He was going back to the ‘old bligthy’
Nothing could have prepared him for what came next.
He had not expected to be welcomed into to Surrey Coven let alone the inner sanctum of the Watchers’ Council HQ. But his phone call to Giles from the USA two weeks previous (initiated by Connor who gave the initial explanation as to Spike’s ongoing survival) was surprisingly pleasant, he inquired of Dawn, Buffy, Willow, even Andrew and all seemed positive. Giles alluded to the difficulties Xander had been experiencing without going into detail.
Giles offered him lodgings at a flat he owned in Soho, for a small fee to cover housekeeping. Spike graciously accepted insisting he was unsure of the duration of his stay, but was good for the funds regardless of time. After the worry of Xander, Giles found the contact welcome, and almost hoped that the two men might meet, and perhaps, though it was a long shot, just perhaps Spike could assist the troubled ex-Watcher.
He met Giles at the ‘green door’, storming through in a swirl of leather and black denim with a minimum of baggage.
He waited until they were driving down the freeway – the I1 – before he broached the issue that had been bothering him for days, if not weeks, “So what’s up with the boy… What’s up with Xander!?”
Giles yanked off his glasses, which Spike pulled from him and voluntarily polished using his own duster’s inner satin lining, then handed them back. “So? What’s up with the boy?”
“He’s not who you knew Spike. He… has problems…”
“It’s not really my place to..”
“Oh leave off watcher, boy’s in trouble, obviously so I’m inquirin’ why? Friend of sorts, fellow white hat that sort of thing. Bloody hell Watcher I lived in the boy’s godforsaken basement for good on six months… and yeah I care, so spill.”
Spike, who himself had survived more tortures and, yes… deaths than he would care to mention but this was not his boy, not Xander, he bounced back always, and yes Spike really did care. What could possibly bring the boy to his knees, what could have been so terrible that he was ‘out of commission’.
The old Watcher stared at Spike for a good minute or so then seemed to come to some conclusion. “He, well he has had a breakdown of sorts.”
Spike was furious with the namby pambying of the problem so called it, “Has or hasn’t he had a mental breakdown, Watcher!”
He pulled over the car into the next fast food outlet on the side of the M1 and led the vampire inside. After purchasing both of them Earl Grey tea he sat heavily and stared into his cup as though it held the answers to the universe. Finally he looked up.
Giles paled under the intense scrutiny of the vampire, and friend, of his erstwhile son whilst he was still at school, and more so of late as he blossomed as a Watcher and collector of the newly found Slayers. But Spike was right. This was not just a normal meltdown due to battle fatigue, it was more than that, so Giles simply bent his head and let tears that had been too long held… fall.
If it had not been for Spike’s keen hearing he would have missed it, ”We, that is the council pushed him too far, his last message was all normal, too normal… I knew what we were sending him into… A war zone… Oh he’d been in that before, but this one was a little more ‘difficult’
Spike’s ire was raised, “Difficult! What is more difficult to tip the boy over? Come on Rupert, you are taking to the thing that goes bump in the night! I’ve been most people’s worst nightmare, caused more than a few back in the day… What did you send him into?”
Giles took off his glasses and seemed to look just a little older than Spike remembered, “We didn’t realize, not how bad it had become, machetes dismembering children, guns cutting down the innocent, hand made bombs blowing up… I can’t begin to explain, Xander has tried but it was just too much. He dealt with it in his usual style but the last time he came back with a potential… he was lost. It was the last straw…”
“That broke the camel’s back… yes… and it seems to have been a long time coming wouldn’t you say?” Spike’s ire was up, another look at Giles and his defeated demeanor gave him pause but he pressed on.
“So… that’s it, boy get’s checked in to a mental institution and all’s well with the world? You have got to be kidding me!”
Spike was on a roll, and the Watcher seemed happy to have someone angry rather than defeated for a change.
“Harris – the boy who had faced down Angelus, the boy who had run with the Slayer for seven years, and from all reports, the boy who had brought more Slayers back to the coven, the Watchers than any other individual on the planet, that Alexander was waning, on his watch, and I’m havin’ none of it…”
Whatever was bothering the boy, he, Spike, needed to know.
Screw Angelus, her laydyship Illyria and all else besides. The boy had, strangely, been there for him in the last few hours, of course minus the half hour shag with his ex prior to their successful closing of the hell mouth – and Spike’s burning to a crisp notwithstanding – but they had shared a sort of friendship.
So Giles and he shared what they knew of the boy, now man, over tea. But nothing really prepared him for the defeated character he was faced with as they entered the coven.
“We thought you might bring him some balance. A sense of himself… I don’t know Spike, just… a connection to who he was.”
“I’m happy to try.”
“That’s all we ask.”
The rest of the journey was in silence, the old watcher reflecting on the last two years and Xander’s problems, the vampire just wondering what he had walked in to.
The old coach house had been renovated to a decent abode, but nothing prepared Spike for this.
The boy had apparently passed out on the table of the cottage.
Spike knew the boy was asleep, but ventured there was more to it.
Spike could not help but think… There was no one – not a single individual – that would take the boy down. Not now. Not ever, and yet…
The boy, no man, was now slumped over a table when the manifestation of Spike entered the room.
Xander didn’t even bother to lift his head, favoring his elbow as speaking point, “Come to cheer; to wax lyrical; to rejoice at the fall of the great white hat?! Well here he is… broken…. Done and dusted… you must be thrilled. And can you do a guy a favour, was planning on me but always figured it would be by demon…. Just drain me, at least let my life-source go to a good cause yeah?”
“And that’s exactly why I can’t! F*&$ sake Harris! What the hell do you think you are doing? Depression? OK, Been there done that – and quite frankly seem to remember you reminding me at the time of all the bad things I had done – so… what have you done that entities you encountered?”
“Got them all killed didn’t I… all the would be slayers… would have had normal lives until I showed up… Enticed them to their ‘true calling’ and their untimely deaths… Stupid Harris, they came, they saw, they fought and died. Always the same scenario…”
Spike struggled to cope with the waves of pain that emitted from the boy… man in front of him. He had seen ‘broken’ before, and this was the epitome of it. The question was, whether or not Xander could come back from it.
“There was just you, pet, wasn’t there, just you? Trust me now, I know… been there, done that, got the Tshirt.”
“Why are you here? Did Giles or someone send for you? Cause it’s a lost cause. I got them killed, I saw the girls I was supposed to ‘retrieve’ violated and dismembered, I saw babies beheaded in front of their mothers, and the fathers shot in front of their sons. I carried a ten year old five kilometers to the nearest hospital ‘Non frontiers’ only to have him die in my arms. Maybe I am crazy, but can I just rest now, will you do it for me?... I need to… I tried you know? Tried to off myself… all it got me was a couple of stints in the crazy house… but you know, don’t you Spike, there’s no going back… Please just finish this for me… I’m begging you… just finish it.”
Xander finished his diatribe with a flood of tears.
The only reply was “No!”
“Not now. Not ever. You are the strongest, most annoying man on the planet and you don’t get out of that , that easily. You wouldn’t let me do it, now it’s time to turn the tables. Fuck you Harris, didn’t come here for this but I bloody well ain’t leavin’ til it’s done.”
Spike hauled the reluctant man up into his arms, fired a vicious gaze at Giles and pulled him toward the door.
“Where are we going?”
“To look at the bloody night sky, and if you have a problem with that I promise to bite you – and not in a kind way!”