Rating: Hard R
Disclaimer: Thank you, Joss. We love you.
Concrit/Feedback: The voices in my head continually tell me I’m perfect, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like hearing it from you guys, as well.
Notes/Spoilers/Warnings: Set post-NFA but within the bounds of canon. Spoilers for the final seasons of BtVS and Ats.





Awakenings


by
Beetle



Part One

Xander sighs ruefully and shakes his head at the awful display before him.

There’s nothing for it but to bite the bullet. As Uncle Rory--God rest his blotto soul--had been fond of saying: kid, if ya gotta to eat a turd, don’t nibble.

“Whaddaya think?” Xander turns to the second page of movie listings. He’s immediately sorry he did. “Jay and Silent Bob’s Most Odious Escapade or Batman VIII: Clayface’s Revenge?”

Will’s dismayed gasp is a sufficient response and Xander doesn’t even look up. “Yeah . . . I’m not too crazy about the choices, either, but what can we do? And we’re not sitting through Miss Congeniality 5: Dressed To Kill. I learned my lesson with Coiffured and Lethal, thank you very much--”

Will makes a garbled groan--which still doesn’t accurately convey the horror that was Coiffured and Lethal--and Xander at last puts down the paper, only to see Will looking at him as if he’d sprouted a third eye.

Xander frowns and touches his face. Nope, still just the one. But this being Hellmouth: the sequel, one can’t be too careful.

“What?” Will continues to gawp at him. “Jesus, babe, you look like you just swallowed a bug, or something! Look, if you really wanna see The Importance of Being Earnest that badly, we’ll see that. But I’m tellin’ you: with Sean William Scott as the director and star, we’d be payin’ our money and takin’ our chances.”

But Will is still doing a very entertaining impersonation of a deer caught in headlights. He jumps up, knocking his chair, and nearly goes ass-over-tea-kettle trying to back away from the kitchen table and Xander.

Okay . . . this is in no way a normal reaction to Sean William Scott movies--well, maybe it is for most people, but for whatever reason, Will actually likes the guy, so. . . .

Watching Will turn around in an unsteady circle, his eyes wide and horrified as he takes in their apartment, Xander thinks he knows what’s going on.

Spurred by memories of the complete pandemonium Will’s last redecoration spree had caused, he’s up and across the room, pulling Will back against him for a bit of timely distraction.

“Hey,” he murmurs, oblivious to the tensing of the body in his arms. “Why don’t we skip movie night and stay home? I promise I won’t let you get bored.”

Xander slides one hand down to the fly of Will’s jeans and Will meeps, bolting out of Xander’s arms and stumbling into their livingroom.

There’s a crash that probably used to be one of their table-lamps, a thud and a startled yelp.

Okie-dokie, something may be wrong, here. Xander shuffles hesitantly into the livingroom. In his haste, Will’s done in the lamp, knocked over the coffee table and upset a planter.

The man in question is crouched between the mantle and the bookcase. Wary, confused eyes track Xander’s progress.

“Sweetie, what--”

“Where the bloody hell am I?” Will demands in an angry mockney accent Xander hasn’t heard in nearly seven years.

“Will--” Xander moves closer; his first instinct is to comfort. But Will tries to scoot backwards and bangs his head against the wall. A few photos topple off the mantle and bookshelves, unnoticed by either man.

“You just stay over there, Harris!” Will--no, Spike growls, his eyes as cold as chips of ice. “Stay over there!”

He’s back. Xander’s suddenly numb all over. They said it might happen, but--it’s been so long, I didn’t think it would.

Oh, God, why now? After all this time,
why?

“Will--I mean Spike . . . you are Spike, right?”

A flat, contemptuous gaze Xander remembers as if he’d last seen it yesterday. After having those eyes look at him like he’d hung the moon, this new/old gaze cuts through Xander’s protective wall of numb like a knife.

“Of course I’m Spike, you moron. Who the hell else would I be?” Spike takes another quick glance around, then glares at Xander again. “What is this place--Martha Stewart’s tomb? What the fuck is going on?”

“You--you don’t know?”

Another look. “If I knew, would I be jammed into this corner listening to you stammer your way through a complete sentence?”

Taking a deep, not-so-calming breath, Xander bites back the instinct to snipe--and the overwhelming desire to go to his knees and beg the guy who used to be his boyfriend to hold him--and does the thing that’s kept him from making too many awful mistakes in the past few years.

Okay, what would Giles do now? Oh, yeah. . . .

“Can you tell me the last thing you do remember . . . Spike?” That kind of steady, self-assured tone? Doesn’t come easy; every syllable is a fight, but a fight Xander wins.

Spike’s mouth opens, as if to let fly with another insult . . . but the only thing that comes out is a shaky sigh. His eyes flutter shut and he frowns. It’s Will’s doing-the-New-York-Times-crossword-puzzle-in-ink-so-don’t-distract-me frown, but that is definitely not something Giles would notice or even know about.

“I remember . . . demons,” Spike whispers. “More demons than I’d ever seen in my life. I remember Charlie-boy fightin’ till he fell and things swarmin’ over him like lice . . . horrible things with too many teeth in too many mouths. Couldn’t get to him, couldn’t save him. Blue fought her way through . . . had to’ve been about thirty of ‘em to get to him, but by then. . . .

“I remember Peaches slayin’ his bloody dragon, against all fucking odds. And I knew that if we got out of it in one piece, he’d be an insufferable prick about it, too.” He leans his head back against the wall and laughs a little; but when his eyes open, they’re wet and bright with pain.

“I remember me and Angel and Illyria fighting and fighting and fighting until ichor and blood covered us like a second skin. And as quick as the rain could wash it away, we were covered again. . . .

“Musta been nearly dawn when Angel took a spear to the chest. Couldn’t tell if it was a heart-shot, but he fell and--he was just gone. Didn’t even see dust. By the time Blue and I killed everything near where he’d fallen, there was nothing but mud and corpses. None of them were Angel.

“After that, I started to get tired--bleedin’ from a dozen different wounds and I know I’m done for. Blue’s doin’ her best to watch my back and her own, but it’s a lost cause. Suddenly, there’s an explosion near the front of the alley . . . lights above us and around us and--” Spike laughs again, tears finally running down his freckled face. “Sounded like helicopters. Gunfire. Grenades. Sounded like the bloody marines had landed, and I was grateful enough to kiss Riley Finn’s corn-fed arse if they had.”

Without either of them realizing it, Xander’d crept closer to Spike, and now, he kneels, barely in touching distance--not that Spike would ever want him to--and holds out his hand.

Spike doesn’t reach for it, but he doesn’t slap it away, either.

“And then?”

“Then,” Spike smiles, a wry, bitter twist of pale-pink lips. “I caught a Regnarath tail spike right in the gut. Went down like a ten dollar whore at a Shriners’s convention. Woulda got trampled, but for Blue tacklin’ that thing like Refrigerator Perry on speed.”

Spike closes his eyes again and the hand that Xander’s been holding out is grabbed painfully tight.

“Spike--” Xander begins as soothingly as possible, only to have his hand pulled to Spike’s stomach.

“Blood runnin’ outta me like water--my intestines slippin’ between my fingers here; screams and roars and snarls . . . like they’re comin’ from the other end of a long tunnel. I couldn’t even see Blue, anymore, just light and dark flashing around me . . . rain hittin’ my face and pain. Too much pain and I knew I was dust, I just knew, but then--”

If this were Will--the fact that it’s not does nothing to stop the wrenching of Xander’s heart--recounting one of his nightmares, Xander would know exactly how to comfort him, how to make everything better.

But this is Spike.

Spike, who doesn’t push Xander away when he pulls him into his arms, but tucks his face into the crook of Xander’s neck.

Spike, who lets himself be held and stroked.

Spike, whose body apparently still knows Xander’s well enough to take comfort in it.

The silence stretches, changes. Xander closes his own eyes and tries to think Watcherly thoughts as Spike’s hands slide under his sweat shirt.

It’s the tail end of movie night and they’re standing outside of William’s apartment building.

Xander’s never this antsy with Andrew there to round out their weekly bonding ritual.

But Andrew’s got the flu and William’s looking at him expectantly, his pale face flushed from the cold air.

”So . . . guess this is where we part ways.” Xander’s doing the Nervous Guy Shuffle, and
knows he’s doing the Nervous Guy Shuffle, but he can’t help it. Even aside from Andrew’s absence, this particular movie night feels strange and different.

Different
how, Xander can’t put his finger on how until William’s arms slide around him; into his coat and up under his sweater, to sweep up and down his back. So warm and so gentle and so--

Oh.

“It--it doesn’t have to be, Xander,” William murmurs, his gaze midnight dark in the cloudy moonlight.

In a flash of understanding, Xander’s nerves vanish and he leans in, because he knows William, and knows that
this is the difference that’s been between them since the beginning of the night. Hell, since the hospital room. . . .

Xander shakes his head and quashes the memory before the back of his eye starts to tingle and sting. Smothers that first kiss under worry that Spike’s unforeseen return could mean that pesky word that starts with ‘A’ and ends with ‘Pocalypse’.

Eventually, Spike’s shaking lessens and his breathing evens out. The sweep of his hands up and down Xander’s back grows longer and slower. If this were Will, Xander would swear he was falling asleep.

What else would the G-man do? Xander asks himself again. He already knows what Xander would do. Xander would carry Will to their bedroom, lay him down, and rock him till they both fall asleep.

Obviously that’s no longer an option. May never again be an option.

“What happened then, Spike?”

“Hmm? Whazzat. . . ?”

“Do you remember what happened next?”

A warm sigh ghosts past Xander’s throat. Spike's hands have slowed to twitches and flutters.

“Oh . . . passed out, didn’ I? But not before m’ heart started to beat. . . .”





Part Two

After carrying an unconscious--and lightly snoring--Spike to bed, Xander sits quietly on the edge of the bed and watches him sleep till well after midnight.

Xander’s always found Will to be beautiful. From that first moment in the hospital, when Will had opened his curious, dark blue eyes--the soul behind them shining out like a beacon--he’d owned Xander’s heart.

It strikes him as odd that he’d never thought of Spike as beautiful, soul or no soul; hot, yeah--and that only in the dimmest, least-visited recesses of his mind. But now. . . .

Things have certainly changed. So many times and in so many ways, Xander wonders if the vertigo will ever fade. And yet. . . .

There’s no tangible difference between them right now; Spike-asleep looks no different than Will-asleep. They’re two people--okay, one person, if Xander forces himself to be brutally honest, but there’ll be none of that just now--sharing the same body:

the same too-long, sandy-colored hair tousled over the same clear, smooth brow,

the same strong, elegant hand curled under the same freckled cheek,

the same compact body tucked into fetal position, because Xander isn’t under it to be sprawled on like a human mattress,

the same pure, quiet beauty that still keeps Xander awake nights, mesmerized . . . that still takes his breath away.

He wonders if Will is in there, dreaming, lost, frightened.

Alone.

“I’m here, baby. I’m here,” Xander whispers, stroking Will’s--Spike’s soft, warm cheek. “Come back to me, if you can. Please . . . I love you.”

Spike snorts and rolls onto his other side, muttering.

Even in his sleep, Will would have smiled, or leaned into Xander’s touch; this, more than anything, should drive home just how gone Will is.

Should, but doesn’t.

When it really hits me--when it sinks in that there’s no do-overs, no going back, it’ll break me into a million pieces, Xander thinks, still dry-eyed and numb--and thankful for it.

He knows he should leave Spike in peace, go camp out in the guestroom and make some phone calls. Giles first, so he can sic his rabid research teams on Spike’s return, and what it might mean.

Call Andrew immediately after, since he and Will are--were pretty close.

Call Buffy, though she and William weren’t pretty close--or exactly friends. She and Spike have a history that Xander couldn’t even begin to ignore, much as he might like to.

More importantly, Buffy’s the only person Spike trusts.

After that, he should call Deb, in HR, and let her know that Will would be taking a sabbatical.

Then, finally, call Willow, so she can feel the grief he can’t seem to allow himself; cry the tears that’d unmake him completely.

That’d be the smart thing to do; the Giles-thing to do.

But Xander is too tired to do anything but the Xander-thing.

He lays down next to . . . Spike. When he falls asleep, he doesn’t dream.

He remembers.


~*~*~*~*~


“Please, do be careful with that, it’s a family heirloom!” Will tells the movers, as they grunt and strain under the weight of the armoire.

When they finally set it carefully down--directly across from where the bed would go, as Will had instructed--the movers groan and swear their way out of the apartment door for the credenza.

Xander, ever the opportunist, takes a break from installing the last of the livingroom fixtures to pull his stressed-out boyfriend into his arms. The pouty glower disappears and his eyes light up when they meet Xander’s.

“Hullo, love.” Will laughs a little when Xander steals a kiss. Then another. Then another. Before either of them know it, Xander’s backed up against the armoire, sliding his hands down the back of Will’s still-pristine sweatpants.

“Family heirloom?” He asks wryly, just to see Will’s face color, ever so prettily. He’s not disappointed.

“I thought perhaps the prospect of a lawsuit might persuade them to be a bit more careful with our things. And yes, this armoire is an heirloom of
our family. You made it for me and it’s very--” Will leans in to kiss the tip of Xander’s nose “--very precious to me.”

Xander grabs onto where the grabbin’ is good. “Cater to my ego, why don’tcha?”

“There are other parts of you I’d much rather cater to.”

And though they’re both hot and sweaty and in the middle of a stressful move . . . or perhaps
because of that, they’re making with the necking and moaning and naughty hands when the sound of cursing, complaining--and what sounds like hours worth of re-sanding, yay--reaches their ears, growing louder.

“Bugger,” Will murmurs, nipping at Xander’s jugular.

“Double bugger,” Xander agrees with a shiver and one last squeeze; they separate with smiles and a brief, frustrated kiss, and go back to their respective tasks of installing fixtures and haranguing the moving men.

By the time the sun sets, the last of the furniture has been brought in and the movers paid, tipped and shown the door. Xander is only too happy to flop down onto their air-mattress--their new bed’s on order--in a boneless heap.

“At least the worst of it is done.” Will says, squatting next to the mattress; he untangles Xander’s hair from the eyepatch and removes it, tsking when Xander lets out a sigh of pure relief. “My poor Xan . . . you look all in.”

“I
am all in.” Xander closes his eye and sighs again. “I just wanna lay here and never, ever move again.”

“Not even to use the bathroom?”

“Um, hmm . . . nope.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“Yet so small a price to pay for never having to move again.”

“Haven’t you heard? There’s no rest for the wicked, sir. Tomorrow we have to rearrange the furniture and unpack.”

Xander opens his eye just enough to see Will’s smiling at him. “You are so bad at motivating me. I remain unmotivated.”

“That’s not what you were saying this morning.”

“Touche. C’mere.”

Xander pulls Will down to the air-mattress. They cuddle up together in their usual fashion: Xander sprawled all over the mattress, Will sprawled all over Xander, his face tucked into the crook of Xander’s neck.

“We don’t smell very good,” Will notes after a few minutes of contented sprawling.

“We smell damn manly.”

“If by damn manly you mean stinky--”

“I do.”

“--then we are a damn manly scent to behold.”

“Quite.”

More contented sprawling--they really don’t smell
that bad . . . or maybe Xander’s just gotten used to it--interspersed with Will wriggling around; making himself comfortable and making Xander hard.

“Okay, you’re
so doing that on purpose, aren’t you?” He groans, Will’s response is a laugh, more wriggling and slow, dirty grinding.

“Cocktease.”

“We really should go shower. . . .”

“Together?”

“Of course.”

“Hmm . . . doesn’t showering require standing up?”

“Oh, for upwards of ten, perhaps fifteen minutes, yes.”

“You know, we really aren’t
that stench-y. . . .”

“Alexander.”

“Jeez, don’t do that. . . .”

“Do what?”

“Say my name all--
British-y, like that.”

Will nips the skin just under Xander’s ear gently. He’s always had a neck fetish. That should wig Xander out, turn him off, seeing who it puts him in mind of, but if anything . . . it’s a guaranteed turn-on. Always has been.

“Mm, my darling, dearest,
damn manly Alexander. . . .”

Just like the breathy, British-y sound of his name on Will’s lips.

“Fuck,” Xander exhales, holding Will tighter, closer. “Fuck, fuck
fuck.”

“Can do that in the shower, you know?”

“You have a one-track mind.”

Says the man who already has his boyfriend’s sweats pushed down to mid-thigh.

“You love my one-track mind.”

“This is true.”

And the rewards of honesty? Cool hands up under his shirt and a tongue in his ear. Xander decides then and there that honesty is always the best policy, resolves to never lie again.

“Part of me can’t even believe this is all happening. We’re moving into our first place together.” Will catches Xander’s earlobe between his teeth and tugs on it just this side of ow! before letting go. Then he sits up, looking vaguely troubled. “It seems too good to last, like Whoever or Whatever gave us this life could just--take it away, at any moment.”

“No! Nobody
gave us a goddamned thing, babe! We worked for everything we have, we earned it.” Xander ignores the shiver that races down his spine. Daffy Duck must’ve walked over his grave. “We deserve it.”

Will looks into Xander’s eyes for a long time, obviously still troubled. Xander doesn’t know what to do to take that look away, so he does the only thing he can think of; pulls Will back into his arms and tell some more truth.

“I love you, William. I’ll hold on to you for as long as you’ll let me.”

“Oh. . . .” Will takes a deep, shuddering breath. “I know this doesn’t mean anything, coming from an amnesiac librarian, but--I love you, Xander Harris. More than anyone one I’ve ever known. I always will. And I won’t
ever let you go--not without a fight.”

“God, Will! That means
everything--you mean everything--”

Then Will is kissing him slow, hard and aggressive, kicking off the sweatpants and allowing Xander to get his own fly open before pinning his wrists and settling between his legs.

“Wait--what about the shower?” Xander asks between kisses and grinding because he’s
just that stupid. “I thought you wanted--”

“Later, love. Now hush. . . .”

The shower doesn’t get taken till before dawn. The furniture doesn’t get rearranged till late Friday night.

Their new bed arrives early Saturday afternoon--

--and they don’t finish unpacking till Tuesday night.



~*~*~*~*~


Saturday morning.

There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do . . . two of the things that make Saturday the greatest day ever. And the third thing is currently sprawled on top of Xander and humping his leg.

Ah . . . Saturday morning. . . .

Xander rolls them onto their sides and unzips their pants--pants? in bed?--with a relieved sigh. He rubs the point of Will’s hip before grabbing himself a double-handful of morning wood. He gets a sleepy, rumbly murmur of encouragement:

“Yeah . . . just like that, pet--”

And like a dash of cold disappointment, Xander’s fully awake and opening his eyes.

Spike?”

Hazy, happy blue eyes fly open, smiling into Xander’s for a moment before widening in fear and dismay.

Just as quickly, that look is replaced by the shuttered, mocking gaze he remembers so well.

“Harris.”

Said without inflection. Xander still lets go of both their cocks like they’re on fire, his heart racing with embarrassment and lingering confusion.

Spike looks down between them, then up at Xander again, all a-smirk.

Those’re Will’s eyes, but the gaze itself is leering and impersonal in a way that Will’s had never been.

“Xander-bloody-Harris strokin’ me off. . . .” Spike rolls onto his back, taking his cock in hand and picking up where Xander’d left off. “Now what sort of cruel and extra-crispy hell have the PTB landed me in?”

And that shouldn’t hurt. Considering where Spike’s memories stop, waking up in bed, mid-hump with Xander Harris would be . . . startling, to say the least.

Spike isn’t Will, so those words shouldn’t hurt. It’s Vulcan-logic.

Unfortunately, Xander’s not Vulcan, so they do hurt.

They really hurt.

Because this is the point where the Protective Wall of Numb crumbles, and realization crashes in like a panzer on a kamikaze mission:

Spike is back and Will is gone.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned, ex-menace is looking around the bedroom with evident disdain and still lazily stroking himself.

Yep, he’s back; and Will is . . . gone.





Part Three

“You’re not dead, Spike.”

“Oh, really?”

But Will is, Xander thinks, stifling an unreasoning wave of hatred; without the hate, all that's left is a creeping sort of despair. Welcome to Painfest: 2010. "Really. And this isn’t a hell dimension.”

There goes the eyebrow quirk. Xander longs for the days when Will unintentionally reminded him of Spike. The reverse is getting old in a hurry.

“Prove it. Oh, but first--” Spike lifts his hips, shoves Will’s Dockers and boxers down to his knees and resumes stroking himself unselfconsciously. “Be a mate and give a bloke a hand, yeah? Or a mouth--”

No! And--stop doing that!” Xander scrambles off the bed like a frightened virgin and Spike rolls his eyes.

“Not like I’m askin’ you to go beyond the pale ale, here, Harris. You started this, so get back over here and bloody well finish it . . . you know you want to.”

And Xander’s not wanting, not looking below Spike’s waist, not at all. This is Spike, not Will. “No. Way. There will be no finishing of anything that may have . . . accidentally been started. So put it away, zip up and for Chrissakes try not to be a raving asshole for five minutes!”

“Five whole minutes?” Spike pouts (if he was Will, Xander would’ve melted like a cup of soft-serve over an open flame) but does as Xander asks with an exaggerated sigh. “Dunno if I can. But if I have to be on my P’s and Q’s--I’d appreciate it if you weren’t wavin’ in the breeze like a bleedin’ flag. Bit distractin’, that.”

“Oh, God--” Xander turns away from Spike’s mocking leer and quickly does his own tuck-and-zip, talking to cover his confusing mix of embarrassment, grief, desire and regret. “Look, you’re not dead, Spike. In fact--you’re the exact opposite. And though I’m beginning to have serious doubts about it, this isn’t a hell dimension.”

“Says you.”

When Xander turns around, Spike is over at the big picture-window, peering around the drawn drapes timidly, as if he half-expects to burst into flame.

This’ll be the first time Spike’s been in direct sunlight since the Ring of Amarra, and before that, over a century, Xander realizes. And that hurts, because Will had loved the sunshine so much. Loved it though brief exposure turned him beet-red, and slightly-less-brief exposure made him burn spectacularly, even when wearing sunblock with an SPF higher than Willow’s i.q.

“I saved the world--again, I might add--but the possibility that my reward might be a stint in a hell dimension isn’t exactly inconceivable. In fact, that sounds like the PTB, all over,” he murmurs, turning away from the window with a sigh. He looks around the bedroom once again, less critically. Xander looks, too, trying to see the room through a century-plus ex-vampire’s eyes.

Okay, yeah, Will’s taste is--was kinda eclectic . . . Victorian-era meets thrift-store chic meets Crate & Barrel, Xander thinks. But our place is warm and welcoming. Just like Will.

And fast on the heels of that:

God, I miss him so much. He’s been gone less than a day, and it feels like it’s been a year. How’m I gonna get through today, and tomorrow, and all the tomorrow’s after that? How--?

“Oi, Harris--not a hell dimension?” Spike drifts towards Will’s night table and picks up the framed photograph on it, frowning. He holds it up for Xander to see. “You sure about that, mate?”

And Xander doesn’t have to look to see, to remember--

--Dawn and Connor dancing their first dance as husband and wife, revolving slowly, lovingly around the dance floor and kissing, as if unaware of every envious eye on them.

Xander is amazed that a wedding dress that’d looked frothy and silly on the hanger, somehow looks beautiful and elegant on Dawn--especially while waltzing. Like that last scene in
Beauty And The Beast, the one that still makes Willow tear up.

Dawnie looks like the princess she is.

Xander turns to Will to say just that. But the wistful look he catches on Will’s face derails that train of thought easily.

Or uneasily, as it turns out, because that look reminds him of Anya. Of that half-yearning, half-hopeful, half-predatory look she used to get--and Buffy still gets--at weddings.

Like the way Neil Armstrong must’ve looked up at the moon as a kid.

“Will?”

“Yes, love?”

“Would you maybe wanna do that . . . someday?”

Will smiles distractedly. “What? Dance a waltz? Make-out with Connor? Wear a wedding dress?” That distracted smile turns mischievous. “‘Cause . . . I’ve done one of those things already, and more than once.”

“Wiseass. You know what I mean and--God, do I even wanna know
which one?” Xander asks, dismayed. Will’s smile gets Cheshire Cat-y, then turns into a smirk.

“I dunno . . . do you?”

“No . . . leave me under the delusion that my boyfriend can waltz, for just a little while longer?” Will chuckles and Xander nods at the happy couple. “Do you wanna . . . you know, do the whole
wedding-thing?”

Will quirks the scarred eyebrow. “You mean get married.”

“That would be the wedding-thing, yes.”

“Xander--are you--are you
proposing to me?” Will’s eyes widen, just like Sailor Moon’s. “Yes! The answer is yes, darling! Oh, we must start planning, right away!”

Xander’s jaw drops so fast, it gets whiplash. There is no amount of back-pedaling that could undo this, but he has to try. “Uh--I--guh--wait!--I meant--”

Will holds that anime-face for all of three seconds before laughing and leaning in to steal a kiss. “Don’t be so skittish, darling, I’m just teasing. I love you, and I love our life the way it is. I don’t need to wear a gold band--or thirty yards of white silk and crinoline to feel secure.”

Still drowning in eight different flavors of relief, Xander nonetheless feels the need to clarify. “Will, I want to spend the rest of my life with you; I’m more sure of that than I am of anything else. But if you wanna have a formal ceremony. . . ?”

Will glances around the reception hall and snorts, making a Spike-ish face of
oh, please. “Since when have we stood on formality or ceremony? Besides, wouldn’t I first have to convert to . . . what are you, again?”

“Um . . . Episcopalian--I think. Or maybe Methodist.”

“Either sounds dreadful. You see, Alexander? I simply cannot marry you.”

“Well . . . I could become--I wanna say
Englican--?”

Anglican, you Godless heathen,” Will says, all fake, British asperity. Then he smiles all pretty, his eyes lit up with laughter. “Not that I remember anything about it.”

“Hypocrite.”

“I represent that remark!”

It’s banter, nothing special, or even particularly witty about it, but in that moment, something wells up within Xander; something so big and so burning, it has to come out. To be said and heard and answered. He’s only ever felt this way once before--not nearly this intensely--and it hadn’t ended well, despite all his good intentions.

But it has to be said. The way a four-year old on a long car-trip has to
goooooo, reeeeeeeal baaaaaad, this has to be said.

Will you marry me, William Kent? trembles on the tip of his tongue, too insistent to be denied. He’s about to get down on bended knee--if a thing’s worth doing, kid, it’s worth doin’ right; the only smart thing Tony Harris ever said--when there’s a snick and a flash.

“Ah, young love,” Andrew says sagely, from the other side of their table. Then he bounces like a toddler on Pixie-Stix. “Sorry. You guys looked so moony and cute, I just
hadda take a picture!”

For once, Andrew’s obnoxious interruption is more than providential--it’s a literal lifesaver. What had he been thinking? Had he really been about to ruin his second--and almost certainly his last shot at true love? Had he learned nothing from the Wedding-That-Never-Was, and from Anya’s tear-ravaged face?

Had he really been about to risk doing that to Will?

Xander mentally shakes some sense into himself--forces away the twinge of Anya-guilt he’ll always feel--and gives Andrew a toothy, Cordelia-Chase-special grin.

“Just make sure you email us a copy, Andy.” Xander’s voice sounds weirdly relieved to his own ears; neither man seems to notice.

“But of course.” Andrew aims his fancy-schmancy digital camera at the bride and groom for the nine billionth time. “Betcha it comes out really great.”

“I’ll bet it does.” Will glances at Xander and the wry amused look on his face changes to one of concern. He puts his hand on Xander’s, squeezing gently.

“Love? What is it?”

“Nothing,” Xander says, smiling. ”Nothing that can’t wait.”


Wait, it had; for two years, and now. . . .

Now, Spike is here . . . waiting for answers. Xander sighs, running a hand through his hair.

“Do you have specific questions, or do you want me to start from the beginning?”

“I--” Spike frowns at the picture again. “How long have I been outta commission?”

“About six years.”

“Damn. Right, then. The beginning, it is.”


~*~*~*~*~


It’s the unloveliest dawn the city of angels has ever seen, and Los Angeles has seen its fair share of unlovely dawns.

Slate-grey, with the promise of even more rain, morning gets under way; rush hour fumes into full swing.

This is a city unaware of the impending apocalypse in its midst.

Likewise, it is unaware of a large alley, packed to bursting with corpses. Most of these corpses are so unbelievable, Ripley would’ve creamed his pants with glee, just before shitting them in abject terror.

Since the rising of the sun, an immensely powerful witch has been standing in the mouth of the alley chanting, drawing on her own power and the power of the world’s most powerful covens. She holds a glamour and wards over herself, the alley and the
Hyperion, as well as the thirty Watchers, one hundred thirty-seven Slayers and pissed-off former GodKing standing between the world and its certain annihilation.

Certain annihilation has come in the form of a ginormous, frighteningly stable inter-dimensional Gate, which is still sporadically spilling out hordes of . . .
things.

According to the uber-witch--and to two old mystics--if this kind of Gate can be de-stabilized, it will collapse in on itself and the energy/matter that has passed through it will change direction--be pulled back into it’s own universe; all of its denizens, living and dead, will be pulled back through the Gate.

(“Like what the happened at the end of Ghostbusters,” the Witch will explain to one puzzled Watcher about a week later, only to see the lightbulb go on above his head. “We crossed the streams, reversed the flow of energy through the Gate until blooey! Bye-bye Goser! Except instead of tons of melted marshmallow--um, I mean demon corpses laying around after the end credits roll, they were all sucked back into their own world!”

“Or into the nearest parallel dimension,” the Watcher will add, because he knows it’ll put a smile on her pale, weary face. And it does.)

Both mystics and witch also agree that the longer such Gates remain open, the more they want to
stay open, and the harder they are to close.

The more
dangerous it is for the witch(es) making the attempt.

Not that there’s any choice in the matter. The Gate would keep spewing out demons until the world it opened on was utterly emptied. But long before that happened, the Earth would be a dead and burnt-out cinder.

So they fight, each in their own way: the Slayers with their firsts, the Watchers with their knowledge and stratagems, the witches, sorcerers, mystics and conjurers with their magicks, and US Special Forces--who will immediately disavow knowledge of, or involvement with any and all allegedly supernatural matters, including the ”closing” of a “Gate”--with their not inconsiderable firepower.

It takes the covens--working through the uber-witch, and at the dubiously safe distance of a mere continent and ocean away--until late morning to de-stabilize the Gate. The collapse is immediate and anti-climactic; several breathless, infinite moments when each being in the alley
stops . . . then the Gate and every fiend that came through it winks out of existence, leaving ninety-one Slayers and twenty Watchers to tend the wounded and mourn the fallen. . . .


~*~*~*~*~


“Okay, I get it--epic battle, bunch of dead little girls and Watchers . . . been there, done that.” Spike shivers. “Not interested in the nostalgia, mate, so skip ahead. How long have we--have you and he been shaggin’?”

“Will and I have been together for about five years.”

Five years?” Spike’s eyes widen--he’s anime-boy now, throwing shades of Will out like there’s no tomorrow. “Buggering hell . . . why?”

Ouch. “Why what?”

“Why me--him?”

The couldn’t you find some other bloke who wasn’t amnesia!me is unspoken, but heavily implied.

“Because . . . I don’t know. Just because. I love him. That’s all.”

Xander’s shrug is as helpless and hopeless as he feels. But he tries to pull a few tattered shreds of Giles-ness to himself. It’s better than bleeding heart-break all over the place. “And if you wanna know why me . . . sorry, can’t help ya, there, either. I’ve been asking myself that same question for five years, and waiting for the other shoe to drop--” a bitter laugh. “Guess it finally has.”

Spike places the picture back on the night-table more carefully than Xander would’ve expected, and wraps his arms around himself. He looks so lost, so confused, so much like Will had those first weeks after waking up, that Xander has to restrain himself from doing so, as well.

“Why can’t I remember?”

“I don’t know that, either.”

“Is there anything you do know?”

“Not much,” Xander admits with a tiny, self-mocking smile; he digs in his pocket for his eyepatch. It’d been amazingly easy to not wear it around Will--make himself vulnerable. With Spike, it was near impossible, not to mention spectacularly stupid. “And what little I do know just doesn’t apply.”

The because you’re back that colors that sentence is also heavily implied, also unspoken. Spike looks at him sharply, and opens his mouth to say something Xander has no doubt is snarky and cutting.

But at the last second, he looks at the picture again, like he can’t help himself; stares for a long time before saying anything.

“Are you in love with him?”

“Yes.” No point in lying. Not like Spike hasn’t seen the proof of it.

“He looks happy in that picture. You both do.”

This is not a question, so Xander doesn’t answer it.

“Well, looks like the PTB’ve royally fucked us both over--in one fell blow, the bastards. My sympathies, mate.”

Spike’s tone is subdued, and almost kind. Which begs the question: since when is Spike a) kind to Xander Harris and b) dabbling in discretion?

That’s Will,Xander thinks the back of his eye stinging. Maybe . . . some part of his brain is still Will, still remembers kindness and . . . how to not hate me--

It’s hope, like a knife in the gut. Worse, because it causes pain and means nothing.

Will come to nothing.

“Xander?”

When he opens his eye, Spike is sitting on Will’s side of the bed with his feet up, staring off into the distance and hugging his knees.

“What happened after the alley?” He asks. “I know I shanshued . . . but why wasn’t I me? Where did I disappear to? What was I--was William like when he woke up? Did he remember anything about being a vampire--or being human?”

“He remembered how to walk and talk, how to drive--everyday stuff, but no, he didn’t remember being human or being a vampire. No one knew why, and the PTB weren’t telling, no matter how many times we petitioned them.” Xander sits on his own side of the bed. “When we found your, um--body, you were unconscious. Holes in your clothes, I guess from all the wounds you got, but no holes in you. And you were breathing. Warm and dry despite the rain. Untrampled, even with all the demons and Slayers and Watchers that’d been running around.

“Some fairly new Slayers found you, Patti and Entae. They thought you were someone’s Watcher, and tried to wake you up. When they couldn’t, Patti came and got me--”

“You were there? Why?”

Nothing but curiosity in that question. Xander hesitates before answering, but since an econo-sized can o’ worms has already been opened, reopening his own tiny, little, single serving-sized can o’ worms is no big, or shouldn’t be.

“Wasn’t about to let my Slayers go into that alley without me.”

Spike looks up at Xander. There’s no snark and disdain in his eyes, now. Just sudden comprehension and that same curiosity . . . more shades of Will. “You’re a Watcher.”

Was,” Xander says shortly, determinedly not seeing flashes of Naiobe’s face, maimed almost beyond recognition, or Fabiola’s poor, broken body and her lifeless, rain-filled eyes. “Not anymore.”

Spike says nothing, once again making with the discretion. It’s starting to get eery.

“Were you surprised I was there at all, shanshu aside?”

Xander smiles a little. “Andrew couldn’t keep a secret that big to save his life. At least not from me. . . .”


~*~*~*~*~


It wasn’t that he cared whether Spike lived or died, Xander rationalized to himself, three days after the Alley Incursion.

Three days during which--despite Willow and Buffy’s silly old
logic--he’d only left Spike’s bedside to relieve himself, get more coffee and scavenge whatever junk he could from the vending machines, and harass Spike’s doctor.

No . . . it wasn’t that he cared, so much as he couldn’t believe the evil undead was still around.

Not just around--
alive.

Cordelia and Wesley?

Dead.

But Spike is alive.

Naiobe and Fabiola. . .?

Dead. Both dead.

But Spike?

Spike’s alive. As in pulse-having and chock-full of metabolic processes.

Anya’s a year in the blighted earth that used to be Sunnyhell, but Spike . . . fucking
Spike is still around and alive, sleeping like a baby in his private hospital room.

How’s
that for a slice of un-fucking-believable?

Some days, the universe just keeps on making with the funny. Xander, however, has had about all the humor he can stomach. Sitting vigil for someone he’d barely liked at the best of times is as good a distraction as any from . . . things.

So he sips his watery coffee, eats his stale nachos and warms the hospital room’s single uncomfortable chair, reading the
Los Angeles Times or whatever ancient magazines the candy-stripers bother to leave. Sometimes he reads out loud to Spike, but more often than not, he doesn’t. If unconscious people really can hear what’s said to them, and what’s said is all the awful shit they’re gonna wake up to--why would they wake up at all?

Time in Africa has made Xander silent enough for the lack of babble to be noticeable to the friends he hasn’t seen in person for nearly a year. He’s lost the knack of non-stop yakking. But the silence he’s grown used to has nothing to do with recycled hospital-air and sickness, and everything to do with wide, open places and balmy nights featuring starry, Van Gogh galaxies.

So he resorts to telling Spike about his own travels, about the things he’s seen, the things he’s done (some of these things he will never tell another living soul, as long as he lives), the people he’s met.

He speaks of every noteworthy thing that has happened since Sunnydale turned into the world’s largest sinkhole. Everything except his Slayers.

His poor dead girls.

“You know what a mbuna fish is, Spike?”

Xander asks the unconscious man questions like that when his mind strays back to the alley, to Naiobe’s bright, predatory smile while she fought, or Fabiola’s Xena-esque war whoops.

When his mouth gets too dry for pseudo-babble, Xander studies Spike’s pale, serene face till the memories leave him alone. It's a pursuit that surprisingly never gets dull.

You see, he's always been puzzled by how innocent Spike looks while he’s sleeping.

Xander remembers that from both wonderful stints as roomie of the undead. Spike-awake had indeed been wickedness personified. Not so much evil--thought Xander never doubted for a moment that Spike was evil by human standards, but in comparison with Angelus, William the Bloody was downright puckish--as wicked.

Spike-asleep looked and looks like the innocent he’d been up until the moment he died.

Another cosmic joke.

By the third day, Xander has memorized every line, every freckle, every minute detail he’d never bothered to notice before, and he’s about to go chase down Spike’s doctor again, when suddenly, Spike’s dark blue eyes flutter open, locking instantly on him.

He yawns. Stretches. Smiles.

“Oh,” he says. The smile is radiant and unexpectedly sweet. “Hello.”

“Uh . . . hi?” Confused much? You betcha! Not only because the loveliness of the smile makes Xander subconsciously doubt his heterosexuality, but because the smile is directed at him.

Spike seems . . . glad to see him.

Somewhere in the world, there’s a rain of toads.

Somewhere else, dogs are reciting the alphabet backwards.

Spike looks around his room, wide-eyed and curious, then back at Xander. “I beg your pardon, but where am I?”

“You’re in the hospital--you’ve been unconscious for three days. Since you shanshued.”

Spike blinks. “Since I
what, now?”

“You know . . . since your little heart-problem cleared up.” Xander rolls his eyes, unsure as to why Spike’s pretending to be someone with a little civility and manners, but willing to play along for the moment.

“Ah . . . I see,” Spike murmurs, as if he doesn’t
really see, but also doesn’t wish to seem intractable. Then, he smiles again, apologetically this time. “Well, I suppose that’s good news for me, but--are you quite well? You look to be more in need of this bed than I, if you’ll forgive me saying so.”

For a moment, Xander is perplexed--Spike? Concerned about
him?--then he’s shaking his head. “It’s good to see that the whole shanshu-thing isn’t keeping you from being an asswipe, ‘cause I was worried, for a minute, there.”

Instead of snarking back, Spike blinks again, his smile wavering. There’s something different about him--about his eyes. They’re the same color, but there’s something missing from their depths, or something extra or--
something wiggy like that.

Pod!Spike? Xander wonders, only half-jokingly.

Pod!Spike fidgets nervously, plucking at his blanket. “I--have I offended you?”

“Not recently,” Xander says, shrugging. The radiant smile is starting to look rather desperate and Xander sighs. “No, you haven’t offended me--why are you acting so weird, Bleachy?”

Xander gets another puzzled look for his trouble--wary now, as well, as if Xander’s the one who’s acting like a space-case. “Am I behaving strangely?”

“A little, yeah. You’re all--polite and nice and non-insulting. For you, that’s pretty strange behavior. Not that I’m complaining.”

“Ah . . . may I ask you a favor, then?”

“How much?” Xander pulls out his wallet with a fake grimace. This time, Pod!Spike gets the joke and laughs looking down at his pale hands. He turns them this way and that, as if he’s never seen them before, wiggling his fingers. When he looks up at Xander again, the smile is completely gone and his eyes are worried.

“Could you please tell me--who you are, sir, and . . . who
I am?”





Part Four

Xander’s the one to blink, now. His mind has completely blanked.

“Sir?” Spike asks, when Xander shows no signs of doing anything but gaping. “I realize my words may come as something of a shock, but--I have no memory of who I am, who you are, what we are to each other--or anything about my life, whatsoever. I . . . believe I’m suffering from amnesia.”

And Xander’s brain? Is still making with the blankness, ‘cause--amnesia!Spike? No way, right?

Spike’s face is still composed--pleasant, even--but it’s so obviously a front. Those eyes are confused and scared; they tick back and forth from his nervous fingers, which are twisting the edges of the blanket ceaselessly, and Xander’s face.

“I understand that this is a fantastic claim to make--and indeed, I, myself, can hardly countenance it. Yet--” Spike laughs a little, but he doesn’t sound amused. He sounds scared, possibly near tears. “Yet I find myself in the unenviable and unassailable position of living it.”

He keeps sneaking timid peeks at Xander’s face, and Xander finally places what’s different about them:

Kindness and innocence. That’s it. Part of it, anyway. They’re Spike’s eyes, but there’s no demon in them, no contempt . . . no recognition.

No Spike.

Oh, crap . . . I think Spike has amnesia!

“You’re sure you don’t know who you are, or who I am?”

A look of exasperation passes over Spike’s face. “Forgive me in advance for being somewhat abrupt, sir, but--if I knew who either of us are, I wouldn’t be asking you, would I?”

And
that sounds more like the Spike Xander knows, fancy language aside. “Sorry--I, uh, guess not.”

Spike blushes and looks back down at his hands again. “My memory is compromised, and so, apparently, are my manners. No affliction is an excuse for treating you ill, sir. I apologize.”

Xander blushes. “No, I’m the one who was being thick. There’s no need to--” he stammers, oddly uncomfortable.

“I’m afraid there
is.” Spike says stiffly, then sighs. “I’m quite sure that my mother, whoever she was, raised me with better manners than I’ve heretofore displayed.”

Heretofore? Xander thinks, bemused. Then shakes his head. “You’ve been very, um, mannerful, heretofore, Spike. Considering.”

“Spike?” Displeasure wrinkles Spike’s nose. “Good Lord! Is
that my name?”

“Yeah. Well, it’s what you started calling yourself about a cent--um, awhile ago." And Xander wonders if he should be telling amnesia-boy
anything that hasn't been Giles-approved. But Giles is already back in London, and with the whole time difference-thing, probably asleep. Besides, what could it hurt to tell the guy his name? "Your real name is William.”

“William,” Spike says, as if tasting the word. Then that radiant smile is back. “I--
feel like I’m a William . . . I think. Actually, I feel more like a Will. Or maybe a Billy. . . .”

“Definitely a Will,” Xander says. Spike--
Will laughs again. It’s a nice laugh, nothing but uncomplicated pleasure in it.

“Will, it is, then . . . do I have a last name?”

“You betcha, you do! And I’ll tell it to you, as soon as I remember!”
Definitely gotta call Giles ASAP. . . .

“You don’t know it offhand?” Will frowns in thought. “I take it we’re not related?”

“Oh,
God, no!”

“Nor are we friends, I would to deduce from that reaction.”

Xander blushes again, and back-pedals, hating the whipped-puppy look on Will’s face. “We were roommates on two separate occasions. . . .”

“I see. Roommates, but not . . . friends.” It’s not a question and Will still looks unhappy.

Xander takes his hand and squeezes it till Will looks up at him.

“Honestly? We didn’t get along too well a lot of the time . . . or any of the time. We were both stubborn and mouthy and--it was testosterone-city, most days. Sometimes we were kinda jerks to each other.” Xander remembers going after Spike with an ax--as well as the reason why he went after Spike with an ax--and sighs. “Other times, we were absolute bastards to each other. But I respected you, toward the end. Even started to trust you. You saved my life, Sp--Will. Kept me from losing the other one.” Xander gestures at his patch.

Will reaches out to brush Xander’s forehead and temple near the patch. His fingers are so warm and tender, Xander leans into his touch.

“I never did thank you for that.” He can’t remember if he has or hasn’t, but it couldn’t hurt to do so twice. “Thanks for--for saving my life, Spike.”

“I’m sure that it was my honor to be of aid to you,” Will murmurs, cupping Xander’s cheek. They stare into each others’ eyes, only looking away when some kind of muscle car--
nice driving in a hospital zone, dickhead--revs its way down the street, startling them both.

Will smiles and hesitantly removes his hand, placing it back in Xander’s. Xander clears his throat and turns bright red, but he doesn’t refuse Will’s hand. The silence between them is comfortable, but--
charged.

“Towards the end of what?” Will asks suddenly.

“I beg your pard--I mean, what?”

That scarred left eyebrow goes up. “You said that towards the end you started to respect and t-trust me, and I was curious . . . towards the end of what?”

“Of our, um, time in Sunnydale. My hometown--but not yours. You’re not from Southern California, originally.”

“Well, I know
that,” Will snorts, turning their hands so he can hold Xander’s in both of his own. His hands look even paler and more fragile holding Xander’s larger, darker one. “I’m just sorry that I can’t remember you, er--?”

“Xander--Xander Harris.” He laughs, feeling foolish all of a sudden.

“Xander . . .
Alexander--” Xander shivers. “I just wish I could remember you, Alexander,” Will says regretfully.

Now, they’re both blushing. Xander, because he’s not used to a Spike-shaped person being this nice to him, and Will because--

--he’s obviously embarrassed that he can’t remember me, or much of anything else.

“Do you have any idea why I’ve lost my memories, Xander?” Will’s looking at him in a way that Spike never would’ve: like he’s someone to be taken seriously. “You said I’ve recently recovered from a heart condition--could that have something to do with my amnesia?”

“Uh--I think it’s important not to discount any possibilities . . . but we’d have to ask someone who actually knows about this kinda thing.”

“You mean a neurologist?”

“Whuh? Oh, yeah--I guess one of them, too. I was thinking more along the lines of my ex-librarian, but it couldn’t hurt to have a second opinion.” Xander shrugs.



~*~*~*~*~


“Shit, speaking of--”

Xander stands up, running a hand over his face and through his hair. Spike jumps up, his eyes wide and alarmed.

“Hey! Where’re you goin’? Story-time’s not over, yet!”

“It is, for now. I’ve gotta make some calls, Spike. Shoulda made ‘em last night.”

“Call who? Why?”

And Spike still looks like he’s about to freak out. Xander goes around to Will’s side of the bed, but once he’s there, has no idea what to do? Take Spike’s hands? Hold him? Kiss him till he forgets to be so wound up?

Yeah, right.

Finally, Xander sits down on the bed, pulling Spike down with him, and places a tentative hand on Spike’s back. The tense muscles under his hand immediately begin to relax.

Huh.

Spike takes a deep breath and lets it out, staring down at his socks. “Who’re you gonna call?”

“Giles, Willow --Buffy. I’m just gonna let ‘em know you’re back, in case it means something--Hellmouth-y.”

Buffy?” Spike asks, like he’s never heard that name before. Then he looks up at Xander shyly; like damn near everything else he does, it’s so reminiscent of Will. “She’s . . . alright, then? And the ‘bit?”

“They’re both fine. Buffy lives in London and Dawn’s in Berkeley. She’s married.”

Married?!”

“To Angel’s son, Connor.”

“Wait--to Angel’s what--?”

Xander starts to launch into that whole drama, then shakes his head. “Nuh-uh. It’s a long, long story, one that Connor, himself, can tell you.”

Spike is still gaping. Not the most intelligent look, but Xander’s in no position for the casting of stones. “So you’re telling me that the Slayer’s sister is married to a vampire’s son--Buffy’s sister is married to Angel’s biological son--” Xander nods, repressing a smile. “Some weird vampire-child is shaggin’ my Niblet?!”

And this next part? Still makes Xander’s brain grin and dance around in his skull like a drunken capuchin. “Yep. They’re expecting their first child, Tara-Joyce, in October.”

Spike’s jaw drops. This expression, at least, is pure Spike. “Angel's son knocked Dawn up?”

Had he thought that some remnant of Will might be making Spike a bit more discrete?

“Yes, oh, Arbiter of all that is tactful and mannerly.” It’s amazing how quickly the snark-reflex reasserts itself, and keeps the pain hovering around the edges of Xander’s consciousness. It makes him feel almost friendly toward Spike.

“Look, I’ll admit--at first, it was disturbing on a bunch of levels, the whole pregnancy-thing. Till you see the goofy way they moon over each other and the baby . . . I’m tellin’ you, that little girl’s gonna have the best, most devoted parents in the world.”

“Not to mention an uncle that’ll take apart any riff-raff that comes near her,” Spike growls. For a nano-second, Xander could swear he sees a flash of gold in Spike’s eyes. . . but that would be impossible.

Much like a vampire becoming human is impossible? Yuh-huh. . . .

It’s probably nothing but his own over-taxed mind playing tricks on him. But it might be worth a mention to Giles--and Xander could do a little research on his own--

“You ponce. They really did make a Watcher of you,” Spike says, smiling a little.

“What?”

“That thoughtful look--and Xander Harris, havin’ thoughts completely boggles the mind--was pure Watcher. Put some tweed on you, get you some specs and you’re Rupert Giles. Or maybe Percy.” Spike's smile falters for just a moment. “Hey, you said Blue’s still knockin’ around--is she here? Where is here?”

“Los Angeles. And last I heard, Illyria’s in Texas, living with Fred’s folks and trying to hear the song of the green or something. Like everyone in the Alley, I think she’d just had enough of L.A.” Xander’s surprised he can say that without too much bitterness.

“Then why’d you and Billy stay here?”

“We didn’t; Will and I moved back to California last year. After the Alley Incursion--Andrew’s name for it, and it stuck, unfortunately--I had to get the hell outta California for awhile. So when Faith and Robin went back to Cleveland, I went with them . . . and Will decided to, uh, go with me.”

There goes the scarred eyebrow; wonder of wonders, it’s playful, not sarcastic. “I’ll bet.”

“It wasn’t like that. Not then . . . Will just wanted to be around people he knew and trusted," Xander huffs.

“Really? And who did he know and trust besides you?”

“Well--Willow, and Illyria. And Andrew--”

Spike rolls his eyes. “I meant who else that was goin’ to bloody Cleveland, you prat.”

“Oh--um . . . Andrew transferred in about six months later--”

“Got news for ya, mate,” Spike interrupts, with a speculative leer. “Billy-boy was gunning for you from the moment he first opened those baby-blues. We’ve always been a sucker for dark hair and dark eyes. Well, eye, in your case.”

“Thanks for the insight, Captain Sensitivity.” That look means nothing--I’ve seen Spike leer at mannequins. If he didn’t leer, I’d be worried. Anyway, he’s not Will, so it doesn’t matter. Nope. Doesn’t matter at all.

“. . . all of it?”

Xander reigns in his wandering attention. “I’m sorry, what?”

“I said, I think I’d like to get it back. All of it.” Spike glances at the photo on the night-table again, then back at Xander. “Seems like it’s been a good life, full of people and things it’d be a shame to lose.”

Xander’s heart doesn’t beat faster. He most certainly doesn’t forget to breathe. And he’s not thinking hope is getting less knife-in-the-gut-y and more water-in-the-desert-y.

Spike’s smiling at him wonderingly, as if seeing him for the first time. When Xander returns the smile, Spike reaches up and runs a finger along the eyepatch-strap, across Xander’s forehead before pulling it off.

He resists the urge to snatch the patch up and pull it back on and lets Spike look his fill.

“Look better without it,” he declares, dropping the patch on the bed and leaning closer to Xander, whose heart is now definitely beating faster.

“Spike, I don’t think--”

“And now’s not the time to start.” Spike kisses him lightly, a quick pressing of their lips that turns into a deeper kiss, which Xander breaks guiltily.

“I’ve never cheated on Will.” He edges toward the front of the bed; Spike follows. “I won’t.”

“Wasn’t tryin’ to--” frustration passes across Spike’s face, then that smile is back, wry, but still genuine. “Just wanted to know what it was like . . . kissin’ you.”

Not gonna ask him if he liked it ‘cause I didn’t like it at all no way no how!

And Spike’s kissing him again, long and slow and possessive. When Xander tries to demure or pull away, Spike follows, barely allowing either of them a breath.

It’s when one of Spike’s hands settles on his thigh--something his groinal area is very enthusiastic about--that Xander finally pushes Spike away firmly. The grin he receives in return is smug, self-satisfied--and somehow endearing.

“Once I get my memories back, won’t be cheatin’, will it, pet?”

And Xander’s afraid to answer, afraid to jinx the little bit of hope he’s been granted. Because what if Spike can get back his memories of being Will? Even without them, he’s not grossed out by the idea of being with Xander--at least not anymore. Maybe . . . once the memories are back, things can go back to the way they were.

Because essentially, Will and Spike are the same person, right? Down to their mannerisms and speech patterns? Will, with Spike’s bad habits, or Spike with Will’s good habits--

Six of one and a half dozen of the other.

Better than nothing.

A lot better, in fact.

Maybe Spike’s return doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Maybe he and Will were wrong to think it would be.

Faint, anemic hope momentarily dares to grow until--

“”So. . . .” Spike’s not even trying to cover up how proud of himself he is. “Did I--did William ever try to get his memories back?”

--until reality crashes in yet again.

“There--” Xander laughs ruefully. “There was a spell Willow wanted to try, about four years back, but Will decided not to go through with it.”

”. . . it’s up to you, love.”

Spike does not look pleased? “Why the hell not?!”

The absolute trust in Will’s eyes is addictive. Xander’s hooked through the bag--can’t imagine that look winking out, being gone forever. . . .

“Hello? Earth to Harris?”

”I don’t wanna lose you, Will. It’s not worth it. No spell.”

“You in there, mate?” Spike’s waving a hand in front of Xander’s face, impatiently.

“Are you sure?” The relief in Will’s eyes isn’t obvious, unless you happen to know him very well. And Xander knows him very well, indeed.

“Damn sure,” he murmurs, touching their foreheads, so Will’s eyes are his whole universe. “One hundred ten percent sure. No spell.”


“Harris!” Will’s face becomes Spike’s face, mere inches away and getting pissed off. “Snap out of it and answer the bloody question!”

“I asked him not to.”

Spike makes Will-esque anime-eyes and sits back. “What?”

“No spell,” Will agrees. Xander pulls him close and holds him so tight, it must hurt. But Will doesn’t complain. The tears wetting Xander’s shirt are as warm as blood . . . . “I love you, Xander.”

”I love you, too.”


“I asked him not to and--he didn’t go through with it.” Xander shivers, remembering the way Will had shivered in his arms, as if he was afraid to believe Xander could love him.

Something flickers in Spike’s eyes--anger, sorrow, something--and is gone before Xander can name it or puzzle it out. Then Spike’s standing up, walking over to the window once again. “Didn’t wanna lose your little boyfriend, eh, Harris?”

“Do you? Love me, I mean?”

“I do. Always.”


“No, I didn’t.” But I lost him, anyway. It just took a little longer.

Spike opens the drapes wider, unable to supress a slight wince when it streams over him. “You should call Rupert and whoever . . . already lost six years, and I’m not gettin’ any younger, you know.”

Is it just Xander, or is Spike starting to sound less like Will and more like--himself? Cold, indifferent, imperious. . . .

Amnesiac mood-swings?

Will hadn’t had mood-swings.

But Spike isn’t Will.

“I’ll make some breakfast, then I’ll call Giles.” Xander temporizes--almost goes over to Spike, but fear stops him. Fear that Spike will kiss him again, and fear that Spike won’t. “I’d, uh, eat, if I were you . . . he’s gonna have lots of questions--you know the G-man.”

Spike grunts, but doesn’t turn away from the sunlight; leans into it even more, as if daring it to do something. Xander gets up and goes to the kitchen, leaving Spike to his sun-taunting.

Although still in the grip of his own grief and dashed hopes, Xander still can’t help but wonder what’d happened to the Spike of a few minutes before.


~*~*~*~*~


He makes breakfast in a daze: eggs, runny-side up, bacon and toast with strawberry preserves and coffee.

Normally, Sunday morning’s the one day Will lets him near the stove. Today’s Saturday, of course and Will won’t be here to enjoy his favorite breakfast. But keeping to this tradition provides comfort, even a little peace of mind.

Or it would, if Xander could stop replaying that second kiss over and over in his mind. He’s already burned the bacon and eggs, scorched the toast and somehow singed the preserves. And the coffee--

Well, the less said about the coffee, the better.

Xander scrapes most of breakfast in the garbage, washes the dishes then contemplates the take-out menus laying haphazardly on the counter. Indian, Thai, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Greek, Cajun--and the Moonstruck Diner, which not only makes the best triple-decker Reuben ever, but also delivers.

Folks . . . we have a winner. . . .

Suddenly hands slide around Xander’s waist and a warm body presses into his back, pushing him against the counter. Surprised, he drops the menu.

“Spike? What’re you--?”

“Hush, love,” Spike--Will? No, Spike--murmurs, nuzzling Xander’s nape. He unzips Xander’s jeans and lets them drop, running hot, slow, sure hands under t-shirt and into boxer shorts to grip and tease. “Feels so nice . . . so familiar. . . .”

Yeah, it does. And Xander's gonna put a stop to it any second, now.

“--guh . . . agh. . . ?”

Xander-speak for prithee, my dear man, will you kindly discontinue caressing my nether regions, heretofore?

The reply? Is more caressing, the pushing down of Xander’s boxers, and biting kisses down the back of Xander’s neck. He braces himself on the counter-top and spreads his legs before his brain can do more than scratch it’s head in confusion.

“Interestin’ how well his body knows yours, isn’t it?” Spike’s low, dirty chuckle is accompanied by low, dirty grinding against Xander’s ass and yup. Spike's hard. “Knows you better than you know yourself, isn’t that right?”

Once again, all Xander can do is moan. His brain is still three steps behind, still wondering if it’s Spike or Will back there. His body, meanwhile, doesn’t care--is so with the program, thrusting into Spike’s fist with none of that pesky rhythm or control.

“So eager . . . is Billy-boy not puttin’ it to you regular, then? That’s a shame.” Spike kisses his way down to Xander’s shoulder and bites down hard enough to make Xander yelp. “That’s a cryin’ shame. . . .”

At the mention of Will, Xander’s brain finally catches up with the proceedings. “Spike, we can’t--” he starts to push away from the counter, but Spike thrusts against him hard enough to slam him right back, knocking the wind--and likely breakfast, had he eaten any--out of him.

As Xander gasps and tries to catch his breath, Spike resumes the aggressive, controlled stroking/grinding of a few seconds earlier.

“You know this body." His calm, reasonable voice cuts through Xander's pain easily. “You’ve known it--had it for five years. Had William, the simpering poof, on his knees, on his stomach, on his back--and up your arse, I’ll wager . . . bet you had a good laugh, too.”

“Laugh? Why would I laugh--” Spike's hands is suddenly squeezing him too-tight, crossing the thin line between pleasant-pain and ohdeargoddon't-pain. It's enough to wipe the rest of Xander's question out of existence.

After a few seconds, Spike relaxes his grip, turns it back into stroking and leans closer whisper in Xander’s ear.

“Laughed and touched this body in ways I’d never have consented to in a million years. . . .” he sweeps his thumb back and forth over the tip of Xander’s cock slowly, once again on the pleasure side of painful; like the nails that drag across Xander’s chest hard enough to leave welts. “If I was in my right mind, that is. Which brings us to the crux of the matter, doesn’t it? I’d have to’ve slipped a few cogs to ever take up with you.”

Between the hurt-y words and hurt-y hurts, Xander should not only not be hard, his testicles should be staging a strategic retreat back into his body. He should be shoving Spike off of, and away from him. Should be on the phone to Giles, and to Willow to see if she still has that spell.

He should be broken in pieces on the floor because Will is gone, and even if the memories of those five years could be restored to Spike . . . Spike wouldn’t be Will.

Couldn’t be.

But Xander’s not broken--not broken enough. He’s ashamed and guilt-ridden and still hard. Getting harder and about to come.

What kind of man is he?

“You sheltered, fed, held, fucked, kept an imposter--a hitchhiker in my bloody shanshu for five years,” Spike is still whispering. His breath is warm and moist, his hands still turning pain into pleasure and vice versa. “I didn't lose those years--misplace them, like a set of house keys. You stole them from me. Both of you.”

Didn’t wanna lose your little boyfriend, eh, Harris?

And now Xander understands the look Spike gave him back in the bedroom; anger and sorrow, yes, but most of all--betrayal.

It’s so clear, he wonders how he missed it when it was staring him right in the face, waiting for a reason, or even an excuse.

Too late for either, Xander knows, but he has to try. “God, Spike, it’s not what you think--”

There’s a rush of cool air as Spike steps away just far enough for the hand on Xander’s cock to drag and furrow its way over Xander’s hip and around to his ass.

Xander’s sex-stupid, slut of a body knows what it wants, but his mind has some serious reservations. Reservations that admittedly aren’t borne out by his reaction to the wet, careful, impersonal fingers wiggling and scissoring into him, opening him up.

It burns. It stings. It hurts.

It’s amazing.

It’s Spike.

And Spike hates him.

Against all logic, that hatred . . . hurts.

Xander opens his eye to scattered take-out menus.

“Even with a body temperature of my very own, you feel so damn hot. Like a furnace.” Spike adds a third finger. “Tight, too. I’ll bet Billy-boy loved bein’ in you . . . when he could summon up the nerve to take you, that is. Always was a gutless little squeaker.”

Spike’s searching and probing with his fingers. It’s so intimate, so embarrassing, so wrong . . . so good. “Don’t . . . don’t talk about Will like th-tha--”

When Xander’s brain comes back from where Spike’s fingers--and his own body--have sent it, Spike’s chuckling again. It’s not-nice chuckling . . . William-the-Bloody chuckling.

“I can say and do whatever I fucking like . . . you owe me for all you’ve taken, don’t you?”

Xander nods, the menus blurring in his vision. He's in the hazy mental outlands that only exist just before orgasm. He'd say yes to puppy-souffle for dinner and a Sean William Scott movie-marathon for desert, in this state, just so long as it brings release.

“Want me to take care of you, love?” Spike asks, aka Will: sweet and solicitous, but for the words that came before them. "For--old times' sake?"

Yes--no--please--Will--

That oh-so-manly whimper could mean anything at all. Not even Xander’s sure what.

So he nods, and the warm, wet hand on his cock picks up speed. Each time Spike’s fingers brush his prostate Xander gets a little bit harder, breaks a little bit more.

Because he wants this; it’s Spike Xander wants in him, Spike he wants holding him, Spike he wants murmuring in his ear--even though the things Spike murmurs are cutting him into bite-size pieces.

"Please--" It’s the closest he come to voicing what he wants so desperately.

There goes that seething, William-the-Bloody chuckle. “I’d have to be a few inpatients shy of a bloody asylum to want you, Harris. But I'll give you what you need one last time.”

And just when the hurt and humiliation couldn’t get any worse, Spike stabs into his prostate hardand Xander comes violently--silently, with his eye squinched shut against tears.

Everything whites out for a minute, an hour, a year. One of those.

By the time Xander’s compos enough to remember his own name, he realizes he’s shaking and crying and starting to slide off the kitchen counter. Spike’s chest is warm and solid against his back; Spike's arms are around his waist, partially holding him up.

“And what galls me.” His tone is light and conversational as he backs away and lets Xander go to stand or fall, as he wills. Xander pushes himself upright, relying on the counter to steady him. “What galls me is that you have the bloody nerve to act like you’ve lost something.”

Xander shudders, hunching his shoulders up against the accusation in those words, in that voice--shrinks from Spike’s proximity when he leans in to say:

“I am not your lover, your partner, or your friend. I never will be. So you go call Red up and get her over here. Tell her to bring whatever she needs for that spell, and to be ready to cast it.”

“Spike, you don’t understand--”

“Oh, I understand perfectly, Harris.” Spike says, still in that reasonable tone. He wipes his hand off on the back of Xander’s shirt. “I’m gonna get all my memories back, you hear? I’m gonna get back the time you and that selfish ponce stole from me and then I’m gone.”

Spike slams out of the kitchen.

A minute later, the shower starts to run.

Xander just stands there, head hanging down, tears leaking out of his closed eye to drip on the menus.

Long after the shower cuts off, long after the front door’s slammed open, then shut--

Long after Xander’s run out of tears--

He’s still standing. Broken in pieces on the floor, but still standing.

He wishes he wasn't.




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