From the outside, it was a corner pub like any other, brightly lit and noisy. A wooden sign bearing the words “Black & White” creaked with every autumn gale. A magpie perched on the sign. So life-like was its representation, that it took Spike a second glance to make sure that the bird was carved from wood.
The inside had everything an average patron looked for in a pub: comfy furniture, old-fashioned dart board, snooker table, pinball game, noisy fruit machines, and, last not least, a good selection of beers and liquors. Even the prices were decent. It was the interior design that was unsettling. The walls were covered in framed black and white crime scene photographs, and poster sized newspaper clippings that screamed murder and bloodshed. They spelled out a long, violent history for the building and its neighborhood.
In spite of the pub’s gruesome décor – or maybe because of it – the place was packed, populated by a comfortable blend of locals, students, and teaching staff from the nearby college. No vampires or demons though, at least not in plain sight.
The mage, when Spike finally spotted him, barely resembled the mischievous young man in Giles’s photo album, and not just because he was older. For one thing, Rayne had a beard now, a combination of mustache and silver-streaked goatee that made him look like his own evil twin. Also, he was thinner. It took Spike a moment to pinpoint the greatest change: In each of Giles’s pictures Rayne had been smiling, but he wasn’t smiling now.
Spike studied him from across the room, contemplating the way Rayne lurked in his private booth: eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, motionless like a spider in her web, dark and dangerous.
When impatience got the better of him, Spike picked up his pint, crossed the room, and slipped into Rayne’s booth, opposite him. His swift approach startled the pub’s mascot, a live black-and-white magpie that sat on a parrot’s perch inside the booth. Wings half-raised, the bird scuttled sideways until it reached the end of its perch, from where it eyed Spike with distaste.
Impenetrable Ray Charles sunglasses focused on Spike. “I’m afraid this booth is already taken,” Rayne told him. “Would you mind grabbing another table?”
Spike made no move to get up. “Quaint little watering hole you got there,” he remarked. “A mite traditional though, don’t you think? For the talented Mr. Rayne.”
A frown appeared. “Do I know you?”
“We had ourselves a couple of almost-run ins,” Spike told him. “Halloween 1997, and November 1998.”
Rayne did the math. “Sunnydale.”
“A stuffed panda for the mage,” Spike cheered, raising his untouched pint in salute. He pretended to sip and set the glass down again. He hadn’t forgotten Giles’s stint as a rampant Fyarl. “Got to watch the fancy dress mayhem first hand. Missed the Band Candy lark by a few days. Must’ve been more laughs than a barrel of monkeys.”
Stroke a man’s ego and you’ll put a smile on his face. At least that was the theory. Yet nothing in Rayne’s face changed, not visibly. If anything, Spike picked up an aloofness that hadn’t been there a moment earlier.
“Good times, indeed. And you’re here to—.”
“Pay my respects. Back then, I told myself that if I ever met you I’d buy you a drink.” Spike decided to sweeten his act with a bit of Andrew-style fawning. “Believe me, I’m your greatest fan.”
“Are you now? I’m touched. But unless you intend to express your esteem through an unsolicited blowjob, I’d like you to kindly bugger off.”
Blowjob? Right, apparently he’d overdone the Andrew bit. Oh well, he was a vampire, not a sodding actor. Spike slouched back on his seat, causing the fake leather upholstery to creak, every inch of his posture spelling out that he had no intention of doing either, leaving or going down on Rayne.
Rayne affected a sigh. “Why do I get the feeling, you’re not here to ask for my autograph?”
“Cause, I’m here to hire you?” Spike grinned.
“Ah. I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not for hire, Mr.—?”
Spike ignored the prompt. “Why not? You cooked up those magic choccies for Mayor Wilkes, didn’t you? Created a diversion while his hench-vamps went baby-napping?”
“You’re well informed, but evidently not well enough. Haven’t you heard? I’m enjoying my well-deserved retirement.”
“Here? Sailors buy run-down pubs when they retire, not mages,” Spike answered mechanically, suddenly struck by a hunch. His fist shot out, faster than humanly possible, and stopped less than an inch before Rayne’s face.
The man didn’t flinch – but the magpie did. It flapped its wings and erupted into chiding chatter, until the mage gingerly reached out his hand to smoothen its ruffled feathers. “Shh, my friend, it’s alright,” he cooed. There was a wistful quality to Rayne’s touch. His hand lingered on the bird’s small frame as though to savor the silken texture of its plumage and the warmth of its body.
Spike recognized need when he saw it; need for sex, for validation, for someone who listened. It was all the same to a vampire. It’s what caused prey to stray from the fold and follow strangers into dark alleys.
Rayne had it, Spike was sure of it. Somewhere, deep down, a hairline fracture ran through the man’s self, separating him from the real players. But need for what?
Spike let his arm drop. “How long have you been blind?” he asked.
“Blind?” the mage guffawed. “That’s ridiculous.”
“Yeah? Then what do I look like?” Spike put on his best cocky grin.
A wan smile appeared on Rayne’s face, the kind of shark’s smile that hinted at hidden teeth. “Blond, with too much hair gel, mid-twenties, strong nose, sharp cheekbones.” Rayne’s voice softened, assuming a syrupy stickiness. “Rather fetching, if I may say so. I love the cheekbones, but I think I like that wicked mouth even better.”
Spike’s grin faded. “Yeah? Most people go with the eyes.” Right, so the man was a randy old geezer, and apparently he wasn’t blind. Yet something didn’t add up, Spike could feel it in his gut. Maybe it was the magpie and the way it was eying him: with uncanny intensity: no abrupt jerking bird movements, just an unnatural stillness and an intent stare. Rayne’s hand still rested on the bird’s back. The man was a sorcerer or warlock, or whatever, and sorcerers and warlocks had familiars, right?
Spike lunged forward. His hand shot out and in one swift move he captured Rayne’s hand as well as the magpie’s neck. The bird didn’t flinch, but the mage did. He jerked back as though he’d been slapped. He tried to yank back his hand but Spike had it trapped.
As Spike tightened his grip around Rayne’s fingers, the pressure increased on the bird’s neck. Reflexively, Rayne’s free hand went to his own throat.
Spike chuckled. All he had to do is squeeze, and the bird’s bones would snap like dry twigs. He lightly brushed the bird’s vulnerable throat with his thumb, stroking and rubbing, feeling the bird’s tiny heart race under his touch. It’s body was deliciously warm, a few degrees hotter than human skin and flesh. “I wonder what would happen,” Spike said wistfully, never ceasing the teasing up-and-down stroke of his thumb. “if I were to wring your little birdie’s neck?”
Rayne’s breathing became labored. Spike could smell the man’s mounting fear. To his surprise, the scent was laced with more than a hint of arousal. So, Rayne got off on danger, did he? Not that Spike was in a position to throw stones. He’d never failed to grow hard when being manhandled by Angel or Buffy, or even Rupert, who, let’s face it, had a pretty mean edge to him once you got him riled up.
“What do you want?” Rayne choked out.
“That’s the spirit. Do as I say, and your new peepers are safe from me.” Grinning, Spike opened his hand, releasing both Rayne’s fingers and his feathered captive. The mage slowly pulled back his arm. Immediately, the bird began to chatter indignantly and it scuttled as far away from Spike as its perch allowed.
“I’m listening,” Rayne said, flexing his bruised fingers.
“A bloke like you picks up a lot of enemies, don’t he?” Spike pondered, watching Rayne very closely. “Do they know you’re a sitting duck?”
Rayne winced. There it was, definite fear. With good reason, as Spike remembered. That was the rub when you were evil and down on your luck: Your old mates were the first to kick sand in your face.
“What is it you want from me?” Rayne asked, sounding both resigned and impatient. “Tell me, before I die of old age.”
“Answers. Info. For starters.”
“Very well.” The mage sighed. He reached to his right, groped around till his fingers touched a small laminated reserved-sign. He moved it to the middle of the table, then stood up and slowly stepped out of the booth, his fingertips never losing touch with the table edge.
Spike watched him warily, half expecting the old sorcerer to hurtle a fireball at him.
“Upstairs,” Rayne added, gesturing towards the crowded pub, where a handful of students were getting into a heated and noisy argument over football. “Less public, and also less rambunctious.”
It made sense. Inwardly Spike rolled his eyes. Sodding Watcher! Giles had warned him so emphatically not to trust Rayne, to always expect the unexpected when dealing with the duplicitous chaos mage, that Spike was primed to jump at his own shadow. All for naught. When he wasn’t using the eyes of his familiar the man was blind, helpless.
After picking up a bottle of Scotch from the bar, Rayne led Spike through a door labeled ‘private’.
“So, how come you’re blind?” Spike asked, as he followed the other man up a dark and narrow flight of stairs.
“Hit by a car, were you?”
“I suppose you could call it a slip of the scalpel.” Rayne touched his hand to his skull. He paused on a small landing in front of a sturdy door with four locks.
Spike digested this. “Who slipped?”
“A handful of young fresh-faced surgeons eager to play Moses. Only instead of chiseling their commandments into stone tablets, they decided to carve them directly into my brain.” Rayne pulled a bunch of keys out of his pocket and began to methodically go through them, one by one.
“The Initiative,” Spike said, feeling a chill.
“Ah, you heard of them.”
“Have I ever,” Spike muttered. “So you’re all neutered now?”
“Now that’s a very ugly word,” the mage protested.
“Gimme a better one,” Spike demanded.
Rayne took a long time answering. Instead he concentrated on the task of picking the right key for the third lock. “I prefer the term ‘diminished,’” he finally admitted, inserting and turning the key, before moving on to the fourth and last lock.
“Yeah, they’re really good at ’diminishing’ people,” Spike nodded. Although, from where he was standing now he had no regrets. The chip had been a blessing in disguise, had kept the monster reined in, while allowing the man to grow. Didn’t mean it hadn’t been a fucking humiliation at the time.
“So you see,” Rayne said, “I couldn’t ‘cook up’ any magic goodies, even if I wanted to. Whatever it is you want done, you’ll have to hire someone else.”
Hire? Oh right, his ruse. When Spike had walked into the pub an hour ago, he’d had no intention of hiring Rayne for anything. The plan had been to size him up, suss out what the old rogue was up to this time, and stop him from stirring up trouble in the Council’s backyard – either by leaning on him or, if necessary, by taking him out.
But suddenly Spike wasn’t so sure. Maybe there was an opportunity in here, somewhere. Rayne had to be a walking encyclopedia of evil and magics, pretty much like a watcher, just from a different perspective. He could be an asset for the Council. And besides, if Spike recruited him, it would royally piss Giles off.
“Let me be the judge of that,” he said, grinning as he turned the idea over in his head.
Rayne shrugged and pushed the door open. The room behind it lay in complete darkness.
The mage walked inside without hesitation, sure-footed from familiarity, until he reached an old-fashioned floor lamp. He pulled on a string and a moment later the haphazardly furnished room was awash with bright light. The most striking piece of furniture was a small altar with a small marble bust of Rayne’s twin-faced god.
“Come on in,” Rayne said, smiling.
A flash of apprehension made Spike’s hackles rise, but by the time it occurred to him that Rayne might have warded his digs, Spike’s feet had automatically moved forward and crossed the threshold.
A firework of piercingly bright mystical runes lit up all around him, on doorjamb and doorframe, creating a veil of white-hot fire. An electric charge lashed through his body, causing bone and flesh to morph into bony ridges and fangs, and blue irises to burst into feral yellow. He blinked almost sheepishly into the blinding brightness, until suddenly the pain hit. A blast of searing heat washed over him. For a second it felt like his skin and flesh were melting. Spike staggered. Then, abruptly, the heat was gone, replaced by a soothing coolness. His flesh was whole, unharmed and blister-free. The fire had been mystical rather than elemental.
Spike snarled. Three brisk paces, and he had the surprised mage by the throat, slamming him against the wall with enough force to knock off his shades. The man’s skull hit the plaster with a resounding crack. Head lolling, Rayne squirmed and struggled feebly against Spike’s grip, ineffectually trying to pry his hand loose, his dark, fathomless stare ever so slightly out of focus. He aimed a kick at Spike’s groin, but missed. Somewhere, in the back of his head, it bothered Spike that the man couldn’t see him.
“Gimme one good reason why I shouldn’t snap your neck,” Spike hissed, pressing hard against the other man’s body until there was no more room to squirm.
“You’re my greatest fan?” the mage supplied, gasping for breath. His pulse was racing under Spike’s fingers. He smelled like prey, practically reeking of fear, nevertheless he was grinning, one part defiant, two parts reckless, and his prick slowly hardened, where Spike’s hip pressed against Rayne’s groin.
“Changed my mind on account of you tryin’ to burn me to cinders,” Spike told him, his flesh still tingling from pain and heat, and the exhilarating kick that only a decent tussle or a one-foot-in-the-dustpan brush with death could give him. “I’m petty that way.”
“Fickle, but you won’t see me throwing stones,” Rayne said. His body relaxed minutely as he gave up his futile attempts to break free, but his grin never wavered. “Too bad. I’d always hoped to go out in a hedonistic blaze: nicely pickled, with my prick buried inside a nice firm arse.”
Spike found himself warming to the man’s mettle.
“Any famous last words you want to get out?” he prompted, keeping his voice harsh and mocking. “Unfinished business?” Given half a chance, people always turned into Scheherazades when about to kick the bucket. They’d yammer on and on, trying to buy more time, hoping death would be gentlemanly enough to hear ‘em out. Of course, back in the day, Spike had never hesitated to kill his prey in mid-prattle.
“Unfinished business, yes, quite.” Rayne said wistfully. “The heart’s a funny muscle, hopelessly unreasonable. You probably wouldn’t understand.”
But Rayne was wrong. Spike understood, not so much the words, but the mood, the need. For a second he was struck by the ridiculous notion that he was looking into a mirror and seeing himself; not his current self, but the one who’d roamed the streets of Sunnydale after his escape from the Initiative, unable to feed, stripped of pride and purpose. Alone.
“You’d be surprised,” Spike said, and let go.
After all, who was to say that Rayne’s path had to end here? Maybe it was neither Giles’s nor Spike’s decision to make. If Ethan sold enchanted brews under the counter or spiked his customers’ drinks with nasty surprises, Spike might have to take him out one day. But not tonight.
Incredulity washed over Rayne’s features when Spike stepped back. He briefly closed his eyes, and most of the color drained from his face, as his body quickly came down from its adrenaline high.
With Spike’s support gone, Rayne slowly slid down, his back against the wall, until he sat on the floor. A thin red smear on white plaster marked his path. He gingerly fingered the back of his skull, before letting his hand drop to his lap. “I don’t know about you,” he said after a moment, “but I could kill for a drink. Metaphorically speaking, of course.” He groped around for the whiskey bottle he’d dropped during Spike’s attack.
Spike spotted the bottle, which, miraculously, was still in one piece, and toed it in Rayne’s direction.
“It was never your intention to hire me, was it?” Rayne stated, picking it up. “You came here to retire me once and for all.’
“License to kill and all that rot,” Spike agreed amiably. He dropped into a crouch. “Does that bother you?”
The hand that held the open bottle shook ever so slightly. Ethan drank with the concentration of a seasoned drinker, then rested the bottle on his thigh. He shook his head. “Not at all, my friend. I find the knowledge that the Council would want to take me out preemptively quite ingratiating. But tell me: What changed your mind?”
Spike ignored the question. Instead he focused on Ethan’s mention of the Council. “What makes you think—?”
“Unless they’re handing out souls by the dozen these days, there are only two vampires who could get past my protection runes. Angel and I crossed paths several years ago, so you must be Spike.”
“The one and only. So?”
Rayne held the bottle in his direction. After a moment of hesitation, Spike shrugged and tossed caution to the wind. He took a hefty swallow before handing it back.
“Some say you hooked up with Wolfram & Hart. Others say you closed the Hellmouth and were incinerated for your troubles,” Rayne continued. “I’m assuming it’s a blatant lie, since you’re standing right here, but if it’s true, here’s to you,” Rayne raised the bottle in salute, “since the rule of The First would have dreadfully cramped my style. Lately, I heard it through the grapevine that you’re working for the new Council of Watchers.”
“Good grapevine,” Spike said, frowning.
“Indeed.” Rayne smiled and took another mouthful. If he carried on like that, he’d soon be plastered. “So, who sent you? Was it Ripper? How is he these days?”
“Who? Oh, you mean Rupert. Ripper, eh?”
Rayne sighed, drank, sighed again. “I always suspected that one day Rupert would have a hand in my demise, or I in his, but to tell the truth, I didn’t think he’d send someone else to do it for him.”
Spike thought of the days when he’d been a semi-regular guest in Giles’s digs in Sunnydale. Every unobserved moment, Spike had rifled through the Watcher’s stuff, mostly searching for money, dope, or skin mags. He’d once found an old strongbox that – when forced open – yielded a stack of old photographs. Ethan had been in most of those pictures, in various stages of undress. But the one time Spike had needled Giles with them, Giles had burnt the pictures, one by one, then kept Spike chained in the bathtub for two days, without food, and worse, without TV, with a threat to stake him if he ever so much as breathed a word about the contents of that box. So yeah, Spike knew that the two men had oodles of history. And yeah, he agreed that if you wanted your old flame offed, the decent thing would be to do it yourself.
“He tried to get me killed once, Giles did,” Spike said, sitting down next to Ethan, leaning against the same wall. Unasked, Ethan offered the bottle, and Spike hurried to chug down his share. If there was serious drinking to be done, it wouldn’t do to let Ethan get a head start. “And I don’t mean the days when his watcheriness sicced the slayer on me. That was business. Different sides of the fence. I’m talking a time when we were playin’ on the same team.”
“Do tell,” Ethan said.
“He thought I was a threat, a liability. So he set me up.”
“And were you?” Ethan asked. “A liability?”
“Well yeah, but you’d expect the players on your team to stand by you. It’s what white hats do, right? Suss out a way to help. Not mess with your head and send you to your death,” Spike said.
“Yet you work for him.”
“He apologized. ‘Sides, don’t have to like him to fight on the same side. Actually, same goes for you. The Council needs—”
“Men like me? I don’t think so. See, my motto always was: I don’t have to fight on the same side, just because I want him.” Ethan smiled wistfully. “Whom did he send after you?”
“Bloke with a legitimate axe to grind. Long story.”
“Is he dead?”
Ethan nodded as though he understood. Hell, maybe he did.
They drank quietly for several minutes.
“I should have known,” Ethan finally broke the silence, resignation in his voice. “After all, Rupert’s a watcher. His whole precious Council is built on the quaint idea of delegation, of grooming a flock of little girls to do the pesky killing for them. The girls get to die messy heroic deaths, while the men sit things out in their comfortable clubs and libraries and dabble at being scholars until it’s time to hang up their quills and collect a lavish pension.”
“Exactly,” Spike agreed, although he wasn’t in a position to throw stones; after all he was on the Council’s payroll now. Not that he was in it for the moolah. He’d fight for free any day, but the Council’s resources made the difference between dusting vamps in dark alleys, and going after the big bads.
Another silence ensued, punctuated only by the slow back-and-forth migration of the bottle.
The possibility that they’d end up having sex before the night was out was inching towards them like a stray cat, soft-footed and wary, unobtrusive, but always in plain sight. A mangy, half-starved possibility, ready to bolt at the first harsh word. Only the harsh word never came.
Other words did.
“What’s with the pub?” Spike asked at one point.
“Pubs are fascinating places,” Ethan said. “People, stories, booze…. Places where paths cross, lives intersect, possibilities unfurl. Beginnings, endings, changes of direction. Besides, I always wanted to stack a juke box with my favorites.”
“Yeah? What are those?”
They talked about music for a while, discovering many similar tastes. The conversation twisted and turned comfortably, but in the end Spike steered it to the one thing that interested him most: the Initiative.
“They deported me. Released me and put me on a plane to London. After all, what damage could a blind, neutered mage do?” Ethan smiled. “So the first thing I did was take a cab from the airport to Wolfram & Hart, London office. They were thrilled to represent me. When they contacted the Initiative and threatened to sue their pants off, the Yankees settled in record time. The sodding lawyers took 98% of the haul but still I ended up with enough cash to get the chip out and buy this pub. It came cheap, thanks to a couple of malign spirits that haunted the place. After I’d sent the ghosts packing, business soon picked up.” Ethan shrugged. “It’s a living.”
He brought the bottle to his lips, but Spike intercepted it. He gently pried the bottle out of Ethan’s grip and set it aside. “It think we both had enough,” he said.
“Enough for what?”
“For this.” Remembering what living on crumbs had felt like, Spike placed a hand on Ethan’s thigh, half feeling, half hearing the man’s heartbeat break into an instant gallop.
“I haven’t changed my spots, you know?” Ethan said obstinately, “just so you know.” But he twisted sideways, causing Spike’s hand to slip between his thighs. His eyelids fell shut and his breath quickened.
Spike remembered his own emphatic but half-hearted assertions that he was still one hundred percent dyed in the wool evil, which he’d launched into whenever the Scoobies asked him to baby-sit Dawn, and smiled.
It could have been awkward, but somehow it wasn’t. Experience paired off with experience. They got up and moved to the bedroom without another word.
A white, well-fed Persian cat had claimed the middle of the large bed. It yawned and blinked at them, a querulous ball of fluff on black satin sheets. Ethan picked it up and stroked its fur, a gaunt Blofeld – only without the camp jewelry.
Spike wondered if Ethan had ever let anyone else up here. The sheets smelled of Ethan and of his feline but no one else, so maybe not, at least not in a while.
Spike stepped into the cat’s line of vision and stripped, slowly, starting with the coat and boots. The mage smiled.
When only the pants were left, Spike locked eyes with the cat, and then, one by one, undid the buttons, allowing his cock to spring free. Ethan inhaled audibly. Smiling, Spike stroked his erection a few times before shimmying out of his pants.
Ethan dropped into a crouch and set down the cat. Sulking, it gave him the cold shoulder, as it stalked off into the living room.
Plunged back into his own private darkness, Ethan rose, head tilted slightly to pick up any sounds that Spike might make. His hands went to the cuffs of his shirt.
Spike watched him strip: the practiced play of his fingers on the buttons, and the way Ethan carefully placed each piece of clothing where he’d find it again in the morning. What Ethan’s body lacked in youth, it made up in history and character. Spike counted no less than fifteen scars and half a dozen tattoos.
Aware that there was very little the man wouldn’t let him do, Spike stepped closer and ran his hands over Ethan’s bare skin, before lowering his head and gently mouthing the man’s shoulder and throat, worrying the skin with his lips and blunt teeth. Ethan arched against him, enough to convey that, yes, biting was an option, but not a must.
Meanwhile, Ethan mirrored Spike’s attentions, exploring Spike’s body through touch, with skilled, sure fingers, tweaking nipples to pertness, raking over rock-hard abs, and finally closing around Spike’s stiff cock, giving it a few expert jerks.
Mild interest sharpened into definite want.
Coaxing Ethan to the same keen hardness took a little longer – not because Ethan wasn’t into it, but because his body seemed to have lost its ability to keep up with what went on in his head. But if there was one thing Spike was good at it was giving whoever he was with what he or she needed.
Spike could have called it a pity fuck in his head, and maybe that’s what it was, but he didn’t like the sound of it. Pity wasn’t his strongest suit anyway.
And foreplay, apparently, wasn’t Ethan’s. He pulled a tube of astroglide from a drawer, and unceremoniously and efficiently prepared himself, before fastidiously returning it to the drawer and wiping his hands on a towel.
There was nothing overly fancy about their coupling. Too much Scotch made for simpler tastes. Ethan walked to the nearest wall, braced both hands against it and spread his legs. Spike didn’t mind. Having done practically everything under the sun, no matter how debauched, both on the giving and the receiving end, he wasn’t actively looking for acrobatics and emotional contortions. Sometimes a slow comfortable screw couldn’t be beat.
He moved behind the other man, lined up his cock, and unhurriedly pushed inside.
Ethan sighed audibly. It was an expression of both profound relief and genuine bliss.
Spike rested one hand on the nape of Ethan’s neck and began to move with even well-aimed thrusts, gradually picking up speed until Ethan was practically clawing the walls and begging him to fucking get on with it.
They needed no words, achieving through touch and motion alone a level of communication and reciprocity, that usually came with long-standing relationships. Unexpected, but Spike wasn’t going to complain.
“Why didn’t you kill me?” Ethan asked at some point, much later. His speech was muffled because he was lying face down on the bed, but Spike understood him well enough. Spike could also sense a surge of arousal ripple through the man’s body, caused by the near-death memory.
“Killing isn’t quite the fun it used to be,” Spike said, “And you’re thinking too much.” He changed his angle ever so subtly, and continued to slowly, inexorably piston in and out of Ethan’s body. Underneath him, the old mage started to whimper and writhe. Soon he’d start begging. Spike smiled, certain that Ethan had at least one more climax in him, and confident that he’d be able to wring it from him.
He was right, and it didn’t matter that it took them a while to get there. They were in no hurry, well, at least Spike wasn’t.
But even he was eventually sated and content to crawl between the satin sheets.
“Promise I won’t wake up with horns and paralyzing mucous?” he asked the exhausted sorcerer.
“What makes you think I keep my promises?” Ethan asked drowsily.
“Not habitually, no,” Ethan said unashamedly. “But I’m inclined to make an exception. Especially since I’m too knackered to even levitate a pencil, let alone do a transformation spell.”
“Then say ‘I promise’”
Ethan chuckled. “I promise.”
“Good enough,” Spike muttered and started to doze off.
“You’re hogging the blanket,” Ethan complained, but Spike was already asleep.
* * *
When Ethan woke up, his world was as dark as ever, but he could smell sunlight in the room, he didn’t know how or why, he just could. It hadn’t reached the bed yet, but it would in an hour or so. Evidently, they’d forgotten to pull the curtains last night.
He sat up, automatically reaching for his shades before he remembered that he’d lost them. Presumably, they were still lying on the living room floor.
He slipped out of bed and cautiously padded towards the window, bone-weary and pretty damn sore, but calmer than he’d been in a long time. His toe brushed something hard, one of Spike’s boots, and he pushed it out of the way, wary of other unfamiliar obstacles in his path.
He closed the curtains, headed back, and sat down on the bed.
Sounds of soft, tiny paws approached, their patter hesitant, haughty even. Ethan chuckled. Rupert was still sulking. He bent down and picked the animal up, even though his presumptuousness earned him a couple of scratches.
The spell no longer required a great deal of concentration, not when he was able to touch Rupert directly. Ethan blinked when dim light hit his slit pupils. It always took him a moment to adjust. The world looked strange through Rupert’s eyes, a mix of soothing blues and greens, and significantly wider.
Absentmindedly stroking the cat’s long and silky fur, Ethan stared at the motionless body in his bed. Studied the naked shoulder, the bare calf, muscled yet lean, and the pale skin that stood out like white porcelain against the black sheets… beautiful. Sublime. More than twice his age, yet forever young.
It would be embarrassingly easy to put a glamour on the vampire or play with his mind. Ethan had enough magical substances in his flat to boost his powers. A few words of power and Spike would be his, bound to him by subtle magics. Ethan could even send him back to assassinate Ripper. There was enough of a grudge there already. All Ethan had to do was unleash it by stoking the glowing embers into full-blown hatred.
The minutes ticked away. Finally, with a sigh Ethan set the animal down on the floor. It fled with a displeased meow, leaving Ethan in the dark again.
He reached out until his fingertips found bare skin. Apart from a few exercises in rehab, Ethan had next to no practice ‘seeing’ faces through his fingers. He lightly explored Spike’s shoulder, before traveling up the curved neck, through coarse hair, to map the other man’s skull and face by touch.
The body in his bed moved, and Ethan let his hand drop.
Sheets rustled as Spike turned around. Ethan thought he could feel his gaze resting on him. He regretted not being able to see the vampire’s face, to read his expression.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Spike said, and Ethan heard the smile in his voice.
“I admit I was wondering what it would be like to kiss you,” Ethan fibbed, but as the words left his mouth, he realized it was the truth.
“Like this,” Spike said and leaned forward, pressing his lips on Ethan’s. It was hard to say whose lips parted first to let the other in, but soon their tongues were languidly entwined, alternately thrusting and resisting, both pliant and pushy. When they finally drew apart, both were breathing heavily.
“Care for another round?”
“I can barely walk,” Ethan protested – without great conviction.
“That a no?” Spike teased him.
“No,” Ethan said, smiling. “Of course not.”
He could always bespell Spike later.
Or maybe not.