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Domestic Piranha 12.25: Fishing

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There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot. ~Steven Wright

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"Dammit, if you don't put that down right now, you're not getting *any* for a week! Half an hour, tops!"

Xander didn't put it down, but he did almost drop it, when he doubled over laughing. "Oh..hehheh...snerk...heh... right."

"Don't push me, monkey boy." Spike folded his arms, and looked at him sternly. Very sternly. Xander wondered if Spike was *trying* to turn him on, and what he thought he'd accomplish by doing so, besides the obvious. It wasn't like he really *could* hold out. Xander hadn't had to seduce Spike since... He frowned. Since... Xander used his free hand to scratch his chin. Huh. Spike was starting to look triumphant -- obviously misunderstanding Xander's ceasing to try to get away.

"Spike, when was the last time I actually had to *convince* you to have sex with me?" It had happened; he vaguely remembered bad moods and misunderstood cues, things they'd been afraid to ask each other for, but... He really couldn't think of when.

"Huh?" Startled out of his stern look, Spike's expression turned thoughtful. Then it suddenly cleared. "Oi! Twelve years ago, Monday."

"Really? You actually remember? That's so..." Xander crossed his own arms, not letting go of what he was holding, and glared at his husband. "We've only *known* each other for twelve years."

"Well, it didn't work, did it?"

"Huh?" Xander blinked repeatedly, hoping he'd open his eyes and find Spike had been replaced by... well, no, not replaced. Just magically transformed into a version of himself who made *sense*. Just every once in a while. For a change. "I said the *last* time, Spike. Not the first time. And I was not trying to convince you to have sex with me when we met. I was trying to convince you that I wouldn't taste good."

"Er, not the same thing, is it?" Spike agreed, sounding a bit forlorn about it. "Er, so. Last time. Um. Friday?"

Spike seemed to have no clue he was in danger of vampiricide. Xander wondered if that was how he'd survived his years with Darla and Angelus. "I had to convince you to have sex with me on Friday? Was that before or after I woke up to find you standing in front of me with the bowls of cranberry jello and mashed potatoes, wearing only a chef's hat, telling me it was time to play Stuff the Turkey?"

"Oh." Spike blinked. "I meant last Friday." He was obviously reaching -- and obviously had no clue when the last time had been.

"Are you even remotely paying attention to anything I'm saying?" Xander waved his hand in front of Spike's face. "Hello?"

"Hello?" Spike blinked again, then his attention was riveted. Not on Xander. He made a grab for the item in Xander's hand.

"You sneak!" Xander yanked his hand back. "You're *not* getting them. They're mine."

"They are not!" Spike laughed. "They're Wesley's, which mean they belong to *my* Sire. Not yours. Er, wouldn't fit you, anyhow." Spike glanced downwards, though, and Xander saw his eyeballs wobble.

Xander sniffed. "Angel's my Sire-in-law. And since he doesn't want Wesley to have 'em, he'd obviously rather they were in the hands of somebody *trustworthy*."

"Then why doesn't she have them?"

"Because he wouldn't dare punish *her* for having them, duh." Xander narrowed his eyes. "Which you know. That's why you want 'em." He'd thought it was just the everyday, normal, perfectly forgivable desire to fondle another man's Speedo, but noooooo. He was trying to steal Xander's Angel-baiting gig. Considering that Spike had stolen the briefs in the first place, it was possibly cheating for Xander to lay claim to them now, but since when did being married to Spike involve being *fair*?

Spike pouted -- which meant Xander had won, if that was the only strategy he had left. If it *was* the only strategy he had left, though, they'd get awfully bored waiting for Angel to figure out the briefs were missing.

"I *could* give them to you," Xander said slowly, letting his face fall into the expression that had only recently graduated from Guilty Lover to Guilty Husband. "After all, I got spanked by *my* father figure. It'd only be fair."

"Yeah. S'not fair, is it? Be another hundred years before I get Angel to spank me again. Unless he *does* turn those two, in which case...lemme have 'em, please?" he begged.

Xander considered the picture before him -- Spike, suddenly fallen on his knees in the middle of their living room, looking up at him with blue eyes so huge that he suspected Spike had either gotten Wes to give him a spell to make them bigger, or he'd been watching a lot more anime while Xander was at work. He was *almost* tempted to give in. Especially since he'd give most of what he owned to watch someone else spanking his husband. Someone he could trust not to grab Spike and take off with him once they'd actually had their hands on his ass.

He tilted his head and looked as kindly as possible at Spike. "You know he won't really do it, don't you?"

Spike sighed. "He might. If we wind him up long enough...he might just snap. For a second, at least. Long enough for a good wallop, before he gets all guilty and broods about it." Spike suddenly grinned. "Then he'll confess what he did, and maybe *he'll* get punished for his indiscretions."

"You really think it could work?" Spike did have this habit of constructing elaborate fantasies that had no chance in hell of coming true. Normally, Xander liked that habit, but sometimes, he worried. When it seemed like Spike was cruising for some serious disappointment. It had happened before, though Spike always seemed to shrug it off and soon enough get distracted by his next fantasy.

"Don't you think he would?"

Xander looked at that face, and decided he was really seeing 'hopeful' and not 'Spike pulling another con job.' He slid to the floor and sat cross-legged in front of Spike -- *not*, by any means, loosening his grip on the speedo. "I really kinda doubt it, Spike. Those three don't exactly have the open relationship thing down. They don't even have their *own* relationship down."

"Yeah, but-- it's not like I'm asking him to have sex with me. Wouldn't turn him down, of course. But--" But here was Spike, still feeling insecure about, what? About Angel caring about him?

Xander wondered what would happen if he decided to be insecure about Spike. It was probably too late - he'd already told Spike years ago that Angel was on his Allowed To Do list, as long as Xander got to watch. And he wasn't worried about Angel stealing Spike away. Never happen. He might, though, be just the tiniest bit jealous that Spike *was* so insecure about Angel. Had he *ever* been worried that Xander didn't love him? Not that Xander ever hadn't, once he‘d started. But still...

"So, you're saying I can't manage to spank you without fucking you afterwards, but Angel can?"

Spike looked up, morose look vanishing, replaced by surprise. "What? I wasn't talking about...." He frowned, briefly, then sighed. "It's not the same. Don't care if Angel -- or you -- fuck me. Er, actually, do care, but not... bloody hell." He ran a hand through his hair.

He reached out a hand for Xander, and tugged him close when Xander took it. Xander pulled him around so that Spike's back pressed against his chest, and his arms -- including one tightly-gripped pair of Speedos in his left hand -- fell around Spike’s. Xander rested his chin on a bare shoulder, and tucked his free hand into Spike's belt. "What is it you *do* want? Angel doesn't have to screw you to prove he cares. You sound like Dork-You from Victorian-verse. Dorkier-you."

There was a soft sniff. Then, "Do not." Spike sounded like a sullen four year old who ought -- and probably had -- gotten sent to his room by his mum when he sounded that way. There was silence, during which Xander had no clue what he was supposed to say, beyond reiterating all the things Angel did, and things he said, and things he didn't do. "I don't *know* what I want. I just...keep not feeling it. That...burning in my veins doesn't go away because he stops Princess from flushing the fish food, or throwing sharp objects at me, or Wes from turning me into a frog this time, or--"

Xander closed his eyes, and leaned his head against Spike's. "I don't..." He tightened his arms around Spike's body, and didn't say anything more. Because he didn't know what to say. He'd had to play this game before, and sometimes it *was* a game, and sometimes it was a little melancholy thing that Spike could be teased or shagged out of, and sometimes it was like this. When he could *feel* the person he loved most in the world, hurting, and he didn't know what to do to make it better.

"Know he cares," Spike mumbled, sounding almost defensive -- but not quite. "Don't think he likes me," he said quietly. "Stupid, innit?" he said louder, sounding as though he'd shaken it off. "Like I care what that poof--"

Xander knew from experience that Spike could spout bullshit under the most harsh conditions, including hanging upside down from a plum tree, and standing in front of an elementary school teacher -- but he'd never in the time Xander had known him, managed to do it while being kissed. This time was no exception. The only noise Spike made after their lips touched was a little sigh-thing that didn't really count as bullshit, since it had too many possible interpretations.

Eventually, Xander pulled his own face away, but didn't let go of Spike's chin, which he'd had to grab in the first place to get that stubborn mouth to shut up. Which... did that count as having to convince Spike to have sex? Only if kisses counted as sex, and if you counted them, you might as well count looking at each other, or being in the same room. "Hey," he said. It was really the only thing he could think of.

Spike just looked at him. Hovering somewhere between morose and resigned, he sat there, meeting Xander's gaze. "Don't you think he'd be impressed that I *found* the swimsuit?" he asked after a moment.

"*I'm* impressed that you found it. Without getting turned into a newt again."

There was the tiniest of grins. "Wanna know how I did it? I cheated." Spike sounded smug.

"You? Cheated? What exactly could you have possibly done, that constitutes cheating, under *your* definitions?" Xander lifted an eyebrow.

"Um...well, not by *my* definition," he admitted. "But Angel'd probably think so. If he ever finds out."

Xander let his arms slide down, so that his hands met each other at Spike's waist -- still not letting go of Wesley's briefs. "Colour me intrigued, Mr. Handcuffs Before Whips, Please Get Chocolate Sauce Rimming's Justified Giles. What exactly did you do?"

There was a bit of blinking, as Spike's brain went skittering off into the land of whips, chains, and rimming. Then he shook his head. "Right. I borrowed this trained ferret from a bloke. Taught it to recognize Wesley's scent."

"I'm holding swimtrunks with ferret slobber on them? Eww!" He didn't, however, let go of them.

"You've held worse," Spike pointed out. He seemed a little amused, though - which was a definite improvement from morosely depressed.

"Yeah, but -- " A thought struck Xander. "The ferret didn't set off your squirrel phobia? Aren't they really kind of like one long squirrel tail?"

Spike's mouthed opened, then his face froze. His eyes grew wider, and he said nothing. He'd have stopped breathing, Xander thought, if he'd been doing so in the first place.

"Spike? What the hell? Flashback?" Only his vampire could have post-traumatic flashbacks about small furry animals. "Get a grip -- you managed to touch it in the first place!"

"I didn't... didn't think...and I *touched* it!"

How many evil vampires freaked out at the thought of handling a ferret? "And you lived to tell about it." Xander settled his chin on Spike's shoulder again. "Honestly, I could see if you got weirded out *then* and couldn't stand to be reminded of it, but you didn't. And it's not like it gave you 'Looks vaguely like a squirrel' cooties, or something."

"Yeah, well, it looked all evil, didn't it? Even bit me." Spike leaned back a little, and held out a finger, where there was no visible sign of any wound. "Well, he *did*." He gave Xander a pout, as if he might not get his sympathy for something he'd been happy about.

"And I suppose you want me to put that finger in my mouth? With ferret slobber all over it?" Xander sniffed. "Did you wash your hands?"

"Er...you could lick 'em clean," Spike suggested. He held his hand up towards Xander's mouth.

"And eww, again. Double, quadruple, gazoogle eww. What if I get 'looks vaguely like a squirrel' cooties?" Xander made a face, and stuck his tongue out.

"You look like a monkey when you do that." And there was the tone Xander had been hoping for. Amused, and one step away from asking him if he wanted to shag.

"A cute monkey, or one of those creepy rhesus ones that screech in your face and infect the whole metropolitan area with Ebola?" Spike didn't answer right away, and looked thoughtful. Xander hit him. "And you'd better not say I look like a sock monkey. Those things are creepier than the real ones."

But Spike was grinning, and he wriggled, as though Xander had said 'strip off, and lemme suck something'. "Remind me to take back your birthday pressie, then."

Xander stuck his tongue out again. "You did not get me a sock monkey for my birthday. You never get me anything for my birthday that can't be used as a sex-toy and oh my god now it's in my head. Get it out! Get it *out*!" He shook his head wildly, as if he could jostle the image loose from his brain and knock it out one ear.

Spike obligingly thumped him on the side of the head. "Here, think about sock monkeys wearing swimsuits like Wesley's, scattered all over the poof’s bed."

Xander wasn't sure of his ears were ringing from the thump, or from the sound of his brain exploding. "That's... Arrgh. I hate you. I give you naked ferrets in green fluffy socks."

"That's not *nice*," Spike snapped. "I'd just stopped thinking...." He shivered. "God, can't believe I *touched*...."

Xander rolled his eyes. He tried to be as understanding as he could about Spike's insanity, seeing as how it was a little late to trade him in for a sane version, but still... "You've touched worse."

"Like *what*? Other than the towel, from cleaning after you when you got all flu-y." Spike made a face of disgust.

"You said you didn't mind!" Xander thought about crossing his arms again, but didn't, since they were still more or less around Spike. He did whap Spike on the head with Wesley's speedo, though. "You said nothing made you happier than taking care of me when I was sick."

"And you believed me, didn't you?" Spike asked, kindly.

"You mean, you don't think I'm cute when I sneeze?"

"You weren't just sneezing."

Xander felt his stomach roil a little, at the memory. "Bleagh. Okay, so maybe that wasn't cute. But I couldn't help it, you know. Not like I was *trying* to throw up on your boots."

"And you bought me a new pair without too much complaining."

"Well, no, not when the other options were having you pout at me and walk around in your stocking feet because you refused to wear anything else, or..." Xander shuddered. "Actually *cleaning* your boots."

"Xan?"

Xander narrowed his eyes. "What?"

Spike shifted, looking faintly apologetic. Cute, actually, which meant he was up to something. "Can we talk about something besides ferrets, squirrels, and you spewing?"

"Gladly." Xander thought for a minute. "Um..."

Spike was no help. He just continued looking cute, and irritatingly vulnerable, for some reason. Oh yeah - the prospect of what Angel probably wouldn't actually do to them when he found out they had the infamous striped thing in their possession. "Hey... how much do you think *Wesley* would pay us for this?" He held up the much-abused piece of cloth.

Spike's eyes widened. "Xander, you're bloody brilliant. Have I told you that today?" He leaned forward and gave Xander a long kiss. During which he tried to steal the briefs.

He got bitten on the ear for his trouble, after Xander decided he'd been kissed for long enough. "Spike, you're a lying, thieving, asshole. Have I told you that today?"

"You say the sweetest things." Spike kissed him again. And tried to steal the briefs *again*.

Xander bonked him on the head with his own skull. "Hey -- Artful Daggit. You do realize California is a community property state, right? Whatever you'd get from Wesley would be half mine anyway." Then he used his free hand to rub his forehead, and wondered why he didn't just buy a Spike-thumping mallet. They had all kinds of toys for thumping his *other* end, after all.

"Anything I got from Wes would be half mine, too. Which means *I* should get the briefs."

Maybe one of those mallets that squeaked when you thumped them. "How does that mean you get the briefs? I'm the one who..." Okay, he wasn't the one who managed to steal them, but he was the one who had to listen to Spike's silly story about the ferret. "Paid for them in the first place." Wait a minute...ferrets... "Hey! You said you set a bag of ferrets lose in the Great Exhibition. Don't tell me you didn't notice that an entire *bag* of them looked like squirrel tails."

"That was before I got-- before anything happened!" Spike retorted. "Wasn't scared of squirrels when I was human, and anyway I was lying, I never went to the Great Exhibition, and you said we could talk about something *else*, Mister I'm Afraid of Muthrak Demons."

"Spike, Muthrak Demons are twelve feet tall, have a million glinty little red eyes on stalks, and eat human brains as a side dish with their Kibbles and Bits. Squirrels are... small furry rodents."

"Exactly!" Spike snuggled closer, hanging onto Xander's arms, wrapped around him. "I'm glad you understand."

"Spike, you're a very strange man."

Spike chuckled. "And who married me, eh, pet?"

"Ethan Rayne. Which I think says all there is to say about the subject, somehow."

There was a light pinch, to Xander's leg. "Smart aleck."

"Yup. I *am* the smart one. Which is why I should have the speedos, because I know how to best invest whatever Wesley's willing to pay for 'em."

"Invest?" Spike repeated in a forlorn voice. "We can't just go to Morrie's?"

Like they didn't already own one of everything from Morrie's current stock, and have a store account for future shipments? "And what are we gonna have left when I retire, huh? I'm not gonna be young and beautiful forever, you know." Xander grinned. "Oh wait. I am."

Spike chuckled. "Well, not 'young', but beautiful, yeah. And rich -- you gotta stay rich, or else we'll have to move in with Angel."

"Um. Spike. I hate to be the one to have to tell you this..."

Spike looked over his shoulder, looking stricken. "You're not rich?"

"A complex tissue of lies. I am in fact a senior level crew member at the Doublemeat Palace down the street. Angel and the gang have been covering for me for years. Didn't want you to be ashamed, or anything."

Spike pulled away from him, slightly. Eyes still wide, expression still shocked, Spike just gaped at him. "You...you work...at *Doublemeat Palace*? And you've never brought me *fries*?" he asked, out-raged.

"I bring you fries all the time -- you eat half of them and put the rest aside to do horrible things to Angel with. "

"But they're not Doublemeat Palace fries. They're thick, greasy, potatoey fries from Mick's or dry crunchy ones from Hardee’s or limp salty ones from McDonald‘s. Doublemeat Palace fries are three times as disgusting as any of ‘em, and you never bring me any and you *work* there." Spike pouted at him.

"If I really worked at Doublemeat Palace, Spike, I promise I'd bring you disgusting fries. But hey, if you want them that badly, I can start bringing you disgusting fries from the cafeteria at the office." Xander patted him gently on the shoulder. "Not that I've ever eaten them, but Carla says they're extremely disgusting. Which is why she won't let me eat them."

"Nice to know she's earning her second salary." Spike turned back around and settled himself in Xander's embrace.

"Second salary?" Xander asked, already preparing for a dose of patented Spike bullshit.

There was a suspicious moment of silence. Then, in a very cautious tone, Spike said, "Er. Someone might...be paying her to sort of...."

"*Paying* Carla? Who would pay my secretary to... Spike, paying her to sort of *what*?"

There was more guilty shifting, and guilty silence. Before Xander could threaten his husband, Spike confessed, "To watch out for you. Make sure you eat your veggies, and that no slimy evil things try to nosh on you." More defiantly, he added, "It's a nominal salary. Not like she's overpaid or anything...."

Xander stared at the earnest-guilty face before him, and tried to make his mouth work right. "Ah...um... Dammit, I'm not going to kiss you. I have the distinct feeling I'm supposed to be mad at you for this."

"At *me*? I'm not--" He snapped his mouth shut.

Xander poked him. "What? You're not what?"

"Inaduha," Spike muttered.

"It wasn't your idea? Whose was it, then?" Xander held up a hand before Spike could speak. "Oh my god. I can translate Spike-mutter. We really are married. Breathe, Xander. Inhale, exhale. Okay, where were we?"

There was a laugh, then back to the guilty silence. Spike shifted a little, snuggling in, as though he were only concerned with being held -- and not whapped.

"Oh, yeah. I remember. Somebody's been paying Carla to be my mother, and it wasn't your idea. Whose was it?"

"Rumblemumble."

"You're shitting me."

"I didn't say anything that time," Spike taunted. "If I tell, I'll be in real, actual trouble."

"Which means Cordy's involved somehow, since she's the only person in this dimension you're actually *afraid* of."

"Isn't," Spike protested -- very weakly.

"You're afraid of somebody else, too?" Xander corrected himself -- "Somebody besides Carla, that is?"

"Oh, like you aren't afraid them both, too."

"I am *not* afraid of Cordelia Chase." He carefully didn't mention whether or not he feared his executive assistant. Though, actually, any guy who *didn't* fear his executive assistant was pretty much a bonehead, so why he was ashamed of it, Xander wasn’t sure.

"Oh, you are, too," Spike taunted. "You're afraid of Cordy and Carla and-- er, Muthrak Demons."

Xander bit his husband gently on the ear, and grinned. "Spike, Carla *is* a Muthrak Demon."

Spike whipped his head around and stared at him. "She is *not*!"

"Shapechanger."

Spike's eyes widened, much the same way they had when Xander had mentioned the thing about the ferret. "You mean, all this time, she's been..."

Xander nodded. "Yup. Reformed. No brain-eating. She *says*."

Spike kept looking at him, through now-narrowed eyes. "No," he finally said, shaking his head. "You're lying. She's human."

"Maybe she's just a really *good* shapechanger. So she even smells human."

"Nope. Lying. Lying husband; bad Xander. You're gonna get spanked."

"Oh, no. The horrors." Xander tightened his grip around Spike's shoulders, even though it pretty much guaranteed he wasn't going to get spanked at the moment.

"Yeah," Spike said, in a sullen tone. "For a second, there, I was never gonna visit you at your office again."

"Never?" Xander almost dropped Wesley's briefs. "Never show up unannounced with Gomer in a bowl, claiming it's Take Your Daughters To Work Day? Never challenge the interns to naked rolly-chair races down the hallway when I'm trying to have a layout meeting? You'd never try to sneak into a photo shoot pretending to be Mr. December again, ever?"

"I said I thought about it for a *second*," Spike growled. "Like I'd ever have been stupid enough to deliberately walk into a Muthrak demon's reception area. 'Course, if it gets out I told you...might be a nice, quick ending."

"So, you wouldn't want me to, for instance, tell Carla you said thanks for taking such good care of me?" Xander let the possibilities float through his mind -- what could he get Spike to do, with this held over his head? Scrub the bathroom? Actually put his dirty socks in the laundry basket? Hmm. Maybe he was thinking too small. This *was* Carla they were talking about.

There was silence from his husband. It boded well for Xander's evil plans. Then he heard, "I'll tell mum you're being mean to me."

"You... that's..." Xander sputtered. "That's...."

"Fair play, I reckon."

"How is that fair?"

Spike shied away from Xander's exclamation, and made a grimace of honest pain. "Ears! Vampire ears, here."

"Sorry. But how is that fair? I'm the good guy. I'm s'posed to get at least...I don't know, eighty-five free shots at you, before you're allowed to tell your mom on me."

Spike turned and looked at him, incredulously. "Eighty-five free shots, yeah -- but not when you threaten me with *Carla*. You threaten me with her, or Princess, or telling Angel I got Wes drunk, and I tell mum."

"That's *so* not fair. I don't have anybody I can tell on yo-- Wait, *you* bought *Wesley* beer?"

There was another short silence in which Spike opened his mouth, shook his head, closed his mouth, narrowed his eyes, and just generally acted like he had ferrets in his skull. Xander waited, thought hard, and dangled the briefs in front of Spike's face. Spike grinned for a second, then frowned, not even reaching for them.

"Xan, do you love me? I mean, seriously, no teasing, no one-upping your husband so *you* get to be the one spanked?"

"This is going to be another one of those conversations where I promise to come visit you when you're in solitary confinement under the bed, isn't it?"

"No. I'm serious." He sounded serious, too. Like he had earlier, when he'd almost asked, out loud, how he could convince himself his Sire cared for him.

"I realize beer is serious, Spike, but how can it possibly be Xander-do-you-really-love-me serious?" He rested his chin on Spike's shoulder again, talking softly in the affronted vampire ear.

"It was before he got together with Angel and Gunn," Spike said equally quietly.

Xander could feel the tension in Spike's shoulders and back, and he realized -- whatever Spike was on about, it *was* Xander-do-you-really serious. "Back when you were still pretending Angel was gonna throw us out of here if you asked for new carpeting?"

"Before that. Before you moved in."

Spike stopped again, and Xander had the urge to poke him, to see if any more words would emerge -- except with the tightness of those muscles, he might come unwound like a top, and buzz off into the wall and hit his head. "You bought Wes a beer before I moved in. Spike, while I do, really do, love you, I have to tell you that if you're thinking you're getting spanked for that, you've got another think coming. Unless it was Irish beer, of course."

"I got him drunk. I'd just got to LA, and Angel let me stay here. Everyone else had gone out - Cordy had tickets to some..something or another. I was hanging about, all soppy because I'd just left Sunnydale. Wes took it upon himself to come up to my rooms and tell me I'd best not do anything to make Angel regret letting me stay."

Xander couldn't help giggling. "Was that before or after the thing you did with his Lawrence Welk records?" Wes had told Xander about that only a week or so after he'd arrived in L.A. -- said Angel had threatened to shove a bubble machine someplace that really wasn't designed for it, if Spike ever came near his music collection again.

But Spike acted like he hadn't heard. "We yelled a bit, threatened each other -- did the I'm a bigger man than you are, you can't bully me about nonsense." Spike tugged at Xander's arm, pulling it a might tighter around him. "Don't even remember exactly what we said. But...we ended up going down to the bar and having a drink. Or five." He paused, but not long enough for Xander to think about poking him, again. "After which, we had sex."

"Oh, for god's sake, is that all?" The words came out of Xander's mouth so fast, he knew he'd been storing them up, waiting to quash whatever Spike was feeling so Angel-doesn't-love-me about. They had nothing to do with what Spike had just said, and Xander could hear them hanging in the air like the echo of a punchline from some show he'd been channel-flipping past and never heard the rest of the joke. "You what?" he said finally.

"Had sex with Wesley," Spike repeated, in a still, controlled tone.

"You--" Xander didn't let go of his grip on Spike -- or on the navy blue speedos with the distracting stripe, which suddenly seemed more important than just something for the great grumbly alpha-males to bitch about Wesley wearing in public. He didn't know what to say, and for once, his mouth seemed inclined to agree with him, instead of bibbling on by itself with no apparent brain-guidance.

"Once," Spike added, as though that would make all the difference. Or none at all, given the way he said it. "Never said anything because he asked me not to -- actually he threatened to turn me into a pile of dust bunnies, but.... I bought him a six-pack of beer, that night. Last time *I* ever bought the beer."

Somehow, the way he spoke, Xander thought that Wesley and Spike had determined that it was the Spike-procured beer that had been responsible. That as long as Spike never bought the beer again, they'd be OK. They were *both* morons. But...Xander knew that.

He found himself doing that chin-resting thing harder. Almost like it was too hard to think, and support his own head at the same time. Wes and Spike... The mental images slammed into his head like a freight train with no brakes.

Wes, and Spike. All that skinny, naked Englishness, tangled and twined around each other. Pale skin and even paler. Spike's mouth on Wesley's cock. Spike on top, Wesley's fingers tracing down Spike's ass, grabbing him and tugging him up to wrap his legs around Wesley's waist, before they rolled...

Spike wriggled in his arms, obviously feeling Xander's jeans suddenly get tighter against his back.

He didn't mind the mental movie, didn't mind imagining Spike with someone else. If Xander had ever had any doubts of how much Spike belonged to him, they'd been washed away by Spike’s wedding-present threesome with Dru -- during which Spike had spent every moment making sure that Xander knew just who was going to be leaving their bed in the morning. He’d been more frightened of Xander being hurt, than of losing his last chance to make love to the first woman who'd ever loved him back.

It was just.. the scenes of Spike and Wes didn't come from imagining them together now. The moves, the clothes lying on the floor, the hands on Spike, were all his own. Stolen pictures, spliced together from the last day they'd spent together in Sunnydale. Rolling around on his bed, Xander clinging to every line and curve of Spike's body with the desperation of a drowning man, and Spike clutching right back. Pushing the edge of what his unmodified chip would allow him to do, almost bruising in his grip, in his kisses and fangless bites. And then, no matter how hard they'd both clutched, Spike had left that night.

*That* was what he was seeing, Wesley's face, Wesley's body, superimposed on his own. Because it could only have been a few nights later. While Xander was still sitting in a room at the LaQuinta Inn, wondering if he'd done the right thing by letting go, wondering if he'd done the right thing by following, and what the hell he'd do if Spike didn't find him again. While he'd been trying to figure out how to make things turn out right -- Spike had, what? Gone running into the first bed that would have him?

He couldn't be angry at Spike, now. There were no doubts in his mind about what Spike wanted. Who he wanted. But to realize that things had been even more uncertain, back then -- Xander wondered just how close he had been, to losing Spike. His husband turned to look at him, blue eyes wide, and showing Xander all of the uncertainty and fear that lay beneath them. Xander gave his lips a quick kiss, to reassure him, but his mind was still whirling.

"Xan?" Spike asked, after a minute of Xander staring out at nothing.

"Wait," Xander told him. He couldn't talk, yet, since he had no idea what to say. 'How could you?' didn't seem fair...and it didn't really seem to be what he wanted to know. He'd come to terms with Spike's uncertainties and doubts, when he'd determined to overcome them and make Spike realize where he belonged.

But...Spike had slept with Wesley. Right after coming to LA. Right after leaving Xander. And he had never, since then, done or said *anything* to make it seem that he wanted to, again. There was no flirting like there was with Angel, or Dru, no snide remarks like he made to Gunn. All his jokes were aimed at Angel, even when they involved Wesley -- like stealing Wes' swimsuit.

Instead, they'd become friends. And Angel -- hell, probably everyone -- didn't know, about the other. "Didn't you--" he started, then stopped, not sure, still, what he wanted to know. "Didn't you like it?" he asked. It still wasn't what he wanted to know, but it was closer to it than silence would be.

Spike blinked, and looked surprised. "Did I--" He frowned. "What d'you mean, didn't I like it?"

"I mean... why just once? Wes is a hell of a lot sexier than Marc, and he wouldn't forget his wallet when you went out to dinner, either. how come you ended up with a sleazy, himbo stripper, instead of Wes?"

Spike blinked again, an echo of the 'you're a moron, Xan' look about him. But then he looked...guilty. Before Xander could wonder if he'd lied when he'd said 'only once', Spike confessed, "Liked him."

And Buffy used to think *Xander's* logic was extraterrestrial in origin? "And you only have ongoing relationships with people you can't stand?"

"I was in *love* with you, git! I didn't want to be sleeping with people I liked."

"God help me, I must be married. I think that actually made sense."

"Of course it makes sense. If I'd...taken to sleeping with Wesley, I might've...let myself forget how I felt about you. Marc was annoying and self-centered and a great lay and every time I was with him I wished I was with you."

"So you're saying I'm the exact opposite of Marc?" Xander bit warningly on Spike's shoulder. "Think deeply about this, William Handcuffs Chocolate Sauce."

"I never said you were the exact opposite," Spike said easily. "Just said I couldn't stop thinking about you when I was with him. Just because you're both annoying, doesn't mean-- ow!"

"Tell me I was a better lay than Marc, even back then, or I won't let you have these speedos."

Spike looked at him, head tilted just a tad, and Xander saw that for an instant Spike was honestly surprised. Then he blinked and grinned and said, "Well, yeah, course you are. Were. And are." Xander would have believed he was saying it only for the speedos, but for that moment.

Then Spike reached for them.

Xander snatched them away. "I didn't say you could have them. I just said I *wouldn't* give them to you if you didn't say nice things about me."

"Well why would I say nice things about you if you aren't going to give me the speedos I stole with my very own small furry animal? If you aren't going to give them to me anyway, what's the point?"

"Because you love me, and you obviously feel guilty enough about this Wesley thing that you'll do just about anything I ask you to?" He was sounding Spike out, listening for something in his response that would tell him... what? Whether Spike had anything to feel guilty for? How Xander was supposed to feel about what he'd been told? Something.

Spike frowned, slightly, and didn't respond right away. "You won't tell anyone. Because Wes'll get pissed," he finally said, carefully. It sounded like he was warning Xander, and not taunting him.

"Who said I was going to tell anybody?" Xander suddenly felt as guilty as if he *had* threatened that, which wasn't what he'd meant at all. He'd just meant that Spike was acting guiltier about it than he should feel, considering that they hadn't been officially together then, considering that Spike hadn't known that Xander was in town *Still* didn't know that Xander had been in town.

He blinked, and stared past Spike at the fishtank. Past the fishtank at the wall of a ratty hotel room where he'd been lying, curled up in a bed with grungy sheets and scratchy pillowcases. Wrapping his arms around himself and trying not to cry.

Spike hadn't known -- but Wesley had. He might not have known that night, but he'd known the next day, when Xander had called him. Told him where he was, and asked for help. And he'd never said anything.

"Just wanted you to know -- in case you were thinking it'd be fun to get me in trouble with Angel, see if he'd finally spank me. Wes.... Well, not like he was with the terrible twosome, at the time. But he...just needed to be with someone."

Why now? Why was it eating at him *now*, when they were long past that? When if it wouldn't get them growled at so loudly that his eardrums might burst, Xander would be happy as all hell to sit back and watch his husband make love to his...something-in-law.

He frowned, more at himself than Spike, and said, "I wasn't going to say anything." What *could* he say, to Wes, who was the only one he would even consider talking to about it?

"Oh. OK, then." Spike shifted a bit, and settled himself in Xander's arms. "You're going to make me do the dishes from now on, though?" He sounded utterly un-guilty. Just because Xander had said he wouldn't tell? But it had been Xander he seemed most afraid of hurting, with his revelation. Spike could be mercurial, plummeting from bouncy to depressed in seconds, but this was weird, even for him.

"No, I won't make you do the dishes. You're terrible at it. That's why we traded for you feeding the fish, in the first place."

"Thought you tried trading me in for a new dish towel." Again he was glib, but with an air of...flatness, in his tone. If he kept this up, Xander was going to spank him, just to get a predictable response.

"Yeah, but since nobody wanted a slightly spoiled vampire, I had to settle for keeping you and doing the dishes myself."

Spike shifted again, restlessly. "Are you sorry I told you?"

"Don't be stupid."

He could hear the lie in his own voice, that wasn't really a lie. He wasn't sorry. He wouldn't want to un-know it, now. It was just making him think too hard, about things he didn't usually think about it he could help it. Things that kept coming up recently, first on the honeymoon, then with Angel. Times that they didn't pretend never happened, but didn't bring up, either, most of the time. Marc was fair game for poking fun at, since he'd sleazed back around after Xander had moved into the Hyperion, and they'd had more fun than a barrel of monkeys, proving to him that his relationship advice wasn't needed. But what came before that, the time when they were apart...

"Spike, I -- " Xander nibbled at his own lower lip. "Dammit. You know that thing where I said we weren't supposed to not talk about stuff?"

"You want a free pass?" Spike offered, turning around again to face him. He meant it, too, which gave Xander a new sort of wiggins than he'd ever had, that he could remember. "You don't *have* to talk about it if you don't want to."

"No." No, because then it would be too easy, to turn it into a game of give-and-take. Quid pro quo. You don't have to talk about this, and I don't have to tell you why I'm staring out the window and reaching in my pocket for a lighter that isn't there. "No. I don't want a free pass. I just..." Xander found himself grinning, despite his discomfort. "You love me, right?"

"Yes." Spike was staring at him as he said it, and the word - that one little single-syllable word somehow got inside Xander and flung itself around, hitting every major organ he had and making them tremble. Like he could say or do or *be* anything, and Spike would still love him. Because he did.

And that was enough. He didn't *need* to say it. Didn't need to tell Spike why it had spun his head around, to know that he'd been somewhere warm, that night, while Xander had clutched his pillow. Didn't need to know why Wes had never said anything to him. What on earth *could* he have said? Sorry I slept with your lover, but I didn't know you were only about ten miles away at the time? No wonder Wesley had been so helpful, so understanding. He'd known as nobody else could have, from both sides. His own loneliness, and Spike's. No wonder he'd understood Xander's so well. Knowing Wesley, he'd been more wracked with guilt about it than Xander had been about following Spike in the first place. Dork. One of them -- Xander wasn't sure which one.

Spike raised his eyebrows, and Xander was struck by the urge to lick one of them. "So, are we all right, then? Crises diverted?"

Xander looked over Spike's shoulder, at what he held in his hands. "Maybe," he said, "We should give Wesley his shorts back?"

"Oi! Not yet!" And Spike made yet another grab for them.

"Just, you know, much as I'd like to sell them to him for a free pass to the hot tub, I'm thinking maybe Wes should get the free pass, this once." Xander didn't exactly yank them away, this time; he just didn't let go of them.

Spike got hold of them, but he didn't try very hard to pull them out of Xander's grip. He sighed. "Yeah, I reckon...." Then his voice turned much more evil. "Suppose if we were nice to him, he'd wonder what we were up to." He grinned, and he looked...well, he would have looked evil, if he hadn't looked like he needed to be nibbled on. "Want to?" he asked, eagerly.

Xander let go, and reached for something that most definitely didn't belong to Wesley. Had never belonged to Wesley. "I always want to. Except in non-approved public places."

"Didn't mean *that*. I meant -- hell. Talk about Wesley, or 'want to' with you?" There was apparently no contest, for Spike moved in, in a flash, to kiss Xander hard, and with great determination.

Something about that moment always got to Xander. The moment when holding Spike -- or being held by him -- shifted into other. Not sex -- it wasn't as if there were comfort, arms around his love, arms around himself, head leaning on shoulder, and then the line was crossed with a kiss, a whisper, a touch. No line, because here was always sex, in everything Spike did. There was no looking at him, no walking across the room or leaning over to pick up the remote, or stuffing corn chips into his mouth, that wasn't about sex. Spike was a creature of it. Born to it, shaped for it. Written into every line of his body.

The shift wasn't from solace to sex. It was something else. Something like -- it was always in Spike, always there, but at these moments, when he *concentrated* on it, to the exclusion of teasing, or arguing, or anything else they'd been doing before, Xander never stood a chance. What happened after that shift never solved anything, never addressed the words they'd been saying or not saying, never *changed* anything. It was just itself. Just sex with Spike, if that could ever be described in a sentence with the word 'just' in it. Just Spike's lips against his, just the denim of Spike's jeans rubbing against Xander's bare waist as Spike all but crawled up him to bury fingers in Xander's hair. Just. Just. Just.

Spike pulled back, and Xander spent a moment blinking, refocusing his eyes on his husband. Half-expecting to be picked up and carried someplace more suitable -- though how the floor could be any less suitable now that it had been every other time they'd had sex on it, he didn't know. He was dumbfounded when Spike looked over Xander's shoulder and shouted, "Oi! Eggs!"

For a moment Xander thought Spike was making a very kinky suggestion. He couldn't figure out what Spike wanted to *do* with eggs, though -- cooked, uncooked? In the shell? Broken? He was certainly willing to try whatever Spike had in mind...at least until he heard what it was and could make a rational choice. Then Spike was *letting go* and scrambling to his feet, and not heading anywhere near the kitchen. Xander stayed where he was, feeling cold, bereft, and confused.

He twisted around, and saw Spike bent over beside the fish tank, nose apparently pressed up against the glass.

"Spike? Sex?"

"Huh? Yeah, yeah, inna minute. Come here!" Spike waved at him, not looking back and very obviously brain-damaged. Later? Sex?

Then the word plinked down in Xander's brain, and he connected its significance with where Spike was standing.

"Eggs?!" Xander jumped to his feet and ran over to lean on Spike.

There, in the maternity tank, was Gomer. And eggs. "We're grandpas!"

Spike shook his head. "Have to be fertilized for that. We're half grandpas."

"Picky, picky. Like we'll have any trouble convincing *our* sons to participate in a reproductive act with their sister."

Spike stared at him, eyes flaring wide, mouth open in a pantomime of shock. "Xander, that's disgusting!"

"Who else did you think was going to fertilize them?"

"Well, yeah, but that's not the same as sex, Our children don't have sex!"

"Spike?"

"Yes?"

"You're insane."

"Yes?"

"And you probably shouldn't tell Wesley that you dropped his briefs in the fishtank."

Spike's head snapped around, and he stared at the swimsuit, floating on the top of the water. "Er.. well, it isn’t like they aren't *meant* to be dunked." Spike reached out to pick them up -- daintily, with two fingers. Xander sniggered at him. Spike started to give him a dirty look, when he jerked his head back to look at the tank. Xander followed his gaze.

"Uh-- can you--?" But it was too late. Gomer had a bite of swimsuit. Spike tugged on the swimsuit carefully, and Gomer tugged back, not-so-carefully. She opened her mouth to take another bit and Spike yanked the swimsuit out of the water. "Grab her! Grab her!" Xander shouted, as Gomer flew across the room and landed on the floor. The swimsuit was firmly stuck in her mouth. Spike dove for her, grabbed her between his hands, and ran back towards the tank.

Xander fell to the floor, unable to keep standing while laughing so hard. He looked at Spike, sighting between his own knees, and laughed harder, as his husband first dumped Gomer back into the tank he’d yanked her out of, then reached in with dangling briefs, and flipped her up and over, into the bigger tank.

"Shut up -- if I leave her in there with the eggs, she might eat 'em."

"I'm just trying to figure out--" But it was no use; he was laughing too hard to explain that he was trying to figure out how Spike was going to get Gomer to let go of the briefs so he could transfer the boys into the other tank. He didn't need to ask, anyway. Spike, with a long-suffering sigh, let go, and they both watched Gomer swim triumphantly away, blue and white striped speedos in her mouth. Spike bit his lip, and waggled two fingers in the water, near the top.

Xander was also laughing too hard as Spike transferred Goober and Hubert to the egg-tank, each of them hanging from a whiter-than-usual vampire-finger, to point out what had just occurred to him. That they did, in fact, own a net, and it was hanging on the wall above both tanks. This was far more entertaining, anyway, and it wasn't like Spike wouldn't be healed before Xander could even get a proper 'kiss it better' rhythm going. *That* thought made him stop laughing -- a little -- and he struggled to his feet. Spike gave him another dirty look -- big surprise there -- as Xander walked over.

"Can I suck on it and make it better?" Xander asked, casually. He *sounded* casual, but from the way Spike was staring at him and holding out his hand, he was pretty sure he wasn't fooling anyone. Except possibly Hubert, who was poking at the eggs as though not sure what he was supposed to do. Xander took Spike's bleeding fingers, and held them -- while he reached for Spike's other hand, and brought those fingers to his mouth. Spike made a sound of dismay, right before Xander sucked, and the sound turned into a groan. When Xander had sucked and licked and nibbled a bit, and finally let Spike's fingers slip from his mouth, he looked up into happily confused blue eyes. "Piranha bites aren't very hygienic for humans to suck on, fellow Grandpa."

"Erk?" Spike held his clean-ish hand back out, requesting further attention, then absently muttered, "Half-grandpa."

"Not anymore."

Hubert might have been turning cluelessness into an art form --Xander was reminded of Wesley in his Sunnydale days -- but Goober was doing...something... that Xander didn't want to look too closely at. Demon porn was one thing; threesomes were another; fish sex was something else entirely. Besides, wasn't it wrong to watch your own children have sex? Even if they were fish, and it was just fertilizing eggs. And even if the piranha had no compunctions against watching him and Spike. Xander realized his thought process was getting a bit too surreal even for *him*.

He sucked on another of Spike's fingers, then, as his husband's eyes crossed, asked, "What are we gonna tell Wesley?"

Spike moaned something, then shook his head. "That he's an uncle?"

"No, dork." Xander thumped Spike on the side of the head, which made Spike's eyes drop what little focus they'd regained. "About his swimsuit."

"Which swimsuit?" Spike was obviously speaking in the language of huh-please-do-things-to-my-flesh-with-your-mouth-again and not meaning his question to have any relation to the real world, but Xander glanced over at the large tank, and realized Spike had a point. Gomer was swimming proudly around the tank with one tiny shred of navy blue fabric hanging from her mouth, and not a stripe to be seen.

"Do you think all that spandex can be good for a fish?" Xander asked.

"You mean, since she's used to a diet of plastic?" Spike asked in a sincere tone.

Xander thumped him again. "Yes. Since she's used to eating plastic." He rolled his eyes, then grabbed Spike's arm and tugged him over towards the couch. Spike went willingly, though he looked a bit confused. Xander waited until he had sat down, with Spike beside him, one leg draped over his, and had Spike's bitten fingers in his hand.

Then he said nothing.

After a minute, Spike cleared his throat. "Er?" Obviously encouraging Xander to spill whatever was on his mind. Xander didn't say anything. He just kept looking at the tank. "Is this where we get all soppy about being grandpas?"

"No. Shh." Spike dutifully shh-d, though the look he gave Xander said he thought his husband had gone insane. Er. After a few more minutes, when Xander thought Spike was ready to explode from curiosity, Xander asked, "Spike? Have you ever wanted a puppy?”

Spike looked insulted. "No!"

"Parakeet?"

"God, no." Spike shuddered, and Xander recalled that Drusilla used to try to keep canaries.

"Gerbil? Ferret?"

Spike pulled his injured hand away, and gave Xander an even more injured look. "I might've wanted a ferret. Once."

Xander grinned.

"Look, what're you trying to do, other than give me post traumatic flashbacks? Say that our kids are too weird for you?"

"No." Xander reached for Spike's hand again, and used it to pull himself around and lie back so that his head rested in Spike's lap. He looked up at his husband and smiled. "Just checking." Then he kissed Spike's bitten fingers, unhygienic or not. "I have to check, every so often. Just to make sure."

Spike raised his eyebrows, then his expression of surprise faded into something rather serious. "I don't want anything other than what I've got. Right here. S'all I need." He lifted Xander's hand, and kissed it lightly.

Xander tried not to say it out loud, but he was pretty sure Spike heard him, anyway. Glurble. Spike smiled, and it was the sweet smile Xander rarely saw outside their own little bubble of the world. He almost didn't want to move, for fear of making that smile go away. But he knew better -- it would still be there. It was always there, even when he couldn't see it on Spike's face. He reached up and traced the corner of the smile, with his fingertip.

"Glurble," Spike said, matter-of-factly.

"Glurble," Xander said back to him.

"Our idiot son is eating our future grandchildren," Spike replied, with no change in tone.

Xander nodded, but didn't bother trying to get up to do anything about it. He just let his head fall on the couch cushion as his much-faster husband jumped up to scoop Hubert out of the tank.

When Spike returned, Xander lifted his head, kissed Spike's bleeding-again fingers, and asked, "Where were we?"

"Glurble."

"Oh yeah. Glurble."

There was a pause, then, "Xan?"

"Yes?"

"Think Angel will spank us for getting Wes' swimsuit eaten?"

"We have no evidence," Xander pointed out, reluctantly.

"We could buy another pair, and feed half of 'em to Gomer."

"Why didn't we do that instead of stealing the first pair?"

“Because some of us aren't that smart?"

Xander laughed, and bit Spike's fingers.

the end