Between Blinks

Off Suit

Week one
Stepping further into the gloom of his basement home at 2am the quiet hit him with the force of a piano dropped out a ten story window. 
The disbelief was hard to dispel, even as he searched every nook and cranny of the small space. The search was unnecessary; he’d known from the second he opened the door there was no one there. Still, he felt compelled to look.
Disbelief slowly turned into irritation. Now that he was certain there was no one here, he was sure one blond pain-in-his-ass would come stumbling in at some stupid hour and wake him up.

Week two
He celebrated with a Star Trek marathon, sprawling on his couch in nothing but boxers. Even did a little dance of finally-got-the-place-to-myself-again-joy. Then realised, even alone, he felt stupid doing it, so settled in to watch more Trek. 
He did wonder briefly what had happened to his former roommate. Then decided the blond must have either wised up and left town, or remained his usual cocky self and got dusted. Either way, Xander was happy for the space. 

Week three
The move into his own place had been a good one, or so he kept telling himself. 
At some point he’d started leaving the TV on, preferring the drone of late night infomercials and canned laughter to the quiet that had stopped being pleasant and had started leaving with a tension he couldn’t explain. 
He joined Sunnydale’s only gym, more to give himself an excuse not to come home until he was exhausted and didn’t notice the sense of something missing than anything else. 

Week four
He asks the question casually, doesn’t really care about the answer, just wants to make sure a certain blond isn’t going to show up and start kidnapping him for love spells and apocalypses all over again. 
Almost believes his own lies.

Week five
Shouldn’t have thought of apocalypses. Because, sure as losing a sock in the dryer, one pops up right on cue. Humans this time - playing with things they couldn’t hope to understand. Thinking it’s all a joke and the demon they raise is only there to grant them their three wishes. 
Their honest belief that it would go back into it’s metaphorical bottle just because they told it to was almost funny.
And people thought he was an idiot. 

Week six
A month and a half of freedom. He quips that he really should have some sort of celebration. Ignores the fact that the comment felt a little flat.
He had the TV on constantly now. Tells himself it’s so people think someone is awake, even when he’s out or sleeping. Doesn’t bother trying to convince himself the lie is true. 
He shoves the thought that something (someone) is missing into the corner of his mind normally saved for the reason he used to sleep outside on Christmas Eve and sometimes went to primary school without lunch. 
Goes right back to denial and ignorance like they’re old friends. Decides they are.

Week seven
It’s not an apocalypse this time, just a demon. A seven foot tall demon with claws the size of his forearm, but still, he’s thankful it’s not an apocalypse. 
That is, until one of those claws catch him; drawing a neat line of blood from the hollow of his throat down to his stomach.
It’s not quite deep enough to need real stitches, and he prefers Giles playing doctor with antiseptic and gauze to the hospital. 
He resolves to ignore anything related to immortality. He’s not immortal, not even close, and he needs to remember that sometimes. 

Week eight
Work, gym, patrol.
He attempts to sleep in on Saturday. He’s back at the gym by 8am.
Goes back to old friends:
Denial and ignorance. 

Week nine
Gym, work, gym, patrol.
When the girls comment on his changing physique he wonders if he should cut back on the amount of time he spends at the gym. Tries it for a day and realises that he’ll go insane with all the spare time. Decides he prefers the occasional comments from Willow and Buffy to the time otherwise spent at home, staring at the TV he hasn’t turned off in weeks. 
Denial and ignorance leave him for someone slightly less co-dependent. He understands, and it’s an amicable breakup.

Week ten
Without denial and ignorance he finds himself face to face with uncomfortable truth. It doesn’t take long before he decides they could never really work well together. Raw truth  makes his skin itch. 
He tries to ignore it for a time. Ends up staring at his ceiling at 3am, the itch under his skin still there. 

Week eleven
He finds that 3am may not be the best time to be lying in bed staring at the ceiling, but it’s an excellent time to look for someone in demon bars. 
It’s late enough by both human and demon standards that there’s a lassitude of everyone around him. A willingness to accommodate the silly human who’s nowhere near where he should be. He’s fairly certain the time is the only reason he’s not a smear on a wall somewhere. Well, the time, and the number of drinks he’s bought for demons whose names he can’t even pronounce.
But even the time, and the alcohol, can only do so much, and there’s nothing new to be found. They all say the same thing, though some slur more than others; haven’t seen him in weeks. 

Week twelve
He feels the time passing like a pressure between his shoulders. 
There are times he notices the love of his pseudo-family as a physical thing. When he mentions his worry and fruitless searching he sees it as a soft glow surrounding them all. There will be questions later, but for now they accept his concern and move as one.

Week thirteen
There is a feeling just out of reach. He can’t describe it accurately, but he knows they all feel it. 
He considers for a moment, with uncomfortable truth sticking to him like a burr, that they are searching for something that no longer exists. Stubbornness outweighs it and they throw themselves headlong into the search again. 
By the end of the week the weight of time passed is so heavy he feels like he can barely stand. He knows the city better now than he ever has. Knows it’s hidden corners, it’s soft belly. And would give it up again if he could just find what he was looking for. 

Week fourteen
They are all beyond tired. He can see the dark circles under their eyes and loves them just a little more for the single-minded determination they all carry, purely because he asked them to. 
There are maps and city plans strewn like the remnants of a battlefield over every flat surface. Collecting the papers slowly he tells them all to go home, ignoring the increasingly urgent strain of another day between his shoulder blades. 
It’s almost dawn by the time he gets himself home, having dropped the two girls off first. He’s tired, so tired, but still considers going to the gym. He enjoys the simplicity of it, the push-pull of muscles. Finds it calms him the way he assumes meditation is supposed to but never has. 
It’s a half-thought to go once he’s gotten some sleep instead and he’s almost on top of the pile of rags barely visible in the pre-dawn light before he realises it’s even there. 
Recognition slaps him so hard he rocks back before falling to his knees beside the bundle. Touching the bleached tip of hair clumpy with dirt and other things he doesn’t want to think about he draws a sharp breath. 
It was only when the first wisps of smoke began to threaten in the quickly brightening hallway that he moved. Shouldering the door open with more force than finesse, he considered the best way to get his rather flammable guest inside. 
Deciding on the direct approach he picked up the bundle of rags the vampire had become and walked straight to the bathroom - the only room in the apartment without windows. Placing the other man carefully in the bath he left long enough to make sure all the curtains were closed before staring at his comatose guest. 
Letting go of the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding, he stopped at the sudden quiet. Without realising it he had shut the TV off on his sweep through the apartment.

The End