Pairing: Spike/Xander. Rating: Safe

Some Things Never Change


Xander had waited for six hours to see this woman during her brief visit to the planet. It seemed stupid to run an entire experiment from space when your test subjects were people with lives and rights and hopes, but maybe that made it easier to see people as test subjects. At least she wasn't pulling a Maggie Walsh and poisoning and tinkering with men and women she knew. That had been freaky. Xander counted his lives in centuries, and that chou san ba still gave him the willies.

However, now that Xander had finally gotten in to see Dr. Sarah Coron, the conversation was not exactly going the way he'd planned. She stood with her data recorder in hand and a very cranky look on her face. Taking a deep breath, Xander tried to center himself for round two of their fight. "Look, I know I'm not all bright boy, but I'm saying this is a bad idea. Monumentally bad."

Dr. Sarah Caron gave Xander a look, a look that he'd learned to recognize centuries ago, and it still annoyed him.

"Okay, so you're the big, bad, all-knowing scientist," he conceded, "but come on. People are not going to just turn nice. And if they do, there will be badness that follows. Ai-ya," he swore, "if people do go all nice, the not-nice is sure to follow. It's like a cosmic balance... thing." Xander knew five languages, and had just used two of them, and Caron was still looking at him like he was speaking gibberish.

Caron put her data recorder to one side and really focused on him. Xander wasn't sure if that was good or bad because he was half afraid he was about to get arrested. Maybe even three-quarter afraid on that front.

"And you think you're qualified to make this statement because you're... what exactly are you?" Caron looked him up and down like he was a cockroach that had climbed into her bunk with her.

Xander was still gritting his teeth and trying really hard to not say something that would get him arrested because he was not feeling the Alliance love... or even the Alliance trust or even the belief that the Alliance would hesitate for more than three seconds before torturing him. It gave Caron a chance to pick up her data recorder.

"You're the companion of our security consultant. A companion?" Caron didn't even try to sound polite about her disbelief.

"Not really a companion. That's a bit of a misuse of the word, and if you understood just how much fun my partner had misusing the word, you would probably be annoyed with his inability to be official on official records, but my point is that anyone who's been human for more than two seconds knows it is a bad idea to play god with people. People generally turn on their gods and...."

"I'll record your objection," Caron said in a cold dismissal. Part of Xander, the smart part, told him to shut up and get the hell out of Dodge. He'd never been good at listening to his smart parts.

"You should tell everyone and let them register their objections. Experimenting on people never ends well. It's a gorram mess when they find out. There are the accusations and the recrimination and the messy legal fights over who gets to send who to which prison. It's just never pretty." Speaking of not pretty, Caron was giving Xander a not pretty look.

"Are you threatening to violate the security of this facility? If so, I really should add that to my report, right next to the description of Mr. Sanguine's violation of his contract by sharing these details with you."

"Hey, I am just offering the wisdom of my many years of getting my ass kicked and warning a potential kickee of imminent kickage," Xander defended himself, his hands held up as he backed away. The Alliance guard watched him warily, but he was a guard, which meant he knew he was going to get a serious beat down if he touched Xander. He'd probably been threatened in person and with visual aids. That, however, would not keep Caron from doing something like ordering the poor guy to arrest Xander. Right, it was definitely past time to get the hell out of Dodge. "Have fun, no need to do any reporting because I do not plan on having any big moments in front of a camera, and when the gou shi hits the fan, remember, if you duck too low, you can drown in it," Xander offered, and then he turned and headed for the exit, counting on confusion to at least slow down any pursuit.

Yep, he was an idiot. They should have just gotten on the shuttle and headed for parts unknown. Just because you had a group of mad scientists doing mad scientisty stuff did not mean he had to get involved. And considering most of the people of Miranda were slowly turning into a cross between a pot head and one of Mr. Rogers' neighbors, it's not like these people were even going to care. Hell, they were so happy that a little part of Xander was disappointed that the screwy magic that had kept him alive all these years also kept him from getting stoned with the rest of them.

Xander didn't have any trouble crossing town. He passed three women with vacuous smiles, a man who was sitting on the curb with Devon-levels of chemical stupidity going on and an emaciated dog that couldn't do more than thump a tail at him. The dog made him stop. He might have picked it up and at least rescued it, but this shit made for some seriously bad trips, and Xander did not want to have a dog go on some bad acid trip in a small shuttle. Yeah, Xander couldn't die. That didn't mean he couldn't hurt like hell.

Kneeling down next to the animal, Xander scratched his ears. "Sorry about this buddy," he offered. The dog was happy enough as he thumped his tail. "I should get you a bone to chew on," Xander said, but he doubted the dog had the energy to care about bone-chewing right now. When he came up from his happy place, he'd go and find some food on his own, and no one would stop him. Anyone he wagged a tail at would smile and give him anything he seemed to want. Xander had never been so creeped out by happy, generous people.

The shuttle engines were running when Xander reached it. Caron's ship had already blasted off from the surface with her first reports on the wonderful successes here at Miranda. Spike had even been fired because a planet of all happy people didn't need a head of security. They didn't need security at all.

"You ready?" Spike asked from the shuttle door.

"I really hate this immortality crap. You'd think someone would learn something at some point." Xander passed him.

"No worries, pet. They'll learn their lesson again."

Xander stopped and glared at Spike. After failing to convince even one of their friends to evacuate and running into a brick wall with every gou shi brained idiot running the madhouse, Xander was so not in a mood for Spike's version of optimism. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. And how many are going to be dead this time?"

Spike took a moment to lock down the shuttle doors. The air systems clicked on, circulating the poisoned air that couldn't infect either of them. Eventually Spike turned around, and the nonchalance had fallen away so that his soul was shining through his eyes in all its pain. "Didn't say they'd learn it without making a mess of things. Humans are like that." Spike said it quietly and with great regret.

"I just want..." Xander stopped.

"Oi, don't start that soddin' wishing again. If you go through another century of Angel-impersonations, I'm dumping you into the black and coming back for you after a decade or two of suffocating to death, got it?" Spike shook his head like a dog shaking away the horrors. Then again, Spike did have more experience with horror. "People make choices, pet. Besides, you can't blame the race for just being thick as pig shite in general." Spike smiled, and Xander could feel Spike's mood pulling on him. They'd seen worse than this in their centuries of wandering. Hell, these people had miles to go before hitting even Maggie Walsh levels of creepy.

"Right." Xander rolled his eyes. From the way Spike narrowed his eyes, Xander thought he might have spread the sarcasm a little thick. "Of course, I forgot that you're so very much better Mr. Love's Bitch. You just look for a finger to get wrapped around, and in several hundred years, you have not changed one little bit." Xander held up his finger as a visual aid. Maybe the middle finger wasn't the best one to use because Spike gave him a two-fingered bird in return.

"Bloody hell, and you're still out there playing white knight. You'd stick around just ta try and talk a few more idiots into abandoning Sodom and Gomorrah if ya could, wouldn't you?"

Xander frowned. Sodom and Gomorrah sounded familiar, but Spike was obviously getting his planets confused. "We're on Miranda," he pointed out.

Spike blinked at him. "Bloody hell, you lot never do change. Why do I put up you loons?"

Xander shrugged. "Because you're wrapped around my finger?"

Spike rolled his eyes before reaching out and slipping his arm around Xander's waist and pulling him close. "Loon."

Xander smiled and leaned into Spike. The running for their lives before the Alliance got all twitchy could wait a few seconds because eternity wasn't ever so long that he was willing to give up a Spike-moment. Spike's arms tightened a bit more, and Xander pressed into that strength. "Just promise that if the idiots are never going to change that you'll never change, either. Promise me," Xander begged. He asked the same thing a dozen times a century.

"Not a chance, luv. You and me, we're as bad as them. We don't know how to change."

Xander closed his eyes and felt the fear and the failure fade. They'd lost this world; sometimes they just couldn't stop the disaster coming even when it was so very clear that disaster was coming. Neither of them had Buffy's skill at doing the impossible. But as long as he had Spike, Xander could live with the inability of the human race to change. He could even, most days, like the fact that most things never changed—just not today.

"Let's get out of here," Xander whispered, admitting their defeat. Spike nodded, but he didn't make any attempt to let Xander go. He just held on, silent and strong. Xander tried to push away, and Spike tightened his arms.

"It's not like I didn't try," Xander defended himself.

Spike made a little comforting noise. And that was just more than Xander could take. His knees went out from under him, and he started to cry for all the souls he wouldn't save here—that he couldn't because they wouldn't let him.

"That's right, pet. Just let it out." Spike sank down to the floor planks with him, holding him, and Xander let himself fall apart and grieve for a hundred lost battles the same way he'd grieved for every single one of them in the past—in Spike's arms.

Some People Never Change

Spike sat on the fence with a boot propped up. He liked being out here, under a sun that didn't turn him to dust, but he sure as shite couldn't figure why people had gone back in time five hundred years. Pig wrestling. Spike snorted as Xander threw his arms around a fucking greased pig and held on for dear life as the crowd roared. Spike had seen the Old West the first time around and it'd been as dusty and as unhygienic and as boring as it was this time around. Hopefully the Alliance would soon forget William Pratt and Spike could hack the computers and create some new identity on one of the core planets because there was only so much pig wrestling any self-respecting vampire could watch before imploding.

"Did you see that?" Xander asked as he bounced up, all puppyish energy. Whatever spell Willow had used to protect Xander, it had protected him from more than age. His friends' deaths, the end of the world, the mess on Miranda... Xander had seen them all, grieved deeply for them all, and then moved on to find that youthful joy in some new bauble. When Spike had first realized that Xander was immortal, he'd expected the sod to turn into Angel, brooding his way through eternity. Instead, Xander was the light that had kept Spike from turning into a depressed mirror image of his grandsire.

"Wasn't looking," Spike lied. Xander got an injured expression before he narrowed his eyes.

"You liar. You did too watch."

"Did not."

"Did too." Xander punctuated that with a poke at Spike's stomach.

"Oi. Not nice to poke family, pet."

"Not nice to lie."

"I didn't."

"Did too," Xander sing songed. A few of the people in the crowd were watching, and Spike laughed, catching Xander's hand and pulling him close, dust, mud, pig muck and all. One of the bints got a real soft expression on her face as she settled her elbow on the top rail of the fence and rested her chin on her hand.

"River," the girl next to her hissed, pulling at her arm. "That ain't polite. Don't stare at the sly boys."

"Makes me feel all bright inside," River said, her voice dreamy. The other one glanced over, and Spike twitched an eyebrow at them. Under his arms, Xander had that slight tremble that meant he was struggling to not laugh. On a good day, Xander laughed at most anything, and today was a good day.

"Well, yeah." The girl dropped her voice to a whisper that only a vampire would be able to hear. "Lookin' at two guys like that is enough to make any girl all lustful, but you've got to watch them out of the side of your eye, like this." She tried to demonstrate, but Spike timed it so that when she tried to sneak a quick peak, she looked just in time to see Spike's hand slide down to cup Xander's cock right through his jeans.

Xander snorted, the laugh he'd been holding bursting out, and the girl with River stood with her pupils wide with lust and her mouth about hanging open.

"Stop it. You're so not nice." Xander pushed at Spike's arms, but he didn't push very hard. He stopped when the River girl came dancing over toward them. Something in the way she moved reminded Spike of Dru.

She stopped less than a foot from them, her head tilted to one side. "One light chases away all the darkness," she said solemnly. Xander went still.

"That it does, luv," Spike agreed. "It's the only thing that can."

River smiled and turned back to her friend, dancing away through the crowd as her little chum tried to get her out of sight. Spike watched them, a feeling of deja vu making him miss his sire more than he had in four hundred years.

"Spike?" Xander asked.

"Yeah, pet?" Spike still tracked River's movement through the crowd.

"Do you ever wonder about reincarnation?"

Spike looked down at his boy. "Yeah, I suppose I do," he agreed, and then he pulled Xander closer, grateful that he'd never have to go searching for this particular soul. Xander was his, body and soul, forever.

The End

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