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"Did you want to sleep some more before we head back out?"

Spike drained his mug before looking up at Xander's question. The boy flustered slightly under the vampire's intense gaze.

"I just... I wasn't sure... You didn't seem like you'd slept well before." Xander gestured to the spot where Spike had been sleeping on the floor. "You were restless?"

Spike placed the empty mug on the side table, nodding.

"Yeh. Something like that." He swung his legs round onto Xander's bed and leaned back against the wall at its head.

"Ya know, Xan," he began, watching as Xander swung his own legs onto the bed to sit cross-legged facing the vampire, "there's never been any love lost between me an' peaches. Most of my life... and unlife, I've hated him. Hated him as Angelus 'n' hated him with the soul."

Xander sat silently, waiting for Spike to continue. Spike nodded his appreciation and dropped his head to continue.

"When 'Gelus left us - me an' Dru - I'd have killed him in a heartbeat. The bastard just took off, abandoned us when we needed him. Didn't see or hear from him for years... decades... I was so angry. So angry that even my obligations to him, as my grand-sire, didn't matter at that point. I just wanted to kill him. Took a long time for that feeling to go away."

Spike glanced up at the boy, who was listening intently, before lowering his head again.

"When the soul went again... you know... the first time... 'n' Angelus was back proper, I hated him even more. He was still a bastard. He was a bastard with the soul and an even bigger one without it. To be honest, nothing much changed even after I got me own. Not until..."

Spike's voice had quietened and he jumped slightly when he felt a hand on his leg. As he looked up, he saw Xander had leaned forwards and, with his eyes and a comforting hand, was urging him on silently.

"After... when I came back an' landed at Angel's place. Well... at first, I still hated him. He had everything. Fancy place, a good team, friends..." he trailed off for a moment, remembering how lost and out of place he had felt when he first returned. "He had it all there, an' he didn't appreciate any of it. But slowly, I began to see. Saw what he did. What he'd done. What it cost him. I suppose I didn't really notice at the time, but the hate just kinda... went... and after the fight..."

He stopped, taking a moment to look back up at Xander and give him an appreciative smile. As Xander squeezed gently, Spike reached a hand out to cover the boy's. At first, Xander looked as though he would pull away, but after a short moment, he relaxed back under Spike's own grip.

"It's different now?" Xander finished for him, hoping to defuse the tight feeling of anticipation that was weaving its way through his chest.

"Yeah." Spike swallowed hard. "After the fall, we were all we had, ya know? Just Peaches an' me. It felt different. More important. And then there's you..." He took a long unneeded breath.

Xander nodded, wanting to look away from the vampire but finding himself completely unable to. Spike's hand tightened around his and it had a direct effect on every nerve in Xander's body. He suddenly felt unable to breathe, unable to swallow, as if something had a hold of his chest, squeezing tighter and harder with every passing second.

"You ok?" Spike's concern was obvious and he was about to move his hand away when Xander flipped his own over and grabbed hold of it, curling his roughened fingers through the vampire's pale digits.

"Spike?" Xander took a shaky breath and held Spike's gaze hesitantly.

Spike didn't immediately answer. He couldn't. He couldn't speak, and he was fairly certain that, were he mortal, he probably wouldn't be able to breathe either. He looked down at the points of contact between them, fingers entwined together like tangled wires, electric and powerful, and focussed on the sensations he was feeling. Suddenly, it was too much and not enough all at the same time.

"You feel it too, don't you?" Xander's voice was small and anxious.

Spike's head shot up again and he found himself looking into the deep pools of Xander's eyes, noticing blown pupils and everything that lay behind and within them. The bark of laughter that Xander then emitted broke the moment, but Spike was immediately drawn back in by the huge smile that followed.

"You DO feel it." Xander exclaimed, breathing heavily like he'd just run a marathon, relief flooding his features. "Christ, Spike. I was fucking terrified that it was just me!"

At that moment, Spike's face mirrored Xander's as a huge grin spread across it.

"I... you... how...?" Spike fought for words, and briefly the smile morphed into a frustrated frown. Xander's face dead-panned as Spike's reaction sank in. How had he got it so completely wrong? He pulled back his hand and started to get up from the bed. He needed to get away.

"I'm sorry... I thought.. I mean..."

Xander's words were cut short as Spike leaned forwards and, grabbing firmly hold of his arms, pulled the boy towards him and pressed their lips together.
What started as hesitant and uncertain, quickly became heated and passionate before Spike pulled back, looking questioningly into his partner's eyes.

"Well," Xander chuckled, after a moment of getting his breath back again, "I guess that answered that question then."