Spoilers: season 7 through Him
Angst Level: 5
Warning: violence, horror, no happy ending, possible squick. See notes.
Notes: Angstathon for (name to be filled in when the masterlist goes up, since I forget). Request was self-mutilation, h/c, NC-17 (I know this wasn't what you were looking for but I was trying to pull it in one direction and Xander was trying to pull it in another and it ended up not being very slashy :hangs head in shame: I can do you a PWP at some point, in penance?)
When that's done he can either order Spike into his room - and that's another thing, he liked that closet, he kept stuff there, valuable stuff that he now has to keep somewhere else - or he can sit out here with the crazy soulled vampire. Yeah, that could be a fun evening. Drink some beers. Talk, because they've got lots of things to talk about, just pick a topic at random; how good Anya was, whether the sex was his idea or hers. How hard he had to hold Buffy down to give her that bruise on her leg.
On second thoughts, maybe a shower and some sleep's a better idea. His workman's comp doesn't cover anger management courses.
"I'm gonna turn in," he says.
"Bully for you."
He pauses at the doorway, because he's said nothing about it for the last hour and he swore he wouldn't play whatever weird mind game this is, but he knows the curiosity's going to eat away at him all night. "Spike, you do know you're watching static, right?"
"Shh," Spike hisses, waving him away without taking his eyes off the screen. "Making me miss my show."
Xander gives up and goes for that shower.
At three in the morning he finds Spike sitting at the kitchen table with his shirt open. Xander thinks that he stands there for a whole minute, maybe two, before he goes to his side and very, very slowly kneels to his eye-level. No sudden movements. That summer when Buffy was… away… he saw Spike in fights where he moved so fast he blurred, vampire Justice League of one.
So you're asking yourself, can he lash out faster than the chip can fry him? Do you feel lucky?
"Hey," he says, going for friendly, jovial, definitely no hint of confrontation. "You want to give me the knife?"
Spike doesn't look at him, doesn't even twitch, but he lets him prise the breadknife out of his slack fingers.
The blade's bloody almost to the hilt. He wants to throw up just touching it.
"Okay," he says, that same talking-to-preschoolers tone. "How about we get you cleaned up and I call Buffy…"
"No," Spike says, and his hand's clamped round Xander's wrist, and he didn't even see him move. Not even a blur. "No Buffy. Just got - carried away. Was all."
The highest wound curves nearly all the way across his chest. Xander wonders sickly if he was trying to draw a smiley face on himself.
"Protection wards," Spike says. He lets go his grip on Xander. Looks a little puzzled as he rubs one of the slashes on his forearm, smearing blood all the way to his rolled-up sleeves. It's a shallow cut, thank God. Xander doesn't think he could deal with looking at the veins and bones beneath all that red and white. "Markings on the skin. Patterns. They keep things away."
Markings he gets. He'll confess to thinking Giles's demon-worshipping tattoo was pretty cool. The cuts across Spike's torso, they're gouges.
He's still holding that damn knife. He stands and drops it into the sink, twists the faucet as high as it goes. The blood swirls away down the drain. He thinks of Janet Leigh dead in the shower in Psycho, lucky Janet in her black and white world where the monster's just a guy in his mom's clothes and all the blood is secretly chocolate sauce.
"Don't tell Buffy," Spike says again.
He has to tell Buffy. She's the one who deals with this kind of thing. Vampire leaking blood onto his kitchen floor, that has to fall into her territory. Besides, she's a guidance counsellor now. One who counsels and guides.
Spike looks down. The "please" is so quiet that Xander thinks he maybe imagined it. Had to have, because Spike would rather have an intimate one on one with Mr. Pointy than ask him for anything.
But he doesn't call Buffy.
This is the bathroom cabinet of a Slayer's sidekick. Bandaids for the little vamp-inflicted scrapes, rolls of bandages for the big ones, enough Excedrin to kill a bear. Pushed to the back, a pack of Anya's birth control pills.
The mirror, when he swings the door shut, only reflects himself.
"Don't know why you're bothering," Spike says, sounding like he's the sane one here. "Heal up by itself in a couple of hours." The shallower cuts, the slices across his arms and stomach, are already closed over to thin pink lines.
"Yeah, well, I don't have work for another four hours and there's no good static on at this time. Sit."
He expects Spike to argue, just for the hell of it, but he lowers himself onto the edge of the tub. Xander holds a brief but consuming debate with himself over whether it's more innuendo-fodder-y to tell him to take his shirt off or just take it off him. Spike looks up at him, sharp and white under the lights, and he's never looked so dead before.
"S'pose I should get rid of this." He moves slowly, peeling himself out of the shirt one arm at a time, inch by inch. Arms, Xander thinks, desperate to focus on some part of him that isn't sticky with drying blood. Spike has really muscular upper arms. Did he look like that when he was turned or did he spend a couple of decades in the gym.
Finally it's done and Spike's shirtless in front of him, his own personal snuff movie shoot.
Xander unscrews the cap from the jumbo-sized bottle of iodine he retrieved from the cabinet and goes to work.
"This may have escaped your attention," Spike points out, "but I'm dead."
"With cuts that deep? Even if you'd been alive, you'd be dead and kicking by now." He dabs iodine along one of the ugliest gashes, not leaning too close. "I have to share my home with a corpse. I draw the line at a festering corpse."
Spike makes a 'hnh' of derision, but lets himself be cleaned up.
"What happened, anyway?" Xander asks, not looking him in the eyes.
"Told you. Something of nothing. Just got out of hand."
"Drinking yourself unconscious is getting out of hand. This is…" Twisted. Grotesque. Fucking sick. "Spike, this is too much."
His head goes down again. "Tried to do it before," he says, and Xander hates that voice, the one with the clipped words and the Gilesian twist to the accent. "I think. I think I did. In the basement. Tried to cut it out, but I can't remember, and I thought I'd be safe here but it came anyway…"
Xander puts his hands over Spike's, barely thinking about it. "So you tried to do the protection ward thing, okay, got that part. What weren't you safe from? What came?"
But Spike's staring at some spot behind him, nearly shaking with fear under Xander's hands. He looks so scared that Xander actually has to whip his head around to check there's no big bad oogly thing behind him, and then he feels like an idiot.
"Spike, there's nothing there."
Slowly, he relaxes. "No," he says. "Not now."
Xander thinks that it's a very bad thing how much this encourages him. "Great," he says. "Invisible monsters all gone. Just you and me."
"You and me," he echoes quietly.
Xander realizes he's still holding his hands. He stands up fast enough to nearly hit his head on the low-swinging ceiling light. "Great," he says again. "So I guess you want to shower, seeing as how you're all sticky. With the blood. I'll just -" He gestures at the door and bolts through it before Spike can decide he's too scared to shower by himself.
A moment later, he comes back to remove all the razorblades. Just in case.
He cleans up the puddles on the floor and the table. The knife's still in the sink. He tosses it in a bag with the blood-soaked rags and thinks that that'll make for someone's fun find at the city dump.
From the bathroom, he hears the shower start up. Clock says it's close to five. He drops onto the couch, groaning at the thought of another day at work without sleep. Maybe he can still catch another couple of hours once he gets Spike safely asleep and, if possible, chained to a bed. His imaginary friend can have custody of him till eight.
Xander rubs his eyes. When he opens them, Jesse's standing in the doorway.
"Fuck!" But in the time it takes for him to shoot to his feet and stagger backwards, almost falling on his ass as he hits the coffee table, he's alone again.
He can feel the thud of his heartbeat right through his body. His feet don't want to take him anyway near that door so he edges along the wall, groping behind him till he finds a handle.
The bathroom's filled with steam. His back to the door, he feels calmer. Sleep deprivation does strange things to a guy. Mix well with Spike's it's-behind-you weirdness for a well-shaken Xander.
Spike is talking to himself in the shower. No, he realizes, listening over the water. He's singing.
Talk about a tension-breaker. Xander starts to laugh, at Spike, at himself, at this mixed up, Hellmouth-filled bizarroworld he lives in where a half-second nightmare of your dead best friend makes you rush to find another dead guy to protect you.
The glass door swings open.
"Okay, whatever crazy-making disease you have, it's contagious. I just saw -"
But Jesse's there, leering at him from over Spike's shoulder with two dark, empty sockets where his eyes are supposed to be, and Xander's so caught up in the frozen tightness across his chest that he doesn't even notice Spike's fangs and gleaming yellow eyes until it's far too late.