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.
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 first part of the bunny only: Xander never got over Jesse's death. After he dusted him he was never the same. Xander isolated himself from Willow and wanted nothing to do with Buffy.
Previous parts here
It had been a tense week in the factory. The minions were fearful and staying close to home as the Slayer had been on a rampage, tearing the town apart looking for some friend of hers who’d vanished. Her usual patrol style was focused on the cemeteries, keeping an eye out for newly turned fledges who had just risen and only occasionally impacting on older vampires. But this past week, she’d been seen all over town: asking questions at Willey’s bar and seeking out demon haunts. She was reportedly in a stake-happy mood and most vampires were lying low.
From the description she was passing around, she was probably looking for the sick boy that Spike had killed at the factory. Spike made a mental note to ask Lucius what he’d done with the body since the Slayer obviously hadn’t stumbled over it yet. At least he had one minion smart enough not to simply dump bodies outside their front door. It amused Spike no end that a friend of the Slayer’s had wanted to become a vampire. If he’d known the prat was the Slayer’s friend, he might have turned the boy just for the laugh. He’d have to tell the Slayer about it some day. But not just yet. A Slayer wasn’t prey - they were adversaries, fellow hunters, and it wasn’t smart to tackle them when they were fired up and at their peak. Spike would deal with her in his own time.
Angelus was a different matter. Spike had been spending a lot of time considering what to do about his Sire. He was surprised that Angelus hadn’t sought him out after their fight on Halloween. The old Angelus would have beaten Spike within an inch of his unlife for what Spike had done to him on Halloween. It was just another reminder that his Sire had changed almost beyond recognition.
Angelus’ unspoken message that night had been that Spike should leave, not just the warehouse they’d been in, but leave town altogether. And that wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t just because Dru had told him his destiny awaited him in Sunnydale or even that, as Master of the Hellmouth, he had a stake here now. It was more that Spike had spent much of his unlife not doing what Angelus wanted. It was the principal of the thing.
But right now, he had a different problem. He scowled at the minion in front of him who’d just admitted that she was the one who had told the sick boy about Spike and the factory. Apparently the boy had gotten the jump on her and threatened the information out of her. Unbelievable.
“But you said that it was ok if a human asked about you.” The minion was confused, she’d obviously thought he would like the information that she had told a human about the lair.
“I meant someone who already knew me, you moron. Not giving anyone who wants one a backstage pass just because they ask nicely.” Not giving her time to try and justify her cowardice further, Spike snapped her neck. As she fell with a cry of pain, he looked around at the other minions watching warily. “Someone stake her and sweep up the mess,” he ordered impatiently.
He really needed to do something about the quality of his minions.
Xander found himself walking the streets of Sunnydale in the early evening hours more and more often. His dad wasn’t in a hurry to find a new job and that meant Xander avoided going home as often as possible. Like tonight.
He’d gone to visit Mr. Olsen after school, something he’d taken to doing every once in awhile. He’d originally gone back to see Mr. Olsen not long after Halloween, mostly wanting to thank the man again for letting all of them take refuge in his house and for being so good with the kids. Mr. Olsen had seemed pleased to see him and they’d talked for a lot longer than Xander had intended. Not having ever really had much contact with anyone that age, Xander had been surprised to find that he really liked the old man: he was smart and funny and easy to talk to and he didn’t try to pretend that they were the same age. Xander had thought wistfully more than once that Mr. Olsen would have been a cool grandfather to have. He’d met Mrs. Olsen and both of them seemed to be comfortable with their age and their lives and each other in a way that few people Xander had ever known seemed to be.
Walking home, Xander thought about the Olsens. It was really great to talk to someone without the tension that had characterized all of his recent conversations with Willow. Sighing, Xander thought about the fact that he didn’t really have any friends right now. He really wasn’t the loner type, things had just worked out that way recently. He was pulled from his depressing thoughts by an uneasy feeling and he gradually became aware that someone was following him. He turned suddenly, his hand going to his cross, and saw that Spike was walking a few paces behind him.
“That’s better. You heard me this time. Not a good town to walk through at night without paying attention.”
“I get that. You never know who might be stalking you.”
Spike smirked and sauntered towards him. “You always go for your cross first, not your stake. Why is that?”
Xander shrugged. “If I can drive them off, why should I kill them?”
Spike seemed to be considering that and they both started walking again in silence. They were coming up on a coffee shop and Xander asked impulsively: “Do you want to sit for a minute?” Spike stared at him and he added hurriedly, “It’s just I’m not really ready to go home yet.”
Just as Xander was beginning to think he’d somehow offended the vampire, Spike shrugged and turned into the restaurant. Xander hesitated, then followed him in, wondering what he’d been thinking. Spike sprawled into a booth with his usual careless grace and Xander slid in on the opposite side. “Umm, do vampires drink things besides blood?” Really, it was ridiculous that none of the books he’d read addressed basic issues like that, he thought with a twinge of desperation.
“Some do, some don’t. I like a bit of hot cocoa now and then.”
“Hey, me too.” Xander brightened and put in the order as the waitress appeared.
They sat silently, Xander envying Spike’s air of complete self-possession and doing his best to stop himself from fidgeting uneasily. The vampire simply studied the small restaurant and the few patrons with a critical eye and obviously didn’t feel the need to make small talk.
After the waitress brought their hot chocolate, Xander occupied himself with stirring it and carefully testing how hot it was, working up the nerve to ask something that he’d been thinking about since the last time he and Spike had talked.
“The other night, you said you’d lost someone too. Do…do you mind if I ask who?”
“Dunno. Not really any of your business.” There was a long pause, during which Spike seemed to be studying something intently on the far wall. Xander waited, because it seemed like the vampire was considering whether to answer. When Spike spoke again his voice was quiet and even his accent had softened. “But my Dru, she should be remembered.” Spike looked over at Xander briefly. “Drusilla, my dark princess,” he said simply. Xander’s gaze didn’t waver and his eyes were sympathetic. Spike turned his own eyes back to the wall and the past.
“She was beautiful: dark hair and black eyes. For a hundred years, we loved, and played, and wreaked havoc across Europe. She was insane,” a fond smile curved his mouth, softer than his usual smirk, “completely mad and it made her unpredictable and exciting. Always had a lark planned she did; things were never dull with Dru.”
Lost in his reminisces, Spike didn’t notice that Xander was both fascinated and appalled, hardly daring to breathe in case the unusual willingness to talk faded. “She reveled in being a vampire. We’d go to clubs and dance - Dru loved to dance. We’d find partners and Drusilla loved to drink from her partners on the dance floor, just a little and so quiet no one would notice. Said she could see the music all around her with the blood singing in her veins.” Spike’s voice died as the memories overwhelmed him.
After a long pause, Xander asked curiously, “Do all vampires date, fall in love, pair up like that?”
Spike’s eyes snapped back into the present and he turned a mocking look on Xander. “How many humans do?”
“Depends on what you call love, I guess.” He shrugged, looking down at his hands. “I’m probably not the best person to ask about that.” After a moment, he looked up again and asked curiously: “Is love the same for vampires as for humans?”
Spike gave him a wicked leer. “Needing some help with the mechanics, pet?”
“No! Major experience here. I meant emotionally, dimwit.”
“I’d rather hear about that ‘major experience’ of yours.”
Xander blushed and tried for affronted dignity. “A gentleman doesn’t kiss and tell.”
Yeah, that affronted dignity thing had gone over real well. Trying to figure out where the conversation had gone sideways on him, Xander realized he hadn’t had a rambling talk like this with anyone since… Not since Jesse died. His smile slipped and for a moment he looked at Spike and couldn’t think of one reason why he was talking to the vampire. But it felt comfortable, like they were friends, and Xander had been lonely for so long that he didn’t want to think about it too much. Because he knew that the only rational thing for a sane person to do was get up and walk away and never talk to the vampire again. And that wasn’t what he wanted.
Spike watched curiously as Xander fell silent and seemed engaged in some inner turmoil. Spike himself didn’t want to think too much about what he was doing because one of the rules that had been beaten into him, literally, as a fledgling was that you didn’t play with your food. Spike had never been big on anyone’s rules but his own but it made sense to never get attached to humans. Humans and vampires didn’t mix. They crossed paths and one died, usually the human. He’d never been one for elaborate games with his chosen victims: a night’s sport and move on to the next had always been more Spike’s style. Angelus had always been the one for elaborate games: tormenting the same victim for weeks till everyone else was long bored with it. Considering that he was the one who’d beaten the rules into Spike, it was pretty damn hypocritical of him, come to think of it.
The boy had worked his way through whatever was troubling him and was studying Spike curiously again. “What are you hoping to learn about vampires, pet?”
“What do you mean?”
Spike heard the boy’s heart rate ratchet up and his question was gentler than he’d planned. “You been watching vampires, asking me questions, reading books. What are you looking for?”
Xander looked away and seemed to shrink in on himself. “I don’t know,” he whispered finally, almost to himself. He traced a line back and forth on the table top with one finger and Spike could taste his misery and sorrow in the air. With unusual patience, he waited for the boy to continue.
“Ever since Jesse died, I just need…” He faltered to a stop, then tried again. “It’s like there’s this huge… question in my life and until I can understand it, I can’t get past it.” He looked briefly at Spike, his dark eyes confused and full of pain. “I don’t ever want to forget Jesse but until I know, it’s like I’m stuck.”
“Know what?” Spike’s question was almost as quiet as Xander’s confused explanation.
“Know if it was Jesse I killed.” After a long silence Xander spoke again. “I guess the answer is that it was Jesse and it wasn’t. Both yes and no.” He got to his feet abruptly. “I have to go.”
Spike slid out of the booth in one clean movement. He watched Xander fumble for some money to leave on the table then followed him out of the diner. He walked quietly beside the boy for several blocks before asking: “Is that answer good enough for you?”
Xander responded slowly, his thoughts miles away. He looked at Spike and wondered if he was imagining the worried tone. “I guess it’s going to have to be.”
Maybe it was that decision or just the fact that he’d finally talked to someone about it, but Xander felt a little lighter, as if the burden that had been pressing him down for so long had eased slightly. Surprised, he realized he’d been talking to Spike about things he hadn’t even been able to talk to Willow about. Part of him wanted to immediately try and cover up, make some kind of a joke, pretend it hadn’t been so serious. But he stopped himself. Spike had shared his own pain about Drusilla. Xander couldn’t even imagine loving someone for 100 years. Losing someone after being together that long had to be devastating. Ok, it definitely hadn’t been your ordinary Romeo and Juliet story, but even if the things Spike liked about his Drusilla were creepy, he’d clearly loved her.
“Do you mind if I ask you something?” Xander’s question broke the long comfortable silence between them.
“Won’t know till you ask, will I?”
“You said Angel was your Sire?” Xander wasn’t really sure what he was asking, but he continued when Spike just made a confirming grunt. “What does that mean? I mean, I know it means he turned you into a vampire, but is there more to it than that?” He shot a quick look at Spike but the vampire didn’t seem upset or angry.
“It’s complicated,” Spike said at last, just when Xander had decided he wasn’t going to answer at all. He waited to see if Spike would say anything else, biting back the snarky comment that everything was complicated to hear Spike tell it. Of course, so far he’d been right.
“Angelus didn’t actually turn me.” Spike continued with only a slight hesitation. “Drusilla did. But Dru couldn’t take care of a newly turned Childe, so Angelus, who was her Sire, took over. He taught me how to be a vampire, so that made him my Sire, in effect.”
“But don’t vampires know instinctively how to be vampires?”
“The basics, yeah. Vampires rise with enhanced strength and bloodlust, but that isn’t what makes a vampire.”
“Not really. Every minion has that. And most of them are idiots: just lackeys and cannon fodder.”
“How come Drusilla couldn’t take care of you?”
Spike jerked his head around to stare at Xander and his eyes were golden, shining eerily
in the dark. He grabbed Xander’s shirt and hauled him closer. “None of your business, boy. Don’t go too far.”
“Jeez, chill out! You could have just said you didn’t want to answer.” Xander was surprised to find he wasn’t really afraid, even with Spike’s demonic eyes burning into his.
Spike glared at him a moment longer, then laughed and released him. “Bloody strange human,” he muttered.
“Yeah, well you already told me that you’re a weird vampire, so I guess we’re even.” They started walking again and Xander said apologetically, “I know I ask a lot of questions, but you’re the only one who answers them.”
As they walked, he told Spike about the first vampire he’d tried to talk to. It felt good to see Spike laughing as he described how the vampire had practically run away from him saying he was too weird to eat.
They arrived at his house and he gave Spike a small smile. “Thanks, Spike.” He meant for far more than the walk home, but he thought the vampire probably guessed that. He stood there awkwardly for a second, thinking he should say something else but not knowing what. Spike seemed supremely comfortable, lighting a cigarette and then just standing there smoking. Xander shoved his hands into his pocket, almost wishing he smoked just to give himself something to do with his hands, then just said goodnight and turned up the front walk to his house. He smiled at the quiet “Night, pet” that followed him to the door.
Leaving the boy at his house, Spike continued walking, his stride picking up speed until his coat flared out in the breeze he was creating.
What was he thinking, walking the boy home like that? He wasn’t able to kid himself any longer - he liked talking to the boy. He knew he was a social creature, hadn’t really spent a lot of time alone at any point in his existence until recently. He knew he was lonely without Dru - but spending time with a human child? It should be beneath him.
But somehow Xander wasn’t. The fact that the boy was lonely drew him, as did his grief and the darker emotions lurking beneath the surface. He intrigued Spike with his curiosity and his bravery and his off-beat sense of humor. Very few humans faced a vampire without showing fear but Xander had even when they first met and he was obviously expecting to be killed. And tonight, when Spike had been caught unawares by the flash of anger at the memory of what Angelus had done to Dru both as human and vampire that had made her incapable of being a true Sire to him, the boy hadn’t been afraid.
What was really strange was that Xander’s incessant questions didn’t bother Spike. Partly it was because so many of the questions were unexpected, but that wasn’t the whole reason. He liked the way the boy listened to him and his odd certainty that Xander was keeping their talks private. Even Drusilla had rarely really listened to Spike, too often lost in her own random thoughts. Although Xander was clearly pumping Spike for information for his own purposes, it didn’t feel like he was being used. Maybe because the boy had shared some of his own grief and pain with Spike.
Someone who wasn’t using him was rare in Spike’s existence. Even Drusilla had at times - to make Angelus jealous or to deflect Darla’s rages.
Spike’s rapid strides had brought him back to factory district. Slowing to light another cigarette, he gradually came to a halt. He stood watching the factory for a moment, thinking about being Master of the Hellmouth. So far, it hadn’t been nearly as satisfying as he’d thought it would be and he wondered if Dru’s sight had been off this time. Course, she’d never actually said that that was the reason she wanted him to go to the Hellmouth - just that his destiny was here.
“Rot,” he said out loud finally, dismissing the whole idea for now. He dropped the cigarette butt and heading into the factory. His boots raised echoes in the nearly empty rooms as he headed towards his own room. He snapped the telly on and flung himself down on the bed. Idly watching a car chase, he wondered again if he shouldn’t just dust all the minions in the factory and start over. Reluctantly, he decided against it. Too much trouble to start over completely from scratch. He’d been steadily weeding out the worst of the bunch and there were one or two who showed promise.
He thought again about turning Xander, making him his Childe, but he was oddly reluctant. The boy had the potential to be a beautiful Childe - the demon would draw all that hidden darkness to the surface. But Spike found he was oddly reluctant. He liked the boy with his quirky flashes of humor and his insatiable curiosity. A lot of that would change with turning. For now, he’d leave things as they were.
Xander looked up in surprise as Cordelia walked towards him. It was rare for the cheerleader to acknowledge his existence.
“I was out last week with Jeremy Stevens. He got lost coming back from this really cool restaurant he took me to in L.A. and ended up driving through the bad side of town. Which really did nothing for the romantic mood, let me tell you. All those disgusting factories and stuff, and the smell…”
“Cordelia,” Xander finally interrupted her when it looked like she was going to keep going. “Is there some reason I need to know about your date?”
“Well, duh. Like I’d talk to you without a specific reason. Anyway, as I was saying, he got lost and ended up driving through a bunch of places I’d really rather not have and one of them was your neighborhood. I told him he turned wrong, but he just wouldn’t listen.”
She looked at him expectantly, but Xander still really had no idea of what she wanted. When he just looked puzzled, she sighed dramatically. “Hello, I saw you talking to that Spike guy.”
“How do you know Spike?” Xander felt an odd pang at the thought that he wasn’t the only one Spike talked to. And where did that come from?
“Because I was there on Halloween when he and Angel got into that big fight.” Cordelia looked at him assessingly. “You do know he’s a vampire, don’t you?”
“You do?” She looked surprised. “Well, you should know that Angel said he was really dangerous, apparently way more so than most vampires.” When Xander didn’t look worried, she shrugged. “Ok, I’m done. If you know he’s a vampire and don’t care, that’s your business. I just thought I’d warn you.” She looked at him darkly, “Don’t take it the wrong way. I’d warn a dog if I saw it talking to something dangerous. It doesn’t mean we’re friends or anything.”
She walked off and Xander just shook his head. Good old Cordy, she never changed.
Xander sighed as the door closed behind him. His dad hadn’t found work yet and his parents were arguing a lot. It happened every time his dad was between jobs and it got old really fast. It wasn’t the kind of screaming, ashtray throwing fights that caused him to leave the house for the entire night, but the two of them would pick away at each other for real and imagined shortcomings. With depressing frequency, his name came up in their diatribes.
When he could, he just turned his music up and blocked them out. But nights like tonight, when the barbed remarks turned vicious, it was best to slip out unseen. Walking towards the center of town, he considered his options. The public library would be closing in a few minutes. He didn’t have any money, so that left restaurants out. He hastily suppressed the idea of going by the factory and seeing if he could find Spike. Way too dangerous with all the other vampires there. He sighed, it would have to be the old loop around town to kill an hour standby.
It was only when habit brought him to the first cemetery that he remembered that his regular route had three cemeteries on it. It was one thing to wander by cemeteries when they were just spooky, it was completely different when you knew they were actually dangerous. Walking alongside the cemetery wall, rather than through the graveyard itself, Xander was planning an alternate route when he heard someone scream.
Looking around, he didn’t see anyone at first. He pulled his cross out of his pocket and gripped it tightly as he moved towards where he’d thought he’d heard the scream. In the shadow beside a large van, he could just barely see a couple standing. They almost looked like they were making out, but they seemed to be the only people around so he called loudly, “Hey! Are you all right?”
The man lifted his head and fangs caught the glow of the streetlight, glimmering in the shadows. “We’re fine. Leave.”
The woman shivered, like she was suddenly waking from a dream and began to struggle in the man’s arms. “Help me! Please!”
Xander shoved the cross in the vampire’s face and he stumbled back away from it with a snarl, releasing the woman as he did so. Xander snagged her arm and pulled her towards him, barely glancing at her before his eyes went back to the vampire. “Run,” he told her.
She nodded jerkily, one hand pressed to the juncture of neck and shoulder and began to move past him. He was peripherally aware of her footsteps picking up speed until she was running down the street away from them. Xander began backing up cautiously himself, still holding the cross out in front of him. “Everything’s cool. You go your way and I’ll go mine. No problem.”
“I’ve got a problem. That was my dinner you interrupted.”
“Well, I can’t really say I’m sorry. I mean, your dinner being a person and all, but it was nothing personal.”
The vampire was matching his steps, stalking forward each time Xander retreated. “Look, I’m told crosses make really nasty burns on you all. I wouldn’t call your face exactly pretty, but hardly anyone’s looks are improved by big blotchy marks. I’m a teenager, I know about that.”
He took a quick look behind him, making sure he wasn’t about to back up into anything and it was a mistake. The vampire pounced, slapping the cross out of his hand and punching Xander in the stomach. Xander doubled over as pain exploded in his midsection. A hand closed in his hair and dragged him upright again. “Since you chased off my dinner, I guess I’ll have to make do with you.”
Still trying to catch his breath, Xander brought his knee up, hoping male vampires had the same vulnerabilities as human males. Apparently they did, as the vampire let out a blistering oath and the grip on Xander’s hair relaxed. He shoved the vampire away as hard as he could and succeeded in sending the vampire staggering back a step or two. He reached for his stake as the vampire recovered, closing in on him again. Before he’d gotten it clear of his pocket, something grabbed the vampire and spun it around. Xander saw a flash of black behind the vampire, then choked and stepped back as the vampire turned to dust.
Coughing, Xander bent over, fighting down the surge of nausea that rose as he struggled to clear the dust from his mouth. He looked up. “Angel?”
Angel scowled down at him and Xander found himself feeling a flash of resentment, not gratitude. Angel was only an inch or two taller than Xander, but he did this looming thing that made him seem way bigger than he was. But his problems with Angel weren’t really Angel’s fault and the man had just helped him. “Thanks,” he said hoarsely.
“I thought I told you to stop trying to get involved with vampires.”
“Hey, not involved, trying to rescue someone here.”
“Leave vampire slaying to people who can do it.”
“So you’re saying I should just walk past a vampire feeding on someone and do nothing.” Xander said incredulously.
“I’m telling you to stop wandering around cemeteries after dark. Go home.”
“Angel, I live in this town. So do a lot of vampires. We’re gonna meet from time to time. That’s why I’m trying to learn about them.”
Angel morphed into game face and his hands flashed out, grabbing Xander’s shirt and yanking him close. “We’re stronger than you, faster than you, and humans are our chosen prey. That’s all you need to know.” He let go so quickly that Xander staggered back a pace and his face shifted back to human. “If you want to survive, stay away from vampires.”
He spun around in a swirl of black coat and stalked off. Xander glared after him. “What the hell was that - the vampire version of scared straight?” he called after the retreating back but Angel didn’t look around. “Jerk,” he added softly. Angel’s attitude really irritated him. There was no way he copped that attitude with Willow, not considering how much she seemed to like Angel. So why was it ok for Willow to learn about the night side of Sunnydale and not Xander? Because he wasn’t part of the Slayer’s inner circle? Still not invited to the cool kids’ party, he thought wryly.
Xander realized his hands were still shaking from the close call. He shoved them into his pockets and decided to head home. If his parents were still arguing, he’d go in the basement door and wait them out.
Xander got the summons to the library at the start of third period. He was suspicious that something was up from the second his teacher gave him the message but he didn’t have a lot of choice about ignoring it, so he simply sighed and headed for the library. He stopped as soon as he entered the doors as a quick glance showed Buffy, Willow and Cordelia all sitting at the main table, obviously waiting for him. He walked forward slowly, noting that Mr. Giles was in full-on stern mode, Willow looked worried, Buffy angry and Cordelia bored. “I didn’t realize this was a group summons. What’s up?”
Mr. Giles was standing near the shelves and he began with his typical hesitant authority. “Some information has come to our attention that you may have taken your obsession with vampires to an unhealthy new level.”
“Ok, I’m pretty sure I’m being accused of something, but I have no idea what you just said.” Xander was genuinely confused, it wasn’t like he was spying on vampires or Buffy on patrol anymore. And hey, borrowing books openly now.
“Are you consorting with vampires?”
“Consorting? What the hell does that mean?”
“It means I told them I saw you with Spike, lame-brain.” Cordelia looked up from her study of her nails. “They were all sitting around researching him and I just told them they could ask you.” She looked at Mr. Giles. “Can I go now? I’m pretty sure that was all you wanted me to say. And I have a lot better things to do with my time than participate in interventions for losers.”
“Cordelia be quiet.” Mr. Giles waved her back down and she subsided reluctantly.
“I don’t believe this. This is some kind of intervention? I am so out of here.” Xander shook his head in disbelief and turned to go.
“Mr. Harris, I am a faculty member and you will stay until you are dismissed.”
Surprised by the sharp crack of the librarian’s tone, Xander turned back around and stared at Mr. Giles in disbelief. “Oh, don’t even go there. This isn’t about a school issue and you know it. Let’s just go to Snyder’s office, shall we, and tell him that you want to give me detention because I refused to sit here and let you lecture me about vampires. That’ll do your reputation a lot of good.”
“Geez, you two, calm down. Take a pill.”
Xander and the librarian stopped glaring at each other and shot identical looks of disbelief at Cordelia. “Frankly, Xander, I don’t really care what you do. You aren’t exactly on my social radar. But this Spike guy is a total psycho. I mean did you see the damage he did to Angel’s face? The poor man couldn’t be seen in public for like a week. He could have been scarred. And that really would have been a crime.”
“Yes, thank you, Cordelia. Somewhere in there, buried quite deeply, was a good point.” Mr. Giles re-focused his attention on Xander and struggled to take control of the conversation again. “Mr. Harris, I have tolerated your misplaced curiosity to date because as far as I could tell you were not endangering either yourself or others. Research, in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing…”
Buffy interrupted him. “Giles, we need to cut to the chase. Spike is dangerous. He beat Angel up for no reason. If Angel wasn’t a vampire, Spike would have killed him.”
“No reason? Is that what Angel told you?”
“Xander, Angel knows Spike, he knows how dangerous Spike is. He doesn’t want you hurt either.”
“Willow, Angel doesn’t give a damn about me. Which is fine, because it’s very mutual. But what’s really funny is that Angel obviously hasn’t told you about his history with Spike.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well, for one thing, Buffy, Angel sired him. So if Spike is such a big bad-ass, you can pretty much thank Angel.” A sardonic smile crossed his lips as he looked around at the surprised faces. “Didn’t tell you that, did he? Funny, if he’s such a good guy, that he’d withhold that kind of information. Why don’t you ask Angel about Spike instead of me. After all, he’s known him for at least 100 years longer than I have.”
Buffy was temporarily silenced. Mr. Giles was the first to speak again. “Yes, well, we will certainly look into that, but all of this is rather aside from the point.”
“What is the point of this little gathering?”
“Xander, we’re worried about you. You haven’t been behaving like yourself for a long time but Cordelia saw you talking with a vampire alone at night. Don’t you realize how dangerous that is?”
“What makes you think I don’t know what I’m doing, Willow? That wasn’t the first or the last time I’ve talked with Spike. We’re friends.”
“Ok, that’s it. Friends? Humans and vampires aren’t friends. Vampires kill people.”
“Well, excuse me, Miss ‘I’m Dating a Vampire’. Oh right,” Xander pitched his voice higher in a not too bad imitation of Buffy: “That’s different, Angel has a soul.”
“Leave Angel out of this.”
“Both of you calm down. This isn’t helping.”
“Yes, Buffy, remember? We’re not attacking Xander, we’re trying to help.”
“Gee, I’m touched. Where was all this help when I actually needed it?”
“What are you talking about?” Willow had succeeded in coaxing Buffy back into her chair, but Buffy was still glaring at Xander. “You never asked for help. You just blundered around causing problems and doing your own thing like you always do.”
“No, Willow, I’ve had it with this idiot. It was bad enough when he was just spying on me on patrol and stealing books, but now he’s making friends with vampires who are trying to kill Angel. Not to mention how often he’s hurt you.”
“Are you through?” Xander’s voice was deadly quiet.
“Not quite.” Buffy ignored Willow’s quiet plea and fixed Xander with a hard stare. “Let’s just get this clear once and for all. I’m the Slayer. Your ‘friend’ is a vampire. If you two are actually friends, then you better warn him. Because if he doesn’t leave town immediately, I’m going to kill him. No second chances, no other warnings. Understand?”
“Yeah, that was pretty clear, even for an idiot like me. I’ll be sure to tell him.”
Cordelia spoke with bright sarcasm into the silence that followed Xander’s leaving. “Well, that went well.”
Willow hurried after Xander, slipping out of the library before Buffy could stop her and running down the hall after him. “Xander.”
“What now, Willow?”
“I’m sorry, that wasn’t how that was supposed to go.”
“Oh great, what part did I miss out on? The part where you all lock me in a room without supper for my own good?”
“Xander, stop.” Willow yanked his arm and spun him to face her. “Buffy went a little overboard, but she means well.”
“Right now, I don’t really give a damn whether she means well or not.”
“Look at it from our point of view for a minute, Xander. What would you say if you suddenly found out that I was meeting with, oh, say a killer robot or something?” Willow was surprised to find that she could bring up Malcolm/Moloch without a qualm, but it was the first example she’d thought of.
“What?” At Willow’s insistent stare, Xander rolled his eyes and tried to answer seriously. “I’d like to think that I’d make sure you actually knew it was a killer robot first. I mean, I do know that Spike is a vampire, I’ve known it since the first night we met.”
“Are you actually saying you’d be ok with me dating a killer robot?”
“Well, you’re ok with Buffy dating Angel. And can we just stick with the vampire examples? ’Cause frankly, the robot thing is making it very hard to take this seriously.”
Surprisingly, Xander found his temper cooling as they talked.
“Has a soul. Yes, I know. I am so sick of hearing that.” He held up his hand to stop Willow from speaking. “Basically, you’re ok with her dating a vampire because you don’t think Angel is going to hurt Buffy, right?”
“Well, for whatever reason, Spike isn’t going to hurt me.”
“But Xander, that’s like saying you’re friends with a serial killer because he won’t hurt you. In fact, that’s exactly what you’re saying. Spike is a serial killer.”
“Well, so is Angel, he’s just retired.” Xander didn’t even wait for Willow’s indignant response. “I know, I know Spike is probably killing people. And I know it doesn’t justify it that he doesn’t do it in front of me.” He looked away, his eyes troubled, “But Willow, I can’t think about that too much yet. In a weird way, we’re friends and I really need that friendship right now.”
“Xander…” Willow’s own eyes were sad. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Trust me, that’s not what I want either.”
There didn’t seem to be anything more to say. Xander shrugged and moved off down the hall. He couldn’t explain to Willow that talking with Spike was helping to heal what had been broken inside him with Jesse’s death. She wouldn’t understand, which was fine because he didn’t understand it himself, but she’d be hurt that he was able to talk to someone else about things he couldn’t talk to her about.
Watching him leave, Willow wondered how he could believe he was friends with an unsouled vampire. Sure, Xander might like Spike but there was no way it was a two-way street. Vampires didn’t have human emotions. How could they without a soul? Spike was obviously playing some kind of game with Xander.
Her jaw firmed. The faster Buffy staked Spike, the better. Before he could hurt Xander or worse, kill him. She’d rather have Xander alive and mad at her than dead. Sighing, she turned back to the library.