Repossession by Lazuli Kat



Chapter 2

It was too long before Xander could sleep and too short a time before he woke.  Glancing at the clock he saw it was a little after seven.  If he’d woken this early on any other Sunday he’d have breathed a satisfied sigh, turned over, and gone straight back to sleep.  But right now he was wide awake and feeling more tired than when he’d fallen into bed last night.

He wasn’t sure if he could cope with Spike – this version of Spike – for much longer, not while he felt so guilty and somehow responsible.  Couldn’t quite get his head around that feeling, but somewhere deep inside he knew he’d driven Spike into the arms of some mind-sucking zombies from the planet Zog, and, fucking hell, look at the result.

But if he couldn’t manage Spike it meant a trip to Willow's, and that wasn’t a risk he was prepared to take, not when the journey was too long to be driven exclusively at night.  The vampire seemed fairly obedient – that should have been a massive contradiction in terms – but what if he got spooked, took a dive from the car in daylight?  If this was hard, that would be…  Xander physically shook the thought from his head, speedily rising as if he could leave the traumatic picture behind when he fled the room.

Leaning over the back of the sofa, he found a pair of clear blue eyes staring up at him, sharper, not so frightened as the previous day, and he gave the reassuring smile he was perfecting.

“Hi, Spike.”  No answer, but a blink: that was new.  “Hungry?  Stupid question, course you’re hungry.”  Xander strolled to the kitchen, gesturing for Spike to follow.  “You know you can help yourself, don’t you?  Want to see if you can walk?  I’ll show you where the blood is.”

Xander observed like an anxious parent awaiting an infant’s first step as Spike cautiously put both feet on the floor and pressed down.  The human cringed, the vampire just looked vaguely relieved.  Spike rose and slowly shuffled to where Xander waited; Xander was poised, ready to catch him before he made any attempt to kneel, and he found he had to do just that.

“No, Spike,” he said firmly.  “No kneeling, no begging, no grovelling.”  He put a finger under Spike’s chin and brought his head up to an angle that shouted Big Bad arrogance.  “That’s better.  Isn’t that better?  See where you’re going, where the food’s kept, see how totally fucking gorgeous I am.”  Spike curiously scanned the kitchen.  “Yep, that’s just the reaction I expect to a statement like that.  Swiftly moving along, this is the refrigerator, and here…” he swung the door open, “…is your blood.  Take a bag.”  A pale hand rose and dropped.  “Go on, it’s yours.”  Xander caught Spike by the upper arm before he could fall to his knees, hauling him back up.  “Take a bag, Spike.”

Xander waited.  And waited.  After five minutes, and the slightest sign that Spike was about to start swaying to ease his feet, Xander yanked a stool out from beneath the breakfast bar and sat the vampire down.

“This is what you do,” Xander explained as he went through the actions.  “Take a bag and make a hole in the top to let out any pressure that builds as you heat it.  Then you put it in the microwave and press this for temperature, and this for time.  No hotter or longer or you’ll end up with pâté, get that?”  The microwave hummed to life and, after thirty seconds, pinged.  Taking a clean mug from the cupboard Xander split the bag and poured the blood, presenting it to his friend.  “O positive a la Spike.”  This was a better reaction: big-eyed wonder rather than fear.  Xander suddenly knew how magicians felt when they made jet planes disappear.

Funny how you stay immune to some things, Xander thought as he flicked the switch on the kettle and dropped a couple of slices of bread into the toaster.  Imagine your average family gathering round the breakfast table while pop prepares the blood and toast.  Topping up the rapidly emptied mug with the remains of the first bag of the day, Xander pulled a second bag from the refrigerator and placed it in the microwave.

“Set this.”

Spike gave a ‘who me?’ look before sliding from his stool and over to Xander, glancing at him for permission and receiving a brief nod before entering the correct settings and pressing go.  The toaster popped up and a startled Spike leapt to the far side of the room, only to be drawn back to his stool by a sympathetic Xander.

It's only the toaster, it's not going to bite you on the ass.  You want some of this?  You used to dunk.”

Met by a blatant lack of understanding, Xander refilled the mug then presented half a slice of toast to Spike, going through the motions of dunking it in the blood and offering it to be eaten.  Spike warily took a bite and slowly chewed.  Xander repeated the process, feeding another bite to the vampire who frowned and deliberated over whether the taste and sensation was nice or gross.

“Want to hear something scary?  This is almost cute.”

Xander put the toast in Spike’s hand and finished preparing his own food and coffee.

Leaving Spike to help himself in the kitchen, Xander wandered into the living room and found the remote, switching the TV on and flicking to a news channel to see what he’d missed in the world over the weekend.  No big stories breaking, just more of the same since the last reports he’d watched; he had to remind himself it had only been a day, not the protracted length of time it felt.  He changed channels a few times, nothing much catching his fancy.  Spike, on the other hand, was drawn by this technological siren, sitting on the far end of the sofa, mesmerized.  Xander offered him the remote control, nudging his arm with it several times before his attention was gained.  He shrank away from the remote, so Xander sat a little closer and showed him the effect of pressing the buttons.  Well, he was Merlin, he was Gandalf, he was Harry Potter, he was Willow on an exceptionally good day.  And when Spike discovered that he could perform the same magic with a single fingertip he very nearly smiled.  Very nearly.  It was momentous.  Spike flicked and watched, flicked and watched, while Xander watched the flicking and the watching, wearily contented and sliding down into the corner of the sofa to laze and let his mind wander in calmer directions.  As millions of exhausted carers had discovered, TV was indeed the greatest force for good in the entire universe.

Work.  This felt better; this was something Xander had control over, something he understood and could handle with ease: working out logistics for the new developments, assessing existing personnel and mentally reassigning his most trusted project and site managers to ensure that the firm’s new clients were given the best impression from the very start.  Totally absorbed in his thoughts, Xander wasn’t aware of the sudden change in the world outside of his head until he was dragged into it by recognition of a touch.  Spike was on the floor in front of him, clutching his bare feet in supplication, forehead pressed hard against the smooth skin.

“Oh, God, what?  What did I miss?”

Bewildered by the apparent failure of the Spike-plus-TV-equals-happy-vamp equation, Xander glanced up from the weeping – weeping?  Fuck! – vampire and took in what was presently showing.  It was a sci-fi programme, and this episode was set in a creepy-looking security unit.  No, wait, it was a kind of hospital, complete with…  Double fuck!  Xander grabbed at the remote, securing it with his fingertips and dragging it from its landing place on the floor, stabbing at the buttons until the screen went blank.  Just as Xander had suspected: TV was indeed the greatest force of evil in the entire universe.

“It’s gone, Spike,” he whispered, tentatively stroking the matted locks on the back of Spike’s bowed head.  “I made it go away and it won’t come back.”

Xander could still feel icy tears rolling over the surface of his foot, and he wanted nothing more than to join in and cry too.  For God’s sake, this is Spike!  Xander yanked back the emotional reaction, harshly reminding himself that, yes, this was Spike, sometime bane, frequent comrade, undeniable friend, the strong, invincible Big Bad, and he was damaged.  Histrionics wouldn’t mend him; calm compassion might.

“You’re safe here, Spike.”  Xander engineered a soothing tone and forced it out of a throat constricted by sadness.  “I promised you that and I meant it.  What you saw wasn’t real, it was just a picture, and it can’t touch you or hurt you.  You’re safe now.”

Peeling the vampire from his feet, Xander coaxed him back onto the sofa, putting the blanket around his trembling shoulders and wiping the tear-streaked face with a corner.  The beginning of trust, Xander realised later as he sat in the privacy of his car, analysing and ranting and pounding the steering wheel.

“Tell you what we’re going to do…”  Xander went and unplugged the TV before turning it around and manhandling it to the edge of the room.  “See, that’s the idea of a flat screen TV.  You pay all those extra dollars so it fits flat against the wall and you don’t see the pictures anymore.”  There was no response, and on examination it was clear that Spike wasn’t risking a glance in the TV’s direction however it was positioned.

“You remember the end of Poltergeist?  After all the trouble that came through the TV they just threw the set at the motel out of the room.  We watched that video three times over; it was the first time I really heard you laugh.  But then we saw Dracula, and you didn’t stop for a moment.  And every time Keanu Reeves opened his mouth you absolutely wept with laughter.  You remember… No.  What am I thinking.  No, you don’t.”  Xander did the reassuring smile.  “More blood.”


“Here you go.”  Xander saw Spike’s attention shift to the floor, stating loud and clear that he should be in his place, grovelling for his food.  Placing the mug in the vampire’s hand, Xander sat cross-legged in front of him, deliberately throwing out his perspective.  “Drink.”  Spike drank.

“Do you remember anything, Spike?  Anybody?  How about Willow?  You lived with her for five years.  Buffy?  Fell in love with her for five minutes.  Giles?  Anya?  Tara?  You must remember Angel.  Angelus.  Drusilla?”  Spike was paying rapt attention but not a sign of recognition flickered in his eyes.  “Xander.  Do you remember Xander?  Xander Harris?  Dark hair, brown eyes, about my height.  Actually he looked a hell of a lot like me.  Xander?”

Staring up into the vampire’s eyes he searched for an indication that his Spike was still a part of this creature.  In his time he’d read innumerable thoughts in those expressive eyes, learnt to judge the vampire’s mood in a single glance, seen great evil and greater goodness.  Hatred, fear, misery, frustration, boredom, humour, friendship, trust.  He’d seen love.  He knew his Spike.  And this was not his Spike.

“Y’know, Spike…” Xander said, voice soft but with a murderous undercurrent, “I’d like to meet whoever did this to you.  Because whatever you were you never deserved it.  The chip was barbaric but at least you still had the wits to look after yourself.  This…”  Xander’s voice broke and Spike blinked in surprise.  Plastering on the smile, Xander laid a gentle hand on one bandaged foot.  “We’ll have to take another look later, see if you’re healing.  First I have to…go out for a while.  Remember to eat while I’m gone.”

Dressed in whatever came to hand, Xander left the apartment and ran down the stairs, too agitated to wait for the elevator.  Once in his car he drove, not knowing where he was headed, not caring, just needing the privacy to analyse and rant and pound the steering wheel.  Eventually he stopped in the countryside, staring out over an expanse of green, wishing he could absorb some of the peace that existed there.

But he had no peace.  He had Willow’s voice…

‘He needed you…he always trusted you the most…you were his stability…you were leaving him, period.’

He had the last brief conversation he and Spike had shared in Sunnydale…

 “You have to pack.  You’re moving in with Willow.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Pet.”

“You have to move.  I won’t be here after tomorrow.”

“Then I’ll come with you.”

“No, you won’t, you can’t.”

“Can’t, eh?  When did you ever stop me doing exactly what I want?”

“This time.  I’m stopping you this time.”

There was a long, painful pause as the truth sank in.  Spike paced, glaring at Xander, full of words that mattered but with no voice.  Sparkling eyes filled with anger and betrayal pierced the human’s soul, and eventually the vampire had swept from his – their – home, spitting out five words that had engraved themselves on Xander’s conscience.

“Your loss, Xander.  Fuck you!”

Oh, yeah, he had that all right.  But no peace.

William had slept for a while but was woken by the hunger gnawing at him.  He had been told to feed himself.  Or at least it’s what he thought he’d been told.  This master was so much kinder than the others but what if he had misunderstood?  He’d been tricked before.  But Master had said to remember to eat.  The hunger tore at him, strong enough to momentarily quell the doubts, and he shrugged off the blanket and hobbled to the kitchen.  William stared at the refrigerator for a long time before feeling brave enough to open the door, and there it was: blood.  So much blood.  Master said…  He reached for a bag.  His hand juddered to a halt just inches away from it, conditioned by pain and fear, by being shocked or having an ankle or wrist broken, by the too vivid memory of having his sight removed for days at a time when he disobeyed.

He wasn’t going to be caught like that again, and he wasn’t going to hurt this kind master by forcing him to punish him.  After a few more minutes of gazing longingly at the blood, William closed the refrigerator door and returned to where he’d been sat on the sofa.  Grabbing the blanket and pulling it tight around himself he luxuriated in the softness of it, hoping that Master knew how much he appreciated these comforts after all that time in the metal room with its icy air and brutally hard surfaces.

He sat for a while and studied his hands where they clutched the blanket.  They were disgusting to him.  He wanted to be clean but couldn’t figure out how to achieve that.  He could see, smell the dirt on his body and it offended his acute senses, sickened him, but how did he cure it?  His hair was the worst, he couldn’t bear to touch the revolting mess.  Master had though.  Yes…


Xander paused outside his front door, taking a deep breath and preparing to be cheerful and distantly supportive.  He could do this.  He’d plumbed the depths of his own personal misery and was now ready to take another shot at Spike’s.  Not that Spike was the one wallowing in self-pity and guilt.  He was just…getting on with it.  Right now he didn’t know any better.  Tears welled in Xander’s eyes again and, for what felt like the hundredth time that weekend, he forced them away, swearing at himself for his weakness after all the promises he’d made himself as he’d driven home.

“Spike,” he called from inside the door.  “Hey, honey, I’m home.”

That was a better memory: a running joke between them, initially employed for the express purpose of embarrassing Buffy after she’d asked exactly the wrong question about their relationship, but becoming a gesture of the mostly unspoken affection between them.  They had grown to enjoy the few hours a day they saw one another, after Xander’s return from work, before Spike’s nightly excursions, finding common ground with movies and music, bad TV soaps and humour.  They exchanged jokes nobody else understood; they could raise eyebrows with their bizarre approach to the nastiest situations, and when it was pointed out to them that they were each making the other worse, they’d simply accepted it and enjoyed.  With a sad smile Xander tucked the recollections safely away, knowing he’d blown it in the past, hoping he could do a little better with the future.

As he’d expected, Spike was exactly where he’d been left.

“How you doing?” he asked as he crouched a few feet from the sofa, taking a good look and trying to see if Spike had put back any weight.  Maybe a fraction?  Who am I kidding?  “You didn’t eat anything, did you.  I said you should eat.”  Xander stood and turned, not seeing the panic flit across the vampire’s drawn face, not knowing that William was accepting that he’d got it wrong, he hadn’t eaten, and he would be punished for his disobedience.  The uncontrollable shaking started; he hoped it wouldn’t be his sight, he would take any other punishment and try to bear it without angering Master, but if it was his sight…

“I think we have to just go for it and feed you till you burst,” Xander told him as he came back with a tray loaded with six bags of blood wrapped in a towel to retain the heat.  “You’re so damn thin, if you got dusted now you wouldn’t fill an ashtray.”  Xander placed the tray on the coffee table and turned to Spike, taking in the distress, the fear.  “What’s wrong?”

Spike was on the floor in an instant; Xander knew this was not begging for food, this was more…a plea for mercy?  Forgiveness?  Whatever it was, it made him sick to his stomach and he couldn’t – wouldn’t – tolerate it.  Spike’s lack of mass made it easy for Xander to pull him to his feet and keep him there, even for the long moment when Spike refused to take his own weight; when Spike was standing of his own accord the human took the thin face in his hands, forcing the tearful vampire to look at him.

“I don’t know what you think you’ve done wrong, but it doesn’t matter.  I don’t want you to beg any more.  I don’t want you to be afraid of me.  Please, Spike.  Please.”  Xander gently stroked the sunken cheeks with his thumbs.  “What could you have possibly done wrong?  You’ve been good, you haven’t been bad,” Xander smiled, making his words as simple as possible and seeing the result immediately: Spike’s expression changed, and he gazed at Xander with childlike adoration.  “You’ve been very good, and I’m very happy with you.  Now you’re going to eat until you’re full and make me even happier.  Yes?”  Xander slid his hands down to Spike’s shoulders and nodded.  Spike blinked.  “Yes?”  Xander nodded.  Blink.  “Yes.”  Nod.  Xander saw the cogs turning.  “Yes.”  Nod.  Spike ventured a nod and Xander wanted to whoop with delight.  What he actually did was ask, “You understand what…” nod “…means?”  Spike thought and nodded.  “So, if I say…do you want some blood?”  Spike hesitated, glanced nervously at the floor before Xander squeezed his shoulders to remind him to stay upright, then looked straight into the human’s brown eyes and nodded.  “What about…you want the TV back on?”  Xander pointed at the offending object.  Well, Spike certainly didn’t nod at that.  “No.”  Xander shook his head.  “No.  Don’t want.”  Spike copied the movement enthusiastically and this time Xander couldn’t bite back the laugh.  “You’re very good, I’m very happy.”


Xander left Spike with the blood, his mug and scissors to open the bags, explained that he was finding himself something to eat and retreated to the kitchen.  Out of the vampire’s line of vision he sat on the stool at the breakfast bar and leant forward, face in hands, taking deep breaths and trying to quell the nausea.  The simplest interaction was enough to make him feel as if his head would explode with the pressure: if he got any of this wrong he could screw up Spike for…for ever.  He’d just made an enormous leap forward: the connection, the fact he’d been able to touch the vampire without terror appearing in his eyes was miraculous when he considered Spike’s condition yesterday. And he’d given Spike a valuable tool: the freedom to express himself, even if it was with the most rudimentary of indicators.

What if this was it?  What if this was Spike now?  Maybe his Spike would never come back, maybe it was brain damage not brainwashing.  And what if he couldn’t speak again?  If, to keep him quiet, his vocal chords had been severed and not been able to heal he’d always be silent.  Xander could remember a time when every other thing he’d said to the vampire was shut up, but even back then he’d never have wished this on him.  If his Spike had been watching this scene play out he would have had no compunction about telling Xander to put the poor bastard in the other room out of his misery, would’ve even handed him the stake.

“I couldn’t do that,” Xander murmured to himself, horrified at the thought of losing the little he had left of his friend.  The solution may have been black and white for the Spike of old, but Xander lived with shades of grey, and he knew he had to persevere now, today, tomorrow, as long as it took.  And if this was all that remained of Spike, he would help him to grow and learn, cared for and loved in this hostile world.

Xander dry-washed his face and tried to regain some composure, maintain the resolve, but that was hard when it was all he could do to keep the, Oh, fuck, what if this is Spike now? that was screaming repeatedly through his brain from emerging from his mouth.  A gentle touch on his shoulder made him look round.  A concerned-looking Spike humbly offered him the mug full of blood in his hands.  Xander pasted the smile back on his face.

“Thank you, Spike, but I don’t eat blood, that’s all yours.”  Xander considered and found he had no appetite at all, and it wasn’t because of Spike’s offering.  “Right now, I want to check your feet, and then I’m going to bed.  You tired, Spike?”  No response.  So much for giving him the freedom to express himself.  “Go and sit down and let’s see what’s happening under the bandages.  Let’s hope it doesn’t hurt so much today.”  Spike thought about that, nodded grimly and returned to the living room.  Ah.  Ongoing theory blown out of the water.

Once again Xander settled on the floor with his medical supplies, delicately cutting away the dressings from Spike’s feet, feeling every wince when just the movement caused Spike to jerk with pain.  Following the previous evening’s example, Xander cleaned and anointed and re-dressed, noting some signs of healing and using inane chatter to cover his disappointment that it wasn’t further advanced.  The vampire determinedly ignored the discomfort, listening to his perceived Master and obediently working his way through the bags of blood on the tray now set beside him on the sofa.  Finally Xander sat back with a sigh, flexing his shoulders and rolling his head to loosen the muscles in his neck.

“Decided if you’re tired?”  No response: yes, Xander had figured it out, Spike was thinking it over.  “’Cause I gotta tell you, Spike, I’m totally beat, I could sleep for a week.”  There was a mild show of curiosity, the scarred eyebrow hinting at a raise.  “Not that I’m going to.  I have to go to work tomorrow, obviously.  Make some more filthy lucre and keep you in the manner you’re rapidly becoming accustomed to.  You’ll be okay by yourself?”  Spike understood the last sentence and hesitated over his response, wanting to shake his head, wanting to say no most adamantly.  “That’s not a happy face.  Tell you what…  Do you remember how to use a telephone?”  The blank look was back.

“Okay…”  Xander stood and went to his phone, waving Spike to join him.  “If you pick up this, and hold it like so…  I can talk to you from wherever I am.  You just have to make sure it’s the right way up.”  Spike studied and remembered.  “See this panel here?  I’m going to write down a number for you.  When the phone rings and that number shows in this panel you can pick up the receiver – that’s what you’re holding.”  Xander wrote his cell phone number in clear figures on the pad by the phone.  “Only pick it up when you see that number.  Any other number and you ignore it.  Pick it up when you see that number and I’ll talk to you for a little while, okay?  When I tell you to hang up you put the receiver back here, where you got it from.”

Xander watched Spike go through the procedure in his mind before placing the receiver in its cradle with careful precision, running a finger over the number Xander had written, thinking some more, then nodding.

“See, you’re good, you’re smart.  You’ll eat when you get hungry?”  Spike nodded hard, absolutely not going to make that mistake again.  “That makes me happy, understand?”  Nod.  Xander stifled a yawn and crossed back to the sofa, shaking out the blanket before stopping and turning back to Spike.

“Would it be too difficult for you to come in with me?” he asked awkwardly, “I mean, sleep in my bed.  It’s more comfortable than this, warmer.  And I’d feel…better,” Xander finished lamely, waiting for the shake of the head, or the flash of emotion that would show him the truth before Spike did what was required out of fear.  Any reaction, though, was so far beneath the surface to be unreadable.  “You don’t have to…”  Spike nodded, cutting off Xander’s words.  “Sure?”

Spike came to him, head submissively down, and Xander understood that the vampire wanted to communicate something but was unable to with the limited means at his disposal.  Feeling that Spike would drop to his knees any second, Xander put a hand out to take his arm, surprised by the turn of speed as Spike’s hands caught his, bringing it up as his head dipped lower, pressing his brow to the back.  Xander’s mind raced, wondering if this was a thank you or a please don’t make me do it, when Spike moved, rolling his head slightly while keeping up the contact.  Leaping back in time, Xander saw the same move: Spike and Drusilla, dancing at the bronze, so close that a breath couldn’t have squeezed between them; Spike rolling his brow against hers, blissfully content with the woman he adored.  Here, now, it was fairly safe to take blissful contentment out of the picture, but this action was surely saying okay, maybe even more than that.

“Like the idea of warm?”  Nod against his hand.  “Like the idea…  Will it make you feel safe?”  Frown.  “Safe.  As in bad things not being able to happen to you?”  Pause.  Thought.  Nod.  Xander’s free hand came up to stroke Spike’s hair, immediately feeling the pressure as Spike leant into it.  So they remained until a shift of feet brought Xander out of his trance state.  “C’mon, let’s make you comfortable.”  He backed off, retaining his hold on one of Spike’s hands, drawing him along.  “Look, this makes the lights go on and off in this room.  All the rooms have these switches by the door.  You want light you just…”  Click, click, click.  Nod.  Spike hesitated in the doorway, breaking contact, peering suspiciously around the frame into the unfamiliar hallway.  “This is the bathroom…”  Xander pushed the door open and flicked the light on and off.  “And this is the bedroom.”  Repeated the action with the next room before gesturing at the apartment’s main entrance.  “That door is for coming and going, but you won’t be doing any of that for the minute.”  The vampire took a hesitant step in Xander’s direction.  “It’s all safe.  Nothing bad can happen to you here.  Come on.”

Xander led the way, sitting on the edge of the bed, switching on the lamp that stood on the bedside cabinet, and waiting.  Once as far as the doorway, Spike peered in, head twisting owlishly as he tried to look at every inch of the room at once, inhaling deeply to take in the scent.  One, two steps in.

“Shut the door behind you.”  Ah, no, obviously not.  Spike was back in the hallway before Xander saw him move.  “Come back.  We’ll leave the door open, it doesn’t have to be shut.  Just force of habit.  When you finally remember where I grew up you’ll understand.  Probably wonder why I don’t erect barricades,” he finished ruefully to himself, looking up and smiling as Spike re-entered the room.  “You take that side.”  He pointed over his shoulder with a thumb.  “You always preferred that side.”  Xander began pulling off his clothes, stripping down to t-shirt and boxers before climbing beneath the covers and groaning as the muscles in his back unclenched.  A quick glance over at Spike found the vampire standing beside the bed looking alarmed, twisting the fabric of his shirt between anxious fingers.  Xander hadn’t expected that: Spike had never shown the slightest inhibition in the past, sometimes with embarrassing results for a visiting Willow, Buffy or Dawn, visits often followed by sniggered-through lectures about wearing something – anything – when he answered the door.  ‘Cover up?  We should make ‘em pay for the show.’

“Leave it on.  Leave it all on.”  Spike’s right hand drifted up to his hair, his gaze shifted to the spotless white pillow.  It took Xander a couple of seconds.  “Oh, right!  I can clean the sheets, a little grime won’t do any harm.  Or a lot for that matter.”  Spike still hesitated; Xander sighed and heaved his weary body out of bed, walking to Spike’s side and pulling back the covers before guiding the vampire inside with gentle touches, taking great care to ensure his feet were comfortable before arranging the covers loosely over him.  “We’ll get you clean tomorrow,” Xander said as he fell back into his side of the bed.  “Make you a bit more comfortable?”  He caught Spike’s definite nod out of the corner of his eye.  “Have to be after work if you need me to help untangle your hair,” he yawned as he leant over to set his alarm.  “This’ll wake me up in the morning, don’t let it scare you.”  Xander switched the clock from buzzer to radio.  “It’ll make a noise: maybe music, maybe people talking, but it’s harmless.”  Spike twisted round and peered over Xander to see what he was talking about, studying the clock for a few minutes before settling back into the surrounding comfort and closing his eyes.  “Mind if I turn the lamp off?  It’ll be dark in here.”  Spike shot him a worried look.  “I’ll leave it on.  Don’t like it but I’ll get used to it.  Close your eyes again, go to sleep.”  Spike obediently did as he was told, portraying sleep expertly even if it were an act: Xander had never found a way of telling.

Turning onto his side to face the vampire, Xander studied the calm façade and convinced himself he could see the acquisition of a few pounds.  He would buy a fresh supply of blood tomorrow, force Spike to eat more often, see if that helped speed up his recovery, although he was no longer sure that the malnutrition was affecting his mental state.  However, one thing he was fairly sure of now was that Spike had lost his memories, not his intelligence.  When he wasn’t too frightened to concentrate he learnt fast, thinking through and understanding what was being explained rather than taking in the words without making sense of their meaning.  But whatever he could be taught, he would never be Spike again unless the memories re-surfaced – presuming they were still inside this apparently empty vessel.  Spike’s face on this stranger assured him of Xander’s help and support, but…

“I want my Spike,” Xander whispered on a sigh.

Spike’s head turned sharply in his direction, eyes snapping open before screwing up again in the glare from the lamp.  Big reaction, Xander noted, trying to get his winding-down brain winding-up again.  He said the words over in his head, reaching an unhappy conclusion: want?  As in…want?  Did Spike think…?  It was something Xander hadn’t considered until this moment: had the people who’d done this to Spike…  He couldn’t even think it, refused to consider the possibility in any depth.  It wouldn’t have been an act of lust but of violence, a further attempt to break the vampire’s spirit.  When Xander thought of Spike at his best, in his mind’s eye he saw an exceptionally beautiful creature of great power and infuriating arrogance, and he understood the desire for control some would harbour, the need to take.  William the Bloody: beautiful, powerful, arrogant.  Vulnerable.  Defenceless against humans.  Fucking chip.

Spike was still staring at him, waiting.  Waiting?  Oh, shit, waiting for what?

“To be happy,” Xander told him.  “I want my Spike…to be happy.”  The vampire relaxed, his expression softening.  “I also want to wrap him up in cotton wool and keep him safe forever,” Xander smiled, imagining the snort of amusement that sentiment would have prompted a few years ago.  Now he couldn’t stand the way Spike looked at him, full of mindless trust; it made him want to go out and kill something.  “Can I turn the light off?  It won’t be totally dark: hall light’s on, door’s open.  I’ll be here with you when it’s kind of dark, and when I go to work you can switch the lamp back on if you need to.”  It looked as if Spike had understood the question.  No response for two minutes, then a nod.  Xander knew this wasn’t what Spike wanted but it was what he needed for himself.  “Thank you.”  Xander twisted back and snapped the light off, then shuffled a little closer to his friend, finding the slight rise in the bedclothes that indicated the position of his arm and laying his hand over it in what he hoped was a not too invasive gesture of reassurance.  “I’d sing you to sleep but I don’t think the Sex Pistols recorded too many lullabies.”

William felt rather than saw Master fall asleep; the periods of blindness inflicted on him had damaged his night vision and it was taking a long time to restore.  But, surprisingly, he could remember what it was like to see as clearly in the darkness as in the light and, in his own unquestioning way, he had total faith that the ability would return.  Only then would the dark hold no terror for him.  When he could penetrate the black with a glance there would be no fear that people would emerge from the shadows and punish him for uncommitted sins.  Master muttered in his sleep and William tensed, recalled this man’s kindness, un-tensed.  The faintest smile ghosted over his features as he felt the honour of this, resting by Master’s side, basking in the warmth that seeped into his cold body, burning pleasurably where a hand rested on his arm and radiated heat through the covers.  Fed, comfortable, and tomorrow he would be clean; good thoughts to sleep on.  He focused his acute hearing on his master’s breathing, and let it lull him into oblivion.