“Dead.  I’m dead.”

Xander stumbled over the last few steps to fall head-long onto his couch.  Almost the floor, but a miraculous burst of energy got him horizontal onto a much comfier surface.  Not that the floor was a problem, since it was flat and unmoving.  It was just that hitting it would hurt.

“It’s nearly ten pm.”

Oh, Jim bloody dandy.  The word ‘bloody’ was slowly creeping into his vocabulary and Xander shuddered every time he heard it, even in his thoughts.  He wasn’t supposed to sound like Spike.  He was the American, the corrupter.  Spike was supposed to sound like him!

Spike, in actuality, was standing in the bedroom doorway, arms crossed over his chest glaring at the sofa, which had been angled for specifically this kind of view.  Although there was supposed to be nakedness and cock-teasing, not staring at your partner doing a damn fine impression of a half-eaten pancake.

“You look like a mean wife,” popped out before Xander could stop and oh, oh was he in trouble now.  That lowering scowl, as heavy as any rain cloud, hints of thunder and lightning waiting behind the misty veil.  The tell-tale tensing of Spike’s jaw, something he never did except when extremely pissed because Spike was suddenly neurotically terrified of wearing away his teeth from grinding them—Xander didn’t know and was no way in hell asking, but Spike had managed to cut down on the grinding a lot.  Except when Xander called him a nervous, worrying, nagging woman, the one insult guaranteed to go in one of two directions:

Either Xander would get tied up and spanked so hard he couldn’t sit for a week, grinning doofily every time he tried to sit down, usually provoking the kind of comments he really didn’t want to hear from his co-workers because every twinge was a reminder of how hard Spike had made him and his body would try valiantly to recreate it.

Option two was to get the pissy wifely-fight to end all wifely-fights, resulting with Spike going to bars and beating the crap out of things and then forcing Xander to sleep on the couch until Spike got bored and horny and woke him up by pressing his cock into Xander’s mouth.  The one time Xander ever mentioned how even more like a stereotypical female this made him—the couch sleeping, not the blowjob—Spike stayed out of the apartment for a week.  That had been more effective than any of the shouting matches they usually indulged in and Xander spent the next two weeks being a good husband and toadying up to his lover with surprise gifts and outings to kill things—better than flowers!—definitely refraining from mentioning how this was furthering the stereotype yet more.

The lesson was clear: Spike, no equal girl.  Xander, big dumb stupid male.  Don’t mix up.

But today he was sore, having left the house before the sun rose at some number that was much lower than six on the glowing green clock on his night stand, and had spent the whole day moving.  Arms, legs, feet, hands, back, neck, head, and probably a lot more body parts he didn’t know he had, all necessary to complete the day’s extra special labor, and right then Xander wasn’t remembering that Spike could occasionally be touchy, he was remembering that he hurt.  Badly.  Everywhere.  With a low, dull throbbing that in a better mood might be fun to play with, but right now was just one more distraction he didn’t need.

Xander was perfectly aware of how pathetic he was.  He also didn’t care.   There was pain blocking the ‘caring’ emotion, just like it was blocking most of his ability to think.  And possibly speak, since Spike wasn’t throwing a hissy fit or stalking off in a righteous snit or any of the Spikey things that Xander loved, even when he was beating his head against the wall in frustration.  Spike was just staring.

“Did you get a break for lunch?”

Lunch?  Lunch was—oh, right, lunch was the midday meal he usually ate leaning against a wall, wishing he smoked because it looked so cool when the other guys did it, except he knew how much it cost Spike—meaning Xander—and the gross nicotine-stained fingers; playing with fingers stained only with sweat and hard work was a fetish of Spike’s, so Xander kept his wishing private and never bummed anything except maybe a bite of Jack’s wife’s pie.  She made all kinds, and all of them were a slice of heaven come to earth.

“No.  No time.”

“No supper either, then.  You hungry?”

Don’t don’t don’t mention housewives saving dinner, because that would get Xander killed for real, not just wishing-he-was-dead dead.  “Not really.”  There, see, simple, good answer.  Truthful, since the thought of food was making his stomach twist in ways that reminded him painfully of his new nemesis heartburn, but more important, it kept Spike from making him dinner.  Spike hated to cook.  He did it when he wanted to spoil Xander or there was some other important reason, but otherwise the kitchen was where the blood and the booze was housed.  And the menus from various take-out places. 

“Right.”  Spike appeared to hesitate, a shadow of something brushing over the storm clouds, softening them the way Joyce’s spoon would soften clumpy cookie dough before plopping it on to a greased pan.  Xander was pretty sure that meant sleeping on the couch was no longer in his future.  “You look like hell.”

“Thank you.  And for my next trick, I’m going to lie here like a dead thing.  You’re welcome to turn me when you get bored.”

That prompted a stiletto shaft of sunlight through the clouds, but Xander was too busy being aware of pain to understand that not only was he being given a reprieve, he was also forgiven.  The dull throbbing became a not-so-muted roar and Xander was faced with the unpleasant reality of either sliding his bones out of his body until which time the nerves stopped twinging, or crawling over to the cabinet where the industrial strength, three-month supply of painkillers were housed.  Bulk was a Sunnydale resident’s best friend, but Xander was confronted with the problem of having put medicine in the medicine cabinet.  It seemed like a good, logical thing to do at the time.  He’d had no problems with it previously, because Sunnydale problems usually required a trip to the bathroom to remove the icky, yuck, my god that stinks, before swallow horse-pills.  But this wasn’t a Hellmouth problem, this was a problem engineered by working for over twelve hours straight without food or really any kind of a break, and growing older than a bouncy, limitless sixteen.

Xander may have groaned.  Or something.  Whatever it was, the shaft of sunlight on Spike’s face disappeared into a frown of displeasure that Xander couldn’t think of a metaphor for, because thinking was making his brain threaten to dribble out of his ears.  Thinking bad.  Looking pathetic at the partner who loves you was much better.  Also, easier, since Xander was pretty sure he’d look pathetic whether or not he was trying to.  Spike said he did all the time.

“Wanker,” Spike bit off, pushing away from the doorway to enter the bathroom.  A quick detour into the kitchen and then a pill was being placed on Xander’s tongue, the cool plastic of a straw mixing with the bitter taste into something that always said ‘medicine’ to Xander, and probably would for the rest of his life.  “Swallow, you daft git.  Or do I need to stroke your throat like a puppy?”

Managing a credible canine-whine took the rest of his energy and he almost forgot to sip before swallowing.  Gritty, granular edges caught in his throat and cool hands really were stroking his throat, over and over in a pattern that shouldn’t have been so hypnotic and Xander was swallowing reflexively and trying not to think on how Spike could use this trick the next time Xander refused to swallow.  Which wasn’t so much ‘refusing to swallow’ as ‘making Spike wait because he looked so good right before he came’ and—hey!  If Spike already knew that trick, which he clearly did, why hadn’t he—?

A dizzy spin that including pretty light refractions meant his body was moving.  He hadn’t told any part of his body to do anything, he was sure of that, because the simple commands to turn his neck and make his eyes focus were being blatantly ignored.  It took ordering removal for all muscles and nerve-endings involved before they cooperated, turning and tuning in just in time to see Spike resettle Xander’s feet in his lap, minus shoes and socks, and start rubbing.

His groan was thin and reedy and more heartfelt for its pitifulness.  Spike snorted at him, but didn’t stop, expertly flexing and stroking.  “Y’know, they’ve got moisturizers for this.  Know the girls’ve tried to peddle some cream or other at you before.”

He wanted to say ‘shut up and keep rubbing’, but it came out as more wordless groany noises.  Spike kept rubbing, working until the little rubber-band muscles on top of his foot went ‘sproing’ and something released in his shoulders.  Spike had once told him that living in China for a while had been very useful, but he didn’t properly remember what Spike had been referring to, since Spike dick had been in his ass and Spike’s hands had been pressing in some complicated pattern on various parts of his body that made Xander come like he was trying to remove every single drop of sperm his body had ever produced.

“Such a wretched thing you are.  Mortal and stupid, full of smells and sounds you can’t control and I bloody wish you could.  You’re like a sodding factory for disgusting.”  Strong hands that were gentle despite the strength kneaded up past his ankles, pressing lightly on what Xander knew to be a pressure point because he instantly went lightheaded in the best, Acapulco Gold way.

“If this is your idea of seduction. . .”

“Shut up, baby, and let me work.”  Such a mass of contradiction was his lover, his precious love.  Order and bluster, obligation and resignation bracketing a word spoken with the kind of affection Xander had never thought would be directed at him.  Not without little baby snookum-sounds that made him cringe to remember it.  “Not—wait, I’ve got to seduce you now?”

Spike’s mouth made pretty noises, lies and deceit wrapped up in pink cotton candy, a spoon full of sugar easing the bile down.  His eyes, though, his eyes never lied.  Not to Xander, not even when the mouth was saying words that felt wrong and sharp and odd.  Eyes told the truth and Xander knew to look there when Spike said things that were utterly, utterly stupid like that.

Spike’s eyes were smiling and full of a gossamer light that made Xander’s equally annoyed reply die unsaid.  Thank god.  Xander didn’t have the energy for annoyed and as the drugs started to take affect, he didn’t have the ability to string a verb after a subject.  Fun with narcotics!

Nicotine stains never bothered Xander, although the occasional jagged nail did, but way up here at the top of the sofa, he couldn’t see the nicotine stains to be bothered anyway.  And Spike was being careful with his badly trimmed fingernails not to catch bits of skin in them, not even when he stopped rubbing Xander’s feet—Xander moaned—and began working over the top of Xander’s clothes to rub shin and thigh, hip and stomach, belly and the muscles right below the ears, the ones that made him squeak every time Spike put some pressure behind his rubbing.

Jello, jelly, something that jiggled when it was touched and only had that one outside layer of toughness to hold together the less cohesive insides, whatever that was, Xander was now it.  His clothes were off, he didn’t know or care how, and he’d stopped groaning only because his throat was too dry to produce a sound that wasn’t scary.  “Gonna have blisters,” Spike said as he worked each individual muscle, including all the ones Xander hadn’t known he had but had ached just the same.  “Gonna let me pop ’em, pet?  Watch bits of you ooze out while I force it all out?  Bet you would let me, wouldn’t you?  Let me do anything, so long as I keep doin’ this.”

There was something wrong with his brain.  Xander knew this, since talking about oozing blisters shouldn’t have made him hard.  Except it did, because he knew Spike wasn’t really talking about blisters and, well, Spike’s hand rolling over his pubic bone took care of any lingering disgust and replaced it with a warm blanket of lust, the heated kind that wasn’t about the quick, now, get off but lazy kisses and long, slow stretches that rubbed all the right bits together.

The drugs were definitely kicking in.

“C’mon, tubby, up you go.”  Insistent pulling at his arms, and Xander went only because his shoulder sockets were complaining, body slumped and dragging, almost totally supported by Spike as he was maneuvered from the sofa into the tub.  Empty tub, but the water that splashed on his feet was warm, so Xander didn’t complain as the level rose, even if he did feel like Bugs Bunny meeting Hannibal Lecter, who was delighted to have him for dinner.

The water stopped when it just barely topped his waist, prompting a wordless whine of complaint, since he’d specifically, and on Spike’s insistent and annoying demands, installed a tub with the high sides and the clawed feet, just his finicky vampire that didn’t cut his toenails but had to have long soaks on a semi-regularly basis could be happy.  The sound died away when Spike slid behind him, the water rising to a more comfortable level.  Good of Spike to be so thoughtful and strategic, especially since he couldn’t afford to pay the landlord any more money for leaky ceilings and apologize profusely to the tattooed gentleman—who never raised his voice because he never needed to—that lived below them.

Spike was talking again, slippery like soap and Xander insanely wondered if Spike could speak Parseltongue.  Words like sex and succulent—which wasn’t helping the Red Dragon flashbacks—seduction and slow, slow, sucking kisses.  Xander heard all of it, but he felt it more, melting into hands that rubbed with soap that smelled faintly of cedar, that knew all the right places to touch to make him ooey, gooey, and loose.  Warm and comfortable and Xander really didn’t want to move.  He was as close to happy as his floating mind and tingly body allowed.

Cool lips pressed against his neck, getting him to lean forward enough for Spike to slip out and back so quickly that Xander didn’t have time to complain.  Something that smelled of cinnamon and clove made his senses perk up a tiny bit, a cup held to his lips confirming that Spike had done what Xander thought he had.

Don’t say anything, don’t say anything, don’t say anything about Spike mulling some wine for him, Xander’s favorite after a long, hard day from work.  If he opened his mouth to do anything but drink, the wrong words were going to come out, and Xander didn’t want them to.  Not just because he was being pampered like the manly provider he was, and yet another thing to never, ever pass his lips, so he filled his mouth with liquid and held it so any words that did escape would be garbled.

“Not a lot,” Spike cautioned, again stroking Xander’s throat.  Warmth settled in Xander’s belly, removing the temptation to speak in favor of sipping more.  A body as warm as the water around him settled more comfortably, hands sliding from throat to shoulder to ease Xander back.  “Don’t want you gettin’ sick on me, ’specially with nothing in your belly.”

The thought of food still produced a clenching, twisting feeling, so Xander nodded as much as the rim of the cup allowed him and sipped and swallowed and relaxed and thought about how much he loved Spike, especially his very talented hands which were currently petting his belly and fondling his cock.

“In me,” Xander managed to mumble, most of the words getting lost in the wine, but vampiric hearing was good for many things, including hearing the things Xander muttered under his breath.

“Hush now, pet.  Gotta get you all clean, inside an’ out, don’t I?  Sides, not like you’re good for bouncing much.”

Well, no, thinking about bouncing made each joint tighten in protest, including the one between his legs.  “Can squeeze,” Xander offered.

Spike nipped his ear.  “Told you to hush, boy.  Relax.”

“Don’t have to—”

“’Course I don’t have to.  Could let you lie there, like a broken doll until the drugs kicked in and you slept half falling off.”  One day Xander was going to learn the trick that made caustic words sound like the sweetest, huskiest lover’s endearment, and why the hell only Spike got to use this trick of saying whatever he wanted and having Xander melt every time.  “Snore like a power tool and complain of cricks and kinks in the morning, too worn out to give me a proper wake up and then make me breakfast in bed.  But since I like breakfast in bed on a Saturday morning, seems I’ve got to give a little first.”

Xander wanted to turn around, lift his head from the hollow between Spike’s neck and shoulder to see the windows that were supposed to lead to emptiness and never quite did.  But moving through the cement coalescing around him was a battle he’d never win, so he shifted enough that the sharp ledge of Spike’s collarbone wasn’t digging into his neck, the rumbled words against his back better than any toy Brookstone could create, his hips held steady by a gentle hand while he was brought along on a meanderingly slow pace.  His orgasm hit the way a light summer breeze could blow in without any hint of fanfare, freshening the air with a swish, before slipping off to somewhere else.  It drained away any hint of resistance or thought, leaving him a Xander-puppet, for Spike to bend and twist whichever way the vampire wanted.

“Go to sleep, Xan,” was the last thing his brain recorded, noting a soft kiss directly behind his ear.  “I’ve got you.”