Rating: PG
Notes: The soundtrack to this one-shot is Cosmic Dancer, by T Rex.

Summary: Xander is dying and Spike wants to dance. Futurefic.


Nasty Shrew

“Dance,” the challenge was issued, slicing into the night. Deep drag of his cigarette, smoke moving about his head, fading his edges, only just visible in the dim light cast by the streetlamps. “Let’s dance,” he repeated, slight wince at the sting of sweat trickling over the cut on his lip. The air smelt like petrol and rain but all he could smell was the smoke in his fag and the hot copper tang in his mouth.

“You’re insane,” the other man replied, incredulous stare as he shoved his hands in his pockets, felt the dry rasp of the cold scratch his throat. He wasn’t used to the bone deep cold London was so famous for – body still counting on the enveloping warmth of the Californian sun.

“So are you,” Spike reasoned, sudden grin, teeth tainted pink with blood – his, for once. “So why not dance?”

“Because I’m bleeding, because I don’t feel like making an ass of myself by jigging around on the sidewalk at 3am and because there’s no music to dance to … should I go on?” Xander said, sharp ragged cough ripping the edges of his words, malignant monster that didn’t care whether he wanted to die or not.

“You’ve survived worse, it’s a pavement you yankee moron and since when have we required music to dance?” the reply was harsh, bordering on hurt. Xander held his hand out, beckoning. Spike didn’t misunderstand or misconstrue - handed over his cigarette without a word and leant against the grimy brick wall. They pretended they weren’t disappointed because that was what they did. Had always done.

“You’re serious?” Xander asked after a beat, look so thoughtful he could almost pass for a scholar – glasses, white shirt, neat black trousers. But the glasses were cracked, his shirt stained with blood and his trousers were slung low about his lips, belt lost in the fight. So, perhaps more like an expelled scholar.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” the answer was slightly mocking, Spike shifting so that his arms were crossed over his chest as he stared up at the moon - defiant boy with unruly curls and a leather coat that didn’t fit.

“Alright,” Xander heard himself say, hiss that’s lost the biting wind when he drops the cigarette into a puddle and takes a step forward. Spike’s gaze snaps downwards, back to the man with ash white spikes and the coat of a woman he killed. Xander was only just starting to realise that this was the same person as the boy he’d seen moments before – man, boy, vampire – meshed into the person before him. Spike took his left hand, and held it tight, used his right arm to wrap around Xander’s waist and began to sway.

“Can you hear it?” he asked, forced breath that wasn’t warm by Xander’s ear, the only other sound was their boots sloshing in dirty water and the distant wail of sirens.

“What? The police cars?” voice too loud, slight stumble over an uneven slab, awkward and feeling out of his element. Of course he was out of his element – to be in one’s element, they should be on their own turf. Xander’s turf was currently a giant hole in the ground.

“No. Something else,” Spike said, words flowing into the rain and petrol as though he was part of the city rather than being an intruder to it like Xander was.

“I’m dying,” Xander replied, as though that were the answer even though he knew it wasn’t. Spike’s movements paused, his fingers tightened so that it nearly hurt. “Lung cancer,” he added, and right on cue he felt his chest spasm and words were lost to the ice hacking at his throat.

“Bloody ironic. You always told me off about smoking,” Spike muttered after a while, resting his head on Xander’s shoulder as though he had a right to. Xander hated this – hated that Spike was giving him a reason to want to stay though he’d made his amends already. Left all the girls with kisses and smiles, left Giles with a bottle of scotch and a quiet nod of approval. Everything was left as he wanted it, everything was prepared. He hadn’t asked for this, to bump into the last person he’d wanted to see and have … this happen. He didn’t want to leave this particular loose end. He didn’t want to leave Spike at all – which was a bit of a bitch because it looked rather unavoidable.

“I came to settle things before … they don’t know,” Xander told him, bubbles in his throat as he took another breath.

“Love you,” Spike replied, another answer to a question that hadn’t been asked and my they were getting good at this ‘random statement’ thing. Xander shoved him away roughly, turned to lean on a lamp post and listen to the quiet bubbling, the climbing crimson in his chest.

“Timing was never really your thing, was it?” and there was no mistaking the bitter edge to his voice now, no attempt to veil his anger.

“Love waits not for one man’s senses,” Spike replied, snatch of an accent that didn’t sound like his. Something crisp and measured, everything he wasn’t.

“Shakespeare?” he asked, mostly because he was the only poet Xander could name. Intelligence had never been his forte.

“Bloody,” Spike replied, wry grin Xander couldn’t see staining his voice. “Possibly the only line I ever wrote that didn’t contain word with at least three syllables,” he added, an admission of sorts that seemed to be dragged from him.

“I once wrote a love poem to Sheila Henderson in 5th grade. I think it had the word ‘booger’ in it,” Xander replied, feeling of accomplishment when he heard the soft snort behind him.

“I used the word ‘effulgent’. I win,” Spike said, moving so he leaned at Xander’s side, their shoulders brushing. Out of the corner of his eye Xander could see Spike’s hair near glowing in the strange mixture of unnatural light and the grey cast of shadows from the moon - and yet, he’d never looked more human. Spike turned, caught his gaze.

“I’m dying, Spike,” he said suddenly, odd amount of shock in the words as he’d known for some time. Way to kill the mood, Harris.

“I’m dead. Been dead twice so far. S’not so bad,” Spike replied, slight shrug of his shoulder and a tight smile. Xander shut his eyes, felt his head meet the metal with a dull thud and felt like the cold was eating him alive.

“Wanna keep me company until I join the Corpse Club?” Xander asked, moment of levity he tried too hard to achieve almost managing to cover the shake of his hands, the shudder that ran through his body.

“Planning on it,” Spike said, slight inclination of his head. He grabbed Xander’s hand, tugged him a little.

“Dawn’s not for ages yet. Dance with me?” he asked, already pulling Xander closer.

“I can’t hear the music,” Xander replied, though he didn’t move away.

“That’s ‘cause you’re the music,” Spike replied, defiantly unapologetic when Xander laughed and coughed, eyebrow raised. Spike pushed his lips forward, tasted deep earth blood tinged with disease. He forgot to keep dancing.

The air smelt like petrol and rain and the puddles of foul water beneath their feet sloshed over their shoes – but for once, neither noticed.

The End

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