Xander didn't know where to start, but he knew where he wanted to. Questions. Did Spike still have the soul? Was he killing again? Xander sort of doubted it for some reason. But why did Spike come out of the library at sunset every day? Was there an entrance to underground tunnels, or did he live in some kind of basement?
But he couldn't ask those kinds of questions, because Luba and Frank were there.
The silence stretched on far too long. Spike was jiggling his leg, making the table shake slightly. Xander stared into his beer.
Eventually, Luba jumped in, bless her heart. "So what do you remember, Spike? Oh, and do you want to be called 'Spike', or have you been using some other name you'd rather..."
Spike shrugged. "Spike'll do as well as anything else, I suppose." He frowned. "As for what I remember, well ... woke up in a dirty alley, all banged up. Starkers. Don't remember anything before that."
Luba tilted her head in curiosity. "You were in Los Angeles?"
"Yeah. Got put in the hospital. My right arm was broken in three places. A couple ribs. A good knock on the head."
But Xander was staring at Spike now, his eyes narrowed. "You went to the hospital?"
Spike nodded, glancing at Luba for some clue as to why Xander was asking the question.
Xander continued, leaning forward, "You went to the hospital. Weren't you afraid they'd ... I mean, didn't they find out..."
Spike was frowning more deeply now. "Did I do something that should've made me shy of the police?"
Xander laughed a short disbelieving sound, shaking his head and staring at Spike. His spidey sense was tingling, and he was pretty freaked out by what it seemed to be telling him. "Oh, you've done plenty," he replied in his distraction, and then asked, "So you went to the hospital, and they didn't find anything ... wrong with you?" Like that pesky lack of heartbeat?
Spike peered at him in confusion. "Knock on the head," he repeated slowly, as if Xander were mentally challenged. "Broken arm. Broken ribs. You happen to know how they got that way?"
But Xander was just staring at Spike in horror now, in unavoidable comprehension. "No, Spike. No, I think I can definitively state that I have no idea how you got 'that way'."
Xander was frozen for a long moment, just staring at Spike. He was tempted to run for the door, but he knew he was stuck.
Spike was human.
What the fuck was he supposed to say to an amnesiac former vampire -- most likely vamp-clueless -- with his vamp-clueless friends also listening?
Well, there was a hell of a lot he couldn't say, and a hell of a lot he didn't want to say, and a hell of a lot Spike probably wouldn't believe, and a hell of a lot Spike probably wouldn't want to know. How do you tell someone they revelled in a hundred years of serial killing? Xander frantically searched his mind for the few things he could safely say in his shellshocked state.
"Uh ... the last time I saw you, you were working for a law firm in L.A. I'm not sure what you did there." Spike was looking down at the table now, obviously trying to imagine himself at a law firm, taking this new information in and trying to make sense of it. Good luck.
"Before that, we sort of worked together. Not in L.A., but in a smaller town nearby, called Sunnydale. It was ... well ... a kind of 'neighborhood watch' kind of deal. There were a few of us who all went out together and ... uh ... tried to keep the town safe." Xander nervously took a sip of his beer.
Spike glanced up. "So I was a do-gooder type?"
Xander coughed, narrowly avoiding spraying beer across the table. "Um ... I don't know if I'd go that far. You were kind of ... surly. You mostly just stuck around because you had a thing for Buffy."
Spike's eyebrows rose. "'Buffy'? 'Buffy'? I had a powerful yen for someone named 'Buffy'?"
Xander frowned. "Hey! The Buffster is a close friend of mine, and you don't get to mock her, Amnesia Man! She saved your ass more times than you deserve."
Spike raised his hands in placation. "Okay, okay. Whatever you say, sport. So I fought the baddies by the side of my beautiful lady love, Buffy," he choked as if supressing a guffaw.
"It wasn't like that. We all fought together. Buffy didn't..." he paused a moment, "...Buffy didn't ... uh ... feel that way about you."
This time, Spike just raised an eyebrow in obvious disbelief. Of course he'd be surprised, Xander thought. And suddenly, he had a clear vision of Spike behind the glass, in his booth, with his body, and his skin, and his face, and his...
This was so very very not the time for a stroll down Perverted Memory Lane!
Luba had been looking back and forth between them, while Frank calmly sipped his beer and watched the people walking by outside. Xander glanced at Luba, trying to communicate "Help me" with his eyes. He was drowning here, and he had no idea how to continue. He once again fought the impulse to flee.
He took a healthy gulp of beer. Mmmmm. Beer.
Spike took a long drink of his beer, as well.
Luba once again came to the rescue.
"So how did you end up in San Francisco, then, Spike? If you were in the hospital in Los Angeles..."
"Yeah, well, they weren't exactly thrilled to extend their hospitality to a bloke with no memory, no money, and a fancy accent. Not a lot of profit in taking in strays. So they kept me in hospital quite some time, posted notices in all the newspapers, showed my face on all the news on the telly. Some sent in anonymous donations to pay the hospital bills, but no one came forward, to say that they recognized me." Spike's face seemed haunted, as if that period of loneliness had left a lasting mark.
"When the cast came off my arm, I started hearing them talking in the halls, talking about institutions, deportation, and the like. Well, that wasn't a route I wanted to go, so I made a runner when I got my chance. Skipped town. Figured I'd be safer further away, so I hitched a ride up here. Nice big city to get lost in, you know? Safe from prying eyes that might want to lock me up or ship me off."
It was Luba who was frowning now. "So you don't have any legal I.D. or anything? I work in the housing and homeless section of the city's Department of Human Services. I can help, if you want."
Spike's back stiffened, his head coming up more proudly. "I have a place to live. And a job. I do just fine for myself, thanks all the same."
Xander listened and remembered Spike climbing through the boarded up window into an abandoned building. That counted as "a place to live"? And the job ... well ... surely Spike could be doing something besides ... that.
Luba nodded, smiling gently. "I didn't mean to overstep. I just wanted to offer, and the offer is open. If you ever decide you could use somebody on your side, here's where you can find me." And she handed Spike her card.
Spike looked thoughtful, struck by her wording. Somebody on your side. He hadn't had that in ... he didn't know how long. At least since he woke up in that alley. He wondered if he'd ever had it before that, but it wasn't something he felt comfortable asking Xander.
Luba seemed to feel that she'd made a slight gaffe, and that it might be best if she and Frank left. They made their apologies and wended their way through the crowd, leaving Spike and Xander to drink in silence. Their only conversation was stilted and awkward. Xander didn't really have much more information to impart about Sunnydale -- at least, not information it would be a good idea to impart -- and Spike didn't seem to want to talk about his own life in San Francisco. It was all made more uncomfortable by the fact that Xander actually already knew quite a bit about Spike's life ... because he'd been Spike's pathetic stalker. Not to mention his ... customer. It was so sordid and embarrassing.
But as they gradually became more and more drunk, their defenses slipped considerably and they stopped guarding their words so closely. Xander grew more blunt, while Spike seemed to grow more ... well ... prissy. It was weird.
"Okay, I've just gotta ask: What's up with the hair?"
Spike frowned, one hand reaching up to touch the blond curls. "What do you mean?"
"Did you get falling down drunk and stumble into a barbershop to ask for the Justin Timberlake Special?"
Spike was frowning harder now, looking down at the table. Then he looked up again to meet Xander's eyes, obviously frustrated. "My hair didn't look like this before?"
Xander laughed. He just didn't even know what to say to that.
But Spike was still staring at him intently. "This is what my hair looked like when I woke up in the hospital. But you're saying that this ... Spike ... this guy you knew didn't have hair like this?"
Xander stopped laughing. It was his turn to frown. Oh, right. "Actually, I guess you did. You just always wore it slicked back with about a gallon of some really heavy-duty petroleum product. I never even knew your hair was curly."
Spike was touching his hair absently, probably unconsciously. "So I used to wear a product to change the appearance of my hair? Aside from the dye, that is?"
"Why was I so intent on changing my appearance?"
Xander was a bit taken aback. He'd never really thought about that before. He'd never really considered why a guy who couldn't even see his own reflection was so obsessive about dyeing his hair and slicking it back just so.
He shrugged, not sure what to say. "I guess you had an image to uphold, you know?"
Spike nodded slowly. "An image to uphold." His eyes shifted so that he was looking out the window at the people walking past outside. "Well, I seem to have lost that along with everything else. I suppose I can now wear my hair however I like."
"Why'd you keep dyeing it now, anyway, if you didn't care?"
Spike glanced back at Xander's face, then looked away again. He shifted slightly in his seat and didn't say anything. Just when Xander was opening his mouth to ask the question again, Spike said quietly, "If I'd changed the appearance of my hair, it would have been more difficult for anyone to find me. Anyone ... anyone who knew who I was. Anyone from ... before."
Xander watched him, and something unexpectedly soft and protective seemed to blossom inside his chest. "You wanted to be found? You wanted us to find you?"
Spike shot him a haughty glance, but his eyes were shadowed and vulnerable.
Not even thinking, Xander spontaneously reached across the table and took hold of Spike's hand. "Well, you're found now. Whatever happened, you aren't alone anymore."
Spike's hand was still and warm beneath Xander's, and then it jerked away, slid away to hide somewhere in the dark safety beneath the table.
Xander blushed and hastened to explain, "I wasn't ... I didn't mean..." but Spike just nodded, his face filled with uncertainty and hope like a child's.
The nightmares were gone. It was hard to hang on to the old familiar hatred and disgust toward Spike when this Spike was completely unaware that he'd once been an unrepentant serial killer. This Spike was just a pretty normal guy ... well ... a normal guy who also happened to work at a gay peep show.
But if he couldn't hang on to his hatred of Spike, it was sort of hard for Xander to hang on to all his hatred of himself for getting off in that damn peep show booth. Sure, some remained, but not the angry part of it. The hatred part of it.
So the nightmares had disappeared along with his rage, and he was left confused and a oddly resentful. It was easier to stick with what he'd felt all along than it was to figure out something new.
Leaving the bar had been awkward. They didn't exchange phone numbers, didn't even mention the possibility, because it seemed too intimate, and anyway neither of them had paper or pen.
"You know where to find me," Spike had smirked when they were standing on the sidewalk among the tourists and drunken passersby. Xander just looked confused. "The Boy Toy," Spike reminded him, referring to that first night when Xander had accosted him in front of the store.
Xander blushed and looked at the ground, hands in his pockets. Then he looked away. "Right," he muttered. "I'll just stop by to say hello."
Spike chuckled a very Spike-like chuckle -- chock full of smart-ass -- and shrugged. He was deep into his self-confident persona now, no trace of the wide-eyed requests for tales of his life. But then it probably made sense. He was probably on his way to "work" ... or something.
Xander made some kind of vague goodbye gesture and Spike casually remarked, "Thanks for all that," and for a moment Xander caught the glimmer of something more in his eyes, and then Spike was gone, lost in the stream of foot traffic.
And, since then, the nightmares were gone.
* * *
They were planning a trip to the marina. The weather was good, and they wanted to take advantage of it, so Frank was going to cook up some picnic food, and even Luba was going to make her world-famous piroshki ... the only thing she knew how to cook.
The plan was to leave in the afternoon of the next day, but Luba was already packing a bag with sunscreen, bottled water, Frisbees, and various other picnic necessities. She looked up from her task, smiling at Xander who was sitting on the couch crunching on a carrot stick. He waved it at her. "Don't you people have any self-respecting junk food around here?"
She just laughed. "I think you've got that covered at your own place." She grinned at him. "So ... do you think Spike might want to come along tomorrow?"
Xander blinked repeatedly. Spike? Picnicking? He almost burst out loud laughing. "I don't think it's Spike's sort of thing."
Luba pouted, asking, "How do you know? Have you asked him?"
Xander looked away toward the kitchen, where Frank was happily puttering around. He didn't say anything.
"I think you should invite him. Let him decide if it's 'his sort of thing.' I mean, imagine what it's like for him, being all alone in the city, not even knowing anything about his own life..."
"Okay, okay!" Xander gave in, raising his hands in surrender. "You win." He couldn't help smiling when she leapt up and ran over to hug him in response.
* * *
That was how he found himself once again loitering in front of the infamous Boy Toy at what he once called "the witching hour" until Willow kicked his ass for saying it.
Spike emerged with Goatee Man, talking and gesturing animatedly. Goatee Man was laughing. When Spike saw Xander shuffling his feet near the bus stop, he stopped and said goodnight to his friend. Goatee Man checked Xander out again, just as he had last time, but this time he seemed to accept that the Spike-Xander thing was mutual. Not that there was a "thing," of course. Just ... talking. The talking was mutual. Right.
The street lamps were bright on Market Street, illuminating Spike's face with harsh shadows, his cheek bones sharp and pronounced, his eyes deep.
"Popping by for a cuppa?" Spike sounded sarcastic, but there was an undercurrent there, too. Something surprised and pleased and maybe uncertain.
Xander couldn't stop looking at him -- he wasn't sure why. "Actually, I came to offer you a 'cuppa'," Xander replied, but then shook his head. "I mean, not a 'cuppa,' whatever that is -- I assume it's some British thing -- but a ... well ... a picnic." God, he felt stupid saying that word to Spike, of all people.
Spike's eyebrows rose. His voice was carefully bland, "A picnic."
Xander rushed to explain. "Frank and Luba and me, we're going to the marina tomorrow, and we're bringing food, and Luba thought ... I mean I thought ... well, we thought you might want to come along. We're leaving at noon."
Spike seemed to think about it forever, but maybe Xander was just nervous. Eventually, Spike smiled and said, "Free food? I'm in." Xander rolled his eyes, but smiled in return.
* * *
Xander had provided cans of soda (and bottles of juice for the more healthily inclined) and potato chips. His usual low-effort fare. Spike hadn't brought anything to contribute to the picnic, but Xander really wasn't surprised. He was still Spike, after all, and probably still a giant mooch. And, anyway, what does someone who lives in an abandoned building bring to a potluck?
They spread out a big blanket on the grass and sat down with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the expanse of the bay. Giant container ships passed to and fro, hauling huge rectangular containers of televisions and cars and who knows what else, heading for the port of Oakland. As was always the case in nice weather, the bay was peppered with sailboats taking advantage of the breeze coming through the Golden Gate. The sun was warm and the sky was blue and it was a perfect day for a picnic.
"Anybody need sunscreen?" asked Luba, waving the blue tube in the air. "Rhetorical question, of course. When you take an Irish boy and an English boy into the sunshine, prepare for the blinding whiteness." She grinned at Frank, who leaned forward to kiss her. She giggled afterward, then waggled her eyebrows. "Want me to put lotion on your back?" Frank enthusiastically removed his t-shirt.
Spike removed his black t-shirt as well, then turned to Xander with wide doe eyes. "What about me? Will you put lotion on my back, Xander?"
Xander blushed for about the millionth time since he'd first seen Spike on that sidewalk in the Civic Center. "I don't think so. Ask Luba."
Spike pouted and began applying lotion slowly to his arms. When Luba was done with Frank's back, she let him continue with his legs and chest, then turned to Spike and continued working, this time on Spike's back. If the bliss on Spike's face was any indication, she was also adding a bit of massage along the way. Xander hadn't noticed if Frank had the same reaction ... his eyes had been discreetly trained on Spike too much of the time.
Watching those pleasured expressions on Spike's face, Xander noticed his dick begin to stir. Bad timing! Very very bad timing! So he closed his eyes and began silently reciting dialogue from The Waterboy. By the time he found himself chuckling, he had things under control.
When he opened his eyes, he saw Spike watching him, a knowing smirk on his face.
By the time Luba had finished Spike's back, Frank was fully sunscreened and suggested that he and Luba take a short walk together. They smiled and promised to be right back and left hand-in-hand.
Spike was putting lotion on his chest now, using lazy circular motions that were raising Xander's blood pressure, among other things. Not again! Spike looked at him and licked his lips, slow and deliberate.
"Wish I could take my trousers off, as well," he remarked casually. "Get a proper tan, all toasty brown all over."
Xander's voice was choked when he replied, "Spike, you're English. English people don't tan."
Spike smiled slightly. "I'm sure I could if I lay about in the sun long enough."
Xander shook his head. "Right. Well, next time I'm at the store, I'll look for some SPF 3 million, just for you."
Spike just continued applying lotion to his chest. It had to be thoroughly coated by now, but he kept drawing his hand against that pale skin over and over again, occasionally pausing at a nipple.
Xander cleared his throat. "And, anyway, there are some body parts that just aren't meant to get a tan. I mean ... ow!" The thought of such body parts was distracting, but Xander forged ahead. "And a public park is strictly PG-13, anyway."
Spike grinned. "PG-13, eh? Guess enthusiastic snogging's not out of the question, then." He waggled his eyebrows just as Luba had earlier.
Xander looked away and shifted position slightly, carefully keeping his eyes trained on the men and women walking on the sidewalk behind them. "If you see somebody you feel like 'snogging,' go right ahead. I doubt anyone would mind."
Spike looked a bit disappointed in Xander's refusal to rise to the bait, but moved on to lotioning his neck and face as if nothing had happened.
* * *
The rest of the time that Luba and Frank were gone, Xander talked about the Scoobies, telling Spike about his former "friends." Xander glossed over the tensions between Spike and the group and focused instead on describing each person in detail. When Luba and Frank returned, they didn't interrupt, just sitting down to listen with great interest.
Giles became simply an eccentric school librarian, Willow a nerdy computer whiz, Dawn a normal teenage girl, Tara a spiritual herbalist, Buffy an athletic black-belt, Angel an older guy with a pervy obsession with high school girls, and Anya an outspoken girl with a troubled past, looking to start fresh.
They sat and lay on the blanket, people-watching and boat-watching, occasionally playing Frisbee, talking and relaxing and eventually eating a tasty lunch of chicken strips marinated in a tamarind, plum, and ginger sauce; Luba's beef, potato, and mushroom piroshki; spinach salad with walnuts, blue cheese, and sliced pears; spicy green beans sautéed in sesame, garlic, and red pepper;... and Xander's potato chips.
The only awkward moment was when Luba talked about her work with the homeless. She seemed earnestly concerned about Spike's situation, certain that he couldn't be having an easy time in the city with no official identity and no one to help him make his way. "I really could help you if you like," she insisted. "At least find you somewhere good to live. Where are you living now?"
Everyone was silent for a moment, then Spike politely excused himself, saying he wanted to take a walk, and left for at least half an hour.
* * *
When they'd all returned to the duplex to clean up and watch the usual weekend movie marathon, Spike went with Xander to his apartment first. When the door closed behind them, Xander almost immediately began, "I'm sorry if Luba embarrassed you when she asked about where you li..."
Spike interrupted sharply, "You wanna know where I live, Xander? Fine. Come with me." Xander just stared. He didn't jump in to repeat that Luba had been the one to ask the question, not him. And maybe it was because he really did want to see where Spike lived ... from the inside. Whatever the reason, he agreed. They abandoned Frank and Luba and walked out the front door.
They didn't say a word to each other during the entire 15-minute walk. Spike's strides were long and angry and fast. If Xander hadn't had a slight height advantage, he would have been scurrying to keep up.
When they got there, Spike led him through the broken, boarded-up window into darkness marred only here and there by small shafts of light streaming through holes in the boards that blocked the windows.
Spike flicked a lighter and walked to a candle barely visible in the dim lighting. He lit it, and the room was a bit more brightly illuminated. He continued to walk around the room, and the darkness slowly lifted as more and more candles flickered to life in all corners. Dozens of candles soon illuminated a shabby mattress in one corner of the room, wooden and plastic crates scattered here and there with candles and books upon them, and a doorless closet with more crates inside, holding a stack of poorly-folded clothing.
Spike stood in the center of the candle-lit room and spread his arms wide, turning theatrically. "Welcome to my humble abode," he boomed.
This wasn't old Sunnydale vamp Spike. This was a lost, lonely, confused Spike who was human and struggling to put a brave face on the situation.
The words were out of Xander's mouth before he could even form a thought. "You should come live with me."
Spike tilted his head, mouth a tight line. "Now, why would I want to do that?"
"Hot and cold running water? Windows that aren't boarded up? Cable?"
Spike's voice was like ice when he replied, "Don't need your pity, mate."
Xander rolled his eyes. "Oh please. We lived together before, you know. And I like you better this time around, so why not?"
Spike peered at him suspiciously, and at length, with eyes filled with caution, he nodded slowly. His voice was quiet when he said, "Let me get my things."
* * *
"How'd you know to find me at the Boy Toy that first night?"
They were just sitting on the couch, watching "Battlestar Galactica," when the question suddenly came up. Spike had only been staying with him a couple of days.
Xander blushed furiously, eyes desperately glued to the television.
"Ahhh," Spike smiled wickedly. "A satisfied customer." Spike had been pretty frank about his job at the Boy Toy -- without going into detail -- which made things easier, since Xander didn't have to pretend not to know.
"No!" Xander turned to look at him and nearly shouted. "No! I was just ... I saw you coming out, and I recognized you, and so I..."
"Just happened to be passing by, did you? In that neighborhood? At that hour?"
Xander tried to think of an excuse, but then mulishly muttered, "Since when do I have to explain myself to you?"
Spike grinned cheekily. "So, got a lot of things you're not explaining, then?" Xander looked away. But Spike's face gradually became more serious, his eyes more intent. He didn't say anything right away, but then, "There something you're not telling me, Xander?"
Xander just looked confused.
"We lived together, yeah?" Xander nodded. Spike gestured from himself to Xander and back again. "But we weren't..."
Xander frowned, then his eyes widened. "What? No! Of course not! You and me? No!"
Spike slouched down in his chair, disgruntled. "Don't have to sound so disgusted about it." He stared at the television, looking for all the world like a sulking child. But a change slowly overcame him, his back straightening, his expression hardening as if a mask were sliding into place.
And then Spike had an oh-so-familiar predatory look on his face. This was the Spike Xander had known back in Sunnydale -- pre-bonzo-in-the-brainpan -- not the vulnerable Spike who had asked for help remembering the past. This was the Spike he'd seen behind the glass at the peep show. This was Spike.
"The lads at the Boy Toy don't seem to mind," he drawled, heavy-lidded. "I'm a bit old for the work, obviously, but I'm cut where it counts" -- Spike's fingers stroked his abdomen through the fabric of his black t-shirt -- "and uncut where it counts" -- his fingers strayed provocatively lower -- "and I'm still pretty, so the gay boys seem to like me fine."
"'Gay boys'?" Xander choked incredulously. "Jeez. Homophobic much?"
"It's hard to be homophobic in my line of work, luv."
"No, I'll bet it's pretty darn easy to be homophobic in your line of work. All you see are the lonely perverts who pay to jerk off while watching some naked guy who's counting the minutes 'til quitting time." Hearing his own words, Xander blushed again, averting his eyes guiltily.
"Takin' this a bit personal, aren't you?" Spike eyed him speculatively. "You a shirt-lifter?"
Xander winced and his eyes flew back up to meet Spike's, defensive. "The only shirt I lift is my own, mister, when I'm getting dressed in the morning. So don't you worry about me. You worry about your own damn shirt." Xander frowned slightly, a bit tangled up in what he'd said, but he didn't try to sort it out.
Spike just smirked as if he knew something Xander didn't.
Things were oddly normal once Spike moved in. The single unexpected weekend of sunshine faded back into the foggy chill of a San Francisco winter, and the office building job in Oakland had finally gotten underway, so Xander was busy on-site on weekdays.
Spike actually hadn't changed much since Xander'd lived with him before. He still left dirty clothes lying around and didn't wash his dishes. He still liked his food spicy, still smoked -- albeit outside, because Xander insisted -- still drank Jack Daniels, and even still watched "Passions," though Xander didn't know about that part, because he was at work in the afternoons. But he did wear those metal-framed glasses sometimes, which freaked Xander out. It just looked wrong. But he didn't say anything, because he didn't want to make Spike self-conscious.
How weird was that? Worrying about making Spike self-conscious? Inviting him to live in his apartment, hanging out with him on picnics. The world had tilted on its axis.
But it was kind of nice, too. And that was the weirdest part of all.
Spike's face was getting a bit of color, which led Xander to think he was probably lying out in the occasional bit of sun while he was out on the building site. There was a nice park in the center of North Beach where a lot of people sunned when the weather permitted. And the weeks after the picnic had continued to show brief glimmers of sunshine here and there. Weather in San Francisco was never particularly predictable.
But somehow it made sense that Spike would love the sun.
They didn't spend all that much time together. Xander was generally out of the house from early in the morning until around 6:30, and Spike usually strolled in around the same time. Of course, Spike left again a couple hours later, but Xander tried not to think about where he was going. He didn't come back until after Xander was asleep, but Xander had returned to taking his nightly walks, still carrying a stake in his jacket pocket, though the stake was mostly just out of old habit. Now that Spike was staying with him, the apartment seemed really quiet when he was gone, and Xander didn't like to sit around at home imagining what Spike was doing at "work."
That was weird, too. Because he was actually feeling jealous. Maybe even possessive. And he hadn't felt that way since Anya. But Anya had liked it. Spike didn't even know, and almost certainly would be offended. Or disgusted. So Xander was stuck in a rotten position of unrequited ... something. Not love. But lust, maybe.
Once or twice, Spike asked about what exactly had happened to him to cause him to lose his memory and why no one had stepped forward to recognize him, but Xander dodged, saying that he didn't know. Of course, he'd heard the stories, Hellmouthy stories about dragons and giant scorpions and all kinds of other big bad baddies. No one had survived -- or so they thought -- but Giles had read about the likely events in one of his dusty books. Apparently the evil law firm was mentioned in a lot of prophecies. Xander hadn't cared to know much, but Giles had told him enough for him to get the basic idea.
So every time Spike brought it up, Xander gave a vague answer and felt guilty about it. Spike deserved to know what had happened to him, but there was no way to explain. And he knew he should call Giles in England and tell him about Spike.
But he didn't.
* * *
It was only three weeks after Spike moved in that they had the inevitable uncomfortable talk. Spike had been pushing the issue from the very beginning.
"So," Spike began blandly while they sat in front of the television watching Survivor, making fun of the contestants. "Not gay, then?"
Xander very nearly growled in frustration. "Why are you so interested?"
"Don't like being lied to."
Xander's eyes narrowed, but Spike still hadn't turned to look at him. He just put his hand in the bag of Doritos and lifted a few to his mouth. Xander noticed in some kind of surreal attention shift that Spike's fingers were bright orange.
"Uh ..." Xander began nervously.
"Right," interrupted Spike, finally turning to look at him and putting the bag of Doritos down on the coffee table. "Did I know, when we lived together before? Did we ever..."
Xander rolled his eyes in annoyance. "No! I told you no! And, anyway, I didn't..." He sighed heavily. "When I moved to San Francisco ... people are just ... nobody cares, you know? And guys were looking at me and coming up to me and ... I just started to realize after a while..."
Spike watched him with an expression that was difficult to read. Maybe amusement mixed with relief? Xander couldn't tell. "Not planning to grope my ass in the shower?"
Xander blinked. "I hadn't really thought about it." Liar! Liar!
But Spike just wouldn't let it go. "So ... you weren't gay when we lived together before?"
"I don't know. I mean, do you just turn gay?" God, this was getting far too honest. Spike was going to mock him forever.
Spike just waited. He was licking his orange Dorito fingers now, occasionally sliding one into his mouth to suck the cheesy dust off.
Xander's eyes were determinedly not looking at Spike's mouth as he explained distractedly, "I had a girlfriend back then. I told you about her: Anya. So I don't know. Maybe I was -- am -- bi?"
Pausing in the cleaning of his fingers, Spike continued doggedly, "So you weren't gay."
Xander sighed in frustration and ran his hands through his hair.
"What about me?"
Now that was surprising. Xander just stammered in confusion, "Huh?"
"Was I gay, back then, when you knew me before?"
Xander looked at Spike, unsure if this was an honest question or the beginning of the afore-mentioned mocking. But Spike just looked interested. Curious, even. His fingers were clean now, so that at least made thinking a bit less of a challenge.
Xander frowned in thought. "Uh ... I don't know. I don't think so. I mean, you didn't act gay."
Spike simply raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, that was stupid. But you were with one ... uh ... girlfriend ... really long-term. And then you were, you know, obsessed with Buffy."
Spike groaned at hearing the embarrassing name again. "Please. Don't remind me."
"What made you think..." Xander couldn't help asking.
"Nothing in particular. Just wondering, since we were talking about it and all."
Xander nodded, but felt dubious. Maybe Spike enjoyed his job a little too much. Xander had thought the ... the fingers in the ass thing ... he'd thought that was just for show. And lots of guys liked that, without being gay. Right? But maybe it was more than that. During the ... whatever it was ... the peepshow -- god that sounded sordid -- Spike had asked if Xander wanted to fuck him. Did he actually think about that sort of thing while he was ... at "work." With his customers?
Suddenly, Xander hated Spike's job even more than he had a moment ago.
* * *
They were watching an episode of CSI in which a murderess insisted on speaking only French when Spike suddenly said, "They translated that wrong."
Xander frowned, confused. "Huh?"
"In the subtitles. They translated that wrong. That wasn't what she said."
"Oh, right, you speak French."
Spike looked at him in surprise. "I speak French. Well, I also speak and read German, Spanish, and Middle English. So tell me, Mr. I Know Your Past: what other languages do I know?"
Xander was thrown off balance. "Uh ... Latin and Greek? You helped us with those pretty often." Oops. He didn't want to explain what a neighborhood watch group was doing with Latin and Greek, so he continued talking quickly. "Also a bunch of" -- demon -- "obscure dialects."
Spike was nodding slowly. "How'd I learn 'em all?"
Xander's brain stopped working for a second, but then he replied with relief, "I told you you traveled a lot, you know? And you were ... uh ... I guess you studied some of them before I met you."
Spike was still nodding, his eyes fixed in the distance. "That would explain it. I wondered. It's come in handy at the library."
"At the library?" Xander asked.
"Yeah. I volunteer there on afternoons, at the reference desk. The languages came in handy. I'll have to tell them about the Latin and Greek."
Xander couldn't control his excitement and exclaimed without thinking, "So that's why you were leaving the library every day!"
Spike frowned. His head tilted. He said slowly, "What did you just say?"
"How did you know I was leaving the library every day?"
"Well, uh, I didn't know it was every day, but I saw you one day when I just happened to be..."
"You just happened to be there, did you? And you just happened to be outside the Boy Toy? That's a lot of 'happening', isn't it?" Spike looked ready to wring someone's neck. Correction: he looked ready to wring Xander's neck, in particular.
Spike waited. Xander stared fixedly at the toes of his boots.
A minute passed, and neither moved.
Finally, Xander couldn't take the silence anymore. "I saw you, okay? I saw you on the street, but I wasn't sure it was you, so I ... I followed you."
Spike raised an eyebrow. "You followed me?"
"It wasn't as creepy as it sounds. Really."
"Did you follow me once, or was it more?"
Xander's voice was barely audible when he said, "More."
"Right." Spike's voice was tight and angry. Like if he didn't keep himself on a tight leash, he'd explode.
The silence stretched again. But finally Spike stood up, put on his coat -- not the old duster, which always surprised Xander -- and ran a possibly nervous hand through the curls of his hair.
He was staring at the front door and his voice was still tightly contained when he said, "I'm going out. I trust I don't have to watch behind me, checking behind every bush and postbox."
A miserable Xander shook his head. With a flourish, Spike was gone and the door swung shut behind him.
Xander sat down on the couch and turned on the television and tried to pretend that he didn't feel like a complete asshole.