Spike and Xander are living in a small but architecturally perfect home situated on a lake. The house has a wrap-around porch that is heavily shaded. So heavily shaded that in the summer Spike can safely sit on the dim porch in a chair that Xander made, sipping a tall glass of gin and tonic, watching Xander tack a small sailboat back and forth across the cove in the blazing sunlight.
Xander's skin glows with health and tan and a light sheen of sweat when he bounds up the stairs, laughing. He steals the ice from Spike's glass, crunching it between even, white teeth. Spike looks up and down his toned body, covered only in a pair of faded cutoffs that cling low on his hips. Xander catches the heat of his glance and preens a little, before pulling Spike out of his chair by the front of his soft, faded white shirt, worn with faded jeans and bare feet, always bare feet.
They wind up in a heap in a hammock, and Spike licks the sweat from Xander's body so slowly that he's nearly incoherent by the time they even begin to think about fucking. The hammock swings and they finish in a tangle of limbs, laughing and kissing.
Some nights they take the sailboat out, and whoever's getting blown has to man the tiller. Spike's run the boat aground three times so far this season. Other nights they take Spike's boat out - it's a sleek speedboat and he delights in roaring up and down the lake and flips Xander off everytime he calls it a phallic symbol. They always wind up back in their own cove, writhing in counterpoint to the gentle rocking of whichever craft they're in.
In the winter, they're in the hammock again, this time with a pile of quilts and wool socks and sweatpants. They watch the whitecaps on the water and hide from the scudding wind in their safe blanket cocoon, exchanging gentle kisses and touches that grow more urgent. They finally bolt for the door, dragging the blankets to in front of the fieldstone fireplace, where Xander takes the lead, working Spike into a frenzy before fucking him on his hands and knees on the thick rug before the blazing fire.
They sleep at odd hours in their high four-post bed. The sheets are white and soft and there are mountains of pillows.
They have the beautiful house on the lake, they have two boats, they have two cars. Xander's is an ancient Suburban, white with faux-wood trim. He found it in a used car lot and bargained with the old guy in overalls for almost an hour before paying $2100 in cash for it. The upholstery is shot, so he covers it with a scratchy blanket that came from a flea market in Albuquerque. The back seats have been ripped out so he can carry lumber and tools and the new mast for the sailboat when it's sent COD to the post office in town.
Spike's car is a sleek, black BMW, and he keeps it in the windowless garage that's attached to the house by a glassed-in breezeway that has rolled bamboo shades to keep him safe in transit. He doesn't work on the car, but he sometimes likes to go sit in it in the dim garage and listen to his CD's at top volume. He also rubs it down with a soft, lint-free cloth at least twice a week, but he'd never let Xander catch him doing it.
One of Spike's fondest memories is stripping off Xander's ubiquitous cutoffs and spreading him out on the hood of that car, face down. Xander's hands reached the rearview mirrors on either side, and Spike wondered if he'd wrench them off as he bucked under his talented tongue in the darkness. Greedily breathing in oil and wax and musk and sweat - the air is optional; the delicious scents aren't - Spike wouldn't heed Xander's begging until, in desperation, he'd threatened to come all over the hood. At that, he'd been roughly flipped and engulfed, screaming his release to the rafters, fingers pulling at Spike's hair until they both saw stars.
After a few minutes of hard panting and incoherent noises, Xander had slipped bonelessly to his knees and returned the favor, the fender of the Beemer supporting his back, Spike's hands shaking, lightly stroking the fine arch of bone behind one ear and cradling the back of his neck, digging in sharply for a long moment as he came, whispering his devotion into the still, hot air as he kept his eyes locked on the onyx sheen and Xander's image mirrored in it.
Every time Spike gets near the car, he closes his eyes and is instantly hard. Every time he shines the glossy finish, he sees reflections of his love.
The kitchen is kind of small. It's not big enough for two people to work together, so Xander sits on a bar stool on the other side of the pass-through and chops things. Chopping things is easy, and it doesn't involve actual cooking, which he is, admittedly, not good at. He's damn good at watching Spike, though. Watching his hands as he combines things and makes better things. He takes all the things that Xander hacks to bits and, somehow makes dinner out of it. Sometimes linguini with clam sauce, sometimes fajitas, sometimes soup. Sometimes he doesn't need Xander's help - when he makes simple things - grilled cheese sandwiches or frozen pizza. Xander watches his hands then anyway.
Xander always watches Spike's hands. Those are the hands that brought him here, the hands that remade him. Those are the hands that touch him in love, in passion - hands that have, in the past, touched him in anger and in fear. Those are the hands that saved him, in more ways than one. Those are the hands that patted him and soothed him as he told his dark secrets, the hands that clutched his when secrets were exchanged evenly; dark for dark.
Spike's hands are a little bit larger than they should be for a smallish guy; his fingers are long and slender. The skin on them is perfect - always will be. The nails are short - biting and painting are habits that have fallen to the wayside. His fingertips are sensitive, and Xander wonders if he has fingerprints; makes a note to look, to touch, to taste, to see. If he has fingerprints, then they're all over Xander, inside and out. He wears them like badges, like brands or tattoos...marks taken willingly, fraught with meaning, deep with promise, alive with love.
Xander's own hands are large, rough, ragged. He has calluses from the tiller of the boat, from holding tools, from making things and fixing things. His nails are short and likely to have sand or dirt or grease under them most days. He often feels like he dirties Spike when he touches him, like he's sullying something pure. Spike would laugh, if Xander said that out loud, but Xander sees the heart of the man, the soul of the person, not the façade of the monster. If he dirties Spike a little, it's okay, because those are his marks, meant to last.
Spike comes over for the pile of peppers and onions, ready to sweep them into the sauce bubbling merrily on the stove as a thunderstorm rages outside, lashing the windows with sheets of rain. He reaches for the cutting board, but stops, tilting his head as if listening to the wind. Xander takes the opportunity to touch him, laying fingers on the pale skin of his wrist and stroking lightly, exactly where a pulse would be if things were different.
Spike pauses, and slides his other hand over Xander's wrist. He touches six scars, always in the same order: wrist, front of the elbow, back of the elbow, shoulder, collarbone, jaw, lip. The seventh place he touches is unscarred. It's unscarred because plastic surgeons can do miracles these days - almost magic. Though, in this case, the magic came first, the miracles of modern medicine last. Spike doesn't say anything - just touches lightly and turns away with cutting board in hand to finish dinner, but Xander can still feel the cool brush of fingers beneath his left eye.
Fall's coming, and Spike doesn't care. The wild geese are calling in the clear, bright air over the lake, and Spike doesn't care. He doesn't care that they're back here, in the place of their greatest happiness. He doesn't care that the rug in front of the fieldstone fireplace is just as soft as the last time they were here. He doesn't care that the porch is shaded, that the swing is padded, that the Council has the place stocked with food and blood and DVDs and videogames. He doesn't care, because Xander's up there, in the wide, soft bed in the loft. The same one they loved in, slept in, whispered in.
Because Xander's not doing any of that. He's asleep, yes, but it's an unnatural sleep; drug- and magic-induced. They were brought here in a helicopter, straight from that triple-damned street in Salt Lake City. A hospital couldn't fix what was wrong, and Spike instinctively knew that this place was home to Xander, as much as any place was home to his nomad spirit.
Spike's seen too much. He's seen Xander's bones poking through his skin. He's seen Xander's precious blood running onto a snow-dusted sidewalk; he's seen the fear in Xander's eye. He's seen his worst nightmares come true in front of him in gleaming, glorious, obscene color. The freak storm had raged in and blanketed the city, and the same storm had brought them out, seeking a slayer like no other and finding her.
Spike killed her. Made his Slayer hat trick and didn't care for a second. Killing her wasn't about being the Slayer of Slayers, was about defending what's his, was about punishing her for daring to hurt Xander. It hadn't been enough.
So Spike waits. He feels the crispness of the air, smells the trees, the fresh tang of the water, the blood of his beloved.
He hears footsteps on the stairs, and looks up to see Willow coming down. Her face is drawn, she looks exhausted. She comes to sit beside him, and they lean into each other, seeking solace.
"What do we do now?" Spike asks.
She wraps his fingers in hers and squeezes. "Now, we wait."
It's early morning - eight, maybe. Xander doesn't really know, doesn't really care. It hasn't been so long since the numbers were meaningless and printed words were only so many circles and sticks and time was measured in the intervals between the big, pink pills that made the world blurry and dulled the pain.
Xander is pale and thin, and the jeans and sweater he's wearing hang on him, and he's chilly, even though it's rising eighty outside. It's high summer, and he missed all of fall and most of winter, and a large part of spring has slipped off into the place in his brain where the pain lives, forgotten, but not gone. He's glad for the ratty sweater's covering, even though the wounds are gone - healed by powers mystical and medical, leaving behind scars he can feel and see and touch.
If he looks up toward the house, he'll see Spike, sitting cross-legged on the swing and watching him like a hawk. Xander has left the skiff tethered to the dock, just in case, and if worst comes to worst, Spike can send Willow out to tow him back in. Xander wanted to be outside almost as much as he wanted to be alone.
The house is beautiful and perfect and comfortable and full to the brim with the memories of the things they've done there, not the least of which is falling in love. But it's also been his sickbed, and he'll never forget waking up there, under the eaves, covered in bandages and swimming in aches and seeing Spike cry in relief when his eyes fluttered open.
Eyes. That's a big one. A step he never would allow Willow to take consciously. She swears it was a side effect of all of the powerful white magic they poured and pushed into him - the only thing that kept him alive for nearly a month. She says they couldn't tell it to skip that part, and she's stood up to him with hands on hips and said she's not sorry.
In his heart, he's not sorry either. Even if only because now no one flinches when they look at him, and Spike never gets that sorrowful look in his eyes when his fingers touch Xander's brow with the brush of a lighting butterfly. He still touches there, but now it's with wonder and awe on his face and his fingers seem so thankful that Xander can't be angry. Spike touches all the worst places; the places where bone came through and wood tore and asphalt scrubbed and blood pooled. Spike will never forget, and neither will Xander.
Spike says they're through with the Council, through with the years-long road trip that's brought them so far. He's made Giles sign over the house and the little sailboat that Xander loves. He says they'll get something louder and faster, and set up a workshop and an enclosed garage - anything that Xander wants.
He leans back against the mast and watches the sunshine glint off the water and thinks about Spike on the shadowed porch and Willow peeping out the kitchen window and the past and the future, then he feels the freshening of the wind, feels his hair tousle and the cool skate of the breeze over his sensitive skin. The tiller is warm and smooth under his hand, and the ropes are raw and rough. He pulls the sail around and tacks gently to the dock. His body wants rest and his heart wants Spike, and both of those things are in the lake house that is their home.