Wait Here
by Alexandria

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five Part Six Part Seven-Fourteen Part Fourteen-Seventeen

Part One  

The flickering of candlelight provided the only brightness in the room,
all the rest was shaded in black. It was essential that this be so, that
all other sources of light be blotted out, that the focus of everything
was this, this square of black silk and the gleam of silver. But it was
not easy to make this so, indeed that was part of the ritual. Removing
the dark cloth, swathing it over any other source of light. Draping the
windows, the doors, the television, the stereo, anything that might glow. 
After the room was shrouded, the music was set. The same way every time,
lift the fabric, inset the cd, select track fourteen, hit repeat, lower
the draping.

When all that remained was the glow of the two pillars, he slowly reached
into the chest for the bolt of silt. He took his time in unwinding the
fabric, relishing the way the silk caressed his fingertips. He draped it
over the now clear surface of the table, piling it up slightly on the
sides but making sure the center was flat and smooth. He brought the
candles closer, placing one directly in front of each hand. The pool of
silk reflected the light, rippling across his skin.

Dipping back into the chest, he pulled out an intricately carved box. The
box was of dark wood, some vaguely Celtic design weaving across the top. 
It was long and thin and smelled faintly of polish. The latch and hinges
were gold but old and worn, contributing to the sense that the box had
seen many years. He placed it reverently in the center of the circle. 
The light danced across the surface of the wood, seemingly making it glow.
It was time.

He slowly leaned up, hit play then felt more than heard the whisper
breathe into the room, the words exactly reflecting his soul.

**I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel**

The words slowly wrapped themselves around him, as he continued to stare
at the box. Slowly he reached out a hand and almost reverently lifted the

**I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real**

He reached out and ran a finger along the blade. He remembered when he
first saw it sitting in the shop window. He had been walking somewhere,
alone as always, when a gleam caught his eye. He slowed, glanced over,
and then stopped. He saw it there, sitting in the box, the lid open, the
blade pure on the background of red velvet. It was perfect. Long, thin,
the edge razor sharp with a short, maroon handle. He had no idea how long
he stared before yanking the door open. Within moments he bought it, not
caring that he could ill afford it, not caring that it meant another month
of spaghetti and ramen noodles, not caring for anything but the need to
hold it in his hands, to feel the edge of the blade run up the pale skin
inside his wrists.

He reached out and lifted the blade from its secure place in the box. He
lifted it, twisting it in his hands, watching the flames reflected there. 
He clearly remembered the first time he had cut his own flesh, the memory
was the cleanest in his mind. His first kiss, his first orgasm, his first
time diving into the flesh of another were nothing compared to that. He
had been fourteen. His father had been in a drunken rage and had beaten
him to within an inch of his life. When he was broken and bruised and
lying motionless on the floor he had felt his father ram into him, again
and again, until the pain in his body and the pain in his mind has merged
into some indescribable blackness. His father had left him there to
bleed, uncaring as to whether he lived or died. He had been dragging
himself across the floor, some animal instinct still reaching for
survival, when he had crawled through the broken glass of his mirror. His
forearm brushed through the glass, and he caught his breath as this fresh
pain hit. Propping himself against the foot of his bed, he had looked
down to see a piece embedded there. He had been trying to pull it out
when he accidentally ran the jagged edge up his arm. His eyes had shot
open at the feel. It was like nothing he had ever experienced before. 
All the pain in his body and all the pain in his mind had concentrated on
that one line, the heat and length of it burning to his soul. When that
edge had parted his skin he FELT, just FELT, and the purity of it was
overwhelming. Hands shaking, he had reached down again and this time drew
the tip slowly along his arm. The most exquisite pain arced through him,
shutting down all thoughts, all emotions, all sensations other than this
burn. He knew at that moment he had found his home.

He turned and tilted the blade, unwilling to start just yet. The
anticipation was part of the thrill, letting the heat and anger burn in
him, knowing the whole time that release lay in his hands. He had never
told anyone of this, knowing instinctively that they would not understand.
As he had grown older he secretly read everything he could find on the
subject. He had learned that his instinct to conceal was the right one,
that his talent at finding portions of his body to score which no one
would see had been essential to his charade. He remembered the words of
one of the books, “Ritual self-mutilation, expressed primarily through
purposeful cutting, is a signal cry for sexual abuse.” He wanted no one
to know, no one to guess. And no one ever had.

Through the years the desire had waxed and waned, overwhelming at times,
completely dormant at others. He had once gone nearly two years without
reaching for a blade. But he always came back, always returned to this
one true thing, the only constant in his fucked up life.

In recent months the desire had become overwhelming. It had started
slowly, beginning when Buffy and Willow had started college without him. 
They had slowly pulled away, leaving him even more alone than before. 
Then his father’s attacks had become more frequent. What had once been a
rare event became more consistent, more violent, evolving to the point he
was afraid to sleep, never knowing when those hands would strike. As he
pulled further and further into himself, the blade became his savior, his
safety, his line to reality. This was true, this was pure. If he could
feel this, then he was still alive. Some part of him knew the insanity of
these thoughts, but he no longer had any idea of how to stop. He became
ever more adept at hiding the lines, reverting back to using broken pieces
of glass, sharp edges of metal, even his own fingernails if forced to that
point. He had long ago learned that no one, even Anya, looked closely at
the soles of his feet, or under the wristband of his watch. Besides, the
effect of the lines was heightened if he could feel them as he walked or
used his hands.

Then Spike was forced on him. He knew, as soon as it was decided, that he
would have to stop. No matter how careful he was, he always drew blood. 
And Spike would smell the blood. This was something else he had never
shared with the Slayer or any of the others. He understood the bloodlust
that raged through the vampires they killed. It was not merely the burn
of the cut, the slow, agonizing thrill of watching his skin grow red then
part. No, an equal part was watching the blood ooze through, lifting his
arm to his lips and drinking it down. That was the best of all, saved
only for the truly desperate times, the times were the game hit its
highest peak. At its best, it was a dance. To creep up to that line that
separated release from true danger, to dance on that edge where the blood
would not seep but pour. To know that one more push, the tiniest bit of
extra force and his escape would be final, that his blood would pour from
his veins and down his arms and carry him away forever. That was the
truest and purest of them all.

But not with Spike there. He had been forced to stop. Thankfully,
whatever gods still took amusement in his little life had seen fit to make
sure his father did not touch him during that time. He did not know if he
would have been strong enough to stop otherwise. But his father had left
him alone and so he poured his pain into sex, driving into Anya again and
again, the fury of it burning to his core. So good, so sweet but not
quite enough, never truly enough. Just enough to dull his fever.

Then Spike had gone and he was alone again. He had shocked himself when
he did not reach for a blade the second the door had closed behind the
leather duster. He was still for some time after that, entranced in the
idea that Anya could make him whole. He began to hope again, to think
that someone could heal him, ease that ache.

Then she had left him. One week before. They had been sitting on his
bed, doing nothing really, just idly talking about the day. Anya had
suddenly stood and swung around to face him.

“I have to tell you this and there will never be a good time. I am
leaving you.”

“What!”, he blurted out, unable to think of anything else to say. 

“Yes, I am leaving you. You do not love me, you just use me for sex. And
while I know that is what men do, I do not want a man doing it to me. I
deserve better.” And with that she walked out the door. He had tried to
run after her, but the look on her face made him stop cold.

Since that time she had been nothing but pleasant to him. She had told
the Scooby gang that Xander and she had decided they were too different to
be together, that her lack of restraint had been too much for him. They
were eager to accept this explanation and other than Willow’s quick, “I’m
sorry, Xan, do you want to talk?”, not too much had been said.

He had sleepwalked through the week, going to work, going to slay, going
home. He felt bereft, his anchor yanked from his life. Then last night
his father had come home, drunker than usual, and had burst down the
stairs and slammed him into the wall. He had been knocked out immediately
and regained consciousness to find himself being kicked obsessively in the
ribs. Eventually, as he knew he would, his father had ripped down his
pants and proceed to pound into him, ripping him to shreds. When the
violation ended, he crawled to the bathroom. He had showered, trying to
clean the blood away, oddly thankful that his father had not ruptured
anything. He woke that morning stiff and sore and covered with bruises. 
He had called off work, slept some more and then made his decision. No
more. He could take no more. He needed the release only his blood could

So here he sat, twisting his salvation in his hands. Finally, the rage
and the pain became too much. Grasping the blade in his left hand, he
pushed up his right sleeve. The perfectly clean expanse of arm sang to
him and he pulled the blade across. He hissed in a breath as his head
fell back. Heaven. It was heaven. Slowly he moved down his arm, each
slice bringing some relief to the screaming in his mind. Looking down, he
saw the ten parallel lines stretching out, burning his skin. Too soon,
too soon he needed more, had to have more, craved it like nothing he had
ever known. He switched the blade to his right hand and began on his left
arm. The cuts were faster now, more frantic, the need burning bright. It
had been so long and there was too much pain to ease. The precision
stopped and the slashing began.

Reaching his left arm high into the air, he brought the tip of the knife
to the outside edge of his wrist. With one final yank, he drug the blade
diagonally down the length of his arm to the inside of his elbow.

*Too much, too much, too deep, gods no stop stop stop no no no NO NO NO*

He knew immediately that he had finally crossed the line. Blood began to
pour out of him, the cut much, much too deep. His control had snapped and
what was meant to be salvation turned to danger. He jumped up and leapt
for the bathroom and the gauze he kept there. He had to stop the
bleeding. He did not want to die, not really, he had just wanted some
relief from the pain. Frantically he grabbed a towel, pressing it firmly
down. Still the blood flowed, coating everything around him. He slumped
against the tub as the dizziness struck him. Too much. Too much. Red
everywhere, the smell of it assaulting his senses. He yanked for a fresh
towel, pressing it down as hard as he could, desperate to stop the
bleeding. It had to stop, had to stop, he hadn’t meant it. He did not
want to end like this. His eyes began to flutter and he sank down to the
tile, his arm falling across his face. The blood continued to flow.

Part Two  

Spike walked slowly down the street which led to Xander’s house. He
wasn’t sure why he was there, just that he had felt compelled to see the
boy that night. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was
something wrong in the way Xander had smelled recently. The whelp usually
smelled of heat and light and humor and lust. But over the last week,
since that bitch of an Anya had dropped him flat, the scent had changed. 
He didn’t believe for a second that the breakup was mutual. He had
learned a lot about Xander during the time he lived with him and knew that
the boy was besotted with the little ex-demon. Besides, he didn’t really
believe that she had stopped torturing men, he thought that she just did
it in a subtler way now.

The boy had held up well though. Didn’t flinch when he saw her, didn’t
try to blame her, didn’t do anything which would give away his pain. 
Spike respected that, there was no better measure of a man than the way he
took a punch. And it was clear to anyone who could be bothered to look
that Xander had taken a punch. His usual sarcasm was more bitter, his wit
more brittle. Xander wouldn’t look anyone in the eye nor would he allow
any true attention to be paid to him. He was trying to slip away, and
Spike wanted to know why. He hated to admit it but he had grown to admire
the boy, the way he fought on no matter what, the way he saw the humor in
any situation, the way he faced down death like it was no big deal. To
watch that slip away troubled the vampire on some deep level.

That was why the events of the night before had scared him so badly. He
and Xander had been paired together. Spike had slowly grown to look
forward to these times, to the chance to listen to Xander talk about
everything and nothing, to hear those little quips. But Xander had been
quiet, not responded no matter what bait Spike had thrown at him, not
bantering back like he always did. Then they had come across a group of
vampires, eight in all, and Spike had thrown himself into the battle,
confident that Xander could take care of himself. He had thoroughly
enjoyed the fight, snarling and spinning and kicking away, when he
realized that his were the only shouted taunts. Snapping the neck of the
fledgling he had been fighting then staking him before he could hit the
ground, Spike had turned, an insult rising in his throat.

“What’s the problem, pet, cat got your . . .” he stopped in shock at the
sight before him.

Xander was fighting an older vampire, but not with his usual heat. The
other vampire was on the offensive and it was clear it was only a matter
of time before Xander lost. Just as Spike began to move towards them,
Xander tripped over a tree root and fell heavily back. The vampire he had
been fighting pounced and leaned down. Spike saw a flash of something,
relief, joy, something else, flick for a second in Xander’s eyes before
they closed. Horrified, Spike yanked the vampire off the boy and staked

“Holy shit, Harris, what the hell was that, you were almost killed,” 
Spike screamed at him as the dust slowly settled.

“Yeah, well, I wasn’t so just shut up”, came the weary reply. The lack of
heat behind the words had stopped Spike’s lecture in its tracks. They had
finished patroling quietly and then parted ways without saying another

So here he was, heading towards that damned basement, determined to find
out what was wrong. Spike knew he probably wouldn’t be welcome, but was
truly fascinated by whatever Xander was experiencing. It was a mystery to
Spike and Spike did not like mysteries. Besides, he had spent the whole
day preparing a lecture on how the Slayer would stake him if anything
happened to Xander while he was on patrol with Spike and how selfish that
made the human.

Spike stopped at the door to the basement and pounded.

“Come on, pet, open the door”, he called. There was no response.

Spike pounded a little harder. “I said open the door, whelp.” This time
with a growl and a snarl. Still, there was no response.

Spike began to worry, just a little. He could see the flicker of
candlelight through the window and hear the low tone of some song. It was
obvious someone was there. He tried the handle but the door was locked. 
Growing more concerned by the moment, he pushed on a window, tipping it
open. He leaned down to yell in.

“What are you doing, pet, spanking the . . .” He flinched back as the
overpowering scent of blood, Xander’s blood, slapped him in the face. 
Without thinking, he kicked the door open and rushed in.

“Xander, pet, luv, where are you?” His eyes darted around the room,
taking in the odd altar and the strange black hangings.

“Xander, can you hear me, what happened?” The scent was overpowering,
intoxicating and Spike was rapidly becoming frantic. Moving towards the
bathroom, he called out again, an odd waver to his voice.

“Xander, are you all right?” He stopped cold at the sight before him. 
Xander, slumped against the bathtub, blood pooled around him, gouges down
his arm and a knife in his hand. One small part of Spike’s mind spoke up
*well at least he did it right* while the rest stopped cold.

“Bloody fucking hell”, Spike whispered as he crouched beside the still
body. He could hear the slow heartbeat, feel the faint trickle of the
blood. He carefully reached out to move the arm from across Xander’s
face, a little afraid of what he might find. As he did so, Xander’s body
slid further down the tub, revealing his right arm. Glancing down, he saw
the lines on the other arm. He looked up sharply. He knew what this was,
he had seen this before. Suddenly, the picture clicked. This boy, this
goofy manchild, this supposedly blithe soul had fooled them all. The pain
had always been etched there for anyone who cared to look.

Spike knelt there, concentrating solely on hearing that heartbeat,
ignoring the bloodlust which was keening in his ear at the sight of all
that blood. He knew at a glance that Xander had lost several pints and
that anymore could be fatal. However that heartbeat, though slow, was
steady and strong. Carefully, Spike lifted the boy in his arms and
carried him to the bed. His first instinct had been to run out the door
and get him to a hospital but he had stopped on the first step. This
would look for all the world like a suicide attempt, and Spike knew that
he could not explain otherwise without revealing Xander’s secret. The
heartbeat was still holding steady and the flow of blood had stopped. 
With a quirk of his head, Spike thought of his only other choice.

He reached for the phone, dialing the number by rote. It was answered on
the sixth ring.

“Willy, it’s Spike, you will listen and do exactly as I say. I need a
doctor, someone discrete, to come to where I tell you. He needs to bring
five pints of human blood, whatever that universal type is, along with
whatever he needs to perform a transfusion. The doctor will be here in
fifteen minutes with all his supplies or I will make sure your life is a
living hell. Then I will have you killed.”

Spike listened to the sputtering on the other end for a few seconds before
growing impatient.

“I don’t care what have to do, just get it done. You know what I’m
capable of.” The last words were delivered calmly but with such icy
menace that there was no question as to the threat. There was a short
pause, then Spike heard the bang of the other man’s head on the bar.

“Good, then we understand each other. I’ll be watching.” Spike gave him
the address then hung up.

He sat down on the side of the bed and listened again. That heartbeat was
still there, faint, slow but steady.

“Hold on for me, luv, just a little while longer.” Spike slowly looked
him over, hissing a little as he saw just how flayed the skin on Xander’s
forearms truly was. He could clearly see the progression, the slipping of
control, in the length and depth of the wounds. It burnt him to the quick
to see this, the physical reflection of infinite pain. What troubled him
most was the control the first cuts showed. There was an art to cutting
enought to hurt but not enought to HURT. He knew firsthand how difficult
it was to learn that art and this bespoke of years of practice.

“What drove to this, pet, who did this to you. You have to hold on, you
have to wake up and then you have to tell me,” Spike whispered softly. He
reached a hand out and ran it down Xander’s face. Something had been
ripped from Xander’s soul and Spike had to know what and had to know who
and had to know why. He wasn’t sure why but he knew it to be true. 
Xander had never backed away from anything and to run like this – whatever
it was that caused this pain, he had to know. Spike turned on the bed and
fastened his eyes on the door.

Part Three  

The room was quiet and still, the only sound the slow, steady breathing
from the inert form on the bed. The very air seemed heavy, all attention
drawn to the sound. In. Out. A slight wheeze on the exhale from the
constriction of the bandages wrapped around his chest, holding still the
battered ribs. In. Out. Slowly counting the seconds in between, making
sure the rhythm continued, that nothing interrupted the pace. In. Out. 
No longer haggard, no longer desperate. In. Out. The quiet and calm
peace of sleep.

The other figure in the room suddenly stirred, breaking the spell. 
Reaching down he grabbed the lighter and cigarettes, suddenly desperate to
move, in frantic need of some activity. Spike tapped out a cigarette and
sparked the flame. He lit it smoothly and paced away from his vigil at
the foot of the bed, not wanting to disturb Xander’s sleep. It had only
been an hour ago that Xander had crossed that threshold from
unconsciousness to peaceful sleep. As much as he craved the nicotine,
Spike did not want to wake him yet, knowing that Xander desperately needed
the sleep to recover from the ordeal of the night.

Spike moved around the room, trailing the smoke behind him. He had not
had the opportunity to examine it before now, as preoccupied as he had
been with ensuring that Xander would survive. The entire time, however,
the strange nature of the room had tugged at the back of his mind. He
reached out and smoothed his hand down the cloth with swaddled every light
emitting item in the room. It was obvious that great care had been taken
to deaden all light, to make the basement as dark and dank as a cave. Or
as his crypt. He reached up and felt the thick fabric. It was clear that
this was some ritual, some deep and private need, some religion to which
all care was lavished. He circled around again to windows, seeing the
small gap where the weight of the fabric had pulled away. This was where
he had been able to see the flickering of the candle. Crossing back again
he saw the mounded hump of the television and stereo. With a start he
realized that whatever song he had heard when he first opened the window
was still playing. He reached out, uncovering the stereo. He saw the cd
player was set to repeat the same track. Fourteen. Hitting eject he
pulled out the cd. His eyes widened slightly, he knew this record. Nine
Inch Nails. The Downward Spiral. Hurt. His eyes squeezed shut, a tic
running up his cheek as he ground his teeth.

Finally, he moved to the true center of his attention. The altar. There
was nothing else to call it, really, it was clear that was what it was. 
His eyes roamed over the table. A pool of black silk. An opened box. 
Two candlestick holders, the candles long since guttered out. The stain
of dark blood spreading out and running over the side of the table. He
stalked his way along the path of the blood. The large gap between the
initial pool and the next splash on the carpet. The stream which must
have trailed behind Xander as he ran. Into the bathroom, the huge stain
which was congealing on the tile. Two blood drenched towels with the
imprint of Xander’s forearm. The white stamp of the hand where he had
desperately held the towels blazing out from the black stain of the blood.
The smear along the tub where Xander had collapsed. Spike’s head dropped
a little and a huge sigh escaped him. He felt his shoulders slowly
unclenching as a small amount of the tension which still vibrated through
him was released. He had been almost entirely sure that he had read the
situation correctly, that Xander had not been trying to commit suicide but
rather that he had been purposefully cutting himself and had somehow
slipped too far. This scene confirmed that. Spike could still faintly
scent the smell of fear and desperation that permeated the space. 
Underneath it all was that familiar scent, that deep musky smell which set
Xander apart.

Spike cast another glance around, then set to work. He quickly gathered
the towels and threw them in the washing machine. He was tempted to set
them aside to burn, but remembered that Xander had almost nothing and this
small loss would mean much to him. That done, he pulled out the cleaning
supplies from under the sink. He remembered where everything was from the
time he had spent there. It had surprised and amused him to discover that
as messy as the rest of the apartment may be, Xander was almost compulsive
about keeping the bathroom clean. He efficiently wiped down the tile,
fighting back the urge to taste. Not like this. He would be lying to say
that he did not want to learn the taste of Xander’s blood but he would be
damned if he would do it now. Stepping back, he cast a critical eye
around the room. It softly gleamed back; showing no trace of the agony it
had recently contained. The only jarring note was the knife that still
lay on the tile. Spike could not bring himself to touch it, eyeing the
blade as if it were a living thing that could turn on him at any time. He
recognized the fine craftsmanship, the burnished silver glowing softly
through those spaces not drenched in blood. The finely honed edge, the
blade able to smoothly slice through flesh. Spike stared at it for some
time and then turned his back, unable to stand the image of Xander’s still
body which had greeted him when first entered the room and which was still
burned in his mind as he looked at the room.

Spike returned to the living room. As much as he wanted to strip
everything down and return it to normal, to erase any sign of what had
happened, he knew that this was something that Xander needed to do. He
paused for a moment at the foot of the bed and listened. The breathing
was still calm and true, the heartbeat growing stronger and steadier. 
Satisfied, he moved to sit on top of the washing machine, his eyes locked
on Xander’s face.

He lit another cigarette and let his head slowly drop down, unfocused eyes
staring at the floor, his only movement the slow rise and fall of his hand
to his mouth. He let the evnts of the night play out in his mind.


It had taken exactly twelve minutes and ten seconds from when he hung up
with Willy to when the long Mercedes pulled along the street. Spike had
moved to stand in the open doorway and dashed out to meet the man who
slowly climbed from the car.

“Bloody hell, mate, what are you waiting for,” Spike hollered as he
rounded on the doctor. The doctor’s eyes widened in shock when he saw who
was glaring at him, gameface a mere inches from his throat.

“Spike.” The terror contained in the hoarse whimper had thrilled the
vampire to no end. At least someone still feared him.

“Yes, now where’s your supplies, we haven’t got much time.” The doctor
had simply pointed to the backseat. Spike yanked the door open, gathered
up the small ice chest, the stand and the doctor’s bag and ran back into
the basement, the doctor right on his heels. Spike carefully dropped the
equipment at the foot of the bed and turned back around. The doctor was
simply standing there, staring with open mouthed shock at the blood
drenched human in front of him.

“What happened?”

*Christ, who did Willy send me, this bloke can’t take a little shock.* 
Shaking off his rage, Spike hissed out his reply.

“What happened is none of your business, not now, not ever. Look, he’s
lost a lot of blood and I know you can fix that. You better get started.”
The doctor had made the mistake of raising his head to look in Spike’s
yellow eyes and the rage that burned there snapped him out of his fog.

The IV was quickly set up and within a minute a line had been taped into
the back of Xander’s hand. The blood was placed on the stand and began to
flow back into Xander’s body. Hungrily watching the flow, Spike suddenly
was hit by a wave of terror. Grabbing the man by the throat and fighting
back the sudden wave of agony this move engendered, Spike slammed him to
the wall.

“How do I know that’s human, mate? Huh, how do I know that’s not pig’s
blood and that you’re not killing him right now? How do I know that’s the
right type? I’m just supposed to trust you, think not, luv.”

The doctor’s eyes looked like they would burst straight from his skull. 
Despite the hand clenching his throat he managed to choke out a reply.

“Blood bank, from the blood bank, the bags are sealed.”

Spike abruptly stepped back; leaning against the wall as the dizziness
which accompanied the pain slammed into him. Reaching into the ice chest,
he pulled out a bag. Sure enough he saw the labels and the seals, the
large TYPE O.

The doctor was bent over, sucking in air. “Do you really think that I
would come here and do that? And risk being ripped to shreds? All Willy
told me was that a Master needed blood for a transfusion. Do you think I
would really mess with that?” The high pitch of the voice proved the
truth of the statement.

Spike just nodded his understanding back. “Yeah, well, can never be too
sure now can you. Think I’ll just have a taste. Stop the flow and give
me a glass.”

The doctor rushed to do just that, desperate to prove his trustworthiness.
He quickly stopped the IV and squeezed a small amount into a cup that he
found by sink. Hands shaking, he handed it to the vampire. Spike raised
the glass to his lips. The strong, pure taste of human blood rolled down
his throat, yanking his demon to the fore. He licked his lips savoring
the taste, even cold. Looking up, he stared the doctor down.

“Fine, you aren’t poisoning him, start it back up. But I get to taste
from each bag before you give it to him.” The doctor nodded and rushed
back to work.

Spike slowly slid down the wall, shaking from the effort it had taken to
go after the man and then to hide the pain. The human blood eased the pain
while at the same time causing his bloodlust to burn.

The transfusion restarted, the doctor knelt by the bed, casting a critical
eye down Xander’s body.

“Does he have any injuries other than the, the wounds on his arms?”

“Don’t really know,” came Spike’s reply. “Didn’t check”

“If you don’t mind, I think I should examine him, make sure that the blood
we’re putting in isn’t just coming right back out. If that’s all right
with you, Master Spike.”

Suppressing a completely inappropriate grin at the doctor’s use of the
honorific, Spike nodded. That certainly made sense and Spike did not want
to go through this again.

Reaching down, the doctor carefully began to remove Xander’s clothes,
gratefully taking the small knife that Spike pulled from his boot to cut
the sleeve away from Xander’s right wrist so as not to interrupt the drip
of the blood. By this time the first bag was nearly empty and the doctor
moved to replace it. Spike took the opportunity to examine Xander’s face.
The dusky tinge to his skin was fading and the ever so slight blue tinge
to his lips was gone. His breathing was settling into a steadier pattern
and he seemed less unconscious and more asleep.

The doctor pulled a new bag from the ice chest and again squeezed some
blood into the cup for Spike. The vampire quickly tasted and nodded his
approval. The doctor satisfied himself that the new transfusion was set
up correctly and then returned to removing Xander’s clothes. He carefully
rolled Xander up to pull the shirt from under his back, finally exposing
his chest.

Spike went rigid. Xander’s sides were covered in bruises, the separate
blows to his ribs quickly becoming one huge black mass. Despite this, he
was clearly able to make out the shape of the toe to a boot. There was no
way that this had happened during patrol the previous night. Nothing they
had fought had worn blunt toed workboots. Someone, no SOMETHING, else had
done this. The doctor ran his hands over Xander’s sides, cautiously
pressing and pulling.

“Well, it’s impossible to be sure without taking x-rays, but it doesn’t
look any of the ribs are broken, just sprained and cracked. I want to
tape them up, however, just as a precaution.” Spike just nodded, still
stunned by the sight.

“Could you possibly get me a bowl of water and a washcloth, I would like
to clean the wounds before I apply the antiseptic.”

The doctor was stunned to hear this request come from his mouth, he, a
mere mortal, making such a menial demand of a powerful master vampire. He
was even more shocked when Spike quickly stood, turned on his heel and
went to get what he requested. He heard the sound of running water, of
the noise of someone rummaging in a cabinet in the bathroom and then the
vampire returned, a look of almost comic concentration on his face as he
attempted to carry the bowl without spilling. Nodding gratefully the
doctor reached up and took it from the vampire’s hands. He dipped the
cloth into the water, startled to find the vampire had made sure the water
was warm but not too hot. Slowly he set to work cleaning the wounds. 
Taking out a penlight, he checked Xander’s pupils, pleased to see that
they were even and reactive. The man’s color was coming along well and
the doctor ceased worrying that he would be killed when the vampire’s
charge died.

The stress of imminent death removed, the doctor’s concern began to center
solely on the patient. Obviously, the man had been beaten and attacked
with a knife. He did not think it was the vampire who had done so. While
vampires did use transfusions to keep their toys alive, they were usually
prepared well ahead of time. Besides, the tension and rage present in the
Master spoke of some other attack on the man. Deciding he would live
much, much longer if he drove such thoughts from his mind, the doctor
instead concentrated on cleaning the wounds thoroughly, taking the time to
wash the blood off the mortal’s face. He was aware the entire time that
the vampire’s eyes followed his every move.

Looking up, he caught Spike’s eye. Moving back on the bed, he dared
another look into Spike’s face. Something in those yellow eyes tugged at
the doctor and he slowly reached to lay a hand on Spike’s arm.

“He’s coming along well, don’t worry, there should be no lasting effects.”
Spike just continued to stare at the doctor, shocked by the man’s
boldness in laying a hand on him. The anger quickly faded when he heard
the words. He nodded, never ceasing his careful attention to the doctor’s

The doctor moved up from the bed and reached into his bag, removing the
tape he would need to strap Xander’s ribs. He slowly moved next to the
man and began his work. He moved calmly and steadily, the rhythm of the
work helping ease the stress of the situation. Quickly, Xander’s ribs
were taped; another bag of blood was retrieved, sampled by Spike, approved
and set up. The doctor checked Xander’s pulse and blood pressure, pleased
at the results. The vampire continued to silently watch his every move.

“I would like to remove his pants, check to see if there’s anything we are
missing.” He wasn’t sure of the relationship between the vampire and the
human but was positive that if the human was the vampire’s toy and he
simply removed the man’s pants, then his life would be forfeit.

“Fine by me, shouldn’t need my help with that though.” Spike turned and
moved to stand in the doorway, needing to smoke and not wanting to bother
the doctor. Besides, he suddenly did not want to see Xander exposed,
knowing the mere fact that the vampire had seen what he had would
humiliate Xander enough. He lit a cigarette and gazed into the night.

The doctor took the chance to pull the human’s pants and boxers down. The
bruises on the human’s ribs continued down his legs, but they were not as
many and not nearly as bad. Carefully rolling Xander onto his side, he
brought his gaze up from Xander’s feet to the back of his thighs and then
onto his ass. The doctor’s eyes widened in horror as he saw the evidence
of the rape. His heart racing, he glanced at the pensive vampire in the
door. For some reason he had no doubt that the vampire had not done this.
He had no idea who had. He prayed that the vampire would stay in the
doorway, would ignore the sudden pounding of his heart. His mind raced. 
Should he tell the Master and, if he did, would his life be forfeit. All
he had ever heard of Spike’s reputation poured through his mind. One
thing he knew, Spike would never share what was his. If this human was
his and someone else had touched him, then everyone involved would be
destroyed. The doctor leaned closer, seeing that the human was not
bleeding and was not in any physical danger from the rape. He made up his
mind. He would not say a word. Let the vampire find out for himself. He
had no death wish. Daring a glance over he saw the vampire was still
facing outside, throwing his cigarette butt into the grass. He had not
noticed. The doctor was safe. He quickly pulled Xander’s boxers and
pants into place.

Leaning back, the doctor stretched, attempting to loosen the knots in his
back. He bent back down and examined the knife wounds carefully, seeing
that it was only the large one on the left arm that posed any concern. He
stood and moved to stand by Spike in the doorway.

“I’ll bandage his arms up right before I go. His left arm really should
be stitched. I could do it now if you like, but you should know that it
will leave a scar. I could give you the name of a good plastic surgeon if
you like. As long as he goes tomorrow or the next day, there is a good
chance that the scar could be minimized, if not entirely eliminated.”

Spike glanced over. “I’ll take him to the surgeon tomorrow. I take it
whoever he is will be aware of my ‘special circumstances’.” He knew that
Xander would be furious with him for making this decision but if there was
any way to get out of this with no permanent marks, no scars Xander would
have to explain away, then Spike would take that chance.

“She, actually, and, yes, she is used to a special clientele.” 

“What about infection?” The thought suddenly struck Spike. It would be
just his luck that after all this some microbe would defeat him.

“As I said I’ll bandage him up and leave antibiotic cream.” Spike nodded
and moved into the room and beside the bed, resuming his silent inspection
of the body before him. He had to give Willy credit, this man was good.

The last of the blood drained from the IV. Spike moved to retrieve
another bag as the doctor sat down and checked Xander’s blood pressure
again. His pressure was strong, well within normal limits, his pulse was
strong and his breathing had evened out. His color was good and his skin
was warm. Turning around, he stopped Spike as he went to taste the

“He’s fine now.” The look of relief in the vampire’s eyes shocked the
doctor. Recovering quickly, knowing the Master would never admit to such
a thing, the doctor began to bandage Xander’s arms. He worked quickly,
anxious now to get as far away as possible and let this fade into a

“Here’s the antibiotic cream, make sure he uses it. Here’s some more
bandages for his arms, some antibiotics, a prescription for more. Be sure
to tell him to take the entire prescription. It’s very important to
prevent infection.” Spike took the offered goods and placed them on the
table. Pulling a card from his wallet, the doctor presented it to Spike.

“This is Dr. Steven’s number. She is the plastic surgeon I mentioned,
have him call her tomorrow. Tell him to let her know Willy sent him and
she’ll understand.” Spike took the card and nodded. The doctor gathered
his bag and took apart the stand. Quickly the room was cleared of the
medical equipment, Spike moving to help him carry his things to the car. 
Stopping next to the driver’s side door, he again dared to place his hand
on Spike’s arm.

“Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. You got him help in time and there will be
no lasting harm. I don’t know if you were worried about brain damage or
the like, but there is almost no risk of that.”

Spike’s head snapped up at the mention of brain damage, he had never even
considered that possibility. He froze again, pondering the loss of
Xander’s voice, his sense of humor, the sound of the sarcastic cracks as
some demon tried to kill him. A shudder ran through Spike’s body at the
thought of being left with a Xander body but no Xander mind. He realized
the doctor was still speaking to him

“I left the final two bags of blood for you, I know its not the same but I
thought you might want them if you are going to stay with him for
tonight.” Spike merely nodded. Finally finding his voice, he met the
doctor’s eyes.

“What do I owe you.” 

Now it was the doctor’s turn to be shocked. He was just grateful that he
had been allowed to live, now he was being offered payment.

“Nothing, nothing, Master Spike, I am yours to command. It was an honor
to do some small service to you,” he managed to stutter out.

A wry smile crossed the vampire’s lips. Clearly his current emasculated
state was not quite as well known as he had thought. Either that or the
human was clever and was banking up for a future that included Spike
restored to his former glory.

“This service will be well remembered. Know that you and your family go
in peace from my and my court.” The traditional words of honor brought a
flush to the doctor’s face. He started to get in the car when Spike’s
hand caught his arm.

“Only one last thing, pet. You never saw this, you never heard this, you
do not know that boy exists.” The menace in the vampire’s eyes was
matched by the steel in his voice. Wordlessly, the doctor nodded his
understanding and sped off.


The shock on his fingers as the cigarette burned to its end brought Spike
out of his reverie. The doctor’s off hand comment about brain damage had
shocked him to his core. He had seriously never considered any other
option between live Xander and dead Xander. The thought of anything else
was unthinkable. He hopped off from the washing machine and stalked over
to kneel by the bed. He stared into Xander’s face, letting the sound of
Xander’s heartbeat calm him, letting the rhythm of the breathing still his
shaking hands.

“Pet, you will never do this again. I will not allow it. You will not
take such a chance.” The harshness of the words was in sharp contrast to
the shaking of the voice. Spike moved back to sitting on the foot of the
bed, eyes locked on the sleeping human. Dawn was coming but Spike would
not sleep until he saw Xander’s eyes, until he heard his voice and knew
his mind was clear. He settled in, unaware that one hand had crept out
and was resting on Xander’s leg.

Part Four  

Xander lay perfectly still, trying desperately to keep his breathing even
and calm. He was trapped. He could fell the constriction around his
chest, the heavy chains wrapped up both arms, some cold, dead weight
draped along his legs. He squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to see what
it was that finally captured him. He had always known this day would
come, that he would wind up separated and alone from his friends, caught
by some evil being and then tortured, long and slow, before finally being
given the blessed release of death. All the hours he had thought about
it, concentrated on it, preparing himself for the reality of it had done
nothing to help. A wave of panic ripped through him and he forced himself
to open his eyes, prepared for whatever horror awaited him.

Any horror that is, but the sight of his own ceiling. 

His eyes darted desperately around as the familiar patterns of stains and
mold registered in his mind. He heard the familiar noises, the slow drip
of the faucet, the neighbor’s dog, a creak as someone walked across the
kitchen. He could tell by the glow around the dark curtains covering his
windows that it was midday. He blinked slowly, his mind finally clearing
a little.

He was on his bed. In the basement. The basement. The basement where he
had . . . His mind stopped at that thought as he suddenly came wide
awake. He closed his eyes again and tried to remember how he had gotten
to the bed. The last clear memory he had was of running to the bathroom
and then sinking to the floor, unable to stop the spill of his blood. A
wave of shame washed over him and he shuddered slightly. God, what kind
of sick fuck was he. He had done it again. Done it after he swore never
again. Done it despite knowing everyone would see. Done it so bad he had
almost died.

It was that thought that snapped him back, forcing him to figure out what
happened. He had flashes of arms carrying him, a hand on his cheek, some
kind of growling, a prick on his hand. That was it. Nothing else. How
had he gotten on the bed? He opened his eyes and started to sit up. He
was shocked when he felt the heavy bandages around his chest as he tried
to bend.

**What the hell, who taped my ribs**

He reached his arms out to help push himself up. He glanced down and saw
the heavy bandaging running up both arms from wrist to elbow.

**WHAT the hell is this, who bandaged my arms**

Shaking his head, he let out a heavy sigh and looked up. It took
everything he had not to start screaming in terror when he saw the back of
the white blond head lying next to his knees, saw the right arm
protectively wrapped around his legs, the rest of the vampire curled up
at the foot of his bed.

“Spike,” he practically yelped, trying desperately to pull away from that
iron grasp. “Holy shit, Spike what are you doing here?” Xander began to
pant as he tried harder to pull away.

Spike’s eyes flew open at the sound of his name. He hadn’t realized that
he had fallen asleep, let alone that he had wrapped himself around Xander.
**You wanker, you wanker** he cursed as he yanked himself up and away
from the bed. He stood, paused a moment to compose himself, then turned
to face the boy.

“What, luv, don’t remember asking me to stay the night,” he drawled, a
cocky grin on his lips and an arch to his eyebrow. The grin quickly faded
as he saw the confusion cloud Xander’s eyes. Sitting back on the foot of
the bed, he sought the boy’s eyes with his own, the doctor’s words
sounding in his head.

“Pet, I was just joking,” he quietly said.

There was no response from the human staring down at the bed. 

“Xander,” he continued, feeling panic rise in his chest, “Xander, do you
know where you are?”

It was the worry behind those words that snapped him out of his fog. He
was thoroughly confused. Here he was, sitting on his bed wrapped like a
mummy with Spike acting all concerned. It was much too weird. He
realized he had to answer the question.

“The Bahamas,” he snapped back, looking up to catch the vampire’s eyes. 
Startled by the look of worry he saw, he continued. “Come on, I’m in my
luxurious basement hell hole, what did you think I was going to say?”

Spike’s panic eased some at the mocking response. Now that was Xander,
insecure, uncertain of what was going on around him, so making a joke to
hide. A bad joke to be sure, but a joke nonetheless.

Xander looked back down at himself then back at Spike. He could see the
cloth still draping the room, could just make out the candlesticks and
open box on the table behind Spike’s head. **Oh gods, oh gods, how do I
explain THIS, what did he see, why is he here, of all the people to find
out** He sighed and looked at Spike.

“When did you get here?” he asked. He might as well get this over with as
soon as possible – see just how bad it was.

“Last night,” came the short reply. Xander was caught off guard. He was
prepared for some smart ass comment, some mocking words, some insult, but
not this quiet response. This was worse than he thought.

“Um, do you know who cleaned me up?” he asked. Maybe that would jar
something out of the suddenly evasive vamp.

“Yes,” came the simple reply. Nothing more, no mocking, no other
information. **NOW he decides to give straightforward answers** a small
voice asked.

“That’s it, just yes, no big long explanation, no mocking, c’mon, Spike,
give it up.”

Xander couldn’t believe it. The vampire was just sitting there watching
him with an odd look on his face. Nearly a minute passed with the two
just staring at one another. Spike finally sighed and looked away.

“Why don’t you go get cleaned up, when you’re done I’ll tell you what
happened.” He knew this offer would surprise the whelp, maybe buy him
some more time to brace himself for what he knew would be a long day and

Xander flinched back, startled. Spike, volunteering to answer questions? 
He slowly nodded. He did want to wash his face. And he really needed to
use the bathroom. He started a little at the thought of going in there,
of seeing the blood. However, he could think of no way to refuse without
being obvious.

“All right,” he said, “Back in a flash.” He swung his legs off the side
of the bed and stood up.

The world suddenly tilted sideways, spinning round and round. He began to
fall, shocked by how weak he was. He felt the cold arms reach out and
catch him, settling him back on the bed.

“Be careful, whelp. You’re probably still pretty weak from the blood
loss. Just move slowly.” Spike jerked his head back as he heard the
words spill from his mouth. **Oh hell, that’s just great, you pillock,
just the way to ease into the topic there, mate**

Xander’s eyes turned to bore through Spike’s. 

“Blood loss, the blood loss, holy fucking shit what did you see,” he
hissed out. It was clear that the vampire knew at least some of what had
happened – he just wasn’t going to tell Xander how much.

“Look, just get this over with – what did you see, who all was here, who
did you tell,” Xander’s voice began to rise. “Who, Spike, huh, who, who
did the bandages, Buffy, don’t think so, she’s too impatient to do them
this tight. Willow, nope she would be busy crying too hard. Tara, maybe.
Anya, no, she would make sure my dick was strapped down too. Giles –
sure what would he care. He could do it. So who did it Spike? And why
did they leave you here, you draw the short straw, you get stuck on psycho
duty? Or did they just figure that with all your experience with Dru you
would just know how to deal if I lost it, is that it?”

Xander hadn’t realized he was standing and screaming until he suddenly
started to sway. “C’mon, Spike, what the fuck happened. You get a taste,
they let you lick me is that it? Look, you bastard, just tell me.”

Xander was nearly sobbing now, the shame and the pain burning through him.
The voice started in his head.

**All over, it’s all over, they know, they know. I’m a freak and they
know. I’m insane and they know. They know, they know** No wonder they
left him with Spike, no one else could stand to be near him. He sank back
onto the bed and hung his head, bringing his left arm up to rub across his
eyes. He hissed as the movement caused the bandage to pull against the

Spike just sat and listened to Xander yell, listened to the pain pour out
of him. He knew Xander needed this, needed to lash out, to try to take
control of the situation. Of course he assumed the Slayer and her gang
had fixed him, why shouldn’t he, it made the most sense. He could smell
the fear and shame pouring off Xander’s body, the fury and fear dark and
rich. Spike let him rage, let him turn the anger onto Spike and away from
himself. He felt the weight drop next to him on the bed, heard the hiss
of pain.

“Xander, I will tell you what happened – and I will tell you the truth,”
Xander snorted as he heard that. “But I do think it would be better if you
cleaned up first. Make you feel better.”

Spike chanced a quick glance over. The frantic pace of Xander’s heart had
slowed and the sharp scent of fear had faded some.

“Look, pet, I’ve got more bandages, some cream you’ve got to rub on those
cuts,” Spike carefully looked away as he felt Xander tense up, “and I
don’t really feel like doing it myself.”

Xander slowly nodded. It was true, he would feel better if he showered. 
He carefully stood up, not wanting to collapse again. He cautiously made
his way to the bathroom, dreading what he would find. Opening the door,
his eyes widened in shock. It gleamed in the light, perfectly clean,
fresh towels hanging on the rod. No trace of blood anywhere to be found. 
He glanced around again, startled. It was clear that someone had taken
the time to do this, to erase any trace of what had occurred. He took
another step into the room and looked down. There. The knife. It was
still lying where it had fallen from his hand, dried blood now turning the
blade black. He stood still for long moments, staring at the blade. He
swallowed again, shaking slightly as the memory of the pain crashed into
him. How had he been so stupid. How could he have lost so much control. 
Gods, he sickened himself. Swallowing hard, he closed the door.

Spike heard the bathroom door slam shut. He leapt from the bed and
grabbed his cigarettes. He quickly lit up and began to pace back and
forth. **At least that cloth has some use** he thought as he passed under
the windows. **Couldn’t have put them up while I was staying here,
though, could he** It actually had not gone as badly as he had
anticipated. He had been prepared to try to defend himself from an
attack. The anger was actually good, he had no idea what to do if Xander
had started to cry.

He still couldn’t believe that he had fallen asleep. He had been
determined to stay awake until Xander regained consciousness. However, the
stress of the night had caught up with him and he had basically collapsed.
Still, he had stayed awake for a long time, merely watching Xander as he
slept. It had given him time to think – to determine why had had reacted
as he did. It had only been when the phone rang about 9:00 a.m. and when
he heard Red’s voice leaving a message that he realized that it had never
occurred to him to call the Slayer, the Watcher, Red, any of the whelp’s
friends. At first, he told himself it was because there simply hadn’t
been time. He had to get the boy help immediately or he would have died. 
That excuse didn’t last long. If that had been the case, he would have
just taken him to the hospital. Spike knew that he hadn’t called the
Scooby gang for the same reason he hadn’t taken the boy to the hospital,
too many inconvenient questions. Spike didn’t want to answer the
questions and he sure as hell didn’t want to watch while Xander tried to
answer them either.

Spike continued to pace the room, striding faster and faster the more he
thought of listening to the idiotic questions he could just hear coming
from the group. They would never understand the purity of blood, the
craving that always existed, the need to feel flesh part under your hands.
Spike now understood why he had always felt an odd kinship with Xander,
it was that faint hint of bloodlust that ran in his veins.

But it was more than that. He stopped in front of the altar, looking down
at the silk and blood. It reminded him of Dru. She too loved blood play,
loved to trace a blade across his throat while he fucked her, waiting
until he would whisper out the words of love that she dragged from him,
then tracing the tip across his throat. In those early days, before she
had become completely his, she would return from her time with Angelus and
reach for her knife. She would trace and trace circles on her skin,
whimpering out her pain and pouring it into herself. He would hold her
and run his hands in her hair.

He had instantly known what those lines on Xander’s arms meant, just as he
had known that Xander did not want to die. That was the dark beauty of
it, the way that those who did not taste the blood would never know that
it was life that those cuts sought, life that the blade represented.

But he knew. He knew and he understood. And now he understood a little
more about that dark boy. He had always seen something more there,
something deeper than Xander let on. The boy was bright, no matter what
his friends thought, and he was braver than the rest. The Slayer had her
strength, the Watcher and the witches their craft, Anya was an ex-demon. 
The whelp was just a boy. And he went out there just as they did. And
they treated him like shit.

Spike tilted his head towards the door, listening to make sure Xander
hadn’t collapsed again. He heard the sounds of the running water, the
slight splashes as he washed. Spike began to pace again. So, now he knew
one secret. But where there was one there were more. Like where those
bruises were from. And how the boy had learned this in the first place. 
And what had pushed him over that edge. It was obvious that the boy had
been doing this for some time and that he knew what he was about. It had
taken all of Spike’s control not to strip him down and search for the
other scars. And he knew the secret places they would be. To be pushed
this far, something outrageous had to occur. Spike was determined to find
out just what that was. He heard the water stop and moved back to lean
against a wall, waiting for Xander to appear.

Xander slowly unwound the bandages around his chest, wincing at the pain
in his ribs. Looking in the mirror he gasped. His chest was a mass of
black, no single bruise standing out. He was grateful that none of his
ribs had been broken, this he could hide. He next turned to his right
arm, slowly unwrapping the covering. Ten perfect, parallel lines greeted
him. They started as faint shadows by his elbow, deepening down to dark
gouges by his wrist. He would have to wear long sleeve shirts for about,
oh three weeks, he figured, eyeing the wounds with long practice. He ran
his finger along the second from the bottom, his eyes misting slightly at
the sensations it produced. Shaking his head, he turned to his left arm. 
This took much longer to uncover, with portions of gauze still clinging to
the skin. He looked down, appalled at what he saw. His forearm looked as
if some madman had gone after it with a cleaver. No perfect length, no
matching lines, no discrete space in between. Instead, it was a mass of
wounds, deep, shallow, jagged, thick, thin. All were there. And finally,
the master cut. It ran the length of his arm and he knew it would scar. 
He had finally done it. Made it impossible to hide. A bitter smile
unconsciously crossed his face. Well, this would take some explaining. 
He could always blame it on some demon or other.

He adjusted the water then stepped in the shower. He gasped a little when
the water hit his bruises and ran down his arms, but the soothing heat
soon dulled that pain. He leaned against a wall and just let the water
run down him. He was so weak it was frightening. He wondered how much
blood he had lost. He also wondered how it had been replaced. And why. 
And who.

His thoughts finally settled on Spike. Why was he there? What had he
done? It was obvious that Spike had helped him for some reason, but why? 
And why hadn’t he made any comments on the state of the basement? And was
he the one who cleaned the bathroom? Xander suspected that was the case,
Spike knew where everything was. And the towels had been folded just how
he liked them. Not too many people knew that piece of trivia. Why was
Spike still here – well, all right it was day so it wasn’t like he could
go anywhere, but why was he there in the first place? Xander sighed
heavily. Well, he would deal with one disaster at a time. A small,
hidden part of him, however, was thrilled. He could tell that Spike knew,
if not the details, then the basic nature of what he had done. And he
wasn’t disgusted. Maybe even understood.

The water began to run cold, and Xander started to shiver. Turning the
taps off, he got out, dried off and then rubbed the antibiotic cream onto
his arms, smiling slightly as he thought of the look on the vampire’s face
when he had pressed in into Xander’s hand. The look that made it clear
that Xander would be using this one way or another. He quickly and
expertly rewrapped his ribs, having grown used to the process by now. He
carefully bandaged his arms, wincing at the pain. He grabbed his clothes,
dressing slowly. He turned back, thinking of anything else he could do,
any reason to stay here and not look Spike in the eye. He brushed his
teeth for the second time, ran a comb through his hair again but was
finally forced to admit defeat. Time to face the music.

Spike looked up as the door opened. A burst of steam came out and Xander
appeared in the mist. He looked noticeably calmer, but still very pale
and shaky. He moved over to the chair in which he had chained Spike and
looked up at the vampire. They stared at each other in silence.

“So, why don’t you tell me just what the hell happened last night.”

Part Five  

Two sets of shocked eyes stared at each other. The words hung in the air
between them, spoken in unison and with the same note of anger, curiosity
and fear. Long seconds ticked away as they locked eyes, neither willing
to speak first. A small smile suddenly curled the corner of Xander’s

“Jinx,” he said, catching Spike completely off guard.

“What,” came the incredulous reply. “Why the bloody hell would you jinx
me?” The vampire was thoroughly confused now. He felt the rage beginning
to build in his chest.
“Here I help you, hell only knows why, get you a doctor, clean you up and
you want to JINX me, bloody ungrateful if you ask me.” Spike pushed
himself away from the wall and began to stalk towards the boy in the
chair. “Ungrateful whelp, should have left you there to bleed . . .”

Xander flinched back, shocked both by Spike’s reaction and by the
revelations unwittingly being divulged by the furious vampire. He
reflexively raised his hands as Spike stopped directly in front of him,
yellow flickering around the rims of his eyes.

“Um, Spike, it’s just a thing, you know, when two people say the same
thing at the same time, one says jinx and the other has to buy him a
drink.” He knew he was babbling, but he was desperate to calm Spike down
before something happened. He knew that Spike couldn’t really hurt him,
but he didn’t particularly want to have to replace whatever it was that
Spike threw across the room. “Didn’t mean anything by it, I’m glad you
helped me, please calm down, I wasn’t trying to hurt you.”

Spike glared down, trying to force the anger away. As strange as the
explanation was, he could see that Xander was telling the truth. The boy
hadn’t been trying to curse him, he had just been trying to break the

“Bloody humans, playing with things they don’t understand, jinx, indeed.” 
He shot Xander another angry glare, then returned to leaning against the
wall. His eyes suddenly closed when he realized what he had said. A low
growl rumbled through him at his stupidity. **Oh, you’re just the master
of discretion today aren’t you. Pillock**

Xander cleared his throat, trying to work up the courage to ask the
questions swirling through his mind. **C’mon, he said he’d tell you**

“You said you would tell me what happened after I got cleaned up, well,
I’m cleaned up, so tell me. What happened last night?” He tried to keep
his voice calm and steady, but he could hear the slight waver underneath
the words. He closed his eyes, not wanting Spike to see the tears which
had suddenly filled his eyes.

Spike looked over at the boy, scenting the anguish coming off him in
waves. He sighed, knowing that the only reason he had attacked Xander was
to try to delay this moment. It was going to hurt, no matter what. He
had decided during those long hours of watching over Xander as he slept
that he would tell him the truth, just not all the entire truth. There
were some things he wasn’t sure of himself, and he was not about to bring
up certain subjects until he figured out his motives first. He moved to
sit on the bed, staring straight ahead, in profile to the boy.

“I stopped by last night, wanted to talk to you about why you suddenly
lost all ability to fight. Knocked, no one answered, knocked again, still
no answer. Could see light, hear music, knew you were there. Opened a
window, smelled blood. Kicked open the door, found you in the bathroom. 
Saw the blood, knew you needed help. Called Willy, got him to send a
doctor. Doctor gave you a transfusion, checked you over, saw your ribs,
strapped you up. Finished the transfusion, said you would be fine, left. 
It was almost dawn so I stayed.” His voice was flat and emotionless, the
only sign of tension being the clenching and unclenching of his hands.

Xander stared at him in shock. He hadn’t really expected Spike to answer
him, or, if he did, he expected some story about being forced there by
Buffy and everyone and how they found him. Not this. He mind raced as
questions poured through his head. Finally picking the most important
one, he turned to look Spike in the eye.

“So, you found me. None of the rest know?” Again, that damned waver to
his voice. Shit, he was such a wuss. He stared at Spike, dreading the

“No, they don’t know.” Spike steadily met his gaze, the truth apparent

Again, the simple response shocked him. This was completely unexpected. 
Here was the ultimate item to blackmail him, to humiliate and destroy him.
But apparently not only had the vampire not told anyone else, he had
gotten help from sources which would never tell his friends. Knowing he
was pushing his luck, he still had to ask.

“Why, why didn’t you call them or just take me to a hospital? Not that I
don’t appreciate it, I do, but why?”

Here was the question that Spike had been dreading, why. Why had he done
what he did. He had known that would be almost the first thing that
Xander would ask, it was what was foremost in his mind as well.

“Because a hospital would have thought you were trying to kill yourself
and the Slayer would think that somehow I had done it. Don’t want to get
staked now, do I.” He watched carefully, hoping this half-truth would be
sufficient. He really didn’t want to have to tell the truth, that he
understood the need and the pain behind it and that he knew that the
whelp’s friends **Yeah, such wonderful friends that they never noticed**
would only make things worse.

Xander slowly nodded. That made sense and he truly was grateful that he
did not have to explain. He didn’t think he was up to it, he was too
exhausted to think up some believable lie.

“Well, thanks. I mean, for everything, not just getting me a doctor. I
appreciate it.” He sighed as he looked around the room, still draped in
the black cloth with a trail of blood leading to the bathroom. **That’s
going to be a bitch to clean** He went to stand, to begin stripping down
the room when a cold hand shot up and pushed him back.

“My turn, now. What the hell happened last night? And no joking around,
I want to know. And just because I haven’t told that little gang of yours
– yet - doesn’t mean that I won’t if I don’t get answers. So, what
happened?” Spike’s eyes burned into him, pinning him to the chair. It
was obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to get out of this with some
story, some joke or evasion. He knew the vampire, knew he was serious,
knew that if he did not answer the questions then Spike would have no
hesitation about telling everyone exactly what he had seen. He looked up,
trying to get the words together, to find some means to explain.

Spike watched the emotions play across Xander’s face. He wasn’t sure what
response he would get, but he had to know. He knew that Xander would
never willingly tell him, but he also knew that the threat of telling the
boy’s friends would get him some type of response. He needed to know what
had pushed Xander to this point, what had caused this loss of control. He
needed to make sure that it wouldn’t happen again, that whatever, whoever,
had hurt him would never have that chance again.

Xander dropped his eyes to his hands. He didn’t know where to begin, how
to explain what he had done. He didn’t want to speak, didn’t want to have
to try to put into words the sheer necessity of the pain. He opened his
mouth, then closed it, at a loss for how to start. He heard a low growl
begin above him, then felt a cool hand reach to lift up his chin. He saw
that Spike was kneeling in front of the chair, gently grasping his chin,
forcing him to look in the vampire’s eyes.

“Pet, I know it’s hard, but you need to tell someone about this. I’m
certain you would rather it be me than someone who wouldn’t know how much
the pain can cleanse.” A small sigh, then the hand dropped away. “Don’t
worry, as long as you tell me, I won’t tell them.” The voice was quiet
and soothing and the eyes were concerned. “Luv, please tell me, it will

It was those words that pushed him over the edge. Tears started to roll
down his face, unbidden, unwanted. He couldn’t stop himself as the sobs
racked through his body. It was all too much. Just too much. First Anya
leaving, then his father and now Spike knowing how sick he was. His world
had fallen away and there was nothing left. His only method of survival
had nearly destroyed him. He tried to bury his head in the chair,
humiliated to his core. On top of everything else, he was crying like a
baby in front of the one person who would most delight in seeing his pain.
He was shocked when he felt himself wrapped in a tight embrace, heard
soothing words muttered into his ear, felt a hand trace through his hair.

Spike just held Xander as he sobbed. He hadn’t expected this, wasn’t sure
what to do. His reaction to wrap himself around the boy had been
instinctive and immediate. He was stunned that the boy didn’t try to push
him away, then realized that he was in so much pain that any comfort would
be acceptable. He continued to run his hand through that dark hair,
whispering words of comfort. He could feel the tension drain from the
body in his arms with every sob, could feel the pain which burned like a
flame. It tore through Spike, drawing out every protective instinct he
had. Whatever was causing the boy this agony went deep through him. It
was obvious this was the rage and pain of years being poured out in his
arms. Spike just held on, hoping his presence would help somehow. 
Slowly, the wrenching sobs quieted and turned into hitching breaths. The
tears slowed and Xander’s breathing began to steady. Spike loosened his
grip slightly, pulling back to look in Xander’s face. He reached a hand
up and pushed the hair out of Xander’s eyes.

“Luv, you all right, how are your ribs, that had to hurt.” He was careful
to keep his voice even and low. Xander’s eyes were still closed and he
could sense the embarrassment. “Do you want some water or something . .
.” His voice trailed off, unsure of what to do now. Whenever Dru had
wept like that it was followed by sex. He was fairly certain that wasn’t
next in this case.

Xander forced himself to open his eyes, afraid of what he would see. 
Spike looked back at him, the only thing present in his eyes concern, some
understanding and a little confusion. No mocking, no laughter, nothing
but care. Xander shook his head slightly, trying to clear his mind.

“Water, water would be good. Throat hurts.” Spike nodded, released him
and went to the sink. The vampire grabbed a glass, filled it and handed
it to him. He drank slowly, wincing a little as his ribs let him know
they did not appreciate what they had just gone through. He eventually
finished the water and put the glass on the floor next to the chair. 
Spike had moved so that he was sitting on the table facing him, the black
silk pushed to the side. He ran his hand slowly through his hair then
took a deep breath. **The sooner you start the sooner its over, so buck
up little camper and just do it** He released the breath and began to

“Sometimes, whenever things get to be too much, I, I, I cut myself. It
helps. Makes me feel, lets me know that I’m still alive. I mean, if I
feel pain then I feel something, you know. And when things are really bad
then I need it the most, I need to see and taste my blood. It’s just so
pure, so good and right. And I know it’s sick but I can’t stop. Well,
things have been bad for months, my friends all leaving for college and
I’m stuck in this basement doing work I hate. Feeling more and more
useless with the gang, I mean, I don’t have Buffy’s strength or Willow’s
magic. Then I had Anya and everything was okay for awhile, she made it
better. Then she left me, said I was just using her. After Anya left, it
just seemed that everything was gone, that there was no reason for me to
be around anymore. Then that vamp almost killed me and I just didn’t
care. I think I wanted him to do it on some level, just wanted everything
to stop. I came home,” he stopped, catching another breath. There was no
way he was going to tell Spike what actually happened next, there was no
way he would let anyone find out about that. He started again, “I came
home and hurt so bad from the fight. Called off work. Needed it, needed
it more than ever before. Got the room set up. Got out my knife. 
Started to cut,” his voice began to waver again **shit, haven’t you made
enough of a fool of yourself** took another deep breath **almost done,
just a little more** “I just lost control, I never meant to really hurt
myself. I mean the whole reason I do it is so that I don’t want to kill
myself. And I know that doesn’t make sense but it’s true. Anyway, I
realized as I was making the last cut that it was too much, but I couldn’t
stop. When the blood started to gush out I ran for the bathroom, tried to
stop the bleeding, couldn’t, then I passed out.” He could feel his whole
body shaking, desperately waiting for Spike’s reaction.

Spike just stared at him for a moment. He couldn’t’ believe that Xander
had actually told him all that, he had expected some brief explanation,
some defensive response. Not this honest baring of Xander’s soul. His
insides twisted at the echoes of the pain underlying every word. Another
part of him raged at the thoughtlessness of those people who were supposed
to be his friends. No one had ever sensed the anguish, the horror which
was obviously eating Xander alive. Yet another part realized that there
was more unsaid, that this explanation didn’t account for the bruised
body. He could also sense some deeper pain which Xander has holding close
and that he would not share. Spike could see that Xander was afraid of
how he would react, could see the tension in every line of his body.

“Well, pet, as much as you may need it to stay alive, this time it almost
killed you,” Spike now heard an answering waver in his voice as the image
of Xander sprawled bloody and still on the floor of the bathroom appeared
before his eyes. He shook his head, trying to wipe the vision away. 
“I’ve seen this before, you know, and I know that you’ve been doing this
for years. I know that there’s something else there. If you don’t want
to tell me now, fine, but know that I will find out.” Xander’s head shot
up at that but Spike didn’t stop. “Your ‘release’ almost killed you,
still might, what if those cuts get infected. And what if I hadn’t found
you, what if it had been the Slayer or Red or the Watcher, then they would
know.” Spike stopped, wanting to see the reaction to his words.

“Yeah, well, they’ll know now, won’t they,” came the quiet response. 
“This is gonna scar and scar bad.”

Spike turned, picked up the card the doctor had left and handed it across.
He saw Xander take it, read it and look up, confusion written on his

“The doctor who took care of you left that, I called this morning, we have
an appointment for 9:00 tonight. I know you don’t want anyone else to
know and, for some reason, neither do I. Won’t help and will only result
in that lot asking a bunch of stupid questions. Here’s the deal, I won’t
tell but you are NEVER doing this again. Never. And to make sure of that
I’m moving back in here.” Spike’s voice had taken on an air of command. 
It was clear that this was not negotiable. “We’ll just have to find
something else for you to do.”

Xander stared at him in shock. He wasn’t sure what surprised him most,
that Spike wanted to help him, that Spike wasn’t blackmailing him too much
or that Spike actually sounded like he cared what happened. Xander
clearly recognized that a deal was being offered to him, let Spike stay or
Spike would tell. He was surprised that the prospect of Spike staying
with him actually brought a sense of relief. As much as it hurt to
discuss, he actually felt slightly better now that someone else knew. 
Besides, Spike actually was fairly good company, once you got used to his
odd sense of humor. **What about your father, what will you do when he
finds out**, a small voice asked. He decided to ignore it. He would deal
with that when the time came. It would be nice to have some company. He
knew he had to object, just for form’s sake. Had to have some dignity

“And what if I tell you that you can’t and get Willow to do the uninvite

Spike leaned forward, yellow again flickering in his eyes. “Then you
won’t have this little secret anymore and you can explain to them.”

Xander nodded, swallowing hard, no matter how much his mind knew Spike
couldn’t hurt him, his body still hadn’t quite gotten the message. “All
right, deal.”

“Deal,” repeated Spike. He looked at the clock. 5:00. Three hours to
sundown, four to their appointment. “Well, I’m going back to sleep,
didn’t get much this morning. Red called, you might want to call her
back. Make some excuse for not seeing them tonight. The doctor said you
had to get that arm stitched today to avoid scarring. And since I went to
the trouble of making the arrangements you’re going.” He threw himself on
the bed, drained from the events of the last night and day. “And clean up
this room, even I think it’s odd.”

Xander looked down at Spike and then moved for the phone. He was still
confused, still shaky and weak and still a little in shock at finding
Spike protecting him. He decided to push all those thoughts aside for
later. For whatever reason, Spike had helped him, wanted to help him and
wanted to continue to help him. That was enough for now.

Spike woke the second the sun went down. He felt much better, usually he
didn’t need much rest, but the intensity of the last day had drained him. 
He sat up, looked around. The room had been restored to its normal state,
perhaps a little cleaner than usual, but the hangings had been removed
from the room. He noticed that Xander had left them over the windows. He
could hear the television and smell the milk that Xander had poured into
his cereal. Xander sat in the chair, flipping through the channels as he
ate. Spike got up, walked to the refrigerator, reached in and removed the
last bag of blood. Opening it, he poured it into a mug then put the mug
into the microwave. Once heated, he took it out and moved to sit on the
edge of the bed, savoring the warm taste of human blood.

Xander glanced over, a little unsure of what to say. He had called
Willow, told her that he was sick and couldn’t come out. He had persuaded
her not to come over with some rather convincing descriptions of his
supposed illness and promised to call her the next morning. He had then
removed the draping from the room, carefully folding the cloth and putting
it away. He had left the hangings over the windows, realizing how much
they helped keep out the sun. He then had straightened up a little,
knowing he was avoiding going into the bathroom. He finally ran out of
excuses and went to retrieve the knife. He picked it up gently, careful
to point the edge away from his body. He had tenderly wiped down the
knife, forcing himself to see how much blood caked the blade, to realize
just how close he had come to death. Once the blade was cleaned he placed
it back into its box. He caressed the lid, then pulled a lock box from
the closet. He opened the lock box, put the box with the knife inside,
then locked it back up. Removing the key from the ring, he placed in on
the table. He then had scrubbed at the blood staining the floor, finally
getting the majority of it out. He had then showered again, feeling the
tension drain from him. He realized he was starved and had sat down with
the cereal just before Spike woke up.

Spike finished the blood and then regretfully set the mug down. There was
never enough in those bags, just enough to calm one craving and start
another. Looking over, he saw the uncertainty on Xander’s face as the boy
looked at him. He sighed, knowing that the boy still had to be a little
nervous about what the vampire would do.

“Well, you did a good job of cleaning up, mate, looks almost nice in
here.” He heard Xander slowly release the breath he had been holding. 
Glancing at the clock he saw it was just after 8:00. “I’ll be right back,
gotta grab some clothes before we go.” He pulled himself up and out the
door, heading for the DeSoto which was parked up the street. He had
gotten in the habit of parking away from the house during the time he had
lived with the boy and had automatically parked a few blocks away the
night before. He reached the car, opened the trunk and then retrieved the
spare set of clothes he always kept there. Returning to the basement he
saw that Xander had stripped the sheets off the bed and folded it back
into a couch.

“Let me get cleaned up and then we’ll go, don’t want to be late.” Xander
just nodded.

Spike quickly showered, not wanting to leave Xander alone for too long. 
He knew that the boy would be feeling lost right now, and he wanted to
make sure that Xander realized that he wasn’t toying with him. He didn’t
understand this need he had to make Xander feel safe, but he liked it. He
had always enjoyed having someone to care for, it made him feel needed and
wanted. Since Dru had left, he had felt empty and alone, completely
useless with the bloody chip in his head. Now, Xander needed help and he
could help him. He wasn’t going to question beyond that, just enjoy it
while he could.

He dried himself off and dressed quickly, coming out to find Xander
sitting on the couch, fingering a key. A small lockbox sat on the table. 
He sat down next to him, waiting to hear whatever it is that Xander was
going to say.

Xander twisted the key in his fingers, not sure how to start. He felt
like everything he knew had changed in the space of a day. He had almost
died, his mortal enemy had learned his secret and then had offered to
help. It made him feel warm inside, to know that someone, even if it was
a vampire, cared about him. He knew what a gesture it was for Spike to
keep this secret and he wanted to do something to show his appreciation.

“I put the knife back in its box and then put the knife in this.” He
picked up the lockbox and unlocked it. Inside sat the box containing the
knife. He opened it and handed it to Spike. Spike took it, his eyes
never leaving Xander’s. “I want you to know that I appreciate this. 
Here, put it back in and I’ll lock it up. I want you to have the key.”

Spike heard the determination in Xander’s voice. He hadn’t expected this,
had no idea that the boy was determined to prove his strength. He nodded
and carefully closed the box, then placed it into the larger lockbox,
careful not to scrape the box with the knife against the side of the
lockbox. Xander slid his hand across the wood, and Spike could smell the
longing and desire begin. Xander quickly slammed the lid of the lockbox
shut, locked it and handed over the key.

“Here’s the key, do whatever you want with it, I don’t want to know,” 
Xander abruptly stood and paced away. It was done. He wouldn’t be able
to get at the knife now without going through Spike. He was certain that
would not go well if he tried.

Spike stared at the key for a moment and then put it in a pocket of his
duster. He would keep it safe until Xander was ready to take it back. 
Standing, he shrugged into the duster then motioned to Xander.

“Let’s get going, whelp. Not sure exactly where this place is and we
don’t want to be late.”


They pulled into the parking garage of one of the medical buildings
downtown. According to the business card, Dr. Steven’s office was on the
ninth floor. They silently rode the elevator, each tensing at the thought
of what would come next. They emerged into an elegant office, all pale
colors and blonde wood. A smiling young woman greeted them as they walked
through the door.

“Mr. Harris, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Sandra, Dr. Steven’s nurse.
If you’ll both come with me, I’ll take you back to meet the doctor.” Her
quiet, pleasant voice calmed them a little as she led them to an
examination room. She opened a door and led them into a room with large
armchairs and a padded table. It was obvious that every effort had been
made to minimize the medical equipment.

“The doctor’s been expecting you, she’ll be just a moment, there’s some
water in the carafe.” She smiled as she gently closed the door.

Spike moved to examine the pictures on the wall while Xander sat in one of
the chairs. “Bloody hate doctor’s offices, don’t care what they do can
still smell that doctor smell,” he muttered, tension building again.

Xander just sat there, too nervous to speak. He had no idea what to say,
how to explain the wounds. Maybe she wouldn’t ask. The door quietly
opened and a small, dark-haired woman entered. Xander automatically stood
as she approached.

“You must be Mr. Harris, I understand that you’re a friend of Willy’s. 
Well, just let me assure you that whatever you need, I should be able to
help.” She reached out her hand and Xander shook it, calming a little at
the kind look in her eye. There was a small sound behind her as Spike
turned from the wall to look her over.

Dr. Steven turned and then went white. “Master Spike, I am so sorry, I
did not realize that you were here, that he was,” she realized she was
still holding Xander’s hand and turned even paler. She released the hand
and then moved a step away. “Master, truly I meant no dishonor, please
tell me how I can serve you.”

A delighted grin went across Spike’s face. Well now, this was going to be
fun. Yet another poor mortal who didn’t know his fate. He knew he
shouldn’t do this, that it was sure to just confuse Xander but he couldn’t

“Well, I will let this little slip pass this once. I was told that you
could provide a valuable service to me. You see, my boy there stupidly
got himself into a fight and, unfortunately, the demon had a knife. 
Managed to cut the boy’s left arm up fairly well before the boy ripped his
spine out. As you can see, he is much too lovely to be scarred so I asked
and was given your name. Just need some stitching done right to make sure
that the only marks he bears are the ones I give him.” The words came out
in a bored drawl while Spike’s eyes caught Xander’s over the doctor’s
shoulder. A quirk of an eyebrow at Xander’s confused expression and then
his gaze returned to the woman before him. “So, have I been informed
correctly, that you can help? I would hate to think I’ve been

It was all Xander could do not to burst out laughing. The sheer number of
lies which Spike had so confidently told was impressive. He could tell
that Spike was relishing this chance to assert authority over the poor
doctor. He settled his face what he hoped was an appropriately penitent
expression, biting his lower lip to keep quiet.

“Oh, yes, I will do everything I can to help,” she practically stuttered. 
“Please if he could move over to the chair under the light so that I can
examine him.”

Xander moved to the indicated chair and placed his arm on the table. She
slowly unwrapped the gauze, taking care not to cause him any pain. Once
the arm was unwrapped she carefully examined his arm, forehead wrinkling
in concentration. Spike had moved to stand directly behind Xander, a hand
protectively on his shoulder. Finally done with her examination, Dr.
Steven looked up at Spike.

“Well, the only cut that really needs attention is the one that runs down
his arm. When did this happen?”

Xander opened his mouth to speak, but stopped when Spike squeezed his

“Last night, I believe, he came crawling back all bloody so I had one of
my minions clean him up.”

The doctor nodded, her eyes never leaving Spike’s face. “I can
microstitch the cut, thankfully, the knife had a fine blade so the edges
are nice and clean. It should heal nicely, there may be a faint line for
a few months, but eventually that will also fade. I would like to give
him a local anesthetic to block any pain. It should take about half an
hour to complete the stitching.”

Spike merely nodded. The doctor picked up the phone and asked Sandra to
bring in the necessary equipment and medication. Spike’s grip on Xander’s
shoulder never let up.

Sandra carefully prepped his arm, then the doctor injected something near
his elbow. His eyes widened a little as the needle went in, but quickly
his arm went numb. The doctor sat next to him, organizing her equipment.

Looking up at Spike, Dr. Stevens saw the worry cross the vampire’s face. 
“Don’t worry, it won’t hurt him now, and other than itching, it won’t hurt
when I’m done.” Spike’s face cleared slightly, a look of concern moving
into the space. Obviously, the boy was important to him. She dared
another question. “Would it be all right if I addressed him directly, it
will be easier for me to determine if everything is going right.”

“If it will help, then by all means,” came the reply. His other hand came
up to rest on Xander’s shoulder on its own accord.
She nodded her thanks and then bent to work. Xander watched as she
carefully knit the edges of his flesh together, using such small stitches
they could barely be seen. The methodical nature of her work gave him
time to examine his arm. He hissed slightly as he realized just how badly
he had hurt himself. Spike’s hands suddenly clenched on his shoulders.

“Did she hurt you,” came a growl from above. “If she does you say
something immediately, do you understand?” Again, growled out with rage
underlying the tone.

Dr. Steven immediately stopped, her eyes widening. “I didn’t hurt you
did, I, really he’s right, you just say something and we can take care of
that.” If she hurt the vampire’s boy, well, she couldn’t begin to imagine
the punishment she would endure.

Xander quickly shook his head, “No, no, nothing like that, I just, I
didn’t realize how bad it was, that’s all.” He hadn’t meant to upset
anyone like that, it had just been a reaction to seeing the cuts under the
bright light.

“All right, continue, I want to leave here as soon as possible.” Spike
relaxed his grip, slightly mollified by Xander’s words.

The doctor resumed, still taking as much care as before. Finally, she
finished, washed the stitches down with antiseptic. She tilted her head,
critically inspecting her work. Satisfied, she looked at Xander.

“You need to keep this clean, I’ll give you some more antiseptic. Wash it
down at least three times a day.” She turned and reached into a cabinet
behind her. She handed him a bottle of pills. “This is penicillin, are
you allergic?” Xander shook his head no. “All right, then you MUST take
all the pills. Take these three times a day, with food. It is very
important so that you don’t get an infection.” Both Spike and Xander
nodded at that. “I want you to come back in three weeks so that I can see
how the stitches are healing, the same time will be fine. If you have any
problems in the meantime, just call any time, day or night.” Again, both
Spike and Xander nodded. Seeing that her instructions had been heard and
understood, she bandaged Xander’s arm.

When she was finished, Spike dropped his hands from Xander’s shoulder and
pulled him to his feet. Turning to face the woman, he let some of the
gratitude he felt show on his face.

“Thank you, I can see that Willy’s confidence was well placed. This will
not be forgotten.” Spike saw the pleased flush creep up the doctor’s
neck. “Come, boy, let’s get back, the rest are sure to have caused some
problem by now.”

Xander just nodded, dying to find out just what had transpired. It was
clear that Dr. Steven was in awe of Spike and that she would do anything
he asked. He was curious to know what that had been all about.

They rode the elevator back down in silence, with an amused smile playing
around Spike’s lips. Finally, when they reached the car, he threw his
head back and began to laugh.

It had been so long since anyone had shown that level of fear and respect.
To hear a human call him Master, to be afraid to touch what they assumed
was his, when Spike could do nothing to hurt her amused him to no end. He
had never had really had any use for the trappings that came with his
status as a master, but he had enjoyed the automatic fear and respect that
it had instilled. He hadn’t realized just how much he missed it until
then. Well, at least it came to good use now. He laughed again, to think
that he would want to use his power to help a human. His unlife just
became odder by the day.

Xander listened to Spike laugh. He was dying to know what the laughter
was all about. He assumed it was a result of the respect and fear that
the doctor had shown. It was obvious that she hadn’t known about Spike’s
chip and still feared him. He supposed the vampire would find it humorous
that a being whom he couldn’t harm to save his life was sure that if she
failed then Spike would kill her.

They got into the car, Spike still grinning slightly, and started home. 
Xander shot a quick glance over and saw the smirk still on Spike’s face.

“Uh, Spike, you want to tell me what the hell that was all about? Why was
she afraid to look at me without your permission? And what was that about
me getting into a fight and you having minions? That was really weird,
you know.” He grinned a little, he had to admit it had been fun to watch.

Spike’s smirk grew larger, this should be interesting. “Well, you see,
pet, if a human is with a vampire that usually means only one thing. The
human is the vampire’s pet and belongs to the vampire. No one else is
allowed to speak to or touch him without his owner’s permission. When a
master vampire is keeping a human, then anyone who dares to touch or speak
to the human will usually be killed instantly. So, when she shook your
hand and spoke to you then saw me, her first thought was that I would kill
her.” Spike began to laugh again. “Christ, it’s been a long time since
I’ve made anyone shake so quickly. Quite a lot of fun, that. As far as
the rest, well, not her bloody business what happened, now is it? And
besides, I rather enjoyed playing the master again.” His smirk faded a
little as he realized all he could do was play. **Let’s not think about
that, don’t want to turn into a brooding pouf like Angel, now do we**

Xander stared at Spike in shock, she had thought he was a PET. Well, that
was interesting, certainly explained things. He knew that Spike was not
known for his restraint and if she had thought he was Spike’s pet . . . No
wonder she had been so concerned. Xander looked out the window as they
drove. He had never really thought about what it must be like for Spike,
now that the chip kept him from hurting humans. He had known that Spike
was a Master, that other vampires had bowed before him. But he had never
really seen that. Between Buffy putting Spike in a wheelchair and Angelus
returning, Spike had never truly been at his most powerful. When he had
returned from South America, drunk and pining for Dru, he had been
dangerous, but more concerned with getting Dru back than building his
power. Then he had been chipped and lost his ability to rule. Now that
he was, however reluctantly, helping the good guy, he was held in contempt
by those he used to lord. Xander couldn’t even imagine what a loss like
that was like. No wonder he had tried to kill himself. Xander couldn’t
even deal with the petty problems of his life, let alone imagine what it
was like to lose everything that made him what he was. Maybe Spike did
understand what Xander felt. Xander pulled himself out of his thoughts as
Spike stopped a few blocks from his house.

“Thought it best to leave the car here, didn’t think you wanted those
wankers you call parents to know I was there,” Spike explained as they got
out of the car.

Xander silently agreed, he definitely didn’t want to explain this. They
made their way down the stairs, then both fell onto the couch. Spike
grabbed the remote and began flipping through the channels as they fell
into a comfortable silence.

It had been two weeks since Spike had moved back in with Xander. For some
reason, neither had mentioned this arrangement to the rest of the gang. 
The subject had simply never come up. They had fallen into a routine. 
Xander made sure that the windows were draped before he went to work,
worked and then came home. By that time Spike was usually awake and they
would watch television while eating dinner, well drinking dinner in
Spike’s case. Then more tv, or maybe a movie, if they weren’t patrolling.
They would have long conversations about everything and nothing. Spike
had shared a few choice stories about Angel and Xander could hardly wait
to see the vamp again, just to let a few hints drop to see what reaction
he would get. In turn, Xander talked about how it was before Buffy had
arrived, what Willow had been like, how close they had been. They never
mentioned that night but Xander knew Spike watched him carefully, looking
for any signs that Xander was feeling the call for the blade. But he
hadn’t. For some reason the vampire’s presence was calming. Spike made
him feel good, like someone cared.

Within the last week they had taken to sharing the bed. They had stayed
up nearly to dawn one night, getting drunk and watching bad Japanese
monster movies. A heated argument over the relative merits of Godzilla v.
Mothra and Godzilla v. King Kong had raged for about an hour. For some
reason which Xander could not quite remember, they had pulled the bed out.
Something to do with the being unable to stand due to the alcohol seemed
vaguely right. For whatever reason, the bed was out and they had both
fallen asleep. Or passed out. One or the other. The point was that when
Xander woke up he found that he was on his side with Spike curled against
him. He had frozen for a second, but didn’t move. There was something
comforting in that cool touch. Spike woke a few minutes later. He too
had frozen but he didn’t move either. Xander got up to use the bathroom a
few seconds later. Neither said a word. That night, though, when Xander
got ready for bed he looked over at Spike. “Um, it’s okay if you want to
sleep on the bed too, that chair’s got to be uncomfortable.” Spike just
nodded, careful to avoid Xander’s eyes. Every night since then they had
slept together. Xander was getting used to the cool presence pressing
into his back. He had to admit he liked the vampire living there.

Just not at the moment. 

It was pouring rain and they had met nothing on patrol. Spike had made
sure that Xander was paired with either himself or Buffy when they went
out. Even when he was with Buffy, Xander could tell that Spike made sure
to cross their paths a few times a night. He knew Spike was checking up
on him, making sure he fought back. Xander took it as another sign of
protection. And he had fought, he poured his rage into attacking the
vampires and demons. He think he understood how Spike felt, unable to do
what he wanted, he had this substitute. He could only imagine how much it
meant to Spike.

He watched Spike pace, looking for all the world like a caged panther. 
They had spent nearly every moment Xander wasn’t at work together and
Xander was craving some space. He finally looked up from his book.

“All right, that’s it. Why don’t you go get a drink somewhere, go out
looking for something to kill, go get gas for your car, just go somewhere
and stop that pacing.”

Spike whipped his head around, his eyes narrowing. He had to admit that
he was getting cabin fever. He was craving to go out, he just didn’t want
to leave Xander alone. The boy seemed to be getting stronger everyday, he
hadn’t sensed that desperation on him. And, just in the last few days,
that scent that he had lost had begun to come back. Still, he didn’t
trust this.

“Why, you need to be alone for some reason I should know about. Awfully
anxious to get rid of me all of a sudden.” Spike stalked over and sat
next to Xander on the couch. “Up to no good or are you planning on having
a bit of fun without me?” The words were snarled out as he closely
watched Xander’s reaction.

Xander just sighed, he should have known this would happen. “No reason,
just we’ve been spending a lot of quality time and I thought you might
like to be alone for a little while. I don’t feel like going out in the
rain or I would leave. Don’t worry, I’m not up to anything.”

Spike leaned closer, inhaling deeply. There was nothing there, just the
usual Xander smell. No pain, no rage. **It would be nice to go out, I
could stop by the crypt, get some things, stop at the butchers**

“Right, mate, that sounds like a good idea.” He grabbed his duster off
the chair, surreptitiously checking to make sure the key was still there. 
He moved to the door before abruptly turning back. “I’ll be back in
exactly two hours, and I will know if you do anything in the meantime. If
you do, then the deal’s off and I’ll call the Slayer straightway.”

Xander just nodded. He was surprised that Spike hadn’t fought him more on

“Go on, I’ll be waiting here when you get back. Don’t worry, nothing’s
going to happen while you’re gone.” He tried to sound put upon, ignoring
the sharp tinge of pleasure at Spike’s concern.

“Right, then, I’m off.” Spike stared at him for another moment, opening
his mouth to say something, then abruptly closing it. He turned on his
heel and stalked out the door. Xander settled back on the couch, grabbing
the remote. Finally, quality surfing time. The vampire thought the
remote was his sole possession and Xander had missed the feel of it in his
hands. **Oh, look Asteroid is on** Xander settled back for some
interrupted tv time.

Spike pulled the car back against the curb. He had to admit, it had been
nice to be out by himself. He had stopped back at the crypt, picking up
some more clothes, some cigarettes and a few other odds and ends. He had
come across a fledgling skulking about and had toyed with him for awhile
before finally staking him. He had stopped by the butchers and picked up
some more blood. He actually had stopped and filled the gas, wry grin
crossing his face as he realized he had taken the whelp’s advice. He knew
he was killing time, but he had told Xander two hours and he didn’t want
to be early. It seemed important to show he trusted the boy, that he
appreciated the thoughtfulness of this gesture. He stared into the night.
Xander was slowly becoming more and more important to him. He hated it
when Xander patrolled without him, when he couldn’t make sure he was safe.
He hated the boy had to work with idiots who didn’t appreciate him. He
hated that Xander had to live in that hovel. He sighed, deciding to stop
there. He knew full well where this train of thought was headed and he
wasn’t ready to deal with that quite yet.

He got out of the car and began walking back to the house. As he
approached he felt something the hackles rise on the back of his neck. 
Something was wrong. He broke into a run, tearing down the stairs. The
scent of Xander’s blood flooded his senses as he ripped open the door.

**That bastard, I’ll kill him, he promised, that bastard** Spike’s
thoughts raged as he dropped his packages and rushed into the basement.

The sight before him stopped him cold. Xander was lying face down on the
floor, face battered and bruised. The blood Spike smelled was spilling
from the broken nose and numerous other cuts on the boy’s **MY boy’s**
face. Straddling him was some man, some man who was violently pushing
himself into Xander’s body.

“Oh yeah, you like it, you always like it, you know you want it” Spike
felt his face shift instantly when he realized that the voice was that of
Xander’s father. In a split second everything fell into place. He knew
why Xander did what he did, knew who gave him those bruises, knew why
Xander flinched every time someone grabbed him from behind.

With a howl of rage, Spike threw himself onto the man **not man beast no
man would do this** trying desperately to ignore the pain that exploded in
his head. He ripped the man off Xander, throwing him to the floor. 
Grabbing Xander’s father again, he threw him into the wall, vaguely
registering the satisfying crack of his skull through the pain. The man
collapsed on the floor, unconscious. Spike let out another growl and
leaned down, trying to rip the throat out of this monster. Pain exploded
in his mind and he dropped to the floor. Desperate, he tried to crawl
closer, tried to gather every ounce of strength he had to destroy this
being, this creature who had no right to live.

The seizure ripped through him before he could crawl a foot. He heard his
head hitting the floor, heard his ribs crack. Still, he tried to move
forward, uncaring as to whether he lived or died as long as he destroyed
the person who had tortured his Xander for hell only knew who long. 
Another seizure ripped through him and he was unable to move. Tears of
pain and fury poured down his face. He had never hated the bloody
bastards who had done this to him more than at this moment.

Spike was vaguely aware that Xander was stirring next to him on the floor.
He began to crawl towards Xander, desperately trying to find some way to
touch him, to comfort him. Another seizure, not quite as bad, gripped
him. He heard Xander stand, saw him reach out an unsteady hand to the
couch. Spike managed to push himself off the floor and lean back against
the wall.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” he heard the words pour out of his mouth. “I
shouldn’t have left, my fault,” he hissed as the pain in his head grabbed
him again. Xander just stared down at him for a moment, then dropped to
his knees beside Spike.

“Shh, it’s not your fault, don’t talk, you’re hurt,” Spike heard Xander’s
voice coming from far away. He tried to reach up to touch him, but his
vision was fading in and out. He felt Xander move away and turned his
head to watch what he did. He felt a wave of panic grab him as he saw
Xander slowly walk over and pick up a knife from beside the sink.

“No,” he managed to wheeze out, “No, please.” Spike didn’t think he could
watch this. He didn’t blame Xander, he just didn’t know if he could watch
this, if he could stand to see the results his utter failure to protect
his boy.

Xander came back and knelt beside Spike again. 

“It’s not that, you need blood, you’re hurt really bad.” Xander’s eyes
locked with Spike’s. Xander looked pale and his eyes reflected pain and
shock. “There’s no more human blood, and you need it.” With that he
raised the knife with his left hand and carefully sliced open his right
wrist. The blood began to spill and Xander held his wrist to Spike’s

“Drink, please drink, please don’t leave me, drink, please.” The
desperation was clear in Xander’s voice.

Spike shook his head. No, no matter how much he longed for Xander’s blood
he couldn’t do this. He couldn’t take anymore, Xander looked too hurt

“Damn it, don’t get noble on me now, you’re no help to me if you can’t
move, drink you fucker, drink,” Xander grabbed the back of Spike’s head
and slammed his wrist on Spike’s mouth.

Spike’s eyes rolled back into his head as the heady taste washed through
his mouth. Dark, rich, pure, light, heat, peace, fire, longing, fear all
washed over his tongue. Better than he had ever dreamed. And underneath
it all was the faint taste of hope. That was the scent that had been
missing, that was what had started to come back. Hope. Spike began to
pull at the blood, desperate to bring it into himself. He heard the gasp
from above him, could hear Xander’s heart start to slow. He gathered all
his remaining strength and yanked the arm from his mouth. He looked up
and stared into Xander’s eyes just as they closed.

“Spike,” he heard his name sighed out as Xander collapsed into his arms.

Part Six  

He held him. He held him as if his life depended on it. He held him as
if he was the only true thing he had ever known. He held him as if the
world would end if he let go. He thought it just might. Spike knew that
the fragile thread keeping him sane was strung between the sound of a
heartbeat and the feel of warm breath on his neck. He also knew that the
tremors racking his body came more from fury and fear then from any
lingering effects of the seizures that had ripped through him. He was
torn between blind rage at what had happened, at the absolute violation of
the boy in his arms, at his inability to destroy that which had dared to
hurt Xander and pure panic at the thought of what aftermath this would
have on the fragile body he cradled. He was still shocked at what Xander
had done, giving up his blood to heal the vampire. No one had ever
sacrificed so much for him. Hell, no one had ever sacrificed anything for
him. His mind stopped cold at the thought that Xander might die from all
of this. He did not think he would survive if Xander did not.

Spike gripped Xander a little closer, trying to will his strength into the
still body. He could hear the words echoing in his mind, “Go on, I’ll be
waiting here when you get back. Don’t worry, nothing’s going to happen
while you’re gone.” He could see the slight smile on Xander’s face, the
happiness the boy had tried to hide that Spike had trusted him enough to
leave. Spike’s eyes closed as a wave of shame washed over him. It was
all his fault, he should have known this was going to happen, should have
sensed it, smelled it, something, anything, he should have seen this
coming. He should have stayed to protect Xander. He knew that he would
have gladly died to keep this boy, this pure soul, away from such evil.

Spike knew evil, had tasted it, touched it, bathed it its dark embrace. 
But there were certain depths which even a vampire would not descend. 
This was not the same as his Sire claiming rights to his body. No matter
how violent, there was still a sense of asserting power, of attempting to
draw him back to the family on those occasions. This, this was pure evil.
Spike’s hands began to shake as he slowly rubbed them down Xander’s back,
attempting to soothe and calm him. That beast was blood of Xander’s
blood, the strongest tie of all. And he **no IT** had betrayed that on
the basest level. Spike wanted nothing more then to spend days torturing
him, bringing to bear all he had ever learned in the art of pain to this
sweet task of destruction. Spike knew he could make it last and linger,
could push that sick fuck beyond any wall of agony to some higher peak,
some last exquisite agony. And, at the end, when the last breath was
nigh, Spike wanted to hand Xander the box with the knife, watch him open
it and plunge it to its hilt in this monster’s heart. But he couldn’t,
not yet, and the pain of that knowledge burned the vampire to his core.

He heard a sudden hitch in the boy’s breath as Xander slowly lifted his
head off Spike’s shoulder. Spike stilled, anxiously waiting for Xander’s
eyes to open. He didn’t know what to expect, could only hope that the
eyes would be clear, that the spark of life he longed to touch would still
be there.

Xander slowly opened his eyes. He felt battered, his face throbbing from
where he had hit the floor, his ribs, which had only recently stopped
aching every time he inhaled, were once again cracked and sore. He could
feel the cool arms wrapped around him, soothing the pain. He could not
believe how safe he felt here, wrapped in the arms of a vampire. A
vampire he had just fed. The slice on his wrist burned, but not in the
way his own cuts had. Rather, this felt like a brand, a kind of claiming.
He had never felt anything like the pull of Spike’s mouth on his wrist. 
He could feel the desperation, the need, the pure desire Spike had to draw
his essence from him. It was not desire for blood, it was desire for HIM,
to become part of him. Xander shuddered. The intimacy of it was greater
than anything he had ever known. He looked up, catching Spike’s gaze with
his own.

Brown eyes stared into blue, a mixture of fear, pain, worry, need and
longing mirrored there. For long moments they stayed like that, lost in
each other’s eyes, the relief at finding one another safe crashing over
them. Xander slowly raised his hand, tracing a finger down Spike’s face.

“You’re okay, Christ, I was so worried, I wasn’t sure what to do, it
looked so bad, like it hurt so much,” the words come flowing out as
Xander’s voice began to shake. “I thought that you were going to. . .,”
the words trailed off as the visions flicked through his consciousness. 
He had heard the breaking of Spike’s ribs, the echo of the sick smack of
Spike’s skull on the floor still rang in his ears. “I didn’t want you to
hurt for me.”

Spike reached up, covering Xander’s hand with his own. “Luv, I’m sorry
that this happened, that you were hurt, that you had to do that for me.” 
Spike’s voice too had a curious waver, a slight crack that hinted at
greater pain. Dropping his hand, he carefully wrapped his arms around
that warm body, pulling Xander down to lean back on his shoulder. “I
promise you this, no one will ever harm you again. No one will ever touch
you, you will never be hurt, not while I’m here.”

Xander allowed himself to be pulled into the embrace, the fierceness of
the words piercing his soul. He nodded into Spike’s shoulder. He wanted
to tell Spike he knew, that he believed him, but didn’t trust himself to
speak. They stayed there a minute longer, each taking the chance to calm
down, to realize the other was safe. With a small sigh, Xander leaned
back. He didn’t want to, but the pain was starting to overwhelm him now
that the adrenaline was wearing off. He let out a shaky breath, trying
to gather the strength to stand.

“You all right, pet, do you need something,” Spike could feel the pain
radiating from Xander, even as the sharp stench of fear began to fade. 
Xander just shook his head, clearly trying to gather his bearings. Spike
carefully moved away, watching closely to make sure he wasn’t hurting his
boy. He pushed himself up the wall, then reached down his hand.

“C’mon, let’s get you some aspirin. And I want to take a look at your
nose. I think it’s broken. Might need to get that looked at.” Spike
spoke quietly, trying to instill a sense of peace and calm. He knew he
would need it. He was determined to get Xander to the hospital this time,
no matter how much the whelp protested. That nose was definitely broken
and had to hurt like hell. Besides, Spike wanted to make sure the ribs
weren’t broken too and he also had to make sure that Xander hadn’t
suffered any internal damage. His mind slipped at that thought as the
rage he had been suppressing slammed back into him. He unconsciously
slipped back into gameface as the full events of the night flashed before
his eyes. He began to growl deep in his chest.

Xander’s eyes widened when the growling began. He reached up, taking the
proffered hand which then pulled him to his feet. He had seen the
emotions flick across Spike’s face and instantly knew that Spike had seen
everything. Xander had only been half-conscious when Spike had burst in
and hadn’t been completely sure as to what Spike knew. There was no doubt

“Spike, calm down. Please, calm down. It’s okay,” he flinched back as
Spike rounded on him at those words, yellow eyes blazing. “I mean, I
don’t mean it’s okay what happened, I mean I’m okay now, it’s over, please
calm down. I can’t see you hurt again, please.”

The desperation in Xander’s voice stopped Spike cold. Taking long, harsh
breaths, he forced himself to calm down, to step back. He knew that he
couldn’t go after that thing lying on the floor again, that he was still
too weak. Besides, it was upsetting Xander, and he knew that Xander
needed nothing more than calm at the moment. Nodding, he tried to slip
back into human guise but was finding it hard to maintain his control. 
Every time he started to rein it in, some sight or sound would rock him,
and the rage would begin to build.

He started when he felt a warm hand trace the ridges on his forehead. 
Instinctively, he moved closer to Xander, tilting his face up as the
soothing caress calmed him. “Please, please, just, please talk to me,
okay? Just say something.” Xander’s voice cracked, he was terrified that
Spike would collapse again, that he would try to kill his father **and
yes, I would love to see that** and that those seizures would rip the
vampire apart.

Spike nodded, took one last breath and slipped back into human form. 
“Sorry, luv, just, can’t bear that pile of shit over there even
considering breathing, let alone breathing the same air as you.”

They both turned to look at the still body lying on the floor. It was
clear that Xander’s father was still alive, they could see his chest
rising and falling as he breathed. A trickle of blood ran from his
forehead and trailed across the basement floor. Xander took a few steps
forward to stand next to him.

Spike reached up, intent on tearing Xander away. He did not want Xander
anywhere near that motherfucker, didn’t want that piece of shit ever
laying eyes on him again. His hands dropped, however, as he watched the
emotions play across Xander’s face. Fear, pain, a glimpse of love with
caused Spike’s heart to constrict, immediately replaced by disgust, hate
and rage. He heard Xander’s heart begin to race, smelled the pure fury
which was filling his boy.

Xander glared down at the still form. For the first time, he let himself
truly feel the hatred which had burned in him for years. Enough, it was
finally enough. His leg drew back and viciously kicked into his father’s
ribs. A satisfying thud resounded through the basement. Xander’s mouth
curled into a snarl as his leg came back again.

“You bastard, you sick fuck, you piece of shit, how could you do that to
me, huh, why, I’m your child, you motherfucker, your flesh and blood, how
could you, HOW COULD YOU” The screams rang out as Xander lashed out in
fury, his words punctuated by the sounds of tearing flesh and snapping
bones. He kicked and kicked, years of rage pouring out. “How could you,
why would you, what did I ever do, what did I ever do,” the words came out
in a sob as Xander slowly started to fall. He never reached the ground as
Spike’s strong arms caught him and held him tight. Now it was Spike’s
turn to mutter soothing words as he held the sobbing boy.

“It’s over, it’s over, never again, never again, shh, I’ve got you,” Spike
felt a swell of emotions flood into him. He had savored every sound,
every drop of blood that Xander had ripped from that flesh. At the same
time he had been terrified, knowing that Xander was still weak from all
that he had gone through. He carefully walked them to the couch, wanting
to let Xander sit and gather back his strength. Xander’s sobs slowly
stopped and Spike pulled back.

“Gods, you’ve got to think I’m just pathetic, crying all the time like
that. Go on, say it I’m nothing but a nancy boy,” Xander smiled weakly,
embarrassed at losing control like that once again. He felt a firm hand
grip his chin, forcing him to look up.

“Not quite, luv. In fact, you may be the strongest human I’ve ever met.” 
Leaning forward, Spike pressed a cool kiss to his forehead. “Course,
you’re also one of the bloodiest, really need to get you cleaned up, or do
you just want to wait and let them do it at the hospital.” He hoped that
the kiss had distracted Xander enough to blur the reference to the
hospital. That wasn’t why he had done it, of course. He needed to,
needed to let Xander know that he would never think he was weak, would
never look down on him. It was perfectly obvious that this was not the
first time Xander had been attacked, and Spike could not begin to imagine
the strength of character it took for Xander to not only survive but to be
so open to the world.

Xander just stared at him in shock. He shook himself, this was SPIKE
being nice to him, Spike making him feel so wanted. He couldn’t begin to
deal with this now, didn’t want to think what this could mean. All he
really knew was that no one had ever made him feel so secure. He realized
what Spike had just said.

“What do you mean hospital,” a stubborn look crossed Xander’s face. “I
don’t need to go to the hospital. I’ll be fine.”

Spike sighed. He knew this was coming but he was determined to do
whatever was needed to get Xander there. If for no other reason then he
didn’t want that handsome face marred by a broken nose. Xander’s face was
fine just the way it was.

“Be reasonable, pet, that nose is broken and needs to be set, your ribs
need to be checked, bet some broke this time. And besides, we need to
make sure. . .,” Spike’s voice cracked again. He didn’t want to think
about this, couldn’t bear that he could still smell that vileness on
Xander. **This is ridiculous, you’re William the Bloody, continents used
to cringe at the mention of your name, you can do this** He started
again, his voice quiet and calm. “We need to make sure that nothing else
happened, that nothing was torn.” He looked down, unable to bear the
thought of what could have happened if he hadn’t arrived when he did.

Xander swallowed hard. He knew his nose was broken, that was pretty
obvious. He also knew that nothing had ruptured when **buck up little
camper, you can face this** when his father had slammed into him. He had
intimate knowledge of what that felt like and, besides, there was no blood
flowing down his thighs. He had no idea how to tell that to Spike without
the vampire completely freaking out. It was one thing for Spike to know. 
He was fairly certain the vampire could put two and two together and
figure out that this was not a new occurrence. It was quite another to
reveal just how much he had been hurt in the past.

“Um, I don’t think that’s a problem, it doesn’t hurt as much as when that
happens, and there’s, well, er, there’s, there’s no blood.” Xander’s
voice trailed off at the last part.

Spike’s head shot up. “What do you mean ‘it doesn’t hurt as much as when
that happens’. How the fuck would you know that?” His eyes narrowed and
yellow began to flicker around the edges of his eyes. “How would you
know? Bloody hell, what did that beast do to you?” He heard the quick
intake of breath and felt Xander jerk away from him. The loss of Xander’s
touch was like a slap to the face. With a huge effort of will, he pulled
his fury back. This was not helping. He slowly reached out a hand, not
quite touching Xander’s face, waiting until Xander could look at him, not
wanting to scare him.

“It’s okay, luv, you don’t have to answer. You can tell me later if you
want. You still need to go to the hospital, though. I can’t set your
nose and we don’t want you looking beaten up, now do we.” Spike tried his
best to keep his voice low and quiet but there was still a hint of fury

Xander shook his head again. There was no way he was going to the
hospital. There would be questions, explanations. And besides, Giles was
listed as his emergency contact person. He couldn’t begin to think of how
to explain this.

“No, it’ll be okay. Besides, it doesn’t hurt that bad.” The glazing of
his eyes proved that wrong. He kept seeing black spots and was beginning
to have difficulty sitting upright. “I’ll be fine.”

“Bullshit, you can’t even sit up straight. You’re going, even if I have
to carry you. Now get up.”


“Don’t make me do this.”

“I’m not going.”

“Fine, I warned you.” Spike quickly stood and scooped Xander into his
arms, moving for the door. Xander’s mouth fell open in shock.

“Put me down.”

“No, bloody hell, where’s my duster, need the bloody keys. Be a dear and
pick it up would you.”

“I said, put me down.” Xander began to struggle and Spike tightened his
grip. A wave of pain ripped through him, dropping him to his knees.

“Bloody hell, not trying to hurt him, stop it, stop it, those bastards,
I’m going to rip their balls off and feed ‘em to them,” Spike managed to
hiss out between waves of agony. Xander had wrenched out of his arms and
crouched next to him. Spike rocked back and forth as the pain hit again. 
**Not fair, trying to help, would never hurt him, never hurt him, not
right** He felt warm arms reach out for him this time.

“Spike,” a small voice in his ear. “God, I’m sorry, I’ll go, you didn’t
hurt me, I don’t know what made it go off. I’ll go, really, I just didn’t
want anyone to know what happened, that’s all, please be okay, I’m sorry.”

Spike looked up as the pain faded. That was all, Xander just didn’t want
anyone to know? That was easily taken care of. Spike stood up, leaning
against the wall for a second. For the first time since he had come back
to the basement, the faint hint of a smirk crossed his face.

“That’s the only reason you didn’t want to go, didn’t want to tell them
what happened. Why didn’t you say so, that’s easily fixed. Just lie.” 
Hell, these humans and their need to be so literal. Bloody ridiculous
notions of truth which just got in the way.

Xander’s jaw dropped. **Just lie, well, Jesus, that’s too simple isn’t
it** “Lie, and say what exactly, I fell down? Isn’t telling bald face
untruths your department anyway?” Xander began to smile a little too. 
Lie. Well, why not. Technically, he HAD been beaten up. No need to
mention the rest.

“Yes, lie. How about this, you stopped at the store and got jumped on the
way back to your car, some wankers who wanted your wallet.” Yes, that
would do. “They knocked you down, kicked you a little, smacked you in the
face and took off when you began to scream like a little girl.” The
smirk on Spike’s face widened. Yes, this would work. People always
underestimated his Xander, and he was sure that no one would question it
too much, not in the busy ER of Sunnydale General.

“Screamed like a little girl, gee, thanks for the support,” Xander grinned
back, though. This could work. His smile faded a little. “Spike, what
about the stitches? Won’t they want to know how I got those?”

Spike just waved a hand. “Fell on glass a few weeks ago, hate to say
this, ducks, but you do come across as a bit accident prone.”

“What about the cut on my wrist,” Spike caught Xander’s eyes as the soft
words. Reaching out, he carefully grasped Xander’s right arm, turning the
palm up so he could trace the wound. He could still feel the purity of
the blood in his veins. This, this he didn’t want to lie about, didn’t
want to deny what had happened. On the other hand, it was no one’s
business but theirs.

“One of them had a knife, went for your face, you put an arm up to block
it.” Xander heard the quiet response as Spike continued to trace his
fingers lightly over the cut. Xander just nodded.

“Only one more problem, Giles is my person to call in case of emergency. 
You know the whole gang will show up. What will we tell them about you?”

Spike yanked his eyes away from staring at the cut. **We, he said we**

“You want me to stay with you, then?” Spike heard the note of hope in his
voice. **Bloody hell mate, acting like a schoolgirl here**

Xander just stared back, what, Spike thought he wanted him to go. “Of
course I want you there,” a smile curled back on his lips. “Gotta have
someone to support this load of shit.”

“Right, then,” Spike nodded sharply, hoping Xander couldn’t see the
relief on his face. “Let’s get going, want to be back before dawn and
it’s late.” Both heads turned to look at the alarm clock. 11:23. They
looked back at each other, shocked. It felt like days had passed.

“Spike, what are we going to do with, with,” Xander stopped, not sure of
what to say.

“Set him on fire.” The answer was immediate and it was clear that the
vampire wasn’t joking.

“No, the house would go up too, he’s got so much alcohol in him, he would
go up like a torch.” An evil grin crossed Xander’s face. “I know, let’s
drag him outside and leave him in the yard. Something is bound to eat him
while we’re gone.”

Spike nodded in pride. “Always knew you had an evil streak, which end do
you want? If you take his head you could always gouge his eyes out,” he
added helpfully. This was more like it.

“No, let me drag him by his feet, that way his head will hit on the
stairs.” The look on Xander’s face would have done any vampire proud.

“Be my guest.”

Spike sat down on the couch and watched as Xander walked over, stopping to
get one last kick in, before he reached down and grabbed the bastard’s
ankles. Xander made sure to slam into every possible obstacle on his way
out the door, and Spike followed him up the stairs, luxuriating in every
crack of the head on the concrete of the steps. Xander finally dropped
him in the yard, a look of pure hate on his face.

“Ready, luv?” Spike was dying to get Xander to the hospital, knowing that
he had to be close to collapse.

“No, I want to shower first. That way in case they want to do any kind of
further exam,” Xander’s voice trailed off.

“Anything you want, pet,” Spike battled back his impatience. He
understood Xander’s reluctance to let anyone else know, as much as he
wanted to rub it into the faces of those supposed friends of his.

They returned to the basement and Xander headed to the shower. He really
felt the need to wash, to remove the stench from his body. He knew he was
delaying the trip, delaying seeing his friends, hearing their concern over
something that wasn’t real. He also didn’t know how they would react to
Spike’s presence. He stepped under the spray, gingerly cleaning himself. 
**If Buffy starts up on Spike** Xander stopped his thoughts there.

Spike took the time to quickly look around. Amazingly enough, the
apartment wasn’t that destroyed. There was a fairly large patch of blood
on the floor which he quickly covered with a blanket. A lamp had been
knocked over which he set back upright. Other than that, there was
nothing to show what had happened. He sighed. Nothing other than the
stench which lingered in the air. He walked back and opened the door,
letting the cool night air wash into the room. He knew the Slayer would
insist on bringing Xander home, and he didn’t want any evidence to remain.
He already had his story planned, and he had decided that he would just
follow them back and wait for them to leave. There was no way he was
letting Xander out of his sight for a second longer than necessary. He
heard the water stop and a few minute later Xander came out. Luckily, it
was still raining, so his wet hair would be explained. Xander quickly
grabbed some fresh clothes then went back into the bathroom to change. He
came out, looking a little stronger and walked over to Spike.

“Ok,” he took a deep breath. “Let’s go.”

Spike simply draped his arm over Xander’s shoulders and led him into the

Xander glared at his friends. **Why can’t they just leave** It had been
midnight when he and Spike had reached the hospital. Luckily, the ER
wasn’t that full and a doctor had been with him fairly quickly. No one
had questioned his story too closely. It was clear that he had been
beaten and a mugging seemed like an obvious explanation. Xander had
learned one thing living on the Hellmouth, if there was an obvious
explanation, people believed it. It was amazing how people saw only what
they wanted to see. Sure enough, the hospital had called Giles and the
whole gang had come roaring in, Willow all wide-eyed and frightened, Tara
frightened on Willow’s behalf, Giles fatherly and concerned and Buffy
ready to hunt and destroy the supposed muggers. Exactly as expected. They
had all stopped short when they saw Spike.

“What’s he doing here,” Buffy had spat out.

It took all Xander’s self-control not to spit back “Saving my life, most
likely” but he had been saved by Spike himself.

“Popped over to watch the telly, the one in the crypt’s busted, and found
the silly whelp sitting on his couch dripping blood all over himself. Got
him to admit some humans beat him up and when I was done laughing, got him
to come here. Didn’t want you saying I don’t take care of your pets
there, ducks.” The same drawl he had used on Dr. Steven. He sounded
completely bored, but Xander could see the tension in the way Spike was
holding himself perfectly still, leaning against the wall with his head
tilted back, his eyes closed, one leg propped on the wall. Spike had not
been more then ten feet away from him the entire time, except when Xander
had been taken into the back for x-rays. Spike’s face had been a study
when he realized that he wasn’t going to be allowed back with Xander. 
Xander had managed a quick squeeze of Spike’s hand and it had been just
enough to calm the vampire.

The x-rays had come back negative. No broken ribs, just cracks and
sprains. He had been taped up, his nose had been set, luckily it was a
clean break and he had been assured that it would heal nicely, he had been
given some pain pills and sent on his way. Giles had insisted on taking
him home and Xander hadn’t had a chance to talk to Spike, to see if he
would be okay around the whole gang. However, the vampire had come up
behind him as they all trooped out the door. It was nearly 3:00 a.m. now.

“Can’t stand to see that group, can’t bear listening to them natter. I’ll
just lurk a bit, come back when they go.” Xander had nodded at the low
whisper in his ear, then felt a cold hand trace across the back of his

“Well, I’m off then,” Spike called out. “Love to stay for the coffee
klatch, but, on the other hand, rather stake myself.” Spike turned and
stalked away.

“Like we want you there,” Buffy shot back. It was all Xander could do not
to slap her.

And now here it was, nearly 4:30 and still they were there. The sun would
rise soon and Xander desperately wanted to see Spike before dawn came. He
had to know that the vampire didn’t hate him, didn’t think he was
disgusting or vile, that whatever connection it was that he felt was real
and not just some desperate projection of his need to find someone who

Yawning hugely, he pointedly looked at the clock. 

“Guys, as fun as this has been, wanna sleep. Get out.” The direct
approach always seemed to work best.

“You sure, don’t you want some company,” Willow said from her spot curled
on the floor with Tara.

**Yes, just not yours** “No, I’m okay, just need sleep, thankfully I don’t
work tomorrow so I can sleep in. Get out.”

Laughing, everyone left, with gentle kisses on the cheeks from the girls
and a brief clasp on the shoulder from Giles. Xander stood in the
doorway, waiting for Giles’s car to turn the corner. He turned his head
to find Spike at his side.

“Bloody hell, those bints yap your ear off or what,” Spike growled as he
looked Xander over. He looked very pale but calm. Spike has spent the
last hour and a half stalking around the house. He had noticed the trail
of blood going up the stairs and the light on in the window. The bastard
was still alive. He wanted Xander out of that house immediately. He was
not going to gave that thing another chance to hurt what was his. He had
given up all pretense the second he had seen Xander lying on the floor. 
He knew what he felt for the boy, there was no use denying it. He had
meant what he said, he would never let anything hurt Xander, not if he
could help it.

“Couldn’t get rid of them, tried, finally threw them out.” Xander reached
out a cautious hand, then grasped Spike’s wrist, pulling him into the

“How do you feel, really?” Spike’s eyes darkened as he saw the black eyes
being to form underneath the bandages that covered Xander’s face.

“Beaten, tired, sore, bruised, like I could sleep for a month.” Xander
let out a long sigh, it had been hard to keep up appearances around his
friends, to pretend that he was okay. All he had wanted to do was curl up
with Spike, to feel the safety only those cool arms could bring.

“He’s upstairs, you know.” Spike hated to hear those words coming from
his mouth, but he had to say it.

“I know,” came the quiet reply. “Don’t worry, he usually avoids me like
the plague for at least a week afterwards.” Xander moved to pull out the
bed, surprised when Spike stopped him.

“I don’t want you staying here. Let’s leave, get a hotel room, then we’ll
find you a place tomorrow.” Spike could hear the steel in his voice. He
wanted Xander away, now, he didn’t know if he could think with the
bloodlust that raged through him at the thought of that monster being
anywhere near Xander.

“Can’t,” Xander started, only to hear a loud growl come from Spike. He
turned to look into yellow eyes. Rolling his own eyes in return, he
pointed to the clock. “Don’t give me that, can’t, sun will be up in like
25 minutes. Don’t have time to get anywhere. Don’t worry, I don’t work
tomorrow, I'll go look for a place for us then. As long as you promise
not to go after them while I’m gone.”

Spike’s mind froze on one word. “Us?” he repeated quietly. Surely he had
heard wrong.

Xander looked down for a moment, gathering his courage. “Yeah, us. I’ve
gotten used to having you around. Thought it would be better than your
crypt. We’ll get cable, you’ll be able to watch Passions all crystal
clear.” The joke rang hollow even in his ears. Dead silence greeted him.
He could feel tears begin to gather. “Ok, stupid idea. Never mind.” He
turned his back and went to pull out the couch again.

Spike stared over at Xander. The whelp was serious. Realizing Xander had
interpreted his silence as contempt, he quickly reached over, running his
hand down Xander’s arm.

“Deal. I won’t try to kill them while you’re gone and you find a place
for us tomorrow.” The look on Xander’s face ripped Spike’s heart in two. 
From complete despair to wonderment and hope in one second. **Oh hell,
I’m just getting more pathetic by the moment. Wanker**

Xander just nodded, not wanting to speak. He felt a surge of joy. Spike
wanted to stay with him. Then there was something there. He was too
tired to think about it any further than that. He turned his attention
back to the couch, finally pulling it out. He dropped heavily down,
exhaustion finally overtaking him. He felt the small shift as Spike sat
on the foot of the bed, the weight of an arm on his legs.

“Spike?” he sighed. 

“Yes, pet?” came the questioning response.

“Will you, will you, could you,” he couldn’t quite bring himself to ask. 
He closed his eyes tightly, trying to screw up his courage.

He felt the bed shift again, felt Spike move to sit behind him. Now he
felt a hand begin to run through his hair. He tilted his head back,
amazed at how soothing it felt.

“Yes, pet?” again in the same quiet tone.

Taking a deep breath, Xander asked what he had been longing for since
leaving the hospital.

“Could you just hold me, just for a little bit?” He stayed perfectly
still, not wanting to see the look on Spike’s face.

Instead of an answer, he felt the cool body curl into his, felt himself
pulled into a tight embrace.

“Not hurting your ribs, am I,” came a low murmur in his ear. 

“No, feels nice.” Xander began to drift off, his body screaming for
sleep. In seconds he had dozed off.

Spike slowly lifted his head, propping it on one hand. Satisfied that
Xander was resting peacefully, he dropped a quick kiss on his temple.

“Night, luv. Pleasant dreams.” Spike dropped his head back down and
followed Xander into sleep, their bodies wrapped into each other.

Part Seven-Fourteen