Chapter Two: 500 Channels
When his alarm went off the next morning, Xander reached over and slapped at it, then just lay in the bed for a minute, smiling to himself. Spike was curled around him, chest to back, knees tucked behind Xander's knees, one arm curled under Xander's pillow and the other over Xander's waist, folded up against Xander's chest. This had happened every morning down in the basement, and Xander had known it would happen again. Had counted on it. On Spike seeking warmth, seeking...contact.
*Seeking you? That what you're hoping? That if he was in bed with anybody else this wouldn't happen?*
*Shut up,* Xander thought to the soldier. *It's too early for that shit. Just let me...savor this. Just one more minute...*
The soldier was silent, and Xander did savor, concentrating on feeling every inch of Spike's body pressed against his; on filling his lungs with the scent of him. He and Spike had never talked about this - in fact, Xander had often wondered if Spike really remembered. Sometimes he moved when Xander got out of bed and occasionally even talked, but Spike had never actually mentioned it.
The first time it had happened, Xander had about had a heart-attack. But it had gotten...comfortable, over time. Then he'd craved it. When Spike had moved out Xander had missed it fiercely, but hadn't ever expected for it to happen again. Now that it was... he would savor. He could feel his arousal growing, and sighed. Time to get up, start his day, go to work.
Reluctantly, he pried himself loose from the vampire's grip and slithered out of bed. He opened his dresser drawers, trying to be quiet while grabbing underwear and jeans, socks and a t-shirt. He turned towards the bathroom and noticed Spike had shifted in the bed, moving over into the warm place left by Xander's body, cuddling his pillow close and burrowing down. Xander couldn't help it - he grinned, and kept grinning as he dressed and washed and got ready for the day - grinned at himself in the mirror until the soldier barked at him to hurry up. Six o'clock - gotta be on site by six-thirty.
Xander went quietly out to the kitchen and even grinned at the mess Spike had left; duster crumpled over his chair and smokes, lighter, ashtray, dirty mug scattered on the table with random ashes and a few drops of dried blood. Xander put the mug to soak in the sink and dumped the ashtray, then put it back with the cigarettes and lighter near Spike's chair. Then he got some cereal and a glass of grape juice and turned on the radio to hear the weather. Mild and sunny - chilly after the sun went down. Christmas was past, and it was still cool enough to wear a jacket, even during the day. Xander loved this time of year, when the relentless California heat took a break and they got the merest hint that there were actual seasons out there. Then the weather was over and the DJ got on, loud and obnoxious - the 'morning wake-up' thing that Xander hated. Finally the DJ announced the next song - Nine Inch Nails - and it started playing . Xander hadn't heard this one before. He listened to it, crunching, and it seemed...eerily apt.
*Trust Trent to have a song about my personal angst*
"I can't shake this
feeling in my head... There's a devil sleeping in my bed...
He's watching you from across the way... I cannot make this feeling go away...
I know it's not the right thing... and I know it's not the good thing...
Kinda I want to..."
Xander finished his cereal and washed the few dishes, stacking them in the drainer and wiping the counter and table down. He'd only lived here a few weeks - had, in fact, moved out of his parent's house the same week Spike had - but he loved his little house already and felt the urge to take care of it. So different from the basement. He reached to turn off the radio, pausing to hear the end of the song.
"Kinda I want to... Maybe just for tonight...
We can pretend it's alright... What's the price I pay...
I don't care what they say... I want to..."
Xander sighed and turned it off. *You and me both, Trent* He crept through the bedroom to the bathroom and brushed his teeth, then got a heavy flannel jacket from the closet and searched around for his work boots. They were half under the bed on his side, and he sat down on the floor and pulled them on, lacing them up, going fast. Done, he lifted his head to take a last look at the sleeping vampire. Cobalt eyes peered back at him, tangled hair like a dandelion clock, pale-satin skin... Xander blinked, and put his finger to his lips.
"I'm just going. Back before six. I'll have more blood and some Chinese or something, ok?" he whispered.
"Dumplings and lots of soy sauce," Spike whispered back, and Xander grinned. Spike nestled back down into Xander's pillow and Xander stood up and walked out, grabbing his keys and wallet from the kitchen counter, stuffing a couple of apples into the pockets of the flannel. He stopped just inside the living room - went back and pulled the blinds shut in the kitchen, window and door, and made sure the chain was across the kitchen door. Then he was gone, grinning so hard he thought his face would crack. Spike would be there when he got home.
Some time after noon and Spike startled out of sleep. *What was that?* He lay frozen, listening, but after a moment realized he'd only been dreaming. *Yeah. Dreaming. Nice word for...* The house was silent except for the wind and the dry rushing of the surf, rolling in somewhere nearby. Spike relaxed, stretching hard, luxuriating in the softness of the bed. He hadn't got a bed at the crypt yet, and Xander's was nice, just soft enough to burrow into. He closed his eyes and lay there for another minute, but sleep was elusive and finally he decided to get up. He took another shower *Don't know how bloody nice it is, to have all this hot water at their fingertips* and used Xander's toothbrush, wondering if the boy had figured out he'd used it the night before. Probably not. Maybe he didn't care, though - not if what Spike had scented and heard in the shower last night was because of himself.
*And wouldn't that be bloody ironic. A 'Scooby' lustin' after a vamp. And has been since the basement, unless I miss my guess. Can't say as I blame him.* Spike smirked. He hadn't seen himself in a mirror in over a century, but he knew he looked damn good.
He wandered out to the kitchen, noticing his lighter and smokes stacked by the ashtray, his duster folded over the back of the couch. Even the bloody mug clean and in the dish-rack. *Least he knows how to keep a place. 'Cept he never kept the basement like this. Guess he likes this place.*
Spike heated up a mug-full of blood - human blood, and that made him grin - and settled into a chair to smoke and drink. He noticed that even if the house had had all its blinds up it was still pretty gloomy, surrounded as it was by eucalyptus, sycamore, and pine. Their shadows danced behind the blinds and the steady breeze from the west added the soft susurrus of rustling leaves to the ambient. Blood finished, smoke clenched in his teeth, he got his jeans out of the bathroom and pulled them on, then surveyed with distaste his bloody, torn shirt.
*Said he'd find me a shirt - guess I'll just have to find one fer myself. Hope he's got something besides those bloody monstrosities I had to choose from in the basement.*
Spike threw his shirt away and went into the bedroom. He opened the top drawer of the dresser and found piles of t-shirts: white, blue, green, a red one and a yellow one. No black. Wait - there was a small pile of undershirts, the kind people called wife-beaters, and he pulled one of those out. It wasn't as big as the t-shirts would have been, and he smoothed it down over his belly. White, but better then baggy. He fixed another mug of blood and went into the living room - clicked on the TV. It took him just under two minutes to realize Xander didn't have cable and got about five channels. He switched off in disgust. *Great. Bloody wanker. Who has a TV and no cable? This is gonna be a bloody boring day.* He got up, abandoning his empty mug on the coffee table, and lit another cigarette. *Nuthin' to do but snoop* he thought, smirking.
Snooping took about an hour. He turned out every drawer and cabinet, went through the closet and all the boxes that were piled in the corner by the washing machine - boxes Xander hadn't unpacked yet. He didn't find much. In the bottom of the last box, amidst worn paperbacks and book club hardbacks were some matchbooks from a place called the 'Fabulous Ladies Night Club'. And a picture of Xander with his arm around the shoulders of a handsome, black-haired man. Spike looked at it closely.
*Never seen this bloke before. Looks like they were close, though* For some reason that thought unsettled him. He shoved the picture away.
Done snooping, he wandered back into the kitchen, bored and jittery. The confrontation with the soldiers the night before - the damn tracer and the Watcher being such a bloody prick had all left him on edge. He felt like kicking the living shit out of something. *Bloody fuckin' bastards. The lot of 'em. And the damn Slayer, serves her right, too bad that demon didn't slit her gullet for her and be done. Get this thing out of me, I'll show 'em how it's done, the fucks...* But while he pictured bloody havoc and screaming vengeance on all and sundry, another voice in his head - a tiny voice, but audible none the less - whispered something else entirely.
*But are you going to do that to him, too? He's taking care of you - he's being good to you. And he doesn't have to, you know that. He kissed you...don't you want to know why?* Spike snarled to himself, the demon coming to the fore and then flickering away.
*Course I want to know. Doesn't mean I don't want to kill his bloody gang, though. He's not even part of the gang so much anymore. Got that job, got this place, doesn't seem to care fuck all about them. Skipped some meetings, didn't patrol - pissed Red off when he told her cookies did not make up for gettin' every demon in Sunnyhell after him that day, or blindin' the Watcher. Been natterin' at the Slayer about that Riley bastard, too. Doesn't trust him, as well he shouldn't... Curiouser and curiouser*
Spike snatched his duster off the couch and slumped into a kitchen chair. He went through his pockets, piling all the odds and ends on the table; picking through them, discarding a few things. He fanned through a pile of business cards and stopped on one he'd gotten just a few days ago. *Clem. Yessss. This is exactly what we need here* Grinning, he got up and grabbed the phone and dialed the number on the card, ignoring the little voice that said *We? How'd that happen?*
"Clem? It's Spike. You were just over at my crypt the other day. Right, in Memorial Gardens. I got another job for you. Yeah, hang on..." Spike grabbed a stack of mail and read Xander's address off an electric bill.
"Right. Bloody brilliant. See you in a bit, mate." Satisfied, he lit a cigarette and sorted his things back into his duster. Then he grabbed a box of Graham crackers out of the pantry and rooted out a jar of peanut butter and a knife and started making sandwiches.
Xander drove down his street, fighting the urge to floor it and get to his house quicker. He'd thought about Spike *curled up in my bed* all day - had, in fact, almost cut his hand open on a circular saw and had stumbled around the site in a daze. Manny his foreman had noticed and made him sit down and go over blueprints for the last couple of hours.
Xander smiled, thinking about Manny. He was the owner's father and was teaching Xander woodworking skills - how to make custom cabinets, tables, desks. It was amazing and interesting. *And I'm good at it, which is really amazing* Manny owned Xander's house - all the houses in this cul-de-sac - and had helped Xander do a few repairs before he'd moved in. 'Shotgun houses', Manny called them. Built during the war, when military and civilians alike flooded into Sunnydale to train and to work in the factories. The tiny lots had been planted with trees and the whole street was shady and green. And the best part, to Xander's way of thinking, was the bluff and the beach, barely a quarter of a mile away. Just outside his back door, really. And even if it was a small, rocky beach, the endless whisper of the surf was comforting and relaxing. Xander loved it.
As Xander neared his house, he spotted a rusting white panel van parked outside. He pulled into the drive and got out, frowning at it. The van had a ladder and a couple bundles of cable attached to the roof, but no company name or logo on its dusty sides. He felt his stomach clench up, paranoia kicking into overdrive. *What the hell is up with that van. Is it - could it be the Initiative? Are they in the house? Did they find Spike? Oh fuckfuckfuck. Breathe, damnit, get inside and see what's going on first* Xander grabbed his cooler and the big bag of Chinese in one hand, and his tool belt in the other. At the very least, he could swing it, sending the hammer and screwdrivers into someone's face. He walked up to his front door, took a deep breath, and opened it. Stepping inside he was temporarily blind in the dimness and he blinked furiously, trying to clear his vision. The first thing that he could see was a pale blonde head and the body beneath it, sitting at the kitchen table wreathed in smoke. There was someone on the other side.
"Hey, Spike," he called, shutting the door behind him.
"Did'ja get dumplings, mate?"
"Course I did... We got company?" Xander approached the kitchen warily and felt the knot in his stomach loosen a bit as he took in the visitor. A humanoid figure, with drooping ears and folds of loose skin and big eyes like a puppy. A demon. *And when your company is a demon and that's a relief you know your life is too twisted for color TV*
"Yeah - mate a' mine. This is Clem. Clem, this is Xander."
The floppy-eared demon grinned nervously at him, making a small wave with his hand. "Hey there, Xander."
"Hey, uh, Clem." Xander dropped his tool belt and came all the way into the kitchen. He put the Chinese on the table and went to unpack the cooler. Spike watched him, grinning, and Xander noticed suddenly that the vampire was wearing one of Xander's undershirts. Spike's pale arms glowed in the dim, greenish light that suffused the shuttered house and Xander stared at him for a minute before turning hastily and unpacking the cooler into the 'fridge. He grabbed two beers and a soda and shut the door, then turned to Spike and Clem.
"So - have a good day?" He set the beers on the table and pulled a chair out, just then noticing that Spike and Clem already had beers. *But theirs are mostly empty, so that's ok. Fuck, he looks good in my shirt* Hastily, he opened his soda and took a long drink.
"Bloody boring. That's why I called Clem. He works for one of those satellite companies. Got us a satellite."
"Oh? He - a satellite? What're you - "
"You know - satellite TV? I set up accounts, mount the hardware, that sort of thing." Clem bobbed a little in his seat, as if Xander were making him nervous. "Now you've got, oh, about five hundred channels."
"Five hundred ch - ? Uh - Spike, I really can't afford that many channels. I mean, that's kind of why I gave the whole cable thing a miss, you know?"
Spike puffed on his cigarette, elbow-deep in the bag of food, setting the little red and white cartons down in an ever-expanding circle around him. "Don't worry 'bout it, Xander, Clem an' me have an understanding, okay? Can't sit around here all bloody day watching five channels. I'd go barkin'. Ah, dumplings."
"Hmm. Okay... This 'understanding' won't get me thrown in jail, will it, Clem?"
Clem jumped a little, eyeing Xander over his beer. "Uh, no. Not at all."
Xander looked at him and Clem grinned. *Just go with it. Spike's staying so he can watch five hundred channels! Ahem* Xander tried to quell the excited fluttering that his stomach was doing. Suddenly, he felt giddy. "Great. That's great. Hey, Clem, want to join us for dinner? Got plenty."
"Oh no, no, no. Can't do that. Got another installation to make today. Thanks anyway, though. It was, uh, real nice to meet you, Xander. See ya, Spike. You call me if anything isn't working, ok?"
"Right, mate. Thanks." Spike waved a chopstick-skewered dumpling at Clem and watched as the demon let himself out. "That Clem's a good guy," Spike mused, and stuffed the dumpling in his mouth.
Nine Inch Nails - Kinda I Want To