Title: Familiar Things
Pairing: pre-slash S/X
Rating: PG, just a few swear words
Summary: Xander's thoughts while building Buffy's coffin, and some unexpected comfort. (Not morbid, I swear)
Timeline: Day or so after Buffy has died
Unbeta'd, just posting on a whim. Any suggestions and comments welcome, yea or nay-ish.
x-posted to </a></b></a>bloodclaim
His hands were on automatic, moving and lifting and nailing as required. Even though he had never built a coffin before he knew the basics of what was needed, so he just let it flow, a soothing background to the chaotic thoughts bouncing in his head.
Flashes of his life, of the people in his life were going through his head one by one. Willow, Joyce, Jesse, Giles, Anya...
He came to Dawn and his hands faltered, losing the rhythm. He had a familiar default image of the Dawnster, not really focused on but automatically popping into his head whenever he thought of her. It was her standing in her living room, arms crossed but body relaxed as she yelled out the required 'annoying little sister' comment upstairs to Buffy, with the smirky smile that was happy and annoyed at the same time. That was how his brain pictured his Dawn, little sis extraordinaire. But now when his brain thought 'Dawn' the usual image was blurred, seen through a picture of her standing over her sister's body, in that ridiculous robe-y dress with bloodstained rips. What made him pause wasn't just the horror of the new image but the reasons behind it. Dawn had lost her mother already, and now her sister. She was it, the last one standing in the Summers family, and no matter her physical age now, ...now she was a grown-up. And standing there in that awful dress she hadn't looked like a teenager playing dress-up anymore, she had looked like a young woman made old before her time, battered, bruised, and shaky, but still standing.
He turned off his mind for a minute, concentrating on the wood, looking and judging to make sure it was right, anything to not think the thoughts he was thinking. It worked long enough for his heartbeat to settle again, the feel of tools and smooth wood comforting. But now his mind decided to jump right into the deep end, and when Buffy went through his head all he could see was her body lying on the ground. All the other pictures were dim, and boy did he have a lot of Buffy images, sitting in the cafeteria, walking together on patrol, around tables filled with books in the library and the Magic Shop. The way her face looked with only the light from the TV to light it, and the way she smelled when he hugged her or hid behind her. His Buffy. His friend who was dead forever and would never fight him for the second cookie from the bag (they always let Willow have the first one since it was usually squashed in some way, but the second one was war), the odd way she said 'calculator' (it was pronounced right but just, someway her voice sounded was odd when she said it and he had to fight down major unmanly giggles every time).
This wasn't like when Joyce died, because, yes, unexpected, but she was older, and maybe it's hardwired into human brains that 'older' means 'going to die before you do', because it was upsetting and heart-hurting, but not shocking.
It was different from Jesse, because they had been friends but not literal I'll-die-for-you friends, and he had been so young when it happened, so unaware of death as it related to Xander Harris. Now he was an ancient twenty year old who had seen things that he would never have believed in his wildest dreams were true.
And he would have thought that his regular head-image of Buffy would have something to do with sex, because hey, teenage boy who had jerked off to many a Buffy image before. But his image was of her sitting on a blanket outside, drinking a coke, relaxed in the sunlight that let her be slightly more off-duty than during night time when her enemies were out in force. It wasn't obvious to everyone but the tension was always there as soon as the sun went down, the awareness that somewhere she wasn't at that moment, someone was being hurt, and it hurt her, no matter that little thing called reality that meant she couldn't save everyone, couldn't be more than one place at one time.
So his head was filled with dead people now, and another of his best friends had joined the list. Not exactly something to advertise when meeting new people: hey, out of three really good friends I've had in my life two of them are now dead! Wanna get some coffee and see of you can join this exclusive club?
It was a stray thought of that last fight for the second cookie that broke him.
Fingers went numb, tools fell, and his chest was tight, but he fought to keep the sounds inside even as his knees gave out and his nose stung and felt hollow inside his head. Men could cry, nothing wrong with that, but not this kind of crying where he couldn't breathe and snot came suddenly and he couldn't see no matter how hard he blinked and tried to. The image was so bright, smile and twinkle in her eye as they both tried to remember, checking the mental unspoken scoreboard to see whose turn it was to win. Fingers clutching and she always had the advantage with her damn nails, subtle shifts of shoulders and plastic making that squeal as it was strained between them, crinkling and bending. She had pouted as she realized it was his turn, teasingly holding on for a few extra seconds before letting go with a 'this time' look in her eyes. Suddenly all he wanted was for it to have been her turn last time, stupidly wishing she had gotten to have the second cookie, that he had always given her the second cookie, because what the hell did it matter now in the face of her being gone forever? That he would always be one up on her, and it was wrong in a way he couldn't take.
When he could think again he felt cold and wet soaking his ass, dew, his mind finally supplied, from where he had sat down, make that slid down beside the coffin with his head resting against the wood and fingers pressed to his face. He had been lifted away from the ground and onto his knees, and the chill of air hitting his wet jeans brought him to awareness finally of his change in his position. He was resting against a hard chest and fingers moved through his hair, his still snotty nose pressed into a soft smelly leather collar and his hands had a death grip on a cotton tee shirt. They were both shaking hard, pressed together knee to chest to shoulders, rocking slightly and the arm not around his shoulders was around his waist, a strong hand against his back holding him steady.
"Not your fault, not anyone's fault, just happened and she's gone and you can't fall apart on me, gotta be strong, strong for the nibblet and Red and even the damn Watcher, pet. Gotta be strong for me, cause.. I need you to be, ok? Gonna be ok, gonna be strong...
He tuned out the soft mutterings and concentrated on catching his breath. Let the pain wash out over his cheeks and soak into the already damp leather he was clutched against. Strong. Yes. He could do that.
He had a great role model, after all, for being strong.
He made a movement, pulled a hand loose and up to his face. He eased backward, not breaking the hold but changing it, cool hands shifting to rest on his shoulders.
"Better then, whelp?"
He thought about it and nodded. "Better."
"Right then, can't stand to see a man doing all this namby-pamby caterwauling. 'S not...manly."
His head came up at that and met dark blue eyes in red-rimmed lids and a sheepish smile.
"No, not manly, but hey, no one invited the Big Bad to this private session of unmanly-ness." He squeezed a wrist lightly and shifted back to lean against one of the legs of the workhorses supporting the coffin. Spike moved beside him and mirrored his pose, legs straight out and head tilted back to look at the sky.
"I suppose she's up there somewhere, looking down and getting the shock of her unlife at seeing the Big Bad comfort a lowly Scooby?" he said idly. "Or did she get pulled into some other dimension? A hell dimension? Wait-" Even as the words left his mouth horror flooded him. "She's not in a hell dimension, right? She went to a good place, not a hell, she doesn't belong-"
Hands shook him. "Have you lost it, mate? 'Course she's in heaven, or whatever you call it. Gave her life for her sis and the world, she's not going to go to hell." A hard look and Spike went back to his place, looking up. "All you do-gooders get to go to heaven." The smallest of sighs ghosted out. "Hell's reserved for evil things. Things like me."
What do you say to the hard truth?
But, just how hard was that truth? Spike had done evil things, sure, lots of evil things, but he had done some very good things, too. And done them without a soul to inform him of right from wrong, just going with it and choosing to do the 'right' thing, even if his motives weren't always pure. Xander sighed. It's late and my head hurts and I'll think all these hard thoughts later. When I'm not so... hurting.
"Well, hell's not here yet, and this is one tired and manly carpentry man who needs to sleep almost as bad as I need a shower." He heaved himself up and started picking up tools and putting them back into the toolbox.
"Didn't want to say anything, but yeah, not exactly fresh as a daisy," Spike snarked, faint grin in place. "Not even one that's been in the rubbish bin for a week."
"Says the guy that lives in a crypt."
They made their way to the back porch tossing insults back and forth, enjoying the familiar pattern. Xander opened the door and turned back to Spike with a worried look on his face.
"You're staying, right? Basement's not as gloomy as mine was, but hey, old sock smell is a universal goodness for basements, even the basement of an all girl house."
Spike nodded and jerked his head toward the rest of the house. "Had a chat with the Watcher while you lot were gone. Convinced him I want to help and that the Bit needs all the people she can have here, even ones of the evil undead persuasion. Agreed to mind my manners and he agreed to let me help. Wouldn't do for some big nasty to come in and wreak havoc, now would it? That's my job, even if I have been slacking lately." He grinned evilly. "Must be all the slacker company I've been keeping lately."
Xander just waved a hand, suddenly too tired to snip back. Spike went in and watched him lock the door.
"Going to get some rest now, mate? Not looking as not good as you usually do."
"Yeah, fangless, gonna pass out on the couch. See you-" he caught sight of the kitchen clock. "Later today."
He walked on toward the living room, but stopped and looked over his shoulder.
"And thanks, Spike."
"Yeah, you're welcome Xander." Blue eyes laughed at him as a stern voice muttered, " And never mention it again. Never."
Xander smiled and answered the pull of the sofa waiting for him.
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