Take Care: Again

By: Highlander II

Rating: R (leaning toward NC-17 for imagery); language, homoerotic sexual situations
Spoilers: None
Summary: Fic-let written as follow-up to a 'Secret Santa' gift for robintcj at the BtVS_Santa LJ. It follows canon through the end of season 5, keeps with canon, but with a little twist. This piece takes place just after the events of "Him" and continues from events in "Back".
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Joss Whedon and are property of Kuzui/Kuzui Entertainment, Mutant Enemy Productions, WB, UPN, FOX etc. etc.
Feedback: Highlander II

Spike was asleep in the ex-closet when Xander stopped by the apartment at lunchtime. The night before, he and Spike had paid a visit to the brother of the boy Dawn had suddenly developed an intense feeling for and learned that the letterman jacket R.J. (the aforementioned boy) wore had been passed to him from said brother. Confused yet? Xander had found Buffy straddling the boy in one of the classrooms and had dragged her home.

"Stupid women. You'd think the Slayer would have better judgment than trying to get it on with a student," he mumbled to himself as he fixed a sandwich.

"So, shagging a student worse than shagging a vampire?" Spike asked groggily from the bedroom door, startling him. "Sorry."

"No. I just thought you were asleep."

"Was." Spike stretched. "So? Is it?"

Huh? Oh, the shagging thing. "Um, maybe. I think. She's a counselor. It's inappropriate. Sleeping with you was just stupid."

"We still talking 'bout the Slayer here?"

Xander looked down at his sandwich. Yes and no. But I can't talk to him about this now.

"What I thought."

"I've got to go." He started for the door with the sandwich. "Stay inside. Get some rest. We may have to do some Scooby stuff tonight. And you're gonna make yourself useful."

He caught Spike's eyebrow twitch and shrugged as he pulled the door open to leave.

Yeah, sleeping with Spike was stupid. Almost as stupid as checking out Dawn at the Bronze the other night. Of course, don't feel as bad about that one, since Will did it too. But, dammit, Spike still makes me hot. He was annoyed and I still wanted to tear his clothes off. This must be some kind of disease.


Xander shoved the vampire onto the bed, pinned him down with his body. He leaned in, attacked the pale neck with punishing lips. Short fingernails found tender skin and counted the ribs along either side.

"Bloody... aggh..." Spike gagged as Xander locked a hand around his throat.

"No talking," he snarled and rubbed himself hard against Spike's hip through their jeans. The vampire moaned beneath him and he could see the veins in the vampire's neck, bulging and stretching under his hand. He knew he was not hurting Spike; the bastard could handle damn near anything. Quick bites made by his own blunt, human teeth; long red lines in pale skin, by short, bitten fingernails; even sharp pain between strong legs, by his well-placed knee.

He grazed his tongue along one of those raised veins, then gazed at the vampire's face. Spike wanted to say something, speak, anything; wanted control. Xander could see it and feel it. "Do I have to gag you?" he asked, rubbing his body against Spike's.

The vampire shook his head and swallowed hard. At least he's following the rules. Even if he is wriggling his hips and trying to get himself off. He pushed back and sat on his knees, hands resting on Spike's chest. "Can I try something?" A nod this time. "Okay." He slid his hands over Spike's chest, along his shoulders, under the pillow, then withdrew them, a long scarf of blood red silk between his fingers. He stretched Spike's right arm over his head and secured it to a bedpost. Then, he drew another scarf - black - and draped it over the vampire's eyes; then he secured the vampire's left arm to the other bedpost with the twin to the first scarf. Fingernails scraping, he dragged his hands down the pale arms to the strong chest. He took the black scarf and tied it around Spike's head, covering his eyes.

The vampire bucked and thrashed wildly beneath him. "Take it off, Harris. Now!" Spike snarled.

"No talking." He thumped the vampire's chest.

"Xander, I'm not playing. Take it off!"

Xander blinked, startled, and began to reach forward to remove the blindfold. He snatched his hands back at the snarling sharp teeth, but reached behind Spike's head to untie the scarf. He pulled it away and dropped it to the floor.

"Hands," Spike snarled and he released the vampire's hands as well.

"What? What did I do? I thought this was okay." Xander shifted to the foot of the bed, his legs drawn up to his chest. He looked up and Spike was backed up against the headboard as far as he could go, legs drawn to his chest, arms wrapped around his knees. Okay, that's bad. Scared the Big Bad vampire. Definitely not a good thing. What did I do? "Spike?"

The vampire's eyes darted toward him, then away again. Silence filled the room as he sat there, watching Spike. Watching him try not to rock, try not to look at him, try not to scream. Then the words came, well, word: "Blindfold."


"Blindfolds. Hate 'em. Always have."

Xander blinked. "Don't bite me for asking, but, why?"

Spike looked at him, then sharply away. "Darla."

"That helps."

Spike sighed. "Back when we were all together, Darla, Angelus, Dru and me, Darla loved to play games. Torture games. I hated it, but Dru would pout and cry if I said we couldn't play. Darla would blindfold us, especially if Angelus was going to play too, and subject us to whatever suited her fancy. Worst part was, you couldn't see it coming. Didn't know if you'd get pleasure or pain. Angelus, he loved it. That was his gig and Dru was too crazy to know any better, but me, hated it. I'm visual. Like to see what's coming."

"I get that. Sorry." He watched the vampire again, still just sitting at the head of the bed, trying not to rock. "Spike, are you okay?"

The vampire blinked, glared at him, then looked away. "Will be."

He crawled up the bed, slowly and put an arm around Spike's shoulders, pulled him close. "Shh. Come on. No sex. Just us," he countered the beginning grunts of the vampire's protests. Softly, he pressed his lips against Spike's head and wrapped his arms around the slender body. "I'm really sorry."

"S'okay," Spike mumbled.

This was strange to him, more so than their first night having sex. That he understood. This, this had him baffled. Spike had an extreme aversion to blindfolds, almost to the point of making him child-like. He began to wonder if there was, maybe, something in Spike's human past that contributed to it. Might try to find out later. He kissed the top of the vampire's head and closed his eyes.


"So, the jacket didn't fit, huh?" Spike asked from his sprawl on the couch, beer nestled between his legs, remote control in his hand.

Xander licked his lips and swallowed hard. "Uh," he stammered. How the hell does he know about that anyway? "Um. No. Didn't. And how'd you know about that anyway?" He stomped over and sat on the couch, under the window, to Spike's right, but not nearly close enough to be intimate.


"Of course." Xander's left leg started bouncing up and down and he rolled his beer between his hands. His eyes darted from object to object around the room.

"Harris, you all right?"

"What? Fine." He looked down and made his leg stop bouncing, then back up at Spike, only allowing their eyes to lock for a moment.

"Something's buggin' you. If it's me, tell me. I'll go. No idea where, but I'll go." Spike lowered his head with a sigh.

Xander turned his head to stare at the TV. "It is you, but I don't want you to go."

"Me or Tom Brokaw?" Spike's snark broke through his nerves.

He turned back to the vampire. "Huh? You, dumbass. Why would I care about Tom Brokaw?" He caught Spike quirk an eyebrow at him. "You wanna know what it is about you that's bugging me? Well, maybe it's not you, really. Maybe it's me. I don't want to like you until I know what's going on, but, damn. I've never said stuff like this before, not to a guy anyway." He paused a moment, hating the silence. "You make me hot. I don't know why. I don't know how, but you do. Honestly, I like it, but it wiggs me out too. And, I want it to be okay, but then I think about Buffy doing the same thing and just can't justify it being okay for me if it's not for her. I hate you for what you did and I'm angry at her for not telling me about the two of you before that, but you've changed, I think. You've said you're sorry for things you've done and know you can't take them back - which is very big of you - but I still can't justify it." When he was finished he looked at Spike and waited. Nothing. The vampire just stared at the floor. "Spike?"

The vampire sighed. "Thanks."

Xander blinked, confused. Spike was okay with all of this. All his yelling and stammered honesty. "What? Okay. What the hell just happened?"

"Harris, this is hard for me as it is. It's easier when you give it to me straight. Thanks."

"Sure." He stared at the floor a moment. "Wanna play Monopoly?"

"Yeah, okay."


Dammit. Spike's possibly killing again - how with the chip working, I don't know - and he's staying here with me and I was all feelings-guy the other day and we played Monopoly - which I only did because I can beat Spike, he only buys hotels when he thinks I'm gonna land on his property. Plus, he only buys the ones with colors he likes, and he cheats when he rolls the dice, so he almost always rolls tens. How he manages to buy anything on the board, I don't know. Always rolling ten lands you on the corners, which is fine, except that the third one is 'Go To Jail'. Anyway, had to bribe Anya with money to get her to watch Spike while I'm at work.


And the whole day I'm worried about what he might do - to Anya, to himself, to someone else.

Xander pushed the apartment door open and before he could get into the apartment good, Anya was on him with a deluge of details about how boring her day was until she decided to search Spike's room...

"You what? Are you nuts?" he snapped.

"Oh, don't worry, I just told him I was there for sex and he never knew."

He blinked. "What? Nevermind. Is he here?"

She sighed and grabbed her purse. "No. But he is now." She pointed to the door. "Bye." She darted out the door herself past the confused vampire.

Xander sighed. "Whatever." He tossed his keys into the basket by the door; Scooby work was too damned hard right after regular work, especially when one works late. Then to have to keep up with Spike too? "I'm going to bed. Do whatever." He lumbered to his room and closed the door.

Not more noise. What is... oh, just Buffy. He grumbled and tried to go back to sleep. No luck. He heard the whole conversation - Buffy snapping at Spike about prowling or something and Spike saying something about not being able to live with what he did or hardly or... whatever.

Xander, unable to sleep, stared toward the ceiling and smiled, a little. Something had changed; something about Spike. Something was different. He could not put his finger on exactly what, but something was changing.


"Look, Harris, you want me, I want you. I don't see the problem." The vampire had him cornered; his back pressed against the exterior wall of the crypt they had been told to investigate. No one could see them, but he was not sure anyone could hear him either if he decided he was really not into this and called out for help. At least no one could see the hard-on in his jeans.

He sighed. "No. I told you. I can't do this anymore," he told the bleached moron, deliberately not saying his name.

Spike pouted.

"No." He slipped past the perfect pout that got him almost every time and started away. "We have to patrol. Don't know why they put us together anyway. We hate each other."

He heard the vampire jogging to catch up and say, "...because you and Rupert almost killed yourselves last time." Silence for a moment. "I really am sorry, Xander."

He pulled the name shit again. Dammit. Xander stopped and glared at the idiot vampire. "Stop that. It doesn't matter. It wasn't only about that. There was other stuff too. It doesn't matter what you say, I'm not going to do this anymore."

Spike nodded, hands in his pockets, and lowered his head. "Yeah." The vampire raised his head. "Can't say I didn't try though."

Xander watched the vampire walk away, sighed and followed, keeping distance. He wanted to drag the stupid vampire behind the nearest tree or row of bushes and 'shag the hell' out of him, but he did not want to lie to his friends anymore.

"This is too fucking hard," he mumbled.

"You say something?" Spike called over his shoulder.

"No. Just keep walking, nimrod."


"Where we going?" Spike asked, tucking the blanket tighter around himself as he got into the car.

"Gotta get your stuff if you're going to be staying at Buffy's." He pushed the car door closed, walked around to the driver's side and got in behind the wheel. He looked at the vampire. "You okay?"


Xander shrugged and keyed the ignition.

The drive to his apartment was quiet. Spike volunteered nothing in the way of conversation and he had nothing to offer. He wanted to pull the vampire into his arms and hold him, but he did not want to risk the dangerous side of Spike's personality reaching out for a taste. He had no idea why Buffy had sent him alone with Spike. Guess she figures I can handle myself.

Spike was slow getting out of the car and making his way to the building, but they made it into the apartment. Xander turned to find the vampire standing in the doorway, staring at the floor.

"Come on, Spike. You have to get your stuff."

Raised eyes, lowered eyes, shrug. He sighed. Stupid vampire.

"Don't wanna."

Xander frowned. "Don't wanna what?"

"Get stuff."

"What's wrong, Spike?" Do you want to stay here? If so, you can't. Namely, Buffy won't let you. Plus, I don't want you to snap and eat me."


God, I love monosyllabic Spike. "How do you know?"

"They tell me who."

"They who?"

"The voices. They tell me." Spike tugged the blanket tighter around himself.

"The voices tell you who to kill?" Xander asked for clarification.

Spike raised his eyes, then quickly lowered them again.

"And they haven't told you to kill me?"

The vampire shook his head.

Xander grunted. "Well, why not? Am I not good enough to eat? I'm not man enough to be on the hit list? Just where do these voices get off not picking me? I'm good enough to be picked!"

"Xander," Spike spoke up from the door.


"Are you sure I'm the crazy one?"


"You want me to bite you?" Spike asked with a sneer.

"Well, no." He moved around aimlessly; picking up books and magazines as though searching for something. "I just... I just don't understand... forget it. It doesn't matter."

Spike heaved a sigh. "Will you just say whatever it is you want to say?"

"Why not me?"

"Bloody hell, Harris. This isn't a popularity contest. Guess they just don't want to take out Slayer's mates."

"Why not? Isn't that the ultimate goal?"

"Not if they need me for something else. Hell, I don't know. I don't even remember most of what happened."

"Because Buffy would dust you for sure if you touched me."

Spike twitched an eyebrow at him.

"Dammit, how'd I miss that?" he muttered. "Can we just get your stuff and go?" He watched Spike shake his head and step nearer. "What?" He found himself pressed tightly against the hard body of the vampire; lips mere millimeters from touching. They did touch, briefly, when he spoke, "Spike."

"Shut up, Harris."

Vampire lips and tongue pressing and meshing with his; hands roaming. He could feel the utter desperation in the feverish kisses and tentative touches. Closing his eyes, Xander let himself be lost in the moment, awash in the emotion. The hot kiss from cool vampire lips; the gentle touch from strong vampire hands. Strong vampire hands that were unbuttoning his shirt and caressing his skin and moving toward his jeans and pushing them out of the way. He kissed back and pushed the blanket to the floor and removed Spike's T-shirt to examine the solid body beneath it, then pushed the tight, black jeans to the floor. He smiled at the familiarity beneath them. He never changes.

Xander led Spike toward the bedroom - his, not the closet - and pushed the vampire down slowly. The pale skin tasted just as it had before - before the badness and the death and the leaving - the taste of lingering menthol and alcohol, plus something uniquely Spike. There was still something different, maybe it had to do with the soul or maybe it was the fact that the vampire was so relaxed and so relishing everything, as though it had been years since someone had touched him instead of just months.

He knew what it was like - to go for months without so much as a kiss or a touch, much less nakedness and lots of touching. Slowly, he made his way back up to Spike's neck, then whispered in his ear, "What do you want me to do?"

"Anything," the British voice replied, desperate, wanting.

Anything. He could do that. "Uh, is there anything you don't want me to do?" he asked, a little apprehensive. It had been a long time.

"Stop," the vampire choked out.

"Okay." He kissed the cool lips, along the strong jawline and over the taut neck; kneading the fingers of one hand into the firm flesh of the vampire's thigh, while reaching toward the nightstand with the other.

Thoughts zipped through his head, reasons and arguments why this was bad. He shoved them away with This is a one-shot deal. Just to help him. He needs this. Hell, I need this.

"Stop thinking, Harris."

"Sorry." He dragged his thoughts back to the bedroom and the naked vampire and the feel of the strong body beneath him, open and ready, needing him. He buried his face in Spike's neck and guided himself into the vampire's body. Spike tensed beneath him, clenched his fists in the covers, hitched his legs up and rolled his head back.

Spike panted and moaned, "Don't stop."

"Farthest thing from my mind," he whispered back. It had been too long since he had touched, kissed, felt this body beneath him. Now that it was back, he found that he missed it, had been missing it, wanting it, needing it. Strong hands drew his head in for a long, but gentle, if needy kiss.

Xander pulled away, slowly, dropping light kisses around the vampire's face. "Spike... Spike... I..."

"Harris, you say you love me and I'll bite you."

"No," he panted. "I... God... I needed this," he managed as the wave of ecstasy took him over; Spike too, though he had not realized he had wrapped his fingers around the vampire's cock and stroked in time with his own movements.

Spike tensed, raised his head a bit. "Yeah?" The vampire let his head fall back to the bed as he sighed and relaxed. "Yeah. Me too. Thanks."

Xander rolled over, sprawled beside his ex-lover, breathing heavily. "Probably shouldn't have done that."

"Probably not, but neither of us were getting any any other way."

"Good point."

"Anyone else, other than Tara, ever find out about us?"

"No," Xander sighed toward the ceiling. "I miss her."

Spike was quiet for a moment, a long moment. "Me too."

Xander turned his head. "What? You... Tara?"

Spike turned his head toward him. "Yeah. She, I mean, we talked a couple times. Not about this. Other stuff."

"Really?" He watched Spike's nod. "I always figured she'd never talk to you. Shy and all."

"Didn't come to m'crypt or anything. Just, if I stopped by the Magic Box and she was there alone, or alone with Anya minding the store."

He giggled a little. Anya tended to forget everything else when she was working. Slowly, almost subconsciously, he slid his hand into Spike's and felt the strong fingers close around his. "We should probably get back. Wouldn't want Buffy to come looking for us."

"Looking's fine. It's the finding that would be bad."

"Yeah." He released the vampire's hand and sat up, his back to Spike. "You know we can't do this anymore, right?"

Spike sat up beside him, nodding. "Yeah. Figured you'd say that." The vampire pushed from the bed and made his way to the living room.

Xander sighed and fell back on the bed. Shit. Shit. Shit. Why did I do that? Stupid, stupid Xander. He grunted and rolled off the bed to dress.


"What the hell took so long? Buffy barked as he and Spike came in through the garage.

"Was there an apocalypse while we were gone?" he snapped. Damn, this isn't getting any better. Too many people parked in one house.

Buffy sneered. "No, but you were just going to pick up Spike's stuff. He can't own that much."

Spike had slid past, wrapped in his blanket again, and ignored the exchange. "Buffy," Xander sighed, "it just took longer than planned." He shook his head as he made his own way into the living room. Spike was sitting on the couch, staring at whatever Dawn was watching on TV. "So, Dawnster, anything good on?"

She shook her head as he sat down between her and Spike. Taking a deep breath, she leaned her head against his shoulder.


Okay, explain it to me... Spike is vamp-napped by the guys with no eyes, Giles shows up with four or five girls who are 'potential slayers' and Buffy's lost her fucking mind. She wants to go out and fight this Ubervamp thing in front of these girls - there are lots more of them now - girls, not Ubervamps - we just keep finding them. Giles says there are even more than this, everywhere. I should probably be writing all of this down. If we're dealing with The First and people are fleeing and there's another apocalypse coming... what happens if we don't make it? Who will remember what we did or what happened?

"Xander, you okay?" Dawn asked him.


"Why'd they take Spike? Is he really that important?"

"He must be. He's important to Buffy. That makes him important to The First." He put a hand on her shoulder. Spike's vamp-napping had been more of a shock to him than he had expected. He had not expected to choke up and almost cry when he saw the empty chains hanging on the wall in the basement. Though the passing thought that Spike almost ate Andrew was a touch comforting, in a 'he's really annoying, so I'd like him to be not here' kind of way.

"Do you think this is a good idea?" Willow asked him as Dawn ran off to help the other potentials.


"Buffy's plan."

"No, but we've got to do something."


"The hell you say," the vampire snapped, pulled free of his grasp and stalked away, lighting a cigarette as he went.

"Oh, come on, Spike," Xander jogged to catch up, "it's Valentine's Day."

Spike snorted. "Yeah," he drawled, "so, shouldn't you and demon-girl be doing something sappy and romantic?"

He sighed as Spike took a heavy drag on his cigarette. "Probably, but Anya's busy with the shop that day, so we're celebrating a day early."

The vampire said nothing, just continued to smoke and make dissatisfied snorting sounds. Xander heard Spike mumbling under his breath in something that sounded like broken French. "My mother's a fish?"

Spike frowned. "What? Your French is worse than mine. I said I haven't done Valentine's since Harmony left. Not really my favorite holiday."

Xander put his hand in the air. "Uh, recent Valentine history, every female in Sunnydale - except Cordelia - was hunting me down."

The bleached wonder laughed. "I remember that. Dru ran off after Angelus and came back whinging about you. Didn't really get that, 'til now."

"So, we gonna do something? I was thinking big hunting thing. Demon killing."

Spike shrugged. "Long as you don't call it a date."

"Yeah. Yeah. Get in the crypt." He gave the vampire a shove toward the crypt door.

"You trying to bribe me?" the vampire leaned his lithe body against the doorframe.

A wicked smile passed over his lips. "Maybe."

The vampire returned the wicked grin, stomped out his cigarette, shed his coat and started unbuttoning his shirt. "C'mon, mate. Give it your best shot," he beckoned as he reached the base of the steps.

Xander frowned, a little confused. "We boxing or shagging? And I've been around you too long." He pushed the crypt door closed as he made his way down the stairs and toward Spike, who just stood there, smirking, drawing his shirt open slowly. "Bastard," he whispered and slid his hands over the vampire's smooth chest.

"Guess boxing's out." Spike pulled him close, crushing their lips together.

"Wouldn't be if I had any idea how." He dragged his tongue, leisurely, over one angled, pale jawbone. He inhaled deeply as he pushed the shirt off the vampire's shoulders. Wrinkling his nose, he asked, "You been eating Doublemeat burgers? Ugh." He pulled away and pushed the vampire to arm's length and let go.

"No," the unamused vampire snarled.


"What? That I went to poke at the Slayer and her new job?"

"That's it?"

Spike frowned. "You always this paranoid? If so, I think I liked it better when you were afraid I was gonna bite you."

"Can't bite me, chip head," he mumbled.


"Nothing. Take the shirt off, you smell like fried beef."

Spike snorted. "My sincerest apologies for not changing my clothes while we were patrolling."

"Shut up and get naked." He watched the vampire's blue eyes widen, but saw no hesitation in the effort to comply with the request. Crazy vampire.


Xander had never been so glad to see Spike and Buffy come through the door. It meant his friends were okay and everyone was back, crammed under the one roof. He hugged Buffy and gave Spike a light slap on the shoulder. Just an acknowledgement, enough for the wounded, weakened vampire to know that he still gave half a shit about him. He thought he even caught a slight nod in return, but that could have been exhaustion.

"Xander, give me a hand here?" Buffy called.

"Oh, yeah, sure." He pulled his head out of the fog and helped Buffy get Spike into the basement. He wished there was somewhere else in the house they could put him, but that nasty side effect when exposed to sunlight was a bit of a problem for the vampire.

Spike groaned and grunted and moaned and gasped more than Xander figured he ever would as they settled him onto the cot. The Big Bad must have been in a lot more pain than he had guessed as Buffy had brought him into the house. Buffy found an old pillow to put under the vampire's head and Xander unfolded a blanket and shook it out.

"No," Spike forced through clenched teeth.


Squeezing his eyes closed against the pain, Spike replied, "No blanket."

"Oh." Xander tucked the blanket into the space between Spike's legs and the wall. "Let us know if you need it later." This time he was sure he saw the vampire nod.

Buffy put a hand on his shoulder. "You stay here with him while I go get some stuff?"

"Yeah." He watched her climb the stairs, taking a quick look back at Spike. Xander wanted to fall on the vampire's face with hundreds of kisses just because the undead pain-in-the-ass was safe and okay, but settled for kneeling on the floor and brushing the blond hair away from the pale face. "Do you need anything? God, what did they do to you?"


"What?" He leaned his head closer to Spike's mouth. "They kissed you?" That seemed an odd form of torture.

Spike gave one shake of his head, then whispered, "Kiss me."

Oh. And no 'dumbass' or even 'Harris';' he must really be out of... "But, Buffy..."

The vampire shook his head. "Can hear."

"Right." Tentatively, Xander leaned forward, stopped, took a deep breath, swallowed the lump in his throat, then leaned in and pressed his lips to Spike's in a tender kiss. He was not sure he was ready to jump headfirst into this 'thing' with Spike again, but this was not about him - this was about Spike. Engaging in intimate contact with Spike, inside Buffy's house, had not been something he had ever done before and it seemed a bit weird now. His heartrate increased and his palms started to sweat. Spike parted his lips and he felt his own tongue extending to meet Spike's, almost of its own accord. He wanted this to last; he savored it. A firm hand grasped the hair at the back of his head and his body went into a panic for a moment, until the hand held him still. Spike. He sighed and relaxed into the kiss. Relaxed so much he almost missed the fingers tapping against the back of his head as a signal. He sat back on his heels and brushed a hand over Spike's hair again as he heard the basement door creak open at the top of the stairs.

"How's he doing?" Buffy asked, reaching the base of the stairs with a bowl, steam rising from it, floating around her face and a washcloth on her shoulder.

He shrugged. "As well as he can be. Probably could use some sleep."

She nodded and placed the bowl on the floor beside him and knelt near Spike's head. "We all could," she sighed and dunked the washcloth into the water with one hand and rubbed her eyes with the other.

Gently, Xander placed a hand on hers in the water and suggested, "Why don't you go upstairs and get some rest? I'll take care of Spike." And I really just said that, didn't I? Okay, it's okay. This is helping Buffy. She needs a break.

"Thanks." Slowly, she pushed to her feet and climbed the stairs again.

"Didn't have to do that," Spike mumbled, his head turned toward the wall.

Xander wrang the excess water from the cloth and began, gently, wiping some of the grime and blood from Spike's face. "I know," he whispered and continued wiping. Spike stared at the wall during the entire exercise - arms, hands, chest. Xander stopped, looked from Spike's bare feet to his turned head and back and sighed.

"It's okay." The wounded vampire rolled his head toward him. "Don't have the energy to growl at you anyway."

"You sure? 'Cause I could leave this here and..." he stopped at the knitted eyebrows directed at him. "Right, just do it." The vampire nodded and Xander dipped the washcloth into the bowl again. He shifted along the floor until he was near Spike's feet, then passed the cloth over the top of one foot. When the vampire did not flinch or jump, he placed his free hand against the bottom of one foot and cleaned the top thoroughly, then did the same with the bottom and the other foot. Finished, he returned the cloth to the bowl and set the bowl out of the way. "Do you want the blanket now or did you want some clean pants?"

Spike shook his head. "Later. Tired."

"All right. I'll be upstairs if you need anything."

"Stay," the vampire said quietly, not a request, not a command, not a question or a plea. Just a word.

"Okay." He knelt on the floor again and brushed the bleached hair away from Spike's pale face.

"Thanks for takin' care of me, Harris."

Xander nodded and settled on the floor by the cot, waiting for the vampire to fall asleep.


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