Spike took another sip of his coffee and told himself that he really needed to leave the room before Xander woke up, but he found it hard to do. He’d been watching Xander for hours now, but at least his mind was in better shape than it had been when he’d quietly crept in not long after Xander had gone to sleep. All he could think of was Xander’s confession this morning, and how awful it had made Spike feel.
The people in his little clan were all important to him, in their own way, but he’d been working closely with Xander for some time now. It wasn’t surprising that he felt closer to Herc than to the others, especially now that they were stranded together in this strange universe. But it wasn’t merely the proximity. He’d come to enjoy Xander’s odd, twisted view of the world; his sense of humor actually reminded Spike of his own. They had fun together, and they worked well together, too.
The physical attraction was undeniable. Those dark eyes and handsome features, plus the physique of a man who works hard at his job: his broad shoulders, strong thighs and sculptured chest made an attractive package. But even without the physical attributes, Xander and Spike seemed to simply fit well together.
But that didn’t mean they were right for each other in terms of a romance. He’d gone over and over all the arguments after he first realized where they were headed. In the end, it all boiled down to Spike’s distrust of Xander’s emotional instability, and Spike’s concern for protecting his own heart. He couldn’t bear being left behind after he’d proclaimed his interest. One hundred years of second best to an absent Daddy, a century of wandering eyes and jealousy; he couldn’t do that again.
When Xander had kissed him in the bathroom, Spike had told himself he wasn’t going to respond. He was going to let Xander realize for himself that it wasn’t working, and they’d blow it off as a failed experiment. But when Xander had started to pull away, Spike couldn’t stop himself from pulling him back and deepening the kiss. It had felt so good, so right. In the back of his mind, all the arguments he’d been giving himself for days ran at full speed, urging him to stop and think about what he was doing, but he hadn’t wanted to quit, and so he hadn’t.
Spike was aware that he was a creature of impulse. He could fight it, and sometimes even wrestle it into submission, but more often than not, he was glad he hadn’t. When the moment came, he regretted not investing in Xander’s kiss, and so he refused to let go, and damned if that hadn’t turned into one fine snog. Herc was a hell of a good kisser. Spike had been ready to just toss his whole plan out the window, take the boy to bed and damn the consequences. Then Xander’d said the magic words that calmed his ardor.
“We need to talk.”
Immediately, all his own arguments rushed back to the front and between those and his need to protect his own easily bruised heart, it seemed like he may have overreacted. He was afraid that Xander was going to change his mind and push him away, and with his own mind full of arguments for doing exactly that same thing, he immediately started building up his defenses. By the time they’d got to the kitchen and each grabbed a beer, Spike had his arguments in place.
They’d barely sat down before Spike went on the offensive, worried that if he didn’t, his libido would speak for him, and they’d end up in a worse mess. Besides, it’s easier to attack than to defend, right? So he swallowed half his beer in one go, and started talking. Even as he spoke, he knew he was saying hurtful things, but he was on a roll, and figured Xander would defend himself, and they’d have a chance to talk it through. But he didn’t. Xander simply stood up and walked away.
Spike had grabbed his arm and forced him to turn around and talk, but the things he said had eaten at Spike, and made him miserable. He had known that Xander hadn’t had the best of luck with love in the past. Xander himself had told Spike about the cheerleader and the love spell that backfired, and he’d heard the Slayer and Red talking about the kiss that had led to her finally dumping him.
He had to admit, he’d always assumed that it was all Xander’s fault. He was clumsy in so many of the social niceties that Spike immediately placed the blame at his feet, especially in the early days of their acquaintance. To hear Xander’s heartfelt descriptions in such straightforward, painful words had shocked Spike. He was aware that there was obviously a fair amount of the Plautect’s spell working on Xander at the time; his obvious depression was painful to watch.
Spike’s immediate knee-jerk reaction, honed to a fine point by a century of caretaking, was to take Xander in his arms and kiss away his pain, the way he’d done so many times with Drusilla. He’d held himself back with a willpower he hadn’t know he possessed, so strong was the urge to comfort the boy. Watching him walk away was one of the hardest things Spike had done in years.
Spike still felt strongly that he needed to take care with his heart; that hadn’t changed. But during the hours he’d spent watching Xander sleep, he’d come to a realization. They were both in search of a love they could trust implicitly. He had no idea if Xander was the one he needed, but his feelings for the boy were strong, and Spike had seen Xander’s heart and his bravery, and he knew Xander was worth the effort.
Perhaps things would change when Xander’s emotions had been tamed and he was back to the closest thing he could call to normal with all that had happened to him and what he’d become. But Spike was willing to say that it was worth the effort, and worth the trials to give each other’s hearts a chance to grow together. They’d have to take it slowly for now, with so much else happening in their lives, but that was best in any event, and Spike thought that might help their relationship in the future, when they’d conquered Xander’s emotional outbursts.
Relationship. It was a frightening word. There were times he hated that chip more than anything in the world. Now should be one of those times. He should never even contemplate a ‘relationship’ with a human. It made his demon rage every time he considered it. But at the same time, Spike knew that Xander accepted his demon, and respected it, and that was another reason to love him.
No, not love. Not yet, anyroad. But perhaps at some point he could. It would be worth the effort to find out, as long as they both agreed they should go slowly and find a mutual respect and trust that would keep both their hearts safe.
He’d been monitoring Xander’s heart rate and breathing all night. It was time he left the room, Xander would wake soon, and Spike didn’t want to alarm him. Xander woke slowly. If Spike wanted a serious talk with him, he’d best wait until after he’d had his first cup of coffee. Spike stood, left the room quietly and headed into the kitchen. He avoided the thin strip of orange sunset that glowed against the cabinets, leaking through from the gap in the blackout curtains, and took his customary seat at the kitchen table.
He heard Xander wake, and followed his progress into the bathroom, where he spent more time than was strictly necessary to relieve himself and brush his teeth. Spike was about convinced that Xander had decided to take a shower by the time he finally stomped back into the bedroom and threw on a pair of sweat pants. Right. Time’s up, Spike told himself. Here he comes. It’s too late to back out now. He was nervous about this, although he told himself he had no reason to be. They both deserved a bit of happiness. If they could find it in each other, why should they be miserable apart?
“Morning.” Spike cringed. He’d sounded far too chipper for an evil fiend of the dark.
Xander stumbled into the kitchen and headed right for the coffee maker Spike had brought home last week. Xander had laughed, but he’d agreed it had been a wise choice when Spike brought out the extra carafe with the red top and declared it: For Blood Only. But right now, the black carafe was on the warmer, and the pot was full. Spike knew his human well.
“Ugh. Not morning,” Xander grumbled. “Don’t care whether you just woke up or not. Morning is at the other end of day.” He grabbed a mug out of the cupboard and poured his coffee in before desecrating it with creamer and sugar. “It’s afternoon.” He sat at the table and stirred as he talked. “Say it with me: af-ter-noon.”
Spike cheerily supplied: “Morning.”
Xander shook his head. “You never get that right.”
Spike sat back with his cup and watched as Xander inhaled. He’d said in the past that the scent of coffee did as much for him as the actual drink. He’d tried to explain how that worked to Spike, who’d claimed a reluctance to believe him, but in all honesty he knew what Xander was saying. That’s how a good cuppa smelled at tea time. It fragranced the air around it, making the whole kitchen smell delicious. Not that he would admit that to Hercules. Spike enjoyed teasing him when he was still too sleepy to realize he was being played.
He was anxious to talk to Xander about his change of heart, but he knew better than to say anything of consequence before Xander had at least one cup of coffee under his belt. Xander kept his head down, like he was unsure of how to deal with Spike today. And Spike didn’t blame him. He’d been a right arse last night, and Spike couldn’t blame Xander at all for wanting to avoid him right now. He wasn’t going to allow that, though. He wanted to get this out in the open and air it before it had time to fester and they got caught up in a cycle of embarrassment and blame.
He noticed that Xander was wearing Buddy over his sleep-creased t-shirt. Thinking back, Spike realized that he’d been wearing the armor while Spike had watched him sleep, which was odd, as he could have sworn Xander usually took him off when he went to bed.
“Did you wear Buddy to bed last night?” Maybe Xander hadn’t had the strength to take him off. It was an awkward maneuver, even without being wounded. “You should have asked me to help…”
Xander looked up, “No, I wanted to wear him.” He cleared his throat. “I needed the comfort last night.”
Spike cringed. Then told himself to get over it. He was an evil demon. If he couldn’t deal with causing even a little discomfort then maybe he should turn in his black hat. Well, at least this made for the perfect opportunity.
“About last night…”
He didn’t get far before Xander raised a hand, interrupting him.
“Wait. Before you say anything, I need to talk.”
“No. Let me talk, Spike. Please. It’s important that you hear this before we say anything else about last night.”
“Fine,” he acquiesced with poor grace. He was eager to share his thoughts, but if Xander had something on his mind, he wouldn’t be concentrating on Spike’s words, so maybe it was best that he get it over with.
Xander finished off his coffee and went over for more, fiddling with the creamer and sugar while Spike waited anxiously. The least he could do was get on with it. Finally, Herc turned around, leaving his coffee on the counter while he started to pace.
“Okay, I need you to not saying anything until I’m finished, all right?” He stood there waiting for Spike to respond, so reluctantly, Spike nodded.
Xander took a deep breath. “Okay.” He took a big gulp of his coffee, then set it back down on the counter.
“I’m pretty sure it was obvious to you that my emotions were totally out of control yesterday.”
Spike opened his mouth to respond, then remembered he wasn’t supposed to talk and shut it, as Xander went on.
“I just want to say that I was way out of line. I verbally spewed all over you, and I’m sure it was the spell, but that doesn’t change what I did and said. Now that I’ve had a chance to think about it, I think that what you said has merit, and to be honest, now that I’m fairly emotionally ‘normal’ or balanced or whatever, I realize what a mistake it would be for the two of us to become involved. So never mind, and thanks for catching what would probably have been the biggest mistake of both our lives. I like us as friends and fighting partners, and I’m pretty damn sure that’s all we should be, so thanks.”
Spike sat there, his mouth open, totally and completely at a loss as to what to say. Everything he’d planned last night was now dross – a total waste. He found himself reluctant to give up his plans, though. He was still drawn to Xander, no matter that Xander seemed to now think that their attraction was ill advised.
“So…what did you want to say?”
Spike found himself shaking his head. He was going to need time to revise his strategy. He wasn’t going to give the two of them up, though. He just needed a new tactic.
“Never mind, it isn’t important.”
Xander shrugged. “Okay.” He finished off his coffee and set the cup in the sink. “We’re good then?”
Spike blinked at him. “What? Oh. Yeah, sure, mate. We’re good.”
Xander grinned at him, obviously relieved. “Great. I’m going to take a shower.”
Spike watched him leave, his steps spry and jaunty. In a good mood, no doubt, now that he’d made a complete bollix of all Spike’s well thought out plans. He frowned at Xander’s cheery attitude.