Touch (sequel to Steam)

A beautiful spring night. Perfect for romance. Perfect for rubbing salt into torn hearts. The kind of night for walking around, bemoaning fate, looking for comfort.

Xander was walking. He never drove after drinking, never, never, never. That was one Harris tradition he was going to avoid. He wondered how long it would be before that good intention went down before inevitable Zepponess. Don't drink and drive, but leave your bride at the altar. At least his failures were creative.

He could go home, crawl into his lonely bed, weep some more, brood some more. Heck, call off work tomorrow, get some real brooding in. Go get his car from the tavern, stop by the liquor store, restock the home supply, drink at home like a responsible person.

Like his father.

He saw his reflection in the window of a parked car. He didn't look good. But, really, he didn't look that bad, either. Just a little ragged around the edges. Like a guy who'd had a rough few days. The guy in the reflection deserved a few drinks, but, honestly, some sleep would probably be better. Or a long shower. A hot tub. Steam room.

Xander pulled the emergency brake on his brain. We do not think of places with steam rooms and hot water. No matter how comfortable and pleasant and soothing it sounds.

He smacked himself mentally and kept walking. Only a couple of blocks from Revello Drive, maybe go see Buffy, apologize for being a shit before. Hard to convince other people they're wrong when you're being blatantly stupid yourself. Besides, he didn't have so many friends he could blow off the ones still talking to him.

Walking at night in the Dale. Death wish, much, Xander? He located the stake in his pocket and starting paying attention to the world again.

Spike stood in front of Buffy's house, smoking the next to last cigarette in his pack. He had to see her, talk to her, convince her. She was stubborn, strong, that's why he loved her. But if he could just see her, touch her . . . She always gave in when he touched her.

He took a last deep drag, then threw the end away and stepped forward.

"I don't think she wants to see you," came a low voice.

God, no, not him.

"This has nothing to do with you, Harris."

The boy'd been drinking, but he wasn't drunk. Spike had thought of some liquid courage for this, but Buffy hated the smell of alcohol-at least, alcohol she hadn't helped drink.

Harris stepped into the light, all anger and confusion and needing a target. "She's my friend. It has everything to do with me. And I know for a fact that she doesn't deal well with guys who cheat on her."

Spike stared at the house, not at the boy-the man who saw too much. The damned quiet ones, seeing everything, big dark eyes like deep wells that all the world's secrets could fall into.

OK, maybe he still was a little drunk from before, when Dawn came by to rip a few new holes in his unbeating heart and his non-soul with her sharp, sharp kitten claws.

"It wasn't like that," he muttered, rubbing his face. "It was just-"

"Your own private peep show?"

"I didn't know there was a fucking camera there! I just went in, and we talked-I didn't mean it to hurt Buffy, it was just-two lonely bodies . . ." He looked back at the house. "If I can just talk to her, I can make her see, make her understand, make her . . ."

"Make her love you?" Xander said softly. "She's not Drusilla."

Xander saw Spike go still, a statue of a hurting man. A handsome statue, one you could stand in the corner and look at to see the image of pain and a broken heart.

Damned beer. Vampires didn't have hearts, they had shriveled lumps of flesh that waited for a hunk of wood to slam in and put the creature out of its own and everyone else's misery.

"So," he sneered, "the whole Buffy thing. With the chip in, you figured, what, can't kill her, let's dig some holes out of her soul?"

The statue moved and glared with cold eyes. "For your information, whelp, the chip doesn't work on Buffy."

Xander blinked, then shook that off, too busy digging for tender spots. "So the problem was, killing Slayers got boring? Once they're dead, they're no fun anymore?" Ah, yes, the Harris death wish, poke the rabid pitbull, hope the chain holds. Neat, Spike vibrated when he was keeping himself from killing a human.

"I love her," Spike said in the deadliest voice Xander had heard in years.

"Oh, right, you love her. And to prove it, you jump the first woman who'd have you."

"That was nothing to do with Buffy-or you, you self-centered bastard."

And that was what he was afraid of. Which hurt worse, he wondered, Anya shrugging and moving on without a care or Anya hoping to rake a few more scars in her ex-fiance's psyche?

Spike watched the pain and confusion on the Harris twerp's face, basking in the agony.

Was it like Buffy's pain, maybe? asked a voice that had no place in a vampire's brain.

Snarling, he turned away-as if he could escape himself. The only thing to hit was the Summers' mailbox, and he couldn't destroy that, that was Buffy's. Harris, human, chip-he dropped down and slammed his fist into the sidewalk, pulverizing the concrete. And a couple of bones.

Xander jumped back in automatic self-defense at the growl, but froze as Spike decided to resculpt the sidewalk. The only sound afterwards was Xander's shaky breath. Spike was a statue again, one knee on the pavement, head bowed, fist buried past the knuckles in the powdered concrete. Blood was spattered a couple of inches around the hole.

"Geez," Xander whispered. "Damn, Spike, are you OK?"

"As if you care," was the muttered reply.

"Yeah, right, stupid human, what the hell am I thinking, worrying one half second about a vampire?" He started to walk away, then stopped. "Still, stupider to just leave you here this pissed off and I don't know what you're going to do."

"Nothing. Bloody nothing."

He didn't trust that quiet voice and walked around to look at Spike's face. Tired. A century and a quarter of tired, maybe. Xander looked down at him until it started to feel good to have Spike on his knees in front of him, then he crouched down too. "It doesn't help, you know. Hitting things, getting drunk." He stared off into the dark. "It doesn't help."

"No," Spike finally whispered. "It doesn't."

"We just get to stand there and let it hurt, how stupid we are."

After a few more silent moments, Spike pulled his fist out of the hole in the sidewalk, hissing at the pain. Blood dripped from a twisted finger.

"Geez," Xander said. "And I thought putting my fist through drywall was stupid. You want to get that cleaned up?"

"It'll be fine." Spike pulled a cloth out of one of his many duster pockets and wrapped it around his hand.

"Yeah, sure, vampire, infection not a problem."

Spike studied his bandaged hand for several moments. "With Anya, it's not what you think."

Xander almost straightened to walk away, then settled silently back on his heels next to Spike, but he didn't look over.

"I like her. Good stories, no-bullshit attitude, damn fine figure of a woman. But there's somebody else she's thinking about. That's all it was, two people, tired of hurting, just wanted some company and willing to settle for something else for a bit." He sighed. "I missed being touched by someone who didn't hate me."

He jumped to his feet, startling Xander, who fell on his ass. "That! That's the problem! Why the fuck should I care if you lot hate me! You're supposed to hate me, fear me." He glared down at Xander, who gaped up at him from where he was sprawled on the pavement. "It's this damned chip, it's changing me, twisting my brain. It's in there, chewing at me, destroying me . . ." He put his fingers to his forehead, as if he could reach in and pull the chip out with his bare hands.

Then Xander saw the blood trickling down Spike's cheek. He scrambled up and grabbed Spike's wrist. "Stop it! Enough with the self-mutilation already." The wounds on Spike's forehead only went through the skin and were already healing.

Spike looked at his bloody fingers, then pulled them to his mouth to lick them clean, ignoring Xander's grip. He grimaced. "No taste to it. Nothing to it."

"You are seriously wigging me out here, Spike." Xander tried to tug the hand away, but he wasn't sure Spike was paying any attention to him. His hand went all the way around the vampire's wrist, but the muscles and bones under his fingers moved in happy ignorance of outside control.

Spike looked towards Buffy's house. "Why?" he said softly. "I just want to hold her, love her, help her. Why won't she let me?"

Maybe the question was meant for the wind, but Xander had asked that question himself and finally come up with an answer. "Because she's Buffy. And at the end of the day, she's always on her own."

Spike shook his head hard, trying to clear his mind of the madness that always took him when he tried to make sense of how he felt about Buffy. The demon loved her strength, loved challenging the Vampire Slayer. The man-even though he wasn't supposed to be in there-saw her pain, her burdens, and ached to ease them. When was the last time he'd seen her smile? Never at him, anyway, except for those few hours under Willow's spell, when she was his and happy to be so.

At the time he'd been horrified, but now, like the whipped mutt he was, he replayed those memories in his mind, remembering when she'd cuddled in his lap and didn't care who saw her touch him.

"That part was supposed to have been taken out," he muttered. "There's supposed to be a demon in here, not some pansy git moaning about a scrawny bint, about helping her and holding her. I stink of humanity, that's what The Judge said. Maybe I was just made wrong. A crazy vamp made me, a psychotic one raised me. Bound to be some side effects."

He blinked again, just then noticing the grip Xander still had on his wrist. Big hands, the boy-man had. Spike remembered the bath house and the uncertain way Xander had touched him. Feeling him slowly give in to a new form of passion had been nearly as arousing as the feel of warm mortal skin under Spike's hands. Spike knew he could pull free whenever he wanted, but he'd gotten used to being touched and he was in withdrawal after Buffy's dramatic declaration that she was only using him. He didn't mind. She could use him as much as she wanted, so long as she let him hold her. He wanted a body in his arms, a warm, willing-or at least persuadable-body.

He looked up at Xander, who seemed to have forgotten his own quarrel with Spike. He looked equal parts worried and freaked out. Too bad anything Spike might say would only remind him of who and what he was holding on to. As pleasant as it was, they couldn't stand in front of the Slayer's house all night, big, warm, mortal hand wrapped around slender vampire wrist.

Spike looked at Buffy's house again, feeling that aching pull again. One light was on upstairs. Her room. If he could just see her, talk to her, touch her . . .

The grip on his wrist tightened. "What are you thinking?" Xander asked.

"Stupidity. I could go in there, make her see . . ."

The hand on his wrist squeezed hard. "Bad idea. Stalkery kind of idea, and while I know you're the stalkery kind, you going to have to get over it. Leave her alone. She made her feelings plain. You're not good with the letting go thing, are you."

Spike laughed bitterly. "Yeah, I think I've proved that over and over." He looked at the fingers wrapped around his wrist, then raised an eyebrow at Xander. "You're not too good at letting go, either, are you."

Xander blushed hard and yanked his hand away. Spike covered the weird disappointment by digging out his cigarettes.

Xander barely managed to not wipe his hand on his pants, though not from any "ooo, ick" factor. He wanted to erase the sensory memory of Spike's skin in the palm of his hand. After the . . . incident at the bath house, he'd gone home and drained the hot water heater in a long scalding shower in an effort to stop the ghost feelings on his skin. The gentle, determined caresses, the firm touch on his cock, the new, forbidden, intoxicating body against his. He preferred not to think at all about the second incident, the night after the second worst day of his life, when he'd gone looking for something to burn the pain and shame away.

Except-there'd been dreams, of what might have happened if Spike hadn't sent him away, hadn't seen what had driven Xander back to him and made him decide not to play the Masochism Tango. Xander hadn't decided if he thought he was lucky or not that Spike had said no.

Spike glared through the cigarette smoke at him, the old, familiar glare. Mostly. Annoyance, frustration, yes, but there was more resignation, less "I would use your head as a hand puppet if I could."

"You can't stay here, Spike," Xander said. If he did nothing else tonight, he'd keep Buffy from being annoyed by the bleached blunder.

"Got nowhere else to go," Spike muttered.

Xander knew that was his cue to suggest other towns, other nations as possible places for Spike to go, but he heard something familiar in the vampire's voice: isolation, depression, weariness. A desire to make the sick merry-go-round just stop.

"You know it's over, right?" he said quietly. "The quicker you accept it, the quicker it'll stop hurting."

Now he got the contemptuous look. "And you, have you accepted that it's over?"

Xander laughed. "This is more of the 'Do as I say, not as I do' school of thought." He sighed. "But, yeah, I think-over." God, it hurt to say it out loud. "Even if-she's Anyanka again, pride of the vengeance demons. It wouldn't be the same, even if."

Spike's smile was surprisingly companionable. "No, you don't give up easy either. You'd go back in a heartbeat if she crooked her little finger."

"Yeah. It all wouldn't be so bad, except I roll over in the middle of the night, and it takes me a couple of seconds to remember why there's nobody there."

He braced himself for the sneer of "pathetic wanker" or "poncy git" or any of a dozen other sarcastic Britishisms. When they didn't come, he looked at Spike, who was staring at the end of his cigarette with a look on his fact that spoke of more years than Xander cared to imagine.

"Get a new bed," Spike finally said. "You'll never be free of the memories otherwise." He shook himself, gave Xander a sullen, angry glare, then started walking.

Xander fell into step next to him. Just to make sure he didn't circle back to carry out whatever plan of annoyance he'd had on Buffy. It was as good a direction as any other.

They walked in silence for over an hour. Nothing ambushed them, no one bothered them. Xander turned for Main Street, and Spike followed. When they walked past the Magic Box and saw that it was dark and locked up tight, Spike never said a word. Spike wandered past a construction site and a half-demolished house, but Xander didn't ask why.

Eventually they came to the high school. Instead of the burned-out wreck, the site had been bulldozed level and scaffolding surrounded new walls.

Xander stopped in front of what had been the old main doors. "I knock 'em down, I put 'em back up." He nodded at the sign next to the chain link fence. "My company. We're rebuilding it."

Spike shook his head. "Bury it deep, sow the earth with salt, that's what you should have done."

"Probably. At least they not going to call it the Mayor Richard Wilkens Memorial High School, like they planned." Xander stuck his hands in his pocket and rocked back on his heels. "Seems like years since I sat in classes."

"Has been years."

"Doofus. Not as many as it feels like, anyway."

"Years count for more on the Hellmouth. They're more likely to kill you." Spike studied the building as well. "Good times at the old Hellmouth High. Parent-Teacher Night."

"Yeah," Xander grinned. "First occasion of Buffy kicking your ass."

"She had help, damn it. Nobody told me I had to worry about the Slayer's mum, too."

"Poor Joyce."

"Yeah. But, on a happier note, that was also the night Angel offered you up to me for tea. Pity he was faking. Would have been a nummy treat."

"Hey!" Then Xander saw the smirk. "Jerk."

"Get it right. It's evil jerk."

"Damn straight."

They stood for a bit longer, contemplating the building site.

Xander finally sighed. "I should go home eventually. Get something approximating sleep."

"To die, to sleep," Spike murmured. "To sleep, perchance to dream."


"Nothing. Just an obvious cliche." Spike looked towards the cemetery, his cemetery with his near-burnt-out crypt. Cold, damp, smelling of ashes, full of the remnants of his belongings and his hopes and her voice calling him by name as she said good-bye.

Dammit, for the last hour his brain had been quiet as he walked with Xander. It was all crawling back, the pain, the desperate craving, the hatred of being alone.

Beside him, Xander sighed again, and he didn't seem in too much of a hurry himself to head home to an empty place.

In the privacy of his own mind, Spike thought how pleasant it would be not to be taking a separate road home from Xander Harris. He remembered very well the feel of that warm skin, the taste of those lips. Simple, uncomplicated lust and the chance to have someone beside you in the dark. Between the two of them they could outwit their pain for a few hours.

Not that that was likely to happen. And thinking about it only made the idea of heading cryptward even worse. He reached for his cigarettes and found the pack empty. That deserved a sigh, too, so he gave one.

"Why the hell are you sighing?" Xander snapped. "You don't breathe."

What the hell, the truth was sometimes amusing. "I'm out of smokes, and I don't want to go home. Or that place that's standing in for home these days."

"Why not?"

"Because there's nothing there I want to go home to." If nothing else, maybe he'd get beaten unconscious and he wouldn't have to think about anything for a while.

"Yeah, I know," Xander said, instead.

Maybe he ought to get a whole new apartment, Xander thought. One that wasn't filled with the memories of sex and laughter and fun with food items and cha-cha-ing across the living room floor. Then he wouldn't have to hear the way unlocking the door echoed around the silent rooms.

If he'd let that woman at the bar keep hitting on him, he wouldn't have to worry about going home alone. But she would have had questions, and she wouldn't understand about his ex-fiancee who was now a demon-no, really-and how weird life could get on the Hellmouth. Besides, she'd probably turn out to be a demon, too. And if he was going to be inviting demons home, there was one handy . . .

Crazy brain. Gone nuts, stupid, on the rebound brain. We are not picturing Spike in our apartment. This is Spike, who tore up Buffy's heart, then went on to boff Anya right on the Magic Box table for all the cyber-world to see.

And the thought had not gone through him, as he stared at the computer screen, of "Damn, I wish this got better reception." He had not said to himself, "Oh, my god, Spike and Anya, it can't be-wow, that's hot."

He would not let that sort of thing go any farther with Spike. He was a Scooby, he fought vampires, he didn't fuck vampires. That was Buffy's gig. Still, there would be nothing to explain to Spike. He knew it all. So what if he'd caused a lot of it? He knew what the Hellmouth drove a person to, how you could wake up one morning and find out life was nothing like what you thought it might be.

Xander had apparently gotten over the whole "but he's a guy" thing when Spike had laid that first finger on him there at the bath house. His dreams since then showed his imagination was a whole lot more flexible than he'd given it credit for. The "but he's a vampire" thing, now . . . He hated vampires. Still did. When you changed that from "all vampires" to "that vampire", though, things got complicated. He distrusted Angel (when he didn't envy him), he laughed at Harmony (when he didn't feel sorry for her), and he wanted Spike (even when he wanted Spike gone).

OK, so the thought of his hands on naked Spike skin got him hot. The thought of his hands on lots of different people's naked skin got him hot. Why should he make the no-parachute jump from fantasy to reality? Because safety left you in a cold bed all alone? Because even self-disgust was better than numb?

Because pride was such a new thing in his brain that it was easy to ignore?

He'd get over it. He wasn't the first guy with a broken heart. One day at a time, work hard, go to bed exhausted, eventually he'd stop thinking that pulling out in front of a speeding semi truck was a quick way to go.

Suck it up, brave little toaster. Say good night to the sexy vampire who kept you platonic company during a bad night and go home.

He turned around, taking the breath to actually say it, then met Spike's eyes. And saw the same sorrow, longing, and weary resignation as he felt.

"Don't look at me like that," he whispered.

"Why not?"

"Because it makes me want to do things to you."

Spike went very still, like he was bracing himself. "Like what?"

Spike was strong, hard, rage at the world, take his share, never look back. Strong people were not supposed to look so beaten. And no one was supposed to expect pain from Xander Harris. He'd left the woman he loved at the altar because he was afraid he'd become the kind of man who didn't care if his family was afraid of him. He was not going to be the cause of the whipped puppy dog eyes in anybody.

He stepped forward, took great pleasure in the shock on Spike's face as he reached up to touch one hard-edged cheekbone, and leaned in for a kiss.

When you're a vampire, one thing you don't have to worry about is being knocked breathless from shock. You could experience the full shock without distraction.

Warm lips on his, warm lips that had come to him, a hand on his face that had made the first move. If he moved, tried to reach for Xander, would he scare him off?

After another few moments, Xander pulled away a little, leaving his hand on Spike's face.

Spike cleared his throat. "What are you doing?"

Xander raised an eyebrow. "I thought I was kissing you. That's kind of what it felt like the last time."


The patented goofy grin faded. "I'm not sure. Just-you looked like you were hurting, and I wanted to make it stop."

Spike gave him his best suspicious look. "That's new. Since when does me hurting make you anything but happy?"

Instead of pulling away and saying something sarcastic, Xander studied him gravely. "Since I've begun worrying about how much I've enjoyed seeing you in pain. And I'm afraid it's not a big jump from liking the sight of my enemies' pain to liking the sight of the people I care about in pain. When Willow shows how much she hurts, there's a little voice in me that says, 'Serves you right.' And I don't think that should be there."

"And so you're going to start kissing your enemies instead of gloating? You're going to be very popular."

Spike was still suspicious, but his brain had trouble focusing past the warm fingers resting easily on his face and the brown eyes that looked at him without any of the anger and resentment he'd grown used to. There was even a faint, sincere smile on those nibbleable lips. Spike was afraid to reach for him, though, half certain that the whelp had learned Angelus levels of subtle cruelty and that the smile would turn into a rejecting sneer if Spike showed desire in return.

Xander's smile faded slowly into familiar defensiveness. "Right. You're just going to stand there and stare at me like I'm nuts. Fair enough, I probably am. Not like you've got any reason to trust me. Try not to laugh too hard when you tell your demon buddies about this." One more fingertip brush along Spike's cheekbone, and the warm hand drew away.

Or tried to. The dead move fast, to quote the old phrase. Spike grabbed Xander's wrist, reminding himself that the chip still recognized this human. He rested his thumb against the pulse, as if he couldn't hear Xander's heart speeding up. He watched the other man's eyes, but they had gone as still as the rest of him.

Until Spike slowly raised the hand and pressed a slow kiss into the palm.

Xander hoped his gasp of surprise and lust was a manly gasp. Not that he cared that much. Cool lips against his palm, lips that smiled when Xander gasped. Blue eyes watching him intently-but still suspiciously.

"What-shit." He swallowed to get his voice back down to its normal register. That smile twitched against his hand. "What's wrong?"

He was pleased to see Spike having to take a moment or two himself before he spoke. "In case you were wondering, yes, I'm interested." The thumb running slowly back and forth across the pulse in Xander's wrist underlined that statement. "I don't even mind that I'm standing in for someone else you'd rather be with. But what I do mind is if you decide to come to your senses later and claim that the evil creature you hate took advantage of you. I'm tired of being with people who hate me-no matter how much I want to be with them," he added with a touch of self-disgust.

It was a valid question. There was a lot to be said for claiming in the morning that you were swept away by loneliness and lust and that you never intended to let things go so far-especially with someone you've loudly loathed for years.

Self-honesty was something Xander was trying to get better at. He wanted someone to hold on to. He wanted Spike. He had been shocked to hell when he realized that, but he couldn't deny it anymore, either. A good portion of his hostility towards Spike had been a less-than-admirable desire to get some of his own back after having been terrorized by the vampire. And some of that hostility had been confusion at not always being upset at having Spike around.

"I don't think I hate you, anymore," he said thoughtfully. A doubtful scarred eyebrow raised at that. "Not to say I *like* you, you know. But . . . I'm not sure how I feel about you, other than . . ."

Spike smiled. "Other than this?" Very slowly he ran the tip of his tongue from the inside of Xander's wrist, across the palm, and along his middle finger, ending with the tip of the finger in his mouth as he sucked gently and nibbled.

"Oh, god." Whimpers were manly, dammit. "Yeah, that," he was finally able to gasp when he stopped shivering.

"And what do you call that?" Spike was still reserving judgement, though his eyes looked a lot more hopeful.

"Want." Xander stepped closer. "I call it want. And I may not roll over and send an announcement to everybody on my Buddy list, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to still want you in the morning."

Maybe Spike hadn't thought that far ahead, but when Xander said "in the morning," all the lights came on in Spike's eyes and the smile held nothing of sneers. Lots of naughty anticipation, but no sneers. That grin needed kissing, so Xander leaned in and did so.

Spike growled into the kiss, just a little, and felt Xander smile. Well, fine, then. He let go of Xander's wrist and shoved his hand into that mop of soft, dark hair. Xander took advantage of his free hand and slid both arms under Spike's duster to pull him close.

"Skinny," he said, still smiling.

"Could take your ass any time I want." The blush was incandescent, and Spike leaned back just far enough to see in the light of the nearby streetlamp. "Thinking of asses and taking, are we? Does it hurt to blush that hard?"

"OK, so I'm just a tad lightheaded." Xander licked his lips a little nervously, but he didn't look away from Spike's amused, lascivious eyes. Those big hands slid down Spike's back, down to his ass. "And, yeah, thinking is being done. About the taking."

Thinking-and responding. Spike shifted his hips, both to try and find a more comfortable position for his own erection and to feel how tight Xander's trousers were getting across the front. Xander gasped, and Spike moved in to continue exploration of the lovely mouth. That got a chuckle from Xander and a tighter grip that pulled him against a warm body.

Needed more touch, and he had another hand that wasn't doing anything-for a very good reason, he remembered, as he bumped the smashed finger against Xander's hip.

"Ow, shit!"

Xander jumped back. "What! You didn't do anything to me!"

"No, luv, I did it to myself." Now for the really fun part, which he'd have done already if not for a hopefully-not-hereditary bout of brooding. He unwrapped the cloth from his injured hand and inspected the damaged finger. The bones were starting to set, and if he didn't make sure everything was set properly now it would heal crookedly. Angelus had literally tied a minion's arms behind his own back once, then tied him down until they healed that way. Of course, Angelus than had to stake him to stop the screaming.

Xander winced at the damage. "That needs a splint."

"Nah, just a little alignment." Bracing himself, he started at the base of the finger and straightened the healing bones. Xander averted his eyes. Spike wiped off the dried blood and concrete dust. "Remind me never to punch sidewalks again."


The quiet tone of voice made Spike look up, concerned. Xander was staring at his shoes. "What is it, pet?"

There was something painful and self-mocking in his eyes when Xander looked up. "I don't mind being second best either."

Spike had a finger across his lips before he finished the last word. "Not second best, Xander. Just different. I don't find it any kind of hardship at all to be getting my hands on a beautiful brown-eyed boy instead of-someone else. I won't be yelling out the wrong name, not after all the times I've imagined you naked and sweaty, just like you were in that steam room."

The pain had gone under to rising heat and the beginnings of a wicked smile. Xander kissed the fingertip pressed against his lips, then ran the tip of his tongue up along the finger before sucking it into his mouth to play with further.

Spike stared helplessly at his finger disappearing between smirking lips, thinking only of other places those lips could be exploring. Hell with it. He looked up and down the street quickly, then reached for his belt buckle.

"I don't think so!" Xander yelped, jumping back. "Not out here on the street! Next to the Hellmouth? With my luck that thing would crack open and the Apocalypse would catch me with my hand down your pants."

"Wasn't thinking about your hand, pet." He laughed and ducked the smack Xander aimed at his head.

"Fine, then." Xander grabbed Spike's hand and started off down the street.

"I love it when you're forceful. But where are you taking me?"

"My place."

Spike blinked. "Well, you're certainly taking to all this enthusiastically. Not that I'm complaining, mind you."

Xander gave him a look over his shoulder. "I could give in to all the bashfulness and nervousness, but what would that get me? Faint heart never won fair-" He looked Spike up and down. "Ass."

"Oi! My ass is not fair!" Wait. That sounded more than a little idiotic. Xander obviously agreed, from the laughter he wasn't quite keeping down.

"What, it cheats at cards?"

The mocking grin disappeared with a gulp at the slow smile Spike returned. "You'll see, luv. You'll see."

No, Xander discovered, not fair at all. Definitely cheating, not to even wait for him to close the door before pushing him back against it until the lock caught, then kissing him senseless while very slowly unbuttoning his shirt. Then, when he was helpless, it was definitely cheating to smile at him at close range as cool fingers meandered down his bare chest to his belt buckle and the zipper of his pants. And the most outrageous cheat was that vampires didn't have to breathe and so didn't have to stop one moment in nibbling down said chest, sinking to their knees, and proceeding to give the most intense blow job known to frail humanity.

Door good. Door hold up Xander, who had lost his legs when Spike made that first long lick from his balls to the tip of his aching cock, and how was he supposed to go to work when his legs had disappeared? And there went his mind, with the stroke of one finger from his asshole to just behind his balls, timed to Spike's slow redefinition of the term "deep throat." Good-bye, words. Hello, gasps and moans and hands clutching hair as his entire awareness was pulled out through his cock, leaving only stars in darkness and a very soft, pleased British laugh.

He rediscovered the gift of sight to find a smug Spike standing up and helping him stay upright by wrapping strong arms around him. "I'd like my legs back, please. You've swapped them out for spaghetti. Limp spaghetti. One could even say flaccid spaghetti."

He could get very used to the honestly amused Spike laugh. "Don't know why you need legs, pet. You've got a lovely floor. Soft rugs all over the place."

"Why, so I do. Well, if I don't need legs, you don't need this coat." He shoved at the leather duster that was frustrating his attempts at getting at its owner's naked body.

"Too right."

The duster found the back of a chair, the black t-shirt escaped to some holiday location with Xander's shirt, and footwear took itself off somewhere conveniently out of the way. Xander didn't pay much attention because his hands were full of bare Spike skin and the two of them had found their way to the floor, where gravity was no longer a problem and an honest man could get to another man's belt buckle. But slowly. Making sure that the tight jeans weren't some strange foreign make that he didn't understand the working of. Best to explore everywhere he could reach, ignoring those twitches and mutters of "Dammit, Xander, get a bloody move on, please."

Spike eventually lost patience points by shoving down his own jeans and throwing them towards the door, where Xander's pants were still huddled from earlier. Not that Xander noticed, being too busy kissing back the vampire who was laying on top of him and kissing him.

A flat, hard chest against his own, a cock digging into his hip while his became rapidly reinterested in the proceedings. Strong arms holding him tightly and a body he could hold with all his strength without being afraid of protests. When he rolled them both over, grabbed Spike's hands and pinned them hard on the floor above his head, all he got was an approving grin. But flashes of other times playing on the floor were coming back to him. There were reasons for the several soft rugs all over the place, and none of them involved anybody's cold feet.

"Xander?" Spike said softly.


Spike tugged gently against his grip and he let him have one hand free. Long slender fingers explored his face for a moment, then slid around the back of his head to pull him down for a slow kiss. It was like that kiss at the bath house, a really good thing in and of itself but more than willing to let other things happen. Xander just let it go, feeling the cool, unfamiliar body against his.

Eventually Spike pulled back a few millimeters and looked at him. "Fuck me," he said softly.

Xander stared down breathlessly. He'd finally convinced himself that, yes, Spike wanted him, that Spike really enjoyed getting his hands on Xander's body. This, though-his dreams had all involved some very Freudian themes of him giving in to Spike and letting the vampire show him some of the nifty things two guys could do to each other. The idea that Spike, alpha wolf and general bad ass, wanted Xander to do things to him . . .

Spike tilted his head a little at Xander's continued gape-mouthed silence. "Or I could do you. No hardship either way." He gave a sultry smile and traced Xander's lips with a gentle fingertip. "But I do like the idea of feeling you burying that hot body of yours in me." He shivered just a little, and his eyes flickered to gold.

Oh, well, it'd be terribly rude of him to not do something Spike obviously wanted so much, especially after that revelatory blow job at the door.

"Yeah, OK," he said intelligently. "I can do that."

Spike's smile broadened in anticipation. "Oh, lovely."

Nothing Xander hadn't done before, anyway, though that body had been warmer and curvier and softer. Comparisons and sad memories quickly disappeared as Spike used unfair vampire wiles to wiggle free and reach for his duster to pull something out of a pocket.

"You carry it with you?" Xander said, staring at the tube of lubricant that had been dropped into his hand.

That eyebrow twitched at him again. "Never know when an opportunity will present itself." He kissed Xander to stop any further comments. "Now shut up and fuck me."

"And here I thought I got to be the dominant one."

That got him the full leer. "Dominate me, baby."

Sure, like he was going to manage that with his fingers suddenly gone all numb and useless. Spike finally took the lube back and proceeded to help.

No more comparisons were possible once Xander finally settled into Spike's body. The hard-muscled back that curled up into him as they slid together, the chilly body temperature that quickly became the most right feeling in the world, the low moans and near-growls that triggered half-buried memories of the safety of a pack, the claw marks that Spike was slowly gouging into the hardwood floor as he rocked back.

Xander pulled Spike close into him and leaned down to lick the junction of the pale neck and shoulder. Faint sweat, and he didn't know vampires could sweat.

"God," Spike whispered helplessly. He twisted his head to give better access to his neck. Chuckling, Xander obliged, licking a path up to the ear, then following with his teeth. The next growl was a whole lot closer to the full-fanged thing. Instead of being put off, Xander responded with a growl of his own and started thrusting harder. No need to worry about damaging this body, he could move as hard as he wanted, dig his fingers into the strong shoulders as tight as he could, just forget himself for a change and let his body go. And every move was met with an eager back thrust, wanting everything Xander could give and then some.

He closed his eyes and buried his face in Spike's neck, trusting to vampire strength to hold them both up as he stopped thinking and became just a moving body. His teeth ended up in Spike's shoulder again, and Spike's yell served for both of them as they came.

They collapsed on the rug, Xander panting and Spike shuddering. Eventually Spike managed to roll over so they were face to face. Xander grinned wearily.

"What?" Spike asked in a shaky voice.

"Your hair's sticking up funny."

Spike started to reach to fix it, then gave it up, just laying there. Xander thought about moving closer, but the faint wariness in his-gosh-lover's eyes stopped him. Which was depressing, because Xander liked to snuggle after mind-boggling sex. Though why Spike should be afraid of what Xander might to do to him after all that-oh.

He reached over and rested a hand on Spike's chest, still amazed that nothing beat inside. "That was-something I'd feel like a girly idiot for describing. But, wow." His insides went all girly anyway at the way Spike's face relaxed into a tired smile.

All Spike did, though, was reach over and run his fingers through Xander's sweaty hair. "Yeah."

Xander scooted towards him an inch or so, just in case, then ran his fingers along Spike's jawline and cheekbones, simply looking at him with a contented smile. Spike left his hand resting on the side of Xander's face, only the occasional eye blink showing he hadn't gone back to statuehood.

Eventually Xander's brain re-coalesced from happy goo and remembered the time. "I have to go to work in the morning. Shit."

Spike's hand pulled away slowly. "So you need to get some sleep."

"Yeah." He frowned, then realized what was going on. He put a hand out before Spike could roll away and stand up. "Stay," he told the surprised eyes.

Statue, again, this time of a cautious but hopeful man. "Stay. Here. With you."

"No, with Mr. Konstantin down the hall, him and his six cats. Yes, here. With me."

Xander had never noticed before that the arrogant nonchalance was an expression Spike had to put on. "You know, these rebound relationships, they never work."

"This isn't a relationship, it's-it's fuckbuddies."

"I beg your pardon?" And there was the prim Victorian who peeked out every now and then.

"Do not try and tell me that word shocks you, Mr. Shut Up and Fuck Me."

"Well, it does coming from you."

He managed not to snicker at the delightful sight of a disconcerted William the Bloody. He patted Spike's cheek. "Pardon my language, then."

"Pillock," growled the more familiar tones.

"But, anyway, f-word buddies." He did snicker at the dirty look he got. "People who get together to-shag because they want to and it feels good and there's nothing expected except, well, friendship." He lost his grin by the end of that, when he realized he'd just proposed friendship with a vampire. With Spike. Boy, that post-jilting disorientation, took you in some weird directions.

Spike sat up, watching Xander, who just stayed on the floor and let himself be looked at as Spike processed whatever confusion and suspicion was bouncing around his own head.

"OK," he finally shrugged. The corner of his mouth twitched. "Fuckbuddies."

"Tsk. Such language."

"I'm an evil vampire. I'm supposed to have a filthy mouth."

Xander rolled up to a sitting position, then leaned forward to kiss Spike. "I like your mouth." And there was the patented 'Yeah, I'm a bad ass and you love it' smirk. "Fuckbuddy." Oh, gosh, pursed lips and all, that got another kiss.

"I thought you were wanting to go to sleep," Spike griped.

"Yeah, sleep. Good sleep." Xander looked down at himself. "Shower, first."

Spike nodded with a grin. He got to his feet, wincing as he braced himself on the hand with the broken finger. He glared at that hand, carefully flexing the joints of the finger to check the healing.

Xander watched, remembering the evening and where all this started. "What would you have done, if I hadn't shown up?"

Spike blinked at him. "What?"

That was the trouble with being naked, no pockets to stick your hands in when you wanted to slouch during an iffy conversation. "When I saw you at Buffy's. I don't know where your head was, but it wasn't a good place. What were you thinking of doing?"

The remote, haunted face came back, and he wouldn't meet Xander's eyes. "Doesn't matter. It didn't happen."

"What didn't happen?" He didn't like pushing, just when things were all confused and new. Stepping closer, he ran the back of his knuckles up and down Spike's arm, hoping he'd take it for the reassurance it was meant as. "What?" he asked softly.

Spike shook himself but still wouldn't look over. "You're right. She's not Dru. But that was-it was the demon thinking, not the man who's supposed to love her. I was going to go in there and . . ."

Xander saw shivers and put his hand around Spike's arm. "But you didn't."

"Only because you stopped me."

"Doesn't matter."

"It does. I was going to go in there and make her love me, no matter what. And, hell, it didn't even work with Dru, not really. I am never going to be what she deserves, what she needs. Just a demon who was going to walk in there after everything I've done and-"

Xander shook him. "It didn't happen. Nothing bad happened."

"But it would have, if you'd been just a few minutes slower getting there."

"OK, it might have. Deal with it."

Spike shook his head. "You wouldn't be so calm if you knew what I would have done."

Xander rubbed Spike's shoulder for a moment. "Boy, do I have some stories to tell you about what seems like a good idea to a hyena mind."

"Excuse me?"

"Later. Shower. Sleep. Seriously consider calling in dead tomorrow."

Spike studied him, finally smiling just a little. "You're a strange human, Xander Harris."

"You're a stranger vampire, William the Bloody."

"What happens now?"

"After the shower, sleep, etc.?" Xander shrugged. "I don't know. The bad thing you almost did didn't happen. I decided to stop wishing you were dead. We both try to figure out how to function after women have diced up our hearts." He saw a look in Spike's eyes he thought mirrored his own: residual pain and loss and confusion. "And I find out how long it takes for you to stop flinching when I say fuckbuddy." He snickered at Spike's glare.




"I'm going to make you pick up the soap."


"You'll see."


The alarm rang in what could only be a smug manner, mocking him for staying out till all hours on a work night, drinking and brooding and-


Xander went very, very still after smacking the alarm quiet. There was somebody else in his bed, and if he hadn't dreamed all that, said body would have short bleached hair and be equipped just a little differently than the last body that had shared his bed.

If he didn't look, maybe he could pretend . . . no. The bedroom door was open, and out on the living room floor he could see a pile of clothing that screamed "person other than Anya."

He had dreamed of the night's events before, but he'd never thought of the morning after. So. Cold, clear light of day. No excuses of booze or loneliness or anything. What do you do, Xander Harris? Do you jump out of bed screaming? Do you very carefully reach for that stake in the duffle bag under the bed?

Or do you slide back under the covers, shove the pillow into a more comfortable lump, and wonder how much sleep a vampire needs so as not to be cranky when someone pokes them awake in the morning after the night before?

God, he was still gut-wrenchingly tired, but at least that was from being up too late, not from bad sleep brought on by booze and depression. Behind the tired, his brain was remarkably quiet, with faint murmurs of contentment and bemused surprise. So that was gay sex. Or maybe just sex with Spike. He fought off the urge to call Buffy and compare notes. Or maybe call Anya-

No. Nope. Stop that. Still resolving which way to move, here, away or back.

Work. Should work. But the boss had given him a look yesterday that said a distracted construction guy was not a good construction guy.

He picked up the phone and called the boss' cell phone. "Hey, Sam, it's Xander. Look, I think I'm going to take the day off, is that OK? Oh, good. No, it's all good, I just need a hell of a lot more sleep. Yeah? Well, thanks for the opinion. I don't know if I am better, but-I think it's a possibility. Yeah. I'll be in tomorrow. I'll bring donuts. Bye."

No movement from the body behind him. Maybe vampires did conk out that hard during the day. Or maybe he was thinking his own thoughts.

Nah, the vote is "no" on meaningful conversations right now. Sleep, sleep was the thing. Physical tired sleep, not mentally tired, avoid-the-world sleep. Good sleep.

He'd slid back under the covers into his toasty warm spot before he'd finished thinking. And then he looked over at the other side.

Spike was facing away, motionless. Asleep, awake and listening, no response either way. Later for that. Xander sleepily studied the pale shoulder sticking up out of the covers, admiring the lines of muscle and bone. He ran a hand very lightly along the cool skin, just to remind himself of the texture, hoping he wouldn't wake him.

"Night, Spike," he yawned, letting his hand slide down Spike's back to the bed between them. "Or morning. Or whatever . . ." Settle things later, after more sleep . . .

Mortal breath and heartbeat slowed to the rhythm of rest. Vampire shoulders relaxed just as slowly as they'd tensed at the sound of the alarm.

And vampires do not cry, especially not because of a casual burning brush of mortal fingers on someone who shouldn't expect more of a morning than a coldly polite request to forget everything that happened in the weird, permissive night. Certainly nothing like a continuing welcome, nor a sleepy friendly greeting, and most certainly not a touch of acceptance and companionship.

A stronger person would leave, steal a blanket, sneak out, make for the lonely safety of the sewers. Love's bitch, though, never claimed to be strong, and it was much sweeter to roll over very carefully and go back to sleep while watching someone else's face.