Payless

by Metaforgirl



Preview


“Spike?” whispered Xander slowly.

He looked up slowly as the vampire shifted his gaze from that distant point outside, back down to him. The light fell over one cheek and lay inside Spike’s right eye. A clear pool of blue, like the water on an untouched tropical island, sun shifting and dancing in its depths. Xander was hypnotized by that light.

“Spike,” he breathed, “you’re not dead.”

The man chuckled awkwardly. “Yeah. We established that, Harris. You feelin’ a bit dizzy from the heat?”

For some reason, Xander was suddenly enraged. He stood violently, throwing the plastic chair screeching back against the window frame, almost shoving himself up against Spike. “Don’t fuck with me, Spike,” he spat furiously into the startled man’s face. “What happened? What’s going on? Why are you alive?”

Spike took a step back. Moving out of the intimidation zone that held Xander’s aggression. “I don’t know,” said Spike simply, baldly. “I don’t know what happened.” That prism effect seemed to ride for a minute in his eyes again, then he blinked and shifted his glance away with a jut of the chin. “Woke up and I was breathin’.”

“Fuck,” said Xander, completely at a loss.

“Yeah. Definitely.” Spike laughed shortly, his head still turned at that angle that made his expression inaccessible. He turned, with a little lilt of his shoulders, back towards the center of the shop. “So. Ya need a phone? We ain’t got one, but I’ll give ya some change for the payphone.”

Xander stared. “Wait a minute.”

“Yeah, sure. Take yer time.”

“No. No, I mean.” Xander tried to grasp at some meaning here. Some rule. “You can’t just… I mean. Is that it?” He shook his head slowly and heavily, like a big bear. “Spike, you’re alive!”

The man shoved the cash register drawer closed with a bang and plunked a handful of change down on the formica counter. He rested his hand lightly there and gazed at Xander challengingly. “Phone’s out back, Harris,” Spike pronounced carefully. “You want a mechanic? I might be able to help you. Rates are cheap.”

Xander gaped. “But … but we have to tell someone.” He looked around as if someone might manifest there on the spot. Maybe a television news crew. “We should call Buffy.”

“No!” Spike said violently enough to make Xander jump. “No,” he said more gently. “Look.” Spike came back around the counter quickly, holding his hand out in a placating gesture. His voice pleading. “Look, Harris. She’s okay now, yeah? Don’t need ol’ Spike around, right?” He bit his lip and the gesture made him look suddenly so young that Xander felt as if the image shimmered, as if someone else peered out at him for a minute. Someone very young and fragile.

Xander shook his head confusedly. “You don’t want to tell her. But I would have thought…”

“No,” said Spike sincerely. “Please.”

Xander looked at him and felt a glimmer of recognition. “No more,” he said.

“Yeah,” said Spike, watching him carefully with eyes both innocent and full of a kind of fluttering, like startled pigeons. “No more. That’s right.”

“Alright then.” Xander spaced the words out slowly. “So. You can recommend a cheap mechanic?”


~*~*~*~*~


It was weird. Xander’s vocabulary was completely unequal to the task of describing what it was like to sit next to Spike, in the lowering dusk, in an old Ford pick-up truck. Driving down a two lane country road. So that’s the word he thought. This was weird.

Spike. Xander wondered if the vampire had changed his name now. Like Angelus had changed his name to Angel. But Spike hadn’t changed his name when he got the soul, hadn’t made that distinction. Only now did Xander realize that and wonder at it. The man next to him didn’t look at all like a Spike. The hard turtle-shell waxed bleached hair was gone. Spike’s wheat colored hair, with the black roots, was short and tufted, framing his face in a halo of gold and toast. It looked like the kind of haircut young boys got at Super Cuts. He was wearing an oversized cotton short sleeved shirt. So faded, the light blue and white checked pattern was barely discernable. There was a lightness about him. As if the wind blowing through the open window could easily pluck him out and toss him onto the road. His name didn’t suit him.

“So what do you call yourself now,” asked Xander casually.

Spike’s expression didn’t falter. “Spike.”

“Surprised to hear that. Don’t you guys usually change your names?”

Spike didn’t answer. He drove with one hand at the top of the steering wheel. His arm muscular but graceful in a golden arc of lightly tanned skin, bleached hairs blowing slightly, freckles at the bulge in the forearm.

“You freckle,” said Xander, almost to himself.

“Yeah,” said Spike absently. “Fair skinned English bloke, you know. Burn easily.” The words strummed in Xander’s ears. He looked at Spike carefully. The former vampire was still gazing steadily at the road in front of him.






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