Title: That Summer
Disclaimer: No profit was earned in the writing of this fic. Any resemblance to real fictional characters is intentional but well meaning. Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. No animals were harmed in the writing of this fic.
A/N: So my Fic-A-Thon assignment was to try an Asher/Xander romance, and this is my feeble attempt. Unfortunately this means I have two stories in progress simultaneously, but I noticed that in Chauntcy’s birthday request she asked for Xander/Asher so I'm posting it anyway. Happy Birthday!
‘Country music, the music of pain,’ Xander mused as the bus bumped along the road, heading for god knows where. It was early in the morning, and most of the passengers were asleep in the back. Xander didn’t mind so much pulling the third shift for driving. The roads were especially quiet at four a.m., he had time to think, and none of the sleeping slayers would criticize his music choice.
“That was ‘Don’t Take the Girl’ by Tim McGraw,” a soft voice drawled; the voice of Death Valley, or so she claimed as a short commercial for ATVs cut into the station’s tagline. It had been four years since Xander had last driven down these roads and it was nice to know the radio stations had diversified. There were now two country stations for him to choose from. Xander pulled over to a small gas station to fill up. Who knew when he’d see another gas station in these parts? A few girls stirred, but none of them woke. Even Andrew, who had been pulling the “are we there yet” for the past few hours, had settled down for the night. Xander bought himself a box of twinkies and a large coke to keep him up until someone relieved him at seven. By the time he made it back into the driver’s seat, the commercials had finished, and they’d nearly finished some song about a jukebox. He pulled back onto the two-lane highway. “That was Brooks and Dunn ‘Neon Moon’ kicking off an hour long block of the best country music.” Xander smiled, amused that even on the countriest of stations, the d.j.s tended to sound like NPR at this hour of the morning. “Now one of my favorites, ‘That Summer’ by Garth Brooks,” The soft voice informed the sleeping bus occupants.
“It doesn’t get much more prophetic than that.” Xander mumbled with a smile pulling onto the road heading due east, retracing the route he took four years ago, that summer.
4 years ago…
“I do not think this is a good idea.” Asher mumbled glancing up at the decrepit antebellum mansion.
“Your opinion has been duly noted.” Jean-Claude sighed. “However I see no way around it.”
“Why can you not force Anita into exile instead? She killed him.” Asher pouted.
“You know I can not force Anita from St. Louis, even if I thought I could hold that city without her. Besides, she had a warrant for Sven; there was nothing else she could do.”
“So that is it?” We must concede to the United States and the Council? I thought you were the master here.”
“Mon ami, you of all people should understand even rulers must obey laws.” Jean-Claude got out of the car and walked up to the front door of the house. “Besides, it is not so bad here.”
“It is an exile, and you know it.” Asher angrily watched Jean-Claude pull out a silk handkerchief to wipe off the doorknob before inserting a key into the lock.
“For a year you have threatened to leave my city and take a territory of your own. Consider this practice, my dear.” Jean-Claude smirked as his friend hesitantly pushed the door open. They surveyed the mess; bullet holes peppered the walls, glass was shattered on the floor, and not a single piece of furniture was left intact. “It looks like ma petite enjoyed herself.” Jean-Claude observed the charred stair railing.
“I am so happy for her.” Asher said bitterly. “But next time she takes out every vampire in a three county area, she should at least help with the clean up.”
“I will pass that message on.”
“I will tell her myself.” Asher turned to head back to the Lincoln town car waiting in the drive.
“No.” Jean-Claude held his friend back. “You must stay. The council ordered me to send a master, and you are the only one I can trust this close to my borders. Please stay. I promise I will send for you as soon as Guillermo returns from Spain.”
“That will be months.” Asher stated, trying to ignore the desperate look in his friend’s eyes. “The nearest town is five miles away and hardly accepting to our kind after Sven invoked the rites of Odin. How am I to feed?”
“You are strong. You are clever.” Jean-Claude shrugged, torn at the thought of leaving his friend in such a barren wasteland. “We have been through worse.”
“They will burn me at the stake, Jean-Claude.”
“Only if they catch you, mon chardonnet. Look, I will talk to the wolves and convince one of them to come here before the week is out.”
“And in the meantime?” Asher picked at the peeling paint on the front door.
“Something will come up. It always does, my friend.” Jean-Claude placed a single kiss on Asher’s forehead.
“I hate you.” Asher frowned.
“And I would rather spend an eternity with you, as my nemesis, than a month away from you, but fate is cruel. Goodbye, Asher.” Jean-Claude said sadly.
“Goodbye, Jean-Claude.” Asher watched Jean-Claude drive down the gravel road until the car disappeared onto the highway.
“Damnit!” Xander said, slapping the steering wheel as his car slowly drifted into a ditch and stopped. The novelty of his road trip had worn off somewhere around Nevada, but he was too stubborn to head back to the Hellmouth. No, he had promised himself that he would see the Statue of Liberty before he died, and the way things were back home, if he didn’t take care of it now, it would never happen. Unfortunately, his uncle’s car didn’t have quite the same ambition he had. It had started making funny noises in Colorado. A bunch of lights came on near the Kansas border, but the mechanic in Wichita had assured him it was nothing. Now here he was, in the middle of nowhere, Missouri, and smoke was pouring from the hood of the car. He had tried turning the keys in the ignition hoping it would come back to life, but the car made a screeching noise and the key snapped. “Damnit!”
He got out of the car, and pulled his duffel bag from the back seat, slinging the old army luggage on his back. He hadn’t seen any driveways for the past several miles, so he decided to keep walking the way he was going, hoping he was closer to civilization than the last sign had promised. He started trudging down the road, his thumb ready in case anyone driving this road wasn’t too afraid to pick up a young hitchhiker.
The sun was setting, and Xander had yet to come upon anything more than an abandoned barn. Two trucks had driven past, not even slowing down for the teenager. He was about ready to turn off the road and find a dry tree to sleep under, when he caught sight of a single light flicker on, somewhere near the horizon. He made a beeline for the light, ignoring the decrepit sign post at the edge of the field, in hopes that this light would be his salvation. It was nearly fifteen minutes later when he reached the gravel drive leading up the large house. The light was coming from the back of the house, and as Xander approached the front, he got the eerie sensation that something was wrong with this place. Still, it was the first sign of civilization he had seen in miles, so he had to at least try. He knocked on the door. From the fields, he heard a low howl of a wild animal; across the ways the howl was echoed by another.
Asher heard a knocking and frowned. He hoped it was not the townspeople back to finish the job. He got up from the kitchen table, and headed to the front hallway slowly, hoping if he took his time the person would go away.
“Hello?” Xander yelled, wondering if the knock was too quiet for such a large house. He prayed that someone was really there; that it wasn’t just an illusion like some desert mirage. “Hey! Is anyone here?”
Finally the door opened a creak. “What do you want?” Asher muttered.
“Hi.” Xander said, surprised that someone actually was there. “Um, my car broke down a few miles back.” He pointed wearily back across the cornfield he had crossed. “Do you have a phone or something I could borrow to get a tow truck?”
“The phone is broken.” Asher said, starting to shut the door.
“How far is it to the nearest town?” Xander stuck his foot in the doorway.
“I believe it is five miles.” Asher replied, studying the young man in front of him. Perhaps he was not a local out for some vamphunting.
“Damnit.” Xander muttered under his breath. “Look, I’ve been walking for two hours now, I’m not sure I can make it that far tonight. I know this sounds bad, and I can understand if you say no, but please can I just crash on your couch or something tonight? I’ll be out first thing in the morning.” Xander turned on his puppy dog eyes. They had never failed with Willow; of course, that was Willow and not some creepy guy in the middle of nowhere, Missouri.
Asher looked the boy over. He seemed strong, but soft, honest, and hardworking. His blood was fresh, and Asher was hungry. It had been only twenty four hours since Jean-Claude had left him, but Asher was feeling weak already.
“At least, can I use your bathroom?” Xander looked desperately into the ice cold blue eyes.
“Oui, you may enter.” Asher held the door open.
“Thanks, you’re a lifesaver.” Xander breathed a sigh of relief and entered the dark old house.
“The bathroom is under the stairs. I will be waiting in the kitchen.” Asher announced, then headed to the back of the house not even looking back to see if the teenager had followed him.
“Thanks.” Xander said quietly. As he stepped forward, he heard glass crunch under his shoe. “Sorry about that.” Xander offered, but Asher ignored it. As Xander continued down the dark hallway, he stepped on several pieces of glass. “Definitely not a place to go barefoot,” Xander mused, turning into the small room under the stair well. He ran his hand along the wall to flick on the light switch, surprised by how bright the light actually was. The room was actually decorated quite contemporarily in black and white, not at all going with the rustic farmhouse look, Xander thought as he got to his business. Of course, that stripe going across the wall was a bit out of place. Xander leaned forward to get a better look, and noticed that it wasn’t a stripe so much as a row of small bullet holes from some sort of automatic weapon. The stripe ended miraculously an inch from the mirror and light fixture. Looking down at his feet, Xander noticed some red spots under the toilet. Sure, they could just be rust from a leaky pipe, but they could also be blood; he couldn’t tell. Suddenly the pieces fit together- crazy man, old house, middle of nowhere, bullet holes- obviously this was the hideout of a psycho killer.
Xander stumbled as he quickly flushed and washed his hands. “Thanks, I’ll just be leaving now.” Xander called as he headed back down the pitch black hallway towards the door.
“You may spend the night.” Asher said from the doorway of the kitchen.
“Oh no, I would hate to impose on you.” Xander said, shrinking back from the large body silhouetted by the light of the kitchen.
“I insist.” Asher took a step forward. “You are in no shape to make it to town tonight, and everyone will be asleep by the time you get there.”
“That’s okay.” Xander whispered. “I don’t want to be any bother to you.”
“It would be no bother.” Asher frowned; something must have affected this boy severely for the boy to be so frightened so suddenly. He took a step forward as Xander took a step back, and peered into the bathroom. His eyes quickly fell on the line of bullet holes. “Oh, I see.” Asher nodded, taking another step forward. Xander’s step faltered as he lost his footing on some broken glass. He caught himself on the banister, but it became pretty obvious he was trying to retreat. “It is not what you think. Ma petite had a party here. It got out of hand, that is all.”
“That’s a party?” Xander whispered.
“I know, ma petite often has problems with, how do you say, overkill?”
“And this ma petite? It’s not your alternate personality or something, is it?”
Asher studied the brunette boy in front of him. He had such an expressive face for a man scared for his life. Suddenly the situation seemed hilarious to Asher and he couldn’t help but laugh, a deep laughter that sent shivers up Xander’s spine. “No, ma petite and I rarely see eye to eye on anything. God forbid we share a body.”
“Okay.” Xander was all for the smile, nod, and back away slowly strategy.
“Ma petite is the girlfriend of my, shall we say companion, who owns this house. She had a bit of a tantrum here. Now I am to stay here and clean this over the summer, so that he can pass it to the next owner this fall.”
“So, the bullet holes aren’t yours?”
“Are you sure?” Xander asked.
“Even if I said yes, you would not trust me, eh?” Asher smirked slightly before his face returned to the typical cold mask he normally wore.
“No, I guess not.”
“Then we are at an impasse.”
“I could leave.”
“It would take you hours to walk to town.” Asher commented.
“True.” Xander eyed the front door nervously.
“I have some food in the kitchen still. How about you have some dinner first? Then you can decide if you want to risk walking for the night. After all, the full moon is out tonight. There is light for you to walk by, but also light for other predators to hunt by.”
“Yeah, I hadn’t noticed.” Xander winced as another howl rang up from the fields, echoed by the pack. “You’ve got wild dogs in these parts?”
“You could say that.” Asher shrugged. “They sound hungry.” Asher turned back to the kitchen.
Xander glanced between the man and the front door. The man seemed odd, but there was only one of him. Who knew how many wild dogs there were out there, or worse. Perhaps he had been living on the Hellmouth too long, but the sounds of howls at the full moon always reminded him of Oz. Known evil it was then. Xander followed the man into the kitchen.
“So what are you having for dinner?” Xander asked.
“I have already eaten. Help yourself to whatever you find.” Asher nodded towards the pantry. Xander fished out a can of pork and beans, some crackers, and canned pears. “It’s okay if I have this?”
“You may have any food in there.” Asher said, leaning back in the chair by the back door.
“Thanks.” Xander dropped the cans on the kitchen. “Do you have a can opener?”
“I don’t know.” Asher answered honestly.
“Oookay.” Xander nodded slowly before deciding he may as well rummage through the drawers. He found a fork two drawers before he found a can opener. “So what’s your name?” Xander decided some conversation was called for, feeling self conscious as the other man watched him gather his dinner.
“Asher. And you?”
“Just call me Xander.” Xander pulled the lid off the pork and beans. “So, I take it you’re not a local?”
“No.” Asher answered simply.
“So, where are you from?”
“Originally, France, but of late I have lived in St. Louis.”
“And this friend of yours, he’s in St. Louis?” Asher nodded. “So how did his girlfriend end up down here, tearing up this old house?”
“I make no excuses for Anita.” Asher shrugged, watching Xander take a bite of beans. “Where are you from?”
“California.” Asher arched a brow. “Sunnydale, actually. It’s a few hours outside of LA.” Asher’s other brow went up in surprise. “You’ve heard of it?” Xander said, suddenly feeling nervous again. People who heard of Sunnydale generally weren’t the kind of folk you’d want to meet on a deserted street at midnight.
“I have some family that moved near there. I would prefer the fog of Paris any day over the boring sun of California, but then, that is just my own prejudices.” Asher commented, wondering if the boy had any clue what it really meant to be from Sunnydale.
“Yeah, I have a friend from England and he says the same thing.” Xander commented, relaxing a bit. “So do you normally do home repair projects, or do you just owe your friend a huge favor?”
Asher bit back his first comment “not your concern.” Perhaps this was the luck Jean-Claude had alluded to yesterday; it would be a shame to alienate the boy so early. “Let us just say, I’m setting aside favors so that I may call on him later.”
“That’s a good idea.” Xander agreed genially.
“So what brings you to these parts?” Asher asked, wondering just how this Sunnydale boy came to his doorstep.
“I thought it was a good idea to drive to New York.” Xander shrugged, finishing the can of beans. “You know, it’s summer. I just finished high school and I’m not quite ready for that whole get a job thing, so I figured road trip would beat hanging around my parents all summer.”
“Ah.” Asher watched Xander eat a few crackers and start the can of pears. “If you would like, I can make up a bed for you upstairs. I sleep in the basement.”
“Gee, thanks, that’s awfully nice of you.” Xander smiled, hoping the man wasn’t planning how to kill him.
“It is no problem. Tomorrow, you may borrow the bicycle in the shed to get into town. They may be able to fix your car.” Asher mumbled.
“Alright. That sounds like a good plan. Thanks for letting me crash here and for letting me use the bike.”
“I tend to sleep late, so do not be surprised if you don’t see me in the morning.” Asher added, then silently got up, and headed down the hallway. Xander finished the pears then threw both cans into the trashcan. He looked around for a dishwasher, but couldn’t find any, so he threw the fork into the sink. He went down the hallway, reaching for a light switch.
“Hey, do you have a light or something?” Xander called up the stairs.
“I am afraid ma petite shot out the lights downstairs.” Asher answered back.
“Oh well.” Xander blindly groped for the stairwell and made his way up the stairs with minimal tripping. Wandering into the bedroom, Xander flicked on the lights. Asher had been fixing the sheets in the dark, and initially backed away from the light. “Oh sorry about that.” Xander mumbled, surprised to find the man working in the dark.
“My eyes are just too sensitive to light, I’m afraid.” Asher shrugged, backing into the corner where the shadows were the greatest.
“Well, this looks great. Thanks again. Hopefully, I’ll get my car all fixed and be out of your hands by morning.” Xander offered his hand to shake.
“Good luck, young Xander.” Asher leaned forward and shook hands, eager for the warm touch of flesh. Xander felt the cold fingers of Asher seem to warm up in his grasp. Xander couldn’t shake the feeling that he had just made a deal with the devil, as tingles moved from his fingers to his brain and back. Before he could react, Asher pulled away and was back in the darkness of the hallway. Xander listened to the man climb down the stairs, creaking at each step.
“Well, God, now would be a good time to prove your existence by letting me wake up tomorrow with all my limbs intact.” Xander said his quiet prayer, staring at the ceiling. The light fixture caught his eyes, decorated with naked cherubs in gold relief frolicking in frosted glass trees. Xander’s eyes strayed around the room, and the first word that came to his mind was bordello. The bed was twice the normal size, with red satin sheets. An oriental shade divided the room from the closet, and oversized pillows lined the walls. Undoubtedly, this was going to make a good story to tell his grandkids, provided of course he lived past tomorrow.