He's tried a variety of places, actually. Hollywood hanger-on and wanna-be type places, stinking of desperation and misplaced arrogance; near-Skid Row dives whose only gesture toward decor consists of the large, dust-grimed jugs of pickled eggs and pigs' feet; gleaming franchise spots devoted to the white-collar overly-orthodontized working stiff, where the ales are all American and piss-weak; and everything, everywhere, in between.
Is it too much to ask that this town have *one* bar he can relax in and actually *celebrate*? Kicked Angel's ass in Nevada, he did, and it'd be nice -- right, proper, take your fucking pick -- to raise a pint glass to himself.
No, of course not. Far too much to ask. He might have won, but this is still Angel's town. Now more than ever, it seems, what with the huge desk and office tower full of minions. Angel got here first, just like always. Victories beyond the city limits apparently mean less than dog shit on a starlet's stiletto.
But he's stubborn, so he's still looking. Skulking around the back way to some underground club, its dented steel doors heavy enough that only demons and dogs can pick up the insistent clattery thump of neo-Cali-skate punk rock that must be whistlingly deafening inside.
The wind's picked up, southwest, bearing ahead of it that hideous LA cocktail of exhaust-coconut oil-sweat-ozone. Spike ducks beside a dumpster and bends over, shielding the lighter's flame with cupped palms.
"Move, and you're *all* ash --"
He hasn't felt the prod of a stake at his back in almost too long. Blunt point poking at him, caution and care sizzling back along familiar pathways, and it's just like yesterday, just like Sunnydale.
Sucking in the first mouthful of fine Virginia-grown smoke, Spike says, "That so?"
He could whirl, kick the stake away and shatter a jaw before the pesky human even blinks.
Least tonight's getting interesting.
Poke, poke. Good stake, and its handler knows what he's doing, the point right under his left shoulder blade. Just a shove, angled slightly upward, and it's over.
Question is, how's the handler know what Spike is --
"Turn around, Spike."
-- or, better, *who* Spike is.
"Gladly." He starts to turn, slow and easy. "Y'know, never liked it like this. Doggy-style, too impersonal for my tastes. Like to --"
The witch's little wolfboy, the one who ran away. Toto, something like that. Standing there, just a slip of a thing, looking at Spike calm as anything. Like -- like they know each other. Equals, peers, something like that. The boy so still he could be wax but for the redwarm scent rolling off him, sunlight and rain and fallen leaves. Still and calm, stake raised without a single tremble.
Spike's hand shoots out -- just wants to grab him. Shake him up. See what he'll do. Like the unruffled surface of a pond, the quiet of church, sleep of the hypocrite: He cries out to be disturbed.
Boy catches Spike's wrist and squeezes; Spike lets him fold his arm up against the lapels of his coat and the boy -- *Oz*, that's it, bloody stupid name -- steps in closer.
"No place for you here," Spike says. "Know you're small, but alleys're for cats. You'll be needing the canyons so you can run with the other mongrels."
"What're you doing here, Spike?"
Quiet, calm. Had a teacher like him once, Mr. Clapham, patient and brilliant. Quick with the cane, too.
"Live here, don't I? Been gone a while, Fido. Probably haven't heard. Things change. A lot."
Flicker of eyes, quick grind of the jaw: That's got to count as a reaction with this one. Spike grins. "My hand, sir?"
Kid looks at him, all reaction gone. Handsome boy; beautiful, even. Puckish. Sharp green eyes, sharp bones under bright pale skin. Hair shorter than Spike remembers it being, darker and shinier. Glints of steel in his brow, lip, ears.
"What's changed?" Oz asks. "Still a vamp, still skeeving around dark alleys. Look the same to me."
Soul. Died on fire. Beat Angel fair and square.
"Where do I start?" Spike asks. "Right. With my hand. Gimme my hand, then -"
Hadn't realized how warm Oz's grip was until he uncurls his fingers and Spike shakes out his hand. Odd thing - Oz remains where he is, just as close, eyes narrowed. Studying Spike so intently that a lesser man would be moved to dust his lapels, check for something in his teeth.
"What are you doing here?" Oz asks. When he speaks, Spike notices, his lips curve like leaves tossed in the wind.
Similes. He's getting distracted by fucking similes. "Same thing you are, I expect."
Oz lifts a brow. They're straight as pencil lines, just slightly slanted. Most people's brows curve. Angel's don't. Angel's hover over his eyes like omens, shadowy and threatening.
"You're here to catch an unannounced Biafra gig?" His tone makes clear Oz's disbelief, reveals it to be barely a question.
"Manner of speaking," Spike says. "Sure. Celebration, actually."
He doesn't know why he's telling the dogboy any of this. Last time he saw him, Oz had a crossbow aimed right at his heart. Would have thought he was too small, too slight, to hoist the thing, let alone know how to use it.
The burn on Spike's wrist and sudden, fleeting scent of musk tells him otherwise.
Spike lets his own lips curve into an expression more predatory and suggestive than an ordinary grin.
Oz shrugs with just one shoulder and tilts his head in the opposite direction. "What's the occasion?"
He's standing so close, and now he smells like cut grass, wet and sharp. Spike's grin widens fractionally and he takes a drag on his nearly-forgotten cigarette.
"Reunion?" he suggests. "Call it a fresh start. Tide's shifting."
Oz simply regards him, but the fingers of one hand twitch like he's playing a guitar. Then he nods.
"Sure. Nothing better to do."
Inside the club, magenta, then kelp-colored lights wash Oz's face as he bobs his head to the pound of the music. His entire body, bobbing in place, a buoy in reckless currents of bodies, smoke, noise.
Spike is closer than he's been in months to being himself again. Almost alive (never all the way), music-beer-exultation in his veins better than any blood, dancing and whirling and bouncing off the walls, against bouncers, into girls, nicotine-stained mania just what he needed.
"What I don't get is how you get drunk."
Hours later, back in the alley, Oz with his arm around Spike's waist, keeping him from pirouetting into the nearest garbage bin. Boy's strong and warm, and Spike twirls back toward him, knocking against his side.
Oz doesn't miss a step.
"I mean," he continues, "aren't you technically -"
"Technically," Spike says, dipping his head, inhaling that ineffable smell of boysweat, silveryclean, as if Oz hadn't just spent hours in a sweaty club among the same beer fumes and various secondhand smokes as Spike had. "Technically, I'm a winner."
"Might have mentioned that, yeah."
Spike's speeding, beer and exultation and the rattling passion of three-chord genius whooshing through him, carrying him nearly as furiously as a good fight against impossible odds. But Oz is untouched. Nothing they've done all night, from moshing to ogling to drinking copious amounts of cheap beer, has affected him in the least. And now he's speaking as reasonably, mildly, as if they were conducting tea in a quiet back corner.
"S'true, isn't it?" Spike says. "Told you. Knocked him flat on his huge ass."
They've reached the end of the alley. Oz pauses, leaning against the nearer wall, and looks up and down the street. Intrigued, Spike mimics the gesture and whispers conspiratorially, "What're we looking for?"
"Cab," Oz says.
"Got to get you home."
"Don't have one."
Oz's lips flatten and his brows drop. Quite pretty when he wears what Spike's already come to think of as his patient headmaster look. "Sorry. Got to get you back to the place where you sleep. Better?"
Spike nods. "A little. Don't wanna, though."
It's more words, in faster succession, than he's gotten out of the boy all night, and Spike grins, wide and happy. Spreads his arms and teeters delightfully on the tips of his toes. "Night's young. Lots to celebrate. And you -" He drops in, hand splayed on the wall just over Oz's head, and scents the air just over Oz's face. "You smell fucking delicious."
There are lines around Oz's eyes, faint as original strokes of the quill on a palimpsest, that shouldn't be there. That he's too young to wear. His hairline glimmers slightly with sweat as he tips his head back and looks up at Spike. Little bigger than Buffy. No one's looked up at him like that since -.
"Where you been, anyway?" Spike asks. Needs to tack away from that particular current of thought and he's been wondering all night anyway.
Oz's hair is ginger at the roots. Downy. When he closes his eyes instead of replying, the streetlight hits his lashes. Too long for a boy, intensely red. Spike brings up his free hand, reaches to brush them with a fingertip, and Oz freezes.
His face tightens, from pink-veined, soft fairness to something hard and white. Bone, stoneware.
Spike drops his hand and Oz opens his eyes.
"Here and there."
Best sometimes to let the details drop away; Spike knows that better than anyone. Boil it down to the essentials: Who won, who lost, how many times you came, how many ribs you broke.
"Yeah," he says, and the exultation has whooshed right out of him. In its wake, as he stands still over this green-eyed creature staring up at him, Spike feels only quiet. Pale as clouds and just as deep. "All right."
Siren dopplers past. Red light, blue light, whirling.
Oz snakes his arm around Spike's waist, under the coat, closing his fingers in the shirt at the small of his back. He squeezes-tugs-pulls, and when Spike glances down, his shirt's stretched over his chest like it was painted on. Glances back, and Oz has only lost some of that hardness. Liquid-dark eyes in half-stone face. Soft pink lips, cheeks like saucers.
"What're you playing at, Rex?"
Spike believes him. Doesn't know the boy beyond name and impenetrable, frustrating, baffling quiet, but he believes him. Quiet's running through his own veins, strengthening, deepening, so it's communicable, apparently. Viral, even.
"Afterward," he says and he's drunk but not slurring, nor excited, "I kicked the goblet. Chalice, fucking grail, whatever. Couldn't get the taste of that shit out of my mouth."
"Sticky. It's caffeinated, you know," Oz says. His hand against Spike's back tightens, releases, like the pulse Spike doesn't have. Thought he'd have, thought he'd earned.
Weeks, months, without a body, just the noise of his own thoughts and rage propelling him on. That was worse than the trials, worse than the cleaving fire of the soul, worse than the look on Buffy's face, swollen bruise on her jaw, hatred in her eyes flat and dark, up there in her bathroom.
Spike raises his hand again and Oz does not flinch. Doesn't harden, either, just tracks the motion of Spike's finger with those primeval eyes, allows him to trace the shallow hollow of his eye socket, the soft bristle of his lashes, the curve of a cheekbone. Pillow of his bottom lip.
Weeks when he couldn't touch anything.
Oz walks them across the alley, and Spike stumbles backward, the kid's hand wrapped in the back of his shirt, and he jostles, banging against the bricks, and even that, flare of pain when his head connects, when his elbow hits, is quiet. He doesn't breathe, and Oz, despite breathing, despite the deep, slow pulse of his heart, is even quieter.
Oz presses his free hand against one of Spike's shoulders. Looks at him still, parting his lips and drawing Spike's finger inside, as he presses inexorably forward, until Spike's legs part and he slides down a little.
Hot slick tongue wrapping around his finger, rough hard hips, narrow and bony, riding against his. Spike drops his head, runs his lips over the spangles of sweat in Oz's hair, and Oz gives a brief, low moan, nearly a growl. He pushes against Spike, hand at the back of his head now, gripping hair.
Pushy little pup, ain't he?
Nails in his scalp, hard skinny fingers dipping below his waistband, more nails on the rise of his ass, and a hot mouth that Spike imagines tastes like beer and rain and moonlight sucking hard down to the second knuckle. Kid knows what he wants, Spike's gathered that much, and it's something to respect.
Something in this boy, half-human and half-monster, twangs at the deepest nerves in Spike's body, jangles him into recognition and memory. Makes him think of Angel. Maybe the growl, maybe the insistent, certain press of his body, hands that know exactly what they want, where they want to go, maybe simply the fact that Spike can't get away from thoughts of his sire, that everywhere he looks, every track of thought is paved with Angel's glowering beautiful face.
Maybe all of that, mixed.
It has to be the quiet in Oz, which translates into a sort of pliable confidence, a power Spike's never been able to master. One he's all too well tuned toward, however, chimes rattling in an unsought breeze.
Spike by contrast has static in his system, a low-frequency hum and buzz that never lets him settle, never entirely.
Oz releases his hair, throwing out his arm and pulling his mouth off Spike's finger with a wet whistle.
Blue hack's pulling up to the curb, and Spike follows, stumbling and swearing.
Oz lives in a small studio in the middle of another rundown neighborhood. Orange-ocher walls, cheap Indian printed sheets, garish colors and romping elephants, on the windows, on the bed. Traces of incense, sage and rosebud, hanging in the air. Tiny shrine with cheap brass Buddha and portrait of greenfaced goddess on paper slick as a magazine page.
Spike watches Oz set the three deadlocks, remove his shoes, pad around in mismatched socks.
No power there, just a small young man coming home. Spike shoves his hands into his pockets and rocks on his heels. So Oz is quiet. Just means there's more to shake up, a brighter jangle when he *does* stir.
Oz stands before him, head barely cocked, looking at him again.
Spike reaches for him, fingers curled, and Oz does not move. Why won't he just *react*?
"You're faster," Oz says, answering the unspoken question, even as he rubs his jaw and glances at the window, even as he looks back with round black eyes and thickened jaw. Flash of fangs. He blinks, twists at the waist with a cramp that drains blood from his face, and then he's still again, green-eyed and solemn. "Stronger and faster."
Down in that collapsed heap, out in the desert, he fought with everything he had. Whipping around snakefast, leaping, slashing, parrying, he was a current of electricity, yellow and bright and deadly.
Angel was fast, too, but his eyes were elsewhere. Distant and flat.
Until the end, until Angel was on his back, chest heaving, blood painting his face, until he spoke.
Eyes on Spike then, hot and liquid, focused.
"Stronger, faster," Oz says again. He crosses his arms and pulls off the snug black shirt he's worn all night.
Narrow chest, narrow as a boy's, pale as Spike's own.
"I was a ghost," Spike says. Months, no more substantial than a coil of steam, a gathering of fog. Accidental, easily dispersed.
Oz's gaze is water in a forest spring, such a slow welling of wet silver against moss and stone that its shine is the only evidence of its presence.
Flush in his cheeks, sunrises and baby blankets, pink barrettes in Dawn's hair.
Oz watches him and Spike feels his spine unlock, feels that quiet again sliding through him, feels his mouth open.
One hand, small, the fingers long and graceful, on his chest, pressing against his breastbone, and Spike's on his back, splayed on the bed, with Oz on top of him.
Rapid, intelligent hands yanking and pulling at his clothes, hot mouth on his own, and he was right *and* wrong. Oz does taste like rain, but there's nothing gentle about it. Sudden summer cloudbursts in a tornado-green sky, lightning crackling and water sheeting down, nearly horizontal on the wind.
Humans are hot to him, and Oz is no exception, all heated chamois-soft skin pulled tight over hard, pointy bones, palms skimming and pressing against his own skin, and Spike sucks hard at Oz's lips, gripping his shoulders, pulling them down and grinding his crotch upward. Oz's lips curve against his, and the sound he makes is thunder, chuckle, moan, and growl all at once.
And words, eventually, when the noise slows its throb against the back of Spike's throat and he starts to understand.
Open mouth, empty and cooling, Spike blinks hard and sees that gaze, steady and green, sees himself doubled over the curve of Oz's eyes, and then he's nodding, twisting over, going up on his elbows and knees. Staring at a green monkey swinging on a blue vine, then squeezing shut his eyes, red monkey on a pink vine, as sticky fingers spread and stretch and thrust. Hot palm smacking his ass four-five-six times to loosen him up.
"Fuck, man, that's --"
"Ssshh," Oz hisses. Bites off the sound and Spike can smell desire, sharp as thorns, curved and dark against silver springwater and soaked sheets of moss, and he can hear the rattle of a human heart fill the room, his ears, and then he's sucking hard on his own tongue as Oz pushes inside, redflare burn and hitched breath.
Ripple-release as his other face drops down, fangs in his tongue and stolen blood filling his mouth, and Oz grabs the back of his hair again, pulls back his head as he starts moving faster, his other hand digging into Spike's hip, and the bed's creaking, rubbing against the wall and the windowsill like a teenage virgin desperate to get off.
With his neck bowed back, Spike gets glimpses, kaleidoscope shards of ceiling and Oz, brow furrowed, eyes shining as they take him in, and Spike can't close his eyes, just bears down, pulls away to get the tug on his scalp, shimmies and Oz slaps him again, rings on his fingers cutting into Spike's skin. That's their rhythm, Spike's grunts punctuating spank, pull, push. Yellow threads are crackling around the edges of his vision, and Oz is too quiet, moving so fast he ought to be giving something off besides the stink of desire that's twisting, twining, down into musk and wet dirt, spunk and howling.
Every slap brings up a red palm print before Spike's eyes, shoves heat further under his skin, into his guts, and Oz's dick is deeper than deep, pushing in further, the hiss of his breath and whistle of hand through the air pushing Spike into the mattress, down onto folded arms. Just his ass in the air, sting of new blood around Oz's cock, and maybe this is what he needed, cock grinding him open, pulling him tight, hand on his neck, on his windpipe because he *is* breathing, old habits die hard, and now he's not, not so much, black spots like fruit flies in his eyes, growing, becoming wasps. Hornets and stinging, Oz fucking him hard and hitting him harder until Spike's yelling without words and black fingernails are digging into his throat, choking even that off and he's rising out of his skin, right up to the surface, guts churning red and hot, and he's caught, captured, skewered, wheezing against the hold on his throat, wriggling away, getting yanked back.
No more slaps, just fingers that might as well be claws wrapped around the base of his cock, tugging it from the root, grinding it into the mattress as Oz pulls all the way out and there's not enough breath to speak, nothing to talk with, can't say what he needs to say, words jamming and piling in his throat, soaked with his own blood.
"Please, just --" Somehow it comes out, not enough, not nearly enough, but there's that growl again, a little louder, certainly longer, more notes strung into the kind of rough, brutal harmony his demon understands.
Oz thrusts back in, all the way, hauling him back with one arm wrapped around his waist, and Spike's on his knees, overbalancing, almost pushing the boy away, out of him, but Oz jerks him harder, hand back on his throat, choking the air from his useless lungs and the come from his dick as his voice rumbles in Spike's ear.
"Come. Do it now --" Quiet voice, uninflected and powerful, everything Spike needs-hates-wants to hear, and he's blowing past his skin, wheezing and shaking as Oz twists his hips and Spike's shooting, splatter of come on his belly and Oz is still jerking him, jerking him raw and fucking harder until he goes still.
Time hangs. Like a breath held, an eye of a storm, the last drops of blood from a wound.
The moment breaks and shatters with one more growl that climbs higher and higher, something inhuman that wrenches the last drops of come from his dick as Oz shakes and pulses inside him, then shoves him back down.
On his stomach, empty.
"Not always about winning," Oz says.
Spike is hollow as a bone flute.
Oz cleans Spike and the towel comes away smeared with pink. Combs the hair off his face and lies beside him, pulling an unzipped sleeping bag over them. Flash of a lighter, the cigarette passed over.
Oz is clammy with cooling sweat, but warm, still warm, sunrise burning away the gloom.
Spike licks his lips. Tries to speak. "Why?"
Steady green gaze, curving lips that suggest a smile. "Really want to know?"
Eyes on him, vivid in the dark. Looking at *him*. Arm over his waist, holding, not tolerating. Spike blinks once, realizes he wants the quiet. "Nah. This is enough."
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Joss, ME, Sanddollar, Fox; I nick for both hubris and giftgiving purposes.