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Chapter 40

Over the next six months, Xander started to spend more time with the rest of the family. Most nights, however, were spent alone with Spike. They didn’t always talk, but both found the company welcome. True, there were nights Xander wanted to be alone and enjoy some… private time. Those occasions, Spike would vanish from the house and no one knew where he went. He would most often silently show up the next evening as if he had never left. Any questioning was met with a snarky or cryptic remark, so they learned to put it down to Spike’s wild nature.

Xander threw himself into restoring the gazebo, working long days on turning new railings and scraping paint. On rainy days, he would help Spike restore his motorcycle.

Twice Spike went on short errands for the council. Each time, he checked in with Xander by phone, assuring him that he would return.

While they each felt the attraction to one another, it was kept quiet; only expressed in the way they slept close at night, and spent much of their free time together. Xander wasn’t ready; he still feared the possible loss of Spike if he gave in to his desires. Spike tried to be patient, and yet show Xander he would be there when and if he was ever ready.

Between Giles and Willow, they came up with a battery of tests to determine what, if any magical abilities Xander had. They determined that he was magic sensitive, and had the odd ability to not only pick enchanted items from mundane, but when they tested the worry stone he bought from Jen, they learned he could generate small amounts of energy in an object. It was deemed an interesting, but most likely useless ability.

One day, Xander came to the house for lunch to find Spike in his long coat and tailored clothes.

“What’s up, Spike? you look good.”

“I always look good. I thought you realized that.”

“Yeah, but you look like you did… Fuck. There’s a ship, isn’t there?”

“Ralph von Hoffman at your service,” Spike said in his German accent.

Xander swallowed and looked away. “I know you have to go, there’s no one else, but… be careful, Spike. Please be careful.”

“I should be able to gather better information, now that we’ve learned so much from you.”

“That’s what worries me. What if you give something away?”

Spike stepped to Xander and put a hand to his cheek, bringing his eye up to face him. “I know what I’m doing, Xander, and I promise I’ll be back.”

“I know. I just wish there was something I could do to help.” Xander put his hand over Spike’s and pressed it to his face.

“Be a translator if we need, okay? That’s important.”

“Okay. See you in a couple of days?”

“Sure will.” Spike smiled and reclaimed his hand. “I must now to be away,” he said in his German accent. “Time is important, and my boss must have what he demands.”

With a curt nod, and a snapping turn, Spike vanished through the door to the tunnels.  Xander went up to his room and stared out the window until Willow coaxed him down for dinner. Oz and Gunn were leaving for the rendezvous point, and she wanted Xander there to see them off.

“Come down, Xander, please,” Willow coaxed.

“I’m not hungry,” he mumbled and continued to stare out the window, turning his worry stone over and over.

Willow sat on the edge of the chair next to him and laid a hand on his knee. “Xander, he’ll be fine. He’s done this lots of times before.”

“I know but… what if he gives away how much he knows? What if he goes digging for more information and gets caught? I told him a lot about what went on in that ship. What if he gets mad and… I don’t know, wants to play hero? They’ll dust him without a moment’s hesitation!”

“Oh, Xander!” Willow gently wiped a tear from his eye. “He’s smart, we know that. He’s kept himself alive for over a hundred years, I think he can manage this two day trip.”

“You’re probably right. But… some of the stories he’s told me…”

“Are probably half bravado. I’ve heard his stories, too. Maybe not the same ones as you, but our Spike loves to brag and tell stories. Come down for a minute and see the guys off. Your support means a lot to them. Heck, you being here has fired them up.”

“That’s what I mean, Willow. I’m afraid of overconfidence.”

“Look, Our men are risking their lives, too.”

“He’s not my…”

“Shush. If you must mope, you have to mope in company. It’s a house rule.”

“What do you do, sit around and knit?”

“It’s more productive than a worry stone, mister. I’ll teach you how.”

“I don’t…”

Willow stood and put her hands on her hips. “I have no other choice. Resolve face. Come down, see them off, and eat some dinner. You missed lunch and I will never believe you’re not hungry.”

Xander smiled at his frowning friend and stood up with a sigh. “Very well.”

Two nights later, Spike returned with two slaves he’d rescued. After warning the women of the van’s arrival, he went to find Xander sitting in the almost-finished Gazebo. Piles of gardening materials and cans of paint sat neatly stacked on the floor. A single hanging work lamp lit the scene. Spike crossed the floor and leaned on the rail next to where his friend sat. He heard Xander let out a breath as if he’d been holding it the whole time he’d been gone. They watched the fireflies in silence.

Finally, Xander turned to look at Spike who was still dressed in his fancy leather coat, polished boots, and tailored slacks, and looked him over. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

Spike suppressed a grin and slipped into his German mannerisms. “No. I hope you do not mind, but I saw this lovely… what do you call it?”

“Ga-ze-bo,” Xander said clearly, playing along.

“Gazebo, yes, and I just had to see it. I’ve never seen a structure more beautiful.”

Xander looked around at the high ceiling and the railings he’d turned by hand. “Thank you.”

“You did this? Oh! It is magnificent!” Spike went to the center of the floor. He craned his head back and turned slowly to look at the softly lit rafters with their carved details.

Xander suddenly recalled a conversation he’d had with Spike about romance novel covers a year before. Spike had said he was the typical model, and Xander admitted to liking leaner men. Spike would be every bit at home on a novel cover right now. “I had some help,” he said absently.

“But I can see the master eye was yours.” Spike stopped turning and struck a pose.

Xander suddenly felt himself caught up in the role playing. Here was the handsome foreign stranger who charms a local boy. Giving in to impulse, Xander slipped off the railing and took off his shirt. “It’s a hot night, isn’t it?”

Spike blinked, and the fantasy he’d played in his head moved toward him. “Um… ya. Very hot here…” He stood still as he watched the muscles play in Xander’s arms as he reached up, pulled the tie from his hair and let it tumble about his shoulders. He wished he could put the world in slow motion.

“It is hot… you’re hot…” Xander said softly, his deep voice carrying on the still night air.

“I… I think perhaps you could distract me from this heat?” His accent had slipped, but neither one remarked on it.

Xander stepped close and brought a big, work roughened hand up to cup Spike’s pale face. He ran a thumb over the edge of his sharp cheekbone. “It’s funny, but I feel I’ve known you in another life.”

“You mean like I was meant to come here, on this night, to this place?”

“Yeah, and I was meant to do this…” Xander leaned down and gently pressed his lips to Spike’s.

Had they been able to think, they would have said the world tilted and nothing existed but the other man’s touch.

Spike started to reach up and touch Xander in turn when a small, dark figure suddenly appeared at the head of the path. It was one of the girls Spike had just brought back. The slim girl froze for a half a minute, her eyes wide, and she darted away from the light.

“Damn,” Spike said vehemently, hating her for interrupting, hating that Xander dropped his hand and looked after her like the bloody white hat he was.

Xander took a steadying breath, dizzy from the emotions swirling inside him. “Slayer?”

“Slayer and slave.”

“Let me help her,” Xander said and was off.

Seconds later, Oz and Willow appeared. Spike pointed off the direction she’d gone. “Xander’s on her path.”

They took off and Spike bent to pick up Xander’s discarded shirt. What had that been? Playing? Acting? Had it been real? He shamelessly breathed in the musky scent of Xander. Oh God, let it have been real.

On to Chapter 41

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