Somewhere between Chicago and the coast on I-80, Spike decides his problems all come from listening to Angel and he's got to stop. Quit cold-turkey as soon as he gets back to California - it's bad for him.
'Cause when Angel talked about Shanshu, it sparkled with fairy dust and glowed with the blessings of The Powers That Be. It was worth fighting for.
It was worth conning Angel out of.
It was a peaceful rest.
It was a well-earned respite.
It was life and vitality, the true enjoyment of the world.
It's a load of festering bollocks. He's lived a hundred and fifty one years, man and vampire and he'll be lucky now to see two hundred.
Spike last-second swerves around a blown tire in the middle of the road and puts a hand over his heart, feels it pound a dizzying triple-time at the close call.
Or a hundred and fifty two.
Spike careens into a gravel lot, tiny rocks spitting up beneath the tires of his motorcycle, chipping paint, cracking windshields and adding an element of satisfaction to a gray and empty existence.
He jerks off his helmet, tucks it under an arm and kills the motor, squinting up into the flickering neon sign and dull aluminum facade of the Prancing Pony Family Diner, home of the $1.99 sky high pie.
After seeing a good twenty of them fly past on interstate billboards, Spike figures the diner owes him something and he's got two dollars and eighty four cents in change in his pocket. If the pie's a disappointment, he's gonna kill the cook.
All right. He'll fantasize about twenty different ways of killing the bloody cook and maybe break into the Buick in the lot. Buicks are always good for pocket change under the seats and there has to be another golden arches somewhere down the interstate.
There always is.
Death, taxes, and Ronald Bloody McDonald.
Spike hops the short flight of ancient aluminum steps with a rattle and clank and pushes into humid warmth that smells like meat, grease and coffee.
Spike's stomach rolls over and begs and for about seven heartbeats, he reconsiders breaking into a Buick for extra change because fucking Jesus, he's hungry.
Instead, he sits down, shrugs off the new motorcycle jacket Angel bought him as a 'you're human now - piss off and break your neck' gift with the motorcycle, and orders coffee from a waitress named Lori.
A coffee, hamburger and home fries come back. He stares at them in confusion and weighs the hassle of running out on a check on a full belly against another two days' ride on nothing but pie and coffee. His stomach votes strenuously for snaffling down as much as he can and then running out on the check.
"Compliments of the cook," Lori says while Spike and his stomach are still negotiating - and Spike looks past her ample waist to the cut-out window between kitchen and diner.
Xander Harris, his hair tucked up under a stupid paper hat waves back.
Even Spike's stomach doesn't have anything to say about that.
There's something wrong with Harris being here in a stupid paper hat cooking greasy food and serving it up in a little tin box diner, but Spike has food to eat and his stomach's not going to look a gift hamburger in the horse's mouth.
He's sopping up ketchup with the last of his home fries when Xander flops into the other side of the booth, pulling off his paper hat with one hand and wiping the other on a grimy apron. "Spike."
"Harris," Spike says around a mouthful of grease and too little seasoning. The boy's cooking hasn't improved since his days of heating Spaghetti-Os on top of the dryer in his mum's basement.
Spike stabs the stray flakes of potato and onion and racks his brains for the source of that uncertain niggle of wrong.
"What brings you to the other end of this great country of ours?"
Spike licks his fork - makes a noise he hopes is more noncommittal than dyspeptic. His stomach hurts but he wouldn't mind another serving. He squints at Harris and hopes Harris can read it in his face, offer him more potatoes. Or pie. "Working for Angel," he says when Harris doesn't catch on but Spike catches something else.
Harris looks the same.
Exactly the same as he did when Spike last saw him, moving out, moving up in the world with his bint.
Before he disappeared.
"He pays you to stay away, huh?"
Spike's got his mouth open to correct the misconception before realizing that - well, it's a fair guess. He shrugs it off. "Doesn't pay me much." Or up front.
And Angel's Texaco card's limited to gas only.
After the lottery tickets incident that cost Spike his only source of food on the road.
Because six months human and Angel still keeps forgetting Spike needs to eat.
At least that's the nicer interpretation of events.
He swills down the last mouthful of starch, grease and ketchup with lukewarm coffee - could do with another of those too.
He wants to ask what Harris is doing here in the middle of Pennsylvania, on the other side of Spike's booth when he's supposed to be -
Spike puts his finger on it at last and it goes off like the joke-buzzer of primate instinct waking up at last.
Then he's pulling away from Harris the pale. Harris the unbreathing. Harris the - "Bloody hell." Sod instinct. It's Harris. And apparently, he's dead.
"You've got to be fucking joking." Spike doesn't know who he's talking to. The world, maybe.
"Well, yeah. Often, but not now."
"You're a vampire?"
"And he still misses nothing. Mind like a steel trap, Spike," Xander's saying and putting his hat back on. No shushing. No silencing.
And the two waitresses and four disinterested patrons don't even look their way. "Look - I've gotta finish my shift. Stay here. Eat. We'll catch up later." Xander wipes his hands on the rag slung through his apron. "And try the pie - I didn't make it. Lori, get the guy more coffee."
Spike watches, bewildered, as the night cook of the Prancing Pony Twenty-Four Hour Family Diner swings around the counter and retreats to his domain of grease and cholesterol.
Hash doesn't sling itself.
Spike stares at his empty plate with its sheen of grease and ketchup. Course, the food might be better if it did.
"Want some pie, sweetheart?" Lori asks, gum-popping cliche middle-aged waitress. Spike flashes on Warren somewhere churning out Waitress bots and shudders his way back into cheap vinyl upholstery.
It's almost enough to put a bloke off his feed.
He gives the four-by-six dessert menu a quick scan. "Lemon meringue," he says.
The juke box comes on playing Frank Zappa. I was sittin' in a breakfast room in Allentown, Pennsylvania, six o'clock in the morning, got up too early, it was a terrible mistake...sittin' there face-to-face with a 75 cent glass of orange juice about as big as my finger and a bowl of horribly foreshortened cornflakes, and I said to myself: "This is the life!"
He's not in Allentown. And the slice Lori sets down in front of him isn't cornflakes - it's not a mile high either - but it's close.
It's a sign.
And it's good pie.
Spike eats his slice and leaves Lori a two dollar and eighty four cent tip.
Xander's shift ends and Xander invites Spike back to his place which turns out to be a two room apartment overlooking the diner with all the windows covered in black paint and heavy drapes. It smells like cigarettes and coffee and there's a purple lava lamp on the dresser.
And Spike's a human in the lair of a vampire who's not Angel for the first time in - ever.
He wants a bloody cigarette. "Nice place you've got here."
"It's a piece of shit," Xander agrees easily, pulling out a cigarette and lighting up. He offers the pack and Spike's television memory tells him about cancer.
He takes a cigarette and lights up. "How's the rent?"
"How're the neighbors?"
"How's the water?"
"Hot." Xander throws himself onto the couch and kicks his feet up onto the coffee table. "Stay the night. Day. Whatever."
And it's like he read Spike's mind. His skin crawls with highway dirt, reminding him of all the gunk and dust he's ridden through since Oklahoma City.
He could get back on his bike, ride till his eyes feel gritty and stop in a grotty roadside motel where the water is lukewarm and the roaches are complimentary.
Or he could stay. Here. In the home of a vampire who used to hate him when he was human. Who he would've punctured like a cheap fruit drink box once upon a time.
Spike mentally shrugs. Isn't like he's got much to live for anyhow and there're worse things to die for than a hot shower.
Another option whispers in his ear with all the seduction of a thousand dollar whore but the siren call of the shower's louder and Spike drops his jacket onto a chair and sinks down next to Harris on the couch. It's comfortable. Doesn't smell bad. He won't mind sleeping on it. "Yeah. All right."
There's plenty he could be asking Harris right now. Should be asking Harris right now but what's the point asking where the fuck have you been? when it's obvious Harris has been right here. Watching his telly, drinking his blood from bags, taking out the trash before it overflows and learning to cook just well enough to not poison the humans.
So Spike doesn't ask.
And when Xander offers him a beer, he accepts.
Xander doesn't ask Spike what happened in California either - but Spike thinks it's because Harris already knows.
Something about the way he's not surprised.
That Spike's human and he isn't.
He's in the shower letting Calgon take him away when the door opens and Harris joins him and Spike figures out death's not what's on this vamp's mind unless Harris likes to play with his food. "Saving water?" he hears himself ask but doesn't care much when cool soapy hands slide up his chest and pull him back against a hard, chilled body.
It's been a while since Spike had this too.
He's finding out Harris isn't all bad these days. Death becomes him. Taught him a few manners - and a few tricks. Spike spreads his legs enough to let Harris' big broad hand beneath his balls. The chill on his skin's a pisser but Spike knows the water'll warm him up soon enough. Warm him up and keep him warm like a hot water bottle. By the time Xander's got him gasping and grabbing on, heating up his arse with the slip and slide of a hard cock up and down his crease and making his prick dance with fast, slick touches, Spike knows his stay isn't going to be on the couch or the floor. Knows it's been a while for Harris too because it doesn't take long for either of them.
And while he's smashed against the wall trying to breathe, trying to not choke on water, he notices Harris isn't a breathing type.
He's back there like a dead weight except for the little twitches of his cock against Spike's arse and his hands clutching and releasing Spike's hips. He mouths Spike's neck - not a bite but less than a kiss - and straightens up. Spike's still got his eyes closed when he hears the click and squish of shampoo and feels big warm hands on his scalp. "Gonna stay?" Harris asks casually and Spike's cock tries to rally its own answer to the question.
Spike snorts and pushes into the soapy hands. "Said I would. Going to tell me what the deceased Xander Harris is doing in Altoona, Pennsylvania?" Xander maneuvers him under the spray and he spits soap.
Spike keeps his eyes closed under the spray and Xander's hands feel good, washing away the soap and slickness. "Slinging hash," Xander says and Spike recognizes a final answer when he hears one.
It's not the first time Spike wakes up to a corpse spooning him from behind but it is the first time he wakes up to it when he's not a corpse himself.
It's different, it's nice and Spike doesn't get to enjoy it because he has to piss like a racehorse.
He's surprised by how much the thought irritates him while he squirms out from under Xander's arm. Bloke's got a grip on him even in his sleep.
He's in the morning routine fugue state, staring vaguely at the wall, pissing like bloody Man O' War and thinking about nothing. Cocks. Arses. Heartbeats. Coffee. Not in that order. God, he'd sell a kidney for coffee. He closes his eyes when he's done - stands there cock in hand and waits for his thoughts to gather.
They don't get far.
"That is so much weirder than the heartbeat."
"Fucking hell, Harris!" Spike jerks away from the door. He doesn't cover himself - he's not that far gone, ta very much - but he feels heat creeping up his cheeks and down his chest. "Give a bloke some privacy."
"Was it hard to get used to?"
Spike thinks about giving a snide answer but he'd rather wash his hands and get on with the morning. "Nah. Body knows what it's doing, doesn't it? Just like knowing where the fangs go, how to hunt."
The soap's something fruity when Spike washes his hands and it froths all over, pink and orange bubbles.
He's trying to get road grease out from under his fingernails when he realizes Harris hasn't answered.
"You do know how to hunt don't you?"
Xander mimes picking up a telephone and dialing. "Hey Mike, two coolers of O pos. Put it on my credit card." He hangs up his imaginary telephone. "When I'm feeling wacky, I splurge on AB negative."
"Should try some otter," Spike hears himself saying while he digs for a speck of blackened grime under his thumbnail.
"Otter," Xander says.
"Spices things right up." He gives up and flicks a purple hand towel over his hands till they're not dripping anymore. The boy likes purple.
"Where the fuck am I supposed to find otter blood?" Xander's taking the towel and folding it. Hanging it up neat on the rail and that's fucking pathetic for a creature of the night.
"Dunno, do I? Do I look like a vampire to you?"
"You look like Billy Idol."
Spike looks in the mirror where he is and Xander isn't and scrubs his hands through his hair till the curls stand up in devil's whorls and peaks. For the first time, he gives it real consideration. Turns his head this way, that way. Turns sideways and sucks in his belly till it's hollow and his ribs show.
He looks hungry is how he looks.
Never fucking ends.
"I've got better cheekbones," he finally says. "Got any food in this place?"
"I'm talking to him." Harris says it so casually, Spike has to look twice to be sure he's joking. Even then he isn't sure till Xander's lips quirk and he shrugs. "Okay, that was funnier before I said it."
Spike's having a bloody hard time finding anything funny in it at all, standing in a bathroom that stinks of fruity soap and his own piss, naked and being talked down the food chain to and it's too sodding much first thing in the morning. He steps up to Harris, chest to chest and tilts his head aside. "Go on."
It's a fake and they both know it. Harris won't bite. And Spike won't let him without a fight but fucking christ, Spike wants that fight right now. Wants something that's not staring in the mirror looking for wrinkles and signs of age and feeling vulnerable. Wants something more than ennui in his belly.
Xander backs up fast, bounces off the door frame. "I'm gonna make some coffee."
Yeah - that'll do.
If hunger makes Spike edgy and anxious and mean, satiation makes him mellow and agreeable.
Coffee turns into breakfast turns into snacks on the couch turns into a game of footie on Harris' television because he gets satellite. Spike sprawls, sluggish and reptilian on one end of the sofa with a full belly curving outward with the quantity of bad food he's eaten, and his toes digging into Harris' armpit.
"How is it," he says - loses the thread when Giannakopoulos side-foots around Cech - shakes his head when the shot goes wide. "How is it you've been cooking for years and you're still this bloody bad at it?"
"Good enough for you to eat three helpings."
Spike can't deny it. His stomach gurgles its agreement - or maybe that's gas. "Don't you eat?"
Xander shrugs again and hoists his beer. "I'm on a liquid diet."
"You're missing out, mate."
"What's the point?"
"What's the point having sex?" Spike asks.
Xander doesn't even have to think about it. "Orgasms."
"Yeah well - why orgasms?"
Now Xander's looking at him like he's crazy and talking in small words. "They feel good."
Spike snorts and gives Harris' armpit a kick then settles himself back into a more comfortable sprawl. "So does eating. Have you even tried to eat since you woke up?" Spike would call the silence damning but that's a meaningless word for godless fiends - or one godless fiend and a godless former fiend. "Listen - those spicy buffalo wings? Not to be passed up, mate." Harris is looking doubtful and Spike remembers he never liked spicy food as a human. "The pain's a real kick. Makes the blood and booze tingle."
"Twinkies taste like shit," Xander finally says and twists the top off another beer.
"Twinkies are shit." Xander's beer is the second to last and Spike edges his toes toward the last bottle and drags it over out of Harris' reach.
"I liked Twinkies," Xander says with something wistful in his voice like a man pining for lost love. "Golden spongecake. Creamy filling."
"Blood, hot spurts right from the artery," Spike says, getting into the spirit of the thing. He misses it and there're days when his teeth itch to bite. He twists the cap off the other beer and drinks deep. Doesn't compare. "Tastes like shite now, of course."
"You drank blood as a human?"
Spike can't decide if Xander looks appalled or fascinated and reaches for the cigarettes. "Hard habit to break after a hundred years."
He decides on fascinated when Xander takes a cigarette and lights up, elbows on knees gone all tell me a story. "How long did it take?"
Spike drags hard on his cigarette and chokes down the bile because his stomach remembers exactly how long it took. "'Bout half a pint."
"It's not that bad."
"Don't even like my steaks raw."
They end up back in bed, covered in sweat, lube, sticky fluids and Spike knows he should be questioning this. Xander. Himself.
But it feels too bloody good, the cool in-out slide of a hard dead-living cock and Xander's left hand closed around his right ankle, hoisting it high and holding it hard enough to bruise the bone.
The way his ribs ache and he can't get enough breath to do more than moan, the way it makes his head spin and his cock throb. And he knows the way his heart's hammering - blood's pumping - has to be driving Xander mad.
There's a ripple under Xander's skin, another face that wants, wants and Xander's running open-mouthed sucking kisses up his leg, up the big artery and biting down with blunt, human teeth.
It's fucking sexy - that's what.
And when Xander fumbles a slick hand, thick with musk and salt up to Spike's lips, he takes the fingers in deep and hard, bites them till Xander growls and there's more than a ripple under his flesh and a sound like tearing paper, whispering bone that makes Spike's face ache with longing sympathy and his gums itch.
He wants to say something - fucking hell, Harris or god yes! but his mouth is full of fingers he doesn't want to let go so he sucks hard on them instead, on the crackling thickness of vampire blood his body remembers. It's like a live wire through him, like the fucking Initiative tasers, locking his jaw, his legs, his fingers in Harris' hair, and he thinks he yowls when he comes to the prickle of sharp, sharp teeth in the meat below his knee.
His knee and now Xander's sucking there, nursing on his blood with a human face looking blissed out and drugged. On his fucking knee a part of him still aware rants while the rest is shaking with zinging aftershocks and thick, warm lassitude. He thinks his toes might be curling and he's flexing his fingers in Harris' hair while he gets fucked into the mattress.
And when Xander comes, he's quiet - flat of his tongue pressed to Spike's bleeding skin then his lips leaving behind one last bloody kiss that'll sting like a bastard in the morning - and deep and Spike can feel the twitch of his bollocks against his arse and the way Xander's fingers are flexing on his hips like that'll keep it going.
Yeah, the old feed and fuck.
He never wanted it to end either and the thought's surprisingly tender.
Spike finds himself easing Xander down onto his chest where he can pet shaggy hair and down Xander's back - cool and smooth except where Spike's left leg dripped sweat down him.
About now, Spike should question all of this. Question why him and why here and what is this new cosmic joke the Powers are playing.
Any time now.
With Harris mouthing at his neck, scenting and tasting him and room temperature arms around him.
Instead, he's petting Harris' hair, shoulders, spine, everything he can reach and staring at the ceiling, counting stains and bleeding on the duvet.
Eventually, he clears his throat but the words stick. He tries again. "Interesting choice, the knee."
Harris mumbles incoherently into his neck and the words tickle.
"Want to try that again, mate?"
"It was there. It had a pulse."
"It's a knee, Harris."
Xander turns his face away but he doesn't sit up. "I told you I haven't done that before." Spike's glad he doesn't pull away because he wouldn't be able to hold him down and he likes this big dead weight crushing him into the mattress.
"Can't say I've bitten anyone in the knee, myself," Spike says and knows that's not what Xander meant. "Changed your mind all of a sudden? 'Bout the biting? Feeling peckish?"
"If I was going to feed, it wouldn't be from a knee, Spike," Harris says like he's an idiot and it makes Spike feel better. He sighs. "I don't know. I was horny. It was right there."
"Thought I'd understand?"
Spike figures the answer'll be a while coming but he's got time.
Not as much time as Xander but he's got enough for this.
Can't feel his legs yet anyway.
"Yeah," Xander finally says.
"You weren't wrong."
"I bit your knee."
"Yeah - well - all right that part's bloody weird. You're an odd duck, Xander Harris."
"What can I say?" Xander says and his hands feel nice on Spike's back, sweeping up and down the spine. "Darla still likes them big, easy and stupid."
Harris isn't going to tell him what's what, so he makes a phone call across the pond.
Thirty five cents he plucked out of the tips jar before Lori showed up for her shift gets him the AAA and the AAA gets him into the Mustang in the parking lot with a phone card on the seat. Spike's a good boy now and he locks the car again once he's stolen the card.
"Red," he says into the phone.
"In the living, breathing, pissing flesh," he says and fumbles for a cigarette. "What happened to Harris?"
He's never been patient and he's not in the mood to wait - there'll be an overcooked hamburger and greasy fries waiting for him in about ten minutes.
The phone call's enlightening. "Xander! Did you find him? Does he still have his soul?"
And Spike's a lot less worried Darla's going to show up on beautiful brown-eyed boy's doorstep with a nun and a smile.
Explains a lot, really.
Unlike Spike. "Who says I found him?"
"Why would you call me at three in the morning asking what happened to Xander if you hadn't found him?" And suddenly Willow sounds a lot more awake - like a little girl on Christmas morning and Spike's guts clench. "You did find him - didn't you?"
"Sorry, pet. No," Spike says because he's got better reasons to go to hell than one more little white lie. "Just thinking about the old days. That's all."
He hangs up with kisses and condolences, promises of Christmas in Devon and a post card from Prince Edward Island and everything but a sodding pony.
Then he stomps into the diner where Lori gives him coffee and a clean spoon Spike fiddles with, building it a fortress out of creamer cups and sugar packets. He's a bloody Frank Lloyd Wright of procrastination and when the burger comes, Xander comes with it.
"So how's Willow?" he asks - like Spike would slip off and call his old best friend behind his back.
Well - kind of like he did. Spike gives some thought to denying it but Harris is holding that hamburger just out of reach and watching him with a narrow look that's got glints of gold in it. Makes Spike hard.
"Give me the sodding hamburger, Harris. She's fine."
Xander doesn't make him fight for the hamburger and the second its on the table, Spike's assaulting it with ketchup and too much pepper. Would it kill Harris again to use a little spice when he cooks?
Spike's got a big mouthful of cow and ketchup and gluey white bun when Xander gets around to talking. There's nobody else in the diner and no orders on the line. "I like it here, Spike."
Spike tries to convey so fucking what? with his eyebrows.
Seems to work.
"I don't want to leave."
So don't. Pillock, Spike's eyebrows semaphore. His scar tacks on the insult and Spike takes another bite. It's not awful. He thinks he could get used to regular meals.
Harris' hand twitches toward Spike's plate like he's going to take it away to get a straight answer out of Spike but Spike's not above jamming his fork between a bloke's third and fourth metacarpals to protect what's his. Harris drums his fingers on the counter. "It's too soon to see them," he says. "I mean - not hiding or anything."
Spike's eyebrows don't dignify that with an answer.
"But I'm so not ready." Xander licks his lips and balances a pink Nutrasweet packet on top of Spike's pile of cups and packets. Spike's masterpiece trembles but it stays standing with a jaunty pink cancerous flag on top. "Maybe in a few more years."
For that, Spike swallows his mouthful and leans back, swigs it down with coffee and runs his tongue around the film of grease on his teeth and palate. "Better not wait too many years, mate. Humans have a nasty habit of dying."
A group of obnoxious teenagers rescues them both from Harris' answer and the rest of the conversation.
Sex that night is hard and fast with Xander's ass in the air and Spike's cock pounding them both into oblivion. Like he's got something to prove and the bed's taking it like a champ, springs squeaking, headboard creaking.
But the walls keep standing and the bed doesn't go crashing through the floor when the earth moves.
And it's Spike's harsh panting and slick sweat making them damp and sticky while he catches his breath, draped over Harris' back like a blanket with his hair in his eyes. He's got the taste of key lime pie and salt in his mouth. His heart's beating hard and fast enough to make him dizzy and he thinks he might've blacked out at some point.
All that's missing is the tequila when Spike takes a graceless swan dive off Harris' broad back onto the mattress and sprawls there like roadkill.
Harris rolls over slower and Spike knows what he's hearing, platelets and red blood cells and white blood cells all whooshing along on an endorphin high and Xander's getting hard again, bumping his nose into the crook under Spike's jaw and snuffling. Like a Dickensian orphan with his face mashed up against the glass of the bakery - and a bun fetish.
"Don't tell me you're ticklish." Harris' voice buzzes below Spike's ear.
"Vampires aren't ticklish."
Harris worms his way into Spike's heart when he doesn't point out Spike's not a vampire anymore and he thinks he might love Harris when Harris also ignores Spike's twitch away every time he passes the ticklish spot under the corner of Spike's jaw.
He's feeling indulgent. He's feeling - fuck me - protective over Harris like a four and a half year old vampire is a nuzzling kitten. Like Harris at four and a half isn't more himself than Spike was after half a century. Then again - Harris had less to run away from in his own skin. And a soul. Spike thinks it might've helped but it'd take hot pokers to make him admit it out loud. He rubs Harris' back. "Gonna have a proper taste, mate?"
"Huh?" Xander says - inarticulate and looking stoned when he lifts his head.
Stoned off Spike's pulse and heartbeat and endorphins and a good fuck and it's - let's face it - it's adorable. Spike stretches his arm back, flexes his fingers, and smacks Xander hard across the face.
"What the fuck, Spike?" He still lisps around his fangs and Spike presses both hands to the sides of Xander's face like that'll hold the demon in place while Spike kisses him, flicks his tongue up against sharp teeth and tries not to gag on the taste of his own blood.
Doesn't have to worry about that long before Harris closes his lips tight over the tip of Spike's tongue and tries to suck it out of his mouth.
Spike's lingual frenulum is trying to floss its way between his bottom teeth when he smacks Harris again. Harris doesn't let go, so Spike tries a head butt and sees stars. "Spike?" And thank god, Xander has to let go of his tongue to talk.
"Fucking hell," Spike slurs because his tongue feels twice its size and swollen and he's still seeing double. "Knees and tongues."
Xander's demon slides away and he looks hurt. "You didn't have to cut your tongue on my fangs."
"Put it back," Spike orders. And when Xander looks confused, he draws back a fist. Harris catches on and goes bumpy but he still looks like he's not sure he wants to be.
Spike tilts his head back and waits for Harris to get the point. He's not sure what the hell he's doing but it won't be the first time.
It'll be the second.
"Spike," Xander says - and says it like he means it. Looks about as worried as a vamp in game face can. "I don't want to hurt you."
"Poof." Spike's running his fingertips over Xander's forehead and Harris likes it, eyes closed and pushing into it. Yeah - Spike's demon liked it too.
"Vampire," Xander counters. "We're above sexuality."
"Oh don't try that line on me, mate. It was old in the sixties. You're a poof if I say you're a poof."
He's tired of waiting and grabs the back of Xander's neck. Instinctive prey-fear's making his balls crawl up into his body but he's high on adrenaline and the knowledge of what comes next. Tightens his fingers on the back of Xander's neck and this'll be the first time he's played this little game since the PTB gave him the booby prize. Come on, Harris. Let's go.
The first prickle of fangs takes him by surprise - there's a part of Spike didn't think Xander had the stones - and the first slice takes his breath away, cold and sharp and then Harris is pulling his libido out through his throat, soaking Spike's body with endorphins and he thinks his toes are curling into Xander's cool calves.
Then there's a groan and Spike knows that was him because the only sounds Xander's making are quiet suckles and breathless moans while he tries to crawl into Spike's skin where it's warm and wet and alive like Harris hasn't been for years.
And it's making Spike cold and hard and tingly, making him think of alleyways - alleyways full of straw and stink, stars and burning fucking baby bloody fish - and alleyways full of stink and blood and rewards delivered to the wrong sodding vampire.
Harris' arms are hard under his back, clutching him till his ribs creak and shaking him like a puppy with a toy - it's all limbs and teeth and clumsy hips rubbing off on his thigh like a sexual afterthought to the blood.
And yeah - this was always like that to Spike's demon too.
Spike's got his arms around Xander, pets his back and his hair, kneads his calves and the hollows of his knees with warm toes and his last conscious thought is so this is what it's like.
He doesn't hate it.
There's an older bloke who comes into the diner every Monday through Friday at nine to watch Oprah on cable. Orders tea and complains about the bloody Yanks in a Scouse accent. Spike finds out he was born in Allentown and he's never set foot outside of Pennsylvania.
Harris gets the odd ones on the night shift so Spike fits right in, drinks coffee and eats pie. Tips Lori with Harris' money and eats for free.
There's a group of teenagers in black, comes in every Saturday around two-thirty to split heaping plates of greasy french fries with too much ketchup and too little salt and endless cups of coffee and Harris stays back in his kitchen 'till they leave.
He's got a life here, a pattern - and Spike slots right in with sweaty rolls in the sheets and a steady stream of complaint about Xander's cooking.
Which doesn't improve.
He's been there a week and he's on his belly in bed with Harris on top of him 'cause they're too shagged out to move when Angel gets around to calling.
"Why aren't you here?"
"This an existential question, mate?" Spike asks and tries to reach his cigarettes because it annoys Angel when he smokes on the phone and he's coming down off a great shag. They're out of reach.
"Why did I hire you?"
Spike tries again but Harris is an inconsiderate lump of dead flesh who doesn't move. Spike thinks he might be getting hard again too. Inconsiderate undead prick - there's been great progress made in the Harris project and Spike's pleased. Another month, and Spike thinks Harris might be capable of swearing in front of old ladies.
It makes him magnanimous and he gives up on the cigarettes and spreads his legs a little wider in invitation and gets back to annoying Angel.
"Dunno, mate. 'Spike, you want a job?' you said and I said 'all right'. You waited 'till now to get your knickers in a twist over it?"
Harris is mouthing his shoulder, kissing his way toward Spike's spine and Spike feels him starting to get bumpy 'round the forehead. There's a cold fumble of slick and he twists a hand into the pillow while Angel talks at him.
"The point is you have a job, Spike. And you're not doing it because you're not here."
"Oh. Yeah," Spike says, stretching a leg and flexing toes he can't feel, pulling it up to give Harris an all access pass he doesn't waste time in taking, "about that. I quit."
The sex keeps on being fantastic and Spike learns that human bodies get sore after they've had too much sex. He wonders if it's possible for a human to die from it and he thinks he might like trying.
Some time after Harris finishes this blow job.
Because Spike's always done his best thinking riding his prick nice and easy into a willing mouth and now's no exception which is why he waits until after he comes down Harris' throat to say what's on his mind. Harris gives great head but he loses the thread if Spike talks at him. "You know," he says finally when the blood comes back to his brain, "never pictured you this kind of vampire."
"You pictured me as a vampire?"
"I pictured all of you as vampires," Spike says because it's true. "Rupert would be the big end the world type. Red would want the world at her feet. Buffy."
"Buffy would be the one who worked in a diner, right? With the little paper hat?" Xander mimes the hat but he doesn't have to. His hair's still crushed to his skull where it's not sticking up straight on top.
It's ridiculous but Spike had more important things on his mind when Harris got off shift than hat hair.
"Nah. She'd drain you all and go tearing after the Poof for the big fight she never let herself have."
They're quiet then until Xander rolls them over and tucks his hands behind his head - grins up at the ceiling. "She'd so kick his ass. I'd love to see that."
"I know where she is," Spike says offhand. "Wouldn't take but a moment to sire her up and - "
"And then she'd kick my ass."
Which is an interesting answer in itself. "Thought about it, have you?"
"Maybe." And that's as far as Xander's willing to go down that road so he turns around and comes trotting back with Spike's conversational stick in his mouth. "What kind of vampire did you think I'd be?"
Spike shrugs, likes the silky glide of skin on skin and shifts around until he's got a leg between Xander's thighs and his arms folded over his chest. "Thought you'd be the fight and fuck type," he says offhand.
Xander looks pointedly down their bodies which are getting stickier and in danger of sealing together on a crust of come if Spike doesn't move soon. "Funny. I remember fucking."
"No fighting," Spike says because it's important. The one goes with the other.
Xander waves it off. "Too busy fucking to fight these days."
"Right. Keep up the good work," Spike says and loses track of whatever else he'd been planning to say. Something motivational about the world being the vampire's oyster.
'Cept Harris isn't the oyster type these days.
Really knows his way around a sea cucumber though.
Spike forgets the rest of his speech.
It takes a few more days for Spike to realize he's never seen Xander go past the end of the block he lives on. There's the diner, his apartment building, a liquor store and a convenient butcher shop where the guy behind the counter never asks questions.
As places to put down roots go, it's not a bad choice.
All the comforts of home.
And all the time in the world to enjoy them.
It'd be funny if Spike could shake the feeling Harris has been here for years.
Night after night and egg after greasy egg.
"Need to borrow your car, pet," Spike says and holds out a hand for the keys.
Xander looks at him like Spike's asked to borrow a teaspoon of cat. "What car?"
Spike decides it's time for Xander to broaden his horizons. When Xander finishes his shift, Spike's sitting at the counter with a copy of Xander's bank statement in his pocket.
And when he steers them right toward the edge of town instead of left toward the apartment, he's got a ready answer when Xander digs in his heels and asks, "Where're we going?"
"Going to get you a car, pet."
"I can't afford a car."
"Yes you can." Spike doesn't offer the statement and Xander doesn't ask. Doesn't have to.
"So, the snooping. Not just a vampire thing, huh?" He troops after Spike like a recalcitrant boyfriend.
Spike shrugs and lights a cigarette. "Saves time."
"Know what else saves time? Living next to my job. I don't need a car, Spike."
"Could some day," Spike says because it's true. Having a soul doesn't exempt a bloke from hasty exits and itchy feet. It's a miracle Harris survived this long without Spike to guide him, trusting git.
"It'll get rats in the engine."
Spike stops and stares.
Harris pulls up short a few yards ahead and turns on him. "What? It could."
"Rats," Spike says.
"It could happen."
The guy at the dealership remembers Xander. He's the guy who brought in a 1990 Ford Taurus with an engine full of rats.
Dealerships remember that kind of thing and Xander doesn't look too broken up to find out his car was sold for scrap.
He shrugs it off and looks at his lack of reflection in the window of a 1997 Dodge Neon. "How much for the Neon?"
Over Spike's dead body.
They leave the lot with a compromise, a modest dent in Xander's bank balance and a 1957 one-owner Chevy. "Need a car you can repair yourself, mate. Can't run from a mob while you're waiting on the bloke down at the garage who's overcharging you to replace your bloody brake pads."
"I don't know anything about car repair, Spike."
"So? Been repairing cars since before you were born."
The car's got a rattle Spike wants to get his hands on but Harris knows his way around a stick and clutch.
"I liked the Neon," Xander says.
"You're an embarrassment to the species, Harris."
It takes a sweaty inaugural tour of the back seat to convince Harris modern compacts aren't the way to go and Spike's fly is still open when he lights up his post-coital cigarette. The back seat smells of old smoke and beer and illicit trysts in the age of Innocence. Spike passes Xander the pack and flicks his lighter.
Xander hasn't asked what he's supposed to do with the car once Spike's not around anymore to repair it and Spike doesn't say.
Harris needs minding and that's clear but there's a little problem of mortality creeping up on Spike one day, one cigarette, one piece of pie at a time.
Spike draws the smoke deep into his lungs and thinks about the taste of pie and the feel of sun on his skin.
Thinks about tearing along dark highways with the headlights off and the radio up, a bottle of whiskey between his thighs.
It's a question without any good answer and he's working up to a good brood when Harris sticks his nose in. "Hey," Harris says and Spike looks over at him, mussed and ruffled with a hand splayed over his belly.
"What're you grinning at?" Spike tries to say but Harris' lips are in the way and Spike's cigarette burns a new hole in the carpet when he stubs it out.