Through the Looking Glass by Kimberly


Sitting on a milk crate in a dark alley that smells not-so-vaguely of piss and garbage and which emits occasionally scurrying, squeaking sounds from within and around the dumpsters gives a guy a lot of time for reflection.

Mostly reflection on the subject, "What the hell am I doing here?"

Why the hell did it matter so much whether this guy was Spike or not? Of course he wasn't Spike. Spike was dead. Spike was, to be more precise, dust. So why was Xander so obsessed?

Sitting on the milk crate in the dark as an hour passed ... and then two hours ... he gradually started to think maybe he was figuring it out. It was because he bought it. Xander, that is. He'd finally bought the redemption thing.

For a long time, he'd thought he had Spike pegged. He was a narcissistic, selfish, arrogant, amoral, sadistic, manipulative, lying, cheating, mercenary, psychotic, demonic bastard who would stab you in the back -- or drain you dry -- for five bucks and a beer. And laugh while he did it.

Spike wasn't just a jerk. He was evil.

Except that ... once Xander got a bit of physical and metaphorical distance from the whole thing, he was able to see Spike in a bit of context. Like comparing him to Angelus.

Angelus was evil. In fact, as far as Xander was concerned, even Angel was evil, disguised with a broody face and a pity-me guilt trip. There was something cold and ruthless and scary as hell behind that supposedly "angelic" face. Xander had never thought he looked particularly "angelic," anyway. More like "cave man." But when they were handing out vampire nicknames, apparently "cave man" had already been chosen, and so he got stuck with "angelic." Maybe it was just meant to be ironic, since the guy was such an incredibly evil prick.

In comparison with Angelus, even unchipped Spike was a tiny yapping dog that snapped at your ankles. Annoying as hell -- you might even want to kick it across the room -- but not exactly evil. Chipped, he was even less evil. And as he kept helping out, even after Buffy died, it just got harder and harder to think of him as evil, and easier and easier to think of him as just a jerk.

And then ... in the battle with The First ... Xander wasn't completely out of the loop. Buffy had told them about Spike. About how it had been Spike who was the true hero of the fight. About how he had stayed, let himself be burned to death in order to defeat The First's army and destroy the Hellmouth. The rest of them had helped ... of course they'd helped ... Anya had died helping ... but in the end, it was Spike who had closed the deal. He could have run. He could have left. He could have said, "Fuck this shit," and skipped town. But he didn't. He stayed -- even after Buffy asked him to leave, even after Buffy and everyone else had left -- and he fought, and he died.

Xander didn't believe it for a while. Well, he believed the words, intellectually. But none of it fit with his mental image of Spike. His definition of Spikishness.

But there was no denying that the Hellmouth was gone.

And so was Spike.

And then a few months later Xander had heard through the Scooby grapevine that Spike had been somehow brought back as a ghost ... and that he was stuck with Angel.

And that was when Xander really let go some of that Spike hatred. Because Spike? Probably the only person on the planet who hated Angel as much as Xander did. So the thought of Spike being somehow stuck with Angel made Xander wince and think, "Aw man. Poor guy!"

But then -- and this was almost impossible to believe -- Spike had stuck with the good-guy fight in Angel's camp, as well. And when they went up against some major inter-dimensional baddies and it was pretty certain they were all going to buy the farm ... well ... Spike stuck it out again. And once again got killed for his troubles.

Xander had a rule. Die saving the world twice and you deserve props.

Spike and Buffy were the only two people he knew who had done it. Angel didn't count, since getting stabbed with a giant sword and then shoved into a world-destroying hell-dimension portal which you yourself had purposely created really didn't count as voluntary world-saving, as far as Xander was concerned.

So ... Xander didn't think about Sunnydale all that much anymore -- until this week -- and he'd only talked to Willow or Giles on the phone once or twice in the past year ... but when he did think back, there was an uncomfortable sensation of having been wrong. Of having been wrong about Spike, and having treated him wrong. Of maybe having been a jerk. Not only a jerk, but a less-heroic jerk constantly putting down a more-heroic jerk. And that was just ... pathetic. He didn't like feeling pathetic.

Xander had never thought of himself as a hero. But to have Spike outdo him on that score was just ... a little humiliating.

So, really, if the absolute complete honest truth were told, the reason he was here, the reason he was stalking mysterious blonde men, the reason his ass was falling asleep on a plastic milk crate in a dark alley next to a dumpster, the reason this was all so important to him ... was because some secret shameful part of him was hoping that this guy was Spike, so Xander would be able to jump up and say, "Ah HA! I knew it! It was all a scam. He did run away from a fight! That whole hero thing, that whole redemption thing, that's all a crock of shit. I was right! I was right all along!"

He was interrupted in his thoughts by a movement in the dark, over near the other dumpster. And then, clearly visible even in the shadows, a short crop of pale blonde hair. The target was on the move. Xander stood slowly and stretched his legs, wiggled his butt, cracked his back, and tried to do it all without alerting the blonde prey to his presence.

Not-Spike walked quickly down the alley in the opposite direction, and Xander tried to saunter casually after him without being noticed. When he got to the end of the alley, Not-Spike was nowhere to be seen. And then ... blonde. Xander hurried to keep that hair in sight. His butt still felt half-asleep, so he was probably walking like an idiot, but he was not going to have sat in that alley so long for nothing. He was going to see where Not-Spike was going, and he was going to get a good look at the guy's face to set his mind at rest. He was going to verify that this guy was truly NOT Spike, and then he could go home and just not have to think about it anymore.

The guy opened a door and slipped inside, leaving Xander free to jog to catch up, since there was no longer any chance of being noticed. But when he got there, he froze, looking up at the brightly-lit sign over the door.

Live All-Male Peep Shows! Adult Bookstore! XXX Videos!

The large photos on either side of the door showed attractive men in various nude poses, little red stars covering the naughty bits with the words "HOT!" and "CUM AND SEE!"

Xander hesitated a long moment, then glanced around him on the street. This part of town wasn't very crowded, even at 8 or 9 pm. A few homeless people. Guys asking for spare change. Stragglers on their way to somewhere else.

Remembering all that time sitting in the alley, flexing his left butt-cheek to see that yes, in fact, it was still half-asleep, Xander wasn't about to get scared off by a gay porn shop. He girded his metaphorical loins, opened the door, and stepped inside.


Xander nervously glanced around the store, but the other shifty-eyed customers seemed engrossed in their own stealthy shopping, and Not-Spike seemed to have disappeared. A fairly normal-looking goateed black guy behind the cash register could probably tell Xander where the blonde guy had gone, but walking up to ask him seemed so ... well ... stalkery.

Xander stalled.

He had been in a sex shop before, of course. More than once. Anya had boundless sexual enthusiasm and absolutely no shame, so she'd dragged him along to Sunnydale's one and only "adult merchandise" establishment, resulting in several very enjoyable experimentations, some of which he'd really have preferred she never mentioned in front of his friends. But the store in Sunnydale had been relatively tidy and non-threatening. It wouldn't be wise to frighten the suburban natives, after all. And, anyway, that store had also quite obviously been aimed at a purely heterosexual clientele.

This was different. A lot.

One wall was entirely magazines facing out to show their strikingly lurid covers: but these weren't the mainstream magazines like Playboy and Penthouse. Along with what looked like relatively tasteful and mainstream gay magazines, there were what looked like amateur "zines" and a wide variety of specialty mags with titles like Cascade Wet Sex Magazine (with a cover photo of a man standing over another man in a pose that seemed to imply the imminent exchange of rather unconventional bodily fluids), Bear Magazine (which featured extremely hairy overweight men on the cover), and South Fur Lands (which, based on the cover photo, seemed aimed at men attracted to other men who wore animal costumes). Some of the magazine covers weren't even in English.

The opposite wall was lined with VHS tapes and DVDs, all spine-out, presumably in order to fit as many movies as possible into the relatively small space. Xander caught titles like Twinkalicious and Slurpin' Jizz and Dr. Penis Erectus. He tried not to snicker too loudly, lest the other shoppers -- and/or employee -- take offense.

He wandered aimlessly. He wasn't really paying much attention to the merchandise ... he was just trying to work up his nerve to go talk to the cashier. There were several doors along the back wall of the store, and Not-Spike obviously must have disappeared into one of them. It was all very mysterious, but Xander wasn't quite ready to reveal his simultaneous ignorance and stalkeryness, so he perused the several freestanding shelves in the center of the room, which displayed various dildos, books with explicit covers, blow-up dolls, cock rings, glow-in-the-dark condoms, and ... this one was weird ... on one shelf, there were even little anatomically correct plastic G.I. Joe-type action figures, with tiny appendages and orifices in all the expected places. Actually, those were kind of cool, in a sly "Heh heh" kind of way.

Xander glanced over at the cashier. Apparently Goatee Man had noticed these repeated glances, because he came out from behind the counter and walked across the floor.

"Can I help you find something?" the guy asked in a perfectly normal tone of voice. He had the blandly uninterested tone of any salesperson at the grocery store or Wal-Mart.

Xander looked down at the anatomically correct action figures in his hands and practically tossed them back on the shelf, barely restraining himself from shouting, "Gah!"

Goatee Man just smiled slightly, but didn't leave.

"Actually," Xander began, hesitating. "Actually, I was looking for this guy ... uh ... he's got short blonde hair ... um..."

But he didn't have to finish the disjointed thought, because Goatee Man interrupted him. "You're looking for Byron. Thin guy? British accent?"

Xander nodded numbly, paralyzed by the realization that if Not-Spike had a British accent, then it was actually becoming possible that Not-Spike might, in fact, be Spike. But ... "Byron"?

"Door number 3," Goatee Man said helpfully. Xander stared at him as if he had spoken Urdu. "Door number 3," the guy repeated, gesturing to the doors along the back wall. "When the sign lights up, he's ready and you can go in."

Xander frowned, looking at the back wall more closely. Four of the doors had electronic white signs above them. The door behind the cash register didn't have a sign, except the one in the center of the door that said, "Employees Only."

Suddenly, the white sign above one of the doors blinked on, shining brightly with a black number "3" in the center.

Goatee Man shrugged, "He's ready now," and went back behind the cash register counter.

Xander hesitated, then he walked toward door number 3 and gingerly opened the door. Inside, he found a dimly-lit room, only about 4 feet square, with a metal chair in the center.

He'd seen the sign outside the store, and he wasn't a complete idiot. He'd never been to a peepshow, but he did have some idea of what was involved. Hell, he and Anya had even played a bit of a game along those lines once, though they'd participated in performer/customer contact that probably wasn't usually involved in most professional shows of this nature.

But, sure, he'd thought about it. Even without Anya. It was a little exciting, this idea of forbidden, dirty, sleezy paying-to-watch. This knowledge that you wouldn't want anybody to know. So, yeah, he'd noticed the neon-lit storefronts. And he'd even had some fantasies. To be honest, the performers in the fantasies had always been female, but Xander'd been living in San Francisco long enough to consider himself pretty open-minded about that sort of thing -- had even had a few fantasies along those lines as well, usually after he'd caught some particularly hot guy blatantly checking him out in the supermarket -- but ... Spike? That was where things seemed to start spiralling further and further into the bizarre.

Suddenly, Xander realized that he was still standing in the open doorway. He glanced behind him, nervous that other people in the store were staring at the pervert lingering at the peepshow booth. He went inside and closed the door, if only to avoid prying eyes and give himself a private chance to decide what to do.

Once inside, he stood with his back pressed against the door, not committed to actually staying and actually feeling a strong urge to flee. Following Not-Spike around was one thing -- and disturbingly creepy in its own way -- but following him into a gay peepshow was a whole 'nother level of creepitude.

But. He still hadn't gotten a good look at the guy, and Goatee Man's comment about the accent seemed to imply that maybe this actually was Spike. Dead Spike. Spike who everyone thought was dead, but who might in fact just be jerking them all around, the evil bastard.

So Xander straightened his shoulders a bit, like a nervous soldier headed into war, and walked over to sit in the chair. Not sure what to do, he looked around and saw that the wall to his right sported a sign with large, hand-written block letters that warned:


Beside the sign was a rectangular metal box with something white in the center. Upon closer inspection, Xander found that it was an industrial-style tissue dispenser. He shuddered.

In the corner of the tiny room was a small, phallic-shaped metal wastebasket with a swinging lid. Presumably for disposal of the tissues after they'd been ... used. Xander shuddered again. Ew. It all seemed so sordid and ... seedy. He was surprised to see that the room seemed relatively clean, though. Goatee Man must keep busy.

In the front of the room was a large square of glass, but it looked as if something was blocking it from the other side. Below the window, strange metal shapes glinted feebly in the dim lighting. Apparently, this was how customers paid for the show. A small sign -- this one printed rather than hand-lettered -- said:

25¢ = 15 seconds

Below the sign was a coin slot ("QUARTERS ONLY") and another slot for inserting bills. Beside those was a larger slot -- more like a small rectangular hole in the wall -- above which was a small sign that read, "TIPS."

Xander took a deep breath. Presumably, Not-Spike -- possibly Actual-Spike (the lying, hiding, not-dead vampire asshole) -- was behind that glass. And if Xander put coins in the slot, there'd be no turning back. He'd know for sure. And if it actually was Spike, there'd be the inevitable angry confrontation full of accusations, and then Xander would have to call everyone and tell them, and he hadn't spoken to everybody in a while and so that would be weird, but certainly not weirder than Spike not being dead.

Taking another deep, calming -- well, not really calming, but it was a valiant attempt -- breath, Xander put his hands in his coat pockets and searched for change.

Lots of nickels and dimes, even more pennies, but only two quarters.

Well, he wouldn't need more than 15 seconds to verify whether or not it was actually Spike, so he wouldn't even need the second quarter. He put it back in his pocket.

It seemed like his hand was moving in slow motion toward the coin slot. And then there was the clinking sound of metal on metal, the coin traveling its path through the inner workings of the money machine. The noise seemed loud in the tiny room.

The noise of something metal sliding out of place was even louder. Whatever had blocked the window slid upward, and light suddenly filled the booth.

And there was Spike.

Spike. Slouching comfortably in a round, cushiony chair.

Xander froze.

There was no doubt about it. Xander had spent enough time with the guy ... he knew that face. It was undeniably Spike, though he looked ridiculous. His hair was a mass of tight blonde curls and he was wearing nothing but black silk boxer shorts and a black silk robe that was open enough to show his flat belly.

A million things ran through Xander's mind, almost simultaneously. He started -- rather inarticulately -- at "What the fuck?", then traveled through "Why aren't you dead?", paused briefly at "What's the deal with the Justin Timberlake hair, dorkman?", barreled quickly through "Holy macaroni, look at those abs!", and ended up -- rather ironically -- at "What the fuck?"

"Hello, pet," Spike said amiably, sitting up with a subtle shimmy that set his robe sliding off his shoulders, showing a bit more skin but still a tease that hid more than it revealed. Spike smirked and set his book aside.

Xander stared. From a distance it had been easy to pretend, but now it was obvious. It was Spike. Seriously. Definitely. Right down to the scar in his eyebrow and the smooth, accented voice. He waited for Spike to recognize him, to jerk back and frown and start blustering lame excuses ... but nothing. No reaction.

Spike tilted his head slightly and raised that scarred eyebrow, still smirking. "Looking for a bit of a look, are you? Wantin' anything in particular?" He stroked a finger along the smooth length of his chest and over black silk to toy idly with the growing bulge beneath, his eyelids lowering seductively as he stared straight at Xander in blatant invitation.

Xander frowned in confusion, then waved his hand at the window between their faces. No reaction from Spike. Apparently it was one-way glass or something. So he could see Spike, but Spike couldn't see him. Maybe perverts liked privacy while they watched the show. It sort of made sense, actually.

Abruptly, the metal sheet slid down to cover the window. The 15 seconds must have been up.

Xander sat, numb, dazed. It had been Spike. It was Spike. Spike wasn't dead. It seemed unreal. What happened to the whole hero thing? Spike was supposed to be this big reformed, redeemed, almost saintly hero guy who'd died saving the world ... twice.

And, instead, he was hiding out in San Francisco, working in a gay peepshow booth?

Angrily, Xander wrenched the other quarter out of his coat pocket and punched it into the slot. He hit his thumb against the wall as he did so, and the momentary jar of pain only made him angrier.

The window cover slid up again, and again the room filled with light.

"Welcome back," Spike smiled lazily and stood up, letting the robe fall to reveal more of that pale skin, allowing the black silk to slide to a shimmering pool on the floor at his feet. Those pale hands continued stroking the black silk of the boxer shorts, stretching the fabric tight over the thick hardness beneath.

"Tell me what you want," Spike purred, gazing out, seemingly looking directly into Xander's eyes. His eyes were incredibly blue against the paleness of his skin. Spike licked his lips slowly, then tilted his head with a bit of a smirk. "Do you want to see more? More of this?" Spike's left hand strayed to rub directly over the hidden bulge. Xander groaned.

He'd always been aware that Spike was attractive. Anyone with eyes could tell that. Or maybe even anyone with just ears, since it was partly the voice. He'd noticed the face, the compact muscles, the incredible way Spike's body moved, even when he was just walking or lighting a cigarette. But Xander had always quickly quashed any brief forays into inappropriate thoughts.

That was a bit harder now.

No pun intended.

He realized that Spike was chuckling, a low, rumbling sound that made Xander shiver just a tiny bit. "So there is someone out there," Spike teased. He'd obviously heard the sound Xander had made, the first noise from the booth since Xander had entered.

The window cover suddenly slid down with a click.

Xander sat in the dimly-lit room, horrifyingly aware of the action happening in his pants.

Horrifyingly aware that he actually wanted to keep watching.

This wasn't why he'd come here, and it wasn't even why he'd used that second quarter. He was here to find out if this was Spike, and he'd accomplished that, and he should leave.

He definitely should leave.

Right now.

He searched his coat pockets again. Nickels, pennies, and dimes. He stood up and searched his jeans pockets, but found only lint and a bus transfer. He pulled out his wallet, only to discover that he had nothing smaller than a 5.

He held the 5-dollar bill in his hand a moment, hesitating, then slowly put his wallet away.

He slid the bill into the slot, and light filled the booth again, and there was Spike.

"Five minutes," Spike commented with a wry smirk. "Ambitious. Most of my customers don't last near that long."

"I didn't have anything smaller," Xander explained defensively.

"It's all right, pet. I've never been much fond of the smaller ones, anyway."

Xander didn't know what to say to that, didn't know how to exchange sexual innuendo with Spike. With Spike who didn't even know it was Xander he was talking to. With Spike who couldn't even see him. With Spike who wasn't dead like he was supposed to be!

"Didn't come prepared, then. An impulse shopper. So tell me what you want, luv. Tell me what you like." He was still stroking himself through the silk, but while the window was dark he'd removed the boxer shorts, and he was now stretching the silk over his cock, encasing it with black shining smoothness, holding the fabric around himself with one hand at the base, allowing the other hand to stroke slowly up and down the shimmering fabric. Xander knew it would be cool and sleek, satin over that hardness, and his hands almost itched to touch. He rubbed his palms vigorously against the roughness of his denimed thighs.

He bit his lip, then asked determinedly, "So ... you call yourself Byron?" This was a fact-finding mission. That's all.

Spike just shrugged, a graceful movement of shoulder muscle which Xander couldn't help following with his eyes. "A stage name. Because of the accent, you know." His hands never stopped working, his whole body subtly arching and flexing with his slow rhythm.

"So what's your real name?" Xander asked desperately.

But Spike just smiled and shook his head slightly. "That wouldn't be part of the game, now would it? I'll be Byron and you'll be ... what do you want me to call you, pet?"

Xander stilled, surprised, because he hadn't expected Spike to ask his name. He couldn't think of a single name. Not a single one. And then one popped into his head. "Frank," he replied suddenly, sending up a silent apology to Frank and Luba both.

"All right, Frank," crooned Spike, and he let that last scrap of black silk fall to the floor.

Xander's mouth went dry, while the action in his pants became suddenly more urgent. The situation was becoming distinctly uncomfortable.

Spike's gaze was intent, his eyes sharp and bright as he let his left hand roam down to take hold of his now naked cock. He squeezed gently, his eyelids fluttering slightly on a soft moan, and then he was looking at Xander again.

"Tell me what you want," he demanded again, his voice low and husky.

Xander could only stare, trying desperately to control the desire to unzip his pants and release his own painfully confined cock. Because unzipping the jeans would be crossing another barrier, another thing he would never have thought he would do, another thing he did not come here for, another thing he would never want anyone to know ... including Spike.

And it was that very forbiddenness that pushed him past the point of resistance. He unzipped his pants and pushed his boxers out of the way, took his hard cock into his hand and squeezed tight. He never took his eyes off Spike, who had smiled slightly at the sound of Xander's zipper.

"How 'bout I do what I like," Spike suggested smoothly, "and you speak up anytime you want. Tell me anything you want me to do. How's that sound?"

"Yeah, okay," Xander rasped, still squeezing his cock in a slow rhythm that matched Spike's strokes.

Never stopping that lazy rhythm, Spike walked to the round cushioned chair and sat down. He settled himself with graceful shifts of his limbs, spreading his legs wide so that Xander could clearly see his balls and even a glimpse of the subtle curve of his buttocks beneath him.

"Since I'm not cut," Spike murmured, "I don't really need lube. But I like that slippery slide. Don't you, Frank?" Spike reached behind him and pulled a small bottle from somewhere Xander couldn't see. He poured some liquid into his palm and then returned to his stroking, his cock now glistening in the light.

Xander quickly spit into his hand, as much as he could, and began to stroke himself, still mirroring Spike's rhythm. It wasn't as good as lube or lotion, but it would do. The added friction was even exciting, in its own way, especially in this situation.

"Do you like to watch me, Frank?" Spike lifted his right hand to pinch one nipple, then lazily trailed over to pinch the other. "Do you like to watch me touch myself?"

Xander couldn't speak.

"We've got lots of time on the meter, Frank. Want to watch what I really like to do? Want to watch me put a finger in my ass while I jack my cock?"

Xander groaned wordlessly again.

Spike smiled, his lips so pink and smooth, and poured more lube into his palm, rubbing it between his hands, wetting his fingers. And then he arched his body, bracing his feet against the edges of the chair so that he could lift his hips slightly.

Xander's breathing was fast now, and when Spike's hand returned to stroking his cock, Xander's strokes were faster than his.

Spike slid his right hand down between his legs, keeping his palm out of the way so that Xander could clearly see the middle finger slowly circle the tiny pucker there. Spike's soft moan of pleasure made Xander's cock throb dangerously. He hadn't gotten laid in ... well, a pretty long time. This was completely different, obviously, but it was a hell of a lot more intense than porn.

And it was Spike.

And, for some reason, that was making a really big difference.

Still keeping his hand carefully situation to give Xander the best view possible, Spike slowly slipped his middle finger into his ass, his body writhing subtly at the sensation while his other hand continued its pulls on his cock.

"Do you wish this was you, Frank? Do you want to push inside me and fuck me?"

And the unspoken answer to that, suddenly was, "Yeah," and that scared Xander nearly to death. Even that fear only seemed to heighten the sensation. He clenched his teeth and stroked faster.

Spike's finger was moving slowly in and out of his body now, and soon he added another finger. He was breathing audibly, occasionally interspersed with quiet moans. "Oh yeah," he panted. "It feels good inside me, fucking myself like this." He added a third finger and groaned a drawn-out sound. "Oh fuck yeah." He was licking his lips and panting softly, occasionally casting intense glances in Xander's direction.

It had been a long time since Xander had shared his orgasm with anyone but his hand. He could feel the pressure building, and he really didn't want to come alone.

Xander stammered suddenly, "Do you usually ... do you ... come...?"

Spike smiled, still stroking in a steady rhythm, his fingers still sliding lazily in and out. "Can't pop my cork for every customer, can I? Make the champagne lose some of its fizz."

"So you never..."

"Depends on the customer. Depends on the tips."

"You mean ...? How much ...?"

Spike arched his back slightly, letting his head fall back in a graceful arch, his head resting against the pillows. He licked his lips slowly, then left them parted as if ready for kissing. With his left hand still stroking, fingers still in his ass, he slid his thumb up to slide in a caress across the skin of his balls, closing his eyes briefly at the sensation, then slanting a glance toward Xander again. "Depends how badly you want to watch me come, now doesn't it?"

Xander fumbled through his wallet with shaky hands. Losing patience, he just pulled out a twenty and shoved his wallet back into his pocket. He slid the twenty through the rectangular "TIPS" slot.

Spike's eyes followed the bill as it fell into the tips box. He looked up to smile at Xander, sultry and wicked. "Oh, that'll do it, Frank." Both his hands sped up slightly, his strokes growing suddenly more aggressive, rougher, the fingers in his ass sliding smooth in a matching rhythm. "You gonna come with me, pet?" His eyes were lazy and inviting, but the arch of his body had grown tense. Muscles stood out in clear relief. His hands were moving fast now.

Xander gasped, "Oh yeah," his right hand working quickly, his left hand clutching several tissues to prevent a mess.

Suddenly, Spike's eyes fell shut, his mouth fell open, and his body arched off the pillows. "Oh fuck!" he groaned loudly, his left hand continuing to stroke firmly as white liquid spattered his pale belly and chest.

It was the sight of Spike's face, even more so than his body writhing in orgasm, that made Xander lose it. He'd meant to hold the tissues carefully in place, for everything to be as tidy and dignified as was possible in the degrading setting, but in the moment of watching Spike come, he forgot all that. His left hand with the tissues gripped the window frame as he leaned forward with his right hand stroked hard and fast, tearing an orgasm out of him that made him jerk, made his knee knock wildly against the wall, made him spray spunk who-knows-where in the dark booth, maybe even on his jeans. He was blind to it. Blind to everything except that pale body.

Slowly, Spike slid his fingers free, let his body relax limply into the cushions of the chair, his left hand still holding his softening cock. He looked utterly debauched. He raised his right hand to trail a finger lazily in the glistening droplets spattered across the pale skin of his belly and chest. He turned his head to look out at Xander. His voice was slow and sated, "Still got some time on the meter, luv. Anything else you want?"

Xander was still clutching the window frame, still leaning forward awkwardly, still holding his limp cock, still in shock from the intensity of what had just happened ... and the wrongness of it. "No," he choked out. "Uh ... I'm good."

Spike chuckled low. "Wouldn't be half as much fun if you were, pet." He seemed relaxed and friendly now, like they were sharing some kind of post-coital cuddle. It was weird, and Xander kind of didn't like it ... and kind of did. It was definitely disturbing.

He tried to clean himself up as best he could, then tossed the tissues into the phallic garbage can. When he was done, he wasn't sure what to do. He should probably say something, rather than just leaving.

"Uh ... I'm gonna go now."

Spike smiled, and this time the smile seemed almost to make it into his eyes. Almost. "Come back anytime. I'm here every night, 9 to 12."

Xander nodded -- crazy, because Spike couldn't see him -- and fled.

Behind the cash register, the tall, goateed black man watched Xander's departure with expressionless eyes which had seen a hundred such ashamed voyages from booth to street. The checking of the zipper, the straightening of the shirt collar, the patting of the pockets, the smoothing of the hair, the preparation to face "the real world" again, the careful assumption of the outside persona, the rapid shift into pretending that Boy Toy Peepworld didn't exist.

He saw it every day.

And back in the small mirrored room the performers called "the fishbowl," Spike flicked the switch that extinguished the light outside his booth and went to take a short shower and clean up for the rest of his shift.


Two weeks later, Xander was still deeply enmired in the land of stubborn denial.

He hadn't gone back to the Boy Toy Peepshow. He hadn't gone back to lurk outside the library or spy on Spike in any way. In fact, he'd pretty much avoided the Civic Center area entirely and hoped to do so for a very long long time.

He also hadn't told anyone. He hadn't phoned Giles or Buffy or even Willow with the news that Spike was here. He hadn't even told Frank and Luba, who he saw every couple days.

The bureaucratic red tape had finally cleared, and work had begun on the new site. The beginning of a new project always took a huge amount of energy, because Xander had to not only pull his crew together effectively, but also think about the entire process ahead of them, so that they didn't do anything in the early stages that might cause problems later on. Once you've poured the concrete, it's hard to go back.

Luckily, his crew on this project consisted mostly of guys he'd worked with before. They knew he was a good boss -- hell, he'd had enough shitty bosses and shitty jobs to know what not to do -- so they would probably form an effective working unit pretty easily, and the new guys seemed promising. The project looked good.

The problem was the nightmares.

He was having nightmares about Spike, about ... doing horrible things to Spike, degrading him and hurting him and telling him he was a piece of shit and watching those pink lips groan with pain instead of pleasure.

He was having nightmares about raping Spike. Pretty much every night.

And he woke up every time with an erection and the urge to vomit, both at the same time.

So he wasn't getting much sleep. If he woke up from a nightmare in the middle of the night, he got up and turned on some lights, turned on the tv, grabbed a bag of Cheet-Ohs and ate a few with heavy-lidded eyes, desperately refusing to go back to bed.

Because the nightmare might pick up right where it left off.

It got pretty bad. The day he realized that he was turning into such a sleep-deprived zombie that it might start actually endangering people on the site -- it was only by luck that Nat hadn't been hit by that girder -- Xander went upstairs when he got home from work and asked Frank if he wanted to go out and get a beer.

* * *

Xander was staring into his half-empty glass when he realized that the conversational chit-chat had petered out somewhere along the way. He looked up to see Frank watching him.

"So, what's up?" Frank's voice was casual. He took a drink from his glass.

Xander felt himself tense. "What? We go out for beer all the time! Well, not all the time, but, you know, often enough that it isn't weird or anything. Why should anything be up?"

Frank just took another long swig of his beer and watched Xander expectantly.

Some guys were playing darts nearby, and Xander let himself be distracted by that for a little while. Then he contemplated ordering some buffalo wings, just for the irony of it. Then the words were out of his mouth before he'd even decided to say them. "It's that guy."

Frank looked a little confused now. "What guy?"

"The guy from back home."

Frank's face cleared. "The guy you thought you saw on the street."


"The guy who's supposed to be dead."

"Yeah." Xander took a long drink that finished off his glass. He raised a hand to signal to the waitress.

"You saw him again."

"Yeppp." Xander's lips made an exaggerated popping noise on the "p" sound.

"So he's not dead," Frank verified patiently.

"Nopppe." Same exaggerated popping noise.

"Did you talk to him?"

Xander watched the guys playing darts. One of them wasn't half bad.

Xander was halfway through his second beer when the silence broke. "Well," Frank said slowly. "I know what Luba would say."

Xander smirked weakly at him. "You going to be a shrink now, too?"

But Frank just shrugged. "You live with somebody long enough, you know how they think."

"So what would Luba say?"

Frank looked him in the eye. "She'd say go talk to him."

Xander looked down at the table. His fingernails were suddenly very interesting. One of them had a bit of dirt beneath it, despite the fact that he'd washed his hands thoroughly after work. The plunk plunk of the darts was comforting. He heard Frank shift in his chair. When he looked up, Frank was calmly lifting his beer to take a drink, his freckled face placid.

Xander sighed and let his head fall back in frustration. He looked up at the ceiling. White tiles with little holes in them. Pretty standard cheap acoustical ceiling tiles, a lot like the ones he'd so often impaled with pencils, back in high school. Back in Sunnydale.

When he looked at Frank again, Xander's face was set in grim lines.

* * *

It was quarter past midnight when Spike emerged from the Boy Toy with two other men, talking and laughing. Xander had been working up his courage for more than an hour.


All three men turned to look at him, bland curiosity on their faces. Spike looked as if he were wearing an expressionless mask.

Xander stared right at Spike and walked closer, pointing an accusing finger. "Don't try to pretend you don't know me. You're caught, Spike. Don't make a fool of yourself trying to deny it."

The other two guys looked at Spike, who shrugged dismissively, though shadows had seeped into his eyes. "I seem to have gotten myself another stalker," he drawled casually. "It happens. One of the occupational hazards. When you're as bloody gorgeous as I am, one glimpse of paradise is never enough. I've got myself a string of lovesick poofs following me everywhere I go."

The three men laughed, then turned to leave again, but the dismissal pissed Xander off enough that he darted forward and took hold of Spike's arm.

That got the other men's attention. Spike turned around with a cold forbidding expression that almost made Xander shiver. The other two men stepped forward as if to protect their friend. "Go on," Spike said grimly, not looking away from Xander's face. "I can handle this tosser." Goatee Man and his buddy hesitated, but at Spike's continued silence, they nodded and walked on, glancing back several times as they got further and further down the street.

"Take your fucking hand off me." Spike's voice was an obvious threat, a hissed warning. Xander instinctively removed his hand. "Now piss off."

Xander's jaw dropped. "You're really trying to pull off this new identity deal? Even when you've been found out?"

Spike's face was suddenly very near, his eyes boring into Xander's. "Look, mate. I don't know you. You don't know me. I'm not this 'Spike' you're looking for, so just fuck off and don't come back." He turned and began to walk away with a quick, tense stride.

"Spike ... hell, Spike, we all thought you were dead! And now I find out you just ... just skipped town and changed your name? Because that is so you, Spike. That is so you."

Spike had turned back and was glaring at him from a slight distance. But Xander was on a roll, all that pent up resentment and disbelief finally getting its outlet.

"God! To think Buffy cried when she heard. And Dawn ... Dawn didn't leave her room for a week. She still hurts for you, still misses you. Everybody was so sure you were really gone this time ... really dead. And it turns out that actually you just couldn't be bothered to leave a forwarding address? What ... just because you're off in L.A. for a year, you think you can just blow us off? Well fuck you, Spike. I guess none of us ever were your friends, if you could just do that and not look back. Just let everybody who cared about you grieve and hurt and cry, while you run off to start fresh without even a fucking phone call."

Spike's face was still a blank mask, but the blue eyes were troubled. Xander could see it even in the dim streetlight. Xander hoped it meant the vampire was suffering, feeling guilty for the crap he'd pulled, because this was one of the most shining examples of Spike's asshole behavior.

Shaking his head in depressingly unsurprised disbelief, Xander repeated loudly, "Fuck you, Spike." He hoped that wasn't defeat in his voice. Disappointment. Abruptly, he turned around and walked away, shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his coat.

He couldn't get away fast enough.

* * *

It was a pretty normal night. He was going out for a drink with Frank and Luba when it happened. They were just walking along the crowded sidewalk when suddenly, out of nowhere, there was Spike, standing rigid, staring at Xander with wide blue eyes, his lips parted in obvious surprise.

"Spike!" It popped out before Xander could stop it. "What are you doing here?"

Spike didn't answer for a moment, then seemed to take a moment to collect himself. "There was ... um ... at the bookstore ... a reading." He gesture back toward City Lights.

Xander didn't know what to say next. He put his hands in his pockets and looked over at the windows of the bookstore and nodded vaguely. An image from his nightmares entered his mind and he quickly dismissed it, cursing himself for being a pervert.

But then he saw movement out of the corner of his eye, and Spike was moving closer, leaning in to say quietly, "I didn't know how to find you again." Then he pulled away, looking anxious.

Xander frowned, flummoxed by this turn of events. He felt a vague sense of shame over all his sleuthing, now that he knew Spike had wanted to find him, but at the same time he felt suspicious and resentful, wondering what new scam Spike was trying to pull.

"Spike?" Luba's voice came from behind him, and Xander turned. He'd forgotten his friends completely. "You must be Xander's friend from home." She smiled, charming as always.

Spike glanced at Xander, and Xander sighed. "Spike, these are my friends Frank and Luba. Frank and Luba, this is ... Spike."

Spike smiled shyly and said, "Luba. That's Russian for 'love'."

Luba raised her eyebrows in surprise. Then she said something Xander couldn't understand. Russian, presumably. Spike replied.

"Your Russian is very good," Luba remarked. "Have you spent time in Russia?"

Spike looked at Xander again. Growing impatient with being the translator from vampire history to believable history, Xander hedged, "Spike's very well-traveled. He's been to ... um ... well, England, obviously. And China. I know he was in China." He glanced caustically at Spike, but those blue eyes only watched him, giving nothing away. Scourge of Europe, he thought to himself. "And I think he sort of did the whole European tour." He shot Spike another sardonic look.

They all stood there for an awkward moment as people streamed around them on the sidewalk. Frank and Luba looked at Xander expectantly. They obviously expected him to be friendly with his supposed friend. Long-lost thought-he-was-dead friend, even. And Spike looked so nervous ... and he'd wanted to find Xander again for some reason. Suddenly, Xander found himself curious about that reason.

"We were on our way to the bar around the corner. You want a beer?"

Spike watched him warily, hesitating.

Xander rolled his eyes and then smiled at Spike for the first time since this whole thing had started. "They've even got buffalo wings."

Spike's lips dropped open, his eyes lit with something that looked almost like fear, and then it was all wiped away as if it had never been there. A bland mask of a face said, "Yeah. All right."

* * *

Not long afterward, the four of them were sitting at a table at the window, watching the tourists outside while they sipped bottles of beer and shared a plate of buffalo wings. Xander took a swig of his beer -- some extra liquid courage never hurt -- and addressed the issue head-on.

"You were kind of a prick the last time I saw you," he accused bluntly. "What changed your mind?" He watched Spike, waiting. He took another drink of his beer.

Spike glanced uncertainly at Frank and Luba, then looked at Xander and said, "You knew I was in L.A."

Xander rolled his eyes. "Well, duh. Everybody knew, Spike. It's not like it was a big secret. I mean, Angel does use the phone occasionally, even if it's usually only when he wants something, and -- hell! -- Andrew saw you, in L.A. and in Rome. And Buffy heard you'd been there, too, you and Angel both. So if you were trying for stealth mode, you were really sucking at it."

Spike poked absently at the food on his plate. Xander noticed the lack of black nail polish, and it was vaguely disappointing.

Spike mumbled something, and Xander rolled his eyes again. "If you're talking to the buffalo wings, Spike, I think even for them you might need to speak up."

Spike looked out the window. "I don't know any of those people."

Xander followed his gaze out the window, confused. "What people?"

Spike looked down at the plate again, picked up a buffalo wing as if considering it, and then put it back down. "The people you just talked about." His shoulders hunched a bit, as if he were curling in on himself defensively. "I don't know those people."

Then, without moving his head, Spike looked up through his lashes at Xander and said quietly, "I don't know you, either."

They all just sat there for a confused moment.

Frank glanced at Xander's face, then at Spike's, then back again. Luba took a breath to say something, but Frank put a hand on her arm. She closed her mouth. "I'd guess you two have a lot to talk about," Frank said slowly. He stood up, and Luba reluctantly joined him, her eyes shining with frustrated curiosity. "We'll leave you to it." Xander stared up at them, panicked.

"No!" Xander exclaimed quickly. "I mean, yes. Yeah. Lots to talk about. Of course. Duh. But ... not alone talking. You guys should stay. Because ... uh..." He cast wildly through his mind, searching for a reason other than, "I'm totally freaked," but nothing came to him. "You guys should stay," he repeated lamely.

Frank nodded slowly and Luba smiled. They took their seats. Frank looked uncertain whether they were doing the right thing, but Xander felt like hugging them for not abandoning him in his hour of really awkward need.

Another silence descended upon the table.

Xander's mind reeled. What was he supposed to say to an amnesiac vampire ... with his vamp-clueless friends listening? It was sort of a new experience.

"Uh ..." he stammered awkwardly, gesturing to his empty bottle, "... anybody else need another cold one?"

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