Oh my God... look at the lovely lovely present stawberynvanila made for us.
(The characters are not ours, they're Joss Whedon's. We're just playing with them
(Co-written with Nashmaveric. This was written for Strawberynvanila who made lovely banners for our co-written Spander story, Time After Time)
Xander stretched up to his toes to reach the door handle. He hated coming to this store, it took ages and he always had trouble getting inside. He frowned in concentration and tugged hard at the handle but still it refused to budge. He tried it once more, pulling the door with as much strength as he could gather. Suddenly he lost his grip and stumbled backwards straight into some man. Moving back, he started stammering apologies. His father said he was to apologise every time he did something wrong.
Spike loomed over the young human, his expression forbidding under the moonlight. His gaze narrowed as he tried to make sense of the muttered words. "What is it you're going on about?"
"I'm sorry," Xander squeaked. He scrambled back, away from the man and started to run towards home. A few steps later he stopped. He wasn't to go back without the whiskey. Dad had made it clear. He had to go get him two bottles and come back. He stared at the man, trying to figure out whether he would get smacked if he went back to try and open the door again.
The vampire watched the expressions flitter across the boy’s face. Fear, then panic, but the panic wasn’t directed to him. Interesting. If he had to guess, the child was less than seven years old.
Taking a step toward him, he cocked his head.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed waiting for Father Christmas?”
"I've been bad, sir," Xander replied, with a resigned shrug. "Dad says Santa doesn't bring presents to bad boys."
He fidgeted a little and glanced towards the shop door. He had to get the bottles.
Santa had always brought him presents when he was young William. Even when he’d been bad. He remembered trying to keep awake, fighting to keep his eyes open, and then waking to prezzies. Blinking back memories from a century ago, he refocused on the child.
“Been bad, have you. Not as bad as I have, I reckon,” he flashed a rare smile. “And what have you done that’s so bad? Mmm?” He took another step closer. “Did you burn down a house? No? Drown your sister? Kill an animal?”
"N-no, sir," Xander backed away carefully. "I was dis-res-pecful a-and bad."
He glanced longingly at the door. It seemed so far away now, with the man standing there. He had to get the bottles. He had to!
“I see.” But he didn’t, not really. This boy who was sir’ing him up and down... disrespectful? “Why are you out and about. It’s late. Surely you’ll get in trouble for it.” His gaze slid to the liquor store and back to the boy. “You trying to steal yourself some gum? Chocolates?”
Xander forgot to be afraid for a moment. He would never steal anything! He was doing his best to be a good boy! Maybe next year Santa would bring him something if he was good enough.
"No!" he protested. "I have money, see?" he dug his fingers in his pocket and brought out the money his dad had given him. "I have to get something for my dad."
“A present? A Christmas present? From there?” he nodded to the store. “You’re too late, boy. It’s closed.”
His eyes widened and he forgot all about being afraid. He ran to the door and grabbed hold of the handle, pulling for all he was worth.
"Please open," he said. Sometimes begging helped. He pulled harder and harder, panicking even more every time the door refused to open.
“Stop... stop.” His orders fell on deaf ears as the boy went wild trying to open the door. Spike pulled him away and dropped down to his level. “It’s closed. You’ll have to come back tomorrow.” He frowned, “are you having a tantrum? Is this why your father says you’re bad?”
The mention of his father threw Xander into even more of a tailspin.
"I have to get the bottles!" he yelled, eyes filled with tears. "I'm bad if I don't get the bottles!"
“Bottles? Liquor? They wouldn’t give you any even if they were open. Get a hold of yourself, yeah?” This was awkward, he had no idea what to do for a panicked and crying child.
"I have to get the bottles," Xander insisted, "Mr. Mike gives me the bottles and I give him the money and then I'm good." He looked at the man earnestly, trying to drown the hicups. Dad said good boys didn't cry. "I have to be good.”
It was Christmas eve, and this boy was worried about what his father would do to him if he didn’t bring home the liquor. Suddenly Spike had the full picture and was filled with a fury he didn’t understand. A few questions later, he told the boy to stay out there.
He walked up to the barred windows, and forced the steel bars apart. No doubt the boy was scared shitless by what he saw. The fact that he was still waiting spoke much of the level of his fear of his own father. Spike jabbed his elbow into the glass, shattering it, and clearing it with his leather clad arms. Then he was inside.
Making a face at the security camera, he reached for the whisky and even slipped it into a paper sleeve. Moments later, he was outside and taking a hold of the boy’s hand. “What did you say your name was?”
Xander looked up at the man, eyes filled with awe.
"Xander," he whispered as he tightened his fingers around the blond's hand. He kept staring up at the man as he walked, stumbling a couple of times in the process. He tried to work up the courage to speak, and after a couple of tries he managed it.
"A-are you Superman?" he asked.
"I'd like to think so, yeah," the hardened vampire almost smiled. He was getting bleeding soft in his old age, that's what. "Name's Spike. You having guests tonight? That why you needed to get the liquor?" He knew what's the what, had a gut feeling, but wanted to hear from the boy.
"Just Uncle Rory," Xander said, "I like uncle Rory, he gives me chocolate. Today he gave me a Hurricane!" he grinned up at Spike. "Dad didn't like it 'cause I was bad," he continued, face scrunching up for a moment. "He yelled and everything and Uncle Rory said it was snafu." He pondered the word as he walked. "Spike? What's a snafu?"
"Situation normal, all fucked up. Is that how it is? Fucked up at home?" he cocked his head.
"You're not supposed to say that! It's a bad word!" Xander protested.
Spike made a sound of disgust. "Sometimes saying a bad word makes you feel better. Try it," he challenged. "Say 'this is fucked up... not supposed to send a kid to a bloody liquor shop in the middle of the night, on Christmas, to boot." Seeing the boy's perplexed and shocked look, he amended, "just say 'it's fucked up.'"
Xander squirmed. He didn't want to disappoint his new friend but mum wouldn't like him saying that word. Mum not liking things usually meant yelling and then dad would yell too and Xander hated it when people yelled.
"Can I say snafu?" he asked timidly.
"You can say WTFYW. That's 'whatever the fuck you want,' for those of us with sensitive ears," he drawled. He'd have to think of far catchier achronyms, come on, he'd been a poet once, shouldn't be too bloody difficult a task.
"Okay," Xander said happily, "Snafu," he tried the word out and then again, "snafu! I can't say the other thing. I'm only little," he pointed out, "and it's a big word. School is snafu too," he nodded. "Except for Willow and Jesse. They're my friends. Jesse's a boy, it's only his name that's girly."
"Known lots of boys named Jesse. Jesse James of cowboy times, for one." As they strolled along, the boy pratted on about absolutely nothing, it seemed, and Spike found himself answering. It was strange, that... finding himself giving up his time get the half pint home when there were so many other things he could be doing.
Xander never had a grown up pay so much attention to him before. Jesse and Willow were his friends and all but they were little like him. Spike was a superhero!
He was so busy basking in the attention that he didn't realise they'd passed his house until he saw Jesse's bicycle. It was right in Jesse's front yard which meant that Xander's house was a block behind them. He tugged at Spike's hand and turned around, pointing back where they'd come from.
"We passed it! I live that way. It's the house with the apple tree. I like the apple tree, it has yummy apples on it."
"Passed it?" How could he yell into that little face looking up at him... trusting him with no cause whatsoever? Clamping down on any complaints that threatened to leave his lips, Spike merely nodded and turned back. When they reached the house, he passed the bottle to Xander and gave him a little push. "Happy Christmas."
Moments later, the shouting from inside the house told him it was anything but a happy Christmas. The boy was in trouble for being late. The father deserved to be whipped. Or worse. Fleeting thoughts of freeing the boy from his parents slipped through the vampire's mind, as he stood under a tree until the boy was ordered to bed and the lights went out in his room.
A little later, Xander sneaked past the kitchen and down into the basement. His parents were too busy yelling at each other to pay much attention to him but it was always better to sneak. He grabbed his sleeping bag from the cupboard next to the washing machine and carefully tugged it up the stairs and out to the yard. He'd tried sleeping in the basement last time they yelled but he could still hear them. The best place to sleep, he'd found, was out in the yard under the apple tree. That way he couldn't hear them and they couldn't see him if they looked out the window.
He spread his sleeping bag under the tree, carefully tugging all corners so it was evenly spread out then tried to wriggle in without moving it too much.
It was hard to tell why Spike had stayed. If he hadn't, he wouldn't have seen the git of a boy fall asleep outside, in plain view, in Sunnydale of all places. It was a wonder he hadn't found himself killed yet. Muttering all sorts of curses under his breath, Spike found he couldn't leave, and that realization lead to a few more choice curses.
When morning dawned, Spike was gone, but a present lay at the foot of Xander's sleeping bag. It wasn't wrapped very well, but Spike had made sure it was a nice gift... he'd unwrapped plenty from under the trees of several houses from outside the neighborhood, before settling on that one for the boy.
* * *
Xander was sneaking again. But then, he usually was. It was his birthday today and Spike was sure to try and leave something under the tree. He grinned to himself as he thought of all the possible presents Spike could have left. He'd gotten a right bollocking after the first time Spike had caught him sleeping outside and he'd been expressly forbidden from ever doing it again. Still, every Christmas and birthday Spike would leave him a present under the tree. For a big, bad vampire, Spike was very sweet. Well, this time Xander aimed to catch him at it.
He slipped into the yard and moved towards the tree as stealthily as he knew how.
"Shouldn't you be in bed?" Spike drawled, coming out from behind the tree, and blowing rings of smoke toward the now nine year old. "Too late for eight year olds to be MIA from the house, yeah?"
"Damn it," Xander swore, hand over his chest as his heart thudded painfully. "I'm getting you a bell, you sneaky FAV!"
"Who're you calling annoying?" Arching a brow, the 'fucking annoying vampire' blew more smoke, dropped the butt of his cigarette and ground it out under his heel... leaving it next to a pile of similar butts. "And what have we there?" he jutted his chin out toward the front door of the house. "That for me? Not sure it'll take my weight," he said, starting to walk toward the bicycle with an elaborate ribbon on it... he'd gotten a lot better at his gift presentation skills.
"A bike!" Xander exclaimed. He hugged Spike, bringing his mouth close to the blond's ear before yelling. "I'm NINE! Not, EIGHT, NINE!"
He laughed at the flinch Spike couldn't hold back and ran to his bike. Fucking Annoying Vampires also had fucking sensitive hearing, he'd discovered.
"Then act like something other than a LLC," Spike shouted after him, trying his best to look angry but failing miserably the instant his little lost child, pulled his hard work apart, tossed the ribbons and climbed the bike. "Mind you don't fall off, not as small as your last one," he pointed out. The Harrises hadn't noticed their son had long outgrown his bike, and they wouldn't notice the replacement, he hazarded. "And try not to scrape your knee... and... right, I'll stop sounding like a BFM now."
Spike did not sound like his 'bloody fucking mother' at all. Xander grinned and pushed off.
* * *
"And then he told me he likes Cordelia!" Xander grimaced, "We don't see each other for a whole month and he mutates into a Cordelia-loving idiot. So I said, 'snafu then', and Willow laughed. Jesse's an idiot though. Cordelia won't even spit on him if he's on fire."
He took a bite off his burger and looked expectantly at Spike. He could always count on the blond for a dismissive comment and total agreement that humans were stupid. No matter what happened at school or at home, at least Spike could be counted on to be there.
"He's an idiot, she's an idiot... you're all bloody idiots." Spike snagged a french fry from the teenager, leaned back and ate it. Why did ketchup have to be so red? "What about Willow, think she likes you? Winter dance is coming up," he cocked his head to the side. "She's the least idiotic of you BOIs, far as I can tell."
"Willow? No, she's just a friend," Xander blushed as he spoke, sneaking a glance at Spike then focussing back to his burger. "Besides, she's not my type," he dared to add.
"Isn't she? Ah, you're after the elusive Cordelia too, then," Spike shook his head. "She's too much work, you know? Would have you at her beck and call, all the time, yeah?" He knew the type only too well. "Going with anyone else, then? Or stag?" He hoped the boy wouldn't stay home, out was always the better choice for him.
Xander shrugged. "Cordelia's a bitch," he said after swallowing his bite, "and I'd rather go to Willie's with you. We can win a kitten for Willow. The kids at school aren't half as much fun as you. Bunch of bois," he smiled softly.
"A bit of drinking and smoking with the boys at Willies'll put a bit of hair on your chest, that's for sure. But you're hardly likely to learn how to go about getting on with a girl that way. It's an art that, and you've got to practice to get it right," he smiled back, giving sage advice. He'd been awkward with women in his own youth, and it wasn't until he'd gone vampire that things had changed. He didn't want that for Xander. "A little dancing, a bit of kissing... and one day you'll have the Cordelia's of the world eating out of your hand. Go to the dance, Willie's will always be there. You having the rest of the fries?"
"I don't want the Cordelias of the world," Xander responded, mimicking Spike's tone and accent. "Why do I have to go to the stupid dance anyway. I don't like them. I like you," he sulked.
"Stop that, you sound like HP not me," the vampire countered, reaching over for the fries. "And I've told you why already."
Xander sat back and glared at him.
"I'm not going and that's final. Come on, dad said I should be home before he gets back from work," he stood up and grabbed his backpack. "Someone saw me out with you and they told him. Now he has to pretend to be a good dad and make sure I'm home on time. Gotta keep up appearances, you know," he said bitterly.
"What do you mean, with me? Ah... out late," he gave a half shrug. "He'll forget soon enough." Popping the last of the french fries into his mouth, Spike followed the youth out of the burger joint. Xander's dad got home right about 8:00 Tuesdays, and that gave them a half hour, more than enough time.
In the parking lot, the vampire stopped. "Mind you get all your homework done, even if you have to put on those ear plugs of yours, yeah? More I think of it, the more I like the idea of Willow and you... she'll help you with your grades. Should join her study group."
Xander's glare had more fire in it this time. It was bad enough that Spike saw him as some kid, he didn't have to push him towards someone else on top of it!
"Fuck off, Spike," he snarled. He would stomp off but the last time he'd tried that Spike had dragged him back and shoved him in the car. "You know a fuckload of nothing so just fuck off."
Caught by surprise at the sudden tide of anger, Spike grabbed Xander's jacket and forced him to face him. "Stop acting like an LL... a little lost child. Got something to say to me, say it... man to man, here," he snarled right back, not about to take any lip from the kid. There was something else at work here, and he wanted to know what it was, why the boy was acting strange. He'd noticed little shifts in his behavior, but nothing he could call him on, not until now. "Go on... say what's on your mind. I'm not your father." For years, he'd told Spike the things any child would tell only his own father.
"No, you're not."
Xander pushed Spike away with as much strength as he could gather. He stared at him, holding his gaze. Suddenly he could see understanding dawn and that was too much, far too much for him to handle. So he ran, as fast and as far as he could. And this time, Spike let him.
Spike leaned back against the building and bit his lip. What had he done? Had he fucked up worse than Xander's father, here? Given him wrong signals? Confused him? He hadn't intentionally used any vampire compulsion, but the boy was young, and even younger when he'd befriended him. Was there a chance he'd fallen under his thrall? Fuck...
Spike hit his head against the wall, calling himself all sorts of idiot. Xander didn't need this... it was the last worry that the boy should have. He should be making friends, finding out about girls, and not being thrown into a state of sexual confusion by a vampire.
There was only one thing the vampire could do. He hoped he was strong enough... strong enough to walk away from his son.
* * * *
[10 years later, in regular BtvS, Los Angeles (post Sunnydale's demise)]
Buffy, Xander and Willow sat cross-legged in a circle. Willow had set a candle in front of each of them, and they were chanting the words she'd given them on a piece of paper. One of the new Slayers had disappeared, and Willow thought she could locate her.
The draft from the window abruptly stopped, and the room grew still... like right before before a storm. Something was building, that much was for sure, thought Buffy, as her eyes met Xander's. There was a 'wooshing sound' and the floor are in the circle suddenly went from blue carpet to glassy like a mirror, and started to swirl. Buffy couldn't help but be reminded of the wormhole to another dimension that she'd dove into so long ago. Her heart thudded.
Xander focused on the circle, trying to see if he could spot Jenna in it. She hadn't been one of his own slayers but a lost little girl was still a lost little girl. Suddenly a shadow appeared in the middle of the hole but instead of the expected outline of a rather petite nine-year-old, a man sized figure emerged.
"What the fucking hell is going on?" the figure demanded as soon as it stepped through the circle.
It took Xander a moment to realise that he was looking into his own face, complete with an eye-patch over his left eye.
"Well? Is anyone going to answer me? Who the fuck are you and why are you wearing my friends's faces?"
"Potty mouth Xander..." Buffy said, eyes wide as she got up. "Well you're no little lost slayer, that's for sure."
Xander's glare faltered. When he'd jumped in the hole he'd expected some kind of monster to wait on the other side. He certainly didn't expect perfect copies of his friends to be there. He looked at the one who looked like him. He sure as fuck never expected that. "Sorry, what?" he asked, instinctively turning to Willow for an explanation.
"Uh oh... I think the spell went wrong. I was trying to find a lost Slayer and then you showed." She twisted the material of her tee shirt in her hands. "You're..."
"His evil twin?" Buffy asked.
"Hey, I don't do evil twins anymore," Xander protested, coming up to look at his photocopy. "Sides' I'm way better looking."
"Where did you get him from?"
"Another dimension? I mean, that's a guess, an educated guess based on... you know, the whole, he looks just like Xander, sounds like Xander, but isn't, thing..." Willow gave the newcomer a smile. "I'll fix it."
"Okay, one: you're in no way better looking than me," Xander glared at the look-alike. "two: if anyone's evil it's you guys, I didn't try to kidnap a slayer and three: over my dead body!"
The last one was addressed to this new Willow person. Xander loved his Willow, really he did, but if this one was anything like that one he'd probably end up in a hell dimension and dead within seconds.
"Didn't we agree that you wouldn't involve me in any more spells?" he demanded. "You promised me, no more fucking spells!"
Willow looked wounded, but mostly she was upset with Xander for yelling and repeatedly using the F word, even if he wasn't her Xander. Her Xander had moved up and put his hand on her back.
"Okay, let's calm down here. Look, we didn't mean to bring you over. Trust me, one Xander's enough..."
The Slayer grinned. "A nine year old slayer's missing, and we were trying to get her... there's no kidnapping going on. Spell backfired, poof... we've got knock-off!Xander. We'll talk to Giles, do a bit of research and get you back where you need to be, okay? If you're from anywhere at all like here, this has gotta be old hat for you."
"You were looking for an LLC?" Xander's anger immediately evaporated. "Fuck...I haven't been that for years," he sighed. "Right. The spell didn't exactly backfire," he confessed, "It was heading for Buffy, my Buffy I mean, and I sort of jumped in front of her. I knew she wasn't feeling well lately but...lost? She felt lost?" he looked sadly at the Buffy in front of him. She was just like his own except for maybe, the hair was a shade blonder.
"An LLC? Is that even English?" Buffy asked.
"'Your' Buffy? You mean you and Buffy are..."
Both Buffy and Willow turned to glare at their Xander.
"Why? Are you and Buffy? Dude that's like fucking incest!" Xander shuddered. "No offence," he added hastily when the glares transferred to him. "It's just that well, you're my girls, you two and Dawn. It'd be weird. Plus, I'm gay," he said, smirking at his counterpart.
This time the girls were staring at their own Xander, speculation clear in their eyes.
"What? No!" Xander panicked as Buffy nodded thoughtfully to herself. "Just because he's gay doesn't mean I am!"
"You do wear flowery shirts..." Buffy teased, then looked back at the newcomer. "We'll get you a room upstairs, and show you around. Giles should get back in town in a couple days, and then we'll work on sending you back where you belong."
"Same place, really," Willow chimed in, seeing the doubt creep into new Xan's eye. "So... do you have a boyfriend? It's not Andrew, is it..."
"I wouldn't touch him with someone elses d..." he saw Willow's eyes widen, "erm...hands. I take it he doesn't swear much," he said, nodding towards this world's Xander. "You sort of grew used to my potty mouth. I had bad influences growing up," he shrugged. Just remembering the bad influence made his mood take a downwards turn so he quickly moved on to something else. His Willow had grown used to the idea of Spike helping him for near a decade but he didn't know how things worked in this world. Maybe Spike had never showed up here.
"We're still in LA, right? You guys didn't move to Cleveland, did you?" he asked.
"This is too weird for me," Xander said, closing his eye and rubbing a hand over it. "I'm going to call my very female girlfriend," he glared at the girls for good measure, "and then to bed."
"L.A., yup." Guess the crew from wherever this Xander was from had also moved and maybe used the insurance money from the home they'd lost in Sunnydale, to buy a new place. Buffy crossed the room, and opened the door. "I'll show you around, unless you live in a carbon copy of the place, in which case, the guest room is on the second floor, third one on the right."
"I'll... I'll get you some sheets and things." Willow grabbed his hand and tugged him, hoping he wasn't too scared or lost here. Guilt ate at her, but she kept telling herself it was fixable.
"Thanks Wills," Xander wandered up the stairs. The colours were all wrong and the furniture was differend but the house was similar enough to their own for him to find his way around.
"I'm sorry I yelled before," he said, the moment Willow came in with the sheets. "I was just confused and stuff. Though, if you want to make me some cookies to feel better, I should point out that I love the chocolate and banana ones you made when I got the funny syphilis."
Willow gulped. "O-kay... not even gonna ask what that is," she said, feeling her cheeks warm. "But cookies, check." Leaving him to get settled, she closed the door behind herself.