"Alone in Sunnydale on a Friday Night" - s/x friendship, season 7
"Alone in Sunnydale on a Friday Night"
Xander sprawled on his couch in his apartment, the only light the flickering of the muted television, the only sound the hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen. He could really use a beer, but it would take too much energy to get up. What was the point, anyway? There he was, sitting at home in the dark on a Friday night, his friends all doing some girly bonding thing with mud masks and popcorn, the latest apocalypse not currently threatening, and nothing else in his life to take up his time. No girlfriend, no hobbies, no non-Scooby friends. Did he really need a beer to make himself more pathetic?
And then there it was, a tiny whisper of sound coming from the closet. Spike was up. He would leave soon. He always did, the ghost that lived in Xander's apartment. Most of the day he was silent as the grave he had once crawled out of, only coming out of his room to walk to the front door. He never talked, never ate Xander's food, never watched the television. Xander didn't know what the vampire did all day, but there was never any light under the door, never any noise. It wasn't what Xander had expected when Buffy had convinced him to let Spike move in, but by now he was used to it. Spike would leave, barely disturbing the air as he walked through the living room, and then Xander would be alone for real.
That was good, right? A man and his remote, out to conquer the world… or at least surf way too many boring channels until his thumb got tired of pushing the buttons. It was good to have time alone, to contemplate your life, to learn about yourself, to jerk off on your couch without having to worry about friends or lovers or anyone else walking in on you. Good, right?
Spike slipped out into the living room and nodded to Xander before heading for the front door.
"Going anywhere interesting?" Xander asked, not turning his head to follow the vampire's progress.
"Dunno. The Bronze, maybe," said Spike quietly.
"Ah, yes, the Bronze. The site of so many of my favorite memories. Dates with Cordelia. Olaf the troll. Warren as Mighty Mouse. Various vampire attacks. Watching Buffy nearly dance herself to death. Not to mention, of course, dusting my best friend after he was turned into a vampire to lure us into a trap."
Spike was silent for a moment.
"That's the place," he replied. "G'night then."
"Want company?" Xander asked.
They sat side-by-side at the bar, each staring into his second beer of the night and ignoring the world around him.
"This is what you do when you go out?" Xander asked finally, finishing off his bottle.
"Depends. Sometimes I talk to people. Just pass the time. You know."
"Yeah." Did he ever. Sometimes there was too much free time in the day and not enough life to fill it up with.
"Want another beer?" Xander asked as he gestured to the bartender.
"I'm good, thanks," said Spike. He was so still that it was almost like sitting next to a statue. Did the soul use up all of the extra energy that Spike used to have? Was it like one of those appliances that needed a special power line run in to handle the extra current? If so, it seemed like the rest of Spike was experiencing little brown outs. Soft voice, careful movements, few expressions. Not like Spike at all.
"Buffy wasn't kidding. You really have changed."
"What?" Either the name or the accusation got the vampire's attention, and he twisted to look at his companion.
"She keeps saying that you've changed, that the soul means that you're different. I don't know if it's the soul or whatever, but you sure are different."
"Yeah?" Spike frowned and focused back on his beer.
"Sure. I mean, it was weird enough that you haven't fought me once for the remote or mixed the last of my cereal with your blood, but now you turned down a beer. I know you're not the same; even if you weren't thirsty before, you would've grabbed the beer and taken the change too."
Spike shrugged again.
"What? You don't feel different?" Xander asked, angling his body so that he was leaning against the bar and facing the vampire.
"It's still me in here. Same memories, same impulses. Just more of me somehow. More choices, more pressure. But still me."
"Well, this you seems a lot more like Angel than the Spike I knew, that's all I'm saying."
Spike's lips twisted into a scowl.
"Thanks ever so. I've always aspired to be like Mr. Tall, Dark, and Brooding," he drawled with a flash of his old sneer. "You've made my night."
"Hey, if the hair gel fits…"
Eyes dark with more than a hint of emotion, Spike turned on him.
"You want me to be the old Spike, is that it?" he asked. "You want me to find a nice, tasty young girl and take her out back for a quick meal? You want me to start a fight just for fun? You want me to burn this place to the ground when I'm done?"
"I just don't see the point of you getting your soul if all you're going to do is sit around and mope. Sure, you've done horrible things, and, yeah, you should feel really bad about it, but you've got a new lease on life, if you'll excuse the expression, and I think that you're wasting it by feeling sorry for yourself."
"So you want me to become Angel after all, then. You know, do good to atone for my sins and all that crap. Like it's a balancing scale instead of a tally sheet. I'm doing my best, trying to help, but the other stuff won't go away just because of whatever I do in the future," he said.
"No, it won't. You can never make up for what you've done, but you can at least go in the right direction now."
Spike sat in silence, staring fixedly at the neck of his beer bottle.
I wonder if vampires have a fixation on the word neck, Xander thought suddenly. I mean, do their stomachs start to rumble if they see a sign for Great Neck? Do they have a grand passion for little neck clams? Do they salivate when they hear the phrase neck and neck? Must make betting on the horses difficult.
He blinked at his fuzzy reflection in the mirror over the bar.
Okay, no more beer for me tonight. I'm cutting me off.
"It isn't that easy," he became aware that Spike was saying softly.
"It isn't that easy, just moving forward," Spike said.
"You don't. You can't."
"Okay, no, so I've never been a psychotic vampire with a century's worth of kills on my conscience, but I've done things… I've done things that I regret. I've hurt my friends. I've royally fucked up. I've been too blinded by my own pain to do the right thing."
"Yeah, so you stole Willow's favorite pencil once and didn't give it back. It hardly compares," Spike scoffed, waving over the bartender and pulling a couple of bills out of his pocket to buy another beer.
"Back in the Acathla days, I didn't warn Buffy that Willow was going to try to get Angel's soul back," Xander said quietly once the bartender was gone. "I said… I didn't tell her that it was a possibility. I should have. She ran away after that, you know. Was gone for the whole summer, and we weren't sure we'd ever see her again."
"She's strong. And it's not like she could have done anything different. By the time she got there the git had already opened the sodding portal," Spike said. "She would have had to kill him anyway."
"Yeah, but I should've told her. I was just being selfish. And I should've trusted Anya more, let her know how I was feeling, not let the wedding get so far along."
"Right, you got me there."
"And I shouldn't have blamed you for what happened between the two of you. I should have tried to understand her better, and I definitely shouldn't have tried to kill you."
"Would probably have been better all around if you had succeeded."
"No. Even with what you did to… even with what happened afterwards, I was way out of control," Xander said firmly. "I'm sorry."
Spike's eyes flashed up to meet Xander's.
"Don't apologize to me," he said. "We'll be here all night if we start recounting sins against each other. Remember me kidnapping you and threatening to kill you if Willow couldn't do her spell? Remember me selling you out to Adam? Remember me…"
"Hey, okay. Want to say we've got a clean slate here?"
"You'd be wise not to trust me. I'm still just a demon."
"You're more than just a demon."
Spike shook his head.
"I'm not. I'm evil, and dangerous, and…" The words were similar to those that the vampire used to spout back when he was first chipped, but the desolation and despair behind them were something new, and they touched Xander's heart.
"I didn't say I was going to trust you, Spike. I said that I was going to forgive you, and you were going to forgive me, and we were going to ignore all of the various death threats and attempts at murder on both sides."
"Just like that?" Spike asked.
"No, not just like that. I can't forget what you've done, not to us, not to Buffy. When I think about it, I get so mad that I can't see straight. What you tried to do to her…" He broke off and took a steadying breath. "I can't condone it, I can't even understand it, but I can forgive. She says you got your soul for her. She says it makes you different. I don't know what it means, but I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt."
"Lot of doubts, mate."
"I'm willing to try it. How 'bout you? Deal?"
Xander stuck out his hand, and Spike regarded it gravely for a moment before shaking it.
As he clasped the cool, soft skin of Spike's hand, Xander wondered briefly if he had ever willingly touched the vampire before. Hit, sure. Manhandled, once or twice. But touch, in a friendly sort of way? He couldn't recall a single kind touch.
Spike raised an eyebrow at him, and Xander hastily let go.
"Sorry. Zoned out there for a minute. I should probably think about getting home before they have to pour me out the door." He slid off of the stool and took a moment to steady himself on the bar before he was sure that he would remain upright.
"I'll walk you home," Spike said and took a last swig from his bottle. "Wouldn't do for you to get eaten by some nasty."
"Don't want another death on your already overburdened conscience?" Xander asked, weaving slightly as they started toward the door.
Spike snaked an arm around Xander's waist to keep him from bumping into a table.
"Don't feel like having to clean demon vomit off of my shoes from all of the alcohol in your system making 'em sick. Not that you drank that much, though. When did you last have a proper meal?"
"Uh… I had a burrito for lunch."
"Hardly a meal. No dinner tonight?"
"Wasn't hungry," said Xander.
"No wonder you're so loopy."
"I'm feeling better out here. The fresh air helps."
At that, Spike removed his arm, and Xander was oddly disappointed. Or maybe just oddly tilty. He focused on standing upright and walking in a straight line. It took a surprising amount of concentration.
"Dunno why anyone in their right mind would actually want to move to Sunnydale," Spike said. When Xander looked up in question, Spike nodded to a house with a "sold" sign in front of it. "Must be the low housing prices. Lots of estate sales."
"You moved here, and I don't think that you paid much attention to the real estate market beforehand," said Xander.
"I'm a demon, aren't I? I'm supposed to be attracted by the Hellmouth."
"Is that why you came back, then? Even after the soul?"
Spike shrugged and looked off into the night.
"Just came back, is all."
"Because you missed your weekly game of kitten poker? I don't think so. You came back because of Buffy," Xander said. It wasn't a question.
"Not just Buffy."
"Okay. Dawn, too."
"Not just them," Spike said seriously, studying the pavement in front of him as they continued to walk home.
"So, then, by your own admission, you're more than a demon. Not drawn by the Hellmouth but drawn by people."
"So I win that bit of our discussion from before. See? I'm not so drunk after all."
Unexpectedly, Spike looked over at him and laughed. It was a brief but totally unguarded expression of amusement, and Xander grinned back.
"You'd forgotten that I am a master of logic. Alexander Harris, able to best the most brilliant legal mind in less than five minutes."
"Only because you rarely make any sense," Spike said, jogging him gently with his elbow.
"Just go with it, crazy undead vampire guy."
"I am. And that's redundant."
"If I'm a vampire then I'm already considered undead. Don't need both in the sentence. Redundant."
"Okay, crazy picky vampire guy."
"Much better," said Spike, still smiling.
They walked in silence for a few more minutes before Xander looked over at Spike, who walked with his hands stuffed in his pockets and his eyes on the ground.
"So I was thinking that maybe some pizza would be tasty. Good for dinner, better for breakfast," Xander said.
Spike shrugged, and Xander pulled out his cell phone.
"What do you want on your half?" Xander asked.
The vampire looked over, surprised.
"Yeah, well, I know no extra garlic. Meat lover's?" At Spike's continued bafflement, Xander realized his error. "Or you were planning on going out again. Sorry, my bad. I'll just get it for me. And you don’t even have to walk me the rest of the way. It's well-lit, and Gino's is on the way."
Xander flipped open his phone and started to dial.
"Mushrooms and pepperoni," Spike said. When Xander didn't do more than just look at him, he added, "And no extra cheese. It makes it all greasy."
"Pizza's supposed to be greasy."
"Yeah, but not such much that it leaves an oil slick when I dunk it in my blood."
"Oh, god, why did I agree to let you move in with me again?" Xander said with a shudder.
"Because you can't resist my devastating charm and muscular good looks?" Spike suggested with more than a shadow of his old smirk.
"I think it was because you were going totally nuts in the high school basement, actually, but I'll agree with the other stuff too if it'll keep you from pouring blood on your pizza. Ugh."
"No pouring," said Spike.
"It makes the pizza soggy."
Xander made the call, and they turned their stroll in the direction of the pizza place.
"My memory's kind of wonky, but I'm not sure that I've thanked you for taking me in," Spike said quietly after a few minutes.
"Don't worry about it."
"I don't want you to think that I'm ungrateful. It's an awful imposition, especially with our history."
"That's all in the past, remember? We shook on it."
"Right. Still, it needed to be said."
"You're welcome. The big question, though, is how grateful you really are," said Xander with deliberate innocence.
"Very," said Spike, his brow wrinkling with the beginnings of confusion.
"Enough to pay for the pizza with the money that I know you have in your pocket and that I'm pretty sure didn't come from my wallet?"
"Yeah, all right."
"Enough to buy some ice cream too?"
"Yeah." The vampire's frown began to turn into a rueful smirk. "Just this once."
"Enough to let me pick what we watch during dinner?"
"As long as it isn't Star Trek: The Next bloody Generation again. I nearly clawed my eyes out over that the last time I lived with you."
"Naw, not TNG. I was thinking more Enterprise." Xander grinned widely as the vampire groaned.
"I should've stayed in the school basement," said Spike.
"Oh, come on, you have to love Captain Archer. And his dog."
"Sod his stupid little dog. Why the hell would you bring a dog on a spaceship?"
Xander flung his arm around Spike's shoulders and happily started to explain the importance of Porthos to the core of the show. Spike snarled and grumbled, and that make Xander only smile more.
Sure, he and Spike had been mortal enemies once and still were only reluctant allies, and, sure, they might never see eye to eye on almost any subject, but at least, for the moment, for this one quiet Friday night, they had each other, and that was way better than being alone.
I promise that I'll post some proper spander soon. Oh, and I was thinking of trying to pull pieces out of a spuffy series that I was working on many months ago. It's a sort of AU season 6, but the Big Bad ended up doing a lot of things that the First Evil was sort of doing as season 7 panned out, so it doesn't work as a long series anymore. There are some good scenes, though, so I'll see what can stand alone.