Xander drummed his fingers against the wooden desk he’d built, eyes glued to the screen before him. It made no sense, him having a computer. He wasn’t good at techie stuff. Or learning stuff. Which wasn’t quite true since he’d managed to move his way up in the construction company without any formal training, just picking things up as he went along. But still, him? With a computer? He was the original ‘must see it and touch it and preferably have someone break it down into tiny, easily understood packets to get things’. That was probably why the computer had sat in its box, unopened, for almost a week after it’d arrived through the mail.
Except then work wanted him to actually use it, half the reason it’d been bought, and he’d put in a quick, frantic call to Willow to help him set the thing up.
All that did, though, was explain the presence of the computer. Sitting on his table like a weirdly glowing bug. Or demon. Computers could be demons, right? Or was that only demons inside computers? Regardless, none of that explained why Xander was sitting there, nervously tap-tap-tapping away on the desk as he waited. Anxiously watching the bottom of the screen for the little lowered flag to pop up, so phallic that it passed irony and went straight to cheese.
He glanced around his room again, checking for one more time to make sure he was alone. No one was going to visit him, not until he got over the death-flu he was currently home sick with. He knew that, but still he checked, and checked again. He couldn’t help it, really. This was. . . wrong. Dirty. Okay, yeah, the first thing he’d done with his shiny new computer and shiny new internet connection was download porn. That was totally understandable, really. He was a guy. Guys dug porn. Kind of like saying humans liked to breathe. Or eat. Or something normal. Give a guy access to porn, and he’s going to take it, and then fill up ten gigs of space with it. That was all fine and normal and made him blush fire-engine red when Willow found out about it, but otherwise, he didn’t care.
Except for two things. The first was that the porn wasn’t your standard girl, guy, bang bang bang porn. The second was that right then, Xander was doing something much, much worse than look at porn.
Gay personal ads.
Including the one Xander had placed.
He read over the words again, groaning—which turned into a sniffling wet cough of anguish. He didn’t remember placing the ad. Xander would swear that in a court of law or under any of Willow’s scary truth spells. He did remember looking at this particular online page the night before, right before he’d taken the final dose of the medication his doctor had prescribed. That was it. Next thing he knew, he was stumbling over to the computer, mug of ginger ale in one hand, tea in the other, three boxes of tissues already ready and waiting—to find messages. Lots of messages.
Hey, sweet-cheeks. Why don’t you and me get together and I’ll make sure to treat you just fine. Feed you my cock till your drowning in my cum before I ride you like the sweet little bitch I know you’ll be, was one of the nicer ones. Also, it had the fewest grammatical errors.
So he was gay. So he was lonely. So he was also horny, despite the drugs coursing through his system. So he’d been out of his mind the night before.
That made it okay to post a personal ad? One that was full of words Xander wasn’t even sure he knew how to spell, or understand, when he was sober?
Groaning, Xander put his head back in his hands.
The worst part was that he couldn’t bring himself to delete it. He just sat the computer, alternating between the drug daze and horror, waiting for more replies to flood in. Some came with pictures. A few even had medical records attached. Most of them were so disgusting that he flushed so hard his pulse throbbed behind his eyes, trying not to react to the blatant pictures those words created and convince himself it wasn’t a good reaction at the same time.
But he still couldn’t look away. He didn’t notice when the sun went down, his drinks flat and cold, respectively, tissues growing into a mutated mountain beside him. He just stared, and clicked, and occasionally flushed, lost in some world he couldn’t find his way out of—
Until someone knocked on the door.
Blinking, Xander stared in the direction of the door. Was he hearing things? Entirely possible, except, no, there was the knock again, slightly more impatient this time. Oh god. There was someone at the door. Someone not Buffy or Willow or Giles, and dear god, even if it was Buffy or Willow or Giles or anyone he knew, he didn’t want him seeing his personal ad!
Turning off the monitor with a squeak, Xander stumbled to his feet, calling out something unintelligible as he tried to pull his robe more tightly around him. It didn’t work, but he was pretty sure he was within the bounds of modesty and opened the door. To reveal Spike. Glaring. Very, very pissed.
Spike didn’t move from the doorway, studying Xander with an intense gaze Xander had never had the pleasure (or, you know, terror) of enduring before. It stripped off the robe and junky sweat shirt and sweats underneath, flaying off his skin to go all the way to heart of Xander, watching it stutter.
The rough noise Spike made—thick with rage, harsh with sandpaper disgust—must have been some kind of acknowledgment, because Spike shoved his way into the apartment and started. . . started. . .
Okay, Xander was hallucinating.
“Sbike? What’re you dooink?”
Hallucination!Spike threw him a dirty look and continued doing something the real Spike never would. Cleaning. Mugs, plates and silverware were collected, rinsed and dumped in the dishwasher. Xander’s bed was neatened if not actually made, and the window in that room was opened to let in a blast of cool air. His tissues were dumped into the trash and the general mess of a single man alone and sick in his apartment for two days was straightened.
Finished, Spike gave him another dirty look and grabbed his hand. Ignoring Xander’s, “Hey!” of outrage, he dragged Xander over to the computer, sat him down, and turned on the monitor.
Xander flushed. He’d forgotten to close his browser along with turning off the monitor. Stupid. He blamed being sick and the meds, but he was pretty sure he’d have done that without the death-flu.
Except. . . wait a minute. How had Spike known that Xander had been looking at the computer? And why was he looking at the monitor, eyes moving over the pixilated message like it wasn’t new or unfamiliar and whoa, hands on his shoulders. Cool, nice hands against the flush of his skin, the thumbs pressing lightly at the base of Xander’s neck, finding the sick-knot and working it gently.
“Young, single man,” Spike read. “Six feet, one hundred and sixty pounds. Seeking older, experienced partner. Must enjoy training puppies, rough discipline appreciated. Accent, especially British, is preferred. No bears apply. Collars optional. Please contact Scoobyboy4.”
Xander swallowed as well as his stuffed nose allowed. So. Screwed. And not in the way his medicated self had wanted.
Spike continued rubbing absently, his fingers curling and uncurling in the lapel of Xander’s robe. “I wasn’t sure, you know. Could be wrong. Hell, it could have been Giles.”
Xander went totally rigid, immediately starting to babble anything he could think of in a desperate attempt to stop that train of thought. Giles? Ew, no thank you, he’d out grown—er, never wanted that. But what Spike was implying was just not going to happen. No way, no how, must misdirect!
Spike solved the problem by holding his hand over Xander’s mouth. It didn’t suffocate him, but with a nose already very blocked it did limit his airflow but good. “I’d smack your nose,” Spike told him conversationally. “But it’s red enough as it is. Careful I don’t find a rolled up newspaper and rap your bottom.”
Shuddering? Was really a bad thing to do. “Chip,” he said, surprisingly clear.
Spike turned him slowly, lips curling like the edges of old paper, brittle and sharp and yellow and mean—but not bad mean. “Now pet, you know it works only if you’re feeling pain. The kind you don’t want.”
Oh, fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Spike knew. He’d guessed, somehow, or seen it, or figured it out and he wasn’t going to let Xander forget this ever. There’d be the puppy jokes and the snide comments to make him blush and squirm in front of his friends and the knowing looks, teasing the pitiful human kid that dared to want—
The slight smack to his chest made him gasp, immediately doubling over as he coughed and coughed and coughed. When he was certain that he’d coughed up his spleen, possibly a kidney or two, the spasms finally eased enough that he could lean back and let Spike help him sit up. “Uck oo,” he said wetly.
Spike chuckled and the sexual heat he exuded, shaded with anger and repressed violence, totally vanished. Gone. Instead there was just Spike, staring down at him with a half-smile that had not a trace of smirk or leer in it. “Actually, pet, think it was you who wanted to be fucked. And not yet, you won’t be. Need to get you nice and healthy before we start those games.”
Xander blinked. And then blinked again. This was the drugs, right? He was high, hallucinating, and Spike wasn’t crouching beside him, stroking his stomach with a lazy, cool hand that soothed muscles tense and sore from so much coughing. “Huh?” he asked.
Spike chuckled and leaned forward, bussing his lips against Xander’s stubble-laden chin. “Not doing more when you’re all snotty and full of drugs. Taste like crap. But if you wanted, pet, you just should’ve asked.”
Xander swallowed thickly, blinking as he tried to make his mind work. “Huh?”
Another chuckle, another kiss, and then hands were urging him to his feet. “Later, love. We’ll do that ruddy talking thing once you're healthy and I’ve shagged you a few times. But first, gotta get you healthy. So come on, off to bed, and I’ll fix you some real tea.”
Totally bewildered, Xander didn’t have the strength or motor skills to protest as he was turned towards his bedroom. Sinking down on to the mattress was easier than forming words, so he did what Spike told him to, letting Spike fuss and ease him, listening as Spike clacked something on the computer and muttered about puppies and too much bloody work to take care of. The comments followed him into sleep, providing fodder for some very interesting dreams.
The next morning, feeling slightly better after Spike rubbed some stuff on his chest, Xander stumbled his way over to the computer out of habit, returning to the ad he’d placed—and blinked. Coughed. Shaking his head—whoa, swimming eyeballs—he looked back to double check. Yup, his ad was there. All the words he’d written had a line through them, the little ‘you have mail’ icon greyed out. Underneath the icon were two little words: