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 awhile back by wickedchocolate. I took the first part of the bunny only: Xander never got over Jesse’s death. After he dusted Jesse, he was never the same. Xander isolated himself from Willow and wanted nothing to do with Buffy.
Previous parts here
Angelus was waiting for Spike when he returned to the factory, lounging casually outside, leaning against the wall and to all appearances ignoring the minions who were guarding him. Spike knew better. He could read the wary alertness in Angelus’ seemingly nonchalant stance and knew his Sire was prepared to defend himself lethally if the minions made a move towards him.
Spike cursed himself for not anticipating that Angelus would come see him. His Sire would want Spike’s word about the truce personally; Angelus wouldn’t be willing to accept Xander’s actions as a go-between. Not just because Xander was human, but because ultimately this was between Sire and Childe.
Spike stopped long enough to light a cigarette, steadying himself for the confrontation to come. The rage that had ignited in him like wildfire the last time he had seen Angelus had burnt itself out in that burst of uncontrolled fury. Anger, resentment, scorn were all still simmering inside him, but he was in control now and ready to deal with his Sire. He studied the older vampire, seeing the changes time brought even to the undead. A century ago, Angelus would have been swaggering in front of the minions, if they weren’t dust already. He never would have waited outside Spike’s lair with even a semblance of patience, a never in human face. Instead he would have high-handedly ordered Spike’s minions to fetch Spike, intimidating or outright killing any who were reluctant to obey him. More importantly, he would have sensed Spike’s presence by now, would have known he was being watched. Spike was again reminded that Angelus wasn’t feeding properly and obviously hadn’t for some time.
Shaking his head in disgust, he wondered at it. Vampires could survive indefinitely on any blood but only truly thrived on human. It wasn’t just the hunt that kept vampires on top of their game - after all, there were a lot of mammals far more difficult to hunt than humans. No, it was human blood that vampires needed. In the modern world, Angelus could obtain a steady supply of human blood through a variety of methods without killing. There had always been ways of obtaining blood and those ways had multiplied as the world changed. Angelus wasn’t taking advantage of any of them, which was flat out stupid, to Spike’s way of thinking. What was the point of immortality if you didn’t enjoy it?
Ready now, Spike strode out of the shadows. Angelus saw him approaching and moved to meet him halfway. They halted a cautious distance from each other and sized each other up.
“Spike,” Angelus greeted simply, without the overt hostility Spike had been expecting.
“Angelus.” Unable to resist, Spike commented, “See your face finally healed up.”
“Didn’t take too long.”
Spike ignored the implication that Angelus hadn’t been injured as badly as Spike knew damned well he had been. “What do you want?” he asked bluntly.
“To talk.” Angelus glanced briefly at the minions hovering in the background, obviously listening, and suggested, “Let’s go somewhere we can talk privately.”
That was probably a good idea. No sense in dealing with family business in front of minions. “Fine,” he agreed and set off at a fast pace, leaving Angelus to follow. Spike strode rapidly through the town, heading for a nearby playground, knowing it would be deserted this time of night.
Reaching the small park, Spike confirmed it was empty and turned to face Angelus. lighting a fresh cigarette and inhaling deeply, he didn’t wait for his quasi-Sire to speak. “What? Got places to go, people to kill,” he said provokingly.
“You’re agreeing to a truce with Buffy?” Angelus went directly to the point.
“Said I was didn’t I?”
“I want to hear it for myself.”
“You just did.” When Angelus simply continued to stare at him expectantly, Spike rolled his eyes. “I’m agreeing to a truce with the Slayer. If she doesn’t come after me, I won’t attack her.” He spelled out deliberately. “Satisfied?”
“Not quite. What are you doing with the boy?”
Spike’s eyebrows shot up. He hadn’t really expected that - Angelus seemed too focused on the Slayer to care about anyone else. “Maybe I’m just following your example.”
“Yeah, always was when it was you.”
“Buffy’s a Slayer.”
“Makes it different all right. Makes it perverse is what it does.” Spike flicked his cigarette away with a contemptuous gesture that underscored his words.
“She has responsibilities. Her calling means she’s dealt with things that make her more mature than most teenagers.” Angel wondered why he was justifying his relationship with Buffy to Spike.
“This is the Hellmouth. Most people are dealing with things here. Either that or they’re so deeply in denial they don’t know what’s going on in front of their face. What’s it to you anyway? Boy doesn’t exactly seem to like you.”
“Yeah, noticed that. So what?”
“So you aren’t known for your tolerance for humans.”
“You weren’t exactly a slacker in the killing fields yourself, mate. Wasn’t me who liked to leave little bits draped in interesting places around church sanctuaries.”
Angel winced at a memory he had once taken pride in. “That was a long time ago. I’ve changed.” He sighed, “Spike, the boy seems to think you’re a friend. I don’t know what kind of a game you’ve got going with him, but he’s just a naïve kid who doesn’t deserve whatever you’re planning.”
Spike looked away, covering by fumbling for a fresh cigarette. He concentrated on lighting it, fussing with the lighter and holding the tip to the flame for longer than necessary. Finally done, he took a deep drag and blew the smoke in Angelus’ face. Even though vampires didn’t need to breathe, the gesture still carried the same connotations. “Who says I have anything planned for the boy?” he asked eventually.
“Come on, Spike, I know you. You aren’t being nice to the boy without a reason.”
“You haven’t known me in a long time, ‘Angel’.” Spike stressed his Sire’s chosen name sarcastically. “You’ve only seen me twice in the past century. You’ve changed past recognition, what makes you think I’m the same as I was?” Losing his family, learning to live on his own and care for Drusilla - in effect being forced to take on the role of a Master decades before he should have been ready - and, above all, the agony of losing Dru had all left their marks on him.
Angel shifted to game face to enforce his words. “Spike, I’m ordering you to leave the boy alone.”
“Piss off! You forfeited the right to have any say in what I do when you abandoned us.” Spike couldn’t believe Angelus was trying the Sire routine. “Agreed to a truce, that’s all, not to following your orders.”
Angel backpedaled although he kept to his demonic visage. “If you turn him, the truce is off. Both Buffy and I will come after you. Is the boy really worth it?”
Spike knew the answer to that one, he didn’t even have to think about it. If he decided to turn Xander, he would do it. His Sire’s blustering was meaningless, as was the threat of the Slayer. Spike’s hesitation over turning his boy had nothing to do with worrying about Angelus or the Slayer. “I’m not going to turn the boy. Not yet. Maybe not at all,” he said grudgingly, more to get his Sire off his back than from any need to justify himself. He shot a cold look at Angelus. “He’s interesting. And a lot more fun to talk to than you ever were. So you can just go back to your little Slayer and tell her that the boy is safe. A lot safer than when he was wandering around the Hellmouth at night, spying on vampire nests because no-one would talk to him about vampires,” he added snidely. This concern for his boy seemed to have come a bit late in the day for the little band of do-gooders. From what Spike had pieced together from talking to Xander, none of them had tried especially hard to help his boy out when Xander was grieving and doing stupid things because of it.
And for a wonder, Angel looked a little ashamed.
“You’ve got my word on the truce. ’M not going to hurt the boy. Are we done?”
“Would you include Willow and Giles in the truce?” Angelus persisted.
“Buffy’s Watcher and her best friend. They were both in the library tonight.”
Spike’s lips twitched. So Angelus had been aware that Spike had been listening outside the library earlier. “If they agree not to hurt my boy,” he confirmed.
Angelus looked first surprised then troubled but Spike was tired of the conversation. “Ta, mate,” he said flippantly and left, leaving Angelus staring after him.
The night was still young but his earlier good mood had evaporated. The conversation with his Sire had just reminded him of all he had lost. Changing course, Spike headed for the bar. He really needed a drink. Or maybe six.
Xander crumpled up the form he had been filling out and pitched it towards the garbage can. Who came up with those questions, anyway? “Are you a people person or do you prefer keeping your own company?” How were they supposed to tell anything about what kind of career you were suited for by asking things like that? They didn’t even leave write in space so someone could explain that they used to be a people person until their best friend was turned into a vampire and now…, well, not so much a people person anymore. Or maybe a people person who temporarily didn’t really know how to make friends anymore. Then he could add that his only friend right now wasn’t really a person… Actually, it was probably just as well there wasn’t room to write that kind of thing in as that led to one way tickets to the counselor’s office. Xander knew it was ridiculous to let a question on a stupid multiple choice form upset him so much, but it had been that kind of week.
He’d really thought things would get easier after they had all agreed to the truce. And hadn’t that been naïve of him. Buffy clearly blamed him for the fact that everyone was still being cautious around Angel, Willow was pestering him about Spike, and Mr. Giles - well, actually, Xander didn’t know what was going on with the librarian. Rumor was the police had visited him in the library and it was obvious that his not particularly discreet flirtation with the computer teacher was on the fritz. Xander wasn’t the only one who had seen her cut the librarian dead in the hallways. At least no one was blaming him for whatever was going on with Mr. Giles.
The only bright spot this past week had been Spike. Xander found himself grinning as he remembered his last meeting with the vampire several days ago.
Spike had fallen in step with Xander as he left school late. Xander had been studying for a math test in one of the empty classrooms - math was one subject he couldn’t study while lying on the floor or his bed. He didn’t have any kind of a desk in his room and studying in the living room with the tv on too loud the way his dad liked it was a non-starter. Math just seemed to call for desks and sitting upright, otherwise he had a tendency to fall asleep over his textbook.
Spike still enjoyed startling him by suddenly appearing at his side and Xander was working on spotting the vampire before Spike made him jump out of his skin. It was a game that Xander was getting better at and sometimes he idly wondered if he would ever be able to sneak up on Spike. Probably not. Big cheater had those supersharp senses going for him.
“Hey,” he said casually. “What’s up?”
“Fancy a game of pool?” Spike answered. Xander actually liked the fact that Spike was so direct about things. The vampire never bothered with polite “Hello, how are you” rubbish. Spike got bored easily and wasn’t the least bit ashamed of that fact. Having been told disapprovingly all his life that he had the attention span of a gnat, Xander appreciated finally knowing someone who at times had an even shorter attention span. Plus, it made Spike interesting. His mind jumped from topic to topic like Xander’s always had and he had a lot of ideas about ways to have fun. And while he liked to joke about some things that completely squicked Xander, it was easy to pretend that Spike was just joking. Xander knew he wouldn’t be able to close his eyes forever but he wasn’t ready to deal with the reality of Spike being a vampire just yet. Guiltily, he had given himself a temporary leave of absence from dealing.
“At the Bronze?” Xander asked hesitantly. Buffy and Willow sometimes seemed to be at the Bronze every night and that didn’t bode well for his keep Buffy and Spike separate plan.
“Not that place,” Spike said disdainfully. “I was thinking more of a little club outside town. Better music, better crowd. We could drive over and be back in a couple hours.”
“You have a driver’s license?” Xander blurted without thinking. Spike just looked at him with his “I’m evil” look. “Right, stupid question. I can just see you in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Although actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure the workers at that place are demons; no humans could be as crabby and evil as those people - they’re really scary. I can remember hiding under the chairs when I went in there with my mom.”
“Is that a yes? Hard to tell with all the subject changes in that sentence.”
“Yeah, and you are so going down. I’m really good.”
“Shakin’ in my boots here, pet. I’ve only been playing since your great-granddad was in nappies.”
As Spike steered him towards his old beater, Xander asked “why do you Brits have such weird words for everything?”
“We invented the language. You gits are the one’s that messed it up.”
“See, that’s exactly what I mean. What the heck does ‘git’ mean anyway?”
The club Spike took him to had been a biker bar. Xander was pretty sure everyone there was human but the astonishing quantity and variety of tattoos, piercings, spikes, studs, and hair styles left him not really sure about that. It was a place he would have been frankly terrified to enter on his own, but with Spike it had been fun.
Spike strode into the bar like he owned the place. Despite the fact that he was short and slightly built, Spike exuded cockiness and menace and no one had challenged either him or Xander despite the fact that Xander knew perfectly well that, in that place, he made sore thumbs look inconspicuous. Spike had ordered whiskey for himself and beer for Xander and somehow schmoozed a pool table. They had played several games with Spike trouncing Xander to his undisguised glee. He’d taken the time to show Xander a few pointers which had vastly improved Xander’s game and then they had paired up and taken on challengers. If someone had told Xander even a week ago that he would be laughing and joking with a 6’ 3” biker who could’ve squashed Xander like the proverbial bug, he would have told them they needed serious therapy soon.
They’d left after two hours, Xander happily buzzed on his three beers and Spike drove them back to town. Well, “driving” was a loose term for what Spike did behind the wheel: it was more a near-miss demolition derby with the added spin of a driver who knew he was immortal, but somehow Spike never actually hit anything and Xander didn’t actually pee on the upholstery, so it ended ok. He couldn’t help wondering if Spike drove that way all the time or if he was just enjoying Xander’s terror.
Spike dropped him off at his house and pretended to be insulted when Xander got out and made a show of falling to his knees and kissing the pavement. Xander laughed as Spike flipped him off and sped away. Walking slowly into the house, savoring the warm glow of beer and friendship, Xander couldn’t remember the last time he had been this uncomplicatedly happy.
Returning to school the next day had brought him thumping back down to the mess that was his life. Willow had cornered him at his locker and thrust a stack of papers at him.
“What’s this?” Xander asked warily, not making a move to take the papers.
“Read these.” Willow insisted. She had her resolve face on and Xander had 15 years of experience with that look. He reluctantly took the papers from her, knowing that if he didn’t she was quite capable of starting to read them out loud to him, which he suspected he didn’t want her to do.
He glanced down at the papers briefly and leafed through them quickly. They seemed to be photocopies of pages from different books, a lot of them handwritten.
“They’re from Giles’ books - Watcher diaries and other things like that. You say you know what you’re doing; prove it. Read about what Spike has done and then tell me how you can be friends with him.” Willow’s voice was harsh and her eyes were unrelenting.
Xander swallowed hard. Looking blindly down at the papers, it felt like something had wrapped around his heart and lungs and was squeezing the life out of them. He closed his eyes against the words waiting for him like unexploded bombs and fought for calm even as he felt his hands begin to shake.
“Xander, I’m sorry, but this is for your own good. I really think you should read them. Spike is a vampire. He’s dangerous. You can’t just keep ignoring that. You’re like…one of those people who build their houses in a flood zone. You can’t just close your eyes and pretend the danger doesn’t exist. If you do, you’ll get yourself killed.”
“No, Xander. Tell me you feel the same about your ‘friend’ after you learn what he’s done. If you can honestly tell me that you’ve read all of that and still want to be friends with Spike, I’ll back off. I won’t be happy about it but I’ll accept it. Otherwise, you’re just lying to yourself and everyone else when you say Spike is your friend.”
Willow gave him a last hard look and left. Xander looked helplessly down at the papers in his hands, wishing he could hate Willow for doing this. Wishing he could throw the papers in the nearest trash can. Wishing…oh, god, wishing she was wrong.
Xander had fled the school and Willow’s challenging stare. He’d crumpled the papers up and shoved them into his backpack and walked away from the school grounds. Two hours later, he had still been walking, the unread papers weighing heavily on his heart and his conscience.
No matter how many times he told himself that he didn’t need to read them, that he could deal with it later, when he was ready; he knew that if he ducked the issue now, he would never be able to stop avoiding it. It was all well and good to say that he knew Spike was a vampire but Willow had shoved it in his face in a way he could no longer ignore.
At one point, he found himself laughing with a tinge of hysteria and hearing an echo of Willow’s voice from childhood: “Ready or not, here I come.” Oh god, it would be nice to be back in the days when the most serious thing that could happen was being caught at hide and seek.
He couldn’t put it off any longer. Finding himself near a park, Xander forced himself to stop and sat down on a bench near the edge of the park, away from the children’s play area where laughter and children’s raised voices filled the air. Pulling the papers out of his pack, Xander sat holding them for a long time, his eyes resting unseeingly on the kids on the swings.
He and Jesse and Willow used to come here. Willow had liked the teeter-totter and he and Jesse would trade off - one sitting across from her and the other riding the bar in the center. They would take turns push each other on the swings and try and out do each other on the monkey bars. They would race each other to the truck when the ice cream man pulled up and count out the coins they had saved for their favorite ice cream. Jesse had been the fastest of the three. Even back then, he’d always been taller than Xander and his long legs beat Xander and Willow every time they raced. He used to laugh and brag that he was going to be an Olympic sprinter when he triumphantly touched the sun-warmed metal of the truck first every time.
Those days were gone forever. Jesse was dead and Willow was tearing Xander’s barely healed wounds open again in the name of friendship.
It was nearly dark when Xander raised his head from where it had bent closer to the fuzzy script of the last of Willow’s pages. He was sure it was the photocopier that was to blame, because he was not crying over things that couldn’t be changed.
The children had all gone home. Even oblivious parents didn’t let young kids stay out past sunset in Sunnydale. The papers hadn’t contained anything worse than he had seen already in his dreams, but they had destroyed his comforting shell of not really knowing for sure.
Spike was a vampire. Xander had always known it and now he’d seen it documented in dry, precise English. This many victims here, that much mayhem there, two Slayers killed, and god only knew how many humans over the decades. The dry words somehow made the horror more real than any lurid descriptions could have. Almost equally sickening to Xander was the fact that someone had spent time documenting Spike’s activities. Wouldn’t their time have been better spent on trying to kill Spike?
And what about the other side of Spike? The Spike that talked so sadly and lovingly of his Drusilla. The Spike that bought an underage kid beer and taught him to shoot pool better. And the Spike that had answered his questions and helped him learn to live with killing Jesse.
That Spike wasn’t in Willow’s papers because he didn’t fit with the Watcher’s expectations. They didn’t accept that vampires had human emotions, except the darker ones: anger, lust, hatred. To the people who wrote those papers, vampires were incapable of love, of friendship, of loyalty or anything else worthwhile. And Xander knew that wasn’t true.
So, where did that leave him? With a handful of crumpled papers full of half-truths, but truths none the less. Spike was a vampire - a cold-blooded killer who reveled in taking human life. That wasn’t the whole story but it was something Xander had to accept if he was going to be friends with Spike. He just didn’t know if he could justify that friendship.
Sitting in the growing dark, Xander stared at the play area through tear-blurred eyes, seeing a small, red-haired girl and a tall, dark haired boy whose laughing voices sounded clearly from across the years.
Xander was brought back to the present when the crumpled papers were tweaked out of his grip and Spike settled beside him on the bench.
“Too dark for you to still be reading, pet.”
Spike had smelled Xander’s grief from a block away. His boy had just sat there, staring sightlessly across the park, as Spike had approached. He was worryingly oblivious to his surroundings even when Spike deliberately made noise approaching him.
He flipped through the papers, skimming their contents, and wondered who had given them to the boy and what effect they would have. Finished he looked over at Xander. “It’s mostly true, Xander. ‘Cept that bit about Bolivia. Never been there.”
“Yeah, I pretty much figured it was.” Xander still hadn’t looked at him, but at least he was talking.
“So, feelin’ like staking me, or what?”
“No. I’m in kind of a ‘fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly’ place.” Xander looked at him briefly, then his gaze returned to the darkness in front of him. “It’s not like I haven’t known you were a vampire, it’s just that I hadn’t really let myself think about it before.”
“Thinkin’ about heading back to the human side of town?” Spike forced himself to ask casually.
“I don’t know.”
Spike had to struggle for control as his demon roared towards the surface at the thought of his boy leaving him. This wasn’t the time to go all possessive, not if he wanted Xander to stay friends with him. Who cared if demons and humans were not supposed to be friends. Spike had spent much of his unlife not following anyone’s rules but his own. As far as he was concerned, that was just another stupid rule made to be broken.
“I’m a demon, Xander. Can’t change what I am.”
“I know,” Xander said again.
Spike didn’t know what to say. He was tempted to lie, to make the boy all sorts of promises, but he didn’t think that would work. In the first place, he didn’t think Xander would believe him, but more importantly, it felt…wrong. Which was not a concept he’d had much use for in the last century. He sat silently beside his boy, struggling to find the right words that would make Xander want to remain friends with him. Spike didn’t question why he didn’t want to lose Xander’s friendship. He didn’t and that was that.
“Would you mind walking home with me? I’m really tired and I just can’t think any more.”
They walked side by side in silence, but it wasn’t a comfortable one like it usually was. As they left the park, Xander took the batch of papers still held forgotten in Spike’s hand and threw them into the trash can.