Blood From a Stone
He’s sitting here, staring at the stone, and trying to figure out just what it is about Buffy’s grave that seems wrong. Thinking deep thoughts isn’t his department, but this isn’t something he can talk about with Willow, whose department this is, so he’s left trying to wrap a carpenter’s brain around a philosopher’s problem… and failing miserably, not that failing is a new and different experience for him, mind you, but somehow this failure is even worse than the ice cream truck fiasco, though lacking the near-arrest for lewd conduct in the presence of minors. Luckily, this is Sunnydale, where the police don’t like to work too hard, or the Sex Offender Registry would have him as their centerfold.
Ah, speaking of centerfolds… yes, he’s engaged to Anya, but still sometimes he thinks about the day of that wacky spell and wishes he’d let Buffy peel off that trench coat. He has a feeling the reality of her would have been way better than his dreams, and he’s had some good ones. Oh has he ever.
Yeah, he had one last night. Not like there’s anything he can do about his dreams, and anyway, she was alive in the dream, so there was no necrophilia involved… unlike Buffy’s actual sex life, which did feature X-rated activities with a corpse.
God, how low can you be if you can’t compete with a guy who…
Speaking of sinking low and guys with no pulse, he hadn’t noticed it was getting dark and now it’s nightfall and Spike is here. If this day gets any worse, there’ll be zombies…
“Fangless,” he offers, making some sort of gesture that’s half-greeting, half-imitation-taking-off-his-nonexistent-cap, half… oh wait. Two halves. Guess those first two are it then.
“Good evening to you, too.” Huh. Yeah, the tone is sarcastic, but Spike’s words are pretty much devoid of the insulting bite Xander’s used to. What’s up with that?
Then his eyes fall on the name etched in stone and… Okay, yeah, he gets it now, though he doesn’t want to because he’s sick and tired of sharing her with the undead. “Kind of having a private moment, here, so maybe you could just…”
“Not goin’ anywhere. You’re gonna have to share that private moment.” With that, Spike sits down right beside him, invading his personal space just to be annoying. Which is pretty much par for the course when it comes to vampires. “I miss her too, y’know.” It’s then that Xander picks up the slur in his voice and realizes that Spike is drunk. Really drunk, since he’s just revealed something personal without any accompanying threats.
His theory is confirmed when a bottle emerges from a pocket in that suave-creature-of-the-night duster Spike always wears. “Want some?”
What? Of course, he doesn’t. A fact that somehow has no effect on his actions, because he realizes a second later that he’s downing some of Jack Daniels’s finest. Huh.
Oh, and Spike has excellent taste in alcohol.
Which brings up a bone of contention: How can some undead guy with no job afford better stuff than he – a hard-working, tax-paying citizen who breathes and has a heartbeat and his own blood supply and everything – can?
“Stole this,” Spike offers and Xander is officially having a wiggins. He hears a chuckle, and then Spike adds, “You were muttering under your breath.”
Was he? He doesn’t remember that, but maybe he was. Trying to think through deep thoughts has worn his brain out so he wouldn’t bet money on his current ability to keep track of his own actions. “Yeah, well…” Oooh, now there’s a catchy retort. Note to self: Leave the thinking to Willow from now on. He meanders to a lame conclusion. “Stealing’s wrong, buddy.”
“That so? A lot o’ things are wrong, mate. We’re sittin’ by one of ‘em. Think it’s right that she’s down there?”
You know, for an undead creep with a chip in his head and a 19th century education, Spike might be onto something. “You’ve got a good point there.” As he says that, he shares in the spoils of crime one more time. He needs to start dabbling in better booze, because he’s way outclassed in drinking skills at this point – such a lightweight that this stuff has him almost tipsy already.
Spike grabs the bottle and downs almost half of it in one gulp. Hey! Save some for… Oh wait. Spike’s the guy who stole it in the first place. Guess Xander doesn’t have the right to lodge a formal complaint. But he does snatch the bottle back and try to copy Spike’s manly swallowing technique.
It doesn’t go so well, unless you consider choking and coughing up at least half of what you tried to drink to be a win. Well, at least Spike didn’t do that ‘pounding on his back’ thing, though that almost certainly has more to do with the chip in his head than any desire not to compound Xander’s humiliation. A half-hearted “You okay?” is all the response his undead companion bothers to muster up.
There are a lot of answers to that question, and most of them are some variation of ‘no.’ Xander says yes anyway, because he’s not opening a vein for Spike, not even one that doesn’t contain a drop of blood.
Of course, Spike hears the truth anyway. “Yeah, guess neither of us is okay.” How come when vampires get drunk, they don’t get sloppy and stupid like… well, he does? But they don’t and so Spike’s next remark is the painfully acute. “Is that why you shagged Faith? Wanted a taste of what it would be like with Buffy?” Can he just say right now that whoever told Spike about him and Faith is so dead… unless it’s Willow, because she could fry him with her magic before he so much as loaded the crossbow.
Spike’s probably right, but luckily, given his age at the time, Xander can get away with a very different excuse. “Nah. I was eighteen and horny. Faith was there. It could have been anybody. I wasn’t exactly thinking with the above-the-neck brain, you know?” Even as he says it, he feels guilty because deep down he feels sorry for Faith. Buffy’s shadow was huge – still is – and living in it had to be hell… Oh no. Something just occurred to him and now he’s wishing he was a whole lot sloppier and stupider so that a thought like this hadn’t happened. “You don’t think… Buffy… where she went. You don’t think it’s where Glory was from, do you?”
As he finishes his panicked question, he sees Spike’s eyes shoot wide and there’s the same terror that he’s feeling mirrored behind them, but then Spike shakes his head. “Nah. Can’t see that. The world’s unfair, yeah, but not…” Still, there’s fear in his voice and Xander doesn’t feel any better either.
He should change the subject but somehow he can’t – slow and stupid from the alcohol, remember? –so instead he just raises the bottle in a toast directed at that stone… that stupid stone that doesn’t have nearly enough words… That’s it! That’s the problem. The stone is way too small and there aren’t the right words, the right number of words either. Turning to Spike, he gestures to the headstone and says, “She was more than that, you know? I mean, yeah, she saved the world, but she wasn’t just… she was…” Dammit! Now that he needs words – important, meaningful words – they aren’t there, and he starts to cry – which is only because he’s sloshed. Otherwise he’d never be this girly in front of Spike. But it’s Buffy – Buffy! – and she deserves words and he doesn’t have them.
What good is he?
He couldn’t save her life this time… can’t say what needs to be said… can’t stop the world from falling apart because Buffy isn’t here to hold it together.
No, he’s not just crying, he’s sobbing, and Spike, of all not-quite-people, is awkwardly holding him and saying something stupid and pointless like ‘there, there’ and Xander is clinging to him like a baby and saying something equally stupid – or maybe stupider – like ‘why’ and it’s as if Buffy died five minutes, not weeks and weeks, ago.
It hurts. It really, really hurts.
“I love her too,” Spike says softly and Xander almost freezes, because he knows what Spike means and he knows that Spike knows… But what does it matter?
They stay like this for a moment that feels way too long considering the clumsy and uncomfortable position they’re in.
He doesn’t know which one of them lets go first, but one does and then the other and it’s… over. Xander feels strangely sober, and even if he wanted to change that, he can see the bottle of Jack Daniels lying on the grass and it’s empty.
That bottle is a pretty good metaphor for how he’s feeling right now – useless and hollow. “I should go home. Anya’s probably wondering where I am.” He gets up, surprised that Spike, once again, has nothing sharp and stinging to say. Even more surprising is that Spike gets up too.
But if he thought they’d be walking anywhere together, he was wrong. “Ta.” That’s all he gets as Spike heads off into the night.
Wait a minute. Shouldn’t there be…?
But there isn’t. That’s all there is. It’s as if the brief moment of connection never happened. The next time he sees Spike, there will be insults and condescension and no mention of anything said or done tonight. Which is okay, now that he thinks about it, because…
Because he doesn’t have a choice, does he? And anyway, it’s easier. Try explaining a sudden friendsh… something with a vampire you’ve always hated. Yeah.
It’s better this way.
Oh yeah. Definitely better this way.
Just like death was Buffy’s gift.
Xander turns and walks back home.
It’s a long walk.