Xander has no lingering resentment of Anya, but she holds a certain position in his mind as the person he had his first, serious, long-term relationship with, and because of this she's his basis for comparison with Spike. With Anya, he'd almost always been at fault. If they fought, he had to bring apologies to her like flowers--sometimes *with* flowers ("Are these the most expensive ones?")--if he wanted to speak to her again. Even when clearly in the wrong, she'd apologize grudgingly with her small, pouty lips of resentment, then somehow twist it around and exact one from him. Anya was the kind of woman who could turn you into a toad during some hormonal whim and then say, "It's your own fault for looking at me like that." Once upon a time, she'd done that sort of thing literally, and she retained the skills of vengeance and self-justification even after she was humanized.
Most of the time, she'd managed to stay charming even when driving him crazy, her irritating quirks softened by a deep and appealing insecurity that outmatched Xander's own: being with her made him felt deeply solid and sane by comparison. He'd usually been able to take comfort in the moral high ground, even when he was in the doghouse.
With Spike, he's got a patch of high ground right now--spell or no spell--but he doesn't care. He might as well be flinging himself downhill toward Spike's outstretched arms, buoyed by song and dance like Julie Andrews, as happy as a kid tumbling in tall grass. "I'm sorry," he tells Spike more than once, wishing he'd given just one moment's thought to magic. "I should have known." Spike isn't having any of that; shakes his head and corrects him in the nicest possible way, says in his rough, low voice that Xander has no call to be apologizing and if he doesn't stop Spike's going to do something about it, like punish him with his mouth until he comes.
Xander gets a lot of blow jobs over the next several days. And it's as if he's never felt Spike's mouth before, Spike's tongue lapping hungrily at his balls while he sits stoned and helpless in whatever chair he's been pushed into, or propped against the headboard. Spike makes love to his dick as if he's worshipping it, and sometimes comes with a harsh groan when he's sucking, both hands wedged under Xander's thighs to make it clear he needs nothing except this to satisfy him.
It goes to Xander's head, the big slap-happy one on his shoulders that he can barely hold upright when he's this well taken care of. "I love you," Spike assures him over and over again whenever his mouth isn't full of Xander's dick, and his voice is always husky and unforced. And sometimes it seems like those words are enough to make him come--he'll gasp, face tightening with anguish and Xander will feel him shudder as he spills. Sometimes he'll arch his neck, eyes closed, and his cry will become trapped in his throat like a visible thing, right before he lets his mouth fall back on Xander's aching, ready flesh.
Xander's own orgasms are different now, shaking him to pieces, like when you lift a puzzle in your hands and it unlaces itself and falls apart everywhere you touch it. Love makes their sex feel amateurish and broken at times. They're coming to pieces and mingling together. There's an element in Spike almost like shame, unworthiness, that makes him turn his head aside as Xander kisses his face and neck. He longs to be touched but his entire body says he doesn't deserve it, and he trembles and cries out Xander's name when he's being loved. When Xander fucks him with long, deep strokes, Spike can be nearly silent and motionless with pleasure, head bowed to the pillow, hands wrenched in the sheets, and sometimes when Xander does it just right he's crying afterwards.
It's just a stage of forgiveness and renovation. Xander doesn't want it to always be this way, because it makes him anxious on Spike's behalf. But there's no denying that it's his entire joy: Spike's helpless love, the stunned look on his face when he's astride Xander's hips, riding him in a slow roll and trying to make it last. Love is in their bodies, passed back and forth like a drug between two junkies. They're easing off the hard stuff though, back to normal levels that will let them get through a day clothed instead of naked.
Don't sabotage yourself, Xander tells his mirror: don't sabotage this relationship. These are phrases that your average guy on the underside of twentysomething doesn't usually exercise much. But he knows them, even knows *where* he knows them from.
Tony Harris, 1992: "'We like to get away for the weekend'--that's just brilliant. I don't expect sabotage from my wife--now Brennan thinks I've got one foot out the door. He's not going to look my way twice. But then I guess you'd be pretty happy if I never got another promotion."Xander fears himself, and he's ready to blame himself for something. When he stands in his Tokyo hotel bathroom and looks back over the past several weeks, he thinks about how happily he'd basked in Spike's attentions, and the Bahamas trip, and then returning home. Home. That was the first mistake. They should have stayed in all that warm air and white sand. Because home could be dangerously ordinary, and here's proof: one time soon after their return when Spike came up behind him, head settling affectionately against Xander's shoulder, arms sliding around his waist, Xander was thinking of how he had to fire one of his managers for incompetence, and it was *all* he could think about, making him tense and almost impatient at Spike's distraction.
Jessica Harris, 1993: "I'm not the one sabotaging this relationship!"
Tony Harris, 1994: "You sabotage yourself, you sabotage everyone around you, you're like a goddamn Nazi!"
Turn that around, and Xander would sometimes see Spike laughing or talking with Buffy and judge it to be a not-Xander thing. Every Xander-friendly thing was overlooked and every not-Xander thing seemed more evidence that he didn't have Spike's real attention. His heart.
But fuck, he'd wanted to *hear* it. The words. He'd needed Spike to say it. Why hadn't he? If he had, maybe Xander would have looked at his lover and his good friend rolling naked together in bed and thought the obvious: magic. Because the mouth of hell is always laughing, always yakking. It never shuts up, and you want to stop listening, but you'll be a dead fool if you do. You meet a strange woman, and it's better safe than sorry to think: demon. Or, possibly, killer robot. Overly cheerful men: minions of Satan. Or again, killer robots. A little girl skipping by herself at night? Vampire, ghost child, evil fiend of darkness with a sticky lollipop. The most ridiculous interpretation is always the right one. He should have known.
He manages to see-saw the blame within the space of a single minute sometimes. It's like having his own personal Anya, right in his head.
You will always have this special part of me, Xander tells Mental Anya via the powerful reflective properties of his hotel bathroom mirror. One of his more lunatic moments, in a lifetime of same.
Fast forward, home again.
Willow, her eyes understanding and sad: "It was a ring they found when they were searching the caves for that Vlarlick demon."
Xander: "Yeah. It's always a ring in a cave."
He'd wanted to stay in Japan, maybe tour the world and avoid Buffy for, oh, say, forever. But Spike said in a soft voice that she was very upset, and so after three days vigorously doing the kind of thing cheap hotels are made for, they'd headed home by boat.
But first--at one point in their Japanese bed with the scratchy sheets, Xander says: "Tell me at least that it was very, very bad sex." Terrible, no-good, very bad sex.
Spike is grim and doesn't hesitate: "It was wretched, love. Felt sick afterwards, when I knew--" He cuts short the thought, lets it stand half-legged. When he knew what he'd done.
Xander: "But during?"
Spike gives him a serious look, heavy with sex: "Wasn't you. She didn't touch me the way you do. Didn't make me feel like you do." Spike has taken Xander's hand and is kissing it, finger by finger, as he stares into Xander's eyes. Lips grazing the knuckles and mouth pressed to his palm. Xander gets hard and uses the results to show Spike just what he thinks of that.
Another time, hating the sound of his voice and his weakness, Xander asks: "You never said you loved me." It doesn't sound like a question, but it is.
Spike: "I know." Low voice, full of endless sadness. "Didn't want to think about it." What the fuck, Xander thinks for one moment, just before Spike goes on. "I can't keep what I love." His mouth tight, eyes hard and taking on a glisten: "I'm a failure as a man."
Xander tells him no, fuck that, and shows him how it isn't true.
Once cracked open, Spike is an egg that can't be put back in its shell, sort of shattered and yolky and wet. Humpty Dumpty after the fall. Xander sometimes catches Spike staring at him with love-stunned eyes as if he's stuck, unable to think of a word he wants, and Xander thinks: I've created a monster. Which is kind of funny-strange, funny-sweet. He's turned Spike. Now he's got a monster of love.
They get home after a few weeks crossing the Pacific, and Buffy is still there, on the cusp of heading back to school, obviously overwhelmed with relief to see both of them, but with eyes only for Xander: guilty, miserable, pain-filled eyes. He has to forgive her. He's pretty sure it's in the friends manual.
Good timing though, on the leaving. The more distance the better.
Becca has taken care of Supercat, and the animal gives Xander a disgusted look when he tries to touch base. Ass plonked on the hall carpet, he lifts both ears for his master's greeting--"Hey, Supercat, how goes the holy mission against the mice of evil?"--then gets up and walks away, profoundly bored.
When they're home again, Spike is walking on the eggshells of himself and trying too hard to please, uneasy in places where they'd once been comfortable. For a week, Xander never sees him on the computer, and he's always cooking when Xander comes home, and that's about all Xander can take before he has to say:
"Please relax, okay?" He interrupts Spike's tense cooking ritual and turns him away from the stove, hands gentling either side of his neck. "You're making me crazy."
Spike stiffens for a moment, then drops his head a little and sighs, and weeks of tension seem to slide out of his shoulders. Looks up again, eyes blue and sharp, still holding a deep well of that impossible seriousness as he says: "I don't want to lose you."
Xander: "You won't."
This is needy, hungry, insecure Spike: an explosion of love and neuroses. Xander has seen this at a spectator's distance, watching him years ago with Buffy, but now--up close and personally directed at him--it's like a tsunami has crashed over Xander. He's surrounded by Spike Love, the obsession and passion and devotion of Spike. It's a little bit darker than expected under all that saltwater, but Xander isn't kicking for the surface. This is what he wanted. He doesn't need to breathe. Breathing is highly overrated.
Good thing you own your own company, Xander thinks when he returns to work. The looks people give him seem to say: Flake. Big flake.
His private section of beach isn't the Bahamas, but at night the waves roll endlessly, making up the seabed and turning it down. Make up, turn down. Down the beach he can see scattered lights, windows to the half dozen expensive houses hidden along the curve of bluff, on the same stretch of sea road. He walks with Spike, holding hands, waves swirling around their ankles. They talk. They kill a sea monster. They're home.
Spike gets submissive as hell in bed, as if some switch has been thrown. Not that he wasn't oh so willing before, but that seemed physical, and now it's more--now he's desperate to roll over for Xander, spread himself for fucking. Wants light torture, begs for small cruelties. Even more fucked-up than Xander suspected, the vampire comes to bed with a new hunger in his eyes, and things he's ordered online. He's dark, edgy, hopeful, his generosity and selfishness impossible to separate as he asks to be tormented, offering himself up for Xander's pleasures.
At first Xander has trouble delivering, getting his groove on. Their bed is suddenly a toy-box of kink and it seems like it's coming between them in the most literal way--clamps taking the place of his hands, leather straps instead of his mouth, dildos instead of his dick. But making Spike tremble is never not fun, and the sense of power Xander feels slides under his skin and makes a home there. He sucks Spike off while driving home eight inches of polished granite and Spike comes with harsh, grateful sounds. He twists clamps on Spike's nipples, gags him, laces up his dick in tight leather bondage gear that denies him release. Whips, plugs, wands that deliver tiny electrical jolts--and some not so tiny. Spike seems eager to show just how far he'll go to stay Xander Harris's bitch.
If Xander hadn't started making his own demands he probably could have kept Spike on this frenzied string forever. But being forced to give instead of receive puts responsibility on Spike, makes him sane, clear-eyed, gentle. It's about this time Xander rediscovers who's the master in the master bedroom, and it's not Spike. He gets used to the sound of Spike's resigned sigh as Xander puts yet another toy away, forces Spike to make do with just Xander's dick and mouth and hands.
Spike still comes. "You'll come the way I tell you to come," Xander reassures him, working against Spike gently.
Spike, face down, gasps, "Yes."
And "No," Xander says one night, when Spike suggests they head early into the bedroom. He's not unkind, just firm, and pulls Spike into his arms, arranges and drapes him the way you might hold a suit against yourself to see if it fits. Spike gets a dreamy, contented expression.
Xander: "I just want to take it easy tonight. Fulfill my destiny as an American, degrade my brain with bad television and beer."
Spike, shifting his head lazily on Xander's shoulder to focus on the screen: "What're we watching then?"
Xander, surfing with the remote: "I'm thinking sex, violence, gratuitous stupidity. Maybe something in the Tom Green oeuvre--"
Spike: "Hold up, stop there, yeah--"
Xander, stomach sinking, can't quite believe he's serious. "Haven't you, uh, seen that before?" It's just a guess. Everyone's seen it before.
Spike: "Yeah, but it's a classic."
Xander stares at the screen for several silent moments: "I will suck your dick in the Baskin-Robbins if you let me change this channel."
Spike: "Bet I could make you do that anyway."
Xander: "Okay, I'm willing to get in touch with my roots. But this is toy-poodle gay. This is drag-queen, Ethel Merman impersonation gay. I need time to work up to this." Like a million *never* years, he thinks.
Spike--like the leather, safety-pinned punk at the next table who's going to get up and drive a fork through your hand if you don't keep it down during Celine's big number--says in keen offense: "What the hell are you on about? This is *family* entertainment."
Xander: "For a special kind of family, yes." But he senses he's pushing the line, and slides his hand down Spike's belly, rubbing it the way you'd rub a cat's. Spike's bristling fur settles again. But Xander has to make one more try: "If you loved me, you'd let me change this channel."
Spike twists briefly to look up at him, with something like astonished respect: "God, you're a manipulative twat. Would do Dru proud. Now shut it and watch the bloody film or I'm going to kneecap you with this fucking bottle. That's me loving you, right?"
No question. The settled weight of Spike against him is like a blanket of love, and Xander tightens his arms and kisses Spike's temple. "I guess it's not that bad," he allows a minute later, watching the screen. He is so totally lying.
Spike, firm: "Man's got a heart of stone that can't appreciate this film."
This will have to be where they differ. But Xander decides that his heart isn't stone, and that gratuitous stupidity comes in many forms he will learn to appreciate, and that this is still--right now--better than sex. The hills are alive with the sound of music. His vampire is complicated and loves him.