Characters: Xander, Spike
Warnings: Gen - I know, shocking isn't it! Oh and some swearing.
Disclaimer: Joss and Mutant Enemy et al, own everything. I own nothing.
Summary: Xander takes a detour to the seven eleven near his work and regrets it
Comments and feedback are cuddled and called George
Beta extraordinaire: thismaz Any cock ups post beta are entirely my fault!
Written for 2014 fall_for_sx
The title of this is respectively nicked from the song of the same name by OMD, although this is not a song fic, but thinking about the title sparked this off in my fevered little brain.

This is for baudown because we were talking a few months ago that it had been a long time since I'd written anything a little bit dark. I hope this fits the bill.

I think it's my day at fall_for_sx, so here's this year's little ficlet. Huge thanks as ever to skargasm and theladymerlin for taking time out of their busy RL to keep the community going.

Red Frame, White Light


Work had run long on the site at the next town over, trying to make up for lost time from the storm the day before. The rain had stopped, but the wind still lifted the edge of the tarp covering the load of new lumber, making it flap like a giant raptor planning its flight. Xander pulled the collar of his jacket up higher and squinted at his watch. "Shit," he muttered. "Going to be late for the research party again." He paused, one hand on the door handle of his car and noticed the hard white light from the corner store across the street from the parking lot. It was one he'd never been in before. There were plenty of decent stores near his apartment, but the clock was ticking, his stomach was rumbling and endless hours with musty books beckoned. Suddenly, a seven eleven hot dog seemed like the best idea in the world.

He crossed the street, heading for the red painted door that was propped half open by a battered wooden sign telling people to get their Hagen Daz here. The paint on the door had seen better days; it was peeling along the edges of the frame. The signage was faded and coated with a dozen years of grime and grease. There was a faint smell of something he couldn't quite identify in the air. He paused on the threshold and looked back, but the street was quiet, the gates to the site were closed and his car was where he'd left it under the flood light in the lot. He pushed the door all the way open and entered slowly. It swung half closed at his back, thumping dully against the wooden sandwich board.

The store was long and narrow - refrigeration units down one side, shelves of groceries down the middle and cigarettes and booze on the far wall behind the cash register on the counter. There was no assistant to be seen and the weird smell lingered as he stepped away from the door.

There was a 'snick, snick, snick', like a crow banging a snail shell on a rock. He glanced back at the red framed door, gut instinct that had been honed on the Hellmouth urging him to turn around, warring with innate curiosity and the nagging growl in his belly.

Curiosity and hunger won out so he skirted the first tier of grocery shelves and saw a pair of heavy black boots sticking out from behind a haphazard stack of canned tomatoes.

"Hello," he said. "Are you okay?" He rounded the end of the shelves and stopped dead. The boots were attached to outstretched legs clad in black denim. The familiar red shirt over a black t-shirt and the battered leather duster completed the look. Finally he finished his inspection, his gaze resting on Spike's pale face and platinum hair. Spike's head was tipped back against a freezer of frozen vegetables, the gelled tips of his hair spread like a halo against the backdrop of lurid green packets of peas. A half empty bottle of Jack Daniels lay at his side and a dozen small disposable lighters that had been cracked open were scattered on the floor. Xander identified the source of the odd smell absently, but his eyes were on Spike's fingers flicking restlessly at the Zippo in his hand.

"Spike? Are you okay?"

"Who wants to know?" Spike's voice was slurred and his eye lids twitched, but he didn't look up.

"It's me. Xander. You know, annoying Scooby member and your ex roommate."

Spike opened his eyes and blinked slowly. A reptile blink.

Xander made himself stand still despite the urge to step back. "Are you okay?" he repeated. He glanced over his shoulder. "Where's the store keeper?"

Spike blinked again. "Don't know. Don't care. Maybe stepped out." He shrugged and the movement made his whole upper body undulate like a snake.

"Right, maybe I should go look for him. Check nothing's happened." Xander turned half around as if he expected to see the missing assistant appear behind him.

When he turned back Spike was standing just a few feet away, the bottle of Jack hanging loosely from one hand, Zippo in the other. "Good little boy, ain't you Harris? Always got to do the right thing."

"Okay," Xander said slowly. He took a step backwards then stopped, squashing the urge to keep going. He could see the hot cabinet with hot dogs moving across the rollers out of the corner of his eye, but the way Spike was staring at him, eyes wide and fever-bright, suddenly a diet of mystery meat and grease seemed like a really bad idea. "So, I'm going to go and leave you to whatever it is you were doing. Maybe call in to 911 and tell them the guy from the store might be missing. Who knows, it's not actually Sunnydale, so the cops might even listen."

"Such a bloody do gooder. Got to make sure everyone's alright. Got to get yourself another Boy Scout badge." Spike took a step forward. "It's the only way you can get them to pay attention, ain't it?" He took a long pull on the bottle.

"Maybe you should leave off that for now. You're sounding a bit crazy."

"Oh, I'm not crazy. I'm as sane as they come. Think I was crazy before, but not now."

"What are you talking about?" Xander demanded.

"Got it for her, didn't I? Went through all the hoops and the circus tricks and came out the other end. Bet you wouldn't have done that. Then I get back here and I tell her. But you're there, everywhere I look. At her house. Taking the Bit to school. Paying the fucking bills. You're everywhere, like roaches, or mould and she's looking at you like she's seeing you. And what did you do to deserve it?"

"Spike, I don't know what-"

"Shut up. You didn't do anything to deserve it. You were just there. Hanging around like a bad smell. You've never been anywhere. Never done anything. Never seen anything. But she sees you. I got a soul for her and she just looks straight through me like I don't even matter."

Raising his hand, Spike flicked the Zippo on and off in Xander's face.

"Um, do you want to stop that?" Xander eyed the broken lighters on the floor. "I don't know if the stuff in those things evaporates, or hangs about, or what, but are you really willing to take the risk? You know, vampire equals the whole flammable deal." His fingers twitched with the need to grab the Zippo out of Spike's hand, but the sensible voice in his head whispered that he shouldn't poke the bear even if it couldn't poke back. He settled on his normal defence and kept talking. "Though I guess you were doing it earlier and nothing happened. But safety first and all that, that's what they teach us on the site, so you know, better safe than sorry."

Spike tossed the almost empty bottle in his hand over his shoulder and it hit a display of soda cans, scattering them like bowling pins through the mess on the floor. He ignored the clattering, his eyes fixed on the Zippo in his hand. "This is how she sees me. Spike, go kill something for me." He flicked the Zippo on. "Spike, fuckoff, I'll whistle when I need something. Come running like a good little doggie." He flicked the Zippo closed. "Come here. Fuck off. Come here. Fuck off. Come here. Fuck off."

Xander watched, almost hypnotised as the flame rose and disappeared to the rhythm of Spike's words. He shook his head. "Buffy's not like that," he started. "She had a hard year after her mom and ..." he stuttered to a halt when Spike took a step closer, the tips of his Docs, nudging at the steel toes of Xander's work boots.

"And you just loved that, didn't you?" Spike murmured.

"What. No."

"Sure you did. Joyce died, the Slayer remembered she's also a girl and she's grieving. Then the hell bitch happened and the Slayer takes the fall for the team. But that wasn't enough for you, was it? You lot knew best. You had to bring her back. See, and when you did, I was there for her. Not you. Not Red. Not the soldier boy. Me. And you hated that, didn't you? Hated that she turned to me. So you stepped up, played the hero and talked Red off her ledge. Now it's Xander, my hero. Xander, my rock. Xander, can you fuck me now."

"Don`t you dare talk about her like that. Buffy and me are friends. Do you know what that even is? Friends who can be there without any strings."

"Or handcuffs," Spike whispered. "Or ropes, or straps, or fingers around wrists."

"Stop it." Xander's breath came out in short bursts and Spike dropped his Zippo to the ground, the flame dying as it tumbled from his grasp. His hands shot out and he grabbed Xander's wrists.

"Stop it," Xander repeated breathlessly.

"Or what?" Spike bared his teeth and squeezed.

"You'll only hurt yourself," Xander warned.

Spike squeezed again and Xander hissed. "Fuck Spike. That fucking hurt, you crazy..." He paused, eyes wide and Spike squeezed again. "When?" Xander stuttered. "When did it stop working?"

"Don't know what you mean." Spike pushed forward, fingers still curled around Xander's wrists and Xander staggered backwards until he hit the hard edge of the counter.

"The chip, Spike. What happened?"

Spike chuckled, a low, dirty growl that sounded like it was coming from somewhere in the depths of his duster. "Chip's just dandy, Harris." He tilted his head. "But you, you're not, are you Harris? Been watching you play family man. Taking my place at her side. I knew something wasn't right. Knew something was off. It's you, Harris. You're off."

Xander tried to shove back, but Spike crowded him against the counter, hands pressed around his wrists until he could almost feel the bones grinding. Spike cocked his head as if he was seeing Xander for the first time. "Got a taint, don't you?" He giggled. "Kind of funny, when you think about it."

"What are you talking about? Let me go."

"Played the hero, didn't you? Stood up to Red and talked her down. Saved the girl. Saved the world. Took your bow and your place in the limelight. Thought you were the leading man. But then there was Red's magic." He giggled again. "Did you think you could get in the way of that much mojo and walk away? She fucked you up. Your best friend screwed you good and proper. That's what happens when you play hero on the Hellmouth. The Hellmouth bites back."

Xander stared at Spike. He wanted to say something. Anything to stop the curdling in this stomach and the pounding in his head. But Spike's smile, his reptile blink and his long, white fingers grinding at Xander's wrists, twisted at the back of his brain. He shook his head, like a dog trying to shed water off its coat and Spike pushed forward again, until Xander was arched back over the counter.

Spike leaned over him, shimmying like a lover as he whispered in Xander's ear. "Welcome to the freak show, Harris. Looks like the hero just turned all sorts of dirty shades of shite."

"You're lying. Trying to wind me up."

"Am I now?" Spike's laughter grew and the pressure on Xander's wrists lessened. Xander shoved hard and Spike teetered backward, tripped and fell over the mess of soda cans at his feet. He lay giggling madly, sprawled amongst the empty, broken lighters, and the cans of 7-Up and Coke, like a forgotten Andy Warhol.

Xander pushed himself off the counter, hands shaking as he gasped for breath and stared down at Spike. He could see the hot dogs on the roller heater, condensation gathering on the glass front of the cabinet and his stomach heaved. He pushed himself off the counter and ran for the door.

He didn't see the broken body of the shop owner, stuffed like a rag doll behind a stack of Twinkie cartons below the cash register. "Welcome to the freak show," echoed through the quiet of the fading light as he headed for his car, scrabbling for his keys in his jacket pocket as he ran.

He slammed out of the parking lot and when he looked back over his shoulder, Spike stood, framed by the peeling paint of the red door, the white fluorescent light of the shop at his back. He raised a new, full bottle of Jack in one hand and with the other, he flicked the Zippo on and off, on and off, on and off.

The tarp over the lumber pile flapped wildly in the night wind. Xander slammed down hard on the gas pedal and drove.

The End

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