~ written for the Spander Inquisition, for thisveryinstant. I'm not sure it's exactly what you asked for, but hopefully it's close enough.

Xander lay on his back, staring at the ceiling, trying not to think. Living down here wasn't as different as he'd expected it to be. He'd told himself he would be grown-up now: paying rent and having his own private residence and being his own man. But the basement didn't feel like his. It felt like his parents' basement, and paying rent didn't make him feel responsible, it made him feel poor.

The only good thing about it was the back door. He could come and go as he pleased -- not that his parents had ever cared or noticed where he went and how late he was out. But with his own door he could come and go without walking through their house. He didn't have to sneak past them, didn't have to wonder what he was going to see.

Xander remembered seeing someone try to kill himself.

He closed his eyes and rolled onto his stomach, and tried to think about how great it was to have his own space, if not technically his own place. He made his own decisions, he thought proudly.

Although hadn't he been doing that since he was thirteen? Xander grabbed the pillow, shoved his head under it, then rolled onto his back once more and tried the ceiling again. Maybe music would help. He scooted over to the side of the bed and reached for the boombox, hitting the play button.

The sound of Shelly Chambers' quiet voice filled the room and Xander hastily stabbed the stop button. He remembered, belatedly, he'd been listening to the 'Rains of Autumn' album that morning.

That morning when he hadn't tried to not think about the first time he'd walked into a room and seen someone trying to commit suicide."Dammit!" Xander sat up, knowing that this was not going to work. Sitting alone in the dark wasn't going to make him forget; why had he even thought it might? He should have done like he'd done last night: ask Willow to stay over for awhile, luring her with TV and popcorn and sodas, and neither of them said anything about anything else. Things had gone pretty good until Spike had shown up and badgered them into going out on patrol -- they hadn't found anything to beat up so Spike and had walked along behind them, complaining and attacking garbage cans, as Xander escorted Willow safely home.

Xander suddenly wondered why Spike had then followed *him* home, unless it was just in hopes Xander would attract something worth beating up.

He thought about calling Willow now, but it was late and she probably had a morning class, or schoolwork. She'd come over if he whined enough, but he really didn't want to bother her. She'd worry, and a worried Willow made it all the more difficult not to think about things.

Xander grabbed his jeans, shoved them on, and dug around until he found his shoes under the bed. He found his jacket -- the one with stakes in the pockets -- and headed out. As he locked the back door behind him, he still didn't feel grown-up. No notes left on the fridge, no need to make a phone call sometime before midnight.

He left his jacket unzipped and walked away.

Xander found himself in the Browns Cemetery. Buffy had patrolled here last night, so chances were it was clean. That was fine with him; Xander didn't really want to fight anything. He just needed to get out, walk around, clear his head.

A small demon attack would be all right. Something short, and with feathers instead of claws. Something he could scare away by screaming rather than actually engage in combat.

Xander laughed at himself. He'd pretty much just guaranteed he'd come across--

"What the bloody hell are you doing out here?"

He spun, but didn't scream. It was a close thing, though; Xander's intake of breath caught in his throat before it could get out. He was gratified to find a stake in his hand; thank god for small mercies and well-honed reflexes.


Spike looked at him with what could only be called disdain. "You looking to get yourself killed? I only ask because I wouldn't mind having some bait. Got no nibbles at all so far."

Xander's brain wasn't catching up very fast, but as soon as he said, "What?" he caught on. Giving Spike a glare, he said, "I'm not being bait. I'm just... patrolling."

"Uh huh."

"I'm just walking, Spike. Why don't you go somewhere else and play Slayer?"

He saw an expression cross Spike's face that Xander decided instantly he didn't want to know anything more about. He gripped the stake in his hand more tightly, thinking he might shoo Spike off by threatening--

"So, you came out to do a little manly demon-pummeling yourself, did you?" Spike asked breezily, as though there was nothing odd about there conversation at all.

Xander wondered if maybe there *wasn't* anything odd about it. "Well, if I come across anything that needs slaying, yeah. I'm ready." He hoped he sounded more confident and less stupid than he felt. Xander felt his face flush red, and Spike laughed.

"That's the spirit," Spike said, not even bothering to hide the mocking tone. "Go walking out among the dead men, and prove you can kill anything that crosses your path, eh?"

"And what are you doing out here, Spike? Looking for kittens to step on?"

"I can kill demons," Spike said casually. "A fact you might remember, seeing as how I saved you brats just two nights ago."

Xander replied, "And nearly brought on the Apocalypse by throwing the demon into the Hellmouth." But as he said it, he saw it again. The image as he walked into the room, and saw it -- resignation, fear. Death.

Spike was looking down at Xander's hand, and Xander realised he'd grabbed Spike's arm. "Ye-es?" Spike asked.

"I-- nothing. Whatever. Go fight some demons and have fun. Whatever. I don't care." He turned around to walk away, and he wondered just why his heart was pounding so hard.

"You could go with me," Spike's voice stopped him. Xander whirled around to snap that he wasn't going to be bait, when he saw Spike's face. It cleared instantly, and Spike shrugged. "We can go find something to beat up."

"Why would I *want* to find something to beat up?" Xander asked, but he took a step forward and the disbelief had gone out of his voice. In that second when he'd turned around, he'd seen something. The same thing he'd heard in Spike's voice when he'd asked Xander to go with him.

Two nights ago, Spike had tried to kill himself. He'd since found a new reason for living -- such as it was. But Xander remembered. Six years ago, walking into Jesse's garage and finding him standing on the workbench with a rope. He'd tackled his friend and they'd gone tumbling, breaking Jesse's wrist and giving Xander bruises on his cheek and forehead. They'd made up a story for everyone but Willow.

Afterwards, Jesse hadn't ever been the same. Ironically enough, two years later Xander would be the one to kill him -- and now here was Spike, a being over a hundred years old who'd nearly died in Xander's basement and was now -- bizarrely -- hoping Xander would hang out with him.

"I'm not being the bait," Xander said again. But he wasn't arguing anymore about whether or not he would be caught dead in Spike's company.

Spike waved a hand. "Whatever." But his eyes had lit up, for a split second.

And Xander, who was beginning to think that maybe nothing really was ever supposed to make sense, found himself not hating the idea of patrolling the cemetery with Spike.


Xander was lying on his back, staring up at the ceiling. He looked over to see Anya standing in the doorway of the bedroom. He sat up when he saw what she was holding. "An?"

She set the suitcase down, and looked at him. Her eyes were sad, but determined. For a moment they didn't say anything to each other, and Anya just fiddled with the strap of the backpack slung over her shoulder.

"The spell's gone," she said, unnecessarily. But then, most of the things she said were unnecessary.

Xander wondered if that was as heartless a thing to think as it sounded. "Yeah." He got up, and walked around the bed towards her. He'd been listening to her moving around, not realising what she was doing. Would he have stopped her, if he'd known?

Was that why she hadn't waited 'til he was at work, and snuck out like girlfriends were supposed to do when they walked out on you?

"I think...I'm not going to make demands, Xander. And don't worry; I'm not going to seek revenge. I'm hurt, understandably, but I've realised that I'm not entirely surprised. So I think it's best if I simply leave. And you may attempt to contact me, and send me presents as a way of expressing your guilt at leading me on, but don't expect me to return any phone calls. Or expensive jewelry." Anya nodded, decisively, and Xander found himself mentally checking his bank account. She was right, she deserved something. Everything she could get.

He'd lied to her for a long time, and last week when they'd been unable to avoid singing their hopes, dreams, and innermost fears to each other, he'd finally admitted it.

Anya hadn't said a word about it until now.

"I--" Xander began, but there was really nothing to say.

"Tell me one thing, Xander. I think I deserve that much."

Xander nodded.

"Tell me when you fell in love with him."

Xander looked down at her suitcase, and wondered where she would go. She'd traveled the world over for a thousand years; she would have plenty of places to choose from. "Let me carry this for you," he said quietly, and bent over and picked up her bag.