He can feel the morning sun pressing against his closed eyelids, but before opening them, Xander takes a moment. A moment to run exploratory hands over his body—fingers brushing over his eyes and nose, palms sliding across his jaw.
Damn, it’s good to feel human features.
The hands continue over his chest and down his stomach and down again to…
Yes, I think I missed you most of all.
Xander gives his morning wood a little welcome home party because… well, because he can, damn it. And because his mind is wandering its way back to last night and lips of Spike. With lips of Xander. And tongues of Spike and Xander, because lips parted and Spike kissed him back.
Spike kissed him.
And, yeah, he’s overemphasizing here, but lots of emphasis is called for because he’s not the Scooby with a thing for vampires. Other than a stake, that is.
Mean but hot brunettes? Possibly a Xander thing. The evil bleached-blond undead? Definitely a new. And possibly not a thing. Possibly just Spike.
Though, come to think of it, rushing headlong into something with exactly the wrong person? Definitely a Xander thing.
And not a thing he’s planning on changing now.
Because last night was a thing. A sparky thing. A sparkly thing. A shiny thing. A how-can-something-that-feels-so-right-re
Xander’s hand freezes at the clearing of the throat. He bolts upright and opens his eyes and sees…
Giles, who seems to be too busy cleaning his glasses to make eye contact.
“Um… I was just… um…”
Giles clears his throat again. “Xander, there is no need to explain anything to me as, when I walked into my living room just now, I most certainly did not see you doing anything but sleeping. Right?”
Giles nods and replaces his glasses. “Right, then. Welcome back, Xander. It’s good to see—and talk to—you again. Would you care for some breakfast?”
“Sure.” Xander gets up off the couch and walks over to the counter between the kitchen and dining room, taking a seat on a stool. “Actually, I think I’m kinda starving.”
“Are waffles all right?”
Xander grins. “Waffles? Man, I should get body snatched more often. You don’t happen to have whipped cream, do you?”
Giles grins back and Xander thinks he should smile more often. It’s nice. “You’ll have to make do with maple syrup, I’m afraid.”
As Giles begins to move around the tiny kitchen, Xander looks around the apartment—the empty apartment.
“Hey, where’s Spike?”
“Spike?” Giles measures oil into the mixing bowl. “He took his money and left. I called the girls. They had a class, but they should be here in an hour or so. Hmm, perhaps I should make some extra waffles.”
Xander’s heart pounds. “What?”
“Extra waffles. I imagine Buffy and Willow don’t always find time for breakfast before class.”
Xander shakes his head. The waffles have pretty much dropped right off his current list of concerns. “No, I mean Spike. He just… left?”
“Yes, well, the sun was about to come up and I had the money ready. I don’t imagine he was too eager to spend another day trapped here with all of us. Would you like some coffee?”
“Where did he go?”
Giles looks up and frowns. “Spike? He didn’t actually say. Off to wreak havoc somewhere, I would imagine. Hopefully, he’ll have the good grace to wreak it somewhere else for a bit. Though that may be asking a lot.”
When Xander doesn’t continue, Giles looks up again from his mixing bowl. “Yes?”
“He helped me.”
Giles nods and continues to mix. “He did at that. Quite remarkable, really. Though I suppose we made it worth his while.”
And suddenly Xander doesn’t want to talk about this anymore. Doesn’t want to be there anymore. Doesn’t want to eat waffles. Doesn’t want to see the girls.
But, of course, he’s trapped.
So he eats his waffles, which taste like sand. He endures a brief flurry of cooing and fawning (and cringing at his outfit) from the girls, all of which occurs at a frequency only dogs can hear. He tells the story of his re-embodiment, which seems to have lost its luster the morning after.
And when all that is done, he yawns and stretches and begs off that night’s Scooby meeting, pleading exhaustion. And when he gets back to the basement, he finds that he is exhausted and passes out on his still unmade bed.
Xander walks into the Scooby meeting, takes one look at the couch and walks back out.
“Xander, wait!” Willow catches him in the courtyard with a hand on his arm. “Just give him a chance, will you?”
Xander turns to face her. “Hmm, let me think about that… After what he put me through?” He pretends to consider for a second. “Um, that’d be a ‘no.’ And I think I’ve made myself pretty clear on the subject. So I’d appreciate it if you guys would stop ambushing me.”
“He doesn’t know, Xander. He’s a nice guy. I swear. He’s just—”
“I swear to God, Willow, if you say, ‘He’s just following orders’…”
“Xander, I know you think that Buffy’s all gung-ho go Initiative girl, but she’s really not. She just thinks it’s smart to keep an eye on them. You know, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
Xander raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, well, if she gets any further into his lap, they’re going to have to be surgically separated. So excuse me for doubting that Buffy is really objective strategy girl when it comes to Special Agent Riley Finn.”
“Maybe not, but that’s no reason for you to stop coming to meetings. He doesn’t even know that you…”
Xander shakes his head. “I can’t do it, Wills. I just can’t.”
“Xander, what’s going on? Talk to me. I don’t think you even want to come to meetings anymore. You haven’t been on a regular patrol for over a week, and the last time you did come, you left early. If Buffy’s inviting Riley, it’s only because…”
“She thinks he makes a more valuable member of the Scooby team,” Xander says. “And she’s not wrong. He’s stronger and smarter and probably needs rescuing a lot less than I did.”
“And lately, Wills, I’ve been feeling a lot more like a ‘them’ than an ‘us’… you know?”
“But you are an ‘us.’ You’re part of the original ‘us.’”
And Willow is giving him hurty puppy eyes, but it’s not going to change Xander’s mind.
“Look, Wills, it’s a good thing, okay? I have to be on site at six and I’m all hell of a lot less likely to be a danger to myself and others if I get to bed before eleven.”
“Six? In the morning? And you say you like this job?”
“I love this job. And it’s only been a few weeks, but I think I’m kinda good at it. It’s like I almost wanna go back and thank the Tchilalok for seeing my potential. I never would have thought about construction if it weren’t for…. Anyway, maybe things work out, you know?”
Some things, at least. But Xander tries not to let his thoughts wander in the direction of other things. The other thing. The one that didn’t work out. It’s been almost a month and there’s been no word, no sign, not even some signature mayhem. Xander tries not to let his thoughts wander, but he usually fails.
He focuses back on Willow, who still looks all weepy-pouty. He reaches out to slide a hand up and down her arm.
“You’d better get back in there and keep an eye on Riley for me, ‘kay?”
“Okay. He really does tell us useful stuff. Like before you got there he was telling us that they don’t just study vampires. Sometimes they put these behavior modification chips in their heads.”
“Yeah, so when the vamps go all grrr and try to hurt someone, the chip shocks them and they…”
Xander flashes back to the palace. “They scream and clutch at their heads.”
Willow frowns. “Well, I don’t know. Riley didn’t get that—”
“Fuck. Will, if you hear anything else like that, call me, okay? I gotta go.”
Before Willow can respond, Xander is gone.
It takes all night. All night, a big cross, a couple of stakes, a squirt gun of holy water, sixty dollars cash (twenty in blood and forty in bribes), and his favorite pair of jeans.
It takes all night, but Xander finds Spike. Finds him just before dawn, down in the sewers, which is where his favorite jeans sustain their fatal injury.
Oh, he attempts heroic lifesaving measures, but after six consecutive washings using every stain remover in his extensive arsenal, the jeans are a mere shell of their former selves and he calls it. Time of death: Thursday, 2:18 p.m. It’s euthanasia.
There’s no witness to the mercy killing. Spike is passed out in his bed, stuffed with blood—the twenty dollars of human and twenty more of cheaper pig’s blood.
Xander has taken a personal day and every time Spike stirs, Xander makes him drink as much as he can stand. He needs to see the flush it gives Spike’s skin.
Xander never wants to see Spike as gaunt and pale as he was in that sewer. Xander never wants to see such a stupidly grateful look on Spike’s face. Xander never wants to see Spike accept his (or anyone’s) help to walk—to drink—without bitching and snarking and generally making himself a pain in the ass.
It isn’t right.
Spike stirs again just after five and Xander pushes start on the microwave. By the time Spike opens his eyes, Xander is standing in front of him holding a mug.
“Buggering hell, mate. Lay off. One more mug and I’ll burst.” Spike’s smirk isn’t quite up to par, but it’s nearly there. “You really wanna play nursemaid, how about a nice sponge bath?”
“Only if you drink this all down like a good vamp.”
“Fuck you,” Spike mutters. He takes the mug from Xander’s hand, drinks it all in one long swallow and hands it back.
Xander smiles as he walks back to the kitchen.
And if images of the movement of Spike’s lips and throat linger in his mind, he’s sure the interest in purely therapeutic.
Eight days later, blood and rest have done their work, Spike looks as good as he ever has, and Xander’s interest in Spike’s restored form is anything but therapeutic.
Xander takes care of that interest every morning in the shower. And sometimes in the evenings, like half an hour ago.
But the evenings are better than the mornings, because every morning when Xander steps out of the shower he sees Spike, drowsy eyed and settling into the warm spot on the bed like he belongs there, a sight that always raises Xander’s interest yet again.
Spike in Xander’s bed.
Fuck. It makes him crazy. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle and Xander can only be grateful for their opposing sleep schedules. Because, god help him, if he ever has to share a bed with Spike, Xander won’t be held responsible for his actions.
There’s only so much a man can take.
Only so many nights together in front of the TV, only so much brushing of fingers on the way to the chips or the popcorn, only so much banter, only so many sexual innuendos, only so many post-shower trips across the apartment in nothing but a towel before….
“Jesus Christ, Spike. Would it kill you to put on some jeans?”
“Oi.” Spike looks over at the couch in surprise. “Just wanted to grab a spot of blood first. What the hell’s your problem?
“My problem is that I doubt you left enough hot water for me to take another shower. Then again, cold might—”
“You just took a bloody shower. Why the hell would you need to take anoth— Oh.” Spike stands stops in his tracks and blinks at Xander.
“Yeah, oh.” Xander looks away. “So could you just put on some pants?”
The silence rings.
“Well, I could do that…” All of a sudden Spike is standing right in front of Xander, leaning over and Xander is looking up into blue eyes that... “But then I’d have to wait even longer to do this.”
This turns out to be lips. Cool lips moving, burning over his.
“And I’m bloody well sick of waiting.”
The lips are talking and moving away and that’s bad. Too soon. Xander’s lips don’t like the moving so they chase after, close the gap until there’s another kiss. A better kiss. A longer kiss. A kiss that lasts until Xander’s brain catches up with the proceedings.
“Wait,” Xander says. Spike is straddling his lap and he’s got his hands on Spike’s hips and the towel is slipping and it’s hard to concentrate. “Wait. Waiting? You’ve been waiting? There’s been waiting?”
Another silence and suddenly they’re talking over each other.
“Well, wasn’t sure you were…”
“What? Gay? Interested? I kissed you, remember? You took off. I didn’t think you…”
“Didn’t know what was happenin’ to me, did I? Didn’t…”
“You could have said…”
“Figured a white hat like you…”
“You figured wrong.”
Spike studies Xander’s face for a moment, then nods. “Look, think we could…?”
“Talk about this later?”
And then they’re back to the kissing, which beats the hell out of the talking, because there’s always time for the talking, but if he doesn’t get more of the kissing pretty much right now, Xander may die of sexual frustration. They tell you in high school health class that you can’t, but Xander’s fairly certain they’re wrong.
He needs more of the kissing. He needs more than the kissing. And did he mention the more part?
More contact, for example. Definitely feeling the need for more feeling, Xander turns and stretches back along the couch, taking Spike with him. And now they’re pressed together, lips to hips, legs entangled, and Xander runs a hand over the back of Spike’s neck, traces the spine down, down, down to where the towel… isn’t.
“Think one of us is overdressed here,” Spike says.
Xander agrees and suspects it’s him.
Fortunately, Spike’s hands are on the job, sliding up Xander’s sides and taking his tee shirt with them. And Xander’s arms are happy to help, to stretch over his head so that Spike can shove the material up and off. And Xander’s heart is beating so hard he swears he can hear the pounding in his chest.
Bang, bang, bang.
Loud and insistent and… not his heart at all. The door.
“Fuck,” Spike says.
“Ignore it,” Xander whispers. “They’ll go away.”
Spike get straight on the ignoring thing, buries his face in Xander’s neck—starts licking, nipping and sucking—and Xander decides a vampire neck fetish is something he can get behind. Can stay behind. Or underneath. Underneath is good.
“God, don’t stop,” Xander says. And Spike doesn’t, but neither does the pounding on the door and, god damn it, why won’t they just… “Go away!”
And fuck, Xander really didn’t mean to say that out loud, because now whoever it is will know he’s home and they probably won’t go away. Whoever it is will probably start…
“Xander! Are you in there? It’s Willow. Please let us in. We need your help. It’s the Initiative. They tried to kill Buffy.”
Xander’s eyes drop closed and he sighs. He tries to think of a way to explain to Spike that he has to answer the door, but Spike is already lifting himself off Xander and off the couch.
“Just gonna find my jeans, yeah?”
“I’m coming!” Xander picks up his shirt and slips it over his head, looks over at Spike, doing the same. Instead of going for the door, Xander takes a few steps toward Spike, reaches out for his hand. “C’mere.”
Spike’s fingers thread through his and Xander tugs, bringing their bodies flush. He plants a quick kiss on Spike’s lips.
“I’ll get rid of them as fast as I can.”
Spike glances at the door, then back at Xander—gives a half smile.
“Yeah, so I’ll just…” Spike gestures toward the closet with his head, then tries to take a step in that direction, but Xander’s hand tightens around his and yanks him back.
“C’mon.” Xander pulls him toward the door.
They both jump at the sound and drop hands. Spike moves slightly behind Xander as Xander reaches out and unlocks and opens the door…
To Willow, who immediately starts talking a mile a minute.
“Xander, thank god you’re here. You won’t believe what happened. Maggie Walsh sent Buffy on a suicide mission. There were these demons in the sewers and she sent Buffy alone and the weapon didn’t work and… What’s Spike doing here?”
“Staying,” Xander says.
“Staying,” Xander says.
“Xander.” Giles appears behind Willow. “Perhaps we could speak to you alone for a moment.”
“No,” Xander says.
Giles sighs. “Xander, please try to understand. It may not simply be Buffy the Initiative is after. We may all be in danger.”
“Believe it or not, Giles, I kinda get that. No urge to underestimate the Initiative here. We are all in danger and I want us all to be safe.”
“Apart from Riley, none of them know of your connection to Buffy, nor do they know where you live.”
Fuck. So much for getting rid of them. “Then I guess you should stay here.”
“Right. We had rather counted on doing so. But… that is, I know that he helped you, but Spike…”
“Can be trusted,” Xander says.
“You cannot be cer—”
“Wait.” Willow is making connections. “He… he has one of those chip things, doesn’t he? That’s why you—”
“Spike stays.” Xander steps to the side, unblocking the doorway. “In or out?”
A moment, and in they come. Willow, then Giles, then…
Buffy pauses at the threshold, looking up at Xander. “Go ahead. You should say it.”
“I told you so,” Xander says. “Now come inside and we’ll get this slumber party started. Hey Giles, ever had microwave S’mores?”
Giles seems to take the question for rhetorical and Xander lets his hand brush Spike’s arm as he turns to follow Buffy over to the kitchen area. Spike turns on the TV while Giles and Willow discuss possible sleeping arrangements.
For a long moment, Xander and Buffy assemble S’mores in silence. When it comes, Buffy’s voice is soft and a little sad.
“You’ve changed, Xander.”
“You’re just now noticing?”
“Well, I’ve hardly seen you since…”
“Since Spike saved my life?”
“Since you left for your road trip. And I know it’s partly my fault… and, okay, lately, maybe mostly my fault, but the new you hasn’t clocked much Scooby time lately either.”
Xander’s tone shows frustration, but his volume stays low. “I told you why.”
“You don’t even know him, Xander,” Buffy whispers back. “He’s a good guy, just trying to fight the good fight. That used to be you. And it’s still me—except for the guy part. I kill demons and vampires, remember?”
“Key word: kill. Slayer versus vamps and demons. It’s the natural—or you know, supernatural—order. I get that. It’s the part where the Initiative plays God that I have a problem with. It’s not about survival with them, Buff. It’s all about power and control… and punishment.”
Buffy goes quiet for a second, studies a graham cracker. She looks up. “They put one of those behavior modification chips in Spike, didn’t they? That’s why you’re letting him stay here.”
“I’m letting him stay because he’s… a good guy, just trying to fight the good fight. Or, you know, a bad guy just trying to fight the evil fight—but that’s the way he was made. You don’t like it, fine. Kill him. But don’t make him starve himself to death.”
Buffy takes a deep breath, then nods. “I hate to say it because, hello, Spike—he of the bad Billy Idol impression and the multiple attempts on my life—but you’re not wrong. The Initiative isn’t on our side, and I’m gonna take care of it.”
Xander looks Buffy in the eye. “We’re gonna take care of it.”
Their gazes hold and Buffy nods again.
Xander turns to yell toward the couch. “So, who wants S’mores?”
The first night is easy.
There’s junk food and a late night Bollywood classic and witty repartee on the impending doom and disaster. It feels like the good old days and, for a moment, Xander feels like a Scooby again, in all the good old ways.
The following day is hard.
A little boy is found dissected and Xander should be—is—sick to his stomach. But he also can’t keep his mind—or his eyes—off Spike. He can barely keep his hands off, either. Dozens of little caresses, fleeting brushes—tickling, tingling touches that make him think thoughts that do not belong alongside grief and righteous determination. He feels like a big perv.
The second night is torture.
Between Riley and the dissecting demon, Buffy has been in and out of the basement all day and most of the night, but has never once returned with good news. Every time Xander closes his eyes, it’s a crazy combination of wet dreams and nightmares and, in the wee small hours of the morning, he finally gives up on sleep and goes for some air.
He finds Spike out on the basement steps, smoking. He’s tempted to ask for a cigarette.
He’s more tempted to steal a kiss. Or a quick grope.
But before lips or hands reach their much desired target, hinges creak and they both jerk back. A second later, Giles appears, taking a seat beside them, turning to Spike and asking for a fag. Xander is disturbed and confused until Spike pulls a cigarette from his pack and hands it to Giles—at which point Xander becomes even more disturbed and confused.
“You’ve just tainted the memories of my youth, you know.”
“I suspect the memories of your youth are rather too dark to be further tainted,” Giles says.
Xander shrugs. “Point.”
But for all his dry bravado, when they spot Buffy approaching the house, Giles fumbles to extinguish the cigarette, tosses the butt in Spike’s direction, and starts waving the smoke away from his face.
“Need a breath mint, G-man?”
“Do you have one?”
Xander rolls his eyes.
Buffy walks up and sits down just as Willow emerges from the basement and the five of them stay there, talking in low voices and watching Spike chainsmoke until just before dawn.
Another long day and by the third night, the whole gang is suffering severe cabin fever. Even with the lights out and everyone tucked up in his or her blanket pretending to sleep, the air crackles with nervous tension.
Xander is ready to resort to the sexual equivalent of gnawing off his own arm to satisfy his hunger.
Except that he’s not sure what the sexual equivalent of arm-gnawing is. Masturbation—and there’s a feat with three guests in a single-room dwelling—just isn’t cutting it. In fact, it’s probably making things worse. Because every time he steps out of the bathroom having taken care of his problem, there’s Spike, giving him a look that says Spike knows exactly what he’s been doing—and would like to do it for him. And one look like that tends to unresolve the problem pretty much instantly.
Getting dressed has come to include tying a sweatshirt around his waist.
The rain starts to fall just before midnight, tap-tap-tapping against the window, waking Xander from his half-sleep state and keeping him there—tired and tense and wide awake with his thoughts of Spike. He imagines he can hear Spike breathing, sleeping so damn peacefully just five feet away.
Other than the apparently irresistible urge to tease and torment Xander—with steamy looks, subtle innuendos, and the occasional provocative pose—Spike seems unaffected by the restrictions of their houseguests. He’s been the usual cool and snarky, with an extra dose of calm that’s really annoying except for the fact that it’s totally fucking hot.
Thank god it’s Monday, Xander thinks for the first time in his life. At least going to work will get him the hell out of the basement. His alarm isn’t set to go off for another thirty-eight minutes, but he really doesn’t care. The shower is his friend.
He runs the water as hot as he can stand—because even not-sleeping all night in a bean bag chair will make you stiff—strips and steps under the spray. He closes his eyes and lets the water fall straight onto his face for a moment, then turns around, opens his eyes and… swallows a scream.
Which, he must admit, might not have been the most manly scream—though Xander has often insisted that a scream can be manly—had it not been swallowed. Good thing it was swallowed, though, since Spike is standing right there.
A not-so-calm, not-so-unaffected Spike.
A naked Spike.
In the shower. With him.
It’s a good time to be manly. And a good time to be…
“Quiet,” Spike says, just before taking—yes, taking—Xander’s lips in a rough, wet, needy kiss.
It’s a kiss that steals his breath and Xander has to break it far too soon, but holds Spike in place by the shoulders while he sucks air into his lungs.
“Fuck,” Xander says, just before pressing Spike’s shoulders into the shower wall and taking Spike’s lips this time—starting just as rough, just as desperate, before slowing, easing into a more thorough exploration, sipping in breaths between forays.
A minute or two later, Xander’s attention starts to wander from Spike’s lips to the other Spike things clamoring for his notice. Things like the feel of Spike’s wet skin sliding over his.
Like Spike’s tight, hard body beneath his fingertips.
Like the hardest part of Spike’s body pressing against his thigh.
Like Spike’s legs coming up to wrap around his hips.
Xander’s mind tries to tell him that Spike is supposed to be the toppiest of tops, but there seems to be a sensory overload in progress, so instinct takes over.
Instinct points out that Xander has been hard for days and that he has a water-warmed and willing guy wrapped around him.
Instinct doesn’t mention lube, but a hand that must be Spike’s nudges his open and squirts something that must be conditioner into it, and instinct does know what to do from there.
Instinct knows exactly where to put his slick fingers and exactly how to move them. And instinct tells him that Spike likes it. Plus, the moans are a pretty good indication.
Instinct also knows when the time for fingers has passed. And thank god for instinct, because it’s so good—so tight—that Xander forgets his own name, but instinct doesn’t forget to move.
Doesn’t forget to kiss and bite and grope and thrust and thrust and thrust.
But instinct does forget to be quiet. And so does Spike.
So when the water turns cold and kicks Xander’s mind back into gear, it occurs to Xander that the gig might be up.
“Sort of forgot about that whole quiet thing,” Xander says as he and Spike dry off and put on their clothes. Not that he’s so much with the caring. There’s enough instinct still at work to tell him that it was all very worth it.
“Yeah.” Spike hangs back as Xander cracks the bathroom door and peeks around it.
Sure enough, three pairs of wide eyes are staring back.
Xander lets the bathroom door swing open to reveal Spike.
The silence gets more silent as the staring continues. Xander smiles because—well, because he just had sex.
“Good morning,” he says. He means it.
Buffy is the first member of their live studio audience to regain her powers of speech.
“Xander, what the hell is going on?”
“Well, Buff, sometimes when two adults have certain feelings for each other…”
“Okay, okay.” Xander takes a deep breath. “Spike and I are… well, we’re… I mean, we… See? This is why I didn’t want to bring this up with you guys…”
“Wait,” Spike says. “That’s why you didn’t want them to know?”
“Well, yeah. I mean, do you know how hard it sucks to introduce a guy like, ‘Hey, this is my boyfriend’ and have him be all ‘Actually, I was his casual fuck but will now proceed to run from him like the plague’? Been there. Don’t need a second visit.”
“Wait,” Willow says. “You’ve been there?”
Xander shrugs. “Oxnard.”
“Wait,” Spike says. “Boyfriend?”
Xander squirms. “Well… I mean, not if… that is, unless… ’cause I, um… I wouldn’t exactly be opposed…”
Spike spares them all the awkward soul-baring by starting to kiss Xander.
And not stopping.
“Ew,” Buffy says.
“Aw,” Willow says.
Giles says nothing. Xander figures he’s busy cleaning his glasses.
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