Anna S. (eliade) wrote,
Anna S.

show, don't tell

Another week and Spike's secrets are leaking out. That first ridiculous credit card statement was, Xander learns now, a finagled funds transfer to pay gambling debts. Not even his own, which is the real shocker, but a friend's--a human friend's--from back in New York. Spike has apparently been waiting for Xander to bring it up, but winds up volunteering it himself as part of a longer, rambling story about the things he's been doing for the past few years, the people he's known. Musicians, whores of all genders and species, boxers and bookies, demons and fixers, poets, shady dealers, and suits. A whole underworld Spike wandered the edges of until Xander spirited him away in Cinderella fashion.

Xander broods a few times, wondering if any of that world will follow Spike here. Don't buy trouble, he tells himself.

Xander: "You were pretty generous with my money."

Spike: "Pocket change to you now."

Xander: "Yeah, but..." But nothing. His two-week old outrage is as stale as duck bread, and Spike is curled up against him, the knobs of his spine almost like peas pressing up from within their pod as Xander traces them.

Spike says to Xander's chest: "I know. Ask next time."

Xander: "No, screw it. You're right. I have the money. But if you go over six figures I'm going to have to spank you."

He feels Spike's smile. It's probably a smirk, but he'll think of it as a smile. "And here I thought you were vanilla all through."

Xander: "That's a terrible and...annoyingly accurate thing to say. I have sprinkles. Though, no cherry."

Spike: "I'd like to have seen your cherry. Could've popped it for you, real sweet." He's licking Xander.

Xander: "Sorry. If I'd known." He waves a hand that Spike can't see, then lets it slide down the other man's back.

Spike: "Hope he took care."

Xander: "Yeah, it was all right." Different things are on his mind. "So, think I need some new tricks. Handcuffs, sex toys..." He's trying to come up with other stuff for a list, but he's already running out of ideas. Vanilla. Back in the day he'd worked hard to keep up with Anya, but now he remembers that time as a blur of bad plans and worse execution whenever they strayed past the basics. He does consider himself good at the basics, though.

Spike: "Whatever turns your crank, love." Within seconds he's straddling Xander and very seriously looking down at him. "Rates you're paying, it's the full-service menu." Leans in with his arms propped on either side of Xander's head, all fluid muscle and floppy hair. He's got that smile, the one that says he really has no inhibitions, four syllables unnatural to his body. Xander knows that even a vampire must have a *few*, but they'd be things he'd never want to do himself,

And when the subject is picked up again after a half hour's fun and sweaty interruption, Spike lists all the things he's done, and all the places he's done them, and all the people--and things--he's done them with. It's a numbing inventory. Some of it requires other languages to describe. He says he liked most of it, and Xander is wavering on the edge of feeling intimidated, dick-shy, but Spike shrugs into the crook of Xander's left side. "It's all body parts," he says with no real enthusiasm, and Xander senses that comparisons won't be made and some animal angst begins to unknot again.

He thinks about the list, and makes mental checks by certain items.

Xander doesn't sit and watch Spike like some perv at a peep-show, like a stalker in his own home. But over time moments and impressions collect. Spike is like one of those guys you see in bands. Devon comes to mind. Devon used to write musical notes on his arms, hum to himself, lie on the bleachers and commune with the sky during classes, and was permanently stoned just above baseline, just below adult radar, for five straight years until, to everyone's startlement, he graduated. And then went to be Devon elsewhere.

Actually, Spike is nothing like Devon. But Xander is trying to pin down what it is that makes Spike Spike, and it has something to do with his wrists and hands, his frowns, his attunement with whatever it is he's doing, even when there is no sound to the universe except its dial tone, its static, a background hiss of massive boredom that makes Spike's eyes go blank. He is so far from zen, he's like the anti-zen, but he's got some trick of being in the moment that fascinates Xander. And he's hard to define. Is he smart? Xander doesn't consider himself that smart, so he finds it hard to tell about others. Willow--easy call. Buffy--a different kind of smart. But people who bottle up their thoughts and always match their level of conversation to yours, what's that about--is it disguise?

That's kind of what Spike does, and it makes Xander flounder, because he realizes after a few stray hits that if he talks books or music or history, Spike is right there with him riding shotgun, quoting unexpected poetry and spinning yarns about the jazz age that Xander only half believes, but wants to. He's got more in his head than he's bothered to unpack, and Xander thinks that maybe if Spike finally makes himself at home somewhere, settles, he'll start to leave bits of himself lying around.

One day they play pool and before long they're playing almost every night, and it strikes Xander that--though Spike might well be playing alone during the day--he's never the one to suggest a game. He loves pool, it's obvious in how he handles the cue and works the angles, eyes busy, but he always waits on Xander. And never said the first word on arrival--let weeks pass, most nights walking with Xander by the room where the table is kept as they went upstairs.

Was Spike always like this before? Is it soul trauma, new and wrong, or was he deferential to Crazy Dru without her even noticing--did he try to match Buffy's needs at her every whim? Did he hide a small self under a big, bad coat of brashness?

Maybe. But honestly, Xander isn't sure.

Spike makes a cup of tea now and then, and some of his gestures are precise and some of them are sloppy. Dunking the little strainer, stirring in milk: precise. Tossing the leaves and missing the trash can: sloppy.

"Gives the maids something to do," Spike says of the flung tea, a splat drying on the wall, clump on the tiles.

Xander: "Do they bother you?"

Spike: "What, Patsy and Edina?" Xander is confused, because their names are Marta and Trish. "They let me be."

Most of Spike's blood supply is in a special storage room, in a locked fridge.

Looking for small gestures of his own, Xander buys Spike jewelry. First, he gets it wrong. He gets it embarrassingly wrong. He buys Spike stuff grossly expensive and Spike murmurs thank-yous with raised brows and wears it politely. Desperate, he tries to find out what Spike really likes. He fears he knows--death metal rings and dog collars, god help him. Instead, Spike digs in, claws to carpet, like Supercat when he's poised to fight or run, and makes Xander do the heavy lifting, tells him to pick out whatever the hell he wants. It's a wrangle, and funny--Xander suddenly wonders if he has any taste of his own. Why did he buy Spike stupid gold bracelets? He doesn't like them either.

On the way to the movies one night he sidelines Spike to one of those leather kiosks and buys him a choker and a bracelet, both cheap, both so perfect he wants to take Spike into the mall bathroom and lick him all over.

They don't do that, but they grope during the movies, and in darted glances at Spike's profile he can see that the other man's lips keep up a steady series of smiles--twisty, kind of goofball, as if he's trying not to laugh--right up to the credits.


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