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Calm Before the Storm

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He could tell how worried he was by how quiet he was. Leaving the hospital the sudden silence after the hustle and bustle of a busy Cleveland Emergency room had been jarring, almost oppressive. Barely a word was spoken after they had said their goodbyes to Willow and Giles, the sympathetic look from Willow proof if needed that the tension between them was palpable.

He'd handed the car keys over without a murmur of protest. No concussion this time but the bruise along what felt like his entire left side was painful enough to make him limp and there was no use in adding a car accident to the debacle the entire evening had been. Settling into his seat without audible groans of pain was difficult but he could feel the weight of that diamond-hard blue stare and hadn't wanted to make it any worse by showing just how bad he was feeling. He'd murmured his thanks when, without waiting to see if he was capable of the manoeuvre, his seat belt was clicked into place for him. That was the last that was said throughout the fifteen minute drive from the hospital to their little apartment, the stereo in the car silenced with a decisive twist of the knob.

He meekly allowed himself to be helped out of the car, the journey long enough to have made his muscles stiffen. The palm at the base of his spine guided him up the path and into the secure lobby, and he waited patiently as keys were dragged from one of the numerous pockets on the battered leather duster and the front door of the apartment was opened. Stepping over the threshold, he absentmindedly gave thanks for the fact that they were on the ground floor—the thought of having to climb several flights of steps while he was in this much pain actually made him shudder.

He tossed the torn and bloodied plaid shirt into the corner, not having the energy to trudge into the kitchen and shove it into the disposal pile. Habit had kept it in his hand throughout the medical examination—he was well aware of the dangers of allowing anything with his blood on it to be left hanging around. Too many demons were aware of the Slayer Army that had temporarily taken up residence in town; too many witches would be able to use the blood to cast spells. He would burn it with the rest of their 'personal' rubbish when he was feeling more mobile.

He started slightly when he was nudged in the direction of the bedroom but he gladly accepted the silent suggestion. Lying down would be most excellent at this point in time. He was aware of his silent shadow as he stumbled almost drunkenly into the bedroom but he didn't turn and meet the burning gaze—he wasn't ready for what he would see in them. He wasn't sure what was worse, the pain and fear or the rage. Either way, he felt guilty as hell.

He stripped off his tee-shirt carefully whilst toeing off his sneakers—it made his ribs ache but at least he was able to manage that. He landed heavily on the bed, fatigue threatening to drag him under. His jeans fought his clumsy attempts to undo them and he happily relinquished the task to abler, more stable hands. He managed to lever himself up, lift his hips enough for the jeans to be tugged down and off, and then he half sat, half lay on the bed, waiting. Even in the dim light of the bedroom, the huge bruise was clear to see, covering him from just beneath his armpit and down his flank in a rapidly darkening shade of purple.

The silence dragged on and although he wanted to wait, wanted to give him a chance to vent before opening his mouth and saying something stupid, inane, useless he couldn't hold on, had to say something—

“I'm sorry.” He bit his lips, wishing he had the courage to look up at the stare he could feel like a physical weight. The shift and creaking of floorboards, the rustle of cloth and the heavy thud as the duster hit the floor and he couldn't avoid his gaze any longer. He flinched at the pain in his eyes, knowing he had put it there. His arms were aching as he lay back, letting his elbows support his weight.

“Do you know what it does to me? Do you have any idea what it's like? I've got a demon inside me that sees you as a possession, wants to turn you to keep you safe and bind you to my side. And I've got a soul, a soul that's writhing in agony with the guilt of a thousand kills, knowing that if I do what I want, what part of me needs, I'll have another death on my conscience. But I can't do this, Luv. I can't watch you throw yourself into these things with no thought to the consequences, with no thought to what it does to me.” His voice rose at the last word and Xander flinched. He knew all of this, he knew that Spike needed him to stay safe because otherwise—“I'd do it in a second. I wouldn't think twice, I wouldn't see how Rupert or Willow felt about it—I would turn you in a fuckin' second rather than lose you.”

“Spike, I didn't do it on purpose, you know I didn't.”

“But you're not taking enough care!” It was horrible hearing him restrain himself, hold himself back so that he wasn't shouting. Not out loud anyway. Shouting quietly. Trying to stay calm, trying to stop himself reacting angrily because he was afraid of what he would do. “Don't you understand? Sometimes all I want to do is slam my teeth into you and drain you damn near dry, force you to take my blood, turn you into my Childe. Even now, that's all that's going through my head. I can't take this—“

“So do it!”

“You have no idea how much I bloody well wish you meant that!” That crack in his voice was all that Xander needed, and pushing himself to his feet he stepped into Spike's space, pulling him close and ignoring the pain it caused. He grabbed Spike's chin, forcing his head up so that he met Xander's gaze. Blue eyes going gold, ridges appearing on his forehead as he morphed unwillingly.

“I love you—I love you so much. I'm sorry Spike, I promise I'll take more care, I promise—“ The biting kiss sliced his lip and he accepted the punishment, accepted that the calm was over and now he could ride the storm through to the end. Now he could let his demon take him and reassure itself, now that the calm was over he could handle the storm. He didn't resist as Spike shoved him onto the bed and followed him down—