TITLE: "Babel" (1/1)
AUTHOR: Marie-Claude Danis
EMAIL: mc@fangy.net
SITE: http://fangy.net
FEEDBACK: Would be delightful.
DISTRIB: List archives, or just ask first.
RATING: PG
PAIRING: Spike/Xander
SUMMARY: "Xander leaned in and kissed him, deeply, the way Spike always thought meant 'I love you'."
WARNING: =Character death!=
THANKS: To Mad Poetess, always. And to Alex and Nancy and Meg. And to guys who hold doors open for girls. I like them.

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The basement swam in and out of focus for him, and for the first time he noticed just how much of a death trap it really was. He let a few moments tick by quietly and took a few steps forward, looking around him with detached dread. How could something so lived-in, so human, feel so goddamn cold? The air around him felt unbearably oppressive; he couldn't imagine having to breathe it every day.

The boy behind him moved and Spike turned to face him, wiping the tears from his eyes with his sleeve.

"Why did you tell me this?" he asked, weakly accusing, and his voice broke on the last word. He stood helplessly a few feet away from the boy, on shaky legs.

Xander looked painfully at him, eyes sad but lacking apology. "I'm sorry." It sounded hollow, but he did put it out there, to his credit. He turned back to the pulled-out sofa bed and resumed fitting neatly folded t-shirts into his suitcase.

Spike braced himself for an argument, but found all the fight had left him, leaving him with open-mouthed helplessness and tears that just wouldn't stop. "X-Xander... you... you can't ask this of me. You can't. I can't."

Xander regarded him calmly over his shoulder. "If not you, who?" His tone, bordering on conversational, made Spike's hands shake.

And he didn't have an answer. "But-- I--"

"It's gotta be you."

"That's, that's not true. You're lying. It could be anybody, doesn't have to be me. In fact, you could just not do it at all, and it would be nobody." His breath hitched on the sobs, and the feeling was foreign. He reached out and grabbed the back of a chair behind him, steadying himself.

Xander paused in his packing and walked to him, putting both hands calmly on Spike's shoulders. Spike blinked confusedly through the tears and met Xander's gaze, putting all he had into keeping that connection, be it for a mere moment.

"Spike," Xander said calmly, then repeated, "It's gotta be you."

Spike wanted to throw himself at him, to grab the boy's shirt and keep him from leaving; or to yell, fight, insult, anything so that he wouldn't go. But his hands remained frozen at his sides and his throat choked on desperate words, breaking them into a heart-wrenching sob instead, as he watched Xander turn away from him and resume his task. Spike slid to his knees and watched helplessly, hands kneading the leather on his knees, bruising the skin with blunt, restless fingers.

Soon the metallic grate of the zipper and the snap of the suitcase's clasps boomed through the silence of the basement and Spike flinched violently, his breath hitching again, this time painfully. Xander casually dropped his luggage by the stairs and picked up his jacket from the bed, slipping it on with a glance in Spike's direction. Spike looked up at him wordless and the boy just stood there for a moment, his eyes purposely blank.

Spike's eyes widened when Xander took a step forward and crouched in front of him, slipping his hand on his cheek. Spike could feel himself shaking all over, and gritted his teeth together to make it stop, uselessly. Xander leaned in and kissed him, deeply, the way Spike always thought meant 'I love you'. Then the boy stood and simply walked away, to the stairs.

Spike cried out and lunged forward, his whole body feeling like it weighed tons on his feet. Yet he leaped to him and grabbed him, only to be elbowed away too easily, his strength gone, ineffective, useless, like he began to believe it always had been. He reached out one last time but Xander pushed him away forcefully, and Spike landed against the wall, where his knees gave out.

He slid down to the floor again, his voice breaking on the sobs. "Don't leave me..."

Ignoring the whispered plea, Xander took his suitcase and climbed the stairs in a brisk trot, then swung the door inwards and disappeared into the daylight. Spike watched with muted horror as the door slowly closed again in his wake. The sunlight faded as it creaked closed on its hinges, just as Spike let his eyes close as well, waiting for the inevitable stop-and-rewind to grate at his fragile mind, too spent to fight it.

"Spike? I have something to tell you." Xander stood before him again, opening the empty suitcase and starting to fill it with his meager belongings.

Spike stood again on shaky legs and walked to the boy. He wiped at his eyes with his coat sleeve and cleared his throat painfully. "What is it, Xander?"

"I'm going."

"Spike?"

"You're--"

"I'm going, and I need to ask you a favour."

"SPIKE!"

Spike's eyes fluttered open and the cold, stagnant air made them water listlessly. He drew his knees closer to his chest and shuddered, folding into himself again. He heard the Slayer walk down the wooden stairs and across the empty room, her footsteps echoing sickeningly in the brittle vacancy. Somewhere in the back of his mind he felt her kneel next to him.

"Spike?" Her voice was soft, worried, but it screamed in his ears and he shook his head, burying his face into the cold folds of leather that reeked of basement mold.

A warm, careful hand touched his head, brushing the dirty curls back soothingly. He felt her sit down next to him, and she didn't say anything for a long moment, just caressed his hair with worried softness.

After several minutes she spoke again, her voice laced with her own grief and small, very small, not at all Slayer-like. "Spike... You have to come out..."

His arms tightened weakly around his legs and the used denim of his knees scratched roughly at his forehead. Couldn't look up. Couldn't look up or he'd be there again.

Buffy's voice came closer, and he felt parts of her body touching his as she leaned in, comforting. Her fingers crazed his temple. "Y- You need to feed... You're cold... You need to get out of here, Spike, it's not... it's not good."

He heard his own voice, muffled, he heard it crack on the first word, thick with saliva and aching with pent-up emotion. "He's gone."

Her fingers shook a bit against the back of his neck, then came back up to his temple. Then down again. Up, and down. Wanting so much to make it better. "I'm sorry, Spike..."

She didn't say it, but he heard it. Or he ached to. I'm sorry he went. I'm sorry he left himself for you to find. I'm sorry you found him. I'm sorry you had to be the one. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry Xander slit his wrists instead of letting you fix him. She didn't say it, but he heard it. Very softly, behind her strangled silence.

"Spike?"

He raised his head, regretting it as he did, and Xander met his gaze, head tilted to the side and peering at him from behind a mess of dark curls. His tone, as usual, was light, inappropriate. He put a few shirts in the suitcase and looked back at Spike. Spike wanted to scream, but that was not part of the script. Of this thing that never happened, this thing he was trapped in.

"Spike? I have a favour to ask you."

"He did it on purpose. He wanted me to find him. Why would he want me to find him?" The last sentence was barely breathed and broke into a sob, one that crushed his throat, tore at his insides.

"I don't think... Spike, you don't know that... We all didn't know."

Spike wrapped his arms around his middle and drew his knees even closer, face hidden again. He lost count of the up-and-down, of the to-and-fro of her hand, her fingers against his scalp, and then she was pulling him up, cradling him carefully, propping him up against herself, like a good-lil-Slayer would do for anyone but the likes of him. Somehow he got one foot in front of the other - it was all her doing, really - and they got to the stairs. He was never able to go past the stairs.

"Spike..."

"Spike?"

He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. A shaky hand shot up to cover his ear, to bloke it out. "No... please..."

"C'mon, Spike... just a few stairs, we'll get you something to eat..."

"Spike?"

"NO!!!" The scream scratched at his throat as it left his lips and his eyes fell open, and he was right there, but he wasn't done packing and he was looking at him, puzzled by his departure, and this wasn't supposed to play out this way.

"Spike? Where are you going?"

"C'mon, just a little bit more... that's it..."

"Spike? Don't go, I have a favour to ask you."

"LEAVE ME ALONE!!" he cried in his direction and it echoed in the empty room just like her footsteps had earlier. Another sob made his knees buckle but she held him up, and they made their way up the stairs.

The door creaked open and it was night, like it never was in his head, and he looked down the stairs, like he was looking down an oubliette. The boy looked up at him, an ugly shirt folded neatly between his hands.

"Spike?"

He resisted the Slayer's gentle pull a moment more, then let the door close behind him.

"Spike, don't leave me."



END