Rating: NC-17 overall
A/N: So, it took me awhile. I wasn't sure where to go with this. But, I think I have it now. Or as close to it as I'm going to get. This chapter's a bit odd, but this is part of the transition. The next two chapters will go over the same scene, but from Spike's and Xander's perspective. After that, we'll get to the good stuff...promise!
Kinda nice, but weirder than three day old Chinese food. Spike and Xander didn’t hate each other, but they weren’t buddies, pals, comrades in arms. Whoever heard of an easy détente? Truces were supposed to be strained, with both parties just itching for a chance to sucker punch the other one. Dawn had a six thousand word essay on the motivations for cessation of hostilities throughout history as back up.
Still, it was nice. The quiet had been the scariest part. It wasn’t the regular quiet, sweet and soothing, that let you lay still and just sink down. Spike and Xander had mastered the art of dangerous quiet. Silent and tense, a frozen silence that made your palms itch because you knew, just knew, that pretty soon you’d need heavy-duty weapons.
“Bloody hell,” she groused, slamming her book shut.
She looked around, slightly guilty for both cursing and mistreating a book. Spike had suckered Angel into helping with her education, claiming that if he really loved Buffy, than he would want to do everything to help her little sister. Angel had stopped by for a highly emotional, drearily uncomfortable ten minutes before he ran away to find himself. Dawn snorted softly, wondering how a two hundred year old vampire could not know who he was. That was Angel, though and so was this stupid book. Angel’s book, that he’d given to her with instructions to study it carefully and write out a reflection of the lessons it imparted.
“This book, it…it helped me, sometimes,” he’d explained softly. “It’s important to me.”
Dawn sighed, gently caressing the book’s worn cover. Angel wasn’t so bad, just so lonely. That’s what Spike said, anyways. She’d been up on her high horse, as Spike said, ranting and raving about Angel and his worthless little visit.
“Stop right there, Bit. Not gonna let you keep parading your righteous indignation,” Spike smirked. “Not like this, at any rate.”
“Please,” Dawn scoffed. “You can’t stand Angel. It’s all ‘wanker’ this and ‘brooding poof’ that. Don’t get all soggy on me now, Spike.”
“Not quite ready for the girl’s blouse, Bit. Do hate Angel, but I hate for the right reasons. I know him, all of him. Soul, demon, body and mind,” Spike told her quietly. “Can you say the same?”
“ ‘S what I thought. Keep your cheek to yourself. He’s trying to be a good man,” Spike smirked. “Won’t ever succeed but he’s trying. Took a lot for him to come here and you ought to give him some respect for that.”
So, she was sitting in the kitchen reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. Well, really she was daydreaming and using words that would have Spike spitting mad. Plus, if he saw her slam a book, she’d be lucky to see daylight for a month.
“Hey Dawnie. Having fun with Deadboy’s “How to Brood” manual?”
Dawn jumped, Xander’s words pulling her out of her mental loop. There it was, that smile. The patented Xander Harris Life Is Good smile, and he’d been hanging out with Spike and Spike had given him that smile and…
“Oh my god,” Dawn blurted out. “You’re gay. Gay and in love with Spike.”
She hadn’t meant to say it, hadn’t even been thinking it, until she saw that smile. The smile that was currently sliding off of Xander’ face and landing in a heap on the floor. Xander just stood there, pale and forlorn. He stood there until he wasn’t standing there anymore. He was running, out the door, down the steps and into the grey twilight.
In his place was a snarling Spike, yellow eyes fixed on her. She cringed, before she remembered that Spike wouldn’t hurt her. Not just couldn’t, but wouldn’t.
“I’m sorry,” she told him. “I…it just…I didn’t mean it.”
She was sorry, but she was also incredibly confused. If Xander was all gay’ed up with Spike, why did he run? He should be happy. And if he wasn’t so much with the man sex, than he shouldn’t have run either.
The snarl disappeared, and yellow eyes faded to blue. It was all there, in Spike’s eyes. The blue of cornflowers and shiny ocean waves had a dull sheen. Spike’s eyes didn’t snap anymore. They used to snap and sparkle, the very Spikeness of them showing the world who he was and what he’d dare.
“ ‘S not your fault, Bit,” he told her wearily. “Just some things you shouldn’t stick your nose in, yeah? Xander’s having a rough go and we…nothing happened like that, but he’s feeling survivor’s guilt.”
“It’s my fault,” she whispered. “You, Xander…you’re stuck taking care of me and it’s ruined.”
“Nah,” Spike shook his head. “Wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to. Love you, Niblet, more’n anything else. Just…”
“Just what,” Dawn yelled. “Tell me, Spike, why Xander’s sad and you never smile and my sister’s dead and MAKE ME UNDERSTAND!”
“Because everything got harder,” Xander choked out, slumping in the doorway. “Because life sucks and I don’t know all the answers and Spike doesn’t.”
“Yeah,” Spike acknowledged. “It was simpler, before. Before the chip, before she died, before before before.”
Dawn looked from one to the other, knowing that they were talking to her and about her and to each other and to themselves. She giggled, a tipsy hiccupy giggle, as she realized this was how soliloquies started.
“To be or not to be,” she intoned, “that is the question.”
“It really truly is,” Spike smiled. “I’m all for being, but sometimes maybe not being wouldn’t be so bad.”
“I want popcorn,” Xander announced suddenly. “I want popcorn and movies and not being. For now.”
“Can do that, pet,” Spike told him, holding out a hand. “ ‘S what friends are for, right?”
“Friends,” Xander agreed solemnly. “Not gay not in love friends.”
“You didn’t leave,” Dawn smiled happily.
“Nope,” Xander shook his head. “I took a temporary leave of absence. Xander Harris doesn’t quit. He gets fired.”
It was weirder than three-day-old Chinese food. But it was still nice. They were all broken, and if Angel’s book was right, losing something meant gaining something else. So, broken was okay and weird was okay and they were okay. Okay with popcorn which was better than okay without popcorn.
Dawn snuggled on the couch, stuck between the warm bulwark of Xander and the cooler firmness of Spike. Their arms draped over the back of the couch, fingers barely touching. As the night and the movie wore on, those fingers interlaced. Dawn fell asleep and the two men just sat there, touching and not touching, enjoying the sensation of not being.