Fury didn’t even begin to encompass it. Incandescent rage came close, or the red-faced ferocity he remembered seeing from his dad on more than a few occasions. It’d even been over the same kinds of issues, and wasn’t that something to make him feel small and insignificant? Stupid family history. But this wasn’t just ‘anger’. This was ... Xander didn’t have words for whatever this was, and the knowing glance that Willow kept giving him didn’t help.
“What?” he snapped, angry enough that he didn’t even care when she flinched, and then frowned. “What?”
“You don’t have to take my head off,” she said in return. Then winced, again, and gave him guilty-face, which quickly changed back into resolve-face when Xander continued glaring hatefully at her. “You need to calm down, Xander.”
Calm? He was so far past calm he was in anti-calm land. Or some other superlative or adjective or metaphor or something his brain was throbbing too hard to come up with. If he could come up with it when he wasn’t so angry he couldn’t think past a single name, or hear the sicken crunch of metal digging through things it never, ever should have to dig through. Ever.
He didn’t realize he was shaking until Buffy tried to wrap a blanket around him. Tried, because he reacted very poorly to being touched without warning: Buffy looked a little googly-eyed when she picked herself up off the floor. “Wow. I didn’t realize blankets rated so high on the sneak-attack-o-meter. Xand, this isn’t radioactive spider time, is it? Because normally, you’re not so much with the throwing me across the room strength.”
“Leave him alone, Buffy.” Dawn was standing on his other side, a staunch protector who hadn’t taken her eyes off the bed in front of them once. Her hands checked the various tubes and wires automatically, making certain nothing had been jostled—she was the only one Xander would permit that job. “He hasn’t been bitten, he’s fine, just leave him alone.”
“Dawn ... “ Long-suffering Buffy rubbed at her eyes. “Will you please go downstairs? You shouldn’t. Um. Xander?”
“What?” If he said the word very short and clipped, he wouldn’t sound so ready to kill, right?
Xander growled even louder. “Your point?”
“Okay, that’s enough. Xander, you are going downstairs, getting cleaned up and having a drink or four. Dawn, you are going to go help him, except for the parts where he has to get naked because ew, not happening. Oh, and no alcohol.”
Looking pointedly at the wires that connected him to the bed, Xander didn’t have to say anything at all. The moment Buffy looked at them again—thick tubes tinted brown to muffle what passed through them—she wilted and sat on the floor next to Willow. “I don’t know what else to do,” she said in a small voice.
“Get out.” The cold finality in his voice bothered even Xander, but he was too angry to do the guilty smile he usually produced to smooth things over. Without moving his eyes, Xander tilted his head toward Buffy and Willow. “Just get out.”
“I really don’t want to yell anymore.” He didn’t think he’d stop, if he started.
He knew both of them were pouting, and probably angry, but he didn’t care. He wanted them out. He wanted everyone out until he could pretend he was counting breaths that didn’t belong to anyone else, that the heartbeat he wasn’t feeling would miraculously start beating underneath his palm, strong enough to go through the bandages that lay between him and broken skin.
It took supreme effort not to turn that hand into a fist and smash it into an unmoving rib cage.
“Xander.” Dawn’s voice. She’d remained, but that was okay. Dawn was important in ways Buffy and Willow couldn’t be right now, and she knew that now was the last time to try and take control. “Xander, we have to stop soon. You’re getting kinda pale.”
He shook his head. He knew his body, knew how much he could afford to lose. He’d be fine.
“Xander, I could—”
“No!” Even as angry as he was, there was no way he’d allow Dawn to do this. For more than just the selfish reasons. Yanking his eyes up, he tried to smile at her. “No, Dawn. You need to do other things, okay?”
“But I want to help!” Unshed tears glistened prettily in her eyes. She swallowed heavily, while one hand petted over the blankets. “I’m scared, Xander.”
Xander wasn’t scared. Xander was too angry to be scared. “You do help, Dawn. How about you go get me some juice, okay? Apple juice?”
It was almost pathetic how grateful she was to have a task and she hurried out of the room. Xander sighed a little when she left, the room finally free of cloying perfumes, and sniffling girls who hovered to closely, their bodies too warm. He lifted his hand slowly, ignoring the way it trembled, to trace over the red-soaked cotton grain. He’d have to change it again, soon, something he dreaded. Taking off those bandages would let that red drip down pale skin, and he’d have to see—
“You bastard. You stupid bastard. You motherfucking asshole, I hate you. I hate how stupid you are, and reckless, and I could fucking kill you!” The words rose in volume and intensity, though not so much variation. Xander couldn’t think of anything except swear words, and that was what poured out of his mouth. He came up with every term, every comparison, not caring that he was shouting—screaming, really, while blood pounded in his head and his vision went splotchy and dark.
Long, cold fingers touched his.
Xander froze, staring down at the hand brushing against his own. Movement? But they’d been so sure... His eyes flew up to see blue ones—fuzzy and the pupils mere pinpoints, but open—looking up at him. Glaring up at him, really, as the mouth below struggled to part.
“No!” Xander covered Spike’s mouth. “Don’t you dare talk. Willow spent hours trying to put everything back together with magic and you are not ruining all her hard work, you undead asshole. So just shut up or I’ll fucking kill you myself. You hear me? I’ll kill you. Just put us all out of our fucking misery!”
An eyebrow flickered up, then settled again. All right, all right, keep your shirt on, was the message. Spike gaze moved to the tubes connecting him and Xander, then back up to Xander’s face. An expression of wonder appeared for an instant—and then the kind of anger that matched Xander’s own appeared. Dark eyebrows lowered, pupils growing larger as anger turned his skin dark, blood pumping more quickly through his system. He couldn’t reach Xander’s arm, but the sharp gesture toward it was message enough.
“This? This is because you’re a goddamn bastard of a fuck up,” Xander snarled. “Because you jumped in front of me. Do you know what happened next, Spike? Do you remember? Because I do. I’ll never be able to forget it for as long as I live.”
Spike's anger faded. Worry turned his eyes more aquamarine than blue and he touched Xander’s hand again. What?
Xander felt like a volcano, all that heated rock within him growing hotter and more potent and just more until he was afraid the top of his head would blow off, that his body would explode into a million pieces because ordinary epidermis couldn’t contain this much hate and it would shatter and break rather than even try.
“He cut your head off, Spike.” Xander’s voice was cold and calm, echoing inside his own skull. “There was barely an inch of skin and muscle that stopped you from dusting on the spot.”
Spike’s eyes went very, very wide, his hand touching the blood-soaked bandages that wrapped around his neck.
“If I hadn’t stopped him—if Willow hadn’t know that spell—brought you back here—” The anger continued to build, robbing him of speech while Spike checked himself over, finding the cuts and bruises they hadn’t concentrated on healing because they were afraid any moment would present them with a patch of dust. “You looked—you bastard, you weren’t moving and—and—you were—”
He stood up, almost tearing a hole in his arm since he’d forgotten about the iv connecting him to Spike. And the amount of blood he’d given, as the world lurched sickeningly around him. Weak hands fluttered against him before stronger ones grabbed, catching him, and resettling him back onto the bed. Spike’s fingers found his, winding them with his own and gripping as tightly as he could.
“I hate you,” Xander whispered while Willow and Buffy chattered excitedly as they unhooked Xander and stuck the needle in a blood-bag instead. Dawn was taping his arm, babbling about hearing voices and getting Buffy, and wasn’t it so good? Everything would be all right, now. Xander ignored all of it to glare balefully at the body beside his own. “I hate you so much. You reckless ass. I hate—”
The noise was soft, barely over a whisper, but it silenced the entire room. All eyes fixed on Spike, but he looked only at Xander. His mouth moved, creating the faintest hint of sound that was intelligible only if his lips were read at the same time. But Xander heard it loud and clear, felt it go past the rage to where his fear and desperation lived: “Love you, too,” Spike told him.
The rage vanished, not even leaving a soapy residue, as Xander gave in and cried. Above him, he heard Willow say she'd contact Giles, while Buffy shuffled a protesting Dawn out. Xander curled himself into a ball, touching as much of Spike as he could, continuing to cry as he finally, finally started to think that Spike would be okay. That it really was all going to be okay.
And the whole time, Spike soundless told him that he was sorry, he'd be all right, and that he loved Xander. Enough times that Xander believed it.