When Spike heard Willow drive away from the sound, shed borrowed Giles car he glanced at the closed bathroom door, sighed, and knocked.
Come on out, Pet, he said patiently. Just us, witches have gone home for the night.
Silence. Spike could hear sniffling, but no reply.
Cmon, Pet, Spike said, a little louder. Im not movin your bed in there, and I think youll find sleeping in the tub cold and crampy. Trust me, been there, done that.
Hoarsely: Leave me alone.
Not by half, Spike muttered, and gave the doorknob a good wrench. The cheap interior-door latch yielded immediately. Xander was sitting on the closed lid of the toilet, mopping his eyes with a wad of soggy tissues. He jumped up when Spike opened the door, his eyes flashing with outrage.
Look, I can see that the whole privacy concept boggles you, Xander growled, spoiling the effect by then sniffling, but you actually told me to walk in on you. What part of Leave me alone didnt you understand?
The part where you keep saying what you dont mean, Spike said deliberately. He grabbed a handful of fresh kleenex and thrust them into Xanders hand to substitute for the soggy mass Xander was already holding. Blow.
Xander blew several times. Spike extracted the kleenex from Xanders grip and threw it away, then took Xanders arm and firmly escorted him to the kitchen.
Xander sat, looking subdued. Spike brewed more tea, poked through the supplies Willow and Tara had left, and picked out a can of tomato soup it was the right color, at least, of Spikes favorite food. He heated up the soup and placed the bowl, spoon and crackers in front of Xander. He stuck his finger in the soup pan, tasted. Not bad; not bad by half, although he could dispense with the Yank cracker thing. He helped himself to a small cup.
Eat. He poured Xander a cup of tea and set that down too, then opened a bottle of stout for himself. Go on now.
Silently Xander ate lethargically at first, then with more interest as the warm soup filled him. Spike reflected that the fact that Xander hadnt eaten anything in probably 24 hours hadnt done anything good for his mood.
Comfort food, Xander said, staring down into his bowl.
Hmmm? Spike said, glancing up from his beer.
Comfort food, Xander repeated. He sighed. I was never much of a cook. But Id make myself canned soup when I was, you know, blue. He glanced up at Spike. Did you have any comfort food? I mean, besides blood. When you were mortal, I guess.
Pet, most of my mortal life, if I had any food, that was bloody comforting, he said.
Xander looked embarrassed, but he pressed, Come on. I mean, isnt there anything you get nostalgic about? I mean, you eat those Weetabix, and you drink tea and English beer and all.
Heres one for you, he said. Dyou know why American beer is like having sex in a canoe?
Xander looked confused.
Uh . . . no.
Cause theyre both fucking close to water. Spike grinned. Then he shrugged. Yeah, theres things I remember and miss a bit. Mmm. Winkles. Used to love those, and that tripe stew the street vendors sold you could get a mug of that, hot, for a hapenny. He sighed. Hot roasted chestnuts, those were the best. I always used to put back a penny out of whatever I earned, keep it back if I could. On the really bad days when it seemed like nothing couldnt never be good again, Id take a penny and go get some roasted chestnuts. You dont just buy em and eat em, mind. First you stand around the cart for a while, just smelling them roasting and imagining how good theyll taste. Then you buy em, and its likely cold and wet out, and you hold the paper cone in your hands and feel the heat come through, and you stand around the hot cart if you can while you eat em, making em last as long as ever you can.
Spike sighed, then glanced up, surprised at the expression in Xanders eyes. It was understanding. Sympathetic, not pitying. For some reason, Spike felt both embarrassed and pleased.
Soups like that for me, Xander said awkwardly. I mean, once I moved into the basement, rent pretty much cleaned me out most of the time when I had a job, I mean. But I could always buy cans of soup, and the way it smelled heating up . . . you know, I always thought someday Id learn to make chicken soup. Real chicken soup, you know, from scratch? My grandma used to make it, and I thought it was the most wonderful soup in the world.
Spike only shrugged, but inwardly he grinned. He could give Xander a surprise a good surprise, too.
Xander sighed and put his spoon down.
I guess Id better go put my stuff away, he said regretfully.
Ha. Spike shook his head. Sorry, Pet. Nowhere to put it yet. He glanced at the window; the sun would be down soon. Heres the choice. Either we can both go out with you looking like that, or I can go by myself and pick out some stuff for your room.
Xander looked uncomfortable.
I dont like you having to buy me stuff, he mumbled.
Spike rolled his eyes.
Pet, Im not talking about buying you a bloody car, all right? Just a dresser and a nightstand and a bed.
Just a dresser, Xander argued. I can use the airbed, and I dont need a nightstand with that.
Spike sighed irritably.
Fine. Just a dresser, then, if that makes you happy.
A cheap dresser, Xander warned.
Excuse me, Pet, I buy, I choose, Spike retorted. Some cheap thing wont match the décor.
And some fancy thing wont match the air mattress on the floor.
Which is why I should buy you a bed and a night table to match, Spike said triumphantly. Anyway, its not my money, its on He pulled a handful of credit cards out of his pocket and flipped through them. Dirk Farnsworth.
Xander threw up his hands.
Fine! Get whatever you want, he said resignedly. But then its your furniture, and whenever I go, it stays.
Works for me, Spike said cheerfully. That hardly mattered, since Spike would make sure Xander didnt leave until Spike was ready for him to go.
He went out, rented a U-Haul truck and a handcart, then loaded up Dirk Farnsworths Visa Titanium, buying Xander a positively decadent king-sized waterbed (he remembered hearing Xander once wistfully wishing for one when talking to the Scoobies) with mirrored canopy, matching dresser and night table, bed linens and a cozy comforter, then splurged on a bigger-screen telly and stereo surround sound system for himself. Of course, all that meant he had to unload the bloody truck by himself, but he didnt want delivery men knowing where he lived, or associating Dirk Farnsworth with his address.
Vampiric strength turned out to be a good thing to have, he acknowledged to himself, when moving furniture alone. When Xander protested being confined to the sidelines, Spike firmly guided the boy into his own bedroom, closed the door and jammed it shut until hed finished unloading. The waterbed frame, of course, required assembly, and Spike let Xander out of the bedroom before he started putting it together.
Xander stood in the doorway of the room, staring blankly.
Whats that? he asked, wrinkling his forehead.
Waterbed, Spike said shortly. Thought I remembered you wanted one.
Xanders jaw dropped.
You dont? Spike said, wondering why he cared what the whelp wanted anyway.
No, I did I mean I do, Xander stammered. Its just I mean, we talked about that a long time ago, that Oz had had one and I liked it and I mean, that was a long time ago, and just a couple comments, and you remembered that?
Benefit of being a vampire, Pet, he said. You dont forget much of anythin. Brain cells dont die, see. Hand me that electric screwdriver thingy, will you?
Xander helped as much as Spike would let him, handing tools and parts, although Spike wouldnt let him lift so much as a splinter of the bed itself. It was more trouble than Spike had thought it would be, and he hadnt had the foresight to buy a hose to fill the mattress and had to make another trip out to get that. Hardly mattered, though, since he had to take the truck back anyway, and finally the damned thing was slowly gurgling full. Xander looked at it and sighed.
Can I use the airbed tonight?
Wont take that long to fill, Pet.
Yeah, I know, Xander said patiently. But its full of cold water. Which might feel nice on my bruises for a few minutes, but then Im going to fucking freeze until the heater heats all that water up.
Oh. Spike hadnt thought of that; modern technology largely eluded him. He shrugged. Well, you can have the air bed, then.
Xanders brow wrinkled.
I dont think itll fit in here with the bed and stuff.
Then you can put it in my room, Spike said. He grinned. Or we could just share my bed. Dont mind a bit.
I uh Ill take the air bed, he mumbled.
Suit yourself. Spike moved the air bed into his room, glanced up to make sure Xander wasnt looking, then poked a sharp fingernail into the corner seam of the air bed where it would produce a slow leak. He walked back out. Take it easy, Ill pop something in the oven for you.
Xander mumbled something that was probably thanks, and Spike put a TV dinner in the microwave. When he returned, he found that Xander was almost finished putting his clothes away in the new dresser and the closet.
All settled in, eh? Spike said with satisfaction.
Yeah. Xander smiled slightly. The waterbed was full, so I shut off the water and turned the heater up a little.
Thats good. Cmon, eat your supper, Spike urged. You look knackered.
I am tired, Xander admitted. Dont know why, I havent done anything all day.
Youre beat up, stressed out, and drugged, Spike shrugged. Does that to you. Eat your supper and you can go to bed.
Xander ate, probably more to please Spike than from any actual appetite, but that was good enough for Spike. Spike tossed the dinner tray, washed the fork and cup while Xander was in the bathroom, then met the youth in the bedroom.
Right, he said. Drop the boxers and hop on the bed.
A flush suffused Xanders face and his eyes widened.
Huh? he said. I thought we werent going to
Spike smirked and held up the clay jar Tara had given him.
Liniment, Pet. Remember? Witchly therapy for bruises and aches.
Oh. That. Xander looked sheepish. Uh, okay. He stripped off his robe and stretched out on the bed on his stomach.
Boxers, Spike reminded him.
This time Spike could see the blush continue on down Xanders back.
Uh, do I have to?
Seen it before, Pet, he smirked. He grabbed the sides of the boxers and pulled, startling a yelp out of Xander as that gorgeous (albeit multicolored) arse was abruptly bared. Easy, Pet. Im not gonna attack you, mores the pity. He stripped down to boxers himself; no point in getting liniment all over his clothes. Besides, who knew what he might be able to make of this opportunity.
He scooped up a gob of the liniment, rubbing it between his fingers. Slippery, warmed up nice and tingly but not enough to burn in tender spots. A bloke could have some fun with this stuff.
He dabbed the liniment generously over Xanders back and started rubbing it in, very gently at first, mindful of the whelps bruises. Xander let out a long, shuddery breath and slowly relaxed.
Feels good, he murmured.
Does indeed, Spike chuckled. In fact he was enjoying the hell out of the gorgeous sight of Xander Harris stretched out starkers on his comforter, bruises notwithstanding, and the warm firmness of the skin under his hands. Mmmm, someday hed have to do the lad with lots of massage oil on an oilproof sheet. He could think of lots of fun things to try with a slippery Xander. Damned if he wasnt going to have to have another wank after this.
Mmmmmmm . . . Xander moaned with drowsy pleasure as Spikes hands worked the kinks out of his lower back. Thats wonderful.
Could make it a whole lot better, if you werent so hell-bent on celibacy, Spike suggested slyly.
Xander sighed, not with pleasure this time.
Dont, he said softly. You agreed
Agreed Id accept it, Pet, Spike corrected. Didnt agree to like it. Dont recall any rule that I couldnt talk about it, either. Hey, there. He paused thoughtfully. How come youre trying to set up all these bloody rules in my flat, eh? Cant have a wank in the tub, have to put on clothes to walk out of the bath, and now Ive got to watch what I say, too. Now that youre out of the parental basement, Id think youd want less rules. Course, all the rules you keep making only seem to be for me, he added, smirking.
You can make rules, Xander said weakly, involuntarily squirming under Spikes slow massage. Spike could smell Xanders arousal growing.
Hmmm. First rule, you never wear clothes or a towel coming out of the bathroom, Spike said, grinning. That way, if I cant touch, at least I get to look.
Forget it, he said.
Hey, it was worth a try, Pet, Spike chuckled. He continued his slow massage down over Xanders buttocks, letting his thumbs dip teasingly into the crease. Xander was almost trembling now, and Spike could smell the arousal seeping out of his pores. God, his blood would be delicious now, heady with arousal and pleasure.
Uhhhhhhhh Xander groaned. How am I supposed to keep myself under control when you do things like that?
Asking the wrong vampire, Pet. I want you to lose control. You want to talk about self-control, talk to Soul Man. Hes the expert, not me.
Im tired of not being in control, Xander said, very softly, and Spike felt a brief flash of what, hurt? No thanks, not this vampire! before he realized what Xander meant. By all accounts, Cordelia had picked him up, used him, then dumped him. Anya had done the same. Faith had simply used him briefly and then tried to kill him. From what Spike had heard, Xander had had an interest in a couple of other ladies, one of whom had turned out to be a big man-eating bug and another who had turned out to be a life-sucking mummy. Such was life on the Hellmouth. Or maybe it was just the fact that Fate seemed to have taken a big, runny, stinking crap on Alexander Harris, as far as Spike could see.
Well, Pet, theres all kinds of shagging that isnt using somebody, Spike said, continuing his massage down Xanders legs. Sometimes its like meeting somebody and having a nice dance you meet, you have a bit of fun together, you grin and say, Hey, maybe Ill see you here again and thats that. Or theres friends who share a good shag now and again just to be friends and make each other feel good. Nothin wrong with that. Its only just when one person has his heart in it and the other doesnt, thats when it gets bad.
I know that, Xander protested, his voice muffled by the fact that he was resting his face on his folded arms. Im not stupid.
Didnt say you were, Pet. Spike suddenly realized hed put his foot in it. Xander had had his heart in it with Cordelia and Anya, at least a bit, whether or not it had been love or just the teenage hormonal thing. They hadnt been a casual fuck or a shag between friends. And what Faith had done to Xander fell on the shady side of sex versus rape, even if Xander probably didnt think of it that way.
Right, then, Spike said decisively. Over, Pet. He anticipated Xander protesting, probably because of the hardon the whelp was undoubtedly sporting now Spike could smell the precome so Spike simply rolled Xander over. Then abruptly he rolled them both over so that Xander was stretched out full-length on top of the vampire. In this position Spike felt the mortals firm warmth, and was increasingly aware of Xanders larger frame, and that gave him a peculiar thrill.
There you go, Pet, Spike grinned. Now youre in control. So now youve got me, what do you want to do with me, eh?
Xander flushed bright red, and Spike could feel the wave of heat travel down the mortals body. Bloody ell, the boy didnt have half a lovely spike on him, eh? Slyly, Spike wriggled a bit, rubbing his erection against Xanders through the thin fabric of his silk boxers. Xander inhaled sharply.
So Xander steadied his voice. So if Im in control, what if I want to do this?
And he bent his head down and kissed Spike, slowly, deeply, no tongue but that was probably the only bloody thing he held back.
If Spike had needed to breathe, that kiss would have rendered him breathless. If hed been wearing socks, it would have knocked him out of them. If he were capable of raising gooseflesh, hed have goosebumped top to toe. As it was, it shook him all the way to the tips of his toes. And while it didnt raise gooseflesh, it certainly raised some other flesh.
Bloody ell, Pet, Spike gasped, wondering why the hell he was gasping when he didnt need to breathe. You dont do nothin by halves, eh? So whatre you gonna do now?
Go to bed, Xander said, grinning as he rolled off Spike.
Huh? Spike gaped, dumbfounded. He was hard as a rock, Xander was hard as a rock, and the whelp wanted to stop? Just like that?
Hey, you got to first base without even taking me out on a date, Xander said, a little awkwardly. Dont complain. He glanced over the side of the bed at the air mattress, now more than half flat, then back at Spike.
You did that, didnt you? he said, sighing. I know you did that.
Spike rolled his eyes. Well, if he wasnt going to get any tonight, he might as well be by himself where he could have a wank without the whelp bitching about it.
Fine, Spike said exasperatedly. You sleep here, Ill take the bleedin couch.
You cant take the couch, Xander protested. Sunlight.
You wont get any sleep, really sleep.
Fine, then. Ill sleep in the bleedin waterbed. Cold dont bother me.
Xander took a deep breath.
Can you can you sleep in here and not, you know, make a pass at me or anything?
Spike sighed mentally. Another wankless night. Why the hell was he putting up with this?
Sure, Pet, he said. Ill go get you a pain pill, youll drop right off. Want your shorts back?
Ummm Xander flushed. Do you mind if I get my pajamas?
Theyre your jammies, arent they? he said resignedly. He fetched the pain pill and a glass of water for Xander, almost dropping them when he stepped back into the bedroom. Xander was wearing a pair of flannel pajamas, tops and bottoms both, okay, but with teddy bears all over them. Blue teddy bears.
Well, thatll do it, Pet, Spike snorted. If Id had any idea of making a pass, as you put it, those wouldve done the trick putting it right out of my mind. Here, take your pill and let me put the lights out sos I wont have to look at those anymore.
Xander grinned abashedly and took his pill, scootching over to the far side of the bed precariously near the edge. Spike sighed pointedly and gave the bed a mighty heave with vampiric strength, scooting the whole thing over against the wall with a tremendous screech of protesting metal as the un-wheeled legs scraped over the floor. Xander jumped about a mile and glared at Spike in outrage.
What the hell did you do that for?
Well, Pet, if youre gonna scrunch away like I have lice or summat, least I can do is see that you dont finish the job on those ribs falling out of bed, Spike said irritably. He grabbed the blanket and pillow from the now-deflated air mattress, switched out the light and slid into bed, curling up in the blanket. If the whelp could barely share the mattress with him, he certainly wasnt going to be much good for sharing the covers.
There was a long silence. Then:
Sorry, Xander said, very softly.
For what, Pet? Spike said absently, wondering if he could manage a wank when the whelp drifted off to sleep.
Its not . . . you, okay?
Spike hesitated, feeling that bewildering mixture of anxiety and pleasure.
I know, Pet. S all right. Get some sleep.
For the second night (morning) in a row Spike was wakened out of a sound sleep, this time by a shaking of the mattress and a sound that it took Spike some moments to place.
Quiet almost silent sobbing.
Pet? Xander? Spike said softly, but the sobbing continued unchanged, and Spike realized to his amazement that Xander was crying in his sleep. Dru had done that sometimes.
God, the beating he took on the outside aint nothing to what hes taken on the inside, Spike thought, grimacing, briefly entertaining a very satisfying image of using his trademark railroad spikes on Xanders parents. Slowly, quietly, he slid over to Xanders side of the bed.
Shhhh, Pet, s all right, youre safe, he murmured in that low, soft voice that had always soothed Dru. Lighter than breath, his fingers stroked down Xanders arm in a slow, hypnotic rhythm. Cmere, Pet, youre all right, Ill chase the nasty dreams away, Im bigger n meaner, youre all right.
Xander gave a final sniffle, then, without waking up, rolled over against Spikes side, pillowing his head on the vampires shoulder just as Dru had always done. The mortal snuggled in closer, still making little unhappy noises, and Spike carefully wrapped his arm around Xander, avoiding the tender ribs.
Thats it, thats a good Pet, rest easy, only nice dreams now, Spike murmured, stroking Xanders hair. Slowly Xander settled, his breathing evening out as his sleep deepened.
Spike, however, lay awake for a long time, his face all vampiric angles and planes, golden eyes glittering in the dark. Images of blood and vengeance filled his mind.
He stroked Xanders back very softly, very gently, and smiled.