Five weeks and three days later, everything was going fine. They were friends again. They patrolled like usual, hung out with the gang, went to the Majestic on Friday nights, joked around, had a few beers ... things were normal.
Everything was back the way it had been before Christmas.
They never mentioned any of the sex stuff. Any time Xander tried to bring it up, tried to talk about all that complicated stuff that happened -- all the more-than-just-friends stuff, all the misunderstandings and things that were said and the blood at the club and all of it -- Spike abruptly changed the subject. And if Xander tried to change the subject back again, Spike almost invariably stalked off into the night without a word. And if for some reason leaving wasn't an option, he just went absolutely silent. Deaf and dumb and ... invisible.
So they were just Spike and Xander, demon-fighting buddies. Just like before. That's all.
Except that some little things were different.
Like sometimes he caught Spike looking at him, and it didn't look like friendship.
Like Spike kept "buying" him Snowcaps at The Majestic every Friday.
Like Xander kept seeing Spike hiding behind that telephone pole across the street from the apartment. At first, he thought he was imagining things, but when it continued to happen, he just started wondering why Spike was hanging around.
Is he protecting me against some Xanderifying beastie that's secretly out to get me? Is he spying on me through the windows with some kind of telescopic vamp-o-vision? Is he making sure I don't leave the house, like some kind of weird long-distance prison guard?
But the one time Xander finally lost patience and went outside to ask Spike what the hell he was doing there and why didn't he at least come in for a beer, he got across the street and no one was there.
* * *
Xander showed up for video night a little early, hoping Spike might be there already. Yeah, they were doing the just-friends thing, but still ... being around Spike never stopped making him all tingly, with the fast heartbeat and the tendency toward goofy smiles. Such a dork. But he couldn't help it.
Xander'd been looking forward all day to just sitting next to Spike on the couch.
But Spike wasn't sprawled on the living room sofa the way Xander had imagined he'd be. Tara and Willow were snuggled up together, kissing, so Xander discreetly kept walking, taking his six-pack of beer into the kitchen and putting it in the fridge.
He heard quiet voices from the open back door, so he walked over there to see what was going on. Spike and Dawn were sitting on the back steps, facing away from him, looking out over the darkened back yard.
"You totally need a girlfriend, Spike. You've been single way too long."
A tiny frisson of panic ran down Xander's spine. A girlfriend? For Spike? No!
Spike sounded tired. "Not really in the market, Bit. Been burned too many times."
Right. No girlfriend for Spike. But ... burned?
"But you were with Drusilla for like ... what? ... a thousand years?"
"A hundred, Bit. I'm not that bloody old."
Dawn had a grin in her voice. She'd probably just been yanking his chain, like always. "Well, so you two were together for ages. So that must have been okay."
"Yeah, well, she was off her nut. Didn't know who I was half the time. I took care of her, more like. And, anyway, she left."
Xander heard the unspoken end of that sentence, even if Dawn didn't. Left me, it said. Didn't just leave ... left me. And, not for the first time, Xander found himself wondering if Spike was actually afraid. Afraid that Xander wouldn't love him, like Drusilla and Cecily and Buffy. Afraid that Xander might leave him, like Drusilla and Cecily and Buffy. Afraid that Xander might hurt him, like ... well, you get the picture.
Certain sentences he'd read in Spike's journal had continued to bounce around in his brain for the past five weeks and three days, and he wasn't sure if he was twisting them into what he wanted them to mean, or if he was actually right. It made him hesitant to act on what he thought he understood. What if he was wrong? He really didn't want to mess things up with Spike again. It was a miracle they'd been able to get back to friendship, after everything that happened. He didn't want to end it permanently by making assumptions and acting like a moron.
He shifted from one foot to the other, and saw Spike's back stiffen.
Damn. I guess he missed the noise I made at the fridge, but now I know he heard me. He knows I'm listening like some kind of eavesdropping stalker guy.
But Dawn just kept talking to Spike, oblivious. "You can't just be alone forever. You need to make an effort. Go out and meet people!"
Now that he'd been found out, Xander figured he might as well join the conversation. He tried to put on his jokey face, despite the fact that the topic of conversation made his heart hurt and his stomach tighten up into a little ball of NO NO NO. "Did I just hear you encouraging Spike to go out and eat people?" he quipped.
Both Spike and Dawn turned to look up at him framed in the doorway. The kitchen light shone on their faces, making them glow bright and warm against the darkness of the grass and trees behind them.
Dawn rolled her eyes. "Meet people! And you, too! You guys need to go out and find yourselves a couple of hot babes. Go to the single bars or something."
He and Spike exchanged an awkward glance, but Spike looked away quickly.
Looking back at Dawn, Xander raised his eyebrows. "Single bars? Didn't those go out with the 70s? And anyway, I'm not going cruising for chicks with Spike. Nobody'd give me a second look with him in the room."
Another quick glance between the two of them, this time with Spike holding the gaze a little longer before his eyes slipped away.
Dawn was grinning up at him. "What are you talking about? You're totally hot, Xander! You've got that tall, dark, and handsome thing. Plus all the muscles. Girls would be falling all over you!"
Spike was glaring at Dawn now. "Oi! What about me?"
"Oh, you've got that sexy slim-hipped, wiry, dangerous thing going on. Sort of a punkish rough-trade rent-boy kind of thing." She smirked.
Xander and Spike exclaimed simultaneously, "Rough trade?" "Rent boy?"
Xander put on his parent face and asked sternly, "Where the dickens are you learning stuff like that, young lady?"
Dawn rolled her eyes again. "Hey, I do watch HBO, you know. I'm not a complete cultural ignoramus."
Spike was frowning and grumbling, "Rough trade ... rent boy..."
Xander grinned at him. "Well, it has been a while since you've seen yourself in the mirror. Maybe you don't really remember."
Spike looked up from his seat on the steps, and his eyes were not happy. Apparently the prospect of looking like a "rough-trade rent-boy" actually bothered him.
Xander shrugged. "I can't argue with her about the 'sexy slim-hipped, wiry, dangerous' thing ... but you've never struck me as being particularly rough-tradey or rent-boyish. And, anyway, I think it would have to be rent-vamp. You're definitely not a boy."
Spike's eyes this time were hot and intense, and he didn't look away at all. In fact, it was Xander who flushed and turned around, suddenly noticing that Dawn had snuck past him when he wasn't paying attention. He could hear her talking and laughing behind him in the kitchen.
When Xander looked back at Spike again, those blue eyes were back to normal. Shields up at full power. Spike stood and said calmly, eyes averted, "We should be getting inside. Girls'll be wanting to start the film."
Xander nodded vaguely and stepped aside, but didn't move out of the doorway. His heart was beating hard and he licked his lips. Spike walked close to him, moving to go into the house, and suddenly he was so close ... so close ... then trying to squeeze past him through the doorway ... and Xander brought his hands up, braced them on the doorjam on either side of Spike's head, and Spike turned to look at him, brows drawn together in confusion, and Xander leaned into him, pressed his body against the length of Spike's, pressed his lips against Spike's lips and just ... kissed him.
Five weeks and three days of nervous glances and thwarted attempts to talk and Snowcaps and wondering and now Xander was just tossing it all up into the air and he had no idea how the pieces were going to fit together again when they landed, but he couldn't just do nothing. Couldn't just keep doing nothing. And Spike's eyes ... Spike's eyes when he was sitting on the steps ... looking up at him ... so dark and ... wanting...
Well, fuck. Xander wanted, too.
So he kissed him.
But Spike really wasn't kissing back. And this started to seem like it had been a really bad idea and oh fuck this was going to ruin everything and they wouldn't even be friends anymore and Spike was going to just push him away, push him down the stairs and wipe his mouth and say, "What the fuck was that about?"
Except he didn't.
Spike's lips softened, relaxed, and though they weren't quite kissing him back ... they weren't discouraging him, either.
Soft. Soft. Xander kissed him gently, hands coming up to cup Spike's face, to hold him there while he kissed him again and again. They hadn't done this before, this softness, not like this, and he wanted Spike to see ... to know ... it wasn't just friendship ... and it wasn't just sex...
And then Spike's lips parted slightly and he was kissing back, still so soft, so very very soft, lips slow and soft, pressing together and it was more than Xander had hoped, more than he'd dared to hope, because it was perfect.
But then Spike abruptly pushed him away, staring at him with dark, suspicious, hurting eyes. Hurting. Xander hadn't meant to do that. But before he could even open his mouth to say anything, Spike just lunged at him, pressing him hard up against the other side of the doorframe, the impact sending the door crashing open against the wall inside the kitchen, Spike's mouth colliding with his hard enough to make their teeth clack together and Xander wondered if his lip might be bleeding, but Spike's tongue was in his mouth, Spike's hands roving his body, clutching at him, grabbing at him in some kind of unexpected desperation, and so Xander just went with it. Because it was so fucking good.
When Spike pulled away again, Xander felt a little dazed, sort of like he'd been hit by a very grabby, tongue-thrusting train.
"Not really in the mood for a video tonight," Spike said, and he sounded kind of hoarse.
Xander's own voice was embarrassingly breathy when he replied, "Yeah, me neither."
When they made their apologies, the girls were suspiciously friendly, all warm smiles, and Dawn kept giggling while Willow elbowed her to keep quiet. Xander had a vague memory that there might have been girls in the kitchen before the whole kissing-in-the-doorway thing first started, but he couldn't seem to make himself care.
After they'd closed the door behind them and were standing on the front steps, Spike turned to him and said, "Think the secret's out, pet." And Xander smiled like he'd just won the lottery.
* * *
When they got to the apartment, as soon as the door was closed Xander moved in for more kissing, but Spike backed away.
His face had that uncomfortable look again. "You wanting me to boss you about?"
Xander frowned. "No. Spike, it ... it was never about that." At Spike's arch look, he admitted ruefully, "Hey, don't get me wrong, that stuff is fun and all, but ... that wasn't what I wanted, specifically."
"And what did you want, specifically?"
"You." Xander couldn't help blushing.
Spike face was carefully blank. "And now?"
Xander just stared at him for a second, then, "Do you really have to ask?"
Spike just nodded, a sharp jerk of the head like his neck was made of some unmoveable stuff that didn't bend easily. Rebar, maybe.
Yeah, okay, so he needs to hear it. I can do that, right? I mean, he isn't going to laugh or anything. At least, I don't think he is. What if he points and laughs? What if I say too much and he doesn't want emotional complications and he leaves? What if I don't say enough and he gets offended and leaves? What if I don't say anything and he gets impatient and leaves? What if I...
Spike's face was closing up, going blank. He was doing that invisible thing again, and Xander hated when he did that. So he just started talking.
"Spike, during the time loop, I ... well, I kind of got used to seeing you naked and ... you know, us doing the wild monkey sex thing. But when it was all over, you didn't remember any of that stuff, and I knew you'd freak if I said anything, because during the time loop you said I was treating you like a whore, and I didn't want to treat you like a whore, or for you to think I was treating you like a whore, so I just ... I wanted us to be friends first. Does that sound really stupid?"
Spike didn't respond, but he was very still. Xander chose to assume that he was listening.
"But the whole time we were friends, I was ... god, Spike ... I was wanting more. I was wanting you. I was putting sex toys inside me and imagining that it was you." Xander could feel that his face was blushing red as a fire engine now, but he kept going anyway, because apparently Spike needed to know this stuff, needed to hear this stuff. "I was ... I was jacking off in the shower and saying your name when I came. I wanted to be friends with you, because I wanted you to know that I really do like you, as a friend, as a person or vamp or whatever. But I also want more than that. And I wasn't sure if you would want more than that, and so I didn't want to just jump on you or something and totally ruin our friendship. But then I did that anyway, by not telling you."
"Right. So you want to fuck me." Spike's voice was flat. No inflection.
Xander grit his teeth to keep from roaring in frustration. "No," he said in his calmest, most patient voice. "No, Spike, it's more than that."
Spike just watched him, disbelieving, chin tilted up in that way that said, "Yeah, right. Go ahead and mock me, you bastard." He looked like he was waiting for the humiliating punchline. Then he turned his head and looked at the front door like it was going to do a dance or something. So fucking fascinating.
"Okay, the thing is ... I love you. I'm in love with you. I have been for ages."
Spike didn't respond. Didn't even look at him. In the silence, the words suddenly sounded really stupid. In his head, they'd sounded better, not so All My Children. Now he felt stupid. And he was feeling stupider the longer Spike just sat there like a big bleached-blond bump on a log.
"Did you hear what I said?"
Spike looked up then, frowning, staring at Xander as if he'd said something completely incomprehensible. His voice was harsh and cynical when he replied, "Said the same thing to Anya, now didn't you? And look how that turned out."
Ouch. A hit. A very palpable hit. But he'd already thought this one through, so he knew what to say. He didn't know if Spike would believe him, since he seemed to be pretty stubborn that way, but he could at least try to explain.
"You know, you might not remember this, but during the time-loop I told you that I sort of envied you for being able to fall in love."
Spike looked away again. "Nothing to envy, there. Never brought me anything but misery."
"But, see, I wasn't even sure if I could. Love somebody, I mean. The closest I ever came was with Anya, but that was mostly ... I just ... I did what seemed right, you know? I wasn't even really interested in her, but she ... well, she chased me, I guess. Finally just dropped her clothes and ... well, you know, I wanted to have sex. But I didn't want to have sex with her, in particular. I just wanted to have sex, and she was offering. And then she wanted to be my girlfriend, so that sort of happened, too. And then after a while it made sense to move in together. And then the next step was to get married. But I was just doing all this stuff because it seemed like the way things were supposed to go. Like I'd seen it so many times on tv that I knew the script."
Now that he was talking, the words just wouldn't stop. It was like a river, carrying him along toward something, something that might be good or might be bad, but was absolutely inevitable. He had to get it all out. Tell the truth. All of it. Whether Spike wanted to hear it or not. Whether it helped or not. Just because it was true.
"I was never in love with Anya. She's great, but when it came to the whole marriage and kids deal, I just knew I couldn't do it. Because I'd been acting out a part, you know? Just going with the script. Saying the right things, doing the right things, but not ... not feeling it. I guess I could've gone that route and kept up the act forever ... but ... it just didn't seem right. Not fair to Anya ... and not fair to me."
Xander came to an abrupt halt. He really wasn't sure what to say next, as if the words had just dried up and there weren't any left inside him. He just stared at Spike, willing him to understand. He'd talked so much tonight that he didn't really know what else to say. He was all talked out.
And then he realized that there was one more thing he should say. And then he'd be done.
"Now, see, this" -- he pointed at himself, then at Spike, then himself again -- "this isn't part of the script. You're not part of the script. You ... when I'm with you, it's because I want to be. It's because it's about you, and not about anything else." Xander shook his head and smiled, a little embarrassed. "When I'm with you I can't think about anything else. Sounds stupid, huh?"
There was that silence again, Spike still not looking at him, and it looked like nothing he'd said had made a difference, but then Spike turned to look at him, and his face was open and vulnerable and there was something shining in his eyes, and he pulled Xander to him, roughly, in a sort of awkward embrace. "Doesn't sound stupid," Spike said, and then there was finally -- finally! -- more kissing.