This, Spike decided, was hell.
He'd never done very well with being alone. And it had been a good year and a half since he'd last had the pleasure of the experience. He hadn't been anxious to repeat it.
And here he was, not actually, physically alone because he couldn't get a moment's peace but still alone, alone, because he wasn't with someone anymore, wasn't half of a whole anymore, didn't have someone to kiss and fuck and cuddle and curl up with in the middle of the night when his nightmares that were really memories got harder and darker and more real.
At least there was a decent amount of distraction from his newly single state. He had two Slayers that shared his spacious apartment full-time, plus whoever Mzuri was with at a given moment (which meant there was frequently a half-naked boy or girl doing food runs from her bedroom to their kitchen or crashed on their couch) plus the dozens of Slayers that he taught at the LA School that seemed to think his apartment was an extension of the office that he lived above, because they wandered in and out without asking or quite frequently, even knocking.
Honestly, Spike couldn't bring himself to mind. It would probably be awkward if he ever took up with someone else, but then again Spike was starting to think that it would be less painful in the long run to live out his unlife in a quietly alone state of misery, rather than happy for brief periods before being dropped like a stone into depression, which was his usual pattern. Also, he still had the lease on his old apartment several blocks away, where he and Cara and Mzuri had lived before the School was built, which would make a good bachelor pad and keep his sex life away from the prying eyes of his kiddies. Not that they didn't have sex themselves- most Slayers were a fairly promiscuous lot, though there were a few notable exceptions, Cara being one and Buffy being another. Then again, like him, Buffy had rarely gone through any long periods of time where she didn't have someone, whether she was sleeping with him or not. Witness her current Immortal debacle, which honestly, had Spike pretty disgusted. He knew Angel felt the same.
Then again, he wasn't thinking about Angel anymore. The bastard.
He wasn't thinking about a lot of things. He wasn't thinking about months of sex and companionship and sex and love and arguments that led to yet more sex. Because he wasn't thinking about Angel.
He definitely wasn't thinking about the fact that Angel was planning something apocalypse-sized but wouldn't tell Spike what it was, despite the fact that he supposedly loved Spike, and that this lack of disclosure plus some ridiculous shite about Spike "not caring for Angel the way he cared about someone else," whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean, had led to the screaming fights and vows to never speak to each other again, for ever and ever. The end.
Because he wasn't thinking about Angel.
"That's a pretty fierce scowl there, cowboy," a familiar voice said from off to his left. "Who died? Or should I say, who're you thinking about killing?"
Spike spun around, his mouth going open in an "o" of delight. "Xander!" he said. "When the hell did you get here, mate?"
"Just now," Xander said, grinning back at him. "Mzuri picked me up at the airport, the darling. I'd forgotten how much I hate driving in traffic."
"I thought that you were planning on staying in Africa," Spike said. "You always said it was home."
"Well, Violet led the girls in a revolt to make me take a vacation," Xander said. "I seriously think they would have resorted to drastic measures if I hadn't given in. And man, when Slayers do drastic, you know that things are gonna get drastic."
"Yeah," Spike said. "Ask me sometime about what happened after that one guy broke Cara's heart. I think they would have eviscerated the poor fellow if I hadn't tipped him off to get the hell outta Dodge for a bit."
"Still helping the hopeless," Xander teased. "You've built a hell of a place here, you know?"
Spike grin turned to a frown. "Yeah, well, I had help," he muttered.
Xander arched an eyebrow. "The guy you were killing in your thoughts a while ago?"
"Fucking Angel," Spike snarled, his fists clenching. Xander's teasing expression softened.
"Hey, I heard. He always was a giant dick."
"And yet you encouraged me to come back here," Spike muttered. "Why was that again?"
"Because you were miserable?" Xander suggested.
"I'm miserable now," Spike said. "How is that better?"
"Because now you can be miserable and then get the fuck over him," Xander said. "No more random moping. Now you can have some focused moping, and then move on." He grinned again. "Not that you're gonna have time to mope. I'm in town, remember? We're gonna have fun if it kills us both."
"It just might," Spike muttered, but Xander was right. It was hella hard to hang onto a good sulk when Xander was around, and he mentally blessed whoever the hell had called all the way to fucking Africa and told Xander about the whole mess. Spike didn't believe for a second Xander's bullshit story about the Slayers making him take a vacation. They worshipped the ground he walked on.
"Nah," Xander said, crossing the room and slinging a friendly arm over his shoulder. "You're already dead, remember?"
"Oh, thanks, that helps," he said, but he was grinning back. "Fuck, it's good to see you."
"Anytime," Xander said. "Now, show me around this School of yours."
It was really fucking amazing to have Xander around again, Spike thought a couple of hours later. Xander, who was sweet, charming, and flirtatious by turns- at least when he was around the girls. Spike had seen Xander put a hole through a demon's chest with a shotgun at point-blank range and not bat an eye at the mess, but you wouldn't be able to tell to look at him now.
He was surrounded by women- well, girls, really. Slayers ranging from their preteens to almost college age, and all of them crowded around him like he was the most fascinating thing they'd seen in weeks. He probably was, too, despite the fact that they were in LA. Xander was something special.
"I knew it was a mistake to bring you down into the dorms," Spike muttered under his breath, once they were free and heading back to Spike's office. He knew that Xander heard him anyway when he chuckled.
"Mzuri would have dragged me down here later anyway," Xander tossed back. "That girl doesn't take no for an answer."
"Oddly enough, that's what her last three sleepovers said," Spike told him. "Though they didn't look like they were complaining."
"Probably weren't," Xander said. "Some of the stories I've heard about that girl…"
"They weren't exaggerating," Mizuri said. She was waiting for them, lounging against the door to his office. She straightened as they approached and flashed Xander a lazily sensual smile. "But anytime you want to find out for yourself, just tell me."
Xander just grinned back at her. "Sorry, darling. I don't fuck my Slayers."
"Spike's my Watcher," she pointed out. Which was true, as far as it went. She didn't really have a Watcher, since she and Cara helped him run the School, but they did report directly to him and had followed him from Africa to set the place up, so he supposed he could be considered their Watcher. God, what a horrible thought.
"That's not exactly convincing me, you know," Xander pointed out.
"Yeah, I know," she said. "It's okay. I know you're taken anyway." She brushed past him, giving him a kiss on the cheek as she went, and the sound of her laughter trailed behind her as she sauntered away.
Xander shook his head as she passed, a bemused expression on his face. "She's a pistol," he said. "Then again, she's always been a pistol. When did she lose her accent?"
"About two weeks after getting here," Spike said with a sigh. He unlocked his office door and gestured Xander inside. "Apparently she'll dredge it up now and then, though, if she's at a club. Says that people think it's 'charming.'" He sighed as he folded himself into the chair behind his desk. "Add it to the list of things I never wanted to know." He paused and made a face. "Fuck, I'm getting' old."
"What, 'cause you have a list of things you don't want to know?" Xander asked, settling not in the chair across from him like Spike thought, but on the corner of the desk next to his elbow. "I've had that one since I was fifteen and Buffy blew into town."
"Unlucky you," Spike said. "But lucky me. Otherwise you'd be living a boring normal life somewhere and I'd be sitting upstairs moping. Thanks, mate."
"Anytime," Xander said. "Besides. Since when have I ever been normal?"
"Point," Spike said with a laugh. He leaned back in his chair, then stopped as something occurred to him. "Wait. Mzuri said you were 'taken.'" He arched an eyebrow at a suddenly uncomfortable Xander. "Someone I should know about?"
Xander shook his head. "Nah," he said. "Girl has delusions."
Spike smirked. "You're blushing," he said. "Which means that there's something to it." Xander just shook his head again. "I'm gonna find out, you know," he pointed out. "One way or another."
"There's nothing to find," Xander said, his composure once again reached. "Mzuri was just stirring up trouble. Your quest is doomed to disappointment."
"I don't think so," Spike said, but held up a peaceable hand when he saw the stubborn look on Xander's face. "Fine. There's no one and I'll find out about his nonexistent self anyway, so we'll move on to other things. How's the School doing?"
"Well, Violet's in charge," Xander said. "Which I'm sure you'd guessed. Faith's visiting from London to see how it's done and if nothing horrible happens to show that Violet's not up to the job permanently, then when my vacation is up I'm heading back to the mother country to meet up with Faith and start a School there, for her to run."
"Shit, Xan," Spike said. "I thought you were gonna live your life out in Africa. You said it was home."
"In a way it is," Xander said. "But then again, California was home. I'm pretty sure England'll be home once I'm there for a couple of weeks." Spike gave him a skeptical face. "Hey, it's not the place, it's the feeling. And it's not like I'm gonna forget what I learned there. I'm not gonna magically turn back into Zeppo-boy."
Spike snorted. "Take a hell of a lot of magic to manage that," he said, and Xander agreed with a grin.
They sat in silence for a while, then Xander stood and slapped him on the shoulder. "C'mon, bleach boy," he said, his smile taking any potential sting out of the old nickname. "Show me around this town of yours."
Spike snorted. "What, you never explored its fine streets during your teens years?"
Xander tucked his hands into his pockets. "Actually, no," he said. "The one summer I got away I never made it up here. And the rest I was either working, babysitting Dawn, or otherwise stuck in Sunnydale. Then it collapsed, and I was shuttling around continents so much that I never really got a chance to explore our state. So, no LA for me."
Spike got to his feet. "Well then," he said. "I'll just have to show you around, then, won't I?" A quick glance through necro-tempered windows confirmed that the sun had already set. "You wanna go now or grab food first?"
Xander considered this for a long moment. "Go now, get food on the way," he said. "Sound good?"
"Sounds great," Spike said. He grabbed his duster off the coat tree near the door. "Where to first?"
Xander didn't answer. Instead, he just leaned down and kissed Spike softly on the lips. He chuckled at Spike's expression when he pulled back, and said, "Had to do that. Been wanting to since I walked in your door this afternoon."
"Oh," Spike said. Then, "Why?"
Xander rolled his eyes. "Because you're you, dumbass," he said. "How can anyone not want to kiss you?"
Spike looked at his feet. "Angel doesn't," he said quietly.
Xander grabbed his chin and forced Spike to look him in the eye. "I will only say this once, because it should be pretty self-evident," he said. "Angel is a fucking moron. Angel did not deserve you. Angel should be fed slowly into the mouths of hell-dogs for fucking you over like this."
Spike thought about that for a second. "So you kissed me to make me feel better?" he asked skeptically.
"I wanted to kiss you, because you're a pretty kissable guy, and I seem to remember that we used to be pretty good at it, so I did." Xander sighed. "It doesn't have to mean anything. Can we go now? I promise I'll keep my lips to myself if you're gonna be a moron about it."
Spike rolled his eyes. "I'm not being a moron," he said, then stopped when Xander gave him the Look. "Okay, I'm being a moron. But you've got to cut me a break, mate- I did just get traumatized." He gave Xander the Eyes, and Xander laughed at him.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," he said, and slung an arm around Spike's shoulders. "Can we get out of here now? Dinner is calling my name."
"When isn't it?" Spike shot back. Xander just grinned at him and guided him out of the door. Spike let him, and didn't do anything to remove the arm around his shoulders. The thing was, it felt good. More than good. And Spike had never really stopped thinking about Xander, all those months he'd been with Angel, and he was starting to think that this was maybe what Angel had been ranting about during the Fight to End All Fights.
But he wasn't in love with Xander, and Xander wasn't in love with him. It had never been like that between them. They were friends who used to have sex and, if he was reading Xander right, friends who were going to be having sex again. And Xander was obviously in love with someone already, if Mzuri's teasing comment could be believed, and she usually had pretty good intel. So this wasn't going to be a big thing, and Spike shouldn't make a big deal out of it. He should probably just relax and go with it, and enjoy it while it lasted.
"I haven't got all day, Spike," Xander said impatiently, and Spike came out of his reverie long enough to lock his office door. Yeah, it wasn't going to be a big thing, him and Xander. But Spike was willing to lay odds that it would be a hell of a lot of fun.
"Come on, Xan," he said, making his decision abruptly. "Let me show you what we do for fun in this town."
Xander responded well to his best leer- always had. He used to delight Spike by turning all sorts of red and getting uncomfortable, but with the new Xander (and the new, souled Spike) his response was an even more delightful matching leer.
"Be my guest," he said, and Spike leaned up to kiss him, just once, before he pulled him out of the building and into the LA city night.