Rating: NC-17 overall
Summary: Buffy's dead. Spike and Xander are left to raise Dawn. A look at what happens and why.
A/N: This is Spike's version of the previous scene. After this, we'll move on to a whole new scene and won't that be fun? Hehe, I'm sure everyone's tired of reading the same dialogue over and over, but I promise something new and fun next.
“Don’t give a tinker’s damn,” Spike said implacably. “Get your arse in the kitchen and start reading.”
Spike rolled his eyes as Dawn stomped off. Bit was getting mouthier, and his lips curled as he realized it was probably all down to him. Well, who else? The girl was a mystical construct being raised by a vampire and a construction worker.
“Ought t’be grateful she isn’t pole dancing,” he muttered to himself, shuddering. He resolved to have a firm talk to with Dawn about…he shuddered again. On second thought, he resolved to force Willow to have a firm talk with Dawn about the world’s true evil. Boys.
The thought of some wanker with pimples and eager hands touching his Nibblet brought forth a quiet snarl. Over his dead body, and wouldn’t that be quite the climb? Satisfied, he jogged upstairs. Might as well get it done and over with.
Dawn had asked him to sort through the boxes stored in Joyce’s closet. After Buffy had died, they’d simply packed everything away. No one could face parting with a single item that had belonged to either the Slayer or her mother. But, it had been three months and time marches on. Dawn had told him she was ready to see it gone. Not quite ready to do the culling herself, though.
“You sure you want me to do it,” Spike had asked gently. “Not exactly up on human customs, you know? Might throw out something important.”
Dawn had been adamant. There was no one she trusted more. So Spike sat, surrounded by the scents of his two lost ladies, and tried to separate treasure from dross. The problem was that he felt anything that passed through their hands was something to be treasured.
In the end, he’d whittled it down to four boxes each. Photos, of course and a few funny knick-knacks but also the little pieces that spoke so eloquently of the lives lost. A worn piece of paper intricately folded that had the Slayer’s name scrawled on it, which when opened proved to be a clumsily written love note from someone named Andy; a framed diploma, proclaiming one Joyce Summers as a Master of Fine Arts; a scrap of ribbon tied around a lock of golden hair. These Spike touched reverently, trying desperately to find something to connect him to these women.
Just was he was about to finish up, he noticed a dark brown rectangle sticking out from under the bedskirt. He reached for it, and upon closer inspection it turned out to be a videocassette. It had no label, nothing to tell him what it was or if it should be saved. He sighed, knowing he’d have to watch it to and hoping it wasn’t anything private. He loved Joyce like his own Mum and he really didn’t want to find out she’d starred in some amateur blue film.
Taking the videotape downstairs, he popped it in the player and turned the volume all the way down. Spike didn’t want Dawn coming to investigate and seeing something unfit for tender eyes. Sitting back on the couch, Spike watched the dancing static.
The picture flickered and he sucked in a ragged breath. Green eyes, bright and sparkling, played over the screen. The Slayer, young and smiling, bouncing about in what was clearly a happier time. The camera pulled back and he saw Xander and Willow, also smiling and young.
A tear tracked down his cheek as he stared at the screen. This was something he never thought to see. Bloody hell, he never though he’d want to see it. The Scoobies, bright and fresh and carefree, cavorting like puppies. These children, who’d beaten back Angelus and that Mayor git and a Hell God, before all that fighting made them thin and worn and tired.
He heard Xander’s voice, faint and far away. The couch sagged and Xander’s voice again, asking where he’d found this.
“Nibblet asked me to go through Joyce an’ Buffy things. After…after we just packed’em up quick like. Didn’t really do much sorting, and Dawn figured it was time,” Spike replied hollowly. “Said she couldn’t really face doin’ it herself. Can’t say as I blame her.”
Spike couldn’t look at Xander. He couldn’t bear to turn away from those happy brown eyes and face the ones that looked so old, far older than they should. He wanted to stay with the Xander that smiled and laughed, wanted to wrap himself in those smiles.
“C-could you turn it off,” Xander asked him, voice shaky and thin.
He did turn to look then, trying to find in this man something of the boy on the screen. Angel had accused him of using them, all of them, for some pointless scheme. Spike knew what the old man really meant, though. Told him so, in cold and cruel words.
“What you mean,” Spike said chillingly, “ is that I’m using Xander. What you mean, Angelus, is that I’m trying to find a way to move on and you ain’t. You’re so full of shite sometimes, you know that?”
“Spike.” Angel’s voice, turned tender and soft, came damn near to making him cry.
“No, let’s get this out, shall we? You don’t think I’ll hurt them, do you? No,” Spike concluded. “You think I might make them happy and that’s eating you up.”
“Maybe,” Angel admitted. “Maybe I wonder if Xander’s right. Maybe I blame myself as much as he blames me. Maybe I wonder,” and here Angel’s voice broke.
“You wonder how you’ll ever live without her,” Spike finished, pulling the older vampire into a fierce embrace. “I know. I wonder the same thing. But, I can’t stop, Angel. Buffy told the Bit that dying was the work she had to do. This,” Spike gestured around him,” is the work that I have to do.”
“Why,” Angel whispered. “How can you do this? No soul, no Slayer, and you’re here.”
“Made a promise to a lady,” Spike told him gently. “Not saying I’m head over heels in love with the lad. Just saying he makes me feel less lonely. Maybe I can make him feel less lonely, too.”
Spike yanked himself out his memories and grabbed frantically at Xander’s now outstretched hand. The warmth, the sheer aliveness of that strong hand on his face, dried his tears. Xander was alive and here and Spike wanted nothing more than that for now.
“Don’t.” Xander’s hoarse command tore a fresh hole in old wounds.
“Don’t what?” Spike questioned gently. “Don’t touch you? Don’t feel? Sorry Xan, ‘m fresh out of miracles. I can’t make this stop hurting. I can’t give you back that.”
The look on Xander’s face was heart-rending. Stricken, Spike tried to interpret the shake of Xander’s head.
“She’s gone,” Xander spat, fingers clenching tightly in Spike’s grasp. “We can’t bring her back. There’s…shit! There’s nothing anyone can do, all right?”
Spike felt a flicker of irritation. The brunette thought he was talking about the Slayer. Why the hell would he talk about bringing the Slayer back when he’d nixed the plan himself? Xander was sorely in need of a good eye-opening.
“Not talkin’ about the Slayer,” he told Xander calmly, pulling away. “Meant you, twit. I can’t bloody well fix this for you. Can’t find any of that boy in you anywhere any more.”
Spike didn’t want the boy he’d seen on the telly. He remembered that boy, all puppy limbs and sweetly hurting eyes. That boy irritated the unlife out of him, reminded him so much of his human self. See me, notice me, love me. God, how it grated! He just wanted this intriguing and beautiful man to snatch a little of that annoying boy’s happiness for himself.
The thump and muttered curse from the kitchen startled them, and they both jumped. Spike grabbed the remote, stabbing it viciously and the smiling children faded from view. Xander inhaled sharply and asked, “Dawnie?”
Spike sighed, suddenly weary. “Yeah. Got her readin’ Peaches’ “Self-Help for Wankers” book. She’s not exactly turning cartwheels.”
Xander smiled at him, and Spike felt a slight leap in his chest. Huh, he thought, this must be what hope feels like. Interesting how a small smile could change your whole outlook on the world.
“So, you’re on a ‘torture Dawn’ kick now? What did she ever do to you,” Xander asked him teasingly.
Spike watched those brown eyes hungrily, wondering how it was possible for eyes to flirt like that. He pulled back from that thought, schooling his features into something resembling irritation. No need to act like a bigger ponce than he was.
“Silly chit had a go at Angel,” he explained in mock annoyance. “Bit’s getting entirely too cheeky for my taste. We’ll see how much she runs her yap after this,’ he finished with a grin.
“Yeah because you’re such a great example of patience and calm acceptance,” Xander sniped back happily. “Jesus, she’s being raised by the snarky undead. I don’t see how she could possibly be anything other than a pain in the ass.”
“And you have absolutely nothing to do with this?” Spike lifted an eyebrow, smirking. “Seem to recall someone calling himself ‘Mr.Funny’. Wouldn’t happen to sound familiar, would it?”
“On the advice of my attorney, I have no recollection of that,” Xander said innocently. “How about we take Dawn out tonight? I’m thinking burgers and soppy girl flick.”
“Sure,” Spike nodded. “Change that to co-eds and horror and it’s a date.”
Spike waited for the typical Xander retort, thinking how easy it was sometimes. Harder in places than it should be, but this had always been easy. The two of them, baiting each other was so sweet in its normality. Xander didn’t disappoint him.
“Okay first, ew! Second, not so big on the liquid diet, Third,” and Spike knew this would be Xander’s big blow, “who’s exactly will be sitting up with Dawn all night to make sure the scary man with the chainsaw doesn’t emerge from her closet.”
Yep, that was the big score. For all their dealings with real life monsters, the fake kind shouldn’t have scared them as much as it did. But after letting Dawn watch one “Friday the 13th” movie and spending two days protecting her from Freddy Kruegar, Spike had to concede that Xander was right. Well, concede it in his head because admitting it out loud was impossible.
“Who’ll sit up with me when I can’t get those weepy songs out of my head,” Spike yelled as Xander strolled away laughing.
He felt it before he heard it, the sudden chill descending over him and turning his bones to ice. The stomp of feet and the faint salt of tears had him on his feet and running, demon face to the fore. Damn Dawn and her mouth!
Face to face with a frightened Dawn, he collected himself. He wasn’t sure what he’d been planning to do. This was his girl, his Little Bit. He’d bite his own arm off before he’d hurt her. But, Xander belonged to him too, in some strange way that he really didn’t’ want to examine.
“I’m sorry,” she told him. “I…it just…I didn’t mean it.”
“’S not your fault, Bit,” he told her, all his 100 plus years pressing down on him. He’d had the right of it before. They were children, all of them. Children dressed up as adults, play acting at life. How the hell was he supposed to handle this.
“Just some things you shouldn’t stick your nose in, yeah?” Spike wanted to maker her understand, and he wasn’t at all sure he understood it himself. “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 emphatically, denying her words. “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’s voice, strained and sad, came from the doorway. “Because life sucks and I don’t know all the answers and Spike doesn’t.”
Yeah,” Spike agreed. “It was simpler, before. Before the chip, before she died, before before before.”
His whole existence was a series of befores. Before Drusilla, before the chip, before Buffy. Would he now measure everything as before Xander? He supposed he would and he didn’t know if he wanted that. He wanted to measure to his life in something meaningful. But what was more meaningful than loving and being loved?
“To be or not to be,” Dawn sniffled, her watery eyes staring at him hopefully. “That is the question.”
“It really truly is,” he agreed, smiling encouragingly. “I’m all for being, but sometimes not being wouldn’t be so bad.”
“I want popcorn,” Xander stated demandingly. “I want popcorn and movies and not being for now.”
“Can do that, pet,” Spike told him, holding out hand. “ ‘S what friends are for, right?”
Take my hand, Xander, he begged silently. Take my hand and say we’re friends. Give me that, luv and I won’t ask for more.
“Friends,” Xander agreed, grave and formal. “Not gay not in love friends.”
“You didn’t leave.” Dawn’s happy laughter echoed through the house as she launched at herself into Xander’s arms.
“Nope. I took a temporary leave of absence. Xander Harris doesn’t quit. HE gets fired.” Xander’s head shook and he gathered Dawn is his arms, moving towards the living room. Spike followed, basking in their presence.
Friends. The word lodged in Spike’s brain. How long had it been since he’d had a friend? The movie, something boring with lots of bad jokes, played and Spike kept thinking. Little pieces of himself jarred loose and tumbled around inside him.
What he felt for Xander wasn’t like his feelings for Dru or Buffy. He’d burned and froze for them, veering from one extreme to the other. The leftover remnants of William demanded a great love, one that shook down walls with its force and blasted skin from bones with its intensity. Now, as his hand crept closer and closer to Xander’s, he wondered if that was the only way to love.
When Xander’s hand slid neatly into his, he thought that maybe there was more than one way to love. Maybe love could be this, quiet and steady. Maybe and that was good enough for now.