Pairing: Voyeur Xander, Spike/Angel, Xander!UST.
Rating: R-rrrrg to be safe.
Summary: Buffy died saving the world and her sister. Everyone deals with grief their own way. Xander watches and ponders the events taking place around him. One in particular stands out.
Setting: Between seasons 5 & 6 in BtVS and seasons 2 & 3 in Ats.  
Disclaimer: Nothing, I own nothing I say! Except this silly plot bunny and the craziness that ensued. Don’t blame JossW, ME, WB (no wait blame them! Just for something else *g*)… I merely borrowed the strings to the puppets that they own *sob*.
Author Note: 1. I am under the mercy of a ruthless plot bunny by the name of Mr. Bunny Muse (yes, he has a name – he is that egotistical). I never did anything like this before, so hopefully you won’t hate this. The structure and the alternating tenses are deliberate to remind you how confusing the order of events could be in the mind of Xander Harris. Hopefully, that translates well in this 1stperson POV and doesn't seem like utter crap *cross fingers and taps with them on a piece of wood*.
2. I don’t know what to call this, a ficlet, a missing scene (hah! Some'd hope! *narrows eyes at those some* although, if you squint it does abides by to the arc—in away, doesn't negate anything before/after). It was just a short drabble scene, apparently a failed-drabble, but I found out that although I have hopefully reined in the ficlet monsters (coming from a past of long novella fics) I have yet to be bestowed the drabble pen. Oh, well. Maybe someday.

Warning: Voyeur Xander (naughty boy!)

Thanks a whole bunch to lusciousxander for her quick read/edit, and telling me that me trying a new approach didn't suck big time! And grand smoochies to mygothangel for being a great beta and for saying my Xander voice is "perfect" and the word "hot" relating to this! Aw.



The Odd Man Looking In


by
Lusciousspike


People deal with grief in different ways. They fall into various states of depression, sadness and numbness, before -as humans do- they gradually and surely move on. Never to really forget, but treading through neatly drawn manners of speech that had been laid down by a euphemism indorsing mankind as far as the eye can see. They use what they have to get by until they finally get the largest of the baggage off their backs and minds. They cry until their dry eyes can shed just that one last tear. They drink themselves to misery and back. They cling to everything they have in fear of a new unknown loss. They take on more than they can handle, bearing a weight that isn’t their own. They rage at the world around them, blaming, their own name in bold at the header. They comfort others, and they play on their ignorance to the anguish of their surroundings because they might just catch it too. They joke. Dry cold jokes that sooner die down into one or more of the above.

They also, sometimes, when it gets too hard, too bad, too much, resort to reality elevators. In plainsman’s term, get high. Sure some might say that drinking is a high stimulator, but usually ascending into levels of consciousness is more of a happy term and intoxication mostly leads to loathed throbs of dull knives poking at your head, so much so you actually wish for a sharp edge to get all the way through and be done with it. It could also be drugs, but there lays an even more slippery slope than many, sprinkled with sane minds and extra-caring watchful eyes building more than an unwanted barrier. That leaves a few remaining high-inducers.

One typically screams to mind.

Sex.

Humans do it all the time. They do it when they are lonely. When they are sad. When they want to forget. When they are ‘horny’. Scary to think that the last one never appears alone without one of the above. Oh, and yes, because they are in love. Dare we say that love coming in at a near afterthought is a catalyst to something?



What does it mean when vampires have sex?

Now, you can say that they are evil creatures that would indulge in whatever makes them happy. If they are a little fed up with the killing, maiming and slaughtering of their so-called food, they could squeeze in a shag or two. A romp over a fresh kill. Instead of a cigarette after a good tumble, let’s go out and freshen our tired over-sexed bodies and then have even more sex. Maybe that’s all they do; eat, sleep, and have sex. Nothing in order, of course, because order does not apply to the bumpy-forehead, evil, soulless, unfeeling crowd.

So, where does a vampire with a tormented soul, and a vampire with a chip –one in his head and one on his shoulder- not to mention a dauntingly soulful attachment to ‘love’ play into this?

You tell me.

It started not that long ago, as far as I could tell, and I say that according to the Sunnydale Calendar referencing the acts of evil bent on destruction agenda. I guess not before the last time a demon decided to set home in the middle of the park.

Cordelia had let us know that Angel disappeared to a monastery in Tibet after hearing about Buffy’s death. Well, I didn’t call back to tell her she was wrong.

See, since coming out of his self-induced lockdown, Spike had been taking much of the slaying. On one particular night, Giles had told us at the Magic Box’s round table, that a particularly nasty demon has been spotted at our ever so friendly neighborhood park. The G-master was about to set a plan of attack when Spike spoke up around an unlit cigarette –he stopped smoking around Dawn but I guess he won’t give up on his image. Mr. One Man Army said that he had experience with this kind of demon and that it was an easy kill before he did his flappy coat thing and left the shop.

No one cared since he was doing that a lot lately. And now, it’s not that I don’t trust Spike. Well, I don’t, not that much, not really. Anyway, I was walking home alone since Anya was closing shop late, and decided to check out if Spike had taken down the demon threat or if he was making buddies with the new big bad. Need to be careful after the Adam episode-- I like not to think too much into what happened with Glory. I was halfway into the park before I saw them. Shit, was it huge! Spike looked like a smurf next to it. Really. Ignoring the moonlit bleached head, he was covered from head to toe in blue gunk. I'd guessed that meant that he hurt the ginormous demon. I had a not so nice flashback about Olaf and his hammer. This demon had no hammer, but its left fist sure compensated for that really well. It didn’t even act like it was hurt at all!

A second hesitation was all it took. Spike went flying into the direction of a tree. The tree was broken in half -probably a casualty of the fight- and with the momentum Spike was heading at it, there was no way that he was getting out undusted.

I had to gather my thoughts, it happened so fast. I was safely hidden by the night, plus being far away, cowering behind a large bush kind of helped. And I swear everything was slowing down in that cool special affects thing they do in the movies. For a second, I thought I'd developed a new superpower -well, a first superpower- and that I could slow time… that if I ran I could save Spike from a sure dusty future, and save me from watching Dawn get over a new grief.

I’m sticking with my reasons.

But my brain had registered that no, no Neo/bullet moment for you, sorry, you’re apparently just losing your mind, because, see, it's fast-forward again and vampires can fly but can’t land on trees. I never really got around to reading into the clutching ache that slammed into the middle of my chest.

One split-second I was picturing myself giving Dawn the news that her cool babysitter was something of a Sunnydale park landmark now, and the next I was gasping for air I apparently was holding because I thought I’d missed seeing William the Bloody’s ending.

I could picture Spike’s scowl at the disrespect of it all.

But, no.

Blue gunk. Check.

Flappy leather coat. Check.

Porcelain white suicidal noggin. Check

Pissed vampire supposed to be finding his chakra or whatever bunking with monks. What the hell?

Angel had appeared to have said something that Spike didn’t like, because the bleached idiot did that annoying sniff and shrug and quickly jumped out of the way of a large fist that created a not-too-shabby hole in the ground. Oh, right. Insanely large demon, that apparently Spike ‘could handle on his lonesome’ was reminding us it was still there.

The argument could wait, it had seemed. The two had cut off the demon on two sides. And then went to show me that if I had any doubt that they’d ever fought alongside one another then it’s all gone now. They were more in sync than that so-called 'N SYNC boy band that Dawn can’t stop babbling about. In the old days, I’ve watched Buffy and Angel fighting together and they were never so in tune like the vamp crusaders, not even close.

I heard Buffy once tell Willow in disgust about Spike wanting to quote "dance with her". I never really ‘got’ that until I saw Spike and Angel taking down a huge pissed off demon in less than five minutes. It was like they were dancing against---with each other and the demon was a prop in the middle. If I knew half of the moves they did, I don’t think I would’ve been less blown away. That blue-blood demon was soon enough sprawled on the sticky gunk filled ground. Unlike in those professional dance competitions that Anya forces me to watch because it’s a ‘couple-y thing to do’ there was no after-dance bow or acknowledgment of your partner, Spike had barely given any more notice to Angel being there, and just turned on his heels, doing that annoying Superman cape thing, and walked away.

I wanted to follow, but I knew if I did that, they would see me. A testimony of my great tailing skills. And for some reason, I didn’t want them to see me. Even if I had good reason to be following them; seeing as Angel lied to Cordelia on where he’ll be, and Spike lied to us about this being an easy kill, either displaying his usual pompous, arrogant, I-can-take-care-of-myself attitude or having decided on throwing his immortality to the wind without the decent ‘Farewell, Cruel World!’ post-it. You know, the least he could do after everything we’ve all been through, everything he’d put us through.

Something told me it was the latter ‘disregard to his unlife’ thing, and that was why Angel had on one of his three expressions directed at Spike.

Yes, I caught that.

I hated to admit that I noticed, but that’s what I sort of do right now. Not like I have anything else to contribute with other than my handiwork, so I watch.

I watched.

I watched as the kids bonded together and the older folk slowly pulled away; meaning Spike and Giles. In the beginning after the initial shock had worn off, after Dawn relayed Buffy’s last message to us all, and after Spike had pulled himself off his moping ass and drank enough blood to heal his wounds and breaks, we were all almost inseparable. Even after my vacation days had ended, one of the girls always found a reason to pop up at the site. I found myself wasting most of my lunch breaks by going to and coming from the Magic Box. And Spike, he was everywhere, I doubt he ever slept. He made rounds every night, I swear those days I could've timed my watch on him. At first, I found it creepy but when I didn’t confront him about it, and I’m guessing none of the others did either - he wasn’t really that discreet - I think we all found his blatant display of macho, overprotective boundary-declaring… comforting. But after a while, it seemed to be happening less and less, until Spike rarely if ever made his nightly rounds of making sure all his ‘humans’ were home safe and sound.

Giles seemed to be doing his own pulling away- after he came out of a similar mope in a dark room with a bottle that Spike had. I think it’s a British thing. Giles began adding to Anya's duties bit by bit. Bless her heart. Anya kept grinning thinking that this meant he trusted her managing and money procuring skills. She can't stop preening about it to the girls who'd just grin politely at her.

I don’t think they notice what Giles is doing even now. Well, not all of them. I’m sure Spike does, but then again, he made it clear a long time ago that he knows us all too well. Know your enemy and all that crap. And possibly Tara suspects something. But none of the others seem to notice or maybe pretend not to. Giles is leaving and soon. We may have a pseudo replacement to the slayer, but Buffy had told us what happened to all those other watchers that lost their slayers. They lost the reason to go on.

We’re just not enough to keep him here.

It’s still a while to the big ‘goodbye’ announcement though. He’s hesitant. Who can blame him? He’s thinking about leaving a dormant dimension-power-opening key, who happens to be the slayer’s baby sis, and has a tendency to be kidnapped every Tuesday. Two witches, who -strong for sure- have always depended on Giles’ guidance to handling their magic, especially since one of them is liable to take to extremes when it comes to perfecting her ‘learning’. Willow had been hitting the books even more it seems and I don’t think dusty tomes of ‘Conjuring and The Beyond’ and the ‘Ethics of the Occult’ are in the UC-Sunnydale learning program, but I could be wrong.  Anyway, I trust her… I mean… she's Willow, she can do no wrong, right, ethics and all? And can’t forget the co-manager of his shop, an ex-demon who has a strange way of looking at human affairs and who could make a door-to-door salesman run away crying. And, last but always least, an apparently vigilant, heartbroken, overprotective, suicidal vampire. Oh, yes, and a carpenter who puts the training and name Watcher to shame.

Those who can’t do- watch.

So, I watched. I watched my friends bond in their denial, me along with the ride. I watched their pretense of moving along, of living again. Going back to school. Making new friends. Planning on returning to old lives.

But then I had something else to watch as that sleepless night after the park let me know.

Curiosity is becoming of a self-appointed watcher, and apparently boredom since we had finished construction that very week. So I had decided to put on my detective hat instead and find out what those two were doing sneaking behind our backs.

That’s how it started, innocent curiosity camouflaged as the need to be watchful of the two undead who had caused unforgettable ripples in our lives.  

The next uneventful meeting, I had followed Spike as he left the shop. I made sure to spray that cologne Tara had given me when we did that vamp-nest stakeout two weeks ago to hide my scent. I also kept far away enough that if he stopped or turned around I could jump behind a bush or a trashcan.

I followed him around and watched as he picked fights with demons and killed vampires before they had a chance to slip their legs out of their graves. It wasn’t long before I'd noticed that I wasn’t the only one watching him. Following him. I had to be even more careful so that Captain Hair Gel wouldn’t notice me, watching him watch Spike.

Angel only interfered when it seemed that Spike had gone over his head - even if Spike appeared to be enjoying getting clobbered around. I mean, why stop the masochist fun? I wouldn't!

Angel interfered a lot.

And Spike kept walking away like nothing happened.

It went along for most of the night that way. Half an hour before sunset- three seconds before I listened to my aching feet, they entered Spike’s crypt.

I’ve been there so many times I knew its design as well as others' around the cemetery. That crypt is of the special ones; it has windows so that -when you stand in a certain angle- you see the inside but who is inside can’t see you.

Of everything I thought would be going on, that was the one thing I hadn't thought about. Well, if I was honest, it had popped into my mind a little but I'd quickly chased it away with an anti-stereotype bat.

A glance later, I decided that I will be embracing stereotypical barriers from then on.

Why?

Because the two fang-endowed guys who had chased after my best friend like obsessed dogs were kissing each other!

That was when 'it' all began.

I'd nearly tripped over my own feet in a rush to get away. And I glanced back as I walked through the cemetery, like I would do every time after that.

The remainder of the night, as Anya snoozed in that cute way of hers, all I could picture was that rough meeting of lips and the sight of hands tearing at clothes. I couldn’t sleep that early morning as the possibilities of what they could be doing kept flashing every time I've closed my eyes.

That morning, after Anya woke up and began humming a familiar tone as she went through her morning rituals, kissed me goodbye and left to earn more money, I came to a decision. Like an annoying familiar song that you can’t get out of your head until you hear it from beginning to end, I realized that the only way I could get those thoughts away from my innocent mind was to see them all the way through.

Ultimately, not one of my better ideas.

I had known where they’ll be and when they’ll be there and it was all a matter of waiting. And watching.

A lot of watching.  

And that was it… three days later, I googled the term ‘opening Pandora’s box’. Not much luck there. I just ended up in my DVD collection reaffirming my sexuality watching Angelina Jolie bring Lara Croft to life.

Why?

Because Spike and Angel were boinking each other!

They were sleeping together.

Okay. No news there.

Except, they make love, as disturbing as that may sound, not like monsters but like men meeting after a long parting. And it was that way every time. I should know- the dark bags under my eyes are testimony enough. It’s not like I lie awake at night waiting for that time in the early morning where I began to have refreshing jogs, alone. It’s that before my strategically timed alarm rings, I’ve already pondered the ‘why’s and the ‘how’s and the badgering feeling of intimacy of it all till the fresh morning air does sound refreshing.

One day –made sure the sun was out and no blond vampire in sight- I asked Giles about vampire relationships, and how the family unit -if any- really works, are there any books? But he gave me his all too-knowing why-are-you-asking this before I chickened out and said something about catching ‘Interview with a Vampire’ in the Late Night Movie before going to bed and I was just wondering. He indulged me with saying that "they rarely run in unrelated packs", and that "they are nothing like human kin in their ways. It’s a game of dominance, rules are set, and yet pushing at breaking those rules but always knowing their place in the family is a daily event." I didn’t ask Giles how he knew all this. TMI, for damn sure!

I don’t know when I realized that Spike knows I know, but I remember it was a look. And I knew. I knew he knew, and he knew I knew he knew. There was a raised eyebrow and I could stake my money that there was an impressed leer mixed in there on that damned confident face of his.

However, strangely, nothing had changed.

Spike only joined us in a big hunt that he couldn't shake Giles out of. And after the fight, we'd break into two teams - the living folk, and Spike stalking away to find a ‘dessert’ to this because he didn’t get his fill, sometimes I sneak a glance to the back and see him joined by a dark figure in the distance.

Angel rarely meddled in. He really didn’t want anyone to know he was here. I’d only notice that the numbers of vampires are less or that the demons are oddly beaten up but Angel was really good at that melting with the night thing.

All he needed was a batmobile and a couple of nifty gadgets and he'd be set!

But the two would always join up afterwards. I never told anyone about it, no reason to bother the girl’s impressionable –or in Anya’s case highly impressionable- minds. I knew that I could handle making sure that the live-in vamp duo wasn't up to no good. Or, you know, that Angelus was nowhere in sight.

There was fair reason behind my madness. So, I never slacked on this very important job.    

If I was a real watcher and had to write one of those books studying them, one sentence would keep repeating: Vampires are insatiable.

My manliness would be mortified if I wasn’t lately giving Anya what she dubbed ‘The Really GOOD Days’ in that department.

It took me a while before something else was obvious to me. I realized that they knew I was there looking when they started to put on an act. In the beginning it was all animal lust before the agonizingly slow love making. Spike would beat me up if he could and heard me say it, but it’s true. There were times I had to stop wincing when I saw them literally fight, but it always ended the same with Spike in the bottom and Angel holding him down, with barely any resistance from Spike. And other times in the same order but with the blond not-so-really-blond bastard putting Anya’s trademark 'Riding of the Viking' to shame!

It was different when they played a game.

I started to think that they had always known I was there from that first day. They always seemed to be facing the window I was looking in through, no matter which one I chose. Every time.

My role in the game was always the same, and I always hated those times the most.

The game would start differently each time but it always had the same purpose. To make it real. More real than anything I’d ever seen. And god damn them they were doing it deliberately. And damn them it was doing exactly what their evil unbeating hearts planned.

I started to know what to expect on the days I saw Spike playing with his shirt buttons whenever the gang met.

Of course, they'd be facing my direction.

Angel would be standing behind Spike, holding him, slowly opening his shirt from the front, parting the dark fabric to gradually reveal the white skin.

Spike would have his head tilted and Angel’s mouth would always be fasted on his neck barely leaving the skin as he traced it to Spike’s ear and down again to -by then- a bare shoulder. It was tauntingly slow, and they always had their eyes closed, and they always breathed heavy breaths. Angel’s hands, finished with the shirt, would work on Spike’s belt, just unbuckling it enough so that he can reach the buttons of Spike’s tight jeans.

Okay. Some might say I've been 'reading' a little more Penthouse Letters than what's considered healthy. They won't be entirely wrong… next thing you know, I'll start talking out loud like this!

I might even end up saying how I've committed to memory that Spike goes commando, but that my breath still catches every time. And he would stand there naked and I, knowing my eyes and lips were nearly dry, do nothing. That bare pale flesh that my eyes bore into baited the hand to touch and the tight muscles dared me to.

Angel would work Spike to hardness, with leisurely twists and turns and Spike would arch and groan but neither of them would speak. I’d want them to say something, even once, because then the spell will be broken. I knew it would be. Just one word and all of it would be over. One word and I’d tell Giles and he’d tell Willow and Willow would tell Cordelia who would come to drag Angel away by his ear… And yet I'd keeping on looking in and say nothing, do nothing.

Spike would turn around and would latch desperately onto Angel’s lips while Angel’s hands never stop tracing Spike’s back like they haven’t done so hundreds of times before. But they always appear in their movements like everything was new for them.  

Then Spike would slowly undress Angel. And my eyes would follow as each patch of skin is slowly revealed and with the added sight- with Spike’s hands tracing their path, I feel my throat tighten around a swallow as I’m faced with an added glorious body.

And all I could do through my loathed growing no-sense lust is get thinking to WHY was Angel’s skin less pale?    

Of course, we can’t forget the never-ending comparison and jealousy that my body can’t compare to the very animated undead. Well, there is the body heat, the tan lines, the heartbeat…

But mostly there was the evil lust.

Damn them.

I watch again and again and Angel tenderly prepares Spike. I watch the trust. I watch the monotonous thrust and pace that never dull the ache that continues to grow in my chest more and more every time. I watch as they fall spent, wrapping their arms around each other on that beat-up comforter, their backs always to me as their shudders come down and I know I will be back again the next time.

It went on for thirteen days… it felt like months.

Our days and nights as a group are still the same. We patrol and research and hang together doing nothing in particular other than being there- together.

Spike sits on the stairs a little behind Dawn and peeks at her homework from time to time with various suggestions, while Dawn whines at the bother but takes his advice, anyway. Willow and Tara are a hand touch away from each other, both over their particular reads, joining in the discussion from time to time. Anya flits between the customers, Giles and the gang dropping me a kiss and speaking out with her usual intercourse remarks. Giles makes clipped suggestions to the girls on various matters, asks Anya to please stop shocking potential customers, points out a cupboard or a chair or a shelf that needs Xan the Handy Man’s wooden touch, asks Spike to stop opening and closing his bloody lighter in that infuriating manner next to the highly flammable books and potions, and watches over us all with that faraway look in his eyes here and there and I know that that time isn’t as distant as I used to think.

I try to catch my best friend’s eyes, to tell her, but she looks back at me the same way she always had, nothing's changed; it’s like she’s waiting for something to fall into the place. Tara is less shy around us but she’s more fidgety than usual- maybe she notices it too. Dawn keeps on clinging to us all, sneaking glances around the room from time to time. Giles sips his 'peculiar' smelling tea as he rings in a customer’s purchase. Anya is in a world of her own.

And Spike, he’s been looking at me a lot more lately. He looks at me like I am nothing to him, but in some way I matter. He looks at me like he knows what that head tilt of his does to me. He twists his lips like he’s waiting for me to say something. But I don’t. I make a witty remark about Spike going on the patch since the cigarettes were making the fangs he can’t use an unattractive brown- "the vamp ladies won’t play with him anymore". And I go off to fix something that could use a hammer and a nail.

Spike only laughs. And if I ever heard Angel laugh, I imagine him laughing at me as well.

And I hate them for it. For knowing and making me feel like this. Even more helpless.

Everyone around is oblivious and I do what I do best, thinking how effortlessly the two vampires I hate the most took away my favorite pastime; making fun of Spike without him being able to, you know, kill me. I don't know how, but they did. Maybe because I can't look at Spike much lately without picturing… that.  

Ooh. But, Karma is a bitch - seems that they are going to lose their favorite pastime too.  

Cordelia just called. She and Willow have been talking a lot. There was a vision but they took care of it. Names were mentioned but I only recognized tweedy, stuck-up Wesley. They’re worried that the next one would be harder and that they won’t be able to handle it, especially since Angel still isn't 'back'. Giles is letting Cordelia know that we'd be available if they needed help.

Spike lets out snide comment about already being busy babysitting one gaggle of Angelus’ pet humans, he’s not about to commute for extra duty - then exits the shop with a slam and a tingle.

If I didn't know better I'd say that Spike was upset about something.

"Is Spike upset about something?" Dawn looks up with those wide fearful eyes of hers. She's been looking a lot like that lately.

Spike's an ass for making her feel like that.

I smile reassuringly at her and ruffle her long hair making her scowl. "He's just suffering nicotine withdrawals." Dawn looks at me like I made a stupid joke but Willow grins and that's good enough for me.

"It's just—he looks thinner. And he's always bruised from fights. And we never see him eat anything but junk food when he's over and---"

I hold up my hand. "Say no more, Dawnster. I get ya. I'm on it! It's not like the shop will collapse if I'm not here."

Giles voice floats behind me, "Mercifully."

I roll my eyes. Giles doesn't even put in the effort anymore. But I put that behind me when Dawn beams at me. I can't help but smile back, nod a "later!" nod I've been perfecting and leave with a tingle.

They say there’s a thin line between love and hate, and some could say that might explain this thing between Angel and Spike. But I think that’s entirely wrong. They never hated each other. And they never loved each other. They ARE the line. They are constant.

I get it. All of it.

A while back Willow had shown me files she had gotten before the underground Initiative base was sealed up. She told me not to tell Buffy. I didn’t understand until I found in them files about why the Initiative was so keen on capturing Spike. How he became Hostile-17 and not a higher number when the operation had been going on for a while. It seems that Spike was taken captive by them years ago in WWII, he was one of the first hostiles. There was something vague about a submarine that the U.S. government had needed to get back. But there was something else. A sort of work order with gray old pictures, but I could recognize them. Angel had saved him. Even then. I don’t know how or why I know this now, but it just seems like the way it should’ve been.

I also remember the betrayal Spike let known when Angel tried to trick him that night so long ago in a high school hallway. And I wonder. I wonder if the anger was directed at something else, an inner joke that wasn’t so funny.

I'm thinking about this as I walk towards the cemetery. It’s way before 'schedule' but I think that won’t matter, anymore.

The door to the crypt is wide open.

"Humans don't need an invite!" Spike calls out from inside. Then mutters loudly, "Bloody unjust if ya ask me…"

I shrug and step into the crypt. I stick my hands in my jeans pockets trying to act 'aloof'. "I didn't want to assume." I look and I see Spike's amused face and Angel standing half a meter away from him, hands crossed and clearly agitated about something.

I don't think it's me.  

"How was Tibet?" I ask Angel casually and hopefully a little condescending.

Spike answers, "Shur-hods apparently sucked all the fun out of brooding."

Huh?

"Huh?"

Angel twists his lips. "Demon monks".

That makes sense.

Spike crosses his arms with a sniff. "It was either here or Vegas."

"Yeah," Angel points a finger. "Spike's cheaper."

Spike sticks out his tongue.

I can't help but smile. My chest feels toasty for some reason.

I frown. This isn't right. I shouldn't be feeling all 'feeling-y' with the weirdo vamps. So, I do what I do best; bring some perspective into the room.

"Angel isn't the only one going home…" I notice a bit of chilliness to the room. "Giles is leaving." I hope that didn't sound too defensive. I have to focus on that I'm here because of Dawn and not for anything else.  

Spike raises an eyebrow like he thinks I'm an idiot. "I know." He gives me the 'what do you expect me to do about it?' look.

I look up in an eye roll. Now who's the idiot? "You can’t leave."

"Was I planning to?" Spike taps a finger to his bottom lip. "Darn, must've missed that memo. I've had my hands full lately." He leers and wiggles his eyebrows. For extra measure he slides his hand down his stomach to his belt… fingers splayed… and that's when I snap my gaze up.  

Angel snorts. I share a glance with him and I'm happy to see that at least not all vampires lost their brain cells when they died. "Being a permanent part of Sunnydale doesn’t count."  

Spike gives me a mixed glower of 'I don't know what you're talking about' and 'piss off'. I'm impressed.

Apparently, Angel isn't because he only sighs. Bet he's been down this path. And I'm not about to go about it the same way Angel did! Ugh. No sirree!

"It'd kill Dawn to know her undead babysitter doesn't have the 'un' anymore." I lock my hands behind my neck all-cool like. "And not 'emotional' teenage dead-angst here, I'm talking like it'd literally kill her. She could bring home another hedgehog that she nearly ran over on her bike and this time around we won't have a super-hound- vampire-nose to tell us it's actually a baby Bogart demon."

"Bo'gard. And it only feeds on human hair," Angel supplies with his ever-helpful unneeded braininess.

Spike lights a cigarette like he doesn't care. Ass.

"Whatever." I take a couple of steps forward and point accusingly at Spike. "You promised to take care of her! Vamp word of claim is holy and shit." I cross my arms and avoid looking at Angel. "Besides, what would Buffy think?"  

"Cheap shot, mate." Spike lays a hand flat over his heart dramatically. He puffs out some toxic smoke at my face and I cough. "Besides, Beef-cake here already worked me through my issues." He pushes the cigarette around with his agile tongue while looking at me up and down. "'Less you're about to remind me too of the joys of living…" he says sultrily as he tips his head deliberately.

My mouth dries and my heart quickens.

"I'm leaving," Angel says uninterested and walks towards the door.

I quickly turn to him. "Hey, Cordy would expect not-really-vacation presents!" Ass Senior was about to leave me alone with Spike! With non-existing UST, but Spike doesn't know that.

Angel’s eyes widen. I don't think it's because of my own reasoning though. He has the "Oh, shit. Cordelia" look on his face. I've seen that reflected in a mirror once or twice. I hold back a grin.

"Pansy." Spike scoffs. I'm not sure if it's directed at me or at Angel. Maybe both. He doesn't look at either of us though.

"Well, can’t have her highness adding to your brooding card after I've emptied it out," Spike says acidly and chucks his lit cigarette to the floor. On reflex, I put it out with the sole of my shoe while he rummages for a few seconds through a chest in the corner, then turns around and throws something at Angel.

Angel holds up a necklace with a look.

"It will bring out her breasts." Spike dons his innocent face as he gestures towards his own chest.

Angel tries to look offended on behalf of Cordelia but I can see even he is considering it.

I'm curious to see what Spike's hiding, so I sneak a peek towards the trunk and notice a small skull with a tuft of dark hair on top. "Ooh, that looks cool!"

Spike picks it up and looks it over, dangling it. “You like?”

I nod.

Spike purses his lips then throws it. It passes over my head and right into Angel’s hand.

"That would meet your homeboy’s fancy nicely. He’s into that dorky stuff too, ain't he? Every posse has at least one dork."

Angel pockets the item while I scowl. "Yeah. What does it say about you having it in the first place?"

"That I have a taste for dorks?" Spike licks his lips and snaps his teeth together.

I shudder and scowl some more when he smirks.

"What are you – a registered pseudo-punk Santa for: Evil, Who Worships it, and The Few Who Stand Up to it?"

Spike gets a faraway look in his eyes and replies, "Saint Nick once left me a disemboweled child under the tree. Dru was jealous, thought he was gonna swipe her prince away through the chimney and feed him to his reindeer. The hearth always had to be lit after that or she'd have a fit."

I try not to think about how I never saw that look of amusement – not that there ever'd been any other look of amusement - on Angel's face before or how part of me wouldn't be all that surprised if the unwanted trip down memory-insane was true.  

I instead watch as Angel cranes his head, trying to peek at Spike's wooden present dispenser and asks, "Got anything for Wes?"

"The watcher?"

"Yeah, ex-watcher, kicked because he’s crappy and makes out with teenage girls." I really don't have unresolved issues. "Bet you have some geeky British stuff for him," I challenge Spike. I've always had this fantasy of mine that Spike is really a Wesley in disguise and not a Ripper.  

"Heh?" Spike looks on blankly for a second and I wonder if Angel too took a step back at that look of scary realization that filled that expressive face. "Why, yes, I know the perfect prezzie for him." Spike walks past me –thank god- and reaches inside Angel’s coat. Angel gasps when Spike's hand brushes at his groin. I bite the inside of my cheeks because I was this close to letting out a similar sound.

Spike looks up with a leer. "Ain't what I'm grabbin' at. Not that that poof wouldn’t love it. But I was thinking more around--- this…"  

He pulls out a nifty looking sheathed dagger. He unsheathes it and makes some stabbing motions in the air.

"But…" Angel looks like someone is about to take his favorite toy. I won’t be shocked if that was the case. "It's a sixteenth century Murshan dagger, I got it when we…"

Spike tisks and hands it back to Angel. "Uh uh, can’t play favorite with your kids, now can ya? Besides, it's time to move on."

Angel opens his mouth like he’s about to say something but apparently sees something on Spike's face and instead he nods, doesn’t bother to look at me and leaves. Always with the fancy turn-around-and-walk-away-in-silence exits! Sheesh.

I feel like an ass when I sneak a look at Spike’s face. I don’t know why, but I do. Somehow it actually makes me feel better since I've been too much of a softy towards blood sucking fiends if you ask me. I jump back startled when Spike smacks his hands and grinds them together. I quickly wipe the pity look off my face before he turns around. Spike would risk a chip blast to knock me up against the wall if he saw it.

"I’m hungry. You’re buying."

Well, he moves on fast to the comfort food, doesn’t he? "Blood?" I remember what Dawn said about that and look at my watch, wondering if the butchers are still open at this time and question myself why I don't have a problem with it being my treat. So much for my anti-vamp-softy plan. Well, a vamp doesn't bite the hand that feeds it--- I hope.  

"Nah, spicy chicken wings. The ladies love to watch me lick me digits. Think it's sexy." He wiggles his fingers to demonstrate.

I can't help but laugh.

He’s already at the door when he turns around looking annoyed. "C’mon, wimp. Are you gonna keep standing there, just looking?"

I stand there blinking at him when he crosses his arms waiting, this close to tapping his foot. I shake my head and grin. “Nope, I’m done looking.”

For some reason, I have a bounce in my step as I follow Spike through the cemetery. Angel is on his way to where he belongs, away from here, so maybe that's part of it? Maybe.

I don't glance back at the crypt. I just think about how the next time we'd go out as a group to fight the good fight, Spike won't run off somewhere afterwards hoping to go out fighting, there might even be some witty banter! Dawn would stop doing her mental head count. I might even announce my pre-apocalypse engagement in one of the gang's not-so-impromptu meetings, who knows. I also think about how tomorrow I'll break the news to Willow that Giles is leaving very soon and maybe, just maybe, she'd realize it all, stop reading up on her Egyptian urn history and help me figure out someway to stop him from leaving.  

Yeah, I think we're going to be fine.

I wonder if Anya's going to miss ‘The Really GOOD Days’?




The End





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