Rating: kinda porny, so I’m gonna go with my usual NC-17.
Two Weeks to Eternity...
He wasn’t expecting the loud knock at the door so early.
In fact, if he were going to be honest, he wasn’t expecting it at all. Spike had a key, after all, and while it wasn’t even remotely unheard of for the blond to lose said key, he generally didn’t bang on the door before three AM… and as it was barely after midnight, the knocking worried Xander.
Still, if Spike had lost yet another key, as he tended to do at least three or four times during their annual two weeks, then…
Xander was grinning hugely, even as he flung open the door. “Another one, Spike?” he demanded, the words leaving his mouth before his eyes could alert his brain to the fact that it wasn’t Spike outside his door, but Willow.
“Uh… I can explain…”
Round hazel eyes grew rounder as Willow took in the sight of her oldest friend clad only in his eye patch, a pair of leather pants and some sort of strappy-thing that sort of served as a shirt.
“Okay,” she challenged, “Go ahead, Xand. Explain.”
A minute or so later, when Xander’s reaction was to stare at her like he was a deer and her eyes were the headlights of a truly enormous truck, she cleared her throat and went on.
“Explain to me, Xander. Explain why you’re wearing… that. And tell me why you thought I was Spike, of all… people. Because you know, you look kind of, um… and if you thought I was… and he’s… um…”
She knew already. Of course she knew. Nobody had ever accused her of being stupid, after all. Still, she needed to hear it from Xander; especially after Gods knew how many years of… whatever he’d been doing with Spike.
It almost made her cringe that she’d been so oblivious, but… between the Council, the Coven and everything else, she’d sort of lost track of the day-to-day details of her friend’s life.
Sure, she’d known he’d been taking off for a couple of weeks every year to see ‘someone special’, but she’d never known who… or even how special they were to Xander.
But then she’d heard from Buffy that Xander didn’t actually ‘see’ anyone.
That he’d been asexual since Anya’s death, as far as anyone had been able to tell, and…
Well, Willow had known that wasn’t true.
Xander had always been a sexual being, at least since he’d discovered what sex really was, however frightening that initial experience had been, and… she was willing to bet that he hadn’t sworn off entirely.
That was when she’d discovered that Xander had convinced everyone at the Council that he simply needed two weeks off every year to recoup. To chill and relax and just… get to know himself again.
None of them—not even Giles, who she knew Xander saw as a father figure—knew that he was involved with someone he only saw once a year, and… that had gotten her curiosity going.
It was that same curiosity that had led her here, after numerous hours spent hacking credit card databases.
So she’d found her friend and he’d answered the door wearing something that looked incredibly… well, gay, if she was going to be honest.
Or something that looked gay in what she supposed the male kind of gay might look like.
And he’d thought she was Spike.
Well, well. The boy had left the lights on.
Spike wasn’t sure of whether that boded well or ill for his plans for the rest of the night, but he was pretty sure he’d find out just as soon as he reached the end of the block and the bungalow he’d let for the two weeks Xander allowed him.
Of course, once he did get closer, he started to notice the unexpected scent, and when he finally recognized it, he… groaned.
“Oh, bloody hell.”
He had no idea of how they’d managed it, but somehow the bloody Scooby Gang had figured out where they were, and they’d obviously decided to send Willow as the one most likely to talk the boy out of going on with their very… unorthodox relationship.
While the demon gnashed its metaphorical teeth and railed against the unfairness of it all, the soul within him merely sighed and tried to accept the inevitable end of his and Xander’s… what?
He couldn’t exactly call it an affair, since it was only the two weeks a year, but it wasn’t something casual, either. Or not for him, anyway.
Hell, he’d never make the mistake of telling Xander, but the other three hundred fifty-one days and nights of the year were just… a way to mark time between their encounters.
Five years now, they’d been meeting like this. Five years of lying awake throughout a large portion of each and every day, remembering holidays past and planning for the next, and now… now, the boy’s little friends had somehow found them out and Spike just knew he’d never see Xander again. Not after Willow convinced him that Spike was a murdering bastard still and didn’t deserve the warmth and pleasure and sense of belonging he only felt during their fourteen days.
“Bloody fucking hell.”
He should just turn and walk away, and he knew it. At least then it would have been him who ended things and not the still-young human, but… no.
He didn’t leave. He never left. It was always the ones he cared for who left him, and… even a few more minutes of Xander—while the boy tried to sound sorry for ending things—would be better than not having that one last glimpse.
“I’m such a sodding ponce,” he growled to himself, soft and low, and he wasn’t even slightly surprised when both demon and soul agreed.
His feet dragged along the cement of the walkway, just as reluctant as the rest of him to speed into the end.
“So you’re gay now… and you didn’t tell me.”
Xander sighed, trying to keep the small laugh from his voice at the nearly accusing look his oldest friend was giving him. “Uh, not exactly, Wills. I mean… God, it’s really hard to explain, okay?”
Hazel green eyes widened slightly under swiftly raised brows. “Uh-huh. Well, obviously. Because if it was easy you would have found some way of telling me during the last… what was it? Five years! Gods, Xander! And… and Spike? Why Spike? Okay, he’s all sexy and prowly and has that killer accent and stuff, but… but vampire, right? And, and…”
“Vampire with a soul,” he reminded her quickly, though he wasn’t entirely certain that Spike’s soul mattered to him anymore or if it ever had, “and… I don’t know, Wills, okay? It’s like… there we were in Sunnydale and he was all crazy and then he got better and I sort of started to like him. And then he died in what has to be the worst ever way for a vamp to go, and… and he was gone. Anya was gone. So many people were gone, y’know?”
“But then he was back. Andrew told me by accident one night and after what happened in L.A. with Angel and his people—and Spike—proving which side they were really on and so many of them dying too, I…”
Xander shrugged sheepishly. “When I ran into him—totally unexpected, by the way—it just felt… right. I mean seeing him, not the whole sex thing because we so weren’t up to that yet. It’s like… I knew, somewhere deep down, that I really, really wanted him, but it was too hard to admit it after all those years of my dad telling me what a ‘real man’ was, but we got to be friends and before I even knew it, I was feeling…”
Willow’s brows arched even more at her friend’s bright blush. “Uh-huh…?”
“More than friendly, okay? But I didn’t do anything about it then, and God knows he didn’t either, and… and then he was helping me out one night and this demon we were after had a friend we weren’t expecting, and Spike nearly died. Again. For real.” Xander swallowed hard. “And that’s when I realized that either one of us could get unlucky at any moment, and I just sort of, uh… went for it.”
And after a few seconds of frozen stillness on the vampire’s part, Xander recalled with a sly grin, Spike had gone for it just as hard and with a whole lot more finesse. It had been a really good night.
“It didn’t matter that he was a vampire, Wills,” he finished, “and it still doesn’t. He’s just Spike, and… God knows that’s more than enough, y’know? He’s… Spike.”
And oh, Gods. Xander was in love! She knew that look on his face, after all, even if she hadn’t seen it in ages, and never quite so strongly.
Xander was in love with Spike, and soul or not, the vampire still wasn’t good enough for her best friend. Not when he was only willing to give Xander two weeks a year.
And suddenly, that thought pissed her off.
What? Xander was good enough to spend a couple weeks with; good enough to dress up like some S&M boy and have the… the kind of sex gay men had… but he wasn’t good enough to have full time? He wasn’t special enough for every day—or night, seeing as Spike was still all blood-sucky and sun-challenged?
Gods only knew what the vampire got up to the rest of the year; he certainly hadn’t been checking in with the Council or Willow would have heard about it, and… and Spike was taking advantage of Xander! She knew it, even if her friend didn’t!
In fact, Xander seemed to be entirely oblivious to that little fact, judging from the degree of happiness behind the worry, and… he deserved better, damn it!
Oh, she was so gonna have a little talk with Spike, just as soon as the vampire decided to haul his ass back to the tiny house. Assuming the blond hadn’t gotten distracted by something shiny along the way.
Still, Xander was looking at her expectantly, so Willow just sighed and shook her head.
“I can’t say that I get it, Xand… I mean, you remember Angel, right? Vampire with a soul who was involved with a human? That didn’t work out so well, did it? But!” She held up her hand and gave Xander a shaky smile. “You’re a big boy now and I guess you know what you’re doing, so… I’m sorry I hunted you down but I needed to be sure you were okay. And you are, which is good, so… when’s Spike getting back? I’d rather punch you both at once for keeping me in the dark. But just as hard because… you didn’t tell me! And he’s been all invisi-vamp for ages.”
Okay… and that had gone way less dramatically than he’d thought it would when he’d first opened the door.
In fact, Xander was starting to wonder if Willow was alright. She was smiling, yeah, but there was something in her eyes… a sharp but muted edge of darkness that made him just a little bit nervous. But she was smiling, and… it had to be okay. He’d make sure it was okay.
Xander shrugged and glanced at the clock on the mantle. “He usually gets home by three, but it’s not like I give him a curfew. We’re on vacation, which means free time. I don’t hunt demons and he… he just patrols for fun, I think.” And damn it, he felt himself blushing again.
“Uh-huh,” Willow answered as she leaned back, prepared to wait all night if she had to.
Of course, she also cast a tiny spell on herself that made her hearing much sharper. That was probably why she heard the careful steps creeping up the front walk.
“Um, I’ll be right back,” she said suddenly, standing and stretching her spine. “Just need a bit of air, okay Xand? I… a few minutes to, um… think.”
Yeah, Spike was gonna be getting a talking to, and if it wasn’t Spike outside, then she’d be able to practice her offensive magics.
It was a win/win situation. For her, anyway.
He stopped a good fifteen feet from the door and lit one last cigarette.
It wouldn’t actually calm his nerves, but it for damned sure let him delay whatever scene was coming for a few minutes more. He didn’t smoke in the house, after all. He never had. He hadn’t wanted Xander to decide that the smell of smoke was a deal-breaker.
Of course, the boy didn’t seem to mind the taste of it, if the way he devoured Spike’s mouth at pretty much every opportunity was any sort of sign, but still. Why take chances.
Not that it was likely to matter now. At all.
He sighed and turned away, staring out into the star-flecked night as he steeled himself to accepting whatever Xander had decided. He wouldn’t react the way he wanted to, he promised himself. He’d just nod and… deal with it. It wouldn’t do to let the boy see just how much he meant to him, after all.
Hell, he’d thought he was through with letting the bloody Scooby Gang hurt him, but he’d clearly been wrong, because this…?
Oh, this was going to be his worst hurt ever.
He was so lost in his own wallowing that he didn’t even realize the front door had opened behind him. He didn’t notice the soft patter of sandal-clad feet on the cement or hear heartbeat and breaths.
In fact, Spike had no idea that Willow was even behind him until he felt one demanding digit poke hard at his back.
“Bloody!” he yelped, even as he spun and stared wide-eyed at the redhead, hoping the darkness hid the depths of emotion he knew was right there in his face.
Even as she was speaking, her voice low and almost hissing with intensity, Willow knew something was wrong. She’d misunderstood something or maybe just missed something entirely, though she wasn’t sure of what.
It didn’t stop her mouth, in any case.
“I don’t know what in the hell you think you’re doing, Spike,” she told him angrily, “and I don’t know how you ever managed to get into this weird arrangement you have, but whatever it is, you need to stop it. I mean, I thought he was all recovered from Anya dying, but then Buffy and Dawn told me that he doesn’t even date anymore and then I find him here and he’s with you and it’s only for two weeks at a time?”
She glared at the blond while the sense of ‘something wrong’ grew stronger.
“If this is just some weird thing to get back at him for being mean to you back when… well, when we were all mean to you, then you’ve had your revenge. So stop whatever you’re doing and let him get on with his life because this isn’t doing him any good! And if it’s not about revenge, then let him go anyway! He’s a good man, Spike, and he deserves to have a chance to get out there and fall in love with someone who actually loves him back, and that’s obviously not you because if it was then you’d never want just two weeks a year, and it’s not fair to let him go on this way when it doesn’t mean so much to you, and…”
And suddenly Spike was angry, too. No, he was furious!
How dare this mere slip of a girl barge in where she wasn’t wanted and hadn’t been invited and then try to tell him what was best for his boy? How dare she try to make him feel guilty for accepting the tiny bit of happiness he was allowed to have?
He didn’t realize that he was growling; didn’t even feel it when his true face slipped out, pushing through the human seeming.
“Wasn’t aware that either of us had asked your opinion, you. daft. bint. Don’t recall asking you to come here and get in the middle of summat that doesn’t involve you in the slightest, either!” He growled again, louder this time. “And whatever’s goin’ on between me an’ the boy, it’s just that! Between us! Me and Xander! And last time I checked, there wasn’t any bloody Willow in that sodding equation! Not hurting the bloke, am I? So sod. the fuck. off!”
That was when Willow finally realized what had been bothering her, because… even the golden eyes of the demon didn’t hide the nearly hopeless expression of what was clearly love and fear and loss.
Oh, Gods, she thought. Spike’s in love with Xander?
Well, obviously, now that she knew what she was seeing.
And Xander loved Spike, too. She’d seen that earlier.
So the only question was… why didn’t Spike want to spend more than two weeks a year with Xander?
Then again, she knew something of Spike’s romantic history, and it hadn’t been good.
Buffy might be deliberately blind to the Sire/Childe bond because she couldn’t imagine Angel doing that sort of thing, but Willow knew better, so…
Drusilla—crazy as monkey pants, but the one who’d turned Spike. He’d loved her for more than a hundred years and she’d pushed him away for not being as cold and vicious as her own Sire.
Angelus—who had been the one to make Spike into Spike in the first place… who had abandoned him once he’d been cursed with a soul and become Angel. Because, Willow figured, even seeing the younger vampire reminded Angel of just how much redemption he truly needed.
Darla—who had never been one of Spike’s great loves, but had still been of huge importance to the vamp. He’d loved her in an entirely different way, the redhead was sure, and her on and off approval had likely had poor Spike entirely unsure of what was expected of him.
Harmony… didn’t really count, because any port in a storm, and at that point, Spike had definitely been experiencing a storm. An s-h-i-t storm.
And Buffy. The one girl in all the world who was a vampire’s natural enemy, and Spike had fallen for her and fallen hard. He’d even gotten a soul for her, only then understanding that she would never love him.
Maybe that explained it.
Spike had never been lucky at love, and every steady relationship he’d ever had had ended badly. So… maybe the vampire figured that if he kept his time with Xander to just two weeks a year, Xander wouldn’t get tired of him or frustrated or… any of the things that had messed things up for him before.
And maybe he was just trying not to screw up.
“Oh… oh, Gods, Spike,” she finally whispered, her eyes big and wet, though she tried to control it. “I’m so sorry. I… I didn’t know.”
He managed to seem reluctant to respond to the sudden hug, but as his arms closed around the smaller form embracing him and his features slid quickly back to human, he found himself whispering against her hair.
“Not a word to the boy,” was what he said, and he finally relaxed enough to let one small tear flow against the cotton covering her shoulder when she nodded slowly. “Thanks, Red…”
Gods, this was a mess, and chances were it was all her fault.
Why couldn’t she have just kept her nose out of it? It wasn’t as though Xander was still sixteen and fumbling through relationships like he was both blind and in the dark, and yet…
Even with as many years as had passed since then and the truly heart-rending and staggering things they’d both—all—been through, some part of her felt a need to look after him.
So she’d done what she’d done, and here she was, hugging Spike while his body shook ever so slightly, and somehow Willow just knew that if she offered any more comfort than just the simple hold, the vampire would lose it and break down, and that was something Spike would never forgive her for.
There was only one thing to do, she told herself, even as she relaxed her arms and pulled away.
It was none of her business and she thought she already knew the answer anyway, but the best thing she could do for Spike was to get him angry again, at least a little bit, so…
“I should be mad at you for turning my best friend gay, you know. Especially when you only want him for a couple of weeks at a time. Oh, and if you ever hurt him on purpose,” she added with a bright smile, “I’ll beat you to death with a shovel!”
Unfortunately, her attempt didn’t have the effect she’d thought it would and Willow frowned slightly when the blond just gave her a sad smile.
“Boy’s not gay,” Spike finally muttered. “I’m just… an aberration, Red. Guessing he’ll be goin’ back to his life and moving on soon enough, yeah?”
Bloody fuck, he hated saying it out loud, but it was the truth, regardless of whether it was silent or spoken.
Xander would wake up someday—and probably someday soon, now that at least one of his little friends knew what he’d been up to—and would realize just how much of his life he’d been wasting on a bloke who didn’t even breathe, and then…
Well, then Xander wouldn’t be showing up for their holiday.
It might not be the next year, or even the year after that, but it would happen, and when it did, Spike didn’t know what he would do.
He loved the boy, after all, though only Red seemed to know it, and he’d always been the possessive sort.
Still, if Xander found out about his feelings and stayed, Spike would always know that it was simple pity that had fueled their whole relationship, and while he already suspected as much, it was another thing entirely to be completely sure, and…
“He’ll find himself some slag and get himself a dozen or so ankle-biters on the dozy mare, and… that’ll be that, yeah?” He sighed. “Wouldn’t mind the death by shovel so much after that, if it’s still on offer.”
Okay. Spike was never going to tell Xander how he felt. Willow got that.
Unfortunately, Xander wasn’t any more likely to share his own feelings with Spike.
They’d both had terrible experiences with being vulnerable, and what made someone more vulnerable than admitting how much they loved someone else? Especially someone they had no reason to think could ever share those feelings?
Of course, now they had a Willow to contend with, she told herself with a slight smile, and while she hadn’t approved of them being together when she’d thought it was just a game for Spike, knowing just how deeply he cared for her oldest friend changed things completely.
Even without a soul, Spike had been as close to monogamous as his lovers would let him… the ones he’d loved, anyway. With a soul, she could only imagine how true he’d be. And Xander had always been the sort to be faithful to the bitter end.
So maybe they were meant to be?
It was possible, she figured. After all, the Powers had formed stranger couples before, and likely would again. She just had to look at Buffy and ‘the Immortal’ to see that.
“I guess we should get inside,” she finally said, her mind whirring as she tried to figure out how to get the two stubborn males in question to admit their feelings to each other, because once they did?
Well, she doubted either one of them would be satisfied with their stupid once a year vacation scheme ever again.
It had been more than a shock for him when Spike had come through the door with Willow.
Not because he wasn’t expecting the blond to come home eventually, but because he was with Willow and they weren’t even bothering to glare at each other or exchange insults or… anything.
Granted, it had been a while since he’d seen his two favorite people together in one room, but for some reason he just didn’t remember them as being so… so something; he didn’t know what.
Still, Xander told himself quickly, it was a good thing. He could hardly believe it was true, but… Willow finding him and finding out the truth about him and Spike was good!
And at least now he could stop lying to her and ducking her fairly regular questions.
Hell, it had only been because she’d caught him off guard with a four AM phone call that he’d let it slip that he saw someone once a year.
He should have known she was up to something when she’d let it go after just a few more questions, but he’d just been so damned glad that she wasn’t making him lie to her that he hadn’t given it much thought. Until the next time they’d talked and she’d asked again.
Even so, this was his and Spike’s time, and while he loved Willow dearly, that time was limited.
He finally convinced her to leave, but only after promising they’d meet the next afternoon for lunch, and he felt his brow furrowing when the redhead gave Spike a tight, fast hug before leaving.
“Uh, okay… when did you and Wills get all… touchy-feely? And where was I?”
Thank Hells vampires couldn’t blush, Spike thought with relief. “Guessing you were right here, pet… ran into the witch outside and straightened a few things out, we did. Chit’s a bit of alright, yeah?”
And enough talking, he figured. They could talk as much as the boy wanted to, but later.
His lips twitched into a smug smirk, even as he let his eyes trail slowly down and then up his bloke’s leather-adorned form. “Was right about the harness, wasn’t I?” he murmured.
Just like that, Xander’s train of thought was so far beyond derailed, it was tangled in a heap at the junction of Spike-and-sex.
“Uh… uh-huh…” he stammered, his own eye caught by the pouting perfection of the vampire’s bottom lip. And even while he was stepping closer, his fingers finding and clutching at slender hips, a small portion of Xander’s mind was cringing at the knowledge that he’d just spent more than an hour with Willow—while wearing the leather—and he hadn’t even noticed.
Then again, it was none of her business, and… oh, hell, she’d mentioned how he was dressed but she hadn’t mentioned it again after the first time, and…
And then long, elegant fingers were exploring the straps and rings and pulling, tweaking, tugging at his already pointed nipples and even that tiny portion of his brain threw up its metaphorical hands and joined the rest of him in the rampant excitement that always filled him whenever he touched Spike… or vise versa.
This was the best part of every night, Spike knew.
This one moment when he touched the boy and felt him shiver like it was the first time.
And Xander had shivered then.
Hell, he’d shivered and trembled and had come so close to passing out from hyperventilating that Spike had been tempted to just call the whole thing off.
It hadn’t been until the boy’s reedy, gasping voice had become clearer, somehow, and he’d realized that all of it—the sounds, the tremors, even the barely swallowed whimpers—had been caused by desire, rather than fear, that Spike had finally understood that… as much as he’d wanted Xander, the boy had been just as needy and desirous.
They’d never talked about it, of course. Not then and not since, but… it was still there. That wanton, almost desperate urge still existed, and if anything, it had only grown stronger over the too-long years that were separated only by the far too short weeks they met.
They’d also never talked about the fact that Spike remembered every single moment of that first night as though it had just happened. Bloody hell, he replayed it in his mind—along with other, newer memories of Xander—every single night they were apart.
It had been so incredibly strange and disturbing and fulfilling and… exciting… to know that the boy had never done that before. Had never let another bloke touch him that way and make him… theirs.
It had been almost unbearably perfect to be first for once.
And even with all that, the most amazing, incredible, unexpected thing of all had been after, when he’d pulled himself reluctantly from that toned, heated body and glanced almost fearfully into the one sable eye, waiting for disgust or horror or—more likely, since the boy had known what he was for years—regret, and seen only baffled pleasure and appreciation.
He thought maybe that was when he’d fallen so hard and fast and deep. Maybe.
Or maybe it had been when Xander had blushed and run one big, warm hand down and then up his spine and muttered ‘God, Spike… is it always like that?’
The look on the boy’s face had been priceless when he’d replied ‘Nah. Gets lots better. Promise you that much, pet.’.
And then there had been the suggestion of their current agreement and Spike had nearly beaten the boy… or cried. It had been a toss-up and in the end he’d done neither.
He’d… accepted it.
Still, that had been years ago, and a blink of the eye at the same time, and… this was now.
This was now and he had his arms wrapped tightly around tanned leather-wrapped flesh and Xander’s mouth was hot and demanding on his own, and…
It was this moment, every night, when Spike managed to convince himself that this actually meant something to the boy. That it was more than just two lonely, yearning bodies straining for minutes or even a few hours during which they’d know they had someone. Someone who cared, or at least didn’t mind having them around.
So yeah, Spike told himself in that short second while he could still think, he was an enormous ponce and he’d end up hurt and possibly sobbing into a bottle or twelve when the boy finally wised up, but… he’d take it.
Even knowing the sort of heartbreak that was coming, he’d take this moment and any others he was granted, and… he’d cherish them.
He’d hold them tight and let them run through his mind over and over.
He’d revel in them while there were still more memories to be made, and wallow, stew, once the little he’d been given was taken away.
Until then, though, he wouldn’t dwell.
‘Enjoy the now’, his soul whispered deep down inside, and Spike would do that.
Time enough to mourn lost love after Xander left him.
Even those small thoughts fled, though, when his cool fingers danced underneath the waistband of black leather pants and a soft, groaned sigh gusted against his neck.
It got harder every time, and Xander knew it.
Harder to do this, to feel this and not say it.
He kind of thought Spike knew, even though he hadn’t said the words, but then again, he really hoped the blond didn’t.
Still, he couldn’t even begin to count the times he’d bit his own tongue to keep the damning phrase from slipping out.
It was worse in moments like this, though, when that long, hard shaft was sliding so smoothly and deliberately against his prostate; when he couldn’t keep himself from staring deep into first one gold-flecked blue eye and then the other.
There was an entire universe of hope and need and helplessness in Spike’s eyes and it always nearly broke Xander’s heart to see it and not respond, and yet…
He really didn’t think Spike knew what his eyes showed. If the vampire did know, he would keep that sapphire shuttered.
Even with the urge—the almost uncontrollable desire—to admit his own feelings, Xander couldn’t. Wouldn’t. He’d never let Spike think that this thing between them was any more serious than their two weeks a year agreement implied.
And if that meant Spike thought he was just scratching an itch for Xander, then that was even better.
“Unnngh…” he moaned, pressing up harder into the almost too-slow thrusts, “r-right… yeah… j-just like th-th-that, Spike…”
And as always, Spike gave him exactly what he needed… what he asked for.
Hours later, Spike lay awake, watching the bare edge of light slowly creeping around the tight shades.
His arm lay stiffly over Xander’s tanned stomach, one fingertip resting lightly in the warm divot of the human’s navel.
So many regrets, he told himself. So many things he wished he’d done and not done in the last however-many years since he’d been turned… but this wasn’t one of them. This—Xander—would never be one of them.
Oh, he would regret that he’d fallen for the boy. He might even regret that he hadn’t turned the bloke back in the day so he’d have him forever. Or not, because that wouldn’t have been the man beside him anymore. Wouldn’t have been this fine, stunning fellow who made his soul sing and his unbeating heart dance with sorrowful joy.
But he would never regret the time they’d spent. Never regret or forget the nights of blissful closeness, no matter that he called it shagging to the boy’s face.
“Never going to love this way again, pet,” he whispered against one solid pectoral, the strong, regular heartbeat just pounding away beneath his cheek.
And good thing the bloke was asleep, he told himself, even as he slipped down into slumber with the full rising of the sun.
Lunch was a really bad idea, and Willow knew it as soon as Xander walked into the small restaurant they’d agreed on earlier that day.
Her friend looked worn, almost haggard under his tan, and she wondered for a moment whether it would have been better to plan for dinner instead.
But then his eye met hers and he smiled and… somehow she knew it wasn’t lack of sleep that had him looking so wretched.
“Sweetie!” she frowned, “You look like hell, Xand! I… what’s… I mean, what’s wrong?”
It was the sheer confusion on Xander’s face, combined with the baffled quirk of his lips that convinced her. Xander didn’t even know how miserable he looked.
“Nothing, Wills,” he announced as he nearly flung himself into the chair across from her and rested his elbows on the edge of the table. “Should there be something wrong?”
“Welcome to Egypt,” the redhead muttered to herself, “The first extended cruise of De Nile is starting right about now.”
She shook her head. “Talking to myself. I do that, you know.”
If Xander knew anything about Willow, it was that she was hiding something when she smiled in that particular way. Fortunately, he also knew that she had very little self control when something was preying on her mind, as something so obviously was.
“Yeah… I remember,” he said with a small grin. “But you used to do it louder and it almost never made sense to those of us living outside your head.”
Banter ensued, of course, as it always did when the two of them were together, but Xander knew Willow would break sooner or later… and probably sooner, judging from the way her worried eyes kept darting to him, then away.
She held out longer than he’d thought she would.
She made it through their salads by talking about Giles and the Coven and the way the Englishman who was now the head of the Council still treated her like a particularly precocious prodigy, and Xander figured that was good. After all, Giles could have been acting as worried about Willow losing control again as the young man knew the Watcher actually was.
Her accounting segued into relating the stories he hadn’t known—the true tales of what had really prompted Dawn’s transfer from University in Rome to Oxford the year before, as well as what had actually caused Buffy’s brief but very angst-filled split from the Immortal around the same time.
It was only after the dessert they’d decided to share arrived—chocolate mousse inside a dark chocolate shell with a liquid hazelnut cream center—that she finally broke.
“Xander…” Willow began, “I can’t… I mean, I don’t understand why… two weeks a year? I mean, it doesn’t make any sense! You love him! How can you be satisfied with two weeks when I can see how much he…”
“Don’t say it. Just… don’t!”
Xander knew he was hissing… and possibly spraying Willow with minuscule bits of chocolate, but that didn’t matter.
“Don’t tell me he loves me, Wills! I know that! I’ve known it for years!”
Hazel green was wide and wounded, even as Willow blinked and tried not to let her lower lip tremble. “Then why…”
It was only because of the truly confused tone to his friend’s voice that Xander managed to calm himself even slightly.
“I know it’s hard to believe, Wills, but I’m not completely stupid, okay? And I know you know. I knew that much last night, once I figured out why you were being all… nice to Spike.” Xander sighed. “He loves me. Like I said, I know. And I love him, Wills. More than I ever thought I could love anyone, okay?” He swallowed hard. “And that’s why I can never tell him how I feel.”
As hard as she tried, the witch couldn’t quite manage to wrap her mind around that. It sounded crazy. And stupid. And entirely ridiculous.
Xander sighed and shook his head. “And for the record, since you haven’t figured it out yet…? It wasn’t Spike who decided to keep it casual—or as close to casual as it is—with two weeks. It was me.”
Willow thought she might possibly faint.
“Huh?” she said again.
They’d moved from the restaurant to a park nearby, where they sat side-by-side on a bench and looked at anything but each other.
“It’s a long story,” Xander finally said. “But it makes sense, if you take the time to think about it.”
Willow sighed but nodded, fingers laced together and gripping tight in an effort to restrain herself from pulling a Buffy and just beating Xander and Spike up until they agreed to stop being idiots. “Okay…”
The brunette sighed, a shaky laugh sharing the breath.
“Okay,” he echoed.
“This is gonna sound obvious, but… I’m human, Willow. Spike’s not. And he’s so fucking… Spike! Even more with the soul, which should be impossible, but it’s not, okay?”
The redhead arched a brow and reminded herself that casting spells on her friends without permission was wrong… even spells to make them stop acting stupidly.
Xander frowned, saying it out loud for the first time.
“I’m gonna die, Wills. Maybe not any time soon, but someday, I’m gonna die. Demon, car wreck, cancer, old age… whatever it is, something’s gonna get me, right?”
He waited for her nod, then went on, slower, as he figured out how to say it.
“Even before the soul, Spike… loved. I mean, I don’t know where he got it from, but Spike—as a vampire—loved deeper and stronger and more intensely than any human I’ve ever heard of, much less met, right?”
“When he loves, he loves completely. And when he knows his love is returned… well, he’s never known that, has he? But if he can love so hard and deep when he doesn’t know for sure, then imagine what it’d be like for him if he did know! He… he’d devote himself—body, soul and demon—to the one he loved who actually loved him back and showed it, Wills!”
Willow’s high, pale brow furrowed, even as she started to understand what Xander was getting at. “But…”
“He has a soul, Willow. And that soul wants nothing more than to make up for the evil things he did while the demon was in the driver’s seat.” Xander smiled slightly, just a touch of bitterness at the corners of his lips. “I’m not saying he’s like Angel, okay, because he’s not. But with the way he loves, and the soul… I can’t do that to him. I can’t let him know how I feel. If I do…”
Xander swallowed hard and met Willow’s eyes.
“I’ve got maybe twenty good years left, Wills. Assuming I don’t get eaten or catch some weird disease. Twenty good years before my body breaks down to the point where I look like crap and can’t move so good. And maybe ten of those years will let me look something like good enough to be with him.”
Brown hair swayed as Xander looked down sheepishly. “You’ve seen him, Willow. He’s fucking gorgeous. Can you really picture him being involved with me when I’m fifty and graying? Sixty and going bald, with a beer belly and skinny legs?” He shuddered.
“I won’t do that to him. And I won’t ever let him know how much I love him. He’d do something stupid like walk into the sun the day I died.”
Xander’s next smile was sickly and sad.
“The world needs Spike, Wills. I won’t be the one to make him leave it. No matter what.”
She was barely managing to keep her tears inside, but she did it.
Not because they would upset Xander, but because… regardless of what he’d said earlier, he really was stupid.
There were ways around what he saw as the insurmountable stumbling block between him and Spike.
She didn’t know what those ways were yet, but she was sure they existed, and she’d be damned if she wouldn’t find out exactly what they were.
She was the High Priestess of seventeen different covens, after all. She just needed to get her people on the problem and it would be fixed… eventually.
That certainty didn’t mean she was going to tell as much to Xander, though. Or at least not yet.
“So what’s the plan, Xander? Because Spike seems to think you’re gonna get tired of him and hook up with some, um… slag?” She frowned, then shook it off. “Whatever. Some woman. And have like… loads of kids.”
Xander’s eye closed slowly, sadly. “I guess he knows me too well, huh? He’s right.”
A sharp shrug. “What are my options? Spend the rest of my life alone? I mean, think about it Willow! Anya was the perfect girl for me. Yeah, she was greedy and way too open about our sex life, but she got me. She understood. She was everything I could have wanted in a woman.” Xander smiled a bit wryly. “And then there’s Spike. Strong, smarter than pretty much anyone I’ve ever known, aside from you—except when he’s being a moron—and so fucking beautiful it makes my heart ache. He’s wild and wicked and he has a tender streak a mile wide. He holds me so close after we… you know… and even after I fall asleep I can feel him there; feel his lips on my skin whispering to me. Whispering his love.”
He forced his eye open again and turned, meeting wistful hazel green once more.
“How could I ever find anything to even come close to that, Wills?”
Another, more bitter smile crossed Xander’s lips. “So in a few more years, when the time is right, I’ll… stop showing up. Spike will figure our ‘thing’ has run its course and he’ll move on. He’ll even… fall in love again… and maybe it’ll be with someone who can give him the eternity he deserves.”
If anything, Willow was sadder than she’d been before. “Xander…”
“And I’ll find someone I can stand—a woman, because I’ll never want any man other than Spike; I never have—and I’ll marry her and have some kids and get old and die, if I’m lucky. And I’ll never forget him, Wills. I’ll never forget how I feel when I’m in his arms with our bodies joined… never forget how it is when he cries out and spills so hard and deep…” He bit his lip to keep from sobbing. “But he’ll live. And that’s what matters to me. Spike will go on because he’ll never know how much I love him. And he’ll never know what I see in his eyes.”
As much as she wanted to, Willow couldn’t find any flaw in Xander’s reasoning, except…
“He could claim you, Xand! He could claim you and then you’d be all… young forever, right?”
Xander’s smile was purely sad this time.
“Sure he could, Willow. But I’d still be mortal. All it’d mean is… I’d stop aging. I’d still be human. And if I walked in front of a bus or got mugged or carjacked or… any one of a thousand things… I’d still die. But so would he. And if he turned me? His soul would hate me for what I’d become. Even if we had another Orb of Thessulah, or could get one.”
Gods. Xander was right. There was no happy ending for him and Spike. No obvious one, anyway.
Her hand slipped across the few inches of wooden bench and found his, her fingers tangling with the larger ones and squeezing.
“Gods, Xand… I’m so sorry…”
Xander swallowed hard, his heart aching in a way it hadn’t done since the first time he’d told himself exactly what he’d just told Willow.
He squeezed back and shook his head. “It’s not your fault, Wills. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way things are.”
There was nothing Willow could say to that and so they sat in a despairing silence until the sun began to drop in the sky.
“Think I’d better be heading home,” Xander finally murmured. “Spike wakes up grumpy if his cock’s not in my mouth.”
“Um, TMI?” Willow teased, though she was still thinking about what she could do to make things right.
She had seventeen covens at her disposal, not to mention the numerous non-Wiccan groups who were their allies.
She’d figure something out.
It was what she did, after all.
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