Rating/Warnings: R; Allusions to non-con and gore. First person POV.
The wooden table is clear, the small bed made, the broken shutters closed. The small fire in the hearth quietly crackles and hisses, as if it knows the danger of this night. A night like so many others. Spike would be gone in just a few minutes. Out there. Alone. With nothing but the weapons on his back and a piece of my old shirt for luck.
Luck. What a joke. Tumbling through that dimensional pothole, we came out at the exact wrong time, at the exact wrong place. At least that's what he tells me. By the time I came to, he'd been branded and I was nothing more than the slave put in charge of keeping that particular piece of the Emperor’s property well taken care of.
But if we had been lucky, we'd be back in my dark, moldy basement watching Saturday morning cartoons, while the wonder vamp snarked at me from the chair I tied him to. But that life is light years away. I don't know how long we've been here, but no one has come to get us. And after awhile, we stopped hoping.
Hoping for a rescue only got you killed.
We'd both be dead if Spike weren't the best fighter here. Problem was, that's what made tonight my worst nightmare.
The Emperor must have become bored, angry. I don't know. Spike refuses to tell me. But tonight is his first night in the demon class. A vamp in demon class. Funny, if you think about it. Vamps are demons, but not demons like the ones here. Spike doesn't have a chance, but I'd never tell him that.
Because he doesn't need me to bring him down. It's my job to take away his pain, comfort him if I can, tend to his wounds. Wounds created by the fight for life or the fight for dignity, it doesn’t matter. They are both my job, my duty. But after what feels like years, it's more than that.
The Spike I knew withdrew, disappeared. In his place was just a shell. No longer the big bad. I thought after his first win, he'd be thrilled. Being victorious over an opponent. Able to do battle once again. Fight, win, kill. But he came back broken.
The Emperor, taking his due, shows no mercy to the victors in his chambers after the fights. I've seen Spike leave the ring without a scratch on him. And yet, the guards have to drag him back to me, covered head to toe in blood and gore. Barely able to move or speak and flinching from my touch.
Clay and Toni, my closest friends, fellow valets, they showed me the ropes. Gave me a look into how good I had it. Explained to me just what Spike had to endure. Then showed me the bite scars on Toni's back and neck. Yup, Spike went easy on me. Never figured out why.
They both say I'm lucky to have had him this long. What do they know? They go through vamps so fast. A new one almost every week. They don't know how much I wish I hadn't had him this long. And then I hate myself for thinking that way.
To get to know him, to be his friend, sometimes I feel even closer to him than that. But one day, when he doesn't come home, I might as well be dead. I don’t want to care for another. What will my life be like then? Will I get a vamp like the one Toni had for far too long, who ripped her hair out even when she gave into him? Spike never attempted anything like that. Hell, it was an effort to get him to talk to me at first. And now, I don't want to think of being here without him.
And here I am, brooding, glaring at the kitchen floor as Spike gathers his weapons and stash, a canteen and a small loaf of sweetened bread filled with some of my jellied blood. It’s just something he can nibble as he waits. I made it last night from a recipe Toni gave me. It's the first time I've wanted to cook for him. And finally his pouch, with that torn piece of cotton.
His footsteps are light, except for the interruption of a slight shuffle when he twists to the right. An old injury that he still hasn't completely healed from. Not from the ring, but from after.
I hear him sigh as he slips the satchel and scabbard over his head. Then all is quiet. He's waiting. Waiting for me to say good-bye. I don't know how to do it. I really don't.
Even after all this time together. Where all we had was each other. I still can't say the words that I want to say. Don't go. Stay. Stay with me. We can run. Find a way out. Just don't go.
But I can't. If he didn't fight, we'd die. It was that simple.
"It's time." Just a statement of fact. Like reciting the time. Spike is so used to doing this. The constant training will do that. But I'll never get used to it.
"I know," I whisper, still finding the floor so interesting.
I hear him shuffle closer and then stop. "Right then." And then he's moving to the door and something breaks inside of me.
It happens so fast. One minute I'm staring at the floor, the next, I'm in Spike's arms.
"Here now, what's all this?" He's pulling at me, trying to get me to look at him, and I fight him.
It's futile, I know that. He has to go. This isn't helping. We've done this so many times, why does tonight feel so different?
"It's just....demon class, Spike. I know you're good, but that good? When they're that huge?!"
“Hey, now. What you on about? That lot don't know what's about to hit them.”
And I hear it. The lie. The denial. He knows. He knows this might be it. And he knows I'm going to be left behind.
But there is nothing we can do. We've tried. We tried running and it only made things worse. There is no escape. There is no way out. The only thing that will make this right is if he comes home.
To our makeshift home, with its wooden table and broken shutters. To the hearth cracking and the small bed made.
It's my job to give him hope and something to come home to. Not to add to his misery.
"You're right. You'll win. You always do." I'm pulling away but keeping a strong grip on his arms, squeezing them rhythmically. Trying to soothe him and, at the same time, subtly attempting to imprint his physical essence into my hands. The memory of this touch might be all I have left.
He's shaking slightly under my hands. I know what that feels like. So many nights of holding him, comforting him. But he's never like this before he leaves, only after.
And then I look up, meeting his eyes for the first time since we sat down to dinner. And I know. Know he's just as scared as I am. But there is something else there. Something different from the usual fear of the fight and the disgust about what happens after.
His hands grip me tight, pull me close. But he looks away, lashes fluttering, lips twitching. And I'm trapped. Being held and holding, with nowhere else I'd rather be.
"Xander, I..." he leaves that hanging. Good-byes have never been this hard.
Then he brings his head back around and rests his forehead against mine. Eyes still closed, lips still twitching with his chattering jaw, breath hitched, coming out in tiny gasps. He needs something before he goes out there. He needs a reason to come home.
I say the first thing that pops into my head, "Come back to me."
His reaction is so abrupt it feels like a live wire zaps us. He bolts upright, hands gripping me even tighter. Eyes fierce and burrowing into me. I must have said something he didn't like but I don't know what. The words felt so natural.
I'm trying to figure out what it could have been, and then it doesn't matter. Because, once again, Spike moves so fast, I feel his lips on mine before I see him move. So wet and open, needy tongue thrusting wildly into my mouth as I try to catch my breath.
But a part of me doesn't want to catch my breath. I want to catch his and breathe him in. Take a little piece of him inside me. I want this to go on forever. Let them come and find us in the morning, I don't care.
But that's a bucket of cold water splashing around in my brain. If he doesn't go, and go now, we'll both be dead by morning. And I do care.
And just as abruptly as it started, it ends. He must feel me pulling away. This time he lets me go. And this isn't awkward, no sir.
Even after everything I've had to do for him. Bathing him when he couldn't move, wiping him down after a night with the Emperor, feeding him with my own blood, and sulking as he forced me to watch him get himself off when he was going through that disturbingly happy mocking phase. But none of it compared to what was happening between us now.
But there is no time. No time to talk. To work this out. Hell, even to talk about our feelings. What the hell does this mean? Spike kissed me! When we found out what my duties included, he said he'd never stoop so low. What the hell changed? But I don't have the luxury to ask. I'm his valet. It's my job. But it doesn't feel that way. It doesn't feel like a job.
It felt like a kiss. A damn good one too.
It felt like....a really good reason to come home.
I don't think, I just grab him behind the neck and pull him in for another toe melting, breath losing kiss. Less wild, more sensual. And he goes willingly, slowly wrapping his arms around me and holding tight.
I try to memorize his every move, every touch, every sound, every taste. But it's all tainted by this night. Because I know this may be it. This maybe the first and only time. And it kills me. He needs to come home, he must.
I grab at his pouch, the one with my shirt inside, and I send all of what I'm feeling into it. Hoping he can take a little of this with him. A little piece of me.
We break apart simultaneously. Time has a funny way of not stopping. And we both feel it. Much longer and the royal guards will come looking.
With a hand still behind his head, cradling his neck, I rub our foreheads together again and say the words I know he wants to hear. "Come back to me. Come home."
He hesitates, "I'll try." But his voice is soft, showing his uncertainty.
It wasn't enough.
"Don't try. Do it!" I'm forceful. Determined for him to understand. I surprise myself. But now I have way too much to lose to pussy foot around.
He takes a step back. Rights his gear around himself, then puffs out his chest, and raises his chin, "You have my word."
"Good. Because when you get back, we're gonna finish this."
He smiles. A real genuine smile. It isn't something I've seen often since I've known him. But there have been glimpses. Quiet nights of just talking, telling stories. He'd laugh and his whole face would just light up. Much like it's doing now.
And I put it there.
He's heading for the door. We both know another kiss would only be dangerous. Besides, I've got to give him something to look forward to.
He turns around, and brushes his fingers over the pouch, “That we will, luv.”
I take one last look into his eyes...and then he's gone. Out into the night.
But this time, he's not alone.