My Funny Valentine
"So it wasn't torture."
"No. I mean, I guess you could call it that." Harris looked thoughtful, spoon poised in midair between the ice cream carton and his mouth. "I wouldn't have signed up for it, you know? But as torture goes, it was pretty...non."
"Rape?" Nobody'd used the word yet, but Spike was all in favor of plain speech, except where it concerned his own failings. Harris squinted, considering.
"I don't know," he said at last. He fished another bite of ice cream out of the carton, studied it, and ate it. "I guess that means no. Or maybe yes. My Dworkin's rusty."
"And you do remember it."
"Oh, yeah." Harris's expression lost its troubled edge, turning lust-blurred and almost fond. "I definitely remember it."
"You said you didn't."
Fair enough, Spike decided, picking at his beer label. The television was showing wrestling now: big orange chaps in panties bashing each other and yelling. Neither he nor Harris was watching.
"Blokes," he said, wondering whether this was the weirdest post-coital conversation he'd ever had. Not after all those years with Dru, no. Not hardly.
Harris hesitated slightly. "Yeah."
"You people are what we like to call polymorphously perverse."
"Look who's talking."
"Touché." Harris leveled the spoon at him, then went back to the carton. A moment later he lowered it with a frown. "No more chocolate chips." Slowly and with obvious discomfort, he pushed up the wall to his feet. Spike held up his empty bottle in silent request.
"So," he said, watching Harris limp into the kitchen. "You got nabbed by vampires, who made you gay."
The freezer opened and Harris tossed the carton in. "No, I got nabbed by vampires, who made me kinky. Willow's gay. I'm kinky. There's a difference."
"What's the difference?" Spike picked up a half-finished crossword and studied it idly.
"I don't remember Willow divulging any secret desires for dirty wall sex with vampires."
"Maybe you don't know Red as well as you think."
Harris appeared in the kitchen door, beer in one hand, bottle opener in the other. His hair had half-dried, and was pushed up in back from the way he'd been sitting against the wall. His expression was flat.
"Just kidding," Spike muttered. "You're the one that dragged her into it."
"If I'm gay, you're gay." Harris popped the bottle cap off in the general direction of the rubbish bin, dropped the opener on the counter, and limped back in with the beer. "I wasn't exactly tangoing by myself, there."
"I was seduced."
"By a gay guy. Making you gay."
"Didn't know what I was doing. Thought you were a bint."
"So we're agreed on this, then." Harris dropped the beer into Spike's hand and turned away, back to his spot on the floor. "See no gayness, hear no gayness, speak no gayness. Not that there's anything wrong with that."
"Not like I bloody care." Spike drank some beer and considered his feet. He was still wearing his boots, which was probably bad manners given that he was lying on Harris's couch. "So, you just wanted sex?"
"Yeah." Harris rubbed the side of his neck, where the love-bites had healed. He looked tired now, as if the walk to the fridge had done him in. "Well, you know. A particular kind of sex."
"The kind we just had."
"And what was that?"
Spike frowned. "Hate to burst your bubble, pet, but that wasn't kinky."
"It was for those of us who aren't gay."
"You want really kinky sometime, you let me know."
"I'll be sure and do that." Harris yawned, his jaw popping audibly. "What time is it?"
Spike shrugged. "Guess I should go."
"Or not." Harris was climbing to his feet again, swatting the television off, scrubbing the back of his head with his fist. "You can crash here if you want."
Spike rolled his head and gave Harris a look. "You told Parvati you asked me over so we could paint each other's toenails and talk all night."
"Actually, I implied I was processing some post-torture mental anguish. But you know, same difference."
"And you think she believed that."
Harris gave him a sleepy half-smile. "What else was she going to think? That you were coming over here to fuck me against a wall?"
"Don't put it past them," Spike muttered, but Harris was already staggering off to his bedroom, flicking off lights on the way.
Spike fell asleep on his back on the couch, trying to think of a five-letter word for "stone." He woke up in the same position with Harris standing over him, dressed in jeans and a green button-down shirt, a blanket in his hand.
"Rise and shine, dead man. I'm due to fix a sink."
"It's eight o'clock, sunny with occasional incinerations. You're going to want a blanket for that."
"What, that's it?" Spike looked around. The blinds were drawn, the room lit with grey, early morning light. Crap all over the floor, his half-drunk beer on the carpet beside him. Delightful. "No breakfast in bed?"
"There's a steak in the freezer. You could lick it." Harris dropped the blanket on the end of the couch and picked his keys from the pile of newspapers. "Lock up when you go, will you?"
Spike sat up slowly, sorting through the various sensations coming in from the outposts of his body. Neck: sore. Mouth: disgusting. Dick: satisfied. He was used to waking up around noon in his little basement bed, reading for a bit, maybe getting a hot cuppa from the empty kitchen. It wasn't much--it was bloody humiliating if he thought about it very long, actually--but it was a homey routine and he had a secret liking for homey routines. Harris's lumpy couch was a pretty poor substitute.
"Hey," Harris said, poised with one foot out the door. He was showered already, patch in place, looking the way he looked every day when he turned up at the House of Slayers. It was jaw-droppingly surreal to reflect that a few hours ago he'd been braced against the far wall with Spike's dick up his ass. "You...okay?"
"Yeah," Spike said immediately, so they wouldn't have to talk about it. "Fine. See you back there."
Harris paused a second or two longer, his expression clearly saying, Wow, impressive lying skills you have there. Then he smiled slightly, nodded, and left.
Spike helped himself to a shower and a look around, poking through Harris's bookshelf (construction manuals, sci-fi paperbacks, a hotel Bible) and a couple of his drawers (socks, boxers, a packet of letters to addresses in Dakar and Luanda.) The bedroom was just as messy as the telly room, with the added bonus of a huge pile of unwashed laundry in the floor of the closet. There was a small framed photo of Anyanka on the night table. She looked about nineteen years old.
The refrigerator had eggs and bread and milk and such, the basics. Beer in the door, no hard booze anywhere as far as he could tell. Harris still didn't wash his dishes until they grew legs.
All told, the place was exactly what you'd expect of a bloke like Harris: messy, unsophisticated, smelly in spots. Not unlike the man himself. There were action figures on top of the fridge and an issue of People in the loo. Everything needed dusting, washing, or wiping down with a damp cloth. There was a chocolate bar in the cutlery drawer.
All told, it was bizarrely comforting, or maybe just comfortable. Maybe just familiar. Spike stood for a while staring out the bedroom window at the park across the street. Tennis courts and merry-go-rounds, people leading happy lives in the sunshine. Then he got another beer from the fridge, sank into the couch, flipped the telly on, and started work on the half-finished crossword.
Harris got home around three. Or he got halfway through the door and stopped, looking with surprise at Spike, who pointed at him with the biro he'd been using.
"Bloody agate. The clue is 'stone,' and the answer is 'agate'." Spike tossed the puzzle aside with a snort. "Is it monkeys writing these things now?"
Harris paused, then eased through the door and closed it behind him. "An agate is a stone."
"I know what an agate is, it's a stupid clue."
"Sure, okay. Hey, here's a thought--what are you doing here?"
"What?" Spike gave Harris the start of a surly look. "You've got your end away, now you want me to clear out?"
"No, Captain Defensotron. I'm just wondering whether you're planning on moving in. It's three o'clock in the afternoon."
"Which is three o'clock in the morning to me, if you think about it."
"You fell asleep before midnight."
"I'm nocturnal, you twit. For all you know I lay awake all night."
Spike frowned. "I need plenty of sleep. Like a cat."
Harris glanced around. "Did I leave my credit cards here or something? Have you been ordering massive amounts of mind-bending porn?"
"Why?" Spike turned the frown seamlessly into a lazy smile. "Want to watch some?"
"No." Harris shrugged off his coat and dropped it on the floor, where it wouldn't be recovered for days. "I wouldn't say no to some slightly kinky sex, though."
Spike felt the smile he was wearing turn genuine, despite himself. He let his legs fall open, and propped himself up a little higher on the couch. "Now you're onto something. Come here."
Obligingly, Harris walked to the edge of the couch and dropped to his knees. One hand was already undoing the buttons at the collar of his shirt. His eye was bright and sharp, his cheeks flushed. As they looked at each other, his tongue emerged and wetted his lips.
"Tell me something first," Spike said soberly, letting his knuckles graze his fly. Harris waited in silence. It drew out and out. Harris blinked first. "Did you fix the sink?"
"Fuck you," Harris breathed, and leaned forward, lips apart.
"Why not Buffy?"
"Why not Buffy what?"
"Why not Buffy for this?" Spike waved a hand in the general direction of the clothes and sheets, which were all on the floor. They'd made it to the bedroom, over time. Harris's sheets needed changing. "You want to get tossed around like a rag doll, why not get her to do it?"
"Bite your tongue."
"She's more your type, I'd have thought."
"No, seriously. Cut it out."
"Oh, right." Spike let his head fall back. "I get it. You want a dirty fuck, so you call the dirty vampire. I know how it works."
"Then can I cheat off your test? Because I'm still not really sure how I ended up sharing naked time with you."
"I think I begged, actually."
Spike let his eyes fall closed. "You did, too." After a pause, he added, "You're good at it."
"Everybody needs a skill set."
Something was jabbing him in the ribs. After a minute, Spike realized it was an intentional kind of jab, of the gerrup you lazy bastard variety. He frowned and opened his eyes. The bedside light was on, and the clock said half past midnight. Harris was standing beside the bed in boxers and nothing else, his hair on end, his face puffy with sleep. There were pink chew marks clustered at the base of his throat, and around his nipples.
"You have to leave," he said, scrubbing his hand over the back of his neck. "Seriously. Go home."
"Mfrffmfr," said Spike, rolling over. Something jabbed him in the lower back. It was Harris's foot, he realized. Bloody impolite.
"Geeeeeet oooouuuut," Harris whispered, quoting the Amityville Horror like the irritating git he was. Then he slipped something cold and pointy between Spike's ass cheeks.
"Jesus Christ," Spike yelped, rolling away and right over the edge of the bed before he could stop himself. He hit the floor on one foot and one hand, the picture of catlike agility except that he was naked and dangly and still half-asleep. He turned wide-eyed to see Harris slide into the bed and drop his belt to the floor with a clank.
"What the fuck was that?" Spike gave his ass a reflexive swat, glaring. "What was that, a belt buckle? Are you insane?"
"Coldest thing I had." Harris blinked at him, the picture of sleepy innocence. "Remember, my inner gimp is now outer. I'm full of surprises."
"You're a bloody psychopath."
"Lock up, will you?"
"Shh." Harris reached out, fumbled for the bedside lamp, and clicked it off. Spike stood naked, blinking in the darkness. His clothes were...oh, right. Living room. Grumpily, he stumped off in search of them.
He took a few petty revenges--ran the water full blast while he brushed teeth and washed face, left the light on in the kitchen, and stole a final beer from the refrigerator--but in fact he was ravenously hungry and ready for his own bed, so he locked the place up and took himself off without further ado.
"Spike." It was uncanny, the way she appeared like that, practically at his elbow. All those years of sneaking up on blokes like him, jabbing pointy sticks through their hearts--that must be it. He concealed his surprise behind a sudden cough, and pushed the newspaper away. Embarrassing enough he was reading it, but she always got on him about needing glasses.
"Buffy." He took a long swig from the mug, but hot blood had long ago lost its effect on her. She took the chair beside him, propped her jammie-clad elbows on the table, and pinned him with that gaze.
"How is he?"
"How is who?"
Effortlessly, she withered him. He shrugged. "He's fine. Just wanted to talk a bit, that's all."
She stared at him for a moment. Then her eyes shifted to some middle distance just over his shoulder, and she nodded. "He wanted to talk," she repeated.
"About..." She looked back at him, her mouth pursed expectantly. "What, guy stuff? You went to Home Depot and priced fixtures?"
Mentally, Spike cursed Harris's name. More precisely, he thought, Thanks a lot, you fucking wanker. Out loud, he said, "That's not really my thing, ducks."
"No, I kind of figured." She studied him for a moment. Around them, the house was silent and dark, everyone else asleep. It was past one now, and the girls had school in the morning. "I need to know what happened to him, Spike."
"No you don't." Here he felt on relatively firm footing. Buffy was still Buffy, nosy and bossy, queen of everyone's affairs. "You don't have to know anything he doesn't want to tell you."
"So there is something to tell."
"You've got really annoying in the last couple of years, you know that?"
"It's a strength." She smiled thinly. "I got him into this thing, whatever it is. I have to help him get out."
"I don't think," Spike said, with as much snide as he thought he could get away with, "that you've got what he needs right now."
"What does he need?"
That was so easy, so right there for the taking, that for a moment he actually considered saying it. Laying it all out, soup to nuts. You've no idea what he's up to, so let me help. Here's a sampling from the last twelve hours or so. Don't believe me? See if he wears an open-necked shirt for the next week or so. It wouldn't be his fault, it would be Harris's. Harris was the one who should be sitting here, dodging questions about what, exactly, he was now doing in his spare moments. Explaining away whatever lurid film reels were playing out behind his eyes these days. Eye. Whatever.
For a moment he considered it--the momentary rush of satisfaction he'd get from seeing her little mythos fold in on itself and collapse like a wet paper bag. Then decency, or self-preservation, took over, and he sighed.
"He needs time," he said, trying to remember how people said this kind of thing on the Lifetime channel. "Just be patient for a bit, and give him some space, and he'll--"
"Oh, cram it," Buffy snapped. He blinked. "Seriously, Spike. What the hell is going on?"
"I..." He paused, fingered the mug, and looked at her. "I don't know. But I think he's, you know, basically okay."
"He's acting so normal." She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. "He's acting like nothing happened, and I know that can't be good."
"He's okay," Spike said again, expecting her to contradict him. She didn't, so they just sat there in silence until he cleared his throat awkwardly, patted her hand, and took his mug of blood and his brand-new mantle of guilt down to his bed in the basement.
Harris dropped by the next day around two, just as Spike was emerging from the basement, morning mug of blood in hand. Actually he'd been down there doing accounts for the last two hours on Dawn's old laptop from uni, but there was no reason to own up to that. The fewer people who knew about the Quicken, the better.
"Hey." Harris had the fridge door open and was slinging a six-pack of Coke inside. Grocery bags stood around on all the table and chairs, like casual bystanders.
"Mm." Feeling petty, Spike went to the microwave and put the mug in. Behind him, Harris went on shelving groceries. The girls were still at school, Parvati was out taking the car to the garage, Buffy was upstairs on the phone to London. In effect, they were alone. In a minute, Harris would say, So...I can't remember if I already said, but I was abducted by aliens a couple of days ago. Right around dinnertime. It was this whole big mind control thing. Sorry about that, forget it happened. Or whatever.
Harris went on shelving groceries.
Spike watched his mug circulate, feeling the silence stretch out, grumpier and grumpier until the little bell dinged and he opened the door with a bang. Harris crumpled a paper bag.
"Hey," he said, and Spike smiled tightly, still facing the microwave. Here it came.
There was a scraping sound. Spike frowned and turned to see Harris shoving an armload of canned goods towards him, across the top of the counter.
"Could you put those up there? I'm on laundry duty."
Spike stared at the cans. Harris was already turning away, bending down to grab the last paper bags off the floor, then chucking them on the table and walking out. Down to the basement, to do laundry. Spike spent another minute staring at the cans, then picked up his mug and followed. He was getting it now; it was making sense. Harris was pretending nothing had happened. Fine, good. Spike could poke pins in that, too.
"Don't mind me," he said airily, kicking his boots under his cot while Harris sorted whites from colors on the far side of the basement. "Just picking up a bit, that's all."
Harris gave him a glance, and said nothing.
"Just tidying up," Spike added, rescuing a copy of The Thin Man from its face-down splayed-out spot on the floor. "Everyone pitching all their rubbish down here, makes a mess."
Harris made a noncommittal sound, and started the cycle. Spike gave it a minute, sipping his blood.
"So I was thinking," Harris said, to the washing machine. Spike raised his eyebrows.
"Were you now?"
Harris gave him another quick look, a slightly irritated stop being so weird look. "Yeah. I do that sometimes. You know that guy who used to fence stuff at Willie's?"
Momentarily taken off guard, Spike blanked. "No."
"Green, scaly. Points on top. Moe?"
"Mort." Spike remembered Mort; Mort owed Spike kittens.
"Mort, right. Any idea whether he survived the great collapse?"
Harris frowned. "He told me he could get cheap lumber, and I'm thinking we need another addition."
"Cinnamon and Shanelle are fixing to rumble, apparently. Anyway, I was thinking if there's a Mort equivalent around here, maybe you could hook me up. We've got about two hundred bucks eating a hole in our checking account."
One fifty, but Spike wasn't going to let on that he knew that. He buried his nose in the mug and let the silence draw out a little more. Harris waited. So did Spike.
Finally Harris let out a deep sigh, turned to the unfinished wall and knocked his forehead gently against it. "Okay, fine. You win. What's my line?"
Spike considered. "'Oh Spike, Master Shagger, you've completely blown my wee American mind and that's why I'm being such a twit.'"
Harris rolled his head to the side and gave Spike an unimpressed look. "I'm being a twit? By trying to build more square footage?"
"You're pretending nothing happened." Spike leveled an accusatory finger at Harris. "I'm not an idiot, I know when I'm being swept under the rug."
"Spike." Harris laced his hands behind his neck, leaned his head back, and pulled hard. The gesture seemed to loosen him up a little; when he turned back around, he wore a pained smile. "I think we have a failure to communicate. I'm not sweeping anything under anything. I'm just...getting along."
"Funny how it looks the same."
"I can't help how it looks. I'm just trying to do chores."
"Oh right, so you told Buffy, did you?" That scored a point--Harris actually winced. "'Don't worry, everything's fine, Spike and me are just getting along, shagging like minks.'"
"No." Harris turned away and punched the cycle, just as it got stuck where it always did. "That would be kind of complicated."
"Maybe you should have thought of that before you begged me to fuck you."
"Maybe you should have thought of that before you fucked me."
Spike shrugged. "It's not my lookout, mate. I don't care if she knows."
"Oh, okay, so you told her?"
Harris gave him the pained smile again. "Why not?"
"Because." Spike paused, not quite sure what to say for a minute. "Like I said, it's not my lookout."
"I didn't force you into anything. If there's a lookout, it's as much yours as mine."
"With one crucial difference." Harris stared at him. Spike narrowed his eyes meaningfully, to disguise the fact that he didn't know what that difference was. Too late.
"You're so full of shit." Harris's tone was mild. He turned away and picked up the empty laundry hamper. "If you'll excuse me, I have manly things to do. Vacuuming, dishes. Maybe a little light dusting." He waved his free hand airily, brushing past. Spike didn't move enough to let him do it without contact, and they banged shoulders. Once upon a time it would have been casual, even hostile. Now, it was...
Harris paused and turned back halfway, the basket pinned to his hip. Spike stood with the mug half-raised. They stared at each other.
"Where's Buffy?" Harris asked, half-whispering.
"Upstairs. On the phone."
They both gave the basement ceiling a quick, furtive glance. Then Harris dropped the basket and Spike set the mug on top of the dryer, and they started tearing at each other's clothes.
"Hey," Harris said, when Spike emerged from the basement an hour later. The girls were home now; Harris was at the kitchen table, looking over someone's homework. "Spike. You think you can set me up with someone who catches lumber when it falls off a truck?"
"What?" Spike stood wavering in the middle of the kitchen, surrounded by warm living breathing bodies, the tidal ebb and flow of a house full of women. They'd had games or something at school; the whole place smelled of wet turf. "Oh, right. Yeah. Sure." Vaguely, he went to get the Weetabix from the cupboard.
"Whoah," Cinnamon said, hopping off the counter with a bowl of Cheerios in one hand. "Earth to Spike. Are you stoned or something?"
"Shut it," he said. From the corner of his eye, he caught Harris's silent smirk.
"Oh Spike," Harris whispered, tongue caught between his teeth, wicked grin in place. "Master Shagger, you've completely blown my wee American mind."
"Master Shagger." Harris laughed, low and throaty, and Spike felt the vibration against the tips of his fingers. Inside, Harris was hot as an ember, tight as a fist. His back was smooth and ribbed with muscle, his hips an amazing mechanism. Greased and fluid, rocking. A pleasure contraption, wrapped in the most unlikely brown paper. "Master."
"Master," Harris repeated, lower. The grin was still in his voice. Like licking dark treacle, like smoking poppy tar. A match flare, sharp and urgent in the sinuses.
"Yeah, say that, say it again--"
Coming was like tumbling off a cliff's edge. Freefall, weightless and innocent, like flight.
"So we're agreed," Harris said, taking the bottle from Spike's hand and swigging from it. "Need-to-know basis only."
"And nobody needs to know."
Harris nodded solemnly. "I have to say, I've always considered subterfuge and omission an important part of every relationship."
"You had crap parents. Made you wise beyond your years."
"Thank you." Harris passed the bottle back without waiting to be asked, which was good manners, Spike thought. The beer was cold and weak. He'd have to lay in some decent stuff for moments like this.
"So we'll keep on," he said after a while, not entirely sure that Harris was even still awake. He was, though. He answered right away.
"Until..." Spike let that trail off. "Well, I guess that doesn't matter."
"For now," Harris said, fishing in the sheets and finding the lube, then tossing it onto the night table and rolling away, "I'm going to say yes, it does not matter."
"This is not okay," Buffy said. "They're having sex. This is very much extremely Not Okay."
Harris and Spike stood frozen in the back hall, Harris's coat half-off, Spike halfway on top of him because he'd stopped so short. The house was warm and bright and it smelled of spaghetti sauce. Buffy was in the kitchen, talking in a ferocious half-whisper.
"Well," Parvati said slowly, sounding doubtful. "Look at it this way--at least they're doing it with each other. It's safer that way."
"Safer?" Buffy sounded half-strangled, in extremis. "Safer than what? Playing in traffic? Shooting morphine into each other's eyelids?"
Harris murmured, "Whoah."
"They're experimenting," Parvati said. "We should be glad they're doing it with each other, rather than with some strange men who'd use them and break their hearts."
That was a bit much, Spike thought. But still, if she was going to be the voice of moderation, far be it from him to stand in her way.
"I'm just so--" Buffy broke off and there was a brief silence. They waited tensely. "I'm just so mad. I mean, I do everything for them and they treat this place like a rooming house and then I find out they're having sex, it's just... it's just gross. I'm sorry, it's gross and ungrateful and I don't care if they're experimenting, I hate it. Go cut up a fetal pig or something! Don't get jiggy under my roof!"
There was another pause, while Harris slowly eased his weight back onto both feet, and Spike leaned back against the wall. In the half-light of the back hall, they looked at each other. Harris's expression was somber and unhappy. His eye was ringed with shadow. Neither of them had been getting much sleep.
Spike tightened his lips, shrugged, and jerked his head toward the kitchen door. Go on.
Harris frowned and shook his head. No way.
Go on, don't be a wanker.
Yeah, thanks, that's exactly why I'm not eager to go in there right now, did you notice there's an angry Original Slayer who knows we're fucking and is displeased, and by the way your hair looks like you slept in a Dumpster and I have intimate personal knowledge of the state of your inner thighs and I happen to know they look like you've been attacked by chiggers.
Spike rolled his eyes.
"I'm going to kill them," Buffy said, and that was it, Harris turned and started for the back door. Spike moved to intercept and there was a brief, nearly-silent tussle that was interrupted by the door to the kitchen opening wide. They leapt apart in the sudden spill of light.
"Buffy," Harris said, wiping his hands down his jeans. "Hey. We just got here." Spike resisted the urge to smack him in the back of the head.
"Cinnamon and Shanelle are having sex," Buffy said.
They stared at her, their mouths open in identical gawps.
"I know," she said. "Can you even believe it?"
Dinner was a tense affair, Buffy at the head of the table behind a little wall of ketchup and pickle bottles, the junior Slayers clueless and giddy, Cinnamon and Shanelle notably absent. Spike stood at the counter for a while, leafing through a magazine with a beer untouched beside him. Harris, poor sod, was stuck sitting at the table with girls all over him, passing the butter. Buffy picked at her food and said nothing.
After a while Spike decided enough was enough, and took himself down to the basement to read Hammett. It was two hours before the door at the top of the stairs opened. Spike let the book fall flat on his chest and watched Harris appear in stages: beat-up trainers, khakis, sweatshirt. Spike made a mental note. Next time pull someone with dress sense.
"So." Harris sat down heavily on the bottom step, his hands dangling between his knees.
"Bit of a shocker." Spike carefully folded down the corner of his page. "How'd she find out?"
"They had sex on the porch."
"Ah." Spike considered the logistics. "What, on the glider?"
"Never really fancied it. Too...squeaky." Spike frowned, then realized Harris was giving him one of those looks. "Did she chuck them out?"
"No." Harris took a deep breath that turned into a yawn. "She told them to stay out tonight until she cooled off or went to bed. I figure they're gone until midnight at least."
"And then what?"
Harris shrugged. Spike fingered the pages of his book.
"I long for the days," Harris said, fumbling for the railing and hauling himself upright with effort, "when everything was simple. You and I hated each other. There was no gay. Nobody even had sex, or if they did, you didn't have to wipe down the glider afterward."
"Also," Harris said, turning and staring back up the staircase with a hopeless expression, "I had two eyes."
Spike had nothing to say to that, so he kept silent.
"I'm gonna go listen to Buffy rant some more," Harris said, and stumped up the stairs like every riser was a mile high.
"Get down!" Buffy yelled, and Harris dropped obligingly, though not quite fast enough to give her a clear shot. She took it anyway and the stake went wide, splintering against the wall. The vamp turned with a snarl and ran halfway up the bricks before launching into a backflip that landed it behind her. Neat trick, some part of Spike's mind observed.
Then something hit him hard between the shoulder blades and he stopped worrying about Buffy and Harris. There was a baby vamp slavering in his ear, clawing at his throat. Before he got his balance to dislodge it, it actually bit him. Just a nick, nothing serious, but the feel of the teeth in his skin was enough to galvanize everything in him, like an electric shock straight to the brainstem. He felt his own fangs drop further out, felt his muscles lock, his prick harden. In a second he had the fledge against the wall, dangling in one hand. It was a woman. She looked down at him with a faint smile.
"I could make you feel good," she whispered. Her eyes flickered away, over his shoulder. To Harris.
He broke her neck.
Afterward, when they were counting off, he noticed Harris standing alone by the wall, staring off into the darkness. One hand lightly touching the wet brick beside him. A look of distracted worry on his face.
"Come over," Harris murmured, on the way home. They were getting close to his flat, the point where they usually dropped him. Buffy was walking just ahead of them, hands in pockets. Spike frowned and tipped his head in her direction.
Harris was silent for a few steps. Then he muttered, "Please."
Spike glanced at him. Harris's eye was dark and assessing, his jaw tight. His shoulders were up high around his ears.
Spike shook his head again and kept walking.
Without seeming to change direction at all, Harris walked into him. He veered away again almost immediately, but the collision registered in Spike's brain as warmth, solidity, the smell of lust. A silent, petulant demand. He stopped short.
"Watch it, Harris."
Harris kept walking, turning around and giving him a desultory shrug. Buffy looked back with a frown.
"Cut it out, Spike."
"Cut it--" He gave them both a death glare, and fished for a cigarette. "Tell Harris to watch where he's going, why don't you?"
Buffy sighed. "Both of you, seriously. Get over it."
"Yeah," Harris said, a faint smile starting at the corner of his mouth. "Get over it, Spike." Buffy smacked him in the shoulder, and he winced.
"You guys are worse than us," Cinnamon said morosely, walking past Spike with the world's biggest eye roll.
"Arsehole," Spike said.
"I told you," Harris said. "I'm not into humiliation. But I can take a little abuse if it's a package deal."
"I'm not your lapdog, you wanker."
"I know that." With one hand, Harris reached out, grabbed Spike's shirt at the collar, and hauled him into the flat. With the other hand, he closed the door and locked it. "I was sort of thinking it might be the other way around."
"What's that--" Spike stopped, because it was suddenly clear what that was supposed to mean. Harris was abruptly on his knees, nuzzling Spike's fly. "Oh."
"Oh," Harris repeated, looking up at him with that lazy, sex-soaked smile. With one finger on Spike's zipper, he tipped his head to rest against Spike's thigh. "Master may I?"
"You're sick," Spike told him. "But yeah, you may."
In retrospect, Spike thought he should have realized something was afoot. Harris was inexhaustible--the sex went from the front door through the living room and the kitchen, dropped into the bedroom for a lengthy stint, then carried on into the shower and ended up back in bed. By that time Spike was starting to feel a little chafed. Harris was clearly done in, heavy-lidded and bruised around the mouth, all his limbs lax. They lay tangled in the dirty sheets, listening to the garbage trucks make their rounds.
"You're a nutter," Spike said after a while, lifting his cigarette to his mouth. He hadn't dragged in so long he got ash all down his arm. "Certifiable. You know that, right?"
There was a long pause.
"Yeah," Harris said at last, as if he were responding to a signal from very far away. "I do."
Spike offered him the cigarette. He moved his head minutely from side to side.
"You recognize any of them tonight?' Spike asked, following up on an earlier instinct. Again, he had to wait for an answer.
"Yeah," Harris said at last. He didn't elaborate.
"You okay?" Spike asked after another minute of silence.
Harris lay still for a few seconds. Then he slowly drew himself up until he was sitting cross-legged, the sheets pulled up over his lap. He dropped his face into his hands and palmed it roughly, scrubbing his hair from the scalp. One finger caught the strap of the patch and he pulled it off, tossing it onto the night table with a look of irritation. Spike tried not to stare at the sunken lid.
"I think," Harris said, templing his fingers under his chin, and staring at the far wall, "that I have to stop doing this."
Spike lay still.
"I'm sorry," Harris said. He turned his head, and his face was naked. No patch, no smirk, nothing to hide behind. "I don't love you, and I'm not going to. And I can't keep doing this without..." He propped his head on his palm and gave a little shrug. "I can't do this without being in love. I guess."
"You've been doing a good job so far," Spike said without thinking. It was pure self-defense, the instinct to lash back. He regretted it as soon as it was out. "I mean, all right. Whatever."
"Not like I care." Spike sat up and butted the cigarette, then reached for his jeans, which had made it as far as the bedside. "I'm not the one who started this, remember?"
"Wasn't me sniffing around for a mercy shag, was it?"
"You were bloody gagging for it." Spike stopped short, realizing that Harris wasn't denying any of it, that keeping on like this was just embarrassing. He was being dropped, that was all. Again. Well, fuck it.
"Spike," Harris said. Spike ignored him. Getting the jeans on was a pain--he was sore in the thighs and ass, muscle-strained. Where the hell were his boots?
"Spike," Harris said again.
"You're a head case," Spike told him, heading for the door. "Seriously, Harris. You need help."
"No," Harris said, quietly but firmly. "You already helped me."
That was a surprise--it sounded sincere. Spike paused on the threshold, one hand on the sill. Harris sat naked and defenseless in the sheets. Without the patch, his face looked weirdly young.
Well...good, Spike thought. Glad you're doing better. I guess I owed you some of that anyway. And maybe sometime... Pathetic. He cut it all off, made a note to stop watching so damn much Oxygen.
"Well lah dee dah," he said instead, and walked out
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