“Xander, love, what the bloody hell are you doing?” Spike asked, paralyzed for fear for the first time in nearly a century.

“What does it fucking look like, Spike?” Xander asked, toeing the edge and peering out at the ocean. It sparkled in the light of the full moon, cerulean swirling with midnight and churning with solitude, with finality.

“Looks like you’re doing something bloody thick to me.” Spike
said, his voice crackling in places. He wanted to run to Xander and pull him away from the edge and then beat him to a bloody pulp.

“What the fuck do you know, Spike? You don’t know anything about me,” the brunette shouted, his voice a dull whisper in the roar of the wind. The tide was coming in and waves were crashing against the rocks below with a force large enough to move the earth.

“Don’t think I’ve lived this long by not knowing anything, boy. Don’t think I know anything about you, eh?” Spike took a step forward, slow and confidant, ready to fly if need be.

“No, you don’t. What do you know, Spike? What can you possibly know about me, other than how to annoy the shit out of me? How to irritate me the way no one else possibly can?” Xander turned to face Spike, his face mangled into a Picasso of despair and distorted by misery.

“I know you hate yourself, Xander.” Another step and Spike heard the beat of Xander’s jaguar heart above the wail of the wind. Closer but not close enough if something should…happen.

“Bullshit, Spike. You don’t know that.” The words felt heavy in Xander’s mouth; tasted of forbidden dreams and forgotten memories.

“You’re wrong, mate. ‘Sides, I know other things as well. I know you love your friends – I know you’d give your life for them. Know you resent that they wouldn’t do the same for you.”

Xander bit down hard on his lip at the words he knew were the truth. Felt it swell and bleed. He bit harder, enjoying that tiny bit of controllable pain; enjoyed that anchor. Everything was just wrong, was just…

Spike took another cautious step, afraid to push, more afraid not to.
So very close, but a hundred thousand miles away. So fragile, this one. So afraid and so alone. So needing and wanting; so afraid of those things. So unloved but so deserving of it. He felt a spark where his heart had beat once upon a time, as if it was trying to jumpstart itself. Trying so hard.

“I know you want to be loved so bad you’re willing to die for it, Xander. That you go to sleep every night and wake up every morning dreaming that things were different. That you wish they understood. I know that you think you’ll never be good enough, pet. Know that you just want,
need, someone to love you. I know you love your parents more than you let on; that you wish you didn’t, so you could leave.”

Xander toed the line again, wondering what it would feel like to fly.
Wondering what that moment was like when everything faded away, when there was nothing but the simple though that it was over. That all the pain and hatred and monsters and nightmares were finally gone.

Xander said nothing, and Spike understood what the boy was thinking.
Saw him peer at the thwacking crash of water below him. Knew he was thinking about the flight, about the solace and the rush of leaving everything behind.

A tear trickled down Xander’s cheek, a diamond streaking toward the earth and sparkling with moonlight. Another followed and another still. Like the blackest ink the diamonds streaked and stained the cherubic face so wrought with despair.

“Know what else I know, love? Do you want to hear what else I know, Xander?” Words like serpents winding through the whispers of the wind.

Xander caught them and held them for a moment, afraid to answer. He held his gaze westward at the blackening night. The water still as frozen glass at the horizon, yet so angry with motion here below. He looked back to the vampire who kept surprising him and nodded, allowing the tears to flow.

Such a simple gesture had never brought relief to spike the way that had. Another spark in his supposedly hollow chest, and he knew it was firing. Knew it was beating again, fueled by an impossible and overwhelming need to help this boy, to
love this boy; to give him everything he needed and teach him everything he didn’t know.

“I know what you need, pet. I know – I know you need touch and comfort and love. I know you crave it. Xander, I know
you. Know your thoughts and dreams and everything you ever feared. Such a lost little boy inside a man who knew no childhood, you are.” One more step and Xander was only yards away, precious inches that could change within moments.

Xander’s tears turned into rivers, great floods of pure and undiluted pain washing through his body. Somehow this man
knew what no one did; what no one else wanted to know. Somehow this, this vampire cared whether he lived or died. Somehow, somehow he knew, he understood.

Spike saw the change. He inhaled a sharp breath that pierced his lungs when he saw the tide of emotion rolling through the boy, the man that thought
himself unlovable and unwanted. So loved and so loved.

“Xander, I want to know more, love. Want to know everything. Give me that, Xander, please? Let me know you. Let me care.” Spike was surprised to find his own tears flowing freely at the though of losing someone he’d never before felt anything for. Something had changed, something was different. But this felt
right like blood and the night and feeling no fear. This was true, this was life he was staring at. This was knowledge he was grasping like silk slipping through his fingertips.

Xander opened his mouth to say no, that it couldn’t be like that. That it wasn’t possible. But what came out was a cry no human should make. A grieving pained moan that echoed off the cliffs around
them, that forced the tide to change and the earth to tremble.

Spike winced, his sensitive ears bursting with the sound he hoped he’d never hear again. No longer caring for caution, he pounced across the last few feet to Xander, spinning him away from the perilous cliff and crushing the boy to

Xander allowed himself to be swept away from something that no longer felt right. Allowed
himself to be pulled into the embrace of a man made of plaster, cold and strong. He smelled of leather and tobacco and salt and spice.

The two collapsed to the earth, immortal arms like molded steel around the living flesh of a mortal so racked with grief. Both men allowed the pain to come, allowed the tears to wash them clean. Spike rocked them back and forth slightly, whispering hollow words with gilded emotions into Xander’s ear.

Each man realized they completed each other, the teacher and the pupil, the giver and receiver, the knower and the knowledge. Just as it should have been, so it would forever be.





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