Pairing: Spike/Xander
Word Count: 8513
Rating: PG-13
Summary: After Spike is captured, Xander has to put him back together again.
Warnings: Non-graphic noncon and torture.
Disclaimer: Not mine, don’t sue
Notes: Title comes from a quote from Cicero, “Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.”

My thanks to [info]ely_jan, [info]winterlive and [info]menomegirl for reading various parts and holding my hand, and to [info]jstabe, queen of all things Buffyverse, who kept cheering me on.

By the Doubling of our Joy
and the
Dividing of our Grief


"Now what the fuck do we do, Spike?" Xander whispered urgently. Spike waved him off, watching the soldiers moving through the warehouse, hoping against hope that if they stayed quiet they wouldn't be discovered. As they followed a methodical search pattern, though, Spike's hopes coughed and died. Fuck. We stay here, we're both gonna get caught. And then, even if I manage to get us loose, Buffy's gonna kick my ass for getting her boy involved in this.

Turning to face Xander, one eye still focused on the soldiers on the other side of the crack between the crates they were hiding behind, he finally answered Xander. "I'm gonna go out there - distract them and get them to the other side of the warehouse. As soon as we're out of sight, you leg it out of here, you got me?"

When Xander opened his mouth to argue, Spike slapped his hand over the boy's mouth and rolled his eyes. "They're not gonna catch me, Xander. I'm faster, I'm capable of moves they can't even comprehend, and even if they manage to put a bullet in me, I can keep going. That's not true for you and you know it. I'll meet you back at the Magic Box."

Before Xander could voice a protest, Spike had already slipped away, around the far end of the row of boxes. When he judged himself far enough away to give Xander a fighting chance of getting out without being noticed, he yelled, "Oi! Morons!" Most of the soldiers immediately started making their way towards him, leaving only one anywhere near Xander, and Spike paused long enough to watch as the boy cold cocked him with no hesitation, and then ran towards the back of the building.

Spike's distraction had cost him dearly, though. Several of the soldiers were almost on top of him, and it was time to get moving himself.

For long minutes, he led them on a merry chase through the rows of crates and boxes, going up and over just as often as around the ends. When they'd finally started to realize it, he changed tactics, running back towards them and sliding under one of the pallets.

Gunfire rang in his ears, but apparently these guys were just as bad with guns as they were stupid, and they all missed. Laughing, he dodged another volley, and around a corner - right into someone who looked vaguely familiar and was holding a taser. "Hostile Seventeen. So nice to see you again." the guy said, and then fired.

Spike didn't have a chance to do more than recoil in surprise before the electricity took him to his knees. The soldier fired again, and everything. Went. Black.

Spike woke up freezing cold and in the dark. Holding still for a moment, he heard voices, but peculiarly muffled. Reaching out, he discovered that he was in a small, coffin shaped box. It wasn’t until he felt behind his head and found cold metal, though, that he realized that he was in the morgue.

There was no handle on this side, and Spike resigned himself to waiting until either the voices went away and he could force it, or until someone opened the door and he could “rise from the dead,” scare the hell out of someone, and get out that way.

Just as the voices receded and he started to brace himself to try and open the door from the inside, the door swung open. Before he could do more than tense, he was hit with another blow from a taser.

This time, when he woke up, he was shackled in what looked like a cave. It didn’t take him long to recognize it as the remains of Adam’s lair, and he swore quietly. He hadn’t imagined someone recognizing him, then.

He pulled on his chains, trying desperately to get them loose, just as he heard harsh laughter from behind him. Spinning, there was the same grinning face from the night before. “So, we’re awake now, Hostile 17? Wonderful.”

Pulling himself up straight, he tried to look as though he wasn’t scared to hell and back. “You seem to have the advantage, friend. So, who are you?” The guy didn’t have Riley’s build or all-American good looks – shorter and darker – but still a big guy, next to Spike.

The man approached confidently, and without a word started cutting Spike’s clothes off with a knife, careless about whether he cut Spike in the process. Spike struggled for a moment, until the chip fired and he went to his knees, panting, trying to shake off the effects.

By the time the pain cleared, he was naked, and the soldier was standing in front of him, watching him the way a scientist would watch a bug. “You know,” the man began, conversationally, “The initiative was doing good work - useful work. And then you escaped. And all hell broke loose. Most of the members of my unit were killed or hurt, and the rest of us were debriefed, patted on the head, and assigned to other units.”

The guy was still standing, still just staring but Spike was starting to get a real bad feeling about this. “I had almost managed to forget about it – put it out of my mind, you know? And then who falls into my lap but Hostile 17. Well, the Initiative may no longer exist, but I can finally get some revenge for my buddies – the ones no longer capable of getting it for themselves, anyway.”

With that, the soldier backhanded Spike across the face.

Spike took the beating the guy dished out as silently as he could, not bothering to try and struggle and fight back. That would only cause the chip to fire, and that would hurt worse than any punches or kicks the guy could give him.

One particularly hard kick knocked Spike over onto his face, and before he could struggle back to his knees, the guy was kicking his legs apart. Now Spike tried to fight, suspecting what was coming, and the damn chip went off, leaving him panting and nauseous.

Dimly, he heard the guy’s belt as he dropped his pants, and then there was a burning pain as he forced his way into Spike, who scrabbled on the rock floor, trying to pull himself away.

Thankfully, it was over fast, and then the guy was standing again, pulling up his pants and moving away. As Spike lay on the floor of the cave, trying to not react, the guy spit on him and walked away, only turning back at the cave entrance. “I’ll be back later – not hardly done with you, yet.”

When Spike could no longer hear him, he pulled himself up to a sitting position, wincing as he did so. Oh, fuck…

“So, let me get this straight. You guys thought that we could use some more firepower, and decided that the way to get it was to break into the armory at the base, assuming that the passcodes you remembered from being army-guy were still accurate. Then, when you got caught, Spike distracted them and you ran. That about right?”

Xander hung his head and mumbled something that might have been a yes.

Buffy sighed. “Okay, Xander. So, then, Spike was supposed to meet you at the Magic Box - and that was last night. So why am I just now hearing about this?”

At that, Xander looked up. “Look, we need the firepower. We were trying to help, and you know it. As far as why I waited, Spike can take care of himself. I just figured he was having trouble shaking them or something. But it’s been twenty four hours, and so I came right to you.”

Buffy nodded. “Alright. So, we have to assume that he got caught, and now we’ve got to find a way to spring him loose. First things first, let’s find out where they’re holding him.”

Going to the phone, she called Willow, explaining the situation and asking her to see what she could find. That done, she got outfitted so that she could go poke around at the base and see what she could find. Turning to leave, only to find Xander standing next to the door. “Where do you think you’re going, Xander?”

“It’s my fault Spike got caught, Buffy. I’m going too.”

Buffy looked like she wanted to argue for a minute, but then nodded and led the way out the door.

When Spike heard the footsteps, he didn’t even look up. The dried blood on his wrist showed his struggles to get loose, but they’d been in vain. Whoever this guy was, he knew how strong vampires were, and had driven the stake holding the chains deep into the rocky ground, and the heavy steel of the chains themselves resisted every attempt by Spike to break them.

The guy stood there silently for a minute, and then kicked Spike heavily in the ribs. Spike grunted, but didn’t react, otherwise. At least, not until the guy moved behind him and dropped a chain around his neck. When the cross dangling from it touched the skin of Spike’s chest, he hissed and tried to get it loose.

The guy just clipped him heavily in the back of the head and held the chain so it was pulled tight against Spike. The smell of burning quickly filled the cave, and just when Spike decided that it was worth the pain of the chip to try and shove the guy away, the cross disappeared.

He wearily lifted his head as the guy came back around. “On your knees, 17. You’re gonna suck me off, and you’re going to do it well, or I’m going to paint pretty little burn designs all over you with that cross.”

Spike snorted. “You’re going to do it anyway. Arseholes like you just want to hurt people. And rape is probably the only way you can get any.”

The guy froze for a second, and then fiercely backhanded him. “Let me explain something to you. No one knows you’re here. You can’t die unless I kill you – and we both know you can’t fight back. Now, you can be a good little vampire, and do as you’re told, or I can spend all of my offtime investigating exactly how much pain you can take.”

“And in order for it to be rape, you’d have to be human.”

For a minute, Spike contemplated fighting the guy anyway. Maybe he’d luck out and the guy would just kill him in disgust. But ultimately, his instinct for self preservation won out, and he pulled himself to his knees, swallowing down his disgust… and fear.

It was pointless. Xander and Spike’s little foray into the base had caused security to be tightened to the point that Buffy and Xander couldn’t even get near enough to the gates to hear anything. After the third close call, Buffy shook her head at Xander and the two of them faded back from the edge of the complex.

“Well, hopefully, Willow will have found something,” Buffy said.

But when they got back, there was a message from Willow that she’d had no luck breaking the encryption to get into the base’s computers and that she’d keep trying.

As the days dragged on, they all got more and more on edge. Willow had never taken so long to break into a system before, and there was nothing, not one word, on the streets about Spike being taken. Increasingly, the scoobies – and Xander and Buffy in particular – were feeling like they were running out of time.

Spike was so hungry that he’d taken to eyeing the rats that scurried along the edge of the cave he was in. If one would come within reach, he could at least attempt to kill it before the chip kicked in, and then he could eat something after the chip was done kicking his teeth in.

He was covered in bruises and burns from the soldier’s “little games,” and he didn’t even want to think about the more… personal ones. None of them were healing, as a side effect from prolonged hunger. And the last time the soldier had been there was two days earlier. He’d complained that Spike was starting to stink, and at the time, he’d just been grateful because he’d cut his games short.

Now, he was starting to wonder if the guy was just going to leave him here.

Just then, Spike was hit with what felt like gallons of ice-cold water. Sputtering, he looked around, finding soldier-boy standing there and smirking. As soon as he saw he had Spike’s attention, he picked up another bucket and threw the contents directly at Spike’s face.

As he blinked the water from his eyes, Spike shivered. So much for the guy deciding he smelled too bad to be bothered with. When soldier-boy unbuckled his pants, he dragged himself up to his knees, only to be waved down again.

As he was split open, tears of anger and frustration and pain leaked down his face. He was a master vampire, who had been reduced bending over for some stupid human, and for all he knew, this was going to be the rest of his life.

A spark of hope flared as he heard voices outside the cave, only to be dashed as soldier-boy didn’t even pause, just yelling out, “Come on in, guys – we’re just getting warmed up…”

As a group of soldiers made their way into the cave, an arm looped around Spike’s neck, and he was pulled back so that soldier-boy could whisper in his ear. “You’re going to be a very good vampire for my friends. If you do, I might even feed you.”

Spike was pushed flat again, and the last piece of hope in him died at that point, because he knew that he’d do it – he’d be that “good boy” – just to have a chance to survive.

The mood in the Magic Box was dark. It had been more than two weeks and nobody had been able to find out anything. Occasionally, someone would voice the thought, partially formed, that Spike was fine, he’d just decided to get out before Glory got to them, or that he’d decided that he was a liability, or whatever, but the sentence was never completed. They all knew, regardless of anything else, that Spike would never abandon Dawn or Buffy without at least making enough contact to let them know he was safe. He’d know that they’d be wasting resources finding him, and they just didn’t have any to spare.

Then Willow looked up from her computer, face completely a blank. “I think I’m in…” she whispered.

As they all gathered around the computer, she methodically picked through till she found the reports from the night of the failed attempt. There was a note about a “white male, approximately mid twenties, dead of apparent heart attack from taser bolt. Body removed to morgue for autopsy.”

And then further on, a small note in the MP’s reports that a body had disappeared from the morgue.

While Dawn and Anya proceeded to argue that of course, this meant Spike had escaped, Buffy and Xander just looked at each other silently. They knew that it wasn’t likely – that it was just as possible for some other covert group like the Initiative to have taken Spike.

Then Willow spoke again. “Uh, guys? We may have a problem – and an answer…”

Buffy and Xander went to stand behind Willow’s chair, and she showed them the personnel records she found, pointing at one picture in particular. “Does he look familiar to you?”

Xander shrugged. “He looks like one of the guys who was in the warehouse, but I could be wrong. Why?”

Buffy took one look and swore. “That’s Kevin – he was in the Initiative with Riley and was part of the team that was looking for Spike. Want to bet he took Spike somewhere?”

Willow continued to look through the records. “Well, he hasn’t been transferred, and he’s been on duty every day since then, so he couldn’t have taken him far.”

“Right then. Xander – you and I are going to go check out the old facility. Maybe he has Spike stashed there for some reason. Willow, you keep looking for anything else that might help, okay?”

As Willow bent back to the computer, Buffy and Xander grabbed a couple of prepared bags of weapons and supplies and headed out. It took them a little while to find the entrance to the labs, but once inside…

“Holy fuck, Buff – it looks like they didn’t do a damn thing to clean this up. Just got their own people out and abandoned it!”

“That’s exactly what they did. Now, quiet – I’m trying to see if I can hear anything…”

But as they searched, all they found were demon remains, rats, rats, and a few more rats. No sign of Spike – no sign that anyone at all had been down here since the Initiative had been shut down.

As they climbed back out, Xander shook his head tiredly. “Fucking dead end. Maybe…”

“Wait on that thought, Xander – there’s one place we haven’t tried. Adam’s cave.”

When Spike heard footsteps, he curled up as small as he could. Since the day soldier-boy had brought his friends, they had all come back, separately or together. Now, instead of one man for a couple of hours a day, the rapes and beatings were happening pretty much around the clock.

He had to give soldier-boy credit, though. He had been fed – a little cow’s blood, it was true, and hardly enough to keep him going, much less let him heal, but he was getting fed.

Then came the voices he’d never expected to hear again. For a moment, he actually believed they were there, but then just decided that he’d finally gone insane, and curled up even more.

“Oh, god, Buffy – what the hell did that guy do to him?” Xander asked as Buffy attempted to break the chain holding Spike in place. Spike didn’t even react, unless they touched him, and even then, it was only to shudder and turn away.

Buffy didn’t answer. Spike’s injuries and reactions were clear enough to her, and when Xander slowed down to think, they were going to be clear to him too. Her priority right this minute was to get him free of the chain and then figure out how they were going to get him out of the cave, when she wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t bolt the moment she got him free, or whether he could walk, and then add in the little problem of daylight…

Finally, the chain parted with a snap, and she tensed, waiting to grab Spike, but he seemed oblivious. Then she heard the sound she’d been worried about – an approaching vehicle. Standing, she pulled Spike to his feet and then, when he wavered, lifted him over her shoulder. Carrying him, motioning at Xander for quiet, they moved deeper in the cave.

As soon as they were far enough in that she didn’t think that they’d be heard, she set Spike down, and then, very reluctantly, pulled out rope and started binding his arms behind his back. Xander shot her a sharp glance. “What the hell –“

“I don’t think he knows we’re here, Xander – don’t want to risk him bolting. And I’m going to go take care of the visitor out there so we can get him out of here. You need to stay with Spike – make sure he doesn’t try to run, okay?”

Xander nodded, face pale but set, and Buffy turned back towards the entrance. She paused at the entrance of the main chamber. Yep, there was Kevin, swearing a blue streak. “Looking for your toy?”

Kevin’s head shot up, and he smiled ingratiatingly at her as she picked her way back through the cave. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was just exploring some caves on my day off. Hey, aren’t you Buffy? I remember Riley talking about you. Didn’t he call you the killer or destroyer or something?”

Buffy smiled – though it had little humor in it. Those who knew her well would have recognized it as her “You are going to die, slowly and in a lot of pain” smile. She was pissed, and the only thing that was stopping her from putting Kevin down like a dog was the fact that he was human. Then she thought about the damage done to Spike. Marginally human. “The word is Slayer. And you’re going to go now. You ever touch me or mine again, and I’ll forget that I don’t kill humans.”

“What are you going to do to stop me?”

“This.” Buffy crossed the last of the cave in a few rushing steps, and threw a punch hard enough to knock Kevin into the cave wall. As he sat on the stone, trying to catch his breath, Buffy came to stand in front of him. Taking his keys, she added, “I mean it, Kevin. You’re going to get orders transferring to another base. If I ever hear of you in, near, or anywhere around Sunnydale again, I will make sure that you regret it.”

Kevin sat in silence as Buffy went back to where Xander was waiting with Spike. Carefully, they helped him to his feet and led him as far as the cave entrance. Then Buffy wrapped him up in a blanket and carried him to Kevin’s car.

Settling him in the backseat, Xander got behind the wheel and took the keys that Buffy handed him. Once they were moving, he glanced in the rearview mirror. “What are we going to do, Buffy? We can’t take him back to his crypt like this.”

“I know – but I can’t take him home with me, either. With mom sick, I can’t try to explain this to her.”

Xander pulled to a stop at a light and looked at her. Fuck. He knew that look. “No, Buffy, I can’t. There is no way I can take him home with me. Anya will have a cow.”

Buffy didn’t say anything, just continuing to look at him, and Xander sighed and shook his head. “Fine, but let me go up first, okay?”

With a small smile, Buffy nodded.

Twenty minutes later, Xander was back down at the car. “Okay, he can stay till he’s healed. Anya called a friend of hers – and I didn’t ask whether or not they’re human – and she’s gonna go stay there. Let’s get him up the stairs, okay?”

Buffy nodded and together they manhandled Spike out of the backseat and up the stairs to Xander’s apartment. At the door, though, Xander looked at Spike, and then at Buffy. “I’ve got it from here, Buffy.”

Buffy started to argue, and Xander held up a hand. “Right now, he’s out of it. But when he’s back to being Spike, he’s gonna be embarrassed as fuck that he required rescuing at all, and that you saw him like this is going to be even worse. And before I can let him lie down to sleep, he’s going to have to be cleaned up. Let me handle it, okay? If you want to do something else, go get him some blood, lots of it. If he’s had any at all in the last week, it’s been nowhere near enough.”

She started to argue, and then sagged. Buffy knew that she wasn’t very good at this part – the patching up of hurt people part – and Xander was right. Spike was already hurt and embarrassed. No need to add more humiliation to that.

“Okay. I’ll go by his crypt, too. Pick up some clothes for him.”

Xander nodded. “No rush on those. For tonight, one of my sweatsuits will do just find. When you come back with the blood, just leave it on the counter. I’m going to go see what I can do to get him cleaned up.”

Buffy nodded, and left.

Once she’d left, Xander manhandled Spike into the apartment, muttering an invitation under his breath. As Buffy had thought, once he’d taken some time, he knew exactly what had caused the marks on Spike’s body, and this was going to suck big time.

Inside, he didn’t even slow down, just guiding Spike directly to the bathroom. Sitting him down on the toilet, he started the water in the tub. As it filled, he untied Spike’s arms, braced for an attack that never came. Shaking his head, he sighed and waited for the water. While getting blood into him would let Spike heal relatively fast, the first order was definitely getting him clean.

Stopping the flow of water when the tub when it was about half full, he turned and tried to pull Spike back to his feet, but this time, Spike’s eyes opened and he tried to croak out something.


Spike cleared his throat and obviously concentrated. “Xan-Xander?”

“Yeah, Spike – it’s Xander. We’ve got you, you’re safe. Just gonna get you in the tub while Buffy gets you some blood, okay?”

Spike shook his head wearily. “Just a dream. All just a dream, Spike – Xander’s not looking for you. Stop this already.”

Xander crouched down in front of him and tried to catch Spike’s eyes. “I’m real, Spike. We found you and you’re safe now. I promise.”

Spike just shook his head and closed his eyes.

Sighing, Xander stood back up and carefully hooked his arm under Spike’s, tugging gently till he was on his feet. Xander practically had to lift him over the edge of the tub, swearing at how light Spike was. He’d clearly lost weight that he didn’t have to spare in the first place.

Biting his lip, he began the careful task of trying to get Spike clean as gently as he could. As the caked dirt was washed away, he found bruises ranging from the dull yellow of old, to bright red and vivid. There were burns, some clearly caused by crosses.

The damage between Spike’s legs was the worst, though.

By the time Xander had Spike as clean as he could get him, he’d had to change the water three times. Occasionally, he’d become alert, looking around, though never at Xander, before he’d fade away again, and he hadn’t spoken again.

As Xander stood Spike up and started to dry him off, he could hear Buffy moving around in the kitchen. Then her footsteps approached and before he could say anything to stop her, she’d opened the door.

Silently, she looked Spike over, but when her eyes moved to Xander, the anger there was as clear as if she was screaming. “I know, Buffy. I know.”

She just nodded and then turned around and left.

Half supporting, half carrying Spike, Xander got him into the bedroom and then into a set of sweats. That got Spike’s attention, and again came that doubtful, “Xander?”

Forcing himself to smile, when all he really wanted to do was curl up in a ball and shake, he said, “Yep. Told you I was real. Now, can you sit here for a minute? I need to get you something from the kitchen.”

Spike nodded carefully, and Xander went to the kitchen, leaving the door open so that he could hear if Spike had a problem. There was a bag on the counter, and a mug of blood already warmed up, and when Xander looked, there were more bags in the fridge.

Carrying the mug back, he tried to hand it to Spike, who just looked at him blankly. Carefully, he held it to Spike’s mouth and tipped it slightly. As soon as Spike tasted the blood, he grabbed the mug and started swallowing as fast as he could, as if he expected to have it taken away at any second.

When the mug was empty, Xander half expected Spike to hold it out and demand more, but instead, he just held the empty mug silently. “Spike? Could you eat a little more? Or do you just want to sleep?”

Spike looked at him, but didn’t say anything. The expression on his face was clear enough though. That guy had obviously not contented himself with Spike’s body but also played with his head – probably teased him with offers of food that he then took away.

Without saying anything else, Xander went and heated up another mug, bringing it back and handing it over. And then again. And again.

When Spike finally slowed down, he’d had about three pints, and Xander gently urged him to lie down. Tomorrow was soon enough to figure out long term sleeping arrangements – for tonight he could sleep in the chair.

Over the next few days, Spike regained the weight he’d lost and the visible injuries faded, but he still wouldn’t speak outside the occasional word and if Xander got too close, he flinched away.

The first day that Xander went to work, he came home to discover that the large closet/small room next to the bedroom had been cleared out, and that Spike had found a few blankets, almost making himself a nest in there.

Xander didn’t say anything. He just went out and borrowed the folding bed from Buffy, leaving it sit outside the door for Spike to use if he wanted. Then next morning, it was gone, and Spike was sound asleep on it.

For his part, Xander tried to give Spike as much space as he could, going to work as usual and coming home with extra blood for Spike. Finally, one night, Spike came out of the room that he spent most of his time hiding in to stare at him.

He ignored it as well as he could, thinking that maybe Spike was still trying to convince himself that he wasn’t in that cave any more. He had succeeded to the point that when Spike actually spoke, he jumped. “Why did you and Buffy rescue me?”

“What? Why wouldn’t we?”

Spike looked frustrated. “Cause you shouldn’t have, Xander. I’m useless, and you need all the resources you have to protect Dawn. Tracking me down took away from those, and you still have Glory to fight.”

Xander started to stand up and Spike flinched. Sighing, Xander sat back down. “Look, come out here, okay? Not going to bite your head off, but let’s have this out already.”

Hesitantly, Spike came as far as the chair on the opposite side of the room and perched on the edge. “Okay, now listen. Regardless of what happened in the past, you’re one of us, now. You’ve helped us fight a bunch of demons, you’re helping us against Glory, and Dawn likes you. That makes you one of us, and if you think about it, you know we never leave one of our own. Never.”

Spike opened his mouth like he was getting ready to argue, and then closed it again, looking thoughtful. Then he said, “Yeah, but other than Dawn, none of you guys like me. So why the hell?”

Xander sighed and rolled his head along the back of the chair. “Spike, none of us know any part of you except what you’ve shown us. And you’re a vampire. So no, none of us particularly like you. You’re still one of us. Besides, while we may kill vampires and demons, we don’t torture them. We don’t starve them. We don’t… well, what was done to you by the Initiative was wrong, and what Kevin did to you was worse. The least we can do is give you space to heal.”

For a long time there was silence, and then Spike stood back up and walked back to his room. At the door, he turned around and whispered something that sounded an awful lot like “Thank you.”

Weeks passed. One day, Anya came in and looked at Spike, sitting on the couch and staring out the window. There was an intense conversation with Xander in the bedroom, and then she packed a suitcase and left again.

It was never mentioned.

Gradually, Spike rejoined the scoobies, fighting whatever demons came within reach with a fierceness and anger that should have frightened them. But instead, they simply accepted it, the same way they accepted the way that Spike still flinched if they got too close.

Word apparently got out about Spike to the local demon population, which gave them a little breathing room from the “monster of the week” attacks and they were able to focus more on what to do about Glory. Spike rarely spoke when they were in a group, looking as if he wasn’t even paying attention unless he was asked to do something.

Later, though, he’d talk to Xander, and it became apparent that he didn’t miss anything. He would make suggestions and then Xander would carry his ideas back to the group.

Xander treated Spike as one would a wild thing, never making sudden moves around him, never making any attempt to touch or reach out. On the surface, he just seemed to be offering Spike food and warm place to sleep.

Occasionally, one of the other scoobies would pull Xander aside, asking if he was okay, why he was doing this. They’d done their part – rescued Spike and given him time to heal physically. Why was he letting Spike into his life like this?

Xander just shrugged and said things like Spike was useful. Glory was still out there. He was keeping an eye on Spike to make sure that he didn’t do something stupid.

The reality was one that Xander didn’t want to look at too closely for what it said about himself. He would, however, if pressed, admit that he was growing to like Spike. After all, hadn’t Spike gotten caught because he was trying to save Xander? And this Spike, the one he had living with him this time, was a lot different than the last.

What no one ever saw, and that neither Spike nor Xander would ever tell anyone was that when they were alone, they could and did talk about anything or everything – except for Spike’s captivity. Spike had spent enough time alone with Xander’s video collection that he was familiar with many of Xander’s favorite shows and movies. Both of them had firm opinions, and they could argue for hours about whether Jean belonged with Wolverine or Cyclops, and who would win in a fight, Picard or Kirk.

Gradually, Spike relaxed when he was in Xander’s apartment and no longer twitched if Xander got too close when they were both in the kitchen.

One night, Spike had begged off patrol, claiming that he had something he had to do. When Xander got home, he found Spike, completely wasted and barely able to stand. He tried to get him to go to bed, only to have Spike wrap a firm hand around his wrist and pull him down next to him.

It was the first time that Spike had willingly touched anyone since they’d pulled him out of the cave, and Xander was well aware of that. “Spike? What happened?”

Spike laughed, a harsh sound in the quiet room. “I tried to go back to the cave. Needed to prove I could do it and only discovered I couldn’t. I honestly thought that I was going to spend the rest of my life there, Xander, being beaten and fucked for some arsehole’s entertainment. Eventually, I would have gone mad – I think I was already a little mad when you got there.”

“Then you and Buffy found me, and took me out of there. That, alone, would have been enough, but you brought me to your home and took care of me and I’ve spent a long time trying to figure out why. And I can’t. Why did you do it, Xander? Why?”

Xander shook his head. “I told you why, Spike.”

Spike snorted. “Okay, yeah, you did. And your reasons made real good sense right up to the point where Anya gave you an ultimatum – her or me. So why? I want to know, Xander. I think I deserve to know. I mean, if you want something as a thank you, you’ve certainly earned it, and I expect that you at least won’t hurt me deliberately.”

Xander recoiled from the implication that he’d only done what he had, only to fuck Spike himself. His subconscious whispered at him traitorously You wouldn’t turn it down if you thought Spike wanted it. You’re only pulling away because you want to think you’re better than Kevin.

“That’s not why we rescued you, Spike. And it’s not why you’re still living with me. You’re still here because I’ve discovered that I like you. Anya… I love Anya, but I don’t think that we should be together right now. Yeah, her ultimatum put it in sharp relief, but I think we would have split up eventually.”

And then some small part of him demanded that he be completely honest with Spike, for his own sake if not Spike’s. “As far as your offer goes. If I thought for a second that you were ready for me to… well, do anything, I’d offer. But I don’t want a pity fuck, and I don’t want it because you ‘owe’ me. I want it because I like you, and because I have to admit that when you’re not trying to kill us or snark me to death, you’re actually pretty cool. And if you think I haven’t noticed that you’re hot as fuck, than you must think me blind.”

Spike’s face looked even paler than normal, if that was possible,, and Xander decided that he needed some reassurance. “But that’s your decision. It is now, and always will be, your decision. For now, I’m just happy to keep sharing the apartment, but I wish you’d pick up your towels occasionally.”

The smile he got in response was as forced as the teasing had been, but it broke the mood. Pretty soon, they were talking as they normally did, arguing who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman.

Somehow it came to be accepted that where Xander was, Spike was. Splitting them up was something that the others just… didn’t do. And the longer they worked together, the better they got.

Then Glory stole Dawn. Spike was a desperate as the rest of them to rescue Buffy’s sister, to stop the hell goddess. As Buffy fought Glory to a standstill, Spike and Xander raced up the makeshift staircase, and managed to reach the top together.

As Xander frantically tried to cut the ropes binding Dawn, Spike fought with Doc. When he was knocked to his knees, Doc turned to face Xander and Dawn. Pulling a large knife, he slashed at Dawn, only to miss as Xander managed to dodge in front of her. The knife scored a deep cut on Xander’s arm, but he continued to bob and weave, keeping himself in front of the frightened girl.

Then, suddenly, Spike was there, grabbing Doc from behind. As the old demon whirled, Spike caught Xander’s eye, winked, and deliberately fell backwards, pulling Doc off the tower with him.

As Dawn screamed, Buffy ran out onto the platform. It took her a few moments to realize that Dawn hadn’t been hurt, that Xander had been, and that Spike had gone over the side.

Dawn bound Xander’s arm tightly, and got him to lean on her as they made their way carefully back down. On the ground, they found a dead Ben, a dead Doc, and a, well, technically dead Spike. Except that Spike was only being prevented from going back up the tower by the combined efforts of both Giles and Willow. As soon as he saw Xander, he pushed past them and took Xander in hand, leaving Buffy and Dawn to explain what had happened.

Thirty-five stitches and some very good pain pills later, Spike was helping Xander into the apartment. The drugs were making Xander very talkative, and Spike couldn’t help but smile as he babbled on about light shows and superheroes and how well he and Spike worked together.

The babble continued right through as Spike helped him change and clean up, and when Xander nearly walked into the bedroom door, he sighed patiently and wrapped an arm around his ribs, helping him get into bed.

Then came words that Spike never would have expected. “Spike? Do you think you’re ever going to kiss me? I keep waiting and hoping. Don’t want to ask. Don’t want you to think I’m making you do it. But I’d really like it if you’d kiss me. Just thought you should know.”

And then Xander fell asleep.

For a long time, Spike stood there and stared at him. While they’d never brought it up again, the words of the one time he’d offered to sleep with Xander as a “thank you” had never been forgotten. And Spike had known by smell that Xander was bisexual as long as he’d known him. But he’d put it all out of his head, not wanting to deal with the implications.

Ever since his captivity, Spike hadn’t wanted to even contemplate sex. While it hadn’t been the first time that he’d been forced into sex he didn’t want, it was the first time that he’d ever been broken since he’d become a master.

But now… oh, now he was thinking about it again. But could he get involved with a human? Could he do this?

Right now, it didn’t matter. Xander was sleeping the sleep of the injured and drugged, and so he shrugged and left the room. Time to think about it when Xander was recovered.

The next morning, Xander was pissy and sore, and didn’t notice that Spike wasn’t reacting normally to his demands and whining. It was only after the third time that he tried to bitch him out for going off the side of the tower like that and scaring the hell out of him – when Spike just nodded and said, “Yes, Xander. You’ve said this already” – that Xander noticed that there was something wrong.

“Spike? You okay?”

Spike just shrugged and turned so that Xander couldn’t see his face. “Fine, just thinking.”

But when Xander laid his hand on Spike’s shoulder, he couldn’t stop the flinch. Xander pulled back as if he had been burnt. “Spike?”

“I said I’m fine, Xander. Now just leave me alone. You’re injured. Go lie down.”

Feeling hurt, and more than a little concerned, Xander went.

Once Xander had gone back to bed, Spike sighed and sat down on the chair, head in his hands. What the fuck was he going to do? He had to admit that he liked Xander – liked him a lot. But he wasn’t sure he wanted to sleep with him, and it wasn’t fair of him to stay here, keeping Xander from finding someone else if he wasn’t going to give him what he wanted.

For a long time, he just sat, mind spinning from images of Xander and he playing around, fighting together, hanging out – but every time he tried to imagine them in bed together, he’d flash on Soldier-boy or one of his friends, and that would pull him up short.

Goddamn it, he was a hundred and twenty six years old and a master vampire. He was not going to let some fuckhead soldier with a god complex and inability to get laid without raping someone unable to fight back control the rest of his life.

He liked Xander. He trusted him. He was going to do the only thing he could at this point. He was going to tell Xander, and wait to see what he said. For a human, Xander was pretty damn smart.

When Xander woke up, he was startled to see Spike sitting in the chair next to the bed. “Okay, either I’m dying and you don’t want to tell me, or… Well, I can’t actually think of an or, so just tell me what I’m dying from?”

When Spike didn’t answer, Xander started to try and push himself up, only to forget about his injured arm. It collapsed under him, and he dropped back down, hissing at the pain. “You fucking moron, Xander,” Spike said as he jumped up to try and prevent him from landing on the stitches.

Xander took it patiently as Spike examined the wound, making sure he hadn’t torn it open again and clucking over him like a bird with one chick. When he finally stopped, he just cocked his head at him and raised an eyebrow.

Interesting. Vampires could blush.

“You’re not dying, Xander. I’ve just been thinking.”

“You? Thinking? Dammit, we just stopped one apocalypse. Don’t we get a break before the next?”

Spike glared at him. “Shut. Up. Xander.”

Xander sat up again, this time much more carefully. “Spike? What – Is there something wrong? Talk to me.”

“What do you remember from after we got back from hospital last night?”

Xander stopped and thought for a moment. “”You brought me home, helped me clean up and then I went to bed, right?”

Spike froze. He’d known that Xander probably wouldn’t remember, but he’d hoped… Well, fuck. Nothing but just spill it out. “You told me that you wanted me to kiss you.”

Xander’s face went completely, totally and utterly blank. There was a moment of complete silence, and then he said, “I’m sorry, Spike.”

Spike shook his head. “Nothing to be sorry for. Just made me think, that’s all.”

“I like you, Xander. Like you a lot. But I’m not sure if I’m ever gonna be able to give you what you want. That arsehole really fucked me up. I can admit that, and it’s been months. I don’t even think about sex. That’s not fair to you.”

Xander bit his lip and clearly hesitated to say anything at all. But his face was screaming that he wanted to say… something.

“What, Xander? Spill it.”

“Spike, I’m not seventeen anymore. Sex is not the be all or end all of the universe, and is that all you think I’m interested in?”

He started to answer with a smart-ass answer, and then decided that Xander deserved a serious one. “I guess. I guess I just assumed it was.”

Xander shrugged. “It’s important, but I’m not gonna die without it. My right hand does me fine most of the time.”

A flash of what Spike had to admit was lust hit him in the gut at the mental image of Xander touching himself. Maybe… Maybe they could make this work after all.

Xander shifted then, and hissed as he jostled his arm. “Spike? Let’s leave this till we’re both healed, okay?”

Spike nodded and got up to get the pain pills. As they argued over how much Xander should take, Spike made careful note of all that had been said – and what hadn’t.

It had been a routine fight. Four vampires, five fighters, no waiting. Except that there had been three more vampires hiding where no one realized they were, and one of them had managed to get a hold on Xander and another on Oz. For a moment, there was a standoff, as no one wanted to risk either of them getting hurt.

Then the one holding Xander went to bite him, and chaos took over. Spike charged, followed by Buffy a split second behind. Willow’s voice yelled out, “Oz! Drop!” and as he went limp in the vampire’s hands, sliding through them to land on his knees in the grass, that particular one blew up into dust.

Xander was also out of the fight, but the vampire who’d held him wasn’t down yet – mostly because Spike and Buffy were taking turns beating the unliving crap out of him.

Finally, the last of the vampires went down into dust, and Buffy looked around. Willow was down from the exertion of dusting the vamp with her magic, but Oz was already with her. Spike had a few cuts and bruises, but was too busy hovering over Xander to appear to notice.

Buffy had seen this – a lot – over the last few months, and it wasn’t something she could ignore anymore. “Xander? You okay?”

Xander nodded, and she took him at his word. “Can you and Oz start getting Willow back to the dorm? I need to talk to Spike and then we’ll catch up.”

He shot her a hard look, but rolled to his feet and then he and Oz pulled Willow up. Without looking back, they started towards the college.

Spike stared after them for a long time, and then finally turned to look at Buffy. “What do you want, Slayer?”

She swallowed hard and then just blurted it out. “You’re in love with Xander, Spike. I need to know that you’re not going to hurt him, not going to turn him, not going to do anything to him that he doesn’t want.”

Spike sighed. Spying a large, flat tombstone, he nodded towards it. “Let’s sit down, okay?”

“I’d rather stand.”

“Suit yourself.” Spike went over and flopped down anyway. “I don’t know if I’m in love with him. I like him, a lot. I like spending time with him. Hasn’t gone any further than that – probably won’t. But I can tell you that I’m not going to hurt him, and I’m certainly not going to turn him. Okay?”

Buffy stared at him for a long time. “You know what I’ll do if you hurt him, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, you’ll dust me. Don’t you think that if I was gonna find a way to eat him, I would have done it already?”

She just nodded, still watching him. Then, with a one armed shrug, she turned and followed in the scoobies’ footsteps, Spike following behind.

When they got home, Spike insisted that Xander sit down in the bathroom and let him check the bite on his neck. Cleaning and bandaging it took only a few minutes, and then Spike just stood there, one hand resting on Xander’s shoulder.

Xander waited patiently, only covering Spike’s hand with his own.

Spike started and looked at Xander. “I like you, Xander. You willing to put up with one very fucked up vampire? See if maybe we could make something of this?”

He let out a sigh, and said, “I thought you’d never ask.” Moving slowly, Xander stood up and opened his arms. “Do you think I might be able to finally give you that kiss?”

Nodding, Spike slipped into Xander’s light embrace and as his lips met Xander’s for the first time, he thought that maybe, just maybe, things might work out okay after all.

The End

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