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.
Nobody had seen or heard from Xander for two days.
Spike was the only one not worried.
“I checked his place again.” Buffy sighed, dragging her fingers through her hair. “He’s not there. Are you sure the spell didn’t zap him out of Sunnydale?”
“Positive.” Willow nodded emphatically, looking to Tara for support. “It has a ten mile range. At least, I think it’s a ten mile range. That’s Jockrith for ‘ten’, right?” She pointed to a small character that looked somewhat like a backwards ‘K’. Tara frowned down at it, cocking her head to the side.
Spike snatched the paper, squinting at the character. “No, Red. That’s Jockrith for two-hundred.”
“… Oh.” Willow paled, looking down again. Tara placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
Giles cleared his throat. “Ah, Buffy. Have you checked the usual… spots?”
“Yep. Last night. Hit every abandoned building in town. Dusted a lot of fledges. Ruined a new skirt.” She frowned, twiddling a stake between her fingers nervously. “I’m checking again later. Wills, are you sure you haven’t—”
“I haven’t heard from him, no.” She shook her head, looking very guilty. “I’ve called. I’ve called every hour for the last eight hours. He’s not answering.”
Spike watched them all, occasionally contributing a line or two of experience-based knowledge, but otherwise focusing on how funny it was that they were all freaking out now, when they should’ve been freaking out days, weeks, months ago. The soul was unsettled, frustrated, but he himself wasn’t worried at all.
Why would he worry? He knew exactly where Harris was.
Buffy needed to realize that her friend didn’t always answer the door when she came over.
Idiot boy… His mind chided, even as his soul fretted over the silence. The Magic Box was too quiet without Harris’ inane chatter, too somber without his loud shirts, too empty without his constant movement. Everyone in the room was so still and quiet that it was slowly driving them all insane—he could see it. Pages turned, pencils tapped, and tension vibrated in the air. When Xander was here, it was never like this. There was always some stupid comment to break the silence, some movement for your eyes to follow when staring at the books for hours on end became too much.
They were noticing that now. Noticing how much just his presence relieved them.
Buffy sighed. Giles cleared his throat.
They’d also discovered that the most Spike knew in Kleibiitian was how to say “Where do you keep your humans?” and “I shall sever your head and toss it into the pit of a thousand flames”.
Which gave them the words “keep” and “sever”, but nothing else.
The soul was unsettled. He pushed off the wall and began to pace toward the door. “Well, one thing ye do know is if I’m not here, he can show up without gettin’ bounced.”
He heard them say something back, but he didn’t pay attention to whatever it was. There were other things to think about.
Harris was in his apartment. He had to be after what Spike had done two nights ago. He was home, either drinking himself into a coma or sitting there, alone and sober, hating his fucking existence but reveling in the fact that he was proving Spike wrong with each moment. Spike had his money on the latter, simply because Xander was a fighter, and if he was drinking he would’ve let Buffy in. No, he had to be sober. Sober and suffering the crash, no doubt.
The image of Xander, curled up on that ratty couch, fighting the migraine and the nausea, the shakes and the cold sweat, all the while cursing Spike’s name right next to his father’s… It made him uncomfortable. But not guilty. Not really.
He knew he’d done the right thing.
He reached his crypt, dusting a few fledges along the way with no little satisfaction, but when he got there he smelled…
Harris. His mind registered, taking him back to the times before the chip, before the damn demon woman had gotten her claws in and made the boy smell like nothing but her. Before the booze made him smell like some preserved corpse. That scent that wound around him the night they’d first met, that night at the school when he’d almost drooled over his Grandsire’s gift—pheromones, fear, anger and something he’d never smelled before. Something he came to associate purely with Xander. Whatever it was, it was demon catnip.
Charging down into the darkness of his crypt, he paused in the doorway, perplexed with what he was seeing. He grabbed the candle and lit it, just to make sure his night vision wasn’t failing him.
The glass was gone, all of it. So was the broken television. In its place was a new one—well, a new old one, probably from some second-hand place. The nail polish on the wall was gone too. And on the floor, by the fridge, was a cooler. It was stocked with ice and blood. The radio was there too. He switched it on, listened to the static, and realized there were new batteries.
Beside the radio was his notebook.
Shit… His mind hissed, fingers snatching it from its place. There was a page marked.
He’d been writing again, since his soul slid back in. Journal entries, musings, poetry. Ravings of a lunatic. Fucking hurt, at first. He didn’t want to remember, didn’t want to feel. And most of all, he hated to see his newfound emotions right there in black and white. But, like stupid fucking William, he wrote anyway. His soul didn’t seem to care that he wasn’t William, or that he didn’t write poetry, or that even if he did write poetry it was always terrible. It just made him write.
He’d written things… Things that would prove he wasn’t quite as together as he’d like everyone to think.
And now Harris, of all people, had read the stuff.
The marked page was toward the middle. A poem he’d written, musing over one of Dru’s crazier spells. Two lines were underlined in unfamiliar blue pen.
O, I revel in your lost-ness/For I know just where I am
The poem went on. But these lines were underlined, and that made him a little nervous. He flicked through the pages and found no marks on the rest of the book.
There was a note on the cooler.
Brought blood to say I’m sorry.
We both know if I’d brought beer, I’d drink it.
I owe you one. Or, like, a thousand.
In other words, you saved my life. Not in the usual Hellmouth way, but
Jesus, this isn’t going well, is it?
Fine. Just wanted to say I’m sorry. And thank you. I guess I’ll see you around when Wills gets this fixed.
His fingers traced the letters of that last word softly, and he found himself grinning when they smudged beneath them. He must’ve been bounced out when Spike came in. Pity. But his scent still lingered, and without the alcohol or Anya, it was better than he remembered. Muddled by sweat and vomit, but entirely Xander. That was enough.
He tucked the note in his pocket and headed back out into the night, suddenly awake. Awake like he’d been sleeping for a very long time.
The vomiting had ceased, Thank God, but the migraine that had been tapping away at his braincells for the last forty-eight hours seemed to have pitched a tent, and his hands were still shaking, and he was still sweating like a pig. He ripped his shirt off, then his undershirt, tossing them to the couch and hugging himself as he paced. He didn’t like this feeling. It seemed to get worse by the minute, and the minutes were ticking by slow as slugs.
The problem with withdrawal, as Uncle Rory would so gladly tell anyone who would listen, wasn’t so much the physical symptoms as it was the mental ones. Xander’s usual joviality was gone for the time being—he didn’t even want to talk to his friends. He just wanted them to forget his existence. Hell, he was useless anyway. Picking up his father’s bad habits was the last straw. Now he had to get himself straight. He knew it would get worse tonight, that he’d go sleepless for the third night in a row, heart beating out of his chest as his mind grayed out and his whole being reached for a drink. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t, now that he knew.
He’d just think of his father. He’d think of his father, and all the stupid drunken fights, all the times he’d been bruised and bloodied and worse, smelling stale beer on his breath.
That would kill the temptation. Maybe.
Fuck… He went out onto the terrace, his hands rubbing his arms against the chill of the August night, and tried to breathe. He needed air.
But then he looked down, and his heart stopped beating so fast—stopped beating altogether—because Spike was across the street, smoking against the wall outside the convenience store, staring right at him.
Right at him.
His hands dropped, falling limp, and his stomach took a dive. Seeing him, after a good forty-eight hours of magically aided avoidance maneuvers, was a cold-water shock to his system. Swallowing hard, he took a deep breath and leaned over the rail a little, meeting his gaze without hesitation.
He couldn’t look away if he wanted to.
The rage that had always flared when he saw Spike wasn’t coming this time. There was nothing left of it—it dissipated when he trashed Spike’s place and it was never coming back. But now, now there was this heaviness in his blood, this heat that came from knowing Spike had seen this side of him that no one was ever supposed to see. Knowing that Spike was the one to make him face it, make him see it for what it was.
Looks like somebody has a problem. He’d written, in that smooth, sure calligraphy of his. The handwriting that Xander hated, made fun of for being so haughty, but savored in private, keeping scraps and post-its just to stare at its elegance.
Somebody has a problem…
Yeah, he had a problem alright. It had only taken twelve hours and twenty-seven minutes without a drink to figure that out. Stupid fucking Spike. Always right, wasn’t he?
I revel in your lost-ness,
For I know just where I am
Those words haunted him. They haunted him, from the moment he read them and all through the sleepless nights since. They were what he clung to now, in the last legs of his withdrawal, keeping him sober. Because they were… They were how he felt. When he drank. And he was just starting to realize how fucking unhealthy that was.
He’d drink in the morning, before facing the day. Drink at work, because he needed a little more to keep himself relaxed. A drink before slayage, because the thought of facing a big nasty—let alone the gang, who relied on him for… well, comic relief—without a little liquid fortification was never a possibility. And after killing all the fledges and demons and beasts that were destroying Sunnydale, he’d come home and relax with another drink, which would fold into three, then five, then God knows how many he could swallow before he straggled off to bed.
Alcohol took him away from what he was—a twenty-something kid, wading through deep supernatural shit, casting spells, stumbling through Hellmouth brain-teasers like “But if Bobby breaks up with Jill, and Jill summons a Beijfirjsk demon, how many minutes do we have before both Bobby and Jill are toast?”. Here he is, the world’s biggest loser, hunting things, killing things (God, how many unlives has he taken?) because he somehow managed to link in with the One Girl in All the World.
He knew exactly where he was. What he was.
Alcohol just made it seem less real.
Spike’s eyes were so blue they almost glowed, like the gas flames his stove produced whenever he attempted cooking. He could see them, tiny pinpricks from this distance, but they held him completely still. His shakes were gone. His heart was beating like mad, and he felt his stomach disconnect with his body and drop to his feet, but the shakes were gone, and he was grateful, because he knew it was Spike who made them go away.
It only took that stare to renew his resolve. Ten-fold.
Get a hold of yourself, Harris. It commanded, and he held his breath for a second, then let it out nice and slow. The notebook’s contents slid through his mind, all those pages of nonsensical ramblings, the ramblings of a crazy vampire. One page just full of names, first names, he didn’t know how many there were but there were quite a few. Three pages filled with the words “I just want to touch the sun” over and over.
Something told him that Spike was not quite coping with the soul thing as well as he wanted everyone to believe.
Hell, I’m fine, Xander smiled a little, surprised with himself because smiling at Spike was something he never thought he’d do. You get a hold of yourself.
Spike’s gaze was heavy, stirring his blood and pricking his nerves, so that even the August night breeze stung. And it journeyed from his face, down his neck, down his chest and stomach… He could feel it, like fingers tracing his muscles, examining them. Sizing him up. And maybe he was as crazy as Spike, but he didn’t really mind right then. In fact, right then it felt damn good.
He could just hear him. Right then. Cut back on the Twinkies and ye might make a nummy treat.
Still, he grinned. His shakes were gone. His headache had left him.
And Spike was watching. He couldn’t screw this up. Spike was watching.
He turned his back and went inside. But he kept the window open.
He felt Spike’s eyes on him until about a half-hour before dawn. It was a feeling he held onto, heavy and solid and exactly what he needed.