Xander set about empting the grocery bags, lining up the chips, soda, and other essential movie party items along the counter.
“Hey, Xander? Where’s your ice bucket?” Willow asked rummaging around in the bottom cabinets.
“Oh, it’s in the bedroom,” he answered absently.
Willow shook her head as she headed for the bedroom. She would never figure out Xander’s unique organizing skills.
Xander’s head shot up when he heard the lock on the bedroom door snick open. He thought for a brief second about the last few moments of conversation before his face filled with horror. “Willow, no! Wait!” he cried running after his friend.
He made it to the doorway just in time to see Willow standing frozen in the middle of the room.
“Xander?” she replied softly, not sounding shocked, merely curious. “Why are there manacle hoops hanging from the wall? That is what those are right?”
“Um, well...see, the thing is…uh, give me a minute.”
“Give you a minute for what?” she asked, still in the calm voice from before.
“Give me a minute to think of a good reason.”
Willow turned in a slow circle, stopping to look at the half open closet, her head cocked to the side. “Is that Spike’s coat?” Pointing at the black duster resting on a hanger next to Xander’s.
Willow turned around to face her blushing friend. “Are you asking or telling?”
Willow rolled her eyes. “And why is Spike’s coat in your closet? Are those black t-shirts? Since when do you wear black anything? Hawaiian prints, yes. Multi-colored stripes, sometimes. Florescent green, on occasion. But never black. There’s gotta be at least 6 of them,” she said reaching into the dark interior. She yelped, snatching her hand back and Xander slammed the sliding door shut.
“Hee!” Xander smiled innocently. “Wanna help me finish setting up the snacks? Oh and here’s the ice bucket,” he announced, grabbing said bucket from beside the bed.
A knock stopped more questioning as Xander practically shoved Willow out of the room on his way to the front door. Buffy, Giles, and Tara stood in the hallway, loaded down with more snacks and movies. Tara entered last, smiling at Xander as he took the bag from her arms.
“W-we found someone else in the lobby.” The shy wicca turned toward the door and frowned. “S-Spike?” she called, heading back out into the hall and dragging a reluctant vampire behind her.
“Tried telling them that I was just here doing a spot of laundry, but the bint wouldn’t listen,” Spike sulked.
“Why would you be doing laundry here, Spike?” Willow’s even tone warned the vampire that something was up even if he could have missed the panicked look on Xander’s face.
“Well the launderer over on Maple has that weird bloke with the black tooth hanging around all hours, don’t it? Gives Dru a run for her money on the crazy front, he does,” he said, folding his arms over his chest defensively.
Willow nodded as if that was the most sensible answer she had ever heard and Xander got a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“Hey, Spike? Where’s your duster?” the redhead asked casually, unpacking the bag Tara had brought.
The three newcomers were watching the interaction with interest, not knowing what was going on, but understanding that something was happening between Willow and the two men.
“Duster? My duster? Um, I…uh, must have left it back at the crypt,” he stammered.
Xander could see the exact moment when Spike realized that Willow knew…something.
“Really?” Willow smiled. “That’s funny.”
Xander let his head fall on the kitchen bar with a loud thud.
“Funny?” The vampire gulped.
Willow nodded. “It’s funny how your duster can be at the crypt when I just saw it hanging in Xander’s closet.”
Buffy and Giles both frowned, their gazes bouncing back and forth between the two men and Willow, trying to figure out what it was that the young witch was implying.
“Oh, I must have…left…it…here…the uh, when I came over to…use the shower?”
Willow blinked. Xander picked his head up briefly so that he could drop it back down to the counter. He was hoping for a concussion, even a mild seizure would work. Anything to end this, right now.
“Of course. You must have left it here when you came to get naked in Xander’s bathroom.”
Spike frowned, unsure what would make the best defense for that last statement. He decided to ignore it.
When Willow and Spike stopped talking, Buffy made her way over to the bar, sliding a dishtowel under Xander’s head when he brought it off the countertop briefly, the cushioning making a dull sound when his head landed again. She snagged one of the glasses of ice that had been set out before The Great Willow/Spike Showdown began. She poured some soda and settled onto a barstool to see what happened next. Obviously, whatever was happening, Willow was winning.
Spike wasn’t sure whether seconds, minutes, or hours had passed as he and Willow stared each other down. Spike knew he wasn’t the world’s best liar. Of course he always cleaned up on poker night, but that was different. Poker involved minimum speaking and not tipping your hand. Obviously, he had tipped more than his hand tonight. He winced, hearing the muffled sound of Xander’s head making contact with the Formica and kitchen towel combo.
He broke contact first, turning to walk out the door. Live to fight (or just to live) another day. He figured Xander could deflect anything the Scoobs threw at him and not risk getting staked. Spike, on the other hand, had no desire to see just how far Willow would go to protect her oldest friend. Spike was sure that he wouldn’t look half as sexy as an amphibian. Green really wasn’t his color.
“Spike?” Willow voice was deceptively soft.
Spike paused with his hand on the door knob. He tried to tell himself to just keep going but found his mouth opening despite protests from his brain. “Yes?” He would deny his voice cracking later.
“Why does Xander have hoops for chains hanging from the bedroom wall?”
Spike tensed. He heard Buffy spew her soda before scrambling off her perch.
“Oh, dear Lord!”
“What the hell?” the slayer coughed out, already patting down her pockets for a stake.
“Ah ah, Slayer, no need for that!”
Xander quickly stopped his head banging at Spike’s yell. “Wait! No!”
All eyes turned toward the young construction worker. Xander paused when the focus shifted entirely to him. “There’s no need for stakes.”
“Xander if he’s doing something to you—” Buffy started, glaring at the vampire.
“Thechainsareforhim,” Xander muttered, embarrassed.
“The. Chains. Are. For. Him.” Xander drew each word out slowly and clearly. He didn’t want to repeat it a third time.
A pause, then a chorus of ‘oh!’s echoed in the apartment.
Behind him, Xander could swear he heard a lens snap in Giles’ glasses.
Willow turned a sheepish look at the blonde, who was staring at Xander with amazement and affection. “Sorry, Spike, just doing the best friend thing. You know, watching out for him and all that. Oh yeah, and if you hurt him, I’ll beat you to death with a shovel. Or undeath, whatever.” The redhead grinned, bouncing off to where she and Xander had set up the refreshments for movie night.
Buffy turned to Xander. “I never want details,” she said firmly. She grabbed a movie from the stack and made to walk into the living area. She stopped next to her blushing friend. “Unless there’s something I really need to know.” She took another two steps before turning her head slightly. “Or if there’s just something you want to tell me.” She made it to the VCR before spinning around and crying, “Oh, hell! Xan, just call me later!” and falling back onto the couch.
Xander grinned and grabbed Spike’s hand, dragging him over to the loveseat, both flopping down into a tangle of arms and legs. Willow and Tara followed with trays of sodas and snacks.
The friends settled down as the movie started. Xander threw a worried glance back at the kitchen every few minutes. In between the previews, Xander could have sworn he heard a second lens crack.