All Roads Lead To Rome – Chapter 10 – Reality Bites
It wasn’t like the employees of Wolfram & Hart hadn’t been witness to this kind of display before. Merely two days past, they had been treated to the sight of a red, black and blonde kiss that nearly rocked the building to its foundation. Today’s kiss? Brought down the house!
Angel was stunned into silence. Wes was mildly amused. Buffy’s reaction was classic. She began with stifled giggles, which gave way to body shaking belly laughs. Her knees gave way and she found herself with her butt planted firmly on the floor, tears of laughter falling from her eyes.
Smack dab in the middle of the hallway stood Xander Harris, self-avowed demon hater. Strong arms fully wrapped around Spike as he gave the startled vampire the second most unexpected kiss in his entire existence.
In an attempt to control herself, Buffy gasped, looking at the two men in front of her. Xander was a study in darkness, long dark hair tied back with a length of rawhide, eye patch firmly in place. Next to him, Spike was a polar opposite – pale as moonlight, his cropped platinum hair gelled to death. It was truly a sight to behold.
“Oh god, Spike. I so wish you could see your expression right now,” wheezed Buffy, trying so hard to bring oxygen into her system.
Spike pushed out of Xander’s embrace and warily searched the man’s face for some clue as to what was going on inside the brunet’s head. Just wanted to make sure he got a running start if a wooden stake suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Something about that old saw, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer?”
“Have you gone daft, mate?” the blond vampire exclaimed. “Last I knew, we weren’t exactly best chums. Yeah, little past the beheading by axe, but not into the warm and fuzzies, let alone the tonsil hockey bit.”
His amusement evident, Xander said, “There was no playing of the hockey with tonsils, Spike… not even tongue usage.” A small laugh, and he continued. “Can’t a man just be happy when one of his old acquaintances comes back from the dead? Never thought I’d be able to say that again, much less mean it. Must be the legacy of being raised on a. Hellmouth.”
Having composed herself at last, Buffy turned to her friend and asked, “Xan, when did you go all benevolent-like towards Spike? He’s right, you know. You guys do have a rather complicated history. Not that I’m all mindy, ‘course. Just curious.”
Before the young man could answer, the elevator pinged, alerting the gathered people to the new arrival. Giles.
“Good Lord,” the Senior Watcher said. “It’s like a family reunion. If one’s family included vampires and slayers. Xander, it’s good to see you. You’re looking remarkably well. And Buffy, it’s nice to see you looking so happy.”
Uneasily, he nodded his greeting to the remaining members of the little gathering. “Wes. Angel. Spike… bugger me, you really are here, after all.”
“Not on a bet, Rupes. But, I’m solid enough. To what do we owe the pleasure of your company? Decided to come for your pound of flesh, after all?” he enquired.
Unwilling to be drawn into an argument so early into the game, Giles took a deep, cleansing breath. “Spike, not all things revolve around you. Well, point of fact… the world actually does revolve thanks in no small part to your participation in the destruction of the Hellmouth, but I do have other business to conduct here. With Angel, for starters.”
Angel grabbed the opening in the conversation to interject, “I think you guys’ll be more at ease in my private suite. I’ll send up something for lunch. Pizza for everyone, and some blood for Spike. Wes and I have business to discuss, Giles, join us soon?”
Nods all around, Xander, Giles, Buffy and Spike followed Angel to his suite, and settled into the soft leather couches. Munchables were delivered shortly thereafter, and everyone prepared for a long overdue conversation.
“Thank the gods,” said Xander, once Angel had gone, and the food consumed. “Best thing Deadboy could do was take himself and Junior outta the mix. Not much for crowds these days, myself. And seriously, the only people I want to deal with right now, are you guys.”
Giles was curious. When he walked off the elevator, he remembered everyone being rather flustered, and figured this was as good a place to begin as any.
“Buffy, was there some kind of fracas between Xander and Spike before I arrived? They looked rather flustered when I first saw them, as did you,” asked the Watcher.
Snickering wickedly, the Slayer said, “Giles, you missed something that will never happen again as long as the world exists. Xander was all bear hugs and kissy face with Spike. I am sooo sorry I didn’t have Andrew’s video camera.”
“Dear Lord, and they’re both still in one piece? Spike, you just stood there and took it, or did you rather fancy him back?” He deftly removed his glasses, and cleaned them with his handkerchief, in a very practiced move. Keeping an eye trained on the bleached blond, he asked of Xander, “So… was he any good?”
“Oi, git! Was a bit too gobsmacked to do anything, not that I would. Got my girl here with me for the moment, and have no desire for any extras.” Spike glared.
“And that’s where I think I’ll begin,” said Giles. “Your girl, Spike? Is this something I should be concerned about?”
“And that’s sooo big with the ‘no’ here, Giles,” said Buffy. “Whatever is going on between Spike and me is absolutely no concern of yours or anyone else’s. If you wanna make with the official questions, that’s fine – between you and Spike. Anything else? Not relevant.”
Looking immeasurably relieved, Spike turned to the brunet and asked, “You care to tell a bloke why the big 180, mate? Not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Just curious, is all.”
Figuring this was as good a time as any to try and set things to rights, he began. “I’ve had a lot of time to think since the world didn’t end, Spike. Thanks to you. Losing Anya for good broke my heart. My interpersonal skills sucked, everyone had somebody else to care for, so I asked G-man to assign me somewhere I could do the most good.
“Oddly enough, I think I found my soul in the same part of the world that you did. Spent lots of time traveling through the African continent, alone. Searching for new Slayers, doing construction, and searching for the real Xander Harris.” Looking directly at Spike for signs of derision and finding none, he continued.
“I’m finally at peace with myself. I’m not ‘that drunk Tony Harris’ kid,’ I’m not the Zeppo amongst a gaggle of females with more power and strength than I’ll ever have. I’m a loyal man, I care for my friends and I realize there were times I was a complete ass.
“You and I came down firmly on opposite sides, Spike. You tried to kill me and my friends several times. Doesn’t make for the ‘bosom buddies.’ You beat me up, kidnapped me and Willow, killed people for food, and generally caused mayhem wherever you went.”
“Xander,” Spike tried. “Things were different then. Yes, well, still vampire here, but…”
“Don’t worry about it, Spike,” said the younger man. “Just part of the story of Spike and Xander. Anyway, as the years went on, and things changed, I didn’t. First impressions stayed with me. Monsters never changed, and monsters were never on the side of good.
“You know just how much I liked Angel, not. Some of that was jealousy. I know you know that I had a crush on Buffy for years. When I found out he was a vampire? Hell, I never gave him a chance. Pretty much single handedly helped the Buffster send him to hell during the whole Acathla nonsense.”
Xander swallowed hard at that admission, and chanced a look at Buffy. She was firmly ensconced in Spike’s lap, but not showing any distress at his words, so he took heart and continued.
“What I never realized was that you were just as responsible for stopping Angelus as any of us. Without your help, Buffy would never have been able to fight her way through him and Dru. If you were as evil as you’d always professed to be, you’d have thrown your hat in with Monsters, Inc. and we’d all have ended up in hell.
“To make a long story short, you got chipped, showed up at Giles’ asking for help and I couldn’t believe the cajones you had. No matter how hard I insisted, and believe me I really, really insisted, nobody would stake you.
“Then came the crush on Buffy, Glory’s reign of fun and madness, Joyce’s illness and death and… and…” He found he needed to catch his breath. No matter the fact that Buffy was sitting across the room, in the lap of another miracle of resurrection, his friend’s death always left him floored.
“Xander, is all this really necessary?” said Giles. “We’ve all had moments we’re not proud of in our past, and we’ve all had more than our fair share of suffering. Some of it caused by our own hands. Don’t you think it’s best left in the past?”
“G-man, that’s the problem here. You and me, we’ve let things go. Eventually they festered and poisoned our souls.” The younger man steadied himself, he knew things were moving into a whole other level angst from here, and had to steel himself to get through it.
“Spike, it finally is all about you. Gotta tell ya man, I’ve never been more wrong in my life. Not about the beginning. Honest hatred, no regrets. It’s the later stuff. Not that we were friendly before Buffy and the Flying Wallenda act from the tower, but after her return things got really nasty.
“Even after that summer, when things were as friendly as they’d ever been between us, I turned on you when she got back. No matter how much you’d helped us, patrolled without us so we could have some form of normal night life and babysat Dawnie, I found it real easy to go back to the hatred. Forgot all the good. And there was good. Lots of it. First thing I’m really sorry for.
“I hated you sniffing around her like a puppy. What I hated more, was the fact that she liked spending time with you and not us. I had Anya to love, and I wasn’t willing to let Buffy go. Sad to say, she wasn’t mine to begin with, but I didn’t quite get it back then. Not only did I hurt Buffy by depriving her of the one person she was comfortable with, I also caused Anya no end of grief with my Buffy obsession.”
“Xan, Spike and I know things were pretty bad, and we all made some mega-wrong choices,” said Buffy. “Don’t take this all on yourself.”
“Not trying to, pet. Let the bloke get it all out of his system. S’time for it all to be put to rest,” came from the vampire, as he nuzzled Buffy’s neck, much to the chagrin of Giles.
“Spike, must you do that in front of me? There is so much to talk about yet, regarding your return to existence. Is it safe for you to be around Buffy? Are you in control of your demon? Do you still have your soul? So many things to take for granted.” The Watcher sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with what appeared to be one whopper of a headache.
Turning his whole attention to the older man, Spike said, “Rupert, do you honestly think I would do anything to put Buffy in jeopardy? Don’t you think I’ve been poked and prodded and mystically scanned by all the best the Evil Empire has to offer? Even with all these assurances, remember, I wasn’t the one to call Buffy to tell her I still unlived. That was your pet, Andrew. And the Slayer made her own choice to come for me. Made me damned happy, it did.
“If you want a rundown on what happened to me, ask Angel for the file. Wolfram & Hart has boxes of computer paper and medical records that tell the tale as they know it. From my point of view? I wore the bloody fashion accessory, made my peace with Buffy and my ending, roasted from the inside and came back as a ghosty less than 3 weeks later.
“I was delivered through the mail to Angel’s desk. Got my body back much the same way – a package was delivered to me care of Evil, Inc., pop and flash and I’m back to my gorgeous undead self. End of story.”
“All well and good, Spike. If you don’t want to cooperate, I’ll go and ask Angel for that material and see for myself.” Giles rose to leave.
“You do that, Rupes. Seems you never want to believe there’s good in me. I can save the bleedin’ world, get my soul stuffed back in my chest, work with you, change my whole fuckin’ existence, throw my unlife away so’s you and yours can live happily ever after, and it’s just not enough to convince you I’ve changed. Believe what you want. I don’t care.” At that, Spike whispered something in Buffy’s ear, moved her to the chair, and stalked out.
Giles watched the vampire stomp out of the room, and came face to face with an absolutely livid Slayer.
“Giles, I am so ashamed of you. You’ve been in the same room with an absolute miracle and you still see nothing but vampire. If stupid, stubborn, self-centered Buffy can see what a change there was in Spike, a supposedly learned man such as you should be drooling at the change to document all this for posterior.
“I know all those volumes you had on Angelus and the curse and Angel. How can you not be interested in a monster who sought out his soul and saved the world. A lot?”
“I’m sorry, Buffy. Truly. I don’t know why things went arse over teakettle. It’s just that Spike brings out the very worst in me.” Chagrined, Giles said, “I promise, I’ll speak with Spike later, if he’s willing. I never meant for things to go this way. I’m going to go meet with Angel and Wesley about Slayer protocols, and we’ll continue this at another time.”
Watching Giles’ retreating form, Xander asked “Whoa, Buff. Was I ever that much of an asshole?”
“Just as big and twice as loud, Xan,” she replied. “but it seems as if you’re getting better. Damned fine kiss, by the way. Long time goal of yours?”
“Nah. Just wanted to wipe that cocky grin off his face. It was spur of the moment, but an excellent ice breaker, doncha think?” He giggled.
Right on cue, Spike re-entered the suite. “Lovely, git. Just promise to use a little tongue next time you try it.”
Looking up at the blond vampire, all Xander could see were smiles. No smirks, no sneers. Just a warm, friendly smile.
“So, Bleached Menace, we cool? Don’t need to go on and on about how wrong I’ve been?” he asked.
“We’re fine, mate. Can’t change our past history, but we can move on like civilized blokes.”
Spike then extended his hand to Xander, who grasped it firmly and said, “This could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
Both men could hear Buffy’s eyes rolling from across the room.
ETA: Nicely beta'd for your reading pleasure! Again, **kisses** go out to willa_writes for her words, and xmirax and sangpassione for their technical skills! Just can't thank 'em enough.