Easy there, Spike said hoarsely. Dont hurt your ribs.
Its no problem, Xander said, contradicting himself by panting as he half-carried Spike down the stairs to the door. You dont weigh much. Here, can you lean against the wall while I unlock the door?
No trouble, Spike said, wondering to himself if he could in fact manage to stay upright without Xanders supporting arm. He managed to cling to the wall long enough for Xander to get the door open, but the effort left him exhausted, his head swimming. He was relieved when Xander helped him inside, but balked when Xander steered him toward the bedroom. Not there. Ill ruin the bedclothes. Bathroom, all right?
Xander rolled his eyes, but helped Spike to the bathroom.
The mans two steps from dust and he worries about the sheets, Xander said exasperatedly, his careful assistance as he gently lowered Spike into the tub belying his tone. I still think we shouldve taken you to Giles.
Spike snorted derisively. He was, in fact, amazed that the whelp had stood by him this far. Hed lost so much blood that he couldnt hide his game face; if hed been any more fit to attack, chip or no chip, Xander mightve been in serious danger.
What, and let the Slayer finish the job? Not likely, Pet. Sides, nothing he could do. And showing up like this wouldve ruined the gesture, ey?
Well, we were right there, Xander protested. And Buffy was probably gone by then. Here, wait, Ill go get the blood.
Never mind the pig, Spike called as Xander left the room. Bring in the bottles from the icebox, will you?
Uh all of em?
Spike sighed ruefully.
Best do, he said grudgingly. He hated to admit to Xander just how close hed come indeed.
Xander came back laden with bottles, which he arranged neatly on the vanity.
Which one first? he said. Im going to have to cut those clothes off, you know.
Yeah, I kind of figured, Pet, Spike said wryly. Knife in the left boot if you want. Give me a bottle um, the one on the left.
He drank down cold vampire blood and grimaced. Stuff was almost ready to go off; it didnt keep worth a damn, and he had his doubts that the demon blood in the other bottles would be any better. And he hated cold blood. But it was enough to distract him while Xander painstakingly cut away his ruined clothing. Well, at least hed had the sense not to wear any of his nicer stuff.
Xander carefully peeled away the last tatters of Spikes tee shirt and paled.
God, Spike he said, swallowing hard.
Yeah, Pet, I know, Spike said, grimacing. He was hurting hurting bad, to be honest. The big rip across the midsection of his tee shirt corresponded with an equally big rip in the skin beneath, through which Spike could see things hed rather not. He could feel the ends of two broken ribs grating together and was thankful that he didnt have to breathe. Rather nastier was the protruding end of his broken tibia; it hurt whether he bloody well breathed or not. The fracture in his collarbone and his half-smashed shoulder were nothing next to that. Well, hed had worse, but never when he didnt have fresh human blood or his Sires blood available to heal him. Hed recover, now that he was replenishing his blood supply, but it wouldnt be fast and it wouldnt be fun, not on old bottled blood. Pants, too, would you? And careful on the left, ey?
Xander apparently didnt trust his now shaking hands with the knife, and he fetched the scissors instead, handing Spike a second bottle of blood before he started cutting. He had to pause from time to time because his hands were trembling so badly.
Spike um are you sure we shouldnt call Giles? he said, very softly, wincing when he uncovered that broken left leg.
Bloody hell, no, Spike said, shaking his head. It hurt. I told you, Pet, nothing he can do. Or rather, nothing he could do that you cant, if youll oblige.
Xander swallowed heavily again, trading Spike a full bottle for the empty.
Spike I mean, you will get better, right?
No doubt, Pet, Spike said, rather more firmly than he felt. Bloody hell, he couldnt remember the last time hed been done this bad.
Okay. Xander took a deep breath. Just tell me what to do.
Right, then. First things to wash off all the blood and Vorgost ichor, Spike said, grimacing. The stuff stank something awful. I know, its nasty. Use the spray if you want.
No way, Xander said firmly, grimacing too. Uh-uh, no spray on those owwies. Drink up and take it easy. He got out every washcloth, hand towel and rag in the linen closet and went to work, replacing the bottle in Spikes hand whenever it got empty. At last Spike was more or less clean, at least in front.
Um, shouldnt you have started healing by now? Xander said hesitantly as he dropped the last gory rag into the bucket he was using for them. I thought vampires were supposed to heal really fast.
You seen me heal really fast since I got chipped? he said pointedly.
Well come to think of it, no, I havent, Xander admitted. He sat back on his heels, looking at Spike worriedly. Cleansed of all the blood and ichor, the wounds looked even worse.
Bottled blood, Spike said sourly. Most of the oomph is gone out of it. Id be in worse shape yet if Id been depending on Giles slaughterhouse squeezings bottled animal blood is about as bad as it gets. Live bloods the ticket, which is why most of the vampires youve seen healed up fast.
Why didnt you feed on the Vorgost, then? Xander said, wrinkling his brow. There was blood everywhere.
Pet, what colors that stuff?
Uh kind of orange?
And hows it smell?
Stinky. Kind of like a broccoli fart, Xander admitted.
And whats that tell you? Spike said patiently, trying not to laugh at Xanders comment laughing would hurt too much.
Its not like regular blood? Xander guessed.
Not blood at all, Spike corrected. Ichor. Look, Pet, can we go into this later? Im sitting in a tub with me insides on the outside, or nearly.
Uh. Okay. Yeah. Xander turned slightly green. And I should do what now?
Get in the vanity, theres a leather bag at the back, Spike told him. Trot it out.
Xander pulled out the bag, opened it and looked. He turned a little greener.
Oh my god, he croaked.
Spike chuckled slightly, then groaned at the pain it caused him. The bag was Spikes heavy-duty first aid kit, although he had to admit that he had, in the past, occasionally used the instruments therein for rather darker purposes.
Dont worry, youre not using most of that stuff, he said. Just get out the suture kit. Its right on top there.
You want me to stitch you up? Xander stammered disbelievingly.
Yeah, and pretty soon, Spike said wryly. Get a wiggle on, will you? My livers gettin chilly here.
It took considerable prompting, coaxing, and a constant flow of instructions that Spike in no way felt like giving, but Xander did it, and did it pretty well, too, although he had to stop twice to bend over the loo and vomit. At last Xander tied off the knot and ever so gently cut the thread.
Done, he said with immeasurable relief.
Hardest one down, Spike agreed, probing the stitches gingerly. Damn good job for the whelps first time, come to think of it. Maybe it was some leftover memories from that soldier git Spike had heard the Scoobies talk about from time to time.
Hardest one? Xander said, some of the relief fading from his expression.
Spike gestured at his leg.
Planning to leave that as is, then? he said.
Oh. I guess not. Xander shivered. So what do I do now?
Well, first you dig down in that bag until you find a wide wrap, and we wrap my bloody ribs so they stop grinding about, Spike told him. Then He glanced around and sighed. Then we get me out of the tub, which is gonna hurt like bugger-all, and in there in the living room.
Okay. The rib wrapping was accomplished easily if not comfortably, and getting Spike out of the tub was downright awful, but Spike knew that was nothing compared to what was coming. Xander mostly carried him into the living room, putting Spike down where he indicated, against the wall. Spike sat back, a folded washcloth in his hand.
Okay, Pet, now you sit down facing me shoes off, right? My bad leg between yours. Good. Now you put your foot here Spike positioned Xanders stockinged foot against his groin. Left a bit, dont want to smash the goodies. Now grab the ankle. Now, in a minute, Im going to put this rag in my mouth, and Ill give you a nod, and you brace with your foot and pull with your hands. Pull bloody hard, dont worry about me.
God, he hated this. In the old days Angelus or even Dru couldve done this neatly and competently and with no fuss; either one of them would have given him a good draught of their blood to heal him up fast, or at least theydve brought him good ol human hemoglobin on the hoof, so to speak. Hed have been up and around in a few hours. Now he had a bloody amateur, if a well-intentioned one, and bottled blood, and God alone knew how long hed be crippled up assuming it was set right and ever did heal up straight. Worse, being lamed up meant no more demon and vampire hunting for late-night snacks. Between his injuries and Giles meager all-pork diet, he might very well starve.
Spike looked up at Xanders anxious face, felt the way the mortals hands trembled against his ankle.
Kay, Pet, he said quietly. Go for it. He put the washcloth in his mouth, bit down on it experimentally. He gazed into Xanders eyes and nodded.
Xander took a deep breath and pulled. Hard and sure.
It hurt worse than he remembered, and he remembered pretty damned well. Actually it wasnt as bad as the bleeding chip, but it was certainly bad enough and then some. He fought to stay conscious, fought to wait until he felt the click that meant the bone was set so he could tell the whelp when hed got it right, but he was weak and depleted and exhausted from the fight and the blood loss and the pain and the garlic, and just as he felt that click, it was with a certain amount of gratitude that Spike felt the darkness close in, and he surrendered without protest.
Darkness. Peace. Darkness had always meant peace, rest, safety, security, shelter. Darkness was the quiet place where Spike could hide from sunlight, from hunger, from pain, from
He knew that taste. Knew it intimately, knew it joyfully. The taste of hot red vitality. The taste of strength and healing and power. The taste that meant survival. The taste of another life joining with his, however briefly.
The taste that filled his mouth now.
Oh, glorious, hot, salty, sweet, metallic, rich. It zinged through his veins like lightning, like music, like magic. So sweetly familiar, that feeling, that taste
That very particular taste
Spikes eyes shot open, staring over the flesh pressed against his mouth. Staring into Xanders worried eyes.
Xander could never see the internal war going on, as Spikes heart and mind howled No! Stop! while every cell in his body screamed Yes! More!, while the needs of his heart warred with his instinct for survival. It was only a second, maybe less, but in that second, for the first time ever, Spike truly glimpsed Hell.
And with a roar of agony, he wrenched Xanders arm away from his mouth.
Long moments while he shuddered, while Xanders lifeblood sped through his body, while bones knitted and skin flowed together and torn flesh melded. He whimpered with the rawness of it, his tongue seeking the last traces on his lips and chin and fingers, and finally, finally he felt his game face settle back into its human contours, but he kept his eyes closed. He knew he hadnt killed Xander, hadnt seriously drained him; he could hear the whelps strong, steady heartbeat from here. No, what Spike was afraid to see was what might show in Xanders eyes. He didnt know what he was more frightened of seeing there fear? Contempt? Disgust? Would it be worse, or better, if he saw instead what had motivated the mortal to cut open his own flesh and offer an evil soulless vampire his blood? At last he could stall no longer, and terrified of what he would see, Spike opened his eyes.
Xander sat there, stunned, staring, his expression a mixture of amazement and relief, and thank God those two emotions eclipsed whatever else might have been there because Spike wasnt sure he was ready to see that right now. And it didnt surprise him a bit when he heard the first words that tumbled out of his own mouth.
You stupid bloody git, what the bleeding hell were you thinking?
Stunned relief abruptly became stunned disbelief.
I thought I was saving your life, Xander said, scowling. I thought I was helping you. Stupid me, but what else is new? Hey, Xander the fuckup, Im used to it.
Spike realized that Xander was shaking like a leaf, and that revelation shook him profoundly.
Over me? Jesus bleedin Christ. He was that scared for me. Scared enough to offer me his blood. Hell, scared enough to risk his bleeding life. For a moment Spike couldnt think, couldnt react. Angelus had run off and left Spike and Dru to their own devices. Dru had run off to shag some bloated demon when the mood struck her. Had anybody ever been prepared to offer their life for him? Ever?
Cmere, Pet, he said tiredly, holding out one arm.
What? Xander said suspiciously. He was still shaking, and Spike could see the anger and hurt fighting for dominance in his eyes.
Cmere. Or do I have to go there? Spike still held the arm out, beckoning wearily.
Xander hesitated a moment longer, then scooted over under the arm. Spike gave him a brief one-armed hug.
Give over, Pet. Spike firmly took Xanders hand, examining the still-bleeding shallow cut on Xanders forearm, comfortably far from the major blood vessels. Glancing up into Xanders eyes, Spike lifted Xanders arm and deliberately licked, collecting the droplets of blood running down his skin. He cleaned Xanders arm with little cat-licks, careful not to hurt. When hed finished, he bit into his lower lip, tasting his own blood, and licked over the cut again, feeling the edges of the skin seal under his tongue. Xander gasped. Regretfully, Spike savored the last traces of Xanders blood and released his arm.
Xander shivered, staring at Spike, his eyes wide and dilated. Then, silently, he folded Spike into his arms and held on tight with fear or desire or both, Spike didnt much care which at the moment, held on as if hed never let go.
S all right, Pet, Spike soothed, stroking Xanders blood and ichor-mucked hair. S all over. Its all right, Im all right, all done.
I need a shower, Xander choked, and Spike could hear that he was right on the edge of tears. He didnt know if he could cope with Xanders tears right now he felt rather fragile himself at the moment so he tried to lighten the mood.
Glad youve finally got the mood, Pet, Spike quipped. Course, youd have to do it now when Im not real fit to do anything about it. Then again, I could just let you do all the work this time, seeing as its your turn.
Xander almost jumped back, his face flaming; then he saw Spikes grin and grinned himself, still blushing.
Well, it is kind of getting to be a habit, you stark naked and me holding you, Xander chuckled.
At least this time you didnt bloody jump on me.
Yeah, well, you had enough broken bones to start with. Xanders expression turned serious again. Spike, I I mean
Hush up. Spike laid one finger over Xanders mouth, shivering at the feel of those lips. You did good, Pet. Real, real good. You took good care of me. I wont never forget it.
Xander shivered too.
I wont either, he whispered, his breath fanning Spikes finger. Um, Spike I want can I
God, those eyes. They were almost luminous.
What, Pet? Spike murmured. What dyou want?
Xander licked his lips. His tongue brushed Spikes finger; Spike felt that light touch through his entire body.
Can I kiss you? Xander asked, very quietly. Can I kiss you and and nothing else?
Course you can, Pet, he said, hearing the huskiness of his own voice, and when Xander leaned forward, Spike met him halfway.
God, those lips. Xander could hide behind jokes and clownish behavior and self-effacing wisecracks and clothes that hid that edible body, but there was nothing but truth in his kisses. He opened his mouth to Spike more intimately than anyone Spike had fucked had ever opened their bodies to him. Kissing Xander was like plunging his fangs into a vein, naked and wet and powerful and focused.
When Xander drew back again, the sensation of loss was tangible and immediate, and Spike fought down the urge to pull Xander back to him. Xanders eyes were dilated, his lips swollen and moist, and he was still flushed, but Spike could smell that embarrassment had bloody little to do with it.
Can I wash you? Xander murmured. Just that and nothing else?
Sure, Pet, Spike said, shivering. Dont worry, Pet. S not like I could do much right now anyway. He was half hard, but despite the infusion of Xanders blood, after all the damage and healing he was amazed hed managed even that much. He needed rest now, deep restful sleep, more than anything else.
Xander got up, returned with a blanket, which he wrapped around Spike.
Just sit still a minute, he said. Im going to clean the tub, and then Ill be back for you.
Thanks, Pet, Spike said, wishing he could spare Xander that gory tub, but too drained to do more than sit there and enjoy the lack of pain. There was some residual ache, but Spike would wager even that would be gone after a good days sleep. He couldve done with some more blood, but hed make do with Giles packets when he woke up. And then hed see about getting something fresher.
He must have dozed a bit, because it seemed only a moment later that Xander took the blanket away and carefully helped Spike to his feet, supporting the vampire while he tested the leg. It felt wobbly, and Spike could feel that the bone hadnt totally firmed up yet, but it would do just fine.
In deference to Spikes weakened state, Xander had apparently opted for a bath instead of a shower, for the tub was full. Xander settled Spike comfortably in the large tub, then washed him gently with the last of the clean washcloths.
Dont suppose youd care to join me? Spike quipped.
Xander glanced down at the pinkish/orange-tinged water and grimaced.
No thanks, he said. Id rather not sit in my dirt. Ill take a shower when youre done, then clean the tub again. Yuck.
The water darkened considerably when Xander washed Spikes hair, and Xander squeamishly drained and refilled the tub before he finished washing the vampire. Spike enjoyed the washing, but was glad enough when it was over; healing sleep was calling to him, and he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. When Xander helped him out of the tub and tenderly patted him dry, however, he steered Spike not to the vampires bedroom, but toward the new waterbed. This time Spike didnt even bother with innuendo; he was simply too tired.
S up, Pet? he yawned.
Youre still stiff and sore, I can tell by the way youre moving, Xander said, helping Spike into the waterbed and tucking him in cozily. The warm waterbed will feel good. Go on, just go to sleep. Ill take the phone off the hook so Giles doesnt wake you up when he finds the surprise you left on his doorstep.
Id give a good bit to see his face when he goes out for his paper and trips over that Vorgost head, he said sleepily.
Xander chuckled too.
Yeah, I think theyll get the point, he agreed. Although I think the railroad spikes through its eyes are a little bit over the top, dont you?
Good artist always signs his work, Spike yawned. Gday, Pet.
Sleep tight, Xander murmured, and Spike thought he felt the gentle press of those lips against his cheek, but he was asleep too soon to be sure.
Spike woke slowly, groaning happily. The bed was warm and comfortable, the flat was nice and dim, and there was a warm, solid body spooned up tightly behind him, a strong arm thrown over his waist. Spike yawned, stretched, grinned, and contemplated simply going back to sleep. Even the aching hunger in his stomach wasnt enough to roust him out of his comfortable nest.
Warm lips moved against the back of his neck, softly kissing the tender skin there, and that was worth waking up for. Spike rolled over to look at his companion.
Xander looked drowsy, but hed obviously been up sometime already; he was wearing a pair of sweat pants instead of the pajama bottoms hed slept in, and his breath smelled of that tomato soup he liked.
Morning, Pet, Spike yawned.
Try evening, Xander corrected, yawning too. I was starting to worry.
Day and a bit of the nights not so bad as these things go, Spike said drowsily, making no move to scoot away from Xanders warmth.
Try day, night, day and part of the evening, Xander said. Youve been asleep for almost 48 hours.
God, no wonder I feel so bloody hollow, Spike grumbled. How much blood have I got left, Pet?
Just the packets Giles gave you, Xander said apologetically.
Shit. Spike grimaced. Well, needs must, I suppose.
Xander gingerly extended his arm.
No, Pet. Spike shook his head. Thanks. Its a nice thought. But before, see, Id had plenty to drink already, and I was weak enough you couldve stopped me if I got greedy. Now Im bloody hungry, and even though Im not all fit yet, Im strong enough to be dangerous.
Then how about if you drink enough pigs blood that youre almost full? he suggested.
Spike glanced at Xander, surprised. He hadnt expected the whelp to offer again; hed taken the gesture for a life-or-death sort of thing. But he wanted that hot red elixir, of course he did, and he wasnt fool enough to turn it down when it was freely offered and it didnt seem likely hed drain the whelp dangerously. And maybe he could take advantage of this opportunity.
Right, then, he said softly. If you dont mind, then.
Xander shook his head, flushing slightly.
No, its okay, he said. Come on into the kitchen, Ill start heating up your breakfast.
To Spikes relief, he was steady on his feet, still a little weak, but a good meal would take care of that. He let Xander wrap him in a robe and lead him to the kitchen, but when Xander would have installed him in a chair, he shook his head and pulled out the spicy V-8 while Xander poured blood into a mug.
If youre going to feed me, youve got to take care of yourself, Spike said innocently, turning away to pour the liquid. Glancing over his shoulder to make sure Xander was occupied in what he was doing, the vampire bit into his thumb and dripped a little blood into the glass, swirling it to mix with the V-8.
Trade you, Xander said, and Spike turned, holding out the glass and accepting the mug in its stead. They sat down at the table and sipped their respective breakfasts. Spike fought down a smirk as he watched Xander drain the glass. The small dose of his blood would help Xander regenerate the blood he lost, but more importantly, it would help strengthen the bond between them, which had already grown exponentially with the quantity of Xanders blood Spike had ingested.
Spike went through four packets of pigs blood before he nodded to Xander. Xander vanished momentarily into the bathroom, then reappeared with, to Spikes surprise, one of the scalpels from Spikes bag. Xander turned up the underside of his forearm, then hesitated, glancing at Spike.
Was it right, where I did it before? he asked.
Not bad, but heres better, Spike said, drawing an imaginary line with his fingertip along the fattier part of Xanders forearm. Nothing goes under here, tendons or veins, but it bleeds nice.
Xander swallowed, took a deep breath and cut carefully with the scalpel, grimacing but, to Spikes surprise, not wincing.
Jesus, the whelps got a high pain threshold, Spike thought, impressed. Then he grimaced himself. Figures, dont it? Suppose hes felt a good deal worse.
Xander laid the scalpel down and extended his arm, his eyes on Spike rather than the wound. Spike grasped Xanders wrist lightly and bent his head, rumbling happily at the back of his throat as his tongue took that first intoxicating taste of Xanders blood.
He licked at the wound but didnt draw upon it, careful not to cause Xander any additional pain. When the welling blood slowed all too soon, Spike sighed regretfully. He shouldve given Xander the spiked (heh heh) V-8 after hed had his taste, not before. Right now, under the influence of Spikes blood, Xander healed up a lot faster. Spike bit into his lip and licked the wound once more, finishing the healing before Xander could suspect that anything was amiss.
You didnt take as much that time, Xander ventured when Spike raised his head, licking his lips clean.
Didnt need as much today, Spike said, shrugging. He met Xanders gaze and grinned. Doesnt mean I didnt like it, Pet. Lots.
Xander smiled shyly.
You know, he said, I havent gotten my pizza yet. I was promised pizza in exchange for Vorgost-slaying.
No, you were promised pizza in exchange for spectating, Spike retorted. And seems to me I recall you charging right on in with this bloody big hunk of wood, which isnt something a vampire exactly likes to see coming at him, if you get my meaning.
It wasnt for you, it was to bash the Vorgost, Xander argued. And seems to me I recall that at that particular time, the darned thing had just laid your belly open with its claws and was trying to gnaw your leg off.
I was doing fine, Spike grumbled.
Oh, yeah, Mr. Who Needs Eyes, Xander said, rolling his eyes. The thing got the drop on you within fifteen seconds. I counted.
Didnt know it could jump so high, Spike mumbled.
Or land on you, Xander retorted. Anyway, if it wasnt for me and that bloody big hunk of wood, we couldve been poking through its poop looking for your leg. Or your head.
All right, all right, what dyou want, a bloody medal? Fine, you rescued me. Spike groused, although he grinned despite himself. Xander had actually looked pretty fine, charging right at that Vorgost, big old branch in his hand and an expression of utter fury on his face. The avenging warrior. Under better circumstances he might have enjoyed being rescued. Not to mention carried off and ravished.
Then an amusing thought caught his attention.
Wonder if Giles ever found his little present, Spike chuckled.
He sure did, he said. I called him around noon yesterday so the gang wouldnt bust down the door looking for us. As if. For a moment his smile faltered; then he laughed again. Actually its even better than that. Buffy found it.
You dont say! Spike said, raising his eyebrows. Better yet, but howd that happen?
Well, turned out that Willow was really pissed at her, so she and Tara took off with my car, Xander grinned. They took Dawn home, but left Buffy at Giles. I guess hed had a couple of beers and decided hed better not drive, and hes not insane enough to let Buffy use his car, so she had to sleep over on the couch, and he was going to take her back to the dorm in the morning. Anyway, she was the first one out the door.
Spike almost howled with laughter as he imagined the Slayers expression. God, he hoped shed slipped in the big puddle of ichor leaking out of the severed head.
Well, way I understand it, women arent averse to getting a little head now and again, he said wickedly, prompting Xander to tip his chair over backward as he shook with laughter.
Guess she got a good headstart on her day, Xander giggled.
Ooooh, Pet, youre bloody wicked, Spike laughed.
She and Giles can study it, get ahead in their research, Xander wheezed.
Spike poured Xander a glass of water and handed it to him, waiting until Xander choked off his laughter and swallowed some of the liquid.
Come on, Pet, lets get dressed, Spike said serenely. Nights wasting. He waited until Xander took another sip. And Im bloody eager to head on out.
He turned toward the bedroom, grinning wickedly as the water came spurting out Xanders nose.