Xander glanced over at the blond vampire curled up on the ratty couch, shrugged, and went back to
eating his PopTart. Breakfast of champions. Or lunch, in Xander's case. Breakfast had been a
handful of Fritos from a crushed bag he'd found on the car floor on the way to the job he'd just been
fired from. [Which made, what?], Xander asked himself as he extracted the second blueberry
PopTart from the silver foil wrapping. [The third job I've been fired from in as many days?]
Xander'd had a shitty week. He'd gone from working three so-minimum-it-was-laughable wage
part-time jobs to sitting in his basement "apartment" on a Wednesday afternoon, eating PopTarts
and watching a vampire sleep on the couch. Monday night he'd been fired from the gas station,
because they wanted someone who could work more hours. Understandable, and Xander had gone
without protest, thinking that he could up his hours at the higher-by-a-penny-minimum wage job at
Bucky's Fondue Hut. Only, on Tuesday, Bucky's manager had to let go of all his employees
because the Health Department found a rat foot in the Fondue Special. [Not that I mind no longer
working there, because eew.]
So, this morning Xander had gone to his last-of-three part-time jobs, intending to ask for more hours.
Instead, he'd gotten his walking papers before he'd even opened his mouth. Something about Roy's
son, Chuck, coming home for winter break, and Xander wouldn't mind being canned, since he had
two other jobs...
Xander looked over at the sleeping blonde again and scowled. He couldn't even wallow in self-pity
with a good dose of Patsy Cline or Earl Jones because he was still stuck vampire-sitting. [Not that I
blame Giles for not jumping at the chance to take Spike back after Olivia left,] Xander thought. [If
the pound took in stray vampires, I'd have gotten rid of the bleached mutt a week ago.]
Okay, having Spike temporarily residing with him wasn't that bad. Xander rarely saw him,
what with working three jobs [out of which I now have zero] and Spike being an up-all-night
vampire. Since Giles had deemed it okay to let Spike loose on the populace, and Xander had
relented and left Spike untied, the Chipped Wonder spent most of the nighttime hours at one bar or
another. The few times Xander had been woken up by him stumbling in after hours, Spike
had smelled like he'd taken to bathing at a brewery.
[Which was understandable,] Xander thought as Spike shifted on the folded-up sofa-bed. [If I had a
choice, I'd be drunk off my ass, too.] Well, he did have that choice, but not the funds. Not really the
desire, either. Too much Like Father, Like Son for Xander to handle.
So, instead, here he was, eating the last of the PopTarts and watching Spike sleep. [Oh, what a
glorious life I lead.] He could call Anya and go wallow in misery at her place, but only if he was
prepared to grovel, too. Which he wasn't, because he had no reason to grovel. For once, he hadn't
done anything grovel-worthy, and he wasn't about to grovel simply because Anya demanded it.
[Women are a strange species.]
Huh? Xander started at the breathy sound of his name, and his gaze whipped towards the couch.
Spike had turned onto his side, facing the back of the couch, and Xander could count the individual
vertebra of Spike's spine with ease. And his ribs. And the dip of his waist reminded Xander of
Anya's dip. [And that's just a disturbing comparison.]
Spike moved then, rolling his back as if someone were running something down his spine. The
rounded shoulders straightened, making his shoulder blades more pronounced, followed by the rest
of his back curving from an invisible touch, until his jean-clad backside was thrust out and his lower
back became obscenely concave.
"There... right there..."
Xander's brows flew up a the roughened words. Was Spike dreaming? About what, undead sheep?
Xander hadn't been in a position to witness Spike sleeping before, he'd always been at work.
Today, though, after he'd been Chucked from Roy's House of Plants [and that was a ba-a-ad pun,
even for me], he'd returned to the Basement of Doom to find Spike sound asleep on the couch. A
shirtless, shoeless, sockless Spike soundly sleeping on the sofa-bed. [See, Wills, I can do illiterate. I
am an illiterating fool.] Xander frowned. [Or was it alliterating? Oh well, either way, I'm still a
"Stopping... no... bad..."
Spike relaxed, his back returning to its somewhat rounded state. Xander snickered at the murmured
whine, which sounded less Big Bad and more Little Pouter. Leaving his PopTart crumbs, Xander
moved from the card table in the designated "kitchen" portion of the basement to the recliner beside
the couch. If Spike was truly asleep and not playing with his mind, Xander might have his ears on a
wealth of blackmail and ridicule material. Not that he would ever blackmail or ridicule someone.
Spike began to move again, in the same sliding S-curve he'd done a short while ago, as
if invisible fingers were tracing down his back. "Xannnn..."
Xander blinked. Rapidly. It felt as if his eyelashes were trying to take flight. [I couldn't have heard
right,] he thought. Spike couldn't have just said a portion of his first name in a breathy little moan.
[Vampires don't breathe...]
Spike thrust his jean-clad butt out again, and the small of his back was once more greatly curved as
if someone was touching him there. Xander heard a repeated squeaking begin, and he forced his
eyelashes to land so he could focus on the noise coming from Spike. [No, not Spike. The couch.]
Spike was pushing on the back of the couch with the heels of his hands. Left hand, then right. Left,
then right. Left, then right. It reminded Xander of when Miss Kitty kneaded his stomach while he
[No way,] Xander thought, a slow, evil, I-just-learned-something-blackmail-worthy smile spreading
across his face. [Spike couldn't really be kneading the back of couch like a big, bleached cat.]
There was one way find out. Plus, he'd learn if Spike was yanking his chain or not. Xander moved
to perch on the coffee table (which was really a door on cinder-blocks) near Spike's out-thrust ass,
reached forward, took a fortifying [suicidal] breath, and gently brushed his fingertips over the small
of Spike's back.
Spike didn't jump, or yell, or get angry, or immediately start to tease Xander, any of which Xander
had prepared for. What he'd gotten was what he'd hoped for -- Spike curved further with the
touch... and started to purr. [It's Mister Kitty!]
Xander brushed his fingers across Spike's bare skin again [not as cold or clammy as I'd thought.]
The couch squeaked louder as Spike kneaded harder. The purr got louder, too, and was broken only
by a few rasped words: "Right there, Xan... don't stop..."
Xan. He'd heard it distinctly that time. Spike was saying his name. And he wanted Xander to not
stop touching [petting] him.
Xander didn't know whether to be freaked, or flattered. So, in continued experimentation [and
because I'm a fool with a death wish,] he began to trace nonsense patterns on Spike's lower
back. And Spike continued to purr away like a happy little motorboat. Purr, purr, purrrrr... Xander
felt his eyes droop at the low, soothing sound, and he propped his chin with his other hand. Purr,
The telephone rang, and Xander jerked slightly, scraping his cheek against something rough. He
opened his eyes as the phone rang again, and found himself cheek to... cheek... with Spike's jean-clad butt. [My face is plastered to Spike's ass. Oh... my... god...]
Xander shot to his feet like a rocket, his face flaming. Mortified, he stared down at the vampire...
who was still sound asleep. Or faking it really well. If he was faking it, the thumb was a very nice
touch. He had the fingers-hooked-over-the-nose thing going, too, which most fakers forgot about.
Real thumb-suckers always did the fingers thing. His cousin Matt was a thumb-sucker and he did
the fingers things. Extreme stress caused child thumb-suckers to do it as adults, fingers thing and
all. [And you're babbling hysterically. Go answer the phone!]
Xander snatched up the receiver and made a break for the basement stairs. "Xander's House of
Thumbs, Handy for all your Sucking and Hitching needs," he said a bit breathlessly into the phone.
"Hi, Xander," a giggly Willow said over the line. "Like the greeting."
"Thanks." Xander ran a ragged hand through his shaggy hair. He glanced at Spike on the
couch, colored again, and sank down onto the basement step. "What's up?"
"Scooberific Scooby meeting at Giles's," Willow replied.
"New Big Bad?" Xander winced when the words left his mouth. He didn't need the reminder that
the current Big Bad was on the couch, with a Xander-face imprint on his ass.
"One that apparently glows in the dark," Willow confirmed. "It jumped out of a tree and onto Buffy
last night, then did that running away thing before she could kick its glowing hiney."
"I'll be there in a few," Xander told her with a glance at his watch. Four-thirty. [Time flies when
you're using Spike's ass as a pillow.]
He rang off, reluctantly stood, and left the safety of the stairwell to hang up the phone. His eyes
immediately focused on the vampire curled up on his couch. Still sleeping. [Must've had a hard
Any inkling of sympathy that Xander [never] had for Spike went right out the window. Spike didn't
deserve any consideration to sleep off a bender.
Xander stalked to the couch, leaned over Spike, and flicked on the radio on the shelf behind the
sofa-bed. Full volume.
"'LET FREEDOM RIIIIIIING...'"
Spike instantly jolted upright-- and cracked his head against Xander's down-turned face. [Look at
the pretty colors.]
"Ow! Bloody hell!" Spike exclaimed, grabbing his head.
Xander sank down onto the coffee table, blinking away the yellow moons, orange stars, blue
diamonds, and purple horseshoes dancing before him. The radio went silent, and Xander found
himself face-to-face with an angry Spike. [Better looking ass... no, bad Xander!]
"What the bleedin' hell are you doing, pillock?!" Spike snarled. "Don't you know better than to
startle a sleeping vampire?"
Xander frowned. Leaned closer to the angry vampire. Wondered if their knocking heads had jarred
something loose. Like his intelligence. "What happened to your face?"
Spike blinked, a hand coming up to touch his puffily-scarred, purplish-yellow right cheek. Then it
dropped abruptly and the snarl returned. "Hopefully not the same thing that happened to yours."
"My--" Xander caught on and narrowed his eyes. "Listen, pal, I don't care what you do or who
you fight when you're drunk, as long as you don't bring it back here with you."
"Ooh, Nummy thinks he's got some knackers," Spike said, sliding out of game-face.
Xander stood and cupped his crotch. "Biggest pair in the state," he said, then quickly headed for the
bathroom to see if his lost mind was in the medicine cabinet. [I can't believe I said that to Spike.
Mr. Brass Cajones himself. Maybe I do have the biggest pair in the state.] Of course, it had nothing
to do with the fact that Mr. Brass Cajones acted like a giant pussycat and sucked his thumb when he
slept. [Nope, I'm Big-Balled Xander. No underwear can contain me.]
Xander looked questioningly [not with concern] at Spike when he patted the healing area on
his cheek for the billionth time. None of the other Scoobies seemed to notice Spike's undue concern
with his ouchies. Xander wouldn't have noticed either -- he tended to have the 'ignore Spike and
maybe he'll go away' mentality when he was present, just like the others. [But today, I'm
Focus Boy. And whatever caused those boo-boos must've been Not Good, or else Spike would've
been bragging non-stop since he arrived.] Instead, when Buffy had mentioned that it looked like he'd
lost a fight, Spike had only sneered and said: "You wish," then dropped the subject.
The usual band of evil-fighters was gathered at Giles's place, researching the glow-in-the-dark, tree-jumping demon. [Or maybe simply a Buffy-jumping demon, which I could see. I'd jump her, if the
jumping opportunity presented itself, and I was sure Anya wouldn't cut my manly bits to bits.] So far, they'd
had no luck in discovering which demon it was. There were a surprising number of demons that
glowed-in-the-dark. There were also a surprising number of demons named Bob. Xander didn't
want to know why.
Poke, poke, poke. There Spike went again. This time, Xander noticed that the poking came with an
expression he was intimately familiar with. A sort of angry-disgusted expression that Xander saw
reflected back at him in the mirror whenever he had to be rescued because he couldn't hold his own
when demon-fighting. Usually cuts and/or bruising accompanied said expression. [Had Buffy been
right? Had Spike lost a fight? Have I become a poet overnight?]
Xander snickered to himself, earning an odd look from Willow, who was sitting on the couch near
him, laptop in her lap. Her delicate red brow raised in question [and definitely concern], but he
shook his head. If Spike wanted to share, he would. Otherwise, it was none of anyone's business,
Xander's included. Although he was dying to find out what happened. [But not really dying to find
out in the 'dying' sense. So don't go taking it literally, fate-causing-gods.]
"Oh! I might have something!" Willow said excitedly. She bounced a little, the laptop bouncing
with her, as Buffy leaned over to look at the screen. "The Barrettlee demon. It's a tree-dwelling
demon about the size of a small child, with overly long arms and legs."
"But does it glow-in-the-dark?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, it does, when, um, it's looking for a mate," Willow said, blushing faintly.
"Like a lightning bug?" Xander asked, as he stood and moved behind the couch. He had to jostle
Spike out of the way in order to see over Willow's shoulder.
"Did its arse glow for you, Slayer?" Spike leered at Buffy.
"Spike, why are you here?" she said acidly in return.
"An excellent question," Giles chimed from the kitchen. "I've been wondering that myself."
Spike tensed so much at the question that Xander could feel him practically vibrating. And, if he hadn't been Focus Boy, he would've missed yet another intimately familiar
expression flicker across Spike's face. An expression Xander had felt pass over his own features
when Buffy asked that same question the first time he had tried to join the girls on campus at lunch.
The 'I know I don't belong here, but can you pretend that you don't mind' expression, one that spoke volumes if you knew how to read it. Which gave Xander an excuse for what he did
next, but not really an understandable one.
"I told him to come," Xander said, unconsciously putting his hand on the small of Spike's back like
he usually did with Anya when he defended her. "Old Father Hubbard went to his cupboard to find
it boneless and bloodless. I figured you might still have some here, G-man."
"Well, then get it and go away, Spike," Buffy said. She leaned over again to look at the laptop
screen. "So, how do I kill this Barrettlee?"
Xander hadn't realized where he'd put his hand until he felt Spike slowly curl with his touch, just
like a wary cat that accepted being picked up and petted. Xander blinked twice, but didn't remove
his hand. It felt... right... resting there. His thumb began to move on its own, brushing back and
forth over Spike's spine, which he could feel so prominently beneath the thin tee Spike wore.
"You don't," Willow answered Buffy. "It's a good demon. Or rather, a harmless one."
"Willow, it jumped out of a tree and attacked me," Buffy said.
"You were probably near its nest," Willow told her. She studied the laptop screen. "It says here
they're sort of like birds, warning away predators by knocking them down, then running away."
"Run away! Run away!" Xander said in his best Monty Python voice. The girls ignored him, as did
Giles. He got a soft snort from Spike, though, which surprised him. Turning to look at him,
Xander found Spike had his eyes half-closed and was pushing his hands against the top of the couch.
Left, then right. Left, then right. Left, then right. A tiny smile graced Xander's lips before he
smothered it. For some odd reason, he didn't want anyone else to notice that Spike was kneading
the top of the couch like a five-foot-ten-inch cat. The only thing missing was the purr.
"So," Xander said abruptly, dropping his hand and taking a step back from Spike. "If there's not
going to be any bad guy slaying, I'm going to say adieu to you, and you, and you and you and you."
He grinned his dopey-guy grin at the girls, who had tittered appropriately, then looked at Spike.
"C'mon, Spike. Get your dinner and let's ride."
Spike had a slightly dumbfounded look on his face, but he went to the kitchen, nonetheless. Xander
prayed no one would ask him why he was taking Spike with him. He wouldn't know how to
explain. [Oh, I just want to take Spike home, remove his shirt, and pet him until he purrs. You
know, normal male bonding stuff.] Yeah, he could see that going over real well.
Xander ushered Spike out the door with a overly jovial round of goodbyes. Almost
immediately, Xander returned his hand to the small of Spike's back tried to guide him out of the
courtyard. But Spike was having none of that.
"Hey, now," Spike quickly sidestepped and gave Xander an irritated look. "I'm not your bloody
bird. Keep your paws to yourself."
[Damn,] Xander thought, shoving his hands in his pockets. [No, wait, no! Not damn. Good. I don't
want my paws on Spike. My paws belong to Anya.] Then why did he feel disappointed?
"C'mon, Spike," he said, suddenly very weary. "Let's go home. I have a long day of getting
rejected tomorrow and I want to rest up."
"And why the bloody hell would I want to go home with you?" Spike sneered.
Xander gave him a tired look. "First of all, because you're currently living with me. Second,
because you say my name when you sleep in a non-I'm-killing-you-in-my-dreams way. Third,
because whatever's stressing you enough that you're sucking your thumb probably hasn't gone
away. And if it's the same whatever that beat you up, then I doubt you want to go carousing
Xander didn't wait for Spike to respond. He headed out of the courtyard to the car, his shoulders
slumped against the cool night air.
Suddenly, Spike was at his side, a pensive look on his face. "Er, you didn't tell anyone 'bout the
thumb-sucking, did you?"
Xander shook his head. "No."
"Good," Spike grinned evilly. "Then I only have you to kill."
"Can you wait to do it until after the ten o'clock movie?" Xander gave him a sideways glance.
"Under Siege is on, and I want to see Erica Eleniak's boobs."
"The Baywatch chit?"
Xander smirked. "You watch Baywatch?"
"Oi, it's a plot driven drama with very good acting," Spike said seriously, but his blue eyes danced
Xander laughed. "Every time they run, I hear in my head: bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. You?"
"Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle."
Laughing again, Xander removed his hand from his pocket and [knowingly] placed it on Spike's
lower back once again. This time, Spike did not pull away. And later, he purred.