By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Sequel to Milkshakes & Honey
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This time, the strange title is ripped off from Wilco's song of the same name.
One of those days when you don't want to move. When you wake up in the morning and everything's all dark and wet outside, and you realize that you don't have to be anywhere else, so you just go back to sleep. You lie around all day, doing nothing, watching television, until you're overwhelmed with ennui and have to do something to change the pace.
Maybe that's why Xander agreed to paint Spike's nails.
They haven't gotten out of bed yet today. Still tangled up in the sheets, still naked under the linens. Spike's sprawled out on his belly, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, his hand placed on an old three-ring binder that Xander had lying around. There's a little jar of black nail polish sitting beside his hand, and Xander's carefully navigating the tiny brush over each of Spike's fingernails.
An explosion noise on the television set. Spike snickers. "Look at that," he says happily. "All his parts got blown off." A dreamy sigh. "I wish I had napalm."
Xander rolls his eyes. "Spike, even if you had napalm, you couldn't use it."
"Oh, fine then. Shatter all my dreams, why don't you."
Sometimes, Xander wonders when all this became normal. Six months ago, he would never have tolerated a naked vampire in his bed, laughing at the joy of weapons of mass destruction. But somehow, this is all just part of his life now. Save the world. Sell bad food or cheap products for quick cash. Paint Spike's nails while he swoons over severed legs.
And the weirdest thing is, he thinks he prefers this new life to his old one.
More exploding things. A wicked laugh from Spike. "God, that's beautiful. Why can't they sell this stuff at convenience stores?"
Xander snorts. "Oh, right. Because anthrax needs to be sold conveniently."
"That's what I'm saying."
One more stripe of black on his pinky, and there. "Done," Xander says, screwing the cap back on the bottle. "Voila."
Spike frowns as he scrutinizes his nails. "Hey, not bad," he says. A sly, teasing smirk twists his pretty mouth. "Should've figured you'd do a good job. After all, you are gay and all."
Xander snorts as he puts the nail polish bottle away and throws the three-ring binder off the bed. "Oh, right. You're the one wearing nail polish and eyeliner, but I'm the gay one."
"That's not because I'm gay. That's because I'm vain. And besides, it's punk."
Oh, right. Punk. Whatever. The guy can have his leather and his bleach, can smoke enough cigarettes to make all the CEOs Phillip-Morris cream their pants, but Xander knows the truth. You get underneath all of Spike's attitude and image, and you find out that he's softer than butter.
One final montage of nuclear weaponry going off. Spike stares at it in awe and wonder, scooting himself backwards on the bed until he's resting his cheek on Xander's shoulder. One leg strewn across his. Explosions, mushroom clouds, radiation gear. "Brilliant," Spike murmurs. "Absolutely brilliant."
He can't help it. Xander ruffles Spike's hair, delighted in the fact that since Spike hasn't gotten out of bed yet, there's no crunchy hair gel slicking back the vampire's unruly curls. Spike scowls, swats his hand away. "What's that about?"
Xander shrugs. "Don't know. You're cute."
Another displeased snarl. "Take that back."
Oh, a challenge. Xander gives him a look. "Make me."
Spike growls low and yummy in his chest and then kisses him hard. One of those bruising kisses. The kind that make Xander's mouth feel sore in the best of ways. Spike tastes like ashes and coffee, and a coppery current of blood. You'd think it'd be gross. Ew, kissing blood-mouth. But it's not.
A sigh, and then Spike's cheek is back on his shoulder. He fans out his fingers in front of him, narrowing his eyes at the black nails. Xander reaches out and takes Spike's index finger. Smiles a little fondly at the slender digit. "How long have you been doing this?" he asks. "Painting your nails."
Spike shrugs. "Don't know. Bout twenty, twenty-five years."
"Doesn't it ever get old? I mean, don't you ever get bored with it?"
Spike gives him Arrogant Smirk #302. "As long as the ladies keep loving it, I'll never get bored."
"Or the men. Since you're gay and all."
"Shut up. Tosser."
Black-tipped fingers sliding across his palm. Tracing the lines in Xander's hand. Willow once gave him a palm reading. He doesn't really remember everything she said about him, but he does recall a certain amount of relief that his life-line extended past another six months. Maybe he'll survive Sunnydale after all.
Though honestly, lately Xander's been wondering if he'll ever survive Spike.
Spike drums his fingernails against Xander's wrist. "Entertain me," he demands. "I'm bored."
"Entertain you how?"
"I don't care. Just do something. Say something. Anything."
Needy little bastard. Xander sighs, furrows his brow, and then comes up with a question. "What were you like before you were turned?"
Spike tenses immediately. Xander can feel it. All those muscles coiling up, tightening. He stops moving. "Change the subject." There's a cold note in his voice. His eyes have gone hard. It's surprising, how intense a reaction he's having to this one easy question. Instantly, Xander's curiosity is piqued.
"Tell me," he says again. "I want to know."
Spike rolls over and gives Xander a harder-than-nails look. Blue gone so dark that it's black like ink. "Fine," Spike spits. "I was a thief. A petty thief, but a thief nonetheless. Robbed ladies' purses, fucked whores, stole from whoever I felt like. There. Happy?"
It makes sense. It'd figure that even before Spike was turned, he was a jackass. But yet ... it doesn't make sense. It seems incongruous with those little moments when Spike gets almost-shy or kinda-sweet.
Xander narrows his eyes at the vampire. "You're lying."
Annoyed and offended, Spike sits up and turns his back on Xander. "Fine. Whatever. Believe what you want to believe." He reaches for his cigarettes, and then turns around. Eyes all mean and beady. "'Sides, it's not like you were a prize when you were younger."
"I was so a prize," Xander says defensively. "I was a grand prize. A lottery."
"A lottery of shit," Spike smirks. "Saw you then. All wussy and awkward. Hiding behind the Slayer's skirts with your little witchy pal." The flick of a lighter, and then Spike exhales smoke right in Xander's face. "Worthless little nothing."
Now Xander's getting pissed off. Just because Spike's got some kind of annoying past he doesn't want to talk about doesn't give him the right to yank him around. He glares at him. "Yeah? Well, at least I can throw a punch at a guy without getting my brain fried."
Spike flinches. There's a glimpse of hurt on his face. "Low blow, Harris."
Oh, man. He hates this. Hates that where he once would've tap-danced on the grave of Spike's masculinity, now he's feeling bad about hurting the guy's feelings. What the fuck? Having a soul and a heart is unfair. Spike gets to say whatever nasty thing pops into his head, but Xander has to feel contrite and small.
Reluctantly, Xander ducks his head. "Sorry," he mutters.
Spike doesn't say anything. Too busy puffing on his cancer stick and flipping channels. He finds a show documenting plastic surgery procedures and leaves it on. The blood and cellulite usually make him happy, but not today. Instead, the vampire sits there sullenly and puffs on his cigarette while the plastic surgeon suctions fat cells out of some lady's thigh.
Xander really, really hates this. Hates this more than anything. He doesn't want to feel bad for Spike. Doesn't want to feel anything for him at all. Not even hatred, because that's too passionate, and he's learned that the hard fucks are just as good as the easy ones. But sympathy? Guilt? Over a vampire's trampled feelings?
He heaves another sigh and then leans over and reaches under the bed. Fishes around until he finds the milk carton he's looking for, and then pulls it out with a grunt. It settles on the bed in a flurry of dustbunnies, and Spike turns his head. "What's that?"
Xander gives him an apologetic face. "Peace offering."
Intrigued, Spike turns around and reaches into the box. Pulls out one leather-bound book, full of celluloid pages. A grin spreads across his face when he reads the cover. "Sunnydale High School Yearbook, 1996-97. Oh, now this'll be fun."
Spike flops back on his belly in the same position as earlier, his legs scissoring in the air behind him as he opens the book and snickers. "Eight signatures," he says. "My, weren't you the popular lad. And look at the Slayer's handwriting. She still dot her 'i's with little hearts?"
Seeing Spike flip through all the glossy pages with his own glossy black nails makes Xander feel a little nostalgic. High school was so easy. Well, aside from all the mysterious murders and narrowly-averted apocalypses. But really, when he looks back, it was simple. Black and white.
Being a grown-up really sucks ass.
Another gleeful giggle from Spike, and he points at the page. "Is that Red there?" he asks, and Xander peers over Spike's shoulder at the picture. Yup, that's Willow, back when she was an innocent, scared little sophomore. Dressed in her best plaid jumper with the lace collar, hiding behind her long hair.
Spike laughs again. "What a geek. To think I used to be wary of that one."
Xander arches his eyebrow. "You were scared of Willow?"
"Vamp thing. We can smell power, and that girl? She's loaded. Wait a couple of years on her. Bet you fifty bucks she'll be a force to be reckoned with." He sighs a little wistfully. "Still disappointed I never got the chance to turn her."
"Would you have ever turned me?" Xander blurts.
Cue instant gales of laughter. Spike throws his head back and bellows with glee. "Oh, fuck, no," he gasps. "You'd make the most pathetic excuse for a vampire ever."
"Hey!" Xander says, offended. Gives him a pissy look. "I'll have you know that in an alternate universe, I am a kick-ass vampire god." He frowns. "Or was. I think I got dusted."
"Yeah, well, in this universe, you're a prancing lightweight. Wouldn't be worth your salt as an unholy demon." Spike starts flipping through the pages again, and Xander swallows. Lowers his voice.
"So, you'd never ..."
Spike sighs and lifts his eyes to him. For a moment, there's nothing but irritation on his face, and then he shifts. Melts a little. Gives him a little blue-eyed sugar. God, his mouth looks like candy. "No," he says finally. "I wouldn't. Not even now."
This should be a good thing. Spike doesn't want to kill him. But killing's sort of what vampires do, and the knowledge that Spike wouldn't turn him is almost ... insulting.
Xander lifts his chin. "What, I'm not worth your time?" he asks. "I'd be a waste of immortality? Gee. Thanks."
Before Xander can turn his face away, Spike wraps his free hand around his cheek and jerks his gaze right back to his. "No," he says firmly. "That's not it at all. Being a vampire ... changes you. A lot. Some of us are better for it, some of us are worse. But it kills you. Certain parts of you." Spike shakes his head, and his eyes go a little soft. Runs his finger across his jawline. "Don't want to ruin what you've got going. That's all."
Oh. Wow. Wow-wow-wow. Xander's heartbeat starts to flutter, and there's this dull, aching sensation right in the middle of his ribcage. Like someone's reached inside and grabbed his heart in one tight fist decorated with black lacquer. God almighty.
He has to kiss him for that. Has to forgive him for mocking him and throwing him around. Kisses him all hungry, like he's got a tummyache for him. Starving for Spike. Jesus H. Christ.
When he pulls away, Spike gives him a scowl that's much easier to handle. "And if you ever tell anyone I said that, I'll do that to you."
Spike points at the television screen, where the plastic surgeon is now performing liposuction on the patient's flabby ass. Xander shudders. "You are an evil, twisted man."
He gets rewarded with another kiss for that.
And then back to the yearbook, perusing the pages for more amusing photographs. He gets a good snicker out of the picture of fluffy little Harmony. "Look at that. Unicorns even then. I'm a bastard for shagging her."
"Yes," Xander says seriously. "Yes, you are."
He flips through the pages again, and then lands on Xander's picture. Instantly, Spike bellows out laughter. "Oh, Christ, look at you! That's bloody priceless right there."
Xander cringes when he looks at the photo. "Hey, that's not my fault. I had the stomach flu when it was picture time."
Spike's still giggling his evil hyena laugh. "You look like you're about to toss it right then and there."
Embarrassed, Xander runs a hand through his hair. "Well, I did," he admits. "Right after he snapped the picture, I threw up in the wastebasket. And if you ever tell anyone about that, then I'll do that to you."
Xander points at the television screen, where the patient is now receiving silicone breast implants. Spike snickers, and then glances back down at the page, furrowing his brow. "Wait, you've got something underneath it ..." He squints his eyes, pulls the yearbook away from him and tilts it in various directions. "Who writes that bloody small?"
Now, this is an interesting development. Xander watches as Spike tries to pick up on the tiny handwriting, and then lights up when he realizes what the problem is. "Glasses!" he says jubilantly. "You need glasses!"
Spike gives him a wide-eyed, furious look. "I do not! Just a little farsighted is all. Oh, stop your laughing. Not like it's a big deal. Besides, whoever wrote this is a right bastard for writing this small."
Xander takes the yearbook away from him and frowns at the handwriting. "Oh. That's Giles' signature. 'Xander - congratulations on not dying this year. Also, you still owe me several books, and I will not waive your library fees simply because you saved my life.' What a Watcher thing to say. And you're right. He really does write really small."
"Ha. Told you."
For the first time in years, Xander takes a look at that old yearbook photo. Yeah, it's really horrible, and he really does look like he's going to puke at any moment, but the boy's still there. Innocent eyes. God, he had such innocent eyes.
He shakes his head in amusement. "Christ, look at me. I was so young."
Spike surprises him. Reaches over and thumbs Xander's nose. "Still are."
He hasn't felt that way. Not recently. With all the responsibility and all the confusion in his life right now, Xander feels ancient and stressed out. But funny enough, he doesn't feel that way right now. Not while he's in bed with Spike.
Oh, fuck, if Spike makes me happy, then I am totally doomed.
He keeps the yearbook for a moment. Flips through the pages, smiles at the memories. Aww, look at little chubby-cheeked Buffy. When did she get so hard and cold?
Spike leans over his shoulder and snorts at the picture of the Slayer. "Look at that. Think she used enough hairspray in that shot? Fucking bitch."
Xander gives Spike a look. "Hey, that's my best friend you're talking about."
Spike snorts. "Best friend? Since when?"
Ouch. That one hurts. Mostly because Spike's right -- he hasn't seen a lot of his friends recently. And he misses them terribly, but doesn't know how to reconnect. Like a wire's been cut or severed, and he's not smart enough to figure out how to replace it. How to make things work again.
It's a terrible, lonely feeling.
It must show on his face, because there's one of those weird moments again. One of those moments where Spike actually cares. He takes his last drag off his cigarette, extinguishes it, and then touches Xander's neck. "Hey," he says softly. "Didn't mean nothing by it. Just ... you know. Hasn't been 'round much lately."
"Yeah. They've been busy. Doing the big college thing."
"And you're not."
He sighs. "No. I'm not. I don't know, it's just ... well, I don't know what I want. What I want to do with my life. Selling organic toothpaste is fine for the moment, but after that? I don't know."
Cool, slim fingers stroke the length of his neck. Oh, it feels so good. Soothing. Nice. Tender. It's been a long time since anyone was tender with him. "Don't worry, love," Spike says. "You'll suss it out, right?"
But Xander can't help but look at the yearbook and remember. Remember when things were fucked-up, yeah, but they were all still friends. All still together. And now, they're all tossed apart, scattered to the winds, and he's been left with a pretty vampire who sometimes, just sometimes, manages to give a shit.
Abruptly, Spike reaches down and picks up the yearbook. He throws it across the room and then turns to Xander with a hard look on his face. "That's it," he says. "No more brooding. Christ, you're worse than Angel right now. Ignore it. 'Sides, after the plastic surgery show's over, they're going to put on another episode of Trading Spaces."
Xander perks up a little. "Really?"
"Yeah. And I think it's the one where Hildy decorates that one room in fake flowers."
"Hee. Hildy's stupid."
"Damn right, she is."
With a happy look on his face, Spike climbs up the bed and snuggles in close to Xander again. Amusing, how the guy always falls for a warm body and the opportunity for a snuggle. But this time, instead of Xander gathering up the vampire in his arms, Spike's the one doing all the holding. Wraps Xander up tight in his embrace, puts a hand on his face and brings him to his chest. The cool, sleek muscles underneath him tighten and relax, and Xander sighs with contentment.
Spike laughs suddenly, and points at the television. "Ooo, look at that. This silly bint's going to get her colon cleansed."
"Ewww," Xander says, but he turns his head to watch anyway.
So, this is what his life is like now. Curled up with a vampire, smelling his fresh nail polish as he absently strokes Xander's cheek, watching a woman have the shit suctioned out of her colon. About three billion light years away from where he thought he'd be when he was in high school. But hey. It's not a bad life at all.
In fact, sometimes, it's just right.
"I was a poet."
Startled, Xander looks up. Spike's still got his eyes on the television screen, but they're softer now. A little more vulnerable. A gentler shade of blue, and there's a sad twist to his mouth. "What?" Xander asks, a little dazed.
"A poet," he repeats. Voice softer than cotton. "Before I was turned, I was a nancy little prig who fancied a bird about ten levels above my station. And I wrote her terrible verse, and she walked all over my heart. Told me I was invisible. That I didn't matter. And that night, Dru found me, and that was it."
It moves him. Moves him terribly. His bones, his blood, his heart. He wants to find the woman that told Spike he was worthless and cut her into pieces. Wants to go back in time and try to save Spike's life.
I want to love you. I could, if you'd let me. I could love you. I wouldn't walk all over your heart, or tell you that you were invisible, because most of the time, you're all I see.
But before Xander can say any of that, Spike's pointing again at the television. "And if you ever tell anyone I said that, then I'll do that to you."
Yeah. It's definitely one of those rainy Sundays.
But sometimes, those are the best days of all.