The sound echoed in the basement.
As his head rocked back, Spike knew his face wouldn’t show the handprint that would have appeared instantly on a human’s. But he could still feel the fleeting warmth and the rising pain.
Pain he welcomed.
“Tell me again!” demanded the voice.
His eyes fixed on the floor, Spike murmured, “I am a monster.”
This time the backhanded slap was delivered to the other side of his face. There was a good bit of force behind this one as well, and once again Spike welcomed the blossoming pain; a flower of redemption on his cheekbone.
“I am a monster.”
But even as the pain flew, Spike knew that it wasn’t enough. He swallowed hard, then sank to his knees. He pressed his head against the kneecap in front of him. A silent signal.
A hand brushed the top of his hair. “You may speak.”
“Please,” Spike whispered. “Please, if you’ve got any mercy, you’ll—you’ll make it stay. Mark me. Make it stay.”
The hand stilled in its caressing strokes, then gripped Spike’s hair harshly. “Are you sure?” its owner asked slowly, casually.
Spike lowered himself more, pressed his painless cheekbone—empty of redemption, gone gone gone—to the toe of his savior’s boot. He nodded.
Dark eyes scanned the room. Spike wondered: what were they looking at? The chains on the wall, the wooden training staffs, leather replacement straps, the toys hidden in shoeboxes from Potential’s prying eyes.
“Alright,” Xander said, tugging Spike up by his hair. “Chains on. Face the wall.”
Spike scrambled to comply, a joyous—effulgent—song in his heart. Xander would help him. Xander would be his white knight.