Cold, alone, isolated, unworthy. The words swirled around inside his mind as the air buffeted and swirled around his naked skin. Shivers of cold and fear shook his frame as he fell from the ether and landed with a solid thump. The plush carpeting under his body feeling coarse and rough against his naked skin. A confusing jumble of noises all fought for his attention and he struggled in vain to sort them out. Angel's harsh words finally broke through all the other unrecognisable sounds assaulting his ears after so much quiet and isolation. He curled around himself more tightly as if that could protect him from the verbal barbs which only added to his confusion and pain.

Drowning in a sea of overwhelming emotion not even sure if he wanted to struggle to survive or simply surrender and allow himself to be swept away. And yet a voice from the past, soft and clear, broke through the cacophony of sound. A calm and gentle sound, a balm for his abused senses. Fixating on the one thing which didn't cause pain and reaching out, hoping it, he, wouldn't disappear and leave him here. Oh, there was a memory of pain and wrongness, but of forgiveness as well. Forgiveness and acceptance. Spike knew without a doubt that once accepted into this unorthodox family, you would always be one of them. Understanding and forgiveness an unspoken code. And most importantly to Spike at this moment, they would never, ever abandon one of their own.

So when Xander came and held out a hand in friendship, Spike grasped it with everything he had and hung on tight. He never seemed to mind and happily allowed Spike to be clingy when he needed to be and giving him space when he needed that too. It hadn't always been perfect and there had been fights but they were always quickly followed by forgiveness. Spike felt a warmth when he was around Xander. An affection born of friendship and eventually a mutual respect.

It was still a bit of a shock, even now, that he'd fallen in love with Xander. But then again, maybe not. Without this one, who had once been so young but could now be called nothing less than a man, and a good man at that, he would surely have floundered and fallen back on old ways. Giving and giving until there was nothing left and for what? The tiniest morsel of affection, a mere token glance his way. No, without this wonderful man in his life, he would never have learned what true love was all about. It was extraordinary to think that after all his years of living, or unliving, he could actually learn something new. And from someone who he could consider a child in comparison to his many years. But learn he did. It had taken time, and patience on Xander's part, but Spike could now accept more than a token glance, had become greedy for more than a morsel of affection. Spike had always known he could love and now he knew how to be loved in return.

~ Mòran taing ~