Repossession by Lazuli Kat



Chapter 3

When Xander dreamed he altered their words, their reactions, the moment when they broke apart and the untouchable emptiness was birthed.  ‘Then I’ll come with you, and the offer was accepted, welcomed with open arms and an open heart.  No anger, no betrayal, no loss.  In his dreams they were together; there were never long nights of weeping and mourning, when loneliness threatened to drive a fragile mind to the brink of madness.  When Xander dreamed…

‘…Never come close in all of these years,
You are the only one to stop my tears,
And I'm so scared, I'm so scared

Huh?   What?  Oh, radio, right .  Xander swung out an arm and missed the off switch – missed the entire radio, actually – rapping his knuckles against the cabinet; he withdrew the smarting hand and pressed back into the pillow with a groan, wishing he had a weekend to get over the weekend.

‘…Take me back in time, maybe I can forget,
Turn a different corner and we never would have met.
Would you care

“What is this bloody station?  Misery-loves-company FM?”

“I happen to like it so…”

“Show a little self-respect, Harris.  This is radio to slash your wrists by.  Crawl-away-and-die on ninety-six-point-sad-bastard.”

“Sleep in your own room and you can listen to whatever you want.”


“How about Get-the-fuck-over-it on AM and FM?”

‘…I don’t understand it, for you it’s a breeze,
Little by little, you’ve brought me to my knees.
Don’t you care…’

Dragging himself back to the here and now, Xander took a bleary glance in Spike’s direction, finding the vampire awake, looking a damn sight sharper than he personally felt, and listening to the music.

“Get into this and you’ll never forgive me when you’re back to normal.  ‘Ear-fucking inane desolation on a   stick.’  That’s a direct quote.”

Spike cocked an eyebrow, giving such a perfect impression of himself before this happened that Xander’s heart jumped.  But it was swiftly followed by the guileless expression that exposed the truth.  Sighing deeply, Xander rolled himself into a sitting position on the edge of the bed, switching off the radio and patting the space he’d vacated.

“Come on.  Don’t break the habit of a lifetime.”  After the predictable vacillation, Spike slithered ungracefully into Xander’s warm spot, and the human studied the vampire’s reaction with satisfaction as he responded to the heat, entire form virtually rippling with pleasure.  “See why you’d push me out to get my space?” Xander grinned, the expression widening to a smile when Spike nodded without hesitation.  “Remember all the stuff I told you last night?  About the phone?”  He mimed the phone. Nod. “Good. Now go back to sleep for a while.”  The blue eyes closed instantly and Spike stilled, not reacting when Xander brushed fingertips over his cheek.

Slipping into auto-pilot, Xander showered, shaved, dressed, made himself some breakfast, gathered together whatever paperwork he’d brought home with him on Friday, picked up the cooler and left his home as quietly as was humanly possible.  It was a relief to be in his office, back with the familiarity and sense of being in charge of his life rather than running along beside it trying to keep up.  He had to put some finishing touches to the project files he’d discussed with his boss last week, and he’d need to visit a couple of the proposed sites first – that would be good too, a chance to walk the empty plots, get some wind in his hair, rain on his face.  He missed the hands-on carpentry work, the satisfaction of creating something special from raw materials.  Maybe he should move, find somewhere with a workshop.  Plus a garage: keep those keys in the hands of jealous little shits away from the paintwork on the flash company car.  And a basement so there was always somewhere dark and safe for Spike, something self-contained so he’d have personal space.  Could put a pool table down there, could build a pool table…  Xander brought himself to a sharp halt.  This was long-term planning and he was thinking about decisions he had no right to make on another person’s behalf; in two weeks time Spike could be fit and healthy and itching to get away.  ‘Your loss, Xander.  Fuck you!’  Five years on, the resurrected words still had the power to take his breath away, and the sentiments would be more than enough to take Spike away too.

Resolving to keep his mind on his work, Xander opened the top file and glanced over the first page before pausing to set the alarm on his watch to remind him to call home at midday .  Another page, and Xander was phoning The Dark Place to order more blood.  Turning to his computer he called up his Grim Reaper document, adding instructions regarding Spike and who to call to take care of him in the event of Xander’s demise.  He encrypted the document and sent it to Patrick.  Back to the first page of his file to re-read what he hadn’t taken in; the notepad beside him began to fill with notes: buy haircutting scissors; buy conditioner and wide-toothed comb; buy more antiseptic cream; check for stronger anaesthetic cream; buy ? to get blood out of carpet; remind S about slippers; tell S about books; buy electric blanket…

William knew he was alone when he woke.  He could hear voices and movement all over the building, but there was no-one in the apartment with him.   Which made him unsettled; he selfishly wanted his master’s presence and the feeling of safety that came with it.  The bed felt cold now, his body unable to maintain any kind of temperature above that of the room.  He missed Master’s warmth, but his scent was still there, rich and distinctive and clinging to every inch of the sheets.  William drew a pillow into his arms, rubbing his face over it and purring softly to himself.  If he could only be good he could keep this life, but he knew he would be bad because no-one would explain the difference and he didn’t understand what he kept doing wrong.  All this would be taken away because they were right: he was stupid and ignorant and he couldn’t understand.  An unbidden memory arose of hard voices, so unlike that of new Master, shouting at him: he was bad, he was evil, he was an idiot.  They brought the pain.  The pain.  William stopped purring and whined softly, burrowing into the pillow, trying to not remember, to find comfort, desperately wanting – needing – Master and sobbing with the frustration of being alone and bad and stupid.

Xander switched off his watch alarm and made his way back to the car, phone in hand before the door was shut behind him.  Please be okay, please remember what I showed you, please be okay, Spike, please be   okay…  The phone rang and rang before it was picked up, and Xander could imagine Spike jumping in surprise and backing off the first time he heard the ring, the slow creeping back to it and the diligent checking of the numbers.  There were tears in his eyes again; he couldn’t stand being away from Spike, couldn’t cope with being with him, what was he going to do?

“Hey, Spike, it’s Xander.  Can you do something for me?  Can you just tap the receiver to say you’re okay.  Two taps.”  Xander gave his phone a couple of taps and was relieved when they were echoed back.  “Good, Spike, that’s good.  I guess it must have been pretty strange when you woke up today, all alone like that.  I mean, I know I’ve been out since you’ve been there but that was different.  I don’t know why but it was.  Anyway, it won’t be long until I’m back, I’m going to bring some work home so I can be with you and get this done at the same time.  I’m going to get you some more blood and a few other things on the way.  You eating?  Tap if you’ve been eating.”  Two taps.  “Good.  I’m looking forward to seeing you.  I’ve lived with missing you for five years but a couple of hours feels like it’s going to kill me.  I’ll be there soon, okay, Spike?  Soon.”  A salvo of taps.  Xander laughed, “I hope that’s come home not stay away.”  More taps.  “Okay, I have to go – sooner I go the sooner I’ll be home.  Put the receiver down now.”

Xander listened as the vampire carried out his instruction before ending the call, heaving a sigh and leaning his head back against the rest.  The familiar mantra of, My God, this is Spike, I can’t believe this is Spike, began to loop through his mind, and it was all he could do to stop it before he reached screaming point.  It had taken over a year before he’d been able to say to himself with relative certainty that leaving Sunnydale had been the right thing to do; it had taken a few hours to undo that conviction, knowing he’d left Spike to the kind of people who would do this to him.  Up until Saturday morning he’d thought he had it all, but on reflection he had his work and very little else.  The luxury apartment in a sought-after block, the weighty bank balance, the car that would turn heads on the streets of his home town were immaterial when he faced up to the fact he could name his friends (as opposed to acquaintances) on the fingers of one hand, he rarely socialised unless it was business-related, his weekends and compulsory holidays were too often spent working at home, the expensively comfortable king-size bed had never been shared until Spike turned up.  The loneliness he’d lived in total denial of had surfaced and was eating away at him; he missed his real home, his old friends, he needed Willow, and, most of all?  Most of all…he missed Spike.

William stroked the receiver, touching what he could of the disembodied voice, feeling his lifting spirits plunge once more as Master told him to put the receiver down.  He did so without question, although the whole of him wanted to hang on, to hear more.  Master would be home soon, but when was that?  He could not grasp the concept of time after spending so long in a constantly lit room; toward the end he had been convinced that there was no passage of time in that horrific place, that it stood still, that the shouting and the pain and the bitter cold that dulled his responses and numbed his extremities would last forever.  William shuddered, thought of the moment, of Master.  Apart from time spent in the kitchen preparing his blood he’d sat by the phone from the moment he rose, staring and waiting.  Now he would concentrate on the door where his master came and went, more staring and waiting.  He didn’t consider the possibility of not doing it, not for a minute, not a second.  Finding a suitable spot near the hall radiator he sat on the floor, stared and waited.

“Hey, honey, I’m home.”

Barely in the door and Spike was there, not quite a smile on his face but he looked pleased to see Xander.  “Can you…”  Xander nodded down at the bags he was carrying and Spike tried to take all of them.  “No, no, just…”  Spike took everything bar the cooler, and Xander was a little surprised that he had the strength, emaciated as he was.  Demon strength, he supposed, although his friend looked anything but demonic at present.  “Drop all that in the living room,” he instructed as he took the blood through to the kitchen, packing the bags away in the refrigerator immediately.  Spike had only had four bags, Xander calculated as he shifted the older blood to the front of the shelf.

“You haven’t eaten enough,” he called over his shoulder.  “Come and have some more.  There’s a blue bag with a box in it, bring that.”  No Spike, and Xander crossed to the doorway, finding him looking at the bags he’d obviously dropped, exactly as told, trying to figure it all out.  Joining him, Xander bobbed down to pick up the bag he wanted.  “Blue bag,” he explained with that fucking awful reassuring smile, resolutely not being upset that the canniest man he ever knew didn’t remember colours, opening the bag and showing Spike the inside.  “Box.”  Nod.  “C’mon.”

Back in the kitchen Xander opened the box and pulled out a large mug, big enough to take a bag of blood at one go.

“See…   Spike.”  Spike ran his fingers over the outside of the mug, where his name had been painted in fat swirls.  “That makes it yours.  S – P – I – K – E.  Spike, that’s you.  The mug is black, and the writing is red.”  Spike traced the letters and Xander repeated them.  Nod.  “I’ll clean it and you can christen it.  Heat some blood.”  Xander took the mug to the sink and ran the hot water, aware of Spike studying the process with intense interest.  “So, why haven’t you been eating?  What did you do all day?”  Spike thought before stiltedly miming picking up the telephone receiver.  “What?  You spent the day sitting by the phone?  That’s the stuff of teenage angst not vampirism!  Spike, heat the blood.”  This time Spike did as directed, and Xander waved him to put the warmed blood in the gleaming new mug before moving to the pile of shopping in the living room.

Halfway through unpacking before the vampire joined him, Xander hoped that meant Spike was on at least his second bag of blood.  “How many bags?  One?  Two?  Three?”  He repeated the question and held up a corresponding amount of fingers.  Spike considered before looking at his own hand and making it into a mirror of Xander’s when the answer was two.  “That’s good, but I want you to eat more.  You eat more, you get better faster.”  Nod.  “Hey, look, I got this for you.  It’s a special kind of blanket.  It goes on the bed and you turn – where is it? – this switch and it makes the bed warm for you.  If you keep it on a low setting you can have it on all the time you’re in bed.”  Yes, that was definitely an impressed look.  “I never thought vampires needed warmth, but you always loved it.  Maybe that’s you, not all of them.”  Xander snorted to himself,  “Wasn’t exactly going to ask Angel.”

Sitting on the far end of the sofa, Spike watched as everything was unpacked, glancing uneasily at the pile that meant his feet were going to hurt again, curiously at the items he didn’t recognise.

“Scissors, conditioner, comb: that’s for your hair.  I thought bleach was a bit of a long-shot at the moment so I didn’t…”

Hair, William thought, clean hair.  Putting aside his mug he threw himself onto his knees beside Xander, dipping to touch the floor with his brow.

“Spike!   How many times do I have to…”  Spike looked nervously up.  “I’m not angry, I’m not.  Not with you.  What do you want?”  Spike touched his hair.  “Now?”  The expression turned to big-eyed pleading and Xander conceded defeat, however much he wasn’t looking forward to the task at hand.  “Great.  Now you’ll think I live to torture you.”

Xander removed his jacket, collected what he needed and took it through to the bathroom.

“I spoke to the pharmacist and he said we should use this in the bath.”  He waved a bottle at Spike.  “It’s got antiseptic in it for your feet but it’s very gentle and it’s unscented.  Didn’t think you’d want to waft about smelling like a rose garden.”

Xander rolled up his shirt sleeves and showed Spike how to get the water to: a) come out of the faucet, and b) come out at the right temperature, then read the directions on the bottle of antiseptic wash as the bath filled, adding two capfuls and watching as the water turned milky.

“I may have to cut the knots out of your hair, that okay?”  Xander mimed the action with the scissors.  Nod.  “Anything as long as it’s clean, huh?”  Enthusiastic nod.  “I figured if I try to leave, say, an inch of blond everywhere I could cut it fairly evenly.”  Frown.  “It was white blond, where you bleached it, and now it’s growing out it’s darker.  Growing fast too.”  Spike tried to pull enough hair forward to see what Xander was talking about but it wasn’t quite long enough.  “Y’know, Spike, you’d think it was punishment enough for such a vain man not to be able to look in a mirror, you didn’t need this other stuff.”  No response.  “Of course, you’d have got the joke once.”

Once the bath was ready Xander addressed the next problem, recalling how shy Spike had seemed the previous evening.

“You want me to go outside while you get in?”  Pause while Spike found the floor fascinating.  Shake of the head.  “Okay.”  Another pause, and Xander cursed himself for letting this get so awkward: he’d seen Spike naked so many times…  Ah.  Not this Spike.  With this Spike’s sensibilities.  He gave a gentle smile.  “Can I help?”  Pause.  Nod.

After switching off the main light, leaving them in the infinitely less intrusive peachy glow of the wall fittings, Xander stepped close and picked up Spike’s left wrist, unfastening the cuff button, then he repeated the action with the right.  Next he undid the buttons on the front of the shirt, taking his time, slowing down as Spike’s hand started to rise on two occasions.

“I don’t have to be here.”  He saw Spike swallow hard before the next nod.  Gently pushing the shirt from the vampire’s shoulders, he let it fall to the floor, his attention caught by scars and bruises on Spike’s arms.  Stopping himself from reaching out to take an arm and study it more closely – this was not the moment – he eased the bottom of the black t-shirt from Spike’s jeans, taking his hands away quickly as Spike buckled and fell back against the wall.

“What?   What is it?”  It seemed to be a pain response and for a split second Xander thought maybe he’d moved without realising, knocking a tender foot.  No, maybe once he’d have been that clumsy, but not now.  Moving back to the door, Xander flicked the switch for the main overhead light.  In the unforgiving glare Xander understood: the t-shirt was stuck to wounds on Spike’s body.  His stomach rolled, tears pricked behind his eyes and it took a fair amount of hard talking inside his head to keep his cool; he had to stay calm for Spike.  Stay calm.

“Come back to me when you’re ready,” Xander instructed in a soft voice, deciding against touching the vampire again until he seemed willing.  “We’ll soak the t-shirt off, try not to hurt you.”  Spike’s resolve was visible: he straightened up and crossed the short distance to Xander.  “Think these…” he touched the jeans “…will come off without hurting?”  Nod.  Xander assumed the combination of weight loss and so much walking would have loosened any adhesions, and he couldn’t believe he was having to think about this, think this about Spike.  “I’ll take the bandages off your feet when you’re in the bath, okay?”  Nod.  “That’ll make getting in a bit easier.”  Xander undid the jeans and cautiously allowed them to fold into his hands, lowering them slowly.  There were semi-healed wounds and bruises all over the pale flesh he uncovered and Xander tried not to, didn’t want to look.  He sat Spike on the closed toilet seat and manoeuvred the jeans inch by inch over the bandaged feet, holding his breath until the job was completed.

An expulsion of air and Xander sank back onto the floor, tossing the filthy jeans aside.  “Can’t believe it gets worse,” he told Spike with a humourless laugh that did little to disguise his shock.  “Can’t fucking believe any of this.  I’m so sorry.  I’m so sorry.”  Spike’s response was the most acceptable under the circumstances: he touched his hair.  “Yeah, I know.  Let’s get you in.  The water’s warm, hot might hurt your feet.”  Just his feet?  Look at the state of him, Harris.  Xander carefully helped the vampire into the water, watching as he sank under the surface with a look of sheer bliss, taking full advantage of having no need to breathe and laying on the bottom of the tub for ten minutes.  The water was so milky it was impossible to see more than a vague shadow of him, and Xander soon began to fret, reaching in and gingerly touching an ankle, trying to convince himself he was just checking the bandages that were surely unravelling by now.  The ankle shifted below his hand and Spike gracefully rose into a sitting position, wiping the water from his face and blinking a few times to focus.  One foot at a time, Xander removed the soggy dressings, pleased that some minor healing had occurred but at the same time wondering how bad the wounds beneath the t-shirt would be if they were healing as slowly.  He made Spike wiggle his toes, satisfying himself that everything was in working order, wasting time in an effort to delay removing that last piece of clothing.

“Okay?” he eventually asked, staring at the t-shirt and trusting that Spike would understand.  He saw the trepidation that came before the nod.  “I’ll be as careful as I can.  I’m going to cut it off.  I think…”  God, what did he think?  Beyond the growing anxiety that his shaking hands would add more damage to the abused body.  Kneeling alongside the bathtub, Xander grabbed the scissors and balanced them on the edge, looking up to meet Spike’s eyes, wondering what the hell he’d done to deserve the trust that shone there.

Forty-five minutes later the last piece of t-shirt was sitting on the bathroom floor seeping blood-tinged water.  Xander was staring breathlessly at Spike’s torso, taking in every gruesome piece of damage, every scar and tear, bruise and burn, every gaping sore and lesion that disfigured the body he’d privately acknowledged as the most beautiful he’d ever seen.  Despite the care he’d taken most of the wounds were bleeding, marbling the water with an attractive pink that Spike was fascinated by as he swirled a finger in the cold, bloodied liquid.  The sweetly innocent action was more than Xander could bear.  He leant his head against the rim of the tub and let the tears come, gave up trying to contain the emotions that had been raging inside him since he’d first seen Spike’s condition.  He sobbed and sobbed, shoulders heaving with the intensity, becoming dizzy with lack of oxygen because he was crying too hard to breathe.  Cool wet fingers apprehensively touched the top of his head, dripping water that ran through his hair and in shiver-creating rivulets over his scalp.  Xander fought for control; a second touch was enough to make him grasp it; he was frightening Spike and that was unacceptable, however he personally felt.

“I’m okay, I’m okay,” he croaked, grabbing a towel and roughly wiping his face.  He ignored Spike's concerned expression as he looked up.  “You want some fresh water?  Nice and warm?”  He let out some of the cold water and allowed the warm to pour in, checking the temperature carefully, adding more of the antiseptic wash.  “Dip under, get your hair wet again,” he said, still a bit gaspy, taking Spike’s submergence as an opportunity to take a deep, whooping breath and let out the last of the sobs.  He told Spike to close his eyes as he shampooed his hair, not wanting to sting him with the soap, not wanting him to see the tears that kept silently falling.  Four washes later Xander emptied a third of a bottle of conditioner onto Spike’s hair and massaged it in before taking the comb and making tentative strokes, working from the ends of the hair up to the roots.  The position was a strain and his back was aching, his shoulders were aching, and the aches were making him clumsy.  He put down the comb and gave Spike a washcloth, pouring more antiseptic onto it.  “Wash.  I’ll be back in a minute.”

Xander went to his bedroom, sitting on the bed and rolling his head, flexing stiff shoulders before falling flat and stretching.  He’d always hated the feel of tears crawling down his face and into his ears, but it wasn’t enough to move him for a full five minutes.  Then, determinedly, he sat up, swept the last of the tears away, stood and started to strip.  Not wanting Spike to be alarmed – more alarmed? – at his actions he kept on his t-shirt and boxers and went back to the bathroom.  The vampire was diligently cleaning his fingers one by one, studying them as he worked.  Xander smiled, and somehow Spike felt and reacted to that, glancing at Xander, focusing on the smile for a brief moment before shyly returning his attention to his hands.

“Slide forward,” Xander instructed and gestured.  Spike did as he was told without pause to think or a questioning look, but he froze as Xander cautiously climbed into the tub behind him.  “It’s okay, I’m just going to see to your hair.  Want to get comfortable.  Jeez, water could be warmer,” Xander shivered.  Spike reached for the faucet and let more warm water in.  “Thanks.”

Xander stretched out a leg on either side of Spike, easing the vampire into a comfortable working position before taking the comb and resuming the assault on Spike’s hair; it was only minutes before Spike dropped the washcloth into the water and leant his head back, the tense muscles in his back and shoulders visibly loosening.  “You used to cut your own hair.  I liked to watch that and you didn’t seem to mind me watching.  After a hundred-something years of practise you could do it so fast, all by touch.”  Bad knot and a big flinch.  “Sorry.  I should shut up and concentrate.  Grab a hold of my legs, if I hurt then you squeeze hard and I stop before it gets too bad, okay?”  Xander retrieved the scissors and charily cut the knot out of Spike’s hair, peripherally aware of cool hands laying lightly over his shins.

One hour, several changes of water, and a pile of hair on the edge of the bath later, Xander put the scissors down and used the spray to wash the remainder of the conditioner from the silky, tangle-free hair.  The cut wasn’t a work of genius but Xander had managed to keep it fairly even and he consoled himself that much of the bad workmanship would be hidden by the natural wave in Spike’s hair.

“Feel,” he instructed, and Spike’s fingers ran repeatedly through the squeaky-clean locks before he reached for Xander’s hand, pressing his brow hard against it in thanks.  “That’s okay, I’m happy you’re happy.”  With a sigh Xander relaxed into the curve of the tub, taking Spike’s shoulders and coaxing him until his back was pressed against Xander’s chest.  Xander felt the weight shift as Spike stopped supporting himself, and his head fell back against Xander’s shoulder, turning until his forehead was resting against the human’s warm neck.  Xander’s hands slid down the thin arms, finding a comfortable position that also meant not aggravating any of the extensive damage on the vampire’s body, knowing he’d got it right as hands settled passively on his knees.  He rolled his head against the rim of the tub until his cheek lay against damp hair.

This was what Xander had been missing, what he’d needed to let him cope.  Contact.  This contact, this moment of perfect peace between them, the chance to recoup and regroup before they faced their heart-breaking reality.  Time passed in silence, the water was absolutely cold when the ring of the phone made them both jump.  Instinctively knowing it was Willow, Xander eased a reluctant Spike forward and climbed stiffly from the tub, wrapping a towel around himself and heading for the living room, unconcerned about the trail of water he left behind.


“Xander, I was getting worried.  Where were you?”

“We were in the bath.”


“Don’t ask.”

“Okay, it’ll keep,” he could hear her smirk.  “How’s Spike?”

Xander thought about the new damage he’d discovered and his voice cracked.

“It’s worse than I thought.  He’s covered in injuries, none of them healing properly, he’s gotta be scarred for life.  We had to soak his t-shirt off because—”  Xander stopped, gasped at the shock of the memory.

“Oh, Xander…”

“Hold on a second.”  Xander covered the mouthpiece and called, “Spike get dry, put on the robe that’s hanging behind the door and come and eat.”  He turned his attention back to Willow.  “Have you found out anything?”

“I’m not sure if—”

“I want to know.”

“Okay.   I spoke to Giles earlier – you know he’s actually on the Watcher’s Council now? – and he said he’d heard several reports of incidents like this, and they seem to be the work of a rogue faction that used to be associated with the Council, alongside some of the doctors who worked for the Initiative.  They believe, if you can credit this, that demons can be trained.”

“Trained,” Xander repeated flatly.  “Are they fucking idiots or what?”

“Something like that,” Willow agreed instantly, the contempt in her voice revealing exactly what she thought of the idea.

“Are they being stopped?”

“Giles said that action is being taken, but I get the feeling something was lost in translation.  I know I should, but apart from Giles I don’t trust any of them.”

“Those lousy…”

“I won’t let it go, Xander.  And when Giles heard what they’d done to Spike he was horrified, so I doubt he’ll give anyone an easy time until these people are stopped.”

“Trained for what?”

In his mind’s eye, Xander saw the shrug of slender shoulders.

“I guess there are ways they could be exploited if they could be made harmless to their…their…”

“Handlers?” Xander ventured with heavy sarcasm.  “What happened to Spike…  Is that the treatment the demons get if they won’t play along?  Or is that a part of the training?”

“I’ll find out what I can.”

“And why release him in that state?  They’d already destroyed everything he was, why not just kill him?”  There was that catch in his voice again; he couldn’t do this now.  And where the fuck was his vampire?  “Look, Willow, I’m so not up to this.  Can I call you later?”

“Out tonight, try tomorrow.”


“Everyone sends their love.”

There was a brief pause.



“Bye.”   Xander threw the receiver down.  “Spike!  Spike, where are you?”

Spike was perched on the edge of the bath, wrapped in Xander’s towelling robe, pressing the bloody washcloth to the side of his right foot.

“Oh, shit, did it just start again?”  Nod.  “Sorry for shouting at you, it wasn’t you I was mad at.”  Xander took a careful look at the bleed.  “It’ll be okay, nothing to worry about, just where some skin got soft in the water and…and came…away.  I’ll get the stuff and dress it in here.  Does it hurt?”  Spike thought, flexed his foot, flinched.  “Stupid question.  Wait here.”  Xander got to the door and turned back.  “No. It needs to be done in the dry.”  Without another word he returned to Spike and swept the vampire up into his arms, ignoring the alarm that crossed the glowingly clean face.

Feet treated with new, stronger antiseptic and anaesthetic creams, safely dressed and bandaged, Spike rose from the sofa and walked easily toward the kitchen.  It was only then that Xander noticed the dark patches spreading over the back of his blue robe.

“Wait.”   His voice was weak and cracked for the umpteenth time.  I can’t do this, I can’t do this.  I.  Can’t.  Do.  This.  Spike turned back and came to Xander, kneeling beside him on the floor, gazing expectantly into his face.  “I have to treat your back.  It’s bleeding.  Fuck, Spike, what’s that look for?  You’re ashamed?  Because they hurt you?  Those motherfuckers hurt you and—”  The tears were back and Xander furiously palmed them away.  “Don’t you ever be ashamed, Spike.  I know where you came from but you’re a good man, you’re a good person and they—”  Xander stopped, wanting contact again, snatching at Spike’s hands and holding them firmly against his chest.  “They were bad people, do you understand?  It isn’t your fault, you’re good.  The people who did this to you were bad, they were wrong.  Do you understand?”  Spike gave a vague nod, attention drawn by the sensation beneath his hands.  “My heart?  You can feel my heart beating?  Not surprised.  They can probably hear it next door.”  Spike crawled closer, waiting for a nod from Xander before he pressed his ear against the damp, blood-stained t-shirt that still covered Xander’s chest, leaning heavily in as he heard the strong steady beat of Xander’s heart, slowing now as the human calmed.

“Hey, come on, you can’t stay there.  I have to see to your back.”  Xander glanced inside the front of the robe.  “And your chest.  I have to…”  Spike grudgingly knelt up, loosening the robe, letting it slide into a vivid blue puddle on the floor around him.  Xander wondered if he could do this without letting the horror of it touch him, kept on hoping right up until he found corresponding damage on the front and back of the frail form which indicated some sort of weapon or instrument had gone straight through Spike’s body, and not just once.  He couldn’t imagine the agony, didn’t want to.  Every moment he spent doing this was another nightmare in the making, but he carried on where he’d left off with the vampire’s feet: cleaning, smoothing on a little of each cream, covering each wound with a non-adhesive dressing and fixing it in place with dermatological tape.

“There…”   The last of the seeping wounds on Spike’s back was covered.  “Not exactly elegant.  Hope you always wanted to be a patchwork quilt when you grew up.  Feel better?”  Slow nod.  Why so slow?  Xander peered around Spike, finding him more asleep than awake.  “Hard day, huh?”  Pause.  Slow nod.  Xander stood, fetching the sweat pants he’d bought for Spike, but instead of the tight t-shirts he’d purchased at the same time, he offered him one of his own work-out t’s, old and baggy and far more comforting.  Lastly he put the slippers out for Spike, fairly sure he could wear them comfortably now.  Leaving the vampire to dress he went to change into dry clothes before going to the kitchen to heat up blood and pizza slices.

By the time he came back Spike was perkily awake, dressed and sat on the sofa, staring in complete fascination at the lurid pink fur as he waggled feet that were double their usual size.

“Monster feet,” Xander explained.  “Although in this case demon feet would have been more accurate.  You’ll have to be careful not to fall over them.”  He put the food on the coffee table and pulled it a little closer to the sofa.  “There ya go.  Eat, drink, be merry.”

On the way back from throwing his robe into the washer Xander snagged his briefcase, placing it on the far end of the table and opening it, pulling out the top folder and his notepad.  Grabbing a couple of slices of pizza he arranged his work beside him on the sofa, reading as he ate, finally able to concentrate in the one place he would have thought least conducive to concentration.  Spike drank his blood and dunked pizza, gradually shuffling his way along the sofa toward Xander, interested in what the human was doing.

“Work.   The deal’s done and I have to make some decisions about what happens next.”  Xander stood and crossed to a bookcase, pulling out a glossy volume of some heft, flicking through the pages until he found what he was looking for.  Putting the book on Spike’s lap he tapped at the plate.  “This is the kind of place we’re going to be building.  Same architects.  Pretty impressive, huh?”  Spike looked dolefully up at Xander.  “Not gothic enough for you?  Well, how’s about…”   He found another plate, a much older building, glowering, moody architecture.  Spike ran his hand over the shiny picture.  Nod.  Xander chuckled.  “Sometimes, you’re such a…vampire.”

Xander carried on with his work as Spike went through the book; Xander glanced over a few times, trying to decide if he were reading or just studying the pictures, but he never figured it out and didn’t want to ask.  If Spike could read, maybe he could write.  But if they were more abilities lost forever he didn’t need to know tonight.  And it was hard to imagine Spike writing down what had happened to him in that incongruous Victorian hand, the elegant script making unbearable words all the more obscene.  Thinking back he could vividly recall the first note Spike had left for him after moving in; all it said was, ‘Red called.  Get to the Magic Box for 8.30’.  But it was so beautifully written he’d kept it for a long time, in fact until Spike had found it in his wallet while stealing money and thrown it away.  Xander had been angrier to lose the note than the money and had ranted at the vampire who, understandably, got totally the wrong impression, stealing money from someone else to pay him back before a night had passed.  Xander had ranted about that too, and Spike had rolled his eyes, irritably demanding he make up his bloody mind.

An unexpected laugh rose at the memory, and the Spike of now looked over curiously.

“I know you don’t remember, but we lived together for two years.  I just…  We had some fun back then.  We were really happy.  At least, you made me happy and I think I made you…” I don’t think you noticed how happy he was then.’  “We became good friends.  It surprised people.  But you saw me in a way they didn’t.  I found out I didn’t have to try for you, I didn’t have to be anything but me, even when I was miserable or scared or just in the grip of a dire sulk.  I could stop the jokes when I was with you.”  Xander physically turned to Spike.  “I’m Xander.  Don’t you remember Xander, even a little?”  The blue eyes were full of sorrow.  It was answer enough.  Xander forced the smile.  “Doesn’t matter right now anyhow.  We’re together, we’re fine, you’re good and you’re safe.  I…”  Refuse to cry again.  “I…I’m going to put the new blanket on the bed.  Change the sheets.  Get yourself some more blood – two more bags.”  Xander held up his hand showing two fingers.  “Two bags.  At least.  Eat.”  Spike held up a hand with two fingers.  “Good.”  Gathering up the electric blanket he hurried to the bedroom, shutting the door behind him and leaning against it before sliding down to the floor, waiting, yet again, for the pain to dispel.