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.
Spike noted Xander's discomfort. He could hear the raised heartbeat and smelled the slight tinge of fear as Xander seated himself, at the same time admiring the man's ability to cover it with his outer actions, the handshake and patented crooked grin that always matched genuine friendliness shining from his good eye.
Spike gave his full attention to his friend as they settled for the evening. Xander was handsome, thinner than Sunnydale, but still tall and broad shouldered with olive skin that used to be tanned. The brunette hair was longer, still thick and wavy, neatly hiding the strap to his ever present eye patch. Spike noted that he fitted the university student age image perfectly, particularly dressed in a thin cotton knit, burgundy sweater and jeans as he had. Realizing he had gazed for long enough, he squeezed Xander's knee under the table as a sign of silent support and turned his attention to the others in their company.
Two beers arrived and Jonathon ordered some starters to share while the group pondered their menus peppered by polite conversation. The latter consisting of Jonathon waxing lyrical regards William and his 'most colourful and insightful commentaries on Victorian England' and his 'highly engaging tutorial sessions' witnessed by the academic whilst he was visiting Stanford.
Spike gave a self deprecating comment at the end of Jonathon’s effusive introduction, and continued with a few thoughts on his perceived limitations of some of the historical resources generally referenced by students researching that era. Xander noted that his usually harsh ‘mockney’ accent slipped into the cultured tones of his Victorian upbringing as the blonde emphasized to his audience that he was hardly an expert, and merely tried to challenge some of the Stanford ‘crew’ on their concepts of the societal influences brought to bear on writers of the time, ending with the statement that, “After all, history’s written by the winners.”
Stephano was first to make comment as Spike fell silent, and the vampire seemed genuinely intrigued to learn that the man’s particular interest was in bringing light to some of the lesser known writers of the time, though could not suppress the slight growl when Oscar Wilde was mentioned. The Oxford professor did not notice and kept talking, but at Xander’s quizzical look and quirked eyebrow, the vampire said, only for his companion’s hearing, “Bloody trumped up Irish git. Tell ya later.”
At some point, Jonathon happened to mention that William’s own university studies had been in the Classics, after which their female counterpart, Rebecca, began to speak of her own area of research and a number of Greek poets and writers that Xander had little or no idea of. The woman reminded Spike of Fred, and Xander of Willow, as her shy demeanor fell away and she spoke passionately of her recent trip to Greece and a new line of research that had emerged as a consequence.
It seemed that Stefano and Jonathon both had interests in Greek poets and writers and their relevance to modern writing in their own academic pursuits. The ensuing dialogue was enthusiastic and passionate on the part of all present, but Xander. He felt quite out of his depth and therefore relieved when dinner was first ordered, then arrived. He paced his meal according to the others at the table, smiled and nodded when he felt it appropriate, and answered with what were brief, yet apparently apt, leading questions whenever the conversation turned to him. He thought he was doing quite well at hiding his self conscious state of anxiety, hardly noticing that he had zoned out a little too effectively, until his wine glass was filled for the third time and he was asked a direct question by the bottle wielding Jonathon.
“So is this your first time in Oxford, Alexander?”
Xander gave a nervous smile but managed to nod his thanks for the refill and smile, giving him time to quickly come up with an appropriate response, one that would hopefully not require much in the way of detail or explanation.
“Yes, although I’ve been in the UK on and off for the last three years for… well when I wasn’t in Africa for work. I’ve been staying in Surrey for… for a while, until Sp…William came. It was Will’s idea to visit Oxford.”
“So I take it you’ll have your own plans for tomorrow? I had hoped to snag William for an hour or two if you don’t mind too much. You are most welcome to use the University facilities of course if you are at a loose end. There’s plenty to see and I hear from William that you are quite the keen swimmer. We have terrific sports facilities if you fancy a workout.”
Xander brightened at the prospect of some exercise, and also grateful that he had been spared going into any of his background. “Yes, actually, that would be great.”
Rebecca jumped on the idea also and before Xander knew it he had been organized into meeting her outside the Hinksey Swimming Pool at one the next day, with enthusiastic assurances that it was only a few streets from their B&B and was heated outdoors with plenty of room for lap swimmers.
Whether it was the prospect of familiar exercise, the buzz of the alcohol, or the delicious sticky date pudding he was presented with for dessert, Xander was decidedly more engaged in the conversation toward the end of the meal. Even opening up a little regarding his time in Africa, at least his visits to Algiers, though still guarded as to the exact nature of his activities. Spike was adept at deflecting the more difficult questions. So good, in fact, that by the end of the night the three professors had the distinct (and not wholly untrue) impression that Alexander had been working with the UN; concluded that he had been injured in combat; and correctly surmised that he and William had known each other for an extended period, though their renewed friendship (or perhaps more) and joint travel plans was far more recent.
Arrangements were made for William to meet with Stefano and Jonathon the following day at their Trinity College offices, and Jonathon graciously paid for their dinner before anyone else could protest.
With farewells said, Stefano insisted on driving the two back to their lodgings at the end of the night.
Spike guided a slightly tipsy companion up the stairs to their shared room. Once inside, he flicked on the light and television in that order, and pulled two packets of ‘the good stuff’ from the cooler by the bed. Xander sat heavily on the bed and began to strip off while Spike took to the bathroom to warm up his AB pos and consume it in private.
By the time he rejoined Xander, the man was dressed only in T-shirt and boxers and was sitting staring at some forgettable late night movie on the flat screen. He looked over as Spike re entered the bedroom. “I’m, I’m sorry if I talked too much tonight.”
The vampire looked hard at the brunette and recognized the insecurity of earlier in the evening had returned in full force. “’Course you didn’t, ya sod. ‘Twas me as should be doin’ the apologies.”
Xander looked visibly relieved, “No! No. Not at all. Spike, I… well I guess I… You were like… well, like Giles only ten times better, with all the… you know the reading and the history stuff… and… I guess I’ve just never really…” He wasn’t quite sure how to continue, so settled on, “Ghod Spike, you were… are amazing… all handsome and witty and considerate, and I just… anyway thanks -for letting me tag along I mean. And, you know, thanks for not telling them… you know…about how I didn’t go to college and am just a dumb-ass carpenter, turned failed whatever… and…well… all the other stuff…” He trailed off into silence, shoulders slumped, as Spike simply looked at him with an unreadable expression.
Spike was by his side in an instant, took the hand closest and squeezed it almost painfully. “Now I think there was a lovely compliment in there somewhere, but I thought we sorted the rest earlier today. You keep talkin’ yourself down and I’ll just have to stop ya like we did earlier.” Xander’s thoughts instantly went to the kiss in the pub and Spike saw and smelled the reaction before he heard the whispered, “I wouldn’t mind.”
He ground out a seductive, “That right?” and proceeded to do just that. This time, however, Xander was a willing participant from the first touch of the cool lips, and Spike followed him down as the man fell back onto the covers deepening the kiss.
Strong human hands roamed and kneaded his shoulders and back, and Spike marveled at the warmth and feeling of utter rightness in the act as Xander also explored his mouth with a willing tongue.
Eventually the brunette had to break off for a much needed breath, and relaxed back, hands falling away as Spike was left to look down at the prone form with equal measures of surprise and fond affection. The chocolate eye staring back at him held his gaze, conveying deep friendship and the hope of something more. A long moment later, Spike leant down enough to give Xander a kiss to the tip of his nose then pushed back and up to standing. He held out his hand for the man, “C’mon pet, much as I’d like to play a bit more, reckon it’s time you were abed.”
The taller man was only inches away and swayed even closer as Spike pulled the covers down with his free hand. He gently pushed Xander back onto the clean sheets and silently tugged the duvet up and over the long legs, tucking it tenderly around the man’s broad chest. As the man settled into the softness, Spike gentled Xander’s eye patch off and smoothed his ruffled locks, and despite their recent ardor, this simple act seemed far more intimate to Xander. “Sleep tight, luv” from Spike completed the perfect end of the evening for the ex Scoobie and he was well on his way to slumber by the time Spike had turned off the television and lights.
Spike silently pulled out of his clothes and slid in beside Xander just out of touching range and listened intently until he heard a happy sigh and the man’s breathing slow in sleep.
Spike watched the man next to him for a while. Xander, this Xander, was a complex individual, one with a past that he knew only parts of, but that he found himself wanting to understand. Rather than pondering the gaps in his knowledge of the brunette next to him, he began to review what he did know of Xander, and in that context, what he knew of himself.
He tucked his left arm under his head and turned to stare at the ceiling. The things they had in common were easy.
The boy was loyal to a fault, putting others’ needs and safety, and happiness for that matter, in front of his own. He was courageous even when the odds were stacked against him. He wore his heart on his sleeve and been deeply hurt as a consequence, not once, but many times and by those he loved most. He was scarred physically and psychologically, by events and circumstances beyond his control, and often because he judged others based on his own set of values. He was judged as lacking and seriously underestimated by friend and foe alike. He loved quickly and completely. He had lost and grieved for some of those dearest to him. He held untapped potential that even he was reluctant to acknowledge. He obviously craved contact – physical and emotional. He had acknowledged his attraction to the same sex, even so far as to openly explain it to Spike. He was easy on the eye – tall, brunette, athletic though slimmer than Spike remembered from Sunnydale. He was thoughtful and kind, and proving good company… And?
Spike paused at the final ‘and’ to switch his thinking to their differences. The first was easy – human. He was human and that almost summed the differences up there and then. But there was more. He had never had the privilege of a fine education, or a doting mother, or a protected upbringing and consequently had never… Spike left those thoughts and changed tack. He did not have the history of William the Bloody, had not lived through the tortures of Angelus or the various other torturers whom Spike had survived, and thank any god one chose to pray to that that was so.
Spike lay on his back for a while longer, contemplating his own more recent past and then turned to the immediate future. What did he want with or from Xander, and what did Xander want of him? They had kissed, lovely, intense and surprising as it may have been to either of them, it was the promise of what might be that had Spike stumped.
He silently removed himself from their shared bed, pulled on his jeans and duster, and quietly let himself out of their room. He needed a cigarette.
His nicotine craving was satisfied easily whilst pacing up and down on the small porch in front of the B&B. What his mind kept demanding was some sort of plan, at least an immediate one, if he and Xander were going to be… what?... more than just ‘friends’? Lovers? Partners? All of the three?
There, he had admitted it to himself. He wanted Xander. He wanted all that Xander was. All the flaws, insecurities and foibles, and he wanted to share all of himself too. He craved the opportunity to treat the boy as he deserved, better than he had ever been before, provide for him body and soul, build something between them that was mutual and beneficial and… all he just knew they both needed.
Flicking the spent cigarette into the street, he let himself back inside and took the stairs still deep in thought. His reasons were selfish and selfless, all encompassing. And it terrified him, just as he suspected it would terrify Xander.
Was it worth the risk of them trying? Was it too early to really tell if Xander…?
He heated up another bag of blood in the basin of the bathroom and consumed it whilst staring at the man in the bed. The conclusion was obvious. He was love’s bitch, always had been. He would put his heart on the line one more time and no matter how quickly or slowly things progressed he would hope, at least for now, that he was found good enough to love back.
That settled, he finally crawled back into bed, snuggled down on his own side and was quietly thrilled as he felt the warm large form move instinctively in sleep, spooning him from behind.