Summary: A discrepancy between the expected result and actual results when enlivened by perverse appropriateness.
Disclaimer: Not mine, all theirs.
Warning: Misguided angst, Star Trek metaphors and really bad poetry
It hadn’t started out as a poem. It was just supposed to be a way for him to get his feelings out without shouting them aloud in the middle of the Magic Box or on patrol or some other grossly inappropriate moment that would have moved him from admiring from afar to rejected in living color.
You looked at me and suddenly I felt like I was there.
Xander snorted. It wasn’t exactly profound, but it was as close to how he felt as he could verbalize. Literize?
I didn’t know I mattered until you showed you were aware.
Okay, that was all kinds of pathetic, but no one else needed to read it. It’s just, that was the first time he really considered that he might be more than just a waste of space—him telling him that’s all he was. A big bad considered him a threat. Xander figured he was doing something right.
I think you’re really special and that you should know I care.
Xander groaned and slammed his notebook shut with a sigh of frustration. Stupid. It was stupid and teen-girly and just stupid.
“Xander? Are you okay?” Willow looked at him with laughter in her eyes. He flashed a bright everything’s hunky dory smile and ran a hand through his hair.
Leaning over to whisper conspiratorially, she said “I’m ready to get out of here, too. Tara got these new runes last week and we found this spell that—does something I’m not going to repeat here because it makes her cranky and then we don’t get to do the fun thing.”
Xander socked her on the arm. “Willow, as your supportive best bud, it’s my duty to know what kind of spells you’re doing together. You know, because I’m supportive like that and not at all indulging my prurient interests.”
As they continued reading into the night, Xander kept returning to the page in his notebook. Sometimes he’d just caress the page without looking at it, remembering the words and rolling them around his brain. He’d take secretive glances at it behind the thicker books. Toward the end of the night, he dangled a pencil over the page, threatening to add to it, only to slam a book down over it when Dawn leaned over to grab the Hebrides Companion.
He needed to let it go. The words were written. They were out there. He wasn’t about to declare them out loud and he wasn’t showing them to anyone else. They were for his eyes only. And he was obsessing.
I need to release them, he thought. Yeah, maybe like a ritual, or something. Something that will cleanse my aura or spirit or whatever of all this pent up—whatever.
Xander was still playing with the corner of the paper when the idea came and he deliberately made the first crease.
“Hey, whatcha doin—ooh! Origami!” Willow nudged him. “Give me a piece?” she asked, pointing at the notebook.
“Sure,” Xander said, ripping out a blank page of the notebook for her.
It wasn’t long before they had entirely given up the pretense of research and the table was covered in little paper swans and boxes and frogs and stars and cranes and a really neat little rose Tara made.
It was as the shop bell announced the return of their intrepid heroes that Xander realized he’d lost sight of his crane amidst the others. He fought down the urge to panic. No one was interested in unfolding a bunch of paper birds. They’d just get swept into the trash before everyone went home. It wasn’t the fitting end to his writing career that he’d envisioned—he’d been kind of torn between sealing it in paraffin and setting it afloat on the lake and just burning it—but it was just a silly stupid poem written in a wide ruled notebook and it didn’t matter any more than the sentiment behind it. He could let this one slide.
“Well,” said Spike after Buffy had finished regaling the others with the tail of their harrowing battle against the forces of two fledges and a couple demons throwing dice down by the pier. “Glad to see you were all busy contributing to the good fight while I was risking my neck,” he said disdainfully fingering one of the paper creations.
One of the cranes, Xander noted with interest.
“Hey, this one’s got writing on it—shoddy way to do your notes, innit?” Spike observed, casually unfolding the bird as Xander felt bile rise in his throat.
Spike glanced down, then looked again. Confusion passed over his face. Xander’s heart was pounding as he read, an insane flash of what would happen if Spike liked it played in his mind’s eye, until he heard him snort. Xander flushed in horror. He couldn’t breathe.
“Well, well,” he said. “Seems someone’s got a crush.”
“What?” Buffy demanded. “Let me see that.”
“To Spike,” he read.
“You looked at me and suddenly I felt like I was there.
I didn’t know I mattered until you showed you were aware.
I think you’re really special and that you should know I care.”
Buffy laughed. Willow giggled. Tara smiled. Dawn rolled her eyes and went back to her homework.
Xander pushed back the bench with a deafening screech, tripped over it and ran out the door, missing the look of confusion on Spike’s face and Dawn’s irritated sigh.
“What was that?” Buffy asked.
“Irony,” said Dawn.
Xander ran until his breath came like knives and his legs were screaming. With a defeated sound he collapsed onto an obliging stone bench and tried to get his bearings.
He was at the college. Xander snorted and shook his head. Only he would run from being humiliated to the place most representative of his complete and utter worthlessness. He levered himself up to stand shakily and began the long walk home when he heard, “Wait a mo, Xander.”
He stopped. “Yeah?” It was barely a hoarse whisper.
Spike’s brow was deeply furrowed. “Look, it wasn’t that bad, all right? I mean, the rhyme scheme’s shite and the meter’s hopeless but…well, what’s behind it isn’t all rubbish.” Xander goggled openly. “Just…didn’t want you thinkin’ you needed to top yourself over it.”
Xander hadn’t known it was possible to feel any shittier than he already had. “Not unstable, thanks, just pathetic, and you can tell the girls that all I have planned is to go home and listen to Hank Williams, bury my embarrassment under inappropriate humor and pretend none of this ever happened.” Xander pushed past Spike and continued walking.
“Harris, wait,” Spike called after him. Xander ignored him and kept walking. Only when he was alone in the security of his bedroom did he dare let the tears fall that had been threatening all night, but by then, they wouldn’t.
You don’t get the guy. You’re not the hero of the piece. You’re the red shirt, and red shirts don’t get to ride off into the crab nebula with the love interest. You get to take up space and try not to die.
His despairing litany followed him into sleep with a hollow ache that promised it would never leave him.
A man true to his word, he arrived at the Magic Box bright and early with donuts, lattes and a winning smile. Willow’s was less winning and more wobbly-lipped but she took a latte and a cruller with a kiss on the cheek and nobody else said anything, though he could tell Buffy wanted to. And everything was fine, fine, fine.
Xander grabbed a book and a pencil and began flipping through, looking for the good pictures.
Unsurprisingly, the relative peace was shattered by Spike barreling in under a moldy, smoking blanket. Xander sighed, flipped the book closed, stood and headed for the back door.
“Xander, stop a minute. Let me…just…bollocks!”
Xander turned around and found Spike struggling to put out a smoldering piece of paper.
Willow was frantically making faces at him. “Just give him a minute,” she mouthed.
“Willow, please,” he hissed.
Determined face. Christ. “Fine. What?” he demanded.
Spike frowned and swallowed before reciting:
“There is a bloke who gets knocked down
I keep the nasties off him when he’s on the ground
Because it’s more fun when he’s around.”
Xander stared at Spike. Willow squeaked.
“Said the poem was rubbish. Didn’t say I didn’t like it. Didn’t say I didn’t like you, neither.”
Xander raised his finger in point of fact. “Yes, you did. Actually you say it all the time.”
Spike sighed and scuffed his boot heel across the floor in frustration. “Well I didn’t know you fancied me then, did I?”
“Huh?” he asked intelligently.
“I’m saying…oh, sod it.” Spike surged forward and kissed him. It was soft, and deep, and good.
“Have him back here before patrol or I’m spiking your lube with holy water,” Buffy declared.
They broke off the kiss. “Buffy!” Xander shrieked in a far less manly tone than he would have liked.
Spike just grinned and dragged Xander out the door to the sounds of her laughter.
“This is going to be so much fun,” Buffy told Willow with a frighteningly vindictive smile.
“You mean getting back at him for—”
“All the business he gave me about dating the undead? Oh yeah. Can you handle this on your own for a while?” Buffy asked, already shrugging on her jacket.
“Well, sure, I guess. Where’re you going?”
Buffy smirked broadly. “I gotta call Angel.”
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