salustra (salustra) wrote in bloodclaim,

FIC: Hell Takes a Spa Day, pt.1 (S/X, Adults only)

Title:. Hell Takes A Spa Day (ORIGINAL S/X) Post NFA

Warnings: Hum/Vamp. Romance. Au, Some DOM/sub/ /humor. Bad/profane language, graphic/explicit M/M sex. Re-established relationship.

Pairing: (S/X)
Rating: NC17
Authors: Salustra & Naughty_Fae

Status: COMPLETE in 2 parts. Part 1 7061 words.

Comments: Comment if you want to, it's nice to know somebody's reading it.

Disclaimer: Written for: Fall_For_S/X. We do not own any characters, products or services depicted in this story. The plot is ours. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel The Series characters are OOC and we cite section 107 of the US copyright clause on 'fair use' to be found HERE No profit made.

Please do not archive.

Summary The LA battle's over and there's not much left. When Xander finds a horrifically injured Spike, it looks like he's going to get his heart broken again..........

Part 1.

Xander wasn't entirely sure what he'd expected to see, but this wasn't it. This looked like Armageddon hit Los Angeles. Several square blocks all rubble, heaped with dead bodies and pieces of dead bodies and blood and oozing stuff that looked like pureed bodies and bones and heaps of ashes. Of the bodies that were in the least recognizable, most were demon. The Council had called in a heap of favors to keep civilians out. Those working the rubble were local Slayers, Watchers, and other trusted allies.

Giles had sent Xander to oversee all this. The epicenter of it was the old Hyperion, the hotel that used to be the headquarters for Angel and his gang, so it was suspected they had something to do with this. Giles wanted someone familiar with them there to handle it. He'd given Xander a briefing on all of the ones he didn't know, Charles Gunn, Lorne, and Illyria the God-Demon who'd taken over the body of Fred. An odd bunch, all things considered. Andrew had been all too eager to go, but for obvious reasons Giles didn't want to send him. And Giles had arranged for a friendly face. Clem stood rather nervously next to Xander, casting occasional worried glances at the Slayers as they passed them.

They got closer to the Hyperion, and the heaps of bodies got higher. There was also a blasted crater, in the center of which was a delicate female skeleton posed defiantly, scorched black. The last stand of Illyria, Xander supposed.

There was a massive dead dragon, which a crew of volunteers was already hooking cables around to lift into a cargo container on the bed of an 18-wheeler. Dragons were the source of too many beneficial medicines and awesome weapons components. As they lifted the dragon there were two things evident underneath. At the critical spot where a sword had been sunk into the heart, there was a heap of ashes. So one of the vamps. It only took a glance to realize which one.

A familiar black duster was visible not far from the heap of ashes, and a shock of blond hair was visible. But as he drew closer, he could see it was obvious the weight of the dragon had crushed his ribcage and broken many of his bones. His limbs rested at odd angles, and he was paler than usual, and utterly still.

The first feeling to hit him was molten white hot fury, it glowed, seethed and squirmed inside him, robbed him of his breath and blurred his vision. He'd never felt anger like it in his life, not fighting alongside Buffy, not when Spike lit up like a Roman Candle, not during his years in Africa or as a Watcher since. He raged at Giles, Buffy, Willow and Andrew that they had kept Spike's existence secret from him to 'give him a chance at a normal life,' not telling him the truth until he was bound on this mission. He raged at Angel who had selfishly, knowingly led his intrepid band to their death's and left his own Childe a broken, bloody mess, a pulp of bone, flesh and blood. Confirming if confirmation were needed what he had always felt about the dark vampire. He raged at Spike for not getting in touch and giving him a choice about his future. The last weeks of Sunnydale they'd become friends, united as comrades in arms and then, as Spike realised he didn't love Buffy anymore than she loved him, lovers. It had been good between them, better than good.

They'd sat, talked, held hands and made plans, what they would do if they survived and all the time the blond bastard knew he wouldn't survive... But then miraculously, he had and he hadn't come for him. Xander snorted, obviously the last days of Sunnydale had meant more to him than Spike.

The second feeling was a devastating sorrow that tore a hole in his heart and opened a gaping wound. A sorrow that took him to his knees with a gut wrenching sob beside the still form he barely recognized. "Spike," came out as a twisted, gasp. His hands fluttered ineffectually over the vampire's broken body. He should have been dust, but he wasn't, stubborn to the last. Tears blurred the vision of his one eye and made a glistening trail down his cheek. "Spike, you bastard," he choked out, "don't you dare dust while I'm so mad at you."

One of the Slayers wandered over, looked down. "Vampire," She said, matter-of-factly. "I can put it out of its misery for you." She pulled a stake out and flipped it around in her hand.

Clem made a sharp sound of both distress and protest. Xander couldn't blame her really, she didn't know Spike except as a legend and was only obeying her finely honed instincts. The fact that she held back was a testimony to how much control Xander had over them, most of these girls he had recruited and overseen their training himself. But it didn't stop him from surging to his feet and his hand whipping the stake away from her mid flip. "Back off, this is Spike. Anyone so much as threatens him, deals with me." He scrubbed away his tears with an irritated swipe of his hand.

"Sorry, Xander," the Slayer said. "I didn't know. Want us to get him loaded up in one of the ambulances? This area is gonna be in direct sunlight soon." She knew that Spike and Xander had fought together at the closing of the Hellmouth, of course, everyone did. But she was surprised at the vehemence of his reaction. Obviously they were friends and she wasn't going to make matters worse by letting Spike get fried by the sun.

Xander inhaled a long breath. "Sorry Gina," he adjusted his eye patch self-consciously and handed her the stake back. "You're right, we need to get him loaded up right away." He glanced at the mangled form at his feet, at least he was comatose and probably wouldn't feel the pain of moving him. "Can you ask them to bring the ambulance as close as possible and we'll lift him in."

Gina nodded. "I'm on it." She moved off and in a few moments one of the special ambulances was brought over. Gina had wrangled together a team to help out. One of the witches levitated the body slightly so they could slide a backboard under him and then a body bag over him to hold him together and protect him from the light. The slayers lifted the backboard gently onto a gurney and the gurney into the ambulance. "Where do you want him taken, Xander?" She asked.

The fact she'd asked instead of assumed he'd be taken to the high tech Slayer facility, told him it probably wasn't the best place. Besides there was a reason to be cautious. Giles and Buffy had been very specific, he was to go in and mop up, find out what happened and if Angel (and therefore presumably Spike) were behind it. Deal with any nasties and rescue what humans they could and keep the rest oblivious. No mention was made of helping the vampires or rescuing them. Angel had been on the outs ever since he took over Wolfram and Hart. Giles had never cared for either vampire and didn't trust them. Xander still shuddered over how callously he'd planned for Wood to kill Spike. Buffy had been ambiguous about Angel since the business with Wolfram and Hart and in the end as mistrustful as Giles. They probably thought that Spike had thrown his lot in with his Sire and maybe he had but he wanted to hear if from Spike himself. Spike had fought for his soul, he didn't have some misguided gypsies force one on him and to Xander that counted for a lot. It was probably best Giles and Buffy didn't know he'd survived.

He turned to Clem and walked away with him a short distance. "I know I'm asking a lot Clem," he studied him with bleak eyes," but Spike your friend. And this," he gestured between them, " stays between me and you, you have my word. Right now I'm not a Watcher."

Clem give a puzzled frown.

"I, I," Xander's hands flexed at his sides ad his voice became hoarse, "I'm asking as me, Xander - In the last few weeks of Sunnydale Spike and I......." he swallowed, "became friends and then lovers," he whispered. "We planned a life together that could never be. I thought he was gone..... I can't lose him again," he said breathlessly. "There has to be a place, somewhere, someone that demons use when they're sick or badly injured? Someplace that the Slayers and Watchers don't know about." Xander's chest tightened with anxiety."Please Clem, he begged, "help us."

Clem laid a large, black clawed hand on his shoulder. " I'm not dumb Xander," his jowls wobbled, "I can see how you feel and sense your sorrow. Spike always had a soft spot for you, even when he was mixed up over the Slayer." He shook his head and his floppy ears flapped. "There's a place, a female demon......A powerful healer. But you won't like it."

"Tell me," Xander urged.

"Her name's Aasha, an ancient ogress and she knows Spike from his William days and she'll do what she can." His face fell. "But he's in a bad way Xander, worst I've ever seen."

"He's too stubborn to dust," Xander gave a tight, grim smile. We have to try."

Clem nodded. "You drive the ambulance, I'll navigate."

Clem guided Xander into a seedier part of Demontown, the unofficial name given to the largely demon-populated seedy run-down neighborhood that was home to a large portion of the reasonably peaceful demons. The house that Clem pointed out was a small oasis in a dingy cheerless block. It was surrounded by big trees and a tangle of flowers and foliage, like some fairy-tale cottage in the woods. The house itself was outsized, with a tall roof and a massive door.

They moved up to knock on the door but it opened before they got there. A massive ogress stood in the doorway. She was clad in what seemed to be some sort of dyed leather. Her massive arms and legs were visible, thick as tree trunks. Her skin was greyish-green, her hair an oily-green that looked more like seaweed than hair, and she had protruding tusks. For all this she had grey eyes that seemed gentle. "No need to knock, bringing that ambulance to my door is quite announcement enough. You," she said, looking at Xander, "I don't know, but Clemuel you know better. You'd best have a good reason for all this."

Clem looked abashed but stood his ground. "It's Spike. He's hurt bad, shouldn't still be together."

"Well why didn't you say so in the first place? Let's get him in!" Aasha stepped outside her house and over to the ambulance, pulling the backdoor open. She easily lowered the guerney to the ground single-handed without a jolt to Spike's aching body, and before either male could so much as help she'd wheeled him inside, and shouted back, "Well, come inside! I'll need help with him in a moment."

Xander stood in open mouthed amazement. He'd seen all sorts of things his life, things that couldn't, ought not to exist, but did. He'd seen a troll, fairies, (who weren't as nice as they're portrayed by the way, sharp teethed little vermints), goblins, all manner of supernatural creatures and demons but never in his wildest dreams had he thought ogres were real, or seemingly so benign. He shook his head, why the hell not? He followed Clem inside the massive front door and it took both hands and all his strength to push it shut. He turned and looked anxiously at the massive creature bent over Spike. "Can you help him?" He murmured quietly.

She looked at him. "Remains to be seen. Your name, human?"

"Xander," he replied.

"Hmm," she said, concentrating her gaze on him for a minute. "Ogres don't use half-names, Alexander. I need your help. I could cut away his clothes myself but with these hands," she held out her massive hands, the palms alone bigger than a catcher's mitt for baseball, "the shears I can hold might cut him as well." She carefully picked up a pair of fabric-cutting scissors, the same sort used in emergency rooms, between two fingers and placed it on Xander's hand.

Xander's fingers closed around the scissors her meaning clear, that she wanted him to do it. He moved cautiously to the side of the gurney and swallowed hard. What he could see already of Spike's injuries made his stomach roil, what horrors would be discovered one clothing were removed? His eyes flicked to Aasha, bleak and harrowed. "Is it okay to do this? I mean his clothes seem to be the only thing holding him together?"

Aasha nodded. "It has to be done or I can't proceed," she said quietly. "Have courage Alexander."

Xander turned back to Spike and took the round ended, curved scissors in his fingers, they had a ball end to keep them off Spike's flesh. He was going to cut away Spike's beloved duster, if he survived there'd be hell to pay. "Sorry Spike, I'll get you another," he whispered and began to cut.

It took a bit to get the clothing cut away. Thankfully there was very little bleeding, though the flesh itself normally so pale was almost vividly red and lumpy. It was a disturbing sight. Aasha first very carefully maneuvered the limbs back into a proper position and orientation. Then she pulled out a pair of goggles with lenses of multifaceted crystal. She slid them over her eyes, looking up and down Spike. "Lucky for him. Spine's intact. So's the skull. He's been crushed and no mistake, most of his bones broken, but his skin's holding everything in. It's probably the only reason he hasn't dusted. He can re-grow and reset bone. It's slow, very slow, but quicker than a new spine. Only there's so much of it..." Aasha sighed and took off her goggles. "He looks worse than Drusilla did when he brought her to me after Prague. I'm pretty sure I can save his unlife, Alexander, but he'll be very weak indeed. Are you leaving him with me or are you staying?"

For Xander there was no choice. The Slayers wouldn't expect him, at least for quite a while. There were plenty of other junior Watchers to debrief them and detail what happened. Sooner or later he'd have to check in with Giles and Buffy, they'd want an in depth report and analysis of what had happened. Spike's survival would be part of that, or not. The fact was he had to make a decision. Spike would take weeks, perhaps months to heal. He couldn't just 'disappear' and then go back and expect them not to interrogate him. Either he left Spike (which was a non starter) or he stayed with him, whatever happened. At the moment he'd dropped off the radar, no-one knew where he was. He could finish with the Watchers, resign in the future from somewhere far away. Both carried risks, Spike may not want him, after all he'd never come back for him. He could wind up friendless and alone, but it seemed a small price to pay for knowing somewhere in the world the blond vampire was safe and well. "I'd like to stay with him, if you don't mind."

Aasha smiled at him, her sharp teeth and polished tusks gleaming softly. "I don't mind, Alexander. Sweet William needs company, he's never done well alone. Tell me, can you give up a little blood to help him? I can make a strong healing potion from it." As she spoke, she started rolling the gurney down the hall. "And you Clemuel? Are you staying?"

Clem fidgeted a bit. "A few days at least, I want to make sure he makes it. We've been friends a long time."

Aasha nodded. "We'll get you both set after he's settled." She pushed the guerney into a room. She used the backboard to gently transfer Spike onto the bed.

Xander was already taking off his leather jacket and rolling up his shirt sleeve. "Take as much blood as you need." And he never thought he'd hear himself utter those words in relation to Spike. His reply coaxed a smile from Clem, floppy jowls and way too many pointed teeth was not a good look, but Xander had seen worse.

Aasha chuckled. "We'll get to that later. Watch him, I'll be back with some things to start the healing." She came back in a few minutes with a big jar of oil and a potion bottle. She set down the oil in front of Xander. "That needs to be spread on his skin, as much of the surface as you can manage. Your hands are gentler than mine for this. I'll work on feeding him the potion. Clemuel, make yourself useful, take the gurney back out to the ambulance."

Clem nodded, face folds wobbling, as he grabbed the gurney and started rolling it back down the hall. Aasha opened the bottle and a sweet scent hit the air, like honey and hibiscus. She drizzled some over his lips, moistening his mouth, then letting it drip down his throat. At first there was no reaction but then there was the occasional swallow. "That's good," Aasha crooned. "That's good, sweet William. You're safe, only friends here now. Come back to us."

Xander grasped the jar of oil. It was big and old fashioned, clear glass with a large cork stopper. Heavier than it looked. The oil inside was a rich honey color and seemed to emit a warm glow, in fact Xander felt his hands warm as he held the jar. As he peered into it's depths he imagined he saw movement and twinkling pinpoints of brilliant light that came and went before his eyes. He pulled out the cork with a loud pop and tipped the jar so that a generous amount of the oil flowed into his palm, immediately it warmed and hand tingled. I was hard to imagine his big hands capable of being gentle, but they were. He glided them feather soft over the raw and damaged skin, praying that he wasn't hurting Spike and to the god or demon who cared for errant vampires that it would work.

Aasha looked over at Xander spreading the oil. "You care for him, don't you, Alexander the Great? I can tell, your touch is very delicate with him. The oil is slow-working, it helps aid the healing. This potion I give him will take away the pain and make him sleep. He'll heal faster if he sleeps now."

"Alexander the Great?" He gave an amused snort, "nobody has ever called me that. He gazed at Spike as his hands moved, sweeping over his body. "Yeah I care for him, " he confessed, "perhaps more than I should. We were friends," he glanced at the ogress, "more than friends and I thought he felt the same but he let me think he was gone. I didn't know until coming to LA he was still around and then seeing him......" He didn't talk much about Spike, not to Giles, Buffy or Willow. He told the young Slayers what he had done in Sunnydale but not how he felt about the vampire, never that. It wasn't their business and they wouldn't understand a Watcher caring for, loving a vampire even one with a soul and who'd been a good man. It felt right to talk to Aasha. He drew a deep breath."You may as well know I'm a Watcher, I was a Watcher, I just resigned. You have nothing to fear from me, I swear. I just want him safe and well, even if ultimately it's not with me."

"I call folk as I see them, their spirit. William was always Sweet William to me, even in the days he styled himself The Big Bad. There is a core of sweetness in him that nothing can erase. And you are Alexander the Great, because there is greatness inside you. You're not the first Watcher to love a vampire, nor the first to resign. As for not telling you..." She sighed. "He came to see me from time to time. He was very lonely. At first he couldn't leave, the magick held him here. Then he was afraid to let you all know. He'd died a hero. It was very important to him. And finally Andrew came. He assumed after that you all knew he was back. Silly boys, he thought you knew and didn't want to see him, and you thought he didn't want to see you because he didn't contact you. When he wakes up you can talk. But he talked about you a lot, Alexander the Great." She finished dribbling the thick potion into his mouth and carefully cleaned off his lips.

Xander listened with a pain blooming in his heart. Andrew had known, Giles, Buffy and Willow. They had all taken it upon themselves to keep it from him, like always they assumed they knew what was right for him. Their motives might have been good, they probably assumed Spike was better off with Angel and he was better off without him, but they were wrong. Spike hadn't left him, he never stopped thinking of him. How had he felt assuming he knew he was alive and chose not to contact him? At least he thought Spike was gone, how much worse for the vampire to believe he was deserted, unwanted, unloved when the polar opposite was true. Even when he returned from Africa they kept it from him, suppose Spike didn't believe he never knew? What then? His eyes took on a deep look of sorrow. "I didn't know he was alive,they kept it from me. I've mourned him every day since I believed he was gone. There's never been anyone else not for me." His voice shook with emotion. "There never will be. I love him Aasha, I only hope he believes that I never deserted him, that I never knew."

One of Aasha's massive hands rested lightly on Xander's shoulder. "He'll believe. You are so open, Alexander the Great. He'll believe." She turned and walked to a shelf, pulling off a clean sheet. "Time to let him rest a bit," she said, and spread the sheet over Spike's oil-shined body.

The sheet ballooned over Spike's body and settled, it was like gossamer fabric thin and light but warming. Xander helped arrange it over his body. He looked up at Aasha and twisted his hands. "Will it be okay if I stay, sit with him a while?"

"Of course. You come into the main room for tea when you're done. I need to start a potion brewing and tend it, and I've got tea ready." She turned and walked out, pausing at the doorway to look back. "Love can do a lot of good."

Xander made himself comfortable in the chair next to the bed. On impulse he took hold of Spike's hand gently. "Come back to me buddy, I miss you, you blond pain in the ass." Spike didn't move and Xander sighed. "Y'know I never stopped mourning you," he began quietly. After it was all over and there was just the crater,we got on the bus and headed out. I remember how excited Buffy was that she could be a real girl, talked non stop about shopping and travel. Willow joined in and Dawn and even Giles. It didn't seem to matter that we'd lost a load of young girls, Anya," he swallowed hard, "you...............You saved the world not them and they didn't even shed a tear. The only one who said anything was Faith... Who'd have thought it? First gas stop, I split. Jumped the bus and took a lift in a truck. Faith saw me, came over and said she was sorry, asked where I was going. I remember saying 'anywhere but here'. She nodded, she understood." He stretched out his legs and scrubbed under his eye patch with his hand.." Ended up in Chicago, bummed around, did odd jobs. Not much call for a one eyed construction worker or carpenter. Scraped by for a while. Then Willow did a location spell and I got a call from Giles. Seems like the government owed me a lot of money for what went down in Sunnydale, plus my parents life insurances, they didn't make it out and the Watchers paid me for my lost youth, innocence and eye. " He gave a bitter laugh. "I'm quite well off, all considered. Giles asked me to go and round up some potential slayers in Africa, seemed like a good idea at the time, I couldn't really be around Buffy,Willow and Giles. Guess it was about then you made it back. They never told me Spike, never said a word. After Africa I visited a few other places rounding up girls, saw a bit of the world got sick of all the travel and came home. They'd setup on the Cleveland Hellmouth and other places. I trained as a Watcher and they gave me the job of overseeing the training of the girls I'd recruited. I still never knew you were in LA Spike, I swear." He squeezed his eye shut briefly."I'd have come if I'd known. Even with Deadboy here, I'd have come. Then LA went down. They weren't sure if Angel caused it or maybe one of Angelus end the world schemes gone wrong. I was dispatched along with my girls. Our orders were to mop up, see civilians knew as little as possible and take care of any nasties left. Right before I left Giles, the limey bastard, told me you were in LA and with Angel. I was too shocked to hit him and the girls bundled me on the transport. I was so angry Spike, I thought you'd come back and didn't want me... Then I saw you lying there broken and bloody, I only recognized the duster and your hair." He blinked back a tear."I never knew Spike, I never knew....There's been no-one else, I've never stopped loving you....."

Spike seemed to stir a bit, and then settle into sleep. The expression on his face slid from pained to peaceful.

Spike didn't give any indication that he'd heard a word Xander said, but at least he was peaceful and not dust.So it was all good - right?

Xander sat in silence just holding his hand lightly. He heard soft voices from next door, the front door open and close and the ambulance start up, he guessed that Clem was taking it back to Slayer HQ, no sense in having them looking for it. How long would it be before they came looking for him? More importantly how long before Willow interfered and started spell casting to search him out. He needed to talk to Aasha about that. He guessed that her house, the whole area was warded but once he went out of the area, he'd be a sitting duck and if Spike was with him.............He wouldn't risk that. Giles had said something about a guy named McDonald, wearing tattoos to prevent Wolfram and Hart locating him, if they worked against Wolfram and Hart surely they'd kick Willow's spells? He'd have to find out about it. He heard Aasha call him softly.

"Alexander, come and get something to eat."

He squeezed Spike's hand and let it fall. He scrubbed his face with his hands and with a shaky breath pushed to his feet. He looked at the still form on the bed.He didn't remember Spike seeming so small and slight. "I'll be right next door buddy." He said quietly and ambled from the room.

Aasha had a number of comfortable chairs in her front room. A few were ogre-sized and others were more human-sized. Each had a small table next to them. Aasha gestured to one across from her, and there was an earthenware mug and a sandwich on thick homemade bread. "Settle in. If the tea's not to your liking I've really lost my touch." Despite the fact that they were both sitting by the fire they were perfectly cool.

It looked and smelt delicious and Xander made himself comfortable in the over stuffed chair, lounging back on the cushions. He took the mug between his hands. "Thanks for this, for everything." He took a gulp of tea, it was just right for him. Spike had turned him on to tea and got him drinking it in a way Giles never could. He smacked his lips in appreciation. "It's wonderful just like Spi....." His voice faded ."He used to make me tea," he murmured.

"And he will again, Alexander the Great. After you finish eating I'll take a bit of your blood to mix a special healing potion. I can add it to his daily serving of animal blood, it will make him heal faster. If I weren't, for my species, the equivalent of a vegetarian I would probably have a source for human blood about but I don't eat sentient's. Well, the occasional rapist or drug dealer who crosses my path, none of us are perfect."

Despite himself, that caused his lips to twitch. "He can have my blood, as much as he needs," Xander offered eagerly but he knew he could never give enough. He cursed inwardly. The girls, the Slayers blood would be ideal and some like Gina wouldn't take too much coaxing to give it, but others wouldn't understand and word would soon get back to Giles, Buffy and Willow. The top and bottom of it was he no longer trusted them not to harm Spike. They'd been quite ruthless in their dealings with Angel, even Buffy and he wasn't willing to find out if they'd help Spike or prefer to be rid of him and he didn't know of a safe human blood supplier in LA, would Clem know? "If there's a supplier of human blood we can use, I have money," he offered. "Whatever Spike needs."

"After what happened? The demon community is all in upheaval. Thousands died fighting the heroes. All sorts of rips were torn in space-time and other rips closed. I don't use a blood supplier regularly for human blood and I wouldn't trust a new one right now not to be a front for that law firm or one of the other demon clans that Angel ticked off. That's why the potion. I can amplify what you can safely give. It's the best we can do for right now. Come on, let's get started."

Xander nodded and followed after her. The next couple of weeks featured the same routine, applying the oil, giving him blood and other potions. The angry lumpy red masses slowly reformed into the smooth toned muscles and pale skin that Xander was familiar with. He started breathing again automatically, as he'd never lost the habit of doing. All his limbs seemed straight, all the bones regrown properly.

And then, one day as they were applying the oil, Spike's eyes fluttered open. He swallowed and focused his gaze on Xander. "Xander? You here? Thought I was dreaming."

Xander's heart lurched and his face split into a wide grin. "Hey Spike," he took his hand, "no dream buddy I'm really here.You had us all so scared for a while, " he blinked back the tear in his eye, "I ought to kick your butt for scaring us."

"Us? Who else is..." He turned his head with a frown and saw Aasha. "Tsk, tsk, Aasha, all this trouble to see me naked. You only had to ask."

"You are a rogue, Sweet William. I will leave to let you talk to your Alexander." She left the room and closed the door behind her.

Spike looked back at Xander. "You must hate me."

Xander inhaled slowly, deeply, all the hurt and anger welling up inside him, all the fear and anguish of the last weeks. He let it all go with a long exhale and the love flowed into the empty space in his heart. "I did when they finally told me you were alive. I was embarking on the transport to come here with a small army of Slayers." He shook his head slowly. "All I could think about was you were alive and you never got in touch, you didn't want me and that what we had those last weeks in Sunnydale meant nothing in the end. I found you among what was left in the alley. You didn't even have the sense to get out of the way of a falling dragon." He gave a watery laugh."Suddenly it didn't matter anymore I just wanted you not to die- Well not again, I couldn't go through losing you a second time........ I didn't know you were in LA Spike... I swear I didn't know." He sighed. "So no, I don't hate you, I've never stopped loving you...."

Spike blinked, eyes bright and wet, and lifted a hand to cup Xander's cheek. "We're both a couple of fools, you know. I intended to come, you know, I did, when the enchantment didn't hold me here anymore. Told everyone else I was coming after Buffy, mostly to rile Captain Forehead. But then I kept thinking what if you didn't want me? Those last weeks in Sunnydale were the best in my whole unlife. I couldn't bear the thought of finding out it had all just been end-of-the-world bunker mentality. I was working up the nerve to try again when Andrew came and well, the boy can't stop talking to save his life, literally, so I figured everyone in the organization would know. And there was no call. I never stopped loving you either...."

Xander gripped his hand tightly. "For once Andrew kept his mouth shut, he never told me. Probably he was under orders not to. All this time...." His voice faded and eyes glistened . "We have each other now. They don't know I'm here," a crease appeared in the center of his forehead, "they don't know for certain you're alive, you were in such a bad way they probably assumed you dusted. Aasha says this place in warded and Giles said there are symbols I can get tattooed on me will prevent Willow locating my life force, a guy called McDonald used them to give Wolfram and Hart the slip?"

Spike nodded. "When I can walk again, I've got stuff squirreled away for an escape. Shielded vehicle, money, the works. Now lean down here and kiss me, you silly thing, don't make me have to sit up right now."

The blood sang in Xander's veins and joy unfurled within him as he stood and bent over Spike. He placed his palms either side of the vampire's head and pushed down into the pillow, taking his weight on them. He lowered his head and his eyes fluttered shut as their lips met. His pulse leapt as his warm lips met Spike's cooler ones. He tasted as he always had, like the finest whisky, tinged with copper but without the customary trace of tobacco. Immediately he felt drunk, intoxicated by his kiss and his scent.The kiss started tender and gentle and then deepened speaking of an end to and loneliness, frustration and fear. Xander sucked rhythmically on Spike's plump lower lip lower lip, the vampire's fingers twisted into his dark hair and held his head immobile as he took over the kiss. His agile tongue swept into Xander's mouth and licked his cheeks, the roof of his mouth and tangled with his tongue and drew a moan from him before Spike pulled back. They were both flushed, red lipped and breathing rapid, ragged breaths.

"Now that," Spike said huskily, "is a proper kiss hello." He grinned wickedly. "I'm sure I'd heal ever so much better if you'd get in here with me."

Heat swept Xander's body and his insides tightened at those longed for words. "I think we'd scandalize Aasha, " he gave a regretful sigh as he straightened. "But if you promise to be good, I'm more than game for a cuddle." His eyes twinkled as his smile lit them up. He knew there was an inherent danger in asking Spike to promise anything, especially anything vaguely sexual, he was still The Big Bad the soul hadn't altered him that much.

"Pet, I can't promise to be good but I promise to keep it to a cuddle." Spike chuckled softly. "Besides, Aasha would wallop me if I messed up her all her hard work. C'mon, shoes off, shirt off at least, get in." Aasha had the beds large enough to accommodate demons of various sizes so there was more than enough room for Xander to join him. And truth be told, he wanted to just hold Xander close and revel in his closeness and his scent and the feel of his body almost more than having sex with him. Almost.

Xander couldn't help but join in Spike's chuckle, he was right Spike would never be wholly good. He had long suspected that William had, had a naughty and mischievous side before Spike ever came along. "I think we can do better than that," he responded with a waggle of his dark eyebrows and in under a minute he had skimmed out of his clothes to his boxers and slid into bed beside Spike.There followed a short, gentle tussle for who was going to cuddle who. Spike won by default, it was his bed. Xander found himself surrounded by cool arms and pressed close to a cool,too thin body and their legs tangled together. He pretended not to notice the sharp hip bones and the bump of ribs as they cuddled. He was physically the bigger man but he had always felt small next to Spike, his personality like his heart in Xander's opinion was huge.

Spike buried his head in Xander's dark hair and took in the scent. He wanted to cry for sheer joy of having Xander this close again but he wouldn't. Xander would be distressed. The warmth of Xander soaked into him, skin to skin. He was too skinny again dammit after getting fed up before the damn fight. But now that he was awake he'd fix it soon enough, he was sure. Everything would be all right, it would have to be, because Xander was here. His chest began to rumble with a deep purr of contentment. "Missed this," he whispered.

Xander pressed against him, barely able to speak for the tight feeling in his chest and the sting of tears behind his eyes and in his nose. He would not cry no matter how he wanted to, perhaps later in private. He would cry for the time they'd lost, for the suffering Spike had and was going through, for friends who had betrayed his trust, for lonely nights in the African bush and European hotel rooms, for a broken heart that was mended, joy that was recovered, love reborn and a future that lay ahead. But he would not cry in front of Spike he had to be strong and not upset him."I've missed it too, so much." He murmured as Spike's rumble shook his thin frame and reverberated through his body.

The two of them lay there for a long time murmuring endearments and cuddling til they fell asleep. Over the next few weeks, Spike strengthened and was able to get up, but he was critically weakened and he could feel that he wasn't getting the nourishment from the blood that he should have. His healing wasn't working as it should either. And he had no Sire's blood available to heal him. He kept his fears to himself but Xander noticed, as did Aasha.

He cut them off before they could confront him, by bringing up casually the subject of the Spring and Crack of the Mists. "There's this place," he said one evening as he cuddled with Xander in one chair near the fire as Aasha rested in another. "It's essentially the vampire equivalent of Lourdes. Healing waters and all that, except only for vampires. Doesn't hurt anyone else, just doesn't do anything for them. I was thinking might be worth a trip there. If nothing else it's warm and soaking in a hot spring couldn't hurt."

Xander raised his head. The truth was he was worried to death. Spike had recovered from his physical wounds and his bones were mended but despite all Aasha's potions and literally gallons of fortified animal blood he hadn't gained an ounce of weight and was still kitten weak. Xander was haunted by the sight of Drusilla when she was sick and knew that it was only Sire's blood would do Spike any good. But the selfish bastard was gone, the one time he might of been of some real use and he was gone, typical. It was such a pity he would have so enjoyed helping Aasha drain him. "You can't go alone Spike, are humans welcome there?" And then he added before Spike had time to reply. "Even if they're not, I'm coming with you."

"You can come. No one's going to bother you there, it's a holy place. No one will do violence there. Actually there are wards in place to prevent it but it's also pretty deep tradition even before the wards. Dunno how well equipped they'll be to handle you but we'll figure something out." He beamed at Xander, his heart would have broken if he hadn't wanted to come.

It wasn't only Spike who'd learned to read emotions. Xander's fingertips traced a path down Spike's sharp cheekbone and looked into his eyes. "I'll never leave you Spike," he whispered, "you're stuck with me." He gave him a look of mock sympathy.

Spike chuckled. "Good, I was rather counting on it."

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