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24 November 2003 @ 04:45 pm
foot rubs for Annie  
Well, this came out...um. Existentially freaky and not exactly meeting Annie's request as originally intended.

Used to be, he'd come home most nights and drink with the TV on. He perfected aloneness. Because he'd gone north. Because he'd gone north alone. Because he'd had no Anya, no job, no thing. Years of Hellmouthing off, and he still had no thing. So he'd ended up in this northern city where it snowed a lot. He wasn't even sure of its name. It existed outside his windows and every day he went out and constructed it and every night his work was undone and he started all over again, directing men to raise the girders toward the overcast sky.

The telephone lines didn't go beyond the city anymore; he couldn't reach Buffy or the others. He wasn't sure it mattered.

He prided himself on his clear head. Clear enough. His time in Sunnydale had left him with the ability to separate magic from reality when others couldn't. So he and maybe he alone could see the city for what it was, knew that this was a very wrong place, a dark city that was becoming darker every day, and turning back in time, from a city of skyscrapers and glass to one of five-cent diner meals and movie houses with newsreels from the war, to one of coal fumes and muddy streets and horses and streetlamps with white glowing globes. Its parts were different and stitched together and didn't add up. Like a dream.

It didn't matter, though.

Every night he headed home the same way with his hands in the pockets of his navy pea-coat, left turn, right turn, left. The blocks were similar to each other, warehouses followed by department stores followed by apartment houses, all with admirable masonry, the buildings separated by eerily clean and widely spaced alleys that might have been slipways into other dimensions. Over his head at the corner of 9th and Pine the elevated train always passed; a clatter on the rails, a swish of lighted windows through which he could see no one.

One night as he was heading home this way, he passed the pet shop and looked into its window. It was a disturbing pet shop, with people and other creatures in the displays, staring out forlornly. He usually kept his eyes ahead, so it made no sense that he should do anything differently. But he did and saw Spike. He was slumped in a display case, partitioned off between a green-skinned alien woman from Star Trek and something manlike that squatted on all fours, with fur and horns and a glower. Spike looked up and met his eyes through the glass and recognized him. It surprised Xander. People didn't usually know each other here unless they'd already met.

He stopped and stared through the glass, then his gaze moved away, down to the sign that hung there, which said, "Vampire - $10." Not a bad price. He didn't spend much of his pay except on movies and diner meals and liquor store deliveries. So he went inside. The clerk unlocked the case, made Spike climb out, hooked a leash to his collar, and handed the leash to Xander.

Spike looked like a doll that had been kicked around the playground for a while. Dusty, somehow. Bruised. His hair was untended, a doll's hair, scrunched in odd directions, but it was white to the roots. He said nothing at all as he was led to Xander's apartment. Xander thought about giving Spike the coat to cover his nakedness, or at least of taking him off the leash. But these were passing thoughts. It was probably illegal to have your pet off its leash, and Spike had less need for a jacket than Xander did in the cold.

He stopped at the corner store and bought bread, milk, and blood. Spike waited outside leashed to a pole across from the fruit stand, staring at the crates of apples and oranges with a grave expression. Xander caught him at it through the shop window as he was being rung up.

Xander couldn't remember the last time he'd held a conversation outside work. A few words here and there, thank-yous to cashiers and waitresses. He'd forgotten how to talk. When he got Spike home, set him in place like the bag of groceries, he wasn't sure what to do with him next. He gave him the blood and Spike drank it. He couldn't figure out what to say or ask. The only question that occurred to him was, how'd you get here. And that didn't matter. And if that didn't, what else did? Nothing.

As the silence went on it was clear that Spike also had nothing to say. Or maybe he couldn't say anything. His eyes were a dark, heavy watchfulness on Xander. He was still and pale, like a store mannequin, but with more feeling.

Several days passed while Xander thought about what to do with Spike. When he came home now, the vampire was waiting by the door. Knowing he'd be there made Xander's steps quicken, focused his thoughts on a specific point. He bought blood every night now. It came in deli containers, plain white buckets scrawled with the word "blood" (35 cents) in black grease pencil; rows of similar containers lined an entire shelf in the fridge unit of the corner market. It almost made him wonder. He'd forgotten how it felt to wonder about something.

Habit and ritual gave him small things to look forward to. When he came through his apartment door, Spike would rub up against him like a cat intent on marking him, then slide off diffidently. Xander began to make brief remarks as he fixed his own dinner, puttered around the kitchen and the living room, sat down on the couch in front of the TV. He was talking to the silence; Spike was part of the fabric of the silence. A fixture, a pet. He didn't talk back.

He wore an old pair of Xander's jeans and nothing else, because Xander didn't give him anything else. There wasn't any point. He never went out. The view from the windows showed bits of rooftops, a park scattered with bare trees, the plot of land fenced off and strangely without purpose, situated across from a library but never used. Snow fell for hours every night and every day, piling up on the window ledges, and in the mornings Spike sat there by the radiator looking out. The sky was always overcast; he never burned.

Sometimes memories tried to stir in Xander's head, but he shoved them back down with a sense of panic so vast he couldn't even name it. When this happened, like an animal sensing a brainstorm, Spike would press closer, rest his chin in the dip of Xander's collarbone, or collapse in a graceful heavy heap across his lap to stare up at him from under half-shuttered eyelids. And then Xander would pet him and make aimless remarks into the silence and start to relax again, and the TV would flicker and his favorite TV show would lull him and the evening would pass.

Eventually Xander took Spike to bed, because. Because he was horny, because Spike was a pet but not a dog, because of how he stretched and looked up at Xander, because. That was a revelation, that was memory of something that had never happened before but should have, that was Willow and Buffy and Giles and high school and Sunnydale and Cordelia and Jesse and...nothing, nothing, fade to black, go to sleep now, nothing.

When he walked home now, he sometimes saw people acting more strangely, as if they could sense his disturbance. Vampires walking arm in arm with game faces on, but sedately, with affectionate murmurs, would look up and catch his eye and growl. Groups of squint-eyed boys on street corners watched Xander pass like a school of fish waiting to sink their teeth in and strip him to the bone. Drunk, stumbling women in fur coats and flashy jewels would sometimes pause and ask him for a light. Once, one slapped him.

At work, his job became more difficult because the men gave him sass, gave him lip and trouble and suspicious looks. He worked harder, longer, went home tired to his bones, feet chilling in the slushy snow. His neighbors were acting funny too; he thought they might be spying on him. Curtains were often pulled down as he walked up the steps with his grocery bag.

The corner market started selling cannabis, which was odd. It seemed like it should be odd, anyway. But he brought a bag home and smoked it. It tasted like oregano at first, but then it got him buzzed and sleepy. Spike watched from the end of the couch, interested, and Xander thought about giving him a toke or two, but it seemed cruel. He started smoking every night, and liked how it took the edge off, made him forget things. Sometimes it gave him odd new thoughts; he thought Spike might be reading his mind. The vampire seemed to know just how to accommodate his needs. Would take Xander's feet in his hands and shove the knots out, rub the bones out, would blow him while he sat and smoked, while he watched TV, before he went to sleep, before he woke up, as he walked in the door, as he was trying to make dinner. Looked at him with fathomless eyes and never smiled or spoke, but grew more pliant in Xander's grasp every time Xander fucked him, settling on Xander's cock as if he'd finally grasped his purpose, head falling back, lips parting, eyes closing.

It seemed that it had been winter for a very long time, maybe a year. Maybe two. It didn't matter. Other things changed; his job got easier again. People's eyes didn't linger on him.

One day when he came home, Spike smiled.
Strange Rambling Writer Chick: Kabuki hair (fox dream)debxena on November 24th, 2003 04:55 pm (UTC)
That was ... that was ... I have no words. Guh.

A great turn-around from one of my other fave Spanders where Xander (human) is Spike (vampire)'s pet.

A very strange world indeed. I hope you write more in it.
Brassy Hag: friendshipmiggy on November 24th, 2003 04:55 pm (UTC)
I'm fascinated and disturbed.

As it happens, that's my favorite combination.
sophia: Carcasses of Old Bugs by thehushsaraslash on November 24th, 2003 05:12 pm (UTC)

Creepy. Also wonderful. :)
LadyCat: spike (mys1985)ladycat777 on November 24th, 2003 05:17 pm (UTC)
You depress me. This is, of course, meant as a backward compliment, cause you beat me to the punch and I want to be jealous but what remaining brain cells I have are too busy going 'hothothothothot' and can't work up enough energy to be properly jealous.

Also, I hate feeling like a copy cat. But gah. And also hot. I love slave!Spike. He's so. . . perfect like that.
Anna S.: spandereliade on November 24th, 2003 05:22 pm (UTC)
I copied you! And on the way home just now I was thinking I needed to add a comment about that, saying how your recent story had inspired this. :>D And yet they're very different in key ways. Mine is ehhh; mine is just a wacky and weird and dark littlenoodle, and going no further. Your thing, however, is much more focused on the imporant stuff: slave-love, shmoop, Brian Kinney! And if you don't write more I'll have to kill you. La la la, love!
Barbrahirah on November 24th, 2003 05:31 pm (UTC)
I will annoy you by ignoring Slave Spike and instead slobbering on your toes for more stylish Xander weirdness! Ha ha! (It is very keen and nifty.)

squeeze me, stomp me,  make me winemoosesal on November 24th, 2003 05:58 pm (UTC)
One day when he came home, Spike smiled.

You're killing me here. This was all achy and dark and serene and beautiful. Just f*cking beautiful.
Dani Mephistopholes: Spangel - couch scene - BehindBlue_eyesastarte99 on November 24th, 2003 06:10 pm (UTC)
I liked this, quite a bit. It took me a bit to get into it - part of the charm of the story is that it feels off, like a wrong sized, inside out sweater or something. Since things decidedly *are* off, this is perfect.

Yay. Pet!Spike is awesome.
Herself_nyc: robintcj's S/X manipherself_nyc on November 24th, 2003 06:10 pm (UTC)
I love the way you sink us slowly into the strangeness. First it just seems like Xander's moved, but then you mention casually that he can't phone out of the city, and everything is kind of retro, and then, oh yeah, vampires in cages at the pet shop.


Love this.
Explicit Adult Content? You're soaking in it!: xander wildyin_again on November 24th, 2003 06:41 pm (UTC)
Good Lord, that was disturbing.

::sly smile:: I liked it a lot. Thanks.
Jack Pride: Missing Xander (karenbear)jack_pride on November 24th, 2003 07:13 pm (UTC)

You turn me on so.
when regiment is gone: smoking spike pppkindkit on November 24th, 2003 08:00 pm (UTC)
This is strange and wonderful and extraordinary. I love the details--the phone lines that don't leave the city, the city turning back in time, the pet shop with people in it, the vampires walking lovingly arm in arm. And the snow, and the silence.

One of the things I love best about this is the deep ambiguity--is this a literal city? A metaphor for Xander's state of mind? One of those literalized metaphors that are so common in the Jossverse? Or something else entirely?

It reminds me a bit of Patricia Anthony's novel Happy Policeman, in which aliens barricade off and preserve a little Texas town after a nuclear war. Something about the mix of the everyday and the bizarre.
witlingwitling on November 24th, 2003 08:16 pm (UTC)
Beautiful. You dark chocolate covered almond, you.

Also, there is a book of poems by Charles Bernstein called Dark City that an ex of mine own(ed/s) and that I have been trying to buy for a long time. It's out of print. Every so often it will appear in the OP search at Powell's and I'll try to get it but it'll be gone already by the time I get there. There is some symmetry between those facts and this story, I think. Just not sure where.
Anaxila / Babblesanaxila on November 24th, 2003 09:21 pm (UTC)
eliade: You are strange and wonderful. An extra helping of gruel for you Thursday. *mwah*

wiseacress: Amazon has used copies of the book - 4 of them. The description sounds delicious.
(no subject) - witling on November 24th, 2003 09:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - anaxila on November 24th, 2003 10:15 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eliade on November 24th, 2003 10:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Circe: donniebrasco by ignitedcirce_tigana on November 24th, 2003 08:20 pm (UTC)
Jesusfuck. I'm a HUGE fan of the movie "Dark City", which for all its manifold flaws, really had something. You've absolutely caught that something in a way I didn't think was possible in words (as opposed to images). And you did it in a wonderful way, without a skeery Kiefer Sutherland, and with a cameo by fruit, like all good crazy AU Spike stories.

Wow. Thank you. This is going right near the top of my favourites list.
witlingwitling on November 24th, 2003 09:47 pm (UTC)
Wait, there's a movie? Is this fic a crossover thingie based on a movie I don't know about? Or is it just the Annabrain? I'm confused now.
(no subject) - eliade on November 24th, 2003 10:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - astarte99 on November 24th, 2003 10:09 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - circe_tigana on November 25th, 2003 05:47 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - eliade on November 26th, 2003 10:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
Romanyromanyg on November 24th, 2003 08:24 pm (UTC)
::raises hand excitedly in class::

Oh, me, me, I know!

Maybe I'm being to literal, but I immediately thought of the movie Dark City when I read this. The backdrops from that film fit perfectly in this piece. I pictured the sinister, cheesy automat, the murky aquarium, the express train that never stops. Somehow Xander and Spike fit.

Oh, I'm stating the obvious...

::slinks away::
Anna S.: trees_whiteskyeliade on November 26th, 2003 10:39 am (UTC)
No, you were right--I had that in the back of my mind as I wrote, though not from the very outset. *g*

::drags you back slinkily::
Essene: spander dreamessene on November 24th, 2003 09:14 pm (UTC)
Well, that was an odd little ditty. Like it's set in not just an AU, but a different dimension. Made me feel all squooshy inside. Poor pet. Poor Xander. Good anniesj.