Rating: NC-17 for brief violence and sexual content
Pairing: BtVS Spike/Xander
Author’s Note: Yes, I am aware that the timeline is a little screwed up and that Giles didn’t own the Magic Box until after Adam and after Dawn arrived. But in my reality, who’s Dawn? Adam what? Also, a huge spanking thanks to kitty_poker1 for still agreeing to be my official L2BL beta, even after so much time has passed.
Disclaimer: These character’s aren’t mine, never were; I don’t get any profit for this hobby, so don’t sue – Thanks.
Warning: Brief violence, nudity, and hetero and homo sexual content and situations. And some h0t man-luvin.
This can also be found in my LJ Memories, as well as on my revamped website: Forget It.
“You sure you’re up for this, pet?” Spike asked, looking back at Xander as he led him by the hand. They were shuffling slowly down the stairs into the courtyard of Giles’ complex. Same old sandstone steps, same old rickety table. Same old Sunnydale. But not the same old me, Xander told himself.
“Yeah,” he mumbled, tightening his grip on the white hand in his. “I mean, it’s Giles. I have to be.”
Spike stopped at the bottom of the stairs and turned to Xander, pulling him in and wrapping his arms reassuringly around him. Kissing Xander’s forehead gently as the brunet turned his gaze to the stone slabs beneath them, he whispered, “He’ll be okay, love. He’s not going anywhere.”
Xander gave a bitter chuckle, slowly looking up first into the eyes of the man who held him, and then towards the silent, answerless heavens. “Spike,” he sighed. “If I had a dollar for every time I thought someone wasn’t going anywhere but they did, I would be one hell of a wealthy man.”
“Well, then, Xander,” Spike’s eyes glittered as he pulled Xander’s face back to him, “I guess you owe me a dollar. Actually, two,” he smiled at Xander’s blank face. “One for the Watcher, and one for me.”
“Do you take checks?” Xander grinned, leaning his forehead against Spike’s. A warm breeze passed through the courtyard, making him shiver.
“For you? I’ll take it on credit.” Spike wiggled his eyebrows and took Xander’s hands in his own again.
“Spike, you are such a dork.”
“I know.” Another laugh. “You’re rubbing off on me.”
“And that’s a bad thing?”
“Didn’t say it was, did I?”
“No, no you didn’t.” Xander closed his eyes and breathed deep the scent of sand and dust and lilac, which was blooming even now on the sparse trees throughout the courtyard.
They passed a few moments in silence until Spike brought them back. “You ready to go in?”
“No,” Xander responded without hesitation. “But it’s now or never, I guess.” And with another deep sigh and a heavy heart, he led them the remaining eight steps – he counted – to Giles’ door. He reached for the doorknob but halted, deciding instead to knock – I don’t belong here anymore – against the heavy door. He wasn’t sure at first whether he had knocked very hard; it was difficult to hear anything over the pounding in his chest. But there was movement inside and shadows splashed against the small windows set into the door. As the knob began to turn, he felt all his muscles tense and spasm and for just a second he thought his body was going to bolt, even while his mind was commanding him to stay.
The great door creaked open to reveal a blond witch with tired blue eyes, a somber smile, and outstretched arms.
“Xander, you made it,” Tara said, her arms folding around him and her head resting against his shoulder. “I wish you hadn’t had to, but I’m glad you did.”
“What can I say? We needed a vacation from our vacation.” Not even back a full minute and I’m already cracking jokes. What is it about this place?
As Tara stepped aside to welcome Spike, Xander looked up and noticed Buffy watching them. She was leaning against Giles’ desk, her thumbs hooked in the pockets of her wrinkled jeans, her golden hair pulled back into a loose pony tail. She was, uncharacteristically, wearing very little makeup and he couldn’t help but think how old she had begun to look. He could barely see that young girl with so much fire in her anymore. Her eyes were puffy and her lips were pale.
“Hey, Buff.” He shrugged. For a moment she only stared at him, as if she didn’t recognize him either. Before he could say anything else, though, she’d crossed the space between them and thrown her arms around him. Returning the hug, Xander rested his cheek on her head as she buried her face in his chest, sniffling quietly.
“Spike, it’s good to see you.” Tara said warmly, and out of the corner of Xander’s eye he saw Spike nodding to her, allowing her to hug him gently.
“I’m so glad you’re here,” Buffy admitted, squeezing him slightly and stepping back. She rubbed her fists against her eyes, though he couldn’t see the tears. Looking past him, she added, “and I’m not hating that you’re here too, Spike.”
“Ta, Slayer,” Spike replied with almost no sarcasm. “Where’s Soldier Boy?”
“He’s out on patrol, checking out the hospitals and trying to get some leads.” Buffy’s eyes roamed upward, towards the loft where Giles’ bedroom lay.
“We still don’t know much,” Tara offered, closing the door and wandering past them into the kitchen. Xander heard the unmistakable sounds of tea preparation as cupboards opened and closed and porcelain pinged against porcelain.
“More like we don’t know anything,” Buffy muttered, making her way to one of the armchairs and curling her legs up under her as she sat. On the coffee table before her lay dozens of books spread out, some closed and some open, with notebooks on top them. He could recognize Giles’ perfect script from where he stood. More stacks of musty texts graced the end tables, covered the desk, even a few piles stacked on the stairs leading up to the loft. He felt Spike’s hand on his back, guiding him gently but surely towards the couch. He was thankful as the supportive hand found its way to his shoulder, never moving as he sat uncomfortably against the plush velvet cushions. They sat in an awkward silence for a few minutes, neither looking at the others, as they waited for Tara to rejoin them. Not another sound broke the stillness until she carried in a tray with a tea service, setting it haphazardly on the table behind the sofa.
“How – ” He cleared his throat and started again. “How is he?”
“No change,” Buffy mumbled, accepting the cup of tea Tara offered her. The rich familiar scent of it filled the space as evenly as the silence did. “Every now and again, he’ll whisper something or call out in his sleep, but we can never make out what it is.”
“Thank you, love,” Spike said, taking a cup from Tara and handing it to Xander, then taking one for himself. “Watcher always did have good taste in tea.”
Xander sipped cautiously at the drink, not really tasting anything but relaxing as he felt the warmth spread through him. “How long…”
“It’s been a couple of weeks, now,” Tara said as she sat beside him on the couch. “After he…fell asleep at the Magic Box, Riley and Buffy brought him back here. We’ve been taking turns staying with him ever since.” She nodded to the overnight bag beneath the coffee table. Apparently, it was her turn.
“Mom was even dropping by for a while,” Buffy explained, smiling slightly but staring at nothing. “Until I finally convinced her to get out of town till this blows over.”
Xander cleared his throat again but couldn’t think of words to speak.
“It’s only happening here in Sunnyhell, right?” Spike asked, glancing between Tara and Buffy. Tara nodded, but Buffy just turned her distant stare towards him. “Well, have you tried running him out of town, getting him outta here?”
“We thought about it, but Tara reminded us that it’s probably a spell of some kind.” Buffy’s voice sounded as far away as her gaze. “And we worried that if we try to leave with him, the spell will break, but he’ll be trapped…wherever he is.”
More silent minutes clicked by as they all pretended to enjoy the tea. Finally Xander swallowed the rest of his, enjoying the delicious scalding burn that trailed down his throat and into his stomach. He stood and turned towards the stairs. He could feel three sets of eyes on his back as he raised his own to the loft above them. Spike followed him closely, their hands cinched together, as he made his way to the steps and grasped the railing with his free hand. He turned back slowly, facing Spike.
“I think – ” He paused, licking his suddenly dry lips. “I think I need to do this alone,” he explained.
Spike’s eyes stared back into his. “Are you sure, Xan?”
He could only nod his response as he gathered all his strength to turn around and climb the stairs up into a new nightmare. Spike leaned in and kissed him gently, chastely, on the lips, unconcerned with their current company of spectators.
Another heavy breath, and Xander was climbing the stairs. Slowly. Inching his hand up the railing, his pulse thundering in his mind, he tried not to think about what he was going to see. One step, four, six; he paused at the landing and glanced down to find Spike still looking up at him, ready to leap up beside him if he was wanted. He looked back up and could see the top of the stairs, see the bedskirts just barely kissing the floorboards beneath the bed. Seven steps, nine, twelve, and he was there, at the top of the stairs, looking around the room at anything but the bed. Anything but the man lying in it who for so long had been more like a father than the one who was now buried only a few blocks away.
An old cuckoo clock ticking silently away towards dawn, the wrinkled drapes balanced over the leaded windows. An ancient armoire standing next to a small writing desk laden with still more books and notebooks – Watchers’ Diaries, if Xander wasn’t mistaken. He’d seen those thick tomes bound in leather many times before. Looking around at the walls which were just this side of shrouded in shadows, soaking in the amber light thrown by the Tiffany lamp on the bedside table. He was aware, as he allowed his eyes to roam anywhere but where they should, of the voices and the whispers of those he loved downstairs. Spike was speaking softly to Buffy, who was half-whispering harshly in reply; he couldn’t make out what they were saying – wasn’t sure if he wanted to. Sweet Tara’s quiet sing-song voice was trying to soothe the situation, though her words too were lost on him. At last, after everything else in the room had been cataloged by his mind, his eyes fell on the bed, on him, on Giles.
He looked relaxed, peaceful even, to Xander. It really did appear that he was just sleeping. He took a few cautious steps towards the slumbering librarian, reaching a hesitant hand out to him like a frightened child to a parent after a nightmare. Giles’ salt-and-pepper hair was spewing from his head, too long, unkempt. He looks a little ridiculous with bedhead, Xander thought to himself, smiling despite himself. His eyes were fluttering fast beneath the closed eyelids, dancing, it seemed, in the darkness. With the blankets pulled to his waist and his arms flung out beside him, the Watcher slept on, while Xander folded the man’s warm leathered hand into his own. No stirring, no acknowledgement, just the silent steady breaths and the slow movements of sleep. It was odd to him that Giles looked the same: same high forehead, same sharp cheekbones, same pursed lips even in sleep. He’d been asleep for weeks now, with no food or water to nourish him, yet still he looked healthy. That’s the magic of a spell, Xander thought. Some kind of a mystical coma, so of course he wouldn’t need nourishment.
Kneeling beside the bed, still gripping Giles’ hand tightly in his own, Xander watched him for a while. Watched, and listened for…for anything. For any sign that maybe the man inside the sleeping body was there with him, for any sign of recognition. After a time, Xander bowed his head, whispering a silent prayer to nothing that Giles be alright, that he wake up soon, that he would not float away into his dreams forever. As he raised up from where he knelt, he saw that Giles’ dark lips were moving slowly, as if in speech. Xander even imagined that he heard a whisper struggling through them as he slept. Bending his ear down closer…closer, he realized that indeed, Giles was whispering softly in his sleep. The same phrase, it sounded, being repeated over and over and over. And struggling to understand, to make out what he was saying, Xander hovered for several minutes there, unable to grasp it, until finally the whisper faded and the lips returned to rest as the sleeping man rolled onto his side.
Emitting a quiet growl of frustration, Xander turned and made his way back to the stairs, caught for a moment by his reflection in the mirror above the writing table, momentarily surprised by the man staring back at him. It didn’t look like him anymore. Hair buzzed short – he’d insisted on getting it cut off before coming back here, as some sort of “I am not that guy anymore” trophy – and shoulders a little higher than they used to be. Dressed in an expensive cerulean sweater and very dark denim jeans, he looked…grown up in a way he hadn’t before. Not old, not like he felt he should look. But older. He wondered, momentarily, how he looked to the others – could they see the changes in him? Looking past himself, he glanced at Giles’ reflection – no change – and turned, making his way down the stairs a little less haltingly than the climb up had been.
Tara was standing in front of the couch, looking up at him as he came down, looking a little lost even for her. Buffy, too, was standing beside the chair she’d been sitting in, glaring across the room at a vampire who was returning the favor from where he was perched atop the desk. “Okay, love?” Spike asked, turning his gaze from the Slayer towards him with a warm smile and worried eyes.
“Yeah,” Xander replied, reaching the bottom of the stairs and digging his hands in his pocket. He smiled back at Spike, mouthing I love you even while turning towards the women. “He looks…he looks okay.”
Buffy let out a deep breath, nodding again, while Tara just looked on.
“We should go, Xander,” Spike said with a gentle note, nodding towards the clock on the wall.
“You don’t have to –” Buffy started, her voice cracking. She was speaking more to Spike than to Xander, it seemed. She swallowed, tried again. “You don’t have to go. It’s just…It’s just going to take some more time to get used to.” Xander figured she was responding to what they had whispered about while he was with Giles.
“No, he’s right,” Xander answered, stepping towards Spike and placing a hand against his chest. Turning back to Buffy, he explained, “It’s almost daybreak, and we still need to get to where we’re staying.”
“Oh.” Buffy looked down at her feet. As if she just thought of it – “You guys can stay at my house, if you want. It’s just me and Tara now, there’s plenty of room…”
“Ta, Slayer,” said Spike, meaning it.
“Thanks, Buff, but we talked about it and we decided it’s probably best if we stay out of town,” Xander explained. “We’re staying at a place just outside the city limits, towards the mountains. It’s not that far out, but neither one of us really feel all that comfortable being here – er, back in Sunnydale.” And it was true.
“Oh,” she repeated, a little dejectedly.
“Sounds pretty natural to me,” Tara finally chimed in, nodding and smiling sweetly at them.
“Well, as natural as it can be, anyway.” Xander winked at her, glad to see a genuine smile on a face that didn’t look right without one.
“Well, uh, I guess…” Buffy toed the floorboards with her boot.
“We’ll be back tonight,” Spike offered.
“Yeah,” Xander confirmed. “We’ll come back once the sun goes down, and we’ll figure this out, okay?”
Buffy smiled, coming towards him but stopping just an arm’s length away. Spike’s hand found its way to the back of his neck, massaging gently, firmly. “Okay.”
“Do you have my cell number? No, you don’t,” he answered himself, remembering that he’d changed the number. He turned and leaned around Spike, scribbling it down on a corner of a notebook and tearing it off the page. He handed it to her. “Here, if you need me…Or if there’s any change…”
“I’ll call,” she whispered, looking up at him again.
“Then I guess it’s time to go. For now.” He smiled again. Spike made his way to the door and opened it, looking back towards them. As Xander turned to go, Buffy closed the distance between them and hugged him tight again.
“I really am glad you came, Xander,” she whispered against his chest.
“I am too,” he half-lied, not sure whether he meant to comfort her or himself. “Don’t worry, Buffy. He’ll be okay.”
“I know,” she answered, releasing her hold on him. “We all will.”
“We always are, aren’t we?” he asked as she smiled and nodded her response. “So we’ll see you tomorrow. Er, tonight.”
“Night, Glinda,” Spike called from the door, “…Buffy.”
“Good night, guys,” came Tara’s soft response.
“We’ll see you later.” Buffy, looking for all the world like a girl again, the age seeming to melt away in front of them.
“Yeah, you will,” Xander insisted, turning his back on them and walking past Spike into the courtyard as the vampire closed the door behind them, shutting away the scene inside. As Xander started climbing the steps, he felt Spike’s hand in his, pulling him back down, tugging him into another tight hug.
“Love you,” he breezed against Xander’s ear.
“Love you too,” came his response. He enjoyed it for a moment, the support and the easy silence between them, the smell of the courtyard in the predawn hour, and even the brittle, dry wind that was beginning to pick up. “Now come on. We’d better get where we’re going before all that’s left to love is what can fit in an ashtray.”