orchidluv (orchidluv) wrote in bloodclaim,
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Nothing the Same, Ch. 23

Title: Nothing the Same
Author: orchidluv
Chapter: 23/?
Pairing: Spike/Xander
Rating: PG 
Feedback: yes, please
Concrit: any and all
Disclaimer: don't own them, never will, just playing with them
Spoilers: Anything from Season 1 on. 
Summary: AU from The Harvest. Xander doesn't deal well with Jesse's death and everything changes from there.
Notes: Based on the plotbunny posted awhile back by wickedchocolate. I took the first part of the bunny only: Xander never got over Jesse’s death. After he dusted Jesse, he was never the same. Xander isolated himself from Willow and wanted nothing to do with Buffy.
Previous parts here

Chapter 23

“Xander!” Willow’s worried tone carried clearly over the phone. “Are you all right? Oz told me you were in the hospital but visiting hours were over and they wouldn’t let me call your room either. I was coming over this morning to see you. Are you still in the hospital? What happened?”

Xander spoke quickly at her first pause. “Long story. Willow, what happened at the factory?”

“The factory? Xander, that’s not…”

Xander interrupted before she could gather steam. “Willow, it’s important, I really need to know. Please.”

“Well,” it was obvious she didn’t want to talk about it. When she spoke again, her voice was unsteady. “Angel killed Ms. Calendar.” She stopped and Xander could hear her fighting back tears. “He put her body in Giles’ bed for him to find.” Xander winced at that image. Poor Giles. He knew first hand that Angelus was sadistic, but jeez, what an awful thing to do to someone. Angelus so needed staking.

“Anyway, Giles went to the factory to kill Angel. He didn’t tell anyone he was going, just loaded up a bunch of weapons and left. We figured out that he’d gone after Angel and Buffy followed him. She said he started a fire in the factory during the fight and she found Angelus just about to kill him. She saved Giles and got him out of there before the place burned down.”

“Did Buffy say if Spike was at the factory?” Xander asked urgently.

“Spike? She didn’t mention it. But Xander, why are you in the hospital? Are you ok? What happened?”

“Angel happened. Willow, can you call Buffy and find out if Spike was at the factory? I need to know if he’s ok.” A thought struck him suddenly. “Did Angel make it out of the factory?” Angel had grabbed him just after sunset. If he’d killed Ms. Calendar that same night, it had to have been after he left Xander at abandoned apartment building. Maybe Angel was dead. A guy could hope, couldn’t he.

“We don’t know yet if Angel’s still alive. The factory burned to the ground and Buffy didn’t find Angel on patrol last night.”

“Can you call her and find out about Spike?” Xander asked again.

“I guess, but Xander…”

“Please, Willow. Can you call her right now and then call me back?”

“All right, what’s the number?”

Xander read the number on the phone to her and hung up, lying back in the bed and cradling the phone, ready to pick it up instantly when it rang. He looked out the windows at the bright sunny day. The nurse who’d brought him the phone had opened the curtains for him. They wouldn’t tell him when he could leave until after he’d seen the doctor on his rounds later this morning. Until then, it was reassuring to see daylight through the broad windows, the closed curtains had reminded him too much of the boarded up windows in the apartment.

Spike would be holed up somewhere until sunset so Xander had all day to figure out how to find him. And he was simply not listening to the nagging little voice that said Spike might be dead.

The phone rang under his hand, startling him, and he snatched it up. “Willow?”

“Buffy said Spike was there. He stopped her from killing Angel. She doesn’t know for sure if either of them made it out of the fire.”

The phone slipped from nerveless fingers as Xander closed his eyes against the images Willow’s words brought: Spike trapped, burning, Angelus laughing as Spike pleaded for help. Ok, that would never happen: the pleading, not the laughing. Angelus would totally laugh in that situation. Gradually, he became aware of distant shouting through the phone and numbly put the receiver back to his ear.

“Xander! Talk to me! Xander!” Willow sounded frantic and Xander mustered words from somewhere.

“Willow?”

“You scared me to death, Mister. Don’t do that.” He didn’t have any idea what she was talking about. He’d scared her? What conversation was she having?

“We’re coming over. We’ll be there in half an hour. Don’t go anywhere.” The phone went dead as she hung up.

Xander hung up slowly. He resisted the sudden, savage urge to throw the phone against the wall. If he did, they’d never let him have a phone again and he might need one. Nothing had changed. Buffy didn’t know anything one way or the other. If Spike had stopped Buffy from killing Angelus, it had been for a good reason. Probably because Spike wanted to do it himself. Spike was like that.

Xander felt himself calming down as a reminiscent smile curved his lips. Spike was big on doing things himself. He wouldn’t like it if Buffy killed Angelus.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A short time later his room filled with visitors. Willow, obviously, Buffy and, to Xander’s surprise, Oz. Mr. Giles also came, uncharacteristically quiet, his eyes haunted with sorrow and anger in equal measure.

After the first round of sympathetic exclamations, Xander had briefly explained his injuries: concussion, two cracked ribs and a broken arm. There was something wrong with his lungs that he didn’t really understand: depressed breathing or something like that. They’d put him on oxygen a couple of times when they didn’t like what one of the monitors said and it was apparently the main reason they weren’t willing to let him go yet.

He gave them a brief outline of what had happened: Angelus trying to pretend he was Angel again. For now, he left out what Angelus had said about knowing Ms. Calendar was a gypsy. It was too late to matter now and he hadn’t decided if he should tell Giles about it, he wasn’t sure if it would make it better or worse to know that she hadn’t been killed randomly but probably because she was a gypsy. He didn’t actually know that but it was a likely guess. He skipped to Angelus knocking him out and waking up to find himself a prisoner, then escaping, glossing over what had happened with Angelus in the apartment. He didn’t want to dwell on the details, they were too fresh in his own mind and the creepiness of that short time with Angelus in the apartment was something he so did not want to relive or describe.

“How did you escape?” Buffy asked. She had been unusually quiet, seeming tired and drawn. Xander just hoped it was sadness over Ms. Calendar’s death and not because she thought her ex-boyfriend was dead. Given that she still hadn’t been speaking to Ms. Calendar, the last that Xander knew, he was afraid it might be Angel she was upset over. If so, he really didn’t want to know. He needed their help and screaming at Buffy was probably not the way to get it.

“I picked the lock.” Xander answered shortly. He knew that he would have to answer their questions first but to him, this was already seriously old news and he wanted to move on to the finding Spike part of the conversation.

“You know how to pick locks?” Mr. Giles asked, surprised.

“Well, duh.” He didn’t mean to be rude but it was a dumb question. “How do you think I was able to read your books last year? It’s not like you weren’t locking your office or the book cage.” Xander couldn’t help grinning at the librarian who made a small, tutting noise at the reminder of how Xander had pilfered his books.

Willow laughed suddenly. It was so unexpected and out of place that they all turned to stare at her. She smiled at Xander, “Boy Scouts!” she exclaimed out of nowhere.

Xander grinned back at her. “Yep. Good ole’ Psycho Steve.”

“I remember. I remember how much fun you and…”, she hesitated but continued after a barely perceptible pause, “and Jesse had practicing lock-picking.”

“Told you it would come in handy one day.”

“Yes, as illuminating as this is, we need to concentrate on the situation at hand.” Giles looked apologetic but determined. “Xander, can you tell us anything about the building Angelus took you to?”

“Not much. It was an old apartment building. I didn’t even recognize the part of town it was in.” He shrugged, “I don’t remember much after I left the building. I was trying to find a phone to call for help, then I woke up here. They told me someone found me lying in the road and called 911.”

“Could you tell if Angelus was living there?”

Xander shook his head. “I don’t think so. The place felt empty. I only saw the two vampires but it wasn’t like I was stopping to check. And I’m really sure Angelus spent the day somewhere else.” Again, he didn’t elaborate. The memory of what had happened with Angelus sent shivers up his spine whenever he thought of it. “Listen, you guys, I need to know what’s been happening. Willow said the factory burned down?”

Oz had been standing in the back, listening but not saying anything. Now, he spoke for the first time, his head cocked to one side curiously. “Xander, don’t you remember talking to me about the factory last night?”

Xander shook his head, confused. Willow had said something about Oz knowing he was at the hospital but he hadn’t known what she was talking about and he’d forgotten it almost as soon as she’d said it.

“Devon was in a car accident yesterday. He asked me to come pick him up and I found you.” He shrugged apologetically. “The nurse threw me out of your room and wouldn’t let me back in. Sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Xander just shook his head again, he didn’t remember talking to Oz at all. He’d had a lot of confused dreams, mostly involving Spike, but thankfully they had faded rapidly once he was awake and talking to people.

Buffy suddenly reached towards the neck of his hospital gown. He flinched back instinctively and then was embarrassed by the reaction even as she dropped her hand without touching him. “Why is your neck bandaged?” she asked harshly.

Xander’s good hand flew up, his fingers tentatively exploring the outline of the bandage over the wounds left by Angelus’ teeth. He hadn’t realized there was a bandage there. Of all his injuries, that was the most minor, physically anyway. He hated the idea of having the mark from Angelus’ teeth on him and fervently hoped they would disappear soon. “Angelus bit me,” he said reluctantly.

“What?” That near shout came from everyone and Buffy and Willow tensed and stepped back from the bed.

“Hey, sunlight, heart moniter.” Xander pointed to them in turn. “Jeez, people, overreact much? He bit me in the cheesy, want-to-suck-your-blood way, nothing more.” Cheesy, not scary. Yep, if he kept telling himself that, he should be able to start believing it any time now.

“Does anyone know if Spike made it out of the factory?” he asked urgently, finally getting the chance to direct the conversation to where he wanted it. “Buffy?”

“I don’t know. He stopped me from killing Angel.” She sighed, her voice softening slightly. “He grabbed my arm and told me to take care of Giles. I got Giles out so there was probably time for Angel and Spike to get out. I haven’t seen either one of them since.”

“That was two nights ago?” Xander was still a little fuzzy on the time frame. Buffy nodded. Ok, last night he’d been in the hospital, so that meant the fire was the same night Angelus had grabbed him. “Would you guys help me find Spike?”

“I’ve got better things to do than help you find your pet vampire,” Buffy said flatly.

“Your ‘better things to do’ got us into this mess in the first place,” Xander snapped back. He regretted it the second the words left his mouth. Not because it wasn’t true but because it wasn’t going to help him get what he wanted.

“Look,” he began in a more conciliatory tone, “Angelus was trying to use me against Spike. If Spike thinks Angelus is still holding me, Angelus has a chance of succeeding in whatever he’s planning. If you’d bothered to listen to any of the research we did on your ex, you’d know that Angelus’ plans are not good for anyone.” Ok, so conciliatory hadn’t lasted long but Buffy really annoyed him.

“Xander has a point,” Oz said quietly.

“Yes, he does,” Giles agreed. He looked at Xander. “From what I understand of what happened, Spike honored the truce. He only intervened in the fight to stop Buffy, and made no attempt to harm her.” He looked at Buffy sternly. “It would appear that Spike does not pose a significant threat at this time. However, we cannot allow Angelus to gain Spike as even a reluctant ally. The best course of action would appear to be to let Spike know that Xander is alive.” He smiled with cold satisfaction. For a man wearing glasses and tweed, he suddenly looked incredibly dangerous, Xander thought uneasily. “Angel may well find out he has made a serious mistake in angering Spike.”

Xander was outvoted four to one in his request for them to check him out of the hospital so he could help. The others agreed to check for Spike as soon as the sun went down. Looking despairingly out the window at the sun high in the sky, Xander tried to think if there was anything he could do before then. Frustratingly, he didn’t have any idea where to tell them to start looking. As far as Xander knew, Spike hadn’t had a backup place to stay. Leaving a note on Xander’s window might well attract Angelus instead of Spike.

He watched as the others filed out, heading for school, then called after them. “Giles, can you stay for just one second?”

“Certainly.” Mr. Giles stepped back into the room and looked inquiringly at Xander. “What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to say I’m really sorry about Ms. Calendar. I liked her. She was a really nice lady and a good teacher.”

Giles turned away for a moment, staring blindly out the window. “Thank you, Xander, that describes her very accurately. It’s kind of you. I shall miss her very much.” He sighed and brought his gaze back from the horizon, nodding briefly at Xander before stepping out of the room again. Watching him go, Xander wished he could have found something comforting to say.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike waited, anything but patiently, in the tunnels beneath the school library. Resentment, anger, worry, all churned inside him. Angelus was going to pay and pay dearly for every insult, slur and humiliation, and most especially, he was going to pay for touching what was Spike’s. But until he found Xander, he couldn’t act, and it was driving him ‘round the bend.

Leaving Angelus’ mansion, Spike had checked Xander’s home and the hospital without success. Then he’d scoured the town. While in the mansion, he’d made note of every one of the minions there. Finding several in the course of his sweeps through the town, he’d staked them immediately. He hadn’t even taken the time to play with them properly, simply dusting them cleanly the second he’d located them. There was nothing they could tell him that he was interested in, since they obviously didn’t have the once piece of information he wanted: Xander’s location. They’d been scattered, searching for something, when he’d come across them. Searching for Xander, Spike was sure. His pride in his boy’s resourcefulness at getting away from Angelus was overtaken by fear as the hours passed without any sign of Xander.

At dawn, he’d taken refuge in the tunnel systems. He didn’t think Xander would be in the tunnels; humans were strange about underground places, they didn’t like them, and most would rather go up than down when hiding.

Having checked the main tunnels, the ones some humans were aware of, without finding any trace of Xander’s scent, Spike had made his way along the branching tunnels to the sections that accessed the school library. It was still too early, the school grounds were quiet. Spike waited below the library, keeping an ear out for the Watcher to come to work. He hoped the Watcher would be willing to listen to him before attacking. Given Angelus’ antics in the last few days, the little group of do-gooders had to be ready to ally with the devil himself against Spike’s Sire.

Wasn’t that bloody human ever going to show up for work?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike was tired of pacing fruitlessly and seriously considering writing a letter of complaint to the man’s employer by the time the Watcher finally showed. Alerted by the sound of doors being unlocked and the low murmur of voices, Spike lifted his head and listened intently. Not voices, one voice, the Watcher, talking quietly to himself as he settled in for the day.

Spike was up through the tunnels in a flash, entering the library in the back and striding forward through the stacks towards the low murmur of the Watcher’s voice.

He found the Watcher in his office, pulling books off the shelves. Hearing the approaching steps, he looked up and promptly dropped the books, fumbling to catch them instinctively, then letting them go, as he reached for a weapon on the shelf.

“Watcher,” Spike greeted. “Flag on the play, mate. Not here to fight.”

The Watcher straightened, turning to face Spike with a small crossbow in his hands, but he kept it lowered and pointed slightly away from Spike. “Spike,” he asked cautiously.

“In the unliving flesh. Need your help, your’s and your Slayer’s. Angelus took my boy. Think Xander’s escaped and I need your help finding him before Angelus does.”

The Watcher studied him intently for a good long time, then surprised Spike by setting the crossbow down. Down but within easy reach, Spike noted.

“We’d heard. Xander is at the hospital. I’ve just come from there. He did indeed escape but he was injured.”

Spike was torn between heading to the hospital immediately, or waiting to see if there was more. He suppressed his desire to vent both his relief and his fury that Xander was injured, a display of temper would not induce the Watcher to continue to cooperate. “How badly?” he growled, not even aware that his eyes had shifted to a malevolent yellow glare.

“Nothing he won’t recover from fully. They were keeping him until tomorrow as a precaution, I believe.”

Spike was so filled with trapped energy needing to go somewhere, do something, that he was unable to keep still. He began pacing in short jerky steps back and forth in front of the Watcher’s office. He wasn’t even aware of the Watcher studying him, his expression softening.

“He’s just as worried about you.”

“What?” Spike’s head snapped up and he stared at the Watcher.

The Watcher smiled a little. “He called us there this morning to tell us what happened and ask us to look for you. He was afraid you might have been caught in the fire.”

For a long moment, Spike stared at the Watcher, seeing the sorrow, guilt, and banked rage in his eyes. He gave a short, sharp nod, acknowledging the leashed predator inside the human. “Think we might have found some common ground, eh, Watcher?”

“I think we do indeed have a common enemy, Spike.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Spike had left without another word. Time enough after he’d seen that Xander was all right to hammer out the terms of his agreement with the Watcher. And now he was cursing himself for being all kinds of an idiot for not staying at least long enough to call Xander and talk to him.

It hadn’t taken long to reach the library through the tunnels, but Xander was housed on the third floor and there were too many open hallways with large sunny windows between him and his boy. Giving up after several tries, Spike cursed the architect who seemed to have designed the wing Xander was in specifically to prevent vampires from visiting during the day. He considered going back to the library and using the Watcher’s phone but by the time he got there and back it would be nearly sunset and he wanted to see his boy, smell him, touch him, not talk to him over the phone.

Helping himself to several packs of blood stored in a basement refrigerator, Spike settled down impatiently to wait for sunset. He tore open the bagged blood and drank, making a disgusted face as he did so. He needed the blood and he didn’t want to create a ruckus at the hospital while Xander was a patient but bugger it all the stuff was disgusting cold. Maybe he could find a microwave somewhere.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The hours had crawled by for Xander. He’d talked on the phone to Willow, Oz and Giles and been brought up to date on the news. Giles told him that Spike was alive and was heading to the hospital to visit Xander, but he hadn’t arrived yet. Oz had filled him in on his own visit to Xander, telling him the story about how Devon had been so stoned he’d driven off the road. Apparently, the whole way home from the hospital after having his broken leg set, Devon had insisted to Oz that the tree had jumped in front of him. Oz told Xander that the hospital staff refused to let him back into the room after getting Xander so upset that the monitors went off. They’d pounced on Oz to identify Xander, who’d been listed as a John Doe till then. Actually, Oz told him with quiet amusement, he’d been listed as “Zander Doe” because he’d apparently been coherent enough at one point to given them his first name. Xander was surprised at how much fun Oz was over the phone, for someone who didn’t say many words, he communicated very well and he kept Xander amused for nearly half an hour. It didn’t hurt that Giles had been the first one to call, so Xander’s relief that Spike was both unharmed and coming to see him, made him receptive to the jokes and banter.

Willow had also called, just checking in. Unlike Oz, who’d told Xander he was glad to learn that Spike was all right (ok, when Xander had excitedly reported that Giles had seen Spike, Oz had said ‘gladness’, but that was Oz) Willow hadn’t mentioned Spike. She’d asked about what the doctors had said and how he was feeling and when they were letting him out. Which was, sadly, fairly typical of their new relationship. They could talk fairly easily about most things but there were certainly subjects that were taboo. As long as they didn’t stray into forbidden territory, things went smoothly, but the old tight connection was gone. Willow was a friend again, just not a close friend or a best friend.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Xander.”

Xander’s head turned quickly at the greeting. Spike was standing hesitantly in the doorway looking unwilling to come in. Xander had been making himself crazy staring at the door, so he’d finally turned on the tv and tried to interest himself in the antics of a bunch of sitcom teens whose lives were so different than his he almost found himself wondering if they were aliens. Maybe he should have found a sci-fi show.

“Spike!” Xander couldn’t stop smiling, even though he was sure he looked like an idiot. It felt like he hadn’t seen the vampire in weeks, even though it had only been a few days. With nothing to do but lie here and think, he’d passed a good chunk of time remembering every minute of the fun they’d had the night Spike took him out to dinner. He’d been trying without success to think of something he could do for Spike that the vampire might like even half as much as Xander had enjoyed that dinner. He switched off the tv with the remote and gestured impatiently. “Aren’t you coming in?”

Spike entered the room, almost like he was scared to, and as soon as he got close enough, Xander grabbed his hand and tugged him closer. They studied each other, Xander relieved at the lack of any injuries and Spike visibly growing angrier by the second.

“Spike, I’m fine. Honest.”

“He hurt you, luv.” Spike perched on the edge of the bed and cradled the uninjured side of Xander’s face gently in one cool palm. “I promise you, he’ll pay for touching you.” Fingers traced with exquisite gentleness over the bruising on Xander’s face. “He’ll regret every second of pain he caused you.”

Spike’s fingers drifted down Xander’s jaw and Xander closed his eyes, the cool fingertips feeling good against the still painful bruises. Spike’s fingers jerked away suddenly and Xander opened his eyes, confused. Spike’s eyes flared golden and his face half shifted to demon features.

“He dared!” Spike hissed.

“Spike?”

“He dared to mark you. Bastard! I’ll rip his teeth out with my bare hands, I’ll see him crawling at my feet for mercy, I’ll…” Spike’s voice was rising and Xander was worried the staff would hear.

“Spike!” He tugged urgently on the vampire’s arm as Spike shot to his feet. “Spike! Stop it. You’re going to get yourself thrown out.”

Spike glared down at him, “Anyone who tries to throw me out of here will need hospitalization themselves.”

“And that’s such a good plan. Please, Spike. I’m angry too but we don’t need a fight with a bunch of hospital security people.” Xander looked up at Spike pleadingly. Spike sighed and shook his head, his features settling back to human and blue eyes meeting Xander’s apologetically.

“Sorry, pet. Didn’t mean to lose it. Time for that later.”

“Exactly. Sit down and tell me what’s been happening. I take it Angelus survived the fire? Any chance he was at least horribly burned?”

Spike gave a short laugh at Xander’s hopeful question and relaxed. He cocked his head, studying Xander from head to toe. “Left side’s hurt, innit?” Xander nodded and Spike moved around to the other side of the bed. Xander started to shift to make room but Spike stopped him. “Don’t move, luv. I’ll take care of it.” Reaching under Xander, he eased him to the edge of the bed, then lay down next to him carefully, putting his left arm gingerly around Xander’s shoulders. “Ok?” he asked.

“Good.” Xander settled into the strong, cool body beside him. Leaning hurt a bit but he suppressed his wince wanting the reassurance of feeling Spike against him after the long night of worrying about him. “So, horribly burned?” he prompted.

“Sadly, no. Git gets my bloody home burned down and walks away without a scratch.” Spike thought about that for a second. “Well, he didn’t actually walk away, more like staggered. First the Watcher, then the Slayer, then me. We all had a go at him in turn.”

“And none of you killed him? What are you, a bunch of slackers?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Filling Xander in on the events from the night the factory burned, Spike listened to the steady rhythm of Xander’s heart and soaked in the human warmth pressed against the length of his body. The tight knot of tension inside him relaxed for the first time since Angelus had shown him that torn piece of fabric outside the burning factory. His boy was safe and was going to be fine. That was enough for now.

When he’d first seen Xander in the hospital bed, he’d frozen in the doorway, unable to move. Xander had looked so pale and broken lying there. A tall, lanky boy, physically bigger than Spike, he’d seemed impossibly small and fragile. Spike had been overwhelmed by the crushing realization that Xander was mortal and could have died so easily.

It had gotten better once Xander had seen that he was there. Spike felt his lips curve as he remembered the smile that had lit Xander’s face at the sight of Spike standing in the doorway. Animated, smiling and talking, Xander hadn’t seemed so close to death. Battered, yes, but not dying. Took more than his ponce of a Sire to kill his boy, he thought in near contentment.

Xander was positively gleeful at Spike’s elaborate description of how first the Watcher, then the Slayer, then Spike had trounced Angel. He seemed particularly pleased that the Watcher had gotten some good shots in and he explained to Spike about the teacher that Angelus had killed. The darkness he’d always seen in Xander was close to the surface in his anger over Angelus.

He admitted that he had stopped the Slayer from killing Angelus and was relieved that Xander wasn’t angry. Wasn’t like he had known Angelus had Xander at the time and Spike made it clear that he regretted stopping her. Xander apologized for having told the Watcher about the factory. It was obvious he felt guilty about the Watcher burning the place down. Spike just shrugged, his anger over the burning of the factory had nothing to do with Xander and was so far down the list of reasons he was going to kill his Sire that it didn’t even make the first page. “Not like I owned the place,” he said reassuringly, and Xander laughed slightly.

Spike cocked his head, listening. “Still having trouble breathing, luv?” He didn’t like the sounds he was hearing from Xander’s lungs.

“Just a little breathless when I laugh,” Xander said dismissively.

“You supposed to call someone when that happens?”

Xander looked sheepish. “I’m supposed to use the oxygen but I don’t like it. It makes my nose and throat really dry.”

Spike looked around and saw an oxygen rig near to hand. Reaching up he snagged it and pulled it to Xander. “Put it on, pet. Faster you’re better, faster we’ll get you out of here.”

Xander took the plastic tube reluctantly. “But…” His barely voiced protest died at Spike’s glare and he sighed and adjusted the end in his nose, pulling the tubes over his head. “Happy?” he asked grumpily.

“Won’t be happy till you’re out of here. Need to get you somewhere safe, away from Angelus.” Changing the subject abruptly, he asked: “how did you get away? Haven’t told me yet.”

He listened intently as Xander described how he’d escaped, laughing at the idea of using a toilet as both tool and weapon. Listening to what wasn’t said as well, how Xander glossed over the worst bits. His boy’s worst injuries were from jumping out a second story window to escape - the broken arm and cracked ribs came from that little stunt. “And the bite,” he asked, barely keeping the growl out of his voice.

Xander’s eyes shifted away. “Angelus said something about having a snack before leaving.” It was obvious he was not telling Spike everything. Spike could sense the shame and fear coming off Xander in waves.

“He marked you deliberately, to get back at me, didn’t he,” he managed to ask calmly.

Xander nodded, still not meeting Spike’s eyes. “Said you hadn’t marked me so he would.”

Spike heard the hurt in Xander’s voice. “Luv, I want to mark you. Have for a long time. Just didn’t think you were ready yet.” He reached over and turned Xander’s chin gently so Xander was looking at him. “Was getting ready to ask you, luv. Wanted you to want it to. Wanted you to understand what it means before I asked.” He willed Xander to believe him and was relieved when the hurt look faded and Xander nodded.

Spike held his boy gently for a long time, mindful of his injuries, listening to the regular thumping of his heart and the quiet hiss of the oxygen.

Xander stirred finally and looked at him. “Spike, what did you mean earlier about going somewhere safe? I’m safe at my house, Angelus can’t come in.”

“You’re not safe anywhere in this town, luv. Angelus has lost a lot of points, losing a hostage that way. He’s low on minions and he’s going to have trouble keeping new ones. Minions only follow those they respect or are afraid of. A vampire who can’t control his Court is going to see his minions drift away like smoke. He’s going to have to do something big to make up for losing you.”

“But with you and Buffy both on his case, won’t he just lie low for awhile?”

Spike shook his head. “Not his style, pet. I don’t like it, but I want to get you right out of town until he’s dust.”

“No.”

“What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“I mean I’m not running away from that bastard.”

“Xander, I can’t protect you every minute,” Spike started to explain but Xander interrupted.

“I’m not asking you to. This town may suck sometimes, but it’s my home. I’m not leaving.”

“You’ll do as I say,” Spike growled, eyes showing glints of yellow. “I need to know you’re safe.” How could he have forgotten how stubborn Xander could be?

“Sorry. Not happening. Gonna have to go to Plan B, Spike, because Plan A is not acceptable.”

Spike glared at him and Xander just glared back. Impasse. Spike would consider using force for Xander’s own good but he couldn’t while Xander was injured. “Fine,” he said sulkily. “Plan B it is. I take you to your house and you don’t leave it until Angelus is dead.”

Little prick had the audacity to laugh at him. “And Plan C?” he asked, his laugh cutting off abruptly as his breaths got short and shallow.

When Xander was better, Spike was going to kill him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the end, they compromised on Xander being very careful and never being alone at night anywhere that Angelus could get at him. Spike would stay with him until he was released, which the doctor had said would probably be tomorrow morning.

That settled, Xander asked a question that had been puzzling him. “Spike, you said you checked the hospital? How come you didn’t find me? It was still daylight when I was found so I had to have been here already.”

“No one checked in under your name, luv?”

“Oh, that’s right. They didn’t know who I was when I first came in. Oz told them later but I guess they hadn’t updated the records yet.” Ridiculously, he was a little hurt that Oz had apparently found him by smelling him and Spike hadn’t.

Spike’s soft growl surprised him and he look closely at the vampire. Spike’s voice was gruff as he explained. “Not mad at you, pet. Mad at myself. I called the hospital instead of coming in person. Shouldn’t have done that.” He looked away and Xander leaned forward, trying to see his face. Spike sounded almost… embarrassed? “Didn’t dare come in person, was having a bit of trouble maintaining my human face,” he muttered under his breath, barely loud enough for Xander to hear.

Xander digested that. Spike was so upset he couldn’t keep control? A smile spread slowly across his face and he was beaming when Spike looked back at him. Spike narrowed his eyes at him. “Hasn’t happened in public since I was a fledge and we’re not talking about it again, right?”

Xander nodded. It didn’t matter that Spike was embarrassed by it. Whether it was due to anger at Angelus or worry for Xander, either way it showed how much Spike cared about him. He snuggled back into Spike’s side, tucking the memory away to savor later.

TBC

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