"Little help here?" Spike's rough, impatient voice whips across Wes's chest, chokes off his breath. He clutches the book in his hands defensively as he turns.
Spike leans in the Hyperion's entrance, head bowed, holding himself around the middle, feet shuffling, trying to maintain his balance. Wes thinks of broken warriors, de-winged seraphim, and must bite his cheek to keep from gasping.
"Any day now would be good."
Wes closes his book and caps his pen securely, taking a moment to squeeze shut his eyes before he retrieves the first aid kit. Nursemaid again, sexless and efficient.
"I'm here," he murmurs when he reaches Spike. Offers his arm and takes in the slumped body against his. Always here, he adds, arm around bony hips, lifting him down the stairs.
"Yeah," Spike mouths the word against his neck. Wes resists the shiver that the sound, its meaning, threatens to send cascading down his body.
Spike weighs less than nothing in his arms, yet manages to be an awkward burden, slid and prodded and finally slipped onto the nearest couch. "*Fuck*--" He groans, clutching his waist again.
Wes kneels in front of him, between splayed legs, and fumbles open the first-aid kit as he curses his clumsiness. Leave it to him to make things worse. "What is it?"
Spike shakes his head, avoiding Wes's eyes. He sucks in his cheeks and tightens his jaw; it will take coaxing and care for him to admit the full extent of his pain. "Forget it."
Ignoring the petulance inherent in the phrase -- how can he forget when Spike is the one who came here, bloodied, desperate for help -- Wes smiles to himself, hoping Spike will not see. Best not to provoke an already sullen, cranky vampire.
"All right," he says lightly.
He squeezes Spike's hand briefly as he takes stock of tonight's damage: Both lips cracked open against his teeth, caked with drying blood; a black eye still swelling; abrasions on his throat that could be human hands or demon's claws.
Despite the pain, or because of it, Spike is beautiful, more beautiful than ever. Drawn taut as a bow and set to shining.
"Thanks, love," Spike murmurs with more feeling than he brings to most of their interactions. He kisses Wes's wrist with dry, bloody lips and sighs, the sound trailing off into a whimper.
Wes knows he should not be admiring the sight before him. He attempts to school his eyes, to concentrate on extracting bandages and ointment, but he cannot help himself.
"What happened this time?"
"Make it sound like it's a regular thing--" Spike lists to the left and hacks up blood. The sound is guttural, the splatter of it bright on the floor beside Wes's knee, and he winces again. However often he reminds himself to remain calm and avoid provocation, it seems he cannot resist poking at fresh bruises, bringing back Spike's anger.
He hands Spike a bottle of water and unrolls a length of bandage while Spike gargles and spits. "Isn't it, though?"
"What, that I get run into brick walls by three nasty Meretrix?"
"Mareteeq," Wes corrects, straightening up and swabbing cream into the cut below Spike's eye. "Hold still. Unless you were attacked by prostitutes in Ancient Rome, it's Mareteeq."
Spike yelps when the swab gets too close to his eye. "Well, it's not. Regular. Watch it!"
"I see," Wes says, tossing aside the swab and picking up a new one. Of course it is regular; he rather thinks that the regularity of these visits is the entire point.
He wonders if Spike knows precisely how much this hurts him, seeing him as broken and bloody as this. Broken and achingly beautiful. He doesn't want to suspect that Spike *does* know, that that knowledge is part of what drives him here. Spike comes in pain to Wes because Wes can soothe him. His fingers are skilled; they smear ointment and suture wounds elegantly and efficiently.
"Of course it's just coincidence," he continues, dabbing the cream lightly along the porcelain-sherd curve of Spike's cheekbone. "My mistake."
Hearing the tone, Spike tries to rise, pushing fists into the cushion. "Fine. Obviously botherin' you here--"
Something like panic, although sharper and more sudden, slices up Wes's torso. "No, of course not." He sighs, fighting to keep his voice regular. "Sit down, will you?"
"Got much better things to do," Spike says, sweeping his hand to indicate the entire hotel. "Can see that."
"Of course not. Now, sit down." This is his vocation: organizing, cleaning up, restoring order. Whether he enjoys it or not, *despite* the fact that he does enjoy it, this is what he knows how to do.
Spike bites his lip as Wes pushes him back. "Fucking demons," he mutters. "Should've never--"
The cleave in Spike's brow is only the most obvious scar; his body is riddled with webs of fine lines and pale pink welts, giving the lie to the infamous power of vampire healing. He was hurt a long time ago, and recently, and will be again tomorrow, but Wes is only here now.
He never has enough time. Time screeches from his tenuous hold, cutting him more deeply than even Spike could hope to survive. Every gift and confidence is double-edged. He is granted the rare chance to help and heal an infamously stubborn fighter, but the public Spike, the one who slouches, flirts and argues for the fun of it? Wes never sees him.
"Let me bandage you," Wes says, swallowing hard, trying like hell to sound calm. "Get you some painkillers, and we can argue later, all right?"
Spike sags back into the cushions and scrubs his fist against his good eye. "Hurts, pet."
Wes knows that Spike welcomes the pain. He'll bitch and complain to high heaven about it, but he is never more vital than he is in these moments -- glassy eyes, the iron set to his jaw, tension glittering around him. Spike seeks out pain, picks fights and joins in brawls, all to reach this state. Nearly transcendent, razor-thin, verging on, but never meeting, helplessness.
And Wes knows further that he himself is, more often than not, enthralled with the results. His gaze roams over the lithe form, picking out new injuries, memorizing the crimson shadow of blood on parchment-skin, the blossom of carmine and purple bruises more ominous and delicate than night-blooming orchids. His eyes are hungry, omnivorous for detail. Vampiric, the way they feast on pain.
"Sssh." Wes hums, dabbing away caked blood, revealing ivory skin. He discards the tissues and starts working out a nasty splinter at the junction of shoulder and neck. Someone thought to bring a stake. Someone also had very poor aim. "When will you learn? Hmm?"
Spike smiles faintly. "Trying to. Trying-- Fuck!"
"Almost out," Wes says. "Hold still."
"Am still," Spike mutters. The tendons in his neck and shoulders stand out in even sharper relief than usual. "Jesus."
Wes would like to believe that this relationship, whatever it is, is simply the result of Spike's volatility. That they only see each other when Spike is bruised and battered because Spike is *usually* in such a state.
If what he suspects, what he doesn't want to believe, is true, then he is far more responsible than he'd like to admit. There is a pattern here, in the way Spike veers toward danger (bar brawl, street fight, Slayer) certain that Wes will be up late, will pull him back, be here with fully-stocked kit, ready to clean, stitch, and soothe.
He is responsible, implicated, partially to blame. Because he is here, because he welcomes any opportunity to set things right, because the sight of a gasping, glittery-eyed Spike in pain is nearly as good as that of a Spike gasping with desire. Nearly.
"Stings--" Spike says, rubbing the blood off his lip. "Couple ribs--" He gestures vaguely toward his chest.
"I know. Let me help." Wes cuts away the latest ruined shirt and Spike squeaks when the metal brushes his skin. A ragged gash meanders over one pectoral, and bruises spread over his ribs. "Claws? Or knife?"
"Knife," Spike says. "Don't think it was anything worse'n that."
A knife, a stake, and at least three thuggish demons. Spike really did get himself worked over tonight.
Wes cleans the wound, trying not to acknowledge the whistle of pain through Spike's lips. There is guilt swimming in his gut, slowly thickening into certainty: He enjoys this. He should not, but he does.
"Not as bad as it looks," he says when he is finished stitching. He tapes the ribs rapidly, failing to ignore the carnation-pink of small nipples and the rippling promise of lean, heaving stomach. "Should heal all right."
He unbuttons yesterday's dress shirt, shrugs it off, and hands it over.
Spike accepts the shirt from Wes, trying and failing to thread his arms through the sleeves. He curses, but quiets as Wes leans over, holds one sleeve straight, drinking in the complex cords of muscle in Spike's arm, the dull incandescence of his skin.
He swallows the sour guilt threatening to flood his mouth when he meets Spike's eyes. Blinks, and unfocuses his gaze.
"Don't know why you put up with me," Spike mutters. "Fuckin' stupid, I am."
Wes sits back on his heels. Averting his eyes, feeling his shoulders sag, he says, "You know why."
Half-smile, brightening eyes. "Oh. Yeah. *That*." Spike trails his bandaged knuckles down Wes's arm, leaving a flock of shivers in his wake that Wes cannot control this time. "Not what I meant."
He daubs mercurochrome over the rapidly closing scratches on Spike's neck and face, leaning in close enough that Spike's arm snakes around his waist. "You're the best," Spike whispers, tracing Wes's brows with one finger. Wes wants to sink into that touch, wants to listen with his entire body to the narcotic sweetness of Spike's voice. "My Wesley. My--"
Occasionally, when the sherry ran low and Wes had managed to stay out of trouble for long enough, his father would take him on his knee. Hold him too tightly, too precariously, paw at his hair, tell Wes how much he loved him, how proud he was of him. Hearing precisely what you want, need, *dream*, to hear can hurt more than never hearing it at all.
Wes shifts away and recaps the bottle altogether too forcefully. "All finished," he says. "Think you can make it upstairs on your own?"
Wes cannot help but acknowledge the regularity of this; the time for delusion passed a while ago. He grants comfort, aid, reassurance. He'll always be here, waiting; starving and aching, until Spike appears the next time.
Then he will gorge again, binge on Spike's proximity and need.
He will wish once more for something to purge the guilt and desire from his system, but never summon the strength to find it.