Spike leaned on a tree outside of the Harris house, his arms crossed over his chest, a cigarette dangling nonchalantly from his right hand. He exhaled a lungful of smoke slowly, purposefully, creating a fog around his face. He liked the effect. Through it, he could still see the scene unfolding through the picture window of Xander's home.

It was like watching a silent movie. Xander walked in quietly, his posture immediately becoming defensive upon his entrance into the house. He put down his booksack, and started off to the hallway, a look of relief on his face. Suddenly he straightened up and squeezed his eyes shut--clearly, his father had heard him.

Spike tapped the pillar of ash off of the end of his cigarette.

Xander stood in the middle of the living room, his head down, as the elder Harris entered. The man was taller than Xander and overweight, dressed sloppily in blue jeans and a white wife-beater. The shirt fit its owner, which became apparent when, before either mouth moved for words, Xander's father slapped his son across the face. The boy recoiled in pain, his hands flying to his reddened cheek.

Spike dropped his cigarette onto the pavement, and ground it with the toe of his shoe.

The boy was on his knees now, his shoulders shaking as his father shouted at him. Every now and then another blow would come, and the shaking would intensify. When the boy tried to rise, a kick would send him back down to his knees. The dim glimmer of tears on the boy's cheeks was visible, but he was not making any sounds. His mouth remained stoically closed.

Spike pulled another cigarette out of the pack, but did not light it. As he watched Xander's father go upstairs, finished with his son for the moment, he wondered why he cared. The boy was nothing. Even Xander's own friends said so. "The Zeppo", they called him. As he crossed the street to stand by Xander's window, he cursed himself for feeling like this. Bound. He hadn't been bound in decades, not to anyone, not to anything. But now...

He caught Xander's eye through the window, and the boy looked away. Spike knew he would come, though. He always did.

Sure enough, before long, Xander walked out slowly, closing the door quietly behind him. He did not look at Spike, but kept his face to the ground. Spike waited for the boy to reach him, then guided him slowly to the ground. He laid Xander's head gently in his lap and stroked the dark hair away from the bruised face. A single tear escaped from Xander's eye, but he was silent.

So was Spike. The first few times they had said all that had needed to be said. Xander would not invite Spike in, would not allow Spike to exact revenge. Spike did not like that...he hated it...but he respected Xander's wishes. He never asked anymore. Now he just held the boy as he wept, felt his shoulders shake with unvoiced sobs, let the boy grip his arm like a lifeline.

Eventually he brought the boy back to his crypt, where he had bandages, cold compresses, and painkillers ready. The only noise was the occasional whimper as Spike cleaned the cuts. The vampire gave Xander a glass of water to take the painkillers, and then sat down next to the boy on the couch.

As Xander leaned his head on Spike's arm, the last of his tears cried, Spike closed his eyes and steadied the breathing that he didn't have to do. He was uncomfortable with how much seeing Xander in pain bothered him. He was William the Bloody. He had hurt people far worse than anything Xander's father was even physically capable of. He had done that and he had enjoyed it. But it angered him to see Xander hurting, even a little. He didn't even know if it was love. All he knew was that Xander was his, and that no one was allowed to touch him. But Xander wouldn't let him help. The boy preferred to deal with this on his own. Apparently, 'dealing with it' meant letting it happen, over and over again.

Spike was pulled from his reverie by a heavier weight on his shoulder. He looked over, and saw that Xander had fallen asleep. He gently lay the boy down on the couch, covering him with a blanket. He knew from experience that the boy would sleep until dawn now, and that he would leave while Spike still slept. That was the way it always happened. No words of thanks would be offered; none were expected. Nothing changed in public, either. Spike was still Evil Dead, and Xander was still the whelp. No one was any the wiser; no one could have suspected what happened late at night.

Spike went to his coffin, lighting up again. Things would be all right. Xander would leave his parents' house when he was ready. Eventually, these healing sessions wouldn't be necessary anymore.

Though, to be honest, Spike didn't know whether or not he was looking forward to that.

But until all was well, Spike would be silent.