On his way to the girls' house the next day, Xander noticed that the blue mailbox on the corner was tipped over, a fist-sized dent in the side. A rather Spike-sized fist.
Happy New Year.
When Willow saw him in the entryway, she gasped and ran over, reaching up but then carefully not touching his bruised jaw. She had on her worried face. "What happened? Did you and Spike run into trouble after you left last night?"
Xander tried to chuckle dryly in response, but it hurt too much. "You could say that."
Willow took his hand and led him to the kitchen, where Tara and Dawn were eating breakfast. They both gasped and suddenly there was a flurry of female voices asking questions, offering help, and just generally making Xander want to hide under the table. When they quieted down, Tara said gently, "You should put some ice on that."
Xander smiled faintly. "Already did. Well, not ice. Corn. Didn't help."
Around a mouth full of cereal, Dawn offered, "You look like you punched a Bregni demon with your face."
Willow took an ice-pack out of the freezer -- always ready for emergencies, that's our Will -- and wrapped it in a dish towel before leading him out to the living room, where they sat on the couch.
"Oh, Xander," she sighed, gently pressing the ice-pack to his jaw. Xander winced and took it from her, holding it gingerly himself. "What happened?"
He thought about lying. Making up something stupid that would make her laugh and just let it go. But lying to Willow was like drop-kicking a puppy.
Xander looked away and admitted quietly, not wanting to be heard in the kitchen, "Spike punched me."
When he looked back, Willow's eyes were big and round. And then she frowned, obviously confused and distressed. "Spike? Why?"
Xander shifted the ice-pack, trying for a position that didn't hurt as much. No luck. "Uh, well, he thought I lied to him about something."
"The time loop?"
Xander looked away again, taking evasive action. "Not exactly."
Willow looked speculative now. "So you're lying about more than the time loop?"
Xander sat up and stared at her, raising the non-ice-holding hand and pointing a finger for emphasis. "First of all, I am not lying about the time loop. I'm just not ... telling. It's not the same thing. And second, when he punched me, he was completely in the wrong and I wasn't lying to him at all."
Willow gave him a disapproving look. "Except about the time loop."
Xander slumped. "How did this all get so messed up?"
Willow sighed and slumped down beside him, her head coming to rest lightly on his shoulder. "I think the messing-up got started when you didn't tell him the truth about the time loop. From there, it just got messier and messier until it went kablooey."
Xander muttered, "Yeah, kablooey all over my face." They sat there together for a long while, just listening to each other's breathing. Then Xander said softly, "I never thought he'd actually hit me."
Willow shifted on the couch to sit up straighter and look at him. She had her serious face on. That never meant good things. "I know you don't like to think about it, Xander, but Spike's a vampire. He might seem like a normal guy, hanging out with us and eating pizza and watching videos. But he isn't human, Xander. He's a demon. And when he loses his temper, he might not have as much self-control as you expect him to have."
Feeling hopeless and depressed, Xander whined, "So I either stay away or let him make me a punching bag? I'm not liking either option. Can I take (c) none of the above?"
Willow shook her head. "I don't know if those are the only two choices. I just think you need to talk to Spike about it."
Xander slumped lower until his butt was almost off the couch and his shoulders were hunched up around his ears. "I know. I need to talk to Spike about all of it."
"Yeah, you do, because you really aren't being fair to him. Somewhere along the way, it seems like you decided that just because Spike isn't all sad and lonely anymore, then he's suddenly some kind of superman who doesn't get hurt by stuff. Spike's always been sort of ... vulnerable. Stuff hurts him, maybe even more than it hurts other people."
"But he's been acting all tough guy, especially lately."
Willow put her hand on his arm. "Maybe that just means he's scared."
It wasn't until after he left that he wondered if Willow had figured out something was going on between him and Spike. Probably. Xander wasn't very good at hiding things from her, and so she'd probably at least suspected.
Either way, she gave good advice, as usual.
It was time -- past time -- to have a serious talk with the Bleached Undead Mike Tyson.
Heck. It was only a punch in the face. At least he didn't bite my ear off.
* * *
Spike wasn't in the upstairs area of the crypt, so Xander climbed down the ladder to see if he was down below. No big deal. They'd gotten comfortable enough with each other's living spaces. It didn't seem wrong or anything.
But Spike wasn't downstairs, either.
Where the hell is he? It's the middle of the day!
Xander hesitated, uncertain whether he should wait, leave a note, or just go home and call Spike on his cell phone.
How insane is it that Spike has a cell phone, but I don't?
Then his eyes fell on a very familiar-looking black leather journal sitting on the banged-up bedside table. It was the journal he'd given Spike for Christmas. Spike had been so surly about it, Xander had figured he'd probably toss it out with the trash, so it gave him a little thrill of pleasure to see it lying there.
He didn't mean to read it. Really. He didn't. He just picked it up to see if it had been written in, just to see if the Christmas gift had been appreciated after all, even though Spike had been such a jerk about it.
He honestly really didn't mean to read it. But once he'd opened it and seen Spike's delicate handwriting so tidy on the unlined pages, he couldn't help it. He'd spent so many months wondering what was going on in Spike's head, trying to decipher every gesture, every look. And these past few weeks, especially, with the sex stuff and never knowing what Spike was feeling or thinking. And now, now, here was everything he'd been wondering about.
He couldn't help it.
The first entry was mostly a description of Christmas with the Scoobies, including descriptions of everything they ate and the gifts everyone received. That made sense, since the journal had been a Christmas gift. Apparently Spike had written fairly soon afterward, despite his surliness when he'd first opened the present.
Willow made turkey again, the same roast as when they dragged me into their ridiculous Thanksgiving do. Bloody American holiday. Served them right that I made such wretched stuffing, so dry and crunchy and sour. Don't know how it ended up sour. Must have put something in that didn't belong. Still can't believe they all ate it, nice as you please, and smiled and said it was good. Even Dawn smiled, though I saw the faces she made when she thought I wasn't looking. And bloody Xander, taking second and third servings. Must have a stomach of iron, that one.Glancing through the next couple of pages, Xander thought it seemed like the writing was sometimes very formal and old-fashioned-sounding and sometimes more slangy, but he wasn't sure, because he only read snippets here and there. On some pages, there seemed to be poems, but they were crossed through so heavily that the words were unreadable. He paged back and forth a bit, just curious, but stopped when he noticed a page where his own name was mentioned repeatedly.
This was better, though, as Christmas is a proper holiday. The witches wisely kept me from the kitchen and the whole do was different. More relaxed. I didn't feel quite so much the unwelcome guest dragged in out of the cold like a shivering puppy.
Truth is this reminded me more of holidays at home with Mother, with the good cheer and warm companionship. No fire in the grate, though. No grate in which to build a fire, actually. But this was a bit like family, all the same.
A bit of domination gets his willy up, and I don't mind bossing him about if it gets my end away. I'm not averse to a bit of a power trip, either, now it comes to it. Telling the Scoobies what to do is all right, but it's not the same. Not the same as telling someone what to do and knowing they have to do it.Maybe he wrote that weeks ago, Xander thought, trying to stave off his sudden unease. I don't see dates written anywhere, so that could've been back when things first started happening between us. Maybe that's why the whole thing started, but he probably feels different now. I'm not just a charity case. I'm not.
Xander's just messing about, anyway. Experimenting. He's looking for a top to play a few games, and at least with me he doesn't have to worry about getting his throat torn out, thanks to the chip. Doubt I'd tear his throat out anyway, these days. He's a bit of all right. Long time since I had a friend. Come to think on it, I don't even remember the last real mate I had. Minions, of course. Lovers, like Dru and a certain idiotic blond bint best left unnamed. But no friends.
So I'm not going to lose this one to some demon preying on desperation in a sex club. If a bit of boot-knocking keeps the kid out of harm's way, who am I to say no?
At the cinema, Xander bought me some sodding candy. Candy. Like I'm some bint in an angora sweater and a poodle skirt. Not looking to play Joanie to anybody's Chachi, ta very much.I still don't understand what was up with the candy thing, why it was such a big deal. And he thinks I want him to be my bitch? What are we, in prison? And, not that I'm a big expert on prison lingo or anything, but wouldn't I be the "bitch" in this scenario?
Don't know what the kid's up to, but I'm not buying it. Probably thinks I'm an easy mark. Saw me mooning after Buffy, going all soft, making a bloody fool of myself, getting treated like dirt and coming back begging for more. Figures he's got my number.
Spike. Love's bitch.
Well, I'm bloody well not going to be Xander Harris's bitch, I'll tell you that much.
I catch Xander looking at me sometimes. Strangest expression. Like he knows what's going on in my head, like he knows more than he's telling. Bloody disconcerting, that.And then, at the top of the next page:
It was a wrench, finally admitting that Dru never loved me. I was hers, she made me, but that isn't love. Whatever it is, it isn't enough. It never was enough, kept me always begging like a lap-dog, grateful for any indication of affection, happy to dance attendance upon a lady who barely noticed my efforts.So ... this is why Spike kept saying it was only sex? I was right? He was scared? Well ... okay ... good to know ... good to understand ... but what do I do about it? 'Cause I don't think just saying, "Hey, Spike, buddy, don't be scared" is going to go over very well.
The horrid St. Valentine's holiday approaches, and I cannot help but be reminded of the heart-shaped locket I presented to Drusilla, and which she discarded in favor of Angelus's far more grisly gift. How very symbolic it all seems now.
I'm done giving my heart, only to have it tossed aside like so much rubbish. Not doing that again.
From now on, I'm keeping it light. Sex fills a bit of a need -- domination's not bad, either -- but none of the soft stuff. I'm done with the soft stuff. Bloody William and his bloody poetry. His bloody soft heart. Never brought me anything but grief.
TO DOLogan tosser? As in "one who tosses Logans"? Xander found himself imagining Wolverine being thrown through the air by some mysterious person who had hurt Dawnie. Okay, so it's probably just some kid at her school. Why does everyone in Sunnydale have such weird names? I don't remember anybody at Sunnydale High named Jim or Joe or Jane. No ... we're all Willows and Cordelias and Harmonies and Ozzes and Logans. Huh. Weird.
- pick up week's blood
- news about the Bregnis?
- garbage dump
- new rug for downstairs (this one doesn't suit)
- another chair?
- need more t-shirts
- Valentine's Day prezzie for the Bit (she's still torn up over that Logan tosser)
When Buffy died, something broke in me. Worse than when Dru left. Nothing's ever going to break me like that again.An idiot? A child? Dragging him down? Eyes stinging, he skipped to the last page that contained writing. The last line said:
I'm not doing that again. And even if I were, it wouldn't be with an idiot like Xander Harris. Nothing but a boy, a bloody CHILD. I don't need some sodding infant dragging me down.
Only started this thing to protect the kid. I'm done whoring myself out.Suddenly Xander felt physically ill. It's happening again. He knew it wasn't entirely rational, but in his mind's eye he couldn't help seeing time-loop Spike huddled on the couch, hissing, "I'm not your whore." It's happening again. He felt like he might actually throw up, and he probably would have if he hadn't felt so guilty about it.