He never tells Spike the exact comments of Willow's that were responsible for tipping his freak-o-meter into the red. "He needs fixing," she said with a determined look. And also: "Maybe we shouldn't have brought him here."
Words to chill a man who knows a witch. But the horizon is now sunny again.
The day is sunny too, and it's totally out of the blue when he turns around on site and finds himself face to face with Riley Finn. Immediate grin from Riley at his astonished expression, and then they're laughing and hugging in a manly way, clapping each other on the back. Riley doesn't get into town often--three or four times a year, following up on special ops business. This time around it's nothing urgent, and they go to lunch and shoot the shit. Xander learns:
1. Riley and Sam are going through choppy relationship waters.
2. The Australian outback is crawling with dragons. ("But that's hush hush," Riley says.)
3. The government is thinking of reestablishing a monitoring presence on the Hellmouth.
Riley: "Yeah. That's why I'm here."
Xander: "Huh. They didn't learn their lesson the first time?"
Riley, tipping his head to acknowledge the hit: "They *want* to learn from it. They're thinking of assigning a smaller unit here, more in a liaison capacity."
He has big hands, Xander notices as Riley toys with a breadstick. He's more likely to notice stuff like that now, even when he's not attracted to a guy.
They talk about Buffy and Willow and Dawn, and then things reach a point where Xander has to make room in the conversation to say: "Spike's back...he's living with me." Existing with me, his mind corrects, but as Giles would say, that's pedantic and not especially humorous.
Riley: "Wow. That's...living with, or living *with*?"
Xander: "Emphasis on the with."
He sees wheels turning in Riley's head as the other man thinks about how this development clears one more ex-lover off of Buffy's greatest hits list, and what this might mean for a guy who is probably going to divorce his wife.
That's purely speculation. It's just that Riley seems a bit sad and lonely, and the way he was talking about Buffy earlier made it clear that he still has a thing for her even if he's tried to move on.
Riley's business is with Willow and with Bennett, their locally assigned watcher. He's in town for three days and they do the obligatory dinner on the second night. It's pure comedy gold: Spike, Riley, Xander, Willow, Bennett, Dawn, and Becca all gathered at a table over spaghetti and a carafe of blood, everyone but Dawn taking great care about what they say and how they say it.
Riley making small talk with Spike: Mister Iowa, well raised by his mother, puts a lot of effort into getting over the hump of the past, while Spike gazes across the table as if studying a not-very-interesting form of talking plant life. He's the least polite he's been since his arrival, very Old Spikish, and it would be heartening to Xander if it weren't so awkward.
At one point Riley gets some sauce on his shirt and Spike, who is wearing off-white silk and drinking blood, pauses with his wine glass halfway to his lips and stares for one long, obvious moment at the stain as if it's evidence of a character flaw or social gaucherie--this from a man who once cleaned mud from his boots on Xander's mother's coffee table with the broken rib of a Vargal demon he'd wrested earlier from its corpse as a trophy.
Riley clears his throat, dabs at his shirt, and excuses himself to the bathroom.
Xander kicks Spike under the table.
Two days later Riley is gone again and Spike sulks less, and time rolls forward again at a comfortable pace.
They go out for coffee in the evening on their way to a poetry reading, of all things--a university event that Dawn winningly begged them to attend--and end up waiting in line at the open-air cafe down the street from the Magic Box. They're debating the rankings of pricey sports cars, and gradually a man behind them adopts a listening attitude. When Xander drags his gaze from Spike for a brief moment, he realizes it's a famous movie star. The guy hit it big in a classic flick with Tom Cruise that still makes the cable circuit now and then, and several other films Xander can't immediately name. This close he looks both older than expected and larger than life.
When he catches the man's eye he nods to show he's cool, and the man nods back, casual and with complete politeness.
Spike's back is mostly turned to the star, so he doesn't notice a thing; he's yattering on about automatic versus manual transmissions, torque and cooling systems and cornering.
They reach the counter and Xander turns to order and it's as if his movement turnstiles Spike's head in the opposite direction--as he's focusing on the menu board he can see from the corner of his eye Spike nodding back vaguely toward the man, then he hears that matinee voice say, "How've you been?"
Famous Star: "Diane's last week, wasn't it? Rita introduced us."
Spike, slowly: "Oh. Right."
Famous Star: "Did you sign that deal with Miramax?"
Spike: "Nah. Didn't like their offer."
Famous Star: "I have a script you might be interested in. I'm producing it myself. You're with Kim at ICM, right?"
It goes on like that, freaking out Xander, who fears at any moment the Famous Star will realize Spike is just fucking with him, but by the time they break away, he's given Spike a card with his cell number and invited them both down to his cottage for drinks the following night, letting them know that "Kevin and Phoebe" will be there.
Xander, admiringly, as they reach the sidewalk: "You're such a dick."
Time passes and it's hard to figure out how exactly it all happens or when, but it slowly dawns on Xander that Buffy and Spike have been talking on the phone a lot. He is not aware of this at first because she almost always calls him. First there's a conversation he walks in on, no big, Spike is lounging on the couch and keeps talking, Xander figures out it's Buffy, he talks to Buffy for a few minutes himself. All fine. Then Spike makes some comment a week later and it's some piece of news about Buffy, or not even news, but some tiny indication that he's up to date on her likes and dislikes. And that is a bit odd. Then he gets the phone bill and sees three long-distance calls to her number in the past month, each lasting about an hour.
It's embarrassing the way you behave when you're paranoid, and what follows after this is a painful period of several days, two weeks at most, where he chips away at Spike, a little bit here, a little bit there, trying through dozens of indirect questions to figure out just how much they're talking to each other, and what about, and why, and the ripple effect of his tension is palpable and laps into other talks, other things they do together.
One night it comes to a head, he doesn't even remember how. It's like crash, bang, and all of a sudden they're standing in the living room, mid-fight, and Supercat has flung himself at a gallop down the hall to escape the angry giants.
Xander: "Just tell me, okay--are you still in love with her?" Classic cliché interrogation, but the pain is uniquely his.
Spike: "Of course I'm not." The words are enunciated very deliberately, and his tone and eyes say: you stupid sod, but Xander thinks he may be reading them wrong.
Xander: "Then why the hell are you talking to her all the time?"
Spike: "I told you. She's just lonely."
Xander: "So tell her to call Willow. Or the sister she left when she decided to go off and see the world." Man, he's harsh. He hears it in himself but he can't keep it down.
Spike: "She does. I'm just one of the many, Xander."
A patient tone, and it's jarring, because he only ever uses Xander's name in bed, head hanging face-down over the pillow, hips working frantically back, voice desperate: "Christ, Xander, ah fuck, love, yes, *fuck*, need it harder--"
Hearing it now makes Xander ache, his temples throb. "You're mine. I've fucking *paid* for you." And he gasps instead of laughing, chest tight enough to burst, and turns and punches the wall. Hasn't done that in years, and fuck. It really, stupidly hurts.
Spike comes to him and doesn't do anything for his hand, just yanks him gently back by his belt and forces him to turn, and then shimmies against him as if to say *yes, you have*, and he's kissing Xander's neck and baring his own, and then he's not quite moving anymore, but just waiting for Xander to do whatever he'll do.
The sex is so intense, it's nearly a walking, fucking black-out, a haze filling his brain, a cyclone. He throws Spike against the wall and kisses him and bites hard enough to split Spike's lip and he grabs Spike's head and pulls it forward then slams it back against the wall, hand full of curls at the nape, which makes Spike arch all over, mouth falling open and eyes falling shut, as if he's sky-rocketing into delirium. Xander rips Spike's shirt open, buttons flying, grabs his shoulders and his neck and his head again, wanting something he can't quite get his hands on.
He might have run out of steam then, become aware of his own violence and turned away from it. But Spike is a pro at this, more than in the strict sense of the word--he's got over a hundred years of passion behind him and he knows how to take the lead. He goads Xander by touching himself lazily, licking the blood from his lower lip, and then it's nearly impossible to wait as Xander fists his own dick out, makes Spike get down on the floor and suck him off, right up to the edge of reason, and then fucks him with madness over a chairback--some tumbled furniture before they find the right piece--and Spike's not slick for him, not easy to enter, but Xander does anyway and feels Spike thrash beneath him, hears him make noises that signal when he's about to come.
It's over quick for both of them, actually, Xander following several thrusts behind Spike, dick sharpening--that's how it feels--getting that edge that says *now, now, now*, finer and keener and faster, until he's spilling over. Bang.
He can't keep anger past that moment. He's immediately flush with the joy of aftermath.
He'd be giddy if he didn't ache so much, wanting forgiveness between them both, wanting it all to be good and not a literal fucking mistake.
Spike's lust-whacked face says it is. Not a mistake, but all good.
Xander is shaky the rest of the night, his entire body one big cocktail he can't unmix, but in the morning he wakes up and looks over at the vampire in his bed--dead, undead, bedhead--and Spike is already awake and watching him and smiling. And it's a real smile, sized just right, with nothing at all to hide.