Rating: R
Disclaimer: Uh . . . whuh?
Concrit/Feedback: If you please.
Notes/Spoilers/Warnings: A teaser/ficlet/test-run that takes place after the events of Awakenings
Summary: The morning after.

The Art of Staying


Spike prods the eggs absently. When they start to make little sizzling noises, he adds some more black pepper.

You're doing this all wrong, William grouses for the Nth time. For the Nth time, Spike ignores His Perfectness completely.

Look, we're still on very thin ice, here. All reason and sweetness for a moment. That's all the warning Spike needs to brace himself for a mini-tantrum. There's no sense in making him think he made the wrong decision, just to spite me over some bloody eggs! That's too-damn-much pepper!

Spike winces, his hand almost going to his temple before he stops it. The pain he feels is not physical, but purely psychic. William is the ghost in Spike's machine, and he refuses to give the prat more power than he already has.

"Be quiet, Billy. I know him as well as you do. More isn't what he's used too, but it's what he'll have to get used to, isn't it?"

For a few domestic minutes, William's nothing more than a sulky, anxious silence in the back of Spike's brain. Then very quiet, but distinct grumbling noises make Spike pause while buttering toast.

He's had enough difference to last him any ten lifetimes. Some sameness would be a comfort . . . we can't afford to upset him any more than he already is, Spike. We can't--

"Hush, mate," Spike tell him softly. For a wonder, William listens.

Just as Spike's pouring Xander's coffee--thick as sludge, likely to be further thickened with sugar--the man in question shuffles into the kitchen warily, wearing his green bathrobe. His hair is still damp and he hasn't shaved yet.

He's wearing his patch.

"Hullo, love."

Xander blinks. "You're still here," he says. His tone isn't as cold as it'd been the night before, nor is it pleased. It's . . . neutral. An acknowledgement of Spike's presence.

William frets.

Remember . . . for now, this is enough. Spike smiles at Xander brightly. "Still here. Made breakfast."

"Yeah, I see." Xander frowns a little. Then smiles a little. "Very much a Twilight Zone moment."

"How so?"

Xander gestures at the set kitchen table, which is loaded with food. "This. You. Spike-as-domestic-Goddess. . . ."

"Oi, there's nothin' unmanly about cooking breakfast. Men haveta eat, too."

Xander shrugs and shifts from foot to foot. "Well, yeah, I just . . . never pegged you for being secure enough in your masculinity to cook."

"I'm allowed to have facets, you know." Spike says, putting a little offense into his tone. When Xander's smile widens fractionally, both Spike and William relax. "Gonna stand there all day, or you gonna join me?"

"Oh--uh. . . ." Xander's shifting increases, and he glances back at the door like he's seriously considering a quick escape. "I, um . . . was gonna get something from the Moonstruck."

Oh, William sighs.

"Oh." Spike somehow manages to keep the disappointment out of his voice. "Well, I guess I could put this away, in case you're hungry, later--"

But Xander's already pulling out his chair and sitting down, carefully not looking anywhere but the table.

"It looks really good," he says in a strange, too-even voice. "All my favorite stuff."

"Had a little help from Billy."

That makes Xander look up, his eye wide and red from a night of broken sleep. He starts to say something several times, before looking back down at the table. He mechanically takes a slice of toast and puts it on his plate, seemingly at a loss as to what to do, next.

"You can ask, you know." Spike sits across from Xander, willing him to look up. But he simply takes another piece of toast. This one makes it to his mouth for one tentative bite.

Another memory clamours for Spike's attention: it's from last Saturday. William's last Saturday.

"Slow down!"

Xander is wolfing down scarambled eggs like there's no tomorrow. Which there literally may not be, but then Rupert hasn't called them this week, so while that's possible, it's not

He hopes.

"Sorry, babe. I feel like I haven't eaten in forever." Xander quickly swallows a mouthful of eggs, orange juice and hash browns then gasps playfully. "Maybe I'm eating for two. Maybe you knocked me up."

"I find that highly unlikely," Will say dryly. "And all I meant was you could chew your food before you swallow it, love."

"So, all of a sudden, you don't like it when I swallow?"

That pout? Utterly ridiculous. Utterly irresistable. Will silently resolves to have a stern talking-to with Dawn the next time she calls.

"Anyway, the faster we eat, the faster we can go back to bed." Xander smiles, giving Will a lazy once over that makes him shiver. . . .

Xander is looking at him, now, blinking a lot. Spike knows that somehow, they were remembering the exact same moment at the exact same moment. But he looks away, again, shovelling eggs onto his plate. Then hashbrowns and sausages. Pretty soon, the plate is crammed with food, just like normal.

Except for the part where Xander picks at the hashbrowns, instead of hoovering them up.

"You can ask me, Xander. Anything." The silence has become downright uncomfortable, and Spike's own breakfast is untouched and getting cold.

Please ask me . . . something. Anything. I can't make the first move, not about this, love. . . . he thinks, taking a forkful of eggs, not because he has any appetite, whatsoever, but because it's something to do, to break up the interminable silence. His fork clicks and clatters against plate and teeth.

"Um--" Xander starts quietly. Then Spike is coughing and choking, his tongue, mouth and throat burning. He spits the eggs out into a napkin and gulps down lukewarm coffee.

Xander watches him curiously, distantly.

"So . . . how much pepper did you put in these eggs?" He asks, poking at them uncertainly.

This promises to be a long morning, indeed.

The End

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