A Life Less Ordinary
A man can stand anything except a succession of ordinary days.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)
A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)
I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.
Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)
Xander was tied before her, so tightly he could barely move. That didn’t stop him from trying. The carpet scratched against his knees and the palms of his hands. Sweat pooled on the padded vinyl bench beneath his belly and chest. Nervously he worked his tongue against his gag. He remembered how anxious he’d felt the first time Anya had buckled it on. Now he wore it so often that he got a boner every time he smelled leather.
It made shoe shopping with Buffy…interesting.
His belly felt like it was full of wasps on speed. Anya never went for the pain, not really. Sometimes she used a paddle, or a flogger, but mostly she just pushed his boundaries. Hard.
Her talent for inflicting emotional torment was off the chart. That must have been what made her such a good vengeance demon. She managed to figure out every sick, twisted thing he’d ever fantasized about, and made him explore them. Except she never made him feel sick and twisted; it was terrifying that she made him face things he’d swear he’d rather leave buried.
“Hold this,” she instructed him.
He squeezed his hand tightly around the tiny spongy ball Anya slipped between his finger and thumb.
Anya crouched in front of him. “Are you comfortable?”
Xander nodded the best he could and blinked once. Yes.
“I will be behind you tonight. If you wish to stop, or become uncomfortable, let go of the ball I placed in your hand. Do you understand?”
Xander nodded again.
She walked to the television, and pressed the power button. “I want you to keep your eyes on the screen, Xander. You do not have permission to look away.”
He thought that her statement was odd, until he saw what was going on. It was porn. But not just run-of-the-mill porn. It was porn with guys…doing things… with…other guys. Not a pair of boobies in sight.
Panic welled in his chest as he realized that watching the gay porn, trussed up the way he was with his ass in the air, strongly implied that he was going to be penetrated in some way tonight. They’d talked about it and he hadn’t said no, but now he was having second thoughts. And those thoughts were having second thoughts.
He was not gay. So not gay. He’d leave that to the Larrys of the world and more power to them. And if he occasionally found a buff guy like Spike …well…buff … that only meant he appreciated the discipline it took to work-out that much.
Xander knew if he let go of the ball it would be the end of the game. Part of him badly wanted to do that. Indecision warred in him; he had promised himself, when they started this relationship that he would not refuse her, no matter what she suggested. But this might be too much.
And then Anya’s warm, slick hand was on his dick. She moved it up and down his shaft, her way eased by the oil she was using. Any thoughts of letting go of the ball flew out of his mind.
He kept his eyes on the screen. The guys weren’t just having sex with each other. They were kissing and touching.
Then Anya was kissing, stroking and touching him as she worked his cock. Xander groaned into the gag. His eyes fluttered shut, flying open when he felt the sting of a sharp pinch on his inner thigh.
Face burning hotly at being caught disobeying, Xander struggled to concentrate on the action.
Slippery fingers stretched and filled him as he watched one of the guys do the same thing on the screen. He shuddered and barely managed to keep his eyes open when she brushed against something that made sparks tingle up his spine.
Once he was stretched to her satisfaction, Anya pressed the blunt head of something cold and inhuman against his hole and began to work it inside him. The naughty pictures that his mind conjured up weren’t of silicone or plastic breaching him, but Spike. Xander shuddered at the thought, pushing it away as fast as it had come. Even if, in his deepest, darkest dreams, Xander thought about what guys did with other guys, there was no way he’d do them with his homicidal roommate. Ever.
Three months earlier…
When Xander came to, he realized he was lying against something cool and unyielding – he wasn’t sure what. His head was swimming and he tried frantically to figure out where he was. Then it came to him: the frat house. Anya. He’d come to save Anya from Buffy, to talk some sense into the two of them before they hurt each other…or worse. He’d been knocked out trying to keep them off each other.
Eyes snapping open, Xander scrambled to his feet, ignoring the way the room wavered and spun before it righted itself. And god, how he wished it hadn’t, because when his vision cleared all he could see was Anya, pinned to the wall with a sword stuck through her chest. He was too late.
It was like he’d been punched in the gut. All the air seemed to leave the room as he stared at his…his… almost wife, nailed to the wall like a bug. He’d barely registered the tears running down her face when her eyes shot open.
Clenching her hand around the grip of the sword, Anya pulled. Xander’s stomach lurched at both the ripping sound and her gasp of pain as she wrenched the weapon out of her chest.
Whipping the sword around, she pointed it at Buffy. Xander thought she may have said something but he didn’t hear what. Could relief cause deafness? Or maybe it was just a by-product of his renewed pulse pounding in his ears after his heart re-started?
His relief was short lived; he stood helpless as two of the women he loved fought to the death. Anya didn’t keep the upper hand long as Buffy kicked an ottoman across the floor. The sword flew out of her hand as Anya fell to the ground.
The slayer scooped the weapon up and raised it above her head, preparing for a killing blow. Xander felt the paralysis of disbelief that had been keeping him in place finally give way, and he sprinted across the room, knocking Anya out of the way.
He heard the whistle of the sword right next to his ear and tensed, waiting for the impact but nothing connected with his head. In fact, the only thing he felt was his knees hitting the unforgiving wooden floor and a sharp pain in his hand as it caught on something. Thank god, whatever it was gave way and broke. He was sure he was going to lose a finger for a second. Better a finger than his head, though.
“Stop helping me, Xander!” Anya shouted, pushing him away. It was an awful lot like being thrown across the room.
Xander crashed into the opposite wall and slid down to the floor, staring helplessly at the two of them.
Buffy looked at him and he realized his time was up. Seven years fighting with the slayer and he knew that expression. Xander was willing to bet that was what she looked like when she killed Angel. It was the look that meant death.
Anya looked wide-eyed and lost. She didn’t move from her place on the floor as Buffy raised her sword again.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy whispered.
“Me, too,” Anya replied, defeat coloring the edges of her tired voice.
“No!” Xander shouted, struggling to get to his feet.
Seconds later, he was knocked back down again as D’Hoffryn appeared out of nowhere and then the fun really started. It ended with Anya taking her wish back and losing her demonhood. And all it cost was the life of one of her best friends – Halfrek.
“Anya, wait,” Xander called, heading down the stairs toward her as the frat house door slammed shut behind him.
She stopped but didn’t turn around. “Xander, please. Just go away.” Her voice was tight.
He caught up to her and put a hand on her now very human arm. “Whatever’s between us – it doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t be alone in this.”
“Yes, I should,” Anya said bitterly, turning to face him. “My whole life, I’ve just clung to whatever came along.”
He shrugged, holding up his arms. “Well, speaking as a clingee – I kinda didn’t mind.”
Anya smiled sadly, her eyes still haunted. “Thanks. For everything.”
Xander nodded, realizing he’d been rebuffed. He watched silently for a few moments as she walked off, his heart aching at the finality of her words.
Buffy was wrapping up and making sure that D’Hoffryn hadn’t left them any surprises. The frat guys were a little disoriented, but otherwise, everything was back the way it was. Home Depot had nothing on the demon world.
He was just about to leave when the flash of something metallic caught his eye. Frowning, he reached down to pick it up.
It looked familiar – a silver necklace with a stone pendant. The chain was broken and the stone winked dully. He wondered if either Buffy or Anya lost it in the fight. Stuffing it into his pocket, he figured he’d show it to the girls later. Dawn or Willow would probably know who it belonged to.
From beneath you, it devours…that’s all Xander had heard for the last few weeks. Something bad was coming, but so far, instead of death and mayhem, all that whatever was coming had managed to do, was come up with a pithy tee-shirt slogan. Otherwise, they had zip for information. He had to say, the suspense was pretty creepy-making – sitting around waiting for the axe to fall, sucked.
Xander shifted the bags in his hands. After trudging up eight flights of stairs, the plastic handles were cutting into his palm. Taking the elevators probably would have been smarter, but he needed time to think. Anya’s words had been pretty final sounding, so coming here to talk to her might not be the smartest plan in the world. Which was why he’d brought food: if you can’t dazzle them with words, distract them with Moo Shu Pork.
He’d considered asking Buffy to come with him, mostly because he felt like he needed a shield so he wouldn’t have to brave Anya’s place alone. In the end, Mr. Chin’s take-out won his internal argument and he decided to bring dinner as his shield instead.
The door to number 408 loomed ahead, almost menacingly, just as the chorus of should-I-stay-or-should-I-go echoed in his head for, like, the thousandth time. He was jolted out of his anxiety laden reverie when something huge inside the apartment collided with the door, rattling the whole frame.
“Anya!” he shouted.
No response. Panic set in and Xander kicked himself for not inviting Buffy. Dropping the bags, he reached above the door frame, praying that Anya remembered to stash a spare key up there for emergencies. Relief flooded him as his fingers closed around cold steel.
There was a crash of breaking glass and then a high pitched squeal of pain. Xander’s hands were shaking as he tried to slip the key into the lock. Miraculously, it slid in just fine. Murphy’s law was that either the key wouldn’t work or that the lock would stick, but he was wrong on both counts. Thank god, Murphy was out to lunch and he was able to unlock in one smooth turn.
Xander barreled through the door. It rebounded and slammed into his shoulder, brutally hard, knocking him back into the frame.
“Don’t move, Xander,” Anya hissed.
Relieved to hear her voice, Xander turned toward her before her words registered. They sank in just about the time his blood ran cold. He froze. Anya was standing on her couch, holding a thin vase with a broken neck, like a javelin. Her eyes were riveted on the demon crouching in front of her.
“What the hell is that?” Xander asked, unable to remain silent. The overgrown porcupine on steroids crouching in front of her was twice as big as a German shepherd.
“Pretium demon. It’s like an attack dog,” she replied.
“How did it –” Xander broke off. The demon drew back on its haunches, thick leg muscles coiled and trembling. “Anya, look out!”
“I see it, Xander!” she snapped.
Everything moved in slow motion. The creature leapt at Anya, just as she drew her arm back further and threw the vase. The jagged edges of the glass caught the demon in the throat and it tumbled backwards, a deadly ball of spines and fur.
It lifted its head briefly once and snarled, red eyes blazing, before it gave an almost pitiful wheeze of pain. The unholy fire in its eyes dulled and its head dropped back to the floor. It didn’t move again.
Cautiously, Xander approached it, as Anya climbed off the couch. “Whoa. That went right through.” Barely any of the vase was visible; it was so deeply buried in the soft tissue of the creature’s neck. “I’ve only ever seen Buffy do something like that.”
He missed the exasperated look Anya gave him at this pronouncement because something crinkled underneath his foot. It was a wrinkled piece of paper.
“I’d put that down if I were you,” Anya advised.
Xander looked at her quizzically, just as the paper began to smoke. “Aaaak!”
He shook his hand, flinging the burning sheet away. It landed on the carcass of the Pretium, igniting it instantly.
“Crap!” Backing away from the waist-high flames, he called, “Water, we need water.”
Shockingly, Anya sounded unconcerned. “Calm down, Xander. It’ll be over in a minute.”
“Huh? What over?” he asked, just as the flames turned a sickly green color and vanished in a puff of acrid smoke. Gagging, he stumbled back. The stench was unbelievable.
Anya coughed, covering her mouth and waving her other hand in the air, trying to thin the smoke. “Ugh! I forgot how bad they smelled.”
Bile rose in Xander’s throat from the cloyingly caustic scent, a nose-bouquet combining the putrid smell of sulfur with something wet and rotten that he didn’t want to identify. The Bog of Eternal Stench had nothing on this. He buried his nose in the crook of his elbow. Anya copied the gesture.
“You’ve seen one of these before?” he asked, hoping she understood him.
She nodded, eyes watering. “When I first became human. It’s kind of a thing for D’Hoffryn. He thinks it’s clever. The smell should go away soon.”
As if it heard her, the smoke cleared, taking the ungodly stink with it. Xander sucked in several lungfuls of clean, beautiful, stench-free air. “Are you okay?”
Irritation flared in her eyes. “Of course I’m okay,” she replied, still panting slightly.
“How did you do that? With the vase and the demon slayage?” he waved his hands excitedly, admitting, “It was kind of hot.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Why? Because it reminded you of Buffy?”
“What? No!” Xander protested, and then amended, “Well, okay, a little bit. But only because you’re usually…kind of…you know…a wallflower.” At Anya’s indignant look, he rushed on, “But not in a bad way! Just kind of –”
“Can you just stop talking, please?”
“I – yeah.” Xander looked around. The place was trashed. Furniture and knickknacks were strewn everywhere.
Anya began picking through the debris, lifting a toppled bar stool and righting it. Suddenly she turned, and glared at Xander. “Why can’t you see me? Why can’t you want just me?”
Startled, Xander couldn’t stop the truth from escaping. “I do want you, Anya. All the time.”
He glanced over at the door, as if she could see the remains of the Chinese food he’d brought as a peace offering and an excuse. Maybe it was as well she couldn’t, it was probably leaking all over the floor outside and that wouldn't help his cause. He turned back to her. “I thought, maybe we could talk…”
Anya threw up her arms in frustration. “What could we possibly have left to talk about?”
“You almost died. Buffy almost killed you and then this thing.” He waved at the scorched place on the carpet. “I just…I thought we’d be together forever. And then at the wedding when that demon showed me…” he waved that line of thought away, what he’d been shown wasn’t real and he couldn’t rely on it as a crutch anymore. “I got scared. But the thought of losing you forever makes me even more scared. I’d do anything to get back together with you.”
“Really?” Anya snorted in disbelief, then her lips turned up in a small, not quite nasty, grin. “Anything?”
Xander nodded. He felt like his chest had been flayed open and his heart was exposed, beating bloodily…okay, enough with that analogy. “Yeah,” he replied, honestly.
Anya crossed her arms, challenging him. “Kneel.”
Xander’s mouth went dry. That was so not what he’d expected her to say. “What?”
“You heard me.”
Someone else would have thought that the command was out of place, but he knew damn well why she’d said it. They’d fooled around before, playing bondage with silk scarves, doing a little spanking, but Xander had always been terrified of anything more. No matter how much Anya tried to convince him, he’d always refused. He told her that it just didn’t interest him, but deep down he was terrified that he’d like it too much.
Now, he knew he’d been right – just the sound of underlying steel in her voice and he was getting hard. Before he could talk himself out of it, Xander sank to his knees.
Anya looked stunned. She took several steps forward, until she was directly in front of him. A tentative hand caressed his cheek and Xander’s skin tingled in its wake.
“Xander, are you sure this is what you want?” she asked cautiously.
She stepped away, studying him. “I need to think about this.”
Xander’s stomach twisted up into knots. Now that he’d taken this step, admitted that he was willing to do what she wanted, the thought that she might refuse made him want to puke. “Anya…I –”
“Go home, Xander. I’ll call you in a few days.”
Miserably, Xander rose to his feet, shoving his hands inside his pockets as he walked to the door, careful to avoid the scorched section of the carpet. His fingers closed around the necklace. It seemed like a million years ago that he’d put it in there. “Oh, I forgot, did you lose this.” He held up the silver necklace. “I found it…”
Anya recoiled. “I know where you found it.” She looked at the piece of jewelry warily. “It was my power center.”
Joy! The night just went from horrendous to apocalyptic. Xander wanted to kick himself; he should have known what it was. “Oh.”
He was so lost in self-recrimination that he didn’t notice the stone glint briefly in the light. Anya’s eyes narrowed. “It still has one wish in it.”
“Really? How can you tell?” Xander peered at the pendant. The stone looked dull and lifeless.
“I know D’hoffryn. It’s a final, parting gift. He left it so I would use it. But since you picked it up, it belongs to you now,” Anya explained.
“A wish, huh?” Xander studied it intently.
“Throw it away, Xander,” Anya advised somberly, looking him directly in the eyes. “No good can come from using it. Even with the best of intentions, any wish you make will turn ugly.”
He laughed nervously, stuffing it into his pocket. “What do I need a wish for anyway?”
Anya looked like she might say something else, but then decided against it.
Thoughts, like hungry gnats, whirled around Xander’s head on the walk home. He felt like he was on the precipice of something huge and life altering. It was exciting and terrifying at the same time and he wondered how long it would take Anya to call.
As he walked, he toyed with the silver chain in his pocket, fingers tracing the stone pendant. Anya was right; no good could come from a demony type wish. He should throw it away.
There was a dumpster in the alley ahead; he could toss it in there. Panic welled up in his chest at the thought. What if someone found it? Someone evil? Or what about someone not so evil? Like a dumpster-diving bum just wishing for a sandwich. Xander shuddered at the vivid image of a scrawny, half-starved guy morphing into a pastrami on rye.
No…he’d keep it for a little while. Just in case.
Warily, Buffy walked into the chapel, clutching her stake tightly. Some part of her had always known that this was how it was gonna end with Spike. She didn’t see him, but her spidy sense was tingling off the charts.
Moonlight shone through the stained glass windows behind the altar, highlighting the center aisle and an enormous wooden cross. The rest of the church was shrouded in shadows, giving the vampire ample hiding places. Slowly she made her way down the aisle. It wasn’t like she was gonna be able to hide from him, with her heartbeat and the breathing, so she stuck to the light where she was more comfortable fighting.
She jumped when his voice drifted from the shadows to the left of the altar. “Hello.” It was a sad, confused greeting.
Buffy frowned as he came out of the darkness, holding a scrap of blue fabric that might have been a shirt. His bare chest glinted palely in the moonlight. She gasped at the scratched and bloodied skin directly above his heart. “What the hell –?”
Unable to help herself, she reached out to touch the wounds. Spike recoiled. “Hey, hey, hey! No touching. Am I flesh? Am I flesh to you? Feed on flesh. My flesh. Nothing else. Not a spark.”
“Stop it!” she shouted, unnerved by his creepy tone and words, and stepped away.
That was the wrong thing to do. Spike lunged forward and grabbed her by the throat.
Happier to be on familiar ground with him, she attacked, using his momentum against him to knock him off his balance before she spun and kicked him across the room.
And like a bad penny, Spike popped right back up. That was just like him.
Buffy raised her stake, feeling the cold shroud of slayer descend over her. “Last chance…Spike. What happened to you?”
Spike laughed mournfully, it was a pitiful sound. “I tried to find it, of course. The spark. The missing... the piece that fit. Because you didn't want...” He shook his head and inexplicably started to cry. “God, I can't... Not with you looking.”
He turned, walking away from her toward the front of the church, looking otherworldly in the moonlight. When he reached the steps to the altar he began to speak again, his voice low and hypnotic. “I dreamed of killing you. I think they were dreams. So weak. Did you make me weak? Thinking of you, holding myself, and spilling useless buckets of salt over your... ending. Angel - he should've warned me. He makes a good show of forgetting, but it's here, in me, all the time. The spark. I wanted to give you what you deserve and I got it.” He paused, turning to look at her, his eyes boring into the core of her being. “They put the spark in me and now all it does is burn.”
What… Angel? But her confusion slipped into Oh my god comprehension in the blink of an eye. “Your soul?”
Spike turned and held out his arms, looking down at the messy wounds on his chest. “Bit worse for lack of use.”
“Why? Why would you do that?”
Spike laughed bitterly. “Shame on you. Why does a man do what he mustn't? For her. To be hers. To be the kind of man who would never… to be a kind of man.”
He ascended the steps, walking toward the cross.
Understanding dawned on Buffy and she tried to run – to stop him somehow. Instead of sprinting forward, her muscles were uncooperative. She felt like she was moving through molasses.
Spike continued to speak; his words washed over her like the voiceover in a movie. “She shall look on him with forgiveness, and everybody will forgive and love. He will be loved.”
Tears poured down her face as Spike embraced the cross. The smell of singed hair and burning flesh permeated the air and still Buffy couldn’t move.
“Can-can we rest now? Buffy...can we rest?”
She wanted to cry out, to say yes, to give permission, but her voice was just as useless as her muscles.
Helpless, she watched as flames consumed him.
Buffy bolted upright in bed, gasping. She waited for the residual images to fade, but they were etched firmly in her mind in horrifying Technicolor, like nearly all of her recent dreams. A sick sense of realization washed over her. She knew what the dream meant: prophesy.
She had known Spike was back in town. He kept popping up with information or assistance, and then fading back into the shadows. It reminded her of Angel in a creepy way, before she’d known who or what he was.
Buffy slipped out of bed, dressed, and quietly crept down the stairs. She was a little less quiet than she wanted to be, rummaging through her weapon’s chest, but thankfully didn’t wake either Willow or Dawn.
Restfield wasn’t far and the night air helped clear her head. Buffy hated to admit, even to herself, how often over the last few years she’d traveled this route in the middle of the night.
The first month after Spike had attacked her and then vanished, she’d been unable to sleep until she confirmed he wasn’t living there. She never entered, choosing instead to hover outside, listening to the sounds of Clem watching TV or having a poker game, straining to pick through all the voices for the smallest hint of a British accent. Clem’s cousin had been visiting from Bath one weekend and she’d nearly torn him apart. Thank goodness he was able to regenerate. Buffy felt horrible and still couldn’t look at a Shar Pei without shuddering.
After that Clem promised to tell her the minute he heard anything about Spike. Two months later, he’d delivered on that promise. Swiftly on the heels of the news of the vampire’s return, her sleepless nights had once again made an appearance. Although, in all fairness, there were other things stalking her dreams in addition to Spike.
Buffy paused briefly, looking at the door to the crypt. Suddenly, she couldn’t believe she’d wasted so much time straining to hear the sound of his voice. She could feel him, even through the thick door, calling to her on a primal level. He was like Angel, now – familiar –vampire and yet other. Part of her spidy sense screamed Spike. It had taken his absence and reappearance for her to recognize how he stood apart from the rest of the bloodsuckers.
And how many other nights had she stood in this same spot wanting to knock – wanting… Buffy shook her head. This wasn’t the time for This is Your Life or misplaced memories.
Spike rose from his chair. If he was surprised, he didn’t show it. His voice was calm but wary. He kept his hands at his sides where she could see them. “Hello, Buffy.”
Buffy drew her weapon. “Don’t move.”
Spike’s eyes flicked briefly to the point of her sword, and then back to hers. “This how it ends then?”
“That’s up to you, Spike.” Buffy studied him, hoping to find some outward clue that could confirm her dream. She thought that maybe there was something different about him – around his eyes or the set of his shoulders – but she could be imagining things. Her dream had been pretty specific about how to check, so Buffy plunged on before she lost her nerve. “Take your shirt off.”
His eyebrows shot up so high they got lost in his hairline. “’Scuse me?”
Buffy cursed. Stupid vampire always making things difficult. “Shirt off. Now!”
Spike shook his head. “I’m not your beck and call vamp anymore.”
And this was going so well. She decided to take a different route. “Ok, then tell me where you were all summer. Sunnydale was blissfully Spike-free, for three months, and suddenly you just reappeared. What happened?”
Spike held her gaze. How could she have forgotten how blue his eyes were? His voice was low, almost as if he was pleading with her. “I’ve stayed away Buffy. Haven’t come calling, only dropped in when you needed a bit of a hand, then I’ve left just as quickly. Leave me be.”
Something flickered in his eyes, and Buffy knew that expression. How often had she seen the same pain, panic and regret flash in Angel’s eyes? But she had to be sure.
“That’s the deal, Spike. Take it or leave it.” She knew she’d said the wrong thing when Spike crossed his arms defiantly.
“Think I’m gonna take door number two. Ta.” Spike tapped two fingers on his forehead, in kind of a salute. At least Buffy hoped it was a salute. If he’d just flipped her off she was really going to get pissed.
She really didn’t think she could face stabbing another friend this week. Not that Spike was a friend… he was a confusing… whatever.
It was time to play hardball. The fun things she’d learned from Angelus. “Come on, lover. There was a time when you couldn’t wait for me to see you naked.” She kept her tone light and mocking even though her stomach rippled with nausea.
Spike’s jaw tightened, but he reached behind his head and tugged his shirt off. With it bunched up in his hand, Buffy realized, absently, it was the blue shirt he’d been carrying in her dream.
“Happy?” Spike held out his arms. The ragged edges of healing scars crisscrossed his chest. “Can I get my kit back on?”
“Yeah.” Buffy nodded and lowered her sword as he pulled his shirt over his head. “So, it’s true. You got your soul.”
And for the first time since she’d arrived, Spike looked stunned. And panicked. “What? How?”
Buffy laughed wryly. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Prophetic dream.” Buffy sighed at the disbelieving look Spike gave her. “It’s a slayer thing. Told you that you wouldn’t believe me.”
“Dream about me a lot, do you?” Spike asked with a small smile. Gone was the leer that once would have been there; this was almost friendly, in a melancholy sort of way.
“Mostly nightmares.” Buffy tried to keep in the same vein and go for light and funny, and failed miserably. There was too much truth in the statement. Her words hung between them, heavy and flat. “I’m…sorry. My Buffy banter seems to be broken.”
“Don’t be. I deserve it.” And the pitiful thing was, he looked like he meant it.
God, she didn’t know how to deal with this version of Spike. She cast around, trying to find something else to talk about. “So, why are you staying here? Dirty crypt just screams ‘evil.’ Doesn’t newly souled rate better digs?”
Spike walked over to the sarcophagus and levered himself up. He plucked a bottle of whisky from the top and took a long drink before replying. “Where the hell else was I gonna go, Buffy? You planning on taking me in?”
Panic welled up inside her at the thought of Spike living with her – the same panic that had caused her to burn the bathrobe her mother had given her, that made her heart beat double-time, even now, when she heard the bathwater run. She tried to tamp down her revulsion, but Spike saw it. “Thought not.”
Buffy looked away, feeling guilty and justified at the same time, but mostly just tired. It wasn’t like this was the first time this week, or even this month, she’d woken up after a dream that really wasn’t. This was the only one that had featured Spike, but the rest were just as disturbing. Watching young girls from all over the world being murdered before her eyes, on almost a nightly basis, was wearing.
Suddenly, her brain caught up with her eyes and she realized what she’d been staring at for the last few moments. “Please tell me that is not yours.” She pointed to the velvet portrait of Elvis that spanned the back wall of the crypt behind the television.
Spike snorted. “Not likely. Clem left it. You should see the shrine he built to Colonel Sanders, down below.”
“Looks like you’ve got a shrine to Jack Daniels going, over there.” Buffy tipped her head toward the pile of discarded bottles next to his chair.
“You know what they say, if at first you don’t succeed, keep drinking ‘til you don’t bloody care.” Spike shrugged and took a long pull from his bottle. “Was there a point to this visit? Or are you gonna continue flailing ‘til you have to leave to go to work?”
And for the first time since she’d arrived, Buffy felt a genuine smile on her lips. “At the rate I’m going - probably flail,” she admitted. “Okay, here’s the thing. Apparently someone, somewhere, wanted me to know you had a soul. Something’s coming, Spike, something big. You can’t stay here.”
Exasperatedly, Spike sighed, “We’ve been through this.”
“From beneath you it devours… is that ringing any bells?” Buffy looked at the earthen floor and then back at Spike. “Cause from where I’m standing you’re at ground zero.”
Understanding finally sank in. “Point.”
Buffy pressed on. “Do you even want to stay here?”
“Well, no,” Spike admitted. “But where –”
Suddenly, inspiration struck her. “I have just the place.”
“Can I just say whole worlds of no? I’ve already done the vampire roommate thing. It didn’t work out too well. There was spewing of water and borrowing of clothes.” Xander shuddered at the memory. “Short pants, Wil. He was wearing short pants.”
Willow winced. “I know, I remember. But it’s different now… Buffy says he’s got a soul.”
“Uh huh,” Xander replied skeptically.
Willow’s eyes went wide and she looked at him hopefully. “Please, Xander.”
Blackmailed by the big eyes of doom. Xander sighed. “You’re not going to let me out of this are you?”
Willow, sensing his defeat, grinned and shook her head. “Nope.”
Giving her another exasperated sigh, he watched the last vestiges of sunlight disappear through the living room windows. “Why do I get the feeling that you waited until two minutes before sunset to spring this on me.”
Willow shrugged and tried to look innocent. She didn’t fool him for a minute. “Not a clue.”
“You owe me. Big.”
Suddenly Willow’s grin faded, and she said somberly, “I already owe you big.”
Flashes of the two of them on the hillside, talking her out of ending the world in the shadows of a half-buried shrine. Go figure that - and his dad said he’d never amount to anything. Uncomfortable, Xander scratched absently at his chest, feeling the ridges of the scar tissue. The scars were the only remnants of Willow’s black magic spree. Proserpexa’s temple had sunk back into the earth and the rest of the damage to downtown Sunnydale had been attributed to an earthquake, and had either been demolished or restored.
Willow’s expression became even more somber, if that were possible, and her green eyes shone with unshed tears. “I’m sorry, Xander. I wish –”
Crap. Xander dropped his hand. “Hey. Don’t. You’re back home and better now.”
“I don’t feel it,” Willow admitted. “Some days, I’m okay, and then others… I’ll walk by our old room and see it happen all over again.”
“You remember when Buffy left us for the exciting career in the food service industry?” Willow gave him a ghost of a smile, so Xander continued, “and we thought that even after she came back, nothing would be the same.”
“It wasn’t the same,” Willow said softly.
“No, it wasn’t,” Xander agreed, “but it wasn’t the end of the world. We still had good times and things got better.”
There was a knock at the door.
Thank god, Xander thought, saved by the bell. “Looks like they’re here. We good?”
Xander tried for a smile as he opened the door, but it felt more like a grimace. “Buffy. Nimrod.”
Spike snorted and hitched his duffle bag higher on his shoulder. “Told you he wouldn’t go for it.”
Ignoring the vampire, Xander looked at Buffy. “Just so we’re clear – I hate this plan.”
“Duly noted,” Buffy tried to look solemn and failed miserably.
Xander felt a brief sting of irritation at her casual dismissal of his feelings. He stepped away from the door, waiting for them to come in. Several seconds passed, but neither of them moved. “Well?”
“Invitation,” Buffy mouthed dramatically, eyes flicking to Spike and then back to Xander.
“You first,” Xander replied, knowing he sounded petty but unable to stop himself. “Just in case Fangboy stopped for a bite on the way. Chip doesn’t work on you, remember?”
“Xander!” Willow piped in, sounding horrified. “Buffy is not a vampire.”
Buffy stepped over the threshold as Spike rolled his eyes. “Satisfied?”
Not really, Xander thought, but reluctantly issued the required invitation. “Come in, Spike.”
“Thank you.” Buffy sounded genuinely grateful, and Xander felt a stab of guilt.
“For the record – there will be no eating my food, no drinking my beer, no smoking in the apartment…” Xander continued his litany, counting each possible infraction off on his fingers as he led Spike and Buffy to the guest room. “Here’s where you’re staying. It’s connected to the hallway, so no windows.”
“It’s really nice, Xander, thanks,” Buffy said with a smile, and then glared at the vampire. “Spike.”
Spike sighed heavily, and then intoned, “Thank you, Xander, for giving me a place to stay.” Duty completed, he looked back at Buffy expectantly. “Happy?”
Buffy grinned. “Working on it.”
|Feed the Author|
|Home||Categories||New Stories||Non Spander|