Generic Imperative by EntreNous

Summary: Xander’s got an extra movie ticket. Spike’s got nothing better to do. Pretty damn fluffy, folks. AN: For the lovely spikedluv and the ever-charming nashmaveric. Late birthday presents are better than none, or so say I. AN2: Thanks to misanthrope7842 for taking a look-see at this.

“Hey, you guys ready?” Xander asked cheerfully as the bell ding-ed to announce his entry into the Magic Box. His face fell when he saw only Spike inside, sitting on the round table, booted feet firmly balanced on chair seats despite prior orders to the contrary from Giles.

“Not here,” Spike said shortly.

“And three points go to the bite-less wonder,” Xander said. “Think I could have figured that out myself, what with them . . . not being here.” His eyes searched around the room for some source of explanation: a revealing note informing him of immanent crisis and Buffy’s noble flight to save the day? A phone call from an apologetic Willow who lay unhurt but trapped under something heavy? Dawn sulking in the corner, reluctantly pressed into messenger service to say how very sorry his friends were that they’d once again been completely lame in deserting him?

“Your witch friend had a paper,” Spike announced. He leaned back, weight on his palms spread behind him, and examined the ceiling. “Something to do with the development of medical technologies and the concomitant rise of internalized systems of discipline, I believe.”

Xander blinked rapidly.

“So she’s currently drinking large quantities of something caffeinated and typing away with the phone off the hook. And Buffy T. Slayer had to tend to her soldier boy. Seems he’s thrown out his back -- just from the simple act of hefting up his dirty linens. Smalls, I would wager.” Spike smirked, and brought his gaze down to look Xander in the eye. “Bet he wishes he was back on the Initiative Super Juice now.”

“Okay, fine--”

“Oh, and Anya left town three months ago after your more confident clone disappeared,” Spike concluded. Then he paused, eyes open in mock-wonder. “But I forgot -- you knew that one already.”

“Spike, you’ve been ever so helpful,” Xander said through gritted teeth. He sighed and leaned against a bookcase. “Stupid . . . I bought the damn tickets for me and Will already . . . I should have known they might cancel or something. So much for Operation Cheer-Up Xander.”

“Seems to happen a bit lately, doesn’t it?” Spike asked. His tone was even, and Xander soon gave up trying to find any evidence of laughter or derision in his face.

“What, cheering me up?”

“No. The cancellation of.”

Xander opened his mouth, thought better of it, and closed it back up again. So the girls weren’t exactly dependable these days. They were busy with . . . stuff. Plus they each had someone in their lives -- and he definitely knew how much time having a girlfriend or boyfriend took up, judging on the ton of time he had on his hands now.

He avoided looking at Spike and turned back to the door. Looked like he’d be going to the movies alone again.

“I’m free,” he heard Spike call out.

Xander stopped short. “What was that?” he asked incredulously.

“I’ve nothing better to do,” Spike said casually. He hopped off the table and ambled over to Xander. “You have an extra ticket -- can’t refund it -- and I don’t have any plans. I’ll come along.”

“Uh . . . ” Xander tried to come up with a reply, but he couldn’t quite wrap his head around the fact that Spike wanted to hang with him. Sure, they’d played pool a time or two -- maybe more like once a week these days -- at the Bronze, but that was because they’d run into each other with no one else around. And yeah, Spike more often than not watched his favorite television shows at Xander’s place, but that was because he’d been banned from viewing them at Giles after the last pay-per-view bill had come in. And if Xander felt a little lonely with Anya gone, and didn’t mind all that much when Spike came around, or nudged Xander to get a beer with him after patrol . . . well, then that would pass soon enough. He’d get a new girlfriend, and he wouldn’t be lonely, and he wouldn’t need to spend time with a guy who deigned to let him tag along because he sported the attractions of car, wallet, and satellite dish.

But this -- a movie, on a Saturday night? There was something just off about it. It felt sort of . . . date-y. But hey, on the other hand, it was a little like pool playing -- running into Spike here, the girls not being around -- so maybe not worth worrying over. Plus, though Xander had seen plenty of movies on his own (witness the multiple viewings of King Ralph), he didn’t usually choose to do that on a crowded weekend night. With Spike along, maybe he’d look a little less like someone who didn’t have any friends. Besides, it’d be a shame to waste the extra ticket, and -- wait -- how did Spike know the ticket wasn’t refundable?

“Hurry up, Harris. We’ll miss the previews,” Spike said impatiently, already half out the door. Xander hurried after him.

* * *

“I want popcorn,” Spike interrupted.

“And a large popcorn,” Xander said wearily to the young woman at the concessions counter. He’d already ordered nachos, Junior Mints, Reese’s, Twizzlers, large sodas, and hot dogs.

“Extra-large,” Spike clarified.

Xander just nodded, too overwhelmed to protest, and the attendant laughed. “You’re a good boyfriend,” she said as she handed over the bucket, complete with the extra butter that Spike had asked for at the last minute.

“Huh?” Xander asked in confusion. She grinned at him, and Xander shook his head to clear it. Clearly he wasn’t a good boyfriend, or Anya wouldn’t have left him. And obviously he didn’t have a girlfriend, or what would he be doing out with Spike forging their way through crowds of teenagers on group dates?

He shrugged at her, and reached over to pick up the popcorn. “Hey Spike, could you grab the napk--” He let out a stream of creative curses when he realized that Spike had started off with the other packets and tubs of food, leaving him to chase the vampire to the theater while attempting to keep most of the popcorn and the drinks in their containers.

“Straw me,” Xander panted out when they sat down.

Spike wordlessly stabbed both of the drinks with long straws, and gave Xander a pointed look that clearly said “Happy now?”

Xander gulped at his Coke and sighed.

“What is this we’re seeing anyway?” Spike asked. He’d somehow accidentally-on-purpose broken the seat immediately in front of them, making a sort of table out of the bent-forward back of the chair to hold their food. Now he slapped his hands together and rubbed them in what Xander could only guess was anticipation. Weird to see Spike so excited about a basic trip to the movies, but whatever.

“The Princess . . . something,” Xander said, frowning at his ticket.

Spike stared at him. “You great and utter girl.”

“Hey!” Xander exclaimed indignantly. “I did not choose this flick! Buffy and Willow were the ones that picked it, and --”

“Right,” Spike said patronizingly, and settled back in his seat, holding the nachos close to his chest.

Xander covered his face with his hands as the space began to fill with pre-teen girls and a few groups of women his age and older. Great. They were the only guys there. Normally, that’d be cause for much yay-ing and whoo-hoo-ing, but he was pretty sure that this wasn’t going to garner potential dates. He and Spike more likely just seemed like weirdoes. What kind of dude would want to see a film about . . . something to do with princesses? He did catch a few of the other audience members smiling at the two of them, but looked in another direction before they could make any cracks.

“Give,” he said, poking Spike in the side and making a grab for the nachos. Spike sneered slightly, but handed over the plastic tray with gooey yellow sauce and chips and tore into the Twizzlers.

Finally after too many grainy-looking ads for Doctor Barry’s Orthopedics and stupid puzzle screens (Spike was the only one who didn’t immediately get who ILLRAHY FUFD was in the scrambled name game) the previews started up. Xander leaned back a little after putting the now empty nachos container on the ground and unthinkingly stretched his right arm out across the back of the seats.

If someone had been sitting to his left he probably would’ve stretched that arm out as well -- multiple viewings sitting in between Buffy and Willow throughout the years had made that his default position whenever the lights dimmed. He sat that way for a little while as he wondered why anyone would go to see a movie about an Inuit girl who traveled to the Big City so she could become a Roller Disco Dancer.

But then it occurred to him that the soft giggles he was noticing coming from around them weren’t directed at the rapid-fire preview revelations of every single plot point in the soon-to-be-released chick flick, but from something in the theater itself. He looked around expectantly, but he couldn’t really make out anything intriguing in the dark. Just the girls sitting a few rows behind them laughing and whispering, and a couple of women in their thirties sitting in the side area saying something that sounded vaguely like “awwwwwwww.”

He turned to Spike to ask him if he knew what was up and let out a small yip when the move brought him nose-to-nose with the vampire. Spike backed up slightly, but looked at Xander with thinly veiled impatience. “What?” Xander hissed.

“They think we’re cute,” Spike said, using completely normal voice volume. Increased giggling all around them.

Some of the people in front of them started “ssshhh”-ing loudly.

“Quiet,” Xander whispered to Spike. “I don’t know if you’ve been to a movie since the pictures started moving, but you don’t talk out loud in theaters.”

“Fine,” Spike said in an exaggerated stage whisper.

“Okay then,” Xander mouthed, and leaned back in his seat again. The move brought his hand forward to rest on Spike’s shoulder. There was that “awwwwwww”-ing sound again. What, was there a puppy loose in the theater or something?

Another preview, this one for a movie based on the incredibly cool adventures of two apes who could train kittens. Xander rolled his eyes and absently brushed his thumb back and forth over Spike’s collarbone. Stupid previews being geared to the stupid underage girly viewing audience of the stupid princess film.

Spike probably thought it was lame too, because he was making some kind of sarcastic huffing sound. At least it seemed like sarcastic huffing. The only other possibility was slightly heavier breathing, and why the hell would Spike be all hot and bothered by the action-packed clips of frolicking apes?

The feature was about to begin when Xander suddenly leaned over to Spike. “Wait. What? Who thinks we’re cute? Why?”

Spike stared at him. This time he remembered to whisper, so Xander had to edge even closer to hear his words. “The girls. In the theater. Think we’re cute. Because you’re cuddling me.”

Xander choked. “I am not cuddling you,” he said hotly.

“SSssssshhhhhhh!!!” went the first few rows.

Spike regarded him skeptically, then flicked his head in the direction of his shoulder. Of Xander’s arm draped around him. And Xander’s hand rubbing small circles on his upper arm.

Xander’s mouth formed into a round O and he snatched his hand away.

“Don’t you want to snuggle with me, Xander?” Spike asked in a sing-song whisper.

“Shut up,” Xander said in a low voice. He shifted his weight so that he was leaning against the seat as far away from Spike as possible.

“Some date you turned out to be,” Spike muttered.

“Yeah, well, I -- date?” Xander really didn’t mean to make the last part sound like a loud squeak.

“Forget it, Harris,” Spike said softly. He picked up the tub of popcorn from the make-shift table and proceeded to ignore Xander.

Xander sat up straight and tried hard to think. Date? Was Spike trying to make a total fool out of him by messing with his head in a theater full of thirteen year olds? Was it some lame joke about Xander not noticing his arm-around-the-vampire goof? That so was not a deliberate thing! If only Spike wasn’t shorter than him, and thinner, cuddle-sized, he definitely wouldn’t have been trying to get touch with the guy. First because, well, guy, and second because--

Xander glanced at Spike and even through the rush of confused feelings he couldn’t help smiling. Back in the imaginary country onscreen, the heroine’s sassy and unexplained decision to launch a synchronized dance number at her agonizingly-dull debut ball had gotten well underway. Though Spike’s mouth twitched a little, like there was a smirk trying to struggle to the surface, his eyes were wide and focused on the movements as the musical number reached its pinnacle. How come Xander had never noticed before how blue Spike’s eyes were, or how soft his lips looked when they were parted just a little, or . . .

First because Spike was a guy, and second because . . . what was the second part supposed to be again?

He leaned further to the left and tried not to think about Spike’s pink lips.

The main character on screen had already been wrongfully stripped of her title and bravely made to face a national crisis when something clicked in Xander’s head. All those nights at the Bronze . . . it always seemed like Spike had just been there, but maybe he hung around on purpose. And the television shows at Xander’s place . . . had Giles really banned Spike from watching at his apartment? Spike had said so, but what if he had nefarious ulterior motives? Date-y motives? And the girls suddenly being all cancellation-prone . . . how much of that was them being busy and how much of that was, well, Spike? He hadn’t even called to check if the thing about Willow’s paper and Buffy’s Florence Nightingale act were for real.

If all that stuff was made up, if Spike had been lying just to spend time with Xander, well . . . then that was an awful lot of work to do to hang out with someone. Way more work than anyone else had -- On second thought, it was the only work anyone had undertaken to try to get some Xander Harris quality time. Cordy had been more of a closet grope that turned into a dating situation; Faith had just . . . happened to him; and Anya had shown up and stayed, the two of them keeping things going on proximity and availability more than anything else.

Spike had balanced the popcorn tub on the arm rest as though he were trying to create a crunchy, buttery blockade between himself and Xander, and in his nervousness, Xander began to scoop out handfuls of popcorn and munch on them.

Oh, right, evil. That was the second part. Spike being, at the very least in the recent past, a bad guy . . . except, hello, how was that different from any of his previous dating experiences?

So back to number one, which no longer seemed like the huge deal it had in high school. Sure, then he’d been pretty intent on claiming his straight status, but what was it Willow had said about the people who were awfully quick to deny any potential lusties for the same sex? His heart would’ve been in his throat if she’d told him that then; now, it made a certain kind of sense.

Of course, now he was sitting in a movie theater next to an undead guy who may or may not be trying to finagle a situation in which they were going steady. Xander took a moment to try to block out everything that had just connected inside his head. He just wanted to watch the movie and enjoy . . . the princess’ restoration to but ultimate rejection of her throne because she realized she just wanted to be a regular girl?

“That is such a load of crap!” he shouted. What the hell? Where was the happy ending where the girl overcame obstacles and got the cake and ate it too all by herself while signing various proclamations and realizing that the gardener-boy with the motorcycle was her true love?

“Hey!” one of the women sitting in the side area hissed at Xander. “You all have been talking, and carrying on, and disrupting the film for the rest of us the whole time. I didn’t pay $12 to sit here and have you ruin a perfectly good Hillary Duff movie --”

“Hillary Duff,” Spike exclaimed suddenly. He would take this moment to unscramble the puzzle screen, Xander thought frantically.

“And if you and your boyfriend don’t shut up for the last half hour and make me miss the ending, I will so call the theater manager on your ass,” she finished.

There was a smattering of applause from the other audience members. Even the teenaged girls sitting behind them joined in.

Xander sank into his seat and tried not to make a sound. Okay, so he got it now. The concessions girl and her random compliment; the chorus of “awww!”s; his own unthinking snuggly impulses -- whether he liked it or not he was here on a date with Spike.

Now if only he didn’t have to think about what the hell that meant. He shifted around and tried to focus on the narrative playing out onscreen. The mean yelling lady sitting on the side of the theater had said there was half an hour to go, so maybe the movie would resolve its own blatant defiance of all the rules of the princess chick flick sob-fest genre.

But again and again his mind kept returning to Spike sitting next to him, Spike who had ignored the righteous indignation of the other theater-goers with perfect complacence, Spike who was cuddle-sized, and blue-eyed, and really, really close by. . . and he had to do something with his jittery nervousness. So he shoved his hand back into the popcorn bucket, only to suddenly find his hand grabbing at Spike’s fingers instead of buttery kernels.

He froze. There was a slip and a slide before their fingers entwined, sending the popcorn bucket clattering to the ground. On the screen a frantic last-minute car and bicycle chase to proclaim the princess’ innocence in a nefarious scheme drowned the sound out, but it echoed in Xander’s ears as he looked down, stunned. Spike was holding his hand. He was holding Spike’s hand. There were buzzes and currents prickling on his skin where it touched Spike’s palm and it’d be perfect if it weren’t that his hands were covered in salt and oil, but then again so were Spike’s.

But even that changed because when Xander’s eyes left his lap to meet Spike’s gaze, blue eyes were shining back at him without a trace of irony in them. Okay -- no readiness to make fun, no mischievous got-you-now triumph, just . . . Spike looking at him closely. Xander took a deep breath, so surprised by all of this that he didn’t feel their joined hands move until he was watching Spike pull them to his lips. Then surprise moved speedily along to shock as Spike drew Xander’s fingertips into his mouth one by one and licked them clean.

“Oh god,” Xander said hoarsely. “Oh, god,” he whispered when Spike bit his palm with blunt teeth and then laid a line of soothing kitten-licks along the spot.

This was absolutely without question the best movie date that he’d ever been on.

There was a half-hearted “ewww,” from the group of teenage girls behind them, but everyone else seemed so intent on the film that Xander barely registered it. So when Spike leaned over to grip Xander’s jaw and kiss him, Xander just went with it, twined his fingers in Spike’s hair, and kissed back hard.

They had drawn back slightly, foreheads tilted together, catching their breath, when the credits started to roll. A general murmur rose up as the crowd gathered empty cartons and containers and shuffled out of the still-darkened theater. After a few moments, they were the only ones still sitting inside.

Spike blinked at Xander then frowned at the screen. “Didn’t find out how it ended,” he said.

Xander rolled his eyes, but then he grinned as Spike leaned closer to him once more. “I’m going to go with the standard happy ending myself.”