Second to the Right



Spike knows it's there.


He doesn't have to see it to know, doesn't have to smell the sweetness of too much candy and sleep that clings, downy-soft and curled with innocence, to Xander's body afterwards.  He just knows.




"I'm fine."


The repetition is getting old, after so long, but Spike's still not sure how to broach the subject.  Is Xander upset that it was a stranger and not him?  That his participation hinges on chance visits, since Xander won't consider leaving yet—though he's not as adamant about that as he used to be, so maybe there's some hope.  It's not as if any of them are ancient, either.  Early thirties is normal, in these our modern times, and for all Spike teases him that Xander's an older man than Spike is, he really isn't.  In some ways, he's the boy he just finished reading about, with leaves and twigs in his hair and a bright, magical light that follows him everywhere, offering guidance.


Spike's not sure he likes the comparison, but he's yet to bring that up, either.


"Xander, love, please.  Will you just talk to me?"


The eyes that look at him are hollow, the coca-cola depths gone flat and brittle from seeing what he thinks he'll never have—what he hasn't realized he's wanted until two years ago, when he first held in his arms what he's come to realize is the most important thing ever.  "There's nothing to talk about, Spike.  Look, I'm tired.  I want to go to bed."


They troop up the stairs to the little motel they're staying at—Xander can't bring himself to stay there, after all, so it's hotels and motels for the boys—inserting the plastic key so viciously it nearly breaks.  Sighing, Spike takes it from him and opens the door himself, pushing Xander through gently.  "There's a bloody lot to talk about, you selfish git," Spike snaps when he sees Xander sink onto the bed, not even looking his way.  "Like—"


"Don't.  Please?  I can't, Spike, we've been over this."


"Says who?  Who the bloody hells says you can't?"  He hates when he starts getting repetitious himself, hates it when Xander flinches back like that, as if it were a blow instead of just words, but he's tired and angry himself, and he wants.  He thought, at first, that it was just Xander's want transposing onto him.  But seeing Xander, touching that fireball of heat and trust ... oh, he wants.  Wants badly, selfishly, even though at heart it's not really selfish at all.  "I know you went to the doctor and he's given you the white flag."


Xander gives him a look.  "Sick, Spike.  And unless you suddenly turn into a girl—"


"I'd turn into sodding Tinkerbell for real, if I thought it'd make you listen!" Spike snaps, pushed past his normal frustration and annoyance with this topic, into full-blown anger.  "Didn't you hear Tara?  She's about to drop sodding bricks, to get you to listen!"


Xander blinks.  It could be the anger, or what he's just been told, but he looks so much the little boy from the flick they'd all just seen that it sends Spike back to that wrenching, heart-breaking place of wanting to show a child the simplest form of magic—love.  Because that's what Xander's afraid of, at heart.  All the excuses are just that—excuses.  His fear is that his love isn't enough, that the practicalities he's had to deal in for so long have robbed him of the life and spirit he needs.


"What—what bricks?" Xander asks, eyes so round it makes Spike want to take him in his arms and kiss the hurts away.  And he will, but not quite yet.  Xander's almost ready to listen, and Spike's not wasting the opportunity.  "What are you talking about?"


"Well, it's two-fold, innit?"  Spike sits on the bed next to Xander, careful to keep some distance despite the way his body immediately cries out to touch, to feel what's his.  "Didn't you notice the real estate guides she kept mentioning?  There's that sweet little three bedroom that's almost right on top of the Victorian they're bidding for."


Shifting, Xander brings his knee up so he's sitting sideways, body canting forward.  Thank ruddy Christ for that, since the language reads confused but willing to listen.  Xander's gotten good at shoving out what he doesn't want to hear, particularly when he thinks it's a well-meaning sop.  Should've let Xander see how angry his reluctance has made Spike long before, if this is the response.  About a few different things.  "They may not get that house."


"And there are others to look at.  But don't you see?  She wants us here, with them.  She keeps going on about how good you are with the sprite, and how pretty soon a non-estrogen influence is gonna be needed."


Xander flushes, poor boy's been surrounded by estrogen for so damned long that it's no wonder that he's bi—or at least, calls himself bi.  But this is one of his biggest fears, that he'll repeat mistakes he's suffered through, never understanding that bitterness comes from unhappiness—and Spike will never allow him to be unhappy, not so long as he can fix it.


"So, uh, they want us to live by them?"


The god Spike doesn't believe in best give him patience.  "Xan.  They've wanted us to move here since they moved here.  You know Willow wants you near."


"But you love L.A.—"


"I love you, though I don't know why at this exact moment.  And before you start yapping about how a vampire needs his creature comforts, we're an hour away from New York City.  If I can't find what I'm looking for there, then I'm looking in the wrong places, aren't I?"




"Yes, oh, you great boob.  Now, do you know what the other hint was, or do I have to spell that one out for you as well?"


"You know, there's a really big plot of land I saw, about ten minutes from where their house is now," Xander says instead.  The far-away look in his eye keeps Spike from interrupting, content to listen to his lover ramble, since Xander usually manages to convince himself that way.  "I could build something there, maybe.  Two houses, with enough left over for a yard ...  You know I've wanted to start getting into the housing market.  We've got enough capital from the business, and if I sell off my share, maybe see if there are any construction companies in the area looking for someone to buy in, a little later ... "


Spike refrains from mentioning that if Xander needs the money to build the perfect set of houses for them, he'll get him the money—Xander already knows that.  "And the second half?" he prompts when Xander's internal musings go on for too long.


Xander blushes the most perfect shade of rose that Spike's ever seen—and his eyes look just like Peter Pan's, seconds before he's to received his promised kiss.  A real one, this time, not the thimble he's kept for so long, hoping against hope that it'd be enough.  "She wants a daughter," Xander says, shy when Spike's love hasn't been shy in nearly a decade.  "She wants a baby girl, so Joshua has someone to play with and look out for."


Spike takes Xander's hand, drawing him close with the practiced motions of two men who know each other’s bodies very well.  Their kiss tastes like hope for the first time since they flew out here, instead of the ashy despair of dreams shattered into dull and jagged pieces.  "And that's just Tara's hints, love. Willow wants her boy to have a sibling, male or female, before he gets to be as spoiled as she was, growing up."


"Hey, Willow was never spoiled!" Xander protests.  The grin starts slowly, curving his lips up, and bringing a golden hue to his eyes that makes Spike wonder if he's going to hear the sizzle and pop of a vampire left in the sun too long.  "I made sure of that."


"So make sure of it again."


Later, when they lay replete and content in a way they haven't for months, Xander looks up with the insecurity he's never lost—and Spike privately hopes he never really will.  "Spike?"


"Yes, love?"  Cool, sweet kisses are trailed down Xander's overheated cheeks; Spike knows what question is coming.


"Are you ready to be a father?"


Which that question is most assuredly not.  Spike freezes, lips trembling against Xander's temple, eyes wide and blank in the darkness of their room.  "What?"

"I don't want to do this if you don't want to.  And don't tell me that all that before was you wanting to—that was convincing me I wanted to, and you know it.  But ... do you?  Want to be somebody's daddy?"


Implicit is the knowledge that if Spike says no, Xander won't bring the subject up ever again.  For all Xander's a bit of a go-getter about some things, never thinking to query Spike's opinion, on the big things he never fails to ask.  Spike should've remembered that.


"Won't be a da, properly, will I?"


"That's not what I asked, Spike."


No, not it isn't and Spike doesn't need the lectures—again—that blood isn't all that makes up a family.  Inhaling through his nose slowly, Spike holds the smell of him and Xander and sex in his lungs, letting it seep through his body.  "Yes."  The word is rough with emotions he's not let himself really examine, other than general awareness, for a long time.  "Yeah.  I—I do.  Want it.  With you."




When they see Tara the next morning, she doesn't take but one look at them before she's smiling that radiant smile of hers, hugging each of them in turn.  "Thank you," she whispers, kissing their cheeks while tears slip down hers.  "Thank you so much."


"Should be us thanking you," Spike murmurs.


"Or apologizing for being so dense, but I think that's just me," Xander adds, eyes bright and as happy as Spike's ever seen them.  "I am sorry.  And thank you."


Willow smiles as she comes over, Joshua snug in her arms, blue eyes watching them all with bright curiosity.  "See?" she says to the Spike-Xander-Tara amoeba.  "I told you Peter Pan would get to him.  Him and his shadow."