You search Sunnydale, literally from top to bottom for another two weeks, just to make sure that Spike isn’t avoiding you and really has left town. During that time, both Buffy and Willow have taken you aside several times to talk about your “behavior” and your “seeming fixation on Spike” – their words, not yours. You finally explode and tell them you love Spike, and that it’s your fault that he’s disappeared, because you were always jumping into the fray with no thought for Spike’s feelings if something were to have happened to you.
In hindsight, you realize it was a stupid thing to do, but you were trying to be a good friend, a Scooby. And you’d never really been hurt before… except for that last time.
And that because... No! It had been a stupid thing to do. You realize that now. But, too late.
It had been the proverbial straw that had made Spike leave.
But no more. You’ve had enough. No more helping. No more trying to change things. You’ll prostrate yourself before Spike and tell him so the next time you see him. And if it comes down to a choice between them and Spike, you’ll choose Spike – no question.
Because you love him.
Thankfully they don’t ask that of you. Buffy is surprisingly guilt-ridden about what’s happened – shock of shocks – but you don’t press your luck and ask why. She even goes so far as to tell you you’re not allowed to research anymore. No more Scooby meetings for you, mister.
You smile your thanks and assure her that you won’t abandon her in her time of need. Besides she’s going to need someone to nudge her awake when her eyes start to glaze over after hours spent with her nose buried in a book. The two of you have to stick together in your love-hate relationship with reading. Besides, Spike never had a problem with the late night research sessions. It was only the hands on side of your “helping”.
Finally you ask her why she’s being so nice to you. It is Spike, after all. Not quite so evil, but definitely soulless, Spike.
Buffy just smiles wistfully and tells you that you can’t help who you love, and you’re reminded of her inability to kill Angelus, at least not until right up to the very end, when the fate of the world had been at stake. You nod and the two of you hug. Then Willow joins in and you smile, relieved, and squeeze your girls tight, grateful that you’re all still friends.
Then you drop your bombshell that you’re leaving Sunnydale.
You go to Los Angeles, because Spike had explained a few things prior to claiming you, about vampire hierarchy and customs and such, about how if anything were to happen to him, Angel would be the one to offer you his protection. It would matter not that the two vampires hate each other. Tradition was tradition and Angel would honor Spike’s claim.
You just hope that Angel ignores the fact that Spike has, in essence, divorced you, and is willing to help you find him. You’re even prepared to endure the lecture that you just know he’s going to give.
You’re surprised to see him standing in the front office talking with Cordelia and… Wesley? as you enter Angel Investigations. It’s daylight after all. His back is to you but not for long, freezing mid-sentence to swivel around and pin you with an Angelus-like glare. His nostrils flare and you swear his eyes bleed briefly to yellow before he gets himself under control.
“Xander,” he practically growls your name.
“I come seeking your protection,” you stammer out, all formal-like, saying the words you’ve repeated over and over in your head since leaving Sunnydale.
Angel seems to lose it completely, to the point that Cordelia yells “Angel, what the hell?” and Wesley takes a cautionary step or two away from him. His demon no longer contained, he stalks towards you, grabs you by the shirtfront and pins you up against the wall.
“You’re not entitled to my protection, boy,” he whispers for your ears alone and you can feel tears prick your eyes when he adds, “Spike disowned you.”
“Please.” You’re not above begging. Not if it means you can get Spike back.
For a moment you think that Angel is going to tell you no, but then his brow evens out and he’s once more staring at you with dark brown eyes.
“Please,” you say again.
“Go downstairs and wait for me,” he finally says, then shoves you away.
You hurry off, lest he changes his mind. As you shut the door to his office you hear Cordelia start in on Angel, demanding to know what’s going on. Knowing Cordelia like you do, Angel is probably going to be awhile, giving you the time you need to get your emotions back under control.
The sound of the elevator galvanizes you into action and you rush around Angel’s home trying to find a place to sit. You’ve made three laps of the small apartment, kitchen, hall, living room, before deciding on the couch. If nothing else, the seats are more comfortable.
Angel steps out and ignores you for the kitchen and a mug of blood. You try not to stare, but you know he knows you’re watching him. Proves it when the microwave dings and he pulls out his blood and faces you as he drinks it.
“It doesn’t bother me,” you say, and you know that’s what he was trying to do when his brows draw together. He quickly finishes then drops the mug in the sink.
You don’t bother to tell him that he should probably rinse it out or the blood will stain. The hands now crossed over his chest and the glare leveled in your direction prove he’s not up for Vampire Etiquette 101.
“Why are you here, Xander?”
“I’m looking for Spike. I thought you could help me,” you reply honestly. Cards laid out on the table, that’s you.
“Why am I looking for him? Or why am I asking you?”
Angel growls. “Both.”
“Because you’re his sire. You know how he thinks. Please, Angel—” you stop talking when you notice his look: a secret smile that disappears completely when he catches you staring.
“You know where he is!” you accuse, surging to your feet.
His eyes bleed to yellow but you don’t back down. Not now. Not when you’re so close.
“Where is he? If you’ve hurt him—”
“Me!” he roars. His face ripples and he takes a threatening step towards you. “Go home, Xander. You’ve done far more than I ever could to hurt him.”
You know it, but hearing it still makes you feel like you’ve been sucker punched. The air whooshes out of your lungs and damned if your eyes don’t start tearing up again. Your legs don’t seem to want to hold your weight anymore and you collapse back onto the couch. You hang your head in shame because Angel is right. You have hurt Spike. Deeply. Probably irrevocably.
You barely notice when Angel joins you on the couch.
“You really do love him,” he says. There’s surprise in his voice, wonder too.
“Yes.” It’s choked out because you’re so close to bawling it’s not even funny. And you really don’t want to cry in front of Angel. Really really don’t. To like the nth degree.
He nods as if he’s reached some sort of a decision and stands.
You don’t bother to ask where, just get up and follow him to the elevator.
Angel pulls his car into the parking lot of a rundown motel and parks. Your nose crinkles slightly, but you’ve no doubt slept in worse places. And, it’s not like you’ll be sleeping all that much, even though you’re dead tired. After months spent with Spike by your side… well, it’s just not the same, you sleeping alone.
“I’ll just get me a room,” you say and make to get out of the car.
A hand wrapped around your wrist keeps you from leaving.
“Stay here,” Angel says and you shrug your shoulders and sit back in your seat. A moment later he gets out of the car and walks towards one of the doors.
You think nothing of his actions until his knocking produces a mussed-haired Spike snarling at the door. You can’t help it, you shout his name and grip the dash.
Your voice is easily heard by both vampires, of course. It’s just a shame you can’t hear their argument after they turn away from you. And it is an argument, complete with growls, shoving and finally a punch to Spike’s face by Angel. He points and yells something at the downed vampire then turns away.
You wait anxiously as Angel stalks back to the car. He gets in and grips the steering wheel so hard it threatens to snap.
“What happened?” you ask.
Angel’s only answer is a growl as he starts the car and peels out of the parking lot. You don’t look back, so miss seeing Spike stare out the window. You’re too busy trying to gauge Angel’s mood.
“Angel, what’s wrong?” you ask again a few minutes later.
He stops at the red light and looks your way. He’s mad. Furious. The demon in him barely contained.
“Spike refuses to take you back.”
“Oh.” Your voice his hardly more that a whisper.
A car horn interrupts whatever Angel is about say, and your eyes grow wide as he vamps and snarls at the driver behind him before turning around and driving off. You huddle down into your seat and don’t say another word.
It’s not until you’re back in Angel’s apartment and seated on his couch that he explains things. How Spike’s giving you up has made it so that essentially any Aurelian vampire can take his place, and of them, there are many… thankfully, just not in the States.
“You came seeking my protection, Xander. As Spike’s sire, I’m honor bound to accept.”
“But I just said that—”
“It doesn’t matter why you said it,” Angel interrupts you. “You did. The ceremony is tomorrow night.”
“Ceremony?” you squeak.
“Spike never did listen when I tried to explain about vampire lore. He’s given you up, now he has to watch as another takes his place.”
“I’m sorry, Xander.”
“You should probably get some rest. Bedroom’s through there. I’m going to be up awhile yet, seeing to some things for tomorrow night.”
You close your mouth and swallow your shock. You’ve made your bed. Now you have to lie in it… apparently with Angel.
“Yeah. Okay,” you reply numbly. There’s no fight left in you. “Goodnight, Angel.”
He mumbles back a “goodnight, Xander,” and you swallow back a harsh laugh. Doubt that “good” will ever describe anything in your life again.
Angel points towards a small chair on the raised dais and gives you a halfhearted shove in that direction. You nod and move off; that you drag your feet is nobody’s business but your own.
You’re sitting there, alone, when Spike walks in. Angel’s fiddling with something off to your left and ignores him. For you to say anything is pointless, so you just sit there. And wait.
Angel finally finishes what he’s doing and moves back to the chair that is apparently for him. He snags the book resting on the seat, opens to a page and starts reading. In Latin. His words sound formal, important.
You don’t care. Your heart is broken and the object of your affection is too busy glaring up at Angel to notice.
Angel switches to English and says, “Come here, Xander.”
You stand, staring at the ground and move in front of the vampire. Your shirt is ripped down the center and left to fall in tatters to the floor. Then his hands, Angel’s hands, are on your shoulders, gripping them tight, holding you in place as he lowers his mouth. He licks the healed marks on your neck, the ones Spike had given you, and tells you to relax. You nod helplessly as tears stream down your face.
You feel his mouth close over your neck, feel just the faintest hint of fang… and then nothing.
Angel is wrenched away and Spike is pummeling him.
Angel is laughing.
Not really appropriate to the situation, you can’t help but think, but then, Angel had always been pretty strange. Spike, though, is in a berserker mood, crazier than he’d been after you’d been nearly gutted right before his eyes. The demon responsible had just been a bunch of body parts when he’d been through. It makes you worry about Angel’s fate.
Spike gets in a lucky shot and Angel stops laughing. He shoves Spike away, then holds up a hand when Spike makes to charge him again.
“What do you think you’re doing, William? You dare interrupt my giving Xander protection.”
Spike flinches at the authoritative tone but doesn’t relax his aggressive stance.
“Come off it, you wanker. You weren’t offering him protection.”
Angel quirked an eyebrow, reminiscent of Spike.
“I understand Latin just as well as the next bloke,” Spike growls.
You’re surprised to see Angel look almost sheepish.
“What—?” you ask. Or try to anyway.
“Shut it,” Spike points at you and snaps.
You do a beautiful impersonation of a fish, then wisely close your mouth. Spike is talking to you, for the first time in ever; you’re not about to give him cause to stop. You turn to Angel and see him smiling.
“You think you can get rid of him that easy, boy?” Angel says to Spike. Spike frowns and Angel just shakes his head in disappointment. “You never did listen. You want to be free of him?”
Spike just stands there. Emotions play across his face. Anger. Hate. Pain…
Angel moves in the blink of an eye and has an arm around your neck and you’re pulled against flush against his chest, a dagger poised over your heart. “Do you want to be free from him?” he says, much harsher this time. Growls it, actually. “Death is the only way you’ll be free of him.”
You feel the dagger dig into your skin hard enough to draw blood and close your eyes in resignation. There’s not much to live for without Spike in your life. Better for Angel to end it now.
A moment later the dagger is gone, and you fall to your knees in front of Angel. Spike is there, though, gathering you in his arms as he murmurs soothing words in your ear.
You don’t hear Angel leave.
You both return to Sunnydale and you manage to get your old job back. It helps that your boss is part demon and very afraid of Spike. You don’t tell your friends you’ve returned. In fact, you don’t leave the apartment other than to go to work and your twice-weekly trips to the grocery store.
It’s great for the first month. You have Spike’s undivided attention when you’re home, right until you fall asleep. You ignore that he seems antsy and put it down to his being back after having been gone for awhile.
Later you realize that he’s not going out after you fall asleep. No more patrols or late night poker games with the boys. He’s even given up smoking.
You last another week before you explode. Spike is practically pinging off the walls in the apartment.
“Out!” you yell. “Go out. Beat up some demons. Go play poker. And for god’s sake, have a cigarette.”
“You’re driving me crazy!”
Spike frowns and you think maybe you’ve gone too far, but enough is enough already! You move in close, cup his face with both of your hands and pull out the big guns – puppy dog eyes. Spike snorts, like he’s immune, but you figure it had been worth a shot. You kiss him instead, and just when he seems to get over his pique and respond, you pull back.
The frown this time is for different reasons. Truthfully, he can give you a run for your money in the woebegone expression department.
But, you have a point to make in all this. Namely, that Spike isn’t being very Spike-like, and you tell him so.
“I fell in love with Spike, the vampire. Not Spike, the stay-at-home guy. You’re not happy unless you’re out giving demons a run for their money. And playing poker. And—”
Spike wiggles his eyebrows suggestively and you can’t help but laugh.
“Point,” you say. “But—”
“I get it.”
“Don’t get me wrong. I loved… love having you all to myself, twenty-four seven, but when I can tell you’re getting bored?”
“Yeah, well, what about you, pet?”
“What do you mean?” you ask, although, you’re pretty sure you know where this is going.
“You only leave the place for work and food. Do your friends even know you’re back?”
“Not exactly,” you hedge.
Right on cue, the brow goes up. You hem and haw, then finally sigh, release Spike and move back to the couch. Spike joins you.
You do miss your friends, but you’re afraid to upset the status quo by seeing them. No need for Spike to get mad all over again. You couldn’t take him leaving you. It almost killed you the last time. Literally.
“Doesn’t seem rightly fair, you wanting me to go out, yet you stay in,” Spike says as he crowds in next to you, lays a hand on your thigh.
You shake your head, but you still can’t say what’s on your mind. You’ve never talked about the time Spike left, really talked, that is. Oh, sure, you’ve screwed each other into the mattress and a whole host of other things that would have had you blushing only a year ago, said you loved each other until you’d both rolled your eyes with how sappy you sounded.
But, he’s never explained his fears, or you yours.
You’ve guessed at his, but you doubt he realizes that yours are not far from that mark. That you’re petrified of growing old on Spike. And worse, whether Spike’s love would stand the test of time if he did, in fact, turn you.
By deliberately placing yourself in danger that last time, you tried to take the decision out of your hands. Buffy needing your help was just a means to an end, giving you a way to enact your crazy – insane – plan.
Somehow you manage to say that last bit out loud.
You look guiltily at Spike, then away.
“I just… I mean, we’ve never talked about later. About…” When I grow old.
“So you were trying to get yourself killed?” Spike growls. The hand on your thigh tightens painfully.
“No! Yes. Maybe. I don’t know.”
“Which one is it, Xan?”
“I don’t know. I just… Shit!” You run a hand through your hair, and you’re ashamed to look at Spike as you add in a low voice, “I guess I just wanted to know if you loved me enough to turn me.”
Hesitantly you look his way. Spike opens his mouth to speak but you cut him off.
“Not just turn me, but stay with me. I mean, I know you were with Drusilla a long time. But, she’s gorgeous. I’m just me.” Nobody special. Your shoulders slump and you try to move away.
Spike isn’t having it though and plants himself in your lap facing you. He’s either pissed off or horny – you’re guessing pissed off – because the demon is staring back at you. He grabs your shirt and yanks you forward so that you’re nose to nose.
“You are an idiot, Xander Harris.” He’s back to using the Giles-like cultured voice, and a chill of foreboding runs down your spine. It’s gone in the next instant when he snaps, “Do you think…?” then calmer. “She was my sire, and I loved her. Still do, but only because she gave me this. Gave me me. Dru never really loved me. Not like I wanted anyway. I chose you. My demon chose you. You think I haven’t thought how bloody fragile you are? Fuckin’ hell, Xan. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about getting this bloody chip out and making you mine in truth.”
He nods and then shakes off the demon, stares down at you with his expressive blue eyes.
“And each day I’m glad I don’t, because your friends need you… and I can wait. Not forever, mind,” he adds at the happy expression on your face.
“I love you,” you say, and seal your vow with a kiss.
Spike responds for all of about ten seconds before he jumps up and offers you his hand. “Later.”
There’s indignation and whole lot of pouting on your part.
“Yes, later. ‘bout time you said hello to your friends.”
Spike looks sincere, but you’re not fooled for an instant.
“Yeah. Like you’re not just looking to pick a fight with Buffy,” you complain, but you’re smiling when you say it.
“Goes without saying, pet. Goes without saying.”