Spike took a break after installing the new starter, tightening the brakes and replacing the alternator, distributor, plugs, plug wires and valve cover gasket. The car wasnt done yet, not by a long shot, but everything that might imminently break down was fixed. Good thing, too, because auto repairs had taken up all morning and a bit of the afternoon, and Xander would be home in a couple of hours, and Spike still had phone calls to make.
The first one was easy. The secretary answered on the second ring.
Law Firm of Brumwalt & Keppelhorn, she said. How may I help you?
Let me talk to B, Pet, Spike told her. Tell im its William.
Just a moment, please. It was, in fact, a very brief moment before Spike heard the Thrilk demons smooth voice.
Brumwalt, he said. Good afternoon, sir. Ready for an update on your case?
Yeah. Spike tossed a towel over the chair so he wouldnt get motor oil on it, then made himself comfortable. Whatd you think?
Easier than finding fur on a werewolf. I forwarded your offer via courier first thing this morning. Brumwalt chuckled. Do you actually know the mortals blood and the fathers fingerprints are on the pool cue and the belt?
Blood, yes, Spike said, shrugging. He could smell it when hed stolen the cue and the belt handy thing, having a pre-existing invite to the house. Hed had no difficulty picking out the particular pool cue; it was still lying across the pool table, and even if it had been on the rack, the scent of Xanders blood had been plain on it. The smell of the fathers boozy sweat had been equally plain, but he couldnt vouch for fingerprints. If hed wanted to bother, he couldve had plenty more evidence the pool table, for example, and the carpet nearby. Doesnt matter, does it? What matters is he thinks we know for a fact.
True. And the photographs you sent are excellent under the circumstances. I have a feeling well have the settlement on my desk tomorrow, possibly tonight. Although I think your demand shouldve been higher, if you dont mind my saying so, sir.
That was fast, Spike said, ignoring the last statement.
I gave it top priority, of course, Master Spike. Ill call the attorney this afternoon and give him a push, say its a short-time-only offer. As soon as I have a settlement, Ill have a messenger bring it over, if you wish.
Yeah, thatll do, Spike said, grinning.
Spike wasnt nearly as eager to make the second call. He stalled for a long time, pacing up and down, deliberating. Hed talked himself into it and out of it a dozen times before he finally picked up the phone, muttering, Oh, bloody hell, and dialed. It took several rings before it was answered.
Angel Investigations, Cordelia speaking.
Ummm, yeah. Can I speak to Angel, please.
Cordelia sounded bored, which meant, Spike supposed, that she hadnt recognized his voice.
Who should I say?
Tell him William Barstow, please.
A moment later Cordelia came back on.
Im switching you to his phone, she said. If I can figure this thing out. If you get cut off, call back, okay?
Right. Spike braced himself. A moment and several clicks later, one quiet word.
That tone said it all. Flat, emotionless, not angry. He didnt even merit anger. Right. State your business and bugger off.
Wont keep you, he said, just as quietly. I want my stuff, the stuff you had stored if you havent done something with it, I mean. And access to my accounts.
A long pause.
Youve got a hell of a nerve, Will, Angel said in that same measured tone. Giles tells me youre living in my building.
Yeah, well Spike grimaced. If I had the money, Id buy it off you. Look, Angel, I dont care what you think of me
Yes, you do.
That flat, matter-of-fact tone again. Spike swallowed, closing his eyes briefly.
All right, I do, he admitted. But this isnt about me. Its for Xander.
Xander? This time Angels tone changed, sharpened. Xander Harris? What about him? Is he all right?
Hes all right now, Spike said hesitantly. How much should he tell Angel? No matter what subset of the truth he told, Angel would know he was holding back. Look, Angel, its not my secret to tell. Long and short of it is, hes living here, hes broke and unemployed, and I need to pay a lawyer.
A lawyer? Now Angels voice was really sharp. Who?
Brumwalt, he admitted. Letting Angel find out that hed hired Brumwalt told Angel that Spike thought the matter was urgent enough to pay the Thrilk demons exorbitant fees but aboveboard enough to be handled through the human judicial system.
Another long silence. When Angel spoke, his voice had softened slightly. Not much, but enough to let Spike know that forgiveness, while still only a remote possibility, wasnt completely out of the question.
Your belongings are at Millenium Self Storage in Sunnydale, he said. Ill FedEx everything you need for your accounts, plus the key card to the storage unit. Youll have them tomorrow before sunset.
Thanks, he said quietly. Angel, I
Shut up, Spike, Angel said, his voice hard again. I dont want to hear it. And I heard about the chip. Dont show up on my doorstep expecting my help with that.
Spike grinned. The very fact that Angel was giving him this lecture well, it was good enough for him.
Thanks, Spike said again.
Fuck you, Will, Angel said coldly.
Could happen, Spike said cheerfully, hanging up on Angel. Suddenly the day seemed much nicer, darker and less sun-drenched, and who knew, maybe theyd even get a storm later on.
Right; enough serious business for one day. Spike rewarded himself with a lengthy tub bath. Hed timed it pretty precisely; Xander went in to work early, at 6:30, and he got off early too, at 3:30. It wasnt all that far, but since Spike had been working on the car, hed have to walk home, which would put him coming in the door right about
In here, Pet, Spike called back, smirking. Hed left the bathroom door open on purpose. This time, however, Xander apparently had no compunctions about peeking in. His eyebrows shot up when he saw Spike in the tub.
You and that tub, Xander said, grinning. And here I was hoping for a shower. Im grimy.
Achy too, Ill wager, Spike said sympathetically, noting Xanders stiff posture. Come on and join me, eh, Pet? Nice hot soakll do wonders, and Ill trot out the liniment after, give you a good rub.
Im sure there was a double entendre in there somewhere, Xander said, sighing, but Im too tired to care. Make room, Im coming in.
Spike drained out a little of the water and added more hot water, scooted back and made room for Xander to sit down between his legs, his back to the vampire. Spike coaxed Xander to sit back against his chest, and he picked up the sponge, washing Xander slowly.
Mmmmm, that feels good, Xander sighed, laying his head back against Spikes shoulder, his eyes closed. Spike tried resolutely to ignore the beautiful length of Xanders neck, bared and arched by his position. Definitely a vampiric take me, Im yours pose. Of course, Xander didnt know that.
Warm, Xander said sleepily, confusing the hell out of Spike.
What, the bath? Spike asked, momentarily distracted from his inspection of Xanders neck.
No, you, Xander murmured. First time Ive ever touched a warm vampire.
Oh. Spike grinned. Like that, do you?
Xander considered briefly.
Nope, he said at last, shaking his head.
No? Spike raised his eyebrows. Thought youd like it.
Xander opened his eyes slightly, turning his head to look at Spike.
Nope, he said again, shyly. Because . . . it doesnt feel like you.
Touched, Spike kissed the side of Xanders throat chastely, sternly denying the temptation to nibble just a bit.
Well, it is me, or used to be, anyway, he said thoughtfully. I mean, I wasnt always a vampire, yknow.
Yeah, Buffy told us about it, Xander said hesitantly. She said you were a poet, you know, before.
Mmm. Spike waggled his hand. Sort of. Wasnt a very good poet, Ive got to admit.
Xander half turned, looking at Spike over his shoulder.
And your hair wasnt He blushed. I mean
You mean is it a bottle job? Spike smirked. Yep, fraid so.
Why? Xander asked directly. I mean, why bleach your hair like that?
Dunno, Pet, he said. Guess I just wanted to look different. Why, dont you like it? To his disgust, he actually cared.
Yeah, I do, he said. The whole vampire punk leather look works for you. Kind of goes with the whole attitude thing. Then he raised his eyebrows. But you dont sound much like a poet.
Spike shrugged uncomfortably.
Is that on purpose too? Xander asked, with one of those uncanny flashes of insight that always unnerved Spike.
Guess so, Spike said shortly.
Xander frowned slightly, then turned back around and sat back against Spike again.
Sore subject, huh? he said quietly.
Spike sighed. If there was one person in Sunnydale who undoubtedly understood peer ridicule, it was Xander Harris.
Got tired of people sneering at me, I guess, he said. Just wanted to be somebody else. Somebody respected, feared. After all, a nancy-boy poet dont make much of a vampire. Hanging about with Angelus, you learned to toughen up fast. Or else.
Dru didnt, Xander pointed out, purring as Spike ran the sponge over his skin.
Dru was mad, Spike said, chuckling. And that amused Angelus. Amusing Angelus and Darla was almost as good as impressing them. Problem is, Id been amusing people too long. Didnt want to go that route anymore. Sides, Dru had visions real visions, I mean, scattered in with all her wonky imaginings. A few times those visions saved us. So Angelus and even Darla respected her for that, a bit. Spike finished washing Xander. Ready to get out? Im wrinkling up. Got a TV dinner in the oven for you.
Spike enjoyed this era almost as much as he enjoyed the unfamiliar sensation of having a male roommate with whom he stood on fairly equal ground. They could lounge around in boxers, with (Spike) or without (Xander) a robe, eat TV dinners at the kitchen table with their feet up on the chairs across from them, and Xander didnt make a fuss if Spike put little marshmallows in his cup of blood. Spike sipped sweet blood, picked at a piece of Swansons fried chicken, and stared at a mostly-naked Xander, deeply content.
Spike? Xander glanced at him, caught Spike ogling him, and grinned even as he blushed. Would you tell me about, you know, before you got vamped?
Spike grimaced. He didnt like to think much about his mortal life, probably because there werent many good memories. Angel might wax nostalgic about his breathing days, but Spike thought his undeath was a vast improvement over his life.
If you want, he said, forcing a casual tone. Nothing much to tell, really. At least nothing interesting or nice.
Id like to know, Xander said, gazing down into his TV dinner as if it vastly interested him. I mean, if you dont mind. All we ever heard from Buffy was, you know, the relevant to Slayers part.
Spike shrugged and fetched himself a bottle of stout from the refrigerator. He glanced at Xander, raising his eyebrows, and received a nod. He opened both bottles and pushed one over to Xander, sitting back down.
Never knew my father, Spike said without preamble. Mum said it was William Barstow, even named me for im, but I doubt it. She just said that cause shed been his mistress for a year when she got her belly up, and he had money and kept her in a little flat of her own, and the idea that I was his meant hed do the right thing and take care of us. Didnt look nothing like him, me, but he didnt make nothing of it, probably cause Mum might make a scandal with his wife. She was a real looker, Mum was, and that was enough to get her by most times. Shed traded up to Barstow from a solicitor who probably had as much money but wanted more of her time. Barstow paid for the flat, gave her money for food and nice clothes and stuff for me later on, and only bothered her once a week or so. Best of all, he put me in public school, which got me out of Mums way most of the year. And that suited Mum too, cause there was lots of things Barstow didnt know nothing about.
Xander nodded, his eyes on Spikes, but said nothing.
Mum had some bad habits, Spike said, shrugging. Champagne and soda was the genteel one all the ladies did that. Cocaine too. Got to remember, in those days you could nip down to the chemists for all the cocaine you might want. Absinthe, that was fashionable, even. Nobody thought nothing of it. Opium, though, that was the secret one. Opium was a poor mans vice. Stank of wharves and gutters and Chinese sailors. And it cost, too. Barstow never knew that most of the money he gave Mum went into her pipe.
And there was Mums other addiction. Men. She wasnt nearly as particular as she couldve been. Never met a kid with so many uncles as I had. New one every night, most times. She werent exactly a whore cause she didnt mostly get money, just gifts and trinkets and the like. If there was something worth selling, shed have me sell it, and thats when I could put back a shilling or two for food, if I was lucky. Mum didnt care much for food if her pipe was full. Odd life, it was sleeping on silken sheets with an empty belly most nights, listening to Mum and her latest gent, staying out of the way as best I could. Reading was my escape, mostly.
Then school. Got to remember, what we called public school is what you Yanksd call a private school, a live-in boys school. Only these days no school in America could get by with the likes of what went on in our public schools. Children, even rich mens children, were basically property in those days. Schools were there to turn out presentable little lordlings by whatever means worked fastest and easiest. A headmaster could bugger a pupil or flog im or horsewhip im, came to that. Bigger pupils beat the smaller ones, or buggered em, or both. Rather like a pack of vampires, Spike said, surprised at the realization. The tough got tougher, and the weak got eaten up.
Spike nearly jumped out of his skin at the unexpected sensation of warm fingers clasping his. He glanced up, startled, and met the warm brown of Xanders eyes. Xander didnt ask, but Spike felt the silent question anyway.
Oh, I was a bit of a nancy-boy in those days, Spike said, grimacing. Daydreamy and thin and quiet. So I qualified as weak. It pretty much got around the school that I was a bastard, too, and that didnt help none. I was too spineless to make trouble, so the headmasters left me more or less alone a few canings and the like, but nothing worse but that just made me all the more target for the other boys. Wasnt a nice time, well just leave it at that. I used to dream about being the biggest and baddest of the lot, tough enough to make em all sorry they ever messed with me, but it was just a dream.
Xander nodded quietly. Spike didnt know what hed do if he saw pity in those brown eyes, but thankfully there was none, only understanding.
Mum died before I finished, Spike said indifferently. Dunno if it was the opium finally got er or what; I just got a letter at school from Barstow. He paid up till the end of term, got me a job as a junior clerk in a solicitors office, and I was on me own after that. So I scraped by, or nearly, and wrote bad poems, and one day I saw a beautiful lady named Cecily and fell head over heels like a right dimwit, and you know the rest.
Xander didnt press for more details; he simply got up, pulled out another bottle of stout, opened it, and placed it in Spikes hand to replace the empty bottle there.
Thats sad, Xander said. I mean, you know, that you hated who you were so badly that you kind of became your own alter ego.
Spike shrugged uncomfortably.
Well, Pet, Im happier now than ever I was then, so guess I did something right, he said. Never seemed to have a lark back then. He grinned. Never seemed to get my end down, either. Cant say that was ever a problem after I met Dru. Until lately, that is.
Hey, speaking of that Xander gave him a sly look. I seem to remember something about liniment and rubdowns.
Spike raised an eyebrow. For a moment he thought Xander was just trying to cheer him up after his maudlin little trip down memory lane, but Xanders eyes showed more than a casual interest. Love those teenage hormones.
Come to think of it, I do seem to recall something about that myself, Spike said, grinning. You up to collecting?
Oh . . . I think so, Xander said, grinning back. Spike led the way to the bedroom, and Xander dropped his boxers with suspiciously teasing slowness, giving Spike a sultry look over his shoulder as he stretched out on his belly on the black sheets.
Spike licked his lips, glancing at his latest acquisition on the nightstand a digital camera. As soon as he got access to his accounts, hed buy a computer and have Red show him how to work the bloody thing. In the meantime, though
Can I take a pic, luv? he asked.
You and your pictures, he said good-naturedly. Havent you got everything already?
That was on the Polaroid, Spike argued. Sides, I only got the front that time. He didnt say that hed wanted to wait until the bruises had faded from Xanders back and arse. After the few small doses of Spikes blood (and possibly some help from the liniment, who knew?), the bruising was gone now, and Xander made an image of unequalled beauty against the black sheets. Taking Xanders lack of denial as good enough, he grabbed the camera, took a moment to figure it out, and shot several pictures. Xander grinned saucily over his shoulder and struck several poses, and after filling up the cameras memory with photos, Spike hastily put the camera down, pulled his boxers off, and grabbed the liniment.
Tell me where it hurts, he suggested, straddling Xanders hips and rubbing the liniment over the back of Xanders neck and shoulders.
Uh-uh, Xander negated, sighing as Spikes fingers dug into his muscles.
No? Spike said. Why not?
Cause I want you to rub uhhhhh! Thats grrrrreat! everywhere.
Everywhere? he said suggestively.
Um Spike felt a sudden nervous tension in the muscles under him. How about I give you a provisional everywhere with option to veto?
Works for me, Pet, Spike said easily. Silently, however, he promised himself he was damned well at least going to get privacy for a wank today, if Xander didnt feel up to anything more. His bollocks couldnt take much more of this halfway-there crap.
I dont mean to tease, Xander said suddenly, apropos of nothing, and Spike paused momentarily. Damn. Hed forgotten that just as the growing bond between them allowed Spike a kind of insight into Xanders feelings, it gave Xander a similar hotline to Spikes feelings.
S all right, Pet, Spike said, working his way down Xanders back. Youre doing all right. Ive got by for months now on less.
Then he paused again, holding back his game face with difficulty. Hed been distracted by Xanders naked flesh under his hands, by the gorgeous sight of that ambrosial body. Those distractions had kept him from noticing what the new lack of bruises should have revealed immediately. What his sensitive fingers had only just discovered.
He should have expected them, he supposed. Hed never deluded himself that this latest beating was the only one to draw blood; he doubted this last beating was even the worst Xander had ever had, although he hadnt asked. But the slender, near-invisible scars under his fingers bore mute testimony to the severity of what Xander had suffered.
What? Xander said, raising his head slightly.
Nothing, Spike said hurriedly, resuming his massage.
There was a long moment of silence.
They dont show much, do they? Xander asked quietly.
Spike sighed silently.
Dont show at all, Pet, he said. Didnt even notice em until now.
Anya noticed them, Xander said, almost idly. She never asked how I got em.
Spike bent down and traced his tongue up one long seam. Xander shivered.
Wish I could heal these, Spike murmured. Cant, though. Here, turn over a minute, Pet.
Xander rolled over, gazing at Spike quizzically.
See this? Spike said, brushing his fingertip over the scar that split his eyebrow. Got that fighting the Slayer in China during the Boxer rebellion. Damn good fight. Damn good. One of the best fights of me life. Got her, too.
Um, Id say congratulations, but . . .
Never mind, Pet, I know we dont see eye to eye on this one. Thats not the point. Point is, some scars are like a trophy. A mark that shows you survived. That you won. Just a reminder every day that you were tougher than whatever made those scars. Yours are like that. Theyre there to remind you that you survived, you got away. That whatever your dad thought of you, youre tough enough to kill a Vorgost. That you can live how you please and fuck who you please and they cant do a damn thing about it.
Theyre trying, Xander said uncertainly.
And theyll fail, Spike said smugly. Just you wait.
How do you know? he said in a small voice.
Told you Id see to it, he said. Whos the Big Bad, eh? You think your dads got anything on William the Bloody, eh?
Well Xander smiled slowly. There is that. I suppose theres something to be said for having the baddest, toughest roommate in Sunnydale.
Roommate? Spike said, raising one eyebrow.
Uh boyfriend? Xander suggested hesitantly.
All right, thatll do, he conceded. Now stop worrying about that piece of shit that put your mums belly up, shut your mouth, and close your eyes.
Huh? Xander frowned slightly.
Close your eyes, Spike repeated, grabbing the jar of liniment again, and enjoy.
Truth to tell, Spike probably enjoyed these massages as much as Xander did. He took full advantage of the opportunity to map out Xanders body, find all the sweet spots, where and how Xander best liked to be touched. Spike found it both magical and infuriating to see Xander discover these pleasures of his own body too: Magical, because Xander was such an innate hedonist, and Spike so loved those little purring moans Xander made when Spike showed him that wonderful place right behind his scrotum or the amazing sensitivity of the thin skin on the backs of his knees; infuriating because despite all her millenia of experience, Anya the ex-vengeance-demon had, during all her time with Xander, apparently been a hell of a lot more interested in exploring her own erogenous zones than his.
Spike went over Xanders back again, making sure all the aching muscles were soothed and relaxed. The liniment made his hands feel warm and tingly without burning like some liniment hed known, and that gave him an idea. At last he rolled Xander over again, straddling his thighs once more, shivering as Xander stretched, grinning with sleepy arousal.
Somehow I dont think you have a massage in mind anymore, the mortal chuckled. His own erection testified that he wasnt averse to the idea.
On the contrary, Pet, Spike smirked. I plan to give you a rub youll never forget.
He scooped a dab of liniment out of the jar and rubbed it over his own erection first, gasping at the tingling warmth that flowed over his aching flesh. Scooting forward just a bit, just far enough, he scooped out another dollop and liberally anointed Xanders cock, grinning at the gasp and lurching thrust of Xanders hips. Immediately Spike gathered both slippery lengths together, making a liniment-greased tunnel of both his hands, and rubbed up and then down, just once.
Xander cried out, shuddering, and Spike echoed his cry as the pleasure of his touch seemed magnified a hundredfold, thousandfold, by the heat and sensitivity the liniment created. He pumped them both together, slowly, drawing out the pleasure as long as he could.
They were both tired Xander had put in a hard day of construction work, and for Spike this was the middle of his night both needing and wanting the relief of climax more than anything else, so Spike didnt try to draw it out too long. When he felt Xanders body tensing, his balls drawing up tight against his body, he intensified his stroke, rubbing the liniment over the drooling heads of both erections. Xander howled, threw his head back, and came, and the sudden slickness of Xanders hot semen was all Spike needed to lose control, slide into game face and join Xander in climax. Burning for the taste of blood, his fangs aching to slide into flesh, Spike bit savagely into his own lower lip as he pumped out the last delicious thrusts of his pleasure over Xanders belly, then slumped limply over the mortals chest, shaking in the aftermath.
Spike was dimly aware of warm hands moving him over gently, warm dampness cleaning his skin. Warm lips covered his and he opened to them, welcoming the probing tongue that explored his mouth.
Xander drew back, and Spike grinned lazily up into the warm brown eyes. Xander blushed but grinned back.
You bit yourself again, he said, one finger tracing Spikes lower lip.
Happens, he said. You all right, then?
Uh-huh. Xanders blush deepened. Think we can get the recipe from Willow for that liniment?
Oh, Ill get it, Pet, he said. Or you will. Hopefully lots and lots.
Xander grinned again, then yawned.
Som I, Pet, Spike said. He scooted over on the bed, feeling the sheets. A bit damp with Xanders sweat, but he didnt mind that. Come on, have a bit of a lie down. Weve got to work out some schedule where we can spend some time, other than you up all night or me up all day, eh?
Tomorrows Friday, Xander murmured sleepily against Spikes shoulder. Then theres the whole weekend.
Spike groaned something he hoped Xander would take as agreement.
. . . can take your car tomorrow, he muttered as he slid into sleep. Should get you there and home now, at least . . .
Xander sighed, smiled and closed his eyes.
Like a man whos good with his hands, he breathed, ending on a snore.
If Spike had been awake to hear it, hed have heartily agreed.