Genre: Angst, schmoop
Notes: Feedback, please? This is my first attempt at Spander in ages.
Summary: Xander searches for a home in a world that he just can't quite fit in to anymore.
“I’m sick of this.”
He’s cold, his nose is running and there’s unpleasantness in spades. Xander hates Europe. Europe hates him. He’s too loud, his shirts too ugly, uncomfortably foreign. The sun is pale and dying and the wind slices across Xander’s face whenever he steps outside. Oh, and it turned out that British people had no Twinkies. Or Tootsie rolls. Or beer that didn’t taste like puddle-water. Old puddle-water.
“How about Africa?” Giles asked, glancing over a delicate china cup. Xander had already broken four. His hands were too big and the tea was too strong.
“Africa?” Willow asked from her seat by the fire, cheeks tinged pink, legs slung over the arm of her chair. She and Buffy … they had slid between the crooked buildings and flourished in the bustling high streets. They knew to say pavement instead of sidewalk and petrol instead of gas. Xander was a lumbering nuisance, providing jokes they’d already heard and trying to fix things that weren’t broken. Xander felt like he’d been invited to a ball only to discover he couldn’t dance.
“Africa probably won’t have Twinkies either, but I’m opting for weather that doesn’t make me want to die.”
A week later and Xander is on a plane for the second time in his life, a plastic eye and a cross round his neck.
Egypt is hotter than he’d expected. And not the Paris Hilton sense, in the very literal sense. California could get pretty damn hot but Egypt had something else. Raw heat, thick and stifling in the night but with air so dry you can barely breathe at the height of day.
He meets Steven in the hotel lobby on his first day there. He has his sexuality crisis in the hotel cafe on his second day. He’s attacked by a vampire in the hotel pool on the third day and he has sex with Steven in his hotel room on the fourth.
Life’s too short – he’s learning that.
He’s stopped wearing the fake eye by the time he gets to Botswana – too much hassle, and it tends to wander in the wrong direction. Xander would rather have a patch than be ‘that crazy guy with a beard and a lazy eye’.
He’s kidnapped in his second week there, strapped to one of the rocks in the Tsodilo hills – an offering to some big ass demon with a name that sounds like ‘Lickypat’. Some things never change.
He manages to slit the throat of one of his captors with it’s own knife and runs for his life. Hours later, he realises his hands are covered in thick copper crimson. It’s only then that he realised he’s killed a man. A ‘he’, not an ‘it’.
Xander loses half of his left foot in Mozambique. He’s sent to a hospital in Maputo and it’s there that he’s told he’s lucky he didn’t lose his whole leg. He asks about the slayer he was sent to recruit, toothy smile that cracked across her face and long black eyelashes, the girl who pushed him out of the field of landmines.
He thinks his heart might stop beating when they tell him she wasn’t so lucky.
Christmas comes and goes – Willow is upset that he didn’t come up to visit (“Yes Xander, I know I’m Jewish but … it’s the principle!”). He explains he couldn’t, that he was tracking a slayer in Ghana. He tells her that he saw the Ashanti king (“… and there I was, totally confused ‘cause I thought Ashanti was a singer!”) and smiles into the phone like she can see him.
He doesn’t tell her everything. He doesn’t really tell her anything. She knows.
The distance between seems larger than ever.
Buffy calls him when he gets to Angola. She wants him to come home. Xander laughs, bitter and unfamiliar. He reminds her that their home is a giant pothole.
He gives up on finding this slayer within a few weeks. The war has left too many orphans, hundreds of small calloused hands reaching up to grab his shirt, pleading for the heavy coins he doesn’t have. He wants to take them with him, take them to Disney and feed them ice-cream, a perfect day for children that probably didn’t have many left.
With every face he turns away, he’s sure some part of him dies.
He gets shot in his left calf when he goes to Burundi. It’s an odd sort of pain and Xaner thinks he may laugh himself hollow at the possibility that his eventual demise would be attributed to a scared kid with a gun.
He lies on the hospital floor with his arm over his face and kicks away the doctor who tries to touch him with gloves already stained in another patient’s blood.
AIDS is no longer just a word.
They don’t recognise him at the airport. Three years, and they don’t recognise him. He makes a joke of it, tells them he knows he’s been totally assimilated – he’s a proper pirate now, what with the eye patch, the beard and the limp. He grins as he throws his arm over Giles’ shoulders and pretends he doesn’t see the tears in the Willow’s eyes. It’s easier that way.
He knows he shouldn’t be surprised that Dawn is a woman now. But he is, regardless. She hugs him tight and whispers that she knows he’s there somewhere beneath the beard.
He doesn’t tell her that he’s not sure he is.
Three weeks later Giles asks him if he’d be willing to take a package to LA. One look at the amulet and Xander knows it could have been sent via DHL. He’s infinitely grateful Giles has offered him this small escape, a few weeks away from the worried glances and the awkward pauses that had never been there before.
He promises the girls that he’ll call and is shocked when he realizes how much he’s looking forward to leaving even when the prospect included handing a package to Mr. Broody Sonuvabitch. He blames prolonged exposure to the sun. Must have fried his brain.
“You … you’re …” words fail and Xander settles for poking Spike with his cane. He has a cane, now – fun new Xander feature. It’s made out of ebony, he’s carved it himself.
“Oi!” an indignant squawk and Spike takes a few steps back. Into sunlight. He folds his arms, unconcerned by the penetrating glare of light that isn’t making plumes of smoke rise off his skin.
Xander needs a stiff drink.
“You’re such a light weight,” Xander observes, amused as Spike wobbles dangerously on his chair after three beers and a couple shots of Jack. They sit in the corner booth and Spike’s hand is on the nape Xander’s neck and neither of them are sure as how it got there.
“Bugger off. ‘M human. The rules have changed,” he slurs, rolling his shoulders, legs splayed.
“Yeah,” he says. “They have.”
Xander has had a lot of one night stands in the last three years. He’s always the one to wake up to an empty bed, pleasant memories soon to be forgotten. That’s the way it works, and he’s a man who’s come to appreciate routine.
So when he opens his eyes, he’s startled to meet blue ones.
“Didn’t expect you to stick around,” he says into the silence. Spike shrugs, the sheets gathered at his hips as he sits up to lean against the head board. He cocks his head, stares at Xander with uninhibited curiosity.
“How’d you fuck up your leg?”
Xander feels sure there’s a catch to all this - because it can’t be this easy. It can’t be that he can sit like this – watching INXS reality show on a Friday night with Spike’s head in his lap, pulling his fingers through soft curls and snorting at the jeers and popcorn hurled with vehement loathing at the singers. He’s sure there’s a shoe about to drop. That there’s going to be a moment when Spike will look at him and ask for something he won’t give. Can’t give. Xander is afraid he’s going to regret this decision. He already regrets getting cable. The day after he had it installed, Spike grinned at him and started calling him ‘House’.
He listens to Spike tell him about how he discovered Michael Hutchins was into vampires that way and calls ‘bullshit’ rights. He knows that he’s home, for now at least. And that’s enough. Hell, at least this time there are Twinkies.