Title: Nothing the Same
Feedback: yes, please
Concrit: any and all welcome
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
Xander reluctantly headed for the library after his last class, finding himself the first to arrive. Mr. Giles immediately sat him down at the desk in his office and gave him the task of writing down everything he could remember about what Spike had told him about Angel. Xander gathered from the haste to tuck him out of sight that the librarian hadn’t had time to warn Buffy that Xander would be joining them but sat down at the desk without protest. He’d promised to share the information and writing it down was as good a way as any.
Mr. Giles left him to it, closing the office door behind him and moving briskly out into the main room. Xander watched him go with amusement. Unless Willow had already broken the news to Buffy, he suspected he would hear the Slayer’s reaction even through the closed door.
It was a bit of a let down when Willow arrived alone. Xander, busy writing, didn’t even notice she was present until he glanced up and saw her sitting at the table already working on the computer. Mr. Giles was sitting across from her and reading. He supposed it made sense that Buffy wouldn’t want to join them in researching her boyfriend’s history. He felt an unwilling pang of sympathy for her and couldn’t really blame her for skipping out. He certainly hadn’t enjoyed it when Willow insisted he read about Spike’s history.
When he’d finally finished writing, he dropped the pen on the desk and stretched. He was pretty sure he’d remembered everything significant that Spike had told him. In writing it down, a weird little compare-and-contrast thing had been going through his mind as he found himself weighing Angelus’ history against Spike’s. From the Slayer’s perspective, Spike was probably worse because he’d killed two Slayers and Angelus hadn’t killed any. Other than that, Angelus definitely won the sadism and obsession gold medals. It was weirdly comforting in a “my vampire’s better than your vampire” way. Mostly, he was relieved because he was pretty sure it meant that Spike could take Angel in a fight if it came down to that between the two. After all, Angel had never killed a Slayer and he was a lot older, so Spike had to be the better fighter. And how twisted was he that he was sort of proud of Spike for that? Plus, now that Buffy and Willow could no longer use the “he’s got a soul” trump card, the next time they gave him any flack about Spike, he was going to be able to point to Angel’s misdeeds because Angel and Spike were in the same boat now.
Which brought him right back to whether he should tell them Angel was at the factory. Xander had been feeling guilty about it all day. He didn’t think Buffy knew about the factory, which really made him wonder why not. Shouldn’t she know about all the big vampire hang-outs? And if she really didn’t know then Angel obviously hadn’t told her, so did that leave Xander off the hook?
“I thought you liked Ms. Calendar?” Xander asked Willow as they walked out of computer class together. For two days, he had seen Buffy, Willow and Mr. Giles ignoring Ms. Calendar as if she didn’t exist and he was curious about what the problem was.
“I do, I mean, I did… I don’t know what to think. She lied to us.”
“I told you - she’s a gypsy, her people cursed Angel.”
“How is that her fault? ‘Cause unless there’s something you’re not telling me, she wasn’t around 100 years ago, was she?” he asked, just to be safe. This was the Hellmouth after all, anything was possible.
“No, but she didn’t tell us that she was sent here to watch Angel.”
“Xander, don’t be dense.”
“Sorry but I’m not getting why this is a cut-her-dead-in-the-hallways kind of problem.”
“Because she’s been lying to us since we met her!”
“I dunno, Willow, seems to me a lie of omission like that is different.” Maybe he was pushing this because his own lies of omission were weighing heavily on him but it was also because he could relate to the sadness in Ms. Calendar’s eyes every time she watched Mr. Giles walk past her door without even glancing inside. “It’s not like she ever told you she wasn’t a gypsy, she just didn’t volunteer the information. She’s still a good teacher and a nice lady. And I don’t remember you and Buffy holding a grudge against Angel for doing the exact same thing.”
“That’s different,” Willow answered automatically, but she looked troubled.
Xander rolled his eyes at the Slayerettes’ standard response, man did they need a new come-back, he was so tired of that one. “Explain the difference to me because I don’t see one. Angel didn’t tell you he was a vampire, Ms. Calendar didn’t say she was a gypsy. Frankly, I’d rather have a secret gypsy running around than a secret vampire.”
“What about your friend Spike?” Willow shot back, “how long was it before he told you he was a vampire?”
Xander laughed. “Spike is not subtle-guy. I learned he was a vampire as soon as I could see straight from being shoved into a wall two seconds after meeting him. He wasn’t exactly hiding the fangs and the bumps at the time.”
“He attacked you? And you still call him your friend?”
Xander grinned. “Well, he didn’t kill me and it gave us something to talk about when we met again. Getting back to the point, I think you’re being a little hypocritical in forgiving Angel for lying to you but not Ms. Calendar. She told you she didn’t know what would happen with the curse. Do you believe her?”
Willow’s eyes fell. “I don’t know.”
“If you believe her, then you should forgive her and get over it. If you don’t, then fine,” Xander shrugged, “you probably should stay away from her. Just make sure you’re doing it for the right reason and not because you’re taking your anger at the people who totally screwed up cursing Angel out on her.”
Had Willow always been this rigid about people? Xander didn’t think so and he wondered if she was taking her cue from Buffy or if she’d become harder in the past year. He knew that he was arguing for the computer teacher because of his own guilt over the secrets he was keeping. Like Ms. Calendar, he didn’t think anything he was hiding would hurt anyone. He just hoped he was right.
After barely two nights, Spike found himself almost sympathizing with Angelus. If Darla had been one tenth as annoying to Angelus as Angelus was to Spike, no wonder Angelus had staked her.
It had been fun the first night after Xander’s visit to the factory. As the minions had come trickling back into the factory shortly after sunset, Spike had taken great pleasure in loudly ordering one of them to fetch his Sire some blood to help him heal. He’d specified bagged, knowing full well how much it would annoy Angelus to have to drink bagged blood after a century of not feeding from live victims. Spike had also made sure that he mentioned in passing how much he regretted “accidentally” hurting Angelus so badly during their routine sparring match.
Angelus had only been laid up for two days. Well-fed vampires healed quickly and Spike hadn’t wanted to do more than make his point clear to his Sire. As he pointed out coldly to Angelus, standing over his bed and sneering down at his Sire, if he’d wanted to kill Angelus, Angelus wouldn’t be lying in Spike’s home being fed by Spike’s minions. He’d be a small pile of dust in the back alley.
You’d think Angelus would have the decency to be grateful that Spike hadn’t killed him. Angelus was smart enough to realize that he was significantly off his game after a century of not feeding properly. Spike could easily have killed him and Angelus bloody well knew it. But not Captain Hair-Gel. No, gratitude was too much to ask apparently.
Spike snarled to himself as he paced restlessly in his room. He should be sleeping the day away but he had too much on his mind for that. As soon as Angelus had recovered sufficiently to not look weak, he had begun courting the minions. Sitting in Spike’s chair, telling outrageous lies about his glory years, subtly undermining Spike’s authority with sly innuendos and not-quite-stifled comments on how a “proper” court was run. Nothing Spike could really stop without looking petty and insecure, deadly flaws that would lead to challenges he didn’t want to deal with now.
Angelus’ tales somehow always featured Spike as a weak fledgling stumbling his way through unlife being rescued by his wise and patient Sire - two attributes Angelus had rarely ever displayed in reality. Drusilla’s infidelity to Spike was also mentioned frequently, with the accompanying implication that Spike was too weak to prevent her from straying. The stories Angelus told were deliberately humorously told so that Spike couldn’t protest without looking like a stuck-up prig with no sense of humor.
Problem was, Spike didn’t really want to dust his Sire, even in his current unbelievably annoying phase. Chances were Angelus was just over-reacting to freedom after a century of having every natural impulse stifled by the soul the gypsies had stuck him with, imprisoning the vampire Spike had known in a straightjacket of human values. Once Angelus got through these first days of freedom, surely the Angelus Spike had known would re-emerge.
His Sire had always been capable of being a right annoying git, but he had also been fun. Sire, mentor, companion; some of Spike’s fondest memories were of drinking, wenching, gaming and just plain hell-raising with Angelus. With Drusilla gone forever, Spike admitted that he missed the companionship of a Master vampire, of family. Minions were not even a pale substitute.
Snatching up a bottle of whiskey, Spike drank deeply oblivious to the liquor spilling down his front. Angelus had better work through this phase damn quickly before Spike lost the last remnants of his own control. It wasn’t unusual for Angelus to annoy the piss out of him, but his behavior in the last two days had been completely over the top. Just because he didn’t want to stake his Sire, didn’t mean he wouldn’t if Angelus continued to challenge him.
Spike sat down on the bed and studied the bottle thoughtfully. For a moment, the temptation to simply burn the factory down around Angelus and the minions was nearly overwhelming. Seal the doors and torch the place, that was the way to go.
Reluctantly he discarded the idea. Having told Xander he wasn’t killing, he wasn’t going to go back on his word to create a new batch of minions. In any case, he would be better off simply staking the minions rather than burning his own home down around his ears. Oh yeah, and he was still foolishly hoping his Sire would go back to his old self.
Brooding over the situation, Spike drained the bottle and tossed the empty carelessly into the corner. He flung himself full length on the bed, determined not to let Angelus deprive him of any more sleep. He’d figure out a way to handle his bastard of a Sire after he’d gotten a decent day’s sleep. Maybe he’d just lock Angelus and that bint of a Slayer into a small room and let them kill each other. A smile crossed his face at the thought, that probably wouldn’t break the truce, not if he didn’t kill her himself. He hadn’t ever promised not to kidnap her, had he?
For the next three days, they’d met in the library every afternoon after classes were over. Buffy tended to leave almost immediately, saying she had to patrol. Xander wasn’t sure if it was his presence or the fact that they were researching Angel that was causing her to leave so quickly. Probably both, he thought with an inward grin.
They had pretty much reviewed everything the librarian had on Angel and, in Xander’s opinion, weren’t a whole lot wiser than they had been, although Mr. Giles kept repeating that anything they found was potentially important. Since Buffy didn’t seem interested in hearing about anything they were digging up, Xander didn’t see how it was going to help her fight Angel but he wasn’t exactly one to talk. His big idea of being able to help Spike was a complete bust. Everything they were reading about was from the time when Spike and Angel were hanging out together so Spike obviously already knew anything Xander was learning.
Well, it helped pass the time at least. He missed Spike. He hadn’t gone four days without seeing the vampire in a long time and his evenings seemed lonely and a lot more boring without the vampire around.
Plus, having gone through all the agonizing over his tentative foray into bi-sexuality, he was being left high and dry with no follow through. After the long dry spell, his body was raring to go and his fantasies were frustratingly limited. He didn’t know a lot about gay sex and had no way to research it. Well, ok, there were ways but he wouldn’t be caught dead in a book store buying a sex manual of any kind, he didn’t have a computer and wouldn’t know how to do the computer research thing even if he had one, and he would willingly die of sexual frustration before asking Willow to help him out with research into gay sex. That was simply never going to happen.
Thinking of Spike, which he did disturbingly often, always brought him back to the moment when Spike had told him he wasn’t killing. Spike hadn’t admitted it, but Xander knew the vampire had done it for him. Whenever he remembered that moment, Xander always found himself grinning like an idiot. He couldn’t help it, the thought that Spike had done that for him, especially without saying anything about it, sent a warm glow through him. Despite Spike’s attempts to make light of it, it was HUGE. Part of him wanted to tell Willow, and even Buffy and Mr. Giles. Only the thought that they would doubt it, would refuse to accept it, kept him from bragging about it. He knew Spike was telling the truth. And maybe he shouldn’t be so happy that Spike was still wounding people, but Spike was a tiger who had voluntarily gone vegetarian for him. It was enough. It was more than enough to prove Spike cared.
So he hadn’t told them that Spike wasn’t killing. Despite the temptation at the occasional pointed remark about Spike, Xander hugged the knowledge to himself, an impenetrable invisible shield against their disapproval and one he would not allow to be cheapened by their disbelief. Because he was sure they wouldn’t believe him, would demand proof, would do their best to tarnish the shining memory of Spike telling him he wasn’t killing.
Granted, Buffy didn’t make snide remarks about Spike any more. The first time she had, Xander had simply looked at her with false sympathy and sweetly asked how she was holding up now that her boyfriend had gone so spectacularly evil after spending a single night with her. That had shut Miss Holier-Than-Thou up but good. Well, not actually shut her up, there had been some shouting and some name calling before she stormed out of the library but there had been conspicuous silence from her on the subject of Spike ever since then. It had totally been worth the lecture and the disapproval from both Willow and Mr. Giles. He’d listened in silence and gravely agreed that kicking someone when they were down was “extremely poor form” - Mr. Giles’ opinion - and “just plain mean” - Willow’s input - and concentrated on keeping his face bland and his smirk tucked well out of sight.
When Xander reluctantly showed up at the library for research for the fourth day in a row, he was going stir crazy. It felt like his life had been put on hold because of Angel. While he took Spike’s warnings seriously, he missed spending time with Spike, laughing with him, doing fun things with him, doing anything but research. He missed Spike’s weird perspective on things and the way he made familiar things seem new and different.
Lately, the only thing different was the stack of books piled up on the table each afternoon for them to comb through looking for references to -
“Werewolves?” he asked incredulously, as Mr. Giles explained their afternoon’s research project. “Are you kidding?”
“No. There were a number of reported attacks by ‘wild dogs’ last night and Cordelia Chase was attacked in her car while she was…er, hem.” The librarian cleared his throat and looked mildly embarrassed.
“Making out with some jock?” Xander guessed.
“Yes, quite. Apparently the creature punched through the convertible top in its attempts to reach her and her paramour but fortunately they were able to start the car and escape unharmed.” Mr. Giles gestured to the dozen or so books stacked on the table. “I have already consulted my primary sources earlier this morning but if you would be so kind as to check these for any information, it would be very helpful.” He smiled broadly. “It’s fascinating,” he said enthusiastically. “Lycanthropy is such a classic condition. I never imagined I would have a chance to delve seriously into the subject.”
Xander eyed him dubiously. “You need a life in the worst way,” he observed without malice, reaching for the top book in resignation. “Do werewolves fall in Buffy’s turf?” he asked, opening the book and beginning to leaf through it.
“Not for slaying purposes, certainly. Werewolves are not demons. They are human beings who have been infected with what is essentially a virus that recurs every month. Interestingly, the common understanding that werewolves only change into their wolf form on the night of the full moon is apparently erroneous. It appears they change for three consecutive nights, but otherwise they are essentially fully human. Killing the wolf is not the answer, it must simply be contained during those three days. Buffy will, of course, be largely responsible for tracking and containing the creature.”
“Well, it makes a change from reading about Angel.”
“Yes, it does. I suspect you will be relieved to learn that we have almost exhausted my materials that potentially contain references to Angel.”
“Relieved doesn’t begin to cover it.” Xander answered thankfully, settling down to read.
When Buffy and Willow entered a short time later, they were talking about Oz, Willow’s almost, sort of, working-on-it, boyfriend-to-be. From overheard snatches over the last few days, Xander had already heard way more than he cared to of girl-talk about how things were progressing, or not progressing, on the Willow dating front. Apparently, Oz moved unusually slowly for a senior and a band member.
“Hi, Giles, Xander,” Willow greeted them cheerfully. Xander glanced up briefly and smiled before looking back at the page which had some cool, anatomically improbable sketches of werewolves. He suspected strongly that the author had never actually seen a werewolf given that the sketched creatures didn’t look like they were capable of walking, much less running and attacking things. Maybe the guy was just a bad artist.
“So, what have you found out?” Buffy asked.
Xander listened with half an ear as Mr. Giles repeated everything he’d already told Xander, only this time he used a little globe to demonstrate the moon’s phases. Why he thought that would perk up his lecture, Xander had no clue. Leave it to the librarian to find a way to make werewolves sound boring.
The next day, the school was buzzing with horror over the death of one of their classmates. Teresa had been killed and they were blaming it on wild dogs. Xander hadn’t really known her but, even at Sunnydale, it was always a shock when a classmate was killed. Actually, he felt really bad for whoever the werewolf was. It would be awful to learn you’d killed someone while your body wasn’t under your control.
It was only at the end of the day that he learned from Willow that Angel had killed Teresa. Killed her and made her a vampire. She’d risen at the funeral home and had almost killed Buffy before Buffy was able to stake her. Xander heard the news in silence and then just turned and walked away from Willow without saying anything. He was struggling for control, trying not to give in to the shakes and nausea that filled him at the news of another classmate being staked. Jesse’s face filled his vision and for a moment all he could hear was Jesse’s voice saying “Buddy!” Stumbling towards the bathroom, trying not to lose it, he didn’t see Willow’s puzzled face as she watched him go.
Once inside the bathroom, he splashed cold water on his face and drank from the tap, trying to rinse away the phantom taste of ashes. Clinging to the sides of the sink, he took several deep breaths and forced the memory of Jesse’s death back into the corners of his mind where it lived.
Looking into the mirror at the reflection of his haunted eyes, Xander wondered if he would ever get used to the casual murder of people who had been human the previous day. How could Buffy do it? Night after night, killing people she knew. She couldn’t seem to bring herself to kill Angel but she could kill Teresa without batting an eye. The excuse she’d always had for Angel - that he had a soul - didn’t apply any more and he still got a pass from her. And while he freely admitted he had Angel issues, namely disliking the vampire intensely, still it just seemed wrong that Buffy would kill Teresa but not Angel. Maybe that made him a hypocrite because he had used her selective killing policy to his advantage when he’d persuaded Buffy not to kill Spike. But Spike had more than repaid him by voluntarily giving up killing humans so Xander could live with being a hypocrite.
Would Teresa be alive if Xander hadn’t been withholding information? Would it have made a difference if he’d told them that Angel was at the factory? He desperately hoped he wasn’t lying to himself when he told himself no, it wouldn’t have made a difference. Buffy wasn’t showing any signs of wanting to actually take on Angel and even if she did, the factory was not the place to do it. There were about 20 or so vampires living in there and that was too many even for a Slayer.
No, he wasn’t going to tell them about the factory. He didn’t trust Buffy not to decide the truce was over and to just attack Spike. He still didn’t want either one of them to kill the other, which left keeping them away from each other as still the best option. The once-comforting thought that Angel had never told them about the factory either was tissue thin from overuse and gave no relief anymore.
Looking away from the guilt in his eyes, Xander left the bathroom. The research party could go on without him tonight. His jaw tightened as he saw Willow hovering outside the bathroom, waiting for him.
“Xander, are you all right?”
“I’ll live,” he replied shortly. “I’m going home,” he told her, turning towards his locker.
“But we were going to the library,” she began, following him as he opened the locker and grabbed his backpack.
“Changed my mind,” he said briefly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Slamming the locker closed firmly, he walked off without waiting for her response.
Xander spent a long sleepless night thinking about Teresa and Angel and the factory. His loyalties were hopelessly torn. Cut off from Spike because of Angel, which did nothing to improve his level of fondness for the older vampire, he couldn’t ask Spike’s advice or warn him about what Xander was planning. He had considered and discarded several crazy ideas about getting a note to Spike or just going to the factory and trying to see Spike, but Spike’s warnings about Angelus had Xander too wary to risk any of the ideas he had come up with. It was obvious that Spike was worried about Angel using Xander against Spike in some way and Xander didn’t want to do something that would put Spike at a disadvantage against his Sire.
But the gnawing worry that withholding the information about Angel’s whereabouts might have contributed to Teresa’s death wouldn’t leave him. From what Spike had told him and the librarian’s books had confirmed, Angel’s pattern was to attack his victims indirectly, through others. Xander would warn Spike as soon as he could but he wasn’t going to sit on the knowledge of where Angel was living any longer.
Decision made, Xander had finally been able to sleep. In the morning, he went to school early and immediately headed for the library to talk to Mr. Giles. As usual, the librarian was already in his office, Xander would swear the man lived at the library he so rarely seemed to leave it.
“Yes? Oh, Mr. Harris. I understand you had to leave early yesterday, are you feeling better?”
For a minute, Xander didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about, then realized that Willow must have told them he was sick. Which wasn’t far off. “I’m fine,” he said briefly. “Can I talk to you?”
“Of course.” The librarian waved him to the table and moved to the door of his office. “I was just making a cup of tea, would you like one?” he asked.
The librarian disappeared into his office for a moment and Xander waited, bouncing one knee restlessly.
“I assume you would like to discuss Oz?” Mr. Giles said, returning with a teacup in one hand and one of the books with a section on werewolves that Xander remembered reading two days ago.
“Oz? Why would I want to talk about him?” he asked blankly.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I just assumed you had heard.” Mr. Giles sat down at the table and took a sip of his tea. “We discovered last night that Oz is the werewolf we have been looking for. The poor chap didn’t know himself as this is the first full moon cycle since he became infected. We were able to tranquilize him and contain him until dawn and, now that the situation has been explained to him, he will ensure he is appropriately restrained during the full moon in the future.”
Xander stared at him. “That’s it?” he asked incredulously.
“What do you mean? I assure you, he’s quite harmless except during those three nights, which are now behind us for this month. There is no need to take punitive action against him for something he had no control over.”
Xander said sharply: “That’s not what I meant. How’s he doing?”
Mr. Giles raised his eyebrows at the question. “I explained the physiology to him thoroughly. He seems like quite a sensible boy and appears to be handling the situation very maturely.”
Xander just shook his head. There were times when Mr. Giles seemed incapable of emotional connection with anyone. Seriously flawed in the empathy department, he thought but dropped the subject. “I need to talk to you about Angel.”
“Do you know the old factory on Oakes Street, the brick one with mostly boarded up windows?”
“I believe so. Why?”
“Angel’s staying there now.”
“Really? How do you know?”
“I saw him there five or six days ago.”
Mr. Giles just stared at him in silence, brows raised, until Xander squirmed uncomfortably and reluctantly explained, knowing he had no choice.
“Spike’s been staying there since he came to town. When I went to tell Spike about Angel, Angel was there. Spike told me he was living there now.”
“I see.” The librarian took off his glasses and polished them thoughtfully for a long moment. Settling them back on his face, he shot a piercing look at Xander. “Why have you chosen to tell me this now and not before?”
“Because of Teresa. I don’t know if it makes any difference but I can’t risk someone else dying because I know where Angel is and you don’t.” Xander longed to look away but forced himself to keep his eyes on Mr. Giles. “I don’t want Spike caught in the middle. He didn’t have a lot of choice about letting Angel move in.”
Surprisingly, Mr. Giles nodded in agreement. “No, he probably didn’t. Given that Angel is Spike’s Sire, ordinarily vampire offspring do as their Sires tell them.” He paused to take a thoughtful sip of his tea, then continued. “I can only imagine that their relationship is quite complicated now, given Angel’s effective absence from Spike’s life while he had the soul.” He shook his head, “But that is hardly the issue. I appreciate you telling me this. I will pass the information on to Buffy but not for the purpose of an all-out assault, I assure you. There are undoubtedly a number of other vampires inside the building and a frontal attack would be too dangerous.”
He fell silent and Xander said firmly: “Spike is keeping the truce. He isn’t going to join Angel in an attack on Buffy.”
“Xander,” he gave Xander a tiny smile when Xander looked surprised at the use of his first name, “I think you are aware of the fact that Buffy is not yet emotionally prepared to fight Angel. She still thinks of him as her boyfriend and hasn’t yet adjusted to the fact that he is now simply a vampire. Until she is emotionally ready to fight, and yes, to kill him, I will not encourage her to fight Angel because she is almost certain to lose. Buffy’s emotional reaction to Teresa’s message from Angel nearly caused her to lose a fight to a barely risen fledgling. While she is in this state, I will do whatever I can to help her avoid a confrontation.” He sighed heavily, removing his glasses and rubbing at the bridge of his nose, suddenly looking very tired. “As much as I regret Teresa’s death, it would not have changed anything if you had shared the information about Angel’s location before she was killed. I would not have permitted Buffy to act on the knowledge.”
He put his glasses back on and stood up, transforming abruptly back into the buttoned down and unemotional Watcher. “My duty as a Watcher is first and foremost to my Slayer. I will not allow her to fight a vampire that is virtually certain to kill her. Yes, Mr. Harris, even if that inevitably means that some innocents will die.”
Xander had risen to his feet with the librarian and their eyes met and held for a long moment. For the first time since he’d met the Englishman, Xander felt like he understood him. Standing there in his armor of tweed, surrounded by the books that were his weapons of choice, Xander suddenly saw Mr. Giles as a beleaguered man saddled with a hopeless task: that of keeping one young girl alive against a thousand lethal threats. No wonder the librarian was single minded and obsessed. Buffy was the only thing he really cared about, everything and everyone else was merely a tool to help keep his Slayer alive. A recently turned vampire automatically became just another threat to his Slayer. Xander didn’t agree with his methods but he’d become depressingly familiar with grey areas and bitter compromises in the past year and he could see the same experience in the librarian’s tired eyes.
Not sure what to say in the face of such brutal honesty, Xander just nodded. “See you later…, Giles.” He walked away, not looking back, shaken by the unexpected glimpse into the Watcher’s soul.
After looking for some time, Xander had found Oz sitting on one of the picnic tables outside the school. Crossing the grounds towards the small figure that sat staring off into the distance, Xander wondered if his presence would be welcome. Seeing no sign that Oz was even aware of his approach, he simply climbed up and sat down on top of the table next to Oz, leaving a careful space between them so he didn’t crowd Oz and quietly greeted him.
Oz glanced at him briefly, eyes unreadable. “Hey,” he replied noncommittally before returning his gaze to the horizon.
Xander looked off into the distance himself for a moment before saying quietly. “I heard what happened. Is there anything I can do?” He really didn’t know what to say, especially since he didn’t know Oz very well, but he felt like he needed to make some kind of gesture to prove that he didn’t think Oz was a freak or a monster now.
“I’m covered. Giles explained it to me.”
Xander smiled. “Did he pull out the little moon and globe models?”
“Yeah. Didn’t really make things clearer but I think he meant well.”
After a pause, during which Xander tried to come up with anything that wouldn’t sound dumb or trite or patronizing or any of a number of other things, all equally bad, Oz spoke again. “It’s a lot. I mean, I just learned about the whole Sunnydale thing and now this…”
“Yeah.” From somewhere, Xander found the words he’d been struggling for. “I learned about Sunnydale last year when my best friend got turned into a vampire. It takes a long time to deal.” It was the only thing he could offer Oz that might help; that Sunnydale sucked but eventually you learned to deal with it. It was the first time he’d talked about Jesse this way; as an experience, a past event that he’d survived. It made him feel simultaneously that he really was finally recovering and moving on and also guilty for the same reason.
Oz looked over at him and this time Xander saw sympathy and pain and confusion in the steady gaze. “Thanks,” he said briefly.
They sat together on the picnic table in the warm sunshine for a long time both lost in their own thoughts, the silence between them no longer awkward or uncomfortable.
Spike leapt up and slammed a kick into the armored chest plate of the seshantii demon. The pent-up anger and frustration at his Sire, the situation, the whole bloody Hellmouth poured out of him in the fight, powering his blows. The seshantii was losing badly which made Spike crow with satisfaction even as he spun and dropped, ducking a sweep from one of the demon’s bladed forearms. The blow went over his head and Spike bounced back up quickly, dancing out of range of the thing’s deadly spikes.
The fight was energizing him. Spike loved the focus and intensity of a good fight. An opponent like the seshantii just made it better: a foot taller and about 200 pounds heavier than him, seshantii were naturally armored with bony plates over most of their vulnerable areas and armed with bladed spikes along all six limbs. The blades, which usually lay flat against the demon’s limbs, were raised for battle, exposing razor-sharp edges and points. They had a fiercer reputation than they deserved, Spike judged as he spun and delivered a hard kick to the seshantii’s back. Or at least this one didn’t deserve the species’ reputation. She was a bit slow and clumsy, allowing Spike to dart in and out, landing swift, punishing blows and retreating before she could bring her own natural weapons to bear. She’d only gotten him once: an unanticipated swing with one of her middle set of limbs that had sunk into his side, causing him to yell with fury as the three slender blades pierced his duster. He’d torn free and kept a wary eye on all six limbs after that, quickly learning the weaknesses in her fighting style.
One of which was no stamina. She was slowing down already, throwing roundhouse blows that didn’t come close to landing and taking far too long to recover. Spike seized the advantage, taunting her, darting around her with undiminished energy and slamming both feet into the plating on her back, sending her crashing to the ground.
Grinning wildly, he bounced on his toes for a moment, giving the demon time to climb back to its feet. When she stayed down, he was disappointed. “Come on, old girl, on your feet. Lots of fight left in you,” he coaxed.
Hissing what sounded like truly vile curses at him, the seshantii began finally to struggle slowly to her feet.
“That’s the girl, come on!”
She lumbered towards him, swinging three of her arms in an uncoordinated flurry. Spike easily dodged the blows and pulled a knife out of his boot. He plunged it into a gap in her plating exposed by the outstretched middle limb and roared in triumph as hot, grayish blood gushed out of the wound, pouring his hand. Snatching the knife free, he gave her a push with his foot and watched in satisfaction as she crumpled full length on the ground.
He started to put the knife back, then made a face and dropped it. Damn thing stank from the truly foul smelling blood covering it.
Panting for unneeded air, Spike dropped to his knees and then sat back on his heels to give himself a moment to recover. The adrenaline high from the fight had him buzzed and almost wanting to find something else to kill. The anger and frustration that had sent him out looking for battle was gone. In its absence, Spike felt like he could finally think again.
He wiped the blood off his hand and took a moment to inspect the three puncture wounds in his side. They’d heal in no time, which was more than the matching punctures in his coat would do, he thought irately as he fingered the tears in the leather.
He jumped to his feet and kicked the demon’s rapidly cooling carcass. “Teach you to damage my coat,” he sneered. Leaving the seshantii, he strode off through the cemetery deciding that things were really very simple after all.
He’d been letting Angelus jerk him around because his Sire had him on the defensive. Spike was reacting to Angelus when it should be the other way around. Somehow, between his snide remarks and his many supposedly helpful suggestions about how Spike should run things, Angelus had maneuvered him into behaving like a fledgling instead of the Master he was. By keeping Spike off-balance and on edge, Angelus had reduced Spike to acting like the Childe he’d been a century ago: prickly and defensive and secretly wanting his Sire’s approval.
Well, no more. He’d seen through Angelus’ little games and he wasn’t going to play anymore. He wasn’t spending any more time figuring out what Angelus was up to. From now on, Angelus could worry about what Spike was up to. And Angelus would give him a Master Vampire’s due or he would be out of the factory to greet the dawn come morning. From now on, Spike would do what he pleased, when he pleased, and with whoever he pleased. And if Angelus gave him any more flack about anything, Spike would ram a hot poker up his Sire’s arse and Angelus could think about that for awhile. If Spike wanted to spend time with an unclaimed, virginal, human teenager, that was nobody’s business but Spike’s.
Relaxed and no longer on edge for the first time in days, Spike regretted it was too late to wake his boy up. It was high time he talked to Xander about two of those attributes that had been concerning Angelus so much.
Walking home through the growing dark of early evening, Xander was so glad it was Friday and he had two days to recover from the events of the week. Between Oz and Teresa, this had been one of the worst weeks this year and spending his free time researching Angel hadn’t improved things. All he had to look forward to this weekend was microwave popcorn and tv but it would have to do.
Gradually he became aware of a loud approaching engine and his head shot up in surprise as Spike’s car pulled up next to him. The door was pushed open and he stared inside, seeing Spike looking up at him with a grin.
The familiar voice called: “Oi! Time’s wastin’. You getting’ in or not?”
Xander scrambled into the car happily. “Where’re we headed?” he asked, not really caring just happy to see Spike again and incredibly grateful for the possibility that this horrible week might end on a positive note. He tossed his backpack into the mess that was the back seat and grabbed for the dashboard to brace himself as Spike took off with his usual disregard for the law of gravity and the lack of seatbelts.
“Fancy that little bar with the pool tables?” Spike grinned over at him wickedly. “I’ve some right good memories of those tables.”
Xander blushed but didn’t back down. “You’re on.”
Thirtty minutes later, half a beer inside him and a tricky bank shot to make, Xander was relaxed and happy in a way he hadn’t been in days. Even the prospect, the near certainty, of Spike hitting on him again wasn’t anxiety making, he was looking forward to it. He took the shot and… “yes!” he exclaimed triumphantly as the cue ball did as it was supposed to and sweetly kissed the 3-ball into the corner pocket. “You are so going down this time,” he informed the vampire confidently, conveniently ignoring the outcome of every game they’d played to date.
“That so?” Spike purred.
Xander felt color burning in his cheeks and reached behind him for his beer, hoping the cold liquid would quench it. How was it that Spike could make anything he said sound like unbelievably sexy? Well, Xander thought recklessly, he might be a complete novice at gay sex, ok at almost any kind of sex, but there was no reason he had to act like it.
Taking another gulp of beer, Xander set the bottle down carefully and did his best to saunter sexily over to where Spike stood, holding his cue in front of him with both hands, head cocked to one side regarding him curiously as he approached. Hoping he didn’t look like a complete idiot, Xander set his own stick down against the table and took the cue out of Spike’s hands, moving it to one side. “Yeah,” he said in his best version of a low, husky voice, “that’s right.”
He leaned forward and kissed Spike, tasting once more the lips that had been starring in his fantasies for days. The kiss was little more than a peck but Xander didn’t stop or pull back. He kissed Spike again, more firmly, feeling Spike’s lips part against his own. Strong arms encircled his waist, holding him but not controlling his movements. Xander’s mouth slid against Spike’s experiencing again the feeling of the firm cool lips. He traced along Spike’s lips with his tongue then slipped inside the opening that tasted of cigarettes and beer; tasting, teasing, exploring the contours. Spike’s jaw line was smooth under his hesitant fingers and he slid his hand further back, until his fingers were buried in Spike’s short, gelled hair.
The bar, the other patrons, everything fell away as Xander became lost in the kiss, lips sliding against each other, tongues dueling playfully. Spike had been right, he thought dazedly, gender was meaningless. There was nothing but tongues and lips and feeling as the kiss went on and on.
After an endless time, Xander pulled back slightly, breaking the kiss slowly as he moved back just far enough to see Spike’s face. A smile curved Spike’s lips, softer than his usual smirk and Xander smiled back, sure he looked like a complete sap but not really caring because Spike didn’t seem to mind.
Spike broke the silence first. “Pet, if that’s your way of convincing me to cede you the victory, you win. What say we go somewhere a bit more private, eh?”
Suddenly remembering they were in a crowded bar, Xander fidgeted nervously, moving out of Spike’s loose embrace and fumbling with the pool cues and his beer. Spike just laughed and settled his hand on Xander’s back. “Don’t fret, luv, if we keep this up, they’ll have to start giving us free drinks for entertaining their customers,” he murmured into Xander’s ear. His hand began rubbing gently, slipping stealthily under the untucked shirts his boy habitually wore and tracing patterns over the warm skin underneath, enjoying the way Xander leaned into his touch. He wanted to tear the clothes off and finally see his boy in his naked splendor but he restrained himself with an effort. Pushing too hard, too fast, would ruin the victory. His boy was ripe and ready, but young and unsure of himself. Spike was playing for the long term, not the short, sweet taking he could have so easily. Xander didn’t realize it himself yet but there was love in his eyes when he looked at Spike.
Spike had known a pair of dark eyes that had looked at him with love and he wanted that again. Wanted it with a fierce longing born of loneliness and heartbreak. Xander wasn’t a replacement for Dru. If Spike succeeded in winning Xander’s love, the boy would give him what he had craved but never gotten from Drusilla: loyalty and steadfastness, things Dru hadn’t been capable of giving anyone. Dru had loved him. Spike knew that. As much as she was able to love anyone, Dru had loved him. But her ability to love had been damaged beyond repair when Angelus so thoroughly destroyed her innocence and her sanity. Too often the love in Drusilla’s eyes would fade into vagueness as she became lost in her rambling thoughts. Too flighty and distractible to be loyal to anyone, Dru would sometimes forget Spike’s very existence for days and even weeks at a time. He’d given her everything he had, loved her, forgiven her everything, but nothing he did could heal the broken pieces of her mind and emotions.
Spike knew that if Xander willingly gave Spike his love, he would be loyal to the end. With Xander, he wouldn’t always be second best; behind “Daddy”, behind sodding Miss Edith, behind the bleedin’ stars even. And he wanted that. Wanted it enough to wait for a recently straight, virginal teenager to be ready. Ready to love and ready to be claimed.
So he kept a tight rein on his lust and firmly kept his hand from straying to more interesting areas, steering his boy gently out of the bar with the hand on his back. At least his boy was finally at the serious snogging stage. It wouldn’t be long now.