The Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Disclaimer: BtVS does not belong to the Jelly. She would pity herself, but it's easier to be envious of so few than pity herself among so many that don't own BtVS.
Summary: Meaning what you say isn't always saying what you mean. Possibly fluff.
Warnings: The title may be slightly pretentious for the actual concept. Sorry. Also, this is unedited. it was a 2am fancy and I'm too lazy to bother with much more than a spell-check. Warnings for falling sappiness, sadly, not of the maple variety. It's what I'd call 'fluff fic' with an odd venue.
Xander Harris was familiar with the concept of an argument before he knew the word. By the time he was seventeen he was pretty sure he was an expert
When he was a little boy he used to lie in his bed with a pillow over his head and listen to his parents yell at each other all of the things they couldn’t say around their son. He used to think that if he was still enough, kept quiet enough, that they wouldn’t mind him accidentally listening. Xander got his ears boxed when he asked his father what a ‘bitch’ was and why mom said Grandma Marilyn was one. [“He’s the only reason I haven’t walked out you stupid son-of-a-bitch!” “Yeah yeah, no kid deserves a broken home, blah blah blah, poor Jess, her life’s so hard…”] After that, he stopped accidentally listening
Later, Xander learned nuances. He figured out that when Willow and Jesse picked fights and bickered with each other it was because they were bored, not mad. He learned that sometimes people weren’t as honestly loathsome as his parents and that sometimes “God, you can be so stupid!” really meant “I want to see you in the broom closet, five minutes from now.” In a bizarre way he figured out that (at least with Cordelia Chase) sometimes lust and irritation weren’t that far removed.
He learned from Buffy and Angel that “You can’t do this alone!” meant “I feel vulnerable, please let me protect you.”
His father taught him that “You’ve changed” really meant, “I don’t love you.” And his mother’s inevitable response: “It’s a weekly thing, so you’ll have to fend for yourselves for dinner on Thursday nights” could mean “I wish I could leave you.”
So when Giles and Buffy bickered it really meant “Please don’t get yourself killed” and when Willow snapped at him for needing to grow up he didn’t get offended because what she meant was “I’m afraid we’re all growing away.”
He’d had his share of in-fighting, god knew, and was adept at reading everyone else’s, but one night, walking home from an almost-disaster Xander witnessed another argument that made him think he had more to learn.
He caught the sounds of a fight and, like the idiot he was, went to investigate – ‘a fight’ was an understatement because that night Xander witnessed a full-out brawl perpetrated by two master vampires in a public park, complete with kicking, clawing, growling, and the occasional groining. He would never be able to explain why he’d stuck around to watch two people try to tear each other apart, but for all their vaunted vampire senses, Spike and Angel hadn’t caught him out at it, or if they had neither mentioned it. Xander watched with awe, he cringed with sympathy, and he tried not to breathe at all of the appropriate interludes; finally, when the fighting stopped and both nightmares stood away from each other panting and tired, Xander realized that neither one was holding a stake, and that he’d just witnessed a sort of long-standing family thing. Like the vampire version of his mother and his aunt Muriel every Thanksgiving having the traditional “I’ve had too many drinks” row.
This was more accidental listening and he wouldn’t have given it much thought except that Spike was evil and Angel was supposed to be less-so, but a family fight meant… well, family. And Xander watched, wary and confused as Spike lit up and Angel asked “How’s Dru?”
“Crazy.” The blonde snorted smoke out through his nose and rolled his eyes, “Misses you, which, in my opinion makes her bloody insane.”
“She always was a little nuts,” Angel replied woodenly.
“Oh don’t you start.” The blonde spat out with surprising vehemence and a cloud of smoke, “Don’t you fucking dare. You apologize for what you made her and I spend a week picking up the pieces, fucking wanker. Not lettin’ you do it again.”
“I feel… guilty for what I did to her.” Angel said, and it had always annoyed Xander beyond measure that he opened himself up to being a doormat – passive and waiting for someone to trip over him.
“As well you should, but go be guilty somewhere else. She doesn’t need you.”
“It wasn’t my fault I got a soul, Spike.”
“No, but it is your fault you’re such an ass about it.”
“You should leave town, Spike. Take Dru and get out of here.” Angel turned to walk away, limping slightly which should have been satisfactory for someone in the universe but seemed a little sad to Xander.
“A hundred years ago,” Spike called at his retreating coat before he cleared the swing-set, and Angel turned around, eyebrows drawn up in surprise. “Before you were an over-grown comic-book character I mean…” the younger vampire clarified, “If we’d known how to lift the curse, would you have let us?”
Angel… did something that Xander could never forgive him for. He smiled, the most gentle, serene smile Xander had ever seen on him [if he were going to be fair, it was the only smile Xander had ever seen on Angel, but he was never inclined to be fair], and Xander felt suddenly, uncomfortably, like an interloper on a private rendezvous. Angel smiled in a way that Xander had never seen before from anyone, he smiled in a way that made the word seem inane and the expression behind it heart-stopping, and he’d smiled at Spike. It suddenly occurred to the then-teenager that Spike was a man that had been loved, and loved deeply – was still, in a bizarre sort of way, adored. He learned very suddenly that “I hate you” sometimes meant “I love you” or “I’m sorry.” And that Angel was lying through his teeth when he said: “I don’t have an answer for that.”
“That’s because you’re an indecisive, fucking meathead with your head so far up the Slayer’s ass that if she sneezed, she’d decapitate you.”
In the days that followed Xander replayed that argument again and again – he couldn’t get his mind away from it. Spike, who had been loved, Angel, who had never smiled at Buffy that way [Because when Angel said “I love you” to Buffy, what he meant was “I need you so I can feel human”] – and words he understood but meanings that were lost on him. He wondered, in an idly obsessive sort of way if “How’s Dru?” had meant “I want my family back” and if “It’s not my fault I got a soul” and “But it’s your fault you’re such an ass about it” really meant “I’m sorry” and “I hate you for leaving me.”
But eventually [When Angel and his soul were gone, Spike and Dru had blown town, and he had more important things on his mind like Willow in formal wear and Cordelia wearing his balls for earrings] Xander stopped thinking about it. He figured a vampire, dead for over a hundred years, could say what he meant and mean what he said, and he let the whole thing slip away from his mind, but he never forgot the smile. He wished, fervently, that someone could someday smile at him, that he would be loved enough to inspire that gentle expression of genuine affection even in the middle of a decades old fight. The thought was almost always inexplicably followed by a bizarre and ardent prayer that whoever smiled at him, it wouldn’t be Angel.
It wasn’t. It wasn’t until years after Xander had forgotten the whole incident and found himself covered in lime-green demon goop that he got what he’d forgotten he’d wanted.
They weren’t arguing, exactly – hardly even official bickering, but Xander said “If you get demon-slime on my couch you’re the one cleaning it up, and please don’t leave a blood ring on my coffee table, either.”
“I’m not a bloody house-maid.” Was the off-hand response while Spike got radioactive looking ichor on the couch, slopped blood on the coffee table, and flipped through channels.
“You’re not a house-guest, either, wonder-vamp.” Xander smeared demon-remains on the couch too, but it was his couch. “Some pitching in might be nice.”
“I killed that demon, tonight. Saved your hide,” Spike defended himself, “That’s pitching in.”
“Spike… that’s like asking Buffy to pitch in by cornering Riley all evening – you’d’ve done it whether I was…”
“Screaming like a little girl for me to save you?”
“Or not.” Xander finished with a glower. He hadn’t been screaming – much. “All I’m saying is… I keep you in blood and Marlboro’s, bought you blackout curtains, and I always let you have the shower first, a little reciprocity wouldn’t go amiss.”
“Reciprocity!” Spike whistled, “You steal the watcher’s dictionary again?”
“Hey! I can use grownup words too, dickface,” Which, once out of his mouth was much more ‘funny’ than ‘offended’ and Xander laughed at himself. Spike laughed at him too, but that was neither here nor there. Then, when the funny wore off and he once again realized that he was tired, sore, frustrated, and starting to itch from the demon blood, Xander sighed, wanting to avoid actual confrontation. “Look, I need a shower.”
“I thought I always got the shower first?” Spike said a little snidely, immediately prompting a glower from Xander, who wasn’t expecting the gentle, affectionate half-smile tugging at Spike’s mouth.
Gobsmacked, and absurdly grinning so hard his face hurt and Spike was looking at him funny, he conceded “For once, keep your wet towels off the floor.”
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