Pain, Xander knew, was sometimes a good thing. For instance, without pain he would never have noticed when he dropped a cinder block on his foot when he was just starting out in construction. Steel toed boots or not, that had hurt like hell. Pain also let him know when Spike had turned the shower up beyond scalding and to nuclear levels of hot. Intellectually he knew that pain was good ol' Mother Nature's way of saying 'Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!'
Knowing all that didn't really help when it came down to actually dealing with pain. In fact, the longer he was in pain, the more willing Xander was to turn from an adult male into a three-year old little girl. If he'd had thought she'd have been useful, he'd actually want his Mommy.
Hell, he'd settle for Giles right now. The older man was adept at getting the Scoobies in and out of the ER without having to wait for hours in the waiting area. Then again, broken arms didn't usually get the same amount of attention as exsanguination and head wounds.
Gunn, Wes and Dawn had gone back out hunting, which only made things worse. When they'd gotten to the ER it had been busy and the nurses were talking about a bar fight between some college kids and a "gang on PCP". Whoever was behind this new vampire activity wasn't fooling around like the Master had done. Even Angelus hadn't been so bold, preferring to taunt Buffy. No, this was a coordinated attack and Xander couldn't help but think he was missing something that would put all the clues together. It was like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. When you paid attention to it, it vanished.
Maybe he'd be able to think better once it didn't feel as if his arm was going to fall off.
"They haven't seen to you yet?"
Xander didn't even turn his head from where he was wearily resting against the wall. "Not yet. I think I'm next. Unless, you know, someone comes in gushing blood or something. Where's Angel?"
Spike sighed and sat down next to him. "Sent the poof to go look after Dawn and the rest. I also used that damned thing to call Fred and the Cheerleader to make sure they're tucked up safe. The last thing we need is to have to hare off after the bad guys as well."
"Cheerleader didn't say, so I'd guess not."
Xander turned and looked at his lover and frowned. Spike was being unusually quiet and that wasn't good. "Spike...you do know that this…" He raised his arm up in its makeshift splint made out of an old shirt. "It isn't your fault, love."
"Should've been faster, or something."
If he had been feeling better, Xander would have hit Spike upside the head. Either that or kiss him. "Will you stop with the Angel impression? I can only take one brooding vampire. We were lucky to get everyone out alive as it was. Here in a few minutes they'll come and poke and prod me and take x-rays and then I'll have a smelly cast put on me. If you come out of your sulk I'll ask for a fiberglass one and you can pick the color, okay?"
Spike was determined to feel guilty. "Don't be a moron. It wasn't anyone's fault. Well, whoever is making all these fledges. Take all your guilt out on him, or her, when we find them. Think of it as therapy. Or torture, whichever floats your little vampire boat."
"I'll have you know that my boat is not little. Might even say it's bigger than the QEII."
There. That was better. Spike was making obnoxious comments again. "Just as long as it's not the Titanic. I'd hate for you to have a boat that sinks."
The laughter on his part was mostly pain filled but at least Spike wasn't sulking now. He leaned into Spike's side, thanking god that the ugly orange seat in the waiting room didn't have arms. "Spike...if I'm good for the doctor can we stop for a milkshake before we go home?"
Spike looked at him with twitching lips. Before his lover could laugh or make a sarcastic comment, though, Xander was called into a treatment room by a nurse who had only one eyebrow.
"Best go, luv. Don’t want Nurse Ratchet giving your prostate a lookie."
Xander rolled his eyes and stood up with Spike's help. "Spike, my arm and my prostate are in no way connected. There's no reason for her to look."
"Yeah, well, when we get home I'll be doing my own check, just to make sure."
The sun was preparing to peek over the horizon by the time Spike yanked the steering wheel outside 1630 Revello Drive, leaving tire tracks across the lawn and crushing an innocent shrub.
“Here we are,” he announced, unbuckling Xander’s seat belt. He opened his door and jogged around the car to open Xander’s. “Come on, then. Sun’s about to rear its ugly head.”
Spike reached into to the car and took hold of Xander’s good arm, guiding him out.
“You’re so good to me,” Xander slurred. “Have I told you yet how much I really, really lo…like you? ‘Cause I do, you know.”
“I know you do, luv,” Spike said. He propped Xander against the door and ducked back inside the car to grab Xander’s jacket and meds. He slammed the door shut and quickly glanced around for potential trouble. “I really, really like you, too,” he said distractedly.
“You’re…cute and vampy. And Spikey. Did you know that? No one is as Spikey as a Spike. Spikalicious!”
Spike shook his head and handed Xander his meds. “I can’t believe you’re stoned. Straight to bed with you.”
A long and lazy grin spread over Xander’s face. “Now that sounds like a plan. Consider me on board.” Spike steered him towards the house. “On board the bed train. The love train! Heh.”
“Bloody hell,” Spike muttered. He leaned Xander against the wall and fished his house keys out of his jeans pocket. “I dread to think what they’ve pumped you full of.”
“Pumped? Was that an offer, Spikalicious?”
“Eh? Christ. Come back, NHS, all is forgiven.” Spike opened the door and helped Xander into the house. He wasn’t surprised to find absolutely everyone in the room still up and waiting for them.
“Ah, you’re back,” Wesley said. “How are you, Xander? Sore, I expect.”
Xander’s head nodded in an exaggerated movement. Then, slowly and deliberately, he shook it from side to side. “Nope. I feel good.” He paused in thought. “I knew that I would,” he sang. “Boy, I love that song.”
“Xander,” Dawn said, creeping closer with a worried from. “Are you okay?”
Xander nodded again and Spike was reminded of the nodding dog he used to have in the Desoto.
“He’s fine,” Spike answered. “Bit high, though. I think I’ll just take him up to bed.”
“Before I embarrass myself,” Xander added with a pointy finger and a happy smile.
Spike was sure he would laugh at this in a few days time, when he wasn’t feeling quite so tense and worried. “Reckon it’s a bit late for that, pet.” He turned Xander towards the stairs and glanced back over his shoulder. “Anyone’s welcome to stay if they want. Dawn, get yourself up to bed.”
It was too late for Angel to get back to the Magic Box before the sun came up, so he took the couch. Spike found he was glad. The human blood he’d procured from the hospital had patched Angel up a treat but he still wasn’t at full strength; a long way from it, in fact. He wanted to keep Angel close. Of course, he would only admit that out loud under threat of imminent decapitation or evisceration.
Wesley and Gunn elected to wait until the sun came up before they drove back to the apartment, so Spike left them to it. Ignoring Cordelia’s and Fred’s fussing and shaking his head at Dennis’s offer of a floating beer can, Spike took Xander upstairs to a soundtrack of ‘I feel nice, like sugar and spice’.
It took considerable coordination to wrestle Xander out of his clothes and into some pajamas bottoms. He left Xander’s chest bare, preferring not to jostle his arm unless he could absolutely help it, and settled his boyfriend against a great stack of recently fluffed pillows.
“Ow,” Xander said, after he’d stared at his sling for a full five minutes without moving.
“Huh?” Xander swung his head up and around to look at Spike with a puzzled expression. “Why sorry?” he asked.
“Should have protected you. Should have made sure you were safe. If only I’d…”
Xander produced one of the most dramatic eye-rolls that Spike had ever seen.. “Boring!”
Spike had to chuckle. “Excuse me?”
“You! Always blaming yourself. Stop it already, Emo Boy. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s the vamps that attacked us, or – or – or the Initiative. Or Riley! And to think I used to like him, but he’s so completely useless. Couldn’t even clean up his own mess. Have we got any cheese?”
Spike leaned back against the pillows and put his arm around Xander’s shoulders. He gently pulled Xander closer to him, smiling faintly when he felt a heavy head rest groggily on his shoulder. “You know what?” Spike asked.
“Um…” Xander genuinely seemed to be trying to answer that question. “No,” he said eventually, his eyes closing and his body relaxing as he drifted into sleep.
Spike waited a few moments longer. “I am so in love with you.”
The answer Spike got was a delayed one and it sounded more like ‘Spaceships’ than a matching declaration. He smiled, closed his eyes, and slept peacefully.
When Xander finally stumbled downstairs for breakfast, the sun seemed to be on the wrong side of the house. This didn't really make sense to him, but he ignored it in favor of the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen. It wasn’t until he’d almost reached the bottom of his second mug that the snickers in the kitchen registered.
Xander opened one eye to find both Fred and Cordy looking at him with huge grins on their faces. "What?"
Fred gave him a grin that looked so much like one of Cordelia's that Xander thought he was imagining it. "You're drinking coffee that Cordelia made. And you're not complaining."
Xander snorted. "I'm so desperate I'd even drink Angel's coffee this morning. What the hell hit me last night?"
"Before or after the broken arm? They gave you some good drugs or something when they set it last night. I think you were having a loopy reaction. Well, more loopy than you normally are. It was cute! Spike all but carried you up the stairs to bed. I thought Angel was going to swallow his tongue."
Cordelia spoke slowly, as if to a small child. "Xander, you broke your arm last night. That's why there's a cast on it. They gave you medicine for the pain, and it made you silly and Spike tucked you into bed. How's the arm feeling, by the way?"
Xander blushed. He'd noticed the cast when he first woke up, of course, but didn't think about it. He hoped Spike kept him from acting too geeky. He figured his lover would tease him at some point about it sooner or later and he'd find out. "Great. Now I can be embarrassed in front of a whole new group of people."
Fred patted his hand in a reassuring manner. "Don't worry. I'm sure Spike, Dawn and Cordelia are used to you being embarrassed."
Xander groaned. "Yay for me." He looked at his arm in sudden shock. "What the hell did Spike let them do to me?"
Both women giggled again but it was Fred who answered. "It's one of those new fiberglass casts that you can get in different colors. I think Spike chose a nice one for you. I mean, he could have been mean and chosen pink or something."
His arm was in a cast from fingers to elbow. A bright, fire engine red one. At some point in time his lover had made time to not only adorn his cast with a huge 'Spike's' but on one end was a scarily realistic drawing of a bloody railroad spike.
On the other end? A smiley face with fangs.
Xander shook his head. Sometimes Spike made him wonder. Still, he couldn't help but smile because it was just so...Spike.
"I think it's cute! Can I sign it too?"
Xander gave Fred a smile. "Sure. Just...let me wake up some. Where's everyone else?"
Cordy got up and grabbed a box of doughnuts from the counter and put them in front of Xander, something he blessed her for. Silently, of course. He wouldn't want her ego getting any bigger than it already was.
"Well, Gunn and Wes took off. I think they were going to try to get some sleep before opening the Magic Box. I went ahead and took Dawn to school. Don't worry, I stopped at a store and got her enough Red Bulls to keep her awake through next year. Angel woke up and started brooding and being an all around ass until Spike came downstairs and dragged him down to the basement about a half hour ago. I haven't heard anything for a while so it's quite possible that they beat the stuffing out of each other and are lying in the floor unconscious and bleeding." She turned and looked at Fred. "Do you think we should worry?"
Fred shook her head, her hair in pigtails that swung around her face. "Nope. They're like two old dogs, fighting it out to see who's top. They need to work things out and this is how they'll do it."
Xander reached for a glazed doughnut. "Spike better not let Angel on top, at least not before I get to." Both girls sputtered at that and Xander gave up and put his head down on the table with a thump. "I said that out loud, didn't I?"
He heard giggling again. "Yep, you did."
"Some mornings I don't think I should get out of bed."
"True, but you didn't get out of bed this morning. It’s almost two in the afternoon and Dawn will be home in less than an hour."
"Oh. That would explain the whole sun being on the wrong side of the house thing." Both Fred and Cordy gave him a look and Xander shook his head. "Never mind, you don't want to know. Anyone got any bright ideas about the legions of the undead that are running around town?"
"Well, they aren't from around here, not really. I mean, there haven't been that many new funerals and stuff. There have been a lot of people in the ER for blood loss, but the weird thing is it's not from vampire bites. Well, not always. The vampires are using some sort of hunting knife to slash their victims’ throats open. The police are looking for a slasher at the college campus, but Cordelia thinks that they must be hunting outside of Sunnydale too, otherwise half the town would have been drained."
"I've also been playing with the computer, trying to find a map of the underground system, or tunnels or something. We may have to email Willow, though, because I'm just not that good of a hacker. Not to mention there are caves up in the hills that I bet no humans have ever been in and we've got trouble finding these vamps. It's like they just vanish or something."
"Great. Meanwhile, they have a thing for killing Deadboy. Well, whoever it is must know him. I mean, lots of people who've read about Angelus hate the idea of him, but you've got to meet the bastard to really hate him that much. Is Angel at least writing down a list of possible demons that want him dead?"
"No, but it's a good idea." Cordy tilted her head. "I could probably get started on one and then let him go through it and add anyone else he might think is possible. The big name on the list is Darla."
"Darla? Isn't she that skank he dusted to prove his true love to Buffy?" Xander was getting all confused now. They really needed a list, or better yet, a score card.
"Yep. Evil lawyers brought her back from the dead and then she had some STD and was dying. Then Dru came by and vamped her and, let me tell you, that's weird. Not only was there the "I'm my own Grandma" thing going on but they had this really freaky sort of lesbian vibe. Angel went off the deep end for a bit and got to be even more of a brooding asshole but he came out of it finally. That was...early last spring, March...or maybe the beginning of April. So it could be the Gruesome Twosome. If so, that means you're big on the hit list, Xander. Drusilla will get pissed if she finds out you've been playing with her toys."
Xander closed his eyes and tried to think. "Yeah, she showed up in town and in the end I think Spike had both her and Buffy tied up somewhere and Harmony was there. Buffy told me about it, and the long and the short of it was that Spike kinda rejected her. Dru, that is. I don't remember that much, though. We’ll have to ask Spike. Wouldn't he and Angel be able to sense it, if they were around?"
Fred looked mystified but Cordy just shrugged. "Maybe, maybe not. Darla did a real mind trip on Angel last time, and if they're nesting out of town their vampire radar may be off. Who knows?"
Xander tried to think but the ache in his arm was getting worse the longer he was awake. He felt something tap his arm and an orange bottle of prescription meds floated in front of him. "Oh! Umm, thanks, Dennis." He fished one out and drank it down with the dregs of his coffee, trying to ignore the nasty flavor of it now that he was awake. Instead he thought about what he knew about Darla and Drusilla.
"If those two are in town, there's probably been a few robberies with death in, like, toy stores or wherever they sell those fancy dolls...not to mention the fact that when I saw Darla last she liked to dress like a school girl. I didn't see all that much of her, but it was really disturbing. I mean, Darla may be ageless and all but she still looked too old for that."
They all laughed and Cordy got up to start another pot of poison. Or coffee. Xander wasn't sure if there was a big difference. Just as she stuck the carafe under the running water, Cordelia let out a scream, grabbed at her head and the coffee pot shattered in the sink.
Both he and Fred jumped up but since his arm was out of commission, it was Fred who caught Cordelia and lowered her to the floor, cradling their friend's head in her lap. Xander ran and opened the door to the basement and yelled down the stairs as loudly as he could. "SPIKE! ANGEL! Get up here, now!"
By the time he'd gotten back to Cordy's side, the convulsions caused by her visions had stopped and she was panting in pain. A glass of water and bottle of aspirins floated through the air towards them and Xander had to admit, if only to himself, that Dennis was a handy ghost to have around.
It was Angel, though, who took the glass and helped Cordy to sit up. When she'd taken the medicine and composed herself, she sighed and pushed Angel away. "Call Gunn and Wes and get them to pick up Dawn and we'll have a meeting so I can go over all this at once."
"Is it Darla?" "Is it Drusilla?"
Fred and Xander spoke at the same time and it was almost funny, especially with the looks on the two vampire's faces. Before anyone could say anything, Cordy shook her head.
"We should only be so lucky."