Woo Me With Words

Title:Woo Me With Words
Author: Dea Brynhild Ensomhet
Pairing: Spike/Xander
Timeline: Bs7. I'm not sure how close to canon I'll be sticking in the future... although there are a few canon things I'm changing i.e. Spike being able to touch the First, and the First taking Xander's shape (which I will explain in later chapters). Oh yeah, and that whole Buffy/Spike rape thing? Never happened.
Rated: PG-13. Take the necessary precautions: practice responsible reading.
Email: BrynSpikess@hotmail.com
Archival: Just ask and ye shall recieve.
Disclaimer: Don't own any of the Buffy cast/crew/characters/plotlines/etc. I write the poems. Several bits of dialouge are taken from Bs7 episodes. The chocolate rum ball thing is a reference to Angelus, and a shout-out to Donna and Jess' "Days of Our Unlives". The poem 'Shadows' is kinda a shout-out to Rune's Spander fic, "Where You'd Been". 'Baka' is a kinda-harsh Japanese insult, meaning like 'idiot'. Most of the info in the yearbook is taken from The Sunnydale High Yearbook, but I made up most of the comments in the yearbook.
Author's Notes: This plotbunny came from watching Bs7, and the current poetry-kick I'm on.
Last updated: 1/10/07

~~~~~***~~~~~

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Is there anyone here who hasn't slept with each other?
Chapter 2: If you've made up your mind to go, I won't beg you to stay.
Chapter 3: I wonder how you sleep, I wonder what you think of me.
Chapter 4: Sometimes reputations outlive their applications.
Chapter 5: Then you kissed me, and I think about it all the time.
Chapter 6: Out of my mind, into yours.
Chapter 7: Love ain't supposed to make sense.
Chapter 8: Destiny is calling me, open up my eager eyes.
Chapter 9: Say it will be all right and I shall believe.
Chapter 10: You find the situation just a bit uncomfortable.
Chapter 11: It rips my life away but it's a great escape.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 1: Is there anyone here who hasn't slept with each other?

"Is there anyone here who hasn't slept with each other?"

That's so not fair. Xander thought to himself. Most of us haven't intermingled. I never slept with Buffy or Wills, and Spike never slept with Willow...that I know of... And none of us have been kinky with Giles. Although Spike did spend a lot of time chained in Giles' bathtub, which could be considered kinky-fun bondage, but Giles would never... I mean... Tying Spike up to my chair could be considered bondage-fun, but I never got off on it... I'm not saying that he isn't attractive, 'cause he's got that whole predator-creature-of-the-night thing going for him while all I got is the dorky-good-guy-next-door look. And what does she mean by 'here'? Does she think Spike and I slept together? Xander took a chance and glanced over at Spike, who just happened to be looking at him at that exact same moment. They both pulled their gazes away immediately. Okay, that was weird.

And that would have been the end of it, except for what happened a few weeks later.

~*~

Xander sat down in front of the public library computer, and cracked his knuckles. He remembered something Willow had said back in high school, how she had been complaining that there were websites that hadn't updated in years, and he wondered if maybe the poetry that Willow had written was still online somewhere. Not that he had any doubts that she was over him, but it was a nice stroke to the ego that he'd been love-poetry inspiration.

After three tries he managed to find the Google search engine, and typed in "Xander Harris". A few hits appeared - a graduating-class roster for Sunnydale High, employee of the month at the pizza joint three years ago, stuff like that. He tried a few more searches - "X Harris", "Alexander Harris", "Xander H.", "Xan" - and then he saw a hit for "Unrequited Love Poem Archive". Xander clicked it, pulling up a page with a single poem in the center of it.

Pass through me like smoke

Always watching, always waiting
I stay in the shadows, contemplating
What I could do to win your affection
What I could say to end this perplexion
I want to tell you, show you what I feel
Convince you, Xan, my love is real
But I'm so scared you'd turn away
and so I stay silent another day.


Xander stared a the poem for a while, not sure what to make of it. It didn't look like the kind of thing Willow would write, and the username for the artist was "searchforeffulgence" - not a nickname he thought Willow would choose for herself. Although, if it wasn't written by Wills, did that mean that he had another secret admirer out there somewhere? Xander almost laughed when he realized how worked up he was getting. There were probably millions of 'Xan's in the world; it was stupid to assume that the poem had been written to him. The poem had peaked his curiosity, though, and he decided to read some more. At the bottom of the page was a link for other poems the author had written, and Xander clicked on it.

The page reloaded, and Xander was surprised to see almost fifty poems posted by "searchforeffulgence". He began reading through them, the poems sounding strangely familiar even though he was sure he'd never read them before.

Banquet

Once there was a feast laid before me,
Blood-red wine overflowing from goblets.
Ripe wicked plums,
Chocolate-covered rum balls,
Tart lemon drops.
Now I am barred from the table,
Goblets placed out of my grasp,
Plums dropped and rolling under the table,
Chocolate melted and ruined,
Lemon drops collecting dust.
Now I dine on water in lieu of wine,
Refuse in the absence of fruit,
Rodents instead of sweets.
I choke on my demons,
Starving on the scant provisions.
My only nourishment your chocolate eyes,
your sugar-sweet smile.


Xander was unable to shake the weird deja-vu feeling, as if he knew the author, as if he'd heard the poems before or something. The index page also had a feature that showed when the poems were posted. The first one had been written three years ago, and the newest one had been uploaded last week, which ruled Willow out as the poet. Searchforeffulgence's bio page didn't have any information, except for the critical little nugget of info that they lived in Sunnydale, California. Xander frowned, mentally cataloging everyone he knew around town, wondering who could possibly have a crush on him.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 2: It doesn't matter what I want, doesn't matter what I need. If you've made up your mind to go, I won't beg you to stay.

Shadows Of You

Invisible, I pursue you, but you
remain a step outside my grasp.
I try to reach you, getting closer,
Almost there when I stumble,
indulge myself for a moment.
They aren't you, but they carry
your scent, the ghost of your touch,
the imprint of you on their fingertips.
So near you for a second,
basking where you'd been.
Now I'm farther away from you than ever.


~*~

How did we get on this topic again? Xander set down the box of books in Willow's room, careful to leave space for the lamp Buffy was toting. It was kinda weird, moving Will's stuff back in, but a little part of him was intensely happy that the core Scoobies were together again. The only thing that might make him happier would be if Anya would stop popping up in conversation.

"Do you think I should call her?" he suggested. Maybe a long, painful conversation would provide the closure that was obviously lacking in their... was it still a 'relationship'?

"I don't know." Buffy replied, helpfully vague. "Just don't get your hopes up, okay?"

"Hopes?" It took a second, but Xander got the implication. "Oh no, no, no. There are no hopes. I know that Anya and I will never be together again, and I've accepted that. There's nothing wrong with being single. I'm healthy, I've got a good job, and the idea of dating any woman who catches my fancy makes me positively giddy." he assured her with a Xander-patented grin.

"If you want a chance with those hoards of girls ready and waiting to catch your fancy, you might want to lay of the use of words like 'giddy'." Buffy replied, amused. "It tends to move a guy from 'potential date' into 'potential friend' territory."

Xander made a gasp of mock-outrage. "So now I'm being discriminated against by my choice of words? What happened to justice in the world?"

"The same thing that happened to fairness, and the absence of bias in the media today." Dawn offered, Willow nodding sagely next to her. "Face it, dating today is a challenge not to be undertaken lightly."

"I don't know," Xander objected, mind drifting back to the mysterious author of the love poems. "I think that somewhere out there is someone who's lusting after the Xan-man, and she's just waiting for me to find her."

~*~

"I don't trust what I see anymore." Spike confessed quietly, sitting in a corner of the school basement. Xander knelt barely two feet away, attention completely on him. "I don't know how to explain it, exactly. It's like, I've been seeing things. People. Who aren't really there. I can feel them, but they aren't there. They can't be there." Spike's voice trailed off into a whisper on the last bit, but Xander didn't ask him to speak up, just let Spike talk at his own pace.

"Dru used to see things, you know?" he glanced up at Xander, fond smile blossoming as he remembered his dark princess. "She'd always be starin' up at the sky watchin' the planets dance or the heavens bleed or some such nonsense." he studied the ceiling now, gaze traveling along the cement foundation as if he could see it too. He grinned a little at Xander. "I used to stare at her and think she'd lost what few wits Angelus left her with." His gaze returned to the ceiling. "But she'd see the sky when we were inside, and it'd make her so happy. She'd see showers and stars and all manner of things." His head fell, and he closed his eyes. "Now I see her."

"Spike." Xander said after a moment of silence, trying to keep Spike focused on the conversation.

"I'm in trouble, Xan." Spike admitted. He'd long given up the idea of being able to fight off the insanity by himself, he knew he needed help.

As if they were on the same brainlength, Xander said, "I can help you."

Spike's attention returned to Xander and they held eye contact for several heartbeats, Xander trying to silently show his sincerity. Finally Spike looked away and exhaled, long and slow. "I could never ask, not after I... with Anya..." he murmured, trailing off. He'd been more than willing to let Xander stake him that night, not even bothering to fight back. He'd seen the look of pure agony and betrayal in Xander's eyes, and he knew he had a major role in hurting Xander so deeply. He still hadn't forgiven himself for that night.

"It's different." Xander insisted. "You're different."

"I could never ask." Spike repeated, staring at the ground as one hand rose to wrap around the back of his neck, fingertips stroking the sensitive skin there. Allowing himself that tiniest of comforts while denying that which he desired most sitting so close...

But Xander was a persistent bugger, and Spike should've known he wouldn't give up that easy. "Spike, it's me. It's you, and it's me, and we'll get through this."

"Never." Spike said again. He didn't deserve Xander's help, and he would not be so bold as to ask for it. Xander leaned closer, laying his hand on top of Spike’s, cradling the back of his neck.

Christ, but he felt so warm, pouring out forgiveness with those huge soft brown eyes and that warm-blanket comforting voice, "We'll get through this."

Footsteps got louder and Spike looked up to see Buffy walking towards them. "Spike." she greeted him curtly. "This basement is killing you. This is the Hellmouth. There is something bad down here - possibly everything bad."

Spike glanced at Xander to see what he made of Buffy's statement, but there was nothing but empty space where Xander had been. Spike bit back a sob of despair. Xander wasn't there, Xander had never been there. It was just his mind playing tricks on him again. Poor stupid little vampire, actually believing for a moment that Xander would come rescue him. Xander would never come for him. He began to laugh, a horrible, jerky sound as he let that realization sink in. This Buffy probably wasn't real either, probably just another figment of his imagination. After all, why would a Slayer want to rescue him? "Can't hear you. Can't hear you." Spike chanted to himself aloud.

Buffy looked pissed. "You have a soul? Fine. Show me."

Spike glanced up at her. She might be real after all. A pissy Slayer was much more realistic than a forgiving Xander. "Scream ‘Montresor’ all you like, pet."

"Get up and get out of this basement." she commanded.

Spike sighed. "I don't have anywhere else to go." he protested after a moment.

"Then I'll find you someplace." Buffy said, turning on her heel and stalking out, leaving Spike alone with the voices in his head.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 3: I wonder how you sleep, I wonder what you think of me. If I could go back, would you have ever been with me?

Tempter in the Flesh

You lie there at night, golden skin,
tousled hair, innuendo falling from thy lips.
Wanting to touch you, but I sit here, immobile.
Trying to tell you, but no sound escapes my lips.
Whilst you sleep, I caress you with gaze alone,
whisper sweet nothings in the silence.
The curve of your face melting into
the curve of ink on paper,
my ode to you.


He read through a few of his older poems, before uploading the most recent one. He didn't think it was as good, but the voices made it hard to concentrate, and the little he wrote managed to quiet them for a little while.

Specter

You haunt me.
The more you stay away,
the more I see you.
The other day, I
heard something, rumors,
that you'd forgiven her.
Defended her.
Tried to save her.
Dare I hope that
maybe, someday
I'd be the one?


Spike turned off the computer and snuck out of the lab, heading back to the basement to curl up and wait.

~*~

"Please Xander?" In the very deep depths of his soul, a tiny high-school voice that wasn't completely repressed was crowing in joy that Buffy Summers was begging him. The much larger part of him was violently recoiling from what she was begging him to do. But Buffy rarely lost a fight and Xander rarely won one, so the outcome of this skirmish had been decided long before it began.

"Fine. Spike can move in with me." Xander finally conceded. It would at least put the walk-in closet to some use, and maybe he would finally be able to dispel the lingering Anyaness that still tinged the apartment.

And if he made sure all the empty bottles and pizza boxes were in the dumpster before they came over, and his apartment was looking cleaner than it had been in a while, he told himself he was making it nice for Buffy.

~*~

We're going to Xander's. Spike silently marveled at the concept. When Buffy came to tell him, he'd been sure it was another hallucination. But he hadn't hallucinated Dawn yet, so he had to trust that they were real. He let them herd him out of the basement and into Buffy's car, Buffy driving with Dawn riding shotgun. Dawn fiddled with the radio, occasionally casting glances over her shoulder at Spike. Spike looked out the window and into the darkness.

"I don't know what you think this is going to accomplish." Xander said, sitting next to him. "It's not as if you're anything more than a monster. I don't know why Buffy didn't dust you long ago."

"We're going to Xander's. We're going to Xander's." Spike chanted quietly to himself as he began to rock ever so slightly. Dawn frowned, watching Spike.

"You think the soul makes a difference?" Xander continued. "It doesn't. Not for you. Nothing will ever make you good enough to be loved."

"We're going to Xander's." Spike repeated diligently. It stood to reason that if they were going to Xander's and the backseat had been empty when he got in, then this Xander wasn't real. Plus, Buffy and Dawn didn't react at all to Xander, so either they didn't see or hear him... or maybe, they agreed with him. "You're not real." he spat, not looking at the figure next to him.

"Oh, Spikey." Xander grinned. "Of course I'm real." He took Spike's hand and laid it on his thigh, just above the knee. "Don't I feel real?"

Sure enough, he could feel the rough denim of Xander's jeans, feel the warmth of Xander's skin under the thin fabric. He could smell the spicy scent of Xander in the close confines of the car, and almost hear his heart pumping away... But this couldn't be Xander. "You're not real." he said again, faith taking root in his soul. Suddenly the material dissipated under his fingers, and he looked down to see his hand half-in Xander's ghost-like leg. He gagged at the sight, wrenching his hand away and huddling close to the door.

"You just had to ruin the fun, didn't you?" Not-Xander said, still grinning. "All you had to do was believe in me."

He looked so much like Xander, that Spike was having trouble remembering that this was just a mirage. Spike shook his head, lacing his fingers together at the back of his head and pressing his arms together, covering his ears. "Get out, get out, GET OUT!" he screamed, voice escalating.

"As you wish. But I'll be seeing you again." Not-Xander winked, and vanished.

Buffy and Dawn exchanged a worried glance, and Buffy stepped on the gas a little harder.

~*~

Xander opened the door, stepping aside so Buffy and Dawn could enter. Spike, stopped by the invisible barrier, waited just outside the threshold. "You're gonna live in the small room there." Xander said, pointing at the room. Anya was so excited about it, went on for hours about the perks of a walk-in closet. It was only one-third full when we moved in, but I knew she was looking forward to filling it up. "It looks like a closet, but it's a room now." And it's the basement all over again. Except instead of the lounger, Spike will be living in my closet. I can't wait for the gay jokes to begin. "You're not gonna touch my food." And how not fun is it that I have to add 'blood' to my grocery list again? "I take the first shower and if I use up all the hot water, that's your tough luck." Who says I can't be evil too? Just because I'm letting him live here doesn't mean I have to be nice to him. Although, for some strange reason, he wasn't getting the usual thrill from insulting Spike. He turned to Buffy, squashing down the part of him that was waiting for Spike to toss insults right back, eagerly anticipating their usual verbal sparing. Spike being so damn quiet was grating on his nerves. "I hate this plan." Spike shifted outside the door, and Xander took a little bit of his frustration out on him. "Are you keeping up, or do you need some kind of English to Brit-slang-with-weird-expletives translation?"

Spike raised a hand and tapped on the barrier.

Xander turned one last time to Buffy, eyes begging her to reconsider the living arrangements. "Is there something more emphatic than 'hate'? Can I 'abhor' the plan?" She just rolled her eyes, and Xander sighed. "Fine. I invite you in. Baka." Xander frowned as the insult made Spike flinch. The vampire was most certainly exhibiting un-Spike-like behavior.

"Don't want your sodding food anyway." Spike retorted, and the tiny part of him cheered. Verbal sparring was on, bay-bee!

"Remind me again why he's here?" Xander pleaded.

"The school basement is making him crazy." Buffy explained. "We can't just leave him there."

"Fine." Xander replied. "Just make sure to go after him first if I wind up mysteriously dead and drained."

"Xander." Buffy admonished, but Xander didn't apologize. "Things are different now. He has a soul."

"I'm sure that will be a real comfort when you find my corpse. 'Here lies Alexander Harris. He was killed by someone with a soul'."

"What does that mean, exactly, that Spike is all soulhaving?" Dawn interjected, half to break up the tension and half from curiosity.

Buffy shrugged. "I don't know."

Xander blinked, and for a second he was back in high school again, Giles explaining that Jesse wasn't Jesse anymore. Buffy explaining that Angel was okay again after his little murdering spree, because he had his soul again. And now she doesn't know what kind of difference Spike's soul makes? Xander's brain wasn't computing.

"I'll go. This can't work." he heard Spike say, and he realized he'd zoned out of the conversation. There was something about the way Spike was so quiet that felt wrong. Xander shoved all the philosophical and moral ponderings for another time, and looked at Buffy as she argued.

"It will. It already is, okay? You know, you've been out of the basement for half an hour, and you've already stopped talking to invisible people." she said.

Spike snorted. "Bollocks."

Buffy fidgeted. "Okay, so there was that one episode in the car, but-"

Spike looked majorly uncomfortable, and Xander almost felt sorry for him. "No. Bollocks to the whole thing. I don't need your mollycoddling."

"It's not coddling." Xander interjected. Spike narrowed his eyes, and suddenly Xander felt like a specimen under a microscope. Dawn's watch beeped, and broke the spell. "Check out the closet, see if there's anything you need."

"We should probably be getting back to the house, Dawn needs to get ready for school." Buffy said. She and Xander hugged briefly. "Call me later, okay?"

Xander nodded and waved as the girls left. He turned back to see Spike watching him. "What?"

Spike shook his head and went into the closet-cum-bedroom, and closed the door behind him. Xander sighed. This was going to be fun.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 4: Sometimes reputations outlive their applications, and sometimes fires don't go out when you're done playing with them.

Icarus Falling

I tried to end it all,
suffocate myself in wax,
smother myself in feathers,
escape one final time.

I thought myself
no more than
a shadow in your life
a burden on your shoulders.

You touched my hand,
your heat melted the wax.
You said my name,
your breath scattered the feathers.

You saw me, despite the
shadows I was hiding in.
You lifted me up, despite
the chance you had to rid
yourself of me.

I think that's when
I fell in love
with you.

~*~

"Hello ladies." Xander said, giving both Buffy and Willow a one-arm hug each as they sat at their usual table in the Bronze.

"Sit, enjoy the ambiance." Willow patted the seat on her right, and Xander sat.

"How's life with Spike?" Buffy asked, across the table from him.

"Surprisingly, not as bad as I thought it would be. Spike seems to be getting more lucid, and sarcasm is at an all-time high, although if I didn't know any better, I'd say that the soul is making him almost... docile."

"Docile? Spike?" Buffy nearly spit out her drink. "Why do you say that?"

Xander gave her a look. "He picked his wet towels up off the floor. It's scary."

"But at least he's showering. Gets that crazy-in-the-basement smell off." Willow said optimistically.

"Speak of the devil." Buffy said, noticing Spike walk in to the club. He made his way over to their table, standing behind-and-to-the-left of Xander. He greeted them with a quick head-nod, and they followed suit.

Spike gave the dancing crowd a once-over. "Who's that guy?" Dawn was dancing rather brazenly with some kid in a letterman jacket. On second thought, the kid looked rather tasty. Not that he was really noticing, with Xander sitting so close, but the kid looked good. Too good. Spike didn't think Dawn should be dancing like that with a boy like that.

"What guy?" Willow said, confused.

"That guy." Buffy gestured. "The one who, according to Dawn, is the quote smartest, funniest, coolest, hottest, and having the thickest boy eyelashes boy in school unquote."

"He's not... unhandsome." Xander admitted. "Check out the fan club." He was about to let loose a low whistle of appreciation, when he felt Spike whisper in his ear.

"You realize that's Dawnie, right?" Spike said, low enough that Willow and Buffy couldn't hear. Xander nearly jumped out of his skin, half from the shock of getting turned on by Spike's breath in his ear, and half from the shock of getting turned on by watching the Dawnster dance.

"Momma like." Willow purred, obviously not recognizing exactly who she was checking out.

Buffy scoffed. "What's that shirt made of, paint?"

"Um, guys?" Xander said.

"I'm glad Dawnie isn't here to see her precious boyfriend getting all thrusty with some slut-bag hussy--" Xander saw the girl turn around, saw Buffy get a good look at her face. "Oh." she said, staring in disbelief.

Willow's eyes widened and she babbled, "Oh! No! "Momma" - No, I wasn't - When I was looking, I wasn't - Oh, Goddess!" she exclaimed. Xander smirked. Thank god Spike had warned him, or else he would probably be embarrassing himself like Willow.

"Hey, guys?" Buffy said after she'd regained some composure. "I think we'll have to call off Bronze night."

"Yeah, right. I have stuff back at the house that I need to do, so... Xander, can I get a ride?" Willow said, grabbing her purse.

"Yeah, sure." Xander replied, standing and putting on his jacket. He glanced at Spike. "You wanna come with? Butcher's closed, but the night is still young - we can pick up some movies and munchies on the way home."

Spike was surprised at Xander's invitation, but hid it under a mask of indifference. "Sure, sounds like fun."

~*~

There hadn't really been anything unusual about Dawn's high school romance at first. It had even ended in the typical way: heartbreak. On the fourth day of the RJ-crush, he found Dawn crying outside of school.

Xander immediately sat next to her on the large planter. "Dawn, what's the matter? Did that guy in the jacket--"

Dawn's growl cut him off. "I don't even want to hear his name anymore!"

Momentarily confused, Xander said, "I just called him 'that guy in the jacket'."

"That's what I used to call him in my head before I knew his real name!" Dawn explained, using that kind of logic teens master.

"I know what you mean." Xander nodded in sympathy. "Before I knew Spike's name, I called him 'that vamp in the long black leather duster'."

"But you were never in love with Spike." Dawn sniffled.

"T-that's right." Xander said, stumbling over the words at first.

Luckily, Dawn had been too distraught over her own situation to notice Xander's lapse. When Xander had gone looking for Buffy and found her straddling Dawn's crush, he fully grasped what had hurt Dawn so much.

"Hey Xander!" Buffy replied cheerily, devoid of any embarrassment at being caught mid-sex. "This is R.J."

"Otherwise known as Jailbait." Xander replied. Something majorly wrong was going on here, and it had 'hellmouth' written all over it.

"Hey, guy. It's called knocking." Buffy's newest conquest retorted, patented popular-kid attitude at the fore. Well, that kind of rudeness could only be dealt with one way.

Xander pasted an apologetic smile on his face. "I'm sorry. It's just, Mrs. Robinson's checkout time was an hour ago. We were hoping to make up the bed. Also, it's a classroom, you idiot!"

It had all gone downhill from there.

~*~

Spike was lounging on Xander's couch when the phone rang. He got up and went over to the phone, wondering if he should answer it. The Caller ID read 'Xander Cell', so he picked it up. "Hello?"

"Hey Spike. Meet me out front, we've got some reconnaissance to do, if you're up for it."

"I'll be right there." Spike said, and hung up the phone. He felt a weird sort of thrill at being back in the center of the Scooby gang again, a place that he thought it would've been a lot more difficult to get back to. But he wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so he hurried out of the apartment to meet Xander.

~*~

Xander filled Spike in on the sitch on the way over to Lance's house. "So now both Buffy and Dawn are crushing after this guy, and we gotta figure out why."

"You think that it some kind of family thing?" Spike inquired.

Xander shrugged. "I don't know. Could be a family heirloom of some sort, or it could just a kid messing around with love potions. Either way, I'm hoping a little chat with Lance might give us some more info to work with."

"Should I look around while you talk to him, see if they have any voodoo dolls or magic books lying around, or what not?" Spike suggested.

"Good idea." Xander nodded, grinning. "Yeah. I'll squeeze him for information while you case the joint. It'll be like an old cop show, except we aren't cops, we aren't in black and white, and if it does turn out to be a family of warlocks, they could kill us both." Xander pulled the car up to the side of the street and parked, turning the engine off. "Just be careful, okay?" he said as he got out of the car.

"I'm not a sodding baby." Spike grumbled as he got out of the car as well.

"I know you aren't." Xander replied. "I'm just saying, we're tangling with a powerful spell here. We don't know what the deal is so, keep an eye out if this guy looks twitchy." Jesse used to think Lance was the coolest guy ever. Xander remembered Jesse going on and on about Lance, even as he was helping him get Lance's gum out of his hair. Jesse would look at the gum in awe, 'cause it was Lance's gum, and that was back when they were too young to know that you weren't supposed to be in awe of another guy. "And don't let this guy charm you, either. He had everyone around him practically kissing his ring back in high school." For some reason, the idea of Spike looking at Lance in awe was really freaking him out. Although he'd never seen Spike look at anyone in awe, he really didn't like the idea of Lance being Spike's first. In fact, he didn't like the idea of Lance being any kind of first for Spike. Now that he thought about it, he really thought that he shouldn't be thinking about this sort of thing. Lance chose that moment to open the door, and the sight of the once-popular jock made Xander's jaw drop.

~*~

God. It was like a nightmare version of "Xander Harris, this is your life." If Anya hadn't influenced him to move out of the basement, if he hadn't gotten a break working construction, he could vividly see himself in Lance's position right now. Thank God for Anya and construction.

Spike was nonchalantly moving around the room, and Xander stifled a smile as he watched Spike rotate the angel figurines out of the corner of his eye. When Spike mentioned the jacket, Xander knew the vamp must have a hunch. He was going to warn Lance that the 'management program' led nowhere and was just a way for Pizza Barn to pay its employees less and work them more, but then he thought about the gum again, and decided - fuck it. Lance deserved what was coming to him. "So, Lance, where did you get the jacket?"

"Oh, dad gave it to me. Made a big deal about it, too. How he met mom wearing that jacket. She was a former Miss Arkansas. Very hot in her day." Lance replied.

Xander's spidey sense was going off, and he knew that this was definitely a hellmouth thing. He caught Spike's gaze and Spike nodded. Okay then, they were outta there. "Wow, that's wonderful. Boy, it's getting late."

"Hey, you guys don't have to take off if you don't want to." Lance said, obviously desperate for company. "I got sort of a rumpus room set up in the basement. There's air hockey and a mini fridge. We could party."

No way in hell, Xander was tempted to say. He wanted to get as far away from this place as possible, as soon as possible. It was bringing up all these old memories of the basement, and those were not happy memories. The constant smell of mold in the air, Spike spouting off insults from the lounger, his mother offering fruit punch and fruit rollups to his friends...

As if on cue, they heard Mrs. Brooks' voice from upstairs. "Lance? Do you have guests down there? There's little boxes of raisins if you want snacks."

"We really gotta go." Xander had a hard time not breaking out into a run the moment they were outside. As it was, he walked quickly over to his car, and as soon as Spike was settled in the passenger seat, he stepped on the gas.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 5: Then you kissed me, and I think about it all the time. Sweet temptation rush all over me, and I think about it all the time. Passion, desire so intense, I can't take anymore

To Kindle Or Not

They said not to aim so high
but I couldn't help it.
You were the brightest star in the sky,
the highest star I could see.

Knew I'd never reach you
but I had to try.
I set my sights on you and flew.

But the fall hurt more than I'd imagined.
I should have known.
I was nothing but cold ash,
not fit for a burning star.

So I searched
for the spark
that would let me be
Good Enough.

You burn brighter than I remember,
drawing me to you,
seeking the warmth.
I nurse my spark into a flame.

If I offer it to you,
would you engulf me?
Combine our fire?
Or simply just
let me
burn
out?

~*~

They'd managed to get the jacket off of R. J. without any kind of incident, and rested in a nearby alley to examine the goods.

"Doesn't seem fair that a stupid jacket can be hexed into a love-magnet." Xander said, sticking his arm in one of the sleeves. "Jocks get enough girls as it is. Though I'll bet you'll never hear about a pocket-protector that's been doused in love potion number nine."

Spike's eyes widened. "What are you doing?" he exclaimed, and then cursed at the note of panic in his voice.

Xander looked at him strangely, but replied, "Trying on the jacket," as if it was the most natural thing in the world for Xander to put on stolen clothing. "After all those years of Lance being the king of everything in high school, I think I'm entitled to a few minutes of getting looks from cute girls." He slid his other arm into the other sleeve and tried to pull the jacket on, but it got stuck before it could get over his shoulders. Xander sighed and took off the jacket. "Damn thing is too small." He tossed it at Spike. "Wanna try it on?"

Spike caught it by reflex, and raised an eyebrow. "No, not really."

"What, you scared?" Xander grinned.

Spike scoffed. "Of this scrap of cloth? Hardly."

"Then try it on." Xander challenged.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Spike squared his jaw and slid first one arm, and then the other into the sleeves, and tugged the jacket over his shoulders. It wasn't the duster, but it fit well enough. "There. Happy now?" Spike's voice died in his throat, and he couldn't break eye contact with Xander.

Xander's mocking grin faded, his eyes dilating as he stared at Spike.

For a heartbeat they stood, still as statues, gazing at each other. Then suddenly Xander surged forward, slamming Spike back into the brick wall as their lips met in a fierce and brutal kiss. Completely blown away by the attack, Spike moaned, his arms coming up to wrap around Xander's neck. Xander gasped as he felt Spike's hips grind into his.

Somewhere in the back of Spike's mind, a voice was screaming that this wasn't right, that it was too soon, but the magic in the jacket quickly shushed the voice, and Spike continued to kiss Xander, caressing Xander's tongue with his own.

The kiss muffled Xander's groan and he clung tighter to Spike, hips bucking of their own accord as he tried to get as close to Spike as possible. One of Spike's hands was rubbing the nape of his neck, and suddenly Xander had a deep overwhelming desire to feel Spike's skin. Xander quickly discarded his long-sleeved over-shirt, and began unbuttoning Spike's black shirt as Spike's other hand slipped under his thin white T-shirt. The contact made Xander shiver, and though his fingers fumbled a little on the tiny buttons, he managed to get them all undone and ran his palms over Spike's bare chest.

Spike hissed in pleasure, arching into the touch as his hand trailed higher, pushing the t-shirt up and admiring the pale skin and muscles that were revealed. Xander's hands pushed at the clothes that were bunched around Spike's shoulders and he obliged, letting go of Xander so that the shirt and jacket could slide off of his arms and fall onto the alley floor.

The second the jacket was off of Spike's body, they jumped away from each other as if electrified. Both were breathing hard as they stared at each other, twin expressions of shock and horror on their faces. After a few moments Spike remembered that he didn't have to breathe, and that he was shirtless. He reached down and untangled his shirt from the jacket, careful not to touch the spelled cloth. By the time he had his shirt back on and buttoned up, Xander had regained some of his senses and was frantically pulling his shirt back down and smoothing it out. His other shirt was lying in a puddle at Spike's feet, and Spike picked it up and held it out to him.

He snatched it from Spike's hand. "Not a word of this to anyone." Xander said, pulling on the over-shirt and straightening out the collar.

"S'not exactly an experience I have any intention of remembering." Spike lied through his teeth. He had ever intention of remembering the taste of Xander on his lips, the feel of him in his arms, but such idle ponderings were reserved for fantasies. Xander would never love him in return, and the sooner he could stop pining after him like a love-sick puppy, the better off he'd be.

Xander kicked the jacket into an empty cardboard box that just happened to be in the alley, and used the box to carry the jacket over to Buffy's house for incineration. He strode out of the alley, holding the box as if it contained a rattlesnake or some other dangerous creature, and never looked back to see if Spike followed him.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 6: Out of my mind, into yours.

As Xander watched the jacket burn, he couldn't stop turning the situation over and over in his head. I do not like Spike. Spike does not like me. We had no control over our bodies, it was all the jacket's work. Stupid jacket. Stupid Lance's family. I hate jocks.

Buffy smiled as she watched him staring into the fire, and misinterpereted his musings. "Xander, be honest. You didn't, you know, think about slipping that jacket on just a little bit?"

Been there, done that. Xander thought, But there is no way I'm going to tell you I just played tonsel hockey with Spike. "I refuse to answer that on the grounds that it didn't fit," he said. Hey, it's not lying... it's just selective truth-telling.

The girls continued to exchange and share their disbelief at the lengths they had been willing to go under the influence of the jacket. He mostly tuned it out, smiling a little at the knowledge that his "I can't believe I actually..." story would trump them all. Well, maybe not Anya, 'cause he had a feeling she was hiding a doozey of a story. Especially when she mentioned the legal ramifications...

"True." he'd replied. "You fell for a mystical, ancient curse. Who hasn't made that mistake seven, eight times?" Although how come every time I fall for a curse, I always end up being somebody's buttmonkey? It's not fair.

Once the jacket was ash and Willow proclaimed all traces of the love magic was gone, Xander excused himself from the girls and left. The evening had been stressful, but he still has a restless itch that wouldn't let him relax. Deciding to stop by the site to go through a few papers before morning, Xander headed over to the school.

He was half a block away when he saw a figure walk out of the front doors of the school. He instinctively crouched behind some bushes, watching as the figure - easily recognizable as Spike from the pale hair and unique stalk - walk away from the school and, luckily, away from where Xander was hiding. An uneasy knot of paranoia formed in the pit of his stomach, but he tried to shake it off. It wasn't his business what Spike was doing in the school.

When he was sure Spike was gone, he left the bushes and unlocked the door to the office, turning on the light and locking the door behind him. He booted up the computer and sat down, shuffling though a few papers as he waited for the computer to load. On a whim, he opened up the Internet and typed in the address of the poetry site, curious to see if any new poems had been posted by his secret admirer. The uneasy feeling increased when he saw that there was a new poem, and it had only been posted a half hour ago. He hesitantly clicked the link, heart pounding in his chest as he waited for the poem to load.

Mercutio and Tybalt

Two halves of a whole, two opposites,
two blokes with all their bobs and bits,
one day face off against each other,
neither willing to lose or blunder.

Unknown to them, the spell that's cast
surrounds them both with claws of glass,
seeps into their skin, controls their mind,
and to reality makes them blind.

And though they share true love's first kiss,
lacking in both is lover's bliss.
Intimacy forced has no worth,
as a joke badly told contains no mirth.

This moment of happiness is a blow
that weakens me, and still I know
the moment the spell breaks, you'll flee.
Despite my will, my heart's with thee.

Xander wasn't stupid. He'd paid attention in class when they were learning about poetry and Shakespeare, about symbols and their meanings... The more he read the poem, the more sense it made. It was about two people, sworn bitter enemies, who kiss under the influence of magic.

But only one other person knew about the kiss in the alley...

"Oh, my god! Searchforeffulgence is Spike!"

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 7: I've reached the only logical conclusion: Love ain't supposed to make sense.

The shock of this revelation forced all pretenses of actually getting work done out the window, as Xander spend the next several hours printing off every single poem Searchforeffulgence had written, rereading them with this new understanding. He opened a poem that was posted shortly after the entire Gem of Amara debacle, wondering what was so important at that time that needed to be put into words.

Too Late

I tried to run, to stay away
but longing for you drew
me back. The moment
I saw you I could tell,
you'd experienced
pleasures of the flesh.

When did it happen?
Where was I when
your innocence was
taken? You changed so much
since I last saw you, confidence
and assurance in every move.

Awareness of your body, and you knew
how to move it. God, how I wanted
you then, but the anger of being too late
to be first led me to fight, to lash out
until my protection was ripped away
and I retreated in shame again.


Holy fuck Xander though to himself, How did I miss this? Now that he knew what to look for, it was obvious that the poetry had been written by Spike. Xander could pick out certain events that had happened by reading in between the lines and comparing the dates posted. It was surreal, reading words of love and devotion and realizing Spike wrote them to him. He'd never had an inkling that Spike was interested, much less head over heels in love with him. As he opened yet another poem, this one dated a month after Buffy leapt from the tower, he wondered how he could have been so blind.

Mourning in Silence

The leader perished, the troops
try to carry on, bandage their wounds,
cover up their misery.

When the bit weeps I can hear
you comfort her, whispered words
of heaven and happiness.

Long after everyone's asleep,
your guard finally falls, the sound
of your tears shatters my heart.

I wish I could comfort you,
hold you and return the succor
you give out to them all.

You love her deeply, devoted
to her through life and in death,
and through you I love her too.

Through my fealty to you I mourn her loss
and suffer your grief, even as I rejoice
that her absence has brought us closer.


The sun was beginning to rise by the time Xander stumbled home. Spike's bedroom door was shut, and for a moment Xander pondered knocking and confronting him about the poetry. A glance at the clock revealed that he only had a handful of hours in which to get some sleep before he had to be at work, and he was still exhausted and reeling from the events of the evening, so he quietly crawled into bed and decided to confront Spike about the poetry tomorrow.

Work at the site ran late, a freak accident with a wood saw ruining a batch of lumber and raising the cost as a result of ordering more wood. The sky was darkening when Xander left, choosing to walk back to his apartment and use the time to think about what he was going home to. He passed a teenaged boy leaning against a lamppost while he was lost in his thoughts, and he was several feet away before recognition struck in. He slowly turned around, eyes widening as the boy smiled.

"Hey, Xander." the boy said, voice exactly the same as Xander remembered seven years ago.

"Jesse." Xander whispered.

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 8: Choking on your alibis, but it’s just the price I pay. Destiny is calling me, open up my eager eyes...

Simple Twist of Fate

Today's the day, and I get drunk
cursing fate and sinking into a funk
while somewhere in a church across town
you're in a tux and she's in a gown
made of white lace, pure as snow.
It's your wedding day, I know,
but I can't be there to celebrate
your ritual claiming of a mate
when my heart still aches with love for you
and seeing you with her tears me in two.

There's nothing worth living for anymore, I fear.

In the end, I must confess
I only want your happiness,
knowing you will never mine
or I yours to share it. I'll be fine
as long as she can make you smile,
my love for you will be kept in denial.
I can exist without your embrace
even though your smiling face
haunts every dream of every night.
I will hide from everyone my plight.

But what to my wandering ear should I hear?

The groom is missing, the bride weeps,
and the strangest feeling sweeps
through my heart. It's Hope.
I thought without you I could cope,
but now there's a light, however so dim
and there's a chance, however so slim
that maybe, possibly, some day, somehow,
you could be mine, and I vow
that if that day comes, I'll treat you well
and never rue the day I fell.


~*~

A smile stretched across the boy's face. "You remember me."

Xander gaped, "Of course I remember you. You're Jesse." He couldn't believe it. Years of memories came flooding back: goofing off in school, skateboard lessons, fishing trips, hanging out with Willow, taunting Cordelia and the Cordettes...

"A lot can change in seven years." Jesse replied, "You're different. This whole town's different." He said with a glance at the street around them. "I wouldn't have blamed you if you'd forgotten about me, especially given how I died."

That brought Xander back to the present. "Um... you aren't still a vampire, are you?" he asked, shifting uneasily under a rapidly darkening sky. The memory of seeing Jesse turn to dust before his eyes was not one he wanted to remember, much less relive.

Jesse shook his head. "Nah, whatever brought be back made me full human."

"Still, if you don't mind..." Xander pulled out a cross and tossed it to him. Jesse caught it by reflex, and there was no sizzle.

"Thanks, Xan, but I've already got one of my own." Jesse tossed the cross back to him, and pulled out his own cross from his back pocket to show to Xander. It was wooden, crudely carved with the bottom of the cross sharpened to a dull point. "It's a bit rough, but it does the trick."

Assured that this was indeed his Jesse and not a vamp version, he stepped forward to embrace what had been his best friend. Jesse still looked the same as he had years ago, and was lacking the inches in height Xander had acquired, so Xander found himself leaning over a little as they hugged. Jesse was warm in his arms, warm and solid and alive, and Xander knew that this was crazy, that people don't just suddenly come back from the dead, but it was Jesse and Jesse was here, and the First could go to hell right now for all he cared.

"Missed you so much, man." Jesse mumbled, face buried in his shoulder.

"Missed you too." Xander murmured back, before they broke apart, doing the awkward manly moment-after shuffle. "So," Xander said, sticking his hands in his pockets, "What are you doing back?"

"Haven't a clue." Jesse replied. "One minute some chick with a freaky face is giving me the hickey of a lifetime, the next I'm waking up naked as a jaybird in some cave somewhere with this priest guy chanting over me."

Xander blinked. "Priest guy?"

Jesse shrugged. "Tall, dark, and creepy... I didn't stick around to ask his name. I ran out of there as fast as I could, and didn't stop running for hours. I hid in the woods that day, and went looking for clothes once it got dark, but the only thing I could find was a bedsheet - better than nothing, right? Went home, but there were strangers living there. Was on my way to your house when I ran into this girl robbing a bank, and I got some money from her in exchange for not going to the cops - not that I could anyway. Bought some clothes and food, stopped by your house but your room was empty. Nobody was home at Willow's house either." Jesse's voice began to waver, as if he was fighting back tears, "I don't know what's going on, Xander. I died, and then it's like I'm back but years have passed and it's all strange and you're old and I don't know what's going on!" He scrubbed his eyes with his hand, wiping away the few traces of tears that had escaped.

Xander slung his arms around his shoulders. "Don't worry, Willow will figure out what's going on."

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 9: Even if it's a lie, say it will be all right and I shall believe.

Never Betray You

Your eyes burn into me, your
fingers paint bruises that ache
and feed the fire raging within.
Your breath suffocates me.

Alpha to the core, protecting
your chosen pack. Fierce,
dangerous, and gorgeous.
I'm putty in your hands.

Unwelcome interruption breaking
the moment that could have been.
Skin removed like apple peel,
nails dig deep and blade stings.

And all I can think of is the heat
of your hands, pushing me against
the wall, the pleasure of your body
against mine, pining me there.

Your face so near.
Can't breathe, can't think.
Can't resist for much longer.
Take me, save me, I'm yours.


~*~

"Did Wills get her own house?" Jesse asked as he followed Xander's lead through the dark streets.

"Nah," Xander replied, "She's staying at Buffy's right now. It's cheaper than a dorm room and not too far away from campus."

"She's going to Sunnydale U?" At Xander's nod, Jesse whistled. "I can't believe it. With her test scores, I would've thought for sure that she'd get into Oxford or something."

Xander grinned. "She did get into Oxford, and M.I.T., and Yale, and Harvard, and pretty much every college with a name and a stamp, but she decided to stick close to home." Although, perhaps things would've been better if she'd gone to Oxford. She would've been free from the Sunnydale hellmouthyness and trying-to-end-the-world, but on the other hand she would have never met Tara.

"Something wrong?" Jesse asked, noticing the shadow that had fallen over Xander's face.

"Hm?" Xander responded as Jesse's words registered. "Oh. No, nothing wrong, I was just thinking."

Jesse wanted to know why the thought of Willow had made Xander unhappy, but decided to drop it for now. "Buffy? Wasn't that the new girl? Transfer from L.A.?"

Xander nodded, reminiscing. "Yep, that's her."

"It's cool you guys are still friends." Jesse said, "I thought she would've been more Cordette material, but looks can be deceiving." He hesitated over the next question, "How is Cordelia?"

"Cordy?" Xander repeated, surprised. He hadn't thought about Cordelia in ages, but then he remembered Jesse's crush on her. "I think she's doing okay. She moved to L.A. after graduation and has been doing pretty well over there."

During the rest of the short trip to Buffy's house, Jesse quizzed Xander on the fates of various classmates. Xander answered his questions as best as he could, feeling a little upset when he realized that although a few had lived though graduation, there were several pre-Buffy friends that had disappeared without notice over the years as casualties of Sunnydale's night life. He'd never really stopped to realize how many people he'd been friends with before Buffy's arrival, that he'd lost touch of. Arriving at Buffy's house, he used his spare key to open the door and step inside. He left the door open but didn't offer an invitation to Jesse, just in case.

The wreckage of the house made Xander freeze, and Jesse bumped into him. "Woah." Jesse said, looking around at the splintered wood and shattered glass scattered everywhere.

Xander spotted Dawn crouched in the corner and he ran over to her, kneeling by her side. "Dawnie, are you okay?" He noticed several small cuts on her face and hands. "Oh shit, you're bleeding." He glanced over his shoulder to Jesse. "There's a first-aid kit upstairs under the sink in the bathroom. First door on the left." Jesse nodded, and Xander returned his attention to Dawn.

She was shaking, holding her knees as she stared into space. "What happened, Dawn?" Xander asked, resting a hand on her shoulder. The contact broke the stupor she was in and she turned wide scared eyes on Xander. "I saw Mom," she whispered, and burst into tears. Xander held her and rocked her gently as she cried.

He heard somebody run inside the house and gasp at the destruction. Willow hurried into the living room and visibly relaxed a little when she saw Dawn and Xander were okay. She stepped carefully over the broken glass to crouch on the other side of Dawn. "I saw the door open and panicked. Where's Buffy?" she asked Xander softly.

"She's not here." was the muffled reply from Xander's tear-soaked shoulder.

"She saw Joyce." Xander told Willow, and she made a sympathetic sound, stroking Dawn's hair.

"Oh sweetie," Willow murmured, "I saw something tonight too, but I don't think it was them. I think it was just the Big Bad that's coming, you know?" Xander frowned. Could being with Jesse again all have been a figment of his imagination?

"But, that's what she said." Dawn replied, "Mom, she said that things were coming, that things were on their way, and that she loves us. So, it had to be her, right? I mean, her warning was true."

Willow whook her head. "I don't know. I just don't think we can trust anything right now. Did you see anything weird tonight, Xander?"

"Funny you should ask that." Xander said, hearing footsteps coming down the stairs. Jesse came into the living room, first-aid kit in his hands.

"Found it." he said, handing the kit to Xander, who opened it and gently pulled Dawn away so that he could treat her cuts. "Hey Wills," he said, recognizing her. "Nice hair."

"Jesse?" Willow whispered, staring at him. "Can you guys see him too?"

Dawn nodded and Xander smiled sheepishly. "I kinda brought him back with me." His voice took on a child-like tone. "Whaddya say, Ma? Can I keep him? I promise to feed him and clean up after him."

"Can you touch him?" Willow asked Xander, who raised an eyebrow.

"As much as I support your orientation, that doesn't mean I'm going out touching guys I meet on the street."

Willow blushed a little. "That's not what I meant... It's just... mine was incorporeal. She could move inanimate objects, but my hand went right through hers."

"Nah, Jesse's solid." Xander said, unwrapping a antiseptic cloth and wiping the traces of blood away from Dawn's cuts. "And he's got body-heat and a heartbeat, didn't react to touching a cross, and he was able to enter without invitation."

Willow continued her critical evaluation of Jesse. "You're not some kind of shape-shifting demon, are you?"

Jesse gulped. "Shape-shifting demons? There are such things as shape-shifting demons?"

"We've had all kinds." Willow shrugged, still wary. "Tell me something that only you and I would know."

Jesse frowned, glancing between Xander and Willow. "You sure you want me to say it out-loud?"

"Yes."

Jesse shrugged, and said the secret he knew Willow would never tell in a million years on pains of torture. "You've had a crush on Xander for years."

"Everybody knows about that." Dawn snorted as Xander unwrapped and applied bandaids.

Jesse's jaw dropped as he gaped. "What? You finally got up the nerve to tell him?" Willow and Xander shared a glance as they remembered their 'fluke', which made Jesse wonder. "Then why aren't you two together?"

Xander's earlier remark about orientation clicked just as Willow said, "Long story. Tell me something else."

"You almost told him in fourth grade on Valentine's Day in a love letter that you took hours to make with construction paper and glitter and lace. The poem went something like, 'You're innocent yet kinda kinky, your breath is sweet and never stinky...'"

It was Xander's turn to color slightly as Dawn giggled. "I don't remember getting that card."

Jesse smirked. "That's because she chickened out. She was going to give it to you attached to a big box of expensive chocolates, but then she saw Harmony put a valentine in your shoebox and so she held on to the letter and that night we ate the candy together at my house while I listened to her gripe and pine over you for hours. It wasn't until the next day that she found out Harmony had mistaken your box for Larry's, but by then she'd lost the courage to confess."

Xander glanced at Willow, "Well? Is he or isn't he?"

"He's Jesse." Willow admitted, "Only Jesse would know that."

"That's all on the assumption that if this is a shape-shifting demon, it doesn't have access to dead people's memories." Dawn said, making Xander and Willow turn to look at her. "It could happen."

Willow nodded. "We don't really know anything about the coming evil for sure." She looked up at Jesse, "I'm sorry to say this, but we have to treat you evil-until-proven-innocent. There's an apocalypse on its way, and people coming back from the dead has not resulted in goodness before."

"That's an understatement." Xander muttered quietly, applying the last bandaid and cleaning up the wrappers. Tears began to well up in Dawn's eyes again as she remembered Buffy singing about Heaven and Spike warning her about the badness of bringing her mom back to life.

Jesse held up his hands in defense, "It's okay, Wills. I understand. Well, not really, but I trust you guys."

Willow smiled, "Thanks, Jesse." She turned to Xander. "Can you guys clean up a little? I'm going to put Dawn to bed."

"Sure thing." Xander said, and grabbed a broom, gloves, and a trash bag from the kitchen. With Jesse's help the downstairs was clean and devoid of broken furniture and appliances by the time Buffy got home.

"Xander! There you are. Do you know where Spike is?" Buffy walked into the house and took in the sight of Xander with a broom in her living room. "What happened? Where's the TV?"

"The television decided to commit suicide and join its radio brothers and toaster sisters in appliance heaven." Xander replied with a smile. "Badness struck and the TV needed to be slayed."

"Badness?" Buffy's expression went from confused to worried in 0.2 seconds. "Is Dawn okay?"

"She's fine." Willow said, coming downstairs to join them, "She just went to sleep. But we were both visited by not-so-nice Caspers. I saw Cassie and Dawn saw Joyce. Did you run into anybody?"

"Just a vampire who tried to psychoanalyze me." Buffy replied.

"Do you think he was a ghost too?"

"Dusted real enough," Buffy shrugged. "But he said he was sired by Spike. I think Spike might be killing people again."

"That's not our only problem." Willow said, and gestured to a figure in the living room behind Xander that Buffy hadn't noticed when she'd come in. "Buffy, you remember Jesse?"

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 10: You find the situation just a bit uncomfortable, you'd rather stay far away from reality...

Vows and Promises

Don't know where this feeling comes
from, can't stand to touch her
and yet I feel drawn to her.
She'll never understand,
hell, how can she when I
don't understand myself?

How can I give her my ring
when you already have my heart?
How can I promise her my days
when you haunt my dreams at night?
How can I vow to be hers, when I
would do anything you wish of me?

Automatically I hold her,
coddle her, yet my gaze
keeps drifting to you.
Astounding, how I can want
so much to marry her,
when I only love you.

~*~

"Jesse." A score of emotions crossed Buffy's face: surprise, guilt, nostalgia, and suspicion, before finally settling on wary acceptance. "Alive?"

"Living, breathing, and can enter uninvited." Xander confirmed, sitting on the arm of the couch. He crossed his arms, waiting to hear his friends' reactions.

"Okay. Does this make sense to anybody else?" Buffy asked.

Willow shook her head, and Xander said, "Nope."

"Just checking to make sure it wasn't just me." Buffy nodded slowly, adjusting to the new curveball the Hellmouth had thrown at them. "But that'll have to wait for now." Buffy turned to Xander. "I stopped at your apartment before coming here, and Spike wasn't there. Do you have any idea where he might be?"

"I don't know." Xander shrugged, "He is a creature of the night, Buff. He's probably out skulking in the shadows somewhere."

"Or turning people into vamps as we speak." Buffy muttered.

"You don't really believe that Spike's killing again?" Xander had only just realized that Spike had been writing him poetry for years - if he was killing again Buffy would have to dust him, and then... Xander wasn't sure. But he didn't want Spike to get dusted before he could confront him about the poetry. "Fangless is still chipped, isn't he?" Silence greeted his question, and he looked back and forth between his girls with an ever-increasing feeling of panic. "Guys?" Surely they'd tell him if Spike had gotten the chip out... wouldn't they?

"Yes, Spike still has the chip. But why would a random vamp lie about who sired him?" Willow remarked.

"How should I know?" Xander replied. "Maybe it's some kind of status symbol for the undead. My sire can beat up your sire."

"I don't know." Buffy said, "But we've got to find him, and figure out what's going on."

"We should probably check my place first. He might be home by now." Xander didn't want to think about Spike killing again, but the sooner he could be proven innocent the sooner Xander could deal with other things. He glanced over at Jesse, who was watching them silently. "What about Jesse?"

"Bring him with; we'll keep an eye on him." Buffy said, "Sorry, Jesse, but we can't quite trust you yet."

Jesse nodded, his hands in his pockets as he tried to look like a harmless kid and succeeded rather well. "I get it. Willow already explained."

"You guys go; I'll stay here with Dawn." Willow said. Buffy flashed her a grateful smile and headed out the door, Xander and Jesse following her.

~*~

"How could this even be possible?" Xander remarked as he unlocked the door to his apartment. "You're sure he still has the chip, right?"

"Yeah." Buffy admitted. "I've seen it working. I just... I don't know."

Xander opened the door and conversation stopped short as he saw Spike sitting on the living room couch, watching TV. "Oh, hey, Spike. You're here." It was the first time he'd seen the vampire since realizing he was Searchforeffulgence. Spike looked the same as he always did, and yet Xander found himself searching every nuance of Spike's body language for a sign of the love that saturated each poem.

"Yeah, well, I live here now, don't I? Was wondering if you were planning on returning any time tonight." Was it Xander's imagination, or did Spike's voice carry just a hint of worry? Buffy and Jesse entered the apartment, and Spike sat up. "Well, this can't be good. You here at this hour. There trouble?"

"No, no trouble." Buffy assured him. "Well, there was a little trouble, but it was mostly of the usual hellmouthy variety."

Spike nodded towards Jesse. "Who's the kid?"

"Part of the trouble." Buffy replied. A sudden smile crossed her face, as if she just remembered something funny as she looked at Jesse. "Hey, you were turned by Darla, right? That makes you, like, Spike's uncle or something."

Jesse winced slightly at the mentioning of being turned, while Spike's eyebrow rose at the mention of Darla's name. "Excuse me?" He stared hard at Jesse. "That's no vampire. Have you gone daft, Slayer?"

"Jesse was turned by Darla a few years ago. He was," Xander stumbled over the word, bad memories drifting through his mind, "dusted, and now he's back. We're all very confused."

"Ah," Spike said, with a total lack of comprehension. "If you don't mind, I'm going to turn in before I drop."

He was halfway to his bedroom door when Xander's voice made him pause, "Wait, Spike."

"Yeah?"

There was something in his eyes when he looked at Xander... it was on the tip of Xan's tongue to blurt out about the poems, but instead he found himself asking, "Did anything... strange... happen to you tonight?"

Spike thought about that for a moment, his body turning to face Xander. "Strange?"

Xander shrugged helplessly. "Weird. Out of the ordinary. Ghosts trying to tell you things, or dead people suddenly alive again?"

"No ghosts recently." There was that losing time thing that was bothering him, but he figured it wasn't important. At least he wasn't talking to figments of his imagination anymore. "What about you two? Run into baddies tonight?"

"One." Buffy said, watching Spike intently for any reactions. "Vampire. Someone I used to know, actually. Guy named Holden Webster."

"You knew him, huh?" Spike said, a sympathetic look crossing his face. "That must've been rough."

"Yeah." Buffy murmured.

They stood in silence for a moment before Spike hooked a thumb towards his door. "If that's it then?"

"Yeah, that's it." said Xander. "Thanks, Spike. Good night."

Spike nodded, entering his bedroom and shutting the door behind him. Xander motioned towards the kitchen table for his guests to sit down and relax. "You guys thirsty?" Buffy nodded, so he grabbed them each a soda from the fridge. Buffy mimed writing something, and Xander found a piece of paper and a pen before sitting back down. He crinkled his brow in confusion as he passed it over to her. She glanced meaningfully towards Spike's room, and he nodded, understanding. "So. When are you thinking about getting a new TV? 'Cause I've heard those big screens are all the rage now." Xander remarked idly as Buffy scribbled out a note.

"Oh, I don't know." Buffy replied, passing the note over to him. "I think the other appliances would feel dwarfed if we bought a big screen. Plus, you know, expense-o-rama. No way could I afford one right now." On the paper she had written, ~Can you watch Spike today?~

"Are you kidding?" Xander protested as he wrote out a reply. He had a big client today, but he would call the office and get it rescheduled. "Big screens are an investment in your future." He passed the note back to her, ~Sure. Consider it done.~

Buffy laughed. "Yes, I'm sure everyone is turning in their 401Ks and investing in big screen TVs." She glanced at Jesse, and scribbled another note, and passed it back to Xander. ~I'd feel better if you aren't alone. Just until we make sure Jesse isn't evil.~

"You'll see. In a few more years everyone will have big screens and you'll be left in the dust, and then you'll wish that you'd taken my advice." ~I'll call Ahn.~

Buffy smiled her thanks and folded up the note, sticking it in her pocket until it could be disposed of before prying eyes stumbled over it. "Nah, I think we'll be fine. After all, if everyone has a big screen, then the only really cool people would be the ones who don't have one. Exceptions to the rule."

~*~

"I can't believe I let you talk me into this." Anya complained quietly as Xander opened the blinds to let the morning sun in. She kept looking between Jesse's form on the couch and Spike's door, unable to decide which was the bigger threat. Jesse was fast asleep, but was suffering nightmares if the tossing, turning, and occasional sounds were any indication.

Xander yawned as the early morning sunlight spilled over him. He'd managed to stay up until Ahn had arrived, spending most of the interim on the phone with work, trying to explain that there was a family emergency and that there was no way he would be able to make the big client meeting. His boss was severely pissed with him, but had agreed to reschedule the client. Xander knew he was in for some major ass-kissing when he got back to work, but right now all he wanted was sleep. "You weren't that adverse to it on the phone." he replied under his breath so as not to wake Jesse.

Jesse whimpered in his sleep, thrashing weakly on the couch. Anya stared at him until he quieted again. "That was before you told me Spike was killing again-"

"Might be killing again,” Xander interrupted, casting a significant glance towards Spike's door.

Anya rolled her eyes. As if she would ever underestimate vampire hearing. Still, she lowered her voice even more. "Might." she conceded, "And you didn't mention vamp-boy over here."

"Jesse. And he's not a vamp, not anymore." Xander corrected again. He picked up the blanket that usually lay over the back of the couch, shook the folds out, and draped it over Jesse's body. The boy unconsciously clutched at the blanket, the symbol of comfort easing his shudders. "I really appreciate you coming over."

"Yeah, well." Ahn crossed her arms and huffed, but Xander knew it was mostly for show. "I expect to be recompensed greatly for this act of kindness."

"Don't worry; I'll keep this in mind when I'm shopping for your Christmas present." Xander headed towards his room, only to be stopped by the note of nervousness in Ahn's voice.

"Where are you going?"

Xander turned back towards her. "To bed. I've been up all night. Need sleep now."

"You're going to leave me alone with them? Without even a crossbow or flamethrower to defend myself?" Anya said incredulously.

"You're not alone; I'll be just in the other room, ready to be help if needed. The point of this is surveillance, not intervention. If he tries to leave, don't confront him, just wake me up. And besides," Xander glanced around the living room of his apartment, "there's not enough space to properly use a flamethrower." The landlord still hadn't forgotten the scorch-mark that Xander had to have repaired after the Toth incident - Xander didn't want to think about the coronary that would probably ensue if the landlord found evidence of a flamethrower fight in the apartment.

"And what if vamp-boy tries to leave?" Anya said, gesturing at the sleeping figure.

"He won't." Xander assured her. "Jesse's harmless - I think he's more freaked out by us than we are by him. You'll be fine."

"I better be." Anya said as Xander turned back towards his room. "Because if I get vamped, I'm gonna bite your ass."

"Wouldn't be the first time." Xander grinned, shutting his bedroom door shut behind him.

"What was that?" Anya glared mildly at the door for a moment, before her gaze returned to the couch. Jesse. She didn't recognize him, but the name sounded vaguely familiar... Suddenly a memory surfaced and she placed the name. Opening the closet door, Anya pulled out a box and dug through the contents. Finding the object of her search, she put the box back in the closet and carried her prize to the chair, keeping an eye on the sleeping boy as she sat and opened the large book in her lap. Sunnydale Yearbook, Class of 1999, belonging to one Xander Harris.

~*~

Several hours later, Anya had finished looking through the yearbook and put it down next to her chair while she sat through the morning and noon soaps when Jesse startled awake. He looked around the living room and froze when he spotted her. "Who are you?"

"Anya. I'm a friend of Xander's." Anya replied. "He asked me to come over for a little while."

"Where's Xander?" Jesse asked, sitting up and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

Anya tilted her head towards' Xander's bedroom. "Asleep." She watched Jesse as he folded the blanket that had been covering him and set it next to himself on the couch. Curiosity got the better of her and she asked in her usual straight-forward manner, "So, you used to be a vampire?"

"Yeah, apparently." Jesse said, shifting under her gaze.

Anya raised an eyebrow. "Apparently?"

"I don't remember much." Jesse tried to explain, "And what I do remember is jumbled and confusing. It's slowly coming back to me - when I first woke up I didn't remember anything after my death."

"I was a demon." Anya offered, relaxing in her own chair.

Jesse evaluated her with a renewed interest. "Really?"

"Yes. For over a thousand years." Anya smiled in remembrance. Even though she didn't really want to be a vengeance demon anymore, she couldn't deny that those had been good times.

"How did you become human?" Jesse asked, shifting on the couch to sit on one leg so he could face Anya.

"I lost my amulet in an alternate dimension. It was my power center. When it was destroyed, I became human."

"Huh." Jesse said, absorbing the new information. He stumbled over the next question, hesitantly asking, "Do you miss being a demon?"

Anya thought for a moment, forming her answer. She considered telling him about returning to her demon status before seeking humanity again, but it was a long story and it really didn't have anything to do with his question. "Sometimes," she admitted. "When you're a demon, there are human rules and emotions you aren't bound to anymore, so it's easier. No fear, no guilt, only power and fun."

Jesse nodded. "I can remember that, the strength that being a vampire gave me. Xander tried to rescue me but it was too late, and I can remember looking at him and seeing every flaw and weakness that I no longer had, and feeling so superior. I could hear better, see better than I'd ever been able to before, and I had the strength to kill him before he could try to defend himself."

Anya understood and empathized with him. "It's the power that's the most seductive thing. Sure, it was a desire for vengeance that got me started being a demon, but after a while I stopped focusing on helping the girls and just enjoyed the havoc I could wreak with my powers. There were some times when I didn't even care if the girl's wish gave her any vengeance at all, as long as I could do some damage."

Jesse started to nod, but stopped. "Girls?"

"I was a Vengeance Demon. I granted wishes for scorned women." Anya summarized.

"Oh." Jesse frowned in consideration. "How is that different from a vampire?" He knew there had to be differences - after all, Willow had mentioned getting "all kinds" of demons. But vampires were the only creature of darkness he was familiar with, and he found himself interested in learning more about different types of demons.

"Sunlight isn't a problem, for one." Anya replied, "Neither are holy icons, and we can enter a house uninvited. We're not dead, are harder to destroy, and most of us carry our source of power in an amulet of some sort. And we have wait for a wish to be made. Once a scorned woman made a wish, then I could grant it however I wanted to. Usually I tried to make sure that the girl benefited from her wish, but it didn't always work out that way. This one time I granted a wish for Cordelia, and in the world I created for her Xander and Willow were still together, and they killed her pretty quickly. She didn't get any vengeance at all from that one."

Jesse blinked in shock. "They killed her?"

"They were vampires in that world."

"And still together? They were together in this world?" Jesse suddenly grinned, remembering the glance Xander and Willow had exchanged earlier in the evening when he'd brought up her crush. "I knew it. But why would Cordy care if Xander and Willow were together or not? She pretty much ignored and insulted us all through school."

"Well, she and Xander dated for a while before he cheated on her with Willow, which made Cordelia a scorned woman which in turn called me." Anya was a little surprised at Jesse's expression. "Xander didn't tell you?"

Jesse's jaw dropped, and if he thought he'd been shocked a moment ago, this was a million times worse. "They dated? Xan and Cordy?"

At that moment one of the bedroom doors opened and Xander stumbled out, yawning and rubbing his face. He plopped down on the couch next to Jesse and ran a hand through his hair. "Morning." Jesse punched him in the shoulder hard. "Ow!" Xander rubbed his now sore shoulder. "What was that for?"

"You dated Cordy!" Jesse exclaimed, his face upset and betrayed. "How could you? I was in love with her!" He punched Xander again in the same spot, and Xander yelped in pain. "And then you cheated on her with Willow!"

"Somebody's been telling stories." Xander glared at Anya, who smiled back at him, completely unrepentant.

"He asked. You didn't say I wasn't supposed to tell him about that." Anya said.

"Yeah." Xander agreed, "Because if I told you not to, then that would have been the first thing you told him." Anya shrugged but didn't dispute it. Xander sighed. "Yes. Cordy and I dated for a little while in high school. It was torrid and passionate and very short, and she still took every opportunity to ignore me and insult me in public. Yes, I cheated on her, but that was only one kiss and because Wills and I thought we were going to die." Xander paused, thinking about something. "Hey, Ahn? Is there a patron saint of scorned men? Because I so shoulda gotten a wish when Cordy dumped me on Valentine's Day."

Jesse patted Xander on the back, his anger having vanished at the news that Cordy had given as good as she'd received. "Valentine's Day? Way harsh."

"Yeah." Xander said, and glanced at Spike's door which was still closed. "Any news from Sleeping Beauty?"

"Quiet at the grave." Anya replied. Xander winced at the pun, and Anya just smiled. "Have you searched his room for clues?"

Xander stared at her, confused. "Clues?"

"Trophies from victims? Killers like to keep trophies sometimes." Anya elaborated, "Scalps, necklaces made from human teeth, things like that."

"First of all, eww." Xander shook his head, indicating that he hadn't looked for any clues yet. "Second, even we don't find anything, that doesn't prove him innocent."

"But if there is something, that would prove him guilty." Anya pointed out. "Spike's still conked out, so why don't you go look now?"

"Me?" Xander exclaimed, "Why me? Why don't you go look? You'd probably recognize a trophy better than I would."

"Please." Anya scoffed. "You're the only one who can go in. It is your apartment. What would I say to him if he caught me? 'Hi, Spike. I'm snooping around your room, obviously, because I want more sex.' At least if he caught you, you could make up some excuse."

Xander closed his eyes and he remembered the pain and betrayal he'd felt when he'd seen Anya and Spike making the beast with two backs on the Magic Box table. It had hurt terribly to watch that and yet he couldn't look away from the screen, couldn't gouge his eyes out like he'd wanted to, could only stare in horror. A line of poetry drifted through his mind. They aren't you, but they carry your scent, the ghost of your touch...So near you for a second, basking where you'd been. The pain eased a bit, and Xander opened his eyes. "Okay, fine. I'll go look." He got up and went over to Spike's room, eased the door open, and slipped inside.

"So, you and Spike?" Jesse said, still looking a little shocked by her casual mention of sex.

"It was only the once." Anya brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, "And more comfort sex than anything else more meaningful, although it was interesting to sleep with someone other than Xander for a change. But I was still smarting from being left at the alter and Buffy had screwed over Spike again, and we both needed to escape from the pain for a little while."

Jesse's eyes widened as he put two and two together, "You dated Xander and he left you at the alter? Geez, is there anyone here who hasn't slept with each other?"

"Quite a few actually." Anya replied, "But enough of us have interlocked parts that it is very soap opera-like." She eyed Jesse thoughtfully. "How old are you? Xander used to say that sex was not a proper topic of discussion with parents, strangers, or children. If you haven't had sex yet then maybe we shouldn't talk about this. But I always wondered how virgins were supposed to learn anything about pleasurable interesting sexual positions or how to please their partner if nobody ever talked to them about it."

Jesse was blushing hard and avoiding eye contact, which made Anya grin. She might not be a demon anymore, but that didn't mean she couldn't still be a little bit evil and torment some men.

~*~

Xander looked around Spike's room, letting his eyes get adjusted to the dark. No windows meant that it was very dim, and he'd closed the door to further mute Jesse and Anya's voices. Clothes were scattered around haphazardly, and other dark shapes littered the room. Xander made his way towards the middle of the room, which meant tiptoeing past Spike's sprawled figure in bed. He thought about rummaging through the drawers next to Spike's bed but he was afraid it would make too much noise, so he decided that could wait until after Spike had left the apartment.

His foot nudged a mug, and he picked it up. There was a dark layer of what had to be blood at the bottom of the mug, and Xander squinched up his face in disgust. Stupid vampires and their disgusting eating habits. He looked around and spotted two more mugs in the room. One had a similar dark ring inside, and the other one was still half-full with congealed blood. Gagging, Xander cradled the mugs as he made his way back to the door - there was no way he could focus on finding anything if he knew there were mugs gathering mold in the room. It was just too disgusting.

He was so distracted wondering if blood could actually mold that he didn't see Spike's boot in his path. He stumbled over the boot, his grasp on the half-full mug slipping and spilling blood on his shirt. Cursing under his breath, Xander set down the mugs on the floor and quickly stripped off his shirt, using a clean part of it to scrub at the spot on his chest where the blood had managed to soak through. The shirt dropped from nerveless fingers as a voice broke the silence.

"Xander. Mind telling a bloke exactly what you're doing here?"

~~~~~***~~~~~

Chapter 11: All I can do is read a book to stay awake, and it rips my life away but it's a great escape...

Watching Me Fall

Not quite in love yet, still
Stepping up to the precipice.
You were sprawled unconscious
On the bed that had been hers.

Could smell you, recognized you,
Sire's gift left unclaimed.
Wanted to lick a trail,
Consume your essence,
Mark you as mine.

Still wouldn't admit it yet
So I distracted myself
With yet another truce,
Death an arm's breadth away
Without the world at stake.

It was only years later
I realized that, when I
Thought of the world's
Benefits, I pictured you.

~*~

His own heartbeat sounded ridiculously loud in Xander's ears. "Me?" he squeaked, realizing suddenly how he must look. He hadn't bothered putting on any socks or shoes when he woke up, and with his shirt in a crumpled blood-stained ball on the floor, all he had left on was his jeans and underwear. Spike nodded slowly from where he was stretched out in bed, his half-lidded eyes hardly blinking. The edge of the sheet flirted around Spike's shoulders, and the hint of collarbone served as more distraction than Xander could handle.

"I'm here..." Xander trailed off, his sluggish mind a blank. He couldn't say that he was looking around for proof that Spike had gotten his bite back, but he couldn't think of any other reason to explain why he was sneaking around Spike's room. Why hadn't he thought up an excuse before going in? "Obviously..." Xander stalled for time. Think, dammit, think! But all he could think about was that Spike was probably naked under that sheet, which in no way helped the situation. The fact that he didn't know why he was thinking about Spike naked just made him more confused. Distracted as he was, Anya's words echoed in his head and were out of his mouth before he could stop them, "...for sex?"

Spike's eyes opened in surprise and he quickly sat up, the sheet falling down to his waist. Xander couldn't breathe for a moment, flash of a sense memory as he remembered the alley and the desire that had spread through him when he ran his hands over that chest. His gaze traveled down, past dusky nipples to well-defined abs, to Spike's lap where the fabric pooled and hid what was underneath. "Beg pardon?" Spike choked out, and Xander's gaze returned to his face. Wide blue eyes stared at him as if he'd just announced that vampires now ruled the world and all the humans agreed to be happy meals.

Xander itched to take back the words, but they'd been said and there was no way he could retract them without a long, messy, and possibly quite embarrassing explanation of the Freudian slip. Now that the words were out, though, a really bad idea was quickly turning into a stupid, horrible plan. Xander gathered his courage for a moment before putting the really bad stupid horrible plan into action. "You and me. Here and now." He knelt on the edge of the bed at Spike's feet and began to crawl up the bed. If he could act so outrageously un-Xandery, then Spike would have to be convinced that this had all been a weird dream, because there would be no way in Hell that Xander would waltz into his room and demand sex in the middle of the day. And even if Spike did tell someone, who would believe him? Spike was certifiably insane, so no one would believe anything that came out of his mouth. Xander's voice took on the edge he'd used to win that phone-sex operator job, low and husky with a hint of you-know-you-want-me-so-don't-even-bother-trying-to-deny-it. "Been wanting you, Spike." Xander continued to crawl up the bed. Spike started to pull back, stopping when he realized that the sheet wasn't going to reach very far and if he kept moving back he'd reveal a bit more than he wanted to. "Let's get it on." Xander almost gagged on the cheesy words falling out of his mouth. If all else failed, he could always blame it on the big bad that was coming. Or possession. Maybe possession by the coming big bad? And it had to be a sign of the warpedness of his brain and residual jacket love-spell madness that made the words "coming" and "big bad" evoke a very naughty image of Spike...

"What are you-" Spike hushed as Xander pressed a finger to his lips.

"Shh." Xander didn't want Spike to start thinking and figure out that this wasn't a dream. The less time he gave him to fully wake up, the better. "No questions. No talking." Xander drew close to Spike, who was leaning as far away as he could without losing the cover of the sheet. "I can't stop thinking about you and me and that kiss in the alley." He was surprised at how easily the words slipped out, as if he really had planned them in advance. Xander reached up a hand, and Spike flinched as he caressed the side of Spike's face. Xander frowned. Spike looked scared and utterly freaked out, which was not a response he'd been expecting. Dismissive and insulting? Sure. Interested and horny? Possibly. But not this icy fear that was crystallizing in blue eyes. "Can't stop wanting this." His gaze flickered down to Spike's mouth, and the spark of lust that shot through him caught Xander by surprise. Shoving away any hesitation, Xander surged forward and pressed his lips to Spike's, his hand slipping behind Spike's head to pull him closer. Spike moaned and gave in to the kiss for a moment, mouths clashing as fiercely as they had in the alley.

Jacket be damned, because unless someone had spelled his jeans without telling him, Xander had no excuse for what he was doing. Couldn't explain why Spike's lips were suddenly the best he'd ever kissed, or why he'd never noticed his lips before, like water that is so bland and boring that you don't think about it until it's a hot day and you're sweating to death and a cool glass of water is suddenly heaven as it caresses your tongue and slips down your throat... Damn, Spike could kiss, and the very notion that it was Spike that he was kissing was at once perfect and so very wrong, because they'd been hating each other for years but Spike had apparently been writing love poems to him for years and it was all so very confusing and the kissing really was only making it harder to think and it was all too much too soon... Xander was about to jerk away, but Spike beat him to the punch. Pushing Xander away from him hard, Spike scrambled away from him, sheet and all sense of modesty - and apparently sanity - forgotten as Spike fell off the bed and kept scrambling back until he was scrunched down in a corner of the room, back against the wall and legs drawn up into a fetal position. Spike was rocking back and forth and shivering, eyes wide and glazed and refusing to look in Xander's direction. Xander climbed off the bed and took a step closer, but Spike recoiled away as far as was physically possible, slamming his shoulder into the wall.

Xander stilled, and Spike resumed his rocking. Xander could just barely hear him chanting, "Not real. Not real. Can't touch it. Not real. Not Xander. Can't touch it. Not real."

Xander tried to take another step forward, but Spike recoiled again, squeezing his eyes shut and pressing himself into a smaller target flush against the wall. Extremely worried at this point, Xander tried backing away from Spike a few steps, which seemed to help a little. Spike was still rocking but the shivering had slowed a little and the chanting was getting quieter. With reluctance, Xander gathered up the dirty mugs and his shirt and left the room, shutting the door behind him. He didn't know what to do, but it was obvious his presence was sending Spike straight back into crazyville.

Anya and Jesse looked up as he left Spike's room, and Anya quirked her eyebrow at the shirt in his hands. "Don't even ask." Xander muttered quietly. He dumped the mugs in the kitchen sink and left them to soak, before retreating to his own bedroom again.

"Am I missing something?" Jesse wondered out loud, glancing between Spike's and Xander's closed doors.

"Probably." Anya replied. "Maybe not. It's hard to say." She picked up the yearbook and stood, about to put it away when Jesse caught sight of it.

"That's that?"

"The Sunnydale High yearbook." Anya replied.

Jesse held out a hand, "Can I see it?" Anya gave it to him and sat back down, resuming her channel surfing. Jesse absently stroked the cover of the yearbook, fingertips tracing the upturned faces and raised letters. He opened the cover and began to read the messages penned inside. A few he was expecting but several were a surprise.

Xander! Beware of Dingos! They're baby-eaters, man! Arooor! ~ Devon

Xander, When I moved to Sunnydale I was afraid that I would be friendless and unpopular. Thanks for sticking by me through all the you-know-what stuff. Popularity isn't all it's cracked up to be - I'd rather be one of the Scoobies. ~ Buffy
P.S. Thank you for saving my life.

Xan, Can you believe it? We graduated! I can't wait till college starts! Yeah, I know, I'm a geek. =) There were a few times when I was being sucked into the floor or kidnapped by Spike or Faith that I wasn't sure we'd make it to this day, but now we have! No more Cordettes or Snyder or any of those other poop-heads! We're free! The world is ours! ~ Willow

Xander, We haven't been able to tolerate each other even on our best days, but I've always respected you. Buffy's lucky to have a friend as loyal as you. Watch out for her. ~ Angel

Xander, It wasn't all bad, but most of it was. Still, I'm glad we had a few moments together before you betrayed me and indirectly caused me to be impaled and greatly lowered my chances of getting a bikini endorsement. When I'm a big star in L.A. this autograph will be worth more money than you'll get paid in a week. I look forward to that day. ~ Cordelia Chase

I know nobody talks about it when kids go missing, but I just wanted to say - Jesse and I used to hang out sometimes. He was cool. I miss him. ~ Hogan M.

Xander, When you and Willow found out about Buffy's destiny and decided to help, I didn't think it was a good idea. I have never been happier to be wrong in my life. You've grown into a fine man, and it's been a pleasure to know you. ~ Giles

Xander, Thanks for standing up for me that time at the zoo. Getting eaten by a hyena would have really sucked. ~ Lance

I wish you would have come with me. Try not to get killed. ~ Anya

Grams said she'd be happy to set you up if you're interested - her taste in guys really isn't that bad. I can't believe I didn't come out sooner! Thanks for being there and listening, Harris. ~ Larry

Alexander Harris, Good luck in your future career endeavors. I hear Hotdog Hut is hiring. ~ Principal Snyder.

Wondering what happened to Principal Flutie, Jesse turned the page.

~*~

To Be Continued...

~~~~~***~~~~~

Back to "Big Maypole Fish Thing"