Pairing: Xander/Spike & Spike/Buffy (latent) & Xander/Anya (latent)
Rating: R for slash
Summary: Post-"Beneath You" – What if Xander, instead of Buffy, had followed Spike to that church
Genre/Warnings: Angst, episode related, AU
Many thanks to my betas: Chenanceou and Xanpet, and my friend Kimi615
Perdition catch my soul
I can't believe I'm spying on Buffy. When did this happen? Guess it started the moment Spike turned up at Revello Drive, acting like everything's hunky dory. Leaning against the doorframe as if he owned the place - and everybody in it, besides.
And what do you know? It's like somebody turned back the clock, because suddenly the whole summer doesn't count. Suddenly Dawnie and I are out of the loop again. Suddenly Buffy is big with the secrets and the not telling and the keeping things to herself, and not so much with the talking and the being good friends.
She's right; her private life is none of my business, not for me to judge. But when Mr. Rape saunters back into her life – and ours by proxy – that IS my business.
Which is why I'm standing in this alley, behind a pile of crates, Anya at my side, trying to listen to what Spike is saying to Buffy.
He's pacing up and down, twirling a piece of metal, a pipe or something, like a baton.
Was it him who yelled, 'Help me,' just a few moments ago, helping us locate them?
And what's he talking about? 'Something's coming?' What else is new?
Suddenly, Spike runs off as if chased by the furies. We could wait a moment and pretend we didn't hear his ramblings. I exchange a glance with Anya who is wearing her I'm-scared-please-help-me face, but before I can make up my mind whether I still have the right to try and comfort her, she silently shrugs and turns to leave.
I hurry to where Buffy is crouching. She's adjusting the blanket covering Nancy's troublesome, abusive ex-worm-ex-boyfriend. Nancy shakes her head, gets up and backs away from him, Buffy and me. I guess she really is over the guy.
She leaves without another glance at her ex. Makes me kinda wonder what I saw in her.
And the weird thing is: I just know, that if I were lying there, curled underneath a blanket, hurt and in shock, vengeance-demon or no, Anya would be fussing about me, even after that leaving-at-the-altar-fiasco.
"Xander!" She points at Ronnie, "Look after him. The ambulance is on its way." She tries to hand me the cell phone and is about to chase after Spike.
I almost put my hand on her arm, but then I remember, just in time, that she doesn't like being touched. Not anymore. "Don't. Let me take care of that," I say and nod towards the alley where Spike has disappeared.
Indecision is written on her face. "He said something… about what's coming. Something from beneath. I have to find out what he knows."
"Don't worry, this carpenter's not going to do anything rash, here." The lie comes out easily. "If Spike knows anything, I'll make him talk. You shouldn't have to deal with this."
"Maybe you're right." She nods slowly, her relief obvious. "Ask him what he meant, about that thing."
Several yards into the alley, I hear her parting words.
"And Xander? Be careful."
I don't dawdle, I run. The minute I'm out of sight I pull a stake out of my pocket. A stake with Spike's name on it. I carved it more than three months ago.
He's nowhere to be seen and it occurs to me, that traipsing round Sunnydale at night is not one of my brightest ideas. Like that ever stopped me before.
I trot on down the road, always in a straight line, ignoring all the dark alleys that branch off from the main road. He'd ran like a man who has lost all purpose, one who goes where his feet carry him, wherever that may be. Eventually I reach a T-junction. There's an old warehouse, dark and shuttered, to the right and a small cemetery to the left. Which way? My feet automatically carry me to the left and through the gate. I guess that means Dead R'Us wins.
I know most of Sunnydale's cemeteries like the back of my hand. This one I've only been to a few times. Which is why I'm surprised to suddenly find myself standing in front of a church. Yellow light from flickering candles is seeping through the windows. Like a beacon. A church should be the last place Spike would turn to, but somehow I know that's where he is.
I approach slowly. The door is ajar. It creaks when I give it a cautionary push. I clutch my stake and step inside. I don't even try to be quiet.
The interior of the church is mostly dark. Lit only by a handful of candles that flutter at my entry, it's a place where shadows crouch like beasts.
At first, I don't see him, but then there's movement to my right. I jump back with a start, barely swallowing a girly squeal. It's him. Spike emerges from the shadows like a great white shark emerges from the deep. Complete with the da-dam da-dam soundtrack. No wait, that's just in my head.
He's not attacking. Even so, I take another step back.
He's taken off his blue sweater. A criss-cross of thin healing scars mars his pale muscular flesh. Not claw marks, more like someone tried to inexpertly carve him up like a thanksgiving turkey. White meat.
I stomp on the instinctual pity that threatens to undermine my resolve.
"A costume," he says, and hangs his sweater over the backrest of a pew.
"Can't hide. Should've known," he continues, sounding like someone who's just been sentenced to death. How appropriate.
I realize his face is wet. He's been crying. I look away. There's something fundamentally wrong about a man in tears. And Spike in tears? That's exponentially wrong. Something I've only seen once before and never wanted to see again. I don't want to see it now, either. But if I don't look at his face, I have to look at his mutilated chest. Better not. My gaze slides elsewhere, which happens to be down. Which happens to be where his crotch is. The no-go place. The one part of his anatomy that I have trained myself to never check out. Crap!
I look up, right into his eyes. And I realize I've been caught. For a dozen heartbeats – which isn't long, because my heart seems to be galloping like a John Ford cavalry charge - we stare at each other…
"How about it, Harris? Want a bit of vampire flesh, with no strings attached?" His voice is brittle. "Someone you can dump, when you're through?"
"Huh? What --," I stammer. What's going on?
His shoulders slump and he lowers his gaze. "Right. Serviced her, can service you too." His hands drop to his fly and start to unbuckle his belt.
Service? What's he--. I stare at his hands, horrified, unable to tear my eyes away. They're shaking. Normally, he's got that whole I'm-a-big-bad-sex-god vibe going for (or, if you're me – against) him. Tonight, the sex-god's broken.
He's finished with the belt and starts fumbling with the button. "Just wait. I can get it hard," he mutters. "If I put my mind to it."
Mind? That's it! This is some kind of mind-game. Freak the Zeppo. Except that Spike's never been a great actor. A great show-off, a drama queen, but Emmy material? So not. With that theory down the drain, the full meaning of his words begins to sink in. God, he's not really suggesting… Color me disgusted. I open my mouth, but nothing comes out.
The button's undone and he's reaching for the zipper, when the de-freeze kicks in.
"What?" His hands pause. He tilts his head as if in deep thought and looks at me. "Oh, I get it. You wanna be the pitcher."
Huh? Oh. Oh! The dreaded but familiar image comes unbidden, pops into my head like a steaming pop tart, hot and delicious: my dick thrusting into him, my hands gripping his thighs hard enough to bruise, his marble body squirming and writhing beneath me – if in ecstasy or pain I can't tell. Lust and burning shame wash over me in equal measure, making me achingly hard. I feel hot and breathless. I feel like my most shameful fantasies are written all over my face. Do I want to be the pitcher? Boy, do I.
"Right then." He drops to his knees as if in supplication and his fingertips brush lightly over my hard-on as he reaches for my fly. My fist connects with his face before I even know it. The forgotten stake in my fist slashes his skin, leaving a flaming red gash on his cheek. The impact propels him backward. A pew crashes under his weight. He remains sprawled across the floor, half propped against the broken bench, shaking his head as if trying to clear it. There's a strangely grateful look on his face as he touches his injured cheek. "Yes," he breathes and looks thoughtfully at his bloodstained fingers, then at me. "This is gonna be good. D'you want me to struggle?"
His words act like a bucket of cold water. I grab his sweater and toss it towards him. He doesn't move to catch it, so it hits his chest and then slides down to his lap.
"I want you to tell me what's going on."
He stills. For a moment, he's not even breathing.
Then he laughs, and what a desolate sound it is! "Wrong. Like she said, everything about me is wrong."
He quickly scrambles sideways, like a cockroach scuttling for cover, away from the light. His sweater stays behind. Spike seems to merge with the shadows, like he's returning to the cloth he's been cut from. I can hear him get to his feet, even though I can't see him.
"I was a good man, once," his voice suddenly comes out of the dark, at least five yards away from where I suspected him to be.
"You, Spike? Tell me another one."
What's he doing? Playing cat and mouse? He's moving around me, but manages to stay within the shadows all the time. As if the candlelight could burn him, too. The only thing that helps me track his movement is his voice: "So. Buffy never told you, then."
I realize - again - that there's a lot Buffy never bothered to tell me. "Never told me what?"
"It's true," he continues, "Went to church every Sunday, opened doors for the ladies, washed my hands before dinner, even gave money to charity."
"Yeah? What makes you think I care?"
He doesn't answer. Which means I don't know where he is. The silence becomes oppressive. All I hear is my own terrified heartbeat.
"I think I know what's wrong with you," I blurt out.
"Do you, now?" His voice comes from behind me. I turn around, stake raised. There he is. He stands before me, shoulders hunched, eyes cast down. Close enough to touch. My eyes are drawn to the white flesh of his chest. I wonder if I'd be fast enough, if I tried to plunge the stake into his heart. Probably not. He's a vampire. Preternaturally fast.
"I think you went and got your chip out." I tell him. "Only, something went wrong and your brain got fried extra crispy. Who'd you hire, a butcher with a power drill? Too bad he didn't do a badder job, cause if he'd turned you into a full-blown vegetable, now that would have been a gift to mankind."
He doesn't rise to the bait.
"Something like that," he finally mumbles.
So, it's true! Crap! Spike's de-chipped and I'm standing here with one tiny little stake.
"And now? What's the agenda? Kill us all and then go back to the old Missus? You'll make a lovely couple, especially now that you're on the same crazy wavelength."
"S'pose it looks that way."
There's something I don't understand. I just have to ask. "Why would you suddenly try to get it out? It didn't stop you from trying to rape Buffy."
"She told you, then?"
"She didn't have to. I saw her. After."
He squirms. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he's ashamed. Yeah, like that's ever gonna happen. "Men should be what they seem."
"Meaning what?" Don't you just hate it when crazies go all cryptic on you?
He runs his hand through his hair. "Something… something had to change. So I went. And I did. Change. And now…" he breaks off, wipes his nose on the back of his hand, then tries again: "And now I'm still nothing. Worthless. Still don't belong. Don't fit. And my head's just… It just never stops. On and on. Never a moment of quiet…"
Must have been quite an operation, that chipectomy. I know I shouldn't feel sorry for him. So what, if his brain's tied in a knot like that? He deserves worse. But what do you know? Some twisted, out-of-this-world part of me actually finds it painful to look at him like that. Broken.
"No way but this, no way but this," he mumbles, then looks up to find me staring at him.
"What do you want from me?" he asks, suddenly sounding coherent.
"Truthfully? I want to see you burn in hell." The lie comes out automatically. Or maybe it's not a lie.
He laughs. "I think I can do that." He turns away from me and slowly walks down the aisle. "You see I'm a vampire. I'm evil. I drink blood. I kill. I know how to shag. But I don't know how to love. Cause I'm just a thing. Vampire…"
He steps up onto the dais and stands before the large cross. He's such a drama queen.
"But most of all? I burn. Easily." With that, he drapes his arms around the cross before him, hugging it. And for a moment, I honestly think the cross is broken, because he's not recoiling. When the fine mist rises up from his body, it's almost as if he's transforming into something else, like those movie-vampires do. Belatedly, understanding kicks in. Followed by the stench of burning flesh. A wave of nausea makes my stomach lurch.
I came here to dust him, once and for all. But before I have time to think about what I'm doing, I'm yanking him away from that cross and hurling him down the dais. He drops like a rag doll. I see him shaking, as sobs rack his body. His chest, shoulders and arms are still smoking. His skin is blistered, even charred.
I look at the stake in my hand and toss it away.
And then I throw up.