“You a ghost?”
It seemed a sensible question until Xander heard it aloud. But he’d been baked for ten hours on site and was feeling woozy from the sun, and how unreasonable was it to ask the dead – repeatedly dead – vampire waiting outside his front door if he were a ghost?
“That’s what I thought. You…er…you better come in then.”
Xander bee-lined for the kitchen, soaked a cloth under the faucet and slapped it on the barbequed section of his neck. He hissed and sighed at the cold.
“It’s been…what?” Spike mused. “Two years?”
“Something like that.” Xander leant against the sink, shut his eye and tried not to be haunted - in the literal not metaphorical sense. But he could feel it wasn’t working, didn’t even need to look. “So, how you been?”
“Busy. In my own inimitable way.”
That brought a smile to Xander’s face.
“You can’t keep out of trouble even when you’re doubly dead.”
“You don’t seem surprised.”
“Look who I’m talking to.” Or don’t look and he might just fade away. “You were always impossible…” Xander felt the difference in the atmosphere and now he risked a peek. No-one but him. “I’m going crazy,” he whispered to himself. For a brief moment he acknowledged his emptiness, and accepted that solitary confinement could send the confinee mad. “Oh, fuck.”
“Speak up,” came the call from the living room. “Vampire hearing, but give us a break, eh?”
Tossing the cloth aside Xander shambled wearily in the direction of the ghost’s voice, leaving a trail of grime behind him. He was unconcerned about the mess. Being concerned would mean making the effort to get out of his work clothes, and making an effort simply wasn’t on the agenda. He blinked a few times and scrutinised the ghost lounging on his sofa. Who smiled at him. A smile that unravelled him a little. Unravelled him a lot.
“Ghost, right? So I can say…”
“Whatever you like.”
“Yeah.” Xander nodded at that, picking up the beat of a song in his head. Punk song, one of Spike’s, appropriately. He couldn’t remember the name, if he’d ever known it. “Does this make you the dead undead or the undead undead or the dead twice removed or…” Spike rose. “What? Or what?”
“You’re out of touch,” the ghost told him rather than asked.
Xander agreed with a heartier nod that brought a shower of dust from his hair.
“Filthy site,” he muttered to himself.
“Why?” asked the ghost as it knelt before him.
“Demolition work on the next plot.”
“Didn’t you keep in touch?”
Xander examined the very real apparition in close-up. Whoever was in charge of turning out a presentable ghost was doing a good job. Spike watched as Xander weaved a few inches from side to side, compensating for only having the one eye and creating depth perception by the change in viewpoint. Xander didn’t even know he was doing it, which was pleasing because it meant he’d learnt to cope.
“Can I say what I like? Or are you the kind of ghost who haunts and tells?”
“You obviously haven’t heard news from LA for a long time.”
“I couldn’t… I found it hard. To keep in touch. To be that Xander, and if I couldn’t be that Xander it was easier not to be…” Xander gave up and shrugged.
“Any Xander,” Spike finished for him.
“When it all sank in.
About Anya. About…” Xander felt himself plummeting and performed
a brisk anti-wallow turnabout. “Buffy
got her normal life, Dawn’s going to be something smart and scary in law, and
Xander reached out and poked Spike’s ghost firmly in the centre of his chest. Absurdly disappointed that his finger didn’t go through the apparition, he tried again with the same digit-impeded result.
“Don’t you want to know why I’m here?”
“Am I about to die and you’ve come to fetch me because no-one else gave a damn?”
“Heat stroke or questionable wit, hard to tell with you.”
Spike put a cold hand on Xander’s burning forehead. Xander flinched with the shock then leant into it with an expression of dumb pleasure on his face. The ghost was near enough for Xander to notice he was contaminating the requisite black ensemble.
Xander’s attempts to brush it away simply made matters worse, leaving grubby marks streaked across the cotton. Spike looked down and looked up.
“You arse,” he said without contempt and Xander, astonishingly, agreed without pause; another nod that loosened yet more dust that settled unbecomingly on Spike’s t-shirt. “I’ll put you in the shower, I think,” Spike announced.
Taking a hand he drew Xander to his feet. Xander studied Spike, causing Spike to study Spike. Xander prodded him again.
“You’re pretty substantial for a ghost.”
“I work out.”
The water was lukewarm heading for cold, and it was bliss. Xander stood with his hands against the wall and let the naked vampire ghost shampoo his hair.
“I understood. Finally. About you.”
“I hope you’re not going to destroy my fondly held image of Xander as bigot by apologising for being such a prick.”
“No. Because most of the time you deserved it. But some of the time you didn’t. And I get that now.”
“I saved the world.”
“Yeah, me too. Gets kinda old, huh?”
Spike guided Xander under the spray and watched the suds flood away before starting to soap the broad back, taking his time massaging Xander’s stiff muscles.
“Few rounds with a demon’d loosen you up.”
“Few rounds of what?”
Xander heard Spike’s once familiar snigger and it made him smile even as his chest ached from it.
“I can say whatever I want?”
“Ghost here, apparently. Don’t know why you think I’d be more discreet as a ghost, mind.”
“Buffy was too good for you.”
There was a pause. A sigh. There was the washing of nether regions that caught Xander by surprise. This was a very hands-on phantom.
Xander hesitated, ran a dry tongue over equally dry lips, which was a rare skill in a shower.
“I wasn’t.” Spike was still and silent and Xander swallowed with an audible click. “I wasn’t too good for you and we should have seen that. We were a matching pair. Unneeded and unwanted but occasionally useful. I could have needed and wanted you, would have.”
“Fair enough,” Spike accepted without much apparent consideration, hands resuming their tour of Xander’s body.
“And now it’s too late.”
“It is? Why is it?”
“You’re dead, doofus.”
“I’ve always been dead. All the time I’ve known you I’ve been dead,” Spike protested. “And it doesn’t hold you back like it used to, being dead. Half the CDs you own were recorded by dead people.”
“But not after they were dead and I can’t believe we’re having this conversation, this is the kind of conversation that used to drive me…” Xander could be honest if this were a ghost. Surely now he could be honest? “Wild.”
“Wild?” repeated Spike, with a tiny hint of hope.
Xander gasped as soapy fingers pushed indelicately into him, bracing himself for what, or perhaps who, was coming next. Spike’s cock was informally introduced and Xander almost wept with the invasion, because it was real and solid and un-spectral and many inches of ecstasy. A strong hand encircled Xander’s erection and, whether the participants were dead or alive, ghosts in fact or fable, an enthusiastic fuck ensued that left them both trembling and clinging and sated.
“I’m here,” Spike promised. “I think I might stay.”
“That’s…a relief.” Xander’s breath hitched, once and again. He leant back into long-lost support, becoming a dead weight as Spike sucked at his neck. “Missed you,” he mouthed, couldn’t actually say, to his ghost that was not a ghost.
“You still…” Spike murmured into the damp flesh, and his breath, however pointlessly, hitched too.
Spike closed his eyes and concentrated on the flavour of being home.
“You still taste like ice cream.”
“Is there anyone here who hasn't slept together?”