There were very few things that looked the same at 4am as they did at any other time of the day. It was close enough to sunrise that there were almost no demons about, and early enough for most humans to be asleep. It was an in between time, and Spike had always had the odd urge to speak in hushed tones until the hour was over. Watching his human housemate chuckle at something nonsensical on TV, bottle of something stupidly sweet and carbonated in a tanned hand, he found himself enjoying the quiet.
“Hey Spike?” The brunet didn’t turn to face him, which he had learnt generally meant Xander was about to bring up a subject he wanted to be taken with at least a vague sense of seriousness.
“Yeah?” He’d also learnt the quickest way to have the boy backtracking was to pay too much attention to him – and some small part of him wanted to kill the human’s parents for instilling that behaviour.
“I’m grateful for the chip.” He very deliberately didn’t crush the mug in his hand as he gave Xander a carefully affected curious look.
“I’m not grateful for what it does to you - and believe me what I say I think the Initiative are more monsters than the things they caught – but without it I wouldn’t have the world’s only vampire housemate. I just… I’m sorry for what it does to you, but I’m not sorry it happened.”
He thought on that for a moment, considering and discarding a dozen responses before he gave the human another fleetingly curious look, “What brought this on then?”
“Just figured I should do my bit towards the Thanksgiving season.”
Sodding hell, he’d completely forgotten about the various holidays coming up. Of course, right on the heels of the stupid American holiday, was Christmas. Xander never said much about his previous Christmases, but Spike is an observant vampire, and had watched the human’s face light up whenever they watched a show with a great big family get together – presents, gaudy tree and all.
Snatching the second last brownie from the table in front of him he dunked it in the hot chocolate Xander had made them both, and began to plan.
On a scale of one to syphilis, so far his night was heading distinctly in the direction of an unwelcome Chumash curse. The night had started off fine; pizza and not entirely girly movies with his favourite female Scoobies before they all went for a walk around the cemeteries, partly to walk off the insane amount of dough they’d all ingested, and partly so Buffy could say she was still doing her Slayer duties, Thanksgiving or no Thanksgiving.
In fact, it didn’t even really turn syphilis-shaped until they’d all declared Slayer duties done and headed for home. And what was it about cemeteries at night that made you want to go investigating strange noises in crypts anyway?
At first he’d thought it was a garden variety evil-bad-guy. Then he’d realised that it was actually Gus, who delivered a couple of boxes of vegetables to Ronnie’s every Friday night. And then he’d realised there was a crying teenager bound up with what looked like some seriously witchy symbols actually carved into the stone floor.
Trying to reconcile the demon currently bent on sacrificing the young brunette in front of him with the demon he joked with every Friday about the Doctor from Voyager, he stood dumbfounded.
It took him quite a few minutes to realise that the fight Buffy had immediately leapt into was not going her way, and quite a few more to convince himself he really could kill Gus if he had to. Then, for some reason, Spike was there and the decision suddenly became unnecessary as Gus’ head rolled to a stop at his feet.
He didn’t pass out. His vision greyed into a tunnel that consisted only of the dead eyes staring up at him from the removed head. Blinking slightly he realised there was something wrong with the image in front of him. Bending down he ignored the insistent tugging on his arm and smoothed the hair away from Gus’ eyes. The demon had always said that even if it wasn’t the way you should measure yourself, image was the way other people measured you.
Blinking rapidly he looked up to see three concerned faces looking at him.
“Xander… what’s –” He cut Willow off with a shake of his head.
“I think I… I should go home. Excuse me.” Turning he left the crypt and stumbled slightly in what he hoped was the right direction, his world spinning slightly.
He’d known that demons did bad things – people too. He had just never expected to see a demon he knew doing something so… evil. He imagined this is what the neighbours of Ted Bundy must have felt like. He was such a nice guy… when he wasn’t killing people.
Feeling a tug on his arm he looked down to see a pale hand wrapped around his bicep. “C’mon Harris, home’s this way.”
Thankfully the blond didn’t say anything on the walk home. The trip was silent other than Spike stopping once, telling him to sit on a bench for a few minutes, disappearing off somewhere before returning and ushering him homeward.
Blinking the cartoon blink he seemed to have perfected he found himself sitting on his couch and a vampire tugging off his boots. Confused he just blinked again and found a bottle of something cold pressed into his palm.
“Not much else will knock a guy for a loop like that. Nothing for it but to get plastered, mate. Drink up; we got plenty to get through.”
He was into his third – though he couldn’t say what it was his third of, or if he’d missed count of one or two of whatever-it-was in his hand– when he finally understood why the people on TV were always coming home and opening a beer. The shock of Gus’ head at his feet was slowly retreating into a dull numbing sensation and, as he took another pull on the bottle, the lassitude replacing it was vaguely comforting.
Again the bottle in his hand was replaced as if by magic and he had to look quickly to make sure it really was just a certain unnatural blond vampire and not something hoodoo-ish. Clearly he’d moved too quickly because the cartoon blink was back as he tried to get his bearings for a moment.
“Do you –”
Suddenly he was terrified Spike would ask him to talk about it he said the first thing that came to mind, “Talk to me.”
It seemed the cartoon blink was catching, as the vampire blinked it back at him. The pale face tilted to one side for a moment, studying him and Xander had the sudden absurd idea that Spike hadn’t moved, but his entire world had shifted, just a little. Shaking that thought off with a shudder of too-close-to-the-truth-for-comfort he listened as the other man took a breath.
“let me speak as a friend
although the centuries hang
between us and neither you nor I
can see the moon
be careful less the onion blind the eye
or the snake sting
or the beetle posses the house
or the lover your wife
or the government your child
or the wine your will
or the doctor your heart
or the butchers your belly
or the cat your chair
or the lawyer your ignorance of the law
or the law dressed as a uniformed man and killing you.
dismiss perfection as an ache of the
but do not give in to the mass modesty of
the belly of the whale is laden with
He wasn’t sure when he’d started shivering; only really became aware of it when cold hands held his own still and pale lips stopped speaking. He knew he was more than slightly drunk – loose limbed and clumsy and his words were slightly slurred.
“Promise me you won’t die too?”
He knew the request was sappy, knew once he was no longer riding a high of anguish and alcohol the vampire would probably tease him mercilessly, but suddenly he was desperate for the reassurance. He knew Spike wasn’t a saint, but he was unexpectedly terrified the other man would do something that would force Buffy to stake him.
“Why would I go and do a fool thing like that? C’mon Xander, you’ve hit pumpkin time, any more to drink and you’ll be choking on your own vomit. Time for bed.”
And he was being hauled upright as though he weighed no more than a five year old, carried more than guided to his bed. Attempting to retain some shred of dignity he waved away caring hands and stripped down to his boxers himself. Crawling onto the bed he hoped the slight spinning sensation would stop; found it did when a cool palm pressed itself to his forehead.
The second he’d seen the brunet’s face he’d known that it was something more than just a dead acquaintance. If Sunnydale did nothing else, it made the kids grow up fast. So when the shock settled like a cloud on Xander’s features he’d done the best thing he could think of; gotten the human rip roaring drunk to try and give him time to work it out. While not the best plan in the world, it was effective… most of the time.
Moving to sit up on the bed beside the sleeping mortal, one palm permanently on a warm forehead, he briefly considered the possible wedge this could put between himself and the human who rolled towards him, seeking comfort. While working at Ronnie’s had given Xander a more liberal outlook on demons in general, Spike wouldn’t be surprised if the boy coped by swinging as far in the opposite direction as he could; quitting his current job and denouncing all demons as a Bad Idea.
Finally he decided that, as he was nowhere near as drunk as the human, it was a train of thought for another occasion and fell asleep to the lub-thump Xander’s heart.
AN: Credit to: Advice for some young man in the year 2064 A.D. - Charles Bukowski