I wrote most of this in bed one night. Wasn't supposed to be anything but an exorcism of schmoop. Of course, insecurity made me go back and fiddle and insert, but it's still just this teeny (unedited) inchoate thing from my head. With plenty of metaphor and grammar abuse. The ending's abrupt, but I'm terrible at endings. Thus goes the joke. (Also: I also suck ass at titling things. I've changed it so it will stop bugging me. Carpe Diem, what, dumb ass? Carpe Noctem, maybe? Yeah. Idiot. /self-hating)
And, of course. In the middle of writing this up, I flipped through my friend's page and saw a few recs by glossing and anything she recs is something I have to check out. And so there was dolores's Let Forever Be, of which I read a few lines, then closed in panic. *sigh* For what it's worth, me and my mediocre fic operated in ignorance of his. It just always turns out that I psychically leech ideas from good authors. *headdesk*
Title: Take This Waltz
Summary: Things aren't that different.
Disclaimer 2: Everything here is made up. Sadly. Or, fortunately.
And the cut-text lyrics are from Leonard Cohen. How I love him.
It made sense when he woke up. For a moment, he was a fit of manic limbs and appetite, a whirling dervish of hunger. Only with less monk and more glutton. Then he remembered what Spike'd told him. The frenzy disappeared in a sour burp of rancor down the back of his tongue.
He was going to hate Spike for as long as could; ideally, for centuries.
There'd been insults and pain (sex), he could remember. And moments of dribbling laughter that made Xander seriously doubt for the other vampire's mental health. With good, founded reason.
It didn't matter. It was too late to fuss over it.
Xander scratched at the crypt-floor, each grain of dust prickling his fingers. What was that? Hyper-sensitivity. Huh. That was different.
Everything was different. The sharp tooth-ache in his gums, the gurgling new indigestion that came with the hunger, the fire in everything that was cold.
With each second, it was harder to keep his old memories; they were slipping and wriggling from his fingers. Like live things, like silver minnows, schools of them, flashing their tails as they swished downstream.
He didn't need them, did he? Maybe he did, he didn’t know. No one was going to explain.
Xander turned around and around, unsure of where to start. First thing, he had to get out of the crypt. Because it smelled fucking horrible. Good, but bad. The good--a festering brown rot that made Xander bumpy. And the bad--eau de Spike.
And wait, rewind a second. He was bumpy in the face. It didn't hurt. It felt tight, his skin stretched to fit the new cartilage. Was it cartilage? It was hard as the tip of his nose, and that was. Yeah.
Well, that finally made sense, the game-face. He laughed to himself and ran a finger over his teeth, his forehead, his spiffy new Halloween mask. The memory of Spike's words caught him in the middle of enjoying his new ridges, and suddenly Xander was a five-year-old dropping contraband cookies. His dad would take him to the bathroom and spank him over his knee. His mother would wait outside, face in her hands. He hated his father.
It'd be great to see the old man now.
He focused on the guilt, the anger, until everything smoothed back out, went loose and slack. Who knew skin felt so. Lazy?
There wasn't a good way to put it, and that didn't matter, either. He went back and forth between game-face, until it was as easy as flipping a switch. He was a vampire prodigy. Let Spike get a taste of that control.
(Don’t be too much of an idiot when you wake up. Know it's hard for you, but you'll thank me later.)
The logic of Spike. Reprimand the dying for acts they've yet to commit. Prick. Vampire prick (sire) didn’t know what it was like--well, okay, maybe he did. Then he'd know that trying not to act like a fledgling was against every thrumming instinct at work in Xander's new body. Not new, but changed, million dollar changed. He'd died of a neck wound and woke up bionic.
The jerk wasn't even around. The smell of fresh smoke -- fresh, he knew it without thinking -- said that he'd left recently.
If he'd wanted to convince Xander of anything like responsibility, the guy was getting off on a shitty foot. No, what was it he'd said about the fucking and the biting? Sorry, sorry, handful of words, one, two, three. And one crazy word that sounded like dove.
The minnows swam and wriggled in Xander's mouth, his stomach, even behind his eyelids, where the memory was Spike's face, watching him bleed. Watched him for an eternity, eyes wide and concerned. The last thing he saw before the houselights dimmed. Spike.
Had finally killed a Scooby.
Whatever. Xander shrugged and walked out of the crypt. There were things to do. Neat, exciting things. Like. Well, like stuff he didn't even know about. And probably a lot of physical stuff. Running, jumping, climbing trees.
Everything took the least bit of effort. He could've lifted a foot and landed on the moon. Gym class would've been cake with that kind of power-up.
The air was balmy, the ground was sponge, and he was Superman. The Adventures of Undead Superman. He could write memoirs. He could be the first vampire to sign a book deal. Could option off a screenplay.
Come to think of it, he probably wouldn't be the first. He was just like every other fanged loser out there, delusions of grandeur, yadda, yadda. He was going to be a special vampire edition of Idiot Jeb, now with more blood cravings.
Focus. He had to focus. There were still things he had going for him. Things other newbies didn't have.
People passed him on the sidewalks, and he gave them wide, addict-eyes. They weren't what he wanted.
He flexed out his muscles and went into warp speed. The UC Campus materialized, the building lights sparkling and sparkling.
Her light was sparkling; her dorm room. Buffy and Willow. Two hers. He had things to tell them, things to do to them; and he saw them, in his head, flash of red and lemon, pretty, shifting like smoke and sand. Red hair, bright as lobster backs, and did it matter that he couldn't see her? Should he worry? He was seeing through walls. No. Didn’t matter.
Buffy wasn't there. He could--could smell Willow. Weird as that was. But he didn't smell Buffy. She had a Pantene Pro-V halo, threaded with the ash and copper of her hands.
This other smell was lemon and hair-dye. It was an animal smell, claw tooth muzzle, with the weirdest hint of pot. Drugs, animal--the thoughts circled in Xander's head.
Think, think--fuck, have to eat something soon--think, drugs and animal.
Oh, right. Xander felt a prickle, like a quick stab of kinship. Oz, the werewolf. Meet Xander, the vampire. But that was sappy and they'd met before.
Not like this, of course. Because Xander'd only died and risen anew just this once.
Camaraderie was a broken promise when Oz got a hit in. The small fist packed a firecracker thwap; something in Xander's nose went crunch and launched blood all over his lips. He took off the game-face (don't be too much of an idiot) and felt really fucking stupid.
He was a pathetic turn, a flapping mess of arrogance and weakness. Figured. What a waste of a vamping.
The blood dripped on his shirt, mixed with the dirt and grass-stains. He laughed to see it, human tears of frustration stinging his eyes. Human. He wasn't anymore.
Willow was saying things, words that went to shapeless screeches as she cried. Her chest heaved, over and over. It made Xander want to quiet her. Killing her would make her quiet, make her better, make her his partner-in-crime again.
He was distracted by her pain and Oz got the cross up, right in his face. It was shocking because it actually hurt. What was that about? He hadn't been a god-fearing guy a few hours ago when he still had a heartbeat.
He'd have to ask Spike about that. Or not, because he didn't want to do much talking when it came to Spike. Was it against some vampire code to kill your Sire? He wouldn't even know about that word if it weren't for Angel. Angel. They were both Deadboys. The could start a band--something with hard riffs and a lot of brooding.
"It was him, wasn't it? Spike did this? Oz, Oz," she said it a few times, doubling over in a sudden cramp. A minnow of memory disappeared and was replaced with this new vision. Willow shined with tears. He wanted to fold her up and keep her forever. And hey, Oz smelled like the ocean, now that he thought of it. Salt and sand, lunar tides. It was nice. It made you want to taste him, to see if his blood was moonshine. Well, maybe that was just Xander.
"We should all sit down and have a talk," he said, staring at the shoots of Oz's hair. He'd always wanted to rub his hands in it, quick and messy like a small-scale invasion. He could. No one would stop him. "You guys should see this from my perspective."
Willow flinched against her nightstand, knocked a lot of shit to the ground. "Your perspective? Your evil vampire perspective?"
"Yeah, that one." He looked at her from the corner of his eye. "Hey, was than an insult?"
There was a fraction of a split-second of a hair of a whatever where Oz blinked, and it was the easiest thing in the world to knock the cross away. Break his arm and get him in a neck hold. Felt right, too. Just a couple boys rasslin'. He watched Willow's face go dead. Almost dead. Not dead enough. Still and white, a gravestone among faces.
He sniffed Oz's hair. The chemicals reminded him of Spike, but there were smells of other things, like the Three Wise Men. An occult and foreign spice, part of a sense-memory from Sunday School. Reading their Kid's Versions of the Holy Hullabaloo, little Xander had an idea of how the Wise Men would smell, with the frankenstuff and the myrrh, travelling across sand dunes on snorting camels. Persia, robes, sage, campfires, open air.
He wanted to open Oz like a book and it wasn't just a figure of speech or anything.
Willow begged him not to, but things were different between them. He sort of hated that.
"Listen," he told her. "Just shut up. Okay?" It was the first thing to his lips and he regretted it. Shudder, heave, shake, he watched her tears start again. "Sorry, just. I'm new to this." He made an apologetic gesture with Oz.
"It's okay, we'll help you, we'll get Giles, really, it'll be like that time I had a vampire twin and that turned out fine." Willow's mascara was running. She tried to make a grab for the stake peeking out from under her pillow, but her hands were palsied and unsteady. It was so pathetic it was cute. "Or, we can soul you, I can get your soul back and you can be like Angel, only without all the guilt because you haven't--you haven't eaten anyone? Right?"
Xander smiled at her, clutching Oz to his chest. He loved Willow so much he wanted to kill her. He wanted to eat the soft skin under her chin, he wanted to warm his face in her belly, the small of her back.
And Oz. Little, scented lamb-wolf thing. The guy was a good friend. Really calm. Even now.
"I love you guys," Xander said, holding his friend by the throat.
A school of memories disappeared. He watched Willow's eyes pop from her head. "Xander, don't."
Oz tasted better than anything Xander's ever--*everything* he's ever… There aren't words, there aren't thoughts. Alright, the closest thing would be a steak washed down with a Shirley Temple, but it's still metaphors from the sticky sweet meat in his mouth.
"Sorry, man," he said after a second, pulling away. "You smell good." Which was true. He went back in. Oz was warm and lively, a hard little animal beneath him, skinnier than anyone Xander's touched this close. Guy needed to eat something. Xander stopped biting, started licking, cleaning a spot behind his ear, a spot that was bay rum and pot and maybe a little werewolfy.
Then Willow was swinging a pillow at the two of them and it smacked Xander in the face. He reached a hand out and poof. The pillow ruptured like an aneurysm, spraying feathers over everyone.
"Hey, watch it," he said, mouth stuck to Oz's neck. Feathers were settling in the blood. It was gross.
For reasons known only to kismet, there was a knock at the door. "Help!" Willow yelled, then--"Wait, forget I said that!"
Xander was too slow in turning, and before he adjusted to the surprise, he was being pulled off of Oz and thrown hard into the wall. He thudded and fell on his ass, for the umpteenth time in his life. Unlife. Whatever, it was confusing.
"Dude," he said, trying to stand. "What the hell?" The dried blood on his mouth distracted him, so he wiped at it and stuck his fingers in his mouth. Sticky and crusty, like old cake frosting.
"Said stay in the sodding crypt, didn't I?" Spike pushed him back down and jabbed sharp fingers into his collarbones. They made a bone-crunchy sound. Good he was on schedule--it'd only been a few hours since the last time he was smacked around in a fight.
"No, you really didn't. You said don't be an idiot, but I think it's tough to make that distinction with me--" Spike slammed a few knuckles into his cheek--"you violence-happy prick." Screw this. He was going to give it to Spike and it was going to be the giving of legends. He karate-chopped at a knee in his face, but the knee side-stepped and came back at Xander's nose.
That was definitely broken.
"Sorry, Red," Spike said to Willow, jerking Xander off the ground with one free hand. "Didn't mean for this to happen." He manhandled his resistant bundle into a headlock. "Not yet, anyway. Little boy still needs a few lessons in etiquette."
"I’ll give you lessons in etiquette, Spike. Let me the the fuck oof--" and his throat was cinched tight. Panic set in for a few long seconds, over the importance of oxygen and respiration, but he remembered. Breathing was superfluous. "Haaahhhh," he wheezed.
"Let him go!" Willow cried, grabbing on the floor for the cross Oz had dropped. "No, I don't mean that. I mean--get out." She found the cross and punched it triumphantly into Spike's face; or, she would have if he hadn't dropped her with a cheek-shot. You had to applaud her for trying. She thought she had a chance. Xander knew what that was like; he'd thought the same thing, crushed face-down on the crypt floor beneath Spike, fighting for his dignity and his stupid mortal life. It seems that if you put up a good fight, you deserved to win.
That's stupid. It's a fairy tale people told each other to make it worth all the effort.
He'd lived his life believing that, but now he's no longer living. And his beliefs had died and gone to a hell dimension. It would make anyone bitter. Wasting all that time with the wrong side.
When Spike let him out of the headlock, it was like being reborn. Like waking up on the cold floor, this time without any rabid fledgling idiocy. It wasn't about his bumpy face or his hunger or his jumping really high; he was part of something larger, something evil. Not that it was one thing or the other. Just. He had a spot in the world now.
He would give that to Willow.
She hit him and clawed at him and punched him in the nose. But he wanted so badly to show her, to show her how things could feel right again. He lost himself in her reedy sigh, the secret jazz of her heartbeat, lush and erratic. Beautiful thing. He was killing her the way he would've wanted to die. It was really nice, he had to say.
Until Spike forced them apart, clutching Willow by a fist of red hair. Xander was too stunned to protest.
"You don't get to turn her," was all Spike offered. It was beyond unfair.
"Hey, if anyone gets to whatever her, it's going to be me. Best friend of more than a decade, steadfast loyal companion, maybe almost-boyfriend. Not you." He could hear her heart giving up. "Spike, give her back."
"Sorry, pet. I didn't go through all this so you could run off with your witch." And Willow's neck broke easily, like a Saltine cracker.
Xander watched her fall to the ground. She was quiet. Red. She smelled coppery.
"I can't believe you just did that." He wrenched his eyes back to Spike's. "She was mine."
A gutted howl from the floor, part bristling fur, part anguish, all calm resolve, and Oz was standing on bloodless legs. He staggered for Spike. He was moving quick as caramel and his arm was shaking. It wasn't particularly threatening, but the old part of Xander knew that Oz went leagues beyond surface appearance.
Spike didn't seem to know that. It got him staked.
After, Oz turned bright eyes to Xander and they had a moment for Willow, for the end of the whole Scooby thing.
"That was my Sire you just dusted." He smiled. "Good one."
The humor was lost on Oz.
It was alright. Things were crazy, Xander could appreciate that.
Past the seething anger of the wolf, he could smell sea-salt and musk. They were traces of Willow. Oz was just a grab-bag of goodies. And Xander was going to have him, because he could.
"So, what's a vampire werewolf like at parties?" He said, taking the confused pause as a good time to yet again knock Oz's defense from his arm. Didn't bother breaking it--the arm. He just twisted it around until they were pressed back to front, then he rested his forehead on the pale skin and whispered, "A bloody howl."
It was a stupid joke. Most things were.