It seemed like a good place to go, on a night when nothing else even came close to being good. Willow's the only one who could possibly remember the place, and these days she's not big with remembering the past. Jesse would have remembered it - they'd spent enough time there. It wasn't that far, maybe a mile from the neighborhood, through the dense tangle of an old-growth forest that hadn't yet fallen to developers and builders. The barely-there-anymore path led to the back entrance of an abandoned rock quarry. Up front there was a road, unpaved and equally abandoned, and large slabs of granite laid haphazardly around the rim of the quarry crater, reflecting off the still water like Lincoln Logs tumbles from the fist of a baby giant. And, Xander was pretty sure that thinking thoughts like "baby giant" might not be the best thing ever in Sunnydale, so he turned off the metaphor-maker in his head. Rocks. Moonlight. Water. Silence. All good things. Good, quiet things.
Xander propped himself up on one of the slabs, easily finding the same spot he'd sat in a hundred times. Of course, they'd all had their spaces. Xander's here, where the rocks came together to make a perfect lounge chair. Willow in a spot that always reminded him of a school desk, her knees tucked under an overhang, arms resting on the "desk" part. Jesse'd always liked a flat slab that intersected the quarry wall at a right angle. It allowed him to lie on his back and kick his legs up against the sheer wall, while hanging his head off the end of the rock. He said he liked seeing the world that way, upside down and reflected. Said it was different.
Xander reached into his pocket for the can of soda he'd brought with him. Generic orange drink - not like his parents would spring for anything that topped six for a dollar, but the sweetness was welcome. He'd had a shitty day. Another one in a long line of shitty days. A fight with his mom before school, he'd forgotten the homework for first, second and third periods, he'd managed to trip over his own feet twice and nearly get the crap beaten out of him by Larry, only to have Buffy save him. After that, he'd gone home to find his dad home early and also drunk, which meant that his ribs weren't going to be feeling better any time soon and that he'd gotten to hear the wonderful story of the condom breaking for the 8,458th time. After that, a quick and humiliating jaunt to the Scooby meeting where they welcomed his doughnuts and shunned his help, and then, finally, here - his one peaceful place.
Peaceful, at least, until he heard the crunch of tires on the gravel road, and the unmistakable sounds of an engine, that same engine turning off, a car door opening and closing, and shoes, walking toward his formerly quiet oasis. Yep, must be...any day in Xander's life, really.
Xander sipped his soda, deciding he was too tired to care. He didn't even feel at all surprised to see the black leather duster topped with shiny blond helmet-hair. Spike. Great.
He thought that Spike looked preoccupied, and then found himself being impressed against his will as he watched him leap up onto the rocks, traversing the stones like a goat - graceful, sure-footed, and not really goaty at all. Maybe more like a spider. Xander killed that thought, not wanting to inadvertently conjure up vampire spiders. Living on the Hellmouth played hell on your sense of whimsy. He watched as Spike paused, crouched about fifteen feet away on an outcropping.
"Hey," Xander said, quietly, figuring that spooking the bloodthirsty killer was a bad plan.
Spike's head swung toward him, and his body posture changed from casual to tense in less than a heartbeat. "Slayer's boy," he hissed, eyes flashing yellow.
"Yeah, well," Xander said, lifting his soda can in a salute. "I'm on break."
Spike's posture relaxed, and in a second he changed from an eagle, perched to swoop down and snare its prey into a...guy, who was settling himself to sit on the rock, feet dangling. "So, you're saying you won't try to stake me?" Spike asked, amusement in his voice.
"Long as you don't try to exsanguinate me," Xander offered.
"Exsanguinate? Big word," Spike said, pulling a flask from his pocket.
"Not so much. In Sunnydale, that's on the third-grade vocab test."
"I guess it is," Spike said. He tilted the flask toward Xander, who shook his head.
"So that's a 'yes' on the no killing clause?" Xander asked.
They sat quietly for a while before Spike got restlessly to his feet, checking out the nearby rocks and slowly moving closer to Xander. He finally wound up near Jesse's spot.
"OK if I sit down?"
Xander nodded, watching as Spike pulled his duster off, revealing black jeans and a black tee shirt. He folded the jacket and laid it on the "desk part" of Willow's rock before settling on his back in Jesse's place, feet crossed, head hanging over to look at the quarry pool and its reflection of the nearly-full moon upside down. Xander had to look away.
"What are you doing back in town?" he asked, mostly to stop the memories from crowding his head. "I thought you and Buffy had a 'no return' policy."
Spike frowned, then rearranged himself so that he was sitting cross-legged, facing Xander. "Had to come back. I needed to check on Angelus."
"Far as I know, he's still in hell," Xander said. "I hope it sucks."
"Something didn't feel right," Spike said, still frowning. "There was some kind of..."
"Tremor in the Force?" Xander supplied, grinning.
Spike grinned, too, and Xander was struck by how young, how human he looked.
"Something like that," Spike said.
"What's it to you, anyway?" Xander asked. "I thought you hated him."
"I do," Spike said. "It's...complicated."
"At the school, you said he was your sire. He wouldn't tell me what that meant." Xander tipped his can, drank the last of his soda.
"Your sire's the vampire who made you."
"Angel's your daddy?" Xander couldn't keep the "ick" out of his voice.
"No, git," Spike said, rolling his eyes. "He made Dru, Dru made me."
"So, he's your Granddaddy. And Dru's your Mom and also your girlfriend. Very...Springer-esque."
"Vampire families are different," Spike said. "Can't go applying human logic."
"Not a problem," Xander quipped. "I'm not known for my powers of human logic. So, Angel's still safely in Hell: what do you do next?"
"Disneyland," Spike deadpanned. "Nah, Dru wants to go to Prague. 's all she bloody talks about - daddy and Prague."
"Hmmmm," Xander said, mulling it over in his head. "The girl you love is pining for someone else, Angel specifically. Believe me when I say that I know exactly how much that sucks."
Spike took another sip from his flask. "Had a thing for the Slayer, did you?"
Xander nodded. "Never claimed to be smart."
"It's blood, not brains," Spike said. "Unfortunately, the smarter parts of us don't control who we love."
"Ain't it the truth," Xander said. He placed the soda can down on the rock and stepped up to the edge of the quarry pool to relieve himself, a little surprised that he felt completely at ease turning his back on Spike.
"How's that water?" Spike asked. "Cold?"
Xander's brain supplied the punchline to the joke. "Yep," he said, zipping up. "Deep, too."
They shared a laugh, and Xander picked up his soda can, then looked toward the woods. "I better head home," he said. "School tomorrow."
Spike stood up gracefully and reached for his duster, laying it reverently over his arm.
"Have a nice trip," Xander said. "Don't come back." He held his hand out.
Spike took it, and Xander was surprised by the smooth coolness of his skin. "No promises, mate," he said.
"Fair enough," Xander replied. "You come back to town and the deal's off, you know."
"Fair enough," Spike repeated. "You need a ride somewhere?"
"Nope, I'm good." Xander patted the stake in his back pocket, then turned and walked off toward the trees. Had he turned to look, he would have seen Spike watching, a look of grudging respect on his face.