Characters: Xander, Spike
Rating: PG overall
Genre: Slash relationship, but not in the actual story
Warnings: little bit of angst
Word count: 3,500
Disclaimer: Joss and Mutant Enemy et al own everything. I own nothing
Summary: Spike and Xander are in a cemetery – well of course they are...
Beta extraordinaire as always: thismaz
Comments are cuddled and called George
Okay, it's the second of my days to post at fall_for_sx. Again, huge thanks to skargasm and theladymerlin for continuing to host this lovely annual Spander fest. I know it's not been an easy season, and they must know that their work to keep things going is hugely appreciated. This is also my fic for brutti_ma_buoni's letsgetitdone comm. I realised that RL wasn't going to let me get done the things I'd hoped, so I promised myself I'd do a second fall_for_sx story instead and here it is...
The very wonderful double_dutchess made me these two gorgeous banners for this story. They just blow me away.
Searching for Jim
Xander paused between the two avenues of gravestones. On his right, the path curved upwards past a large marble monument with the statue of a man reclining regally on the top. On his left, the other path was straight and lined with tombs and memorials of all shapes and sizes. He consulted the piece of paper in his hand and turned once full circle. "This way," he said confidently and started up the path to the right, passed the reclining man. As he stopped in the lee of the tomb, he could have sworn the statue curled its lip at him. Shivering, he gripped his paper a little harder.
He carried on upwards, and if his strides seemed a little shorter and quicker than normal, then that was no-one's business but his own. The thought gave him pause and when he reached the top of the rise, he stopped again, realising that he was alone. "Spike," he whispered, gazing uncertainly out into the gathering twilight.
"What?" a voice in his ear said.
Xander turned. "Don't do that."
Spike shrugged. "I'm practicing my stalking skills. Might as well do something useful in this god forsaken place."
"You know that's pretty funny?" Xander replied with a ghost of a grin.
"God forsaken. Got to love the ironic turn of phrase, what with us being in a cemetery and all."
"Very witty," Spike said. His tone kind of suggested the opposite.
"Oh come on, what's with the attitude? You've been pissy ever since we got here. We're in Paris. Okay, we're in a graveyard. But still, Paris. There's a full moon. We're on our own. Well, technically, we're not on our own because there are other people here, but they're not right here, here, at the moment. They're off nearer the gate, which is probably sensible, what with the gate being the exit point and the exit being a sensible place to be near when you're in a graveyard and it's just about dark." He paused and took a quick breath before Spike could reply. "And the gang isn't here so that's a definition of aloneness we can live with, don't you think?"
"So what's with the grumpy?"
"I'm not bloody grumpy."
"Of course you're not," Xander rolled his eyes, but he raised his hand to hover uncertainly at Spike's shoulder before pulling it away. "So come and be not grumpy while I follow the instructions," he continued. "I think if we take this path to the end and branch off down the hill again, we'll be there."
"Whatever," Spike muttered, He sounded disturbingly like teenage Dawn in a snit, but Xander could hear him following, so he chalked it up to as much of a win as he was going to get.
The twilight deepened around them and the sound of distant voices, became fainter and eventually died away altogether. Xander squinted at the paper in his hand, glanced over his shoulder at Spike and jerked his head towards a narrow side path. "Definitely down this way, if I'm reading things right."
"Best get to it, then," Spike muttered.
"Okay then," Xander said. He squared his shoulders, took a breath and started forward again, threading his way between the graves that suddenly seemed too close to the path for comfort. He reminded himself that he'd been walking through graveyards since he was sixteen and if that wasn't an illustration of the weirdness of his life, he didn't know what was. But for now, Spike was at his back and that was enough to be going on with. Rounding a corner he noticed a splash of vibrant yellow off to his right. After only a moment's hesitation, he stepped off the path and between two gravestones. "Here it is," he threw back over his shoulder. "Right where Giles' instructions said it would be."
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Spike stop by his shoulder and they both looked down and contemplated the grave before them. It wasn't as big as Xander had expected, but the low granite walls created a shallow rectangular well that was strewn with fresh and decaying bouquets of flowers. A large, heavy headstone sat at the far end, the top surface covered with tokens of memoriam – a large pot of yellow chrysanthemums, a single stemmed white rose in an elegant holder and a thick beeswax candle.
Xander heard Spike take a long breath and he turned to see him better. "Spike?" he said.
"Yeah," Spike's voice was low and subdued. Not exactly what Xander had been expecting.
"Are you okay?" Xander asked.
"Sure I am." He pulled a cigarette and his Zippo out of pocket, lit up and took a long drag.
"And the prize for most unconvincing answer goes to..." Xander said. He paused momentarily, watching Spike focus on his cigarette. "I'm sorry," he continued. "This was one of my more stupid ideas." He rubbed restlessly at the back of his neck. "I thought you would get a kick out of it. You know, Jim Morrison – the Doors. I know he's not Johnny Rotten, but still, The Doors – I know you're into them, and I thought, well, that we were here in Paris and we could have some time to ourselves, and I could surprise you, and we could make out at Jim Morrison's grave, and it would be kind of cool."
"Only not so much, obviously. Sorry, I guess I blew this one big time."
"Love," Spike repeated.
"It isn't just Jim Morrison," Xander continued. "There's lots of folk here that I thought you might be interested in. There's Proust and Edith Piaf and Moliere," He fished the crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket and smoothed it out. "I got Giles to make me a list because I hadn't heard of most of them, and I'm not even sure if I'm pronouncing their names right. But then I'm just a big, dumb American and this is all about the European sophistication."
"Jim Morrison wasn't European, love," Spike said with a faint smile.
Xander smoothed the paper again. "Which just goes to show it was a stupid plan, because he's buried here in Paris, so I guess I thought that it made him European by default." He ran his finger down the list. "See, according to Giles' notes there's Chopin and Oscar Wilde and you can't get more sophisticated than Oscar Wilde. Or more gay, but that's another thing all together."
Xander shoved the piece of paper back into his pocket and crossed his arms. He bent his head and stared at his toes.
"I get it," Spike said.
"What?" Xander repeated.
"You thought it would be neat to come here. Something different. Something that would appeal to me."
Xander shrugged. "Guess I got that wrong."
"No you didn't. I love that you took the time to do the research. To ask Giles for help. I know that's not easy. You thought it would appeal to me." Spike paused and after a long moment Xander raised his head. "You thought it would appeal to William too, didn't you?"
Xander shrugged again. "I thought it would appeal to both of you. I mean, we're in a huge cemetery. What could be more vamp friendly than that? But it's not just any cemetery. I mean, Père Lachaise. It's famous. It's in guidebooks and it's got all this cool architecture in the graves and mausoleums. I figured we could come here and see Jim Morrison's grave. Then maybe we could have a look around at some of the others. There are some pretty famous names that I thought would interest your other side."
"My other side? And again I say, you mean William?"
"Yeah. Although I don't think of you like that. You make it sound like Spike and William are different people. Like the same way Buffy always used to say Angel and Angelus were different. But they're not. And you're not. They're two sides of the same coin."
"You've thought about this."
"A little bit. Spike likes Jim Morrison, but he also likes Chopin. I bet William read Proust, but I think he'd probably have liked The Doors if he'd got the chance to listen to them before he was turned. Bet he would have liked the lyrics. They're both you. It's kind of what I like about you."
"Yeah," Xander replied. "I know I'm not complicated and that's okay. But you are and it's as good a reason to love someone as anything else."
"Yeah, I know." Xander could feel himself start to blush. He still wasn't used to the way Spike could say his name and make it sound like he'd written a love letter. He counted to five in his head. "So like I say," he said at the end of his countdown. "I thought this would appeal to you. To both parts of you. But I guess I don't know you as well as I thought."
"You know me better than anyone who's still alive and kicking."
"But? There's a big ‘but' just looming on the horizon, like a big looming thing from looming land."
Spike sighed and sat down heavily on the edge of the adjacent grave. He took care to avoid the large granite cross standing proud of the stone. "Right then, I'm going to tell you something that no one else knows. Not the Slayer, not the Watcher, not Angel. Not even Dru."
"I fucking hate cemeteries."
"What?" Xander took a step forward, then stopped and studied the expression on Spike's face. "I don't understand," he said finally.
"Cemeteries," Spike replied. "I hate them. I know it's ironic, what with me being a vampire and having lived in a crypt on the Hellmouth, you'd think it came with the gig. And to an extent it does, but it's all image. People have expectations and you have to live up to them, or they won't see you. They won't respect you."
This time Xander did step forward and eased himself down onto the low wall surrounding Jim Morrison's grave. It should have felt rude at the very least, but sitting on a dead man's grave was the least of his concerns. He was more focused on the dead man right in front of him. He looked up at Spike. "You wanted them to see the vampire," he said. "Because you thought that's what they'd respect?"
Spiked shrugged. "Sometimes I did. It's a part that I can put on and take off, a bit like this duster. But it's like you say, I can like the Pistols and The Doors and I can like Chopin, it's not mutually exclusive."
"But you don't like cemeteries."
"I don't like what they represent. This cult of worshipping the dead, and yeah, I know that's another big piece of irony right there."
Xander frowned. "Lots of people wouldn't see it as a cult. They'd see it as a way of grieving. Of remembering and marking a life that's been lived and isn't there anymore."
"And that's fine. I have no problem with that. But it's this I have a problem with." He raised his hand, gesturing at the graves around them. "They build cities to the dead, while the living are scraping by and dossing down on the street."
Xander scooted a bit closer and this time he placed his hand on Spike's knee and left it there. "Spike? What's all this about?"
"They come here, bloody tourists and they get all excited about seeing this grave and most of them probably haven't got a clue who Jim Morrison was, or what The Doors were like. They don't care. They just tick the grave off their list and then its next stop the Eiffel Tower, or Notre Dame, or Sacré fucking Coeur. They don't care about the person who's buried here. It's just another tourist attraction. God knows what Jim would make of it, if he could see it."
"Okay, I get that and I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be crass, or disrespectful, or anything. I really did think you'd get a kick out of coming here and seeing the grave because you do care about who he was." Xander paused and tilted his head, studying Spike. "I get what you're saying," he said finally. "But there's more to it than that, for you to be this wound up about it."
"Perceptive bugger, aren't you."
"And me with one eye and all." Xander smiled. "I've got to work twice as hard."
Spike chuckled, then shook his head and took Xander's hand, running his thumb gently across the top of Xander's knuckles. "My father, he was a god fearing man," he said at last. "But he was a vain man as well. The Victorians were all about leaving their mark on things. Didn't matter if it was a mill, or a foundry, or a railway, or a bridge. They wanted to be remembered. My dad didn't have anything like that. He was a small man in all senses of the word, but he was a Victorian to the core. He wanted to leave his mark. If he couldn't do that in his life, he decided he'd do it in his death. He bought a plot in Kensal Green. It's a nice cemetery, as these things go. It was a big plot. And then he started saving for his funeral. Putting money away every week. He made a Will telling his executors how the money was to be spent. Then when he died they carried out his wishes. Built him this god-awful, tasteless mausoleum and buried him there in grand state."
He turned Xander's hand over and traced the lines and calluses on his palm. "The old bastard left us almost bankrupt, but that was okay because he'd made his mark on the world, even if it was only in the way he was remembered in death."
"I don't know what to say."
"There's nothing to say. I never did visit the grave after the funeral."
"But you did go to the funeral?"
"Oh yeah. That's the other thing about Victorians. It was all about propriety. My mum never would have forgiven me if I hadn't gone to the funeral. But that was the only time. After that, the old sod could lie in solitary state in his pile of stones for all I cared."
"Don't be. It was a long time ago. He wanted to leave his mark so he'd be remembered. But there's no one left to remember him. Nobody cares and the stones are probably falling down around what's left of his bones. The whole idea of spending a fortune on gravestones or mausoleums still bugs the shit out of me. It's such a waste. Dead is dead."
"Said the dead man."
"Don't you forget it." Xander smiled and curled his hand up, threading his fingers through Spike's. "I kind of wish I'd known you back then," he said
"No you don't. I was a right wanker." Spike paused, took a draw on his cigarette and exhaled a long trail of smoke. "You trying to say you'd rather have the poet than the demon?"
"What?" Xander replied. "No. No, that's not what I meant at all."
"Sounded like it."
"Jesus Spike, don't be so touchy. I meant what I said earlier. That you're complicated. It's one of the things that made me stop and really look at you. You know, when I got my head out of my ass and realised that my world view of demons was a little on the black and white side. I love that you like The Doors and that you hum bits of opera in the bath. I love that you know all the lyrics to Rock the Casbah and can quote whole lumps of Shakespeare at the drop of a hat." He paused. "I love you. Spike and William."
"Fuck," Spike muttered. He pulled his hand sharply out of Xander's grasp and stood up. "I don't know why, love. I'm just a demon, with a side of ponce. Not a lot to love, there."
"Maybe you can let me be the judge of that," Xander said. "You know me. I just say what's in my head and sometimes it comes out sounding wrong. It's just... Spike the demon is the side I got to know first. It's the side you showed us, when you kidnapped me and Willow and stalked Buffy and drove Angel crazy. I was an impressionable teenager and you made an impression. I haven't known the William side of you for as long, so I was curious what he was like. What you were like. He must have been a decent enough guy, because he's part of you - one of the parts that makes you, you."
Spike snorted and took another long drag on his cigarette. "You know you sound like a complete girl?"
"Yeah, I know," Xander replied. "And considering some of the girls we know, I'll take that as a backhanded compliment." He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and watched as Spike shifted his weight from one foot to the other, as if he was readying himself for either fight or flight. Xander chewed his lip, considering his next words. "Did you ever think that there might be other reasons you don't like cemeteries?" he said finally.
"Because you're dead."
"Stating the obvious now, love."
"That's me, obvious boy. But I'm serious. I get what you're saying about your dad. God knows, you know my dad wasn't up for parent of the year. But for all it's about the dead, grave yards are a human thing and maybe that's the problem too. You're not human. You haven't been for a long time, so you see the years go by and the graves crumble. Then you wonder what it was all for. Humans, we don't get to see the effects of our mourning, of our grief. Because it's the present for us. We bring our flowers and talk about how our week went, until eventually the pain and the grief gets less raw and we stop coming every day. Maybe come every week instead, and then, eventually, maybe only on anniversaries, or Christmas. And then we die. So we never see the stones crumble."
"What about those over there," Spike pointed at a tumble of old stones that had once been an elaborately carved headstone.
"They're just set dressing. We have picnics in cemeteries in the sunlight, and we buy a tourist map and wander around a landmark like this place, and we oh and ah over who's buried here and how fancy or plain the graves are. But like you said about the folk visiting here to see Jim Morrison's grave, we don't really think about the people who are buried there, or the people who grieved for them. They're just stories – figures from history books and city rolls. The only graves that really matter to us are the ones we grieve at. Because it's personal. The rest is just atmosphere."
"I'm not sure if you're bloody cynical or bloody clever."
"How about dashing, devastatingly handsome and debonair."
Spike took a pull on his cigarette and raised an eyebrow. "Suave and sophisticated too, I'll bet."
"Now you're getting it." Xander eased himself to his feet and reached for Spike's hand again. "I am sorry. I guess we've still got a lot to learn about each other. Well, at least I've still got a shit load to learn about you. Like I said, me, I'm not so complicated."
"You're about as complicated as they come, love."
"Or as screwed up."
"Maybe that makes two of us."
"Guess we're just stuck with each other, then."
"Still not sure why you'd want me. I'm just a moody old Victorian."
"Yeah well, remember I'm a carpenter as well as a Scooby, even with the whole one-eye thing. I've got a sideline in restoring old Victorians."
"So I'm just a project?"
Xander stepped forward, pushing Spike back step by step until he was pressed up against Jim Morrison's head stone. "More like a labour of love," Xander said. Then he kissed him. "I think I'm going to be working on this one for a long time. The foundations need a bit of work, but the frame is as solid as they come," he murmured and kissed him again. Spike tossed his cigarette into the pot of chrysanthemums on top of the gravestone and kissed back.
Below them, Jim Morrison turned onto his back and rolled his eyes.
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