Something slightly different happened this week when I saw the challenge. I ended up in Xander's head for quite a while, but never fear, I didn't desert my OTP entirely...
Title: Life Lessons
Pairing: S/X right at the very end, kinda
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be. No harm meant, no money made.
Lesson the First - All Vampires Are Evil, Undead Demons
See, it's not his friend Jesse, not really. Not any more. It's just some killer demon wearing a Jesse-suit. With Jesse's memories. And Jesse's voice. They all say so.
It's just another monster they have to kill before it kills them. And he has the stake in his hand, and he means to use it, he really does... until Jesse speaks to him. Because it more than just sounds like Jesse, it is Jesse. Right there, inside the eyes. And now he'll never know whether or not he would have been able to do what he was supposed to do.
Lesson the Second - Not all Vampires Are Evil, Undead Demons
Angel is a vampire.
Angel has a soul.
Angel wants to help Buffy.
Angel wants Buffy.
So, after embracing lesson one - and really, how can he not, having watched his best friend turn to dust at the end of his stake - Xander has to learn lesson two. There is an exception to every rule. Their exception is Angel.
Xander doesn't like this lesson. And he doesn't like Angel. But even though lesson two somehow refuses to take, it still manages to undermine the foundations of lesson one. And sometimes Xander wonders. Just what difference does a soul really make anyway?
Lesson the Third - Soulless Demons Do Not Love
Maybe Angel with a soul did love Buffy, but without it he's a single-minded psycho-vamp. You don't terrorise the one you love. You don't kill and torture and torment their friends just so show you care. You certainly don't attempt to wipe out all humanity just to grab the attention of one teenage California girl.
But everyone refers to soulless Angelus like he's someone else, a separate individual from the Angel who hovered in their midst. Xander is confounded and confused. They're trying to find a way to save this murderous monster, yet Jesse was erased without a second thought.
Lesson the Fourth - Apparently Some Soulless Demons Do Love
The microscope hurt, and Xander is positive he'll have a scar to show his grandkids, if he survives the monster headache. And the monsters. But through the double vision and low-grade nausea he is painfully aware that Spike, the Master vampire Spike, is trying to convince sweet Willow to provide him with a love spell, in hopes of reuniting with the great love of his unlife, Drusilla.
And so yet another lesson is re-written.
This creature has no soul, and should not love, so Xander has been taught. It makes him wonder, late at night... what if Jesse had survived?
Lesson the Fifth - Love Hurts
It stings when Buffy rejects him for a walking corpse.
It burns when Cordy dumps him then tops it off with public humiliation.
It tears a hole in his heart when Willow, in the hospital, calls to Oz when he's just said the magic words...
But he really learns the lesson when Faith arrives in town. Being ridden and put away wet is bad enough, but then his first real lover tries to kill him. And, just to put the cherry on the cake, he's saved by Angel.
He very definitely doesn't think of Jesse while he learns this lesson.
Lesson the Sixth - There Are Worse Things Than Demons
This one is a bitter lesson to learn. Spike, chipped and defenceless. Soldier boys out to capture things they don't actually believe in. Riley. Buffy. The secret underground installation. The Initiative.
There are indeed things worse than demons, and top of the list is the great United Stated Government and their team of military Frankensteins.
What they did to Spike was bad enough - and doesn't that thought freak him out when it settles in - but the worst, the very worst, is how they tried to build their own monster, like a rag doll, stitched together from whatever they could find.
Lesson the Seventh - Vampires Make Strange Pets and Stranger Allies
Spike gives them information and they pay with heated bags of liquid cow. The discovery that he can still fight demons brings a change. No longer a pet puppy, Spike's a pit bull now, straining at his leash.
Slowly, over time, he starts to help for helping's sake. The others don't seem to notice that demands for blood are made by rote now, and never very often. He fights, he even sometimes comes for research nights, though never cracks a book (where they can see).
Xander starts to think, and, when he's saved by vampire strength, he thinks some more.
Lesson the Eighth - He Will Always Be A Demon Magnet
Praying Mantis lady, Inca Mummy girl, and an uncompleted pass by a newly ex-vengeance demon all confirm his status as a magnet to the less-than-human half of the population. A dangerous thing to be, living on a Hellmouth. So when Spike begins to take uncommon care to be close by when he patrols, Xander thinks it's just to reap the benefits of his un-natural draw.
And maybe it is, initially, but slowly Spike is there more and more often, always watching from the shadows, making him squirm and feel self-conscious.
That first kiss, when it finally comes, is a relief...