Who Wants to Live Forever
Xander woke the next morning in a puddle of drool. He had actually managed to get himself into his bed and under the covers. He lay on his stomach, his face pressed down into the damp pillow, with the taste of dead weasel in his mouth and the most delicious lassitude swimming through the rest of his body.
Xander stretched and wriggled on the bed. He hadn’t felt this limp and relaxed in weeks. Even the hangover-that-eats-your-brain, that he could feel growing just behind his right ear, could not kill the wonderful feeling of satisfaction. He eased himself sideways out of bed with the expertise grown of countless morning afters. The longer he avoided sudden changes in altitude or rapid movement of the head, the longer he could avoid the pain that was sure to come. He sat gingerly on the side of the bed and realized happily that he was hungry, really hungry, for the first time in a long time as well.
Xander was shuffling around the kitchen, trying to pull toast out of the toaster without letting it pop up, when he remembered. He sat down with a thud at the table and stared sightlessly at the piece of bread in his hand, while the hangover rushed up into his brain and kicked a sudden violent spin of nausea through him. “Goddammit,” he whispered tearfully. He lay his head on his arms and felt, pathetically, that he had been made to lose some important battle. He knew how hard he had tried to resist this madness. He had really, really tried and it made him want to cry that, once again, Xander Harris had failed himself.
In his mind’s eye, Xander saw the events of the evening as a mutual fall from grace. Spike’s responses, Spike’s touch, his hand clasping Xander’s shoulder. The way Spike would look in his eyes when he laughed. The caressing way Spike would sometimes say his name. The obvious pleasure Spike had taken in the act in the alleyway. It was apparent to Xander now that the vampire was not averse to the sex. If anything he may have helped instigate it. And though Xander knew that he himself was a sick fuck, he couldn’t help but feel that he had been seduced. That Spike had seen his weakness and taken advantage. It made him feel sick and tired and betrayed.
By the time Xander had struggled through a shower and into his clothes, he had worked out his emotions a bit. He wasn’t angry at Spike, of course, but he could see now that he, Xander, was the one who would have to forcibly take the moral high ground. He would have to exert control over this thing and not let it happen again.
“Mr. Giles, I know that that Spike creature can be useful,” Maurice said carefully, “but don’t you think it might be confusing to Brandy, at this phase of her training, to have a demon present in her environment so often?”
Giles raised an eyebrow and looked at Maurice appraisingly. “That’s a good point, Maurice,” he said. Maurice tried not to think that the older watcher looked surprised. “Perhaps we should plan Spike’s participation with a little more intelligence,” Giles continued thoughtfully, “you are absolutely right. You want Brandy’s instinctive awareness of demons to be sharpened.” Giles slowly placed a book on the shelf. “Buffy used to train with Spike,” he suggested.
“Surely not!” Maurice was horrified. “How could you trust your Slayer with a demon with a reputation for killing Slayers?”
“Well,” Giles nodded, “it’s true that Buffy could beat him, so there was no need for worry there. But the soul, Maurice, does exert a significant influence.” He looked towards the other man meaningfully. “I can see the difference, Maurice. He is not just a vampire anymore.”
Maurice was uncomfortable with the conversation on so many levels. He didn’t like just how many ‘suggestions’ Giles had for him of late. He didn’t like the Watcher suggesting he put his child in danger, of any magnitude. And he especially didn’t like the implication that Brandy was somehow less adequate than she should be. While he had the greatest admiration and respect for Elizabeth Summers’ life and accomplishments, he had had just about all he could stand of her apparent deification.
The door swung open just then, and Maurice noted irritably that it was yet another Buffy Summers ‘remnant’. The Harris boy, whom he could see absolutely no good use for, except as some kind of day laborer with a handy knowledge of weaponry, was carefully shutting the door behind him. He was wearing very dark sunglasses and a wildly colored shirt. He looked ridiculous.
“Hey Giles,” Xander said softly, “you seen Willow around?”
“No, Xander. I imagine she’s at the library today. She has another paper to present soon.”
“Yeah. Library. Good,” said Xander and turned to slink out.
“Can I give her a message if I see her?” Giles offered.
“Yeah.” Xander laughed softly, then winced. “Tell her Xan’s looking for summa that ‘hair of the dog’ stuff she whipped up last time.”
Giles smiled sympathetically. “Not again?”
“’Fraid so.” Xander made to leave.
“Oh, Xander.” Giles stopped him. “Would you do me a favor on your way over there?”
“Not a hundred percent here just now G-man,” said Xander with a sigh.
“Surely one stop on the way. I haven’t time. And you obviously have plenty of time to kill.”
“Hey!” Then Xander shrugged. “Yeah. Okay. What is it?”
“I need someone to take this book over to Spike.”
When Spike was still recovering from his self-immolation in the crypt, Dawn had offered him a room in her own home. After Buffy’s death, Dawn felt her house was empty and chill and filled with ghosts. She hated coming home at night. She would have sold the house, but the real estate market in Sunnydale was never a booming concern. She gave Spike what had been her mother’s room because it faced north, and so was the darkest. Permanent blackout sealed off the windows, and only a recessed balcony door remained. Joyce’s bed and small dresser were the only pieces of furniture still left in the room, and Spike had never added anything. A handed down boom box sat on the floor near the fireplace. He would sit on the floor, flicking ash into the grate, listening to his punk cd collection. After a week, Dawn had bought him a pair of headphones. The empty, dark room suited Spike, and he would never tell Dawn, but he could still smell Joyce if he buried his head into the mattress and concentrated. The smell comforted him immensely.
Spike lay on the bed now, and tried to sleep. He had promised to help Giles this evening and needed to rest before sunset. But his body was humming and his mind was filled with euphoria. He couldn’t settle down. He had had hours to think about what had happened between he and Xander and was alternately joyful and terrified. His experience with Buffy had taught him that the way a human behaved before and during sex was supposed to mean nothing, if after sex they told you it had not. But Buffy had never said she loved him, and last night Xander had said it over and over again. Spike told himself that Xander’s chill behavior afterwards was probably just the alcohol. He successfully ignored the feeling in his gut suggesting that maybe the other behaviors had been the alcohol as well.
Spike heard the door open downstairs, and someone much heavier than Dawn walk in. He slid out of bed and eased down the hallway, expertly avoiding the shafts of sunlight coming through the open bedroom doors. From the top of the stairs he saw Xander’s feet. Then Xander’s hand and arm as he turned into the living room. Spike felt a huge rush of excitement and happiness. He was down the stairs faster than a little boy on Christmas morning.
Xander spun around with a start. He had hoped to slide in and out during the daytime and avoid this. “Huh,” he said, “I should have known those pointy little bat ears would hear me.”
Spike sashayed towards him. “See you’re wearing the shirt of death,” he said grinning. “Can’t just suffer alone, can ya Harris? Ya gotta punish the whole world when you’ve gotta hangover.” He slid into Xander’s personal space and made to put an arm around him.
Xander turned out of the attempted embrace, ostensibly to put the book down, then with seeming casualness, walked away from Spike towards the window. “Yeah. Christ,” he laughed, “I think my blood alcohol level last night musta been around 102%. I can’t even remember what we did after I beat your ass at pool.”
Spike regarded Xander standing unreachable in a pool of sunlight. He felt a great wash of the unreality that comes just before huge emotional pain. He made his mouth say something, “Beat my ass, you wanker?” and attempted a derisive snort, but couldn’t get his heart into it. “Xander,” he began tiredly. Then just shook his head.
“Well, gotta scoot.” Xander made a dash for the door.
“Xander, wait.” Spike couldn’t let it go like this. Xander opened the door and stood in the sunlight, waiting with obvious impatience for him to continue. “We need to talk about something, Xan,” Spike begged.
“Yeah, well it’s gotta wait, Spike. Really, really want to talk, but I’ve got stuff.” Xander bolted before Spike could say another word. He hurried down the sidewalk with the air of a man who had narrowly escaped disaster.
Spike watched him go, then trudged back up the stairs to his room. He lay down spread eagled on his stomach on the bed and buried his face in the mattress, inhaling hard, trying to smell Joyce, trying to remember his dead, trying not to think of anything alive at all.
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