Nothing the Same, Book 2
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapter will carry specific warnings.
Feedback & concrit: yes, please
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on.
Summary: sequel to Nothing the Same. Life goes on for Spike & Xander (and I know that summary sucks)
Previous parts here
Stirring drowsily, Xander tightened his arms around Spike and pressed a gentle kiss against his lover’s back before disengaging himself and rolling out of bed. He’d gotten used to the lack of a heartbeat and breathing in the body in bed with him but it still occasionally gave him a wiggins and, except when he was really tired, he didn’t generally linger in bed with the sleeping Spike.
Awake-Spike was another story altogether. Awake, it was impossible to think of Spike as a corpse. He was too alive: talking, fidgeting, pacing, Spike was almost constantly in motion. Even their quieter times, snuggling on the couch or falling asleep together, Spike would be stroking his hair, a quiet rumbling sounding deep in his chest that Xander was sure, despite Spike’s vehement denials, was the vampire equivalent of a cat purring. He’d stopped teasing Spike about it though, because mentioning it invariably led to it stopping and Xander loved to hear the soft contented noise that said all was well in Spike’s world.
Padding quietly into the bathroom, Xander smiled as he remembered the previous night. Too bad he and Spike couldn’t spend the next month or so in the apartment having sex like they’d had last night without the rest of the world intruding. As he relieved himself, he thought resignedly that that would never happen unless they moved off the Hellmouth and that wasn’t likely to happen in the near future, even if he wanted to. As he’d once told Spike, it might suck sometimes, but Sunnydale was his home.
Washing his hands, he shook off his pessimistic thoughts and beamed proudly into the mirror at the sight of Spike’s renewed claim mark at the juncture of his neck and shoulder. He traced the mark with one finger, something that Spike did a lot and Xander often found himself doing in quiet moments when he was thinking about Spike. When Angelus had first bitten him there, Xander had gone out of his way to hide the mark, even from himself. Now that Spike had obliterated Angelus’ teeth marks, overlying them with his own, Xander wanted to flaunt the mark. He sometimes wished he had someone he could show it off to but there really wasn’t anyone. He was too worried about Giles’ reaction to let him see it. Although he suspected Giles knew that he and Spike were more than friends, he wasn’t sure. Giles probably guessed but the older man seemed content not to discuss the situation, whether from innate British reserve or from not wanting to have his suspicions confirmed. He could show it to Oz, but that would involve a lot of explanations because Oz would just think it was Angel’s bite mark since Oz knew he’d been bitten by Angel there. Oz knew about his relationship with Spike but actually talking about it in detail seemed too girly, plus Oz’s own reserve could make even Giles seem chatty. Mrs. Summers and Mr. Olsen were out. Mrs. Summers was too recently in the know and he still hadn’t fulfilled his promise to talk to Mr. Olsen about the Hellmouth. Starting off with “I’m dating a vampire and look he bit me” was probably not the way to go. Squelching the wistful thought that he’d once had two friends he could share anything with, including this, Xander reminded himself that he was dating his best friend, and that was the only reason he didn’t have someone to share this with - because Spike already knew about it.
He had an odd assortment of friends these days, true, but they meant a lot to him. Which reminded him again that it was way past time he followed through on his promise to talk to Mr. Olsen. He’d go see Mr. Olsen before his regular visit with Giles. He hadn’t seen the old man since shortly before Acathla and he missed talking to him.
That decided, he stepped into the shower. As he washed the remnants of last night’s fun and games off, Xander sighed over the practical difficulties of life at the factory. There was no phone, for one. No one but Oz actually knew where he was living now and even Oz didn’t know the exact address. Given that sharing the address of Spike’s last home had gotten it burned to the ground, he wasn’t sure he wanted people to know the address. He certainly couldn’t have people dropping by, in any case. All of which meant that there was no way for anyone to contact him. It wasn’t a problem right now but, sooner or later, someone was going to need to get ahold of him.
And then there was the fact that Spike was supporting him. He was fine with not paying rent, because Spike would have found a new place to live, whether or not Xander was living with him. Spike had chosen this place in part because the apartment was human-friendly, which gave Xander a warm glow whenever he thought about it, but the factory was Spike’s home. Besides, it wasn’t like Spike was paying rent either. Not paying rent to a squatter didn’t set off Xander’s guilt-o-meter. What did set it off was that he wasn’t contributing anything towards the food, which was pretty much entirely for Xander. Sure, Spike shared food with him because he liked the taste but it didn’t nourish the vampire. Free-loading on your parents was one thing - they were supposed to take care of you. But not contributing anything to the household expenses in his lover’s house bothered Xander. Which meant he needed to find a way to earn money. Maybe Mr. Olsen would have an idea.
Shutting off the water with a sigh, Xander wished all the little stuff wasn’t such a constant worry. When he and Spike were awake and together, everything was great but doubts and problems crept in whenever they were apart, which was way too much of the time. As he toweled himself off, he wondered why happily ever after was so complicated in real life. If his life was a movie, right after Acathla was defeated there would have been a flourish of romantic music and a lingering kiss silhouetted against a brilliant sunrise before the closing credits rolled and every member of the audience would have gone home knowing Spike and Xander would live happily ever after. If they ever started making sequels where the happy couple had money troubles and their friends didn’t accept them, no one would go see it.
As he knocked on the Olsens’ door, Xander felt only a trace of the nervousness he’d felt when he’d gone to talk to Mrs. Summers that first time, armed with his carefully polished story about Buffy and Angel. Maybe he was just getting used to having serious talks with people about awkward things or maybe it was just that he had a sneaking suspicion that what he’d come to say wasn’t going to be a complete surprise to Mr. Olsen.
It had been over a month since he’d seen Mr. Olsen but things had been kind of busy, what with moving in with Spike and saving the world and all. Now that everything had settled down, he was glad he’d thought of coming here today. He wanted to see how Mr. Olsen was doing and wasn’t leaving until he’d talked to him about Sunnydale, he wasn’t going to chicken out about it this time. Besides, it had gone so well with Mrs. Summers, he figured he was ready to tackle Mr. Olsen.
As the door swung open, he grinned. “Hey, Mr. Olsen. Long time.”
Twenty minutes later, they’d covered that Mrs. Olsen was out of town visiting her sister for two weeks and that Xander had moved out of his parents’ house and was now living with the friend he’d told Mr. Olsen about earlier that year. He didn’t say anything else, hoping that Mr. Olsen would just assume they were roommates. Xander figured that someone of Mr. Olsen’s generation wouldn’t like the idea of Spike and him being a couple and he was planning on covering enough wacky subjects for one conversation already, no need to get into “oh, by the way, I’m gay” as well. After they’d caught up with what each other had been doing - highly edited on Xander’s part, he said that he wanted to talk to Mr. Olsen about something.
“This is going to sound completely crazy, so I’m just going to blurt it out, ok?” On the way over, Xander had finally decided to go with the Spike information method, rather than beating around the bush. It had seemed like a good idea at the time but now, faced with the lined face of the elderly man in front of him, he was having panicked thoughts about heart attacks, strokes, and aneurisms. Mrs. Summers had looked like she was going to faint for a moment when Spike had just laid it out for her without warning and Mr. Olsen had to be a good 20 years older than her. Having serious second thoughts, Xander found he was dithering, not sure how to proceed. Maybe something more indirect would be better than springing it on him.
Mr. Olsen looked at him curiously and waited patiently as Xander found his promised blurting drying up.
“Umm…have you ever noticed…” his question died unfinished. Vampires? Demons? Spells affecting the entire population? Ok, maybe not that blunt. “Does… does it ever seem to you like Sunnydale is kind of a weird town?” Xander finally managed to ask. Yep, blurting was not happening here.
Mr. Olsen smiled. “Well, it’s to be expected. It is a Hellmouth,” he answered genially, like a jaded New Yorker talking about muggings - “it’s the Big Apple, comes with the territory.” Xander’s gaped at him, his Plan B gentle approach completely derailed.
“You know?” Ok, that sort of came out in a bleat, but at least his voice was working again.
“Third generation Sunnydaler, Xander.” He shrugged, “even humans can only keep their eyes closed for so long.”
Xander closed his jaw with a snap and then found himself grinning with relief. “Well, at least I don’t have to worry about you thinking I’m crazy.” His smile faded as it occurred to him that there was something odd about what Mr. Olsen had said. “Umm… ‘even humans’? You…you are human, aren’t you?”
Mr. Olsen twinkled at him. Literally. The whites of his eyes suddenly glowed green, the irises sparkling with gold. “Mostly. One of my grandfathers was a Lobarrrhyn demon,” he said, rolling the r.
Xander leapt to his feet, heart pounding and, for one second, fear froze him in his tracks. Then he remembered Mr. Olsen opening his door for the terrified kids on Halloween last year and when he’d come to this house freaking out over Spike being a vampire, how Mr. Olsen had listened to him with such grave attention. He remembered gardening with Mr. Olsen and his wife and the peace he’d found in their company when it had seemed like his life was falling apart and his fear vanished. Demon or human, he would never believe Mr. Olsen was a threat to him.
Seeing the anxiety in Mr. Olsen’s tense posture, he said the first thing that came to mind. “Cool.” He stared openly at Mr. Olsen’s changed eyes, entranced by the swirling gold flecks and hoped he wasn’t being really rude. Fortunately, Mr. Olsen didn’t seem to mind, just smiling as Xander sat back down slowly.
“Sunnydale has a fair number of demon-human hybrids, Xander. Don’t get me wrong, it also has a lot of blind, ignorant folks who don’t want to believe what they see with their own eyes.” Mr. Olsen’s eyes shifted back to their normal faded blue as he continued. “It’s a good town for peaceful demons to settle in. No-one notices if their neighbor has an odd purple flush to their skin, or if they always seem to wear hats.” He laughed as he caught Xander surreptitiously examining his skin. “Just an example, son. Most of my differences don’t show.”
“Most of them?” Xander wondered when exactly he’d become someone who was more intrigued than freaked when someone he knew told him - and showed him - that they were part demon. Sometime after Spike and Oz, he figured.
They talked for a long time: about Lobarrrhyn demons and other demons and part-demons living on the Hellmouth. Mr. Olsen didn’t mention names but he talked about people he knew who lived quietly in Sunnydale and elsewhere, some passing as fully human, some just keeping a low profile. Xander was fascinated to learn that there were demon-friendly businesses in town, either run by demons or by non-prejudiced humans in the know. He told Mr. Olsen about his demon study course and Mr. Olsen offered to lend him some of his own books which dealt with the peaceful, inconspicuous demons who were often not mentioned in the more common demon texts.
“After all,” he said with his slow smile, “it’s much more interesting to write about a 9-foot tall, horned shinzik demon who kills everything in its path than about small, timid creatures like the k’thyssn who live in caves and are deathly afraid of humans.”
Mr. Olsen had not been surprised to learn that Spike was a vampire. When Xander had hesitantly broken the news, the old man had just laughed. “You must admit, Xander,” he said with an impish smile, “your story last year about your friend the bank robber was rather thin.” Xander looked sheepish, then laughed himself as Mr. Olsen went on. “How did you put it? That he robbed banks ‘because that’s just who he is?’” He shook his head disbelievingly.
“Hey, I worked hard on that story,” Xander protested, still laughing.
“And that’s the most frightening thing you’ve ever said to me.” A mock sigh and another disappointed shake of his head. “Storytelling is a lost art in this country.”
Xander asked Mr. Olsen’s opinion about finding a summer job and Mr. Olsen offered to give him a list of people who could use a little help around the house: gardening, minor repairs, furniture moving and so on. Some were getting too old to keep up their houses, some, he warned, were demons who couldn’t do their own yard work and outside repairs because their differences showed. He promised to have the list ready in a day or two and Xander promised to find some way to get a phone by then and that he would give Mr. Olsen the number as soon as he had one.
Xander left the Olsens’ house excited by the prospect of unskilled but not boring work and by his new understanding of Sunnydale’s hidden side. Learning that there was a large demon population in town more concerned with living quietly and raising their families than with murdering and pillaging was amazing. In Mr. Olsen’s world, demons were no more likely to be vicious killers bent on world domination than humans were. You took sensible precautions and got on with your life.
“Come in, Xander.”
Giles’ voice was without its usual welcome and Xander hesitated in the doorway. It was his regular time to visit and, as always, he’d knocked to signal his arrival then immediately stuck his head inside before Giles had to fumble with the knob. Wondering if it was a bad time for some reason, he stepped the rest of the way in and saw that the dining room table that he and Giles studied at was empty of the usual pile of books for the day’s lesson. “What’s up?”
“I understand that you took it upon yourself to inform Joyce Summers that Buffy was the Slayer.” It was a flat accusation and Xander phrased his answer carefully. He didn’t want to admit that Spike was the one who’d spilled the beans. Giles was still being remarkably accepting of Spike and he didn’t want to risk messing that up.
“I didn’t plan on telling her, but I’m not sorry it happened.” Xander felt like an idiot for not foreseeing that Mrs. Summers would have already told Giles about their talk but he’d gotten a bit distracted after leaving her house. And he was so not thinking about last night here at Giles’ house.
“You had no right to share that information without Buffy’s knowledge or consent. It was her decision whether or not to tell her mother, not yours.” Despite the mildness of the actual words, the reprimand was blistering and his anger was obvious.
“Giles, ordinarily, I’d agree with you but Buffy created this situation, not me.” Xander crossed his arms stubbornly, not willing to back down even in the face of Giles’ anger. He’d been biting his tongue on this subject for a long time but, now that it was on the table, he was going to say what he thought. “Buffy’s the one who ran off and left us to clean up the mess and the biggest part of that mess is her mother.” Frankly, Xander thought that Buffy should show have some concern for Giles as well - it wasn’t like she didn’t know he’d been tortured by Angel, but Giles had never shown the slightest resentment over her running away, so he let that part lie, knowing the librarian wouldn’t appreciate an attack on Buffy on his behalf.
“Buffy is a 17-year old girl who had just killed the man she loved to save the world. However unwise that love may have been, you must acknowledge that it was genuine. I think she is entitled to a little difficulty in coping with that.” Giles wasn’t backing down either.
“Buffy’s a 17-year old who has been making life and death decisions for a long time,” Xander shot back. “And she didn’t kill a man, she killed a vampire, something she’s been doing for years. Leaving her mother hanging for a month with no word is way more slack than she deserves.”
“You have scarcely taken that kind of position about vampires in the past.”
“I didn’t say it was my position but it’s sure as hell has been hers.” Xander stopped himself before he went any further into why he thought Buffy’s “all vampires but Angel” viewpoint was so hypocritical. That really wasn’t the issue and it wasn’t like Giles didn’t know his opinion on that subject.
Holding both hands up in a surrender gesture, he continued less heatedly. “All I meant was that she’s had a lot more experience with death than your average teenager and frankly, a month is a bit long of a vanishing act to pull, especially when she’d been planning to kill Angel for a long time. It wasn’t exactly a surprise when it happened.”
“She was prepared to kill Angelus, not Angel. If Angelus had been the one to die, I have no doubt that Buffy would have been able to accept it and wouldn’t have left.”
“Well, whose fault is that? If she and Willow hadn’t done the spell behind our backs, that wouldn’t have happened.” Not to mention that he didn’t think Buffy would have handled Angelus’ death any better than Angel’s, not after the way she’d delayed confronting him for so long.
“That is hardly justification for you going behind her back to reveal Buffy’s secrets to her mother.”
“That’s not why it happened.” Xander knew that Spike hadn’t told Mrs. Summers the truth to get back at Buffy. Not that Spike wouldn’t have loved messing with Buffy that way, but that hadn’t been why he’d done it. “Giles, I’m sorry, but I think reassuring Mrs. Summers is a little more important right now than protecting Buffy’s secret identity.”
“Do you honestly think that revealing Buffy’s role as the Slayer will reassure Joyce?”
Xander’s answer came from bitter experience. “I think that leaving her in complete ignorance of what happened to… to her daughter is the worst thing we could do to her.”
Giles sighed and sat down heavily in one of the chairs at the table, looking immeasurably weary. After the heated exchange, the silence was deafening. He stirred after a long moment and said quietly: “Given that the cat is well and truly out of the bag, I suppose we will just have to live with the situation as best we can.”
Xander sat down too. “She actually seemed to handle it pretty well,” he offered.
Giles shot him a dubious look. “We can only hope that Buffy copes with the news favorably upon her return.”
“Yeah, there is that.” Personally, Xander thought the chances were slim to none that Buffy would graciously accept his interference in her personal life. It would be fun to be a fly on the wall for that conversation between Buffy and her mother. There was a core of steel in Joyce Summers that he’d never seen in Buffy. In a confrontation between the two, he’d back Mrs. Summers over Buffy any day. In fact, there was no comparison. Even frantic and nearly out of her mind with worry, Mrs. Summers had a warmth and friendliness that Buffy was sadly lacking.
“Ummm, so, are we ok?” Xander asked eventually, hoping that Giles wasn’t going to throw him out. He wanted to adopt Mrs. Summers as his mother and he’d come to feel something similar for Giles. Somewhere between father and mentor, Giles had become very important to him in the last month as he’d gotten to know the man inside the Watcher.
“Of course, Xander.” Giles looked almost surprised. “Being angry with someone over something they’ve done doesn’t mean it has to be the end of the relationship.”
Xander eyed him suspiciously. That had sounded very much like commentary about himself and Willow, but Giles was gazing innocently at him as if double meanings were the province of another person entirely. “Shall we continue with your studies?” Giles asked and Xander gratefully agreed.
Giles asked him to retrieve several books from the shelves in the living room. As he returned with his arms full and began setting the books down on the table, Giles spoke, a little too casually. “Xander, one more question about your talk with Mrs. Summers.”
Already flipping through the pages to the section they were working on, Xander answered absently, “What’s that?”
“Why exactly was Spike there?”
Spike woke as usual as his internal clock told him the afternoon was waning. The windows in the bedroom were covered with both blinds and heavy blackout curtains. The one drawback to the factory was that there wasn’t a suitable below-ground or windowless room for his apartments. Except for Xander, Spike would have boarded up the windows, eliminating the danger of sunlight entirely. But humans suffered from the heat of summer more than vampires did and he wanted the windows to be able to be opened for ventilation for Xander’s sake.
As always, Xander was not there when he awoke, a fact that Spike disliked intensely. He thoroughly enjoyed waking with his boy still in the bed, sleep mussed and adorable as he gradually woke up, brown eyes slowly clearing until they were smiling warmly at him, love in their depths. It was hard to let Xander wander around unsupervised during the day and Spike struggled against his need to forbid it, to require that Xander stay with him always, like a proper Claimed human. Most Claimed humans were Pets, kept as favored toys for their Master’s entertainment and discarded when they no longer amused. Few lasted as long as a decade before being turned or killed.
Xander was among those rare Claimed humans who had the potential to become a Consort and Spike wanted that. The physiological changes that came with elevation to Consort status would ensure that Xander stayed by his side for far longer than an ordinary human lifespan. After losing Dru, Spike didn’t think he could bear losing Xander - not to human death or for any other reason. But Xander wasn’t ready for that step and Spike knew it.
Xander had come a long way in the time Spike had known him but he was still young, even by human standards, and still developing both physically and mentally. Emotionally, he wasn’t ready to be asked to commit to Spike for a lifetime and Spike knew he’d lose Xander if he asked too soon. Xander would let his life-long insecurities overwhelm him and refuse, thinking he wasn’t worthy of the honor. But Xander’s self-confidence was growing and Spike could wait. He could be patient when the goal was worth it, and there was no question in his mind that Xander was worth it.
In the meantime, Spike simply had to grit his teeth and give his boy his freedom, despite the cost to himself. Xander stayed with Spike willingly but try and control him and that willingness would vanish like smoke and so would Xander.
Having thought he’d gotten safely through the conversation without that particular factoid coming to light, Xander was caught completely off guard.
“Uh…Mrs. Summers asked if she could talk to him. Well, not him, really, but ‘Angel’s relative’. I mean, when I told her the Angel committed suicide story, I told her I’d heard it from a relative of Angel’s, and she asked to talk to that person, which was Spike.” Xander winced at his own nervously convoluted explanation but Giles had stopped looking so grim and now looked almost amused, so maybe his incoherence had been a good thing.
“Spike agreed to act the part of ‘Angel’s relative’ for Mrs. Summers?”
“Well, he kind of is a relative of Angel’s, in a demon-y way.”
“Xander, why is it that when I telephoned your parents’ house, your mother informed me that you no longer lived there?”
“Because I don’t?” He smiled nervously, knowing it hadn’t been as much of a non-sequitur as it sounded. He wasn’t ashamed of living with Spike, just worried about Giles going ballistic over it, so he hadn’t gotten around to mentioning it yet. Which wasn’t the same as lying, he reassured himself. He just hadn’t volunteered the information and hadn’t thought it would come up. Since he was seeing Giles everyday, it hadn’t occurred to him that Giles would call his parents’ house looking for him. Apparently, he’d been upset enough after talking to Mrs. Summers that he’d wanted to talk to Xander immediately.
“Are you living with Spike?”
“Are you going to go nuts if I say yes?”
Giles shook his head. “No, but I am worried about you. That is a large step, especially for someone your age, even if Spike were human - which he most decidedly is not. Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
“Well, know what I’m doing is probably a bit strong…” Xander admitted. “But I’m happier than I ever was living at my parents’ house.”
Giles looked unhappy at the reminder that all was not copasetic in the Harris household but didn’t say anything about it. “Spike is a vampire, Xander. While they are certainly capable of emotions, they are not human emotions.”
“I know. But there’s a lot of similarities. Spike won’t hurt me.” Although he suspected that Giles had guessed that he and Spike were lovers, Xander didn’t want to come right out and say it, because if he was wrong, he so didn’t need to add his sexuality into the exciting mix of emotional bombshells this conversation was already covering.
“You may be right about that in the short term, Xander, but vampires don’t think of relationships as something short term - something that lasts a few months or even a few years. They think in terms of decades and centuries, nor do they see the need to accept the normal human aging. To keep you with him, Spike will want to turn you, make you into a vampire so that he can keep you by his side. Are you prepared for that?”
Giles’ voice was concerned and Xander hadn’t been so shaken since Angelus’ had tried to play his mind games with Xander about Spike’s intentions. This was worse, because it was obvious that Giles was genuinely worried, not being spiteful or melodramatic.
“No,” he said frankly, “I’m not. But it’s not something that’s an issue right now, Giles, and I don’t think it will be for a long time. And, hey - Sunnydale, my chances of making it to graduation alive aren’t real great according to the statistics. The memorial pages in the yearbook always outnumber the activity pages.”
Giles still looked troubled. “Xander, I don’t want to pry but if you have moved in with Spike because of your family situation, there are other options.”
Surprised that Giles had jumped to that conclusion, Xander’s brows shot up. “What? No. Honestly, that’s not the reason I moved in with Spike. My dad can be a real jerk but I’m not living with Spike to get away from him. That’s just a perk.” He tried a lopsided smile on the librarian but Giles didn’t respond in kind.
“I just wanted you to be aware that there are other options, if you need them,” Giles said seriously. “If you ever wish to stop living with Spike, you are welcome to stay here if you are uncomfortable staying with your parents.”
Xander was touched. “Thanks, Giles. I don’t think I’ll ever need to take you up on that, but it’s really nice of you to offer.”
Unbelievably, Giles let the subject drop and Xander settled down, a little shakily, to the familiar demon texts. Next time he decided to have a serious conversation with both his surrogate father and his adopted grandfather, he was scheduling them on different days.