Author: Cobalt Mystic
Title: Miles to Go (Prologue, Chapt 1 of 4)
Rating: hard R
Feedback: Suit yourself, just no permanent damage, k.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, neither set of pretty kittens are mine, and I must be content to merely play with them, but I will gladly groom and bathe them all before sending them back home to their Daddy’s (aka Joss/Mutant Enemy/et al, Kripke/McG/et al, respectively- oh, and a bunch of other corporate-type ppl who aren’t me).
Warnings/Squicks: post-Chosen, no such thing as S8, AU
Summary: Xander isn’t coping well with the aftermath of Sunnydale, but Willow thinks she may have found just what the doctor ordered…
AN1: The title and chapter headings come from Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening -Robert Frost
AN2: The story takes place post- Chosen for BtVS (S8, what S8?), covers AtS through Damage, and is pre-series for SPN.
AN3: Sorry, ppl, but this is NOT a Xander/Dean pairing fic, it’s pure Spander with a generous helping of Dean friendship.
“Hey, DM, a little help here?”
The lithe body above the young man promptly turned into a rain of dust before the question had even been completed.
“Thanks man,” the hazel-eyed brunette offered as his ‘rescuer’ helped him up.
“No problem, glad to be of service. You’d think, in your line of work you’d be better prepared for this kind of thing,” he chided his companion humorously.
“Well, we can’t all be raised on a Hellmouth with witches, vampires, and Slayers as our best-friends. Some of us don’t get to specialize.”
It was an old, friendly argument between the two. Both men knew full well they had vastly different areas of ‘expertise’. It was part of what made them such a great team.
For over six months now, Xander Harris and Dean Winchester had been together (no, not like that- shesh, people get your minds out of the gutter), roaming the countryside, fighting the good fight, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera…
***Chapter 1: Lovely, Dark, and Deep***
Willow worried about Xander. He didn’t smile as much these days and he seemed to turn in on himself. He brooded almost as much as Angel, and the oddest things seemed to set him off. The young witch had been prepared for fallout from Anya’s death, only it never came- not so you’d notice at any rate.
It was strange, when they’d been recuperating in L.A., Wesley and Gunn had tried to get Xander to go out, grab a beer, do guy things, but he would beg off finding some excuse or another. Even Angel had tried to coax the young man back out of his shell- Angel would have been happy just to have gotten a “Deadboy” out of him, at least then he would know everything was normal with the boy. The only person who seemed to connect with him was Lorne. If Xander wasn’t in ‘his’ room or with Dawn, he was off with the flashy green demon.
Now that they were away from the L.A. crew, Xander was in Africa- Willow’d tried to talk to her friend, but all he’d say was he needed time- alone. And that no, it wasn’t because of Anya, and no, it wasn’t the pirate look he was sporting. It was personal, between himself and his heart.
‘Himself and his heart,’ that phrase was what worried the red-headed witch the most…
Then the Winchesters all but fell in her lap. After Sunnydale, when the Scoobies set about rebuilding the Watchers’ Council, Willow and Giles took up organizing and networking their little occult hearts out, which was how they came to find the Winchesters. It had taken Willow less than five minutes before she knew that Dean was exactly what could bring her oldest and dearest friend out of the funk he’d been in since the battle with the First. Dean was cocky, arrogant, street smart, snarky, had a mean sense of humour, and a trace of darkness that was as much a part of him as his expressive hazel eyes. In other words, he reminded her of Spike. And Spike had always been able to get to her Xander-shaped friend. For good or bad, the vamp had known how to get a rise out of him, and Willow hoped Dean would be able to provoke the same reaction. She missed her Xander.
The next time Xander returned from R & R (Recon and Recovery), Willow made her move.
“Hey Xan, you up for a change of pace?”
“Sure Will,” he replied groaning on the inside. Why couldn’t they just let him be? He was fine. Just needed some time. *Hello, twenty-something processing earth-shattering, perception-altering, turning-your-world-upside-down type info here! Gimme a break…* “What’d’ya have in mind?”
“We need someone to meet up with a father/son demon hunting team. They could be good allies, not to mention the first-hand information they could share!”
The young man shrugged, “Okay, sounds good, but why me?”
“You’d rather we sent Andrew?”
“Only if we want to make more enemies.”
Xander’s response had the young witch giddy with excitement- not only had he agreed to go, but he took a pot-shot at Andrew!
A week later, Xander was sitting in an Iron Skillet waiting for his first meeting with John and Dean Winchester.
He sat in a corner booth, window to his left, decent view of the entrance, good view of the parking lot, and a clear view of the rest of the dining area.
When the large black car roared into the lot, Xander felt his heart skip a beat. Logically, he knew it wasn’t The Desoto (hells, he doubted it was even a Dodge), just as he knew that the driver wasn’t a dead sexy, bleach blonde, snarky, undead bastard with eyes so blue you could drown in them as easily as you could drown in the clearest oceans. Still, his heart jumped at the possibility, however fleeting.
Xander prided himself on having few regrets, he figured it came with living on the Hellmouth and ‘knowing’ it. But there was one regret he was still fighting with. One that he kept pretty much to himself- hells, if Lorne hadn’t cornered him in ‘the aftermath’ he’d probably still be keeping it from himself. After his initial freakage, he sought out the green music loving demon- and wasn’t that a surreal conversation, or ten! At any rate, Xander found himself examining himself, his life, his loves, and his friendships. *Introspection- not just for the broody undead anymore.* What he realized, much to his chagrin, was that maybe, just maybe he wasn’t as straight as he thought, and perhaps he and Buffy had more in common than he was comfortable admitting.
A slamming door brought Xander out of his musings and back to the car- an Impala, maybe- or more accurately the two men who had just climbed out of it.
One was older, 40’s or 50’s, built kinda like Angel with broad shoulders and a haunted look about him. The other man was younger, 20’s probably, a more compact version of his companion. These two might just be the people he was here to meet; he’d know soon enough.
As the two entered the diner, they seemed to give the place a once over before the elder man cocked his head in Xander’s direction.
If Xander needed further confirmation, he got it when a hand was presented to him and a voice spoke, “Mr. Harris, I presume.”
Despite himself, Xander smiled at the man as he shook his hand, “You must be Dean.”
“Yep, and this is my dad,” he indicated the other man.
“John,” he said as he shook Xander’s hand in turn.
“Nice to meet you. Willow sends her regards.”
The trio talked into the night. Only parting ways after agreeing to meet at John and Dean’s motel the following day.
They sat around the Winchester’s room, laughing and trading tales of demons, Hellmouths, spells, and possessions. Eventually, the elder Winchester begged off claiming that a comfortable bed and nothing to hunt were too rare an occurrence to allow to go to waste, but that the boys shouldn’t let that stop them from continuing their evening.
Shortly after being shooed from one motel room, Dean and Xander were ensconced in another- this one belonging to the Scooby.
“So, if you don’t mind me asking, how’d you wind up doing this?”
“Easy. Demon killed my mom. Dad took me and Sammy on the run, one thing led to another and…,” the young man shrugged- not the shrug of one who doesn’t care, but the shrug of resignation.
“Sorry man. Didn’t mean to open a wound.”
“Hey, no worries,” Dean gave a small smile, “was twenty years ago.”
The two sat quietly for a moment, nursing their beers, before Dean asked, “What’s with you and Eglantine?”
Xander damn near spewed beer all over the carpet. Choking, he wiped his mouth, “Who?”
“Your witch, Willow.”
“Willow… Eglantine? What?”
“Telling me they didn’t have movies in Sunnydale?” Dean rolled his eyes, “Eglantine Price- Bedknobs and Broomsticks- witch, fights off a battalion of Nazis with re-animated suits of armour. Any of this ringing any bells?”
”O-kay, guess I can’t call ya DM either, then?”
Xander wrinkled his brow at that reference.
Sighing, Dean covered his left eye with his hand saying, ”Danger Mouse.”
Suddenly as that, Xander burst out laughing. ”Oh man, does that make Giles ’Colonel K’? Ha! He’ll hate that more than ’G-man’.”
Xander chuckled and flapped his hand at Dean as if waving the words away, ”Just a nickname. One of many. Though why my calling him G-man was worse than Spike’s ’Rupes’ I’ll never know!”
”Yeah, Spike,” Xander got a far off look, ”friend of ours.”
Dean knew that look, but curiosity got the better of him, ”What happened?”
”He died when Sunnydale went down.”
”You guys were close.”
Xander eyed Dean as if he’d grown another head. Trying to mask his shock, he asked, ”What exactly do you know about us?”
Now it was Dean’s turn to look confused. ”Know you work for the Watcher’s Council and that it was your bunch that took down the California Hellmouth. Beyond that, not much.”
Taking a deep breath Xander asked, “You know about Angel?”
“Vamp, based in L.A., supposed to be some sort of ‘champion’, right?”
“Well, that’s the PR version. What about The Initiative?”
“Sure, they’re one of those Area 51-type operations.”
“Oh brother,” Xander ran his hand through his hair and began the long story of the male half of The Scourge of Europe- curses, chips, souls, and all…
“’bout sums it up, yeah.”
“Sounds like Spike was more a hero than this Angel guy.”
“Hmph. Don’t let it out but Spike was a better man-vamp-person than Deadboy could ever be, even before the soul.”
Chuckling, Dean sputtered, “He was your Penfold.”
The segue way seemed to come straight out of left-field. The suddenness and the image his words brought forth caused Xander to laugh and cringe simultaneously. “Jeez, thanks Dean, I will never be able to look at a hamster with a straight face again. Though I doubt Spike would stand for being relegated to a sidekick.”
Completely unremorseful, Dean gulped his beer, tilting his head to the side as he raised one eyebrow, “Hey, shoe fits.”
“Yeah, well in this case they’d be ancient Docs going where the sun don’t shine.”
Dean smirked and chuckled. He liked Xander, liked having a guy around to do guy things with. Not that his dad wasn’t great, but he was his dad! And no matter how unconventional their relationship was, there were some things that weren’t father-son material. Besides, having Xander around made him miss Sammy a little less. It certainly made him feel less alone.
Xander wasn’t looking forward to leaving, but he had Slayers to locate and the Scoobies were counting on him. Still, hanging and talking shop with Dean was the most normal he’d felt since Sunnydale. It felt good. He felt good.
John Winchester was not, by nature, an indecisive man. In his ‘business’ indecision could all too easily equal death, but this was different. For the first time since his youngest son left, his eldest was happy. And despite common perception, a happy Dean was a more focused Dean. So, the question was, should he try to get Xander to join them or, more to the point, join Dean?
Willow was confused. When she’d sent Xander to meet with the Winchesters, she’d had high hopes for Xander’s and Dean’s friendship. Her hopes seemed to be fulfilled judging by Xander’s ‘reports’ and the few phone conversations they’d had recently. Xander had seemed so much more like his jovial Xander-ish-self… until yesterday. She hoped that it was merely that her friend was having a bad day, but she was afraid that it was more than that.
Sighing heavily, she checked the time and reached for the phone. It was time to lay the cards on the table- first with Xander, then the Winchesters.
Xander saw the familiar number on his caller id and quickly answered. “Hey, Wills, wasn’t expecting to hear from you ‘til tomorrow. Everything alright?”
“Yeah Xan, I… would it be completely emasculating to say I was worried about you?”
“As long as I’m the only one who hears it, I think my manhood and I’ll survive.”
The witch giggled at the mirth in her friends voice as much as his words. “Oh, Xander, it’s good to hear you happy. I’ve missed that.”
“Sorry, Willow, I’ve just been working through some stuff, you know.”
“Xan? Do you not want to come back?”
“Of course I do! I love you guys, besides, I’d be lost without my Willow.”
Xander was confused, his friend sounded so small, did she want to get rid of him? Trying to sound authoritative, and considering he was talking to Willow, super-witch-extraordinaire, he figured it was futile, but he wouldn’t be Xander Harris if he didn’t try, “What is it Willow?”
“It’s only, well, you sounded so happy when you got there and more and more of our Xander seemed to be coming back, then we started talking about your coming home and you got all un-Xandery again, so I thought, maybe you wanted to stay. And it’s fine if you do- we… I just want my Xander-friend to be happy again.”
“Wills,” he hadn’t wanted to have this conversation over the phone, but there were some things Willow needed to know about him and his feelings and , well, just things, “this may take awhile.”
After her chat with Xander, his behaviour the past months all fell into place. She only wished she had known and could’ve been more help to him. At least now she’d be able to do something- a quick word with Giles and a very enlightening conversation (in which she learnt of John’s belief that his son needed someone like Xander around to keep him sane and focused) with the elder Winchester later had ensured Xander’s and Dean’s partnership.