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Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: NC-17 eventually
Disclaimer: I don’t own Spike, Xander, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These belong to Mutant Enemy and its creator, Joss Whedon.
Notes: Anya who? “The Wish” never happened.This is *not* a PWP. Though I may enjoy reading them, I can't write them. This is a purely H/C indulgence of mine.

Whipping Boy


Part One

“Well by now I've showed you how much I believe in the here and now and I wish that you knew…”

“Oi, whelp! You’re gonna get yourself killed if you don’t get outta there now!”

Heh. Not that it would matter all that much to Spike. But if he let the boy get killed, Slutty’d be after him. And that was one thing Spike did not want to deal with. His unlife was complicated enough as it was, thank you very much. Thanks to this buggering chip, he had to rely on the bloody Scoobies to get any blood. And sometimes it just wasn’t worth it, all the crap he had to go through.

“Shut-up, Spike! Just throw me that axe and we’ll be done with this guy, all right?”

Xander shouted towards the unliving one, while still trying to fight this K’merlkashiwhatever.

Figures, Xander thought, the one time Buffy decides to go out of town for a few days coincides with the same time that all the demons on earth decide to check into La Maison d’Hellmouth for a Hell On Earth convention with an all-you-can-eat buffet. And the Bleached Wonder certainly wasn’t about to chip his nail polish and help. Nosireebob. Just standing there watching him getting his butt kicked by whatever passed for hands on this thing.

“Ta, mate. Here’s your bloody axe – hope you lose a limb or four,” Spike said as he hurled the small but hefty weapon.

Xander immediately started whacking the thing in whatever spot he could get to. He didn’t have a whole lot of luck. The size and speed of the demon was pretty formidable, even for someone as astute in the art of hacking as the Xan-man was.

“You know – argh, I just – ah! Don’t under-uh-stand why you have to be su-ow-such a god-ah-damned-grr asshole!” Xander managed to snort out in between blows to the green machine in front of him.

Finally Xander found whatever spot on the thing that made it go “grr” and landed the sharp blade squarely into it. All of its…limbs…went down in a grumble and the bulk of the thing caused the earth to shake just a little bit.

“Told you, whelp, I. Don’t. Bloody. Like. You! How many times do I have to tell you gits before it finally sinks in? You know, you damn cadets might do an okay job of taking care of most of the riff-raff around here, but you’re all too bloody thick for your own good.”

Honestly, Spike thought, what did he have to do to get his point across? So what if it wasn’t true? That’s part of the package. Nasty evil vampires don’t tell the truth. And what’s more, his reputation was bad off enough by just shacking up with the whelp, let alone letting them think he actually gasp cared about them. Well, not all of them…

“Seriously Spike, I think you can drop the act now. It’s been, what, three months since your naughty nerve first got zapped? You’d think you’d figure out by now that you are in lurve with us- all of us. You might as well just face the music, fangless – you’re stuck like the last Snickers bar in the vending machine.”

Xander knew that was the only way to get under the vampire’s skin…well, not the only way, but the easiest. And there’s nothing better than a whiney ‘ole neutered vampire- especially when you live with him.

Stupid smarmy vampire who just has to sleep naked. Er, bug me while I’m trying to sleep. Whining about the fact that the night is his ‘awake time’ and that it’s his ‘killing time’ and… some other stuff Xander so did not want to know about Spike’s nocturnal habits.

“Oi, mate. I’d be amazed by what you could do with your mouth if it wasn’t running off all the time.” Blink. Blink. “You know what I bloody well mean, stop sniggering over there.”

“Again, I say, whatever, Spike. Can we just pack up and go back home?” Xander started to pick up all the weapons that had been dropped when he didn’t scream like a girl and almost run away when this whatsit-demon decided to pop up out of nowhere.

“If you call that home, whelp. S’more like a crypt with spliced cable and sometimes working plumbing. Hell, my crypt was better off, than yours. At least mine was free of the crazy upstairs neighbors better known as your loving parents.”

Spike just couldn’t figure why Harris wouldn’t just move out, already. He had the money – Spike found that out by snooping through the boy’s not-so-secret-anymore stash of emergency money and Hershey’s bars.

Honestly, you’d think the boy enjoyed being emotionally kicked like a rabies-infested puppy, the way he puts up with the Tosser Twosome’s crap. Not that the mum was all that bad, but what was bad was how she stood back and let everything happen all this time. Seriously, the lady should grow some balls…er, something.

“And that’s another thing, Spike. My name is Xander. X-A-N-D-E-R. Why is it so very hard for you to say it? Name’s not ‘whelp’ or ‘boy’ or ‘coffee kid’ or even ‘mate’. So why can’t you just call me by my name?”

Xander had just finished putting all the weapons into the large burlap bag he had taken from his last job as the lowest form of stock-boy at the Potato Bin, when he heard a sound behind him. He turned just fast enough to see one of the arms- or branches or tentacles or whatever the hell they were- from the thing he had killed come crashing down onto his head. The next thing he knew, there was a burning pain on the back of his left thigh, just below his ass cheek.

“Lookout, Harris! Bugger, too late.” Without even thinking about it, Spike was at Xander’s side in the blink of an undead eye and hefting the axe Xander had forgotten was in his hand at the bulk of what was left of the Sludge Monster From Hell. After dropping the axe on it a few hundred times, Spike was satisfied that it was, indeed, dead, or at least what passed for harmless squishy-ness. Spike quickly turned to find Xander sitting up, looking a little dazed but okay none-the-less.

“Har-Xander, are you okay?” Spike asked while extending his hand to help Xander up.

“What?” Xander looked around and for a second couldn’t quite remember what had happened. He could have sworn that Jesse had been standing right beside him a second ago, which was of course impossible. Xander had killed Jesse years earlier.

But now everything swam into focus – including the excruciating almost-blinding pain in his head.

“Oh, ow, ow…”

And then it was gone. But left behind was a sort of dizzy nauseous-making feeling. Wasn’t bad though, considering the incredible amount of pain he had been in only moments before.

“Um…yeah, I think so. What happened? One second I’m talking to you, and the next thing I know – WHAMMO! Someone’s playing whack-a-mole. With me as the mole.”

Xander took Spike’s hand and stood up just a little too quickly and wound up falling into Spike. Spike instinctively wrapped his arm around Xander’s shoulders to steady him.

“And this is what we call the Tilt-a-Whirl, boys and girls. Oh. I don’t feel so good. Can we just go home now?”

Xander’s entire world was spinning, but oddly he felt grounded somehow. It wasn’t until everything stopped doing the Poseidon Adventure that he realized the weight around his shoulders and the support of someone holding him. And oddly enough, it didn’t feel quite that bad at all. Of course, anything but spinning fit into the category of not-bad.

“Sure, mate. We better get you home an’ cleaned up. You got quite a knock on your noggin, there. You were right – the nasty wasn’t quite as dead as you thought it was, and it came back steamed.”

Spike picked up the bag of tools with his free hands and slung it over his shoulder. Worried about toppling Xander over again, he strengthened his hold on him.

“Ouch.” Xander whimpered.

“Sorry. Sometimes forget my own strength, I do,” Spike said and went to lose his hold of the boy.

“No, it’s not that. The pain’s just kind of moving around, is all.” Xander shook his head to clear his vision some more. Things were still just a little fuzzy around the edges. I’m sure I’ll feel a lot better in the morning, he thought.

“Oh, okay.” Spike returned his hand where it was and turned them due Dooms-way. “Right, then, let’s get home, shall we, Xander?”

“Sounds good to me, Spike.” Blink. Blink. “Did you just call me Xander?”

“Yeah…S’pose I did. Don’t get used to it though, whelp.”

“Don’t worry about that, my undead friend. Living on the Hellmouth for eighteen years, you don’t get used to anything. Err…maybe you get used to too much? Whatever, the point is – “

“Why don’t we save this injury-laden conversation for another night, eh?” Spike asked and finally got the boy walking, seemingly painlessly, towards the Roach Motel.

“Riiiggght…” Xander let Spike lead him all the way home, pretending not to notice how nice it was to have Spike’s arm around him, and to let Spike take care of him, and put him into bed. Xander’s last thought of the night was that maybe the demon-that-wouldn’t-die-till-it-was-killed had hit him a lot harder on the head than he thought, if he actually liked this last part of the evening – post Godzilla Crunch – spent with Spike.

Part Two

“I find that even time well spent gets bent if
you need it to. And we do."

Though he wouldn’t admit it to anyone, Spike was worried. Xander had been hit on the head pretty hard last night. And twenty-four hours later, and the boy was still asleep. But it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary – at least the way he was sleeping. Not that Spike ever watched Xander sleep or anything…Beat. Spike quickly went through the mental checklist of a peacefully sleeping Xander: light snorting – check; arse raised in the air ever so slightly – check; just the tiniest trace of drool – check.

So for all intents and purposes, Xander’s sleep was okay. It was the amount that had Spike worried. It’s not normal for a human to sleep that long unless something’s wrong. Although, maybe he was just sleeping off the effects of the brain-whammy he got last night.

“Great!” Spike muttered. “Not only am I keeping watch over one of ‘em, now I’m talkin’ like them. Reputation, be prepared to fire at will.”

And that’s just what Spike had been doing – keeping watch. All the rest of last night, all day today, and now into the evening, he’d done laps around the small basement, stopping every third or fourth round to listen to the boy’s heartbeat and breathing and make sure everything was okay. Now there was a faintly-worn tread on the floor in a huge circle around the ‘apartment’, and Spike’s nerves were about as jumpy as a cat in a dog kennel.

“Spike? Spike, where are you?” And in a flash Spike was there, right next to the bed. He knelt down on the floor and put his elbows on the bed, not quite sure what to do. Even taking care of Dru hadn’t prepared him for this. This was…this was mortal.

“I’m here. I’m right here, Xander.” Xander’s eyes weren’t open, but his arm came out from under the sheet – hand groping for something. Spike instinctively put his hand out and caught Xander’s. Little spark of electricity through the touch. Something was…wrong. But Spike just held on tighter.

“Spike?” Xander’s voice was raspy, and his breath was irregular. His mortal heart was about to beat right up through the blankets. And Spike could feel the heat seeping through Xander’s hand – too hot. Too much. Not right.

“I’m here, Xander. I’m right next to you. Do you need something, pet?” The corners of Xander’s mouth seemed to curl up just a touch. But he still wouldn’t open his eyes. “Why don’t you open your eyes, yeah? Take a look around and see. How bout that, right?”

“Too…tired. So sleepy. Why am I so sleepy, Spike?”

Nothing behind those eyes.

And right before Spike’s eyes, little beads of sweat popped up on Xander’s forehead, and Spike could have sworn before everything unholy that his skin color paled right there in front of him.

“I dunno, pet. I don’t know. But you should wake up, Xander. Let’s get you up and out of bed. Get you over to the watcher so he can find out what’s ailin’ ya, yeah? How’s that sound?”

Xander’s grasp on Spike’s hand loosened ever so slightly. But Spike noticed that his heartbeat was starting to slow. His breathing was becoming a little more regular, if a little ragged.

“I don’t wanna, Spike. I think I’m going to go back to sleep.”

“No! No, you shouldn’t do that, pet. You need to stay awake and here with me. Talk to me, Xander.” Spike’s nerves had reached a new peak. He could feel Xander slipping away, and felt the clammy hand in his grow lax.

“Spike, I’m so tired. We can talk when I wake up. Yeah, I want to talk to you. But I can’t…right now. Jesse’s waiting for me. He needs to talk to me too. I need to go back to sleep. So tired. I just want to slee…” And he was gone.

The hand that Spike held was completely limp- his breathing had gotten back to normal, and his color had returned. His brow was still sheeted with sweat, though. Spike reached up to brush it away, and was amazed at how hot Xander’s skin was.

“Xander…Xander, what’s wrong with you…” Spike muttered.

He got up and paced a few more times, then got a towel out of the bathroom and a bowl from the kitchen, filled it with cold water, soaked the towel in it and returned to Xander with the water and the towel. He placed the towel on Xander’s forehead to try and cool him off.

“Well…guess there’s only one thing left...” Spike went to the telephone, not wanting to leave Xander alone in the basement like this. Luckily next to the phone was a list of numbers. Spike scanned it and found what he was looking for. He picked it up and punched in the number for Giles’ apartment.

“Yeah, Watcher, it’s me. Listen, you need to get to Xander’s place as soon as possible. He’s in…trouble.”

Before the watcher could draw out the conversation, Spike put the reciever back on the cradle and then took it off and laid it beside the phone on the table.

He went back to the bed and knelt on the floor and reached for Xander’s hand again. “Please, pet…just be alright.” Finally the last twenty-odd hours started to weigh on Spike, and his eyes started to feel heavy.

Part Three

“I never feel helpless, recess, this mess if you do.”

Spike was woken up by his vampire senses screaming “Danger Will Robinson!!!” and his demon’s features came tearing up to his face. He snapped awake only to find a too-pointy stick aimed for the not-so-lucky spot. And isn’t that a great way to wake up?

“Oi, Watcher, what’re you doing? Since when is it a bloody crime to sleep sitting up?”

“What did you do to Xander, Spike?” Giles did not look happy standing there holding his crossbow. He was doing that little “I’m really not happy” mouth quivering brow knitting thing, which is usually saved for, well, Xander actually.

“Me!? I didn’t do a blasted thing to the whelp. Do you really think I’d be stupid enough to hurt him and then call you and then wait here for you to come and turn me into urn-food? Not bloody likely, you ponce!” Seriously, don’t any of these people have anything between their ears?

“Uh, well…If you didn’t do anything to him, who did?” At least the quivering had stopped. Which meant the shaking had stopped, which meant that the rude little chip of wood wouldn’t accidentally dust him.

“Well if you’d point that thing somewhere else, I might be able to tell you, you bloody git.”

“Well…alright, but don’t try anything.”

“Right, because I really really want an apocalyptic headache for the next three days. This sodding piece of plastic and metal in my head kinda puts a hold on tearing out your vocal cords, remember?” Now Spike was pissed. Wasn’t enough that he willingly (almost, anyway) helped them out with whatever baddy was in town or that he bloody well protected them – noooo…They’re still worried he’s going to tear them limb from limb the first chance he gets. And this was a bad thing why, exactly?

“Oh yes, the chip.” Sometimes the watcher was as daft as the Great Poofter. How could someone just forget about something like that? Spike sure wished he could.

“Yeah, the chip, you git. Now are you gonna play nice or do I have to call your mum and tell her to take your toys away?” Spike enjoyed the flash of pure Ripper that spasmed through Giles’ face. Although it was rather scary, even for Spike, seeing that gleam to his eye – the green eyes turning almost as golden as Spike’s.

“Look, Spike – I’m here for Xander and only Xander. I’m not going to play these stupid games with you. And you had better hope that he is okay. Because if he’s not, you’ll find out what ‘eternal life’ really means – and then beg for it to end.” And quickly the Ripper gleam was gone.

“Whatever, mate.” Not that Spike was scared or anything. He had no doubts he could take Giles any day – but Ripper he wasn’t so sure about. Funny, that. Seemed like just about everyone had a second identity in this shite little town. Spike wondered what Xander’s was.

At long last, the watcher put down the crossbow and turned to find Xander asleep, as he had been for the past twenty-four hours. Giles rounded to the other side of the bed and placed the crossbow on the chair beside the fold-out. He took off his jacket and set it on top of the weapon. Spike noticed that Giles’ face was contorted in what appeared to be grief. The bloody watcher grieved over everyone and every thing in his life. He seemed afraid to touch the boy.

“He’s only sleeping. But he’s been asleep for most of the last twenty-four hours. That’s why I called you,” Spike said, after shaking off the demon. He was still on the floor, next to Xander’s side. A part of him didn’t want to leave that place.

Giles sat on the bed and took Xander’s hand, outwardly wincing at how hot it was. He checked Xander’s pulse, which was normal, and listened to his breathing. Giles gave a weary sigh and tried collecting himself before speaking.

“But it’s not normal sleep, is it? No, his body is too warm – fever is too high to be normal. What happened, Spike?” Giles looked at the bowl of water on the bed and the towel lying next to Xander – it must have fallen off while Spike was sleeping.

Spike got up off of the floor and took the towel and the bowl into the kitchen. He poured out the old water and poured new cold water in, rinsed out the towel and returned to Xander. Giles hadn’t moved at all from where he sat on the bed.

Spike picked up the towel and wrung out all the excess water, folded it nicely and gently laid it on Xander’s forehead. Still no sign of life other than the erratic breathing and slight rise and fall of the boy’s chest.

“Nothing, really. A night like any other – you called and said there was a new nasty in town and off we went. After taking care of that one, we were on our way back and some other ugly thing jumped out and said ‘boo’.” Spike took the cloth off Xander’s forehead and re-soaked it with cold water – not that it was doing much good – and replaced it once more on Xander’s head.

Spike looked up to see Giles frowning at Spike. Maybe not at Spike, but at Spike’s actions. Maybe Giles was waiting for some kind of mojo to happen with the water or something. Just like Xander said – What. Ever.

“Anyway, you know the little whelp. Couldn’t let that ugly bugger get away without putting up a fight, now could he? So the boy took the axe and tore the demon a new one. Sure enough, Xander found the right spot to whack at and the damned thing fell like a ton a bricks.” Spike for some reason had a bit of difficulty reciting the tale. His mouth went dry and his chest hurt. But the watcher had to know so’s he could save the boy. “O-Only trouble was, the demon wasn’t quite as dead as Xander thought it was and when he turned his back, the demon tried to get even. Luckily I was there and stepped in and turned the thing to mulch before it could do anything too horrible, but it did land in one pretty big doozy before I got there. Next thing I knew, the boy was on the ground muttering about some guy named Jesse.”

Spike had never in all his years as a vampire seen someone grow that pale as fast as the watcher did. His entire body shot up like a piston and became rigid as a pole. Spike could have sworn a tear or two escaped from Giles’ eyes.

“Spike, did you say Jesse?”

“Yeah, mate. Why? Who’s this Jesse bloke?” Spike was beginning to get very suspicious, not to mention worried…And yeah, Spike thought, might as well give in to that one. Worried about the damn boy. Well, he could admit it to himself, but he wouldn’t be caught alive telling someone else.

“He’s…he was someone we knew a very long time ago.” Spike mentally scoffed. As if that didn’t have the tone of death mixed right into it.

“Alright, we need to figure out how to make Xander right again…What did you say this demon looked like, Spike?”

“Didn’t say it, did I? Well…”

Part Four

“You spilled your purse onto my bed
Searching for something for your head”

“P’istriportendo-soporis!” Giles exclaimed, jumping up out of the chair he had been sitting in, knocking over his tea in the process, “Oh, bullocks. I just picked these trousers up from the dry-cleaners.”

“What are you on about, Watcher?” Spike gave him the eyebrow-arch from where he sat on the bed, next to Xander. He was continuing to change the water and the cloth to help bring down Xander’s fever. So far he hadn’t had much luck with it.

“P’istriportendo-soporis. That’s the name of the demon – er, I think it is. Here, look at the drawing.” Giles wormed his way through the piles of books and scrolls he had retrieved from his flat. He held out an ancient-looking (and weren’t they all?) book to Spike. Spike took the tome from the watcher and glared at the crudely-drawn picture on the page. An unexplainable growl began to stream from Spike’s chest.

“Yeah, that’s the arse, all right. What’s it do?” Spike turned back to Xander, who’s breathing had grown unsteady again. His pulse was also climbing, slowly but climbing none the less. Spike replaced the towel on the boy’s head.

“Well, exactly what the name suggests – it’s a sleep-invoking demon.” Giles’ whole face wrinkled up while he read from the page. If it were any other circumstance, Spike would have noted to the watcher how much he looked like a dried up old prune. “It appears that its tentacles each have small stingers on them, like a cross between a scorpion and a wasp. The stinger has sleep-invoking venom and when it stings its prey, the stinger dislocates itself like that of a wasp and stays in the victim. It uses them to attack its prey. Once stung, the victim falls into a state of deep sleep so that the demon can pull it back to its lair, presumably to feed upon them.”

“Well, now we know what it did, what do we do?”

“Er, well…” Spike turned back to watch Giles as he began to pace back and forth in the limited space available while reading to himself. If his face scrunched up any tighter the seam in the back of his scalp would split, Spike thought. This couldn’t be good. A few more minutes of pacing and scrunching and anticipation, Spike couldn’t help it.

“What is it, you git?”

“Hmm? Oh, it’s just that according to this, we must mix a solution – a sort of antidotal salve – and then spread it over the area in which he was stung.” Giles was still doing his impression of Oscar the Grouch and pacing, so there had to be more to it than that. Spike wondered what the catch was.

“S’that it? Or is there more?” It sounded pretty snarky, even to Spike. Oh well – they needed to do something soon, not beat around the bush.

“No, there’s more. To complete the solution, we need the original stinger. Which means we shall have to extract it from wherever it stung Xander. The place of which we are unaware.”

“Oh, that all? Well, it should be on top of his head, shouldn’t it? That’s where he was hit.”

“Well, I suppose that should make sense. But, there’s more, Spike.”

“Get on with it, then.” Now Spike was becoming intensely impatient.

“It seems that if a salve cannot be produced within two day’s time the fever will take over and completely destroy the victim’s sense of reality. They will be permanently stuck between their dreamscape and the real world. The venom in the stinger produces what is a sort of hallucinogenic dream-state, in which the person infected doesn’t so much sleep, as dream. The longer the fever is allowed to ravage the person, the deeper the dreams and nightmares, and also the rift between fantasy and reality, become. Even without the salve, the fever will eventually break, but it’s never happened in time to save the person’s mental state. Once awakened, if not cured, the person will forever be caught between their two ‘realities’. This explains why he believed Jesse was waiting for him earlier.” Giles finally stopped pacing, and as if on cue Xander started choking in his sleep.

Spike jerked his head back to see what was the matter, and Giles ran to the other side of the bed.

“No! Ms. Calendar!” Xander shrieked as he bolted upright in bed, arms stretched in front of him, eyes closed. Once again, it was as if someone flicked a switch because all at once sweat began to cascade down Xander’s face and his entire body was drained of color like a pitcher emptying itself. Not only did he appear moonlight-white, he also appeared to have become hazardously thin. His heart was beating faster than a locomotive. Spike wanted to cover his ears to get the sound of drums out. Not good, not good!

“Xander!” Giles shouted. “Xander, can you hear me? Xander, are you alright?”

“Giles? Giles is that you? Oh, Giles, I’m so sorry.” Xander brought his hands up to his face and started to sob. Spike didn’t know what to do and not for the first time in his unlife felt completely useless.

“Sorry? Why are you sorry? You have nothing to apologize for. You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s okay, Xander.” Once more, Giles’ face was contorted with grief. But was it grief over the boy or mourning over the teacher still?

“Yes I did, Giles. I could have helped her or saved her or something. That’s what she told me – that it was my fault. My fault that I let Angel kill her. My fault that I didn’t kill him when I had the chance. Just like Jesse. It’s my fault he died. My fault he got vamped. I am the one that killed him. I killed my – he was my, my…My fault, my fault, my fault!” Xander began screaming and Giles swooped in on him and pulled him into an embrace the likes of which Spike had never believed the watcher capable of. And suddenly Spike felt very uncomfortable and decided it was perfect timing to refresh the water in the bowl.

From the lavatory, Spike could hear Giles soothing Xander with words of support and security. Xander finally calmed down, and Spike could hear his heartbeat slow. When Spike returned, Xander was as before – on his back asleep, as if nothing had happened. He could tell that Giles was upset by what he had seen and heard.

“We need to do this now,” Giles said through clenched teeth and squinted eyes once Spike returned to the bed. He was also noticeably paler than when Spike had left the room.

“You sure you don’t need a minute, mate? You don’t look so well off, yourself.”

“No, the sooner this is finished the better it will be. Remember – we have until tomorrow night to apply the salve, or Xander will not be able to recover.”

“Right then…” Spike set the bowl of cold water on the table next to the fold-out, and got onto the bed. “How shall we do this? You take the left and I’ll take the right?”

Giles sighed and sat up on his knees.

“I guess that’ll be fine. Perhaps we should prop him up against the back, sitting up? Should make it easier, I presume.”

With the help of Giles, Spike managed to sit Xander up against the back of the couch.

They spent the next thirty minutes going back and forth through Xander’s scalp searching for a bump or splinter or something. First left to right and back to front, then back to front and right to left.

“Bugger. Not a damn thing” Spike said, the demon in him swimming curiously close to the surface. Spike wondered what was going on with himself.

“Surely, it must be here somewhere. Are you sure he was only hit on his head, Spike?” Giles took off his glasses and polished them for what had to be the tenth time in the last half hour.

“Oi, you bloody wanker! No, I am not sure! I wasn’t exactly zooming in for the play by bloody play, you git!” Spike had to fight the demon back. Really wouldn’t be a good time to go all ‘grrr” now would it?

“Well, we’re running out of time, Spike. We need to find this thing now.” Giles replaced his glasses and sat back on the bed and heaved a mournful sigh. “We need to help him…I can’t lose another,” he said, his voice barely audible to even Spike’s ears.

“Right!” Spike shot up like an inflatable punching clown, nearly giving Giles a heart attack.

“What is it, Spike?”

“It wasn’t just his head! I remember Xander grabbed his back somewhere, just as I started laying into the pissy-whatever.” Spike did suddenly remember that. But he only wished he could remember where. “So it’s somewhere on his backside, then.”

“Oh…well that’s – great.” Giles said and Spike could practically feel the warmth of Giles’ blush from where he was sitting on the other side of Xander. *blink blink* And then Spike realized why Giles was embarrassed…

“Right…means we’ll have to undress the boy then.” *Gulp* And why the gulp all of a sudden, Spike’s brain wanted to know.

“Uh, how shall we – I mean. Er?” Evidently the watcher was kind of squeamish about it. And Spike just couldn’t help himself.

“S’matter, mate? Not used to seeing boys’ bits? I should think that your time in the council and –“

“Not funny, Spike. And it’s not that – I’m thinking of Xander here. After he gets well, he’ll find out that I’ve seen him nude? As he would say – it’d give him the wiggings.”



“Wiggins. It’d give him the wiggins.” And why exactly did Spike know or care?

“Oh, well, whatever – just imagine how he’d react to that situation.” Giles was up and pacing again. Between Giles and himself, Spike was surprised there wasn’t a trench worn in the floor.

“What’re you getting at, Watcher?” Not that Spike hadn’t already figured it out. The peroxide hadn’t gotten to his brain yet.

“Well…perhaps – could you?” Giles stopped pacing, but refused to look Spike in the face. Spike could practically hear Giles’ brain screaming at him – ‘Do not look at face. Look anywhere but his face!’.

“You want me to get this boy naked and comb over him trying to find a tiny little stinger stuck who knows where on his backside?!” Spike couldn’t believe Giles had suggested something like that. He must be really uncomfortable with this, Spike thought.

“Um, well, I suppose so, yes.” That was all Giles had to say? In a hundred and twenty-odd years, Spike had never thought his brain would do flip flops like it was doing now. Just goes to show that the older you get, the more you can be thrown for a loop.

“Oi, watcher.” Spike thought it over a few seconds and decided he had no reason to say no. He did, for whatever damn reason, want Xander to be okay, and if it meant having to do that, then Spike was willing to do it.

“Alright, I’ll do it,” Spike said in his best ‘it’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it’ voice. “What’re you gonna do while I play doctor with the boy?”

“I – uh, I’ll run back to my flat and get the rest of the supplies we need for the salve.” Giles had finally come up with a good excuse, and just before the buzzer ran out on him! He quickly began gathering his jacket and the correct books and started to head for the door.

“Right, then. Why can’t you have Red do that?” Spike still couldn’t resist torturing the torturer. Even if he had agreed to do this. S’what he gets for chaining me to a bath, isn’t it?

“I already tried her. I rang her when I got back from retrieving these books. I guess she’s out with that Wicca group again. Besides, I think it’s best not to worry her – you know how she can get.”

And with that, Giles was out the door and gone, leaving Spike to his task alone.

“Tosser,” Spike muttered to no one in particular.

“Well, whelp, looks like I get to skin ya after all,” he said. And with a sigh, he set to it.

Part Five

“Lay all you want on me
I'll be your whipping boy”

As it turned out, Xander was quite a bit heavier than Spike gave him credit for. Trying to get him laid down again so he could then maneuver him to get his clothes off was a lot more work than Spike would have bet beforehand.

“Jesus, boy. What the hell do you eat – it’s like playing ventriloquist with a cement dummy.” Even without the need to, Spike was huffing and puffing his way around Xander. Finally done getting him into a somewhat comfortable-looking position, Spike plotted out what to do next.

“Hmm… Perhaps we’ll start with the shirt and work our way down, eh?” Nothing from The Great Catatonic. Big surprise.

Spike gently, but heftily, leaned Xander upright into a sitting position and reached for his shirt.

“Cordy?” Spike nearly leapt out of his undead skin at the sound of the boy’s voice. “Cordelia, is that you?” A sleep-addled Xander wanted to know.

“No, pet. It’s me, Spike. Just gotta get your shirt off so we can have a look-see for the poker.” Spike wasn’t facing him, but he knew Xander’s eyes were closed and that he was sweating and pale again – just like he knew Xander was seeing something and someone that wasn’t there.

“Oh, okay Cordelia.” Xander bent his arms down to flip up his shirt. Spike put his hands out to help him. “Wait, no!”

Suddenly Xander grabbed on the hem of his shirt and pulled down hard, straining the fabric, unwilling to let it be taken off.

“Shhh, s’okay pet. Need to get it off so we can find what we’re lookin for.” Again, Spike reached out and this time put his hands over Xander’s. That electric shock again – bad -coursing through Spike’s body so rapidly he could barely control the demon that sprang up in defense. Xander twisted away, wincing.

“No! You can’t see!” Xander screamed. Spike could hear pain in that voice, dripping off those four small words like blood from a freshly sharpened blade.

“Now, Xander – we have to. We have to find this thing so we can make you all better. Don’t you want to be well again?” Spike soothed into Xander’s ear. He could smell salt and sweat and fear. And for the first time, the smell of fear made Spike’s borrowed blood freeze in his veins. Bad.

“No, no, no!” Xander practically howled this time. And then he whispered, barely audible to even Spike’s ears, “No one can see…”

“See what, Xander?” But he could tell the human was fading again – barely an audible mumble from him.

“What can no one see, Xander!?” And he was gone again, leaving Spike completely alone with his thoughts and his fears, and his disgust.

“What can have you so afraid, pet? What is it?” Though the questions were pointless, for no one could answer them. But maybe there were some clues.

So now Spike had to find out what the boy was hiding. Just so happened that he had a good excuse to – he needed to find the stinger. So with that in mind, Spike quickly but gently skinned the boy of his t-shirt and threw it aside.

He didn’t know whether to laugh or to kill someone.

There, in the center of his back was a tattoo; which suprised Spike because he’d never figured the whelp to be the type of person to do something like that. A tattoo of the Beast from that damn Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. In his hand he was crushing the enchanted rose, which was bleeding through his hand. Whoever’d done it had done a good job, Spike considered.

But the tattoo took a back seat the view of the rest of Xander’s back.

From just below the shoulders and all down through his upper and lower back, disappearing beneath the waistline of his khakis were spirals and splotches of bruises, cuts, scrapes and scars.

Spike’s first reaction was one of guilt – if he had maybe done something to help Xander last night, the demon wouldn’t have been able to pummel him so bad. But then Spike realized he wasn’t looking at fresh wounds.

Most of the scratches and scars were very old – possibly from his childhood. A few were very recent, but there was no strong scent of blood invading Spike’s senses – these had to be a few days old. The fight last night had caused some of the bruises to swell, but all in all, Xander’s tango with the sleep demon hadn’t caused this.

Spike took painstaking care in gently easing Xander onto his back again, and nearly cried out in horror. Xander’s chest was even worse. There were two shallow gouges on the left side of Xander’s abdomen. They were barely beginning to heal – just the first stages of scabs. It was remarkable they hadn’t been split open last night. There was also a rather deep puncture wound just under his right nipple – old. Bruises around his stomach and lungs – punches, or kick marks. And across the whole part of his upper torso and arms was a band about two inches thick and perforated with dots along the center of the mark. Obviously a belt.

Spike could no longer contain the rage he felt, and he let the demon loose. He scrambled off of the bed and grabbed the nearest thing to the bed – a statuette of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man and threw it as hard as he could against the far wall. He picked up another random object and threw it into the kitchenette and heard the satisfying “shiiiing” of glass shattering glass and the gratifying sound of porcelain splinters showering down on linoleum. He had the urge to put his fist into the wall, but restrained himself. Barely.

Finally he got himself calmed down enough to shake off the game face and returned to Xander. He had to get this done before Giles came back. Xander would never be able to look them in the eyes again once he found out they had both been privy to this.

After a few moments of calming breaths, even if unnecessary, Spike was able to continue. His eyes were burning and it took a few seconds of blinking to realize it was because of tears. Tears for this child who no one knew. Tears for a man no one would ever know.

After successfully wiping away ancient tears, Spike moved up the bed and reached for the button on Xander’s khakis. Briefest second of hesitation, and then quiet pop of plastic and the slooowww grinding of metal on metal as he lowered the zipper.

Slowly he reached under Xander and grabbed both pants and “Kiss Me Stupid” boxers and lowered them down to Xander’s knees. He pulled them off one leg at a time, careful not scrape any cuts that may be lying beneath the coverings.

Spike cast the pants in the direction of the shirt and took a moment to survey his subject. Wounds and sickness notwithstanding, Xander was in great shape, and not bad off as far as looks go. Sleep-tousled hair, face relaxed even if paler than should be, well defined arms and chest and abs. Powerful thighs and large squarish feet. From where Spike was sitting, Xander had nothing to be ashamed of, nothing.

Spike inched his way back up the bed and began searching for more wounds. There weren’t as many here below his waist. But there were two significant bruises, more like welts, on the outside of both thighs – hand shaped. Someone had to have crushed these thighs extremely hard to leave welts in the shape of their hands. And someone would have to pay.

Confident that he could see nothing more here, he tenderly rolled Xander onto his stomach, trying not to notice his back once more. The bruises that had continued beneath the waistline stretched all the way down and across both buttocks and down to his upper thighs. And just above the knees there was another welt – very long and very narrow across both thighs.

Right below his left cheek was a small bruise, unlike the others. This one was circular with a crater of sorts. In the center of the bruise Spike found what he was looking for – merely a millimeter in diameter but perhaps two centimeters in length. The stinger that had taken Xander down into this pit of hell.

Spike retrieved his penknife from his duster and began to slowly and carefully – so not to cause any pain – dig out the piece of disgust. Soon, he had it in the palm of his hand and was again reminded and amazed that something so small could cause so much pain and misery.

“I guess we all have our own chip, don’t we pet?” Spike said as he gingerly wrapped the stinger in a tissue from the box on the end table. He put the package in the pocket of his duster and replaced the blankets over Xander, who had begun to shiver slightly.

“Will…Willow, is that you?” Again he was asleep but awake. Another dream, another hallucination. Xander reached out and took Spike’s hand and held it firmly in his own.

“N-no, pet. Spike. I’m Spike, remember?” Spike’s grip firmed as well, and as if of its own accord, his other hand went out to stroke Xander’s hair softly, getting it out of his face.

“I know, Will. Please don’t be mad at me. I tried this time. Really, I tried…but it only made it worse. He only got…worse.” Xander’s voice cracked. Spike’s hand stopped stroking.

“What’re you talking about, Xander? What did you try? Who got worse?”

“You know, Willow. You said that maybe if I stood up to him he’d back down. It only made him madder.” Xander began to cry, tears staining his too-white face. “God I just want him to stop! Why does he do it? What did I do wrong? Why does he hate me so much, Will?”

“Wrong? You didn’t do anything wrong, Xander. You’re completely innocent. Gods, Xander, is that what’s going on? Is that what’s been going on all these years?”

“I don’t know why you help me, Willow. I’ll just be bad for you too. I’ll only end up hurting you. You shouldn’t do this. You shouldn’t help me – take care of me.” Xander’s sobbing was getting worse, and Spike worried he would choke. He tried to get Xander to sit up, but he wouldn’t budge.

“Shhh, pet. It’s alright. No one will hurt you now. You’re safe with me here. I won’t let him hurt you. Not with Spike here, pet. You’re safe.”

“He…he found out about Jesse. About…us. Said he wouldn’t allow a, a faggot in his house. He called me that, Willow! My own father! He said he wouldn’t let me walk out of the house so I could go – go do that. He said he’d rather make it so I couldn’t walk at all than let me do queer shit. He-he, oh God, Willow! I don’t know what to do. Jesse’s probably mad at me because I didn’t meet him last night. You didn’t tell him did you?”

Now everything was falling into place. The string of bad girlfriends who treated him like shite. The sleep-over Scooby meetings. The not wanting to be at home, ever. Like a ton of granite it hit Spike. He could only sit there, stunned, pure instinctive rage rolling through him like so many loaded cannons, threatening to fire.

“Willow, I’m scared. I’m afraid someone will find out. Please don’t tell anyone. Please! You have to keep this a secret. No one can know, or he’ll find out I told you. And then it’ll be worse. Will, promise…me…” And Xander was gone again.

Spikes eyes were again stinging and blurred with tears. Twice in one night this boy had brought him to the brink of letting out his own pain. But he couldn’t let it out. He had to be strong, as always, for someone in pain. But being here with Xander stirred up old memories and opened old wounds.

Spike clung to Xander’s hand to keep him anchored, but it couldn’t help. The cinderblock and exposed ceiling blurred and faded away. The only thing remaining was Spike and the pain that was like a fire burning him from his insides. His chest heaved and the fire ripped through the rest of his body causing him to clamp his eyes shut and call out a simple “No!”

He opened his eyes to find himself in the lab at the initiative.

Doctors ripping apart his chest with common scissors and no anesthesia. Plunging their hands in to break open his ribs to get to the organs. They wanted to know if the organs were removed, would they restore themselves or not – being unnecessary as they were.

Soldiers in the night shifts coming into his cell to play cops and robbers with water pistols loaded with holy water. Wanting to play priest with their crosses. Wanting to play doctor and puppy and a million other games to suit their sick minds. Being pistol-whipped just for fun, being made to beg for his blood. Being made to…hurt himself.

Spike began to sob uncontrollably as the images of the nightmares that still haunted him slithered away like great serpents. He opened his eyes to find himself huddled in the corner of the basement, knees drawn up, arms wrapped tight around them, rocking back and forth. Remembering. Bawling.

Crying not only for the pure hell that he had lived through for only a short time, but for Xander. Xander who had lived through this for over eighteen years. Xander, whose only shortcoming was loving too much. Trusting too much. Xander who deserved nothing horrible to ever touch him or hurt him or haunt him.

Spike stayed huddled in the corner and let everything out until finally he felt drained. Drained of pain and of tears and of disappointment. Until all that was left was hope, respect, love and rage.

“I will kill him, pet. He will never lay another hand on you. You will never be subjected to that heartless bastard’s whims again. One way or another, pet, he will pay for what he has done. And he will pay slowly like you have.”

The pure hatred pouring off every word surprised even Spike. He had good reason for it, but it only now hit him what that reason was: he wanted Xander. He wanted him whole and happy and healthy. And his. He wanted Xander’s love and his trust. He wanted to protect him. He wanted to make Xander happy and keep him happy. Xander deserved it. Spike wanted it.

“Huh…how did this happen?” Spike thought out loud. “I always thought I hated you…But I guess I can see now how the past couple of months have changed it, what with you takin’ me in and, I guess…no, you know what, pet? I don’t care. I. Don’t. Bloody. Care. I’m not going to nag it. Just accept it. Deal with it. Move on. I – I bloody love you Xander Harris.”

And suddenly the pain that had blossomed in his chest wilted as the overpowering sense of love washed through him in waves almost as unbearable as the pain. A smile exploded on Spike’s chest and for one tiny second, Spike thought that his heart had beat – just once, but beat nonetheless. One small word and everything changed. Everything.

“You will be fine pet. Nothing else can happen – you’ll get better. I won’t let you not.” Spike returned to the bed and replaced his hand in Xander’s. He was surprised to find the other hand return the grip. A quick glance at his face confirmed that Xander was still fast asleep and that he was dreaming. Spike leant down and placed a miniscule kiss upon the boy’s forehead – so small but packed with so much. And as he retracted, Spike imagined his saw the corners of Xander’s mouth curl up ever so slightly into the vaguest form of a smile.

Part Six

“I can get up
And I find that even time well spent gets bent if you need it to
And we do
And we do
Lay all you want on me
Lay all you want on me
Lay all you want on me
I'll be your whipping boy”

Almost dawn, and Spike was pacing once more. Same old route. Bed to door to kitchen to bathroom door to bed and back again. Spike wasn’t only worried now, he was nervous. Almost day and Giles wasn’t back yet. Once the sun came up, they had about twelve hours to make Xander right again. Twelve hours and everything would be back to normal again.

“Right. Normal. Here on the Hellmouth,” Spike muttered. He went to the front door again and looked through the window. The coming sun was no more just a line on the horizon; it was a bruise upon the night sky. It was beginning to swell into morning light. Spike felt with every inch of sky being lost a small part of himself slipped away. Gone forever.

He returned to sit on the bed by Xander’s side. Funny, he thought, how the last day or so had made that okay. All of this horribleness had made it okay for Spike to gently take Xander’s limp hand in his, to brush the hair off the boy’s forehead, to lightly dust his cheek with frigid fingertips. This was okay.

“Then again…not so sure I want normal again, pet. Don’t think I can ever just go back to letting you hate me. Not after this. Not after what I know, pet. Not after…everything.” Once more Spike felt the burning behind his eyes and he was once more reminded that no matter his stature of immortality, he was still in some ways mortal. He could still feel, still love, still hurt inside.

All at once, Spike heard the watcher on the step, the tap-tap of his Oxfords making all aware of his presence. Spike didn’t bother to move until Giles had made it through the door and down the stairs.

Faster than a striking cobra, Spike was on the watcher, demon screaming to the surface, fists holding Giles against the wall. For a brief moment, Spike enjoyed the huge whiff of fear coming off the old man, but that Ripper gleam was back.

“Where the hell have you been? What took you so bloody long, you wanker?” Aware of his chipped situation, Spike let Giles go before either of them were hurt. Spike retreated to the other side of the room and jumped up on the washing machine, demon features still avant-garde.

“It – it took a little longer than I expected. I had run all around town trying to locate the correct ingredients. Seems Willow has ‘borrowed” some stuff from my collection.” Giles pursed his lips and scowled, but said nothing about Spike’s attack. He bent over to pick up two large sacks he had dropped when Spike gave his big welcome. He made his way to the kitchen, trying very hard not to look behind his shoulder.

“Is he any better?” Giles asked as he set the parcels of items down on the tiny table.

“I think you know the answer, Giles.” The mention of his name by the vampire startled him, and he turned to find Spike once again at the bed. He was clinging to Xander’s hand, and stroking the boy’s forehead. This time there was no cool cloth between the vampire’s hand and Xander’s head. Spike appeared to be petting Xander.

“Yes, well uh, I assume you found the stinger?” Giles began to unpack his bags of magic tricks and searching the cupboards for bowls and spoons to mix the ingredients. Again he was startled to turn and find Spike right behind him, proferring the stinger on a bed of Kleenex.

“There it is. Was in the boy’s leg.” Spike’s voice sounded haunted, and as Giles took the package from him he could feel something different in the air. Something strange but pleasant. He set the stinger on the table and looked up to find Spike back at the bed, returned to his place beside Xander. He almost laughed outright at the notion of torturer turned nurturer.

While Giles mixed his potions, Spike stayed beside Xander. He had long ago given up trying to bring the boy’s fever down. Now it was up to the watcher, and Spike could do nothing. He hated that feeling of helplessness.

At once, he felt a clammy hand grasp his, tighten and hold.

Spike looked up to find Xander’s eyes open, gazing upon him. Brown eyes the color of soft and strong suede looking at him, tears beginning to form. Spike gasped for unneeded breath, tears forming in his eyes too. This awakening was different.

“Spike? Spike, that’s you isn’t it?” Just a whisper from the boy’s mouth - a small, rattling raspy whisper. The sound was all together joyous and crushing to Spike.

“Yes, pet, it’s me. You can see me, I’m right here, Xander.” He whispered back. This was his time with Xander, and he didn’t want the watcher to take it from him. Spike trapped Xander’s hand between both of his. He wanted to never let go.

“You…you called me Xander.”

“Yeah, pet, I did. Some things have changed, I think.” At that, Xander smiled a weary smile of a man who knows his own frail mortality.

“Yeah, they have. Spike, listen, I want to tell you something before I go.”

A thousand samurais sliced through Spike’s body at that one sentence.

“You’re not going anywhere, luv. You’re going to be fine. You just have to hold on, Xander. Just stay here with me, please. Don’t leave me.” Tears were flowing down both men’s faces. So much difference, so much similarity, Spike thought.

“I want to Spike, really I do. I don’t want to leave this place…I don’t want to leave you.” Xander’s breathing became more irregular, more rugged. Spike’s chest was swelling with breath as well, matching the mortal’s.

“Then don’t.” It was all Spike could manage to say.

“I’ll try, Spike. I’ll try. But I want you to know something. It’s very important and please don’t leave when I tell you.”

“I won’t, pet. I promise. I swear upon everything unholy I’ll never leave you. What is it, Xander?” Spike could almost feel his heart beginning to beat again. A mortal who made a vampire’s heart begin again. How poetic, Spike thought. How poetic and how terrible.

“I, I’m sorry, Spike. I never should have, should have teased you. I’m so sorry for what I’ve done to you and I-“

“Shhh, pet. S’okay, now. I think we’re even. I tried to kill you more than once, naturally you’re going to have some vindictive feelings for that. I don’t blame you for it.”

“I know, but I want you to know how sorry I am that I wasted all that time. All that time when we could have been friends. When…things were happening to me that I never would have thought.”

“What do you mean, pet?”

“Spike, I can’t, I don’t. See, with Jesse it was different. We grew up together, it seemed so right. We knew everything about each other. It was…natural that we came together.” Xander took a deep breath, Spike sensing it would be the last. He took one more, then another and another. Finally Xander was able to continue.

”But with you it’s so much more different. There are so many things about you I don’t know or understand. So much about you that I know I should hate and be appalled by. But what I’ve come to understand is that even though I should hate you, I can’t. That’s what I’ve learned the past couple of months. I can’t hate you, Spike. I care too much about you. You mean too much to me. I just wish I had told you so that maybe I could have been loved by you, just for a little while. To know what it felt like. Because I know what it is to love, Spike. Because I love you. I have for some time now. Loved you and wanted you, but was too afraid to know you.”

Spike’s entire emotional being was shattered with those four words. “Because I love you.” And Spike was sobbing, his head on Xander’s chest, not caring if the watcher heard or saw or thought anything. Not caring about anything other than the love he felt for this mortal man. Nothing but the aching need for this simple human being pull through and to be alive and to love him. The heartbreaking desire to love Xander and to know the warmth and depth of being loved by him. As he sobbed, he felt Xander’s other hand stroking through his hair and he was again reminded of the shortness of time.

“Xander, I – I. Thank you. A little secret for you too…” Spike looked up to see Xander’s eyes as ground zero in an eruption of tears. Neither man tried to wipe away their emotions.

“What is it, Spike?” Xander’s eyes began to weigh heavy and start their slow closure.

“I love you too, pet. Xander, I love you. I didn’t even know until this night, but I know it now. And now that I have you I won’t let you go. Do you hear me?”

“Spike, they’re calling me. I have to go.”

“NO! Xander, don’t go. Don’t leave me!”

“Spike, just remember that I love you. Don’t forget that and you won’t be able to lose me. I love you, Spike. And now I know what it feels like to be loved by you. Thank you.” And again, he was gone, maybe forever. Xander’s breathing all but stopped, his heart beat as though pumping molasses, and his skin grew pale as in death. There wasn’t time anymore, there was only hope.

Spike continued to sob on Xander’s chest. Again he felt the emotions pouring out like an open wound. An invisible wound, but it would never heal. It would never be mended.

After a short while, Spike felt a hand grasp his shoulder. Firm, strong, supportive. He turned to find Giles behind him. The watcher had tears in eyes, yet none fell. His skin was pale as well, and his entire face knew the force of gravity, for it was downcast as Spike had never seen it.

In his other hand, Giles held a bowl and a cloth. It shook slightly in the watcher’s trembling hand. He still clasped Spike’s shoulder.

“He’s going to be fine, Spike. He’ll make it.” That was all he said. He made no mention of the admonitions of love he surely must have heard. He said nothing of how wrong or evil Spike was. He said nothing of how stupid he must have thought Xander to be to fall in love with a devil in disguise. He simply nodded and let go of his hold on Spike, and walked back to the kitchen.

Spike wiped away his tears and before getting up from where he kneeled beside Xander. He searched his duster for his smokes for the first time in a long while. Took one out of his pack and lit it, savoring the feel of it as the smoke filled his body. Nothing like the emotions Xander sent coursing through him, but at least a mild replacement.

“Is it ready, then?” Spike asked. He noticed that all of the windows were covered. He hadn’t seen or heard Giles doing it, but he surely must have. Maybe the watcher wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe not only some things, but everything had changed.

“It is.” Giles replied as he walked back to the dying mortal.

“Well, then. Let’s get on with it.” Spike stubbed out his cigarette on his boot and put it in the trashcan, took the bowl and cloth from the watcher and kneeled once more by Xander’s side.

“You’ll probably want to turn away, Watcher. It’s not pretty.”

Giles gave Spike a questioning look, but turned away nonetheless. However, as Spike gingerly rolled Xander onto his stomach, he glanced through the corner of his eye. What Giles saw made his stomach lurch and his chest contract painfully. A sharp intake of breath and he was about to say something –

“Don’t,” from Spike. “I’m going to take care of it.”

Giles could only imagine what that meant, but now looking fully on Xander’s back and thighs, he hoped that meant pain was in store for someone. Giles would gladly find a way to remove Spike’s chip if it meant that this would not go unpunished. Sadly, though, he knew who was responsible. He had always known. Always known and never done or said anything.

“But I should have-“

“I said don’t, Watcher. Don’t make me say it again. This will be taken care of, one way or another.” And Giles had absolute faith that what Spike said was the truth.

So Giles turned back around again and let Spike administer the salve onto Xander’s thigh. Soon he heard Spike rolling Xander again onto his back, and covering him up. He turned and found Spike back in his usual place, next to Xander on the bed.

“What now?”

“Now, we wait,” he replied, and with a sigh he sank into the armchair next to the bed. He could feel his eyes growing heavy and prayed that sleep would come soon. He gave a tremendous sigh and closed his eyes. But before he could sleep, there was something important to say.

“Spike?” he asked

“Yeah?” came the heavy reply.

“You know that I don’t understand. That I can’t approve of this.” Giles heard the sigh of a lover.

“Yeah, mate, I know.”

“But I want you to know, I’m not going to stop you. I’m not going to stand between you and Xander, not when it’s something I know he wants, something he needs.”

“That’s big of you, mate.”

“But, all due respect, if you hurt him, that threat from earlier still stands.” A chuckle from the blonde Brit.

“I expected as much. And Giles?”


“You don’t have to worry.”

“I know.”

The late afternoon sun was making its way towards the west when Spike awoke. He couldn’t see it, but he knew it was. He opened his eyes to see the basement wrapped in the velvet softness of shadows and darkness, save for one softly glowing bedside lamp.

He peered over to the chair to see Giles fast asleep, glasses falling off, mouth slightly open, and a soft grumbling in his chest.

Sometime in his sleep, Spike had curled Xander to him, because the boy’s head was on his shoulder, Spike’s arm enclosed around him protectively. Xander’s arm was draped across his chest

For one fleeting moment, Spike wished that it could stay this way. That he could always be here like this, with Xander beside him. Granted, the watcher didn’t quite fit into this daydream, but that was another matter.

Spike quickly checked Xander to make sure he was still breathing. In fact, his breathing had gotten back to that of a normal sleeping mortal, and his heart was again beating as it should. Spike’s chest swelled in adoration of this man once more, and sleep claimed him again.

Almost sunset, and Spike was woken by a hand on his shoulder and the smell of warm blood. He looked up to see Giles holding out a mug of blood, and suddenly Spike realized he hadn’t fed in almost three days. His entire body screamed at the scent of it, and he graciously accepted the mug from the watcher.

“Thanks, mate,” he toasted before drinking the contents in one long gulp. Giles nodded, and rounded the bed to the chair, and gazed upon the scene. Again, Spike realized that Xander was still cuddled up with him. He didn’t care, though; he had already gotten the watcher’s pseudo-blessing.

“Is there anymore?”

“Yes, I brought the two bags I had left from my flat. Here, I’ll get you some more.” Giles reached for the cup, but Spike motioned for him to stay.

After again checking to make sure Xander was all right, he slowly untangled himself of the boy, and got out of the bed. He made for the kitchen, and winced at the bright florescent light.

“Oi, Watcher, place is lit up like the family jewels.”

“Forgive me, Spike. Some of us don’t have night vision,” came the reply.


He poured the blood into the mug and popped it into the microwave, tapping his fingers impatiently while waiting for that satisfying “ding”. He almost burnt himself as he chugged this mug as well. He placed the empty cup in the sink and returned to main room.

“Shouldn’t he be coming around right about now?”

“Yes, soon I should say.”

Suddenly, Spike couldn’t move. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t even blink. There was an absence of sound, of movement in the room. Something was wrong. Spike could finally get his muscles to move, and he sprang to the bed, knowing what it was. He was quickly followed by Giles, who had noticed the change as well.

There Xander lay, perfectly still. No movement of chest, no intake of breath. His skin was again golden and tan, his lips once more red. But now nothing passed through them. No breath meant no life.

“Watcher, what is this?” Spike felt the panic boiling within him. The demon was struggling inside.

“I, I don’t know. We did everything correctly…this isn’t supposed to happen.”

Spike fell to ground, the panic no longer a feeling as much as an explosion of pain bursting inside his hollow chest. Tears exploded and tore down his face, as his hand went out to grasp Xander’s. His lost boy.

As Spike’s hand connected with Xander’s, he felt that spark, that electricity run through him and suddenly Xander breathed again, as if nothing had happened.

Giles let out the breath he had been holding and let his body relax once more. Spike peered up at Xander’s face and watched as right before him, Xander’s eyes opened and gazed at the two of them. He flexed his arms and his legs and tried to sit up, but couldn’t. He hadn’t had free will of his body in some time – the nightmares had had control.

“Spike, Giles, what are you doing here? Why are you looking at me like that? Seriously, you guys are givin’ me the wiggins.”

Spike looked at Giles, Giles looked at Spike, and both let out hysterical laughter that seemed to go on forever. Eventually the two sobered and came back to the situation.

Spike retrieved a glass of water for Xander, while Giles began to recount the tale of the last forty-eight hours. Xander apparently remembered nothing of his fever or any of his hallucinations. Spike remained quiet the entire time the two mortals were conversing. He couldn’t believe how empty he felt, and at the same time so full of disappointment and pain. Everything Xander had said had been nothing but the fever talking.

After checking to make sure Xander needed nothing else, Giles made ready to leave. He asked Spike to help carry the books to the car.

As they finished piling the books into the backseat, Giles thanked Spike.

“I’m so sorry, Spike.”

“S’not your fault, mate. Just wasn’t meant to be.”

“I suppose not, but it hurts just the same.”

“Yeah, well, time heals all wounds and all that rot. Don’t give a piss about me, Watcher, I’ll be fine. And I’ll see the boy gets the things he needs.”

Giles nodded and got into his car and drove away.

Spike returned to the basement to find Xander gazing at the door.

“I was wondering what was taking so long.”

“Watcher had some stuff to say. Want some more water, pet?” Spike asked as he approached the bed.

“Huh…yeah, sure.” He held out his glass to Spike with a questioning look. Spike just shrugged and retrieved more water. The whole time he could feel Xander’s eyes on him. Xander accepted the water and drank it all down in one drink. He set the glass on the table beside the bed. Spike couldn’t make eye contact.


“S’matter, pet?”

“I remember.” Spike gazed up to see tears welling in Xander’s eyes. Suddenly, the emptiness in Spike’s body seemed gone. But what if Xander meant something else?

“You remember what, Xander?” Hope bled from that question.

“Everything. I remember what I told you…I remember what I said to you about…about loving you. And I remember what you said to me. About loving me. Please tell me it wasn’t a dream. Tell me it was real.” Tears cascading down bronze skin. Making suede eyes run muddy.

“Was real love, all of it. And I meant it.” Spike knew he was crying too, again. More tears in the last two days in over a century, it seemed.

“So did I.”

And Spike was there, on the bed, wrapping his arms around his boy, around his lost boy found. Around his Xander, his love. He was there with him.

Ice blue eyes met mahogany, and pale pink lips met red. And suddenly everything was as it should be. Both men sighed into this kiss, opening to receive one another, exploring one another. It was more than a kiss, it was a joining of souls, for surely they both possessed one. It was an admonishment of things past and things to come. It was pain and loneliness and torture absolved, and love and trust and comfort infused. It was them, together, at last.

Finally, they broke the kiss but held each other closely. For a while, neither man said anything. They only took the time to soak up each other’s gazes and touches and love.

Finally, Xander spoke.

“Um, Spike? I’m kinda naked under here, aren’t I?” Xander asked. There was something in that question, and Spike knew what it was.

“You are. We have to talk about that, Xander.”

“Do we have to do it now?”

“Sooner or later, luv. I want a lover, not a whipping boy.”

“Let’s make it later, then. Right now let’s work on the lover part.”

Spike had never heard better words in his unlife. And he didn’t need to be asked twice.

The End

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