Spike has been there for a few days, and Xander is getting used to it, in the small-details way if not in the big, existential, vampire-in-my-house way.
There's a reunion with Willow and Dawn, which is giddy and girlish and seems to bemuse Spike. More Spike body language: sitting on the couch, feet on the floor, palms resting flat on his thighs as if he's a patient stuck in a ticking waiting room, or as if like Uncle Rory he's about to say, *Well now* in a hearty way, and then stand up. He never does. There's a flight instinct lurking there, though, Xander can see it. But the vampire allows the girls to flutter and fawn, and he listens to various bits of history they impart, listens with his head tilted, eyes down to convey attentiveness, the mannerism of an actor. He meets Willow's new girlfriend, Becca, and is brusque and polite, and obviously assessing her steadily with those cool eyes that have quelled demons, until she just about loses her voice.
And he takes a phone call from Buffy, which from what Xander can tell after handing the phone over is full of stops and starts on her end, warnings and twisted, cryptic encouragement, the push-pull that she saws everyone with. Her wary sympathy and her silent disapproval. Xander can guess at all this, having talked to her about Spike not long before.
Spike gets off the phone looking...strange. Half lost in memory, broody and soulful.
Xander has had to remodel that word for Spike: soulful. In the past, it has always meant the voice of Barry White and the pouty lip of Elvis. Big cry-baby Johnny Depp eyes. Pastel Jesus paintings.
For Spike, soulful means a faint shadow across his expression, as if everything in him is drawing into focus, knots tightening and darkening in the complicated points of his face, where cheekbones meet eye sockets, where mouth meets cheek, where jaw meets ear. More often sadness than grimness, Xander thinks. It's really only a flicker, now and then. It makes Spike look his age. Look adult. Which he's already been for a hundred odd years, not jailbait by a long shot, so Xander confuses himself with what he thinks he sees.
After Spike gets off the phone with Buffy, Xander tries to think of things to say, and his thoughts flash by, something like: Buffy, college--how's she--so do you miss--did you two--and a while back I saw Angel--no, duh, he knows that--what to say--fuck it, I'm a guy.
So he just gives Spike a drink. His stock of beer has doubled.
In those first few days, they shop at the supermarket, they walk on the beach at night and say very little, they drive around and reminisce and look at cemeteries, they kill one vamp. Working the kinks out, is how Spike describes it.
The rest of Spike's clothes arrive. The empty boxes are already folded and stacked near the back door by the time Xander gets home one day, but he knows what was in them more or less, having glanced through Spike's New York closet. Spike is now wearing a black sweater, and Xander makes a study of it, deciding that expensive means shapeless and too big, sleeves that mostly cover the hands. Except it's not too big, really, because the way it fits makes Xander want to unpeel him.
Spike has decided that this sweater is best worn over faded jeans, which is definitely a look.
He's lost the gold chain. Xander isn't sure why and doesn't ask. Maybe it was someone else's gift, with special meaning. Like: whore. Except of course he still kind of is.
Xander, in bed: "It gets me hot, paying you. Is that wrong?"
Spike: "Yeah, you moral cretin. 'Course it's wrong. Illegal, too."
Xander, unmoving, one arm above his head: "Thanks. Thanks for enabling my panic. We now enter full crisis mode."
Spike, after making one of those dry sounds that are never quite laughs: "Too early for a mid-life crisis, 'less you plan to die young."
Xander: "In Sunnydale? Nahhhh."
Later, Xander tries for coherency:
Xander: "It's like this whole thing where...I can finally have everything I've ever wanted, if I just pay for it. Not that you're everything I've ever wanted. I'm just saying."
Spike: "Yeah. I get it." But then: "Money isn't everything, you know." Spike--always trite, always right.
Xander: "I don't get vamps and money."
Spike: "Not much to tell. Some steal, some stash it away. Knew one lucky sod who bought Microsoft early."
Xander, feeling the envy: "Sweet."
Xander: "I don't want it to be weird, though." Spike stares at him. Xander stares back. "Okay, that was dumb."
Spike: "What you mean to say is, don't tell the others."
Xander: "Well, yeah."
Spike: "They'll figure it out. Red's not stupid."
And later still:
Xander: "You like it, right?" He's gasping and fucking Spike hard into the mattress, twisting his hips and trying not to come. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet.
Spike is stretched out under him on his back, taut as a bow, fisting his own dick: "Oh fuck, yeah." Low, husky, in complete agreement.
Xander, hips snapping erratically: "I'm going to give you...a bonus." He gasps the words. "Nice car. Nice...nice car."
Spike, in rhythm with his hand: "Porsche. Boxster. Black."
Xander, startled enough to jerk to a stop: "What! No! Jesus!" But then Spike tightens his body in a way that severs all connectivity between Xander's brain and dick. "Oh man," he groans, on the verge of promising away fifty grand for a fuck.
Afterwards they are like puzzle pieces broken and rearranged and he tastes the back of Spike's neck and slides his hand between his legs, up behind his balls, the seam of his body still slicked up from the thrusts of Xander's dick when he was getting started a while ago. Xander rubs his thumb there, easy and then hard, and Spike grunts rather breathily, maybe grumpily, except there's no way a guy can be grumpy about that, so it's all a put on and Xander kind of likes that, in an indulgent way.
Xander: "So...you're okay with it then."
Spike, without much heat: "Christ, you're worse than a woman. Said I am, haven't I?" Sighing, he reaches around for Xander's hand and guides it forward to his dick, which is hard. Vampires. Ever ready. "I like your money. Like to fuck. You getting that?"
Xander: "Uh huh." But he's doubtful, and Spike turns and glares at him. And he's doubtful while Spike looks into his eyes and sees him, sees Xander Harris, all grown up and fucked up, more fucked up than he was this time last week, because all it took was this vampire coming back to lick away the years and lies of his boring life and reveal the dark chewy center, a freakish taste for perversion that he's held hidden since Anya--or else why would they be here now? "It's creepy," he says, as Spike stares at him. "I feel like one of those guys who makes a big show of taking out his wallet to pay for dinner." So very much like his dad.
Spike, darkness around the edges of his eyes, says to him slowly and clearly: "I like getting paid. No misunderstandings. No coy games. Someone beats you, you know why you're getting beaten. It's right there, no uncertain terms. Just money and fucking."
It hurts like paper tearing. Bills of big denominations, maybe. Xander's ears burn and he swallows and nods, feeling as if the past is too much with them, and that he and Spike are magnetized, closing in toward disaster together by way of bad, bad awkwardness. But then Spike relents, smiles. One of those different smiles, as if he's someone else now, and it's an even more dizzying turn, a kind of affectionate slap at Xander. Spike smiling as if these are things that don't matter, as if he's past them. This isn't the eternal whirlwind of fury and chaos Xander used to know, and Xander's nerves tingle, hypervision kicks in, because it really is a whorish and sad kind of thing, how readily he turns himself off. Not desire, but emotion.
He sees Spike, and Spike is absent.
And it makes it easier. Much, much easier. Because there's a distance between them, wider than a continent--that's very clear now to Xander. And as long as he can hold that thought, it's less scary to reach up and stroke Spike's hair, and to kiss his lips, and to mouth down his body and suck him off, even knowing that there's money behind all of it.
Fearlessness comes and goes in waves. He wants to take care of Spike, he wants to end this. Wants Spike here, wants to send him packing. It's just what he needs, it's the biggest mistake he's ever made.
He's not a very good vampire any more, the vampire in Xander's bed. He's almost too human. It's a deep sticky confusion, it's a submerged bubble waiting to surface and pop. It's unnerving.
There are waves crashing on the beach, audible through the open balcony doors over Spike's groans. It's night and Xander has invited a vampire in. The first fuck-up of the rest of his life. An expensive one, an adult one. Maybe a good one.
Too soon to tell.