Rating: Mature Audiences – for content and themes
Summary: Xander has PTSD after rescuing one too many slayers. Spike is recovering (sort of) after the battle with W&H. Fate may have it they eventually find each other - she's funny that way.
Spoilers: Sometime in season five AtS – and possibly late seven BtVS.
Warnings: M/M – if you don’t like boys together, don’t play here!
Disclaimer: Don’t own the characters nor make any money from stories etc, and bow down to their original creators Joss, et al., plus all the wonderful online writers who continue to give the Buffy/Angel verse characters life.
Xander was distracted but still managed to trail behind Spike as he moved away from the bus stop and hailed a taxi. After two attempts, he was successful and they piled in for what was barely a five minute ride south, over the Thames, turning down a narrow street opposite playing fields with pub on one corner and off license on the other. The car pulled up in front of one in a long row of smart Victorian terrace houses.
A light shower of rain started just as they stepped up to the front door of the "White House View Guest House". Spike rang the bell as a courtesy, and then opened the door, ushering Xander through into a simple yet attractive entrance hall.
A smiling, petite red-haired woman hurried down the stairs toward them. "Welcome, welcome! You must be William and Alexander. I'm Sally. Sally Parsons." She shook both men's hands with enthusiasm then indicated to the door on their left. "Please, just leave your bags there and come through to the sitting room." Adding as the two passed her, " Well, it sort of doubles as my office really. We try to keep things as informal as possible around here."
Sally made her way to a fine antique desk nestled in the corner of the tastefully appointed sitting room complete with bay windows and original fire place.
"Do take a seat, this won't take a minute. Now, I'll just find your booking details and we'll get you sorted." She smiled at the men as she shuffled a few papers, producing one with key attached, and pushed it and a guest book across the desk along with a pen. "Now, I have you down for two nights, and I'll just let you know now that you are welcome to leave your luggage here on Friday if you need to, there's always someone about. Weekends are our busy times of course, so we do ask that guests check out of their rooms by eleven but we don't push you out the door! You paid on line which is brilliant, so if you'd just like to sign the book, that would be lovely, and I can show you up to your room."
Spike then Xander signed dutifully, then followed Sally as she cheerfully pointed out the breakfast room and other amenities; informed them of the information regards the highlights to see around Oxford; and led them up the stairs to a newly appointed double room and en suite.
"Now the WiFi password and so on is on the card there beside the television, there are extra pillows in the wardrobe, and I'm sure you can sort out the rest. The front door is generally locked of a night from ten onwards, but that second key on your chain will let you in. Oh, and don't hesitate to ask if there's something else you need while you're here."
She breezed out just as the doorbell downstairs signaled the arrival of more guests.
Spike and Xander both remained where Sally left them, staring rather bemused at the door. It was Spike who broke the silence, "Well... she seems nice."
It was such a bland, somewhat absurd comment that they both ended up sitting on the bed accompanied by several bouts of (manly) giggles. Finally Xander calmed enough to stop, "Alright, alright. Spike, you do realize this is a *double* room."
"And?" Spike feigned a puzzled look in the brunette's direction
"And... she didn't comment. I mean, she must think we're together, as in you know *together*."
"And?" This time the query was accompanied by his trademark cocked eyebrow and almost smirk.
"Well are you OK with that? Her thinking that I mean. Gods Spike it's an enormous *double* bed."
"Better than two pissant singles. Besides there's *extra* pillows... in the cupboard. Whatever should we do with those I wonder? Good old Sally is probably fantasizing about that too right about now."
Xander managed to look annoyed, but Spike could sense his slight arousal at the comment.
"OK... Fine. But I get the window side. And don't even think about hogging the covers!"
Spike had thought there would be far more protestation, but just went with the flow. "Fine by me. Now we goin' to unpack the essentials an' get tidied up or what? I reckon there's a pub on the corner has a beer with my name on it."
And that was that.
Fifteen minutes later they were seated inside the small local pub, nursing a beer each with an order of hot chips on the way.
"OK Harris. Seem to remember a couple of questions you promised to answer."
Xander had been staring out the window at the open playing fields on the opposite side of the road, looking at nothing in particular, but turned back to his companion at Spike's statement.
"I did, didn't I. Me, gay, all the dirt... got it, although it's all pretty snore worthy really." Spike quirked an eyebrow and leaned back as Xander gave a resigned sigh, took a long draft of his beer and began, "Well after Sunnydale and... you know... we've sort of covered that bit - hung around the US for a while, followed the others here, Watcher in the field, Africa, yadda, yadda.
"Anyways, it was on my second trip to Africa, I guess I was lonely and I'd gotten to know a couple of the medico's from Medicine Sans Frontiers, mainly because we were all at the same dodgy hotel in Algiers. Anyway... they were there on R&R and to pick up supplies. I was waiting for word from the Council.
"I liked Jacque and he liked me, a lot. He was handsome and funny, and a brilliant surgical nurse - well according to his mates. We went out as a group a couple of times and on the third night he and I went on club together, had some drinks and ended up... well, I guess it sort of went from there. It wasn't hearts and flowers, just really nice, and we both knew that from the beginning... that it was just, you know, 'friends with benefits' for the time we had.
"I met up with him once more after that, again in Algiers, six months later. He was going back to France. We kept in touch on and off, the last time he said he and his boyfriend, well... partner, were buying a house in Nice and that I was always welcome. But you know... I never took up the offer."
Xander paused to take a long draft of his beer and closed his good eye for a moment, then watched as Spike went to collect their hot chips from the bar and triumphantly returned with not only crunchy, golden fried fat potato pieces, but a condiment rack also.
The brunette looked horrified as his companion picked up the vinegar bottle and sprinkled it liberally over the chips then added salt. Spike gave an unrepentant grin and managed to down three or four of the largest chips from the bowl before Xander grabbed his own handful and the vampire waved him to continue. "And...?"
"What 'and'? There is no 'and'... although I kind of wish... Look, I pretty much knew I was at least bi since high school. Although 'bi' sort of doesn't cover it since pretty much all my dates ended up being demons of one description or another, just that most of them looked like women. Anyway, I'm kind of sure you noticed my 'leanings' after Anya, Mr Scratch and Sniff, Snooping-in-my-bedroom-drawers-when-you-l
"So now? Me and the whole same sex long term partnership thing? The way I see it - and ignoring the ninety nine point nine nine whatever percent of the population who wouldn't begin to understand my whole supernatural friends, Hellmouth upbringing history - the whole psycho PTSD, one-eyed Xanman? Really a turn off. No one wants that in their life."
Spike audibly growled at the last statement, let Xander polish off the last of the chips then grabbed the bowl and both their glasses, and stomped off to get another round for them both.
He had calmed a little by the time he sat down again and pushed the second beer across the table toward Xander. They sat in silence for a while, Spike tracing the condensation drips down his glass as he mulled over how to continue the conversation. He wanted to shake the boy, make him fight back and prove he was more than his self assessed, hopeless self. Alternatively, he wanted to throw him over his shoulder and carry him back to their shared room and show him just what a vampire as lover could bring to the bedside.
In the end it was Xander who broke the silence. "So?... Do you want to get separate rooms now or something, 'cause, you know, awkward much... with the revelations I mean. "
When his only answer was an unfathomable look, his mind began to race, heart rate rose more than a notch and the time old habit of nervous babble kicked in. "Look I don't mind, I mean it's been really comfortable you and I for the last few days, and I really do appreciate that you are kind of putting up with me, and the whole tagging along thing and the tourist stuff, and I thought we were friends before, and Ghod I really did miss you after... Ghod Spike! I *mourned your passing* as much if not more than Anya, 'cause you did it for us and, well me, and I kept remembering all the times you saved me and wishing I had kind of realized before then, and that maybe we could have been more than friends but knew how stupid that was but it didn't stop me from thinking that. And then I would go over all the times I was mean to you and how you weren't gay and how stupid I was, but now you're here and you're helping again, and after you said... well I was hoping... but then that's stupid cause you're all Mr Cool and Gorgeous and I'm... well whatever, and you'd never... anyways..."
Spike caught up with the monologue half way through. The brunette reeked of pain, uncertainty and the same hint of arousal that had been present all week, so he used the only method he could come up with to shut the boy up. With preternatural speed he grabbed Xander's right arm and pulled him up from his position opposite at the tiny table, and met him half way in an almost brutal kiss.
Xander was so stunned he forgot to kiss back for a moment, then moaned and leaned in to return the gesture with surprised enthusiasm.
Spike eventually released the man and sat back down to wait whilst Xander did likewise trying to process what had just happened. Rather than let the thinking go too far Spike gave a cheeky grin and said, "Well, at least we didn't knock over the drinks, although there's always next time."
"Next time! Wha...?I um... that is... Geez ... What was...?" Xander touched tentative fingers to his somewhat swollen lips.
"That about?" Spike finished for him, "It was about shutting you up mate. It was about yes, I like you, did and do. It was about thanking you for all the times you helped *me* out. And it was, hopefully, telling you that I'd like more 'n just to 'help' you, now, here. An' it's about taking a risk, or Carpe Diem since we're in a university town."
Xander let his hand drop and stared at the vampire for a moment, seemingly trying to assess any ulterior motive, finding only openness and a rather shy, genuine smile directed at him. All he could think of to say was a quiet, "Oh... well yeah, OK... Umm... what do you?..."
Not wanting to give the man a chance to start back into a brood of some description, he took up his beer gestured toward Xander and said, "C'mon, drink up mate, got a prof. to call and dinner spot to find. Rain's hangin' off so I figured we could walk."
The rest of the afternoon was spent organizing their dining arrangements, quietly checking emails and matters online and finally getting showered and dressed. They meandered into the city centre and down to the Oxford Retreat on the Thames, Xander once again surprised by how easily Spike seemed to navigate them, and the relatively small size of Oxford.
The venue was an old pub and restaurant, and though they were a little early, the two were directed to a table nearest a wide window overlooking the river, where two middle aged gentleman and a younger looking woman were seated.
As they approached the three stood and one held out his hand, smiling broadly at Spike, "William! Wonderful to see you old chap. These are my colleagues Dr Rebecca Armstrong, Associate Professor, passionate Latin poetry lecturer, and Dr Stefano Angelista, professor and Trinity College, specialty is the Victorians."
Handshakes were exchanged all around with the requisite, "William Aurelius and this is my friend Alexander Harris."
Jonathon gestured toward the empty chairs at their table, "Well do sit down... do sit down. We've yet to order but what can I get you two to drink?"
Spike settled gracefully with Xander taking the seat to his right. He gave Spike a rather nervous smile and hoped desperately that no one would ask him what his 'area of academic expertise' was.