Imminent death was on the horizon. A big, scary monster with big, sharp teeth was drooling on his
shoes. Buffy was nowhere around.
And all Xander could think was: [I'm holding Spike's hand.]
The end of the movie had been great. Both he and Spike had forgotten the kiss [yeah, right] and
became immersed in the Movie For Guys Who Like Movies [soon to be seen on TBS.] The car ride
home had been filled with: "Did you see...", "Wasn't it awesome when...", and "That movie
"ROAR!" went the big, scary monster standing directly in front of them.
"Um, pet," Spike whispered, his fingers tightening around Xander's hand. "Would you think I'm
less than manly if I ran away?"
"Only if you don't take me with you," Xander replied nervously. Which was good, because his
brain was still focused on the fact that he was holding Spike's hand. [Slender fingers. Surprisingly
smooth skin. Strong grip.]
He and Spike had been walking from the car to the basement door of the Harris household, post-Gladiator, when Tall-and-Ugly had appeared. The very large brownish demon had bared its rows
of wicked-looking teeth [the better to eat you with, my dear] and roared. Startled, Xander's hand
had shot out and latched onto Spike [like the Mommy-Arm in a car.] Instead of shaking him off,
Spike had curled his fingers around Xander's palm and was hanging on for dear unlife.
"On three, we run," Xander said, all the while wondering if he could run and hold Spike's hand at
the same time.
"Three, right." Spike sounded scared. Xander had learned that it was bad when a vampire was
afraid. [I wonder if would Spike be afraid if he didn't have the chip in his skull.] He'd have to ask
later, when there wasn't a very large monster about to eat them.
"OnetwothreeRUN!" Xander yelped, already taking off at a dead sprint. He lost hold of Spike
[wah!] as Spike put on the speed.
Behind him, Xander could hear thunderous running footsteps as the really, really big demon came
after them. Spike was yanking on the doors of the Bel Air when Xander came around the corner of
the garage. "Locked!" he yelled, latching onto Spike as he raced by the car. It wouldn't have
mattered if the doors were open, either, because they wouldn't have been able to start the engine
before the demon was upon them.
The demon may have had longer legs, but fear could make the slowest tortoise run like a hare.
Across the street and through the neighbor's yard, they ran: over the fence and through the weeds on
a vacant lot; across another street [dog poop, eew], splash through a kiddie pool, and they came
upon a huge weeping willow tree.
Xander ducked under the long, thin vine-like branches, stopped beside the thick trunk, and cupped
his hands in front of him. "Spike, up!" he said quickly.
Spike gave him a surprised look before sprinting the short distance between them. He stuck his foot
in Xander's hands and Xander hoisted him upwards. The momentum carried him to the lowest
branch of the tree.
Xander spit on his hands, wiped them on his pants, bent his knees and jumped. He caught the
branch Spike was now standing on and swung himself up. Years of climbing the willow tree [with
Willow the person] made it easy. He balanced on the balls of his feet, one hand holding the branch
in front of him, and looked at Spike. "Can you climb?"
Spike nodded and started doing just that. Xander followed close behind, keeping one hand on
Spike's backside like he used to do with Willow, making sure Spike wouldn't fall. It wasn't
until Spike reached the nook where a young Xander and Willow had spent many a day hiding from
Jesse that Xander comprehended the fact his hand was on Spike's ass. [Squeezable ass. And I so
did not just think that.]
Xander quickly pulled his hand away and wondered how many shades of red his face would be. He
settled in the natural nook the tree made, where the trunk split in several directions. "If Big Guy is a
tree climbing demon, follow this branch," Xander patted one of the branches. "It entwines with the
willow tree behind us and we can escape that way."
Spike nodded again, not saying anything. The silence grew, broken only by the sounds of the night;
crickets chirped, racoons scavenged, opossums played dead. No scary-looking demons roared, however, a cute blue-eyed blond one yawned widely.
"On't oo at," Xander scolded through his own yawn. "Don't you know that yawns are catchy?"
Spike half-shrugged, staring at his hands resting in his lap. Xander frowned, reached out, and
tapped Spike under the chin. "Hey, what's up?" he asked, then grinned. "I mean, besides us."
No laugh from Spike, or even a 'you're pathetic' chuckle. Xander's frown returned. "Spike?"
"Irnway," Spike mumbled.
"One more time?"
"I ran away!" Spike snapped. He glared at Xander. "There, you happy? Spike, the evil vampire,
ran away like a bloody wuss."
"I ran, too," Xander pointed out, but Spike waved him off.
"You're a soddin' human. That was a Jlovean. If you didn't run, you'd have been lunch," Spike
said. He dropped his chin and stared at his hands again. "Me, I used to purposely pick fights with
'em. 'Til this fucking chip..."
Xander was silent a moment. What could he say to that? [What else?] "I'm sorry." Spike
glanced at him with a raised brow. "Really," Xander continued. "Not that I'm not glad you're not
eating me, but it's wrong what those pricks did to you." [What a nice little change of tune, Xander.
Do you know any Dr. Demento?]
Spike studied him for a very long moment, then gave him that tiny smile he'd come to adore.
Xander almost fell out of the tree. [Hello! Balance, Xandersan. Just because Spike gave you that
smile last night, then again after you kissed him at the movie... I kissed Spike!]
Spike's hand shot out and caught Xander's hand as Xander wobbled precariously for a second.
Xander's heart sounded like a tympani in his ears. "Thanks," he breathed. "It's a long way down,
and I'm easily bruisable."
"You owe me," Spike said ominously. "I want your silence about what happened tonight."
[He wants me to not talk about the kiss? I don't think that'll be a problem.] Xander nodded. "No
sweat. My lips are, uh, [lips kissing soft nice] sealed."
"All right, then."
They fell into a semi-comfortable silence. A half-hour later, Xander realized he was still holding
And Spike was holding his in return.
With a faint smile, Xander examined the hand lightly clasped with his. Spike's hand was slightly
smaller and thinner but still definitely a man's hand, even with the chipped polish on his nails. Still, the
texture of his hand belied the image of the human past Xander had created for him. "What
did you do when you were human?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" Spike asked warily in return. He started to pull away, but Xander held fast.
"Just curious," Xander replied. "Your hands are smooth and scarless." He ran his fingers over the
back of Spike's left hand, then turned it over to lightly caress the palm. "And you have no callouses,
except for right here," he rubbed his thumb against the side of Spike's middle finger, "indicating that
you held a pen a lot."
"Do you read tea leaves, too, Madame Harris?"
"No," Xander shook his head, his fingers still stroking Spike's hand. "I'm just strangely fascinated
by people's hands. Look at mine." He laid his other hand on top of Spike's, palm up. "I have a
ridge of callouses from gripping stakes and other weapons. All these scars are from helping Buffy,
or from injuring myself at the many oh-so-exciting jobs I've held. And this complete lack of pen-bump tells you how much I actually did in school."
Xander turned his hand over, effectively sandwiching Spike's left hand between both palms. "Well,
Mr. Vampire?" he prompted. "What did you do before you became the beast you are today?"
An expression flashed across Spike's face, one of those that Xander was familiar with, but thought
he'd never see on another person, let alone Spike. One that read: 'I'm twelve years old and got
caught wearing Spiderman Underoos.' [Which wasn't my fault! They were the only clean ones I
Then Spike smirked, a completely self-depreciating one that Xander himself wore fifty percent of the
time. "William Barstow, Assistant Librarian, at your service," Spike said in an accent that
sounded nothing like his own. The smirk grew more self-disparaging and his accent returned to
normal. "Actually, Assistant Assistant Librarian. My head was in the clouds too often to
receive a higher position. Too much time spent searching for afflatus, not enough time spent
"Funny, you don't read a lot," Xander commented. "I thought that was a pre-requisite. Giles is a
librarian, and his nose is always in a book."
One of Spike's shoulders lifted and he looked away. "Lost my reading glasses over a century ago.
Haven't bothered to pick up another pair."
"Maybe we'll fix that," Xander said softly, turning to look out between the branches of the willow
tree. A frown appeared between his brows. "What's 'afflatus?'"
"A poet's inspiration."
"You were a poet, too?"
"A bad one," Spike replied. "A very, very bad one."
Xander looked at him with excitement. "Do you know a rhyme for orange?"
Xander's mouth fell open. He was completely and totally agog. Spike chuckled and leaned
over to push Xander's mouth closed, but he over-extended himself and began to lose his
[Yikes!] In a move Xander doubted he could ever repeat, he grabbed Spike and hoisted him
across Xander's lap, turning Spike so his feet were where he'd been sitting and his bottom cradled between
Xander's thighs. [I have Spike in my lap. Hmm.] "Woah, careful there, Spike. Falling out of a tree
made of wood isn't something I'd recommend for you to do," he said. He snickered. "Hey, look,
I'm a poet, too."
Spike blinked owlishly, his face inches from Xander's, his mouth parted slightly in surprise. Xander
waited for Spike to get his royal vampire feathers ruffled, or to laugh at him for his pathetic joke.
He waited a bit longer. And he waited a little more. [Okay, Spike, any time now.] But Spike did
[Hmm, what to do. I have a Spike in my lap, with Spike lips within kissing distance.] Xander's arm
tightened around Spike's waist. [Well, heck, what else is there to do?]
Airily, Xander's lips glided over Spike's in a gentle question. When Spike didn't pull away,
Xander returned for a sample of what was between those soft, parted lips. Spike tasted like popcorn,
sugar, and a bittersweet shyness that Xander would never have associated with him.
Xander slowly broke the kiss, opened his eyes, and saw that tiny smile that turned his insides to
mush. [I am in so much trouble.] Spike opened his eyes then, seemed to blush, and ducked his
head. He shifted uncomfortably and his hands fluttered in his lap.
"I think it's safe enough to go home now," Xander said quietly, not wanting to increase the blond's
adorable bashfulness. "Careful going down."
Xander let go, and waited patiently for Spike to start climbing down the tree. Once Spike was
out of sight, Xander dropped his head in his hands and groaned softly. "What the hell am I