A Man's Worth
Okay, before I go nutsy, let's remind myself of why I'm even here.
Giles, with his great Watcher skills, managed to find another demon nest. You'd think that Sunnydale would be a horrid neighborhood to raise your kids in.
I'm still a bit hazy on how I got roped into this. I mean, not shirking my Scooby duties here, but I was kinda hoping for a night off with Anya. At the same time, however, I was glad I didn't have to go home with her.
Ah, Ahn. We've really drifted apart these last few months. She wants...well, she wants more than I can give her. Guess I'm not good enough for her.
I've never really been enough in any of my relationships. Buffy, sweet as she is, didn't even give me a chance. One down, many to go.
Then there was Cordelia. She was afraid to even be seen with me. I wasn't cool enough in that relationship.
For a little while, there was Faith. Okay, that was more her using me, since I wasn't really hard enough for her. Well, I should say, not hardcore enough. Believe me on the other hardness. I was ready and willing before she tried to kill me.
Then, Anya. My beloved Anya. We were great there for awhile, but lately she's been so...distanced. She doesn't want to be with me, making excuses to get away. She wants me only for sex these days. And apparently, I'm not enough there, either.
No one seems to want me for me. I can never be enough, no matter how hard I try. Gee, that didn't sound too self-pitying. Way to depress, Xan.
There's something scurrying around on the floor. Time to stop zoning out, and focus on the task at hand. Another check reveals a piece of paper as the source of the noise. Good; don't think I could've handled a rat.
I've only got two doors left before I head back downstairs. Gotta say, the demon (if it's even here) chose a nice place to live: with four stories, I'm surprised this mansion's abandoned. Of course, demons sharing your living space might make you decide to pack up and move. Just my opinion.
Okay Bob, let's see what's behind Door Number 1. I push the door open with my index finger. Phew! No demons there. So either they're hiding behind that last door, or they're upstairs. If the latter's the case, they're gonna meet one pissed off vampire. Spike was NOT pleased to get chosen to help.
Speaking of the vamp, I'm really glad he came along. Never gonna admit that to anyone, but I really didn't want to go demon hunting alone. Having a vampire along helps. Even if he doesn't give a damn about what happens to me, it's still nice to know I'm not alone.
I open the second door just as cautiously as the first one. No demons inside, but I do find something to stare at.
A piano. A dusty, grand piano. It still appears to be in good shape, too.
I glance down the hallway before heading towards the instrument, leaving the door open. There's other furniture in the room, too, but it's the piano that caught my eye. Just like I thought; still in good condition, and pretty much in tune, too.
My grandma used to live less than a mile away from our house. She was my babysitter after school. I remember afternoons of cookies and lemonade, and games of Go Fish. I also remember her piano. It was a beautiful cherry wood grand, with an inscription of her name on the inside.
She caught me staring at it one day, and decided to show me how it worked. I loved the sounds she could make, and begged her to teach me to do it, too. By the end of the week, I was one happy seven year old banging on the keys.
Those days at my grandma's house were my happiest. I hated going home to my dad. He didn't want to see me anyway. So for the next three years, I practically lived at my grandma's.
In those three years, she taught me to stop banging and start playing. And I did. With her help, I was reading notes, sight-reading most any music, and acing my music tests I got at school. All in all, I was really enjoying life.
Then that Murphy's Law struck again. I was heading to her house after school one day, and I caught a glimpse of flashing lights in front of her yard. In that minute I knew my happy days were over.
I ran away from home that night, after I heard my dad grumbling about how glad he was that the old hag had finally keeled over. I packed up a day's worth of clothes, all the money I had, and a small music box my grandma had given me. It was the only thing I had of hers anymore.
I hadn't gotten past my school when my dad caught up with me. Boy, did I have hell to pay. After he'd taken my strength and my music box, he asked me why I'd gotten so upset over her passing.
I couldn't even begin to explain.
I reach out to touch the keys. It's been so long since I've played. I've never told anyone else that I could play. But my fingers are itching to play...
After taking one last nervous glance, I sit on the stool, my fingers automatically reaching for the keys. My feet fall onto the pedals, ready to press. Gods how I've missed this. I play a few scales, teaching my fingers to make music again. Okay. I'm ready.
Taking a deep breath, I begin to play.
< --- >
All right, enough's enough.
I'm searchin' for demons that don't even live here anymore. My guess, they've been cleared out for a week or two. Bleedin' watcher, leadin' me on a wild goose chase. Least I'm not the only one he roped into this gig. Whelp's 'round here too, searchin' the downstairs for imaginary demons. Only demon in this buildin' is ME.
S'funny, now that I think 'bout it. Would've thought he'd argue a 'lil harder to stay with his bird. He didn't look thrilled with the situation, but he just agreed, like he always does. He lets 'em walk all over him, and never says anythin'. Lot doesn't desrve someone like him.
That's IT! I'm outta here. Hell, I'll even tell the whelp that it's a dud; might as well go home to his honey. Still puzzled as to why he seemed more anxious to go with his worst enemy then stay with her. Maybe he's infatuated with me; wants a man for a change. I snicker. Yeah, right. If that was the case, however, don't think I'd refuse. He's gotten muscles over the past year, worked off the baby fat. Brown chocolate eyes, tongue dartin' out to lick his lips...
Now just wait a minute! What the hell is wrong with me? I do NOT want him. He's the whelp! Bloody 'ell. Now I can't stop thinkin' 'bout him like that.
I start to kick the wall, but a noise stops me. It's not a demon sound, though. It sounds like a piano.
Been years since I played myself. Used to take lessons every Thursday from a young lady a block from my house. Sweet 'lil thing knew her stuff.
Sound's comin' from below me. Demon's really good, gotta hand it to...it. Pachabel's Canon, full version. Wait. Noise from below me? Oh shit. The whelp. Bet my eyes are widenin' to a comical size as I race down the stairs.
< --- >
It took me awhile to remember how to move my fingers, but after a little stumbling, I was playing again. Pachabel's Canon just seemed like the right thing to play. It was our favorite piece, mine and my grandma's.
I miss her. She was the only good thing about my childhood, besides Willow. And all I had of hers was the music box, and I haven't seen that since that night I ran away from home.
Sometimes I wonder if she'd be proud of me, if she could see me now. My eyes start to sting, and my fingers trip on the keys. Stop thinking about her.
So I keep playing, remembering better times and a smiling face that left before I could tell her how much I loved her.
Though the keys are getting wet, I keep playing the song.
< --- >
I creep towards the room, ready to pounce on whatever beast's in there playin' a nice rendition of the Canon. I quickly glance inside to find out what I'm up against.
What I'm not expectin' to see is Harris at the keys.
First thought runnin' through my head is 'The whelp? The bumblin' whelp can actually play?'. The second is 'He really can play'.
He looks like he was born to play. Fingers dancin' across the keys, relaxed stance...he's definitely done this before.
Another glance startles me: he's cryin'. Silent tears slidin' down his face, and he just looks so lost. Makes me wanna hug him, offer some sort of comfort.
He finishes the song, snifflin'. Is he gonna play more? Wish he would. He was good. Wonder why he doesn't play more often.
He sighs, then turns to me. He jumps at the sight of me, and I can't help smirkin'. Startled by my presence: still the Big Bad.
He glances back at the piano, then at me. When he blinks again, a tear makes its way down his face. He seems to 'member that he's been cryin', and quickly turns, wipin' his eyes on his sleeve. He doesn't turn back to face me.
< --- >
Oh gods, how, no, why is this happening to me?
First I dork up the ending because I can't see the keys. Then when I turn, Spike's in the doorway, smirking at me. He must've heard me playing. Oh crud; I'm never gonna live this down.
To make it worse, I forgot I'd been crying until a tear reminds me. I turn the other way as fast as I can, trying to wipe them away. Once they're gone, I stay seated, facing the wall. It's easier this way.
There's a throat being cleard behind me, but I don't turn. I'm not gonna turn, talk, look at... “Xander?”
I sigh. “Yeah?” So much for not talking.
“That the Canon?”
Yeah, he definitely heard me. “Yeah.”
I blink, surprised. He's being nice? And...did he just compliment me? “Uh...thanks.”
“Nice enough to play more often.”
Okay, he can't shock me anymore tonight. I swivel on the stool, frowning at him. “What?”
His expression is unreadable. “Should play more often. Why don't you?”
“That's none of your business,” I snap suddenly. I'm feeling embarrassed, self-conscious, and I have to lash out. Spike's available.
He seems to understand this, because he's looking at me now with something akin to...concern? Sympathy?
“Maybe it's not,” he agrees. “But maybe I should be pryin'. How come I've never heard you play? You're good; played the Canon like you were born doin' it.”
I look down, my face turning red. Besides my grandma's encouragement, that's the first time anyone's given me praise for my playing. Feels nice, so wonder I'm smiling like a bashful schoolgirl. He must think I'm pathetic.
< --- >
He's blushin'. Has no one ever give him a compliment? Granted, he's not the brightest of the Scoobs, but he's got hidden strengths. Hidden depths. After hearin' him play, I'm even more sure of that.
I wasn't kiddin', either. Whelp can really play. Wonder why he doesn't play for anyone else. Even though he was cryin', he looked happy at the keys. Happier than he's been for awhile.
“I'm not that good,” he mutters, but there's a trace of a proud smile on his face.
That smile is the most genuine smile I've ever seen from him. Gives him a young, adorable look. If this is how Anya sees him, no wonder the bint fell for him.
Did I just think of the whelp as 'adorable'?
Back on track! “Well, I think you are,” I say, earnin' another blush.
“Don't know why you're saying it, but...thank you,” he says quietly.
“Say it 'cause it's true. Never thought you could play.” A thought strikes me, and I ask, “Do any of the others know 'bout this?”
Xander shakes his head. “Why not?” I demand. For some reason, that pissed me off.
My anger fades into sadness as he whispers, “Because I'm not worth it.”
“Care to elaborate?” I'm missin' somethin' here, and I'd like to know what.
He sighs. “See, I'm not Buffy, who's got Slayer strength. I'm not Willow, who's got brains and magic. You're a vampire with strength and courage. Giles knows EVERYTHING with his books, and even Anya used to be a vengeance demon. I don't stand a chance compared to you guys.”
I stare at him, mouth hangin' open like a ponce. Not really carin' at the moment, though. How can he think that?
He shakes himself and looks up at me. “So...did you find the demon?”
< --- >
He keeps staring at me, and I start to get nervous. “Uh, Spike?”
He blinks, then regards me with a look I can't read. “Demon's been out for 'bout a week,” he finally says. “You can head on home to the bird.”
The very thought of seeing Anya is suddenly not appealing, and I wince, an action that's not lost on the vamp. “You don't wanna go home to her?” he asks, looking and sounding surprised.
I shrug. “I doubt she'll be happy to see me. Lately, I don't seem to be man enough for her.” Wait; did I just admit that to Spike? What, am I in a suicidal mood? I just handed him the ultimate line. Great.
The vamp surprises me again. Instead of laughing at me or poking fun like I'm expecting him to, he zips forward with vampiric speed to kneel in front of me. “Bite your tongue,” he hisses. “If that's how she really feels, then the bint doesn't deserve you. You're someone to a lot of people, Harris. Someone to me,” he adds quietly.
I snort, shaking my head. Spike did not just say that. And now, I'm so pathetic that Spike has to try and cheer me up with lies. “Spike, you don't have to say...”
“Yeah, I do, 'cause your head's been twisted 'round too much. Who's stood up for me time and time again? Who was willin' to take me in, when no one else did? Who ran back into a crumblin' school to save my life? YOU did, Xander. That makes you a great someone to me.”
Okay, wow. Where the hell did that come from? That was just incredible. Did I mention wow? I don't think anyone's ever told me that I'm really worth something to them. Not like that.
He smiles and reaches up to my cheek. His thumb brushes something wet on my face, and I realize I must've been crying again.
“You matter to me,” he says. Like it has to be pounded into my head. Maybe it does.
< --- >
He looks surprised. Like he's never heard the words before. Maybe he hasn't.
As more tears make their way down his face, I realize I've never seen him cry before. Sad looks, yeah. Embarrassed, flustered, distraught...those are old. But tears? That's somethin' new.
Makes me wonder why he doesn't. Does he think it makes him a coward? Nothin' wrong with sheddin' a few tears now and then. Or is it 'cause he's got this idea that he's got to be strong for those damn Scoobs, who walk all over him? And if it's 'cause of them...that really pisses me off.
He frowns at the brassed off look I have to be sportin'. “Why?” I demand suddenly, makin' him jump.
“Why do you let 'em push you 'round, let 'em walk all over you?”
He sighs. “I don't let them do anything like that, Spike. It's not like that.”
He's still defendin' 'em to the end. “Treat you like you're nothin', which isn't true. How come you put up with it?”
Xander shakes his head. “To them, I'm just Xander. Also known as bait, donut boy, errand-runner...” He looks away, before saying quietly, “It's hard to treat nothing more than nothing.”
He's got this sad look in his eyes, like a wounded puppy, and for some reason I...wait a minute. What'd he just say?
“Say that again,” I say, dangerously soft.
Xander glances up at me, surprised at my tone. “Uh, what part?” he asks nervously. Obviously sensed that he's in trouble.
“That last part. Somethin' 'bout nothin'?”
He swallows, but keeps lookin' me in the eyes. Got nerve, this one. Always impressed me. “It's true, Spike. And you know it.”
A jumble of notes hits the air as I leap up, causin' him to jump back onto the keys, startled. Even though I'm chipped and can't hurt him, Xander still looks frightened. That pisses me off even more.
“You are NOT nothing, Alexander Harris!” I snarl, emphasizin' each word with anger. “You never were! Yeah, so you get a few more downs than most people. Doesn't make you nothin'! Dammit, Xander!!”
He's starin' at me, bewildered at my outburst. “But...”
“No buts! You're a wonderful human bein', one who's so much more than a donut boy or errand-runner. You're a bloody hero, Xander! Never nothin'.”
He's tryin' to process my words. Hopefully realizin' that they're true. He IS a hero. Only a hero would run back into a crumblin' buildin', riskin' his own life, to rescue an enemy.
He looks up at me, his eyes clouded with doubt, but a small amount of hope. 'Bout bloody time. “But they...” He shakes himself, tries again. “Then why do they do this?”
< --- >
I don't understand. First, Spike being nice is a shocker. He's also starting to sound like a broken record.
And what he keeps saying isn't true. I mean, the gang may not pay attention to me twenty-four/seven, but they're not THAT bad. Are they?
Let's at least take into consideration the crazy vamp's words. I still don't understand what he keeps going on about. That I'm more than a donut boy. And a hero?! Has he been drinking again?
And why he's being so insistent on bringing up my morale, I have no clue. Last time I checked, he hated my guts! Now he keeps trying to say that I'm something, valuable, a real man. Like someone who would want me for me.
Then why do the others treat me this way? Spike keeps going on about how great I am. He's my enemy, or at least, supposed to be. And right now, he's being nicer to me then the gang usually is.
Whoa, whoa, slow down. What am I saying? The gang isn't like this!
But then, suddenly, all I can think of are the times they decided to save the world, and instead of asking me for ideas, sent me off to get food. How they just tell me to go fetch something from a store, like a dog. Or how whenever there's a demon, I end up being bait, because I can't fight, or at least, that's what they must think.
Oh gods, it's true, isn't it? They don't want me for me, either. Spike was right: they just walk all over me, use me for whatever they need.
I look up at Spike, and I realize I haven't said anything since my last question. Now I get to tell him that he was right. And get laughed at.
I open my mouth to tell him, but the words don't come out. Because realization finally sets in, that the others really couldn't give a damn about me, and suddenly I'm sobbing. Sobbing so hard that my entire body shakes, and I can't breathe, and I'm leaning too far forward, gonna fall off...
But I don't. Strong arms wrap around me, lowering me to the floor. A hand gently grasps the back of my head, pulling it down onto a hard surface, letting me cry.
I try to stop, taking in a shuddering breath. I release it and start to choke.
The hand that isn't holding my head starts rubbing comforting circles on my back. “Hush, pet. Just work on breathin'.”
“Why?” I managed to choke out. My stomach is starting to hurt, but I still can't stop. Oh gods...
I can hear him sigh. “Don't know, pet. Just know that they walk all over you. Know it 'cause it used to happen to me when I was human. S'not right, no matter how much you wanna be their friends.”
I'm having trouble breathing. Short gasps escape me, and I can't remember the last time I cried so hard. I don't understand why this is upsetting me so much. I mean, it's not THAT important.
But it is. Those people are my life, my family. Their approval means everything to me. And the fact that they don't think I'm worth it, it just...just hurts. What's wrong with me, that they wouldn't want me for me?
I must've said that last part out loud, because the next thing I know, Spike's clutching at me roughly, pulling me closer for a reassuring embrace. “Nothin' wrong with you, Xan,” he says. He voice sounds strangled to my ears. “Nothin' wrong at all.”
“S-Starting to sound like a broken record,” I stutter, earning a chuckle from him.
“If that's what it takes to get it through to you, then so be it.”
I look up at him, and we share a grin, before a sniffle brings me crashing back to reality. Oh geez, what just happened? I can't believe I lost it so bad in front of Spike. I'll never live this down. I look anywhere but at him, and start to pull away.
A firm jerk pulls me back up against him. I glance up at him, startled, and find myself staring into fiery blue eyes. “Don't know why you keep bottlin' your emotions up, but it's only gonna hurt you in the end. You've got a softer side that's nice to see; don't have to hide it.”
The words are barely out of his mouth when I realize I'm sitting on his lap. He seems to have just realized this as well, from the look on his face. How the hell did THIS happen?
I don't really have much time to think about our new position, though, because suddenly he's kissing me.
< --- >
I'm kissin' him. I'm really kissin' him. He was just too adorable lookin, sittin' there, eyes red from tears, lower lip slightly stickin' out... sorry mate, couldn't resist.
He's not resistin' too much, either, and from his moanin', he's not about to. His hands reach up to pull me closer, and I can feel the tremors. Somethin' new for him, then. Right. We'll take it slow.
Gently I ease my tongue into his mouth, then nibble on his bottom lip. Workin' slow; I'll let him set the pace.
He sets the pace, all right. I gasp as I'm shoved back onto the floor, his lips crushing mine. Rough it is, then. Was kinda hopin' it would be. I push forward, our tongues duelin' with each others in a fight to get into the other's mouth. Hands reach everywhere, gropin' and graspin'. Never thought the whelp had it in him. Then again, never thought he could play the piano.
He gasps, takin' in huge gulps of air when I pull away to let him breathe. We both stare at each other, surprised at what just happened.
He's the first to speak. “I'm sorry,” he mumbles, risin' to his feet. He's lookin' anywhere but at me, his face flamin'.
My eyes begin to flame, but it's not from embarrassment. I grab his wrist and give it a firm yank. He falls on top of me, his face reflecting his surprise. “What are you...?”
“What're you sorry for?” I snap. When he doesn't answer right away, my temper begins to rise. “Well?”
There's that damn miserable look on his face again. I used to enjoy seein' it: now all I wanna do is make it disappear forever. “Spike, I'm...”
“Why, Harris?” I demand, and suddenly he's lookin' brassed off. Good for him; 'bout bloody time he showed some emotion besides sadness.
He glares at me as he yells, “I was using you, if you didn't notice Spike!”
“I started the whole bloody thing!” I yell back, and the anger disappears from his face.
“Yeah, and it was soft and nice and slow. But then, I...”
I sigh, pullin' him down to sit next to me. “Sped things up?” I finish for him, watchin' his face fall. “Didn't mind.”
“You pulled away,” Xander mumbles, glancin' away.
I start to smile as I understand. “Thought you might wanna breathe.”
And finally he gives me one of those genuine smiles. It really is beautiful to see. I think back over our yellin', and I turn to him, frownin'. “You thought it was nice?” I ask, earnin' wide eyes and a flushed face.
“Um, well, I...” He sighs, before givin' up. “Yeah. I thought it was nice.”
I reach forward, tiltin' his head towards mine. Glad he liked it, 'cause I did too. And I'd like more.
Leanin' forward, I gently press my lips to his.
He responds quicker this time, mouth openin' to let me in. Slowly I run my hands up his chest, smilin' when my roamin' hands find two hard nipples standin' erect. Bet they're not the only things erect.
He moans as my hands begin to trail south. “Spike,” he groans, and his throaty plea sends my cock to full attention.
“Shhh,” I whisper, workin' on his pants. “Gonna make you feel special alllll over.”
My only response for the next two hours are muttered words and moans.
< --- >
TWO MONTHS LATER
A laugh. “Spike, sweetie, surprises are NEVER good when they come from a vampire.”
“Oi, not like the others now, am I? Just come see, please?”
“Fine, fine, but...ow! Don't let me bump into anything.”
A chuckle. “S'posed to trust me. You're the one wearin' the blindfold.” A pause. “All right. Ready?”
Xander nods. “I'm ready.”
Spike reaches behind his lover's head and pulls the blindfold away. Xander blinks at the sudden light, then blinks again at the surprise before him.
A small blue box with a white bow sits on top of the table. “Wow, wedding rings already?” Xander says, and pretends to choke up with emotion. “This is just all so sudden...” He adds a sniffle to cover his snicker.
Spike rolls his eyes. “Open it already, you daft git.”
Xander chuckles but obeys, eagerly opening the box to find its treasure, preparing himself for anything that could be in there.
Anything, that is, except for the tiny music box.
Xander stares, before gently pulling the box out and onto his palm. It's old, with some of the paint fading, but the designs are the same, and he's sure that if he winds the crank up, he'll hear Pachabel's Canon. He's not exactly sure how Spike found it, though, because Xander himself hasn't seen the box since the night his dad took it from him.
Spike edges over, frowning slightly at the blank look on Xander's face. “Xan, luv? Somethin' wrong?”
He's surprised when Xander begins to cry, clutching the music box to his chest. “Oh, sweetheart, don't cry,” and he's in Spike's arms now, tears being dried away by gentle hands.
Xander sniffles, his blurred vision able to make out Spike's concerned face. “How did...why...?”
Spike smiles, placing a soft kiss on Xander's forehead. “Happy first, luv,” he whispers.
“Has it been a month?” Xander asks, startled.
Spike nods, kissing away the stray tears. “A month since we told those damn Scoobs to bugger off, and told Anya to go...”
“I know, I know,” Xander says quickly, sniffling. He remembers the day when Anya had come in, bearing down on Xander, and Xander just hadn't been able to take it anymore. He'd told her to go to someone else, because he didn't need her anymore. He'd find someone else himself.
Anya had snorted. “You, find someone else?”
“Someone who appreciates me for me,” he'd told her. “That's not you.”
“Xander, that's no one!” she'd yelled. “Who do you think is going to actually do that, take the time to know the 'great real you'?” she'd snarled, emphasizing her last words in quotations.
As the Scoobies had begun to tell Anya to back down, Spike had casually walked over to Xander and taken the boy's hand in his own. Xander's eyes had lit up with surprise and then happiness, before Spike had turned to the shocked Scoobies and said calmly, “I think I would.”
All hell had broken loose after that.
But Xander hadn't cared. Though he'd spent some nights with Spike playing pool and beer, exchanging heated glances and stolen kisses, he hadn't seriously expected the vampire to stand up for him in front of the gang. Had thought instead that he would have to have made the first move.
Xander shakes himself, smiling at his lover. A month of veiled glances and cautious touches had led him to a wonderful month with a man he once had considered his mortal enemy. “Have I ever told you how much I love you for sticking up for me that day?” he asks.
Spike blinks at the suddenness of the question, before he begins to smile. “You might've, once or twice.”
Xander turns back to the music box in his hands, before glancing back up at Spike. “How did you find this?”
Spike grins. “Well, there might've been a burglary over at your parents' house the other day...”
“Hey, it was yours to start with!”
“True,” Xander admits, and Spike places another kiss to the brunette's forehead. “I didn't get you anything,” Xander says after a few moments.
“Already covered,” Spike says, before leading a confused Xander into the living room. He sets the music box down on the coffee table, then takes a seat on the sofa, pulling Xander down with him. He reaches over to turn the crank a few times, then settles back with his love as the Canon begins to play.
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