And They Say Romance Is Dead




Wesley's looking what Spike'd call well-shagged.

What he will call well-shagged when we see him, and I am so gonna have to kill him then, cause it's gonna be in front of his co-workers, and those guys will take
any excuse to put my butt through a ringer.

But later. I'm watching my sweetheart sleep.

So what's with the watching fetish, you ask? Easy. I don't sleep so much these days. Haven't since before. Guess it's something to do with waking up after being dead. It really gives "while you were out" whole new volumes of the bad feeling, you know?

Besides, I like watching Wesley asleep. He looks different then.

His eyelashes aren't long or girly or any of that shit people realize while watching their lovers sleep, but all the lines in his face go away, like something stops hurting. I know what it is, that something. In his dreams, he's always got the right come-back. Guess you really get to hit back in dreams when it's life that's the nightmare.

So, of course, I feel like a gigantic asshat when watching him sleep gets me so worked up I just wanna have him awake and writhing under me.


Yeah, I know. We already discussed the whole "not wasting time" thing, didn't we?

So I reach out and deal myself a compromise. I've got just enough boy scout in me to keep my hand skimming an inch from his skin, close enough to feel how much heat he puts off while he's asleep, but not waking him up. It's a good game for a guy who doesn't sleep much himself.

Though there's a kind of funny story there from when me and Spike were an item. Spike's got the most sensitive skin I've known on anyone, man or woman, and he'd wake up every time I tried this whole touching-without-touching trick. He always claims it's a sensitive English skin thing.


Wesley's not even fluttering an eyelash, and my hand's so close I can feel those transparent little hairs.

Spike's just got skin like a baby's butt. Not that I go around feeling babies' butts. I don't know how sensitive a baby's butt is, but I do know it's about the worst way I could put that one to Spike.

Right. Naked in bed with Wesley. So not thinking-about-Spike time.

Wait. Naked Wesley time and I'm trying
not to touch him? What is wrong with this picture? Still, I don't want him awake yet, so it's always careful, careful, careful, lowering my hand like we'd lower big shit with the crane when I worked construction. And oh yeah, touch down right along his spine, let his back carry my hand up and down, feeling him breathe. That's nice.


Hot, even.

When I say Wesley's hot, I'm not just saying I want to jump his bones. He's gonna be great in the winter. My sexy English space heater.

Maybe we'll go on a little winter time retreat up to Tahoe, cuddle together while looking out on the snow, and that was
not as girly as it sounds. Manly cuddling, cuddling involving the naughty touching and many orgasms.

Okay. Many orgasms are sounding good about now.

So maybe I'll wake him up after a long night's fucking with a long morning's fucking, just roll him over like this, and Jesus, can this man sleep through anything or what?

I might fake sleep for the sake of a hot wake-up call, but this guy's the real sleep-through-the-apocalypse deal. Gonna get his steamy wake-up call anyway. Slip in a finger, oh fucking yeah, take it right in like that, baby. We'll make sure you're still all slicked up, slap on another handful for Little Xander and uhhh.

"Feel so good." Least that's what I meant to say. Came out with a few more vowels and a few less syllables, but he'll get it. Mm, oh god, the honey warm, sleep-slow waking up, going from dreams to good and real, and pushing back into me with those sleepy English mutters.

I could fall for him all over again the way he rubs his cheek into the pillow like a big stoned cat. Huh. Yeah, sugar, I saw that smile. I know you're awake, you little tease, making me do all the work.

But merciful Freyja, he feels good.

You should feel this, all tight, and hot, and slick, and grabbing at me just right, and what the
fuck am I saying? Hands off! Mine! You don't get to feel anything on or in Wes and I do. Nyah nyah.

And why the hell is he laughing. . . oh.

I give him a little poke in the ribs. "Hey, I'm supposed to be the mind-reader here."

"Hmm. It's rather obvious when you're talking to yourself, love." His eyes stay closed, but the way he says 'love' makes me feel twelve kinds of sappy.

Love? Fuck, yes.

Not just cause of the way he lets me slip slide in, and shifts around all perfect till I'm in so deep there's nowhere left to go. Wanna just stay here like this all morning, taste his shoulders where I wanna put a tattoo, and the little "v" at the nape of his neck, listen to him hum and grumble under me cause he thinks he should be "chastising my bad behavior." God, I love it when he talks British at me.

So love. Why?

He's clever. He's a hell of a lot smarter than me.

He's even figured out how to use this thing in my head to
his advantage. Already. Like now, giving me all sorts of ideas what to do with my hands. God baby, you are one pushy bottom. I can feel him groan all the way through his chest. Uh huh. Just gonna let these fingers do the walking, sweetheart. You can suffer for giving me this idea till I'm done playing.

"Evil." He's not even pretending to be all sleepy anymore.

"Evil who loves you, baby." Okay, so it's sap; it's schmoop. I've got my cock up the guy's ass, so I'm allowed to be a romantic- and okay, not supposed to be stiffening in the bad way, sweetheart.

"Xander," and he's sounding bad-breathless too.

"What's going on in that head of yours, darling? Let me in." Calm. Come on, Wes, sweetheart.

"No. Stop." And suddenly, he's all urgent and shivering under me, and I can't get a grasp on
him anymore, let alone his thoughts or his hands, pushing at me, pushing me away. "You have to get out."

"Uh. My house? Wes, what's-?" Oh, fucking
buggering hell, cause sometimes, you just gotta swear in British to really capture the mood. He's scared. For me. "Oh, darling, come on. It's okay."

"No, no, no you don't understand." Wesley's squirming under me, trying to crawl his way up the sheets, makes me wanna just pull him into my arms and hang on, and fuck it, gonna do that anyway. "I need to be tested." Weak. Don't like hearing weak in my Wes's voice and I can't even hear the words against my chest, just feel them all shaking and buzz-buzz against my skin. He's got his head all twisted away from me now. "I haven't been tested, Xander."

Okay, so I know where it's coming from, and fucking Christ, I could kick myself for not bringing it up before the panic attack. I'm young. I'm horny, and, okay, the
word "condom" never even had time to come between us.

But I
knew he was clean. I knew I was clean, and he didn't care if he caught anything. Simple, right? Till now.


God, he's shaking like a puppy in the rain, and that is so not the way I should be thinking of the naked guy in my arms. "Shh, baby. It's okay. I'm clean, and I didn't see either of us turning colors or having our dicks fall off. Psychic here, remember? Good psychic of the West?"

I'll keep repeating it till he hears it. Till I
feel him feel it.

Gonna bring him back one tense muscle at a time if I've got to. "Yeah, baby. It's okay. Sweetheart, we're okay. I wouldn't let you take that kinda risk with me."

Jesus, hurts me more than it hurts him is
not a platitude when he lets that guilt wash out. "Wesley, come on. I wouldn't let you get hurt."

"I did. I let
you get hurt." He's gone all tight, hard in the bad way, and what the fuck was done to him that he can't cry here? Christ, my eye's watering, and it's got nothin' to do with allergies.

"I'm not hurt. I'm okay. So you used up one of your stupids. We all get a few free stupids."

"That was-"

"Breathe, baby." Rubbing his back now. Don't like the tension. In, out. Come on, honey; breathe with me.

His breath comes out in a whoosh, and the word comes with it. "Inexcusable."

Dammit, Jim! I'm a psychic, not a counselor.

And I am so out of my depth' where's Lindsey when a guy needs him? "So why'd you do it?"

I already know the answer, but sometimes, you gotta let them say it out loud so they can hear it. Cause otherwise, they won't. "I don't know." Liar. I love you, baby. But you're a liar. Come on. Lean on Comfort Guy. Mmm. That's right. Cuddle on up. Not letting go of you. "It was . . . inexcusably risky."

"Nah. Well, okay, yeah. Pretty risky, but you said you trust me, right?"

That's got him looking at me. Funny how things like honor and trust get his attention so fast. "I do."

"Gonna take care of you, Wes. I'm clean. I get tested after every guy."

"But I haven't been."

I tap my head, then his. You know what sucks about having only one eye? You can't wink. You can only make funny blinky faces until people ask if you want some eye drops. "Consider it the unorthodox testing method. But if you wanna get the blood work done too, we can." Come on, sweetheart, don't look so guilty. I know you want your paper security blanket. Black and white proof you're clean. I'm clean. We're all clean, so let's get down and dirty.

You know, it is
so wrong that I wanna get out of bed and dance cause he cares enough about me to flip out mid-fuck that he might be giving me something bad.

Okay, so it's less romantic maybe when we've been fucking like weasels all weekend, but it's the thought that counts.

"So, waffles again?" One of these days, I've gotta learn to make something besides waffles and toast.

"So," Xander said with the overly casual air of a man who was bringing up a topic he knew wouldn't be well received.

"You're going to ask me if I'm certain I'm ready to see Angel and Spike, aren't you?"

"The thought had crossed my mind." Xander stabbed three pieces of waffle in succession, dipped them through the whipped cream, and ate them in one bite. "And yours," he added around the mouthful.

"That's disgusting, you realize. Oh god,
no do not open your mouth and show me." Wesley smiled into his tea. "Barbarian."

Xander shrugged comfortably and took a long swallow of coffee. "It's what works for me."

"You do certainly seem to enjoy your meals."

"Oh yeah, and oh no, you are not getting out of that one so easily."

"No?" Food ignored, Wesley leaned forward on the table, regarding Xander. "Why don't you tell me if I'm ready?"

This time, Xander swallowed before answering. "Cause it's a judgment call, not a fact, right? I can't tell you if you're ready. I can tell you if you're thinking you're ready, and right now, you're thinking you'll never be ready to see Angel again. Sweetheart, I swear nothing bad's gonna happen. If it'd hit Angel that hard, I'd have caught him thinking about you ages before I met you."

"Do you think so?"

"Swear to whatever god you want."

"How about Odin?" Wesley began to smile, eyes flicking to Xander's patch.

"There you go. He'll do."

"Do you think he listens?"

Xander leaned back in his chair, making patterns in the syrup and cream mess on his plate. "How crazy would you think I am if I said that yeah, I think he sometimes pays attention?"

"Xander, I've built a career studying paranormal phenomena. A god isn't a great leap of faith for a man in my profession." Wesley hesitated, and Xander could feel his eyes looking at the tattoos in the mirror behind Xander. Munin, Hugin, and Valknot, backwards. "
Do you think he listens?"

"Yeah," Xander said, "sometimes. When he's got a reason. I think they all snoop when they've got reasons. I do."

"Do you consider yourself on a level with the gods then?"

"No." Xander stood, collecting both plates, and looked down at Wesley, his head tipped to one side, as if considering something. "But I'm not exactly on a level with the rest of humanity anymore either, am I?"

Wes's phone goes off when he was in the shower. Like a nice guy, I'm gonna answer it. Okay, like a nice guy who saw the Institute's phone number on the incoming call screen and wants to know what's up. "Yeah?"

"Who is this?"

Wow. This guy makes Wesley's accent sound like Spike's. "Who's this?" Cause my mama never taught me to answer the phone politely, or something.

"This is Quentin Travers of the Council Institute. Who are you and what are you doing in the possession of Mr. Wyndam-Pryce's telephone?"

I wonder if I can make Wes's phone play the Imperial March whenever this guy calls. "Xander Harris."

Problem with phones is I can't sense much over them. Dunno if it's physical distance or what. Analog phone lines give me better transmission than digital, though. Wes could probably cook up a good theory why.

"Mr. Harris. Has something happened to Mr. Wyndam-Pryce?"

"Nah. He's just in the shower." Of course, a silence like that speaks all on its own.

"Of course. You will tell him I called?"

"Yeah, sure." Maybe in a week or two.

"Thank you."

"No problem." Good thing I'm not letting Wesley go back to England, huh?

Wesley emerged from the shower in a cloud of steam and musk that made Xander's mouth water and fingers itch to strip the water from Wesley's hair and drag him close to taste his mouth till he could taste Wesley under the minty freshness of Colgate. "Are we all right for time?"

"No," Xander said, looking Wesley over with a sigh.

"I thought we were to meet Spike at two."

"Oh, we are."

"It's One fifteen. You said he works ten minutes away?"

"Yeah, he does."

"Don't worry. I don't take that long to dress."

Xander flopped back on the bed, hands tucked behind his head, and grinned at the ceiling. "Well, no. But you'd take a lot longer if I gave you the blow job I want to." The grin turned evil when Xander heard Wesley's breath hitch, and he rolled onto his stomach, flashing his best puppy eyes in Wesley's direction. "Then again," he said, and with a quick movement, caught the edge of Wesley's towel, whipping it off of him, and pulling him closer by the hips, "Spike'll understand when we're late."

"You'll, ahhh, come up with a good excuse, then?" Wesley asked, damp fingers catching at Xander's hair.

"Nah. The truth ought to be good enough for this one. He believes in the importance of blow jobs."

"Oh, god."

So, getting back to our earlier conversation, what do I love about Wesley? Well, for one thing, he didn't think I was talking bullshit about the gods. And he got that I wasn't talking through my ego when I said I'm not exactly like other humans anymore. That's just fact.

He'll think about it. Then, I guess we'll come back to it when he's done running it through the mental juicer or whatever he's got in there.

"Are you certain we won't cause him trouble visiting him at work this way?"

Aww, nice try, Wes, but you're not getting out of meeting Spike that easy. "Nah. I called him before we left. They just sent the frame to the chromer ahead of schedule, and the fuel tank's with the new guy. They can't do much more till that's done."

"I have absolutely no idea what you just said."

"Liar." I swear, he's testing me. Actually, I know he's testing me, and it's kinda cute. "Pants on fire." Cause sometimes you've gotta get in touch with your inner six year old.

He's trying not to laugh. Got him. "What tipped you off?"

"Oh, aside from the way you were wondering if he favors a pan-head engine over a Knucklehead engine, which
I don't know the first thing about, it's the way your eyes get all big and blue behind those glasses when you're bullshitting me."

"My eyes are always blue." Yeah, but they're not always laughing at me.

"Yeah, yeah." But it's good getting his mind off the usual shit. I love seeing that smile, getting that schoolboy giggle off his brainwaves when he's putting one over on me. Damn, I'm gonna miss that when I can't hear him anymore. "Hey, no getting quiet on me, pal. What's got you looking like somebody stomped your pet puppy?"

Not like I've gotta ask. Cause I know:

Spike's from England, so he's thinking about England. He's thinking he doesn't want to go back to England. "I don't want to go back to England." See?

"So don't."

"It's not that easy."

"Sure it is. Where's your return ticket? I'll give it to Spike. He's good at making things go away in little burnt pieces."

"I'm not certain that's all it takes."

"Really little burnt pieces. Even their dental records can't identify them."

"Dental records for a plane ticket?"

"I cut class the day we learned not to mix our metaphors."

"So I see." He smiles over me when I put a hand on his leg, and puts his hand on top of mine. Feels good. "What will you do when the Institute want their employee back?"

"I'll tell them I kidnapped you." Oh yeah, I'm not gonna tell him Travers called. It's kinda funny. He still makes all of these going back to England noises, but he knows as well as I do that he's not gonna. I think it's reassuring to him, me telling him as many times as it takes that he's not going back.

One of these days, he'll let himself believe it.

He's looking out the window still. I can see that little crease between his eyebrows, and I'm getting a kick out of the confusion. "Are you sure we're in the right neighborhood?" Yeah, Spike's shop is in a pretty tony business park these days. You'd be surprised how many suits place orders for custom choppers.

"Uh huh. And here we are." The place is great. Shiny big showroom out front, but all grease, gear, sheet metal, punk rock, and welding sparks in back. That's where Spike is, perched on the wall, just lighting a cigarette when we pull up, in all his punked out glory.

Wesley's looking at me with that big eyed look that's got nothin' to do with bullshit.

"Yeah," I answer the question he's too dazed to ask, "I really fucked that. Something else, isn't he?"

"That is certainly a way to put it."

Then Spike's kicking my door till I roll down the window, and sticks his head in, cigarette and all. "Least you two wankers could do is finish talking about me while I'm around to hear the gossip." He extends a black-nailed hand across the cab to Wesley. "Spike." I'm never sure if the nails are black cause he's painted them lately or just cause he hasn't gotten around to scrubbing off the shop grunge. One of those things I just don't ask.

"Wesley Wyndam-Pryce."

"Yeah, charmed."

The funny thing about Spike? He is. Charmed by Wes. Or me and Wes. One of the two.

"So. We gonna get out of here or what?" Spike opens the door like it's his truck, climbs over me and slides over the front seat neat as you please, stretching out across the little back half-bench and making himself at home.

"Yeah. You mind tagging along for a quick trip to the clinic?"

"Nah. The two of you getting matching blood tests, then? Must be serious."

"I believe it is the thing to do these days," Wesley says, calm, polite, maybe a little extra polite. Okay. Good sign. Talking. Extending the olive branch kind of thing there.

Leave it to Spike to grab the olive branch and yank, flicking his cigarette butt out the window. "Mark of fidelity and commitment in these, our modern times," he says in his Grand Bullshitting tone. He's smirking at me. I don't have to hear his thoughts to know that. I can hear his voice, and it's smirking too. "And they say romance is dead."







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