Ficlet: Watching Paint Dry
Angelus always said that I was too curious for my own good. Tried to beat it out of me a good few times, but it never really took. Curiosity makes life interesting. Curiosity caught me a brown eyed boy, who’s currently on his knees with his back to me, droplets of sweat meandering down between his bare shoulders , nice tight arse covered in worn, ripped denim and bare feet splattered with flecks of red paint. It’s a pretty, pretty sight, but the paintbrush in his hand, the open can at his elbow and the way he didn’t even look round when I came in, has made me all kinds of curious. Inquisitive even. I wait for another long moment, just listening to him breathe and the scratch, scratch, scratch of bristle on wood, until finally I can’t stand it any longer.
“Xan love, what are you doing?”
He glances over his shoulder and quirks an eyebrow in a move that I know damn fine he learned from me. “What’s it look like?”
“From the paint brush in your hand and the drop cloth on the floor, it looks like you’re painting, but with it being five in the morning, I don’t like to presume the obvious!”
Swiveling around until he’s facing me, still on his knees, which I’ve always said is a good look on him, he points the paint brush in my direction. “The trouble with you is, you’re always suspecting some ulterior motive or nefarious plan…”
“Nefarious plan?” Bloody cheek.
The paint brush jabs again. “Yeah, and don’t interrupt. Nefarious plan – you know, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes a paint job really is just a paint job.”
Folding my arms, I stare down at him, trying to look as imposing as possible so that he’ll crack. But from the grin on his face, it’s probably not going to happen any time soon. Fuck it, I hate being the one that cracks first. “I’m probably going to regret this, but why are you painting in the middle of the night?”
“Well technically, it’s not the middle of the night. It’s more like the almost end of the night.” He stops, tilting his head, like he’s thinking. “Is there an actual word for that? You know like ‘penultimate’ is the second last something – is there an equivalent for this time of night? The second last period of time before dawn? Not the penultimate obviously, because that sounds like the last night but one, before the end of the world, and I’m pretty sure we’re not due an apocalypse for at least another three months!” As he’s speaking, the paintbrush waves back and forth, like he thinks that his rambling will be clearer if he paints a picture in the air. I’m more worried about getting paint on my duster, so I take a step back.
“Xander, I’m getting a headache.”
The paintbrush comes to a stop. “So you won’t want me to blow you, then?”
“What?” I feel like I’m getting whiplash and not in the fun, sex games kind of a way.
He looks up at me innocently. Innocent my arse. “You said you had a headache. Traditionally, that’s a euphemism for not wanting sex and you know I wouldn’t like to impose.”
“Euphemism? You’re just full of $20 dollar words tonight. Have you been at that bloody thesaurus again?
“I am capable of using a few Giles’ words, from time to time, without looking them up.” Little sod sounds almost indignant at the suggestion. “I’ve been up painting for the last couple of hours, so my brain’s just all awake and stuff.”
“Which brings me neatly back to my original question.” I consider pinching my nose like the Watcher used to do when he was narked at the little gang, but I’m not that far gone. Yet. “Why are you painting?” There, I’ve said it and it only hurt a little bit, but I’m damn sure I’m going to get some pay back, for him making me come out and ask. From the grin on his face, he knows it, too.
“Well, we don’t really use this room, apart for storage, and I kind of thought that I might make it into a studio. You know, where I could do some work. If I’m going to do that design course at the college that we’ve talked about, I’m going to need somewhere to work.”
“Okay, that’s not a bad idea. Still don’t get why you’re painting at this time of night?”
For some reason the grin’s gone now, and he looks down at the paintbrush in his hand, and when he looks up, there a blush creeping over his skin that I’m sure would look as red as the paint staining the bristles on his brush, if his face wasn’t half in shadow.
“Well, I was thinking. I’m often up while you’re out doing vampy things and I thought it could be a good time for me to do work in here. School work stuff. But then I got to thinking that this window faces east and if I was working and you came in near dawn, you wouldn’t be able to come in here with the sunrise and all, what with you having the whole combustible deal going on. So I found some old shutters at a reclamation yard . I liked the idea of shutters in here – I’d still get the diffused sunlight, even when they were closed, but not enough to make you toasty, so you could still come in, even after the sun was up. So like I said, I got these shutters for a song, but they needed some work, so I sanded them down and stuff before I hung them, and I was just giving them a first coat...” He tails off and if anything the blush gets even deeper.
“Okay, that actually makes sense. Could see you’ve been painting, it was the why that got me curious, and the why now?”
“I was going to have it all finished before you saw them, the shutters, I mean. So it would be a surprise. But it took longer than I thought, or you’re in early.” He glances down at his wrist and back up. “Didn’t put my watch on, so it wouldn’t get paint covered, so I’m not sure which it is.”
“Probably a bit of both. You’ve just got a first coat on, then?”
“So there’s a bit of time to kill?”
Now it’s my turn to use the eyebrow – let him see how a professional works it. He’s looking at me warily. One of the things I love about him is the way he can make me feel like a predator without him ever feeling like prey. “Wonder what we could do to fill the time?”
“We could always watch the paint dry?”
“That’s your idea of a good time, love? A productive use of my valuable time?”
“Well, you said you had a headache, so you should probably go lie down in a dark room.”
That’s the other thing I love. Even when he knows he’s on the ropes, he still can’t resist that final punch on the way down.
“That’s not a bad idea.” I reach behind me and flick the wall switch and the room turns dark. I can hear him breathing steadily in the blackness. “But you know, love, I’m thinking you should be the one that lies down.”
I stay still, one hand resting on the old brass light switch and watch him kneeling in the darkness. He knows where I am and he knows that I can see him, even if he can’t see me. I can hear his heart, steady percussion, and the hitch of his breath as he waits for me to make a move. Clever boy.
“Spike?” The whisper crawls up my spine and I walk forward, silently, and run fingers through his hair. His breath hitches again and the heartbeat escalates for a second, before it eases back into a normal rhythm. Tilting his head up, he searches for me, blind in the darkness, his lips parted like he’s going to say my name again. I crouch down and lick along his lips, before pushing my tongue into his mouth, deepening the kiss. He whimpers softly, but his own tongue joins in the battle and for a brief moment there’s nothing but the darkness and his heartbeat and the taste and texture of his tongue stroking on mine.
Withdrawing, I bite softly on his bottom lip and he whimpers again, his hands reaching blindly in the darkness and I take them gently and place them on his thighs. “Sssh, love. Let me play”. He shudders once and stills, compliant under my touch. I push him back, one hand on his shoulder and one on his hip, feeling the texture of hot skin and rough denim under my fingers and he’s boneless, lying half on the drop cloth and half on the bare boards, his legs straightening out in front of him as he lets me guide him down. Bending over, like a miser guarding his loot, I kiss him again and then whisper, my lips just hovering over his. “Been working hard, just for me, love. So I can be with you. See you while you work. Been planning for the future, thinking ahead. Proud of you, pet.” I trace down the sides of his face, one hand on either side, fingers gliding over his neck and shoulders and then down his chest, circling round his nipples, pausing to scratch until they harden under my hands. “Love you like this, Xan. Trusting me. Letting me feel. Wanting me to be in your world, the way you’re in mine.” His breath is getting more ragged and I rub his nipples hard and move away before he can do more than whimper a protest. I can feel the sweat from his labours clinging to his chest and it makes my hands slide smoothly down his belly, following the top of the trail of hair that disappears into his jeans. Pausing, I smile down at the sight of him, even though he can’t see me. Head thrown back, neck arched invitingly, mouth open, his skin singing under my touch and his hands still on his thighs, fingers twitching reflexively on the paint brush still in his right hand. My fingers dance along the top of his jeans, teasing and touching at his fly, moving quickly and then slowly, softly, sensuously, reminding me of the rhythm of the tango we danced in the warehouse so many months ago. His heart is thundering now and I pop the buttons on his fly, one, by one, by one and his cock springs free, hard and heavy in my hand. I run a thumbnail down his length and follow with my other hand, making a fist, following the beat of his heart and the syncopation of his breath. “Almost there, love.” My hand strokes again and again. “Just a little more. There’s just one more step.” I pull down and add a twist in the upstroke and he’s shaking. “That’s it, Xan. Come for me, love.” He shatters under my hand.
His heart slows and his breathing deepens and I can almost feel the lethargy seeping into his bones. He’s laying on the floor, still clinging to the paintbrush, his hair tousled and damp with sweat. His eyes are black and liquid and his skin glows with moisture, highlighting his tan. I realise that I can see him. Really see him. Not because of supernatural sight, but because the sunrise is creeping through the slats of the shutters, diffuse fingers of fire lighting the room, creeping across skin and bare boards. Making him look debauched and beautiful and so very alive. Making me part of his world.
I push myself to my feet so I can look down and see the full picture and wish I had a camera to hand to capture the moment. He blinks and looks up at me, and I can tell the instant he realises what he’s seeing. And he smiles and blushes. It’s a sight I don’t think I’ll ever tire of. Leaning up on one elbow, he places the paintbrush carefully in the glass jar next to the paint pot, before sitting up fully. “So I’m thinking,” he says and I look down, trying to anticipate what’s coming next. “It’s probably better if I make sure this first coat is properly dry before I put on the second coat. So I’m wondering, what we could do while we’re waiting?”
He smiles up at me and I’m amazed that anyone who looks that well shagged can look so shy. Bending down, I grab his hands and pull him up, until we’re chest to chest, the leather on my duster caressing his sides. “You know, love. You’re the clever one. The one who wants to go to design school. Why don’t you show me just how creative you can be?”
He smiles again, pulling at the edges of the leather until they’re wrapped around him, sticking to the sweat on his back, cocooning him in my second skin. Licking along the shell of my ear, he whispers softly, “Give me a chance, blondie and I’ll give you a paint job that will take years to dry.”