Midnight at LAX


by
Ahestele



Part Seven

Measure twice. Cut once. It was a good rule and Xander followed it. Deafening screech of the saw. Methodical hammering of six-inch nails into new wood still reeking of wood sap, tireless sanding by hand until the surface felt smooth and slightly dusty beneath his palm, and then sanding some more. Muscles groaned, then bitched in protest, his lower back most severely unhappy, but he toiled on; sweating a little, out of breath a little. He wasn't a kid anymore.

Tried not to think about much at all, and definitely not about those two and a half days that seemed to never leave his memory, hovering just below his consciousness to stage sneak attacks with the ruthlessness and success of the Viet Cong. Spent too much time on that already, and it showed. People at work had started to notice, and Xander tried to keep his face expressionless, though it felt like it would crack with Patrick's good-hearted words of concern Patrick only asked after Spike once. Xander's face must have shown something after all.

"No, I'm okay. I haven't been sleeping too well. Sure, dinner would be good. Yeah, I'm fine. Really." He'd had dinner at Pat's house four times since that fateful night; so hard to face the house alone all of a sudden. Fucking joke since he'd been doing it for ten years.

He couldn't sleep in the bed for very long. Kept imagining he could still smell Spike even after he'd changed the sheets. Changed them that morning at four a.m., jerking the fabric off the bed so hard his knuckles got sheet burn, bundled the whole works into the washer on hot and dumped a quart of detergent in. All the while the mindless mantra in his head Don't think about it. Don't think about it. Woke up hard and gasping in the dark, reaching for a cool satin body that wasn't there. Jerked off so often his cock got chafed raw and he stopped, embarrassed with himself. Don't think about it. Don't think about. Don't fucking think about it.

But for now there was only this. Precision. Crafting. Creating with his own two hands. Power tools were for sissies, and the project had taken him four solid evenings, but now stood finished. Xander stepped back and allowed himself some satisfaction. Not too bad for someone out of the construction business for a decade. The sound of two hands clapping interrupted his perusal and he turned to the tall, light-skinned black man, smiling.

"Applause, applause, honey. I am blown away. Ecstatic. Amazed. There are no words."

"It's a pantry, Fontaine."

"What makes you think I was talking about the cupboard?" The sharp black eyes gave him a broadly suggestive look, and Xander laughed a little, for the first time since The Departure. Things were looking up.

"Fontaine, my man." He shook his head. "Where were you in high school when my self-esteem sucked?"

"Dressing like Boy George and asking jocks if they really wanted to hurt me." The statuesque figure, wearing a pristinely pressed coat and tie, draped itself on a cheap plastic chair with a shudder. "The Eighties. May they rest in peace." Xander agreed with a sympathetic hum and began picking up his tools.

He'd begun doing gratis construction work on the Casa Soledad Hospice soon after he got to LA. Figured the dying souls in Boyle Heights needed his talents more than he needed to spend one more Saturday alone in his apartment staring at crappy cartoons. No one made good cartoons anymore. The two-line announcement in the local gay newspaper had been pretty vague, hidden on the back page in a corner. He hauled his toolbox over anyway; exiting the beat-to-hell Toyota he'd been driving at the time to collide with the appraising stare of a mocha-skinned, bald, unabashedly gay man. The man's hips were canted to the side, elegant hands perched on them like accessories and his t-shirt read 'Shuck Me Suck Me Eat Me Raw~Joe's Crab Shack'. The gaydar never had to work too hard with Fontaine.

"You bring all your SNAP-on tools, BROWN eyes?" The voice spoke with clear, rhythmic precision; a voice used to carrying from a stage in a crowded bar.

"Most of them." He'd grinned and Fontaine looked him over a few more times. He'd dressed to work and was wearing his ripped, paint-splattered jeans and a threadbare t-shirt, both faded and molded to his body from years of washing. His utility belt rode low on his hips and he'd pulled his hair back with a rubber band, gold-rimmed glasses already on. The sharp, long- lashed eyes lifted with a wide smile.

"Honey, if you can't hammer a nail we'll find something for YOU to do."

But Xander could do a lot more than hammer nails.

Fontaine concentrated on getting funding and Xander worked his ass off. Fontaine made sure any first-time offenders who had a background in construction doing freebie work for a DWI or a first possession charge ended up at the house. Patrick had logged a few Saturdays helping Xander with the ancient electrical wiring, and the odd college student looking to pad their resume wandered through. Once a band of Mormons showed up and Xander thought that accepting a few tracts turned out to be a small price to pay for getting the kitchen painted in record time. Besides, the look on the apple-cheeked boys' faces when the statuesque house facilitator showed up in cut-off shorts, a be-jeweled du-rag and a t-shirt bearing the legend 'More Man Than You'll Ever be And More Woman Than You'll Ever Get' was worth the perky proselytizing. He and Fontaine had been talking and joking ever since, the easiest friendship he'd fallen into since Willow.

Except nothing got past the incisive house coordinator. He had a built-in shit detector the likes of which Xander had never seen. So when Fontaine leaned back on the chair while Xander picked up his tools and said, "Want to tell Auntie Fontaine all about what ails you?" he wasn't really surprised. Not meeting his friend's eyes, Xander began running a large magnet over the floor to pick up any spare nails.

"I'm okay."

"Oh, please." The clear voice dropped low in an aggrieved sigh. "When you show up four days in a row to minister to the bitchy and dying and do a Bob Vila on the kitchen closet something is wrong. Give a girl some credit."

Don't think about it. Don't But that just wasn't going to fly here, in this place he'd refurbished with his bare hands, in front of one of the most honest people he'd ever met. And he was so tired of pretending that he didn't miss Spike so badly it ached.

"Who is he?"

"How do you know it's a 'he'?" Xander asked idly, resigning himself to spilling his guts, but giving avoidance the old college try anyhow.

"Well." A long-fingered hand wandered gracefully to Fontaine's chin. "It is hard to tell with you switch hitters, but call it a hunch. No one can hurt you like your own, Lexi-babe."

Maybe it was the silly nickname that no one else would be allowed to use or the simple, awful truth of the words, but suddenly his throat tightened and his eyes burned and he had to bend down to screw totally unnecessarily with some wood chips because the deep regret rising in his throat threatened to choke him.

"Tell me his name." Fontaine's voice was low and conversational. "So I can scratch his motherfucking eyes out."

A watery laugh was surprised out of him and he finally looked at his friend, finding nothing but sympathy in the inky black eyes. He was about to utter Spike's name for the first time since That Night when the single syllable was the last thing he said to the vampire, when Fontaine's features became hard and annoyed and the man rose up from the hideous plastic chair with the grace of a debutante. Xander turned around to watch his friend walk toward a short, dark-skinned boy leaning against the door frame, broom hugged forgotten in one arm while he stared at a point below Xander's waist with dreamy, half-closed eyes.

"ExCUSE me." Fontaine stood in the boy's line of sight so the fixed gaze had to travel all the way up to the black man's glaring dark eyes. "You see, honey, the POINT of community service is that you actually BE of service. Do you comprende? Now quit drooling on my counter and move. The dust bunnies in the rec room are procreating."

"I was yust enjoying da scenery." The boy scoffed in thick East L.A., tossed his curly pert ponytail and tried to look past Fontaine to Xander, who smiled kindly.

"Dream on, sugar. Lexi don't shop the boulevard."

The little hustler sniffed reflectively, adjusting his tight t-shirt. "Heem I do for free."

"Donations accepted only on Tuesdays. Now shoo." Long-fingered hands made waving gestures at the boy.

"I going, I going." But the short boy's glance strained hopefully around the glowering supervisor and Xander shook his head, bemused.

With a sigh, Fontaine returned to where Xander sat, folding himself back on the plastic Wal-Mart special chair with more elegance than that piece of furniture ever deserved.

"New one?"

"Mhm." Fontaine grumbled. "Someone called in a favor. Be out on the street the second he can, mark my words.

"He might make it." He shrugged and Fontaine tilted his head, studying Xander for a moment before replying.

"Maybe. But that's just me being the cynical old drag queen."

"You're not old, Fontaine."

"Yes, I am. How old was the person that cut your heart out in little bitty pieces?" And wasn't that a loaded question?

"Hundred sixty-five." Xander answered and Fontaine nodded thoughtfully. "Does that mean there's hope for me?" Xander smiled. Fontaine could always coax this out of him, no matter how down he might be.

"No. He's a little younger. I knew him from back home."

"Ah. Blast from the past."

Xander felt his smile become bitter. "You have no idea."

"Baby, do you think you're the only one this has happened to? That's probably why it did happen. You meet someone you knew once and, suddenly, you don't have to do the whole my history, your history song-and-dance. Next thing you know, there you are with cucumber in one hand and a glow in the dark condom in the other." Xander glanced at him pointedly.

"Or maybe that's just me. Were you safe?" Fontaine asked bluntly and Xander rolled his eyes.

"Yes, mom."

"You better. Don't make me go upside your head."

"Nope, I like my head downside if that's okay with you."

"Damn skippy."

"You know," Xander said as he arranged his tools in the metal box, "I've always wondered what that meant. Is it someone named Skippy? Is skippy some kind of cool shorthand for 'you bet your ass?' I am not getting out of this, am I?"

"Nope." Fontaine said. "You can do the white-boy verbal two step all you want, Lexi. I know you ain't right." A gentle finger lifted Xander's chin and he reluctantly met his friend's concerned dark eyes, so black he could see himself in them. Little Xanders stared back at him. "That pretty brown stare is so sad, baby."

Fontaine doubled, then tripled and Xander looked away, blinking furiously at the burning beneath his lids. A strong, long arm guided him onto a plastic monstrosity and he let it, throat working, fingers wiping quickly at the moisture that escaped his lashes, struggling not to cut and bawl in his friend's arms.

"Goddamn." He laughed roughly at himself, as he bent over to rest his elbows on his knees. "Where did you learn to do that? You are scary, man."

"Boy Scouts." Fontaine's slender hand rubbed his back in slow, soothing circles, like Xander had rubbed Spike's that time he threw up and Xander gave a deep sigh, allowing himself to be soothed, and began speaking.

He started with the night flight he blew off when he found Spike in the airport bar and ended the night Spike left. He left out that Spike was a vampire. As much as he'd never seen Fontaine thrown yet, he thought spouting casual phrases about the undead, demons, and one hundred sixty five year old vampires with souls might do it. When he finished Fontaine had leaned closer, chin in hand, sharp eyes unblinking.

"Two and a half days, hm?"

"Give or take."

"Must have been some good sex."

"Phenomenal," Xander deadpanned, letting the images come, not even bracing for them anymore. Soft, soft, satin muscle, bouncy curls like sewing silks and sweet Jesus the tightness of him; the mind-blowing feel of being inside all that velvet and strength and even after two weeks, he couldn't imagine being in anyone else, with anyone else; the bare, naked look in those eyes.

Fontaine's eyebrow did the question mark thing Spike's could do and Xander shut his eyes against another onslaught of girly tears. He'd had enough of that today, thanks.

Two days and change, it shouldn't do this to him, dammit, it shouldn't!

"So, let me get this straight, for lack of a better word." Fontaine began, pulling him out of that place he'd been. Pulling him out kicking and screaming, even though outwardly Xander just blinked mildly, ran a hand through his hair. "You don't see him for fifteen years. You run into each other at the airport, he looks all delicious and needy, you bring him home, bodily fluids are exchanged, and you go off because he won't tell you all his secrets?"

"It's not that simple. Something was wrong." Except put like that, it sounded pushy as hell, didn't it?

"Do you think he's using?"

"No." Xander admitted. Whatever had Spike doing a Karen Carpenter in his commode, it wasn't drugs. Not after hour after hour of being together. "No," he repeated decisively.

"So, no drugs. But he wouldn't tell you after the a grand total of two days, what was going on."

"No."

"Lexi." Xander turned his eyes to Fontaine's and was actually surprised to see exasperation coloring them. "What are you, a lesbian? You yourself aren't all down with the opening up, or isn't that what that last little boy said, and the one before him? We're MENS, baby. What side of the fence we take our pleasure with don't matter, we're still MENS, and we don't give it up on a dime. Not unless we ain't got no sense, or a daddy complex."

Xander looked away, because of course some of that had been lurking around his head ever since that night. That he could have handled things better. Been calmer. Not painted Spike into a corner with no out but to leave. but the sickness, couldn't take that, couldn't watch that No, he couldn't have. But sitting here Spikeless for fourteen days and counting, all he had were second guesses and might-have- beens. All he'd ever have. NO

A warm hand smoothed his back again and he turned to Fontaine, saw a reflection of how bleak he looked in his friend's eyes. "I'm not sure I'll ever see him again."

"Did you get the impression he felt the same way?"

"I thought he did," Xander said softly.

"Then you'll see him again," Fontaine said, smiling warmly. A smile not many people saw, Xander knew. One that Fontaine didn't trot out often, because when a gay black man chose to make a life's work out of working with end-stage AIDS patients, and said black man had been a fairly well-known drag queen called Luscious Dupree, and said black man didn't have the decorum or inclination to be even vaguely embarrassed about that fact, warmth didn't get you very far. But when the smile appeared it was a gift, and Xander returned it as best he could.

"I don't think so."

"You need to have some faith, my brother."

"I'll work on it," he sighed, and felt as if he could just lay down here on the floor and go to sleep. Fontaine's hand lay on the middle of his back again, and he was so grateful for it the tears almost started again. Man, he was messed UP. "Thanks so much for the pantry, Lexi. Now go home with your bad self and get some sleep. You look tired."

"I thought I always looked gorgeous," he teased. Marching on. Okay, limping on. He'd take what he could get.

"You do, baby. It's the eyes."

Xander nodded in understanding and then leaned and hugged his friend, floating in the cloud of patchouli and clothes starch that always reminded him of Fontaine. Left with promises to call soon, to not get too depressed, to call if he needed ANYTHING, did he hear? Mind already on the empty vastness of the town house and how he'd made a bed he couldn't lie in.


NIGHT

The doorbell intruded on him, an insistent, buzzing insect and Xander stirred in the easy chair, trying to turn away from the sound. Must have fallen asleep in front of the TV again, and the muscles in his back groaned with every movement, paying him back in spades for his carpentry marathon. Everything felt fuzzy, but grating, dancing on his nerves with sharp needles: the canned laughter from Leno, the bright light he'd forgotten to even dim, the pilly fleece of his rattiest sweatpants rough on his cock, because laundry seemed to take too much energy and he couldn't even look at his black sweats without his chest getting tight.

Chime, chime, fucking chime, like the person got their finger stuck on the button and he stumbled to his bare feet, running a shaking hand over his face. Fucking ten forty-five at night and didn't people have a LIFE? Who the hell would show up now? Most of his friends had kids, and jobs, and Fontaine had way too much class to just appear unannounced.

Actually bumped his head on the door when he leaned into the peephole to look and had a kind of scary moment when the bubble of laughter rising in his chest fought to escape, because he thought the sound might not be good. Thought the sound might become the slightest bit insane hysterical, and he thanked any god that would listen that he lived alone and no one was around to watch him fall apart piece by tiny piece. Finally focused one bleary eye and saw the space full of the top of someone's head before the person looked up.

Summer blue gaze gone indigo in the porch light filled his vision and Xander pulled his head back as if the sight burned his corneas. Every ounce of air gone from his lungs, just vacuumed out, and he stood with one hand on the door, trying to grasp shallow breaths around the shock, not moving, unable to move at all. For long moments he stood there, still, until the doorbell began its merry melody again, and a strangely disembodied hand closed on the doorknob and flung it open.

Spike stood under the light, hand on the same black duffel, the other holding a cigarette that unraveled a long ribbon of smoke into the night. Honey-blond curls catching highlights, fine bones a study in shadows, and since when did Spike wear BLUE? Xander didn't think he'd ever seen the vampire in anything but red and black, and the rich royal tone of the tight knit top turned Spike's eyes to sapphires. Those eyes on Xander, a million emotions in them, no shutters anymore, and a powerful rush of almost dizzying anger suffused him. Because he'd been dreaming this, he'd just left this scenario in his head. The evidence sat between his legs like a stone- not hard, no, but wanting. Throbbing. Needing with an ache so deep it defied description and now he was HERE...

"Lose the cigarette." Xander commanded harshly, and Spike held his eyes for a beat before obediently bending to rub the tobacco out in the soil of a potted ficus plant. Xander stepped back and Spike hesitated on the threshold, like he wasn't sure that walking in would be a good idea, but finally ducked his head, curls cascading forward, and entered. He shut the door behind him and leaned back, lifted sooty lashes to lock stares.

Xander felt held together by cheap rivets about to burst free, and he was so fucking angry, he was fucking livid. Angry because he'd been dreaming and wanting Spike the moment the door closed behind him that night. Enraged that just looking at Spike could make him weak and desperate, infuriated that Spike just stood there, asking, oh, everything with that look in his eyes, that bare naked look. Jesus, he had to clench his fists to keep from flinging himself at the man and just babbling, laying himself bare at Spike's feet if he'd just promise to never leave again and Xander refused to DO that, godamnit! He wasn't that person anymore; hadn't been puppy Xander or doormat Xander for years; 'Walk on me, hurt me, insult me, but don't leave me! Should I lay a little flatter, if you please?' He'd worked long and hard not to be that person, and FUCK Spike for making him feel that way again.

The delicate Adam's apple swallowed, one unneeded breath. "Xander, I.."

"Shut up," he ground out, seeing the brilliant blue bruise at the words. Savage joy blossomed in his chest from it. "Shut. Up." Repeated before turning away and walking-he hoped calmly- back in the house, leaving Spike standing inside the doorway holding his duffel bag. Breathed through the pounding in his throat, trying not to fucking swoon from the Spike-scent in the air that aimed right for his brain like pure heroin: musk, ash, clinging remnants of the night air.

Reaching the recliner just as his legs gave out beneath him, Xander realized he'd sat on the remote and cursed, while reaching under his ass for the thing. When he finally rescued it from easy chair hell and leaned back, Spike stood directly in front of him, blocking his view of the TV. Xander's eyes followed the slender, lean, lines of that body all the way up to the devastating intensity of summer blue eyes.

"You're in my way." The words were hoarse, tight, and Xander scrambled to sit up when Spike dropped to his knees in a rolling, feline move. Blinked at the bald regret in the flawless blue orbs because looking right at them burned, like the sun.

"What d'you want me to do?" Spike asked plaintively. Xander breathed hard through his nose, unable to tear his eyes from the expressive face that looked like it might crumple before him, realizing how close Spike was at that height to... "I left because..."

"No." Xander shook his head, hands gripping the arms of the recliner so hard he felt the leather squeak. "No, you don't get to do this. You don't get..." Spike reached out a leather-clad arm, hesitant, and Xander shot a hand out to stop the movement before he could think. They both gasped at the touch. Locked eyes that wouldn't let go, and he wanted the anger. He wanted to nurture it and feed it, it felt better than anguished despair, but, ah, he was drowning in Spike's eyes, going under, and the anger just barely kept him afloat.

Spike's hand closed around his where it lay on the vampire's breastbone, smooth-rough fingers slightly trembling, and Xander lids dropped at the touch. Should have known, should have known one touch and his mind would shatter, explode and disintegrate into a thousand pieces because, oh, because the very flesh on his palms hungered for Spike's skin like sustenance. He begrudged every fiber of the fabric beneath his hand, and even as part of him fought to hold onto the clean, sharp rage, the need to feel, continue feeling, split him in two. His other hand inched over Spike's chest on crawling fingers. No heartbeat beneath, but the firm pecs rose up and down like Xander's own. Closer, closer, no control, not a shred, damnit, DAMNIT.

He pulled Spike to him with an angry growl and hadn't realized he'd yanked Spike's head back by his hair until the strong chin snapped up. Xander stared into ocean- blue eyes that didn't even look surprised at the move, and that brought the fury back in a storm.

He could do anything to Spike right now, ANYTHING. He could sense it. The knowledge horrified him, and made him hard, and horrified him again. He didn't want a professional victim, he'd never wanted that, and Spike would rather offer himself up like some fucking sacrifice than let Xander IN a little bit like you and Xander's breath trickled out in a shocked stutter. The hunger in Spike's eyes became questioning concern as Xander shook his head, staring into the brilliant blue with fear.

"It's like a part of you is always away, Alex. Like you don't think enough of us to trust me with anything important. Do you realize that?"

"Alex, I just can't be with anyone that holds back like that. Great sex isn't enough, and I can't believe I just said that. I should thank you, really. Until you I wasn't sure I deserved more."

"No," he whispered.

"Xander?" Spike touched his cheek gently, head still jerked back in the same awkward position when Xander crushed Spike to him with a moan, groping for skin beneath the leather with something like insanity. No finesse, nothing thoughtful as his hands dove under the shirt, slipped in the too loose waist of the jeans to cup muscular globes of flesh and Spike groaned into his neck, suddenly alive and WILD in his arms.

And YES cool fingers on his back under the awful t-shirt and cool lips mouthing his neck in a way that dove right to his groin. Leaning over like this made his back bitch some more but that could go right to hell at this moment because, oh, scrape of teeth on his pulse, oh. With a helpless sound Xander tightened his arms around Spike's waist and pulled him up on the recliner, up and back, felt the expensive La-Z-boy shift down, felt Spike start in alarm that melted away when Xander gripped his face to pull him into a bruising kiss.

God he'd missed this, he'd craved this so much. The litany whirled in Xander's head as he devoured Spike's mouth in biting, claiming breaths. Smoke and salt and so, so sweet, the cool mouth dissolved into his with a groan. Spike opened his legs around Xander's hips, knees locked behind his back. He thrust into the pulsing hardness battling with his, rubbing the rough fleece on his sensitive cock in delicious friction, over and over until Xander blindly rolled on top of the slimmer body, straddling it on the dangerously creaking chair. Cradling Spike's head in his hands, he rocked hard into the slim hips, the sight of the pure desire on Spike's face causing pre-come to constantly leak between them, and, fuck, so good, so, oh.

Spike morphed in his hands; he felt the ridged brow lower, saw feral amber when the sooty lashes opened, and they stilled, suspended for long moments as brown gaze met gold, the sound of their hard breathing riding over the pulsing in Xander's ears and the one between his legs. Giving Spike's temples a faint caress with his thumbs, Xander brushed his lips over Spike's mouth with a helpless sound, again, gently tracing the long fangs with his tongue and Spike spasmed beneath him, cool hands scratching at his back. The pain sizzled along his skin, ropes of desire to his crotch and he clutched Spike to him, tasting the hollow of his neck as the vampire quivered underneath him, wanting to drown in Spike's scent, his flavor, to roll in him like a field of opium flowers. Spike's hand suddenly burrowed its way between them, palmed his erection and squeezed skillfully. Xander came so fast he wailed as orgasm ripped through him, wave after wave and he clamped down on Spike's neck as he shuddered, breaking skin with his teeth, blood rising into his mouth. Spike HOWLED in his ear, body shaking apart beneath him as they rode out the waves, the recliner shaking precariously as they writhed against each other, grabbing and thrusting, and never letting go.





Part Eight

He came to with a yawn, and grunted at the twinge in his back. He also realized he was alone on the recliner, his stomach in a pretzel-esque contortion that had his lumbar region snarking in truly eloquent fashion. Rolling stiffly onto his back he gave a sigh of pain, then paused, looking around the room.

No duffel on the floor or near the door, and his heart began to sink like a stone. No. No WAY, no fucking WAY Spike would come back just for no? You attacked him and didn't let him talk "Shut up," he muttered. That little voice in the back of his head was really getting on his nerves. Reaching over, he flipped the handle on the right-hand side of the chair and the back flipped up cheerfully, causing him to wince at the spark of pain in his back. "No." He repeated to himself as he gingerly found his footing in a stiff waisted move that made him sympathize with pregnant women.

Hello. This is Xander's denial. I serve no purpose other than to metaphorically fuck and torment you. He couldn't have left. oh, really? Xander took to the stairs, trying to ignore the awful, growing suspicion that he had royally screwed up, and shit, he couldn't get that back, he could never get that back.

The sound of the shower reached him as he neared the top the of the stairs and the relief was so great he had to stop and brace himself on the wall, hand at his stomach to still the flutters there.

The black duffel sat on the floor, unzippered, and Xander took everything in: open travel gear; mussed bed, still unmade from the night before last when he tried to sleep in it and failed- again. The bathroom currently occupied by the person he'd most wanted to see again. Really here. Holy god, he was really HERE, and again with the flutters. Also with the disbelief, so Xander wondered how good of an idea it was to join Spike in there, more just to see him again, to reaffirm that he hadn't imagined the hot recliner sex, and would he ever be able to sit there again without getting turned on?

Instead, he carefully bent over to rummage through the surprisingly neat and folded contents of the travel bag. Black jeans, black shirt, black briefs - which made his ears warm - but no sweat pants. Of course. Like Spike would ever own such a plebian article of clothing. Xander did find, on the very bottom, a plain white t-shirt, which he removed and lay on the bed, smoothing it out over the rumpled bedcovers. Rising slowly, and keeping one ear on the shower, he walked to the corner of the room and bent over carefully to pick up the pair of black sweat pants that had been lying in the same place ever since Spike left. Xander hadn't moved them, couldn't even look at them, as if to acknowledge their presence would turn him to stone. Knowing that if he got too close, the urge to bury his nose in the soft, worn fabric and inhale for one slight scent of Spike would be too strong, and he'd have gone crazy. Crazier.

Xander spread the sweats out next to the white t-shirt, absently stroking the soft, worn, material; unable to see them without remembering Spike in them, how they dipped below his navel. How the curve of hipbone looked, vulnerable and sharp, above the dark elastic waistband.

Another twinge of pain at his own waist made him suck in his breath, and fine! Mea culpa, mea-fucking culpa for drowning his sorrows in carpentry. He needed an ibuprofen cocktail with a dash of hot shower, maybe, except the pills were in the bathroom. Remembering the spare bottle in his work backpack, Xander left the clothes on the bed and negotiated the stairs again, grumbling further when he realized he'd left his backpack in the damn car due to his earlier fatigued, depressed state earlier.

After a trek out to the garage and back, Xander popped three ibuprofen with a swallow of water and walked up the stairs again. The shower had stopped but the door closed, a sliver of light still shone from beneath, and he firmly quashed the urge to knock.

What if he's sick in there? You could knock... Jesus, let the straw go.

The plus of an entire house was the having of more than one bathroom. He could do the mature thing and give Spike some space after the hot and sweaty reunion. Maybe he doesn't want to talk to you. Maybe he had to kick his inner voice's ass. Resolving not to pay attention to his internal peanut gallery anymore Xander gathered some clean clothes and walked across the hall for a quick shower in the guest room.

The shower took longer than planned once he got a good look at himself in the mirror, though. Shit, Spike couldn't resist THAT? His hair looked like birds nested in it, he had a five o'clock shadow, and not in a sexy, GQ way, and the goatee was scraggly. Spike's skin was sensitive enough as it was. So he'd washed AND conditioned his hair, trimmed his beard, and witched out the ancient U2 t-shirt for a maroon thermal top before padding into the bedroom. He paused, stilled by the sight of the undisturbed clothes still on the bed.

The duffel bag was gone.

His heart dropped. He felt it, a long descent to his toes like the first hill on a roller coaster.

Christ, chill the fuck OUT, Harris! So it's gone. So what? Neat vampire. You saw all the folded clothes. Must have been a free gift with purchase deal when he got the soul: politeness and neatness YOURS for the low, low price of only a pound of flesh!

The desire for the Spike he knew in his basement overtook him, total and complete. Towels on the floor Spike; smoke in his face Spike; steal his radio, dog his clothes, rude, crude, dangerous to know blood-sucking Spike. Xander knew that one. Always knew where he stood, where they stood, back then. That Spike didn't have the power to shred his heart to pieces, to make his breath catch as he sped downstairs. He smelled the smoke the minute he entered the kitchen and for the second time that night relief flooded powerfully through him. He could see Spike pacing on the back patio, which was really nothing more than a glorified slab of concrete with a trellis and some plants. Even before Xander stepped outside he saw Spike had on a black t-shirt tucked into black jeans, his duster swirling around his legs. The ends of the honey curls gleamed damply, and the vampire cut a look at him as Xander opened the door and walked outside.

"Didn't want to stuff up the house." Spike gestured the cigarette at him with a flick of a wrist and Xander nodded, eyes following the pacing vampire where Spike outlined the perimeter of the small patio with restless, impatient strides. It was the first sign of the agitated pre-soul demon Xander had been reminiscing about, and he had a moment when he wondered if that demon was back and no longer wanted a thirty-something human with a bad back.

"Sit down?" he offered, but Spike shook his head on an exhale before removing another cigarette from his pocket and lighting it with the one in his hand. For long seconds they stared at each other then Xander's gaze fell to the purpling mark on Spike's neck peeking out of the duster's collar. Xander realized that he had done that, recalled the gush of salt sweet nectar exploding on his tongue. A huge weight of awkwardness settled between them and Xander tried to overcome it by reaching out to see how badly he'd mauled the petal-soft skin. Spike caught his wrist with lightening-quick accuracy and he froze, stung beyond belief at the gesture.

"Sorry. Sorry, I..." Fucked THIS up, didn't you Harris, he thought in despair. Well, of course. Guy comes back and you not only don't let him say a damn thing you fucking attack him in the bargain. Smooth. What's that say about what you think of him. "Sorry," he repeated intelligently, went to move away but the nimble, cool fingers tightened into a vise, blue eyes all of a sudden boring into his with burning emotion.

"It's not that," the vampire blurted. Xander knit his brows even as his insides jittered at the touch of Spike's hand on his skin.

"What's not....what?"

"Right now, I didn't mean...when I pulled away, it's just..." Xander realized the hand on his wrist was shaking, fine tremors, like ague, and he turned to study Spike even closer. The agitated pacing, the chain smoking, the imperceptible little pants making the vampire's chest rise and fall all said Spike was scared, terrified of something.

"I..." Pink tongue peeked out to lap at pink lips. "Just don't touch me while I say it, right? Won't get through it."

"Spike..."

"Drusilla did it," Spike began bluntly, and the words didn't penetrate until Xander played them back a couple of times; what they were and what they referred to. He reached for Spike's face without thinking, head shaking, but the blond man backed away, blue eyes pained, angry, and apprehensive.

"No. Not like this." Xander whispered.

"Yeah, like this."

He stared into the tortured eyes until the silence stretched out in the space between them. He tried once more. "You don't have to.."

"She found me in Africa." Spike cut him off before beginning the compulsive pacing again, like a trapped lion. Xander didn't open his mouth again. He knew the start of a story when he heard one, and the fearful glint in Spike's eyes told him the blond man needed to get through this is one swoop, if he could.

"I'd been wandering around, out of me mind, basically. Soddin' miracle I didn't crisp myself in the sunlight a dozen times over. Never understood what Angel went through 'till then, the...pain of what you've done; it never leaves. How the." Deep swallow, and Xander watched trembling fingers bring a cigarette up to the parted lips before the vampire lashed out at a tall ceramic planter, shattering it, shards, Boston Fern and soil scattering everywhere, causing Xander to jump. "Lives of everyone you ever drained flying around you like birds, every one, and there were so many birds. So." Angry inhale, quick exhale. "So bloody many."

Spike's eyes had fixated on the tips of his Docs; he seemed to be speaking to them. "Said I called to her when the soul happened, that she heard me. When she showed up I was so happy I wept. Can you imagine? She did save me, though," he added, as if Xander had said something against Spike's sire. "Had three K'Nethlin demons at her bidding and she bundled me up and took me away, singing to me the whole time. Wasn't until I listened to what the words were that I got petrified. She thought she could-fix-me." An actual giggle escaped Spike's lips as he walked and it ran a cold finger down Xander's spine, because try as he might he couldn't find any sanity in it. "Like I was a defective motorcar, or a broken pipe. She knew I had the chip, she knew, but she didn't understand."

"When I was out of it she'd feed me blood from her own mouth and her own veins, cutting her wrist and holding it to me lips like I was an infant. Except when I woke up, when..." Spike's eyes fluttered closed and he covered his face, cigarette dancing in his quivering hands. For a second Xander would have bet his life Spike couldn't continue, not with the trembling and the hyperventilating, but the cut-glass features soon peeked out again from under the tousled curls, and Spike continued. "I knew the blood was human. She wouldn't feed me anythin' else, and I could... Xan, I could taste the people. I could feel their essence on my tongue, like a wine bouquet. I knew their hopes and dreams and how many kids they had and when they first shagged. I knew what made them angry and their last thoughts, I knew.."

DON'T WANT TO KNOW THIS! Xander's brain trumpeted shrilly and he shut. It. Up. He'd asked for it, no? Oh yes, he had, and he would sit here through every word because it was the least he could fucking do.

"I kept bein' sick on the blood, even hers, because hers tasted like poisoned sugar. I could see how it was with her, the voices, the illusion, and it made me crazy. I went crazy for a while." Spike said this like someone would say "I went to the store for a while."

"She got so angry then, more desperate to 'fix' me, and she started bringin' home victims that weren't altogether drained for me to finish off. I wouldn't do it, didn't want to, but then she stopped feeding me from herself and I got...I got so hungry." Tears thickened the velvet voice, ran from beneath the tightly squeezed lashes, and Xander watched the gossamer pearls run across Spike's face and drip on his shirtsleeves before an alabaster hand dashed at them like they were acid and Spike started to pace again, as if he could outrun the awful memory. "So awfully hungry. So I did a few, just a few!" Spike's voice became almost childlike in its defense. "Didn't matter. Almost nothin' stayed down, and the chip went off with the ones that weren't drained. Gave me nosebleeds."

Oh my Jesus God, Xander thought numbly. He was tortured. The crazy bitch tortured him and he thought he deserved it.

"Then she came in one morning chipper as posies, said she figured it out, but she wouldn't tell me what. Just kept prattlin' on about everything being all right after 'this' and so forth. I was pretty weak, so I just went back to sleep." Xander watched Spike like he would a tennis match: back and forth, inhale, exhale into a cloud of smoke. "Came to on me stomach with my arms and legs latched down. Would have thought Dru got tired of not gettin' her end off but I knew she shagged those demons blind, and she hadn't touched me that way since she found me. I heard her near my ear, said she was going to take the chip out and everything would be grand after that. I tried to tell her I'd tried that, that it wasn't that simple, but I forgot my Dru's no complicated girl. The hack she got to cut into me couldn't get it out, and he tried for hours. Wound kept healing so he used holy water to keep it open..."

"Oh, God." Xander whispered when he hadn't intended to say anything at all, felt moisture on his chin and swiped at it. Only then did he realize he'd been crying. A steady flow of tears trickled down his face. They felt cold.

"It's almost over." Spike said, not unkindly, and Xander had to struggle not to make a sound at that. It was so damned obscene, Spike comforting HIM.

"That's why the scar. Can heal from holy water, but not that much, not continually. Hurt." Spike paused. Xander noted the tightening of his knuckles into fists, the closed eyes. "Hurt quite a lot. For a long time. Couldn't really move for a while, and Dru lost interest after that. It's as if that was her grand idea and when it didn't work all the wind went out of her sails. Came home with some boy band reject soon after and got her demons all in a snit. Barely noticed when I left." The last sentence occurred abruptly, so much so that Xander hadn't realized the narrative was over until Spike stopped pacing and looked at him, unspeakable sorrow in the summer blue. "I'm all empty now," he said in wonder. "Feels odd."

Xander walked towards Spike, struggling not to sob, wiping his eyes on his sleeve but never dropping the vampire's angry, apprehensive gaze. However, when he reached out and Spike tripped backing up he almost lost it. "Come on." The sobs cracked his voice. "Just let....I'm so sorry..."

"Yeah, that's it." Spike spat out, voice brittle with tears as well but so much resentment in the shining blue orbs. "Know now and it's all 'poor Spike', 'I'm sorry, Spike.'" He tried to light another cigarette and the flame danced and jiggled from the shaking so much that Xander reached to help, but got a sharp slap at his hands for the gesture. "Fuck you, Xander!" Xander pulled back at a total loss, panic so profound it had no name.

"Got your precious story and now what? Takin'me in like I'm charity? Still the White Knight after all these years, ey? 'Poor cracked in the center Spike," A thin finger flew to the fine temple and pointed savagely, and Xander couldn't stop staring at him in abject horror. "Can't let 'im die and end his misery. Can't let 'im starve.' Bleedin' wonder this place ain't overrun with strays for you to save, but you were waitin' for the big time, were..."

"Are you done?" The furious question flew out of Xander's mouth without planning, and the anger that had turned into lust was back, clean and vicious. He let it take him, despite how much his soul broke for the pain Spike had undergone. "Because not even Mike Tyson referred to himself in the third person that much."

A shocked look overcame the fury on the perfect features before the angry mask fell. "I'm not bloody done"

"The fuck you aren't. That's all the pity parade I can stand for one night. My turn."

"Go to hell." The snarl ripped out of a mouth suddenly full of fangs but Xander reached for him anyway, overcoming the desperate attempts to get away, until he had both arms in his hands and pulled the vampire kissing close.

"Listen, damnit, you LISTEN," he shook Spike furiously and amber eyes with pupils like pinpoints stared back at him. "That's what you think? That I'd take you in out of pity?"

"Why else?" Spike growled back and Xander thrust him away in disgust and frustration.

"What the hell do you think that was, earlier?"

The pink mouth curled in disdain. "A pity fuck."

Xander's hand shot out, slapping hard and Spike's head jerked sideways from the force, curls flying.

The sound seemed to echo in the quiet night. When the vampire turned back slowly tears had escaped their moorings and sailed glistening streaks down the ocean of his face. Four red fingerprints stood out like exclamation points, marring the fair skin, bracketing the livid purple bruise on his neck, and Xander's stomach roiled at the sight of them. Great, Harris. So maybe dear old dad isn't as dearly departed as we thought. Before guilt had a chance to paralyze him, Xander grasped the sinewy arms once more and pulled Spike close, blinking tears out of his eyes yet again. Spike didn't resist this time.

"It wasn't just fucking to me," he said, voice uneven and rough. Spike met his stare silently, a million emotions flashing among the anger. "I thought I'd never see you again and it killed me. I missed you in my bed and in my life and I hate what happened to you. I hate it," Xander repeated vehemently. "I'm not sorry you told me, I can't be, and it's not pity. I had no right to hit..." His voice broke on the last word and his throat worked for control as the magnitude of what he did grew. Oh, god, what had he done?

The starry, dark lashes slipped shut and more tears escaped their confines to trickle down each sharp cheekbone. Spike's forehead dropped onto Xander's shoulder, the body in his hands suddenly malleable. He slid his arms around the thin back even as Spike tried to hold him away with both hands. "Y' don't know what you're doin', Xander." The black velvet voice could scarcely be heard.

"Maybe," Xander murmured into the honey curls, inhaling peach shampoo and smoke. "You owe me a planter."

Spike snuffled into his neck and he thought it was crying until the watery laughter became louder. Xander crushed the slim body tight with shaking arms, because he had almost lost this unbelievable, amazing man. Xander felt like he'd walked in the dark and missed the open manhole by inches and the dark abyss called his name still.

Trembling lips covered his and Xander crushed Spike to him, greedy and starving, the contact through clothes not enough. Never enough. Relief and wonder, desire, overwhelmed him as their tongues fenced, as he re-learned the taste of Spike and swam in it. Spike had to pry them apart for him to breathe through the dizziness in his head. They stayed welded to each other and he wanted to lick the tears off that perfect face.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, fitting his hand over the just-fading imprints on Spike's cheek. "Spike, I'm ...."

"Shhh, luv." Spike whispered into his mouth, eyes dark blue and shining. "I know." Their hands delved into waistbands and under t-shirts, seeking, claiming. They fell into another kiss and Xander moaned far back in his throat because he had thirsted for this like water, craved it like oxygen and his memories had nothing on the reality of it. The palm of his hand slid between Spike's legs, cupping the hardness there and the vampire gasped into his mouth. He rubbed the denim with the heel of his hand, fingers following the seam, pushing up until Spike made that keening sound that found his spine and ignited all his nerves. "Xander....," A pleading whisper.

The moving of his legs took actual concentration but Xander began to walk backwards, pulling Spike by the hands, wanting him in the bed, their bed, open and naked. Despite his best efforts, they bogged down on the stairs or when one or the other of them started a kiss or a touch that always escalated immediately. Spike's duster was lost along the way, as was Xander's thermal shirt. By the time they reached the bedroom, Xander had no patience left, and he pushed Spike down, pulling his white t-shirt off in the same quick move.

Spike sprawled topless, on the rumpled bed, curls askew, pink lips moist and parted, blue eyes hungry. Xander knelt over him and stared. The feverish want of seconds before calmed, evened as he stared at the beautiful vampire before him. He's here. He's mine. God help me, I think he is Spike's expression started to become doubtful, but Xander placed both hands on the jean-clad knees, stilling him. "Do you know how amazing you are?" he asked in a whisper, because that was all his emotions would allow.

Spike swallowed, shaking his head. "No." Low, plain voice, wrapped in melting butterscotch.

"I do," said Xander.

Spike's hands moved towards the buttons on his jeans but Xander caught them gently and eased them over Spike's head, laying over him but not touching, the ache in his back a forgotten, far-away throb. He fit Spike's fingers around the bottom of the wooden headboard, mouth playing around the vampire's lips. Spike's legs parted around his waist and the fire in Xander's veins roared despite how he kept it slow, easy. He brushed their crotches together, the slightest pressure, and Spike threw his head back into the pillow, shuddering.

"I said I wanted to taste you." His lips said against a soft ear and Spike began doing that airless pant he did, sparks of gold starting to lace the pure blue. The vampire's gaze never left him and the corded, muscled arms quivered with tension but didn't move from where Xander had placed them. It was this wordless acquiescence that had Xander's cock straining against the zipper of his jeans, pulsing and leaking. His fingers ran lightly over Spike's arms, baptizing every muscle with his touch, tracing the sharp clavicles, circling the stiff, dusky-rose nipples until Spike made a ragged sound.

Roaring, ringing in his head, but outwardly calm, like the eye of a hurricane, he thought. They'd had rough, intense, savage sex, frenzied lovemaking, but not this, and Xander wanted to give Spike this. To show him it didn't always need to be rough to be good.

With intense, specific care Xander undid each button of Spike's 501's, sliding his thumb over each inch of skin revealed. Then he smiled at the writhing, trembling figure on the bed and shifted back to undo Spike's boots and lay them neatly to the side.

"Xander, please," Spike gritted, watching in desperation as Xander removed the socks and rolled them into a ball to toss away.

"Hm?" Xander murmured absently as he stood and took hold of Spike's jeans pulling them off in one smooth slide. His vampire lay nude in the bedside lamp-light, beautiful - Mercury or Adonis wrapped in alabaster. That bone, his favorite obsession, sharp on Spike's hips; he had to touch it. He knelt between Spike's legs once more. The avid blue eyes watched him as he surrounded the weeping cock with both hands, pushing the foreskin all the way down, and twirling the pre-come around the head, gossamer, sparkling strands. Meeting Spike's eyes, Xander brought a finger to his mouth and sucked, sweet salt musk on his tongue, and Spike groaned, hips arching helplessly. "Please, please..."

"Okay," Xander whispered. He wondered, in some compartment of his brain not struck dumb by the feast before him, if Spike-sex had mysterious healing qualities, because his backache was all but gone. He kissed the quivering head of Spike's cock almost primly, liquid making his lips glossy, before taking all of Spike's cool, trembling length in his mouth.

"Ah!" Spike cried out, spasming almost in two from the attack, hands no longer above but buried in Xander's hair, a desperate carding that Xander didn't mind. In fact, he barely registered the pull on his scalp because Spike was in his mouth and Xander was making the sleek, white body quiver and groan, and slim hips thrust higher and nothing, nothing could compare with this incredible power. Sliding his hands beneath, Xander cupped Spike's hips and lifted them, beginning a gentle motion that slid the pulsing cock in and out of his lips, and the vampire's back arched further, hands pulling sheets from the mattress, rending comforters and pillows.

"Almost, Xander, ..." Spike panted, thighs quivering and Xander shushed him from around his cock, reached a hand down in his jeans where 'wet spot' didn't even begin to describe how soaked he was. He pulled away, smiling at the whimper of protest.

"I'm going inside you with my finger," Xander said, low and clear, lips moving against Spike's steadily leaking member. "And you're going to come in my mouth when I do."

The vampire's snarling groan rose high as Xander's mouth took Spike's cock and his finger breached muscle and tissue at once, lips sucking hard, finger brushing that magic spot and his thumb rubbing the sensitive place behind Spike's scrotum and his ass. An animal growl and Spike exploded down his throat, body quaking, little tremors fluttering against his secreted finger. All it took was a sharp squeeze from his own hand for Xander to come with a breathless "Uh!" body shaking then melting into one pile of raw nerve endings, the cock between his lips still twitching.

Crawling slowly up the bed after his mind came down from the clouds, Xander shed his jeans so he could pull Spike's cool body against his hotter one. The heavenly satin clutched at him so tight and sleep came up and tried to mug him through the spinning in his head and body.

"Not leaving again," he muttered into the damp honey curls, holding Spike tighter to emphasize his point.

"Not leaving." Spike whispered into his chest.

"'Kay," Xander said, yawning. "Promise."

"G'night, luv." Chaste brush of petal-soft lips, like butterfly wings.

Xander slid into sleep like Mark McGuire at third base, the most restful slumber he'd had since Spike left, arms full of vampire, body exhausted and sated, back miraculously cured.

He didn't wake up once before morning.




The End




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