Scoffs At Gravity by Reremouse

Chapter 1

Xander's wearing a suit. It's not Armani but it's not Sears either and boy is Cordelia going to die of shock when she gets a look at him in it even if he drew the line at a tie.


He'll put the tie on before he gets where he's going but it takes more than Dawn's dire threats to get Xander into a tie on a trans-Atlantic flight. More than Buffy's dire threats too.

Willow almost made him cave but he's got a secret weapon.


A first, last and always line of defense.

"Can I get you anything, sir?"

"Another Wild Turkey."

She gives him a look. He gives her a smile.

The smile of a guy who doesn't have a seat pocket full of empties and isn't feeling a nice glow that's gonna keep him going through seat belt fastening and landing and if he'd known it was this easy, he would've taken up the family hobby years ago. He accepts the bottle and the cup because it's his policy not to drink more than he can hold onto in polite society and he pours the whiskey in like a good passenger and swirls it around until the ice melts.

The plane's 30 minutes from landing at LAX and Xander's ready to have both feet on the ground and his luggage rolling along behind him.

Not quite ready to get where he's going.

But that's what the airport bar's for and Xander hasn't had a margarita and taquitos since he left the States and he's ready to kill something for a Krispy Kreme hot glazed.

The pilot tells them all to look out the window to the right to see the sinkhole that made the news in May when it swallowed an entire town.

Xander pulls the window shade and pushes the button to shove his chair back into the knees of the Australian guy in the seat behind him who's been swearing at him like a sailor since they took off from Dulles. Those Australians. Really creative.

But Xander's a drunk one-eyed veteran of the war against the forces of darkness and the other guy can just ice his kneecaps when he gets wherever he's going.

Xander's looking for his inner Zen.

Los Angeles isn't much to write home about but then - it never is. It's barely enough to send a text message about but he does.

plane didn't go down luggage didn't get lost call later

Which eats up about five minutes because the buttons on his cell phone are too small and the auto text feature keeps picking the wrong words because spelling never was Xander's best subject even when he wasn't at the bottom of his third house margarita and licking grease off his thumb.

He washes his hands before he puts on his tie. Straightens it, his hair, the patch while the world revolves quietly in the background. Goes outside to hail a cab, tosses his luggage in the trunk and gets in. "Wolfram & Hart building," and his voice sounds under water and maybe the last margarita was a mistake so he'll watch himself around Angel.


Exude vague hostility.


The cab stinks and Xander wishes he was a smoker because anything's gotta be better than this smell and he's pretty sure the cab works the Sunset Strip every Friday and Saturday night.

Would it have killed Angel again to send a limo?

"You a lawyer?"


"Businessman?" Because apparently Xander only has a gift for killing conversations when he wants them to go on.

"No." He moves toward the window until the guy's eyes aren't staring at him in the rear view mirror anymore and folds his arms and thank god for space-age wrinkle free suit fabrics.

"What do you do?"

Drink. Eventually dance - badly. Sling his arm around a cute blonde he's crushed on since High School. Agree to watch dangerous vampires run evil Law firms.

Drum his fingers on his bicep and stare at stucco and anemic palm trees flying by.

"I'm the new janitor."

"Fancy suit for a janitor."

"Yeah. The executive washroom's not gonna know what hit it." He's got this great technique for getting blood stains off of anything.

Xander's a few steps away from blind drunk when he shows for his meeting with Angel and that's a shame because there's no way blindness wouldn't improve this meeting because it's Harmony sitting behind the big receptionist desk and Xander's life gets a little more surreal. "You're not dead yet?"

"Jeez, Xander. Don't you think that's a kind of rude way to start a conversation with your old high school friend?"

"We weren't friends in high school," Xander points out. "Or grade school. You used to put gum in my hair."

"Oh I don't do that anymore." Easy, breezy, beautiful dead Cover Girl. "Gum sticks to my teeth and oral hygiene is so important to a health-conscious vampire."

'Health-conscious' and 'vampire' are words Xander never associated with each other before but it's not something he's gonna ask about so he settles on:

"I'm here to see Angel."

"Angel's in a meeting with representatives from the Yobbedeth Cooperative but I'll be happy to buzz someone to show you to your suite." She's got the phone to her ear, bubblegum pink and sparkly lips and a helpful hovering finger ready to page some intern to do Xander's bidding.

There's a couple seconds where Xander considers putting up a fuss. Pointing out that he flew fourteen hours in coach to get here.

Work for the Council, hang out with Angel.

Provide his considerable expertise in window-repair and demon-baiting - and his brand new and shiny skills in Watching.

He only charges half the going Watcher rate.

And cracks himself up.

His itinerary's got him hitting the ground in LA and meeting the contact.

But the whole outcome there would be meeting with Angel and Xander's ready to avoid that so he skips the whole 'take me to your leader' routine and settles for asking Harmony, "Is there room service?"

There isn't but there's a stocked mini bar and a freezer full of frozen dinners and if Xander'd had his doubts Wolfram & Hart was evil before they're pretty much gone by the time he's sinking into a leather couch with a flimsy plastic tray full of molten mac n' cheese, a spork and an American light beer.

But there's perks to evil in La La Land too because clearly evil gets the best television and Xander figures its his duty as the representative of good and the fight against evil to order pay per view X2 on Wolfram & Hart's dime.

He sporks a mouthful of mac n' cheese and chews.


"I'd thump you on the back, Harris - wait. No I wouldn't."

The couch doesn't dip next to him but Spike sits down anyway violating all kinds of laws of time and space and Xander coughs noodles and fake cheese out of his windpipe. Doesn't gasp 'Spike?' because he's not prepared to be that predictable yet.

He's only this predictable: "I need another beer."

"Yeah well keep it down." Spike waves at the TV. "This is the good part."

Chapter 2

Xander falls asleep on one end of the couch and Spike keeps on not being asleep on the other because - hello - ghost - and Xander's too full of Wild Turkey and WTF to care and as long as Spike's incorporeal, Xander's pretty sure Spike can't pinch his wallet.

So when he sleeps through Spike bitching about not being able to change the channel and wakes up to a Spikeless room, Xander counts it as a small victory and staggers his way into the bathroom to shower off trans-Atlantic flight sludge and the stickiness of the margarita that spilled all over his hands when he missed the table and hit the edge of the salsa bowl instead.

"You missed a spot."


"Dropped the soap too."

"I'm in the shower, Spike."

"Did you hit your head too?" Spike's solicitous. Smug. Spectral and kinda more see-through than he was before.

"I'm not picking that up while you're in here with me." And there's something really junior high about cupping his dick and balls in his hands and backing into a corner but it's not right.

Walking through the shower wall to stare at a guy in his all-together.

Spike wiggles fingers at him. "Now you see 'em." Passes them through the wall until he's gone up to the elbow. "Now you don't. Can't help you with the soap, mate."

"Then get out."

"What would you say if I told you I died in this apartment and I'm doomed to haunt it forever?"

"I'd say get the hell out of the shower."

"Don't get all - " Spike's eyes flick down and Xander's blood pressure flicks up and Spike smirks and Xander resists the urge to clench his fists because - ow - and also so not happening " - excited."

"I'm not above exorcism, Spike."

"Yeah." And it could be the steam, Xander's imagination or the beginning of a hangover but a look ripples over Spike's face that's a lot less smug. "Neither's Angel. Think I'd still be here if exorcism worked?" Spike walks under the spray - hands in his pockets - gel in his hair and Xander watches the water fall through him for a while because it's kinda hypnotic. "Anyway, got nothing to be ashamed of. Lost the beer gut somewhere along the line, didn't you? Could teach Angel a few things about - "

Fading out like a bad TV signal.

But it's been established Xander's an old hand at the weird. The wiggy. The wooly and wild. And knows his chance to soap up, rinse off and run when he sees it.

Who says you don't learn life skills in high school?

So he doesn't ask what's up with Spike.

In fact, it's like Spike doesn't exist until he flickers in like a bad special effect in the middle of Angel's desk. " - losing that paunch of his. Oh. There you are. Was just telling Harris he should share his diet and exercise tips with you."

"I don't remember inviting you in here."

"Memory must be slipping then. Because I remember you don't have to invite me anywhere you great wobbling blancmange."

And neither of them looks nonplussed so Xander goes for plussed just to be different - and anyway, if there's a word to plus him it's blancmange. "What the hell's a blancmange?"

But they ignore him because apparently the Aurelius line could go for the throat for their countries in the Olympics and it's training season.

Which means Xander's off the hook and that's not bad because A - he can't remember a thing Angel said to him and thinks it might've all been in Greek and B - he really needs a drink and a sandwich and the Wolfram & Hart employee cafeteria isn't bad if you don't mind turning down extra slugs on your Chinese chicken salad.

At least Xander hopes it's chicken.

It's one of those things easier not to think about through the drawn blinds of alcoholism and Wolfram & Hart's the only place Xander's ever been to that's got SoCo and Fanta side by side in the soda fountain.

Then again - Xander's pretty sure Southern Comfort's evil in and of itself.

"Pie, honey?"

"What've you got?"

"Mincemeat and shoofly."

"No thanks," because Xander's suspicious enough to be really really literal. "But I'll have a piece of pound cake."

So he's gained about half a pound at his estimate by the time Spike pops up on the other side of the table and Xander sucks on his straw until his eyes water.

Yeah - SoCo.

Devil's work.

Extra evil because it makes him chatty and he's not sure where it comes from when he squints at Spike who's sitting really really gingerly on the opposite bench and not falling through. "How do you do that?"


Spike rests his elbows on the table too and gives 'morose' a bad name.

"Angel's a jerk," Xander offers.

"Got that right."

Xander eats the rest of his cake.

Xander's weaving down the hall toward - somewhere. He thinks it might be the executive suites because he has a report to give Giles' lackeys. Spit spot. Except the hall's long and unfamiliar and someone replaced Xander's ankles with Silly Putty when he wasn't looking - hey - it's Wolfram & Hart. These things happen.

And most importantly - also annoyingly - "Don't you have some place to be?"

Spike's lips press together. "No." He keeps walking next to Xander in that irritatingly insubstantial way he has. "I'm not in a hurry to get there."

"But why are you here? Here. With me."

"Angel's busy. What is it you do for the big bloke anyway? Exactly. What's keeping you in booze and suits?"

It's a good question. It really is. And not one Xander expected Spike to ask.

Also not one Xander has an answer for - exactly - because he's been trying to figure it out himself. "I watch."


"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Council always did do half a job when it could get away with it."

Which makes the tips of Xander's ears burn because it's only funny when he says it. "Fuck off. What are you contributing to Angel's glorious bureaucracy?"

Spike thinks about it - thinks about it so long Xander has to turn his head to make sure Spike's still there because Spike's an asshole and walks on Xander's left side.

He is.

And he's got an answer. "I haunt him." He pats himself down like he's looking for a cigarette - stops and clenches his fists. "Add a little misery to his day. Not like I can do much else is it?" Which is the closest thing to self-pity Xander's heard from Spike since they shared a basement a million years ago.

"You could fuck off," Xander tactfully suggests.

"Tried it," and Spike's voice sounds like the thought really bothers him. "Didn't get far."

"So this is your hell - tied to Angel for all eternity." It's a pretty good hell as hells go but all Spike says is:

"Could be worse."

"Not much."

Spike's patting for a cigarette again - stops. "Could be worse."

Chapter 3

So Xander files his first ever official entry as a Watcher on the council blog from the comfort of his abode in the belly of evil because it's the twenty first century and diaries are so last-millennium.

They also don't have spell-check.

Angel still not evil, blah blah.

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce no longer in the running for British Upper Class Twit Of The Year, blah blah.

Kind of scary actually, blah blah.

Winifred Burkle blah blah.

Charles Gunn blah blah.

Harmony Kendall off human blood, on the wagon, suspiciously perky. Suspect evil doings.

And this is the part where he's supposed to mention Spike but there's not a lot of blah there so the entry ends with Harmony and he resists the urge to make a notation of the evil brewing in the company macaroni and cheese, saves the entry and closes his laptop.

And is he still a corporate spy if technically everyone in the corporation knows he's spying and doesn't give a damn?

"Didn't mention me."


"No - but I'll give you two more guesses." Spike's running transparent fingers back and forth through the bottle of SoCo.

"Fuck off, Spike."

"What crawled up your arse? Wouldn't kill you to be a little polite."

"I've never been polite to you."

"Well - yeah but you could start." Spike screws up his face, pushes the bottle a millimeter before his whole fist slides through the glass and he kicks the mini fridge.

Nothing happens.

"Note the lack of pointing and laughing, Spike. This is as nice as I get." And Xander ignores the disturbing feeling that statement might be true.

"Weren't all bad the last few days in Sunnydale."

"The world was ending and I was doped up to my eyes - " Xander slips. Glares. Dares Spike to say something. But Spike's not looking at him and doesn't say anything anyway. "Or whatever."

"Yeah - well - you weren't bad."

Xander reaches through him to grab the bottle and top off his empty glass.

Takes it back to the couch and considers adding a few lines to his Watcher's Blog about the great Los Angeles weather.

Wish you were here, blah blah.

Drinks instead and anyway Spike's next to him on the couch trying to pick up the remote control like they're just two guys on a couch.

"What started you on the bottle, Harris?"

"You don't get to ask that question."

Because it's not that Xander wants to drink - exactly - but it's always there and when it's there he drinks. QED - which is a set of letters Xander doesn't understand but the part of his brain that's watched a lot of TV knows they're supposed to go here.

So the booze is there and life's easier after a few drinks. A few shots. A beer. It's like looking through the wrong end of a telescope at trees that are a very long way away.

And it's not like he's a belligerent drunk like his dad so it's - okay.

And when the big things come along he doesn't panic.

He's cool, comfortable, suave, says "Sure, Angel," standing in front of a really big desk with the man in question and means it.

"Sure what?" Because Angel's still suspicious of him and really Xander can't blame him that much.

"Sure. I'll hook up Nina with a great vacation in the English countryside courtesy of the Council of Watchers. You scratch my back. I scratch yours." It's a whole back scratching thing and the look on Angel's face is worth it. "You don't have a hairy back or anything do you?"

"Huh?" That look's worth it too and Xander's pretty sure he only makes a little less sense when he's had a few.

Or a lot.

"The back scratching. Never mind."

"My back doesn't itch."

And that's the problem with working next to a guy with no sense of humor and they stare at each other for a while. "This is me waiting for you to thank me."

What he gets is Angel turning his back and walking around his desk. Sitting in the big black Dr. No chair and picking up a letter opener. "Why should I thank you? It's your job."

"That's what I love about you, Angel. You really put the 'me' in team." And Xander needs a drink because that warm comfortable sleeping in sand feeling's starting to go away and he's got a headache in his socket. "Are we done?"

"We're done," Angel says to his desk blotter and Xander's gonna take that as 'yes'.

Xander's so deep in his cups when Spike comes back he spends a whole minute trying to focus his eyes before he remembers he's only got one.

Spike looks fuzzy around the edges and Xander chalks it up to - whatever's in the cups with him.

Might be rum.

"Heard you in Angel's office. Looks like you're not completely useless after all." Spike makes himself comfortable and Xander takes another drink because Spike can't. And he's pretty sure it pisses Spike off.

A small part of him wonders what drunk's like for a vampire. He ignores it and cradles his glass and slouches lower on the couch until he's watching the television between his knees.

"Oh I am useless, buddy. Believe me I am the King of useless. And futile and redundant."

Spike's giving him the I'm not even evil anymore and I still don't care look. "Don't forget pathetic."


"What's brought all this on?"

"You have seen me haven't you? Me? Xander Harris?"

"Yeah - well - got a point but there's worse."

Xander considers 'yeah? who?' and 'thanks' and settles on, "Why me?"

"Dunno, mate." Spike puts his feet through the coffee table. Scowls. Spreads his knees as far as they'll go instead and crosses his arms. "Happens to some. Always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Do the right thing, lose your - "

"No. I mean - why you? Here. With me." Xander thinks about it. "And I concede the point that your answer might've been valid for that question too."

"eye," Spike finishes. Pointedly. Very pointedly and leaning forward and this might be the part where Xander has a revelation if Xander wasn't wrapped in fuzz and a fifth of rum because he's feeling the irony tonight.

"Yo ho ho."

"Or body," Spike adds and the point's gone all out of his tone. "God I'd kill for a shot of what you're having. You don't know how good you have it."

"Eye," Xander says.

"Incorporeal," Spike counters. "Haven't had a decent wank since - "

"So why are you hanging out with me?" Xander asks because he really doesn't wanna know about the last time Spike wanked. "Easy target? Getting in your quips?"

"Better than Angel."

"You know - I've waited eight years of my life to hear those words from a short blond who could kick my ass."

Spike snorts - or something like it. It's one little sound that conveys a whole paragraph of kinda amused disgust at Xander's really lame humor. "Poof."

"Made you laugh," Xander points out unnecessarily because it feels like a victory. A small one.

One he toasts with rum.

Chapter 4

"You're a git, Harris," Spike says - near as Xander can tell - apropos of nothing at all. It's not the same conversation they were having before but it might as well be and Xander realizes Spike's said more to him in the month he's been under Wolfram & Hart's roof than he ever said to Xander in Sunnydale even if he's been conspicuously absent the last few days.

Everybody has been.

He thinks he caught a glimpse of Gunn grabbing a plate of pastries and a thermos of coffee in the employee cafeteria at one point but life's been a solitary wasteland of bad cafeteria food, Gilligan's Island reruns and booze and now Spike's back and nobody tells Xander anything and he's gonna go down in history as the Watcher who recorded Gilligan's Island commentary in his official blog. Which Spike isn't mentioned in. Still.

Gilligan's in there seventeen times, the Professor - 5, Ginger - 18, Mary Ann - 20, Ginger and Mary Ann - 1 - which Xander really needs to delete before Willow sees it and turns him into something small and ooky - Spike - 0.

But Spike's back.

How's Xander know?

He knows because Spike's next to Xander on the couch and every so often he reaches out and moves Xander's glass or beer bottle or empty frozen dinner plate a few inches and sits back with the big bad chin tilt and his legs a little wider and - okay could Spike's psychological issues about being a little guy be any more obvious?

"How bored are you, Spike?"

"How could anyone be bored with a classic like this on the telly?"

On the screen, Gilligan runs into a palm tree and a coconut falls on him. Xander kinda sympathizes but he doesn't say it. Instead he says, "where've you been?"

Spike shrugs, spreads his arms out along the back of the couch and for a second Xander thinks he feels fingers brush his shoulder. "Hell and back."

Xander looks around the room. Pointedly. Or half-pointedly. "No - I think we're still in hell."

Spike scoffs, reaches out to the remote and scowls and changes the channel until there's soccer on the TV.

It's in Portuguese.

And Xander's pretty sure he could take the remote back from Spike and change the channel before Spike could stop him - the way Spike's face screws up in concentration when he hits the buttons to turn up the volume.

Way up.

But it seems kinda - unsporting.

Get it? Unsporting?

Thank god he's got a sense of humor.

He understands the offside rule in his dreams. It's about the length of the players' shorts and ice cream figures into it. Somewhere. Okay - so even in his dreams he doesn't understand it well.

And there's this whole thing about him laying in Anya's lap while she plays with his hair and tries to explain it to him and he tunes out like he always tunes out and can't really hear her voice. Just feel her and she always feels good.

That's what Anya's about - feeling good as long as he doesn't listen too much, too often.

It's too disturbing when he tunes in.

Even more disturbing when he wakes up because there's a second when he lies there - he doesn't reach for Anya in the bed or anything because that's been dead and buried longer than she has - and he can feel her fingers in his hair and he's accepted that Wolfram & Hart is evil as advertised but that's just mean.

So he lies there and stares at the ceiling and considers the merits of a beer hat mounted to the headboard of the bed because he's working on the strength to get up but he thinks he could manage a straw until the lump in his chest loosens up, his mouth doesn't taste like the inside of his shoes and his eye's not burning as much.

Yeah - it's the offside rule.

It makes him emotional.

Or maybe he needs to stop hanging out with a ghost because it's pretty clear to him ghosts aren't great for his psychological well-being and steadfast refusal to cope.

Coping is for sissies.

And girls.

And Andrew.

And he lies there until he feels like he could open his eye and walk out the door, take a left on Crawford and take in a show at the Sun and -


Xander rolls himself out of bed, one cliched groan at a time. Presses his hand to his head - because what's a good hangover without a pose of misery - and gropes his way to the kitchenette.

Makes himself a Screwdriver.

Skips the orange juice.

Also the glass.

He's never been a morning person anyway.

Chapter 5

"It's almost three in the afternoon," Angel says when Xander drags himself off the couch and down the elevators, down a hall with the vague idea of asking Harmony to hook him up with a laundry service. He's looking a little less pressed these days and they say you can judge a man by the cut of his suit. They didn't say anything about the smell and Xander's been hitting the Old Spice harder these days too.

"Still all about the social pleasantries, huh big guy?"

"You're late," Angel says like a guy whose nose is trying to keep its distance.

"Angel, I don't have anything to be late for." Xander's got the feeling Angel only wants to share the misery. Except Xander's so far past feeling misery - his or Angel's - it all slips by. He is Teflon Man.

So of course Teflon Man's feeling about the whole thing is wrong.

"You do today, my little Snickers bar."

Xander reviews the endearment in his head. Chocolate, nuts - sticky mystery stuff in the center - yeah, okay. Settles on, "I do?"

"Tomorrow night's the big company to-do and our glorious leader here's appointed you his stand-in for all the prep."

Xander's brain stalls out, grinds gears and strips whatever brains strip somewhere between Snickers and stand-in and skips right to: "Prep?" Sometimes he doesn't want to drink as much as he does - this is one of them - but he does it anyway.

It's a compulsion.

And it leaves him here and speechless with his mouth open like a freeze-framed fish.

"That's right, you handsome Jack of Spades."

"Angel doesn't even like me." Belatedly, Xander realizes that was the point and says, "I still hate you, you know," while Angel's settling into that big overcompensating chair behind that big overcompensating desk.

Ignoring everything he says. "It's an honor, Xander, and a real chance for the Council to make a difference through their Watcher. Big Halloween party - and you're all that's standing between it and the big evil Halloween parties they used to have." Angel steeples his fingers. "I'm sure you're full of ideas."

"Don't stuff the pinatas with entrails."

"There. You're the guy for the job."

The room doesn't spin when he drinks too much these days. It lays there dull and heavy and Xander's brain lays there dull and heavy too like a woolly mammoth in a swamp.

And like the mammoth, it's easy to give up. Close his eyes and wait for it to suck him under while the herd moves on without him.

Easy to let Spike pick up the remote and change the channel.

Easy to watch whatever's on TV - usually futbol, sometimes soap operas or nighttime dramas.

Easy to - just easy and some day if he's lucky somebody'll come along and chip him out of the permafrost and marvel at how little he's changed.

He rolls his head to the side and watches Spike who's got a surprisingly mobile face for a dead guy.

It's watching him - glances at the glass riding Xander's thigh at a precarious angle like a - metaphors fail him and he lets the glass drop to the couch. It's empty anyway.

"Hard day at the office, pet?"

He doesn't snark. Doesn't rise to the whole pet thing because it's slippery and hard to hold onto and Xander acknowledges the possibility he went too far too fast with the booze tonight. "I'm standing in for Angel - planning the Halloween bash," he says like Spike's any other guy he works with. He blames the vodka.

"That right?"

"Tis the season to be jolly if you're an evil lawyer." And then because it seems kinda incomplete to leave it there, "fa la la la la la la la la."

"You're three sheets to the wind."

Xander shakes his woolly mammoth head - slowly - and holds up a hand. It takes a long time to get there and waves once it does. "At least four. Four tattered sheets to the wind," he adds in his best impersonation of the count.

He can make a fool out of himself.

He's pretty sure he won't remember it in the morning.

And only Spike's there to see it anyway.

"You already think I'm a fool," he says comfortably.

"That's right," Spike agrees just as comfortably.

It's a whole comfortable thing and Xander's eye is closed again.

He thinks he feels Spike pat him on the knee.

There's a lot Xander doesn't remember the next morning - for any given value of next morning. A whole lot.


Posts in his Watcher's blog.


Conversations like this one:

Spike's fingers are the ones running through his hair while he lies on the couch - he's aware of that. He's also past wig and aware he won't remember this to wig over in the morning so he relaxes into it and doesn't think too hard about the way Spike's thigh bone would run through his skull if Spike chose now to solidify. "What drove you here, pet?"

"Six white horses. Unless it drove the horses. I've always been kinda unclear on that," Xander says and doesn't move because the fingers feel kinda nice and anyway he's drunk. Beyond his control. Completely at the mercy of the evil and insubstantial undead.

"This about your girl?"

"I don't have a girl."

And the truth of the matter is Xander did quit drinking - once - about a month after stumbling off the bus in Cleveland and into the first bar he found. He quit cold turkey - spent three days shaky, sweaty, paranoid about everything until Willow asked him in a really tactful, roundabout and totally obvious way if he was drinking too much - before crawling back to the bar and drowning in doubles until he didn't think anymore, thus proving he was still the same old Xander-shaped person. Because he's always been a functional drunk. It's in the genes and he always knew thinking was dangerous anyway. It got you into things.

Things like Africa which he's pretty sure he would have taken Giles up on if he'd thought about all the good he could do there and wasn't drunk enough to get himself killed in a week.

He wanted to exist comfortably - not thinking - not go to dangerous war-torn countries to die.

Not dying was kinda the point.

But if he did, he wanted to die where he was safe and loved in the woolly mammoth graveyard where old woolly mammoths went to die in peace.

And he may or may not have said any or all of that to the fingers running through his hair.

He forgets.

Wakes up to drool on his pillow, fuzz on his tongue, hair in his socket and a skull-splitting hangover and thanks whatever god's willing to take responsibility for him he's never been the heaving kind of drunk.

He's not the hypocritical kind of drunk either so there's no vow never to drink like that again.

In fact he plans to drink like that again right now.

The night table's empty but there's a bottle of SoCo lying on its side on the other pillow like a bad one-night stand and Spike's on the couch watching pay-per-view porn like the bad roommate he's always been except he's got the sound turned off and the brightness turned low and the empties scattered around him on the floor and table are all Xander's.

He paws the bottle close to his chest, squints at Spike - who shrugs. "It was closest to the bed. Best I could do putting it within reach, wasn't it?"

Xander doesn't remember getting himself to bed and philosophically files it away with all the other things he doesn't remember, hauls himself up a few inches and untwists the cap. The first few drops run down his chin and he lets them, takes a deep breath and flops over. Tips the bottle back and swallows. Keeps swallowing. Sloshes more across his face when his arm drops down and he props the bottle against his side. His throat burns and his stomach rolls and his stubble scratches his wrist when he wipes his mouth.

"God, you're a slob."

"I have needs," Xander rejoinders from the corner of his mind where the fog's clearing and the pain's not so bad. He inches himself up the bed - props himself there for another long swallow and sets the bottle between his legs for a long stretch. He lifts the bottle. "Thanks."

Spike lifts a hand but all five fingers are out instead of the usual two so Xander's gonna take that as 'you're welcome' while he stumbles off to shower, dress and Old Spice himself into respectability.