Title: The More Things Change
Feedback: Comments, email and Journal
Concrit: Comments, email and Journal
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Joss and a bunch of lawyers. I only wish they belonged to me cause I'd make em do naughty things together forever. I'm just playing with them. No disrespect intended. No reflection on real persons or places intended. I'm not making any profit from this. This is strictly for entertainment.
Warnings/Squicks: Language, Angst
Summary: Xander goes to LA on a fact finding trip and finds Angelus instead. Scariness happens.
Notes: Okay the BIG emotional scene at Buffy's house. I hope I managed to keep the character voices and personalities mostly intact. I'm working on polishing the next two chapters. They're kinda hard with so many characters from both shows involved and the interactions between them all. So it may be a few days before I post another chapter. This doesn't strictly follow canon. Sooo if you don't like that sort of thing you might want to skip this. This is my first story so feedback is very welcome.
Graphics: (size, and artist) Icon by:alterian
The beautiful banner was a present, created by: sevendeadlyfun
The trip to Buffy's house was accomplished in a tense silence. His boy was vibrating with anxiety and it was leaking through the link like static; a steady buzz at the back of Spike's brain.
*Bloody gits. Got the boy all worked up and we haven't even set eyes on em' yet.* He thought about how to ease Xander's nervousness, as he drove. *Handle him like I always do, won't I? Pet him. Love him. Accept him, whatever he does, or says, or wants, yeah? He'll never wonder if he can come to me, no matter what.*
They parked in front of the house; Spike and Xander sat for a moment, just looking at the familiar address. The tick ticking as the engine cooled was the only sound to break the silence. There were only two cars visible. That was a relief. Xander grabbed Spike's hand and squeezed hard once. Then he reluctantly opened the door and got out. He waited as Spike rounded the car, and they both crossed the deserted street, dusters flaring out around their legs, aiming for the front porch. Lights were shining from nearly every window.
*House full of slayer wannabees; boy is gonna be on edge anyway. Feels like ants crawling under the skin. He's not used to that. Yet. Bloody hell, The Fangless Avenger and the whole bleedin LA gaggle is gonna be prancin' about the place. It's enough to set me twitchin' n' I have a century on him.*
When they reached the house; Spike pulled Xander to a stop by his elbow, pinned him to the wall beside the front door and kissed him hard; tongue thrusting in to gather the unique flavor of Xander, until his ears rang and his head spun. *Tastes like sugar coated sin, he does.* He sent calm/love/want/mine/always through the link as his hands slipped under the edges of the boy's duster to wandering; exploring, petting and calming.
He pushed a leg between the boy's thighs and thrust a hard hip against the interested cock trapped behind tight leather. Xander grabbed his ass with both hands, and pulled him closer; grinding harder against him to get more pressure where he needed it. He made a noise like a wordless prayer, low in his throat, and Spike swallowed the smothered moan like an offering.
Spike abruptly released him, raking his face with a satisfied gleam in his blue eyes, and stepped sideways to rap hard on the door next to him. Xander's head fell back against the wall with a thud; his eyes were hazy with lust, but the buzz in the link was less now than it was, and tinged with randy amusement. He raised an eyebrow, ready to ask about the laughter, but was cut off by the door swinging open.
*Yeah, he's mine. Wants me, he does. Loves me, even if hasn't said it yet. Can feel it in the bond like sweet molasses and sunshine. Dunno why or how it came about, don't care. Got all this forever. Mine now. Take care of him, I will. Make him Happy. Doesn't matter if these ignorant gits screw up and push him away. I'll be here for him. He'll always know he's mine. Take him away from here; If they hurt him see if I don't. Away from the bloody Hellmouth and all its' bleedin' mind bendin' memories. First or no First.*
Xander thumped his head against the wall of Buffy's house. *And this is in no way weird. Spike giving me a hard on at Buffy's front door. Possessive much?* He thought dazedly, with a mental snort, and tried to smother the amusement that leaked into the link. Spike raised a brow at the mental laughter in the bond, but didn't have time to comment as the door was thrown open and light streamed out.
*And the dog and pony show must go on; enter, Xanvamp and Matevamp, stage right. The set: Oh yeah, the lion's den. And that's not all folks; with this spectacular deal, you get Slayers absolutely free: they slice, they dice, they stake; while making stupid comments about fashion. And that's still not all; if you order now we'll include as a bonus: a defanged souled neandervamp, two watchers, a witch, an ex vengeance demon, and assorted others. This is a limited time offer. Void where prohibited by local, county and state laws. Must be eighteen or older to participate, credit must be approved prior to delivery.* Xander thought facetiously.
He pulled away from the wall and moved behind Spike close enough to clutch the back of his duster. Spike leaned back hard, against his hand, for a second; reassurance and *mine,* came through the link. He stepped over the threshold, inviting Xander. "Come on Xander, let's get this done, before the fangless wonder shows up, with his nattering gaggle in tow."
Xander walked through the doorway slowly. His legs felt like they were stuck in knee deep demon goop. Like in those nightmares when he tried to run; and his feet were trapped in some kind of goo, where he moved slower and slower, until he had to fight to pull a foot free for every step forward.
He glanced around the familiar room, feeling like a stranger, and moved closer to Spike. *Goody, goody, gum drops; the gang's all here.*
Dawnie was sitting in the armchair in the living room, reading in one of her school books; pencils and paraphernalia in her lap. He could hear Anya somewhere in the house rattling on about something to Giles. Buffy and Willow were in the kitchen, trying to gather refreshments for the big reunion, from the sound of it; various other feminine voices were weaving in and out of their conversation. Andrew was complaining because they didn't trust him to take care of the amenities. *Dork.* The girl who had answered the door stood there uncertainly with her hand still on the knob making his skin itch.*Potential.*
"Hi, I'm Xander. Which one are you?" She was prevented from replying by a squeal of delight from Dawn. She launched herself from the chair; book, pencils and papers scattered forgotten, in a trail between chair and door. "Xander! Spike! Ohmygod! You're here. I'm so happy you're home." She barreled into Spike and Xander, all bony elbows, and hair scented with strawberry shampoo. She jumped into Xander's arms, he laughed, lifted her off her feet and whirled her around and around. "There's my Dawnie."
"Put me down or I'm gonna spew," she shrieked.
"Dawnie, your pipes are gonna deafen me." Xander complained, as he set her on her feet, and stuck fingers in his ears; to maybe stop the ringing. He saw Spike wince and shake his head in sympathy, out the corner of his eye; and grinned wickedly at his mate.
Dawn didn't hear him because she was too busy jumping Spike next. Spike grinned and his eyes sparkled with mischief, as she nearly climbed his lithe form in her enthusiasm ",wasn't gone THAT long. Ya know we were gonna be here. Did ya get a boyfriend while I was gone, bit? M' I gonna have to beat up some poor schmuck t'night?" He teased, pulling at strands of hair gently while he smirked down into her glowing, happy face.
Which got the expected response; a slap on his shoulder, a teenaged eye roll, and an exasperated. "Spiiiike."
Whatever else she might have said was interrupted as Buffy entered the room to greet them a little uncertainly; she wiped her palms down her thighs, as she watched them; pulled at the hem of her shirt, and fiddled with the cross she always wore.
Xander tensed, waiting for whatever she might say. Spike put a hand on his back, out of sight, and rubbed gently but firmly; grounding him. His mate was a like a brick wall in the link.
*She looks so tired and unhappy. Nervous. Afraid. Guilty. Never wanted to be a reason for my girls to look that way. Course the evil ghost bitch on the loose doesn't help; nor is Supervamp flapping down here with his group of do gooders, and oh joy, Faith. It's gonna get hairy Harris.*
"Xander, Spike you're here...Already." She winced. "What I meant to say is, we're not ready. I mean we're still getting things ready. I mean." She wrinkled her nose. "Never mind what I mean. I'm just making with the awkward welcome homes here. I'm glad you're back...here, home..now, muchly. Drawing a deep breath she closed her eyes and let it out in a rush; gave them a strained wobbly excuse for a smile, then tried again. "I'm just glad you're home."
She gave up abruptly and looked at Dawn ",and you get your things together, you're going to Janice's house for tonight, you can finish your homework there."
Dawn pouted and gave Spike another hug as she glared at Buffy, then looked back at them with another broad toothy smile. "I'm glad you two are back, no matter what happened or what Giles says. Maybe now things will get back to normal around here. Well as normal as they can anyway." Then she turned away to snatch her satchel from the floor beside the chair and gather her scattered things from the floor. She stuffed them haphazardly in the backpack with angry motions while she spit out at Buffy. "I'm not a little kid, Buffy. You just want to get me out of the house, so you can have your secret meeting. I'm not stupid you know. The potentials are no older than me and you're not sending them off somewhere."
Buffy groaned, looked at the ceiling and puffed at a sprig of hair hanging over her eyes. "Don't make everything harder, Dawnie. You're my sister, not a potential. I don't want you in the middle of this if I can prevent it."
"I'm already in the middle of this, Buffy. There's no way to keep me out of it."
"I will, or try to, as long as I can, Dawnie. Now quit stalling and get over to Janice's house before she thinks you're not coming."
Dawnie stomped toward the front door. She paused to buss Spike and Xander on the cheek. "I'm sooo glad you guys are back. You don't treat me like I'm useless," as she jerked the door open and left, still in a sulk.
Buffy hollered ",and don't go anywhere else tonight."
They all heard the muffled ",Not dumb, Buffy."
"I soo need sibling attitude right now." Buffy huffed out to no one in particular. Then she abruptly changed the subject, clasping her hands together and asking in that false bright voice. "So, you guys want something, like coffee, tea or soda maybe? We're busy in the kitchen, trying to get things ready. Angel and company should be here, soonish."
Now that Buffy's attention was squarely on them, Xander was suddenly aware of the crawling ants sensation on the back of his neck and down his back, and he shivered a little. *How does Spike stand this?*
"Buffy." He tried to ignore that tingly crawly feeling, as he reached out and grasped her hands softly with his; to still the unconscious, nervous twisting. And it was as if his saying her name cut the last strings of her control.
Her face crumpled and the Buffy tears made trails down her cheeks. She threw herself at him and wrapped her arms around him, clutching with slayer strength. "Xander, I'm so sorry. You're my friend. I never wanted anything bad to happen to you. And now, you're all vampirey, and...and matey with Spike, and it's all my fault."
"Shhhh, shhhh, It's gonna be okay Buffster." Xander laid his head on her blond head and inhaled her scent, as he held her petite form. So many scents assailed him that it didn't seem like her small form could hold all the emotions he sensed: The flowery scent of her shampoo, and her own individual scent like pine, with a hint of vanilla; Regret and sorrow, like ashes; the acrid taint of fear and guilt; anger sharp and biting; and self doubt, like a bitter cloud; And love. He could smell it under everything else. It had scent all it's own, like myrrh and almonds mixed with springtime.
Spike rolled his eyes."Let's move the reunion into the kitchen. We could use a nip or two for this, and I know Giles has something squirrelled away here somewhere."
They moved down the hallway slowly because Buffy was still clutching at Xander, and it was hard to walk with a Buffy glued to his side. They entered the room and found Giles and Anya had joined Willow at the dining room table. Andrew was flitting around the kitchen with oven mitts. Now that they were leaving him alone he was doing a decent job of putting together the things they wanted to have ready for later.
Willow had her face buried in Giles' shirt making suspicious sniffling noises; while he just looked like he didn't know where he could safely put his hands. He finally decided to let them rest lightly on Willow's upper arms. He looked uncomfortable with the girly sniffles. Anya just looked puzzled, and impatient to get on with it.
*Poor Giles, he's gonna polish his glasses til they dissolve before all this is over.* Xander thought, as he steered his clingy Slayer towards a chair on the other side of Giles.
Willow gave a final mighty sniff and rubbed her hand over her nose. Then she squared her shoulders and turned around to look at Xander. Her face was sad; her mouth turned down at the corners, her eyes bloodshot, red rimmed and shining with tears still. She was snuffling with a red tipped nose.
"Xander," she warbled out. Then she leaped at him and threw her arms around his neck.
"You're here. Are you still you? I've been so worried about you. And Giles said we shouldn't go see you, until you said it was okay; with the vampiness; and the Spike matiness; and the soul merging; hyena,soldier,demony thing, and all. And I was in LA, until this afternoon. I did a healing spell for Angel, and Cordelia. She was possessed. Then a coma. And Faith was there. Oh, and they're coming here tonight. And are you going to be okay, Xander? If you don't want to be mated to Spike, we can find a spell. I know we can. I just have to look for it. We've got all kinds of books. I know I can find one, a spell that is." She babbled in a nasally voice full of tears.
Xander sighed and tipped her face up to look at her tear stained face. "Breath Willow, before you pass out from lack of oxygen." He hugged her hard for a minute and rubbed her back. Then he steered her to a chair and sat her down. She sat there looking at him with her face twisted up to cry again, biting her lower lip. Then she looked away from him, dropping her head and let her hair fall forward to hide her face. Giles came to the backside of her chair and offered her a fresh handful of kleenex. She grabbed them and held them in her lap twisting them in her hands, as she teared up again and sobbed.
Xander sat in the chair between the weepy girls, and sighed. He cast a dark eyed glance at Giles, who had taken the seat at the head of the table. He was polishing his glasses absentmindedly and had a faraway look in his eyes as if thinking about the past. Then he glanced across the table at Spike. Who was casually relaxed in his chair, one arm resting on the table, fingers tracing invisible patterns on the wood. Spike looked up at Xander through his lashes, all blue eyes, cheekbones, and pouty lips.
Xander got caught in that wicked hot blue gaze, his mouth went dry, and his pants got tight. *Cock tease* He thought as his eyes dropped to those pouting lips. The mouth smirked as he flooded the link with lust/want/mine. *Oh yeah, well two can play at this game, mate o' mine,* he thought as he leaned back in his own chair and licked his lips. He nearly laughed out loud as Spike's eyes zeroed in on his mouth. There was a sudden rush of possessive lust in the link from him, and his eyes flickered gold. Xander cocked his head and smiled innocently across the table at his mate. Spike narrowed his eyes at the laughter in the link, and he relaxed into a casual pose again.
Xander was distracted from more lusty thoughts, by Buffy. She had finally cried herself out for now, and was wiping her face with her small hands, and sniffing.*Thank every god of whatever. I know what to do about leaky faucets, but I don't know what to do about leaky girls, except let em leak.* He sighed as Buffy took one of his hands. Willow finally through with her crying, and busy blowing her nose, took his other hand. He squeezed their fingers and got a squeeze back.
He really was at a loss as to what to do next, when he was distracted by a familiar oily sick feeling. He sat up straight and looked around the room and spied the girl, Eve. She was standing in the kitchen looking at Buffy with an evil smirk on her face. When she noticed Xander staring at her she quickly rearranged her face into a semblance of innocent inquiry. He sneered, lifting a lip in disgust. "Giles, why is that evil piece of shit here pretending to be a Potential?
Everyone at the table, except Xander and Spike, jumped to their feet dislodging chairs, and turned to look at Eve. Spike just turned his head and looked at her with a bored expression. Eve not Eve heard Xander and realized her deception was discovered.
She took a few steps toward the table. Xander and Spike changed into game face with low snickering growls. She stopped. "Well, that's not a polite way to treat a guest, boys," she said in her pronounced southern drawl. "It sounds like a zoo in here."
She looked at Xander curiously. "You see more than is really good for you, sugar. You're not a regular ol' vampire now, are you? My pet sure would enjoy playing with you. I thought I'd hang around for the party, but I reckon I'll be getting on home now. That's too bad. I really was enjoying your pain and distress Buffy. Mmmmm," she licked her lips obscenely ",tastes like rich dark chocolate. Just finger lickin' good. And I didn't have quite the time I anticipated, to spend with these precious little girls of yours. It really is a shame you're going to get them all killed. I'll be sending you some visitors soon. Make sure you make them feel welcome. Ya'll take care now. Bye."
With that she disappeared in a flash of light.
Xander fiddled with the glass in his hand, swirling the contents, then lifted it and drained it. Spike got Giles to break out his stash earlier, and everyone even Willow had a little nip to help them over the rough patch.
Xander was relieved he noticed the fake Eve before they moved into the living room for "The Talk." He didn't want the evil ghost knowing anything more about him. He also knew that this was far from over. Buffy was shaken by the fact that The First had been right there in her house, and she hadn't known. She had all the potentials go down to the basement. And they moved to the living room. Everyone brought an extra chair with them from the dining room, anticipating the need for more chairs later.
He gently explained to Buffy and Willow what had happened in LA; he glanced at Giles when he left out the very worst parts, and got a short nod in acknowledgment. The girls didn't need to hear about those parts unless it became essential for some reason. All the important stuff had been covered.
Buffy and Willow were seated on either side of him on the sofa; quiet and thinking as they digested what he told them. That made him somewhat nervous and he looked at Spike. Spike watched him, and sent support through the link.
Xander knew all his reactions weren't what they would have been even three or four days ago. He was an expert at the suppression/repression thing, and humor used to be his normal method of covering everything until he was ready to deal with it. But so far he hadn't resorted to it to hide anything or to distract their attention from him. He was relieved that the worst memories weren't turning him into a raving lunatic.
It was like thinking about old, old memories. Like a faded photograph. He knew that the memories were recent, but the emotional impact was like it would be for something that happened long ago. Maybe because of the bonding. Maybe because of the merger with souls/spirits far older and wiser than his human self. Maybe it was because of his vampireness. Whatever the reason he was just as happy not to have to wade through all the ugly, messy aftermath that such traumatic experiences usually brought with them.
It was enough to deal with Buffy and Willow's reactions right now. His mate would get the unenviable job of putting him back together..later, if he needed it. Right now he was..just fine..he mused.
He brought his attention back to the now. And thought for a minute, then he knew what he could do to give his girls a little nudge to jump start the conversation again. He slid off the couch and got to his knees in front of Buffy. He changed to game face and looked at Buffy. Her head was turned down and slightly away, with an adorable crinkle between her brows as she tried hard to adjust her world view. She glanced up when he moved, then down again. Then she quickly looked back at him. She gave a surprised ",oh," and her eyes widened a bit as they traced over his features. He heard a muffled sniffle/gasp from Willow's direction.
He took both of Buffy's hands gently and brought them up to lay on his face. "I'm still Xander in here Buff, but this is me now. I'm a little different than I was, what with the merging, Sire Mate bonding thingy and all. But Xander is still in here. This is not going to go away. Ignoring it won't help. Can't change it. Can't undo it. It is what it is. My soul is in here nice and tight. Let go of the guilt now and just accept it."
Buffy snatched her hands away, back into her lap indignantly, then extended them again slowly, touched his face softly. Her expression turned solemn. She lightly ran her fingers over his forehead ridges and cheekbones, fiddled with the fang earring dangling from his earlobe; touching the reality of his changed status. And lastly she laid feather light fingers on his lips before slowly pulling back again. "They're soft," she whispered, "I thought they'd be hard like bone. The ridges. But they're not. They're soft." An indecipherable expression flitted over her face. She nodded, brought her hand to her mouth and gave her fingertips a lingering kiss. Then extended them to touch Xander's cheek.
"I wish it hadn't happened Xander," her breath caught a little in her throat ",but it did. I would do anything to be able to change it. But I can't. You're right. It did happen. I wasn't there, and you were..k..k.. killed, a..aa..and vamped, she forced out. The guilt has been eating me away, because I sent you to LA. I wouldn't blame you if you were angry with me," she swallowed hard, "if you hated me, and never wanted to see my face again." She finished and looked down at hands that plucked at the kleenex she held. "It's going to be adjusty much; fangy you and Spike."
"Buffy," Xander sighed ",You're a Slayer. You're not God. Or even a God." He chuckled. Buffy looked up at him. "You're not responsible for everything that happens. Yeah, someone should have checked on the LA situation. But I'll guarantee no one will ever make that mistake again." She lowered her head again. "And I'm not blameless either, I could have turned around and come back to Sunnydale when I saw the darkness over LA. But I didn't. So don't take the lion's share of bad on yourself." He ducked his head lower to look at her face. "And we're not even bringing up the responsibility that the LA bunch had to let us know that Angelus was loose again," Buffy flinched and grimaced at the name.
Xander continued. "So, If I hated you, I'd have to hate everyone, including myself. It was a FUBAR situation caused by lack of communication and honesty, and my mule headedness. And all I can do is make sure it doesn't happen to any of us again. And don't you think that The Powers That Fuck Us weren't involved someway, somehow either. Maybe even Wolfram & Hart. So I want you to drop the guilt. One broody pants in the family is enough." She raised her head again and took a deep stuttering breath, sniffed mightily, and gave him a clear look from eyes that weren't filled with shadows anymore. "When did you get to be so wise, Xander?"
"It's funny how a little case of dying puts things in perspective, and straightens out your priorities, Buff, then again maybe you know all about that." She gave him a crooked smile and nodded.
His attention turned to Willow. He reached over and pulled Willow closer to Buffy ignoring her little mouse squeak of surprise, with the flapping at his hands; and took her hands gently and placed them on his face."This is me now, Willow. Can you still love and accept this Xander?"
Willow swallowed loudly and bit her lip in concentration as she gently explored his face, without meeting his yellow green gaze. When she was satisfied she dropped her hands to her lap; and looked him in the eyes with that solemn Willow look, that made him smile a fangy smile at her. She only flinched a little bit. "Xander, I've known you since we were toddlers. We grew up together. We've been together through; wolfy boyfriends; demony girlfriends; magic addictions; and all the hellmouthy badness before that and in between. I love you, and I always will. But I'm going to miss my old Xander shaped friend. This new you that goes all grrrr, fangy with a sun allergy, will take some getting used to."
Xander smiled his fangy smile at her ",well how 'bout a purry Xander then?" He pounced forward and laid his head in her lap and rubbed it on her thighs and let a rumbling purr start in his chest.
Willow squeaked, and Buffy squealed like a girl. An honest to God girly squeal. Willow giggled and ran her fingers through his hair. "He sounds like Miss Kitty." "He's a big ol Xander cat, all he needs is fur." Buffy commented. His head popped up at that and they both laughed at his indignant expression. He could feel Spike's wonder and amazed amusement in the link as he watched Xander seduce his friends. Giles was also watching with interest as Xander led Buffy and Willow gently along the path to acceptance; without as much agony as he had anticipated. Anya just pouted, slumped back in her chair, and rolled her eyes.
"Well this Xander cat has a secret weapon," he pounced on Buffy, and using his clawed fingers carefully; he proceeded to tickle the Slayer into a screeching, writhing mess. When she was limp, he struck like snake for her neck and blew raspberries on the skin between shoulder and neck until she begged for mercy.
He turned from her and looked at Willow." She was already shaking her head at him ",oh no, no, no. No you don't buster," and putting out a hand to fend him off. He gave her a goofy fanged grin ",oh yes, yes, yes," and pounced her too. He tickled Willow into an exhausted red faced lump, then treated her to neck raspberries too.
It didn't dawn on either of them until he sank back on his heels panting needlessly, that he was still in game face; and had been the entire time. His fangs had been a whisper away from both their necks. He saw the belated realization cross their faces at almost the same instant. To forestall any badness, Xander grinned at them with his tongue stuck out between his fangs, and crossed his demon eyes.
While they were laughing and giggling, he crawled off the floor onto the couch, and squirmed between them. He put arms around both of them and drew them close, and squeezed. Immediately groaning protests rose that they needed to breath even if he didn't anymore. They each laid a head on a shoulder, and he dropped kisses on top of blond then red hair. He looked at Spike, sitting in the armchair, and winked at him over their heads. His relief at diffusing most of the emotional bombs, hummed in the link and was so great it almost knocked Spike out of his chair.
It lasted all of thirty seconds.