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Feedback:  Do you really want to see me beg?
Archive:  Hey, just ask first <g>
Series:  Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Pairing:  Spike/Xander
Rating:  PG (so far)
Disclaimer:  Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the characters of the show don't belong to me in anyway whatsoever.  I'm not that lucky. 
This story is written for enjoyment, not for profit.  Again, I'm not that lucky.  Litigation would be a waste of time, people.  I'm a member of the Starving Student Sect.
Summery:  Xander and Spike make some discoveries about each other, that bring them closer.  A lot closer <g>.
Warnings:  Um, spoilers for the current season, and the characters' situations in it.  But it tends to veer off in AU directions...

Hi.  This is my first shot at writing S/X, so please let me know what you think.  I will really appreciated it.

I finally started watching the show regularly part way through this season, so please forgive me for any mistakes I make.



Spike was looking for trouble.  He was bored, bored out of his mind, and that boredom had sent him out wandering the streets of Sunnydale.  Thanks to whatever those military bastards had done to him, he still couldn't attack any humans, not if he didn't want to experience shooting, agonizing pain.

If he wanted that, he'd stay home and watch Must See TV.

So here he was, skulking through the streets, hoping to find some demons engaged in some sort of nefarious activity, so he'd have an excuse to step in and wreak some havoc, break some bones, end some lives.

Unfortunately, the demons weren't cooperating.  He hadn't found any committing atrocities.  Hell, he hadn't found any at all, so he couldn't even try to convince himself that they were possibly considering committing atrocities and justify his attacking them.

He was about to give up, and just go back to the crypt he had appropriated, when he heard a familiar voice.  It sounded like one of the Slayer's groupies:  Xander.  He hadn't seen the young man since moving out of his dank little basement almost a week ago.

Screw it.  He didn't have anything else to do.  Besides, from the stories he'd heard, Xander was a magnet for trouble.  With any luck, the kid would get attacked by a ravening hoard of demons.  The blond man followed the voice at a distance.

He remembered something else he'd heard.  He stopped by Giles's house a few days ago, looking to find out if there were any non-humans about that needed to be persuaded to move on, out of town.

The little red headed witch had made some comment about Xander being out of reach for the next week or two.  She'd looked a little worried when she said that he'd told her not to try to get any messages to him through his parents, no matter how important it was.

Spike hadn't thought much of the announcement.  He wasn't living with the kid any more; it hardly concerned him.  Although...he did find himself almost missing Xander.  He supposed he'd gotten used to living with someone, was all.  A few more days of living on his own, and he'd stop wondering what the dark-haired young man was up to, if he was remembering to eat, who might be in the basement with him.

It wasn't as though he cared, after all.

He got a little closer to Xander.  He was walking with a man, someone Spike had never seen before.  They were talking, and laughing.  The vampire could see that Xander was still watching out for trouble, even as he chatted; life in Sunnydale had drummed that lesson into him.  Spike took a little more care to stay out of sight, but within hearing range.  It was good practice, if nothing else.

Who was Xander with?  The vampire couldn't remember ever having seen him out of the company of the Slayer and her little band of followers before.  As he listened to the young man laugh, Spike decided that he certainly sounded happier with this stranger than he did with his friends.

He frowned.  Xander was laughing an awful lot.  Too much for him to just be walking along, talking to a friend.  If he didn't know better, he'd have sworn that the kid was flirting with his companion.  But that was impossible, wasn't it?

After following a bit longer, Spike was forced to admit that Xander was definitely flirting with the other man, who was showing no hesitation in flirting back.  What the hell was going on?

Xander walked the stranger to an apartment complex, where they paused outside of a door.  As the man fumbled with a key, Spike drifted closer, wanting to be
sure that he could eavesdrop.

After the door was open, the stranger turned and smiled at Xander.  "Hey, Xan," he said, a wide grin crossing his face.  "Would you like to come in? Night's not over yet."

With a grin of his own, Xander shook his head.  "Can't, sorry.  I've still got to finish cleaning up."  He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.  "Maybe some other time?"

The other man laughed, calling out a good night as he shut the door.  Xander waited, and once the lock could be heard slamming home, he turned and walked back the way he had come.

Spike trailed after him.  How very interesting.  The last he'd known, Xander was involved with that used-to-be-demon Anya, yet here he was, asking for a rain check after being propositioned by a man.  The vampire couldn't leave now, not until he found out what was going on.

He followed Xander to an out of the way club that he had passed by many times without ever noticing it.  The young man opened the front door with a key and slipped inside.  Spike spent several minutes swearing softly to himself until he was able to find a third story window with a broken lock.  He'd had to dangle from the roof to do it, but he was finally inside.

The club was set up simply.  A bar at one end, a dance floor in the middle, and a stage at the other end.  Behind the bar, there were a series of offices and storage rooms.  The entire building had extraordinarily high ceilings, so the club was more one big room, with several smaller partitioned sections, then anything else.  Different lights were suspended from a cat walk near the ceiling, which Spike used to move around on, and watch the man below him.

Xander was working behind the bar, putting bottles away, wiping up spills, and in general cleaning up.  He hummed tunelessly to himself as he did so.  Spike noticed that he was moving rather stiffly, but because it was going on four in the morning, he figured the man was just worn out.

Once the bar was put to rights, Xander moved on to the rest of the club, wiping down tables that lined the walls, and sweeping the floor.  Once the place was in order, the dark-haired man grabbed a bundle of clothes and walked into one of the two areas that was actually ceilinged and walled off properly:  a private bathroom in the office.  The other area was the public restroom for the club.  Spike heard a shower turn on.

A few minutes later, the young man emerged with wet hair, dressed in an oversized t-shirt and flannel pants.  He walked to one of the storage rooms, where a cot had been set up.  He tossed his old clothes to one side, then collapsed back on to the cot, wrapping himself up in blankets.  He shifted for quite some time, taking longer to get comfortable than Spike could ever remember.

When it became clear that Xander was asleep, and was going to stay that way, Spike took the opportunity to do some snooping around.  Yes, the club was Jeffrey's, a small gay club that featured dancing, and dancers.  The vampire had heard of it, but hadn't ever been inside.

Apparently, this was where Xander now worked, and lived.  An evil grin played at the corners of Spikes' mouth.  What a lovely bit of blackmail.  Perhaps he wouldn't have to worry about money quite yet, after all.  After all, he reflected as he left, Xander wasn't going to want this to get out.  Things were looking up.  

Spike shrugged into his leather jacket, mildly disgusted with himself.  He had spent most of the day trying to decide which would be most upsetting, what would cause the most trouble:  telling Xander that he knew what the boy was up to and demanding money to stay quiet, or tell the Scooby Gang that their little friend was living in the back room of a gay bar, and let them confront him.  Somehow, the vampire just couldn't bring himself to go to the Scooby Gang.  He wanted to see Xander again, and not even the pleasure of destroying the Slayer's happy little world was worth waiting to get back over to Jeffrey's.

He drank some of the blood he had managed to buy, grimacing with distaste.  To have to drink it from a glass, instead of sucking it from living flesh, hot and sweet, pulsing with life and energy...

As soon as he figured out how to go about it, he was going to tear those Initiative bastards apart.

As soon the sun went down, Spike was out, heading straight for the club.  It was still early on a Thursday night, so the crowd in the club wasn't all that large.  There were still a good amount of people there, however, more than the vampire had expected.  A single dancer was on the stage, moving frenetically to the driving beat of the music.  He paused after entering, sliding sideways into the shadows with the ease of long practice.

Locating Xander was easy; the dark-haired young man was behind the bar, pouring drinks.  He was talking with the various men who lined the bar.  More than talking - he was laughing, joking...flirting.  He apparently was taking this whole gay thing seriously.

Spike made his way to a table off to the side, so that he could still see Xander, but remain out of sight until he decided what move to make.  His gaze remained locked on the bartender, never wavering.

Xander actually looked happy.  Spike was surprised that he noticed, but it was so obvious, he supposed anyone would have.  Instead of his usually pensive, eager smile, filled with tension, the young man was grinning with pure enjoyment, obviously relaxed.  He talked freely with the people he served, teasing them as he mixed drinks and pulled beers with confidence.

The vampire realized that the member of the Scooby Gang was repeating the same gesture over and over.  Every time a man leaned over the bar toward him, trying to engage him in more intimate conversation, Xander would grin, shake his head amusedly, and point one finger upwards.

The next time he did it, Spike followed the line of his finger, and finally saw the sign hanging over the bar.

Please Don't Cruise The Bartender

All the rejected men took it well, laughing at the sign and accepting the unspoken decline of their offers.

The dancer on stage finished his shift, apparently; he jumped off the stage and made his way over to the bar.  Spike recognized him as the man whom Xander walked home last night.  He walked behind the bar, grabbing a bottled water from under the bar.  He and the dark-haired bartender exchanged laughing comments.  As the music picked up in tempo, the two of them began to dance behind the bar, grinding suggestively against each other.

Spike clenched his teeth, fighting the urge to vamp out.  The appreciative laughs and wolf whistles of the club's patrons shrilled in his ears, grating against his nerves.  How dare they?  How dare that dancer approach Xander?

Realizing the path his thoughts were taking, the vampire brought himself under control.  What was wrong with him?  What did it matter to him what Xander did?  This was great.  It provided more blackmail material for him to use against the boy.  He forced himself to calm down, not caring to think about why he had gotten upset in the first place.

A third man walked behind the bar, and separated the dancer and Xander, pointing up to the sign over the bar.  The patrons laughed and applauded. Judging from the way everyone was acting, the third man, older than Xander and the dancer both, was the manager of the club.  He handed a loose over-shirt to the dancer, who pulled it on.  The dancer blew a kiss to Xander as he walked out from behind the bar.  Xander went back to mixing drinks.

Spike lost track of time as he watched Xander work.  Different dancers took their turns on stage, men laughed and talked and danced all around him, but none of it caught his attention.  All his focus was on the bartender, a trait that he shared with the other people in the building, apparently.  Everyone in the club returned again and again to the bar, including the dancers and manager.  Xander's quirky sense of humor seemed to go over far better here than it did with his friends.

A body moved into his field of vision, blocking his view of the bar.  Spike had somehow avoided being approached all night, but his luck had just run out.
With a blatantly bored stare, he looked up at whoever it was.  "Go away."

The man ignored him.  "Why would I want to do that?"  He pulled back the other chair at the table and sat down.

Spike really resented the implant.  He was about to try a more obvious threat when he realized that this man was the dancer Xander had walked home the night before.  Perhaps he could get some useful information out of him.  He did his best to lead the conversation around to Xander, but it wasn't working.  The dancer was more interested in flirting than talking about another person.

The vampire kept trying though.  His frustration prevented him from noticing that the bar had cleared out substantially, and the music levels were turned way down.  Very few people, mostly employees of the club, remained..

A voice cut across the dancer's flirtations.  "You don't want to pick this guy up, Dave.  Trust me."  Xander stood near the table, staring directly at Spike.

"I don't know, Xan, he's awfully cute."

"Yeah, he is, and just as cuddly as a rabid pit bull.  Just let him go."

"I'm getting the feeling that you know him."

"You could say that."  Xander's eyes never left Spikes.  "This is the guy that outed me."

Spike didn't notice the way the dancer drew away from him with an expression of distaste, or the hostile glares sent his way by the other people who had overheard.  He was too shocked to spare any attention for them.  What the hell was Xander talking about?  He hadn't known the boy was gay, hadn't suspected until he followed him to this club.

"What the hell are you talking about, *Xan*?" he asked, leaning back in his chair.

"You want a drink?"  The bartender walked back to his station, leaving Spike with no choice but to follow if he wanted to get the rest of the story.  The others in the club moved to the other side of the room, giving them some privacy.

"I don't like repeating myself.  Exactly what the hell are you talking about?"  Spike took the shot that Xander poured him, downing it in a single swallow.

The dark-haired man had poured himself a drink as well, but he didn't lift the shot glass to his lips.  Instead, he played with it idly, staring at it instead of looking at Spike.  "Remember when I laid down some ground rules when Giles said it was my turn to vampire-sit?  Do you remember what the number one rule was?"

The vampire frowned.  "Something about never going anywhere your parents, not even letting them see me.  So what?"

"So what?"  Flickers of anger colored Xander's tone.  "So you apparently broke that rule the night you moved out.  No, that's not right.  You didn't break it.  You shattered it, blasted it to atoms."  He looked at Spike, and saw his blank stare.  "You don't even remember it, do you?"  He laughed a little, a bitter, resigned sound.

The blond man frowned in thought.  What had happened when he moved out?  Not sure why he was going along with this instead of making blackmail demands, he searched his memory.  "Do you mean when I ran into that older fellow?"

"Give the vampire a bag of A-positive.  That older fellow was my father.  Can you also remember telling him to thank me for you for my hospitality?  Can you?"

"I might have said something like that."

"Great.  Well, as it turns out, my dad doesn't read sarcasm real well. Probably one of the reasons why it feels like we speak different languages. He took snotty-English-vampireness for satisfied-gay-loverness."

"Bloody hell!"

"Yeah, that pretty much describes what I went through when I got home after that.  My dad confronted me, and accused me of being gay.  Mostly with his fists, although some other household objects were involved."  Xander picked up his glass and threw back the amber liquid inside.  "So I got mad, and told him that yeah, I was gay."

Spike stared at him.  He hadn't expected this.  "Then what happened?"

"Then he finished beating the shit out of me, and kicked me out of the house. Fortunately, a friend from high school told me about this place, and I took a chance.  Jeffery needed a bartender, and I needed a place to stay.  Everybody wins."  There was no humor left in his voice, just a sort of wistful sadness.

The other people had drifted out of the club as the two men spoke.  Xander shook himself, and looked at those who were left.  "Anyone need an escort home?" he called, voice cheerful once more.  "Buddy system rules are still in effect."

"Are you offering an escort home, or an escort home?" responded one of the dancers, grinning.

Spike had to fight down another surge of irritation.  Of course they were flirting with Xander.   The young man had just announced he was gay; they had every reason to do so.  He just wished they would stop.  It wasn't right, somehow, for them to express interest in the Slayerette.

"My escort services end at the front door," Xander replied primly, even as he grinned back.

The manager walked over.  "You going to be all right?" he asked, eyeing Spike distrustfully.

The bartender waved off his concern.  "I'll be fine.  Nobody will be dying here tonight." Jeffery nodded, and left with the last group of people.  Xander watched them go, then poured another shot for both Spike and himself.  Staring once more at the glass as he turned it again and again in his fingers, the dark-haired man said, "So I'm gay.  And you found out.  I suppose you'll be running along to tell everyone now.  I mean, you can't kill me, so why not try to ruin my life, right?  It's probably some sort of vampiric imperative."

Spike wasn't sure who was more shocked, Xander or himself, when he heard himself say, "No, I'm not going to do that."

Xander was sure that he hadn't heard the vampire correctly.  He couldn't have.  "What did you say?"

"I said I wasn't going to tell anyone."  Even Spike looked surprised by his own words.

This had to be some sort of trick, a part of a larger evil plan.  The blond man had always been fairly good at coming up with evil plans.  Still, he had to ask.  "Why not?"

Spike looked confused for a moment, then his usual sneering expression dropped into place.  "Don't stand there and ask stupid questions, Harris.  Just be glad that I'm not going to."  He tossed back the last of his drink, then stood and stalked out of the club.  Xander watched him go, too startled to make any move to stop him.

As soon as the vampire was gone, reaction set in for the young man.  He moved out from behind the bar and sat down abruptly in one of the chairs as he began to shake.  He wanted to make believe that he was fine, but he couldn't.  He wasn't fine, and everything wasn't going to be all right.  He was shaken, and frightened, and worried about the future.

Not to mention more than a little turned on.

Xander was gay.  He had finally accepted that about himself.  He had tried to deny it, all through high school and beyond, and now he could see the disaster that it had made of his life.  He couldn't believe his foolishness when he looked back at his past relationships.

He cringed when he remembered how much time and effort he had put into chasing Buffy.  The Slayer was unattainable, at least for him, but did he let that stop him?  Of course not.  He had acted like an idiot over her for years, and it was all for nothing.  He had pursued her because he'd known he could never have her.  She was perfect:  a woman he would never have to touch, a lover that would never be his.  Focusing on her had just allowed him to ignore his true feelings.

He still wanted to kick his own ass every time he thought of Willow.  His best friend.  Of course he had known she had thought she was in love with him:  he might not be the epitome of smart guyness, but he cared about her, and that made her feelings obvious.  So what did he do?  Start pursuing her the moment she became definitely off-limits.  Once again, he had chased her because he didn't believe she could be caught.

Cordelia was an obvious choice for him to chase:  with her Prom Queen attitude and snob ways, he wasn't sure who was more surprised that she'd actually dated him, her or him.  In the end, it didn't matter.  It had been just one more mistake.

He wasn't even going to get into Faith.  He'd had his Recommended Daily Allowance of self-loathing for the night, thank you very much.

And now Anya.  He had broken up with her right after he had gotten kicked out of his parents' house.  He just couldn't stand to live the lie any more, and she was a major part of it.  Xander wasn't sure what had driven him to pursue her, except for a latent death wish that he didn't seem able to kick.

The dark-haired man stood, and walked back over to the bar.  He began to clean up, but his attention was fixed firmly inwards.  He found it extremely ironic, and a little frightening, that the men he was attracted to were almost as bad as the women he had tried to convince himself he wanted.  In trying to force himself into a heterosexual role, he had gone after the Slayer, a witch, a Prom Queen, various supernaturally-influenced girls, and a former vengeance demon.

The men?  There really weren't that many.  He'd done a good job of denial. Cleopatra had nothing on him.

Angel.  Xander was impressed by how well he'd managed to fool himself, and everyone else, into believing that he hated the souled vampire with a passion that verged on religious fervor.

More like he had wanted the taller man so bad he could barely stand to be in the same room and not jump him.

That relationship had been as screwed-up as any he'd ever had with a woman. More, actually.  It couldn't even really be called a relationship, except maybe in a Jerry Springer sort of way, and Xander refused to believe that his life was so messed up that it had to be classified in Springer terminology.

And now Spike.  Spike, with his delicious accent, his cutting humor, his lovely pale skin.  Spike, exuding menace and vampiric sexiness all over the place, everywhere he went.  Sometimes Xander was surprised not to find physical traces of the other man's appeal on everything he touched, as if his attractiveness were a substance he actually oozed.

He'd always been attracted to the vampire.  He knew that now that he was finally admitting the truth to himself.  The fact that he didn't have to fear for his life every time he saw him now only added to his interest.  Oh, the adrenaline-producing edge of menace was still there, thankfully, only now the unpleasant incapacitating terror aspect of it had vanished.

Xander found himself liking Spike.  The blond man's nasty comments never really bothered him; growing up in his house had rendered him immune to verbal abuse.  Hell, hanging out with the rest of the Scooby Gang had made sure he was invulnerable.  He wasn't sure if any words would ever be able to faze him.

So, to sum up, he had pretty much added a non-souled vampire to his list of romantic/lustful disasters.

Jerry Springer class was too good for him.

Xander finished restoring the bar to order and cleaning the club.  He locked all the doors, and officially took himself off duty.  He got ready to sleep. The first part of that was taking a long shower in Jeffrey's office.  His bruises from his final encounter with his father were fading, and the hot water helped to soothe a lot of the pain away.  He was just glad that no damage had been done to his face; that way, if he didn't want someone to know what happened, they didn't have to.

Wet hair tousled and sticking up all over, he pulled on soft pyjamas and made his way to his cot, shutting off lights behind him as he went.  He still hurt, so finding a comfortable position to sleep in presented a bit of a challenge. Still, Xander managed.  It wasn't as though it had been the worst beating he'd ever experienced.

Xander wasn't looking forward to tomorrow.  He was going to go and talk to Buffy, Giles, and Willow.  He still didn't know what to tell them.  He wasn't ready to come out to them yet, but he was worried that Spike was going to tell them what had happened, so he thought that he might just have to.

He did need to tell them that he was only really free to help patrol or hunt down the demon-of-the-week in the early evenings; late at night, he was needed at the club.  He liked working at Jeffrey's, more than he thought he would. He didn't want to lose his place here, or make Jeffery regret giving him a chance.  For about the hundredth time, he realized how grateful he was that Larry had told him about this place.

He also had to give the Scooby Gang his new phone number.  Jeffrey had given him a cell phone, so he would always be able to reach his boss, and vice versa.  He needed to let them know that this would be the way to contact him, since they weren't going to know where he was living.

As soon as Xander thought that, he realized what was going through his mind. He wasn't going to tell his friends the whole story of the past couple of weeks.  He was just going to tell them that he'd moved out of his parents, that he had a new job and a new place to stay, and leave it at that.  It wasn't as though they would ask him a whole lot of questions about the changes:  at best, they only showed minimal interest in his non-college-going, non-graced-with-supernatural-gifts life.

He also realized that this meant he was going to trust Spike not to tell them anything, either.  He called himself every name for fool he could come up with, but his decision stayed the same.  For some reason, he was trusting the vampire, believing that he would keep his unexpected promise not to tell.

As he drifted off to sleep, Xander wondered what was going on with Spike. And, just for a fraction of a second, he allowed himself to wonder if there might be the chance for something more between them, something other than the usual sarcastic-barb-trading impasse they'd been at for so long.

Xander shifted nervously, gaze flicking quickly from Willow's face, to Buffy's, to Giles's.  He avoided looking at Anya.  "So, uh, that's about it, I guess.  You've got my new number, and my work schedule."

Blank stares met his announcement.  Well, good, then.  That meant nothing had changed.  Xander had been agonizing over how to make the announcement to the Scooby Gang about his move.  After his run-in with Spike two nights ago, he knew he couldn't put it off any longer.

Fortunately, the news that he was living somewhere else was met with the same enthusiasm every announcement he had ever met was:  with all the interest that was usually given to an old man in a nursing home when he started rambling on about the olden days.  He didn't have to give any reason for the move, and no one asked where he was working, or even where he would be living.

Xander backed up, moving until he was sitting on the arm of Giles's chair.  As soon as he was no longer in the center of the room, conversation resumed.  The dark-haired young man sat quietly, trying to dredge up interest as Willow and Buffy discussed college with Giles.  So long as he was paying attention to them, he wouldn't have to look over at Anya.  At this point, he figured the former vengeance demon would have had time to get over her surprise over their break-up, and would be well on her way to feeling pissed.

Xander had had enough trouble dealing with angry, fully mortal women; he really didn't want to find out how Anya would decide to make his life miserable.

After the meeting, Xander trailed along behind Buffy on patrol.  He'd seen the concerned look Willow had sent his way, after she'd managed to spare some attention for him.  He really didn't want to answer any of her questions, so he'd volunteered to go with Buffy.  As he had suspected, the Slayer only wanted to talk about the new guy in her life.

What kind of name was Riley, anyway?

After listening to Buffy prattle on for a couple of hours, he excused himself, saying that he had to get to work.  She had barely noticed he was going.  Xander did wonder if she was just going to talk to herself.  At least that way her audience would be interested.

He walked back to Jeffrey's slowly.  There was still almost an hour before his shift behind the bar started, so there was no need to hurry.  He did something he rarely did anymore:  just walked through Sunnydale.  No demons chasing him, no apocalypse to be averted, no answer to a prophecy-riddle to be found.  Just him, walking the streets.  It was almost nice, in a way.  It was a tiny bit of normality in his life.

"Just out for a stroll, then?"

Xander managed to restrain the shriek that welled up in his chest, but barely.  He had lived his entire life in Sunnydale, survived his high school years as a Slayerette, and somehow Spike still managed to appear out of nowhere.  The blond vampire was walking beside him, but refusing to look at him.

The dark-haired young man took a deep breath to steady himself.  Spike might not be able to attack him, but that didn't mean he shouldn't be wary.  After all, the vampire still had the power to destroy what was left of his life. "I'm on my way to work, actually.  Just taking the scenic route, I guess."  He glanced at the other man out of the corner of his eye.  "And you?  You can't kill anyone, so what are you doing?  Window shopping?"

Spike didn't react at all to his jibe.  Still not looking at Xander, the blond man asked abruptly, "Is it true?"  His voice was low, intense, without its usual mocking edge.

"Is what true?"

"Did you really get kicked out of your house because of me?"

Xander wasn't sure how to answer.  He wanted to blame Spike for it, it would be easier to just pass the blame along and lay it on the vampire, but that wouldn't be the whole truth.  Forcing a grin, he shook his head.  "Don't give yourself too much credit.  You started the whole thing, but if I had kept my mouth shut, I could have gotten off with a beating.  Instead, I ran my mouth, told the truth.  That's what got me kicked out."  He took a quick look back over his shoulder, just in case.  They were in one of the more deserted areas of Sunnydale now.

Spike glanced at him quickly, and looked as though he wanted to say more. Before he could, the trouble that Xander had been anticipating materialized, in the form of a gang of purple, horned demons.

Xander took one out immediate, more as a result of luck than anything else. How was he supposed to know that whacking one in the nose would knock him out of commission?  The second one took a little more effort, but still went down.  

The third?  The third was a bitch.  Apparently he was upset about Xander taking out his friends, so he protected his nose and did what he could to take the young man down.

As Xander was slammed into a brick wall by repeated blows, he reflected that being "the normal one" sucked.  Why couldn't he have super strength or magic powers?  He was the person that read comic books, damn it; he'd appreciate the powers, savor them and use them as they deserved.

Realizing the path his thoughts were taking, Xander decided he must have taken a couple of blows to the head.

Suddenly, the demon was pulled backwards and thrown to the ground with devastating force.  Spike was on top of the purple hulk in a matter of moments, raining down blows and curses with equal fury.  After he began to repeat himself, the vampire drew himself up and landed a single, decisive blow on the demon's nose.

Xander glanced around dazedly.  The gang was incapacitated; Spike had taken care of his share of the demons before coming to help Xander.

Strong hands closed on his upper arms.  "Are you all right?"  The dark-haired man tried to remember the correct response.  The hands shook him gently. "Damn it, Xander, answer me!"

Shaking his head, he managed to clear his mind up enough to answer.  "Yeah, yeah I'm fine."  Which was almost true.  He was going to have a few beautiful bruises, especially where his back had slammed into the wall, but he'd live. He'd had worse.  Compared to some of his encounters in the past, he'd been lucky.  After all, Spike had gotten to him before any real damage had been done.  Give him a few days, and he'd be almost good as new.

Spike held onto him, until he finally had his feet firmly beneath himself.  He licked his lips, and met the vampire's gaze.  "Thank you."  He didn't want it to sound too serious, though, so he quickly added, "I know you were just enjoying the whole causing bodily harm to others thing, but it saved my ass, so I appreciated."  He backed away, heading toward the club.

The vampire once more fell in step beside him.  They walked in silence for a few minutes, then Spike said firmly, "You can't do this anymore."

"What?  Get my ass kicked?  I've been doing it for years.  I think I'm almost ready to turn pro, move on to the major leagues."

"Not that.  Well, yes, that too, idiot.  But I mean you can't keep walking around alone.  And you definitely can't be walking people home from the club. I mean, look at what just happened, and I was there with you.  Imagine what would have happened if you'd had one of those nancy-boy dancers with you.  You could be dead!"

"Hey, I'm a nancy-boy bartender, remember?  We poufs need to stick together." Xander frowned.  Spike sounded genuinely upset.  It was almost like he cared. But that couldn't be right, could it?  There was no reason for the vampire to be so concerned, unless he cared.  The dark-haired man decided to push the issue.  "You're right.  Sunnydale is dangerous.  But if I don't make sure they get home safe, who's going to?"  By now, they had reached the entrance to Jeffrey's.

Spike stared at him, eyes searching his face for something.  What, Xander had no clue.  The vampire opened his mouth to speak, then abruptly turned and walked off, disappearing into the shadow.

Xander stared after him.  What was that about?  He shook off his confusion, at least for the moment.  He had a shift to work; he could brood about all this later, in his bed after the club shut down.

He made his way back to the store room, threading through the dancing crowd. Once there, he pulled on a fresh shirt for work, brushed his hair, and was ready to go.  On his way to the bar, he greeted the patrons that he knew, laughing at their jokes and telling his own.  Xander was mildly surprised to realize that he enjoyed working, something he had thought impossible.  But this, pouring drinks and talking to people, this he could handle.

Throwing himself into the rhythm of the job, Xander soon managed to push the events from earlier that evening out of his mind.  By the time the club was closing down, he was tired, but he was also in a far better mood than he had been.

Dave walked over to him as he was wiping down the bar, and slung a friendly arm around his neck.  "Xan, buddy, pal, compadre, I need a favor."  He smiled winningly at the bartender.

Well-aquainted with the dancer's tactics by now, Xander shook his head and put away the rag he had been using.  "Let me grab a coat, and I'll walk you home."

"Xan, are you psychic?" Dave asked with exaggerated amazement.

Remembering his wishes for a super-power, Xander snorted and shook his head. "Nope.  You, my friend, are predictable."  He walked to the back and caught up his jacket, shrugging it on as they left the club.

Already feeling the bruises from his last encounter with the evil that infested Sunnydale, Xander kept a hyper-vigilant watch around them, not wanting to repeat the experience.  The hairs on the back of his neck were raised, and he couldn't shake the feeling they were being followed.  He rushed Dave as they walked, not wanting to be outside and in danger any longer than absolutely necessary.

It was only because of his extra care in watching that he saw it.  A flash of blond hair, lit briefly by a flickering street lamp as the vampire crossed the street a few blocks behind them.  Spike was following them, but didn't want to be seen.

Correction:  Spike was following Xander.

Xander didn't allow himself to hope.  Spike could be doing this for his own obscure reasons.  Just because Xander had said he was going to continue walking people home, and Spike had protested that it was too dangerous, didn't mean that the vampire was following him to try to protect him.  In secret, without Xander finding out.  It could be something else entirely.

A grin played around the corners of Xander's mouth.  It didn't mean anything at all.

But it could mean everything.

For the next couple of weeks, Xander didn't see Spike at all.  The vampire didn't come back to Jeffrey's.  Xander would have noticed; he looked for the other man almost constantly, scanning all the back tables in the shadows for him every night.  No slender frame in a dark coat hunched over a beer met his gaze.  No darkly sardonic eyes, no little cloud of gloom concentrated over a single figure.

The vampire hadn't shown up at any of the Scooby Gang meetings, either. Xander had to sit through the little gatherings on his own, avoiding Anya's angry gaze and listening to Buffy and Willow prattle on about their new college lives.  There was nothing to distract him.  No cynical little declarations of hatred.  No scathing sarcastic comments.

No hard muscled body in a tight black T-shirt.

Xander realized he hadn't been quite accurate.  He hadn't actually seen Spike, but he'd known the other man was around.  He'd felt his presence, a shadow that never left him, a ghost always trailing along behind him.  He hadn't seen the blond again, though, not since that first night he'd seen Spike following him.

The dark-haired man tried to keep himself occupied, so he wouldn't brood about Spike, or why the vampire was following him.  He'd been kicked in the teeth often enough that he didn't want to leave himself open for another blow by hoping, but he couldn't really help it.  There had to be a reason Spike kept following him.  The whole situation was insane; was it really so crazy to think the vampire was doing it because he cared?  Because he felt something like what Xander did?

So Xander spent a lot of time patrolling, and ducking Willow's occasional flares of interest in his life.  Fortunately, they were experiencing a freakishly quiet period in Sunnydale, so the fact that he was distracted by his hidden shadow really didn't matter all that much.

Although a nice little demon attack might have managed to flush Spike out of the darkness, if nothing else.

Xander was getting more and more comfortable working at Jeffrey's.  Jeffery was more a father to him then his own had ever been, and the dancers and other bartenders teased him as much as he imagined siblings would.  And he had finally gotten the hang of the whole bartending thing.  He wasn't Tom Cruise in "Cocktail", not by a long shot, but he had a few moves of his own that seemed to be quite the crowd pleasers.

He still made it a rule to walk home anyone who asked him.  Like Dave was about to do, he could tell.

That dancer walked toward him, grinning widely.  "Xan, my man," he called cheerily.

"I'm not your man," Xander shot back, with a grin of his own.

"That could change, Xan.  Just say the word."  Dave moved in close to him, running a teasing hand up Xander's arm.

The dark-haired man shook his head.  "I don't think so, Dave.  You're not the one."

The dancer nodded.  "I know," he said seriously.  "But he's out there, Xan. You'll find him soon, I'm sure."

Not if he kept lurking around in the shadows, Xander thought, but he grinned. "You bet.  Ready to go?"  He led the way out of the club, locking the door behind them.  He didn't mind walking Dave home, which was a good thing, because the dancer often needed him to.  It was nice to talk to someone who genuinely liked him for himself.

As they walked they spoke idly, laughing over things that had happened that night in the club.  Xander was distracted, though.  Something wasn't quite right.  He began to keep a stricter watch on their surroundings.  That was the only thing that gave him any warning as the group of men charged into the alley.

"Dave, get out of here!" Xander shouted, beginning to run himself.  Mighty member of the Scooby Gang he might be, but taking on five guys was definitely out of his league.  Dave made it, getting away clean down a side path.  Xander wasn't so lucky.

Rough hands grabbed him in punishing grips, and he was thrown back against a brick wall.  Harsh words in low voices came to his ears.

"Got him..."

"...damned faggot..."

" him what he deserves!"

Ah, not demons then.  Just ordinary, run-of-the-mill gay bashers, then.  Gay bashers who were apparently set on bashing him.

Xander struck back viciously, doing his best to fight his way free.  To his way of thinking, these guys were worse than demons.  They were human beings; why couldn't they act like it?  There was only so much he could do against five other guys, however, and he knew he was going to get hurt.

"Get your bloody hands off him!"

Spike?  No!  Throwing a punch that left one of the men down on the ground, hands clutching his stomach, the bartender shouted, "Damnit, Spike, these guys are human.  Stay out of it!"  The vampire could only get hurt; he wouldn't be able to defend himself.

Two of Xander's attackers were gone; presumably to take care of Spike. Working as a Slayerette all through high school had taught him quite a bit. So had his short experience in being a soldier.  Both these things added up to help him do enough damage to the two men still standing in front of them to drive them off.  They picked up the man on the ground, and staggered away, back down the alley.

He turned his attention to the remaining two men.  He watched in amazement as Spike, obviously in agony, managed to smash one of them across the face with a length of pipe.  Xander didn't wait to see what happened next.  He picked up a discarded piece of wood and began to do his best to do as much damage as possible.  Soon, those two were retreating as well, without even any threats or slurs to throw over their shoulders.

It was just as well; Xander didn't have any attention to spare for them.  He was too focused on the man before him, who was groaning and clutching his head.  "Are you all right?" he asked.  "Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine," the vampire ground out.  He allowed Xander to haul him to his
feet.  "It's just this damned chip."

The dark-haired man pulled out his cell-phone.  He punched in a number.  "Hey, Dave?  Good, you made it home, man.  No, I'm fine.  I'm fine!  Don't worry. I've got someone here with me, and I'm going back to the club.  I'm fine! Yeah, I'll see you tomorrow."  He put the phone away.  One of Spike's arms thrown over his shoulder, he made his way back to Jeffrey's.

He was surprised as the vampire allowed him to manhandle him into a chair. Hell, he was surprised Spike was allowing himself to be manhandled at all. "Are you all right?" he asked again, hovering worriedly.

"I told you I'm fine."  The vampire looked up at him, gaze suddenly intent, piercing.  "Are you hurt?"

"Me?  Not really.  They didn't have much of a chance to do anything before you showed up.  Speaking of, what the hell were you thinking?"

"I was thinking that it looked like you were going to get your ass kicked!"

"Those guys were human, Spike.  You can't fight against humans, not without that implant going wiggy inside your skull."  Xander heard his voice rising, but couldn't stop it.  "You should have stayed out of it.  You could've been hurt!  I don't want that to happen."  He managed to shut himself up.  He'd almost gone too far.  He didn't want to reveal too much of his feelings, not without knowing more about how Spike felt.

He looked away, not wanting to give anything away with his expression. Sighing heavily, he sat down in a chair beside Spike.  He heard the vampire mutter something, but couldn't make out the words.  "What?"

"I said, I couldn't stay out of it."  Spike stared down at his hands, then raised his head and met Xander's gaze.  "I couldn't just stand there and watch you get hurt.  Damn it, I had to try to do something, anything."  He shook his head, and stared off into space.  "I can't let you get hurt."  He voice was low, tight with tension.

Xander stared at him.  Couldn't let him get hurt?  Hope lit a flame inside him, kindling warmth and pleasant surprise.  That didn't sound like a merciless killer.  It sounded like someone who felt the same way he did.

He studied Spike's profile carefully.  The vampire looked a little confused, a little nervous.  It was an honest expression.  Xander decided to take a chance.  He stood up slowly, and approached the other man.  Spike looked up at the dark-haired man as he moved to stand close to him, between the seated man's knees.

Xander leaned forward slowly, telegraphing his intentions as clearly as he could.  He raised a hand, and placed it on Spike's shoulder, rubbing his thumb against the pale sweep of the blond man's neck.  He locked his gaze with Spike's, trying to read the dark eyes and the thoughts behind them.  He saw questions there, and the first licking flames of heat.  That heat added to the warmth inside him, reinforcing the hope he felt.  He inclined his head slightly, and closed his eyes as he pressed his lips to the other man's.

He savored the soft contact, but kept it brief.  He straightened slowly, his legs shaky, his breathing unsteady.  Despite his hope, he was worried about what expression he would see on Spike's face.

Steeling himself, Xander opened his eyes.

Spike held himself completely motionless, still able to feel the warmth of Xander's lips on his own.  He wasn't sure how this had happened.  He had never thought he would feel like this for one of the Slayer's friends.  Hell, he never thought he'd feel like this for anyone.

He'd known intense attraction, combined with love and hatred both.  Angel.

He'd known obsessive, destructive love.  Drusilla.

He'd known lust intermixed with contempt.  Harmony.

But he'd never know this emotion before.  It was protective, and concerned. There was lust there, of course, but it was tempered with a need to see the other man happy.  He wasn't sure if this was love, real pure love, but he couldn't imagine anything else feeling any better.

It was strange.  He couldn't hurt Xander, but not because of the implant in his head.  That had been the beginning of it, but not anymore.  At first he had tried telling himself that the reason he was following the dark-haired man was that he wanted to make sure the bartender stayed healthy long enough to be blackmailed.  Eventually, he couldn't convince himself of that any longer.

He tried to tell himself that he was protecting Xander because he couldn't hurt the Slayerette, so no one else could either.  Obviously, he was making sure the other man stayed alive until he could have the pleasure of killing him himself.

Soon, he couldn't believe that lie either.  He was protecting Xander, spending his nights outside Jeffrey's, or following the bartender while on patrol with the Scooby Gang or acting as an escort for one of his co-workers, simply because he wanted to make sure Xander was safe.  He wanted to watch him.  He wanted to protect him.  He wanted *him*.

All this passed through his mind in the matter of seconds; he had been brooding over these thoughts for most of the week.  Now the time for thought was over.  It was time to act.

Smiling, he looked up and met Xander's eyes.  Licking his lips, he reached out and placed his hands on the standing man's hips.  With a gentle tug, Spike pulled him closer.  Not knowing what to say, he chose to say nothing. Instead, he stood slowly, invading Xander's space, hands still on his hips.

He kept his gaze locked with the mortal's.  He saw no fear in them, a fact he found strangely pleasing.  Dark brown eyes grew darker as arousal caused the pupils to dilate.  Xander's breath was quickening; Spike was so close he could feel the rapid pants of air against his skin.

He leaned forward, covering the other man's mouth with his own.  Hot.  Wet. Sweet.  The vampire soon lost himself in the sensation, in the smooth glide of tongue against tongue.  He pulled Xander's hips against his, grinding their groins together.  He was vaguely aware of fingers clenched in his hair, a hand wandering over his back.  He let his own hands roam, mapping the lines of the other man's body, learning by touch what he had been studying with his eyes for so long.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed when Xander wrenched his head back and to the side, breaking contact.  He was breathless, lips wet and swollen.

"Is something wrong?" Spike asked, not relinquishing his hold on the mortal. He wasn't going to let him go, not now.  Not when they were so close to what they both wanted.

"I haven't finished shutting this place down," Xander said.

Spike stared at him in disbelief.  "You're thinking about work?"  His voice was incredulous.  The most stunning kiss he'd ever experienced, a heady rush of so many emotions he couldn't even track them all, and the whole time the dark-haired man had been thinking of work?

Xander shook his head, and grabbed Spike's head.  He kissed the vampire, fiercely, but briefly.  He rested his forehead against the blond man's.  "I'm thinking that I want to spend the rest of the night figuring out a thousand different ways to make you scream and beg for more, and I don't want to have the fact that I've still got so much to do hanging over my head, distracting me."  His voice was serious, and hoarse with desire.

Hardly able to believe it, Spike heard himself say, "I'll help."  Well, why not?  It would be over sooner.  The two of them made short work of the few remaining parts of the club that needed to be put to rights.  Spike used the opportunity to bring himself back under control.  He was fairly certain that this was the first time Xander had done anything, with a man, anyway.  He didn't want to rush this.  Besides, he told himself, reasserting some of his evil vampire spirit, just for his self-image, if he hurt the mortal, his implant would go off.

And that Spike wouldn't be able to.

As soon as they were done, Xander was back at his side, gaze nervous and hungry, locked on Spike's face.  The vampire reached out and traced a finger down his cheek.  A thought occurred to him.  "You've only got a cot here, don't you?"

Xander groaned.  "Damn it.  I forgot."  He chewed at his lower lip.  "But closer quarters are good, right?"

"Definitely right," Spike whispered, lowering his head to nuzzle at Xander's ear, feeling the warmth of his skin, and the brush of soft hair against his skin.  "But if we're going to be looking for ways to make each other scream, a little breathing room will be good."

The dark-haired man laughed breathlessly.  "But I'll be the only one breathing."

Spike growled at him, and grabbed his arm.  "Do you have your keys?"


"Good."  The vampire began to drag Xander out of the club.

"We are not going back to your crypt," the bartender stated firmly as he locked the door to Jeffrey's.

Spike repressed a grin.  "Right.  We're not going there."  The last demon he'd come across had quite the hidden packet of money in a back pocket.  The blond man had helped himself to it after breaking its owner's neck.  He was having trouble coming up with a better way to spend it then on Xander.  A satisfied smile played around the corners of his mouth as he felt the weight in one of his coat pockets of the thing he'd spent some of the money on earlier.  At the time, he had thought it was just wishful thinking that he'd get to use it, but now he was glad he'd followed through on the impulse.

He led his soon-to-be-lover through Sunnydale, barely able to spare any attention for potential danger, so distracted was he by the feel of warm skin under his hand as he kept a hold of Xander's arm as they walked through the streets.

When Xander realized where they were going, he stopped.  "Spike," he protested, a blush mounting in his cheeks, "this is a hotel.  An expensive hotel."

Spike watched his color deepen with appreciation.  Standing close to the other man, he smiled.  "It is where one usually finds beds, isn't it?  Of course, we could always drop by Giles's place, ask if we can use his extra bed-"

Xander shook his head furiously.  "Nope.  That's not necessary.  Hotels are good.  Sometimes they even give you free mints, and I'm sure Giles wouldn't do that."

The vampire led the way into the hotel, aware that Xander was still embarrassed.  He surprised himself yet again by not making a big deal about getting a room, just for the pleasure of seeing the man behind the desk's face prune up.  Instead, he got the room quickly and quietly, and brought Xander there without drawing anymore attention to them then he had to.

Once inside the room, Spike turned to Xander.  Before he could say anything, his mouth was taken in a hard kiss.  The vampire responded hungrily, walking backwards and pulling his lover along with him.  The back of his knees hit the bed, and then he was sprawled on his back, with the warm weight of the dark-haired man sprawled across him.

Spike busied his fingers, tugging at Xander's shirt, pulling it up and over his head.  He grinned at the unhappy noises the other man made when their mouths were forced to separate.  The bartender was quick to reciprocate, tearing at Spike's clothing until he was bare-chested as well.

Warm hands skimmed over the vampire's chest, and were followed by a hot, wet mouth.  Spike groaned appreciatively, anchoring his fingers in thick dark hair.  When Xander's tongue dragged slowly across one nipple, then the next, Spike couldn't remain passive any longer.  He flipped them over, moving so that he was straddling the mortal's hips.

He leaned down and claimed another kiss, refusing to break contact until he worried about lack of oxygen for his lover.  He leaned back, admiring the flushed, dazed face below him, before reaching over and grabbing his jacket, which was laying on the bed beside them.

"Going somewhere?" asked a rich, amused voice.

"No, love just fetching something for later," he replied, reaching into one deep pocket and pulling out what lay inside.  He tossed the clothing onto the floor and placed the articles on the bed.  The body beneath him grew still as Xander stared at the tube of lubricant.

Shit, had he ruined everything?  Was he pushing things too fast?  Spike began to regret his actions, then Xander moaned and thrust upwards with his hips. Relief flowing through him, the vampire ground his own pelvis against the one below him, gasping at the feel of a hard length against his own.

The dark-harried man reached up and grabbed his neck, forcibly hauling Spike's face down until it was inches from his own.  "I hope you didn't bring that just for show," he breathed, eyes nearly black.

"If you're sure," Spike whispered back, not wanting to risk a misunderstanding, not when they were so close.

Xander grinned up at him, arching his hips to press himself against the vampire.  "What do you think?"

"I think it's time those pants came off," Spike said, reaching down to worry the buttons.  With Xander's enthusiastic help, they were soon naked, wrapped around each other, reveling in the feel of bare skin against skin.

The blond man nipped and kissed and sucked at every inch of Xander's skin he could reach, until his lover was moaning continuously, hips thrusting upwards mindlessly in search of release.  Placing his lips beside an ear, the vampire whispered, "Are you ready?", then licked at the delicate skin.

The body beneath his shuddered, but Xander's voice was firm.  "If you don't hurry up-"

"You'll stake me?" Spike asked, lavishing wet attention on the other ear.

Laughing, Xander replied, "I was hoping you'd 'stake' me, but if you insist..."

Spike silenced him with a kiss.  "I'll be doing the staking tonight," he said, kissing his way down the body beneath him.  When he reached Xander's erection, he gently sucked the hard flesh into his mouth, laving it with his tongue as held the other man's hips still.

When Xander was once more incoherent with need and want, the vampire reached out and grabbed the lube, using it to carefully and generously prepare his lover.  He wanted to tell himself that he was doing so to avoid giving the implant any chance to act up, but the truth was he wanted this to be good for Xander, so good that the other man would want it again and again.  So good that he would never want another.

He hooked Xander's knees over his shoulders, and slowly pressed inside the other man.  Once fully inside, he leaned down and sealed his mouth over his lover's, nearly gasping form the feeling of the tight heat, the wonderful closeness. He thrust slowly, deeply, quickening the pace as Xander's moans and pleading increased.

"So right...oh, god, Spike, please..."  His voice was hoarse, almost desperate.

He mercilessly drove both of them toward completion, lunging forward to kiss his lover, swallowing Xander's final cry, and giving him his own triumphant shout.

Spike slumped, collapsing down on top of Xander, exhausted and spent.  He wrapped his arms around his lover, rolling over and pulling the dark-haired man to lie across him, needing the contact.

Xander's eyes were heavy-lidded, his face still flushed.  "Wow," he said softly, staring into Spike's eyes.

"Wow, indeed, love," the vampire agreed, running his fingers through the dark, sweaty hair.  He saw that Xander was still staring at him.  "What?" he asked, smiling.

In answer, the other man reached out and traced a finger across Spike's brow. It was then that the vampire realized he was wearing his game face.  "Shit, I'm sorry, Xander," he said quickly, forcing himself back into human guise, "it happens sometimes."

The dark-haired man cut him off, not letting him continue.  "It's all right. I understand.  You are a vampire," here his voice faltered a little, but he pressed on, "and it's bound to happen, right?"  He swallowed hard, but refused to look away.  "It's part of you."

Spike stared at him.  He'd never expected something like this.  Not from Xander.  It was time he began to look at the other man as something other than one of the Slayer's groupies.  He'd begun to do so, but not enough, obviously.  Not if Xander's acceptance, or at least will to try to accept, was so strong.

He pulled Xander's head closer to his, sharing a gentle kiss.  He felt the mortal grow heavier against him, feeling his breath slow as he drifted toward sleep.  Spike held him closer, treasuring the warmth of the sleeping body.  He closed his eyes as well, but he had no intention of sleeping.  He'd never held a lover as they slept, never felt the pleasure and tenderness of watching over someone he cared for as they lay in his arms.  He hoped it was something he'd have the chance to get used to.  Pressing a kiss to Xander's brow, he settled himself down for the night, experiencing and wondering and loving the man in his arms.

The End

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