Spike was pretending
to be dead.
It was proving harder
than he would have expected.
He could do the whole
not breathing, having no heartbeat thing alright. It was the feeling he
was having a problem with.
He could feel the
hard, slightly lumpy mattress he was lying on pressing against his hip-bones.
The blanket was scratchy under his forearms and he kept consciously having
to remind himself not to move his palms against the material. He was fairly
certain that if he was dead he wouldn't be able to feel the weight of
his legs, crossed at the ankle, the rough press of his jeans or the smooth
slide of his t-shirt over his skin. He knew he didn't want to look up
and see the cracked off-white ceiling of yet another dingy basement, to
hear the movement of all the other bodies shifting in their sleep, or
pacing around trying to work up the courage to risk sleeping. He certainly
didn't want to think about what a certain slayer might be dreaming: whether
she had found a rare moment of peace or whether she was lying awake, pressed
down by the weight of too much responsibility, too much grief.
He had to resist the
urge to sigh, which told him just how well his pretending-to-be-dead thing
was working. Pointless, really, trying not to think, when you had to keep
reminding yourself to do it. Even after months of having a soul, he wasn't
getting any better at it. Maybe, if the world didn't end, he'd take up
meditation, or something.
The whole soul thing
had been a shitty idea from the get-go. If he was gonna be honest, he
wasn't sure he wanted to make it through the fight, only to be left alone.
With no Buffy and an eternity before him. He'd never really thought about
eternity before. It was enough just to live for the moment: for the current
scheme; fight; kill; drop of blood; whatever. Now
well, now it was
almost a relief to know that the chances were high that eternity wasn't
anything he was going to have to worry about.
And now he was getting
all existential again. Brooding, one might even say. With a mental sigh,
he gave up on playing dead and opened his eyes.
He could hear someone
moving around in the kitchen at the top of the stairs, opening the fridge,
closing it again. Not enough time for them to have taken anything out.
The porch door swinging open, unlocked as always, a slight knock as it
was caught before it could swing shut with a thud. A sigh, then the footsteps
paced over to the basement door. It was probably Andrew, maybe Xander.
The steps were too heavy for one of the girls, and Giles almost never
came down to his basement without Buffy anymore.
Sure enough, Xander's
feet appeared moments later, padding with exaggerated care down the stairs.
Spike didn't move, but neither did he close his eyes against the intrusion.
Xander looked uncomfortable, hesitant. He stopped at the bottom of the
stairs and just looked in Spike's direction for a moment, obviously unable
to tell if the vampire was awake or not. He took another small step forward
before stopping. Spike watched through slitted eyes as resignation flashed
over Xander's face, wondering just exactly what the man was doing down
here. Then, with a self-disgusted roll of his eye, Xander shook his head
and turned around to leave.
Without really thinking
about it, Spike sat up, swinging his feet off the bed and planting them
on the floor. Xander spun around at the sound, his eye widening comically
as he took in Spike's new position. He took a few steps into the room.
Spike tilted his head slightly.
Xander's tone was bland, maybe slightly amused, but mostly empty.
He just kept standing
there, fidgeting with the hem of his plain white T-shirt. Eventually,
Spike lifted one corner of his mouth in a slightly mocking smirk, "Come
into my parlour." Said the spider to the fly.
Xander looked startled
for a moment, then amused as he flicked him a derisive smirk and let go
the hem of his shirt. Spike just raised an eyebrow, his smile widening
Xander shook his head
and moved over to sit on a box near the cot. "So
Spike shrugged. "Not
with you clodhopping about upstairs."
Xander grimaced. "Sorry,
didn't mean to wake you." Spike was surprised. Wasn't often he warranted
an apology from Harris.
"'S no problem.
Creature of the night and all that." Xander nodded absently, his
glance darting around the basement before coming to rest on Spike. He
opened his mouth once but closed it again, letting the silence lengthen.
Eyeing the boy curiously,
Spike fished out a packet of cigarettes, pulling one out and toying with
it but not lighting up. Buffy didn't like him to smoke in the house. "You
come down here for a reason, mate? Or didja just feel like staring at
Xander rolled his
eye at this. "Yeah, that's it Spike, 'cause you're so interesting
and good-looking, my day's just not complete without a good stare."
"Hey, you said
it, not me. At least you've got taste, I'll give you that."
Xander snorted and
ah, wanted to ask you a favour."
"Is that right?
And why would you think I'd want to do you a favour?"
Xander quirked an
eyebrow and widened his eye innocently. "Why, out of the goodness
of your soul, naturally."
Spike shot him a sour
look and he grinned. "What is it, then?"
Xander shrugged uncomfortably
and looked away, one hand rising unconsciously to run over the edge of
his eye patch. "I just
wanted to get out of the house for a
while, you know? I dunno, go for a walk or something."
got to do with me?"
"Well, I can't
exactly go out alone, now can I?" He didn't seem very pleased about
this. "Bringers, vampires, assorted demons of the hellmouth, the
First. Any of this ringing a bell? And me with only one eye. I was kinda
hoping to save myself for when going down fighting might actually make
a difference. Hence the me coming downstairs to ask for a favour."
"So you want
me to babysit, is that right? Can't you get one of your actual friends
to go with you?" Spike cursed the bitterness he hadn't been able
to keep from his voice, and winced inwardly when Xander went suddenly
still, even as a wide, empty grin flashed over his face.
Lovely talking with you Spike, as always. I'll just let you get back to
playing dead." With that, he spun around and stomped back up the
didn't move. He had no desire to wander around in the middle of the night
just because the boy was feeling a little claustrophobic. He could just
go back to his room and tough it out with the rest of them. He wouldn't
go anywhere on his own. Even Xander had more sense than that.
Spike listened, but
didn't hear footsteps going up the stairs.
He did hear the front
door opened and shut quietly.
he murmured angrily, jumping to his feet. What the hell did the wanker
think he was doing going out by himself? Buffy would be seriously pissed
if anything happened to her precious carpenter. Although given the way
they'd all treated her recently, he couldn't manage to work up much in
the way of sympathy himself. He thought momentarily about leaving Xander
to what was sure to be his fate. Then the fucking conscience kicked in
and he stalked up the stairs. He consoled himself with the thought that
he was only doing this for Buffy. He had absolutely no concern for the
boy's welfare. None at all. Oh, fuck off, he told himself resentfully.
He wrenched open the
front door, only just remembering to close it quietly, fully prepared
to find Xander and knock some sense into him, assuming some demon hadn't
got to him first. Possibly even then.
So it was something
of a surprise to see the man leaning up against the very tree he, himself,
had spent so much of his time under; back hunched, hands in his pockets,
obviously not going anywhere, staring out at the night with an unguarded
expression Spike didn't think he'd ever seen before.
Xander looked old.
Older than he had any right to. That much grief, hopelessness and weary
resignation had no place on a face that young. He looked like a man who
had given up, had seen everything life had to offer and still found it
wanting. Spike had seen his fair share of death; he knew what it took
to get people to this point. The point where there was nothing left but
acceptance and, maybe, a little relief. Angelus had always hated to see
that in the eyes of his victims. It meant he hadn't broken them, not entirely.
That there was a part of them he couldn't reach and, even if it allowed
them nothing else, they would die with dignity, no matter how humiliating
he made the act.
Spike wondered in
that moment if he'd ever actually seen Xander Harris, if any of them had.
He was distantly pleased
to note that Xander looked up quickly as his boots hit the decking of
the front veranda, one hand bringing up an axe he hadn't noticed resting
against the tree. When Xander saw who it was, he relaxed, but didnt
put down the weapon. "Spike." He sounded surprised but Spike
wasn't really paying attention.
He looked seriously
at Xander's face as he paced over the lawn. The expression had disappeared
the second Xander had noticed him, falling automatically back to the half-mocking
half-serious expression he usually wore. The one that didn't show any
of what the last seven years had really done to him. And it was so natural,
so familiar, that Spike started to doubt that v he'd actually seen anything
Spike stared at him,
searching, but couldn't see anything. Xander frowned, his face becoming
defensive. "I wasn't going to do anything stupid. You don't have
to worry about me getting hurt and Buffy getting angry." Spike almost
missed the bitter undercurrents to that speech.
He narrowed his eyes
and came to a decision. "Let's go then." He jerked his head
towards the road and turned to wait for Xander. The boy gazed at him searchingly
before, apparently, finding whatever he was looking for and pushing himself
off the tree with a grateful, if guarded, expression.
Spike let Xander lead,
although he made sure to stay close to his side. They didn't chat. Xander
didn't say anything, give any indication where they were going, if they
were doing anything more than just wandering around. But Spike wasn't
all that surprised when they stopped outside a fairly generic looking
two-story suburban house about fifteen minutes from the Summers place.
It was dark, empty, like just about every other house in town, but Xander
was gazing at this one with a small smile on his face.
It looked vaguely
familiar, but it took Spike a moment to place it. Willow's house. He hadn't
been here more than once or twice.
Without looking at
him, Xander made his way around the side of the house and slipped into
the back yard. Spike followed curiously. He found Xander gazing wryly
at the carefully sculpted garden beds, perfectly kept lawn, stylish wooden
deck. It was one of the most non-child-friendly gardens Spike had ever
seen. Not that he made a habit of noticing these things, but still
a bit," Xander said with a quiet snort and an amused expression.
He shook his head and looked around for a moment, clearly lost in pleasant
memories. He pointed to a stylish stone retaining wall. "Fell off
that wall when I was six. Damn thing's only three feet high. Most kids
would have been lucky to come away with a couple of bruises. I broke my
wrist. First time I'd ever broken anything." It said something that
remembering that would make the boy wistful.
"Ever the klutz,
huh?" Spike commented quietly, going for superior disdain and failing
Xander just laughed.
"You know it. Was worth it though. Willow and Jesse practically lived
at my house for two weeks. Willow played doctor. Looked after me better
than my mom even. And she made Jesse fetch and carry for her the entire
time. He felt so guilty for knocking me, making me lose my balance in
the first place
" He trailed off, the easy smile becoming pained.
"Yeah, well." He shrugged uncomfortably, not meeting Spike's
eye, then turned and made his way back out to the street.
"So, who's this
Jesse bloke then," Spike asked once they'd started walking again.
Spike didn't miss
the cynical look that immediately appeared on Xander's face. He hadn't
really expected them to be able to hold a civilised conversation anyway,
but something in him had wanted to try. But Xander surprised him yet again,
closing his mouth and glancing at Spike curiously for a moment. Looked
like this little stroll down memory lane had put the boy in a good mood.
"An old friend,"
he answered simply. "My best friend, along with Willow. We met him
when we were six, and for the next ten years it was just the three of
us. We had lots in common. We all had parents who ignored us. Mine because
they were too busy shouting at one and other, Willow's because they were
too focussed on their work and Jesse's parents were too wrapped up in
each other to even notice they had a kid most of the time. And we were
all only-children, so we had each other."
"So where is
Xander said shortly. Spike shot him a look, but the boy's face had shut
The next place they
stopped at Spike was all too familiar with. He glared at the house, grimacing.
He was so lost in unpleasant memories that when Xander chuckled he turned
on him resentfully. But Xander just smirked at the murderous look on his
huh?" The weird thing was that he looked like he meant it.
Spike shook his head
in disbelief. "Oh, sure, I love thinking about being tied to a chair
in your dank, smelly basement."
"Oh, come on.
I only tied you up once, and we both know you could have broken those
ropes the second I fell asleep. Besides, you were an evil vampire. I think,
all things considered, I was a very good host." His smirk hadn't
faded the whole time he'd been speaking, and Spike was having to work
at not smiling himself.
"Well, it's the
principle of the thing, innit? There I was, in pain, not able to kill
anyone at all, but do I get any sympathy? No, I get tied to a chair."
Xander was looking
at him knowingly. "Poor baby. I was sympathetic on the inside, I
promise. Why d'you think I tied you to that chair?"
He raised his eyebrows
and Spike looked at him suspiciously. Then his eyes widened. "Wait
a minute. Do you mean to tell me you weren't really afraid of me? You
were just trying to make me feel better?" he exclaimed, rather put
"Would I do something
like that?" Xander asked blandly, his eye laughing.
"Well there you
"You know what?
Yeah, you would. It's just the sort of thing you would have done. Can't
stand to see a person in pain, that's you. And now I don't know if I'm
s'posed to be pissed off or not," he groused, glaring. Actually,
as much as he despaired to think how low that damn chip had brought him,
he was kind of stuck on the thought that this boy, even back then, had
somehow seen what he was going through and tried to make it easier; even
if it was by tying him to a chair.
In fact, Xander had
always treated him as friend of sorts. Sure, every time he did something
particularly evil he was cut off, at least once almost literally. But
for some reason, Xander'd always forgiven, or forgotten, or something,
eventually. He was probably just incapable of holding a grudge. And he
did have a point about the basement. Whatever else it was, life had been
less complicated back then. He might have liked some of the Scoobies occasionally,
but he'd still hated them. Maybe they were good times, he thought wryly.
Xander grinned. "Whatever's
less likely to get me killed. I'm gonna assume you don't want to visit
my dank, smelly basement again?" Spike just looked at him. "Ok,
then. I'll take that as a 'Fuck, no'. I just wanted to make sure the 'rents
were gone, anyway. Away we go." He turned to face Spike expectantly.
"You're not going
inside?" He was surprised again. He'd figured they were doing a little
down memory lane thing.
But Xander shook his
head. "Nah, there's not much in there I want to remember. Except
Willow and Anya, and yourself of course." This said with a slightly
mocking grin that held confusing serious overtones.
Spike shook them off,
though, and turned back to the street. Xander fell in step beside him,
and they started walking. "Why'd you even care about them? Your folks
are wankers. Speaking from personal experience."
Xander didn't seem
to know whether to agree or be offended. "Wankers they may be, but
just because I don't like them doesn't mean I want them to die."
He smirked. "I don't like you, but I don't want you to die either."
Spike raised his eyebrows
in surprise. "Since when? You've always had a 'Stake Spike' campaign
but that's just 'cause I didn't like you, not because I wanted you to
die. I've saved you at least three times."
come after with me axe at least once." Xander was silent for a while,
and Spike realised he probably shouldn't have brought that up.
"That was different.
And you're right, I would have killed you then. I would have done the
same after I found out what you did to Buffy, if you hadn't left. Before
You're a vampire, if you did something evil, that's just you.
I thought you'd changed. To be honest, I think you did. Neither of those
things was about you being a demon, they were about you being in pain.
I don't have any right to hate you for that." He raised
his head at the end of this speech, meeting Spike's eyes briefly, before
turning away and hurrying down the street.
Spike let him stay
a few steps ahead, thoughts swirling around his head. It felt like Xander
was offering him
what? Apology? Forgiveness? He'd never asked for
either, let alone expected to receive them. Partly because of himself
but more because it never would have occurred to him that Xander would
stoop to offering them. He shook his head. How had he managed to miss
all of this, miss Xander, so completely? He didn't understand why but
he felt something in his chest constrict.
He ran a hand over
his chin, levelling a final considering glance at the man in front of
him, before taking a couple of quick strides and falling into step beside
him. Xander glanced over and Spike sent him a faint smile. Xander responded
with one of his own and they both allowed themselves to relax a little.
Whatever had just happened, Spike knew it was new, for them. And he found
himself unexpectedly curious to find out what it meant.
Chapter Two - The Dead
Formerly, Completely, Currently, Potentially,
They seemed to be
heading towards the school, and Spike was about to say something when
they suddenly veered off into one of Sunnydale's many cemeteries. "Ah,
the cemetery; playground of those in serious need of a real life, I think
Buffy and Willow would agree. You know what's disturbing? That the thought
that so many good times were had in this place or one like it is so totally
not disturbing at all any more. I think I'm jaded." He shook his
head sadly, grinning.
pathetic, whatever floats your boat," Spike muttered, smirking.
Xander elbowed him
lightly. He shoved back, rocking Xander sideways a bit. "And what
does that make you then, he-who-lives-in-a-crypt?"
Spike arched a haughty
eyebrow. "Dead, mate."
excuses, excuses." Xander grinned and Spike bit back a smile of his
Any and all amusement
fled when they stopped by Buffy's grave. The headstone was still there.
Spike had no idea why they hadn't taken it down when she came back. He'd
avoided it even before then, and had given it a lot of thought after,
but hadn't been able to bring himself to come back. He squeezed his eyes
shut, forcing down tears that threatened to form and turned away. This
was a damning reminder of a past he didn't want to remember and a very
real future he wasn't sure he had any way of preventing.
He turned to Xander,
meaning to drag him away, but the small smile on the man's face as he
gazed at the headstone brought him up short, sending a cold frission down
his spine. When the man spoke, it was as though he were merely re-living
a pleasant memory.
"We were supposed
to die together. Willow and I decided, way back in high school. Prob'ly
around the time you showed up. We made a pact. She wasn't gonna die as
long as we were still around to protect her and if she went down fighting,
we'd be there beside her." He laughed easily. Spike stared at him,
appalled, but fascinated. He forgot, sometimes, just how much history
those three had together, before he ever had any claim on Buffy. "We
used to read all the epitaphs and try to come up with cool things to put
on ours after we died. That was Buffy's favourite. 'She saved the world.
A lot.'" He grinned. "Willow's was going to say 'She helped
to save the world.' I wanted mine to be 'He brought coffee. And donuts.'
Of course, the Buffster and Wills, being the girls they are, vetoed that.
Maybe we'll get to use them this time. Although personally, I reckon we
could come up with something a little more interesting. I'll have to ask
them." He shook his head, grinning down at the grave.
Spike felt a little
sick. Maybe it was just the soul, but the thought of those three kids
wandering through the cemetery, thinking up things to write on their headstones,
not just in a vague fifty years down the track way but with the complete
understanding that it could happen at any time
And then they'd actually
used it. God, it was more than just wrong. And how could Xander just stand
there and calmly talk about what they were going to put on Buffy's headstone?
Didn't the wanker realise they were going to be dead? Chances were no-one
would ever even find their bodies, let alone give them a proper burial.
"This isn't a
game you know, Xander," Spike said angrily. The man looked up at
him in surprise. "Once the pieces go down, you don't get to pick
them up and try again. People are going to die, quite probably all of
us and there's not enough magic in the world to bring them back, even
if you are still around to try it. Don't you reckon it's about time you
started taking that seriously?"
He received a cold
smile in reply. "You think that'd make a difference, Spike?"
"Well it might
show you actually felt something about all this. You're all the same you
know? Buffy, Willow, even Dawn. Act like you don't fucking care. You're
not fooling anyone but yourselves."
Xander gazed at him
for a moment, then the icy expression started to melt. "Well, sure,
that's the point." He quirked his lips fondly and continued before
Spike could interrupt. "Let me tell you what Buffy wanted to put
on my grave, Spike." He frowned a little. "I've never told anyone
Xander looked Spike
directly in the eye and for a second he thought he caught a glimpse of
that expression he'd seen under the tree in the Summerses' front yard.
"'He made the world worth saving.' We know, Spike. We'll always know.
That's all that matters. Just because you haven't been paying attention,
doesn't mean there's nothing there."
"You say that
now. But not two days ago you were all for getting rid of Buffy and replacing
her with someone else." He was aware of the anger that coloured his
voice. They'd had no right to treat her that way. Everything she'd done,
she'd done for them and they sent her away because they weren't entirely
comfortable with her methods. "Do you have any idea how much that
He saw the pain flash
across Xander's face and was savagely pleased by the reaction. But Xander
shook his head and answered calmly. "We could barely feel her, Willow,
Giles and me. She'd locked herself away, forgotten what she was fighting
for. Everyone else might have thought it was because she was being rash,
making bad decisions, but that's really why we let her go. Nothing we'd
done so far had helped. It was all we had left to try."
"What the hell
are you talking about, Harris? She fights because some gits somewhere
decided it was her destiny to save the world. She never once forgot her
responsibility, and she's done everything she can to make sure we're ready."
"Sure. But she
lost sight of why. Why she started, why she kept going. It's not about
strength, or responsibility. It's about love. When it comes right down
to it, that's all it's ever about. You'll fight because you love Buffy.
She'll never admit it, but Anya fights because she loves people, all of
them, for all their faults, and she doesn't want there to be a world without
them. Willow's the same, trying to look out for the whole world. Me, I
couldn't really give a shit about the rest of the world, but there is
no way in hell I'll not be beside Buffy, Willow, Giles, Anya and Dawn
when all this goes down. Buffy cares about the rest of the world, too,
but for her the fight has always been about family. She lost sight of
us. She would never have had a chance without her heart. She needed to
Buffy had once called
Xander her heart. That no matter how much it hurt, he would always tell
her the truth and that no matter what she did, he would always love her.
She'd said he was a good person and a constant reminder of what she was
fighting for. Spike had scoffed, naturally, pointing out what a useless
waste of space the boy was, for which she had bloodied his nose, but she'd
never brought it up again. 'He made the world worth saving'. He wondered
if Xander knew just how much Buffy meant that and felt a momentary pang
of jealousy. She would never say the same about him.
"So you want
me to believe that was all just for her own good?"
"It was for all
of us." He shrugged. "And it worked. You brought her back to
us. She's ready now. We can feel her again."
Spike didn't have
anything to say to that, and after a moment, Xander jerked his head towards
the far side of the graveyard. "Come on," he said shortly.
"Is that why
you're here?" he asked as they made their way across the graves.
"Are you looking for something to fight for?"
Xander smiled a little
sadly and shook his head. "Nah, I told you, I've got my reasons.
This is just me reminiscing. The fact that I'm doing it in a graveyard
is simply a deeply depressing testimony to my life so far."
The stopped in front
of a wall covered in plaques. "Missing, presumed dead," Xander
explained briefly. There had to be hundreds of them. "There's one
in each cemetery. Naturally, most of them really are dead, vampires who
didn't get buried by their families before they rose. Then they're staked,
or they take off. People might not know exactly what goes on around here.
But no-one holds out much hope for missing persons. Most of these go up
after just a couple of years."
"Thought it was
five years for missing to be presumed dead," Spike commented.
"You know many
"Yeah, a few."
Xander propped his
axe against the wall then fished a picture out of his wallet and handed
it to Spike. Willow, Xander, both smiling, both looking criminally young,
and another boy, "Jesse," Xander said. "Taken a couple
of days before we met Buffy."
He didn't look familiar.
"He bought it, did he?" He blanched suddenly. "It wasn't-"
He stopped himself. He couldn't think about the fact that he'd probably
killed quite a few of the boy's friends. There was nothing he could do
about it now and even if he had, he didn't need to justify himself. He
was a vampire. He killed people to survive. Still
he'd also never
had to deal with the human fallout of his actions. He didn't know if he
could deal with being the one to have put that pain in the boy's face.
But Xander, with that
startling insight he displayed occasionally, answered anyway. "No,
you didn't kill him." His voice was distant, pained. "It was
a game at first, you know. Vampires, monsters, our new friend the superhero.
Even going to the library was suddenly fun." He turned to the wall
and tapped a small plaque in the top right-hand corner of the wall. Spike
turned to look. 'Jesse Brian Taylor 1981-1996 We Live In Hope'. Spike
frowned. That was before Buffy had come to Sunnydale, wasn't it?
he asked, almost despite himself. He didn't really care about Xander's
childhood traumas. Except he thought maybe he did. He'd never given Xander
a lot of thought. They'd spent a lot of time together without ever having
really made an effort to get to know each other, which had been fine by
him. Xander hadn't really been worth his time anyway. But he was starting
to realise there was more to this man than he would have thought.
"I couldn't protect
him. The first of many people I couldn't protect, really. Darla got him,
and because he knew the slayer, she used him as bait. She turned him."
He glanced over at Spike, one corner of his mouth twitching upwards. "Does
that make the two of you related?"
Spike shrugged uncomfortably.
"Nah, not really. He's probably just a minion. I would've known if
there was another childe in the line of Aurelius. Where did he go?"
Xander looked surprised.
the slayer wouldn't have staked one've your friends. Didn't she give him
a chance to leave?"
Spike got the feeling
he'd just said the wrong thing. Xander's face clouded, shock and grief
warring for a moment, before he shook his head and closed his eye. "She
never got the chance. I killed him. The first vampire I ever killed. Less
than a week after Buffy first arrived. Didn't feel so much like a game
after that. I never told his family what'd happened. I didn't know how.
They put this up just before they moved away three years ago."
Well, that explained
why Xander'd hated him and Angel so much. Easier to believe that he'd
done the right thing, that he hadn't murdered his friend if he could believe
that all vampires were evil. It said something about his strength that
he'd been able to get past it.
"It wasn't your
friend," he said. Xander turned to him curiously. Spike closed his
eyes briefly and continued. "I
when I was first turned, I turned
my mother." He had no idea why he was telling Xander this, except
he knew the man wouldn't use it against him. And maybe he needed to say
it as much as Xander needed to hear it. "She was dying, but I
I made her a monster. Then I staked her. Dru, she made me different, but
I couldn't do whatever it was she did."
"Yeah, I know.
thank you." He gave Spike an only-slightly wavery grin.
"My resentment may have occasionally gotten the better of me."
Spike snorted and the grin solidified. "I repeat, occasionally. And
you can't deny that you are an asshole. But it was pretty obvious even
to me that you were never just the same as all the other vampires."
Spike smirked at Xander.
"I'm not entirely sure how to take that, mate."
Xander grinned as
he tucked the photo back into his wallet, then slung his arm around Spike's
shoulder, picked up his axe, and turned them towards the exit. "Oh,
feel free to take it as an insult. It's been months at least since I've
mentioned how much I dislike you."
He grinned. "I
must be slipping."
Spike smirked. "Nah,
you just don't wanna admit you like me."
"Hey, I'm not
stupid. I do something like that and you'll never let me live it down,
shot him a genuine smile and he felt that something tighten in his chest
again. Maybe he wasn't ready to face eternity but, for the first time
in a long time, the thought of living through the battle wasn't so terrifying.
There was promise here. Friendship offered. And he discovered that he
wouldn't mind finding out where it might lead. Even if Buffy died, or
decided she didn't want him, maybe there were other things worth fighting
for, worth living for.
He smiled back, and
saw the pleasure and the understanding in Xander's face.
Chapter Three - The Past
Common ground; reasons shared
They started walking
again. "You know, Dru almost turned me once," Xander commented,
glancing at Spike out of the corner of his eye.
Xander smirked at
his shocked expression. "Few years back, just after Valentine's Day."
"Why the hell
did she want to do that? For that matter, how'd you manage to stop her?"
The boy's grin widened.
"She said my face was like a poem. Asked me how I felt about eternity.
Just think, you and me, we could have been together forever. What, we
would have been like, brothers, or something, right?"
Spike shuddered, managing
to look suitably disgusted, although this didn't seem to faze Xander.
"Eternity? I would have staked you in a matter of days," he
sneered. "And Dru might've called us brothers, but the things she'd
have us doing together would have been anything but fraternal, Pet."
He swept his eyes over Xander's body suggestively, and chuckled when his
face scrunched up in an 'eeww' expression.
"Ok, and so much
more than I needed to know, and oh so very grateful I got saved."
But his eye was laughing.
"You'd have made
a terrible vampire, anyway, Mate," he smirked, patting Xander on
the back consolingly.
Xander glanced at
him, and Spike could tell he was about to be told something unexpected.
"Actually, Anya tells me I made quite a good vampire. Willow and
I were apparently the Master's favourites. Very evil."
Spike just raised
an eyebrow. "Alternate universe?"
Xander grinned and
shook his head. "Jaded, I tell you. That should so not have been
your first thought."
Spike snorted. "Thought
that was pretty conservative, actually."
Xander said wryly. "Wishverse, actually, which created an alternate
universe, or tapped into one, or something. I dont know how it all
you were a vampire?"
she supposedly wished that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. Me being
a vamp was just a side effect."
Spike thought about
that for a moment. "Nasty." Especially with the soul, he meant
"Yeah, you woulda
loved it." Xander flicked him a considering glance. "The old
Spike just shrugged.
Old, new. Most of the time he felt exactly the same. He supposed he was
probably making different choices than he would have and whatnot. Especially
when he looked back at some of the things he'd done, he was horrified
at how he had acted, although generally whatever he'd done had seemed
perfectly reasonable at the time. But it wasn't like his soul was whispering
in one ear while his demon corrupted him from the other.
see it, but then Dru did have a fondness for turning utter gits."
He was proof enough of that.
Xander shot him a
knowing glance. "She was under a love spell that I'd had Amy cast.
It was supposed to make Cordelia fall in love with me. Which it naturally
didn't, because she was already in love with me. Which is ever so much
easier to see in retrospect. It did, however, make every other woman in
Sunnydale fall madly in love with me. Take a moment to picture it,"
he smirked self-deprecatingly. "Buffy wanted to have sex with me,
before Amy turned her into a rat. I think you can appreciate just how
hard turning her down was. Every girl in the school, the teachers, the
lunch lady and you really had to know the lunch lady for the full
horror of that to register Willow, Joyce, all chasing me
around town trying to kill me because if they couldn't have me, no-one
Xander was chuckling,
and Spike shot him a look verging on fondness. Xander had never really
told him anything about his life, although he'd picked up some of the
highlights here and there. "Wait a minute, Buffy wanted to
sleep with you, and you said no?"
Xander looked amused.
"Of course. She wasn't herself. I'd never take advantage of her."
Spike shook his head
in disgust. "Bleedin' white hat. Don't know what you're missing."
Xander raised a cool
eyebrow, but said mildly, "Don't talk about Buffy like that. I'm
still working on repressing the knowledge that you slept with her. And
I do have some idea, you know."
What? He knew Xander'd
been in love with Buffy at one stage, but she'd said nothing had ever
happened between them. "Trust me mate, your demon bird just doesn't
compare." Even a blind and witless human would have picked up the
sudden tension radiating from the other man. Spike winced. He was really
going to have to start learning to hold his tongue. He wasn't used to
saying whatever was on his mind, then feeling bad about it. "Um,
sorry. I didn't mean to
you know, bring that up
do it in the first place
" He trailed off uncomfortably,
running one hand over his cheekbone. Xander stopped and turned to face
After a moment, Spike
darted his eyes to the other man's face. Xander looked
didn't look like he was planning on doing anything with the axe, which
Spike figured was a step in the right direction. If anything he looked
puzzled. Then he relaxed and shrugged, giving Spike a wry
smile. For a moment, Spike was confused. Then he was even more confused
as he realised that his apology had been accepted, that Xander had forgiven
him and had moved on. He'd thought he'd seen something like that earlier,
but it was still unexpected. He was
grateful, he thought. For once,
the tight feeling in his chest wasn't balanced by pain or loss, like it
always was with Buffy. This was just
wasn't talking about Anya," Xander was saying. "Buffy's not
the only slayer in the world, after all." Spike's eyebrow shot up
at that and Xander smirked. The boy had bagged a slayer? But Xander rushed
on before he could comment. "Besides, you know you'd do exactly the
same thing. You haven't taken advantage of Buffy once since you moved
He opened his mouth
to argue but Xander was right. Still, it was completely different. Buffy
hadn't once indicated she wanted to sleep with him. And last night? he
thought to himself. She'd invited him into her bed. But not to have sex
with, he argued. And if she had been tired and hurt and had turned to
him to forget for a while? Would he have done it? Ignore what she needed
and give her what they both wanted? Probably not, he sighed. It was almost
certainly the soul, interfering with his decision-making process again.
But he didn't really want her like that any more. Not that didn't want
her, he did. But he wanted her to want him, love him, and that just wasn't
likely to happen any time in the near future, as far as he could tell.
He felt Xander glance
at his pensive expression and tried to pull himself together. "That's
not a bad thing, Spike," he said quietly.
I know. But it's not really a me thing, either, now is it?"
"That would seem
to depend entirely on which you we were talking about," Xander said
blandly. Spike just grimaced. He really wasn't in the mood for dealing
with insightful comments from the glorified bricklayer of the group, however
much he might be re-evaluating his impressions of the boy.
"Well then, perhaps
not talking about it would be a better solution," he said harshly.
isn't going to make it any less confusing."
Spike sighed. "Tell
you what, if we're all still alive next week, you can go back to deconstructing
Xander shrugged, smirking
They had made their
way back out onto the street. Xander turned and carefully closed the cemetery
gates behind him. A couple of blocks to the left they could see the faint
lights of the high-school. Xander didn't seem inclined to walk that way,
not that Spike would have let him, but they both stood there for a while,
gazing at the place that was either going to see their triumphant saving
of the world or their gruesome deaths, possibly both.
Spike had not been
thinking about what was going happen tomorrow, but after Xander had brought
Buffy up, his thoughts started flitting back there. He was so scared that
he wouldn't be able to save her. People were going to die and he didn't
want them to. It was such a new sensation. He didn't really care about
them but he didn't want them to die, and he didn't know how to save them.
He'd been desperately trying not to think about it when Xander came down
into his basement.
The walk had helped,
although stopping at Buffy's grave certainly hadn't, and Xander's stories
had distracted him. But standing here, it all seemed just so inevitable.
He could still feel the pull of the hellmouth, not strong enough to control
him but always there, in the back of his mind, reminding him that no matter
what he did, how hard he tried, he was still evil, would always be essentially
evil. He wondered in passing if Xander could feel it. If Buffy or Giles
could. What did it take? What did you have to do for the darkness to be
able to take hold, call like to like?
Xander seemed so unaware
sometimes, like nothing he did touched him. Like the darkness he lived
with, fought with, that used him and hurt him and took away all the things
he loved didn't seep into his soul. He'd seen Buffy, Willow and Giles
dragged under more than once, but never Xander. Perhaps his very powerlessness
protected him. Even if he did lose it, what was the worst he could do?
Even as he thought
it, Spike knew how stupid that was. You didn't need to have super powers
to hurt someone. He'd been told how Warren had killed Tara, almost killed
Buffy, with something as innocuous as a gun. Hell, Xander still had a
rocket launcher stashed away somewhere. When it came to anger, to hate,
there were no guarantees.
Still, as much as
the boy had every reason to be as fucked up as the rest of them, Spike
couldn't help but think of him as innocent. Untainted. He thought back
to the expression he'd seen Xander wearing outside the Summers house not
even an hour ago and knew that in a way he was wrong. Xander had given
up - but he'd not given in. He was covered in darkness, surrounded by
it, but Spike had seen in his gaze that he wouldn't relinquish himself
completely. For whatever reason, Xander would never be able to give up
that last piece of light, of hope, even for a moment. Which was, of course,
part of why he'd make such a crappy vampire.
Consumed by such morose
thoughts, he was startled when Xander let out a breath of laughter. He
felt momentarily offended. Here he'd been contemplating the nature of
the boy's soul and Xander was laughing at him. "What?" he demanded.
When Xander smirked and raised his eyebrows he prepared himself for all
sorts of denigrating comments about brooding and comparisons with Angel.
But Xander said, "Do
you remember the first time we met?" Spike was temporarily derailed
by this non-sequitur and didn't answer. "After all the times I happened
to be with Buffy when you were stalking her," Xander added after
"The first time
we met? What is this about? And I wasn't stalking her, I was gathering
information," he added.
Xander cocked his
head. "You're the one who didn't want to talk seriously. First time
we met. At the school. And stalking is stalking, Spike," he said
with a grin.
Spike snorted, but
figured this was better than contemplating death, pain and the nature
of evil, which was, he could admit, not nearly as much fun as it used
to be. He thought back. "Face to face meeting, right? That would
be, what, four years ago? When I came back after Dru dumped me. Clocked
you on the head with a microscope when you got in the way of me kidnapping
Red." He still felt a little guilty about that, but he was pleased
to note that thinking about Dru, or knocking the kid unconscious, didn't
leave him wanting to brood for a good few hours. He grinned a little.
"Sorry 'bout that too, by the way."
Xander smirked at
him. "Gee thanks. Although it would have meant more if you'd said
it twelve months ago. But that wasn't the first time." He wandered
over to the low retaining wall that surrounded the cemetery and pulled
himself up so he was sitting cross-legged, still facing the school. Spike
leant beside him and fished out a cigarette.
Lighting up, he took
a moment to think about it. Then he shook his head. "Only other time
I was at the school was the year before, when Dru was still sick. First
instance of the slayer kicking my arse." He couldn't work up much
resentment any more. "That what you're talking about?" He glanced
over and Xander nodded, a small smile on his face. Spike frowned. "There
were kids all over the place. Can't expect me to remember all of them.
Where were you, then?"
Xander's smile widened.
"You remember when Angel came in, tried to convince you he was still
Angelus? He gave you some kid's neck to feed on, then you punched him
in the face, called him your
Yoda, was it?"
Spike's eyes narrowed
as he thought about Angel. The bastard had really thought he could fool
him with that act. They'd been together for nearly thirty years, for fuck's
sake, slaughtering all over Europe. "Yeah, I remember it. Wait! That
Xander smirked. "In
"I could have
killed you! It never ceases to amaze me just what a complete wanker you
really are. Why the hell did you agree to do that?"
Xander's smirk turned
wry. "Oh, believe me. That little act was in no way mutual. He just
grabbed me around the neck and hauled me inside. I was fully convinced
he was just gonna let you kill me, or do it himself. I take it you didn't
"Well, I was
a little distracted, and you were just food." Spike shook his head
and smiled a little. He could remember the whole thing perfectly. One
of the benefits to being a vampire, but he hadn't really been paying attention
to anything other than Angel. Although, in retrospect, it was blatantly
obvious that it was Xander. If nothing else, then the fact that even as
he had been offered as a meal to an evil vampire he had still been talking
should have tipped Spike off.
"And that is
just one of the many and varied reasons why Angel is so not my favourite
vampire. Bastard never even apologised, you know."
"That, I have
no trouble whatsoever believing. He always was a self-centred git."
Xander grunted in
agreement. "I will never understand what Buffy saw in him. With his
whole Captain Mysterioso, oh look at me, I'm all brooding and tortured
Spike smirked. "I
don't think she was looking at his insides, mate."
Xander frowned and
shook his head. "You see now, I don't get that either. That whole
hulking wall of muscle thing. At least Riley was a nice guy, to go along
with the linebacker physique."
Spike rolled his eyes
and spoke without thinking. "Oh, come on. That wanker had about as
much personality as a piece of cardboard." Xander narrowed his eye
and opened his mouth. But, surprising even himself, Spike raised a hand
to forestall what was sure to become their latest shouting match. "Yeah,
right, sorry. But I reckon I'm allowed to not like him."
Xander subsided, nodding
reluctantly. "He shouldn't have left the way he did."
Which was the least
of it, as far as Spike was concerned, but he let the subject drop. "So,
you don't think I'm Buffy's type, huh?" he asked, in an attempt to
regain some of the levity they'd been sharing.
Xander snorted in
amusement and ran his eye over Spike appraisingly. "If you had a
little less in the way of a Y chromosome, you'd be Buffy, Spike. Or possibly
Spike couldn't suppress
the bark of astonished laughter that escaped at that. "I'm sorry?
Did you want to get left here for the vampires to munch on?"
Xander waggled his
eyebrows, his eye sparkling mischievously. "Face it, Spike, if I
ever decide to go ahead with the gay thing, you'd be my type."
He raised an incredulous
eyebrow. "You coming on to me, Harris?"
"If, Spike, if.
And I'm not taking into consideration the fact that you're an asshole."
"And that's not
your type how?" he smirked.
Xander opened his
mouth, then paused, his face thoughtful. "Point." Then he grinned.
"So, I should call you, is that what you're saying?"
"Not before you
lose some weight, get a fashion sense, and fix the hair," he shot
back. "Vamp's gotta have some standards, you know."
"And yet you
slept with Harmony." Xander didn't seem to have taken offence. But
then, Spike recognised that recently his digs at the boy had been more
out of habit, than any real animosity. "But the fact remains, except
for the whole vamp-with-a-soul thing, you are nothing like Angel."
Spike nodded decisively
and made a noise of complete agreement. "That's what I've been saying."
They shared a brief glower at the complete wankeryness that was Angel
before Spike turned a calculating glance on Xander, an amused glint in
his eyes. "So, Angel gave you to me, huh? It means something when
your sire gives you something, you know?"
He suppressed a smirk
as Xander just raised an eyebrow. "Is that right?"
And Angelus didn't give me things very often. I'm really almost obligated
to eat you," he said seriously.
Xander continued to
look dubious, although Spike could see the corners of his mouth twitching.
"Uh huh. 'Cause we all know how much you value Angel's good opinion
of you. Wouldn't want to piss him off."
"Do I detect
a note of sarcasm? It's the principle of the thing, innit?"
"And how many
times have you protested that you wouldn't bother to drink me even if
I was the last person on the face of the earth? Besides," he added
with a smile, "even if you don't want to piss Angel off, I'm all
for it. Even if it means not getting bitten by you, I think that's a sacrifice
I might just be willing to make."
Spike nodded thoughtfully.
"You're probably right. You'd taste all greasy anyway." He glanced
pointedly at Xander's stomach. Xander punched him in the shoulder with
an affronted expression. He just grinned.
"Hey, we're gonna
die, I'm gonna eat all the goddamned twinkies I want."
to leaving a beautiful corpse?"
Xander waved his hand
airily. "I'll be dead. It won't really worry me."
There was a comfortable
silence as Spike finished his cigarette. Xander jumped off the wall as
he crushed the butt under his boot-heel. He shrugged more comfortably
into his duster and glanced at the other man from under lowered lashes.
"Xander," he said, drawing the other man's attention. "Do
you really expect to die tomorrow? Is that what this is about?"
Xander looked thoughtfully
at him for a moment. "I don't know. I mean, some part of me always
expects to die. But
it hasn't happened so many times that it's hard
to hold onto that. But then, I'd never been seriously injured before either,"
He reached up to finger his eye patch. "I do know it's never been
this bad before. I don't want to die but, if does happen, I want to be
ready for it this time. And I want something of Sunnydale to hold onto.
I know it's just a place, but it's my home and it's been full of people
I've loved. It's worth dying for. And even if I don't die, nothing is
ever going to be the same." He broke off and shrugged uncomfortably.
Spike wasn't entirely
sure that he did but looked into Xander's eye for a moment. The expression
was back, but this time Spike could see beyond it. And there was strength
and truth and love. So he nodded and they turned away from the school
and started walking.
Chapter Four - The Future
The first night of the rest of your life
They made their way
unmolested back through Sunnydale, pausing occasionally as Xander reminisced.
Mostly Spike just listened, although he took great delight in disgusting
Xander with intermittent anecdotes. The stories of Xander's various love
interests, from the preying-mantis lady to his ill-fated trip to Oxnard,
practically had Spike in hysterics. He had something to say about nearly
every place they passed, and filled the spaces in between with stories
of Willow, Buffy and himself at high school. At one point, Spike asked,
"Do you know everyone who lived in this place?" To which Xander
had casually replied, "Well, not all of them, not personally anyway,
but a lot of them, yeah. It's a small town, I've lived here all my life,
and people tend to remember you when you save them from being eaten. How'd
you think we got the town evacuated so fast?"
Even though the streets
remained deserted, Xander's memories injected life into the town, made
But more than that
they made Buffy real. Right from the very beginning, she'd been The Slayer
to him. Later, he'd loved her, but he'd never really known her, even when
they were sleeping together. And then she'd been a strong but tortured
woman he only wanted to protect. Xander described the three of them, and
it was like fragments coalescing in his mind. He could see them laughing,
fighting, loving. Young. And free.
He looked over and
saw the sparkle in the young man's eye, the smile that played over his
lips, and understood something. This was his light, the hope that he held
onto in the face of all this darkness. Not that they'd be young again,
but that even after everything they'd been through, they might be free
And that was worth
Even with the threat
of the First hanging over their heads, Spike found he was honestly enjoying
himself. They'd always managed to maintain an easy camaraderie, whether
it was hanging out at The Bronze, or in the basement, but it felt different
now. Spike hadn't had a friend, just a friend, in a very long time. It
was something he thought he could get used to.
It was still a couple
of hours to sunrise when they made it back to Revello Drive. Curiously
reluctant to go back inside, Spike leaned up against the tree in the front
yard. There were lights on in the house. He could see Buffy moving about
in her room, and the pang in his heart wasn't as painful as he'd expected.
He didn't know how many nights he'd spent much like this over the past
couple of years, but right now all that seemed so far away. Turning away,
he found Xander watching him seriously.
"Just like old
Spike snorted, hung
his head. "No, actually." Xander had no way of knowing, but
the soul had drawn him further away from his human self than the demon
ever had. Gazing up at lighted windows and wishing from afar had been
such a quintessentially William thing to do. Granted a lot of the other
things he'd done hadn't been, but he'd never before realised just how
much of human him had survived when he became a vampire.
He didn't know exactly
what had been done to him, couldn't feel anything inside that he could
separate and point to as this thing that was his soul. He knew it had
to be there. The demon who'd given it to him had said it, Anya had told
him she could see it. But really, all he knew was that suddenly there
were dimensions and perspective, considerations and feelings that
hadn't been there before. It was only for lack of a better word that he
called them his soul. Even then, though the feelings were stronger now,
he couldn't honestly say that they were completely new. It was like he'd
told Xander, Dru had made him different. The fact was, behind all the
unfocused rage and the nebulous hatred some part of him had wanted to
become something better, had wanted it enough to seek out the one thing
that every vampire feared.
Whatever else it might
have done, he could acknowledge that his soul had changed the way he looked
at Buffy. Now, when he looked at her, he saw her, not himself,
not what he wanted her to be, or what he wanted them to be together. So
standing under her window, he could feel remorse but not regret, not really.
But more than that he couldn't feel anger, hate, obsession, even need.
There was still love, desire, but honestly, he couldn't imagine how things
could be any more different. He raised his head and smirked half-heartedly
at Xander's curious expression. "Got a lot of old times to compare
to, but I gotta say, this these past few months really they've
not been like any of them."
Xander let out a quiet
huff of laughter. "A whole new you, huh? So you weren't like this
when you were alive?" Xander looked around for a moment, then folded
himself down onto the ground to lean his back against the tree, beside
Spike's legs. After a moment's hesitation, Spike followed suit. He could
feel his skin warming even through layers of material where their arms
Xander glanced over
and Spike realised he was waiting for an answer. He shrugged. "Don't
think so. 'S a long time ago, wasn't it?"
Xander said, a strange note in his voice. "You know, you don't act
so much like someone who's celebrated a centenary and a half. Anya was
the same, most of the time."
He shrugged again.
Xander was right. "Vampires don't tend to count the years. Not really
a need when you're going to remain the same for eternity." Although
he'd been thinking more and more about the future these days, and the
soul inevitably had him contemplating the past. He glanced at Xander and
grinned a little. "Do keep track though. I woulda been one hundred
and fifty this year, if that sorta thing counted for anything."
Xander's eye widened,
and he gave a gently mocking grin that lit up his face. "Seriously?
From, what, the day you were born? That is so freaky. When's your birthday?"
He frowned. "June.
Definitely June. The
fourth, I think. Haven't thought about that
in a while. Usually I count from the day I died."
in, like, a couple of weeks!" The boy looked honestly delighted,
and Spike had to stop himself shaking his head. Didn't take much to distract
this one. Just like that, all the pain seemed to have been forgotten in
favour of more pleasant tidings. It was completely inappropriate and entirely
in line with Xander's character. Worse, he could feel a smile of his own
starting deep in his chest, and had to look away before he made a complete
fool of himself. But glancing at Xander, he once again got the rather
uncomfortable impression that the boy understood all the things he wouldn't
let himself feel anyway.
"That calls for
celebration, my ancient and decrepit friend. We can have a joint party,
for you and me, and I can rub your nose in your old age."
Spike shrugged, but
there was a small smirk on his face. "'S long as there's plenty of
booze, and assuming we're still alive, we can do whatever you want."
"But of course.
Both are an integral part of any celebration." He grinned and seemed
to lean into Spike's side a little. Spike didn't mention it.
"So how far into
middle age have you made it then?" He glanced at Xander's waist with
another pointed smirk
He looked kind of
affronted. "You seem to be strangely fascinated with my figure, Spike.
You sure there's not something you want to tell me?" He raised an
eyebrow. Spike smiled at him slowly, chuckling inwardly at the blush creeping
up the boy's neck. It turned into a genuine grin at the elbow he received
to the ribs. Xander turned away with a wry smile. "Twenty-three.
It was last week, actually. Always seems to happen in the middle of apocalyptic
goings-on. We usually end up doing something at the end of summer."
Spike glanced at Xander
and frowned. He was surprised, and he wasn't sure, but he thought he felt
bad for the boy. Not that Xander seemed at all bothered, but he was fairly
sure that no one had remembered, quite apart from the fact that he'd had
his eye gouged out last week.
Xander sighed suddenly,
and Spike looked over. "Seems like longer, you know? Not long enough,
Spike nodded slowly.
"It's never enough, as long as you've got something to live for,"
he said quietly. He'd thought for a while that he'd lost that, but he
was starting to see that he'd just lost sight of it. All the things he'd
thought were the reason for his existence were gone. He was a vampire
who had no particular desire to be a vampire, and he hadn't really understood
how to fit himself into the world. He couldn't change that but the fact
was that even if he wasn't human, he was the next best thing. As a human,
as a man, there were other things he knew were worth dying for. And anything
that was worth dying for was worth living for, if he had the courage to
Xander was silent,
so Spike glanced over. For a second it was back, that soul deep weariness,
and suddenly Spike didn't want to see it. More than that, he wanted to
get rid of it. He felt, for a moment, a longing so profound it was almost
visceral, soul deep. But Xander squeezed his eye shut, and when he opened
it there was once again nothing to see. Then he smiled, and Spike understood
something else. Watching the play of emotions he understood that the cheerful
expression was more than just a shield. That the smile was just as real
as the pain, in the same way the hope was just as real as the despair.
That was simply Xander. It always had been.
"So, let's assume
we really are all going to die tomorrow, or later today. What's the one
thing you'd regret not doing?" Xander asked curiously.
Spike cocked his head
thoughtfully. "Got plenty of regrets but they're mostly for things
that I did do, not things I didn't."
"So there's nothing?
You've seen the world, done everything you want to do, been everywhere
you want to go, seen as much of history as you're interested in? There's
no one else you want to meet, nothing else you'd want to learn, do with
Spike frowned. "Well,
when you put it like that, I s'pose there's always something else, but
they're all just things. I might regret not doing them but if I don't
get to it's not the end of the world."
Xander gave an amused
snort. "I wouldn't count on it, but lets hope not."
Spike smirked. "I
know what you mean though, I guess. There are a million things I still
want to do, but it's mainly just 'cause they're there." Staring
absently out into the night, he spoke softly, "It's
the people you regret, I never really understood that. All the changes
I'd never get to see. Demons don't do that, generally. Change, I mean."
He heard Xander sigh
beside him. "Mmmm. You know, I think there's really only one thing
I want. I want to take us all to Disneyland." Spike glanced at him,
a slightly incredulous smirk appearing on his face. Xander chuckled and
ducked his head. "Well, maybe not Disneyland. I suppose it'd have
to be somewhere inside, come to think of it. You'd get pretty crispy if
we tried to cart you around an outdoor theme park. Maybe we could go ice
skating. Buffy would like that."
regret would be not taking everybody ice skating?" Spike asked, furiously
suppressing a smile.
Xander shot him a
wry sideways smirk. "One day. I want one day when all any of us have
to do is smile. When there's nothing to kill, no one trying to end the
world. Just one day when Buffy could forget about anything but being happy,
Willow didn't have to think about what she's done, keeping her power in
check. Giles wouldn't have to be a watcher, Dawnie could remember what
it means to be teenager. Faith, Anya, you
I can't change what's
happened, can't make any of it go away. But
one day isn't so much
to ask for."
Spike stared at him.
Part of him was disgusted by the naivety that could honestly expect something
like that ever to be possible. Such a simple thing. The sort most groups
of twenty-somethings probably did on a regular basis without a second
thought. Not so much to ask for, really. And at the same time the most
difficult thing he could have thought of. In what world would any of them
ever be able to let go of their past for that long, to forget about their
responsibility, their guilt, and just have fun?
spoke, he thought he could see it. Buffy smiling just because she was
happy. All of them. Not young but, "Free," he murmured. If there
was one thing worth living for, worth dying to ensure
right. That was it.
Xander quirked the
corner of his mouth up sadly but didn't say anything, and Spike understood
that the man wasn't being naive. He was just being Xander. Holding onto
this sliver of light in a darkened world because he couldn't bring himself
to do anything else.
It was beautiful.
They sat there for
a little while, not talking but more comfortable with each other than
Spike could ever remember. Eventually, though, Xander drew in a deep breath
and rolled his shoulders, glancing over at Spike with a small smile.
"We should probably
Firmly quashing the
niggle of disappointment that immediately appeared, Spike grunted his
agreement, pulling himself up easily a moment later, when Xander didn't
seem inclined to move. Then, looking down at Xander's upturned face, he
held his hand out in silent invitation. With a curious smile, Xander reached
out and took it. Spike was a little disturbed by how much of his brain
seemed to be stuck on soaking up the warmth emanating from that hand,
cataloguing the calluses, comparing the smooth skin of the wrist to the
roughness of the fingertips.
So when he pulled
Xander to his feet, he jerked a little too hard, and Xander ended up closer
than he'd expected. He was left staring close-quarters into one deep brown
eye that had somehow managed to open him up to a whole new world of strength
and meaning. That had shown him more of Xander than he had ever thought
to know, and a future unexpectedly filled with possibilities. He wondered
for a moment if Xander had any concept of what he'd given him.
He couldn't look away,
had no idea what Xander saw reflected in his face. But when he dropped
his eyes to the other man's lips, asking permission, telegraphing his
intention, he wasn't sure himself, a line appeared between the man's eyes,
but they weren't saying no.
And when he leaned
in those few inches and sealed his lips to Xander's the man didn't push
him away, didn't keep his eye open and his lips closed. Didn't object
at all to the gentle play of tongues or the hand that Spike couldn't keep
from the side his neck.
It was nothing like
kissing Buffy. Some distant part of his brain noted that he and Xander
were almost exactly the same height. He could go on kissing him forever
and never have to worry about getting a crick in his neck, which right
at that moment didn't seem like such a bad thing. His eyes slipped partway
shut as his mind focussed on more important things, like the feel of Xander's
chin rasping softly under his thumb and tickling the corners of his mouth,
the warmth of his mouth, his tongue, as it slipped past his lips and sent
shivers racing across the back of his neck.
Everything about Xander
was focussed. Buffy had always been passionate, overflowing with violent
energy as she moved under his hands. Xander was so still, in comparison,
but Spike knew what he was capable of, could feel the strength and the
excitement bubbling just below the surface. He took a moment to wonder
what it would take to break that control, and was a little shocked by
just how much he wanted to find out.
And when, despite
his acute reluctance, Spike pulled away, Xander didn't do anything but
smile. A slightly bemused smile, but then Spike supposed that was understandable.
He was feeling more than a little dazed himself. "Ok, and starting
to see what Buffy saw in you," Xander said absently, licking his
Spike felt another
smile bubbling up in his chest, and this time he couldnt stop it,
even knowing it would be reflected, sparkling, in his eyes. And he could
hear it in his voice when he said, "You're not so bad yourself, mate."
Xander flicked him
an amused look and raised an eyebrow that clearly said, 'and you expected
what?'. "So, you going to tell me what that was for?"
Spike shrugged, still
not able, or willing, to let the smile leave his face. He couldn't really
even explain it to himself. All he knew was that it had felt like
the future. Possibilities. "Happy Birthday?" he said eventually
with a wry smirk.
Xander seemed to relax
at that and gave him a genuine grin. "Should I be taking notes?"
"I wouldn't say
no," Spike raised an eyebrow suggestively, smiling.
"You're a fickle
vampire, my friend." He shook his head mock seriously. "Although,
I'm thinking I should have the girls talk to you about presents for our
Spike just smirked.
They made their way
back inside, but Xander stopped Spike before he could make his way back
down to the basement.
He reached out to
grasp Spike's shoulder, squeezing gently before letting go. "Thanks,
Spike. For everything."
He looked at Xander
and just smiled again. The answering grin lit up Xander's face and Spike
felt that tightening in his chest again. It felt good. "No problem,
mate. 'M glad I came along," he said softly.
"Me, too, Spike.
We should try to get some sleep. The hoards will be waking up soon."
Spike nodded, and Xander turned to go.
he called out quietly. Xander stopped and turned back, eyebrows raised.
"I won't only fight for Buffy."
Xander just nodded.
"Yeah. Me neither. The future's not something I want to miss. Any
of it. 'Night, Spike." He smiled one last time and disappeared up
Spike looked after
him for a moment. Then he turned and made his way back to his basement.