Giles sighed but did not even attempt to reprimand Xander for using the hated nickname. He'd long since given up. "Xander, it is good to hear your voice. It's been far too long."
Xander felt ashamed. He'd pretty much ditched them all when he moved to San Francisco. Not very friend-ish of him. "Yeah, sorry about that. This is going to sound cheesy, calling out of nowhere, but I sort of need your help."
"What can I do for you from here? You know I'll help if I can," Giles said, referring to the physical distance between them.
"Well, the thing is ... Spike is sort of here."
Giles didn't answer immediately, but after a pause he replied, "The oracles prophesied that all of the warriors would perish in a final great battle against the forces raised by Wolfram & Hart, and we've heard nothing of them since. Spike is gone, Xander. I do not know who has been speaking to you, but Spike died with Angel and their associates in that battle."
"Okay, well, sort of yes and sort of no."
"Xander, please do cease all this mystery. What are you trying to say?"
"I guess Spike died or something, got dusted or whatever, but he's back." Xander sighed heavily, mentally preparing himself for Giles' impending reaction. "Spike is human."
There was silence on the other end of the line. A long silence. Then Giles replied patiently, "You well know that such a thing is impossible, Xander."
"Impossible or not, I've got a human Spike sleeping in my guest room every night -- well, except when he's pissed off at me, because then he doesn't come home for days at a time, which happens way too often, I might add."
And then Xander told the whole story, except for the sex-type parts, because Giles really didn't need to know that sort of thing. But he told him about Spike's amnesia and about how Xander had eventually realized that he was human. Giles was dubious.
"How can you know that this man is who you think he is, Xander? He could be a confidence man taking advantage of your trusting nature ... or simply a confused amnesiac onto whom you are projecting memories of your prior ... friend ... due to a physical resemblance."
Xander shook his head firmly, though Giles couldn't see him. "That's the thing. Why would I 'project' Spike? I mean, I couldn't stand the guy! I didn't want to ever see him again. But there he was. And he's almost the same, give or take a few Russian novels and a pair of glasses."
This time Giles was the one who sighed. "I'm afraid I'm far too busy to leave for the States at this juncture, but I could perhaps send Willow. She could take a brief hiatus from her studies."
"No!" Xander exclaimed quickly. "He just needs all the legal mumbo-jumbo so he can get a job. The Watchers Council can do that, right? But he doesn't want to see you. Either of you. Any of you. He just wants to be left alone. With me. Except ... uh ... not the way that sounded."
Xander knew that if Spike saw any of them -- if Spike regained his memories or made any other connection to his past -- things would change, and that was something he definitely didn't want to see happen.
But he was desperately afraid it was going to, whether he liked it or not.
* * *
Despite his protestations about being too busy to get away, Giles was on a plane from London within the week. Spike wasn't particularly pleased that a stranger was coming to pick him apart and decide whether he was himself or not, especially when he wasn't so sure himself about certain parts of the story. Xander tried to be reassuring, but he wasn't precisely sure what was going to happen, so his own nervousness no doubt showed. He'd never been much of a one for subtlety.
When Xander picked Giles up from the airport, he expected a thorough grilling, but Giles simply talked about the activities of the Watchers Council, Willow's studies, and the familiarity of the San Francisco fog. It was, apparently, something like London. Xander didn't know how to react to the casual conversation. Where were the questions about Spike? Where were the well-worded arguments and oh-so-logical explanations?
But Giles was calm and friendly, as if simply visiting a friend he hadn't seen in some time. When they arrived at the apartment, they found Spike sitting anxiously on the living room couch, not even watching television. He stood up and turned toward them, wiping his hands on his jeans. He extended his right hand toward Giles, and Giles took it, shaking it warmly.
"I'm Rupert Giles, an old friend of Xander's." He smiled. "I hear that you have no memory of your past. Is this correct?" Well, that went right to the point.
Spike simply nodded.
"What do you prefer that I call you, then?"
Spike glanced at Xander for guidance, but Xander just shrugged. Then he walked so that he stood nearer to Spike than to Giles, wanting to make his alliances clear in this situation.
"'Spike' is fine. Unless you object."
Giles shook his head. "'Spike' will be acceptable for the moment. But I do wish to speak with you about a number of matters on the subject of your identity."
Spike nodded again and sat back down on the couch. Xander sat beside him -- not too close, because they weren't exactly like that, despite the night outside O'Malley's -- and gestured to the chair for Giles. But Giles calmly shook his head, remaining standing.
"I need to speak with him alone." Then Giles peered at Spike, showing some curiosity at last, and turned to walked into the guest room, followed by a nervous Spike who glanced back at Xander.
Xander made a shooing motion and tried to look reassuring. Inside, he was nervous as hell.
* * *
When the door opened again, Spike came to the door and said quietly, "He wants to talk to you now." It was difficult to read his mood. His eyes were cast downward and there was a tension to the set of his shoulders, a tightness around his mouth ... but what it meant was impossible to interpret.
Xander walked to the doorway, stopping Spike's leaving. Looking into the guest room, Xander said firmly, "Anything you want to say to me, Spike has a right to hear, too. I'm not going to hide things about him from him."
"Very well, Xander." Giles stood and returned to the living room, where Spike and Xander resumed their seats on the couch and Giles sat in the overstuffed chair.
"It is my opinion that this is, in fact, Spike, though somewhat different, of course, than the vampire we knew in Sunnydale. I did not tell you over the telephone, but there is an ancient prophecy which was always assumed to refer to Angel, but which may instead refer to this situation, a prophecy about a vampire with a soul who, after great battles for the forces of good, after saving the world on more than one occasion, would have his human life returned to him. It is referred to as the 'shanshu' prophecy, and it may explain how Spike stands before us as a living human man."
"So you knew about this prophecy thing, but you didn't think it was worth mentioning?"
"May I interrupt a mite?" Spike said. Giles and Xander both nodded in surprise. "So ... I was a vampire?"
Giles leaned forward slightly to reply, "It must seem very strange to learn such a thing in your situation, but yes, it is indeed true. You were a vampire from the year of 1880 until your apparent demise -- or disappearance -- one year ago."
"I killed people."
"Yes, a great many people. But that was before your ... resurrection, as it were."
"Still the same person, though." Spike sounded deeply disturbed, as if only now was the true depth of his past evil becoming apparent to him.
"Spike, you must realize that the powers that returned your humanity chose to do so as a reward -- or so the prophecy seems to indicate -- for the good you had done. It was quite remarkable for a vampire to work with the forces of good, quite incredible for a vampire to even possess a soul, but you, Spike ... you willingly turned away from evil and made a conscious choice to seek to have your soul returned to you. In all the records of the Watchers Council, such a thing has never before been witnessed or even considered possible. The prophecies mention no other such occurrence in the past or future. Yes, you were a vampire, Spike, but in your final years as such you performed feats of emotional strength and fortitude that amazed us all."
Xander felt ashamed, knowing that he hadn't been amazed in the slightest. He'd been dismissive and uninterested, too wrapped up in his own life to even notice that the person he had once hated had changed.
Spike leaned forward, his head in his hands.
"If you wish," Giles continued, "I will investigate what methods might make it possible to recover your past memories. If magic resulted in your current state, magic may also allow us to make such changes."
"No," Xander replied quickly, causing Spike to look at him. "Spike doesn't want to remember all that stuff."
"Is this true, Spike? If you do not wish to remember your previous life, it would be perfectly understandable. Most likely, the powers chose to return you this way to save you the pain of your past actions."
Spike said softly, "I'm still the same person, whether I remember it or not."
Giles nodded. "You needn't make a decision today, or even before my departure. I will need time to speak with the coven and to consult my library. I do not yet know if the act is even possible."
Spike rubbed his hands over his face and then through his hair. "All right, then. Do your looking about, and I'll do my thinking on whether I want to know."
Xander frowned, realizing that he had lost all control of what was going on. If Spike got his memories back, he'd remember how much he loved Buffy, how much he hated Xander, how much he wanted to be anywhere but here. He'd be on a plane to Italy, looking for Buffy, before the day was out.
But there wasn't anything he could do about that ... except maybe try to convince Spike that he really didn't want to get his memories back. It felt sort of slimy, but he didn't know what else to do.
Living with Spike was strange. Sometimes he seemed like the same old Spike, brash and confident and smirky, but sometimes he seemed softer, more like he was when he was first asking about his past, his eyes big and blue and vulnerable. It was disconcerting, never knowing what he was going to be like, how he was going to respond.
And Xander wasn't sure which Spike he liked more.
* * *
Sometimes Spike accompanied Xander on his nightly walks, and that was how the argument started.
They were walking down Broadway, past the long stretch of strip joints and peepshows. Spike pointed at one and said, "I should pop in. See if they're hiring."
Xander stopped walking. "You're joking, right?"
Spike shook his head, still completely relaxed. "The places up here pay better, especially if you're on the up-and-up. It's the tourist trade that does it. Better tips, too."
Xander couldn't believe it. "Why would you want to keep working like that? You could do anything, and you choose that?"
Spike just shrugged. "I'm good at the work, and what else am I gonna do, anyway?"
"You could ... I don't know ... get a job at the library!" Xander's voice was raised now in disbelief and -- yes -- jealousy.
"Librarians have college degrees, Xander. Your friend willing to dummy up one of those for me, as well?" Spike sounded frustrated and offended.
"Jesus, Spike! Don't you have any self-respect?"
Spike noticed that people on the street were staring, listening to the argument with curious interest. "I'm not having this conversation," he said firmly, and then walked away, heading back toward home.
Xander trotted to catch up with him, then walked beside him in silence the entire way. When they got back to the apartment, Spike went into his room and slammed the door.
* * *
Xander didn't see him again for two days. It was easy to dodge each other with their different schedules. But then on Thursday he got home from work and Spike was standing in the kitchen near the microwave. As Xander walked in, it beeped, but Spike didn't open it. He crossed his arms and looked directly at Xander.
"You gonna give me some more career advice?"
Xander was beaten down by the days of missing Spike, feeling guilty. "No," he said softly. "I'm sorry for that whole thing."
Spike looked confused, not exactly accepting Xander's apology yet. "What's it to you, anyway, Xander? What do you care what I do?"
Xander couldn't help it. His guard was down and he blurted out, "I just don't want you doing that, okay?"
But Spike just looked even more confused than before. "Again I ask, 'What's it to you?'"
"It's disgusting, okay? I can't understand why you would do that to yourself."
Spike stiffened. "Disgusting, eh? You have no idea what the work is like, so where do you get off judging me?"
Xander could feel his blood racing. "I know exactly what the work is like, and I don't think you should be doing it!"
Spike raised an eyebrow. "You know exactly what the work is like, do you? Well, now, how did you get that little tidbit of information?"
Xander was blushing now, but not answering.
"Hmm. That night ... outside the Boy Toy. You saw more than just the store front, now didn't you? Had a bit of a peek, did you?"
"Shut up," Xander said nonsensically, blushing even more brightly.
"I see. And you said you were following me about, now didn't you? Following me about. Now that raises some interesting questions. Follow me to work, did you?" Spike was grinning evilly now, watching the pink spread from Xander's face down his neck.
"No shame in it," he said smoothly, sounding almost like he had in the peepshow booth, all persuasive and sexy.
He came closer until his body was almost touching Xander's. Xander couldn't move. Spike leaned forward and said into his ear, "Did you like it?" He pulled back slightly so Xander could see his smirking face.
Xander really hoped he was reading Spike right.
Because he leaned in and kissed him.
And Spike kissed back.
Well, that was worth a more enthusiastic response, so Xander grabbed Spike by the hips and backed him into the kitchen counter, sort of surprised when Spike didn't struggle, and pressed their bodies against each other as he dove in for a far deeper kiss. Spike kissed back just as fiercely, and it was just like that night outside of O'Malley's, except without the beer and chicken wings on their breath and without the smell of garbage.
When Spike pulled away, he said wryly, "O'Malley's wasn't a fluke, eh?"
"Not a fluke. So not a fluke. Not even remotely fluke-like."
"Interesting." And then they were kissing again, even harder this time, and Xander was grinding against him, hands still tight on his hips, and he wanted to move to the bedroom but didn't know how to ask or whether Spike would turn him down.
"Bedroom?" Spike suggested, and Xander wondered briefly whether vampires could read minds, and was frightened at the thought. But Spike was looking at him, and the voice had been old-Spike, but there was a bit of new-Spike in his eyes, and that was thrilling in its own way.
They shuffled to the bedroom, groping along the way, and managed to fall on the bed. Spike was on top of him in a second, thighs on either side of his hips as he sat up and looked down at Xander lying flat on his back.
His fingers tweaked Xander's nipples sharply as he asked, "So what did you like the best?"
Xander tried to arch up at the feeling of Spike's hands on his chest, but Spike's weight on top of him anchored him down. His brain wasn't working all that well, so he just said, "Huh?"
Spike leaned down again to whisper in his ear. His breath was hot against Xander's skin, making him shiver. "At the Boy Toy," Spike explained huskily. "What did you like best?" He pulled away -- causing Xander to moan his disappointment -- and stood by the bed, where he began slowly removing his clothes. As if hypnotized, Xander just lay there, watching, taking in the sight of Spike undressing for him.
Once he was naked, Spike just stood there, giving Xander a good long look. "Was it when you watched me tossing off for you?" He stroked himself -- oh, he was so hard! -- just a bit, just down and up and down. He licked his lips and walked toward the bed again, where he pulled at Xander' shirt until Xander lifted up to allow him to take it off. Their hands met at the button on his jeans, but Spike pushed Xander's fingers away to do the job himself. As he slid the jeans off, he murmured, "Or was it when I fingered myself?" At the words, Xander closed his eyes tight and clenched his hands into fists, overwhelmed by the memory. But Spike was still working, sliding Xander's briefs and socks off until Xander was completely naked. He straddled Xander's body again, naked flesh making the experience completely different, and leaned over to whisper again. "Or was it when I asked you if you wanted to fuck me?"
In some part of his mind, Xander realized that Spike obviously had a set act he did for everyone at the Boy Toy, but it didn't matter. Because there wasn't a glass window between them now. There was just bare skin and the promise of things Xander had only imagined.
Spike's hands were stroking Xander's chest now, exploring lazily, as he looked down at him. He looked into Xander's eyes and repeated, "Want to fuck me, Xander?"
Xander's hands came up at last and touched Spike's chest hesitantly, afraid to do or say the wrong thing in this game Spike was playing.
Spike slid his hands down, down, down, teasing Xander's lower belly, stopping where he sat, his weight almost painful on Xander's hard cock. "Do you, Xander? Do you want to fuck me? Say yes."
As if on a string, Xander's head bobbed. "Yes," he rasped obediently, wanting Spike to do something, move, touch him. He continued stroking Spike's chest, exploring his shoulders and arms along the way. Muscles.
Spike wiggled slightly and Xander groaned. "You been wanting to fuck me ever since you watched me at the Boy Toy?" His grin was smug. "Tell the truth, Xander."
Xander's head bobbed again. "Yeah," he admitted, able to think about nothing but Spike's weight on him, Spike's hard cock right there, right where he could reach but was afraid to venture.
"'Yeah' what?" Spike asked with a sly smile and wiggled again, making Xander thrust his hips upward in pleasure and impatience. He lifted up off the bed a few inches, but Spike's ass stayed comfortably seated.
Xander hesitated, but he had a sneaking feeling that Spike was going to get up off him and walk away if he didn't play this game just right, so he answered. And, anyway, the answer was true. "Yeah, I've been wanting to fuck you since then."
"Good boy," Spike purred, and he leaned down to kiss Xander hard, tongue ravaging his mouth, his body lying almost flat against Xander's so that their chests slid against each other, their hard cocks rubbing in a way that made Xander almost crazy.
He trailed his hands down and squeezed Spike's hips as he'd done in the kitchen, his hands spanning them easily. They were so narrow. So different from a girl's. He'd never squeezed a man's hips before Spike, and it was dizzying.
"I've never done this before," he said softly. He didn't know what made him say it, except that it was the truth.
Spike replied smoothly, "Neither have I."
Xander was confused. "But you ... at the Boy Toy..."
"Just a show. A tease. I'm not a whore, Xander." Spike was looking offended now and his muscles were tensing as if he was going to get up and leave.
"No, I know that," Xander answered quickly. "But I just meant ... you just seemed ... confident."
Spike grinned. "It's a talent." Then he raised an eyebrow and said, "Let's get a glimpse of your talents now."
Xander gulped. Talents? He knew he was okay in the man-woman department -- Anya had told him often enough, and she should know -- but his man-man experience was pretty darn limited. A grope in an alley hadn't really prepared him for this.
But Spike was waiting, so Xander rummaged through the bedside table in search of the little bottle of lube he'd bought in a hopeful moment after that night outside O'Malley's. When he found it, he turned to look at Spike, unsure of what to do next.
"Do you want me to..." He knew he looked lost, because that's how he was feeling.
But Spike just got onto his hands and knees and said, "Just take it slow, yeah?"
Xander nodded, nervous, and crawled toward him on the bed. He crouched behind Spike and leaned up to run his hands along the length of Spike's back, feeling the defined muscles, the bumps of his spine, the curves of his buttocks. He reached a hand underneath and squeezed Spike's cock, which was -- thank god -- hard and hot and waiting for him. He gave Spike's cock a few strokes, making Spike raise his ass a bit, bumping into Xander as if urging him to act.
Xander leaned forward to whisper into Spike's ear, "Are you ready?"
"Bloody hell, Xander," Spike replied, frustrated. "Yes. I'm bloody well ready."
Chastised, Xander withdrew a bit, embarrassed that he hadn't been reading the situation well enough and Spike had gotten annoyed with him. But then Spike was resting his forehead on his arms folded on the bed, raising his ass a bit higher, and saying, "I want you to fuck me, Xander. Fuck me. Now."
And Xander could only gulp and comply, so he applied some lube to his dick and lined himself up at Spike's hole. The first bit slipped in easily, so easily that he was surprised, but then the tightness took over. Spike moaned at the first breach, and Xander froze. "Does it hurt?" he asked nervously.
Spike shook his head. "Keep going. Just take it easy. But keep going."
Xander took hold of Spike's hips again -- it was becoming his favorite place to put his hands -- and slowly pushed further in. The feeling was incredibly, tighter than anything he'd ever experienced, and hot, hotter than he'd ever felt. Maybe it was just Spike, but the feeling was almost enough to make him come without even pushing all the way inside.
Spike was pushing back at him, which Xander took as encouragement to keep going. He slipped inside a bit more, and Spike moaned softly. Trusting Spike to tell him to stop if things got to be too much, Xander slowly, carefully, slid the rest of the way inside, and then held still, sheathed completely in Spike's body.
Spike's body was tense, so Xander waited, stroking Spike's pale back, feeling the taut muscles beneath the skin, feeling him tremble slightly. He wanted to ask if Spike was okay, but he figured he'd just get another annoyed "Just go slow!" He still trusted Spike to speak up if something was wrong, so he just kept running his hands slowly over Spike's back, lightly tracing the bumps of his spine, sliding up to caress the back of his neck.
When he felt Spike relax, he slowly pulled out and then pushed back in, and Spike didn't tense this time. Relieved, Xander stopped worrying so much and started noticing how good it felt. He pushed in a little harder, and Spike moaned. Xander asked uncertainly, "Was that a good moan?"
Spike chuckled and pushed back onto Xander's dick. Xander gasped and muttered, "I guess so."
He set up a steady rhythm of thrusting, not too hard or too fast, but definitely drawing him toward orgasm. Spike was moving with him, thrusting back in a way that made Xander want to just drive into him until he came so hard he passed out, but Spike had said...
"Remember what I said about taking it easy?" Spike asked, doing that mind-reading thing again. "Forget it." And then Spike pushed backward so hard he almost knocked Xander over. "Just fuck me."
Xander paused a second, making sure he'd understood correctly, and then grabbed Spike's hips tightly and thrust in hard and fast. Spike wiggled slightly and braced himself with his arms on the bed.
Now Xander set up a rhythm that was rough and fast and pushing him quickly toward orgasm. He reached one arm beneath Spike's body to grasp his cock, and it was hard and hot. He began stroking Spike in rhythm with his thrusts, and Spike groaned and began talking.
"Yeah. Like that. Fuck me. Fuck me harder! Oh, oh Jesus yeah. Fuck yeah!" And then his words became unintelligible moans as he thrust back harder and harder, fucking Xander's hand on one side and Xander's cock on the other until suddenly he froze and his muscles tensed again as he came, his cock throbbing in Xander's hand as he cried out.
Xander was close, so he brought his hand back around so that he was holding both sides of Spike's hips, holding them tight, keeping them still for his thrusts, his hard, fast thrusts, driving himself toward an orgasm that ran through him only moments later, taking his breath and his coordination as he thrust one two three last times and held still, feeling his body throb with pleasure and release.
And then he collapsed on top of Spike.
A minute or so later, Spike struggled slightly beneath his weight, and Xander rolled over to lie by his side, a bit embarrassed that he'd been so rude. But he couldn't feel too embarrassed, because he was busy feeling near dead from a post-orgasmic high. He couldn't move, and Spike lay limp on his stomach beside him, probably lying in an impressive wet spot.
Xander was nearly asleep when he said, "You aren't going to work at that peepshow anymore, are you?"
Spike's voice was equally sleepy when he murmured, "You find me another job, and I'll think about it."
It wasn't like they were a couple. They hadn't even had sex more than that once. In the morning, Spike just got out of bed and acted like nothing had happened.
So they didn't hug or hold hands or exchange Eskimo kisses. It just wasn't like that.
But things were still different. They looked at each other a little more often, maybe. Made more eye contact. Smiled a little more, smiled at things other people just didn't get. Maybe didn't lean quite so far away from each other on the couch.
It was like those secret times with Willow in high school, except not.
Still, there was an illicit thrill to having something going on that nobody else knew about.
* * *
"So ... you and Spike, huh?" Luba grinned at him.
Xander literally jumped. "What? Spike? No! What?"
Luba just rolled her eyes. "Come on, Xander! You thought I wouldn't notice? Like I don't know you by now?"
Xander didn't know what to say. He'd been so sure they were being discreet. And there wasn't anything going on to be discreet about, anyway.
Luba nudged his shoulder and grinned again. "Oh, come on! I'm just glad you found somebody! And I love Spike. It's nice to see you happy."
"I'm not happy," Xander insisted, then backed up. "I mean, not happy like that. Not because of that. Because there is no that. Nothing to be happy about."
Luba heaved a heavy sigh and looked very put-upon.
"Fine," Xander hissed. "But don't say anything, because it's still kind of weird."
Luba nodded understandingly, then offered, "Maybe things will be easier once he's recovered his memory."
* * *
Xander wasn't so enthusiastic about the memory idea, especially since Giles had been increasingly encouraging about a magical cure. He took every opportunity to urge Spike against Giles's offer.
On their walks in the city at night: "Believe me -- most of your past is really really terrible. You really don't want to even hear about it, let alone remember it."
At the pool table in O'Malley's: "Your life is pretty good now, right? Why would you want to change everything all of a sudden?"
On the couch in front of the tv: "If some powers brought you back to life, then don't you think they knew what they were doing? If they thought you shouldn't have those memories, then they were probably right, right?
At Frank and Luba's on movie marathon night: "Most people wish they could forget the bad stuff in their past. Why would you purposely try to remember it?"
But Luba interrupted, "I think Spike should do whatever makes him comfortable. I imagine it doesn't feel very good to know less about yourself than other people do."
Chastened, Xander sat down on the couch and pouted. Spike sat down beside him but didn't say a word.
* * *
Xander got home from work one day to find Spike sitting on the couch with the tv off. Usually not a good sign.
"Hey. What's up?"
Spike looked at him and held up a piece of paper. "Luba found me a job."
Xander ran in and plopped down on the couch, excitedly grabbing for the piece of paper. "What is it?" he asked before he'd had a chance to read anything.
"Translator. Some publishing company downtown."
Xander didn't notice Spike's lack of enthusiasm, because he had enough for both of them. "That's amazing! It's perfect for you! When do you start?"
"I don't," Spike replied simply.
Xander just looked at him in confusion.
"I'm going to London. Your friend Giles is going to try to fix me up."
Xander's hands fell limp into his lap, still holding the now-irrelevant paper, and he stared at Spike in disbelief. "You're going to Giles? In England? You ... you want to get your memories back? After everything we talked about?" He was feeling utterly betrayed, even if it didn't make much sense even to him.
Spike explained hesitantly, "Him and his ... 'coven' ... they think they've found a way to make things right..."
"No no no! That's not making things 'right'! Things are 'right' right now! You don't need them to..."
Now there was no hesitation at all. "I'm going, Xander. It's what I want."
Xander slumped at those words. He set the job information paper on the coffee table and let his body sink into the couch. This was what Spike wanted. Not Xander. Not San Francisco. Not this new life he'd been living. He wanted to be the old Spike. He didn't even know who that was, but he would soon enough. Giles wouldn't have told him to come all the way to England if he wasn't sure he knew what he was doing.
He didn't say anything else, and finally Spike got up and left the room.
* * *
Xander was the one who told Frank and Luba. Spike wanted to say goodbye himself, of course, but Xander was the one who told them the bare outlines of the news.
"Spike's going away for a while. He decided he wants to try to get his memories back, and I sort of know this guy in England who might be able to help."
"That's wonderful, Xander!"
"Yeah." Xander didn't sound so excited. "The thing is, though, that knowing Spike's past, I think he's gonna have a rough time. Some of the stuff is going to be pretty traumatic."
Frank reached out a hand to grasp Xander's shoulder supportively. "He's our friend, too, Xander. You know we'll do anything we can to help."
"Just knowing you guys are there will probably help a lot. If he comes back."
Luba frowned, obviously worried for him. "Do you have any reason to think he won't?"
"One-way ticket," Xander replied tightly. "He bought a one-way ticket."
* * *
The apartment seemed to echo with his absence, and three-person movie nights had never seemed so lonely.
* * *
Giles said the process went so smoothly that it seemed almost as if the memories had been only superficially hidden by the original spell, as if they'd actually been intended to be recovered.
Perhaps, he speculated, the shanshu would not have been awarded to a vampire who would choose to shun responsibility for his past sins. Perhaps Spike's decision to recover his own memories -- however painful -- had been foreseen and rewarded.
And now Spike was ready to come back to San Francisco ... and he needed someone to pick him up at the airport.
Just like that.
* * *
The tension in the car was excruciating.
"So ... it worked?"
"Yeah. I remember everything about Sunnydale now ... and the ... rest." Spike was so distant.
Xander panicked inside. Spike remembered Sunnydale. His love for Buffy. Xander being a prick to him for years. Spike remembered now.
"So why'd you come back?"
Hurt flashed across Spike's face, but then was quickly hidden behind a cool mask.
"Didn't particularly have anywhere else to go."
"What about Italy?"
Spike looked confused for a moment, then seemed to figure it out. "Buffy's made a new life for herself. Doesn't need me mucking it up."
Xander nodded, not really understanding. Spike had loved her so much ... why wouldn't he at least try?
Neither of them said anything for a bit. Then Xander said nervously, "So ... no crazy this time?"
Spike ran a hand through his hair. It was still loose and curly, no gel. Just like the new Spike ... except he wasn't anymore. He remembered now, knew who he was, knew what he felt about everyone ... about Xander.
Spike replied slowly, "Worked through that last time, didn't I." It wasn't a question. "Wasn't off my rocker those last few weeks in Sunnydale, or didn't you notice? I'm not gonna say it's easy, but I can manage. Don't have to worry about me going off and murdering the populace."
"That's not what I meant!"
The silence returned. Then Spike said calmly, "Gonna be looking for my own place now."
Xander nodded, a jerky movement that he hoped didn't communicate the pain he felt inside at those words. Spike was leaving. Of course he was leaving. Of course. Why would he want to stay? "Of course," he choked out. "Right." He tried to get a hold of himself. Tried to remember he was supposed to at least be Spike's friend, even if Spike didn't want anything more now. His voice was husky when he continued, "Luba can probably help. That's pretty much her job."
Spike nodded but didn't say anything.
* * *
Sometimes they saw each other at Luba and Frank's apartment, because they'd stayed friends with him. He showed up for movie marathons once in a while. Sometimes for dinner. Frank and Luba always invited Xander, too, but conversation was usually stilted.
Xander didn't know what to say. It made sense, what had happened. Spike didn't know anyone else, and so he'd fallen into a friendship -- and into bed -- with Xander. It was just because he didn't remember. He'd never do that now. Now that he remembered.
"So ... you have a job now?"
"Yeah. That translating gig Luba found for me. Not the same job, but they had another opening."
"Good. That's ... that's good." Xander didn't know what else to say. "Do you like it?"
"It's all right." Spike was looking around, looking for Luba or Frank, probably. He didn't even want to talk to Xander, and it was obvious.
Xander didn't say anything else, just let him be.
* * *
They all went to O'Malley's one night, and somehow Xander and Spike ended up back at the pool table, playing a game. It was probably Luba's fault. She made sad eyes every time she saw them together.
Somehow, Xander ended up asking, "You dating anyone?" He didn't know what possessed him. Perhaps literally. The words just came out of his mouth without his permission. He'd been wondering for weeks, obviously, but he hadn't planned to ask.
Spike gave him an odd look. "What's it to you, Harris?"
Xander decided to just go for it. Clear the air. Let Spike take a few shots at him and maybe things would be less awkward. Okay, so Xander would be humiliated, but what's new. He'd spent most of high school that way. He could do it again. And then maybe they could at least figure out how to be friends again. This silence was killing him.
"Well, we ... you know ... we ... when you were living with me and that one night..."
Spike shrugged casually. "Look. It was just a bit of fun. You saw me at the Boy Toy, figured I'd be up for it. No harm, no foul."
Xander was shocked. That's what Spike thought? "It wasn't like that!"
"Then how was it, Xander?" Spike's head was cocked to one side, his expression rebellious and angry. It was the most emotion he'd shown toward Xander since he got back.
Xander couldn't let him think that, couldn't let him think Xander had used him like that. No wonder Spike didn't want to have any kind of friendship with him, if that's what he thought. It all made sense now, and it was time for some serious honesty if he was going to clear everything up. He knew it was going to make Spike uncomfortable, but uncomfortable was better than this, right?
So Xander took a deep breath and said, "I was in love with you, okay? I know you didn't ... don't feel the same way ... that's why I never said anything. I didn't want to fuck everything up. And now everything's fucked up anyway so it doesn't even matter." He turned away, swallowing heavily around the lump in his throat, waiting for the mockery or the gentle apologies. You thought I'd actually care? or I'm flattered, really. Was this going to be old Spike or new Spike? Or did new Spike even exist anymore?
Spike didn't say anything for a long time, and Xander fought the urge to run away as quickly as he knew how, and that was pretty fast. He had a lot of experience with running away.
Finally, Spike said quietly, "Is that true?" Not what Xander had been expecting. He nodded, still facing away. Spike continued, "When?"
Xander looked down. The floor was dirty. Spilled beer and mud from people's shoes. "I don't know. A long time before ... that night."
"I didn't know," Spike replied. Xander prepared himself for the gentle let-down, since that's where this seemed to be going. But Spike continued, "I would have done everything different."
Xander frowned and turned to look back at Spike over his shoulder before turning around to face him. "What do you mean?"
But Frank came into the room and said he and Luba wanted to leave. It was getting late. Did Xander and Spike want to come over for some hot chocolate before heading home?
Not sure what to say, Xander looked at Spike. Spike nodded, and they all left the bar together, huddling in their coats against the cold. Luba chattered in her usual way, but Spike and Xander didn't say anything. Luba didn't even notice. It was what they'd been doing for weeks now.
* * *
They were back at home and the conversation was awkward again, but not for the same reasons. Xander's mind was racing. What would Spike have done differently? Were they going to finish the conversation, or had Spike nodded because he'd said all he planned to say?
Luba glanced between them as they sipped their hot chocolate. Only minutes after Frank had brought the mugs out, she yawned widely. She covered her mouth and apologized, "I'm so sorry. I'm just really tired." She smiled.
She wasn't usually so rude, but Spike and Xander took the hint and said their goodbyes. They walked down the stairs together.
When they arrived at Xander's door, they looked at each other. Xander was thinking, Is there more to talk about? Do you want to come in? What's going on? But he didn't speak any of it out loud.
Spike frowned slightly, looking at the floor, and then looked up into Xander's eyes. "I thought we could talk ... if you aren't too..."
"No," Xander interrupted. "That would be good. I mean, come in. Of course, come in." And he unlocked the door and held it open for Spike.
Spike walked in slowly and looked around. Nothing had changed. The same couch, the same chair, the same tv in the same place. The guest room door was closed, but inside that was the same, too, except there weren't any sheets on the bed, and Spike's stuff wasn't scattered around.
"It looks the same," Spike said.
"Yeah, well..." Xander didn't know what to say to that. It was the same. Why would Spike expect it to be different? It was just his place. It'd been Spike's place for a while, too. But that seemed like a really long time ago. "You can sit down if you want."
Spike sat on the couch, the same spot where he used to sit when they watched tv. Xander sat beside him in his old spot. Not too close together. Just like always.
Spike looked down at his hands. Xander wanted to ask a thousand questions, but somehow it seemed better to wait until Spike talked on his own.
"I didn't know," Spike repeated softly. He looked up at the blank tv screen. He glanced uncertainly at Xander. "Are you sure?"
"Oh yeah," Xander replied ruefully. "I'm sure."
Spike nodded in a stuttering movement. Xander wasn't sure what that meant. "I would have come back sooner," Spike said quietly, "if I'd known."
Spike nodded again. "Yeah."
Xander frowned in confusion. "What does that mean?"
Spike just watched him for a moment, then said quietly, "Me too."
"You too what?"
"I felt that way, too. But I thought..."
"You thought I was just using you? For sex? What, are you an idiot?" Xander was smiling, though, hardly believing what Spike was saying.
Spike shrugged. "It made sense."
Xander grinned at him now and said, "I thought you ... just because you didn't know anybody else."
"What, are you an idiot?" Spike repeated, a slight smile beginning to appear on his lips.
Xander didn't know what to do next, just staring at Spike in disbelief. If Spike was a girl, he'd probably pull him into a hug, kiss him, hold his hand and squeeze it happily. But they'd never been like that, and he just looked at him helplessly.
The silence stretched again, so unlike the other silences when they'd watched each other in these past horrible weeks. But, a moment later, when he led Xander into the bedroom, Spike took his hand and squeezed it gently.