Easy To Be True by EntreNous

Chapter 1

Xander slung his duffel bag over his shoulder once more, and then shoved it at the conductor so that he could stow it in the bus coach's carriage.

"Oxnard," he said when the man asked him his stop. "Going to see my Uncle Rory."

"Great," the driver muttered, in a way that clearly said didn't ask for your life story, kid.

Xander shrugged and got onto the bus with an air of nonchalance that so did not match the fact that this was the first time he'd ever been on a trip by himself.

His parents had decided to try a trial separation, and for some reason that meant they mostly wanted separation from Xander. Or in any case, it didn't seem like either one of them could take him, what with his mom moving in with her sister, and his dad staying at Ye Olde Pathetic Bachelor apartments downtown in a studio that didn't allow kids.

Not that Xander was a kid. He was fifteen, after all.

But Rory had said to send Xander along to Oxnard for the summer. Plenty of room, especially with Xander's cousin Devon in Juvie for selling pot to grade-schoolers.

"Is this seat--?" Xander began to ask the person sitting next to the first empty seat on the bus.

She rolled her blue eyes and pushed her large shoulder bag more firmly on the chair. "My friend? Is getting on at the next stop? So I can't let you sit there?"

Xander gaped. "Is that an answer, or--?"

"Seat's taken," the guy across the aisle said in a bored voice.

And since the guy across the aisle resembled nothing so much as a brick wall, Xander ducked his head in agreement and trudged further down the aisle.

Unfortunately, most of the other seats were already filled. There were couples in some of them, chattering or arguing or looking like they were about to start getting it on. There were moms and kids together, a couple of sets of people who looked like strangers who’d sat together out of convenience, and the odd twosome of people who were clearly not in agreement over where the line separating the two seats existed.

At the back of the bus, though, sprawled across two seats, was a punk guy with peroxided hair, piercings, and enough metal on his arms that Xander wondered if he clanged when he walked.

“Hey, is this seat--” Xander stopped when he realized that the guy was asleep. He looked around, but aside from one old woman who glared at him, no one seemed very interested in his seat-less status.

“Okaaay,” Xander said under his breath. “Got to sit somewhere, so . . .”

He pushed gently against Punk Boy’s shoulder until he started leaning against the wall of the bus instead of lying on the seat.

“Mrrgle,” the guy growled.

“Easy now,” Xander said. “Just . . . readjusting you. It’s all good.”

“Flargh,” the guy snarled, opening his eyes briefly and then slumping against the wall of the bus and going out like a light once more.

“Take your seats, everyone, take your seats,” the driver said through the static-y loudspeaker.

Xander shuttled into the now-empty seat, and tried to keep his knees and elbows to himself.

* * *

The trip was supposed to be ten hours. Xander debated whether he should read his comics, listen to his walkman, or try to write a letter to his friends Jesse and Willow, telling them not to worry about him for the next couple of months, when he fell asleep in the middle of negotiations.

“Well now,” a voice whispered into his ear. A British voice. And since when did Xander dream in British?

“Did they start handing out complimentary . . . boys, when I was passed out?” the voice continued.

“What?” Xander scrambled up only to face Punk Boy, who was giving him a smile that was all teeth. “No! Just, there was nowhere else to sit, and I just kind of nudged you over, and please, please don’t beat me up--“

“Relax,” Punk Boy snorted. “And take a breath or two, while you’re at it,” he added when Xander stammered over the next few words he meant to say. “Not going to hurt you.” He smiled again, though now he added the touch of pressing his tongue to the back of his top teeth. “Not unless you want me to, that is.”

“Definitely not,” Xander said. He shook his head for emphasis. “I can’t say enough about how much I don’t want that.”

“Pity, that,” the Punk Boy said with a sigh. “Where are we now?”

Xander looked over him at the window. “Um. California?”

The other boy laughed. “That right?”

Xander wasn’t sure how to answer that one, so he cleared his throat instead.

“Rest stop, twenty minutes, you must be back on the bus in twenty minutes,” came over the loudspeaker.

“Come on, pet,” the Punk Boy said, somehow managing to get past Xander and into the aisle as the bus slowed down and entered a large parking lot. “I’ll buy you dinner.”

* * *

“Spike,” the other guy answered when Xander had finished three slices of pizza and thought to ask the name of the person treating him.

“Sorry,” Xander said, gesturing at the pizza he’d demolished almost entirely by himself.

“Looks like you could use it,” Spike commented, glancing up and down Xander’s body.

Xander could feel his cheeks burning. Yeah, okay, so he was a skinny guy, but it wasn’t like his parents couldn’t afford to feed him. He was just growing, was all.

“Nothing to be embarrassed about,” Spike said. He slouched down in their booth, and then sat up again after he’d retrieved a flask. As he unscrewed the top, he grinned at Xander, and then poured a good-sized dose into his Coke. “When I was your age, they couldn’t stop me from eating. I remember what that’s like.”

“When you were my age?” Xander asked through a full mouth.

Spike cocked his head to the side. “What are you, seventeen? Eighteen?”

“Fif -- uh, yeah,” Xander agreed. “Eighteen. Yup, eighteen. It was just my birthday,” Xander added in what he felt was an inspired cover for stumbling over the number.

“Birthday, eh? That’s something to celebrate.” Spike leaned across the booth and dumped some of the flask’s contents into Xander’s Coke.

“Eighteen isn’t old enough to drink,” Xander said in alarm.

“Isn’t it? Is in England,” Spike told him. “No one’s going to tattle on you, though. ‘S just me. So drink up.”

Xander hesitated, and then grabbed his Coke. “Yeah. Um. Okay.” He took a swig, and then another when he decided it didn’t taste that weird. Definitely something else in there besides soda, but it wasn’t gross or too strong.

“You don’t want to know how old I am, love?” Spike asked. He watched Xander swallow with a half-smile on his lips.

“How old are you?” Xander asked obediently.

“Twenty-seven,” Spike answered.

“Wow. That’s . . . wow,” Xander said.

“Sounds like they should put me away in some home for the aged, doesn’t it?” Spike asked with a playful kick under the table to Xander’s legs.

“Oh, no,” Xander protested, but his cheeks flushed. Twenty-seven did seem really old to him, but Spike acted pretty young.

Xander licked his lips, trying to think of something to distract Spike from any weirdness about their ages. Spike’s gaze went to his lips, and then flicked back up to his eyes.

“What is it that you do?” Xander asked formally. The words came out like a question his mom would ask, before his dad told her to shut up for sounding like an idiot.

Spike moved his feet under the table again like he was going to give Xander another friendly kick, but this time he just left his legs tangled with Xander’s. “So glad you asked me that, Xander. I’m a rock star.”

Xander felt his mouth drop. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Spike’s expression became clouded. “Going to be, anyway.”

“Wow,” Xander said. “That’s really cool. You play guitar?”

“Some people call it that, yeah,” Spike agreed. “Was in a few bands back in the U.K., and now I’m going to L.A.”

“Trying to make it in the big city?” Xander asked.

“Already signed,” Spike corrected him, showing all his teeth again in another smile-grimace. “There’s an outfit, lost their guitarist a while back.”

“He’s playing with someone else?” Xander asked.

“He’s in a coma from a drug overdose,” Spike said casually.

Xander’s eyes widened.

“Pet, I’m kidding. He left the band for his day job. Selling insurance, or some such thing.”


Spike raised both eyebrows. “Not all rockers go down in a blaze of glory.”

“You probably would, though,” Xander said. “I mean, not that you’re going to O.D. or anything, just that you seem . . . uh . . .”

“Seem what?” Spike asked.

“Kind of, um. Dangerous.” This time the blush spread out over his whole body.

Spike leaned back, putting his hands behind his head, and smiled widely. “I like you. What did you say your name was?”

* * *

Back on the bus, the girl who had blocked Xander with her bag still didn’t have someone seated next to her. She was leaning over the seat, showing a dip in her not-very-impressive cleavage, but smiling and laughing at the Brick House Man, who didn’t move his eyes away from her even when Xander almost tripped over his legs.

But Spike caught him before he fell, and gave him a little shove down the aisle. Well. It was sort of like a shove. If people shoved you by your butt.

“So, nine more hours of this,” Spike groaned as Xander settled in next to him and the bus pulled back out onto the highway.

“Seven,” Xander corrected him. “Well, seven til Oxnard. Which is where I get off.”

Spike snorted. “Not coming all the way to L.A.?”

“No, because I’m going to stay with my Uncle Rory for the summer,” Xander explained. He felt stupid when Spike leaned back, looking thoughtful at this news.

“Just till you get your own place, then,” Spike said finally.

“What? I mean, right!” Xander agreed. “Because I’m living on my own, yessiree, just like any other eighteen-year old would. Independent. That’s me.”

“Why Oxnard?” Spike reconsidered this. “What the hell is Oxnard?”

“Oh, well. Like I said, it’s where my uncle lives,” Xander told him.

“You’ve got a job there, then?”

“No. Just, um. The uncle.” Xander took a breath. “But yeah, definitely going to be getting the job, down in old Oxnard town. Probably something with, um. Lifting stuff.”

Spike nodded vaguely.

“So what’s the name of the band?” Xander asked. “That you’re joining?”

Spike’s brow furrowed. “Was something about Kent. They’re changing it to . . .summat. Can’t remember.” Suddenly he punched Xander in the shoulder. “The Nasty Shrews! That’s it. Anyway. We’re going to be big.”

“Cool,” Xander said quickly. “That’s really, really cool.”

* * *

Two hours later, Xander could tell that most of the people on the bus had fallen asleep. Heads lolled against the backs of seats, passengers’ legs jutted out into the aisles, and a few people appeared to have fallen asleep on each other, whether they knew each other before the fact or not.

In between a couple of trips to the bathroom (whatever Spike was adding to the Cokes made him have to pee more than usual) Xander had told Spike the basic details about himself over a couple more Cokes, each with a healthy shot of whatever Spike had in his flask. He told Spike that he had two best friends. That his parents were divorcing. That he wasn’t such a hot student. That he was thinking his dad’s advice that “you can always dig ditches” might be the way he would have to go when he finally got a job.

Spike dismissed the last part out of hand, saying, “Just haven’t found your talents yet, pet,” even though Xander tried to explain that he hadn’t shown aptitude for much of anything so far.

“Folks splitting up? That’s a piece of bad luck,” Spike said, shaking his head. “ ‘Course, you’re moved on to better things.”

“ ‘Course,” Xander echoed.

“Me, I left home a few years after my da left my mum. Was only fifteen at the time.”

“Me too,” Xander said automatically. “I mean. The first time. I, uh, left for a few weeks when I was fifteen. For the summer.”

“Better than striking out for good at fifteen,” Spike said.


“Can’t say I wasn’t happy to see him go,” Spike added. “He was a right bastard.” He shrugged. “Hope he’s dead.”

“Yeah, well.” Xander coughed. “He sounds like a difficult guy.”

“Switch seats with me,” Spike said.


“Want to stretch my legs out. Just for a bit. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Oh, no,” Xander said. He got up, intending to go into the aisle and let Spike out, but Spike huffed out a breath and maneuvered them until Xander found himself climbing over Spike, momentarily having to sit on his lap until Spike slid out from under him into the other seat and Xander ended up on the inside.

“Much better,” Spike proclaimed, stretching out. For Spike, that apparently involved extending his arm across the length of the seat before moving it down to rest around Xander’s shoulders.

And Xander felt like he was supposed to laugh and duck away, or shrug that arm off, but he sort of didn’t want to. Even though he had Jesse and Willow, he hadn’t been able to talk to them about much the past few weeks. Both of them had their parents together, were planning summers full of barbeques, a few weeks away at camp, art classes and that kind of thing. It wasn’t so easy to explain going to stay with Rory, a taxidermist, and not really knowing if he was going to get to come back home at the end of August.

But Spike seemed to get where he was coming from, had his own stories of weird family stuff and seemed unbothered by Xander leaving home and going to live elsewhere.

Of course, Spike also thought he was three years older than he was, and old enough to drink.

But it was the other stuff that counted anyway. So Xander held out his 12-ounce soda bottle for a top-off, and Spike tightened his arm around him before tipping more alcohol into Xander’s drink.

Chapter 2

“Mlerge,” Xander muttered. He reached up to brush at his face, groaning when he realized he had dried drool at the corner of his mouth.

He started when he realized he also had a button fitted neatly into an imprint on his cheek. Spike’s button. From Spike’s shirt, which was on Spike’s chest. He’d fallen asleep on Spike, and oh god, if Spike wasn’t going to beat him up before, he was so very much going to change his mind about that now.

“Relax,” Spike said in a low voice.

Xander cleared his throat and tried to pull away, but Spike tightened his arm around his shoulders for a moment before starting to stroke his hair.

“How long have I been out?” Xander asked. He did manage to rub at the corners of his mouth, and then at his eyes, clearing away any possibly lingering gunk.

“Not long. Twenty minutes, should think.” Spike’s fingers combed through his hair slowly.

Xander felt his eyes starting to close again and forced himself to wake up. “Sorry.”

“What for?”

Xander blinked at that before he looked up. Spike was watching him, his blue, blue eyes flickering slightly over Xander’s face.

Then Spike yanked him up, cupped his palms around Xander’s jaw, pulled him close, and began kissing him.

Kissing him.

Xander could feel the ache in his legs from being cramped up in the small space, and his back hurt from the weird position he’d worked himself into falling asleep on Spike’s chest. His throat felt dry, like he hadn’t had anything to drink in a while even though he’d had all those Cokes, and there was a tightness in his groin, like he’d stretched something the wrong way.

But the only signals reaching his brain went something like Lips. Good, good lips. Urgh. Soft lips.

Then there was Tongue, oh my god, tongue! He was kissing a guy. Not even a couple of hours out of Sunnydale, and everything was completely mixed up, not just his parents and his life, but everything.

“Okay?” Spike whispered, pulling back.

Xander paused. But then in answer he moved forward, meeting Spike’s lips with his mouth, pulling himself up a little with his fists twisted in Spike’s shirt, so he could get a better angle. When Spike laughed, Xander swallowed the sound down and parted his lips so Spike could slip his tongue back in.

Because man, Spike could kiss. Not that Xander had ever kissed anyone before. Two times with Willow on dares didn’t really count. But Spike’s mouth moved like it knew just what it was doing. There were little licks happening at the corner of his mouth and then an in-and-out thrust of Spike’s tongue that at first made him choke a little but then started up a whole sucking thing from his mouth in response.

Thrust, suck, thrust, suck, and Xander squirmed around in his seat, not really focused on the oddness of the person kissing him being a guy part so much as the parts of him that were taking a huge interest in the proceedings.

Then Spike’s hand was fumbling around in his lap, and as soon as Xander figured out that Spike wasn’t feeling around for something he had dropped but was actually -- oh god -- unzipping Xander’s pants and slipping his hand into Xander’s boxers, Xander gasped into the kiss and bucked his hips forward.

“Eager little thing,” Spike crooned. Somehow he got Xander’s boxers pushed down enough to give him room to wrap his fingers around Xander’s prick. “Well, you are eager,” Spike told him playfully.

Xander didn’t bother trying to answer, just looked down with wide eyes at Spike’s fingers curling around and pulling at him. The sweep of lights from cars outside lit and shadowed Spike’s hand as it stroked.

“Pretty thing, you are. Fuck, that’s right . . . there you go . . .”

“Oh god,” Xander whispered, his eyes following the push and pull.

Spike grinned, closer to him, and now the stroking came with added kissing, and Xander couldn’t help but dig his fingers into Spike’s shoulders as his hips juddered forward faster and faster.

“Spike,” he choked. “Gonna --”

Spike kissed him again, muffling his cry. Xander shuddered through it, until his thumping heart started to go back to normal speed. He breathed hard through the shift from frantic bites and thrusting tongue to the slower-paced brushes of Spike’s mouth against his.

When his breathing slowed, Xander had about two seconds to get enough oxygen to his brain for the presence of mind to glance around. He didn’t necessarily want to see if the other passengers were marching towards them with stakes and burning torches for doing very gay things in the back of the bus, but it seemed better to be prepared.

Nothing. Not so much as a sneer or glare. No one seemed to have seen anything in the dark interior, or heard much over the hum of the engine and air-conditioning.

Then he found himself looking at Spike’s lap. As in, he had to look at it, because he was being urged in that direction. The tugs Spike was giving his shoulders were gentle but insistent.

“Come on, love,” Spike murmured into his ear, kissing his neck when Xander halted. “That gorgeous mouth on you . . . can’t stop thinking about it, not since I saw you the first time. Want to feel those sweet lips of yours on me.”

Xander swallowed hard. It was one thing to -- whatever that had been. But this -- what Spike wanted him to do -- seemed like a way bigger deal. Then again, everything was going to seem gigantic to him, since he’d done hardly anything like this, at least not with anyone else in the room.

But Spike had just done that for him without batting an eyelash, and now he wanted . . .

Xander felt like his head would swim if he tried to shake it. So he nodded instead.

“That’s it,” Spike encouraged him. He eased Xander down.

It was awkward and weird. There wasn’t a ton of space, after all. But after a few twists of his body, Xander managed to press against the wall of the bus and scrunch down enough to get his head in Spike’s lap. Where, especially now that he was down here and could view the clear outline of it against the denim, he could see that Spike’s dick was waiting and ready.

“Oh god,” Xander mouthed against Spike’s thigh, with part disbelief, part excitement, but mostly sheer panic.

Spike shifted under Xander’s breath, an interested stretch, like Xander was saying things against Spike’s leg on purpose, and it was a very good thing.

Xander kept on breathing in and out, and after a moment rested his cheek against Spike’s lap. When Spike shifted again and Xander’s cheek rubbed over Spike’s cock, they both froze for a second.

“Very nice,” Spike growled.

And everything -- going to live with Rory, the sad little stack of pre-stamped, pre-addressed postcards he’d watched his mom slip into his duffel bag, being without his friends for three whole months and possibly from now on -- all of that stuff that made him jittery, made his chest hurt, made his eyes sting -- it all zoomed right out of Xander’s head at the sound of that pleased growl.

He sneaked his hand into Spike’s lap and let his fingers rest on then breeze over that hard bulge in Spike’s jeans. There was a hitch in Spike’s breathing, and Xander stifled the hysterical giggle that was burbling up in his throat.

“Button fly, huh?” he said without thinking as he started to undo Spike’s jeans. “That’s very rock star.”

“You think so?” Spike asked, interested.

“Gah,” Xander answered. Not that gah was usually an acceptable answer to a question. But it obviously fit right into the conversation that held the revelation that Spike didn’t wear underwear. When Xander got that button-fly open, Spike’s cock was poking right out of honey-colored wiry curls like it was aiming for him.

He could almost see the grin on Spike’s lips, lazy and sure. “Not like the ones you’re used to, I’d wager.”

And that was probably about foreskin, which was absolutely new. Or maybe it was about size, which was what Xander might call substantial. Oh, who cared what it was about? Xander was holding Spike’s erection in his palm and something in his stomach was doing little jumps and flips at the whole development of him holding any guy’s cock other than his own.

“Here goes,” he muttered to himself before he flicked just the tip of his tongue to the head.

“Pretty tease,” Spike grumbled, but he didn’t actually sound that unhappy about it.

Xander dipped his head down, tightened his grip on Spike’s thigh, and gave the hard length a longer lick. He could do this. It was just skin, really. Salty skin, sure, and hello, penis. But it didn’t pulse immediately or start throbbing in an alarming way or otherwise freak him out. While he was thinking about it, he swirled his tongue around the tip.

“There you go,” Spike whispered.

It was only because he’d thought about someone doing this kind of thing to him that he tried the next move, forming his mouth into an O and easing down. If a curled fist felt good, stood to reason that tight was the way to go with his mouth too, and okay, he shouldn’t think too hard about his mouth plus dick because it made him start to gag.

But a little more time, a little more dick in his mouth, and he got into a kind of rhythm, with his left fist curled around the base of Spike’s hard on, his right hand braced on the seat, his head rising and falling at a steady pace now that he was letting Spike’s slow thrusts track and guide him.

The thought that Spike would realize Xander had no experience at all, and maybe tell him to stop, flitted through his mind. But it just made him more resolved to do a good job, to live up to that profile of the eighteen-year-old guy who drank Coke and whiskey without getting fuzzy in the head, who was just staying with his uncle temporarily before he got his own place and had reasons of his own to move to Oxnard, who might even take a trip or two to L.A. to see his rock star friend Spike and check out the scene for himself.

Soon enough, though, he didn’t have room for thoughts like that. He was too intent on the length easing in and out of his mouth, too tuned in to the low growls Spike made when Xander managed to get his right hand up so he could stroke Spike’s balls hesitantly. He started to squirm in his seat again, feeling the flickers of interest start to lick up the base of his spine. And it was just from this, just from what he was doing to Spike.

In and out, up and down. “Fuck yes,” Spike muttered, and that was the most warning Xander got before Spike was thrusting into his mouth way harder and way faster than before, before Spike went stiff and then Xander had to swallow frantically.

When Xander sat up, Spike’s eyes were half closed, his lips parted.

Xander cleared his throat self-consciously and patted down his hair so he wouldn’t look like he’d been doing what he’d been doing, keeping his eyes fixed on the carpet. He had absolutely no clue what he was supposed to do next.

“Nice,” Spike whispered as he turned towards him slightly. He tipped Xander’s face back up with a finger under his chin, and grinned at him. “Very nice, actually. Do that often, do you?”

“That was kind of. That was. The first time,” Xander stammered.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Cute.”

“What, like every guy who’s fifteen has already done that thousands of times?” Xander countered.

Spike turned towards him more fully. “What?”

Xander ducked his head.

“Wait. You’re serious,” Spike said after a pause. “This was the first time you --”

“Forget it,” Xander mumbled.

Spike moved back, moved away, and Xander felt a tightness in his chest. “You . . . bloody hell.”

“What?” He realized that Spike’s eyes were fixed on his mouth, and automatically raised his fingers to his lips. They came away with droplets of what must have been come.

“Jesus,” Spike breathed out.

Xander’s face heated. “Listen, I know that before, when you guessed how old I was, I--”

“Fifteen,” Spike spat.

Xander rubbed the back of his hand hard against his mouth. “What, like it’s so different, those two years?” The last thing he wanted was for his words to seem desperate, but from the sound of it, he wasn’t doing to well on that count.

Spike ran his hand through his hair and exhaled. “Should learn to stay away from the ones with dark eyes and hair like yours.”

“Don’t forget the lips,” Xander said bitterly. He turned to face the seat in front of him.

“Right,” Spike agreed in a low voice.

Xander kept staring ahead. “What, do you have some . . . some kind of type? Is this like your cross country bus ride of messing around with boys who look like me?”

Spike shot him an annoyed look. “Now, pet . . .”

“Were they all as dumb as me?” Xander blurted out. He faced Spike again, couldn’t help watching the other man’s jaw tighten.

“Look, don’t go getting all upset and raising your voice, all right?” Spike told him.

And then Xander was scrambling, moving at Spike as fast as he could.

Spike looked surprised, but as soon as he seemed to get that Xander was trying to launch himself at the miniscule on-board bathroom, he jumped up and out of Xander’s path.

Xander managed to get inside and shut the folding door, falling to his knees just in time before he began vomiting. It seemed to go on forever, retching up the alcohol, the Coke, the come. The stench in the tiny space didn’t help much, but he couldn’t bring himself to stand up or move away, so for a while he lay on the floor in an awkward twist, gasping and dry-heaving.

Some time passed.

The hum and bump of the bus continued, a rhythm that shook and jolted him further down the highway whether he wanted to go or not.

Someone pulled at the door. “I can’t open it,” a female voice complained.

“Occupado,” Xander called out in a weak voice. “Go ‘way.”

“Are you almost done in there?” The door rattled as she banged on it. “Because there’s only one bathroom, and you’re not the only one who has to --”

“Fuck. Off!” Xander shouted hoarsely.

No more knocking. Back to the bump and thump of tires on asphalt. He managed to sit up enough to get his back against the door, fold his legs up to his chest, and lower his cheek on his knees. He just needed to rest.

* * *

It wasn’t until the bus had stopped and started twice that Xander pulled himself up by the handicapped bar on the wall, cleaned himself up as best he could, and went back into the cabin.

Two steps away was Spike, once again in the window seat.

Xander looked hard, but there weren’t empty seats nearby. Most everyone must have been L.A.-bound, or maybe more people had boarded at the intervening stops.

So he sank down into the aisle seat, crossed his arms, and fixed his eyes on the chair ahead of him.

Okay, maybe he glanced to the side a few times.

Spike had taken out a pair of sunglasses and had slipped them on despite the dark inside and out of the bus. The words Xander had said earlier went dully through his brain again: Very rock star.

He curled away from Spike and tried to sleep.

* * *

“Oxnard,” someone’s voice was saying.

Xander pushed up and out of sleep, trying to make sense of what that word plus the elbow jabbing into his ribs meant. He opened his eyes, feeling a brief rush of panic when he didn’t remember where he was or why the hell he’d be in a moving vehicle.

“Your stop, right?” Spike asked him. He didn’t have his sunglasses on anymore, and when Xander glanced at him, his eyes looked tired. “Ten minutes, the driver said.”

“Yeah.” Thanks, Xander kept himself from adding.

“Look. About earlier . . . ”

Xander listened.

“I may’ve made . . . it’s possible I didn’t handle that too well.”

“Forget about it,” Xander mumbled. “In eight minutes, you’ll never see me again.”

Spike tilted his head to the side and appeared to consider this. “Still. Would feel bad, seeing as how it was your first --”

“Listen, could you just not talk anymore?” Xander asked.

Spike snorted. “Yeah. Right.”

A few people stood, yanking down jackets or hefting down bags from the overhead racks. “Ten more minutes,” the driver’s annoyed voice came over the intercom.

“Well. If you ever make it out to L.A. --”

Something in Xander’s stomach jumped, so he took a quick, sharp breath.

“--you should be sure to catch a show,” Spike went on. “The band, it’s going to be big.”

Xander swallowed. “Yeah,” he said finally. “Good luck with that.”

Ten minutes or no, he stood in the aisle, lurching his way to the front of the still-moving bus.

“Um, hello? This seat isn’t free,” the blond girl insisted when Xander reached her.

“Shove over,” he said.

She huffed but did so anyway.

Finally the bus pulled into the depot, where a few cars were waiting in the parking lot. Xander spotted Uncle Rory’s busted-up old Caddy in the front, and let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding.

“Well, hey there, sport,” Rory exclaimed after Xander collected his duffel bag and lugged it over. He sounded too cheerful, almost like he’d been practicing his opening. “We are going to have some summer together, huh?”

“Some summer,” Xander echoed as he swung the bag into the trunk. He slid into the passenger seat, and slammed the door on the roar of the bus pulling away.