Fic: Pulling Her Heart in Close

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Alright… the first of (at least) two submissions today.

Title: Pulling Her Heart in Close
Rated: PG
Timeline: Angel S5, during “Damage”
A/N: Unbetaed, all errors are completely my fault.

“You were a ghost.”

Spike scratched his eyebrow, not quite looking at her. “Yeah.”

“You were a ghost and you couldn’t leave Wolfram and Hart. But… you… obviously got over that.”

He nodded, still not meeting her eyes.

Buffy’s grip on the chair back tightened, the wood protesting beneath her small hand. “You weren’t going to tell me were you? That you were back?”

“I was,” Spike protested, “I was just – ”

“No,” Buffy cut him off, voice even. “You weren’t, Spike.” She let go of the chair, her own eyes falling to the floor. She didn’t think she could be in the room any longer. “That’s fine,” she said, feeling strangely detached from her voice, from her body. She turned back to where Angel, and the rest of his version of the Scoobies stood. This small group of strangers and people she once knew, bearing witness to yet another man’s rejection of her. When she spoke, her voice was bright with false politeness. “I’ll only be here long enough to sort out Dana, then I’ll be out of everyone’s hair.”

Angel shook his head, “You don’t have to – ”

Buffy smiled, thinking of all the hurt and chaos that always followed whenever one of them ventured into the other’s territory. “Yes, I do,” she said gently. She pivoted on one foot, starting for the door. Gripping the handle, she paused. “I’m glad you’re back, Spike,” she said without turning around, her voice light, like one would thank a neighbor for a cup of sugar.

“Buffy,” he called, voice anxious, sounding like the Spike she knew for the first time that night.

She didn’t let it stop her. She was through the door, shutting it firmly behind her before he could say anything else.

Her heels clacked loudly across the empty lobby, towards the elevator. Except for a few ambitious interns holed up in their office, everyone had already gone home for the day. She pushed the ‘down’ button, finger hitting it awkwardly, so she pushed it again. It dinged, doors opening instantly, like it had been waiting for her. Stepping in and turning around, her eyes instantly fixed on the closed double doors of Angel’s office. She didn’t relax until the elevator doors slid shut.

Buffy stared at her blurry reflection in the buffed, chrome doors. Faith, she thought. Faith can do this next time.

—-

Buffy went back to her hotel and attempted to shower away the jet lag. Nightfall was well underway when she hit the streets in a white tank top, grey hoodie, jeans, and white tennis shoes. Her pockets held the electronic key to her room, a tiny, plum cellphone, and her trusty stake, but that was all. She didn’t really know what she’d do when she found Dana, but she figured it’d come to her.

She’d only been out for about an hour, trying hard to focus on the job and not stupid vampire boys, when someone started following her. Whoever it was was pretty good at stealth mode, but she was the Slayer. Buffy grimaced. Odds were, it was either Angel or Spike, and she didn’t want to talk to either of them.

She let them trail behind her for a bit, and it became clear that whoever it was wasn’t going to announce their presence. Rolling her eyes, Buffy turned her steps towards a park. The trees wouldn’t offer enough cover to her stalker, so they’d have to make themselves known, or leave her be.

They let her be. And Buffy didn’t look back to see who it was. She didn’t care, she told herself. She didn’t care.

—-

By the time Buffy made it back to her hotel, it was probably a good thing she hadn’t found Dana, considering the mood she was in. She sat on the bed with a heavy thump. For a moment, she didn’t move, she simply sat, fingers tucked under her thighs, staring at nothing in particular.

She wondered if it would have hurt less if she’d known beforehand. If she had landed in LA knowing that Spike was back, instead of suddenly seeing him, catching them both off guard.

Buffy looked down at her white tennis shoes. They had looked so cute when she tried them on. They were the kind without laces, just empty eyelets, and low enough to show off her tanned ankles. She had felt free when she had first slipped them on. Like any pair of good summer shoes, they made her feel light and ready to go anywhere.

Buffy blinked. She did not feel that way now. Now, she felt heavy, and empty. Sluggish, in a way she hadn’t felt like for a while now.

Slowly, she laid down on the bed, pulling her knees in close. Fishing her cell out of her pocket, she pressed a couple buttons and put it to her ear. After a moments waiting, she smiled. “Hey, Dawnie.”

—-

“Her last residence was here,” Wesley said, pointing to a spot on the map.

Buffy nodded as she studied it, the geography and layout of LA slowly coming back to her across the years. “No problem,” she said with a nod, “I can – ”

The door to Wesley’s office swung open and Spike stepped in. He seemed to hesitate for a moment before inclining his head towards them. “Fred said you’d be here.” His eyes flitted over the map and various records of Dana’s stay at the hospital. “Sorting out a plan of attack, then?”

Buffy nodded and turned back to the map. Professionals, she told herself, smartly. That’s what they were now. She could do that. “Yeah, I’m going to go check out her home before she was taken. It’s not too far. She might try to go back to something safe and familiar.”

Spike leaned up against the wall, arms crossed. “I’ll keep checking around town then. Hit the bars, see if anyone’s heard of a new girl roaming around.”

Buffy’s heart sank, and she realized that she’d been hoping he’d want to go with her. “Great,” she said, voice clipped. “I better get going.” She plucked up the paper with Dana’s old address scribbled on it. “Thanks again, Wes!” She flashed him a quick smile before sweeping out of the room, feet carrying her as fast as pride would allow.

She pulled the door shut behind her. She was doing that a lot lately, it seemed. Putting nice, solid barriers between her and a certain blonde vampire.

Voices started as soon as the door was shut. First the low, even cadence of Wesley, and then the loud and belligerent tone of Spike. Buffy pushed away before the voices could clear up into words. She didn’t want to hear it. It was clear that he didn’t care anymore. Actually hearing him say it would be too much.

—-

By the time Buffy found Dana in some industrial site downtown, Spike had beaten her to the punch. He’d been gone for hours, Wesley said, when she’d checked in at the law firm.

Dana just stood there in the dim lighting, looking at Buffy like she didn’t understand, like something about her presence there just did not compute. Dana’s face was painted in rust-colored streaks and a saw hung loosely in one hand. Buffy’s heart clenched at just how lost the young slayer looked.

A low, groggy moan drifted toward her, and Buffy’s attention shifted. Spike sat, clearly fighting for consciousness, held upright only by the chains crisscrossing his chest, and secured around a pipe. His head lolled, and his mouth worked, as another groan escaped him. Buffy blinked, eyes struggling to focus in the lack of light. There was something wrong with his hands. She blinked again, and her brain finally understood what her eyes were trying to tell her. His hands had been removed.

Her eyes flicked back to the saw in Dana’s hand, and it took every ounce of willpower she had to check her strength as she lashed out, bringing the blunt end of her stake down against Dana’s temple. Dana crumbled, unconscious, to the ground.

Buffy’s legs felt like jello as she rushed to the vampire, knees hitting the unforgiving concrete floor. The fact that Dana hadn’t expected her to hit her, duly registered in her mind. Buffy’s hand flew to his cheek, tilting his face up so she could get a better look at him in the darkness. “Spike.” Her voice came out strangled and quiet. Her fingers, trembling, ran across his brow, while her other hand clutched his bicep. She cleared her throat. Calm, she had to be calm. “Spike,” she tried again. There, she thought. That sounded better.

He didn’t respond. But that was okay, she assured herself. He’s just knocked out. Anything but dust was fixable. Her eyes involuntarily dropped to where his hands used to be. Blood oozed through the bandages poorly wrapped around the stumps that began his arms. Eyes fixed on where his wrists used to be, Buffy fumbled through her pockets for her cell. Her fingers jumped jerkily across the keypad, and it took three tries to pull up Angel’s number before her hands finally got it right.

She held the phone to her ear, and stared unseeingly at the floor. As Angel’s voice sounded over the air, she felt a wave of déjà vu.

“- uffy? Buffy?”

“It’s Spike,” she said, voice steady. “I need your help.”

Without permission, her eyes darted to a pale smudge in the darkness across the floor. Like she had known all along where they were. His severed hands lay side by side, lifeless, and still.

After the operation, Angel came and got her, from where she had sat unmoving for hours.
“They’re done,” he said, voice quiet. “He’s asleep.” With one hand on her back, he took her to the room, and held the door open for her.

Buffy stopped in the threshold. Spike lay in his hospital bed, fast asleep. His hands, back where they belonged, lay on top of the sheets. Heavy bandages covered his wrists, where the cuts had been.

“He’s still sleeping?” she whispered, even if seeing Spike awake, and talking, and giving someone the bird was all she wanted. “How do they know it really worked? That he can move them?”

“Yeah,” Angel said hesitantly, before pressing on. “The doctors woke him up for a little bit, so they could test out his reflexes.

“Did he say anything?” Even asleep, he looked utterly exhausted. Whatever magic they’d used, it clearly hadn’t been easy on his body.

There was pause. “He asked what happened to Dana.”

Buffy’s throat constricted, her eyes still trained on Spike. She nodded rapidly, fighting the lump in her throat. “Right. Dana. I should – I should take her back.”

She felt, more than saw Angel’s eyes move back to her. “Back? We can help her out here. We have the resources – ”

“She’s a slayer,” Buffy interrupted. “She belongs with us.”

For once, Angel yielded gracefully. “Alright, when would you like to – ”

“Now,” she said firmly, not waiting for him to finish. It was so much easier to ignore the pit forming in her gut when there was business at hand. “I’ll take her now.”

Angel’s eyes widened in surprise, shooting towards where Spike lay sleeping, and then back again. “You sure?”

“Yes.” She ran a hand over her hair. Her ponytail was slowly coming out. “Thank you for all the help, Angel. Tell – ” her voice threatened to break, and she paused, switching tracks. “Tell the gang I said goodbye.” He nodded, and before he could reply, she left. She focused her thoughts on the logistics of getting Dana, fully sedated, from Los Angeles to Italy, as she made her way through the too bright hospital. God, she hated hospitals.

Later, riding in a van to the airport, with two slayerettes and a heavily doped up Dana in the back, Buffy looked out the window, watching the once-familiar streets of LA rush past. She looked out the window, and pretended she didn’t want to cry.

Chest shuddering, she took a deep breath, pulling her heart in close.

End

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/407483.html

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