Late Night Double Feature

Kimberly A

17 Bargaining

Xander took it easy for a week. Didn't go in to work. Apparently the hospital had phoned the site manager directly and given strict orders that he take a week off.

So he spent his time mostly watching TV. Dawn came over after school each day and told him all the teenage gossip she usually shared with Spike. Xander had no idea what she was talking about most of the time, but he was glad for the company, so he just smiled and nodded and gasped in all the right places.

Willow and Tara came by together a few times, and Willow came alone once, too. She kept picking at him, though, trying to get him to talk to her about Spike, and he didn't want to talk about that whole mess right now, so he ended up faking a headache to get her to leave.

Everybody came over for video night three times that week. It was a new record. And "everybody" included Spike, though he fidgeted a lot and went outside to smoke more times than usual.

Spike didn't come over on his own, but everyone else mentioned him. "Spike asked me how you're doing." "Spike seems really moody lately." "Spike's been patrolling every night, looking for the Bregni demons." "Spike said he might come with me to visit today, but then something came up."

Every word about Spike seemed like a hidden message. Secret code.

He wasn't supposed to drive and he got really bored in the apartment, so the girls took him out to the movies twice and brought him over to their house once. He was kicking back on their couch, drinking hot chocolate Willow had made from scratch (in honor of his visit) when Spike showed up. It was pretty obvious from the panicked look on Spike's face that he hadn't known Xander was going to be there.

"Hey," said Xander, like nothing was weird.

"Hey," replied Spike, lingering in the entryway. He glanced nervously toward the kitchen. Come to think of it, the girls were rather curiously absent. Those sneaks.

"So…" Xander began, not quite sure where he was going with this, "my incarceration comes to a glorious end tomorrow."

Spike nodded awkwardly. "Right. Like new, are you?"

Xander shrugged. "I've been feeling pretty good for the past few days. I'm just taking it easy so the Scooby Nursing Brigade doesn't give me too much shit."

Spike nodded. Whenever he looked at Xander, his eyes were dark and vulnerable. Xander wanted to fix him…make him not look like that. But Spike had been strange since the two days he spent with Xander after the concussion. He'd been sort of awkward and easily startled. And whenever Xander caught his eye, he quickly looked away like he'd been caught doing something wrong.

"So I was thinking," Xander said, trying to look Spike in the eye despite the attempted evasions, "patrol as usual tomorrow?"

Spike looked at him straight-on, then, not blinking, obviously surprised. Then his expression transitioned more into confused. Or maybe concerned.

"Patrol as usual" was, of course, a ridiculous thing to say. He and Spike hadn't patrolled together – except for the night of the Bregni- induced concussion – for ages. But Xander wanted things to be right again. He wanted to find a way to make them right again, and this was as good a place to start as any.

Spike looked about to say something, probably something about how Xander was hurt and he shouldn't blah blah blah overly-protectivecakes. So Xander leapt in and said, "I've spent an entire week just sitting around, even though I feel fine. I'm ready to hit the cemeteries."

Spike walked slowly into the room and sat down in one of the chairs, closer to Xander's position on the couch, but still at a safe distance. He seemed deep in thought, looking down at his hands and frowning. But eventually he looked up, actually looked right at Xander without letting his eyes slip away like they'd been doing lately, and he said, "All right then."

And Xander smiled. "All right then," he repeated. "Patrol tomorrow night."

Of course, it wasn't that easy.

Even after they'd been patrolling together again for a couple weeks, it hadn't fixed things the way Xander had hoped. Things were still weird. He occasionally looked out his window and thought he saw Spike across the street, watching the apartment from behind a telephone pole, which was weird enough, but when they were around each other Spike was still skittish.

They were stiff with each other, formal, cautious, serious, quick to take offense. Patrol was very tense.

They were walking through Shady Hills when Spike actually had the guts to mention it. He was flipping his knife and catching it. Flip and catch. Flip and catch. Familiar. And then, "Not really friends anymore, are we?"

Xander was startled. But he admitted reluctantly, "No, not really."

Spike didn't reply right away, but then, "Think we could be, again?"

Xander couldn't help remembering the sections in Spike's journal about not having friends, and not wanting to lose Xander's friendship. Xander had worried about the same thing…it's why he didn't tell about the time loop sooner.

And yet things had somehow ended up like this. Exactly what they'd both wanted to avoid.

"I don't know," he replied with a sigh. "Maybe if we could catch a time-loop back and do it all different."

"I'm afraid you're the only one who had that luxury, mate. Most of us fuck things up, they just stay fucked."

They walked for a while, not talking. Spike was still flipping his knife and catching it. The glimmer of the spinning silver reminded Xander of the time loop, and how different Spike was then.

Hell, maybe they both were different then.

Xander rubbed his forehead in frustration and finally said what he was really thinking. "I don't know, Spike. I don't know if we can, because how are we ever supposed to be friends after this? You hit me."

Spike stopped walking and turned to look at him, head tilted, body language suddenly pissed as hell. "Yeah, well, you lied to me. For months."

Xander frowned. "That's different."

"Both hurt, don't they?"

They just stood there, silent, staring at each other in the darkness of the cemetery, the moonlight shining down on them so that Xander could clearly see the pain in Spike's face.

Yeah, it hurt. Still hurts. And I'm not the only one who's hurting. Would it kill me to take a little responsibility here?

Xander sighed. "Look, I promise not to lie to you again, okay, Spike?"

Spike's eyes were suddenly like dark slits in his face, his mouth set in a tight line. "Doubt you'll keep that promise."

Xander raised his hands – look, no weapons, I come in peace – and said firmly, "Spike, now that I know" – how much it hurts you? how much it means to you? how vulnerable you are? – "um, now that I know, I can absolutely promise I won't do it again." He lowered his arms back to his sides, watching Spike's face.

They were both silent a moment, and then Xander continued, even more seriously, "But I'm not sure if I can deal with the hitting me thing. I mean, you said it yourself, you're a demon…violence is part of the package."

"In more than a hundred years, I never hit Dru in anger!"

"Yeah, but you loved her." Not me. Not me not me not me.

Spike's chin tilted up, just slightly, in the gesture Xander remembered from the time before the time loop. He didn't say anything, but his eyes were filled with things he wouldn't say, things Xander couldn't understand.

Xander let loose. "I'm just some idiot. Some 'child'. Some pathetic kid you had sex with out of some kind of sense of obligation, like you had to protect me from myself. Well, I can do without your kind of protection, Spike." Xander closed his eyes and shook his head. He'd run out of steam. His voice was quiet again when he said, "Nothing to keep you from smacking me around, is there." It wasn't a question. It was just a really depressing fact.

"Listen to me, you fucking idiot." That brought Xander's head back up, and Spike looked…not angry, but…frustrated. Determined. Ready to take on dragons and gods, if necessary. "Because yes, you are being an idiot. I will not hurt you again. I swear it. If I do, you can bloody well stake me yourself. You know where I sleep. Can sneak in during the day when I'm out for the count. Nothing I can do to stop you, eh? Won't even try."

Xander rolled his eyes. "I'm not staking you, Spike, no matter how much you might deserve it sometimes."

But Spike was persistent. "I'm not doing that again, Xander. Not hitting you again. I swear it."

Xander stared at him, just watching his eyes, and he could see that Spike meant it. Spike might have an impulse control problem, he might have a thing for violence, but he also was true to his word when it mattered. And his eyes right now said that this was something that mattered.

That maybe even Xander was something that mattered.

And didn't that possibility just shake the earth's foundations?

Xander raised a hand to push his hair out of his face, and saw Spike's eyes follow the movement. It stirred a memory, though he wasn't sure if it was something he'd dreamt or if it was real.

Did Spike really stroke my hair? Why? When? It must have been a dream.

The hazy memory gave him pause for a moment, made his heart beat a little funny, but then he realized that Spike was watching him, waiting for some response, uncertain of whether he'd be pushed away again. Xander didn't want to keep doing that.

"How about we make a bargain."

"A bargain?" Spike sounded suspicious.

"Yeah, a bargain. No lying, no hitting. If either of us breaks it, there's no going back. Game over. The end."

"That simple?"

"That simple." Xander held out his hand.

Spike stepped hesitantly forward, then reached out to shake Xander's hand. His grip was firm, his skin cool and smooth and familiar. They hadn't touched in…Xander wasn't sure how long. Too long. As they released each other's hands with one last squeeze, they didn't step away but stayed standing where they were, facing each other.

Spike smirked, "Mind you, deal's off if you beg me to give you a smack or two just for fun…or if a good blow to the head'll get you out of danger's way."

Xander couldn't help but smile in response. "All right. I think I can deal with that." He thought a moment. "Well, and I can't promise I won't lie if I'm possessed by some hyena spirit or enthralled by Dracula or if you're wearing something that makes you look really fat or if I'm planning your Christmas present or…"

"I liked the journal."

That brought Xander up short. "Uh…I…"

"The Christmas present. I liked it. I'm sorry you read it, sorry I got so angry, but I liked the gift. It was…thoughtful."

"Spike, I never meant to invade your privacy."

Spike gave him a wry look. "Xander, I've snooped through your things more than you could ever dream of snooping through mine. I'll just do a better job of hiding it next time, 'stead of leaving it on the bloody bedstand."

They grinned at each other and it was as if all that other stuff – all that bad stuff – just fell away. Xander found himself wondering if this was what it felt like to be baptized, having all your sins washed away in that one moment of forgiveness, getting a chance to start your life anew and do it better this time.

"Now let's finish this damn patrol."

The next night was Friday. He and Spike actually weren't on patrol together, because the Scooby schedule had been reshuffled to suit Willow and Tara's university course schedules. They patrolled on Friday nights now. Spike and Xander had Saturdays.

So it was Friday night.

And somehow Xander found himself dressed in one of his nicer shirts and one of his cleaner pair of khakis, heading toward a familiar part of the cemetery. He tried to smooth his hair down, but it was doing some funky curling thing in the front. He didn't want to have funky hair for this.

But as he approached Spike's crypt, he realized that something was wrong.

The door was slightly open, candlelight was spilling out in a golden sliver across the grass, and a tall man was leaning in at the doorway, as if kissing someone goodnight.

Xander stopped where he was and just stared. He couldn't really see the person very well, but it was definitely a guy, definitely tall, and definitely lingering at Spike's door as if he didn't want to leave. Xander could hear the murmuring of conversation, but couldn't make out any words.

Finally, the shape disengaged, pulling away from the crypt doorway enough that he became an independent silhouette. Enough moonlight shone on him that Xander could now see that it was Jeremy, the doctor from the sex club. He seemed to be smiling into the doorway as he backed slowly away.

Spike stepped into the doorway, shirtless, looking rumpled and languid. He called a goodnight after Jeremy and then stood there for a moment as if frozen, frowning slightly. Then he turned his head and looked directly at Xander, as if he'd somehow known he was there.

Shouldn't have worn that aftershave.


Well, he couldn't just run away home now, little though he wanted to have this conversation with the obviously post-coital Spike. He dragged his feet as he walked to the crypt. Spike invited him in, but they stayed upstairs.

Yeah, the downstairs is probably a mess after…that.

The top button of Spike's jeans was undone. He hastily grabbed a black button-up shirt off the back of the chair and put it on, but he didn't button it.

Xander felt like a golfball was stuck in his throat, and his heart felt like it had been stomped on by a whole stampede of Bregnis wearing football cleats. He tried to smile. Here I am. Xander the friend guy. "So. You and Jeremy, huh?"

Spike frowned in confusion. "What?" He seemed to see something in Xander's expression, though, and his eyebrows went up. "What? No! Nothing like that."

Right. Ha! "He just stopped by the cemetery for a cup of tea?"

"No, I…sometimes I help out at the blood bank. Keep an eye out for other vamps, that sort of thing. And they don't seem to mind if a bit of the stock goes walkabout when I'm around. Haven't been by the blood bank lately, so Jeremy was…concerned."

"Concerned." Xander's voice was flat. Disbelieving.

"Yeah, concerned." Spike was starting to sound a little annoyed.

"So you just sat around and chatted about blood?" With your pants undone and your shirt off.

Spike frowned. "He brought me a couple of pints. Interrupted me when I was about to get better acquainted with my left hand, if you must know. What's it to you, Xander?"

Right. Right. What's it to me? It wasn't like we swore undying love to each other or anything. We just agreed to be friends again. With no hitting and no lying. Just…non-hitting, non-lying friends. Right.

Xander looked down. The crypt floor was surprisingly clean. He tried to picture Spike with a broom, merrily keeping everything tidy, and it just didn't work. Maybe he had secret minions to do his housework. Like the shoemaker's elves. Except evil.

Except he's not so evil anymore. Not really evil at all, actually. Well, mostly. And we never said we weren't going to be more than friends. There wasn't actually a friends-only clause to the bargain. So…there's no reason not to…might as well…

Leaning against the wall, Xander asked casually – or at least he hoped it sounded casual, even though his heart was beating like he'd been running laps – "You been keeping an eye on The Majestic?"

Spike tilted his head as if in surprised curiosity. "Can't say that I have." He didn't say why, but it hung there in the air between them, unspoken: It was something we always did together.

Xander nodded nervously. This had all seemed very suave and easy when he practiced it at home, but now it seemed like a huge risk, and he was a little afraid. He licked his lips and said, "The place is probably overrun with vamps by now."

Spike nodded cautiously, watching Xander.

"So I thought maybe we should check it out. Like patrol."

Spike nodded slowly. "Like patrol."

Xander's palms were sweating. He was sure of it. Very suave. "Yeah. So…you want to?"

Spike didn't nod this time. He just watched Xander's eyes, just staring right at him, and then he smiled, just a little bit, and said, "Yeah, all right."

They dusted four vamps before the movie even started. Then Spike got up and said, "Be right back."

"Is it another vamp? I'll come with."

"Nah. I can handle this on my own."

Xander shrugged and put his feet on the chair in front of him, waiting for Bride of Frankenstein to start, but still keeping an eye out for the demon contingent.

Spike plopped down into the seat next to him and tossed a box into Xander's lap. Xander looked down. Then he looked at Spike, who was opening a box of Red Hots.

"You bought me Snowcaps?" He could feel a smile starting to grow.

"Well, 'bought' might be overstating it a bit…"

"Never mind. I don't want to know." He was grinning now.

Spike smirked.

"But thanks."

During the movie, Spike's knee slid over to rest against Xander's, and it was more intimate than anything they'd ever done when they were naked.

18 Five Weeks and Three Days

Five weeks and three days later, everything was going fine. They were friends again. They patrolled like usual, hung out with the gang, went to the Majestic on Friday nights, joked around, had a few beers…things were normal.

Everything was back the way it had been before Christmas.

They never mentioned any of the sex stuff. Any time Xander tried to bring it up, tried to talk about all that complicated stuff that happened – all the more-than-just-friends stuff, all the misunderstandings and things that were said and the blood at the club and all of it – Spike abruptly changed the subject. And if Xander tried to change the subject back again, Spike almost invariably stalked off into the night without a word. And if for some reason leaving wasn't an option, he just went absolutely silent. Deaf and dumb and…invisible.

So they were just Spike and Xander, demon-fighting buddies. Just like before. That's all.

Except that some little things were different.

Like sometimes he caught Spike looking at him, and it didn't look like friendship.

Like Spike kept "buying" him Snowcaps at The Majestic every Friday.

Like Xander kept seeing Spike hiding behind that telephone pole across the street from the apartment. At first, he thought he was imagining things, but when it continued to happen, he just started wondering why Spike was hanging around.

Is he protecting me against some Xanderifying beastie that's secretly out to get me? Is he spying on me through the windows with some kind of telescopic vamp-o-vision? Is he making sure I don't leave the house, like some kind of weird long-distance prison guard?

But the one time Xander finally lost patience and went outside to ask Spike what the hell he was doing there and why didn't he at least come in for a beer, he got across the street and no one was there.

Xander showed up for video night a little early, hoping Spike might be there already. Yeah, they were doing the just-friends thing, but still…being around Spike never stopped making him all tingly, with the fast heartbeat and the tendency toward goofy smiles. Such a dork. But he couldn't help it.

Xander'd been looking forward all day to just sitting next to Spike on the couch.

But Spike wasn't sprawled on the living room sofa the way Xander had imagined he'd be. Tara and Willow were snuggled up together, kissing, so Xander discreetly kept walking, taking his six-pack of beer into the kitchen and putting it in the fridge.

He heard quiet voices from the open back door, so he walked over there to see what was going on. Spike and Dawn were sitting on the back steps, facing away from him, looking out over the darkened back yard.

"You totally need a girlfriend, Spike. You've been single way too long."

A tiny frisson of panic ran down Xander's spine. A girlfriend? For Spike? No!

Spike sounded tired. "Not really in the market, Bit. Been burned too many times."

Right. No girlfriend for Spike. But…burned?

"But you were with Drusilla for like…what?…a thousand years?"

"A hundred, Bit. I'm not that bloody old."

Dawn had a grin in her voice. She'd probably just been yanking his chain, like always. "Well, so you two were together for ages. So that must have been okay."

"Yeah, well, she was off her nut. Didn't know who I was half the time. I took care of her, more like. And, anyway, she left."

Xander heard the unspoken end of that sentence, even if Dawn didn't. Left me, it said. Didn't just leave…left me. And, not for the first time, Xander found himself wondering if Spike was actually afraid. Afraid that Xander wouldn't love him, like Drusilla and Cecily and Buffy. Afraid that Xander might leave him, like Drusilla and Cecily and Buffy. Afraid that Xander might hurt him, like…well, you get the picture.

Certain sentences he'd read in Spike's journal had continued to bounce around in his brain for the past five weeks and three days, and he wasn't sure if he was twisting them into what he wanted them to mean, or if he was actually right. It made him hesitant to act on what he thought he understood. What if he was wrong? He really didn't want to mess things up with Spike again. It was a miracle they'd been able to get back to friendship, after everything that happened. He didn't want to end it permanently by making assumptions and acting like a moron.

He shifted from one foot to the other, and saw Spike's back stiffen.

Damn. I guess he missed the noise I made at the fridge, but now I know he heard me. He knows I'm listening like some kind of eavesdropping stalker guy.

But Dawn just kept talking to Spike, oblivious. "You can't just be alone forever. You need to make an effort. Go out and meet people!"

Now that he'd been found out, Xander figured he might as well join the conversation. He tried to put on his jokey face, despite the fact that the topic of conversation made his heart hurt and his stomach tighten up into a little ball of NO NO NO. "Did I just hear you encouraging Spike to go out and eat people?" he quipped.

Both Spike and Dawn turned to look up at him framed in the doorway. The kitchen light shone on their faces, making them glow bright and warm against the darkness of the grass and trees behind them.

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Meet people! And you, too! You guys need to go out and find yourselves a couple of hot babes. Go to the single bars or something."

He and Spike exchanged an awkward glance, but Spike looked away quickly.

Looking back at Dawn, Xander raised his eyebrows. "Single bars? Didn't those go out with the 70s? And anyway, I'm not going cruising for chicks with Spike. Nobody'd give me a second look with him in the room."

Another quick glance between the two of them, this time with Spike holding the gaze a little longer before his eyes slipped away.

Dawn was grinning up at him. "What are you talking about? You're totally hot, Xander! You've got that tall, dark, and handsome thing. Plus all the muscles. Girls would be falling all over you!"

Spike was glaring at Dawn now. "Oi! What about me?"

"Oh, you've got that sexy slim-hipped, wiry, dangerous thing going on. Sort of a punkish rough-trade rent-boy kind of thing." She smirked.

Xander and Spike exclaimed simultaneously, "Rough trade?" "Rent boy?"

Xander put on his parent face and asked sternly, "Where the dickens are you learning stuff like that, young lady?"

Dawn rolled her eyes again. "Hey, I do watch HBO, you know. I'm not a complete cultural ignoramus."

Spike was frowning and grumbling, "Rough trade…rent boy…"

Xander grinned at him. "Well, it has been a while since you've seen yourself in the mirror. Maybe you don't really remember."

Spike looked up from his seat on the steps, and his eyes were not happy. Apparently the prospect of looking like a "rough-trade rent-boy" actually bothered him.

Xander shrugged. "I can't argue with her about the 'sexy slim- hipped, wiry, dangerous' thing…but you've never struck me as being particularly rough-tradey or rent-boyish. And, anyway, I think it would have to be rent-vamp. You're definitely not a boy."

Spike's eyes this time were hot and intense, and he didn't look away at all. In fact, it was Xander who flushed and turned around, suddenly noticing that Dawn had snuck past him when he wasn't paying attention. He could hear her talking and laughing behind him in the kitchen.

When Xander looked back at Spike again, those blue eyes were back to normal. Shields up at full power. Spike stood and said calmly, eyes averted, "We should be getting inside. Girls'll be wanting to start the film."

Xander nodded vaguely and stepped aside, but didn't move out of the doorway. His heart was beating hard and he licked his lips. Spike walked close to him, moving to go into the house, and suddenly he was so close…so close…then trying to squeeze past him through the doorway…and Xander brought his hands up, braced them on the doorjam on either side of Spike's head, and Spike turned to look at him, brows drawn together in confusion, and Xander leaned into him, pressed his body against the length of Spike's, pressed his lips against Spike's lips and just…kissed him.

Spike froze.

Five weeks and three days of nervous glances and thwarted attempts to talk and Snowcaps and wondering and now Xander was just tossing it all up into the air and he had no idea how the pieces were going to fit together again when they landed, but he couldn't just do nothing. Couldn't just keep doing nothing. And Spike's eyes…Spike's eyes when he was sitting on the steps…looking up at him…so dark and…wanting…

Well, fuck. Xander wanted, too.

So he kissed him.

But Spike really wasn't kissing back. And this started to seem like it had been a really bad idea and oh fuck this was going to ruin everything and they wouldn't even be friends anymore and Spike was going to just push him away, push him down the stairs and wipe his mouth and say, "What the fuck was that about?"

Except he didn't.

Spike's lips softened, relaxed, and though they weren't quite kissing him back…they weren't discouraging him, either.

Soft. Soft. Xander kissed him gently, hands coming up to cup Spike's face, to hold him there while he kissed him again and again. They hadn't done this before, this softness, not like this, and he wanted Spike to see…to know…it wasn't just friendship…and it wasn't just sex…

And then Spike's lips parted slightly and he was kissing back, still so soft, so very very soft, lips slow and soft, pressing together and it was more than Xander had hoped, more than he'd dared to hope, because it was perfect.

But then Spike abruptly pushed him away, staring at him with dark, suspicious, hurting eyes. Hurting. Xander hadn't meant to do that. But before he could even open his mouth to say anything, Spike just lunged at him, pressing him hard up against the other side of the doorframe, the impact sending the door crashing open against the wall inside the kitchen, Spike's mouth colliding with his hard enough to make their teeth clack together and Xander wondered if his lip might be bleeding, but Spike's tongue was in his mouth, Spike's hands roving his body, clutching at him, grabbing at him in some kind of unexpected desperation, and so Xander just went with it. Because it was so fucking good.

When Spike pulled away again, Xander felt a little dazed, sort of like he'd been hit by a very grabby, tongue-thrusting train.

"Not really in the mood for a video tonight," Spike said, and he sounded kind of hoarse.

Xander's own voice was embarrassingly breathy when he replied, "Yeah, me neither."

When they made their apologies, the girls were suspiciously friendly, all warm smiles, and Dawn kept giggling while Willow elbowed her to keep quiet. Xander had a vague memory that there might have been girls in the kitchen before the whole kissing-in-the-doorway thing first started, but he couldn't seem to make himself care.

After they'd closed the door behind them and were standing on the front steps, Spike turned to him and said, "Think the secret's out, pet." And Xander smiled like he'd just won the lottery.

When they got to the apartment, as soon as the door was closed Xander moved in for more kissing, but Spike backed away.

His face had that uncomfortable look again. "You wanting me to boss you about?"

Xander frowned. "No. Spike, it…it was never about that." At Spike's arch look, he admitted ruefully, "Hey, don't get me wrong, that stuff is fun and all, but…that wasn't what I wanted, specifically."

"And what did you want, specifically?"

"You." Xander couldn't help blushing.

Spike face was carefully blank. "And now?"

Xander just stared at him for a second, then, "Do you really have to ask?"

Spike just nodded, a sharp jerk of the head like his neck was made of some unmovable stuff that didn't bend easily. Rebar, maybe.

Yeah, okay, so he needs to hear it. I can do that, right? I mean, he isn't going to laugh or anything. At least, I don't think he is. What if he points and laughs? What if I say too much and he doesn't want emotional complications and he leaves? What if I don't say enough and he gets offended and leaves? What if I don't say anything and he gets impatient and leaves? What if I…

Spike's face was closing up, going blank. He was doing that invisible thing again, and Xander hated when he did that. So he just started talking.

"Spike, during the time loop, I…well, I kind of got used to seeing you naked and…you know, us doing the wild monkey sex thing. But when it was all over, you didn't remember any of that stuff, and I knew you'd freak if I said anything, because during the time loop you said I was treating you like a whore, and I didn't want to treat you like a whore, or for you to think I was treating you like a whore, so I just…I wanted us to be friends first. Does that sound really stupid?"

Spike didn't respond, but he was very still. Xander chose to assume that he was listening.

"But the whole time we were friends, I was…god, Spike…I was wanting more. I was wanting you. I was putting sex toys inside me and imagining that it was you." Xander could feel that his face was blushing red as a fire engine now, but he kept going anyway, because apparently Spike needed to know this stuff, needed to hear this stuff. "I was…I was jacking off in the shower and saying your name when I came. I wanted to be friends with you, because I wanted you to know that I really do like you, as a friend, as a person or vamp or whatever. But I also want more than that. And I wasn't sure if you would want more than that, and so I didn't want to just jump on you or something and totally ruin our friendship. But then I did that anyway, by not telling you."

"Right. So you want to fuck me." Spike's voice was flat. No inflection.

Xander grit his teeth to keep from roaring in frustration. "No," he said in his calmest, most patient voice. "No, Spike, it's more than that."

Spike just watched him, disbelieving, chin tilted up in that way that said, "Yeah, right. Go ahead and mock me, you bastard." He looked like he was waiting for the humiliating punch line. Then he turned his head and looked at the front door like it was going to do a dance or something. So fucking fascinating.

"Okay, the thing is…I love you. I'm in love with you. I have been for ages."

Spike didn't respond. Didn't even look at him. In the silence, the words suddenly sounded really stupid. In his head, they'd sounded better, not so All My Children. Now he felt stupid. And he was feeling stupider the longer Spike just sat there like a big bleached- blond bump on a log.

"Did you hear what I said?"

Spike looked up then, frowning, staring at Xander as if he'd said something completely incomprehensible. His voice was harsh and cynical when he replied, "Said the same thing to Anya, now didn't you? And look how that turned out."

Ouch. A hit. A very palpable hit. But he'd already thought this one through, so he knew what to say. He didn't know if Spike would believe him, since he seemed to be pretty stubborn that way, but he could at least try to explain.

"You know, you might not remember this, but during the time-loop I told you that I sort of envied you for being able to fall in love."

Spike looked away again. "Nothing to envy, there. Never brought me anything but misery."

"But, see, I wasn't even sure if I could. Love somebody, I mean. The closest I ever came was with Anya, but that was mostly…I just…I did what seemed right, you know? I wasn't even really interested in her, but she…well, she chased me, I guess. Finally just dropped her clothes and…well, you know, I wanted to have sex. But I didn't want to have sex with her, in particular. I just wanted to have sex, and she was offering. And then she wanted to be my girlfriend, so that sort of happened, too. And then after a while it made sense to move in together. And then the next step was to get married. But I was just doing all this stuff because it seemed like the way things were supposed to go. Like I'd seen it so many times on TV that I knew the script."

Now that he was talking, the words just wouldn't stop. It was like a river, carrying him along toward something, something that might be good or might be bad, but was absolutely inevitable. He had to get it all out. Tell the truth. All of it. Whether Spike wanted to hear it or not. Whether it helped or not. Just because it was true.

"I was never in love with Anya. She's great, but when it came to the whole marriage and kids deal, I just knew I couldn't do it. Because I'd been acting out a part, you know? Just going with the script. Saying the right things, doing the right things, but not…not feeling it. I guess I could've gone that route and kept up the act forever…but…it just didn't seem right. Not fair to Anya…and not fair to me."

Xander came to an abrupt halt. He really wasn't sure what to say next, as if the words had just dried up and there weren't any left inside him. He just stared at Spike, willing him to understand. He'd talked so much tonight that he didn't really know what else to say. He was all talked out.

And then he realized that there was one more thing he should say. And then he'd be done.

"Now, see, this" – he pointed at himself, then at Spike, then himself again – "this isn't part of the script. You're not part of the script. You…when I'm with you, it's because I want to be. It's because it's about you, and not about anything else." Xander shook his head and smiled, a little embarrassed. "When I'm with you I can't think about anything else. Sounds stupid, huh?"

There was that silence again, Spike still not looking at him, and it looked like nothing he'd said had made a difference, but then Spike turned to look at him, and his face was open and vulnerable and there was something shining in his eyes, and he pulled Xander to him, roughly, in a sort of awkward embrace. "Doesn't sound stupid," Spike said, and then there was finally – finally! – more kissing.

19 X Marks the Spot

Spike was all soft touches and vulnerable eyes, cocky defenses having simply dropped in a way Xander had never seen except after the club, after the blood. And, in a way, that made sense, because the blood had been a symbol of love, in a way, until everything went wrong.

Spike looked shell-shocked, stroking Xander's skin as if he'd never seen anything so wonderful. Somewhere along the way, they'd both lost their shirts, and Spike had him flat on the carpet, had him trapped, straddling his hips, a knee on either side, his ass occasionally lowering to brush against Xander's groin in a way that was a probably- intentional tease. Spike leaned over him, smooth hands running slowly along Xander's chest, up to his shoulders, down his arms.

Bracing himself on his hands, Spike leaned even closer, kissing Xander gently on the lips, then on the side of his neck, on the curve of a pectoral muscle, on that slightly hollowed spot between chest and belly. Xander lay helpless beneath such a tender onslaught. He'd never expected this.

I probably should have, though. I saw how he was with Buffy, how sweet he was when she let him, when she wasn't pushing him away or punching him in the face. I always thought he was pathetic, wearing his heart on his sleeve like that, letting everything show on his face when she just wanted him to go away. Then getting all gruff and proud and snarky when his feelings were hurt. I saw how he was. I saw his face. I should have known he'd be like this.

Spike pressed a kiss to Xander's other pectoral muscle and then raised up to look at him, just looking at him for a minute. Then, "Say it again." Spike's face was serious, his eyes still watching Xander intently for…something. Xander didn't know what. But he was pretty sure he knew what Spike wanted him to say.

"I love you."

Spike stared at him a long time, gaze shifting slightly back and forth to examine Xander's eyes deeply. Xander just looked back at him. He'd already come clean and had nothing to hide.

Spike finally blinked and looked a little confused but mostly awed. "Never had somebody say that to me before."

Xander grinned. "Oh, please. In over a hundred years of looking like that, you've never had groupies?"

Spike's face was serious. "Never anybody I wanted to have say it."

Xander hesitated, then, "Never anybody you loved, you mean?"

Spike looked away.

"But you wanted me to say it?"

Spike scowled and started to move away to stand up.

"Hey, hey," Xander reached out, clutched an arm and the side of Spike's waist, pulled him back down, shaking his head and saying, "It's okay. Just…c'mere." And a smile.

Come on. You don't have to say it. I'm not going to twist your arm or anything. But don't pull an Angel on me and get all broody and go stalking off into the night with your coat billowing behind you. Because…that? Already been done. Done and old and tired. Let's do this instead. Because it is so very very not-tired. Wide awake, in fact. All body parts alert and interested.

Spike let himself be easily coaxed back, almost as if he hadn't really wanted to leave in the first place. Xander twined arms around him, arms that looked very brown against Spike's pale skin, very muscular against Spike's wiry frame. But Spike didn't look small, not really, because almost immediately he was pinning Xander to the floor again, hands pushing on Xander's shoulders to hold him down a moment as he smirked like sex personified. "All right then. Be a good boy and lie still."

The sound of the zipper was unexpectedly loud. And then Spike's hand was sliding inside to cup Xander's cock through his boxers. He'd been mostly hard already, but now he could feel his dick twitch and grow in Spike's grasp.

Don't move. Don't move. Spike said to hold still, and if I don't hold still he might stop what he's doing and I so do not want him to stop what he's doing…

But then Spike was shifting around, and told Xander to lift up a bit, and then there was Xandery nakedness. And a moment later there was Spike nakedness, as well. And then Spike was back on the floor, back straddling Xander's hips, hands on Xander's skin, one hand returning to Xander's cock, while Spike's own dick pressed almost flat against his pale belly.

Xander reached up a hand, leaned up a bit, reaching out, but Spike pushed him flat again. "Later," he growled. And then he was pressing hard, biting kisses along the side of Xander's neck, down across his chest, lingering to suck a nipple a moment before biting just enough to have Xander arching off the floor with a gasp.

The position – Xander lying flat on the floor while Spike crouched above him, pressing mouth to flesh – was so much like what they'd done at the club that it brought all the intense emotions of that scene flooding back. Xander remembered the look in Spike's eyes, and it wasn't all that different from now.

But all thought came to an abrupt halt when he felt Spike's tongue.

On his dick.

Spike's tongue on his dick, just circling the head. Then a slow slide down until Xander's dick was all the way inside Spike's mouth.

Oh dear god.

Xander clutched at the carpet, but it didn't have any give, so coarse fibers ripped and came loose in his hands.

They'd never done this before.

Xander closed his eyes and tried not to come, tried not to hyperventilate, tried not to pass out. It wasn't the technique – which was good, sure, but Anya'd been good too – it was the complete shock. He'd never expected Spike to…Spike had always been the one with the power. The Master Vampire. The arrogant bastard who said, "Get on your knees and suck me off."

This was…new.

"Oh god, Spike," he gasped helplessly. "Stop. Please. Please, stop."

Spike pulled back a bit and looked up the length of Xander's body. His eyebrows were lowered a bit, his face wary. "Why?"

Xander reached out toward him again – hooking his hands around Spike's arms, pulling him up so that he lay full-length on top of Xander's body, their cocks angling awkwardly for a moment but then nestled side-by-side – and explained breathlessly, "Because if you didn't stop I was going to come." And then he kissed Spike, long and slow and thorough, wanting to thank him but knowing he couldn't do so with words or Spike would pull away. So he just kissed him, letting his hands roam the muscled planes of Spike's back, the skin so smooth and unblemished, the shoulder blades so sharp in his slender frame, the nape of his neck so soft and vulnerable.

And Spike kissed him back, their tongues stroking against each other in thrusts and parries and lingering caresses. As the kiss grew deeper and harder, Spike braced his hands on the carpet and began to move, rubbing their bodies together, rubbing their cocks against each other. Without any lube, it was almost painful – could get to be painful after a while – but for the moment Xander couldn't help but grasp Spike by the buttocks and grind up against him, making them both groan.

"Get the slick, yeah?" Spike's voice was low as he lifted off to give Xander room to move.

Right. Not nervous about this. Just because last time it ended with me getting my head bashed in, and the only other time was during the time loop when Spike thought I was treating him like a whore and it was all surrounded by me getting my throat slit and him getting dusted and…okay…yeah…so we don't have a great track record when it comes to the whole full-on anal sex thing. But, yeah, not nervous. Okay, maybe just a little. A little nervous. "Nervo," perhaps. Or maybe "ner." Maybe even "ne." I am the gay knight who says "ne."

But Spike was watching him expectantly, so Xander obediently jumped up, and Spike fell back onto the carpet in a pose that would have looked ridiculously contrived on anyone else. One knee bent, the other leg extended, resting back on his elbows. Most people would've looked like they were trying to be sexy. Spike just looked sexy. And his cock was long and smooth and hard. Xander hurried back with the lube.

Then in a fluid movement, Spike was rolling over, onto his stomach, body undulating slightly, hips raised a bit off the ground. "Want you to fuck me," he said into the arm that was folded under his face.


Xander stood, dumbfounded. "Me?" Okay, that sounded kind of squeaky and not at all sexy. But he had sort of assumed that Spike would…

Spike turned his head so he could send a sidelong glance in Xander's direction. "Figure with all those months to think about it, you've probably got a good idea of what to do, yeah?"

Xander was still frozen in place, standing naked in his living room with a bottle of lube in his hand, staring at a naked Spike on the floor. It was like some really bizarre tableau. Still life with lubricant. "Uh…actually…I pretty much always thought about you being the one doing the doing. I mean, during the time loop…" He knew he was talking too fast. And Spike was lying there alone and naked on the floor, and if it was Xander there he'd be feeling really embarrassed, but Spike doesn't get embarrassed.

But then Spike was moving again, starting to roll – oh those muscles! – starting to sit up, and that got Xander rushing forward. Spike muttered, "If you don't want to…"

Xander caught him before he'd had time to move much, caught him as he rolled onto his side, and pressed their bodies together, his front to Spike's back, arms going around that slender body to touch and grasp. He stroked Spike's cock once, just once, with a squeeze, and his voice was husky when he said, "I want to. I definitely want to." And Spike rolled easily onto his stomach again, arching his back a bit to rub his ass against Xander's dick.

"Well, then." Spike didn't say anything more, but his tone seemed to indicate some kind of permission. Some kind of difference from the way things had been before. Some kind of blessing and urging for Xander to do whatever he wanted, rather than following orders. Like he was saying, "Go ahead."

Like maybe Spike wanted to see what Xander would do, if he wasn't ordered around.

Xander leaned down to lay a kiss between Spike's shoulder blades, and Spike went completely still beneath him. Then he trailed a finger along Spike's spine, feeling the subtle bumps of the vertebrae, down and down Spike's back until he reached the little dip that signaled the start of the crack of Spike's ass, and then down further.

He heard Spike breathe sharply, slim hips lifting slightly higher as if he was trying to help, trying to give Xander better access.

Brushing a finger softly against Spike's hole, watching the muscles in that pale back bunch and roll in reaction, Xander said hesitantly, "I know I should probably do other stuff…foreplay stuff…"

Spike made a sound that was sort of like a laugh, then replied huskily, "Can do the whole song and dance another time. Right now, I just want you to fuck me."

Those words made Xander catch his breath.

Right. Right. Okay. Well, uh, without further ado…

The lube was cold on his fingers, so he rubbed them together to try to warm it up. He wasn't sure if Spike would really care, but cold lube just seemed…rude. Inconsiderate. When it seemed sufficiently warm, he slid his lubey right hand down between Spike's cheeks. Making a small noise in his throat, Spike spread his legs a bit to make it easier.

Such a helpful little vampire.

The whole lubing up process was pretty familiar, since he'd done it to himself plenty of times, but Spike's little jerks and noises of reaction made it a hell of a lot more exciting. Wanting to touch more, Xander slid his body up, hand still busy down below, and pressed a kiss to the back of Spike's neck. Spike made a little noise and moved his head forward so that his nape was fully exposed.

Gosh. I wonder what he wants.

Xander leaned in and bit. Not hard. Just a little bite, really. But Spike bucked and hissed, "Harder." So Xander bit the back of Spike's neck again, harder this time, not hard enough to draw blood, but maybe enough to leave a mark, even on a vampire, and Spike started actually growling.


Xander whispered mischievously in his ear, "Is that a request?"

Spike pressed his ass back onto Xander's fingers more insistently. "It's an order."

Xander grinned at that. "You don't get to give me orders tonight. In fact, maybe I should be giving the orders."

Spike was panting. "Next time. For now, just get on with it, for fuck's sake!"

Suddenly the nerves were back. This really hadn't gone well in the past. And it wasn't like Xander's fantasies at all. He pulled his fingers out of Spike's body and hesitated.

"Can we…" He didn't want to sound stupid.

Spike looked back over one shoulder. "Can we what, luv?"

"I just…when I thought about it…I usually…it was face-to-face."

Spike eyed him thoughtfully. "A bit easier this way."

Xander nodded, not saying anything. Okay. Whatever. Not like I'm disappointed. Much.

But then Spike was rolling over onto his back with an amused smile. "You'll want a pillow. Something firm."

Xander nodded again, a little nervous, and looked around. He got up and fetched one of the couch pillows. "Will this work?"

Spike just grinned. "Slide it under my bum." And after a bit of wiggling he said, "This should do us all right."

And then Spike was all spread out in front of him and he couldn't help it. "Wait. There's something I have to do."

Spike frowned up at him. "Now?"

"Yeah, now."

He trailed his hands along Spike's stomach muscles, feeling them twitch and tremble subtly at his touch. Then he leaned over, over Spike's flat stomach, over those well-defined abs, and he leaned down and bit, not hard, just enough to test the firmness of the muscle, just enough to feel the sensation of the skin in his teeth, just enough to make Spike jerk and yelp, "Christ!"

Xander looked up into Spike's face and grinned. "I've been wanting to do that since the time loop." Spike looked dazed, all wide eyes and parted lips. A shiver ran through him, and Xander could feel it.

I guess he liked that.

It seemed like the right time, so Xander put some lube on his dick – argh! cold! – and lined himself up. He thrust slowly.

And didn't go in. His dick slipped away and down.

Embarrassed, Xander tried to line up again, but he overcompensated and this thrust went awry the other direction, sending his cock sliding up to nudge behind Spike's balls.

"I'm sorry," Xander muttered, humiliated. "It's…the angle is different."

Spike just reached down a hand and grasped Xander's dick around the base, helping him line up. Xander thrust.

And still didn't go in.

"Fuck! Am I supposed to say 'Open sesame' or something? Are you doing this on purpose?"

Spike blinked up at him, obviously surprised. "What?"

"Well, you're the expert here."

Spike's face went blank. "Make a lot of assumptions, don't you?"

Xander was having trouble computing that, but then his brain wasn't functioning at its best right now. "Well, you know about stuff…"

"Yeah, well, seen a lot in my time. Doesn't necessarily mean I tried it all myself."

Is Spike saying…? "So…have you…"

His face giving nothing away, Spike asked flatly, "Does it really matter?"

Xander thought about that. "No. Not really."

"Right answer," Spike said, his face immediately losing that blank look, and kissed him. And this time, whether it was because he was more relaxed or whether it was because he'd figured it out after a few tries or whether it was just chance, Xander thrust…and slid inside.

The first few thrusts were shallow, slow, and careful. He didn't want to hurt Spike by going too fast, but he also didn't want to slip out and have another embarrassing misdirection. He was frowning and trying to make sure he was doing it right, when Spike said dryly, "Bloody hell, Xander. It's not calculus."

He looked at Spike's face, and the smirk there made him relax again. He stretched to kiss Spike at the same time that he thrust again, a little harder this time, sliding further inside. It was tight and it was Spike and he just wanted to hammer away until they both came their brains out, but he didn't want Spike to feel like he was being used. Didn't want him to feel like he was being treated like a whore. But the kiss turned nasty and carnal and wonderful and Xander didn't even realize he'd been speeding up his thrusts until Spike broke away from the kiss to let his head fall back onto the floor, gasping, "Oh, fuck yeah!"

Licking his lips, Xander kept up the faster pace, bracing himself with one hand on the floor so that he could reach the other down to stroke Spike's cock, making Spike buck again with a groan.

They fell into a sort of rhythm, with Spike writhing beneath him, fucking himself on Xander's cock at the same time that Xander was fucking himself into Spike's ass. Spike alternated between scrabbling against the floor, trying to get leverage, and grasping at Xander's arms and shoulders, muttering and growling and cursing. "Harder…oh god…like that…just like that…yeah…oh fuck…"

Xander lasted longer than he'd thought he would, probably because he was so focused on Spike's face, Spike's cock, Spike's litany of curses and praises. When he felt Spike's cock begin to throb in his hand, felt the telltale pulse, and then felt the thick liquid on his fingers, he hadn't even realized how close he was himself. With a few more rough thrusts, he groaned and came.

Not wanting to crush Spike, he rolled over and lay beside him on the floor, trying to catch his breath. He stared at the stucco ceiling. Tiny stalagmites of death, waiting to fall and impale his naked, sweaty body. Whoever invented stucco was some kind of sadistic freak.

When his heart was beating close to normal and he could talk without panting, Xander turned to look at Spike, whose eyes were closed.

"Hey," Xander said gently. "Don't fall asleep on the floor. The least I can do is offer you a bed."

Spike opened his eyes and turned to look at him a moment before nodding once and saying, "All right."

They made it to the bed and Spike climbed beneath the blankets, clasping his hands behind his head and getting comfortable. Xander started to climb in, but after he sat down on the mattress he suddenly realized how thirsty he was. Post-sex beverage…always a plus.

"Actually, I'm going to get myself some water. Want some?"


Xander turned to get up, but heard Spike from behind him, quiet. "Used to find it easy to say, you know."

Xander started to say, "Easy to say what?" but that would be stupid, because he was pretty sure he knew. So he just sat there, still facing away as if he was giving Spike some strange kind of privacy.

"Even with Buffy, even when she hated me, I was saying it all the time. Easy as pie. Now, though…it's not so easy."

Xander turned around then and asked gently, "Because of what happened to Buffy?" But Spike shook his head, so Xander tried again. "Because of how messed up things were with you and me?" Spike shook his head again. Xander started to get frustrated. "Because you've gone mute and decided to become a mime?"

"Because it's bloody different when it's mutual, all right?"

That made Xander stop. "Why?"

"There's more at risk, now isn't there?" It wasn't really a question. So Xander didn't reply. He just waited. Eventually, Spike added quietly, "If it isn't mutual, you've got nothing…so you've got nothing to lose."

Xander didn't know what to say to that, because it was sort of true, in a Spike-logic sort of way. They just watched each other for a few seconds, and then Spike smiled a very small, very sweet smile, and said, "Could use that drink of water, pet."

Xander nodded and smiled and tried to send some kind of message with his eyes, but he wasn't sure what it was. Something to do with reassurance or hope or maybe shared nervousness. He was feeling such a jumble that he wasn't sure what Spike might see on his face, but he wasn't going to try to hide.

When Spike smiled a bit wider and nudged him, Xander nodded and chuckled and said, "Right. Water. Coming right up." And he got up and walked naked to the kitchen.

As he filled a tall glass with tap water and then took a long drink, he found himself looking at the refrigerator door. Among all the take- out menus and to-do lists and random magnets, there was an obvious blank space. The postcard was gone…he didn't even remember what had happened to it. Maybe Spike took it? It didn't matter, really. He refilled the glass from the tap, then rearranged the spare magnets on the fridge to form an X in the blank space. X is for Xander. X marks the spot.

When he got back to the bedroom, Spike was still sprawled on his back with his hands clasped behind his head, snoring quietly with the blankets covering him only to the waist. How can someone so defensive fall asleep so quickly? He had angry pink rug burns on his elbows, and probably in a few other places Xander couldn't see at the moment.

Xander put the glass of water on the bedside table and climbed carefully into the bed, trying not to jiggle the mattress too much. Spike didn't stir. He pulled the blankets over himself and just watched Spike for a minute, so relaxed and vulnerable in sleep.

This was new, too.

After a little while, Xander turned off the light and rolled over on his side. One of his knees touched Spike's knee under the covers, and stayed there. And then he fell asleep.

The End

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