Pairing: Spike/Xander (of, course)
Rating: PG13 - NC-17 Individual chapters 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.
Previous parts here
From Chapter 8
“Hey, Mrs. Summers, sorry to interrupt,“ Xander began as he walked into the kitchen, seeing Mrs. Summers talking to someone who had her back to Xander. Mrs. Summers’ broke off what she was saying and looked at him over the top of her guest’s head. “I’m just going to grab the ladder and start working on the back,” he began, when the visitor swung around to face him.
It was Buffy.
“Hello, Xander.” There was a slight tremble in Mrs. Summers’ voice and her eyes were bright with tears but it was obvious they were tears of joy.
“What are you doing here?”
Buffy sounded more surprised than anything and, for Mrs. Summers’ sake, Xander just said quietly: “Welcome back, Buffy.” His gaze swept over the two women then back towards the front door where a small duffle bag was sitting. It was obvious Buffy had only arrived a short time ago. “Look, this is a bad time. I’ll just go.”
He stepped back as he spoke, intent on getting out of there as quickly as possible. He and Buffy were always a volatile mix and he didn’t want to ruin the homecoming for her mother.
“Why are you here?”
“Xander’s been helping me out around the house while you were gone, Buffy. He and Spike have been a godsend.”
Xander winced, wondering if there was any way he could get out of there before the explosion.
“Spike?” Yep, there was the furious glare that had punctuated so many of his exchanges with the Slayer. “You introduced Spike to my mother.”
He opened his mouth to say…something but Mrs. Summers beat him to it. “I asked to meet him, Buffy.”
Buffy stared at her mother in disbelief. “Are you telling me that you invited him into the house?”
Buffy’s hand shot out, grabbing Xander’s arm in an iron grip, stopping him in his retreat towards the front door. “You brought Spike into my home? Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Buffy, that’s enough. Spike is welcome here. He and Xander have been a real help this summer.”
“Mom, you don’t understand. Spike isn’t someone you want to invite into your home. He’s dangerous and Xander should never have introduced you to him.”
“Because he’s a vampire?” Mrs. Summers’ gaze was level and Buffy gasped in shock before turning an accusing glare on Xander.
“You told her? How dare you…” she began heatedly, shaking him by the arm she still held in an implacable grip, when her mother interrupted her again.
“Buffy, let him go. Now,” she ordered, when Buffy didn’t immediately release him.
Xander couldn’t help a sigh of relief when she finally let go. He was going to have some serious bruises from her grip, he thought ruefully, rubbing his arm.
“Xander, I apologize. You were right, maybe it would be best if you were to leave.” She smiled thinly. “Buffy and I need to talk. Why don’t you and Spike come over for dinner on Saturday, if you don’t have any other plans.”
Xander shot a glance at Buffy, who looked too shocked to protest the invitation. “Ummm, I’m not sure…”
“I’m sure. I’ll expect you two at 8:30, all right?”
Xander knew an irresistible force when it was inviting him to dinner. “We’ll be here.” He lifted a hand in a half-hearted wave and retreated rapidly, closing the door behind him and jumping down the stairs.
He wasn’t quite fast enough. Behind him, he heard faintly an outraged “Mom!” as he sprinted through the yard and out of earshot.
Dinner on Saturday. Maybe he could schedule an emergency root canal to get him out of it.
Spike’s eyes snapped open immediately as Xander entered their apartment. He was always aware of Xander’s movements around the apartment, especially when he came and went, but it was generally a peripheral thing, not something that jerked him out of a sound sleep.
Even sleeping, Spike was aware of his surroundings. It was an ability vampires developed as they gained experience or they didn’t survive long enough to become a Master. Spike had learned decades ago how to monitor his surroundings, maintaining a light thread of awareness no matter how deeply he slept. His senses extended throughout the apartment, and to a lesser extent to the entire building, like a shallow pool, alert to the slightest ripple troubling the surface. Xander was a familiar disturbance in the dormant net of his senses and Spike had long since ceased to react to Xander’s normal movements, tracking them easily in his sleep, without alarm or waking.
Today, though, he shot awake at Xander’s entrance, rolling to his feet and heading immediately for the kitchen where Xander was. Although not frightened, Xander was strongly agitated, tension rolling off him in a nearly visible cloud even as he stood, outwardly calm, staring out the kitchen window.
“Spike!” Xander yelped, startled, his head whipping around to stare at Spike as he stood in the doorway to the room, well back from the broad expanse of sunlight flooding in through the window. With a quiet oath, he immediately turned back towards the window and hastily pulled the heavy blind down and closed the curtain, darkening the kitchen and allowing Spike entry.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “I didn’t think you’d be up yet.”
“No worries, pet. What’s wrong?”
Xander’s troubled eyes met his. “Buffy’s back.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed. “Graced us with her presence again, has she?”
His thoughts raced as he considered the implications for his Territory and he repressed the automatic growl as he remembered the last time he had seen the Slayer - weeping great crocodile tears beside the closed vortex. Mourning the loss of her lover, Spike’s Sire, whom she had exiled, wounded, to a hell dimension with the bloody soul reinstated by her actions. Too stupid to even realize that she hadn’t killed him. Killing Angelus would have been far kinder than what she had done.
“Yeah, I know.” Spike looked at Xander in surprise and realized that the growl had escaped. Xander smiled wryly. “We managed to go almost 10 seconds before I pissed her off,” he said with a little huff of laughter, his right hand going up unconsciously to rub at his left bicep.
Spike glared at the arm suspiciously, his hand reaching out to gently push Xander’s aside, running sensitive fingers lightly over the area. He could feel a slight swelling and the added heat of extra blood in the area, signaling developing bruises. “She hurt you!” he hissed furiously.
“It’s no big deal, Spike,” Xander told him hastily. “She grabbed my arm to stop me. Hey, no need for that,” he exclaimed, looking askance at Spike’s demon features. “She was upset. She’d just found out that we told her mother about vampires and Slayers and she freaked. I left and we’re invited for dinner on Saturday,” he finished in a rush.
“The Slayer invited us to dinner?” Spike wondered if it was himself or the Slayer who’d lost their mind.
“No, doofus, her mother invited us to dinner.” Xander looked exasperated and Spike felt foolish. He’d obviously missed one of the turns in Xander’s rapid description of what happened. The Slayer wouldn’t invite them to dinner, not unless she found a way to slip poison into the food.
“She felt bad because, well, she wasn’t asking me to leave but she was agreeing that I needed to. And I think she wanted to make clear to both me and Buffy that she wasn’t going to stop seeing us, just because Buffy doesn’t like it,” Xander explained.
That pleased Spike. Joyce was a classy lady. Five minutes after getting their runaway kid back, most humans would be too scared to cross the kid in any way, in case they left again. Joyce had let them know they were still welcome, not quietly or behind her daughter’s back, but in-your-face-Buffy with an invitation to dinner. He could see Xander relax slightly as he slid back into human guise and he smiled at his boy.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, luv.” And he wouldn’t. Although he doubted that Buffy would be there, it would drive her crazy knowing that Spike had an open invitation to her home and was welcome to break bread with her mum. This could be fun.
Making a mental note to bring Joyce a bouquet of flowers, Spike’s eyes gleamed as he anticipated the evening, loftily ignoring Xander’s aggrieved sigh, until he realized that Xander was still tense and unhappy. Dropping his teasing façade, Spike looked searchingly at his boy.
“Something else wrong?”
Xander shook his head uncertainly. “Not really. It’s just…” He paused and Spike waited patiently for him to find the words to express what was worrying him. “I feel like a complete jerk, because I’m not happy she’s back.” Spike repressed a smile and his automatic reaction to compliment Xander for taking the evil point of view. Xander wouldn’t appreciate it, not right now.
Troubled brown eyes lifted from their study of the linoleum. “I should be happy for Mrs. Summers and Giles, even if I don’t care myself. And jeez - teenage runaway - that’s not exactly a safe job description. You’d think I’d be happy for her sake that she’s back home regardless of how I feel about her, but all I can do is worry about is whether her being back is going to screw up our lives.”
“Only natural, luv. Slayer’s hardly been a friend to you. No reason you should be throwing a party for her, now she’s back.” He cocked his head, still studying Xander. “There’s something else, isn’t there?”
Xander was staring at the linoleum again, avoiding Spike’s gaze, his hands stuffed into his pockets, shoulders hunched, and Spike’s lips tightened. Pretty much only one person still had this effect on Xander.
His boy had really come into his own over the summer and Spike often congratulated himself on letting Xander stretch his wings. Between the work his boy was doing on his own, demon study with the Watcher, and the training sessions with Spike, Xander had learned he was good at a number of things and his growing self-confidence was reflected in his posture. No longer did Xander hunch down, trying to make himself inconspicuous, hoping no-one would notice him and criticize him. His boy met the world with his head up and his eyes steady, having learned this summer that a lot of people valued him and accepted him for who he was. More importantly, Xander was comfortable with who he was now and no longer sought for approval outside himself. Not that Spike didn’t give it to him. His boy had had far too few people in his life that cared about him, much less told him they were proud of him.
“What’s she done now?” he growled.
“Buffy?” Xander asked, surprised.
Xander shook his head. “It’s not anything she’s done - recently,” he amended. “It’s more that seeing Buffy again made me realize something: that I’m more angry with Willow than I am with Buffy.” He gestured vaguely. “At first, I was really mad at both of them for almost getting you killed. And it’s not like I’ve forgiven Buffy or anything but when I saw her it was just ‘oh, no, she’s back, is she going to screw up our lives?’ It was only when I left that I realized I wasn’t angry, I was worried. I don’t know if it’s because Willow and I have talked about it and I know she’d do it again or what. I’m angry at what Buffy did to Giles and her mother by leaving town, but that’s it.” He looked at Spike and Spike could see the confusion and guilt in his eyes. “I don’t understand why I’m blaming Willow and not Buffy for what happened. I didn’t even realize I was mostly blaming her until now.”
“It’s because she betrayed you and because you used to be friends. Always hurts more when it’s a friend that screws you. With the Slayer, you’ve been seein’ the effect of her actions on people you care about, so that’s fresher in your mind. But every time you see the witch, you remember the spell and how she betrayed you.”
“That makes sense,” Xander said slowly.
“’course it does. Haven’t lived over a century for nothing, pet.”
That got him a fleeting grin. “When it comes down to it, I don’t really care if Buffy puts her own interests ahead of mine. I kind of expect her to. We’re not friends and we never were, so why should she care about the things that are important to me. I was pissed at the time because you don’t hide things from your allies that way and it lead to you getting hurt, but I’m not sure I ever really expected anything else from Buffy. Willow….”
“You expected more from her,” Spike prompted when Xander’s voice trailed off.
“Yeah. Even after everything that’s happened between us, we’ve known each other since kindergarten and she was one of my two best friends for all those years. I never thought she would care so little about my feelings and people who are important to me. The last time we talked, it was obvious she’d do it again. She’ll always choose Buffy over me and she’d be happy if you were dead. It’s like she thinks that, if you’re gone, I’ll go back to being what she wants me to be.”
“Not going to happen, luv.”
“Of course it’s not going to happen.” Xander’s head jerked up and he glared at Spike.
“Not what I meant. I meant that, even if I was gone, you’re not going back to who you were. You’ve changed too much and learned too much about who you really are.”
“You’d think that someone who claims she loves me could accept that, wouldn’t you?” Xander asked bitterly.
“No-one better at disappointing and hurting us than the ones who love us, pet.” He was certainly an expert on that. Angelus and Drusilla had both kicked the crap out of him emotionally on more than one occasion. Angelus had done it physically too.
“I should hate her for your sake, Spike. This shouldn’t all be about me. You could have died because she was holding back in that fight.”
“Didn’t die, though,” Spike said comfortably, with a shrug. “Slayer doesn’t matter enough to be worth holding a grudge against. ‘Sides, Slayers ’ve got a short shelf life. They don’t usually last long enough to get a good vendetta going.”
As he hoped, Xander laughed and smacked him. “That’s a terrible way to look at it, Spike.” It was Xander’s turn to look at Spike searchingly. “Does it bother you that I kind of want to not make an issue about it with Buffy for her mom’s sake?”
“No. I like Joyce. So long as the Slayer doesn’t come after me, I can put up with her for her mum’s sake.”
“Umm, so, do you think maybe you guys can agree to continue the truce between you?” The worry hadn’t faded from Xander’s eyes. “I know it was supposed to only be temporary but maybe you can agree to make it permanent.”
Not a surprise, that. Spike had always assumed that Xander would want the truce to continue if the Slayer came back. He’d thought about it several times before now, considering the effect of a truce with the Slayer on both the Court and demons who weren’t members of the Court. It would cause some trouble, no question, but nothing he couldn’t handle. Challengers would use it as an excuse for saying Spike wasn’t in control, wasn’t tough enough, but they’d find another excuse if that one didn’t exist.
What tipped the scales for him was Joyce. Just didn’t seem right to kill her daughter when she’d been so kind to him.
Spike put his arms around Xander, pleased when Xander slipped his own arms around Spike’s waist, resting his forehead on Spike’s shoulder. “If the Slayer’s willing, I can live with a truce,” he said, deliberately echoing the words he’d spoken last year on the same subject. Xander tightened his arms around Spike and relaxed for the first time since he’d gotten home.
Xander knocked hesitantly on Giles’ door, hating the fact that he was already changing his behavior because of Buffy. Instead of walking in like always, he waited for the Watcher to open the door, just in case Buffy was inside. He’d listened at the door for nearly a minute and only knocked when he hadn’t heard voices inside. He figured Buffy would have gone to see Giles yesterday, on her first day home, but he couldn’t be sure. She could have called and promised to stop by today. Or be planning on seeing him daily. Or…
He was making himself crazy with the second guessing. He’d decided that he wasn’t going to stop visiting Giles and studying with him and he was sticking to that decision until Giles told him otherwise. Nothing had changed.
Like he believed that for a second.
The door swung open and Giles stood there, looking mildly surprised to see him. “Hello, Xander. Come in.”
He didn’t need to ask if Giles knew. The aura of worry and stress that had clung to librarian all summer had dropped away like it had never been. Giles looked lighter, no longer weighted down by an intolerable burden. There was an irrepressible hint of a smile in his eyes and Xander was genuinely happy for him. “So, the prodigal has returned, I hear.”
Giles’ smiled broadly. “Yes. Yes, she has. It’s wonderful news.” He moved back from the doorway and Xander followed him inside.
The table they studied at was clear of books and Xander’s heart sank. “Would you rather….” he began, thinking that Giles might not have time for him anymore, now that his Slayer had returned.
“Hmmm?” Giles’ gaze followed his to the empty table and he looked back at Xander. “Certainly not. You had an assignment, as I recall.” He moved briskly to the bookcase and pulled out the book they were currently working with, bringing it back to the table and smiling at Xander, who just stood there, grinning like an idiot.
Sitting down, Giles opened the book. “What are the four primary traits by which Klantosh demons can be recognized?” he asked, as if it were an ordinary day, tactfully ignoring the relief that still colored Xander’s expression.
Pulling out a chair and settling down himself, Xander wondered what Giles would do if Xander suddenly hugged him. Probably sputter and get all British, he thought with a fond smile. “Horns at the back of their skull that curve down, a strip of fur, usually black or dark brown, running along their shoulders and down their arms…” he began.
British reserve had its place. Sometimes, you really didn’t need to say the words out loud.
“This is so going to be a disaster,” Xander said gloomily.
From the depths of the closet, Spike called back to him, “Oi, not going to disappoint a lady, are you? Thought you were supposed to be one of the good guys.”
“I’d rather disappoint her than have to apologize for killing her daughter.”
“‘m not going to be killing her daughter over dinner. Already told you, I can live with a truce if she can.” Spike emerged from the closet triumphantly. “Wear this one.” He tossed a dark blue silk shirt to Xander who snagged it in mid-air and slid into it with automatic motions, his mind clearly still on the potential for disaster inherent in a suburban dinner party featuring a Slayer and a Master Vampire.
Spike shook his head, moving to help straighten the collar. “It’ll be fine, pet. We’ll all be civilized for Joyce’s sake. ‘Sides, Slayer probably won’t even be there. Not like she was pining for our company while she was off contemplatin’ her navel.”
“Right,” Xander’s tone was beyond skeptical. “Buffy is going to let her mother eat dinner with William the Bloody while she skips off to the Bronze for the night. Please, we’ll be lucky if she isn’t trying to stake you before the hors d’oeuvres are served.”
Spike just smiled. Xander had been fussing about the dinner since Joyce invited them. Spike was looking forward to the evening - a spot of Slayer baiting and an evening with Joyce. Should be fun.
“Ready, pet? Don’t want to be late.” Spike went to the kitchen to grab the bouquet of flowers he’d nicked from a florist’s last night, ignoring Xander’s muttering that there was something wrong with evil vampires being worried about punctuality. Xander trailed him into the kitchen, tucking his shirt in, and looking worried.
“This is so going to be a disaster.”
“They’re beautiful, Spike. Thank you.” Mrs. Summers admired the enormous bouquet, turning it in her hands to see it from all sides before giving in to temptation and burying her nose in the middle of it to inhale the fragrance of the mixed flowers.
“Not half as lovely as you, Joyce,” Spike said gallantly. Xander shot him a disbelieving look but kept his mouth shut. Buffy rolled her eyes in disgust and Spike smirked at her.
“I’ll just put these in water,” Joyce said, heading towards the kitchen. “Have a seat in the living room, dinner will be a little while yet.”
Spike and Buffy eyed each other like duelists sizing up their opponent, which was pretty much what they were, Xander thought resignedly. He tugged on Spike’s arm, pulling him into the living room, trying to stay between Spike and Buffy. He wasn’t really worried that Buffy would stake Spike the second his back was turned but it never hurt to be cautious.
Spike sprawled with careless grace on the couch, making it clear by his actions that he was at home there and familiar with the room. Buffy gritted her teeth, much like she had when Spike had entered the house without an invitation. Spike was having far too much fun rubbing it in that he was a welcome guest in her home.
Joyce returned with the flowers in a vase which she placed on the table, giving them another admiring look. “Would you boys like something to drink?”
“The usual, Joyce, if it’s not too much trouble,” Spike answered.
“Of course. Xander?”
“Nothing, thanks.” Xander wondered if he should ask for a bucket of ice water for when Buffy’s head exploded. He began to relax slightly. Spike had given him his word that he wasn’t going to attack Buffy except in self defense and it was beginning to look like Buffy wasn’t planning on staking Spike during dinner either. So long as Spike’s heckling didn’t trigger homicidal impulses, it might even be fun to watch the two of them spar verbally.
“So, all settled back in?” he asked Buffy. He could do civilized.
Not surprisingly, Joyce answered. “School was the biggest problem and we’ve got that all settled, thank heaven.”
Spike turned a look of mock concern on Buffy. “Going to be tough, having to repeat a grade. Or will you be changing schools?” Xander wasn’t sure how the vampire did it but somehow Spike managed to convey the implication that Buffy would be going to a “special” school - something for delinquents or retarded kids, maybe both.
“I’ll be graduating on schedule at Sunnydale.” Buffy wasn’t nearly as good with innuendo, her tone just conveyed a prosaic ‘drop dead’.
“That horrible little rodent of a man was actually going to try and make her repeat a grade.” Mrs. Summers shook her head. “I had to threaten him with the school board and the Mayor to get him to see reason.”
“You threatened Principal Snyder?” Xander asked in disbelief. “That’s great!”
“Good on you, Joyce.”
“That man is unbelievable. All Buffy needs is a couple of make-up tests and he wasn’t going to let her take them. So, I just pointed out that if they didn’t allow her to take make-up tests, they would be stuck with her for two more years, instead of one. Principal Snyder seemed to feel that was a selling point.”
“Gee, thanks, mom.”
Xander almost choked, trying not to laugh. He would have killed to have seen Mrs. Summers in action as she confronted Snyder. He could just see the expression on Snyder’s face as Mrs. Summers sweetly pointed out that one of the worst troublemakers in the school could be there for one year, or two, take your pick.
“Well, Buffy, he made it so obvious he thought you were a problem that he left himself wide open.”
“That’s right, Slayer. You should always go for the vulnerable bits when you’re trying to stab someone in the heart.”
Spike’s smile held pure malice and Buffy gasped, white faced at the low blow. Xander froze, thinking Spike had gone too far and Buffy was going to erupt.
“Spike, that’s enough.” Joyce didn’t raise her voice but her stare pinned Spike and, astoundingly, Spike looked abashed.
“I don’t expect you and Buffy to be friends but there’s no need to be deliberately cruel.”
“He’s a vampire, it’s what he does,” Buffy said acidly.
“Nonsense. Spike is no more ‘just’ a vampire than you are ‘just’ a Slayer. The two of you worked together last year, I don’t see why that can’t continue.” She stood, as if that settled everything. “Let’s eat.”
Xander wanted to give her a round of applause. Not only had she beaten Snyder on his own turf, she had both Buffy and Spike cowed. Xander was so going to take lessons from her.
The dinner never got exactly comfortable, there were too many prickly topics and sly digs, but it wasn‘t anywhere near the violence-laced fiasco that Xander had been afraid it would be. Joyce talked about the new exhibit she was working on at the gallery and Xander and she discussed the painting he still needed to finish at the house. Buffy mostly just toyed with her food and didn’t say much, still clearly resenting them being there at all. Xander thought regretfully of the many visits to the house over the summer where conversation had flowed easily and the laughter wasn’t edged with malice. Although Spike and Buffy were behaving, they weren’t bothering to hide their dislike for each other.
Buffy followed them out onto the porch as they left. “We are going to talk,” she said with quiet intensity.
Spike and Xander exchanged glances. “Meet us tomorrow after sunset.” Spike thought quickly. “Out in front of the school.”
It was the closest thing he could think of to neutral territory. It was almost deserted at night, even with school starting in a few days, and the Hellmouth was quiet.
“I’ll be there.” Buffy headed back inside, the door carefully not slamming behind her.
“See? Told you it would be all right.”
Xander looked at him in disbelief. “Your definition of all right needs serious work, Spike.”