Title: DISCORDANCE PART 1
Prompt: #311-Discordance for tamingthemuse
Warnings: Slash/ pairing: Xander/Spike, violence, character death (implied) Willow/Tara, M/M romance/sexual situations, Dark!Willow
Rating: R for M/M sex.
Word Count: 4689
Status: WIP (part 1 of 2) , Non-Beta'd but proofed
Summary: After Buffy dies in the fight against Glory, Xander and Spike try to pick up the pieces. But something is badly off , and Xander tries to figure out what it is, before more tragedy can befall the remaining Scoobies..
Feedback: Yes!!!! Please!! I need all the help I can get to improve my writing! :-)
Xander waited in the stifling hot car for Dawn. The ugly cracked asphalt of the high school parking lot mocked him; the relentless heat killed everything living in Sunnyhell, as Spike called it. Even the town's Demon and Vamp population took a vacation this time of year. Xander felt dirty, sticky; his mind, stagnant like the air—just like a heavy storm coming in. The acrid ozone scent weighted down his thoughts, his limbs, making everything seem flat and heavy; the tinny resonance to sounds echoing faintly in Xander's fevered head made everything feel off. Metallic.
Xander hated having time to think. He kept hearing a wrong note somewhere, but couldn't quite tell where it came from. He badly missed Spike; his Vampire lover took great pride in sardonically making Xander forget , if only for a time, the gaping hole left by Buffy's death. Selfish, he chided himself. Spike's hurting , too.
Sometimes, Xander couldn't believe that he and Spike managed to find each other, which became a new source of pain, because they couldn't tell the others. Living together, sure. Spike babysitting Dawn, okay, no problem. But this? Spike and Xander, as lovers? No way. For Christsakes, they still thought Xander and Spike barely tolerated each other. The remaining Scoobies still thought of Spike as the Evil Soulless Vampire, chipped and fangless to be sure, but still evil. The near impossibility of changing their perception grated on Xander's nerves, and made him feel worse than the lowest thief.
But, if it hadn't been for Spike, Xander was one hundred percent sure that he would have gone crazy.
When Glory bled Dawn to force that crazy-interdimensional rift open—Buffy leapt into that mystical chasm, slamming it shut with her own body. Seeing her dead, crumpled form at the base of the rickety tower did something to them. It nearly broke them. And then they had to grow up fast.
Xander's throat felt tight, as his mind's eye showed him the horror of that night.
….saved us from Hell. Literally.
I can't quite forgive her for that. She left us. And now, I'm left here to try to pick up the pieces.
After that, Anya, deciding she'd had enough, after saving Xander's life , declared that she was leaving Sunnydale, and him. Wounded, and forced to live in a human shell, she'd been insulted that all his attention went to the surviving Scoobies, she hadn't understood how broken they'd all been.
When Giles managed to stop drinking enough to consider the loss of his purpose in Sunnydale, he'd returned to England, and it had been nearly too much to bear.
That camel's back was so broken.
Living on a Hellmouth meant that they couldn't ignore the brazen demon and vampire attacks, escalating because of Buffy's absence. They still had to patrol, they still had to fight.
Somebody had to take point. Now, Xander thought he might have made a mistake nominating Willow to run the Scoobies, but at the time, it seemed like the best choice; after all she had all the mojo, she'd become a bigger bad than Spike. She gave Glory a run for her money, and that, on some level scared the hell out of Xander. Don't like to think too much about that.
Goddammit, there's that off note again. It buzzed around his head like a demented fly. He fought the urge to swat at it. He baked and dripped sweat, instead. Dawn's lateness made him antsy, maybe PTSDish? He flashed on something Buffy said once, “Dawn's in trouble. It must be Tuesday.” She'd better not be! Besides, it was Friday.
Dawn uncharacteristic quietness prompted Xander to keep trying to get her to open up. Spike said that her reticence might be because she'd lost the ability to trust in the adults around her-- particularly Willow and Tara-- which just struck Xander as weird. She'd always loved them! But Spike seemed to think that Willow, going all spooky black eyed and vengeancey frightened Dawn, on a visceral level, or “got her in the gut”, to use his words.
Hard to be not be afraid, at least a little, of anybody with that much raw power.
And of course, Dawn now had Magical Commodity status as the Key. Some magical beings saw her only as a means to an end, pure energy. Her jumpiness escalated, especially around Willow.
Willow's appetite for power became ever more consuming after the battle with Glory. Nowadays, she'd become distant, her nose always buried in some ancient grimoire.
Her first priority to protect Dawn; to protect them all, made her ruthless. As long as her efforts remained firmly in the White Hat column, it was all good, right?
Right on cue, there that off-key note again.
“Xander!” The car door screeched open with a crunch of metal on metal, and Dawn hopped into the passenger seat. “Sorry I'm so late.” She yanked the door shut.
Xander blinked, wrenched back to the present. “And that would be because...?' He started the engine, pulling out of the parking lot. “Buckle up.”
“GC wanted to see me.” Dawn fumbled with the straps of her seat belt.
“And?” Xander checked to see that she had it fastened.
Dawn hunched a little in the passenger seat. “You know, they just want to be sure I'm..okay.” She sat up straight and that chin came up; her eyes went sullen. “I'm not a little kid, you know. I can handle this.”
Xander turned a corner, serenely waiting for an stooped old lady to cross the street. At least, he thought she was an old lady. Could be a demon; that would be typical for Sunnydale. He waved at her, grinned. She didn't acknowledge him. Probably a good thing. “Dawnie--” He went into big brother mode and propelled the car down the street, headed for Revello Drive. “ Dawn, you've been through a lot. They're gonna worry. It's their job. Try to not let it get to you too much, 'kay?”
“I know. But they're not gonna believe that B-buffy..” She stopped a moment, twisting the straps of her backpack in her hands. “They're not going to buy our story that Buffy's “just busy”, or “out of town” much longer. I don't know what to do.”
“I wouldn't worry about that.” Xander said. “Willow and Tara have some techno-thingie they're doing with the Buffy-Bot; they might be able to pull it off. Fool the Principal, and the rest of the scary authority figures.” He flicked her a reassuring glance.
Dawn got quiet for a while, but that was no big. Happened a lot these days.
They pulled up in the driveway, and Xander turned off the engine. “I think Tara's whipping up chili tonight.”He said, as he reached for the door handle. “No take out. Movies, though... how do you feel about Star Trek 1, 2 and ---”
The tone of Dawn's voice froze him, and he turned to look at her, fully for the first time that day.
“Xander, what's going on with Willow and Tara?” Dawn asked, uncertainly.
There it again. That faint, discordant note. Xander shivered, despite the heat.
“Ah—what do you mean?” He asked cautiously, not sure he really wanted to know.
“She's been acting-- strange. Obsessed. And Tara, she just seems to go along with whatever Willow wants. At least lately. They keep .. acting like they're keeping secrets. Doing something they don't want me to know about.”
That bad note got louder. Much louder.
And now he knew he wasn’t the only one who heard it.
Spike poured a little warmed blood from his mug into his bowl of extra spicy chili, smirking at the predictable eews and gross's he'd been angling for. “Lovely chili, Glinda,” he gave Tara a nod, mixing the blood into his chili with a spoon. He sampled it, and leered suggestively at Xander. “Hot and spicy, just like I like it.”
Xander ducked his head to hide a blush. “Spicy, yeah.” He gestured to the absent seat. “Tara, where's Willow? She's not eating with us?”
Dawn's eyes fixed on the blonde witch, but she stayed silent.
Tara beamed a Mona Lisa smile; positively beatific. “Willow's working on something. Something important. It'll change everything.” She sounded as if she were announcing the birth of Christ.
This couldn't be about the Buffybot. Xander's fragile sense of harmony shattered on Tara's pronouncement. Fucking horrible, bad, bad, note! Tinnitus? What the hell?
“She's been spending a lot of time doing research. What she's working on could really help us. It's amazing. ”She continued, dishing out more chili for Dawn, who hunched over her bowl, frowning. She looked covertly at Tara from under her lashes,.
Tara obliviously took her seat, stirring her chili absently. “Willow's really powerful-- and.. and...” She trailed off, expression blank. “It's-- a--”
Faintly alarmed, Xander shot up. “What is Willow working on, Tara?” Xander asked. “Sounds interesting. Is it the Buffybot? Vamp Raid? Some new Apocalypse-ending-weapon of doom?”
Please, let it be something like that? This was Wills they were talking about!
Out of the corner of his eye, Xander Spike noted Spike taking Dawn's hand, holding it gently. Dawn met his eyes, and shared some silent communication. It seemed so surreal; Spike comforting Dawn, reassuring her. Here. At the dinner table , with all of them!
“Tara?” Was this an after-effect of Tara mind sucked being dry by Glory? But Willow had restored her-- that had been the reason for all the spooky, right? Now, Tara gave Xander a beseeching look, her eyes filled with tears. Her mouth worked, fighting for speech.”S-she's ...really...powerful...” She trembled, straining to get the words out.
That horrendous note went up in pitch; became shrill. Xander wanted to clamp his hands over his ears.
“Glinda? Y'alright?” Spike prompted. He leaned toward Tara, but Dawn suddenly gripped his arm, her eyes wide and frightened. Spike froze, nonplussed. He rapidly gazed back and forth from Dawn to Tara. “Tara. He tried again. “Talkin' 'bout Red? Red's little project-- what is it?”
Tara shuddered, staring up at the stairwell. “I-I-I d-don't know exactly. N-n-not enough to –b-b-be able to explain it.”
She stared down at her plate, frustrated. Glancing surreptitiously at Xander, she whispered, “ I really c-can't talk about it.” Anger glinted in her eyes. Her hand clawed impotently at the table, finally curling into a fist. “C-can't talk. Can't talk. I have to go!” She clumsily scraped her chair back harshly on the wooden floors and fled.
Xander, Dawn and Spike all sat stunned; staring dazedly at each another over half-finished chili bowls.
Each slow, ponderous step Tara took up the stairs thudded heavily in Xander's gut. Upstairs, a door creaked open and slammed. Spike cocked his head, listening intently. He gave Xander a warning look. Not here.
Spike's nostrils flared, scenting something. He very slowly eased himself up, drawing Dawn with him, away from the table and into the living room. Xander followed. This was bad. This was officially bad.
Dawn's eyes glittered with unshed tears.
“Hush, now Nibblet.” Spike murmured, putting both arms around her.”It's all right. Go pack some stuff. You're coming home with us.”
She nodded eagerly, and he let her go. She shot Spike a grateful look, as she hurried by.
Spike touched hands with Xander. “Later, pet.” he whispered in Xander's ear. “I'll help her get sorted, yeah?” He followed the girl upstairs.
Sighing deeply, Xander began to clear the table, preparing himself for the next damn shoe to drop.
Spike helped Dawn pack enough for a good week, even though this was only to be an overnight trip. Xander left a quickly scribbled note on the fridge, knowing that it might be some time before Willow got it, for all the attention she paid to Dawn these days. And Tara.... he just couldn't deal with that right now.
On the other hand, Dawn seemed in better spirits, for the first time in days.
Spike ushered the teenager into the apartment, while Xander brought up her duffle and other bags.
“Right.” Spike indulgently steered Dawn over to the oversized closet and opened the door. Dawn looked puzzled. “I think I'll let Xander here do the honors.” Spike said, moving over to let Xander flick on the light switch.
Dawn's eyes lit up. “Oh my gosh!”
Xander and Spike exchanged grins, and Xander motioned at the cozy space. “It's still small,” he said, “but with those high ceilings, I thought a loft bed would fit in here.” It sturdy, white painted wood, with enough room to stand up straight under it. It also had the advantage of creating a lot of extra space.
Under the loft bed, Dawn eagerly pounced onto the overstuffed, scorching hot pink, fake fur beanbag chair, squealing.
“Told you she'd like it.” Spike rolled his eyes.
“Like it, I LOVE it!” Dawn bounced a few more times, and got up, throwing her arms around Xander. “Thank you, thank you, thank you--”
'Ow! Nibblet!” Spike dramatically clapped his hands over his ears, “Vampire hearing!”
“Jealous.” Dawn disengaged from a blushing Xander, and gently hugged the Vampire and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you, Spike.”
Xander fought off a grin, as he watched Spike's eyes get suspiciously wet. Big softie. So hard for him to believe he loved. Well, he and Dawn would just have to keep up with the sweet stuff, right?
Dawn's eyebrows rose when Xander reached past her to let down the attached pull out desk. The built-in shelves beside it allowed for even more space, and of course more squealing and bouncing ensued.
Spike, his expression little wistful, gave Xander a glimpse of the person he'd come to love; this person; much more than “just a Vampire”. Spike kept that part of himself hidden from the other Scoobies, buried beneath the carefully constructed facade of bluster and mayhem. It had taken months for Spike to drop the act and be real with Dawn and Xander. No-one else looked hard enough to see it, anyway. Xander hope that one day, he could change that.
Xander pointed at the head of the bed. “Under there is some storage for your clothes. There's a chest for everything else.”
Dawn turned around in the room, obviously touched. “I don't know what to say. You did all this?”
“Yeah. Spike helped.”
“Okay, a lot.” Xander poked Spike's middle, just to watch him jump and then try to cover it.
Xander grinned unrepentantly at Spike's glower, digging in one of the cavernous pockets of his cargo shorts. His fingers found what they sought, and he fished it out.
“Dawnie, we've got one more surprise for you.” Xander held out a badly wrapped package.
Dawn took it from him and eagerly tore the paper off the small box and opened it, peering inside. She frowned, puzzled. “A cell phone? But I already--”
“This one is for emergencies, only, “ Xander said. “Use it if you need to reach me or Spike. We're on your speed dial. Nobody else knows about this. Keep it that way, okay?”
Dawn opened the phone. “In case--?”
“Just in case.” Spike answered, emphatically. “Use it, but only if you're in trouble.”
“O-okay.” Dawn whispered, pointedly not saying what they all were thinking.
Xander wanted to cringe. Couldn't he have let her have one night of peace? Xander felt like a creep for bringing it up. It couldn’t be helped. Better to be safe, than oblivious and dead. But the moment was ruined.
Dawn shrank into herself, and immediately Spike went into mother-hen mode. Xander gratefully escaped to the kitchen and managed to find suitable snacks. They all sat in front of the TV trying to wind it all down. Xander desperately wanted to make Dawn feel safe.
How they would manage that, when Xander didn’t even feel safe, seemed beyond him. But he and Spike would try.
He needed time alone with his lover very badly. They needed to figure out what going on, without scaring the hell out of Dawn. Figure out how to deal with Willow.
It hurt so very much, just to even think it.
Two movies and a game of Monopoly later found Xander and Spike propped up against each other in the living room . Dawn gleefully retreated to her new room; they were just waiting for her to finally fall asleep, and Xander thought once again that Dawn probably knew that he and Spike were an item. She'd been giving them sly, pleased glances all night. She hadn't said anything, though, and neither would he.
That was so not a conversation he looked forward to having.
At long last, Spike got that peculiar expression on his face that meant he listened for something out of the range of human hearing. He pursed his lips. “She's snoring, ”he proclaimed with a mocking grin and raised eyebrow.
Xander stretched with a jaw-cracking yawn. He leaned back against Spike.“Don't ever tell her she snores,” he warned, half serious. “ Just don't, if you value your life. Un-life.” Xander gave a wry grin. “It's a teenaged girl thing.”
Spike rolled his eyes, then looked serious. “We need to talk.”
“Drive around?” Xander asked. He really needed to get out, get some air.
“Yeah. Grocery. Need to stock the fridge; cupboards are bare, an' all that.”
Xander nodded, grabbing his keys and leading the way down the stairs, back to the car. They were out of the lot and going down the street before Xander felt relaxed enough to focus.
Spike began without preamble. “Caught that bit with Glinda, yeah?”
“Funny you should mention that. And can I just say, way to go, with the speech impediment makeover?” Xander said with bitter humor, keeping both hands on the wheel, staring straight ahead.
“No stuttering at all. Like as in new, improved and oh-so-confident Tara.” Spike's hand found Xander's thigh, rubbing his thumb over it gently. Xander sighed. “Of course, then all of a sudden, she's all with the not being able to talk weirdness.” Xander swallowed audibly. “ Like...like she couldn't say something she wanted –needed to.” Suddenly angry, he banged his fist on the steering wheel. Couldn't he have just one good week with his lover without a crisis? But maybe he was overreacting. That wouldn’t be new.
“That was weird to you, right?” Xander shot Spike a look.
“ Yep. Obvious that, something had her, but good.” Spike's voice had just an undertone of growl.
“Smelled of terror, she did. Like she was expecting to get eaten.” Spike shifted around in his seat, fishing in his back pocket for his cigarettes. “Got me wondering just what Red's cookin' up. ”
“Don't know, and not sure I want to.” Xander said, reluctantly. “Why do I have a really bad feeling about this?” He finally allowed himself to voice his feelings aloud. “It has to be Willow. I mean she has to be the one controlling Tara.” He pounded the steering wheel again. “Dammit.”
“'Not short on common sense, mate. ”Spike rolled down his window, lit up a cigarette, blew the smoke out the window. “Know you're not much for the academics, but you've a good head on your shoulders. Better than the lot of the rest of them.” The opened window let in a blast of cooler air, and Xander rolled down his own window. Suddenly he could breathe.
“You think the Nibblet's safe?” Spike sounded worried. “At the house?” Spike picked at his ragged black-polished fingernails.
Xander really thought about it. “I think she's staying with us, till we can get this figured out.” He gritted his teeth. “We're gonna have to clear it with Willow and … Tara. Really not liking that idea.”
They stopped at the all-night convenience store. Xander leaned his head on the steering wheel, drained. “Spike?”
“Yeah, Pet?” Spike, leaning back with his eyes closed, barely stirred. Xander guessed he felt worn out, too. He rolled his head to look at Xander. He must have looked like a stretch of bad road, judging by the concerned looks Spike gave him. Well, he felt like it.
He sat back in his own seat, resignedly.“I think we might need to call Giles.” There. It's said. Now Giles can come clean up the fucking mess he left us with. Bitterness welled up, and he squashed it, again.
Spike looked pensive. “Can't believe I'm sayin' this,” he said, “ but I think you may be right. Because chip or no chip , I will kill anyone who tries to hurt Dawn.” The muscles in his jaw knotted. “I promised—I promised I'd protect her. Until the end of the world. So call Giles. Maybe he can sort the crazy bint before I have to.”
If there had been a wineglass on the dashboard, it would have shattered.
Xander winced, and Spike gripped his shoulders, hard. “Xan?” A cool hand tilted his face up, worried blue eyes searched his own.
“Xan, luv-- what happened?”
Xander clutched the door handle, wonder the answer to that himself. “Stress, Spike, just a headache, ” He said lamely. “Bad one.” He could tell that Spike didn't buy it.
Spike took a breath. “Look, luv-- I meant what I said. I'll protect Dawn-- and you, until I dust.”
Xander ducked his head, not wanting to hear more. Because then, it would be real.
Spike took Xander's hand in his own, looking intensely into Xander's eyes. “I won't kill her, not unless it's to save you or Dawn.” I promise you.”
Xander let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. “Thank you.”
“I get it, Xan. Red's still your best friend from childhood.” Spike gently tugged Xander's head down to brush his lips with a languid kiss. “ That doesn't change. Maybe she's just lost her way, needs us to find her way back.”
“Maybe.” Xander kissed the Vampire's nose. “ One thing, Spike.”
“Mmm?” Spike's voice sounded drowsy, peaceful.
“You're my best friend. Have been for a while, now.”
In the light from the parking lot, Xander watched Spike's eyes get that look of awe and disbelief, he got whenever Xander reminded him that this was real. That he wasn't alone; that he was loved.
Spike stayed silent for a long moment, then he whispered into Xander's ear, “Me, too, mate. Always.”
They took another moment to simply enjoy each other, taking comfort from their closeness. Then Spike slowly pulled away, straightening up. Hand on the door handle, he paused, giving Xander an appraising look. “Want me to go in? Wait here, yeah?”
“Oh, no, “ Xander shot back, getting out the car, “ Dawn cannot survive on beer and chips. What do you know about feeding a teenager-- And hey!---not giving you my wallet.” With effort, he quirked a grin and led the way into the store. Spike looked reassured, and followed.
The tender moment had almost been enough.
The buzz of the harsh florescent lighting complemented the off key screeching in his head perfectly.
Though he felt like his world unraveling with the force of that awful note, Xander gamely ignored it in favor of groceries.
It was early morning by the time they returned to the apartment. Xander and Spike quietly unloaded groceries. Spike checked on Dawn who, Spike reported, still snored. Xander let Spike manhandle him into the shower and Spike got in behind him, running soapy hands over Xander's chest. He lingered over the nipples, eliciting a soft moan. Xander stiffened; almost dragging everything to a halt when he became all too aware of the teenager in the apartment.
“Soundproofing, remember--relax, luv, enjoy.” Spike sank to his knees before Xander, licking his way down as he went. “An' it was my bloody idea.” He looked up at Xander, wet blonde curls straggling endearingly into those blue, blue eyes. Xander brushed them away gently. “”kay, you did a lot more than help.” Xander said, softly.
“'Smore like it.” Spike whispered, taking Xander's length in hand.
“Spike.. baby,” Xander whimpered, as Spike slowly, delectably, laved his tongue over the head of his cock. All scary thoughts gone. All gone. A slow grin spread over Xander's face, as he beheld his lover, taking him in, swallowing him down. He wouldn't last very long, and Spike wickedly made sure of that.
He came explosively down Spike' throat, and slumped against the shower wall, panting. He gave Spike a look both chagrined and pleased, “Gah.”, he said.
Spike rose, grinding himself needily against his lover. Xander felt his lover's hardness press against his belly. He puled Spike into a deep, scorching kiss. They parted, panting at each other. Xander cleared his throat and tried to speak, more successful on the second try.
“Let's take care of that”, he said, gazing hungrily at Spike's hard, swollen cock, “--in the bedroom. I want to take my time.”
Spike's eyes turned hot and molten as he snatched Xander's hand, pulling him into the bedroom.
It was a good thing Xander had soundproofed their bedroom, too.
Enlisting Giles' help would have been a good plan, except that that the former Watcher seemed to be unreachable. Xander cursed again, slamming the receiver into it's cradle. At the moment, he hated him. Giles had deserted them when they needed him the most. And damn it Giles wasn't partially responsible for this situation.
He stalked over to his couch and flopped down on it. He scrubbed his hands over his face, wearily. He'd been trying to reach Giles all day, left a lot of urgent messages. Why wouldn’t he pick up?
Willow would never have gotten into the heavy magicks if it hadn't been for Giles.
Oh, there had been all those talks about ethics and personal responsibility, but, Willow never really seemed to internalize the message. If there a problem-- she threw magick at it first, before trying anything else. What made it worse is that Xander knew that in her own way, she really tried to help. And most of the time, she did. If it hadn’t been for her, they might not have survived the blow up with Glory. They might all have died.
But Willow—sometimes, Xander felt like he didn't even recognize her anymore. What with the whole scary, levitating, inky eyed, multiple knife and mojo throwing, she'd become a superhero-- like Buffy, and he no longer fit.
He grudgingly admitted , privately , that his being the last “normal” person in the group had become the source of some of his discomfort.
But other stuff scared the holy hell out of him. The secretiveness. The obsessiveness. The willingness to go so far beyond the limits Giles had set for her, opening doors that in Xander's opinion should have remained shut.
Xander missed his childhood friend. He missed shy, smart, funny Willow. When had everything changed so much?
The blaring ringtone jolted him out of his memories; he snagged the phone before it could ring again. Finally. “Giles?”, he snapped.
Xander felt his blood run cold. “Willow?”
To Be Continued....
Look for Part 2 to be posted around this time next week. :-)