Who Wants to Live Forever
He was here. Well, of course he was here. Xander had known on the plane, in the cab, in Giles' car all the way up here, that Spike would be here. Hovering over Dawn and probably growling at the guests. Still, he hadn't been prepared. They had walked through the door and Xander had felt him there. God, what was that, some kind of automatic demonic warning device? His hair stood up on his arms. Something in his belly tensed, as some inner compass directed his gaze up the staircase. Slim, elegant in a black tuxedo, those shocking eyes looking directly into his. Xander felt a jolt shoot through his body to his toes. He felt that a knife had sliced him from neck to knee. Their gazes locked for forever, it seemed, and then Spike was gone, turned and up the stairs with vampiric speed.
" ... hardly any traffic, was there Xander?"
Giles was looking at him expectantly. Xander shook his head, attempting a weak smile. His whole body was tingling and buzzing. God, what was this? "Yeah," he managed, "it was a breeze."
"Xander!" A shrieking snowball with Dawn's face hurtled down the stairs and against his chest, "You made it!"
Xander reeled back and steadied himself against the assault. "Whoa, Dawnie." He stopped and held her at arm's length. She was even taller, now, statuesque. Her hair was swept up in an elegant twist. Those wide eyes, once so innocent and vulnerable, had become more mature and exotic. She was "absolutely beautiful," he whispered.
Dawn rewarded him with a dazzling smile and reached to gently touch his cheek. "I'm not married yet, Xander," she said happily, "you still have a chance."
"Nope." Xander laughed and became interested in a bit of lint on his lapel. "I blew my chances, Dawnie." He felt a somber note creeping in and shook it off, looking at her with his old smirking persona. "There you were, alone, in your pyjama's and what did I do?" He rolled his eyes, "Read you bedtime stories, God what a geek!" Dawn grimaced and playfully shoved him away. "Eew and eew squared Xander. You sound like some dirty old pervert!"
Xander's smile felt pasted on to him. "Yeah," he rasped out, "well, you never know what evil lurks in the hearts of men..." but Dawn wasn't listening, busily dragging him back towards the stairs. What? "Uh Dawn, where are we going?"
"You haven't said hello to Spike. God, you should see him in a tux. I swear I totally get that whole Transylvania Count in tux and swirly black cape thing now. He's just edible." Xander froze, pulling back from her and looking around desperately. "No!" he said harshly, then "no," more gently at her look of surprise, "I've been in Giles' bouncing tin box for three hours. I need a) the men's room b) a drink and then maybe c) another drink. He gently tried to pull his hand from hers.
"Then I'll mingle. I haven't seen a lot of the people here for years." Dawn nodded and released him.
"Sure, sure, go hang out with the boys in the back yard. I think they're all telling Bill about the real Dawn Summers. Trying to frighten him. Hah!" She laughed, "My boy Bill fears nothing, not even a ball of green energy." Xander stared.
"You told him?"
"Yeah, well..." she shrugged, smiling, and then looked at him very seriously. "You have to be honest with the people you love, or it's like you aren't really there with them, you know? Its like you're just playing a part on a TV show and watching yourself."
Xander told himself that Dawn wasn't trying to imply anything. He told himself that Dawn wasn't that subtle. If she had a beef with him, she'd have brought it up. Nevertheless, he felt his cheeks warming. He looked away. Just then his pager went off.
"Oh. Hey. Gotta take care of this."
"Sure, Xander. I'm really glad you're here." She leaned in and kissed his cheek. Xander leaned into the kiss, an unexpected yearning for contact throbbing through him. "You look like a fairy princess, Dawnie," he whispered, "you look like some man's dream come true."
Dawn stepped back, smiling with delight. Her face was pink. "Oh Xander," she teased, "you've really learned how to charm a girl." She turned and floated off.
Xander headed for the downstairs bathroom to take his meds. He shut the door behind him and turned on the faucet. Put his hands on the sink and looked at himself in the mirror. "Fuck, Harris, you are such an asshole. How are you going to pull this off?"
"Fuck, you bloody idiot, how're you gonna pull this off." Spike was standing on the balcony outside the master bedroom. He had cadged a cigarette from someone. This seemed like the perfect time to take up an old bad habit. He took a long, intense drag from the cigarette, hurled the thing to the ground in frustration and ground it out under his shoe.
"Bloody gorgeous. Five years and even more bloody gorgeous than when he left. Pinned me to the wall with one look. How'm I gonna get through a ceremony, a reception, the whole horse and pony ride with those eyes on me?" He turned and paced. Pounding a fist rhythmically against the brick facing every time he passed it. "I will not screw up Dawn's wedding. I will not act like a bloody wanker and embarrass myself. I will not lose control ..." Whack, a bit of brick flew off the wall. Spike stopped and looked down at his hand regretfully. Three of his knuckles were gashed and dripping blood onto the paving. He shook his head in disgust. "Fucking bloody hell."
He stomped back into the bedroom, looking for something to stop the bleeding before it stained his clothes. He couldn't see anything around that would suffice, so shrugged and just started licking it off himself. Besides, his saliva would make it heal even faster, and maybe he'd be lucky and Dawn wouldn't notice. Damn, he'd really taken a gouge out of himself. There was a lot of blood. His own really did nothing for him, but blood was blood and he lathed it up with his tongue expertly, licking his sticky fingers and hand like a big lollypop. Bollocks, it just kept coming, he must have hit a large vein. Even though he had no real circulation, if he cut himself badly enough he knew it would be a while before the bleeding stopped. Spike sat down on the bed and lathed his tongue over the wound in earnest. Well, at least it gave him something comforting to do while trying to sort this mess out.
Xander knew that it was terrifically unwise, and not a little rude, to get drunk before the wedding ceremony, even though he was only a spectator. But he had told himself that he couldn't breath if he didn't calm down, and that fainting during the ceremony would definitely distract from the main event. He swirled his third "Evil Bill Special" around in the glass and wandered aimlessly back into the house. If there were indeed seventeen different kinds of rum, he suspected that this drink contained eighteen. The eighteenth being the one that had displaced the soles of his feet. Since his feet seemed to have become possessed by their own mind and will, he followed them back into the house and up the stairs to the second floor. His feet wanted to go down the hallway to the master bedroom. His feet wanted to go stand in the doorway. Xander was so happy to relinquish control, he gladly followed until he looked up. Grabbed hold of his feet and reined them in. Spike was sitting on the bed. Blood on his lips and his tongue dragging up one finger. He froze in this position when Xander walked into the room. Xander found that he could not breath again. That despite this phenomena, his heart was racing and appeared to have sunk into his cock, where the beating of it was so painful he wanted to double over. Then that sliced down the middle feeling again. Xander stared at Spike's bloody mouth as the vampire quickly rubbed and tried to lick the blood from his lips. His tongue caught the blood from his lower lip and Xander unconsciously mirrored the action with his own tongue. His demonically possessed feet dared to take another step, and he had to force himself to concentrate to keep them still. Which is why he didn't really catch what Spike said at first.
"...bloody knock!" Spike turned away embarrassed. He couldn't see himself, but he felt the stickiness on his face. And then just staring at Harris like a rabbit caught in the headlights! He knew he must look ridiculous. "Geez, Harris, people don't just walk into other people's bedrooms."
Xander shook himself. The words seemed to be entering his brain so slowly he could not catch the sense of them. "Huh. Spike. Didn't know you were up here."
Spike was ruffled. "Well yeah, Alexander, they don't keep me in a coffin in the bloody cellar."
"Well, no." Xander felt massively confused. He kept telling his feet to turn and walk away, but they were ignoring his commands. He saw Spike stand up and come towards him. He felt a surge of excitement so powerful it made him gasp, which cleared his head a bit. What the hell was wrong with him? "Sorry," he managed. Spike walked right up to him and stood expectantly. Xander was at a complete loss and terrified out of his mind. What was he supposed to do? What was Spike going to do? Why was he just standing there looking at him? Xander's head felt extremely noisy. "Sorry," he repeated stupidly, and shook his head, looking at his rebellious feet. Spike snorted.
"You gonna let me by, Harris? Gotta clean up."
"Yeah," said Xander. He looked up at Spike again. Looked at the blood on his lips. There was one sticky pink smear near the corner of his lower lip. An insane need to touch that smear surged through him and Xander had actually raised his arm partially before he caught himself with a start. A feeling of such absolute self-loathing rushed through him that he grimaced. Concentrating he managed to look away from Spike, and step out of his path.
"Yeah," he said roughly, "really should clean that up."
Spike saw the look of revulsion on Xander's face and felt an old pain suddenly awaken deep inside of him. He managed to push past Xander and get down the hallway without the hurt stinging in his eyes being seen by the man who had caused it.
Xander felt grateful for the intense pain in his head. It helped to keep his mind on the ceremony. They had set up the entire room in a circle around the couple and their Priestess. It appeared that Spike was standing in as both the High Priest and he who gives the bride in marriage. The room was illuminated only by candles and moonlight coming through the windows. Willow circled the perimeter of the defined space, turning slowly, a bizarre short sword raised in her hand.
"Once for the Daughter, twice for the Crone, thrice for the Mother."
Willow's power had matured, Dawn had told him. She was a High Priestess of an old Wiccan Coven, and opted for wisdom over magic tricks these days. Or so Dawn said. Xander had seen his friend rippling with magic and he had seen her insane with power. The woman before him seemed, he tried to find a word in the maelstrom of his head, she seemed jolly. Her face was still beautiful and had the glow of the truly healthy, but she seemed older somehow. Peaceful, he realized suddenly. Willow exuded extreme intense Peace.
After carefully binding the couples' hands together, Spike took his place by Dawn, cradling her other arm in his, with such intense pathos on his moonlit face that Xander felt his heart would stop beating - if he weren't concentrating on not vomiting all over the person in front of him.
"They cleave to one another," Willow was chanting. As Bill and Dawn stood before her, Willow had one hand resting on their joined hands. She smoothly sequed into the Christian part of the ceremony, "this man and woman, bound by holy matrimony."
Xander saw Dawn smiling at Bill secretly. Something was going on with her. He knew she was involved somehow with Willow's work. The Council and the Wiccans would never let a phenomena like Dawn just waltz off to New York with an ordinary guy, would they? But Dawn seemed good with it. She seemed to be sharing whatever it was with Bill, even, which meant it was good, right? As long as they both wanted it and weren't hurting anybody. Xander felt a sudden increase in the throbbing in his head. He stopped himself, just, from moaning out loud. God, he so deserved to feel like shit right now. What an asshole, just barging in on Spike like that. Staring at him like he was some exotic animal on display. Gawping like some slack jawed geek. Xander allowed himself to look at Spike again. The moonlight had a cool sharp edge to it that brought out his cheekbones and expressive brows. His eyes glittered fiercely as he stood by Dawn for the last time, perhaps, as her protector. But the candlelight bathed his skin in a surreal glow. He looked young and eternal and more beautiful than anything Xander had ever seen. Beautiful, he thought fiercely. I'm looking at a frigging vampire. A frigging male vampire. And I'm thinking he's beautiful. His head throbbed and he embraced the pain gladly. Yeah, give it to me good oh god of hangovers, for Alexander Harris is a fucking idiot who thinks a century old male serial killer is beautiful . He punished himself by forcing his gaze away from Spike and back onto the rest of the assembly. Maybe if he was lucky he'd pass out right after the ceremony.
Spike had expected sorrow and pain and joy. He had felt Dawn slipping away from him faster and faster every day. Before she and Bill had ever met, he had already felt it. Her view of the world had turned outward, she was talking careers and plans, babies and travel. Her girlhood had been filled with sorrow and loss and Spike had been her good friend through it all. But adulthood promised to be exciting and joyful, and she stopped talking about trivial Sunnydale issues and began reading the national news.
Spike felt that his existence was fixed in place, one time. He went every day to Buffy and Joyce's graves and sat. Talked to them about their friends and families, the new Slayer, his thoughts. Dawn came with him sometimes, but for her it was nostalgia and reverence. For him it was an ever-present pain. Buffy, like Spike, was frozen in time. She was eternally twenty-five, fragile, tragic, fiercely brave and amazingly strong. She and he sat side by side in the cemetery. Two dead things. Only Buffy didn't feel lonely anymore, he hoped. Buffy didn't long for contact anymore, he prayed hopelessly to a probably deaf god. Buffy could forgive him now, he truly believed, because she could perhaps finally understand eternity.
And Dawn was growing away from that place in which he lived with Buffy. He felt her slip away and felt the loss. Spike was used to loss. He was used to being left. As he lost Dawn, though, he had the panicking feeling that he was somehow losing himself. As if his substance, his physical presence, was somehow dependent on interaction with this person. He felt, with every moment moving closer to Dawn's imminent departure, that he was becoming less and less solid. That he was becoming transparent. Am I the dreamer or the dream? his memory quoted suddenly, and he experienced a rush of fear. He suddenly imagined that he could not feel sorrow or joy for Dawn. That he could not feel anything at all because he wasn't real, and nothing he felt had substance.
Willow was done with the chanting, he expected. He felt her power build suddenly and knew that usually happened at the end of these things. Suddenly she looked straight at him. Into him, was more like it. He felt her awareness of him like a cool hand on a warm forehead. The fear flew away and bittersweet sadness and unbelievable joy suddenly rose up in him. He looked at Dawn, her face completely suffused with love for this man who gazed back at her as if she were his world,
and she sure as hell better be, wanker, thought Spike. He looked back at Willow. Tried to make his gratitude speak from his eyes. He looked around the room. All their friends. His friends, too, not just Dawn's. He could feel life and love, two qualities not always present for vampires and so just that much more valuable. His eyes swept the room and for a moment caught Xander's. He saw so much pain there. So much fear. A gush of gratitude for his own momentary gift of peace suffused Spike's heart and he dared to let himself smile at Xander. Just for a moment to let something of what he felt for his old friend show on his face. Xander answered with a trembling smile of his own. Then Dawn was in Spike's arms, and then Bill, and then their assembled friends were pushing around them and Spike was carried off.
Xander stared into the dregs of his champagne flute and called himself all kinds of idiot for the hundredth time. Firstly, the idiot who, with the hangover of death, goes to the bar and drinks yet again. Hair of the werewolf that cursed you, indeed. Secondly, the idiot who gets a wonky half smile from someone across the room and spends the rest of the evening dreaming about him. And finally, the idiot who still cannot talk to the someone across the room without poisoning his brain first with alcohol. Because we all know how attractive drunks are, don't we Harris? Or maybe, he thought, the alcohol was his way of ensuring that he would never talk to the someone across the room. Because there were so many issues there. Issues upon issues. Even just thinking that word in his drunken mind, Xander could hear himself saying it out loud. "Issues," he said and it sounded just as silly coming out of his drunken mouth as he had thought it would. "Issues," he said again, and giggled.
"Amusing yourself, Harris?"
Xander jumped and almost fell off his seat. Damn sneaking silent vampire! "Spike," he grunted, trying to sound unaffected. "Congratulations."
"Father of the bride," explained Xander, "mazeltoff." He steeled himself and looked Spike directly in the eye. Yep, there it was again, that slow ripping up his middle. Obviously he hadn't had quite enough to drink. Spike nodded at him slowly. His expression was wary. Xander yanked at the bar stool next to him. "Have a seat, dad," he said, "Let's toast the bride." Spike sat down on the stool and accepted the glass the bartender set down. He nodded at Xander's glass.
"Do I see a family resemblance here, Harris?"
"D'you have a drinking problem, Xander?" he said carefully, casually tilting his head away so that Xander wouldn't have to feel he was looking directly at him. "I mean, are we pushing you off some wagon or something, 'cuz Dawn would kill me..."
"You're not doing anything to me, Spike," said Xander harshly. "You are having no effect on my life whatsoever," he added. Spike tilted an eyebrow up at him. "Whatever," said Xander confusedly, thinking he had answered more than one question. "I'm fine Spike. Yeah, I'm drinking too much tonight. Yeah, I drink a lot. Nope, no intervention necessary as of yet. Seem to be handling life just fine. And death just fine. Life and death going on just fine without interference from alcohol."
Xander suddenly wanted to stop. He wanted to stop and he wanted Spike to just understand. To understand, and say, "Yeah I get it Xan." And wrap his arm around his shoulder the way he used to, and Xander would just know that he was understood. He wanted it so badly, he needed it so badly just now that he thought Spike must feel how much he needed it. He looked at him pleadingly, "Please just understand, Spike, please," he begged him silently. He dared another look into those eyes. The violent charge and buzz of being this close to Spike, which was beginning to feel natural to Xander, made it seem like they were in their own little world. He reached toward Spike cautiously. Spike's eyes widened. Xander put his hand on Spike's shoulder and watched his eyes. Spike was looking at him with as much trust as a wild animal, caught in a trap, might look at the trapper. Xander could see him lightly breathing, which was never a good thing, and his eyes were turning almost black, the pupils had dilated so much. But the place where Xander's hand was touching Spike's body, was the happiest feeling his hand had had in so long. "Five years" he thought suddenly. " I haven't felt this from just touching someone in five years". He couldn't remove it. So Spike did. He stood slowly, not unkindly removing Xander's hand from his shoulder.
"You're drunk, Xander," he said gently. "You're gonna feel like absolute shit in the morning." He smiled sorrowfully and reached across to barely touch a lock of Xander's hair. His touch had no pressure, but Xander felt it zip through his body like an electric shock. "Spike," he whispered, "Spike, please." Spike kept smiling sadly. His thumb rested against Xander's jaw. "You're gonna feel like shit, and you're not gonna remember anything. You're not gonna remember this conversation, and you're not gonna remember this." And Spike leant down and gently pressed his lips to Xander's.
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