Repossession by Lazuli Kat

 

 

Chapter 4

“…And help yourself to any of the books.  Well…I don’t know if you can read but if you can, maybe you should stay away from Jeffrey Deaver.  I’m going to take the duster to be cleaned, you mind if I check the pockets?”  Blank.  “Your coat?  The coat you were wearing when you arrived?  Is it okay if I check the pockets before I get it cleaned?”  Recognition and a nod.  “Right, what else?” Xander asked himself as he finished dressing, turning his back to the vampire who was sitting up in bed, arms linked around drawn-up knees, watching his every move.  “You’re going to drink a whole load of blood today, right?”  He turned back.  “Right?” he repeated, getting a hearty nod in return.  “I’m going to phone you but I don’t want you sitting staring at the damn thing all day.  If I think you’re doing that I’ll never get any work done.  I want this mental picture of you sleeping and eating and taking it easy and getting better.  Okay?”  Nod.  “Now, lay down.”  Spike did as he was told, snuggling into the covers, a picture of contentment that brought a rare effortless smile to Xander’s face.  “Nice and warm?”  Nod.  “Sore anywhere?”  Shake.  “That’s great.”  Xander sat on the edge of the bed, close to the vampire, stroking the tousled hair and feeling the gentle pressure as Spike leant into his hand.

“I’m going to miss you.”

In the living room Xander went through the pockets of the duster and found nothing, confirming his expectation that whoever had taken Spike would have removed any personal possessions.  However, he was sure there was something in the lining, which didn’t make much sense because there were no holes in the pockets that he could find.  Studying the hem under stronger light he found an area that had been unpicked and re-sewn, and he carefully broke the newer stitches with a kitchen knife until he had room to slide his fingers in and pull out the object he’d felt.  A photograph, battered, torn – looked like it’d been in a frame and had the glass broken into it.  It was of Xander; much younger, much happier Xander.  And Spike had felt the need to sew it into his coat to keep it safely, privately by him.  Xander swallowed hard.  And again.

Throwing the duster over one shoulder, he took the picture and propped it up on the fireplace before picking up his briefcase and leaving without looking back.

William noticed the photograph later as he wandered around the living room with a mug of blood, waiting for the phone to ring but not sitting and staring at it because he’d been told that was not wanted and he wasn’t taking any chances, even if Master wasn’t here.  He gazed at the picture for a long, long time, happy with this token, not feeling quite so lonely.  He took it with him when he curled up on the sofa and looked at the book from last night; it went back and forth to the kitchen with him; it accompanied him as he inched expectantly closer to the phone.  After he had listened to his master he went back to bed, and the photograph went too, finding itself balanced against the radio so it was the last thing that William saw before his mind drifted and his eyes closed.  Kind Master.  Soft voice.  Gentle touch.  Beloved.

“Hey, honey.  I’m home.”

The words were so quiet, so affectionate, so close; Spike’s eyes fluttered open to find Xander on his knees beside the bed, head tilted, smiling at him.  A hand snaked out from beneath the covers and Xander took it, stroking the smooth skin, irrationally happy that Spike had reached out to him.  “You’re warm.  That blanket must be slowing cooking you.  Have to keep turning you so you’re evenly done.”  The bony fingers gripped his and drew his hand closer, guiding it to where Spike last remembered it.  Xander followed his hand, moving to sit on the bed so he could run his fingertips through the wayward two-tone hair more easily.  “Like this?  I think maybe you always did like to be fussed over, but I was always too busy being…heterosexual,” Xander grinned to himself.  “See you found the picture.  It was in your coat.  Do you remember putting it there?”  Shake.  “Have you ever seen it before?”  Shake.  “Okay.”  Xander caressed the vampire in silence for a few minutes.  “Have you eaten since I spoke to you on the phone?”  Shake.  “Come on, then.  Up and at ‘em, Bleachboy.”  The nickname restored the grin to Xander’s face.  “Bleachboy,” he chuckled to himself, heading for the kitchen, leaving Spike to drag himself from the warmth of the bed.

Xander felt a little happier today: he’d got everything done that he’d wanted to regarding the latest commission at work, and that made everything feel more normal, manageable.  He felt hungry for the first time in days and planned to cook one of his favourite meals, knowing that he could persuade Spike to try anything.  He had always liked it when Spike had sat down to dinner with him, eating real food instead of drinking blood; Spike knew it too, and Xander had soon realised the vampire was humouring him over it.  Did he care?  Not for a second if he got what he wanted.  He pulled out a bag of blood along with the ingredients he needed, and by the time Spike entered the room he was able to put the mug straight into his hands.  As Xander washed, peeled, sliced, cooked, Spike perched on the stool and watched, listening to a monologue about Xander’s day, his strange reluctance to leave the duster at the cleaners, and the CDs he’d bought in the hope that music might jog a few memories.

“The guy thought he’d landed a British punk rock connoisseur, got real excited.  Sex Pistols, Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Boomtown Rats.  I almost drew the line at Generation X – let’s face it, in a bad light you were Billy Idol!  Of course, in a good light you were just plain fucking fantastic, but I don’t think I ever mentioned it.  And I bought some Elvis Costello and some Jam, which this guy insisted are not strictly punk but it’s about the same time and at least they won’t make my ears bleed.”  That reminded him to refill the mug and he put another bag in the microwave.  “How are you feeling, Spike?  Do you feel any stronger today?”  Deep thought but no definite response.  “Can’t tell, huh?  You know, when the answer’s don’t know you should go…”  Xander held up a hand and rocked it in a so-so gesture.  Blink.  “Don’t know…”  Gesture.  Blink.  Xander repeated the gesture and Spike copied with a stilted version.  “So…feel any stronger today?”  Spike thought about it for a second time, then rocked a hand.  “See, you’re so smart.”  Spike did the almost smile and Xander topped up his mug with fresh blood.  “You’re good, Spike.  And I hope that one day you’ll forgive me for talking to you like you’re a pet.”

There was a dining room adjoining the kitchen that Xander only used when he needed a large table for spreading out blueprints or site plans.  Today he decided they’d eat in there; he slid back the smoked glass doors and flicked on the wall lights; Spike peered around the doorframe.

“What do you think?  It’s a pretty nice room but I never use it when I’m alone.  I’ve had my boss and a couple of other people I work with a few times for dinner – although not in the vampiric sense – but I’m usually by myself so…well, anyway, I thought we could use it.”  Nod.  Two steps in and Spike was having a good look round.  “Those other doors lead into the living room, but there are curtains over them so you probably thought they were another window.”  Rock.  “Hadn’t thought about it.”  Shake.  “Choose where you want to sit.”

Xander went and heated up yet more blood and served up the risotto.  When he returned to the dining room with a full tray Spike was still standing, looking lost.

“Tell you what.  I’m going to sit here…”  Head of the table.  “…so why don’t you sit here.  Makes you my right hand man.”

Xander put out the plates, cutlery, cruet and the mug of blood, going back to the refrigerator to fetch himself a beer.  Finally sitting down, he picked up his fork and began to eat.  Spike studied closely before trying out his own fork and finding it worked, if somewhat awkwardly.

“Use the other hand.  Put the fork in the other hand.  You’re left-handed.”

After Xander’s demonstration, Spike did as he was told, managing far more easily.  Xander surreptitiously watched him take the first mouthful of risotto.  Result.  There was the impressed face.  Spike took another mouthful and savoured it.  Then he put his fork down and boldly touched Xander’s arm, waited until Xander looked at him before nodding quite adamantly.

“I know.  This is made to impress, and I just wanted that look on your face when you got the taste and the texture.  It’s the white wine and three times as much parmesan as any recipe would ever recommend that does it.  Which means nothing to you, but I made this for you.  I wanted to impress you so I made this for you.”  The almost smile.  Spike noticed where his hand still lay and alarm tainted his expression, but before he could move it away Xander’s hand was over it.  “You can do this, I don’t mind.  In fact, I like it.  I don’t want you to be scared of me and this is a part of it.  Do this.  It’s…nice.”

Xander felt Spike’s hand flex beneath his and he withdrew, but the cool hand stayed, fingers spreading and grasping the firm flesh beneath them.  Touching, feeling.  Touching with feeling.

After dinner Xander played the first couple of CDs in the pile he’d bought.  Spike listened with interest but nothing connected.  Xander was wondering if he was brave enough for some early Clash when the phone rang; Spike rose and backed off at the interruption.

“It’s okay, I’ll just…”  Xander glanced at the call monitor; he didn’t recognise the number.  Whatever.  He picked up the receiver, expecting an enquiry about one of the projects he was overseeing.  “Alexander Harris.”

“Xander?   It’s Angel.”  Xander felt like the oxygen had been smacked out of his lungs.  “Xander?”

“How did you get this number?”  Straight to hostility; just like the good old days.

“Willow called me.  She’s worried about Spike.”

“And suddenly you care?  How downright fucking touching is that!”

“I want to speak to him.”

“He’s not capable…”

“Of speech, I know.  But he can listen.”

“Why would he want to?”

“I don’t think you can afford to dismiss any offer of help.  With all due respect, Xander, he spent decades with me.  I may be harder to forget.”

You want a pissing contest?

“Right.   And with reciprocal due respect I have to ask why he headed straight to me instead of you?”

“I can’t answer that any more easily than you can.  But as he is there not here I would like to speak to him.”

Xander took a mental step back, fighting past an ingrained dislike and distrust of the older vampire to consider what was best for the newer model who was watching him with typical curiosity.  If this would help Spike, how could he refuse?

“Okay.   I’ll see if I can get him to take the phone.  Wait until I tell you to speak to him and don’t call him anything but Spike.”

“Thank you.”

Xander bit back detailed instructions as to where Angel could stick his thanks and turned to Spike.

“Come here, Spike.  I need you to listen to this.”  Spike hesitated, wary because of the tone of Xander’s usually mellow voice.  “It’s okay, I’m right here.  You only have to listen to someone who’s…who’s an old friend.”  Xander held out a hand to Spike and he moved across the room so fast it was hard to focus on him, clutching Xander’s hand with both of his own.  “Listen carefully, right?”  Nod.  “You can put this down whenever you want.”  Nod.  Xander offered the receiver and Spike reluctantly took it, slowly raising it to his ear.  Xander leant in momentarily.  “You can talk to him now.”

Fighting the temptation to listen in, Xander kept a hold of Spike’s hand but took a step away, staring at the ceiling and the walls and the floor before focusing on the shocking pink monster feet.  Spike’s fingers tightened, loosened, tightened again.  Then the receiver was flung aside and Spike fled to the farthest point of the room, balling into a foetal position and shaking so hard Xander could see the shudders from where he stood.  Instantly enraged, Xander grabbed up the receiver.

“What did you say to him?” he demanded.

“What happened?”

What did you say?

“I was talking about our history and…”

“You arrogant son-of-a-bitch, you called him—”  Xander took a breath.  “You called him by the other name, didn’t you?”

“I didn’t actually…”

“I told you, you dumb shit.  Don’t call him anything but Spike.”

“I didn’t call him William...”

“But you said it!  Go figure!”

“Xander…”

“History!   You think he needs that – needs you now?  He’s never needed you, you’re fucking useless.  No, you’re worse than useless: a sanctimonious hypocrite, always looking down on him for being what you made him.”

“Can you bring him back to the phone?”

“You think I’m going to—”  Xander asked with incredulity before slicking on the sarcasm.  “I’m afraid Spike can’t come to the phone right now, he’s too busy screwing himself into the corner, cowering in fear.”

There was a heavy pause.

“I’ll call again in a few days.”

“No, you won’t,” Xander snorted, before the tone of his voice changed completely.  Cool, calculated, knowing.  “But you can tell me how you’re going to deal with the people who hurt him.”

This was a Xander that Angel didn’t recognise; the disconcerted vampire took several seconds to formulate the most rudimentary of replies.

“I can’t…”

“Uh-uh, no can’t about it.  You have the resources to find the scum who did this and I know for a fact that you don’t have the scruples that used to hold you back.  Do it and make them pay, prove what a great grandpa you can be.”

“Believe me, Xander…”

“That’s the trouble: never did, never will.  Hey, tell you what, gimme a way to contact Drusilla and we’ll call it quits.”

“What?   You think she’ll be able to care for him?”

“That’s not what I want and you know it.”

“If you tell her what happened she’ll need to take revenge for her childe.  She won’t be particularly selective.”

“I’m counting on it, Deadboy.”

“Xander…   I have to consider…”

“Spike.   You consider Spike.  Don’t let him down this time,” Xander spat.  “Not if you plan on ever seeing him again.”

“Xander!”   Hearing the outrage in Angel’s voice, Xander finally felt he’d landed a blow.  “You cannot…”

“I think you’ll find I can.  I will do whatever it takes to get justice for Spike.  Whatever.”

“I won’t let you use me.”

“Actually, I think you will.  In fact…you might even enjoy it.”

Xander waited impatiently and was drawing breath for another round of blackmail the grand-sire when Angel finally spoke.

“Leave this with me.”

“One other thing: don’t call here again.  I’ll contact you if I feel the need.”

“That’s…”   There was a protracted pause as Angel forced himself calm.  “All right.  I’ll wait to hear from you.  Thank you for taking care of him.”

Mission accomplished, Xander gave his temper momentary release and furiously threw the receiver into its cradle.

“Fuck you, Angel!”

 

Xander spun toward where Spike sat trembling against the wall, arms wrapped around his head.  A fresh surge of rage shook Xander, but he forced himself to let it go.  Priorities.

“Spike,” his voice cracked; he cleared his throat and tried again.  “Spike.  Come to me.  Come on.”  Xander sat on the sofa, glad to get the weight off his shaking legs.  “Spike.  Come here.  Please.”  He dropped his face into his hands, miserably wondering how to get back to the relatively happy place of twenty minutes ago.  A faint brush against his foot told him Spike had arrived, back to grovelling, body shuddering with fear, brow to the floor.  “No,” Xander said.  “No.”

He leant forward and grasped Spike’s upper arms, heaving the vampire straight from the floor onto his lap, wrapping his arms around the tense form and holding him as tightly as he dared to his chest.

“You’re safe.  No-one hurts you here.  No-one hurts my Spike.  My Spike.”

Spike gave himself over to Xander without a struggle, pressing into the human’s warmth and comfort, burying his face in the strong neck.

“My Spike,” Xander murmured as they both gradually calmed.  “It was an accident, him calling you that.  He wouldn’t hurt you.  I wouldn’t let him.   No-one hurts my Spike.  Gonna take care of you, keep you safe.  Trust me.  Trust me.”  Xander turned his face and buried it in the vampire’s hair, kissing his scalp repeatedly.  “My Spike,” he whispered against the cool skin.  “I don’t understand how you managed to find me but you did and it must have been for a reason.  The only reason I can think of is trust.  You’re right to trust me.”

Xander frowned as he felt what seemed to be the beginning of a tremble.  But it didn’t feel quite…  The   human’s mind seized in mid-thought as a soft but distinct rumbling emerged from the vampire.  Spike was…purring.  There was no other word for it, he was purring.  Xander had the vaguest memory of the phenomenon being mentioned in one of Giles’ books but he’d never actually believed it.  The low drone continued and Xander grinned to himself, biting his bottom lip to stop a laugh of absolute delight from emerging and startling the vampire.  Purring.  He was making Spike purr.

“Plummet, soar.  Life with Spike, oh yeah.”  Xander closed his eyes and listened to the purr, soaking it up, loving it.  Still, it couldn’t take the place of a word.  “I wish you’d speak.  Talk to me.”  ‘What do you want to talk about?  Let me guess: you want to plumb my hidden shallows.’  “Just one word so that I know it’s possible, that you still can.  They hurt you for answering back, didn’t they?  Sharp tongue, they’d have to shut it up.”  He buried another kiss in the vampire’s hair.  “You used to sing.  Just to yourself, like when you were waiting for your blood to heat, but you sounded good.  I wanted to ask you to sing something for me, but I knew what you’d say.”  Xander actively cuddled the purring vampire, thankfully confident that the attention was welcome.  “God, Spike, I’ve missed you so much.  I still miss you.”

So the days continued, with soaring highs and plummeting lows; for every happiness a counterbalanced misery.  The rediscovery of hot chocolate with marshmallows.  The excruciating noise from the building work in the next block.   More books full of pictures, more music.  The pain of back and chest and feet as slowly healing wounds were painstakingly treated or accidentally knocked.  The sheepskin rug that allowed Spike to spread out comfortably on the floor with his books.  And the greatest misery: the time they were forced to spend apart.  It was…interminable.

“Hey, honey, I’m home.”

Spike was hiding in the bedroom again, tucked into the corner, trying to hide from the monster that was the racket of drills from the renovation work taking place far too close for a vampire’s ultra-sensitive hearing.  Xander felt the full weight of his guilt, having worked the entire weekend due to an emergency on one of the sites that were currently running down.  Every evening it took longer to coax Spike back into the living room, and the next few hours became purely about plying Spike with mug after mug of blood because he’d been too scared to come out of the bedroom to eat at all during the day and that certainly wasn’t helping his condition.

“I’ll do something about this,” Xander promised.  “I’ll talk to my boss, I’ll get time to be here with you, or we’ll go to Willow .  If we go to Willow it’ll be quiet.  You need the peace to recover.”

But that meant talking to Willow and he’d been avoiding doing that until he’d forgiven her for bringing Angel into this.  Forgiveness came the very next afternoon as he caught a report on the car radio of an incident three hundred miles away: an experimental underground laboratory destroyed by an explosion; no reports of survivors, no explanation about the what or why of this questionable facility, stony silence from the military.  Sixth sense tingling, Xander smiled a not-so-nice smile.  Grandpa had struck.

Xander couldn’t get Spike to answer the phone.  He knew what it meant: his vampire was terrified, hungry, uncomfortable, slowly being driven insane by the noise he couldn’t escape from.  Alone.  Xander replaced the receiver.  No more.  No more.  Seconds later he was dodging personal assistants and secretaries and knocking on a solid wooden door a few down the passage from his own.

“Come on in.  Hey, Alex.”  The welcoming smile fell from Patrick’s face as he took a good look at Xander.  “What the hell happened to you?”

“I look that bad?”

“Sit down, sit down.  What’s been going on?  You look terrible.”

Xander sat, not by the desk but in the meet-and-greet area used for clients, sinking into the heavily upholstered sofa.  Patrick joined him within a minute, pouring coffee and physically wrapping Xander’s hand around the mug.  The action appealed to Xander; how many times had he done that to Spike in the past two weeks?

“Talk to me.  Is this about work?  I know the schedule’s been pretty heavy.”

“It’s not about work.  Work is sanity.”

“Then what?”

Xander regarded his boss – his friend – and wondered about how honest to be.  He knew Patrick was a good, compassionate man – trusted implicitly, filling the gap Giles’ departure years before had left in his life – but this was such a bizarre situation.  He sipped his coffee, thinking through the words, before putting the mug down very deliberately and steeling himself.

“A friend of mine was…hurt recently.  Hurt badly.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah.   There’s no-one else to look after him and it’s been…”  There were no words that Xander knew to sum it up.  “Look, Pat, I know it’s bad timing but I have to get away.”

“Damn, I knew that was coming.  These clients are going to be looking to you, Alex, you won them over when they were still thinking we were the poor relations.”

“I wouldn’t be doing this if there were any other way.”

“No-one else can take your friend on?  Until this project is up and running?”

“I don’t want to go, I want to be here, I want – I want what I know.  But I have no choice.”

“Alex…”

Xander dropped his face into his hands, holding in a scream of frustration.  Patrick considerately shut up.

“I have no choice,” Xander reiterated, his voice muffled.  Taking a deep breath, he lowered his hands.  “I’ve worked out who can take over what.  I’m not going to leave you in a difficult position.”

“How long are we looking at here?”

Xander shrugged.

“I’m sorry to let you down, I don’t want to.  But I have to be where I’m needed most.  I’m sorry.”

“Good friend, obviously.”

“The best.  He was…he was abducted and tortured.”  Xander couldn’t believe the words were coming out of his mouth: it felt so good and so bad to say them.  “He’s had a breakdown.  Complete mental breakdown.  He’s like…like a ghost of the person he was.  He can’t even speak,” Xander’s voice wavered and he swallowed all the other things he wanted to let out.

Friend having usurped boss, Patrick moved closer and Xander felt a gentle touch upon his back, a light stroking.

“What’s this going to do to you?” Patrick asked quietly.  Xander gave another shrug.

“He’ll get better, he has to.  I’ll get over it.”  Xander picked up his coffee and sipped.  “Want me to resign so you can…”

“No, that’s out of the question.  How can you even think that?”

“Irreplaceable, huh?” Xander grinned weakly.

“Family.”

“Oh, God, don’t be too nice or I’ll bawl.”

“Okay.   You want me to remind you of the money you’ve brought in over the last couple of years?”

“Because I was single-minded and work was all.  It’s not going to be like that now, it can’t be.”

“You don’t have to be here fourteen hours a day for clients to trust you.”  Patrick heaved a sigh, stood and walked away, walked back.  “Take the time.  But come back, Alex.  You want more money, better car, new apartment and it’s a given”

“It’s never been about the money.”

“Yes.   Yes, I know.”

“And I’m not being head-hunted.  When I come back, I come here.  I’m looking forward to getting back to normal.  You wouldn’t believe just how much.”

Patrick nodded grimly and Xander stood.  A whole new brand of guilt knotted his stomach and for the first time he felt awkward with his boss.  His friend.  He never knew how to think of him at work.  But Patrick had given him everything, made him what he was, and Xander was letting him down.  Trying to drag his eyes from the floor he apologetically offered his hand.  Patrick took it and pulled Xander into a hug, feeling the younger man gratefully slump against him.

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do.  If you just need to talk you know where I am.  Call me, anytime.”

“Thanks,” Xander mumbled into Patrick’s shoulder, wondering if he should make an effort to pull himself together, but unwilling to part with the comfort and support.  “Am I getting too old for this?”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

“You’re a kid.  You’ll be too old for this when you’re as old as me.”

“How old are you?”

“Older than you.”

“You’ll always be older than me.”

“Then you’ll never be too old for this.”

It was a conversation they had several times a year.  Xander reluctantly tried to act his age, Patrick did what Patrick always did: held and stroked and waited for his affection-starved friend to soak up just enough consolation to keep him going for another three or four months.  Eventually Xander forced his head up and took a step back.

“I know how old you are,” Xander sighed.  “I only have another thirteen years.”

“Maybe I lie about my age.”  They smiled at one another.  “Don’t worry about us, Alex.  Go and take care of your friend.”  Xander nodded.  “I hope everything works out for…?”

“Spike.”

“Spike,” Patrick smiled.  “Great name.”

Xander couldn’t help reciprocating the smile.

“Great guy.  Maybe, if he gets over this, you can meet him.  You’ll be surprised.  He’s…umm…he’s a bit of a character.”

William was weak.  It was a combination of the noise grating on his acute senses, vibrating through his entire body, the lack of food during the day when he was unable to leave the place he felt safest, and his sheer need for the presence of his master.  He was never going to stop hurting, he was a burden, and it was only a matter of time before Master tired of him and then there would be someone new.  Before this Master each ‘new’ had been crueller, colder, more demanding and less patient.  It was in William to fight for survival, but without this Master he knew there would be no point.  His mind was too befuddled to comprehend a final death, but sometimes the idea of nothing more was the only calm place he could find.

A while later William stirred, head lifting.  Master’s step.  In this building, this soon.  The joy that accompanied this realisation was rapidly superseded by panic: change of routine meant transfer to a ‘new’.  Fear pulsed through him and he felt faint with anticipation.  Dread.  He pushed himself up the wall and struggled to stand on trembling legs, tried to be brave for Master despite the cold tears streaming over his cheeks, the pain in his chest and his gut that suggested something inside him was breaking apart.  Footsteps.  Master’s.  Close.  William longed for calm and wished he had the means to ensure the nothing more.

Xander called for the vampire the moment he was in his front door, repeating the call several times as he dropped his briefcase and the bags he carried on the living room floor, excited and eager to share the decisions he’d made and the things he’d bought Spike for the trip to Willow’s.

“Hey, come on, Spike.  Gimme a break.”

To the kitchen next, two bags of blood in the microwave and the kettle on for coffee.  Xander felt up, up, up, ready to deal and, thank whatever gods watched over him and his godless friend, he now had the time to make a concerted effort.

“Spike!” he called again, letting the impatience into his voice.  Think you can train a vampire?  Morons!  “Hey, honey, I’m home, where the hell are—”  Xander turned to see Spike standing in the living room, looking as wretched as he’d ever seen him.  “What’s wrong?” he asked, or at least he tried to but very little came out of his mouth.

Xander moved swiftly to the vampire, taking him into his arms and hugging him as tightly as the damage to Spike’s body would allow.  The shudders as Spike began to sob were heartbreaking, more so because they were silent: deep and silent and tearing the both of them apart.  Spike’s arms were clenched to his chest as they always had been in the days before he really believed he was allowed to touch, and Xander acknowledged the regression as he coaxed the thin limbs around him, wanting Spike to hold on, to know he had someone to hold on to.

“Whatever’s wrong we can deal with it, we can get through it,” he whispered.  “If it’s this damn noise that’s getting too much for you it’s okay, because we’re leaving here tonight to go to Willow’s.  It’ll be safe and quiet, and I’ll be with you, I won’t be leaving you for hours to go to work.  We’ll be together.  All the time.  We’ll be together and I’ll take care of you.”

William heard and understood, and the relief of knowing he was not losing this master was overwhelming.  He finally held Xander back, fingers knotting in the human’s shirt; his head sank onto Xander’s shoulder and the tension in his stressed body began to dispel.  Xander felt the change, turned his face to press a kiss into the wavy hair.

“Y’know we can get through anything together.  You’re my Spike, and I’m going to take care of you.  My Spike.  My precious Spike.”  Xander stroked the vampire’s scalp with his fingertips, calming and reassuring, all the time his mind raced as he tried to understand what had made Spike so frightened.  He had to figure it out if it wasn’t going to happen again; the mental image of Spike taking a flying leap out of the car in daylight had never left him and an upset Spike was an unpredictable Spike.

“I know it’s difficult, but can you tell me what scared you?  Spike?  Can you show me?”  Spike’s head came up and he gazed into Xander’s eyes for a full minute before performing what Xander thought of as his cartoon blink.  “Is it the noise?”  No response.  “Because you’re alone so much?”  No response.  “Help me understand.”

Spike thought about it.  He thought hard.  After a few minutes he slipped his hands between them and pushed Xander away.

“You, er…  You want some space?  You want me to back off?  You want me to leave you alone?”

Spike shook his head hard.  Re-thought.  Turned Xander and pushed him away.  Xander walked a few slow contemplative steps before turning back.

“You want me to…  No, you just said.  So, you don’t want me to leave you alone, but…”  Nod, vigorous nod.  Xander paused as he went over this in his mind.  “You do…  No, wait.  You don’t want me to…  You think I’m going to leave you?  You’re scared about us being apart?”  Nod.  The blue eyes swam with tears once again and for a few seconds Xander couldn’t get past how beautiful in his innocence the vampire was.  “I’m not leaving you.  If I go to work or to the store I’ll always come back to you.  I will never leave you.  We’re together and nothing will change that.  You have to trust me.”

One tear escaped and skimmed over Spike’s cheek before he moved to Xander, edging his arms around the human in a cautious embrace.  Xander responded more definitely, crushing the frail body to him.  “We’re okay.  We’re good.  And I’m going to try to make things better.  Understand?”  Spike nodded against him.  “I’m taking you away from the noise, but first I’ve got to get some things together, you’ve got to eat plenty, and I need a couple of hours sleep because the drive’s an all-nighter.  I bought you some stuff.  Want to see what I bought you?  Huh?  Sure you do.”

Xander made himself release the vampire, leading him over to the bags and rifling through them.

“What have we got…  Couple more books: 20th Century art, 20th Century photography.  I got you a sketch pad and artist pencils, I was thinking about you…expressing yourself, I guess.  Few more CDs – no punk this time – this is music from earlier in your life.  The shop guy said the Elgar would totally rattle your cage if you were English.  Clothes: few shirts, couple more t’s, jeans, belt to keep the jeans up until you put some weight on…  Boots.  Not DMs, granted, but soft as I could find.  Feel.  Suede.  Nice?”  Spike felt and nodded but looked forlornly at his monster feet.  “You get to take the slippers.  And look, I found a sweater just about as hairy.”  Xander presented Spike with the burgundy angora and enjoyed the big-eyed expression before going to the kitchen for blood.

“Here.”   Spike took his mug and drank hungrily.  “I had the car windows changed.  They’re dark enough to keep out the sunlight and there’s an integral UV filter so you should be safe.  I got a tarp for the back seat in case.  More?”  Xander took and refilled the mug.  “You up to this trip, Spike?”  Spike rocked his hand.  “You want us to wait?”  Thought.  Fear.  Pause.  Shake.

 

“Willow , it’s Xander.”

“Xander, I’m so glad, I…  Are you still mad at me?”

“No.   I know you thought you were doing the right thing.”

“And I know it went wrong.”  Willow faltered.   “How’s Spike?”

“The same.  I don’t know what’s worse, the pain he’s in or the state of bewilderment.”

“I really thought if he listened to Angel…”

“How short is your memory?” Xander snapped.  “Why would Spike trust him enough to listen?  After what happened, after what Angel – Angel and Buffy – did to him.”

“Spike made his peace with them, Xander.   You just weren’t around to see it.”

“They gave him up, Willow, to that fucking – fucking – whatever-it-was demon.”

“They had no choice if they were going to defeat it.  Spike couldn’t afford to know what was going to happen.  But it was a long time ago, and I promise you, Spike…”

“If it was that long ago why can I still see every detail when I close my eyes?”

“Xander…”

“But of course I wasn’t in the loop either.  I just got the shock of seeing someone I cared about torn to shreds without knowing there was no choice.  And I was the one who took him home to put him back together while you all went off to celebrate.”

“It wasn’t like that!”

Xander caught Spike’s concerned glance and turned his back on it, reining his temper in.

“I’m sorry, Wills.  I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t be taking it out on you, it wasn’t your fault.”

“I didn’t know you still felt so bad about it.”

“Yeah, well…”  Xander started in surprise as Spike’s arms slid around his waist; the vampire’s body pressed against his back, his head resting against Xander’s.  Warm fingers ran over one bony wrist and Xander felt the beginnings of a purr vibrating against his shoulder blades.  “I’m taking your advice, Wills, bringing him back to Sunnydale.”

“You’re coming to me,” Willow squealed with delight before a sudden halt in the joyfulness.  “You are coming to me?  To stay with me?”

“Where else?”

Joy resumed.

“I’ve been hoping you’d come, I can’t wait to see you.  Both.  See you both.”  A second halt, then: “Xander…does he remember me?”

Xander smiled sadly, and Willow could hear it in his voice.

“I’m sorry, no.  He doesn’t…he doesn’t even remember me.”

 

 





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