Repossession by Lazuli Kat



Chapter 1

Sometimes the past finds a way of catching up.

Even when you’re five years and many hundreds of miles out of Sunnydale, there are certain unavoidable connections and reactions.

There are invitations to school reunions so you can discuss how many kids didn’t make it past graduation.  There are expectant voices on the end of the telephone waiting for you to manufacture some enthusiasm: ‘Sure I’ll be on the Hellmouth for Thanksgiving, try keeping me away’.  There is the way you unpleasantly perk up whenever there’s a programme on TV that contains words or phrases like demon, vampire, hell, ascension or ‘…intent on taking over the world’ in the trailer.  There are dreams too fantastic to be unreal.

Connections, reactions.  Who, why, what.  Cause, effect.  Things that go bump in the life.

And then there is simply…fate.

Xander Harris was happy.  Contentedly, safely, walking home at a ridiculous hour of the morning after a session of schmoozing with some influential architects, knowing he’d been charming and knowledgeable enough to make a good impression and help secure a multi-million dollar contract for the rapidly expanding construction company he worked for as Contracts Manager.  He’d grown up, developed some self-belief, found where his talents lie and, as a result, on this particular occasion an unbelievably healthy bonus cheque was headed in his direction.  Life was good.  Great.  Life was sometimes great.  Maybe a little lonely – okay, often more than a little – but, hey, he just didn’t go there.  But he was happy.  Right?  Happy people could be lonely; lonely people could be happy.

Of course, his probably happy, definitely lonely life was about to change in a way he could never have imagined.  See?  Fate.

As belligerently happy, contented Xander passed an alleyway close to his home an inbuilt alarm sounded and he instinctively stopped dead, peering into its murky depths.  He had…a feeling.  A tremor in the Force, he smiled.  But two-decades-plus of life on the Hellmouth and too many years living with the remnants of a hyena’s enhanced senses had left its ineradicable mark, and Xander couldn’t batten down the need to investigate this questionable reaction.  He glanced around, helping himself to a length of discarded pipe poking from a dumpster, mentally reminding himself not to grouse about the noise from the refurbishment work in the next apartment block ever again if it meant weapons to hand.  Weapons.  He shook his head ruefully at the Sunnydale mentality and entered the alley, wielding the pipe expertly, looking as dangerous as experience undoubtedly made him.

“Anyone looking to play?” he offered, sounding confident and scarily calm.

Walking the length of the alley and back Xander found nothing.  He inhaled deeply and emptied his lungs slowly, both relieved and disappointed; sometimes he missed the thrill of battle.  About to head home and once again the hairs on the back of his neck prickled; he swore under his breath and looked up to the sky, waiting with the pretence of patience for clouds to pass.  As the moon was revealed in all its glory the area before Xander became defined and it took only seconds before he found what he was looking for: the dense shadow along the base of the wall twenty yards away became the sprawled figure of an unconscious man.

Tossing the pipe away, he strode quickly to the prone figure, leaning down and…

“Oh, fuck!”  He fell to one knee, urgently checking for broken bones with hands that now trembled with shock.  “Oh, fuck,” he repeated.  It can’t be, it can’t be, it can’t be…  “Spike.”

It had been appallingly easy to lift the vampire and carry him home.  Xander carefully laid him on the sofa and took a better look at him in the light.  Always lean and sculptured, he was now at starvation weight and skeletal; on the surface there didn’t appear to be any real damage, no indication he’d been mugged.  Probably passed out through lack of food.  Xander knelt beside his old friend and gently shook him, calling his name while his mind raced, trying to think of anywhere he could buy blood at this time of the morning.  This time of the morning…  Xander stood and rushed to the window as the first rays of morning sun edged through the glass, pulling the heavy drapes before repeating the action in the other rooms.  All the time the thought was going through his head: what if he hadn’t stopped and looked, what if he’d driven home, what if he hadn’t gone to the function?  The sun would be creeping into the alley fairly soon and Spike…  Shuddering and forcing the thought away, Xander returned to Spike, kneeling again and taking another look.  The malnutrition did nothing to detract from the undeniably striking features.

“Take off a couple more pounds and you’ll make supermodel,” Xander joked, the smile fading fast as he ran his hand over Spike’s hair.  It was longer than he’d ever seen it, interestingly two-tone because the blond was well grown out.  It was also filthy, and that was as worrying as anything else: Xander knew Spike was fussy about personal cleanliness, however unfashionable that was within certain vampire circles, and he couldn’t bear his hair to be anything but meticulous.

Back to thinking about blood: it was unquestionably the human variety that Spike needed.  He knew he had little choice.  Xander went to the bathroom and scrubbed his arm clean before heading for the kitchen and sterilising a knife over a gas burner.  Positioning his arm over a mug he acknowledged the old scars and commenced with the bloodletting, watching with renewed fascination as the mug filled.  In the past Spike would have smelt this feast and been prowling behind him on a good day, practically climbing over him to get to it on a bad.  This act wasn’t something Xander objected to, in fact it brought an affectionate smile to his lips.  Before he’d left Sunnydale he’d done it several times, feeding Spike himself when all other avenues were closed to them.  There was even a time when Spike couldn’t wait for the mug, seizing Xander’s arm and sucking the blood straight from him; in the few seconds before he prised the ravenous vampire off he understood why people would risk their lives and pay for the…pleasure; yes, it was certainly a pleasure.  Spike had laughed at his surprise but not his arousal, pointing out that after the initial fear, vampire victims usually died in a state of exquisite gratification.

Time and time again, the world’s reserves of shit had hit the Sunnydale fan, and in the face of danger and disaster they’d grown closer, relying on each other within the dwindling band of Scoobies.  And the fact they began their relationship by trying to kill one another?  In Xander’s experience it almost made them family.  Blood brothers, Xander grinned as he pressed down on the wound to stop the bleeding, squeezing the puncture closed and keeping it so with a carefully applied butterfly bandage.

Back with Spike, Xander arranged him at the correct angle to allow the blood to ooze down his throat, then he proceeded to spoon feed his blood to the vampire.  Absolutely no swallow action, so Xander gently massaged Spike’s throat, coaxing the blood into his inert form drop by drop.  As he did so Xander talked, chattering unceasingly, filling the silence as he tried to cram five years of his life story into the hour it took to empty the mug.

Not for a moment did it occur to Xander that Spike wouldn’t simply take the blood and start to come round, undoubtedly whinging and pouting about the state of him, the disgusting feel of his unwashed hair, and life’s – unlife’s – total bitchery.  When the vampire showed no sign of rousing, Xander felt the first squirm of anxiety in his gut.  Spike looked dead.  Well, yes, okay, technically he was dead, but he’d always been so vibrant a personality that even in repose it was possible to see the spark of life in him.  But now…now, he looked…dead.

“Hey, Spike,” he said softly, stroking a hollow cheek.  “What are you even doing here?”  The condition of his clothes, the filth caked on the cosseted leather duster, became more pertinent to Xander.  “And where the hell have you been?”


Returning from washing the mug, Xander set about making his insensible guest more comfortable; resisting the temptation to go clue-hunting through the pockets, he slipped Spike out of the coat.  Unable to control the sharp intake of breath when he saw the fragile state of the vampire beneath the duster, he swallowed hard, told himself it would all be fine.  Repeatedly told himself.  He casually slid the first boot off, feeling the colour drain from his face at what he found.  Removing the second boot with much greater care, Xander managed to leave more skin on this foot.  His stomach rolled.  He left Spike’s side in the pretence of fetching cleaning and medical supplies; leaning heavily on the basin, he caught sight of his face in the bathroom mirror and tried to rearrange the horror from it, blink the teary glaze from his eyes.  When it came to returning to the living room Xander hesitated, suddenly terrified that he would find nothing more than a pile of dust, but he swore at himself for this ridiculous cowardice and fixed his mind on the task at hand.

Keeping up a falsely bright commentary on their mutual friends and past exploits, Xander bathed Spike’s feet, giving tender attention to the suppurating blisters and raw, exposed muscle, trimming away rotting flesh that even the famed vampiric healing could not reclaim, his mind fighting the knowledge that in areas he was cleaning to the bone.  He laid one towel beneath Spike’s damaged feet before rolling another and placing it beneath his ankles to keep his feet from touching anything the wounds might adhere to as they dried.  Then he showered antiseptic talcum powder over every inch before sitting back and swallowing hard at the waves of nausea threatening to overwhelm him.  He had to clean out the boots, he knew, before the blood and pus had time to…

The most expensive supper in town, from the most exclusive restaurant in town, made its reappearance as Xander sank to his knees before the toilet bowl.  Heave after heave racked his body until he fell back against the adjacent wall, hand flailing out to flush away the stench of bile.  Fighting the temptation to keel over and sleep, simply so he could wake up and find this was a nightmare, Xander stood and, after a few deep breaths, fetched a blanket from the bedroom before returning to Spike.  He never knew if there was any point to a blanket – he was never going to get Spike warm after all – but he’d seen the vampire snuggle into the comfort of one on many occasions when they’d shared a home in Sunnydale.  If Spike would just wake up and snuggle here…

Xander carefully arranged the blanket, tenderly stroked the cold forehead, and went to his bed.

Several unsettled hours later Xander was brought instantly awake by a vague noise.  Rising and pulling on a robe he sped through the hall and into the living room; finding the sofa empty he peered around the dimly lit room.

“Spike?” he asked the gloom, stopping and listening, holding his own breath in a bid for complete silence.  Nothing.  He released his breath.  “Come on, Spike, I’m not in the mood for games.”  Still nothing.  “I’m turning the light on, okay?  No grousing about it.”

As he flicked the switch and the room came into focus, Spike flew at him out of nowhere, swinging wildly and making minimal contact before falling back and clutching his head.  Xander jerked away in surprise but recovered immediately, accepting that he’d scared the vampire and, in his present condition, the reaction was understandable.  He moved cautiously toward his friend.

“Hey, Spike, it’s okay, it’s…”

Spike struck once more, this time delivering a glancing blow across Xander’s chin.  The chip cut in again, sending Spike reeling before he crumpled to one knee in agony, banging at his head with the heels of his hands.

“Spike…” Xander spoke softly, crouching to attain eye level.  “Spike?”

The vampire refused to look up, but sensed when Xander reached out a hand to him, scooting away, screwing himself into a corner of the room, covering his head with his arms, trying to be small and invisible.  Xander sank onto the floor and watched the withdrawal, stunned and a little frightened.  Spike had attacked a second time despite the crippling pain of the chip.  How desperate would he have to be to risk that?  And who in God’s name did he think he was fighting?

Xander sat for a long time, watching and thinking.  He watched blood from Spike’s damaged feet soak into the carpet.  He watched as occasional tremors rippled through the horrifically thin body.  He thought about the silence: not a shout of anger, a whimper of pain had come from the vampire, and let’s face it, Spike was not renowned for being the silent type.  He thought about the fact that Spike didn’t appear to know him.  That hurt more than he cared to admit to himself.

Another highly visible tremor and Xander focused on the most basic requirement: blood.  He needed human and in bulk if Spike was going to make up the weight he’d lost.  As ever, when Xander drew a blank, he picked up the phone and hit the memory.

“Hi, this is the Magic Box…”

“Willow , it’s Xander.”

“Xander!” Willow enthused.   “How are you?  What are you doing?  When are you going to visit?”

“Whoa, whoa,” Xander pulled her up.  “I need your help, and this is urgent.”

“Okay, I’m listening,” Willow told him seriously.

“Spike’s shown up…”

“Oh!   Oh!  Spike!  He’s there!  Oh, thank the Goddess…”

“He’s in pretty bad shape, Wills, he’s starving.  Do you know where I can get some human blood for him locally?”

“I’m checking…”  Xander heard the tapping of fingers on a keyboard.  “Oh, here, right…  There’s a magic shop about ten miles from you – The Dark Place – I’ll phone ahead and they’ll be expecting you, but it’ll take a couple of hours.”  Xander scribbled down the full address and directions as Willow dictated.   “It’ll cost a lot.”

“Money’s not a problem,” Xander assured his friend.  “Wills…he doesn’t know me.”

“He doesn’t know you?” Willow repeated uneasily.

“There isn’t so much as a hint.”

“Well…   Well, I know that starvation in humans can lead to dementia, it could affect vampires in a similar way.  Maybe when you’ve fed him…”

“Yeah, I’m going to cling to that one.  You think I should give him painkillers?”

“I don’t know, Xander.  The standard ones barely work on him but the really strong ones make him woozy and he hates that.”

Xander sighed.

“Wish I knew what I was doing.  I’ll call you later when I’ve got the blood and he’s fed.”

Showered and dressed, wallet, car keys and directions in hand, Xander took a last look at the pathetic bundle of skin and bone that was Spike before leaving his apartment.  Outside he hesitated before using the deadbolt to lock Spike in.

William heard the door shut, the lock turn.  Then silence.  He waited suspiciously for the man’s return, but after half-an-hour allowed himself to unfurl his aching limbs and stretch out.  He’d been comfortable on the sofa, but he wasn’t sure if he was allowed there now.  But if he’d been put there…  It was too complicated, he was too weary to argue with himself.  He stared at the appealing piece of furniture and longed for it.  It could mean punishment, he recognised that.  However he was alone now.  Maybe.  He looked around the room, wondering where they watched from.  Nowhere obvious.  His attention was drawn back to the sofa, and he made a decision, crawling to it on hands and knees, trying to protect his feet.  Scrabbling up and drawing the blanket around him, he buried his face in its softness and took in the scent that adhered to the fibres.  It was a good scent, comforting.  Feeling a little safer he snuggled and slept.

Xander was back in just over three hours, having had to wait at the shop for them to take delivery of his special order.  He had purchased a large cooler from a nearby store while he waited and it was now packed to the lid with bags of human blood.  He entered his apartment as quietly as he could, not wanting to startle Spike and have him launch into another attack and suffer the subsequent pain.  A glance in the living room reassured him; Spike was fast asleep on the sofa.  He suddenly heard the English accent in his head, an echo from years ago: ‘Don’t creep about on my account, mate.  When I’m out I sleep like the dead.’  Xander recalled the snicker, the humour in the sharp blue eyes.  He hurried to the kitchen, immediately starting to prepare Spike’s food.  Now he’d been awake once, there was no doubt the smell of the blood would rouse the vampire, and Xander mentally readied himself for an invasion of the kitchen.  It didn’t happen, much to his disappointment.

He took the mug of warmed blood into the living room.  Spike was conscious and leant up on one arm, furiously sniffing the air.  Once he registered Xander he sprang off of the sofa, wincing as his feet hit the floor, backing off until he collided with a wall.

“This is for you, Spike,” Xander kept his voice soft and friendly as he offered the mug.  “Come on, yummy human O neg.”

Spike swallowed hard, mouth watering at the smell of the blood.  He looked from the mug to Xander’s face, mug to face, mug to face, wide-eyed and wary, not a glimmer of recognition when he focused on his friend’s features.  The way he moved, shifting from one foot to the other, trying to ease the pain in each, was enough to choke Xander, and he moved across the room to place the mug on the fireplace, quickly retreating as far as possible whilst remaining in the room.  He gestured to the mug as Spike’s gaze settled on him once again.

“Don’t let it get cold,” he murmured, riveted once again by the heart-breaking sway as Spike favoured left foot, right foot, left foot, right.  “Drink.”  He gestured again.  “Drink,” he repeated more firmly.

Spike began to move, not toward the mug but stiltedly toward Xander, head submissively down.  Four feet away, Spike charily got to his knees before dropping forward and pressing his forehead to the floor.  Xander stood transfixed, horrified by the slavish offering, and it took a moment for him to jolt himself out of the shock and drop to one knee, reaching out and taking Spike’s shoulders, urging him up.

“You don’t have to beg for your food,” Xander assured, sickened by the new fear on the vampire’s face.

Now he had a hold he refused to let go, guiding Spike up and to the sofa, sitting him and fetching the blood, pressing it into his hands.


This time Spike did as he was told, momentary pleasure flashing over his features as the fresh blood flooded his mouth and senses.  Xander waited for the change, the shift to game face.  It never came, not a ripple of the forehead, not a hint of gold in the eyes.

“Who did this to you?”  A nervous look flickered in his direction then away.  “Because I’d like to kick the living shit out of them.”


Spike emptied the mug and was licking the inside for every last scrap before Xander gently took it away for a refill.  Presenting it to the vampire a second time he was met with a repetition of the doubt and even a hint of suspicion.

“Just like the first.  Nothing in it, no drugs, no poison, quite safe.”  Spike moved to slide to his knees but Xander pushed him back into his seat.  “You don’t have to beg for food,” he reiterated, voice wavering as he fought back the fury that came with the knowledge of this proud creature being made to plead for sustenance.

Dithering between going out and buying supplies to dress Spike’s feet properly, and calling Willow again, Xander finally decided to leave the apartment.  The last time he was gone Spike had settled down and slept, and that’s what he wanted to happen again now he was fed.  He sat beside Spike on the sofa, noticing that Spike deliberately leant away from him.  Yes, taking the pressure of his company off the vampire was a good move.  Some time out to let his own anger diffuse was just as good a reason.

“I’m going out for while, okay?  Spike, okay?”  Xander tried unsuccessfully to make eye contact.  “You’re safe here, and there’s more food through there…” he pointed to the kitchen, “…if you want it.  Take all you need.”  Xander waited pointlessly for a response.  “If you want to clean up, bathroom’s through the hall.”  He pointed again.  “Okay?  I still use the shampoo you like.  I’m nothing if not a creature of habit.”  Xander smiled and gently touched the back of Spike’s wrist, feeling the ensuing flinch like a kick to the gut.

He had to get out before he was reduced to a screaming fit of rage and frustration; leaving quickly, he once again locked Spike in.

Xander had shopped, pretended to eat, walked, and now sat in the car wondering what he could do to fill in another hour before he went back to his apartment.  The bad timing had caught up with him and all he wanted was to go home, find a happy, healthy Spike and a refrigerator empty of blood, then crawl into bed and relax while the vampire lounged across his feet and spoke of nothing in particular, lulling him to sleep with the gentle voice that miraculously lost the harsher tones of its ‘mockney’ accent when they were alone together for any length of time.

Oh, yeah, that was absolutely going to happen.

Finding his cell phone he entered Willow ’s home number and waited.

“Xander?” she answered on the second ring.

“It’s me.”

“Did you get the blood?  How’s Spike?  Did it help?  Does he know you?”

Xander sighed.

“Yes.   Bad.  Too early to tell, and no.”

“Oh,” was the despondent reply.

“When did you see him last?”

“About six months ago.”

“What happened?”

“Well…   It was all kind of ordinary.  We’d patrolled, it was a pretty quiet night.  He was complaining about being bored and went to a club.  When he wasn’t home by the next morning we started to worry, but we couldn’t find him.  We kept looking and asking around but it was like he’d disappeared from the face of the earth.”  Willow ’s voice quavered with the memory before she added softly.  “I kept his room as he left it.  Just in case.”

“You didn’t call me.”

“What could you have done?”


“I didn’t mean it like that.  If he’d come to you you’d have been in touch.  You didn’t call, we knew he wasn’t there.”  There was a difficult pause.  “How bad?”

“Shit, Wills, I’m so angry, I don’t know where to start.  Starved, I told you.  Skeletal.  Out of his mind, attacking me and setting off the chip twice in a row, scared to death.  And his feet…”  Xander took a deep breath.  “The flesh is off them, rubbed away in his boots.  No sign of any healing at all.  He must have walked for days.  Nights,” he corrected.  “Much longer and they’d have been past saving.  Even now…it’s like they’re rotting away.”

He heard Willow gulp.

“Can you treat them?”

“I hope so, I’ve bought some things today.  And now he’s eating I’m hoping the healing will kick in.  You’re so much better at all this stuff; why didn’t he go back to you?”

“He needed you.  Things went bad and he found you,” Willow sounded awed.  “Like you see with pets who get left behind when the family moves and they find them hundreds of miles away.  Not that he’s a pet, don’t ever tell him I said that.”

“We’re not talking about a Disney moment here.”

“He had no idea where you were but he found you, Xander.  He always trusted you the most.”

“He hasn’t spoken to me since I left Sunnydale.  He was barely speaking to me before I left.”

“He couldn’t understand and he couldn’t cope.  You weren’t leaving for a great job and a better life, you were leaving him, period.”

“I tried to explain, he ignored me.”


“I did try…”

“Him, not you.  If he admitted to himself you were really going, then he would have had to admit to himself how much he needed you to stay.  He’d never had a friend like you before: you were his stability, Xander, he’d lived with you for two years.  I don’t think you noticed how happy he was then.”

“Thanks for this, Wills, didn’t think I could actually feel any worse.”

“I’m not trying to make you feel bad.”

“You took him in, he wasn’t left alone.”

“That’s right,” Xander could hear Willow slip into cheer-up mode, “and he did settle in here.  Eventually,” she added because she simply couldn’t help it.

“Can you try and discover who took him?  Who did this to him?”

“Maybe he did it to himself.  Walked away and…”

“I’m not who he sees when he looks at me.  Whoever that is he’s terrified of them, whatever they did, even the blood they gave him must have been tainted or foul because he’s as suspicious as hell about what I’m giving him even if he’s—”  Xander’s mind rebelled at disclosing the begging.  “I haven’t seen him vamp out, not even with the blood.  He doesn’t seem able to speak.  He’s…” Xander groped for the word, hurting badly as it jumped into his mind.  “He’s broken.”

“Then you have to fix him.”

“What if I can’t?” Xander started to panic, “What if I can’t do that?”

There was a long pause before Willow spoke again.

“You’ll have to bring him to Sunnydale.  You’ll have to come home.”

Spike hadn’t moved, Xander noted the minute he walked into the living room.  He’d sat him right there on the sofa, and that was evidently where he felt he had to stay.  The mug was still in his hand, licked spotless; Xander dropped his shopping and took it away, smiling at the big-eyed alarm as if it wasn’t tearing his heart out.

“Would you like some more, Spike?”  Nothing.  “Another rabbit-caught-in-headlights moment,” Xander joked as he went to the kitchen door and turned back.  “How about it?  William the Bloody ready to live up to his…”  Xander’s voice dropped away as Spike started violently at the mention of his legendary name.  “That what they called you?  That why you don’t recognise Spike?  William?”  Spike was on the edge of the seat, and Xander could see him shaking.  “William,” he said again, wondering if he was making contact or just making everything worse.  “William.”

Spike was there in a flash, kneeling before him, brow to the floor, trembling and subservient.  Worse, worse, worse.

“Fuck, no,” Xander gasped, clumsily shoving the mug onto the kitchen counter before joining Spike on the floor and easing up his head.  “Don’t do this for me,” he said firmly when they were face to terrified face.  “I will never use that name again, I promise.  And you never have to do this again.  Spike.  Try to remember that you’re Spike.  Spike?”

There was no recognition in the dull blue eyes, and Xander just smiled once again despite his true feelings.  Helping Spike up he guided the frail form back to the sofa and went for blood, noticing as he took a knife to the bag that he was trembling as hard as his companion.  Shaking his head and giving a humourless laugh he tried to be calm Xander, in control Xander.  The man who had stopped by an alley what seemed like months ago and handed his life back to the demons of the Hellmouth.

Not prepared to play the games Spike’s previous hosts had lined up for them, Xander pushed the mug straight into Spike’s hand and turned away to start unpacking what he’d bought.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw the hesitation, the figuring-it-out, before the vampire drank with the enthusiasm of the starving.

“Okay…   I got you some clothes to change into.  What you’re wearing is going to disintegrate if it goes in the washer, but this is all vamp fashion: black, black, and – would you look at that – black.  There’s some comfortable stuff for now, you know, sweat pants for you to lay around in while you’re getting back to strength and watching TV twenty-four/seven.  There’s some special stuff for your feet, dressings that are used for burns and won’t stick.  I bought painkillers but on the way home I figured out if I give these to you you’ll feel wrong and then you’ll never trust me again so I guess you have to carry on hurting because I’m not risking that.  And I got you the stupidest slippers you ever saw – just so squishy and soft they’re gonna feel great just now.  When you’re better and they’re trashed I promise we’ll never mention them again, ‘kay?”  Xander took a look at Spike, chuckling at the intense stare he was giving the puffy fun-fur slippers.  “Finished?  Want some more?”  Xander pointed and this time Spike was brave enough to offer the mug up before it was physically taken.

Handing over the fresh blood, Xander went back to the remaining bags on the coffee table.

“Few magazines…”  He tossed them on the centre of the sofa.  “And I bought some crunchy stuff for you to put in your blood when you’re up to it.”  He tipped out various packets of cereal and crackers.  “Also got a few pizzas, bits and pieces you can zap in the microwave when I’m not here.  I guess you’ll still eat more than blood.”  He looked a question at Spike, who just stared dumbly back.  “Okay.”

Xander took the food into the kitchen and stored the perishables in the massive brushed-steel refrigerator with the blood, taking out another bag and warming it, fetching the mug and refilling it.  This time as he returned it to Spike he sat alongside him, motioning him to drink, which he didn’t, preferring to keep his attention on Xander.

“I have to fix up your feet, Spike, and it’s going to hurt.  A lot.”  He paused.  “Do you get any of this?  Do you understand?”  Xander touched his own feet and gestured to Spike's.  I have to see to your feet.   After a substantial wait, Spike looked down at his feet and back to the man beside him.  Xander laughed delightedly at the breakthrough, surprising Spike and making him jump.  “Drink up,” Xander directed.  “Then it’s the feet.  I’m sure you’ll forgive me for the pain one day.  Hopefully before you get your bite back.”

Surrounding himself with everything he needed, Xander sat on the floor before Spike and went to work on the battered feet, noting the minor amount of healing and the major amount of additional trauma caused by walking and crawling and kneeling and all the other stuff that vampires with virtually no skin from the ankle down shouldn’t do.  Xander cleaned and treated the abused areas as gently as he could, constantly glancing up for reaction but finding Spike apparently switched off, his eyes glazed and half-closed.  Pass out, Xander willed him.  For God’s sake just pass out!   Spike finally succumbed to the pain and lost consciousness; Xander sighed deeply with the relief, speeding up his ministrations and hastily finishing the bandaging.

Spike groggily came to as Xander was rearranging him on the sofa and throwing the blanket over him.  It didn’t seem enough, even accepting that vampires didn’t need warmth.  Taking one of Spike’s hands in both of his, Xander rubbed, generating some heat; he felt the fingers flex between his before snaking away.

“You all right on the sofa?”  No answer.  “I feel mean leaving you out here.  You should be with me, getting warm.”  Xander grinned at the memories.  “You used to like that, and you were such an arrogant son-of-a-bitch about it.  You’d come in from your demon-kicking sessions and sneak in bed with me.  I’d wake up wondering what the hell happened to the heat because I was cold all down one side.  But there you were, unrepentant and ready to throw me out in the morning so you could have my warm spot.  Not once did you ask if you could, or if I minded.  I made what you might call appropriate noises of protest but I didn’t mind.  Not really.”  ‘I don’t think you noticed how happy he was then.’  The smile disintegrated into something fragile as he remembered what Willow had said; guilt coursed through him as he studied the shadow of Spike that lay before him.  “Want to risk it?”  No response.  “No, of course you don’t,” Xander said softly.  “You think I’m some fucking monster who tortured the spirit right out of you.”  He stood and made for the door before turning back.  “Light on or off?  Spike, light on or off?”  No response.  Xander flicked the light off but the spill from the hallway allowed him to see Spike’s sudden panic.  He turned the light back on; Spike stared around the room, reassuring himself of where he was – more importantly, where he wasn’t – before sinking back beneath the blanket.

He’s afraid of the dark, Xander admitted to himself.  Spike is afraid of the dark.

And his heart broke a little more.