Rating: NC-17 overall
Warnings: None (updated as necessary)
A/N: One of the reasons I love judging FF is that it really inspires me to write. Reading great stories makes me want to write great stories. Whether I succeed or not, that's a toss-up. But at least I get inspired! So, I guess I owe this chapter to the fangfetish team.... :)
They had come crawling, or as near to it as these children ever came. Red asked why he hadn’t been patrolling lately. Spike told her he wasn’t their servant. Tara stammered that they didn’t think he was, but she thought that he wanted to patrol.
He turned on her, watching her flinch as he snarled. He didn’t patrol, he told her coldly. He was a demon, and demons hunted. Xander had stepped up then, face stony and eyes dead.
“Fine, Spike,” the boy told him. “We got it. Us humans, you Big Bad. Are you going to patrol or not?”
“Just told you, boy,” Spike replied heatedly. “I don’t patrol.”
“Then I guess we take over from here,” Xander said coolly.
Like that, the boy had shut him down and began planning patrol schedules. Oh, it had stung, to watch those children act as if he was unnecessary. This plan, like so many others, was completely bollixed up.
The worst of it was that Xander didn’t seem to care. Spike not cooking anymore? Oh well, guess I’ll order a pizza. Spike not talking to me? Suits me, I don’t have anything to say anyways.
The light Spike had seen in those hazel eyes just vanished. Spike remembered the painfully awkward boy from his early days in Sunnyhell. That boy, with his shining smile and lovely heart, was gone. In his place was a grim-faced, loose-limbed stranger.
Spike thought that maybe, just maybe, that boy had almost come back the night they…Spike shied away from that thought. Best not to think about it, yeah? But, he had seen something of that shy sweet boy and he found he missed it.
How he mocked the boy, the Slayer’s puppy, before he started working with them. What did the Slayer need from a lad with more mouth than brains? Slayer was a hunter, a predator. She didn’t need adorable boys with delicious lips that could kiss you stupid.
Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t. Spike figured that Buffy had lasted because of her friends, but in the end, Slayers always stood alone. What he was slowly coming to understand was that he needed something more.
He had done this for Buffy, for Dawn. Keep his Bite Size safe, make her happy, and that had been enough. But, slowly, he’d become part of a family. He’d taken them all as his own and it had been…nice. Nice to be accepted, to feel like he belonged.
One night in Xander Harris’s bed had sent his world arse over tit. Anya, wherever she was, was probably laughing hysterically. Same thing had happened to her, he remembered. They’d talked one night, the two outcasts bonding over bear and fond memories of slaughter.
“I thought I’d just have a few orgasms and he’d be a memory,” she informed him in that blunt way of hers. “I mean, I was a thousand years old and he was this…kid. But, he gets to you.”
“Harris, “ Spike had snorted derisively. “What? His manly charm overwhelms all good sense?”
“Something like that,” Anya nodded crisply. “It shouldn’t, but it does. When he smiles at me, I get all shaky inside. He’s not important, like Buffy, or smart, like Willow, but he looks at you and he sees you. It makes you feel…special.”
Now here he was, wanting Xander to see him. Anya must be having a bleedin’ laugh riot over this. She was right though, smart little demon. Being seen was addictive.
But, it didn’t matter. So what if Xander didn’t see him or want him? Not like it’s the first time he’d been invisible or unwanted. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that he was strong. He didn’t need them.
He kept telling himself that. He watched over Dawn and did what he had to do to keep his promise. The Scoobies patrolled and stayed out of his way. No more movie nights or family dinners, just straight business. It’s what he wanted, right?
Xander half-stumbled, half-fell in the door that night. His face slack and body covered in blood, with the two witches trying their best to keep him upright. Spike, pacing wildly, almost ran over to help before he remembered he was angry.
“What happened,” he asked, managing to keep his voice level and disinterested.
“D-demon,” Tara informed him shakily. “X-xander g-got stabbed.”
“Can see that much, Glinda,” Spike said, body twitching. “What demon?”
“Don’t know,” Willow said distractedly, laying Xander on the couch. “It was big, maybe seven feet tall? Covered in fur, two spikes on each finger. Tara, honey, go grab the first aid kit. He’s gonna need stitches.”
Tara rushed off, feet flying up the stairs. Willow bent over, placing a soft kiss on Xander’s forehead. She turned to look at Spike, face unreadable.
“I need hot water and a washcloth. I have to clean his wound, “ she told him. “Get it for me.”
Spike opened his mouth to object, then abruptly shut it and spun on his heel. He stalked to the kitchen, grabbing a mixing bowl and turning on the faucet. As the bowl filled, he yanked open a drawer and snatched up a handful of cloth.
“Bloody stupid wanker,” he muttered. “Damn fool’s going to get himself killed, and for what?”
“You know, that’s a good question,” came the biting reply.
Spike turned to see Willow leaning in the doorway. Her eyes were flashing, little bits of black threading their way through the green. She raised a hand, and Spike felt the tingles and sputters of magic flow over him.
“I don’t know what’s going on, “Willow began,” and I kinda don’t care. You’ve got a problem, Spike? Guess what? We all do. Mine started about 5 years ago when I found out that witches, and vampires, and monsters were real. But it was okay, because I had a Buffy. She could make the oogie go away, and smile while she did it.”
Spike tried to talk, to scream at the witch. Buffy was gone, and nobody knew that better than him. Her absence was a physical thing, a little girl-shaped hole in all their lives. He opened his mouth, and nothing came out. He sent Willow a dark hateful glare, realizing what she’d done.
“I don’t feel like being interrupted,” she explained casually. “So, I lost my Buffy. I’m dealing. We’re all dealing. Now, we can’t do this. Me, Tara, Xander, we’re not cut out for the Big Fight. We can help. But we aren’t the big guns, you know? Of course you know. That’s why you wouldn’t let us patrol. You knew that we’d get hurt or killed. So, you took over the whole slay bit. I was glad, really.”
Spike shook his head. He wanted to explain. He hadn’t done it for them. Oh he knew they’d end up hurt, and that’s why he hadn’t let them patrol. That wasn’t it, though. It wasn’t to protect them, it was to protect Dawn and to keep his word to Buffy.
“I know, we all complained. But, me? I was okay with you taking over. Not because of me, because of Xander. He’s my Best. Friend,’ she emphasized. “No one, not Tara, not Buffy, not Dawn, is more important to me than Xander. So, this whatever it is you’re doing? It stops now. There’s no reason for Xander to risk his life.”
Spike’s head drooped slightly. She was right. He’d known when he agreed to take over Dawn duty that he wouldn’t be the Big Bad anymore. Trying to prove otherwise was just stupid. He let himself get wrapped up in his own pain, and Xander got hurt.
“He will risk his life,” Willow continued. “It’s the way he’s made. He’s Sir Lancelot, all brave and shiny and true. He’s a real good guy, not a hero or a champion. He’s just…good. That’s why he does it and it stops now, understand?”
Spike nodded as he met Willow’s gaze. She waved her hand again, and he could feel the waves of magic receding. He picked up the full bowl of water and the clothes, moving past her silently. He could here her sigh of relief, and he smirked.
Okay, so he wasn’t the Big Bad anymore. Didn’t mean he couldn’t still get his jollies. Frightening a powerful witch was right liberating in its own way. At least he still had something.
Xander moaned softly on the couch, thrashing in pain. Spike knelt beside him, gently stripping away the blood-soaked clothing. Dipping a cloth in the steaming water, he washed away the blood.
“Shush, pet,” he murmured. “I got you now. Gonna make sure you get better. Gave my word, didn’t I? Did a sorry job o’keeping it, but that’s gonna change. Anyanka’d be right furious at me if I let something happen to her boy. She was a smart one, your girl. Think she had the right of it. Want you to see me. Want to see you. You an’ me, we’ll find it together, yeah?”
Willow and Tara, standing silently at the edge of the living room, exchanged confused but happy smiles. Spike was back. That was all that mattered.