flaming muse


In the middle of one Sunday afternoon, when the dishes from lunch had been washed and the translation he had brought home from work had been completed and tucked back in his battered leather briefcase, Wesley wandered into the living room with the section of the paper that contained the week's largest and most difficult crossword puzzle. Spike shifted over on the couch as Wesley sat down but didn't otherwise acknowledge his presence; the vampire's attention was entirely focused on the soccer match on the television screen.

"Come on, you daft git!" Spike said, receiving only a slightly curious glance from Wesley, who was used to that sort of outburst when Spike was watching TV. "If you just ran faster he wouldn't keep stealing the ball from you."

Wesley smiled and picked up the pen on the table beside him before turning his attention to the puzzle. "A seven-letter word for laughable," he murmured to himself, reading the first clue. The answer was on the tip of his tongue. R-something. Riparian? No, that meant living on or related to a river, which reminded him that he had meant to re-read that Jerome K. Jerome book at some point. Besides, it was too many letters. Rapacious? No, definitely not.

"Risible," Spike said, not turning his eyes from the television.

Surprised that Spike had given him the correct answer so easily, Wesley blinked at him for a moment before nodding and filling in the word. He was silent for a few more minutes as he worked his way through the puzzle. "Nine letters, drying," he muttered after a particularly rousing series of swears from Spike distracted him from his task.

"Siccative. Now you're running in the wrong bleeding direction!"

Wesley looked over at Spike, both startled and amused. The vampire seemed entirely unaware that his annoyance with the players had been interrupted by his answer. He deliberately read the next clue aloud. "Blow. Ten letters."

Spike responded immediately and obviously automatically. "Insufflate."

Smiling to himself and feeling only marginally annoyed that it would have taken him far longer to come up with the word, Wesley shook his head and went back to work. "Nine letters. Power." He began to fill in the answer.


"Yes, I knew that one," Wesley said a bit testily.

"What?" As Spike looked over, his eyes finally shifting from the screen, there was a huge cheer from the television. "Oh, bloody hell, I missed a goal."

"I didn't mean to interrupt you."

"The way the goal keeper was playing there'll probably be a couple more," Spike said, glancing at what was in Wesley's hands. "Did you want something, pet?"

"I'm just doing the crossword."

"Is that what you were on about?"

"I don't randomly quiz you on the breadth of your vocabulary, no," Wesley said dryly.

Spike chuckled and pressed closer, sliding his arm over the back of the couch behind Wesley.

"How did I do?" he asked, looking at the puzzle. "Did I get any right?"

"You were four for four, actually," Wesley admitted.

"And I wasn't even trying," Spike said with a delighted smile.

Spike's obvious pleasure at how well he had done made it easy for Wesley to let go of the tiny spark of jealousy burning in his chest.

"You clearly have a talent for this sort of thing. Your vocabulary is quite impressive."

"Not as impressive as other parts of me," Spike said, his grin filled with a warm promise that Wesley knew very well.

Not wanting it to get crumpled, Wesley set aside the crossword puzzle as Spike leaned in for a kiss, and they lost the train of the conversation and the soccer match for a little while. Finally, Wesley, flushed and slightly rumpled, allowed himself to be pulled down to lie next to Spike, his head resting on the vampire's chest.

"Now, isn't this a much nicer way to spend your afternoon than doing that puzzle?" Spike asked, running his fingers through Wesley's hair.

"It wouldn't have taken me all afternoon, especially not with your help. You knew every answer." It came out a bit petulantly.

"Sorry if I ruined your fun, pet." Spike's voice was soft and sincerely apologetic.

"I don't mind at all," Wesley assured him. The tips of his fingers danced over Spike's chest, tracing familiar muscles barely disguised by the soft cotton of his shirt. "You are awfully good, though. Did you used to do them?"

"No. Fitting letters into itty-bitty little boxes never seemed like my idea of a good time." He seemed to realize that he had just insulted Wesley's hobby and added, "Not that it's not great for the right sort of person."

Wesley smiled, not offended at all. "Still, it was quite impressive. I think that your vocabulary outshines mine. You must have done a lot of reading."

"Or ate a librarian or two. Maybe one of those philolo-whatsits."

"Spike, I'm serious. You're quite well-read, aren't you, despite the difficulty you give me whenever I ask for your help with research?"

When Spike replied Wesley could hear the same self-consciousness in his voice that was always present when speaking about things that didnít fit in with the rough image that Wesley knew was mostly just a ruse. "Well, uh, we didn't always have the telly."

"No, of course not." Given that Wesley had found a copy of Dante's
Inferno in the wrong place on his shelves the other day, he was certain that Spike's interest in reading had endured beyond the invention of that device, but he decided to leave Spike his little illusion.

Instead, he lifted his head for a kiss, secure in the knowledge that, while Spike would always be filled with intriguing mysteries to solve, he was unraveling the basic puzzle of the vampire piece by piece.





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