By Dead Soul
Timeline: Just after The Gift, before the decision was made to bring Buffy back.
Dedication: to db2305 for the July, 2003 Slashficathon
Thanks: to the beta-riffic juliaabra and ladystarlightsj. Thanks, also to collinwood for some very helpful suggestions and to _flaming_june_ and saussy for organizing the event.
He was drunk a lot that summer. Also surprised, and pathetically grateful that Anya still stuck with him because, for every vamp they dusted in her name, he had to raise a glass. Or five. Even ex-demons sometimes know better than to say what they’re thinking, but he knew that, unspoken between them was always her frustration that, even though Buffy was dead, she still had to compete for his attention and affection. She didn’t understand why they continued to fight, but she never issued the ultimatum, never said that he had to choose between dead Buffy and live Anya. He was grateful for that, but the issue still hung, unvoiced, between them all throughout that horrible summer. And sometimes he just couldn’t go home to face it.
So that night he stumbled up the steps of Buf–, no, Dawn’s and Willow’s and Tara’s house. He swore under his breath, just compos enough to mentis that he needed to be quiet, as he stabbed at the lock with his trusty saber, er, key, defying it to thwart him. They’d killed several vampires and a Plochnar demon that night, so there was some swash to his drunken buckle. Heh. Drunken buckle, he thought, making a note to himself to be a pirate next Halloween. Just in case there was a spell.
Finally, the evil lock monster (he inanely wondered if its name was Nessie) succumbed to his thrust and jab, and the door opened, creaking slightly on its hinges. He shushed it, silently promising it a super-sized helping of oil tomorrow if it would just be quiet tonight. It obliged, but the stairs weren’t so reasonable. Especially when his toe slipped off the second to top one and he caught himself mere inches from a parquet chinectomy. He paused and listened, but no one stirred; the silent doors stayed shut. All the doors except for one. Her door. He tip-shuffled towards it, nearly dropping the bottle of cheap bourbon he’d picked up on the way over.
Sometimes he just needed to be with her. Even if it wasn’t really her. He’d leave her plugged in and switched off and just talk. About his day. About Anya and whatever she’d done recently to embarrass him, whatever uncomfortable, unspoken truth she’d spoken aloud. About how much he missed her.
As he neared Buffy’s door, he didn’t see the blinking lights of the ‘Bot’s opened abdomen. He peered in. The bed was empty, but the room wasn’t. Silhouetted against the window was Spike.
Spike. In Buffy’s room. It wasn’t right. Wasn’t, what’s the word he wanted, the one Giles would have used? Proper, that’s it. Wasn’t proper. Evil Dead had no right to be there, acting like he cared, like Buffy had been something other than just another Slayer to bag. Couldn’t kill her? Then the next best thing would be to fuck her. Couldn’t stop her heart? He’d settle for breaking it, if he could. Xander sternly shushed the little voice that asked, if that was true, then why was Spike still here, why did he continue to help them, why did he seem so muted, enervated and, well, unSpike-like?
After taking a healthy slug from the bottle, he carefully replaced the cap before opening his mouth to ask Spike what the hell he thought he was doing there, but what came out instead was, "Where’s the ‘Bot?"
Spike didn’t even glance towards him. "Will sent it back out to patrol. Something about runnin’ its battery all the way down so it’d hold a charge better." Then he muttered, "Hope some beastie rips its plastic guts out."
Xander tried again, "What are you doing here?" He put as much threat and menace into it as a whisper could carry. Ah, that was more like it.
"Sittin’ with the Niblet, aren’t I? The two girls are off doin’ some moonlight mojo or some such. Skyclad, I’d wager. I’d’ve gotten a front row seat, but someone had to stay with the Bit, and you were off on one of your periodic walkabouts." Spike’s voice was low, the leer, half-hearted.
"That doesn’t answer my question. What are you doing here. In her room. You have no right to be here."
"Yeah? What’re you doing here, Harris? You thinking about turning the ‘Bot on and getting your jollies that way. Whatever would Anya think? ‘Sides, just like the real deal, the ‘bot ain’t programmed to think of you that way."
Some words couldn’t be answered with more words. Xander dropped the bottle and lunged at Spike, shoving him against the window, hard enough to make the wood creak, but not to break the glass. Spike laughed soundlessly at Xander’s hands around his neck. Xander tightened his grip, wanting to squeeze the smugness from Spike’s face, see the veins under the tight, white skin balloon with trapped blood, see Spike’s eyeballs bulge, his tongue swell and protrude, but Spike just stood there, as if he were merely leaning against the window, not straining, expression never changing, eyes alight with sardonic laughter.
Xander’s shoulders slumped; he slowly released his grip on Spike’s throat, and turned away, bourbon bravado abandoning him. Spike straightened up and touched his bruised neck. "Surprisingly strong hands, carpenter. Bet Anya appreciates them on those nights when the wood is too weak to get the job done."
Faster than he could have thought himself capable of moving, Xander whirled back around and decked Spike, who fell against a bookcase, knocking several paperbacks onto the carpeted floor. They froze at the noise, holding their breaths, hoping that Dawn hadn’t been awakened. After a moment, once it became apparent that no freaked-out teen was going to come charging out of her room, they both relaxed.
Xander sat heavily on the bed. Spike, wiping the blood from his nose with the hem of his t-shirt, retrieved the bottle from where it had landed, and sat next to him. He took a drink. "Christ, Harris, what is this godawful plonk? Lucky my tonsils are immortal." He poured some more past those invulnerable organs then nudged Xander, holding the bottle out to him.
"Both missin’ her, mate. That’s all this is."
Xander drank in silence for a few moments. Finally, he said, "You been around, what, hundred and twenty years, Spike?"
"And you’ve lost people, I mean, vampires, whatever, that you cared about?"
"Evil, soulless thing here, we can’t love, remember? Least, according to some folks."
"Didn’t say loved. Said cared about."
"Whatever. You getting to the point anytime soon?"
"See, I thought losing Jesse was bad, not to mention half the senior class, well the half of the half of the senior class who didn't, well never mind, that’s beside the point. Point is, I dealt. Helping Buffy helped, but what now? What is the point? Without her?"
"Got me. Just know that doing something feels better than doing nothing. Because that’s what she’d want us to do. ‘Sides, why go wanderin’ round the globe looking for fun when there’s so much quality violence to be had right here?"
"Would she? Want us to continue to fight, I mean. As long as I knew her, she always just wanted a normal life. So isn’t that what she’d want us to have? Especially Dawn?"
Spike snorted. "Normal? No such animal. Normally, I’d be ripping your throat out right about now, but... " He stopped, as they heard a door open. Soft footsteps padded down the hall, coming closer to the doorway. They slid onto the floor, and Xander put his hand over Spike’s mouth, just in case he decided to finish his statement. Dawn’s dark shadow passed the open door and went into the bathroom.
Their eyes met over Xander’s warm, brown hand on Spike’s pale face. Not cold, Xander decided, just not as warm as you’d expect another person’s skin to be. They didn’t move until they heard Dawn return to her room then Xander felt Spike’s mouth move under his hand, lips tickling his palm. He removed his hand quickly, reflexively wiping it down his shirt. "What?" he asked.
Spike leaned towards Xander to speak into his ear, "I said, do you think she heard anything?" Spike was crouched next to him, one hand on Xander’s leg to steady himself. They hadn’t dared move while Dawn was up, but now that the coast was clear, Xander wondered why Spike hadn’t removed his hand.
He looked down at it, ghostly against the denim darkness, and back up at Spike's face, meeting his eyes squarely. Not mocking now. Just lonely and haunted, as ghost-like as the hand on his leg. You’re not real, Xander thought muzzily, feeling a fresh wave of drunkenness inundate his brain. None of this is real. Buffy’s not dead, and I’m not here, looking at Spike, wondering if his mouth can really be as soft as it felt in my hand. And this, me leaning towards him, testing his lips with my own, this definitely isn’t real. No matter how many times I've imagined it.
Spike was perfectly still for a few seconds while Xander’s lips moved over his, but then his lips moved. Not to kiss Xander back, but to say, "What are you doing?" His words were muffled but understandable.
Xander replied, without removing his mouth, "Shut up. You’re not real."
Spike placed his hands on Xander’s shoulders and pushed him gently back, breaking the kiss. "Real enough to know that you’re really gonna regret this in the morning, Special Ed. How ‘bout we just get you kipped out on the couch downstairs, and you can sleep it off. ‘Sides, your breath would intoxicate a caribou." Spike stood and effortlessly hoisted the nearly comatose Xander to his feet, three-quarters carrying him down the hall and the stairs to the living room.
He lowered Xander carefully to the couch, pausing to remove his shoes and cover him with the afghan. Xander was still awake enough to crack open an eye and see Dawn peeking down at them from the top of the stairs, but before he could wonder about how much she’d seen or heard, the liquor won, and Xander was out; dreaming that Buffy wasn’t dead and that Spike had kissed him back.