Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: R
Word Count: 1000
Disclaimer: Not mine
Feedback: Yes, please.
Warnings: It's a bit on the dark side, though Spike and Xander remain physically unharmed.
Summary: Xander's lost year, Thanksgiving, 2004 (roughly six months post-NFA) through Thanksgiving, 2005.

Many thanks to  [info]electricalgwen, the best beta a girl could ask for.



Sabbatical


by
apreludetoanend


It takes Xander a year to forgive Spike. He thinks of it as his missing year and adds it to the list of things heís lost. Itís a long list.

It still aches sometimes, the hole where that year should be. A phantom pain. Another phantom pain.

Twelve months pass like a century, and Xander understands what it means to feel old. He throws out a pile of birthday cards unopened, buys one share of Hallmark just to have something to read in the morning paper.

For a year, Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving, he lives in Dawnís living room. He transforms the sofa into a bed every night, and itís like a work of art. Heís had practice. Itís not the kind of thing you forget.

Thereís a window with a view. Street, grass, park bench. The light enters in even intervals that ebb and flow with the seasons. The shadows fall hard every night only to be collected by the morning sun, snatched away from him as though he were the thief that stole them. He doesnít complain; heíd snatch back what heís lost in an instant if he could.

On December first, he asks the post office to hold the mail. In January, he claims the pile and drops it in the nearest dumpster. Life goes on, if you let it. Xander doesnít.

He doesnít go home. After a while, he figures thereís no more home to go to, and that makes twice that his life has been erased. It doesnít matter, though. He stays for Dawn. He wonít leave her.

Paychecks keep coming from the Council, though Xander canít quite figure out his current job description. He figures if heís needed, someone will call. He stops answering the phone.

He uses Dawnís laptop, learns a bit about computers. He dabbles in online trading because it reminds him of Anya, and he configures an auto-responder so he doesnít have to respond to Willowís emails. He reads them, though, text and subtext. When he gets the one that says nothing at all, but means if you donít call, Iíll be on the next flight, he calls.

Willow tells him about summer in Devon, and he curls his lips into a grotesque parody of a smile when he replies, thinking sheíll be able to hear it. She falls silent, and he summons a well of dishonest chatter that leaves him exhausted. Heís fine. The catís fine, too. The apartmentís great. Itís a beautiful place. College town. Great scenery. Heís thinking of enrolling. No, not Smith, like Dawn. Heís not a girl. UMass, like a true Scooby.

Xander spends the rest of the day staring at the ceiling and the next day searching the apartment for the cat. Heíd forgotten there was supposed to be one, and itís long gone. He considers putting up signs, but he doesnít remember its name or what it looks like. He hopes it found a good home.

He takes up reading, loses an entire month to the stack of books on the kitchen table. Heís fascinated by history and ancient cultures, and he considers phoning Giles, asking to borrow some of the Councilís historical texts. He decides against it because he canít imagine what else heíd say.

When the weather gets colder, Xander spends hours looking out the living room window. Heís seen the dead of winter, but watching it creep in, day by day, is consuming. The scene doesnít change, just a street and some grass and a park bench, but the scenery looks different every day. Darker. Colder. Deader.

He wakes just before sunrise on Thanksgiving. He smells coffee and pie and love, and he flees to the street, lets the frozen air burn the aromas from his lungs. He looks at his door but walks forward instead, across his street, across his grass, to his bench. He sits, waits.

Thanksgiving is quiet and cold; all of the warmth is sucked indoors, to be shared between family and friends. Xander shares what warmth he has with the wooden bench beneath him. Itís almost dark when he feels weight settle on the opposite end.

ďIt was my fault.Ē The words, soft from Spikeís lips, reveal their own absurdity.

The remaining light fades from the sky, and streetlamps that werenít there a year ago cast soft shadows on the ground.

Spike shifts his weight, and Xander realizes that sometimes, things just happen.

Sometimes, prophecies come true and vampires become human, get invited to Thanksgiving dinner. And sometimes, years spent wondering how something so evil could be so beautiful feel like wasted time.

Sometimes, two men finally run out of reasons to hate.

And sometimes, men whoíve run out of reasons to hate each other fall just a little bit in love, walking in the moonlight. And sometimes, they forget that theyíre walking, talking.

Sometimes they kiss, cautiously, delicately, two hearts pounding.

Sometimes, the sweetest tip of a tongue and fingers threading through blond curls drown out the world, drown out the shouting, screaming until itís too late.

Sometimes, things just happen.

Xander can still see Dawnís blood coating the bench, Spike doubled over, shaking, vomiting at the sight of it. He remembers fumbling at his cell phone with blood-slick hands, calling nine-one-one, yelling at Spike to get help.

He can still feel his hands putting pressure on the wound, the anger that surged as he watched Spike trip and fall twice on the way back to the apartment. He remembers blaming Spike. For being slow, for being too beautiful not to kiss, for being human. A vampire would have heard the mugger coming, saved Dawn, turned her, something besides throwing up in the grass and being too slow to get help.

Xander wonders whether Spike can forgive him those thoughts.

He reaches out, covers Spikeís hand with his own. Itís the first person heís touched in a year. Since Dawn. Spike shifts closer, and his body is warm against Xanderís.

Itís something to be thankful for.




The End




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