Pairings: Spike & Xander (friendship)
Setting: Season 2, starts the evening of Valentine's Day in the middle of Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered, after Cordelia dumped Xander and Spike and Angelus gave their gifts to Drusilla.
Rating: PG-13
Feedback: Please, please, please
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me; all belongs to Joss and Mutant Enemy and anybody else who actually makes money off this stuff - certainly not me.
Warnings: In the L&L part, not much.
Summary: Spike and Xander discover that they have more in common than they thought.





Listening and Lies


by
Daedreams





Part 1 - Prologue

“…Call Buffy - I'll be there as soon as I can!” Xander slammed the phone down and ran into the library cage. He flung open the doors of the metal weapons cabinet and grabbed a small battle axe and the crossbow and arrows. Taking a moment to load one arrow into the crossbow, he ran out of the library.

He was almost to the exit, when a noise near the student lounge stopped him. He looked to his left, up the staircase, and there was Angel, standing on the mezzanine landing of the stairs. The vampire was in full game face and looking up toward the top of the stairway and suddenly, there was Miss Calendar. She stumbled down the stairs quickly and screamed when she landed in Angel's arms.

"Sorry, Jenny. This is where you get off." Angel put a hand on her chin and one on the back of the teacher's head.

Now, now, now! Xander's brain was screaming at him. With shaking hands, he lifted the crossbow toward the two on the stairs. He aimed, and fired…





Part One

Five days earlier…

Xander Harris kept his hands buried deep in his pockets. He knew that walking around alone after dark was a special Hellmouthy Sunnydale no-no, but perhaps he had a little bit of a death wish this night. Valentine's Day. There's nothing like February 14th to get your heart stomped on. He should have known. What was I thinking, trying to actually date Cordelia. It's not like nobody saw this coming. Buffy knew. Willow sure as hell knew. And he knew. Deep down.

"Bitch!" he said to the night air, hoping to convince himself to hate her. But he didn't somehow. In the short time they spent together, Xander saw a side of Cordy that he was sure no one else knew about. Sometimes when they would go parking in her dad's car, they would get in the back and she would lean against his chest and stretch her legs out across the seat. He would wrap his arms around her and they would just sit like that. At times, this would get kinda boring, but most of the time, he would just wonder what she was thinking about. She would get so calm. Every once in a while she would let a small sigh escape, and he would squeeze his arms around her just a little tighter. She would fall back into him a little more, making Xander feel more like a man than ever before - just knowing that he was there to protect his girl from whatever she may be fearing.

So, was he wrong? Was he wrong about seeing something special in her? It was obvious why she broke up with him. Her friends were giving her a hard time. He knew she was shallow when they started, but he thought that somehow she wouldn't be shallow about him. Not when it all came out in the open. One mistake of many, it seems.

Xander shook himself out of a daze and found he had wandered into a cemetery.

Oh, primo move, genius. He reached into the inside breast pocket of his jacket and took out a small wooden cross he had stashed there. Since Buffy came to town, he knew not to go anywhere without a cross. It suddenly occurred to him that he didn't know which cemetery he was in. Once you were in the center of them, they were pretty hard to tell apart. They all had the same grass and trees and tombstones and crypts. How the hell did I get lost in my own dumb town? Next time - breadcrumbs.

He knew he was walking west when he came out of the Bronze, so he continued to do so. His house was this direction, anyway. After he had walked a couple minutes, he heard a low voice mumbling something he couldn't make out. He stopped to listen for which direction it was coming from (point being to walk away from the disturbing mumbling voice). Sounding like it was to his right, he started walking straight again, until he heard a loud clank and painful wail. His protection instinct took over and he ran to find out who needed help.

Xander was stunned by the display he saw in front of him.

It was Spike. There was no second guessing that. Even in the dark, the platinum blonde hair was pretty easy to spot. The vampire was by himself and on the ground. A string of curse words were coming from him, most too British to understand. Spike was propped up on one hand with his back toward Xander. His other hand was clutching the top of the tombstone he was facing. His legs were sprawled out in a rather ungraceful manner, and Xander noticed a wheelchair a couple of feet away that was tipped over on its side.

Xander remembered Buffy telling the Scoobies that she had seen Spike a few weeks ago in that very wheelchair. At the time he thought that was pretty funny. A master vampire confined to a wheelchair. And put there by the very Slayer he could never kill. Of course, Spike being alive at all was pretty dangerous. He would heal eventually and no doubt be coming after Buffy for what she did to him.

This scene, though, was neither funny nor dangerous. It was actually kinda sad. Surveying the scene, it wasn't too difficult to figure out what happened. Spike had apparently tried to walk. Not being completely healed, though, he had fallen and kicked his chair over. Xander continued to watch as Spike stopped cussing and just hung his head down. He felt a kind of pity start to rise up in himself and he contemplated whether or not to go help the sorry-looking vampire.

Just then, Spike's head whipped around and Xander's pity was instantly replaced with fear. Spike's eyes pierced through Xander, and the demon let out a deep growl and transformed into his vamp features - ready to strike. For a moment, Xander was paralyzed, his fear consumed him. Then, bit by bit, he came to realize the he had the upper hand. Laying before him was a vampire who was immobilized. What was Spike really gonna do - spit at him? That realization seemed to hit Spike at the same time. Xander let the tension fall from his shoulders and started to grin a little. Spike pulled back his game face but kept the evil stare for a moment before slumping his shoulders as well.

"Bloody hell," the vampire mumbled and let his hand fall from the tombstone to the ground. He shifted until he was in a sitting position and used his hands to adjust his legs straight out in front of him. He leaned back on his palms and looked at Xander again.

"So, boy, where's your Slayer friend?" Spike hissed. "Come here to put me out of my misery? Well, the timing couldn't be better, could it? Not gonna be putting up much of a fight."

"Sorry to disappoint, Spike. It's just me." It was strange to feel so relaxed around a brutal killer. Almost felt like doing a little 'nah-nah-nahnah-nah' dance. He took a moment to look the vampire over. Aside from his useless legs, Spike had other visible signs of his near death (re-death?) experience. Most notably, a nasty burn on the right side of his face. That must have been pretty awful for it not be healed by now.

"Don't know if that makes my night any better or not," Spike responded. They stared at each other for a little while longer before Xander started bouncing on his toes.

Such a cute pathetic evil little monster. Xander thought. Should I pat him on the head and feed him goldfish crackers? Instead he said, "Okay, then. Guess I'll be headin' home. Good luck with the whole…getting up…thing." He turned around and walked off.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Spike sighed. If only it had been the Slayer. A good stake through the heart would feel pretty good right about now. He didn't think he could take any more humiliation. First being confined to a wheelchair by that bloody Slayer when she caused the entire organ wall of a church to fall on his back. Then having Drusilla have to bring him puppies and kittens to feed on. Don't see why she couldn't at least bring home a human baby or something. He always brought her full grown food who had the decency to be afraid of them. At least when Dru was sick, he never treated her like a child. His being stuck in this bleedin' chair was causing the mommy to come out in Dru. There was nothing worse than having his Dark Princess lover think of him as nothing more than one of her dolls to be fawned over. Take that back - one thing worse. Having that same Dark Princess lover shagging her bloody sire right under his nose.

Then this. That doltish kid that followed the Slayer around practically laughing at him. The timing was just too perfect, wasn't it? Spike had to come here to see if he could just force his legs to start working again. It had been weeks. Why wasn't he mended yet? He just had to get out of the house, didn't he? Well, yeah, he did. Couldn't listen to the two of them at it again. They didn't even care that Spike could hear every groan, pant, and scream. Never did care.

"Arghhh!!" Spike yelled out into the sky. It was every bleedin' night! Every night Angelus would caress Dru's body and talk dirty in her ear - right in front of him!

Spike put up with it in the old days. Had to. Angelus was his grandsire and Dru's sire, and she was putty in his hands. Whatever Angelus wanted, Angelus got. Back when Dru first turned Spike, it took him quite a while to come to terms with the fact that he had to share her with him. Drusilla was Spike's destiny, sire, mother, lover. Angelus had been away for a hundred years. Spike had gotten used to it being just the two of them. But Dru fell right back into the ponce's arms like no time had passed. Like those hundred years had meant nothing. Like he had meant nothing. And here he was. Putting up with it - again.

Spike shook his head clear. Couldn't do much about the situation sittin' here on the ground. He took in a deep unneeded breath and started crawling toward his capsized chair. When he reached it, he was able to right it with no trouble (upper body strength didn't seem to be a problem). He situated himself directly in front of the chair, grasped both arms and pulled himself up. When he made a move to twist his body around to get into the seat properly, his center of gravity suddenly shifted and he lost his balance. Just when he was about to hit the ground again, he felt two hands catch him underneath his arms.

He looked up and saw the Harris kid standing there holding him up. That was the last straw.

"Get your bloody hands off me!" Spike growled.

"Fine," the boy answered. But instead of letting him fall to the ground, which Spike expected, he lifted him all the way into the chair and dropped him into the seat. Spike watched confused as the kid walked away again.

"Hey!" Spike called after him. Harris stopped and turned around.

"What?"

"Uh…," Why did I call out to him? He could think of absolutely nothing to say. The boy stood there for moment longer than turned and continued on. Spike was left alone again, and he started to wheel his chair through the short grass back toward the factory he called home.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


The next day, Xander sat in History class tapping his pencil on his open book. His gaze was fixated out the window. He'd had some pretty crappy days in this high school, and, aside from all the near-death scare-a-paloozas, this was definitely the worst. Thanks to Ms. Cordelia Chase's beautifully ironic breakup-on-Valentine's-Day-in-the-middle-of-the-crowded-Bronze extravaganza, the entire school was snickering at him behind his back. God, that wasn't even true. It was entirely in front of his back.

Xander had completely accepted his loserdom status at school. It allowed him to fade into the background and crack his little jokes and people would laugh and then forget about him. It used to bother him, but now he had such a wonderful tight knit group of friends, that he didn't care what outsiders thought of him…well, not too much, anyway (plus he had the gleeful secret knowledge that he had helped save all their sorry asses from an apocalyptic doom last year).

But all this attention given to him today - it was unbearable. Random guys punching him on the arm saying, "Way to get dumped, dude." The girls just out-right laughing at him. Plus it just plain hurt. Cordy was hanging with her holier-than-thou gang again like the past few months with him didn't even happen. Like he didn't even matter.

This morning, Willow and Buffy were trying to be nice and supportive. But he could tell they were being complacent and thought he was better off without Cordy anyway. He found himself suddenly missing Jesse. He hadn't really made another close male friend since Jesse died last year. Jess was a good guy. An idiot sometimes, and, sure, he usually thought with his dick, but hey, so did Xander most of the time. Jesse. Great, his brain had to go there. Now his depression got to go to a whole new fun level. Heartbreak depression was entirely different from killing-your-best-friend-because-he's-a-vampire depression. Blah! This day sucked!

Oh, goody. Now his thoughts had drifted from Jesse to vampires. Then to Spike. That was an unusual scene to be cast in last night. Xander was still trying to figure out what it was that possessed him to go back after he had started to walk away. Must have been that scream. Not the kind of noise he expected to hear from Spike. Xander had heard many different kinds of screams in the last couple of years. There was the startled scream, the panic scream, the blood-curdling pain scream. But the one coming from Spike last night was none of the above. It was something a little more… what?… personal? It had some kind of personal pain to it. It sounded something like… heartbreak. Huh? Was Spike's heart broken? Well, that's just the most absurd thing I've ever thought of.

The bell rang. Xander gathered his book and empty non-note-taking notebook, and took off swiftly down the hall in search of Buff and Will, trying desperately to ignore the not-so-gentle ribbing from everybody in the hall. He found his girls huddled around Buffy's locker and tried to put on his 'hey-look-at-me-I'm-totally-over-this-whole-getting-dumped-thing' face. Wow…didn't even know I had a face for that. Good…more depression material. Welcome to Xander's Happy-Fun-Time World of the Seven Levels of Misery - Wednesdays are double coupon days - bring the kids!

"Ladies, ladies! What's with all the low-talking? Is there mystery afoot? Big baddies abound? Apocalypses abrewin'?"

"Angel," Willow stated bluntly.

"Oh." Okay, depression, Xander told his psyche, time to take a back seat and be support-o guy for the Buffster with her mucho grando psycho ex-boyfriend's head-trip of the week.

Buffy leaned back against the open locker. "He gave me a warning last night in the guise of a joyful little romantic gesture. Giles told me that I need to lay low for a few days, but I just can't do that. Not while he's out there killing people." She let out an exasperated sigh. "I was hoping you guys would back me up on patrol tonight? He always tends to surprise me out there, and I could use a couple extra sets of eyes."

"Of course," Willow said.

"You know we're there for ya, Buff," Xander added.

"This is actually pretty dangerous, guys. I just need you there for eyes, not for fighting. If he shows, you guys are gone. Understand?"

"We get it."

"Gone," Xander agreed, "like the wind, you betcha." He put an hand on Buffy's shoulder and she covered it with her own. The weak smile she gave him melted his heart. As much as he didn't deserve the public humiliation brought on by his ex-girlfriend, it was absolutely nothing compared to Buffy not deserving the constant death-threat fear brought on by her ex-boyfriend.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


"Arghhhh!" Spike slammed his hands against his ears and pressed as hard as he could. Again! Why can't that pompous eviler-than-thou poofter keep his bloody hands to himself?!

He sat there in the central room of the factory with his head down, hands pressed against his ears. With his eyes squeezed shut tight, he concentrated on trying to drown out all the sounds that his vampire hearing insisted on picking up. He tried with all his might to think of anything besides his sire and grandsire naked and tearing at each other and what the fuck is he doing that makes her make that cooing noise? But his mind went nowhere. Those sounds just kept filling his head. It only brought back all the memories of when he shared his bed, not only with Dru, but with Angelus and Darla as well. The four of them had gone everywhere together and done everything. But that was more than a century ago. Things had changed. Angelus' claim over Dru was gone. Wasn't it? Shouldn't it be?

She's mine. She's mine, now! Spike screamed at Angelus in his head. I won't let you have her. I can't. But he knew he would. He always had. Spike could tell himself anything he wanted in his head, but in the end Angelus always got his way. Always.

Spike opened his eyes and removed his hands from his ears. It was pointless. The sounds and thoughts weren't going away, so that meant he had to, again. As he began to roll his wheelchair toward the door, his eye caught something glimmer on the floor under a chair at the main table. He moved toward it and leaned down to discover it was the ruby necklace he had given Dru the day before, Valentine's Day. It was laid out on the floor where it had obviously been cast off absently. He had sent their last minion out to get it a few days before (minions were growing scarce nowadays with the Slayer seemingly coming out of every woodwork in town). Spike saw the necklace about a week ago in a store front window, when he was rolling about the streets trying to get away from the Dru/Angelus everlasting sex sounds…again. Dru loved shiny things, and it didn't matter that the necklace was stolen, she would still know it was expensive. She had mewed over it when he had presented it to her in a lovely velvet lined box, only to then start purring over Angelus' gift of a dripping human heart slapped unceremoniously on the table.

And there was the necklace. On the floor. Forgotten under a chair. No doubt torn off Dru's neck by the ponce in a not so subtle attempt to strip Dru of all things Spike. Just because Angelus' soulful counterpart, Angel, had staked his own sire last year, did not give him the right to steal Spike's sire. It just wasn't fair.

Fair. Now that was a concept Angelus never understood. Angelus always went after the weakest of victims. And if they weren't weak when he discovered them, he would make them that way - through slow torture, usually involving the death of loved ones. It was what he did to Dru. It was what made her insane. And it wasn't fair. Now, as for Spike... 'fair' was his middle name. It just wasn't any fun if they didn't fight back. It was the fighting that got his bloodlust pumping. The hitting and getting hit. The pain, the fear, the screams. Drinking in the sounds of the competition's heartbeat, then after the battle was over, actually drinking in the heartbeat. That was fair, and that was fun. He never understood Angelus' method of slow torture. After a while they stopped fighting back, and only then did Angelus go for the kill. Nope. Spike didn't understand it.

He stretched down toward the necklace and managed to lean far enough to grasp it with the tips of his fingers. Sitting back up, Spike flipped it lightly into the air a couple of times before flinging it hard against a nearby iron pillar. The rubies smashed to dust instantly and filled the room with an odd red glow for a few moments before settling on the ground to mix with the more common dust and debris.

As Spike continued to wheel himself outside into the welcoming darkness, his mind gifted him with a joyful image of Angelus exploding into that same kind of fateful and pointless dust.





Part Two

The night was fairly eventful. Buffy fought and killed three newly risen vamps, with Xander and Willow looking on from a safe distance. Xander did his absolute best to keep an eye on the perimeters at all times. They had been patrolling for a good three hours and had hit almost all the graveyards in town (a rather magnificent feat in itself), and he felt fairly certain that this was not the night that Angel was going to make any kind of move. With a little bit of both reasoning and whining, Willow and Xander were able to convince Buffy of that, too.

Making their way out of the current cemetery they were in, Xander continued to keep a look out for any menacing jack-in-the-box creatures. He soon realized that this was the same place he had been the night before. Recalling that he should probably learn to differentiate between all these dark places that they've been patrolling the last two years, he took a mental note to remember the name of this particular graveyard.

Pleasant Fields. This is the one closest to Willow's house. It's the one with that big twisted scary oak tree at the east entrance. It's the one with the crypt with the weird gargoyle-like heads. It's the one with the very well kept lawn. It's the one with Spike. Spike?

Xander squinted his eyes to his right and, sure enough, there was Spike, smoking a cigarette and sitting on the very tombstone that Xander had found him crumpled next to last night. They were a good sixty or so yards away from him, but he could tell that Spike was looking in their direction. It was odd that Spike would choose a hair color that was so stand-outy. Weren't most creatures of the night supposed to blend into the scenery. I'll have to ask him about that someday. What?! Ask Spike about his hair care habits? Ok, file that under the category of 'most bizarre and random thoughts.'

It crossed Xander's mind only briefly to call out to Buff and Will, who had already shifted out of patrol-mode and were talking about their weekend plans. He dashed the idea quickly, though. Spike obviously wasn't coming after them and Xander was kinda tired anyway and ready to be at home. He mentally shrugged Spike away and continued following the girls.

Feeling mostly safe as the three of them walked toward Willow's house to drop her off, Xander gave his mind permission to think about his own issues for a little while. As images of his past few months with Cordelia flashed through his mind, a wave of loneliness washed over him. He looked closely at the two women walking a few paces ahead of him. They were chattering on about something Oz-related. He had never seen Willow so happy. She had an honest-to-God boyfriend for the first time ever, and she was basking in the joy. Oz was a good guy, too, aside from the whole three-nights-a-month-I'll-kill-you-if-you-get-anywhere-near-me-no-matter-who-you-are werewolf thing. But, hey, we all have bad days. Xander hadn't found much in common with him yet, but there was a potential friendship possible. Maybe he could even talk to Oz about this Cordy thing someday.

Cordy thing? There's a Cordy thing? That I need to talk about? Pretty straight forward, isn't it? Cordy dumped me. It sucks. I'm a little lonely. And there are my friends. Walking in front of me with happy thoughts of Oz and sad thoughts of Angel, and yet nobody has asked me anything about Cordy.

Sure, this morning they were all, "Oh, Xander, I'm so sorry, Are you okay, What can we do for you, She's an idiot (well, more of an idiot than usual) for not wanting you, blah, blah, blah." But that was it. Not one more mention of it since then. He knew he was putting on the I'm-over-it-face, but they were supposed to be his friends. They couldn't see through that? It had been a day. One freakin' day, for God's sake!

What is wrong with you people?! He found himself shouting at them in his head. He let a soft sigh escape his lips. Yeah, there's a Cordy thing. That I need to talk about. Damn.

A few minutes later, with Willow safe at home, it was just Buffy and Xander walking toward his place. Xander draped his arm across her shoulders pulling her closer to him.

"How ya doin'?" he asked her.

"Hangin' in there." They were silent for a while longer and she slipped an arm around his waist and leaned into his shoulder. "Thanks for coming out tonight. I feel better with you guys close by."

"Hey, that's what we do. We're here for each other. Through everything. Good days, bad days, passing grades, failing grades, demon lovers, demon killers, new relationships, breakups…"

"Yeah. Don't know what I'd do without you." Buffy kept her head on Xander's shoulder the rest of the way to his house. When they reached his front door, she separated from him and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Thanks for tonight. Get some sleep, you look tired."

Xander closed the front door quietly behind him and leaned his back against it with his eyes shut. What would I ever do without my bestest friends, Willow and Buffy?

"You're late."

Xander's eyes shot open and spotted his father sitting in the worn yellow-but-wasn't-it-once-cream-colored recliner near the TV.

"You waited up," Xander said in a voice that sounded much more hopeful then he meant it to. His dad made a grunt-like noise, brought a bottle of sickly brown liquid to his mouth and took a deep swallow. He's not even bothering to put it in a glass anymore.

"You weren't waiting up," he responded to himself quietly and closed his eyes again. He continued to lean against the door listening to this dad-shaped figure take a couple more gulps from the bottle.

"Don't mind me," Xander whispered to the room and slipped back out the front door.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


Spike put his last cigarette between his lips, crumpled the pack into a tight ball, and flung it over his shoulder. He slowly brought his chrome Zippo up to the fag and drank in the sounds. A light clang when the lid flicked open. Tiny clicks as his thumb spun the tiny wheel. A small hiss as the acid-scented liquid accepted the spark. A minute whoosh when the flame escaped. Spike drew in a short breath and heard the crackle of paper and tobacco. He closed the lighter quickly and stuffed it back in the pocket of his jeans.

The sounds were all around him. The leaves, the insects, the rodent scavengers, the wind. All providing a symphony of sound in the silence. It was easy to drown in. Spike had no idea why he had never noticed the silence before. From the moment he crawled out of his grave and for the next hundred and twenty years, all he heard was noise. It was always deafening and always bouncing in his brain trying to find a home. Never quite landing anywhere and eventually just taken over by some other noise and on and on and on. Wasn't it supposed to be that way? The noise was part of it, right? That's why the enhanced hearing. You need to know what's going on around you. Always moving. Always hunting. Relishing the screams. This was good. All good. But the silence. This was good, too. Better? Probably not. But good. Definitely good.

An owl. Wind in the trees. A very distant car. The paper/tobacco crackle. An insect buzz. Footsteps in the grass. Footsteps in the grass? Quiet footsteps. Not the loud footsteps of the annoying Slayer and her posturing pals who had been gabbing away through his private symphony a few minutes ago. These were determined footsteps. Coming toward him.

Harris. By himself. Spike could smell him before he saw him. The kid's own essence of sweat and chocolate and Ivory soap. Plus something else. What was that? It wasn't fear. None at all. Not even the tiny bit that was coming off of him last night. Not pity either. The kid was lucky for that. Spike would have found some way to rip him open if he continued to exude that sickening scent of pity. Still, though, there was something else. Despair?

The kid strolled to a headstone about ten feet in front of Spike. He sat on top of it and wiggled around a little to get comfortable. He looked up and stared directly into Spike's eyes. The vampire was dumbstruck and pissed off. The only humans that have ever not shown any fear around him were the Slayers he fought (killed two 'em - he reminded himself to stroke his ego). This boy, this insignificant boy, has the balls to just sit there. Sit there and stare. What's he playing at?

"My girlfriend broke up with me yesterday," Harris said casually. Spike raised an eyebrow at the kid. "I know, you're thinking, 'well, duh, cause who would want to go out with you?', but it was a bit of a shocker for me. I mean, I know it shouldn't have been, but I thought we were really starting to have something. I thought it was really starting to click, you know?"

The boy has gone completely 'round the bend. What is he talking about? "What the hell you doing here, kid?"

"And that's the part that really gets to me. That fact that I actually thought we were starting to click. I mean - Cordelia?! What was I thinking? Sure, when we were alone in the car or the broom closet or whatever, she can't get enough of the XanMan, and really, who could blame her, but if she has to admit to her friends that she might actually like hanging out with me, then it's bye-bye lovin', hello pain and humiliation."

"It's torture, right?" Spike ventured. "The Slayer told you to come here and slowly torture me with mindless drivel." He flicked away his cigarette. "This is ridiculous." He shifted on the stone toward his wheelchair that sat just within reach to his left. Just before he was able to lay a hand on one of the back handles, the chair was suddenly pulled away. Spike's head darted up, and he saw the kid dragging it back to the other tombstone and sitting back down, the chair neatly parked next to him now.

"Ah-ah-ah, no-no, Blondie," the fucking kid was grinning. "I'm going to sit here and talk, and you are going to sit there and listen. When I'm done, if you're nice, I'll think about giving you this chair back."

Spike slipped quickly into game face and hissed and spit and growled. "I'll rip your fucking throat out!" He leaned forward as far as he could and almost lost his balance.

Harris threw his head back and laughed. "It's a lot like watching the angry chimpanzees at the zoo. Next time I'll remember to bring little monkey snacks."

Spike let his demon fall back but continued to glare with gold speckled in his blue eyes. "You know I will kill you, right? The moment I'm mended, I was going to go after the Slayer, but she just got pushed to runner-up. Congratulations, kid, you just won the FA-fucking-Cup."


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


It wasn't a surprise to Xander that he knew exactly where he was going when he left the house. Nor was it a surprise that Spike was still sitting in the same place that he saw him twenty minutes earlier. The plan was to just talk. To get it out of his head. Maybe if he could vocalize it, then it wouldn't be all jumbled up inside. He could make sense of it. He would feel better.

The big surprise came when he saw Spike start to try and leave. It triggered some instinctual reaction in him that released a bit o' mean-Xander that he rarely let out to play. Most recently it had been Angel who had been tapping into mean-Xander (well, and that one time during the whole being-possessed-by-a-hyena fiasco), but if Spike thinks I'm going to let him just roll away from me like I don't even matter, then I'm gonna let out a little mean.

Now, Spike was emanating a constant low growl. What was it about this evil creature sitting in front of him that didn't scare him? Xander knew that he was a walking HappyMeal as soon as Spike was healed. And really, how much longer was that going to take? A couple months? Only weeks, maybe? (Even the burn mark looked better than it had yesterday.) But it wasn't important to think about that right now. Right now, he just had to talk. And somebody had to listen. So, over the sounds of Spike's vampire-fussiness, Xander continued.

“I’m not delusional enough to think that we had a big future with white picket fences and game night with the neighbors every third Saturday, but wasn’t it worth giving it a try? We had just started…”

Soon Spike stopped growling.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*


He was going to keep talking, wasn‘t he? This just might be worse than Dru and Angelus. Maybe. No, not really. Spike was eventually able to tune the kid out. It was surprisingly easy to do. The other sounds in the graveyard were much more interesting.

“…not like I was in love with her, or anything. It’s just that we had, like, I don’t know….potential. I’ve never exactly been a guy who, you know, finishes stuff. But I wanted to…with this. I wanted to see where it would go. I was ready. I think. But I never even got a chance to make that choice. She just decided it was over. It doesn’t seem…”

Okay, maybe the boy wasn’t tuned out completely. His voice seemed to be pretty easy to listen to. It’s not like he was actually saying anything to Spike, just kinda…near him. So Spike started hearing his symphony again. He let the boy’s words incorporate themselves into all the other noises, making his 60-piece orchestra sound more like an improvisational jazz band.

Pretty soon, the music started to become more hypnotic. Spike closed his eyes. He let the sounds engulf him like a wave. He wanted to be lost in it. All the world to go away and let it be just him and his sounds. They moved and danced and flowed and breathed and pulsated. Pulsated? What was that? What is that?

His little concert suddenly had percussion. Spike recognized the sound, but had never heard it beat so slowly before. He loved the sound, but he was used to it pounding in his head hard and fast when he knew there was heat and blood and fear. He was supposed to be the cause of that fear. Now it was just a quiet steady thumping. A bump-bump, then a pause. Bump-bump, then pause. Bump-bump.

He opened his eyes. The kid was still talking. Spike was fascinated. Not by anything he was saying, but by this heartbeat. This completely calm and rhythmic heartbeat. There was no fear, no anger, no desperation. Just bump-bump. Pause. Bump-bump.

It was more than a wave, it was an ocean. It was a cascade of breakers from an endless horizon and knowing that they would keep coming and hit him again and again and again. Each time pushing him under the water and the deeper he fell, instead of the quiet ocean darkness, the music would get louder and more colorful and poetic and the ocean was not cold but warm and there was the bump-bump, pause, bump-bump, pause, bump-bump…

The boy had stopped talking. Jazz became symphony again and still bump-bump, pause…Spike brought his mind out of the water and saw Harris looking at him. It was an expression that he couldn’t quite read. Something close to irritation, but also a little bit of concern. Not really pity, though, just thoughtful concern. Odd.

The kid hopped down and dragged the wheelchair back over to its original position next to Spike. Instead of leaving though, he went back to the headstone and sat down again.

“Your turn,” Harris said, his head tilted slightly and arms folded across his chest.

“My turn, what?” What exactly is this Slayer-wanna-be doing, anyway? Sitting here, in the middle of the night, invading my private backroom concert with his smells and voice and heartbeat.

“Who hurt you?"

“You know who did this - Slayer dropped an organ on me.” Okay, this kid was back to being really really annoying.

“I don’t mean that, and you know it. I talked, you listened. Okay, maybe you weren‘t really paying attention, but it doesn‘t matter. Now I listen. That‘s the way it works. That‘s what‘s fair.”

Spike leaned down toward his chair, put his left hand on the far arm and pushed himself off the tombstone and down into the seat in one quick motion (privately thanking the powers-that-be for not letting him fall in front of the boy again).

“Sod off,” he absently told the kid, and wheeled himself out of the graveyard.




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