All About Spike - Plain Version

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Other Victorians
By glossolalia

Wesley is happiest when everything has its proper name. He knows that he is a classificationist at heart; a Victorian born to the wrong century. He would feel perfectly at home amongst Galton's photo-types or Casaubon's compendium of rituals. Even on the Rio Negro with Bates, he would be blissfully content sorting butterflies and affixing their name-tapes to the cotton wool.

So how to classify an expatriate failure costumed like a high-end hustler, loitering nervously outside one of Silverlake's more marginal gay porn emporiums? And what would the real Victorians make of this shop? They'd most likely condemn it in Parliament and flock to it under cover of darkness, actually.


Although he has kept up, if not increased, his physical training (running, fencing, target practice; not tai chi, though, it's too reminiscent of Angel), Wesley still prefers the sort of investigation one can perform while seated. Translation, organization, and research are his fortes; leaping, shooting and all that require, strangely, greater concentration. He is constantly aware of his own body, its limits, the threat of a turned ankle or broken neck always a heartbeat away. Humiliating memories of school teams; nothing so barbaric as what he's heard of American childhoods, where children choose their own teams. No, they did it differently back home: the start of every term, a list was posted indicating that one had been summarily assigned to a school team, a house squad, or, as was always Wesley's fate, a training club composed of the left-overs. He had been the tallest on the club for years, and finally the only sixth-former amongst a herd of tiny, unformed boys. Over here, the social brutality is out in the open, bloody and honest, red in tooth and claw; back there, it had been dispersed and codified for so long that only a mimeo'd list could stand as (flimsy) evidence. That, and the toothy leer of Henderson, the Head Boy, glancing over his shoulder. --Eh, Wipe? Why even check? Go read something, smartass. That last word hissed as Henderson back up, expertly landing a fist in Wesley's spleen as he passed.

Wipe: He'd hoped he'd forgotten that particular nickname.

The physical aspect of investigation itself was one thing. Wesley had learned (stunningly slowly, of course) that he can fake his way through most fights. For the duration, he can ignore worry of failure and embarrassment. Never will them completely away, but set them far enough out of sight for long enough to emerge alive, if battered.

He has never imagined, although he should have, that the physical part of investigation would include going undercover. On reflection, he thinks that he should take to this immediately, welcome the chance to be someone other than himself. On re-reflection, he doesn't think he can do this. It's not the fear of losing himself in the role, or even flubbing it slightly. It's about doing it too well.


Of course he'd been fired; the fact that Cordelia and Charles had also been sacked should have reassured him that this situation was entirely Angel's doing, and said nothing about Wesley. Whether it's his old reluctance to see anything wrong with Angel, or a lifelong habit of taking the blame, Wesley is not reassured.

Instead he finds himself -- if not quite *leading*, then at least organizing -- their activities and pressing on in the good fight. And while Angel is not an enemy, certainly not on the scale of Wolfram & Hart, he still bears watching. It is entirely professional, this need to monitor Angel and his movements. Wesley keeps telling himself this, but it has the same hollowness as other assertions that are only true in the most abstract sense: Of course my father loves me; Of course I didn't ask to be fired; Of course I need to watch over Angel, professionally and dispassionately.

He can't hope to track the city's sewer system, nor can the trio very well watch Angel in person. That might work for half a night at best. The usual locator charms were temporary, and most of them only worked for humans. He needs something permanent, leaving only a divining plaster. Given the right ingredients, the paste can be spread on a map, and trace any being's movements. He is not entirely confident of the magics involved, but when was he ever? The point is to try, because there is no other choice.


Gunn had trawled through his various (human) netherworld contacts and come up with the address of an under-the-radar magic boutique on the fringes of West Hollywood that could prepare the plaster. His face glowed with pride and triumph as he finished the complicated story--it had started with Tanya, an ex-girlfriend of an acquaintance of a cousin from Reno, and became more convoluted from there--and then he paused and looked down.

"Wes is gonna have to go, though."

Wesley felt his spine stiffen at the gravity of Gunn's tone. "I don't see why," he said. "A simple transaction? Any of the three of us is more than capable--"

"If it's this week," Cordelia broke in, "I can't do it. I'd have to get overtime. I've already clocked 47 hours."

"I've explained the law," Wesley said. "As a nominal supervisor, you are on salary. Only an hourly wage-earner is entitled to overtime benefits."

"I'm not a supervisor! Who do I supervise?"

"Whom, Cordelia. Whom do you super--"

"I said Wes has to do it," Gunn said. "And both of you, shut up."

Wesley breathed carefully, concentrating on filling his diaphragm. It was remarkably relaxing. "Yes, you did say that. And I believe I asked why."

Gunn grinned. "Because it's undercover."

"Yes, we've already determined that."

"No, man. The *shop* is undercover. It's in the back of a porn store."

"So you should go," Cordelia told Gunn. "You'll blend right in. Wes would just stick out--"

"Thank you," Wesley said.

"What? I'm delegating tasks. I'm *supervising*."

"And I was sincerely thanking you, actually."

Cordelia's mouth clamped shut, and Wesley turned to Gunn. Gunn grinned more widely, obviously enjoying this.

"Charles, why don't you explain?"

"Yeah, you look like you swallowed the damn--"

Wesley held up his hand and Cordelia sighed.

"It's not regular porn," Gunn began. "It's, you know, fag--. *Guy* porn."

Wesley never had a chance to ask why that made him the man for the job, as the others insisted on dubbing him. Cordelia had clapped, squealing about dressing him for the part, and Gunn just kept grinning, raising his palms in deference. When Wesley read the address, he bit his lip, school-boy shame sweeping over him. That old desperate paranoia: Surely Gunn wouldn't know? How could he know? Why would he even suspect? Why, except for the Englishness, the lack of any variety of machismo, the preference for books over brawls--the list of suspicious clues swelled before Wesley managed to stop worrying.

He had been to the shop, of course; he'd found it on his second night in LA, the first time, fresh from the airport and waiting for directions on when and how to go to Sunnydale. Since then, he had returned frequently, and he wonders now how he never noticed the magical back room.--Perhaps you were distracted by the merchandise? The clientele? The ridiculous hardon in your trousers?

He couldn't, then, advise Cordelia that the ensemble she'd chosen for him was more than a little over the top. He was hardly going out to a club. After his partners dropped him off around the corner, Wes stripped off the glittery pink gauze shirt, stuffing it into a dumpster, and untucked the tight black undershirt. That was better, slightly.

So this is how Wesley came to be standing outside on the sidewalk in tight charcoal pants and a skinhugging black muscle tee, hair spiked up and itchy contacts in, feeling quite the fool.


This store had never been much for merchandise. The stock runs to novelty items: peacock feathers, hoof gloves for pony play, joke thongs printed with lascivious, ungrammatical phrases. But its magazine selection is truly first-rate. His first time, Wesley found a trove of football pictorials from New Zealand; later searches uncovered magazines for bikers, hunters, and Goths. Considering that at one time or another, he'd been a little of all three, he bought them all. And the video booths were good; certainly not the best he's ever been in, but affordable and frequently cleaned. A far cry, that is, from his first haunt, a dank hole-in-the-wall in Tottenham, where he always entered with fists bunched in his sleeves, breathing shallowly through his mouth.

Having entered, Wesley lingers near the door, noting that the store is fairly empty. A clerk is ensconced on his dais wrapped in cloudy, bulletproof plastic, not watching the blurry security monitors behind him. Solitary men hover around the dusty displays and line up in front of the magazine racks, staring straight ahead as in the public restroom. Wesley moves forward, trying to be casual, to make his way to the back. He feels rather than sees furtive, appraising glances. He's being sized up and evaluated, which only makes him all the more conscious of the costume. He tightens his jaw and dulls his gaze. He hates the type of man he's imitating, so self-possessed and confident of their looks and charisma that the presence of others never registers until they choose to notice you. Around them, he always reverts to the gaping, clammy-skinned school-boy.

He's nearly made it to the back wall and its narrow doorway sheathed in amber beads when a figure steps in front of him. He is a bit shorter than Wesley but broader through the shoulders. Lean and tan, with cropped brown hair, the fringe falling over his eyes.

"Hi," the man says.

Still in character, Wesley flicks his gaze over the man, takes in his worn, over-washed jeans, the green undershirt snug across shoulders and chest and pooling loosely around his narrow waist. Very nice, the lizard-predator part of his brain hisses. "Hello."

The doorway is just over the man's shoulder, and Wesley is -- he'll admit to this much -- torn.

"I like your pants," the man says, looking down and biting his lip. His hesitant tone, the way he only occasionally meets Wesley's eyes, tells him that he's not a hustler. New in town, obviously, but not a professional by any stretch of the imagination. Yes! Now-now-NOW! the lizard brain shouts. Wesley's good at ignoring it by now.

"Thank you," Wesley says. "Ah, I--"

"Where you from?"

"L.A.," Wesley says. "Pardon, but I really must--"

"No, originally. England? I like your accent."

Wesley smiles; it's out of character, but if this keeps up, flattery will get his new friend everywhere. He squeezes the man's elbow and steps around him. "I have a-a-an appointment. An engagement."

The man looks down again, shoving one hand into his pocket, mumbling, "Sorry."

"No," Wesley says. "I must apologize."

The man is moving away, and Wesley doesn't dare raise his voice in this place. "It shouldn't take too long--" The man doesn't hear, or pretends not to, absorbed in the top rack of magazines now, and Wesley sighs.


He pushes through the bead curtain and finds himself in a wide, shallow room crowded with cartons, racks of postcards, and a glass counter along one of the short walls. And behind the counter, wearing a truly hideous Hawaiian shirt, hulks his contact. It is a Twelik demon, judging from the gray-blue hide, nonfunctional gills where humans had ears, and three tentacles tucked into the neck of its shirt.

"Sir?" Wesley asks. He's not sure if it is a male Twelik, and doesn't relish the prospect of checking the cloaca to be certain. "I've been told--that is, I require a divining plaster."

The Twelik growls softly.

"For a vampire," Wesley amends. "I believe it requires soil, mortal blood, a-a-and--"

"Spit it out," the demon says.

Wesley flushes, realizing he's already warm from the near-miss in the front of the store. "Yes, all right. You apparently have the rest of the ingredients? I've been told--"

"Spit it out."

"Yes, you already--"

The demon's ragged exhalation would convey exasperation in any number of dimensions.

"Right," Wesley says. "Sorry."

"Soil, human juice, rosemary, squirrel's horn, and--" The Twelik grins, exposing a double set of long, curved upper incisors. Leaning closer to Wesley, it gurgles once and the front fang starts to leak clear liquid. Wesley yanks his hand back too late, and the liquid hisses on his skin, raising a round purple welt. The demon retracts his fang. "And Twelik venom. Fresh on the premises. I just have to spit it--"

"Out. Yes," Wesley says. "I understand."

"Human juice?"

"You don't have any in stock?" Wesley asks, glancing at the clutter of vials and beakers behind the demon.

The demon's bulbous eyes glint back at him. Wesley *knows* that Twelikim don't eat humans. He knows. But the longer the demon looks at him, the surer he is that all the books say is that a Twelik has never been *reported* to feed on a human. That's not the same thing at all.

Of course, hunger has many objects.

"How much?" Wesley asks.

"Few drops." It could be lying. "Works best if it's the mage's blood. Finds the target faster."

Wesley offers his arm. "Just do it."

It arranges a saucer under Wesley's arm; in the center of the saucer, Winnie the Pooh embraces his honey pot. Wesley closes his eyes as the demon drags its claw lightly across the crook of his elbow. He feels his arm being twisted and held, and then a soft pressure. When he opens his eyes, the blood has pooled over Winnie, and the Twelik has covered the scratch with a square of gauze.

"Band-Aid?" it asks. "I've got Power Rangers."

"Thank you."

Wesley fumbles to apply the bandage with his left hand as the demon turns and gathers ingredients.

"Be ready in--" the demon squints at the clock on the wall. "Fifteen, twenty minutes."

"Fine," Wesley says.

"Plenty to keep you occupied til then." Its lips stretch and eyes narrow inward; the demon is actually *leering* at him. "See anything you like, we can discuss a discount."

Rather than try to puzzle through what one would deem a male demon with a taste for human males--it's hardly *gay*, after all--Wesley backs away from the counter. "Very well."


Wesley edges out from behind the bead curtain, looking around the store for the lovely young man in the green shirt. He's there all right, backed up against the entrance to the clerk's booth, arms wrapped loosely around someone else's neck. Someone else with a long leather coat and garish platinum hair.

Wesley edges closer, noting that the other customers have as well; why pay for the video booths when the floor show is free? And the young man's moans as the platinum head dips down his throat are far more sincere than anything Wesley's ever heard on video. The length of the coat makes it difficult to see precisely what's happening, but the rhythmic jerk of the blond's arm tells him more than he'd care to know. Arms tightening around the blond's neck, the young man leans in and nibbles on an ear. "Love your accent--" he says hoarsely.

Swallowing dryly, Wesley backs away from the gathering crowd and turns for the back room. He's hard now, and shifts uncomfortably in the tight pants. The Twelik has retreated behind another curtain, presumably to prepare the plaster.

Wesley busies himself twirling a rack of postcards done up in various schemes of the tarot; utter rot, he knows because he's tried, but some interesting themes nonetheless.

He palms the Death card, done up like small child playing skeleton for Halloween, and another that's a poor imitation of Durer. One more, and he'll have a triptych to give Angel for his birthday.

Except he's not Angel's friend anymore.

Wesley shoves the cards back on the nearest shelf and leans against a stack of cartons. He doesn't know how much time has passed, but expects the plaster should be finished any minute now.

"Right then," someone says in the front of the store. "Where's the magicky crap?" The accent is an interesting attempt at something--south of England, decidedly working-class, but far too broad to be convincing outside of Central Casting.

Wesley tugs the rack of cards in front of him and attempts to melt into the darkness as loud footsteps draw nearer. The beads rattle angrily as someone--marvelous, it's the bleached, leather-clad exhibitionist--storms in.


He has seen pictures of the face, of course. The images blink rapidly through his memory, the excellent photographic memory that got him through school, and Christ's, and Watcher's training. The memory that, when revealed, made his father curse darkly and dismiss him with a single flick of the hand. There had been engravings, chromo-lithographs stained carnation at the lips and cheeks, sunflower for the hair. Garish things, but fascinating. A few crayon sketches left behind in various lairs, hastily sketched and tossed aside by Angelus in the odd fit of boredom.

And there were two photographs. Wesley knows better than anyone that it should be impossible to photograph a vampire, but he's seen them. The first was enlarged from a crowd shot of the 1943 Harlem riots--William leans over a tenement fire-escape, a tight, old-fashioned undershirt skimming his body, fists raised in the air, dark mouth open and hollering, eyes screwed up: the image of exultation and joy. The second photo came from a Watcher in Leipzig, a Watcher who probably *watched* for many organizations and acronyms, not that anyone has ever been able to prove this. There, William slumps sullenly on a bench set in a double corridor of poplars that closes to a point far behind him.

Wesley's mother had used the image once to illustrate perspective's vanishing point, but his eyes remained on the hunched figure, arms deep in the pockets of two overcoats. The double collars (dark gleam of leather underneath, heavy flecked wool on top) obscure much of the sharp jaw and sharper cheekbones; pale hair dips over a scarred brow. His lips are drawn thin and tight against the cold. Taken with a telephoto lens and severely cropped, the photo was arresting for all it didn't show: a vicious murderer, marauder, lover of a madwoman, the killer of two slayers. Instead, the man on that bench was a study in the ordinary, perhaps a little more beautiful than most, but he could have been any post-graduate, lost in thought and stood up for a date. All the nastiness and violence was out of sight.

Years later, when in a pallid attempt at rebellion Wesley had taken to desecrating his father's books, he had razored this photo off its page and slipped it into his bag to take back to school. The other boys made shrines to Sheena Easton and Rebecca De Mornay above their beds; Wesley slipped the photo between pillow and case. Slept on it until the cleaning lady found it and turned him in to the prefect.

--And the point of the story is? CCCordelia's voice ends his reverie. Wesley straightens his back and shoots his cuffs, not an easy thing to accomplish in a tee-shirt.

William--that is, *Spike* is drumming his fingers on the counter now and leaning over it, yelling. "Hey! Mandy! Amanda!"

The Twelik emerges from the curtain; from his spot behind the postcard rack, Wesley can't make out the slime trail, but he can smell it. Sugary meat. *Charred* sugary meat.

"Oi. You're not Amanda," Spike says.

The Twelik hoots, a sound so high and silly it makes Wesley want to laugh, but Spike raises his hands and takes a deliberate step backward.

"Easy, easy," Spike croons. "Must be some kind of mistake."

Wesley cranes to see around the rack.

"No mistake," the Twelik says in English. "Don't want your kind around here."

It was all so Wild West that Wesley feels the smile tug at his mouth again.

"No trouble," Spike says. "I'm looking for something. Willing to pay for it. Not here for any trouble."

The Twelik starts another hoot--higher and harsher this time--and Wesley whirls around to see Spike's arm whip out--glittering--and slice through the top tentacle. The hoot cuts off into a hollow sound. The two are frozen there, the hilt of Spike's blade in the Twelik's chest, slow gray ooze gathering around Spike's hand.

"Now," Spike says, working the blade loose so delicately that the demon whimpers. "I don't think I've made a mistake. I'm sure of it, actually. I think you know precisely what I'm looking for."

Knife free, Spike shakes the mucus from his hand and traces the tip of the blade along the root of the second tentacle. It's a revolting sight--globs of ooze cling to the knife--but Spike's movement is deliberate and oddly, distantly, almost affectionate.

Wesley has to glance away, back to the glare of the front of the store. A couple leans over, examining the bottom row of magazines, their arms slung low around each other's waists. The slightly shorter of the two runs the heel of his hand up down his lover's ass. Across the aisle, a middle-aged man in voluminous sweatpants is turning a large rubber dick in his hands; his gaze and pursed lips conjure up housewives judging supermarket cantaloupes.

At the counter, Spike's knife is drawing a delicate, welling line of mucus in the demon's hide. Wesley can hear the Twelik's gills heaving uselessly. It gurgles and Spike's hand freezes.

"What was that?" He leans closer. The Twelik's head rears back, orifice gaping, and spits a cloud of black gas at Spike. He ducks and drives the knife into the heart of the tentacle.


"That's not going to get you anywhere," Wesley says, stepping around the rack.

Spike turns fast, one hand still gripping the knife. "Eh?"

"The tentacles," Wesley says. "They regenerate rather quickly, you see."

Spike tries to advance on him, squaring his shoulders and lowering his brows, as if menace is a coat he shrugs on. Considering the sweep of his actual coat, Wesley wonders if that isn't true. But Spike won't release the Twelik, either, so he stops short and glowers. "And who the fuck are you?"

"That doesn't matter," Wesley says. "But I do want to get the potion this creature is preparing, and would prefer that the source be living."

Spike considers this. Briefly. "Why should I care what you *prefer*, tosser?"

"I can help you," Wesley says. "*William*."

Spike snarls at the name and leans in as far as he can. Wesley was mistaken earlier; *this* is menace. Eyes gone black, throat taut, lip curling up and fist squeezing so hard the knuckles crack.

Wesley turns away, counting on the fact that Spike won't release the knife any time soon. "If you don't want help--"


Wesley turns back. Menace has vanished and Spike looks almost stricken: sniffing the air, wetting his lips. He's much more beautiful than archival reports and images could ever convey. Especially beautiful like this, with hunger and desperation slackening his face. "You're bleeding," he says.

Wesley glances down at the ridiculous neon-green bandage. "Yes, I am." He extends his arm into the space between them, keeping it just out of Spike's reach. Spike inhales more deeply and his Adam's apple bobs as he swallows the scent. It's like teasing a lion; Wesley knows how dangerous it is, but the effects on Spike are irresistible.

Wesley pulls back and watches the vampire.

"What do you want, Spike?"

Spike's eyes are fastened on Wesley's arm. He does not reply.

"Besides that. Why are you in Los Angeles?"

Only when Wesley crosses his arms and leans back does Spike look up.

"Need a mechanic," he says.

"A mechanic?" Over Spike's shoulder, the Twelik is rousing himself, trying to wiggle off the knife. "You might want to--" Wesley says, lifting his chin.

Spike wheels around and drives the knife deep into the demon's right gill. "Told you to *stay*." The Twelik slumps over the counter. "He's not dead, is he?"

The Twelik is heaving, leaking gas and mucus. "No," Wesley says. "Not fatal."

He reaches for the cross in his pocket, suddenly aware that he is now in the uncomfortable position of receiving Spike's full attention. He regrets the tightness of the pants for an entirely new reason: no room for a stake.

Spike laughs. "Don't bother, mate."


Twitch of the hand in the general direction of Wesley's pocket. "Whatever you've got in there. Don't bother with it."

Wesley draws out the cross and Spike hisses weakly. He creeps forward, however, avoiding the direct sight of the cross, and Wesley realizes he's drawn again to the wound.

"A mechanic?" Wesley asks again, rotating his arm so the bandage is visible.

"Figure of speech," Spike says. "Need something fixed."

"What's broken?"

Spike glances up at him. "None of your business."

Wesley scratches under the bandage and watches the cross twist slowly from the motion. "I think it is. Why are you in L.A.?"

"Fucking hell," Spike mutters. "Who are you?"

Wesley is flushed. His body seems to be enjoying this--what is this? An interrogation?--immensely. Enjoying the beautiful, cranky vampire he seems to have hypnotized. His cock twitches every time Spike licks that full, pink lower lip. He knows it is not *him* that Spike wants, but blood. Blood which Spike seems unwilling to take for himself. All the same, it's been a long time since someone looked at Wesley with such unabashed hunger.

"Are you here to torture Angel again?" Wesley's tone is steady and chilly.

Spike cuts his eyes away. "Angelus? No. How do you know about *him*?"

Wesley chuckles. Worked for him. Loved him. Got sacked by him.

Spike shifts from foot to foot; his arms are crossed over his chest and he glances about everywhere, except the cross and Wesley. Tracing his gaze is like tracking a bumblebee, and Wesley feels suddenly dizzy.

"Why are you in L.A., Spike?"

Spike looks over at the demon and hunches his shoulder. "Maybe--" he says, dropping his voice and licking his lips. "We could do this somewhere else?"

Wesley circles around Spike, keeping the cross between them. "Sir?" he asks, nudging the demon with his free hand. "How much longer for the plaster?"

The Twelik struggles upright. His eyes are clouded and little whisps of gas escape from the wound in his neck.

"Five minutes?" he gasps. "Ten? Ten."

"That will be fine," Wesley says, and turns back to Spike. "Go finish it up, then."

"I need a name--" Spike says as the demon withdraws. He slumps back into himself. "Fuck."

"I don't think he has it," Wesley says.

Spike looks up at him from beneath lowered lashes. "Yeah."

Wesley is learning all sorts of things tonight: Twelikim can leer, he is capable of picking up a very pretty man, and, now, a vampire other than Angel can look as stricken and small as a kicked puppy. And almost as sexy.

"Why are you in L.A.?" Wesley asks, gently this time, coaxingly.

"Told you," Spike says. "Not here."

"You don't want the demon to hear?"

Spike looks at him, and Wesley realizes that he is so stupid he's managed to strike the world's most voluble vampire dead silent.


"So then," Spike says, straightening, running his hand over his hair. "Won't talk here. Won't tell me why you're so bloody knowledgeable. Can't drain you, and you can't stake me. Where's that leave us?"

His power of recovery is remarkable; it's hard to believe that this smirking, self-possessed creature can be the same one he was a moment ago. Wesley opens his mouth--*What's to say I can't stake you?*--but Spike cuts him off.

"That about cover it?" He steps closer, and the cross is worse than useless now. It's an obstacle. "Right," Spike croons the one syllable and Wesley struggles not to close his eyes and sink into the sound. "'Course there's the matter of you sprouting a fucking *sequoia* in your pants."

"What do you want, Spike?" God, that sounds wrong.

Spike shrugs. "Million dollars. Fugazi's back catalogue. Head of the slayer hung over my fireplace."

Neither has moved, but all the same Wesley is sure that the air is slowly evaporating between them.

Spike smiles brightly. "You, m'dear? What do you want?"

And his tone is so cheerful, so polite, so fucking wrong, that Wesley stifles a squealing, unbecoming giggle. He wraps the chain around his knuckles and pinches the tip of the cross between thumb and index finger. Spike remains still, eyes gone dark, flickering over the motions of Wesley's hand.

Wesley tilts his head, considering, and brings the cross to hover over Spike's cheek. Watches him turning his head, exposing his throat, waiting. Shit, he's licking his lips again. Wesley taps the cross lightly against the hollow of Spike's throat, mesmerized by the nearly transparent breath of smoke that rises. Spike's eyes flutter closed, then open.

He can't move back fast enough when Spike growls low in his throat and catches Wesley by the wrist, pulls him stumblingly after him. Through the curtain, into the store, Wesley barely remaining upright. In the middle of the store, Spike stops short and Wesley jostles him.

"Oh, now that's just a fucking lie," he says. Lightly and conversationally, as if he doesn't have a bone-crunching hold on Wesley. Spike points to the shelf of large, bright boxes wrapped in plastic. Either Wesley's contacts have slipped, or he's far less in control of himself than he'd like to admit, but his vision has gone bleary. Blinking, he leans over Spike's shoulder to see. CAST FROM LIFE! the blazing purple letters scream. RIDE FETCH'S 14 INCHER AT HOME!

"A marital aid," Wesley says. "Endorsed and licensed by a porn star. Well, it works for George Lucas, I suppose."

"He's nowhere near fourteen inches," Spike says. He actually sounds hurt. "Truth in advertising, my bloody foot."

He leans back against Wesley, bringing their hands between them.

Wesley gasps as Spike rubs their entwined hands over his erection.

"Now that," Spike says. "Could do with *that*."

He's off again, dragging Wesley towards the video booths, pulling up when the door won't open.

"Change," Wesley manages. "Have to put in the quarters first."

Spike glances back at him. "That's stupid. What if you don't like what you see? They give refunds?"

At this point in the evening, Wesley simply doesn't know if he's supposed to answer that. It seems entirely possible Spike is curious. Spike's grip on his hand tightens, and a small hiss escapes when the cross nudges his skin.

"Well?" Spike asks. "Haven't got all day. Night. Whatever."

So now he's supposed to pay for the privilege of locking himself in a cubicle with a vampire? Wesley digs in the shallow back pocket, fully aware of Spike's growing impatience. "Here," he says, handing over three quarters.

"Good human!" Spike says, as if genuinely and pleasantly surprised. He pulls Wesley into the booth, half the size of a shower stall and just as cold.

Never releasing his hand, Spike reads the menu card above the video monitor. "Fancy some prison action? Young Latino studs? Maybe, lessee, farmboys? Ugh. No farmboys. Military discipline?" He fake-shudders at that. "Moving on. What's your taste?"

If there is any logic whatsoever behind Spike's brief bouts of solicitousness and jumpy, erratic enthusiasm, Wesley abandons any hope of descrying it. As foolhardy as it may be, he trusts that he's not about to get drained. Well, not drained of *blood*.

"Dear Lord," he mutters, and Spike turns around.

"What's wrong?"

"You have me thinking like an adolescent male."

In the dim bluish glare from the monitor, Spike's rakish grin makes him look like the face of death. "I like adolescent males."

"I'm sure you do," Wesley says. "I have no doubt."

"How long do these things last?"

"The booths?"

Spike nods, tugging Wesley closer.

"Seven minutes for--" Wesley bites his lip as Spike presses himself against him. "Twenty-five cents. Fairly generous, given that the average man generally requires no more than four minutes to bring himself--"

"Shut up," Spike says, using his free hand to cover Wesley's mouth. It's still open, and Wesley licks the length of Spike's palm, watching his brows jump and mouth twitch. "You talk too much, smartass."

It's true, of course, but that doesn't fully explain why Wesley slides down the wall, sinking to his knees. He can't hope to win a physical contest, whether Spike says he can't drain him or not; that much is true, and it's always been true. As for a battle of the wits, his memory may be prodigious and his knowledge vast, but he'll never match the speed of Spike's reasoning. It may be shallow compared to Wesley's, but depth has never counted for much in this world. But there is something Wesley can do, has always been able to do in this sort of impossible situation, and has always been willing to do.

The cold floor of a jack-off booth is no more uncomfortable than dormitory floors ever were, and Wesley has learned enough since he was fourteen to trust he won't be smacked for his trouble.

He tips up his chin and Spike's hand slides off his mouth to fumble at his fly. This close, Wesley can smell the damp arousal rising off the vampire, and he rests his forehead against the sharp jut of one hipbone, watching as Spike tugs his jeans down. His cock rubs against Wesley's cheek, but Wesley concentrates on the small patch of hair, closely trimmed and almost soft on his lips as he grooms it like a mother cat. Spike braces his free hand against the wall and squeezes Wesley's hand with the other. He nudges his hips forward as Wesley rubs his cheek against the damp, warm shaft, tongue wandering around its base, dipping down to tap the velvety dampness of the sac, sweeping upward and worrying at the foreskin.

"Christ--" Spike gasps and thrusts forward until Wesley is effectively pinned between wall and vampire, and can only with difficulty twist his neck enough to run closed lips over the soaked glans. Spike pulls back, air whistling through his teeth, and Wesley cranes forward, mouth dropped open, until half the shaft is pulsing and twitching inside him. "Oh, hell--"

Wesley settles into suckling with moderate force, eyes closed, wondering if this could quite count as muscle memory and noting at the same time that Spike's vaudeville-quality accent is at once deepening and softening, and he's starting to sound very much like Wesley himself. No one has ever been able to ascertain with complete certainty who William had been before he was turned, nor who his sire was, but this is an interesting development.

Spike shoves against him, and Wesley swallows several times, forcing himself to concentrate. If he has to, he can do this without thinking, but given the uniqueness of the situation, much better to pay attention. Spike tastes lovely and light, not at all as heavy and musky as a human, and Wesley drags the meat of his tongue up and down the underside of his cock, pressing the twisting veins there in time with whatever it is that passes for a pulse. Precum fills his mouth again and he swallows greedily as the head throbs against the back of his throat.

Spike's rocking hips and babble are hardening Wesley even more, and he drops his free hand from its grip on Spike's thigh to his own cock, rubbing it restlessly as he sucks and swallows and feels the familiar numbing thickness overtake his tongue. He tips back his head, nuzzling at the glans, and opens his eyes to see Spike staring down at him. "You--" he says, and thrusts once, hard, as Wesley drops open his jaw and swallows hard, feeling the shaft slip into his throat. Spike grabs the back of his head, driving in hard, and Wesley abandons his own cock to grab Spike's balls, twisting recklessly, wanting and needing for him to come.

Needing, as ever, to do this correctly.

Spike frees his hand from Wesley's wrist, pounding his fist on his shoulder, wrenching him away from the wall and driving deep enough to start Wesley choking. Cool cum, tart as a lemon-ice, floods Wesley's mouth and throat and he can't swallow any more, sees stars spark and shoot around the edges of his vision, and then--

It's over, and Wesley doubles over, gasping and spitting.

As he starts to recover, looking up, he sees Spike leaning against the other wall, fly done up, smoking serenely, faint smirk playing over his face. Wesley swipes his fist across his mouth and blinks blearily.


The knock at the door is unnecessary; the smell of the Twelik precedes him and Spike has stiffened, moving into the farthest corner.

"Y-yes?" Wesley asks, hating his hoarse, broken voice. "What is it?"

"The vampire plaster's complete, sir," the demon says. "Please come to the counter when you're ready."

Spike stubs out his cigarette on the wall and straightens the lapels of his duster.

"That what you wanted?" Wesley asks, pulling himself up to his feet, gesturing at Spike's crotch.

"No," Spike says. "But it'll do."

He trails a finger down Wesley's cheek. "Shame he let you get away, isn't it?"

Wesley moves toward the door as the bark of Spike's laugh fills the cubicle. "S'all right," Spike says as Wesley stumbles out into the glare of the store. "It's an ever-expanding club."

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