By Elsa Frohman
Spoilers: Through Beneath You
Summary: This just popped into my head. I suppose it's my mind trying to smooth over the Beneath You turmoil -- combined with my inexplicable compulsion to redeem Xander.
He shifted in his seat and crossed his legs. He'd brought some papers from the construction site to read while his charge slept. He picked up his briefcase from the floor beside him and opened it, taking out the sheaf of contract changes to review and price out. He'd been working on that for a while, using the case as a lap table, making penciled notes in the margin of the forms, when he heard Spike shift on the cot. Xander looked up and saw that Spike had his head up and was regarding him with wide, blue eyes.
"You're awake," Xander said, at a loss for anything more perceptive to offer.
The vampire didn't answer, only blinked, continuing to look at him as if he couldn't decide whether he was dreaming. Then he tried to raise a hand, only to find it fettered. He frowned and looked down at the steel cuff on his wrist.
"No! Nothing like that. Buffy was worried you might try to hurt yourself. She said that if you woke up and seemed rational, I could let you out -- if you'll promise not to run away or do anything self-destructive."
"Oh." Spike laid his head back down, staring up at the naked beams of the basement ceiling. "Buffy," he said without further elaboration.
"So, can I unlock the cuffs?"
Spike didn't answer.
"Suit yourself," Xander replied, turning back to his papers.
"Why are you here?" Spike asked.
"Buffy had to go to work. Second day on the job. She doesn't have any leave built up yet. I didn't have much going on with the site today, so I could take off without any big problems."
"Doesn't answer the question."
"I'm supposed to keep an eye on you. If you want out of the cuffs, I can do that. If you're hungry, there's some pig's blood in the fridge upstairs. I can get it for you. And if you start spouting anything that sounds like prophecy, I'm supposed to take notes."
Spike raised his head again. "Guess that explains why I'm chained up in Buffy's basement. Personal oracle."
"No, you're here because Buffy is concerned about you and wants to make sure you're safe."
"Right," Spike said without conviction, lying back again. His head had no more touched the pillow, though, before it came back up again.
He looked at Xander intently. "You've got a black eye."
"You didn't have it last night. What happened?"
"Don't want to talk about it," Xander said, turning back to his papers.
"Demon girl belt you? She's got a powerful punch, that one."
"No. It wasn't Anya."
"Wouldn't have thought you had the energy to go get into a bar fight after last night's high jinks."
"Who says it was a fight?"
"Just happened to run into a door knob?"
"Don't want to talk about it."
"Nancy? She didn't seem like the kind of bird who would throw a decent punch."
"Let it rest, Spike. It's none of your business."
Spike's head went back down. He twitched and then winced in pain.
"I've got some Demerol here, if you want it."
Spike seemed to be through talking, and Xander went back to his papers. It was several minutes before the vampire spoke again.
"I believe this is must be the most civil words in a row you've ever spoken to me -- at least in the past year," he said after a while.
"I suppose so."
"So, what is it? I'm so pathetic now that you can't even work up a good rage?"
"Buffy hit you, didn't she?"
"Still don't want to talk about it."
"It was her! Why would Buffy hit you? She never hits you. What could have made her suddenly wallop you? You didn't attack her did you?"
"No! Why would you... No. I didn't attack her. Not recently, at least."
"I didn't attack her."
"You said 'not recently.' Why would you say that?"
"I don't know why I said that. I didn't attack her."
Spike's head was up and he was staring at Xander intently, his brows slightly knit.
Xander put his papers back in the briefcase and stood up, turning away.
"You seem to be having trouble saying that with conviction," Spike said slowly.
"Don't make me talk about this, OK?"
"I don't think there's much I can make you do, Harris. I'm the one handcuffed to the bed."
"Promise not to run, or hurt yourself, and I'll let you out."
"Not going to make any promises I not sure I can keep."
Xander shrugged. He still had his back to Spike.
"Six years ago."
"Almost six years ago. Before you came to Sunnydale. Buffy hadn't been here long. We were sophomores."
"You attacked her?"
"I tried to ... I tried to rape her. Which wasn't the brightest thing I ever did. She pretty much kicked my ass."
"And she just forgave you after that?"
"Um... well there was this whole hyena spirit possession thing going on. But, yeah, I pretty much got a free pass."
"Oh... if you were possessed, it's not your fault."
"Not that simple. It wasn't really a possession, not in the sense that I was being forced to do things I didn't want to do. It was more like being drunk -- you know how it is -- you still know what's right and wrong, you just don't care so much.
"I suppose it could have been worse. At least I didn't have a tooth in on the Principal Flutie brunch."
Spike gave him a puzzled look, his head cocked to the side.
"After they got rid of the spirit, I pretended I didn't remember anything I'd done. I don't think I could ever have looked Buffy in the eye again if she knew I'd known perfectly well what I was doing. Giles knew I remembered, but he let me slide."
Xander turned back around to face Spike again.
"I'd really appreciate it if you didn't mention this to anybody."
"I've never talked about this to anybody. Six years -- and I've never even let myself think about it. I don't know why I'm suddenly telling you, of all people."
"So, why'd Buffy belt you?"
Xander shook his head. "Still not going to talk about that."
"I'll go get your blood, you like it warmed up, right?"
Xander went upstairs and got the bottle of pig's blood out of the refrigerator. He poured some into a mug and put it in the microwave, setting it for two minutes at half power, as Buffy had told him to do. While he waited, a scene from late the night before came back to him.
He was here in Buffy's kitchen when she came in carrying the burned, unconscious vampire.
"Why'd you bring him back here?" he asked.
"He needs to be looked after," she'd said. "Dawn, could you set up the cot in the basement?"
Dawn gave her an incredulous look, but obeyed. Buffy laid Spike out on the kitchen floor.
"I repeat, why'd you bring him back here?"
"Xander, this is none of your business." She turned and went out of the room. Xander followed her down the hall to the living room. She stopped and turned to face him.
"I know you have objections, but I'm afraid they just don't matter," she said flatly.
"Buffy, do you even realize what you're doing?"
"I think I do."
"It's such a common pattern. The abused woman goes back to the abuser," he'd said.
"It's not like that, Xander. He needs help. You saw the condition he's in."
"And I saw him hit you at the Bronze tonight."
"Did you miss the times I hit him?"
"I know you can defend yourself. But that doesn't change..."
He didn't get a chance to finish the sentence. Her fist made contact with his face and he found himself on his ass, on the floor, about six feet from where he'd started.
She advanced on him, her face cold and angry. He scrabbled away crabwise, suddenly terrified of his friend.
"Does that make it clearer, Xander?" she said, crouching down in front of him.
"Why? Why'd you do that?"
"I just thought you might like to know what it was like for Spike when we were together."
"You're going on about how I'm going back to my abuser. I don't think you quite understand how it was. I'm the Slayer, Xander. I don't abuse easily. And when I was with Spike I was out of control.
"We're never going to talk about this again, understand? I don't like talking about it. I am deeply ashamed of what I did to Spike. And now, I'm going to try to make amends. I don't know if I can. There are some things you can never make up for.
"But right now, he needs help. He needs to be cared for, and I'm going to do that. If you don't like it, get out and don't come back."
They both looked up to see Dawn standing in the doorway from the hall.
"You heard all that, didn't you?" Buffy asked.
Dawn swallowed hard, and nodded.
"Good. Then I don't have to go through it again."
Buffy stood up. "Come on," she said, extending a hand to help Xander up.
"Let's get some ice on that. I think you're going to have a shiner."