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“Here.” Xander handed Spike a paper bag. “No big deal. Jar of pigs’ blood.”

 

“Why?” Spike crouched in the corner of the basement cell, holding the bag, but not opening it.

 

“Because, you’re pathetic, man. Just drink it.” When he realized that Spike wasn’t going to move, he snatched the bag back and pulled out the jar, opening it and handing it to the vampire.

 

Spike whimpered and pushed it away.

 

“Fine,”said Xander, re-screwing the lid. “Starve to death.”

 

“Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god...” Spike seemed to be in his own world. He had no response to Xander’s fingers waving in front of his face. “Buffy, Buffy, Buffy...”

 

“Buffy. Asked me not to stake you. I told her I ran across you the other day. Told her I didn’t have the heart to do it then, but I couldn’t make any guarantees.” He looked at the vampire, cowering in the corner. “No. I won’t stake you. Not that you care.” He could see the raw markings on Spike’s chest. Unhealed cuts. “Really did a number on yourself, didn’t you?”

 

“Niblet.”

 

“No, I didn’t tell Dawn you were here. Buffy asked me not to. That kid really hates you, now. Feels betrayed. Finally learned not to trust you.” He sank to the floor and sat beside Spike. “I tried to trust you, once. Remember? But I couldn’t even trust you to do the laundry. Not to mention the times Willow and I reached out to you, ‘hello Mr. Chips’, and you turned on us. Then there was that Adam incident.”

 

Spike was picking at something imaginary in the dirt of the floor.

 

“So, don’t listen. I didn’t trust you before you left, and I don’t trust you now you’re back. Even though you are a nutcase.” He wrapped his arms around his knees. “Don’t trust many people. Buffy, I guess. And Willow, at least I did. That ‘end the world’ thing put a strain on that. And Anya. Taught her a thing or two about trust myself. Surprise. You’re not the only screw up in the room.”

 

Spike’s head shot up. “You see him? He’s here, you know. He’s...Sorry, shutting up now. Yes, mother.”

 

“You really are wacko, aren’t you? Getting back to me.” Xander sighed. “Guess you saw my parents at the wedding. Nothing like the back of your father’s hand to help build your trust. Nothing like seeing your mom’s latest black eye.”

 

Spike seemed to hear that. He nodded.

 

“Never seemed to me there was much reason to trust anyone. You know I’ve known Willow since we were little kids. Seems like forever. Anyway, I remember in kindergarten. Little kids all start as peers. Well, they don’t say peers, cause it sounds like ‘pee-ers’, and that’s way too funny. To them, I mean. What I’m getting at, is when you start school there’s no reason not to trust the other kids. You’re all in the same boat.

 

Anyway, Willow had this thing for yellow. Used to draw all her drawings in yellow. Couldn’t make them out, really, but she was happy. Then this one girl starts making fun of her. Laughing at her pictures.

 

Willow tried to ignore her. I told her the drawings were good. They weren’t, but hey, she was my friend, right? And we were just little kids. Who cares?

 

But there was another kid in the class, and she got it in her head to tell the teacher. Snitched on the first kid. So, the teacher gets all involved, and the whole class’ attention is on, that’s right, Willow. She’s crying; I’m mad. So I went over to the second kid and bopped her one.

 

Guess who ends up in the corner?” He turned back to Spike, who was trying to pull the last button off his shirt. “That day I learned kids can be cruel too, not just grown-ups. Yeah. I have trust issues. From way back. Right now, though, not too worried about you.”

 

He left the jar of blood on the floor, beside Spike. “Drink it or don’t. Doesn’t matter to me.”

 

Xander stood up and walked to the door, pausing with his fingers on the handle. “Hey. Maybe I’ll check back later.”