Sequel to Xander Has Kittens, set a couple of months later. You could read this without reading that first, but why would you want to?
Go read it. It's cute, honest. Oh yeah, and in this fic... Angel - he's Xander's cat.

Rating: R

Author's notes: Tara lives in this world, as does Joyce. Anya doesn't. They know Dawn is the Key. And I couldn't help it - the kittens are taking over. The setting is still in that season 4 or 5ish wonderland, but a certain someone has just appeared a season or so early. Older and at college. It's all a big mish-mash really, but I'm hoping that these author's notes will be the most confusing part of my little offering, and not the fic itself. Clear? No? Well, shucks, I did try. Oh, and I'll make Giles' kitchen and/or house look like whatever the hell I want it to, okay?

Disclaimer: they're still not mine, but the offer of cold hard cash is still there if anyone can find me a naked Spike of my very own. Also, I'm taking liberties with a certain character from the episode "Him". I will be paraphrasing quotes from that episode, so if something should sound familiar, I'm not thieving so much as merely using and abusing.

Author's notes: Thanks to my wonderful betas Edibbea and Becky for sticking with me.

More author's notes: Ever watched an episode and you're just so damn sure that something really, really, ridiculously cool is about to happen, but they're only teasing you with the idea and you never get to see it actually happen? You have?? Then read on...

Xander's Kitten Has Kittens


Part One

Spike: I just need a little more time.
Shark Demon: Time, time, time! Is what turns kittens into cats!
~ Tabula Rasa

'Xander, that's going to leave a beautiful scar.'

Xander Harris trembled slightly as cold fingers ghosted over his shoulder blade, tentatively touching the flesh surrounding the painful slash he'd received as a parting gift from the razor sharp talons of a large Turlock demon earlier that evening. Earlier that evening, approximately thirty seconds before Spike had broken its neck in a fit of vengeful rage, which Spike had then, of course, just as vehemently denied.

Now he was home, and felt safe. Home, this wonderful new definition of the word that no longer meant the musty basement, complete with the pervading smell of fabric softener, or the sneaking around his oblivious parents. Home now meant his own apartment with his own furniture, where he could play his music as loud as he wanted and have his friends over whenever he wanted.

He could have Spike over whenever he wanted.

The gentle fingers left Xander's shoulder and the tattered remains of his T-shirt were carefully lifted over his head. A cushion then appeared from nowhere to be placed under his cheek.

'You hurt anywhere else?'

Xander shook his head.

'Do you need anything?'

Another shake. 'Mm nmm. Drugs're kicking in goodly. Is-is it bad?'

'I've seen worse. You'll live.'

Spike's tone betrayed his casual words. It had been a close call with the Turlock demon. A few inches either way and Xander might have lost an arm... or worse.

Xander sighed into the cushion, his eyes drifting closed. It had been a long, hard day on the site, followed by a blistering hot five-minute shower. Then his hopes of spending the rest of the evening happily falling asleep in front of the television had been dashed to pieces when he had immediately been dragged out the front door the very second the sun set. All because a certain hyperactive vampire was tired of being indoors and wanted out to kill something. Something big, mean and toothy, and much to Xander's detriment, he got his wish.

There was a weight on the overstuffed couch behind him and the rapidly warming fingers returned, rubbing soothing circles on the unmarked parts of his back. Another shift of weight and he felt a familiar cold tongue pressed gently against the wound on his shoulder, lapping carefully at the oozing blood it found there. A ghost of a smile flickered over Xander's lips even as he frowned at the slight stinging pain, but apart from that he was too tired to do much more than let Spike play nursemaid.

'You hungry?' he asked after a moment, a touch of humour in his voice.

The tongue left his skin and Xander's frown deepened at the loss of its cool caress. Maybe this talking business wasn't such a good idea after all.

'Always,' was the immediate, breathy reply against his skin. 'Now shut up and let me do this so we can get you bandaged up and into bed.'

'Okay, mom,' Xander agreed, sinking happily back into the cushions as the soothing tongue returned.

He drifted into a light sleep then, for how long he wasn't certain, but he only woke when Spike pressed an open-mouthed kiss to the back of his neck and pushed up and off the couch. Irrationally, Xander's skin told him that it was cold without the vampire's touch.

'Don' go way,' he grumbled against the cushion.

'Need the first aid kit, mate. I'll be right back.'

True to his word, Spike returned and set about bandaging his shoulder. When he was done, Xander rolled carefully to lie on his back and stared up into watchful blue eyes.

'Gonna scar, huh?'

'Yeah. Your unblemished perfection has been marred forever. My spit'll have helped with the healing, though.'

'My hero. Whatever would I do without you?'

'Lead a dull and sexually unfulfilling life, more than likely.'

'Is that a fact?'

Spike didn't reply, instead choosing to trail his fingertips lightly along the slight indent at the centre of Xander's chest and down to the muscles of his stomach. Xander couldn't help but bite his lip and arch a little into the touch. His body was walking a fine line between exhaustion and intent awareness. His breath hitched when Spike gave him that devastatingly sexy almost-smile that made Xander's stomach do a triple somersault followed swiftly by a one and a quarter turn, ending in a double back-flip. A little shaky on the dismount, but the crowd went wild.

'Guess so,' said Xander, smiling in anticipation as Spike slowly leaned forward.

It was at that precise moment that a large, rather fluffy, white blur bounded over the back of the couch, landing right on Xander's chest, and knocked Spike's face out of the way. Xander's heart leapt into his mouth, but on closer inspection, he realised that the large ball of white fluff sitting on his chest in a very supercilious manner, was only Spike's cat, Flick-knife, who had appeared, as per usual, right on cue.

In other words, at the worst possible moment.

'Fuck off, you little shit!' Spike growled at the feline interruption, shoving the cat none-too-gently off Xander and onto the floor.

'Don't shout at him,' said Xander. 'It's not his fault really. He just can't get settled in the new apartment is all.'

'Like hell,' Spike said, glowering at the tip of a snow-white tail as it disappeared under the armchair in the corner of the room. 'Selfish bastard. He's just looking for attention.'

'Is that right?' Xander captured Spike's chin to make the vampire look at him. 'I wonder where he gets that from?'

'I wonder,' said Spike, looking intently into Xander's eyes.

Xander used Spike's shoulders to pull himself up, and their lips met in a soft kiss. They parted with a smile, foreheads touching, Xander still hanging onto strong shoulders for support.

'Why're you so nice to me?'

'I'm not nice,' Spike insisted. 'I'm just protecting my interests, so don't mistake my kindness for niceness. I'm only kind to those people I want to shag.'

Xander chuckled. 'You say the sweetest darn things.'

Spike leant in to kiss him again, but was interrupted when Xander asked another question.

'Where's Angel hiding?'

'He's probably in the bed again, lazy sod.'

Xander nodded. Angel could usually be found curled up somewhere in the apartment, fast asleep. He wondered, not for the first time, if cats could be narcoleptic. If not, then perhaps they had found the first case of feline sleep disorder. It just wasn't possible for an animal to sleep that much unless they happened to be hibernating. And speaking of hibernating...

'Gonna let me get some sleep tonight?'

'I suppose.'

Spike pouted, and it did wonderful, hot, liquid things to Xander's insides. Sliding his fingers into soft blond hair, Xander kissed him again. Just when things were getting interesting, he was surprised when Spike pulled away.

'Git.' Spike looked away, rubbing distractedly at the corner of his mouth. 'You won't get much sleep if you keep that up, and you look knackered. We should really go to bed.'

'To sleep?' Xander knew it was a good idea, at this particular juncture probably the best idea, but even he could hear the disappointment in his own voice.

'Yeah,' Spike said glumly. 'To sleep. Come on.'

He stood, and held his hand out. Xander took it, and the two of them walked along the hallway to the bedroom, Xander being half-supported for the duration of their short walk. Spike led them through the darkness to the perpetually unmade bed, shooed a loudly mewing Angel onto the floor, and deposited Xander's unresisting body onto the mattress.

'I love sleep,' Xander said, already dozing off as Spike pulled the comforter up around them. 'My life has this alarming tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?'


Xander woke the next morning in his customary position. There was a chocolate brown cat draped over his chest, purring softly, and a vampire curled up against his side with an arm thrown casually over his stomach. The difference this morning was that, instead of the usual sleepy, blinking Angel, he was met with a wide awake Angel who was nudging at his chin with a cold, wet nose, tickling the underside of his chin with long whiskers.

Xander eyed him suspiciously.

'All right, cat, what's wrong with you? You weren't asleep last night when I went to bed and now you're awake before me. Before midday even!' he said with surprise after a glance at the alarm clock. 'What's the deal?'

Angel only mewed pitifully and nudged Xander's chin again.

'You hungry? Is that it? You want food?'

Hearing the magic words, Angel leapt gracefully off Xander and onto the floor, where he sat, tucking a long tail around his paws, waiting for Xander to get out of the oversize people basket and attend to his immediate wishes.

'Yeah, yeah, I live to serve,' grumbled Xander as he slid out from under Spike's arm and sat up gingerly, testing the limitations of his injury. Rolling his shoulder a few times, he was satisfied that he was still able to use his arm if he was careful, and got out of bed. As soon as he set his feet on the floor, Angel was on his paws again and heading towards the kitchen in anticipation, tail flickering in the air.

Behind them, Spike mumbled something in his vampire dreams and snuggled closer to the warm spot that Xander had left behind.

Making himself an oversize mug of coffee and putting another large dollop of cat-food in a bowl, Xander flopped down on the couch to watch early morning cartoons. It was officially official: Saturdays were most definitely the best day of the week. When the frantic scrapings of the metal bowl over the kitchen floor stopped, the only sound in the apartment for the next few hours was the television, punctuated by the occasional chuckle from Xander. That damn coyote just never learnt.

Spike appeared some time later, scratching blunt, varnished fingernails through his hair and letting out a jaw-popping yawn as he made a beeline straight for the coffee pot.


'Morning,' Xander answered absently, looking up just in time to be caught by the sight of a sleepy vampire leaning over the refrigerator to retrieve milk for his coffee. Xander's eyes trailed along the length of Spike's spine, watching the play of unearthly muscles as he bent and straightened. His gaze flitted up to the clock hung above the fridge. 'Uh, afternoon.'

'Tuh. For you maybe,' came the grumpy reply.

There was no reply to this. Between the two of them they kept very strange hours, and Xander knew that if he didn't have to get up and go to work during the week, he'd see a lot less of the sun than he did at present.

'Have you been feeding that cat again?'

Xander smiled. This meant Angel. Dealing with their pets in the World According To Spike, endearments were only to be used for Flick-knife and that was only on rare occasions following some of the white cat's more gruesome rodent molestations. More often crude insults were used, but in Spikeworld, where the laws of convention, etiquette and social behaviour were warped and misshapen things, these were also seen as terms of endearment. Consequently, "that cat" always meant Angel.

'He was hungry. I didn't want to be a cat fascist, so I fed him again.'

'He's getting fat.'

'He's his own cat. Who am I to tell him what he can and can't do?'

Without taking his eyes from the screen, Xander automatically moved up the couch to make space for Spike when the vampire sat down, mug of coffee in one hand, bowl of garishly multicoloured cereal in the other. Spike immediately propped his feet up on the battered coffee table, stole the remote and changed the channel. In his peripheral vision, Xander could see that Spike's hair was sticking up in riotous spikes, and that he was dressed only in a pair of unbuttoned, faded jeans. A happy, indulgent smile crept over his face.

'Fair enough,' Spike said around a mouthful of cereal, spoon sticking out the corner of his mouth, staring at the rapidly changing television screen. 'Give the blighter love handles. See if I care.'

Spike flicked through a few dozen channels more before going back to what Xander had been watching in the first place, then tucked the remote securely under his thigh. Months of hard-earned experience had taught Xander that suffering in silence was the only sure-fire method of actually getting to watch what he wanted. Questions, suggestions or arguments of any description meant that Spike would only watch endless soccer games and complain loudly about why Xander wouldn't spring for the Playboy Channel.

'How's the shoulder?'

'Better. A little sore. No biggie.'

Spike glanced up once, then nodded, and there was silence for a while.

'Right couple of old poofs we are.'

'Hmmm?' Xander raised his chin in question, still without looking away from the flickering screen.

'Us.' Spike waved his spoon back and forth between them, scattering a few random drops of milk. 'Breakfast and cartoons and worrying about our bloody pets and practically living together in domesticated bliss.'

'If you don't like it you could always go back to the crypt at night instead of staying over so much,' Xander deadpanned, the effect only ruined when he shot Spike a sly glance.

Spike frowned at the idea. 'Yeah, well, it's warmer here, innit? And I don't have a coffee maker.'

'That's the only reason?'

'Pretty much.'

'All right then. You going to finish that cereal?'

'No mate. Help yourself.'

Xander moved to take the bowl, but Spike, without taking his eyes off the television, pulled it playfully out reach at the last minute, causing milk to slop over the side, which then landed with a wet smack on the vampire's naked stomach. Overbalancing, Xander landed with one hand on the cushions beside Spike's thigh, and the other on the arm of the couch, bringing him suddenly nose-to-milk-soaked-bellybutton. Motionless, Xander watched the milk running in fascinating little rivers over the sculpted ridges of Spike's abdominal muscles. He looked up without moving his head, to see Spike looking down at him, one eyebrow raised in question.

'Now look what you did,' Spike said casually, with a bored little sigh thrown in for good measure. 'You'll have to clean it up.'

Without breaking eye contact, Xander darted out his tongue to taste a little of the cereal-sweetened milk. Watchful blue eyes darkened appreciatively.

'You know,' Xander said, 'a lesser man might think that you did that on purpose.'

Another lick.

'A lesser man wouldn't give head as well as you do,' Spike said firmly, if a little breathlessly, lifting his hips for emphasis.

Another long, sweeping lick, followed closely by the sound of a half full bowl of cereal being dropped somewhere on the floor beside the couch. Angel silently scampered over and immediately began lapping up the spilt milk. Xander and Spike, meanwhile, were blissfully preoccupied with much more pressing matters.

'Tease,' said Spike.

Taking advantage of raised hips, Xander grabbed the waistband of Spike's jeans and slowly began to tug them down. In between tugs and licking away the remains of the milk, he raised his lower body off the couch, moving to kneel between Spike's legs.

'Slut,' countered Xander.

A low growl came from somewhere above his head. 'Takes one to know one.'

Swallowing a chuckle, Xander concentrated his energies on pulling Spike's jeans down to his ankles.

Then there was no more talking.


An hour or two later, Xander stood in the kitchen, shifting his weight uncomfortably as he repositioned the phone over his already burning ear.

'Uh huh, I see... yeah... uh huh, but... I'm sure his eyes really are that particular shade of green, but... no... yes... absolutely... yeah, Buffy, I... uh huh... I'm sure he does have a great ass, but as I said... yes... no, I've never met him... yeah... I... if you really want me to... sure I could put in a good word, but like I said, I've never met the guy so I... no... uh huh, absolutely.'

Appearing silently around the corner, still dressed in only a pair of indecently unbuttoned, milk dampened jeans, Spike folded his arms over his chest and leant on the wall, a raised eyebrow indicating to Xander that he wanted to know what was going on, and he wanted to know now. It was obviously Buffy on the other end of the phone, he didn't need vampire hearing to pick up that much, but Xander had been on the phone for over an hour, and Spike was, to say the least, getting bored. Xander shrugged helplessly as the endless stream of Buffy-babble continued in his ear. He hooked his hand over the mouthpiece and held the phone out away from his ear. They could both hear Buffy's voice continuing to stream out of the phone regardless.

'Slay talk?' asked Spike.

Xander shook his head helplessly. 'Buffy talk. Xander listen.'

'I didn't know the honorary rank of "Big Girl's Blouse" that you have with the Scoobies went this far,' Spike commented.

'Neither did I,' Xander sighed. 'She's talking about some guy she met, and apparently she's in love.' He waggled the receiver in the air as a stream of excited giggles flowed out of it. 'She really won't shut up about him.'

Before Xander could react, Spike had snatched the phone out of his hand.

'Slayer,' he growled.

'Spike!' the phone squeaked.

The giggles abruptly stopped. Xander winced as he heard a succession of heavy-duty swearwords in Buffy's tiny voice. Spike's eyes widened in surprise -- he was obviously very impressed.

'Here now. Enough of that,' he tutted. 'You kiss your mother with that mouth?'

Xander bit on the inside of his cheeks to hold back a chuckle.

'What the hell are you doing there, anyway?' the phone bellowed.

'Out playing pool with the whelp last night. He got a bit pissed, so I walked him home like a good little vampire. Decided to crash here,' Spike lied smoothly.

Xander strained to hear what Buffy was saying as the phone let out a few indecipherable squawks.

'No,' Spike said slowly, managing in that magical Spike way to sound completely amenable and yet teeth-grindingly patronising all in the space of one little word. 'No, I won't put Xander back on the phone.' He held the phone away from his ear as it exploded into a barrage of abuse, looking at it as though it might suddenly come alive and try to strangle him, and that somehow this was all terribly amusing to him. Finally, the screeching died down. Cautiously he brought the phone back to his ear. 'Are you done?'

The phone apparently answered in the affirmative.

'Good. Now, a simple question: do we have slay plans this evening?'

Another apparently positive reply.

'Well alrighty then,' Spike said, pleased that he had made Buffy get to the point and stopped her from wasting what he considered as his own personal Xander-time. 'That wasn't so hard, was it? We'll see you later.'

Xander smiled as Spike paused in hanging up the phone.

'What? No, never met the bloke. What? Yes... yes, I'm sure he's a real catch, but I... no, I don't really... I told you I've never met... how can I put in a good word for you if I've never... Slayer, I... uh huh... I don't bloody care how green his eyes... really? That green?'

Biting harder on his cheeks, Xander tiptoed away, leaving a very deflated Spike behind him. He'd got almost to the kitchen before he heard a loud yell of 'SHUT THE HELL UP, YOU STUPID BINT!' followed swiftly by the phone being thrown back onto the cradle with a plastic cracking crash.

A rapid series of dull thumps over the hardwood floor alerted Xander to the fact that there was, in fact, a bare-footed vampire running up behind him. This gave him just enough warning to turn around and get an armful of said vampire as Spike collided with him, knocking them both back onto the couch. Xander opened his mouth to complain, but didn't get the chance to make a sound before Spike was kissing him. Hard.

Gently, Xander pushed against the cool chest above him until Spike got the message and lifted up onto his hands, slowly separating their bodies.

'Ow, Spike. Shoulder.'

Spike stared down at him, but it seemed to take a few seconds for the words to filter through. 'Oh yeah. Sorry, luv, I forgot.'

The slightest crinkle of a frown formed on Xander's face. Spike saw this, recognised it for what it was, and shrugged. 'No intent to hurt, no slap on the wrist.'

Xander lifted his chin and nodded once in understanding. 'So we have plans later?' he asked, changing the subject. 'And don't call me love.'

'Regular vamp patrol. Sweep a few cemeteries. Nothing major,' said Spike, completely ignoring the "don't call me love" comment. 'Get together after at the Bronze. All super exciting, I don't think.'

'Oh. So, uh, why exactly did you just attack me?'

Spike squirmed beguilingly, causing Xander to push up against him, drawing his own lip between his teeth. 'Wanted to get the bad taste out of my mouth,' he said, watching Xander's bottom lip with interest. 'I mean Jesus Christ Almighty! I thought she'd never shut up.'

Xander only smiled at Spike's obvious disgust. 'That's Buffy. She gets a little overexcited when there's a new potential man on the scene.'

'Christ,' Spike said, slumping to one side, fitting his body snugly between Xander and the back of the couch, to run a hand distractedly through his hair. 'I don't know how you do it.'

'Do what?'

'Put up with all the shit that comes with being friends with them,' he said with distaste. 'I thought you were on the phone that long 'cause there was a new big trouble a-brewing, not because Buffy's in love again.' He stuck out his tongue and crossed his eyes to make a "yuck" face.

'Don't talk about my friends that way,' Xander said seriously. 'And I don't mind, so you shouldn't. I like it when they confide in me.' Pushing himself up, Xander rose into a sitting position, and stared down at the floor between his feet. 'I'm not the important one. I'm just the optional extra, so I take it where I can get it. I'm the friend guy, not the slay guy. But it's okay, I've learnt to deal with it.'

Spike huffed in annoyance and settled more comfortably into the couch, lacing his fingers behind his head. 'Don't be such a melodramatic prat,' he said succinctly. 'We've had this conversation before, if I remember rightly, and I'm not here to bolster your flagging ego any further. You have William the Bloody in your home -- in your bed, panting like a bitch in heat most of the time -- and yet to add insult to injury you seem to enjoy making me argue with you like a woman all the bloody time.' He sighed heavily. 'And I seem to enjoy going along with it. That makes you bloody important in my book.'

Xander glanced up from under his eyelashes. 'I'm... I'm important to you.'

'That's not what I said.' Spike glared, suddenly finding himself trapped by his own words. 'I just meant generally. Wasn't talking specifics.'

'You care about me.' Xander spoke deliberately, with growing understanding. 'I'm important to you.'

The evil, knowing smile on his face widened with Spike's obvious discomfort.

'No you're bloody well not,' Spike insisted. 'I'm just using you for your body and-and-and--'

The indignant rant trailed away as a pair of very warm, moist lips and tongue began to lick and kiss their way up the clenched muscles of Spike's stomach and over his ribs. Spike groaned happily, and tried to take hold of Xander, to direct him, but Xander had other ideas. He grabbed Spike's arms and held them firmly in place over the vampire's head. He traced a path from one nipple to the other, biting and licking as he went, and nibbled his way up the length of Spike's freely offered throat.

It was only when Spike's hips bucked up against him that he looked up into blue eyes, glazed over with lust.

'Kiss me and you'll see how important I am,' Xander whispered.

Spike kissed him.

Part Two

It was several hours later when they arrived at the Bronze to meet up with Buffy, Willow and Tara. Shuffling their way through the throng of dancing teenagers, Xander found an abandoned table adorned with three familiar looking jackets, a tiny glittery purse and several drained cocktail glasses. Dancing nearby were the female members of the Scooby gang, oblivious to the fact that Spike and Xander had arrived.

Arrived almost an hour late, in mid-argument, and with Xander looking a little more red-cheeked that usual, but arrived nonetheless.

Xander checked over the table absently, trying to decide whether to keep the available seats or head straight for the bar as he replied to another one of Spike's comments. 'Look, I'm just saying... when you get the use of the free hot water, the handy dandy fridge-o-blood and the round the clock sex, doesn't that mean you start, like, picking up your own wet towels off the floor?'

Spike snorted, and slid his hands casually into the pockets of his pornographically tight black jeans. 'Nope,' he said simply, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, 'but if it makes you feel any better, I feel really bad about leaving them there for you.'

'Huh.' Xander eyed the distance to the bar and tried to calculate the precise people-to-floor space ratio and the resulting amount of time it would take him to get from point A (table) to point B (bar) through the crowd. 'At least you're showering. I suppose that's something.'

Without moving his feet, or taking his hands from his pockets, Spike leaned forward, close enough that Xander could feel the cool puffs of breath Spike used to form his words against the back of his neck.

'You could always come with me. When I shower, I mean. Just to make sure I picked up after myself. If you're that worked up about it.'

Some very intricate, yet wholly inaccurate, space-time calculations were instantly forgotten.

'Come with you?' Xander asked, willing himself not to lean back into that teasing voice, the back of his neck suddenly the most sensitive place on his entire body.

'The offer's always open, luv.' Xander shivered when the voice disappeared, as Spike swung one long leg over a stool, sitting with a swirl of leather and looking instantly at one with his surroundings. 'Now then. You goin' to the bar like a good girl, or are we just going to sit here watching the Slayer and co. shaking their groove thang all night?'

'Groove thang?' Xander repeated, more than just a little irked at being called "luv" and "a good girl" in the space of one undead breath. 'You really are a blast from the past, aren't you?'

'Shut up,' Spike replied without inflection. 'Mine's a double.'

'A double what?'

Spike shrugged, his attention already wandering as Xander began fighting his way to the bar. 'Doesn't really matter. Bourbon I suppose... and say, Xander?'


'Who's the lucky guy?'


Xander whirled around, wondering if he'd heard the question correctly. Was that Spike's twisted version of a compliment? Or a question designed to throw him off guard?

But no. Spike was looking out across the dance floor, a very bemused expression on his face. Xander followed his line of sight, and there were Buffy, Willow and Tara, still completely oblivious to the fact that he and Spike had arrived, doing their damnedest to work a little bump and grind magic around one very lucky young man in the centre of the floor. All thoughts of double bourbons spiked with hot sauce and trips to the distant bar were forgotten as Xander joined Spike in staring with complete absorption at their friends.

'I... I didn't think Tara could move like that,' Xander admitted after a moment, unable to tear his eyes away.

'You and me both, mate,' Spike said, his tone and the interested tilt of his head testament to just how well Tara was dancing. And he hadn't even had a chance to fully appreciate the way that Willow and Buffy were gyrating, much in the hair flicking, body grabbing, "up close and personal" sense of the word.

All things considered, it was quite the spectacle.

As the last chords of the song faded away, seamlessly melting into the next tune, they watched as the trio of girls were chased away with smiles and shooing hand gestures by the aforementioned Lucky Guy, and practically floated their way over to the table. Hurried pleasantries were exchanged as the girls quickly drained the last dregs of their cocktails, already staring back across the room, giggling amongst themselves and practically jumping up and down with hopeful anticipation about when they could get back out there and start dancing again.

Sharing a quick "what the hell?" look with Spike, Xander attempted further conversation.

'So who's that you're dancing with? Um... that all of you are dancing with?'

'RJ,' the three girls sighed en masse.

'That's the guy?' Xander asked, seeing the tall, good looking jock type they were staring at in a new light. 'That's the guy? That's the one who has the muscles and the brains and the sensitivity and the hair and the cute butt, and not forgetting the emerald green eyes like, and I quote, "endless deep pools you could fall into and lose yourself forever in their deep ocean-like depths", end quote?'

'Yeah,' they sighed as one.

'That's him,' Buffy added. 'That's RJ. Wasn't I right about him, Xander? Wasn't I?'

'I guess,' Xander said with a little frown, thinking that maybe now was the time for a few stiff drinks. But first things first. 'So, we patrolling now?'

Buffy glanced at Willow, then Tara, then went back to staring at RJ. Xander blinked. He could have sworn that he saw a little hostility in Buffy's eyes when she looked at Willow and Tara, but that was just... Nah. He must have been seeing things. Lack of sleep due to shoulder injuries and perpetually horny vampires would do that to a guy.

'Not tonight, Xander,' said Buffy. 'I don't think so. Things have been pretty quiet lately, so, um, I should probably just stay here. Y'know, in case vampires show up and try the whole "seducing people with drinking and dancing only to take them outside and suck their blood" deal.' She nodded decisively. 'Yep, that's the plan for this evening.'

'What?' Xander drew back a little to frown at her. 'You call that a plan? That's what you used to tell Giles when you wanted to get out of going on patrol so you could go to parties.'

Buffy only bit her lip and smiled disarmingly.

Spike squinted across the dance floor to where RJ was standing with his friends -- also young, good looking jock types -- and being vigorously slapped on the back for his obvious prowess with the ladies.

'Don't look so green to me,' he muttered, stealing one of the few remaining glasses that still held liquid from the table, and held the glass held inches from his lips. 'More like a muddy brown pond scum sort of a colour.'

In a flash, Spike realised three things.

One: he was on the floor.

Two: the remains of the stolen cocktail he had been about to drink were now seeping their sticky way into the front of his shirt.

And three: his jaw hurt like hell.

Propping himself up on his elbows, he slid his jaw carefully from side to side, hearing the click as it slid into place, and stared up at the furious Slayer towering diminutively above him, her hands firmly on her hips.

'Don't talk about him like that, Spike,' she said seriously, wagging her finger at him. 'I won't stand for it.'

Stepping warily around her, Xander offered Spike his hand and pulled him to his feet, frowning all the while at Buffy. 'What's your damage, Buffy? He's just being Spike. He didn't mean anything by it.'

'Didn't I?' asked Spike, angrily shaking off Xander's offered hand to glare daggers at the Slayer.

But Buffy's attention this evening was a flighty thing, and she seemed to have already forgotten them, staring once more across the dance floor at him.

Taking his unlife in his hands, Spike decided that now would be a good time to make an unflattering "Captain Cardboard" comparison under his breath, tensing his muscles in expectation of another attack. This time however, Buffy didn't even rise to the bait, instead leaning forward over the table to rest her chin on her hands and sigh happily.

'Nope. They're not even in the same league,' she sighed, watching RJ with misty eyes. She smiled indulgently when RJ looked in their general direction and smiled. The music changed again and she was drawn back out onto the floor, following the already wiggling Tara and Willow without another glance at either Xander or Spike. 'He's in a league all of his own,' was the last thing they heard her say before the bumping and grinding extravaganza recommenced.

Xander alternated between watching the four dancers with confused astonishment, and watching Spike glaring ineffectually at the four dancers.

'Don't know about you, mate, but I feel rather ignored,' Spike said after a moment.

Xander nodded glumly, silently wondering what exactly it was the girls saw in this new guy. Especially what it was that Tara and Willow found so fascinating about him, because that part just really wasn't making a whole lot of sense. If they had suddenly decided that they were looking for a little girl-on-girl-on-guy action, then there were other willing participants much closer to home that they could have gone to for help, without resorting to looking for outside help.

He squinted at RJ. Sure the guy was hot, if you liked that sort of thing. He had the whole letterman quarterback deal going on, always guaranteed to draw in the ladies. Xander shook his head. Ladies, yeah, that he could understand. Football groupies were a dime a dozen. But two lesbians and a Slayer? Now that really took some doing, and Xander just didn't get it, because while RJ was hot -- if you liked that sort of thing -- he was no... Well. He was no Spike.


'So,' Spike repeated, deftly stealing and then polishing off the last surviving cocktail in one long swallow.

'So you wanna go home and fool around?' asked Xander casually, watching the bobbing of Spike's Adam's apple as he swallowed.

Spike's gaze flitted up to his face. 'Yeah.' He sniffed thoughtfully. 'Wouldn't mind.'

Xander took in the matter of fact expression adorning Spike's features that he knew for a fact was nothing more than a front, and grinned broadly. He only had to wait a few seconds until that grin was mirrored on Spike's face.

'Get your coat, you've pulled.'

'Get my...?' Xander frowned. 'I didn't bring a coat. And what have I pulled?'

Slowly, resignedly, Spike shook his head as he rose from his stool, took Xander by the elbow and guided him out of the club, the dancers parting like the Red Sea in front of him.

'Americans,' he sighed. 'It's like living on another bloody planet.'


Early the next morning, and Xander dragged a wet hand through the steam clouding the bathroom mirror.

'I have to go to work,' he said, his tone that of a patient man who has had to suffer through a particular conversation many times before. 'Somebody has to bring home the bacon.'

'And the blood,' came the muffled voice from somewhere on the other side of the bathroom door.

'Yes, and the blood,' Xander sighed, rinsing his razor in the murky water in the sink.

'And don't forget my Wheetabix!'

Xander grinned into the mirror as he finished shaving, rinsed off the excess foam from his face, grabbed the nearest hand-towel to dry off and opened the door. Spike was lying tangled up in the sheets, in exactly the same position as when Xander had got out of bed over an hour ago - spread-eagled, lying across the bed on his stomach, face smooshed into the pillow, eyes closed.

'Anything else, love of my life, light of my glovebox?'

'Bugger off,' mumbled Spike. Then he reconsidered, and added, 'You could get me a pack of smokes while you're out,' as an afterthought.

Xander smiled and threw the damp hand towel at Spike's head. It was a perfect shot and landed right on his face. Immediate surprised vampire scuffles followed, until a sleepy Spike managed to work out which direction was, in fact, up, then sat on the bed and snatched the towel away from his face, blinking the sleep away.


Casually, Xander flipped him the bird, looking around on the floor for his shoes.

'Don't see why you have to go, anyway. Leavin' me on my lonesome with nothing to do all day long.'

Looking up, he saw Spike, now sitting on the edge of the mattress, sheet draped indiscreetly over his hips, swinging his legs and pouting, and looking completely adorable. Unable to help himself, Xander let his feet guide him in a shuffling two-step over to the side of the bed to stand in front of the sulking Spike.

'My shoulder's all better, I really don't have an excuse not to go in.'

Automatically, Spike reached out and pulled him closer. Xander let him, sliding his hands over Spike's shoulders and down his strong arms, relishing the feel of all that wonderfully cool nakedness under his fingertips.

'Shouldn't have kissed it better for you,' Spike grumbled. 'Then you'd be off work for a week.'

Xander shifted a little closer, smiling as he felt Spike's arms tighten around him, one leg sneaking around behind his knees to draw him in closer. Xander didn't put up much resistance.

'I'm so miserable without you,' Spike said, his voice lowering to a husky whisper, 'it's almost like you're here.'

Xander smacked him on the back of the head. 'Play nice, or I won't bring you any Wheetabix,' he warned.

'Sorry, Mum,' said Spike, making it perfectly clear that he was nothing of the sort.

'You better be,' said Xander, smiling as he leant down to kiss unrepentant lips.

Cool lips that parted willingly under his own, and Xander deepened the kiss, tilting Spike's head back further, loving the feel of the strong, naked body bending under his own. It was only when the urge to breathe became too strong that he broke away, resting his forehead on Spike's, watching the display of pleasure on the vampire's face.

'Mmm, you always taste so good, luv. Cat-food.'

Xander blinked and drew back a little. 'Cat-food to you too. And don't call me love.'

Spike opened his eyes. 'I mean you need to get cat-food. The little piggies are eating us out of house and home.'

'I kiss you and you're thinking about cat-food. Maybe I need to brush up on my tonsil hockey skills.'

'Yep, you definitely need more practice. No arguments there,' said Spike, pulling him inexorably towards the bed. 'Say, here's a thought: why don't you practice on me?'

Xander felt his resolve crumbling, and almost let himself be enticed back onto the bed, but he scooted away at the last moment. 'I can't. I really can't. Work now. Must go to work.'

Unwillingly giving up on his early morning seduction routine, Spike flopped dramatically onto the mattress, arms spread out wide, the silent display of offering more alluring to Xander than he could have known. Xander swallowed heavily and looked at the alarm clock. If he left right now, right this very second, he would only be five minutes late for work. Five minutes max.

Damn it.

'Work now.'

'You said that already.'

'I know. I was just making sure.'

Backing out of the room, Xander watched as Spike sighed, arching his back a little against the bed for effect, following him with dark eyes.

'Work,' Xander said forcefully. 'Now.'

The door closed and Spike pouted, listening to the sounds of footsteps tripping over themselves along the hallway, which made him grin, followed by the familiar morning noises of Xander picking up his keys, opening the closet to get his jacket and making his way around the apartment. Then the front door would open and close and Spike would be left to his own devices for another long, sunny, Sunnydale day.

Realising he was all slept out, he slapped his hands against the mattress for a while, listening idly to the sound of springs boinging beneath his hands, but this idle distraction really didn't hold his attention for long.

There was only one thing for it.

'Telly time,' he decided, rising from the bed and wrapping the sheet around him like a cape. He waddled from the room, along the hallway and towards the couch, pausing only to fish his last remaining pack of emergency cigarettes from his duster hanging over the back of one of the armchairs, then to shake his head ruefully at Angel. The cat was preoccupied with staring pointedly at the refrigerator, as though waiting for it to open of its own accord and shower him with kitty treats.

'Not on your nelly, cat,' said Spike, scooping the cat into his arms and plonking them both onto the couch. 'Now just sit and behave yourself for a while, yeah?'

He stretched out, hit the "on" button on the remote with his heel, tore the cellophane from his cigarettes, lit one, and settled down for several hours of uninterrupted daytime soap opera viewing.

This was the scene that greeted Xander when he silently reappeared five minutes later to pick up the correct set of keys. He had realised, on trying to unlock his car, that the key to the Magic Box that Giles had given him wouldn't really be of much use and jogged back up the stairs to the apartment. The thought of the minutes ticking by and the inevitable stern talking-to he was going to get from his boss hung like a weight over his head, yet he paused in the doorway with a vague smile on his face. He watched as Spike leisurely smoked his cigarette, slowly dragging his fingers through the soft, thick fur of the purring Angel's stomach. Xander wondered if it was wrong to find yourself suddenly, desperately jealous of a cat.

As he watched, it suddenly occurred to him that it seemed so right to have Spike in his life, in his home, in his bed like this. Had it really only been a matter of months since they had become so caught up in each other? Unless it had actually been happening to him, Xander never would have believed that this sort of relationship would have been possible. Not for him personally, and especially not for Spike and him together.


In the coupley sense of the word.

The very idea of it was insane, and yet there it was. His vampire boyfriend. Lying on Xander's couch, wrapped up in Xander's sheets, petting Xander's cat and changing channels on Xander's remote using oddly dextrous toes.

Xander had given Spike plenty of opportunity to walk away from this... whatever this was. He had picked fights, he had studiously ignored Spike for days on end, he had stepped up his usual scathing attacks on the vampire's chipped state in front of the other Scoobies, but somehow his heart hadn't really been in it. Somehow, he had always ended up finding some ridiculous reason to show up at Spike's crypt at all hours of the day and night. Somehow, he had always apologised. And somehow, Spike had always taken him back, until finally a level of understanding had been reached.

They were together in this. Their words of love, spoken once, had never been repeated, seldom been hinted at, but they were drawn to each other in spite of all the reasons they shouldn't be.

Xander watched as Angel squirmed happily on his back, batting at Spike's teasing fingers with his paws.

If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it's yours forever. If it doesn't come back, it was never yours in the first place.

But, if it sits in your living room, messes up your stuff, eats your food, uses your telephone, takes your money, drinks too much, insults your cat, is rude to your friends and doesn't seem to realise that you had set it free... you either married it or gave birth to it.

The vague smile became a little sharper, a little clearer, as it grew on Xander's face.

Looks like I'm married.

'You gonna stand there watching me all day, mate, or come over here and keep me company?'

Xander started, woken out of his daydreams and snatched the correct set of keys from the hook just inside the door.

'Work,' he stated firmly. 'Now.'

Spike shook his head and smiled as the front door slammed, the sound of hurried footsteps leading downstairs, tripping only once on the way.

Part Three

A few hours later, somewhere in a classroom across town...

Three girls -- members of the underground, almost top secret, anti-evil organisation commonly referred to as the Scooby gang -- sat in a row. Three chins were rested on three sets of hands on the long desk in front of them. Three expressions of absolute devotion were worn proudly. Three sighs were let out in unison as the object of their undisguised adoration smiled and cracked a nervous joke about his subject matter. Today college was the seventh level of heaven, for today was the day that RJ made his presentation on the chosen topic of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The sun was shining, the cake had icing on it and all was right with the world.

At least, all was right with the world until the class ended. For it was then that a very sneaky Miss Buffy Summers ditched her friends with a shaky story about going to see their tutor for some extra credit, and stalked the aforementioned object of undisguised adoration through the corridors of Sunnydale University and out into the bright spring sunshine. Peeking out from behind a leafy bush, Buffy watched as RJ took a sharp right, leading him away from the centre of the campus and towards the dorms. Commando-like, she waited until he was just out of sight, before sprinting across the grass covered square, effortlessly vaulting a stone bench on the way, and followed him into the building.

At the end of the hallway, RJ pressed the button for the elevator and immediately the doors opened. Buffy dashed along the hallway, her heart thundering in anticipation. It was as the elevator doors were sliding shut that she turned her body sideways and slipped between them, just in time to hear the soft "ping!" as they closed behind her.

'Buffy!' RJ exclaimed, taking a step back in surprise. In fact, he was too surprised at her sudden appearance to notice the way she was breathlessly smiling at him. 'God, you startled me. What are you doing here? Is-isn't your room on the other side of campus?'

'Huh?' she replied eloquently. 'Oh yeah, so it is. I was, uh, just... well, I'm here looking for someone.'


Buffy nodded. 'Someone special.'

RJ looked around the elevator. 'But... but there's no one here.'

'Yeah there is,' she said with a seductive lick of her lips. 'There's one of you...' She smiled and took a step towards him, her hips swaying. 'And there's one of me...' Another step, and a hand trailed smoothly down from her neck, between her breasts to be spread out across her flat stomach, where it rubbed a slow circle. 'You were the one in math class... you tell me what that adds up to,' she breathed.

A hesitant smile toyed around the edges of RJ's mouth. 'That was actually our English Lit. class.'

'It was?' Buffy shrugged slowly, managing to get her breasts into the act, as she slinked towards him, pausing only to hit the emergency stop button on the control panel built into the wall. And sure enough, slowly, but surely, RJ seemed to be getting the idea.

'Listen, Buffy, I had fun dancing with you last night, but I don't know if this is a good idea.'

'If what is a good idea?'

RJ gestured around generally with his hands and shot her a nervous grin.

'Riding the elevator together?' she asked with a teasing smile. 'Have I missed a rule somewhere that says this isn't allowed?'

He smiled with her, not really knowing how to answer, and not exactly following the rules to this new and very interesting game.

'Besides,' she said, baby steps leading her ever closer, 'there's no bad here. No rule breakage. Just you and me, together, alone, in a teeny tiny little room. Whatever will we do to pass the time?'

RJ swallowed heavily.

'Hey, I know - you're the toast of the English class. Why don't you quote me a little something?' she suggested.

'What? Me? Here? Now? You... you want me to quote you something?'

'Oh, yeah.' Buffy nodded again, toying playfully with a strand of her hair, her eyes wide and never leaving his face.

'What-what do you want me to quote you?' he asked, sounding more than a little flustered.

'Oh, I don't know,' she said, just as RJ's back hit the wall of the elevator, the dull thud signalling that he had nowhere left to go. Her smile widened, becoming predatory. 'Something. Anything.' The space between them was rapidly decreasing, until their bodies finally met -- hips first. Buffy was the picture of wide-eyed innocence, as she continued to bat her eyes at him, twirling a strand of blonde hair around and around her finger. 'I just love the sound of your voice.'

'Oh.' RJ swallowed again, trying to find his voice. 'Okay. I guess I can do that. I, um, "I wandered lonely as a cloud--"'

Buffy slapped her hand over his mouth. 'That's enough.' Shimmering with desire, she dragged her fingers across his lips, smooshing them to the side and back again. 'That's enough,' she repeated, this time in a husky whisper, and with no further ado, she grabbed the lapels of his jacket, and dragged him down into a steamy kiss.

RJ's eyes widened with surprise at the force of the kiss, but his body seemed to be completely at ease with the idea, fitting perfectly against her, pulling her closer and kissing her back with equal fervour. This was very unexpected. Buffy Summers was that weird girl surrounded constantly by gossip and wild, some might even say unfounded, rumours. There was never anything concrete to be said about her, but the general consensus was that she was... weird. Very, very hot, sure, of course, without doubt -- one might even say sizzling -- but definitely weird.

Trying for the last time to make some sense of this situation, he broke away with a gasp.


'Yes?' she asked sweetly.

'Not that I'm complaining or anything, but we hardly know each other.'

'Oh, but we do.'

'We do?'

She nodded. 'I feel like I've known you my entire life.'

'Oh.' He seemed a little disconcerted by this, but it didn't take long for the constant, distracting rub of Buffy's breasts against his chest to soon lull him back to happy acquiescence of the situation. 'You... you have?'

'Mmm hmm,' she nodded slowly, hypnotically. 'We're connected. Can't you feel it?' Suggestively, she pressed against him a little harder, and it was all he could do to swallow his moan and nod helplessly. Buffy smiled. 'Y'know, I've always been fascinated by football,' she said, in between peppering little open mouthed kisses over his jaw and throat, never letting up on the insistent pressure of their two bodies. 'What's it like to lead a team?'

RJ's eyes crossed as he tried for a little coherent thought. 'Uh, yeah, it's umm, ohmygod. Time!' he exclaimed, just as Buffy's lips found a particularly sensitive spot. 'Time,' he repeated after clearing his throat, 'nobody gets how much time goes into it... oh yeah... um, with practice and games.'

Buffy pulled away briefly to smile up at him in understanding. RJ had to stifle a groan at the loss of contact.

'I totally get it,' she said, as though very pleased with herself. There was just so much that they had in common. This boy... no. This man was the one she had been waiting for. He was going to fill the empty place in her life. He was vibrant and he was alive and he was amazing. Plus, totally cute. They fit together like two halves of the same whole. Perfectly.

'You do?' he asked, licking his lips as he stared down at her heaving chest.

'Mm hmm,' she nodded happily. 'I'm kinda juggling some stuff, too.'

'You are?' he asked, bending down to kiss her again.

Buffy closed her eyes blissfully, happy to let him kiss her, to hold her, to do whatever he wanted. 'Yes,' she nodded, pulling him closer as he trailed his kisses down to her collarbone. 'Juggling. That's me. Balls!' she cried out as he bit down softly. 'Um, balls. Yeah, balls in the air. That's me! Juggling.'

'Mm,' RJ agreed. 'I get that. It's hard fitting it all in around classes and the amount of extra work they seem to like giving me. Professor Walsh is the worst. She's always riding me. I wish somebody'd get her off my back.'

Buffy tilted her head back to give him better access, linking her fingers together behind his head. 'Yeah,' she said in a dreamy voice, 'that would be cool.'

'And sometimes, I didn't even do anything wrong--'

Buffy grabbed his head, crushing their lips together in a way that very clearly said: Enough talk. More kissing now.

They kissed for a moment, until RJ pulled back, making a last effort to retain a semblance of control over the situation. 'Buffy, I... we hardly know each other. And aren't you going out with Riley Finn?'

'Not really.' She gave him an innocent little pout. 'But, I mean, does it bother you?' she asked sweetly.

RJ thought this over. 'Not so much.'

Her answer was a blinding smile.

RJ surrendered. 'I guess that's okay then.'

'It's more than okay,' Buffy sighed happily, pulling him down for another kiss. 'It's perfect.'

Kissing passionately, they slid down the wall to land in a tangled heap on the floor. There was much gratuitous wriggling around until Buffy ended up happily sprawled on top of RJ's unresisting form. Neither of them noticed when the elevator gave a slight lurch and slowly started to move. A moment later, there was a soft "ping". Buffy looked up with a scowl, breaking away from a dazed RJ in mid kiss.

'Hey!' she said, annoyed to have been interrupted. 'Doesn't anybody knock?'

Realising she was wasting valuable time, she shrugged and went back to kissing RJ. It really didn't matter who it was. The whole world should be able to witness their love. Buffy wasn't ashamed of their little public display of affection. Not ashamed in the slightest.

The doors opened. Two figures appeared, standing side by side in the hallway. Willow and Tara let go of their connected hands, breathing heavily as their eyes faded from inky black to their natural colours.

'Buffy, I think we need to talk,' said Willow in a stern voice.

Buffy's head snapped up. 'Willow! A-and Tara! Look, it's Willow and Tara. Hi, Willow and Tara. You guys both know R.J, right?'

RJ propped himself up on his elbows. 'Hey girls, it's called knocking.'

'Oh, I-I'm sorry,' said Tara, her voice uncharacteristically harsh. 'It's just checkout time was an hour ago. We were hoping to make up the bed. Also, it's an elevator, you chowder-head!'

Willow immediately slapped Tara, none too gently, on the arm. 'Don't call him a chowder-head!'

Tara's hands immediately flew to her mouth. 'Ohmygod!' Torn between looking horror struck and overly apologetic, she glanced at RJ before hanging her head in shame. 'S-she's right. I-I'm so s-sorry.'

RJ only shrugged, as best he could while still trapped beneath Buffy's body, and smiled up at her, more than a little bemused with the entire state of affairs. Trying to take control of the situation before it got out of control, Willow placed her hands firmly on her hips.

'Buffy, get off the boy. We're going home.'


Rupert Giles was in his kitchen making tea. At least, that was his excuse. He was, in actual fact, hiding. Hiding in a helpful, manly way. To say that he was flustered with the evening's events was an understatement. He couldn't remember being this overwhelmed since the time that Buffy had developed the unfortunate skill of being able to read their thoughts and learnt about his Band Candy exploits with Joyce. He peeked around the corner into his living room.

The scene was exactly as he had left it.

Buffy, Willow and Tara sat on the couch, each of them weeping inconsolably. Dawn paced up and down in front of them, nodding understandingly and passing out tissues like they were going out of style. The girls had shown up at his house a little while ago, Buffy, Willow and Tara arguing loudly about a boy, with Dawn following in their wake, trying to explain to him what little she had learnt from their arguing on the walk to his house.

After several failed attempts at getting to the bottom of their current crisis, he had quickly decided that he was not the one to deal with three such highly strung and potentially dangerous, angry females (for females read: Slayer and two powerful Wiccas). So he had swiftly placed a furtive phone call to Xander, who had arrived shortly afterwards. Between the information gleaned from both Dawn and Xander, not to mention the three weeping girls, Giles had quickly come to the conclusion that spells were, most definitely, afoot.

A crinkling sound drew his attention away from the histrionics in his living room and towards the tiny kitchen table. Spike was sprawled in the only chair, reading a newspaper, drinking a mug of tea that he had generously laced with Giles' favourite single malt, much to Giles' tight-lipped irritation.

Spike had arrived at the house with Xander. No big surprise there. The two of them had barely been apart for months now. Giles couldn't help but wonder if any of the others had figured out their dastardly little secret. Unlikely, considering that Spike was still walking and talking, and not a pile of dust at Buffy's feet. Giles wasn't exactly thrilled about his dalliance with Xander, but so far it seemed to be good for both of them. Xander seemed happier than Giles had seen him in a long time, and Spike was actually keeping his nose clean -- although whether this was by accident or design, Giles wasn't one hundred percent certain. However, so long as Xander wasn't being hurt by the arrangement, perhaps it didn't have to end so terribly as most of their other relationships seemed to. After all, Spike was already soulless, so they didn't have to worry about him turning evil, or rather, turning more evil, and so long as the chip was still in place, Xander would be safe.

Giles grimaced. To coin a phrase, exactly whom was he trying to kid? Xander would be safe? Ha! The only reason Giles hadn't said anything before now was because he honestly hadn't expected their... relationship to last this long. It was a flimsy argument at best, and he couldn't continue to delude himself with it. He had been negligent to let it go on this long or this far without questioning it. Negligent to be so flippant about it in the first place - no good could come of a relationship brought into being by magical means. Unearthing deepest, darkest desires did not automatically result in a "living happily ever after" scenario. He should have threatened Spike at stake-point to stay away from the boy, or at least given Xander a good talking to about the blatant insanity of getting romantically involved with a vampire -- hadn't he seen the disaster that was Buffy and Angel? Hadn't he actively and vocally disapproved at every given opportunity? It just wasn't possible that Xander had considered all the pitfalls.

He would have to talk to them both. Soon. Find out if Spike's intentions were, dare he say it, honourable towards Xander.

That said, however, tonight, from the sounds of wailing still emanating from the next room, was not that night.

Upon arrival, Spike had taken one look at the weeping females, and absconded to the kitchen. Now he sat, illuminated by the soft overhead lighting with the weekly newspaper spread out in front of him. The crossword was already half-full of Spike's surprisingly neat lettering, and the vampire now appeared to be quietly absorbed with drawing smiley faces in all the Os and scrawling incredibly rude words in the margins as he considered the cryptic clues.

Giles took a gulp of his own tea, just managing to bite back a curse as he burnt his tongue, neglecting to notice the healthy shot of whiskey that had magically appeared in his own mug. Sucking on his cheeks, he redirected his focus to peeking around the corner to the living room, trying to ignore the familiar tension headache that had just started to form at his temples.

'Buffy,' Dawn was saying helplessly. 'Willow. Tara. Guys. Please stop crying. Please?'

'They should stop crying,' agreed Buffy, waving her sodden tissue in the air. 'Crying isn't going to make his love for me go away, you know.' With red-rimmed eyes, she looked up at Dawn beseechingly. 'They're just jealous,' she wailed. 'They made me leave him. He loves me and I left him all alone.'

'Yes, you abandoned him to the terrible fate of riding the elevator alone, you told me this part already,' said Dawn, giving her sister a fresh tissue and valiantly trying to keep the weary sigh out of her voice.

Xander, who sat in the corner, watching his girls weep, and feeling even more powerless to help them than usual, sat forward in his chair. 'Listen,' he said, 'you're under a love spell. That's what this has to be.'

'You're right,' said Willow decisively, her voice muted a little by the tissue she held to her nose. 'He's absolutely right.' She turned her attention to Buffy and Tara. 'You're both under a spell. Oh, you poor things. I'm so sorry it had to come to this.'

'H-he wasn't talking to you,' snapped Tara, her cheeks pink and blotchy. 'RJ loves me. I know it's probably hard for you all to b-believe, but he loves me.'

Willow laid a comforting hand on her girlfriend's knee. 'Oh Tara, that's not hard to believe at all. It's very easy to love you.' She patted Tara's knee. 'It's just that in this case, he doesn't.'

Tara crumpled into fresh floods of tears.

Dawn shot Xander an imploring look.

'Guys, don't cry, please,' said Xander. 'You know I can't handle all this weeping, it takes away from my manliness.' A loud snort of laughter could be heard coming from the kitchen, followed by Giles' voice saying, 'Spike, do shut up!' Undeterred, Xander continued. 'It'll be better soon. Giles' is working on it.'

'Absolutely,' agreed Dawn, clinging to this small piece of good news like a lifeline. 'Soon none of you will be in love with this boy.'

'He's not a boy,' muttered Tara sullenly.

'You're darn tootin' he's not!' Willow added her two cents. 'He's a man. A beautiful, beautiful man. Who loves me. And besides, Dawnie, what do you know about love? You've never been in love. This is true and real. This isn't magic - and trust me, I should know. This is undeniable. This is my heart.' She laid her palm over her chest and batted her tear-filled eyes sincerely.

'Fine,' said Dawn petulantly, giving up any pretence of being able to take them at all seriously. 'Whatever you say, Lesbian Willow and Lesbian Tara. You're both madly in love with the same boy, who neither of you have ever mentioned before today. Miraculously on the same day that Buffy falls head over heels in love with him too. Isn't that an amazing coincidence? Xander, don't you think that's an absolutely amazing coincidence?'

Getting out of his seat, Xander gently took Dawn by the shoulders and steered her away. 'We'll, ah,' he paused, and looked at the three rosy faces looking at him expectantly. 'We'll be working.' Shooing Dawn into the kitchen, he made a last ditch attempt to calm his friends. 'Look, I know this feels terrible, but it isn't real. Try to hold on to that.'

Slowly, Buffy nodded in agreement. 'Did you hear that?' she asked Willow and Tara. 'It isn't real.' Xander smiling encouragingly. 'You two are just crazy,' she continued resolutely, folding her arms in the face of her friend's disbelief.

Xander slumped, turned, and slowly left the room to join the sane people in the kitchen.

'It is so real!' countered Willow. 'You knew how we-- how I felt! Like I finally found something, and you betrayed me.'

Tara nodded mournfully. 'Me too.'

'I betrayed you? You two are the ones who constructed such elaborate fantasies about my lover.'

'Your lover?' Willow stood indignantly, putting her hands on her hips. 'Your lover!?'

'That's right!' Buffy stood, just as indignantly, jutting her chin out. 'I saw the two of you dancing with him in the Bronze. It was pretty hard to miss with all that shimmying and-and-and thrusting!'

'Ha!' Tara got to her feet, showing that she, too, had a temper fiery enough to match theirs. 'It was your idea to dance with him in the first place. Y-you were the one who suggested a little girl-on-girl dancing to get him all hot and bothered!'

'I did not!' insisted Buffy, even though she knew the denial to be a barefaced lie. 'Besides, it was obvious that he only had eyes for me!'

In the kitchen, Xander walked slowly to the corner, and stood in it, facing the wall. Slowly and methodically, he began to bang his head off the floral wallpaper.

*Thud* *Thud* *Thud* *Thud* *Plash*

Plash? Looking up, he saw a pale hand had inserted itself between his forehead and the wall.

'You just about done?' asked Spike, feigning boredom.

'Yeah,' Xander sighed. 'I'm done.' Turning, he asked, 'Does anyone have any suggestions?'

'Yeah,' said Spike, deftly retaking his seat mere seconds before Giles was about to sit in it. 'I suggest you all get out of my kitchen and let me get back to doing the crossword.'

'Your kitchen?' asked Giles.

'That's right, mine. Until you fix whatever's going on with the birds in there.' Spike nodded towards the other room. 'Looks like World War Three is about to break out so I'd say you've got your hands full.'

Giles tilted his head in now familiar disbelief at the vampire. 'And what you're suggesting is...'

Spike shrugged. 'Let 'em fight it out. It'll be good for 'em. Bloody entertaining, too, I'd wager.'

'Oh, for heaven's sake! That's it! Spike, get your arse out of that seat. Dawn, fetch Willow's laptop, would you please? Xander...' Giles sighed. 'Just try and keep Spike out of trouble.'

Smiling faintly, Xander took a grumbling Spike by the upper arm and dragged him out of the chair.

Soon they were all crammed back into the tiny kitchen, researching. The table was covered in books and papers -- minus Spike's appropriated newspaper -- and Dawn was busily tapping away on Willow's laptop. She was making progress, but also making many more mistakes than they were used to with Willow in the driving seat. An hour later and they were all beginning to worry that it was taking so long. From the other room occasional dramatic wails could be heard, punctuated sporadically with angry raised voices. Spike, evicted from his table, freshly filled steaming mug in hand, asked why they weren't getting Willow to do the grunt work.

Dawn took a deep breath, her fingers poised over the keyboard. 'Because she's in too much pain because of this forced separation from her lover and can't possibly be expected to research at a time like this because it's all so silly and she's not under any dumb love spell anyway.'

Spike raised an eyebrow. 'That a direct quote?'

'Pretty much,' Dawn nodded glumly.

'Hey, Willow?' he called loudly, without taking his eyes off the screen. 'Why don't you come help us out with this, luv?'

'Because I don't want to,' came the petulant response.

'No?' asked Spike. 'Don't you want to see if there's any pictures of your boyfriend?'

The wailing stopped abruptly. There was a brief moment of silence, followed by three sets of scampering footsteps. Three more bodies joined the crush in the kitchen. Dawn was pushed unceremoniously out of the way as Willow sat down, flanked on either side by Buffy and Tara.

'Pictures?' asked Buffy excitedly. 'You think there'll be pictures?'

Xander helped a disgruntled Dawn up from the floor while giving Spike an incredulous smile. Spike raised his mug in salute, and took a sip, making sure to lick a pesky drop of whisky-flavoured tea away with slightly more tongue than was absolutely necessary, and wandered into the next room. As casually as possible, Xander followed him out, leaving Dawn and Giles to try and control the love-struck trio.

He stood just inside the living room, watching Spike drift around the room, picking items up and discarding them as uninteresting.

'Crazy little lust puppies, aren't they?' Spike asked without turning.

'Well,' Xander considered, 'at least the yelling went away. It was starting to sound like Christmas morning with my family.'

Unseen by Xander, a look of pure hatred passed over Spike's face. Squelching it quickly, he took another gulp of his tea and turned to face Xander. The boy didn't want to start a discussion about the evils of his family and just how shitty it had been living with them for the first two decades of his life. Spike knew that. Humour reflex. Xander did it all the time, Spike doubted that he even noticed he was doing it any more.

Didn't make the urge to rip his parents' throats out any easier to deal with.

'What say you spend Christmas morning with me this year?'

'What?' Xander blinked in shock. 'Vampires celebrate Christmas?'

'Sure. What's not to like? Presents, booze, turkey, chocolate, the Queen's speech...' A slow, dangerous grin spread itself across Spike's face. 'Christmas carollers.'

'Ew.' Xander screwed up his face. 'And did I mention "eww"? And waiting for the disturbing to kick in.' He held up one finger and stared into space. 'And, oh, there it is!'

Spike's grin became one of simple amusement. 'Don't worry, mate. It's been a while since Santa brought me what I really wanted.'

'Why? Haven't you been a good little boy?' Xander teased.

'This year?' Spike cast a lascivious eye over Xander. 'This year I've been a very good boy.'

He was rewarded when Xander flushed crimson and cast a worried glance over his shoulder to the kitchen, making sure that no one had overheard their little exchange. His fingers tingling at his sides, Xander had to clamp down on the urge to walk up to Spike, push him, hard, against one of Giles' bookcases and find out exactly how good a boy Spike could be. Instead, he gestured towards the kitchen with his thumb.

'We should get back to, uh, y'know.'

'Standing around like useless lumps?'

'Yeah. That pretty much covers it.'

Spike shook his head in disgust. 'I say let 'em sweat it out. They probably got themselves into this mess with that bloke. You'd think that a Slayer and two smart witches could spot a spell like that a mile off. But no, they get suckered in like they've never even heard of magic before. And now look -- we've got three super-powered people running around with only one thing on their minds, and that's not counting how many other hapless idiots have been affected. Love spells. People forget how dangerous they can be.'

'Hey,' said Xander, jumping to his own defence. 'Been there...'

~A flash to dozens, perhaps hundreds of screaming, desperate women forcing him to find refuge in Buffy's basement. Cordelia at his side, panic -- true, sweaty, dangerous panic -- setting in. Voices pleading, begging, turning shrill and frantic. Hands grabbing at him, nails scratching, tearing his clothes...~

Xander frowned, tilting his head against the unpleasantness of the memory.

~A flash to a lighter, glinting dully in his hand. Being pressed up against a tree under the cover of darkness, the buttons on his shirt being ripped off. Lips and teeth and tongue and oh my. Hard, cool length of Spike against him. Desperate, hard kisses.

'It's... it's the curse. That's... that's why we're doing this.'

Words panted out between kisses. The truth damning them, setting them free.

'Yeah, but... I don't care. We can go back to... hating one another tomorrow. But right now it just feels right. I'm in for the duration. How about you?'

More wet kisses and cold hands on his body, touching him everywhere, driving him crazy, making him want.

'Yeessss, I'm in. Tomorrow I'll hate you... but, right now, oh god...'

A rough tongue along his jaw and -- oh dear lord -- the memory of Spike slowly sinking to his knees.

'Right now I love you.'

'Love you too, Xand, love you too.'~

Xander leaned back against the wall and folded his arms across his chest, remembering fondly, a satisfied grin on his face.

'Good times.'

There was a new heat in the room. He knew from the look on Spike's face that the vampire was thinking of the same thing. The thing they never talked about, like a secret, except they both knew. But still it was there, between them, and it had happened. Good times indeed.

Abandoning his tea on Giles' desk, Spike crossed the room, never breaking eye contact with Xander, meeting him with an open-mouthed kiss and a groan of encouragement. It was a slow, burning kiss with some full body contact thrown in for good measure. His heart racing, sure they would be discovered at any given second, Xander sank into the embrace. He let Spike grab at his hair, but stayed away from gelled blond locks, knowing that while he could just shake his head to look like normal, Spike suddenly having smoochie hair might take just a little more explanation, even to the crazy little lust puppies in the other room. Instead he grabbed at Spike's ass, pulling them even closer together.

'Guys? Guys, come see.' Dawn's voice called from the kitchen.

Xander jumped nearly a mile into the air, lurching out of Spike's arms. With a rueful smile the pair dutifully went to the kitchen.

'Here,' Willow was saying. 'Something.' She turned the laptop to show the others. 'Can I go now?'

'No,' replied Buffy, Tara, Dawn and Giles in unison.

'Info on one RJ Brooks,' said Giles, bending over and squinting to read the glowing screen.

'No pictures,' said Willow glumly. Buffy and Tara sighed audibly.

Skimming through the text, Xander took a crash course in RJ Brooks 101. When he was born, his home address, where he'd attended kindergarten, grade school, junior high. Who his family were. His family...

'Family stuff... Hey, I knew his brother,' he realised. 'He's a couple of years older. Worked construction for a while. Had issues with flushing the toilet after leaving little presents for the rest of us.' The others looked horrified. 'Showed up to work drunk once too often, got laid off. Nice guy. Uh, if you like lazy, sexist, racist drunks.'

'Don't mind 'em at all,' commented Spike. Everyone chose to ignore him.

'What're you thinking?' asked Dawn.

'Weelll,' Xander considered, 'I think my relationship with RJ's brother was complex at best, but... maybe he's a way in. Maybe I should pay him a little visit.'

'I'm with you,' Spike said immediately.

Giles eyed him suspiciously.

'What?' asked Spike. 'I don't want to stay in this madhouse a minute longer than I have to. Xander? Let's go.'

And with that, they went.

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