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by Gypsy Gray

"You alright Alex?"

"Yeah. Just a little bruised. And battered. And tenderized. And pounded. And..." 

Xander stopped to listen to the sound of Spike's quiet chuckle. He knew he cracked his usual jokes almost strictly to hear that sound now. The older man's laugh had quickly become one of Xander's favorite sounds. 

"Com'on then, let's get you cleaned up pet." 

The brunette smiled while Spike went to get the first aid kit. He pulled his shirt off and sat on the bed. This had become their routine. Xander got hurt while he and the vampire were helping the Slayer, then they came back home and Xander made Spike smile while Spike bandaged him up. It was exactly what both of them needed. 

They didn't talk while Spike worked. Spike didn't comment on the bruises that weren't from their nightly activities. Xander didn't mention how careful Spike was to be gentle. Spike said nothing about the criss-crossed scars on Xander's lower back. Xander remained silent about the look of sorrow in Spike's eyes. 

When the blonde man was finished he put the kit away and pulled a baggy of blood from the fridge. Throwing it in the microwave, he turned to watch Xander grab a frozen dinner. He drank his meal while Xander nuked his, and then he sat in his chair and listened to the CD player while the boy ate. The companionable silence between them now was different from the hushed quiet of only a few moments before. After dinner Xander, then Spike showered. They moved in a casual harmony, each aware of the other's movements without being conscious of it. 

It wasn't until they were laying side by side in the bed that they began to talk. This too was a part of their routine. Since a few weeks ago when Spike held Xander while he cried, they had both slept in the bed. It had never been discussed, but after that night it had seemed pointless for the older man to continue sleeping in the chair. So, they lay on their sides facing each other and talked. They talked about the events of the night, about Xander's latest lousy job, about the Willow's obsession with who Buffy was sleeping with, about Spike's implant and his discovery that he could kill demons, about Angel and Cordelia now that they were off in L.A., about Jesse, about Drusilla, about anything that crossed their minds. 

It was a new and treasured experience for both of them. The gift of someone to truly listen. They saved it for this place because this was where they first discovered it. And because it seemed so much more amazing to have a willing ear and a kind voice in the stillness of night. When they fell asleep it was with Spike laying in the middle of the bed with Xander's head pillowed on his chest, and their arms wrapped around each other. This was something else that was never discussed, but what would have been the point?