“Need some help?” a whisper by his ear as two cool hands unstick the shirt and smooth it down, real slow. He stands and lets those hands iron out the wrinkles, barely twitching when they tuck the soft material under the waistband of his jeans then pat his ass.
“I’ve had that baggy thing you came in burnt; it wasn’t even fit for rags. We’ll find you something decent later on, but first, let’s eat. I’m sure there’s something nice and juicy out there for us both to sink our teeth into.”
They’re halfway out the door when Xander pauses and looks nervous. His eyes flick up to Spike’s and then away, then back, then down.
“I… My stuff, back at the motel... Could… could we get it? It’s not much, but there’s a couple of things I need and…”
Before he finishes his broken explanation Spike is nodding, turning back into the house and shouting out. “Hey, Hodgkins, get your pasty arse down here!” Then, turning back, “Which fleapit were you booked in, pretty? Still got your key, yeah? Here, I’ll take that.”
The room number and address of the motel are both etched into the lump of plastic hanging off the key, and Spike is unsurprised at the locale. He’d bet even the price of this dump took a huge chunk from his pretty’s bankroll.
A skinny guy, quite tall and pale, comes trotting down the stairs, and Spike holds out the key and issues orders in a voice that’s obviously used to being obeyed.
“My pet here wants his stuff back from this grotty little hole. Make sure you pick up every single thing that might be his. Put the bag in my room. See my Princess is well fed. Don’t let her wander outside on her own; remember last time? And do make sure the leftovers get dumped as far from here as you can take them.”
Grabbing hold of Xander’s hand he squeezes, reassuring, and gives a tug to get his pretty moving.
“So what do you want to eat, pet? Burgers, pizza, deep fried chicken, or a lovely juicy steak with all the trimmings?” A slight intake of breath gives him his answer, and Spike smiles and knows just where he’ll take his pet to fill his stomach.
They walk a while in silence, Spike wondering a little what is going on inside his new toy’s head. Then,
“What’s that, Pet?”
“My name’s Xander. You keep calling me ‘pet’ and ‘pretty’. My name is Xander.”
Spike puzzles for a moment why his pet thinks that is relevant information. He’s Spike’s now, and he’ll take what name he’s given. Spike thinks. Was it because he sent a minion for the bag? Curiosity, plain and simple, that’s what that was. An urge to know what it is the boy claims to need when life itself seems so disposable. Something of such importance that it makes him interact and ask a favour is something Spike has really got to see.
He gives a tug and Xander bumps into his shoulder. Spike turns to cup his face and catch his eyes.
“You’re mine now, Pet, remember? Your name don’t matter none, not now, not really. My Dru will call you Kitten, and I’ll call you Pet, or Pretty, or a hundred different names and you will answer to them all because I say so.”
Spike sees a flare of life, and maybe anger, in the eyes he’s watching closely. He grins and knows he’s in for quite a fight when his cute kitten rediscovers long lost claws. A swift hard kiss applies a patina of shy arousal to those eyes and Spike is satisfied he’s made his point.
“Now stop your worrying, Pet, you’ll ruin your appetite. We’re here, so just relax, and enjoy your meal.”
And yes, when Xander focuses, he sees that they are standing on the sidewalk of the main street, stopped outside a small Italian restaurant. He lets himself be led inside, his stomach growling at the smell of fresh cooked food, and wonders when he last ate something not out of a can or box or carton. A memory of Jesse roasting wieners on a stick over a campfire surface briefly, but the hand still holding his tugs him along and past a cart filled with tarts and tortes and a triple chocolate cake the size of Newark, and he’s lost.
The next he knows, they’re sitting at a table on a terrace, and Spike has tapped a finger on his nose to bring him back.
“So, I’m guessing you like chocolate just a bit, eh, Pet? We’ll have some for dessert.” And then he turns and gives their order to the waiter Xander hasn’t even noticed standing there. “The largest steaks you’ve got and make them rare, with all the trimmings, but no garlic mushrooms, luv, ‘cause I’m allergic. A bottle of Jack for me; the boy’ll have milk. And make sure there’s a nice big slice of chocolate cake for later, keep him happy.”
They sit, each lost within their thoughts, until the drinks arrive. Then Xander takes a sip and frowns and asks the question Spike is hoping for.
“Why milk? I don’t like milk.”
“You need it, pet, you’re skin and bone. You’ve not been eating right. Whatever’s beating you up inside has got you in a right old sorry mess, and no mistake. I bet you haven’t sat down for a proper meal in weeks, and no one’s noticed. No one cared enough to see you’re hurting and that’s sad. But you’re mine now, pet, so I’ll take care of you, make sure you get the things you need, and more besides. I won’t sit back and let you starve yourself under my nose. You’ll eat, and eat good food, not junk. Don’t worry; you’ll still get chocolate… if you’re good.” But then Spike winks and grins, and Xander takes another sip of milk and tries to think.
He runs what he has heard back through his mind and tries to pick the words apart. He hasn’t eaten much. He couldn’t, not with Jesse always on his mind. Every time he looked at food his first thoughts were of his friend. Was it stuff he’d eat or not if he was still alive? And then Jesse would turn to dust again before his eyes; his appetite would fade and he’d feel sick. So, no, he hadn’t eaten, and he’d lost a little weight, but not that much, he thought.
His parents hadn’t noticed anything, but then again they hardly ever did. Benign neglect, he’d seen it called on talk shows. They probably didn’t even know that Jesse was now amongst the ranks of the ‘disappeared’ of Sunnydale.
But even as he’s pondering, he’s following Spike’s orders to eat up, and when he finally refocuses he sees he’s eaten more today than he probably did last week. The sated feeling in his belly makes him pause and wonder, and before the apathy takes hold again he has to ask –
“What makes you think I wasn’t eating? You don’t know me, never met me before last night so how come you think you know so much about my life?”
Spike had watched his new pet thinking as he ate, verbally nudging him on when consumption slowed. To Spike’s delight the boy responded well to each command, and finished all the steak, the trimmings and the milk before he blinked and actually noticed what he’d done.
And now his pet is speaking, asking questions, and a tiny flare of life is in his eyes. A minute smear of blood adorns the corner of his mouth, and Spike pauses for a moment to admire the pretty images that paints in his imagination. Then he reaches out and with his thumb he wipes the smear away and brings it to his mouth and slowly licks.
“I know you haven’t eaten ‘cause your skin is almost hanging off your bones. And even if it wasn’t, I can smell the pain and misery in you. Your chemistry is off, it’s more acidic when your body has to fight itself for fuel. Much longer and your organs would have started to shut down.”
Spike knows this is exaggeration, knows the boy is hardly close to death, but also knows that if he had continued down this road he might have been. Wide eyes accept his explanation, fingers pinching skin at narrow wrist in confirmation.
“I… Thank you, for the food and all. For… caring, when you…” Xander’s voice broke. “You don’t even know me…”
“I don’t have to, Pet, you’re mine now, that’s what matters.” He waves the waiter over and turns back to place his hand on Xander’s wrist and squeeze it tight.
“Now you stay here and eat the chocolate cake I had them keep for you. Don’t leave this table, Pet, or you’ll be sorry. I’m going to find my own dessert; I’m sure you won’t approve. Stay here and wait and have another milk if you get bored.” Spike presses a violent kiss upon his boy and then is gone.
ETA: Link to previous parts is here.