All About Spike - Plain Version
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He woke up and lay still, staring at the ceiling. There was some light—it was morning again. He could see the plumber’s notations on the pipes. Hot, cold, steam, furnace. Stencilled on in black paint, probably fifty years ago.
His face was wet and hot, and he couldn’t breathe well. He couldn’t feel his body. Then he moved his feet and the throb started up again.
He raised his head slowly and found Spike sitting at the foot of the bed, looking at him. He was wearing his jacket, as if he’d just come in. While Xander watched, he raised his hand and looked at his wrist. He was wearing a watch that looked a lot like Xander’s old Timex. Xander had left it in the apartment, sometime in another life.
“Forty-five minutes,” Spike said.
Xander cleared his throat. He was desperately thirsty. “What?”
“Forty-five minutes you’ve been having it.”
Xander licked his lips and glanced at the door. For some reason it gave him a feeling of relief to see it closed.
“And that’s just since I got here,” Spike said. “You were already at it when I came in.”
Xander tried to look at him, but his eyes went back to the door. “Is that locked?” he asked.
Spike stared at him. After a moment he reached into his pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes. He shook one out, put it between his lips, and lit it. The smoke curled up and smelled like heaven.
Xander pushed himself up until he was sitting. “Can I have one?”
Spike held the cigarette out and Xander took it with shaking fingers. He dragged on it lightly, and the smoke was sweet and thick in his nose and throat.
“Same as before?”
Xander sat staring at the cigarette, watching the smoke curl up between his knuckles. “No,” he said. “Just—the end’s the same.”
Spike held his hand out, two fingers splayed. “What’s the end?”
Xander dragged on the cigarette, then put his finger to his temple and mimed pulling a trigger. Spike raised his eyebrows. Xander shrugged, blew out smoke, and gave him the cigarette.
“You remember anything else?”
“It was here. It was—” He remembered Spike’s game face, a mask of blood, and the flat echoing crack. A shudder went down his arms. “You were here too.”
“He shot you. In the head.”
Spike frowned and blew a smoke ring. They both watched it float toward the ceiling. “Never cared to try it,” Spike said after a minute.
Xander closed his eyes and saw Bony Nose’s face clearly, as if it were in front of him. It had been so close, he’d been crouched at the foot of the bed and Bony Nose had pushed his head up and stared into his face and told him…
He rubbed his shoulder and swallowed, and Spike said, “What?”
He rolled his head and tried to make it come, and it slipped away. Bony Nose had told him… Something about the message, but he knew that already.
He opened his eyes and shrugged in frustration. “I don’t know. I just—I just feel like I’m forgetting something.”
Spike watched him without expression.
“It’s stupid anyway. It’s a fucking dream, it doesn’t matter.” Xander held his hand out for the cigarette.
Spike looked pointedly at his wrist again, and didn’t give him the cigarette.
“Why are you wearing my watch?” Xander asked. He wasn’t sure it was his, but it seemed worth asking.
Spike took a last drag on the cigarette and dropped it on the floor. He crushed it under his boot and picked a speck of tobacco from his tongue.
“Fancy a shave?”
Without thinking, Xander touched his jaw and felt the stubble there. It was getting so long it was almost soft.
He was a little surprised that Spike had let the dream go, but if it meant he didn’t have to talk any more about it, then okay. Except—he had a strange, nagging feeling he was forgetting something. And even though it was just a dream, just psychic hiccups, he had the feeling there was something important in it. Something he needed to dig up.
Spike got up and held out his hand, and Xander took it. His shoulder hurt, his knees hurt. It must be pill time. His throat was dry and raw.
“Can I—water?” Spike nodded, took his arm, and started the haul. They beelined to the bathroom, and Spike propped him against the urinal and left him, for once, without a struggle.
He didn’t think he needed to piss, but he did anyway, then turned and saw that the chair Liv had shaved him in was still there, pushed against the sinks. He started slowly across to it, veering like a drunk but getting there nonetheless. He was at the halfway mark when Spike walked in, set a glass of water on the nearest sink, and grabbed him.
“Stop walking,” he said curtly, and skimmed Xander over to the chair. He hooked it out with his foot and lowered Xander into it, then handed him the water.
“Thanks.” He drank until he gasped, then lowered the glass to breathe. Spike had turned one of the taps on, and steam was starting to collect on the mirror above it.
“You were crying.” Spike dropped a towel into the sink and let it soak while the words hung in the air. After a minute he plucked it out, wrung it dry, and tossed it at Xander. “Put that on your face.”
Xander caught the towel awkwardly and sat without moving. His face had been hot and wet when he’d woken up. He hadn't thought about it at the time.
“No,” he said. “I was just asleep.” That didn’t make much sense, but he felt he had to say something.
Spike shrugged and pulled the pill bottles out of his pocket. He shook some into his palm and held them out.
Xander picked out two red-and-yellows and two Demerol, and took them. It occurred to him in a vague way as he was doing it that he could probably have taken more, and Spike wouldn't have stopped him. Spike wasn't really a detail-oriented kind of guy, and there was also the fact that he probably didn't give a damn. But he was already dropping the rest of the pills back into the bottle—mixing them up, Xander noticed remotely—so it was too late to test the theory.
And did he really want to be more stoned than he already was? If two Demerol led to...whatever it had been—total insanity, total stupidity, a death wish—then three or four seemed like the mother of all bad ideas.
He held the warm towel to his face and listened to Spike open a fresh razor.
“Someone I knew once said if you keep having the same dream, it's a warning."
“She told this to you directly, or were you just in the room when she mentioned it to her dollies?”
Xander lowered the towel and looked at him. “It’s just a dream, Spike. Maybe it’s different for you dead guys, but living breathing people have dreams because they’re… working stuff out in their unconscious.”
Spike took the towel and held it under the tap. “Mind the technical talk, will you? Some of us didn’t do sciences.”
“Fuck, I don’t know how it works. But I know how it doesn’t work, and under that heading, see your way.”
“What’s my way?”
“Crop circles,” he said. “Elvis in a tortilla. Psychic visitors.”
Spike sprayed a mound of shaving cream into his fingers, then turned his hand upside down and watched the cream cling.
“You know,” he said absently, “I haven’t shaved in more than ninety years.”
“Yeah—you don’t have to tell me that right now.”
Spike leaned forward and rubbed some of the foam along Xander’s cheek, took hold of his chin, and picked up the razor. Xander looked away. He was too hot, and the feel of Spike’s hand on his face was startling. The shave was starting to seem like a bad idea.
“Should I point out the irony now and get it over with?” he asked, trying for flippant.
“It’s a safety razor, pillock.”
“And you’re supposed to be a safety vampire, but you took a chunk out of me last night.”
He hadn’t meant to say that, but there it was, and Spike leaned back and looked at him. Xander swallowed and glanced at him, then stared at the sink. The silence got long.
“So,” Xander said, when he couldn’t stand it any longer, “am I scheduled for a headectomy in the near future, or what?”
Spike paused a moment longer, then snorted, leaned forward, and used his thumb to pull the skin on Xander’s cheek tight. “Make my life simpler if you were,” he said.
Which sounded like a roundabout no. It was better than nothing. Definitely better than yes. But he couldn’t just leave it alone.
“You’re chipped,” Xander said, “which is the only reason I’m still carrying credit card debt. I mean, not to rain on the church picnic, but if you didn’t have that thing in your head, you would have killed me the first night, right?”
Spike drew the razor carefully up his cheek. “Nah. I would have killed you years ago.”
Spike rinsed the razor and wiped more cream onto his cheek. “What’s your point?”
“My point, Spike, is that I have a newly ventilated neck.”
Spike ran the razor along his jaw, skipping over a welt and then going back to take a few small strokes around the edges of it. He turned away, rinsed the razor, and rubbed more cream along Xander’s chin.
“This is foul stuff,” he said absently, flicking it off his fingers.
“Shut it, unless you want a new dimple.” Spike was doing the tricky curve of his chin, and Xander kept his mouth shut long enough to let him finish. When Spike turned away to rinse the razor, he tried again.
“Spike, what’s going on? Do you still have it or not?”
Spike turned back and studied his other cheek, then reached to pull the skin tight. Xander caught his arm before he could bring the razor close.
“Spike, come on. This is—it’s kind of important.” Spike looked at him, seemed to consider, then pulled his arm free. He put his hands on his knees and looked at the ceiling.
“I’ve still got it,” he said.
“Okay,” Xander said. “Okay, good.” Spike’s mouth twisted. “I mean—I mean, sorry, sucks for you. For everybody else, yay.”
Spike looked at him with half-lidded eyes. “Yay.”
"Yeah, yay. You want me to cry a single perfect tear for your lost days of torture and mayhem?"
Spike rolled his eyes and leaned forward with the razor again. Xander leaned away.
“Wait a second. You’ve still got it—and can I say yay again? But I’ve got holes in my neck, and I didn’t get them from rolling on a stapler.”
“So how come you can bite me?”
Spike looked down at the razor in his hand, then leaned back against the sink. “The chip’s intentional,” he said.
“So—what? You didn’t mean to bite me? I fell on your face?”
“No, idiot. I wasn’t trying to hurt you. I wasn’t attacking you. I was—” He stopped and turned the razor over in his hands. “It’s different,” he said at last.
“Doesn’t feel different to me.”
“I think it did at the time,” Spike said quietly.
Xander stared at him. At the time, it had felt like—like being taken over, fed on, throttled, fucked, loved. It had felt tender and vicious at the same time. It had hurt like hell and he’d panicked and fought, but on some level he hadn't wanted it to end.
He didn’t say anything. After a moment he realized he was touching his neck lightly, and he dropped his hand in embarrassment.
“It felt good,” Spike said for him.
Xander swallowed and looked at the razor in Spike’s hand. It felt good. He wanted to feel it again. He didn’t want to die for it, but he wanted to feel it again.
“It felt pointy,” he said.
Spike laughed softly and tapped Xander’s head. “Turn,” he said. Xander turned his head and let Spike put more cream on his jaw.
“Did you know about it…before?”
“Did you know you could bite me like that?”
Spike drew the razor along his skin, squinted at a healing cut, and rinsed the razor. “Yeah.”
“Do you—I mean, do you always—” Xander stopped; he was blushing.
Spike shook the dripping razor and looked at him. “I’m a vampire, Xander.”
“So then that’s…that’s what you do. That’s your action.”
“That’s my action, yeah.”
Xander fell silent. It struck him that he was having a conversation with Spike about sex, and the reason he was having it was that he’d had sex with Spike. That was laughable. He must have dreamed it. He might be dreaming right now. Probably was.
“Head back,” Spike said, and Xander tipped and felt the razor go up his throat. Spike’s fingers were cool and firm and skilful, despite the fact that he hadn't done this in almost a century. Maybe it was easier to shave someone else. Maybe he was just good with throats.
“You’ve done it with other people?” he asked, staring at the ceiling. It was easier to ask when he didn’t have to look at Spike.
“Be a long immortality if I didn’t,” Spike said.
“And you bit them too?”
“We established that.” The razor went up his throat and Spike’s hand stayed while the razor went under the tap.
“Ever kill anyone like that?”
Silence. Xander kept staring at the ceiling.
“Feel free to lie,” he said finally.
Spike’s fingers shifted and the razor came back.
“No,” he said. “Never.”
Xander stared at the ceiling and Spike finished his throat, then wiped his face with the warm towel and looked him over critically. Xander looked at the floor and fiddled with the edge of his shorts.
“Not bad,” Spike said, running his hand up Xander’s cheek. “You’re a new man.”
“Just like the brochure promised.”
Spike turned and pitched the razor into the trash can by the door, then rinsed his hands and shut the tap off. He turned back, drying his palms on his jeans.
“So now what?” Xander asked. “If I have to watch any more soccer, I’m going to need another Demerol—”
Spike leaned down and kissed him, and he lost his breath completely.
He opened his mouth and let Spike in, just tossed it all up and let himself be kissed. His pulse raced in his ears and he couldn’t catch his breath back. He gasped and felt Spike’s tongue move over his, and without thinking he reached up and grabbed a fistful of Spike’s shirt. Spike’s mouth tasted familiar, dizzying. He smelled like himself, like his skin and hair, and Xander’s cock was suddenly ridiculously hard.
Spike dropped to his knees on the tile in front of Xander and kept kissing him. His hands were on Xander’s stomach, his sides, then his back. He put his fingers in the muscles and pushed hard, and Xander sat up straight with a gasp. It felt good—harsh, possessive, right. Spike smiled and kissed him, then bit his lip. No fangs, just straight blunt human teeth, and the feeling still went through Xander like a shock.
“Jesus—” he said, and Spike kissed his bruised jaw gently, then his neck. Xander froze, panting. If he asked Spike not to do it, would Spike listen? Hard to imagine he would, and somehow even that thought made Xander groan with desire.
Spike’s lips were on the bite, and then his tongue, cool and wet. He licked it. Xander’s heart triphammered and he closed his eyes. Spike’s mouth settled over the bite and started to gently work at it, and every touch of his tongue made Xander’s cock jerk. He took a few shallow shaky breaths and tried to think of Mrs. Parmenter. Spike’s fingers pushed low into his back, strong and painful.
Xander opened his eyes and glanced down. Spike's head was thrust into the curve of his neck; he couldn't see Spike's face. But he could see the slight pushing movement of Spike's head as his mouth worked over the bite, and he could see Spike's throat making a drinking motion. Reflex; he hadn't bitten. His tongue felt rough and cold.
It was the strangest thing, but the moment filled Xander’s chest with something huge and sweet, and without thinking he lifted his arm and caught Spike’s head in the crook of his elbow. He tipped his head back and closed his eyes, and gently forced Spike’s lips against his throat.
For a moment Spike's mouth pressed harder, and then he went rigid and pulled away. Xander dropped his arm and stared at the ceiling. He wanted Spike to open the wound again, drink from it, take what he needed from Xander's body. His heart was fluttering and he felt calm and bright. He tried to catch Spike's head again, but Spike ducked away.
“It’s okay. I want you to.” He put his hand on the back of Spike’s neck and smiled.
“Not right now,” Spike said. He was staring at Xander oddly, intently. The words came out sounding absent.
“You said that last time.”
“I meant it.”
“Well…fuck.” He laughed and pulled Spike back up to him, and Spike kissed him with his cool lips and tongue. His body pressed against Xander’s and Xander felt his erection. The feeling took all the breath out of his lungs again, and he gasped.
“Nice,” Spike murmured, and his hand slid around and brushed Xander’s cock. Xander jumped and pushed without thinking, and Spike’s hand took hold of him and started to move up and down. Xander’s legs spasmed and he gasped into Spike’s mouth. Spike bit his lip again and rubbed him harder, and a sweet electric bolt surged through Xander’s spine and into his cock. He pushed at Spike’s hand clumsily.
“Stop—stop it, I’m—”
Spike thrust his tongue into Xander’s mouth and moved his hand fast—two, three more times, and Xander bucked and lost it. He came in a bright soundless wave.
When it was over he opened his eyes and saw Spike looking at him from between his legs. His eyes were dazed and predatory, and a muscle in his cheek was jumping.
“Oh—” Xander said. There was cum all over his lap and Spike’s fist. The sight sent an aftershock of sex and shame through him, and he closed his eyes.
He felt Spike move and opened them again. Spike was standing up, fishing the towel out of the sink and cleaning his hand with it. The front of his jeans was a sight. When his hand was clean he dropped the towel into Xander’s lap.
“Use that.” He leaned against the sink and watched Xander wipe himself off. His hands held tight to the enamel rim.
“Hey, uh—” He balled up the towel and tossed it into a sink a few feet away. “Aren’t you going to—?”
“Told you before, you’re not up to it.”
Spike's eyes were still fixed on him, bright and strangely intent. Xander was suddenly aware of how tired he was, and of the dull ache beneath the tingle in his neck. If Spike kissed him again, he'd be right back in it, he'd want to be bitten. He was beginning to understand that it just worked that way. Even seeing Spike look at him like that put a warm charge in his spine.
He couldn't want to be bitten—that was insane. But he couldn’t just let it go. Let Spike go, with a hard-on in his jeans and a sex look on his face. He was insane, or he was dreaming, he was going to wake up and swear off the Welsh rarebit, whatever, but right now it was really happening and there were some things you just didn’t do.
He cleared his throat and looked at the floor.
“Well, I can…do this for you, then. Like you just did. Or—” He hesitated, thinking of what he’d wondered about the night before. Spike’s cock in his mouth. Could he do that? “Or…something else. If you want.”
Spike was silent for a moment, then he pushed off the sink and stepped forward, and Xander was suddenly terrified. What if Spike said yes? What if he undid his fly in front of Xander’s face and said, “Right, go ahead”? Xander sat up straight and tried to stop the panic in his stomach. Fuck fuck fuck. He'd do it. He'd offered, and he'd do it.
Spike was still silent, and Xander took a breath and forced himself to look up with a smile. A pretty thin one, but the best he could do. Spike was looking down at him with inscrutable eyes. The look went on too long.
“Or—” Xander said, and couldn’t think of anything else to offer. He trailed off.
Spike blinked and seemed to come back to himself, and he bent down and kissed Xander on the mouth. It wasn't a demanding kiss, but still Xander felt it between his legs. He immediately wanted to offer his neck again, but he didn't let himself speak.
"No thanks, mate," Spike said. He pulled back and examined Xander; for a moment his eyes went to the bite mark, and then they were back on Xander's face, expressionless. He stood up. "Another time, maybe."
Relief went through Xander like a flood tide, and he exhaled shakily. He hadn't realized he’d been holding his breath.
Spike gave him a small smile that could have meant anything. “Food?”
"I could murder a hamburger." Actually his stomach felt fluttery and tight, but it was something to say. And food would be a distraction. Spike put out a hand and he took it, trying to smile. He felt light, dizzy, out-of-body. Spike had just jerked him off. That was...well, it had seemed pretty good at the time.
Spike pulled him up and whisked him out of the bathroom, and halfway back to the couch something occurred to him.
“Who told you about the dreams?”
“The dream thing—if it wasn’t Drusilla?”
Spike lowered him onto the couch and picked up one of the cartons of Thai still on the table. “How long can this stuff sit out?” he asked, sniffing it.
“Couple of weeks. Give it here.”
“Last thing I need’s a puppy with food poisoning.” Spike closed the container and walked over to the kitchen. “You take enough looking after as it is.”
“Spike, I’m hungry. Seriously.”
“There’s some Chinese left in the fridge, I think. Should be safe enough.” Spike toed a cupboard open and tossed the Thai carton into a trash bin.
“You’re being awfully solicitous,” Xander said, watching Spike rummage in the fridge. There was still a blood bag in there—he could see it on the top shelf, next to a carton of milk. It took him a second to realize what it was, and then he quickly looked away.
Spike found a carton of Chinese, which he opened and sniffed critically. He shrugged and dug a fork out of a drawer, then wandered back over.
“Some kind of noodle. The dream thing was Red.”
Xander was reaching out to take the carton, his attention on the prospect of food. For a moment he didn’t register. Then he realized—Willow. It was Willow who’d said the dreams could be a warning.
“Oh.” He took the carton and sat for a minute with it in his lap, staring down at it without seeing it. Willow.
“You okay?” He looked up—Spike was staring at him.
“Yeah, fine. What—when did she say that?” It was weird to imagine Willow telling Spike anything. Weird to think of Willow at all right now. It made him feel guilty and dirty and strangely afraid.
“Can’t remember now. Some night, some nasty. Didn’t turn out to be relevant at the time.”
“So maybe she was wrong.” But Willow wasn't usually wrong. The rotten panicky feeling was filling his chest and creeping up his throat, and he tried to crush it down. There was something else, too—a feeling that he was still forgetting something important.
“Sure. I’m just saying she said it.” Spike was watching him closely, and Xander picked up his fork and twirled it in the noodles. There was silence for a minute.
“Okay—” Xander put the fork down again. He had to talk, say something, try to act like a rational human being in control of the situation, or he was going to wig with extreme prejudice. “Okay, so let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that there is something going on with these dreams. Like a warning.”
Spike sat down in the chair facing him and kept his eyes on Xander’s. “Right,” he said.
“Right,” Xander repeated. “So, who’s it a warning from? The powers that be? The mystery mastermind? Or when we say ‘warning’ are we talking about some crap-ass new age warning from my inner child, telling me not to get my legs broken again?”
Spike shrugged. “No idea,” he said. “She didn’t clarify.”
“Well—” Xander broke off in frustration. “This is pretty vague.”
“I couldn’t wake you up. No matter what I did.” Spike tipped his head to the side and kept looking at him. “That’s the interesting part so far.”
“Fascinating.” Xander picked up the fork again and stared at the noodles. He wasn’t hungry anymore; his stomach was jumping and he felt a little sick. “So…so, okay. I keep having the same dream, and apparently I don’t wake up until it’s over. And maybe it’s a warning. So far, that’s all it is.”
It was a clever imitation of Scooby research mode, he realized with something like the distant fourth cousin of amusement. What do we know, what do we have, what the fuck is going on and how do we stop it. Well, Giles didn't usually say 'fuck'. And Xander had never exactly been the captain of the research team, and it was kind of laughable, kind of pathetic, him sitting here with a bucket of cold Chinese in his lap, making with the scientific method.
He needed Willow.
“Maybe if you remembered more about the dream…” Spike slung one leg up over the arm of the chair, his eyes still on Xander.
“Right.” He put the carton down on the table and wiped his palm on his shirt. He was sweating slightly, although he was cold. “Okay, let’s see. It’s Bony Nose, and he beats me up and shoots me in the head. That’s it, that’s the message.” His chest was tight. He stared at the bandages on his knee.
“Last one you had, he shot me too.” Spike’s voice was lazy and calm.
Xander had a quick flash of Bony Nose lifting the gun, the cracking sound, Spike’s bare foot jerking against his arm. “Right. I forgot that.” His breath was coming shallower and faster. He swallowed and tried to remember. “Yeah. You—you were in another one, I think. It was in a restaurant.” He closed his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck. He could taste something like burned rubber. “A diner, like a greasy spoon, and you were—”
A flash of Spike’s face close to his, bright evil electric smile, and warm lips. He felt a simultaneous shock of desire and embarrassment and opened his eyes.
“What?” Spike’s gaze had narrowed slightly.
“Nothing.“ Xander cast his mind desperately back into the dream. All of a sudden a wave of images hit him at the same time; he felt it almost like a physical blow across his chest. Bony Nose punching him in the face, stepping on his foot so that the bone cracked white. Crouching down on the blood-slick linoleum and pressing the muzzle of the gun tenderly to Xander’s temple. The movement in Bony’s forearm and the crushing red blackness that came with it.
Xander’s mouth tasted like copper. He swallowed and tried to take a deep breath, but his chest was tight and wouldn’t fill properly. A drop of cold sweat ran down from under his right arm.
“You okay?” He looked up—Spike was leaning forward, staring at him.
“Sure.” He licked his lips and tried to slow his breathing down. It did no good. There was an invisible hand pressing on his chest, crushing his lungs and making his heart beat in loopy, erratic doubletime. He stared at the table, the carton of cold noodles, the anatomical print on the wall. The arms stretched out in agony. He couldn’t breathe. He was starting to make a wheezing sound. He was going to pass out.
Spike was on the couch beside him, a hand on his shoulder, saying something. Xander jerked away. He couldn’t stand to be touched and tried to say so, but there was no air to talk with. Bright spots were dancing in front of his eyes. Spike pushed his head down and he punched back hard, without thinking or even feeling, and tried to stand up. He couldn’t, but in the same instant it became clear that he really was going to pass out cold. He turned back to Spike and tried to smile.
Then he was lying on his back on the couch, and Spike was sitting on the edge of the couch beside him, looking down at him.
“—pitch a fit every time. No offence.”
His mouth was numb and dry. “None taken.” He’d passed out—why? Because of the dream. Just the memory of it filled him with a feeling of dread and sickness.
Spike’s hand was in his hair, curling gently. Whatever he’d just said had been callous, but his hand felt good.
He nodded and let Spike pull him upright. The movement made his head spin, and he closed his eyes briefly, wondering if he was going to go down again. He didn’t, and after a moment he opened his eyes and saw Spike looking at him.
“Sorry. I’m…I’m not usually such a delicate flower.” He meant it as a joke, but when the word were out they embarrassed him. Spike didn’t seem to notice.
”You’re sick, and I bit you last night. You’re not doing badly, considering.”
Xander stared at his feet and wondered if Spike had just complimented him. He'd passed up the chance for an insult, anyway. It was strange and uncomfortable, and it left him with nothing to say in reply.
“You need to eat.” Spike handed him the carton of noodles and Xander tried not to recoil. It was true—he needed to eat, but the sight of the food repelled him, and the thought of actually eating it was unbearable.
”Nothing.” He picked up the fork and rolled some noodles onto it, hesitated, then put them in his mouth. They were cold and rubbery and his stomach jerked. He turned his face away and spat the mouthful back into the carton. His eyes were watering.
“No—no, I’m just—” He wiped his mouth and put the stuff on the floor with a trembling hand. “Later. I can’t eat that right now.”
Spike picked up the carton and looked at it thoughtfully. “You want something else instead?”
Again, it was too kind a thing for Spike to say, and Xander sat for a moment in silence, groping for a response. “I could stand to go home,” he said at last.
Spike just looked at him, then turned and lobbed the carton across the loft into the kitchen trash bin. Some part of Xander's mind admired the toss, even while another part wondered who was going to wipe up the arc of soy sauce on the floor.
“Yeah, well,” Spike said, wiping his hands on his jeans. “Nice to have a dream.”
“I could stand a drink,” Xander said, without much hope. Spike looked at him again, a slightly different kind of look. Maybe a bit disappointed, or maybe just calculating. He got up without a word and went to the kitchen, fished two glasses out of the sink, and took a bottle out of a cupboard. Jim Beam. Apparently he only broke out the good stuff when he was going to put the moves on someone.
The thought made Xander flush, and just like that he hated himself again. A drink sounded better than ever.
Spike sat back down on the couch, poured them each a glass, and shoved one toward Xander. He took his own and sat back with it held against his chest.
“Thanks,” Xander said. Spike didn't acknowledge it; he put his boots up on the coffee table and closed his eyes and just went still. The corners of his mouth were turned down, as if he were angry. Except an angry Spike was a vocal Spike, and this was just silence.
Xander watched him for a moment, feeling a little uneasy, then looked away and downed half his glass. There was the familiar instant of delay, then the kick, and he shut his eyes and grabbed hold. His tongue was numb for a second, then singed, and he wanted more. Wanted a bottle of forty-proof purity to call his own, JB, CC, Sterno, whatever, as long as it burnt hell out of his mouth and got rid of the feeling of being kissed, and of being dirty. And the buzz, the float, the sanding-down of all the world's sharp edges, was nothing to sneeze at, either. He finished the glass in one swallow, then glanced over at Spike.
It was a little easier to look at him now, outside of a few ounces of Kentucky's finest. Didn't even matter that Spike was sitting there looking at him with the bad eyebrow raised, his own glass untouched.
“Got yourself a hobby in the interim, I see.”
Xander looked down at the glass in his hand. It was one of the same ones they'd used the night before; there were finger and lip marks on it. Maybe his, maybe Spike's. “Hey, a guy needs something to break up the monotony of dusting you people.” He put the glass down on the table and leaned back into the glow. It felt good and soft and safe.
Spike studied him for a moment, then drank half of his own glass. “What happened with Anyanka?”
Xander lost the smile. “Whoah,” he said. He sat up straight, his good hand clutching the arm of the chair. “Fuck off.”
Spike regarded him without concern. “Scarpered, I take it.”
Xander gripped the chair arm tighter and stared at the floor. He wanted to tell Spike to fuck off again, but some part of his brain was sober and sane enough to remind him of why, exactly, that idea was bad. Pills down the drain. No more bandages. Fuck off, Spike. No, pills down the drain. Shut up, Xander.
“Let me guess—she got a premonition of Harris Senior in all his glory.”
He could hear his own breath whistling in his ears, and he knew he was flushed. No hiding the fact that he was furious. Outraged. He wanted to grab the bottle off the table and crack it off Spike's head. He was shaking. He had to get a handle or he was going to say something stupid.
“Shut the fuck up, Spike.” Too late.
“So it's definitely Splitsville, then.”
“Spike—” He bit his tongue and stopped.
He took two deep breaths, then looked up and found Spike watching him with the evil half-smile, clearly enjoying himself. Vintage Spike, old-model Spike, the Spike you couldn't know without hating at least a little. And he'd kissed— He couldn't complete the thought. It was too surreal, too awful.
And then all of a sudden it was funny. Surreal and awful and...funny. It was ridiculous, it was all ridiculous. Anya, L.A., Spike, it was a circus. These late grabs for…what, propriety? Pretending he still had standards, pretending he was still a sane and functioning member of society.
He was so far past all of it. He'd been past it when he'd stopped for a drink at The Summer Place, he just hadn't known it yet. He was just waiting for something to come along and kick him over the edge.
Ten minutes ago he'd had Spike's hand on his cock, and liked it. He had. He'd kissed Spike, he'd let Spike bite him, and Jesus Christ, he'd thought about Spike's cock in his mouth. The thought had scared him but at that particular moment it hadn't been repulsive, or unimaginable.
He was insane, or he was dreaming, or it was the drugs or a fugue state or government-sponsored mind control, but he wasn’t going to make it through this if he didn’t let something go. He knew that. He had just enough sense left to know that.
He let out a long hot breath, leaned back in the chair, and officially gave up. There was nothing else to do. Nothing else to do but lean forward, over the edge of the cliff, and let himself fall.
I give up.
He smiled and said, “Why are you such a prick?” There was no sting in it at all; it was almost affectionate.
Spike narrowed his eyes, paused, then smiled slightly in return. “Dunno, mate. Thought you liked prick.”
Well. Even old-model Spike wouldn't have said that. It was supposed to infuriate him, provoke him. But no. Xander felt outrage give one last dying quiver before he turned his back on it and walked away. He felt light again, the way he'd felt when he'd sat on the couch and said yes. He felt light and very tired.
“Whatever. She didn't say why. Just didn't want...us, anymore.” It was simple; it cost him nothing to say. It was as if someone else were saying it for him.
He was exhausted. He yawned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I'm tired, Spike. Give me a lift to the bed, will you?”
Spike sat for a moment without moving, and when Xander looked up he saw clear surprise on Spike's face. Just for a second; then he covered it.
“Right, sure.” He stood up, took Xander's hand, and walked him over to the bed. “You want...you want water?”
“Yeah, okay.” Xander sank down into the sheets and was half-asleep by the time Spike was back from the sink. With a clean glass, he noticed. He mumbled thanks into the pillow, and Spike said You're welcome, and stood there for a minute by the head of the bed, not speaking. It was in Xander's mind to open his eyes and ask what Spike wanted, but he was already tumbling through darkness, and then he was asleep.
Continued in Chapter 13
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