Nine Inch Nails. James Brown. Black Flag. Sex Pistols. Blondie. The Clash. Chuck Berry. Aretha Franklin. Dusty Springfield. Billie Holiday. Bruce Springsteen. Nirvana.
Schizophrenic vampire with headphones and an AmEx card, thinks Xander, passing through the living room where the other man is jamming imperceptibly to musical static, painting his toenails a violent red, watching Howard Stern with the volume turned off, messaging Dawn on the iMac, drinking Jim Beam, and tracking Xander without lifting his gaze.
So much for the soul of adulthood.
Clearly, Spike doesn't know what to do with himself, yet within a week he's managed to find a hundred ways to waste time during Xander's daily absence. And I'm paying for all this, Xander thinks. Often.
But he decides he may like the red toenails, which are the latest Hollywood fashion for men, or so Dawn has told them both. The polish was her welcome-home present to Spike, and so he is dutifully applying her gift so that the next time she sees him, she'll beam in that luminous, toothy way. At least that's Xander's guess for Spike's motives.
Hours later, and Spike is staring at his red toenails with a displeased or maybe uncertain frown as he sits on the rail of the deck. Waves crash just out of sight, and they talk about something or other. When a vampire hurtles over the rail to attack, Spike is amazed, laughs, then sits there cracking jokes and watching while Xander bats the intruder around and finally stakes him with a piece of driftwood.
After which they have great sex, Xander nailing Spike over the edge of a crude, wooden patio table workshopped sometime last year, Spike's jeans shoved down around cool pale thighs, his ass slick, ready to be used even though they've been apart all day. Disturbing on a certain level, also crazy-making, driving Xander to fuck him harder, rock the table, unable to get deep enough. Change jingles in his pockets, belt ends swing loose, and he goes bareback, which he's never done with anyone else. If this were a movie, firecrackers would be going off. And as Xander's fucking he's thinking of his exertions, the vampire he just dusted, and how tight Spike's ass is, how beautiful his shirt-stripped back is, and those arms, posed like a swimmer's above his head, and his own back is sweaty but he gets sudden chills at how Spike is folded across the table, unmoving, untouched, ass flush to Xander's hips, letting himself be used. Hair on his neck lifting, excited, it's all Xander can do not to come as he figures out how perfectly Spike has read his own unspoken fantasy. It's scary. It's too much. He comes with forceful thrusts up that tight ass, taking exactly what he wants with the pretense of power: a rich human, calling the shots, totally in control of his dependent, obedient toy.
But when he's done, he kisses Spike's neck and gets him off with the laziest possible touch, with the palm and rolling heel of his hand, fingers stroking wood, lifting and squeezing Spike's balls. Spike is always startlingly easy to please. Xander thinks that someone so old and tired of existence as he often seems to be would find it hard to come, but he's got a knack for sex, a well of orgasms on tap, and he seems to like Xander's touch, leaning back against him the way a woman slides into a coat as you help her.
Years ago, post-soul, Spike had been looking pretty ragged. Now he looks twentysomething and fine, smooth and immortal. He looks like exactly what he is: a body kept hanging on the last breath of life, a piece of art preserved by lack of sun.
Days go by, and he takes Spike out at night, burning the candle at both ends. Sometimes to kill things, sometimes to shop, sometimes for nachos and flicks. In malls and on certain streets, Spike draws eyes like a movie star and doesn't notice. Sunnydale has attracted a Hollywood element during the last few years, which in a world of bizarre improbabilities still manages to make the short list, but there are now chic weekend bungalows cropping up like mushrooms along the shore, and the town feels the occasional ripple of an industry party that isn't publicized but somehow leaks to the locals. Spike comes across as one of those visiting exotics. He's a creature, but his breed is confused with a more ordinary one. His accent makes waiters straighten up and clerks shift into deferential mode the way Xander's money never has. It's pretty funny.
They go to Willow's for dinner, visit Dawn at school, drive by Revello to look at the old house, break into the rebuilt Hellmouth High School and wander the halls. Fuck in odd places around town that Xander always wanted to fuck in. He thinks of Buffy sometimes, and what she'd say if she knew about this. It's bizarre.
At one point he gets some bills in the mail and stares at the figures and thinks: no way. No fucking way. Then when he intends to confront Spike, he sees that depthless lack of joy, that need for distraction, and he pays them and says nothing. It has nothing to do with being used or manipulated, or with love--not yet anyway, because they're not on any kind of wavelength for that. It's just that, why fight? He can afford it. It's extravagant, keeping a pet vampire, but after all--
"How'd you get so rich, anyway?" Spike asks early on, as they're shopping.
Xander: "I try not to think about that." Off Spike's look: "It's nothing...it's, okay, I had this conversation once with Will, and then months later I win the lottery, eight point seven million, and ever since then I just, I can't stop making money."
Spike, brows lifting: "She worked the mojo for you?"
Xander: "She says she didn't."
Spike, clearly shrugging the whole issue off as he fingers a shirt: "Yeah. Gotten good at lying, hasn't she."
Lottery, business investments, fortunate stocks, and here he is.
He can afford Spike, and worrying about being taken advantage of is pretty lame, when you get down to it. Despite his mercenary claims, Spike--it's clear--doesn't give a flying, shit-flinging monkey about money except as a means to buy things to pass the hours. He never looks at price, just hands over the plastic, lets Xander pay the bills on the backend. Gives his backend up for bills. No complaints.
It's a workable arrangement, strangely, and it sustains itself for more than two weeks. Xander keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. Thinks he'll come home one day to find odd demons milling about and drinking his booze, house trashed, privacy violated, Spike with that old dark gleam in his eyes, a ferocious hatred that he's been hiding up to now, a desire to inflict wounds.
But Spike does nothing like that. He's restless at times, yeah, but he just drinks, and lets Xander lead him into the night to kill stuff. Battles he no longer goes looking for on his own. He doesn't go off alone to bars, never postures or picks fights. Is polite to the service class. Tips well if he's the one paying. Now and then Xander looks up to find Spike watching someone--a waitress, a businessman, a kid. His face blank as a photograph of a face, something you'd flip by in a men's magazine. And Xander has no idea what's going in his head. Not the tiniest fragment of a sliver of a clue.
He's got a mouth on him. Matter of factly says shit that makes Xander's hair stand on end, with a kind of horrified delight. But it's a tactic, he thinks. A way for Spike to goose the mark. Is he ever himself anymore?
"You're so good," Spike murmurs in bed, when Xander's dick is buried inside him. And he sounds raw, as if he means it, but who can tell.
Xander thinks about asking: "So have you thought about what you want to do?" as if Spike is just some aimless slacker, a seventeen-year old with a future ahead of him who needs to buckle down. But what sense does it make, asking him that, when he could be around a hundred years from now, lying next to some other guy, or doing things equally uncertain--sitting and smoking in a cafe on the Left Bank in Paris, lying on a soiled mattress in a New York tenement, ghosting along the edge of a Peruvian jungle, fighting side by side with cyborg soldiers in a bombed-out version of L.A. He's Spike. He'll survive when Xander himself is ashes.
I'm just renting him, Xander thinks. And not even rent-to-own.
One Saturday at the mall they meet a co-worker of Xander's, stop for introductions and idle chat, Spike mostly listening as they shoot the shit, bitch about work. After the guy walks on, Spike says: "Don't you have *any* friends?"
Xander, defensively, startled: "Excuse me?"
Spike: "You've practically got 'fuck off' tattooed on your forehead." He smacks the heel of his hand against Xander's brow as if he has every right to.
Xander: "I have friends."
Spike: "Who? Red? Dawn? Buffy? Bunch of chits who don't even know what flavor of porn you like."
Xander, heartfelt: "Ewww."
Spike: "You've got no mates, no one to drink with."
Xander: "I drink with you."
Spike, rolling his eyes: "Yeah. Real healthy. A man ought to be able to round up a poker game. You've got a social deficit, Harris."
Xander: "You should talk."
Spike: "I'm not the one breathing here."
And he's right of course. But he's annoying about it, as if he lifts all his insights from *Maxim* or *The Man Show*, and Xander finds it hard to take seriously the advice of someone so deeply lost.
Late one night he wakes up and walks to the kitchen and finds Spike leaning against the counter, staring down at the floor tiles, just as naked and alone. He thinks the vampire might be heating up a cup of blood, but he isn't. The lights are on but he isn't doing anything that requires him to be in the kitchen at three a.m. Xander is tired but it gives him shivers.
"Hey," he says. And there's a forgettable exchange of words, and some kissing, before Spike comes back to earth and relaxes against him. On call again. But Xander isn't interested in taking what he's paid for. Not exactly. He holds Spike's hips loosely and tastes the shape of his mouth and the kitchen lights are disorienting and dreamlike and then they go back to bed, leaving the bedside lamp on, and Xander bites lightly across Spike's chest and shoulders, making him smile in a rather amused way, some private joke or wry old knowledge, and they are up far later than they should be, or later than Xander should be. But he's a rich guy. He's an owner. He can go in late. He can indulge his vampire.