Thanks as always to yourlibrarian—beta-reader extraordinaire—and also to any readers out there who haven't given up on me yet!
Previously in the Fragments-verse....
In Not The End, Angel defeated Wolfram & Hart's army, and got fired. Er, 'downsized'. And Spike got flambéed by a dragon, but was immediately reincarnated as a human. Weird! Wonder how that happened?
In Human Frailty, we skipped ahead six months and saw Spike and Xander living together as a couple in Rome. Unfortunately it would seem that Spike's reincarnation had left him a bit fucked up. Xander was looking a bit worse for the wear, too. At least they had each other!
In Late Night Porn Store Blues, we zipped back in time to watch Xander meet human-Spike, who was living with Illyria and working in a sex shop at the time. And yet there was no sex!
In How the Light Gets In, the gap between the previous two stories was bridged. Xander found out about Spike's fragile health, and Spike found out why Xander was so haunted by events in Africa. They helped each other, a bit. And finally there was sex!
In Before the Time of Dawn, Spike and Xander travelled back in time to Sunnydale circa Xander's senior year to save the tragically misunderstood Sisterhood of Jhe. They hoped to avoid contact with the Scoobies of 1999. Hah! But everything turned out okay in the end.
In That Good Night, so far: Xander, Spike and Buffy are all in Sao Paulo, visiting Willow and Kennedy and their new baby, Tara. Xander and Buffy (but not Spike) were surprised to learn, sequentially, that Oz was also in town, that he was the biological father of the baby, and that he and Willow and Kennedy were now in a three-way relationship. Also, this is the first time that Spike and Buffy have met since Spike burned up in the Hellmouth two years previously, so that's been a bit awkward. And as if Xander didn't have enough to worry about, Spike's been seeing Drusilla around town and in his dreams, and Oz thinks Spike may be sicker than they realize. Meanwhile, an army of child-vampires is amassing in a nearby favela. Our heroes had better do something about that!
And now, the new chapter!
Title: That Good Night (part 13 of ?)
Rating: NC-17 (barely)
Pairing: Spike/Xander, ensemble
Summary: A couple of years post-NFA, Spike is human, and it isn’t working out so well. He and Xander are currently in Sao Paulo, where Willow has just had a baby and a new vampire problem is looming.
Warnings: This story will get dark at times. Definitely angsty, h/c with lots of hurt. Character death will most definitely be threatened, and I'd rather not say what comes of it (though if you're terribly worried, ask me privately).
Disclaimer: They're not mine, and I'm not making any money.
Drusilla shattered a stained glass window on their way into the church. Then she threw her shotgun away and darted over to run her fingers through the glass shards, giggling. “Look, my love,” she said, holding up a bleeding finger for Spike to examine. “Angels are weeping.”
“They see you coming, pet.” Spike scooped her up and sucked her finger, relishing the cold iron tang of her blood. He got the glass sliver between his teeth and spat it out. “Best not keep them waiting.”
The sanctuary was deserted but for the choir, who stood in their white-and-gold robes singing Ave Maria. Dru spun and danced down the aisle. Spike followed, taking long strides. The heavy leather of his coat flapped around his legs.
The choir was all small boys, and tears ran down their cheeks as they sang. Dru plucked one from the choir stall, lifting him like a doll. The others kept singing, their sad eyes all on her. She cradled her chosen victim in her arms and brought him over to Spike. “You haven’t been well, love,” she said. “You shall have the first drink.”
Spike brought out his fangs. The boy whimpered, but he bared his thin brown neck. Spike bit deep, reveling in the first hot, bitter gush of blood.
And then he remembered. He staggered backwards, choking, and fell to his knees. “We can’t kill them, Dru. You mustn’t—mustn’t kill anymore.”
She dropped the boy carelessly and came and knelt in from of Spike. She brushed his hair away from his eyes with gentle fingers. “Poor William,” she murmured. “Your head is all a muddle.”
Spike woke up gasping, drenched in sweat. Xander rolled over towards him and cracked open his eye. “Spike? Are you okay?”
“Had another dream,” Spike croaked. He was still half in the grips of it; could still taste the boy’s blood.
“Shit.” Xander pulled Spike into a tight, close hug. Spike shut his eyes and pressed his face into Xander’s shoulder, trying to chase the images away. It didn’t work. When he closed his eyes, she was there.
“Wanna talk about it?” Xander asked.
“It was Dru again.” Spike swallowed. His throat was dry. “Fed me a boy. In a church. Doesn’t matter. Wasn’t anything real—wasn’t one of our real kills, not in particular. I can still feel her, under my skin. She’s out there, luv.”
Spike felt Xander tense up. He wasn’t sure whether Xander believed him that Dru was in town—he wasn’t sure whether any of them did, at this point. In the broad light of day, he wasn’t sure about it himself, but right now he could feel her lurking just out of sight.
“We’ve got to get you out of Sao Paulo,” Xander said. “This place is stirring up too many old memories.”
Spike tangled his fingers through Xander’s hair and kissed him just behind the ear. “No argument here. I’m ready to fly home as soon as you are.”
Xander sat up. “Yeah. Well, we should wait for those test results first, huh?”
Spike shrugged, still lying down. “Could wait for them just as well in Rome.” He hoped Xander wouldn’t ask him again what the doctor had said—and he didn’t. Instead, Xander got up and started stripping the sweat-soaked sheets off the bed. Spike got up himself and, wordless, went to his bag for a dry set of clothes to sleep in.
The doctor had been interested in the night sweats—noted them down on her little list of symptoms. Not something Spike would’ve thought to bring up, but Oz had noticed the extra laundry, these last few nights.
She’d had some theories, too, as to what might be wrong with him. Spike hadn’t passed them along to Xander just yet, and he’d made Oz promise to keep his gob shut, too. No sense worrying Xander any more than necessary.
Once Xander had got the bed all freshly made up, Spike found that he was reluctant to get back in it. Not that he wasn’t tired, but he didn’t fancy the idea of closing his eyes and meeting Dru again. “I’m parched,” he said. “Think I’ll go have a glass of juice.”
“I’ll get it for you,” Xander offered.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Not an invalid, here. You warm up the bed, and I’ll be back in a mo’.”
The kitchen light was on, which was unexpected at 3 a.m.. Spike went in and found Buffy alone at the stove, standing over a saucepan.
“Oh!” She looked up in surprise. “Spike! What are you doing up?”
“Just getting some juice.” He went to the fridge. “Yourself?”
“Willow and Kennedy were up with the baby, and they woke me up. I said I’d make hot cocoa for everyone, but then Tara fell asleep so they went back to bed.” Buffy looked down at her saucepan. “So, um, want some cocoa?”
Spike considered the juice pitcher in his hand, shrugged, and put it back in the fridge. “Sure.” He was in no hurry to face his dreams again.
“You’re looking better,” Buffy said, pouring the cocoa into two mugs.
“Feeling it, too,” Spike agreed. They sat down together at one end of the big wooden kitchen table. Spike blew over the surface of his cocoa. He realized that he was pleased to have a chance to talk to Buffy alone, after everything that had happened. “I hope Xander hasn’t been giving you too much grief over that series of unfortunate events.”
“You mean when I took you out on patrol to get robbed, shot, and attacked by vampires in the pouring rain?” Buffy winced into her cocoa. “Oh, we’re halfway to laughing about it.”
“Don’t take it hard,” Spike advised her. “He gets protective.”
A rueful smile ghosted across Buffy’s lips. “Yeah, I know.”
They sipped their cocoa in companionable silence for a moment or two. Then Spike said quietly, “Buffy? I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
She noticed his change in tone—she sat up a bit straighter. “All right. Ask away.”
“What was heaven like?”
“Oh.” Her eyes widened. “Oh. Oh God, Spike, are you dying?”
“Well, that’s part of the whole humanity package, innit?” Spike forced a grin. He hadn’t meant to scare her; he just wanted to know. “We’re all going to die eventually.”
“Ah. Right.” She tentatively returned his grin. “Some of us, more than once.”
He raised his mug. “Cheers to that.”
She clinked her mug against his, and they drank—to coming back from the dead, or what, he wasn’t quite sure, but anyway it seemed to ease the mood.
“So, heaven?” he prompted her. “I wouldn’t ask, it’s only that ... I’ve already had a glimpse of hell. Bloody terrifying, it was.” He took a longer drink of cocoa to cover up the shiver that passed through him when he thought about it.
She blinked. “What do you mean? Like, a hell dimension?”
Spike shrugged. “Dunno, exactly. It was back when I was a ghost—I wasn’t tied to this plane by much of a thread, and I could feel myself being drawn to this ... place. Not a place, maybe, so much as an alternate state of being. All I know for sure is, there was torment, fire, pain—and I knew, too, I knew that was where I belonged.”
Her eyes had gone wide. Spike suddenly had the sense that he’d said too much. Bloody running off at the mouth. He was comfortable around Buffy and it was 3 a.m..
“You don’t belong there,” she said.
“Slayer. Remember who I was. Remember what I’ve done.” He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. What’s done is done. Besides, Angel thinks the Shanshu means the slate’s wiped clean—puts my soul back in the balance.”
“Heaven,” Buffy said quietly. “Honestly, I don’t remember anymore. I had to forget, just to get to the point where I could function in this world again.” She gave him a sad smile. “I remember remembering, though. When I first got back. I remember missing it. I think ... it was a feeling, more than a place. I was at peace. I was filled with love.” Her eyes were misting over now, and Spike started to feel bad for asking. “I hope I can feel it again someday. But I try not to think about that.”
“Best not,” Spike agreed. “Sorry to have brought it up.”
Buffy brushed the back of her hand quickly over her eyes. “Oh well, before you came in I was thinking about how to bring down the vampire children’s crusade, so hey—not like you interrupted me thinking about naked Brad Pitt, or something.”
“How are the plans coming, then?” All afternoon there had been bursts of light from the carport where Red had been working on that magical sunshine spell of hers. Spike had never realized the little witch knew so many colorful profanities.
“We still don’t have a ‘plan’ so much as a loosely-assorted series of ideas that might or might not work.” Buffy grimaced into her mug of cocoa. “I just can’t figure out how Kennedy and I are going to operate the sun ball spell and fight the vamps and escort any captive kids to safety. We wanted to keep everyone else out of it, but I’m starting to think we might need Oz and Xander—“
“No,” Spike cut her off. “Not Xander.”
Buffy looked startled at his forceful tone. “We’d keep him as far from the action as possible,” she promised. “It shouldn’t be any more dangerous than Tuesday night at the Bronze in the good old days.”
“That’s a frightening thought in itself,” Spike said. “But I know Xander can take care of himself in a fight. Facing an army of children, though, that’s the last thing he needs. Not after les Enfants de Dieu.”
“Les...” Buffy repeated, blank for a moment, and then she got it. Spike knew that she’d never had the whole story out of Xander—nobody had apart from Spike, Giles and Xander’s therapist—but she had enough bits and pieces to make the connection. “Oh. Mathilde’s army. You think it would wig him out?”
“I think I don’t ever want to see him as close to losing it as he was when he found me in L.A.”
“Was it that bad?” Buffy fiddled absently with her mug. “I mean, he seemed ... distant.”
“He was shutting you out. Didn’t know how to talk to you from where he was.”
“But he talked to you,” she observed. “Just like me after I crawled out of my grave. I couldn’t talk to anyone but you.”
“I guess I’m just that bloody approachable.”
They shared a wry look.
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll keep Xander away from the fight. I don’t know how, but—I’ll come up with something.”
“Buffy,” Spike said, “I want you to make me a promise.”
“That you’ll look out for Xander if anything happens to me.”
She put her mug down on the table, frowning. “If anything—what do you mean?”
“You’re his best friend, apart from Willow, and she’s got her own family to look after now.”
Buffy clasped her hands around his where he gripped his mug. He felt his heart speed up at her touch, but he didn’t pull away. She wasn’t leaning in, not like the other day in the rain when she’d kissed him, and her expression was serious. “You’re scaring me, Spike,” she said. “What did the doctor tell you yesterday?”
“Nothing. Just drew some blood, ordered some tests. But I thought this might be my last chance to talk to you alone before we leave. I’m just covering my bases, right?” He looked down at her strong little fingers, covering his. “Buffy ... I truly am sorry I didn’t tell you I’d come back. I was a coward. After everything that’s gone between us ... I knew we could never be together, not really. And I didn’t want to have to hear it from you.”
“Well, you’re an idiot.” She sighed, a sort of soft letting-go. “But I’m glad you were there when Xander needed you. I’m glad you’re happy together. And I promise that I’ll look after him if you’re suddenly and unfortunately eaten by trolls.”
He made an expression of mock horror. “Don’t even joke, Slayer. Trolls are vicious, hungry creatures with terrible oral hygiene.”
Buffy giggled, and Spike grinned, and that was when Xander walked in.
“Spike, what’re you— “ Xander stopped in his tracks. Buffy jerked her hands away from Spike like he was suddenly red hot. Spike wished she hadn’t done that—made it look like they had something to hide.
“Buffy made cocoa,” Spike said, pretending not to notice the expression on Xander’s face. “Would you like some?”
“No,” Xander said. “I’ll wait for you in the bedroom. Whenever you’re done.”
Spike stood up before Xander could leave. “We’re done now.” He went over and kissed Xander on the lips. Xander stood rigid, not giving anything back but at least not moving away. This mess was going to take some sorting out, then. “Good night, Buffy. Ta for the cocoa.”
Back in the guest room, Xander climbed into bed and rolled over so that his back was to Spike. “Good night,” he said.
“Don’t be like this, pet,” Spike said, easing into bed but not lying down. He rested a hand over Xander’s tight shoulder blades. “Buffy happened to be in the kitchen. I sat down and had a cup of hot cocoa and a chat. That’s all.”
“It’s fine,” Xander said. His tone of voice thoroughly contradicted his words. “Everything’s fine. Go to sleep.”
“What used to be between Buffy and me, it’s over. I would never betray you.”
“I said, everything’s fine. Fantabulously fine. So lie down and shut up. You need to sleep.”
Spike considered taking Xander at his word. Might be easier to talk in the morning when they were better rested.
But come morning, everyone would be busy making plans of attack. No telling when they’d have another real chance to talk, and besides, the last thing he wanted was to cause a rift between Buffy and Xander. Been there, done that, got the bloody t-shirt.
So he went on the offensive.
“I’m not bothered that you’re jealous. It’s fucking hot, in point of fact. But this shutting me out, it’s tedious. Why not throw me up against a wall for a fast hard fuck and mark your territory?”
That had the desired effect, which was to say Xander at least rolled over and glared at him. “I’m not jealous. And we’re not talking about this.”
“So you weren’t at all bothered finding me in the kitchen holding hands with Buffy?”
“No!” Xander pretty much snarled. “Now will you fucking go to sleep?!”
“Well, good,” Spike said, blithely ignoring the majority of Xander’s response. “Because Buffy and I have a lot of history together. It would be understandable if you felt a bit threatened by that.”
Xander sat up abruptly, swung his legs over the side of the bed, and grabbed his jeans off the floor. That was not the result Spike had been hoping for. “Oi!” he yelped. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Out,” Xander said.
“Out where? It’s the middle of the bloody night!”
“Don’t know. Don’t care.”
Shite. He didn’t think Xander was bluffing, and Spike did not want his pigheaded boyfriend wandering around Sao Paulo at night. Even if Dru was all in Spike’s head—which was still bloody uncertain as far as he was concerned—there was an army of hungry child-vampires steadily building its numbers a few miles away.
Spike wrapped his arms around Xander’s waist and rested his forehead against the back of Xander’s neck. “I’m sorry, luv, I’m sorry. Don’t go. I’ll shut up now.”
He felt Xander shake his head. “God damn it, Spike.”
“I pushed too hard,” Spike murmured into Xander’s warm skin. “I’m sorry. But you’re not all right, pet, and I need you to tell me so’s I can fix it.”
Xander made a move to peel Spike’s arms off of him, but he didn’t try very hard. “The middle of the night is seriously not the time to be hashing out our relationship issues.”
“Can’t think of a better time. No distractions, nobody else around, no big ugly monsters currently trying to kill us— “
“But you’re supposed to be asleep.” Xander was like a broken record, except, Spike noticed, the tinge of desperation was getting stronger on each iteration. “Jesus, Spike, you’re sick. You need rest. We can’t have this fight now.”
Ah. Well that explained a thing or two. “Doesn’t have to be a fight.”
“Discussion. Conference. Thing.”
“Can’t sleep.” He pressed his face harder against Xander’s neck, dug in a little tighter with his fingers. “Not with Dru in my head. I’ll rest better once the sun’s up. I’ll have a real lie-in, stay in bed till noon. Promise.”
Xander sighed and kicked his jeans back to the floor, and Spike knew he’d won—if that was the word. He welcomed Xander back under the covers with a kiss, but kept it brief—after going through all this bloody trouble to get Xander to talk, he wasn’t going to derail the conversation with sex. “Lay it on me, luv,” he urged, threading his fingers through Xander’s own. The more he touched Xander, the less likely this was to turn into a real knock-down shouting match. “Tell me what’s on your mind.”
It took Xander a while to answer, but Spike could tell he was just trying to work out what to say. “I’m scared,” Xander finally admitted in a hoarse almost-whisper. “Every time I turn around, there’s a new way I’m going to lose you.”
“What do you mean by that?” Not that Spike didn’t have a guess or two, but Xander needed to say it.
“What if Buffy wants you back?”
“She’ll have to go fish.” Spike kissed Xander again. “I’m with you now.”
“But you’re in love with her.”
“I love her,” Spike conceded, and felt Xander drawing away. “Well so do you, you daft sod! But I’m not in love with her, not anymore.” Strange to say, it was true. “The man I was while I was in love with her—he’s gone, and I don’t want him back.”
“And what about Angel?” Xander shot him a look both frightened and challenging. “What the hell is the deal with you and him?”
Spike was caught flat-footed—metaphorically, seeing as they were lying face-to-face in bed. He hadn’t expected Xander to jump straight from Buffy to Angel. “Do you have a free year coming up any time soon?” he asked. “’Cause I think it’d take about that long to do that story justice.”
“So how about you just summarize the last few chapters?”
“You know all that part. You know he was lurking about in LA after I turned human, making a nuisance of himself. Then you recruited him for the Council, and I’ve only seen him a handful of times since then.”
“Including twice in Rome while I was in South Africa.”
“That was months ago, pet. Didn’t seem to bother you at the time.”
“That was before I knew you were lovers.”
Spike grimaced. “We’re not. We’ve shagged plenty of times, Peaches ‘n me, but it’s never once been about love.”
Xander didn’t look especially reassured. Spike still found it tough to believe that it hadn’t ever occurred to Xander that he’d had sex with Angelus back in the day—what did he think vampires did before television?
“Did you ‘shag’ each other while I was in South Africa?”
“So you’re going to tell me it’s all ancient history? Because the way Angel was acting around you in LA— “
“Ancient and dusty, pet.” It was 99% true.
“What about right after you turned human?” Xander frowned. “You lived with Angel in the Hyperion, you mentioned that when we went there for the spell....”
“Bloody hell,” Spike sighed. He’d rather not tell Xander that particular story. Didn’t concern him, and it wasn’t exactly a time Spike liked to reflect on. But he could see that not knowing was eating away at Xander; he was imagining some interlude of intimacy between Spike and Angel, and it was driving him batty. “If I tell you all about it, then can we let it rest?”
“Yes. Please. I just want to know.”
“Not so sure you do, luv, but we’ve come this far.” Spike closed his eyes for a moment, thought back to night he’d woken up in the alley, stark naked in the rain, lying in a puddle of gore. “Angel was pretty well demolished after the big showdown with Wolfram & Hart. He’d lost all of his people you know—all of them. I’m not saying he was back to huddling in dark corners and eating rats, but it was a near thing. And as for me, turning human was no bloody picnic. Trying to live with a vampire’s memories without the strength of the demon in me—it was like the soul was new and raw all over again.”
Best to keep it short. Xander didn’t need all the sodding details.
“So what I’m saying is, Angel and I were not in our right minds, not even close. We lost some time in there, licking our wounds and clawing at the walls. Maybe a few days, maybe a month—can’t even say. And then one night he heard me screaming and he came into the room where I was staying, and maybe the both of us wanted to smother the voices in our heads, and we went at it like it was 1895. Come morning I went into the loo, took a good look at myself in the mirror, smashed it to hell and cut myself to ribbons with the pieces.” Xander took a sharp breath but Spike pushed on, wanted to get past that part quickly. “Angel scooped me up off the floor and called 911, had them drag my sorry arse to the hospital. After that I went and set up housekeeping with Blue in my old flat, and I swear to you, luv, Angel hasn’t touched me since that day.”
“Fuck, Spike,” Xander swore softly. He squeezed Spike’s hand hard enough to hurt. “I didn’t know—you have to promise, fucking promise never to do that again.”
“I already swore, luv. There’s nobody for me now but you. Not like Angel’s offering, but if he was, I wouldn’t touch him with a bloody ten foot pointy stick.”
“Not that. The mirror.”
“Oh. Not a worry, pet.” He didn’t like Xander looking at him like he was breakable. “Love looking at myself in the glass, these days. Can’t get enough of it. I’m a very attractive bloke, you know.”
Xander snorted, and Spike thought that maybe they were all right now.
“Sky’s getting brighter,” Spike pointed out. “Time to sleep?”
“Yeah.” Whatever else Xander was thinking, he kept it to himself. But he hugged Spike tight as they curled up to sleep.