He dips his toothbrush under the water. Squeezes out a line of Crest, and, after he's put the tube away, catches his own eyes in the mirror. He winces, and the face before him frowns. Xander looks away, at the water he's left running in the sink. When he looks back up, he's staring at a nervous grin.
Mirrors confuse Xander. Always have. It's like watching an alien creature, sometimes, that lives inside the door to the medicine chest. It's sneaky -- it looks like him. He smiles, it smiles. He sticks his tongue out, his reflection dutifully extends and wiggles and lets him know he really needs to stop doing that because it's disturbing. It's just him, encased in a slightly blurry silver rectangle, like an interactive TV: the Xander Harris Show, playing nightly for your amusement. A funny-looking face with a biggish nose and a thinnish smile, and dark, bushy eyebrows that he's gotten more comfortable with as he's grown into them.
But when he's just turning away, he thinks sometimes that his reflection winks at him. If he stares directly into the glass, into his own eyes, studying the tiny brown and gold lines within them, Xander sometimes knows for sure that the brain behind those eyes, on the other side of the mirror, is thinking something totally different from him. That guy in there knows something he doesn't, and it irritates Xander, as much as it creeps him out, because he's silently smug about it.
Sometimes Xander looks over that guy's shoulder, into the other bathroom. Same elephant planter on the top shelf of the organizer, with the dead fern still hanging limply over the side, though the trunk points in the opposite direction. Same tasteful pale blue paper on the walls, that Anya bought at Shop and Save because there was no point in paying twice as much for the same thing at the Home and Garden store, and she liked pretty things, but she wasn't stupid, thank you very much.
If he peers deeper into the distance, through the door that opens to the left instead of the right, into the hallway that goes off the wrong way as well, he can almost imagine he'll see her there. Passing by in red silk underwear and one of his shirts, on the way to defrost breakfast. Ducking back in to kiss him on the chin and warn him not to be late for work and tell him he missed a spot, shaving.
Maybe, in that world where he's left-handed and his cheek has a little white scar-scratch on it from the place where her engagement ring hit the mirror when she threw it at him, she's still there. Maybe that's why his reflection's so smug about it all. *He* was probably smart enough to leave it in the drain, and calm her down, talk it through, say the right words to stop her from walking out the door and down that wrong-direction hallway and out into the great wide world, whatever it's like on the other side of the mirror. Is there a Hellmouth, a Slayer? Has that Anya never been a vengeance demon?
Probably, at least, Xander's reflection was bright enough not to have grabbed the pipewrench from under the sink, undone the spillcap from the bottom of the u-bend, and pulled out the ring. Washed it off and handed it back to her, because he knew she wanted it, even if she no longer wanted to play the game of whose feet were colder, who would come up with the bitterest regret once that ring was joined by the wraparound one on layaway at the jeweler's in Santa Barbara. That other Xander, if he doesn't have a wife, at least has a diamond ring in his pocket, the smarmy bastard.
Xander has neither. Wants neither, when he's truly honest with the guy who laughs at him from the mirror. He doesn't need the ring, doesn't need the money it was worth, without Anya to spend it on, and would have ruined the wife, if he'd gotten that far. She saw herself becoming a shrew if she stayed, Xander shrinking into a sour, defensive liar, long before he did, but he knew it by the time she left. Knew she was right.
He's not above hating her a little: imagining her now, begging him for another chance, down on her knees on the cold tile floor while he studies her calmly over his shoulder in the mirror, then dispassionately tells her to go to hell, before he finishes brushing his teeth -- but mostly he hopes she's all right. That she's found whatever she needs, in the world beyond the bathroom door, no matter which direction the hallway runs.
He's never seen her for real, in the mirror, though he's lived in this town too long to think it isn't possible. Never glimpsed his reflection holding her, or anything, though once he thought he saw the guy say her name, and Xander is sure he didn't speak it himself. Didn't hear it, didn't feel his lips move, and Spike, who was leaning against the bathroom door, has never said anything to him about it.
Spike does that a lot. Watches him, when he's in the bathroom. Oh, nothing disgusting; neither of them gets off on the idea of Xander sharing his private john-communing time, and he was raised to shut the door, anyway, even when the only other person in the place is a guy. A dead guy. He might share his apartment with the vampire, his shower, and definitely his bed, but there's some things a man does by himself. Spike watches him do everything else, though.
Maybe it's that they're things he hasn't done in a hundred years. Brushing his teeth, because apparently Mr. Tooth Decay doesn't stand a chance against undead choppers. Shaving... Well, Spike's hair does grow, but Xander's never seen him shave. He thinks that face was just made never to know the touch of a razor, the cheeks too sharp to slide a blade down, the skin too unnaturally soft to ever grow more than a fine, white down that barely catches when Xander runs the backs of his fingers over it.
And of course, looking in the mirror at himself. Wondering who's staring back. That's something Spike's never done, Xander's sure. Even if he could see himself there, the vampire has no questions about who he is. He has an unnatural curiosity about watching Xander do it, though -- as if everything isn't unnatural about this unbreathing, unaging, unshitting, un-teethbrushing creature who's insinuated himself into Xander's home and life like a thin white snake into a ruined Garden of Eden. Buffy's idea -- take her two biggest headaches, the brokenhearted best friend and the annoying ex-lover who won't go away, and stick them in a little box together. If one of them kills the other, at least she's eliminated one problem.
He's there now, in the doorway, the problem Buffy never expected to solve itself by slithering into Xander's bed one night when they were both too drunk to remember how to say no, or why. He's watching Xander make faces around his toothbrush. Xander can't see him, of course, but he can hear the quiet snort of laughter when the toothpaste dribbles down his chin. He flips Spike off, in the mirror, and his own reflection smirks through the bubbles at him.
"Very attractive," Spike drawls. Xander's not sure how you can drawl in an English accent -- Giles never did, and he's not around to ask if it's really a drawl, or if there's some other, better, more British word for it -- but cheekbone guy can pull the sound off, somehow. "Hydrophobia's a good look for you. Wild. Untamed. Minty fresh."
"You should have seen me when I was a hyena." He only saw himself once, that day, but once was enough. The animal spirit had growled at the mirror, thinking it saw another alpha male, ready to challenge its turf. The human Xander had quailed before the black-eyed, teeth-bared creature glaring back at him, but then asserted himself somehow, enough to tear his eyes away. Not because he was afraid of it, outright, but because when it realized what it was seeing, it had cocked its head at him, and half-grinned, and that look was too familiar. Too much like the sneaky guy who *usually* lives in Xander's mirror.
"You're still a hyena. You should listen to yourself when you're watching Ed, Edd, and Eddy. Sounds like Animal Planet, instead of the Cartoon Network."
There's the soft slap of bare feet on the tile, and small swish of denim, as Spike moves toward him, while Xander brushes. Back, forth, up and down, fighting plaque and ignoring evil demons in his bathroom. Evil demons who'll never stop loving pretty blonde girls who save the world, even though they've finally gotten around to settling for funny-looking guys who don't know how they got into this mess in the first place. Xander's reflection knows, though, as he spits into the sink, and manages not to choke when there's suddenly an arm around his waist, from behind. Xander's reflection is an asshole, he decides, and the minute he figures out how to get behind that mirror, Xander's going to tie him up and torture him until he talks. He'll let Spike give him pointers.
"You're dribbling on your shirt, hyena-boy," Spike says, his hand tracing up Xander's chest to tap against the spot of white on his sweatshirt. Pressure of the fingers felt though the cloth, invisible in the mirror, until he looks down to see them, fine-boned and black-nailed. Xander shrugs, then drops the toothbrush into the sink, shutting off the water. Lifts his arms to the insistence of Spike's other hand, letting him tug the fleece-lined shirt over Xander's head, and off. The face in the mirror, when he opens his eyes, is wary, but amused, and his hair is a mess of dark fuzz, over a high, tanned forehead.
His bare torso, what he can see of it, is wide, wider than it used to be. Some of it's muscle that he didn't have before, but some of it's sitdown lunches with the guys on the crew, and moving only in certain ways. Strong shoulders to carry boards and beams, bending and lifting, but he can still see the fear of his father's paunch in his future, if he isn't careful. Spike doesn't seem to care, though, runs invisible fingers over his not-quite-concave stomach, and up his chest, ghosting over dark brown nipples. Xander can feel, as the vampire presses up against his back, the difference between them, besides the temperature. Spike's shirtless chest is hard as molded plastic, beneath smooth skin.
He reaches between them, to run his own calloused fingers over Spike's stomach, down to the half-unbuttoned jeans. Is he surprised that Spike is dressed for sex, the combination of denim and skin and the package not quite unwrapped all the way as much a come-on as if he'd stalked in and opened the conversation with "Hey, big spender, spend a little time on me?"
Xander's reflection isn't surprised, and Xander, for once, agrees with him. This is an old ambush, one that Spike didn't originate, but god, hand on Xander's chest, hand across his belly, hands in his waistband, lips on his shoulder, knee folding into the crook of his own as he leans helplessly on the sink, has Spike ever perfected it. All nothing, nothing, in the mirror, except his nipples peaking apparently of their own accord, and the flush rising high on his double's cheeks.
He wants to turn around, pull Spike close to him so that the erection pressed against cold porcelain will rub against cool but not cold flesh, when Xander reaches down to fiddle with the last two buttons and sets Spike free. Wants to look into diamond-cut blue eyes, and remember why it's okay that he doesn't have a ring in his pocket. Muss the platinum curls with his fingers until they're as fluffy and silly-looking as his own.
But Spike likes to watch him watch himself in the mirror. It turns him on, to see Xander squint, and frown, and try to see something in his own eyes that he's never quite sure is there. Makes Spike hard against him, so even though Xander isn't looking at himself now, he pretends, and doesn't turn around. Lets his eyes close to slits as expert fingers slide into his pants and take control of him, teasing and squeezing like his dick is an extremely lucky tube of toothpaste, and Spike was never taught to roll it up neatly from one end.
He's not trying to avoid his own smirk when he closes his eyes completely, or the sight of the man who he suspects is smirking at him behind his back, too, since, right, no Spike, in the mirror. He's just going with the flow, letting his body tell him what to do, as Spike's fingers tell his body. Complying, as they inform him that he's not going to get a handjob, that was just a warmup, and they really need his fingers out of the way while Spike slides Xander's Dockers down over his hips, but his assistance would be much appreciated now, in getting rid of the jeans.
He opens his eyes, when he hears the creak of metal hinges. The medicine cabinet door is open, and Spike is reaching for the obvious, but Xander knows that's not why the mirror is tilted, the silvered door left halfway open even as Spike guides him towards the shower. He knows as Spike leans in to turn on the hot water and angle the shower head away from the opening, so the water won't spray on the floor, what's happening here. Spike wants to see. Wants, as he always wants when he watches Xander look into the other, not-real world behind the glass, to see... something.
It's not his own face, that Spike misses, or what he can see easily enough in Xander's when he stares straight into it -- need, confusion, wonder and lust and something he's not ready to call love, yet. Xander realizes this, as Spike pushes him back against the shower wall, under the spray. Spike saw things in Buffy's face, and mistook them for anything to do with him, when it was all about her grabbing at something to keep her in this world, when she so desperately wanted out. He touched her body, but never saw himself in her eyes, because he wasn't there.
He needs to know he's there. It's the effect of his presence, that he needs to see in Xander's too-wise double. Somehow, the reflection is more telling, more accurate than the reality, for Spike. He needs to see the almost smirk, the left-handed Xander reacting to his presence in the doorway as he brushes his teeth. He needs to see *that* Xander's dick bobbing high, for him, at the sight of naked, wet Spikeflesh, water pouring over narrow hipbones, deceptively long shanks framing the matching erection that doesn't appear in the mirror. He needs to know he's there, that it's about him, as it never was for Buffy, no matter how deeply she looked into his eyes as she rode him.
It's okay. As soon as he understands why, Xander understands that it's okay. Spike isn't making love to the medicine cabinet. He isn't spinning cold glass around to face the shower wall, positioning limbs smoothly but gently, so a taller frame is braced, knees slightly bent, for the shorter one behind it. He's not kissing the back of mirror-Xander's neck as he slips his fingers down and works sweet, slick magic with them. He's listening to the real Xander pant when fingertips graze his prostate and he lurches against the wall; the other guy is silent. Spike's just looking for his reaction, when he grips Xander's hips, a little too much padding not making him pause, or stop murmuring sweet British indecencies into Xander's skin. He just wants to see Xander open his eyes wide, when he pushes in, and stare in amazement at himself in the half-open door over the sink, as he's taken completely by someone forever out-of-frame, who's still, in all ways that count, really there.
Xander does, turning his head to face the mirror, feeling Spike's ear against his back, knowing he's looking. He stares right back, but not at himself. *That* idiot is just watching, open-mouthed, at Xander finally knowing something he doesn't, and Xander doesn't have time for him, not right now. Not with Spike buried deep inside him, writhing against him and setting off little explosions in his head as the hot water runs over them both. Xander, the real Xander, isn't open-mouthed, at all, which is how he finally knows for sure that it's somebody else who lives in his mirror. He's smiling, as he looks into the glass at Spike, and mouths the words, "I see you," to his lover.