A Spander Christmas Stocking
Xander lay in bed.
He had been there for many days but he didn’t have the energy or the desire to get up. He tried to work out how long he had been laying in bed but it just would not compute. Too many days. Too much time asleep. Too many drugs. Too much magic.
He laughed but no one heard him so he wasn’t sure if he really made a sound.
When they found him, or more precisely when Willow found him using only the power of her super-scary black eyes and a GPS sat-nav, he had already been in bed for about three weeks. She had shimmered into being in the hut they put him in, screeched something, sounding a bit like she was bringing up a hair-ball, and before he could successfully muster even an hello she had stripped off the sheet, flung some powder at him, presumably some kind of magical flea powder, and then thrust him into a howling vortex. He had landed, soft as a feather and fresh as a daisy, in a nice sweet smelling bed, in the heart of the new Watcher’s Academy. And there he stayed.
Xander knew he should get up. Knew that he would never recover if he didn’t. But somehow he didn’t have the energy, didn’t have the heart to care if he recovered or not, rather hoped he didn’t recover, that at least would mean he could finally forget, finally get some rest.
But he must have known deep down in his shrivelled little Scooby heart that no one was going to leave a soldier down. A comrade fallen. Not on this watch. Two weeks and one day was how long it took before he received the summons.
Giles, short tempered and with not an ounce of sympathy, told him that if he wasn’t going to get up and start to make an effort to get back to work then they would regretfully have to let him go. Xander had puzzled over the words for a moment, maybe he even repeated the phrase silently, anyway it must have been obvious to Giles he didn’t fully grasp the meaning.
“Oh for Heaven’s sake Xander if you don’t get up out of this bed this very instant not only will I fire you and reclaim all that pay that was being credited to you while you were missing, I may very well have to give you sound thrashing for all the heartache you have caused your friends these past two weeks. I’ve had Dawn in tears nearly every day convinced you must be dying of AIDS or something based on goodness knows what gossip she’s heard plus the brief sight of you she caught that day before you had her thrown out of your room. Willow is naturally blaming herself, thinking that she should have realised sooner that you were missing rather than simply off exploring, or finding yourself or whatever it was you put in that last email. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of damage that needs repairing in the gym because of Buffy’s frustrations. Surely you remember how she is with any problem that can’t be solved with brute force and a halberd.”
Giles paused for a moment and Xander glanced up from his bed, the man was beginning to show his age, there were lines on his forehead and his skin was unhealthily pale. Giles took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose hard for a second or two, before he looked up and met Xander’s gaze.
“And there is another matter. Something I really need help with. And I just don’t know who else to ask. Quite frankly if I don’t do something about it soon I don’t know…….. I think I may lose him, maybe it’s too late and I already have lost him.”
Xander looked away, but it was too late he had already seen the shocking sight. Tears welling in those cool green eyes, a thing he had never imagined was even possible. Xander felt bad. Even knowing that the kind of pain that Giles was experiencing, would continue to experience, was only emotional pain, was nothing compared to the pain he had seen, the ghastly terrible actual physical pain he had witnessed every day with numbing regularity in Africa. The pain that had so overwhelmed him that he finally gave up, acknowledged defeat, and just stopped trying anymore.
But when you were face to face with tears from the man who in most real senses of the word had been more of a father in a few short years than his own flesh and blood father was ever going to manage in a lifetime. When you were up close and personal with the kind of misery that could make Giles cry, Giles whose upper lip was normally so stiff you could bounce pennies off of it, somehow in the face of that even Xander’s soul-weary numbness felt a little stir, a little ripple of unease, a long forgotten response, the urge to comfort to try and make it better.
“Giles there is no way that you could lose him. My God you two are the world's most unlikely and yet weirdly most compatible couple I know. You couldn’t lose Andrew if you tried!”
He didn’t need to see his idols' feet of clay. Didn’t want to hear that the one scarily great couple he knew were drifting apart. He wanted at least one of his friends to have an apparently healthy, grown-up relationship, wanted one of them to finally, even late in life, find that happy ending. He didn‘t want to know that this relationship was failing just like every other relationship he had ever encountered. It made his poor battered Scooby heart want to stand up and fight and make the world a place where Slayers and witches, former demons and high school losers and even school librarians and reformed evil troika geeks could find their perfect someone and get some of that happily ever after.
“I don’t know Xander, I think it’s too late and, well…. there was a prior attachment of a sort, so I suppose I can understand. And we owe him a great debt, so I could hardly refuse to help, not after all he did. But little by little I can see Andrew falling under his spell, becoming more and more distant and distracted. And I can see it, the attraction, of course I can. You would have to be dead from the neck up and down not to see that. But my God! It is just so painful to watch him slip away and know that there’s nothing I can say, nothing I can do.”
“Giles, get a grip! Andrew hero-worships you. Don’t forget I spent that second summer in Africa with him and all I ever heard was Giles said this and Do you think Giles would do that and maybe we could ask Giles and blah blah blah blah blah blah until I thought I might have to kill him then come back and kill you too just to get my perspective back. You’re “The Last Watcher!” to Andrew. I mean you have a name with its own exclamation point, like a super hero. And then you let him into your life, you let him live with you. You let him see the real you, the kind, generous, honest, intelligent, caring person you hide behind that tweed body armour; and he was smitten. I mean seriously smitten. I’ve never seen him more smitten, except for that time before when he was always talking about……”
Xander put a stop to the babble, realising it was unlikely to be helpful to remind Giles of the one other person that Andrew had seriously had a crush on, even if that person was now dead. Xander noticed his use of the word person for Spike, realised he had never applied it to that particular individual before, but maybe self-sacrificing yourself in a fiery pit to save the world and close the Hellmouth won even the formerly evil undead a little post mortem consideration.
Xander jumped, confused for a second, he hadn’t said that out loud had he? He peered across at Giles who was sitting there with a mournful expression, nodding his head
“So you see there was no way I could compete with that. Plus he is utterly broken of course, makes it so much more appealing to someone as tender hearted as Andy. I mean I had planned to buy him a puppy this year, something he could lavish his affection on, Willow was doing research, told me about this cross-breed they’ve recently introduced. But of course now he has something much much better than a puggle, he has his very own fallen hero to l…..”
“Spike! This is about Spike?”.
Xander had thought there was nothing that could get him up from his bed, nothing that could make him want to stand up and beat the crap out of something, but of course he had forgotten the power of Spike.
He struggled into the pants and a t-shirt that had been thoughtfully laid at the bottom of his bed.
“I was willing to cut him some slack, being dead and all, well, deader. But if the little weasel can’t stay that way, if he can’t even be trusted to stay a dead hero then as far as I’m concerned all bets are off. You show me where he is Giles and I’ll solve your problem for you, no questions asked. Just point out where you keep the stakes and the dustpans on the way. This is the last time that skanky vampire ho messes with one of my friends. I’m gonna stake his ass until it’s dust. If that doesn’t teach him to keep it in his pants then he‘ll just have to learn the hard way. When his pants are dust and the thing he can‘t keep in them is dust too, and I‘ll just stop talking now.”
“Yes please do Xander. And I’m touched by your offer, seriously, but that just isn’t the way. I can’t let you stake him.”
“Not even a little bit? Just for old times sake?”
“No Xander not even for that. I can‘t explain it, you will just have to see for yourself, then you’ll understand.”
And just like that Xander found himself walking along the unexpectedly pleasant and well lit corridors of the Watcher’s Academy until they reached the door to Giles and Andrew’s private apartment. Giles led him into a book lined hall
“Can you wait here for a second, Xander? Just let me nip inside and check he’s er…. Decent.”
Xander nodded absently as he trailed his finger along a row of books, scanning the titles, Daemonocron…blah blah…. witchcraft….blah… numerology and the demon psyche….profane blah …. Babylon five blah blah blah…..divination using sheep’s blah blah….
“Hey! Wait a minute, Babylon five? Cool!”
He sprawled in one of the comfortable chairs that were interspersed with the bookshelves and lost himself somewhere in deep deep space for five minutes.
Xander didn’t look up when Giles returned, so he took a few moments to study the boy, well man now Giles corrected himself. Although all the weight he had lost should have returned Xander to his boyish looks, infact he looked even more obviously grown up that he ever had. Slim and tanned with his hair over-long and messy and with his eye patch he really looked the part of a pirate now. And there was a quality about him, for all his familiar babbling earlier, there was a hard core of steel in Xander now, it hadn’t been there before. Africa had put it there, forged him somewhere in the heat and the misery and the beauty and the tragedy of that dark continent. And of course the work that Giles had asked him to do, that had sharpened the steel and given it purpose. Xander had an edge now, a dangerous one, and Giles knew Xander could stake Spike with no regrets at all, if it was the right thing, the necessary thing, to do.
Xander looked up at that moment and caught Giles watching him.
“You never forget your calling, do you G-Man?”
“What calling is that Xander?”
“Watching.” But he said it with a smile so there was no sting to the words.
“Just wondering why you never managed to sit still when there was important research to read, yet you can manage it for, what is that anyway?”
Xander held up the book so Giles could see the cover.
“I might have guessed, one of Andrew’s I’ve no doubt!”
Xander stood up and moved to put the book back on the shelf.
“Take it with you Xander, please! I keep telling him I don’t want that kind of rubbish cluttering up the serious bookshelves.”
Xander smiled and shoved the book into his back pocket. He knew something that Giles didn’t know he knew, Andrew hated Babylon five. That meant Giles had bought that book and left it there for him, and that made Xander smile even harder, because it was little things like that that made him realise this place was home. A real home. Not the place his parents lived, not the Harris family style of home but a real home where people cared about the things you liked. A place where someone left a book they loathed on their bookshelf just because one day you could happen to be sitting in their hall with five minutes to kill and might appreciate a book to read.
As they entered the room at the end of the hall Xander didn’t really know what to make of this situation.
He hadn’t given any thought at all to Spike over the past two and a half years. Spike was dead. But knowing he wasn’t dead gave Xander a kind of hollow feeling. He knew that it wasn’t fair or right but he suddenly felt like he really hated Spike for not being dead after all, when other people who died that day had stayed resolutely that way no matter how much the people left behind wished it wasn’t so. He wondered briefly how it had happened but then he guessed it didn’t really matter how, after all Spike’s death had been mystical and maybe that was all it took, one minute you’re a crispy vampire critter the next you’re singing the resurrection blues.
And then he saw him.
I wonder when that happened?
That was the only coherent thought that Xander recalled having later. Looking into that room from the doorway, seeing Andrew sitting in a chair by the fireside, seeing a slender pale figure kneeling quietly beside him. And he must have made some kind of noise, maybe just cleared his throat or swallowed really noisily because suddenly two pairs of eyes were looking at him. Andrew smiling, already beginning to stand up and the other one just looked at him for a fleeting moment.
Wide blue eyes full of complete and utter terror for just one second before the expression bled out of them and they were hidden from view as his head dropped, and with a feline grace he dropped into a crouch and crawled towards them. He stopped at Xander’s feet folding down onto his knees stretching out his back and turning his head slightly to one side so that his cheek lay on the carpet just beside Xander’s foot and the left side of his neck was exposed submissively to Xander.
In the flickering firelight Xander could see the silver tracery of scars that marked the skin of his neck. From that most tender place just behind the ear, all across the pale slender column of his neck and around to the nape and the hollow indent where the skull and neck join. The creamy skin was marred with savage bite marks, most long healed but one or two still retaining a raised edge and a dark red colour as if they were fresh.
“Hey! What are you doing?”
From somewhere Xander found his voice.
But there was no answer except that a tremor seemed to sweep through the taut body, folded in on itself and yet somehow totally exposed and unprotected .
“Giles, what is he doing?”
“Honestly Xander, I have no idea. He’s never done anything like that before. We normally have to tell him to move or just grab his arm and move him about, otherwise he usually tends to stay wherever he happens to end up. I must say this is a little startling.”
“He must have recognised you Xan, so where ever they got him from there must have been a Xander there too!”
Andrew had made his way across to them.
“Hey it’s good to see you Xan, glad you finally decided not to die tragically in bed after all.”
He hugged Xander surprisingly tightly for a second and spoke in his ear so quietly that only Xander heard him,
“I should be really mad at you for upsetting Giles like that, he was totally worried about you man, don’t fuck up like that again, OK?” And then louder “Now you’re up perhaps you can take over the task of Spike sitting, I mean he seems to have taken to you and everything.”
They all looked down at the vampire by Xander’s feet.
“Looks like you got yourself a pet vampire my friend.”
“But it’s Spike, why is he acting like this?”
Xander looked from Giles to Andrew and back again. They both shrugged.
“Let’s sit by the fire, Andrew can tell you, he knows the most. They made their way to the warmth of the fireside, once Xander was seated Spike once again made his way to his place at Xander’s feet and folded himself up again in exactly the same position.
“Gather round children and let me begin my tale of the noble vampyre”
“Not that again you idiot!”
“OK, I was only teasing you. What do you know Xander?”
“Spike died closing the Hellmouth. The End.”
“Oh, you never heard any of the rumours? Nothing else at all?”
“No, why would I he was dead. Wasn’t he?”
“Well yes he was dead, for about six weeks. Dusted on the Hellmouth and then he kind of un-dusted in the offices of Wolfram and Hart, you heard of them right? The Evil Law firm that Angel and his crew took over. He was a ghost at first, but eventually he got fleshy again, I saw him there once. But he made me swear not to tell. I kept my word but I don’t know, he seemed so sad you know? He was lonely I think but wouldn’t admit it and I could tell that the only thing keeping him going was pride, and the pleasure of pissing off Angel. But I had to leave and bring that rogue slayer back. I felt pretty bad leaving him like that I mean we would never have found her without his help and after what she did to him I kind of felt we owed him. But Angel was pretty pissed off at us and we didn’t have a lot of choice but to leave him. There was one girl there. She seemed like she cared about Spike and she said they had a state of the art medical wing and could take care of him.”
“Dana. You’re talking about Dana aren’t you?”
Andrew nodded and glanced at Giles, he had forgotten about Dana.
“I’m getting a drink, how about you Xander? I have a decent single malt, fifty years old and you can taste every one going down.”
“Yeah anything would be good about now. Fuck no matter where I go that bitch always seems to follow me.”
“I’m sorry Xander I forgot that it was you that finally dealt with her.”
Xander waited until he had taken a long slow swallow of his drink.
“Yeah, not one of them fifty years was wasted, thanks Giles. So tell me what did the rabid bitch do to Spike? Knowing his track record she probably chained him up and forced him to have slayers-sex until he was unconscious.”
“Well she did chain him up, and he was unconscious.”
Andrew glanced down at Spike, it still made him feel slightly sick. He remembered walking into that basement, the sickly sweet smell of the molasses and the sharp metal stench of blood filling his nose, and then he saw Spike. Just sitting there kind of dazed, looking down at the place where his hands used to be, then looking up at Andrew a little confused, just starting to panic as the reality of it slowly made its way thorough his fuzzy brain.
“Then she cut his hands off with blunt and rusty surgical instruments.”
“Christ Andrew why didn’t you put the bitch down there and then? How could you have thought she could come back from something like that?”
“Well you had to be there Xan, don’t forget we all thought Angel had gone over to the dark side, and anyone with him was tainted, poisoned fruit and all that, and hello, this was a Slayer, one of our own and she was only doing what came naturally, slaying the vampire.”
“Except she didn’t slay him did she? Christ she cut his fucking hands off. I wish I’d known that, wish someone had told me she did that. It might have made it a bit easier on me you know? When I had to do that.”
They all sat quietly for a moment thinking of Dana and how she had ended.
“Yeah sorry Xan, I never thought of that, I should have told you.”
“But I guess whatever else they did at Evil Lawyers inc at least they fixed his hands. There‘s not a mark on him”
“Well maybe they did but I never saw him again.”
They all sat and drank for a moment. Thinking about just how truly awful it must have been to have your hands cut off.
“Well until now.” Xander looked down at the creature that was crouched at his feet. He didn’t understand what had happened to him to make him like.
“I guessed having his hands cut off couldn’t have helped. But what happened to him?”
Andrew looked at Giles.
“Didn’t you explain anything to him at all Giles?”
Giles shook his head and took a long drink of his whiskey.
“A while ago Angel and Spike went to another dimension to rescue Wesley but one of them had to stay behind and Spike volunteered and when they finally got him back he was like this. At first they thought something had happened to him while he was left behind. But eventually they worked it out. He is from that other place. This isn’t our Spike.”
To be continued...