Non-Sequitopia


by
Misanthrope7842



         
         
         






Part Six   Monday



Xander's morning went by in a blur of introductions.  There was the morning meeting in which he was introduced to the Senior partners.  The mid-morning meeting for the Junior partners.  All the introductions in between, to colleagues, employees, staff, and possibly a couple of potted plants named Bill.

He had been introduced to his secretary.

{I have a secretary!}

He had been introduced to his office,

{I have an office!}

although it had been rather one-sided.  Maybe one of the Bills could help.

Xander was trying to focus on whatever it was he was being told at the moment.  Something about new responsibilities, accountabilities, liabilities.  There were other -ities, but he lost track.  He had long ago perfected the 'smile and nod' technique, and no one had caught on yet.  He needed to focus, but it was lunch time.  He really only knew one thing.  Food was good. 

Then he realized what he had done that morning.

He had asked Spike out.

Maybe.

Suddenly, and for what may have been the first time in his life, he really wasn't all that hungry anymore.

***

Spike woke in the early afternoon and wandered into the kitchen.  He checked the clock on the microwave before warming up his 'breakfast', wishing he knew when to expect Xander.  He was unaccustomed to the silence here, but Xander had left that morning for his first day as regional manager of something something and techniques.  He had woken when Xander was getting ready, alert at the slightest sound, and had almost come out to wish him luck.  He stopped himself with his hand inches from the bedroom door.  He still wasn't sure what was going on here, but he did like it.  He wasn't about to screw it up by acting like a nancy-boy housewife.  He was obviously agitated, since that was the worst insult he had thrown at himself, and it didn't even make sense. 

He drank his blood and reflected on the events of the weekend past.  When the Whelp had originally come into the basement, Spike had been pretty sure he was there to add to the emotional abuse Buffy had started, and continued months ago.  It's what he would have done, had done, not too long ago.  When he had instead asked Spike to move out with him, though, Spike knew he had to go.  Things with... whatever had been or may have been, it was over.  Should never have been started.  It was time to leave the godforsaken town once and for all.

Spike still wasn't sure if the boy had ulterior motives in all this.  Death, help, frienship, sex, vengence.  He wasn't sure if he would mind if he did.  Either way. It would be nice to have a purpose, as something other than... A purpose would be nice. 

He wasn't all that sure if he himself had motivations for coming other than the desperate need to Get. Out.

He had never disliked Xander as much as he led them all to believe.  He felt a strange kinship with him, too much for his own comfort. Recognized things in him that he saw in himself, but had been repressed or warped at some point, many points in his unlife.  Both of them were used to being overlooked or in the way.  Their enthusiasm and loyalty mistaken for recklessness or foolishness.  They were more often than not the outsiders, seeing but not participating, participating but not enjoying.  Even though they had been treated this way time and time again, their devotion to respective loved ones was boundless.  Hell, demons, souls, deaths couldn't change it, separate them from their adopted families.  Until now.

What had changed?

Everything.

In the brief time they had been away from Sunnyhell, Spike had noticed the difference in Xander's attitude.  It started almost the minute the city was out of view, and continued to develop even now.  He was more relaxed, more confident.  He didn't play the role of the outsider, the loser the way he had before.  Instead, he bantered with Spike, matching the vampire's wit with an intelligence Spike didn't know he possessed.  Not the traded insults of times past, although those were still common enough, but real conversation.  If this was the effect of the promotion, Xander should have accepted long ago.  He wasn't sure when the disguised admiration had become open friendship, or if there was anything else lurking under it, but he wasn't too surprised to realize that he wanted it if there was. 

Always someone's lap-dog.

Spike made his way into the living room with his mug.  He noticed the paper taped to the screen of the television.  He snatched it down and turned on the telly before reading it.  Seeing Xander's modern-man legible- only- in- all- uppercase- lettering, Spike felt his stomach clench.  Had he left?  Left him?

  Spike-
  I should be home tonight at 6 or 6:30.  Not quite sure how late I'll be needed.  Just wanted you to  know when to expect me.  When I come home, we'll go get some dinner (my kind) and you can listen to me bitch about my day.  I'm sure it will be thrilling for you.  Try to contain yourself.  Knowing us, we'll attract something you can kill before the night is over. Sorry, but the cable guy had to reschedule and it won't be hooked up until tomorrow.  Down here in the basement, we don't get many channels, but I'm pretty sure the soaps come in.  I found an antenna that might help. Good luck. 
                               -Xander
                              
Home.

We.

Spike couldn't help but notice that Xander continued to refer to them as 'we' and 'us'.  He kept calling this place, with him, home.  He had left a note.  Spike couldn't remember the last time someone had shown consideration for him that way.  Beyond providing Spike with a home, food, sun-proofing; he had provided him with concern... respect. Spike did not deserve this, did not know what to do about with it.

Wait.

They were going out.  To dinner.  Was this a date?

***

Xander had gotten ready to go to work that morning, not wanting to leave without saying something to Spike.  He wasn't exactly sure what he wanted to say.  Something.  After the events of the previous morning, though, he hadn't wanted to smother him, or 'keep' him.  Xander wasn't sure how well a 'honey, I'm off to work now' would play out.  Not that Spike was a 'honey'.  He was more of a... Focus!

Xander wasn't sure where these feelings were coming from, where they had started, or even really what exactly they were.  Only that the unintentional date asking forced him to face them much sooner than he would have liked, just as he had figured. He was forced to admit, at least to himself, that he liked Spike.

Could he forgive Spike?  If he could forgive everyone else everything else, and they could forgive everyone else everything else, then who was he to resist peer pressure?  Or in grown-up speak, yes.

Not wanting to wake Spike, he decided to leave a note.  Present, but not committal; personal in a way, but not so much as a phone call.  Glad nerves had woken him far earlier than necessary, he spent twenty minutes trying to word it correctly.  He wanted to let Spike know when he would be home, and to let him know about the television.  He thought maybe they could go for dinner after, sort of to celebrate.  So he had put that in there, too.

'We can go out for dinner.  You can listen to me bitch about my day.'

Thirty would have been better.

Was it a date if the asker didn't know if it was a date?  What about the askee?  Did Spike want to date? Him? The work day was going to be over far too quickly. Slowly. At some point the day would be over, and he would not be prepared for it.

Xander was spared further panicking about the date that might be by the afternoon's trial by fire.  He had expected to be made to prove himself, probably by being given a difficult project or problem employee to partner with.  Instead, he had been given the department and a dustpan.  Metaphorically, this time; that was old Xander, he kept reminding himself. He was introduced to the world of big business by way of the 'you're the new guy here; do all the work nobody else wants and do it twice as fast or else' treatment.  His desk was buried by the end of the day with underdone proposals, miscalculated figures, poorly executed site surveying.  Then there was a whole drawer of files that defied categorization. He knew why his thirtieth floor office had such nice windows, just about Xander-sized.  He determined that he would again see the wood-grained top of his desk when he was, oh, say, eighty. 

No matter though.  He had a (possible) misunderstanding to (maybe) rectify, unless he didn't.  The date/not a date was a one night only. The work would definitely still be there in the morning.  Early in the morning.

***

Spike had indeed found the channel that came in.  He was ignoring the television in favor of rereading the note a few times.  Trying to decipher the meaning, if there was one.  Maybe he had just wanted to get dinner.  Period.  Xander would be too tired to cook, and too wired to stay in. 

Then he was worried that there was more to the note.  Maybe Xander wanted... something from him, in exchange.  The flat, the blood, revenge.  Even though the words to the opposite were still fresh in his ears, Spike had been around long enough to know things like this- new beginnings- didn't come without a price.

His first new beginning came with the price of taking care of an insane lover for a hundred years. Oh, and death.  Then there was the chip.  New beginning two, even if it was unasked-for, and the price of which had been nearly everything he had.  Twice.  The soul had been the latest, and this move along with it.  There wasn't a lot more he could pay, unless big piles of dust were considered currency.  If Xander didn't want to kill him, and he was pretty sure he didn't; and if he didn't want to sleep with him, and he wasn't sure he did; and if he didn't want his money, which was still sitting on the kitchen table, what was the price?  If he wasn't to be used somehow, as punching bag or fuck-toy or income supplement or D) all of the above, then there was no reason for him to be there.  Was there?


Part Seven   The Date



Spike was sitting calmly on the sofa when Xander came home, closer to 7:00 than 6:00 or 6:30. The inertia would normally have set off warning bells and raised flags if Xander hadn't been so preoccupied.

"Sorry.  Things were more intense than I thought."  He was calling into the room before he had fully closed the door. 

"I'm not your-"  The words defensively out of his mouth before he could stop them completely.

To Xander's credit, he ignored him and went on.  "I didn't know little towns had traffic, did you?  I mean, I'm from Sunnydale, I've never been in a traffic jam before.  Except on this field trip to LA."  He babbled on about a trip to a zoo or a museum or somewhere.  Spike was no longer listening to what he was saying, instead focused on how he was saying it.

He had shifted into presentation voice, having used it all day long.  Still in his suit, cut perfectly to accentuate his height, his broad shoulders, Xander's posture broadcast his control of the story.  His delivery was strong but not overbearing, formal but not rigid, professional yet intimate.  The differences were amazing. 

Spike sat hypnotized.  This was someone he had never met, never imagined was lurking there.  If this was who went off to work every day, they would soon have to devise a system of neckties on doorknobs.  The power, the confidence of the man before him would not only attract the professional interests of his superiors, but the romantic interests of every woman (and a few men) in the company. 

Spike repressed a growl. 

Speaking of romantic interests, what were Xander's leanings, anyway?  Would he be upset at the thought of men wanting him?  Of male vampires wanting him?  How would he react to the knowledge that Spike had forced himself to clamp down on several fantasies stemming from the (vastly inferred) subtext of the note?  Fantasies that he wouldn't allow progress past a little undressing.  Which Xander was doing now, button by button.

Xander stopped removing his dress shirt when he noticed Spike' slightly glazed eyes hadn't blinked in a noticeably long time.

"Spike, you okay?" 

Spike shook his head slightly to bring him back to the actual happenings in the apartment.  "Yeah."

"So, hungry?"

"No, vampire."  The sarcasm attempting to cover his embarrassment at being caught.  At Xander's slightly defeated slump, Spike relented.  "I could eat."

"Great!"  Instant happiness.  "I was planning on Chinese.  Let me just change and we'll try out a place I asked about at the office."

Planning?  There had been planning?  And asking?  So this was a date.  Wasn't it?

Planning?  There had been no planning. There had been no asking.  Recommending.  There was nothing worse than greasy Chinese, after all. But this wasn't a date.  Was it?  This had to stop.

***

They walked to the restaurant in silence, each wondering what the other was thinking.  Each wondering what he himself was thinking.

Once they were seated in the dimly lit, semi-private date booth, Spike had come to a conclusion.  He had barely gotten to enjoy Xander's company as a friend.  While he wasn't opposed to seeing where things led, he wasn't going to risk what he had.  Last time he had been pushy... He was not going to make that mistake again.  Ever.  If that meant not exploring whatever this was, so be it.  Xander could make the first moves in whatever direction he chose. He didn't deserve Xander's friendship, let alone his romantic interest.  After what had happened, he shouldn't even have this much.

"So was it all you expected?"

"Huh?"  Xander was pulled from his dinner, made more enjoyable by the missed lunch.

"Work."  He almost added 'you promised to tell me' but stopped himself.

"Worse."  Xander proceeded to tell him about the reject projects assigned to him and the effort it would require to make them presentable. 

So Spike's deductions had been correct.  "They must trust you."

"I think they want me dead."  Xander argued, not quite miserably.

"They give you, what'd you say, five projects your first day?  Ones that have so many problems they've been relegated to the impossible file since before you got here.  And you fixed a couple of the problems already, didn't you?"

Xander nodded.  "They were just logistical errors."

"You think they do that for any glorified brick layer off the street? They just say 'Hey, new kid, come here and fix this, and spend our millions of dollars'? That anyone could have done that?"  Spike may not have participated in the legitimate business world, but he sure as hell knew how it worked. 

"I thought they were trying to get me to quit."  Xander said softly.  He turned bewildered eyes on Spike as the logic of the argument sank in.

"You would."  It had been a test, sure, but not the way Xander had seen it.  He didn't know.  Couldn't see himself the way Spike had earlier.  He wasn't surprised, given the way his friends, and from what limited experience Spike had, his own parents treated him.

"What's that mean?"  Xander wasn't defensive.  He could tell that, for once, the words were not intended as an insult.

"You deserve more respect than you allow people to give you.  You need to see that, and then take it from them.  All of them.  And accept it when it's given to you."

"It's not that easy, Spike.  I'm the new guy.  I can't just go in there and say, 'Hey, Bob,' that's my boss, by the way, 'You give me some respect, dammit'.  It's not what I do.  I say, 'Please Mr. boss type person, please don't hate me, please let me hang out with you and I'll go get your donuts and let you knock me about for a few years, but I won't leave until you call my roommate useless for a couple of months after destroying his world.'  And wow, I said way more than I meant to."

Spike was not dealing very well with this admission and decided to completely ignore it altogether.  There was no way he was going to sabotage his attempts to make Xander see he deserved this promotion by going off on that tangent, much as he wanted to.

"Not anymore, Pet.  You go in there and don't bring donuts for anyone but yourself.  And me.  And Bob, because no one is above a little bribery.  And then you demand respect from each and every tosser you come across, because not one of them can do what you do."

"All right, Aretha.  Respect demanding Xander it is.  Even from you."  He gave a mock glare at Spike, so, so happy he had chosen not to delve into the psychological reasoning behind his earlier slip.  That was a conversation they did not need to have.

Spike mumbled a reply that sounded suspiciously like, 'Especially me'.  But the bill arrived at that moment, preventing Xander from clarifying.

"I'll get it."  Spike snatched up the check. 

"No, you don't have to."

"I'll get it.  You're celebrating.  You said so."

"But I'm the one who asked..."  Xander started to protest, but that line of argument would lead to the date issue again.  He had too much to think about without adding that as well.  They were soon going to run out of topics on the okay to discuss list. 

"What?" 

"Nothing.  Thank you."


Part Eight   Contacts



They didn't call it patrolling.  They were just walking to or from wherever they were headed, stakes and a knife along for the ride.  Sure, they had dusted the few vamps they came across and detoured through the cemetery.  It hadn't been very eventful, but they had only been at it for two weeks.  The lack of activity and only two cemeteries in town lent credence to Spike's theory that this was just a stopping point rather than the final destination for most demons.

What mattered to them was not the slaying, even though that was reason enough to do it.  It was nice to see Spike engage in some guilt-free violence.  Xander loved watching him fight.  It was even more sexy that the half-naked sleep-shuffle, if that was possible.  Xander also took pleasure knowing that these vampires wouldn't open the hellmouth or participate in some other fun way to end the world. He was still helping, even if it was limited.

Sometimes, Spike would teach him to fight, or at least to defend himself from attacks. He had gotten better over the years, but he could get much better.

"Bugger all, Xander, look at you. You're a big bloke, got a bit of weight to you. You should at least be able to fend off a fledge long enough to let me stake him," Spike had said.

"Yeah, but..."

"No buts. Stand like this." Spike positioned his body and stepped back a bit to look him over. Then he took up a fighting stance and asked, "Ready?"

"Yeah." Xander had barely gotten the word out when Spike's fist connected with his jaw. Not hard enough to bruise, but definitely hard enough to hurt. "Hey!" Xander shouted, holding his sore jaw and working the muscles there. "What the hell was that?"

"You know perfectly well what that was for." Spike was calm, clearly not ruffled by his actions, but seeming to take no pleasure in the hit, either.

"What? I didn't do anything!" Xander was trying for righteous indignation, but was only managing childish whining.

"Didn't do anything? I got a soul, you bloody git, not amnesia! Don't think I don't remember every snarky comment you made. And that was for tying me to the chair."

"Hey! Do you see me trying to get revenge for every time you tried to have me killed?" Xander honestly sounded confused.

Spike whirled and got in his face. "That's what this is for!" He stepped back in exasperation and lit another cigarette.

"Oh. Right." Xander wasn't sure he followed, but he could admit he'd been pretty nasty to the vampire. They'd been nasty to each other. Tandem nastiness. "Can we stop now?" Xander sat down in the middle of the cemetery, suddenly feeling very tired.

"Yes." Spike said dejectedly. He sat too, next to Xander, subconsciously angled away so they were both watching their perimeter. It happened every time they sat outside, but neither had noticed.

"Feel better?" And yes, that was Xander comforting the one who had just hit him in retaliation for their exchanged death threats. At least the odd hadn't lessened since the move.

"No. Now I just feel... guilty." Spike spat the words out.

"That's karma, baby." Spike could hear the smile in Xander's tone.

"I'm not apologizing." And Xander could hear the pout in Spike's.

"Didn't expect you to." Xander stood and helped Spike to his feet.

"Xander?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm sorry." Xander knew Spike meant for more than just the sucker punch. He decided it didn't matter.

"Me, too."

Xander chuckled at the memory. But even that wasn't what made these walks so important. It was the shared conversation that they both enjoyed.  Tonight they had discussed literature, both surprised to learn that the other occasionally read for pleasure; then politics.  Their views differed greatly, but Xander was reassured by the fact that Spike, being dead, couldn't vote.  And that was a normal line of thought.  Xander didn't usually think about it anymore, and when he did, it wasn't really that odd.  Except when it was.  Like on their not-patrol that night.

"Spike?"

"Yeah?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"Just did."  The only words Spike hated hearing more were Darla, Angelus, and We Need To Talk.  But if Xander wanted to know something, Spike was not going to deny him.  As long as he didn't ask about poetry.

"Does it bother you?  The staking?  Since you are?"  Nervous Xander and intelligent conversation had been introduced once.  They were not friends.

"Should it?"

"I know you only started to help her.  Well, that and so you could kill things again."

"True enough."

"And now?"

There was a pause, as if Spike hadn't really considered it before.  Finally, "It's right."  He took another drag off his cigarette. Something was going on here.  "What's this all about, Pet?"

"I just wondered if maybe it made you uncomfortable." Spike tried to look at him, but Xander wouldn't meet his eyes.

"Not really.  Not truly one of them anymore, am I?"  It wasn't quite a rhetorical question.

"No.  But you could still be... That's why I asked."

"What's that?"

"It just bothers me, a little.  To think that you might have been.  Before, you know?"

"Yeah."  Spike did a little happy dance in his head.  Demons do not happy dance.  Yeah, this one does. Don't like it?  Sod off.

"So, coming in?"  Xander asked once they had reached their building.

"No.  Think I'll see what I can find.  Look up some old contacts."

"Here?"  Xander wasn't aware that Spike would have contacts in a town he had never been to before.

"Everywhere."

That made sense. "Well.  Goodnight."  Xander was shifting from foot to foot.  And sounding like a girl.

"Night."  Spike turned to leave.

"Spike?" Xander called. 

Spike turned to look at him again.  Xander started to step forward, then back again.  "Be careful."

"Yeah."


Part Nine   Dreams



Spike woke when he heard Xander in the kitchen, as he always did.  Quick check of the clock and he would fall back asleep until mid-afternoon.  Except it was 2:15.  In the morning.  On a Saturday.  This had to stop.

Xander had been going in to work earlier and staying later every day this week.  He was still trying to prove himself, trying to do better, be more than was expected.  It was working.  He had been given more responsibilities and the hours had gotten even longer.  At this rate, by the end of the month Xander would simply move into the office and Spike could have the run of the apartment.

He got out of bed and headed for the kitchen.  Xander was hunched over the sink, back muscles so tight he was surely in pain.  "Xander."  At the sound of Spike's voice, he jumped and spun to face him.  He looked like hell.

"Pet, you okay?" Spike wanted to reach out, touch him, comfort him somehow, but stood back, reading Xander's please-don't-hurt-me body language.

"Do all our conversations start this way?"  He tried to joke, but his voice was rough, throat tight.

Spike continued to look at him with concern.  He reached for him, and then backed away quickly.

"Yeah, it's just..."  Nightmares sounded so childish.  "Can't sleep.  Dreams."

"I'm guessing they weren't of pretty girls and daisies."

"You're not wrong."

"Need to talk?"  Spike knew all about nightmares.  He had been plagued with them for longer than he could remember.  Becoming a nightmare hadn't helped.  The bogeyman had nothing on Angelus.  Darla was worse.  He was worse. Than the bogeyman; no one was worse than Darla.

"No.  I'm okay.  It was just work stuff."  Which was true in the sense that it wasn't a lie. 

He had been at work in the dream.  The usual show up late for presentation in your underwear while your father beat you and everyone you loved or ever met was killed in unimaginable ways by unimaginable things and buildings you were responsible for fell down around you because you failed high school geometry and your co-workers laughed.  Same dream he'd had every night that week. 

Except tonight his co-workers were all Spike.  Spike being tortured by the Initiative.  Spike getting his soul with the scarab beetles that were everywhere after that movie.  Being used by Buffy.  Being used by Angel.  Being used by humans he didn't know because he was defenseless and beautiful.  Spike choosing to be used by humans because he was weak and deserved it, every minute of it.  Spike broken and bleeding and wanting it and hating it and in worse situations he didn't even want to think about, didn't know he could think about.  And all the Spikes were telling him he was a failure, a fraud, that he couldn't protect him from these things any more than he could remember which wall was load-bearing and which was okay to knock down.  That he could never want anyone as pathetic as Xander was.  Then the sun rose, and Xander's sledge hammer had taken out a wall.  A load-bearing one.  The Spikes became one, burning him when he tried to cover the vampire, keep him from leaving, dying. 

"It's better this way," the Spikes had said, voice coming from everywhere.  "At least I won't be with you."

Spike knew Xander was holding back.  He could still smell tears, and see blood-shot eyes.  He was sweating slightly, and the stench of panic/ fear/ desperation was still in the air.

He opened the fridge and pulled out a couple of beers.  "Here."

Xander glanced at the clock.  "Little early, don'tcha think?"

Spike walked to the clock and ripped the plug out of the socket.  "No."

Xander took the beer and downed it before Spike could even open his.  He did, and gave it to Xander, taking back the empty.  He turned to toss it in the sink and Xander grabbed his arm, tightly.  "Could you just... not... you know, go?"

"Yeah."  Spike grabbed a few more beers and led the other man to the sofa.  He still wanted to comfort Xander, but didn't know how.  Instead he sat on the couch next to him, but not close, and handed him the remote.

Xander flipped through the stations and drank beer, quicker than he normally would do both.  Spike longed to reassure him, but was afraid of what to do.  His experience in comfort had been physical, and Xander was obviously not needing that right now as much as Spike couldn't bring himself to provide it.  For all he knew, the nightmare had been about him.

***

Once Xander had started to relax, he flipped through the stations slowly, pausing here or there until whatever caught his interest left the screen.  Neither man spoke, but Spike could sense Xander returning to normal, heart slowing, the emotions from the nightmare fading slowly.

When Xander stopped flipping for longer than a few seconds, Spike stopped his examination long enough to see what the boy fancied.

Xander had stopped on cable-porn.

It was the kind of late night-early morning movie with bad acting, no plot, and poorly done editing that cut out the scenes that might have given the flick a purpose.  Spike hated these movies.  He was frustrated enough from the almost date earlier in the week, and now with Xander nonverbally begging for... something Spike knew he could provide, but could never ever bring himself to give.  He didn't need the almost arousing sounds voiced-over from the television.

"She doesn't seem like your type, Pet."  Anything to turn it off.

"Not.  But he's kinda cute,"  Xander slurred.  Spike counted bottles.  Slurring would soon be followed by passing out, he was sure.

He?  Spike checked out the screen.  Blond man, slight build, little bit the bad boy.  Interesting.

"Didn't figure you for swinging that way."

"No?  Haven't much."  Xander admitted, spent fear, exhaustion, and alcohol loosening his tongue.  "But I'm smart enough to know when someone's attractive.  And if you love someone, all your parts should interlock."  Xander took another large drink.  "That made sense in a way that sort of didn't, didn't it?  Try going after juice and getting that speech.  With the squirting and the nakedy-goodness and not being out-kicked afterwards this time."

What the hell was he talking about? "Why do you talk like that?  The whole bloody lot of you.  You went to school, I was there."

"Like what?"

"Like a thesaurus on acid."

"Who?"

"Never mind."

"Well, the whole bloody lot of you are.  You're all.  Fang having." Spike wasn't sure if Xander meant vampires in general, or the multiple Spikes he was probably seeing.

Xander leaned forward conspiratorially.  "Spike, I think I'm kind of drunk."

"That you are, Pet.  Let's get you to bed."

Xander tried to stop leaning, but the couch had other ideas. His face pressed into Spike's shoulder, he asked, "Yours?" 

"No!"  Not tonight, not like this.  He hadn't meant to yell.

Xander looked crushed.  "No?"

"Not having you sick in my bed." Not having him wake up with that look, that horrible look that managed to find him even while back was turned and knickers were looked for.  

"But, Spike?"

Please, Xander, don't do this. Spike didn't know how much self control he possessed anymore, if he had had any to begin with. "Yes?"

"Could you still maybe not... go?"

"Yeah."  That he could do.  With a sigh of relief, Spike helped Xander into his bed.  The soft snores already coming, telling Spike there would be no more dreams. Spike settled into the armchair beside the bed and drifted to sleep himself, hoping that there would be no dreams of his own this morning. Knowing there would be.

***

Xander woke with surprisingly little more than a pounding headache resulting from the night's (morning's) activities.  He started to crawl to the bathroom in search of aspirin when he was caught by blue eyes. 

"You been there the whole time?"  Xander whispered.

Spike kept his voice low  "You asked me not to go."  He studied his chipped nail polish.  Had he misinterpreted Xander's request?  It wouldn't be the first time he had been told to do one thing and expected to do another.  But he hadn't moved from the armchair all night, because Xander asked him.  But what if he had again been wrong, bad, evil?

"Yeah. Thanks. You didn't have to.  I can get kind of... cuddly after a nightm... drinking.  After I've been drinking."

"You asked me to stay."  Spike said, as if that was all the explanation needed.

Xander attempted a smile, but grimaced instead.  Sure that Spike had enough experience with hung- over facial expressions, Xander gingerly stepped past him, asking "Where's the aspirin? 

"Oh, and Spike?  Thesaurus on acid?"


Part Ten   Hitchcock's A Classic



Over the next few weeks, Spike and Xander settled into a routine.  Once Xander had come home, they would have dinner.  Sometimes Spike would eat actual food, sometimes not, depending on the reaction of the fickle vampire taste buds to the 'human food'.

"You make me feel like a puppy.  Can't you just call it dinner?"

"'S not my dinner... puppy."

And there was flirting, the light, not quite but sort of flirting of two people who weren't exactly sure if the other was flirting back.

They would not-patrol, one time getting so wrapped up in their Star Wars debate that they made it all the way to the city limits (about forty blocks in any direction) before noticing.

"And now we have to walk back, Muppet Hater."

"I don't hate them.  They were just wiggy, okay?  Looked like some demons I met once, who don't like the smell of tobacco or leather, thank you.  I'd say I had a right not to fancy their Hollywood counterparts."

"Yeah, well, I'm telling everyone I know that you said 'wiggy'. And still with the walking." Xander made a deal of sighing and acting much more put out than he was. There wasn't a whole lot more he'd rather do than walk another forty blocks with Spike, except maybe those things that he only let himself think about when he wasn't with Spike.

"I could carry you, you know.  Swing you up on my back and put your legs tight round my waist." 

"No.  That's okay.  I'll just walk. Walking is good."  Neither mentioned the slight turning away and readjustments made the rest of the rather quiet walk home.

Xander limited his early mornings/ late nights at the office to only once or twice a week.  His results had actually improved due to his new- found relaxation.  And possibly the donuts he indeed brought to Spike and Bob.  Xander enjoyed his career, career not job, and he was good at it.  Worries and insecurities fell away each time a project was completed and two more assigned to him in its place. Spike watched the transformation and found himself smiling right along with the human.

Weekends were spent lounging together, reading or watching television.  They stayed up late at night and scanned through their seven billion digital quality stations, counting how many times the same show aired in different languages at the same time.  They watched movies together, sometimes new releases but more often than not the classics.  Both had already seen them, but plot lines were neglected as Spike told Xander stories of what he had been doing at the time this movie was filmed or based upon or released.  Spike was a natural storyteller, his fluency with words belied his carefully crafted image and his accent softened the deeper engrossed in the tale he became.  Xander usually ended up falling asleep to the sound of this voice, his head lolling against Spike's shoulder.  Sometimes Spike woke him, but if it had been a long day or the story gone on long enough for Xander to be really asleep, then he would simply pick the larger man up and tuck him into his bed without waking him.

And then leave quickly to enjoy a private moment in a very cold shower that never seemed to help.

***

Friday night, Xander and Spike sat at opposite ends of the sofa. Xander's feet were around Spike's hips, and somewhere around the first off-screen murder, Spike's feet had ended up in Xander's lap. Xander reached for them and began stroking the soles with his thumbs, and circling the ankle bones with his fingers.

"Feet're cold."

"Sorry." Spike started to pull away.

Xander stopped him.  "Stay here. I want to warm them up." Xander squeezed Spike's hips slightly with his own feet.

"'Kay." Spike hoped Xander was paying attention to the screen, rather than to the much more adventuresome show in his pants.

When the poorly colorized film had concluded, Xander released one foot, grudgingly, found the remote and flipped off the telly. He immediately resumed the rubbing, and took a deep breath.

"Did you like that one?"

"Hitchcock's a classic."  There had been no story tonight, each too wrapped up in the intrigue and vague horror of the film. And foot rub, which had occasionally been calf-rub and hip squeeze. Resulting in a cock-twitch from, Spike was pretty sure, both of them.

"There's"  Xander coughed, tried again.  "There's a Hitchcock double-feature at the theater tomorrow night.  Do you want to go?"

"With you?"

"Well, yeah."

"Sure.  I'd, uh, like that." Spike wondered if he'd always been such a complete wanker.

"Great."  Xander beamed.  "That was sort of my closer, so I'm going to go to bed now.  To my bed. To sleep.  Night."

"Night."  Spike replied distractedly.  This was a date.  It was clear Xander had asked him out.  To the movies and everything, like real.  Wow. Complete wanker and thirteen years old, apparently.

***

The next day, Spike spent as much time in his room as possible.  He was again unsure of how to act around Xander.  He had been with men before, of course, when it suited Angelus or Dru.  But that had been different.  That was fucking followed by feeding, rolling the corpse off the bed, and more fucking.  Before if he wanted, he took; if he was wanted, he was taken.  This was dating.  He was nervous and awkward and all other emotions master vampires did not have.

He was scared senseless.  The last time he had even tried to pursue a romantic interest, things had deteriorated so quickly, so unbelievably badly...  And the time before.

"William, I don't love you,"  he laughed.  "Vampires don't love.  We find something pretty and fuck it so hard it can't move for a few days, bring it into submission, and do it again.  That's all this is, all you are."

"But I love you so much, Angelus.  How can it not be real?"  Then he was hanged, really hanged by his neck for days until he submitted and told Angelus he understood.  But he hadn't. Not the first day, not the first year, not ever.

And all the times before that. It was not a pattern he wanted to complete, but there it was, filling in with a Xander-shaped piece.

Maybe this time would be different.  At least Xander liked him and wasn't using him.  So far Xander hadn't said one thing and meant another.  Spike had never seen that look of disgust cross his features after their innuendo cut a little too close to home.  He hadn't shown Spike anything but kindness, friendship, a little lust to make things interesting, and a bit of foreplay. Foot rubs were one thing, but last night Xander's fingers had fucked his toes and his little toe-brains were still lying in a puddle of goo on the couch.

This was uncharted territory, his soul screaming that he was unworthy, his demon demanding that he take what was so close to being offered. He hated having to make these divisions, but he was ripped in two over what he wanted and what he deserved. God, he hated Angel.

When he could no longer hide without it becoming painfully obvious that he was hiding, he left his sanctuary.  Xander was sprawled on the sofa, head propped on the arm and one foot on the floor.  He had showered earlier, his hair damp but not wet, and he smelled of the good shaving lotion that was subtle enough not to choke Spike in close quarters. 

That small thoughtfulness sent Spike scurrying to the shower, hoping there was enough hot water left to disguise a few sobs, enough cold to disguise a few wanks. All in all, he was one very climactically challenged vampire.

When he exited, both men were fully dressed, ready to go but with plenty of time left for the short walk.

"Hey.  You all ready?"

"Yeah, I'm good."

Xander regarded him carefully.  "You still want to go, right?  We don't have to-"

"No!" 

"No?  Hey, that's cool," Xander started.

"No, I meant yes I didn't want to not go."  Spike struggled with the words.

Xander smiled, really liking that he could fluster Spike. Wanting to see what else he could do to fluster Spike. If it was easier when he was clothed or naked.  Now was not the time for such thoughts and he forcefully dragged his mental self away. His mental self was not pleased.

"I want to go.  It's just that..."  He didn't know how to tell Xander.  Somehow he couldn't bring himself to remind the boy 'By the way, did you get clocked on the head and forget that I tried to rape your best friend after sleeping with your ex girlfriend on camera and trying to kill you or have you killed off and on for the past five or six years?'.  He had stopped wanting to see how many ashtrays he could fill.  Most of the time.

"Guess you don't have a lot of dating experience, do you?" Once again, Xander stunned him to silence with his insight.

"Not like this."

"Yeah, me neither, really.  Did things kind of backwards before."

"Anya?"  Should he have said that name?

"All of them.  Look, we're both guys here, so the feeling discussion isn't going to happen, but I'll tell you what."

"What's that?"

"I don't really know what's going on here, but I like it.  You?" Xander met his eyes and Spike noticed once again how open they were, that Xander couldn't hide anything in those eyes.

Nod of the head.

"More?"

Another nod, followed by a tilt.

"But we've got a past, a big gaping past with teeth and claws and probably some tentacles holding weapons, too.  And that's just our experiences together.  Plus the whole guy thing, which aside from a couple of naughty dances,"  At Spike's arched eyebrow he clarified.  "Real dances, fully clothed and  mostly public viewing acceptable.  The guy-guy thing is kinda new to me.  So I'm thinking slow and steady, here. Leading of course to the winning of races and the... finishing.  Tell me if something's wrong."

"No, sounds good."

"I mean ever."

"Me too."

"Let's jet, then, shall we?"








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