Sandy Places Among the Angels

Part Six

Something felt very, very good when Xander started to wake up. It was a comfortable, familiar good. He smiled, and decided he'd stay asleep. Stretching a little, he realised he was alone in bed. That wasn't right. Was it?

Maybe it was, he thought to himself. He could hear Giles' voice in the background. *That* was the rightness he'd felt upon waking. Not what he'd thought it was: cuddling Spike. He smiled, and started to roll over -- and came abruptly wide awake. He was in Spike's apartment.

Hearing Giles' voice.

He bolted upright so suddenly that he fell out of the bed with a loud thud.

"Xander?" He heard Spike call out. Spike. And Giles?

He tried to untangle himself from the blanket and realised he was naked, bruised, and smelled like he'd been having sex.

There was a knock on the door. "Xander?"

Oh god. That *was* Giles. At the bedroom door. And, he realised as he moved his arm, not only was he naked, bruised, and smelling of sex -- he was also sporting a vampire bite. Speaking of vampires, why was Spike out there talking to Giles and not being dead? More dead?

"Xander?" Giles again, his voice more worried.

Xander saw the door knob beginning to turn. "I'm naked!" he shouted.

The door stopped opening when it was only ajar an inch or two. "Are you all right?"

"Yes! Naked! I'll be out in a minute!" Xander was frantically trying to get the blanket pulled around his entire body. Why wasn't Spike being turned into ash? Oh, right -- Bork spell. Six-pack. Spike had told him he was prepared.

Xander was still going to kill Spike himself, but later. The door closed again, and Xander could practically sense Giles standing right outside it. He frantically tried to find his clothes, grabbing his jeans and starting to put them on when he realised he didn't want to be not wearing underwear in front of Giles. Unfortunately, he couldn't find his underwear and there was no way he could wear Spike's without hurting himself.

Growling, he promised to leave clothes at Spike's place from now on, and put his jeans on carefully. He grabbed his shirt and slipped it on as well, grateful it was long enough to hide the bite marks. One last glare at the door for his idiot boyfriend who'd left him sleeping and not told him Giles was here, and Xander headed for the door. He opened it to find, sure enough, Giles standing right outside it looking worried.

"Hi." Xander smiled. Looked around and saw 'Bork' standing in the middle of the living room. He gave Spike a 'you're dead' glare. Bork didn't even blink.

"Hi," Giles replied, affection and concern in his eyes.

"Hi. Um. You're here." It was an incredibly lame thing to say, but the only other thing coming to mind was "Why aren't you killing Spike?"

Giles nodded. "Are you all right?"

"I'm--" Suddenly he remembered why Giles was here. Slammed into him like he'd only just woken up.

Doyle. Dead.

He didn't even have to say anything; it must've been written on his face. Giles just tugged gently, pulling Xander into his arms. Xander forgot all about everything else -- Spike, the Bork spell, the state of his clothes. Giles didn't say anything; he just stood there making Xander feel safe, protected.

After a moment Xander looked over. He could see Spike watching them. He was trying for a casual pose, but Xander could see Spike looking out past the Bork-mask. He wanted to come over and join them. Replace Giles, maybe.

Xander wanted to go over to him and make that look go away, but he didn't want Giles to let go of him either. He would have held out an arm to invite him over -- Giles certainly wouldn't argue with Xander wanting as much comforting as he could get. But there was the problem with 'Xander, why does your boyfriend who is of a species which has a average body temperature slightly warmer than that of humans, feel more like he is room temperature?'

It should have been enough that he'd just spent however-long wrapped up in Spike, in bed. But it wasn't. He wanted to hold onto Spike, but he still didn't want to let go of Giles. If he didn't let go, he couldn't disappear, right?

Xander blinked. Where had that thought come from? He looked up at Giles, wondering at the thought. Doyle had died -- a friend, and Xander had lost friends before. He'd lost a lot more enemies, too. But Giles wasn't going anywhere, so why couldn't Xander let go long enough to go give Spike a hug? Even as he thought that, he found himself holding onto Giles tighter. "I'm sorry," he said, though he didn't really know why.

"Shhh," Giles hushed him, holding onto Xander as tightly as Xander was holding onto him.

Xander was still staring at Spike, who was still watching him like he was bleeding. Good bleeding, where Spike wanted to crawl over and lick Xander clean, not 'what did I tell you about attacking that thing' bleeding. Which -- Xander's breath caught. He held out a few fingers towards him, and Spike walked forward and took his hand. It wasn't the threeway hug he really craved, but it was contact. It would do.

For a long time none of them said anything, or tried to move away. Then Xander realised that he *smelled*. There was no way Giles couldn't tell. He let go of Giles rather more abruptly than he'd intended.

It was a second or two before Giles let go of him likewise, turning a worried and concerned gaze on him. "Xander?"

"I should grab a shower and then we can--" He'd been about to say 'go', but he looked over at Spike. He didn't want to go, but he had no idea how long the Bork-potion would last.

"Talk," Giles finished for him with a nod. "All right."

"Yeah. I-- Thanks for coming," he added, suddenly realising that Giles was here. *Here*, and he was going to take care of everything.

"You needed me," Giles replied simply.

Xander just nodded. That was all there was to it.


Xander closed his eyes as the hot water pounded down on him. Dying of embarrassment wasn't an option, but he still wasn't sure he'd be able to look Giles in the eye when he went back out there. It was one thing to be nearly walked in on while naked, but to be hugging Giles while reeking of sex...

Hopefully the hot shower would make him feel brave enough to go back into the living room.

"Oi! Shove over."

Xander kept from yelping but it was a very close thing.

"Careful, you're gonna fall over, and humans don't heal as fast as Borks do." Spike slipped in behind him. Naked. Still looked like Bork from the neck up, which was just freaky.

"Spike!" he hissed.

"Can I get in the water, if you're washing your hair?" Spike asked in a reasonable tone.

"What are you doing here?"

'Bork' blinked at him, confusedly. "Showering? I smell like sweat and icky stuff."

"But-- *Giles* is out there!" The thought that Giles knew he was in here naked with his equally naked boyfriend... His mind stuttered to a stop.

"Oh, like we never had sex when he was across the hall back in Sunnyhell?"

"Not when he *knew* we were having sex!"

"How could he know, now?" Spike managed to look like he thought the question was a serious one.

Xander stared at him. "I go to take a shower, then you go to take a shower -- while I'm still taking one. What would you think we were doing?"

"Having sex? Except we're not. I'm standing here getting cold, because you won't shift out of the spray."

Xander groaned and leaned his head on Spike's shoulder. "My dad knows I'm having sex."

"Er, yeah? He's known since you were 17."

Xander looked up again with wide panicked eyes. "What?" he squeaked.

Spike was back to looking confused. "You didn't know?"

"Well, *I* knew I was having sex, but..." Xander decided that these thoughts were only going to take him to a very bad place if he followed them.

Spike shook his head. "Are you going to soap me up, or just stand around gaping?"

"Is that potion waterproof?"

"Er--" Spike looked thoughtful. Momentarily concerned.

"Spike..." Xander growled warningly, ready to toss him out and let him heal fast after bouncing off the far wall.

"You're really gullible, you know, when you've just woken up," Spike said, laughing. He leaned forward to give Xander a kiss, and slipped, grabbing onto the wall and Xander to catch himself.

This time Xander did yelp. "I'd like to keep those attached," he complained, even as he reached out to steady his lover.

This time Spike not only kissed him, but he got himself plastered up against Xander. Naked. Wet.

"Oh god," Xander groaned.

"Oh, yeah," Spike moaned, rubbing.

"I can't believe I'm having sex while Giles is in the next room."

"Actually, I'm having sex, you're just standing there."



"Shut up and kiss me."

Spike kissed him.

To hell with Giles. He was naked, in a shower with Spike. He couldn't not. Xander kissed back and pressed closer. He may not be able to look Giles in the eye when they got out of the shower, but with Spike pressed up against him like this... and rubbing, and moaning, and touching him like that...

"Spike," he gasped, pulling the vampire closer. "Want you."

"Got me."

He shivered at that, rubbing up against him. "More," he demanded. He felt Spike move away at that -- and before he could protest, there was a mouth on his cock. "Oh god." He reached out, hands scrabbling at the walls as he tried to find something to grab onto to keep his balance.

He'd told Spike they needed handrails in here. Did Spike ever listen? No. But if Spike kept doing what he was doing with his mouth, he probably could forgive the lack of listening.

Spike did something with his tongue which made Xander decide he could forgive the having sex with Giles around, completely. He felt his knees starting to buckle; there was no way he could stay standing while Spike was doing that... and that... and oh god, *that*...

There was a cold tile wall at his back, suddenly, and hands on his hips that seemed to be holding more of his weight than his actual legs. He could hear someone whimpering and it took a second or two for him to realize it was him.

Spike was suddenly sucking harder, nearly deep-throating him. Xander yelled, hands going to grab onto Spike's shoulders, holding him in place. Holding them both in place.

He really hoped Giles *did* know what they were doing, and didn't come rushing in to investigate the noise. Then all thought disappeared as he came, everything but Spike and pleasure disappearing. Spike held onto him tightly, making sure neither of them slipped and broke anything. There was also no sound of Giles pounding on the door, demanding to know who was dead. Both of those were good things.

Shudders kept going through his body as the storm passed and he opened his eyes and looked down at Spike still on his knees in front of him. "Reckon he didn't hear a thing." Spike smiled.

Xander snorted. "Only if he's suddenly gone deaf. He would've heard that back in Sunnydale."

"Wanna try for louder?" Spike grinned, staying where he was.

"Spike!" Xander chastised, then just thumped him on the chest. Not hard, but not like it really mattered. He shifted a bit, then moved forward. Spike looked briefly surprised then just put his arms around Xander. Maybe he could just stay there, forever.

Or until the hot water ran out.


When they headed back into the living room, some fifteen minutes later, they were dried off, dressed, and Spike was still safely Borked. Giles was standing by the bookcase, obviously pretending to amuse himself by reading the titles.

As there were only a dozen books on the shelf, Xander wasn't sure he was succeeding -- but given that they were mostly *his* books, maybe Giles had actually found something to distract himself with. Xander felt guilty, though, for having left him out here while he and Spike--

"Um," he began, and that was as far as he could get.

"All clean?" Giles asked in a surprisingly conversational tone.

"Sorry. That was unplanned." He stared at the floor, then glanced at Spike to see if he was even trying to look guilty. Nope. 'Bork' wandered over and sat on the couch like he owned the place. Or like he hadn't been having sex in the other room.

Giles smiled faintly. "I guessed." He paused than asked, "How are you doing?"

Xander shrugged. He had no idea. He wanted to go sit with Spike, and he wanted to go back to Giles, and he wanted Doyle to not be dead. "I don't know," he finally said.

Giles crossed over to him, looking closely at Xander's expression. "I think you need to get some rest."

"I--" tried, he realised he was about to say. He glanced at Spike, who almost looked guilty. Xander realised he was too tired to think of excuses, or explanations, or even *anything* to say.

"It's all right," Giles said, reaching out and laying a hand on his shoulder. "Would you feel better sleeping here or back at your place?"

"I--" He stopped and looked over at Spike, apologising to him as best he could. he still had to force himself to admit, "Back at my place."

Spike gave him a reassuring smile as he stood. "I should be going and checking on Angel anyway." He sounded just as casual as Giles had, and succeeded almost as well.

"Oh." Xander hesitated. "I... should I... you want me to go with...?" He realised he really didn't want to, not now. Not yet. But he couldn't not.

"Nah," Spike told him and nodded in Giles' direction. "He's right. You're practically out on your feet, luv. Besides, Angel probably isn't going to want a crowd."

Nodding with relief, Xander told himself Spike probably was right. He certainly knew Angel better. And -- if he went, Giles would go, and he really didn't want Spike and Giles spending any more time together than necessary. For one thing, he had no idea how long the potion lasted. It was making his head ache, juggling everything, and he realised what he really wanted was to go home.

"I'll call you."

Spike nodded, then got up, and crossed over to where he and Giles were standing. Without the slightest bit of self consciousness he kissed Xander thoroughly.

Giles coughed politely. Xander didn't try to make Spike stop for another moment, then he pulled away. He saw Spike sort of hiding a grin, and he couldn't help but grin back, briefly.

"I'll wait in the car," Giles said, heading for the door.

"No, I'm... coming." Xander mock-frowned at Spike as he grinned wider. Then Xander let go and stepped away, to follow Giles out.

"Xander," Spike called just as he reached the door. He turned back around, but Spike didn't say anything else, just looked at him.

Xander smiled. "Thanks."

Spike just nodded. He probably should have said... the other thing, but Giles was right there, and it was hard enough when he wasn't thinking about it. At least Spike looked like he knew.


The drive over to his place was done in silence. Xander had thought they'd talk -- there were a dozen different things he almost said along the way. But he couldn't ever quite finish his thought, couldn't make them complete enough to say.

By the time he walked into his apartment, locking the door and letting the wards click back into place, he felt like crawling into bed and not moving. Only, somehow, he couldn't do that either. Ninety percent of him was exhausted, but the last ten percent was bouncing off walls.

Giles took one look at him and took charge. He reached out and clasped Xander's shoulder briefly. "Go sit down. I'll make you something warm to drink."

Xander smiled. It was comforting to know that no matter what happened, Giles would be there to make cocoa. He took the advice and went and collapsed on the couch, listening to the soothing and familiar sounds of Giles puttering in the kitchen. It hardly mattered that it wasn't Giles' kitchen.

"I wish--" He stopped, not realising he'd been about to say anything until he'd heard the words in his head.

"What do you wish?" Giles asked a moment later, coming back into the living room carrying a mug. He held it out to Xander as he drew near.

As he took the mug, Xander could smell the cocoa -- it was the cheap stuff he kept in the cabinet instead of the real stuff Giles kept at home. Grandmum sent them Cadbury's for every so often to keep them supplied, but Xander had grown up drinking the cheap stuff, and it tasted most like cocoa, to him.

"I wish you'd been there to make me cocoa after Jesse died." The words slipped out, ones he hadn't been expecting but easier ones than talking about Doyle. Xander stared at his mug, waiting for it to cool enough to drink.

Giles froze for a moment, then sat down beside Xander. "I'm sorry. I should've..."

"What? Why would you have? Giles, did you even know who I was then?"

It was funny. He'd never talked about Jesse much, except with Willow and even then only sometimes. He couldn't remember ever talking to Giles about Jesse's death, at all. Somehow, it didn't hurt as bad as he'd thought it would to do so, now.

"Like I know you now? No, of course not. But I knew you were a brave young man suddenly thrust into a world where the monsters are real. And I knew you had lost your best friend, knew you'd been forced to stake him." Giles sighed and shook his head. "I should have offered more than a 'well done' and a word or two of sympathy."

"Giles, you thought I was just a kid you'd never see again. You didn't even think I was gonna be hanging around with Buffy, long-term. I didn't expect you to..." He tried to think of a better way to say it.

Giles looked at him searchingly. "You didn't expect anyone to be nice to you back then, did you?"

"Not strange grown-ups, no. And not most of the other kids, but that's actually a healthy defense in high school." He leaned sideways a bit, resting against Giles.

Giles' arm found its way around his shoulders. "Other than Willow, did you have anyone?" he asked, softly.

"I had Buffy, and you. I was good." He knew that it wasn't exactly what Giles meant. But somehow, sitting here, he couldn't feel that it was all that bad.

Maybe he was just too tired to feel it.

"Whether you did or not then, you do now." Giles rubbed the back of Xander's neck gently.

"Mm-hmm." Xander closed his eyes, briefly. "Will you--" Was it a stupid thing to ask? Why was he constantly second-guessing himself now, anyway?

"Will I what?" Giles' voice was soft, almost as much as a caress as the hand massaging his neck.

"Will you always make me cocoa when my friends die?" His voice broke, and he sounded like he was five. But he couldn't bear to take the question back.

Giles' arm tightened around him, pulling him into a tight half-hug. "I'll make you cocoa whenever you need me to."


Neither of them spoke for a minute. Xander didn't quite find himself relaxing, but somehow it seemed like the pain wasn't going to be as bad.

Finally Giles pulled back a little, but kept his arm around Xander. "You best finish your cocoa before it gets cold."

"Yeah." Xander brought it up and sipped at it. He wished Spike were here. Dangerous and stupid as it would be to keep throwing Spike and Giles into the same room together, he wished Spike were here, too.

"Do you want to talk about Doyle?" Giles asked gently after another moment of silence.

"I don't know what to say." His voice broke again, but only a little. Maybe that meant he could do this.

"Tell me what he was like."

"He was always there. Whenever you needed him. Whenever... he thought you needed him." Xander scooted a little, trying to get more comfortable. "He was the first grown-up I'd ever met that wasn't family. That was just a friend." He didn't know if that made sense.

"I wish I could have got to know him," Giles said softly.

"He was really cool. He made me feel like... like there was somebody else in the world I could depend on." He could see Doyle, in his mind. Hear his voice, how his accent would draw Angel's own long forgotten accent out, sometimes. When they'd been sitting up talking for too long, Xander would find himself wanting to imitate the brogue so he wouldn't be the one who sounded weird.

Giles tightened his embrace again.

Xander really didn't want to think about it anymore. Didn't want to be remembering people who were dead. He pressed himself closer to Giles. This, at least, he could count on. He squashed the tiny voice in his head that wanted to say maybe he couldn't.

"You can let it out," Giles encouraged, not letting go.

"I don't want to," he whispered.

"I know you don't want to. But do you need to?" Giles asked. "It's safe. I've got you."

"I just don't want him to be dead." Xander closed his eyes and held the mug of cooling cocoa against his stomach.

Doyle was dead.

"I know," Giles said again, still in that same gentle soothing voice.

Xander knew it wouldn't matter if he talked, or not. If he let it out now, or later, or -- if he thought he could get away with it -- never. He kept his eyes closed and didn't say anything. He heard Giles sigh, but he didn't say anything else, just continued holding him.

It felt good to just sit there, and not think about things. Or think about them but not have to talk. He knew he was going to fall asleep in a few minutes, but he didn't move yet. Everything, right at this moment, was... good. Bearable.

He felt Giles shift and tightened his own grip, but all Giles did was take the mug gently from his hand before he spilled it all over himself. Xander let him have it, opening his eyes just a bit, mostly reflexively, before deciding there was no reason to move, no reason to say a word. He felt Giles settle back against the couch, and Xander sighed. It wasn't the first time he'd fallen asleep on Giles on a couch, and it probably wasn't going to be the last.


Xander parked his truck in the alley behind Angel's building. It was exactly the sort of spot he'd have sworn was no place to park a truck, and anyplace else in Los Angeles he wouldn't. But Angel's presence tended to keep the local crime rate down, and Xander knew he was safer back here than he was on the street where any passing drunk could slam into his vehicle.

He headed for the building's rear door, which opened up directly to the stairs heading down to Angel's place. He didn't know if Spike would still be here, or if he'd been and gone. Xander had woken from a nap on the couch and let Giles feed him while he tried to wake up enough to think.

Finally he'd realised he had to come see Angel before he could do anything else. He'd asked Giles to wait for him back at Xander's place -- not explaining why, but Giles hadn't asked questions, simply agreeing to wait.

Now that he was here, Xander had no idea what he was going to say. Had no idea if Angel would even want visitors. But even if he left after only five minutes, Xander had to at least stop in.

He descended the stairs quietly, even though he knew the vampire could hear and smell him coming -- if they weren't having a good old fashioned wake, and getting drunk on cheap whiskey. But he couldn't just go barging in. Especially if Angel were drunk and in a mood -- might be safer to sneak up and listen at the door.

If he could hear the sound of breaking furniture, he'd turn around and sneak back out.

Xander got all the way down to the back door without hearing much of anything. Just to be sure, though, he went up and pressed his ear to the door and listened.

Angel was saying, "Just go, Spike. There's nothing you can do to make this better." He sounded worn out.

"Not *trying* to make it better," Spike replied, sounding belligerent. "Haven't you been listening?"

"I've been trying to ignore you actually. Haven't you noticed?"

"Not really." There was a pause and Xander could just imagine the look on Spike's face. "Noticed you being all stubborn and broody -- which, before you stab me with that thing, honestly Angel, that thing is sharp! I'm not saying you don't have reason to be."

"Thank you so much for your permission." Anger was beginning to creep into Angel's voice.

"Welcome." Spike sounded smug. But -- not quite. Just like he didn't quite sound belligerent, either, Xander realised. He was tempted to open the door and find out what Spike was doing, but he realised he'd stand more of a chance of finding out if he stayed where he was.

"If that's all, you know where the door is."

There was a pause, then Spike's voice came from a little closer. Xander half-expected him to open the door -- but he didn't. Instead, a moment later, Spike just said, "You know I'm not leaving." There wasn't an immediate response. Then Xander heard Spike's voice again; it almost too soft to make out. "Just didn't think you needed to sit here alone in the dark."

Again, no reply right away, and when Angel finally did, it didn't sound like he was necessarily talking to Spike. "He doesn't... didn't... like when I do that."

Xander coulnd't hear Spike say anything, but he could hear someone moving around.

"And how would that make things any better?" Spike asked. "Then he'd be the one sitting in the dark, hurting."

"But he'd be here. *Alive.* He sacrificed himself for me. He should never have--"

"Never have been a hero?"

"He should never have left me!" Angel yelled, his voice echoing in the silence that followed.

Spike didn't answer. Xander didn't know how Spike *could* answer. There was more movement, then just a quiet, "I know."

"I want him back." Angel's voice was thicker now, some of the tightly controlled emotion starting to escape.

"I know."

There was something in Spike's tone that made Xander curl his fist against the door.

"Part of me wants to up to the roof and wait for dawn."

"Yeah." Another pause, then, "You do know I'll kick your arse if you try?"

"You'd try." There was a hint of Angel's normal tone, there.

"Oh, I'd win, too. You'd be too broody to throw a decent punch."

"Not on your best day, boy."

There was a very familiar scoff, and Xander wondered if now would be a good time to rush in and save his boyfriend. Not, he told himself, because he knew Angel would win. But he didn't want Spike all bruised just so the two vampires could figure out who would.

Then he realised that Angel actually sounded less... broken.

"One hand tied behind my back, when you're all Eeyore Vamp," Spike continued.

"The only way you've ever had even a hope of a chance was when you hit me with a lead pipe when my back was turned."

"What about the time I ran you over with a cart?" Spike didn't sound belligerent at all, Xander noticed.

"When my back was turned," Angel repeated. "I seem to recall beating you about the head and shoulders with said cart afterwards."

"Must have dreamt that part," Spike said. "While you were unconscious in the mud."

Xander had a feeling now would be a good time to interrupt them. Possibly a few minutes ago. He turned the doorknob and pushed the door open. Spike looked up and smiled at him.

Angel followed Spike's line of sight and turned to regard Xander solemnly. "Xander."

"Hey." Xander stayed where he was, not certain if Angel felt like welcoming him.

"Hey," Angel said back; Xander couldn't see any emotion on his face.

"I just--" Would it be stupid of him to say why he was really here? Would Angel get upset again, and stop talking? "Came by," he said, feeling awkward.

Spike gestured at him, though, waving him over. He did so, automatically reaching out and taking Spike's hand, before wondering if maybe they shouldn't be all...couplely in front of Angel right now. But Spike kept a firm grip on his hand. Angel didn't seem to notice, or care; he barely glanced at Xander then went back to staring at the wall.

"I--" he started, then stopped, not knowing how to finish the sentence.

He felt Spike squeeze his hand. Then Spike told him, "I figured I'd be sticking around. Did you want to join us?"

Xander nodded, grateful for the invitation. He settled down beside Spike, still looking for the words he should say.

Angel finally glanced over. "You don't have to."

"I know." He made a show of settling into his seat more comfortably.

Angel's expression grew a bit more determined. "No, I mean... you don't have to."

Spike smiled. "We aren't going anywhere. Not until you're--"

"Until I'm what?" Angel demanded. "All right?"

Spike shrugged. "Not gonna walk outside in the morning," he said quietly. Xander got the impression he was embarrassed.

Angel just looked at them, then looked away again.

Spike just tugged at his hand. Xander had no idea what he meant by it -- unless he wanted Xander to sit in his lap -- which he was pretty sure Spike didn't mean. But Spike just smiled at him, and didn't say anything.

It dawned on Xander that maybe *that* was what he was supposed to do. Sitting quietly, he could do that. He settled more comfortably, letting himself naturally gravitate towards Spike's side, until he was leaning against him.

Angel didn't seem to notice them. He was staring down at his hands, now, and looked like he was trying to work out how to say something. Xander didn't interrupt him, but glanced over at Spike. Spike was watching Angel closely.

"I'm not going to walk into the sun," Angel said grudgingly.

"Good. Don't walk into any pointy objects, either." Spike looked stern, but his tone was light. Xander wondered just how serious Spike thought Angel *was*.

"Spike--" Angel all but growled.

"What? Don't decapitate yourself, don't eat spicy food, look both ways before you cross the sewer--"

"Spike." That definitely sounded like Angel's usual tone. Xander nudged Spike in the ribs. It was entirely possible Spike *hadn't* suddenly grown sensitive and concerned, and was actually being annoying in order to wind Angel up.

"What do I have to do to make you go away?" Angel asked. Xander noted that Angel actually sounded... well, not *normal*. But not as dead as he'd sounded when he'd first snuck up to listen at the door.

"Promise to let me back in tomorrow?" Spike asked, after thinking it over for a bit.

"There's not much way I can stop ya."

Spike smirked. "Knew you'd see things my way."

"Seeing things your way would be reason to step into the sun." The heat was beginning to go out of Angel's tone again, but he didn't sound quite as bad as he had before.

Spike flipped Angel off, but Xander noticed that Spike was a lot more relaxed than he'd been earlier. Apparently 'piss Angel off' was an effective method of shaking him out of the worst of his immediate grief.

Xander was just glad it hadn't had to have been him to be the one to do it.

Angel sighed and slouched in his chair. "You just going to sit there and watch me all day?"

"Cable's out," Xander said. He figured if Angel got pissed, Spike would protect him.

Angel's eyes flickered to Xander. "He's a bad influence on you."

Xander had his mouth open to say it was only because he *liked* being bitten, now, and realised just in time that it would be safer to just call up Giles and tell him he'd decided to become a vampire. He managed to say, instead, "I was like this before." He heard Spike snicker.

Angel didn't answer, just watched them both with sad eyes.

It made Xander feel awkward again, and he tugged on Spike's hand. "Maybe we should go?" he said quietly, though it wasn't like Angel couldn't overhear him.

"You should," Angel answered. "You shouldn't waste your time together watching *me*."

"Better than watching PBS," Spike countered. "It's the only station that comes in clear when the cable's gone."

Xander thumped Spike again, on the leg. When his boyfriend looked at him, slightly surprised, Xander said, "You've made sure Angel isn't going to do something stupid for at least six hours. Why don't we leave him alone for awhile?"

Spike opened his mouth, closed it, glanced at Angel and then back to Xander.

"Go on," Angel urged, sounding more like himself than he had since Xander started eavesdropping. "If you're off annoying each other, you're not annoying me."

"The error in that plan is that Spike doesn't annoy me," Xander responded. Spike raised an eyebrow at him.

"It must be love then." Angel's eyes were even sadder, despite the faint smile on his lips.

Xander felt the look in Angel's eyes like a kick in the gut. Guilt, and something that seemed like fear, pushed him to his feet. "We'll get out of your hair," he said quickly, yanking Spike to his feet. Spike opened his mouth again, looking like he was about to protest, but he took a hard look at Xander's face and just nodded instead.

Xander tried to tell Angel something -- a polite goodbye, see you later, sorry he's dead -- but unsurprisingly, nothing came out. Instead, he just dragged Spike to the door.

"Spike," Angel called out just as they reached the entrance. When Spike turned back around, he continued, "Take care of him."

Xander felt something tighten -- his stomach? His brain? and he wasn't sure he breathed until Spike just nodded in reply. Then Spike was the one hustling them out the door and up the stairs.

As soon as they were out in the alley, Xander turned and wrapped his arms around Spike tightly. It didn't surprise him that Spike returned the embrace, hard. Spike didn't say anything, just stood there and let Xnader hold him.

"Love you." Somehow the words weren't so hard to say right now.

"Love you, too." Spike sounded odd, but Xander didn't want to think about why.

Xander snuggled closer, needing to feel Spike, part of him wanting to crawl inside him.

He felt Spike's lips on his ear, then his neck. He tilted his head back, offering his throat. "Yes," he whispered. "Please."

But Spike just kissed him, lightly.

Xander whimpered, the sound half need, half frustration.

"No," Spike said, kissing his neck again.

"*Yes*," Xander countered. "Need to feel you."

"Not here, love," Spike said quietly. "Angel'll slay me before I could taste you."

"Where then? I'll go wherever, I need you every way I can get you." His body was starting to move against Spike's, a mute echo of the plea he'd just voiced.

Spike kissed him on the lips, that time, then he just looked at Xander, worriedly.

"I don't want to feel like he does," Xander heard himself blurt out.

"I know." Then suddenly Spike kissed him again, hard, and long -- tasting every inch of Xander's mouth and touching his tongue with his own, over and over. There was tension in Spike's body, and not the sort that usually accompanied deep kissing.

Xander held on tightly, letting Spike kiss him as hard as he wanted, trying to kiss him back just the same way. When the kiss finally broke -- Xander couldn't tell which of them had pulled back, first -- he found Spike staring at him as though he could see into Xander's skull.

"I--" Spike stopped.

"You?" Xander prompted.

"Don't want... don't want you dying. Don't want me dying -- er, being more dead. Slain. Whatever." Spike looked away, towards the door to Angel's stairs, and said, "Don't like how it looks."

"Me neither." It sounded so lame even as he said it, but he wasn't sure he could repeat the words that Spike had just said.

But Spike nodded like he understood.

"Want to go home?"

Xander nodded. What he really wanted was for them to get naked and crawl inside each other but going home was a start. Spike kissed him again, and it felt like Spike was just waiting until they could crawl inside each other, too.

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