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Part Eight

Stalking Spike was fun. Stalking might have been too strong a word for what really amounted to Xander making a nuisance of himself as he tried to figure out if Willow was right about Spike and him, but calling it stalking made Xander feel a little more tough and dangerous and slightly less pathetic, so stalking it was. Xander was very good at the spy business; this was clearly the case since nobody had clued into what he was doing, a fact that made him want to tap his fingertips together and utter a Mr. Burns-ish ‘excellent’. The soldier memories he maintained from that one Halloween were proving useful in his covert operations, though he occasionally wished that he’d channelled James Bond as well, simply for the added coolness factor. It was as he was practicing a Bond-esque karate chop, that he accidentally bumped his hand against a box full of empty jars, causing a soft rattling noise.

Plastering himself flat against the wall, Xander silently counted to five before once again peeking around the corner, and observing his target. Spike hadn’t so much as batted an eyelash at the sudden sound. Still, that one had been close: Spike had very nearly caught him, and that simply wouldn’t do until Xander had found out everything he wanted. He had to be sure that Spike wouldn’t laugh in his face at the very suggestion of a relationship. Rejection of that magnitude could kill a man, especially when that man was Xander who already had more than his full share of insecurities.

Ever since his illuminating conversation with Willow, Xander had been doing his best to be ‘open’, but he still wasn’t entirely convinced that what Willow claimed had any merit. This was partially because Xander was still having difficulty believing Spike would ever want to have anything to do with him (thanks to those pesky feelings of low self-worth again), and also because as sneaky as Xander knew he was being, he was finding it very hard to figure out anything about Spike he didn’t already know.

Spike finally located the container he had been sent down to the storeroom to retrieve, and turned to make his way back upstairs. Xander quietly slipped behind one of the many shelves, and waited a few moments for Spike to pass him by. Grinning at his own cleverness, Xander got an excellent viewing of Spike’s jean covered bottom as the oblivious vampire took his time mounting the stairs. It was a very nice ass, Xander confirmed, and he mentally patted himself on the back for accepting the observation for what it was, instead of burying it deep in his brain in the section labelled denial. (This overburdened area housed many of Xander’s thoughts regarding Spike, such as the time when Spike had been naked next to him, clearly trying to give Xander a heart-attack, the few times he’d let Spike drink his blood, and all the instances where Spike had been there for him, cuddling in bed and on the couch with him).

Once Xander had given himself permission to ogle members of his own sex, he had quickly passed from ‘curiosity’ and moved on to ‘genuine interest’. Though, keeping with the whole honesty pact he had made with himself, he would also have to admit that most of his interest was focussed on one select individual. An individual who had at last reached the top of the stairs, and Xander could stop watching the exaggerated swing of slim hips, and get his thoughts back into some kind of coherency.

Another thing Xander had tried to see for himself was if Spike really was giving him longing looks. He had yet to catch one, and he was getting a little frustrated by his lack of success. After all, when Spike had started falling for Buffy, there hadn’t been much subterfuge. Even Xander, who was usually the last to realize those types of things, had been able to observe the tension whenever Buffy and Spike were in the same room. He wished Spike would give him even just one signal that was so clear.

Spike hummed happily as he handed Willow the jar she needed to finish her spell.

“ Did you have trouble finding it?” Willow asked, not looking up as she added the final ingredient to her potion.

“ Nope,” Spike replied, without volunteering any explanation for why it had taken him as long as it had or why he had taken his sweet time climbing the stairs. Smiling to himself, he slipped back into his chair and marvelled at how charmingly guileless Xander could be. Hadn’t he even thought to question why a healthy vampire in his prime needed a full two minutes to go up one short flight of stairs? Spike just barely managed to keep from rubbing his palms together with glee, thinking that finally things were started to develop between himself and Xander. He was willing to bet that Xander hadn’t even blinked the whole time he’d been in the storage room.

Spike couldn’t be sure exactly when Xander’s attitude towards him had shifted, but it had been sudden enough that he suspected one of Xander’s friends of giving him a little push. That person could only have been Willow, and Spike reminded himself to do something nice for her in the very near future, to thank her for all the highly gratifying attention he was getting. The way that Xander peered around the sides of his books during research meetings, how Xander would feign sleep in front of the television and then stare at Spike from under his eyelashes, when he looked up with a smile every time Spike entered the room, and how he would come looking for him if ever Spike was gone for too long; all of it made Spike practically want to bounce in his chair. Just being around Xander lately was a rush. It was particularly endearing knowing that Xander thought his actions were going unnoticed.

“ Where did you come from?” Spike asked when Xander joined them again. He still enjoyed making Xander squirm, and it was fun watching Xander come up with excuses for his odd behaviour relating to Spike.

Xander felt his face flush, trying to find an answer that didn’t include ‘checking out your ass’, and failing. He shrugged and mumbled something that nobody caught. He was fortunate that it was at this point that Tara, Dawn, and Buffy decided to enter the shop. Dawn had Jesse in the snuggly, and didn’t seem to mind that the baby was pulling fiercely on her long hair.

“ Xander, how do you manage to get anything done when you have Jesse with you?” Dawn asked, placing her hands on her hips.

Xander stood up, looking concerned. “ Why? Was he fussy? That’s not normal.”

“ No, he was as perfect as ever. Though maybe if he had been wailing like any self-respecting half-demon child, then all those people wouldn’t have mobbed us at every turn. You know, there was a time when everyone thought I was special too – okay, so they were people who’d had their brains sucked out but still, at least I got some recognition, you know? Now it’s all ‘look at the cute baby’. Anyway, if what they say about guys with babies is true, then you must be one major chick-magnet. And I don’t mean one of those dinky fridge magnets shaped like fruit; I’m talking the cartoon big, sucking the Earth out of orbit, sort of magnet.”

Xander grinned. “ Ah yes, you have been witness to the greatest force on Earth – adorable baby power. It sucks in all kinds of people like a vortex, and then makes them talk in really silly voices and dance about like they have lost all motor control.”

“ And who’s the cutest, sweetest, little baby in the whole wide world? Who is it? Yes! It is you! Such a smart little Munchie, aren’t you?”

All eyes turned to look at Spike, who was pulling faces and waggling his fingers at a grinning, gurgling Jesse. Buffy was the first to burst into laughter, and then everyone was sharing in it too, even Xander who had seen Spike do this a hundred times before. He could even sympathize – the urge to use baby talk was often over-whelming. Still, it was pretty damned funny.

The giggles continued, until Xander came to the affronted vampire’s rescue for reasons he hoped nobody understood. “ Okay, okay. I think we’ve laughed at Spike enough for one night.”

“ Says who? Come on, I’ve got so many comments, I might explode if I don’t use them,” Buffy wheedled.

Despite Buffy’s pleadings, the subject was dropped (temporarily, at least), and they settled into one of their typical nights. Buffy had seen a demon while on patrol the previous evening, and the books were handed out for them to try and identify it.

The hours of research passed easily thanks to frequent breaks for coffee, snacks, and idle chatter. Xander glanced at his watch, and couldn’t quite hide his disappointment that the pleasant evening was, for him at any rate, drawing to a close. Time he got his stuff together and went home to put Jesse to bed. Then it was off to work in the morning, and he likely wouldn’t see his friends for another week. It was a good thing Spike kept in regular contact with everyone due to shared patrols; otherwise Xander would feel completely out of the loop.

Seeing Xander stand up, Spike got to his feet as well to walk him and Jesse home. Xander was mildly surprised when Dawn and Tara volunteered to go with them, but he didn’t think much of it as he said goodbye to the others. The walk was uneventful, and they soon arrived, and Dawn asked if she could have a tour of Xander’s place. With a shrug, Xander invited the girls upstairs.

“ He has three bottles made up already, which is three more than he should need since he’s already fed, but you know, just in case he wakes up hungry. Nappies and such are in the box under the cradle, clean jammies are in the top drawer of the dresser there. And don’t go snooping in the rest of the dresser, either. I’m looking at you little Bit,” Spike explained quickly as he competently got Jesse out of the snuggly and into his crib without waking the infant.

“ Why, what’s in the dresser Spike?” Dawn teased with a sly grin.

“ Never you mind, that’s what,” Spike said mock sternly. “ Think you both can handle this? Any other concerns?”

“ We’ll be fine,” Tara said convincingly. “ If all else fails, I have Willow’s cell phone number, and she promised she’d take it with her. You guys have fun.”

Xander finally seemed to notice that something outside the norm was happening. “ Wait a minute, why are Dawn and Tara getting babysitting tips?”

“ Glenda and the Bit are looking after little Munchie, so as you and I can get in a little duel and dust. Come on, best not to let her Buffiness wait overlong – she’s liable to go off on her own, and I’m not missing out on the action just because you feel like dawdling.”

“ Oh, I get that part, and you know I really appreciate the babysitting offer, but I’m not sure I should…”

Spike made an exasperated sound as he interrupted Xander’s feeble protests. “ Oh bloody hell, don’t start. It’s simple: a change of scenery to keep you from going off your rocker.”

“ Go on, Xander. Dawn and I have everything under control, and I know Willow was really looking forward to going out with you tonight,” Tara encouraged.

Ooh, Tara didn’t play fair. Already Xander could envision Willow’s pout if he failed to turn up tonight. And it did sound tempting; a night out with just his friends, imagine that. He loved his son more than anything, but he supposed that didn’t necessarily mean he couldn’t have some kind-of life outside of parenthood.

“ Just a few hours, Harris, and I promise I won’t let anything nasty gobble you up.” Spike paused a moment to consider the phrasing of that sentence, before gamely pressing on. “ Can you honestly say the thought of wreaking a little carnage doesn’t get your heart pumping?”

“ Not so keen on the spilling of blood and guts, Spike, as you are. But… Maybe a little patrolling wouldn’t be so bad.”

“ Yeah! Go kick some of that creepy vampire butt!” Dawn enthused.

“ Hey, undead individual in the room, you know,” Spike retorted.

“ Oh, I didn’t forget,” Dawn said, a little too innocently.

Making up his mind, Xander repeated the instructions Spike had already given Tara and Dawn, and rooted around in the closet for some weapons. He checked on Jesse one final time, and then with a grin he followed the swirl of Spike’s duster out of his apartment.

They met up with Buffy and Willow, and the foursome headed off into the night for a routine patrol. Buffy and Spike were on the alert, often times going on ahead before circling back, never letting Willow and Xander get too far out of their respective sights. Xander and Willow, of course, whispered back and forth and made snide comments about their protectors.

It was a quiet night and the air was unusually crisp and cool. Xander felt much of his tension fading away as he walked, feeling the familiar weight of a stake in his hand, and Willow at his side. He had made the right decision in going out, and he felt giddy right down to his toes.

Spike let out an enthusiastic yell, as he found evidence of a vampire nest being in the vicinity. Buffy was the one who actually uncovered it, but she generously shared the dusting of demons with Spike. Willow and Xander stood on the periphery, watching as the two supernatural beings did what they had been made to do. Xander had always enjoyed watching Buffy fight, but this was the first time he’d ever really watched Spike, and he found it quite… distracting.

“ If you’re trying to maintain the whole denial thing, you might want to watch the drool there Xan,” Willow said with a laugh, elbowing Xander lightly in the stomach.

“ If you must know, I happen to have over-reactive salivary glands; a rare condition that I’m rather sensitive about, so I’ll thank you not to make mention of it,” Xander said haughtily, while he wiped at the corner of his mouth with his sleeve.

“ Sure, sure, spontaneous surplus spit. I believe that.”

A couple of vampires, already rather roughed up, managed to escape the clutches of both Buffy and Spike, and practically ran into Xander and Willow. Xander ducked the slow punch that was aimed at him, and twisted around to plunge his stake into the vampires back. The vampire exploded into dust, and Xander turned to help Willow. A little manoeuvring from the pair of them, and soon there was a second pile of dust on the ground. Willow had a shallow cut on her arm, and Xander had a scratch to his cheek, but that was the extent of their injuries. They grinned at each other, sharing in the sense of satisfaction they got whenever they proved themselves useful.

“ That’s it? Come on you bunch of poufs, aren’t you going to even try? I’ll let you take the first swing, really, take your best shot,” Spike bellowed. The last vampire turned tail and ran. Spike shook his head with obvious dismay: “ That’s just pathetic, that is.”

Despite his tone, Spike had clearly relished the little squirmish, and was practically vibrating with energy and excitement as he bounded alongside Xander. Buffy was pink-cheeked and flushed, having enjoyed the altercation almost as much as Spike. Nothing like a little slayage to start an evening off right.

“ We Bronze bound? Little music, little dancing, lot of drinks?” Buffy suggested.

“ Ooh, I’m very much in. Xander? You coming?”

Xander glanced at his watch, thought of Jesse who was likely still asleep, and decided that he was unlikely to have been missed yet. He looked at Spike, to see what he wanted to do.

“ A beer sounds good. You’re buying,” Spike said. It was not phrased as a question, but Xander just laughed.

“ Okay, we got us a plan.”

They went to the Bronze, and Xander bought a round for everyone. He was dragged out onto the dance floor by both Willow and Buffy, where he moved about to the beat in the best approximation of dancing that he was capable of. Spike jeered and mocked from the sidelines, but Xander continued to smile broadly. By this point, he was in too high of spirits to be fazed by anything. Eventually, he begged the girls to be allowed to go back to the table, and after getting himself through the crowd; he sank down gratefully in his chair.

“ Hello beer, how I’ve missed you my tall, non-judgemental, foamy friend,” Xander said to his mug. Despite his passionate words, Xander only took a small sip, preferring to nurse his one beer throughout the night. He was never going to run the risk of turning into his father.

The evening eventually came to a close, as they all begrudgingly remembered things they needed to get done the next day. Buffy and Willow collected Dawn and Tara from Xander’s apartment, and they all said their final goodbyes, swearing they would try this again soon.

After checking that Jesse was fine, Xander headed into the bathroom to change his smoke-smelling clothes, for boxers and a t-shirt. Spike was sitting on the couch with a mug of blood, watching late night television, when Xander was finished. Feeling too keyed up for sleep, Xander sat down next to Spike, placing his hand comfortably on Spike’s thigh. It was a gesture reserved for people Xander felt at ease with, and Spike revelled in the contact.

“ Spike? I wanted to say thanks. Thanks for making me go out; I had a really good time.”

“ Me too, luv,” Spike replied easily, the term of endearment just slipping out. Spike felt Xander’s hand tighten briefly on his thigh, and didn’t regret his loose tongue.

They were watching ‘I Love Lucy’, an episode that Xander himself had probably seen a dozen times or more, when it suddenly occurred to him that Spike had not only seen it more times, but that he might have seen it when it was still new. It struck him as being so very odd that someone could watch Lucy, and not know what was going to happen next.

“ Did you watch this when it first came out?” Xander asked. “ Like, do you remember when you saw it for the first time?”

Spike shrugged. “ Don’t know, suppose I probably did, but you tend to forget things like that.”

“ Well, I guess that’s understandable. But what about the big stuff? Do you remember when you first saw a regular movie? Or, umm, used a microwave? Damn, maybe I should have paid attention in history class instead of working on my Pacman score.”

Spike looked contemplative for a moment, and took another sip from his mug. “ A lot of that junk happens more gradual than you think. It sort-of sneaks up on you, until it just seems like it’s always been there.”

“ Really? But you’re like a hundred and some. You’ve seen so much stuff,” Xander exclaimed.

“ Yeah, so have you. Tell me: what was your first e-mail?”

“ It was…” And Xander couldn’t for the life of him remember. He grinned at Spike’s knowing expression. “ Okay, made your point. Still, I think it’s neat.”

They returned to watching Lucy’s antics, and Xander still chuckled in the right places, even if the jokes were old.

“ Never did like telly much at first,” Spike offered during the next commercial break. “ Now, it’s got colour and special effects. Lets me see things like daylight and whatnot, and it looks more realistic. But when telly was new? Nah, I preferred the radio. Now this Lucy chit, she was on that show… Blast, what was it called? ‘My Favourite Husband’, yeah that was it. The Coopers. I remember thinking when I first saw her on telly that she was nothing like I’d imagined her to be. Not bad, you understand? Just different. That’s the thing with radio; the pictures are all in your head.”

“ Uh huh, whatever you say Grandpa. Just for the record, those pictures in your head? They don’t have accompanying voices, do they? ‘Cause I’ll have to confiscate your lighter if they do,” Xander teased glibly.

“ Oh, sod off,” Spike said, kicking Xander’s calf lightly with his socked foot. “ Here I am, sharing a fond memory from my past, and you mock. I liked those radio shows; the detective dramas and the sci-fi ones were my favourites. I used to sit in the dark, a few candles lit maybe, some tobacco, a glass of wine - mulled wine if the temperature warranted it - and I’d just listen, and in my head I could see it all like it was really happening. Yeah, that was alright.”

Spike’s tone of voice had changed; his eyes were unfocused and there was a soft smile on his face. Xander stayed quiet, content to leave Spike to his reminisces. Besides, Xander had just gotten an idea.

Due to Xander’s busy schedule, it was a few weeks before he could put his plan into action. During that time, the weather had become unduly cold, and Willow was certain that there was some mystical force upsetting the natural order of things. The Scoobies were spending a lot of their time trying to pinpoint the source of the magical disturbance, which delayed Xander’s plans still further. Eventually, however, he got all the necessary elements gathered together, and chose a night to spring the surprise on Spike. It was to be a sort-of thank you for all the things Spike was doing to help out. At least, that was what he was telling himself. Nope, no ulterior motives here, Xander thought, knowing he was failing to convince himself when his ears started to turn pink.

Jesse was in his crib, fed and fast asleep. Spike was out with Buffy on patrol, and would be home in a few hours. Xander went to the closet and pulled out a plastic shopping bag, cleverly hidden underneath a pile of laundry. Spike had never really gotten over his clothes washing mishap while sharing the basement with Xander, and consequently steered clear of all things laundry. Xander thought it was cute.

Well aware that he was wearing the dopey, dreamy expression of the hopelessly besotted, Xander brought his supplies out into the room, and dumped them onto the couch. Four new thick white pillar candles; a bottle of wine that Giles had helped him pick out, with directions on how to mull it correctly; matches; and a tablecloth from the dollar store. Maybe he was getting a little too intimate with his feminine side; if there had been roses and a box of chocolates, he’d have created the most over-done seduction scene in history. Not that he was planning on doing any kind of seducing, he reminded himself. This was a just a friendly little thank you. With alcohol. And dim lighting. And this wasn’t helping.

Resolutely, Xander went into the kitchen, where he hoped to God he wasn’t ruining a perfectly good bottle of wine. Judging by the smells that were soon permeating the apartment however, he was reasonably confident that he’d followed Giles’s recipe correctly. Xander got out the wine glasses from his cupboard and washed them, not knowing when the last time was that he’d used them. Next he set about cleaning the apartment, putting away the various items that cluttered the floor and countertops. When everything was as clean as he could get it, he pushed the TV to the side, and shoved together a few wooden crates in front of the couch, and draped the tablecloth over them. On top of the makeshift table went the wine glasses, and the all-important radio.

Xander plugged in the radio, and just as he was making sure that he’d found the right station, Spike pushed open the apartment door, a rush of cold air entering with him.

“ It’s bloody freezing out there. My knackers were damn near sucked back in it was so cold; it was like I never hit puberty,” Spike moaned, as he stripped off his duster and rubbed at his arms.

Xander’s perverted mind created its own sentence out of Spike’s words, and even though Xander was quite sure that Spike hadn’t really said ‘suck my cold knackers’, it was enough to make Xander’s face heat-up. Really, talk about selective hearing.

“ Umm, yeah, cold. Cold weather, yes sirree. I sat around wrapped in a blanket most of the day. Willow seems to think we’re close though. I mean, that we’re close to finding whoever’s making things so chilly, and not that Willow thinks you and I are close. Even if we are. Close, I mean, the way friends are. Feel free to stop me anytime here, by the way,” Xander burbled, feeling his blush spread to his entire body.

“ I know better than to try and stop you lot when you’re mid-babble. So, going to tell me what smells so good?”

“ Oh!” Xander exclaimed, feeling his mind return to him as he recalled his preparations. “ Right, I have a little surprise for you. You know, as a thank you for… Well, just because, okay? Now, sit down on the couch.”

Spike did as he was asked, curious as to what Xander had planned. He was soon handed a glass of wine, rich with spices and pleasantly warm.

“ Aren’t you just full of surprises tonight?” Spike asked rhetorically. He took an experimental sip, and gave a sigh of satisfaction as the heady mixture warmed him from the inside out. A flare of a match caught Spike’s attention, and he watched as Xander lit four candles that had been set strategically around the room. Xander checked the time and then clicked off the main light, leaving the room bathed in soft flickering candlelight.

“ I, umm, checked on the internet? Yeah and, uh, well some radio stations play those old shows you used to listen to. So I thought, maybe, it might be fun for you to hear them again, you know?” Xander suggested awkwardly. Now that the moment had come, he wasn’t so sure if his idea was a good one. It was possible Spike would think the whole set up was lame, or maybe Xander hadn’t properly understood Spike’s offhand descriptions, and he’d messed up somewhere. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d misconstrued something and made a fool out of himself in the process.

Unheeding of Xander’s sudden bout of insecurity, Spike reached out for the radio set in front of him and turned it on. There were some commercials, and much as he didn’t want to disappoint Xander, he didn’t think Xander was right about there being anything worth listening to. And then, the announcer introduced ‘those old radio shows’, and Spike heard the opening credits to ‘Box Thirteen’, a detective/thriller show he hadn’t heard in maybe fifty years. It was so familiar; they’d even kept in the old advertisements and Spike stared at the little black radio in his hand with something close to wonder.

“ Is this a good one?” Xander eventually ventured. He was unnerved a little to see Spike sitting so still, so content to do something that was neither violent nor physical.

Spike looked up at Xander, taking note of the way Xander was slouching and shifting his weight from foot to foot. Didn’t take a genius to realize Xander required reassurance that he’d done a good thing.

“ Used to love this show. Listened to it every week, if I could.”

“ So, you’re okay?” Xander said, obvious relief in his voice.

“ Got me a show, a nice glass of wine…” Spike trailed off as the radio show captured his attention. Xander shuffled into the kitchen area where he cleaned up the small mess he’d made, and tried to give Spike some privacy (never easy in their tiny apartment).

Leaning back into a corner of the couch, one leg on the floor, the other bent at the knee and resting against the couch cushions, Spike kept half his attention on the episode playing, while the rest of his thoughts concerned themselves with memories. With the candles and the absence of all things high-tech and noisy, time had never seemed so flexible. To think that the last time he’d heard this show, he’d been a not-so-very-old vampire, still pestered with a vague sense of unease at being transplanted into a foreign land, and into a foreign mindset. He would have been chip-less, obviously, violent, and preoccupied with immediate gratification and Druscilla would have been with him. She most likely would have been lost in her own world, and keeping to herself, much as Xander was doing now. Xander: who hadn’t even existed back then.

Spike felt himself smile, the momentary melancholy caused by remembering things passed eclipsed instantly with thoughts of the present. He could accept that he was no longer the person he had been; he felt no need to recreate the past and wallow in what he had lost. Better to make some new memories.

There was nothing left to occupy Xander, and he was considering taking a bath. He wanted to join Spike on the couch, but he wasn’t about to intrude until Spike showed some sign that his presence would be welcome.

“ Know what? Something’s missing here,” Spike called out.

“ Oops, sorry,” Xander replied with some disappointment. He had hoped that he’d gotten everything just right.

Spike watched the emotions flit by on Xander’s overly expressive face. “ Uh huh, I’m still freezing over here. And you’re making too much noise, what with all your twitching. So how’s about you go get us a blanket and then get yourself over here? Going to try and inject a little civility into your head.”

Xander’s answering smile was so deep and genuine, that Spike felt it like a physical blow. There was no use pretending (if he ever had) that this was nothing more than an infatuation. Spike cared about Xander in a way that he had cared for few people in his whole life and un-life. He craved that smile of Xander’s; the one that said that this feeling was mutual, and strong, and real. Spike wanted to be the cause of that smile, and the sole person on whom it was bestowed. He wanted.

Xander knew his heart was pounding, and he was aware that Spike, if he couldn’t already, would soon hear the beat as well. He felt nervous for no reason that he could discern; this was Spike – he didn’t get nervous around Spike, did he? Except, something important was happening, as ephemeral as the air he was breathing in small shallow breaths, and Xander was scared he was going to ruin it. Moments like these didn’t happen to people like Xander.

Gathering the warm quilt from off the bed, Xander sat down next to Spike on the couch, leaving an arm’s length of space between their bodies. To Xander’s consternation, his fingers were trembling as he spread the blanket over the both of them. So close, so far. Courage swelling and ebbing in a continuous cycle that Xander couldn’t control. Praying hard to Gods he’d never really believed in that he wasn’t reading the situation wrong. Praying that he wouldn’t wreck things beyond the fixing. Because Xander wanted this… this thing, whatever it was, that was making him feel safe and special and scared all at the same time. He wanted.

A cool hand on his shoulder, and Xander looked up, and fell into Spike’s gaze so quickly it was almost like vertigo. For a second, Xander forgot to breathe, until air spilled out of him, burning with urgency.

“ Won’t be able to hear over there, Xan,” Spike said carefully.

“ Oh no, I can hear just fine. Really, good hearing runs in the family, which probably explains why we drink, because hey, who wants to listen to all the crap we say on a daily basis? And yes, I realize now that this has nothing to do with any audible ability. Audible ability, try saying that three times fast.”

“ Maybe later. Bloody hell Xander, do I have to drag you over here?”

Xander was blushing heavily, and he felt slightly nauseous, but he gamely lifted his gaze, and said directly to Spike: “ Would you?”

For answer, Spike wrapped his arms around Xander’s waist and easily pulled them into position. “ See? It’s just like when we sleep. We fit together.”

And fit together they did. Xander was mostly lying on his side in the V caused by Spike’s legs, with one arm behind Spike’s back, and the other laying across Spike’s torso. His flushed face was tucked beneath Spike’s chin, and soon there were agile fingers carding through his dark hair, starting with the long strands on his forehead and brushing back to the soft curling tendrils at the nape of his neck, and repeating the path with hypnotic tenderness. With one deep breath, Xander let go of his nervousness, and relaxed completely against Spike’s cool body.

“ Warm enough now?” Xander asked quietly.

“ Just perfect, luv,” Spike responded seriously.

A new show started on the radio, and it was another one that Spike was familiar with. They settled in to listen, with Spike from time to time, and in muted tones, interjecting a few comments.

To Xander, it was a whole new experience. He liked the show, and could understand why someone would occasionally long for the simplicity of radio over the brashness of television, but more enjoyable still were Spike’s whispered comments and the cool hands that never ceased touching him. He had never felt so important; so integral to someone else’s contentment.

Spike smelled of leather, earth, and baby powder. Every time Xander breathed it in, he wanted to laugh at the sheer ‘rightness’ of it all. God, how could he have ever been confused about this? Held as he was in Spike’s arms, everything seemed so obvious.

Arousal started to kindle within Xander: slowly, cautiously, yet inexorably. A different sort of arousal than Xander was accustomed to because this wasn’t about wanting someone now, it was about wanting someone forever. One night of passion couldn’t satisfy this pleasant ache that suffused his being; every encounter would only cause the feeling to grow. Xander was tingling, his skin responsive and tensing to every slight pressure; his body lusted for a physical connection, but even stronger then that, was an overriding demand for a complete bond. Which explained how Xander could desire Spike more than he had ever desired anyone else, and yet still be only half-hard. This was a fire meant to burn a good long time.

“ Spike?” Xander wanted to ask when this had all happened, and when Spike’s feelings towards him had changed. He needed to know what they were going to tell his friends, and where they were headed. He had a thousand questions and concerns, yet when he opened his mouth to speak, there was really only one thing he had to know. “ When this show is over, are you going to kiss me?”

For the tiniest fraction of a second, Spike’s hands stilled as he considered the question; they soon resumed their petting, this time with a barely discernible tremble.

“ Was thinking I might,” Spike replied finally.

“ Yeah?”

“ Been thinking about it for quite a long time now. Wondering if I did if I’d get another lamp dropped on my head.”

Xander smiled. “ No lamps, I swear. And not just because I’d have to get up from my very comfy position to go and get it. I want it this time.”

“ In that case…” Spike reached over and snapped the radio off.

“ Um, Spike? I don’t think the show was finished yet.”

“ Over now though, yeah?”

“ Good point,” Xander managed to say, just before an eager yet soft, cool kiss was pressed to his mouth. They pulled apart almost immediately, gauging each other’s reactions. Then, by unspoken agreement, their lips met again, hungrier this time for having been teased with just a taste before.

Mouths opened quickly, desperately, and tongues tasted, while minds struggled madly to convert every impression, however fleeting, into detailed memory. The kiss was at times slow and deep, at other times it was like they were trying to outrun the inevitability of having to part, if only so that Xander could breathe. Their teeth clacked and bit, bruises formed on lips that were already swollen and red, and still they continued, chasing that last bit of sensation, that last little thrill.

Spike had Xander’s hair clenched in one fist, while his other hand was under Xander’s shirt, laid flat against the small of Xander’s back. The heat, that glorious heat that had so gracefully removed all the cold that had seeped into Spike’s body from the outdoors, was now at a boiling pitch, scorching the palms of his hands, singeing his tongue. Even Spike’s face burned where Xander’s rough skin was rubbing him raw. Their first kiss, before Spike had even thought there was anything in Xander worth seeing, had made him weak. And confused because he hadn’t wanted to like Xander in that way. This kiss was infinitely more intense; it was more passionate, hotter. It made him feel like he might go up in flames. He was almost scared to find out what sex would do to him. Not that it would stop him from trying - what a way to go.

Xander wriggled into a more upright position, grateful that he didn’t have to worry about crushing Spike beneath him with his weight. Being with Spike like this didn’t make him feel bulky or ungainly, as so often happened. He was gradually losing the self-consciousness that tended to hold him back, and the freedom was addicting. It was also something to be savoured that perhaps for the first time in his life, Xander felt like he was truly the focus of the other person’s attention. He didn’t feel like the second choice, like the person someone else had been forced to settle on; stupid as it sounded, Xander felt like he finally understood what it meant to be kissed.

When at last they separated, Xander was gasping for air, and his eyes were shining brightly. Spike could hear the hammering of Xander’s heart, and he could feel Xander’s ribs heave in order to bring in the necessary oxygen. He unclenched his fingers from the warm silk of Xander’s hair, and used both his hands to rub soothingly across Xander’s back.

“ Well, least we know that this part of the relationship is going to work,” said Spike, still somewhat dazed. He should have known Xander’s smart mouth would have a few tricks.

“ Uh huh,” said Xander between gasps.

“ And hey, no appliances were thrown at me, so you must have liked it more than the last one?” Spike said, knowing he was fishing for reassurances, but not quite able to stop himself.

“ No complaints. Although if you happen to find where my tonsils were sucked out to, I’d appreciate it.”

Spike grinned, and Xander reached out to turn on the radio again. There was still a half hour of radio shows left, and if Xander hadn’t liked them before, he was in love with them now.

“ You know, didn’t really think you’d have the balls to seduce me this way. Thought you’d spend a few more weeks playing the spy, and then decide to just get us both drunk. Not that I’m complaining, you understand.”

“ I seduced you? Really? Huh, guess I did. Hurray for me then. Didn’t really mean to, I just wanted to do something nice for you,” Xander murmured.

“ Was really nice, pet,” Spike said, kissing the top of Xander’s head.

“ Yeah, it was.”

The candles had burned low, the waxy scent heavy on the air. The radio played softly, both of them too tired to hear anything other than a gentle drone of words. Xander’s eyes were drifting closed, and he knew that he should get up and go to bed before he fell asleep, but he was unwilling to break the embrace, however temporary the break would be.

A thought suddenly occurred to him, and his eyes shot open.

“ Wait a minute, you knew I was spying on you?”

“ Uh, well, you see the thing with that is…”

“ Aw, I thought I was being all cool and stealthy,” Xander pouted.

“ Not quite, luv. But if it helps, I thought you were sexy as hell, dressed all in black and what have you. Plus, I’m highly flattered that I was considered worthy of being stalked.”

Xander wriggled closer. So what if he fell asleep where he was? He had a feeling Spike would tuck him in regardless.

“ What can I say? I’m a romantic.”


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