Xander Harris was an idiot. This was not a new fact, but it had taken him over two weeks to admit it this time around. It was fairly rare he announced his idiocy so loudly that Willow felt the need to intervene, but here she was. Sitting at a café with his hands wrapped around a warm mug, he stared morosely at his best friend.
“Ok Xander, see this face? This is resolve face. And resolve face says: no more ignoring the subject. You’re miserable; tell me why?” It was indeed resolve face, and a rather impressive one at that.
“I was a moron, Will.” He said, as though that explained everything, and in a way it did.
“Does this have something to do with why Spike left town?” He couldn’t help the flinch and green eyes picked it up immediately.
“Xander, I’m trying to be Supportive Best Friend here, but you need to tell me what’s going on. Are you and… I mean were you and Spike - ” He looked up from his mug to see Willow’s earnest face open and already trying to find a way to make it better.
What she’d said took a second to click and when it did his eyes widened slightly, “What? No! Not gay, Will! We were just… friends.”
He hadn’t realised how true that statement was until he’d said it.
“Xander, friends have bad days. And sometimes they say things they don’t mean. Why not just go and apologise?” The simplicity of the question, and Willow’s obvious confusion made things worse, rather than better.
He couldn’t apologise. If he did he’d have to admit the anger came from somewhere. He wasn’t deep enough in denial as to blame the entire episode on alcohol – which he’d completely sworn off for the next century or so. He was still mulling over what she’d said when she spoke again.
“Maybe it’s for the best?” That statement made absolutely no sense and he at her without comprehension.
“I mean, a vampire living with a human? It just… doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that could work, long term I mean. Maybe it’s better if you let him go. I’m sure he’ll meet up with Drusilla again eventually, and they do have over a century of history together. Kind of hard to beat, don’t you think?”
The more she’d spoke the more the sick feeling in his stomach had grown until he felt physically ill.
“No!” If the almost shout had surprised her, Willow didn’t show it. In fact she looked a little pleased at the outburst.
“Xander Harris. Are you…” He had the gut feeling that whatever she was about to ask was not something he wanted to hear and moved his chair back slightly in defence.
He was already half out of his seat when she finally spoke, “Are you in love with Spike?”
Thumping back into his chair he looked at her with what felt like just a touch too much incredulity, “Of course I’m not. Straight guy here, remember?”
She didn’t seem to hear him, continuing with a kind look in her eyes, “I don’t really blame you, you know. He’s kind when he wants to be. Loyal as puppy. Y’know, in a vampire kind of way. Plus there’s the whole strong and mysterious and sort of compact, but well-muscled factor to consider.”
“I’m not in love with Spike, but I’m starting to think you might be!” He said desperately, looking anywhere but at Willow’s face.
“Xander.” She didn’t say anything else, and he slumped in defeat.
“It’s not like that really. We’re just friends. And besides, he’s irritating!” He seized on the topic suddenly, “He’s constantly using my towel, and puts his boots on the coffee table and… and he got me drunk!”
Looking to his long-time friend in triumph, as though this statement was supposed to somehow fix everything he slumped when she simply looked back, “And ok, he may have helped me home after the whole Gus thing and gotten me my job at Ronnie’s, and … slept with me that night so I wouldn’t be alone and kept his hand on my forehead the entire night because he knew it was comforting, and recited poetry to me when I couldn’t deal and that’s… not really all “just friends” territory is it?”
Another brief glance to Willow before he was looking down again, stirring his coffee with a vengeance.
“But I’m not gay.” It was a last ditch argument, he knew.
“No one says you have to be.” The statement made him pause his stirring as he looked up.
“You’re making it out like it’s this either/or thing Xan. Can’t you just love him, regardless of the parts? Maybe you’re not gay, you’re just… Spikesexual? Can I use that, even though it’s not a word? You know what I mean, right?”
As much as he’d like to say no and play dumb, he did know. Swallowing the sudden giant lump in his throat, the full impact of what he’d done when he’d kicked Spike out hit home.
“How do I know he even… y’know. God Will, don’t make me say it, it makes me sound like such a girl! Which… is totally not a bad thing at all, and… ah, jeeze, you know what I’m trying to say.” He said glumly. Back to the coffee; stir, stir, stirstir.
“Xander, don’t be a moron.” The exasperated sentence had him looking up in surprise.
“You kick him out on his patooty, in a different city, while drunk – and don’t think there won’t be talks about that mister! – and he still drives you home, puts you to bed and puts water and painkillers on your bedside table for the morning.” She didn’t say anything else, but the pointed look made him flinch slightly.
“How come you’re not doing the whole, “Xander, do you know how bad it is to try and date the undead” thing?” He asked, apropos of nothing.
The look Willow gave him was very similar to the previous one, “Xander, you two have been dancing around each other for months now. I can if you want but honestly, none of us are exactly the date-the-guy-slash-girl-next-door type. Me demon in a computer, you life sucking mummy? We just want you to be careful. But other than that we figured we’d just let you figure it out on your own.”
“W-we?” He stuttered slightly and the redhead gave a noise of frustration.
“Do you really want to sit here and talk about how you two would make goo-goo eyes at each other when one of you wasn’t looking, or do you maybe want to go and talk to Spike?”
Gripped with a sudden trepidation he shifted nervously, “Um… the first one?”
“Oh, no you don’t Alexander Harris! He’s at Angel’s old mansion. Now go!” With that she pulled him up by the arm and pushed him in the general direction.
Feeling very much like he had swallowed a ball of lead he made his way slowly to the mansion. He considered half a dozen different explanations and found himself standing in front of the building before he’d decided on any. Swallowing around a suddenly dry throat he pushed open the door and walked carefully into the gloom.
“Spike? You in here?”
Almost tripping over an empty bottle he made his way further into the gloom.
“What do you want, whelp?” The vampire’s voice seemed to echo around the large room until he wasn’t really sure what direction it’d come from.
“Um, you actually. I mean, y’know to talk to you.” Stumbling again he gave up on trying to move further into the gloom and sat down where he was, hoping he didn’t sit on something sharp.
Just as he was about to put his hand out for balance there were cool fingers wrapping around his and leading him to a couch. Sighing out a thanks he fidgeted in the dark for a moment.
“You came to me mate, not the other way ‘round. If you’ve got something to say, then out with it already.” Wincing slightly at the harsh tone he nodded.
“Yeah, I, um, it’s just easier said than done I guess. I dunno where to start.” He took a deep breath and let it out again, jumping slightly when Spike spoke.
“Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
Xander laughed at the idea of Spike quoting a children’s book before taking another deep breath and looking to where he hoped the blond was standing.
“Ok, here’s the thing…”
AN: Yes, I shamelessly stole and mangled dialogue (S05E18). Spike's quote is from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Incidentally so is the title for those who wondered.