Buffy needs him.
Buffy needs him for more than sex and broken windows.
Okay so Buffy needs him to play counter jockey at The Magic Box while Willow and Tara work the mojo and she kicks Warren's geek ass and Xander still wants that shower.
The shower he's not gonna get so he kills the afternoon trying not to walk and trying not to feel slick or think lube or be obvious when he stares too long at his reflection in pieces of glass trying to decide if he looks like a guy with lube in him.
By the time sunset rolls around, he mostly thinks he just looks like a guy who looks at his reflection too much.
Who is a guy with no reflection.
Who sneaks up on innocent men in magic shops and scares the crap out of them. Xander sags against the counter pressing a hand to his heart but Spike doesn't make a crack. He just stands there and fidgets. "Sorry."
Xander gives him a disbelieving look.
"All right. Not very sorry."
"What're you doing here?" Xander's voice is too shaky to sound accusatory and it's times like this that call for things like drinks and Xander doesn't think twice before putting two glasses on the counter and filling them up. Spike looks like a guy who needs a drink.
Turns out that's not all he needs. Spike mumbles.
"Said I want something to make me forget her."
And there's too much pain the way Spike says it for Xander to do anything but pour them another round. "I don't."
Which apparently touches a nerve because Spike's still right there but he's pissed and tosses back his shot hard. "Think she'll come crawling back to you, do you? That one never crawls, mate. Only lowered herself to your level to use you to climb back up."
"Yeah. Pretty much figured that out on my own." Because he did. And the whiskey's okay but he's not drinking to forget. "Really not anticipating any crawling."
And one of those things takes the fire out of Spike who holds his glass out for a refill. "I loved her. It was real."
Xander's not sure which of them Spike's trying to convince. He doesn't need to. "I know." Because he loves her too.
There's no cigarettes this time. No floor. Not even that much whiskey or that many words and Xander's not sure how he got here on his back on the table in The Magic Box except for a memory of Spike's voice cracking and a kiss that seemed like a good idea at the time.
It still seems like a good idea and Xander's really glad he never got to lose the lube because Spike's not gentle. Spike's not slow. Spike's need and now and Xander's pretty much on board with that too. He's got fists full of Spike's duster and Spike's name stuck in his throat and he's past caring if it's too intimate for this whatever they've got because it's warm and slick and good under cover of the coat where Xander can wrap his legs around Spike's ribs and hold on and feel the slippery-stretchy in and out and twist that keep him coming back for the big gay more.
He can do this.
This big, gay, breathtaking thing with Spike.
He comes with his tongue down Spike's throat.
And there's something between them when Spike slides out, slides off the table and comes back with a cheap tee shirt Xander knows says Do it with Magick and he can't disagree. He can't even find words when Spike uses it to clean him off and tosses it over his shoulder.
So when Spike holds out a hand to help Xander off the table, Xander takes it.
And when Spike hands Xander his pants, he takes them too and gets them zipped without catching anything important on the first try.
Spike's hovering - like he wants to say something he's not ready to say and Xander gets that too. So when Spike nods at him with something like a smile and turns to go, Xander doesn't hold it against him.
He knows where Spike lives.
Spike's gone when Buffy and Willow get to the Magic Box. Gone but not long gone and Xander's stuffing the stained Do It With Magick shirt deeper into the trash.
He's not hiding.
But he's not ready to figure out what this is in a big public way.
He's not big public way guy.
He's bedrooms and closets guy.
He's a private guy.
"Hey. Buff. Defeat the bad guys with your Slayerly derring-do?"
He's an internet porn star guy.
Xander doesn't mention Spike moved out of the crypt and Buffy and Willow don't stay long and when Tara stops by for a cup of mugwort and three chicken feet, Xander closes up shop early.
He must look bad because she buys him a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream.
He always liked Tara.
"I always liked you."
And when she smiles, it's a smile that knows something. "Th-they'll get used to it."
"Yeah, another ten - thirty - years and it'll all be water under the bridge."
And he's not gonna think about how or what Tara knows. In public. Because he never found his underwear after his early show broadcast with Spike and he's not ready to feel that exposed.
So he accepts. He's accepting guy.
He's also a guy with a night to kill and he's not sure he's ready to kill it with Spike until he's worked through the whole wig of being blown out of the closet by a trio of nerds and the rules he's pretty sure are unspoken about fucking your best friend's ex on the table in her place of employment.
Actually, those rules might be spoken.
By wiser people than him.
Like Tara so he heads her off at the pass and takes a stiff drink of his hot chocolate. "You wanna see a movie?"
"Are you asking m-me on a date?"
And he's pretty sure Tara's laughing at him and mostly sure he's okay with that. "I'll keep my hands to myself."
"M-maybe I won't," Tara says behind her coffee cup and why didn't anyone warn Xander about the danger of flirtatious lesbians?
"I'm warning you. I slap when my dates get fresh." Which is about the biggest lie Xander's told all day.
It feels good.
It feels good and the movie's long and bad and the popcorn's big and good and Tara's graduating in December and taking a student teacher position at Sunnydale High when it opens again in the fall.
And when he stumbles into his apartment at two in the morning, sober and alone, he thinks about getting a bigger bed because Spike sprawls in his sleep and steals the covers.
Xander sleeps through the day and wakes up after dark to Spike on the phone.
"Slayer's been shot."
"I'll be right there," Xander says and hangs up before he knows where there is.
The phone rings again.
"Sunnydale Memorial Hospital," Spike says and hangs up.
It'd feel like love if it wasn't for the sick terror and Xander breaks at least four laws getting to the hospital.
"Xander," Xander says because this is too big and too public for pretending and being the Slayer's no guarantee for a long life.
They know it.
Spike fiddles with a cigarette and glares at the No Smoking sign. "Xander."
Then Xander's picking up the you are a moron look and he gives the conversation a quick review.
Spike shrugs and goes back to wishing death and mayhem on the sign and Xander takes a big step for Xanderkind. A big step in Spike's direction and puts a hand on his shoulder. "What's the latest?"
Spike shrugs again but he doesn't dislodge Xander's hand. "Red mojoed the bullet out. Now all the king's horses and all the king's bloody men are putting the Slayer together again."
And Xander's hand must have slipped somewhere between worry and what the fuck, Spike? because Spike pulls away and slumps in a hard plastic chair.
Xander sits gingerly on the edge of a hard plastic couch across from him and puts his elbows on his knees.
Their fingers are almost touching.
Then they are touching, tangling.
And pretty much saying everything they need to say without the whole awkward conversation thing.
Xander's holding one of Spike's hands between his palms.
Xander doesn't let go. Neither does Spike. "Red."
Spike's hand is warm between Xander's and Xander doesn't let go. "How is she?"
Willow's warm against his side when she leans into him and rests her head on his shoulder. "She made it through."
Xander looks at his fingers where they're locked with Spike's. "Spike?"
"Fragile human fingers in danger of breaking."
And then their fingers are only joined again.
Buffy's staying in the hospital overnight and Willow had a late class so it's only Spike and Xander standing in the hospital lobby watching it rain cats and dogs in the parking lot.
Except not real cats and dogs.
That's too wiggy even for Sunnydale.
But this isn't: "Need a ride?" Xander's got his hand on Spike's shoulder again. It feels good there and he doesn't really want to move it.
"Don't need anything from you lot."
Which is good enough for Xander. "No point in both of us getting wet. Stay here and I'll get the car."
And while Spike doesn't need anything, he takes the offered ride home without complaining.
"Smells like week old pizza in here."
"That's courtesy of the pizza I took home a week ago."
Spike rolls down his window and by the time Xander pulls up in front of Spike's room at the motel, the back seat's soaked.
The wet t-shirt look does a lot for him.
"Got towels," Spike says which is pretty much the lamest invitation Xander's ever heard in a history filled with lots of lame invitations.
But getting dry has an appeal.
And when Spike turns on the shower and drops his wet shirt on the floor with a plop and turns back to Xander with his belt undone and a hand on his jeans button and jerks his head toward the tub, Xander decides getting wet is pretty appealing too.
When there's a knock on the door, Xander peels himself off the pillows, pulls on a pair of boxers and stumbles off to answer it.
He doesn't bang his shin on anything.
It's an omen.
"Buffy?" Because it is Buffy and Xander's squinting into the sun and blocking the door with his body because this is Spike's hotel room and it smells kinda funky and Spike's asleep in bed - or not asleep in bed but he's not moving.
She's got an arm wrapped around her and he's pretty sure her slayer senses are tingling.
They're not fooling anyone.
And the room smells like sex.
So does Xander.
The silence? Is awkward.
He puts on the suave. "So! Buff. What brings you to our humble abode this morning?"
The silence is no longer awkward.
And Xander's not sure which part of that wigged Buffy the most but she's not silent anymore. "It's after noon," she finally says.
Xander was never good at the suave thing. "Come in while I find some pants."
The Spike-sized lump under the covers is really still and Buffy comes in and Xander finds some pants because he's pretty sure Buffy wasn't looking for him here in Spike's hotel room.
He's surprisingly okay with the idea.
Also surprisingly wrong.
"Tara said you might be here. You weren't - um -" She makes a gesture that doesn't mean anything but also means you weren't home which Xander pretty much gets because there aren't too many ways to finish that sentence.
And she doesn't complain when he guides her to a chair and helps her into it. "Here I am. How's the wound?"
"The what?" Like she forgot about it and he can't blame her - she's had a lot on her mind.
He gets that.
He has too.
It's something in the Sunnydale air.
It's also more than they've said to each other in weeks.
It's surprisingly easy.
It'll be easier when he's wearing pants.
He grabs them off the back of the chair and touches her shoulder above the bandage.
Buffy covers his hand with one of hers. "It's not bad. Super Slayer healing comes with the super Slayer strength. Package deal."
"Healing - healing is of the good." Xander sits on the edge of the bed and pulls on his socks but the whole pants plan is arrested, handcuffed and read its rights when Spike rolls over and wraps an arm around his waist. Not asleep. Undead faker.
But the arm's solid and possessive and Xander kinda likes it so he sits there looking stupid in boxer shorts and athletic socks because it's not like both of them haven't seen him look stupid before - or gasping and grimacing his way through sex.
Which is a thought he should save for a time when he's got more protection than a pair of cotton boxers.
He nudges Spike's arm down over his lap and aims for casual.
Spike's fingers aim for the hem of Xander's boxers.
Xander spreads his hands in a helpless what's a guy to do? gesture and feels like a heel when Buffy tears up because there's healing and then there's healing and there's kinds of healing super Slayer strength doesn't do jack for.
And then he's got his arms full of Buffy and a vampire coiled around his waist and Spike's petting Buffy's hip around him and Xander remembers Buffy didn't let Spike hold her like this and it shows on Spike's face now mostly shoved into Xander's pillow but not far enough.
Buffy cries and none of them move.
"I'm sorry," Xander and Buffy say at the same time.
Spike snorts and drops his hand back around Xander's hip like it'd never left but it feels like healing happened.
Then Buffy's back in the chair and the whole thing has a weird that did not just happen feeling to it except it did and Buffy's wiping at her eyes. "Are we okay, Xand?"
He feels like he should be the one asking that question, not answering it. "We're okay. Are you okay?" Because the question's critical - also different.
"I'm okay." Buffy's looking at his lap where he's got his hands wrapped around Spike's arm. "I'm okay," she says again and then: "I'll let myself out."
And he lets her because Spike's not letting go and when the door closes behind Buffy it's just him and Spike.
So it seems natural, when Spike's two weeks in the hotel room are up, to pack Spike and his stuff into his car and drive it all back to his apartment.
Spike's looking into the walk-in closet and the spare bed with a look on his face Xander's feeling too good to leave there. "Bedroom's this way."
"I'm not some stray to pick up off the street, Harris," Spike says but he doesn't dig in his heels or pull away or even shake off the hand Xander's got on his back.
Spike only leaves it behind when he walks into the room and picks up Xander's twelve inch Chewbacca from the ledge around his bed and waves it at him. "Dolls, Harris? What are you - twelve?"
Xander notices he doesn't mention the toy cars.
And Xander doesn't mention the half-empty closet that's been standing half empty since Anya left or the way his mattress still smells like the plastic wrap and the room smells kinda like his two week-old laundry or the way Spike looks pretty good in the middle of his bed, legs sprawled out and his hands behind his head.
"Nice," Spike says even though he doesn't need to. The mattress in the motel was a step down from summer camp and Xander and Spike put it through its paces.
He's kinda looking forward to putting this one through its paces with Spike too.
Xander's quiet except he can hear his breathing.
Because this is different. This is the big different.
The lights on, window cracked open, in Xander's home and on Xander's bed different.
Spike pushes himself up on his elbows and slides his legs to the side of the bed. "Listen - I've got a mate at Peaceful Lawns who won't mind if I kip on his sofa for a - "
"No." Xander grabs an ankle.
He's got a knee on the bed.
And the look Spike's giving him isn't what the fuck? or fuck off. It's something a lot softer and with a lot more tender places to kick.
Xander pushes. "You're gonna turn down Sealy Posturepedic - the mattress made for sleep?"
Spike looks at him like he's an idiot.
Then falls back.
Because maybe he's an idiot who's got skills.
Spike wriggles up the mattress until Xander's on his knees between Spike's legs, being watched and fumbling open a belt that might be as old as he is and popping the buttons on jeans that're way too new and skinning his knuckles. He spreads his hands over the denim and he can see Spike's cock, soft and pale between the flies. "Stay," he tells it and means Spike.
"I'm not a sodding dog." Spike's hand is rough and gentle on the back of Xander's neck and Xander pretty much goes with it wherever its headed.
Whenever it gets there.
Even if it gets there at three in the morning while Xander's sticky and aching, tired and flaky and fumbling for Spike who's sitting up in bed like a Jack in the box, staring into space like he's seen a -
Like he's seen something a lot scarier than a ghost because there's no way a ghost could wig Spike like that and Xander's still too close to asleep to come up with something witty.
So when Spike says fucking hell in a voice that shakes, it seems like a really good idea to pull his head out of the pillow and turn on a light. Sit up and wrap his arms around one shaking vampire and he's not surprised when Spike wraps his arms around Xander's and shivers. "Bad dream?"
Spike shakes his head and if he's a lousy liar, Xander wants to go back to sleep too badly to call him on it.
He wrestles Spike into a spoon.
It calls back at three fifteen in the morning.
"I'm sodding well falling in love with you," it says via Spike and rumbles through Xander's chest.
Xander - form of spoon - huffs warm breath against the back of Spike's neck..
Wraps warm feet around cold feet.
Says "I can work with that," and goes back to sleep.