Title: The Art of Secret Keeping

Author: Brooke

Email: yabbadabbadome13@yahoo.com

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I got this sweet Porn Star sticker and I put it on my laptop. I own that…the sticker not the laptop. Buffy and friends are owned by Joss, Mutant Enemy, 20th Century Fox, The UPN and whoever else has rights to the show. "Friends" is owned by NBC and whoever else has the rights to it, that isn't me. I just thought this episode was funny and flat out used the plot and some lines to make it BX.

Summary: Fluff. That's about it.

Distribution: I don't know why anybody would want this, but if somebody does…sure.

Feedback: Do it fast, like a man! JUST GIVE IT!!!!!

A/N: AU around season 4. Xander and Anya never hooked up and Spike is in the stalking/infatuation stage with Buffy. Just imagine that instead of Parker and Riley after Angel, Buffy saw the X. Spike is chipped and living with Xander because he has no place else to go.

A/N #2: This is for Lexxie. She said that she wanted this written and she helped me fine tune it. She even gave me a title (that I accidentally forgot) but I think I remembered something similar, so I hope it came out ok.

This is archived at my group: The Unattainable ()

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~*~

Xander's Apartment

One Night in Spring 2000

9:15 PM

~*~

"I LOVE your new place Xander," Buffy smiled at him and scanned the bathroom. It was still new and beyond clean and bathed in the orange-yellow glow of the twenty candles that she had insisted that he buy when she had gotten him to go furniture shopping at Pier 1.

"You love it because you picked it out," he pointed out and noticed Buffy's eyes drop towards the bubbly water for a moment. "And you feel invested since you spent all day carrying my stuff over here from the basement."

"Best reward for being a pack mule that I ever got," she splashed some water up towards his face with one hand. She was smiling around her sip of celebratory champagne when his eyes cleared and he sent her a glare. Buffy knew that Xander knew that she was joking, but now, even more than ever, she felt no hesitation in rushing to affirm that fact. "I love it cuz you're here too, you know."

Xander smiled back warmly and lifted his champagne flute to his lips while sliding his foot along the bottom of the tub until he poked her in the thigh with his toe and she yelped in surprise. Buffy was quick to retaliate, but Xander set his flute on the side of the large built in tub and reached under the warm water with both hands. He found her ankles beneath the mass of bubbles and tugged her sharply away from her seat across to him. Xander was smirking deviously as Buffy giggled uncontrollably and he pulled her legs over the tops of his and wrapped them around his waist, his large hands splayed across the small of her back under the water.

They were close enough to kiss and she could tell that that was what Xander was thinking about, so she coyly turned her head and took another slow sip from her glass. She could feel his eyes fixated on her lips and when she finished the sip she made sure to lick them dry with a satisfied hum.

"This," Xander whispered as he tilted in to try to catch Buffy's lips, but she pulled back with a grin that he pouted at. "…is *so* much better than the basement."

Buffy nodded, "No mildew smell." She yelped again when Xander's softly caressing hand dropped down and squeezed her butt hard, but when she jumped and pushed her self closer into him and it segued into a moan. "And no parents trying to break down the basement door to do laundry."

"Mom only wanted to do laundry because she wanted to know what we were doing down there."

"I got that when she would yell 'WHAT ARE YOU KIDS DOING DOWN THERE!'"

Xander chuckled and bent forward slightly, lapping his tongue over the moist expanse of her collarbone. He hummed against her skin when she groaned him on in approval. It was a wonder that they had lasted in this…thing…that they developed for as long as they had. Xander had been sure what with Angel leaving just the year before that Buffy was definitely on the rebound. And she surely had been *way* too drunk the first night that she had kissed him, but he was better than taking advantage of her, so he had, ignoring her protests pushed her away. She was lonely and comfortable with him and confident that he would never hurt her, and that's not how Xander wanted her…he didn't want to be second and he worked to the best of his ability to act as if nothing had happened. He tried not to think about it and he surely didn't mention it to Willow, even though he could have used the ear.

When Buffy had asked him if he wanted to get dinner with her later in that week…asked him in the middle of the afternoon and not in the middle of a Delta Epsilon Delta party so that there was now way that he could think that she was intoxicated, Xander began to think that maybe there was more to what she was suggesting than he had given her credit for.

They had spent the first four official dates in strictly friend mode. Talking and joking, hardly even touching unnecessarily and when they felt that they should remember that they were on an actual date they would laugh nervously. Buffy had assured him on the second date that she wouldn't rebound on him…she didn't think she would, anyway. It wasn't the resounding reassurance that he had been hoping for, but it was honest. He had liked that.

But, by the fifth date, where it seemed that transforming them into a couple was more difficult than they thought it should be, they were considering abandoning the whole endeavor. They agreed that it was a good thing that nobody knew that they were trying to date each other because Willow surely wouldn't take a break up between her best friends well.

Xander had pointed out that maybe it was so hard because they had been such good friends for so long. But then Buffy had countered that *he* had always been *her* friend, but that didn't go the other way…*she* was *his* crush fir years. She had asked about where those feeling where now that she was ready.

He had gotten nervous again and had noticed that Buffy had shifted closer to him. She requested one last thing from him…and for him not to push her away and never to try to act like it didn't happen, and all Xander's brain function went into coordinating the wide eyed nod her gave her.

That second kiss had been as perfect as Xander ever thought it would be. Not because it was soft and hot and sincere, but because it gave them hope that they could do this. The pressure that he had felt to measure up to Angel began to fade and Buffy helped by making it clear that he, as himself, was enough.

Even in the beginning it was hard for them to express the new feelings in words, and maybe they dedicated so much effort in to being able to share that with each other that there simply wasn't time to try to tailor it for justification to others…so they just didn't try. It was easier to just have this most difficult element to their relationship stay between just them, so they didn't tell anybody. They didn't really hide it per say, either, though…whenever they were together, which nobody noticed was increasingly more alone now, they kept hand holding to a minimum anyway. They settled into to quick pecks of affection behind the backs of friends when they were leaving the room. When they sat across the table from each other, underneath, their feet would be touching or hers would be in his lap…just to have the contact and acknowledge that they were together. And nobody was the wiser.

Nine months later…

"I like this place best cuz you're in it," he managed to smile back. "And you carried that couch all the way up the stairs…for free. That old lady next door almost had a heart attack when she saw you coming down the hall with it on back…" She giggled and slapped him on the shoulder, sending suds flying up into his face on the playful impact.

"My back still hurts from that. I don't understand why you couldn't just pay the extra fifty bucks for the movers…"

He held her closer, "You wanted all these candles and alcohol…"

"You're enjoying this. I made your place pretty for me." She smiled and there was nothing he could do to refute it. She could tell the exact moment when she had made him melt inside and it that sweet power over him made her fell all warm. Buffy would have never guessed that Xander could make her feel this way. That anybody, especially somebody who she had known for so many years, could after Angel, make her heart not feel empty. Just his arms around her felt so good that it still was almost shocking.

"Now you can hang out here. Relax, get out of the dorm, do homework…"

"Do you – interruption free and not in twenty minute blocks."

"The block system really took a lot of pressure off of me," Xander nodded reflectively. "We should still use that."

Buffy smirked back and spoke with a seriousness that made Xander want to gulp if anything about what she was saying was bad. "Not on your life." She kissed him then, when he wasn't expecting it. Slow and deep and their joint whimpers were accompanied by the quiet splashing while they adjust closer to each other on Xander's side of the tub. She held his face in place while he pulled her further into his lap and finally managed to pull away breathlessly.

"How long can you stay?" he sounded as desperate for her as he looked and he didn't care.

"Told Giles and Willow that I was going on a long patrol after I finished up in the library, and mom that I was going to bed early so not to call the dorm or my cell. They're all over at Giles' researching, so I've got at least four hours."

Xander smiled at her elaborate excuse, but couldn't resist teasing her. "And Willow and Giles brought that you were studying deep into the night?"

Buffy retaliated by grabbing the hand that had been combing through her loose hair and kissing it before biting sharply into the pad of his thumb. Xander let out a bark of surprise and yanked his hand away from her smile.

"You've been hanging out with the undead for too long!"

She ignored him and shifted off his lap, thoroughly enjoying Xander's resistance to letting her go and his moan of disapproval when she retreated from his arms. "Are we all clear over here for that?" she asked and took up her glass again.

"Should be." Xander nodded. "I told everybody I was turning in early."

Buffy quirked an eyebrow. "That's all?" He nodded. "I have to pull off the Thomas Crown Affair to get alone time, and you just tell people that you're tired and going to sleep?" He nodded again.

"The world doesn't rely on my nightly activities," he shrugged with the slightest hint of remorse that Buffy was right. They didn't need him to patrol and they didn't need him to research…

"My world does," Buffy commented warmly when she saw a funk about to descend on him. There was no need for him to feel inadequate…he would never be able to know just how much he meant to her. Sometimes she would tell him that she just didn't have the words and that he would just have to take her word for it.

He read the look in her eyes as telling him just that. "…Spike said he was going to the meeting tonight too," he accepted her silent avowal. "More than likely to stalk you…"

Buffy laughed out loud, "Little does he know I have plans to be otherwise occupied." She looked him in the eyes and ran her foot up and down his calf under the water.

"And I have plans to keep you otherwise occupied…" Xander leant forward from his seat and his silent intent was read and mirrored by Buffy, who did the same with a flirty bite to her lower lip.

"You're cute in bubbles," she gave him a tiny half smile and spoke reflectively in a girly tone.

"That's just cuz I got you liquored up," he smiled back, moving in the rest of the way into her.

"XANDER!!!" the British accent rang loud from the living room just before the front door slammed shut.

"Shit!" Xander cursed and looked to the bathroom door with wide eyes. "Spike's here!"

"Really?! I thought it was you're new annoying blood sucking British landlord." She said with a quiet harsh sarcasm. "I thought you said he went to Giles' place!"

"Are *you* at Giles' place?!"

"Where are you mate?!" Spike's footsteps stomped heavily across the living room and to Xander's room and he opened the door. "You in the loo…again? I hope you use the Glade that you brought cuz I can't live here if you're going to create the stench that you did in the basement. XANDER!"

Xander was blushing while Buffy's lip turned up in an attempt to control her laughter. "I went through a burrito phase…"

"Suurre…"

"XANDER!" Spike stopped at the bathroom door and banged on it loudly.

"GO AWAY SPIKE!" Xander's voice was forcefully pleading, "I'M BUSY IN HERE!"

The platinum vampire ignored him and kept speaking, "I went to the Watcher's house and the blasted Slayer isn't even there. Glenda the Good Witch said she was on campus, so I happened by there on my way back…Bloody hell!" the vampire yelled over his incessant knocking and grabbed the door handle, "I'm comin in!"

Buffy went wide eyed when the door started to crack open and she in a haze of confusion thrust her glass into Xander's hand, sucked in a deep breath, and sunk under the water – camouflaging herself under the bubbles.

"…and she wasn't there either! Can you belie…" Spike trailed off and looked around the candle lit bathroom suspiciously. His eyes narrowed when they finally settled on Xander who was sitting alone in the bubble filled bath tub holding two half filled glasses of champagne. "What the bloody hell are you doing?"

"I've had a very long, hard day." Xander bit out harshly. "Which is why I said I was going to bed early. So, if you please…"

"I keep telling the whole bloody lot of you all that you're a little off, but do they believe me? No..."

"Spike! Please…"

The vampire shook his head and leant back against he wall, a satisfied smirk in place at Xander's discomfort. "So Buffy wasn't at the Watcher's, she wasn't in the library, and she wasn't in her dorm…"

"Maybe she went on patrol," Xander said shortly while trying not to look obviously at the space where Buffy was below the surface of the water.

"Maybe…" Spike said reflectively. "But that doesn't explain why she lied to Willow…"

"Noitdoesn't, haveatalkwithheraboutthatwhenyoufindher…nightthen…"

"Maybe I should pop by Joyce's and see…"

"Yeah," Xander said quickly. "Do that…now…"

"But if she went on patrol she'd report back to Giles anyway, so I could go kick me feet up there and annoy the bleedin hell out of him," Spike smiled brightly, even for him.

"GETOUT!" His yell was accompanied by a series of bubbled that broke loudly to the surface of the water and when Xander looked up Spike was watching him with raised eyebrows.

"You're not excused," he smirked after a moment.

"Great…Out…"

"Fine," the vampire held up his hands in a mock defeat and looked around the bathroom again, shaking his head. He slide through the crack in the bathroom door and Xander almost allowed himself the second to relax at the close encounter…almost…

"I'm going to stop off and pick up some chicken. Do you want anything?" Xander looked at him in weary confusion. "Because I ate the rest of that Chinese food you had in fridge."

Xander's anger at the Chinese food was overshadowed by his yearning to not have Buffy drown in his bathtub. He really didn't want to have to explain that…or feel guilty about it…or have to live without her, of course. "Ahh, no thanks. No chicken, bye-bye then."

"Nothing? Extra crispy, dirty rice, beans?"

"GETOUTGETOUTGETOUT!!!"

"Don't say I never tried to be nice to you, mate. That was your one shot." Spike called through the crack in the door.

"I'm sure I'll live," Xander called out just as it shut.

"HUUUUUUUHHHHH," Buffy broke the surface of the water, couching a little and gasping for breath. "Jesus, Xander. Why didn't you have him recite some Shakespeare for you?!"

He tried not to focus on how hot he thought she was with her hair all wet and slicked back especially since she was angry at him. angry Buffy always turned him on.  "Are you okay? I'm so sorry, he wouldn't leave. He was talking about looking for you and… kept asking me about chicken…"

Buffy blinked the water out of her eyes and turned to him with her anger melting into intrigue. "Chicken?" he nodded at her, his eyes still apologetic, but she didn't seem to be too upset anymore, "I could eat some chicken."

"Well he did eat everything else I had in the place," he sighed with the slightest bit of irritation. "HEY SPIKE!!!" Xander yelled and Buffy sucked in another gulp of air and ducked back under the water. The door reopened immediately and Spike stuck his head through. "I changed my mind."

"Only time Harris," Spike warned in a tone that didn't quite reach menacing.

" 'preciate it. Can I just get a 3-piece, some cole slaw, some beans, and a large Coke…ahhhhh" Xander bit his lip to contain a scream when Buffy grabbed him under the water and squeezed… "Medium Diet Coke," he corrected with still wide eyes and Spike looked at him suspiciously again.

Spike shook his head and started to retreat from the bathroom again, "Watching your girlish figure again, mate?"

Xander managed a wane grin at Spike's departing shot, but then glared at Buffy when she reemerged after the door shut. "You do realize that you're only supposed to treat *that* nicely, don't you?"

Buffy smirked slightly and stood up in the tub. She reveled in the way that his eyes were watching the water cascade down her. "He's gotta a lot of stops to make before he gets back with that…" Xander managed to maintain his irritated scowl even though both knew how turned on he was…it was why *it* had been the first thing that her hand had come across under the sudsy water. "Want me to kiss it better for you?"

That made all the anger melt away and Xander jumped up in the tub, standing outside of it on the tile floor and pulling Buffy up and out with him in a couple fluid movements. She yelped and screamed and giggled when Xander lifted her up off the floor and into his arms, making a mad naked dash to his new bedroom. "Lock the door," she was able to get out briefly right before it shut behind them.

~*~

Buffy's House

The Next Morning

~*~

"You're eating *that* for breakfast?" Joyce implored from her position at the stove where she was making pancakes and eggs.

Buffy nodded managed an innocent smile and took another bite of the left over chicken that she had remembered to take from Xander's place when she had left earlier in the morning. Spike's search for her had been fruitless the night before and he had come in at sunrise and gone to sleep in the guest room silent and angry – which allowed Buffy to sneak out unnoticed.

She had gotten to her mom's house before either she or Dawn was awake. She was still feeling a lingering buzz from the previous night, and having decided to clean the living room as a surprise, managed to wake her whole family. Joyce had told her to sit down while she made breakfast and Dawn had asked if they were putting crack in the water in her dorm, but nothing could bring the Slayer down. Especially not when Xander would be by within half an hour after he stopped by Giles'…and, for her mother's sake, would defiantly eat the continental breakfast.

"It's food," Buffy mumbled around her mouthful.

"Is that place even open this early in the morning?" Dawn questioned from beside her sister while reading the Clucker's Chicken Shack label on the box.

"There's no nutritional value…"

"You're going to be a fat old woman…I can't wait…"

"God," Buffy shoveled a forkful of rice into her mouth, "You want to take my blood pressure and cholesterol too?"

"If you don't watch what you eat…"

"I'm the Slayer mom," Buffy pointed out as the end of the argument. "I could have a six course meal at 2 AM and be fine…now bring on those pancakes," she pushed the empty carton away and took up another fork with a smile.

Dawn was watching her with a disbelieving frown, "Welcome to the rest of your life mom…this one's never leaving…OWW!!!" Dawn flinched when her sister pinched her forearm hard, but retaliated by kicking her hard in the shin.

"Girls…"

"Calm down ladies!" Xander's voice followed the sound of the front door, that Buffy had left unlocked for him, opening. Buffy perked up when he appeared in the doorway of the kitchen and his loud greeting drowned out her mother's pending reprimand. "I'm here so you all can commence your silent admiration and state of awe…oh pancakes…"

"I knew there was a reason that he was in such a hurry this morning," Willow said tiredly and still wearing her plaid print pajama pants. Buffy knew that he had brought her when she heard the two sets of footsteps on the hard wood floor. "I told him to pick me up from Giles' on his way back…but noooo… 'you gotta have Mrs. S's pancakes…they're like fluffy pieces of heaven…"

Xander smiled brightly, already holding a plate of four and biting one in his hand. "You're a more beautiful and ravishing Emeril Lagasse." Joyce flushed slightly and Buffy rolled her eyes at him when he slid onto the stool beside Dawn and started eating.

"Aren't these great?" he asked Willow when she slumped down next to Buffy. "I told you I'd get you a breakfast of champions before your midterm."

"They say a full night's sleep is good for that too…"

"Well, don't come next time," Xander said dismissively. "There'll be more for me…and Dawnie, right?" he rocked into the teenager's shoulder, mid chew, and the girl blushed.

"Igottagogetdressed," she said quickly and hopped up from the stool. She didn't miss sending her sister a withering look at her teasing grin, but quickly ran up the steps.

"Be ready in twenty minutes, Dawn. Two-zero, you're not going to be late today!" Joyce called after her younger daughter and heard her groan.

"I knew you were good for something Xander," Buffy grinned and stabbed one of Xander's pancakes with her fork cramming it halfway into her mouth before he could retaliate. "You can scare Dawn away like a pro."

"All your chewed food is so attractive, did you know that?" He turned his lips into a snide smile when Buffy chewed some more and then opened her mouth to show him. He turned to Joyce who was taking a seat next to a dozing Willow. "I don't understand how you raised the first one to be a hellion and the second one is a total charmer," he smiled. He could see Buffy's glare out of the corner of his eye and it made him beam brighter.

"Aww, sweetie," Joyce cut her eyes to her daughter and then back to Xander, "Parent's first rule is that the first one is practice."

"On that note, don't you have to take Wills to school?" Buffy asked sweetly, but with a bit of bite. "…maybe do something productive with you day?"

Xander eyed her, and then glanced to Willow, "What do ya say Wills, you ready to rock off to the world of academia?"

Willow yawned and nodded, finishing up her breakfast.

"What do you have planned today, Xander?" Joyce asked. "If you're over at the college you could stop by the registrar…"

"I'm going to go over to Bentley & Williams for an interview," he cut her off as politely as possible. "I think I've got a job lined up, so keep your fingers crossed…" For some reason Joyce had picked up that Xander's parents hadn't stressed higher education…probably from years of knowing him and talking to Buffy. She had told him that she understood that college wasn't for everybody, but then related in confidence that if her little girl could get used to hit so could he. Seemed to her that he and Buffy were very much alike, and she just didn't want him to throw his life away. There was a feeling Xander had gotten from talking with Joyce that he couldn't really pinpoint, but he assumed it was because she cared about what happened to him. She was one of the few adults that did.

"Oh yeah," Willow said and sounded more awake and excited for him, "New place, new job…now all you need is a personal life…uh…" she stopped and looked sorry at what she just said. "Not that you don't have one…its just…you could get…"

"And *I'm* done," Xander pushed his plate away and wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. He made it a point to let Willow know through his tone, that he was just messing around with her. "Let's jet Wills, I gotta big day," he slid off the stool and took both his and Willow's plates to the sink. He smiled at Dawn, who promptly looked away, when he turned back to the island and crossed back to Buffy. "Wish me luck, all. Soon I shall have a real adult job with career advancement."

"Go get 'em, Tiger," Dawn said spontaneously and then blushed bright red and looked at the counter top. "Good luck," she mumbled.

"Thanks, Dawnster," he smiled as Willow stood up. "See you all later." He was at Buffy's side and he didn't know why he forgot exactly, but before he knew what he was thinking he was leaning down, and she was leaning up, and their lips were together…just like they were alone…but they weren't. It took him a moment too long to realize that and Xander sputtered when he pulled away. "Ummm…" He thought quickly under the confused and attentive and borderline angry gazes of Buffy's family and Willow, who's held a sense of…hurt?

Buffy was wide eyed beside him and Xander gulped in an effort to speed up his think process. He was all alone in this since he couldn't very well ask Buffy what to say. Was their even an explanation that he could give without discussing it with Buffy first anyway…

So talking was out. Buffy was silent. He'd just have to feel his way through it. So that left him with one option…a wild card…

"Mrs. S," he strode across the room and shut his eyes, grabbing her chin and sealing his lips tight before diving down, kissing her in the same fashion he had just done her daughter. "Thanks for breakfast," he said quickly when he pulled away and saw the shocked expression on everybody's faces.

"Wills," he said next, turning to her, "You're going to do great on your test." He grabbed her face with both hands and kiss her on the lips, well aware that she was still looking at him with wide eyes.

"Dawn…" he hesitated, a distinct sense of panic rising up in him, when he turned again and saw the teenager watching hopefully.

Joyce's eyes were slit and she reached behind her to push Dawn back some. She rolled her eyes at her disappointed whine. "Go have a good day, Xander. Please…"

"Right then," Xander nodded, almost gratefully. "I'll be in the car," he said hurriedly and all but ran out of the room.

Willow shared shocked expressions with Joyce and Dawn, but when she turned to Buffy, the Slayer just shrugged her shoulders. "I 'unno." She was beyond shocked at what she had just witnessed, as well. She hadn't been expecting *that*. She would have thought it would have been easier to just admit that they were dating…but Xander never really was that normal, especially under pressure…and it was kinda funny…

Willow just shook her head while the Slayer seemed to be fighting outright laughter and waved bye to Buffy's family, dazedly thanking Joyce for her cooking before following Xander's path and shutting the front door behind her.

Buffy sat under her mother's silent perusal and tried to quell her giggles and smile regularly. "I seriously don't know. I'mgonnagoupstairs…" she hopped off the stool and headed for her room.

~*~

Giles' House

That Night…maybe early morning.

~*~

"This is bloody ridiculous! You can't make me do this!"

"What are you going to do, Spike?" Xander questioned smugly. "Move out and leave us alone? SOMEBODY GET HIM ANOTHER BOOK!"

Buffy laughed and adjusted in her seat to try to stifle it.

"Ha, bloody ha, Slayer," the blonde vampire snarled as he headed towards the kitchen. "Lousy, sodding, clown…"

Buffy glared at his back, but fought it down before the other occupants in the room noticed. "Good one, Xan."

Xander's smile melted into a yawn and he nodded to her. "Anything to make milady laugh."

"Giles," Willow called from the kitchen, she was hurrying away and looking back at Spike with a disgusted grimace. "When he dunks Oreos in blood I call it a night."

"Here, here Willow!" Buffy exclaimed from her seat and slammed her demonology text closed. "Let's call it a night!"

Giles looked up at the children who he worked with and rolled his eyes. "You all have done nothing but eat and babble insistently since you got here! Do you realize that you haven't worked a combined half hour between all of you!"

Buffy pouted, "We did…I went with Spike to Willy's. That took, like, forty minutes."

"An hour and forty minutes…" Xander huffed from his seat and sent a glare into the kitchen after Spike.

Buffy's warm feeling came back at his protectiveness, but she fought her smile. "Spike took forever driving…and he kept trying to get me to drink out of his flask." Xander tensed in his seat and shut his book.

"And you came back with pizza," Giles pointed out and Willow sheepishly tried to hide the piece she was eating.

"It was dinner time Giles. You expect growing children to go with out food…to read?" Xander climbed over the couch to one of the pizza boxes and grabbed a slice.

"Is that the Hawaiian BBQ Chicken?" Spike shouted from the kitchen and stomped back into the living room. Xander nodded at him and took a huge bite of the pizza slice.

"Last piece too," he smiled as he chewed. "Mmmm."

"For the love of…" Giles took off his glasses and eyed the now laughing teens…and the scowling vampire. "Just go."

"Don't have to tell me twice," Xander jumped up from the couch and licked his fingers while smirking at Spike.

"I'm not going…" Spike said defiantly and crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't have to and I don't want to."

Xander shrugged. "And I don't care. I spent all day getting a good job and how do I celebrate? By reading and having tea…well, now, that I've officially been kicked out of the young hip kid club, I'm going to bed."

"You all literally do so little that when you leave, I actually have more to do than when you arrived."

"Good," Spike shot with a tilted smile.

"Aww," Willow frowned and scooped up a book again. "I can stay if you want, Giles…" She was offering because it was the polite thing to do, but everybody could tell that she didn't want to.

Buffy sighed and rolled her eyes. When had Giles learned to guilt her into helping so efficiently. "You can go, Wills," she said. She knew that her friend had had a test that morning, class all day, and had stayed late the night before, when she had Xander had been playing hookie. If anybody deserved a break it was Willow. "I didn't even go to campus today. I'm fresh for late night quality Watcher book time."

"I'll stay too." Spike threw in. "Gonna bother you all night…maybe it'll make you go crazy, go running out into the night, and be killed…by demons or a speeding car…" She rolled her eyes at his leer.

"You guys go on."

"Buff…" Xander tired to sound neutral when he addressed her. "You, uh…you sure you don't want a ride…I can…"

"Go, Xander," she insisted and read the look in his eyes as trying to maintain a casual concern that was reminiscing of their friendship, yet meaning so much more now. "What?" she questioned with a small amount of teasing humor in her voice for good measure. "Want me to call and leave you a message when I get to the dorms?" She posed the question as a way of telling him that she would, and he nodded.

"Alright then," he sighed, melodramatically, "Mock me and my concern…"

"I'll get her in alright, mate," Spike all but growled behind them.

Xander's eyes were narrowed and he cleared his throat. "I'm going to go get my coat," he said randomly as he headed for the kitchen, brushing Buffy's arm discretely when he passed.

"I'll help," the Slayer tried not to turn to quickly, but still followed him out of the room.  He didn't break her gaze when snatched his jacket off the back of one of the chairs. "I'll try to come by," she said softly as he approached her – standing so closely that she was looking up into his eyes.

"Please do…I don't like sleeping with out you," his voice was just above a whisper and his hand was on his cheek, tilting her lips up to his.  The room was silent except for the far off sound of the voices in the living room, but it was all the solitude that they needed.   Xander's lips moved slowly over hers, his hand holding her face a willing captive.

"Xan, can you drop me off at…" Willow trialed off in a renewed shock at the sight of Buffy and Xander kissing…again.

"WellthishasbeengreatBuff," Xander pulled away quickly and pushed Buffy away from him with his hands on her shoulders, "You have a nice night, and, uh…I'll see you tomorrow…"

Sure the whole morning incident had been awkward, but it had worked like a charm. The shock value was probably why Willow hadn't brought it up all night…she probably just assumed that it was Xander doing the whacky again. He had settled that anything that got him out of having to actually give a vocal response to…this…was better off, and since Buffy had only managed to tease him about his panic instead of offering any useful options on what *else* he could possibly do he chose to stick with what was working.

He strode across the kitchen to Willow, and with much more assurance, kissed Willow; surprised expression and all. "I'm ready Wills." He took a calming breath and looked up over Willow's shoulder to see both Giles and Spike looking at him confused. "See you outside," Xander steeled himself and gripped his coat tightly, heading towards the two men who were standing.

"Good night, Xander!"  Giles shouted and jumped out of the young man's way.

The brunette nodded thankfully and continued outside, Willow following him in a state of confusion again.

"Wot the bloody hell was that?!" Spike asked intrigued while Willow wiped at the side of her mouth with her thumb and Buffy wandered out of the kitchen.

Buffy shifted under Willow's gaze when her friend turned to her. "Probably something he saw on TV, y'know, the travel channel touring Europe or Wild On. He has that thing for Brooke Burke…and, y'know, they greet that way in other countries," she defended in what she hoped was convincing.

"Speaking on behalf of all of us in the room from there if feel I must point out that *that* is hardly European!" Giles exasperated.

"Felt French," Willow muttered and looked at Buffy's wide eyed look of confusion. "I'll see you later Buffy," she yawned finally. She was giving up on trying to figure out an explanation for her friends trippy behavior until she got at least five hours of sleep. "Maybe we can work out how to end his 'European' whatever." Buffy nodded as Willow turned and headed out to Xander's car.

"So," Buffy looked at the vampire and her Watcher in hopes of putting the whole situation behind them. "Are we going to study some more, or not?"

"We can," Spike leant in close to Buffy and Giles rolled his eyes. "…if you give me a little sugar…"

"Giles?"

"Wot?" Spike asked defensively. "I'm European…I have authenticity."

"Yes, quite…" Giles sighed, "Spike, grab a book or get out."

The vampire huffed as he took up the book Xander had been reading and flopped down on the couch, "Bloody wank…I can take candle lit baths."

~*~

Buffy and Willow's Dorm

The Next Afternoon

~*~

Xander was already there when Willow finished her class, relaxed and watching TV in Buffy's bed. "Hey Will," he sat up surprised and straightened out the blankets he was laying on around him. "What's the what? How was class?"

"Fine," she raised an eyebrow and replied skeptically while staring at him. He looked a little more relaxed in the room than he thought he would. Not that he wasn't always welcome to make himself at home, but…why was his shirt so unbuttoned?

"I just stopped by to say hi before I went to work. I have to drop some forms off before I can start at the site," he smiled and gave her an explanation even though she hadn't asked. He gulped and felt her looking hard at him and he remembered to finish straightening out his clothes.

Willow had been curious before his hurried alibi, what with his presence and the shirt, and him making out with every woman he ever met, but now that he seemed in such a hurry to justify himself…

"They were out of Cherry Coke, so I got you regular," Buffy opened the door with two sodas in her hand stopped dead in her tracks when she noticed Willow standing next to her. "HEY!" she said with her voice full of, a very obvious, surprise. The blonde transformed her voice into a cheery tone and smiled wider than usual. "Wills!"

"I finished class early," the Wicca said dryly.

"Oh…cool," Buffy's voice stuttered with nervousness and she tossed Xander one of the sodas. "We were just watching TV before I went to class…"

"I thought Xander came by before he went to work?"

"That too," Buffy shrugged. "Class and work. We're super busy...after TV…"

Willow nodded, but kept her eyes narrowed to relay her remaining skepticism at the reasoning she was being handed. And why was Buffy's hair doing that 'I just woke up' thing?

"Well," Xander said and stood up, "Thanks for the soda, Buff. I'll…uh…I'll see you guys later tonight…I'll be at home after I do that thing at work in case you…either of you wants to stop by." He smiled uneasily and took a half step towards the door. He turned and Willow flinched away when he faced her.

She put her hand up against his chest to make sure that he kept his distance. "Hey-whoa-whoa-whoa!! Ho-ho-hold on a sec there, Mr. Kissey!" she smiled uncomfortably. "Y'know, I've been trying to work out how to talk to you about this whole, new, little kissing thing you got going on, and I just need to tell you that it makes me very uncomfortable and I just…y'know…stop it!"

Buffy was trying to stifle her laughter while Xander looked on wide eyed. He remembered her mentioning what she had told generally everybody about all the kissing. He thought it made him look like a dumb ass but… "It's…I saw it…"

"On TV – the travel channel or something, yeah. Start watching ESPN or something," Willow implored.

Xander pouted, "…European…the Europeans – they kiss good bye…" he stuttered.

"And hello and good luck?" Willow exasperated.

"I…I was just trying to bring a little culture to the group," he tripped over his tongue.

"And that's fine, Xan," Willow assured, "Just don't bring it in my mouth." The redhead looked to Buffy for support since she was the only other one besides Joyce who was experiencing Xander's newfound culture.

Buffy was watching helplessly. Willow's gaze was pleading with her to agree and Xander's was a little more than halfway shocked and hurt. She and Xander were still a secret so she could only really say one thing that would let them keep it that was so… "Makes me wanna puke!" He looked at her with his head cocked to the side with his eyes wide at the conviction that she had mustered for the explanation.

Maybe she shouldn't have shouted it in his face.

"If you guys can't handle me broadening my horizons," Xander thought fast to cover up the situation so that Willow wouldn't catch on to the looks he and Buffy were exchanging, "then I'll stop. I just…with you guys off being enlightened…I just wanted to relate, but if it makes you uncomfortable…or queasy," he shot Buffy a look, "I'll stop."

"Thank you, Xan," Willow stepped up somewhat awkwardly and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "And don't think that about yourself."

He sent her a sad smile and released her. "I'm gonna go." She nodded to him and Xander stepped in front of Buffy. "Hug it out for apologies?" he asked hopefully.

"Sure," Buffy hugged him quickly, and tried not to giggle when Xander used their close proximity to squeeze the whole length of her body against his while audibly sniffing her hair. "Now go, townie" she made sure that Willow saw her push him away, and she playfully swatted him on the arm for good measure. "My favorite townie," she added when he gave her the puppy dog eyes, and he smiled so quickly that she knew he was faking for extra sympathy.

"You wanna walk me down?" he asked despite what Willow might read into it. "I don't remember what lot I parked in." Buffy nodded at him with a sly grin and stepped around him to the door. "Later Will," he called back.

"I'll be right back," Buffy said with a smile to Xander since Willow's back was turned, and their redheaded friend waved dismissively.

As soon as the dorm door shut behind them Xander grabbed Buffy's hand where it swung between them. He squeezed it and when she grinned up at him, he pulled it up to his lips and pressed a kiss to the top of her hand.

Buffy did him one better and tugged his arm so that he stopped and turned to face her. She stepped closer to him in the narrow hallway and ran the hand that he wasn't holding through the hair at the base of his neck, tangling and using her hold to pull his head down to hers. She kissed him as deeply as she pleased right there in the middle of the hall and pulled back with an almost naughty, but, somehow, completely sweet, grin.

"You're so beautiful," Xander said the first thing that came to his mind. It felt cheesy and the tone of awe in his voice made him hope that nobody heard so they wouldn't know how whipped he was, but it was the truth, and Buffy pressed up to kiss him again.

"I'll come over tonight," she whispered to him, her statement asking permission, while she was still being held close.

Xander nodded to her with a goofy smile on his face. "Too bad, that if you bring Willow, I can't kiss you both again…or your mom." He smiled dreamily to purposely annoy her.

Buffy pushed away from him, but still held his hand and she started pulling him down the hall again. "I can't believe you kissed my mom…*and* you were considering my little sister…"

"Yeah, well," Xander pointed out, "You're mom was considering punching me in the jugular."

"Rightfully so," Buffy nodded. "I'd have let her... OH, and she said that you're so *not* welcomed to breakfast anymore."

"See what you cost me woman?" Xander nudged her with his hit. "Now I've got to learn you fend for myself…"

"I'm sure you can handle it, young warrior," the blonde commented dryly at his side.

"Just think if they would have caught us having sex…" he added, his voice trailing off as if he were actually imagining it."

"Do you know anything about women?" Buffy rolled her eyes and asked almost rhetorically while keeping her eyes focused ahead.

Xander shook his head, "Not a thing." They reached the front door of the Hall and Xander reached ahead of them to push the door open for her to exit first.

"That's alright," Buffy lifted Xander's arm, and keeping their hands interlocked, wrapped it over her shoulders and leant into him as they walked slowly across the quad. "When I get there tonight I'll give you a crash course." Buffy didn't have to look up at him to know that Xander was smiling again, but she did anyway. As soon as her head was tilted up to his, she felt his smile against her lips again.

"You know what's going to be great?" Xander asked when he pulled away and focused across the lawn. Buffy shook her head from her post at his side. "When we're not hiding."

Buffy smiled at the boyish tone in his voice and hugged herself closer to him. "I don't know your definition of hiding, but *this* so isn't mine…"

~*~

The Dorm Room

~*~

Willow passed by her window on the way back to her desk when she glanced outside. She would have kept walking if she hadn't seen her two friends, recognized easily even from afar…walking with their arms wrapped around each other?

Her eyes went wide when she distinctly watched them lean in close and…

"THAT'S NOT EUROPEAN!!!!"

Willow watched them wander further across the lawn, Buffy leaning into Xander's side, and stopping periodically to playfully shove or hit each other. "I KNEW IT!!!!!" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The End