The Not-So-Giving Tree


It was a simple enough plan. Go to Orange County. Find the tree. Kill the tree. Get the ring. Shag Xander. Easy as you please.

And really, it wasn't like he didn't expect the cock-ups. He'd been in the heroics business long enough now to know that any time someone handed you a file, casual as anything, and said, "No trouble at all, be back in time for the footie," what was really meant was, "This is fucked, but bugger if I know how to fix it."

He'd let himself hope, because it was a simple enough plan and he was on a promise. Didn't that mean anything to the Powers? Last time he fell for the Slayer he got a bloody soul. One good shag with Xander Harris and who knows what feats of daring do they could have him performing.

Spike shifted and the tree seemed to tighten it's dead, wooden grip on him, if that was possible.

For the first, hour, he almost had to laugh at the timing. Surely it was just a matter of leverage and he'd pop free in no time.

Granted, Giles had warned him to kill the tree before attempting to extract the ring from the trunk. But he wasn't particularly fond of the odds of besting something quite so full of wooden limbs that moved quick, and the damned thing was just gaping open at the center. How much harder could it be to dive in, jump out and run? Live and let live, that was Spike's motto.

How was he to know the damned thing would choke on him?

Spike spent the second hour contemplating how he was going to salvage his night with Xander.

He could just picture him, too. Man'd been quiet since Spike had returned from the Battle of Los Angeles, but he'd not noticed overmuch, what with the grieving and the healing and the hoards of fucking Slayers coming at him all hours of the day and night to bat their eyelashes and there was just no bloody peace until Xan had offered a room at his place over on the North End.

That’s where he’d be now. In their house, only instead of going to their separate rooms tonight, he’d be waiting to go to bed with him. He’d bet anything Xan was sitting there by candlelight or some such. Maybe his shirt off. Yeah.

“Bugger.” Spike groaned as his erection twinged painfully where it was pressed against wood of an entirely different sort.

Hours three and four were devoted to some serious concern over the fact that he couldn’t reach his phone at all.

He hoped someone would notice he was late checking in, but it was usual for him to bag his beast early and head off to the pub for the rest of the night. No one typically bothered about him until morning.

If those blighters waited until sun up to notice he was missing, he was stuffed. Spike honestly considered yelling for help. Decided to conserve his voice and resisted the impulse.

A pang of honest longing for home and Xander and all the things he’d grown to appreciate about his life now and the impulse to cry was strong. He resisted that too.

He’d been so lost when Xan had taken him in. Given him the space and quiet to grieve. A friend to lean on, better than he’d ever remembered having before. Someone to take out to the pub and talk utter shite with. And then one quiet, gray, North London morning they were sharing tea at the table Xan built with his own two hands, coming down after a bit of argy bargy with some local toughs at the neighborhood demon haunt, and Spike looked over at him huddled over his mug, face lined with exhaustion and covered in stubble and realized he loved that man.

Hour five. Spike saw the false dawn and started shouting for help.

Took him ages to say anything. Seriously considered not doing anything at all about it but for a few pointed comments overheard to the effect of Harris not dating much since Spike had turned up and what ever happened to that Robbie bloke Xan was seeing?

He’d stammered out some rubbish invitation to coffee that Xander actually lowered himself to accept and it went well. He’d grown into such a self-assured and charming man, it was hard to believe he was made of the same stuff as the boy that tied him to a chair once upon a time. But he was. And he eventually spilled his coffee on Spike’s lap, which could have been a clichéd attempt to get a grope in, but was actually nerves.

He was good people, was Xander Harris. Salt of the earth. One of a kind. And if he wasn’t trapped in a goddamned tree he’d be licking the sweat from his godlike pectorals and riding him like a jockey at Ascot.

But he was stuck in a tree in Orange County and everyone he loved was half a world away.

The sky was lightening now in earnest.

Spike wept a little.

Suddenly, his world was plunged into a fuzzy, woolen darkness and was that gasoline he smelled?

A small engine roared to life. The tree vibrated hard enough to bruise him where he was pinned and then he was loose and dropping into the gaping mouth of the tree.

“Whoa! Hang on!”

Strong hands thrust under his arms and he was pulled upward then dropped onto the solid dry dirt of the creek bed.

Spike couldn’t quite believe his senses until Xander’s face appeared before him under the blanket.

“Hey! How’s it going?”

Spike let his mouth hang open for a moment in shock before he let out a startled laugh. “Not bad. You?”

Xander shrugged and settled down to lean back against the tree, allowing the blanket to cover him as well. “I’ve had better nights. Thought I was gonna get lucky but this work thing came up.”


“Unless I called that wrong? Because if this was actually your way of telling me you’re not interested, I gotta say, you really went the extra mile.”

Spike sighed. “Hard to resist those shoulders without putting a bit of distance between us, love.”

Xander nodded solemnly. “I know what you mean. I was so worked up last night just thinking about what those cheekbones would look like mid BJ, I had to get Willow to magic me all the way here just to figure out what the fuck happened when you didn’t show.”

Spike smiled at that. “So, got some mojo worked out to get us home?”

“Yep!” Xander grinned. “Got a jeep and a GPS with the coordinates to the nearest diner. Fuck, do you have any idea how long it’s been since I’ve had a decent burger?”

Spike bit back his immediate retort to the effect of the aggregate length of time since he’d gotten his end away and missed the smirk on Xander’s face. “I’m kidding. Kind of. The Jeep is parked up the hillside, but we’re going to be spending some quality time in a hotel pre-burger, at least until the sun goes back down. I mean, if that’s okay…”

Spike shook his head fondly. “Yeah, it’s okay.”

As they shuffled up the hill in the pink morning light, Spike pulled the ring from his pocket.

“Oh, um, here. This is for you.”

Xander turned and saw the cheap plastic ring in Spike’s palm.

“What is that? Is that—no. You didn’t actually—that was—?”

“The same tree that ate the ring Jesse gave you on your class trip in eighth grade that you’d worn since he gave em’ to you an’ Willow at his fifth birthday party at the pizza place? Damn well better be after all that.”

Xander’s mouth opened and closed a few times as he turned the ring over in his palm.

“Did I get that right or—”

Spike was silenced by Xander’s mouth on his and a warm hand gently cradling his face. Xander didn’t smile. There was something in his eyes that was, for a moment, more intimate than most carnal acts Spike had experienced.

Spike nodded a response to that something unspoken and Xander did smile then.

The hotel wasn’t bad all told, and the sex was every bit as good as he’d imagined, but somehow the climax of the whole thing was earning the right to half of Xander’s chips when his back wasn’t even turned.

That was a first.

And he didn’t have a lot of experience with these things, but Spike was beginning to suspect that Xander loved him back.

The End