Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is trademark 20th Century Fox. The world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the characters within are derivative of works copyright © 20th Century Fox, 1997-2004. No copyright infringement is intended.
Distribution: The Mystic Muse: http://mysticmuse.net
Nothing Like the Sun: S/X – http://www.nothinglikethesun.com/SX/
Feedback: Yes, please.
Spoilers: After season 5. AU after that. No Buffy.
Author's Notes: This fic has been heavily influenced by some or all of the following: the BTVS episodes "Life Serial" (the mummy hand section) and "Dead Things" (the fight with the time-shifty demons); the movies Groundhog Day, Run Lola Run, Donnie Darko, Happy Accidents, and Being John Malkovich; the entire television series Quantum Leap; the "Deja Voodoo" episode of the television series The Dead Zone; the Babylon 5 episodes "Babylon Squared" and "War Without End (Parts 1 and 2)"; and any other time-loop or time-shift story I've ever encountered. I haven't purposely stolen anything in particular from any of them, but they're no doubt all stirred up together in the mix that is my brain. There've also been many similar movies and television episodes and whatever that I haven't seen, of course. For example, in the fic, Xander refers to the "Been There, Done That" episode of the television series Xena: Warrior Princess, which I've never seen, but which my husband assures me was hysterical. And I should point out that this whole fic was in fact inspired by my husband's off-hand remark (while watching The Dead Zone), that "Every science-fiction show has to have a Groundhog Day episode," to which my brain immediately replied, "SPANDER!"
Pairing: Xander/Spike
Summary: Xander finds himself stuck with Spike in a "Groundhog Day" type of time loop.

It's Just a Jump to the Left

Kimberly A

1 Naked. With Spike.

When the fight was over, Xander was still lying in the grass, blinking to try to clear his vision. Spike stood over him, not mocking him for getting smacked down by the spiny demon, just extending a hand in a silent offer of help. When Xander reached up, they clasped hands and Spike lifted him to his feet.

They turned and walked on as if nothing had happened. Spike was flipping his knife into the air, catching it by the handle, flipping it into the air, catching it again. It was a habit he'd picked up over the summer for no apparent reason. Sometimes Xander wished he could flip a knife like that – it looked so cool – but imagining what his hand would look like with no fingers always cured him of any desire to fling sharp objects around.

Xander rubbed the back of his head, where a large lump was forming. He must have hit his head when he got thrown to the ground during the fight. Great. Why was he always the one who got tossed around like the morning newspaper? Oh, right…because Spike was the one running around killing things. Nice buddy system they had going there. Xander glanced back at the collection of spiny demon parts on the ground behind them as they walked away. "That both of them?" he asked. It was hard to tell, what with the unidentifiable parts and all.

"Nah. The little bastard buggered off while I was ripping the big one's head off." Spike flipped his knife into the air and caught it. I wish I could do that, thought Xander. But Spike was still talking, grumbling, "Can't even get a good fight around here these days."

Any fight that involved him hitting the ground hard enough to cause painful lumps was plenty of fight for Xander, but Spike seemed restless. Xander rolled his eyes and said, "I'm so sorry the Hellmouth is not satisfying your vampire entertainment needs."

Spike flipped his knife and caught it, the blade gleaming sharp and silver in the moonlight. "You should be sorry, brat. Few things more dangerous than a bored vampire." He flipped his knife and caught it. It was strangely hypnotic. Xander tore his eyes away with some effort.

"Yeah? Well, there's a lot of things more dangerous than a chipped vampire. Like paper cuts, maybe. At least those can hurt me." Xander grinned.

"A newborn baby could hurt you, Harris." Spike shook his head, a hint of a smile twitching at his lips. The insults were old, familiar, but they didn't really hurt anymore. It had been a long summer, and they'd gotten to know each other a lot better since…since Buffy.

It was nice just to hang around with somebody and not have it be all emotional and weird. Spike had gotten a lot quieter since Buffy's death, but it was sort of nice to be able to just walk along with someone and not talk. Their silences were comfortable, sort of like the insults.

If it were Willow, it would be the "why won't you talk to me about how you feel?" silence that had been between them since that night at the tower. If it were Dawn, it would be the "tell me everything's okay" silence that seemed to follow her everywhere. He didn't really know Tara well enough to have anything in particular between them, which meant they experienced the "I guess I should make small talk" silence. The silence from Giles was pretty obvious, since he was back in England. And Anya…well…if Anya was around, it would be the "why wouldn't you give me what I wanted?" post-relationship silence.

But Spike…Spike didn't expect anything out of him, didn't want him to spill his guts or comfort him or make small talk or anything like that. Spike just walked beside him, flipping his knife, looking around in the darkness. Xander would die before admitting to Spike how comforting that was sometimes, to be able to just hang with him on their patrols.

It wasn't like they were friends, exactly, but things had changed after Buffy was gone. They'd all had to rely on each other more, especially after Giles left. They almost never mentioned Buffy's name. It was like they were all afraid that talking about her would upset the precarious balance they'd finally accomplished.

And so they didn't talk about Buffy, but they all pretended that everything was okay.

Spike didn't pretend that everything was okay. He didn't talk about Buffy, either, but he had just gone rather grimly quiet for a few months there, not talking much at all. He'd patrol, he'd spend time with Dawn, he'd fight when they needed him, but he was really strangely quiet. Lately, he'd slowly begun talking a bit more to Xander while they patrolled, just guy stuff: insults, fight talk, rants about something on TV, that sort of thing. And apparently tonight he was feeling bored.

"I heard Jonathan Richman's playing at The Bronze tomorrow night," Xander offered

Spike growled, "So?"

"So that's entertainment. And it's kind of a big deal for the Sunny D, don't you think? He's all famous and stuff."

"Jonathan Richman? That wanker?" Spike's voice was disgusted. "What a sell-out." He flipped his knife with a bit of additional frustration, so that it spinned an extra time before he caught it. That's so cool.

"What do you mean 'a sell-out'?" Xander rubbed the back of his head. Man, that lump was getting big.

"The wanker was one of the forefathers of punk rock. Used to be…"

And that's when it happened.

Xander probed the bump on his head just a bit too hard and then it really hurt. He closed his eyes with a grimace of pain, hissing, "Ow!"


And when he opened his eyes, everything was different. He still had his hand holding the back of his head, and it still hurt, but he wasn't in the cemetery anymore. And he wasn't wearing clothes. And Spike was standing really close to him. And Spike wasn't wearing any clothes, either.

What the fuck is going on? No! No 'fuck'! What the hell? Yeah, 'cause this would definitely be hell. Me, naked, with Spike.

And the even worse thing? Spike looked incredibly pissed off, like he wanted to rip Xander's head off and use it for a bowling ball.

Okay, I don't know what's going on here, but this seems like a good time to cover myself and run away like a big girlie man.

Unfortunately, it didn't look like that was going to happen, because something very strange was going on. It was like Xander was inside his own body, but he wasn't in control of it. He was panicking on the inside, but he just stood there, naked, gazing back at a naked, pissed- off Spike.

Is it a spell? It must be a spell. Because I have no idea how I got here or why it feels like I'm just watching what's happening, instead of really being here.

But, in all honesty, it didn't feel like a spell. It felt more like…a memory. But that was so not possible, because Xander was pretty sure he would have noticed if he'd ever been this up-close-and- personal with Spike nakedness. They'd been roomies, sure, sort of, but not that kind of roomies. Not naked roomies.

How do I get out of this? I hope Willow knows about the spell and is working on saving me, because I just don't even want to know why the whole nakedness thing is going on. I just want to get out of here. Preferably clothed. Clothed and in full possession of everything on my body that dangles.

Actually, now that he thought about it, not everything was dangling. Mr. Happy seemed to be enjoying the proceedings quite a bit. And, okay, that was so so much worse. Naked with Spike, and sporting wood.

Spike had been staring at him all this time – though Xander wasn't sure how much time had passed – but Spike now walked across the room toward the bed.

Bed? Hey, that's my bed! What are we doing in my apartment?

Xander wanted to avert his eyes, not look at naked Spike as he walked across the room, but he didn't have control over his own eyelids, and he was forced to watch. And he was oddly mesmerized by the movement of muscles in Spike's butt.

I am not staring at Spike's butt. I'm not I'm not I'm not! How do I get out of here? Help!

Spike turned to look at him again and raise one eyebrow, his mouth still set in a tense, angry line. "Got any lube?"

Xander felt himself nodding, while inside he was screeching, Lube? LUBE? Why do we need LUBE? Oh my god! This really is hell! Aloud, he heard himself say, "In the cabinet by the bed."

Spike opened the drawer and rummaged around a moment, then pulled out a small bottle, which he then tossed onto the bed. He turned around and eyed Xander again. His voice was harsh when he said, "That'll come in handy when I fuck you in the ass."

Inside, Xander was running around in panicked circles, making ridiculously frantic squawking noises, but he could feel his body react very differently. His cock throbbed and he licked his lips. His face felt hot, like he was blushing, and his voice sounded kind of nervous when he replied, "Yeah, I guess it will."

What the fuck? What the fuck? Why would I be okay with this? Because I just can't imagine a universe in which I would be okay with this. Did Spike threaten to kill me if I didn't do what he said? Or did he drug me?

But, again, it didn't really feel like he'd been threatened or drugged. He could feel how his body felt, and his heart was beating fast, his cock was hard and aching, and his lips were sort of swollen and sensitive, like he'd been kissing really hard. And there was a familiar sort of tension in his stomach, tension of the Oh, yeah, I want this variety, a tension he had mostly felt before first kisses, when he knew what was going to happen, but felt a little scared and a lot excited and really really nervous. He'd never really felt that way about sex, because with Faith it had all happened too fast and with Anya it had just been so…pragmatic. Both she and Faith had just sort of told him what to do and taken what they wanted.

"Then come over here and suck me off," Spike said, and Xander felt his heart race faster. Okay, so maybe he sort of liked being told what to do – but not by Spike – and that didn't mean this made any sense whatsoever.

Why Spike? Why am I here with Spike? Okay, so he's not so evil anymore, and he's almost sort of my friend, but he's still a guy, and a vampire, and…uh…definitely not hot. I mean, I don't think he's hot. Well, I mean, I can see how girls would think he was hot. But I don't.

But he was walking slowly toward Spike, who was now leaning casually against the tall footboard, his – not hot not hot – ass resting slightly against the top edge, his left hand resting on the bedpost. He watched Xander with a slight smirk on his lips. He had a sort of "lord of the manor" look about him, lounging there, waiting for Xander to…to…service him.

Xander didn't stop walking until his body was lightly brushing Spike's, his feet spread so that Spike's legs were pressed between his thighs. Xander watched Spike's face for a long moment, and then leaned in and kissed him.

It was different from any kiss Xander had ever experienced, harder, rougher, hungrier. His body was almost shivering with the intensity…he could feel a slight fluttering trembling inside his chest and he thought maybe his hands were shaking. Spike's lips were soft, but his tongue was wet and strong and demanding, thrusting into Xander's mouth over and over again, tangling with Xander's tongue, making him clutch Spike's upper arms in his hands, until at last Xander had to pull away to catch his breath. He was panting. Spike's hands were tight on his hips. They stared at each other.

Watching all of this, feeling it, feeling Spike's kiss, feeling his own body's reactions, Xander was having trouble forming any coherent thoughts. No one had ever kissed him like that. It was so…well…yeah…hot.

Xander slowly slid down Spike's body until he was kneeling on the floor. Spike's cock was right in front of his face, and it was hard. Xander looked up at Spike, who was watching him, and then he wrapped a hand around the base of Spike's cock and took the head into his mouth.

Oh my god! I have a cock in my mouth! I have Spike cock in my mouth! What am I doing? It's a spell! It has to be a spell! A really really evil spell!

Xander continued licking and sucking, moving his way further down, getting more and more of Spike's cock into his mouth.

How do I know how to do this? Why am I so calm about giving a blow job? What…I just get down on my knees and suck off every vampire who tells me to? What kind of bizarro world is this?

Then suddenly Spike was manhandling him roughly until he was on all fours on the fake Persian rug. "Stay there," Spike growled before leaping to his feet and returning only seconds later to kneel behind him.

No no no no! This is not happening! Maybe it's a really really bad dream. A really bad dream which I will never ever tell anyone about.

Then Xander felt Spike leaning forward and wrapping an arm around him to grasp his cock with a slippery hand.

Spike is holding my dick. Spike. Is holding. My dick. This sentence makes no sense.

It felt good, though.

Hey, touching my dick feels good. It doesn't matter who's doing it. It's just…biology. But I can't believe I'm enjoying Spike giving me a hand job. Well, I mean, hand jobs are good, just by definition. But still…

And then Spike trailed a slippery finger along Xander's hole.

Ack! Danger, Will Robinson! Somebody help me! Willow? Somebody! I really don't like where this seems to be going.

Spike kept up a slow stroke on Xander's cock while he simultaneously worked on relaxing and opening Xander's body.

And now there are fingers! Fingers! No! No fingers! Please no fingers! Why am I just letting him do this to me?

The fingers inside Xander felt strange, but he'd read about the prostate. Even tried to find his once or twice in the shower. No luck, though. He'd figured that was why some guys liked the butt stuff – you know, the gay guys – but he'd never really understood the appeal until now. It actually felt…it felt weird…but it felt really sensitive, too. In a good way. Better than when he'd used his own finger – which had actually felt kind of good, too – just like somebody else's hand on his cock was way better than masturbating.

Again, it's just biology, right? It doesn't matter whose hand it is! But…Spike hand! Spike hand! Spike hand…in my butt! This is way wronger than any other really wrong thing.

He didn't know how many fingers Spike had inside him now, but it felt tight and slippery and sort of stretched, but not hurting. Something inside him was feeling even better than before, little brief flashes of something that made him buck and groan. He sort of wanted more – more something – because if this felt good, then more should feel even better, right?

No! I don't want more! I don't care if it feels good! If Spike said jumping off a cliff felt good, would you do it, too? No! No feeling good with Spike. Oh my god…I can't believe my dick is this hard when I've got Spike's fingers in my ass.

Spike was talking, interrupting Xander's panicked thoughts. "I'd just fuck you now," Spike said, his voice low and rough, "if the chip would let me. I'd hurt you, ride you hard, none of this slow and gentle crap." Spike's hands on him, both front and back, were speeding up and Xander was feeling the beginning of an orgasm building. "Never had anybody in your ass, hey? You'd be tight and hot and you'd scream when I pounded in."

Suddenly, the hand which had been on his cock was gripping the back of his neck, still slick with lube but holding him tightly.

Help! Vampire! Vampire has me! Naked gay vampire has me! Run away! Run away!

Spike pushed Xander's head down so that his cheek was pressed against the rug, his ass raised obscenely high behind him. Spike spat angrily, "Here's your last chance, boy. Run now or you'll be losing your cherry in about two seconds."

Why is he so pissed off about this? I'm the one getting shoved around like a whore. I'm the one who is apparently going to have a dick in his ass, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I'm going to be raped! Raped by Spike! I am so going to kill him after this! Wait until Willow finds out! She's one bad-ass witch these days…oh…wait…no! Nobody finds out! I'll just kill him quietly and then no one will ever have to know that I…

And then he heard his own voice. "Please, Spike," he said softly.

What? Xander didn't know what to think. He really didn't sound – or feel – like Spike was forcing him to do anything. Not rape? But…

The hand on his neck relaxed and curved around the side of his head, encouraging Xander to raise his head and rise again onto his hands and knees, encouraging him to turn his head and look back at Spike, who had leaned forward again.

The fingers slid out of Xander's body and a thickness pressed against him.

Spike's cock, that's what that is. Spike is about to fuck me. And I asked him to do it. Yes, this is definitely hell.

Spike began to press forward, only the tiniest amount, but Xander felt that fullness inside him and moaned softly. It was so good…he never would have imagined. He wanted more.

I am not gay. I am not gay. I do not want to have sex with Spike. Ever. Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this?

Now Spike was leaning forward and Xander was craning his neck around and they were kissing as Spike began to slide slowly inside. Spike's hand slid from his neck up to cradle his head, make it less awkward as Spike began to move inside him.

This feels…disgusting! Yeah. I don't like it at all. It feels gross. And terrible. Because I'm not gay. I mean, it's fine for gay people to like this – from a purely physical standpoint, it does feel pretty good – but not for non-gay people. Not for me. Nope. Not gay. Not liking the butt sex.

Their kiss grew more heated, Xander was feeling like he might come any minute, and Spike's hand on his head began to pull him even closer, pressing too hard on the bump on the back of Xander's head, making him wince slightly and think, Youch!


"…worth listening to. Nothing but tripe now, though…lyrics like the worst kind of poetry, all simpering love-sick crap."

Xander nearly fell down, but Spike stopped talking and caught his arm as he stumbled. They were in the cemetery again, just walking like they'd been before…before whatever that was.

A nightmare? But I was awake! I was just walking along, and then there was the utter insanity! Maybe I hit my head harder than I thought. Could this be a concussion? I've had concussions before, and they didn't involve frighteningly vivid imaginings of anal sex with the undead.

"Uh…what?" Xander stammered, pulling away from Spike's steadying hand on his arm. Try to act normal, Xander my boy. Don't want to have to explain to Spike why I'm freaked. Because that would be BAD.

Spike eyed him with what looked almost like concern. "You tripped over your own feet. I already knew you were clumsy, but this was something, even for you."

"Oh," Xander laughed, hoping he sounded casual. "I just…I wasn't looking where I was going. What were you saying?" He tried to look interested, hoping that Spike wouldn't ask any more questions.

Luckily, Spike just cast him another curious look and then continued walking, flipping his knife idly. "Was just explaining that Jonathan Richman is a sell-out former punk with bad rhyming skills."

As he walked, Xander's mind raced, trying to remember what they'd been talking about. He needed to act normal. Nothing to see here. Xander's just fine. No weird naked vampire fantasies. No butt sex. Just strollin' through the graveyard on a balmy autumn evening. Talking about Jonathan Richman. "But…uh…isn't he the guy from There's Something About Mary?" There, that sounded relatively normal.

Spike snorted. "Yeah, and ain't that a hard-driving work of musical genius. 'There's something about Mary that you don't knoooow'…like what, you tosser? That she's got jizz in her hair?"

Xander laughed a bit nervously and Spike stopped walking again, turning to look at him with obvious suspicion.

Xander looked away, afraid Spike might be able to see something on his face. They had a stand-off for a few long, silent moments, and then Xander hunched his shoulders and admitted reluctantly, "I think maybe I have a concussion or something."

"You do seem a bit stupider than usual."

Xander looked up to see Spike was smirking. He made a frustrated noise and said, "Gee, thanks, Spike. No, I think I hit my head when that spiny demon threw me around. And then I…I saw some kind of weird stuff." Xander continued quickly, "I definitely think something's wrong."

But Spike hadn't missed the vagueness. "What do you mean you're seeing 'weird stuff'?" he asked, peering more closely at Xander's face. "What kind of 'weird stuff'?"

Xander jumped further away and looked down at the ground, blushing. "None of your business! It's nothing! But it's weird, okay? It's definitely weird. And I want it to stop. So I need to see a doctor or something."

Spike arched an eyebrow and eyed Xander with obvious curiosity, but then shrugged. "Fine. Let's get you to a hospital, then, if everything's so bloody 'weird'."

Xander nodded vigorously, the lump on the back of his head still aching. "Yes, thank you, hospital, yes." Spike looked at Xander as if he had lost his mind, because yes, okay, he was probably acting a little strange, but that was because he was completely freaking out, not that he had any interest in explaining why.

Well, you see, Spike, I just had this little sudden vision of you fucking me up the ass while I begged for it.

Yeah, the hospital was a good idea, because it had to be a concussion. I mean, this was just too weird.

What else could it be?

2 There and Back Again

Walking through Pleasant Hill Cemetery – which was neither pleasant nor hilly – on the way to the hospital, Xander started feeling a little ridiculous for making such a big deal about the whole thing. Okay, so he'd seen some weird stuff. Big deal.

Maybe I was just remembering a dream or something. I mean a nightmare. Actually, yeah, that's probably what it was. It sure seemed real, though.

Xander was just beginning to question whether he should tell Spike not to worry about going to the hospital when the sky abruptly opened up and pelted them with a sudden rainstorm.

"Argh!" cried Spike in frustration. "Can't anything go right today?"

Xander looked around the dark cemetery, hugging his arms tightly around himself, shivering. The night that had seemed so balmy only a few minutes ago seemed a lot colder when he was standing around in sopping wet clothes, water still pouring down his face, plastering his hair to his head.

"My crypt isn't far," Spike yelled over the sound of the rain. "We can go there to wait it out." Xander nodded and they jogged toward Spike's crypt, Xander's high-tops squishing in the mud.

When they got inside the crypt, Xander stood dripping on the cement while Spike went downstairs. He reappeared a few moments later and threw a towel at Xander's head. It hit him smack in the face, and he pulled it down and glared at Spike, who was vigorously toweling his hair so that it stuck up in wet curls. Xander started drying his hair carefully, not wanting to press too hard on the bump he'd gotten earlier.

Tossing his towel onto the nearby chair, Spike took off his duster and draped it over a wall sconce. Then he abruptly stripped off his shirt and tossed it aside, beginning to towel off his naked upper body. Xander just stared at him. Spike's pale chest looked just the way he remembered it, and his abs were just as ripped as they'd been when Xander had slid down his body to kneel…

This is only freaking me out because of the dream. Normally, I wouldn't notice Spike at all. This is just some post-dream weirdness.

"Enjoying the show?" Spike's voice sounded amused, and Xander's face was suddenly so hot he thought it might just explode. Even the tips of his ears were burning.

"I told you I've got a concussion!" he snapped defensively. "I was just…uh…spacing out. I wasn't looking at you."

"Relax, Harris. I know you're not lusting after my luscious bod. Your loss." Spike's easy grin made it clear that he was just joking. He hadn't actually realized what was going through Xander's head. He had no idea about the dream thing.

Actually, now that I think about it, that should have been my first clue that it was a dream or a concussion or something. Because why would Spike be wanting to have sex with me? Okay, so he seemed really pissed off, so maybe he was doing it just to make fun of me or something. Fuck! What am I even thinking about this for? It was a dream! Or a hallucination! Or something like that…it didn't actually happen.

A hand waved in front of his face, and then Spike was leaning close to look into Xander's eyes. "You went a bit slack there again. Your pupils look all right, though."

Having Spike right in his face like that made Xander's blush flare even warmer and he jerked his head back. Spike got a wrinkle between his eyebrows that Xander knew meant he was about to start asking more questions, so Xander just stepped further away and began drying his face with the towel, patting hesitantly at his dripping hair. "I'm fine."

Spike shrugged and went back to toweling off his chest and stomach. Xander turned to look at the wall, hoping his face would stop burning.

"I'm gonna go get into some dry clothes. Make yourself at home." Spike gestured to the chair and television. Xander nodded vaguely.

When Spike was gone, Xander relaxed a bit. His clothes were sopping, but he doubted Spike would have anything that fit him, since his legs were longer and his shoulders were wider. Not that I've been noticing Spike's legs or shoulders. Man, this dreamhallucinationconcussion thing was really throwing him for a loop! Just because it had been feeling good there at the end…

No. Nothing more to that thought. It just ends there. I am straight. I like having sex with girls. Even if it's been a while since I did so.

Spike came back up the stairs dressed in his usual uniform of black jeans, black T, and red shirt. But, lucky him, they were all dry. Xander shivered again. The crypt really wasn't much warmer than outside in the rain.

"Storm should pass pretty quick," Spike said, walking over to the crypt door and peering out.

Xander nodded mutely, then decided he should be trying to carry on a conversation. "Yeah, rain never lasts long this time of year." Talking about the weather now? What is this, a date? It's just patrol. We should be talking about…normal stuff. What were we talking about before? Oh, right.

"So…uh…Jonathan Richman…he used to be a punk rocker, huh? Punk turned sensitive poet. What're the chances of that?"

Spike gave him an odd look. What…had he said something wrong? He thought that had sounded pretty normal. Then Spike smiled this strange little smile, like he knew something Xander didn't, and said, "You'd be surprised."

"What do you mean?" Xander asked, giving up on his futile attempts to pat his clothing dry with a towel. He pulled his t-shirt a bit away from his torso and began wringing it out onto the concrete floor. Spike didn't seem to mind.

Spike threw himself down into the armchair, dangling one leg over the arm and looking down at his fingernails in an oddly shy gesture. "The punk and the poet aren't that different," he said, still looking at his hands.

Xander snorted, feeling better now that they were back on familiar guy-talk ground. "Right. Because the Sex Pistols wrote such sensitive verse."

Spike looked up and smirked, looking much more like his old self. "Hey, don't knock it, Harris. 'God save the Queen, she ain't a human being' is classic." He pulled out his knife and started tossing it again. It was getting sort of irritating, actually, watching him always do that. Like he was showing off.

Xander didn't say anything for a long moment, and it seemed like the silence was a little less comfortable than it had been earlier that night. Now it was filled with all kinds of stuff Xander really didn't want to think about, let alone discuss. Spike tossed his knife, and Xander returned to trying to wring out his t-shirt. It would be easier if he took it off, but there was no way in hell that was going to happen. He glanced over at Spike again.

"So, I was wondering," Xander began hesitantly. Spike looked up and cocked an eyebrow. "You think you could maybe teach me how to throw a knife like that?"

Spike chuckled and replied, "You? You can't even walk without tripping over your own feet." But just as Xander was nodding and looking away again, embarrassed that he'd even asked, Spike continued, "Could give it a try, though. Pass the time." Xander turned back toward him, grinning. This'll be so cool!

They spent the next half-hour or so in companiable knife-tossing, and everything was good again. They were like buddies, just hanging out, doing guy stuff. Spike first made Xander just watch him, so that he could try to catch the rhythm. Then he gave Xander a stake to toss, instead, to see if he could catch it at the same end each time. When they finally heard the rain let up outside, Xander still hadn't worked up to flipping the knife, but he was feeling great that he'd asked and Spike had said yes and he was starting to learn.

As Spike pulled on his still-damp duster, he commented, "Could probably teach you to throw a knife in a fight, too. Something you could do from a distance, not get knocked around."

Xander almost bounced up and down – okay, maybe he actually did bounce, just a little, but no real man would admit to such a thing – and quickly said, "That would be great!"

The cemetery was muddy and depressing, but Xander felt like he was walking on air. He was learning to toss a knife! And was going to learn to throw knives in a fight! He pictured himself like the men in the magic shows, throwing knives to outline a nubile woman's body. He could do that! He could be knife-throwing Xander, the dangerously mysterious man!

They were almost to the entrance when Xander heard a low voice from behind them. "I feel the Jewel." And then there were hands on his neck, pulling him backward. Spike turned quickly and saw whatever was grabbing Xander, and he cursed.

"It's the fucking little one that got away earlier," Spike explained quickly. He punched over Xander's right shoulder, and suddenly Xander was released again, falling to sprawl awkwardly on the ground, trying to catch his breath.

"The little one?" he gasped, looking up at Spike's grim face. "That's not so bad, then, right?"

Spike jerked his chin behind Xander and growled, "He brought friends."

Xander's eyes widened and he turned to look. Three very large demons and one relatively small one were standing together a small distance away, and the small one was rubbing his jaw as if it was sore. They were all a green so dark it was almost black, with their backs and shoulders covered in sharp spines. The big ones all had huge, muscular bodies, like obscenely exaggerated weight-lifters. The small one eyed Xander and said firmly, "I can feel the Jewel."

Xander jumped to his feet and yelled, "Nobody's gonna be feeling any jewels, pal. Especially not my jewels!"

He didn't know if it was because of his yelling or if it was only coincidence, but that was when two of the larger demons lumbered forward and attacked Spike. The small demon began to smile, still watching Xander closely, and said, "You have been touched by the Jewel. And you shall lead me to it."

"I didn't touch anything!" Xander insisted, afraid to look away from the two demons in front of him to see how Spike was doing. He heard fighting still going on, and he trusted that Spike could take care of himself, but it was still nerve-wracking. The two demons facing him hadn't moved toward him again yet, but Xander was pretty sure they were just biding their time.

Then all sound of fighting behind him stopped and the little demon smiled wider. Xander couldn't take his eyes off of them. When one of the large demons that had been fighting Spike walked forward to join them, Xander thought, No! That's not the way it happens! Spike always wins the fights! He must be tricking them. And as the Spike- fighting demon turned and joined its two companions, a knife came flying from behind Xander and pierced the demon's eye. He – or it or whatever – fell to the ground, suddenly completely still. Xander felt Spike come to stand behind him again, though he still didn't turn to look, because that would mean looking away from the bad guys who apparently wanted to feel his "jewel." And that just wasn't going to happen.

Spike's whisper in his ear was so quiet he almost didn't hear it. "This is real trouble. So run. Get out of the cemetery…the entrance isn't far."

Xander was just turning his head to insist that he wouldn't leave Spike alone when the remaining large demon moved forward. This time it wasn't one of the bad guys who knocked him to the ground; it was Spike. "Run!" he yelled as he shoved Xander behind him, but Xander had been in the midst of turning his head, and so he lost his balance. God! Don't I always do stuff like this! I'm completely useless!

And then the smaller demon was walking toward him…and he was carrying a knife. It looked like Spike's knife. Did he pull it out of the other guy's eye? Ew. But then Xander suddenly realized that the guy who kept talking about feeling his jewels was walking toward him with a knife, and didn't that just conjure up the most frightening possible mental images? Xander started scooting away as fast as possible, but he was afraid to get up and start running because that again would require him to turn his back on Creepy Guy.

The small creepy demon licked his lips and grinned happily at Xander. There were still sounds of vigorously fighting coming from Spike's direction, but Xander had no idea whether Spike was going to get over here in time to save him. He had to figure something out to save himself.

"You have been touched by the Jewel," small demon guy said again, and Xander was getting really really tired of hearing him say that. "And when I hold your heart beating in the palm of my hand, you shall lead me to the power I seek."

Okay, that was scary enough to bring Xander scrambling to his feet, but he didn't have time to run, because the small demon was surprisingly fast, darting forward and lifting Xander by the throat so that his high-tops dangled a small distance above the ground. Then the demon turned him quickly, holding him from behind, one arm across his chest, and the grip was so tight that all Xander's struggles amounted to nothing. He saw the knife rising, shining silver in the moonlight, and he looked around frantically for Spike. He saw him not far away, still fighting the last of the spiny Schwarzenegger demons, though the other two lay on the ground unmoving. Spike looked badly beaten – one of his arms was hanging at an odd angle and his face was a bloody, swollen mess. Xander realized that Spike must have already been pretty badly hurt earlier, when he'd told him to run.

And then everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. The knife was shining as it came closer and closer to Xander's face, just like it had shone earlier when Spike was tossing it. Spike was still getting pummeled by the huge demon, blood running dark and red on his face from some unseen wound as his head flew back from a punch. The knife came closer and then gently touched Xander's throat, like a kiss. It sliced across in a smooth motion, and then there was wetness, just like the rain earlier, soaking his neck and his t-shirt. It didn't hurt. But he saw Spike's eyes widen, heard him scream, "Xander!"…saw Spike frozen in horror, saw the huge demon grab him from behind and twist, twist in a remarkably graceful motion, like he was removing Spike's head like a bottle cap. And then there was dust where Spike had been and Xander couldn't feel anything except the wetness and a sort of buzzing in his head, kind of like the noise of static on the TV late at night, and his eyes drifted closed.


Xander opened his eyes and immediately noticed that the bump on the back of his head was hurting, that his hand was pressed to it. And he was standing in his bedroom. Naked. And Spike was standing really close to him, and he was naked, too.

Spike looked incredibly pissed off, like he wanted to rip Xander's head off and use it for a bowling ball. But at least Spike's head was right where it should be.

What the fuck? What happened? Did I die? I saw Spike get dusted, but he's right here, and he looks fine! In fact…this looks like what I saw in my weird concussion nightmare. Maybe this is a series of different nightmares? But, man, that seemed so real! I've never felt like that before. And seeing Spike get dusted! I mean, we've been sort of hanging out this summer, but…that was like seeing Willow or Dawn get killed. It was horrible. I don't ever want to see that again. Man, if this is all concussion stuff then I'm gonna start wearing a crash helmet everywhere I go, because I can't take much more of this.

Spike was standing over near the bed now. He'd apparently walked away while Xander was lost in thought.

"Got any lube?" Spike asked abruptly, his face tense and angry.

And Xander heard himself answer, "In the cabinet by the bed."

Oh god. Here we go again.

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