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Sometimes Country Music Doesn't Cut It

He’s sitting on Buffy’s back porch, avoiding Anya and Willow and Tara and Dawn, because he’s not so good at sharing the grief – especially not when he just proposed to Anya today and he is pretty sure it’s against the rules to be thinking things like ‘why couldn’t I have had one chance?’ about a dead girl who isn’t your fiancée.

Oh great. He’s not alone anymore. “Harris.” And it’s Spike, who he’d love to insult right now, except he just can’t. Maybe because Spike’s crush – the crush Xander had thought was so funny and pathetic yesterday –doesn’t seem so mock-worthy now, or maybe he just doesn’t have the energy. He’s tired – or something that feels like it – so cut him some slack. He’ll be back to ridiculing Spike and his hair and his chip any day now, right? Yeah, someday when the grief isn’t eating away at his insides. And that day will be…?

Somehow he finds himself moving over, offering a place beside himself for Spike to sit. Much to his shock, Spike takes him up on the silent invitation. He lights a cigarette and Xander breathes in the smoke, wondering what the heck Spike gets out of it. No time like the present to find out. He reaches over and Spike just stares at him. “Give me a puff or a drag or whatever you smoking types call it.”

Spike chuckles, but it’s a sad sound – he’s not laughing at Xander. That would be a first. He hands the cigarette over and Xander puts it to his lips, sucking on the filter like the complete non-smoker that he is and he immediately chokes. Spike whacks him on the back to stop the fit of coughing. Somehow the pain of it makes everything real.

And Spike doesn’t make fun of him.

That breaks him. Dropping the cigarette, he starts to cry. Later, he’ll remember the way Spike’s boot crushed the cigarette before it could take out the Summers house, but now? Now he’s just caught up in the way Spike is suddenly, awkwardly holding him. “I know,” he says and there was a time when Xander would have said something snide, but now he takes the offered comfort and clings to Spike like a child.

How long this goes on, he has no idea, but at some point, he notices that his hair is wet and he’s not the only one who was crying. He looks up and sees that Spike’s face is still sporting cuts and bruises from the fight. That the tear tracks are red where they’ve run through open wounds and there must be blood in his hair now. Spike’s blood, or at least it is now, though obviously it wasn’t always.

That’s supposed to gross him out, and it would have any other day, but not today. Not now. Now it makes him feel connected to Spike and to his pain in a way that he isn’t connected to anyone else in the world. He reaches up, tracing a slash carved almost at the same angle as Spike’s cheekbone, and he feels…

The moment is lost a second later as Spike gets up. “You owe me a smoke,” he says as he walks inside too quickly for Xander to even think of what to say back.

Xander stays outside by himself for a long time.

The End.
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