Xander raced around a corner and stopped,
stealing a few precious seconds to lean over, hands resting on knees, and take a few deep breaths. Sweat was pouring down his face and he had a cramp in his side. It
felt like they had been running for hours. He glanced up through sweat damp locks
to see Willow and Tara, red faced and damp, also taking a breather. At least
I'm not the only one not able to keep up with this thing. I guess Witchy powers
don't make up for being out of shape. Gods, it's warm for April, I'm glad I left my jacket at home. Up ahead Buffy and Spike rounded the corner at the end of the block and Xander figured it was time
to run again. The three more normal humans set off again with a groan, gamely
trying to keep up with the Slayer and Vampire, who themselves were trying to keep up with their quarry of the night. Some slimy, tentacled demon that had been killing people in a park. So what else is new? Why don't they do something unique
for a change, like hold up a bank or something? The three turned the corner
and Xander almost groaned in relief. Finally, trapped in an alley. At least it's just the fighting now, no more of this running all over town crap.
and Spike flanked the demon, weapons drawn. Willow and Tara blocked off one side
of the alley's exit and began chanting, an eerie glow immediately surrounding them.
Xander pulled out the sword he was packing and took up watch at the other side of the exit. The demon didn't waste much time. It glanced at all of them,
sizing them up, and made its choice. It headed straight for Xander. Oh Shit, was all Xander could think before the demon slammed into him. He felt something wet covering
him, then intense pain, then blessed darkness as his head hit the pavement and he faded out.
Spike hefted his axe and eyed
the demon warily. He knew these ones, they were dangerous. Sprayed some sort of caustic substance, burned the skin. He'd
be hurt by it, but the humans would be hurt much worse. He saw the demon sizing
them up and could practically hear its thought process, Slayer, nope; Vampire, too dangerous; Magic users, nada; Human,
easy target. Spike realized what the demon would do just as it did, but he
was a split second too slow. Screaming in rage he lunged for the demon, just
as it slipped between him and Buffy, sprayed Xander full on with its caustic bile, and as the boy fell, headed out of the
alley. Spike barely noticed the lightning the witches threw hit the demon and
incinerate it; he was kneeling next to the too still form of Xander. The boy
was near covered with the bile, and even unconscious he was writhing in pain. Spike
tried to wipe the worst of it off the boy's face, glad that the boys clothes offered him some protection. Ignoring the worried questions he was being bombarded with he hoisted the brunette into his arms and glanced
around, where are we? When he realized Spike almost thanked the deities
for small miracles, only half a mile from the apartment, he can make it.
"You, Witches, go get the
Watcher, have him bring his heavy duty patch up kit, tell him R'rshak bile and hurry.
Slayer, come with me, I'll need your help."
Spike set off running, not really
caring if the others understood, just as long as they followed orders. Xander
moaned softly as he was jostled, but didn't wake up, for which Spike was extremely grateful.
As they neared the apartment, he hoisted Xander further up onto his shoulder and dug one-handed into his pockets for
the house key. He tossed it to Buffy who caught it with a nod and put on an extra
burst of speed to head up the stairs and open the door. Spike strode through
the front door and headed straight for the bathroom.
"Start the shower, warm
but not hot. This stuff's caustic, if we don't get it off fast it will eat through
him." Once in the bathroom, Spike set Xander down and pulled out his boot knife,
efficiently stripping the boy of his clothing, then stripped down to his
Buffy looked worriedly at Spike,
"Won't you get it on you as well?"
"Already do, a little, and it
won't hurt me as bad. Besides, someones got to clean him off."
So saying, Spike grabbed Xander
and hauled him into the shower. Quickly but gently as possible Spike washed the
bile off of them, hissing as he uncovered the angry red and white blisters that were already forming over most of the boy's
body. Xander cried out as the sores were rubbed, but obviously the pain was enough
to keep him unconscious. It was enough, however, to set Spike's chip off, sending
small sparks of lightning through his brain. The Vampire bit his lip and tried
to focus through the pain.
"Slayer, draw a bath, would you? Cool though, it will be better on the burns."
"On it." came her reply, then,
"How is he? Is it bad?"
"Yeah. But I've seen worse. Looks like second degree burns all over
his chest and arms, some on his face, a few on his back. Just a few bad patches
on his legs, his jeans protected him pretty well."
Spike tried to ignore the
twinges his chip was sending him as he scrubbed Xander down. Finally, when Spike
couldn't smell the bile anymore, and the bathwater had shut off, Spike gently removed himself and his unconscious burden from
the shower. He was pleased to see that the Slayer had already removed the bile-covered
clothing and disposed of it. Voices drifted in from the front room, the others
"Oi! Watcher! You ready for 'im yet?"
A few seconds later, Giles rushed
into the bathroom. He eyed Xander carefully, "Oh dear. It most certainly was R'rshak bile. You did very well Spike,
you saved his life."
"No shit. Now do you have anything for the burns or not?"
"We're working on it. There's a salve from one of my books, specially made for this type of demon burn. It won't take long to make, Willow and Tara are working on it now. Luckily we had all the herbs already at the shop. You'd best
put him in the bath for now, keep the burns damp until were ready."
"Right then. Let me know when youre ready. Oh, and have someone fix up
the Whelp's bed, clean sheets, cotton and all that."
"Oh, yes, yes, of course. Do you need anything Spike?"
"Nah. I've got blood in the fridge, but I'll eat later. Kind of
hard to eat and balance unconscious boy at the same time."
Giles looked perplexed, "Can't
he just stay in the bath by himself?"
Spike scowled at the man, "Oh
sure, I'll just prop 'im up on the side and hope he doesn't slip down? Maybe
he can learn to breath under water."
"Of course, of course, sorry. Why is he still unconscious?"
Spike eyed Xander carefully, listening
to his heartbeat and checking his scent. "Well, when he went down, he hit his
head pretty hard, that and the pain are probably keeping him out cold. But his
heartbeat's normal, so none's the worry."
Giles finally left to go
supervise the making of the salve, and Spike considered his options for a few minutes before shrugging and just climbing in
the tub, Xander curled up in his arms. He arranged himself so he was sitting
with his back against one end and lay Xander out in front of him, floating on his back, resting the brunette head against
his shoulder. That way there was as little friction as possible on the burns
As they rested in the tub,
Spike finally had time to think, and they were not good thoughts. First and foremost
on his mind was the way he felt when he saw the demon charge Xander; I've never been so terrified in m'life. Bloody 'ell,
He could've been killed. Almost was.
A voice that sounded an
awful lot like his demon growled angrily. But if he was, so what, since when
do you care about Humans?
Another voice, more cultured
and elegant answered the demon voice. Get a clue, Spike, you've been caring
about this one for far too long now.
Spike kept with that thought,
as uncomfortable as it was, and worried at it like a sore tooth. When the
boy went down, I was terrified, but also pissed as hell that that piece of slime demon had touched something of mine. Mine? Shit! Ah, Gods, in my head I've already claimed him. Great, just
wonderful. Since when does William the Bloody go around claiming humans?
The thought came to him
unbidden, when he's in love with the human?
Damn! Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!!! Spike went through every
profanity he knew, twice, in multiple languages, before he finally calmed down again.
The vampire glared at the unwary human, this is all your fault, Xander Harris.
Your bloody fault for being my friend and making me care about you, making me fall in love with you fer christs sake! It's bad enough that you're a human, but did you have to be a guy too? Xander moaned softly and twitched, and Spike began stroking the boy's hair soothingly. Ah well, it's not your fault, not really. Fate's a funny
Xander began to stir and
Spike yelled out a warning to the others, "Better have that salve ready soon Watcher!
He's starting to come around."
Xander was floating. He felt weightless and at peace. Everything was dark and soothing. Is this what being dead feels like?
Xander tried to hang on to the comfort of this space he found himself in, but gradually he began to be aware of certain
things. Certain things like pain. It
felt like fire was running up and down his body. Faintly he heard sounds, muffled
as if coming from far away. A cool hand was stroking his hair, and a familiar
voice somehow found its way to him through the pain.
"It's okay luv, you're safe,
I've got you."
Spike's voice was what finally
brought him back to full consciousness. He slowly opened his eyes, blinking as
harsh light flooded them. A ceiling. He
was staring at a ceiling. He tried to sit up but strong hands suddenly gripped
his shoulders tightly, "Don't move luv, better if you don't."
Xander tried several times to
speak, before finally croaking out, "Spike? What happened, where am I? Why am I floating?"
Spike laughed softly, "S'okay
luv. You were attacked by that demon we were chasing. He spit on you."
"A demon spit on me? Okay, that's gross, but how is that bad?"
"R'rshak spit is caustic. Eats through anything, especially skin."
Xander started to hyperventilate,
"Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. Am I deformed, am I like the elephant man or something?"
Spike's arms wrapped gently
around his chest and pulled him close, and Xander realized vaguely that he was in a bathtub, immersed in water up to his chin,
being held by Spike. It was almost enough to break him out of his panic, almost.
"Shh, luv, no, you're fine,
you're fine. Just some burns. We
got you back here in time. Youre pretty badly burnt, but nothing that won't heal
up good as new."
Spike stroked one hand through
Xander's hair and made soft, soothing noises. Xander eventually began to relax. Then he shifted, and his arm rubbed up against the side of the tub. The resulting pain almost made him pass out again. As it was
he yelped, loudly. To his embarrassment, Giles and Buffy immediately ran into
the bathroom. "Oh, Xander, wonderful, you're conscious."
"Xander! What's wrong? Are you okay?"
Xander was in too much pain to
worry about the possibility of Buffy and Giles seeing him naked, "I...I'm fine, I just realized that I feel like my skin's
on fire, and like I've been hit by a truck. Oh, and Spikes not talking, but I
think I may be deformed."
Giles smiled understandingly,
"Rest assured Xander, you're not deformed. You are badly burned though. I'm afraid life will be very uncomfortable for the next week or so."
Xander groaned, "How badly?"
Spike answered for Giles, "Second
degree burns on most of your chest and arms, a few on your face and a few big splotches on your legs."
Xander had allowed his eyes
to drift shut, the theory being that if his eyes were closed, maybe it would all be a dream, so he didn't see Willow poke
her head in the room.
"Oh, hey Xander, I'm really glad
your up. Tara and I just finished the salve, so if you guys wanna get out of
the bath, we can get you more comfortable."
Xander cracked open an eye and
peeked up at Spike, "Are you burned too?"
"Just a few mild ones on my hands
"It's 'cuz he carried you back
here when you were still covered with the goo stuff." Buffy interjected.
Xander's eyes popped wide open
in surprise. "You carried me back?"
Spike rolled his eyes and tried
for nonchalant, "Someone had to, you weren't exactly up to walking yourself, were you?"
Xander just gapped at the blonde,
but Spike had turned his attention to the others in the room. "Get a towel ready
Rupes. Slayer, help me get him up."
"Hey! I can stand on my own!"
Spike snorted. "Fine, go on then."
Xander tried, he really did, but
he couldn't do more than sit forward before his body inexplicably gave out on him. Spike
grabbed him before he could slip back under the water. "Sorry luv, but you've
got to depend on us for now."
Giles saw the look of confusion
on his face and tried to explain. "Besides being highly caustic, the bile of
the R'rshak demon is also a mild nerve toxin. You won't have much control over
your own movements for the next day or so, but it should clear up quickly."
Xander would have cursed his bad
luck, but he was too busy whimpering in pain as Buffy and Spike each grabbed an arm and lifted him out of the tub. The held him while Giles gently patted him dry, and then Spike scooped him up in his arms and moved into
the living room. "Where do you want him?'
Willow and Tara motioned
to the couch, where they had a sheet spread out waiting for Xander.
"Does, um, does this salve stuff
have to go anywhere near my, um, private areas?"
Spike eyed him strangely. "No, pet, your dangly bits escaped unscathed."
Xander sighed in relief, "Well, then, can I please put on some underwear?
I think everyone's had enough of the naked Xander show for one night."
The gang laughed gamely and Xander
supposed that his jokes weren't so funny when he could barely speak through the pain, but it would have to do. Spike detoured into Xander's bedroom and set him gingerly on the edge of the bed and grabbed a pair of
boxers out of Xander's drawer. As soon as Spikes hands left him, Xander started
to tip back, but concentrated and found he could stay sitting up under his own power if he tried.
"Right then, lay back."
Spike rolled his eyes, "Lay back
whelp. You can't do this yourself, and I can.
So just lay back and let me take care of things for a while."
"Geez Spike, I always hoped you'd
say that to me, but somehow I imagined it would be under different circumstances."
Spike snorted, and began
gently sliding the boxers up over Xander's legs. A few minutes and many agonizingly
slow movements and pained yelps later the boxers were on, and Spike disappeared from Xanders view.
Xander looked up to see
Spike, turned partially away from him, stripping out of a pair of dripping wet boxers and pulling a pair of Xander's sweatpants
on. The sight of Spike naked almost blew out the last of Xander's working brain-cells. Good gods. My vampire roommate is
hung. This is so not going to help my no-obsessive-thoughts-of-Spike plan. Suddenly Xander was very glad that his body was in so much pain, otherwise the site
that greeted Spike as he turned back around could have been way more embarrassing than a blushing Xander.
Spike wisely chose to ignore the
boy's blush, "Right then, lets go get you fixed up."
Spike carried the protesting
boy back to the living room and set him carefully on the couch.
Willow smiled a tear filled
smile at him. "Don't worry, Xander, this will fix you up good as new." Xander balanced precariously on the edge of the couch and Willow started applying generous fingerfulls
of the salve to his chest, while Spike soothed some on his back. Xander tried
hard, really hard not to let them know how much it hurt, but whimpers of pain kept escaping his lips.
Finally, Spike pulled back with
a hiss and turned to the group. "Someone else has to help finish him up. The bloody chip thinks I'm hurting the boy."
Tara took Spikes place,
and Spike set about anointing his own burns.
Willow talked as she administered
to Xander. "Now, this stuff is made to specifically help these type of demon
burns, so it should work pretty fast. Maybe three or four days before the blisters
go away. You'll still be sensitive for about a week though. The only catch is that we have to keep the burns moist. So
you'll have to apply it every three hours or so, Spike can help you."
"Um, Wills?" Xander managed to gasp out between moans of pain, "This hurts, and...um, it set Spike's chip off. How can he help me?"
Willow looked apologetic. "It will only hurt this bad the first time or two, by then the herbs would have had
a chance to start working, so after that it will be tender and sore, but not painful like this is."
The group finished treating
Xander and Spike scooped him back up, "Bed time whelp."
Willow followed them into
Xander's room, and after he was arranged to Spike's satisfaction, the Witch placed her hands on either side of Xander's temples
and whispered a few words. A look of relief spread over Xander's face as the
spell took effect, "Gee, thanks Wills..." was all he managed to get out before he fell fast asleep.
Spike eyed the sleeping
human, "What'd you do?"
Willow managed a lopsided grin,
"I blocked of the pain receptors in his brain so he could sleep for a bit, after that the shock and his body just caught up
to him. Don't worry, it'll only last a few hours, but by the time he wakes up
the salve will have had time to work." She motioned to the jar of salve sitting
on the bedside table. "Just remember, every three hours.'
Spike nodded and absently
followed the redhead out of the room. Shutting the door gently, he simply stood
for a minute and took a few deep breaths. Slowly, carefully he lowered the wall
he had built up inside his head. The intense emotions: fear; anger; pain; he
had been feeling came flooding back. He didn't care if the others saw him loose
his temper, but he hadn't wanted the boy to see him so worked up when what Xander had needed more than anything was calm.
Growling softly, he walked back
out to join the others. After making sure everyone was okay, he went to the kitchen
and got out a packet of blood, some of the good stuff. He microwaved it and took
the steaming mug back into the living room. Sinking gratefully into a chair,
he slowly sipped the blood. Giles was helping Willow and Tara pack up the first
aid kit and clean up all the herbs and stuff. Buffy was pacing the length of
the room, obviously deep in thought. He tried to relax, he really tried, but
eventually the pacing got to him. "Bloody 'ell Slayer, give it a rest!"
"Yes, Buffy. Spike is quite right. It's not your fault. Please try to calm down."
Buffy turned on her Watcher, "Well
if it's not my fault then whose is it Giles? I'm the one they follow, I'm the
Slayer, and I'm supposed to keep them safe. Instead they keep getting hurt. Because of me."
Willow and Tara immediately protested
and Giles tried as well to calm the pacing Slayer, but it was what Spike said next that finally got her attention. "No Slayer, your wrong. They don't get hurt. He gets hurt. It's always Xander we're patching up,
always him as gets the worst of it. He's the only one of you lot whos just a
"Really Spike, there's no need
to speak that way of Xander..."
Spike glared at the Watcher, "I
didn't mean it that way. That boys better 'en the lot of ya. She's the Slayer; the Witches have their magic. Even you've
got years of training and magic to boot. What's he got? Nothing. And yet he's been going out there every night, holding
his own, with nothing but luck and courage. He never complains, never gripes
about it, but he knows it and you know it." The room was silent, everyone staring
at the blonde Vampire, who during his speech had stood up and started pacing furiously.
"That demon did tonight what every other demon does, hell, it's what I'd do in their place. Looked at the lot of you, sized you up, and went for the weakest link.
The one without any special protection. He hasn't got magic or Slayer
strength or anything or anyone to protect him."
Surprisingly it was Buffy's
voice that broke the silence that followed, "But you can protect him, can't you Spike?"
Everyone turned to stare
at Buffy, and Spike dropped back into the chair with a tortured groan.
Willow asked quietly, "Buffy,
what are you saying?"
The Slayer stalked over to stand
in front of the vampire, "Spike can give Xander that protection. With his mark. If he claimed Xander, marked Xander as his, the demons wouldn't see a normal human,
they'd see a human under a Master Vampires protection. That would make them stop
and think a moment, and that moment of hesitation would be all we'd need to finish them off."
Willow gasped. "But Buffy, isnt that thing usually done to make human servants?"
Spike shook his head. "Vampires mark humans for different reasons. For minions and
human pets it marks them as property of the Master Vamp, makes them easy to control.
But I wouldn't do that to the boy. To give him protection and a little
bit of added strength and speed, without making him some lackey for me to boss around it would have to be the type of mark
given to a mate, to an equal."
Giles spoke up angrily, "Buffy,
you don't know what your saying! To claim Xander, Spike would have to..."
"Care about Xander? You're right, seems strange that William the Bloody would care that much about a human. But you do, don't you Spike?"
Spike raised his head to
stare into the Slayers eyes. "Yes." He gasped out.
Buffy held his eyes for
a long time, and whatever she saw seemed to satisfy her. She nodded once, briskly. "It's settled then, if Xander accepts, Spike will claim him." She looked at Spike curiously, "How long will it take for the bond to be strong enough to protect him?"
Spike shrugged, "Vampires would
notice it immediately, but other demons, I dunno, probably two, three blood exchanges tops before anyone would know just by
looking at him."
She nodded. Then, apparently satisfied that she'd fixed the problem, wandered over to start packing up the weapons.
Giles walked over to Spike, "Spike,
please understand, I know that you can't hurt Xander, because of the chip. But
I'm not satisfied that this is the answer, or done with the best of intentions."
Spike understood, it pissed
him off, but he understood. "Come by tomorrow.
I'll talk to the boy when he wakes up, and if he accepts, then well do it tomorrow, you can watch. Make sure I don't turn the boy." That answer seemed to satisfy
Giles, and he finally moved off to join the others. Soon they were all packed
up and, thank the gods they had cleaned up after themselves, because Spike really wasn't feeling like cleaning tonight, and
then there were the normal rounds of goodbyes and finally he was alone again. Spike
stood with a weary sigh and headed for Xander's room. He stood in the doorway
for a while, watching the human sleep, and silently arguing with himself. Part
of him wanted to sleep in the whelp's room, watch over the sleeping human, be as close as possible. Another part wanted to run, far away, and not look back. Finally
the overprotective part of him won and he crawled carefully into the bed beside Xander.
He lay on his side, close enough to feel the heat radiating off of the sleeping human, but far enough away not to bump
into Xander and cause him any pain. He watched the boy sleeping as fierce and
contradictory emotions struggled within him. Bloody hell, what's wrong with
me? Claiming a human, falling in love with a human, I'm crazier than Dru. Can I really do this? Spike thought
of his life here with the boy. Remembered countless nights spent up watching
movies and throwing popcorn at each other, countless jokes and teasing remarks. Remembered
what Xander looked like first thing in the morning, sleep tousled and not-quite-all-there, stumbling around the kitchen trying
to make coffee. Saw again the look of friendship, love and gratitude in those
brown eyes, when he thought Spike couldn't see him staring. Spikes undead heart
tightened and he felt the unfamiliar sensation of tears pricking his eyes. Ah
gods, I can't give him up, I won't. I love him too much. But it's not that simple. There's other things, other needs
he has, hell, even I have. How far am I willing to go with this?
Gently Spike reached out one shaking
hand and traced Xander's lips with a feather light touch. He thought about kissing
those lips, imagined how the boy would taste, what those warm lips would feel like against his. Right, no problem there, kissing him I can handle. He
remembered how it had felt in the bathtub, to be pressed up against the boy, skin to skin.
How holding him had felt. Warm and protective. MINE. The thought welled up and Spike breathed a sigh
of relief. Right then, this isn't so bad.
Then, reluctantly, Spike allowed his mind to wander where it hadn't yet.
Sex. He imagined what it would feel like to press himself up against that
heat. To run his hands over that warm skin.
He's definitely good-looking, great body, easy on the eyes. Spike's
hand clenched convulsively as he recalled the feeling of running through those dark, silky locks. He let his eyes drift shut and tried to feel what it would be like to rub up against that body, hard length
to hard length, maybe even be inside...instantly any budding erection he had died as the face of his Sire flashed into his
head. He heard Angelus' cruel laugh, heard the mocking tones, the commands to
crawl and beg. Felt the pain and terror as he was violated again and again. With a whimper he rolled over and pulled the pillow over his head. Taking deep shuddering breaths Spike pushed all the terrible images out of his head and focused instead
on the one thing he could hear through his terror. Xander's heartbeat. Eventually he relaxed, and turned back over on his side to watch the sleeping figure next to him. Sorry luv. I guess that no matter
how much I love you, there are still some things I can't do. Spike allowed
his eyes to drift shut, and finally fell asleep, soothed by the steady heartbeat, unaware of the tears leaking out of the
corners of his eyes.