Title: Manchild
Author: Becka
Pairing: Spike + Xander.

Warnings: AU? Sweet and mildly fluffy, in a sick way.

Disclaimer: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer does not belong to Becka; characters are used without permission for a non-profit purpose. No infringement is intended.


Angel asked me why I love him. I don't really think he expected an answer, but I gave him one. Because I could. Because I know. And because it was so important to explain it to someone, to try and help me understand it myself.

I love him because he is a child.

It's not... sick. Not really. He's a hundred years my junior, so I suppose it's probably the worst case of statutory rape in history, but that's not what I mean. Not really. And I don't want to use the word innocent, because it might be the first word that comes to mind, but that's not _it_.

He's got the eyes of a child.

They look out from his face, lighting up with wonder and joy at the smallest things. A twinkie. A chocolate bar I stole him from his favorite candy store. A silly cartoon featured around two talking lab rats. The jingle bell on a necklace that Willow made for him.

It's not fake, that look in his eyes. You can see that, and sometimes watching him hurts so much. Because even after a night full of slaying scaly, smelly, gooey monsters, he can still come home and snuggle in bed with me and look at me with those big brown eyes that tell me he loves me without any words. Those eyes that light up with wonder at the tiniest joy lock with mine, and somehow they tell me that out of everything he cherishes in this world, I'm at the top of the list.

Sometimes, he'll just sit on the couch at night and stare at me, and every moment is agony because I know I don't deserve to be looked at like that. I'm a demon. A soulless imitation of life. A rag doll with button dull eyes, but when he looks at me, I can almost forget who I am and become who I was.

He's got the mouth of a child.

Everyday when I feel him stir next to me, responding to the rays of sunshine he can't see, but somehow senses through the heavy black curtains, he crinkles his nose just a little bit, opens those eyes, and gives me the greatest gift any creature, mortal or undead or halfway between, could ever receive.

He smiles at me like I'm the only thing that matters. It's just a tiny little curl at the corner of each mouth, a little pull that creases the corners of his eyes, but it's so sweet, so honest, that it blots out everything else until it's just the two of us, laying in his bed, and the rest of the world can go to Hell because nothing matters when he's smiling that way, smiling just for me.

Sometimes I just have to look at him and wonder how it all fell in place. How it went from hating the child that's as much a part of him as the hyena he was once possessed by to cherishing every breathe he takes. How I could have ever wanted to destroy that part of him when it makes me feel more human than I ever was when I could still breathe.

Sometimes I try to smile back at him. I wonder if he can get past all the teeth and see what I really am.

He sheds the tears of a child.

On the rare occasion that he lets himself cry, and on the even rarer occasion that it's where someone can witness it, the tears that trickle slowly down his cheeks are as pure and clear as tiny diamonds. They aren't the portentous tears that I've seen some women shed, the kind that guilt a man into doing almost anything. They aren't the "I've been caught so I'll play it up" tears. Angel uses those sometimes, but I don't think he's truly away of what he's doing.

The tears he sheds are so bitter. Full of hurt, full of sadness, full of promises that have been broken. He cries because he doesn't understand _why_ people do the hateful things they do. Just like a child.

When he first told me that he loved me, I threw it back in his face. I thought it was some stupid prank the Slayer bint put him up to. I laughed in his face. I made a mockery out of the most brutally honest, soul-bearing declaration of love I'd every heard. You see, there had always been a sore spot in my heart - Cecily created it, Angelus raped it until it bled, and Druscilla... she never even noticed it was there. I told him he wasn't good enough for me. I told him... that he was beneath me. And the look in his eyes, the pain written in every line of his body - I almost fell to my knees right there to beg his forgiveness. To take back every word I'd said in spite. To spend a lifetime making it up to him. Because he looked at me with those child's eyes, and he smiled so bravely with his child's mouth, and even as his lower lip trembled, echoed by the shudder in his voice, he said softly, "I love you, Spike."

I knew I'd just ripped his heart out.

In all my hundred years, I've never felt like more of a bastard.

My demon railed. My mouth opened of it's own accord. I couldn't stop myself. It told him that he was a failure. A waste of space. A joke.

He listened to me silently.

My demon told him that he used people, lied to himself and pretended as though they were his friends to make himself feel better. It said he was a fake, a fuck up, and insecure little boy who didn't know any better.

And still he looked at me with those eyes.

"Stop looking at me like that," I said.

"I can't," he said.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because," he answered, "I love you, Spike."

And when the understanding hit me, when the enormity of what he told me finally clicked in my pathetic little vampire brain, I did fall to my knees. My eyes fixed on the tops of his shoes.

Because above his eyes, and his mouth, and his damned tears, above all - he has the understanding of a child.

What is, is.

And for that, I love him even more.