Xander had been up and down several times during the day to tend Spike’s injuries, each time washing the wounds, adding fresh herbal paste and giving Spike two bags of blood. He’d no idea what Rose had put into the mixtures, but it was working a treat. Most of the small cuts were gone and the larger gashes were showing signs of healing, but Spike was still quite stiff and slow. His impatience over this, led them to discuss what additives Rose may have included.
They definitely agreed there was a sedative; he was asleep again within minutes of lying back down. Spike argued that Rose must have assumed he wouldn’t take it easy and had also slipped him something that was keeping his muscles so stiff, forcing him to remain basically immobile. Xander argued that he was an idiot and should just come to grips with the fact that he was an old man who didn’t heal like he used to. That had earned Xander a very cautiously displayed two-fingered salute.
They’d spent the rest of their time awake talking about nothing consequential; Spike’s history of injuries, Xander’s job, Tom and Rose. They had carefully avoided the issues related to ‘bending’ Xander’s no-contact rule. Xander was determined to keep his distance until Spike was healed, and Spike was trying to stick out his promise to himself of restraint.
Xander’s alarm woke him again just as the sun was going down. Before he prepared the medication, he phoned a progress report through to the Bear and Lion.
“Hi Rose, Xander Harris.”
“Xander! How is everything, chooky? Is William behaving himself?” Xander laughed to himself at the maternal way she talked about the ‘big bad’.
“Well he’s been complaining long and loud about how you drugged him so he can’t move, but aside from that he’s healing really well.”
“Tell the big baby I did no such thing. He’ll just have to be patient. It’s the toxin doing that.”
Xander laughed again. “I’ll tell him exactly that.”
“Good. And you’re giving him plenty of blood?”
“Yep, two bags of O-pos right before we do the dressings.”
“O-pos? You’re giving him human blood?”
“Ah, I thought-” Xander was worried whether he’d done the right thing.
“Oh, it’s okay chooky. I just assumed he would be on animal blood. But this is great.” She told him, happiness evident in her voice. “He’ll heal up just fine and so much faster on human blood. You can stop the medications now.”
Oh, thank god. Precious uninterrupted sleep. “That’s great Rose, thanks for everything.”
While they exchanged some small talk, Xander grabbed a bag of blood from the freezer and put it in the microwave to thaw. Assuring Rose that he would look after himself too, he hung up and went to wake Spike again. He pushed open the door and discovered that this time, it looked like Spike had not woken to the alarm. Moving to the side of the bed, Xander kneeled on the floor, watching him sleep.
He imagined it was no different to viewing a body in an open coffin funeral. Spike was completely still. White skin, no breathing, no pulse, no clue that he was anything more than a corpse, which, if you wanted to split hairs, he technically was. Well, there was one clue. Xander never had feelings like this for a regular corpse. Even now, just looking at Spike, he was consumed by it, the physical desire, the sensory overload. He had a scent of his own, rich and spicy. His face was so striking; the cheekbones obviously the best feature, long, dark eyelashes that rested against the pale cheeks, the bottom lip so full. Xander recalled how cool and soft that lip felt under his. He was reaching out a finger when the lip moved.
“I can hear you staring, mate.” Spike turned and smiled at him. “You know, as far as humans go, you are one of the less sneaky ones.”
“Hey, I can sneak with the best of them Bleachie.” Xander got up then sat on the bed next to Spike. “Want some good news?”
Spike leered at him. “You’re gonna smash that rule all to hell and get in here with me?”
“Ah, that would be great news, not just good. No, I spoke to Rose. No more lotions and potions. You’re on your own now. She says you’ll be fine.” Xander moved away slightly before passing on Rose’s next message. “She also said ‘Tell the big baby to stop whining about his muscles, it’s the poison, not me.’”
“Wasn’t whining, masters don’t whine.”
Xander snorted. “Whatever. So you feeling any better?”
“Yeah pretty good, all things considered.” Spike gingerly flexed his arms and legs then smiled at Xander. “Pretty damn good. You sure you don’t have some great news for me then?”
“Nah, not yet buddy. Let’s get you up and around before you count your chickens. Just hold on and I’ll grab you something to wear.” Xander went over to the set of drawers and took out a pair of dark blue sweatpants which he tossed to Spike, before pulling on identical grey ones.
Spike sat up, rather more quickly than he’d been able to in quite a while, and managed to get the sweats on. They were a little big and hung low on his hips but were comfortable and soft against his wounds. He caught the grey t shirt Xander threw next and was able to lift his arms enough to get that on too. It was long and loose over his battered body. Spike levered himself upright; not bad. Still stiffer than normal, but the pain was less and he almost felt refreshed. He took a couple of wobbly steps before he found his feet and heard Xander come to hover protectively behind him.
“Where you headed Bleachie?”
“Blood, beer, couch, telly,” Spike told him, walking slowly, one hand trailing along the wall for support. “In that order, if I ever fucking get there.”
Xander came up beside him and wrapped an arm carefully around his waist, holding Spike upright, close against his side. “Let me know if I hurt you.”
“Not gonna happen, just get me to the kitchen, I’m starving.”
“Patience my arse. Point me to the blood.”
Xander walked him into the kitchen and pointed to the microwave. “Dinner’s in there, just needs heating up while I make a sandwich.” He passed a mug to Spike then went off to make his own food.
"Harris where did this blood come from?” he asked.
Spike watched the timer count down, and when the oven beeped he took the bag out. He glanced at the label on the bag, noting how familiar it was, but it took a moment to register why. This was the same bag, the same supply that was sometimes hidden in amongst his pig’s blood in the Magic Box fridge. He looked from the bag to Xander. He’d assumed the blood he’d been drinking that day had come from Tom and Rose, but now he knew he’d been wrong.
“The blood? Oh, right. Um, why what’s wrong with it?”
“Did Tom send it with the stuff from Rose?”
“So where did this bag come from?” Spike asked with forced patience.
“You had all Tom’s supply at the pub.” Xander hadn’t yet looked up at Spike; he appeared to be completely engrossed in preparing his sandwich.
“Um, the freezer.” He concentrated carefully on the cheese slices.
“Harris,” Spike spoke quietly but firmly. When he didn’t add anything further, Xander turned around to look at him with an apprehensive expression.
Spike just stared and waited, holding the warm bag out. He could almost see the cogs turning in the boy’s mind as he looked from the bag to Spike and back again. Spike didn’t break eye contact, nor did he soften his stare. He didn’t have to wait long until Xander sighed and shook his head.
“Fine. You want to know? I bought it on my way back yesterday. Okay?”
Xander mumbled something unintelligible and turned back to his sandwich.
“Yesterday before I got sliced and diced?” He asked. “So tell me Harris, how exactly did you know you would be needing human blood?”
“Will you forget about the soddin’ food and talk to me?” Spike said, more exasperation in his voice than he meant. “You’ve been leaving this blood in the shop fridge too haven’t you?”
“Why would you do that?” He asked this with a small amount of wonder and much less annoyance.
“I just figured you had enough to deal with, what with the chip and all. And I read in the Watcher’s journals that animal blood would be nearly useless.”
Xander put down the cheese and went to stand in front of Spike. “I could see what that pig’s blood was doing. You just weren’t yourself. You weren’t strong enough to fight. I just wanted to do something to help. I’m sorry Spike.”
“Stop being fucking sorry for nothing.” Annoyed again. “You’re always apologising for things you didn’t do, or things you did good. S’why the slayer walks all over you.”
Xander stared at Spike. Should he tell him the truth or just offers some flimsy excuse and sweep it all under the rug? If he wanted to start something with Spike, then beginning with a lie was definitely not the way to go. “Guess I’m just selfish. I didn’t want you to be weak, couldn’t stand seeing you be less than you are and going out on patrol, you could’ve been dusted. I so don’t want that to happen. Buying that blood was the only thing I could do, I know I’m no help in a fight.”
At Xander’s hurt look he quickly continued. “Look, I would probably be dead ten times over by now without those bags you stashed in the shop. You’re right, pig’s blood is just shit. But I don’t know what to think about this. You’ve been buying this stuff for weeks and now you’ve got enough in your house to feed a soddin’ vamp army. Why?”
Spike regarded him curiously and spoke with a soft voice. “Why do you do that? You never give yourself any credit. You always talk yourself down.”
Xander shrugged. “Cause it’s the truth.”
“No its not. You’re far from selfish and you’ve got us through serious dust ups plenty of times. That’s the truth.”
“Yeah, right,” he scoffed.
“Harris I don’t lie.” At Xander’s pointed look he added, “Alright I lie through my teeth, but I don’t lie to you. Now why have you got so much blood in the fridge.”
“I got a promotion; they back-dated my wages a few weeks. The money came through while I was away so I thought I’d get some extra blood, you know just in case something else came up, I didn’t want you to miss…” Xander’s voice trailed away and a look of horror came over his face. “I am so stupid. Oh my god I am so stupid. Spike I’m sorry, oh god why didn’t I think? I am selfish, I didn’t even think before I left, I just packed and went. No wonder you couldn’t fight last night. Now you try to tell me it’s not my fault!”
“Oh for Christ’s sake Harris, what’s your fault now?”
“I didn’t leave any blood while I was away. I just left and didn’t even think about you. You wouldn’t have been so hurt last night if I hadn’t been so self-absorbed.”
“Ok, now you listen to me very carefully.” Spike stepped over to Xander and grabbed him by the arms. “When I think you are to blame for something I will tell you long and loud. You know me Harris, you know that’s the truth.” At Xander’s nod he let go and went on. “One or two bags this week would have been nice but it wouldn’t have made a difference against the Hokard, there was just too many of them, they were too fast and the fledges I took in were to slow.”
Xander thought on that for a moment. “You’re serious when you say you’ll always be straight with me?”
“Not gonna lie to you Harris.”
“So let’s say then that I take you at your word, cause I think I’m as sick of feeling guilty as you are of trying to convince me I’m not to blame. We cut to the chase. You want me to stop buying it?”
Spike sighed. He needed decent blood. He hated that it made him feel even more useless that the boy had been supplying it. But what was he to do? He had no ready cash and he’d been starving. Was he too proud to accept this help that Xander was offering? Usually yes. But he could see what this act did for Xander. The lad was doing his bit for the good fight. Spike was loath to take away anything that gave Xander a feeling of purpose.
“No I don’t. But as soon as I have some cash I’m throwing it your way. Not gonna be a kept man.”
“Good. Settled then. I buy your blood, you don’t feed me bullshit. Deal?” Xander held out his hand.
Spike looked at the proffered hand with one eyebrow raised. “That’s it?”
“Hey, we’re manly men. And manly men shake on a deal.”
Spike gave a heavy resigned sigh. “Deal.” He shook Xander’s hand.
“Great, now reheat your blood, we have a hard night of TV watching ahead.”
Xander’s sandwich made and demolished, Spike’s blood warmed and downed they settled themselves on Xander’s large pillowy couch with a beer each. Spike sat in the middle, where the harder arms wouldn’t irritate the injury on his side. Both lay back with their feet up on the coffee table.
“I’ll be taking that thanks,” Spike said, snatching the remote out of Xander’s hand and flipping through channels at an extreme rate. “Here we go, just the thing. You’ll love it. Man United and Chelsea. ” He stuffed the remote down a cushion on his far side away from Xander, shooting him a happy grin.
Spike had found the sports channel and settled in to watch the English Premier League. He didn’t even notice Xander’s horrified expression.
“But-, but-. Surely there’s a nice forensic investigation type show on? How about a no-brainer sit-com?”
“Nope, sorry mate there’s nothing else on. I checked.” They both sat back to watch the game, Spike explaining the rules to Xander, who was astounded that for all the shouting and running and kicking, no one scored for the entire half.
Xander had taken care to sit himself on Spike’s good side and gradually, during that first half of the game, both men had edged themselves closer. They now sat side by side bodies pressed together along thigh, hip and arms. Xander was enjoying the small contact and leaned more into Spike occasionally rubbing their legs against each other for emphasis as they talked. It seemed a completely natural thing when Xander picked up Spike’s hand and absently toyed with his fingers.
Spike was content. He was still aching, but it was much better, the couch was very comfortable and he had Xander’s long body acting like a giant hot water bottle against his side. They had good-naturedly argued over the standard American versus English football, but had long ago settled into an easy silence. Xander was playing with his fingers, running his thumb over the black polish, scratching his fingers lightly up and down Spike’s palm, rubbing his fingertips over the sharp knuckles. It was a simple thing, but Spike revelled in any kind of physical contact. Human contact was always his favourite. They were so warm, had a delicious scent and he could hear and feel the blood so close to the surface. He laid his hand palm up on Xander’s thigh and let the boy caress that sensitive skin, feeling the heat wrapping around his cold hand.
Game all but forgotten, Xander rolled his head to the side and watched Spike. They were both drifting a little and Spike’s eyes were half closed. Xander followed the lines of his face with his eyes. The dark eyebrows, gently sloping eyes, long straight nose, incredibly sharp cheekbones. Not letting go of Spike’s hand, Xander twisted onto his side and reached out to Spike’s jaw. He softly traced the pad of his finger from chin to jaw, seeing Spike’s eyes close and a small smile play across his lips. Xander turned his hand over and caressed along Spike’s cheek with the backs of his fingers. He trailed his fingers down under Spike’s chin, across his throat and let his hand come to rest on Spike’s other cheek. With a little pressure he turned Spike’s head, meeting the clear blue eyes with his own deep brown.
Spike had closed his eyes at Xander’s touch. It was both beautifully warming and painfully scorching at the same time; his fingers leaving a burning trail across Spike’s skin. He felt Xander pulling his face around and then saw those rich brown eyes staring at him. Xander’s eyes dropped to his mouth and his thumb reached around to lightly brush across the bottom lip. His face drew closer and then suddenly he was there, his lips on Spike’s, his hot breath pouring over Spike’s mouth. Xander’s hand slid around the back of Spike’s head and tangled in his hair. His lips parted and Spike felt Xander’s tongue running back and forth over his lips. Spike leaned into him and opened his mouth slightly, the tip of his tongue meeting Xander’s in the lightest of touches.
His lips were so soft, a surprising counterpoint to the Spike he knew as a whole. He was cold, but Xander could feel a surface warmth that he knew was his own body heat absorbed by Spike. Xander wound his fingers through Spike’s hair and pulled him closer, increasing the pressure on their mouths. He opened his more and let his tongue slide between Spike’s lips, gently probing and sliding back and forth over
Spike’s tongue. He traced over Spike’s lips and teeth and thrill ran through him as he heard a tiny moan escape Spike. His hand gripped Spike’s, interlocking their fingers in a firm hold. His other hand came around to rest lightly on Spike’s neck, his thumb resting in the hollow at the base of Spike’s throat.
They stayed glued together through the remainder of the game, Xander lazily kissing and touching his way around Spike’s now healed face. Spike lying back relaxed and basking in the sensation of Xander’s focussed exploration, his attentive kisses and caresses. Neither tried to up the ante and let passion carry them away; both aware of the extent of Spike’s injuries and the amazing rate of healing, they knew there would soon be time when they could let themselves go. Tonight there was no rush.