Anna S. (eliade) wrote,
Anna S.
eliade

Reprise.

I went back and added some extra footage stuff into what I'd written already, like pushing things into an accordion file to expand it, and then carried it a bit further. This is, I should note, probably all that I'll write of this. It's just some scenes I wanted to unpack from my head.



Riley comes back to Sunnydale alone, special liaison to Special Forces, and is welcomed by the Scooby gang almost with a sense of homecoming. Giles is traveling back and forth to England a lot. Buffy has a new boyfriend, Willow a new girlfriend, and Xander and Anya are together again, very much a nested couple these days. Spike is alone, taking up a position again on the fringes of their lives. He's got a room in the basement of an apartment house owned by a demon, and he gets free rent and some under-the-table money for doing various odd jobs; he's sort of a resident manager, though he dislikes assigned titles and prefers to think of it as an informal arrangement.

The building is several stories, the basement a labyrinth of windowless rooms inhabited by the less sunloving of the tenants. Irregular stone floors, dim strips of light, poor heat, suspicious scuttling things in the corners, a laundry room constantly churning clothes with a roar like a furnace. Communal bathroom. Spike's room is just that; not so much an apartment as four walls not big enough for a good game of racquetball, though you can bounce a tennis ball for hours if you're so inclined.

The gang doesn't know much about Spike's digs. He's told them a few details, but they don't question closely what he lives on. As long as he's not stealing, as long as he's laundering his clothes and getting enough blood, they figure the rest is taking care of itself. And Spike isn't dwelling on how he kills time during those sunny Sunnydale days. It's just a way to get by. Money for blood and fags and the occasional DVD rental. (It's amazing what people will leave in their rooms when they vacate, especially if they were a Bynaril demon that you had to kill one night when you found them stalking co-eds.)

He only truly comes awake when darkness falls. He's got a soul now, but he doesn't know what to do with himself, so he hangs around, he fights demons. He's more or less over Buffy, doesn't obsess, but no one has taken her place. He often has a restless, broody look about him, but if you compare him to Angel, he'll just stare at you, offended and disgusted.

In the normal course of things, Riley and Spike get thrown together for their share of buddy patrol and missions. They don't get along. Sometimes they make an effort--grudging, tight-lipped--other times they don't. One week's male bonding over a particularly difficult kill is undone by spats the following week. They're Buffy's exes, and it's not comfortable. They don't actually have a lot to argue about. They have to find stuff, scraps of whatever's handy, and sometimes they dredge up the past. Now and then, both of them get a look in their eyes, as if they're bored with the fighting, but neither man wants to be the first to back down.

It annoys Buffy though, and after a few months of slow steam she puts her hands on her hips and tells them they'd better learn fast how to make nice or she's going to handcuff the two of them together and lock them in a dumpster for three days.

She says to Riley: "You're supposed to be a professional soldier!" He looks almost shamefaced.

To Spike, she says: "Why don't you use that soul for something other than getting weepy over Meg Ryan movies?" Spike: sheepish, maybe even a touch horrified.

They work harder at getting along, and one night Spike shows up at Riley's door with a six-pack of imported beer and the diffident suggestion that they watch "the game." Some game on satellite, could be a footie match. Riley stares at him through the screen door until Spike, deflating with a sigh, starts to dismiss the idea and turn away, but then Riley opens the door and says, "Come in."

Riley lives in a loft apartment over a warehouse, strangely customized by a few generations of previous tenants. There's a set of wooden steps up the side of the building, turning from flight to flight like a fire escape, and a boarded walkway along the bricked side that brings any visitors to a open area of the roof, enclosed by low walls. Deck furniture, crates, a few legacy plants that survive on rain. A good place to sit out at night and watch the stars.

This is where Spike's standing when he's asked in. Inside it's big, but it's sectioned off and the sections are cozy. "Cozy," he says, and it comes off dry and ironic because any other meaning is too complicated to explain. He looks over the kitchen area, and then at the living room area, everything all running together except where retaining walls and counters and furniture and a few brick columns mark one part of the loft from another. Somewhere further down he gets a sense of a bedroom, and a lot of empty floorspace that once might have held storage boxes.

It looks like a guy lives there, someone who's just marking time. Not much furniture, all told, and not much decoration. Stark. But it's also kind of nice.

Riley's a nice boy, well brought up by his parents. He's also got a temper and two strong fists, but he's willing to move an inch when it's called for. They sit and watch the game and drink and don't talk much. After it's over and the TV is off, Riley walks to the kitchen, turning the stereo on in passing, gets himself a snack. Chips. Comes back to where Spike is sitting on the couch. Spike makes noises about leaving, leans forward in his seat and rolls an empty bottle between his hands, but he doesn't leave, and it's convenient that Riley has a case of beer. An hour or two passes, and each time Spike gets up for a beer he thinks he'll go, but he doesn't because there's nowhere else to go. Riley is company. They talk for the first time as if they're just two guys, and it turns out that--without outside pressures--they get along. No question it's kind of strange, but that's the Hellmouth for you.

Looking at Riley throughout the evening, casual little peeps that slide away almost as soon as they land, Spike thinks that he's very American. Middle American, even. But he's got a face Spike's seen on farmers and peasants in pockets of Europe. Broad-featured, a ready smile (for everyone but him, at least), eyes that can turn from affable to mean on a dime--and yet here in America where young lads can make anything of themselves, he's not helping out Da on the farm. He's Special Agent Finn, demon-wrangler. It's sort of funny.

He's not a bad guy, if you like those stock hero types, as Buffy apparently did.

Does.

Looking at Spike--unaware that he does so without much reserve, because he's got an open face--Riley thinks he's kind of an asshole. It's a peg to hang him on. He's wearing a black tee shirt and jeans. Riley rarely sees him in anything else. It's like a uniform and it's unclear if it's the same shirt, same jeans. But there's a small hole in one shoulder, and Riley fixes on that in an absent way and recognizes--he's half listening to Spike, something about the New Orleans vamp scene in the thirties--that the hole is from the spine of a demon they killed a few weeks ago, and he makes a mental note of it. Hole in sleeve.

Without being completely aware of it, Riley tries to fit Spike into the category of fellow soldier, because it would be easier to think of him like that, and he's got muscles and kills things, plus the hard drinking and the casual rudeness remind Riley of his old buddies. But Spike carries himself differently than any other guy Riley knows. It's a vampire thing, or a British thing, or just a Spike thing. Or maybe Riley doesn't know any guys anymore, and he's forgotten that they're not all alike, with cookie-cutter masculinity. He's been separated from his kind, given a solitary post. Sunnydale might as well be the North Pole.

Looking at Spike, Riley easily finds things to dislike: something about his hair, the fact that he's dead and that he's slept with Buffy. But after hours of drinking, Riley starts to almost like Spike. He speaks plainly and he's got a lot of stories to tell.

After a while, Riley's loose enough to come out with something that's been on his mind.

Riley: "There's something I want to ask you. Buffy said she'd be angry if I did, but I didn't promise not to." A pause. "Xander told me about the rape...attempt."

Spike, sourly but without heat: "Surprised Harris hasn't taken out an ad in the paper."

Riley: "Why did you do it?" It's a flat question, but he wants to hear the answer.

Spike, in measured, matter of fact tones: "Because I was a demon and in love with her. And I wanted her to admit she loved me. She didn't, but I thought she did. So I forced something that shouldn't be forced." Lowered head, laughless laugh. "It'd always worked before."

Riley, voice changing: "Is that so?"

Spike, looking up: "Not what I meant. Meant, with her. I pushed, she pushed back. It's what we had together." Pause. "You're right though. I wasn't a lily-white lad...before. I raped the innocent in more ways that you can imagine. Tooth in the neck, or...whatever else took my fancy."

Riley: "Now you can feel bad about it. That's what a soul's for, right?" Now his voice is hard, but it's not entirely ungenerous. Pause. "You do feel bad about it?" The important question.

The honest answer. "Not all the same way. A soul isn't whitewash. I'm still the man I was. Just got a conscience. Some things I've done feel like pin-pricks. Others stab right through, like hot pokers." He gestures loosely, lets his hand splay against his ribs. "If it were all the same, all pokers, it'd be," a deep breath, "unbearable."

A silence.

Riley: "Want another beer?"

Spike, looking up again: "Got anything harder?"

Weeks pass, turn into months. Spike and Riley negotiate the small steps of friendship. Patrol together by choice rather than by lot, watch sports and occasional movies together, go to bars and shoot some pool. Xander is one half of a couple, and Anya is trying for a baby, so it's not as if Riley has anyone else to hang with, and god knows Spike lacks a life, so it seems natural that he and Spike would start to pal around, now that they're burying the hatchet in a non-literal way.

They really get along. No one notices, but they do. They share a taste in music--enough to make conversation. One night they go to a club when a blues guitar player shows up in town. They watch more movies together, and sometimes before a night's patrol Riley makes and eats his dinner while Spike hangs out. Sitting at the table with him, nursing a glass of blood.

A few times, Riley notices the rip in the sleeve of Spike's shirt. It bothers him, but he doesn't say anything. It's not always there; he has different shirts. But he doesn't mend the rip and he doesn't throw the shirt away, and Riley thinks of what his mother would say if she saw such a thing, because she didn't take with that, walking around with holes in your clothes. Of course, some of his own clothes have holes, but they're not everyday clothes, he just wears them to work out in.

It's not a big rip, but it catches his eye.

After enough time passes, Riley unlearns his dislike of Spike. A few years back, a few months even, he'd never have believed that could happen. But sometimes Spike crashes on his couch now after a late night's mission and the next day when Riley heads off to his office downtown to type reports on his military-issued computer, he'll tell Spike to hang out, not to go haring off through the streets of Sunnydale in a flaming blanket. That's just silly, he says. And so Spike is sometimes there when he gets home, feet up on the coffee table as he flips through channels, or lying on the couch, reading some book he's dug out of Riley's old college boxes. Spike never oversteps his bounds, melts away intuitively for a day or two whenever Riley's got an itch for space.

He starts to be the guy Riley talks to when he's got something on his mind, bugging him, a problem. They go to the Bronze or the Last Call and stand against the bar until a pool table frees up, and Riley finds himself talking about his dad's money issues or his brother, who fucks around in school and won't focus. He talks about the feeling he gets that no one is reading his reports, and wonders aloud about what the hell he's even doing, monitoring the Hellmouth and thinning the demon population, not getting ahead careerwise, having no real contact with anyone he served with before now except the occasional e-mail.

"I hope you didn't come back for Buffy," Spike says to him in the middle of one of these conversations, his tone a sanity check, and Riley doesn't even have to stop and think about what he's saying. He knows what Spike's saying: that Buffy is unattainable, like a superhero no mortal man will ever have, someone who'll twist you into little pieces, wind you into a tragic break-up, and then let you go, though she'll always want to be friends. And Spike's no longer competition, because they're both left in the dust, in her wake.

She's like the girl who rides off into the sunset on her horse, alone, and they're the men she leaves behind, and so they've retired to the saloon, former enemies with nothing to fight over, who now drink together in a companionable understanding.

One night they kill a demon--it takes forever. The thing is like a buffalo and it refuses to die, it bellows and falls to its side and then staggers up again and growls at them, and it should be horrifying except it's a funny-looking bugger, as Spike says, and after a while they begin to laugh and then they can't stop laughing. They fall over too, covered in purple slime, grabbing at each other as they lurch and gasp, and then stab the sorry thing some more. "Die, you bloody stupid bastard," Spike yells, and Riley--sprawled on the wet grass--whoops, and nearly weeps.

When they meet up with the others, they get some odd looks and Riley realizes he's grinning. Spike is smoking a cigarette, it's wedged between his lips and he's got slime streaking his face and Riley claps him on the shoulders and tries to share the story with the others. But he can't get a real laugh from them, Buffy and Xander just want to get home, it's just business. Willow isn't even there that night, she's pleaded a previous engagement. It strikes Riley that the camaraderie they'd once shared as a group is something of the past; you can't recapture a period in time, get that perfect mix of people and moment and purpose. They all have different agendas now, different lives. And somehow he and Spike are on the outside looking in. This guy Carey is living in Buffy's house now, and Willow's living with Liz, and Xander and Anya are just about married even if they've vowed never to try for the wedding aisle again.

And so Riley and Spike end up hanging back, covered with goo, watching Buffy and Xander disappear through the graveyard ahead of them.

All of this would be perfectly ordinary if Riley wasn't starting to look at Spike in a certain way.

He'd sworn to himself that he was over all that. It was just something he used to do once in a while, when he was younger and his life was differently shaped: everything squeezed through a pipeline of pressure that didn't always keep him in place. He's not that kind of guy. He looks in the mirror and he doesn't *look* like that kind of guy, so he's not.

Except he kind of is. It's amazingly easy to keep yourself to yourself, to keep secrets, to switch off your past and other parts of your life. But that doesn't mean you change, and here he is, pushing thirty, several years and four girlfriends later, and he's looking at Spike in a certain way. It's fucking scary. He likes the way Spike looks though. He stopped looking like an asshole a while back, and now there's something about the muscles of his back, the nape of his neck, his jawline and waist and thighs. Riley jerks off in the shower thinking of how it all adds up.

He tells himself he's not going to become some vamp-junkie again, and he tries to pretend that's all it is, and that works for about five minutes at a time.

He really wants to push Spike against a wall, work their hips together dirty and fast.

When you could die at any time, it's good to have friends. Some vampires you kill, other vampires you hang with. It actually gets easier to make these distinctions, as time passes. Riley's come to a fork in the road and he's taken a turn. Something is carrying him forward now, the force of ordinary life. He's going to do something sooner or later, and he's afraid of that.

Spike is a vampire, and he usually knows when someone wants him. It's a scent, like the charged air just before a storm. Even so, he's capable of denial when something is too weird and incomprehensible to take in. His rut is comfortable and he knows his place. When Xander gets his digs in, Spike accepts this as his due, snarks back but not as hard as he could. When Anya dismisses him as a man--"I mean, it's not as if you can join a dating service, is it?"--he cultivates tolerance, thinking of how she once praised his dick, even if she tries not to remember.

When Buffy smiles at him with her blonde distraction, no longer seeing him, Spike...exists. He's committed himself to this path. This boring, soulful path that so often seems to have no point. But it's his, and maybe it'll turn out to have a purpose if he keeps on it long enough. Maybe it'll have a brave, violent death, at least.

He notices Riley's smiles, the attentive listening interest of his eyes, but it doesn't add up, so Spike ignores the signs even while he smiles back, sometimes laughs, listens to Riley's stories or worries, learns his moods and scents and tells.

Eventually though, he cocks his head and can't help but notice things: they're in the kitchen and Riley is making popcorn and he moves close to Spike, brushes by him to get salt. Spike could move aside, but doesn't. He's not going to be the one to give way, and besides, it's over too quickly. You're coming on to me, Spike thinks. He's startled, and it makes him study Riley harder. Not sure what to do with that idea.

I could get a woman if I wanted, Spike reminds himself. When they go to bars, he thinks about this now, making a point of looking around the room at the women--alone, attached, doesn't matter, because he could have any one of them if he crooked his finger. The thought bores him.

He thinks about Riley's neck, glances at it now and then, and sometimes Riley turns his head and their eyes meet. Or they're talking, and their eyes meet. Or they're listening to Giles or Willow or Xander explain the mating habits of some tricky new predator, and their eyes meet, and Spike plays it cool, he lounges and he quirks a brow and casually lets his gaze slide on. But if he had a heart it would be quickening.

He has a heart, it just hasn't done him a lot of good.

This could get awkward, this doesn't make much sense, this is just a matter of convenience and proximity, he thinks. But Riley looks at him, ducks his head a little, smiles at Spike, even when Spike is covered in blood and ash up to his elbows, even when they're just standing in his kitchen during a commercial, getting more beer. Riley seems to like him. It's not as if a lot of people like him, and it's not something Spike is willing to let go.

One night they're sitting and watching a football match, and it's that lengthening domestic hour from eight to nine, everyone else doing their own thing, having lives, leaving the commando and the vampire to shared company. It's no more than usual, but time has passed, and apparently things have changed.

Spike is aware of how close they're sitting, but he doesn't let himself think about it. Maybe a foot between them, less when Riley shifts. Half foot, their thighs like equal marks. But that's it, it's status quo. Maybe Riley doesn't even know what he's doing. No way is Spike going to bring it up, because if he's just a good Christian boy with sublimated desires, this could go on forever, and Spike's okay with that. He won't think about it. It's a good game, it's a close--

Riley's arm moves, and then his hand is resting on the back of Spike's neck, and Spike can't see the game on the TV any more, it's just a blur of color and motion because the heat on his nape is sinking into his skin. A burn, like sunshine. He can't remember the last time someone touched him. Not like that. Deliberate, a touch that says: I want you. You. Spike can't move, so he sits and feels and stares ahead, gaze unfocused.

A shift and Riley's thigh brushes his, and from the corner of his eye he sees Riley look down, and then up. Spike didn't think his prick could get any harder and tighter in his jeans, but it does. The hand against his neck strokes him, palm riding the curve, thumb twitching. Spike clenches his fist around his beer bottle unawares, until it makes a soft cracking sound, until Riley takes it away and puts it on the coffee table, turns sideways on the couch, turns the sound off on the game.

Spike makes himself look at that mild and easy face, human eyes watching him with a steadiness Spike himself doesn't feel. He's like that, watching back warily and unsure what's coming, when Riley asks in a low but ordinary voice, "Can I kiss you?"

As if there's two answers.

Raw, making it sound normal. "Yeah, all right."

It could be a semi-drunken experiment, Spike thinks, or even the first move in an elaborate game of torment and revenge. Riley might be a mastermind who's guarded his canny plans all this time, befriended Spike to...well, strike that. But Spike doesn't really care. He's tired, in a place far beyond his bones. He deserves whatever he gets, no matter how much or--looked at another way--how little.

Riley cups his face and kisses him. It's not going to make anyone's short list of kisses, not skilled or passionate enough to rank him a Casanova, but Spike arches closer at once, as lust crashes through him, a wave breaking against the rock of his tensed muscles. He must have been disconnected from his own body for this to come as a surprise. His body, dead and hard to damage and useful for fighting, hasn't been confiding in him in the months up to now.

Spike's left hand rises before he can control it, and he grips Riley's arm to hold him there. He needs this kiss. He's already gasping desperately into it, mouth begging, tongue talking. And if he had any thought in his head, he'd be embarrassed at how his hips keep lifting and twisting as if trying to find something to rub against.

They kiss for a few minutes, Spike's touches getting clumsier against Riley's arm and side and leg. He's aware enough to control himself; he's afraid to be rough, to take it too far. He has to let Riley lead, because...he can't ask. He won't make any demands, and so when Riley breaks away, he goes still, preparing himself, half-expecting he'll be told to leave.

Riley's arm is around Spike's shoulders, and he moves his free hand between Spike's thighs, a lazy touch. It's confusing, like pain, the things that Spike feels, bringing a frown to his face. He lets Riley caress the inside of his thigh and then cup his hardness through denim. It aches so much Spike thinks he might go mad again, but he can't say anything, can only sit there and take it, eyes down in stoic acceptance, his muscles locked stiff, everything in him wired and humming and violent with need. Or so he intends, but then Riley unzips him and eases him out. Spike can't stop the harsh sound of gratitude he makes.

Riley: "Want me to take the edge off?"

Stunned, Spike nods, and Riley's hand begins to jack him, taking his measure and figuring out how he likes to be touched. His prick is already swollen and slick at the crown; he's that close. It's hard to sit still. Spike's head falls back on the couch and he stops trying to think of what to say, what to do next.

Watching Spike's eyes close, his face knot with what looks like pain, Riley loosens his hand, lets it work more slowly. Spike's hips twist with urgency, and Riley lets go. Spike still isn't talking, but his eyes drag themselves open, fixed and glassy and frantic, to stare at Riley. Riley pushes Spike's tee up over his head so that it's twisted around his arms, behind his neck, then touches his bared chest, thumbs a nipple. When he begins jerking him off again, Spike nearly sobs, and arches up--hips rising off the couch to thrust into Riley's hand. Riley can see his balls drawing up tight, feel the heavy shove of blood through the veined skin. He doesn't feel like a dead man.

Riley moves his hand faster, sliding the foreskin up and down just below the head, staring at it with fascination, so closely he almost misses it when Spike begins to come.

That's the first time, and it happens the way it would in a porn movie, a segue from boring and masculine pastimes to the intimacy of sex--the everyday need that sometimes breaks free of its schooling, the helping hand.

After that they go to bed. Riley has light blue sheets, as if he wasn't paying attention when he picked them out, and a dark blue coverlet. Or comforter. Or whatever you call that thing that slides off the bed when two bodies hit the mattress hard enough and roll around, kicking. They make a lot of friction below the belt line, hip to hip, sliding with jeans open and then jeans off. At one point Riley levers himself up as if he's about to do a push up and lets Spike maneuver him down below, settling their bodies together. Some of it is hurried and some of it isn't. The stereo keeps playing random tracks and the shades are down on the windows and it's night, but the lamps are on. The sheets get wrinkled.

"So we did that, then," Riley says several hours later, an arm flung over his head. It's the definitive remark.

"Happens," Spike says. "Like musical chairs. You think you'll just keep your seat, but when the music plays, off you go, and you don't want to be the one without a chair."

"That's...romantic," Riley says in a dry voice, and then laughs.

Spike: "I'm a romantic guy."

As the next week passes, they have more sex, a lot more sex. One night they're heading to Riley's after the graveyard shift and some kid with a knife tries to mug them, and they laugh, and Riley slaps the kid upside the head and keeps him pinned to the wall with one hand while Spike empties his jacket pockets--bland commentary, what have we here? Takes a roll of money and a bag of pot and a wallet, flips it open, IDs the kid by name and address. "I'll just return these minty fresh bills to their rightful owners," Spike says of the money. He tucks the pot in his own pocket, vamps at the kid, sends him scampering off.

They get thoroughly baked that night, and fuck for hours. Every quiet, bluesy song that slides by on the CD player seems to set the perfect rhythm for more fucking, and why stop, really? They do it both ways and they both like it.

The remainder of the pot stays in Riley's bedside table drawer and they smoke the bag empty over the next few weeks, not needing it, but both of them diverted by the novelty.

Riley gets a kick out of the turn their relationship has taken. He doesn't think of it in so many words as a relationship, but he's the kind of guy who likes to get attached. It's how he's been brought up. "I have to tell you something," he says to Spike one night, when they've just made it into the bedroom. "Something I realized." Spike looks as if he'd rather not hear it, but Riley tells him: "I don't assume this is going to end badly."

Face softening, Spike is amused, and nods.

They continue to hang out, and they don't say anything to the gang. They don't discuss whether or not to say anything, don't actually decide it, but there's maybe an understanding that no one's going to notice, so why tell them?

One day Buffy says to Riley, "I'm glad you guys are friends now." A smile. She turns away while Riley's still trying to think of what to say, and he supposes it's true enough, if not the whole truth. So she's noticed that much, and the others have too. But Spike isn't demonstrative and neither is Riley. They look like buddies. It's not a lie. They're not straining or pretending or hiding, never at any moment. They smile at each other sometimes while they're with the others, but no one sees. They've become known quantities, taken for granted.

Weeks go comfortably by and Riley finds reasons to stop by Spike's place sometimes. After a few exposures too many--strange demons treading through the hall with shower caps over their horns, griping about plumbing; an infestation of spidery things that no man should have to face without a flame-thrower; smells too foul to describe, etc--he decides it's no place for Spike. He makes Spike leave. It takes some doing. Days of arm twisting and invention. Spike points out he won't have a job if he leaves; on the spot, Riley says it's time the government started paying him for his hard work as a freelance demon hunter, and privately vows to himself to divert his own funds into a monthly stipend if he has to. The idea astonishes Spike. "Not going to give them my name, are you?"

He allows Riley to help him move. It doesn't take many boxes at all. They don't tell anyone, and no one notices. Buffy, Xander, Willow, Giles--they don't have much reason to drop by Riley's or Spike's place. If they socialize, it's always somewhere else.

In the middle of sex one evening, while Riley is driving hard into Spike, the phone rings.

Riley, gasping, flushed with sweat: "Oh fuck--"

Spike, without opening his eyes: "Might be important."

Riley: "Fuck--"

Spike, voice husking: "Yeah, oh, that's bloody sweet--"

Riley hitches forward (Spike groaning) and bats the ringer off and grips Spike's hips tighter and moves faster. He can hear breathy little cries rising in his own throat, and there's no way he can stop, not even if someone put a gun to his head.

They change positions a few more times though, because they like to do that, all the angles, baby, and when they finish in a frantic rush and collapse, Riley's mind reluctantly turns to the phone message. Its light is flashing. It's Buffy, something about a vampire kidnapping priests ("When you get this, call my cell") so he goes to take a shower.

Spike pulls on his jeans and wanders out into the loft proper, pours himself a finger of whiskey and takes a cigarette to the back door--front door, only door really--and stands there on the threshold with the screen open, smoking. There aren't any lights turned on out on the roof, and he likes the familiar dark.

Buffy has decided to stop by Riley's on the way just in case, and she comes up with Xander, Giles, and Willow. She turns the corner and sees Spike silhouetted in the doorway, in nothing but jeans, the top button undone. He's taking a drag of a cigarette--orange glow--and then he takes it from his mouth, twigging it between two fingers so that it rests against a tumbler of some kind of alcohol he's holding, hand lowering toward his waist. Smoke drifts from his mouth, from the cigarette. She can't quite make out his features, with the shadows outside and the dim lights behind him. Low music is playing somewhere inside the loft, quiet tinkly notes. A kind of music she doesn't associate with Spike. Or Riley, for that matter.

She takes all this in without noticing any of it, frowning at Spike's unexpected presence. She knows that he hangs out with Riley, but somehow she's never really thought about what that means. She's always figured they do guy stuff, go to bars and...wherever. They've mentioned before about watching a game, but that didn't translate in her mind to "at Riley's place," in his living room.

Buffy: "Spike. What are you doing here?"

Spike, mild, face unreadable in the shadows: "I live here."

Buffy: "What happened to your place?"

Spike shrugs one shoulder lazily, pitches his cigarette, then steps back. "Come on in."

They troop in, the four of them, and inside it's even weirder, just the sight of Spike standing in the middle of the room with no shoes, no shirt, as if he's at home. He's still holding his drink in one hand, cupping and thumbing the glass in a sensual way. Again, Buffy fails to notice this, as the weird factor distracts her from any details. Giles's gaze, however, is skating over Spike and picking up on the clues which spell out: just been fucked. Willow is also catching the clue bus and trades a glance with Giles in amazement.

Xander has missed the bus. Xander didn't even notice it go by.

Buffy: "So Riley's letting you live with him? That's nice of him." Puzzling at it.

Spike, his gaze as mellow as a cat's: "He's a nice guy." The words come out in a very relaxed tone, sincere and self-satisfied. Canary feathers drift lightly to the floor.

Xander: "And one you can thoroughly take advantage of."

Willow: "Xander!"

Xander: "I'm sorry--am I leaping to conclusions? Hey, Spike, are you paying rent?"

Spike stares at Xander as if he's the thickest git in the universe: "Not as such."

Giles senses impending doom. "Perhaps we should, er, wait in the car."

Eventually of course, before it can go much further, Riley comes out, half dressed, having heard voices, and another clue bus pulls up and Buffy and Xander get on, and as it pulls away we can see the kids beating on the glass of the back window, screaming to be let off.

But that's another story.




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