Xander’s heart thudded strangely in his chest, hard and loud and he swore he could hear it ricochet off his ribs or maybe crawl up into his throat. His hand was slick and tight around the bills in his pocket and he could feel the sweat soaking into the crinkled paper. His hair, which he’d painstakingly washed dozens of times, combed, studied, and repeated, fell in a few useless sweaty strands over his eyes. Every instinct he owned shouted not to go in the store.

Xander licked his lips and smoothed out his jeans again. He’d worn his black ones today, the only pair besides blue that he owned, but the bottoms had collected a bit of dust on his way here and each inch of dirty fabric hacked a foot off Xander’s courage. His shirt, one of the few lacking permanent creases, glimmered an ocean-y navy blue in the dimming evening light. The sun was just past the climactic spray of orange and red and had settled to a declining heavy pink and subtle purple.

Xander bit his lip but stopped, worried about making it bleed. He won’t kiss you again, Xander’s head scolded and taunted him, That one time was a fluke. A complete spur-of-the-moment, look-back-on-it-and-laugh, one-in-a-million, entirely accidental, fluke. Xander breathed out a slightly shuddering sigh, minty fresh breath adding its own aroma to the humid California air. A complete fluke.

Thursday 5:32 pm.

Spike attacked his splintered nail with a vengeance. For every moment the bell didn’t jingle, Spike’s heart beat a little faster and his eyes swiveled a little crazier. His manager had been staring strangely at him all afternoon, glancing not-so-covertly over when he’d start tapping his finger onto the counter like a jackhammer. After a few minutes and a ‘What the fuck is wrong with you, kid’ he’d finally retreated to the mysterious backroom, which Spike had only glimpsed once but managed to steal a peek at a stack of well-worn Playboys. He tried not to wonder about the backroom anymore.

Through the grimy window he’d watched the sky fade from brilliant scarlet to spicy ginger and finally to a deepening lavender, enveloping the clouds and dyeing the edges indigo like an ink-stained cotton ball. Every so often Spike would slide his hand under the slick guitar magazine cover and pull out the folded papers stacked thinly beneath it. He’d peek down with his tongue poking just a bit out of his mouth and a black pen in hand, adding details or shading to the half-finished pictures.

A two-dimensional sketch of the brown-eyed stuttering stranger stared up at him as he lifted the magazine cover once again and added a slight upward tilt to one corner of his mouth. His black-and-white checkered-flag fingernails flew back and forth as he added more shading to the hair drooped lazily over the drawing’s eyes. The bell jingled hesitantly and he dropped the magazine and pictures in his surprise, papers spilling out and fanning over the floor while the magazine flopped noisily with glossy papers rustling and bending as they shifted. He dropped to his knees, clumsily stacking the papers in his panic to hide them from the customer and snatching up the magazine before shoving them all under his jacket resting on the chair.

He felt like he had back at his old school, shoving his sketchbook and journal into his backpack whenever footsteps sounded too close, permanent ink stains on his fingers and ridiculous curly blonde hair hanging in his eyes. Thank god he’d met Liam, the bad boy delinquent who’d showed him he didn’t have to be a pansy to show feelings. He could show emotions by coloring his hair to match his mood and wear black leather to get people to avoid him instead of just glaring at them under his eyelashes and blushing when they looked his way.

Funny how being out of the country and out of sight of Liam had caused his teachings to slip slowly out of focus in Spike’s mind, while every day he felt more inclined to rip off the white tape on his nametag that read ‘Spike’ and reveal the golden engraved ‘William’ underneath.

When all the papers were safely out of sight and Spike was carefully staring at a nonexistent speck on the counter, quickly becoming very existent as he stared harder and harder while the shuffling gait he’d memorized overcame the drone of the air conditioner by a slight margin. Spike licked his dry lips but paused when in his peripheral the fuzzy object bypassed the usual stop for snack food and instead walked straight to the counter. He looked up in disappointment, expecting to find some bottom-feeder lowlife stopping at the drug store on their way out of town instead of chocolate colored eyes and a dopey grin.

His ultra-tight jaw loosened and tapping finger stopped in mid air as he saw Pretty Stranger walking toward the counter with the tightest navy blue shirt and black jeans he’d ever seen. The bottoms were a little dusty and gave him a just-back-from-work-give-me-some-tail kind of look. Bronze skin spanned over large muscular arms, obviously from heavy work or a lot of gym time, but gauging by the natural tan spreading everywhere the eye could see, Spike decided the muscles were from some type of labor.

The blue fabric clung desperately to a nicely sculpted chest, hidden before by the plain or obnoxiously bright shirts he’d seen previously on the kid. And Spike tried hard not to stare, yet still managed to acquire a burning flush in his cheeks that began to slowly slink downwards, at the black jeans cupping perfectly rounded buttocks. But the most surprising, and almost the most stimulating, addition to Spike’s new and improved jerk-off fantasy, was the bottom half of an outlined star tattooed on Pretty Stranger’s left shoulder. Spike had his eyebrow, tongue, and nipple pierced, but had yet to tattoo himself. Strange how that one star compared to his excess of meaningless decorations made him feel, somehow, inauthentic.

Spike’s heart thudded loud and rabbit-fast in his chest, sweat that had accumulated on his forehead practically freezing to icicles as they were blasted with more frosty drug-store air. Well-worn black and white Converse’s stepped softly across the tile, one side of the left shoe slashed and revealing a slice of white sock. Watery brown eyes stared bravely or ignorantly into Spike’s, baring no emotion in them or the placid line of a mouth below them. Spike heard the ball bouncing mournfully into his court.

At the last moment he remembered to close his mouth, teeth clacking together with a force that made his jaw ache. He blinked and glanced down at the beer in Stranger’s hand, reaching forward with his own that he hoped wasn’t shaking too noticeably and gripping it with fingers he hoped weren’t too slick with sweat. Their fingers brushed for a moment and Spike felt little sparks fire up his sides and he fought to keep from jumping or yelping.

He quickly pulled the can toward him and slid it under the scanner, listening half-heartedly for the little electronic beep and setting it down. He coughed and said the price, feeling like a right idiot for reasons unknown to him. He wished he really was the dismissing, carefree, fuck-it-all person he portrayed. He wished he wasn’t scared out of his brains right now. A slight line between his eyebrows that Spike desperately hoped wasn’t disappointment and Stranger turned with his beer hanging from one hand and the other, emptied of its cash, sliding uselessly into a pocket.

Spike felt a bubble of panic and dread rise into his chest as he opened his mouth to draw a shuddering breath and instead pushed the word he’d been trying to force out of his throat since he’s moved to this godforsaken town.


Thursday 7:03 pm.

Xander raised the can to his lips, sipping quietly and continuing to star out into the comforting but overwhelming black hollowness of the sky, sprinkled randomly with flecks of shimmering gold and the passing blinking smudge, making its way across the giant void with flashes of red, blue, red, blue. When he set the drink down his hand brushed pale fingers, soft compared to the appearance of their owner, and felt the firecrackers he’d experienced all evening once again explode with hidden shivers and tickled into his skin.

Xander was grateful for the comfortable silence, unable to think of words to break it himself. He glanced over at the lounging figure beside him, blonde-white hair sparkling idly under the pale grin of the moon and hooded eyes revealing sliver of blue and gold under sooty black lashes. His nametag read ‘Spike’ but he had fumblingly introduced himself as Will. Xander had smiled once he knew what was engraved under the tape. He had replied ‘X- Xander’ behind a half-goofy half-terrified grin, cursing himself a million times over for the damn stutter that refused to when he got nervous or rushed. Will hadn’t seemed to care, however, or maybe was just containing his laughter behind that little grin he got when Xander stuttered or blushed. They had stumbled through weak conversation but eventually just sat and admired the stars and the odd closeness and familiarity they felt around each other.

He was still thrilled and a bit shocked that Will had suggested they sit on the roof and had turned the sign in the smudged front window to ‘Closed.’ Xander wondered where the leather jacket was, but not out loud. There was a distinct lack of tension, despite the fact that each was obviously thinking back to That Night and that they each knew the other was thinking of it from the sly glances followed by furious blushing that they caught each other with. It was slightly nerve-wracking, yet- teasing, somehow. Like they were flirting with each other. The furthest Xander had ever gotten with flirting was ‘I take the money up front.’ And although it was usually followed by a romp in bed or rug burns on his knees, it was hardly foreplay.

Will, on the other hand, provoked a strange playfulness in him that he could only compare to late-night couch-cuddling with Willow. The absence of ‘just a friend’ made this whole rendezvous all the more exciting.

Xander’s eyes caught the stare on his left and turned to face crystal blue eyes and want. His breath caught in his throat and his own eyes fixed on Will’s full lips, glistening slightly wet in the peeking light of stars. Xander felt that wonderful tension string up and the bow-tight cords of his muscles built up from construction work lock together in nervous waiting. A spark of memory infused his lust-filling brain and he smiled. Soft smile and nervous smile, waiting smile and patient smile. Caring and tentative, and-- oh god, hoping.

He smiled and Will saw it and something deep behind his cobalt eyes cracked, or maybe mended, but all Xander knew was that suddenly he was on top of him, hot breath on his face and wet tongue sliding and tasting his lips, inquiring but not begging for entrance. Xander gasped faintly and opened parted his lips, surprise failing to conceal his want as his own tongue darted out to taste Will, wondering if his flavor was the same as Spike’s, hot and keen and smoky.

But Will tasted like vanilla. Or maybe like fluffy, leaving-you-needing-more, cotton candy. But then Xander raised his hand to touch those razor-sharp cheekbones, feeling them graze his hand but not slice them like he half-feared they would and then Will tasted like chocolate, warm and gooey and definitely there but never enough. Will moaned high in his throat, pulling himself into Xander’s lap, knees sliding flush with his hips and fingers wrapping into his silky chesnut waves of hair. Xander’s entire mouth was tingling madly and his breath harshly laved Will’s swollen lips as they broke apart to gasp in the rapidly heating air.

Xander froze as he saw Will-- no, Spike now, smiling down at him, sexy and confidant and just a bit smug as he licked his reddening lips and place a warm hand on the side of Xander’s face. Xander felt the lap Spike was half-sitting in harden and his cheeks burn with a flush that was only partly embarrassed. Two blonde eyebrows crept up toward sweaty white strands plastered to his forehead above twin pools of blue and dilating black, reflecting heat and a smile that looked impressed. Xander grinned and pulled Will forward to kiss him, smashing their mouths together with lust, desire, and a growing hint of affection. With no stupid bell to interrupt them and nothing but a giant sky and the whispering stars to watch them, Xander felt an emotion much different from the dread and anxiety that usually accompanied the cloak of night. It suddenly felt far too short with breathy moans instead of fists and alcohol-sweetened kisses instead of molding cement walls and drifting yellowing feathers to fill it.

Thursday 10:53 pm.

Spike-- Will pushed his head into his pillow, feeling ghosting warm hands in place of feather softness and seeing kiss-swollen smiles imprinted on his eyelids. He felt a foreign tingle in his belly that flickered excitedly whenever he thought of Xander, a strange emotion that made him want to go to work tomorrow and want to see the another day slide past. There was a familiar restlessness, one he usually quashed with loud music and vigorous nail-painting. But tonight while his lips still tasted like salt and Twinkies, he reached under his bed for the ignored but never forgotten book. The pages were crisp and filled him with almost painful excitement as he flipped quickly to a blank page and clicked open a black pen. And when the images of taunting schoolboys blossomed expectantly in his mind as his hand flew eloquently across the page, he just smiled and winked at them. Because he didn’t crave that frustrating acceptance and reassurance anymore. He had something better.

He had hope.

The End