The crazy seemed to have faded, for which Xander was very very grateful. He'd never particularly wanted an insane vampire as a houseguest. Spike mostly kept to himself, for which Xander was also grateful. He'd never particularly wanted a sane vampire as a houseguest, either. Once had been quite enough, but here he was again.
It seemed like Spike never left the apartment except for patrol, but Xander still rarely saw him.
At least he isn't glued to my couch, watching my tv and dunking my Chips A'Hoy in a mug of blood. I'm glad he stays in his room and doesn't make a peep. He's become the peep-less vamp and isn't that an improvement! On the other hand, if he wasn't insane already, wouldn't the boredom do it? What's he doing in there? Contemplating his formerly-evil toes all day?
It's not like I'm concerned -- it's Spike, after all, I'm not big with the caring -- but it's a little weird. I thought I knew Spike, but now he's like some kind of wounded animal licking its wounds in private. I understood the old Spike. I didn't like him, but I understood him. He was a pain in the ass, but he made a weird sort ot sense after a while. This Spike doesn't make sense. Literally, what with the crazy.
That was only one of a multitude of reasons Xander rebelled when Buffy gave him his new assignment to go collect some magical doo-dad to help fight The First.
"You know how much I'd love to take a roadtrip with the bleached undead, but -- oh darn! -- my car's in the shop."
Buffy was unmoveable. "Take Spike's bike."
A moment of hope. "You mean go on my own?"
Buffy was shaking her head. "You'll both fit."
Images of him sitting behind Spike on the motorcycle, arms wrapped around the vampire's waist, assailed him. "No! No way!"
Everyone was staring now.
Maybe I'm protesting too much? No. There is no "too much" in this situation. There's no amount of protesting that could even be close to too much. Okay, so Spike went out and got a soul. So he's helping us fight The First. So he seems to regret all the evil crap he did. That doesn't mean I have to like him. Or even respect him. Even if I do. A little bit. A very little bit. Not that I would ever admit it, under pain of death. Still, possibly protesting too much.
But he couldn't seem to stop himself. "I'm not riding a bike with that ... that ... I'm not riding a bike with him. You can send somebody else. I'm sure there's somebody else who can go. Right? What about Andrew?" His voice had started to rise in desperation near the end, but Buffy's face was resolute.
"I'm sending the two of you, and that's final. Deal with it." Then she'd turned away to talk to the Potentials and Xander was left with his mouth still open, ready to launch into his next salvo but realizing he'd been bested.
Spike didn't even say anything, the evil bastard. He couldn't even be bothered to voice his own objections beside Xander's. He'd just watched the proceedings with those damned innocent eyes, waiting to be told how he could help, no trace of snark to be seen.
"Too late to leave tonight. We'll leave after sundown tomorrow, yeah?" Spike's voice was quiet, as if he were talking to a wild animal. As if he were expecting an attack.
But Xander was resigned. Once Buffy had made up her mind, there was no changing it.
I'm going on a potentially life-endangering roadtrip ... on a motorcycle ... with Spike. Yippee.
* * *
They went back to Xander's apartment to get some sleep, but, once home, Xander realized he wasn't tired enough to go to bed and so decided to crash on the couch with the tv remote. Spike went into his room and closed the door, as usual.
* * *
"Oi, Harris. Wake the fuck up."
Xander struggled out of sleep, propping himself up on the couch on one arm, realizing that he must have nodded off in front of the Sci-Fi channel. He looked around, confused. "Is it tomorrow already?"
"Just wanted a bit of conversation. You know how much I love to talk to you."
It's sort of weird hearing him talk again, let alone like that. This is the old Spike, the real Spike, the same old pain in the ass he always was. It's almost comforting to see him back to his old annoying self, no more of this silent suffering stuff that made me almost want to be nice to him. Because that would just be wrong. That Spike: confusing. This Spike: I want to kick in the head. Like I said, strangely comforting.
"What's got you talking again? You've been making like mime!Spike for weeks."
"Didn't have anything to say."
"And now you do?"
"Now I do."
"Again I ask why."
"Don't need a reason, pet."
Xander gritted his teeth in frustration.
Spike continued. "Just wanted to have a little chat about the bike. Know you want it."
"Why would I want your bike? I have a car. Okay, it's in the shop, but I still don't know what you're talking about. Bikes aren't my thing. Well, except when I was a kid and I had this cool red bike with flames on it. Not real flames. Painted flames. But that wasn't a motorcycle. Just a bike." Xander caught himself and finished abruptly, "I don't want your lame-ass bike."
"Not the bike you're wanting. It's riding pressed up behind me."
What? So not going there. Xander sat up fully and opened his mouth to quickly deny any such thing, but Spike kept talking.
"Always knew you were sweet on me, Harris. I can smell it on you when your dick gets hard. I know what you want."
"You don't know anything, Spike," Xander stammered, unnerved. He can smell it? Now that's just gross. And disturbing. And gross. And embarrassing. And -- oh! -- did I mention gross? "I don't want anything from you, let alone that. I don't even like you." Okay, that last part was true, at least.
"Don't have to like me to want my ass," Spike smirked.
Xander was shaking now, trying to hide his reaction but failing miserably. "Shut up, Spike," he said lamely, his mind refusing to offer up anything more intelligent to say. Spike opened his mouth to say something more, but Xander got up off the couch and fled to his room, slamming the door.
In the living room, Spike smirked, folded in on himself, and vanished.
The previous night's conversation stuck in Xander's mind and he couldn't get rid of it. I need to scrub out my brain. Where's that scrubby sponge when you need it?
"I can't do this," he insisted into the phone. "I won't do this. I'm not going anywhere with Spike, not now, not ever."
"Xander, this is important. I know you guys have a hate/hate thing going on, but we need you to get this urn. Don't flake because Spike is annoying. He's always annoying. This could be the key to defeating The First. Get a grip and just ... don't listen to him."
"Kinda hard to do when he never shuts up," Xander grumbled, knowing that he was talking about the old Spike, the new old Spike. Whatever. Knowing that he was already caving to Buffy's logic. She was right. This was more important than him and Spike. He wasn't going to let Spike mess up something this important, no matter how hard the damn vamp tried.
I'll just have to put up with his games. I can do it. I'm not going to let him defeat the Scooby brigade. Time to save the world. Again.
* * *
The ride to Lompoc took two and a half hours. Two and a half hours of being pressed up against Spike's back. Legs spread. Arms around his waist. Hands far too close to Spike's ... frontal bits. Xander got a hard-on after an hour and a half and hoped the wind whipping past them on the bike would get rid of the scent.
Because I'm so not okay with the smelling me thing. Really not okay. Why can't I just will it down? Go down go down go down. Hmm. Going down. Not thinking about it! I thought I was over this, but he has to go and bring it up again. Bring it up. Why can't I think in anything but sexual innuendos tonight?
The bike rumbled between his legs and Spike's thighs were hard between Xander's. Xander tried not to think about the fact that his dick was practically pressed up against Spike's ass, but it was really hard. Literally.
Panicking a bit here. What if I can't get this under control before we get off the bike? He'll be able to smell me and he'll know. I mean, he already knows in general. But he'll know about now. And that would be bad. Because I'm really not big on the mocking of me.
But Spike didn't mock him when he stopped the bike. Xander was still hard, so he was waiting for the scathing comments, but they didn't appear. Spike just parked the bike in the shadows beside the white adobe wall of the mission and climbed off.
"Can hear someone inside," he said quietly.
"What're we supposed to do, then?"
Spike leaned up against the wall and lit up a cigarette, smoking silently in the darkness. Xander just stood there, not quite sure what to do with himself. He ended up leaning against the wall a respectable distance from Spike. Close enough to talk if necessary, but hopefully not close enough to be smelled.
He willed his erection to disappear now that he wasn't plastered up against Spike's body, and it seemed to be working. He cast subtle glances at Spike. At least he hoped they were subtle. Spike didn't notice, or anyway that's what Xander chose to believe. Spike didn't say anything about it, at any rate.
Then, without a word, he stubbed out his cigarette with his boot, turned, and walked off into the darkness.
Xander froze in confusion. What was he supposed to do now? Follow? He couldn't even see where Spike had gone. He decided he probably should just wait there, since the bike parked beside him would seem to indicate that Spike intended to come back.
A moment later, Spike reappeared out of the shadows with a swagger to his step. He leaned against the wall again and took out another cigarette, not looking at Xander.
"Told you you wanted it." He blew smoke that shone white against the darkness surrounding them, illuminated by the little light coming from the mission.
And now he suddenly wants another little chat? Hanging with Spike sure is fun. What did I do to deserve this?
Xander didn't answer, studiously avoiding looking in Spike's direction.
Oh look at all that darkness. So interesting. Way more interesting than sexy, obnoxious vampires.
Spike moved nearer and Xander could almost feel his gaze.
Not gonna look. Not gonna look. Looking would be of the bad.
"All those insults. Just a cover. I knew all along." Spike leaned in close and spoke low into Xander's ear. "Give in." Then he chuckled quietly. "Might be fun."
Xander's dick was hard again, triggered by that sexy voice being unexpectedly directed at him.
"Mmm. Smells delicious. Just give in, Harris. You know you want to. Take what you want."
He knew it shouldn't be getting to him this easily, but Xander gasped for air and closed his eyes, struggling for control.
Spike chuckled again and then he was silent, presumably once again walking off into the deep shadows. Xander opened his eyes.
Okay, so Spike is a prick again. Or maybe the crazy isn't gone after all. Great. I'm in the middle of nowhere with an insane, chip-less vampire who wants my ass. Or knows I want his. Or whatever. Because my life really needed to suck more than it already did.
Xander peered into the darkness, still hoping Spike hadn't just left him behind. Because driving back to Sunnydale -- on a motorcycle, which he'd never done before -- sans chip-less vampire would not a happy Buffy make. Not to mention Xander would have to steal the urn by himself, and there might be something guarding it. Probably was, actually, if it was so important. And Xander was better at getting knocked down than he was at stealing things. Not that he'd ever tested the theory. Scoobies don't steal. From humans, anyway. It was probably somewhere in the official Scooby rulebook.
He definitely wasn't peering into the darkness because he was disappointed Spike had walked away. Not at all.
But what does he mean, "Give in"? Does he mean he'd like it? Does he want me to ...? Because if so, why doesn't he just do it himself? Why doesn't he just reach out and ...? No, not thinking about that. Except that I am. A lot. Does he just want ammunition to humiliate me even more? Probably. But I'm sort of starting not to care. There's only so much taunting the Xan-Man can take before he cracks.
About five minutes later, Spike was back again. "Had a look around back. There's a door there I can jimmy."
Xander walked over to him, grabbed Spike's head in both hands, threw his nervousness out the window, and kissed him.
At first, the kiss was slow, mostly because Spike wasn't responding. Instead of kissing Xander back, he'd stiffened and started to pull away. But Xander just put one hand on Spike's hip to hold him still, leaned in and kept up with the kissing, and Spike gradually relaxed, his lips parting slightly.
Though the kiss deepened from there, it continued to be slow, their lips sliding against each other smoothly. If he'd thought about it at all, Xander would have expected to kiss Spike hard and fast, angry, but it wasn't turning out that way, and he wasn't sure why.
Too soon, Spike pulled away and looked at him with eyes full of questions ... and something softer, a longing perhaps, as he leaned into Xander's hand on his face, leaning into the warmth as if no one had touched him in years.
But before Xander could even process what he was seeing on the vampire's face, Spike was pulling away, breaking free of Xander's grip, a mask of anger settling quickly across his features.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"What do you think?" He asked for this. Or told me to do this. Or something. So what's with the outrage? More games. Jeez, Spike is a laugh a minute. He's like Seinfeld. Except that Seinfeld isn't funny. But neither is Spike. So, yeah, Spike's like Seinfeld.
But Spike was talking again. "I don't bloody well know, do I?"
Xander was blushing now. He'd just grabbed Spike and kissed him, and now he was being humiliated. What did I expect? And what do I do now? A diversion! I'd point and say, "Look!" but we're in the middle of piles of darkness, so that probably wouldn't work. I mean, it usually doesn't work anyway, but it would be worth a try. Except for the dark. Right.
"Hey, is there still someone inside?" It was the best he could come up with.
Spike looked dumbfounded. Ha. Surprised him. A moment later, Spike looked composed again and raised an eyebrow. Okay, so he doesn't stay surprised very long. But Xander just looked at him, willing him to forget the kiss fiasco, and was shocked to see Spike turn toward the mission, looking thoughtful.
Since when does Spike do what I want? Since when does he give up on the mockage so easily. He's like mime!Spike again. What the hell?
"Don't hear anyone," Spike said.
"Great." Xander couldn't keep the relief out of his voice. The mocking had stopped, and they were going to get the urn and get out of here and then he could go home and flagellate himself in private for taking Spike's bait.
Could I look more stupid? Maybe. I'm pretty good at it. It's one of my skills. I should put it on my resume.
Of course, flagellating himself would probably look a lot like beating off, but no one had to know that.
They went around the back of the mission and Spike broke into the place. Sometimes it was helpful to take a criminal on trips like this. They entered with caution, looking around. There were low lights on, probably kept on all the time, so Xander could see okay. Spike probably would have been able to see anyway, but this way Xander wouldn't trip on anything. Hopefully.
It took them a while, but they finally found the room where the urn was sitting on a shelf behind a large altar-looking thing. Spike shied away from it, but Xander picked it up.
"Can't be touched by the undead," Spike said in his normal voice, apparently comfortable now that no one was around. "Put it in the bag for the trip back."
The urn was made of some sort of red clay with designs carved on the sides. It looked perfectly normal, not like some sort of magical thing Willow would need for her big spell. Xander slipped it into the thin cotton bag they'd brought.
They'd just turned to leave when everything went to shit. A tall, dark-haired guy came walking into the room and stood watching them, blocking the doorway.
"I thought you said no one was here," hissed Xander.
"No. Pok'na demon. They just look human."
Xander looked around for a weapon, but there was nothing around. Spike sprang into action and Xander decided his job was guarding the urn. No fighting required. Just staying out of the way. It took a while, but eventually the demon's neck was broken and Spike returned to Xander's side. "Let's scarper before any more of them show up."
"I'm all about the scarpering," Xander replied and made for the door.
They didn't encounter any more of the demons on their way to the bike. Spike theorized that the one had been a guard, but the security was pretty lax. The place was well-hidden and they probably weren't betting on Willow's locate spell.
They tied the urn on the back of the bike and climbed on. Without another word, they headed for home.
* * *
As they climbed off the bike and headed for Buffy's door, Xander put a hand on Spike's arm. Spike turned and looked at him, impatient. I probably shouldn't say anything. Just pretend none of it happened. I mean, that's what he's doing, right? He was just messing with my head. "Wait. I want to ask you something." Well, there goes that plan.
Spike raise an eyebrow and waited.
"Why did you say all that stuff?"
Xander looked away. "About ... me."
Spike tilted his head. "What about you, Harris?"
Games. Right. Spike loves 'em. Why couldn't he go for Trivial Pursuit, or maybe Boggle. But no, he likes to play Xander. Lucky me.
Xander closed his eyes and took a deep breath. There was no sense in pretending the words hadn't been spoken when Spike knew very well that they had. "What you said about me wanting you. About taking what I want." He opened his eyes again.
Spike looked confused and maybe a little shocked. He didn't say anything in reply.
Great. Mime!Spike again.
Xander shifted from one foot to the other. "Well? I mean, I know you were just messing with me. I mean, of course. Never mind."
Spike said, puzzled, "And I thought I was the one who was insane."
"Me? You're the one acting weird, what with all the coming on to me and then pretending like you didn't."
Spike was silent for a moment, then, "Better get inside and talk to the witches. Must be under some kind of spell, because I have no idea what the bloody hell you're on about."
* * *
Xander walked in and sat down on the couch next to Willow. He gave her the urn. Spike headed for the kitchen.
"Oooh! The urn! Thank you for going to get it. Now I can do the spell. Well, tomorrow. At midnight."
"Right," Xander said, distracted.
Willow peered at him. "Wait. What's up? Why are you acting all avoidy?"
"Something weird is going on. Spike is freaking me out." And that's new how?
"He keeps showing up and saying ... stuff. Stuff that messes with my head. And now he says he wasn't saying it. Just to mess with my head a little more." Xander frowned, frustrated. "He says I'm under a spell."
"Well, I can check, but I shouldn't be doing magic that isn't necessary."
"This feels pretty necessary, Will."
"But ... he says he wasn't saying this 'stuff'?"
"Yeah. But he's just playing games with me."
"He hasn't been big on the playing games lately. Since the soul. Are you sure?"
"Well, I'm sure what I heard. And he looked and sounded like Spike, and was annoying like Spike, so yeah, I'm thinking Spike."
Willow looked thoughtful. "Looked and sounded like ... Wait! What about when I talked to Cassie? She messed with my head. And Chloe."
Xander pondered that. "I guess it could be ... But everyone else The First has impersonated was dead." Xander winced. "Oh." He looked at Willow again. "So it was what? Trying to sabotage us so we'd implode and not get the Urn of Whatchamahooey?"
"Maybe. Probably. I mean, if Spike was saying stuff to you that he wasn't really saying." She shook her head. "You know what I mean."
"Maybe it was thinking I'd refuse to go ... or Spike would get pissed if I ... did something." Xander glanced nervously toward the kitchen.
Willow eyed him but let it go. "Well, we don't know if it was The First, but maybe. I mean, Spike was acting really weird?"
"Yeah. Really weird."
"And you already talked to him about it?"
"Yeah. It wasn't a very long conversation. He doesn't talk much these days. Except when he's being a prick."
"Being a ...?"
"Yeah, with all the ... stuff ... he's been saying."
"Again with the 'stuff'."
"I'm not gonna tell you, Will. It's embarrassing."
"Oookay. Maybe you should try a whole conversation this time."
"Oh, really? I get to talk to Spike again? That sounds like fun!"
Willow folded her arms across her chest. "He's changed, Xander. You need to talk to him."
Heaving a heavy sigh, Xander walked toward the kitchen.
* * *
Xander was surprised when Spike followed him out to the back steps without argument. The sun would be coming up soon, but they had an hour or so.
"Willow thinks it might have been The First," Xander blurted.
Spike didn't say anything.
"Did you hear me? I said maybe it wasn't you."
"Well, I know it wasn't me, Harris."
A long silence stretched between them.
"So, what did it say?"
"You got worked up over nothing?"
Xander didn't answer.
"Is that what that kiss was about?"
Xander blushed and looked at the ground. "You told me you wanted me to. Well, not exactly that, but you told me to take what I wanted."
A moment passed, then, "And that's what you wanted?"
The ground was increasingly fascinating and Xander's face was increasingly hot. Because I so want to be talking about this. "I guess."
Spike didn't reply.
"You said you could smell me. You could smell ..."
Spike nodded slightly. "That much is true, anyway."
"So you knew?"
"Didn't plan on doing anything about it."
Xander's voice was small. "Why not?"
Spike made a vague gesture with his left hand. "I was in love with Buffy. And we hated each other."
"I didn't really hate you." Because acting like I hated you was so much easier than the alternative.
Spike smirked. "Well, I really hated you."
"'Hated'? Past tense?"
Spike shrugged. The silence stretched again.
"That kiss. Wasn't all bad," Spike offered gently. And how weird is it that Spike is doing anything gently?
Xander glanced at him, didn't look away. "Yeah?"
Xander smiled, just a little. Spike smiled back, just a little.
"So ... if I ...?"
Xander brought a hand to the side of Spike's face. Spike leaned into it again, just as he had the first time. Xander wondered again how long it had been since anyone had done that to him, just touched him like that. Vulnerability shone in Spike's eyes.
Xander leaned forward, and this time Spike didn't move away. The kiss started out slow again, sort of soft and hesitant, but this time it heated up and soon enthusiastic tongues were involved. Xander's hand wandered into Spike's hair, holding him, grasping. Spike's hands found their way to Xander's arms, brushing his biceps lightly as if uncertain of his welcome. Xander tilted his head to get a better angle and Spike's hands tightened in reaction.
When Xander pulled away, Spike's lips followed him for a moment before he caught himself and sat up. Xander cleared his throat.
"So." Xander's voice in the quiet startled them both.
"Not how I expected the evening to end."
"Speaking of which, I need to get inside before the sun comes up."
"You do remember you're staying at my apartment, right?"
Xander stood up and offered his hand. Spike looked at it for a moment, then up at Xander's face before lifting his. Their palms touched as Xander helped him up and then they were standing close together, their bodies almost touching. Skin slid against skin as their hands fell apart.
"Then let's go."