Summary: Annoyed with Spike and Xander’s constant bickering, Willow uses a spell to separate the two. But it turns out the boys need each other more than they ever thought they did.
Warnings: Sexual content, Alcoholic!Xander
Disclaimer: I don’t own these characters, and I make no profit from this story.
A/N: Takes place after Spike slept with Anya, but according to my muses, Anya left after that. Don’t know what happened to her. She’s just not in the story.
The punching bag looked nothing like Harris, but Spike was beating the tar out of it anyway—frustrated with both the boy’s Goddamn nerve and Red’s cock-up. Fucked them over good and proper now, hadn’t she? Couldn’t even patrol in the same cemetery with him without one of them being vaporized to God-Knows-Where. If Harris hadn’t opened his stupid mouth…
He dropped his fists to his sides, body still tense with the urge to kill something. But the population of big nasties left to kill was becoming thin as of late. Stupid baby fledges never gave much of a fight anymore either. And when he wasn’t trying to find something to kill, he was plagued by memories, nightmares that made it impossible for him to sleep. Stupid fucking soul. He needed to—
The back door of the training room swung open, and before he could even smell the boy, he felt the world rip out from under his feet.
“Christ on a Fucking Cross!” He cried out, but the words were stuffed back down his throat by the whirl of magical energy, and when he landed he just barely had time to catch his balance before he realized why he needed it.
He was on a steel beam. Twelve stories up. Staring at the ground below, where he would’ve been vampancake had he not been in touch with his supernatural reflexes. For Fuck’s Sake, Red! His mind cursed her a thousand times as his body remained frozen, searching for some sort of purchase—he may not be afraid of heights, but he wasn’t exactly thrilled with facing them so suddenly. He scanned his position, finally spotting a temporary catwalk a couple beams away, which led to a construction elevator. Okay. He had his way down.
Slowly swerving his feet, he balanced himself on the beam and looked down, placing one Doc in front of the other. Fucking Hell, if a vampire was wary about navigating these beams, how the hell did humans manage? Just as he was contemplating mortal stupidity, he found himself at the corner and looked down.
There, wedged into the angle between the beam he was standing on and the vertical beam it was connected to, was a rather heavy-looking tool box.
Marked X. Harris.
With a slightly derisive snort, he gripped the beam in front of him and crouched down. That’s right. Harris was the epitome of mortal stupidity. No wonder he worked in construction. Tracing a varnished black nail over the X, unmistakably Xander’s handwriting, he shook his head at the thought of the idiot up here every day. Legs swinging over the beam below him, because he can’t sit still for anything, crouched over the little bits of metal holding these gigantic structures to one-another, making certain that they weren’t going to fall apart in the next stiff breeze. If the idiot was good at anything, it was that—holding things together.
He thought of Anya and cringed.
Yeah. If he was good at holding things together, Spike was a champ at ripping things apart.
Right… Annoyed with that thought, he flicked the little latch up and yanked open the box by the lid. The inside of the lid was taped up with pictures—Buffy, Willow, Dawn, some black-haired kid he’d never seen before. One of Giles, looking half-drunk and wearing a cowboy hat. Three of Anya.
A little yellow post-it note close to the bottom left corner bore his own handwriting.
“Holding your bloody Twinkies hostage until you bring back some O-neg, none of this pig shit. Give me my livelihood, and I’ll give you yours.”
A wry smile touched his lips. It was funny, that’s probably why he kept it. A reminder of a time when they… they weren’t friends, but they were… learning to respect each other. Understand each other. Something. There was a connection.
Botched that, didn’t I? His smile faded, and he looked away from it, down to the disorganized mess of tools filling the box. There were two layers, apparently, since the top was a removable tray, complete with a plastic handle. But everything was crowded in the top, totally chaotic, nuts and bolts mixed together with gigantic hammers and complicated-looking screwdriver-like-things… Jesus, Harris. He rolled his eyes, thinking of how horribly disorganized the basement had been. Of course his toolbox would look like it had experienced its own personal earthquake.
Then he lifted the top layer and found a brown-bagged bottle of whiskey in the bottom.
Well, well… He sighed softly, lifting the bottle out of the box, not really surprised to find it half gone. With the way his parents carried on, it seemed natural that Harris would develop a problem of his own. The stress of Anya, of slaying, of… God, a life no mortal was meant to lead; anyone could see the boy was haunted. And if he was going to keep smiling, keep being the funny guy while he watched his world implode, he needed some sort of crutch.
He supposed booze was good as any.
Still, he stuffed the bottle into the pocket of his duster and replaced the top tray, slamming the box closed. He didn’t know why he was so pissed off. But for some reason, he was. And he was pissed at Harris.
He moved carefully toward the elevator, intent on heading back to his crypt. And finishing this bottle, so Harris didn’t have to.
“What’d’ya mean, you can’t figure it out?!”
He gaped, hands balled into fists at his sides as Willow said exactly what he didn’t want to hear.
“Well, I mean…” She looked to Tara, then to Giles, who was staring down at a text that looked to be written in ancient chicken-scratch. “The original spell, the one I used—that was written in Jockrithian”
“I-it was a defense spell.” Tara tried, laying a comforting hand on Willow’s shoulder. “Supposed to be used d-during their war with the Kleibiites. So the counter-spell is in—”
“Lemme guess.” Xander sighed, resting his forehead against his palm. “The counter-spell’s in Kleibiitian, or whatever, right?”
“Yes.” Willow looked so guilty that he could already taste the brownies she would be making for him once this whole mess was sorted out.
“And nobody here knows Kleibiitian.” Xander nodded, half-numb, looking down at the text in front of him, which detailed the original spell. “So…”
“I’m sorry, Xander.” Willow pouted guiltily, giving him extra-strength puppy-eyes. “I didn’t know it would work like this, okay? I swear, I just wanted some peace and quiet, without you two fighting all the time, and I thought—”
“Yeah, next time read the fine-print, would’ja, Wills?” He rubbed his eyes, contemplating a future of being zapped somewhere else every time Spike showed up.
It didn’t really… appeal. Not as much as it should’ve. Maybe because if he couldn’t see him, he couldn’t be the one to stake him. And honestly, the whole getting-bounced-to-the-four-corners-of-t
So they needed somebody who knew Kleibiitian. That would probably be the bleached menace himself. Joy of joys. “So, until we get this counterspell translated…”
Willow’s look was pitiful, her voice even more so. “I really am sorry, Xander.”
He smiled a little, taking one of Spike’s beers out of his bag. “Hey, this is a blessing. I am happy to spend as much time away from Fangless as humanly—”
“Red! This spell better be broken now, so I can wring that little tosser’s neck!”
He found himself grinning, even laughing a little, as the whole gang turned to stare at him. Then the back door was kicked open, and he tossed the beer back into his bag and braced himself as the magic took him away.
“He did what?!” Giles shouted, agape at the very notion of Xander being so cruel.
“Trashed my crypt.” Spike growled, stalking back and forth across the floor. “Took my beer. Broke my telly.” The last word was howled in anguish, and he punctuated it with a vicious kick to the coffee table.
Buffy reached out a hand to steady it. “Are you sure it was Xander? I mean, you’re not exactly Prom King of the demon world at the moment.”
“Yeah, and Xander’s not really the… the vandalizing type.” Willow tried, giving him the best puppy-eyes she could muster.
Spike remained unaffected, pacing with enough vicious intent to unnerve them all. “Oh, it was Harris, alright. Could smell him there. Saw his handwriting on the wall. Th’ boy’s losin’ it, and he’s blaming me for all his shitte.”
The look Spike got from the Slayerettes was one of pure confusion.
Willow winced. “But—I mean, he was fine just now.”
“Yeah, he didn’t seem any different.” Buffy shrugged, looking to Giles. “Did he?”
“Well, he did seem a little out of sorts.” Giles sighed, looking down at his book again. “But the effects of this particular spell are bound to wear anyone out.”
“It’s not just this stupid spell, Watcher!” Spike roared, his lips curled back, eyes flashing a hard amber that made Giles jump. “Are ya blind?!”
They stared at him, totally bewildered, but not really worried—not like they should be. Xander’s fine, they seemed to think collectively, shrugging it off. Spike’s just pushing buttons again.
“Xander’s fine, Spike.” Willow sighed, turning to face him again, her features set in that ‘Willow-Knows-Best’ look. “He’s just… you know. Dealing with the spell and everything. If anything, you should be a little nicer. He’s only human. He doesn’t need you making him feel inadequate.”
Yeah, that’s why ye treat him like he’s ten years old, just taggin’ along with the big kids, right? He wanted to yell. Fuck that, Red. He’s a grown man. He’s just losin’ his grip fightin’ the good fight with you lot, ‘cause you’re all dancin’ merrily on your superpowered way, and he’s left standin’ there with a sword he never uses. How many humans on this rock know how to dust a fledge or vanquish a demon, let alone deal with your bloody parlor tricks? S’no wonder he drinks like a fish.
“Bugger this.” He snarled instead, fed up because not one of them could see the train wreck right in front of them. He charged out the door again, this time headed straight for Harris’ place.
He was not going to let the idiot blame him for his sad little life. He wasn’t a scapegoat. Sure, he fucked the demon bint, and yeah, he didn’t hold back when they got into their usual verbal spats. He’d even tried to kill the brat a few times in his chipless days. But he wasn’t the one fucking up Xander Harris’ life. Kid was doing a fine job of that all on his own.
For some reason, he clung to that thought like it was a life-preserver on a sinking ship.
He didn’t know why he didn’t want this to be his fault. But he really didn’t.
When Xander was five, he spilled a glass of orange juice all over the kitchen floor. His father picked him up, threw him on the kitchen counter, wrapped his fingers around his neck and smacked his head into the cabinets above until he no longer had the grey matter to say anything but “I didn’t mean to”. Since then, Xander had fallen over walls, tripped over tree roots, thrown himself into tangles with big nasties he didn’t even know how to kill—but none of that scared him as much as spilling something. When he spilled something, his heart would stop for a millisecond, as if he was back in that five year old body waiting for Tony Harris to knock his lights out.
And then he’d snap out of it, shake his head, and think, Man, you’re being ridiculous.
He never noticed how completely terrified it made him, not really. At least not until he got home that night, after the spell had dropped him in the kitchen of a Chinese take-out place, where he bought lo mein and some fried wontons. He’d walked across the street and bought beer after, a six-pack. Drank one on the way home, another as he stood in front of his door, keys in hand.
But when he stepped in, his eyes darted to the open kitchen, and he dropped both the take-out and the beer.
His countertops were littered with bottles. At least two dozen, probably more, and countless cans. Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort, Jose Cuervo, Hpnotiq, a cheap brand of vodka that had the strongest burn he’d ever felt. Rum, beer, an old bottle of wine he’d been saving for a rainy day. He remembered buying it all, sort of, collectively. But he couldn’t remember there being so much, even though he could remember where they’d all come from. Like that bottle of Captain; that was the one he’d stashed inside the toilet tank for when he needed a little taste as he patched himself up after patrol. And that Jack, that was the bottle he kept in his toolbox at work, though how it got here he had no idea. And the smaller Jack, the one in front of it, he kept that in the top drawer of his bedside table, right next to the lube…
God, there were so many. And they were all empty. Every last one.
The kitchen back home looked like this. Bottles everywhere. They never stayed in the kitchen, always traveling the house in his mother and father’s hands, but when they were empty they piled up by the garbage until somebody finally got trash bags and threw them all away. He remembered doing just that, tossing the bottles into big black plastic sacks and dragging them out to the can over his shoulder, not understanding why this task was always left to him when his parents were the ones who drank it all.
There were the beers he drank last night, all lined up like soldiers. Nine of them. He’d had nine of them last night, just sitting there in front of the TV.
A note, written on the back of a receipt, was taped to the empty Cuervo. Spike’s elegant, spidery calligraphy.
Looks like somebody has a problem. Wake up, Harris.
He touched the crinkly tissue-thin paper, staring at the words because they make no sense at first. Problem? He thinks, What problem? Who has a problem with booze?
The face of one drunk, irate Tony Harris floated to the tips of his consciousness, and suddenly he looked down at the empty can still clutched in his fingers and felt sick.
Jesus, two beers, walking home, alone? Nine beers, sitting on the couch, alone? He started cataloguing his habit, taking stock of all he’d done in the last couple of days. Five shots at the Bronze with the girls last night. Then a couple more here, alone. Irish coffee this morning, alone. Two swigs of Jack during my lunch break, alone. Three beers right after work with the guys, then the Magic Box, then Spike’s crypt—that’s two more, alone. Alone, alone, alone. But his fingers went lax in horror as he realized there was a startling amount of time that he did not quite remember, especially as he went back beyond yesterday.
He flipped over the note. The receipt was for Stan’s—a liquor store nearby. Sixty-four dollars, fuck, he didn’t even think about shelling out that much for a bottle of tequila and a couple six-packs.
His dad’s face came back again, taunting, daring him to admit what he was beginning to fear.
Slowly, he looked back over his shoulder at the bags and the six-pack on the floor. He strode over, picked up the six-pack, and opened each can, methodically pouring them all down the drain, one after the other. He could picture Spike doing the same, gathering the bottles one after the other and pouring them all down the drain to make his point.
But I’m alright. Xander’s head reasoned, I’ve got a good job, and I’m great at it, and friends who like me, and I don’t even get drunk, I can hold my liquor with the best…
But his body, or his conscience—honestly, he couldn’t tell which it was anymore—was still pouring the beer into the sink.
I am not an alcoholic. I’m fine. I’m fine.
He tossed the last can to the floor, then turned around and ripped the two bottles of English dragon piss out of his bag, popping their caps off and dumping them both.
When their empty shells hit the counter, he flinched, terrified, even though he knew he shouldn’t be.
The note, Spike’s scrawl, stared up at him, black-on-white, screaming Prove It.