Essentially A Partnership by Reremouse

It's not much of a life for a bloke as young as Harris but it's one he's chosen for himself, one Spike's too polite to question.

All right, getting too much out of to question. Because Harris isn't bad company and it's been years since Spike's had - well - a partner.

And so he's starting to feel a sense of responsibility for Harris. Mentorship. God help him, affection.

Good thing it's too late for Harris to go back to the old solitary, normal, Spikeless lifestyle anyway.

It's been too late since Harris pulled his Slayer out of the clink in St. Gabriel. Funny old thing the way breaking into a women's prison can change a man's life.

And for the better as far as Spike's concerned.

A life of danger suits Harris. A life on the run. A life on the gray edge of the law. Bounties. Safehouses. Espionage.

And the better class of lawn mowers.

It's been a healthy, productive partnership. And Spike's a patient vampire when it comes to getting what he wants out of it, patient and lounging in the shade while Harris gets hot and sweaty enough for two.

The porch groans and the green sofa that's seen the better part of four decades sags under Harris' weight and Spike passes him a beer and a carton of Mrs. Ma's Five Happiness Chicken.

Harris' hair is salted with dandelion fluff but the lawn is pristine.

"You don't have to play yard boy, you know," Spike grouches because grouching is expected of him at this stage in their partnership.

"I know," Harris agrees because he's the agreeable sort these days, "but have you seen that lawn mower? It's incredible. I'd sell my soul for a lawn mower like that." He pauses, considers, pokes around in his chicken and adds: "if I had a lawn."

"It's a lawn mower," Spike enunciates.

Harris has the vague look of a man who finds himself suddenly holding a conversation in something other than the English he's accustomed to. He shakes it off. "I guess it's an American thing." He stretches his legs until his bare toes are in the sunshine and lobs a piece of chicken into the pool. The resident caiman snaps it up. "You know, we really should call animal rescue for that poor little guy."

"And - what? Tell 'em we're just friendly neighborhood squatters and happened to notice there's an alligator in the pool of the house we're illegally inhabiting while we wait for a trace on the fifteen year old girl we're about to kidnap off the streets and fly to England where she'll be trained into a secret warrior society that's existed since ancient times? Pfft. That'll go over well."

"Caiman," Harris answers with a kind of logic only one of them grasps.

It isn't Spike.

Harris gestures at the pool with the chopsticks. "It's not an alligator. Smaller. More grr. Indigenous to the Amazon though I guess this guy's doing pretty well for himself in the Everglades. Um, when he's not in a pool in Allapattah." He spreads his hands under the withering weight of Spike's disbelief. "I like to read up on the local fauna. I find it keeps me from getting eaten."

"Did you hear anything else I said?"

"Illegal squatters. Caiman in the pool. Kidnapping a fifteen year old girl." He eats a crab puff in one bite. "Like that never ever happens in Florida."

He throws the caiman a crab puff. It lies there floating in the water. "Waste of a perfectly good crab puff."

"Excuse me but have you tasted these crab puffs?"

Spike hasn't.

And now won't.

Harris eats another one and chases it with beer. "Allapattah, Florida," he says, framing the invisible words between one hand and a pair of chopsticks, "is not a mecca of Chinese food. Okay - or possibly it is. I mean - Mecca: not known for the Chinese."

"Had Chinese in Mecca once," Spike supplies.

Harris tilts his sunglasses down his nose till an eye's staring at Spike. It's disconcerting every time Harris takes off the glasses that it's only the one eye. Surprising what a man can forget. Harris owns an impressive collection of sunglasses.

"Mecca. Chinese," he prompts.

"Come on, Harris. You know the rest." Spike waits for the resumption of normal service. The ew, the okay - gross, the and that was in no way disgusting, Spike that are the comedic stability of their partnership.

Doesn't come. "Didn't catch his name, right?"

Spike rallies. "Too right."

"How'd he taste?" asks Harris the man of flexible morals, pushing his glasses into place and resuming the plunder of his box of five happiness chicken parts.

Spike regroups.


"Bout like you'd expect for Mecca."

Harris thinks about it; Spike thinks about Harris. "Sweaty? Sandy?"

"That'd be it. The grit sticks in your teeth."

It's vaguely disconcerting that Harris chuckles. "I hear that." Less disconcerting when he explains. "There was this guy selling dates on a stick outside Hofuf - and believe me when I say I cannot understate the dental repercussions that followed."

"Dates," Spike says, heavy on the scorn.

Harris resumes feeding the caiman dodgy Chinese food.

Spike resumes updating his mental tally of changes in Harris with the entry: doesn't even pretend to be shocked.

The internal debate between offendedly evil, here! and soppily touched by Harris' acceptance is still going on when Harris prods Spike in the thigh with a toe. The toe's warm. Fresh out of the sun.

Spike puts his hand over it absently.

It wiggles.

"So I'm thinking," Harris doesn't pause for the usual obligatory snark and banter vis a vis Harris and thinking, "the problem with this job? No vacations."

"Could say the job's one big vacation," Spike observes.

"In which we kidnap people and steal things," Harris says, proving it's not pod!Harris and setting Spike at ease.

"Sounds like vacation to me."

Harris' toe prods him. "Follow me, here. Vacation - in which we get to open the drapes, park the car closer than a secluded spot half a mile away through virtual wilderness, and have more entertainment than illegal cable TV - and when there's something living in the pool that wants to eat me, we can call animal control and have it removed."

The caiman hisses.

Xander throws it the last crab puff.

"And did I mention the lack of having to kidnap rogue Slayers which is an activity which should be ranked up there with wrestling crocodiles for stupidity? Not to mention the liability insurance."

That gives Spike pause. "You have insurance?"

Harris pauses with him. "Um - not as such. But I'm pretty sure the Council would pay the bills to put me back together if the need came up."

The pause stretches, filled with the splashes of a grouchy caiman, the sound of chopsticks poking through paper cartons and thoughts Spike's ready not to be thinking.

"Vacation," Spike prompts in an effort not to think them.

And Harris answers promptly, conveniently, tiredly. "We need a vacation."

"What the hell would we do with a vacation?" Spike asks, but kindly in deference to the slump of Harris' shoulders and the thoughts he's not thinking. "Other than not kidnap slayers."

"Even recreationally."

"Even recreationally," Spike dutifully repeats.

Harris thinks about it. Visibly. Even the chopsticks stop poking through Mrs. Ma's finest. "There could be lounging around on a beach," he concedes eventually, "with a Mai Tai."

"Sounds toasty. Flammable even."

"I didn't say it had to be during the day." Harris has a point. "Beat the crowds, I always say."

"Beaches," Spike summarizes, touched by the consideration, "Mai Tais."

"There could be a certain amount of nookie." Harris' chopsticks still. His gaze grows distant. "I remember nookie."

"Nookie," repeats Spike the amazing vampire echo.

"Come on, red blooded American male, here. I don't exactly lead a lifestyle that leads to getting laid. James Bond is seriously false advertising." Spike's hand hasn't left Xander's foot. "And - ow."

Spike lets go of Xander's foot and drains his beer. "Bloody stupid idea, us on a vacation."

"Hey - I have some serious time off owed to me. So if you have a better idea - any time now. I'm waiting." Waiting and eating. One large mouthful of chicken after another.

Spike bides his time. Weighs his options. Senses opportunity.

It's not elegant opportunity.

Not even in the neighborhood of smooth.

But he shrugs and goes with it.

Harris takes a long drink of beer and Spike says, "We stay here, toss the caiman in the neighbors' pool when everybody's asleep, shag."

Harris' spray of beer sparkles in the sunlight. "Say what again?"

"There's nookie involved," Spike offers helpfully to a Harris who appears to have lost the power of speech. "Oh come on, Harris. You could cut the sexual tension with a knife. They've been waiting for us to get it on for years."

"Sexu - sex - okay so what's you're saying is - "

"Sex. Said you remembered it."

"I don't remember sex with you!"

"Course you don't," Spike agrees with the agreeable agreeability of a man who senses getting his own way. "Haven't had it yet, have we?"

Harris is making you-me-you-me gestures in the space between the two of them until Spike takes pity on him. Takes his hands. Holds onto them until Harris stares at their joined fingers. To borrow one of Harris' own terms, the poor bloke looks wigged.

"We're not bad together." Spike gives his fingers a soothing stroke. "And it'll do you a world of good, pet, getting your end away. Whenever you like. Could start now in fact."

There's a blank moment. A moment filled with Spike's fingers stroking Harris' hands. Harris' eye staring into the middle distance. The splashing of the caiman.

Spike waits for the usual American male rejoinder that Harris likes his arse right where it is. Doesn't come. It's not a bad sign.

Instead, Harris says: "Did you just hit on me?"


"Because it really sounded like you said - "

"Just stating the facts."

"I'm pretty sure I would have noticed sexual tension," Harris says in a ludicrous show of self-delusion.

Which Spike meets with more facts. They seem to be going his way. "I'm not that bad a prospect."

"You're Spike."

"And you're Xander and there's nookie on the table - or - well - couch. Bed. Wherever." Spike momentarily loses the thread, rallies, "And may I add that's nookie at all times, not just on twenty vacation days a year. Red blooded young American bloke like you needs a better quality of sex life."

"I'm having a slight case of hysterical deafness here."

And that's the problem with Harris, Spike reflects reflectively. Let the man talk until he runs out of things to say and nothing'd ever get done.

It's proof, really.

Harris needs Spike.

"C'mere." Spike gestures.

And Harris does. "I'd like to register my belief that this could be a really bad idea," he says on the approach.

"Noted," Spike says to Harris' mouth - which is right there within kissing distance. He plucks a piece of dandelion fluff out of Harris' hair and flicks it away. "And I don't have bad ideas."

"What do you call that thing in Cleveland where you decided we should - "

It's not a bad idea.

They're not bad together.

And Harris tastes like chicken.