SPOILERS: End of S7, Set during 7x21 "End of Days"
RATING: PG (mild slash)
Many thanks to LadyCat.PORCH
The back door closed behind him with an almost inaudible snap, but Xander didn't even turn his head. He didn't have to. A hint of leather, a whiff of tobacco rounded off with that indescribable but masculine scent –a combination that never failed to raise his hackles.
Xander was sitting on the stairs of the back porch, clutching a half-empty bottle of Bud that had long lost its pleasant chill. At his feet shreds of paper lay on the uncut lawn, all that remained of the bottle's label. Now he sighed and moved to the right to make room for the vampire.
At least ten seconds passed, then, without a word, Spike sat down beside him, carefully arranging the folds of his duster, almost like a pianist arranging the tails of his coat before settling in front of his grand piano. He set down a six-pack of beer bottles between them. Only it was really a five-pack, because the sixth bottle was currently warming in Xander's hands.
"You buy these?" Spike asked.
Spike took one, opened it and – inexplicably - reached over to clink bottles with Xander, before taking a hefty swig. "Hits the spot," he said.
The crickets seemed impossibly loud all of a sudden, as the silence grew more and more charged. With what? Xander didn't have a clue. But he was kind of relieved when he heard the unmistakable sounds of Spike lighting up. The pocket patting, the flicking of the finger against the packet, the working of the lighter and the deep first drag. The fact that he could attribute an image to each of these sounds, that Spike's mannerisms felt familiar even when Xander wasn't watching, well, that was just a little disconcerting.
Xander squared his shoulders and knocked back the dregs of his beer, even though it was lukewarm and stale. He moved to get to his feet, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Don't. Look, I didn't mean to— You were here first. I'll just get out of your hair, alright?" Spike rose, leather swishing softly, and stepped off the porch, a thin trail of cigarette smoke in his wake.
"Wait!" Xander called, without thinking.
Spike stilled. He looked like a man who'd long lost the energy to speculate on other people's motives.
Xander swallowed, not quite sure what to say. He only knew he didn't want to chase Spike away like that; not when Spike seemed to be making some weird kind of effort…
"There are four left," Xander said and gestured towards the remaining bottles. "And there's another six-pack in the refrigerator."
"If you think I'm gonna drink these all by myself, then you're stupid."
"Don't call me—" Spike stopped. Studied the glowing tip of his cigarette. Looked at Xander. "I'm not," he finally said.
"Then get your butt back on the porch."
Spike shrugged, but did as he was told and accepted a new bottle.
When Xander waved his hand in the air to fan the cigarette smoke away, Spike silently transferred his cigarette to the far hand. It didn't help much. The smoke still drifted towards Xander. Oh well, points for trying.
Finally, when he couldn't put it off any longer, Xander turned his head to look sideways at the vampire. He wasn't surprised to find Spike watching him with his customary intensity. But he was unprepared for the sympathy that he could read in the vampire's gaze.
"Wish I'd been faster," Spike said, nodding at the eye-patch.
"Hey, still alive," Xander said, thinking of all the girls who'd been injured or killed in the explosion. "Better than some."
There was no disputing that statement. They were both quiet for a moment, but the earlier awkwardness seemed a little less, well, awkward.
"You know who I miss most?" Spike said abruptly, crushing the butt of his cigarette under his heel.
Something about that question struck Xander as peculiar and it took him a moment to realize that while Spike had often told him (and anyone else who'd listen) what he missed – violence, killing, blood 'straight off the tap', and all that evil jazz – he'd never mentioned missing someone.
"Tara?" Xander finally took a wild stab in the dark.
"Was gonna say Joyce, but yeah, her too."
Xander nodded, although he'd never really understood Spike's professed fondness for Mrs. Summers. He watched Spike lift the bottle to his lips.
"Did I mention today how much I don't like you?" Xander said deliberately, grinning weakly, hoping Spike would remember.
Spike's hand froze, bottle poised in the air. His gaze flitted to Xander. But then the tension seeped away. "Actually, no," he said, in a voice that was as smooth as satin. "You're losing your touch."
Xander's grin widened a fraction, but then he grew serious again.
"We're all gonna buy the farm, aren't we?" he said calmly. The fear that had been building inside him these past months had finally popped like a balloon. He was still scared, but he was no longer in panic-mode.
"Snuff it, kick the bucket, pushin' up the daisies," Spike affirmed. "'S possible. Me, I'm not countin' on anything these days. Could be everything will be all back to normal come next week." He shrugged.
"You think?" Xander asked.
Spike opened the remaining two bottles and handed one to Xander. "No," he said. "But then Dru was the psychic one. Still, if there's anything you've always wanted to do and put off for some reason or other, now's the time to go for it."
Xander swallowed audibly.
"Is there? Something you been putting off?" Spike tilted his head and regarded the other man. There was a strange glint in his eyes. Were they darker than normal? A moth could be heard fluttering and banging against the porch light.
"Well…" Xander said hesitantly and set his beer down next to him. "There's this thing."
"Actually yeah. Kinda."
And then Xander's lips were on Spike's, his hands tightening on leather and cotton and running through coarse bleached hair. Spike's mouth was hard but his lips were soft and parted for him. Xander tasted beer and cigarettes and something faintly coppery; weird, and wrong, and different. But good. And Spike was kissing him back, slowly at first but then with increasing urgency.
When Xander ran out of breath he finally had to break the kiss.
They stared at each other, both panting.
"Oh, that thing," Spike said. And then he smiled.