Part 11



**Contains graphic depictions of torture. If you don't like that kind of thing, don't read it**


“So this demon was, what?” Buffy asked the assembled Scoobies.  “Munching on little dogs and cats?  Cause. . . that’s just wrong.”  She tossed her hair, before crossing her arms and pouting like a little girl.  “Giles, we have to stop this.  It’s hurting puppies!”

“And kitties,” Willow added with the same kind of abhorrence, although she kept glancing to her left at the shy blonde girl beside her.  That one wasn’t going ‘ewww’ the way the first two girls were; if anything, she looked calmly expectant—under the ever-present hesitancy, anyway.

Spike wondered when the rest of them were going to twig the fact that this girl was dealing far too well with Slayers, and vampires, and other things that went bump in the night.  He didn’t care, precisely, but secrets were useful and he was trying to ferret out hers.

Secrets. . .

***Spike held his boy tightly, wishing that he could be what this dark-haired beauty needed him to be.  Knowing he wasn’t, whatever it was.  Because that smell, that horrible, horrible smell of fear and desperation and pain and worry was still there, after shagging, after working him hard in their new gym, and then shagging some more.  That smell was still there.  And when did I stop wanting that smell?  When did it stop being delicious?  But he knew.  He knew the moment his boy came down those stairs, smelling like that, and he’d been powerless.  Totally powerless to do what needed to be done.***

Over a month later and he was still powerless.

He glanced over to his left, to the bar stool chairs by the kitchen Xander was half-leaning on.  Leaning, not sitting, under two layers of long sleeves and thick protective corduroys—despite the unseasonable warmth of early December.

The growl started low in his throat, but it was fighting the rise of his demon that made him aware of the rumble before it was more than just a menacing vibration.  He forced himself to stop both.  Well, mostly.  He caught Buffy giving him an appraising look—fuck, she sensed it—but when she didn’t say anything he guessed that she hadn’t understood it for what it was.

Stupid chit.  Didn’t the Watcher ever teach her these things?  Bloody Slayer, she is.  There was no real derision to the words, even inside his own head.  Mostly, there was relief and a small amount of thankfulness.  He knew her slayer-senses were picking up on various things before he could control them.  She seemed, however, to write them off as ‘normal behavior’ for a vampire.

Which was partially true.

It was normal behavior, for an un-ensouled, un-chipped vampire that was three hairs away from going on a killing spree that would make Columbine look like a genteel outing to the country.

Blood spatter on the walls always makes such pretty pictures, it does.  Guts and organs like modern art, cocking up the Rarschach blots and giving it just a touch of class.  Some teeth for contrast, scattered about like little pearls.  Hair and eyes to frame it all.

Fuck.  Xander was looking at him, confused and a little wary.  He understood the emotions seething below the faint actions, even though he obviously didn’t understand the why of it, or who it was directed at.  Thank god the boy was so adorably clueless sometimes. . .

If he did know, Spike was damned sure what would happen.  Spike wasn’t an idiot.  If Xander had even the smallest inkling that Spike was onto him. . . which is why I work so damned hard to keep him clueless.  Won’t have him runnin’ from me.  Not from me.  I’m the one he should run to.

The strength of his reaction was what bothered him, when he wasn’t lost in the red mass of hatred and rage.  Part of it he readily understood—he was well aware of how frighteningly possessive he could be of his things.  The lengths he would go to for their protection.  So when his initial desire to maim, destroy, and kill ripped through him, he had reveled in it.

But it wasn’t just about protecting what was his.  Not really.  Not anymore.

Mother fucking pieces of shit.  How could. . .   He knew how.  It was a depressingly common story that he’d lived out in his own life, at least twice.  Possibly three times—Dru was fickle like that.  He knew, but knowing didn’t make it any better.

None of the others know.  That was obvious, had been the instant he’d finally twigged it.  For one moment, he’d been blind in his rage, ready to rip and tear and break the ones who called him friend.  Except. . . he didn’t want them to.  Hid it, best he could, an’ he was good at it.  I lived with him for two weeks an’ I didn’t know.  Hell, if he hadn’t come down, smelling the way he did. . .  How could they, who only saw the face he wanted ’em to?  Not like he ever got their full attention, and him so good at shiftin’ it when he did.  No surprise that he got away with it—except from Spike.

It had taken all of his acting ability to gloss over it, to pretend he was still asleep and let the events play out naturally.  A kind of self-control he never knew he possessed had kept his expression unknowing, his words unshaded.  When all he wanted to do—listen to the pretty screams as I tear their tongues out.  Break the knuckles, one by one, let the bones shatter under the skin so nothin’ can be done with ’em, even if they heal up, smell the fear and pain as the sons of bitches piss themselves and beg for mercy that they never gave. . .

He felt a kind of rage towards his erstwhile Sire he’d never felt before.  It was because of him that these people who his boy called friend based so much upon a soul—a soul meant ‘good guy’, someone who could never hurt people. 

It made Spike furious.  Don’t these chits see the real world?  Or are they so lost to the magic that they can’t see the pain an’ suffering normal people have, without ever meetin’ a demon?  Yeah, s’true most humans don’t drain their victims with their teeth, or rip their hearts out with their own clawed hands, but that don’t stop ’em from grabbin’ a knife or a gun and doin’ the deed that way.  Normal, soulful humans.  Human who’ve made even demons take note with the tortures they devise.  Who the hell cares about a soul when their actions are so. . . evil?

But these humans were curiously blind when it came to the normal every day hell that most people lived in.  It served as a coping mechanism, he knew that—it wasn’t like they didn’t know it happened.  It was just that when presented with the evidence, they looked to the supernatural first.  The more mundane explanations never really crossed their minds.

Boy counted on that.  Had to’ve.  Used it so bloody naturally that he’d had practice, an’ lots of it.  The anger came back, white hot and burning along dead nerves.  Through it all, the thought wasn’t ‘they hurt what’s mine’, the way it had been when Angelus and his bloody great arse had flounced its way to Drusilla’s bed.  That had been comprised of possession, humiliation, jealousy and a deep self-loathing at his powerlessness.  This was far, far more simple.

They hurt him.

“Bleachy!  Oh, Fangless. . .”  Spike snarled, pushed out of his thoughts by the dulcet whine of the Slayer.  Glaring at her, he raised one eyebrow.  “Haven’t you been paying attention?  You’re supposed to patrol with me.”

“What, tonight?”  Fuck, no, not tonight!  Dammit, Slayer!  Pick another night—any other night!  “Sorry, can’t do it.  Have to wash my hair.”

“This is not a request, Spike.”  Giles, the great leader of their ragtag band had apparently put his foot down, and that was that.  “This demon may only target the ah, more domesticated members of human households. . .”  I am going to rip your lungs out for that, you toff.  “. . .but what Riley described warrants the additional support.  You are our next strongest fighter, therefore, you will accompany Buffy on tonight’s patrol.”

Fuck.  Fuck fuck fuckity fuck.  I can’t do it tonight, don’t you see that, you soddin’ wanker?  Open your bloody eyes!  Look at the way he moves, the way he talks, the way he’s fucking terrified!

Spike shifted, trying hard to think of an argument that wouldn’t include little boys and the need to protect them from the Big Bad World.  Did I remember to put more money in his account?  Thank god the boy’s too clueless to really pay attention to his bank statements. 

It had been ridiculously easy to create a separate account to funnel money into the boy’s.  Xander hadn’t really noticed yet, despite the few offhand comments about the bank crediting him several hundred dollars.  So long as the balance didn’t look too distorted, he apparently was going to ignore it.  Idiot, Spike thought fondly.

“Why, Spike!  Got a hot date tonight?”

Xander choked, although only Spike noticed.  Cause I’m the only psychotic vampire that listens obsessively to the boy’s breathing an’ heartbeat.  Wanker. What the hell am I gonna—wait, that’s it.  Good.  He tried hard to ignore the relief he felt now that he had a viable plan to work with.  Though why I’m feelin’ relief leaves somethin’ t’ be desired. . .  I am utterly pathetic.  “Yeah, matter o’ fact, I do.  Boy’s comin’ with, too.”

Please just trust me, pet.  You have to play along for this to work.  He met chocolate brown eyes out of the corner of his, reading the confusion—and the willingness to babble his way into whatever Spike wanted.

Along with the ever-present terror.

He forced another growl down.  Don’t worry, boy.  Told you I take care of what’s mine.  He cursed the chip with a string of words he hadn’t used since those first horrible weeks he realized what, exactly, his new situation entailed.  The little piece of plastic and wires in his skull preventing him from doing what all his instincts were screaming for: kill the ones who hurt his boy.  Then he’d grab him and take him so far away that nothing would remind him of home.

Won’t work, though.  Even without the chip, it wouldn’t work.  Like him stubborn, I do, an’ he’d get all guilty and weepy over his dearly departed.  An’ he’d miss his friends.  So, can’t just take him an’ run.  Gotta do this subtle.  Careful.  Patient.  Damn, I suck at this part.

He had a plan, although how long he could stick to it he wasn’t sure.  Waiting was never his strong suit, he remembered gleefully telling Angelus, and this was the worst kind of waiting.  Because it could go horribly wrong at any moment.

An’ that wasn’t foreboding, was it?  Lovely.  I just buggered m’self.

“Spike.  Where exactly are you going with Xander?”  Giles folded his arms, looking like a stern parent glaring at his daughter’s prospective date.  Which actually isn’t too far off, innit?  The Scoobies had reluctantly accepted Spike into their sanctum, grudging of the Felix-and-Oscar routine he and the boy had created.  Oh, they kept it true to their personalities—he was surly and rude to everyone, Xander trailing behind cleaning up the mess when he wasn’t helping to cause it—but after a month no one commented too closely on the oddness of it. 

He’d overheard Willow saying to the blonde chit that she was glad that Xander finally had a guy-friend to do all those guy-things with—insert air-quotes and baffled expression where appropriate—even if it was Spike who was the new friend.  And wasn’t it odd that Spike was acting more like a real person lately?  “Oh, he’s still his snarky bad-ass self,” Willow had said earnestly.  “But he’s not actively trying to kill us, and he could.  So, I guess, it’s kind of like he likes us—right?”  The blonde had nodded, and Spike had been very grateful that he couldn’t actually see her expression at the moment.  He was terrified of what he might read in those fathomless eyes.

Don’t need anyone else seeing how pathetic I am.  Thanks, doin’ that just fine on my own.  An’ when the hell did Xander-babble become contagious!  He’d seen the boy space out for moments at a time, lost in his own whirling thoughts—just like he had done.  For longer than just a few moments, if the startled, confused, and annoyed glares meant anything.

“Look.  Boy’s got what, four jobs?  Five?  Can’t keep ’em longer’n a week, neither.  So, I think since I’m stuck with him, an’ if I want cable or the good stuff with m’blood, gonna have to do my part, right?  Got a friend who’s hiring, said I’d bring droopy boy here over and have a look-see.”  See, selfish, greedy Spike.  Pay off some debts to old friends, get all the fixin’s to make a biteless vamp happy, an’ there’s no confusion as to why I’m doing this.  Okay?

The room split: Buffy continued to glare at him, Riley echoing because he always glared at Spike, while Willow and Giles turned their attention to Xander.  “Is this true?” Giles just managed to get out before Willowbabble filled the room.

“Xander!  I know you’re unhappy with your job, but you can’t possibly be thinking of working for someone Spike knows. . . are you?  That unhappy, I mean?  I know those jobs are bad, and they pay so little, but I didn’t think you were that desperate.  I could, um, I could lend you some money, maybe?” 

She looked so earnest and concerned that Spike would forgive her that one—she was too worried to notice Xander wince and try to shrink in on himself. 

“Or maybe I could check out campus jobs?  They might be better than the ones you’re at.  Or is this because you want to move out?  I know how much you hate that basement, but you keep saying you won’t move and . . .  Oh, Xander, are you sure this is safe?”

There was silence while various people tried to figure out if she was done or not.  “Yes, Wills, I’m sure it’s safe,” Xander said eventually.  Spike didn’t know whether to be happy or upset at the smooth, casual tone of voice.  He trusts me enough to follow my lead. . . but he’s bloody practiced enough that he can, an’ be convincin’.  “And no, I’m not that unhappy, but Spike knows this guy and . . . well, Spike won’t let them hurt me, if it goes wrong.  Right?”

“Right?” Buffy repeated, balancing her weight to add a more menacing posture to her glare.  “If Xander wants this, that’s fine.  But you are not going to let him work somewhere dangerous, and you are not going to let him get hurt.  Get it?”

“The bloke’s human,” he sneered.  “Runs that old antique store on Halket, an’ a lot of the non-human types frequent the place.  He needs someone who ain’t gonna freak when the customer has horns an’ he’s willin’ to pay for it.  An’ it ain’t like I’m makin’ the boy take the job.  Figured I’d just make some introductions, like.”

Xander nodded, the goofy cluelessness that he’d perfected so well ably distracting the ire of the room.  “Really, Buffy, it’s okay.  I’m just meeting him.  And Spike’ll keep me safe.”

Damn straight I will, boy.  You’re mine.

“Well, I suppose it can’t hurt and if it’s what you want, Xander. . .”  Willow didn’t look convinced, but Spike knew she wouldn’t be a problem.  The little redhead was as stubborn as the rest of the lot, but—there it is, the Xander-pout.  Most dangerous weapon to man an’ demon.  Willow relented instantly, even the Slayer wavering at the sight of those crushed eyes.

"So, let me get this straight.”  Riley strode from his corner, where he’d been effectively ignored after delivering his report, glaring at everyone.  “There’s a demon out there that you, Giles, think Buffy shouldn’t handle alone.  So you take Spike.  Okay, fine.  He’s strong.”  The soldier visibly stopped himself from saying anything more on that particular subject.  “Instead, however, of him helping you, all of you accept his excuse and will instead allow him to help Xander find employment?”

Spike and Xander exchanged looks, both visibly bewildered.  “Well, yeah, pretty much, Rye.”  Xander turned back to the humans, grinning meekly.  “I figured we’d help patrol a bit first, though.”

Buffy rolled her eyes.  “Can we just go?  This thing is killing little fuzzy animals.  And I don’t want to know what the two of you are doing.  The thought of you and Spike doing the guy-friendship thing is the stuff of nightmares.  So lets go before I have to see more of it.”

Spike hung back while Xander threw his arm around Buffy’s shoulders as he escorted her out into the night.  Riley, it seemed, was not going to accompany them, instead stomping back to his dorm room or military base or whatever.  Huh.  Have t’ see about tailin’ him, one night.  See if I can find me some. . . blueprints.  Enough people—demon and otherwise—owed him that if he could figure out how, someone else could actually do it.  Maybe.

Worth a try—fuck.  He’s fucking limping!  That was not there last night!

He sped up until he could scent the boy easily in the clear night air.  Nervous, wary, cautious, relaxed—good lad, just like I taught you—afraid, oh bollocks.  After a month of nearly daily visits to the gym, Spike could accurately determine how many injuries the boy had and what kind, just with his nose.  He didn’t tell Xander this, of course, but he could do it.  Came in handy when he was using Song Li’s healing oil, knowing exactly which spots to concentrate on.

Spike catalogued the injuries with a professional detachment, forcing his anger down the further they walked in the cemetery.  Not because Spike felt the need to hide from the two demons not-so-quietly following them, but because Xander would pick up on it.

You aren’t makin’ me angry, precious.  They are. 

He knew how much Xander feared his anger—that was the scent that had woken him from a sound sleep over a month before.  Not the nervousness, not the pain, not even the arousal.  Just the deep, frantic desire to keep him not mad.  Like if Spike wasn’t mad, than Xander wouldn’t get into trouble. . .

This time he did growl, although yanking one of the demons out into the open was an effective cover.  His body moved in its familiar patterns, systematically destroying the demon while his mind was on a different topic altogether.

Spike knew how much it cost Xander to initiate sex on his own that first time.  It was only the fear of greater punishment that had driven him to do something he viewed as something he, Xander, shouldn’t ever do.  It wasn’t until he’d seen Spike, awake and very much enjoying what he was doing before the fear had lessened.  And the fear hadn’t gone away until Spike had taken that broad-shouldered body and cuddled it in tacit approval.

That eased some of it, Spike thought as he threw down the body of one dead demon and ran to help Buffy take on the remaining one.  Not that he wanted to help her—he just wanted something to pound on.  Made it better when he came home two nights later. . .

Shaking like a leaf, Xander had frantically searched the basement for any spare cash that may have been lying around.  Spike had watched, amused, until he’d finally scented the blood trickling down the boy’s arm.  Scented it, and the efforts made to stop it.  That’s when it had finally clicked.

Furious, Spike had spat out some nonsense about Willy not having any blood on hand and dumped the leftover money on the sofa before storming out in a rage.  Then he’d snuck around back, and watched.

It had been over quickly.  That was probably the only consolation Spike could offer himself.  The boy knew enough to minimize the damage—when he could.  What had disturbed Spike even more was that the boy just took it.  There was no anger or bitterness towards those who hurt him—only acceptance, and fear.

It was that strange, calm acceptance that had warned him two weeks later that another ‘check’ was about to be delivered.  He couldn’t force himself to watch, but he’d been waiting when Xander again came down.  Like before, serious effort had been put into hiding the results of the hour-long visit, although Spike wasn’t going to tell the boy that vampires could smell makeup just as easily as blood.  Instead, he’d been incredibly gentle with the boy, foregoing their normal trip to the gym and convincing him that they could just watch movies that night.  The boy had fallen asleep with Spike’s hand buried in his hair.

He was not limping when we came back last night.  Know he wasn’t, and I bloody well checked him over this mornin’ in the shower.  He was fine.  Which meant at some point during the day, Xander had come home.

Fuck.  I never shoulda left today, not when I damned well knew what was comin’.  Except if he hadn’t left. . . re-establishing himself as a dominant demon in Sunnydale had been ridiculously easy.  The rest of it, however, was proving more troublesome.  Dammit, boy, we need to have a bit of a talk, you’n me.  About how you don’t stay in abusive relationships.  An’ how I know that, since I’ve been in an’ out o’one my whole soddin’ existence.

In fact, this was the only relationship Spike had ever been in that wasn’t abusive.  Not even because of the chip—abuse didn’t have to be physical, and from the way Xander had initially reacted, he’d excepted Spike to hurt him, one way or another.

Except as much as Spike admittedly loved pain and violence, that wasn’t all he was.  Dru an’ me, we had it nice.  She liked the hurt, but she liked the sweet, too.  She liked. . . being us, together.  If Spike wanted to wreck havoc, he had plenty of options waiting for him.  But when he came home after the damage was done, he liked to know that home was for him—not the pain that kept the occupants here, or the fear that made them obedient.  And most importantly, he didn’t like smelling fear in his bed.  Or numb defeat.

That’s what was there last night, sodding hell I never should’ve gone out today!    

He knew the demon he was pounding on was barely alive, but he didn’t stop.  He couldn’t stop, suddenly consumed with the memory of Xander’s reaction to what ‘domestic discipline’ the boy might like.  Their nights at the gym had shown that so long as Spike wasn’t intending on causing pain, he was able to do a bit more.  Not much, and the chip sent out reminders, but he could function.  It made their sparring sessions easier, and Spike had felt comfortable enough to start mentioning the kinks he and Drusilla had grown to love.  Like bondage.  Or spanking.

The first one Xander had expressed definite interest in, although his face and mouth had shown neither.  The second. . . the second had evoked pure terror.  Which meant that sometime in the boy’s life, he’d had an experience with it that had mentally scarred him and. . .

Argh!  He’s still a bloody baby and already he’s got an eighty year old’s list of neurosis’s!  But don’t you worry, puppy.  Spike’s gonna get you over the pain.  Gonna make you feel so nice, pet.  My hand on you, making white-pink turn deep red, feel you jiggle with every hit, feelin’ me inside you every time my palm comes down—fuck, I’m horny.

“Hey, Fangless!”  He turned up with a snarl worthy of a vampire in his prime, glaring at Buffy in the way he knew made her slayer-senses go haywire.

“I am not a pet,” he said clearly, directly in her face.  Xander hovered around the edge, kicking the dropped demon corpse out of the way, worried but silent.  “I am not your friend.  I am not one of your damned Scoobies, I do not support you in your bloody ‘good fight’, I do this to get my rocks off.  You will not give me pet names like I was your bloody pet dog.  You had that with Angelus.  Don’t try it with me.”

“I—I was just wondering if you were going to stop any time soon.  It’s dead.”  But her wide eyes told Spike that she’d heard his words and understood the implicit threat.  Good.  Stupid brat.

“I do what I want, Slayer.  Remember that.”

She started nodding before she realized it, and forced her movements to still.  Licking her lips, she swallowed—and allowed that unbeatable confidence to take over, the way he’d known it would.  Didn’t mean the lesson would be forgotten.  “Xan, are you sure you want to do this?  What I said at Giles’ aside,” she gave Spike a quick glance, “it might not be safe.”

“I trust Spike,” were the shocking words that the boy answered with.  Totally confident.  “He won’t let anything hurt me.  Might let them hurt you,” he added with a nasty looking glare, “but he’d protect me.”

"Right, Xander, because you and he are such good pals.  Like Riley said—Spike is a demon, and what he wants is not what we want.  He doesn’t have to lay a finger on you to hurt you.”  Spike heard the confusion through the normal Buffy-knows-best condescension.  She was shaken by the boy’s last comment.  You an’ me havin’ a long talk, m’boy.  Not that you aren’t right, pet, but I don’t think throwin’ that in the Slayer’s face is smart.

“Buffy, all he’d have to do was invite a demon or a vamp into my home, while I’m out.  He hasn’t.  I trust him.  He won’t hurt me.  Look, Buff, it’s my life, and I’ll live it the way I want to.  So if you don’t mind, Spike and I have an appointment I’d rather not miss.”

Spike smirked to himself as he and the boy both turned their backs to the stunned Slayer and began walking towards the docks.  He could hear her Buffitude calling out to them, but neither reacted to her words.  Eventually, muttering to herself, Buffy finally walked away.

Perfect.  He silently steered the boy toward a nicely private copse of trees, hand burrowing in his duster pocket towards the buttons of his jeans.  Fuck was he horny.  Listening to his boy tell off the Slayer like that, using that sweet, pretty mouth to make his friends hurt and squirm better than Spike ever could. . .

“Um, Spike?” the boy asked hesitantly when they finally entered the small area.  “Where exactly are we—ohhhhh!”

“Gonna talk more?” he asked, continuing to rub the boy’s growing hard-on.  Thick hair flapped from the strength of the boy’s frantically shaking head.  “Good boy,” he purred, as Xander willingly sank to his knees.

Quickly freeing Spike’s erection, the boy sucked it deep within his mouth.  “Ah ah,” Spike cautioned—once he could inhale enough air for speech, anyway.  Make me breathless, you do, pet.  “Slowly.  Wanna be in that pretty pussy of yours.  Wanna stretch you full of me, pound into you, luv.  My pretty little bitch, squealin’ as I ride you so hard. . .”

The suction on his cock grew hotter and wetter, the boy making that humming-purr as he sucked and licked.  Never figured him for the dirty talk, but damn does he get off on it.  Which Spike was not complaining about. 

Warm hands cupped his balls, palming them and then tugging lightly.  “Harder,” he hissed, his own hands buried in the boy’s hair.  More tugs, much harder this time.  “Yes, right there, boy, so good.  Good puppy.  Very good.”  A few more minutes and Spike was pushing him off, yanking down jeans and getting Xander on all fours.

Fumbling for the little tube of lube they always kept with them now, he coated two fingers and pushing inside his lovely boy while the other hand slicked himself.  He was always careful to stretch and prepare Xander every time they did this—even when he wasn’t sure either of them could wait.

"Please, Spike, please, please, please, please,” Xander panted, pushing eagerly back.

“Tell me,” he ordered.

“Want you in me, please, Spike, need it.  Want to be yours, Spike, only yours.  Only yours.”

“Mine,” he snarled, the violence in his voice totally contradicting the gentleness as he slowly pushed his way inside.  There were times for the rough play Spike still enjoyed, but—but the boy doesn’t need that, now.  Only needs me an’ what I give him.

Fully sheathed in the boy, Spike pressed his chest to that broad back for a few moments, just panting.  “You feel so good,” he whispered.  “So hot, and so tight, pet.  So right.  You’re mine, puppy.  My little fuck toy.”  My good boy.

“Spike!”  The boy was too hoarse to say anything but his owner’s name.  Pleased, Spike began to move, rolling his hips in a dreamy rhythm, barely leaving that tight heat before pressing back in.  He sucked on the boy’s neck, holding onto both hips as he fucked his boy.

“Like this, huh?” he asked, smirking.  It drove Xander wild to have to split his attention between the words in his ear and the cock in his arse.  “Like feelin’ me, so deep inside you?  Your pretty arse so open for me, always ready whenever I want.  Isn’t it?”

“Yes. . . more, please. . .”

“Love your hole, I do.”  One hand slid down to caress the rounded flesh there, dipping to run along the edges that sucked so hungrily at his cock, down to the perineum, tickling it.  “So sweet, like candy.  My candy bitch.  Sweet and juicy and always so ready for me.”  He sucked at the boy’s neck again, bring his hand up and around and then back down the straining flesh he found.  “Good boy, you are.  Such a good boy.”

He stroked in a counter to his thrusts, enjoying the boy’s deep groan.  It rumbled through his body down to his groin, mixing with the inferno of heat there.  God, so close.  Too soon, but . . . oh, god, so good. . .

“Gonna come with me, boy?  Gonna please me?”  Those were the last words he got out before he clamped blunt teeth at the juncture of neck and shoulder.  His body shook and jerked wildly as he emptied himself deep into the howling boy.

Gasping for air he didn’t need, he had a split second to notice Xander’s elbows give out.  Twisting them, he cushioned the boy’s collapse to the ground against his own body.  “Easy now, puppy.  Can’t have you sleepin’ yet.”  He cuddled the boy close, unconcerned how that clashed with his Big Bad image.  I like it, sod what any other wanker thinks, had always been his motto, about anything.  Including cuddling.

“Got a job interview, right?” was the sleepy reply.

He chuckled.  The worry and fear was seeping back in, now that his need for sex had been taken care of.  “Yeah.  Gonna actually have to look up old Albert.  Wasn’t lyin’ about him, an’ it would make a good job for you.  I’ll ring him tomorrow, how’s that, pet?”

“Yeah.  Sleep now?”  Could he have honestly forgotten?  Spike pressed his nose against the boy’s head, fighting past the scent of sex and some kind of fruity shampoo.  No.  He’s hidin’ it.  Soddin’ hell.  He’s hopin’ I’ve forgotten about it.  Gonna wait till I’m off doin’ whatever an’. . . not a chance, boy.  Not a chance.

“Sure, pet.  C’mon, let’s go home.”  He got the sleepy, sated human to his feet, trying hard not to curse at how good an actor the boy was.  If he didn’t trust his nose so much, he’d swear the boy was totally relaxed.  Fine.  We’ll play your game for a bit, puppy.  But I’ll be watchin’ you, pet.  An’ if they do what I think they’re gonna do. . . then it’s over.

Someday, some fuckin’ day, I’m gonna catch a break.

Spike swore under his breath—an’ the boy needs to stop askin’ fuckin’ questions about me breathin’.  I do, deal, move the bloody hell on.  Glancing through the leafy canopy, he searched for the telltale sound of Initiative soldiers clumping around.

They’d been almost home.  Another hundred yards, hell, they could see the lights on in the house.  He’d been turning to try and soothe the blast of fear coming from his boy, when the fear had turned into a different kind all together.  “Spike, run!” Xander had hissed, pushing him with newly acquired strength into the hedges.

Spike had had a few precious seconds to feel a complicated of mixture of pride and offended rage—before he’d realized just why Xander had pushed him.  Just fuckin’ perfect, he’d thought before slipping away just as four heavily camouflaged men appeared on the street.

Two hours they’d been after him.  He didn’t think that they knew he was Hostile 17, they weren’t being too fanatical about hunting him, but apparently it was a slow night and they wanted to meet their quota.  Fucking wankers!  I need to be home!

How pathetic was it that William the Bloody thought of the Harris basement as ‘home’?  But it was, at the moment.  More importantly, it would have Xander in it, and he needed to be with Xander more than anything right now.

He had no idea what was prompting the feeling, but he knew that for some reason tonight was going to be bad.  He needed to be there, not playing sodding cat and mouse with retarded government boys!

An’ just what the hell are you gonna do? a tiny voice came from the back of his mind.  He tried damned hard to ignore that voice, usually, but his fear and worry made it stronger.  Can’t fight humans, remember?  An’ the boy won’t fight his parents, you know that.  Spike did know that.  The boy wouldn’t fight, but he wouldn’t leave, either, and Spike had yet to find a situation when he could force it.  So what exactly can you do, besides what you’ve done?  Gettin’ there faster won’t make it stop, and might get you caught by these soldier gits.  That will surely do somethin’, you bloody twit.  Save your hide, then the boy’s.

Spike growled to himself, cutting off abruptly when the bushes rustled a little closer than he’d thought they would.  The soldiers were idiots, one and all.  They had all the hi-tech gizmos a nerd could want, but since they didn’t believe they didn’t really know how to use them.  So they were scanning their body-heat scanners through a forest, looking no higher than their own cotton-full heads.

Yeah, cause vamps, like white men, can’t jump.  Durin’ the day we stay low cause there’s the bloody sun above us.  Hello, night, no sun!  Oh, bloody hell. I’m talkin’ like him.  I need to hang out with Rupert a bit more, if only to get rid of this damned teenage Slayerette-speak.

He pressed closer to the tree, concentrating on showing up as merely a weird branch should one of the soldiers grow a brain and scan the tree-tops.  They were being quite methodical, and they would have found him if they weren’t so incredibly dense.  How the hell the Slayer can date one of—no, wait, can see that just fine.  After my rocks-for-brains Sire, soldier-boy’d be just about her speed, then, wouldn’t he?

He didn’t laugh, knowing that the sound might give him away.  Total inability to understand the supernatural aside, these were competent soldiers and being cocky would give his position away.  God, he needed a cigarette.  He’d been smoking less and less.  Couldn’t let the horrible carcinogens near his boy, now could he?  Gotta get that room set up.  Later.  Fuck this.  I need to get soddin’ home!

But there was nothing he could do, except sit and fume and wait and mentally urge the soldiers to give up and go away.  They didn’t.  He was forced to change hiding places three more times before they finally caught a blip that wasn’t him.  Then he had to be very, very careful on his way back to the house, so they didn’t notice him again and start the bloody-damned thing all over again.

Sod the Slayer for bein’ so bloody diligent at her job.  Couldn’t she leave one or two beasties about for the government to play with?

He was a wreck, working himself up into a frenzy because he couldn’t be where he needed to be.  Normally, he’d be waiting in the basement, pacing to the sound of the telly until the boy finally came back downstairs.  Then he’d usually suggest a massage or a movie, just so he could run his hands all over that golden skin and make sure that none of the injuries were too severe.

Most times, there weren’t.  Bruises, yeah, but no serious amounts of bleeding—hell, most of the injuries wouldn’t even scar.  There were scars on his body, but the boy explained most of them away as Slayer-related-damages.  Anya may have believed that, but strips across the back sure as hell didn’t come from vampires.

Thin, though, an’ I wouldn’t have seen ’em if I didn’t like touchin’ him so much.  Even feelin’ ’em’s hard sometimes.  Which meant one of two things.  Either it happened a lot time ago, or they weren’t too bad to begin with.  Spike wished like hell it was the latter.

He put all of his energy into stealthily keeping to the shadows, pausing every few minutes to listen and scent the air for sign of solider-boys.  That got him fifty yards from the house, coming in the back way so he’d be able to see the boy’s parent’s precious barroom.  It was where the two of them practically lived and that’s where tonight’s little event would be taking place.  He paused against the trees that ringed the backyard, feeling jumpy and not understanding why.  This isn’t normal must-not-get-caught bollocks this is. . .


He howled, shifting to demon-face so quickly it hurt, his body throwing itself to where the scent of his boy’s blood was coming, thick and sweet.

And he hit the door, barrier firmly in place.

No.  Nooooo!  Let me in, dammit, let me in!  It’s the same fucking house!  Somebody invite me the fuck in!  He’s mine, you don’t get to hurt him!  Let—oh, fuck, Xander. . .

The door was open.  They hadn’t even heard him, it seemed like, and he had enough presence of mind to hide himself in the shadows.  So he could watch.  Just like he’d watched, unable to do anything, while Angelus had tortured Drusilla until she screamed for the pleasure-pain of it.

“His kidneys,” a cool, collected voice was saying.  Followed by a thump and a wheeze.  “Face again, he’s still too pretty.  Not enough black.”  This time there was a crack with the thump, and Spike knew that at least the nose was broken.  “Now cut his legs.  More blood.”

The father, drunk, shirtless, his pants undone and hanging loose around his beer gut, lumbered over to the wall and picked up a six inch long knife.  He held it up for approval before going back to Xander, who was lying naked and spread-eagle on the pool table, and traced a thin line from hip to knee.

Then he turned back to the sofa and waited for approval.  Spike felt the overwhelming urge to be sick—until he saw it.

It wasn’t him, Spike thought numbly.  That’s why it was never that bad, before.  It wasn’t him.

It was her.

She was dressed in an elegant red floor-length dress, legs crossed primly and correctly as she reclined against the sofa, drink in hand.  Her hair as obviously henna-dyed red, pancake makeup done too thick and too bright, with enough mascara and eyeliner to give her two black eyes in her overly pale face.  She was trying for classy, elegant and sophisticated.  The result was cheap, unattractive, and utterly pathetic.

“Tony, he’s not hard anymore.  He has to be hard, otherwise, I don’t get to play.”  She pouted at her husband, batting heavily encrusted eyelids coquettishly.

Spike threw up for the first time in over a hundred years.

“Of course, Jessica,” her husband mumbled, going back over to Xander.  Constantly glancing back to the couch for approval, Tony hauled his unconscious son up by a choking grip on his neck and backhanded him.  The pattern of bruises on his cheeks indicated this was not the first time this had happened.

“Wake up, y’little fag!” Tony spat.  Spike could smell the alcohol from the doorway.  “Come on.  Wakey wakey.  Mommy wants t’play!”

Oh, god.  Oh, Xander, luv—  His back was a mass of red and black strips.  Traces of a whip, but other things too, like a belt or a pool cue, or hell, even the crowbar he saw propped against the wall.  Where there wasn’t blood, there was black, and overlaying it all was puss from skin ruptured beyond a simple break.  It went down, over his buttocks, along his thighs to mid calf.  His left leg was broken, the skin distended from the pressure of the bone against it.  His right arm was dislocated, hanging uselessly.

There were no knife marks on the back, but as Tony moved around Spike caught a glimpse of—

Drusilla loved knives.  She loved the feel of them, pressing into her skin, the white hot pain flaring along the path it traced.  She used to take the knife and try and draw pretty pictures with her skin as the canvas and her blood as the ink.  It had taken years to convince her that no, Angelus didn’t like that little habit of hers, and she could stop now.  Really, Spike wouldn’t mind one bit.  If she wanted to draw, he was more than happy to find real parchment and ink for her.  She could even use blood, he didn’t give a damn so long as it wasn’t her own.

Tomes had been written in that beautiful, golden skin.  Some of the cuts were long and loopy like classical script. Some where short and stubby.  Circles, triangles, unnameable designs and doodles, he had become their notepad for them to create upon with absent interest.  And those were the ones deep enough that Spike could see them.  There was so much blood that it became impossible to figure out where all the individuals cuts had been made.

Oh, god.  He didn’t have a lot of time, if he wanted Xander to make it out of there alive.  Humans had a lot of blood in them, more than most knew, but what skin he could see was pasty, with a blue-pallor underlining it that Spike recognized from his unchipped glory days.

Tony shook Xander, making the boy’s head loll so that Spike could see his face.  It was unmarred compared to the rest of him—black eyes, split lip, broken nose, and a shallow cut above an eyebrow.  But Spike could see the dark, wet slits that were supposed to be his eyes.

Even—even if he wakes up, he won’t be there.  Body’ll move, sounds’ll come out, eyes’ll blink but. . . but nobody’s home.

Spike felt tears prick his eyes, suddenly understanding what he damned well should have before.  All his time with Dru, and he’d never even guessed that it was more than a typical drunken father, beating up on anything convenient.  This was torture.

They must—must’ve started when he was little.  S’why whenever he’s scared or upset, he—fuck, he regresses to the last time.  The first time.  When it wasn’t safe for him no more.  What had happened?  How old was he, when his world got turned upside down?  Gotta—gotta get him out of there.  Please, oh, fuck, I’ll beg, I’ll owe, don’t care so long as he’s. . .

“Tony.”  The attempt at elegant nonchalance was waning under her increased impatience.  And the gallons of alcohol she must have consumed.  “Tony, you are thoroughly incapable of satisfying me.  You have informed me that our son, our precious baby boy, is gay.  Therefore, it’s our job to teach him the error of his ways.”

She got to her feet, stumbling over to the table.  Gesturing to it, Tony instantly complied and draped Xander back over it.  She reached over to gently run her hands along the only totally unmarred skin he could see, although it too was drenched in blood, right above where his public hair began.  “And since you are so incapable of satisfying me, we’ll fix two problems with one act.”

Spike felt sick again.

“Alexander?  You need to wake up a little, honey.”  Her voice was soothing, gentle, the way a mother’s should be.  “Come on, Alexander, that’s right.  Open your eyes for mommy.  You’ve been very bad, haven’t you?  Please, Alexander, you have to try.  You’ll try for me, won’t you?  You know how much it hurts me to have to punish you.  But you shouldn’t make us mad like that.  I can’t always control your father.”  She gave her husband a warm, sharing look, which he returned with an unsteady smile.

Sighing, his mother climbed over the table to straddle her son.  Then she rocked.  Xander’s eyes popped open and he gasped, trying to inhale.  Jessica wasn’t as skinny as she pretended to be.

“Sweetheart, there you are!  You disappeared on us.  Silly.  Now, your father told me the strangest thing.  That he saw you go into your apartment downstairs with another man.  Is this true, Alexander?”

Xander just blinked at her, mouth gaping as he tried to breathe.

His mother tsked, shaking her head like he had vehemently shouted defiance in her face.  “You know how your father feels about faggots, Alexander.  And no son of his is going to be one.  Is he.”  It wasn’t a question.  “So, we’re going to play a little game with Mommy.”

Eyes gone totally black with shock blinked and rolled wildly in their sockets—and Spike saw his chance.  That’s right, Xan.  Come on.  Wake up, just a little bit more.  Invite me in.  Please, please, invite me in.  He still had no idea what he was going to do; the chip was already sending out warning bolts, triggered by the horrific deaths he was planning for Mr. and Mrs. Psycho Bitch.

But he’d do something.  He had to.

“Sweety, you want to help Mommy, don’t you?”  Blearily, Xander nodded.  It was a rote response to the tone of her voice, Spike could tell, with no awareness of what was actually being said.  “Well, Mommy doesn’t want to have to watch Daddy beat you anymore.  He’s so rough, isn’t he?  I sometimes wonder if he’s a shirt-lifter as well.”

Tony’s face turned blotchy with rage, but he didn’t make a sound to contradict his wife.

“You aren’t going to be bad anymore, are you Alexander?  You aren’t going to make us angry anymore?  You want to be a good boy, don’t you.”  And she shimmied a bit so that she was positioned correctly, eyes half-closing with pleasure as she began to rock again.

Fuck it all.  He’s mine and I bloody well want in!  “Xander!”

He never liked all the gypsy tricks that Dru was fascinated by, but that didn’t mean he was adverse to learning a few that could help him.  One was the Voice of Command or some poncy, erudite cock of a name.  Basically, it meant a voice that certain people would be hard-pressed to ignore.  Xander shouldn’t be able to ignore it now.  I’m his pack-leader, he’s my bloody pack.  Work, dammit.  Don’t fuck up on me now.

Mr. and Mrs. Harris jerked up to stare at the snarling, animal-like figure they hadn’t noticed in their normally secluded backyard.  The tall trees Spike had forced his way through had always acted as protection against prying eyes and sensitive ears, which meant they usually kept windows and doors open.

“Xander!” he tried again, this time resulting in the boy’s eyes tracking towards the door and focusing—mostly—on Spike.  “Invite me in,” he commanded in his most authoritative voice.

Cracked lips moved instantly, and a hoarse, barely audible voice managed to get the words out.  Barely.

It was enough.

Spike was through the door in a flash, heading towards Jessica.  Tony gave an inarticulate yell when he finally got a good look at his son’s boyfriend—pronounced ridges, incredibly long, sharp teeth, yellow eyes.  Spike got right in his face and snarled.  Tony turned tail, and ran.

Right.  He was easy.  Now for the—well, mebbe not.  Jessica was staring after her husband, a look of stunned shock.  “He left me!” she screeched suddenly, shock clearing away and leaving—


Dru on her worst days, combined with the rage and calculated skill of Angelus.  She was the most dangerous creature he’d ever met, worse than the Scooby girls when they all got their monthlies at the same time.

“He left me!  Tony!!”

“Yeah, he did,” Spike told her.  “Too bloody bad.”  Steeling himself, he let fly a decent right hook that cut her right along the jaw line.  She dropped like a stone.

Then he dropped, the chip overloading his brain.  No, dammit.  I’m tryin’ t’help him, f’r chrissakes.  Let me up.  Gotta get him out of here, gotta get—Christ, pet, you need a doctor.  You need—oh, fuck, I should’ve been here!

He was crying, he could feel the wetness on his face, but he didn’t care.  He forced himself to move despite the spasms, fighting through the pain, because he could.  Xander couldn’t.  Using the pool-table as a lever, he got to his feet.  “Xan?” he croaked out.  “Xander?  Xander, luv, wake up.  Please wake up?  You—oh, Jesus, what have they done to you. . .?”

The tears came faster now, sobs he couldn’t give voice to building in his throat.  Xander was unconscious.  Blood still sluggishly seeped from the wounds, but Spike felt no desire to taste the fresh, hot human blood before him.  His demon continued to howl in rage, but it wasn’t because of the smell that hung so heavily in the air.  It was directed at the prone woman who lay sprawled on the ground and the man who had run the minute something bigger and stronger had shown up.

The chip crackled every time he touched his poor, broken boy, and he knew carrying him was going to be hell.  Deserve it, he thought stiltedly as he covered the hideous sight with his duster.  Shoulda been here.  Shoulda stopped it.  Pack-leader’s supposed to protect his pack an’ I. . . I let the ruddy Initiative run me around town.  Knew they were gonna hurt him, but just a beatin’ yeah?  The kind y’kin bounce back from not. . . oh, god, not this.

He sobbed as he gathered up his boy, cradling the still form against his chest.  The heartbeat was so slow, so distant now.  Not the pounding sound that lulled him to sleep every night, making his own dead body pulse.

Can’t die.  Dammit, you can’t die, I haven’t—don’t have permission, Xander, you have t’ave that.  “You hear me?” he demanded as he stumbled outside.  Every twitch hurt, the chip working overtime for the pain he was inflicting on his boy.  Take it from you, if I could.  “You can’t die on me.  You’re fuckin’ not allowed!  Hear that?  You’re mine Xander, and you aren’t allowed. . . can’t die.  Please, god, don’t let. . .”

He wanted to run, but he was pretty sure that the chip would not understand why he was creating so much pain and melt his brain right out his ears.  And he couldn’t do that.  He had to get Xander help.

His nightmares would forever center on the moment he stepped from the house.  Streets dark and quiet, without even the normal demon population up and about on their own business.  Hardly any noise at all, except Spike’s unconsciously harsh breathing and the shallow, pained sounds coming from the body in his arms. 

The cold white glare of street lamps confused him, making the world a frightening mix of comforting dark with cold impersonal splotches of light which blinded him as he walked.  He couldn’t tell where he was, or where he was going.  He didn’t know where he was going, he didn’t know anything, except that he had to get help.  He had to or his boy was going to die, and he couldn’t because Spike wasn’t ready to let him go yet.  Not ever.

And then he was at a door, staring blankly at the place his feet had taken him without any input from the circling wreck that was his mind, still sobbing in fear and hardly able to stand from the pain.  He wanted to knock on the rich red wood—Red?  How can I see reds in all this damned washed out light?—but that would mean letting go and he couldn’t do that, he couldn’t ever do that.  Xander was his and he never let go of things that were his, not unless they wanted to leave and this one didn’t, he couldn’t, and he wasn’t going to go now because Spike wasn’t going to let him and—

“William!  Bring him inside.  Quickly, now.”

“Yes, mum,” he answered, stumbling dazedly through the doorway into comfortingly dark room.  “Mum, he—god, Xan—he—”

“Follow me.”  Cool, dry fingers rested on his elbow, guiding him through a maze he could hardly see.  Even superior vampire night-vision had difficulty penetrating the inky black pools once they left the front room.  Up narrow, rickety stairs and Spike struggled not to fall and bang his precious load.

He sniffled and sobbed as he followed, uncaring that someone else was seeing the Big Bad reduced to a quivering ball of terrified mush.  Nothing mattered except the boy he held.  Nothing.

“Here,” she directed, leading him to her bathroom.  A lion-footed bathtub stood proudly in the middle of the floor.  “Put him in there.”

No.  Won’t let go, can’t, he’ll leave, he can’t leave, he’ll go away and leave and—

“William.”  Light flared in the corner, bathing the room in a dull golden glow.  Spike snarled, blinking at the sudden change, instinctively ready to defend what he could never truly protect.  Song Li stood by the light, regarding him solemnly.  “You came to me for help, correct?”

“Yes, mum.”  One day, when he could think in straight lines again, he was going to rip his jaw off before he came to see this infernal woman again.  His answers felt pulled out of him, even his accent was changing, gaining more polish and less volume, just to show that much more respect.  “Can—”

“If you came to me for help, young William, then you should allow me to do so.  Yes?  Place him here.  You may remain close by.  But do not interfere and do not touch him.”

Not—not touch?  But. . . no, I have to—the heat an’ thump an’ the skin an’—I have t’ be there an’—

The hands were warm, this time, as they lay along his face, framing it as they forced him to look into dark bottomless wells.  This, this was why people thought she was a demon.  Lights pricked in the depths of those huge eyes, and he knew he could not refuse her.  “Put him down, William.  Please.”

“Yes, mum.”  He eased his boy into the marble tub, trying to keep his movements slow and steady.  One trailing sleeve of his duster caught on an edge, jerking the leather and making the boy convulse.  “Shh,” he soothed, crooning quietly while he got Xander completely within the tub’s walls.  Kneeling on the floor, he stroked blood-matted hair.  “S’alright, luv, shhh, s’okay now.  Safe now, pet.  Promise it’s safe.”  Sobs choked him and he heard his voice breaking.  He didn’t care, so long as Xander was okay.  He had to be okay.  “I’m here, Xander.  I—I’m here.”

“He knows.”  Song Li moved beside him, dark eyes flickering over what the duster revealed.  “Please, allow me to do what you asked of me.”

“But—I didn’t—I mean, I’m grateful, but—”

“I told you, young William.”  She held a jar, larger than her head, that glowed with eerie green light.  Shaking it three times, she opened it and poured the goopy fluid into the tub, and then ran the water.  The green fluid mixed with the water, thinning and spreading to cushion and cradle.  The scent of jasmine fill the room.  She dipped a cloth into a bowl on her left, carefully washing away the blood and dirt.  “You are welcome here, any time.  That is what I said, yes?  Do not think I would have issued such an invitation if I believed you would take it lightly.”  She gave him a sideways look, but Spike barely noticed her.  He was entranced by the sight her gentle cleaning revealed.

It was worse without the blood to cover it.

“You are fiercely proud, William the Bloody, called Spike.  It pains you to ask others for help.  Yet, you will force yourself to survive when odds are heavily against you.  I had thought it would be you who would be carried here, near true death.  While I am pleased that you are unharmed—”

“It should’ve been me,” he interrupted in a harsh whisper.  Distantly, he was aware that interrupting Song Li while she tried to impart wisdom was a bad idea.  Except—“It should’ve been me!  I can take it, hell, lived through enough of it with Angelus.  But he. . . he’s just a human.  Just a fragile—it should’ve been me.”

He began to rock, back and forth, on his knees as Song Li attempt to fix what he had allowed to be broken.  He watched, face empty and aloof, as she finished cleaning.  The green mixture in the tub seemed to aid her, sucking out blood and pus before she got to it, and acting as a buffer between the hard sides of the tub and the tender flesh of his boy.

Examining the results, she went over to a wooden cabinet and began pulling out towels, needle, thread, wooden strips, and an assortment of bottles of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

She set the broken bones and pushed in dislocated joints, displaying a raw strength that Spike would later wonder at, using the wooden strips as splints.  She scooped out a dollop of blue-colored salve and rubbed it from head to toe.  She did not explain what she did, as many healers seemed to prefer, simply doing what needed to be done.  Once three separate ointments had been worked into Xander’s skin, she took needle and thread and began to stitch each individual wound.

It took hours.

There were hundreds of them, and each one, no matter how small or shallow, was closed with thread that shone gold in the faint light.  She stitched and sewed, her face impassive as she worked.  Once that was done, she took the same three unguents and mixed them, coating her hands thickly with the result.  This she worked into Xander with hard movements, as if she was pushing it through the epidermis into flesh and blood and bone.

“Tilt his head back.”  The words made him start.  Hastening to obey, Spike tilted his boy’s head so that the jaw dropped down.  “Keep him steady.  He must drink all.”  She hesitated at the look in Spike’s eyes.  Spike wondered what it was she saw.  “There is internal damage.  Naught is overly serious, but his kidneys bleed.  This will seal the wound.  That,” she gestured with her chin to yet another vial, “will help replace the blood he has lost, but I wish it to stay within his veins, and not leak out over organs that do not need it.”

Song Li got to her feet and then paused, face pensive.  Sinking back down onto the mats that surrounded the tub, she handed him the bottle.  “He is yours,” she said simply.  Then she looked mischievous, “And why you have not used what I have given you, we will discuss later.”

Use what she—don’t know, don’t care, gotta stop the bleedin’.  There was blood in more than just his kidneys, but Spike suspected that she didn’t tell him that for fear of driving him into a rage.  He could feel it, simmering and thickening inside him, but right now it was unimportant.  Right now was for his boy, his precious, lovely boy.  That was all that he could concentrate on.

He stripped, uncaring if Song Li got an eyeful—although he suspected that she had turned away—and slid into the tub.  Oh.  That’s. . . nice.  Whatever this green stuff was, he wanted some of it for later.  It wrapped around his whole body in a tingling warmth that was incredibly soothing.  Comforting.  Almost womb-like, although the part of him that remembered how to be a snarky bastard mocked him for thinking that.

Settling himself in the center of the tub, Spike pulled Xander to him, holding him the way mothers held their children to nurse.  Dark head resting on his shoulder, balanced by the crook of his elbow, for a moment he cold do nothing but touch his boy’s face in wonder.  The nose had been set—the break had fortunately been clean—but the bruising made him look like he’d gone several rounds with a prize-fighter.  Tears threatened again, but Spike pushed them away.  He had to help Xander.

Picking up the vial, Spike placed it at cracked, puffy lips.  “Got somethin’ for you, luv,” he said, hoping unconscious-Xander wouldn’t hear the waver in his voice.  “It’s good, y’see?  You—you gotta drink it, okay?  It’ll make it better.  Can you do—”  Sweety, you want to help Mommy, don’t you?  He shuddered, and when he spoke again emotion made him rough and hoarse.  “Xan, pet, will you drink this?  Don’t have to.  Won’t make you.  But it’ll help, make you feel—make you better.  Will you drink it?”

No response, but Spike wasn’t expecting one.  He tilted the vial, letting a little of the liquid slid into his boy’s mouth.  No gagging, which was good, but no swallowing either.  He shifted position slightly, allowing Xander’s head to loll back so that the liquid would be forced to move, and stroked Xander’s throat.

“That’s right, luv,” he crooned, his voice low and rumbling in his own throat.  “S’all right, precious.  S’just me, just Spike.  Won’t hurt you, luv.  Swallow now, that’s right.”  Throat muscles worked under his fingers, and when Xander opened his mouth again there was silver on his tongue.  “ That’s my lovely boy.  Here’s the rest, now.”

It took a while for the first vial to go down.  Spike just held him, wishing he could run his hands all over his boy the way he did every time they showered, just so he could feel whole healthy human under his hands.  Knowing he couldn’t now, that it would do nothing but hurt.

He didn’t know when he started rocking, or crooning, humming some old lullaby under his breath, eyes never leaving his boy.  Mine, he thought softly.  Always mine.

A touch on his arm startled him, but he forced himself not to tense.  Xander would know, can’t let him worry.  “Here,” he was told, the second vial pressed into his hand.  “All if it.  I will prepare a room.”

Room?  The thought was dazed, most of his attention on getting that beautiful throat with it’s bobbing adam’s apple to swallow.  Room.  Gotta get that set up.  Not lettin’ him go back.  Gotta get everythin’ ready for him.  Keep him safe. . .  This vial finished as well, and Spike could immediately feel the heart pumping stronger, the skin warmer.

Something hard and cold uncurled in his gut.

Tears came, again.  The sound of a door shutting, and then he was lost in it, consumed by it.  His failure.  His impotence.  His fear and worry and—god, how they hurt him.  Never again, luv.  I swear it, as a vampire in the Line of Aurelius.  I will never let you hurt like this again.  He wept for the shame of what had happened and for the beautiful, sweet boy he held, who never should have felt such agony.

It must have been an hour before Spike was able to raise his head and take in his surroundings, but it didn’t feel that long.  He still ached inside, unshed tears still made his throat tight.  But the liquid around them, while still warm, was not as warm as it had been before, and he couldn’t allow Xander to become chilled.

“Mum?” he called, knowing that she would not have gone far.

He felt useless as Song Li dried the boy.  Following her down the hall, he realized they were above her store, in the tiny apartment she lived in.  He wanted to thank her, to worship at her feet for what she had done, even though he had no idea if his boy would even open those laughing eyes again.  He couldn’t, the words stuck behind a lump that would not go away.

Entering a tiny spare room, Song Li directed him to place his burden on the pallet of cushions and mats that she had created.  As Spike obeyed, she busied herself by lighting what felt like hundreds of candles.  Spike eyed them nervously—vampires did not enjoy having too many about, especially in a place that seemed entirely made of wood.

Then the smell hit him and he relaxed, unable to stay tense with cinnamon and jade, roses and lavender swirling around him, filling his head with peace and comfort.  He sagged near the pallet, hands stealing back to hover over the steadily breathing form, afraid to touch.

Song Li placed her hand atop his head, mumbling something.  “There,” she said.  “Join him, for he needs you to rest.  You will not hurt him.”

He looked up at her, amazed that she—and then he was sliding underneath heavy down covers, cuddling against the warmth and softness that shouldn’t have cool, hard lines running all over it.  His voice returned suddenly, abruptly, and he began humming, crooning out lullabies he’d sung to Drusilla when she became lost in the fragmented landscape of her thoughts.  Then, later, he reached for older melodies, found in distant memories of cool white hands, yellow fabric, and a face he could not remember who sang and whispered that it would be all right, William, it would be all right.

Part 12