They go to The Rambler, the better of Sunnydale's two gay clubs.
As a reason for going, Xander says: "I don't want to lose touch with my roots."
Spike's gaze cuts up to his hairline. He's clearly puzzled, because Xander doesn't actually dye his hair.
Xander: "My *other* roots." A pause. "My roots in the gay community." Spike is staring at him and the words *silly sod* nearly appear in a thought bubble next to his head, kinda like when a cat stares at you and you know he's thinking: *Give me fish, stupid human.* "Okay," Xander has to admit. "I have no roots in the gay community. But why don't I? I should. It doesn't seem right to just *be* gay. You gotta shake your gay thing sometimes. Not *that* thing," he clarifies, as Spike's gaze turns downward this time.
They go to The Rambler. Spike dances. Men's heads turn to watch Spike dance--men's heads turn *away from the go-go dancer on the bar* to watch him dance, even when sometimes he's barely moving, but he also manages to make Xander look and feel less than completely lame.
Outside the club, as they're leaving, an earnest young man tries to hand them a pamphlet, asking, "Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart?"
Spike: "No, but I've accepted dick into my ass. No more room at the inn, wouldn't you say?"
The kid, amazingly, manages to come back from this: "He has room for *you*. We are all loved by our Lord and Savior."
Spike gently takes the pamphlet from his hopeful, outstretched hand, nods, and lets Xander escort him away.
"Jesus," Xander says with feeling when they're out of range.
Spike: "Just a messenger, I think."
Later, Xander finds the pamphlet on the counter, reads it: "He bled and died for our sins." He throws it away, then gets up at three a.m. and fishes it from the trash and puts it into a kitchen drawer below the delivery menus. Whatever. Spike might want it, and it's not his to toss.
They debate about installing a flatscreen TV in the bedroom on the wall opposite the bed, so that they can lie like beached fish after sex and watch cooking shows and Xander's *Babylon 5* CDs. It seems both very right and very wrong to Xander, the first flagstone on a path to hell and the kind of tacky, all-out immersion in a gadgeted lifestyle that he's tried to avoid despite having loads of money. Tried to avoid...now and then. Once or twice at the very least.
"The bedroom is for sex," Xander slurs after one marathon session leaves him steamrollered. Flattened. Barely verbal.
Looking back, it's clear that this was not the first flagstone on the path to domesticity, which is turning out to be nothing like hell. All of Spike's clothes have been moved into Xander's room now, his own side of the closet. His CDs outnumber Xander's. And he's stopped nesting in the living room quite so much. He's allowing himself to take up more space in the bedroom. Finally, one day: a paperback appears on his side of the bed, and what was Xander's personal space is suddenly theirs, shared.
He has his own side of things.
Right about then is when Spike starts to get antsy. The broodiness is like a third person in the house. One night Spike says, "I'm taking the car for a drive." His own car, but it's the first time he's ever expressed such a whim. He vanishes for three hours, comes back with blood on his shirt from a slice along his chest. It was a good shirt, not a throwaway. Xander isn't sure how many questions he should ask, or not ask. He has the inevitable thought: how would I know if he started eating people again? Not that he believes that. It's just the inevitable thought, a blip on his mental radar, and then gone again.
Totally, utterly unchipped vampire. And people with souls do bad things all the time.
The next week, Xander comes down with a hellacious cold and, after bringing him a mug of tea and some toast, Spike climbs back into bed with him among the littered, snotty tissues and stays there for three days. Reads books and lets him sleep. Fetches and carries. Cleans up his tissues and makes soup and orders ineffectual homeopathic medicines off the net by overnight express, based on a recommendation of Becca's. Shares a hot bath, sitting behind Xander and washing his body with soothing palm strokes. He's mellow, stretchy as taffy, folding himself to Xander's body whenever Xander gives him a sign that it's welcome. Spooning him, playing pussycat.
When Xander is well again--ye, having passed through the Valley of the Death Wish--he feels a profound sense of gratitude and can't keep his languid, molesting hands off Spike. Touches him all the time.
When Xander is well again, Spike gets hincky and quiet and half-withdraws. Back to brooding. He's killing things grimly when they patrol, sometimes with an angry ghost of the old Spike vim. Kick, smash, snarl.
He's been the new-and-different Spike for so long that it nearly rips Xander to pieces when the vampire picks a fight with him. Bypassing any number of several smaller fights, he bears straight for the championship match, and it's a big rude bloodbath of shouts and angst. Never goes for the jugular, but it's still terrifying. Emotionally. Not physically. Meltdown, some of which Xander had guessed at, some of which he hadn't. Spike paces almost the way a lion does, but trying to hold back from attack instead of working himself up, Xander feels.
Spike, drunk, eyes angry with tears: "It's all so bloody pointless!"
Xander, teetering on the edge of heartbreak and afraid to touch him: "What is?"
Spike: "Why don't you just put a collar 'round my neck--chain me up in the garage with the car--not as if this is going anywhere--"
Xander: "Is this about the money--is it--"
Spike: "Of course it's about the fucking money!" A storm-eye of cold calm: "The *fucking* money, Xander."
Xander: "Take it, you can have all of it." He means it, and what he's trying to say is, it doesn't matter.
Spike's mouth twists. "Oh, right. Guess you've got me pegged, then. After your fortune, is all. Big wads of cash up my bum, thanks." Words dripping with contempt.
Xander: "No, that's not--that's *not* what I--"
And then, whiplash: "It's not about money."
Xander: "You just *said*--"
Spike: "Sod your magic money. You think I *give* a fuck--"
Spike: "You're so bloody thick--it's a wonder you don't topple like a buffalo with that massive, self-absorbed head on your shoulders."
It's grossly unfair, it's incoherent, it's frustrating as hell, and it goes nowhere, at least not until Xander braves himself to walk to Spike and take the sides of his face in both hands. Spike, his head tilted down to one side, resists looking up for a moment in a stubborn, bullish way that makes Xander feel strangely generous and tender and willing to play the big dumb man in this equation, to another man who keeps giving it up for him: "Tell me what to do--I'll do it. Please, baby." And he's only ever said that during sex. "Just tell me." He's reduced to babbled endearments and begging, as desperate about this as he's ever been about the sex.
And when Spike meets his eyes, he's so close to spilling over--anger, tears, pain, a miserable twist of death and time and soul--that it's hard not to flinch.
Spike sags against him finally, his head on Xander's shoulder, and Xander swallows down all pride as meekly as any man ever has in a fight like this--as he never in a million years would've done with Spike before he brought him back from New York, as he really never did with Anya, if you want to get honest about it.
In the morning, Spike is actually rather embarrassed, but things remain strained and there's the difficulty of being men and not wanting to talk about things in plain terms while sober. And just when Xander is afraid it's all going to cycle and spin out of control again, Spike stretches next to him on the couch one night and draws his eye and asks, "You ever put your mark on anyone?"
Xander's mouth goes dry and he shakes his head and the next night they come home and Spike has a tattoo on his lower back and Xander nearly breaks himself when he thrusts along the clasp of Spike's ass--outside, not in--and his dick is pushing toward the tattoo like a clock hand, pointing to his own stylized initial, almost reaching it and then suddenly rubbing across its bright surface. And he comes instantly, gasping, tremors, a slippery cry pulled from his balls, it feels like. Has to relearn how to hold his spunk after that, whenever he's taking Spike from behind. How to make it last.
It's really not about money. It's moving past that, and the money sometimes doesn't even feel like his own, so the idea that it could matter is starting to seem...off. There should be boring red tape, Xander realizes, paperwork, bank meetings, and it should be Spike's as much as his, in every formal, legal way. Something to solve. Spike doesn't even have a social security number. He'll need to call Willow, of course. These things usually end up in her lap, and Xander resents that if he thinks about it too much--a good sign that he needs to let something go, because she's his best friend and if he's feeling resentful, this is in fact a bad sign.
It's all about roots. Xander wants them, Spike might be afraid of them, Willow makes them. But really, it takes more than one person to make roots.