"Be careful." The words were out of Xander's mouth before he could stop them, accompanied by a
worried tone of voice. He stared across the basement at his current roommate, who looked back at
him with surprise.
The return trip from the willow tree to the Harris residence had been awkward. They'd barely been
home five minutes when Spike had said he was going out again. Xander didn't blame him. If Spike
hadn't said he was leaving, Xander most certainly would have left. [So much for letting the ooshy-gooshy feelings lead the way.]
Then Spike gave him that tiny smile, a slight nod, and left the basement.
Those ooshy-gooshy feelings returned, full force.
Xander dropped onto the barcalounger with a moan of despair. "Why me?" he asked the pipes
running along the open ceiling. [Because you are a demon magnet, Xander,] a little voice told him.
[But look on the bright side: so far, all the demons have been gorgeous.]
Which was true. All his demons had been sexy as all get go: Natalie French, super-babe, until she
shed her human skin; Ampata, super-babe, until she got all wrinkly and mummified; Anyanka,
super-babe, after she lost her demon powers, and current mistress of the Xander Penis; and now
Spike, super-babe of the male variety that Xander wanted to smother in kisses. Xander'd had a
Cordelia, too, although she was her own category of demon -- Bitch Demon.
Xander sighed. He had kissed Spike multiple times tonight and liked it [hello, understatement.] If
there was one thing he'd learned, kissing someone in a non-chaste manner while dating another was
a big no-no. [Anya is so going to hurt me.] Temporary insanity or not, he had to tell her he was
having not quite brotherly urges for Mr. Bleached Vampire.
Reaching for the phone, Xander quickly dialed Anya's number before he came to his senses. He
rubbed his sweaty palm on his thigh as he waited for her to pick up. [It's not to late to hang up...]
"Hey, Anya..." [You had your chance, sucker.] "...No, I didn't call to beg for forgiveness like the
pig dog I am. Your accent is getting better, by the way... Anya, wait, listen a minute... I- I have to
break up with you... I have to break up with you... No, it's nothing you did. You're sweet, blunt,
kind of funny, and beautiful. But we're not really working as a 'we.' Our last fight kinda proved
that... Anya, haven't there been other men or women who caught your eye when we've gone out
together?... Well, this gives you a chance to sample the many varieties of shapes, sizes, and
personalities out there. Just be sure you stock up on condoms... Ha-ha-ha, see. And we can still do
that friend thing. You can call me with any questions or to brag about your latest conquests, if you
want... Yeah... Yeah. I'm glad I called, too. You take care of yourself, An. Don't forget about
those condoms... Bye."
Xander rang off and smiled. He'd broken up with Anya and he still had all his organs in the correct
place. He hadn't been lying when he'd said they weren't really working as a 'we.' He just hadn't
wanted to admit it, because being alone was no fun. [But I'm not alone, am I?] No, he had a five-foot ten-inch astonishingly shy vampire with the most guileless blue eyes that revealed every
emotion and a tiny, bashful smile that turned Xander's insides to mush.
[Why is Spike so shy?,] Xander wondered as he opened the sofa-bed and straightened the sheets and
blanket. Spike seemed so surprised every time Xander rested a hand on him. It was almost as if the
Spike had never been touched in a caring way before, which couldn't be true. Spike had spent
over a century as Drusilla's boyfriend, or the vampire equivalent, so he had to have been touched
intimately at some point. [I bet Spike was the care-giver of that relationship, though. I doubt Miss
Loony Tunes could take care of a pet rock.]
It still didn't explain the shy-boy act. Unless it was an act. [Nah. No one is that good. And what
would be the point? Somehow I don't think 'getting a human to care for me' is high on Spike's list
of ways to terrorize the population.]
Perhaps it had something to do with the chip. The Big Bad had what made him the Big Bad taken
away. [A sheep in wolf's clothing, maybe?] Larry Bagby had been a sheep in wolf's clothing, if
ever there was one. He'd been growly, overly-macho, and had a tendency to beat on other guys,
until his reason for doing so had been stripped away -- or in his case, the closet door opened. Then,
Larry had become smiling, overly-friendly, and had a tendency to hit on other guys; almost a
complete one-eighty from the way he'd been. Maybe that's what was happening with Spike.
Xander grabbed a marker and the want ads, and plopped down on the bed. Deciphering Spike's
behavior was interesting, but Xander needed to find a job. He had money saved up, so he didn't
need to worry about being kicked out for not paying the rent [grumble, grumble parents.] He'd
rather not use his savings, though, if it could be helped. He was trying to save up enough to move
out. If he had to pay rent, he'd rather do it at a place that had actual windows and the only laundry
he had to do was his own. [Soon. It will be soon. In fact, while I have the paper open...]
The midnight movie on USA: Up All Night was Earth Girls Are Easy. Jeff Goldblum, Jim Carrey,
and Damon Wayans dressed as demented Teletubbies. [Snerk.] Xander continued counting
pennies as Geena Davis sang while getting her hair done on screen. There had been a few
apartments he could afford listed in the paper which he planned to check out, and several
employment opportunities that a dork like him could obtain. One of them -- a general construction
worker position -- paid daily at a rate of $11.00 per hour. No insurance, but Giles had set up HMO
plans for the Scoobs back when they were all still pimply-faced sophomores with delusions of heroic
grandeur. They'd gotten their money's worth out of those plans.
The basement door from the outside opened, and Xander gave a quick glance, his hand reaching for
the baseball bat he kept beside the couch. "Oh, hey, Spike," he greeted, relaxing. He immediately
tensed again and practically bolted off the bed. "What the hell happened to you?!"
Spike didn't answer as he limped towards the bathroom. Xander was at his side in an instant, sliding
his arm around the injured vampire's waist. Spike bled freely from three jagged parallel lines that
ran from his temple across his face, barely missing his eye, as if something with claws had struck
him. Bruises dotted his jawline, obviously from being punched, and strangely shaped finger marks
ran along his neck. The bottom of one pant-leg was shredded to the knee and his calf didn't look
Spike didn't protest when Xander hoisted him up and settled him on the pastel sink counter. Xander
took a quick sniff as he pushed the duster off Spike's shoulders, trying not to wince when Sspike winced. [He doesn't smell like alcohol. Good.] If there was one thing Xander didn't
tolerate -- ever -- it was drunken fighting.
"Talk to me, bashful," Xander urged, wetting a washrag and gently dabbing at the gashes on Spike's
face. "What happened?"
Spike kept his eyes averted and tried to pull away from Xander's ministrations. "Nothing."
"Uh-huh." Xander lightly gripped Spike's chin to hold him still. "Was this nothing human?
It doesn't look like it."
"No," Spike replied sullenly.
Xander sighed exasperatedly. "You're how old again?"
"What do you want to hear, Xander?" Spike snapped, jerking away. His blue eyes blazed hotly as
they met Xander's. "That I got beat up -- again -- by a couple of effin' demons? That I can't
go to Willy's anymore to get human blood because I'm 'unwelcome,' and if I show my face at any
other demon establishment in Sunnydale, it'll be ripped off? That this sodding chip in my head
prevents me from protecting myself, and because I went to you lot for help, I have 'traitor' tattooed
across my forehead, making me open game for every demon in town?"
"Damn, Spike, I'm sorry," Xander said quietly, not knowing what else to say. "Let me finish
patching you up. I'll try to think of a way to get you some human blood every so often." Angel
may have been an ass, but he had been bluntly honest when Xander had asked questions years ago
about his feeding habits. Bagged or not, human blood was a necessity in a vampire's diet, like fresh
vegetables and fruits were for humans. Spike didn't need human blood every day, but a complete
lack of it would, in essence, make him sick and he'd eventually become dust.
The thought of no more Spike sent Not Happy feelings through Xander, and he doubled his efforts in
bandaging Spike's injuries. [Can't have him bleeding out what human blood he still has in his
system.] Xander applied several butterfly band-aids to the gashes across Spike's face, then moved on
to the calf.
"Gonna have to take your jeans off, Spike," Xander said, unlacing the boot and gently
pulling it off. The second boot joined the first on the floor, and Xander's fingers were unbuttoning
Spike's black jeans before his brain caught up with what he was doing. [I'm stripping Spike. Ho-boy. Or rather, down boy. You shouldn't be getting excited... Well, okay, you're taking the pants
off a very attractive man, so yes, you should be, but it is very inappropriate at this juncture. I sound
like a teacher. And goodbye, woody.]
"Erm, Xander...," Spike began, as Xander gripped the waistband of his jeans. "I, ah, don't think you
should do that."
"Spike, I have to take your pants off to doctor your leg," Xander said. "Lift your hips."
Spike nibbled his lower lip and looked everywhere but at Xander as he lifted his hips. Xander
quickly pulled the jeans down and off and promptly turned bright red. [Gah! Nekkid Spike parts!
Sproing!] "Um..." Xander grabbed a towel and tossed it on Spike's lap. "There. Sorry."
"Thanks," Spike murmured, straightening the towel so it covered him. Shy Spike had returned and
kept his head down as Xander went to work on his lower leg.
Xander forced himself to concentrate on what he was doing on not on the fact that Spike was half-naked. [Bibble.] "Uh... boy, Spike. It looks like you got munched on," Xander said, bandaging
what looked like bite wounds. "What, did the demon think you looked like chicken?"
"Dog," Spike mumbled.
Xander frowned. "Huh?"
"Got attacked by a dog coming home." Spike picked at the towel. "A rottweiler."
"Man, it just hasn't been your night, has it?" Xander straightened and carded his fingers through Spike's hair above his ear. [Poor Spike.] "How about you go get comfy on the couch and I'll make
you some hot chocolate. Sound good, bashful?"
Spike nodded and Xander dropped a kiss on his down-turned head. "I'll toss you a pair of clean
shorts," Xander said, and headed out of the bathroom.
Ten minutes later found Spike curled in the corner of the sofa-bed, sipping a hot chocolate and
watching Jeff and Geena getting it on, on the television. Xander parked himself in the other corner
with his jar of pennies, and alternated watching the movie and watching Spike watch the movie.
Whenever the light caught the whiteness of Spike's bandages, Xander silently grew angrier at
whatever demon had hurt him. Somehow, Xander was going to find out who it was that injured
Spike and sic Buffy on them. Xander wasn't very happy about the dog, either, but there wasn't too
much he could do about that.
"Hey, Xander," Spike's quiet voice was almost buried by the sounds coming from the television,
and Xander had to strain to hear what Spike had to say. "Thanks."
Xander smiled. "Anytime, Spike. Remember that."
Spike glanced at him and looked away again, but Xander could still see the tiny smile playing across