Disclaimer: This is fanfic, based on the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Characters are property of Mutant Enemy. This story was written for fun, not profit.
Go to author's notes.
Human Frailtyby: Shadowscast
So *ahem* Welcome to the DVD commentary track for "Human Frailty." This story, although not technically the first in the Fragments!verse, really does represent the beginning of the 'verse in my head.
The actual first story I wrote in the 'verse was "Not The End," which simply fulfilled my fannish need to get past the blackout at the end of NFA and find a way for at least some of the characters to survive. In my version of events, Gunn and Spike both die in the fight but Angel (hyped up on Hamilton's blood) and Illyria (still godlike, after all) actually manage to kill the army and the dragon. Then Lilah shows up and gives Angel his pink slip. Right after she leaves, Illyria discovers an unconscious, naked human lying in the place where Spike was dusted. Angel immediately recognizes the human as William, but then William wakes up and says "Bloody hell. Not again!" which I hoped would clearly indicate that despite the reversion to his original human body, this was Spike, with all his memories intact.
When I started writing "Human Frailty" I needed some excuse for Spike to be human, so I declared it to be a sequel to "Not The End." In no other way did it directly draw on that story.
How I came to write "Human Frailty" was I got sick at work one day and had to come home early. So there I was feeling sick and lonely and in need of comfort, and I decided to make myself feel better by writing h/c fluff. With that in mind, I decided not to worry about explaining how it came to pass that Spike and Xander were lovers and working for the Watchers' Council in Rome; they just were. Time had passed since NFA; stuff had happened. At the time I had no real intention of clarifying anything beyond that, though even then it was starting to take shape in a hazy way in the back of my head. I think I'd already had the idea of a fic where a world-weary Xander goes to LA tracking down rumours of a Slayer but finds Illyria and Spike instead, but I hadn't developed it any more than that.
So, um, I guess it's about time to start the story!
"Look, it can't be a Glomach demon—there's no bloody slime trail!"
I like starting a story by jumping into the middle of a conversation; it seems to me that it gets things moving quickly. On the other hand it can also be disorienting; I hoped that the use of the characteristic adjective "bloody" would cue readers in that it was Spike speaking, even before Xander identifies him in the next paragraph.
Xander slipped through the door as quietly as possible, not wanting to interrupt Spike's train of thought. See, right away I'm letting you know: this Xander likes Spike! Or at least respects him enough to not want to interrupt him. This meeting had been supposed to end over an hour ago, but from the mess of books and papers all over the conference table, it looked like they were still going strong. I'm not so sure about the grammar of that last sentence; "they" should probably agree with "this meeting," so should it be "it" instead? But I think it's one of those cases where a collective noun can be singular or plural depending on whether you're referring to the collective as a single mass or a group of individuals, and I was thinking of them as a group of individuals, so ... shutting up now.
Point of interest: this conference room is the same one where the meeting at the start of "Before the Time of Dawn" will happen.
Well, not strong necessarily, but at least still going. Giles had loosened his tie and unbuttoned his collar; his hair was disheveled as though he'd run his hand through it many times. In my head, dishevelled Giles is sexy-looking. And by the way, regarding the spelling of that d-word (and many other words too)—in the fic I used American spellings 'cause the source material is American, but for my commentary I'm using Canadian spellings, 'cause it's my voice. Dammit. Andrew was slouching in his chair and doodling on his notepad. I love Andrew's arc in canon, and love tremendously his appearance in "Damage," and therefore like to include him in as many of my Council-related scenes as possible. And Spike was leaning over the table with both hands, his voice rising with obvious frustration and fatigue. See, he's tired and cranky! Xander will have to do something about this. "If it was a Glomach, it'd be mating this time of year. An' if it was mating, it'd leave a slime trail." See, Spike knows stuff about demons. Even without superpowers, he's still useful! ... Also, I amuse myself with the slime trail idea. And am glad I didn't actually write a scene with a Glomach demon in it.
"Well, er, yes, but we can't ignore the possibility—" Giles started as Xander quietly circled the table to take the empty seat next to Spike's. I haven't actually revealed their relationship yet, so the fact that Xander goes over and sits next to Spike is a clue. Though of course you might not realize that there are plenty of other empty chairs around the table. One of the things I always struggle with, especially when writing in a tight POV like this one, is adequately describing the physical setting of a scene without letting the descriptions clog up the narration. I don't note the empty chairs because Xander doesn't care about the empty chairs; he just cares about sitting next to Spike.
"Wait!" Andrew said. "What if its, um, biological clock has been messed with? We never tracked down all the pockets of temporal distortion after that thing with the evil physics professor." There are many evil physics professors in the world, you see. Up to all sorts of naughty hijinks. Also, Andrew's totally borrowing his vocabulary from Star Trek, but that's okay, 'cause it's Andrew.
"Guess that could do it," Spike admitted, looking annoyed. He threw himself back into his chair with a squeak of leather against leather, and glanced sideways at Xander. "Hi, pet." I'm aware, from one of those fanon-vs-canon sites, that Spike never called a male character "pet" or "luv" in canon. But I figure it would be pretty natural for him to be using them on Xander if they were in a relationship.
"Hi. Got bored with waiting for you." Xander pitched his voice low so it wouldn't carry to Giles and Andrew, who were tossing back and forth ideas for capturing a disoriented, horny Glomach demon. "Can I spring you out of here?" See, Xander's a bit of a rebel. And has a short attention span. That's why he's such a good match for Spike!
"Not just yet." Spike rolled his eyes back towards the other two. "Thing is, neither of them's ever seen a Glomach. I kept one as a pet for a while in the thirties. Dru liked the way she could pull its ears off and they'd grow right back." This mental image makes me happy. By the way, did you notice that I've never yet addressed the "Where the heck is Dru?" question yet in the Fragments!verse? He raised his fist to his mouth and stifled a short cough. Awww. Poor sick Spike.
"Hey, are you okay?" Xander whispered. Up close, Spike looked even more tired than he had from the door. There were dark circles under his eyes, and his skin was vampire-pale.
"Sod off, I'm fine," Spike whispered back fiercely, and Xander bit back a groan. He'd known Spike long enough by now to figure out the code: the more emphatically Spike insisted he was fine, the crappier he was feeling. This is totally one of my biggest kinks—the character who won't admit he's sick, and the concerned lover who sees right through it. Of course Spike's always been one for the bravado, and I figure that he's very frustrated with his weak human state and never wants to let on just how bad it is.
Meanwhile, Spike tossed a book in Giles's direction. Giles fumbled and barely managed to catch it. He glared at Spike. "Are you going to help figure out how to destroy the demon, William, or are you just going to sit there nattering with your boyfriend?" Zing! There it is finally, the actual reveal of Spike and Xander's relationship. Not that it can ever really be a surprise, given that I put "Spike/Xander" in the story notes ... oh well. Anyway, note that Giles is being a little bit insulting here; my intention is that while he's more or less okay with Spike and Xander being lovers, he does have trace amounts of discomfort, and they show up most when he's annoyed.
Andrew blushed, and Xander winced. Xander's wincing mostly because of the "William," as explained in the next line, but Andrew's totally blushing because of the "boyfriend" comment. My post-Chosen Andrew is out and proud and ... still getting used to the whole thing. Giles using Spike's real name was a sure indication that Spike had somehow managed to completely piss him off. Which was another bad sign, because usually Giles put up with Spike pretty well. So Spike was being more annoying than usual, which probably meant he was overcompensating for something. Such as, oh, wild guess here—he was getting sick.
Again. I like using the one-word paragraph for emphasis, though obviously it's something I should be careful not to overuse. The "again" is important because this is going to turn out to be human!Spike's defining struggle: he gets sick. All the fucking time.
Meanwhile, Spike flipped Giles a two-fingered salute. Okay, here's something I really want to know: is there a standard, non-creative, matter-of-fact way to refer to that gesture? The way, for the American version, we'd say "he gave him the finger"? "Fuck off, Watcher. If it's really a Glomach, you don't need the books. Only way to kill 'em is with fire."
"Fire." Giles's expression smoothed, and he sat back in his chair. "Of course, I should have recalled—I apologize for snapping at you, Spike. It's been rather a long day, hasn't it?"
Spike didn't answer; he was pinching his nose, and his eyes were squeezed shut. Xander knew with sinking certainty that he was fighting back a sneeze. His guess had been right, then; Spike was coming down with something.
Giles didn't notice. See, Xander's the only one who notices. It's up to him to look out for Spike's well-being! His attention was on the books he was now stacking more neatly on the table, presumably preparing to take them back to the library. "So we're finally done here. I'll send Angel to deal with the Glomach demon." My totally flip decision to throw Angel in here as an ally would later totally define what I had to do with him in the Fragments!verse. But anyway, I like the idea that after the whole W&H thing washed out, Angel joined back up with the former Sunnydale group and went back to fighting the good fight instead of, say, curling up in a back alley and spending the next century eating rats again. He wouldn't have made it on his own; he needed the Council.
"Are you sure?" Andrew asked. "Remember, fire is one of the vampyre's fatal weaknesses." You can tell the way he's spelling vampyre in his head by the way he pronounces it.
That stopped Giles in mid-stack. "Oh, quite right. We'll send one of the Slayers, then."
"Right, well I'm no more bloody use to you, so I'll be off." Spike said it cheerfully, like a joke, but Xander knew the bitter truth that lay underneath. Spike wasn't happy with his new role as researcher instead of muscle. He was constantly frustrated by the weakness of his human body compared to the vampire super-strength he'd lost. Exposition like this is the reason I think this story is better read at the beginning of the series, as it was written, rather than in its chronological place after "How the Light Gets In." By the time a reader has gotten to the end of "How the Light Gets In," they already know all this stuff.
Spike stood up and strode quickly out of the room, not even glancing back to see if Xander was with him.
The reason was clear when Xander caught up to Spike at the top of the stairwell. Spike was leaning white-knuckled against the wall, and Xander was just in time to see him shudder forward with a loud sneeze. "Ahtsshoo!" You'll notice I spell out the sneezes in non-traditional ways. The standard "achoo" spelling just strikes me as lame. It echoed harshly against the stone walls. I picture this building having an old fortress or castle feel to it, with bare rough-hewn stone for the outside walls. I've never exactly explained this stuff, but my concept is that after the Council HQ in London were blown up, the secondary Roman offices were the largest intact Council property remaining, and therefore the new Council—headed by Giles, after machinations neither Joss nor I have yet cared to explain—is based out of Rome.
"Gesundheit." Xander pulled a Kleenex out of his pocket and offered it to him. Spike never carried the things himself, no matter how much he needed them. Playing into my kink again; I like putting Xander in that caretaker role. Plus, Spike is stubborn and impractical.
"Cheers." Spike blew his nose quickly and stuffed the tissue into his jacket pocket. "Those books are fucking dusty. Makin' me sneeze all afternoon."
"Yeah. The books." Xander stepped forward, pinning Spike against the wall. Spike started to move away but Xander pushed his shoulders back against the stone and kissed him on the lips. Clearly, Xander is not worried about catching Spike's cold. Spike let his lips part with a soft moan, and his hands snaked greedily around Xander's back to pull him closer. I like the whole "kissing against a wall" scenario; it pops up every once in a while in my fics. Also in my life. Xander kept kissing him, but he had a purpose here: he stroked Spike's cheek once with his knuckles, then laid his palm on Spike's forehead. "They gave you a fever, too," he commented dryly, pulling away from the kiss.
Spike glared at him, flushed now from more than the fever. "That's cheating, you wanker."
"So sue me." Xander glanced back to make sure they were still alone in the stairway. "You were supposed to go home if you started feeling sick, remember?" The fact that this is presented as a standing agreement is supposed to be another clue as to the fragile state of Spike's health, which hasn't yet been explicitly revealed. At this point it still might seem that Xander's fussing over Spike kind of unreasonably.
"I'm not sick." He turned aside with a shuddering breath. "Hetchsh!" Spike forgot to knock wood to ward off the dramatic irony fairy. He pressed his fingers against his temple wearily, and gave Xander a rueful look. "I'm not very sick."
"It's okay," Xander said softly, resisting the urge to scold Spike again for not taking care of himself. "Let's just go home."
Xander swore under his breath when the weather outside hit them. It was just above freezing out, and raining hard. I checked Rome's climate out online to make sure that this kind of weather was possible in December; it is. He seriously considered telling Spike to go back inside and they'd call a cab, but he knew that would be above Spike's tolerance for Xander 'fussing' over him, and it would just end up in a fight with Spike storming off alone on his motorcycle, headed for a bar instead of their apartment. I was really feeling out the dynamics of Spike and Xander's relationship as I wrote this. The characters resist a totally shmoopy h/c dynamic, much as that really is what I'm writing here; Spike gets offended if Xander treats him too much like an invalid.
So Xander followed Spike to the curb where he'd left his ride—a six-year-old Yamaha touring bike, all black and chrome. It was more powerful than the one he'd lost in Sunnydale. So here I am writing a story where Spike's human, physically weak, getting sick all the time. But I want him to still be Spike; I don't want him to be completely broken or emasculated. One way of letting him retain his badassness was to give him this bike. Plus, I just think motorcycles are really sexy. In August, just after he'd bought it, he'd taken Xander on a road trip to Germany. Ostensibly they'd been there tracking down rumors of another Slayer, but the point of the trip was the Autobahn and the bike. This, of course, later grew into the climactic scene of "How the Light Gets In." Xander still remembered that nighttime ride—the metallic taste of fear, the way his arms ached from holding onto Spike so tight for so long, the warm, hard, safe feeling of Spike that somehow kept Xander from closing his eyes or crying like a little girl as they flew over the asphalt at 180 kilometers per hour, zigzagging between other vehicles like Trinity in The Matrix: Reloaded. When I originally posted this story, the speed was 180 miles per hour rather than kilometres, which was an out-and-out mistake. I was aiming for a speed which was clearly insane and yet not impossible; I'm pretty sure 180 miles per hour on a motorcycle is actually impossible. Xander would normally think in miles, of course, but he'd use km in this case because that's what the bike's speedometer would be giving him. 180 km/h, by the way, is about 112 mph.
And then going into a gas station bathroom together at 3 a.m. just outside of Berlin, shaking with adrenaline, fucking for the very first time.
The only time Spike seemed like his old self was on the bike, and Xander knew better than to try to take that away from him. Even when it was December and pouring rain and Spike was already getting sick.
Xander zipped his own leather jacket up as high as it would go, put on the helmet Spike handed him, and straddled the bike behind his lover. Spike kicked the starter and the bike roared to life, a great rumbling beast between their legs. Xander hugged Spike a bit tighter and smiled; he couldn't not love this.
It was just a fifteen minute drive back to the apartment. Spike took it slow and cautious, nothing like that night on the Autobahn. See, he can be a good driver when he wants to be! The rain was freezing in places, and black ice was hell on a bike. I've never driven a motorcycle, but I have ridden a bicycle under these circumstances, and let me tell you—it's unpleasant. Stopped at a red light, Spike hunched forward and coughed. Xander worried silently, trying to decide whether he was feeling Spike shivering in his arms or if it was just the vibrations of the bike.
They still hadn't figured out how Spike had become human. Believe it or not, I actually do have a specific answer to this question—in fact, I have ever since I wrote "Not The End." If I ever manage to write another installment of the Fragments!verse, I'll finally deal with this issue. There'd been some prophecy, apparently, and from what Xander'd been told it was Angel who'd believed for years that he was destined to regain his humanity as some kind of reward for a job well done. Then Spike had turned up human after getting dusted in the big fight with the Senior Partners. I tell you this in case you didn't read "Not The End." No one really knew how or why. The question was still on the back burner—due for research as soon as they'd dealt with all pressing emergencies.
Which probably meant never. Because, see, nobody else really cares about Spike the way Xander does. Poor guy.
And hey, coming back human sounded good, but it hadn't been such a great deal for Spike. From what he told Xander, being human after being a vampire was like having someone wrap you in cotton wool and leave you like that to interact with the world. His senses were diminished so much he'd felt deaf, blind and unable to smell for the first month. It hadn't helped that he was practically blind, even by human standards, until Giles had finally figured out that he needed glasses. The fact that I'd established it was Giles who figured that out left me stuck, through all of "Late Night Porn Store Blues" and most of "How the Light Gets In," writing Spike as nearly legally blind without either him or Xander actually realizing what's wrong. It was a bit awkward. You might notice that in those stories Spike drives very badly, squints and holds papers close to his face when he's reading, and doesn't recognise Xander from across the room until Xander speaks. There may be places where I slipped up with it, though.
The reduced strength was hard for Spike to accept, too. Xander could sympathize there, since he'd had plenty of feelings of inadequacy over his years of sidekicking for Buffy. It was worse for Spike, though, since he had been used to such effortless power. Now even Andrew could beat him at arm-wrestling. I remember a few people protesting that last bit when I first posted this fic—come on, Andrew? But in my head, Andrew's not such a weakling. He's been working out! Gyms are very important pick-up places....
The worst, though, was that Spike had somehow come back wrong. He got headaches—skull-splitting migraines that left him swearing and shaking and huddling in the dark, refusing food or company for days at a time. And he got sick. His immune system just didn't work very well; no one knew why. He'd already been hospitalized with pneumonia twice since he came to Rome. Now every time he came down with a cold, Xander got scared. And again, this is all exposition that's unnecessary if you've already read "How the Light Gets In." Really, this story is kind of like an outline for that one.
Home, finally. They peeled off their soggy jackets and boots, holding on to each other for balance.
"Keep stripping," Xander said, padding barefoot across the parquet floor to their closet. I really hope a parquet floor is actually what I think it is. It was a bachelor apartment; between them they didn't even have enough stuff to make it cluttered. I think their Spartan existence is kind of sad, actually. And I think it comes from the fact that they've both had the experience at least once of losing absolutely everything they own; now they don't so much bother accumulating stuff. By the way, this is the same apartment Xander was living in alone in "How the Light Gets In."
"H-how d'you manage to m-make that s-sound not sexy?" Spike complained through chattering teeth, peeling his shirt off over his head.
"Here, put these on." Xander handed him a pair of his own flannel pajamas. They were too big for Spike, but Spike wouldn't be caught dead—so to speak—owning flannel pj's, so he was stuck borrowing Xander's. I imagine this scene being something that plays out on a fairly regular basis. Maybe deep down Spike likes wearing Xander's clothes?
Spike took gave the gray plaid a long-suffering look. "C-couldn't I j-just wrap up in the quilt again? Ah-hahchoo!"
"You'll wear that and wrap up in the quilt," Xander snapped. "What the hell is wrong with you, Spike?"
"We never bloody well figured that out, did we?" Spike shot back, his sudden anger hot enough to stop his shivering momentarily. "It's a fucking mystery, innit?"
Xander stopped himself, took a deep breath, watched while Spike angrily yanked on the pajamas, then stepped forward to touch Spike's cheek. "Sorry. It's—I get mad at you when I'm worried about you, it's stupid. But why did you go to work today if you were getting sick?"
Spike shrugged, avoiding Xander's eye. I tend to frequently focus on where characters are looking, and especially on whether their eyes are meeting or not. It's something that seems really important to me in visualizing a scene, but I worry about my descriptions getting repetitive. "Thought it was nothing, just a sore throat." He coughed, putting a hand again Xander's chest for balance. Spike and Xander are doing a lot of casual touching here, which is a way I try to indicate the closeness of their relationship and their comfort with each other even while they're in the middle of bickering. This casual touching thing is missing from all of "Late Night Porn Store Blues" and "How the Light Gets In" because they're further back on the timeline, before Spike and Xander had an established relationship, but I bring it back in "Before the Time of Dawn." Xander wanted to hug him, but he had to get out of his own wet clothes first.
"You still should've stayed home."
Spike gave Xander a rebellious scowl and headed for the kitchenette. "No one else stays home with a bit of a sore throat."
"Giles would understand." Xander wondered if it was even worthwhile rehashing the argument; it hadn't helped the last ten times. "Everyone would understand. You need more—"
"No! God, Spike, it's not about being strong. Nobody else has been through what you have." By now Xander'd pulled on a soft old pair of jeans and a soft blue shirt. The apartment was warm enough he didn't mind going barefoot. But he's still making Spike wrap up in a quilt.
"Everyone's been through something," Spike said softly, turning just as Xander came up behind him. He touched Xander's eye patch, his own eyes drawn into that faraway, quizzical look he got sometimes when they talked about the past. Which they didn't do much. I think this is the first reference in the story to Xander's one-eyed status. It's something I always have to work at keeping in mind when writing Fragments!Xander; every once in a while I catch myself with a phrase like "he closed his eyes" that I have to go back and edit into the singular. As for the patch itself—in fannish meta discussions online, I've come across the idea that Xander would most likely use a glass eye in the long term, rather than sticking with the patch. While I can't deny the logic, I like the idea of my Xander wearing a patch—it's a constant reminder that he's got more rough edges than teenaged canon Xander. If pressed, I suppose I can justify it by claiming that there was too much scarring around the edges of the socket, or something, but it's simpler just not to explain. I feel like over-explaining things is a beginner mistake. I strive to explain less and less as time goes on.
There wasn't anything Xander wanted to say in response to that, so he just kissed Spike instead. And tasted...alcohol. Xander opened his eye and peeked around Spike's shoulder and saw an open bottle of cheap whiskey sitting on the counter. Where the hell had that come from?
"It's medicinal," Spike said defensively, following Xander's gaze. I pick that up in "How the Light Gets In"—remember the Wild Turkey? According to my internet research, the Victorians really did think hard liquor was a great cure for what ails you. Then he ducked his head and sneezed again.
"We agreed not to keep any alcohol in the apartment," Xander reminded him softly.
"Yeah, 'cause you were drinking too much. So this is mine and you can't have any." And this is the first hint that Xander's got some fucked-up-ness of his own to deal with. At the time I wrote this, I hadn't yet figured out exactly what had happened to Xander in Africa, but I knew that he'd been severely traumatized by something while he was there. I read about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and tried to write "Porn Store" and "Light Gets In" Xander with that in mind, without ever actually bringing up the clinical term. But then by this point in the timeline, it's already been kind of dealt with. In fact, it's really a gap in the narrative; in "How the Light Gets In" Xander is drinking too much but they haven't talked about it, and here in "Human Frailty," the next story on the timeline, they've already apparently talked about it and Xander's completely given up drinking. Spike grabbed the bottle and tilted it up against his lips, slamming back the whiskey in big gulps. Spike may have a bit of a drinking problem too, but they haven't talked about that.
"Spike, what the fuck!" Xander felt almost dizzy for a second with hurt and fear. They'd agreed. They'd agreed to keep it out of the apartment. He grabbed the bottle from Spike and upended it over the sink. The clear liquid gurgled out, wafting its smell of sickness and depression, and for a second Xander desperately wanted to lap it up. The way I wrote it here, Xander actually is an alcoholic, and has acknowledged it. I think I did back off somewhat from that when it came to actually writing "How the Light Gets In"—he was drinking too much at times, but it wasn't central to the story. He wasn't always drinking. He fought the urge down, then set the empty bottle in the sink and turned to face Spike.
Spike was leaning back against the fridge, looking away from Xander, and there were tears running down his cheeks. "Sorry," he croaked. When Monanotlisa beta read this for me, one piece of her advice that I didn't take was to alter that "tears running down his cheeks" bit. She thought something seemed off about it; Spike wasn't showing his usual defiance in this moment, and it felt wrong. I ended up keeping the phrasing, but I still wonder whether it was the right decision. I mean, I can see her point. But at the same time, I really wanted to show Spike breaking down here. It's not just being miserable about being sick—which he certainly is—but it's also about realizing he really did fuck up by hiding alcohol in the apartment, and it was very unfair to Xander, and it could have been a very bad thing.
Xander sighed, and went and finally wrapped his arms around Spike, who leaned back into Xander's embrace. He was shaking.
"Come on. You're supposed to be wrapped up in the quilt by now." How could he be mad at Spike for being fucked up? Not like any of them weren't. Seriously. I figure the whole Sunnydale gang needs years of therapy. And Spike handled it better than this most of the time.
He let Xander lead him to the couch. Then Spike turned on the TV and flipped until he found a soccer—uh, 'football'—game, while Xander pulled the spare quilt off the bed.
"Cheers," Spike said quietly, taking the quilt and wrapping it around his shoulders. His voice was getting hoarse, Xander noticed. Does Spike ever actually say "cheers" for "thank-you" on the show? I'm not sure. But it's something I've noticed actual English people doing, so I ran with it.
Before he joined Spike on the couch, Xander went back to the fridge and poured orange juice into a tall glass. He heard Spike sneezing again, so he grabbed the kleenex box from on top of the fridge.
"Here. This is what you're supposed to be drinking." Xander handed Spike the glass, then tucked himself in behind him. Spike put the glass down on the coffee table and leaned back, his head resting on Xander's shoulder. Xander clasped his hands around Spike's chest—not that he could really even feel Spike through the thick quilt—and tugged him a bit closer.
Spike grabbed a kleenex and pressed it to his mouth and nose. "Aah-achoo! Hetchoo!" Xander felt him rocking forward with each one. He blew his nose, tossed the tissue away, and let himself go limp on top of Xander again. "This fucking sucks," he said quietly, stating a fact. And this is what the story was really meant to be about—Xander cuddling Spike on the couch and wrapping him in blankets and making him drink juice. Hurt-comfort fluff.
Xander raised one hand to Spike's face, and smoothed his hair back from his warm cheek. He kept stroking Spike's hair while he said "Yeah. But I've got you, okay? I'm not leaving. And I love you."
Spike snuggled back into Xander's touch, sighing with something between weariness and contentment. "For what it's worth, pet, I love you too."
"It's worth a lot," Xander said, meaning it. And after that, they watched the game silently until they both fell asleep.
Awww. *wincing* I get embarrassed by the shmoopiness, even though it was the whole point of writing this story.
Anyway ... if you were wondering, Spike comes out of this one just fine. Xander makes sure he gets lots of rest and drinks lots of fluids and stays home from work, and he manages to avoid any nasty complications.
So, that's how the Fragments!verse began. I hope you enjoyed my commentary!