Title: These Nights
Summary: Post-series, living together
Disclaimer: I love but do not own them
Feedback: Yes, please
Written for: fall_for_sx
Note: Due to an RL emergency (parent, hospital, ongoing), the piece I’ve been working on for fall_for_sx remains, unhappily, unfinished. But I appreciate how difficult it is to keep communities like this going, and am so grateful for the work of the mods and contributors, and I really didn’t want to bail. So I wrote something very, very quickly, and I’m passing it off as a series of connected ficlets. It’s not something I’d typically consider ready for posting; in fact, I’ve barely had time to proofread. I hope you enjoy it anyway.
"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, back in the basement with you."
It's just after midnight, and Xander is singing as he hauls in the last of the moving boxes.
"What are you on about?" Spike asks, elbows-deep in a carton of books.
"Stuck in the Middle With You. The song. But, you know, personalized."
Spike's eyes roll, but his mouth quirks into a grin.
It's a nice building, in a nice neighborhood, in a nice town, and so it's called garden level instead of basement. But whatever name you use, here they are, below ground yet again. "Back to our roots, as it were," Spike says.
The realtor was unfazed by their requests, which Xander could only imagine were the opposite of normal: a basement, please. And as little light as possible -- the fewer windows the better. Extensive renovations required? Great!
Xander didn't think she'd even heard his lame explanation about sun allergies. She'd just stared at Spike, unconsciously licking her lips, chest heaving slightly beneath her tailored blouse. Spike had blinked at her, slowly, once, and let his gaze settle on her face. The patented, lascivious Spike-look, which was usually all it took to stop curious questions.
This kind of thing bothered Xander, in the beginning; made him jealous, to his own chagrin. It doesn't bother him anymore. It's a useful trick, and these days, it's put to use for both their sakes. And anyway, when Spike turns that look on him, he really, really means it. Xander's learned to tell the difference.
Xander's worked on the place, for weeks, and every moment has been a joy: tearing down walls, laying floors, hanging shelves and cabinets. His heart and soul are right there, in each smoothly sanded edge and varnished surface. Everything spare, clean, plain -- exactly how he likes it. Then, Spike fills it up with satin and velvet and thick, drippy candles, handily destroying Xander's stylistic efforts. He's okay with it, though. Spike's aesthetic is firmly fixed, ingrained over decades, unlike Xander's more recently acquired tastes. Xander wants Spike to feel easy, to enjoy the simple, mundane pleasure of being comfortable in his surroundings. Wants it to be a place Spike wants to stay.
Besides, relationships are all about compromise, right? And Xander’s learned the value of compromise, understands that concession can be a gift. Anyway, turns out, velvet curtains are particularly functional at beating back daylight from the bedroom’s small windows. And decor is a minor compromise, compared to others you make when you live with a vampire. When you love one.
The fireplace works, and the mantle's been painted to a high white gloss. Spike loves a good fire, and they have one nearly every night. He sprawls before it, limbs arranged at elegant angles, resting his head on Xander's legs. He's beautiful -- always beautiful, but especially by firelight, where his pale skin glows with reflected color. A faint, pink hue, like the opalescent inside of a shell. Xander's fingers comb through Spike's hair, nails scratching against the scalp; and Spike stretches, luxuriously, curling onto his side.
Xander's content. He could happily do this forever.
"You're like a cat," he says, indulgently. "Stroke you're fur and you're at my mercy. Bet I could get you to purr."
He feels Spike's smile against his thigh. "That's an old Watcher's tale," he says. "Besides, they're independent buggers, cats are. Best not forget my saucer of cream, or I might just wander off."
Xander forces himself not to flinch. Spike does wander off, but he's always come back, so far.
It's been a long day, and Xander wants these things, in this precise order: shower, food, sleep. But he can hear Spike, before he even opens the door -- thumping sounds, vicious cursing, a rumble en route to a growl. Xander pauses, tensing worriedly, then steps inside. Spike's staring furiously into a cooler, a blood packet clutched with dangerous force in each hand.
"Idiots are supposed to be in the business of delivering blood," Spike's fuming, indignant. "You'd expect they'd understand the distinction between O-neg and O-pos! I've half a mind to go out there and teach them the difference!"
Spike paces about the room, throwing blood disgustedly to the floor, getting his rant on. Xander feels the tension drain from his body, the watery whoosh of relief. It's such a trivial annoyance, so easily addressed, that it's clear Spike's enjoying the anger; merely exercising emotions that are a rarity nowadays. It happens, sometimes: Spike slipping into game face, not out of aggression, or hunger, or fear, but simply for the opportunity to stretch the little-used muscles.
It's all so odd, yet oddly ordinary. Barely a bump in their inside-out version of day-to-day domesticity. Something wells up in him, suddenly, and there's an ache in his chest, and a lump in his throat, and his eyes are stinging. He tumbles into moments like this, from time to time. He's learned to recognize the feeling -- it's happiness -- and it's become familiar. Still, it floors him, every time. Loneliness and disappointment are his birthright, bred into his bones. Not this constant surprise of joy, and love.
Spike's never been afraid to speak this feeling. "I love you," he tells Xander. Tells him frequently, as if it's easy. As if Xander deserves it. He said it their very first night together. "I love you," sighed into Xander's open mouth. "I love you," lips hovering over Xander's yearning cock. "I love you," a slow, deep groan matching the slow, deep push inside.
Xander doesn't say it; never has. This last, small piece of himself held back and jealously guarded. Something kept in reserve, like insurance against a future when he fears he'll find himself alone. He knows the effort is probably futile, that nothing will protect him from a life without Spike. He's survived loss and pain, destruction and disfigurement. Hell, he's survived an apocalypse, and more than once. But he knows that this is a thing he doesn't want to survive.
So Xander doesn't say it now, even as the feeling courses through him. Instead, he crosses the room and goes to his knees. Wraps his arms around Spike's narrow hips, buries his face in a muscled thigh. Mouths and bites at the seam of his jeans until the cloth is damp and clinging. Spike's rant fades into tiny grunts and gasps, and builds into long, pleasure-thick moans; and then his hands are at his zipper, and his cock prods along Xander's cheek, leaving a thin, wet trail. Xander knee-walks forward, pushing Spike against the wall. And then Spike's cock is in Xander's mouth, for him to lick, and suck, and swallow. Spike's legs are stiff and shaking as he comes, and Xander has to hold him up, holds him firm and tight. He's Xander's, right then.
Later, in bed, they rock together, Spike's head hanging below his shoulders, Xander buried deep inside. He can feel Spike, all of Spike, with every thrust, in every cell of his body. He'll never stop being astonished by it: finding ecstasy in a place he'd never even dreamed of wanting.
Spike comes again, limbs trembling, a tight clench and flutter around Xander's cock. "I love you," he gasps. And Xander follows him over, sunk in passion and pleasure, his mouth against Spike's neck, lips moving in a silent echo.
Xander comes home from work one night, out of sorts and irritable; and Spike suggests a drive. Won't tell Xander where they're headed as he barrels out of town, singing loudly, tunelessly, for the better part of an hour, before stopping the car by a rocky beach.
Xander's still a California boy at heart. Always feels the persistent pull of tides, though he hasn't seen the ocean for a year. He thinks, how well Spike knows me.
They make their way to the water's edge, shedding clothing as they go. Xander breathes in -- deep, greedy breaths -- storing up the scent of wet sand and pine. The moon is just a glow behind the pewter clouds, and the waves gleam like mercury.
Spike is a graceful swimmer, which comes as no surprise. There's grace in everything he does: fighting, dancing, taking out the trash. They skim the swells, laughing and calling to each other in voices faint and bird-like over the churn of the surf.
Xander heads back only when he's well past the point of exhaustion. It's a good tired, though; he's lulled and satisfied, like a kid who's played hard in the sun all day. He sits on the sand, knees hugged to his chest against the chilly breeze. Trains his eye on the bobbing blond head as it moves steadily closer to the horizon.
Spike swims out until he's nothing more than a vague, darkish smudge. Too far, Xander thinks, and there's a clutch in his chest, a panicked sensation of foreboding. Because this is a glimpse of the future, when all that's left between them is an endless, yawning distance. When Spike is gone.
Spike loves him, without a doubt. Xander knows this. Loves him bruisingly, and he has the bruises to prove it. But Spike has loved before, in a way that was super-sized, supernatural, epic. Spike loved a mad vampire in a long white dress who saw the future and spoke in riddles. Spike loved the one girl in all the world, the shining, Chosen One. Spike loved the moon, and loved the sun; and Xander's just a guy who comes home at night with sawdust in his hair and mud on his boots. He's human. Mortal. Tiny, and tethered to the earth.
If he turns around before I count to fifty, Xander thinks, then he won't leave. Xander's done this kind of thing all his life -- if I sleep on my back, they won't fight at breakfast. If she wears the red dress, it means she'll say yes. He knows it's foolish, meaningless. It's how he prays.
He counts slowly, numbers blinking brightly in his head. One, two...eighteen, nineteen...forty-three, forty-four, forty-five. And then, Spike's arm shoots up, a white, waving arc, and he's stroking his way toward the shore. Xander exhales raggedly and crashes backward onto the sand. The clouds have drifted, and he can see the moon, pale and open-faced; and stars, clustered in familiar shapes against the inky sky. Willow taught him the constellations once, but he's forgotten. He'd like to learn their names again. Maybe Spike knows them. He'll ask him, some time.
Lying there, waiting for Spike, he feels as if he's at the center of the world. He loves this place, and the sand, and the sea, and the sky. He loves Spike. For just this moment, all of it is his.
Spike gave him this night, like a promise. He'll stay as long as he can, Xander thinks, and Spike drops to his knees, shaking water from his hair, to seal it with a kiss.
When he lived with Anya, she'd slept wrapped around him, a persistent, clinging vine. He'd liked it -- the press of a body against his, predictable and safe. He doesn't get this, with Spike. Spike stays in bed until Xander drops off, and he's there when he wakes in the morning. But although his body clock has adjusted over the years, Spike's a vampire, and night will never be for sleeping. For Xander, this took some getting used to. Early on, if something woke him during the night -- a noise, a dream, the need to pee -- he'd be disconcerted that Spike wasn't next to him, and disappointed.
Xander's adapted, over time. It's even comforting, waking to a thin band of light beneath the bedroom door; the tap of a keyboard, the television's muted hum, Spike's nighttime, puttering noises. It's habit, now: a drowsy stumble to the living room, where he fades back to sleep, his head in Spike's lap.
But there are other nights -- most nights, lately -- when he wakes to silence, and darkness, and Spike isn't there. Nights when Xander stares at the ceiling, hour after hour, listening for footsteps, and the turning of locks. Thinking about a whole, wide world, right outside that door; and how it's calling for Spike to come.
Tonight, Xander sits in the dark, a drink in his hand, and he waits for Spike. He thinks about the end of things. Words have been building in him, a groaning pressure, like water being forced through a rusty pipe. He can't hold them back any longer.
It's nearly dawn when Spike returns, cutting it close, a dim gray light already slatting through the blinds. His face is cast in shadow, but his body's abuzz with recent excitement. Xander feels his heart flip over. He feels everything flip over. He looks up, determined and lost and miserable; and Spike makes a startled sound, rushing to his side and asking anxiously, "What's happened, love?"
Xander's palms are sweaty, and he wipes them nervously against his knees. But nothing comes out when he opens his mouth, so he braces himself, and tries again. "Almost every night," he begins. There's a hint of hysteria in his voice, and he hasn't the energy to disguise it.
Spike seems utterly at a loss, his face cloudy and confused, but after a moment, it brightens. He huffs out a relieved little laugh. "Xander, love, it isn't...I'm not...god, love, there's no one else."
"I know that," Xander says, almost impatient at the idea. "I never thought..." He draws a deep, hitching breath. "You're patrolling."
Spike nods. "Right. Keeping my hand in." His brow is knitted, as if he's trying to work a complicated puzzle. "Wasn't...wasn't meant to be some sort of secret," he offers tentatively. "It's just -- didn't think you'd much care to hear about it, pet. You said you were done with all that. Wanted to try normal on for size."
Why had he ever imagined such a thing possible, Xander wonders. Why had he even wanted it? "I was stupid," he says. "Normal is overrated. Normal isn't enough for you. It isn't fair."
Spike tilts his head quizzically. "Fair?" he asks.
"This," Xander says, shakily, "is too small." He gestures around the room, meaning: this home, this life, this me.
Spike looks at him, blankly, as if Xander's speaking in some obscure dialect; and then the words hit him, setting him back on his heels. His expression turns shocked, desperate, tender. "Xander," Spike says, a helpless, rasping whisper, and he folds to the floor, head bowed, by Xander's feet. When he looks up again, his eyes are wet and glinting.
"This," he says, splaying a hand over Xander's chest, just slightly left of center. "This -- is the biggest thing that's ever happened to me."
The truth of it is in Spike’s eyes, and in Spike’s voice, and Xander feels it inside, blooming hotly beneath Spike's fingers. It's too much, it's far too much, and so much more than he deserves. But it seems that it's his, nonetheless. Spike has always been his, and he knows it now, for the first time. Spike may need to move on, someday, but he'll be taking Xander along.
Later, much later, Xander will think about how very, very stupid he's been -- to have believed, somehow, that this night was the end, and not merely one moment among thousands in the breathtaking blur of their life together. This precious life, shared so unexpectedly. There are days, and nights, and years to come.
But for now, there's kissing, and laughter, and relief. There's, I love you, passed back and forth between them, like a gift. There's speckled sunlight on the polished oak floor, inching inevitably forward. Xander gets to his feet, and closes the blinds, and this way a new day begins.