Xander checked the invitation one last time. It wasn’t that he was particularly nervous, but he was…particularly nervous. Big New Year party, no choice because blah, blah, blah, and yep, that’d been about when he’d tuned out because straws had been drawn and he’d found out who he’d be playing bookends with. Spike. Fine. Little chance of the spirit being entered into, and was it too late to mention that was meant in a non-possession type way?
Okay, the draw had been rigged: although numbers dictated they had to include the vampire, no-one else was dumb enough to get landed with his snarky, inflexible, non-cooperative self. But Xander would be damned if he was going to let that ruin his night. He would have to be agreeable and flexible and cooperative enough for the two of them, and then… Well, the embarrassing the hell out of Spike factor would kick in and that was as close to fun as human and vamp were likely to get.
One last check: re-read invitation for the billionth time, glance in mirror, take tablet for nervous indigestion. Ready as he’d ever be.
“Oh…fuck,” Xander murmured, adjusting that to a crappily English accented “Bloody hell,” to suit the occasion. “Call that football? That’s sodding rugby for girls…”
The door pulled to behind him, last refuge deserted, Xander set off for the vampire’s crypt.
Still muttering Spikeisms to himself, Xander kept his head down and played at being invisible on the streets, not wanting to run into anyone he’d have to explain his bizarre appearance to. Party, fine, then it would make sense, but until they got there…
Would-be invisible but unfortunately still thoroughly corporeal, Xander hurried around the next corner only to crash into someone coming from the opposite direction, with the result that both crashees were sent careering to the ground. Quite used to spending half his life getting back to his feet after being knocked off them by some nasty or another, Xander scrambled up and apologetically offered a hand to…
He staggered back, leaning against the wall in shock and horror and… Tears. Of. Laughter. Spike sighed and looked up at the breathless human. The corner of his mouth twitched as he got the joke, beginning to chuckle as Xander slid down the wall to his level. Perfectly synchronised, they pointed at one another in joyful derision, and succumbed to further guffaws of mirth.
Bookends. Unfortunately each having bookended the other, screwing up the entire premise. Xander: bleached blond, black t-shirt and jeans, borrowed leather coat; Spike: dyed dark, baggy cargoes, Hawaiian shirt…
“Is that one of my shirts?”
“You stole one of my shirts?”
Spike adopted his best poor misunderstood me look and Xander spluttered into more laughter. Spike grinned and sprang up, offering a hand to the giggling human and lifting him to his feet.
“We’re going to have to sort this out,” Spike stated the obvious.
“I guess. Although this is pretty funny, the others…” Spike scowled. “…uh…need never know. Pointless asking, but am I dyeing or are you bleaching?”
Spike’s face stiffened, fake scowl turning mean and exuding entirely real menace.
“You’re dying. Any minute.”
Fear tingled through every nerve of Xander’s body.
Finding himself flying through the air yet again, Xander looked up from his customary position on the floor to see Spike tackle a hefty demon that could only have been a few feet away from Xander’s previous location. Shocked, Xander leapt to his feet, poised and ready to…basically keep out of Spike’s way as he elegantly trounced the rapidly dismembered creature, finally ripping its head from its neck with a victorious roar and…
“No-one laughs at my bloody shirt!”
“My bloody shirt. My very bloody shirt,” Xander made a yuk face as he skirted the melting demon parts.
Spike bounded to Xander’s side, grin stretching from ear to ear.
“All you have to do is show up and you bring something to kill. Do it again.”
“It isn’t me. I keep telling you.”
“Coincidence, yeah, all right. But can we go the long way to yours? On the off-chance?”
Spike automatically started searching for his cigarettes and lighter. Unfortunately not in this particular outfit. Luckily Xander had bought some to complete his bookend costume; he offered one and fumbled with striking a match to light it for Spike.
“Umm, yeah, Spike… I didn’t mean dyeing in that whole no longer living sense, so… Thanks. And…”
The way Spike’s hands cupped around those trying to keep the match alight was a surprise for Xander, and it didn’t take much of a mental shove to inwardly admit how much he appreciated the gesture. Xander, quite simply, liked to be touched. It was why he’d put up with being experimented-on guy for years, just so his girls would touch his face with a new brand of moisturiser, or his hair as they tried out hot oil treatments, or his hands as they did mysterious things to his cuticles.
The touch knocked a few loose bricks out of the wall he’d built to protect himself from the likes of Spike, and Xander was aware of his momentary vulnerability. But he trusted Spike. He trusted him to quickly do or say something appalling enough to reinforce any temporary weakness on Xander’s part, and then the human would have no problem with touches that tweaked deep-seated needs.
Spike looked up from the light and smiled his thanks. Xander, depending on Spike’s usual lack of affability, chose to misinterpret the smile and immediately jumped on the defensive.
“Yeah, I get it, I look a total jerk, you don’t have to tell me.”
“Not the word I was thinking of, no. And…just noticed, your eyes…”
“There’s a site on the net does the lenses. I almost went for gold.”
“Blue. Nice. Suits you.”
Xander rolled his artificially tinted eyes and, as they walked toward the drugstore, watched as Spike appropriated the cigarettes and matchbook.
“Does it make more sense now?” Spike looked questioningly at him through a plume of smoke. “The way I dress? You can put stuff in your pockets and still breath.” The eyebrow kinked a little further. “Okay, breathing not a factor. How about…room to manoeuvre?”
“I can manoeuvre just fine.” Spike smirked. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed?”
“Yeah. No! No, no noticing. Except for the fighting, the fighting…and the…manoeuvring…in a fight.” Xander gave up, shut up, and sped up to try and get away from the vampire.
Spike caught up in seconds.
“I’d guessed that.”
Xander suddenly screeched to a halt. Spike overshot and came back a few seconds later. He waited for Xander to explain the attack of stillness, but the young man just studied him.
“What?” he eventually asked.
“Why?” Xander countered.
Spike looked down at himself, at the ruined Xander-apparel.
“Bookends,” he shrugged.
“I could ask you the same thing.”
“No, you couldn’t.”
“Oh.” Spike thought about it, appreciatively studying shiny new-blond Xander as he did so. “I s’pose I thought we’d spent long enough behaving like a pair of wankers around each other.”
“Really?” Xander asked sceptically.
“How about I was…making amends for past hostilities? Auld Lang Syne and all that rot.”
“Dawn threatened you, didn’t she?” Spike sighed and nodded briefly. Xander seemed satisfied with that. “See, that I can believe,” Xander explained. “Far better than the other bloody bollocks,” finished with the disastrous English accent, but Spike snickered in painful approval, and Xander headed for the drugstore with a smile on his face
Back at Xander’s, and Spike snatched the box of bleach and cradled it to his chest like a favourite pet.
“Hey, all yours,” Xander surrendered, running a hand through his colourless locks. “Think once was enough for me. Does it always sting?”
“Yep. I’m a bleedin’ martyr to my roots,” Spike sniggered, and Xander joined in, camaraderie achieved through the brutality of attaining blondness.
Xander stiffened as the vampire began to run his fingers through the newly bleached hair, relaxing as quickly at the persistent and rhythmical touch, dropping his head forward to give Spike easier access. The box of bleach was tossed aside so both hands could come into play, nimble fingers carding through the soft locks, stroke after stroke until Xander was all but purring. It stopped. Xander blinked himself back to the here and now and looked up, the movement allowing Spike’s hands to slide to his jaw, cupping his face for a moment, letting his thumbs brush over the smooth skin of Xander’s cheeks. Gazing into each others’ faces but not daring to meet the eyes. Barely-there touch to Xander’s bottom lip and the hands were dropping away, Spike turning to find his bleach.
“Yeah, okay, blond and fast,” Xander said rather too brightly, breathing rather too quickly, “we’re running out of time. Party, party, party.”
“I meant to ask: did Dawn threaten you too?”
Xander answered with a quick shake of the head, occupying himself with finding something for Spike to wear in place of the ruined shirt.
“As we’re here it’s actually easier for us to be me,” he rambled. “All my clothes are here and if we’re you we have to do your hair then go back to your crypt to get you something to wear, and by the time we get to the party…”
“I’ll have that.”
“What?” Xander looked around to see where Spike was pointing. “This? If you haven’t noticed I’m wearing this. The clue being my body inside it.”
“But it’s the only black shirt you have.”
Xander opened his mouth to argue, reminded himself of the promises he’d made about being the cooperative one, groaned with frustration and pulled the t off over his head, tossing it down for the vampire before quickly finding one of his more usual shirts and tugging it on.
“Okay?” he demanded tetchily at the vampire’s entire lack of doing.
“So, why?” Spike enquired, ignoring the threatened histrionics.
“I just wanted to go to the party, I wanted to join in with the fun, I was pretty sure you wouldn’t, and…” Xander fell still, staring at the leather coat he’d borrowed. “Maybe… I just wanted to have a ‘look’ for once.”
“Even if it’s my look?”
Xander shrugged and gave a soft, self-deprecating laugh.
Spike started to peel the bloody shirt off himself.
“How does it feel? The look?”
Xander couldn’t help glancing over the vampire’s bare torso before very deliberately turning away. He thought of his own un-sculpted body and grimaced.
“Doesn’t work on me,” he admitted aloud. “Never going to be Spike,” he continued to himself.
“The world doesn’t need more than one Spike,” the vampire told him, closer than expected, and Xander jumped before turning to face him. Xander was left speechless by the kindness in Spike’s expression, and stood transfixed as Spike slowly undid the buttons Xander had just fastened, eventually holding open the front of the shirt and studying its contents. “Nothing wrong with being Xander,” he told the captivated human. “Nothing at all.”
“Spike…” Xander began breathlessly.
“Shh.” Spike ran the back of two fingers from the dip at the base of Xander’s throat to his navel. “Heat. Lovely,” Spike said softly, before bringing his hand up to rest over Xander’s heart. They remained in place for several minutes, a perfect tableau, Spike touching and Xander…touched, until Spike leant forward with alarming speed to press his lips on the pulse point of Xander’s neck, trembling with desire, allowing himself that fleeting lapse before withdrawing, back to his box of bleach.
Xander gasped at the sudden not-thereness of Spike, wondering what the fuck and being at a loss for a suitable answer.
“Do. Hair.” Xander was also concerned by his sudden lack of ability to speak in joined-up writing, but at least it was more practical than heat, lovely. Just not as…irresistible.
“By the way…” Spike said from the bathroom doorway. “I lied. Unsurprisingly. It wasn’t Dawn threatening me. It was me being aware that it’s you that keeps leaving me a few quid for blood.”
And with that, Spike and his bleach disappeared from sight to fulfil their unholy alliance.
Xander switched on the radio and listened to life passing him by, pacing as he waited the eternity it took for Spike to finish zapping the colour out of his hair again. It was sweet, the fact that the vampire had made the effort. Sweet and… Xander wondered who Spike had stolen the money from for the hair dye.
The shower ran for longer than Cats on Broadway and, as it finally finished, Xander tried a few casual poses around the place before settling for the far more believable standing-sulking-because-we’re-missing-it-all look. Which somehow slid away when Spike emerged in a cloud of steam, towel slung low on his hips; hair damp, tousled and back to trademark white.
It took Xander a few seconds to figure out what exactly he had been missing. But in that time he certainly stopped sulking.
A sudden blast of noise from the radio unbelievably dragged his attention away from the semi-naked vampire.
“We’re too late. Listen.”
Spike did, hearing both the radio and distant sounds of celebration in the neighbourhood.
“We could still go,” he offered with an overwhelming lack of conviction.
“No. Kinda misses the point if we’re not there for .”
“Right.” There was a long pause. Spike looked around for what to wear home, stole Xander’s black t-shirt and knew he had to settle for the baggy cargoes. “I’ll just dress and get out of your hair.”
They both smiled at that.
“Spike,” Xander called his retreat to the bathroom to a halt. Turning back, Spike found himself being relieved of the t he’d just picked up, watching as it sailed across the room. “I’ve made my New Year’s resolution,” Xander explained.
“When d’you do that?”
“Right, so what…?”
Xander took a step that brought him nose-to-nose with the vampire.
“This year…I promise myself not to be quite so…straight.”
“Very admirable. And, y’know, I might be able to help you with that.”
“I was hoping you’d say that.”
Xander leant forward and tentatively touched his mouth to the vampire’s. It was very, very nice, so he did it again, and he found equally nice places to put his hands. And in the time honoured tradition of one thing leading to another, it wasn’t long before they were playing bookends on the bed: face-to-face, hands tangling in blond hair, blue eyes taking hot, longing glances, tongues exploring as lips met time and again, legs entwined and hips thrust to bring together two eager erections.
“Happy New Year,” Xander happily panted, statement not wish.
Spike’s fingers tangled in hair as vivid as his own, watching as it bobbed enthusiastically over his body at arm’s length. More than worth the effort of fixing that draw.
“Yes, love,” he agreed with a lusty groan. “Happy New Year.”