Summary: Xander attempts to help Spike sort things through. S/B
Timeline: Takes place sometime after "Wrecked"
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to many many other people and I, unfortunately, am not one of them. Joss is the greatest, as are all of his evil BtVS minions... er... writers.
Authors Note: Archive if you like, just ask first. Feedback makes my world go round, as I'm sure all of you know. Please tell me what you think.
He'd known, that morning, that it would be. He should have listened to his better judgement and just stayed in bed. Should have high-tailed it out of the Magic Box and back home before the sun set and his conscience could get the better of him. Before that inevitable nagging thought over the safety of his slowly disintegrating circle of friends over took him, and he'd have to force himself to jog the three blocks down and two blocks to the left that would take him to the closest cemetery.
He hated how well he knew the many short cuts to that particular part of town.
"A little Déjà vu, Harris?" The vampire chuckled drunkenly, then stumbled, causing his companion to stumble as well.
Xander straightened awkwardly and pushed Spike back up into a standing position so they could continue walking. He gave the demon a look that probably didn't convey all that he'd hoped it would, seeing as how hard liquor didn't tend to aid one's ability to pick up on those sort of things.
But then, Spike always had been a little too perceptive for his own good. Even when drunk.
Xander looked away and gripped Spike's arm a little more firmly, anticipating the next miss-step the vampire might take. "What do you mean?"
The older man chuckled a little, tripping again, but brushing off the incident as if it happened all the time. "I bet you never thought you'd be escorting my drunk ass home again. Not after the summer."
Xander pursed his lips. "Well, what can I say, Spike? I guess I just like you too much." He gave the vampire a sarcastic look to match his tone of voice. Spike laughed.
"Right. I know- I know you better than that." He slurred. "You only do it for them. Buffy and the Little Bit." They stopped walking then as Spike shrugged Xander's hands away and motioned to him the he could walk on his own.
"Well, why else do you think I'd keep you alive?" The young man joked, only half serious.
Spike stood up fully on his own, a bit shaky. He turned his head to look at Xander, his eyes and his voice both surprisingly sober. "Good point."
And then he fell down again.
Luckily, Xander was there to catch his arm and right him before too much damage was done.
"Jesus, Spike." He continued to drag the vampire along. He suddenly had images of Spike's skull smacking against the pavement, and he wondered how long it would take for a vampire to recover from something like that. He decided that he was better safe than sorry. "I thought this sorta thing would be over once Buffy was back."
He wanted to still be confused about it all. To not understand what was currently driving the vampire to drink again. He had his slayer back, didn't he? But then... there were other issues.
"No one's asking you to be here, Harris." His voice was strained. Upset and drunk: not exactly a good combination when you had fangs and a thirst for blood.
Xander just shook his head. He knew where this was headed. The same place it always was.
"And why does that line sound familiar? Next you'll be telling me to get lost... 'or else.' And then you'll maybe take a couple swings at me."
"That was an accident." The vamp protested lamely, his slurred speech taking even more credibility away from his argument.
"You'll start rambling about how I should just let you die... And I'll consider it."
"Hey." He sobered up a little at that comment, but not much. He seemed offended more on principle than anything else. Xander ignored him and kept on.
"But then we'll reach the house. And it'll be late. And I'll keep telling myself: just as long as Dawn's happy. He can stay as long as he's staying for Dawn."
They both stopped in front of the crypt. It was no longer the Summer's place that Xander dragged the vampire to. Not anymore.
Spike shrugged Xander away once again, determined to stand on his own. And he did, though he swayed somewhat.
"And now what do you tell yourself?"
If he'd taken time to think about the question he wouldn't have known how to answer it. But he'd gotten so used to just letting the truth roll off his tongue on nights like this that words came before he had time to consider them.
"I tell myself that it's not up to me. That it's not really about me." He paused and took in a short breath. "I just do it for them."
Spike pursed his lips together and stopped swaying suddenly. He seemed to scoff at the answer as he turned his head to look at the door to the crypt. "Right. 'Them'. As if she even gives a damn."
"You know who I meant."
Xander looked away. "Yeah."
The two men were silent for a moment, one staring off into space while the other sobered up just enough to realize that he needed another drink.
"Better get off then." Spike shrugged his shoulders, his speech only somewhat slurred, and Xander looked up. "The trollop'll be wantin' you home, I 'spect." The vampire took a step towards the door to the crypt and stumbled once again; the only thing saving him from injury were Xander's quick reflexes.
"Why don't I tuck you in first, hmm?" He mocked and began to lead Spike towards the crypt while the vampire put up a half-hearted attempt at a struggle.
"Sod off, Harris."
"Right back at ya."
Once inside, Xander let the vampire fall to the floor, helping him along the way with a casual shove. Spike seemed to grunt as he hit the floor, but shook it off without any trouble, sitting up, legs sprawled out in front of him, as if it had been his intention all along to make a seat for himself there on the ground.
He looked up at Xander and blinked his eyes a few times, trying to focus the image of the man who now leaned against the rock wall.
"You loved her once." Well that comment had certainly caught him off guard. Xander shrugged, trying to ignore it, and looked away uncomfortably. These conversations of theirs always seemed to leave him a bit more uneasy each time they came around.
"Somehow, I don't think you wanna talk about me right now." He turned his eyes back to look at the vampire on the floor before him. The demon tried to glare, but didn't quite manage. "Just a hunch."
"I'm just sayin', is all." Spike went on, turning his head to the side in an attempt to appear casual and uninterested. He reached a hand into his coat pocket and swallowed. "You know what it's like. And that other one..." He fumbled for a name, his memory not as sharp as it would have been was he not inebriated. "That other slayer - the one Red was tellin' me 'bout."
"Faith." Xander's voice was flat, but the lack of emotion was slightly too forced. Spike, ever the perceptive one, caught the inconsistency and raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah. You know what it's like." He pulled out his hip flask from his pocket and began to unscrew the top, but Xander caught sight of it before he could drink and rushed to steal it away.
"I don't thinks so, pal." He carefully put the thing in his own pocket and moved back to his earlier position.
Spike growled a little, then scoffed. "'Pal'. Since when am I *your* pal?"
Xander fiddled, absently, with the candle wax that had melted down the wall beside him and tried to come up with the excuse he would give Anya if she found the hip flask on him in the morning. "Maybe 'pal' was the wrong word." He joked carelessly. "How 'bout 'neutered kitten'? Or maybe 'Captain peroxide'? Or better yet, how 'bout 'disgusting thing'?"
This time Spike really did glare, and Xander would have trembled a little, knowing he'd gone a little too far, but swallowed instead, and was thankful for how quickly the vampire gave up on the staring contest and turned his head.
"This close, mate." He muttered, but the other man ignored it.
"Well, I'm here, aren't I?" Xander watched for any signs in the vampire's expression that his defensive tone was being picked up and understood as the apology that it was meant to be. Spike scoffed again and reached into his pocket once more before remembering that the hip flask was gone.
"You want a medal or somethin'? Sod off. Go home to the bint."
"You're not very much fun when you're drunk, you know that?" Spike gave him a look that clearly told him what exactly he could do with his opinions on the matter, and Xander straightened up. "You didn't really think she'd come running back, did you?"
His serious tone surprised him somewhat. Hadn't his resolution, as soon as he'd seen the drunken demon, been to leave after the initial name calling? And yet, here he was again, engaging in yet another awkward conversation about the slayer with the one man on the planet that no matter how much he hated he couldn't bring himself to kill.
"Well why the bloody hell not?" He sounded like he wanted to be angry, but either the alcohol or his mood was stifling the rage. "She did it before."
"You know better than that." Xander shook his head. In the morning, he knew, this entire night would feel like a dream. Too surreal to think about logically; too concrete to simply forget. "She needs time."
"Don't give me that." The vampire scoffed. "She bloody well knew what she was getting into. The moment she walked through that door, she knew."
"This the whiskey talking, or just your own ignorance?" The human challenged, and Spike stared at him for a long moment before giving into it.
"Neither." He lowered his eyes to the floor in front of him.
"Denial, then?" The vampire didn't answer. Xander turned his head and stared off into the darkness. When he finally spoke again, his voice was low. "You gotta stop doing this, Spike."
The vampire didn't bother looking up. "As if you give a damn either way."
"I thought we were done with this once she'd come back. Buffy: alive, Spike: happy. Why would he wanna go out and get plastered when he's got his slayer back?"
"She was never mine, whelp."
"Yes she was. For a moment... she was yours for a moment." Spike stared at the shadows in front of him, his expression sobering once again.
"Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if she hadn't... Maybe I coulda ignored it if she'd just kept her distance."
Xander shook his head a little. "Nah. She had you long before you ever had her."
"It bother you, Harris?" The vampire still wasn't looking at him, but did seem more curious than confrontational.
"That I had her. That she hasn't told any one."
He shrugged a little, trying to blow it off. He never liked this point in their conversations. He could remember a dozen similar instances from the past summer, each consisting of the drunken vampire asking if the man was upset about the demon's love for the young woman.
"A little. I guess I don't really think about it."
Spike shook his head. "Course you do. See it in your eyes. You'd stake me in a heartbeat if it weren't for the Slayer and the Bit."
"Does it matter?"
The vamp seemed to think about this. "No."
Silence filled the night air. Xander shifted his weight and glanced at the door. Anya'd be expecting him home soon.
He looked back at the figure on the floor.
"Why did you tell me?"
"Tell you what?" His voice was rough and tired.
"Why me? Why'd you tell me about you and her?"
The vampire finally met his eyes at this. It wasn't a sudden movement, but the intensity in his gaze made it feel like it had been.
But then he looked away again. Shrugged. Swallowed. "You were there. Figured I had to tell somebody."
"She'd kill you if she found out."
"Guess I figured you'd understand." He paused. "Musta been drunk."
"You were." He remembered the night vividly. Not two weeks ago. The smell of liquor. The way he'd had to swallow back his anger. His pride. His wounded ego; and just listen to the vampire rant and rave about the woman that he claimed to love.
He'd put a hole in the wall with his fist as soon as he'd gotten home. His hand had survived with only minor injuries, luckily. He'd had to fix the hole the next morning, and as he'd put in the dry wall he'd come to terms with the news in his own way. He could accept it for the time being. And with every day, he'd find a bit more peace with it, even if he was still uncertain on the surface.
The two men let the silence creep up again, then Spike cleared his throat. "Go on then. Get home to the bint."
"You're not gonna...?" He motioned to the door needlessly, indicating that he'd stay longer if it meant that Spike wouldn't be going bar hopping again that night.
"And never hear the end of it? You think I *like* listening to that nagging voice of yours?"
"Right." Xander stood up fully and retreated to the exit, stopping once he'd reached it to turn his head back and look, once more, at the vampire. "...Time."
Spike turned his head around as well and gave him a look. "What?"
"Give her time."
He shook his head. "I'd give her the bloody world if I thought it'd help."
Xander looked down at his feet. From somewhere in the back of his mind he remembered that he needed to wake up early the next morning.
"I'm just saying... she'll come around. And even if she doesn't... well, at least she was yours for a moment."
Spike closed his eyes heavily. "You're a stupid git, Harris."
"And you're a soulless monster, Spike."
A smile seemed to play across the vampire's face, but it could have easily been a shadow. "As long as we're clear, then."
"Sober up. Give the Dawnster a visit."
"Big sis might object to that, I think."
"I'll handle Buffy. Just go see Dawn. She'll remind you of why you shouldn't be out getting plastered."
There was silence again and Xander moved to leave, but paused as Spike finally spoke up.
"Does it work for you? 'Visiting'?"
Xander didn't stop to think about his answer. "Sometimes."
He was fairly certain that, if he was able to see Spike's face, which was now turned away, he'd see the beginnings of tears. But he tried to ignore the thought, not liking its implications.
"It's so hard. You've got no idea, Harris."
"I'd give her the bloody world, if I could. I'd give her..."
"I know." He chewed the inside of his cheeks, trying to decide how to continue. "She's scared. But fear fades. Time. You've just... gotta give her some time."
He watched the back of the vampire's nodding head. A cloud passed over the moon outside and the crypt darkened just enough to turn Spike's form into nothing more than a large shadow on the floor. Xander sighed and exited the crypt.
One of those nights.
He could still feel the weight of the flask in his pocket. He could still hear the sound of the desperate man's words ringing in his ears.
He sighed again.
He wanted to tell Buffy that he knew about the secret relationship. That he'd known for a while and that it was okay. Even if it really wasn't.
Of course it wasn't 'okay.' But it was better than any of the other options. And he'd tell her it was okay anyway, because that's what she needed to hear. He'd relieve at least one of those many fears that kept her from the one man who both loved and hated her and wasn't afraid to show it. The one man who wasn't gonna leave, and who just might give her something to wake up for each morning.
But he knew he couldn't. There was an unspoken agreement between himself, the vampire, and the hip flask in his pocket that he would never talk about these nights or what was learned on them with any one else. Especially not her.
He wished he weren't the kind of person who kept unspoken agreements. He wished he could lie to her and tell her what she wanted to hear, even if he didn't like it.
Of course it wasn't okay. It was far from ever being 'okay.'
But then... he still had to wake up early in the morning. And Anya was still waiting for him at home. And he needed to think of something to tell Dawn, because the girl just didn't understand what was happening, and, really, neither did he.
And he still knew all the shortcuts to the cemetery.
And Buffy needed him.
And there would always be more nights like this one.