All About Spike

Steps
By Cindy

A little post-"Dirty Girls" bonding. The back porch is always good for that. Title by Lesley :-)



He walks down the stairs as quietly as possible, careful not to step on someone or walk into a wall as he works his way slowly toward the kitchen. It's a moonless night, and his only light is the small one over the kitchen sink which someone has, thankfully, left on. Normally, this would not be among the more difficult tasks, but his perspective is all off. Plus he's got the unsteady legs of in-bed-all-day-guy.

They've put him in a real bed, now that he's an invalid. They're all being so sweet. And he thinks that if he has to take any more of their pampering he'll start to scream and possibly never stop. Even then they'll probably just pat his hand, smile indulgently and tell him it's not good for his recovery. They'll hardly even let him go to the bathroom by himself. While he could never before imagine a situation where he would tire of the attentions of attractive, hovering females, unfortunately he's now discovered one. Especially when practically none of said females can even look him in the eyes.

Make that, eye. Singular.

Ha. Ha.

So, Xander waits till the middle of the night to make his escape.

Not that he can possibly sleep anymore, anyway. He's been big with the sleep lately. Morning nap, afternoon nap, like a freaking baby. Or someone zonked on painkillers. His eye, or, more accurately, the place where his eye used to be, hurts like a bitch now, but he's going to try to hold off on the narcotics for awhile.

And, not that he's actually going anywhere. Just to the only place he can think of in this house where a man can have some much needed solitude. Except, porch not so empty. The smell of cigarette smoke wafts over to him as he opens the screen door, and in the darkness he sees Spike shift his position slightly as he looks up from the top step of the stairs.

Xander sighs. Well, at least it's just Spike. Spike's not so bad. Xander wonders for a moment when he went from thinking `Spike: soulless, evil thing' to `Spike: not so bad.' Was there once specific moment when that little shift in perception took place? The door shuts behind him, and he decides he's thunk enough deep thoughts for one twenty-four hour period. He'll ponder that subject some other time. Maybe.

Because right now, Spike has beer.

"Got an extra. Want one?" Spike holds up a bottle.

"Really shouldn't with this pain medication they've got me on. Says `do not mix with alcohol' right on the bottle."

"Ah, well that's...."

Xander sits down next to him. "Hand it over."

Spike gives him a little smirk and hands him the bottle, stubbing out his cigarette on the step below them. Xander pops the top off the beer and just sits for a moment, enjoying the relative quiet of the night. Crickets chirp, and a few doors down a dog barks, then stops. Inside the house someone coughs a few times, then is quiet.

"What are you doing sitting out here in the dark?" Xander asks Spike.

"Just keepin' an eye on things," he answers.

This comforts Xander; the idea of Spike sitting out here, keeping watch. He's about to tell him so when he decides that his recent experiences have apparently made him far too sentimental. So he feigns a hurt expression instead.

"An *eye* on things?"

Spike bows his head and then squints up at Xander apologetically. "Bad choice of words, mate. Sorry," he says.

"Well, you should be," Xander answers with conviction. He clinks his bottle against Spike's. "Here's mud in your eye."

Spike nods, a slow smile spreading across his face as he finally gets the joke, and he lets out a little snort of appreciation. "Tryin' to pull the wool over my eyes, eh Harris?"

Xander laughs. "I'm glad we're finally seeing *eye* to *eye.*"

"Better than a sharp stick in the eye," Spike agrees, really getting into the game now.

"Actually, I imagine that would have been preferable to the dull thumb I received," Xander muses.

Suddenly the topic doesn't seem so funny anymore, to either of them.

Spike lets out a frustrated breath and stares out into the yard. "Wish I'd been faster, you know? Always too bloody late to make a difference." He drains the rest of his bottle.

Xander regards him curiously. "You're joking, right? Probably would have lost both eyes if it wasn't for you. Or I'd be dead." Spike just stares at his empty bottle like it holds the mysteries of the universe or something, then starts peeling off the label.

They let the subject drop, and sit in companionable silence for awhile.

"So, what are you doing out here, keepin' vampire hours?" Spike finally asks.

"Well, one, slept all day, and two, wanted some...wanted some time away from the women folk," he says. Xander almost said, wanted some time alone, but he doesn't want Spike to take that the wrong way. Because he's kind of glad Spike's out here to talk to. And again, with the weirdness.

"The little Florence Nightingales driving you `round the bend, are they?" Spike asks with a smile.

"Yeah. Trying too hard, you know. The next person who fluffs my pillows is going to get suffocated with one. Plus, everyone talks to my chin or the top of my head," Xander says, "except Willow. And you," he adds, noticing for the first time that Spike's looking him right in the eye.

"They're imagining what's under that big, white bandage, I s'pose," Spike says. "And me, well, hard to gross me out, considering the things I've seen. And done." He looks away then, and it seems like maybe he's going off to that dark place soulful Spike goes sometimes, and Xander has this insane urge to pull him back.

"Hey, can you do me a favor?" he asks.

Spike says nothing, but quirks an eyebrow in his direction.

"Well, actually, I've been kind of afraid to see what's under there myself. I mean, I know what's *not* under there, obviously, but, like, how bad is it? Could you take a look?" As soon as it's out of his mouth, Xander regrets it. He suddenly feels like a complete idiot for asking, and wonders whether Spike will laugh, or be embarrassed, or maybe just disgusted by this request, this admission, this ... weakness.

The answer is, none of the above. Spike sets his bottle down, and reaches over gingerly to remove the tape on one side of the bandage. He pulls it open like the page of a book, and peers at the wound intently. "Eyelid's taped shut. Gauze over the top, and I'm not going near that. You don't want to get an infection." He ponders some more. "There's a lot of swelling and bruising around the eye. It's going to look pretty ugly for awhile, but nothing that won't heal. `Cept for, you know." Spike gently replaces the bandage. "And then you can wear one of those dashing eye patches, and you'll be fighting off the women with a stick."

"Hey," Xander says, laughing weakly, "then it'll all be worth it." Spike gives him a reassuring smile, and Xander feels the tears starting to well up, which is so not good. Humiliation aside, it hurts like hell. So he stands up, and gets ready to go back in the house.

Pausing at the screen door, he looks back at Spike, leaning against the porch railing and lighting up again.

"Thanks," Xander says. For saving my ass, he wants to add. For not laughing at me. For being a guy I can talk to in this house full of women.

Spike takes the cigarette out of his mouth, stares for a moment, then nods almost imperceptibly.

"You're welcome."

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