But I Don't Like Him

by Saber ShadowKitten
Brass Knackers 5








The museum was quiet, still. The school children, with their games and sack lunches, their harried chaperones and too expensive souvenirs, had been bussed back to their schools in time to go home. The nighttime patrons were still at their daytime jobs, crunching numbers, drafting proposals, or designing the stars. A few tourists wandered through the exhibits, a Japanese family here and a French couple there, speaking their native languages in hushed tones.

One man, a young one with too-long dark hair and too-troubled dark eyes, had arrived at the museum's opening. The name-tagged employees, with their plastic smiles and tour guide voices, hadn't paid him any mind when he'd walked with purposeful strides directly to the fourth gallery. The security guards, sitting behind their camera monitors with their donuts and hot coffee, had watched the casually dressed brunette move one of the benches before sitting upon it. He'd been there all day.

The light never changed in the controlled environment of the museum. Each piece was lit in a certain way to attract attention and highlight innate beauty, even though the paintings were nothing more than patterned strokes of oil or watercolor on canvas by artists long dead.

Lugubrious, thy name is Xander, the dark-haired young man thought as he propped his elbows on his knees and rested his chin on his cupped hands. It was a sure sign that he'd been sitting there too long when he started using the big words, although Willow would be proud.

He wouldn't move, however. Couldn't. The painting had captured his attention within moments of his arriving at the museum and had kept him enthralled. Tons of noisy children had paraded in and out of the gallery throughout the day, but he'd ignored them. He hadn't budged from his spot on the black metal bench all day, a fact that his bladder and his ass could testify to.

Xander had called in sick to work to come to the art museum he'd visited once, years ago. He hadn't planned on driving to L.A. when he'd gone to bed the previous night; the idea had simply sprung to his mind first thing that morning. Before he knew it, he'd called off work, climbed into Uncle Rory's car and took off for La-La-Land.

He knew why he was at the museum, though. It was obvious, even for someone as brainless as him. The reason was painted on the wall. Or, at least, hanging on it.

"So very much like Spike," Xander murmured. Same sharp cheekbones. Same blue eyes. Same blond hair. Same black coat. If Xander squinted, the vampire in the painting became the one that had been constantly on his mind over the past three weeks.

Xander sighed. He definitely hadn't expected Spike's hopeful entreaty that night three weeks back. Spike was a vampire, for Pete's sake, a demon. He was supposed to take advantage of Xander, not fall in love with him! The relationship was supposed to be about sex, which, okay, later changed into sex and protection, but it was still rooted in sex. And sex and love weren't correlated.

And he makes with the vocabulary again, Xander thought. Why couldn't he remember these words when he'd taken his SATs?

Xander shifted his position on the bench again, pulling one knee up to his chest and leaning his cheek against it. He really didn't know what to do about what happened with Spike. Worse, he actually missed the peroxide nuisance. They'd spent enough time together post-Dracula that Xander had gotten used to having Spike around. Heck, they'd even watched a hilariously horrid B-movie together and shared a bowl of popcorn, complete with cliché hand-bumping, brushing and eventual holding in the buttery confines of the large bowl.

"But I don't even like him," Xander whined to himself. And he most certainly didn't love the blond vampire. In his twenty years, he'd only loved two people: Jesse and Ampata -- and both of them were dead.

Damn, Xander missed them. Jesse, whom he'd loved despite his vehement denial of being attracted to other men. Ampata, the girl he'd fallen fast and hard for, and got to be with for just two days.

Did he once have feelings for Cordelia? Yes. Did he have feelings for Anya? Yes. But did he ever love them?

No.

It was funny, in a this-is-not-really-funny-funny sort of way; he'd cheated on both girls. He'd cheated on Cordelia with his best friend and he'd cheated on Anya with his best enemy. If he had truly loved either of them, he knew for a fact that he wouldn't have acted adulterously.

Anya was probably at home right now, thinking of painful things to do to Xander for breaking up with her. He hadn't told her about the thing -- whatever it was -- with Spike. He'd simply broken it off, citing the usual platitudes: "I'm not good for you," "You need someone who loves you completely," and his personal favorite, "One day, you'll thank me."

The last one had given Xander a new understanding of what 1,100-years did for inventive cussing. His ears were still red.

Xander squinted at the painting and blew out a puff of air through loose lips, making him sound like an unhappy horse. Spike. Spike, Spike, Spike, Spike, Spike, Spike, Spike. What a pain in the ass the skinny biteless one had become.

All right, he wasn't that skinny. He was... wiry. Lean. Lithe. Angular. Sinewy. Rangy. And Adjective Man strikes again!

Xander moved his chin to rest on his upraised knee, his unshaved scruff scratching across the denim. The vampire in the painting watched him with unwavering blue eyes. Eyes as blue as Spike's.

"Damn it," Xander growled. Why the hell couldn't he stop thinking about Spike?!

"Xander?"

Xander's view of the painting was blocked suddenly and he felt an inner pang of loss, which was quickly replaced by surprise. "Cordelia?"

"Oh my god, it is you!" Cordelia smiled hugely, bent down and surprised Xander more by hugging him. "Hi! What are you doing here?"

"Getting hugged by you, apparently," Xander replied.

Cordelia let go and sat down next to him on the bench. "I meant in L.A., nimrod."

Xander felt a sappy grin steal across his face. Same old Cordy. "To visit this art museum, actually," he told her. "What about you? I didn't think art was your thing -- unless its hanging on some rich old guy's wall."

"Rich young guy," Cordelia corrected. "And I'm here with Angel and Wesley. There's been several thefts by an invisible robber and we've been hired to catch him. Or her. Or it."

"Sounds...," Xander floundered for a word, not wanting to piss her off. He needn't have worried, because Cordelia filled in the word herself.

"Boring, with a capitol 'B'," Cordelia said. "As you said, I like my art on rich young men's walls." She glanced at the painting in front of them and frowned. "Although this one I wouldn't like. He looks too much like someone I know."

"Yeah," Xander sighed and lowered his foot to the ground. "I know."

"What's wrong with you?" Cordelia asked abruptly.

"Huh?" Xander was puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"You Angel-sighed," Cordelia said. "A full-on, broody, weight-of-a-zillion-souls-on-my-shoulders Angel-sigh."

Great, Spike was getting Angel-sighs. "Nothing's wrong, Cordy," Xander said.

"Don't lie to me, Xander Harris," Cordelia scolded. "I may not like you, but that doesn't mean you can lie to me."

"Oh, that's going to get me to spill," Xander scoffed. Cordelia simply glared at him until he gave in. Took a whole five seconds. "Fine. I'm having relationship issues."

"With Anya?" Cordelia's brow furrowed. "You're still dating her, right?"

Xander shook his head. "Not anymore. I broke it off."

"Good. I didn't like the snotty demon bitch anyway," Cordelia said. Xander glared and she added, "I meant that in the nicest way possible."

"Uh-huh."

Cordelia lightly slapped his leg. "So tell. Who's the new girlie that has you looking like Dawson when he sees Joey? Not that I watch that crap."

"Um...," Xander bit his lower lip, not wanting to admit anything, but really wanting someone to talk to, "...uh..."

"Before I die, Xander," Cordelia growled.

"Boy," Xander blurted, then fell silent.

"Boy what?" Cordelia prompted. "Boy, this is a doozy story, or boy, I wish a hole would open up beneath me so that I won't have to talk to Cordelia."

"Boy as in of the male persuasion." Xander chuckled self-consciously. "My new girlfriend is a boy." He frowned. "But I don't like him."

"Oh." Cordelia blinked. Blinked again. And again. "Oh. You're gay?"

"Bi," Xander shrugged, "but it doesn't matter much, because I don't like him."

"You said that already," Cordelia said offhandedly. A sly smile crossed her lips and she had a faraway look in her eyes. "Oh yeah, I can see that. Not a problem."

She suddenly straightened her posture and smiled brightly. "So, what's your boyfriend's name? What's he like? Is he cute? If so, does he have a straight brother? Or, better yet, a rich one?"

"Cordelia," Xander groaned and put a hand over his eyes, "he's not my boyfriend."

"Well, why not? It's obvious you're gaga for him," Cordelia said.

"I am not," Xander air quoted, "'gaga' for him. I don't even remotely like him."

Cordelia squealed. Xander winced and wondered when the museum started letting porpoises in.

"Oh my god! You're in love with him!" Cordelia exclaimed at an ear-piercing decibel.

Xander blanched. "I am not!"

"Oh, you so are," Cordelia countered, grinning like a maniac on acid.

Gah. No, no, no, no... "...No, no, no," Xander said quickly. "I am not into the loving of the Spp...ecial guy. No. Nope. Nien. Huh-uh. Ehhhh, sorry, wrong answer."

"Do you think about him constantly?" Cordelia asked.

"Well, uh... yeah. But that's only because I was a real prick last time I saw him," Xander replied.

"Do you feel awful because you acted like yourself?" Cordelia said. "Like a real prick?"

"Ha-ha," Xander said.

"Do you?" Cordelia prompted.

Xander sighed. "Yes. Happy?"

"Not yet," Cordelia said, still grinning. "Do you think you see him almost everywhere you go, but it turns out its not him, just some guy with the same hair or something?"

Xander rubbed the back of his neck and wished that hole would appear so he wouldn't have to talk to her anymore. "Yes, okay. Yes to all your dumb questions. That doesn't mean that I-," he shuddered, "-love him."

"What if Buffy came up to you right now and told you that he got eaten by a horrible monster? How does that make you feel?"

It felt as though his heart twisted like a wet washrag. "I still don't like him."

"Uh-huh. Liar."

"I don't!" Xander insisted. "It's just sex. Really great sex... okay, really awesome beyond wow sex, but just sex."

"What are you, some sort of rentboy?" Cordelia shook her head. "Didn't you spend any time with him outside of the bedroom?"

"Well, yeah, a bunch actually," Xander said. He half-smiled. "Watched Dawson's Creek every Wednesday together."

"Don't you wish Jack would get a nice boyfriend?" Cordelia asked. "That he would fall in love?"

"Big time," Xander replied. "The poor guy. After what that Parker look-a-like did to him. The jerk."

"You are in so deep," Cordelia said, broad grin back in place. "Only someone in love would want someone else to be in love, too."

Xander stared at her a moment. "That made... absolutely no sense."

"Fine, lie to yourself. Be miserable." Cordelia stood and smoothed out her skirt. "Just remember, your nameless love puppy might find someone else if you don't snatch him up."

"Uh-huh," Xander tentatively responded.

"Xander," Cordelia began, giving him a serious look. "Think about the times you spent with him outside the sack. If you didn't enjoy them, then you're right, you don't like or love him. But if you did..."

She then smiled, waggled her fingers, and walked away.

The painting on the wall caught Xander's attention almost immediately. So very close to Spike. He groaned. It was definitely time for a bathroom break. And a coffee break. And chocolate sounded good, too.



*****



Ten minutes later, Xander was absently stirring a cup of hot coffee in the art museum's cafeteria, two candy bar wrappers crumpled on the bright orange table in front of him. His thoughts were swirling like the cream in his coffee, but he hoped that they'd blend together and taste great... and he was Simile Man now. Or was it Metaphor Man? He could never get the two straight.

Think about Spike outside of the bedroom, Cordelia had said. Considering Spike was topic du jour in Xander's brain these past few weeks, that wasn't too much of a strain.

"What is Spike like when we're just hanging out?" Xander asked himself. He removed the stir stick and set it on the table. He picked up the Styrofoam cup -- bad non-environmentalists -- and blew at the steaming java. He took a tentative sip. He was stalling.

Ugh. Spike. Not naked. Not sucking. Not being pounded into. Not surrounded by that velvet body that fit Xander like a glove.

Great, now he was horny. "Dumbass vampire," Xander grumbled, taking another sip of the hot coffee. He brightened. That was something! Spike was a dumbass.

Xander groaned, set his coffee aside, and thumped his forehead several times on the table. He then took a deep breath and let it out slowly, ignoring the few stares he got from the other patrons in the cafeteria.

Okay, let's try this again, Xander thought. What was Spike like when they were just hanging out?

Annoying.

Crude.

Irritating.

Mean.

Cutting.

Conniving.

Duplicitous.

Big-mouthed.

A liar.

Xander shook his head. Spike sounded like a real swell guy. No wonder he didn't like the bleached bastard.

Adjective Man took another sip of coffee. Maybe he'd get a cool costume with "A.M." sewn on the front. He'd be the hero of helpless nouns everywhere. Oh yeah, he wasn't losing it.

"Spike," Xander said, staring into the cup of java. "During that microscopic instant of time when he's not being a jerk, do I enjoy having him around?"

The coffee didn't answer him.

Xander sighed and put the cup down again. "You're no help."

Think back, wayward son, Xander droned in his mind. He scootched down on the avocado plastic chair and toyed with the stir stick.

Every Wednesday night they'd watched Dawson's Creek at Spike's crypt and yelled at the television. Xander always had to leave right afterwards. No sex there, yet a fun time.

Spike had taught Xander some really neat moves to protect himself against Things That Go Grr. Spike had allowed Xander to use him as a practice dummy. Led to sex, but it had been a fun sexless time before hand.

Spike had brought pizza sometimes.

Xander had protected Spike the two times they'd been out together and the vampire's mouth couldn't be backed up by his fists. Of course, the brunette had gotten beaten up one of the times, but Spike acted all Proud Papa, complimenting Xander and dissing the bad humans until they got back to Xander's apartment. Then Nursie Spike had come for a visit. Blowjob had soon followed.

They'd gone to the theater when The Exorcist had its anniversary re-release. Xander had gripped Spike's hand so tight, bones had popped. Spike had thought the movie was neat; Xander had planned never to sleep again. They'd spent the remainder of the night debating the coolness factor versus the shit-inducing scariness factor. Only a short kiss'd been had before Spike had bounced out of the apartment to get back to his crypt before dawn.

Spike had brought beer sometimes. Good beer. Imported, expensive, tasty beer.

Xander had taught Spike how to do laundry after they'd watched The Great Outdoors on video. Spike hadn't been able to figure out how "Go get yourself a spin cycle" worked. Sex'd been had on the washing machine while it was running, but watching the video before that had been sexless fun.

Spike had brought chocolate on Halloween. A huge paper-bag full. Too sick to have sex, but it'd been a blast devouring the nummy goodies.

Spike had given him Tales to Astonish #27 because he knew Xander collected comic books. Fight, then awesome sex, and then Xander had become Prick Boy and he hadn't seen Spike since.

Buffy had seen Spike, though, several times since that night. She said he'd been very quiet, which had made her and everyone else but Xander the Jackass think that Spike was planning something. Xander, of course, knew the truth.

The coffee was cold when Xander finally took another sip. He grimaced, but drank it down. If anything, the caffeine would keep him awake until he went to apologize to Spike. And perhaps have make-up sex, too.

Xander stood, collected his trash, and dumped it as he left the cafeteria. He had a good two hour drive -- not including the time spent sitting in traffic -- ahead of him. The sooner he left, the sooner he'd be back in Sunnydale.

Cordelia had been right; Xander was in love with Spike. It was the pizza, beer, and chocolate which had done him in.





End