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Paring: S/X eventually
Rating: PG-13 for now
Notes: Xander goes into counseling after the Hellmouth has been destroyed. Spoilers through Chosen.
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, don’t sue.

Kin to Sorrow


Session One

“Okay, Alex. What brings you here?” The doctor crossed his legs, balancing a yellow tablet of note paper on his lap, tapping the pencil lightly against the table beside the leather chair.

“Uh, well, I lived in Sunnydale, and a bunch of people recommended counseling for the…survivors.” Xander twitched nervously on the couch, his hands knotting together and prying apart. He wasn’t really sure what he was doing here. It had just felt like the right thing to do.

“Oh yes, there were very few if I remember correctly?” The tapping stopped, but now the doctor starting bouncing his foot up and down, swinging in the air. He took off his glasses and polished them, brief flash of Giles. But this man wasn’t Giles.

Xander’s gaze dropped to inlaid hardwood floors, rich mahogany – the same as the door and the desk, the window casing. It was almost a year ago, and he still had trouble… remembering.

“Yeah. It was just me and some…friends that got out at the end. A lot of people left before that though; probably weren’t very many people left but us.” Xander rubbed at his eye patch. Pain still came and went, sometimes a searing scalding welt, sometimes a dull rolling headache.

“Is that where you were, uh, injured?” The doctor asked, scribbling at his pad, never taking his eyes off the patient.

“Huh? Oh,” Xander realized he was asking about the patch. “Uh, yes, er, no. Sort of – it’s a long story.”

“Want to talk about it?” The scribbling stopped, the room once more bathed in silence, save for the ticking grandfather clock in the corner of the room. Somewhere in the building an air conditioner kicked on, rumbling and roaring to life.

“Um, well, it’s not really anything. A very bad man liked to have fun and games, and Xander got hurt.” Xander rubbed the patch again, feeling a headache coming.

“Xander?” The man questioned.

“Oh, that’s me. It’s what I used to go by before I moved to L.A.”

“Okay. Well what would you like to talk about?” More notes, scratching away on yellow paper.

“I’m not sure. I’ve been having these, these dreams I guess you’d call them. But, they’re so real. I’ve had some vivid dreams, but these are like it was actually happening.” Xander cringed, gooseflesh popping up all over his body. That face!

“Uh huh, and how often do you have them?” More scratches, uncrossing and recrossing his legs.

“At least once a night.”

“And how long have they been troubling you?”

“They actually started the night before everything happened...in Sunnydale. But at first it was only once a month. Just in the last couple months or so, they’ve upped their dosage. First once every few weeks, then a couple times a week, and now every night. I haven’t been able to sleep.”

“Uh huh, okay,” more notes. “Care to tell me about them?”

“Well yeah, I guess. That’s why I’m here, I suppose.” Xander laughed nervously at a joke only he understood. “Uh, well. It always starts the same, it’s the original Scoobies -”


“Oh, that’s what our little group called ourselves. Me, Buffy, Willow, and Giles. Anyway, it starts out the four of us are walking through a graveyard. It’s night, of course. So we’re walking, just goofing off and being us. Giles is whining about being out with a bunch of teenagers and how he needs to find his own group of friends.

“And then somehow, we’re not in the graveyard anymore. It’s – we’re in the Hellmouth, er, that’s what we called our old high school.” Xander shot a nervous look at the doctor, who only nodded and scribbled some more. “Anyway, we’re somehow suddenly there, and that’s the day the town went under. We’re fighting and trying our best just to stay alive, but we’re just not strong enough.” Xander fell silent as he remembered one of those vamps stabbing Buffy, seeing her fall. A tear fell from his good eye, rolling as silent as his memories.

“Uh, so, we’re fighting and losing. But Willow did her magic, and all of a sudden we’re winning. And then the dream transforms again. Everyone else has gotten out, and it’s just me and Spike there. His necklace is glowing, and he’s screaming in pain. He takes my hand, and his skin is so hot. So hot it burns, but I can’t let go. He’s looking at me; he’s crying. There’s light glowing all around him now, and I can tell it’s coming from inside him. There’s light inside him, something burning and so bright.”

Xander fell silent again, as the memory of the dream rocked through him like a flash fire. He couldn’t breath and his bad eye burned with memory, his good one with tears.

“I, I tell him he doesn’t have to, and he shakes his head – can’t leave. I tell, I tell him I love him. He nods, but all he says is : ‘Thank you. Now go, love, get out while you can!’ And I look down, and our hands are on fire. But it doesn’t burn anymore. It feels…right. That light around him gets brighter and brighter, and I can’t see anything.

“And then I’m in my apartment in L.A., getting something out of the refrigerator. All of a sudden, I feel a hand on my shoulder. Before I can turn, I hear a voice. It says ‘Hello, love. Miss me?’ And that’s when I wake up. Always at that part. I know it’s Spike’s voice, but I don’t know how. He…he died with the town.” Never mind telling Doc that it all happened, just that it happened to Buffy. ‘Cept the coming back part.

“Well, what do you think it means, Alex, er, Xander?” Somehow, he had managed to keep up with the notes.

“I, I don’t know. Can’t really get my head around it.” Xander answered truthfully, the tears finally stopping.

The clock chimed, causing them both to jump a little.

“Oh dear, it looks like we’re out of time for this week. Tell you what, Xander. I would like you to think about what this dream could mean over the next week. The next time I see you, I’ll listen to what you think it means, and I’ll tell you what I think it means, and we’ll work from there, alright?” The doctor placed his tablet on the side table. He took his glasses off and set them on top.

“Okay, Doc. Next week, then?” Xander asked, getting up and fishing his keys from his pocket.

“Yes. See you then, Xander,” he said, extending his hand and shaking Xander’s.

Xander made his way out of the office, and for the first time in a long time felt a little better. He hadn’t told anyone about the dream, not even Willow. Maybe the Doc could help him…

Session Two

“Okay, Xander,” the man said, crossing his legs and slipping his glasses on. Grabbing the pen and pad of paper on the side table, he assumed the Freudian position. “Last time you told me about a recurring dream that you’ve been experiencing. Now over the last week, I’ve made my notes on what I believe is happening, but first I want to find out what your interpretation is.”

Xander sank back into the leather couch, deciding that he wouldn’t be intimidated or nervous this time. He was here for help, and the man wanted to help, so why not let him, right?

“You don’t have your ‘Crazy’ stamp anywhere in reach, do you?” Xander asked, laughing nervously.

“Beg your pardon?” The man asked, a sour look on his face.

“Uh, never mind. Right, dream,” he said with a heavy sigh. “Well, I think it’s basically that I’ve linked everything in my life being destroyed to Spike. And that’s why I tell him I love him – he makes me leave it behind. Was the only way I could get…over it.”

The man stopped scribbling and tapped his pen against the pad, considering the idea with a sketchy gaze.

“Interesting,” he said. “Can I ask you a question, though?”

“Go for it, Doc,” Xander replied, uneasiness taking residence in his stomach.

“If the reason ‘Spike’ is present is because he helps you move on – why would you still dream about it?”

“I-” Xander hmphed. The man had a point, he realized. Okay, back to the drawing board.

“Mm-hmm,” the doctor huffed.

A few minutes passed in silence as the doctor scrawled some more notes.

“Alright. Now, Xander, I’d like to step away from the dream for a bit, okay?” Xander nodded. “Good. Now, I’d like to ask about your childhood if that’s alright. Can you tell me what your relationship was like with your parents?”

Xander gave a mental ‘Ugh!’ and a shiver at remembering them.

“Not much to tell really. Dad drank a lot, and Mom tried to keep up with him,” Xander said bitterly.

“Uh huh, and how did this impact you?” Scribble, scrawl, scratching as the pen bled onto the paper. The doctor was writing faster than Xander could think.

“Well, he got…mad a lot. Never touched me – Mom always, well, intercepted everything.” Xander’s voice was small, and he felt about seven years old again and had just gotten Playdough stuck in the carpet.

“So your father was…violent towards your mother?” Page flip, more notes.

“Only when he drank,” Xander joked, the sour taste of bitter anger and useless remorse filling his mouth.

“Uh huh. But you saw him physically abuse her?” Scratch scratch.

“Couple times, yeah. I used to feel guilty about it. You know, felt like it was my fault she was getting hit. But now I know it was his fault. We never – never did anything.” Xander felt the heat on his face before he realized he was crying softly. Felt the shallow intakes of breath before he realized he was sobbing. He’d only told one person in his life about this, and now she was…gone. Just like everyone.

“Xander, it’s good that you understand that. Your father had a psychological problem, and an apparent addiction. You’re in no way responsible for-”

“Didn’t I just say that, Doc?” Xander snapped at the man.

“Yes. Yes, you did. I just want to you to understand-”

“Look. I’m going to make this easy and sum it up for you okay? My dad was an asshole who liked to booze and bitchslap when he wasn’t puking or shouting at me for something. Wasn’t the greatest childhood, I get that. But I know it’s not my fault and I know I didn’t do anything wrong, okay? I’ve dealt with that. I – I’m not a kid anymore, you know?” Xander slumped against the back of the couch again, leather creaking and crunching under the shift in weight.

“Alright, Xander,” scratch scratch. “Do you still…talk with them?”

“They – they didn’t make it out of Sunnydale. I tried to get Mom to leave him, but she wouldn’t. I called them that morning, telling her she needed to get out before something…happened. She just wouldn’t go – ” Xander was crying again, the anger melting to sadness. She had at least tried, even if it was long ago, even if it wasn’t enough. She’d tried, and that meant more to him than all the chocolate and Kung Fu movies in the world.

“Uh huh. And did you feel…responsible?” he asked with pen tap and page flip.

“What? No. I mean, maybe at first, but then I realized she’d never leave. She wasn’t, she couldn’t – she just wouldn’t.” The tears continued to flow, but it finally felt nice. He’d never actually grieved. He just did what he always did – joked and moved on, storing it away in a box that he never wanted to open.

“What were her last words to you, Xander?”

“‘I love you, Xander. No matter what happens, you’re my brave little boy. Despite everything that’s happened, Xander, I’m proud of you. I love you.’” And now he couldn’t breathe at all, gasping in between sobs and expulsions of hot breath. “It – was – the – only time she – she’s said that.”


A few minutes passed with neither man saying anything as the doctor continued to write away in a feverish blur of page flips and scripted letters. Finally, Xander’s breath fell to normal as his tears seemed to cease.

“I’m afraid that time has come again, Xander,” the man said, taking off his glasses and setting it on top of the tablet he laid on the table.

Xander only nodded, wiping away the streaks on his face with his sleeve as he stood. Quick flash of a smile and he was herded towards the door.

“Next week then, alright?” The doctor asked, seemingly out of place without his stupid notepad.

Xander nodded again, his throat hoarse and raw from the burst damn of emotion, and left the office, waving as the receptionist said good-bye.

Session Three

“Xander, you look like hell,” the man said, scratching his beard and looking at Xander like he was a leper.

“Gee, thanks, Doc. You really know how to pick a guy up, don’t ya?” Xander snapped bitterly. It wasn’t his fault he hadn’t been sleeping at all the last couple of days. That damn-

“Dream?” Doc asked, scrawling some notes.

“Uh, yeah,” Xander mumbled. He was so tired. “It’s getting worse. It’s not just every night now. It’s a couple of times a night, and even during the day when I’m at the site. I’ll get distracted and the next thing I know I’m there with Spike in the Hellmouth all over again. Stupid daydreams.

“Now, Xander. Last time we talked about your home life. You said,” the doctor paused as he flipped back through his notes to find the exact quote. “Aha, you said it ‘Wasn’t the greatest childhood, I get that. But I know it’s not my fault and I know I didn’t do anything wrong, okay?’”

“Yeah, that’s what I said, alright.” Xander was really getting tired of the circular questions. I thought we were supposed to be getting rid of this fucking dream.

“Well, what I’m wondering is… Well, do you really believe that how you suffered at home has nothing to do with your current…problem?” Condescension and pure attitude in that question.

“You mean do I think the fact that my fucking father knocking us around is why I’m having dreams that are completely unrelated to that?” Xander had really had it now – all this bullshit was, well, bullshit.

“Precisely,” was all he said.

“No, I don’t.” Xander snapped without thinking. “Spike was nothing like my father. Sure, at first he was all ‘Oh, I’m going to kill you and mash you up with my big sharp vampire’-eh, books. He really liked Anne Rice. Ever read The Witching Hour? That book could crack anyone’s skull open, even the paperback.”

“Yes, but-”

“And sure, he even tried to kill us a bunch of times – er, he was a horrible driver; he was British, you know. Anyway, after all that. After Anya and after Buffy and after everything with Willow and Tara…he was, things were different. He was a good man in the end. Hell…died trying save all of us.”

“Which is precisely my point, Xander. If you’ll permit me to speak at some point. Of course this is entirely premature and I recommend many more sessions to really get to the bottom of this, but I have a theory-”

“It could be demons?” Xander felt the old Sunnydale charm rising in him as he laughed at a joke the Freudian Ferdinand obviously didn’t understand.

“Huh? No. What I’m beginning to believe is that you’ve placed the feelings you had for your father towards this ‘Spike’ person. Spike, in your mind, is your father after evolution. At the beginning, he hurt you and he abused your personal savior. But after working and living together, the relationship grew, didn’t it? At ‘the end’, you had profound respect for a man who had once destroyed life but now saved it.”

“Yeah, I did respect him at the end. S’not a man alive who would die the way he did for us. Only a man with a soul – with a…with a soul…” Xander’s throat closed and he could feel warmth on his face. Tears began to fall as he realized for the first time that Spike gave up his soul to save them. Gave up his life and everything he’d worked for.

“It’s rather simple, Xander. You transferred your feelings for your father to Spike. When Spike saved your life the way your father never could, never would, that brought about some drastic changes in the way you view your world; changes in the way you view the man you love. You are unable to let go of him because you feel he was the first, the only to truly care – to truly love you. The only one to save you. He’s your father; only he represents the way you always wished your father could be.

“I can’t accept that. Spike was, he was an odd duck for sure, but to me he was a swan. The feelings I have…had…for him are feelings of respect, gratitude, love. Those are things my father never cared for, never wanted, never deserved. No – you’re wrong.”

“No, Xander - you’re wrong.” Now the doctor’s voice was very gravely, never intense. More like Xander’s father than Spike could ever be. “Every night, and now every day, you’re plaguing yourself with memories of a man who saved your life. You can’t let that go because if you let him go, if you let him die, if you forget him, then all the men in your life from now until forever are like him. Then everyone you meet will be out to destroy you, to hate you, to beat you.”

Xander stood up from the sofa, his entire body shaking and trembling with rage that wanted out. How dare this “doctor” compare Spike with a man who deserved the gruesome death the Hellmouth wrought on him?

Somewhere in the room, a clock chimed. Xander nodded silently and made his way to the door.

“Sorry, Doc – your time’s up.” Xander said, his ice like liquid nitrogen. Something inside him felt that there was something to what the doctor was saying. But something else, something bigger told him there was more – that something else was happening.

“See you next week?” The stupid man said.

Are you out of your fucking mind, you silly psychiatrist, you? Wouldn’t come back if you got down on your hands and knees -

“Yeah, I’ll be here…” Xander gave in. Maybe he’s right. And even if he isn’t, what’s the harm in…talking about it?

Xander made his way through the corridor and out past the receptionist, smiling again at the sweet girl who was busily filing her nails and smacking on her gum. He was half way to the parking lot before he realized –

“Wait a second. In love with Spike!?”

Session Four

“Listen, Doc. I gotta say; your dream theory was sooooo not right.” Xander said smugly as he dropped himself on the familiar plush of leather and mahogany.

“Oh?” The doctor asked, taking his position in the chair and picking up the oh-so-not-annoying tablet of paper from the table.

“Nope. I’m still having the dreams and they’re still bugging the hell out of me. Looks like you’re wrong – don’t suppose I can get a refund?”

“Uh, no. I’m afraid not…” The doctor clucked his tongue against his teeth, looking for all the world as if he’d been cornered in a bullpen.

“So what now…guess it’s back to the ’ole shrink wrapping board, eh?” Xander couldn’t help being so snarky; he finally felt like he held the upper hand for a change.

Despite the twinge of bitter disgust that flashed quickly through his face, the doctor held his composure.

“No. No, I don’t think so, Xander. I still believe my theory is correct. There must be something you are not telling me.” Desperation filled the doctor’s wire-rimmed eyes. Desperation and something vaguely…disturbing to Xander.

“Well maybe you could let me know what it is that I’m not telling you? Because you should know – you’re the only person that knows about Spike at all. Er, at least my feelings for him,” Xander admitted. “I didn’t even realize them until last week after our session. Didn’t even notice when I admitted to loving him. But you know what? That’s the one thing you were right about.”

Xander realized as the words were tumbling out of his mouth that they would be like bait for a piranha – and the fish were hungry today.

“There, you see!” The doctor exclaimed, practically jumping out the armchair that was almost, but not quite, as pompous as he was.

“Not as good as I used to. You know, cause of my pirate eye,” Xander said sarcastically. And maybe that made him feel just a little bit more like the old Xander, the one before Sunnydale went down.

The doctor merely rolled his eyes and crossed his legs again. His Prada black and white wingtips were dangling close enough for Xander to spit his chewing gum on. If he wanted to, that is.

“You know what I mean, Xander,” Doc said fiercely. “The fact that you have now acknowledged your love for Spike brings you that much closer to acknowledging the link between him and your father.”

“You know-”

“I do, actually. That’s why you pay me, isn’t it?” Obviously, the man had never had a client who knew how to bluff his way through Kitten Poker.

“It is – and I’m starting to think that I’m getting robbed,” Xander countered, arching the eyebrow over his good eye, waiting for the man to lose his cool.

“I – ”he began, but stopped just short of saying something he’d regret, or something that could lose a hundred bucks an hour.

“Hmm?” Xander asked, coy and innocent.

“Never mind. What I’m saying, Xander, is that for you the two men are one and the same. Psychologically, that is. You’re never going to get over those nightmares until you aknowledge that fact. Don’t you want to be healthy of mind?”

“Hmm…difficult question, Doc. On the one hand, I can be crazy and think that my dreams are about the fact that I feel guilty because a man I actually loved died for me and saved the world. Or, I can be ‘healthy’ and take your view that I feel guilty because a man I really never cared about killed himself…Decisions, decisions, so many decisions. ‘Who shall decide when doctors disagree?’

“Only you can make that decision, Xander. But I strongly urge that you take my advice – you need help, Xander. And if you don’t deal with this now, you’re liable to lose touch with reality –”

“Reality? Funny thing, that.” Xander wondered aloud. Suddenly he was feeling much better than he had in a long time.

“How so?” Nervousness plauged the doctor’s composure. Not quite as well-bred as one might have thought after all?

“See – your version of reality is one in which everyone has the option of explanation. In your perfect textbook world, everyone can find the answer to questions inside of them. In my world, Doc; in the world of Hellmouths and burning lovers? S’not so easy. Where I come from, there are things that can’t be explained and no amount of vengence demons or Krispy Kremes and self-reflection can help you unlock anything but a dusty crypt filled with stolen furniture and spliced cable…”

“Xander…I think perhaps there may be more at work here than just your dreams. Don’t you think it strange –”

“You know, you’d think I would?” Xander remarked, deciding that the doctor probably would think it’s strange, the world he grew up in. “But let me tell you, from one pirate to another – there’s no such thing as normal and nothing’s strange once you’ve seen everything twice and saved the world a few hundred times.”

“Xander, I really think-” he tried again, unsuccessful once more.

“Maybe that’s your problem, Doc. You think too much. Me? I think I’ll stick to dreams and hope that some day the Powers That Be will let me in on their secret.”

With that, Xander got up from the couch and made to leave, when the doctor’s question stopped him. He turned to face the man holding a stupid yellow tablet and the face of someone in shock.

“I believe this means you’re cancelling your therapy? You’re just going to not deal with anything and live in denial?”

“Actually, I think denial’s been pretty good to me.”

“You’re obviously in dire need of help, young man. I would like you to come back next week, and we’ll see if we can begin again. I’ll keep your regular time slot –”

“Tell you what, why don’t keep my hour free. I won’t be here, but you can use the time to fuck yourself with your fucking legal pad. You know, I don’t think therapy’s working out for me.” With that, Xander left the office, smiling brightly at the entirely too-cheerful receptionist.

Spike nods but all he says is : “Thank you. Now go, love, get out while you can!”

Xander looks down, and their hands are on fire. But it doesn’t burn anymore. It feels…right. That light surrounding Spike gets brighter and brighter, and Xander can’t see anything. Brighter, whiter, and –

Xander awoke, sitting up in his bed in a dark and lonely apartment. His entire body glistened in the moonlight as sweat cascaded down his body like Niagara on Speed.

He sat there a moment, panting and listening to the silence. Only his shallow breathing, only his rapidly beating heart.

“Xander, you’re going crazy. Stupid psychiatrist – what does he know?” Xander mumbled, pulling himself out of the bed that was wet with sweat. He groggily rubbed at his eyes, trying to get them to adjust to the darkness.

Tripping and stumbling, he made his way into the kitchenette of his closet-sized studio apartment. The dream had made him sweat out any water in his body, and his mouth felt like cotton – tasted like landfill.

He opened the refrigerator, wincing at the bright white that seared against his eyes. He reached for the bottle of distilled water but froze as he felt a solid cold hand on his shoulder.

Before he could turn, he heard a voice that sent a dead tingle through his body:

“Hello, love. Miss me?” Spike asked.

Quotation on decisions from Alexander Pope


Xander turned off of route 25, feeling the truck’s tires skid and finally catch on the gravel of the one-lane road. He jacked the truck back up to speed, feeling like he was flying over the unmarked path. Dust and gravel trailed behind the Ford as he coasted through the night.

He rolled down the window, smiling as the cool night air came rushing into the cab. Through the open window, he had a view of the vineyards in this post-sunset darkness. Plants, low and dense as far as the eye could see rang back with the beams from his headlights.

He could make out a billion green flickering lights and he remembered being a child in Sunnydale before things had gotten bad at home. He and Willow used to catch these glowing green insects in mason jars. Willow had always let the ones in her jar go at the end of the night, but he’d always kept his; they’d always died in the night.

Out here in the breeze of the southern Californian darkness, he didn’t feel the need to bottle them up. Here it was openness; here it was freedom. He could breathe here; the closeness and densely cramped streets of Los Angeles had suffocated him.

His eyepatch was itching, and after scratching a few times, he tore it off. Hesitating for a second, he decided it was time. He stretched his arm out the window, almost laughing as he let it slip from his grasp. It was over; Sunnydale was nonexistent now. The pain, the torment, the demons and monsters – all gone and floating away in a haze of dust and pebbles, leather and sweat.

Xander turned his eyes upward towards the sky. Not for the first time, his breath was stolen from him as the immense and eternal beauty of an unobstructed sky reminded him of its existence. Reflecting the insects in every shade of blue and violet, white and water, billions of stars shown like an I-Max on his retinas. Xander felt his cheeks sting, stuck as they were in a smile.

Smiling was something that came natural these days. Indeed, sometimes it felt like he couldn’t stop. Smiling and laughing, finally feeling and caring about life. Xander now understood Buffy’s dilemma when she was brought back, understood the deadness she had felt. He’d been trapped in the same nightmare. Only, he hadn’t realized it until he finally woke up.

Xander ran his hands through long and silky hair, pleased at how well it had grown in after he’d shaved it all off. That too had been a reminder, a reflection of a past he’d rather not relive. So he’d clipped it off, shaved it down to skin. It had taken months to finally get to its current length, but the wait had been worth it. He loved the feel of tender fingers stroking it, tugging it, caressing it.

Ahead in the looming blackness, he made out the rolling old Victorian he’d finally saved up enough to buy. Well, savings, a mortgage and all the insurance he’d gotten out of the Sunnydale disaster. It needed some work; the wrapping porch sagged in some places, the plumbing was iffy at best, and the roof leaked when it rained. But that was half the reason Xander had loved it so much; here he could build and make things better. He could turn the house into what he’d always dreamed. Old hardwood floors and marble fireplaces, a greenhouse in the back and complete solitude, total privacy. He was the only man living out here – the nearest town or house was four miles.

As he drew closer, Xander saw a light in the upstairs hallway, a flicker of flame in the attic. The attic had never been wired for electricity; something he wasn’t all that sure he wanted to fix. He rather liked the old gas lamps. There was something surreal about them here in the middle of nowhere. When they were lit and the mood was just right, it felt like time had stopped, had forgotten. And if there was anything Xander had learned from the Doc, it was that life is now, not then and not someday, but now. He wanted to preserve now forever.

He slowed, turning carefully into the narrow drive. Row after row of willow trees lined the drive on either direction, swaying softly in the night breeze. At the end of the day, it felt to Xander as if they were reaching out to welcome him home. Because for the first time in his life, that’s what it felt like: home.

He rolled up the window, wincing but smiling nonetheless at the squeak as the mechanism protested. Easing the heavy door open, Xander grabbed his bag and the blueprints of his current project off the bench. He hopped down and gave the rusty door a hefty push, hearing it “clunk” shut.

The flames still sputtered in the attic windows, the glow seeping into the night and tingeing it orange. The hallway light, as well, still burned, but no other light in the house glowed.

Xander dropped his bag and blueprints next to the foyer table, and leaped up the stairs two and three at a time. At the top of the first flight, he found waiting for him a mason jar. He picked it up and examined the contents: lightening bugs glowing and crawling. A note was tied to the lid. He opened it, puzzling over the finely scripted words:

”Are thy pure eyes than all the stars of night
That shine in heaven everlastingly!

An arrow pointing up was the only other clue, and Xander made his way down the old wooden floor towards the back of the house. Creaking and groaning, the path of the master of the house was well aged and gracefully at that.

He came to the narrow staircase where electric light could no longer reach. Here, the hallway was shrouded in shadow, save for the lick and stutter of the lone gas lamp. The door to the attic at the top of the stairs was closed.

Another note graced the foot of the staircase, directing him towards the highest room of the house.

Xander smiled deliciously and began his trek up the steep wooden steps. It felt like walking back in time, and was accompanied with a mental time machine:

Tripping and stumbling, he made his way into the kitchenette of his closet-sized studio apartment. The dream had made him sweat out any water in his body, and his mouth felt like cotton – tasted like landfill.

He opened the refrigerator, wincing at the bright white that seared against his eyes. He reached for the bottle of distilled water but froze as he felt a solid cold hand on his shoulder.

Before he could turn, he heard a voice that sent a dead tingle through his body:

“Hello, love. Miss me?” Spike asked.

Xander felt a dead cold pass through him as he realized this was only a dream. Felt as his heart fell from his chest to the floor. Felt the tears well up in his eye as he realized this wasn’t real.

Though he knew he’d wake up as soon as he tried, he also knew he had to at least try to see Spike. At least try to hold him. Maybe then the dream would be gone.

He turned to find the man he’d dreamt of standing right before him, solid and smirking. Through the tears, Xander could see the blazing blue eyes, the skin that seemed iridescent in the glow of the refrigerator. He could smell the leather, could feel the cold flesh of the hand on his shoulder. This was…

“Not a dream,” he whispered. “You’re real, aren’t you? God, you’re really here. How…Why?”

“Been having some dreams, lately,” Spike whispered back. “Needed to see you, pet. To know you’re all right.”

“But you’re dead – I, I saw you die, Spike.” Xander’s voice was just below whispering now as the reality of the moment came crashing into his mind.

“I did at that, pet, did at that. You lived on the Hellmouth for how long, and you don’t know that dead things don’t stay dead? Bloody git.” Spike admonished, though his hand on Xander’s shoulder never moved.

“But, but how, Spike?”

“S’a long story. But to make it short, I came back a ghost in the Poof’s office. Got my body back, and after a few weeks of those bleedin dreams, I needed to see you. Needed to…touch you. They told me you survived, that you got out. But I needed to see for myself.” Spike’s words were punctuated by sharp gasps as he remembered the pain in Xander’s eyes, the hoarseness of his voice, the way he’d haunted his dreams.

“I can’t believe it,” Xander murmured, water long forgotten. “Wait, how did you come in? You’ve never been invited…”

“My dream, love. In my dream, you said I was always welcome, wherever you are. It’s an old vampire legend – that if your dreams are pure and the words are true…”

“They are. You’re welcome here, Spike.”

They both stood still, one man breathing and one man reeling. They gazed into each other’s eyes, searching for something.

“Yeah, well I should go, let you get some sleep –“

“No! Please, please don’t go, Spike.” Xander clamped onto Spike’s arm like a child to candy.

“You sure, love?” Spike’s eyes spoke to Xander more than his words ever would. They wanted to belong, wanted to be loved. He wanted to be woken from a dream that looped every night, every day. A dream in which he lost the only human who could have ever gotten under his immortal shell. Over and over again, he lost Xander. Didn’t want it to happen again. So tired of being alone…

“Yeah…Spike, I know it’s crazy. I know it’s us and we used to…You know how we were. But, to make my long story short, I was wrong. I haven’t hated you this whole time…I…I love you. I know you probably don’t, and probably won’t but I-“

“Thank the bloody stars you finally said it!” Spike exclaimed. “Wish you knew, love…wish you knew how bad I wanted this. How many times I thought about it, dreamed about it…”

“Stay here with me…”

Neither one of them could speak, but actions spoke as they leaned in and crushed their mouths together. Swollen, aching lips met parched and worried ones, and for once it seemed like it was right to Xander. Not like Faith, not like Buffy, not even like Anya. This was…this wasSpike…And now it seemed like he was finally awake for the first time in who knew how long.

After long moments of exploration and appreciation, they broke the kiss. Xander turned and closed the refrigerator, casting the room into darkness once more. Taking Spike’s hand, he led him quietly but confidently to the bed…

That had been a year ago. More than either could have expected had happened since then. Xander had been promoted up in the construction firm he’d been working for. Spike had still taunted Angel and graced Wolfram and Heart with his presence – he still felt like he was needed there.

Not long after, the Partners had released hell on earth. Not surprisingly, Angel was the target – but his companions were to be made casualties in the war. Dragons and hellbeasts had come down from the sky. The war took out a large section of Los Angeles, and still the public never new. In the end, there was only Spike and Angel. Spike returned home to Xander, and Angel had disappeared.

Both Spike and Xander decided it was time to leave the city. They found this crumbling Victorian, and they knew they were home.

The dreams had never come back.

Xander made it to the landing at the top of the stairs. One last note was propped against the doorframe. Xander’s breath hitched as he read it:

Night still is night, with every star aglow;
But light were night didst thou not love me so.

He took several deep breaths, and reached out, turned the knob.

The door fell back to reveal a red room. Scarlet velvet couches, ruby read silk drapes, bright red flames in the gas burners. In the center of the room, in a black leather chair, Spike faced Xander. Only a smile adorned the naked vampire.

“Hello, love. Miss me?” Spike asked.

Quotes from Starlight by John White Chadwick

The End

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