Who Wants to Live Forever
Maurice collapsed tiredly into a large, overstuffed chair. He let the crossbow locked in his hand slip to the floor, and shakily pushed the damp hair back from his forehead.
“Brandy,” he began weakly, “we have to discuss the evening’s events.”
Brandy was alight and hyperactive. Her slim graceful figure prowled the room. She spun the stake in her hand like a baton. Flipping it over her head and spinning to catch it behind her back, black hair shimmering like silk as she turned.
Brown leaned against the doorframe watching her, hypnotized. He was extremely pale and a blonde girl with very long legs stood next to him, attempting to blot blood off a large gash in his arm with a wet hanky. She rubbed it a little hard and he flinched.
“’Nuf,” he said, “Leave it Crystal.”
“Might be infected,” muttered Crystal, stopping nevertheless. She gazed at him with huge wet eyes. “Could have stuff in it.” She turned to glare at Brandy. “Could be poison, even,” she said.
Brandy snorted. “Maurice says vampire’s nails are harmless. “Cept for the ripping and tearing.” She gave Brown a conspiratorial grin. “Nice ax action there, Brown.” The boy attempted an equally cocky grin and shoved himself away from the doorjamb.
“Yeah, I had it going there for half a second,” he laughed sheepishly.
“Well, the Slayage is my job. The distracting was helpful, though.” Brandy laughed and spun about again. “Did you see that sorry demon when I punctured him? ‘Huh!’” she mimicked the demon’s face, “‘Wuz dat? Tawt it was a snack.. Fuck me!’” she chortled and danced over to the sofa, plunking down.
“Brandy,” attempted Maurice again, “we need to discuss…”
“Oh god, Maurice. Whuts yer syndrome? Can’t it wait one night?”
“No,” said Maurice firmly, “this is serious, Brandy. You were completely out of control again. This isn’t one of those silly video games. If you lose you can’t press ‘restart’.”
“Vamps are dead, yeah? I slayed yer demons for you. Lay off.” Brandy sunk into the sofa glaring at her Watcher. She crossed her arms and pouted, tears rose in her eyes. “God, all anybody else I know has to worry about is passing French,” she whined piteously, “I have to battle evil and stuff.”
The frown line on Maurice’s forehead softened. “You are Chosen,” he said gently, “it’s a privilege as well as a burden.”
“Huh, YOU can say that!” Brandy grumped.
Crystal stepped forward and glared at Brandy. “Well, at least you have superstrength and superagility and whatever.” She avoided looking at Brown. “Other people don’t, they could get hurt.”
“Nobody said ‘other people’ have to stick around,” said Brandy pointedly.
Brown looked miserably from one girl to the other. “It was my fault,” he started.
“No it wasn’t,” Crystal rounded on him. “She’s all showing off and ‘aren’t-I-hot-in-spandex and doesn’t even notice that vampire coming after you.”
“I saw it,” Brandy protested hotly.
“And, what? You figured you’d let it get a little taste of Brown first?” Crystal rounded on the boy, “and you’re just all ‘Oooh Brandy, I will protect yoooo’. Like she’ll ever give it up for you.”
Brown looked startled and embarrassed. “Crystal, I…” He looked at the floor, miserable. “Brandy and I are just friends.”
“Oh, puhleeze! She’s playing you!”
“Bitch!” Brandy was on her feet and advancing, her hands balled into fists. Maurice quickly jumped up from his chair and stepped between the young women.
“That’s enough!” He put his hand gently on Brandy’s shoulder. She shrugged him off, but turned away from the confrontation, walking off to a corner of the room, back stiff. Crystal glared after her.
Maurice sighed. Mr. Giles and the ‘Buffy fan club’, as he had dubbed them, were going to be arriving soon, and as usual his little troop was in chaos. He often thought that Brandy’s friends were more of a hindrance to her calling, than a help. In the old days, the Watchers kept their Slayers independent of emotional attachments. It helped them keep their focus. In the old days, a girl was raised as a potential so that she had understanding of, and respect for, her duty when and if she was called. Maurice pined for the old days.
Various thuds and the murmur of voices outside the door announced the arrival of their guests. Brown turned and opened the door, sulkily. He looked up and saw Xander and grinned.
“Hey, man, wicked shirt.”
Xander laughed, surprised. “Must say I like your taste, Brown.” He looked around the room and leered at Crystal. “Hey, legs, you old enough for me yet?”
Crystal grimaced and made an exaggerated shudder. “Never.” Then she laughed and smiled at him. “Unless you’re rich enough for me, now?”
“Ah, well,” she sighed. She smiled at Willow as the witch came in the door. “Hey, Rosenberg, guess who got the platinum G4 laptop for her birthday!”
“You spoiled brat!” said Willow, “I so hate you. Where is it?”
The girls wandered off and Giles looked around the room questioningly. “I asked Spike to join us,” he said to Maurice. “I’m surprised not to see him here.”
“An unreliable vampire?” said Maurice sarcastically. “Why am I not amazed?”
“Spike is usually prompt,” said Giles calmly. He looked at Xander. “When you gave him the book, did he seem as usual?”
“Huh? Yeah G-man.” Xander masked his discomfort. “Nothin’ weird. Except of course, him being Spike, and well you just get used to that.”
“Well, this is very inconvenient,” sighed Maurice, “but I suppose we can carry on without the demon’s help.” He turned on another light and began piling books onto the coffee table. “I have some illustrations here that everyone should see. This peculiar object has been mentioned twice in the prophecies. I’m not sure if it will be helpful or dangerous, but I think everyone should be watching for its possible appearance.”
Xander settled down into the sofa cushions uncomfortably. He had a tingly, anticipatory feeling that he told himself was due to the presence of magical texts and other mojo. Now that he knew Spike was due to arrive, he found himself listening for sounds at the door. Because we need his help, he told himself. Worried about apocolypty things here. After about half an hour, Xander started to worry that maybe Spike had known that Xander would be at the meeting and had chosen not to present himself. Because of last night, or because I wouldn’t talk to him today. The thought made him both depressed and angry. He had not yet puzzled out an excuse for those emotions, when Spike came banging through the door.
Of course, Brandy was on her feet and prickly all over immediately. It always made Xander’s hair stand on end a little the way the girl fingered her stake when Spike was around, and the way she watched him pace around the room. Spike usually enjoyed the tension, and played on the girl’s nerves. Tonight, however, he ignored her and just stood in the doorway, arms crossed. He nodded at Giles and did not come in.
“Oi, Watcher, sorry I’m late.”
“It’s alright, Spike. You can see what we’ve discussed. I’m interested in whether you’ve seen anything like this.” Giles turned a text on the table and looked at Spike expectantly.
Spike circled the room slowly and came up behind Giles to peer over his shoulder. Xander was uncomfortably aware that Spike had taken the longest route around the room, successfully avoiding passing by Xander.
“Nope. Never seen it. That symbol looks familiar though.”
“Yes,” Maurice said excitedly despite himself, “I thought so too.”
“Maybe an older version of Polxat,” Spike opined.
“You think?” Giles turned the text back and studied the image again. “That could lead to something interesting. They had an old calendar. We might find something there.”
Maurice rose and began looking through his stacks of reference material. “Mr. Giles, you would not believe it, but I just had the council send a copy of the calendar…”
The two Watchers happily pored over the texts while Spike stood behind them with his arms folded. He studied his feet, he looked at the wary Slayer and raised an eyebrow, he gave a little smirk to Willow, nodded at the ‘new kids’ on the couch. His glance slid over Xander smoothly. Xander raised a hand in greeting. Spike blinked at him without expression and looked away.
“Need a smoke, Rupert.”
“Of course, of course, Spike.” Giles waved him away.
Spike was exercising self-control. He wasn’t doing it very well, but in his defense self-control was not a class offered at Vampire Training School. So Spike had never learned any subtlety in the technique. His switch was either off or on. Without self-control, Spike would have looked into Xander’s eyes and wept. Or raged. With self-control, he simply expressed nothing. Every emotion went into the box in his head. Lid closed and locked. So an animated corpse with no feelings smoked a cigarette outside the Watcher’s house. And an animated corpse with no feelings smoking a cigarette was what Xander encountered when he found an excuse to follow Spike to his outside smoke-spot.
“Hey,” said Xander nervously, affecting a casual attitude. An animated corpse with cold blue eyes regarded him. “Heh, yeah,” Xander rubbed his hands together happily, “lotta prophetic medallion goodness tonight, huh?” The animated corpse placed a cigarette between its lips. Turned its head away. Exhaled. “Whudda ya say?” Xander leaned against the wall and crossed his arms.
The corpse turned its head again. Once again the seemingly dead eyes regarded him. Blinked once. Xander uncrossed his arms, crossed his legs, pushed off from the wall, paced in a circle, leaned against the wall again and nervously rubbed the back of his neck. “Why are you mad at me, Spike?” he finally managed.
The corpse raised one eyebrow. It lifted the cigarette and took another drag. It looked away and tossed the smoke to the ground. It made to walk back into the house. Xander desperately grabbed at Spike’s arm. “Hey.” A great charge of energy surged straight from Xander’s hand to his groin. He stared at Spike, stunned. Spike’s expressionless eyes suddenly crinkled, went dark, and suspiciously bright. He turned his head away and jerked from Xander’s grasp. He stood still for a moment with his back to Xander. Then he pushed through the door. Xander stood alone. “What the hell is wrong with me?” he wondered. “Fuck, I need a drink,” he concluded.
Spike used to refer to himself as “The Big Bad Slayer Bus”. He was utilized constantly as a chaperone and ride for the less supernaturally gifted Scoobies. Since Giles and Maurice were happily immersed in research mania, and promised to spend the rest of the evening digging through their musty texts, it naturally fell to Spike to accompany Xander home. It was so usual for him to do so, it would have been odd for him to refuse. So Spike exercised self-control as Xander bounced nervously beside him, babbling a mile a minute.
“Boy Spike, you know way too many demonic languages. It makes a guy wonder what kind of friends you have. The only friends of yours I’ve met were those guys, er … things, er … whatevers I met that time we went to the demon bar and played cards. And how many species of demons know how to play poker? Wait! Oh god, you don’t have to tell me. Poker is demonic isn’t it? Damn I knew it. What about pool? Naw, that would just be wrong.”
And the animated corpse walked slowly beside him.
“Hey, hey, wait.” Xander felt so agitated he thought he would explode. He didn’t know if he was upset because perhaps Spike was angry with him, or if he was upset because he wanted to touch the vampire on the arm again and wouldn’t allow himself. “Hey, Spike, I’m dry and outta beer at home. Let’s pop into this bar for a quick one, yeah? My treat. Well, hell it’s always my treat, but this time I won’t give you shit about it. As much,” he amended.
The animated corpse slowed and stopped. It regarded the bar for a moment, then turned and walked through the door, leaving Xander to follow.
After a six-pack of beer and three whiskey shooters, the boys were back out on the street and Xander was finally desperate for Spike to speak to him. The vampire had sat in stony silence and drank and smoked, only glancing at Xander when asked a question. He grunted a couple of times, and Xander thought they had a breakthrough, but then back to the scary staring and the cold unbreathing thingness. He finally couldn’t bear it anymore, steeled his resolve and gently clasped Spike’s arm.
The vampire immediately stopped when Xander caught his arm. He could walk beside this man, listen to his voice, drink with him and watch him talk, all without showing the feelings churning inside him. But when Xander touched him it all began breaking apart. He couldn’t be touched by Xander and feel nothing. But he couldn’t bear to feel everything, so he tugged away. “No,” he said.
Aha, thought Xander, success! He held the vampire’s arm more firmly and clasped his shoulder with his other hand. The incredible thrill of touching Spike was making him feel dizzy, but he had to touch, had to hear Spike speak to him, had to know Spike was not angry with him.
Spike turned his head and looked down at Xander’s feet. “Why won’t you talk about it?” he whispered.
Xander jumped like he had been burned. He let go of Spike.
“What do you mean Spike?” he said in a warning tone.
“Xander.” Spike looked up and was no longer an animated corpse. His eyes were full of pain. “Xander, we’ve had sex. You said you loved me. Yeah, I know you say you’ve forgotten. But you said you loved me,”
“That’s crazy, Spike,” said Xander harshly. “Yeah, I know, I know,” he waved away the vampire’s expected protests. “We’re a coupla weird and crazy guys, Spike. I mean we’re lonely guys living on the Hellmouth, right? Crazy things. Evil things. Ya know, out of control things happen. And friends help friends in need sometimes, ya know? But nothing’s going on here. We’re friends, Spike, that’s all.”
Xander couldn’t stand to look at Spike, the way the vampire just stood there and gazed at him. He looked off across the street and huffed impatiently.
“God, it’s cold out,” he said, wrapping his arms around himself and stepping towards his home. “C’mon buddy, let’s get inside.” And he headed off.
Spike was so surprised when Xander invited him in that he accepted the invitation. Xander happily discovered that he still had Scotch in a back cupboard and poured out drinks for them both. He touched glasses.
“Skull,” he said, laughing at their private toast. He downed the highball glass in one shot and poured another. “Keeping up Spike?” he offered.
“What are you doing, Xander?”
“Getting loaded yet again, Spike. ‘S’n it obvious?”
“Why the fuck not, Spike?” said Xander. He moved closer to Spike on the couch and grabbed his shoulder, unable to resist the contact. “Why the fuck shouldn’t we get drunk, Spike? Why the fuck shouldn’t we feel good when we can?” His hand dropped from Spike’s shoulder and he rubbed Spike’s arm, fascinated by the erotic buzz the gesture made him feel. “Why the fuck shouldn’t we take a little comfort where we can?” he murmured.
“Stop it, Xander.” Spike stood up and set down his drink. He whirled and strode towards the door.
“Hey, what’s your beef?” Xander cried in protest.
But Spike walked out of the apartment without answering and slammed the door.
Xander woke the next morning angry with Spike. He knew that the vampire had been hostile and unfriendly the evening before, despite Xander’s efforts, and it angered him and hurt his pride. His physical frustration didn’t help the situation either. He felt teased, toyed with, and ultimately judged by someone he felt was culpable in the problem. He decided to respond to Spike’s coldness with equal coldness. Consequently, when they encountered each other that evening at Maurice’s house, the atmosphere was glacial.
“Harris,” grunted Spike, not looking up from the book in front of him. He glanced up when the man did not respond. Xander was holding himself stiffly. His expression dark and proud. He sneered a bit in Spike’s general direction, then turned with an overly enthusiastic smile towards Giles.
“So, what’s up for us tonight, G-man?”
Giles fussed over something in front of him. “Please don’t call me that,” he said automatically. He held up an ax similar to the one Brown habitually preferred. “We have discovered that a substance poured on this weapon is effective against the demons associated with the coming plague.” He hesitated and studied the weapon. “At least, we are hoping it is effective.”
“Great!” Xander bounced.
Giles looked at him, perplexed. “Er, yes,” he agreed.
“’S not necessary for all the humans to be involved, is it Rupert?” remarked Spike, without looking up from his book. “Don’t want to be tripping over them all while saving the world, you know.”
“Nobody needs to trip you up, bloodbreath. You can do it all by yourself,” snarked Xander.
“Fine then, Harris. Don’t need to be watching out for you kiddies then.”
Giles watched this exchange with raised eyebrows. He was accustomed to the two friends ragging on each other, but the banter was usually accompanied by smiles. “We’ll need all the help we can get,” he said. “It may take some time for Willow and I to close the portal, and the creatures on the other side can be quite dangerous.”
“All the more reason to keep the little ‘uns outta it, Rupert.” Spike was determinedly cool, but he was still uncomfortable with the thought of Xander involving himself in the next conflict. He felt Xander whack something down on the table, and sit with a great thump at the end. There was a chill silence. He looked up into remarkably hostile eyes. Looked away. So that was how it was going to be. Fine then.
Giles sighed and produced silver flasks from a box. They were no bigger than a cigarette lighter, and covered with arcane graphics. “Willow has filled these with the oil,” he explained. “It’s a kind of lubricant. Please keep your ax coated with it.”
Spike took the flask worriedly. “Don’t love touching magical stuff all that much, Rupert.”
“Oh, don’t worry,” Willow piped up from the kitchen. “It’s non-toxic to humans. And vampires,” she added.
“What’s in it then?”
She giggled. “Basically? It’s salad dressing.”
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