Chapter 6 - Eye of the Tiger

He started stirring at the feeling of warm fingers running down his sweaty chest. He groaned and opened his eyes. The room was too hot for comfort and he felt sticky and smelly. The aches in his body completed the experience: his wrists hurt, his skin was sensitive, his ass was burning, and his muscles protested when he started moving under Angel's touch. "Good morning," Angel muttered behind him and placed a soft kiss on his neck.

Spike blinked and sat up. "Um... good morning." As the sunlight hit him, he closed his eyes tightly and rubbed his face.

Angel's arms snaked around his waist. He leaned his naked body against Spike's back, resting his cheek between Spike's shoulder blades. Fingertips slowly caressed Spike's abdomen, and he sighed, leaning back against Angel's robust body. One of the hands left his belly, picking away a couple of bits of wax from his back, and soft lips kissed the sensitive skin underneath. In the brightly lit bedroom and with a snuggly Angel next to him, last night felt like a strange contrast. He felt a little bit dazed.

"So, what do you want for breakfast?" Angel asked.

Spike smiled a little. "Don't know if there's much breakfast material. Unless you're plannin' on makin' a beer and noodle omelet."

Angel chuckled. "I'll see what I can find."

Spike tilted his head and watched Angel closely as he got up from the bed and put on his pants. God, he was so bloody fuckable! All those gorgeous muscles playing under his flawless skin, those pretty eyes, and of course his glorious dick, which should be considered the eight wonder of the world. Yeah, he was bloody perfection.

As Angel started roaming around in the kitchen, Spike got up from the bed. Reaching for his watch, his eyes fell on the marks on his wrists. They ached a little, just like the rest of his body. Spike grinned. Angel had a skill for dirty games. Suddenly the words bitch and slut flew through his head. He blinked and walked into the kitchen with quick steps.

"So, you found something useful?" he asked, running his hands over Angel's naked back.

"Yeah, I'm making you french toast," he said, reaching for the sugar.

"I have bread?" Spike asked in an amused tone. "If you find any pirate treasures in there, I claim half of them."

"You can have all of it," Angel said, leaning in for a kiss. "I just need you."

Spike deepened the kiss, closing his eyes and taking in the taste of Angel. God, Xander was so wrong! Angel was his love, his life, everything. And Angel loved him. Why couldn't Xander see that? As Spike broke away from Angel, he felt a bit troubled. He walked back into the living room and started putting on his trousers. "I think I have to leave after breakfast and a shower," he said, looking at his watch.

Angel looked at Spike from the kitchen. "Oh, and why is that?" His voice was significantly less happy now. "Is there someone important waiting for you?" His voice mingled with sizzling and the faint sound of the kitchen fan.

Spike met his eyes and sighed. "Just Xander. We kind of had a fight yesterday. I think I should talk to him before B...." he stopped himself. "Xander can be cranky for ages when he makes up his mind about somethin'. I should probably nip it in the bud."

Angel was silent for a moment. "So, what has he made up his mind about this time?"

Spike broke eye contact, squinting against the bright sunlight that fell through the window. "Oh, nothin' interestin'."

* * * * * *

Six months ago

As they finally broke apart, Spike's breath met Angel's lips in short bursts. His eyes were heavy-lidded, his mind fuzzy and scattered. When he looked at his lover it felt almost like he was a character some kitschy x-rated fairytale. Angel's naked form was displayed against the background of a stunning sunset over the green hills behind the cabin, framed by the balcony door. It was a perfect moment. Material for cheap paperback romance novels, save for the fact that the dashing hunk on the cover rarely was kissing another hunk.

For a moment Spike suddenly tensed. While he was in the middle of things, everything felt so right, so natural. Hands touching, lips trailing. Tongue licking flushed skin, hard nipples, tense opening. But when he allowed the higher brain functions to join in, he still felt like he was freaking out in slow motion. All the macho stuff firmly embedded in his brain was telling him to take his manliness and run while he still could, but something else was screaming louder, an intense fuzzy feeling deep in his gut that begged for more.

"You're so beautiful," Angel said, caressing his cheek. "I wish I could paint, ‘cause you would make a lovely motif." Spike's eyes fluttered close. He felt Angel's words vibrate through his soul. Soft, moist lips grazed his cheek and a warm hand caressed his back. He placed a kiss on Spike's waiting mouth. "You amaze me," he muttered against Spike's lips. The fuzzy feeling suddenly erupted, filling his entire body in an instant. He reciprocated the kiss with the intensity of a lovesick teenager. Something deep inside of him felt whole when they touched. He needed it; he needed Angel.

"I love you," he suddenly burst out when their lips parted. Angel smiled. "I love you too, Spike."

That moment was one of those few pivotal events that would get an entire section in the scrapbook of his mind. Every detail preserved and glued to imaginary pages, commented in the margins with gold ink. The polaroid in the middle with the L-word passing between them.

In that moment, Spike found that he was no longer fighting it. Instead he embraced it with all his rash devotion. He tilted his head and looked at his brand new boyfriend with a cocky grin before pulling Angel close with eager hands, parting willing lips with a probing tongue. For once in his life everything felt right.

* * * * * *

As consciousness started seeping through the heavy slumber, the pain hit his head like a big frozen turkey. Groaning, he reluctantly opened his eyes. Everything felt sharp and sickening. Xander groaned again, pressing a trembling hand against his forehead. Flashes of yesterday's events ran through his mind. There were squabbling, a lot of guys dancing, some pink drink, some other kind of alcohol, talking about anime, more alcohol, dancing on some kind of bar, doing a really bad Bill Clinton imitation, more alcohol. He took a few shaky breaths and remembered the aspirin in the nightstand. As he turned to his other side his eyes snapped wide open.

"Well, good morning, sleepyhead."

With a short scream he jumped to his feet while quickly wrapping himself in the blanket, making a perfect imitation of the fat lady in the Tom & Jerry cartoons. He stared down at the bare-chested man wrapped in his bedding. "What are... what did...?"

Tom smiled, tousled bed hair framing his face. "Oh, come on, was I that un-memorable?"

Xander felt like he was in the middle of some scene from Twin Peaks, one of the scary ones with Bob. For a moment he closed his eyes tightly, trying to remember. Alcohol, talking, alcohol, Bill Clinton, leaving the club with the gay guy. Sweet merciful Zeus! "We... we didn't do anything bad? Right?" he stuttered.

Tom looked contemplative. "Well, the blow job was great, the fucking was excellent. Nope, can't recall anything bad."

Xander's mouth opened, then closed again without making a sound. He felt like the world was ending and Bruce Willis was nowhere to be found.

On the bed beneath him, Tom chuckled a little before his face contorted into an apologetic grimace. "I'm sorry." He smiled a little. "You looked kind of funny freaking out; I couldn't help it."

Xander was still staring. "So, we didn't...?"

Tom pulled off the sheets and got up from the bed. The fact that he was wearing pants was making Xander feel a notch less panicky. "You were going to show me your Gundarm action figures. Not that I didn’t intend to make a pass at you," Tom said, raising a teasing eyebrow. "But you seemed too drunk and uninterested for that." He grabbed the sweater that was piled on the floor and pulled it over his head. "Guess I sort of passed out." He closed his eyes tightly for a moment, rubbing his temple. "Speaking of drunk, have you got any painkillers?"

Xander slowly peeked down, noticing with great relief that he was in fact fully covered by wrinkled garments. He dropped the sheet on the bed and looked up at the stranger, trying to figure out what the hell you were supposed to say in a situation like this. He watched the other man walk into the kitchen and pour himself a big glass of water. "So, Tom was it...?" Xander asked tentatively.

At the sound of the knock on the door he froze.

He wasn't exactly longing for visitors at the moment. If he just stayed silent he/she would probably go away. If he was lucky it was the Jehovah's Witnesses. Which wasn't a sentence he ever thought would pass through his mind.

After a while Spike's voice came through the front door. "I heard you in there!"

Damn those thin walls!

"Come on, open the door," Spike said after a short pause.

Xander looked over at Tom who was standing in the kitchen, still drinking. Xander walked over to the door and opened it just enough to peek out.

Spike had his hands in his pockets, looking a bit uncomfortable. "Listen," he said. "Things got kind of out of hand yesterday, and I thought we could... you know... slap each others backs and grunt in mutual understandin'."

"Slapping and grunting sounds just fine..." Xander grimaced. "On second thought, how about shaking hands and nodding in stern silence?"

"Sure. We're cool?"

"Yeah." Xander nervously glanced into the apartment. "Listen, this isn't a good time. I... have some stuff to do and..."

The sound of a few short beeps was heard from the kitchen. Xander's eyes widened.

"Do you have a beeper?" Spike smiled. "For what? Bloody Mary emergencies?"

To Spike's surprise there were a few noises from the apartment, then the sound of a male voice. "Gotta go, Xander. They need me at the hospital. Probably shouldn't have been drinking yesterday, huh?"

Xander looked at Tom in silence as he opened the door and walked past him into the hallway. "So," Tom said. "I'll see you around."

As Tom passed down the hallway and turned the corner Spike stared at Xander, then burst out into hysterical laugher. "Bloody hell, Xander!"

"It's not like that!" Xander said in a distressed voice. "We just slept. You know, not together, well, yes together, but not..."

Spike threw back his head, chuckling like a madman. "Jesus, I didn't think you had it in you!" He put his hands on his hips and grinned. "So, what did you think of Dick? Will he be visiting again?"

"Hey! Nothing even remotely sexy happened, just talking and passing out!"

"Whatever," Spike said before bursting out into laugher again.

Xander sighed heavily and burried his face in his hands. "If you speak about this with anyone I'm gonna make you hurt in places you never knew could hurt in!" He waved his finger at Spike.

"Sure mate," Spike said, putting his hands defensively in the air. "But that doesn't mean that I won't tease you mercilessly for years and years whenever we're alone."

Xander closed his eyes tightly and sighed again, feeling nausea coming on.

* * * * * *

An hour later, Buffy knocked on the door of apartment 32D. She couldn't help feeling a bit curious. Was Spike an IKEA guy? Did he have Persian rugs or posters of Pamela Anderson? It wasn't like she exactly knew him, even though there definitely had been some bonding going on.

As the door opened she threw him her brightest smile. "Hi there, ready for practice?"

Spike looked a bit hurried. "Um... I just have to pack some trainin' clothes. Come in, I'll be ready in no time."

As she stepped into the small apartment, she studied it closely. It had all the trademarks of a messy home that had been quickly cleaned up - paper lying in large stacks and clothes sticking out from beneath the armchair. Spike was also clearly not an interior design freak. The walls had neutral yellow wallpaper and were decorated with a few action movie posters. The furniture was basic. 'Hah!' she thought. 'IKEA guy!' As she turned, she noticed two large bookshelves to her right. She smiled a little. She hadn't really figured Spike for the bookworm type. As the sounds of Spike's rummaging through his closet continued in the background, she walked up to the shelves. She tilted her head and ran her fingers over the books. They weren't even sci-fi books or something; these were classics. Grapes of Wrath, Crime and Punishment.

She raised an eyebrow. Romeo and Juliet? The book was old, with leather covers and ornate black letters on the back. As she pulled it out to look more closely at it, a small bundle of papers fell out from between the books and fluttered to the floor. "Oh, I'm sorry!" she said, starting to gather the papers. "I dropped your..." She looked down at the papers. "Poetry?"

The rummaging stopped abruptly and Spike came dashing into the living room with a sweater flopping in his hand. He grabbed the papers she was holding and quickly threw together the ones that were still spread out on the floor. "Just shoppin' lists! And other lists! Of stuff..." Was Spike blushing? He shoved the papers into a drawer and closed it quickly. "Found my trainin' clothes. Lets' go."

Buffy raised an eyebrow. "Sure." She looked over at Spike, who was hauling a gym bag over his shoulders, refusing to meet her eyes. He had that stern expression that was the trademark result of trying to cover up an embarrassment. She smiled to herself. Spike wrote poetry! And sappy stuff, it seemed, from the few words she picked up before he went all denial-y on her and pulled the papers out of her hands.

As they walked down to the car, Buffy glanced over at Spike. Well, better find something neutral to talk about. "You seemed in a hurry. Am I pulling you away from something important?"

"Nah. I just came home from visitin' Xander."

"Oh, buddies again?" she asked as she unlocked the door.

"Yeah. We fight like hell sometimes but we don't stay mad for long." They got into the car and Buffy turned the key in the ignition. Her old trusty car started with a coughing sound. "Not before Angel at least." Spike jaws twitched.

From her brief encounter with Angel, she could definitely guess that he was someone who caused reactions. The scene at the club had been pretty intense. He seemed a bit...possessive. Sort of creepy, in a hot way. "What's the problem?" she asked.

"He doesn't get it. You know, me and Angel," he said, looking out at the palm trees that passed by outside the window.

"I noticed."

"Kinda ruined your movie night, huh?"

"Pretty much." She smiled. "But I'll live. Xander looked a bit pale, though."

"Not as pale as he was this morning." Spike grinned. "Must have been something he ate."

"How long have you two known each other, anyway?"

"Oh, pretty much forever." Spike crossed his arms. "We met the in junior high, when I moved here from England. Some bully was teasing Xander and I threw an eraser in the guy's face. Got my head shoved into the toilet on lunch break, though. But it was definitely worth it. Xander gave me all his M&Ms."

* * * * * *

Many years ago

"Leave him alone!" As Xander's eraser hit the big, freckled guy straight on the nose, he howled and reached for the gigantic math book on his bench. "I'm gonna fucking kill you, Harris!" So, this was it, Xander thought. He had been right all along: math would actually be the death of him. At that moment the teacher entered the room. Clueless to the tension, he dropped his papers on the desk and turned to the class. "Good morning. We will continue with the algebra we started working on in the last lesson."

As the teacher continued talking, Xander exhaled. After a moment, he turned to the nervous English boy next to him, who was shaking the spitballs out of his unruly hair. "Are you ok?" he whispered. The boy nodded. "I'm Xander. Actually, it's Alexander, but nobody ever calls me that unless I'm in trouble."

The boy managed a shy smile. "I'm William."

"Welcome to Sunnyhell Junior High," Xander said dryly.

William sighed. His gaze was sad and pale. "Don't think I belong here," he said in a small voice.

Xander looked over at William. "Pfft. Sure you do! You'll learn to duck and cover in no time." When William didn't show any signs of cheering up, Xander started scrambling through his pockets. "Candy makes everything better, you know," he said, stealthily pulling up a bag of M&Ms behind the desk. "It's pretty much a general rule," he said as he poured some of them in William's hand.

William looked down at the colorful pieces of candy and smiled a little. "I guess."

Moments later, a crumpled piece of paper hit Xander's head. As he unwrapped it he sighed. "Well, I didn't have time to wash my hair this morning..."

* * * * * *

"Move your right foot back a little bit more. Now turn it outwards. Good."

Spike looked down at his feet. "Feels weird."

"You'll get used to it."

The big open room was filled with the sound of scattered grunts and the faint smell of sweat. There were a few sandbags hanging from the ceiling, some being punched at by mean-looking people. Further back in the room there were two rings, currently occupied by a few scrawny kids and a trainer who looked a lot like a defector from one of those countries with lots of z’s and sch’s in its name.

"Now move your hips forward a little," Buffy said. "They are supposed to be positioned in a line between your shoulders and an imaginary point between your feet."

Spike repositioned his body. "Like this?"

"Yeah! You're looking all balance-y." She smiled. "Like one of those rounded toy men."

Spike frowned. "You're callin' me fat?"

Buffy furrowed her brow. "Yeah, 'cause this is the parallel Twiggy universe."

Spike chuckled and looked down at his body. "What? Too lean and fit for you?"

Buffy crossed her arms. "Cocky much? Being pretty might get you a lot of tips, but it won't make you Mike Tyson."

"Oh, so you think I'm pretty, eh?" he smirked.

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Do you want to learn this or am I keeping you from a hot date with the mirror?"

"Sorry. I'll be good. So, when are we getting to the punching part?"

"Well, that would be right about now."

After an hour of training, the insight had finally dawned on Spike that boxing was significantly harder than it seemed. His head hurt from trying to keep track of how to stand, how to angle his arms, and how to hit the sandbag with the right technique, but it was a lot of fun. He loved physical activity as long as it didn't mean any form of housework. His own gym felt almost like a second home to him, which, to his own great satisfaction, had eventually resulted in a rather muscular physique. Yet when he was standing here, studying the woman who was demonstrating jabs in front of him, he was well aware that she probably could take him with ease. Her small body hid a lot of force, and she was much faster and more flexible than he could ever dream of becoming. He couldn't help being impressed. And in all honestly, he couldn't help noticing that she looked pretty damn hot. Her white top was snug against her lean torso, hints of nipples showing behind the fabric. The low fit of her training pants revealed a taut belly and a slim waist, and golden hair flew around her with her movements.

"Shift your weight onto your right leg as you hit to counterbalance your body during the blow." Her arm muscles flexed and shifted under sweaty skin when her fists hit the sandbag.

Yeah, she sure as hell was a gorgeous.

"Spike?" Buffy's voice pulled him out of his admiring thoughts. "This is the part where you punch the bag."

"Uh, sure." His fist hit the heavy object.

Buffy caught the sandbag. "Good, but keep your wrist straight. Otherwise you might hurt yourself."

"I'll remember that," he said, shaking his glove-covered fists.

"I think we’ll call it a day," Buffy said, puffing a little. As she pulled off her gloves and started removing the wraps, she looked up at Spike, smiling. "You're pretty good for a beginner."

"Yeah, I kick ass, huh?" Spike grinned.

"You're ok." She pushed the bag back in his direction. He stumbled a little when he caught it. "But you're not exactly a Jedi yet."

Spike chuckled. "Well then, Yoda," he said and let go of the bag. "I guess you have some more work to do."

Buffy smiled. "Listen, is it ok if we drop by at my mom's on the way home? I thought I should give her the schedule for the competition."

"Sure. But perhaps I should shower first?"

* * * * * *

"Mom?" Buffy called as she opened the front door.

Spike followed behind her, looking around with his hands in his pockets. The house had a really grownup style and smelled all clean and flowery. Not his style, but really homey and cozy. Reminded him a lot of his mother's house.

"Decided to grace you poor mother with a visit?" a voice said from the kitchen. Soon a blonde, middle-aged woman came out into the hallway, holding a dishtowel. "Oh, we're having guests?" she asked when she spotted Spike in the doorway.

"Hi," he answered, looking a bit awkward.

"Please come in," she said. After Spike stepped into the hallway and closed the door, she smiled at him. "I'm Joyce".

"Spike," he said, shaking the hand she reached out to him.

"Spike?" She raised an eyebrow. "That's unusual."

"Actually it's... William." He put his hand back in his pocket.

"That's a lovely name."

"Really?" Spike smiled.

Suddenly there was the sound of a door opening on the second floor and a cheerful voice echoed down the stairs. "Mom, have you seen my calculator? I'm going to Janice's to study." Dawn skipped down the stairs, but stopped in her tracks when she saw Spike. An expression of teenage admiration spread over her face.

Buffy looked at her sister and sighed. "Dawn, this is Spike."

She skipped down the remaining steps and walked up to Spike with a big grin plastered on her lips. "Hi!" she chirped.

"Hi there, bit," he said with a friendly smile.

Dawn tilted her head a little. "Are you Buffy's boyfriend or something?"

"Dawn!" Buffy yelped.

Spike tossed her a mischievous grin. "Don't think my boyfriend would appreciate that."

Dawn's eyes widened. "You're gay?"


"Cool." She paused. "What's that like?"

"Dawn!" both Joyce and Buffy shouted in chorus.

"Excuse my youngest daughter," Joyce said, throwing Dawn a glance. "She can be quite frank sometimes."

"No problem," Spike answered. "I like frank people."

"See, he likes me!" Dawn said triumphantly.

Joyce sighed, smiling a little. "So, would you two like some coffee?" she asked, glancing over at Buffy and Spike. "I was just making some."

They looked at each other. "Yeah, sure," Buffy said.

When they entered the kitchen Spike noticed a few pictures and some invoices strewn on the table. Spike raised an eyebrow when he noticed the logo on one of the papers. "Calendar Galleries?"

"The museum bought a Patricia Arribalzaga through Calendar Galleries last month," she said, looking curious about the fact that somebody who called himself "Spike" knew something about galleries.

"It's my mum's place." He picked up the picture of the painting. "She showed me this one, I think.”

"Your mother is Jenny Calendar?"

"Yeah. Don't get any expectations, though. I don't know anythin' about this art stuff. Kind of over my head, you know." He fiddled a little with the picture and put it back at the table. "So, you work at a museum?"

"Yes, I'm the curator at The Museum of Contemporary Art." She went over to the sink and poured water and coffee into the brewer. There was a click, then a whooshing sound as the coffee started brewing.

"Yeah, she's totally the boss," Dawn commented, still watching Spike with dreamy eyes.

Suddenly a muffled ringing noise sounded from underneath the layer of papers on the table. Joyce put her hand into the mess and pulled out a small cell phone. With an apologetic expression, she answered it and walked out into the hallway to continue her conversation.

Buffy pulled out one of the chairs and sat down at the table, motioning for Spike to do the same. "This may take a while. It's probably some of the usual museum crisis stuff. She gets a lot of those." Buffy smiled.

Dawn walked up to the table and sat down in a chair next to Spike. "Kind of weird, since it's just a big house filled of dead objects. I mean, it's not like they can break loose and make a run for it or anything."

"Dunno, nibblet." He smiled at her. "I've seen a few art installations at my mum's gallery that probably could wreak some havoc if unmonitored. Like that crazy movin' engine-thingy with all the dildos on it that she exhibited last month."

Buffy looked at him, crossing her arms. "Spike! No talking to my little sister about... engines."

Dawn rolled her eyes. "I'm fifteen, I know what a dildo is." She slouched a little in her chair. "I think."

Spike grinned. "You see, nibblet, a dildo is..."

Buffy glared at him. "Spike!"

He lifted his hands in the air. "Sorry, I'll be good."

The talking in the hallway stopped, and Joyce re-entered the kitchen, sighing. "It seems like I have to get back to the museum. There are some problems with a shipment." She looked at Dawn. "I'll drop you off at Janice's on the way."

Reluctantly, Dawn got up from the table.

"Why don't you two drink your coffee before you leave." Joyce picked up the car keys from the counter. "Just lock up when you leave."

"Sure, mom," Buffy answered. "Good luck with the art stuff. And, oh, I almost forgot. I brought the schedule for the competition. I’ll leave it on the table when I go."

"Great." Joyce looked over at Spike. "It was a pleasure meeting you. Do say hi to you mother for me, will you?"


Dawn smiled at Spike. "Yeah, nice meeting you. You know, if you wanna come over again, that would be ok."

Joyce sighed and tugged at Dawn’s sleeve. "Let's go. The homework is waiting."

Dawn waved her hand, then disappeared into the hallway. When the door slammed shut, Buffy leaned back in her chair and chuckled a little. "I think you have gotten yourself a couple of fans."

Spike grinned and leaned closer. "Jealous?"

"Oh, phu-leease, get over yourself." She got up from the table, shaking her head. "Milk or sugar?" she asked as she poured the coffee.

"Nah. Black's just fine."

Buffy placed their cups on the table and sat back down. "I like your family," he said, taking a sip of his coffee. "They seem nice. Except for that pod person dad, of course."

"Yep. The Summers women actually even make up for their unpleasant male counterpart." She blew on her steaming coffee.

"He's that bad?"

"Well, he's one of those stereotypical absent parents." Her face started to get a sad expression. "Left us for some 20-year-old when we were kids. He drinks too much, throws money around though he's practically broke, and he always forgets our birthdays. We had this disastrous dinner at his place yesterday. Dawn was really hurt."

Spike studied her face. "I'm sorry."

She looked down into her coffee. "There's a lot of people who get beaten and abused and stuff, so I guess it's not that bad."

"It's not like there's a misery quota."

"I guess." She absentmindedly fiddled with a pencil that was partly buried in between the papers on the table.

Spike felt something soften inside of him. Buffy was sad. He didn't like that. "You know what?" He threw his arm casually around her shoulders. "It's his loss."

She smiled a little. When she leaned her head briefly against his shoulder Spike felt something fuzzy stirring in his gut. This didn't feel too bad. The blond hair that cascaded over his chest, the vague scent of her flowery soap tickling his nose, her muscular body leaning against him...

He cleared his throat and sat up in his chair. Buffy removed her head, and he exhaled inaudibly. "Think your coffee's getting cold." His voice sounded a bit strained.

"Yeah," she said with a faint blush on her cheeks.

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