It’s Only Skin Now
Author: Dimitri Aidan
Rating: Eventual NC-17.
Pairings: Spike/Xan and Wes/Gunn for sure, maybe some other stuff as we plod along.
Timeline: Takes place after the end of Angel.
Warnings: Character death, Slash, Violence, Language, Angst, Sex, and such.
Re-cap: Lesee…Wes? Not Dead. I disbelieve the illusion. Angel? Dead. Gunn and Spike? The Undead. Xander? Confused.
Summary: When the dust clears and you’re still standing what do you do next? That’s what Spike wants to know and, when a few familiar faces show up in LA, he may be on the verge of an answer.
Xander rapped on the door, biting his lip as he did. “Buffy? It’s Xan.”
There was a moment of silence followed by shuffling footsteps. The door swung open to reveal Buffy, eyes red and puffy, hair askew, and clothed in sweatpants and a t-shirt. He could see that the apartment she and Dawn shared was dark, with only the light of the TV casting flickering shadows across the floor and walls. Dawn was curled up in a chair, a cover draped over her sleeping form, and
The meeting had been a few hours ago and it seemed, while Xander was packing for LA weather and wondering why the Powers that Be hated him so damn much,
If he’d been allowed he undoubtedly would have been right behind her, armed with Twinkies and chocolate. He had never liked Angel, had hated him with a passion that bordered on disturbing actually, but he’d never wanted him Dead-dead. Just a little bit dead and a lot miserable, which he didn’t think made him a bad person in the least. He had wanted him to continue to un-live and brood long after all of them were buried and gone, if for no other reason than he didn’t want Buffy hurt.
He was more than a little mad the vampire had gone against his plan. His plan was flawless, well thought-out with perfectly valid reasons behind it all and he’d gone and fucked it up.
Buffy smiled at him crookedly. “Hey Xan. Come to see the angst-fest?”
“Of course.” He leaned against the doorframe and smiled. “Not even being sent to LA could stop me from watching my girls watch chick-flicks and pig-out.”
“Just like the old days huh?” She said while raking a hand through her hair. “You have time to come in and sit or is Giles sending you out soon?”
He looked at his watch even though he knew how much time he had left. He’d been looking at it almost religiously for the past thirty minutes, hoping to see the hands move back to give him more time. Another hour, thirty minutes…hell, he’d take ten minutes at this point. A little bit more time to hug his best friend and let her know that losing the person you loved more than life wasn’t the end of the world and it didn’t hurt forever and that it would get better eventually.
She and Angel hadn’t been together for a long time but there was no denying he’d been the love of Buffy’s life, her Soul-Mate, the immortal yardstick and all that good stuff. She couldn’t be with him but she hadn’t loved him any less. Xander understood that perfectly.
He wanted to tell her that, that he understood and that she’d be okay. It didn’t have to hurt forever.
He’d be lying through his teeth of course, but he wanted to tell her that. Months later he still woke up and found himself reaching for Anya, seeing things in stores or on TV that reminded him of her, or snickering whenever he saw Dawn’s bunny pajamas before getting ready to shield the ex-demon.
It always hurt like the first time when he realized once again that his Anya was gone and there were times when he just had to stay still and breathe, because if he didn’t he felt like the world might just crumble underneath his feet.
“Nah, flight’s in forty-five minutes. Giles would throw a fit if he knew I was here.” He smiled and winked, heart aching at the small smile she offered in reply. “I just…you know. Checking up on my girl.”
“Yeah.” She stared at her feet for a moment, pink painted toes wiggling against the carpeted floor. “Whatever you find out…don’t sugar coat it? I want to know what happened. I need to know, so I can finish baking the cookie dough, you know?”
Xander opened his mouth then shut it and frowned. “No, not really. Have you been eating cookie dough? I hear raw eggs can do things to your-”
Buffy laughed and poked him between the ribs hard enough that he was sure there was going to be a bruise. Twenty-two years old, with nearly seven years as the Slayer under her belt and she still couldn’t control her own strength. He managed to smile and hide his wince. It was worth hearing her laugh.
“It’s a metaphor.”
“Of course it is.” He said, offering his best ‘humoring the crazy lady’ smile. She smirked then sighed and wrapped her arms around herself, rocking forward a little bit.
“I guess you should go. You know how testy Faith can get if she even thinks she’s going to miss some Slayage and I know you don’t want to sit in an airport listening to Andrew babble if you miss the plane.”
Xander nodded, fighting the urge to roll his eyes. Faith and Andrew. The Original crazy Slayer and the guy so geeky he made Xander look normal, were his ‘crew’. Giles wanted people familiar with the ‘ask first, stake later’ line of thought in case Angel and Spike were still among the living…undead…whatever. Apparently most of the new Slayers hadn’t been taught the ‘Gray Area’ lesson yet and no wanted to deal with the fallout of one of them staking one of the ‘Good Guys’.
He was jarred from his thoughts by Buffy all but tackling him and proceeding to squeeze him hard enough to make his ribs shift in a completely not encouraging way. He hugged back as best he could while trying to suck in air and smiled weakly when he was released.
“Be safe Xan.”
“No worries.” He reached out, brushing a strand of hair away from her face then nodded tightly. He knew if he stayed any longer, allowed himself to think that maybe he could but this off for later there was no way he was going to make his flight. He’d walk in, shut the door, and camp out with his girls for however long it took Giles to realize what had gone wrong and he wouldn’t care.
He hated being responsible. It just didn’t suit him well.
Spike roamed the hotel, prepared to waste yet another night away. He wasn’t exactly back up to form and he could probably go out and bust a few heads but something kept him inside of the hotel, unable to step outside of the doors and ‘Fight the Good Fight’. He walked until the sun came up then retreated to one of the windowless rooms to wait for night once again.
It wasn’t the loss of their intrepid, overly gelled poof of a leader that kept him inside, the hell he couldn’t fight the baddies on his own if he was so inclined but something else. Yes there was a hole in him where Angel should have been, a huge gaping hole that felt way bigger than what used to be Sunnydale was, but there was another one that gnawed at him in an even worse way.
He stopped at the doors that lead to the gardens, movement catching is eye. Outside, face tilted up to the sky as if drinking in the light of the half-moon stood Wesley. His eyes were closed and he was perfectly still, save the rise and fall of his chest. He was still very much alive, breathing in and out as his heart kept beating, while Gunn skulked around in dark corners.
Speaking of which, it seemed Gunn still hadn’t fallen out of the habit of breathing. It could take the body time to stop doing things it’d once done, no matter how unnecessary they were and was yet another reason young vampires shouldn’t be left alone.
You could hear them coming, no matter how good at keeping quite they may have once been. It all had to be relearned because, while it was the same body and the same mind to an extend everything was suddenly very different. It would feel like wearing the wrong skin for a long time and then, just as suddenly as it had become the wrong skin it would become the right one. Memories of the old human body started to fade the moment you opened your eyes after you ‘died’, no matter how hard you tried to hold onto them, and soon it would be a distant fleeting through you could never really get to bloom in your mind.
He glanced back and indeed Gunn was there, hidden save his eyes which glowed like two dark points of light. He wasn’t staring at him but rather past him, eyes trained so intently on Wesley Spike was surprised the British man couldn’t feel the look.
“He doesn’t have a shadow.” Gunn’s voice was different than it used to be, as if the change had made his voice darker as well, thick, heavy, and smooth like syrup. Indeed he hadn’t said a word since he’d destroyed half of the furniture in the hotel so Spike hadn’t noticed before.
He would easily be able to charm the less strong willed victims into falling him home, much like Drusilla had been able to do. A waste of a good talent because it was unlikely Gunn would ever try such a trick.
Gunn moved forward just enough for Spike to see the look on his face, ‘Are you an idiot?’ at it’s finest. Dawn herself couldn’t have done better. “Wes.”
Spike looked back outside, eyes going to Wesley’s feet and indeed there was a lack of a shadow. He thought for a second, trying to recall whether Wesley had a shadow before, because you never knew with those magic using humans.
They were such a funny bunch really…