This story is a direct sequel to two of my other stories, first Divided and then Two's Company. If you haven't yet, I would recommend that you read them first.





Male Bonding


by
Jackson



Part One

The morning after the utter insanity that had been the night before, Xander awoke and metaphorically speaking, hit the ground running. There was no vague memory of bad news lurking just beyond his recall, no blissful moment of ignorance before a slow realisation. The moment his eyes opened he snapped straight into panic-mode. In fact he had never really left it, he had kept waking at intervals in the night, the horrified screech of 'I kissed Spike!' resounding in his head. At least he was treating this catastrophe with the respect it deserved. Panic was an important business, there was no sense being half-hearted about it, he was having a crisis and was utterly at a loss as to how he could improve it. The only idea that had suggested itself so far was to run away as far as possible and hide in a cave for the rest of his life. Although this idea did have its appeal, obviously it was insane on closer reflection. What was he supposed to eat?

The sound of his alarm clock going off snapped him out of his half-hysterical consideration of licking moss off rocks as a means of survival, making him jump in shock. He irritably snapped it off and groaned. He had to go to work and function like a guy who hadn't accidentally kissed another guy last night but he was a wreck. A sleep-deprived, nervy, panicking shell of a human being who had KISSED SPIKE! His heart began to thump sickly fast and he squeezed his eyes shut to blot out the memory of the kiss. He couldn't bear to actually remember any details of it, dealing with the fact he'd done it was bad enough, he didn't want to even think about any of the tongue movements. His stomach lurched in horror. Oh God. There was tongue! He squeezed his eyes shut even tighter. Yeah, right, because that'll make this all better! As far as he was concerned the only thing that would make this better was a trip in a time machine and thwacking Spike upside the head before things got so completely fucked up.

Oh shit. Spike. What the hell was going on in his head today? The absolute best Xander could hope for was that Spike wanted to forget about this as much as he did, yet somehow he doubted that. You didn't kiss someone the way Spike had kissed him unless it was something you badly wanted to do. He remembered with another lurch to his stomach just who had been responding with enthusiasm on the other side of that lip-lock, but the theory didn't apply to him. He'd just been ... taken by surprise! Yes.

He whimpered in dismay, he was so out of his depth on this! What the hell was he doing to do? Surprisingly his brain, maybe stimulated by acknowledging how messed up he was, provided an answer. He needed help and luckily for him, he had the best available on speed-dial. Whenever he was in panic-mode there was always someone he could turn to.

He needed Willow, because if ever there was a cause to panic, it was this.

***

Spike woke up in the afternoon with a warm, excited feeling in his chest and a stupidly sappy grin on his face. He had kept waking all through the day to hug his happy feelings to himself and re-play that kiss over and over. He only wished he'd thought to open his eyes and take a peep at Xander while they kissed, then he would have a visual as well as the physical memory, but he hadn't been capable of such intelligent thought. He'd been so lost in the moment, in the kiss as his long awaited, most secret desire came to life under his hands. Never mind, he had the memory of Xander's spiky eyelashes fluttering on his cheek, the way his mouth had opened up to him willingly, Xander's tongue delving into him, returning fire with fire, just as entranced as he was, lost in the moment, the kiss. His kiss.

Spike gave a little squeak of delight, drumming his feet on the bed in pleasure. It was a good thing he didn't have a reflection, Spike didn't think he'd be able to look himself in the eye. So much for the Big Bad, he was a dreamy-eyed, grinning, lovesick idiot, but he couldn't stop himself and didn't want to. If he wasn't quite over the moon then he was certainly in orbit around it. Last night he had kissed Xander and today he was going to see him! One tiny part of him was wisely trying to remind him of Xander's freak out and warning him not to get his hopes up too high, but for the most part Spike was completely disregarding that side to himself. Hope had him flying higher than any drug and he wasn't going to come down. Xander would be fine now he'd had a little time to get used to the idea. Still it was probably a good idea not to rush him too much, let him set the pace. He'd let Xander come to him, he would probably call later to talk about the happy new turn their relationship had taken and then they could kiss some more. Today things were going to start going Spike's way at long last - they just had to!

Spike popped open a bag of blood, the expensive otter that he'd been saving and raised the mug in a silent toast to Xander, because if ever there was a cause to celebrate it was this.

***

Sometime later Spike wasn't feeling quite so assured of himself. He knew Xander was working today, and since Xander sadly hadn't called him before he went to work, Spike hadn't really hoped for any word from him until four-ish, when he usually finished. At ten to four he placed his mobile in easy reach, put his feet in the starter blocks and waited.

By five Spike was telling himself that even if Xander finished work on time he obviously wasn't going to call straight from work, after all he'd never done that before, he'd need to get home, maybe have a shower and grab something to eat, then he'd call. Spike ignored the tiny core of fear telling him that if Xander was quite as keen as he was he would have called by now.

By six Spike was staring at the display on his phone as though holding it would somehow make it ring, but no - it just sat there smugly Not Ringing. Maybe this 'waiting for Xander to come to him' thing wasn't the best idea. After all Xander wasn't a mind reader, maybe he was at home staring at his phone, wondering if Spike was going to call. He would but he'd wait till sunset which was in another hour or so, he didn't want to appear terrifyingly keen.

Five seconds later Spike cracked and dialled Xander's number with trembling fingers.

He listened to the phone peal out then Xander's voice made his hands slip clumsily on the phone, it was the machine.

Spike braced himself. Waited for the beep. Drew a deep breath. Froze. Hung up.

Shit!

He stood up and paced about the crypt, his hands shaking unpleasantly. So Xander was obviously out or not answering his phone right now, maybe he was taking that shower. Which explained why he hadn't called Spike.

Or did it? Maybe Xander didn't want to talk to him. Maybe he hadn't got used to the idea. Maybe this was the big freeze out.

Spike stared at the phone in distress. Even if Xander didn't want to take last night any further - the thought gave him a dull miserable wrench in his stomach - but even if one kiss was the start and end of it surely Xander would still be friends with him? After all he hadn't done anything that Xander hadn't wanted - or responded to.

Spike picked up his mobile again and dialled Xander. This time he was definitely going to leave a message. He waited for the beep. Drew in a deep breath. Hung up.

Double shit!

What the hell was he meant to say in a message? He couldn't exactly get into a deep meaningful conversation without Xander on the other side, saying stuff too. Should he not mention the kiss at all and just act like his usual self? Or should he turn it into a joke? 'Hi this is Spike, but you can call me hunny-bun if you like?' Or how about - 'hey remember me, the guy you were playing tonsil hockey with last night? Fancy another round?'

Oh fuck this, he wasn't going to start planning a stupid message, he'd just say whatever came into his head.

He dialled again, waited for the beep. His head remained blank. Hung up. Okay maybe a little planning wouldn't hurt.

By the time he'd worked out what he wanted to say, and taken a break to yell obscenities at his stupid non-ringing phone, which took the abuse in stoic - what else? - silence, it was nearly seven. Spike still wasn't happy with his draft but he'd been practising saying it out loud and was charged up and ready to speak. He dialled, waited, jumped a little at the beep and spoke, his voice squeaking noticeably on the first word. "Hi! Um hi, Xander, it's me ..." Oh, shit, his mind had gone completely blank! What the hell was the message? There was something about grabbing a drink tonight in there, he was sure of it. Shit the tape was spinning, he'd better say something! "Um, look call me when you get this, ok? Bye." He hung up, cringing.

"What. The hell. Was That?" he addressed the silent crypt in disbelief. Oh God, why was he so bad at this? He used to be smooth, cool, the guy in bloody demand! But sadly Xander Harris didn't seem to be demanding his presence and it hurt. It was humiliating and worrying and hurtful.

He glared accusingly at the mockingly silent phone, only narrowly restraining himself from smacking it with a hammer because if it was broken he'd be even more of a wreck, wondering if Xander was trying to call. Bloody Xander! He'd been going on at him to get a phone for ages and now he had one, Xander didn't even ring it! Well bugger him, he wasn't going to call Xander anymore, he'd left a message and Xander would have to come to him now... Spike sat up straight as a horrified thought occurred to him. Maybe the number he'd written on Xander's arm was now too blurred to read! Maybe he'd taken a shower and washed it off, without remembering to take a note of it first! Xander could be dying to ring him and couldn't!

Spike dialled Xander again. "Hey, me again, um, in case you don't have my number anymore..."

***

After work that day Xander made a quick call to Willow's place where Tara told him what he needed to know. He headed for the Magic Box without even going home first. Not only did he badly need to talk to her but avoiding Spike was the name of the game and Xander was determined he was going to win. He only wished Willow were someplace a little less obvious. The moon would have been good. If Spike came looking he'd find him here in about five minutes.

As he opened the door the shop bell jangled at his already frazzled nerves. He glanced over at the table and his heart sank. It was weird how in some circumstances the sight of one of your best friends could be as unwelcome as a million fang-sharpened vampires all eyeing your neck. Buffy was chatting animatedly with Willow and the thought of what she'd say if she knew about what had happened with Spike was not a pleasant one. She'd probably be about as happy about it as he had been about Angel. He should have known that would come back to bite him on the ass. He almost wanted to turn tail and run, but they had both seen him and were obligingly shifting stuff to make room for him at the table.

"Hey guys," he greeted them as he sat down feeling as nervous as though he had a huge arrow pointing over his head and big sparkly letters over it proclaiming 'I kissed Spike'.

"Hey, Xander!" Buffy said cheerily. "Nice to see you here. How come you're not out with your partner in crime?"

"What? Spike is not my partner!" Xander spluttered sharply, his heart beating uncomfortably fast.

Buffy looked taken aback. "Jeez, relax Xander! I only meant that you guys are practically joined at the -"

-mouths fused together, kissing deeply, opening-

"-hip lately," Buffy finished.

Xander could feel his face flushing brilliant red. "We are not joined," he snapped, his hands shaking uncontrollably. "With any body part at all and I don't like what you're implying!"

"I'm not implying anyth-" Buffy protested.

"I'll have you know I live a full, happy life that barely includes Spike at all - see? See me, here? No Spike anywhere around." He snatched the magazine Willow was reading out of her hands and began feverishly leafing through it. He could sense Buffy and Willow exchanging looks, but ignored them. Landing on a page he gazed intently at it, pretending to read it before focussing on the large pink caption; 'So you think you might be gay?'

Xander flung the magazine away from him as though he'd suddenly discovered he was cuddling a sewer rat and shot to his feet.

"And, and anyway," he said wildly. "I like breasts!"

He stormed into the bathroom at the back of the shop. As he slammed the door he heard Buffy's voice break the bemused silence.

"Well I was not expecting him to say that."

***

When he emerged slightly sheepishly from the bathroom a few moments later, after some deep breathing and a serious talk to his reflection, telling himself to 'get a grip or else' it was to see Willow reading her magazine alone.

"Hey," he said sitting next to her. "Where did Buffy go?"

"She's training in the back with Giles," Willow replied.

"Oh," Xander looked nervously at the shop door. He really hoped Spike wasn't going to come and find him. He'd better stick close to Buffy, there was nothing more likely to keep Spike at bay. He blankly picked up another magazine and pretended to fill in the crossword. Now that he was alone with Willow he couldn't bring himself to broach the topic and began to wonder hopefully if he was overreacting a little. Maybe he didn't need any advice from Willow. Maybe it really had been a freaky one-off. God, he hoped so. He didn't want to lose Spike in a mire of awkward feelings, he was a great friend. Like the night Spike had come round to cheer him up after a bad day - he'd taken him for a motorbike ride, they'd gone to the beach ... then got naked and frisked around in the ocean together ... Xander snapped the pencil he was toying with.

"Can you really do that crossword upside-down?" Willow asked with interest.

Xander glanced down with a start. "Um, well I like to make it a little more challenging."

Willow nodded, looking at him thoughtfully. She put down her magazine and fixed him with a firm yet sympathetic look. "So how are you?"

"Straight," he blurted out.

Willow raised her eyebrows. "What?"

"I mean great, I'm great. It's great to be straight - though no offence to you there buddy!" Xander gave a loud unconvincing laugh, and decided to quit while he wasn't ahead. "So how are you?" He flashed her a strained smile.

"Xander is everything okay?"

"Fine, absolutely, noooo problems with me."

"Really?"

"Oh, okay, okay I'll talk! Jeez Will why don't you just break out the thumb-screws and shine a light in my eye!"

"I wasn't-"

"It's - it's Spike," Xander managed to get out. "Something weird is happening."

"What?"

Xander licked his dry lips and wished his stomach wasn't churning quite so much. He knew he could tell Willow anything but trying to tell her this felt like trying to pull Jaws out of the sea with a toy-fishing rod. "Last night - last night ... on the way home from the party we were attacked by vampires and it was a pretty close call, and then we had a fight and made up and we went back to my apartment, and he was helping patch me up and then we - he - well, he, um..." Xander took a deep breath. "Spikekindakissedme."

Willow's eyes widened until she looked like one of those girls in a Japanese cartoon. "He did? He kissed you? Just like that?"

"Alright, keep it down!" Xander hissed. "Jeez, Willow you wanna tell everyone?"

Willow looked around at the deserted shop, but apparently decided to cut him some much needed slack and let it slide. "So what did you do?" she asked excitedly. "Did you kiss him back?"

"No!" Xander lied, his cheeks flushing. Willow gave him a look. Xander crumpled, his face felt like it was on fire. "Well - maybe, a little, by ACCIDENT!"

"You kissed him back by accident?" Willow asked sceptically.

"It happens!" Xander nearly yelled. "It's happened to us, remember the 'prom clothes' incident?"

Willow flushed a lovely pink colour. "Okay, so after you finished kissing by accident, what did you do?"

"I handled it. I ran, left at top speed."

"I thought you said you were at your apartment?" Willow frowned, confused.

"I didn't say I handled it well," Xander said impatiently. "Look, I freaked okay? I mean what else was I meant to do? One minute everything's as normal as it ever gets around here and the next I'm playing tonsil-hockey with Spike who's a vampire and a guy!"

At this succinct explanation of the mess he'd somehow found himself in, Xander covered his face in his hands and groaned. He didn't take his hands away, it actually wasn't that bad in here, like a little cave of his own. It was a little claustrophobic and hard to breathe maybe, but still better than having to deal with all this. Willow patted his shoulder comfortingly.

"Poor Xander," she crooned soothingly.

"Maybe I'm overreacting," he said, his voice emerging muffled. He lowered his hands from his face and blinked at her. "Maybe it was just a spur of the moment sort of thing. What do you think, do you think I'm overreacting? I mean Spike wouldn't ...y'know ...want me like that, right?"

Willow looked unconvinced. "Well-"

Xander quickly rose to his feet and began pacing the shop. For some reason he didn't think she was about to agree with him and he didn't want to hear what was making her look all doubtful.

"Before you say anything just look at the facts," he interrupted quickly. "Emotions were running high, we'd been drinking, I haven't had sex in a while, Spike can look sort of girl-like in dim light if you squint." He turned and began pacing in the other direction, Willow turned in her seat to watch him as his panic began to rise again. "And Spike! What the hell is going on with him! I thought he wanted to be my friend, and now it seems like all this time he's just been playing me, to get some naughty touch!" His voice was rising and he turned in the other direction, forcing himself to calm down. Willow swivelled again to watch him. "Okay I'm being nuts," Xander admitted. "Spike is a friend and one kiss is not a big deal. I'd been knocked out, prone to hallucinations and Spike had nearly been dusted, that's probably why it happened." He turned back in the other direction, Willow turned again. "Oh God, everything's ruined, I can never see him again. I can't believe we kissed, next thing I know I'll have a pet Chihuahua with a pink bow called Fifi. I can't cope with this!"

He paused mid-step suddenly, struck by a thunderbolt of an idea. "Can you do a spell or something to make us both forget it ever happened?"

Willow shook her head. "Technically I could, but I wouldn't unless Spike wanted to forget it too."

"Why not?" Xander yelled in frustration.

"Because it's wrong!" Willow protested.

Xander deflated. "Yeah, okay I suppose. But what if he does want to forget it?"

"Then you wouldn't have a problem and I wouldn't need to do a spell."

Xander shot her a filthy look. "Do you have to be so logical?"

"Someone's got to be."

Xander groaned. "Okay, Logic-Girl, what do you think I should do?"

"I think you should stand over there - your most positive thoughts seem to come when you're on that side of the shop."

"Willow!" Xander expostulated as he sat back down beside her. "Just tell me what you think!" The moment the words were out of him mouth he wished they weren't. He didn't want to know what Willow thought, he wanted her to tell him what he wanted to hear but somehow he didn't think that happy situation was going to come about.

Willow paused. "Well I don't know if you want to hear this," she said, uncannily reading his mind. "But last night at the party I was watching you two and you may not have noticed because it's happened gradually, and you don't notice things really when they're happening gradually, like maybe when someone starts losing weight, and you don't really see it if you're with them all the time-"

Will Xander addressed her silently. I'm having a major crisis here. Get to the point.

"-but I saw it for the first time last night, and I really noticed it, because I haven't really seen you guys together, before -"

Your point Will, lets get there!

"-except for that one time when me and Tara bumped into you at the video store-"

The point Willow, you can do it!

"-but last night you two looked so comfortable and happy together, and well, pretty... coupley."

There it is, good for you! Hey, wait a minute ...

"We are not a couple!" Xander squeaked. "We are not in any way 'coupley'!" Why wasn't she laughing hysterically at the idea of him and Spike? She actually seemed to consider it was a possibility - which it wasn't. Maybe Buffy would have been the right one to speak to about this.

"Xander, you do his laundry!"

"Oh, and that makes us holding hands and picking out curtains together? I'd do your laundry too if you wanted!"

"Yeah, but he went to the party because you wanted him to - and you kept glaring at that girl that was talking to him -"

"I wasn't jealous!" Xander interjected, his heart beating too fast.

"-and he's always doing nice things for you and you're always paying for him."

"That's because we're friends!" Xander slumped down in the chair. "Or at least we were."

"And what now?"

Xander sighed. "Now, I don't know anything anymore, if we're friends how come he didn't tell me he was ...?" He trailed off. "I don't know," he repeated helplessly.

Willow paused as though weighing up what to say. "Look, last night, I've never seen you like that with anyone before. So...relaxed and affectionate with them. Even Cordelia and Anya, you always kept them at arms length a little bit."

"Can you blame me?" he snapped defensively. "You know my ex's Will, to relax with those chicks you'd need to be wearing a bullet-proof vest."

"Oh, yeah," Willow nodded. "Because Spike, he's warm and fuzzy."

"It's - he's - I - I'm not gay!" Xander spluttered, clinging this fact like it was a precarious rope bridge over a bottomless pit. "I don't know much but I know that and neither is Spike! So how the hell did this happen?"

"Xander no-one says you have to figure this out right away. Take some time to think about it but maybe sometimes it's not about being gay or not. Look at me, I like girls. It feels right for me and I think I'll always look at girls rather than guys like that - I was doing it before I even realised I was gay, but I fell in love with Oz and the sex -"

"Not too much detail there please, Will."

"-was great, even though I'm not really attracted to guys. Because it was Oz, and I loved him, and it didn't matter if he was a man or a woman. When you love someone that much, you'll want to make love to them and it doesn't really matter if they have a penis or not, because its them y'know?"

There was a pause as Xander thought about that. There was only one thing he could think to say, and he duly said it; "God. I really wish I hadn't just heard you say 'penis.'"

"I know," Willow agreed thoughtfully.

They exchanged rueful smiles.

"Look, I hear what you're saying Will, but that doesn't apply to me. I'm not in- " Xander choked. God why was it so hard to say this? "-I don't ...love Spike," he managed to finish, feeling weirdly guilty.

"Okay," Willow agreed easily. "Everyone's different, I just wanted you to be sure. But if there's no way - that is what you've decided right?"

"Of course!" Xander said hurriedly, feeling his cheeks flame, remembering that heart-stopping moment when Spike had leaned forward with fire in his eyes. "There's no way at all."

"Then you have to talk to him, let him know where you're at."

Xander nodded with a defeated sigh. "Yeah. I will." But even as he gave her a weak smile, he knew that talking to Spike - along with clear thinking about Spike and his churning, confused feelings - was totally beyond him at the moment.

***

A little while later Xander left the shop to go on a coffee and donut run. By unspoken consent Willow and he hadn't discussed Spike anymore, but had decided to hang until Buffy had finished her training. Usually he'd have taken advantage of Spike's new phone and called to see if he wanted to go for a drink or catch a movie, but right now that obviously wasn't an option. Right now the last person in the world he wanted to see was-

Xander's thoughts were abruptly cut off as he walked smack into someone.

"Oh sorr-Spike!" Xander leapt back quickly, his face flushing and his voice squeaking inelegantly on Spike's name.

There was an awful, searingly embarrassing pause as for a moment they both took in each other's shocked face, then Xander looked away.

"Um, hi," Spike said with a poor attempt at nonchalance.

"H-hi," Xander replied, sounding as awkward as a teenage girl on her first date. He was finding it utterly impossible to meet Spike's eye again and looked fixedly at the ground as though if he took his eyes from it, it would vanish.

"How are you?" Spike asked stiffly.

"Good!" Xander said to the ground brightly. "I'm good, how are you?"

"Great, I'm great," Spike said, sounding a little tense. "I left you a couple, well, three or four, um actually maybe five, messages."

"Oh, I haven't got them yet. I haven't been home. I've been out. All day. At work. Then hanging with the guys." He was babbling. He couldn't stop and he still couldn't look up.

"Oh. Well you didn't ring, and I rang you to say I was in - and then at sunset I thought I'd go out for a bit so I left another message saying I was going out, in case you, you know were looking for me at my crypt, while I was out," Spike explained needlessly.

There was a tiny, deadly pause.

"So, what are you doing tonight?" Spike asked in a rush.

"Um," Xander managed to lift his head a little and address the hem of Spike's duster. "Bit busy. Scooby stuff."

"Oh," Spike sounded a little upset. "I just thought we could catch a movie or something?"

"Sorry, I can't - bit busy," Xander repeated desperately, staring Spike's boot in the eye. "Actually the guys are waiting for me to get the coffee, so I'd better-" Xander was already backing away, almost gasping with relief.

"Xander, wait!" Spike called quickly and Xander reluctantly paused. Big mistake. He actually looked Spike in the face. An even bigger mistake. Spike looked a little frantic, his eyes too-bright with hope and Xander's stomach lurched wildly. He felt an almost simultaneous pull to move closer to Spike, combined with a deep urge to run away as far as he could. In compromise he stayed where he was shifting nervously from foot to foot. Spike's voice dropped so it sounded a little husky and he took a step closer to Xander, making him feel like a rat caught in a trap. "I've been thinking about you all day and -"

"Spike, stop!" Xander interrupted frantically. "I've really gotta go!"

The flicker of hope on Spike's face died out and Xander felt terrible, but not terrible enough to want to do anything to put it back - he just wanted normal Spike back, but at the moment he seemed to be stuck with rejected, determined Spike.

He turned to leave and Spike put a hand on his arm. "Wait, we need to talk-"

"Nope, no we don't, nothing to talk about-" Xander shook off his hand, tried to back away but Spike simply followed him. He turned his back on Spike, the urge to run away was overpowering, he had to get out of here!

"We kissed, Xander," Spike said loudly. Xander cringed, and quickly turned back to him, waving his hands as though they would brush the words away from hanging in the air, being true.

"Gah! No we didn't! You kissed - I was just there!"

"Yeah, kissing me back! Don't try to pretend that you didn't."

"Okay," Xander hissed, glancing round swiftly to check no-one was in hearing distance and stepping back into the entrance of an alley to give them a little more privacy. "We...kissed, but it was just high emotion, it didn't mean anything!" Suddenly there was note of pleading in his voice. "Spike, let's just forget about it! We'd both had a lot to drink, and then the near-death experience, it was bound to make us crazy! So we don't need to talk about it, we can just write it off as a weird one-off. I mean it was the same for you, right?"

Spike paused, dropping his eyes from Xander's.

"Spike?" Xander pressed, almost begging Spike to give him the answer he wanted.

"No. It wasn't," Spike said awkwardly, shooting Xander a beseeching look. Xander's heart sank like a stone. "I mean, yeah all the drama sort of helped make it happen, but it wasn't a one-off, spur of the moment thing," Spike looked at him desperately. "I've been wanting to do it for ages."

Xander felt sick, but deep down he'd known. Ever since he'd realised it had been human-Spike looking after him in the Bronze he'd known. "How long is 'ages'?" he asked edgily.

"Ever since Toth's mojo," Spike confessed, shoving his hands deep into his pockets and hunching his shoulders miserably. "I - the human side of me noticed you then - and when I was put back together, well I - I couldn't stop noticing you." He gave Xander a tiny, fleeting smile, as Xander curled inside with embarrassment, wishing with all his heart that this wasn't happening. "Even though at first I didn't want to. I wanted to tell you before-"

"I'm actually wishing you hadn't told me at all."

Spike flinched. "Great, thanks a lot."

"Spike you're a vampire! A vampire who's a guy!"

"Is that why you're so scared?"

"I'm not scared! I'm freaked out to the billionth power! You - you're - I thought you liked women," Xander finished angry confusion colouring his voice. His heart was thumping angrily and for some reason he felt furiously betrayed.

"I do like women. I like you more," Spike admitted, "I mean yeah, if you were a girl-"

"Woah!" Xander interjected furiously. "Why do I have to be the girl?"

"Xander! Yeah, if one of us was a girl it'd make life a hell of a lot easier. But we're not, and I don't care." Spike glanced at him, a spark of humour flaring in his eyes. "You think you're shocked? Imagine how I felt when I realised." Unfortunately Xander wasn't in the mood for humour.

"So all this time, when we were friends you've wanted to...to ... do that?"

"Pretty much, yeah."

"So making friends with me was all about trying to get me into bed?" Xander hissed, wrapping his arms around himself defensively and briefly wondering when he'd turned into an outraged Victorian maiden. If he didn't watch himself he'd start saying things like 'taking advantage of my trusting nature' and he 'wasn't that type of boy', adding the final melodramatic touch to an already insane situation.

"N-" Spike began, but suddenly Xander was too pissed to listen to anymore.

"I should have known you were up to something! Everyone told me you were and I stuck up for you! 'Oh no' I said, 'I trust Spike, we're friends now' and all the time I've just been a complete idiot!"

"Xan-"

"They were right all along, you were using me-"

Again Spike tried to say something. It seemed to be some sort of denial, but Xander didn't want to hear it, there was comfort in anger, nice, non-confusing anger.

"-and the only reason no one worked it out is because no one would have believed that you just wanted to - to -". He managed to stop himself before he said 'defile me', but he was fastening the top few buttons of his shirt in an outraged, hurt fluster and frankly it was all going to go downhill from here. In his pause Spike, who was shaking his head violently, managed to get a word in.

"No! It wasn't like that! Okay, maybe at first, a little, but then I got to know you and I just wanted to be around you - look if I'd only been chumming round with you to try and get you in the sack I'd have done something by now, wouldn't I? But it wasn't like that, we were mates and I didn't want to bugger that up. If you'd wanted to take it further... well I wouldn't have hated it, but you didn't seem to want to until last night-"

"Naaagh!" Xander cut him off quickly. "I don't want to!" Spike flinched, hurt flashing over his face but Xander steamed on, "Spike, I'm sorry if you've got the wrong idea, but last night was a huge -" Xander waved his arms in a large circle to demonstrate the hugeness "-huge mistake, and I never, ever, want it to happen again!"

"So why did you kiss me back? What was that about?" Spike yelled.

Xander tore at his hair in frustration. "It wasn't about anything! It was just some meaningless madness!"

"So why are you getting so upset about it?"

"I'm not upset!" Xander yelled. Spike merely raised his eyebrows at the volume of his voice and Xander drew in a deep, shaky breath. "Okay, so maybe I am a little upset but don't try to twist it around, I'm upset because I'm straight, okay? I like kissing women."

"More than you liked kissing me?" Spike's voice was low and pleading.

"Spike!" Xander snapped desperately. "Quit it! *Please* just let this go."

But Spike was already shaking his head, his voice beginning to rise again. "No, I was on the other side of that kiss and you felt something, I know you did, you can't deny it!"

"Oh yes I can!" Xander shouted. "How can you know what I was feeling?"

"Because I 'felt' what you were 'feeling' grinding into my leg!" Spike yelled. "I know you wanted it!"

Like throwing a lighted match into a can of petrol. Xander exploded. "You don't know anything!" he roared. "It was a HORRIBLE mistake, I don't want to talk about it and I don't want to see you - the only thing I 'want' from you is for you to leave me the hell ALONE!"

Spike's jaw tightened as though he'd been punched but his eyes blazed with fury. "You know what that's fine with me, I don't want to see you either until you're through acting like an UPTIGHT PRICK!"

"Yeah well you'll be waiting a long time for that!" Xander bellowed, too enraged to know what the hell he was saying.

"Fine!" Spike roared, storming off.

"Fine!" Xander yelled over his shoulder as he thundered away in the opposite direction.

***

Xander stormed off down the road, walking furiously for nearly five minutes before he realised he had passed the coffee shop.

"Dammit!" He stormed back and bought the coffee and donuts, all the while seething inside with an uncomfortable mixture of rage, disbelief, shame and betrayal. His heart was still racing uncomfortably, and the more he replayed the last twenty-four hours, the angrier he felt. Slapping the money down on the counter making the nervous counter assistant jump he grabbed the stuff and slammed back into the Magic Box, banging the boxes and cups down on the table, startling Willow.

"Xander, what - ?"

Ignoring her he burst into the training room flinging the door open with a bang. "Buffy!"

Buffy whirled round, crossbow in hand, and an arrow she had intended for the dummy whistled into the wall by his ear, only narrowly missing being embedded in his head, but he barely noticed it.

"What?" Buffy yelped as she and Giles looked around frantically for the threat. "What is it?"

"You said you could set me up with a chick from Sunnydale U. Do it."

There was a stunned pause then Giles let out a deep sigh as he lowered the sword he was holding and pinched his nose wearily, shaking his head. Buffy, still a little wild-eyed stared at him. "That's why you burst in here like Van Damme on speed? A date? Haven't you ever heard the saying; 'Never Surprise a Slayer Holding a Deadly Weapon?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Can you fix me up or not?"

Buffy exchanged a glance with Giles and carefully placed her crossbow on the floor, watching him warily and adopting the same over-indulgent, soothing tone of voice used on people who may turn loony at any moment. "Yeah, sure I can do it. Um, let's see, there's Sara - she's really nice - or Andrea, she's a lot of fun-"

"Yeah, great, either! Both! I don't care who, just make it soon, okay?"

He slammed the door shut and sat back down at the table, drumming his fingers restlessly. Willow gave him a look, but wisely said nothing. He ignored her. He'd show Spike. He'd show everyone!

***

Spike shoved his hands deep in his pockets, physically shaking with a mixture of rage, frustration and despair as he stormed to the graveyard. Too furious to cry part of him wanted to go back and grab Xander, pin him against the wall and fuck him till he screamed, while the other part just wanted to tear his head off with his bare hands.

He hated Xander-bloody-Harris! Fucking uptight, repressed, deep-in-denial, tosser! Who the hell did he think he was kissing him like that then denying it meant anything? That hadn't been a stake in his pocket last night! Why the hell was he suddenly singing the; 'Horrible mistake, meaningless madness' song?

Despite himself Spike's steps slowed as a lump rose in his throat as Xander's harsh voice echoed in his head again, his anger draining to make room for misery.

"Fuck," he muttered wretchedly, kicking unhappily at a can on the ground.

He'd been so happy all day, so certain that things were going to turn around for him. Yeah, who had he been kidding? He felt so stupid. Dreaming and cooing all day while Xander was obviously bitterly regretting ever having even met him. Spike writhed in a frenzy of mortification and hurt.

"Stupid, Spike," he tormented himself. "Stupid, stupid, STUPID!"

Xander had been so furious with him - unable to even look at him. Spike almost wished the kiss hadn't happened, to have what he wanted almost within his grasp, and then for it to be snatched away was worse than anything he'd felt before. A dreadful, dragging weight of leaden disappointment and desolation knotted in his stomach. It was like having the best, most incredible dream of his whole life, then waking up and realising that none of it was actually real, he was still stuck in his own crap life, and Xander didn't like him. Didn't want him. Didn't want to be friends with him anymore.

Spike walked home slowly. The evening was sweet smelling and warm, made for lovers.

He felt like shit.




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