Title: Nothing the Same
Pairing: Spike/Xander, getting there
Rating: PG for now
Feedback: yes, please
Concrit: any and all welcomed
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 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
School was almost a relief after the last few days. The idea that he only had to think about math and biology and other safe, neutral and frequently boring stuff had Xander practically skipping as he walked to school. Not actually skipping, because he was a guy after all and guys don’t skip unless they want to be relentlessly mocked and socially ostracized for life. Plus, even girls rarely skipped after about the third grade. In any case, he was actually kind of looking forward to nice, normal, boring school as he left his house.
Which only went to show how dumb he could be.
It wasn’t that surprising he’d forgotten all about the Career Fair, it hadn’t been really big on his radar to begin with. All the good careers were taken by those who intended to go to college. And college wasn’t an option for him. His dad sometimes went out of his way to point out to Xander that he was out of the house and no longer allowed to “freeload” on the day he graduated from high school. He was pretty sure that, if his dad had thought he could get away with it, Xander would be out on his 18th birthday, which came before the end of the school year. Any notion he had ever had of his parents kicking in for college tuition had been killed years ago. His grades had improved quite a bit but they weren’t scholarship level. Xander wasn’t even really sure if he wanted to go to college. His family wasn’t one where college was expected, encouraged, or even particularly respected, and some of that had rubbed off on him. He sometimes wondered if his Uncle Rory wasn’t right and college was simply a way of putting off working for a living for a lot of people. If Xander had had a strong drive to be a doctor, a lawyer, or something similar, he could probably make college work somehow. Or so the school counselor told him. But for Xander, who didn’t have any strong drive towards a particular career, college just seemed like a way to accumulate a huge amount of debt for no real reason.
Which meant that Career Fair was going to relegate him to the service industries. And if he was going to be stuck in some horrible fast food job, he’d just as soon it snuck up on him unawares. He wasn’t looking forward to spending three days trying to pretend he was excited by what the school thought his career goals should be.
Bad timing blew his tentative plan of simply giving the whole thing a miss. Principal Snyder caught him and pushed a questionnaire at him and made his usual vaguely creepy, semi-threatening remarks. Xander was sure that Snyder had some in with whoever it was that hired school principals. Or maybe it was simply that, the last principal having been eaten, Snyder knew his job was safe. Because there was no way it was normal for principals to get away with threatening students the way Snyder did. This being Sunnydale, Snyder did get away with it and Xander just sighed and took the form to an empty table.
Five minutes later, the “are you a people person” questions brought a halt to his desultory effort at filling in the blanks. Pitching the crumpled up form into the trash, he walked out of the commons area in search of a quiet classroom to hide in. Snyder to the contrary, Career Fair wasn’t actually mandatory and there really wasn’t anything anyone could do to him for missing it. Especially if he was genuinely studying when his absence was noted. With a sigh, he opened his book and started reading ahead in Life Sciences.
The other thing that he had somehow managed to block out, was the fact that he was going to have to tell Willow that he was going to stay friends with Spike. He knew Willow had promised to back off if that was his decision but it was not a conversation he was looking forward to. Actually, he was planning on avoiding it for as long as possible. Career Fair was the kind of thing that Willow got really excited about - she’d been thinking about college since about second grade. Maybe it would distract her enough to make her forget about Spike.
Oh yeah, like that was really gonna happen.
When Willow finally tracked him down the second day of Career Fair, it had been even worse than he’d feared. She’d been astonished and hurt by his decision. Staring at him with devastated eyes, Willow looked like she’d been slapped. It was obvious that she felt betrayed. Despite all of his pep talks, telling himself he was going to just tell her he’d read her papers and they didn’t make a difference, despite all of the times he’d reminded himself that she didn’t have a right to try and dictate who he was friends with, Xander had found himself trying to explain it to her.
He wasn’t choosing Spike over Willow, no matter what she said. Ok, she hadn’t actually said a word but her tear-filled eyes hadn’t stop talking for one second.
“Willow, Spike’s my friend. I know he’s done bad things in his life, but he can’t change his history. I’m sure Angel has a history that’s worse than Spike’s. He can’t change that either, but you’re willing to judge Angel by what he’s like now. That’s what I’m doing. I’m judging Spike by the way he acts around me and the way he treats me. I’m sorry if this hurts you, but I can’t not be friends with people just because you don’t like them. I have to make up my own mind about who I want to be friends with.”
“I don’t understand you, Xander.” The tears had overflowed Willow’s eyes now and were sliding quietly down her cheeks. “I don’t understand how you can want to be friends with a monster like that. Don’t interrupt me,” she said sharply, when he opened his mouth to protest. “I let you talk, now you can listen to me.
“No matter how you rationalize it, Spike is a monster. He kills people. He’s still killing people. You can close your eyes and ignore the facts, but if you do, you’re not the person I’ve known all these years. The Xander I know would never do something like that. He would never deliberately hurt people and he wouldn’t be friends with a murderer. If that’s who you are now, I don’t even want to know you.”
Willow walked away from him, hugging her books close to her chest, her head bent, hair falling forward to hide her face. Watching her as she fumbled with the doorknob, Xander knew that, even if they somehow healed the breach between them, things would never be the same. They would never be able to go back to being the close friends they had been. The sound of the door quietly closing behind Willow echoed unnaturally loudly in the empty classroom. The noise carried a finality to it, as if it signaled the end of all of their years of friendship.
Not long ago, he, Jesse and Willow had been inseparable. He’d never questioned that they would remain friends all of their lives. No matter how bad things had gotten between Willow and himself recently, Xander had never really doubted that some part of Willow would always love him. Just as part of him would always love Willow.
How had things gotten to this point? Where it felt like Willow was walking out of his life forever without a backwards glance and where part of him simply felt relieved. How could they have both changed so much in less than a year? Why couldn’t he and Willow continue to be friends even thought they both had made new friends. He was willing to ignore Buffy and Giles, couldn’t Willow do the same for Spike?
Doodling on his notepad, Xander thought about it for a long time. The problem was the Hellmouth, he decided. Learning about it, learning about demons, had irrevocably changed them and set them on different courses. Xander knew he was to blame for a lot of what had happened. He’d been lost in guilt and grief and hadn’t been willing to share the heart of the issue with Willow. Maybe if he had been able to talk to her about the fact that he killed Jesse, Willow and he could have worked through their grief and his guilt together. Instead, they had dealt with it separately and in different ways and their hurt feelings and misunderstandings had grown.
Willow had taken a black-and-white stand on vampires that Xander couldn’t bring himself to accept and Xander’s grey areas had led him to friendship with someone he saw as an individual but Willow could only see as a demon, as evil. And his friendship with Spike was making her view Xander as tainted by that same evil. He didn’t like it but he could see Willow’s point. After all, he was the one who wasn’t confronting Spike about his eating habits. A better person would have brought the issue out into the open and demanded that Spike not kill as the price of being friends. Maybe Willow was right and Xander wasn’t the person he used to be, because he wasn’t willing to risk losing Spike’s friendship by placing demands like that on it. He’d put the issue aside for now and he was just going to see how things went without him pushing Spike. If that meant he wasn’t the same person he was a year ago, well, that wasn’t really news. He hadn’t made his decision to stay friends with Spike lightly and it still felt right to him. If it cost him Willow’s friendship, it hurt, but they had been heading in this direction for months.
Sighing, Xander and opened his text book again and tried to concentrate on math problems.
Over the next couple of weeks, Spike and Xander became almost hanging out buddies. Oh, there were limits - no daylight hanging out obviously and they didn’t go to each other’s houses, but Xander found that if he stayed at school until after sunset, Spike would often join him on the walk home. Spike usually had suggestions for things to do and Xander found himself having fun for the first time since Jesse died.
He wondered about it, in his room after Spike had dropped him off at home. Why he was able to do things now that he hadn’t been able to bring himself to do since Jesse’s death. A lot of it was that he was finally letting go of the guilt that had made every moment of happiness seem like an act of betrayal, but it helped that even simple activities like going to the movies were different when he did them with Spike.
He and Spike had gone to see a movie one night. Xander hadn’t so much as thought about going to a movie in months and not long ago, the idea of seeing a movie without Jesse would have been unthinkable. But he’d found himself agreeing easily when Spike suggested it. Of course, Spike had insisted that no-one with any sense paid for theater tickets and claimed he hadn’t paid for tickets since the advent of talkies. Which was weird and cool at the same time.
Sometimes, Xander just looked at Spike and wondered at the changes the vampire had experienced. The idea that he was friends with someone who looked at most only a couple of years older than himself but who had been born during the Civil War just boggled his mind. But he didn’t worry about it much. Spike was the antithesis of an old-timer and lived very much in the now. Besides, sneaking into the theater had been fun and Spike was right - it really was highway robbery what they charged for tickets these days. Spike had also pointed out that you couldn’t know if a movie was worth paying for until you’d seen it. Xander had argued that that theory meant Spike should pay for good movies afterwards, which idea Spike had dismissed out of hand. That night, Spike had firmly announced over the end credits that it had not been a movie worth paying for. Xander argued that half price was probably fair because it had been an ok movie. Which earned him a “git” - he really needed to look that word up - and Spike’s solution that Xander could pay for both of them for any movie Xander really felt he needed to pay for.
Between the sneaking in without paying, the realization he was seeing a movie with a with a person who pre-dated motion pictures, and the weird English insults, a movie with Spike was a different experience from start to finish. Everything he did with the vampire, whether genuinely a new experience or an old familiar one, had a different feel than the kinds of things Xander used to do for fun - even when it was same kind of thing he had done with Jesse and Willow dozens, if not hundreds, of times, and that difference helped Xander move back into the world of normal people who were allowed to have fun. The guilt was finally gone and Jesse’s memories had at long last settled into a comfortable place in the back of Xander’s heart. The loss still hurt and always would, but the pain was fading and becoming bearable.
And for now, Xander had tucked away his worry and guilt over how Spike was feeding. It was an issue that would have to be dealt with one day, but not yet.
“You might as well stop hiding. I know you’re there.”
Spike had just left Xander at his home. He’d been aware for some time that Angelus was following them. At his comment, Angelus emerged from the shadows where he had been lurking, out of earshot for a human but not a vampire.
“Keeping tabs on me for your bint, are you?” Spike asked sarcastically.
“Just keeping an eye on the situation with you and the boy. Harming him would certainly break the truce.”
“’m not goin’ to hurt him,” Spike said truculently.
“What is going on between you and the boy?”
“We’re friends,” Spike answered honestly, surprised that the admission no longer came reluctantly.
“Since when have you been friends with humans?”
“We just are. Satisfied? Well, then, you can piss off to your Slayer and tell her I’m being a good boy.”
“Don’t take that tone with me, Childe,” Angel growled.
“Take any tone I want to, Angel.”
Angelus sighed ostentatiously, but didn’t press the point. He stood there awkwardly, shoulders hunched, head lowered, obviously not through with whatever he wanted to say. Spike simply waited, reaching for a cigarette.
“We don’t have to be at odds, Spike,” Angel said finally.
“No?” Spike kept his tone indifferent with an effort. Part of him craved reconciliation with Angelus, who was the closest thing he’d ever had to a Sire. But a century of abandonment and neglect had made him cautious. When Angelus had left, shattering their little family, Spike and Dru had been devastated. His brief encounters with Angelus, Angel, since then had convinced him that his Sire was gone forever. Funny that possessing a soul, something Angel claimed gave him a conscience and morality, had led him to abandon his family: the Sire who loved him - bitch though she was, Spike had never doubted Darla loved Angelus - and the Childer who depended on him. Too busy brooding over past sins to care about the new ones he was committing or the devastation he was leaving in his wake.
“Your boy accused me of judging you without knowing who you are now. He was right.”
Spike barely stopped himself from reacting. Angelus acknowledging his claim on Xander and admitting he was wrong in the same breath? He listened with sharpened interest as Angel continued.
“I have been assuming you were the same young troublemaker you were a century ago. You’ve changed. I’ve been watching you with the boy and it’s obvious you don’t intend to hurt him. I don’t think you even plan on turning him.”
“Might. Haven’t decided,” Spike couldn’t resist saying just to see the reaction. Angelus simply shot him a skeptical look but didn’t challenge his statement.
“You’ve learned control, Spike.” Angelus hesitated, then continued very quietly. “I’ve missed you, boy.”
Spike looked away, scanning the quiet night for non-existent threats. “Dru grieved for you for decades,” he said obliquely, avoiding mention of his own feelings.
Angelus just nodded, apparently accepting the statement for what it was: both accusation of wrongs done and silent admission of loss felt. “I hope you know you can come to me, if you need me. I know things can never be the same between us, but you are still my Childe.”
Spike looked at him, studying him intently, trying to read his sincerity. Finally he nodded sharply, accepting the olive branch. The pain he had felt for nearly a century, deeply buried now but still there, eased slightly at his Sire’s words. But he was not about to drop the walls he had spent so long building that easily. “Sure your Slayer will let you associate with us grubby, unsouled types?” he asked snarkily.
“You’re family, Spike. She doesn’t get a say in who my family is.”
That acknowledgement was far more than Spike expected, the demon in him almost purring at the gesture. For the first time in decades, Spike wondered if a true reconciliation was possible. Changed, as Angelus had said, but still family. “’preciate it,” he said lightly, then, after a struggle, added very quietly, “Sire.”
Angel gave him a small smile, hardly more than a slight movement at the corners of his mouth, but it felt sincere. Spike lifted a hand in a half salute-half wave, and they both walked off in different directions. Feeling oddly in tune with his Sire, Spike was certain they were in agreement - both wanting to end the encounter on a positive note, neither willing to risk the fragile accord by prolonging their talk.
Spike sometimes came up with oddly practical ideas of passing time. One night, he’d taken Xander to an old warehouse and announced he was teaching Xander self defense.
“Why?” Xander stared dubiously at the knife Spike had handed to him.
“Because you don’t know the first thing about handling yourself and that’s dangerous anywhere. On the Hellmouth, it’s downright suicidal.”
“I carry a cross and a stake everywhere.”
“Seen the cross, pet.” Spike regarded him seriously for a moment, then said: “Tell you what, I’ll attack you. If you defend yourself successfully against me, we’ll forget the whole thing. If I disarm you, you take the lessons without grousing about it. Deal?”
“Ok.” Xander set the knife down and kicked it away, not wanting to risk hurting Spike. He ignored the way Spike was rolling his eyes and pulled his cross out, then hesitated. “I don’t want to hurt you, Spike. Are you sure about this?”
“Pet, if you can hurt me enough to stop me, I won’t worry about your ability to defend yourself.”
That made sense. Xander gripped the cross firmly and waited for Spike to attack. Spike circled him for a moment and Xander shifted to keep facing the vampire. Spike sprang forward and Xander shoved the cross at him, holding it at arm’s length between himself and Spike. Spike twisted aside in mid-leap, easily avoiding the cross and, grabbing Xander’s wrist with one hand, he pulled hard, yanking Xander off balance. Almost before he knew what was happening, Xander found his hand trapped between Spike’s arm and body, the leather duster shielding the vampire from the cross. Xander struggled, trying to pull his arm free but found himself helpless before the superior strength. Spike grabbed his hair with his free hand and pulled Xander’s head back, exposing his throat. He morphed into vampire features and his teeth closed lightly on Xander’s throat, not breaking the skin. They both froze in place for a second, then Spike gave his neck a quick, sarcastic lick and raised his head.
“Lesson one, pet. A cross can’t hurt a vampire unless you make contact with their skin. Unless you’re willing to follow through with that stake that never seems to leave your pocket, a cross isn’t really worth much.” He released Xander and stepped back, still avoiding the cross. “So, self defense lessons.”
Although Spike’s idea of what constituted self-defense was a bit more lethal than Xander was comfortable with, he got that Spike had lived for a long time in a kill or be killed world. The bullies Xander was more accustomed to dealing with weren’t out to kill people, unlike the demons that Spike fought. Spike’s insistence that Xander learn how to defend himself was a matter of plain common sense to the vampire.
And it made sense to Xander too. He wasn’t comfortable with the idea of killing people, even demons, but he didn’t want to be eaten either and, if he had to, he was pretty sure he would kill to protect his own life or someone else’s. Given where he lived, the chance that that was a decision he might have to make someday was depressingly high.
He was much more comfortable with the idea of learning some non-lethal moves that would help protect himself from the more ordinary bullies that had at times plagued his adolescent years. Granted, he was mostly left alone these days. Apparently moody loners were considered much less attractive targets than goofy dorks were.
Spike called a halt to the self defense lesson after just short of an hour. Xander had proved an uneven student. For blocking moves, dodges, disarming strikes and falls he had been eager, willing pupil. He had been less interested in the killing blows Spike had tried to teach him. Xander wasn’t a pacifist; he clearly had no trouble with the idea of stopping someone who was trying to hurt him, but he was reluctant to kill except as an absolute last resort. And Spike worried that Xander would leave it too late, not willing to resort to a killing blow until past the time when it would save his life.
It was undoubtedly Xander’s friend who had been turned that was creating the problem. Xander apparently saw all vampires as former humans first and enemies second. With the enhanced strength and speed of vampires, that hesitation would cost him his life. And sooner rather than later. Vampires would see it as a weakness and exploit it.
Fortunately, Xander had less problems with the idea of killing demons who looked like demons. With them, he seemed more open to the idea that they were dangerous to everyone and often simply couldn’t be reasoned with. But even then, he had a tendency to ask too many questions: Was the demon harmful? Could it be dealt with without killing it? Spike resolved to give his boy a first rate education in the lethal, need-to-be-killed-on-sight demons.
Spike hadn’t brought the lesson to a close out of frustration or impatience. Instead, he’d faced a different problem and one he wasn’t used to dealing with. Mischievously, and also partly for demonstrative purposes, Spike had gone into game face each time he’d gotten Xander disarmed and pretended to bite him, skimming his teeth along the arteries so temptingly close to the surface, teasingly dipping his tongue for a brief taste of the sweat dampened skin. The taste, the heady aroma of the boy’s natural scent made even richer and more intoxicating by the tang of sweat, the ago-old dance of predator and prey, the heat of Xander’s body as they circled and clinched, as Spike pinned him again and again in demonstrating different holds and releases, all combined to make it an intensely erotic experience.
Which, unbelievably, Xander seemed completely oblivious to. The charged atmosphere, Spike’s arousal, the sexual nature of Spike’s interest in his neck, all apparently went completely over the boy’s head. Spike was so frustrated with Xander’s lack of arousal that it was all he could do to keep control and not simply pin the boy and have his way with him. Show the boy exactly what he was missing.
It was Xander’s trust in him that stopped Spike. Even with fangs resting against his skin, Xander wasn’t afraid. He joked, he protested that Spike could let him win once in awhile for morale’s sake - a suggestion Spike had treated with the rich contempt it deserved - but he wasn’t the slightest bit afraid that Spike would harm him. And that trust shook Spike to his foundations.
No one had ever trusted him like that. Even Drusilla had had a demon’s wariness of being dominated, of showing weakness. Even while she was dying, he’d seen the surprise in her eyes every time she woke and found him still there. She’d never let herself believe he wouldn’t abandon her, because that’s what most demons would have done.
Xander accepted that Spike was stronger the way he accepted that the sky was blue and that he liked cheesy science fiction movies. It was simply a fact. It wasn’t something to rail against or struggle over. Spike was a vampire and therefore stronger. Spike was his friend and therefore wouldn’t hurt him.
How the boy had come by that kind of trust was a mystery to Spike. It clearly wasn’t from his parents. Most likely it had been from his dead friend. Xander certainly didn’t seem to have anyone else in his life he trusted implicitly.
All of which led Spike to the deeply frustrating decision that he wouldn’t force the boy. Although he would never have admitted it to anyone else, he valued Xander’s trust and friendship too highly to tarnish them.
But self-denial wasn’t in most demons’ nature and certainly hadn’t been part of Spike’s since he was human. He was simply going to have to bring the boy around to his way of thinking. Of all the things he was good at, seduction was at the top of the list, Spike thought smugly. An inexperienced human child wouldn’t even know what had hit him. Xander didn’t stand a chance.