The Rug Under My Feet

Dragon's Phoenix

Part One

Two blocks over from the Bronze, not ready to head home yet, Spike stopped as he heard a sound half-way down the alley from behind a large dumpster. “Here demon, demon, demon,” he sang out as he walked down the alley, relying on echolocation, the subtle differences in the sounds that bounced back, to give him as vivid an image of the alley as his sight did. As he kicked aside a sheet of plywood, a cat dashed out from underneath his feet, vanishing further into the darkness with a loud yowl. Spike carefully looked around until he was sure there were no demons. “Damn,” he shouted, slamming his fist into hard brick.

Sagging against the wall, Spike pulled out a cigarette. “Can't go home, not without a good fight in me. I'll beat him to a bloody pulp.” Opening his clenched fist, Spike let the tobacco fall to the ground. “And I'm talking to myself. Can't be good. Never was when Dru did it; isn't now.” Standing back up, Spike added, “Right. Willy's. Always good for a fight.”

As Spike strolled into the bar, three vampires, one sitting on a barstool over near Willy and two at a table, quickly rose and slipped out the back, trying but failing to look casual. “Spike please,” Willy said, not moving, keeping the bar between Spike and himself, “you keep coming here and upsetting my customers, and I'll be outta business.”

“Upsetting? Is that what you call it?” Spike asked, looking around the bar which was empty except for a Fyarl sitting alone in a booth. When Spike stepped over to it, the Fyarl, with a nasty grin, asked for another beer. As Spike replied, speaking four short words in a guttural tongue, Willy winced. The demon, as he leaped up from his seat, knocked the table into the next booth before lunging at Spike who sidestepped the attack.

“Guys,” Willy called out, “could you at least take it outside?”

As the Fyarl started rushing forward, Spike tossed a chair at its legs. The demon hit the floor as a pile of limbs and chair legs. Spike pulled it up and punched a fist into its gut. The Fyarl blinked a few times, as if wondering why the vampire was tickling him, before punching back with a couple of wide swings. “Now this is more like it,” Spike shouted in delight, jabbing an undercut to the Fyarl's chin.

Willy ducked, hiding behind the bar, as a chair came flying at him. “Come on,” Spike taunted. “You've got to have more than that.” As the Fyarl charged, Spike jutted out his hip, tripping the demon, and grabbed its arm, pulling upwards as it fell forward, sending it crashing onto its back. Throwing himself after, straddling the Fyarl, Spike started punching its face, shouting and emphasizing his words with blows. “You dirty.” Punch. “Little.” Punch. “Whore.” Punch. “Is this how you like it?” His fist flew three times in quick succession, striking the unconscious demon, bam, bam, bam. “Don't you go staring at me with those big brown eyes.”

Willy peered over the bar, just enough to see the demons. Fyarls commonly had blue eyes, sometimes purple and on rare occasions red but never brown.

“And don't,” smack, “go acting,” smack, “like you love me.” Smack. “You're my whore. That's it.” Tears ran down Spike's face as he hit the demon.

Willy ducked behind the bar again, wishing he had a Star of David, a Hand of Fatima, or pretty much anything that might save him. “A Rosary would be pretty good right now, especially one with a huge frigging crucifix,” he whispered. He looked over his shoulder but didn't raise his eyes over the bar, hoping Spike hadn't heard him.

The sounds stopped. Spike's words stopped. The crying stopped. Even the punches stopped. “Oh God, oh God, please look favorably upon,” he'd started to whisper when Spike interrupted.

“Here's some money for the damages.”

“That's OK,” Willy stammered. “Just leave the money on the bar.”

“Gimme a bottle of Jack.”

Willy clenched his hands together as if in prayer.

“Sometime today.”

Willy stood on shaking legs and got his first good look at the damage: tables and chairs were smashed, there was a huge hole in one of the booths, and the juke box had gotten tossed onto its side. “Here ya go,” Willy said, grabbing a bottle from the shelf, not bothering to see what it was, and putting it on the bar as far as he could without getting any closer to Spike.

“Will that cover it?” Spike asked, nodding toward a pile of cash.

“Um, yeah, I think that'll do it.” When Spike didn't reply, Willy added, “I'll reimburse you if it's too much.”

“Whatever,” Spike said, grabbing the bottle and heading toward the door.

Willy had just breathed a sigh of relief when Spike turned back. “You know, if anyone were to learn anything I said here tonight,” he trailed off menacingly.

“Sure, no problem,” Willy said. “Everybody knows I can keep my mouth shut. Right?” When Spike didn't reply, he added, “Besides, what was there to hear? Nothing. I mean, I'm deaf, in both ears, and couldn't make anything out anyway.”

Spike stared at him, long enough that Willy was sure he was toast. “Make it two bottles,” Spike finally said.

“Sure, anything you want Spike,” Willy babbled as he handed over another bottle.

With a snort of what could have been amusement, Spike walked out, looking less confident than when he'd walked in, leaving Willy and the unconscious Fyarl alone with the mess.

Guzzling down the first bottle, which had turned out to be vodka, Spike made his way to Shady Rest Cemetery, where he tossed himself onto the ground and stared up at the sky. “Dru used to talk to the stars,” he said. “She said they'd sing and chat with her, tell her things.” Thinking about Dru, about how she'd left him, about how she'd hurt him, Spike sat up, blinking in surprise as he realized his heart didn't hurt anymore. Looking down at his chest, he called out “Dru” and felt only a twinge, an echo of love. “Buffy” he said next and then “Gelus”, but neither name hurt even as much as Dru's. Without realizing he was about to say it, he heard himself call out “Xan.” His heart bloomed like roses in springtime. “Oh hell, do I have to be a bloody awful poet even now?” was his first response. Then, realizing what it meant, he started banging his head against a tombstone. “I did not fall for the dolt I've been blackmailing.”

Leaning back, he guzzled down a third of the vodka and propped himself against the tombstone, sitting there, taking the occasional swig, until he heard a scratching coming from underneath the ground, two graves over. By the time the Fledge, some brunette bint, was pulling herself out of the dirt, Spike had moved to loom over her grave.

She smiled, flashing into vamp-face. “So,” Spike said, “if you were blackmailing somebody and they started, let's say acting up, what would you do?”

“You aren't human, are you?” she asked.

“Sorry, but you'll have to wait for dinner,” Spike replied.

With a look of disdain she walked away.

Leaping after her, Spike grabbed her hair and slammed her head five times into a gravestone. “Let's have some manners here.”

“Yes, um, sir?” she said.

“Right, where was I?”

“Something about blackmail?”

“Oh yeah. Say you're blackmailing this bloke, and he starts acting differently, like he's changing the terms of your agreement, or no, more like he won't act like he's being blackmailed at all.”

“He stopped doing what you wanted?” she aked.

“No, more like he's doing it because he wants to.”

The Fledge started wiping blood from her face. “Kill him.”

“Hey, I'm shagging this guy here.”

As she raked her eyes up and down Spike, her mouth dropped open. “You had to blackmail someone into fucking you?”

“No, I didn't have to blackmail him. Just saw an opportunity and took it, didn't I?”

“He's must be weaker than you. If you wanted him, why didn't you just take him? Why this whole,” she waved her hand around in small circles as she searched for a word, “rigmarole?”

“You can't just take humans,” Spike sneered. “They don't like it, do they?”

“Human?” she asked. Spike's hand clenched into a fist as her fear gave way to contempt. “And you want him to like it? What the hell am I doing wasting my time with you?”

As she turned to go, Spike called out, as he lit his cigarette with a match, “I wouldn't if I were you.”

“If I weren't so hungry, I'd kill you now,” she said. Her head turned back, for one last look at Spike, just in time to see the flaming book of matches catch her hair.

Spike waited until there was nothing left but ashes. “Love him, don't I?”

He hadn't taken three steps before he stopped and slapped himself on the head. “Of course! I love him, and I know he doesn't love me, that he's only being blackmailed into the sex, even if it is bloody marvelous,” he added, full of pride, “but he keeps acting like he cares, doing stupid little things, like warming my blood to the perfect temp or adding those little marshmallows that I like. It's ambiguous, isn't it? Makes me think he feels something I know he doesn't.” He paced back and forth as if working something out. “All I've got to do is remember that he's pretending, that he doesn't care for me, hell he might not even like me, that he's acting that way... why? Oh,” he said, puffing his chest out, “because he's afraid of the Big Bad.”

Suddenly pissed off again, Spike stalked back to the tombstone, where he'd first laid down, and took a swig of the bottle there. “Right, can't torture him into loving me. Didn't work on Dru, and it sure as hell won't work on a human. So, all I've got to do is remember that he doesn't love me. It's nothing more than a good shag for him, well that and making sure the girls don't find out what a perv he is.” Spike smiled reminiscently, rubbing his crotch before shaking himself back to reality with a sigh.

“If I feel something more, that's my business. Can keep it to myself and keep this relationship strictly professional. I'm in charge 'cause I'm blackmailing him. No ambiguities to make me crazy. As long as Xander doesn't do anything romantic, and why should he, then I'll get along just fine.”

With everything straight in his mind, no longer fighting against himself, Spike made it to Xander's house in no time. At the top of the basement steps, from the flickering lights below, Spike could tell the room was lit entirely by candles. “Xan?” he called out tentatively, his stomach sinking. Why couldn't the little arse just stay blackmailed?

The basement looked like a scene out of a romance novel, candles, ranging from tiny tea lights to three-wicked pillars, sitting on any surface that would hold them, rose petals scattered across the floor, Xander, wearing nothing but leather briefs and a collar, was displayed on the bed, looking sexier than Spike had ever seen him.

His eyes flashed yellow with rage. How was he supposed to know where he stood when Xander kept messing with the rules? As he stalked to the side of the bed, Xander's smile faltered. “What's all this then?” Spike challenged.

“Um, Merry Christmas?” Xander asked.

Spike dropped to his knees and ran a finger over the collar. “You did all this for me?”

Xander's look said, as clearly as words, you are an idiot. “Well, yeah. Who else would I do it for?”

Spike leaped to his feet. “What the hell were you thinking?”

“I,” Xander started.

“No,” Spike shouted, shattering the bottle against the wall, splattering glass and whiskey across the rug. “I'm blackmailing you, ya git. You're not supposed to scatter roses; you're supposed to grin and bear it, well not bear it since I am a bloody amazing lover, but you aren't supposed to act all lovey dovey.”

As he stared into wounded puppy dog eyes, Spike froze, resisting the urge to lash out and hit the lad. “I thought you'd like it,” Xander said. Spike could see him fighting back tears.

“Like it? I'd bloody well love it if we were on some sort of solid ground, but you have to go and make things confusing. How'm I supposed to know where we stand if you keep pulling crap like this?”

Xander's voice sounded dead. “Crap like what?”

“You keep acting like you're not being blackmailed into this,” Spike shouted. “You keep acting like this is more than just sex.”

“It is more,” Xander said.

Spike backed away a step.

Xander pulled into himself, looking uncertain for a moment, but then his face took on that look, as if he were resolved to speak, no matter what the consequences.

“Oh no,” Spike said. “Whatever it is, don't say it. Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. I'll never tell the chickies about, well anything, and we'll pretend this never happened, any of it. We never got together. How's that sound?”

Xander looked more wounded than before. “No,” he replied, shaking his head.

Spike didn't wait around to hear more but bolted for the door. He was halfway down the street when he heard Xander calling out his name. Glancing back, he saw Xander standing by the door, as undressed as before, hoping from foot to foot against the chill. “Idiot's gonna catch his death, or Pop'll come out, catch him like that and beat him to death,” Spike muttered, his heart sinking as he realized he'd just let Xander go, but it was for the best. Really. A White Hat shouldn't be messing around with the Big Bad in the first place.

As Xander vanished into the house, the door slammed between them.

Spike stared at the closed door. It didn't open. “He can't be too upset if he gave up that quickly, but that's good. I told him to forget about it. This'll let him move on.” Pulling out a cigarette, he looked at it for a moment before letting it drop from his fingers. “God, I need a drink.”

Part Two

Spike made his way back to Willy's. When he walked through the door, the Fyarl from earlier was sitting at the bar, a glass half full before him. “Now Spike,” Willy said, holding his hands out, “I think you've done enough damage for one night.”

“Just give me a couple of bottles,” Spike said, tossing bills on the counter.

The demon lifted its glass in a toast. That was the nice thing about Fyarls; they didn't hold a grudge. Well, that and they were always up for a fight.

Hiding himself in the darkest corner, Spike was on his second bottle when Xander walked through the door. “Thought I told you to bugger off,” Spike said as Xander sat down across from him.

Grabbing the bottle out of Spike's hand, Xander said, “No, actually you told me we'd never be buggering again.”

“Told you, I won't tell the girls what a dirty little perv you are. So scram, vamoose, go find some nice little human to make a life with.”

“I had a life,” Xander said, taking a swig. “A life I was pretty happy with, mind you. Ah, ah, ah,” he added as Spike tried to grab the bottle back. “You're the one who broke my heart, remember. Means I get to drown my sorrows.”

“What the hell do you mean, I broke your heart? I was blackmailing you. Not like you had a choice. You're the perv who didn't want the girls to know, like some sodding weak bastard.” Spike's challenge trailed off.

Xander stared at him a long while.

“If you're not gonna answer,” Spike said with a nod toward the bottle, “least you could do is share.”

“You really don't get it, do you Spike?” Xander finally said, “And I was glad of that because I figured you needed that sense of power over me to keep, well, you know.”

Spike couldn't believe that Xander still had it in him to blush whenever sex came up. “Shagged, luv.”

“Right, that,” Xander replied.

“Still don't know what you're going on about,” Spike said, grabbing the bottle from Xander's hand.

Xander, looking as panicked as Spike had ever seen him, replied. “Right, worst has already happened. What can you do now that's worse than leaving? Oh yeah, humiliate me and then leave.”

“I could tell the girls, well, you know,” Spike said, suddenly unwilling to put their relationship into words.

Xander sighed. “Spike, I don't care if they know.”

“Oh right,” Spike snarked, “because your love for me outweighs all...”

“Spike,” Xander shouted, turning his head so he wouldn't see Spike's expression as he finally told him the truth. “It was never an issue. OK, I'm a bit creepified by the idea of Willow knowing details, and she'd worm them out, that's for sure, but so what?” It's not like they didn't already know I'm gay.”

“But,” Spike sputtered.

“But nothing,” Xander said. “That night you caught me masturbating? I was fantasizing about you. I let you think you were blackmailing me because, well at first I was about to get laid, and later I figured you'd leave if I didn't keep up the charade, but since you're leaving anyway...”

“You lied to me,” Spike said, sounding oddly happy about it.

“Yeah,” Xander said, turning to face him. “Imagine that.”

“And you, a White Hat, a force of good in the world, care about me, the Big Bad?” Spike sounded like he didn't believe it.

Xander put his face in his hands, not replying, sitting there in silence until he rose to his feet in one graceful motion. “You're right, what the hell was I thinking?” Grabbing Spike's jacket, Xander tried to pull him to his feet.

“What are you doing?” Spike asked.

“Get up,” Xander ordered. Spike looked around, as if thinking, but then stood. “You're going to come back home, tell me what a randy whore I am, and fuck me silly, or I'll tell Buffy you broke my heart, and she'll kick your ass to Kingdom Come.”

Spike looked at Xander as if in awe, and then grinned. “You care enough to blackmail me?”

Xander, an angry retort on his lips, stopped as soon as he got a good look at Spike's face, where uncertainty warred with hope. Xander's smile was both sad – realizing your undead lover, seemingly invincible and above it all, has a heart full of insecurities will do that – and confident as he realized that heart was his. “Yeah,” he said, reaching out and brushing his hand across Spike's temple. “I do.”

As they kissed, Spike heard a sniffle from the bar, and then the Fyarl grunting in query. “I'm just so glad to see them working things out.” Willy paused to blow his nose. “Maybe now Spike'll stop ruining my business.”

“Come on, luv,” Spike said, grabbing Xander's hand and dragging him toward the door. “Let's go tell the girls we're shagging.”

“Dating,” Xander said. “The word we use with Buffy and Willow is dating.”

Spike stopped and turned to face Xander. “We're really gonna tell them?”

Blinking in surprise, Xander said, “Well, yeah. I've known Willow since forever, and she knows everything, well, she knew everything until we started, um, got together.”

“Tonight?” Spike asked, bouncing up and down like a kid at Christmas.

“Are you crazy? It's Christmas Eve or technically Christmas Day, well not day exactly, but the point is they're either asleep or busy with Christmasy things. Well, not Willow, being Jewish and all, but still she's probably asleep by now,” Xander finished hoping Spike had made sense of his babble.

“Tomorrow then?”

“Sure,” Xander said.

Pulling Xander in close, Spike grabbed his ass. “Let's get home and work on some details to share with...”

“No,” Xander shouted. “There will be no sharing of details.”

Spike stepped away and stood there, as if he couldn't believe what Xander had just said.

“Spike,” Xander whined. “Willow is like a sister to me. I really don't want to know what explicit details she's heard about my sex life.”

Spike pouted.

Xander closed his eyes in defeat. “No details while I'm close enough to hear them.”

“Sure,” Spike said, starting to pull Xander toward the door again.

Xander didn't move.

“I'll just make sure you hear everything I tell her later,” Spike explained.

“You know I can keep up 'la la la, I'm not listening' for hours, right?” Xander asked.

“Not if you're bound to the bed,” Spike leered.

“Oh, I am so going to hell in a handbasket.”

“Heaven, luv,” Spike replied. “Life with me, that's heaven.”

The End