Pairing: Spander. Spike. And Xander.
Disclaimer: if BtVS were mine.. it would be a fucking mess and I'd never finish an episode :D
Summary: 1500 words composed in the fine tradition of mourning what you've got.
Rating: PG probably
A Note: I was working on RaPH, I promise I was!... and this took over. Had to get the depressing shit out of the way to work on... completely different depressing shit. This is pure, unmitigated angst. I have no idea what possessed me, but I think I was thinking about "J. Alfred Prufrock" and Nell from Endgame. Which probably says more about me than I'd like.
Feedback: Yes. [Yes!Yes!Yes!...]
The cast on his arm itched furiously, and his girlfriend had run screaming towards Los Angeles in the aftermath of the last… whatever. Xander almost didn’t care. It wasn’t as though he didn’t appreciate Cordelia’s company when she wasn’t sharpening her claws on him, but he was exhausted and despairing after fruitless weeks of searching out a Slayer who didn’t want to be found, and if she wanted to spend daddy’s money to soak in cleansing mud, then that was her outlook. Xander would’ve settled for a hot shower without having to tape crinkling plastic over the cast.
It was better than Willow, at least, with three stitches in her forehead and a complete inability to remember the three days leading up to Buffy’s disappearance. Though Xander imagined he would have paid a lot of money to have some of his memories removed. Drusilla, licking her fingernails clean while Kendra clutched futilely at her throat, trying to keep the ragged edges together. Giles, his fingers wrinkled in a way that made Xander’s stomach lurch to think about, arms pock-marked by cigarette burns. Even Spike, shooting one last glance over his shoulder in the dark blue pre-dawn, was an image he would like to erase. An experience he could have lived without. Because the vampire was smirking, girl of his dreams draped elegantly between his arms while Xander was hunched, straining for air under the weight of his high school librarian who was heavy and feverish, incapable of walking under his own power and breathing hot shallow little puffs of air across Xander’s neck.
Xander could smell the blood and the acrid smoke that was clinging to Giles’ sweater. Felt the dust he had kicked up in the old mansion clinging to the sweat that was beading across his neck and chest. And he wished he could forget that moment. Forget the cautious relief that he’d escaped the vampires’ notice, forget the stupid chirping of birds pre-emptively greeting the sun, forget that it wasn’t revulsion or fear that darted through him at the sight of that smirk. It was hatred, absolute and bursting through him like an exploding star, envy and anger tied in knots so fierce that he was paralyzed.
And it wasn’t until after the Desoto had roared away and Giles was wheezing across his back that he could move again. Xander would love to have forgotten, would happily take a head-wound over a stupid broken wrist, an itchy cast, and an absent girlfriend. Because the hatred was nothing new, but he couldn’t stop himself thinking, in that frozen moment, that if he were going to live forever, if he were going to stay young for eternity, that maybe he would walk away too. Have an adventure. Get lost in a jungle. But he isn’t, and he won’t, and he knows it every time he has to scratch. So instead he picked up his librarian, and got on with the business of living, and wishes he had never thought.
In the morning he’s got to go back.
In the morning, when the light creeps up over the row of houses on the east side of the street, he’ll have to leave. The thought of it spears him with anxiety, panic eating at his stomach and he grips tightly, catching a bony wrist and holding on. Its owner spares him a strange look, and he can’t help but smile, pushing away the sun for as long as it will stay.
He shakes his head, kissing the wrist he so thoughtlessly grasped at, turning and tugging to feel the smooth skin against the side of his face, before drawing Spike in, cool and smooth and his for the evening. He couldn’t explain it if he tried, and doesn’t want to waste what little time he’s got. But somewhere in the back of his mind, crouched, unpleasantly slimy and cold, there’s the knowledge that time won’t run on forever. That when the sun comes up the world will end with him in it, and it makes every touch, every heart beat, that much more. Sacred. This space is sacred, and he’s not about to desecrate it by pointless explanation.
It’s a very special kind of hell.
And that’s a command his vampire understands, letting himself be pulled in closer. Xander’s fingers skate under the thin cotton of Spike’s t-shirt, and it doesn’t matter that he’s shattering a quiet moment, doesn’t matter that he’s dragging Spike away from the plot of whatever it was they were watching – Xander felt like he lost the plot a million years ago, and Spike is more than willing to be dragged. Under his fingers, Spike’s ribs are smooth braille ridges of muscle and bone to be read at his leisure. His skin is unearthly perfect; cool and solid, and Xander worries that it’s going to melt, but it never has, and when the vampire presses their mouths together, it’s just what he needs, and finally enough. But he never really forgets, and the knowledge is always there, tempering each lingering moment with the knowledge of its passing. Each silky, perfect, ragged touch is one he’ll never have again.
It’s a special kind of heaven too.
He loves watching Spike breathe for no reason at all, inhaling each other, melting in a contented lassitude that Xander, though he has tried, has never been able to mimic. The hand resting gently against the nape of his neck rubs gently, soothing until he wants to cry. “What’s wrong, love?”
“I have to leave in the morning.”
Spike makes an unhappy noise, presses his sharp face against Xander’s arm like a brand. “You’ll come back.”
He wants to stay. Never wants to leave. But he feels reality calling for him, feels the sunrise creeping up over the horizon and, moment by moment, peeling away shards of peace. He wants to tell Spike, wants to ask the vampire to save him, keep him. But this time is sacred.
It wasn’t like the movies. There weren’t any beeping noises, and the panel of buttons on the wall looked like they hadn’t been pushed in years, but there was a faint whirr-click noise every few seconds. Whirr-click of something counting time and breaths for him, as if they were precious. He never imagined he would get this old. Never imagined how uncomfortable it would be to simply breathe, feel his lungs failing to expand against his ribs, and it wasn’t the worst hurt in his long life, but he knew it would probably be the last. Spike held his hand.
“Do you remember that time outside Bangladesh…” Spike had been holding his hand for weeks. His crepe-paper forearm a painful contrast in the grip of Spike’s perfect, square fingers. Arthritis had taken the strength from his hands years ago, left them swollen and painful in the aftermath of hard labor and countless broken fingers. Spike hadn’t seemed to mind, but Xander felt it with every touch. And as the recounted tale washed over him, the details felt lost in a haze of laughter and sunshine, brassy warm orange and spice that wrapped around him, all that he remembered clearly was that, once, Spike’s sentences had not begun with “Do you remember?”
“I’m sorry…” He said painfully, and not because he couldn’t remember Bangladesh. Spike looked… gutted. Worse than when Buffy died for the last time, worse than the time their home had gone up in flames and taken their cat with it. Worse than anything. Worst.
“Nothin’ to be sorry for, love.”
“But I love you.” Spike’s smile was perfect and mischievous, and Xander knew now that it was everything he’d ever wanted, knew that at any moment Spike was going to say something smart-assed, and kiss his fingers like he’d done a thousand times before. And Xander wanted to let him. “And I’m dying. And I never let you turn me.”
The smile vanished under the pull of agony – Xander wished it were that ripping him apart instead of the burning in his chest. Spike’s voice was nearly as hoarse as his was, his face infinitely old: “You wouldn’t have wanted that.”
“From the first moment I saw you…” Xander had wanted. Had longed so fiercely it was nearly certainty for his life to end in blood, end with teeth and somehow it had gone wrong. “I wanted you to.”
“You never said.” He thought he’d run out of surprises long ago, but there was no satisfaction in this. Spike was angry, “You’d have let me? All this time…?”
“I’m sorry.” Xander was always going to have let him, and he was always waiting for the right moment. Just after this next apocalypse, after the pipes were fixed, and the cat’s next vet. appointment. Always an after, and he waited for his moment. Waited and never said while his vampire – his person – got younger and younger and farther away.
And it was far too late. “But I love you.”
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