Punishment

by
Whichclothes



“Something’s wrong with my eye!” Xander batted at his face, nearly dislodging several IV lines and his oxygen tube in the process, until Spike caught at his wrist and held the hand still.

“ ’S all right, pet,” Spike explained patiently for what felt like the hundredth time. “We’ll have the doc take a look at it when she returns, yeah?”

“Doc? Oh no, not Ben. He’s Glory, Spike, and—”

“Not Ben. This doctor’s a bird. Remember? Pretty thing with the black braids.” One of Spike’s hands held one of Xander’s, while the other stroked the thin, wrinkled skin on Xander’s brow.

But Xander wasn’t soothed, and he tried to turn his head away. “Where are we? We’re not supposed to be here. Those Er’tanki demons are down at the docks and—”

“And we’ll sort them later.” Spike glanced up at the nurse, but her plain face remained impassive. Most likely she thought the talk of demons was, like the patient’s other ravings, the result of fever, painkillers, and a bit of senility.

At least Xander stilled for a few moments, seeming to enjoy the way Spike’s fingers carded through his thin hair. But even as he lay unmoving, Xander’s breaths remained harsh and labored as if he were engaged in strenuous activity.

“Do you want some more ice chips?” Spike asked.

“No. I’m not … I’m tired.”

“Want me to go so you can kip?”

Xander’s voice was weak and a bit hoarse. “No. Stay … stay a little while. Please.”

“Of course.” Spike scooted his chair a little closer to the bed and leaned down to press his lips to Xander’s heated cheek. Not the good heat he’d enjoyed stealing all these years, not the living furnace in his bed who had burned his way into Spike’s heart and soul. Not the comforting warmth that, until very recently, he’d sunk his way into on a regular basis despite half-hearted protests from his lover that Xander was too old, that Spike should find someone handsome and young to shag instead. Never, Spike had replied every time. No one but you, love. And he’d meant it—faithful and true for decades, still seeing the beauty that shone from his lover’s being, not caring about the age spots and wrinkles and gray hairs. But now Xander was hot, and he smelled ill, and his lungs were thick and laboring.

The nurse adjusted tubes and inspected her machines, and then she gave Spike a tired smile and left the room.

“Spike?” Xander said quietly.

“Yeah, love?”

Xander’s eye was clearer than it had been in days. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For … for you. It’s been a really good run. Way better than I expected. You’ve made my life amazing, Spike.”

“And you’ve done the same for me.”

Xander smiled. “I’ve seen so much. Should’ve written my memoirs. Coulda made a fortune.”

“Still can.”

Xander shook his head slightly and gave Spike’s hand a weak pat. “You never could lie worth shit, Fang.” Then his gaze went fuzzy again, as if someone had dropped a veil over his iris, and he frowned and blinked. “What’s wrong with my eye?”

Spike sighed patiently and kissed his cheek again. “ ’S all right. We’ll ask the doc about it.”



***



Their flat was a posh one, with comfortable furniture and scattered mementos of their shared decades. But now it was colder and more lifeless than a vampire. Spike hated the way his footsteps echoed in the emptiness. He didn’t bother to turn on the lights as he tossed his coat onto a chair and kicked off his boots. He continued to strip as he walked, so by the time he reached the bedroom he was completely naked.

He hadn’t made the bed, nor had he changed the sheets since he’d taken Xander to hospital. He didn’t want to mute his lover’s scent; surrounded by that familiar odor was the only way he could sleep.

But now he walked past the bed and to the large chest of drawers that Xander had crafted for him years ago. The top drawer slid out smoothly when Spike tugged on it. It contained only two objects: a knife with a wide, sharp blade and ornately wrought handle, which Spike had given Xander shortly after they began sleeping together; and an oval mirror with a gilt frame. When Xander gave Spike the mirror fifteen years earlier, Spike had been bemused. “Odd pressie for a vamp, love,” he said.

“Odd vamp,” Xander had replied with a grin. “But look.”

So Spike had looked, and then he’d almost dropped the thing when he’d found a blue-eyed bloke with a finely sculptured face looking back. “Bloody hell!”

Xander had looked insufferably smug. “Remember that magic shop where we bought Willow’s birthday present? While you were off ogling the girl in the green dress—”

“I wasn’t!”

“Oh yeah you were. Only half blind, Fang. But it’s okay, you know that. Look all you want as long as you don’t touch. Anyway, while you were flirting, I found this.”

“It’s a marvel.” Spike looked over at Xander “But why?”

“I wanted you to see how beautiful you are. I mean, I get to see all the time. Just, you know, promise me that now and then you’ll tear your eyes away from the pretty boy to look at ugly old me.”

Spike had set the mirror down and walked over to embrace Xander. “Never ugly, love. Never.”

Spike’s reflection was exactly the same now as it had been fifteen years earlier. Exactly the same as it would be fifteen years from now, or a hundred and fifteen. He set the mirror atop the chest of drawers and gripped the knife in his left hand. Xander had killed countless monsters with that blade, had saved countless innocent people as well as himself. Spike had given him lessons in its use and watched with pride as his boy became adept with it. But Xander hadn’t used it in ages. He called himself retired. He puttered about, making clever little toys for Willow’s and Buffy’s and Dawn’s grandchildren, fussing over Spike, watching horrible holo programs. He was happy. They were happy.

Spike lifted the knife and stuck the tip into the tender skin just beneath his left eye. A single droplet of blood dripped down like a tear, and then Spike slashed downward, opening a gash to his jawline. “That’s for not being fast enough to save his eye,” he said out loud.

He moved the knife a few inches and made an identical wound on the right side. “That’s for wasting all those years before admitting you loved him.”

With a turn of his wrist, he cut again, this time across the width of his cheek, forming a bloody “t”. “That’s for not noticing sooner that he’d fallen ill.”

He made a matching cut on the other side. “That’s for not forcing him to go to hospital sooner.”

Now he cut so deeply into his forehead that he could see the bone of his skull. “That’s for never convincing him to let you turn him.”

The blood was sheeting over his eyes, nearly blinding him, pattering thickly onto the polished wood floor, where it joined the stains that were already there. But he cut once more, this time between his eyes and down the bridge of his nose. “Not so beautiful now, are you, wanker? That one’s for staying young while a good man grew old.”

He let the knife fall to the floor with a clatter.

And for a long time he simply stood there as the blood tickled his skin. He could feel the wounds beginning to close already. Too soon. In the afternoon he’d drink a pint or two of pigs blood. He’d wash up and walk to the hospital a mile away, and by the time he got there he’d be good as new, his face as perfect and handsome as ever.



The End