It's Just a Jump to the Left

Kimberly A

7 What Do You Expect?

It didn't take them long to get to the apartment. Xander was so tired that Spike had to take the housekey out of his fumbling hand and open the door for him. Xander nodded a vague thanks and then shuffled off to his bedroom, mumbling, "Smell like sewer."

After that, Xander didn't remember anything very clearly. He must have taken off his clothes, because he had some swirly, surreal memories of taking a shower. He vaguely remembered crawling damp and naked into his bedsheets and then hearing the shower running again, but he hadn't seemed to be able to make himself care. He'd just lain on his nice, soft bed, with his nice, soft pillow, in the nice, soft lack of murdering demons, and everything was good.

Next thing he knew, he woke up needing to pee. When he was done, he started to walk out to the kitchen to get something to drink, but stopped when he saw a huge poofy bundle of down comforter on the couch.

When did I take that out? I thought it was still in the closet.

Then the comforter moved slightly and Xander caught a glimpse of fluffy pale yellow hair.

Oh. Right. Spike. Oh.…Right.…Time looping. Demons killing us. Need to go smash the Jewel today.

It all started to come back to him, but it seemed pretty unreal, now that he'd had a comfortable sleep in his own bed and the world looked vaguely normal again, at least in a Sunnydale sort of way. Still, Spike's presence seemed pretty obviously real, so Xander ducked back into his room and dug a clean pair of boxers out of the dresser. He was remembering some pretty weird naked stuff between him and Spike and didn't really feel up to wandering around au naturel.

As he shuffled off toward the kitchen, the time looping stuff started to get a little clearer in his head. Yeah, it wasn't a dream, even if it seemed crazy enough to be one. Xander stood at the sink, running water into a glass, and thought, I had sex with Spike. Lots of times. He remembered Willow telling him to think about whether Spike was what he really wanted. The water flowed all over his hand and he quickly turned off the sink. He took a long drink, shaking water off his hand, then wiping on his boxers. His mind seemed to be so filled with thoughts that he couldn't really focus on one. And, weirdly enough, it wasn't the demon fights or the getting killed he kept thinking about. He just kept feeling Spike's skin against his, Spike's kiss, Spike's hardness inside him. He set the glass down on the counter and walked quietly back into the living room to look at the giant poofy pile of down comforter. The indirect light through the kitchen blinds left the room dim, but lit enough that he could still see that seductive bit of Spike's hair.

He stood there a few moments, lost in thought, before Spike's muffled voice emerged from the pile of bedding. "Know you're there, Harris." And then the comforter was moving around, bunching here and there until Spike was sitting up on the couch, poofy bedding folded and wadded in front of himself, one pale, naked shoulder revealed along with his head. He looked disheveled and grumpy. Xander walked over and sat on the couch beside him, then leaned his head against the couch back and sighed at the confusion of his thoughts.

Spike rubbed his hands over his face and then touched his hair and grimaced. Xander snickered, which earned him a sleepy glare. There was no hair gel in the house, and Spike must have washed his hair the night before. He looks all fluffy, like an evil baby chick, Xander thought to himself and then froze.

Holy crap. Is my Babylon 5 t-shirt on the bedroom floor near the door? Holy crap. Holy crap. Are we…? Is this…?

Suddenly, Xander's stomach was fluttering with nerves. He didn't know what to do. And then Spike spoke.

"So, told you about Cecily, did I?" Spike's voice sounded forced, like maybe he'd been fretting about this ever since Xander mentioned it over at Willow's, and Xander felt kind of bad for that. "I must've been three kinds of drunk to let that slip." Xander glanced over at Spike and noticed that the other man's face had that look again. That "go ahead and mock me, you asshole" look.

Xander wasn't sure exactly what to say that wouldn't make things worse. "Um…no, not drunk. We were just talking."

"Talking," Spike repeated dryly.

Xander frowned. What, he and Spike didn't talk? This was so unbelievable? "Yeah, talking. I was telling you about Anya and…well…I'm not sure exactly which conversation it was, because we talked about so much stuff and I looped so many different times." Spike was looking affronted. Xander realized it probably wasn't very flattering to tell someone you can't remember when exactly they told your their huge tremendous secret.

Fuck. I'm messing it up again. What should I say?

But Spike was just looking at him, his expression inscrutable. Xander looked back at him. He thought about what Willow had said. Do I want this? he wondered to himself, looking at Spike's face. Do I? He looked into Spike's eyes.

Yeah, he thought, feeling a little surprised and somehow relieved. Yeah, I do.

Xander got even more nervous. He could feel his hands trembling slightly and he had nowhere to hide them, sitting there in nothing but his ridiculous plaid boxer shorts. And so he did what he always tended to do when he was really nervous.

He babbled.

"I think you're lucky, actually. Because you really loved Dru, and you really loved Cecily, too, and even if they didn't love you back" – Spike stiffened and Xander thought Oh hell that probably wasn't the right thing to say, was it? but his mouth was already running away with him again – "you still really loved them. You know what it is to be in love. Really in love. But I never have" – because of course I'm not in love with you, oh god, am I? no, I can't be – "I mean, Anya…I think she loved me, in her own way, as much as she can after being a vengeance demon for that long, with all the hating of men and all that, but I don't think I ever really loved her…but she's the closest I ever came, you know? So at least you know how to really love someone, and I think that's admirable, because I don't know if I can do it. I mean, I never have."

Spike was staring at him as if he'd sprouted those slimy antlers again. This time, Xander didn't bother to check. He was reasonably sure the antlers weren't there. It was just Spike looking at him like he was crazy. He was the babbling crazy man. The babbling crazy man who was staring as if hypnotized by the silent vampire at the other end of the couch.

God, just…look at him!

They stared at each other for what seemed like a very long time. When Spike's lips parted as if he was about to speak, Xander just suddenly lunged forward and kissed him, one hand slipping back around Spike's neck to bring him closer. He hadn't even planned it in advance, it was like his body did it without his permission. He was just sitting there, minding his own business, and then suddenly – bam! – there was kissage.

Spike's lips weren't moving, and so Xander did his best to persuade them. He used all his most impressive kissing techniques and rapidly became horrifyingly aware of how few and unimpressive they were. But then Spike's lips softened slightly beneath his, no longer so rigid with surprise, and Xander felt himself relax a little, too. He wanted to pull back, to see Spike's expression, to see whether Spike wanted this, but he was afraid that if he stopped then Spike would pull away and it would be over. And he didn't want it to be over.

Willow was right. I do want this with Spike. It's crazy, but I do.

He licked his tongue tentatively along Spike's lips, and that did something, made Spike make a little noise, a little noise Xander had never heard before, and then Spike's mouth was open and his tongue was stroking Xander's and it felt like the world was spinning and Xander had to anchor himself so he thrust both his hands into Spike's hair and discovered that yeah, it was fluffy, it was soft, but not as soft as he'd thought it would be, but Spike's tongue was just like he'd thought, just like he'd felt in that bizarro world, just as slick and agile and oh god Xander thought he might hyperventilate.

Xander pulled away only very slightly, just enough to take a gasp of air and then dive back in, press his tongue back into Spike's mouth and explore, his fingers flexing in Spike's fluffy, not-so-soft hair, grabbing him, wanting to pull him closer, because being in Spike's mouth wasn't close enough, having Spike's tongue in him wasn't close enough. He was half on top of Spike from the way he'd lunged across the couch, but he couldn't feel the shape of Spike's body through all that damn poofy comforter and that wasn't acceptable, wasn't right. So he slid his hands down out of Spike's hair, slid one down to slip back around to the nape of his neck again, because that spot was just too perfect and Xander wanted to cradle Spike's neck like that all day long, but the other hand slid down into the folds of the comforter to stroke that pale shoulder he'd seen before this kissing insanity started, sliding further to stroke over the chest he'd learned so well during all those time loops, wanting to feel those muscles flex against his hand, wanting to feel Spike's stomach tremble…

And suddenly he found himself on the other side of the couch, limbs splayed, hands empty, his mouth wet and open and confused.

Spike was staring at him, his bare chest rising and falling with rapid breaths. The comforter had become dislodged and now showed most of his upper body, down to one side of his stomach. Xander tried not to look, because this was so not the time, but the look in Spike's eyes kept making him want to look away.

Xander tried to keep his gaze on Spike's as much as possible, though it was difficult. Spike looked like he wanted to kill him, and Xander had no idea why. He was afraid to say something, though, since – knowing him – he would say the absolutely worst possible thing and make things immeasurably worse. Or he'd start babbling again, and that just never helped matters.

But he couldn't just sit there and say nothing, so Xander tried to gather his brains from where they'd been scattered and began hesitantly, "Spike…what…"

But Spike interrupted him immediately, his voice low and gravelly. "I'm not your whore."

Xander's jaw dropped. "WHAT? I didn't…"

Spike was looking pointedly at Xander's tented boxers, one eyebrow raised. "That what your little sob story was about? 'Oh, Spike, poor me. My demon bird's flown the coop and my hand just doesn't do the trick. Since nobody loves you, how 'bout you spread your legs and think of bloody England?'"

Xander hadn't thought his jaw could drop more, but it did. He hoped he wasn't slobbering, because he felt like suddenly this was bizarro world and he had no idea what the hell was going on. On the outside, though, all he managed was to repeat brainlessly, even louder, "WHAT?"

Spike clutched at the comforter in a sort of bid for dignity and stood up, but Xander still saw several flashes of pale bare skin. Spike wasn't wearing anything under there. Once upon a time – say, maybe a couple minutes ago – that might have been incredibly sexy. Now it was just confusing. And kind of depressing.

Xander shook his head as Spike walked to the other side of the room and folded himself into a chair. As far away from Xander as he could get. That's what he did after the first time I kissed him, too, Xander remembered with a pang. But he doesn't remember that, because it was a different loop. This is so fucked.

"Spike," Xander began again, because somebody had to start talking sense here, and it apparently wasn't going to be Spike. Unfortunately, Xander himself had never been particularly skilled in that arena, but he'd give it the old Sunnydale try. "Spike, I wasn't…"

"Wasn't thinking about me?" Spike interrupted archly. "Closin' your eyes and imaginin' one of the big-titted bints off the telly or one of your porno mags? 'Cause I know you weren't after me, Harris."

Okay, now this was getting ridiculous. Spike was making all kinds of stupid assumptions based on nothing at all and Xander was starting to get really frustrated. "I was thinking about you, Spike. I was…"

"Right," Spike sneered. "Because you have such deep 'feelings' for me."

Xander blushed brightly and stammered, "Well, um…"

But Spike interrupted him again. "Why didn't you go after the Bot, Harris? Afraid the witches might curse your willy if they found out?"

Now Xander was confused again. "The Bot? Why would I…"

Spike shrugged a shoulder which was now thoroughly covered. "You lot treat us the same. Least she's got tits. You squeamish 'cause she looks like Buffy?"

Xander clenched his fists and suddenly just…couldn't take it anymore…and kicked the coffee table. It flipped over at the impact, landing bizarrely on its side. It felt good to hit something. He thought Spike might have flinched, but he wasn't sure, because he was too busy being really really ticked. He jumped to his feet and started pacing around the room.

Xander pointed his finger directly at Spike and said firmly, "I do not treat you like the Bot. You're my friend. And I just wanted to…" Well, that part got kind of confused. But he didn't have to worry. Spike was perfectly willing to run with what he'd been given.

"Don't treat me like the Bot, eh? Hm. Then I suppose you don't trot me out for patrol. Don't ignore me as we walk along our merry way. Don't forget all about me when there's no fighting needed. Yeah, you're right." Spike was sneering again. "You don't treat me like the Bot at all. We're great chums, you and I."

Xander was pacing again, his hands still clenched in fists. Why would Spike think this stuff? Do we really treat him like that? Does he really think I think about him like that?

Xander remembered the obvious shock on Spike's face when he'd said Spike was his closest friend in one of the earliest loops. He'd wondered about it at the time, but now it was starting to make a horrible kind of sense.

He'd gotten to know Spike a lot better lately, but Spike didn't remember any of that. All Spike knew was the "companionable silence" from before all this started. And it was becoming increasingly apparent that what Xander had interpreted as companionable silence had only been companionable on one side. On the other side, it had just been silence.

How was he supposed to fix this?

Oh god, this was why he was so pissed off when we had sex during the time loop. Because this is what he thinks of me. This is what he thinks I think of him.

Suddenly, Xander knew that he had to stop this. He walked over to the chair where Spike was sitting, and he knelt down on the floor, trying to look really non-threatening while casting uncertain glances up at Spike's face. Something weird was going on there, making him wonder what Spike had been thinking while Xander had been so lost in thought, coming up with this decision.

"Spike," Xander began, and thought to himself that he seemed to be beginning a lot of sentences that way lately, but none of them ever got finished. He cleared his throat. "Spike, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have…"

But now Spike was staring down at him with his jaw clenched, a small muscle ticking ominously in one sculpted cheek. "No, no," he said with a smile that looked so false it made Xander's chest hurt. "You want me, Harris? You've got me. Don't think it'll be what you expected, though. I'm no bottom-boy."

Xander shook his head quickly, determined to do the right thing. "I don't think that's a good idea." Maybe we could start out with a nice game of pool. Yeah. Get Spike used to the idea of being billiard buddies before we go straight to the naked groping and anal penetration.

Spike grinned at him, but his eyes were dead and cold. "Right. Thought that would send you running. 'Cause Spike's not what you were looking for at all, Harris."

Xander looked up at Spike's face and started to feel pissed off again. "Yes, you were," he ground out stubbornly, keeping his eyes trained on Spike's. "You were the one I wanted, Spike. So quit being such a fucking jerk about it."

Spike rose gracefully to his feet, the comforter falling behind him to pool on the chair and floor. He stood there completely naked and spread his arms wide, head cocked slightly in some sort of challenge. "You want me, eh, Harris? Fine. Let's do this. See how far we get before you run."

Kneeling as he was, Xander was suddenly uncomfortably close to Spike's dangling bits. He scooted back in a rather undignified crab- like movement and stood up. "You seem…I don't think it would be a good idea right now. Maybe we should stop and…"

Spike grinned that cold grin again. "Oh, no need to stop, Harris. If you want my cock, you'll get it. Never let it be said that I wouldn't oblige a Scooby. It's my sole purpose these days, ain't it?"

Xander frowned and began to say something, but then Spike abruptly moved across the room and was right in his face and was kissing him, hard, hard, rough, grinding their mouths together, pressing lips into teeth, angry and frustrated and it was still so hot that Xander felt like he might faint.

And in that moment, with Spike's fingers clutching his head, Spike's tongue plundering his mouth, Spike's naked body tense against him, and all of it filled with some sort of desperation, some sort of mysterious rushing hatred…in that moment, Xander figured something out. Yeah, it was like a miracle, but occasionally he did have his moments of clarity. And what he figured out was this: Spike is trying to prove something here, trying to scare me off to prove I don't want him, prove I only wanted to use him, prove that he really is invisible. That he really doesn't matter.

Well, fuck that.

Xander took a step forward, even though there wasn't really enough room to do so, and kissed Spike back just as hard, their bodies pressed tightly together now, as Xander let his hands wander up Spike's sides to his shoulders, back to the sharp angles of his shoulder blades, down along the hollow of his spine. He kissed him back just as hard, just as rough, just as desperate.

Spike pulled away, taking a slight step back, and stared at Xander in obvious confusion. He frowned after a moment. His eyes shifted minutely back and forth, searching Xander's gaze for something. And then his chin lifted again, just the tiniest bit, and he bit out one word: "Strip."

He looks like he expects me to run screaming from the room, my heterosexual virtue fluttering. And a couple days ago, I probably would have. How weird is that?

Xander pulled his boxers down, a bit embarrassed that his dick was already mostly hard. It wasn't just the kissing. It was the remembering, too. Remembering all those other times that Spike didn't remember. And the knowing. Knowing it would be good, because he'd already been there.

When Xander looked up from de-pantsing himself, Spike was still staring at him. He still looked pissed, like Xander wasn't following his part of some script for how this scene was supposed to go. At least, that's how Xander interpreted the look. Maybe it meant something else entirely. Hell, maybe he was pissed off at the lack of hair gel. It could happen.

Spike grabbed Xander's wrist and pulled his arm forward roughly. "Touch my cock," he demanded. Xander's own cock jerked slightly in response, a little jump of joy at being ordered around. Xander thought, not for the first time, I am one sick puppy. And then he wrapped his fingers around Spike's dick and squeezed. Spike let go of his wrist and gasped a little whispery breath of air which Xander took as encouragement, and so he set up a slow stroke. The foreskin made it easy, no need for lube to keep his grip moving smoothly, he just pulled his hand up and down in the sort of leisurely rhythm he liked to use on himself when he was just getting started.

Spike had closed his eyes now and was breathing noticeably. His left hand was tight on Xander's shoulder, gripping him hard enough to probably leave bruises. It wasn't long before, with a muttered curse, he batted Xander's hand away and then started kissing him again, kissing him so hard Xander could hardly think, but somewhere in the back of his mind he realized that they were moving. Xander was sort of stumbling along – walking with eyes closed had never been one of his best skills, particularly since it tended to be rather inadvisable in Sunnydale – but Spike was guiding him along as if they were engaged in some sort of dance. And then they stopped, and Xander felt something – maybe the bedroom door – against his back, and Spike's attack on his mouth grew in intensity. Xander couldn't help but answer in kind. Their mouths rubbed against each other in desperate bids to allow their tongues better access, resulting in an intensely sexual mating of their tongues, slickly writhing against each other, hard and twisting and Xander could feel his hips bucking against Spike's, because this was just too good, but it had been a really long time since he'd breathed and…oh, maybe that was why he was getting so light-headed. Maybe it wasn't just Spike's tongue. Maybe he was going to pass out from lack of oxygen.

So Xander jerked his head back and took a gulp of air, smashing the back of his head against the door at the same time. His bump collided with the wood in a rush of pain, making Xander grimace, his eyes shutting as he gasped, "Ouch!"

And then he stood with his eyes closed for a moment, his hand raised to gently touch the painful bump. I'll be back in the cemetery now, right? Talking about Jonathan Richman? No more naked Spike who thinks I treat him like a whore? He wasn't sure if he wanted that or not.

But when he opened his eyes, Xander only saw a very tense Spike watching him intently. And, yeah, they were both still naked. And they were in his bedroom. Xander was puzzled for a moment, but then he remembered Willow's spell. Let's hear it for the Wicca power! No more looping for me!

Spike was still staring at him, searching his eyes again, looking for something Xander couldn't name. Xander tried to put aside all his other scrambling, whirling thoughts and just look at Spike, trying to put everything he could into his eyes. Trying to show Spike that he did respect him, that he liked him, that he really did want to be here, whatever that ended up meaning.

Spike's eyes narrowed and he lifted his chin slightly, then turned to walk across the room toward the bed. Xander watched him go, watched the ripple and flex of muscles along the back of his body. Spike's body was beautiful. Maybe he hadn't realized that a couple days ago, but he couldn't help but notice it now.

Spike turned to look at Xander and raised one eyebrow, asking abruptly, "Got any lube?"

Xander almost smiled. That familiar question, when now he understood why Spike was being so rude…he felt a sudden rush of compassion and guilt. But the best way that he could prove to Spike how he really felt was by going along with this…this…challenge. Because no matter how he phrased it, any attempt to end this would be taken as rejection, as proof of all Spike's damned assumptions.

So Xander nodded and said firmly, "In the cabinet by the bed." And he smiled, willing Spike to see that this wasn't the power struggle he thought it was.

But Spike was busy rummaging around in the bedside drawer. When he pulled out a small bottle of lube and tossed it onto the bed, he stared straight at Xander and said harshly, "That'll come in handy when I fuck you in the ass." He crossed his arms over his bare chest.

It was at that moment that Xander realized that this time it was really going to happen. He wasn't going to be watching or remembering or looping or whatever…this time it was going to be him and Spike, for real. This was different. This was really different. And he blushed. He could hear a bit of a tremor in his voice when he replied, "Yeah, I guess it will."

He watched Spike from across the room and noticed what seemed like small signs of nerves. Spike's tongue licked his lips quickly. He swallowed, his adam's apple bobbing noticeably. He unfolded his arms, and then didn't seem to know quite what to do with his hands. All these signs endeared him even more to Xander, made him want to race over there and grab Spike and kiss him and somehow make him believe that things really weren't the way he thought they were.

But this was Spike's show. He wouldn't believe Xander anyway. He'd probably just believe it was more mockery. So the best he could do was follow Spike's lead. Keep doing what Spike said to do, despite Spike's obvious expectation that he would run away crying like a little homophobic girl.

And so he stood there. The lube seemed to glow like a beacon in the middle of the bed. Every time he glanced at it, Xander felt his dick get even harder. But mostly he couldn't keep his eyes off of Spike, who had walked over to lean against the tall footboard of the bed. He was sort of lounging now, one hand on the bedpost, and he commanded arrogantly, "Then come over here and suck me off." Xander recognized that Big Bad tone. Spike was going for the only kind of dignity he knew. Well, Xander didn't mind. He'd felt his heart race at the command, felt his dick throb even more insistently.

Yeah. I like it when Spike tells me what to do. Bet he never expected that one. Well…surprise!

Xander walked slowly across the room, his eyes always on Spike's face, hoping desperately that he hadn't left anything laying around on the floor to trip him and make him look like a moron. But, luckily, he walked unimpeded until he reached Spike's feet. Since Spike was leaning slightly against the footboard, his legs jutted out in front of him, and so Xander simply kept coming closer, walking his feet to either side to allow Spike's legs to rest inside Xander's thighs. When he was close enough, he watched Spike's eyes for a long moment, trying to guess whether this would make things better or worse. When he found no answer, he simply took a chance. He leaned forward and initiated another kiss.

This time, there was something different about Spike. He was just as rough, just as demanding, but there was something hungry, something…yearning, maybe. Something hopeful. Xander felt pretty sure Spike would have immediately gotten dressed and left if he suspected he was communicating any such thing through the touch of his lips.

They kissed a long time, because Xander couldn't get enough. He'd waited so long to be able to really kiss Spike. Him, not his memory looping self. Him. Kissing Spike. And every time it happened it seemed like a miracle. He roughly probed Spike's tongue with his own, learning its contours and movements. He stroked the roof of Spike's mouth, behind his teeth, inside his lips, everywhere he could think of, because he wanted to know it all. And Spike was no less demanding. Frequently, their tongues met and fought for dominance, a struggle that always ended in a sensual compromise of firm sliding and slipping and exploring that left them both weak. At least, Xander hoped it was both of them, because he'd never felt so affected by a kiss in his life. Not even this kiss, when he was seeing it in the loops. Everything was different when he was really here, choosing what to do at each moment. It definitely heightened his arousal.

And his arousal really wasn't needing much help at this point. While they kissed, his cock rubbed occasionally against Spike's stomach, occasionally glancing a touch against Spike's cock which made them both jerk in reaction.

When he couldn't wait any longer to take a breath, Xander pulled his lips away from Spike's, noticing that his hands were now grasping Spike's shoulders, and that Spike's hands were tight on his hips, pulling their erections closer together. Xander looked up into Spike's face and noticed that his expression was a bit strange. He looked surprised, sure, but he also looked almost…worried. Afraid, maybe. He was watching Xander with eyes that were a bit shiny. And then he did that thing again, that slight lift to his chin. Yeah, waiting for the smack-down.

Xander smiled slightly – a smile he hoped was mischievous and flirty instead of dorky – and began slowly sliding down Spike's body. He allowed his palms and fingers to trail over shoulders, pecs, that lovely hollow down the center between Spike's defined abs, and those incredible abs themselves. Xander still wanted to bite them…but he knew this wasn't the time. This was for Spike. Maybe some other time he'd get a chance to do all the other things he'd thought about. Or maybe this would be the only time. Either way, this one was for Spike.

Spike's body was trembling lightly at his touch, and when Xander wrapped a hand around that familiar cock and took it into his mouth, Spike's mouth opened on a gasp of surprise, his eyes wide with undisguised disbelief. And then, as Xander caressed that hard flesh with his tongue, bringing it further and further into his mouth, Spike swallowed convulsively, his eyes fluttering closed.

Xander kept his eyes rolled up to watch Spike's face – see? I'm not closing my eyes and pretending you're anyone else, Spike – stroking and sucking Spike's cock as if he'd been doing it all his life. He'd done it a couple dozen times before, after all. And the practice had helped, not just in keeping him from freaking out. He also knew a few tricks now, things that made Spike buck and swear and moan.

Watching Spike's face the entire time, Xander found himself becoming more and more excited. Sometimes Spike looked down to meet his gaze, and when he did his eyes were dazed and dark. But he never held Xander's gaze for long, because Xander always found some way to get to him, some way to send those lashes fluttering closed again: gently squeezing Spike's balls to make him groan, stroking his shaft while sucking especially hard on the head to make him jerk and curse, licking and sucking Spike's balls to make him moan and pant.

And then suddenly Xander was pushed away, Spike's arms wrapping around him and moving him with ungentle shoves and pushes until he knelt on the fake Persian rug on his hands and knees. "Stay there," Spike growled at him, and then went away for a moment, only to return to kneel snug behind him, just between his legs. Xander almost held his breath. That touch was coming. Any second now.

When Spike's slick hand reached around and grasped his cock, Xander barely contained a shout. He'd gotten so worked up while sucking Spike off, this was almost enough to make him come. He wriggled desperately against Spike's body behind him, and Spike's cock left wet trails against his buttocks. Xander moaned low in his throat, trying to hold back his own mounting excitement as Spike stroked him. He wanted Spike to be in him. He had to hold on until then.

Spike's slippery finger against his asshole made him jerk and gasp. Spike continued to work Xander's cock, but now began to slide a finger into Xander's ass as well. Xander wanted to yell, Get on with it! Hurry up! I want it, so let's go!…but none of those seemed appropriate responses right now, given Spike's hesitancy. So he knelt there, often allowing his head to hang loose as he struggled with the intensity of his own feelings, and let Spike slowly get him opened up. The fingers inside him were slick and wonderful, but not as wonderful as Spike's cock. Still, whenever Spike rubbed inside him in certain ways, Xander couldn't help but buck and groan and barely restrain himself from begging for more.

"I'd just fuck you now if the chip would let me," Spike said harshly. "I'd hurt you, ride you hard, none of this slow and gentle crap." Spike's voice was low and rough. "Never had anybody in your ass, hey? You'd be tight and hot and you'd scream when I pounded in."

But Xander now knew that was a load of crap. Because his body was already loose enough to hold Spike's cock. Spike had already been slow and gentle, and now he was just trying to scare Xander again, like some display of bravado or some last-ditch effort to save a situation gone far astray of his expectations.

Suddenly, the hand which had been on Xander's cock was gripping the back of his neck, still slick with lube but now holding him in a punishingly tight grip. He pushed Xander's head down so that his cheek was pressed against the rug, his ass raised obscenely high behind him, then Spike spat angrily, "Here's your last chance, boy. Run now or you'll be losing your cherry in about two seconds."

Xander bit down on a frustrated sigh at Spike's continuing macho vampire posturing. Those slippery fingers had stilled their movement inside him – Spike was probably waiting for that cut-and-run he'd been expecting from the beginning – and so, instead, Xander wiggled slightly to encourage Spike to keep going. With his cheek against the floor, he couldn't see much, but he felt Spike still behind him, waiting.

The silence stretched out for several moments. Xander felt like an idiot with his head pressed to the floor, his butt up in the air, and a pissed-off insecure vampire waiting for him to say something wrong. Spike couldn't seem to accept that Xander wanted this.

Oh…that might help.

"Please, Spike," Xander said softly. And he tried to put everything he was feeling into those two words. I want this, Spike. I want you, Spike. I want to feel you inside me. Please.

He felt Spike tremble slightly behind him. The hand released his neck 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, his eyes looking a little shiny.

Spike's head was tilted slightly, his expression almost childlike in its confusion and disbelief. He stared into Xander's eyes as if he were looking for something that he didn't truly hope to find. Something he didn't actually believe existed.

Xander felt the fingers slide out of his body and a thickness press against him instead. Spike was still watching Xander's eyes, and this time he heard Spike murmur so quietly that he almost didn't hear him – apparently hadn't heard him during the looping memories – just the softest wondering breath that said, "I didn't think you'd…" but Spike didn't finish the thought, just kept his eyes on Xander's as he slowly began to press forward, only the tiniest amount, but Xander felt Spike's cock begin its slide inside him and moaned softly.

He wanted more. And he wanted Spike to kiss him again. He wanted to feel that insane spin of pleasure at the same time that Spike's body moved into his.

He watched Spike's face and pointedly licked his lips, watching Spike's eyes follow the movement. And then Spike was leaning forward just as he'd hoped and Xander was craning his neck around and their lips met as Spike began to slide slowly further inside. The position was awkward, but Spike's hand slid from his neck up to cradle his head, taking most of their weight on his other arm.

Their kiss grew more heated and Spike's cock began to slide in and out in increasingly desperate strokes, causing their lips and teeth to meet in awkward bumps, but neither of them moved to end the kiss. Instead, Spike's hand on his head began to press him closer just as Spike's cock pressed into him a bit deeper, making Xander arch his back, moaning, so close…so close…and then Spike pressed him close again, pressing too hard on the bump on the back of Xander's head, making Xander wince slightly and think, Youch!

8 Free and Clear.


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

This time, Xander really did trip and almost fell right on his ass, but Spike caught his arm just in time, leaving him pressed up against Spike, looking right into his eyes, his heart pounding in his chest. Xander froze.

But Spike let go of him when he seemed to have regained his footing, and Xander looked away, his thoughts racing. He couldn't believe he'd looped again. He'd thought Willow's spell had it all taken care of. He'd thought…

He'd thought that maybe Spike was finally starting to believe him.

When he looked back at Spike again, he couldn't help searching the other man's eyes, looking for the emotions he'd never noticed before. But Spike's face was carefully blank. Yeah. He probably got used to not trusting us – me – a long time ago. Xander's chest ached painfully.

Fuck. If I have to start over, at least this Spike doesn't think I see him as a whore. At least I can try and avoid that mistake again.

He remembered the pain and accusation on Spike's face, the self- loathing in his voice, the pure disbelief that Xander might actually want to touch him, the absolute assurance that he was nothing but an object to them, a tool, a Bot.

Unfortunately, just standing around in the cemetery thinking about this was going to get them killed. Xander cleared his throat. Here we go again. "Hey, Spike? I know this is going to sound weird, but we need to get to Willow's right away. I'll explain why when we get there."

Spike looked curious, but shrugged and followed Xander toward the tunnels. Just a patrol Bot, Xander thought to himself. Goes where we tell him. Does what we tell him. Fuck. How could I not have noticed?

It was while they were splashing through unidentifiable sewage that Xander rasped out, "Thanks for saving my life, Spike." He was facing straight ahead as they hurried through the darkness, his vision just a little blurred by…something in his eye.

"Which time, whelp?" Spike sounded sarcastic and smug, making a mild joke at Xander's expense, sort of the extent of their friendship. At least, on Spike's end.

Xander tried to put everything he was feeling into his voice. "All of 'em," he replied seriously. "Every single time."

Spike was silent for a while. The only sound was their feet splashing through the water and the occasional squeak of what Xander really hoped were rats, because anything else would be even worse.

Splash. Splash splash squeak squeak. Splash splash splash. Squeak. Splash. Splash splash squish. Ew.

After what seemed like forever, Spike finally just said quietly, "You're welcome." And they continued on without saying anything more.

When they got to Willow's, the three of them sat in the living room with cups of coffee and Xander told them about the time looping. He knew he probably sounded bored and frustrated and annoyed with telling the same damn story AGAIN when he'd hoped he was through with all this, but he just didn't have a lot of strength in him right now to act like he was fine. He told them about the Jnok!'ha demons and the Jewel of Grathnak and the getting repeatedly killed and the time distortion. He also couldn't help but tell them that he had already told them this story a few times before and he was thinking about getting explanatory flyers printed up because he was really tired of his own spiel.

And then there came the moment when Xander realized he was going to have to do something uncomfortable. Well, two uncomfortable things, actually. He was going to have to tell Willow about the sex stuff, and he was going to have to tell Spike to go away while he did it. While Willow and Spike discussed possible methods of destroying the Jewel, Xander thought and thought. And then he realized there wasn't going to be any really good solution.

"Uh, hey, Spike?" he said nervously. Please don't let me hurt his feelings. Please don't let him think I'm ordering him around like a servant or a…a patrol robot or something. "There's some sort of magic-specific stuff I need to talk about with Willow, but we might as well divide up our efforts. Maybe you can keep looking for more about this Jewel of Grathnak while she and I go talk in the kitchen?"

Transparent! That's so transparent! It's like…Saran Wrap, it's so transparent! It's like the Invisible Man! Like a jellyfish! It's like a really really see-through transparent thing!

Spike narrowed his eyes, but nodded and pulled a book onto his lap, settling in to search for information about how to destroy the Jewel. Xander mentally wiped his forehead with relief.

Once in the kitchen, he sat down at the table and faced Willow and told her everything in hushed tones, hoping Spike wouldn't hear if he spoke quietly enough. And, okay, he didn't tell her everything everything, because he left out most of the details, but he told her enough that her face gradually became an interesting shade of fuchsia which clashed horribly with her orange chenille bathrobe.

"It sounds," she said, and her voice sounded a little strained, like she was trying to pretend this was all perfectly normal when it really really wasn't, "like my spell maybe messed things up a bit." She gave him her "oops" face, and it was so cute that he had no defense against it. "I think the spell might have lasted for a little while, but then worn off. So when you bumped your head the first time, you started some sort of…um…loop recording or something…but you didn't actually loop. And then when the spell wore off, you looped when you bumped your head again."

Xander gazed at her with complete incomprehension in his eyes. Me no understand. Me big dumb monkey. Me need pictures? Pictures show?

Willow took a sip of her coffee and gave him big apologetic eyes. "Just…it looks like the sex thing was repeating because of my spell. At least, that's my guess." She smiled her "oops" smile again and Xander rolled his eyes with a chuckle.

"Well, gee, thanks, Will," he deadpanned. "I owe you a lot. Like my whole new sexual identity." She looked really confused. "If that stupid sex thing hadn't happened over and over and over again, I never would have developed this weird 'thing' for Spike."

Willow's eyes got big and she glanced toward the living room, then back at Xander. "You really…?"

Xander shrugged and looked down. Oh, there's that interesting blister on my thumb! "Yeah." He smiled ruefully. Then he lowered his voice to almost a whisper and insisted, "But he doesn't know. And he doesn't…he thinks…it's just going to be complicated."

Then Xander had a sudden thought and his face fell. He looked down at the tabletop, then back at Willow. He whispered softly, "I don't even know if he likes guys, or if he was just…just doing that to try to…I don't know…win some kind of macho contest." Xander swallowed painfully. "Maybe we can at least be friends." He licked his lips and glanced toward the living room. "I do know that if I want to…if I…I'm going to have to go slow, 'cause Spike's got all these ideas about…me…and us…and…everything."

Willow nodded supportively, putting on her "best friend" face, which looked particularly adorable beneath the extreme bedhead. "But you're sure you want to…with Spike?" She looked serious. Concerned Willow, Friend Extraordinaire.

Xander looked down at the fascinating tabletop and nodded again. "If Spike wants to. Eventually. I guess. Yeah."

Suddenly Willow grinned. "So you're going to have to like…romance him, right?"

Xander blushed and looked away. "Oh, yeah. I'm the big Don Juan. Maybe I'll give him a necklace so he can throw it back in my face. Or maybe I can cast a love spell on every vampire in Sunnydale."

Willow's face was alight with excitement. "I can help!" At Xander's raised eyebrows, she clarified quickly, "Not magic help. Just…friend help. Romance help."

Xander smirked slightly and quipped, "I don't know if your idea of romance and Spike's have much in common, Will." But then he remembered what Spike had told him about being a poet when he was human. Xander wouldn't tell Willow – or anyone else – about that, but it did give him a bit of hope for the whole romance thing.

Not that Xander was going to go writing any poetry, because that would nix things for sure.

Xander cleared his throat. Time for a change of subject. "So…uh…destroying this Jewel should stop the time looping?"

Willow frowned. "I think so. It seems pretty clear, but these old books aren't all that reliable on the details."

"Sounds like we should include Spike in this conversation, so let's head back," Xander suggested. But as they stood he took hold of Willow's arm and said quietly, "But don't tell anybody, okay? Not even Tara. Because if you tell Tara, then eventually Dawn will find out, and then she'll be giggling every time she sees Spike, and then Spike'll figure it out, and it'll be like junior high all over again. And Spike'll write me a note to tell me he hates me and have you pass it to me in Health class and then the teacher'll intercept the note and read it out in front of everyone and…"

Willow laughed, shaking her head and holding up a hand. "I get it. I get it." She didn't look very happy about keeping something from her girlfriend, but Xander met her stare and hoped she could see how serious he was, despite the babbling. He must have won, because she nodded reluctantly and crossed a finger over her heart, whispering, "Promise." Then she gave him a little smile, and Xander hugged her tight.

Back out in the living room, Spike had found some new info on the Jewel. Willow sat down to read the new stuff he'd found, along with the books and pages Xander had been able to recommend from previous loops. At a certain point, Willow decided to go wake Tara, and they both came downstairs fully dressed.

"I think we should go soon," Willow said seriously. "I know the demons are still out there, but we need to destroy this Jewel or Xander might loop again."

Xander interrupted quickly to add, "And that would be BAD. Oh, and nobody touch the back of my head, while you're at it."

Willow nodded and gave everyone the run-down. The plan was to head out armed for any encounter with the demons, so Spike and Xander would carry blades coated in alcohol.

"Wait," Xander said suddenly. "I don't think Spike should go. He should stay here and guard Dawn. We can take the Bot, instead."

Spike turned to look at him, obviously pissed as hell. "I'm not staying behind, whelp. If there's fighting to be done, I'm going."

Xander gritted his teeth. Then he pulled Spike aside and told him quietly, "I've seen these guys kill you dozens of times now. I think it would be better if you stayed here."

Spike screwed up his face in disdain. "Since when have any of you lot given a toss whether I was dust or not?"

Xander look Spike straight in the eyes and said, "I care. And I don't want you getting dusted again. Not because of me."

Spike gave him a strange look, sort of confused, sort of impatient, sort of waiting for the punch line. Then he replied only very abruptly, "I'm going." He pulled away from Xander and turned toward Willow. "How many we need, eh?"

Willow glanced uncertainly at Xander, then back at Spike. "Um…I guess Tara and me for the magic stuff, since we aren't quite sure what we're getting into…and Xander, since he's touched the Jewel and might be able to help us find it. And…" she glanced again at Xander, uncertain, "I guess we probably need one other fighter. Maybe two. Maybe both you and the Bot?"

Spike stiffened slightly. Xander had always assumed that he was uncomfortable around the Bot because it reminded him of Buffy, but now he wondered if it might be a lot more than that. He figured it probably was.

"No," Xander butted in suddenly. "I don't think we need the Bot." Spike shot him a surprised glance. "Leave the Bot here to keep an eye on Dawn. We'll be back before sunrise, anyway."

Willow shrugged obligingly and said, "That seems like a plan."

So she and Willow grabbed some various supplies that seemed like they might be useful, and Spike and Xander dug into the weapons chest. Once again, Spike stashed blades all over inside his coat, and once again Xander had to make do with a couple of large knives.

"Hey, you think you could show me how to customize my jacket?" he asked Spike. "It would be good to be able to carry more knives like that, when we're headed into big fights."

Spike nodded easily. "Only takes a few loops here and there, some leather pockets to keep you from getting cut. I'll show you."

Xander grinned. "Great! Thanks!" A step toward non-Botness! Almost a friend-like thing!

The walk through the cemetery was eerie. Well, it was eerie for Xander, but he figured it was probably business as usual for everyone else. But for him…he kept seeing certain areas of the cemetery and remembering battles that no one with him had seen. It was like those battles didn't even exist, except inside Xander. He felt sort of like one of those war survivors…they've gone through all this intense stuff that bonds them to their fellow soldiers…except Xander's fellow soldier didn't remember any of it. So Xander felt all bondy…but Spike didn't.

It was sort of…lonely.

When the demons showed up, it was even more anti-climactic than last time, because Xander didn't really feel any need to make a show of killing the Creepy Little Guy. He and Spike together polished off the demons in only a few minutes' time, and Tara and Willow were suitably impressed, especially with Xander's heretofore unknown knife-throwing ability. "One of the perks of time-looping," he grinned, glad he'd gotten a chance to show off. He wondered if Spike had noticed. And then they were all continuing on through the cemetery, green-foaming demon corpses in their wake.

They finally got back to the Rolletti crypt, where Spike and Xander had first battled the spiny demons before Xander's first time loop. Xander looked around and tried to find the place where he'd been thrown onto the ground. Suddenly, his heart was racing, pounding, as if he'd been running for his life. "It's nearby," he gasped, clutching his chest. "My heart is beating fast."

Willow and Tara quickly cast a spell to reveal magical objects in the vicinity, and a rock on the ground began to glow faintly. Xander gingerly leaned down to pick it up, but his heart beat as if it would leap out of his chest and the bump on the back of his head was suddenly shooting sharp pain through his head. He almost fell down.

Staggering back, Xander explained, "I can't touch it. My heart is freaking out and my head is splitting."

Spike glanced at Willow. "This thing gonna start me hopping around in time if I touch it?"

Willow shook her head. "We've got protection spells on all of us. Plus, the spell we cast to find it should make it sort of…weakened…for a few minutes. So it shouldn't have much power now."

Spike nodded, glanced at the fairly normal-looking rock that just happened to be glowing a faint pink, and then asked, "So how exactly you want me to destroy this thing?"

Willow grimaced slightly. "We didn't actually find anything specific about how to do that. I hoped it would be clearer when we got here."

Spike added dryly, "But it's not."

Willow shook her head apologetically.

"Well," Spike said, straightening his shoulders and pulling himself to his full height, "here goes nothing." And then he leapt into the air, landing with both Doc Marten'ed feet on the rock. It seemed to sort of shimmer…but it didn't go away. So Spike proceeded to stomp on the thing over and over again. One foot. Both feet. Switch to the other foot. Each time, the rock shimmered but didn't break.

Finally, Xander stepped forward and said, "It seems connected to me, so maybe I can help. Maybe I can touch the rock at the same time as you try to break it."

"Nah. Nearly sent you to the emergency room the first time you tried that." Spike frowned in thought for a moment, then reached out unexpectedly and grabbed Xander's wrist. And then with a wicked grin, he kept hold of Xander while he leapt into the air again and landed with both booted feet on top of the rock, which abruptly shattered, leaving no visible remnants.

Xander let out a whoop of triumph and leapt into the air, grabbing Spike into a celebratory one-armed hug, grinning. Spike patted him a bit, as if humoring him, and then released him right away, looking uncomfortable.

"How's your head?" asked Willow immediately, and Xander reached up his hand to feel for the bump. Then he smacked himself in the back of the head, just to be sure. Okay, yes, pain, but not time-loop pain in my ass sort of pain.

"The bump's gone!" he shouted. "It's gone! No more looping for me, mister! No more looping for me!"

Everyone was watching him with little smiles on their faces, but Willow suggested that she and Tara both see if they could sense any of the Jewel's magic still lingering on him. After they'd made a thorough magical investigation, the verdict was that he was free and clear.

"Woo hoo!" yelled Xander. "Yeah, baby! I'm free!" He wanted to dance Spike all around, celebrating the fact that they wouldn't be dying anymore, but Spike didn't remember any of the dying, so he didn't really have anything to celebrate. Plus, he'd probably think Xander was making fun of him or something.

That was a sobering thought.

Yeah, there was still the Spike problem. Xander found himself pondering it as the group of them headed back to the house. They needed to get Spike inside before sunrise, and Xander wanted them all together for some kind of breakfast or something to celebrate. Like a group thing. Specifically with Spike.

Okay. So I've tried this whole me-and-Spike thing a couple of different ways. And last time I apparently made Spike feel like a whore. Let's not do that one again. Like, ever. Um…unless he likes that sort of thing. Okay, don't need those mental pictures right now. Nobody'll notice if I straighten my jeans just a bit right? Okay, so I was thinking about something innocent, right? Something innocent…about Spike…why does that sound so insane? But if I want to see if he…well…then I guess I'm supposed to romance him? What the heck am I supposed to know about romancing somebody…let alone a hundred- year-old male vampire?

Xander glanced up and saw that Willow had discreetly pulled Tara a bit ahead of them, giving him and Spike just a bit of privacy. Xander smiled a tiny secret smile at her back. She was a good friend. And this was so pathetically junior high. Then he glanced over at Spike, who was striding along just like always.

Spike was, as usual, tossing his knife casually. Toss. Catch. Toss. Catch. And Xander got an idea.

On one of the tosses, Xander caught the knife in the air, making Spike turn to him in surprise. Xander tossed the knife in the air and caught it neatly. He'd never done the tossing thing – only the throwing at murderous spiny demons thing – but apparently the practice had paid off. He felt terribly excited that it had worked. I'm Xander the knife-tossing guy! But he tried to play it cool.

He tossed Spike's knife again and caught it, saying casually, "So. Want to go see Jonathan Richman at The Bronze tomorrow?"

Spike grabbed his knife on Xander's next toss and scowled, "Why would I want to do that?"

Xander shrugged, looking straight ahead as they returned to walking behind Willow and Tara. "I don't know. I sort of like those poet punk types."

He looked over and saw that Spike's eyes were narrowed, watching him with something like suspicion, something like defensiveness, something like anger…something maybe like fear. Xander just smiled, trying to look as harmless as possible, and added, "Not like there's a lot of other stuff going on, anyway."

Spike looked away and started tossing his knife again, as if the rhythm were somehow comforting. "Sure," he said, affecting great boredom. "Should be good for a laugh."

And Xander smiled at him.

The End

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