Moving right along with the plan – will try to get the next three chapters posted now and finish up tonight. See behind the cut for Chapter Four where more stuff happens…
Chapter Four (4/9)
Buffy held the cup close to Spike’s mouth, guiding the straw through his lips and watching while he pulled deep draughts of blood into his depleted body. She had a flashback to the year before when he had first come to them with his chip and she had teased him unmercifully while feeding him in a similar fashion. Their relationship had certainly changed since then. A quick glance at his face told her that he was remembering the same thing. He dropped his head back onto the small pillow under it and attempted a smile.
“Jus’ like old times, eh, pet?” he managed to say before Buffy shushed him again.
“Be quiet. The less you move around and talk, the faster you’ll heal.”
He gave a very small nod, barely moving his head, then, ignoring her instructions he said, “Don’t know why you’re doing this, Slayer, but I appreciate it. You could’ve just taken me back to my crypt and…”
“I wouldn’t do that to you,” she mumbled, still not meeting his gaze. “This is my fault.”
“Don’t be stupid,” he said shortly. “Not a one of these bruises bears the mark of your little fists or feet. The big git is just using me to make himself feel better about bein’ normal again.”
“That’s not true and you know it. He did it because of me…because he thinks you…that I…” She stopped and blushed. “And he doesn’t even know about…” She sighed. “I guess I should have just gone ahead and slept with him last night – then he wouldn’t be so–”
A bloodcurdling snarl burst from the vampire’s throat, bringing on another bout of coughing, this time without blood. Buffy shrank back in surprise, until she saw the expression on his face. She blushed again.
“I didn’t mean that like it sounded. I’m not going to…to…”
“You’re not going to shag that big git just to protect me,” he growled out around his coughs. “I’ll let him kill me first.”
“He almost did,” she reminded him, pushing him back down and lightly resting her hand on his shoulder. “But that’s not what I meant. I just meant that if I hadn’t turned him down and told him I was still too sore, he never would have known that I saw you and he wouldn’t have had anything to get all jealous and insecure about.”
“Why didn’t you, then? I know you weren’t too sore by last night.” His eyes were full of something that looked uncomfortably like hope.
“I didn’t want to,” she responded shortly. “And that’s all you need to know. This is my business. Mine and Riley’s. Not yours.”
“No. We’re not discussing this. I told you. You need to stop thinking about it. It was just one of those…it was just a…thing. A…a…moment of weakness brought on by too much sun. That’s it. I got too much sun and it affected my brain. But I’m all better now,” she finished cheerily, refusing to look at him.
“I’m not,” he said flatly. “Not sure I ever will be.”
“Sure you will.” She deliberately chose to misunderstand. “By this time tomorrow, you’ll be way better. I’ll get you some of the good stuff from Willy’s tomorrow and you–”
“Not what I meant and you know it, Slayer.” Already his voice was stronger and he was no longer coughing with every intake of air.
“Why are you making this so hard?” she moaned, sliding onto the floor and banging her head against the couch with a plaintive, “Can’t we just forget about it?”
“Is that really what you want to do, love?” He brought one hand across to stroke her head awkwardly. “Do you really want to forget it? Was it that bad?”
Buffy turned her head and took an annoyed bite of his shoulder, getting a moan instead of the expected wince. Before she could say anything, he purred, “Little word of advice, pet. If you want to punish a vampire? Biting him probably isn’t the best way to do it.” When she just huffed and sat up, he continued, “Is that your answer?”
“It might be,” she grumbled.
When there was no reply, she dropped her head back onto the couch cushion. Once again, his hand began to stroke her head and she allowed herself several minutes to just enjoy the soothing motion.
“It wasn’t bad,” she mumbled finally, keeping her face carefully buried in the front of the couch. “If I thought it was bad, this would be a lot easier.”
“What would be easier?”
“Telling you it’s never going to happen again.”
The hand stopped, then started up again, more slowly this time.
“Never ‘s a long time, Buffy,” he said without inflection.
“Spike, I’m not…I don’t …and if he found out…I’m trying to protect you, you stupid vampire!”
“Don’t want protection; want you.”
“Make me,” he whispered, tugging on her chin until she rose to her knees and looked him in the eye for the first time since they’d locked glances in the cemetery.
Buffy whimpered, staring back at him, her mouth only a few inches from his swollen lips. Spike’s hand on the back of her neck tried to pull her closer, but she shook her head and sat back on her heels.
“You’re not going to let this be easy, are you?”
“Not even gonna try to make it easy, pet. If you want me out of your life, you’re gonna have to stake me.”
“I don’t want you out of my life – and I cannot believe I just said that–” She shook her head again and sighed. “Yes, I can. I don’t want you out of my life. And not just because I need you for help sometimes. I…my mom likes you, and Dawn has a stupid crush on you, and…sometimes… I like you.”
“I like you, too, luv. But not sure I can do the back-up muscle, undead hanger-on thing if that’s what you’re saying you want. Not now. Now that I know how it feels to have you–”
“You have to!” she exploded at him. “I can’t keep lying to Riley about you.”
“So…” He kept his voice deliberately light, but she had no trouble hearing the underlying anger and pain. “This little bit of payback wasn’t a deal-breaker for you, eh, Slayer? What’s the plan, then? A bit of yelling, couple of days with no shagging and then all is well in paradise?”
She stared at him, accepting the justified sense of betrayal that she could plainly read on his face and in his eyes. She allowed her own sorrow and regret to show for a minute, then turned away. Without saying anything, she picked up the mug and carried it to the kitchen, washing it out carefully before putting it on the side to drain. She remained standing at the sink, lost in thoughts of the close-to-normal life she could have with Riley, versus the risks of getting into a relationship with another vampire. A noise from the living room brought her head around and she rushed back to find Spike struggling to stand up.
“You idiot!” she snapped, catching him just before he collapsed. Her sudden grab to keep him from falling pulled on his ribs and he fell against her with a moan.
“Oh god, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to grab you there. Did they move?”
Holding him up with one arm, she frantically felt along his taped sides. Spike shook his head, taking shallow panting breaths that made it obvious how painful it still was to breathe and speak.
“Don’t talk,” she ordered, helping him lower himself to the couch. “I don’t know what you were thinking, trying to get up like that. You’d think you–”
“Was thinking I’d get out of your hair before your boytoy shows up and jumps to any more conclusions that might result in my dusty demise.” His voice came out in gasps and whispers; he refused to stop trying to speak, in spite of Buffy’s frantic shushing motions. “Or does anything else that might interfere with your little delusion that you could ever be content with a normal human.”
Eyes wide, Buffy stared at him.
“What else would I be content with?”
“Do you think it’s a coincidence that your first boyfriend was a vampire, Slayer? Or that you let another vampire make love to you while you were supposed to belong to a human man?”
“What are you saying?” she whispered, shaking her head ‘no’ even as he continued his painful speech.
“I’m saying, Buffy, that you’re not an ordinary girl. Human, yeah, but more than. Whatever’s in you, gives you all that power and killing instinct, it’s not meant for mere mortals. Takes somebody who can match you. Meet you on your own level. Somebody who appreciates what you are and loves you for it…not in spite of it.”
Her head whirling, Buffy tried to deny what he was saying – telling herself it was just a coincidence that Angel had been a vampire; that Riley had been a physically enhanced demon-killing commando when she met him; that Spike had always appealed to her on a very basic level – even when he’d been trying to kill her. His voice had trailed off, leaving just the sounds of his occasional shallow panting, while Buffy tried to analyze what he’d said.
Wait! Had he just said he loved her? She raised her eyes, but his were shut, his lips pressed together tightly as he fought off the waves of pain from his already knitting bones. She shrugged and got to her feet, walking to the kitchen in a stupor and getting out a package of frozen peas. Still lost in thought, she returned to the couch and carefully slid the peas under his back, feeling around with her fingers until she found the spot where Riley’s foot had left the huge bruise and damaged muscle.
Spike’s eyes remained shut and he didn’t speak again while she took off his boots and lifted his legs onto the couch. She covered him with a throw and carefully checked the drapes to be sure that the morning sun would not catch him with its rays. At a loss for what else she could do to make him more comfortable, she trailed her fingers across the top of his head and whispered, “Good night, Spike.”
She rose early the next morning, joining her mother in the kitchen after checking to see that Spike was still on the couch and bearing an uncomfortable resemblance to the corpse that she had to keep reminding herself he actually was. She’d fiddled with the drapes for a second, but when he didn’t stir, she went into the kitchen and poured herself some coffee.
“How’s the patient?” Joyce asked.
Buffy shrugged. “I don’t know, he’s still asleep, I guess. I’ll warm up some blood for him before I go to class. Are you going in again today?”
“Yes, of course I am. The doctors assured me that I’m fine now, and I’m stronger every day. No excuses not to go to work.”
“Just take it easy, okay? One patient at a time is all Nurse Buffy can handle.”
Joyce smiled fondly at her oldest daughter.
“I’ll be careful, honey. I’m already planning to have a nap in my office if I get tired during the day. But I really can’t run a business from my bedroom. I need to be there.”
“I know. It’s okay. I just worry about you.”
“Welcome to my world,” Joyce said with a wry smile as she stood up and carried her plate to the sink. “One daughter’s the Slayer, and the other is…Good morning, Dawn.”
“Why is Spike on the couch? And why does his face look like dogfood?”
“Spike was injured last night,” Joyce said while Buffy made faces about her sister’s description of Spike’s battered face. “Buffy and Xander brought him back here for a little nursing care before he goes back to his crypt.”
She looked at Buffy for verification that she would not want Dawn to know who had done the damage to the youngest Summers’ favorite vampire. Buffy nodded her thanks and went to get the last of the blood out of the refrigerator.
“Should I get more of that on my way home?” Joyce asked.
Buffy bit her lip, then nodded. “I guess so. Even if he goes home tonight, it’s good to have some here when we need it.”
As they waited for the microwave to ding, Dawn went through the motions of getting her cereal out. She finally could stand it no longer.
“So, what was it? Was it Glory? One of her scabby minions? What did that to him, and did you slay it?”
“I’m handling it,” Buffy responded noncommittally, pouring the blood into Spike’s mug and finding a new straw. She didn’t respond to Dawn’s indignant, “You’re handling it?” but carried the mug of warm blood into the living room where she found Spike peering at her through barely open eyes.
“Hi,” she said softly. “How do you feel this morning?”
“Bit better,” he responded, wincing as he sat up under his own power. He shifted into game face involuntarily as the scent of warm blood filled his nostrils. “That for me?”
“I can’t think of anybody else in this house with such disgusting eating habits,” Buffy said, handing him the mug.
“Is that any way to talk to your patient?”
When she didn’t respond, he took the straw between his lips and licked it off, then titled the mug up and gulped down the blood without pausing. Buffy watched him with interest, her head tilted to one side.
“I’ll bet you win a lot of chugalug contests –with the whole no need to breathe thing going for you.”
“Been know to make a bit of dosh like that,” he agreed with a smile. He licked his lips and leered at her. “There are other things I can do better than most – what with not needing to breathe while I–”
“Dawn!” Buffy interrupted as her sister came into the room. “Look, Spike, Dawn’s coming to see how you feel. Look, Dawn, Spike’s awake and feeling better.”
“You look like crap,” Dawn said bluntly, giving her sister a suspicious frown. “What happened to you?”
He gave Buffy a glance and when he saw the silent plea in her eyes, he sighed in resignation.
“Not really sure, Nibblet. Guess I was knocked out. Just a good thing for me that your sis and Harris came along.”
“You are such a lousy liar,” Dawn said, rolling her eyes. “But I have to get to school. I’ll worm it out of you later.”
She flounced upstairs, leaving Buffy and Spike to enjoy an uncomfortable silence.
“I tried, pet.”
“I know. It’s not your fault you’re such a lousy liar. You’d think somebody who spent his life being evil would be better at it.”
“You’d think someone who is Heaven’s Chosen One wouldn’t have to do so much of it,” he retaliated.
“I don’t want her to know that Riley did this. At least not right now.” She gave him a small smile. “Thanks for lying for me.”
“Any time, Slayer.”
There was another uncomfortable silence while Buffy remembered his words from the night before and Spike waited for some sign from her that he should leave. Fortunately, Dawn came clattering back downstairs, grabbed her books and ran out the door with a “See you guys later”.
Buffy went back to the kitchen to hover until Joyce sternly ordered her to go back into the living room and “take care of the injured person”. Reminding Buffy that the doctors had told her she was completely well, Joyce picked up her purse and keys, letting herself out the back door with a wave. Buffy watched out the window as her mother got in the big SUV and backed it out of the driveway.
As soon as she could no longer see the car, she began to put the morning dishes in the dishwasher. She puttered around the kitchen, cleaning surfaces that she normally didn’t even notice, even sweeping the floor with a broom. It wasn’t until she was reaching for the mop that she admitted to herself she was just avoiding Spike and the questions he was raising in her mind. With a sigh, she put the cleaning tools away and poured herself a cup of coffee to take into the other room with her.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/376646.html