sorry, I am so sorry."

She smiled at him tearfully. "It was an accident. They happen all the time. I don't want you to feel guilty..."

"But I do feel guilty," he interrupted. Ignoring the pain in his ribs, he dropped to his knees in front of his best friend. "You don't know. We were driving and..."

"I don't want to know, Xander."

"I looked away from the road..."

"Please don't talk about it. It hurts..."

"I was looking down... I wasn't paying attention."

"Just stop. No more," she cried out, sobbing uncontrollably into her hands. He lay his head in her lap.

"I'm sorry," he repeated over and over into her skirt.

"I think about her all the time, I can't stop. The psychologist on campus says that's normal, but it doesn't feel normal. She says I'll get past it someday, but I don't know how. I wear her clothes and sleep in her bed and I just want to be with her." He could feel her tears dropping into his back, as she worked her wet fingers through his hair.

He raised his head, hoping that somehow, by the time he saw her face he would have something to say to her, something to ease her pain, if only a little bit. Unfortunately, what he actually did was kiss her; softly on the lips at first, but soon both were consumed by the need to kiss away everything that had happened. He had kissed her before, his best friend since kindergarten, but never like this. There was desperation in this kiss, forcing it deeper and deeper until Xander pulled away. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and stared at Willow's swollen face. "I am so sorry," he gasped. "I mean, I can't believe I did that. I have done some terrible things..."

"Don't be sorry," she breathed, shutting her eyes. "It feels better. It makes me feel better. Do it again."

"That is not a good idea."

"Just kiss me again!" she cried out, pulling him toward her. He obeyed, without being certain of why. Possibly it was because he did want to make her feel better. Possibly simply because she told him too. Maybe he wanted to make himself feel better. Soon he was plunging deeper into her mouth, and she was winding her fingers through his hair moaning painfully. This is wrong, wrong, wrong, he kept saying to himself.

Willow pulled away, with a look of realization spreading across her face. "Oh no. This really wrong. I think I better go..."

His mind raced. He knew it was wrong too, but she couldn't just walk out of there. Not after what had happened; would she ever come back?. "Wait. I know, I'm sorry, but just stay. No more of that. Just don't go."

She shook her head. "I have to. I won't stay away, I promise. But now I have to go." She quickly grabbed her bag and walked out of the apartment.

Xander laid down, flat on his back where he had been kneeling on the floor, and stared at the ceiling, confused and disappointed with himself. He wasn't sure of how long he had been there, but he was still on the floor when Spike returned. Spike barely noticed as he stepped over Xander's body to get to the kitchen. He began unpacking items from a grocery bag.

"Red gone already?" Spike didn't wait for an answer. "I thought she'd be here all night, braidin' your hair and talkin' 'bout boys or whatnot. Honestly, if there were people more deeply entrenched in the tenth grade...Are you sick or somethin'?" Spike finally looked down to where Xander lay on the floor.

Xander shook his head slowly. "Drunk, then?" He shook his head again. "Then get off the damn floor!" Spike said in exasperation. Xander shook his head again. Sighing loudly, Spike finished shelving the rest of the groceries, then went to Xander. "Ok, I guess we do this the hard way."

Contrary to his tone, Spike very gently lifted Xander off of the floor and carried him into the bedroom, grumbling the entire way, until he carefully lowered him to the bed. Xander lay quiet, contemplating the vampire as he pulled away. Without warning, Spike leaned back over him and brushed his lips against Xander's. Slowly, his cool lips parted Xander's and he could feel Spike's tongue graze against his own. "Mmmm..." Xander sighed as Spike pulled away from him.

"Well then," Spike said, turning to leave the room. "I don't know what had you all over the floor, but now you have something else to think about."

Part Four

Something else to think about was possibly understatement of the millennium. Xander lay awake alternating between the shame of having kissed his best friend in her weakest moment, and the horror of having kissed a creature of the night. Scratch that, the horror of having *enjoyed* kissing a creature of the night. Check yourself into the loony bin, buddy, Xander thought to himself. At the rate you're going, you're on target for a random crime spree by the end of the week.

After hours of tossing and turning (as much as one could with a smattering of broken bones and no spleen), Xander decided to go ask Spike exactly what he meant by kissing him. But as he stepped into the dimly lit living room, he realized that Spike was gone again. Sighing, he went to the kitchen and foraged through his cabinets, finally tearing into a foil-wrapped package of Pop Tarts. As he bit into the cold, powdery pastry he slid down to sit on the floor.

Somehow the floor was comforting to him. Solid, hard, almost punishing. You deserve no cushioney chairs, he chastised himself. What went wrong? Two weeks ago, he was on top of the world: a promotion, new (to him) car, new apartment, and an only somewhat psycho girlfriend. How did he get from there to broken bones, sitting on the floor eating Pop Tarts, having only hours ago received a good night kiss from Spike? Not to mention what he had done to Willow. That was probably the worst part of the entire situation. How could he have possibly thought that kissing her would help?

Frustrated, he tossed the remainder of his Pop Tart onto the floor and buried his head in his hands, giving up and letting tears flow down his face. Great, he though, now let's make everything better by having a big girly cry. Who's the man, now?

On cue, he heard the key in the front door lock turn and the tread of Spike's heavy boots on the floor. Quickly Xander wiped his face with his tee-shirt and hoped that Spike wasn't heading for the kitchen.

Of course, he was. Xander drew a quick breath as he watched Spike light up with the glow of the refrigerator light, then turn around as he noticed Xander. Spike frowned and considered him for a moment. "You got somethin' going on with the floor I should know about?"

Xander shook his head, afraid that if he were to speak, he would start crying again. Spike pulled a beer from the refrigerator, popped the top, and slid down on the floor across from Xander. He held out the bottle, "Want some? I won't tell the rest of the DARE troop."

Xander shook his head again. Shrugging, Spike reached over and grabbed the Pop Tart from where Xander had tossed it and began to eat it. "That is so disgusting," Xander managed to spit.

"What? I'm a bleedin' vampire. Not like I'm gonna get sick or something. I've eaten much worse things than this, Little Lord Fauntleroy," he replied, sending crumbs spraying out of his mouth.

"Who knew you were such a slob?" Xander wondered. "I mean, I knew you were evil, but you are also one nasty creature. You kiss your mother with that..." Xander stopped himself suddenly, after realizing exactly whom Spike had been kissing with that mouth.

Spike narrowed his eyes, knowing exactly why Xander had stopped himself. "Not recently," he said mercifully. "She's been dead a hundred... well, a really long time."

Xander nodded, then made a move to stand up. Spike's hand shot out and pulled him back down. "Ow! Hello? Man with broken ribs, here!"

"Yeah, and no spleen, I know, I know." Spike mumbled, then looked sharply at him. "So, why don't you go ahead and tell Uncle Spikey exactly what has you crawling around the floor."

"Yeah, you know, you are exactly the person that I want to tell all of my problems to. Why didn't I think of it before? I'll tell the one person that doesn't care one bit whether I live or die..."

"So? You need to talk. Apparently you can't talk to the rest of the Powerpuff Girls, so here I am."

"Why should I trust you?"

"You probably shouldn't."

"See? Not helping me here." Mindful of his broken bones, Xander quickly maneuvered to his feet. "Thank you very much, good evening, adieu, adios, farvegnugen."

Xander stomped into the bedroom, flung himself against the door, waited exactly five seconds then stomped back into the kitchen. "I kissed Willow."

"That's it?"

"What do you mean, 'that's it"? It was really inappropriate," Xander explained, annoyed.


"Because... she was a mess, and I'm a mess, and I just wanted to make her feel better, and all kinds of reasons. It was really wrong."

"So don't do it again."

"I don't *want* to do it again, but it's not like I planned on doing it last time."

Spike thought for a moment. "You people handle death all bleedin' wrong."

"How so?"

"Well, God know, being dead myself, and having done more than my fair share of killing..."

"You know, I don't want to sit here and rehash your gruesome glory days."

"All I'm sayin' is that she'll get over it. They always do. She just wants to hang onto somethin' now, and I'm guessin' you're what's within grabbing distance."

Xander eyed him suspiciously. "But... I took advantage of her, right?"

"How would I bloody know?" Spike rolled his eyes and started to stand up. "How 'bout this: If you get some from the Witchy Wonder, goody for you. If not, well, hurrah. You can pin a gold star on your Slayerette sash."


4:16 a.m. on a Friday: Xander is dreaming. He stands outside Willow's parent's house, knocking on the door. He knocks for what seems an eternity, but no one answers the door. A window opens and Willow pokes her head out. "Xander, the door is locked from your side. Just unlock it, and I'll let you in." Xander looks at the door, which he cannot stop rapping, and sees no lock.

"It's not here," he calls. He continues to knock, but his knuckles start to bleed.


Xander woke up in pain, realizing that his hand was wedged between the bed and the wall. He got out of bed and stumbled into the bathroom, shaken by the frustrating dream. He turned on the sink and ran warm water over his hand, which was not, in fact bleeding, but still very sore. Sighing, Xander splashed his face with the tapwater, letting it drip from his open mouth and the messy brown locks hanging over his forehead. "Jesus," he breathed.

Batting water from his eyes, he blindly reached for a towel from the rack behind him. One foot slipped behind him, causing him to lose balance and fall awkwardly onto the hard linoleum, jarring his already sore ribs. "Sonofabitch!" He cursed loudly, panting in an effort to control the pain.

He could only imagine what Spike must have thought, as he walked in the bathroom to check out the commotion: Xander lying twisted on the floor wearing only a pair of monkey-print pajama-bottoms, his hair and face soaking wet. "You alright, pet?" Xander gasped, nodding his head, and Spike lowered himself to the floor beside him. He spoke softly. "I'm beginnin' to think you'd be better off just stayin' down here. Save you all that trouble of getting' up and down."

Xander laughed painfully, in spite of himself, and opened his eyes. Spike was perched above him, his expression half amused and half concerned. Feeling somewhat self-conscious, Xander tried harder to catch his breath.

"Why don't you tell me where it hurts," Spike said slowly, a tiny smile playing on his lips.

Suspicious but very curious, Xander pointed shyly to his knee, which had hit the floor first when he fell. Slowly, Spike bent over and pressed his cool lips to Xander's skin, causing Xander to draw a quick breath, and shiver at the tiny bumps forming all over his body. Spike left his lips there for a lingering moment before looking back up.

"What else?" Spike asked.

Xander pointed to his ribcage, where the cuts and bruises from his collision were starting to heal. Spike lowered his lips to Xander's torso, again, pressing his cool skin against Xander's warm flesh. This time, Spike opened his mouth very slightly, and Xander could feel the flicker of Spike's velvety tongue against his skin. Involuntarily, Xander felt something between a moan and a question escape his lips: "Huumm?"

Again Spike looked up, this time grinning widely and asked, "What else?"

Xander pointed to a spot on his forehead. As Spike's lips and tongue grazed his skin again, Xander felt sensation in the other places where Spike's lips had been, as if connected by the electricity of Spike's mouth.. When Spike surfaced again, he only raised his eyebrows at Xander, who drew a nervous breath, closed his eyes, and pointed at his lips.

He heard Spike chuckle softly before feeling the vampire's mouth on his own lips once again. This kiss was not the tender brush of the lips that the others had been. As soon as Spike has situated himself, his tongue dove into Xander's mouth, searching out heat and the hidden places that made Xander whimper. Xander, confused but not about to stop, allowed Spike to taste his mouth, nibble on his lower lip and mumble incoherent babble against his skin. Spike's movements were marked with a jolt of sensation in Xander's cock, which, if he had the ability to formulate coherent thoughts, would probably have worried Xander.

Since he was not, in any way pondering the situation, Xander reflexively placed one hand on Spike's head and wound his fingers through the mess of blonde hair. This movement elicited a chuckle from Spike, who was working his tongue and lips and teeth softly down Xander's neck in a cool, wet trail.

Spike looked up at him. "Can I see your owie?" Spike asked with an affected pout, but not unkindly. Xander nodded. Slowly and painstakingly, Spike pulled the tape back from the bandage that covered Xander's surgery incision. He fingered the tender skin gently, placing tiny kisses on either side of his stitches. "Ooooh," Spike cooed happily. "This is going to be a *lovely* scar."

Something about the way Spike said those words, the candid admiration of something that Xander could never have considered *lovely*, melted him. No longer content to be an inactive participant, Xander waited for Spike to carefully rebandage the surgery wound, and pulled him into a long, slow kiss. This time, Xander participated in the kiss with the same blatant desire and lust that emanated from Spike. His tongue explored Spike's lips and mouth, eliciting a needy moan from the vampire.

Spike retreated from Xander's mouth, and focused himself on working down the length of Xander's abdomen with his tongue and lips. As Spike lingered at his nipples, licking them and softly scraping his teeth over them, Xander felt Spike's hand brush against his erection, which, by this point was straining against the fabric of his pajama bottoms. When Spike discovered this, he looked back up to Xander with a delighted and lascivious grin, then slowly worked the flannel pants over Xander's hips and down his legs.

Pangs of doubt began to intrude into the pleasant haze that had engulfed Xander's mind. Maybe it's not a good idea to let the evil vampire near Mr. Happy, he thought suddenly, but the sensation of Spike's lips and tongue toying with the tip of his cock, then sliding down, engulfing him with his cool, wet mouth erased the nagging doubt.

Spike's movements up and down his cock began to progress, causing Xander's hips to thrust, and stomach to clench. Spike's tongue was moving in tiny circles traveling the length, up and down. With a strangled moan, Xander came into Spike's mouth, and it's over.

Spike eased back up to Xander's mouth, and kissed him softly. Sleepily, Xander tasted himself on Spike's tongue. Spike lay down next to Xander, on the cold linoleum, and drew him close. "I think I'm beginnin' to understand this floor thing of yours."

Part Five

The previous night's events hit Xander like a bucket of ice water. At precisely 10:16 a.m., Xander shot straight upright in bed, forced himself to turn and see if he was alone, and upon discovering that he wasn't, let loose a string of oaths that would make a sailor blush.

"Mmmmm," Spike mumbled, rousing at Xander's outburst. "Pillow talk."

Xander, pulling a sheet around his shoulders, promptly removed himself from the bed. "What the Hell was that?" He demanded, shouting at the sleepy vampire.

"What was what?" Spike asked innocently.

"Oh, you know what I mean, you evil...Corruptor of young men!"

Spike reached for a cigarette from the nightstand and lit it. He drew in a long smoky breath. "Well, where I come from, we call 'that' a blowjob. B-L-O-W-J-O-B." He spelled slowly; smoke pouring out of his mouth. "And you're welcome."

Xander panicked. No, it hadn't been a painkiller-induced hallucination. It hadn't been a raunchy vampire dream. "Oh, nasty!" He stomped on the floor. "Nasty, nasty, nasty. Why did you have to go and do that?"

"Well, *pet*, you just looked so cute and pathetic and wet and shirtless, havin' fallen all over the floor. Besides, I didn't hear any complaints from you while it was happenin'." Xander averted his eyes as Spike hopped out of the bed, revealing that he had slept in only a pair of boxer shorts, and dropped his cigarette into a glass of water.

"Oh, no no," Xander said staunchly, turning to point an accusatory finger in Spike's face. "I know what happened. You took advantage of me in my helpless state. You are nothing more than a no-good... taker of advantages. That's right."

Spike chuckled. "See here, you nit. It happened, you had a good time, and since you're wondering, yes. It *definitely* makes you *gay*. That's right, you may as well start pickin' out your pink lacey curtains, 'cause you are a member of the club. Mmm, mmm. All's you need now is a rainbow sticker for your..."

Xander plugged his ears and stomped out of the bedroom. "La la la la la la la. Can't hear you."

Spike followed him, making sure to speak up. "Well, then, Pinky McFruFru. I'm going to go back to sleep, so's I can be well rested your big 'coming out'... You think a formal party, or a casual one with only our closest friends?"

"LA LA LA LA LA LA," Xander yelled louder, retreating to the kitchen. He saw Spike dissolve into fits of laughter, then return to the bedroom and shut the door. He unplugged his ears and shouted, for good measure, "And put some damn clothes on!"

Xander went to the bathroom, that is to say, the scene of the incident, and cringed. He would never look at that floor in the same way. Shaking his head, he dropped the sheet to the floor, and removed the soft cast on his arm along with the bandage on his chest.

He stepped into the shower, letting the warm water wash over him, trying to relax in the steamy heat. Last night was, definitely wrong, he chastised himself. Minimally enjoyable, maybe, but definitely wrong. Ok, maybe more than minimally, maybe just... well, extremely enjoyable, but that's not the point! The point was that sex with a vampire (or in his case, sex acts performed by a vampire) was dangerous, not to mention just plain wrong.

Xander washed his hair, and then began to wash his body with a honey-scented bar of soap. Stop thinking about it, Xan-man. Definitely don't think about it in the shower. He ran the bar across his skin, trying not to focus on the areas that Spike's tongue and lips had been, but this served only to make him more aware. Oh crap, he thought as he realized that trying that trying *not* to think about Spike's lips and mouth was serving only to make him aroused. Stop that, he thought, looking sternly at the erection growing against his will.

Girls, he thought, think of girls, there's Anya, oooh, the bitch. No, not a good example. How about Buffy? She was the object of many a midmorning shower fantasy. That's right buddy, he thought with a smile, Buffy in those tight little black pants kicking the crap out of Spike, in his tight little black... Stop! Hello! You aren't gay! I mean, are you? Because as your subconscious I think I have the right to know...

"Holy shit, I'm crazy!" Xander said aloud. As his voice echoed softly off of the porcelain shower walls, he wondered exactly which was crazier, having a conversation with his subconscious, or actually talking to himself? Not being able to decide, he decided to sing at the top of his lungs, which he hoped would serve the additional purpose of annoying the crap out of the vampire in the bedroom. Phil Collins should do the trick. "I can feel it coming in the air tonight..."

Xander felt a little better, having managed to make it out of the shower without jerking-off, until he realized that his clothes were still in the bedroom, where Spike was. Xander clutched the towel around his waist, while crossing his fingers that Spike had slept through his serenade, and crept into the bedroom.

"Good god, twerp, not only have you got no taste in music, but ya have no musical ability..." Spike trailed off as he flipped over to look at Xander. "Well, well, well, then, pet. Somebody smells like honey. Come to make it all up to me, have you?" He asked, indicating the towel around his waist.

"No, oh stupidest of immortals. My clothes are in here. In my dresser. Next to my bed, which I would very much like you out of," Xander ranted, pulling clothes out of the dresser.

"Oh, sweetcheeks. Don't be cross with me. If we don't get this fixed before the GLAAD meeting, everyone will know we've had a tiff." Spike batted his eyelashes and stuck his lower lip out in a giant pout.

"Can't hear you," Xander said casually as he strolled out of the room. "Know why? Not gay."


Xander picked up the phone on the fourth ring. "Hello, Xander's Own Personal Hell, you got Xander."

"Xander, Buffy."

"Hey Buff."

"Can I assume from your greeting that you and the bleached eunuch are getting along?"

"Oh yeah, like peas and carrots. That is, if the peas were inherently evil. Which, by the way, they may very well be."

"Well, how about I rescue you, for an evening with the Scoobies? I was just thinking that since it's been so long..."

"Yes," Xander replied emphatically. "Come now. In fact, go back in time, and come ten minutes ago."

"Oh, good, we're going to..."

"No more talk. Drive. Now. Xander wait. Bye, bye." Xander hung up the phone, relieved. Saved by the blonde, as it were.


Xander heard the knock and flung open the front door. "Yes, thank god you came."

"I'm glad I could be of service," Buffy bowed.

"So then," Xander called loudly to Spike who was in the living room watching television and folding tiny slips of paper, "I'll be going now. Have a great night there, Spike."

Spike immediately jumped up. "Hallo, Bitchy."

"Likewise, pukeface."

Spike clucked his tongue and shook his head. "Well now. Kindergarten insults. If we're going there, then I'm rubber, you're glue, no, wait you're a freakish concoction of muscles and hair-bleach."

"Look who's talking..."

"Ok, we go," Xander herded Buffy out the door. "Don't wait up."

"Oh, I wouldn't dream of going to sleep..." Spike was cut off abruptly as Xander slammed the door in his face.

Xander and Buffy contentedly chatted in the car catching up on the week's events, until Xander turned the conversation. "Can I ask you a question, Buffy?"

"Of course."

"Well," Xander took a deep breath. "I'm asking you this, because I know that you've been in a similar situation before... and well, if say, someone was attracted to someone who, should by any stretch of the imagination be off-limits, and say, for some reason in a moment of weakness..."

"Xander, I know," Buffy interrupted him.

Xander's breath left his body, and suddenly his ribcage began to ache. "You do? How on earth..."

"Well, Willow told me. I hope you aren't mad..."

A flood of realization washed over him. He began to feel guilty not only about the kiss between he and Willow, but also that he was not in any way referring to that situation. "*Oh*, Willow told you. Um, yeah..."

"And I think it's ok."

"You do?"

Buffy nodded. "I do. I think that when two friends have been through an ordeal together, then sometimes it's natural for those friends to act out in intimate ways."

"Yes, right, well, I'm very sorry for it. I mean I never meant to take advantage of..." "I don't know that you were. I mean, she needed to lean on someone. And you should see the change in her today. It's like she's coming out of her depression."

"She is?" Xander asked, panicked: he was happy that Willow was doing better, but worried that she might be basing her emotions on something that didn't exist.

"You'll see in a minute," Buffy said cheerfully, as they pulled up to Giles' house.

Xander entered the house first, happy to see Willow, Giles and Anya gathered around a pizza box. "Look what I brought," Buffy called cheerfully from behind him.

Xander's mind backtracked a moment. "Um hello? Anya does not get to be part of the Scoobie Gang. Not after stomping on my heart."

"Oh, come on Xander. There's no time like now to start mending fences and becoming friends," Anya replied cheerfully.

"No, no, no. You don't get to say that, as the dump-er. As the dump-ee, I decide when we get to be friends again," Xander said staunchly. All eyes were on him, waiting expectantly. "Ok, now. Now the healing may begin."

A giggle erupted as they sat down to eat pizza. "So, G-Man. What's up? New evilness in town? Demons galore?"

Giles adjusted his glasses. "No, actually, things have been pretty quiet. Actually, almost abnormally quiet. Maybe we should do some research on extended periods of inactivity." The group groaned. Giles cleared his throat. "That was something along the lines of a joke."

They tittered, appropriately. "Well, it's been so long since we've all been together," Willow explained, "since the... you know. And well, we don't want to drift apart, right? Some Scooby-bonding was in order."

"Scooby-bondage? I like the sound of that," Xander licked his lips. Buffy threw an olive at him.

"I find it very hard to think of a time when we've eaten together that food was not hurled through the air. God help us," Giles shook his head.

The evening passed pleasantly, with the help of rented movies, hot chocolate and popcorn. By the wee hours of the morning, Giles had long since fallen asleep and Xander and the girls decided to call it a night. Buffy and Willow drove Xander back to his apartment, which prompted a mental note on checking the status of his own twisted piece of metal.

Buffy stayed in the car as Willow walked with Xander to his door. Strangely nervous, Xander fumbled in his pocket for a key. "I wanted to talk to you about something, for a sec," Willow said softly.

"Ok, yeah, shoot. Do you want to come in?"

"But isn't, you know..." Willow made the "vampire fangs" gesture with her hands.

"Oh, yeah, probably."

Willow kicked the ground softly. "I didn't sleep in Tara's bed last night. I couldn't after..."

The familiar guilt was again surging through Xander. "I meant to talk to you about that again, I mean I am so sorry..."

"Stop apologizing," she said, a bit more firmly. "Listen. It occurred to me that maybe it was a good thing. I mean, something to take my mind off of... it... and her. I mean, maybe we should give ourselves the chance to heal. And if that means that we comfort each other..."

Xander looked at her warily, this beautiful little redheaded pixie that he loved immensely. She was kind and intelligent, and he knew, dead sexy, with that whole mysterious witchy, bi-sexual thing going on. But he didn't want to become involved in a relationship that he knew would destroy their friendship. That, and there was the distinct possibility that you might be gay... Shut up Spike's voice in my head! He shook his head. "I don't think that's a good idea Wills. We are such good friends..."

Willow's eyes widened and her lip trembled. "Don't you want me?"

Xander's heart tore straight down the middle. He could not be the cause of further pain in his friend. "It's not that, I want you, of course I do. I just think that maybe we're moving..."

"Too quickly? I agree. We'll take it slow and see what happens, right?" Willow said hopefully.

Xander swallowed hard as he noticed that she was wearing a sweater he had seen Tara wear a dozen times. "Right, right..." She leaned into him, and he closed his eyes as he kissed her expectant mouth. He kissed her slowly, cautiously, a kiss that was completely unlike the reckless one inspired by grief the previous day. He felt her tiny hot tongue flicker at his mouth, and he reluctantly tasted her; he knew he wasn't supposed to taste her.

By and by, he released her, and she looked up to him with a watery smile. "Night," he said quietly.

"Good night," she whispered, then quickly descended the stairs to the parking lot.

He waited to see her safely in Buffy's car, all the while worrying about the softball sized knot of guilt that had lodged in his stomach.

As he turned the key in the lock, he chanted over and over with his mind, please don't let him be home, please don't let him be home.

"Evenin' Nancy," Spike greeted him as he stepped through the door.

"Spike," Xander acknowledged him tiredly.

"Been snoggin' with the good witch again, have ya?"

Part Six

Xander let out a sigh of pure exasperation. "What are you, my psychic friend?"

Spike snorted. "Hardly." His back still pressed against the front door, Xander made a movement to slide down. In a second, Spike was off the couch and pulling him up by his arm. "Oh, no you don't. Not gonna get me with that floor thing again. Go sit on the couch and pretend you have some dignity."

Xander glowered at the blonde vampire who stood holding his arm. "My apartment. I don't have to listen to you."

"That's right. Go ahead and wallow in your own bullshit," Spike let go of Xander's arm and went back to the living room where he had been playing video games.

Video games? Xander looked suspiciously at the video game console. "I don't remember having a Playstation."

"That's right you don't. S'my Playstation. You don't get to play," Spike taunted him.

"Don't wanna play your stupid Playstation," Xander grumbled, then walked in front of the television. "My TV, and you don't get to use that."

"Don't be stingy now, Xanny. S'not nice."

"You're being stingy. Besides, since when do you like video games?"

"Since this buggering chip in my head has turned me into your house frau. Boringest place on the planet," Spike muttered. He moved from side to side, trying to see behind Xander.

"C'mon Spike, me thinks we can come to a compromise here. I let you use my TV, and you let me play."

"Throw in your immortal soul, and I'll think about it."

Xander rolled his eyes. "Sorry."

"I have Star Wars."

"Star Wars?" Xander perked up. "As in the pinnacle of science-fiction entertainment? Tempting..."

"Move outta the way, git, and I'll let you have five minutes." Spike shooed him frantically with his arm.

"Five minutes!" Xander was incredulous. "You're the brother I never wanted."

"Oh, I'm not your brother, Harris," Spike said lasciviously.

Xander sighed, and moved away from the television. "Are we getting into this again?"

"Shut up and play the bleedin' game." Spike tossed the controller at Xander. "I'm goin' out anyway."

Xander felt a small pang of disappointment, which he immediately chastised himself for. "Oh yeah?" He asked casually. "Where you going?"



Spike turned around to look at him, an eyebrow raised with curiosity. "What?"

Xander thought for a moment. "Nothing."

Spike shook his head. "Ok then..."


"What?" The vampire was beginning to get exasperated. Xander thought furiously. Why didn't he want Spike to leave the house? Why was he trying so desperately to find a reason for him to stay? Words failed him. "Right then," Spike mumbled with a quizzical look on his face, then stomped out the door.

What was that? Xander wondered. I can't stand the guy, but I don't want him to leave. This is too much.


5:15 a.m.: Xander has fallen asleep in the living room, and is dreaming. He has just torn a hole in the carpeting of his parent's basement, and is striking the under-lying cement with a shovel. The sound of metal on cement resonates off of the walls and sparks fly from the end of the shovel. A voice from over his shoulder: "Why not just go out the bloody door?"

Xander wipes a bead of sweat from his forehead with the bottom of his tee shirt. "Because everyone will know."

"So what?"

"I don't want them to hate me."

"That's right. Everyone is just lookin' for the right opportunity to hate you."


"Ok now. Time to get up. Don't want to get yelled at for sleepin' in your bed again."

Xander blinked a few times and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. "Wha..." Through the fog of sleep, Xander looked up to see Spike hovering above him. He raised his hand up, brushing the length of Spike's jaw line, then rested his thumb on Spike' lower lip.

Spike smirked for a moment, then removed Xander's hand from his face. "Temptin', luv, but I don't need you goin' ballistic on me again."

"I'm not going to go ballistic," Xander whispered, pushing himself up to catch Spike's lower lip with his teeth.

Spike again gently removed Xander from his lips. "Ok pet. Go to bed."

Xander got off of the couch and stumbled into the bedroom. Still dressed in yesterday's clothes, he pulled off his shirt, and replaced his jeans with lime green pajama bottoms. He lay in bed for a moment, wondering why, in this moment, it seemed so right to touch Spike, to kiss Spike. Yesterday, he had himself convinced that there would never again be anything between them, but in the cold stillness of the morning, it was all he could think about.

Xander drew a deep breath, and got back out of bed. Carefully, he padded across his bedroom to the door, and pulled it open. Spike stood in front of him, his arm resting on the frame. A glimmer of satisfaction played across his face as wordlessly, frantically, their lips met and their arms encircled each other. Xander frantically went to work tasting the cool recesses of Spike's mouth; he was compelled by an urgency that he didn't even attempt to understand.

Spike let him taste: he was busily sliding his hands over Xander's smooth back and stomach, warming himself on Xander's mild skin, and tracing the contours of his muscles. Slowly, Spike nibbled his way out of Xander's mouth and down the curve of his neck. Xander became acutely aware of the sound of his own heartbeat as Spike gently sucked at the skin covering his jugular. He felt tiny pangs of fear; excitement; the sensation of Spike's teeth on his skin was overwhelming. Tiny gasps escaped his lips, making Spike grin, then focus even more intently on Xander's neck.

Xander pulled Spike slowly over to the bed, and Spike eyed him suspiciously. "You're not gonna start yellin' at me again, are you?"

"Shh... not unless you start telling me I'm gay again."

"Well, then," Spike said breathily, "we'll just leave it that you're a perfectly straight, heterosexual male, who simply enjoys messin' around with other men."

"Spike, do you wanna argue, or do you want to do this thing?" Xander whined as he laid himself on the bed.

"Right, then," Spike said quickly, maneuvering to straddle Xander. Xander could feel his own hardened cock pressed up against Spike's crotch. Spike's lips curved slowly into a smile of arousal and amusement. Xander turned his head away, shy and somewhat embarrassed from the novelty of the situation.

Spike caught his chin, and turned Xander's head to look back at him. "Don't turn away. You are so delicious when you're embarrassed," Spike spoke slowly, looking straight into his eyes. Xander's face flushed even more at his words. "That's what I'm talking about."

Spike slowly wriggled out of his tight black shirt, and Xander reached up to explore his pale torso with timid fingertips. Spike took a long, unnecessary breath and enveloped Xander in another kiss, one swimming with lust, need, and the faint mixture of cigarettes, alcohol, and a salty, metallic residue that Xander realized must be blood. It was like tasting everything that Spike represented, not only the physical Spike, but also the essence of his life.

Xander's cock throbbed, pressing so hard against the flannel of his own pants that he could begin to feel the tough material of Spike's jeans. Spike emitted a low growl of approval. Stepping outside of his own fears, Xander moved his hands further down Spike's stomach, until they slipped just underneath the waist of his jeans. Another lusty growl gave Xander the confidence to unbutton and unzip the jeans, revealing Spike's own straining cock sheathed by the fabric of his boxer shorts. Xander tentatively ran his hand down the length and back again, fueled by the guttural moans that his action elicited.

Spike moved down Xander's neck with his tongue, slowly tracing his way to the nipples, which he teased with his tongue into hard tips. Xander moaned and thrust his hips, prompting Spike to reach down and stroke the length of his cock slowly through the flannel. Xander wasn't sure if he was being pleasured or tortured; the deft movements of Spike's hand were agonizingly enjoyable. Spike moved down his chest, licking Xander's navel softly, then the edge of his bandage. Spike then brushed his fingertips over the tiny trail of hair that dipped beneath Xander's pants. Xander sucked in a deep breath as his skin erupted into gooseflesh, and this caused Spike's cock to swell harder against Xander's leg. Spike hooked the fabric of Xander's pants with his fingers, and pulled him free. He then removed his own jeans and boxer shorts.
Naked Spike in my bed, Xander's mind raced. If there was a place to opt out, this was it, but Xander felt no such inclination. Embarrassed once again, Xander turned his head, only to have it immediately turned back by Spike's quick hand. "You can look." Look Xander did: at every inch of the body that was frozen in a perpetual state of perfection.

From the foot of the bed, Spike began at Xander's feet, nibbling on every sensitive place he could find: the arch of his foot, the backs of his calves and knees, the tender skin of Xander's inner thigh. Xander sighed and squirmed each time Spike landed on a sensitive spot with his cool, probing tongue and barely-scraping teeth.

Finally, Spike found the underside of Xander's cock, licking from the very base to the tip where he circled with his tongue. His tongue flickered all around the head, breathing against it and making a throaty growl that sent Xander's hips thrashing out as he cursed, and brought forth a small bead of glossy fluid.

Without warning, and much to Xander's disappointment, all sensation ceased, and Spike was reaching for his discarded jeans. A split second later he returned with a small tube in his hand. "What are you, a boy scout?" Xander asked.

Spike's eyes widened in horror. "Whatever would a boy scout need this for?"

Xander laughed sharply, still somewhat nervous. "Never mind. I was just commenting on your preparedness."

"Let's chalk it up to optimism," Spike twisted off the lid and squeezed the gel onto his fingers. Xander held his breath. Ok, you can do this. People do this all the time. There's a first time for everything, right? To his surprise, Spike gently spread the lubricant onto Xander's cock. "I want you to fuck me, do you think you can? I mean, you're still on the mend, and all." Xander nodded, mentally attempting to reconcile this version of Spike against the Big Bad.

He wasn't sure exactly sure what to do, having never been with a man before, but he didn't have time to wonder; Spike slowly and deliberately slid himself down onto Xander's cock. The tightness of Spike's anus was a sensation altogether different than anything he had experienced before, he felt coolness, then intense gratifying friction. Xander moaned as his hips rose to meet Spike's movement; his hands latched onto cool thighs as Spike wrapped a hand around his cock and pumped it up and down with their movements. Spike had utter control, rising up and slamming down onto Xander's hips repeatedly until the intensity of the movement sent Xander into his climax with a gasp. Spike came moments later, spilling his seed onto Xander's abdomen.

They fell apart a moment later, and Xander stared at the ceiling for a moment. "That was good. I'm gonna go ahead and say that it was very, very good."

Spike popped a cigarette between his lips and lit. "Not half bad." Spike gestured to him with a finger. Gratefully, Xander immediately curled himself up in Spike's cool arms.

Part Seven

"Well, Alex," Xander's doctor muttered distractedly. "You're looking good. The ribs are healing well, you finished your antibiotic, correct?"

"Yep," Xander replied, swinging his legs from the high examination table like a small child.

"Well, then let's get those stitches out. I'm going to send in Jeanette, our Nurse Practitioner in, and she'll fix you right up. You can stop wearing the cast, just remember to do those exercises I showed you. And go ahead and let the receptionist know that I need to see you in a month."

"Got it, one month."

Xander emerged from the small office with a grin on his face. "Lookit me, I'm so stitchless!" He flung his shirt up to expose the small red scar running down his torso.

"Ok, thank you for the visual," Buffy shook her head as they walked out of the office and to the car.

"Thanks for bringing me."

"You bet. Only five more days with Spike, how ever will you manage?"

Xander felt very deceptive at that moment. He was beginning to dread the day that Spike would no longer be a fixture at his apartment. "Well, I'm planning to berate myself every day for at least an hour. And I may have to bleach my hair. I'm working that out."

Buffy snickered. "You're in a good mood. You've been Mr. Gloomy lately."

"I can go back..."

"No, no. Stay happy-go-lucky," she said, and then decided to change the subject. "So what are we doing for Willow's birthday?"

"Dunno," he said, a bit less lighthearted. "Party?"

"Surprise party?"

"Hmm..." Xander cringed. "No, no surprise party. Just a little party with the gang."

"Oh, come on. Everyone loves a surprise."

"I just don't think it's the best idea, right now."

"Party pooper," Buffy said, defeated.


"I'm back!" Xander shouted as he walked through the door and casually tossed his house keys on the table.

"I'll alert the media," Spike grumbled as he twisted and tore a small sheet of paper.

"Why are you making a hand?" Xander asked, eyeing the origami.

"It's an evil hand."

Xander snorted. "Please."

"Well it is! This is the kind of hand that you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, that's for sure," Spike frowned and continued at his task.

"Did you turn off my game?!" Xander rushed over to the game console, which was unplugged.

"Makes the TV all squiggly when the bloody thing's on."

Xander stomped his foot repeatedly. "I *told* you that I was out of memory, and not to turn it off."

Spike sighed and shrugged. "And?"

"You turned it off anyway!"

"Oh, how sorry I am. Let me think of all the ways I could make it up to you," Spike said sarcastically.

Just as he was about to scream himself blue, Xander realized what Spike was doing. "Ok."


"Yeah, ok. You're right. It's just a video game. I can always start over," Xander explained calmly, going to the kitchen and flinging open the refrigerator.

Spike looked up from his origami, somewhat disappointed, then tried another approach. "I hate that game. I'm going to return it."


"I used your toothbrush."


Spike narrowed his eyes at Xander, who erupted in laughter. "I so win! In your face, amateur!"

"Bloody hell. Well, you're just no fun if I can't get you stirred up," Spike pouted.

Xander crossed the room and sat in his lap. "I'm fun."

"Fun as a festering scab," Spike mumbled, pretending to ignore the boy in his lap.

"You like festering scabs." Xander tilted Spike's chin up with an index finger.

Spike grinned. "That I do, pet." The vampire pulled him close for a rough kiss, which ended with Xander wiping his mouth on his sleeve.


"I'll bet."

"Got my stitches out, wanna see my scar?" Xander seductively tugged at the hem of his shirt.

"Oh yes. I'd like to see that, I would." Xander tugged his shirt up to the bottom of the scar, exposing only a few millimeters. "Mmm... more, let's us see some more." Xander pulled his shirt up farther, exposing half of the scar. "Oh, that is a nummy, nummy scar. Let's see the rest." Xander pulled his shirt off, and Spike growled. "Bedroom. Now."

Xander hopped up, eager to grant Spike's request, when he heard a knock at the door. "Crap," he cursed, pulling his shirt back on.

"Don't get it."

Xander rolled his eyes. "Go in the bedroom and wait for me."

"Go in the bedroom and wait for me," Spike mocked him in a girly voice.

Xander opened the door. "Willow, hey!"

He hugged the redhead, and she kissed him on the cheek. "I was just... out. Ok, not really. I just thought we could spend some time together. Is this ok?"

He backed up to let her inside. "Of course, come on in. Please."

Willow set her bag on the table. "I like your new place, did I ever mention that?"

"I don't remember. But thank you."

Willow looked around. "Is Spike still here?"

"Yeah, he's in the bedroom... sleeping," Xander kicked the floor.

"Oh," she said awkwardly. "That's nice of you to let him sleep in there."

"Well, you know. Just during the day. It keeps me from the temptation of throwing open the blinds every time I hear his voice."

"I see," she said. They were both still standing. "This is weird, huh?"

He laughed a little. "Yeah, a little. We shouldn't be awkward with each other."

"Yeah, it's silly, right? Two people who've known each other as long as we have..." She trailed off. "So how are you?"

He nodded. "Good. I'm good. Got my stitches out today. Back to work next week, should be back kickin' evil butt by the end of the month. Good stuff."

"Do you want to go to a movie or something?" Willow asked suddenly.

"Right now?"

"Yeah. We could catch a matinee. It's early."

"Good, good. Ok. Let me just... get something out of the bedroom." He opened the door to the bedroom and quickly stepped in. Spike was completely naked, waiting for him on the bed. "Don't be mad at me..."

"Oh bloody, buggering, son of a..."

"Calm down. I'm just going to go to a movie with Willow. I'll be back in a couple of hours," Xander explained.

Spike looked at him curiously. "Is this a date?"

Xander looked surprised. "A date? What? No... it's Willow. We don't date. That's a thing we don't do."

"Well, you didn't used to snog her, either."

"Are you jealous?"

Spike was incensed. "Of course not. Why would I be jealous? I just don't want to have to deal with another sniveling pile of you all over the floor tonight, because you ended up kissin' or shaggin' or whateverin' Red."

"Don't worry about that. What's going to happen is that I, Xander Harris, am going to take her to a movie, where there will be no romantic contact of any kind. After we complete said afternoon at the movies, she will realize that I am not going to be participating in any further shenanigans, and our friendship levels even out. I have everything under control."


"I kissed Willow again."

"I bloody knew it."

"What am I going to do?"

"Down on the bloody floor, with you. You belong back on the floor."

"Good idea," Xander agreed weakly, sliding down in front of the door.

"I was just kiddin', pet. Get up off the floor, will ya?"

"No. No off floor. Xander bad."

Spike left his well-worn spot in front of the TV and sat down next to Xander. He searched Xander's face intently, then spoke seriously. "You need to stop. Not for me, not for you, but for her. You are only going to hurt her if you keep playin' along."

Xander nodded. After a moment he asked. "Why do you care?"

Spike shrugged. "Well, if it was the Slayer-chit, I'd be all for it. Propose to her, I'd say, then we could make her..."


Spike sighed. "I dunno. I always rather thought Red to be the least repellent of you brats."

"Thanks!" Xander exclaimed, punching him on the arm.

"Well, I didn't know you so well back then, but I really haven't changed my opinion much..."

Xander growled at Spike, then laid his head on his shoulder. "I'm just going to make a mess of things."

Spike shook his head. "Have some faith in yourself, pet. I do."

Xander retreated. "That sounded like a compliment."

"I can balance it out with an insult-your clothing looks like..."

"Don't bother, please."

"We're supposed to go clean out your car tonight, ducks. Shall we get going?"



The sight of the mangled automobile was a difficult one for Xander. The car looked perfectly normal on the driver's side, however, the passenger side was entirely demolished. "It was a bad wreck," Xander gasped upon seeing the damage.

"You did it up right," Spike said, tactlessly.

"I need to get the boxes out of the trunk, and some stuff from the glove box, and we can go."

"I'll get the stuff from the trunk," Spike offered.

"I can get it."

"No, you still aren't supposed to be liftin', and I'm still technically the 'help'. So just clear out the front and I'm gonna hurry back here."

Xander nodded, then, with a degree of difficulty, opened the driver's side door. He had prepared himself for the mangled metal he encountered, however; what he had not been prepared for were the bloodstains still inside. "Oh, God," he choked, seeing the giant stain of blood on the remains of the passenger seat. That's where she died, he thought over and over. That's where she died.

You can get through this, Xander. You are strong. Holding a breath, he pulled the contents from the glove department in one handful, and set them on the passenger seat, then set about finding what he was truly looking for. After a few minutes, he found it: wedged into a tiny space between the floor mat and the floorboard, the tiny silver ring sat waiting to be retrieved.

The knot in Xander's stomach doubled him over in pain, and he felt as if he might pass out. He stumbled away from the car. Spike, who was making a trip back from his own car, ran over to him. "Xander, are you all right?" Xander nodded, but Spike got a glimpse of the shiny metal in his palm, and snatched it. Spike looked at it for a moment. "Oh bloody hell. C'mon. Let's get out of here." Xander nodded, and Spike grabbed the pile of papers from the car.


"Watcha goin' to do, pet?" Spike held Xander tightly in his arms. Xander had been quiet for the rest of the evening, and now was trying, unsuccessfully, to get to sleep.

"I'm going to give it to her."

"Might only make things worse."

"Might not."


Another few minutes of silence. "What's going to happen after Monday?"

"What do you mean, pet?"

Xander sat up, out of Spike's reach. "I mean, us. What's going to happen with us after Monday?"

"I dunno, luv. That's all Giles paid me for, three weeks."

Xander glared at him. "So that's it. Monday comes, the money runs out and then we forget this ever happened?"

"Well, we'll both have some terrific memories, I'm sure. Although I guess I'll be a little disappointed that I never got to shag you, but what can you do?"

Xander got out of bed. "Un-freaking-believable. Truly. You go and make me *gay* and then just turn around and go. You are, well... you are you. Classic Spike."

"Well, pet, s'not like I ever really liked you, to speak of. You needed a diversion from your, well... disturbingly Angel-like brooding, and I needed a shag. It was convenient."

Xander's jaw dropped open. "I am speechless. This is me being speechless. Even though I may, in fact, be speaking, I am *indeed* speechless," he yelled, then with a satisfied look: "You know what? I'm calling Buffy. I'm going to tell her you took advantage of me, and she is going to stake you. I would stake you myself, but you'll hate it even more coming from her."

Spike allowed his eyes to twinkle, once. "Be sure to tell her your gay now."

Xander crossed his arms, then realized that the vampire was, once again, simply trying to get a rise out of him. "I am so going to kill you."

"No, Buffy is doing that, I thought. It will be a lovely little, coming out/celebration of my death party," Spike grinned at him.

"Argh! You are so evil!" Xander cried as he pounced on him, then bit the end of his nose.

"Thank you, but look at you bein' all insecure. You are a naughty boy yourself."

Xander turned his head coyly. "I am. I am a very naughty boy. Whatever shall you do to punish me?"

"We shall see..."

Part Eight

Sunnydale: one day before Willow Rosenberg's party. One Mr. Alexander Harris has invited Ms. Rosenberg to his apartment to "talk".

About ten minutes before Willow was due to arrive, Xander ran around the apartment tidying. Between his candy-bar wrappers and Spike's origami overflow, the place was becoming littered with paper. As he finished, he noticed two of Spike's creations on the table. One was a tiny paper boy, with no distinguishing feature other than he was a tad taller than the other figure. The other, also a tiny boy, had miniature paper fangs, and, what he could only describe as a monstrously proportioned paper penis. The two were connected in a kiss. As absurd as the little figures were, Xander found them adorable, and whisked the paper Xander and Spike off to a safe little box.

Willow knocked on the door at 5:00 p.m., exactly on time.

"Hey, Wills," he opened the door to let her in.

"Hey, hey," she chirped.

"Please sit."

Willow looked at him questioningly. "Am I in trouble?"

"No, no. I just, there is something I want to give you, but I didn't want to do it in front of everyone," he explained, sitting down across from her.

Her eyes widened. "A birthday present?"

"Exactly," he said. "You'll get mine tomorrow, at the party. What I'm going to give you... well, I'm not going to drag this out. It's from Tara."

Willow looked at him stunned. "That's not funny."

Xander took a deep breath, and held onto her hand. He had decided not to tell her the circumstances of the ring, in order to keep from upsetting her unnecessarily. "Tara was planning to give this to you for your birthday, but she never had a chance to. I thought that you would still like to have it. Would you? If not, tell me, and I'll just hang onto it for you until you *would* like to have it."

Tears collected in the corners of Willow's eyes and poured down her cheeks. "I think I would. Like to have it now, I mean."

"Ok." Xander pulled the ring out of his pocket and placed it in the palm of her hand. Willow examined it carefully and erupted into tears. She held the ring tightly as her body shook. Xander realized that this would happen. He threw his arm around her shoulder and held her until she calmed. When she did after several minutes, she slipped the ring over her finger. "You ok?" He asked.

Willow shook her head. "No. But I will be. I'm glad I have this."

Xander cleared his throat. "Now, I don't want to make things worse for you, but there is something I have to tell you."

"Ok," she said quietly.

"This thing between... us..." he started. "We can't keep doing it. It's not healthy, and it's not us. We belong as friends, not as a couple."

Willow nodded. "I know. It's just so hard sometimes."

"I know..." He was quiet for a few minutes, and then he sighed. "Besides, I'm most likely gay." Willow stared at him for a moment, then burst out laughing. "Um, I'm being serious here."

"I believe you," she said, wiping her eyes. "I mean me too. That's why it's funny. I'm gay; you're gay, goodness. How was that going to work out?"

Xander laughed too. "So are we going to be ok?"

"I think so," she smiled tearfully. "So who's the lucky guy?"

"Oh, I am so not ready to talk about that yet. We're still figuring out stuff."

She smiled. "I'm sure everything will work out fine. We're all due for some joy in out lives."

Xander quickly knocked on the wooden table beneath him.

The End

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