Part 4



“God, I love cotton candy!” Fred gushed with, what Xander had come to discover, her customary enthusiasm.  Angel had privately confided that he thought the oddly childish behavior was a result of living in Pylea for five years.  After spending the day with her, however, Xander didn’t think so.  Part of it was due to the lack of normal, healthy interaction between peers that most teenagers needed and hated.  But most of it was just happy, innocent Fred.

“You still want that popcorn?”  Xander was playing the attentive boyfriend, gallant and charming when he wasn’t being silly.  It was his usual habit when squiring any of his girls to their various functions.

“Oh!  Popcorn!  But. . . no, I couldn’t.  You’ve been so good to me, payin’ for everythin’ and takin’ me all around L.A. . . ”

Xander grinned and bowed.  “One bag of popcorn coming up.”  He’d cornered Angel over breakfast, asking a barrage of questions about Fred—Sweet Little Fred, of the bubbling brook voice tinged with just a hint of Texas twang.  It wasn’t the hesitancy that bothered him; shyness, especially trauma-related, he understood.  It was the wide-eyed amazement whenever he did something nice for her.  More, if she’d wanted to do the dumb tourist bit, why the hell hadn’t anyone taken her?

The answer was complicated.  The first complication was actually pinning down time to have fun.  Emergencies and end-of-the-world events were quite common and personal plans were of necessity flexible.  If they weren’t, people died.  So finding the time to do it was difficult . . . but doable.  The next, more important, problem was who would do it?

 Cordelia was good for shopping and bonding over mochas and complaining about their boys—but getting on a bus to look at famous people’s houses?  Not her style.  Angel had the whole sunlight issue.  Lorne, the green skinned demon with red eyes and horns, was similarly restricted by his non-human status.  Wesley and the big black guy, Gunn, were better choices, but they still weren’t exactly studio-lot types.

That wasn’t to say that they hadn’t offered, or that the offers had been insincere.  Fred, however, had displayed that abrupt adult understanding and denied them—most of the time.  “I mean, Cordelia always wanted to be one of those movie stars, with the big houses and the fancy clothes.  How could I make her watch it all and enjoy it with me when she knows she can’t ever have it?”  She’d been unwilling to risk injury to Angel or Lorne, and she certainly wasn’t going to drag Wesley and Gunn away from each other.

It was that oblique reference that had convinced Xander that she wasn’t emotionally . . . wrong, or damaged, or whatever.  The sly look was back in her eyes now, and if Xander hadn’t been intimately familiar with the things gay men did to continue looking straight, he probably wouldn’t have caught the knowing glint accompanying her description.

“So,” he said while Fred happily alternated between cotton candy and greasy salty popcorn.  The girl ate like a horse, but given the active lifestyle she led, Xander wasn’t surprised.  “Wes and Gunn, huh?  Didn’t think G-man Junior had it in him.”

A casual statement but Xander got another one of those corner-looks.  “They’re pretty sweet together.  But don’t tell anyone, okay?”  She didn’t look the least bit repentant that Xander had figured it out.  “Angel and Cordelia don’t know yet.  Me’n Lorne haven’t told them—or the other them, either.”

Years of dealing with Willowbabble was apparently a good thing.  That actually made sense.  “I won’t confront Wes and Gunn about their journey to the other side of the street, as Spike would say.  Or let Angel and Cordy know what’s going on.  How long have they been together?”

“About four months.  It was kinda slow.”  A mischievous smile lit up her pixie-bright face, making her eyes sparkle behind her glasses.  He had to get Fred up to Sunnydale; she could babble with Willow, be shy and hide with Tara, and get co-opted into makeovers and nail-painting sessions with Dawn.  She’d love it.  “Maybe you could kinda give ’em hints?  About how, y’know, it’s okay to come out to your friends? That they aren’t gonna care so much?”

He laughed as they walked along the Santa Monica pier.  It was just barely sunset, almost time to drive back home, but Xander didn’t want to leave yet.  It was nice to be here with someone totally new.  Every word was a delight, every gesture a treasure.  Best of all, this was someone familiar with demons and dangers that normal people couldn’t handle.  Neither of them had to hide what they did or who they were. . .

A group of teenagers shouted and ran past them, giggling about something only thirteen-year-olds could understand.  Fred gave a small start when one of them came too close, and then shivered as Xander instantly put an arm around her shoulders and drew her over towards the ocean.  He wanted to watch the sunset.

“You’re a good man, Xander Harris.”  She was just tall enough that she could lean her head on his shoulder, his arm still snugly around her shoulders.  “Whatever it is, we’ll fix it, okay?  I mean, Angel hasn’t told us what the problem is yet, but I know there is one.  And it’ll be okay, cause we’re really good at fixin’ things.  You’ll see.”

He smiled without looking at her.  He wasn’t sure he could take the earnestness he knew he’d see.  “Angel’s lucky to have you.”

“What, me?  Oh, no, I don’t. . . I mean, thank you, but I’m just. . .”

He laughed again, not bothering to explain what he meant.  She wasn’t ready to hear it, yet.  Hell, it had taken him six years for him to really hear it from Buffy.  When she was ready, Angel would let her know.  Until then . . . 

 He tightened his grip into a one-armed hug, exhaling heavily as the sun sank down beneath the water.  “Well, then.  Ready to go to dinner?”

She grinned at him, confusion disappearing completely.  “Ooh, you’ll love this place, really good Japanese food.  They have the best steaks, all thick and juicy and tender, and they never overcook ’em, don’t you hate it when they do that?  Steak should be rare. . .”

Fred babbled her way through the drive back to L.A., including the stop over at a gas station to change out of their junky clothes.  “Not quite my Sunday Best,” Xander proclaimed as they got back into the car.  “But Spike shouldn’t complain.”

“Why would he complain?”  The bewildered expression face made Xander feel better about his chinos-and-black-sweater combination.  Clothing was still a sore point with him, although over a year with Spike had had some beneficial results: Spike continually raided Xander’s closet, over Xander’s objections, and removed the outfits the vampire hated the most.

Turning Spike’s complaints into a bit of a stand-up routine, Xander kept them both amused during the drive to the restaurant.  He put effort into keeping it light and funny, but not solely to elicit Fred’s delighted laughter.

Angel had taken Spike for the whole day.  He had no idea where the two vampires were going, or what they were doing, just that Angel wanted to spend time with Spike alone, before broaching the real reason for Spike and Xander’s visit.  The initial meeting between Angel and Spike had been tense, to say the least, with neither of them giving anything away.

Not quite the family reunion he had hoped for, for Spike’s sake, but no recriminations and threats of imminent stakage, so he supposed he couldn’t complain.  Spike had shot him an unreadable look before disappearing into the basement with Angel and Xander was afraid that the vampire was mad at him.

Actually, he wasn’t afraid of it. He was hoping for it.

At the restaurant, Xander handed his keys over to the polite young valet and watched as his precious baby was driven away.  “Please,” he muttered in a quick prayer, “don’t let her be hurt, okay?”  Hey, you could never be too careful.  After meeting a Hell God, who was to say there wasn’t a Car God around somewhere?

Fred was looking at him with that weird adult-child look behind her glasses.  He let her in on the joke, pleased when she laughed appreciatively.  Making people laugh was what he did, after all.  Gallantly offering her his arm, he was surprised when she shook her head.

“I think someone else wants that arm.”  She pointed to the doorway.

Spike.  Spike looking like Spike again, except this wasn’t the expected jean-clad Spike—fashion codes are for people who give a bloody fuck, Xander.  This, this Spike, was a far different Spike.  Hot Spike.

Tight leather pants, riding low on his hips, tucked into different boots than his usual Doc Martins.  Xander didn’t know the brand, didn’t care, suddenly envisioning himself on all fours, licking the mirror-bright leather while Spike smirked above him.  Flowing silver silk shirt, with old-fashioned blouse-sleeves, cuffs held together with what looked like little silver stakes, with red rubies on them.  A black leather vest covered the shirt.  No duster, but Xander was certain it was nearby.  He wore eyeliner and mascara, the way he hadn’t in years, making those blue, blue eyes glow in the street lights.  His hair was un-gelled, lying in messy waves around his head.  He looked like a rock star, with that lazy confidence that made him acceptable in any social circle.  He looked like hot sex on legs.

Xander froze, unable to look away from the vision that drew closer to him.  And then he saw Spike’s eyes. 

His burgeoning erection softened instantly, and he felt drained as the lust and excitement fled.

Spike should have looked sexy and confident.  Yeah, most of that would have been bravado bullshit, but the question of his audience’s reaction should have been buried deep underneath the amusement and sheer sensuality that Spike always exuded.

The eyes that looked up at him were anxious, worried, desperate for approval, and fearful of Xander’s reaction.

Xander felt sick.

He forced himself to look impressed, though, filling his mind with images of the Spike he loved and missed to generate some low-level arousal.  If Spike thought he was faking, or that Xander was upset with him. . .

The last time that had happened, Spike had tried to go out the front door at noon.  When Xander had finally wrestled the struggling vampire back inside, he’d had to lock him in Spike’s old room, used as a storage room for months.  Spike had stayed in that room, doing Xander didn’t know what.  Just that it wasn’t smoking or singing or eating or shouting or fighting or even sleeping.  If he hadn’t known any better, he would have said brooding.

 When he had finally persuaded Spike to come back out, he’d refused to speak for a week and it was one more week before things began approaching ‘normal’.  The breakdown had terrified Xander because when did Spike ever shut down after a fight?  Spike thrived on fights.  He used to pick them with Buffy, just for sheer kicks.  But when he fought with Xander. . . it was like his reason for existence was being threatened.

Xander should probably mention that to Angel, sometime later.  He hadn’t meant to make his and Spike’s relationship all hearts and roses.  It wasn’t.  They had good days and bad days, arguments and misunderstandings, like every couple.  But he loved Spike.  It was worth the pain and the anguish because being with Spike made him happy.  Even if he was screaming.

Either kind of screaming.

He let his eyes drift over his sexy vampire, forcing himself to take pleasure in the appearance and not the reasons for the change.  Spike was hot; incredibly so.  Grinning in a way he knew drove Spike crazy, he leaned forward so that his lips were centimeters from Spike’s, warm air gusting over cold skin.  “All this for me?” he whispered, turning so that his lick across Spike’s lower lip was hidden.  He wanted to nip it, hard, but that could wait for later.  Practically moaning, he added, “God, Spike, what you do to me. . .”

The uncertainty disappeared.  Relaxing slightly, Xander pulled his boyfriend even closer to give him a chaste kiss—while he goosed him.  He grinned, unrepentant, into the shocked expression that resulted.  Not outraged, or even horny—the two expressions he wanted.

“Hungry?” he asked, holding out his arm the same way he had for Fred.  Spike took it with a shy, half-smile before very, very obviously forcing himself to smirk.  It was a wavery kind of smirk, lacking the signature ‘Spikeness’ to it.  “What’d you do with Angel all day?”

Spike shrugged, answering neither question, although he looked nervous at the mention of Angel.  Crap, Xander suddenly realized.  Spike hadn’t spoken more than two words since Xander had told him that they were going to L.A.  In fact, he hadn’t spoken at all since the morning they arrived.  Double crap.

“This way, please,” a hostess said once they were all congregated in the lobby.  Following her, they were led to a private table near the back.  Xander glanced around, studying the sumptuous décor and lush furnishings.  Delicately embroidered screens, depicting some kind of battle scene, secluded their table.  Or was that a mating scene?  He wasn’t sure.  He knew the figures weren’t human, whatever they were.

“Ah, not to sound like a total rube, but this is a demon restaurant.  Right?”

Wesley chuckled at his discomfiture.  “Yes, you’re correct, although a great deal of the proprietor’s clientele is human.  The owner, and chef, is Leishan.  He’s a Rekeio demon.  I wouldn’t piss him off, if I were you, but he has no problem with humans and prefers cooking to any kind of mayhem.”

“Leish and I have a back-scratching deal,” Lorne added, comfortably lounging in his seat.  The sky blue of his suit clashed with the black and cream colors around him, but he didn’t look out of place at all.  “He’s my favorite restaurant, I’m his favorite club.  And we both have a ‘an it harm ye none’ deal.  So no fights.”

This said with a glare directed at Angel and Gunn, who both looked sheepish.  “Man,” Gunn insisted, “I was not trying to start a fight there!”

Xander let the bickering wash over him.  It was the same kind of thing the Scoobies did at home, so he wasn’t worried that there was actually a problem. This was mostly for amusement.  Once that played out, people asked him and Fred for a description of what they’d done all day.  Fred did all the talking.  Through the appetizers, the salad, the hot cloths, and most of the main course as well.

Angel made sure to keep his eyes on Fred the whole time.  Xander hated him for it.

Relaxing back against the padded seat, Xander slumped just a little until he was leaning on Spike’s shoulder.  He needed to be lower down than Spike, because then it would be obvious when he looked at his lover.

That was the only thing that would stop Spike’s expression of pure adoration.

Whenever someone glanced at Spike, it disappeared instantly—but most people weren’t looking at Spike.  They were looking at Fred.  So Spike was free to fall back into that habit—and  Xander wished like hell he could remember when it started—of staring at Xander with absolute, mindless idolization.

That was what convinced him he needed someone else’s help.  The more Xander had tried to fix things himself, the more he saw that look.

“So, Angel,” he said desperately as they headed towards desert.  “What did you do all day?”  The food had been as excellent as Fred had claimed.  Both Angel and Spike had received large mugs with their meals—Angel’s plate half-filled compared to the rest of the diner’s—which were frequently refilled.  No one commented on it; they were all used to seeing a vampire eat his supper.

“Um?”  Deer-in-headlights was never a good look for Angel.  Xander wished that it was Spike who was snickering with him, not Gunn.  “Oh, we went hunting.”

“Hunting?”  Cordelia put down her spoon, pale green ices melting from it onto the plate.  “Angel, you didn’t tell me you were going hunting.  What exactly were you hunting for, hm?”

Eyes as brown as his own focused on the cursed vampire with a laser sharp glare.  Cordelia, too, had gone through significant changes since coming to L.A.  The ability to be a bitch, however, was something she’d never lose. 

“Ah. . .  nothing in particular?”

“Then why were you hunting?  I had cases you could have worked on, Angel.  You told me you needed time alone with Spike.  I said fine.  This did not mean you had permission to go hunting.  You don’t do that anymore.  Remember?”

“Wh—not hunting humans, Cordy,” Angel hastened to explain.  “Hunting, well, demons.  Information.  Anything.”

“I take it the hunt was unsuccessful?”

Angel clearly had no idea which answer was the correct one.  “Yes?”

Cordelia’s eyes narrowed, but as they darted over towards Spike, Xander was able to catch them.  She let out a frustrated groan but relented.  Her expression, however, meant that Xander was going to do some fast talking later.  “Did you get hurt?” she asked Angel instead of what she still very much wanted to ask.

She could hide her emotions.  She just didn’t feel like it.

“No,” Angel replied immediately, grateful to be back on firmer ground.  “I’m not hurt, Spike’s not hurt, everything’s fine.  I, well, wanted Spike to see the lay of the land down here in L.A.  He’s asked to help.”

Xander hoped no one else caught it.  That would make the problem instantly obvious to every person at the table, none of whom were unobservant or stupid.  He caught it, but then, he’d been waiting for it.  The tightness in Angel’s jaw, the slight tensing of fists, all things that screamed not right.

The Spike they knew didn’t volunteer to help.  He grumbled about it, loudly and often..  He did whatever it was with a minimum of fuss, but once it was over, the grumbling came back.  That was the way the bleached-vampire operated, period.  As predictable as Willow babbling, Tara being shy, or Buffy being headstrong.  It made him who he was.

And Spike was giving Cordelia a slight nod to confirm Angel’s words, the first interaction with anyone other than Xander all evening.

Xander watched as his ex’s expression softened, although he doubted that Spike would understand that for what it was.  “So did you have fun?” she asked the vampire, totally ignoring Angel.  Angel blanched and swallowed; he knew what that meant.

Spike tensed and leaned a fraction harder against Xander.  Smiling a shy, small little smile, he nodded again and focused on his desert—blood ices.

Cordelia blinked, stunned.  Hiding it quickly, she turned a bright smile to Lorne.  “So, we’re going to Caritas after this, right?  I know Xander can’t sing for crap, but you make all first-timer’s sing, right?  Kinda like a virgin ritual?”

She was never going to forgive him for taking her to Rocky Horror Picture Show that one time.  They’d both been dubbed ‘virgin’ but with her stunning good looks, she’d been chosen for a lot more gags than he.  Xander grinned.  It had been one of their very few fun dates, one that fortunately none of their friends had any inkling about.

Lorne was giving them both a speculative look before finally nodding.  “Don’t see why not,” was all he said.

A cold hand latched onto the back of Xander’s sweater.

Xander closed his eyes and wished he could cry.

Finishing their meal, Angel and Lorne slipped off to say thanks to their host while the rest piled into various cars.  Cordelia, with her customary charm, convinced Spike that he just had to spend more time with Angel and the GTX so that she could have a minute and lust after Xander’s new convertible.  Okay?

“That wasn’t nice,” Xander commented neutrally as they headed out of the parking lot.  He’d been looking forward to having a moment alone with his boyfriend, dammit.

“I’m not nice.  I’m Cordelia.  I do nice only when I want something.”

He couldn’t help but laugh at that.  “Don’t ever change, Cordy.”

“Don’t plan on it.  What I want to know is why Spike has.”

The air was chilly, despite it being L.A., and he wished he could see the stars.  He loved to look up at them, trying to make different shapes in the random patterns.  Instead, a thin edge of grey, visible even at night, hung around the edges of the sky and billowing clouds obscured the rest.

“Oh, come on, Xander.  I can see you’ve grown up from the geeky little boy I broke up with—”

“Nice of you to admit it.”

“Don’t interrupt me.”  She glared and he was fifteen again, and unable to make his mouth work correctly, against such ire.  “Look, Xander.  You’re a good guy.  I was an idiot who was too concerned with her image, but you knew that when you dated me.  I’m glad that you’ve found a life that makes you happy.  Hell, I’m glad you’re wealthy.  And don’t give me that look, Willow’s given me numbers.  My point, however, is you might be three years older and you might be totally different in some way from the geek-boy I dated, but you’re still Xander.  I still know you.  I don’t know Spike anymore.”

“Like you ever did?” was pulled from him, before he could catch it.  He put his hand up, forestalling whatever biting reply she had waiting.  “Sorry.  Habit.  I just meant, you weren’t there when he got chipped so I’m not sure how you qualify as. . . knowing him.”

Cordelia snorted, and Xander suddenly wished that she was still part of the Scooby gang at home.  The totally direct, unlady-like, often inelegant way of handling things was so refreshing.  Anya may have been just as blunt, but too often people were cringing with embarrassment and couldn’t hear what she was saying.

“Hello, do you think I’ve forgotten the hot-poker incident?  Angel, I will add, also waxed quite poetic when he first heard about you two getting together.  The comments were not complimentary.  Toward either of you.”  She sighed and watched lights flash by.  “True, I don’t know him as well as you do—make a biblical joke here, doughnut boy, and I’ll throw you out of your own car—but certain parts of him I’ve always understood.  Xander, he was helping me move boxes yesterday during your little chat with Angel.  He didn’t even ask, just saw me struggling with them and picked them up.  Helpful Spike?  Who hasn’t called me Princess once?  Something’s wrong and I want to know what.”

“Far be it from me to stand between you and whatever you want,” Xander quipped, hands tightening on the steering wheel.  “How long?”  When she just blinked, he gave a growl as good as Spike’s used to be.  “How long was he playing pack-mule?”

“A few hours.  He probably would have stayed there all day, but Wesley said he knew some new sparring techniques and—”

“Yeah, that part he told me about.”  Xander forced himself to relax.  “Did he say anything to you?  At all?”

She thought and abruptly looked sheepish.  “Not. . . not really, I think.  I was—I was babbling about you, and how much you’ve grown and—”

Cordelia’s voice faded as the rage hit him so hard that he was blinded by it.  It was only the fear that he’d get into an accident that made him able to blink it away.  Breathing deep, he got control of himself.  He’d just have to watch better, to make sure things like that didn’t happen again.  He wasn’t a servant, dammit.  Glancing at Cordelia found her staring fixedly at the dashboard, saying all the things he would have loved to hear, three years ago.  He laughed ruefully, making her glare at him. “Why, Cordy!  Are you blushing?”

She scoffed at that, and, mood lightened, they traded insults the rest of the way to Caritas.  They got lost only once, too, which Cordelia said was a record.  Xander liked Caritas the minute they stepped inside.  Lorne was handing him a drink, chatting lightly about the various renovations that had been done, mostly because Angel Investigations kept getting the place blown up.

“So, think you can get your gentleman-love up to the mic?”

Xander blinked, confused by the turn the conversation had taken from bewailing various lost items to karaoke.  The rest of the group was already seated around what was obviously ‘their table’, chatting and listening to something with purple skin murder an old Billy Joel tune.  “Huh?”

“Has tall dark and broody filled you in on what I do here?”  Lorne was leaning up against the bar, scanning the crowd and sipping something red and fruity smelling.  Xander tried to make his brain function again.  It really wasn’t any of the ‘demon’ characteristics—horns, skin color, eye color, that phased him.  It was the clothes that made him nervous.  Leisure suits died decades ago.  Why were people reviving them?

“Some kind of empath-de—um, guy.”

That earned him a small smile, before those red eyes went back to flickering over the audience.  “Close enough, puddin’.  I read auras, sense emotions, that kind of thing.  I get the clearest read when people sing, hence the kareoke nightclub, but when trouble’s afoot, I don’t need the tune to give me the specs.”

“Meaning you’ve been picking things up from me?”

“Xani-baby, you I didn’t need an aura read to figure out,” Lorne said, expressive face showing amusement and just a hint of sorrow.  “You’re worried about that skinny guy vamp you love so much, and honey, I don’t blame you.”

Click, the light went on.  “You’re picking things up from Spike.”  Not a question, because those eyes may have been red instead of blue or brown or green, but they spoke just like a human’s did.

“Yeah.  Pain and misery are only the beginnings of it.  Those two emotions are so bad, though, that I can’t get a lick on what else is hiding under them.  So, I was hoping you’d get him to sing for me tonight.”

Tapping on the bar surface, Xander turned in his seat to do his own bit of scanning.  Fred, sweet little Fred was snuggled against Spike, practically in his lap, an arm threaded through his and doing her damndest to get Spike into the conversation.  Spike was giving her a look like he had a live aardvark on his lap, when he wasn’t gazing longingly over towards Xander.

“Angel put you up to this?”

Lorne gave a short bark of a laugh.  “Angel-cakes is a bit dense, sometimes.  Wesley asked.”

The tapping got louder.  “I don’t want charity,” he started but Lorne waved him off.

“Relax, honey-bunch.  I’m the one who created this bar, remember?  I’m the Host, I listen to people destroy songs I dearly love to get a look into their heart of hearts.  I didn’t need Wes to ask.  All I need is you to convince him to get up there.”

Nodding, Xander pushed himself away from the bar and slid into the seat next to Spike.  Who immediately latched onto his hand under the table, holding so hard that it hurt.  Xander ignored the pain, not wanting to set the chip off accidentally.

“Angel,” Gunn was saying, “you ain’t singin’, man.  You make cats in heat sound good!”

The older vampire still looked offended, but conceded the point—which Xander was pretty sure had more to do with his arrival than with the belief that Gunn was right.  “Fine, fine, I won’t sing.  Never was the singer of the family, anyway.  Spike, m’boy.  Care to show off?”

If Xander hadn’t been reminding himself that no, Spike’s grip on his hand wasn’t hurting, the chip definitely would have gone off at Angel’s words.  He glared murder while Spike shrank in on himself.  Reaching around, he took Spike’s other hand and pried fingers straight,  rubbing against four bloody crescents dug into the palm.

“Please, Spike?” Fred added.  “Angel was tellin’ us about the four of ya’ll.  How you each had a special little something’.  Not so clear on what Darla’s was,” which earned Angel a glare from his co-workers, “but Angel used t’draw, and Drusilla would have those weird visions of hers, and you, you’d sing.”

“Yes,” Wesley chimed in.  “There is evidence in several of the chronicles that you did sing, although—”

He coughed as Cordelia elbowed him, hard.  “What Wes means,” she said with a bright smile, “is that Angel might be lying through his sharp, pointy teeth.  He always complained you were a bad singer, after all.”

“Hey!” Xander said, in defense of his boyfriend, glaring at Angel after giving Cordelia a grateful wink.  “I’ll have you know Spike sings very well.  Don’t you, Spike?”  He made puppy-dog eyes at Spike.  “Please, Spike?  Prove that lying grand-sire of yours wrong?”

It was low, dirty, and it made Xander feel sick inside, but the puppy-dog eyes worked, just like they always did.  With a small sigh and a nervous glance around the club, Spike rose and made his way to where Lorne was waiting.  Xander went with him—he’d lose his arm, if he didn’t.

Lorne silently handed over several pages of song lists, his attention seemingly on the current singer.  Spike rifled through them, darting glances up towards Xander the whole time.  Trying not to sigh, Xander pulled his boyfriend into his arms so he could look over a duster-clad shoulder.

“Oh, hey, you love that song,” Xander said, pointing towards one of the few punk songs on the list.  Surprisingly, Spike shook his head.  “Okay.  What do you want to sing, tonight?”  He knew Spike could sing.  At first it was just absent humming while Spike did mundane things like laundry or the dishes, but after a few months Xander had finally persuaded his then-boyfriend to actually sing a full song.

Spike had no compunction about singing after the reaction it produced in Xander.  He just had to make sure Xander’s calendar was clear—it’d taken three days before they’d ventured out of the apartment, that first time.

That was for him—them—however, not something he shared with anybody else.  Dawn, he was pretty sure Spike had sung lullabies for; but that was it.  Not even Willow knew Spike could sing.

Finally a black-nailed finger rested against a song that Xander hadn’t ever heard of.  This was good.  If Xander hadn’t heard of it, then Spike wasn’t picking it simply because Xander liked it.

Lorne made no introduction—just dimmed the lights as soon as Xander was seated and bullied Spike onto the stage.  Deep, mournful, melodic rock filtered through the speakers, bringing a hush to the audience.

Well I wonder do we learn

Seems we're making the same wrong turn

Call you sacred

Call you obscene

Call you faithless

Call you anything

Call and you listen

Listen. . . 

Watching Spike stand there, looking like a rock-star with that molten voice spreading through the room, Xander could take himself back to the night Spike had first sung to him, for him.  He could feel himself harden, grateful for the table that covered him.  He remembered the look that had burned in Spike’s eyes that first night as he poured the soul he supposedly didn’t have into words that echoed in Xander’s.

Tonight, Spike’s eyes were closed.

I'm a liar so it seems

My desire could justify anything

So is there nothing that lies in between

This cold silence and a scream

Whole body pulsing to the rhythm of the deceptively strong guitar, Spike swayed as he sang, shirt refracting the light until it dazzled.  He looked like a god, up there.  He looked like Spike was supposed to look.

Caught in the headlights

We are frozen
Can not hide
There's no break
There is no time
If you can I might listen

Call and you listen

For one second, for one, brief second, as Spike wailed out the last heartbreaking line, his eyes opened.  Glittering blue searched and held dark brown and, for that one moment, all was right in the world.

Part 5