It's barely noon and Spike's got a lit cigarette and a drink. But then everybody does in this town and anybody who doesn't have a drink will sooner or later - and anybody who doesn't have a cigarette might as well with the secondhand smoke on the air. So he has a drink with water condensing on the sides and a sprig of mint trapped between ice cubes somewhere in the center of a tumbler of whiskey.
Any place where they serve whiskey in tumblers in the middle of the day is Spike's kind of place. And shady sidewalks, overgrown verandas and a population who believe in turning a blind eye to demons, ghosts and selective mayhem are icing on a very tasty cake.
He ashes at the tray and curls his lip at the ashes scattering over the table. Rubs away the grains and flakes with the side of his palm, scrubs his hand over his thigh - wipes off the ash and soot and takes another drink.
Moves in with the kind of focus a real predator has at his command, holds his wrist steady with the other hand and ashes into the sodding tray. He drops the butt into his ice with a satisfying sizzle and fills his lungs with bourbon, mint, smoke, dust and motor oil from the DeSoto leaking and sagging in the carriage house.
Carriage house's sagging too.
It's all sagging and creaking and a sorry piece of property and for the time being it's all Spike's because nobody in their right mind would live here and Spike's got one up on all of them, not being living and all. Plenty of things've died and been dead here.
He props his boots on the railing and grinds his knuckles into his thigh above the knee.
Something skitters up the greenery overhanging the veranda and Spike's thinking about getting a cat when a blue sedan pulls up at the end of the drive - blue and American and sodding typical - reflecting sunlight with Johnny Cash playing on the radio. He lights another cigarette and takes his time squinting into the trees because the light reflecting off the car hurts his eyes and it's a long walk from the driveway to the house.
He knows what he'd see anyway - a lanky bloke, big shoulders and shy of six-foot with no fashion sense. Easy grin, boyish eye - just the one - and ears that'd look more in place on a jug. Spike leaves his feet propped on the railing while he says, "First step's broken."
Harris steps over it, starting on the second and so on, one foot in front of the other until he stands in front of Spike. Skinny after a year of dysentery in Africa's had its toll and tall, dark, handsome and bloody cliche besides. Sweating too. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Lots more broken." Sooner or later he'll offer Harris a drink because it's what's done in Savannah and he's gone troppo.
"And that'd be why I'm here." Harris runs a finger under the band of his patch, grimaces at the glistening sweat that comes away with it and wipes it off on his shirt. "Sweating on your front step."
Spike considers offering him a shower. It's wet. Only one problem. "Water heater needs fixing."
And Harris looks around like it's the first time so Spike takes it all in with him. Splintered wood. Chipped paint. Shutters hanging off their hinges and a garden with delusions of jungle grandeur and blooms Spike's not sure aren't carnivorous. He should get the cat. Find out.
Spike palms the head of his cane and pushes himself to standing, joins Harris in squinting at the abandoned birds nests in the eaves and the nesting spiders who call them home.
"Jesus, this place is a dump."
Spike grins, feels it, feels it pulling at the line of stitches across his face, over his nose where they itch. "Home sweet home." He thumps into the house, hears Harris following him in the easy one foot in front of the other way he's got in spite of all the limb-losing odds in a line of work like theirs. Thumping heart, whooshing lungs. Gurgle in one he should have looked at if Spike thinks to let him know. He catches a look at Harris in the warped mirror in the hall and chuckles. "Look like you've seen Frankenstein's monster."
"I think I did. Am," Harris says and Spike waits for the inevitable: "What happened to you?"
Spike taps his walking stick and thumps it down, turns on the better heel and makes a bee-line for the wet bar. "Earned the Purple Heart. Drink?"
"God, yes. It's a long drive from Baltimore."
And when they reach the bar, Harris grabs a tumbler and fills it with water, drops in ice and holds it to his forehead until a drop of condensation runs down his nose and drips onto the floor. Spike watches it and scuffs it into the floorboards with his cane and Harris wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Why'd you choose this house? I mean - I know we joked about vampires and the whole crypt decor thing you had working for you in Sunnydale but you're gonna wake up one morning wearing the ceiling." Harris takes a drink of his water and goes back to pressing it against his skin. "The council has a lot of houses, Spike - why this one?"
"Liked it best." Spike shrugs - catch and jerk motion where the muscle's still knitting. "Good neighborhood."
Disbelief. "Crime's almost doubled in the last two years."
Horror. "The house next door only has half a roof."
Resignation. "Jesus," Harris says again and takes a long drink.
Spike pours himself another whiskey and ignores the way the bottle clatters against the rim of the glass. Doesn't spill this time. "And people've got an appreciation for the dead here."
The tumbler of water stops making the rounds of Harris' face and neck and he's being pinned with the fisheye. "Let's get this straight up front - you're not sitting around here brooding are you? Because it's not too late for me to get a hotel."
Spike sets his glass down, spreads his arms wide. "This look like brooding to you?"
Harris gives it some thought and a good look. "Actually it kinda looks like you were chewed up and spat out by a thresher."
Which doesn't make Spike think of claws shearing through bone and muscle and feeling parts of him dropping off and falling away, sinking his teeth up to the gums into rubbery flesh. Not at all. He tosses back the whiskey. "Close enough. Got put back together, didn't I?" He puts on an American accent mostly to see Harris wince, "You oughta see the other guy."
"Which brings us back to the topic of your choice of convalescent home. Did you have to choose such a dump?"
"Said I liked it here. What do you care?"
Harris pours himself another glass of water, more ice, drinks more of this one and rubs sweat off the back of his neck. "I'm the guy the council pays to fix dumps."
"That pay well these days?"
"Better than it used to," Harris says to his glass of water and swirls the ice around the bottom. "There's nothing in the council records about what happened to you."
"Snooped, did you?" He's not surprised - maybe flattered because it takes a certain amount of care or concern to snoop. Spike'll take either one. So it's a let-down when Harris chews his ice and says:
"I get a file for every job after that Watcher in Miami."
"Which one is that then?"
"Graham Higgins." Who Spike doesn't know from Adam - well, a selection of Adams. Doesn't pay to be ignorant when it comes to the competition.
"The psychic. His dad was the inventor and he invented a way to attune a brain to the next plane or something." Harris puts the glass down, wipes his hand through his hair and looks like a man reliving a moment. And not a pleasant one. He shakes his head like a dog, flicking Spike with water and sweat. "Seriously wiggy."
There could be a moment in which Spike considers asking after Anya's health but he doesn't. "What's in my file?"
"Spike - formerly known as William the Bloody - saved the world a bunch of times. Allergic to stakes, sunlight and garlic. Partial to Tennessee whiskey."
Spike snorts whiskey into his sinuses. Sniffs it back and swigs a swallow. "I want to see the file that says that, mate."
"You can't," Harris says, insufferable, grinning, idiotic, young, piratical in a black patch with a day's stubble. "It was top secret. I ate it on the 95 south of Petersburg with a bag of Doritos and a Coke."
"One of these days, I'm gonna look that up."
"Hear it often?"
"Spike, I work for the council. I hear it every day." He hefts his duffel over a shoulder like a working man now - not a warrior.
Spike leaves his tumbler behind. Doesn't fancy sweeping up glass with Harris in the house. "Thought you were working for the Council in Africa." He's got his back to Harris but Harris is upwind and doesn't like that question. His smell's sour under nacho cheese dust and sweat.
"I was redeployed."
Spike considers it on his way up the stairs. One hand on his cane, one on the banister and he'll take Harris' head off if he makes a comment on how long it takes Spike to put one foot in front of the other up a staircase. "Lot of that going around these days," he says when Harris doesn't seem likely to comment.
Harris is throwing off heat not far from his back and Spike can smell the sweat. "They offered me medical leave. I took a transfer." Harris sniffs. Armpit, shirt, bag - whatever it is Spike can already tell him:
"You need a shower."
"Water heater's broken."
"You need a hot shower in this weather?"
"There's three things I never turn down anymore:" Harris holds up three fingers of illustration, "a hot shower, a hot meal and a soft bed."
"Working on it."
Spike turns on the landing to find Harris grinning again. Grinning, sweating and unapologetic. "Don't you know if it feels good you shouldn't do it? Bad for you, feeling good."
"I say bring on the bad. Also the bed and I'll tackle your water heater for totally selfish reasons." Harris throws his duffel through the doorway when Spike points to his room. Lands like it's stuffed with clothes, maybe a pair of boots and book. "Take me to your boiler room."
After, Spike's got time to think - listening to the clank, clink, clatter of a man and a water heater reaching an agreement - and snoop. Do as he bloody well pleases in his own bloody home.
Turns out Harris does have a book in his duffel and Spike's sitting on the bed reading it when its sweating owner crests the landing. "Don't tell me the ending,"'s all Harris says, strips off his shirt and drops it in a corner, rifles through the pile of clothes Spike left folded on the end of the bed and picks up shirt, boxers, baggy shorts.
"Found your stash of contraband." Spike closes the book on his stomach and rattles a pill bottle.
"You've got me there, Spike. I'm cleverly smuggling antibiotics under my own name for my own use. I'm a one-man crime syndicate." Harris adds a towel and a significant look. "Shower?"
Spike points the direction and doesn't budge.
Neither does Harris. "The guided tour's over, huh?"
Spike grinds his knuckles in over the knee and props the book open on his chest. "Gonna find out how it ends so I can spoil it for you."
Which gets Harris moving and quipping and being Harris-like again. "And they said you weren't evil anymore."
Spike licks his thumb and turns a page. "Shows what they know."
Harris after a shower is a Harris with more to say. More about cornices, moldings. Shingle nails and drywall screws.
Spike tunes out in minutes and listens to the nightlife come crawling out of its dank holes outside, but the house has hot water and that's a first since Spike moved in. There's a fruity damp smell from whatever Harris used to make himself clean and Spike's scars itch and crawl like they know how good warm water'll feel. Very.
He's thinking about ways to make his excuses as soon as the hot water heater replenishes itself while Harris is tucking into a bowl of canned soup fresh from the microwave like it's gourmet and talking shop between mouthfuls. Spike returns to the program when Harris says, "And it's a really really good thing you didn't choose the Baltimore house when the council offered you your choice of recuperative retreats."
"Why's that then?" He stops himself before asking 'No hot water?'
Harris pauses the narrative and the soup for a gulp of water. Eats like a starving man these days. But then - he's skinny. Might've starved. Could've.
"Old Indian burial ground. North wing keeps burning down in the middle of the night. Probably will again. They keep rebuilding it." His spoon hovers, making little circles in the air over his food. He shrugs it off. "But there was no otherworldly syphilis which - believe me - is a lot worse than the normal kind." And digs back into his food like a man who hasn't been discussing syphilis and burning houses.
Their line of work has a way of changing a man.
Or a vampire.
Harris lifts his bowl and slurps and Spike's expecting him to stick out his tongue and start licking when the bowl thumps onto the table and Harris picks up his water glass again. "Your turn."
"My turn for what?"
"There was this Slayer during the Boxer Rebellion. Ever told you about her?" Spike knows what Harris means, wants, asked for. Answers the raised eyebrows with a snort and a shrug. "Bjorn's Seventh Circle Fuath Demon - nasty buggers. Battle to the death - contest over whether he could rip me apart before I tore his throat out."
"And when you say rip you apart you mean - what - leg, arm?"
"It was like going through a sodding thresher."
For the first time since pulling up in the blue sedan, Harris winces. Not much satisfaction in it. "So the Raggedy Andy look - not just a fancy new vampire body modification."
Spike puts on the American accent. "You should see the other guy." Flexes his fingers and picks up his glass neatly - doesn't feel like mentioning what happens when he picks up a glass with the other hand. Doesn't work as well. He takes a drink and lets the accent go. "Isn't the first time. I'll mend."
"Yeah," Harris says and leaves it at that. Drains his glass and sets it aside with his hands folded over a stomach that curves in toward his spine these days. "Hey - Spike - thanks for saving the world again."
He actually only saved Lower Manhattan. But he takes the thanks with a nod, a swallow of whiskey and his cue to exeunt with the bottle stage left. "Seems to be a habit I can't quit." His legs aren't steady when he stands and the left still grinds around the lower femur. Twinges in the hip.
"I get that," Harris says and tips his chair back on two legs.
Spike gestures with the bottle. Upstairs. "Master suite's down the hall from yours."
"I'll let you know if vengeful Indian spirits are burning down the house." Harris closes his eyes, looks like he's going to nap there in a chair tipped on two legs. For all Spike knows, he might.
Harris waves a hand.
Spike waves the bottle and gimps his way up the stairs.
Into the bathroom with the blacked out windows, Victorian lamps, ugly olive green retrofit tub and potted ferns. He cranks on the hot tap and leaves the cold alone while he sheds to skin and scars in a room full of steam.
The hot water soaks into his scars from the outside the way the whiskey soaks in on the inside and he submerges to the bottom of the tub like a crocodile.
And the whiskey bottle sits on the rim like prey.
He thinks about Harris downstairs on two legs of the chair, rocking like the breeze from the ceiling fan's enough to knock him down. Thinks about Harris thanking him for saving the world and there's a first time for everything.
After a while, he hears muffled drilling in the direction of the kitchen where a cabinet needs new hinges. Looked like it hadn't been opened in thirty years and Spike hadn't been about to try. He drains some of the cooling water and turns the hot tap on again with his toes.
Wonders what Harris found in the cabinet.
"So there was a family of mice living in one of your kitchen cabinets." Harris takes a gulp of milk - drains half the glass and spoons cereal into his mouth. "I called the exterminator."
"Call the pound." Spike crumbles berba weed into his blood. Shakes in Tabasco. "Order a cat."
Takes one of Harris' biscotti and dunks.
"That's really not as gross as it used to be."
Spike takes a bite and examines the banana-cinnamon monstrosity in hand. "Your taste in baked goods is."
"Hey, I don't ask you to steal from my plate."
Spike finishes the biscotti anyway. Likes the crunch.
But only a fiend would put banana in biscotti.
"You didn't buy these from the shop on DeRenne, did you?"
"Yeah." Harris plucks up another and breaks it up into his cereal bowl.
"Owner's a fiend."
His hand stops over his spoon. "Seriously?"
"Huh," Harris says, unconcerned, and takes a big mouthful. "Those fiends sure can bake."
"Been around, haven't you?"
"You can take the boy out of Sunnydale," 's all Harris says and helps himself to another.
"Don't you know what fiends put into their bread products?"
"What - you drink blood and you're squeamish over a little bone?" Harris is enjoying all this way too much, crunching louder, showing more teeth. Gives Spike a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach and he takes a long swig of blood.
"Poof," Harris responds with equanimity enough to make Spike bark laughter that pulls at things healing inside until he presses a hand up against his ribs and lifts two shaky fingers. Harris salutes him with one in return and drinks the milk from his cereal bowl. "So I was thinking of shingling the roof first. Keep the outside out's the first rule of emergency carpentry."
"It's not an emergency," Spike protests without heart. It could be an emergency. Hard to tell. He's lived in a crypt. He's lived in Wolfram and Hart.
But then - Harris has lived in that sodding awful basement.
Might know an emergency when he sees one.
"And I'm hiring a yard crew to trim up the trees before that branch over your bedroom pokes a hole in the roof."
All right. Might be an emergency. "You do that."
Harris stands up, tucks his empty glass under his arm and grabs the empty bowl and the plate with the last biscotti. "Great. I'm going into town. If the yard crew shows up before I do, don't scare them off. And don't kill anyone."
Spike's not likely to - got a soul now, after all.
And it's got problems with the idea of killing for fun.
But it's another warm feeling, the idea Harris feels a need to tell him not to kill his hired men. Respect for what Spike was - or at least Spike chooses to interpret it that way. And the scars on his face pull tight when he grins. "Wouldn't do that. I'm a hero now, Harris."
Harris doesn't disagree.
Harris doesn't disengage either - looks fascinated and follows the scars that feel raised under Spike's fingers every time he rubs his face. Spike wants to ask Harris if he likes what he sees. Doesn't. Yet. Saving that for the right time because he might be a hero but he's not good.
"We're really gonna have to have a talk about vampire healing some time."
"I don't give demonstrations," Spike says and drops his fingers away from his cheek and into his lap.
Harris is smiling, scratching under the patch. "Fair enough," and Spike watches him go through the kitchen doors like a bloke in a sitcom that's not very funny.
He stays there in the dining room - or a dining room - only one he's bothered to furnish at any rate. Puts his feet on the table and lights a cigarette, holds it between finger and thumb and smokes.
Then when he hears Harris' car door slam and the sedan pull away, he crushes out the cigarette and goes to stretch out for a nap in the parlor because a nagging Victorian part of him insists sleep is good for healing - and it's insisting louder than the part whinging 'I'm a fucking vampire - I'm already dead and don't need sodding naptime.'
He's not above napping to shut it up - in one room after another. Upstairs and down because he can.
Because there's a wheelchair shut up in a dilapidated shed behind the house and Spike's got plans to burn it all down on Guy Fawkes night. Might even dance around the blaze.
He'll invite Harris to join him if he's still there.
The house creaks.
Harris'll still be there.
The thought's comforting and Spike doesn't examine it too hard.
Because Harris isn't so bad anymore and Spike mentions this in the evening when they're sitting on sun-bleached lawn chairs in the back garden with a bonfire of all the dead branches Harris' yard crew piled up in the afternoon. Efficient. There's a collection of tombstones under the trees a way off - came with the property - and Spike catches Harris smiling at them. "You've changed, Harris." It sounds like a compliment. It's meant to. "Since Sunnydale."
He gets the same distracted dreamy smile, a shrug. And after Harris disappears into the house and returns, another beer and an answer. Things move slow in Savannah. "I guess so. I used to be afraid all the time. But it's like the more you see, the less you're afraid of. The scariest thing's the unknown and you get to asking yourself 'what's the worst that can happen?' and it's pretty bad."
Spike peels at the edge of his beer label with his thumbnail. "Funny thing about the worst - you meet it and its sodding larger brother's always waiting around the corner with a big stick."
"I hear that," Harris says like it's abstract - something he's only heard. Read in a book somewhere.
"What makes a bloke like you retire to fixing windows?"
Harris' beer hisses and spits like the cat they still haven't got. He takes a swallow, wipes foam off his lip, looks at the tombstones and the moon and the fire and stretches his legs in front of him. Shrugs and shuffles and tucks an arm behind his head so a line of white skin shows at the end of his shirtsleeve. "I like fixing windows."
"Something happen to you in Africa?"
Harris takes a long slow drink, gives a short sweet answer. "Sure. The worst. Or its big brother."
It's not a comment Spike can let go but these days he's not the kind of bloke who needs to obsess so he files it away and goes on watching the bonfire and smoking his cigarettes. Harris goes on drinking his beer with foam on the top and beads of water on the sides that he shakes off his hand after setting down the can every time.
"So where does a guy go to have fun in a place like this?" Harris asks the shrinking bonfire and crosses his legs at the ankles. He's got his shoes off and there's fresh grass clippings stuck to his toes.
"I'm having fun," Spike says and it's not a lie.
Harris looks at him like he's pretty sure it is.
Spike looks at the bonfire, smokes his cigarette and drinks his whiskey because what's time to a dead man after all?
"Okay so you're having a rip roaring time. Where does a guy go to make friends and influence people?"
Spike flicks the butt into the flames and licks his lips. "I'll give you the address."
"Better not be an old ladies' tea party."
"Haven't met the old ladies in these parts yet, mate. There's Greek parties less wild than an afternoon society tea in town." It's not completely true but Harris is expecting him to lie and truth be known, Spike's getting edgy for the not lying. A little white around the edges puts them both at ease enough to share a grin and a raised eyebrow.
Harris scratches under his patch. "Are they gonna dress me up like Anna Nicole Smith and make me dance?"
And Spike has the novel experience of being unable to tell if Harris is shitting him or not. "There more to this story?"
"Not much more," Harris says and drains his beer. The foam clings to his upper lip and he wipes away the residue with his forearm and that's that. They sit and watch the flames die and sparks fly and owls come to roost in the branches of the trees over the little collection of headstones.
It's Harris who stands up first and stretches. Harris who isn't nocturnal and bored. "We've got enough hot water for a shower a few times a day but I wouldn't count on having enough for a few hours after I'm done with mine."
"Fair enough." Spike doesn't stand. It's warmer here than it is in the house and there'll be foxes creeping out of the woods soon.
"Did you mean it?"
Spike looks at him. Meant a lot of things but he hasn't come this far admitting them all willy-nilly.
"About the address."
"Yeah. Nice place. You'll like it."
Harris doesn't say thanks but he salutes Spike with his empty glass and Spike takes what he can get.
Considers a trip into town the next day.
Not much else to do and he's been meaning to call on that special taxi service Miss Magnolia slipped him a number for, taped to the paper wrapping of her red velvet cake.
Spike's never been one to turn down a lady's suggestion.
Well - most suggestions.
The ones that aren't anatomically impossible.
So when the next day comes, Spike spends most of it from the time after Harris leaves the house in the morning until the minute Harris walks into the piano bar at half past four sitting in a corner booth with his cane tipped against his leg and a mint julep in hand. "The Tanner family's having a reception for their youngest. Back from Afghanistan," he says while Harris does a double take. "Thought we might pay our respects."
"Are you sure he's gonna appreciate a one-eyed stranger showing up to his coming home party?" Harris sits down. Orders a coke and fiddles with sugar packets. Shifts around on the bench like he's trying to find a comfortable position.
"Don't think he'd mind much really." Spike drains his drink. Raises it with a smile and a wink for a refill. "He's dead."
"Did you just invite me to a wake?"
"Course not." Spike trades his empty glass for one that's full and swishes the ice around. "It's a party. Everyone goes. Death's no reason to stop having fun."
"He's not - "
Harris makes a vague gesture at Spike and holds two fingers down from his mouth like fangs. Wiggles them around. "You know?"
"A bunny rabbit with dental problems?" Because a man's got to be allowed to have his fun with bloody stupid questions. He silently debates the difficulty of navigating cobblestone streets with a cane, sods it and waves them another round.
Waves Harris his first.
"What'll you be having?"
"Coke," Harris says with predictable regularity.
"It'll rot your teeth."
Harris runs his tongue around his teeth, bulging his lips and ending with a smack. He says, "They're okay," and Spike orders his next whiskey straight. "Did you know you can buy Coca Cola products all over the world?"
"Hadn't looked," even though he had. Noticed it in the seventies - disapproved then too.
"Bottled Coke's safe to drink pretty much anywhere."
"Beer's only safe until you drink it. After that it pretty much increases your jeopardy exponentially until you're looking for your weapon - or your pants. Both sometimes."
And Spike digests that one while they wait for their drinks because Harris has a point. Spike takes a sip of whiskey anyway and rewinds the conversation. "So - coming or not?"
"I'm still feeling my way around this 'party for a dead guy' thing." Harris' hand is faster than Spike's mouth and it's up before Spike gets his snark lined up and ready to fire. "And before you accuse me of being discriminatory toward the unliving I will bring up two important facts: one, you're way more lively than this dead guy and two: when have I not gone out of my way to discriminate against you?"
Spike can think of a time or three. Five or six in the last few days but he lets Harris have this one and licks a drop of whiskey off his thumb. "That a yes?"
"Sure." Harris waves a straw and plunks it into the glass. "I think I can free up time on my busy social calendar if you can."
"Make it worth your while," Spike offers from a place that's responding a lot more to the whiskey than the rest of him.
"How exactly?" Harris asks like a man who's learned to be suspicious.
Africa does that to a bloke.
"Know a bird who'd love an evening on your arm - " is what Spike intends to say.
Doesn't get past 'bird' before Harris is shaking his head.
"Or a bloke if that's your fancy." Because Spike's never been one not to change direction where necessary.
Harris tosses back his coke like it's a whiskey and keeps shaking his head. "No. No birds. No blokes."
Self conscious? Harris? Spike sorts through a jumble of memories. Could be. "She's easy," he offers and Harris chokes on his drink. "A packet of rubbers and you'll be all - "
But Harris is pushing away. Standing up. And that's not in the plan at all and there's a piece of Spike that's disappointed enough to hold up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "No blokes," Harris says again and doesn't sit down. "No birds. And no condoms."
And Spike's trunk of memories labeled 'Sunnydale - never bloody open' tosses out one last gem. "Cake."
"Cake as tall as you are dripping with - sweet gooey things, yeah? Put five pounds on those scrawny bones of yours in a night. Steaks big as your arm. Fried chicken enough to feed an army."
Harris swallows. "No blokes, no birds."
And Spike takes pity. "Not a one. I'll keep 'em off."
"This fried chicken - really fried?"
"In honest to sodding goodness grease."
Harris moans and sits like a man deprived of the kind of cooking solid young American men are supposed to dream of and Spike slouches deeper into the seat and rubs a twanging muscle in his leg. Squints at Harris. He's not gonna ask - not that stupid and surprisingly willing to make an effort to keep Harris on the other side of the table.
Orders him another coke and whispers in the waitress' ear.
It comes back with a cherry floating in the ice and Spike feigns innocence.
Harris doesn't question but the cherry disappears with another quiet little moan of appreciation and a checkmark on Spike's mental clipboard next to the question marks.
He leaves them alone until they're in Harris' bedroom and the sun's down and the window's open, curtains blowing in the Southern night breeze.
It's all in the contract practically. Blowing billowing white curtains on a hot Georgia night and Spike's never been one to buck tradition - oh all right he's bucked more tradition than a winning rodeo bull - but he's never been one to buck poetry.
"If there's a dress code - or even a standard," Harris is saying from beneath a plain gray shirt he's struggling into, swimming into, "I am really really gonna stick out."
"You'll stick out anyway, mate. Haven't lived in Savannah for generations, have you?"
"I haven't lived anywhere for generations." Harris' head pops through and his hair's a riot of curls and static. "Unlike you and that's gotta give you an edge fitting in anywhere."
"Haven't lived here for generations." Spike fiddles with the end of his cane to suppress the urge to take Harris' hair in hand. "I'm as outsider here as you."
"They don't mind outsiders at parties for dead people?" The bed dips when Harris sits next to him to slip into and tie his boots and only gives Spike a sideways look when Spike reaches over and smoothes a lock of hair into place.
Spike ignores it. "Nah. We'll be something else to talk about when we've gone. We're - exotic."
And Harris sits up, hands on his knees and gives Spike a long look. Smells faintly of antiseptic, sawdust and blood up close - carpentry smells. "You just love that don't you?"
He can't deny it. So he doesn't. "Moses stays put in Savannah and the mountain comes to him. Eventually."
Harris huffs, shakes his hair out of his face and straightens his patch. "So now I'm a mountain."
Spike reviews. "At least a hill."
"Yeah. Okay. But I'm getting fried chicken out of this."
"Eat 'till you burst."
Harris licks his lips. Like a man starving and Spike's aware of how narrow his belly is under the shirt. "Yeah."
Puts another light on Harris' denial and Spike's wondering whether he left something behind in Africa or picked something up when Harris gives up on his hair and stands.
Spike shakes himself out of his list of possibilities on the mystery marked 'Harris' and lays his cane across his knees. "What're you lookin' at?"
"You. You owe me a dead guy and home cooked Southern food. Time's a wasting and the guy's not getting any deader."
The dead guy hasn't gotten any deader before they arrive at the party which is in full swing with or without them - and Spike's yesterday's news because Harris is the toast of the room. There's not a bird in the place who doesn't want to feed him - and once he's got it straight in his head that's all they want to do tonight, he plants himself in a corner and eats.
While Spike drinks and watches and Harris is surprisingly neat for the volume he's consuming. Chews each bite all the way and washes it down with more sodding Coca Cola and goofy grins at the middle-aged women flocking to him. He snorts into his whiskey and accepts a cigar from a box when it's passed his way. It hasn't escaped his notice that while Harris is chewing he can't answer questions.
Not that this lot asks them direct anyway.
"What's his story, William?" It's a slow drawl - not remarkable in itself in a place like this but Spike knows this one. "Your new hired man."
Spike leans into the lighter's flame and fills his mouth with smoke thick enough to chew, rolls it around his tongue for a few. "Not mine to tell, John." Because Spike's not prepared to admit Harris is as much mystery to him as he is to the good people of Savannah.
"They say he lost his eye in Africa." Because John's not the type to be put off and Spike makes a note how fast a story like Africa gets around.
"Who says he's been to Africa?"
"Best place to pick up malaria in this day and age. Sherman's Aunt Georgiana filled his prescription."
It's the rumor mill that gives Spike a chill up his spine. Wonders how much the town knows about him because god knows they'd treat him like a bloody celebrity if they knew his history. He takes another drink. Drains it. He's not interested in being feted for William the Bloody's reputation.
Not that man anymore. "He left there a long time ago." Spike raises his empty glass because a man with an empty glass can't be expected not to refill it.
Harris has moved on to an old biddy's red velvet cake and looks like he's in a seventh heaven of sugars and fats. Sated and heavy-eyed.
Spike wedges a bottle of Wild Turkey under his arm and limps out to the veranda.
Dead guy wants a quiet place to think.
A quiet place to think that doesn't smell like deviled eggs but that's not in the plan once Harris makes an appearance with a plate of them in one hand and a coke in the other. He sets the coke down. Eats an egg.
Leans his elbows on the railing next to Spike's.
Offers the plate.
Spike looks at it. Sniffs the air. Heady with yolk and fat and paprika tingling at the back of his sinuses.
He takes one. Mrs. McNaughton's recipe's legend in these parts.
And for a bloody good reason.
"She said you like her recipe."
Spike licks yolk off his thumb. Shrugs. Checks behind him - but not to make sure she's not listening. Just - checks. "They're all right," he says and takes another.
"They're fattening me up." Harris is looking at the plate - and now Spike looks at him in natural light he's looking a little green in the gills. "You know - there used to be a time when it was actually my fondest dream to be surrounded by motherly types trying to feed me until I explode." He says it to the night. Casually.
"Yeah. And then I hit puberty and the girls got a lot younger and - " He licks his lips. Trails off. Drinks his coke and leaves the rest of the tray to Spike.
"Funny how you outgrow old dreams."
So it's them and the night and the plate of eggs and a full bottle of Wild Turkey Spike knows Harris isn't going to touch. Harris drains his coke and leaves it on the edge of a planter.
"Think we've respected dead guy enough?"
"His name's Robert." Spike tucks the bottle of Wild Turkey under his arm again. Leaves the glass. "Bobby."
And Harris looks off toward the parlor where the casket's surrounded by flowers and classical music. A big American flag and a closed lid. "Bobby," he says and they leave around the back through the old carriage gate and walk together down the street under the lamplights to Harris' blue sedan.
"Did you know him?" The engine's started and the question's late coming but Harris is looking at him when he asks. Spike twists off the cap on the Wild Turkey and takes a slug.
"Nah." Decent bloke. Ears too big, eyes too small. Bought everybody a pint on his way out.
"Are you drunk?"
Spike squints at Harris and does his best to decide whether this is a rhetorical question. "Could be."
Harris shifts into drive and pulls out into the street and Spike rests the bottle of Wild Turkey cool and solid between his legs. Squints his eyes because the street lamps are bright and Harris still drives like he's on a dirt track outside of Morocco. "Have a good time?"
The answer's a while coming. "Yeah. I might be pulling off the road to puke up a few thousand bites of cake and an entire family of chickens - but yeah."
Spike smiles. Closes his eyes. Wraps himself up in whiskey fumes and the ghosts of cheeseburgers, fries and American road food that emerge from the seat under him. Wonders how long Harris lived in his car. "That's all right then."
Wakes up in Harris' arms half way up the front porch steps but doesn't let on.
Easier to play dead when you're - well - dead.
"Jesus, you're heavy." Harris struggles with the keys and Spike's legs and the cane wedged under his arm and Spike lets himself lose a little more time till he feels his boots come off and the blankets come up and wrap around him and he stretches and burrows into them like a snake.
Doesn't open his eyes and embarrass them both until the light's out and the door's closed and he hears Harris puttering around in his room down the hall and maps it all aurally. Taps on. Patch off. Long pause that Spike imagines is Harris staring at himself in the mirror.
He squashes the impulse to go in there. Tell Harris it's a battle scar and doesn't matter.
Then there's the pump of the soap dispenser. More splashing.
Teeth being brushed and Harris doesn't bother with dental floss and the Victorian in Spike approves because he's never thought it healthy to run razor-sharp twine up into the gums.
Spike tunes out while the sounds get more human, zippers unzipping, toilet seat being raised - thinks about the methodical rhythm Harris has going instead and about human hygiene on the road in Africa. Thinks about grit in the eye socket and tunes in when he hears the squish and drip of the big bottle of saline and salt water running into the sink.
Falls asleep somewhere between the rattle of pill bottles and the squeak of Harris' bedsprings and doesn't wake up until after noon the next day.
Because bloody sodding Harris is on the roof with a hammer and a weakened vampire constitution's no match for Wild Turkey come home to roost so Spike pulls the pillow over his head and tries to go deaf in a dusty, feathery cocoon.
Wonders if Harris does laundry.
He used to.
But a lot's changed since they shared a basement and it's just as likely Spike'll be calling Three Little Maids - who're actually three really large maids with great grandchildren and a way with vinegar - who'll scour the place within an inch of its life as soon as look at it.
Spike stays under the pillow.
Not deaf - but grateful he doesn't have to breathe.
Falls asleep or passes out to hammering.
Wakes up to the smell of sweaty Harris in his doorway and the curtains glowing purple around the edges with sunset. "What?"
Harris reaches back. Scratches his spine. Reaches up. Scratches his neck. "Tell me there's enough hot water for a long shower."
Spike just stares at him.
Which is apparently good enough because Harris grabs his elbow and stretches until he cracks and slumps like someone's removed key vertebrae. "Thank god. Hold my calls."
And the house is quiet but for shuffling feet and running water and Spike closes his eyes again because its the thing to do and liquor's quicker when a bloke's on the mend and Spike's not prepared to admit he's capable of overdoing it so he sleeps it off instead.
Wakes up to a cleaner Harris sitting on the side of his bed and the room's dark and stuffy. "What?"
He has the feeling they've been there before so he stares at the way Harris' hair curls into the neck of his tee shirt like little snakes and waits for it all to come back to him.
"What'd you fix?"
"The loose shingles on the roof, the shutters on the first floor and the attic stairs." Harris is digging a thumb into his palm. Rubbing. The rough skin makes a sandpapery sound against his hand and Spike thinks about working men and gentlemen. "Which - by the way - were pretty much booby trapped. You didn't go up there a lot did you?"
Spike hasn't been up there at all.
The stairs are narrow with a wicked kink at the top and no hand rail but he'll impale himself on his own cane before he admits it. "Nothing worth seeing."
"Haven't been up there have you?"
"Are you kidding? There's great stuff in the attic. The guys from Antiques Road Show would cream their pants."
Spike sits up.
A bolt of blind fire slithers down his spine and through his left hip. "Ponces like that would get it up for a load of old wood."
"Spike," Harris says - seriously enough Spike really looks at him. "I almost got it up for that load of old wood."
"Probably full of rot anyway." Spike slips a hand under the blanket and rubs his hip like an old man and ignores Harris' raised eyebrow.
"Yeah - well - rotten old things aren't always useless." Harris rakes a hand through his hair and scatters water over Spike's blankets and Spike's got a feeling Harris is talking about him.
He squints at him but Harris only looks back at him with a kind of mild, open, benevolence.
"So I was thinking I'd turn the old scullery into a workroom. I'll need to replace the newel posts on the main staircase anyway," which is only the beginning of another running monologue Spike didn't ask for and doesn't understand - turning lathe, scored screws, galley rail - delivered from the comfort of Spike's own bedside.
With water dripping down his back.
Fiddling with a callus on his thumb.
Like he belongs there.
Harris does belong there because that's what Harris does. It's not long before he's talking about Mister Ashley and Miss Pauline asking after Spike in the market and Doctor Jefferson sending him home with free samples of a cream for the scars on Spike's face.
And Harris hasn't told the doctor they won't do any good.
Won't listen to it either.
Spike fends it off. "I'm a vampire, mate. We don't take medicine."
"It's not medicine." Harris insists and shoves the tube into Spike's hand and that's done with it and he goes to the kitchen where Spike can hear him banging around making coffee from the cheap canister of grounds he bought in the supermarket.
Harris fits in and belongs places.
It's what he does.
Spike tosses the tube of scar cream onto the bed and puts on a shirt before going downstairs because that's what one does in Savannah.
"Ta. Cream, no sugar."
It's cold in the kitchen but Harris' feet are bare on the tile floor and he hums out of tune while he drops pastries into the toaster. Spike should have a word with him about that - something with the right measure of bland sarcasm about getting slow and fat.
Spike has a vague sense of activity going on from sunrise to sunset while he's asleep. Activity with Harris in the middle of it.
And when Harris offers the plate, Spike takes one, breaks off a piece and dunks it into his coffee. Nothing comes out the way Spike intends it to and this conversation's no exception when he says, "So, malaria," like it's normal over the breakfast table.
"That's the diagnosis," Harris answers like it's normal for him too.
Maybe it is.
Normal for them. "Had it long?"
"About a year." Harris doesn't dunk his pastry in his coffee, just eats, getting crumbs everywhere. Only difference is he stops to pick up the crumbs and eat them too. "The first part was the worst but they have a pretty good hospital in Malabo. Who knew."
He doses his coffee with the contents of a little pink packet and stirs.
Spike wants to ask where Malabo is. Doesn't. Says instead, "I knew you had it," even though he didn't. "Smelled it on you."
Harris keeps stirring, smile of a Buddha. "You vamps. Always sniffing things."
"Damn right," Spike says like he's made a point and drinks his coffee. It's strong. Bitter. Cheap. But it's hot too and feels good going down. The window's open and the air smells like cut grass and damp rot. "You only left Africa six months ago."
Spike made a phone call.
The smile doesn't change, doesn't go anywhere. "Time flies when you're having fun."
"Liked it there?"
For the first time, Harris looks like he's considering. Really thinking. "Yeah. Parts of it." And Spike doesn't push for more.
"I hated the bloody place."
"Parts of it," Harris says again and nods.
Spike lifts his coffee.
"To bloody Africa," Harris says and seals the toast.
They drink to it.
Drink to it and eat strawberry store brand toaster pastries and listen to a garbage truck rumble down the road without stopping. "The quiet was nice when it was quiet," Harris says and gets up to put the dishes in the washer. It's the same avocado green as the bathtub upstairs and the hinges used to squeak until Harris and his oil can came around.
Harris refills Spike's coffee cup and leaves the room and Spike's still cupping the warmth and watching the steam when Harris comes back.
With the tube of cream from Doctor Jefferson. "Told you vamps don't use medicine."
"That's okay." Harris pulls up a chair and bumps bony knees against Spike's thigh. Punctures the top of the tube and squeezes a dollop onto his fingers. His fingers are surprisingly cold against Spike's skin and they don't feel bad running over the scars. Rubbing into his jaw.
Into his neck.
Around his neck.
Goes to wash it off and leaves the cream in the cabinet over the sink and Spike remembers.
Harris fixes things.
He spends the day sitting there at the table, sits through Harris sweeping the kitchen and repairing a wobbly chair leg.
Sits through Harris eating lunch and eats the crackers for Harris' soup even though they're the last in the box.
Sits through Harris bumping and clattering in the scullery and carrying dusty armfuls out the kitchen door with his arms and ankles folded while Harris works up a sweat.
Sits through Harris reheating a bucket of chicken and containers of mashed potatoes and corn and grumbles when Harris chivvies him into the dining room with plates and napkins and wings and a mug of blood. "You're not my housekeeper."
"I think the cream is helping," Harris replies, addressing nothing and biting into a chicken leg.
Spike doesn't reach up to touch his face. "If I wanted a housekeeper, I'd bloody well hire one."
"No, really." Harris licks grease off his thumb. "The scars aren't all ooky purple in the middle anymore."
"And I'm not an invalid. I can take care of my own needs."
"Are you gonna eat that?"
It's as close as they ever come to an argument and that night, Harris listens to music through headphones in his room.
Full of pathos.
Spike thinks it could be Miles Davis and dreams in black and white, chasing Harris' Vespa through Italian streets, asking at cafés and hotels if anyone's seen the one-eyed American.
Nobody's seen Harris.
But he's always been.
A bald man on a donkey gives him a wheel of cheese.
Harris left it for him.
Awake, he puzzles it through to the sound of the coffee grinder and four-legged things chasing each other through the greenery outside, along the gutters, down the spouts like thieving nursery rhymes and Spike runs his hands over his face and traces the scars. Tries to decide if they're less raised than they were the day before.
Harris is standing in the doorway.
"What?" Spike drops his hands to the blankets.
"There's a guy at the door with a couple of big boxes from Angel. He says he's got orders to stay there until you sign for them."
"What's in them?"
"You've got to be joking."
Harris shrugs. Smiles his smile. Leaves his hands in his pockets like they haven't got any better place to be. "Come downstairs, sign for the packages and find out."
They're not actually garden gnomes.
"Got you out of bed."
"Wanker." They're Harm's things and Spike doesn't want them.
Little silk pillows she used to put -
Spike folds the sides of the box over and under and kicks it across the room.
He lets Harris put the cream on his face without comment while the coffee burbles through the machine. "Vampires don't make wills," he informs Harris.
"There's a lot of things vampires don't do." He's mild and serious and his fingers are warm after washing dishes. Rough after a lifetime being Harris.
"Seem to recall a lot of things you don't do too." Spike couldn't say where the words came from but there they lie.
Harris wipes his fingers on a napkin. Caps the tube and takes it to the sink. Spike's expecting him to say something like 'times change' or 'I'm not the guy you knew'.
He comes back to the table and sits across from Spike with the newspaper. "What's a six letter word starting with O and having to do with the eyes?" Harris has misspelled and scratched out 'optical' and 'optometri-'.
"Should use a pencil, not a pen."
Harris fills in the word and puts the pen down. "Yeah but then where's the challenge?"
He's also neatly lettered g-r-e-i-f into the boxes below ocular and Spike corrects it while his back is turned. "Do many crossword puzzles?"
Harris comes back with more coffee, squints at the puzzle and gives Spike a long look. Puts it down and runs a hand through his hair. Tugs a handful and lets it go. "No."
"Number twelve down is osprey."
Spike's engrossed in a sixteen letter word for confusion intersecting 'ocular' when Harris goes to fix the railing on the verandah.
"What's a three letter word for obvious?" He asks when Harris comes back in.
He doesn't hesitate. "Duh."
"Very funn - bollocks."
"It was duh?"
"Don't know why these're so popular anyway."
Harris drops a battered tool belt on the table and mops his face. A line of white skin shows where his shirt sleeve rides up. "You really need to get out more - you know that?"
"Look who's forgetting who took whom to whose party," Spike says with a vague feeling he's lost ground somewhere. Curses the crossword puzzle while Harris chops his way through a thicket of whos and whoms and whoses.
"You took me to a wake," he says when he gets there.
"Now - I may be rusty on the whole taking people places thing - but I'm pretty sure going to a wake isn't standard operating procedure under these circumstances."
"Is when you're a vampire."
This gives Harris pause. "Are you serious?"
Spike lets him go on pausing. Fills in 'uppity' on six down and drops the pen. "Nah. But I had you going."
"You need to get out more," Harris says again like he's going somewhere with this.
"Hooligans is playing at the Wynnsong11."
It is right and the teenagers standing in line look centuries younger and miles away from Harris who pays for their tickets, buys the popcorn and sticky sodas and Spike's tempted to make a quip about their first date but he doesn't.
Eats his popcorn instead and puts his good leg up on the seat in front of him next to Harris' and absorbs himself in the delicate tale of boys, balls and bashing heads over a little footie.
"You ever miss it?" Harris asks on the way out of the theater, greasy bag of leftovers swinging casually at the end of his arm.
Spike doesn't answer. Says instead, "You ever miss Sunnydale?"
"Sometimes," because Harris is more forthcoming that way and lets Spike get away without answering and walks slow like it's because he likes to walk slow and not because Spike has to.
It takes Spike till they're on the dirt road that leads to the house to say, "Thanks, mate. For the show."
And Harris smiles his smile and doesn't answer because that's what the new Harris does.
He hovers in Spike's doorway too, picking a hangnail, being there. He smells like popcorn.
Spike's hands are on his buckle when Harris says, "Night, Spike," and goes away.
The tube of scar cream sits on the edge of Spike's bathroom sink.
He carries it to Harris' room and hands it to him.
There's an exchange of looks.
Harris' says, 'I thought vampires didn't take medicine.'
Spike's says, 'Don't make me say it, git.'
Harris' fingers are warm on his face.