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My mouth is dry
Forgot how to cry
What's up with that
You're hurting me
I'm running fast
Can't hide the past
What's up with that
You're pushing me

~Lyrics by Natalie Imbruglia

“Is that what you think?” Spike asked from the bedroom doorway, sounding hurt.

“You are not your father, Alexander Harris. You are a wonderful, beautiful person, who we love, no matter what your father did to you. It doesn’t change the man I grew up with, that’s been my best friend since we were in Pampers,” Willow said fiercely from behind Spike. Her voice was edged with a growl, though on Willow it sounded more like a housecat than anything particularly dangerous.

“I just want things to be normal,” Xander sighed, running a hand through his hair.

“They can be normal, if you let us help you,” Buffy told him.

“This isn’t something you should bottle up inside you. You need to deal with it, rather than dwell on it,” Tara added.

“But I’m not normal, am I?” Xander continued, almost to himself, as though he hadn’t heard the girls. “I’m something sick and perverted and dirty. I can’t ever be normal. I’ll always be a boy who was…who’s father…did things to him. I’ll always be disgusting. And I’ll always be my father’s son.”

“Right. Moment alone, without the birds,” Spike said with a nod, before taking Xander’s hand and dragging him from the room.

Xander wrapped his arms around himself, looking down at Spike’s bare feet as though they were the most fascinating thing in the world. Spike combed a hand through his hair, sighed, then reached over for the package of cigarettes sitting on the end table. He lit one, sucked the smoke deeply into his dead lungs, and unconsciously blew the smoke away from Xander.

“Is this the part where you break up with me?” Xander asked stiffly, not taking his eyes off Spike’s pacing feet. Spike stopped, whirled, and stared at Xander.

“That’s what you think I wanted to talk to you about?” Spike replied angrily.

“Well, yeah. I mean, I’m used. Sick and twisted. I could hurt you like that one day. You deserve better than that.”

“You know, you’re right. I don’t deserve you. But you’re wrong about why. I don’t deserve you because you’re too good for me. I’m bloody fucking lucky to have you,” Spike growled back.

“Yeah. Real lucky,” Xander muttered sarcastically. Spike moved to him, directly in his face, and put his hands on Xander’s shoulders to keep him from stepping back.

“You really think you could hurt me?” Spike said, narrowing his eyes.

“You have a chip in your head. You couldn’t fight back, if I wanted to hurt you.”

“Not what I meant. I don’t think you could. You’re not him.”

“You don’t know. When Anya and I…before we broke up, I saw what I could be. I could be him, Spike, when I get older, and world-weary. I could…if I ever had a son…” Xander frowned.

“Well, I ain’t getting’ pregnant, Xan,” Spike sneered.

“Then I guess we don’t have a problem, and I’m fine,” Xander sneered back.

“Why are you afraid to let me in? To help you?” Spike growled quietly, his voice desperate.

“I’m not afraid,” Xander protested, taking a step backward even as he spoke.

“I love you, Xander. I want to kill him, and I want to be here, to make this better.”

“It’s not going to be better! Can’t you understand that? Now that I know…I remember, Spike! I can’t just be normal again. I’ll always be this way. I’ll always know!”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t heal, and live a relatively normal life. For Sunnyhell, at least,” Spike argued.

“Why are you making this so hard for me? Why can’t you just let me go?”

“I could never let you go, Xander. I can’t ever not be with you.”

“You’re making this too hard. I have to…”

“You have to what?” Spike provoked. “Chuck me out on my arse? Can’t get rid of me that easily. Should know that by now.”

Xander sighed and sat down on the floor, hugging his knees to his chest. Spike sat down beside him, and put a cool hand on his knee. Xander’s muscles twitched almost involuntarily, and Spike pulled his hand back hastily, putting it on his own knee. His other hand brought the cigarette up to his mouth, and he took a deep drag before blowing the smoke away from Xander’s face.

Spike wasn’t sure what to do. Should he hold the boy? What could he say to convince his love to see someone who could help him?

“Spike, I… I don’t want you to be with me. I can’t…”

Spike swallowed the tears back before Xander could notice them. “So you don’t love me, then?” Spike replied coldly.

“No,” Xander said, his eyes on the floor in front of him.

“Look me in the eye and tell me that.”

Xander looked up and straight into Spike’s eyes. Spike had tears threatening to fall, but Xander’s eyes were clear, though tormented. Neither said a word for long moments.

“Still don’t love me?” Spike finally asked tremulously, breaking the tense silence.

“Your hair’s kinda messy,” Xander tried to joke. Spike glared, unmoving, until Xander sighed.

“It doesn’t matter. I still can’t be with you. You don’t deserve to be with someone who’s crazy. I can’t be with you completely. Now that I remember…I could hurt you. I can’t ever make love with you. I don’t even think I can touch you without…thinking about it. Remembering it.”

“That’s why I want you to see someone, Xan. So you can get healthy. So you can be better, and we can be together.”

“Why can’t you just let me be? Why do you have to press it?”

“Because it’s not good for you! You want to just sit here and feel sorry for yourself, you can do that. But you’d be wrong. All the things you’re thinking right now… That you’re sick, or dangerous, or disgusting, or damaged…you’re not any of them.” Xander’s breathing sped up slightly Damaged dirty bad but he shook it away. “You were used, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes him a bad person. You are Xander Harris, the wonderful, beautiful, perfect man that I am fully in love with,” Spike said, the angry tears finally making their way down his alabaster cheeks. “He’s the one who’s sick, and twisted, and disgusting. And I’m going to make sure he bloody well pays.”

“What if they can’t help me?” Xander said, his voice weak. Spike gave an inward cheer. Xander was starting to open to the idea of therapy. Spike only needed to push a little more. However, if he pushed too hard, Xander may crawl back inside, and not come out this time.

“But you have to try,” Spike snarled. “You can’t go on the way you think you can. You can’t… Eventually, all of this is going to swallow you whole, and you won’t be able to come back. I need you here.”

The raw emotion in Spike’s voice made Xander pause. “I love you,” Xander whispered. “But I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Yes, you can. Maybe not by yourself, but with help. That’s what the shrink’s for. And I’ll help, and the Slayer, and Red, and Tara. We’re all here, and we all want to help you. Please, let us?”

Xander sat in silence for a long time, before finally looking back into Spike’s eyes. He didn’t say a word, only leaned forward, to let Spike envelope him into a tight embrace. After a few moments, he even relaxed into the touch.

“I’ll never just let you go, Xander,” Spike whispered. “You’re mine.”

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