Thanks to yourlibrarian, as usual, for beta-reading, idea-sharing, and for making writing fun.
By the way, do you remember five months ago when I posted a teaser for an upcoming chapter of “That Good Night”? Yeah, this is finally that chapter!
Oh, and one other announcement: by reader request, I'm starting an email list to let people know when I update. If you'd like to be on the list, please let me know either in comments or by email at shadowscast at yahoo dot com.
Anyway, here are the story details:
Title: That Good Night (part 10 of ?)
Continuity info: This is the sixth story in the Fragments 'verse, fitting in immediately after Before the Time of Dawn. This story is set a couple of years post-NFA.
Summary: Spike is human and he's having problems. He and Xander are currently in Sao Paulo, where Willow has just had a baby and a new vampire problem is looming.
Warnings: My posting schedule will probably continue to be erratic! If that's going to frustrate you hugely, you should probably wait until it's complete. Also, it's going to be dark. Possibly kinda depressing. 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).
This update is about 3700 words; the total length now stands at about 34,400.
Previous parts are [here].
I haven't prepared a new "Previously in the Fragments!Verse" summary for today, but since I just posted last week, hopefully you remember what's going on!
“So then Giles told me he wished I’d been the one in charge of the evacuation.” Xander said. “He thinks I’m good at planning stuff, can you believe it?”
Xander nudged her knee with his foot. “Frankly, Will, that’s not the reaction I was hoping for.”
“Sorry.” She made a tiny motion with her shoulder, hinting at a shrug without disturbing her suckling baby. “It wasn’t you. I just felt my uterus contracting.”
Xander winced reflexively. “TMI.”
“What? You don’t even have a uterus.”
“And thank God for that,” Xander said, crossing himself in an exaggerated gesture.
Willow rolled her eyes at him, grinning. “No fair, I can’t punch you while I’m holding Tara. And since when are you Catholic?”
“When in Rome....” Xander deadpanned.
“Tell you what. I’ll get Kennedy to punch you when she gets home.”
“Okay, now I’m scared.”
“Don’t be.” Willow’s smile softened. “She talks tough, but on the inside she’s really a pussycat.”
Xander shifted closer so he could touch Willow’s cheek. “God, Will, it’s great to see you so happy.”
Willow made a contented noise. “Everything’s just really good right now,” she said, gazing down at Tara. Then she turned to Xander, her smile fading. “I wish you could have that, too.”
Xander backed off again, hugging himself without really meaning to. “It’s better than it was. Spike makes it better.”
“Well, good, because otherwise it wouldn’t make much sense for you to be dating him, would it?” she teased. “But ... you’re worried about him.”
“We’re in a foreign country and he’s sick. So, yeah.”
“No, I mean ... in general. Not just now. It’s been hard on you.”
Xander hesitated. The habit of not talking about it was deeply ingrained. Around Spike, the subject was taboo. But this was Willow. “Yeah.” He ducked his head, stared at his knees. “Okay, yeah. It’s ... it’s like I’m always kind of holding my breath, you know? Waiting for the next thing to go wrong. And I feel so ... helpless. And now here Oz is telling me he thinks it’s even worse than we know, and ... I’m scared, Will.”
Willow managed to shift her hold on Tara so that she could let go with one hand and give Xander’s arm a comforting squeeze. “Maybe he’ll get better after this,” she said. “Maybe Dr. Rodrigues will be able to find out what’s wrong.”
“Fuck, Will, we know what’s wrong. He came back wrong. It’s something to do with the Shanshu. This should be a Scooby problem. We should be bringing the troops into the school library and pulling out the giant dusty books and flipping the pages until we figure out how to fix it.”
“Giles and I have talked about it,” Willow said softly. “Back when we first found out that Spike was alive—remember, he had pneumonia, and Kennedy and I went to L.A. to be with him when you went to South Africa? Giles even found a copy of the Shanshu prophecies. We couldn’t find anything that helped. Angel thinks it might be like it was with Darla—that Spike was sick before he was turned, only he just didn’t know it.”
“I know, I know,” Xander said. “I’ve talked with Giles about it. But Angel’s theory totally doesn’t make sense—for one thing, Darla was brought back by evil lawyers, not by some kind of fucking miracle. For another, Spike wasn’t sick before he was turned. At least, not like he is now. He didn’t get sick all the time, he didn’t get migraines, he didn’t have asthma. I know it’s been a long time, but he’d remember things like that.”
Willow looked thoughtful. “Maybe it’s some environmental trigger? Like, some chemical that’s around now that he’s sensitive to, something that didn’t exist when he was human before?”
Xander shook his head. “His doctor in London did a bunch of tests for that kind of thing. So I don’t think so. It was a good theory, though. That’s what we need more of. Good theories. Research parties. But instead, everybody’s ignoring it.”
“Xander, sweetie, we’re not,” Willow insisted. “Giles and I did as much as we could. But it was a dead end.”
“So you gave up.”
“We had to.”
“We didn’t even give up on Buffy when she was dead.”
Willow winced. “Yes. Right. And that went well.”
“It did,” Xander said. “Come on, Will. Maybe it sucked for her at first, but ask her when she gets back here if she’d rather be dead.”
Willow lifted her head at the sound of a car coming to a stop outside. “They’re back,” she said. “Xander, I promise, we’ll all do everything we can for him.”
The door opened. Kennedy and Oz came in first; she was half-carrying him.
“Oh my God, what happened?” Willow gasped, sitting bolt upright.
Buffy followed them in and shut the door. She looked unhurt, but distraught. Kennedy had bright red scratches down both of her forearms, but she didn’t seem to be seriously injured. Oz, on the other hand, looked like he was barely holding on to consciousness.
“Knife,” Oz said.
Kennedy looked angry and scared. “A vampire wannabe stabbed him in the back. It’s pretty bad. Will, we’re gonna need you.”
Willow stood up, still holding Tara. “Right. Right, okay. Um, Xander? Take Tara?”
Xander reached out reflexively to take the baby. “Wait, where are you going?”
Snapping up her nursing bra, Willow exchanged a look with Kennedy. “Oz’s room?”
Kennedy nodded. “Buffy, help me carry him.”
“Okay,” Xander said, “I know I’m not the local expert or anything, but don’t we usually take people to the hospital when they get stabbed?” But nobody was listening to him; Buffy had tucked herself under Oz’s other shoulder and was helping Kennedy carry him out of the room, while Willow had run ahead on some mission of her own.
Tara hiccupped, and then started to cry.
“Burp her!” Willow called out unseen from the hallway.
“What?” Xander looked down at the squirming bundle in his arms. “Oh God.”
He stood up and thought of the movie “Three Men and a Baby.” What would Ted Danson do?
Ted Danson would find out what was happening in the other room, that’s what he’d do. Xander put Tara over his shoulder and, rubbing her back, went into the hall. Kennedy was just leaving Oz’s room. “I’m going to the shed,” she said by way of non-explanation, brushing by him.
Tara had stopped crying. “You like that, huh?” Xander said under his breath, rubbing her back in the other direction now. “Glad I’m good for something.” And suddenly his shoulder felt extra warm, and wet. “Oh, no.” Xander stepped into the doorway to Oz’s room. “Willow? Willow!”
Oz was lying flat on his narrow bed, eyes closed, face pale. Buffy was standing back with her arms crossed, looking worried, while Willow was kneeling on the floor beside the bed, touching his face. “Xander, keep Tara away from here,” Willow snapped without looking at him.
Xander started to protest, but Buffy intervened. “Come on,” she said, guiding him out by the elbow. “Willow and Kennedy are going to handle this.”
“But something’s wrong with Tara,” Xander finally managed to say. “She just puked all over me.”
Buffy gave him an exasperated look that verged on affectionate. “She spat up. It’s normal. Have you ever looked after a baby before, like, ever?”
“Tony and Jessica stopped at one,” Xander reminded her.
“Give her to me. Come on, let’s go to the bathroom and clean you up.”
In the bathroom Xander handed Tara over, careful to support her tiny head until Buffy had a good hold on her. “Okay, maybe now you can tell me what the hell is going on?”
“Get one of the small towels from under the sink for me, okay?” Buffy said. She was bouncing a little, holding the baby; Tara seemed to like it.
“Here,” Xander said, getting one for her. As Buffy put the towel over her shoulder to save her shirt from a fate like Xander’s, Kennedy passed by the open door on her way to Oz’s bedroom. She was carrying a gun. “Jesus Christ,” Xander squeaked.
Buffy followed his gaze and quickly stepped in front of him to stop him from leaving the bathroom. “It’s a tranq gun,” she said. “In case Oz loses control over the change.”
“What change?” Xander asked, and then his brain caught up. “Oh. Werewolf. Right. That’s why you didn’t take him to a hospital.”
“Actually we did,” Buffy said. “But then Oz wouldn’t go in. Kennedy was pretty upset about it. They had this big argument in Portuguese. Then they told me we were coming home because he’ll heal faster when he’s half wolfy.” She looked worried, but she was keeping her voice light and soft, rocking the baby.
“What do you mean ‘half wolfy’?”
“He can stop changing halfway now. So he can fight with, um, werewolf strength, but still keep control over himself so he only tries to kill the vampires, and not—us.”
“Oh. Wow.” Xander glanced towards Oz’s room, which didn’t tell him anything since Xander still couldn’t see through walls. “Well that’s ... great, right?”
“Right!” Buffy’s reply was overly perky—like she wasn’t so sure herself, but she was trying to see the good. “It’s like he has a new superpower. And we needed all the power we could get in that fight—I mean, with the kiddie vamps. They’re small, but there’s a lot of them.”
“So you found them?” Xander asked. Nobody had told him yet what had actually happened out there tonight.
“We found some of them,” Buffy said. “We interrupted a recruitment drive.”
Buffy shook her head, frowning. “I still don’t totally understand it myself. There was a lot of talking before the fighting. There were a couple of human boys with this one vampire, and I guess that they wanted to be made into vampires? One of the boys stabbed Oz.”
“Oh man.” Xander winced. “That sucks.”
“Yeah.” Buffy shifted Tara in her arms. “Kennedy hit him—the boy I mean—hard enough to give him a concussion. We left him at the clinic. She wants to go back tomorrow and question him. I don’t think she should go alone.” She lowered her voice to almost a whisper. “I’m kind of scared of what she might do to him.”
Xander raised an eyebrow. “C’mon, Buff. She wouldn’t hurt a kid.”
“She already did,” Buffy reminded him.
“In the middle of a fight. That’s different.”
“She said we should leave him in the street for the vamps to get.” Buffy’s voice caught in her throat.
“I’m sure she didn’t mean it,” Xander said, though he wasn’t so sure himself. He knew Buffy a whole lot better than he knew Kennedy—or at least he used to—and she wouldn’t get upset over nothing.
“I’m not sure.” Buffy looked down at Tara, visibly trying to keep herself calm. “She was really upset about Oz getting hurt.”
“Okay, but she’ll be calmer tomorrow.”
Buffy looked like she was about to say something else, but she didn’t—just shrugged and rocked the baby, looking worried.
Xander took a kleenex from the box on the counter beside the sink, wet it, and started trying to clean off his shoulder. The bathroom was pretty small; he could hear Buffy breathing. It would make sense for her to leave now, but it seemed like she wasn’t going to. Like there was something else she wanted to say. Xander could take a guess at what was on her mind. “Spike said I shouldn’t be mad at you,” he said, looking at his shirt in the mirror instead of at her. “He said it was, and I quote, his own bloody awful decision to go out last night.”
“I talked him into it,” Buffy said quietly.
Xander let out a short, harsh laugh. “You can’t talk Spike into doing anything he doesn’t want to do.”
“Xander....” Buffy trailed off.
Xander looked at her, and waited. She was biting her lip. Xander could tell there was something that she was really reluctant to say, but wanted to say anyway. Xander’s heartbeat sped up as her hesitation started to scare him; was it something about Spike? Something about her and Spike?
“I think Kennedy and Oz are having an affair,” she said.
“What?!” Xander turned around so fast he banged his hip on the sink. “Ow!”
“Shhh, shhhh!” Buffy shushed him frantically.
“Kennedy’s gay,” Xander hiss-whispered.
“They kissed right in front of me.”
“Are you sure? On the lips? Not one of those we’re-so-European-now kisses on the cheek?”
Buffy shook her head, looking pale. “Serious lip-lock.”
“But—did they know you could see them?”
“I think they forgot. It was kind of an intense moment. And then Kennedy said it wasn’t what it looked like.”
Xander felt his stomach sinking. God, poor Willow. “We have to say something.”
“I know. But not tonight.”
Xander looked towards Oz’s room again. “Right. Wait until the crisis is over. Isn’t that, like, our motto or something?”
Buffy glanced down at Tara, who was yawning. “I think I should put Tara to bed now. I’ll stay with her in Willow and Kennedy’s room.”
Xander nodded. “If you need any help, just wake me up, okay?”
Buffy gave him a grateful look. “I’m glad you’re here, Xander. Really, really glad. And I’m so sorry about yesterday.”
Xander hugged her, careful not to disturb the baby. He couldn’t say that it was all okay, because it wasn’t. But he never could stay mad at Buffy.
After Buffy disappeared into the master bedroom with Tara, Xander lingered in the hall outside of Oz’s door for a minute, trying to see if he could hear what was going on in there. He could hear soft voices—Kennedy and Willow, talking. He couldn’t make out any words, couldn’t even tell if they were speaking English. But they didn’t sound panicked or anything, so he had to assume everything was okay. He touched the door with his fingers, wondering what he would see if he opened it. Maybe it was better not to find out. He turned around and headed for the guest bedroom.
He opened the door carefully, not wanting to wake Spike. The bedroom was flooded with silvery moonlight. One of the curtains was pulled half-back. Spike was slouched in the armchair, staring out the window, with Kennedy's iPod cradled absently in one hand.
Xander came in and shut the door. "Spike? How long have you been up?"
Spike didn't make any sign he'd heard. The volume on the iPod had to be cranked up pretty high, considering how much of the sound was carrying across the room. He didn't even react to Xander’s presence until Xander went over and waved his hand in front of Spike's face. Then he turned a distracted, blinking stare on Xander and palmed one of the ear buds. "Did you say something, luv?"
“I asked how long you’ve been up.”
Spike shrugged. "Couldn't sleep. Slept half the day, didn't I?"
“Did you hear any of the excitement just now?”
Spike gave him a blank look, and pointed to the iPod.
“No, huh. God. Okay, um, Buffy and Kennedy and Oz found some more of the mini-vamps. And Oz got stabbed. They’ve got him in his bedroom now and they're doing some kind of werewolf healing ritual, I guess.”
Spike sat up straighter, concern showing on his face. “Is he badly hurt? It’s a full moon tonight, you know.”
“Does that matter?” Outside the window, Xander could see the moon through the thin, hanging branches of a willow tree. It looked like a Japanese painting. “I thought he learned to ignore the moon years ago.”
“He can never ignore it, he’s a bloody werewolf. What he can do is keep control over it, like reining in your temper when some berk cuts you off in traffic. But the wolf in him will be at its strongest tonight.”
“How do you know all this?”
Spike shrugged. “Talked about it with the girls when they stayed with me in L.A. that time. And Dog-boy here isn’t the first werewolf I’ve met.” He paused to blow his nose, and tossed the tissue in the direction of an overflowing trash basket. “I don’t envy him tonight. Probably can’t use any painkillers, can’t afford to get fuzzy in the head.”
Xander hadn’t thought about that. It maybe explained better why Oz hadn’t wanted to go to a hospital. “I hope he manages to keep it together. I don’t think they even have a cage here.”
Spike looked unconcerned. “Nothing’ll happen that two Slayers and a witch can’t handle.”
Xander didn’t share his confidence. It wasn’t a question of strength; he was worried about the powder-keg of horrible messy relationship issues that they were all sitting on. He didn’t want to tell Spike what Buffy had told him, though. It would feel too much like nasty gossip, and besides, deep down he was a little afraid that Spike might not be as outraged about it as he and Buffy were.
Spike turned his music back on and went back to staring out the window while Xander shed his clothes. Xander tapped him on the shoulder when he was down to his boxers. “Come to bed with me?”
Spike shook his head. “Go ahead. I’ll just wait until I get sleepy again.”
Xander took the iPod out of Spike’s hand and looked at the display. "Listening to The Offspring at maximum volume: not known for its soporific effects."
Spike snatched the iPod back and raised an eyebrow at Xander. “Nice vocabulary word. You been reading Andrew’s word-a-day calendar again?”
“Don’t change the subject. You’re keeping yourself awake. Why?”
Spike shrugged and evaded eye contact. He hunched over and coughed.
“Dammit, Spike.” Xander crouched in front of Spike and squeezed his hand. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
Spike sighed and met Xander’s gaze with shadowed eyes. “Was dreaming about Dru again.”
“It’s all right. I just don’t want to go right back to sleep.”
Xander could understand Spike’s reluctance. He didn’t have nightmares very often anymore himself, but he could remember a time when he couldn’t even face the prospect of unconsciousness without drinking himself into a stupor first. “Okay. Just come to bed. We don’t have to sleep.”
Spike cocked his head to the side, looking suddenly interested. “Are you offering me a shag?”
Xander bit his lip, a little uncertain. “If you feel up to it.”
Spike answered by leaning forward and kissing Xander, hard.
Xander hadn’t even been thinking about sex before he’d suggested it to Spike, but it took his body just seconds to get enthusiastically behind the idea. It had been way too long since the last time they’d fucked.
They stood up and peeled off each others’ remaining clothes without stopping the frantic kissing. Spike was making those desperate little fuck-me-now sounds that Xander loved so much, and his cock was rock-hard against Xander’s hip. So they were in agreement about it having been too long.
“Top or bottom?” Xander gasped against Spike’s throat as they tumbled onto the bed together.
“Don’t care,” Spike answered, just as breathless. “Long as you do all the work. ‘M sick, you know.”
“Ha. Lazy, you mean.” Of course Spike was sick, but it was better to joke about it. Xander rolled him over onto his back and then realized he’d have to get out of bed to get the lube from their luggage. “Hang on.”
It took a minute or two of frantic digging to find the bottle. Neither Spike nor Xander had a talent for organized packing. When Xander finally turned back to the bed, Spike was stroking his cock and watching Xander with a predatory smirk.
Xander raised an eyebrow. “Enjoying the view?”
“Always, pet. You should walk around naked more often.”
“Yeah, Willow and Kennedy would love that.”
“Maybe they would.”
Xander shut him up with a kiss, because that was a very don’t-go-there kind of comment. If he let Spike know it bugged him, Spike would want to stay on the topic just to watch him squirm.
He wanted to be gentle, but Spike urged him on with a combination of invective and not-so-gentle caresses. Soon Xander was inside of Spike, fucking him energetically.
“God, yeah, that’s it pet,” Spike gasped, banging his head back against the pillow.
“Shhh.” Xander put his hand over Spike’s mouth. “Almost everyone in this house has supernaturally enhanced senses.” From the look in Spike’s eyes, Xander know he wasn’t going to be able to safely remove his hand.
Spike squirmed under Xander and moaned against his palm.
“What’s that? You want me to stop?” Xander froze mid-thrust, giving Spike his own version of an evil grin, and didn’t move his hand.
Spike’s eyes went very wide and he tried to shake his head. “Fuggin’ ‘ell,” he said, all muffled.
Xander laughed and started moving again. “Just kidding.”
Afterwards, Xander cleaned them both up while Spike lay back with a lazy grin. “That was nice,” he said. “I feel much better.”
“Good.” Xander tried to fix his ponytail, gave up, and let the hair go loose. “Think you’ll be able to sleep okay now?”
Spike hesitated before answering. “Not sure. I still can’t get her out of my mind.”
Xander felt his happy glow fading fast. “Buffy?”
Spike gave him a strange look. “No, Dru.”
“Oh. Right.” He lay down alongside Spike and pulled the blankets up over him. “Come on, let me hold you. It’ll be all right.”
“Love you, pet,” Spike said softly.
“I love you too.” Xander tucked his arm behind Spike’s head and let Spike snuggle against his shoulder. “And I’ll keep you safe tonight, Spike. I promise.”