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Rating: R
Summary: Xander loves Spike. Spike has no clue. With a little help from some friends, they fumble their way towards a relationship.
Chapter Title: A is for Androgyny, Ass...ets, and Angels.
Chapter Summary: Xander worries, and Spike gets drunk with Angel.
Notes: Set in some vague Season Five-is time. Joyce never died, Glory went away or something, and Dawn does exist. The song Spike dances to is “Devil with the Black Dress On” by Jack Off Jill.






Alphabet Soup


by
Sorrel





1
A is for Androgyny, Ass...ets, and Angels.



Xander knew that he had fallen into an alternate universe. Usually, these things required careful checking, because you didn’t want to run around saying that you were in an alternate universe unless you’re sure, because then people would think you were crazy. But this time he was sure, no doubt about it, no second thoughts and no turning back.

Spike was wearing a dress.

Okay, it wasn’t quite a dress. It was... like a dress. It was tight, and black, and came down to mid-thigh, and he was wearing it over a pair of obscenely tight blue jeans. The boots were the same, thank god- Xander could only take so many shocks- but Spike’s hair was gelled into, well, spikes instead of being slicked back against his skull, and he was wearing makeup- thick black eyeliner painted around his gunmetal gray eyes, and bright red lipstick that caused his mouth to look even more carnal than it had before.

He looked like sin, and it was blowing Xander’s mind.

“Spike, what the hell are you wearing?” he said, his voice sort of weak and faint instead of forceful like he intended. “And why?”

Spike sneered at him, which looked obscenely good on those painted lips, and said, “It’s a dress, Harris. What are you, blind?”

Okay, so it was a dress.

“And as to the why- I’m goin’ to a club tonight, up in LA. Just waiting for the sun to set so I can start driving.”

Xander paused to think about this for a minute. “The drive’s a couple of hours. If you’re gonna do the whole clubbing thing, aren’t you gonna get fried on the drive back?”

Spike looked surprised at that, as if he was expecting more shock and disbelief instead of concern. Well, as much as Xander wanted to play to Spike’s expectations, it took more brainpower than he had at the moment to keep up the pretense of not giving a damn. Of being friends, sometimes, if Spike was in the mood, but never anything else. It was taking everything he had to just stand there and look at all that temptation that was just a few feet away, staring at him with a slightly confused look on his face, when all he wanted to do was grab Spike and show him what he could do with that mouth of his.

Spike recovered from his surprise then, and twisted his mouth back into the sneer that always made Xander’s cock ache. “I’ll be fine. Might drop in on the Pouf, see if the family feeling is still going strong, or if he wants to return the favor and play with a few hot pokers.”

Grrr... Xander barely prevented himself from growling out loud. Stupid Angel, with his stupid hair and his stupid habit of always getting exactly what Xander wanted... He kept his voice neutral, though, and said only, “What if he wants to do the thing with the pokers?”

Spike shrugged carelessly. “I’ll find shelter somewhere. Been around a long time- I can always find somewhere to hide from the sun.”

Xander opened his mouth to say- something, he wasn’t quite sure, when he glanced to his right and saw that the sun had finished setting. “Hey, it’s all dark and stuff,” he said instead. “Not gonna be able to do that dancing thing if you don’t get a move on.”
Spike looked at him, eyes narrowing. “You all right?” he said curiously. “Because you look like Xander Harris, but you sound nothing like him.”

“Ha ha, very funny,” Xander said dryly. “I’m allowed to worry about you, you know. It doesn’t break any Scooby rules.”

“Bet it does,” Spike teased. “Bet you’ve got a handbook of rules all written down somewhere, and there it’ll be, number three hundred and some: ‘White Hats do not worry about soulless fiends.’”

Xander just rolled his eyes, though he wanted to grab Spike and shake some sense into him. Why couldn’t Spike understand that Xander actually cared about him?

“Just... call me, will you? If you’re not driving home tonight? I don’t wanna picture your dust lying in some gutter, and having no idea what happened to you.”

Spike looked at him with that funny, intense look that he could do sometimes. “You’re really gonna worry about me, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” Xander admitted. “Humor me, will you?”

Spike shrugged. “Sure. I’ll call you if I’m having a slumber party with Peaches or something. Good enough, Dad?”

No. I want to never hear you call me Dad again, like I’m some stodgy old guy instead of the guy who wants to kiss you, lick you, fuck you, make you beg and scream.

“Yeah, it’s good enough. Now get out of here, you’re wasting your lack of daylight.”

Spike grinned at him, waved, and grabbed his keys from the table by the side door. “See ya later, mate. Try not to do something unbearably exciting without me.”

No danger of that. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Xander said, and Spike shot him a look over one shoulder, the kind of look that could make anything with functioning hormones sit up and beg.

“I plan on doing all sorts of things you wouldn’t do, Harris,” Spike said. “Gonna have me a real good time.” He pulled on his duster, dropped his keys in his pocket, and winked at Xander. “Don’t wait up.”

The door slammed shut behind him, and Xander collapsed onto the couch. He’s killing me. God. What higher power hates me enough to put that much temptation in my reach and yet put him so far out of my league that I’ll never be able to touch?

It was just another example of the Xander Harris brand of bad luck, he decided. His life was a fucking tragedy- or a comedy, if you liked to laugh at other people’s misfortune.

Fucking figured that he would have the bad luck to fall in love with Spike.






Maybe if Spike hadn’t been so distracted by Xander’s odd behavior, he wouldn’t have noticed. He would have been too wrapped up in the music, too absorbed in dancing, to see Angel, lurking in the corner.

But because he was distracted by Xander’s behavior, he did notice Angel lurking, and he decided that if Fate was going to hand this opportunity to torture Angel to him on a silver platter, than he was, by God or whatever, going to take advantage of it.

The song that came on just as he came to this conclusion just reinforced his belief that Fate was laughing at Angel, and smiling down on him. It was just so damn perfect. He spun around in a quick flash of black against pale skin that drew Angel’s gaze to him, and once he was sure that Angel’s eyes were on him, Spike caught and held his gaze, and began to dance.

“Wash off those scabs dear/ or fingernail pick them clean/ pray to all your long-lost demons to justify your means.”

Angel wasn’t just looking at him now. He was staring.

“Devil has a new shape/ Devil has a new ride/ Devil has a problem but he locks it up inside.”

Oh yeah, this was fun.

“Kid’s sure like the devil these days/ and I’m the devil with the black dress on/ Do you want to own me Angel/ cause I own you now you’re gone.”

He put an extra twist into his hips on the word “own,” and raised his arms, crossing his wrists like they were held by chains. Even all the way across the room, he saw something flash in Angel’s eyes. Poor baby, still trying to pretend that he didn’t like what he was seeing. Well, Spike would see how long that would last.

“Did you believe it ‘cause I said so/ did you believe it was true/ I’m eternal and infernal and I sure lied to you.”

Well, he couldn’t remember the last time that he’d lied to Angel, and he sure as hell couldn’t remember the last time Angel had actually taken anything he’d said at face value, but two of three were right.

“Good girl with the black eyes/ Believe in future past/ Everything that I want happens/ See how long that lasts.”

He faltered, very briefly, as that line hit home. Why did that first line make him think of Xander? And wasn’t it just fucking typical of his life that everything went wrong?

He cast the thought aside, though, and did what he did best- living in the moment, no thought of the future or the past. Nothing to think about but what he was doing right now, which was seducing Angel with little more than a dance.

“Devil has a hot rod/ Devil high on speed/ Devil has a black dress/ So her arms can bleed.”

At the last line Spike scored his arms with his fangs, then shook away his game face as he lifted his arms and let the blood trickle down in dark streams over pale skin. Even from all the way across the room Spike knew the moment the smell of blood hit him, and Angel’s face shifted almost helplessly to his vampiric features.

“Kids sure like the Devil these days/ And I’m the devil with the black dress on/ Do you want to hurt me Angel/ ‘cause I’m hurting now you’re gone.”

The song wasn’t over, but as the last words screamed through the speakers, Spike gave one last twitch of his hips and slipped through the crowd, disappearing from Angel’s view and moving along the outside of the crowd. Silence descended for a brief moment between songs, and in that split second of silence and darkness, as the strobes stilled with the music, he came up behind Angel and slid one black-nailed hand over the taller man’s stomach.

“Been keeping fit, haven’t you, Angelus? How’s tricks?”

Angel kept very, very still. “Spike. What the hell are you playing at?”

“Missed you, ducks,” Spike said casually, and slid his hand oh-so-slightly downwards. Not far enough down to actually do any good for Angel’s straining erection (what, was Spike supposed to just not notice? As Dawn said, shyeah, right) but definitely far enough to tease.

“Yeah, pull the other one, it’s got bells on,” Angel said, startling Spike into laughter and causing him to step away, removing his tormenting hand.

“Why, Angelus! You picked up a sense of humor somewhere! Who would’ve thought?”

“It’s Angel,” he said through gritted teeth. “Not Angelus.”

Spike shook his head mournfully. “I still can’t get over it. The mighty Angelus, brought lower than a worm’s belly by a pesky soul.” He cocked his head, considered. “This might even call for a drink. C’mon, Angel, you’re buying.”

“I’m not buying you a drink, Spike,” Angel said with that awful patience in his voice that always drove Spike batty. “The only reason I came here at all is because Cordelia had a vision of a girl in trouble.”

“And did you save the damsel in distress?” Spike inquired.

“Well, yeah.”

“Then there’s nothing to stop you from getting drunk, is there?”

The worst thing, Angel would think later, was that even as Spike was towing him by one hand to the bar, he couldn’t think of a single damn thing to say in protest.






A couple hours later, and they’d moved the party back to Angel’s place. Spike burst out laughing when he saw where Angel was hanging his hat these days- a bloody huge hotel with more rooms than Angel probably even knew about, much less used. Figured.

Turned out that Angel kept a decent stash of the old Irish locked up in his room, where his little humans couldn’t get ahold of it, so Spike stopped laughing long enough to pour himself a drink with very slightly unsteady hands. He’d had a good bit of vodka at the bar, as had Angel, but he was a vampire, with a vampire’s constitution, and he’d had over a century to build up his tolerance to alcohol.

Another hour saw Angel sprawled out over the couch and Spike stretched out on the floor, both of them with a bottle of good Irish whiskey in one hand. Spike was giggling at something Angel had said, though neither of them could quite remember what it was.

Remember... remember.... Suddenly, Spike sprang (well, wavered) to a vaguely upright position. “Shit. Almost forgot. You got a phone, mate?”

Angel, who felt dizzy from watching Spike sway on his feet, nodded and pointed to the portable on the bedside table. “Who you callin’?”

Spike ignored him and dialed. A couple of rings later, and there was a worried voice on the other end of the line. “Spike? That you?”

“Yeah, it’s me. Seems like me and the Spud, here, are having that sleepover after all.”

There was a pause. “Spike, are you drunk?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m right pissed. Same for the Poof. He has- well, had- a great many bottles of the finest Irish whiskey. Good stuff.”

Xander sighed, and Spike could picture him rolling his eyes. Spike grinned foolishly, feeling a rush of affection for the boy that he would have violently stomped on if he was sober. “Take care not to wander out into the sunlight, okay? And call me before you leave.”

“Yes, Da,” Spike said seriously, then burst out laughing. “Can take care of meself, mate, been doin’ it a good sight longer than you.”

“Spike, you’re completely blitzed. Go sleep it off. Call back when you’re sober.”

“Sure thing, Xander,” Spike said, and stood there even after the click that signaled that Xander had hung up, staring at the phone with that same foolish smile. It was good to have someone to look after him.

“You called Xander?” Angel said with disbelief. “I thought you two hated each other.”

“The fuck you been, Angel? Been living in his place ever since the little demon dumped him to move on to greener pastures. Fucking bitch. Anyway, Xander was all worried that I’d get toasted by the sun or somesuch, so I was just callin’ him to check in, ease his mind a little, see?”

Angel did see, much better than Spike did, despite the vast amount of alcohol swimming through his bloodstream. “Does he always check up on you like this?”

Spike shook his head, picking his way unsteadily across the floor to collapse on the floor at Angel’s feet. Almost against his will, Angel’s hand came up to comb through gelled blond hair.

“Nah. He’s usually pretty laid back. Doesn’t bitch about vampire hours. Doesn’t get a stick up his ass when I’m takin’ the piss. Good mate.”

He’s in love with me but I’m too much of a moron to realize it or the fact that I’m in love with him too, Angel translated. Yeah, that was Spike all over. Angel didn’t get why Xander, of all people, had fallen for Spike, but it was very clear that he had. And it was equally clear that Spike had fallen right back.

Angel was a little jealous, though he’d never admit it. Spike was still Spike- an infuriating, gorgeous, mouthy little punk with a face that angels must have carved. Only look how fast Angel had fallen into his trap tonight. Some was old habits working on him, and some was just Spike. Still as hateful and seductive as ever.

“It’d be nice to do something for him,” Spike was blathering on. “He’s been taking care of me. Never lets me do anything for him, though.”

“You know, his birthday is coming up in a couple of days,” Angel suggested. “Maybe you could get him a present.”

Spike perked right up at that. “Yeah! Something he really wants but won’t buy for himself ‘cause it’d be ‘a waste of good money,’” Spike said, in a pitch-perfect impression of Xander’s voice. “Good idea, mate.”

You knew Spike was drunk, Angel reflected, when he paid you a compliment without it being sarcastic.

“I’m really glad that I came up to LA, so we could have this little talk.”

“Yeah,” Angel said, and there was only a hint of irony in his voice. “Me too.”





2
B is for Birthdays, Banyans, and Balloons



Xander watched Spike carefully out of the corner of his eye. The vampire was sitting on the steps in the Magic Box, looking as innocent and carefree as a vampire possibly could. He even went so far as to tilt his head back and stare at the ceiling, whistling cheerfully.

Xander knew something was up.

Well, okay, duh. This was Spike. Something was always up.

But this time he thought that something was more up than usual. Spike was acting so perfectly innocent and blameless that he just had to be doing something to be blamed for.

But for the life of him, he couldn’t figure out what it was. So he sat there, watching Spike out of the corner of his eye, and worked his way through the pile of weapons that Giles had slapped down on the table and told him to clean.

Reminded of the ex-Watcher, Xander looked up and around. Giles was nowhere to be seen- which was odd, because ever since Anya had left him several months ago, Giles hadn’t yet found a new sales assistant, and it was extremely unlike him to leave the register unoccupied, even if Xander was sitting there. What was going on?

Just then, Willow came running in, from the door that led to the training room. “Xander, come quick! There’s some demon in the back, and I can’t get ahold of Buffy, and I think it’s going to kill Giles!”

Every bit of concern over Spike’s faux innocence vanished in a surge of sheer adrenaline. He grabbed an axe out of the pile on the table and took over for the back door, just barely aware of Spike right on his heels.

He burst out of the door that led to the alley, axe already raised to strike down whatever evil fiend was after them this week, when he saw that there was no evil fiend. Instead, the alley was filled with three long tables, two covered with food and one with prettily wrapped presents, and people. Buffy was there, grinning, along with Giles, completely unharmed, as well as Willow, Tara, Dawn, Mrs. Summers, and a couple of guys from the site, the ones who knew exactly what kind of town Sunnydale was.

He was staring, dumbfounded, at the completely unexpected sight before him, when he heard Spike’s voice behind him. “Happy Birthday, pet.”

He spun around to face the vampire, who was standing there, smiling at him. “What?”

Willow bounced back over to him, grinning like a loon. “It was Spike’s idea. I know we never threw you a party, because somehow most parties end up Hellmouthy, but Spike wanted to give you a party. He set the whole thing up- all we had to do was show up.”

“He even called us,” volunteered Joe, one of the guys he worked with. “Hell if I know how he got our numbers, but he called us up, told us there was gonna be a party for your birthday and when and where we were supposed to be.”

He turned back around in a daze to face Spike. “You did this? But I didn’t even know that you knew my birthday.”

Spike looked at the ground, looked at the sky, and finally looked back at Xander. “Angeltoldme,” he muttered, very fast, but Xander understood him nonetheless.

Angel told you?” He paused. “I wonder how Angel knew.”

“Dunno, pet, but when I went up to LA last Saturday and ran into him we got to talking about you, and he told me your birthday was today.” Spike was silent for a minute, then said, very softly, “Just wanted to do something nice for you, you know? You’ve been looking out for me for the past couple of months, so I figured I wanted to return the favor.”

Xander smiled at him, and said, “Thank you, Spike,” in such a heartfelt voice that Spike was dazzled by the intensity and sincerity in his dark brown eyes. There was a moment where they were locked in their own little bubble of reality, and they were just looking at each other, and there was something there, something Spike almost realized but not quite, and before he could grasp it Dawn had bounced forward to drag him over to the presents table, loudly proclaiming that he had to open hers first, and the moment was lost.






It had been a hell of a party. Not really Spike’s style, with all the smiles and chatter and absolutely no blood and carnage, but Xander was enjoying it, and that was all Spike cared about.

Even if they had played Backstreet Boys for a solid hour. Spike shuddered at the very thought.

All the presents had been opened, and all the cake and ice cream had been consumed. Everyone was sprawled out in chairs, talking in the quiet, comfortable sort of way that happens when everyone has eaten far too much. Xander was laughing with Willow and Buffy, and Spike was sitting off to the side, on his own, watching the three best friends and smiling just a little to himself because his surprise worked out even better than he thought it would.

Someone sat down beside him, but he didn’t turn around to face her till Tara said, “This was just what he needed, you know.”

Spike gave her a sideways glance. “Is that right?”

She nodded. “You know that I can see auras, sometimes, right?”

“Yeah. What’s your point?”

She ignored his rudeness and snark just like she always did. “He’s been a little... off, the past few months. It got better for a while after you moved in, but after a while he started drifting again. There’s something a little transparent about his aura, a little shadowed. It’s always better when you’re around, though. I think you’re good for him.”

Spike sat in silence for a moment, thinking about that. “I’m glad,” he said finally. “He’s good for me, too.”

Tara sent him an impish grin, and he couldn’t help but grin back. “Everyone knows that,” she told him. “I’m just glad that you realize it.” Pause. “I wonder if he does.”

“Does what, pet?” Spike asked, as if he didn’t know.

“Knows that he’s good for you. I haven’t seen him as happy as he is today for months. As I said, it’s exactly what he needed. But you wanted to give him something special, didn’t you? Something that he’d never think to get for himself?”

Spike whipped his head around to stare at her. “How did you-“

“The party was a good start,” Tara continued, ignoring his question. “But that wasn’t enough for you, was it? You wanted to give him something else. Only you couldn’t think of anything.”

Spike was staring at her now, completely silent and, very possibly, with his mouth hanging open.

“I think that if you really want to give him something special, you’d tell him.”

“Tell him what? What am I supposed to tell him?”

“That he’s good for you,” Tara said softly, and then, even more softly, “Tell him what he means to you. The rest will come from that.”

“The rest? What rest? What are you talking about?”

“You know,” she said thoughtfully, ignoring his question yet again, “there’s a type of tree in East India called a banyan that sends out shoots to grown down to the soil until it’s formed a secondary trunk.” She smiled at him, a tiny, mysterious smile that he didn’t think he’d ever seen on her face before. “If you think about it, I think that you’ll realize that you’ve done exactly the same thing with Xander.”

While he was staring at her, she stood up, still smiling her mysterious little smile. “It’s getting late,” she said. “I better get Willow home, if she wants to be conscious for her class tomorrow.”

“You do that, pet,” he said distractedly, still watching her intensely as he tried to make sense of her words. She nodded, touched his cheek once, smiled, and then walked over to where Willow was still laughing with Buffy and Xander.

When Willow and Tara left, everyone decided to make their excuses as well, and within minutes the alley was empty of everyone except Spike and Xander. Xander was smiling, a happy, carefree smile that Spike hadn’t seen in... longer than he could remember, really, and he thought that Tara was right about this, so maybe she was right about the rest of it? Should he tell Xander how much he cared about him, how glad he was that they’d somehow gotten over their mutual hatred and become friends? Spike hadn’t had a friend before, not really, and he wasn’t sure if he could really put into words what that friendship meant to him.

Xander came over to where Spike was still sitting. “Hey, Bleachboy,” he said with an affectionate grin. “Party’s over. Everyone’s gone. Who’s gonna clean up?”

“I hired someone to come in soon as the sun’s up and take care of it,” Spike said absently, still wondering how to say what Tara had told him to say. “All we gotta do is take the presents.”

“Man, you’re actually paying for someone to clean this up? You sure went all-out on this,” Xander said. He touched Spike’s shoulder with three careful fingertips. “I can’t thank you enough for tonight,” he said more seriously. “I didn’t know how much I needed this till I got it. I owe you big.”

“You don’t owe me anything, pet,” he said, and was just about to try to tell Xander what he meant, when Xander abruptly switched gears and grinned.

“C’mon, let’s grab the presents and go home.”

Home. The word touched something in Spike. It always did. Didn’t matter that he’d been living with Xander for months, and Xander had been saying it for just as long. It still surprised him each and every time.

“Actually, the night’s not over yet,” Spike told him. “You might have noticed that I didn’t get you a present.”

Xander turned to look at him, surprised. “I thought that the party was my present.”

“No, the party was a party. The present is waiting for us in LA.”

Xander gave him an extremely confused look. “In LA? What’s in LA?” Pause. “This doesn’t have anything to do with Angel, does it?”

“Oh hell no,” Spike said. “Well, only in that we might stay the night in one of his spare rooms. He’s got a whole damn hotel, anyway. No, the present isn’t Angel. It’s a club.”

“What?”

Oh, Spike loved that expression. It was the one that said that Xander’s brain was running one step behind whatever was being said. It was too cute for words.

Wait. Cute? Since when did he think anything about Xander was cute? Jesus. He must be going insane.

“I said, we’re going to a club. You had your evening of good clean fun. Now it’s time to get a little down-and-dirty.”

What did that expression on Xander’s face mean? His eyes had darkened at those last words, and Xander’s mouth had turned down a little at the corners. What, did Xander have an objection to clubs?

“Problem?”

“Can’t dance,” Xander said shortly. “I don’t think clubbing would really be my thing.”

Oh, for the love of- “Of course you can dance,” Spike said, his exasperation evident in his voice. “I’ve seen you fight, haven’t I?”

“What that got to do with anything?”

“It’s the same thing, pet,” Spike explained. “It’s all in knowing your body. And you do. And even if you can’t dance, well, I’ll just have to show you how, won’t I?”

Another flash of something unhappy in his expression, and Spike decided that he was going to have to break out his last resort, if only to get a smile. “Oh, and there’s one other thing,” he said, very casually. When Xander looked back at him, the question plain in his eyes, Spike grinned at him and bent to rummage in the large black bag he’d kept near his chair, for just such a moment.

He emerged triumphant with three red balloons, and held them out to Xander with a grin. “These,” he said. “I have it on good authority that you can’t have a proper birthday without balloons.”

“Whose authority?” Xander said absently, looking at the balloons as if he was hypnotized by the things.

“Dawn,” Spike said. “You gonna take ‘em or not?”

Whatever thoughts were holding Xander captive seemed to let go then, and the grin was back when he looked up at Spike. “Yeah, I’m gonna take them,” he said, suiting action to word. “So, we gonna go clubbing, or what?”

Spike breathed an internal sigh of relief. Whatever sore spot he’d touched seemed to be gone for the time being, and the Xander he was used to was back. “Yeah, we’re going,” he said. “C’mon, you’re gonna die of old age before we get to LA, at this rate.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Xander said, and slung a friendly arm over his shoulders. “We taking your car or mine?”

“Oh, definitely yours,” Spike said, thinking of Xander’s uncle’s convertible that Spike had repaired recently. “And I’m driving.”

“Like hell you are,” Xander said, but it was a laughing protest. They bickered amicably as they loaded up the presents in the trunk, and Spike thought that things were back to normal. Well, as normal as things ever got with them, anyway.

He’d talk to Xander later. But before he did, he wanted to think about what Tara said some more, and decided exactly what he wanted to say. It was important, and he didn’t want to get it wrong.

And maybe later he’d figure out what was wrong with Xander, for in the last ten minutes, he’d become certain that something definitely was. They’d talk eventually, and he’d pry it out of Xander. He always did.

Xander never could hide anything from him.





3
C is for Cars, Clubbing, and Confessions



Spike was having the time of his life, driving way too fast down the highway towards LA. Xander was sitting in the seat beside him, pretending to be terrified by the speed they were going, leaning down in the seat and cringing, but Spike knew it was just for show. He could see Xander laughing, out of the corner of his eye.

And the three red balloons were still clenched tight in Xander’s fist.

They’d spent the first half hour listening to nothing but the wind and each other’s voices as they argued over who got to pick the music. Spike said that it was driver’s rights, but Xander claimed that it was his birthday, and eventually he got his way. There was some god-awful country-western crap pouring out of the speakers, and Spike had lived with Xander long enough to know that Xander listened to perfectly acceptable music most of the time, so he had to be doing it just to torture Spike. Not that Spike minded all that much. If Xander was going out of his way to bother Spike, that meant that things were back to normal between them, and whatever sore spot that Spike had inadvertently poked back before they’d left was out of reach, for the moment.

Spike wished he knew what it was, though. He didn’t want to hurt Xander- his friend, as odd as that may be. And he couldn’t avoid hurting him, if he didn’t know what was going on.

But he didn’t know what was going on. And he didn’t even know where to start guessing. He knew that it had flared up when he said something about clubbing, and again when he was talking about getting “down and dirty.” But that wasn’t exactly enough to go on- Xander might have had a traumatic experience in a club once, but someone Spike didn’t think that was it. What could someone who fought demons find traumatic? It was a puzzle. One that Spike intended to figure out. Eventually.

He could just ask Xander- which is what he would usually do- but he wasn’t sure how. Most of their conversations were about utterly trivial things, and he wasn’t sure how to go about talking about something that Xander obviously found deeply painful. Besides, he still had to figure out what to say about the things that Tara had advised him to talk about. It wasn’t like that was another common topic between him and Xander. Emotions? Not so very much their thing.

“Hey, Deadboy Junior. You heard a word I said?”

Spike turned to look at Xander, who had given up on his pretense of terror and was grinning at him from the passenger seat. “Er, of course I did.” Pause. “What was it again?”

“Well, it was something about whether you were enjoying finally getting a chance to drive my car, but if you ask me, you’re enjoying it a little too much. You were off in lala land, my friend.”

And there it was, the thing that always made Spike go all melty and un-vamplike inside. Friend. He and Xander were- friends. Ridiculous, wasn’t it? But it worked.

At the same time, though, it made things harder. Spike had never had to worry about hurting a human’s feelings before. He’d never had to worry about them, period. And yet, here he was.

He shook his thoughts aside and focused on answering Xander before the boy could mock him again. “Was not off in lala land. Was just thinking.”

“I thought I smelled something burning.”

“Ha ha, very funny,” Spike said dryly. “I’m not so stupid as all that.”

“Of course you aren’t,” Xander said soothingly. “That’s why after decades of being in the States, you still try to get in the passenger side when you’re going to drive.”

“Sod off,” Spike said, without any real heat in his voice. “I learned to drive in England. Just proof that I remember what I learned, is all.”

“Yeah, well, I’d appreciate it if you’d remember what you learned here, and not try to drive on the wrong side of the road.”

“It’s the right side of the road, you git. You soddin’ Yanks got it all arse backwards, is all.”

“We had cars first.”

“Roads weren’t invented when cars were. They had carriages, and the like, long before the invention of the combustion engine. And roads were needed for carriages. And we had those before you lot took off for a new life in the colonies. So there.”

“A remarkably mature conclusion to your argument, Spike. Truly, I am impressed.”

“Good to know I’m still impressive,” Spike said, and Xander laughed.

Comfortable silence fell between them for the next little while. Finally, Spike got off the highway and fought his way through LA traffic to reach the downtown club that he’d been in just a week before, when he’d run into Angel.

He parked, then turned to look at Xander. The boy was dressed in his usual clothes, which is to say, jeans and a fairly ragged t-shirt, with heavy construction boots on his feet. Spike shook his head, clucked his tongue sadly, and decided that it was a good thing that he’d planned ahead.

“Right. Strip.”

“What?!” Xander’s yelp echoed through the parking garage, and a dark red stained his cheekbones. Hell, since when was Xander all that modest around him?

“There’s no one around, you pillock,” Spike said impatiently.

“Besides you!”

“I’ve seen you naked before,” Spike said. “C’mon, you can’t go into the club looking like that. I’ll be ashamed to be seen with you.”

The blush went darker and something like hurt flashed in Xander’s eyes, and Spike had to sigh. “Look,” he said in a gentler tone. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. I got you clothes that’ll fit and make you look a treat, so forget I said that and just change already, before I die of old age.”

His joke didn’t get the expected laugh, but the hurt look faded away a little. “Turn your back,” Xander said.

“What?”

“Turn your back.”

“I’ve seen it all,” Spike pointed out. “What’s your problem?”

“Spike, you’re asking me to strip down and change in a public parking garage. Also, it’s my birthday. Indulge me, will you?”

Grumbling, Spike obliged, but it was only with great willpower that he didn’t turn around and watch. He was insanely curious as to how the clothes he’d picked out would look. He suspected that with a little help from him, Xander the construction worker could turn into Xander the attractive.

Which he didn’t just think, because Xander was Xander and therefore Spike wouldn’t find him attractive. So he ignored the thought entirely.

At last, Xander’s tentative voice behind him said, “Alright, you can look now.”

“Finally!” Spike said, and whirled around to see if his fashion sense still held strong.

Xander was wearing black jeans tight enough that you could probably count change in the pockets, if you could fit any in. Black boots gave him another couple inches in height, and a tight black t-shirt outlined every muscle on his body. His hair, which usually just looked messy, somehow looked styled when paired with the clothing he was wearing. And the heavy black leather collar around his neck, decorated with a single silver ring, was just icing on the cake.

Oh yeah. He still had it.

“How do I look?” Xander said, uncertainty clear in his voice. Spike had to swallow once before he answered.

“You look great, pet. Now let’s go dance, yeah?”

Xander nodded, and started walking towards the elevator, and Spike was able to watch his ass in those jeans the whole way there.

Suddenly, he was looking forward to this night a hell of a lot more.






Inside, the music was loud, and the dance floor was full. Just the way Spike liked it, Xander had no doubt. Unfortunately, Spike dragged him straight into the middle of the crowd, ignoring his protests, and pulled him close- far too close for his rioting nerve endings- just as another song started.

“I'll tell you something/ I am a wolf but/ I like to wear sheep's clothing.”

He recognized the singer as Garbage, but wasn’t sure what the song was. Either way, Spike had good timing, because this was his song all over.

“I am a bonfire/ I am a vampire/ I'm waiting for my moment.”

God. Spike was writhing in front of him, his back to Xander, looking like sin in his painted-on black t-shirt and jeans, habitual black chain hanging loose across his chest. He felt small, almost delicate, against Xander’s much larger body, fitting just right against him when Xander gave in to temptation and slid his hands down Spike’s sides to his hips and pulled him back flush against his body.

“You come on like a drug/ I just can't get enough/ I'm like an addict coming at you for a little more.”

His head was spinning, and his cock was already hard and getting harder as Spike rubbed his ass back against it. Xander felt like he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t do anything but feel Spike against him. His senses were overloading, and it was the best thing he’d ever felt. The song was so, so right- he couldn’t get enough of his drug, of his Spike.

And there's so much at stake/ I can't afford to waste/ I never needed anybody like this before.”

There was too much at stake. An easy, comfortable friendship of the like he hadn’t enjoyed since he and Willow and Jesse, back in elementary school, before everyone figured out the difference between girl parts and boy parts and what it all meant. But he’d never wanted anything as much as he wanted Spike, and that was the excuse that allowed him to keep dancing, keep feeling everything he’d wanted to feel for... months, now. Maybe forever. That huge want that overrode everything else, and the thought that this wasn’t real; they were just locked in their own little bubble of time, and it wouldn’t be real when it was over. It didn’t count. It was just one song. Just one dance.

Just everything.

“I'll tell you something/ I am a demon/ Some say my biggest weakness/ I have my reasons/ Call it my defense/ Be careful what you're wishing...”

He slid one hand up Spike’s chest, slow and sensual like he’d always wanted to do, pausing to rub on a stiff nipple with calloused fingertips. A groan vibrated through Spike’s torso and into his chest, but he wasn’t finished, and if he was really going to do this, then he was going to go all the way.

You are a secret/ A new possession/ I like to keep you guessing.”

The upper hand kept moving until it was tangled in the chain, and he twisted it in a clenched fist, the ownership he’d always wanted. The other hand slid downward, from Spike’s hip to his crotch. Xander was both surprised and not surprised to feel Spike’s cock swollen against his fingers, and twisted his hand just so in a firm, slow, caressing rub. He thought he could get high off the way Spike’s moan vibrated through their bodies all the way to the back of his head.

“You come on like a drug/ I just can't get enough/ I'm like an addict coming at you for a little more.”

This was what he’d always wanted. This was what he’d been craving. Flesh and heat and moans. And Spike. Always Spike. Nothing in the world that he wanted as much as he wanted Spike, and for a moment it was like the ache and want that lived permanently in his gut was sated.

For just a moment.

“And there's so much at stake/ I can't afford to waste/ I never needed anybody like this before.”

And then it was too much. He couldn’t think. Couldn’t breathe. Too much. Too much like every dream he’d ever had, every fantasy that had ever entered his head. Too much like he’d ever wanted. Too much like Spike, being in love with him too.

“When I'm not sure what I'm living for... When I'm not sure what I'm looking for... When I'm not sure what I'm living for...”

Xander ran.






Spike stood alone in the middle of the dance floor as the song trailed to a close, and wondered what the hell had just happened.

Everything had been going according to plan. Club- check. Great outfit- check. Maybe a little better than even he’d expected, but that wasn’t exactly a problem. He was there with another hot guy- nothing wrong with that. Hell, everyone in the place was probably jealous of him, the way Xander had looked when they’d gone in that place. Even in sunny LA, where everything was about the glamour and the polish, Xander had stood out.

And then there was the dancing. At first, it was just dancing, and hey, that was why they were there, wasn’t it? And then all of a sudden there’d been hands on him, hands that he recognized from dozens of nights spent in the bathroom with stitches and bandages. But this wasn’t the same thing at all. Xander’s hands had been hot, burning even, as they’d slid over him, pulled him back against a body that was so much larger than his that he’d been startled. Sure, he knew that Xander was bigger than him, but so often Xander acted smaller, it was easy to forget how big he really was- tall, solid, roped with muscle from construction work and furnace-hot.

And then he’d realized that Xander was hard, and his whole plan had been shot to hell.

He’d been surprised, of course- this wasn’t exactly a usual thing for the two of them. But then he’d decided, with his usual hell-with-it attitude, to just go along with it and deal with the consequences later. He was sure that there would be- Xander would probably pull away as soon as the song was over, and babble something, and Spike would laugh it off and it would all be fine.

And then Xander got a hell of a lot more active- touching him with hands that seemed to know instinctively what to do, what he liked. The hand wrapped in the chain around his throat, claiming him, owning him- he’d been burning in that moment, and he completely forgot about anything, including the fact that this was Xander touching him like this. His roommate. His friend.

And then it was over, and Xander was gone. Spike had a brief flash of dark hair disappearing into the crowd, and then he was alone.

Which he was bloody well not going to stand for.

He wove through the knots of people dancing with the ease of experience, tracking the scent that he was so familiar with. And there it was- heading for the exit to the parking garage. Something had set him off, and he was instinctively trying to get away.

Spike caught him right outside the door and spun him around, pinning him to the wall and getting right up in his face. “What the hell? What was that about?”

Xander just shook his head, not even bothering to answer, and Spike growled, animalistic and deep in his throat. Xander flinched, and Spike gentled his voice.

“Xander, please. Tell me what’s wrong. What was that back there? And why did you take off like a bat out of hell?”

Xander surprised him by starting to laugh, high and wild. Spike backed off slowly, letting him go, and Xander just slumped there against the wall, laughing in a way that was more hysteria than humor.

“Fuck, Spike. You don’t get a damn thing, do you?”

“What are you talking about?” Spike demanded.

Xander continued talking as if Spike hadn’t spoken. “God, I can’t believe you haven’t figured it out by now. You always claim to know me better than anyone, but it’s been right in front of your nose for fucking months now, and you never. had. a. clue.”

“What?”

“I’m in love with you.”

And just like that, Spike’s whole world came tumbling down. He would have liked to be able to say something witty and Spike-like, but all that came out of his mouth in response was a strangled, “What?”

Xander laughed again, that same bitter, slightly hysterical laugh. “God. For months now. Maybe longer. Anya knew, of course. That’s why she left. She loved me, you know. But she knew that I only really wanted you, so she left me with a kiss on the cheek and the best wishes. Like that would do any good. You never even noticed.”

“You’re screwing with me,” Spike said. Still not believing, still not taking it in. He couldn’t. His whole world was being reordered from Xander’s fast spill of bitter, angry words.

“Yeah, wish I was. It’s no picnic, being in love with a fucking moron who has no idea. Jesus, Spike, do you have any idea what it was like? You were always touching me, always wandering around naked, because we’re all guys around here, aren’t we, Spike? Yeah, but one of the guys has wanted you, wanted you so bad it was like a hole in my gut. Couldn’t think sometimes, I wanted you so bad. And there you were, wandering around blithely, with no idea what I was thinking, what I was craving.”

By this point Spike was recovered a little, not to mention hard as nails from Xander’s little speech and the memory of the dance just minutes before. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“Why do you think?” Xander demanded. “Didn’t want to get rejected again, of course. Do I look fucking stupid to you? You’re Spike, the immortal and incredibly sexy vampire. I’m just the construction guy. I’m not so deluded as to ever think that you could really want me. So I didn’t say anything, because it was better to dream than to face the reality, which is that you would have shot me down in a second.”

“You don’t know what I would have-“

“You would have,” Xander said, and it was easy to see that he absolutely believed it. “And I wasn’t gonna risk it. But there you were tonight, and you were just so fucking sexy I couldn’t stand it, and I just wanted you so much-“ His voice broke. “Fuck. I can’t do this. I just can’t.”

Spike had expected what he was going to do, but he foolishly thought that he would be fast enough to catch him. Unfortunately, a car came roaring past just after Xander darted across the road, and when it had passed, Xander was nowhere in sight.

As the taillights of the car faded into the distance, Spike stood there on the sidewalk, left alone once again.





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