Concrit: in comments
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Words are.
Warnings/Squicks: Er... angst? With a happy ending?
Summary: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Xander's still a demon magnet.
Notes: First post here. Go easy on me, please?
The More Things Change
You know, it’s funny how things can change. Sometimes it’s overnight. And sometimes, it sneaks up on you until you turn around and you realize that your whole life is different.
I always hated Spike, you know? He was Bad. With capital letters, naturally. He’d tried to kill Buffy more times than I can count, and killed and maimed all sorts of innocent people who should have known better than to walk the streets at night, and even after he got the chip in his head he did all sorts of bad stuff. He turned us all against each other on Adam’s orders, and stalked Buffy relentlessly. He was Bad. It was one of the given things in life.
And then there was the final battle. The End, as we all thought of it later, because surely life couldn’t have gone on without her there. She was the center of our existence, all of us, and had been for years. She saved the world, just like she always did, and then we had to stand there and look at her body lying on the rubble and accept the fact that she was gone. That she wasn’t ever going to laugh at one of my jokes, or irritate Giles or hug Willow or scold Dawn or threaten Spike ever again.
And Spike was devastated. Even I could see that. He took one look at her lying there, so still, and just went to his knees and sobbed. I helped clean him up when we all got back to the Magic Box, and he didn’t even look at me when I wiped blood off his face.
He wasn’t okay. Of course, none of us were okay. None of us were ever going to be okay again. How could we? She was gone.
I still wonder how any of us survived that first week or two. Sheer stubbornness, maybe. We’d always had Buffy, it felt like. She’d been our reason for everything we did for so long that we didn’t know what to do without her. We were Scoobies first and foremost, but now we weren’t any more.
But there was still the demon of the week to fight, and vampires were always present on the Hellmouth. And now we didn’t have a Slayer to fight them, so we had to fight them ourselves, and we had a reason to go on again. Maybe we weren’t the Slayerettes anymore, but we were, by God, evil-fighters, and fight evil we did.
I began to gravitate more towards Spike. I couldn’t help it, I guess. He was there, and in his own weird way he was so dependable. Steadier than any of us, even though a blind idiot could tell that he missed her just as much as the rest of us did. He never told us why he helped out so much, though- whenever anyone asked he’d just shrug and say something about a promise before stalking off or lighting a cigarette or doing something equally Spike-ish to show that the topic was officially over.
But he was different than he’d ever been, and for some reason I was drawn to him. We never said much, which was easy. We just had a beer or two and sat quietly together, and somehow that was comfortable.
And then Buffy was brought back. I didn’t have anything to do with it, and to this day I wonder how Anya, of all people, kept the secret from me. Apparently it was Willow’s idea, and she managed to con Anya and Tara into helping her. Either way, I knew nothing of it, and chalked up all her late-night meetings to girl’s night outs, and boy was I wrong. Shocked the life out of me when I found out Buffy was back.
But no one was more shocked than Spike.
He was so angry. I can’t blame him, really. I was, too. But I was more glad to see her back, and that wasn’t so wrong, was it? She was my best friend. I loved her. I was happy to have her with me again, even though I knew she wasn’t supposed to be there.
Of course, I wasn’t in love with her, not like Spike had been. And he understood consequences of magic better than I did, I suppose. But he stopped talking to Willow after that, and he stopped coming by the Magic Box. I knew he and Buffy still saw each other sometimes, but he never came by where I could see him. So after a little while, I started to go by the crypt, and he never seemed unhappy to see me, so it was cool. We talked, some, drank more, and it was comfortable, just like it was before. I could understand why Buffy was spending more time with him, because he made things easy, for just a little while. With him you could find a little respite from the world around you, a world of responsibilities and pain.
Anya kept pressuring me to announce our engagement, and I couldn’t. I just... couldn’t. I was afraid, I guess, but deep down I know I was wondering if it was right. And that little voice made me hold back, because when you’re with the right person aren’t you supposed to know? So much else was going wrong, what with a best friend who was obviously suffering, even if she wouldn’t say anything, and another best friend who was obviously getting in over her head with magic. So I kept putting it off, and putting it off. I loved her. I was so sure of that.
But I wasn’t sure I was in love with her, to use the popular phrase, even if it does turn me into a fourteen-year-old-girl, no insult to Dawn intended.
Even so, everything was going okay. Not great, not even good sometimes, but okay. And then there was this demon. And there were songs. Which, you would think, would be a good thing, right? Singing and dancing, couldn’t be anything wrong with that, right?
Wrong. Duh. This is Sunnydale. It’s always wrong.
It was kinda cute the first time I sang. It was even fun when all the Scoobies did the little group sing-along, in the Magic Box. But that was before Anya and I sang together. Sang about all our doubts and fears that we had about each other.
Sang about how I was in love with Spike.
Whowhahuh? Anya was severely pissed at me- there were possibly tears- but she couldn’t possibly have been as pissed as I was confused. I wasn’t in love with Spike. He was just a friend. A guy friend, at that.
After she went storming out of the apartment, I just sat down on the couch and wondered what the hell was going on. Wondered why I’d sang those things. Things like wanting to be with him, and watching him even when I shouldn’t. They couldn’t be true, right?
So I thought about it. I mean, maybe I was watching him a little bit. He did sort of catch the eye, what with the leather coat and the bleach and those cheekbones. But that didn’t mean I was checking him out or anything. He was just sort of fascinating to watch, with all the varying facial expressions he had, even in the most mundane conversations.
And I didn’t want to be with him. Not like that. So what if I spent a lot of time at his crypt? Plenty of guys hung out together a lot. It didn’t mean anything that I looked forward to seeing him for hours before I actually went over- we were good friends, and I enjoyed his company. I’d never thought about his bizarre loyalty, or senseless bravery, or his whole-hearted passion. I’d certainly never wondered why his eyes were never the same shade of blue, or thought about the curve of his lips when-
Oh Christ. I was in love with Spike.
It was almost a relief. Sort of, well, that explains a lot. And then there was the blinding panic. I’m in love with Spike! There was no way that it could go well. Even if he wasn’t in love with Buffy, which he obviously was, there was no future for me with him. I might as well just try to get over it.
And get used to being alone, because Anya was clearly not ready to speak to me. She refused to return my calls, and didn’t show up when everyone gathered at the Magic Box, just like everyone always did when there was trouble. I clearly wasn’t the only one who’d had their life turned around by this singing thing- Buffy was looking upset, Tara was looking angry with Willow, who just looked bewildered. Giles just looked determined.
Spike came in. Dawn was in trouble. He and Buffy exchanged words, and he went off. I was half-tempted to follow him, but then Giles dropped the bombshell: Buffy would have to go alone. And then Buffy went off on her own, and we started singing, and I didn’t have a chance to follow Spike.
Bronze. Demon. More singing. Anya showed up right around the time we did, and sang along and did backup dancing for Buffy with Willow. And then Buffy dropped her own bombshell.
She’d been in Heaven.
My heart hurt for her, but at least I was spared the incredible guilt I could see on the faces of Willow and Tara. Anya looked upset, but not particularly guilty, so maybe she was just still mad at me.
Spike saved her from combusting, which was nice, but any fool could have seen the tenderness in his face when he sang to her. Yeah, he was in love with Buffy. Which hurt. Why couldn’t Sweet have stayed out of our town and left me alone with my denial?
And then there was yet another bombshell. Sweet had been summoned, not by Dawn as he had assumed, but by Anya. Apparently she’d been trying for our happily ever after. Boy did she miss the mark on that one.
So she went off with Sweet to hell. Didn’t even look at me when she agreed, just said yes and disappeared. Sweet hung around for a few minutes more, gloating a little bit with a fun little song, and disappeared after her. I was stunned, and not an insignificant amount grieved, but not really surprised. Anya was never happy as a human. Now she could be a demon queen, which would suit her much better than staying around for a construction worker who was in love with a vampire that was in love with his best friend. I wished her all the good luck she could get.
And then we sang again. Gee, wasn’t this fun? I was never a musical person to begin with, and all the singing was actually starting to get irritating in the extreme.
And then I noticed that Spike had disappeared, and Buffy too. So I took a peek out the back door, and lo and behold, there were Spike and Buffy.
I didn’t say anything. What could I say? Buffy pulled away, and went striding off down the alley without a backwards look, but Spike glanced up from his boots and saw me standing there. His eyes widened, and I just turned around and went back into the Bronze. What else could I do?
I didn’t see Spike for a while after that. Well, with the exception of the time Willow’s wonderful memory spell almost got us all killed, and boy wasn’t that an experience I would have been perfectly happy forgetting. Buffy started getting twitchy at the mention of Spike’s name shortly after then, though, so I figured that there was something going on between the two of them. It wasn’t exactly a surprise to me, not after seeing the whole-hearted kiss in the alley behind the Bronze, and I still didn’t say anything. Buffy didn’t tell me, which meant that she thought it was none of my business, and I didn’t have any claim on Spike, no matter what I wanted. So I just kept silent.
I had plenty of other things to deal with, anyway. There was always work, which was exhausting in its own right, and even after several weeks I still wasn’t used to the echoey silence of an apartment with no one in it but me.
I missed Anya, truth be told. I’d loved her, maybe not as much as I should have, but I had loved her, and I’d been so used to her being around. Two years is a long time, and I missed not having her there.
Time rolled on. Buffy got a job at the Doublemeat Palace, and caused us all untold disgust and nausea with her suspicion that they were putting people into the meat. Buffy thought she killed someone, and found out it was really Warren who’d done the deed. Dawn managed to get us all stuck in the house with a huge demon, and I couldn’t help but notice that Spike had one hell of a shiner. I didn’t ask about it though, because Spike still hadn’t spoken to me since that night in the alley, and since it was clear we weren’t friends, I couldn’t ask about something that might be personal.
We got out- once Dawn owned up to making a wish, Willow got online and found out about Halfrek, the child-avenging demon, and Tara summoned her. Go us. Riley showed up a while later, with his wife. Turns out the person he was hunting for was Spike- heh, Spike being evil, who would have thought? Spike went around looking upset after that, and while it could have been the fact that his home was destroyed, I thought that it was more likely that it had something to do with the way that Buffy’s patrols were suddenly shorter, and she never had any suspicious bruises on her neck that looked more like love bites than anything.
So the Spike and Buffy Romance was over. I’d have jumped in glee, except I knew that Spike wasn’t exactly interested in me anyway, so I gave a mental shrug and went on with life. Such as it was.
And then there was Buffy’s period of delusion. I got to spend a lot of time with Spike, hunting for the demon that had done the deed, and that was... wonderful and horrible at the same time. Wonderful because Spike was there, and actually speaking to me; horrible because he was obviously angsting about Buffy with every step.
He didn’t say anything about the alley, so I didn’t say anything either. We just... talked. Almost like we had before Buffy, before Sweet the singing demon and his damn spell.
Only almost, though. Because there had been Buffy, and Spike clearly couldn’t think about anything else. So I just sucked it up, took what I could get, and rejoiced with everyone else when Buffy managed to snap out of her delusions and save us all from being killed by the horrific demon.
It was only a few days later that I came upon Spike being beaten up by a couple of human bullies. I chased them off, and helped Spike back to his crypt without a single mocking comment. Must have confused the hell out of him, but I wasn’t about to make fun of him when my heart was going like mad from the thought of how far things might have gone if I hadn’t been there to stop them.
So I bandaged him up, and left. Couldn’t stick around, not with him looking at me like that. Like he was trying to puzzle out some secret, and I sure as hell didn’t want him to discover mine so I could get laughed at.
He started watching me, after that. When we were at the Magic Box, mostly. Sometimes he’d show up at the Bronze, and I stopped dancing when he was there because I knew he was always watching me. There was this weird, speculative look in his eyes, and I didn’t want to dwell on what it could mean, because it probably just meant more pain for me.
And then he showed up at my apartment one evening, a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a smirk firmly planted on his lips. He said the whiskey was a thank you for patching him up, and so I let him in and let him get me good and drunk.
And then he kissed me.
Never saw that coming, that’s for damn sure. Didn’t stop me from kissing him back, though- nothing could have- and it led to a lot more than kissing.
I woke up the next morning with a raging hangover and an empty bed. Spike had disappeared, no note or anything, and the only thing that kept me from thinking it was just a pleasant dream was the presence of two glasses on the coffee table, a half-empty pack of cigarettes next to one of them, and the lingering smell of smoke, leather, and sex.
I walked around in a daze for the next two days. It never occurred to me to talk to Spike, because it never occurred to me that it was anything to him but a drunken one-night-stand.
And then he showed up at my apartment again. At one in the morning, I might add- apparently he’d forgotten that it was late for all us humans, and was surprised as hell when I pointed it out to him. I let him in, though- how could I not?- and we had a repeat of the last time he was here, only without the alcohol.
This became something of a pattern over the next few weeks. He’d swing by every few nights, sometimes with a drink, sometimes empty-handed, and we’d have sex. All very casual and meaningless, and I couldn’t decide if it was better this way- sort of a “half a loaf is better than none” thing- or if it was worse, having (romance novel alert) his body, but not his heart.
Oh, we still talked sometimes. Not as much as we had before, though, when we were just friends. There was always something better that we could be doing with ours mouths, and as a result our encounters were filled with moans and groans and gasps, but very few words.
A couple days after our second encounter, Willow managed to hack into the computer system of the Trio, as they apparently liked to call themselves. Buffy foiled a robbery, getting Jonathon and Andrew into jail in the process, but Warren got away and came back with a gun, looking for revenge. The mechanical genius somehow fouled up the clip when he was loading the bullets, though, and Buffy managed fairly easily to get him in jail as well.
Willow and Tara got back together. Like any of us hadn’t seen that coming. They were even more lovey-dovey than they had been before, which is saying something. Dawn went around looking smug, even though she’d had absolutely nothing to do with it, and the rest of us just smiled indulgently and looked away whenever the smooching started.
Spike and I probably would have kept going in the same pattern forever, if something hadn’t happened to break it up in a big way. Willow found out. She came over one night, knocked, and walked in anyway when I didn’t answer, because, as she told me later with a blush, she’d “heard something” and guessed that I just couldn’t make it to the door. Unfortunately, what she walked in on was the two of us, thankfully still only semi-naked, kissing frantically and working on getting out of the rest of our clothes.
She didn’t say anything condemning- she’d found out about Buffy and Spike a while ago, and maybe she’d gotten enough of a vibe off of the two of us the few times we were together around others that it wasn’t that much of a surprise. Mostly she just blushed, stammered something, and fled the apartment.
No, Willow didn’t react badly. Spike, on the other hand, didn’t react well at all. In fact, he zipped up, slung his shirt over his shoulders, and took off, coat in hand.
I went after him, of course. What was I supposed to do, just sit there while the guy I was in love with ran away? I didn’t catch him, though. Spike was a vampire, and therefore could move significantly faster than I could, even with his boots only half-tied. So I changed direction and went to Buffy’s house instead, where Tara had moved back in and Willow had probably gone.
I was right. She couldn’t look straight at me, but through a blush so hot it looked almost painful, she stammered out a suggestion that we talk on the back porch, away from prying ears.
I told her everything. The friendship, the camaraderie, the realization of love, and eventually, the sex. Which she, not being blind, obviously already knew about.
I talked for over an hour, and she listened to every word. And after it was over, she gave me the simplest advice imaginable.
She told me to talk to him.
You’d think I would have been able to figure this out on my own, wouldn’t you? But no. No, I sometimes take clueless to whole new levels- witness my shock when I finally realized that I was in love with Spike- and it hadn’t even occurred to me. Why should I talk to him? He was only the other person involved in the whole mess, was all.
She said more than that, too. Things I definitely would never have thought of myself, though if I knew Spike as well as I thought I did, I probably should have. Things like the fact that I’d never actually told Spike I loved him, and Spike wasn’t exactly in the most secure place after Buffy the amazing yo-yo girlfriend (up one moment, down the next), and he was probably just worried that it meant nothing to me. And if he was thinking that, then he couldn’t exactly be blamed for bolting when we got caught.
Well, okay. I felt clueless. More clueless than usual, rather. But in my defense, I was going through most of the same things about him. I mean, it’s not like he ever made it clear to me that it was more than just sex, and he sure as hell never told me that he loved me. We both had our insecurities when it came to love.
So I said thanks to Willow, and set out for Spike’s crypt. It took me longer to get there than it might have, because I was walking slower than usual, trying to plan out at least a vague sketch of something to say in my head as I walked. I couldn’t come up with anything, though, and so when I walked into Spike’s crypt, my mind was still a complete blank.
He wasn’t there, though. I even climbed down the ladder to check, but it was dark and empty. I briefly considered going home, but decided against it, and instead I lit a candle and fell asleep in Spike’s big bed, wrapped up in the worn covers that smelled like him.
He showed up just before dawn, waking me up with his curses and the clomping of his boots. He sounded drunk, but when he climbed down the ladder I couldn’t smell any alcohol on him, and I realized that it was just fatigue and heartbreak.
He stopped dead when he saw me, and for the longest time neither of us said anything. In that moment his face was open, unguarded, and I saw that Willow was right. He really was just afraid of rejection.
And then he turned away and rummaged around in the pockets of his duster. I just sat there, waiting, and when he turned back around he had a cigarette in his mouth, and the Big Bad persona was firmly in place.
“Lookin’ for something, mate?” he said, his words slightly slurred by the cigarette that drooped from the corner of one lip.
“Yeah,” I said, “but not like you’re thinking.”
He arched an eyebrow at that. What, was it so impossible that I could want to see him for something besides sex?
“That right? What’re you here for, then?”
“We need to talk,” I said bluntly. “Why’d you take off earlier?”
Spike blinked, and I saw the shutters go down even further over his eyes. “Didn’t want Red to see me, did I? Figured you wouldn’t want your little friend to appreciate my bare ass.”
“Well, no, I don’t,” I admitted, because the thought of Willow staring at Spike’s admittedly wonderful ass gave me both a pang of jealousy and a wiggins.
“Then what’s your problem?”
“Maybe it was just my imagination,” I said, a little heatedly, “but we were right in the middle of something. If you hadn’t taken off like that, I would have sent her away so we could finish what we’d started.”
Oho, that one got him! His eyes were wide and his mouth was slightly open, gaping at me like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You- what? Send her away? But she’s your best friend.”
“Yeah, Willow’s my best friend. But you’re-“ Deep breath. “-you’re the one I’m in love with.”
He didn’t move. For a whole minute, I swear to you. He just stood there and gaped some more, which was somewhat adorable, I have to admit, but after the first twenty or so seconds it started to get irritating, because it wasn’t exactly the reaction I’d hoped for from that particular declaration.
And then he leaped on the bed, sending the cigarette flying and thankfully not setting anything on fire, heedless of the duster and boots he was still wearing. He landed on top of me, knocking the breath out of me, and before I knew it he was alternately kissing me and saying something about how he loved me and lots of other fairly poetic stuff, but I was dazed by those pretty potent kisses and so didn’t hear anything beyond I love you.
Which was all that really mattered, after all.
Sex came after that- duh- but afterwards, we lay together in his bed and just talked. First about how we felt about each other, and when we’d realized, and all the silly soppy things that people in love say to each other, even when one of them is an evil soulless bloodsucker. But then we just started talking about whatever came into our heads, and it was wonderful. We hadn’t really talked in so long, not since that long-ago night in the alley when I watched him and Buffy kissing, and it was great to realize that whatever else we were or were going to become, we were still friends, and we could always make jokes about Angel’s hair.
We fell asleep after that, and I stayed the whole day there. Buffy must have been frantic, since I was supposed to meet her and the rest of the gang at the Magic Box for a research session about a demon of some kind, but Willow knew where I was, and I wasn’t giving this up for anything.
Everything just sort of fell into place after that. Willow had already told Tara, but the first chance I got I told everyone else. Buffy was confused, and a little upset- guess she wasn’t completely over Spike, no matter what had happened between them- but she could hardly rail at me for getting involved with Spike. Buffy was a lot of things, but she was rarely hypocritical. Giles looked reproving, and Dawn squealed a lot, but otherwise everyone got over it pretty quickly. And once the novelty of the great gay romance had worn off for everyone, we were just together.
That was a couple months ago. The last few weeks Spike’s been here more than he’s been at his crypt, which is why I finally asked him today. And he said yes.
He’s moving in with me.
I’m calling Willow right after this. We’ve been best friends since we were infants, cooing at each other from cradles sitting side-by-side, and I so she’s the one who gets the news first. I think she’ll be happy for me. I think they all will, no matter how much they might secretly disapprove.
But if they aren’t? It doesn’t matter. I’ve got Spike. I don’t need anything else.
Well, nothing except Rocky Road ice cream. But who can live without that?
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