I’m looking for a place
I’m searching for a face
Is anybody here I know?
Cause nothing’s going right
And everything’s a mess
And no one likes to be alone
It’s a damn cold night
Trying to figure out this life
Won’t you take me by the hand?
Take me somewhere new?
I don’t know who you are
But I’m with you
I’m with you
~Lyrics from “I’m With You” by Avril Lavigne
Xander sighed deeply through a yawn, and scratched his chest. He padded out of the room, down the hall, carrying his small leather shaving case with him. He entered the bathroom and glared at his scruffy-looking reflection. It had been days since he’d shaved, and even since he’d showered. He opened his mouth and stuck his tongue out at himself, wondering if it was actually furry, or if it just felt convincingly like it was. He was relieved to find that some Hellmouthy happenings hadn’t caused him to grow fur on his tongue, and searched through the linen closet for a towel to use. He found a big, yellow, fluffy one, and rubbed the soft terry cotton against his stubbled cheek. He placed the towel on the counter and turned to the shower stall. He turned the taps, making the water as hot as he could stand it, and stepped under the spray, sighing with relief at the feel of the hot water.
”Boy? You get the hell out of that shower. Don’t you waste all my hot water.”
Xander shivered at the memory of his father’s gruff, angry voice.
”You want me to punish you, Son? Don’t talk back to me, or you know what’ll happen.”
A seemingly innocent warning, really. Except that Xander knew what the punishment would be.
He’s coming into the bathroom. Come inside, and you can hide from him. Just come inside, where it’s quiet. You’ll be safe in here. You can make him go away. He can’t come in here. He can’t get you inside.
Xander squeezed his eyes shut even tighter, shivering despite the fact that he had turned the cold water tap completely off, and the water was scalding his skin. The pain didn’t even make it through his brain as he gritted his teeth, trying to force the memories away, to give himself some peace, if only for a few moments.
Spike had woken when Xander walked past his bedroom door to the bathroom. He had lain in bed, mostly comfortable. He contented himself by listening as Xander puttered around in the bathroom, then as Xander stepped into the shower. He was listening to Xander’s relaxed heartbeat and had almost been lulled back to sleep until he heard the sudden change of Xander’s pulse. The human’s heart had sped up drastically, and Spike could practically hear him panting, though the young man was not making any sounds audible to those lacking supernatural hearing. Spike was up and out of bed like a shot, bursting through the bathroom door, which luckily didn’t have a lock on it.
The second Spike opened the bathroom door, steam billowed out like smoke form a bonfire, and the heat from inside the small room blasted him in the face. Spike stepped in and immediately reached behind the curtain and turned off the water, glancing at Xander, who was sitting on the shower floor with his arms wrapped like steel vises around his knees. He was rocking slightly, but the second he noticed Spike, he skittered back against the wall. However, before Spike could react, Xander recognized him and calmed slightly at the knowledge that Spike, and not his father, had entered the bathroom.
“Pet?” Spike stepped forward gingerly, mindful of startling the skittish man at the bottom of the tub. He saw the blisters forming on Xander’s now-crimson skin from the scalding water. “Shit, pet, are you okay? You’re burnt all over.”
“I’m cold, Spike,” Xander whimpered through chattering teeth. Spike grabbed the yellow towel from the counter and leaned forward slowly. Xander accepted the movement without flinching, and Spike wrapped the towel around him, wishing he had body heat to warm the shivering man. Xander’s skin was hot to the touch, worrying Spike. The man was professing to be freezing, but he’d been under scalding water and the temperature of his skin burned Spike’s own. He picked the young man up and carried him back to his bedroom, placing him under the covers. Xander fell asleep almost immediately, and Spike resisted the urge to beat the hell out of an innocent wall. He quickly went downstairs to the kitchen, and searched the cabinets for a first aid kit.
Cordelia sat at the table, drinking coffee with one eyebrow raised as she watched the blonde vampire whirl around the room. He hadn’t noticed her, and she decided not to announce her presence until he realized she was there. Besides which, he wasn’t wearing a shirt, and he was very nice to look at.
When Spike had emptied out three cupboards, she finally cleared her throat. He whirled around in surprise.
“What exactly is it you’re looking for?” she asked coolly. He blinked at her.
“First aid kit,” he replied gruffly. Cordelia’s eyebrow inched slightly higher.
“And you couldn’t think to ask?”
“Didn’t see you,” Spike growled. He didn’t have time for the cheerleader’s nosiness. He had to find some kind of soothing salve for Xander’s skin, before Xander woke up.
Cordelia let out a loud, long-suffering sigh, as if Spike had been annoying her for years rather than less than a minute. She stood and went out to the lobby of the hotel, and reached under the desk, pulling out a very large, well-stocked industrial first aid kit. Spike had followed her into the lobby, as she’d known he would, and she turned to raise her eyebrow at him again. He ignored her and began rummaging through the kit. First aid supplies were littering the counter in a matter of moments, and the mess was only growing.
“What the hell are you looking for?” Cordelia said exasperatedly. Spike glared at her, then rolled his eyes.
“Some kind of ointment. Xander scalded himself with the hot water in the shower, and I want something to…”
“Well, why didn’t you just say so?” Cordelia said, her voice short but her expression softening. She reached into the kit and pulled out some aloe vera burn gel and handed it to him. He didn’t thank her, simply taking the little tube and hastily heading back up the stairs to Xander. He didn’t want Xander to wake up alone.
Cordelia remained in the lobby, worried and more than a little angry. Angel was holding out on her, and she was not happy with it. She’d come into work, made coffee, and tried to ignore the fact that she knew Spike and Xander were upstairs, and that Xander needed to come to L.A. for something no one wanted to talk about. She wanted to know, and she wanted to know now. She debated for a moment before deciding that even if she were to ask anyone, she would not get an answer, and headed up the stairs to look for the room that Angel had given Xander.
She found it with little trouble, as a light was on in a room that wasn’t Angel’s, and the door was slightly ajar. She peeked in and saw Spike gently rubbing the aloe on Xander’s chest. Xander was looking down at the floor, not meeting Spike’s eyes or speaking. Spike was speaking softly in hushing, soothing tones, but Cordelia wasn’t close enough to make out what he was saying.
Spike finished rubbing the salve on and gave Xander an encouraging grin. “Feel better, luv?” he asked, his voice faux cheery.
“Sorry,” Xander muttered.
“We talked about that, luv. S’not your fault. Any of it.”
“I shouldn’t have freaked out in the shower. I don’t know why I did. I didn’t remember…when I started to remember…all of it…I didn’t remember anything about being in the shower and…I don’t want this, Spike.”
“I know, Xan. None of us want you to hurt this way, which is why we’re here. To get you some help.”
“I just hate not knowing when I’m going to…remember…and freak out again. What if someone gets hurt because I’m freaking out because I’m having a…a flashback?”
“I’m not worried about anyone else,” Spike growled. “I’m worried about you.”
“But…what if you get hurt? Because of me?”
“Not gonna happen. I’m strong, I’m fast, and I love you. And I’m not ever, ever gonna let you get hurt again.”
Xander simply stared into Spike’s eyes for a minute. “I need you, Spike. To help me. To help me heal.”
“I know, love. I need you too. We’re gonna fix this.” Xander leaned forward and kissed Spike gently on the mouth.
Cordelia suddenly felt like a criminal, watching something that was meant to be a private moment. She slowly backed away from the door, and turned stealthily to head back down the stairs, only to come face to face with Angel. She let out a loud yelp of surprise.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” Angel growled angrily.
Back to Mercy
Next Chapter - "Same Boy You've Always Known"