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Summary: Post-series, ignores the comics. "Airports were the worst..."
Written for: fall_for_sx
Note to the mods: I know this comm is a lot of work, and I'm very grateful to you for doing it.
It had been ten months since he'd teamed up with Harris — both of them reluctant, at first, but they'd been successful together, picking off the operatives of a particularly virulent demon syndicate, one by one. Ten months of danger and deprivation, crises and close quarters, and finally, somehow, they'd won. It was over.
They were at the hotel, packing up for the very last time. It occurred to Spike, as he sorted things-to-take-with from things-to-toss-out, that cowardice was highly underrated. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, the saying went; but to his way of thinking, nothing ventured meant nothing lost. Cowardice, at least, allowed for a pretense of possibility, the artifice of hope. He had that, still. It was better than the alternative.
Ten months, but he'd known in a few short weeks what he wanted; the truth, unexpected, before him, like a mountain revealed through a lifting fog. Inexorable. Impossible. Too late to hit the brakes, or swerve. They'd been too much in each other's company; too rash and reckless and bold; too close to death, too often. Too many kindnesses shared between them, large and small. These were the sorts of things that spoke to him, worked their way into his blood. A hundred-forty years and he hadn't yet learned to resist that pull. There'd been nothing for it but to fall — it was how he was made.
"Ready?" Harris asked, twisting his hair into a haphazard braid. It had grown long, over the months, nearly to his shoulders. He'd probably cut it when he got home — shame, that. He'd lost weight, too, and his pants hung loose, low on his hips. There were bruises on his knuckles, but they didn't make his hands any less beautiful. He was standing close, close enough that Spike could smell his toothpaste, the soap on his skin. Close enough to touch, and already miles away.
"Ready?" Harris repeated, amiable as ever, but with an eager edge that made Spike's insides curdle. Ready to be off, he meant. Ready to leave.
Spike hefted his bag, and gritted his teeth. "Ready," he lied.
Harris's flight left hours before his, and it was a mistake, not to have said his farewells and stayed behind. Airports were the worst kind of places for goodbyes. It was no way to remember someone — the ugly light, the faces of strangers, the turning and walking away — but he'd been weak, as usual. Hadn't wanted to miss out on those last few hours — Christ, it was pathetic. He stood by the gate, fists balled in his pockets, staring at the departure board, at the floor, at anything but Harris. There was a blur of bodies and movement around them, travelers rushing from here to there.
Harris was checking his passport, his tickets, his watch. "That's it," he said, distant and plain. Spike felt something rise up in him, a panicked sensation he couldn't quite control, but there was only this last bit to get through, and it wouldn't do to let Harris see. He summoned a bleak little smile.
Harris returned it with a troubled frown — the false face hadn't deceived him. Spike thought he'd give it another go, try harder to make it look cheery; but Harris had dropped his duffel to the floor, and was hauling Spike into a hug. It was more than he'd let himself imagine; and he was grateful for it, so grateful, because this — Harris's fingers firm against his back, a breeze of warm breath at his cheek, the heartbeat's miraculous flutter — this he could hold onto, this he could keep. This he could turn over in his mind, in his heart, tomorrow, next month, next year.
"Don't be a stranger," Harris said, and then he was going. Spike's eyes followed him as he passed through the gate, stayed fixed on him as he faded into the crowd. Minutes must have passed before he realized that he'd been gazing, immobile, at the empty space where Harris had been. His heart was a miserable weight beneath his ribs — a battered thing, the survivor of blows too numerous to count. It would survive this, too, he chided himself, and shook his head, disgustedly. He was acting like some pining, jilted lover, which was absurd. He hadn't a right to that sort of sorrow. Harris had never been his.
Drinking seemed to be in order, and — lucky break — there was a bar in convenient trudging distance from the gate. It was a tacky place, all cheap wicker and plastic palms, but it wasn't atmosphere he was after. Spike settled himself in a darkish corner, laid down two fifties, and motioned for the bartender to leave the bottle. It would take that, or more, for him to go numb, and he launched a vigorous pursuit of that end.
Not twenty minutes later, well into his fourth drink — or was it the fifth? — some misguided pillock chose the next stool over. Sod off was on the tip of Spike's tongue, but before he could spit it out, there was a voice asking, "This seat taken?"
Spike kept his head down, clutching the bar so tightly that his fingers left gouges in the wood. His vision went spotty around the edges, but even when it cleared, and he dared a glance, when he saw it was Harris sitting there, he didn't completely trust his eyes. Hallucination was a distinct possibility — wouldn't be the first time, would it? — but the bartender came when Harris waved him over. Not a figment, then. He was real.
"So there I was," Harris said, picking up where he hadn't actually left off. "Stowing my bag. Fastening my seatbelt. Praying that the lady with the screaming baby wasn't sitting next to me — which, by the way, she was. And I started thinking how weird it was gonna be, waking up tomorrow, and not wondering whether we were out of blood. And waking up and not wondering whether the fucking rain would ever end. And, oh yeah, waking up and not wondering whether this was the night that one of us would get killed."
Spike still wasn't looking at him, but he loosened his grip on the bar, and moved on to tearing a cocktail napkin into shreds. Optimism popped in, uninvited, whispering wishful nonsense in his ear; but in Spike's experience, dashed hopes would surely follow. If wishes were horses, as as Dru used to say.
On the other hand, Harris was here.
"I was thinking," Harris continued, his speech growing choppy. "I was thinking how weird it was gonna be, not — not seeing your face every day, and then it hit me, Spike — I wasn't ready to start missing you yet. I was thinking — see, I was thinking — shit, Spike, I was thinking, I should've kissed you goodbye. I should have, Spike. I should've kissed you."
There were fingers at his jaw, turning his head, and then Harris was kissing him; softly, at first, cautious, a question; and then it changed, it was something else, something hungry and brimming with pent-up longing. Spike was shaking all over, really shaking, because he was inside Harris now, touching him, inside; and it was terrifying, and brilliant, and it made him hard.
Harris broke it off, too soon, too soon, and they stared at each other, dazed and struck dumb. Spike was high on the kiss, giddy with it, and he couldn't stop the stupid smile that was stretching across his face. Harris smiled back, and laughed, and then they were both laughing, like a pair of idiots. Spike couldn't remember the last time he'd been so happy.
"That was...different," Harris said when he'd caught his breath, and Spike felt the happiness begin to dribble away. His hand was on Harris's knee, though he didn't remember putting it there. When he wrenched it back, Harris caught him by the wrist. "I didn't mean it like that, okay? It's just — you know. I haven't really been down this road before."
"And what road would that be, precisely?" It came out sounding harsh, nastier than he'd intended, and he worried that Harris would let go of his hand; but Harris held on.
"Oh, you know. The, uh, kissing-a-man road. The big ol' gay road." Harris gave him a grin — the shyish one that Spike liked best. He had a list.
"Virgin territory, is it?"
Spike gestured expansively at himself. "Me, now — not exactly a stranger to the area. Could show you around, if you like."
"Give me the lay of the land?" Harris asked.
"At your service. Just say the word."
Harris didn't reply. Spike reckoned they'd run out of lame sexual banter, but he wasn't quite sure what came next. He slid a hand up Harris's thigh, laid a palm against his cock. It was hard, thank god. It was lovely.
"Spike," Harris said, warningly, but his eye flickered shut, and his breathing went ragged. He was blushing, everywhere, all that beautiful blood just below the skin. Spike fondled him lightly, getting the shape of him. He didn't know whether he wanted to drag Harris into the toilet and fuck him senseless; or to cup his face, press kisses to his eyelid, murmur inane endearments.
Both. He wanted both. He wanted everything.
Except Harris was saying don't in an embarrassed voice, and then firmly moving Spike's hand. He hadn't done it meanly, but it stung all the same. Disappointment worked on him like poison, and Spike felt suddenly sick. He'd rather have lost his hand again, than have Harris push it away.
Harris made an inarticulate, throat-clearing noise. He looked uneasy, for the first time since he'd sat down. Spike berated himself, silently. He always went too far, always ruined everything. Greedy bastard.
"I didn't," Harris faltered, and began again. "I'm not entirely convinced I was saying no."
Spike waited, faintly encouraged; but nothing more was forthcoming. "What are you saying, then?"
"I guess I'm saying — not here, maybe? Not yet?" Harris shrugged noncommittally. "Not sure?"
It was all so vague; it told him nothing. "What is it you're looking for, Harris? Do you even know?"
Harris rubbed absently at the skin under his patch. It was a habit of his, something he did when he was thinking hard; and it made Spike's chest ache, knowing that about him.
"Um," Harris answered, unhelpfully. "Could we?" he added, and leaned in to kiss Spike again. Spike let it happen, let himself go, because fuck the consequences, fuck getting hurt, he was easy like that. And what were consequences, anyway, compared with Harris's tongue in his mouth, the taste of him, the pulse at his neck, so alive beneath Spike's hands.
"Definitely looking for more of that," Harris murmured, warm against Spike's lips.
It was a good answer, better than he'd expected, and he should have been satisfied. But, as usual, he couldn't leave well enough alone.
"I'm not — I'm not casual, Xander," he said. About you, about us, went the rest of the sentence, but he didn't want to scare the boy off. Anyway, it didn't signify, not really. He was going to take whatever was on offer. Still, he wanted Harris to know.
"Yeah, I got that," Harris said, laughing, though not unkindly. "I'd say you give not-casual new meaning. Like, you've cornered the market on not-casual. In the land of the not-casual, you, my friend, are king." His tone was teasing, but there was something serious lurking beneath the words, and he wasn't wrong.
"I get it, Spike, I do," he went on. "You want to know where things stand. But the problem is — and yeah, not exactly swift on the uptake here — but this? You and me? Totally out of left field. Which is actually an expression I never understood. Why left field? Right field is where the action is not. I always used to get put in right field -- you know, during my single, best-forgotten season of little league, and in gym class, too. Not that I minded, since, hey, the fewer balls that come your way, the fewer opportunities for humiliating failure, and also -- "
Spike had grown used to the babbling — it was as much a part of Harris as brown hair, or bravery. He was even charmed by it, on occasion, but this wasn't one of those times. A man had his limits, after all. Spike raised an eyebrow: get on with it, git.
Harris caught the look. "But I digress," he conceded. "Where was I, again? Oh, right — how this whole thing totally snuck up on me. Nope, never saw it coming. I mean, okay, there was that one dream where you were a naked go-go dancer, but I chalked that up to some really bad goat vindaloo, because, trust me, bad goat vindaloo can do that to you. Anyhow, setting that aside...one minute I'm on a plane to London, and the next I'm in a bar kissing you, and how did that happen? And why? Plus, given my track record, this could be a disaster of epic proportion. I really don't know, Spike, I'm flummoxed."
It wasn't always easy to cull meaning from the blather, but Spike recognized back-peddling when he heard it. Harris had acted on impulse, a brief pang of regret at their parting. Just nostalgia, a bit premature, working its notoriously fickle mojo. It had been a goodbye kiss — kisses — and nothing more. Now, Harris was trying to let him down easy. He was being decent about it, at least. He was decent.
"It's all right, Harris. No need to get your knickers in a twist. Not expecting you to pledge your troth, here." He'd aimed for levity, but it didn't quite come off.
"Don't do that," Harris said curtly. "Why do you do that? You're entitled to...troth. Um, I think. What is troth, exactly?"
If he wasn't careful, he'd be declaring himself, or making demands. "Loyalty," he finessed, swallowing uncomfortably. "Devotion."
“Excuse me?" Harris snapped, eying him incredulously. "Spike. Come on. We've been fighting on the same side for, what? Twelve years, now? Thirteen? And how many times have you pulled my ass out of the fire? So loyalty and devotion — you've got that already. You had it back when I still thought you were an asshole. Which I don't, anymore."
He said it matter-of-factly — as if it were a given, beyond dispute.
"I don't," he repeated. "But it isn't just that. Because now -- because now —“ He broke off, looking at Spike like an intricate puzzle he'd only just solved. "I know your preference in blood type, Spike. I know how you take your tea."
They were small things, Spike thought, though hardly insignificant. I know you, Harris was saying.
"And that makes us friends, doesn't it? Good friends?" There was an anxious wobble to his voice, as if Spike might disagree.
"Good friends," Spike echoed, an astonished whisper. He hadn't really had one before.
"More than good friends," Harris corrected, glancing sheepishly at his lap. "Because apparently, there's also the whole lust vibe a-brewin'. The lust that dare not speak its name. Lust like you read about, if you happen to be reading gay porn, that is. I'm talking big time lust." He gestured crotchward, waggling his eyebrows with comic lewdness: "Or so Little Xander informs me."
Among Spike's vast array of shortcomings was the stubborn tendency to hear only what he wanted, and bugger the rest — a dangerous error he was loathe to repeat. He replayed the conversation — twice, three times, again. It sounded very fine.
"Feel free to jump in," Harris said, "before this silence officially becomes awkward."
It sounded fine, but he'd been wrong before. If he was wrong again now, it would crush him. Spike studied his drink, but found no reassurance there. "A disaster, you said. An epic disaster."
"I said could be. And yeah. Except the way I figure, these things never come with guarantees. I can't tell you what'll happen in two weeks, or two months, or next year. But there's a reason I'm sitting here, Spike. The reason is you. And what with the whole being friends thing, and the lust thing, and the troth thing, I think the odds are in our favor. I think the smart money's on us. And I guess what I'm saying is, I'm ready to roll the dice, if you are."
There was a lump in his throat, too big to squeeze words around; but he took Harris's hand, raised it to his mouth, pressed his lips to the knuckles. Then he thought, oh, quit arsing about, and he was on his feet, muscling his way between Harris's thighs, and grabbing a fistful of braid. One good, solid yank, and Harris's face was tilted up to his, mouth opening to speak, but that wasn't going to happen. Spike didn't care who was watching; he'd make Harris not care; and he kissed him, possessive and fierce and dirty, because it was what he wanted, and he could take it, now. He heard a half-hearted whimper of protest, but it turned quickly to one of pleasure, and then Harris was hooking an arm around Spike's neck, hanging on tight. Spike kissed him hard, in a rhythm like fucking, his tongue sliding in, thrusting slowly, and deep. Harris was making wet clicking sounds in his throat — choked-back moans that were sweeter than music. Spike shivered with it, the vibration inside him like a borrowed pulse. Harris was out of breath, but he kept kissing back; and he shifted in his seat, hips angling up. No mistaking that request — more, pure and simple — and Spike pressed against him, happy to oblige. There were a few spectacular seconds of friction, and heat, and when Spike pulled away, Harris looked positively swooney.
The racy display had attracted attention -- a piercing wolf-whistle, some scattered applause — but Harris seemed not to have noticed. "Wow," he croaked. "That was — that was —“
"Just a preview, pet," Spike answered, not bothering to stifle the smug, because, bloody hell, about time he got a little of his own back.
"Oh," Harris said, sounding addled. "So we're doing this?"
"One condition," Spike answered, "and it's non-negotiable." He allowed himself a tiny smirk. "Never, ever again refer to your cock as Little Xander."
"Deal." Harris returned the smirk. "It's a misnomer, by the way. The little part. In case you were wondering."
"Didn't escape my attention, pet. Hard to miss, that."
Harris adjusted himself, conspicuously. "Well, it's definitely hard."
"Show-off," Spike snorted, but he took a moment to check out the goods. In his estimation, they were very good goods.
Harris plucked at Spike's shirt, tugging him closer. "How's this for a plan —I’ve still got my Council platinum card, and I'm thinking they owe us a vacation."
"Holiday might be nice," Spike agreed.
Harris squinted up at the monitor. "Amsterdam?" he mused speculatively. "They've got tulips. And canals."
"Hash, and whores," Spike amended, but he was shaking his head. "Sydney. We can get to Bali from there. They say the beaches by moonlight are something to see. And besides," he continued, willing Harris to take his meaning. "Never been."
Harris nodded, getting it in one. "Not too many places you can say that about, huh? No memories there. That'll be good for you." His cheeks went a bit pink. "For us."
They lingered a few minutes longer, polishing off their drinks. After a while, Harris put a hand to the back of Spike's neck, thumb finding the hollow place at the nape. It was an ordinary gesture, made extraordinary by its sheer improbability; a casual intimacy born of ease, connection, belonging. Spike drifted in the sensation, spinning scenes in his head: the plane, a blanket, his mouth on Harris's cock —
"Spike," Harris said. He was snapping his fingers impatiently in Spike's face, which should have been annoying — had been, would be again — but for now, Spike just blinked at him and smiled.
"Were you even listening? My bag. I must've left it on the plane." He sighed. "There was kind of a ruckus, getting them to let me off. I think I went a little nuts."
"Doesn't matter," Spike said. "We'll find what you need along the way."
They headed toward the ticket counter, walking side by side. No guarantees, Harris had said, and of course, he was right. But every time their shoulders bumped, or their fingers brushed, it felt, to Spike, like a promise.