Title: Nothing the Same
Pairing: Spike/Xander, eventually
Rating: PG for now
Feedback: yes, please
Concrit: any and all
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on. Major ones for The Harvest & School Hard.
Summary: AU from The Harvest. Xander doesn't deal well with Jesse's death and everything changes from there.
Notes: Based on the plotbunny posted here awhile back bywickedchocolate. I took the basic premise of the bunny, but Xander took me in a different direction.
Previous parts here
Xander chose his time carefully when he next went to the library. He wanted to be sure to catch the librarian alone and when Buffy and Willow weren’t likely to interrupt. He found Mr. Giles reading in his office and knocked on the door frame.
“Just returning your book,” he explained, holding it out for the librarian to take. Mr. Giles always looked taken aback when students wandered into the library. Xander wasn’t sure if that said more about the students or the librarian.
“Oh, yes, thank you.” Mr. Giles took the book and slid it onto the table. He never asked Xander about the books or offered him another until Xander asked. It was painfully obvious he still hated loaning his books out.
“Do you have Kimmelman’s book?” Xander asked casually like he knew what he was talking about.
The librarian looked at him sharply, “How do you know about Kimmelman?”
Bingo. The vampire had obviously given him good advice. “Someone recommended it to me.”
“Who? It’s not exactly a book the average high school student would have heard of.”
“What does it matter? It was recommended, you obviously have it, can I borrow it?”
At Mr. Giles’ hesitation, he sighed and leaned against the door of the office. He crossed his arms, subtly blocking the door and trying to look like the proverbial immovable object. “Look, you’ve agreed to loan me books. I haven’t damaged any of them and I’ve returned them all as promised. It’s been pretty obvious that you are only giving me worthless ones, so I did some checking on my own. I’d like to borrow it.” He fixed the librarian with a level stare and was pleased when the librarian looked away first.
“The books are not worthless, but it is true that I have not given you any of the more… scholarly accepted books. To be candid, I had hoped your interest would wane.”
“Figured that. Sorry, no waning yet.”
“I’m not sure Kimmelman is appropriate material for a teenager,” Mr. Giles fussed. “Perhaps something…”
Xander interrupted him before he could suggest another book. “Have you seen any recent movies? I really doubt there is anything in a book I haven’t already seen in Technicolor and surround sound. Your book is not going to either shock me or expose me to naughty material I haven’t seen elsewhere. I’ll read Anne Rice for that.”
The librarian didn’t seem to know how to respond to that. He sputtered, fiddling with his glasses, then reluctantly stood and moved to the door Xander still blocked. “It’s in the book cage,” he explained.
Xander grinned and moved back out of the doorway. Score one for the immovable object, he thought. Maybe now I’ll actually get the straight scoop. He caught himself thinking he would have to find the vampire and thank him, which was insane. Spike was way too volatile to seek out, especially since he still had no idea why the vampire hadn’t killed him during either of their meetings.
Spike called one of the older minions to him. “It’s Marcus, right?” At the minion’s nod, Spike clapped him on the shoulder and continued. “You look like the type who knows a bit about technology, am I right?” Which was about as polite a way as Spike could come up with of saying that the minion looked like someone had decided to turn an AV nerd. Sadly, he was one of the more useful minions Spike had inherited from the Anointed One so he needed to keep him around for awhile.
“Right, how are you at running a video camera?” Spike pulled the small camera he’d had someone steal and handed it to the minion.
“What do you want me to tape?” Marcus turned the camera over, studying it with what Spike hoped was competence.
“The Slayer.” At the minion’s startled look, he explained. “Oh, don’t worry. I don’t want you to fight her or anything. No, the object of tonight’s exercise is for you to survive the mission.” He grinned at the relieved expression on the minion’s face. “I want you to follow her and tape her fights. So I can study her fighting style.”
Marcus nodded, still examining the camera, and turned to leave.
“Screw this up and you can forget about surviving the mission, understand?”
Spike grinned at Marcus’ hastily departing back. It never took much to intimidate minions. He’d get his tape.
He’d already sent people out to find where Angelus was living. His quasi-Sire was keeping a very low profile in town. Spike had had to resort to having minions keep an eye on the local butcher shops, since Angel wasn’t hunting and didn’t appear to be ordering bagged human from any source Spike could track. But he wasn’t worried, he’d find Angelus sooner or later.
Xander took one look at the commons area and stopped. Taking a fast step backwards, he turned around, heading anywhere but there. As he turned, he almost ran over Principal Snyder who, in Xander’s opinion, was way too short to sneak up behind people.
“Mr. Harris, I see you were just about to volunteer for the safety program.”
“Umm, I’m thinking you must be seeing things, Principal Snyder.”
Snyder grabbed Xander’s arm and hauled him around, marching him back towards the sign-up tables in the commons. “Not at all. I’ve had my eye on you, Mr. Harris. Very suspicious the way your grades have suddenly risen. It almost makes me think you might be cheating in some way. This will be just the thing to show me that the change in your grades is due to a new appreciation for school spirit.”
“How about I just go back to flunking all my classes and never doing any homework?” Xander stalled desperately as they reached the table with its sign-up sheets.
Snyder just stood there, clipboard and pen held out, his oversized eyes boring into Xander. There really was something creepy about him, Xander thought. Still, he rallied his immovable object thing that had worked so well on Mr. Giles. “You know the whole volunteering thing? Not really a family tradition.”
“Then this will be a good time to start.” The clipboard poked sharply into Xander’s abdomen.
Snyder’s immovable object beat his all to hell. “You really need to look up the definition of volunteering. This is a draft.” Reluctantly he took the pen and scrawled his name on the line.
“Congratulations on joining the Army, Mr. Harris. 4:00 sharp and you will be in costume.” He turned away to accost another hapless student and Xander stared after him, appalled.
“Costume? So not happening.”
Marcus had actually come up with a half decent tape of the Slayer. True, the git had apparently spent so much time practicing with the camera that he’d let the batteries run down to almost nothing, but he’d gotten the bulk of the fight on tape. Spike watched it with Marcus hovering nervously in the background operating the remote for him.
He was moderately impressed with what he saw. The current Slayer was a decent fighter and clever enough to use her environment to her advantage. She wasn’t as intense as the Chinese Slayer, nor as experienced as the New York one, but she had some good moves.
He knew now that he’d been lucky with his first Slayer. He’d been young and cocky and in over his head and he’d been lucky to survive the battle. The Slayer had been exhausted when he’d taken her on, the Rebellion having drained her dry even before he did. Some part of her had welcomed death even as she fought him with everything she had left.
The New York Slayer was a different story. When Spike had found himself in the same town as her, the lure of bagging a second Slayer had been too much for him to resist. And it had been a beauty of a fight - she was a mature, deadly fighter who reveled the nightly battles of her calling. Defeating her had given him more of a rush than his first Slayer, even without draining her. He patted his duster fondly. Plus, she’d given him a great souvenir.
He’d been wise enough even then to know you studied your opponents when they were strong enough to take you down. It was all well and good to wade in unprepared and fueled only by excitement and the desire to prove yourself when you were newly turned. But he wanted to survive to enjoy the status of being the only vampire known to have killed three Slayers. A bit of preparation was called for.
However, it wouldn’t do to let the minions know he was being cautious.
“Run that bit back for me,” he instructed. “Look at that: there, where she throws her stake at him and misses. She’s obviously got no back-up stakes. Poor planning. Look, she’s reduced to using a signpost to stake the poor bastard because she’s got no other weapons. Obviously overconfident and under-prepared. She shouldn’t be too hard to kill. Not like the Slayer I did during the Boxer Rebellion. That girl had weapons coming out of her ears and knew how to use them. This one obviously thinks a single stake is enough.” Spike had made sure the information that he’d already killed two Slayers had spread widely. It never hurt to remind the minions of his reputation and besides, what was the point of killing Slayers if not for the bragging rights?
Rummaging in the basement, Xander smiled again at the irony of Snyder giving him the perfect idea for a costume with that crack about the army. He had a set of fatigues that would do for a costume and somewhere down here there should be a gun of some kind he could carry as a prop. Problem was, so far he’d only come up with futuristic looking ray guns and day-glo water pistols.
Twenty minutes later, with remnants of his childhood scattered all around him, Xander had forgotten about the toy machine gun he’d been looking for. The box of old toys had opened a treasure trove of memories. Everything he’d picked up had brought a flood of memories of sunny days playing outside and rainy afternoons at Jesse’s and Willow’s houses. The plastic fireman’s helmet from the year he and Jesse were going to be fireman. The toy stethoscope from Willow’s wanting to be a doctor. Cowboys, policemen, astronauts; at one point or another, they had been going to be all of them.
Had they ever had a Dracula phase? The fleeting thought jolted him out of his nostalgic mood and he carefully put the plastic dinosaur he’d been holding back into the box. Sighing, he gathered up the toys around him and began putting the rest of them away as well. He was pretty sure that, even if they had played at vampires and Frankenstein, Jesse wouldn’t have wanted things the way they had turned out.
As he carefully repacked the box, he regretted his last argument with Willow. Well, all of them really. They’d been so close once, how had it come to pass that they could barely talk anymore without fighting? He knew Willow thought he was obsessed with Jesse’s death. It still hurt that she’d said he was using it as an excuse. But how wrong was she? He’d admitted privately to himself a long time ago that he was obsessed and had already decided on his own that he needed to pull himself together. How hard would it be to admit it to Willow?
Really hard, especially knowing she would talk it over with Buffy. It was one of the reasons he’d never been able to bring himself to tell her that he’d killed Jesse. He couldn’t bear to hear her repeat that she was glad he was dead. He knew she meant vampire-Jesse, not Jesse-Jesse, but it still tore him apart that she felt that way.
And that was the 800-pound gorilla in the room - that he couldn’t bring himself to join in with their “all vampires are bad and need to be staked” attitude. Well, all vampires but Angel, he thought resentfully, not for the first time, and found himself smiling bitterly. His attitude towards Angel didn’t help the situation, but damned if he was going to change it.
He shook his head, banishing the depressing thoughts. This wasn’t getting him ready for Halloween. Putting the box away behind the furnace, he trudged up the stairs to his room. He’d just go without a gun. The fatigues would be enough of a costume.
Xander was surprised to find that he was enjoying himself. He’d picked up his group of kids at the high school and given them his best drill sergeant imitation. They’d enjoyed it, falling in line and laughing at his advice about scoring extra candy. His group ranged in age from the youngest who was about five to the oldest who was somewhere around ten. He had a fairy princess, or possibly a butterfly - her costume was cute but obviously home made and a little fuzzy on intent; a football player; a couple of monsters and a teddy bear. They were ok kids, really getting into the free candy spirit of things and bouncing from house to house without giving him any trouble. The teddy bear had an embarrassing tendency to hold his hand as they walked between houses, but eagerly ran up to the door at each house with the other kids while Xander waited at the curb.
The sun had set and he had given the kids a “five more houses before we quit” warning when a sudden wind picked up. Waiting again at the curb, Xander looked up, wondering if it was going to rain. The sky was still clear, but the wind felt somehow ominous, as if it presaged trouble to come.
A sudden scream from the house jerked his attention back from the sky and he saw three of his kids running away from the house, screaming, and the other two apparently fighting on the porch. Swearing, he ran up to the porch intent on pulling the kids off each other when he skidded to a sudden halt at the foot of the steps.
Those weren’t his kids. The two…things fighting on the porch weren’t human. Whatever they were, there was a vague resemblance to the costumes his two kids had been wearing, but it was clearly not a costume any more and they were snarling and tearing at each other with claws and fangs.
Xander was nearly knocked off his feet by an impact at thigh level. Staggering, he looked down and saw his teddy bear clinging desperately to him and crying hysterically. Scooping the girl into his arms, he looked around. The fairy princess and the football player were clinging together and screaming near the curb.
Making a snap decision he hoped he wouldn’t regret, he abandoned the two monsters. Telling the teddy bear to hang on, he ran to his other two kids, swinging the fairy princess up into his arms and telling the football player to stay close.
He ran to the house across the street and banged on the door. A white haired man opened the door and Xander thrust the princess into the startled man’s arms. “Here, take these kids. Something’s going on and I need to keep them safe for awhile.” His words were punctuated by screams and blaring horns from the street.
Fortunately, the old man seemed familiar with Sunnydale’s weirdness. He didn’t ask any questions, just looked out at the street for a moment, then nodded sharply and opened the door wider. Xander peeled the teddy bear off himself and passed him over to the man, nudging the football player inside as well. The man started to close the door but Xander wedged his shoulder and leg into the opening and stopped him.
“Whatever is going on, there’s a bunch of little kids caught up in the middle of it. I’m going to gather as many of them as I can and bring them here. I need you to open the door when I get back. Ok?”
“I’ll open the door, son. And I’ll keep these kids and any others safe. What’s your name?”
“Yell your name when you knock and I’ll open up.”
The man just nodded and ushered the kids further in. Xander heard him talking to them reassuringly as the door closed behind him.
Looking around, Xander wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or not that his two monsters were no longer on the porch across the street. At least there was no small bodies there, so they probably hadn’t killed each other. The street was filled with both kids and adults who were screaming and running, many of them being chased by a wild variety of creatures belonging to some nightmare world. Like his two monsters, many of the creatures seemed small as if, Xander realized, sickened by the thought, they were kids who had changed somehow, rather than real monsters.
Well, he hadn’t really intended to attack anything John Wayne style, so the fact that they weren’t real monsters didn’t change things. He wondered if this was a nightmare come true like had happened last spring, but didn’t have any way of finding out. Check, he thought, just rescue anyone screaming, and figure out what’s going on later.
Running down to the curb, he grabbed two kids who were cowering behind a tree and started back up to the house. Halfway there, he heard a woman screaming for help and turned. A girl from the high school was running towards him, being chased by two small… somethings.
“Over here!” he yelled and she veered towards him. “Come on!” He jerked his head towards the door and ran up onto the porch. Kicking at the door, he yelled his name and the door opened quickly. He shoved the two kids inside and told the man to hold it open one second. Running back, he grabbed the girl’s arm and hauled them both inside the house. The homeowner slammed the door in the faces of the two mini-monsters. They pounded on the door and howled and the man managed a grim smile.
“Told my wife it was worth it to put in a metal door. You two ok?”
The girl slid down to the floor, shaking too hard to stand. She was panting, trying to get her breath back. “I was taking kids around and they…changed somehow. They just went crazy and started attacking each other and everybody around them.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened with me, only a couple of my kids didn’t change.” He looked into the living room, and saw that the man had put the kids down in front of the television and turned on cartoons. Probably as good a therapy as any, he thought.
He peered out the windows by the front door. “Are they gone?”
The man joined him. “Looks like. Isn’t that them?” He pointed towards two creatures moving down the sidewalk.
“Could be. If you’re ok with it, I’ll go back out and see who else I can find.”
The man smiled at him. “I’ll open the door,” he promised.
From the factory, Spike could hear in the distance a rising cacophony that sang of the kind of chaos he hadn’t seen in ages. He’d been taking the night off, like any self-respecting vampire on Halloween, but this wasn’t a typical sounding Halloween.
Setting his book down, he left the room and headed to the main room. “Anyone know what’s going on?” he asked the room at large.
No one answered. “Useless bunch,” he grumbled and wandered outside. Halloween was boring but only morons broke the unwritten rule about going out. Spike sometimes wondered if the real reason behind the rule was because no-one took vampires seriously on Halloween. It was deeply embarrassing to have someone poke at your face and compliment you on your costume. Not that it had ever happened to Spike, but he had heard horror stories from other vampires who’d ventured out too close to Halloween. No matter how bloody or drawn out the retribution, a vampire just didn’t recover from something like that.
There was a tingle of… something in the night air. Spike stood motionless, his senses straining, trying to figure it out. From the residential areas, he could hear sirens and the faint sound of screaming. Someone or something wasn’t taking the night off.
Deciding to check it out, he headed towards the noise and within a few minutes, he had seen a half dozen demons running wild. The truly weird part was that he didn’t recognize a single species. Spike wasn’t an ignorant minion and it was rare from him to come across a demon he couldn’t identify. Seeing that many in one night was stretching probability to the limit. Something decidedly strange was going on.
He continued to follow where the noise led and soon found himself in the heart of Sunnydale’s residential streets. “This is just…neat.” he said out loud, grinning. He hadn’t seen this kind of chaos since the Boxer Rebellion. Smaller scale true, but the smell of human fear perfumed the night air and made him itch to join in the fun. Obviously, the rules were off for this Halloween.
He wondered if the Hellmouth had broken open. It was the only explanation he could think of for the flood of unrecognizable demons. Reaching out, he snagged a small one and shoved it up against a tree. “So, want to fill me in on what’s going on?”
The little thing snarled and struggled, but wasn’t a match for his strength. “Don’t know,” it said. “Found myself here. Good fighting. Lots of prey.”
“You just found yourself here?” Spike released it and was surprised when it didn’t run off. It trotted along beside him as he continued walking and soon he had a collection of small demons following him. They weren’t a threat, so he ignored them. They reminded him of a pack of small kids, partly because of their size, but mostly by the way they gravitated around him, like he was the only adult to follow in the dark. Just his luck to be surrounded by escapees from a demon day care.
A familiar voice caught his attention. It had been nearly 50 years but he would have recognized it anywhere. Stepping behind a tree, Spike watched as Angelus strode rapidly down the street. He was talking to a teenager in a battered cat costume and oblivious to everything else to the extent that he didn’t even notice Spike watching him. Spike snarled quietly. Angelus should have sensed Spike from this distance. A century ago, he would have. Angelus was obviously not the vampire he used to be.
Angelus was talking about the Slayer. “Buffy would be ok. Whoever she is now, she’s helpless.”
Well, well, wasn’t that interesting. He turned to his little pack of demons. “Did you hear that, my friends? Somewhere out here is the tenderest meat you’ve ever tasted. And all we have to do is find her first.” Even as he spoke, he wondered why learning the Slayer was helpless was so much less significant than his reaction to seeing Angelus again.
The little demons followed him happily as they set off to hunt.
It hadn’t taken long and in the end, Spike found he was mostly tracking Angelus. He’d caught up with the group even as Angelus swept the Slayer up into his arms and carried her off, a cloud of pink dress billowing around him as he hurried through the alley. Spike followed the small group into a storage warehouse and immediately confirmed that something odd had happened to the Slayer. The stench of her mindless terror filled the room and as soon as Angelus set her down, she clung to the dark haired girl in the cat outfit, whimpering. A third girl with long red hair had joined the group but her attention was focused on trying to comfort the Slayer. All of them would keep.
Spike stepped fully into the room. The redhead yelled a warning and Angelus spun around quickly, only to falter as he saw who stood there. “Spike!”
“Angelus!” Spike returned mockingly. With a quick word, Spike ordered the little demons to restrain the three girls and hold them there while he dealt with his erstwhile Sire.
Angelus growled, moving to defend the girls, but Spike attacked with a rapid flurry of blows that forced Angelus to defend himself, leaving the girls unprotected. Spike snarled a warning at the little demons, telling them not to sample the merchandise, even as he forced Angelus further away.
Angelus was weaker than he should have been. Small wonder, since he wasn’t feeding like a proper vampire. Spike used a pole for leverage, kicking Angelus in the chest and gut with both feet and sending him crashing backwards into the wall. As Angelus fell, Spike felt something rip loose inside himself. “You bastard! She’s DEAD! Gone to dust and it’s all your fault!”
Fueled by pure fury, he grabbed Angelus by his coat front and hauled him up. Holding him with one hand, Spike punched him over and over, feeling skin split and bones splinter under his fist. Letting his grief and rage pour out of him in a flood until he found he was sobbing and his blows were going wild, no longer connecting with flesh. Spike staggered away from Angelus, hitting the wall and slumping against it.
“It’s your fault,” he repeated, the fury draining out of him. “She needed her Sire and where were you? Run off and left us, abandoned her when she needed you. Sire’s blood might have cured her, but where the hell were you?”
His bitter words filled the silence in the warehouse. Angelus, swaying on his knees, bleeding heavily, had no answer.
“I should kill you. For her. End your miserable existence. You’re not a vampire any more. You’re not one of them,” he gestured contemptuously towards the little group of terrified humans. “But I’m not going to. I’m going to kill your Slayer. So you can watch someone you love die in front of you, helpless to stop it.”
Angelus staggered to his feet. “Spike, no! Leave her out of this.”
Spike sneered at him and ordered the little pack of demons to hold him. “And make sure he’s got a good view.” He grabbed the Slayer’s arm and dragged her into the middle of the warehouse, shoving the girl in the cat suit away when she tried to stop him, sending her stumbling back into the wall where she crumpled to the floor. The Slayer, whatever the hell was wrong with her, was too terrified to even struggle. She didn’t even protest as he dragged her along, unlike the redhead who was dancing around and - disconcertingly - through him as she babbled an endless string of protests and pleas. She obviously couldn’t hurt him, so Spike ignored her as best he could, bringing the Slayer out into the center of the room and dragging her head back by what he was fleetingly surprised to find wasn’t a wig, so that her vulnerable throat was exposed.
He drew the moment out, caressing her throat, glaring at Angelus the whole time, when suddenly, the terrified mouse in his arms shivered once, then landed a hard blow to his stomach. Stunned, Spike staggered back, and found himself clutching a brown wig. He stared stupidly at it for a second, then over at the pack of confused, crying children standing by Angelus.
“Hi, honey, I’m home,” the Slayer announced brightly and hit him again. Thrown off balance and taken completely by surprise, Spike took several staggeringly hard blows before he could rally himself to fight back. The last one sent him crashing back into the wall. He scrambled ungracefully to his feet, still in shock from the rapid changes, and was confronted by one more shock. Angelus was restraining the Slayer from attacking him while he was down.
“Buffy! Let him go.”
“Angel! He hurt you,” she protested, but it was obvious she didn’t want to fight against Angelus’ hold for fear of hurting him. Angelus looked over at Spike.
“Leave, Spike. I’m giving you a pass this one time because of Dru. But if you ever come after me or these people again, you’ll be dust before you have time to regret it.”
Spike hesitated, but decided that it would be folly to take on both Angelus and the Slayer at once. Angelus was hurt, but far from beaten, and the Slayer would fight doubly hard to protect him and her friends. And Spike himself was still reeling from his own unforeseen emotional outburst. For once he didn’t feel the need to get the last word in, so he simply turned and strode off into the night.
And why did he choose that moment to suddenly remember a boy’s voice complaining about not be able to make a dramatic exit because he didn’t have the right coat?
Xander had made a dozen more trips outside, returning each time with one or more kids or teenagers. Several of them had been clawed or bitten and the homeowner, Mr. Olsen, pulled out a big first aid kit and set to work bandaging the refugees who were filling his living room and kitchen. They all had the same story: trick or treating and costumed kids who had suddenly changed.
On his last trip, Xander had scoured three blocks around the house and found only one kid. That one was perched in a tree and it had taken Xander several minutes to persuade the terrified kid to come down. Most of the monsters seemed to have moved elsewhere, so Xander called it quits and headed back to Mr. Olsen’s house with the last kid clinging to him like a limpet.
Inside their refuge, he collapsed onto a chair, with limpet-kid still in his arms and was too tired to protest when the teddy bear and the fairy princess - now thankfully shorn of wings - joined him.
“So, do we just wait for morning, call the police, or what?”
Mr. Olsen shook his head. “I’ve tried calling several times, the lines are jammed.”
“You up for a slumber party?” Xander asked with a faint smile.
“Let’s wait awhile. The parents of these kids will be scared to death, so if we can get them home safely, that would be best.”
“Yeah, but how will we know when it’s safe?”
“When the police start answering their phones again?” Mary something from the high school suggested.
“Good idea, Mary,” Mr. Olsen complimented. “Maybe we can suggest that, when this is over, they drive the streets announcing an all clear over a bull horn. Then they can take the responsibility for getting the kids home.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Xander yawned, shifting to find a more comfortable position in his chair of three kids. “You don’t mind if I leave that to you, do you?”
“Take a nap, son. You’ve earned it. We’ll wake you if we hear anything.”
And two hours later, he did. The police had in fact sent patrol cars up and down the residential streets, broadcasting an all clear. Mr. Olsen filled him in after he had shaken Xander awake. “The official story is that a gang of kids from the next town came here to cause havoc.” Mr. Olsen just shook his head. “Apparently they all had really good costumes,” he added dryly. “We sent the kids home with the police officers. You slept through the whole thing, even when we lifted the kids off of you. Mary went home with the police too.”
Xander looked blearily around at the now empty living room. Blankets and pillows were scattered over the floor and the place was a mess. “You want me to help you clean up?” he offered half-heartedly.
“You’ve done enough, Xander. You’re welcome to stay, I’ve got a spare bed upstairs.”
Xander hauled himself to his feet. “I should probably go home.”
Mr. Olsen nodded. “Yes, I imagine that your parents will be worried about you.” Xander didn’t bother explaining that he doubted his parents would even know he wasn’t home. Besides, there was someone else he was worried about.
“Sorry I can’t drive you home. My eyes aren’t good enough anymore to drive at night.”
“No problem, it’s not far.” He hesitated, then stuck out his hand. “It was good to meet you, Mr. Olsen. Despite the circumstances.”
“You too, son. Stop by anytime.”
“I’ll do that.” Xander said, meaning it. They shook again, awkwardly, then Xander gave him a half wave and left. Glancing at the clock on his way out the door, he was surprised to find it wasn’t even 11:00 yet. It felt much later.
Spike kept walking, striding through the residential neighborhoods, peripherally aware of the police starting to clean up the mess from the earlier chaos, but mostly lost in his own dark thoughts.
The force of his rage against Angelus had surprised him. He hadn’t realized how much he blamed Angelus for Drusilla’s death until he had seen the smug bastard and it had simply poured out of him in an unstoppable flood. Angelus was concerned for his precious Slayer but not for his Childe. Not for any of his Childer. Angelus was more Sire to Spike than Drusilla had ever been. Dru had been lover and companion, but not Sire. Angelus had taken on that role: molding and tempering the reckless young vampire. Often brutally, but that was the vampire way. Spike had competed with him, fought with him, and changed himself to meet Angelus’ expectations. He had raged against Angelus when he abandoned them, but the biggest injury had been Dru’s aching longing for her Daddy. A longing that had never left her, even when dying. And Spike had resented Angelus’ hold on Dru with a passion that had erupted like a volcano tonight.
For that had been at least part of his out-of-control fury: that no matter how much he tried, Drusilla had always loved “Daddy” more. Spike had never come first with her. He’d loved Dru with everything he had, and it hadn’t been enough.
Standing outside Willow’s room, Xander stood far enough away so that he couldn’t be seen and watched Willow through the blinds. Willow had always liked them left open, even at night. She’d said it made her feel claustrophobic to have them shut.
He had hesitated for a long time, wondering whether he should knock. But he mostly just wanted to know that she was alright. He’d seen her name on Snyder’s sign-up sheet, although he hadn’t caught more than a glimpse of her at the high school. He’d known it was her under the ghost costume from the way she walked and her hand gestures.
He could see her lying on the bed talking on the phone, and for now, that was enough. She didn’t look injured and she was talking animatedly, probably to Buffy. Watching her through the blinds, he wished there was a way they could go back. Jesse’s death had thrown up a wall between them when it should have brought them closer together. There had to be some part of her life that didn’t involve Buffy and Giles that he could still fit into.
He wondered again if he should knock, but he was tired and not up to the kind of emotional talk they really needed to have. Turning to go, Xander promised himself that he would talk to her as soon as he could get her alone for awhile.
Still restlessly walking the town, Spike glimpsed a familiar figure ahead of him and found himself following. The boy looked tired: walking slowly, head down, hands thrust deep in his pockets. He turned up the walk to a small house and Spike realized it must be his home.
The house was a bit less well kept than most of the houses on the block. The lawn was neglected and weed-choked, the trim in serious need of new paint. His boy let himself in and Spike heard him say: “Mom, are you guys all right?”
“Quiet, Xander, your father’s in bed already. Of course we’re all right, why wouldn’t we be?”
“No reason, mom. Good night.”
Spike watched until a light went on upstairs, then turned and headed back to the factory, his stride a bit firmer than it had been. Xander, so that was his boy’s name.
He was a block away before it hit him. Just when the bloody hell did I start thinking of the boy as mine?