Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: R
Feedback: Please!
Concrit: by email, please
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be. No harm, no foul, no money made.
Warnings/Squicks: Death of Major Characters. NOT Spike or Xander though.
Summary: This starts off as a series of emails between an unknowing Spike and Xander as they both try to come to terms with the many deaths of their loved ones that took place during Season Five; Joyce, Buffy, and Anya who died in the fight with Glory. The story moves on from there as Xander discovers Willow’s idea of bringing Buffy back from the dead and turns to Spike for help.

Notes: Okay this started out as just a medium sized story and it’s grown. Don’t ask either of us how long it’s going to be, we don’t know. It’ll take a while for Spike and Xander to get together, but they will eventually! Really! Many thanks to our wonderful beta and friend [info]kitty_poker1 for all the help.

Profile for graveyard_disturbance.    Profile for not_luthor.





Grief Counseling


by
Amejisuto and Sukiblue



Part One

FROM: not_luthor@yahoo.com
TO: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
SUBJECT: Ummm, hi.


Hey there.

You don’t really know me. I’ve been lurking in that Yahoo group for grief counseling. I hope you don’t mind that I wrote you. It's just, well, you seem like one of the few people there that is actually trying to get on with his or her life and deal rather than just wallow. And hey, there’s a few things on your profile that we have in common, although the picture worries me a little.

I just, I don’t know, wanted to ask someone who’s older than me, does it ever stop hurting? See, my fiancée died and, well, my sister. She was like my sister anyway. A couple of months before that it was our Mom. And there are days I just don’t want to get out of bed, or days when it’s like nothing is worth anything. And then I have to put on this act of being all supportive for the rest of my family to keep them from falling apart. Before this I’ve had friends die and all that, but never someone close and it was like, WHAM! Here’s your yearly dose of death all rolled into one.

Will it get better?


Sorry if I’m bugging you. I just don’t feel like listening to that peace and light crap the group mod is spouting out. And, well, you seem to like poking sticks at her sacred cows so I thought I’d write. If you want to just ignore this, it’s up to you.

Later.

Lex.




~*~*~*~*~


FROM: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
TO: not_luthor@yahoo.com
SUBJECT: RE: Ummm, hi.


Hi,

No, I don’t mind you emailing me. It makes a nice change to hear from someone with half a brain rather than all that, how did you put it? ‘sacred cow’ shit. Can’t bloody stand it, namby pamby bollocks. Christ knows why I’m still in the damn group.

Sounds like you’ve had a bad run of luck. Sorry, mate. Fuck, I know how it feels. I lost some friends recently, too. Rips you apart, doesn’t it?

You sound like a straightforward bloke, so I’ll be honest with you. I’ve lost a few people in my time and the pain never completely leaves you. You just have to learn to accept it. And when you’ve done that you can start to deal with it and move on. But to answer your question, yeah, it does get easier. Without trying to sound like a total ponce, time really is a great healer.

Anyway, enough with the depressing shit for a sec. Tell me about yourself. I feel like a chat, mate, if you don’t mind. Oh, and don’t worry about the picture. I don’t have horns, I certainly don’t have a blue face and I don’t bite…much. LOL!

Hope to hear from you.

Shaun




~*~*~*~*~


FROM: not_luthor@yahoo.com
TO: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
SUBJECT: About me.


Hey Shaun,

Wow, you’re like, all British sounding. Or, you know, Queen’s English at the very least instead of the American version. Cool. A couple of my friends here are English.

About me. Well, I hope you don’t mind if I don’t give out, like, names or anything like that. See my bf had an Internet stalker when we were kids and it totally freaked us all out. No offence or anything but I really don’t want to attract a serial killer, and the way my luck goes you’re sitting there in Wonder Woman Underoos, jacking off.

Yeah, I’m old enough to remember Underoos, barely.

Okay, here goes. My biological family sucks great big hairy camel balls. I know, I know, the phrase is usually donkey balls but they’re worse than that. They’re, like, Jerry Springer material. They scare me. Oh, not in a Mommy Dearest kind of way, but the “Dear God, I must never pass on these defective genes” kind of way.

But I’m really lucky. See, I’ve got a real family even though we aren’t related. We’re all kind of messed up right now, of course. Who wouldn’t be when half of the family dies in, like, two months?

Let’s see, what else about me? Umm, I’m really big into comics, sci-fi and fantasy stuff. My friends would laugh but I love to read, and not just comics but bestseller material. Well, most of the time. Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffrey count.

I’m into Babylon 5 and a big Trekker too, and no, that’s not the same as Trekkie. There’s a difference. Trekkers have jobs and don’t automatically drool all over the actors just because they’ve been on Star Trek. I saw Walter Koenig giving autographs in a mall in LA when I was a kid and, man, he was a real asshat. He thinks he’s god’s gift when all NBC wanted was a young kid with a Beatles haircut. Idiot.

I’m into some horror movies but not a lot. I mean, real life is weird enough, you know? I like them if they’re funny, though, or if they’re really smart. Sorry, but seeing Freddy jump out of the closet and kill someone for more than one movie gets boring. Hell, the crazy guy I hang out with is scarier than that.

Other than that I’m pretty boring, I guess. I listen to country music when depressed and, let me tell you, Patsy Cline is getting worn out.

I keep on feeling guilty. I mean, I know at some point in time I’ll feel better and stop feeling like someone ripped out my guts and stomped on them. But I want that part to hurry up and get here and then I feel like I’m letting them down or that I’m trying to forget them. It just sucks to hurt all the time, and I know that’s not what the girls would want.

So that’s sort of me. What about you? Any deep dark secrets I should know about?

You don’t have Wonder Woman Underoos, do you?

Later,
Lex




~*~*~*~*~


FROM: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
TO: not_luthor@yahoo.com
SUBJECT: RE: About me.


Hi, Lex,

Yup, British. Got it in one. To be specific, I’m English, not that I’m always willing to admit that. I’d rather be Irish. Those guys certainly know how to have a good time. I’m not sure about ‘Queen’s English.’ I don’t think the old bird would be too happy with some of the stuff I come out with. I can be quite vulgar. LOL!

Don’t worry about swapping names and stuff. I totally understand. I once had a friend that got stalked by someone on the internet. ‘Course, he stalked her first, so it was sort of his fault really.

Underoos? You mean those kiddie underwear sets that looked liked superhero costumes? Blimey, that’s a blast from the past. I remember them in the 70’s. Never had them, though. I guess you could say that they passed me by.

Your family sounds just lovely. By the sounds of it you don’t take after them. Do you still live with them?

Hey, I like sci-fi, too. I’m a real ‘Aliens’ addict. I used to have all the films on video and I had every Aliens book ever written. The bloke that originally designed them, H.R Giger, is one of my idols. I love his artwork. Pure fucking genius. Have you seen any of it? Here, look: http://www.giger.com/

I’m not really into comics, but I will admit that I’ve got some of the Alien comic books. See? Addict.

I like Star Trek, although, and don’t get upset with me, I don’t go much on the original series. TNG is my crack. And Voyager. Fucking HATE DS9. There’s a difference between a Trekker and a Trekkie? That’s a new one. I believe you, thousands wouldn’t. ~g~

Hey! Freddy is a god! You just have to get past him jumping out of the closet and killing someone and see the genius behind it. You just can’t write better comedy. The evil bastard always has a cheesy pun. Just like someone I once knew.

Patsy Cline? I’m not saying a word. Tell you what, next time you feel down, put on some Sex Pistols and try jumping around a bit. It does wonders. ‘Course, you’ll look like a total dick if someone catches you, but it’s small price to pay.

Don’t ever feel guilty about trying to move on. It is what they would have wanted. I know it’s hard, mate, but you have to try. Sorry to sound harsh, but they’re dead and they ain’t coming back. You owe it to them and to yourself to pull yourself up and keep going. Go on, make them proud.

Can I ask? How did they die? You don’t have to tell me. Just tell me to fuck off if it upsets you. I won’t be offended.

Okay, about me. Not much to tell, really. I’m just me. I drink too much and I smoke too much. And I’ve got a big mouth that always seems to say the wrong thing. But apart from that, I reckon I’m a pretty decent sort.

I don’t really have a family. I wish I did.

I like my sci-fi and horror movies. Shaun of The Dead is one of my favorites. So fucking funny. That’s where I got my online name. Graveyard Disturbance is another one of my favs. I do like a good cheesy horror.

I like to read. And I’ll read virtually anything. Murder mystery, classics, horror, you name it. The only thing I refuse to even sniff at is Mills and Boone. Tacky shit. Oh, and there ain’t nothing wrong with Piers Anthony. Bloody good author, he is.

I reckon we’ve all got deep dark secrets. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. ;o)

It was great to hear from you. Write back soon?

Shaun

P.S I don’t have Wonder Woman Underoos, but I do have a Superman t-shirt somewhere. I think I’m gonna have to dig it out now. Bugger.




~*~*~*~*~


Spike sighed and watched as the email confirmation popped up on the screen. Thank god for the invention of the internet. He’d just talked more in a single email than he had in a month of real life. It was funny how the words, just simple words, could spill out so easily when you didn’t have to look someone in the eye.

Relative silence was becoming a bit of a habit these days. It was as though when Buffy had died it had broken something inside him. Sure, he kept up his sarcastic wit and cutting remarks, but inside his heart was screaming for what it couldn’t have: love, companionship and family. Buffy had been his last chance at the possibility of those things. And the night that she’d died he was sure that part of him had died too, his hope destroyed and his heart shredded. There was nothing left.

Yes, the Hellmouth was still humming merrily along and, yes, he still had people around him, but it wasn’t the same. Willow and Tara were distant and always seemed to be too busy to have time for anyone else. Giles was leaving for England. Dawn was drowning in her own tears. And Xander, well, Xander was…quiet. That in itself was seriously disturbing. A not-talkative Xander just had to be the first sign of an approaching apocalypse. Batten down the hatches, folks. The sky is about to fall in.

But there was no apocalypse. If only. Then all Spike would have to do is find the magic crystal/amulet/Cabbage Patch Kid/dagger/crown, smash it into a million pieces and listen as the spell lifted and Xander’s voice babbled out a stream of happy nonsense.

If only.

Xander had every reason to be quiet. He’d lost so much-- Anya, Buffy, Joyce, almost his entire pick ‘n' mix family -- in the space of less than a year. Poor fucker. If ever there was a person that needed grief counseling it was Xander. Spike stopped and thought about that for a second. He opened his Inbox back up and re-read the two emails from Lex. It couldn’t be. Could it?

The clock on the wall chimed eight and Spike looked up at it and cursed. Patrol. Great. Oh well, it was something to pass the time. He quickly switched off the computer and grabbed his duster. Time for a little recreation.





Part Two

FROM: not_luthor@yahoo.com
TO: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
SUBJECT: RE: About me.


Hey man,

Don’t go praising all the Irish. B had a boyfriend who immigrated from there a while back and he was a real prick. Still is, from what I’ve heard. Bastard hasn’t talked to her in a year, hasn’t been there for her or anything. Now that she’d dead, though, he has to go on a sabbatical to the ends of the earth because his pain is just oh so bad. Jackass. Like everyone who knew her wasn’t hurting. What makes him so fucking special?

Oops, sorry about that. Didn’t mean to start ranting, it’s just been a craptacular day.

My honest to god relatives? Haven’t talked to them since I moved out last year. Best thing that’s happened to me lately. Don’t really think I could take Daddy Dearest telling me to suck it up and take it like a man right now.

Hey, I didn’t know there were Alien books. Well, other than the movie adaptations. That’s cool! B, she loved Aliens. Said that Ripley was a good role model for girls and all that woman empowerment stuff. I used to say I didn’t care about all that, as long as she kept kicking ass in her underwear, but now that I’m trying to look out for B’s little sister, well, I can see what she meant.

Haven’t seen that site before. That’s some freaky stuff. Still, it's great art. Better than a lot of the other crap I’ve been dragged to see by the girls.

TNG was too cool! Worf was always one of my favorite characters. I have to admit to loving DS9, though. It might take a lot of guts to go exploring but it takes even more to stay and defend your home. As for Voyager, like any other red-blooded American male, who can’t get enough of Seven of Nine?!

Freddy’s okay but I got tired of watching the idiot teenagers he was chasing. He is pretty damn funny, though. And the claw thing makes a great gimmick. Got to have a signature move, as someone I know once said.

God, what is it with you English people and punk? Sex Pistols?

Oh hell, don’t tell anyone but I’ve listened to one or two of their songs and they’re not that bad. I don’t think I’d live it down if my friend found out, though; he’d tease me for hours on end. Maybe I’ll just have to steal his CD. It's not like he doesn’t steal half of my shit anyway.

It kinda sounds like we have a lot in common. I’m famous for opening my mouth and sticking a foot in it. Usually I can talk a mile a minute about anything and everything.

Lately, though, it’s like no one wants to really hear what I’m saying. At least Will doesn’t. She’s, like, my other sister and for some reason B’s death is hitting her really hard. I’ll try to talk to her but she just, I don’t know, dodges the conversation and tries to distract me.

I found out the other day that we’re losing our Father Figure, too. I can’t help but be angry as hell about it but everyone seems to think I should be happy for him. I’m not. It’s almost as if now that B is gone, well, she was his favorite so why should he stick around for the rest of us anymore?

I just wish I had more in common with him or something. I wish he’d stay but we’re supposed to put on a stiff upper lip and be all glad that he’s moving on. Fuck it, he’s running. And he’s leaving three kids and a crazy neighbor behind to take care of a teenager, for god’s sake. How stupid is that? I mean, I’m not a teenager anymore but the Bit, that’s B’s sister, she’s only six years younger than I am. I’m only 21; what the hell do I know about raising a teenager, much less a girl?! Right now I kinda wish I’d get numb again, I’m so pissed. I don’t know if I can just go to the airport next week and wish him a happy life while we’re left behind to pick up the pieces.





I’ve just been staring at the screen for over twenty minutes right now. How did they die? Man, I just don’t think I can get into that right now. I’ll tell you more about it later, if you still want to hear after this self-pitying babblefest.

What about you? Who did you lose? I didn’t mean to go on and on about me all that time.

TTFN

Lex




~*~*~*~*~


Xander closed out his email and opened a game of solitaire in hopes the mindless game would get the voices in his head to shut up. Oh, not that he was schizophrenic, at least not yet, but there were always those voices that kept on telling him how useless and unnecessary he was.

About how he let Anya die.

What he really wanted was a beer. Then five or six more, hopefully followed by unconsciousness. He was afraid, though. He’d come home that fateful morning after lying to the cops about Anya and Buffy being kidnapped by a gang to find the apartment exactly how they had left it to run from Glory. All of Anya’s stuff was still there and the bed still wasn’t made and the last cup that Anya had drunk tea out of was starting to grow mold.

And he knew, he knew, that if he started drinking he’d never stop. He could feel the craving even now when it had been nearly a month since they died and a month since he’d stopped. He didn’t want to end up like his Dad and he needed to be there for Dawn and Willow and Tara so he promised himself that he wouldn’t start until he knew he could control it.

The urge to drink himself to death was what drove him to Anya’s computer. It was what made him reach out to Shaun, too. He just needed to talk to someone that wasn’t drowning in grief and hopefully figure things out.

He was at the point where he’d be willing to talk to Spike but the vampire was hurting just as badly as the rest of them and he didn’t want to bother him. Well, that and Xander was ashamed. He'd never believed that Spike really loved Buffy but seeing Spike sobbing over Buffy’s broken body in the few moments he was looking for Anya had made his heart cramp in sympathy.

Then they found Anya and his heart died.

Tonight he wanted to return to the numbness that had seemed to be his constant companion in the last month. He was so angry, so hurt by Giles’s leaving he could scream. Or cry, or about a hundred other less than manly things. He knew life wasn’t fair but this was worse than unfair, it was just majorly sucky all around.

He could admit that maybe it was his karma coming around to kick him in the ass. One too many “G-man”s and minor annoyances. But Giles’s leaving was hurting Dawnie so damn badly and the man just couldn’t get his head out of his own ass to see it.

He sighed and closed out the game and shut down the computer. Solitaire wasn’t helping. He was afraid nothing would.

Without the computer on the apartment was dark. He hadn’t bothered turning on more than the bathroom light for days now. To tell the truth, he didn’t want to see the place. His lease was coming up in a couple of months; maybe he’d move and find someplace else, somewhere Anya’s laughter didn’t echo and every nook and corner didn't remind him of her.

He finally got up and sat in the recliner in the corner of the living room. He hadn’t slept in the bed yet, he couldn’t face it. Hopefully a good night’s sleep would help. Shaun said it would eventually get better. Maybe tomorrow was the day and he could face changing the sheets on the bed and cleaning out Anya’s clothes and her other stuff.

But just the thought of it made him want to drink again, so maybe not.


~*~*~*~*~


FROM: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
TO: not_luthor@yahoo.com
SUBJECT: RE: About me.



You sound like you’re in bad way, Lex. It’s hard to know what to say. We all handle our grief differently and what works for some might not work for others.

I don’t want to stick my nose in, so, again, feel free to tell me to take a running jump, but have you seen anyone? Doctor or a counsellor, I mean. It might help. Don’t feel that you have to hang tough for everybody else’s sake. I know you want to be strong for B’s sister and your other friends, but there ain’t no shame in admitting that you’re in pain. You’re human, just like they are. And you break, just like they do. It doesn’t show weakness to admit that, luv.

Have you thought about anti-depressants? I know you probably don’t want to rely on popping pills, but they can be a good way to clear your head while you sort yourself out. Just a thought.

This friend of yours that’s leaving, it does look bloody selfish. But maybe he’s in pain too. It definitely sounds like he’s running away. That’s probably his way of dealing with it. Doesn’t make it right, though.

I feel for you, mate, I really do. Listen, whenever you need to talk, I’m always on the other end of an email. Despite what RL people might think of me, I am actually a good listener. And I like to talk, too.

Who did I lose? That’s actually a really difficult question, mate. I’m not sure what she was to me. I loved her, that’s all I know. And now she’s gone. And yeah, it fucking kills. It also kills to watch her friends suffer. She left behind a fucking huge hole when she died. I wish I could fill it in for them.

Anyway, enough of all that shit. Onwards and upwards, as they say. I ain’t the type to dwell…actually, I am. I just ain’t gonna!

You raise a bloody good point about the Irish. I won’t go into it, because it’s a long and boring story, but let’s just say, I’ve known the odd Irish ‘jackass’ too. :oD

Sorry about your parents. Sometimes the best families are the ones that you pick yourself.

You didn’t know there were Alien books? Oh, yeah. Lots of ‘em. I like Alien fanfiction as well. Have you heard of slash fiction? I like that, too. Yeah, I have varied tastes. Hope you’re still talking to me after this!

And as for Seven of Nine? Spread her out and cover her with oil. LOL! Nice looking bird. Fantastic assets.

So your friend likes punk, eh? Sounds like a solid geezer. Have you tried talking about how you feel with him?

Talk later. I gotta run. I’m starving. Gonna get me a bite to eat.

Shaun.




~*~*~*~*~


Spike hovered over the keyboard for a few short moments while he decided if he should press the Send button. He had already been suspicious last night that Lex was actually Xander.

Now? He was convinced. It all added up just right.

This friend that was leaving, it just had to be Giles. And the teenager that Lex was helping to look after, it had to be Dawn. Also, Lex had mentioned that he had lost two people. His girlfriend and a friend called B. No prizes for guessing who that was. And he had a friend called Will. Willow.

And Spike was sure that he was Lex’s friend that liked punk.

Yup. It added up, alright. Two plus two, in this case, definitely equaled four.

Spike had made a decision about halfway though his reply email. He’d stay incognito.

Firstly, he wanted to be one hundred and fifty percent sure that it was Xander and, secondly, he was worried.

He’d never heard Xander talk like this. He really sounded like he was struggling. And that was something that he hadn’t expected. Of course, Xander was grieving, he had every right to, and Spike had already noted Xander’s uncharacteristic quietness. But he hadn’t realized just how much pain Xander was in. If Spike was to reveal himself to Xander now, it might cause the boy to clam up completely. He didn’t want that. Spike had a feeling that there was a whole lot more pain beneath Xander’s surface, pain that needed a release, pain that needed someone to help him deal with it.

So maybe Shaun could convince Lex to convince Xander to talk to his punked up friend. It was worth a shot.

Spike pressed the Send button.

Crazy neighbor?! Oi!





Part Three

FROM: not_luthor@yahoo.com
TO: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
SUBJECT: RE: About me.


Hey Shaun,


I’ll admit that I am seriously messed up. Problem is, I’m afraid if I really sit down and talk to someone I’ll end up in a padded cell. I so don’t need that. And to tell the truth I’m not sure who to trust.

Are you a Stephen King fan? One of the things I love best about his books is the fact that he shows just how scary small, normal looking towns can be. I live in a small town and it’s not all nice. Martha Stewart would run screaming if she saw what really went on behind the doors of all the perfect yuppie houses with their nice lawns. Strangely enough, my family was one of the better ones. And I can’t help but be worried that if I talked to a counselor or something they’d lock me up and throw away the key.

Then there’s always the something worse option. What, I don’t know, but people around here have a knack of finding something worse than what I could imagine. That’s saying a lot, considering I watch way too much TV.

As for anti-depressants, I might do that. If I can find someone I trust. I have really crappy luck. Knowing me I’d get some quack that’s wanting to do secret testing on a new version of Viagra or something and end up permanently limp, which would make me even more depressed.

I know that G-man blames himself for B’s death. Hell, in a way we all blame ourselves. I think he’s also kinda ashamed. He did something that I understand but I don’t think the girls would and now he's punishing himself for it. He’s leaving in a week. For a while we thought he’d stay the summer, help us get the Bit on her feet and take care of the bills and stuff. Guess there’s just too many ghosts in town for him to deal with.

It would be so easy, you know? Just pack everything up in the back of my car and disappear. Start a whole new life without all the baggage. The way Will and her girlfriend are acting, I doubt if they’d even notice I was gone. Can’t do that to Bit, though, it would kill her.

You don’t know how much it means for me to email you. It’s a really big thing for me right now. I’m afraid to talk to the girls, they’re just hurting so bad right now I don’t want to make them hurt any more. It means a lot to be able to talk to someone.

Sounds like your friend was something special. That’s sorta what B was to us. Sister and protector and leader all rolled into one. I don’t think there’s any way you can fill a hole that’s left by a person like that. All you can do is kind of be there for her friends and hope it helps.

As for reading, well, I’ve never heard of fanfiction. See, until my fiancée died I wasn’t much for playing on the computer and stuff. I left that up to Wills. I just started playing around on Yahoo since there was too much quiet in the apartment and too much time alone. Better than getting drunk every night, I guess.

Huh. I’ve thought of talking to my punk friend. Problem is, he’s hurting just as bad and during the entire time I’ve known him I’ve been a complete and total jackass. Not that he’s not obnoxious and rude sometimes but that didn’t mean I had to be a total dick. And I was. Worse, really. I mean, it’s his whole deal with life to be…well, how he is. But that didn’t mean I had to go and match him on the asshole level.

No, no way I can talk to him. He’d probably be the last one to care anyway.

Enough about me, I keep on bitching and you keep on listening. Which is great, really, you don’t know how much it means to me. But talk a bit about yourself so it feels like I’m not using you, okay?

Well, I’d better go. I’m going to clean out some of my fiancée’s things tonight before I go to meet the girls.

TTFN,
Lex




~*~*~*~*~


He’d tried to do it, really. He’d gotten some boxes from the back of the grocery store and even labeled them. Goodwill, store, trash, give to the girls. He even had a plan set up not to do it all at once, just go through a small area each night. Slow and easy.

It had been okay, the bathroom had been easy. He knew that it would kill him to smell Anya’s make up and perfume on anyone else and that had gone in the trash. The same with all the soaps, bath oils, bubble baths and the shampoo. He even bought new brands for himself that wouldn’t bring back memories of shared showers and Anya’s elegant hands rubbing shampoo through his hair before dabbing foam on his nose. All of that sort of thing was out. Her towels, everything. Oh, he saved a couple but would pack them away until the smell of Cinnabar and White Shoulders didn’t feel like a knife in his heart.

He’d gotten cocky. It had been so easy to not look at things and just chuck them into boxes and bags that he’d started to do the same with Anya’s nightstand.

Then he found The Box.

It was a nice, girly kind of box, lavender with dragonflies. No bunnies for his Anya. It smelled of her perfume and his breath caught in his throat even before he opened it. That knife was stuck in his chest and it felt like someone was twisting it slowly, enjoying watching him squirm.

There were the few love notes that he’d written her, and some of the many condoms that she’d brought that first time in the basement. His bow tie from the rental tux that Halloween and a cheap stuffed animal he’d won her in one of those fifty-cent machines. There was even one of the special nails he’d had to use when he had custom made a shelf for some sort of magical item at Anya’s request.

He took the stuffed animal out and carefully set the box on the table before sliding down the wall in a heap. It was almost like there was a huge weight on his chest and he couldn’t breathe.

Maybe he’d better find a good doctor out of town to get some anti-depressants, after all.


~*~*~*~*~


FROM: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
TO: not_luthor@yahoo.com
SUBJECT: Me


I’ve always considered myself to be an honest person, so I’m not going to break the tradition. Mate, you’ve got to get yourself some help. I know it’s hard to trust people; no-one knows that better than me. But sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. If you don’t do something soon, this whole thing could swallow you up. Just think what that would do to Bit.

Go get yourself to a doctor or something. No-one will lock you up for grieving or being depressed. They will lock you up if you end up going off your nut and stabbing some old biddy for running your foot over with a shopping cart. Depression gets you like that, if you let it get out of control. It builds and builds until it consumes you.

I’m absolutely positive that beneath your grief you’re a happy and normally bouncy person, I can just tell. Don’t lose that.

And what makes you think that your friend wouldn’t want to help? I know you’ve said that you’ve been a bastard to him, but, by the sounds of it, he gives as good as he gets. If you’re really worried about how you’ve treated him, then apologize. Walk right up to him and say that you want to use the ‘P’ word. ‘pologize. :oD This is a time to mend those broken fences and I’m sure that if this bloke is any kind of a decent fellow, he’ll want to do the same.

Fuck, do I sound like Dr. Phil? I think I need a smoke! LOL!

Anyway, look, I know you don’t really know me, and I don’t know you, but I do care. You shouldn’t be this way. Get some help. Promise me?

Right, you want me to talk about me?

Well, seeing as you mentioned Stephen King, I’ll start there. I love the twisted dude. He’s written some great stuff. The Shining; need I say more?

I’m also a big H.P Lovecraft fan. Have you ever read any of his work? He was a genius, a fucking genius. He wrote some really weird horror stuff, demons from another dimension and shit like that. Spooky stuff. Gave me nightmares when I first came across it! Ever heard of The Cthulu Mythos? That was him. Here’s a link if you’re interested:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._P._Lovecraft

Hey, give fanfiction a try. You like Star Trek, right? Google for fanfiction and Star Trek and see what you get. I bet you’d love it.

Hm. Not sure what else to say. I’m not used to all this talking malarkey. I don’t get to do it often. Okay, let me think, what can I tell you about myself?

I love driving. I could just drive for hours, days even. Love that feeling of freedom. ‘Course, I don’t have a car anymore. Wish I did. And I can’t bloody stand those drivers that stick to the speed limit. It’s supposed to be broken! That’s what it’s there for!

I love tea. Not that loose leaf stuff that you Yanks all think we Brits go mad after. No way, I like a good old fashioned cup of P.G Tips. If God had wanted us to have loose leaf tea then she wouldn’t have invented the tea bag. Oh, and the milk must go in first. I used to have arguments all the time with a fellow Brit and he always insisted on the milk going in last. He also insisted on using a teapot. Bloody idiot. If I wanted my tea stewed then I’d put it in the bloody microwave! Yeah, I’m real sensitive about my tea.

Oh, and while I’m at it. What’s all this about waffles with syrup on?! A waffle is made from potato, you know, like the song: ‘Birdseye potato waffles. They’re waffly versatile.” You put cheese on them. Syrup, indeed.

Erm, what else? Oh, yeah, I like animals. Monkeys are my favorite. And cats. Especially the big ones, all sleek and powerful. You’ve got to admire them. They remind me of me. ;o)

I haven’t got much of a family. I mean, I have some, but they’re scattered all over the sodding place. We’re not that close anyway. Not anymore. Sometimes I wish we were. I wish I could go back to them and back to my carefree lifestyle. It was all so easy back then; uncomplicated. I used to have a pretty wild lifestyle; all play and no work. Bloody great, it was. But things change; I changed. Not that I wanted to. It was all sort of forced on me. I’m used to it now, but it's times like this that I wish I could go back to not having a care in the world.

Fuck, now I’ve gone all morose. Is this depression thing catching? LOL!

Sorry. Bad joke. I’m not very good at them. Apparently.

I’m not usually the approachable type, a bit like your punk mate, I gather. Still, I do wish someone would just talk to me. I bet your friend does too.

Anyway, I’m gonna go now. Ginger Snaps is about to start. Bloody good film, that is. If you’re on the other end now, go watch it. Werewolves, mate. You’d love it.

Catch you later.

Shaun
xxx





Part Four

FROM: not_luthor@yahoo.com
TO: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
SUBJECT: Help!


Okay, I am seriously up a creek without a paddle, man, and I don’t know who else to talk to. I might try to talk to that punk friend of mine, but I’m afraid he’s biased because he loved B so much and I need someone who didn't know her to help me out.

And I’m sorry, but I’m about to get all mystical and crap on you. Philosophical. Whatever. Usually I don’t worry about crap like this, I usually just trust Wills or G-man to know what’s going on because they have the big brain and I don’t. I’m kinda like a hammer or something; I do a good job as long as someone who knows what’s going on knows how to direct me.

But this is some serious shit here. It’s two a.m. and I’m seriously freaking out. If it wasn’t for the fact that G-man was off doing some sort of retreat with some of his weird friends in Bath or wherever the hell it is in England, I’d be on the phone to him right now. But he’s off…meditating, or processing or contemplating his belly button or maybe just getting shitfaced in the woods, hell if I know.

Have you heard of that legend about the Monkey’s Paw? Sort of the ultimate be careful what you wish for fable? Well, let’s just say that there are good reasons not to wish for things. My fiancée taught me that. It’s a really long story but let’s just say that an ex girlfriend of mine made this wish and it really screwed with our reality for a while and that’s how Ahn came to town. Now I really did love Ahn, but I have learned to never wish for anything ever again. It always turns out…twisted.

I love Will, with all my heart. And her girlfriend’s great too. Normally they are damn intelligent, strong women despite the fact that they have this whole shy/giggling thing going for them. But Will is wanting to do something for, well to, B that I just can’t imagine.

I wish I could tell you the whole thing. And maybe I will. Later. Right now I just need to ask you, in all seriousness: Do you believe in heaven and hell? I don’t mean red guys with pitchforks or some guy that looks like Richard Burton in a bathrobe with good lighting; I mean that when you die you go to a better place or to the next life or whatever.

See, I kinda think there is a place for good people like B to go to. Hell, I’m not sure that this isn’t hell in a way; all the pain and suffering here on Earth sucks big time. I just hate to think that after all she did for us she’s suffering somewhere. In my brain that’s not how it works.

But see, Wills is convinced that she’s hurting somewhere or other. I don’t know how to put it without you thinking I’m, like, totally ready for the little men in the white coats to come after me for some basket making classes. Hell, maybe I am ready to make baskets, I don’t know anymore, but what Wills is wanting to do just seems so wrong.

I think I’m going to have to talk to my semi-friend tomorrow. I’d do it right now if it wasn’t for the fact that I know I’m not making any sense. Sorry to babble at you but I just can’t put what I’m feeling into words. Well, maybe I can but they’re not the right ones.

Right now I think I’m just going to go to bed and try to sleep. Heh, maybe I’ll run out to the all night supermarket and get some tea; that seems to make everything right for you British people.

Sorry to panic on you. I’d love to say it’s not going to happen again but this is a really big deal so it probably will. I’m gonna call in sick tomorrow and I’ll just reply to your other email in the morning.

Have a good night. Or morning. Whatever it is when you read this.

Lex




~*~*~*~*~


He had a plan. Okay, it was a goofy, Xander sort of plan but it was all he had. He’d get up in the morning, call into work and get in the car and drive to LA. There he would find the first clinic that could fit him in and talk to a doctor about depression. Because he sure as hell wasn’t going to get better on his own with the way things were going, despite the fact that he’d moved onto the anger part of the grieving process.

If he could get just one night of sleep with no dreams or regrets, he was sure he’d feel a lot better. And while he was there getting a prescription he’d get them to look at his hand. Anya had taken care of it for him when Joyce died but this time he’d had to do it himself. It had hurt like a bitch to type that email to Shaun, even.

He knew it was stupid to slam his fist into a wall. There were wires and studs and he could have electrocuted himself or something. But he’d been biting his tongue and keeping his cool all through the meeting with Willow, then when he’d finally reached his all too quiet apartment the anger he’d kept a tight rein on had burst free. As it was he was down two lamps and a lot of bric-a-brac that Anya had been collecting.

But the thought that Buffy wasn’t enjoying the afterlife was crazy. The thought of trying to bring her back and getting it wrong terrified him.

What had really gotten him pissed was the fact that Willow was ready to do some seriously dark magics for Buffy, but when he’d asked about Anya she’d brushed his concerns off. After all, she hadn’t died mystically, just had a wall fall on her.

Bullshit.

Tomorrow, when he got back from LA he’d go and talk to Spike. He didn’t care what Willow said, if anyone had the right to make decisions for Buffy it was Spike. Maybe before he came back to Sunnydale he’d stop by one of the occult shops that Giles always used to work with in LA. If there was one thing he could do it was research, and there just had to be something out there about magic and ethics and stuff like that.

Because as much as he would give his right arm to see Buffy again, bringing her back from the dead didn’t seem like the thing to do. She’d been horrified when she learned that Dawn had attempted it with her Mom; how much would she hate him if Xander let it happen to her?

He got up and wandered into the kitchen to get more ice for his hand before going back into the living room and curling up on the couch. He wasn’t going to make the mistake of wondering if things could get any worse because that would just tempt fate. And right now Fate had him on the top of its shit list; there was no reason to piss it off any more.

The last thought that ran through his brain before he slipped into a restless sleep was the hope that Spike would be as receptive to him as Shaun seemed to think he would be.


~*~*~*~*~


FROM: graveyard_disturbance@crystal_lake.net
TO: not_luthor@yahoo.com
SUBJECT: Email me!


Hey, pet.

WTF is going on?

Email me as soon as you can, luv.

Always here.

Shaun.




~*~*~*~*~


Spike clicked the Send button and reached for his cigarettes.

Fuck!

What the hell was going on? What the fuck were Willow and Tara going to do?

Spike had a bad feeling in his gut. It was one of those feelings that prodded your stomach like a blunt knife until you thought it would pop right through and exit out your back.

Willow was going to do something to Buffy? Like what, for fuck’s sake?

That bad feeling poked and jabbed until Spike started to feel sick with it. What could they do to Buffy? Not much, seeing as she was…

Spike drew hard on the cigarette, trying to calm his mind and not put two and two together and come up with six. His mind flashed to a memory of helping Dawn, helping Dawn to bring back her dead mother.

Tears suddenly filled his eyes. Tears for Joyce, the woman he’d come to respect and think of as his friend, and tears for Dawn, a child still, but now without her mother and sister.

Imagine if she could have her sister back.

Imagine if he could have Buffy back.

The tears fell. It was his most wonderful dream. And his worst nightmare.

Buffy was gone. Dead. And yeah, he missed her like crazy, missed her to the point of wanting and needing to join her. But that could never happen. Buffy must surely be in Heaven, the only place for a woman, a girl, who saved the world to be. And if he staked himself? He would never be allowed to join her. He’d be buying himself a one way ticket to an eternity in some fiery hell. Or to an eternity of flipping burgers at MacDonald’s, depending on which hell dimension he ended up in.

But to have her back, to have her pulled from her grave where her corpse lay decomposing and rotting, it seemed…macabre. Dirty. Spike couldn’t help but think of Stephen King’s Pet Semetary. They don’t come back right.

No, she was dead. She’d sacrificed herself in a last selfless act to save the people she loved; her sister, her friends, the world. She’d lived her life protecting others, guarding the Hellmouth and keeping the real monsters from the closets of children.

She deserved peace, her one single reward for her service. She was resting and Spike would see himself turned to ashes before he let anyone disturb her.

Of course, he could be overreacting. Maybe he’d gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick. Maybe…

Spike checked the time on Xander’s email. It had been sent last night. He cursed the Neb’ula demon that had gotten in his way. He’d spent the best part of the evening trying to dispatch it, and when he’d finally won, been victorious, he’d run back home with only seconds to spare as the sun came up. Exhausted from the fight, Spike had fallen into a coma-like slumber and only woken up an hour ago.

Bollocks! He needed to speak to Xander and he needed to speak to him now. Spike wiped his face quickly with the back of his hand and reached for the telephone. Just a quick call wouldn’t hurt, a quick ‘evening, Droopy’. He wouldn’t even have to tell Xander that he was Shaun. Just give the boy an opportunity to talk. Dangle the line and see if he bites.

Spike dialed Xander’s number and waited. And waited. And waited.

Eight failed phone calls and much waiting later and Spike was climbing the walls.

Well, then, he had no choice. The whelp was going to have to face him. If he wouldn’t pick up the bloody phone, or return Shaun’s email, then Spike had no choice but to don his trusty duster and go after him.

He waited until he felt the sun disappear over the horizon then, with a growl of displeasure and worry, he slammed open the door and marched out into the night. He almost felt sorry for anyone, or anything, that crossed his path tonight.

Spike was scared. If he was right, and he was always right, then Willow could be just about to bring Buffy back to life. And it hurt. He’d put the pain behind him, or so he thought, and here he was with his heart breaking yet again. And it wasn’t just breaking for himself. It was breaking for Xander, too.

There was no mention of Anya in the email. So only Buffy was worthy? How the hell that did that make Harris feel? His heart had to be breaking, too.

Fuck, here they were trying to put back together the pieces of their shattered lives and someone else was trying to pull them apart, trying to rip out every scrap of emotion and heartache and stomp on them with their magical feet. And why? Because someone else was taking it upon themselves to insist on what was right and what was wrong?

Well, fuck them. Fuck them all to hell. This wasn’t right, no matter which way you looked at it. Spike had made his peace, accepted that Buffy was gone and wasn’t coming back.

And what about Xander? Poor Xander. He’s lost Buffy and Anya. And now he was being burdened with this. No. Not right. Xander had sounded desperate enough already, but now he sounded like he was about to go out of his mind. But Spike was not about to let that happen. It was time to take care of the living, help and protect the ones that were left behind. He was not going to let Xander suffer like this. Xander’s grief was eating him up inside, swallowing him whole and killing him with every breath he took. Bringing Buffy back could be the final blow.

Spike tore through the streets of Sunnydale, almost manic in his search for Xander and the Witches. He checked Buffy’s grave first and found it untouched. His next stop was Revello Drive, just to check that things weren’t already underway. They weren’t. Standing outside the Summers' house, Spike scented patchouli incense and sex. Spike thanked whatever god would be listening at that hour and made his way quickly to Xander’s apartment.

Spike pulled back his fist to pound on Xander’s door. Stopping himself at the last split second, he took a deep un-needed breath and tapped lightly instead.

When knocking yielded no results, Spike spoke through the door. “You in there, Harris?”

Nothing.

Softer. “…Xander?”

Nothing.

Fine.

Spike sat himself down in front of Xander’s door and waited. He had eternity on his hands and he wasn’t going anywhere until he’d gotten the truth from Xander. Hey, maybe the boy would be inclined to confess? Given the correct prompting. The last thing Spike wanted to do was have a screaming match with his friend. Friend? Xander was way too fragile for such things.

Truth was, Spike was scared. He’s lost too much already. He didn’t want to lose Xander, too.


~*~*~*~*~


Xander couldn’t remember being quite so tired before. The drive to and from LA would have been enough to exhaust him without the fact that he’d hardly slept the night before. He’d finally given up and, after calling in to work for the rest of the week and finding the name of a walk-in clinic in LA, he’d gotten in the car and had been on the road soon after the sun had come up.

Then had come the doctor’s office. The waiting area had been a scary mixture of high school memories of being outside Snyder’s office and the ER at Sunnydale Memorial and both were places that he had spent way too much time in. Then he got to get poked and prodded and blood pressure checked and sent into a smaller room to wait some more.

When he finally got to see the doctor he’d been poked and prodded again. Thankfully, Dr. McKelvey actually listened to her patients. Not only did she give him a prescription for both an anti-depressant and something to help him sleep, but she gave him the name of a good counselor that she trusted who was in Oak Hill, a town that was only about twenty minutes out of Sunnydale. Close to the Hellmouth but probably far enough away that the counselor wouldn’t be the type to suck his brain out of his head.

He’d be going to see Dr. Wiseman once a week for at least four weeks, long enough for the anti-depressants to start to work. He hated it, hating having to depend on a little pill to make him feel better, but he knew he needed help.

By the time he’d gotten out of the doctor’s office he’d been sent to have an “emergency meeting” with the counselor, and by the time he’d gotten out of there it was getting late.

Still, he was glad he’d gone. The counselor seemed to like the fact that he knew he was weak around alcohol, and was very relieved that Xander didn’t seem to have any suicidal tendencies. To tell the truth, he might have at this point if it wasn’t for Dawn. He had to keep it together for her sake. Now more than ever. He loved Willow like a sister, and Tara was great but if they were going to try to pull Buffy out of her grave…then he’d have to be the one to step up and take care of Dawn.

By the time he'd left the counselor’s office it had been late and he hadn’t eaten in at least 24 hours. He’d gone to a drive-through burger joint rather than face going in and eating alone in public. Now he was finally on his way home and all he wanted to do was crawl into bed and just sleep. He could talk to Spike tomorrow; Willow wasn’t going to be doing anything right away. At least, he hoped not.

He did need to email Shaun first. Xander knew he had been scared and tired and had babbled the night before. The man probably thought he’d gone around the bend. That wasn’t too far off, but hopefully once he got some sleep he’d be able to have an intelligent conversation, or as close as he could have to one.

He just hoped Spike would listen to him. He wasn’t going to hold his breath, though, since he had been the Scooby most vocal about staking the “Undead Nuisance”. Looking back on things, he realized he had been a jealous, spoiled brat. Spike was everything he wasn’t: good looking and able to fight. Then he’d become Dawn’s best friend, and Xander couldn’t help but feel like he was being pushed out of her life.

Of course, it didn’t help that he didn’t have the same objections to Spike as he did to Angel. Angel he truly hated. For the man to have the courage to go help Buffy that night she faced the Master, Xander had had to threaten him.

Spike, for all that he was evil, was brave. He’d stood up to a Hell God on Dawn’s behalf, and he’d plotted against his own Sire with his enemy to save the woman he loved. Underneath all of his jealousy and resentment, Xander knew he could respect someone like that. But because he had resented the vampire, he’d been a giant asshole.

Hopefully, when he went home tomorrow Spike would listen to him. First he had to apologize, though. Even if Spike didn’t care and didn’t want it. Somewhere along the line he’d forgotten that he was supposed to be the good guy and that meant it was rude to threaten your allies.

As he got off the freeway he went over his plans in his head. Home, email Shaun, take one of his brand new sleeping pills, and be thankful that he’d already called in for the next day and could sleep for twelve to eighteen hours. Then he would dress, call and check on Dawn and prepare to kiss some vampire ass. Maybe if he bought Spike a pack of cigarettes he’d be more likely to listen.

He pulled into his parking space and made his way up in the elevator and to the door of his apartment. He was so tired he nearly didn’t notice the presence lurking at the end of the hall. It wasn’t until he had his key in the door that he noticed his visitor.

“Umm, Spike? Were you looking for me?”





Part Five

“Xander? Where have you been?”

Xander fought the urge to stagger back with shock. Was that concern in Spike’s voice? Was Spike worried? Or was this just some weird freakish dream that would sometime soon feature a talking cup cake and a strange urge to pee in a flower pot?

“I’ve been…” Xander tried to think of something witty to say, something funny or clever, or maybe even just downright rude; anything that would help push away the unhappy Xander and replace him with the good old fashioned ‘I’m your butt monkey’ happy Xander.

Spike quirked an eyebrow in anticipation. He could feel the approach of a sarcastic comment and he was taken aback when one was not delivered.

“I’ve been…out.” Xander shifted uncomfortably and dropped his gaze to the floor.

“Oh? Anything interesting?” Spike tried to harden his voice, perhaps to try and say something nasty, his usual sort of backbiting comment.

Xander looked like he wanted the world to swallow him up and digest him, like he had an irritable bowel after eating a Mexican. He looked…lost, weak, broken; defeated. The more Spike stared, the more uncomfortable Xander looked. If Spike were to ask him to bare his heart now, Xander would most probably crumble to a million Xander-shaped pieces.

“Um, nothing interesting. Spike? What did you say you were doing here?”

Xander had looked up from his very interesting feet and Spike caught a fleeting glimpse of something other than desperation; hope, maybe?

And now here was a quandary. Should Spike confess why he was here? Or should he go down a more subtle route? Subtle? Spike almost chuckled to himself. Spike and subtle went together much like Angel and a perm. But still, it might make a nice change. The subtlety, that was, not the perm.

“Crypt’s flooded.”

“And that brings you to me because…oh.”

“Yeah, oh. Everything’s all wet. Don’t suppose I could kip here for a couple of days?”

Where Xander expected revulsion, irritation and perhaps even a small amount of morning sickness, he instead felt relief. He wasn’t afraid that he’d do something stupid if left on his own, but there was just something about having another heartbeat in the house. Not that Spike had a heartbeat. But he would have one if he were alive. But then again, if he was still alive he would have died years ago. Anyway, that wasn’t the point. The point was that it would be good to have another ‘body’ around the place. Hey, maybe he should get a cat?!

“Xander? Did you hear me? I said…”

“Yeah. Yeah, I heard. Sure, why not? But just for a couple of days. Don’t get all comfortable or anything.” Xander pointed as he delivered the warning. There was no real heat to it. It was just his mouth set back to auto pilot.

Spike grinned and motioned for Xander to open the door. Whoa. That had been a surprising move on his part. He hadn’t seen that little plan coming. Okay, so he was prepared for a quick man to man chat, an offer of a friendly ear and if that didn’t work he may have had to resort to a spot of slap the Scooby until he got the information he needed about Buffy. But moving in, albeit temporarily, was surprising, to say the least.

Spike considered Lex’s latest emails. It seemed that as time stretched on Xander was becoming more and more unhinged, and much more desperate. He needed a close eye kept on him. And this was the perfect way to do it. And as for Buffy, regretfully, Spike was going to have to push on that one a bit. Time could very well be of the essence.

“Well, you’ve been here before, so no need for a tour. But in case you’ve forgotten, that’s the kitchen, that’s the spare bedroom, bathroom, couch and most importantly that is the TV. Use as you wish, but warn me if you’re gonna watch a cooking program; fish makes me nauseous.”

Spike nodded as Xander pointed to the said areas of interest. He also took a moment to take in his surroundings. This was Xander’s apartment alright, but it looked so different to how he remembered it. He’d only been here once before and that was when his crypt really had been flooded. The apartment had been bright and shiny, clean and sparkling…if you ignored the empty pizza boxes and the trash that hadn’t been taken out in three days. And now? It seemed drab and empty, not really a home but a base camp. Somewhere that Xander could rest his weary head at the end of the day. It was missing those few touches that made this place Xander’s place.

“Cheers, mate. No problem. Don’t worry about the cooking programs. Don’t interest me. Not in the slightest. Can barely butter toast, me.”

Xander grinned and shrugged off his jacket. “Oh, I can butter toast. It’s just the jelly I have problems with.”

“Jelly,” Spike muttered. “Jelly is what kids eat at parties. You put jam on toast.”

“Whatever, Bleached Menace.” Xander paused for just a moment. “Okay, I’m really in the mood for toast, now.”

Spike patted his own stomach to check if he felt the same way. “Yeah. I could go some toast. Shall I do the honors?”

Xander narrowed his eyes. “Why?”

“Blimey! Can’t a bloke do anything nice?!”

“Spike,” Xander warned.

“Alright, alright, I don’t like the way you do your toast. Tastes more like warm bread.”

“As opposed to bread that tastes like what? Cremated cardboard?”

“Toast is meant to be cooked, wanker. Your toast would probably give me salmonella.”

Xander opened his mouth to say something snarky and, most probably, very witty. At the last moment he changed his mind and simply smiled and looked back down at his shoes.

“What?”

“Nothing. It just felt like…old times? Remember, when you were living in my luxury basement apartment? We used to fight like this all the time.”

“Yeah, I remember. I used to steal your money, what little there was of it, and you used to hide my boots.”

“Spike.” Xander took a deep breath. “For the last time, I never hid your boots.”

“Then why the hell couldn’t I ever find them?!” Spike asked with furious indignation.

“Because you never put them in the same place twice. If you’d kept them in the same place then you would have known where they were.”

“Oh, like you’re the tidiest bloke on the planet. At least I never ran out of underwear just because I hadn’t done any laundry in three weeks.”

“That’s because you don’t wear underwear. And isn’t it scary that I have this intimate knowledge?” Xander’s eyes suddenly sparkled with happiness, a look that Spike hadn’t seen for what seemed like forever and a day.

It was weird, but arguing with Xander really did feel like old times. After Glory, the snarkage had stopped. And it left behind it a gaping void. They both knew that the other had lost the love of his life, and that completely changed the game. It was no longer appropriate to tease Xander about his fashion sense or his ‘club ‘em and watch ‘em go down’ fighting style; it was unkind, and Spike just didn’t have the strength anymore.

He hadn’t realized how much he missed it.

“Anyhoo, I’m gonna grab a quick shower. Can I really leave you in charge of the toast or shall I just pre-warn the fire station?”

Spike smiled and flipped the two finger salute. “Bugger off. Wanker.”

Spike watched Xander grin and make his way to the bathroom. Yeah, old times. He chewed on his lip and felt a sudden surge of guilt. Was he here to save Xander from his own desperation or was he here to find out about Buffy?

Both. Definitely both. With a shake of his head, Spike made his way to the kitchen. He found an unopened loaf of bread and got to work. Xander was looking too thin these days. A few dozen rounds of buttery toast would do him the world of good.

As Spike buttered up the third round, Xander appeared, wearing old sweats and the scent of mint. He had a relaxed expression on his face as he gently rubbed his hair with a Scooby Doo towel.

“Good shower, I take it?”

“The best. I’ve had a…weird and wacky day.”

“Yeah? Wanna tell?”

Xander sat at the table and reached for the growing stack of surprisingly unburned toast. “Yeah…No. Maybe.”

Spike stayed silent and waited for Xander to make up his mind.

“Actually, there is something I’d like to talk to you about. I’d like to, um… I’d like to kind of…sorta… Yeah, I want to apologize,” Xander finally said, more firmly.

Spike raised the traditional eyebrow. “ Why? You use up all the hot water?”

“No! Well, yeah. But no! That’s not what I meant.” Xander took another deep breath. “I want to apologize for being such an ass to you for such a long time. I’ve been really out of order and I’m so not proud of myself. I mean, in the beginning, I think I had every right to be wary of you, you know, what with the whole soulless, cold blooded, murdering gig. But you’ve proved time and again that you’ve changed, especially since… You’re different now; you’re a good person and I actually have a lot of respect for you. And you don’t have to accept my apology. I know I’ve been acting like a total loser. It’s just that…I know you’re hurting too and…” Xander struggled to find any more words. He knew exactly what he wanted to say but saying it was a totally different matter.

Spike took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, too. And your toast is getting cold.”

“What?”

“I said: your toast is getting cold.”

“No, backtrack. Before that.”

No jokes. No snarks. No sarcasm. “I’m sorry, too.”

Xander looked up into a face that had softened with something between concern and empathy.

“You don’t have to…”

“Xander, I do have to. Because I am sorry. I’ve been bloody rotten an’ all. The respect goes both ways, mate.”

Xander allowed a small smile to tease at his lips. “So, um, we’re both sorry and we both respect each other? And why aren’t we running screaming for the hills? ‘Cos we so must be in some sort of hell dimension where everything is upside down.”

Spike emitted one loud laugh and shook his head. “Life just keeps getting weirder. I mean it, though. Things are different now and…well, you and me, we’ve got to stick together. Mates, yeah?”

“Yeah, okay. That would be good. Spike?”

“What?”

“There’s something I need to tell you.”




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