As It Began
"More and more men are having plastic surgery these
Xander shrugged, skimming the article. "Want to stay looking young longer, I guess. I suppose I can understand it; none of us look our age anymore after growing up on the Hellmouth. Really takes it out of you, and I, for one, would not mind recapturing my lost youth. Not that you'd know anything about that, being preserved-until-dusted and all."
"No," Spike said, turning the eye that wasn't gashed, puffy, and healing on Xander. "Why are you telling me this?"
"It's in the newspaper," Xander said, after a long moment.
The silence stretched until Spike couldn't stand it. "I can see that. So? Why tell me?"
Xander kept his eye fixed on the newspaper, but the muscles in his jaw tightened as he turned the page, no sound other than the rattling of the newspaper interrupting the silence in his kitchen. But his eye wasn't tracking. Wasn't reading.
"Because nobody else is here," Xander said finally, his voice quiet, verging on angry. "Because nobody else is ever here, but you are." His head snapped up. "Why are you here, Spike? Why are you here in
Spike returned the glare with a blank stare, mutely.
Spike spread his fingers on the table, naked of polish, still red along the knuckles and backs as new skin grew to replace old. "What do you want me to answer first?"
Spike shrugged. "Dunno." He lifted clouded blue eyes to Xander. "Maybe you're starting to feel like home."
"You've lived with me twice, Spike. Twice. Both times against my will."
Spike's eyes skittered away. "Didn't say I had a good reason for any of it. I can go, y'know. If that's what you're hinting at."
Xander deflated, elbows resting heavily on the table top, and looked, looked small, Spike realized for the first time, raking over him. "No. I just wanted to know why," Xander said.
"Nobody else want to be around you these days, that it?" A flutter of anger settled in Spike's chest, and his hand twitched a finger's width closer to Xander's. "Did what they needed you for, and now you're just in the way?"
Why don't you fuck off, Spike?
Great. Just what I needed. You haunting me.
Okay, Spike. You've got a body, now go away.
Why are you still here, Spike?
"No," Xander protested, too quickly. "They're not like that."
"Or is it that they don't see you?"
The way Xander looked away, part guilt, part sadness made Spike's guts clench. "I see you, Harris." When Xander remained silent, Spike went on. "I see you not bothering to eat. I see you sitting around this Council-funded flat all day, every day. I see you wander into that wood workshop you've got in back, and wander out again without touching a bloody thing. I see you fading. You trying to go away on us?"
"Why should you care?" When they don't; the words hung unspoken in the air between them.
Spike looked away. "Been invisible myself recently."
"I'm only half invisible." The attempt at humor died a sad and squeaking death between them, and Xander turned his attention back to the paper. "I don't mind," he lied, "I've never had all this time to myself; it's great. I can read whole newspapers without having to stop for a crisis in the middle of the Sports section."
"Try that once more, with feeling why don't you?"
"I'm serious, Spike. I'm fine. So I'm a little bored. I've earned my boredom."
"Bollocks," Spike said again, helpfully, and stood up, beginning to pace in the small confines of the kitchen. "You've always been the best of your little lot at making excuses. And believe you me, that takes some doing. You don't like thinking your friends could abandon you, so it all becomes a grand vacation. Extra leave time for good service. Well it's all just bollocks. You're wasting away out here. Wasting your time. Wasting your life. Buggering fuck, Xander! You're only twenty three years old! I was older than you when I died!"
"You called me Xander," Xander said quietly.
"Xander," he repeated, lifting his eye to Spike. "You called me Xander."
"Well it's your name, innit?"
"I don't think you've ever called me by my name before." Xander shook his head. "Not like that."
"Like what?" Spike frowned, beginning to get the uncomfortable feeling he'd somehow let slip more than he'd intended.
Xander looked back down at the table top. "Like you care. That I'm me. Xander," he elaborated, "not anybody else."
The words brought Spike up short, and he looked down at Xander in genuine confusion. "I do."
"Don't see me rushing to room with anyone else, do you?"
"Because I'm a pushover, Spike, and you know I won't throw you out at noon when you eat the last bag of chips."
"No, you pillock. I'm rooming with you because you're the only human I can stand day in and day out without going stark raving mad."
"Oh, now there's a resounding recommendation. Why don't you go live with Dawn? At least she's cute."
Spike froze, looking closely at Xander, a wariness chilling his heart in his chest. "Are you trying to get rid of me?" Too?
Xander slumped. "No. Sit back down, Spike. I'm just really..."
"Lonely?" Spike guessed, noting Xander's flinch.
"Bored," Xander said quickly. "And nursing a vampire with a hero complex back to health gives me something to do with my days."
"I'm not some sodding obligation, Harris."
"And back to the Harris. My life is now on familiar ground. No, Spike. As bizarre as it may be for you to grasp, and as completely twisted as it may be for me to say this, I consider you kind of a friend."
"Kind of a friend," Spike echoed, the faint amusement showing in his voice.
"Okay. A friend. You did good back in Sunnydale around the end, Spike. I can't fault you for what you did before you got the soul, as much as I want to. Jeez, I did worse with a soul. Sometimes." He lowered his head into his hands, lacing his fingers through over-long dark waves.
"Doesn't sound like you, all that you just said," Spike said, cautiously.
"Had to grow up some time, Spike." Xander turned his head, resting his cheek on his folded arm, and watching Spike sideways. "I see a lot more clearly these days, and pause to marvel at the irony of that one."
"Yeah? Well I'm seeing a lot more clearly these days myself." Spike leaned over, tilting his head slowly until it was on a plane with Xander's, laying his cheek against the smooth dark wood of the table.
"Huh. And what're you seeing clearly now?"
"You." It took no more than a heartbeat for Spike to press his lips to Xander's, and sweep his tongue out to taste the shocked huff of warm breath. "I see you."
Xander's eye opened, but he didn't pull away. He only watched Spike up close, silently.
"Pet?" Spike asked, thumb tracing Xander's lower lip, eyes flickering from eye to lips, and back again.
"Yeah?" Xander's breath was hot, moist against Spike's hand, and he leaned in to the touch.
"No plastic surgery, hey? I like what I see now. Don't go changing it on me."