The Love Boat: Cliched Romance

by Saber ShadowKitten
Tiny Smiles 17c

Xander was nervous, a sweaty palms-type of nervousness that had him also sniffing his pits every few minutes. It was ridiculous. Spike already loved him, declared so with blunt floweriness three nights back. It also wasn't as if Xander had never given Spike gifts before, be it clothing or candy or music. [Yeah, but those didn't have the words "Happy Anniversary" attached.]

A year ago tonight they'd first kissed, and Xander's life hadn't been the same since. He had a good job, made decent money both there and with Anya's investing, and was in a long-term monogamous relationship with another male. He and Spike had weathered a robbery by a juvenile delinquent, the chip, Drusilla, the whole 'vampire' thing with his friends, and Spike's insane shyness. It was worth celebrating their first full year together, considering they lived on the Hellmouth and fought demons as a hobby. [That's why the gift. Gifts are good. Gifts are appropriate. Gifts give purpose to wrapping paper.]

Xander continued to pace nervously in the small cabin. Would Spike like the gift? Would he laugh? Would he think Xander was a doof for assuming he would care about their anniversary? Would Xander throw up from nervousness and die of humiliation right after, rendering Spike's reaction to the gift moot? [Tune in, folks, and find out!] Xander laughed self-deprecatingly. [That's it. I need a drink.]

The brunette knocked on the door, opened it, and poked his head inside the bathroom. The room was filled with steam, billowing from over the shower curtain. Xander raised his voice to be heard over the running water. "Spike, I'm going down to The Jazz Club. Meet me there?"

The shower curtain twitched, and a wet head peeked out from behind it. "Where?" Spike asked.

"The Jazz Club," Xander repeated.

Spike nodded and vanished again. Xander retreated quickly, closing the bathroom door firmly before his libido caught on to what he'd seen. [Wet. Naked. Spike. GUH.]

Xander checked his pocket for the billionth time to make certain he still had the jewelry box. The velvety cover to the box was matted from his sweaty hands. He probably rusted the hinges shut, and therefore Spike wouldn't be able to open it and Xander's humiliation would increase... and he really needed that drink.

The Jazz Club, as it was appropriately named, was slowly filling with patrons as the sun fully set. Small round tables were scattered around the club, each with a tiny lamp in the center of the table. A long, dark wooden bar ran the length of the wall furthest from the paneled entry doors. On the raised stage a band was already playing, one of several acts that would perform as the night wore on. The low lighting added to the relaxed atmosphere and soft conversation.

Xander nodded a greeting to several of the club's guests he'd met on previous occasions. They were regulars, like he and Spike, who enjoyed the quiet tone of the club. After a full week of being at sea, he, Spike, and many of the others found that the club was a comfortable alternative to the other venues.

Xander chose a seat at the bar and ordered his usual 'I'm having a panic attack' drink from the bartender. "Dr. Pepper, please. Light on the ice."

The brunette chugged half the dark, fizzy cola as soon as the drink arrived. [Ah. Alcohol for the non-drinkers. How your taste does soothe me.] Xander rolled his eyes. He was losing it. Maybe he'd already had too much caffeine today. [How your taste does soothe me?]

"Xander, hi." Xander turned as a familiar dark-haired, green-eyed man took the stool beside him. "It's Greg, remember?"

"I certainly do," Xander said with a welcoming smile. "Did you ever find another not-so-broken heart?"

"No," Greg winked, "but that orgy on Monday night definitely made up for it."

Xander laughed as Greg signaled the bartender. "I'm sorry I missed it."

"I'm sorry, too," Greg flirted back, green eyes twinkling devilishly. "You could have brought your boyfriend. The more who came meant the more who came."

Xander groaned at the bad pun. "I'm sure fun was had without us." [Besides, Spike at an all-male sextravaganza? SNORT.]

"Speaking of," Greg glanced past Xander at the empty seat beside him, "where is this bombshell that would keep a healthy man from a night of wild hot-monkey sex?"

"Spike will be here soon," Xander replied, trying to keep the wistful sigh at bay. [I miss wild hot-monkey sex. I miss sex, period. But I am Patient Man and will not force Spike to let me holdhimdownandfuckhimuntilhiseyesbleedandhescreamsmynameasIfillhisinsideswithmycome.]

"Are you okay?" Greg asked with concern. "You're looking very tense all of a sudden."

"I'm fine," Xander rasped. He drained the remainder of his Dr. Pepper and signaled for another. "I'm just, uh, nervous. Today is Spike and my anniversary."

"Ah, I see." Greg slapped him on the shoulder. "First one, huh?"

Xander nodded, dug out the jewelry box from his pocket, and stared forlornly at it. "I got him a gift. I can't decide if it's romantic or overly cheesy."

Greg plucked the box from Xander's hand and opened it. Nestled inside was a silver and gold stick-figure pin of an angel and a devil standing side-by-side, holding hands. "It's adorable," Greg declared.

"And Spike is such the cute and mushy type," Xander said sarcastically. He thumped his forehead on the bar. "What was I thinking?"

"That you obviously have feelings for him and want to show it," Greg said simply. He closed the box and handed it back to Xander. "Even if he doesn't like it, he'll pretend he does and you'll get laid. That's how anniversaries work."

"If you say so," Xander replied in disbelief, though he was leaning more towards giving it to Spike now if getting laid was even a remote possibility. [Extremely remote, but still a possibility.] He pocketed the box.

Mr. Remote Possibility himself arrived a minute later, looking as sexy as sin like always. Tonight's daring ensemble was a pocketed black tee-shirt tucked into black jeans, but without the black duster.

"Hey, pet." Spike sidled up to the bar, wedging himself partially between Xander and Greg. He gave Greg an unfriendly look. "Who's your friend?"

[Ooh, I think I hear jealousy! Cool!] Xander grinned and introduced the two men. "Spike, this is Greg. Greg, my boyfriend, Spike."

"Nice to meet you," Greg said. He stood, picked up his drink, and said to Xander, "I hate to greet and run, but I know you've got something personal to give Spike."

"Thanks a lot," Xander said dryly, glaring at Greg as the man walked away. He glanced at Spike, who was tapping his finger on the edge of the bar, narrowed eyes focused on the Greg's retreating back. Was it too much to hope that Spike may have missed what Greg last said?

"You have something for me?"

[Guess so.] "Yes, I do. But not here." Xander set down his drink, paid the bartender, and guided Spike out of the club. He ignored the thumbs-up he got from Greg as he passed by the green-eyed bastard.

The stars were twinkling brightly in the night sky above the Pacific as Xander and Spike walked along the deck. The brunette chose a secluded area by the closed pool and pointed to a chaise lounge. He sat sideways on the lounge across from Spike, with their knees touching. Spike's face was easy to read: it held question, a hint of nervousness, and a frown of worry creasing his pale brow.

Xander gave him a tense half-smile. "Um, I wasn't going to do this until later, if at all. Certainly not in such a cliched setting," he chuckled nervously, "but Greg sort of forced my hand. Um, so here goes."

Xander once again removed the jewelry box from his pocket and extended it towards Spike. "Happy anniversary. A year ago today we accidentally kissed at the movie theater for the first time. Then I kissed you on purpose later that night in the willow tree."

Spike's mouth parted in surprise. He blinked several times, took the box, opened it, and stared blankly at its contents.

[Please like it, please like it, please like it...] Xander licked his lips and continued in a rush. "I though you could pin it to the inside pocket of your duster so it doesn't get lost when you fight. It's supposed to be us. You know, angel: me, devil: you. Though I can see myself as a devil, too, but they didn't have pins of two devils except for the ones in lewd positions that caused me to blush, so I figured no." [Say something, Spike, because I'm babbling here.] "If you don't like it, we can return it. I kept the receipt. Willow always tells me to do that, and I did. So, we can return it as soon as we get home. It was a dumb idea, anyway--"

"No, it was not a dumb idea," Spike said firmly. He closed the box and set it on his knee, then reached into his shirt pocket and removed a folded piece of stationary. Suddenly pink-cheeked, he thrust the paper at Xander. "Here."

"What's this?"

"Just read it," Spike growled, eyes downcast.

Puzzled, Xander unfolded the paper and read it silently:


Once I was a poet and would have known what pretty words to say. But I'm a vampire now, so you're stuck with this:

The only thing I remember about that Gladiator movie was that it was playing when we first kissed exactly a year ago Friday.

It was the best damned flick I ever saw.


"You remembered," Xander said, his voice rough with emotion. "I thought I was just being girly."

"You are girly," Spike told him gruffly, one pale finger rubbing over the pin in the box. "That's why I knew you'd like something to show that I did, indeed, remember."

Xander wiped surreptitiously at his eyes. "Thanks." The word came out all watery and definitely girly. Oh well. He was allowed to be emotional. It was expected. It was his anniversary.

"Xander," Spike began softly, eyes still on the pin, "can we go back to the cabin and j-just stay in tonight?"

Xander caught the stammer, and his heart tripped. He also didn't think he'd ever seen that particular shade of red on Spike's cheeks. [Ho-boy.] The brunette swallowed thickly, stood, and held out his hand in silent invitation.


The lights were on in the cabin, blazing brightly and leaving nowhere to hide. The sheets were scratchy, starched stiff like linens in hotels. The only music was ragged breaths and the sounds of other passengers shouting and slamming doors in the hall.

But none of that mattered.

There was a look of wonder on Spike's face that Xander would remember forever: blue eyes wide and vulnerable. Mussed white-blond hair falling over his forehead. That silly blush staining his high cheekbones, and kiss-bruised lips in a matching color.

No, Xander would never forget. The image was etched permanently in his heart.