Here's my entry. It's polished and beta'd, so it's better than what I posted yesterday...although I don't know by how much. I got my icon here: http://www.angelfire.com/anime3/schala4/images/icons/buffynotaquote.html
Title: To Die For
Author: Mandylynn (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pairing: Xander/Spike (more friendship than I like in my Spander, but...what can I say?)
Rating: PG for strong language and gross imagery
Warnings: Spoilers for final seasons of Buffy and Angel
Notes: Written for spring_with_xan for April 9th. 3332 words. Beta’d by the luverly Bee (lebourdon). Thank you sooooo much for helping me muddle through this once mess-of-a-story!
Summary: One year to the date of the destruction of Sunnydale, Xander finds himself in a deserted, lonely place in his life. Written in memory of my grandfather, Doyle Zimmerman, who died exactly one year to the date of April 9th, 2006. May God keep watch over his soul. Title comes from the following quote, which, found after writing this, I’ve decided that it fits this piece entirely. *pets quote*
Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for. – Dag Hammarskjold
One year. One year to the date. He’d say one year to the hour, but he wasn’t precisely sure of that – Andrew hadn’t been very forthcoming with details, even after the long bus ride to Los Angeles. Giving him the cold shoulder that night after they had been forced to room together probably hadn’t helped either.
So, it was his loss he guessed not knowing the true time and manner in which Anya had been killed. He could deal. He’d known disappointment and despair before. There was the whole “pirate” look he’d acquired, not to mention most of the past twenty-three years of his life. Yes, indeedy, Disappointment and Despair were close personal friends of Alexander Harris, along with Agony, Embarrassment, and Loneliness.
It was the last of these which bothered him the most, however. Even during those rare moments when he was surrounded by friends and family, he felt the loneliness seeping in and trying to crush him with its pressure. It was this feeling that had driven him to the edge of the crater that had been Sunnydale. It was this feeling that made him wonder if taking a final, fatal step over the edge would make any difference.
He’d received word that there had been an enormous battle in Los Angeles only yesterday. Only a two hour drive from where he stood right now, something completely horrific had gone down. Something not unlike what he’d experienced in this very spot one year earlier. Except, this time, he wasn’t quite sure that any of them would be able to magic their way back to life – or unlife in Spike and Angel’s case.
He squinted up into the warm sunshine, trying to remember all he could from the phone calls and emails between he and Willow. She had kept her feelers out for anything Wolfram & Hart had done for the past year. He secretly decided that Willow had been conned into keeping tabs, purely for Buffy’s sake. He also decided that Buffy should’ve left well enough alone, since she had her own matters to take care of – mainly Dawn and the new boy-toy in Italy. On the other hand, he heard all the interesting (and at times hilarious) details of how Spike had made Angel’s unlife a living hell. Just knowing that Spike was alive made Xander feel a little less lonely.
Spike had been released from the amulet he’d worn during the battle in Sunnydale a few months after everything went down. But he hadn’t been whole. He hadn’t even been corporeal, at least, not for a while. When Spike had become corporeal again, Willow had been intrigued and had spent many late evenings on the phone and Internet with someone named Fred about the matter. It really made no difference, though. It was especially true now that Fred was dead, with an old spirit using her body as a shell.
Spike still had his soul, though, and that, to Xander, was quite amazing. He had been stunned when he’d learned the vampire had first gained one. The fact that he’d fought for it made it even more surprising. Xander had to admit that it was a courageous and completely unintelligent thing to do. Much like wearing an amulet with no real instructions or warnings, or going into an end-of-the-world battle again almost exactly one year later. It was hard to remember to hate someone so foolishly brave.
Stepping back from that thought a bit, he wondered if anyone ever thought of him the same way: courageous and unintelligent. True, unintelligent was probably mentioned and discussed many a time, but courageous? He doubted it. The time he’d saved Willow from ending the world had been pretty much ignored by his buds.
“Are you the human that is called Xander?”
Xander jumped out of his thoughts so harshly that his fate was nearly decided for him as he almost slid into the crater in front of him. Instead, he jerked back in time and sent a shower of gravel and sand skittering downwards. He spun around to see a smallish woman standing a few feet away, skin blue and scaly in places, pale lips, and huge vacant eyes. He put a shaking hand to his pounding heart.
“Why? Trying to kill him?”
The woman – or demon, Xander wasn’t sure which – cocked her head to one side and regarded him seriously. “That is not my intention.”
“Well, you could’ve fooled me.” Xander took a deep breath to calm hisself and took a few steps away from the huge hole in the earth. Once he felt safer, he sighed. “Why do you want to find a human called Xander as you put it?”
“I have come to collect him. He is wanted elsewhere.”
“Elsewhere, huh? Well, what if this Xander person likes it right where he is? What then?”
“Stop playing games, human. You are what I am looking for. You come with me now.”
With that, the demon lady turned to walk down the road in the opposite direction. To Xander’s knowledge, she had come out of nowhere. There were no cars on the road except for his tiny sedan and he’d not heard any traffic, nor seen any since he’d gotten to this desolate place. He shuffled his shoes in the gravel, watching her walk farther away. There was no way in hell he was going to follow her through the desert. Nope. Nothing on earth could make him go with her.
The demon woman stopped and turned back to him. “Your vehicle would be most useful for returning. I wish to take it.”
“Fine.” Xander threw her the keys and took another step back. “Take the car. Although I have to say that this is the single weirdest carjacking I’ve ever heard of.”
The demon woman studied the metal objects on the ground at her feet. “I do not know how to operate this vehicle.”
“Sounds like a personal problem. Maybe you should’ve brought an accomplice. You know, one to steal the car, the other to scare the holy crap out of the victim?” Xander took another few steps away from the woman, eyes starting to scan the deserted road for signs of another human life.
“I do not understand your language. I’m not familiar with some of your vocabulary.” She cocked her head to the side again. “You are required elsewhere now. We must leave.”
Xander shook his head. “Nuh-uh. No way, lady. I don’t care if you steal my car, but I am not going anywhere with you.”
The woman blinked and she frowned. “Then I will bring him to you.”
“Spike requires you in an establishment nearby. He has suffered injuries that, given how frail you all are, could likely result in his termination. He asked to find you. I will go get him now and bring him here instead.”
She began to walk off down the dusty road again and Xander hesitated. Was she telling the truth? Was Spike really hurt? Did he really want to see him? How could he trust this being without even knowing what she was? Instinct and loneliness fought within him and he stepped forward a bit.
“Wait.” The demon stopped and turned back to him. “I’ll go. We can take the car.”
“Spike will be much pleased.”
The short drive to Oxnard was one that he remembered well from his summer away from Sunnydale. The demon woman did not talk on the way. In fact, she simply stared out at the desert and did not acknowledge anything at all. It was like driving with a mannequin in the passenger seat – a particularly frightening one.
She did point to a tiny motel on the outskirts of town, so Xander knew to pull in. Then, once parked, she’d gotten out of the car and walked to a green door with peeling paint and jiggled the doorknob. It opened under her blue fingers and she strode in.
Xander looked around before following her. There weren’t many people staying at this motel. Or at least, there weren’t many people out and about at 3 in the afternoon. He figured it must cater to the demon crowd – especially since the blue woman was able to get a room.
Finally, he exited the car and approached the room. The door was still wide open and a rectangle of sunlight was shining on the floor. His shadow made a dark dent in the shape. He frowned at it.
“Come in. The sunlight is fatal to Spike.”
Xander stepped in, but did not close the door. Instead, he put a hand on the overused doorknob. He didn’t know if the gesture was precautionary or to keep him from fainting, but his fingers tightened on the metal nonetheless.
The voice was scratchy and worn, hardly recognizable. Xander looked at the bed closest to the door and was astounded. There was Spike – the vampire he’d not seen for over a year – looking worse for wear. His shirt was ripped open in spots, revealing gashes and chunks of bloodied flesh. His black jeans had burn holes as big as Xander’s hand in various places. One mottled foot was bare, the other was encased in the remains of a Doc. The sole was missing from it and the foot appeared to be burnt and blistered. Both arms were purple and black, both from bruises and burns. His face was a mangled mess as well. One side had been smashed in – cheekbone flattened, eye puffed past shut, lips swollen to collagen-poutiness. The other side had only a few slices and bruises, and was therefore semi-identifiable. Even Spike’s neck was tattered – a huge chunk missing from a side, blood still dripping down it.
“Holy shit, Spike.”
“Don’t be so flattering.” Spike tried to laugh, but only coughed – a thin spattering of blood coating the comforter beneath him.
Xander quickly went in farther and shut the door. He continued to hold on to the doorknob, though, noticing the coolness of it on this side. “How…I mean…when…what…”
“Spike slew the dragon with Angel.” The demon woman intervened, as if that sentence made all the sense in the world.
“You gonna let me tell the tale, or do you want to?”
Another cough, another spattering of blood.
“You’re weak. You’ll only last a few more…”
“Enough. ‘M a vampire. I’ll live. Sort of.” Spike swallowed and took a few breaths before continuing. “Illyria’s not much of a conversationalist. Or a storyteller for that matter.”
Xander looked over at the blue woman, who showed no emotion whatsoever at the interruption. So this was Illyria then? Was this what Willow said took over Fred’s body? Was this what Fred looked like?
“…and Harmony had to go and cock it up. Bloody bint.”
“I’m sorry? What? Harmony?”
Spike regarded the human with a slow, even stare. “You still don’t listen, eh?” He tried to hitch his eyebrow up as per usual, but that side of his face was the swollen side. Instead, he took another breath. “Harm worked for Angel as a secretary. She got in with the Wolfram & Hart lackey and spilled the proverbial beans about our plan. Got us into a bit of a jam.”
“Hence dragon and a whole army of buffoons and goblins from the underworld. Big time heavy stuff. Bigger than Sunnydale, I’ll bet. Nobody left but us.”
Xander looked from Spike to Illyria. “Angel?”
Spike didn’t say anything. He stared in the opposite direction, at the curtained windows. Illyria blinked slowly.
“Angel is dead.”
Xander was shocked. More than shocked. He’d never in a million years thought that Mr. Broodypants himself would end up a pile of ashes. He figured that after he’d been resurrected from hell after the Angelus episode during junior year the vampire would probably stay around for another century or two. He wondered briefly if Buffy knew.
“Buffy doesn’t find out, got it?”
“But…why? Doesn’t she deserve to know?”
“She already does in some round-about way. Think about it, mate.”
“It’s true. I know it. You know it.” A harsher cough interrupted this time and blood not only came from Spike’s mouth this time, but also from the gaping wound in his neck. He groaned deeply and closed his good eye. After some time, he took a breath to begin again. “Want you to tell Red.”
Xander blinked. His hand slipped away from the doorknob and stepped a bit closer. “Was that what you wanted all along? Why you sent demon girl over there to find me?”
Spike nodded vaguely. “You were the closest one to where I am right now. The closest to where I’m probably going to expire. And I just know all those Watcher-types will love to write a novel on this shit.”
Xander was outraged. This was it? He was just convenient? He was just the messenger? His self confidence, which was low to begin with, sunk to a new level. Spike hadn’t wanted to see him. Spike hated him. Spike had never liked him and now just wanted to use him. It was just like when he’d needed a place to live after being chipped.
“So…this was it. Scare the living crap out of me, drag me here to stare at you bleeding all over the bedding, to tell me that I’m some sort of farewell card?”
Spike winced. “Don’t have time for this drama. Don’t have time for much anyway.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry that you’re dying and I’m making it worse by freaking out. You’re the one who’s using me!”
“Not being used, pet. Being asked a favor’s all.”
“Whatever. I’m out of here. Have a good death and don’t send Ill-er-what’s her name after me again.”
He twisted the doorknob and found that it didn’t turn. He jiggled it and pulled, but nothing happened.
“What?” Xander spun around as Illyria strode over to him.
She grasped him by the shoulders and lifted him with ease, carrying him to the bed and depositing him beside the vampire. Once there, she held him with a strong hand to his chest. His struggling did nothing to deter her.
“Let me up! Spike! Help!”
Spike painfully turned in the bed until he could look down at Xander. “You don’t need to struggle, pet. It really makes things more painful.”
With that, he lowered his battered face to Xander’s neck. The last thing the human felt was a cold, wet tongue and sharp fangs. Then, there was nothing but blackness.
When he awoke, he heard voices. A woman’s voice – cold and strong – and a man’s voice – British. He didn’t want to open his eye for fear of alerting them to his awakening, but a strong, cool hand on his forehead forced his eyelid to flutter open.
“Mornin’, pet…er, maybe good evenin’s more like it. Feel okay?”
Spike’s face looked different. It was still bruised and badly swollen in places, but the skin seemed flushed and almost alive. Xander also noted that the once spurting wound on Spike’s neck was almost healed and Spike was standing.
“Sorry, mate. Didn’t mean to scare you. Needed a bit of healing and figured your blood was as good as any. Besides, you were close to L.A. still.”
“What time is it?”
“’Bout ten. Was afraid you’d sleep all night, actually.”
“Still dead, ‘m afraid. Can’t help it. Tried to help him. Bloody bastard wouldn’t keep drinking. Shredded my neck trying to keep him feeding. Instead, he tore away and went back to the fray. Can’t say as I didn’t see the dusting coming, though. He was too weak to take on that dragon alone.” He leaned down, close to Xander’s ear. His lips brushed the outer rim as he spoke, sending shivers down Xander’s spine. “Ta for the pint, mate. Would’ve died without you.”
Xander looked over at Illyria, who was seated on the other bed, blank eyes watching their interaction. His mind went over the past twenty-four hours. He’d driven to Sunnydale, was “picked up” by a demon woman, and was brought to see Fucked-Up Spike™. After that, things got a little blurry. Apparently, he’d given Spike a free meal, though. He cleared his throat and looked up at Spike. “What…I mean…what now?”
“Well,” Spike started, walking over to a small bag in the corner of the room. “The way I see it, there’s gotta be some more world-saving to do. And I was thinking – maybe there’s some good to be done in Cleveland.”
“No time to waste. Blue? Want to give this man the keys to the room?”
Xander frowned and slowly sat up. “What? I mean…”
Spike turned back to him, eyes flicking over his neck. “Best to go now and not wait until the sun starts to rise. Kinda flammable, you know.”
“But…you and her…you just…you used me.”
“Did not! Asked a favor, didn’t I?”
“That’s funny,” Xander began, anger flaring up within him. “I don’t really remember getting asked to have the blood sucked out of me and be left with the hotel room I’ve spent less than 5 hours in.”
Spike’s resolve face waned a bit. “Don’t know what you’re off about. Just askin’ you to…”
“Not asking! Taking! Locking me in this room and having scaly girl over there hold me down while you take my blood!” He stood up on shaky legs and immediately regretted it. Little spots danced in his eye and a rush of sick pain went through his head. “Your number’s up, buddy. Soul my ass.”
Before he could take two steps in the direction of the door, Spike had him. Fierce, blue eyes glared into his. “Pillock. You’re not bloody listening.”
“Not to you. No.”
“Shut. The fuck. Up. I wanted you to take the keys to the front desk, check us out, and then come with us. Got it?”
“Whatever. Probably just want to get me to drive you all the way to Cleveland so you can get another free ride off good ol’ Harris. Too bad. One favor a day’s my limit, Spike.” He pushed forward, but didn’t get very far.
Spike’s grip on his shoulders tightened even more. “Still not listening. Want you to check us out of the hotel. Then, want you to go to Cleveland with us. Want you to help us out. Got it?”
Xander was confused. “You…want me…to help you? Help you do what?”
“You know…hunt, kill, research…the usual Scooby rot.”
Xander started to laugh. None of this day made any fucking sense, least of all Spike’s desire to start a new Scooby gang.
“I think you drank too much of this human’s blood. He’s acting oddly.”
Spike ignored Illyria. “Not bloody funny, Harris. I want to kill more things and I need someone to go out and do all the boring stuff for me. And maybe get doughnuts once in a while.”
“Hey!” Xander stopped laughing. “That’s not fair! I hate doing research and you know it! Willow was all Research Girl and…”
“Think Red’ll help, too, then?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll have to call her.”
“It’s settled then?”
Xander nodded, prying Spike fingers from his shoulders. “Everything except that I am not going to me doughnut boy again. I’ve fought in huge battles and killed things with my own hands! I...I…I got my eyeball popped out by an evil priest for God’s sake! I am not getting the doughnuts.”
Spike smiled, a smile that Xander returned. “You think we could get Andrew to get ‘em then?” They both started giggling. Illyria followed them out into the night, shaking her head.
For once, Xander could say that the thick pressure of loneliness that had threatened his life for so long eased a little bit. He had purpose. He had a mission. But most of all, he didn’t feel so achingly alone. Exactly one year to the date, he’d helped save the world.