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Sabre Shadowkitten

Part Ten

"You never know what you've got until it's gone."

Xander never really understood what that statement meant until Spike was gone. The others didn't seem to notice that the vampire wasn't turning up at the major Scooby gatherings, but that wasn't surprising. They hardly noticed -- or chose not to notice -- Spike when he was there.

Xander noticed the missing blond, especially when they went to fight a major bad. He never realized how essential Spike's fighting ability was to taking down the nasties, even if he was just there to watch their backs. As the months passed since Spike went away, Xander estimated the gang had been to the hospital or free clinic three times as much as when the vampire was helping. The others may not have consciously acknowledged Spike's assistance, but subconsciously it was obvious they relied on him.

Outside of the fight against the forces of darkness, only Dawn was truly unhappy about Spike's absence. Their friendship was a close one, and his leaving made her bitchier than usual, even though Spike emailed and chatted with her often. When she had left for college, it had been to Buffy's very audible relief.

Time passed and things in Sunnydale continued on in their Hellmouthy manner. Buffy whined about her lack of life, Willow and Tara practiced magick with mixed results, Giles researched and observed, Anya continued to be obsessed with money and sex, and Xander lived to hear that annoying computerized voice proclaiming: "You've got mail!"



Subject: I Hate Finland


It's too bloody cold! I'm practically sleeping on top of the radiator at the hotel, and tomorrow I won't even have that luxury. The warrior I'm after in this hypothermic wasteland is, of course, out in the sodding ice fields.

Why did I agree to do this again?

Send electric cock-warmer,


Xander chuckled as he finished reading Spike's latest email. When Xander had first slipped the vampire his email address when they'd said goodbye, he had questioned his sanity. With that action, he had indicated to Spike that he was interested in keeping contact with someone who, until that weekend, he couldn't stand. Since he received the first tentative email from Spike, however, Xander hadn't regretted taking that initiative.

At the very least, Xander and Spike were now friends. Somewhat daily emails and weekly AOL Instant Messaging chat sessions had seen to that. The Spike Xander had met in Los Angeles turned out to be a man he liked and wished he'd taken the time to get to know better.

Sometimes, Xander, Cordelia, Dawn, and Spike were all online at the same time, and they created a chatroom to visit with each other. Mostly, though, Xander and Spike communicated privately via IM or email, and Xander secretly enjoyed that more. In fact, Xander was in front of the computer every night, hoping that Spike would have computer access wherever he was in the world.

But despite the fact that Xander did spend time doing other things, sitting in front of the computer passed the point of being an annoyance for Anya, and she'd issued an ultimatum: the computer went, or she did. Anya collected the last of her belongings from Xander's apartment four Sundays ago.

Her breaking up with Xander had hurt, but the brunette didn't want to be with someone who wouldn't allow him to have outside friendships, especially since nothing really changed between them after he started talking with Spike. Instead of vegging in front of the television, Xander vegged in front of the computer after Anya had gone to bed at ten o'clock. Sometimes, Xander and Spike made special arrangements to chat earlier or on weekends, but Anya had always known about it in advance. That still hadn't been good enough for her, and they'd decided to end their crazy five-year relationship.



Subject: re: I Hate Finland



Q: If you have a worldwide list in that bleached head of yours, why aren't you finding the warriors in the *warm* countries and wait to do the cold countries when it *isn't* winter?


P.S. I don't have a cock-warmer anymore, I broke up with Anya, remember? :)

Spike looked up from his book when the sound of an opening door played from the speakers on the computer. A large smile graced his features, illuminated by the computer screen in the closed library in northern Finland. Like he did everywhere else he'd traveled thus far, he'd broken into an establishment with public Internet access to log onto AOL and keep in contact with his family. While en route from destination to destination, his computer access was limited, and on the nights he sought out the next warrior on his list he didn't use the computer at all. But in between times, he relished the email he received and the times he was able to chat.

"You've got mail!" the computer told Spike as he stuck a bookmark in his place and adjusted his seating position in front of the computer carol. Another door opening sounded almost simultaneously, and he laughed softly.

"Looks like tonight won't be silent, after all," he murmured to himself in the empty library. Some nights passed when he sat in front of the computer and no one on his 'Buddy' list logged on. Those nights dragged forever, and he'd started brining a paperback book to read while he sat and hoped for cyber-company.

Both Xander and Cordelia had come online and Xander had sent Spike an email. The vampire sent a quick hello via IM to Cordelia before reading the email message. His lips twitched in self-deprecating amusement, and he pulled up the screen to send an IM to Xander.

cricket818: A: I am a moron.

thatxandershapedguy: You're just realizing this now?

cricket818: ha-ha.

Cordelia answered Spike's greeting in a second window, and he switched to her.

angeldoesntpaymeenough: Hi! Hello! Hey! and Are you being good?

cricket818: Tell everyone hello, and gesture rudely to Angel, will ya?

angeldoesntpaymeenough: Will do...

Xander's window flashed and Spike Alt-Tabbed back to him.

thatxandershapedguy: How's tricks? I haven't heard from you in a few days.

cricket818: Had to take the train to get here. Not fun.

thatxandershapedguy: Where in Finland are you?

cricket818: Havolak. It's north of Ivola.

thatxandershapedguy: Map time.

Spike felt a happy thrill when Xander's words appeared. The boy had decided to mark Spike's travels on a large wall map, using colored pushpins and string. According to Dawn, who'd seen the map, it was "way cool." She never mentioned that Xander was also printing out any unexplained exanguinations and hanging them on the wall, too -- of which, from Spike's doing, there would be none -- so Spike assumed Xander was marking the map because he was interested in Spike and not checking up on his chipless actions.

angeldoesntpaymeenough: Okay. Everyone's gone now, but me. Did you know that dustbunnies actually have teeth?

cricket818: Yeah. Nasty critters. Hope Larry, Curly, and Shemp took a flame-thrower.

angeldoesntpaymeenough: And the fire-extinguisher, for when Angel lights himself on fire.

Chuckling, Spike switched to Xander again when he returned.

thatxandershapedguy: Back. You're on number 27.

cricket818: Only 27? *groan* I feel like I've been doing this for an eternity and I'm not even near the vicinity of done.

Spike flipped to Cordelia.

cricket818: I've only heralded 27!!! warriors. 27!

angeldoesntpaymeenough: That's it? But you've been gone since June.

cricket818: I know.

Xander sent him another IM, and Spike changed screens to reply.

thatxandershapedguy: Before I forget, Giles is getting rid of a bunch of New Age costume jewelry -- sterling silver rings, leather bracelets, etc. Want me to snag you some?

cricket818: Ta, Xander. Size 8-10 on the rings.

Cordelia's query, which she'd sent almost simultaneously with Xander's, waited for a reply.

angeldoesntpaymeenough: How are you holding up?

Spike removed his glasses, set them aside, and rubbed his eyes. How was he holding up? Let's see: he was in Frostbite, Finland, after a four-day train ride with Bossy the cow and all her smelly friends; tomorrow night he had to set out on skis to reach the next warrior; and he'd just found that he was only on warrior number 27 after being gone for 25 weeks. Twenty-five weeks of being invisible, of having to be silent while traveling with others or walking through a crowd, of having to break-and-enter hotel rooms, clothing or grocery stores, and places with public access computers in order to talk to someone who knew he really existed.

cricket818: Gods, I'm so fucking lonely. It's not so much the silence as it is being in a room full of people and no one seeing me. It was neat at first. Now, it just reminds me of how alone I really am. I feel like I never left Sunnydale.

Spike hit enter as he reached for his glasses. He'd been reading since he'd arrived, hours earlier, and the words were definitely blurry around the edges without them now. After sliding the gold frames onto his nose, he returned his attention to the screen, and saw that he'd sent the reply to Cordelia's question... to Xander.

Xander read and reread the words in his IM window, growing more disgusted with himself on every pass. Months ago, what Spike wrote, which was so out of the blue Xander figured he must be conversing with someone else at the same time, wouldn't have bothered Xander at all. Now, though, that single sentence, "I feel like I never left Sunnydale," was making him physically sick.

Xander pushed back from the computer desk, stood, and paced to the giant map tacked to the second bedroom/computer room wall of his apartment. He stared blankly at the colorful pushpins that marked Spike's journey, his stomach turning over with nausea. Xander knew they... he had treated Spike like crap, but the brunette hadn't realized how greatly their behavior had affected the vampire, until now.

Xander knew what loneliness was like, to be surrounded by your friends and have them not remember that you're there. It had taken him years -- and a little help from Anya -- to learn to take what was offered from Buffy, Willow, and Giles, and stop waiting for more. They each had their own lives, and just because Xander was greedy for attention didn't mean they had an overabundance of time to give. Insert psychobabble where appropriate, Xander thought wryly.

Crossing back to the computer, Xander prepared to do something he should have done long ago. Spike was someone with feelings just like everybody else. He had his own hopes and wishes, problems and concerns, dreams and nightmares, although most of his were on the darker side of the spectrum. On top of that, Xander liked the guy, and it was time Xander let him know it.

thatxandershapedguy: I'm sorry.

A long minute passed with no response from Spike. Xander wondered briefly if the vampire had left. His name was still in the online 'Buddy' list.

thatxandershapedguy: Spike? You there?

Another pause, then:

cricket818: I'm here. I didn't mean to send that to you.

thatxandershapedguy: I figured, but I'm glad you did.

cricket818: ?

thatxandershapedguy: I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the way I treated you when you were here.

cricket818: There's no need for apologies, Xander.

thatxandershapedguy: Yes, there *is.* You're a great guy, Spike, but I couldn't see past the Grr to find that out. I never trusted you, I didn't like you, and I didn't want you around.

cricket818: If this is an apology, I'd hate to see your praise.

Xander laughed in spite of himself. He could hear Spike's dry tone of voice as he read the words, and it made the bile in his throat a bit more palatable.

thatxandershapedguy: I like you, Cricket. A LOT. And I want you to know, if you ever come back to Sunnydale, you'll be welcomed by me.

Xander reread what he wrote after sending it, and groaned. He quickly added a tag line.

thatxandershapedguy: We now return you to our regularly scheduled male grunting.

The brunette waited again for an infinitely long minute for Spike to respond. When he did, Xander's self-disgust vanished, and he smiled.

cricket818: *grunt grunt* Cordelia made me promise to come home for Thanksgiving. Dinner's next Thursday at the Hyperion. Do you want to come? *grunt.*

thatxandershapedguy: Demon turkeys couldn't keep me away.

Part Eleven

Demon turkeys almost did keep Xander away, but a barbeque fork, an electric carving knife, and a really long extension cord took care of that problem.

Xander took off work on Friday, giving him an extended weekend, and he packed a bag to take to Los Angeles in hopes he'd be invited to stay. He didn't know how long Spike would be in California, and he wanted to spend as much face-to-face time with the vampire as he could, especially knowing how unhappy Spike was, being alone while performing his heralding duties.

Sometimes it struck Xander as funny that he, ardent dissident in the Buffy-and-Angel club, was concerned about another vampire. He'd made such a stink about Buffy's relationship with a vampire, then he turned around and started something with a vampire who didn't even have a soul making him "good." Hypocrite, thy name was Xander Harris.

Xander pulled his car into the lot of the Hyperion hotel, and what he'd thought was a streetlight turned out to be Spike, sitting on the hood of a battered light blue pickup truck. Heh-heh. The brunette parked, climbed out of the car, and sauntered over to the glowing blond. "Hi, Cricket," he said, grinning.

Spike smiled hugely, tucking the unlit cigarette he'd been playing with behind his ear. "Hello, Xander."

He held out his hand and Xander engulfed it with his, giving it a brief pump before letting go. The handshake didn't seem to be enough, though, to Xander. Uncaring of the picture it presented, the brunette stepped between Spike's legs and crushed the other man to him in a hard hug. Spike's arms came around Xander's waist, and Xander felt the vampire tremble slightly, causing him to hug a bit tighter.

"Welcome back," Xander said in the vampire's ear. "You were missed."

The blond was blushing and wore a combination pleased-embarrassed expression when Xander released him. "Missed only by you, most likely," he said.

"Yeah, but I'm the only one who counts," Xander said with a wink. The vampire became flustered and Xander laughed lightly, smacked him on the thigh, and joined him on the hood of the truck.

The younger man studied Spike out of the corner of his eye. At first glance, Spike looked like he always had. He was dressed in his usual black tee and jeans, and his blond hair was gelled back. His features were still as angular as always, and eyes a piercing blue.

But there were differences in his appearance, as well. The hollows of his cheeks seemed deeper and the gold glow couldn't hide the dark circles beneath his eyes. With a casual glance, Xander saw that Spike's belt was cinched super-tight, pinching the extra denim. Xander was surprised he couldn't see each of Spike's ribs, but the tee he wore was loose, whether purposely or not was the question. Xander thought that Spike's no longer having the chip would cause him to feed more, but it looked like he was eating even less.

"So, how was the trip back from Finland?" Xander asked, filing his questions away for a later time.

"Not so bad," Spike replied. "Ehrick -- warrior number 27 -- gave me a lift to Ivola instead of my having to take the train, so that cut the trip in half. The flight here was bloody long, though, and I had to sit on the effin' floor for the last leg of it, from New York to LAX, because of all the soddin' holiday travelers."

"That must've sucked," Xander commented.

"It did," Spike said, mock pouting. "I couldn't even watch the in-flight picture or have any of those salted peanuts."

"Poor baby," Xander tisked. "You know what you need?"


Xander snorted. "No, not sex. Although sex is always a good thing to have...," he trailed off as intimate images flashed suddenly through his brain. Images of Spike's naked glowing body arching beneath Xander, those blue eyes hazy with desire.

Xander shook his head, hard, jolting the naughty pictures from his mind. He'd never thought of Spike that way before, naked and writhing under him, begging for his touch. Lips bruised ripe red from kissing. Dark hickies marring the column of that pale neck. Wrists pinned to the pillow, unable to move, completely at Xander's mercy...

Xander made a strangled sound and hopped quickly off the truck. Back to Spike, he untucked his shirt and hoped it hid the raging boner he now sported. This was so not good, Xander thought frantically. So very, very not good.

"Xander, you okay, mate?" Spike asked, putting his hand on the brunette's shoulder after sliding off the truck.

"Yeah," Xander laughed nervously. "I got a cramp. From sitting in the car too long. Bad leg cramp." He clutched his thigh in fake pain. "Ow."

"I've had those a time or five. They're a bitch." Spike clucked his tongue sympathetically. "Best you can do is try and walk it out."

"Right, walk it out." More like run screaming into the night, Xander thought, hobbling towards the hotel's door. He wondered when it was he'd forgotten how to disguise the fact he was rock hard beneath his trousers. Somewhere between year three and four in his relationship with Anya, possibly.

Xander was last to arrive because of the demon turkeys, and it was close to the time dinner was to be served. After receiving a tongue-lashing from Cordelia, he said a fast hello to everyone, then made a bee-line for the restroom to "freshen up."

"What in the world is going on in that sick mind of yours?" Xander asked his reflection in the mirror above the sink. "You don't like other guys that way, especially guys who are your friends."

Confident that he wouldn't further embarrass himself, Xander left the restroom and joined the group gathered around a beige table-cloth covered dining table in the hotel's dining room. Spike's smile was friendly as he motioned for Xander to sit beside him. Angel was at one end of the table and Cordelia at the other. Wesley and Gunn were seated across from Spike and Xander.

Food enough for an army -- or for Xander and Gunn, with a bit extra for the others -- was spread over the table. Traditional turkey of the non-demonic variety had been sliced thinly. There was mashed potatoes and yams, green bean and onion casserole, asparagus, spinach salad, stuffing, fluffy rolls, orange fruit Jell-O, cranberry sauce molded in the shape of the can it came out of. The fine china had been used, gold rimmed plates and real silver silverware, crystal water goblets and wine decanters. The one thing out of place was the bright green plastic pitcher with a piece of masking tape stuck to the side, which had written on it: 'Blood.'

Once a glass of red wine was poured for everyone, Cordelia lightly tapped her glass with her spoon. "Before we start stuffing our faces, I think Angel should make a toast."

"You do, huh?" Angel sighed dramatically, picked up his wine glass, and stood. "Um, well, I'll make this short."

"Good, I'm starved," Gunn said, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

There were titters all around as Angel gave Gunn a dirty look. "As I was saying," the dark-haired vampire continued, "a toast: with a family like this, I'm surprised I haven't taken up sunbathing."

"Angel!" Cordelia exclaimed as Spike and Gunn booed and Wesley and Xander laughed behind their hands. "If you can't do it right, someone else will!"

"Oh, good," Angel said, sitting.

Cordelia looked like she was going to blow her top any second. Xander surreptitiously started to move sharp objects away from her. Spike came to the rescue by standing and raising his glass.

"A real toast, everyone," the blond said. "I've been gone for six months, thereabouts, doing my job the Powers chose me to do. It's difficult, it's lonely," his gaze dropped to Xander, "and if it wasn't for you taking the time to email and chat with me, I might have quit, and the world would've suffered." Spike abruptly looked at everyone else seated around the table, encompassing them in the statement. "So, er, to family."

"To family," the others echoed, lifting their glasses in response.

Spike retook his seat and leaned over to whisper to Xander as Gunn began passing the food. "Well, I feel like a smegging poof."

Xander gave Spike a tight smile, instead of gathering the blond to him and holding tight, like he would Anya when he became emotional. The food came around, and Xander dished it on his plate automatically. Again, he was feeling things that were a little deeper than what a friend should feel for another.

Out of the corner of his eye, Xander watched as Spike gulped down a full glass of blood without pause, then pour himself a second glass and do it again. Xander didn't know about vampire physiology, but if Spike were human he'd make himself sick eating so fast. "Hey," the younger man said quietly, putting a hand on Spike's forearm. "Slow down. There's more blood in the kitchen, I'm sure."

Spike glanced at him, chagrined. "Yeah, you're probably right." The vampire set the glass down, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and struck up a conversation with Angel. "Tell me, Pops, how goes it with your Second, Lindsey?"

Gunn and Wesley snickered as Angel growled, "Don't say that name in my hotel."

Spike's brow shot up. "Trouble in paradise?"

"I can't stand the little shit," Angel ground out.

Spike looked at Xander, grinned widely, then looked back at Angel with a blank face. "Really?"

Xander tried not to choke on his food in laughter. Cordelia's smirk wasn't helping any. Luckily, Wesley and Gunn were deep in their own conversation, ignoring everyone else.

"He's smart-mouthed, he's annoying, he won't listen to me or do anything I say. He aggravates the hell out of me. And he's... he's... he's short!" Angel sputtered irately.

"Short, huh?" Spike tisked. "How awful." He ducked under Angel's swing, laughingly.

"It's not amusing," Angel snarled.

"Is, too," Spike countered.

"Is not," Angel stated, giving the blond a long look. "I already have you, I don't need your human twin, especially since I can't just beat him into behaving."

Spike slumped in his chair and pressed his hands dramatically over his heart. "You wound me."

"I'm going to wound you," Angel said calmly.

Spike puckered his lips and fluttered his eyelashes at the older vampire. Angel leaned forward threateningly, and Spike squeaked, turned on his chair, and buried his face against Xander's chest. "Help!" he mock-cried.

Xander curved an arm around Spike's shoulders, trying not to notice how thin they were, and played along. "You leave him alone," he scolded.

"Still the White Knight rescuing damsels in distress, eh, Xander?" Angel said, smirking.


"You bet your big tushie," Xander replied to Angel. "I specialize in protecting tiny blonds."

"Oi -- again!" Spike raised his head and glowered at Xander. "'M'not tiny."

With his face inches away, the circles under Spike's eyes were even darker, his lightly glowing skin taut over the fine bones of his cheeks. His blue eyes were sharp and full of life, however, and the world shifted under Xander's seat.

Xander abruptly pushed Spike away, though not roughly, and cleared his throat. "You are tiny," he said gruffly, reaching for the pitcher of blood. He topped off Spike's glass and foisted it at the blond. "Drink that. All of it."

Spike appeared befuddled, but he accepted the glass and drank the blood under Xander's watchful eye. When the glass was empty, Xander refilled it with the remainder of the pitcher's contents, set the pitcher aside, and went back to his meal, his cheeks burning from his over-protective actions.

The rest of the meal was spent with Xander feeling extremely self-conscious. He almost cheered when dinner was over, and eagerly volunteered to help clean up over the protests of his being a guest. He needed to be busy and away from Spike for a little while.

Xander hadn't expected Thanksgiving to turn out like it had. Actually, he had planned on volunteering for dish duty, but in his mental scenario it was Spike, and not Angel, who assisted him. Spike had gone upstairs to fix up a room for Xander, who, as anticipated, had been invited to stay through the weekend.

Angel was a quiet dishwashing partner, for which Xander was grateful. His mind was in too much of a tangle to try and make small talk.

Xander had known Spike in some way, shape, or form for seven years -- seven years -- and never had the blond affected him so greatly until today. Spike had gone from the enemy, to the annoyance, to the pest, to a friend, to... something Xander refused to put a label on, because that would make it true. "Why does Spike have to have such blue eyes?" he muttered.

"I've asked myself that question a million times," Angel said, startling Xander. "I've spoiled that boy rotten because of those baby blues, and that was back when I was an evil bastard."

Xander gnawed on his lower lip, wondering if he could talk to Angel, as they continued washing the dishes. The brunette vampire wasn't his favorite person, but he couldn't see trying to talk to Cordelia about his odd feelings, and his Sunnydale friends were most definitely out. Angel would be honest, probably bluntly so, since they didn't really get along.

Xander handed Angel a washed crystal water goblet. "Um, Angel?"

"Hmm?" Angel carefully dried the goblet, thankfully not looking right at Xander.

"Would it be... weird... if I said I liked Spike?" Xander ventured awkwardly.

"No. He's very likable when he's not being an ass," Angel replied. He gave Xander a sidelong glance. "But I have a feeling you mean 'like' in a way that involves mood lighting."

Deft vampire reflexes caught the crystal goblet before it hit the floor. Xander reddened in embarrassment. "Good catch," he mumbled. He picked up a fork and scrubbed it vigorously with the sponge. After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, he asked, "It's, uh, that obvious?"

"To me, yes, but Spike is my son," Angel answered. "To the others... maybe Cordelia. Doubtful Gunn and Wes."

"And Spike?"

A smile played on Angel's lips. "I think he's hopeful that you do."

Xander nodded slowly and returned to scrubbing dishes. He knew Spike liked him in that way, he had known it for awhile. The blond had never pushed, though, for reciprocation, nor actually verbalized his attraction to Xander, but the brunette knew the attraction was there.

"But I don't like guys like that," Xander said suddenly as Angel hung up the dishtowel.

"Neither did Spike," Angel responded and walked out of the room.

The unspoken "Until you" hung in the air long after Xander vacated the kitchen.

Part Twelve

Spike gave his bed a loving look as he stripped out of his clothing. He couldn't wait to slip between the clean sheets and have a good sleep for once. No lumpy mattresses in strange hotels, no sheets with unidentifiable stains, no need to keep an ear out for the cleaning person or a guest having been assigned the room. And all that had been when he was lucky enough to stay at a hotel. The rest of the time he slept with one eye open in whatever moving vehicle he hitched a ride on, hoping no one chose the seat in which he was sitting or stepped on him if he was stuck on the floor.

Spike padded naked into the bathroom for a shower, another luxury and the second he'd taken since he'd arrived at the Hyperion this morning. The strong water pressure and unlimited hot water was heaven, just like the bed and the ensured privacy and the availability of as much blood as he wanted.

It was good to be home.

The blond groaned softly in pleasure as he stepped under the hot spray of the shower. The water sluiced down his body, sliding along the ridges and hollows, warming his constantly cool skin. Spicy smelling shampoo removed all traces of gel from his too-long hair. A real bar of unscented soap, rather than the free perfumed hotel cake-soaps he had been stuck with so far, was used to lather his glowing limbs, tinting the incandescent soap bubbles gold.

Hot water beating on his back, Spike closed his eyes and conjured up the memory of the post-dinner game of Trivial Pursuit. He wrapped soapy fingers around his burgeoning erection as he pictured Xander's ruthless determination to win the game. He pictured the way Xander's face scrunched as he searched his brain for an elusive answer. The way he sucked the salt from the peanuts he was eating off of his fingers. The private wink he'd given Spike near the end of the game, smiling happily as he answered a trivia question that they had debated about over email a month ago.

Turning, Spike rested his forehead on the cool tile shower wall, spreading his legs for better balance. His hand stroked firmly, the soap aiding his quest for self-satisfaction. With a twist of his wrist, he buffed the head of his shaft on each upstroke, calloused palm lightly abrasing the super-sensitive flesh.

Eyes still closed, he imagined it was Xander's large hand tugging his cock. He moaned. Wiping his other hand on his stomach, Spike reached behind him and slid a soapy digit between his cheeks. He moaned again, louder, as his finger breached the tight ring of muscle and slipped inside. He pushed a second digit inside the grasping channel, and began to thrust his fingers in and out as he masturbated.

"Touch me, Xander," Spike panted against the seafoam-colored tile of the shower stall. "Touch me, ohhhh, please... love me... love me, Xander, love me..."

Spike came with a sob, splashing the wall with his sticky semen. Love me. He sighed, his hands falling to his sides. If only, he thought, stepping under the shower spray to rinse clean.

Xander poked his head around the door, no one having answered his knock. "Spike? Are you in here?" he called, venturing tentatively into the suite.

After the dishes had been washed and over the remainder of the evening, Xander had decided that it was all right to like Spike in a "mood lighting" manner. Xander lived in the twenty-first century. He was up with women loving other women and men loving other men. He'd voted to legalize same-gender marriages. He was open-minded to the idea that men having sex with other men had to feel good, or else they wouldn't be doing it.

Okay, no, that still wigged Xander. Not the peripheries of sex, such as handjobs or blowjobs, but the actual back door lovin'. Getting fingered by Dr. Benjamin never did a thing for Xander, besides make him blush.

But Xander was going to be open. He'd try it at least once before passing judgement. Besides, things with Spike may never get to that point. They'd only kissed one time, briefly, and that was half a year ago. Plus, the kiss had been pretty damn bad, and if all of them were like that, it would be a real short relationship.

The bathroom door opened, and Xander turned in that direction. "Sorry, Spike, I didn't know you were--," the brunette's eyes landed on Spike, "--naked."

Spike stood in the bathroom doorway, looking like a naked glowing deer caught in the headlights. He had a towel, only it was wrapped around his head, turban-style, rather than his waist, leaving him naked. Completely, totally naked.


It wasn't as arousing as Xander thought it would be. But that probably had to do with the way Spike looked naked. The fact that Xander, Jr. was stirring at all meant that Naked Spike did something for him. Only... "Jesus H. Christ, Spike, you look like one of those glow-in-the-dark skeletons people hang out for Halloween."

Naked Spike moved suddenly, yanking the towel from his head and holding it in front of him. "Sod off," he grumbled, crossing to the dresser and pulling on a pair of those ridiculous white briefs he favored.

"What the hell have you been doing to yourself?" Xander asked in anger and worry as he stalked over to Spike. He grabbed the vampire's boney shoulders and forced the blond to face him. "Gods, Spike, a good, stiff wind would blow you away." Or break him into a million pieces, he looked so fragile.

"It's none of your business," Spike said, glaring at Xander and twisting the towel in his hands.

"I'm making it my business," Xander snapped. "You have circles under your circles under your eyes; you make a skeleton look fat; and earlier you were drinking blood like a starving man." His gaze shifted slightly. "And what is up with your hair? Did you get a perm or something?"

"The curls are natural," Spike ground out between clenched teeth.

And that's when Xander saw the glint of tears in Spike's eyes. He silently cursed his callousness. Something obviously wasn't right with the vampire and, instead of asking with concern, he was berating Spike.

Xander took a calming breath and relaxed his grip on Spike's shoulders. "I'm sorry," he said, lightly brushing his thumbs against the blond's sharp collarbones. "I shouldn't have yelled. But you don't look very good, Cricket, and you haven't mentioned in any of your posts that you're sick or something. I'm surprised Angel hasn't chained you to a fully stocked fridge."

"He threatened to, but I made him drop it," Spike mumbled.

"Well, I'm not dropping it," Xander told him. "Now, talk."

Spike shrugged, lowering his head. "Nothing to talk about. My job's just a tad harder than I thought it would be."


The blond fiddled with the towel in his hands. "I'm on the move most of the time, and there isn't always a way for me to get blood," he replied. "And being invisible means I have to be constantly on guard, so I don't get sat on or stepped on, or have window shades opened in the middle of a sunny day."

"I bet the money's bad, too, huh?" Xander teased gently.

"Yeah," Spike agreed dully.

Xander sighed. "You're going to have to take better care of yourself, Spike. I like having something to hold onto when I'm screwing someone into the mattress."

The blond's head shot up, wild damp curls flying everywhere. Xander didn't think Spike's eyes could get any larger. A small smirk tugged up a corner of Xander's mouth. There was one way to find out...

Xander didn't hesitate when he dipped his head and pressed his lips against Spike's. The kiss was soft. Gentle. Almost chaste.

Xander felt the towel drop onto his feet, and he instantly remembered that Spike was naked. No, not naked; Spike was wearing white BVDs.

And suddenly Xander was turned on, faster than a flick of a switch.

Oh gods, he had a kink. Oh gods, Spike's mouth was opening beneath his, kissing him back. With tongue. Oh gods.

Xander dove into Spike's mouth, tasting him, teasing him into retaliation. The vampire thrust his hands into Xander's hair, rose up on his toes, angled his head and fused their mouths together. Their tongues danced a lovers' dance, though someone had to lead. In the end, it was Xander's desperate need to catch his breath that allowed Spike to win.

"Holy shit," Xander panted, then sneaked in for another kiss... or two... or three.

Or four.

He tore his mouth away from Spike's, gasping, "Aah... must... breathe..."

"Breathing's highly overrated," Spike said, and kissed him again.

Xander whimpered and dragged the blond flush against him. The only thing now separating them was Xander's clothes and Spike's BVDs. Groan.

The younger man firmly put Spike away from him this time. "Breath... me... do... yes... now," he panted.

Spike may not have needed to catch his breath, but the dopey smile and glazed look in his eyes proved he was not unaffected. It made Xander want to kiss Spike again. So he did.

"Mearghaaa," Xander gurgled, really pushing Spike away this time. If he didn't stop, what was left of his brain would dribble out his ear.

Spike stood across from the brunette, in his underwear, wobbling slightly. Or was it Xander who was wobbling? Or was the world wobbling on its axis?

"Much better than the first kiss," Spike commented.

"How can you... sound so rational... and not fall down?" Xander asked, still breathless. Whatever moron said just to breathe through your nose when kissing obviously had never been kissed like this.

"Vampire secret," Spike replied, then grinned ruefully. "Just don't ask me to move from this spot. I don't think my knees work."

Xander laughed. Then he kissed Spike again. Breathing was overrated anyway.



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