Walking After Midnight
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Spike awoke to the smell of coffee percolating and glanced at the small windows in one corner of the basement. The sun was just rising, casting shades of orange and gold, and he was tempted to peek out, then thought better of it. No use longing for a glimpse of something he would never get to fully enjoy again. Damn the Slayer for taking the Gem of Amara, he thought as he grabbed his bag, a tattered duffel with small holes all over it, and dug through for a fresh shirt and jeans. He frowned when he realized that he had nothing left in the bag, and glanced at the washer and dryer in one corner of the room.
With a sigh, he gathered the few articles of clothing he owned and tossed them into the washer, setting the temperature on hot so it would get all the grime out. His favorite black jeans were newly torn at the knees and his button down shirt was now buttonless, thanks to the last run in with those vampires who were hellbent on making him a minion. He had stolen one pair of pants from Xander and one from Giles, but he had tossed the Xander's when he realized that they were ‘homeboy’ style, with a crotch that hung halfway to his ankles. And the ones that he had taken from Giles were the ones he had worn yesterday.
He heard Joyce walking around in the kitchen and glanced down at his attire. The beach scene boxers that Buffy had made fun of made his legs look even whiter, and the light blue T-shirt was extremely baggy over his thin body. It would probably be rude to walk around Joyce this way, but he shrugged and walked up the stairs, figuring he was bad and rude and he may as well make that clear from the start.
Joyce was standing in her robe, stirring a cup of coffee and staring at the back door, almost as if she was contemplating walking out of it and not coming back. She heard Spike step in behind her and quickly dried the tears on her face before she turned to face him. “Good morning, Spike. I hope I didn’t wake you.”
Spike studied her intently, taking in the bags under her eyes and the tear tracks on her cheeks and shook his head. “You did, but that’s good. If she’s going to start staying upstairs, I need to get up when you do so I can hear her better.”
“I could buy one of those monitor things.” Joyce grabbed another mug from the cabinet and handed it to him. “Should I do that?”
“I don’t think so.” Spike shook his head and glanced at the box of hot chocolate on the counter. Deciding to forego blood for the morning, he filled his cup with water and stuck it in the microwave. “I think you should keep everything as normal as possible. If you start making a fuss then she’ ll fuss back. Don’t give her a reason.”
“She woke up last night and called me to come to her room. She didn’t even mention the argument we’d had. She only wanted me to help her into the bathroom.”
“I noticed that there are no rails in that bathroom.” Spike took his cup from the microwave and dumped a packet of cocoa in it.
“Oh, I have them, but Giles has been too busy working to install them. And to be honest, I didn’t expect her to go back upstairs.”
“I’ll get them put up today.” Spike took a sip of his drink and watched her closely. “She probably didn’t mean everything she said to you last night.”
Joyce nodded and put her cup in the sink. “She did mean it. And she was mostly right.”
Spike raised his eyebrow. “You want to put her away? You view her as a burden?"
“Not about that. She was right about the fact that I should have figured out a long time ago what was happening in her life. I haven’t been a good mother.”
“Not every mother has a Slayer for a kid. There really wasn’t a parenting handbook for that.”
Joyce blushed and chuckled a little. “You found my box of parenting books in the basement.”
“Yes, and no offense, but you really should get better reading material around here.” Spike finished his cocoa and put his empty mug beside Joyce’s in the sink. “Look, you have to deal with her injury the same way you dealt with her being a Slayer.”
“Get drunk and kick her out?”
“You did that?” Spike stared at her in shock when she nodded. “You kicked her out after her friends had been injured, her psycho-lover had taken her watcher hostage and she was being hunted by the cops?”
“I told you, I’m a bad mother.”
For once, Spike was speechless. He crossed his arms and watched as Joyce left the room to get ready for work. He had been with Buffy when she told her mother about being a Slayer. Of course, he had laughed at the time. Laughed at the woman’s reaction, enjoyed Buffy’s discomfort and took pleasure in the fact that the Slayer’s entire world had fallen apart because of one night with Angel.
But he wasn’t laughing now.
Buffy shifted uncomfortably against her sagging pillows and rolled her upper body, snuggling deeper into the bed. Her mother’s alarm clock had jarred her from slumber a half hour before and she had been unable to doze again. Not that she wanted to fall back into her dreams at all. For what felt like the entire night, she'd dreamed about the vampires that had injured her. She dreamed about being surrounded, fighting for her life, trying to run away, and then being slammed against one of the headstones.
In some of the dreams she cried and screamed, trying to tell herself that she could outrun it, outrun the crippling blow, but the outcome was always the same. Her lying on the ground, the world slipping in and out of darkness, and a voice calling from the sidelines just as fangs pierced her flesh. The voice was familiar, but she couldn’t place it. It could have been Xander, since he was the one who had reached her first, but she wasn’t sure.
Fragments of a conversation clung to her subconscious and she squeezed her eyes closed, trying to make sense of the jumbled words she was recalling. She could remember someone saying her name and then voices rising in anger, but she had no idea what it was about. And if it had been Xander, then why was he having an argument with the vampires and how had he won? She would have to call him and ask him how he had come to find her and what he had said to stop the vampires. She made a mental note and sighed, trying to force herself to sleep again. The more she slept, the less time she would have to spend thinking about her lack of a future.
She was in a partial sleep state when Joyce walked into her room and stopped beside her bed. Buffy could feel her staring and contemplated letting her know she was awake, but she remained still. Her mother brushed her hair away from her forehead and kissed her temple. “I’m sorry, Buffy.”
Several minutes passed, punctuated by the sound of Joyce’s heels on the stairs, her muffled good-byes to Spike and the sound of her car starting before Buffy replied. “I’m sorry too, Mom.”
“You should probably tell her, not me,” Spike spoke up from her doorway.
Buffy rolled quickly, causing a sharp pain to shoot up her spine. “Ow. You shouldn’t do that, you know? Eavesdropping is wrong.”
“So is talking to yourself.” Spike shrugged, then regarded the look on her face. “You still have pain?”
“You’re still here, aren’t you?” Buffy asked through clenched teeth. She waited for the ache to dull and swallowed hard when it did. “And yes, I still have pain sometimes.”
“I’m guessing because my back was hurt, Spike.” She pushed herself up and rolled her shoulders, trying to stretch out the muscles that were throbbing.
“It happened so long ago, and with you being a Slayer and all, it shouldn’t still bother you. Have they checked you out for muscle and nerve damage? Sometimes the trauma to the spine can be ...” He trailed off, lost in a sea of thought.
“Listen to you! You sound like a physician’s home reference guide. When did you get your medical degree, Spike?” Buffy asked sarcastically.
“Eighteen seventy,” Spike said absently, not even thinking of what he was saying. He was too busy pondering the pain in her back and the implications it could have.
“Yeah, right. You’re a doctor. Tell me another one.”
“What?” Her chatter pulled Spike from his thoughts and he realized what he had said.
“You’re a doctor?”
He ran a hand over his hair, nervously ruffling it out of place. “Oh, I was kidding.”
“I figured, and if it wasn’t so farfetched, it would probably be funny.”
“Why is it farfetched?”
“Look at you! Bleached out hair, raggedy clothes and a cockney accent from hell.”
"I have never been 'cockney'."
"You've never been much."
“I was a mortal once.”
“And I’m sure the term loser could apply to that too.”
“I thought we had a truce,” Spike pointed out.
“When did I agree to a truce?”
“I have things to do today. I don’t have time for this.” Spike pulled her cover back, ready to lift her and put her in her chair. “Do you need to use the restroom?”
“Okay, I’ll take you downstairs. I’ve got to install some of those safety rail things in the bathroom on this floor.”
Lifting her, Spike carried her out the door and down the stairs. He deposited her on the toilet, then stood for several seconds, watching her pull herself upward on the counter. He was tempted to ask her how she managed to get her shorts down alone, but thought better of it. “I’ll just go get your chair.”
“No,” Buffy said quickly, holding herself up with two rails.
“Well, I ... could I ... Uhm, I don’t want to be down here alone so when I’m finished, can I sit up there and watch you put the rails in?”
“You want to watch me install rails?” Spike was stunned when she nodded. “Fine. Whatever.”
He pulled the door closed and walked into the kitchen. He got her a glass of juice, toasted several pieces of bread and took it up to her room, then returned to the bathroom door. “Are you almost ready?”
Buffy finished securing her hair in a ponytail and smoothed a few flyaways into place. She was out of breath, partly from wriggling in and out of her shorts on the floor, but mostly because doing everything she had to do was almost impossible in a room built for people who walked. Just brushing her teeth was daunting enough considering how high the sinks were. Luckily for her, her mother had a full length mirror on one wall, so she could check her hair from her current position on the toilet.
And she had no idea why she was worried about her hair at all. It’s not like she cared to impress anyone, right? Pulled back this way, exposing her darker roots, she looked like a brunette again. She studied herself, narrowing her eyes, then opening them wide. She definitely liked blonde better. The darker growth made her look paler than usual and didn’t really bring out the greens and grays of her eyes.
“Buffy?” Spike knocked again.
“Oh, come in.” Buffy took a deep breath and waited for him to open the door.
Spike pushed the door open and looked her up and down. “You look human again.”
“Shut up!” Buffy snapped, trying to camouflage the glee she felt that he had noticed her appearance.
He lifted her and headed up the stairs, wondering if she would be willing to tell him about what had happened after her mother had forced her out of the house. Ever since Joyce had told him about it, he had been curious about where Buffy had gone and what she had done. Sitting her in her chair, he lifted the tray that fit across the handles and snapped it into place, then put her breakfast down on top of it. “I’ll be across the hallway.”
Buffy nodded and began to pick at the toast he had prepared for her. “Okay.”
“Eat that, Slayer. We are not going to have a repeat of yesterday.”
“I don’t like toast.” Buffy peeled off the crust and pushed it aside, eyeing it warily.
“You are worse than an infant.” Spike snatched the plate and put one hand on his hip. “What will you eat? Should I get you some bird seed? You certainly eat like one.”
“I’m still full from my late dinner. My mom gave me Chinese food.”
“Your mom didn’t give you a damn thing. I did.”
Buffy’s eyes widened and she gasped, not believing him for one second. “You brought that up here?”
“What? Are you going to say it wasn’t good now?”
“I was going to say thank you,” she replied seriously, then sipped her juice.
“That’s it?” Spike watched her closely, waiting for her to insult him, then rolled his eyes. “You’re welcome.”
Buffy watched him walk out the door and set her glass down on her tray. If he brought up her dinner, he may have been the one who had turned down her bed and put her under the covers. She had been sleeping soundly and barely recalled it at all. It had been the smell of Sweet and Sour Chicken that had woken her up entirely and she had realized that someone had put her to bed. She had just assumed it was her mother. Why would Spike bother at all when it wasn’t his responsibility?
She heard him tinkering around in the bathroom and rolled out into the hallway, watching him intently. He was wearing those loud shorts again, the ones with the sun and sand castles. He was kneeling with his back to her, laying out various screws and pieces of railing and she watched him, studying his movements. He didn’t look at all like a demon right then. His feet were bare, toes curling to support his weight as he squatted on his knees and fumbled with a sheet of instructions, and his appearance was anything but frightening. The shorts, the bare legs and the bed hair made him look normal and sexy. ~ I did not just go there! ~
“Bloody hell!” Spike shouted suddenly.
Buffy jumped in her seat at the sound of his voice. At the sound of his very familiar voice saying a very familiar phrase. She ignored the fact that he had stood and was hopping around the small bathroom. All she could think about was the fact that her dream suddenly made sense. Spike had been the man she heard when the vampire bit her. He had shouted ‘bloody hell’ and then argued with them, telling them something about seniority. Then he had lifted her, cradling her against his chest until Xander shouted her name.
“Slayer, I just rammed a screw through my knee!” Spike tapped her on the arm and pointed at his bloody leg. “Where does your mum keep the band-aids?”
She was oblivious to anything he had said after he had shouted. It was beginning to make sense. The vampires were after Spike because of *her*. She stared into his face and whispered, “It was you.”
“What?” Grabbing a roll of toilet paper, Spike pressed it against the hole in his knee and glared at her.
“You stopped those vampires from killing me, didn’t you? You saw what was happening and you ran up and made them stop. That’s why they want to get back at you, isn’t it?”
Spike stared down at the floor, unsure of what to say. She was absolutely right. It was bad enough that he had taken to hunting demons for food and violence, but when he had intervened and prevented them from killing the Slayer, he had broken every demon code there was. He had lied, pretending that he was still the big bad and wanted her for his own. He had claimed that she was responsible for the chip in his head and that if anyone had earned the right to kill her, it was him. They had finally backed off, leaving him to it. He had lifted her, intent on taking her to Giles’ place, but he had heard Xander shout for her and knew she would be safe with him.
How was he supposed to know that one of the vampires had stayed behind to see the Slayer catch her death?
That night was the first of a series of beatings that he had endured for her. Because he had turned on his kind and saved her life and he made no apologies for it.
Buffy touched his arm tentatively. “The first aid kit is in under the sink.”
Saying nothing, he retrieved the kit, sat on the edge of the tub and began to rummage through it. He was painfully aware of the fact that she was watching his every move and concentrated hard on securing the bandage on his knee. Once it was in place, he closed the lid and stood, rolling a towel to put under his legs to keep from having the same accident twice.
Buffy shook her head when he went back to work, turning his back to her again. “Don’t you think I deserve an explanation?”
Spike sat up straight and sighed loudly, not looking at her. “Don’t you think I’ve been looking for an explanation since it happened?”
“You saved my life, Spike. Why?”
“I’m not going to talk about this.”
“If you don’t, I’ll draw my own conclusions.”
“Just don’t color outside the lines,” he mumbled absently, trying his best to ignore her.
“Did you know I was paralyzed and would be miserable? You did it to spite me, didn’t you?”
Spike stood abruptly, tossing the railing in his hand against the wall. “You would think that!”
“What am I supposed to think? That you did it out of the kindness of your heart? You don’t have kindness! You did it to punish me! Just admit it. Say it. Say that you wanted me to go through life alone and miserable and half dead and unwanted because I did it to you! You should have let me die!” Buffy began to sob and rolled herself back, going into her bedroom. She slammed the door as hard as she could, causing it to splinter at the hinges, and rolled toward her bed. She knocked the tray off her chair and leaned forward, resting her forehead against her comforter and crying softly.
Spike opened her door and walked slowly into the room. “You wouldn’t have stayed dead. They were planning on turning you, you know?”
“You wanted an explanation and there it is! I didn’t want you to be a vampire. You think I damned you into that chair? You don’t know what damned is, Slayer.”
“I said get out!” Buffy screamed at him, reaching for something to throw at him.
He caught her arm as she tried to throw her phone at him and pinned her wrists. “You think being in a chair is hell, don’t you? You think that being stuck on your ass is the worst feeling in the world. Do you want to know what’s worse? Knowing that there is a sunrise out there that you can’t see because it will kill you. You don’t forget how it feels to have sunlight on your face. You don’t forget how clouds look like cotton balls and the sky changes colors like a prism. It stays with you and every day that you don’t have it makes you want it more.”
“And so does knowing what it feels like to walk! You think I can just forget that?” She shouted, her face flushing in anger. Her hands shook as she ran them over her face, and looked away.
“So you would rather be a vampire?”
“I would rather be dead!”
“Then you are a fool!”
“Fine, I’m a fool.” The reply came with no inflection.
Spike let go of her and put her phone back on the cradle. “Admitting it is the first step.”
Buffy watched him stroll toward the door, then looked away when he paused and turned to face her. He cleared his throat and stepped back toward her. “And just for the record, you aren’t alone. I know that I’m not the best company in the world, but I’m here.”
He waited for her to reply and when she didn’t, he went back into the bathroom and began working again. His mind wandered the entire time, replaying the things that Joyce had told him that morning and the things that Buffy had said to him. The more he thought about it, the more he began to realize why she was so screwed up. People had a habit of abandoning her. He had been there a couple of days now and only Willow had stopped to visit. Her father wasn’t around, Giles wasn’t around and most of all, Angel had not been around. Surely he had to know what had happened to her. News traveled fast in the demon world.
As he installed the final rail, he stood and surveyed his handiwork. He was about to go and tell Buffy that he was finished and ask her if she wanted lunch, when he noticed her sitting in the hallway watching him. “Slayer, you are a lot of trouble.”
“Did you only do it because they were going to change me?” She watched him closely, her eyes betraying the pain she felt.
Spike walked into the hallway and squatted down in front of her. He knew that she needed to hear something more, something good, anything to make her life seem valuable. He shook his head and spoke slowly. “I did it because of who you are. I did it because I wanted to. I guess I figured the world would be really boring without you in it.”
“Are you sorry you did it?”
“No.” His eyes met hers and held and he was stunned to feel something in his heart tugging at him. “And don’t you be sorry that I did it.”
“Spike?” Buffy leaned forward and laid a hand on his shoulder. “It’s really hard to have a serious moment with you when you are wearing this outfit.”
His face broke into a grin at the same time hers did. “Yeah, well, it’s hard to have a serious conversation with someone who thinks Max and Liz are a super couple.”
“Max and Liz are a super couple, dummy. And at least I don’t think that Passions is the best hour on television.”
“Hey! Attack me if you want to but don’t you dare attack my soap!”
“You’re pathetic.” Buffy laughed lightly, then paused, realizing that she had let her guard down and actually enjoyed his company for a split second. “I-I-.”
“You like me.” Spike shrugged and winked at her. “It was bound to happen sooner or later. No one can resist me.”
“You mean repel you.” Buffy smiled easily and listened to him grumble about her needing to have the last word all the time. She watched him pick up the spare parts, ribbed him about the fact that there were spare parts at all, and then rolled into her bedroom when he went down the stairs to find them some lunch. She went to her window and raised the blind, staring out at the noonday sunlight that filtered through the trees in her yard. Spike was right. She would have missed never seeing the sun again.
He was right about a few things.
It was bound to happen sooner or later.
She liked him.
Buffy chewed on a potato chip thoughtfully and pondered the popularity of the Jerry Springer show. Before she had been injured, she envied the couch potatoes that could stay up to date on talk shows, soap operas and current events, but as the second fight broke out on the television, she flipped it off and shook her head at Spike. "Daytime television leaves a lot to be desired."
Spike watched with satisfaction as she finished off her sandwich and dabbed her face with a napkin. "Enjoy your lunch?"
"Yeah, it was good." Buffy threw her napkin into her plate and rolled toward the kitchen.
Spike followed behind her, leaning against the counter as she tossed the bread crust into the trash and put the plate in the sink. "I could have brought that for you."
"I get kind of tired of sitting there. Even rolling myself from room to room beats sitting in one spot."
"Aren't you exercising?"
"Yeah, funny. I walk on my hands on my treadmill every single night."
Spike frowned at her and crossed his arms. "Doesn't Joyce stretch you out and massage the muscles in your legs and back to keep the blood flow stimulated?"
"You're kidding, right?" He studied her closely and shook his head when she shrugged indifferently. "Slayer, you have to do that!"
"No, I don't."
"You can cause permanent damage if you don't."
"I already have permanent damage."
"You don't know that. Your mum said that the doctors gave you a fifty/fifty chance. And you are making it an eighty/twenty chance by not exercising." He spun on his heel and walked back into the living room. He pushed the coffee table to one side of the room, grabbed a blanket from behind the sofa and made a pallet on the floor. Turning to see Buffy behind him, he unhooked her tray and reached for her. "Come on."
"What?" Buffy smacked his hands away. "You can't possibly think that I am going to let you---" She was momentarily silenced by Spike lifting her under the arms and laying her out on the floor. "Spike, no! Put me back!"
Spike kneeled down and lifted her foot and leg, pushing her foot upward toward her body several times. "This simulates walking, the pressure that I' m putting on it is like taking a step."
"Would you put me back in my chair?" Buffy rolled her eyes when he lifted the other leg and repeated the process. "Spike, I can't feel a thing you're doing."
"It's not hurting you then, is it?" He wiggled his eyebrows and then began pushing her leg toward her chest, leaning against it to add pressure. "This will help with your back pain too. I imagine that the pain is being caused by a severe lack of stimulation."
Buffy flushed angrily and tried to sit up. Being in this position, having him touch her in any way, was just too much. It made her very aware of the fact that no man would ever touch her in desire again. "This is ridiculous! You don't know what you're doing."
"Yes, I do. You forget that I was here once." Spike pushed her back down on the floor and laid her leg down, then began kneading her thighs.
"Ack!" Buffy sat up again and leaned over her legs protectively. "You forget that you're a vampire! Wounds heal faster on you."
Spike tugged her upward and forced her to look at him. "And you're a Slayer. Seems to me that we're just about alike when it comes to healing. Now lie back and hush."
Buffy flopped back, her head thumping the floor lightly. "Oww."
"Your fault." He rubbed his hands together and began massaging her thigh again, frowning when he felt how thin it was. "Your leg feels like a chicken bone."
"That's it," she cried, pulling herself into a sitting position again.
"Yes, that is it." Spike moved behind her and pushed her ponytail to one side.
She opened her mouth to protest, then moaned when his strong hands began to massage her shoulders and neck. He rubbed hard, causing her arms and fingertips to tingle as he worked away the tension she had from using her upper body so much. Buffy felt him urge her forward and she leaned willingly, propping herself on her hands.
He trailed down her spine, massaging with one hand, and feeling for damage with the other. Playing it carefully, not wanting to alert her to the impromptu exam he was giving, he cleared his throat and spoke softly. "Your mum and I had a talk this morning."
"Really?" Buffy exhaled and leaned more, letting him move even lower. "About what? Ooh, that feels good right there."
Spike grinned a little, then frowned, remembering what Joyce had told him. "She told me that she kicked you out of the house after she found out that you're a Slayer." Buffy tensed immediately and Spike paused, "We don't have to talk about it."
"No, it's okay. She did kick me out. And I was a Slayer, past tense." She wished that she could pull her knees up and rest her head on them; instead she picked at the fibers of the blanket and tried to concentrate on the feel of his hands. "I guess she couldn't handle it. She just gave up or something."
He used his thumbs to massage circles at her shoulder blades. "You know, I don't think she's planning on giving up again."
"Last night she---"
Spike cut in quickly. "Last night she gave you an ultimatum that she regretted this morning. She wouldn't send you away."
"Whatever." Buffy rolled her head as he moved to her neck again. "God, I didn't know how sore I really was."
"Where did you go? When she made you leave, I mean."
"I went to Los Angeles. I got a job at this really greasy diner called Helen's Kitchen and I worked all the time. I ate when I had money and I slept a lot." She closed her eyes, remembering the lonely hotel room that she barricaded herself in. "I cried a lot too. I don't like being alone."
"Not many people do." Spike pushed along her spine again.
Buffy had relaxed completely and when he pressed at the middle of her spine, pain shot through her back and she cried out. It was almost unbearable, hard to breath, hard to sit still and most of all, hard to endure. She felt hot tears behind her eyes and shook her head, oblivious to the fact that he had moved around her. "Stop!"
"I have stopped." Spike was kneeling next to her and gripped her hand, shocked at how pale she had become. He had felt something in her back, a large knot, and when he pressed it, she had immediately reacted. "Do you have pain medication?"
"Upstairs. Pills," Buffy hissed through clenched teeth.
He let go of her hand and rushed up the stairs. As he ran back down, someone knocked at the door and he opened it, ignoring whomever it was. He raced back into the living room and grabbed her glass of juice. When she had downed the pill and taken several sips of her drink, he spoke softly. "Are you okay?"
"I think so." Without thinking, Buffy leaned her head against his shoulder and exhaled loudly.
Spike wrapped his arm behind her and took her glass with his other hand, then lifted her and laid her on the sofa. "It's okay, luv."
"What is going on here?" Giles asked suddenly, making his presence known for the first time.
"I was giving her a massage and she had a pain." Spike grabbed the blanket off of the floor and pulled it over her.
Giles looked the vampire up and down, taking in his very casual attire and removed his glasses. "Can I speak with you in the kitchen please?"
"Fine." He looked down at Buffy and said, "If you need anything just yell."
Giles poured himself a cup of coffee as soon as they entered the kitchen. As he added sugar and cream, he glared at Spike. "What were you doing touching her?"
"She told me that her mother doesn't massage her. I thought---"
"Your job here is to cook for her and make sure she doesn't injure herself. Not touch her in any way."
Spike stared at him for several seconds and then his eyes widened as realization dawned on him. "You can not possibly think that I would take advantage of her current situation and---"
"That's exactly what I think. You are, after all, a demon. You may be living with a family and you may be awake during the day now, but you are still a demon." Giles took a sip of his coffee and looked the man up and down again. "And what are you wearing? That is hideous apparel."
Spike glanced down at his clothing and bare feet, unable to argue the point that the man made. "I stole them from you."
Giles' eyes widened and he choked on his drink. "Oh. In any case, that isn't the type of thing to wear around a woman."
"My clothes are in the wash and I don't exactly have a big selection."
"Fine, fine. I'll come by at sunset and take you to buy something less . blinding, and more appropriate for your job here." Giles poured the contents of his cup down the drain and started out of the room. He paused beside Spike and leveled him with an icy glare. "And don't put your hands on her again."
Spike stood in one spot until he heard Giles speaking with Buffy, then he stomped into the basement and shoved his clothes into the dryer. A part of him couldn't blame Giles for thinking the worst, but another part of him was livid that the man would even consider such a notion. After all, a vampire wanting a Slayer? That was unheard of!
Unless he had inherited some of his sire's traits.
That was just what he needed on top of everything else.
Buffy awoke to the smell of lasagna and stretched her upper body. Her back ached, reminding her of the horrible pain she had experienced earlier and she sat up slowly. "Spike?"
"Just a minute!" Joyce called from the kitchen.
"Where's Spike?" Buffy asked, as soon as her mother came into the room.
Joyce pulled off her oven mitts and sat on the edge of the couch. "Giles and Xander came by and picked him up. They're taking him to the mall to buy clothing."
"Apparently, Mr. Giles came by this afternoon and wasn't pleased to see him walking around barefoot and in 'shameful under garments'." She brushed Buffy
's hair off her cheek. "Did you sleep well?" "I took a pain pill. I slept like the dead."
Joyce regarded her daughter's features, recalling the rest of what Giles had told her that afternoon. "Honey, is Spike good to you?"
"Sure. He didn't get on my nerves much today." Buffy stifled a yawn with the back of her hand and stared at her mother curiously. "Why?"
"Nothing. Just making sure." Joyce tilted her daughter's face, forcing her to look her in the eye. "If he was doing anything that made you uncomfortable or scared, you would tell me right?"
"No, I'd stake him if he did what you're implying, Mom."
"I've never been good at subtlety, have I?" Joyce chuckled and stood up, smoothing down her slacks. "Dinner will be ready in about five minutes. Let me help you into your chair."
Buffy held her arms up and smiled. "Don't drop me."
Joyce shook her head and lifted her, holding her in a bear hug. "Precious cargo, baby. Precious cargo."
As Buffy ate her dinner, she pondered what her mother had suggested. Spike would never, ever even look at her in a remotely romantic way. No one would. She was crippled, had really bad hair lately, and nothing going for her other than the fact that she used to be a powerful Slayer. Definitely not qualifications that would get the men lining up.
Or one vampire.
With really great hands for massaging.
Xander nudged Giles with his elbow as a woman with a dress that looked like saran wrap walked past them. "Do you feel as out of place here as me?"
Giles watched a man with a purple mohawk buy a dog collar and then stepped back as he walked past, the sound of his pants squeaking throughout the store. "Fear has pretty much eclipsed all other feeling right now, Xander. What is the name of this store again?"
"Punk Town. I dunno, maybe I could be punk." Xander grabbed a pair of plastic pants with safety pins all over them and held them in front of him, ignoring Giles' mumbled comments. "Did you see that woman with the pink hair earlier? She wanted me. She wanted me to wear that leash she bought and be her loooove puppy."
Spike walked up with several bags and grinned. "That wasn't a she. That was Thomas. He's actually a Huan demon, very aggressive lovers, I've been told."
"Oh god." Xander turned crimson and laid the pants down. "All the attractive people in this town are demons!"
"You found him attractive? Why, Xander, I'm shocked." Spike tried his best to look scandalized.
Giles glanced at the vampire's bags and shook his head. "Shopping with a vampire! I have reached a new low."
"Really, Rupert?" Spike slung his bags over his shoulder and fell into step with the two men. "I would think your all time low was the time you were a Fyoral demon."
"You're right." Giles nodded seriously. "I had to rely on you for help."
"Are we finished yet?" Xander asked as they stepped on the escalator. "I've got Anya shaped plans later tonight."
Spike nodded. "I'm ready."
Halfway down the escalator, Spike noticed a gift shop with several stuffed bears and candles. He was so engrossed in staring at the window, that he did not notice the gang of vampires that were riding the other escalator upward. They passed each other without incident and Spike stepped off, heading for the gift shop.
Giles sighed heavily. "I thought that you were ready, Spike."
"I'll be right back." Spike gave his bags to Xander and walked into the small store. Five minutes later, he came out and looked at Giles, who was seated on a bench. "I need thirty dollars."
"What on earth for? Haven't I spent enough on you tonight?" Giles nudged the bags with his shoe.
"It's not for me, you ponce. What would I need in there? It's for the Slayer." Spike held out his hand. "Some of us haven't forgotten that she is stuck at home tonight."
Giles rolled his eyes, but handed over his credit card. As soon as Spike walked back into the store, he looked at Xander. "Why is Spike buying Buffy a gift?"
"He's not. You are." Xander took a bite of the candy apple he had just picked up from the food court.
"You know what I mean. They hate each other."
"Maybe she threatened to kill him and he's making a peace offering." Xander shrugged and then swore loudly when his stick broke and the apple rolled across the floor. He tossed the stick quickly and pretended it hadn't happened.
Spike joined them, carrying a brightly wrapped package and grabbed his bags again. "Now, I'm ready."
A burly demon watched them leave. He stepped forward and crushed the apple under his boot and smiled as he looked at his companions. "And here we thought that this night was going to be dull. Boys, we just found ourselves a good time."
Buffy glanced up from the television when she heard the door open. "Spike?"
"Yeah, it's me," he called, dropping his bags beside the door. He pulled his duster off and hung it over the stair railing before he walked into the living room. "How's your back?"
"It's fine."She muted the television and looked up at him. "I don't think you caused it. I hope that doesn't disappoint you."
"Hah, funny." He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Do you have pain a lot?"
"It comes and goes." She shrugged so softly it was barely noticeable.
"I see." He mentally filed that away and glanced toward the darkened kitchen. "Where's Joyce?"
"She went to bed early. Headache." Buffy pointed at the television. "There's a good movie starting in ten minutes."
"Good by whose standards?" He grinned, but sat down on the sofa.
"Hey!" Buffy rolled back and grabbed a pillow, tossing it at him playfully. "I have excellent taste in movies!"
Spike put the pillow behind him. "What is it?"
"The Bodyguard. Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner."
"Oh, bloody hell! Chick flicks are awful."
"What's your favorite movie?"
"Hellraiser. Friday the Thirteenth. Halloween. Nightmare on Elm Street."
"I rest my case." Buffy giggled and shook her head. "So, how bad was shopping with Giles?"
"Not too bad. He paled a little when I took him into that punk store, but he was fine."
"You took Giles into Punk Town? I wish I could have been there for that!" She laughed again, then frowned when she remembered where she was sitting. Running her palms over the arms of her chair, she sighed and shook her head. "They don't actually have wheelchair friendly shopping at the mall."
"I got you something, actually." Spike bit his bottom lip, watching as he face brightened considerably.
"From Punk Town?" Buffy tried to remain calm, but her heart slammed in her chest at the thought of him buying her something, regardless of where it came from.
"Would that be so bad?" Spike stood and walked into the foyer to retrieve her package. "Oh, dammit! I left it in Giles' car!"
Buffy rolled back, about to tell him that they could call him, when something shattered the front window and rolled across the floor. The flaming liquor bottle landed right in front of her and she screamed.
Spike rushed back into the living room and saw the fire. He grabbed the bottle and threw it back through the window, then yanked the blanket off her and smothered the small flame that was burning the rug. He looked at her, making sure she wasn't hurt, and the bottle flew through the window again.
"Oh god, Spike!" Buffy shouted, when the bottle shattered and the fire spread along the floor, following whatever flammable liquid was inside.
"I have to get you out!" Spike scooped her up and motioned Joyce, who had come running down the stairs, toward the door.
Joyce snatched it open and yelped when she saw a vampire, completely morphed, staring back at her. Spike kicked the door shut and laid Buffy on the floor. "They can't come in! We have to put this fire out."
Xander noticed that Spike had forgotten Buffy's package halfway across town and Giles had turned around. Xander was humming along to the radio when they turned onto Revello Drive. He was the first to notice the movement in Buffy's front yard and the first to see the smoke billowing out of the broken front window. "Giles, do you still have that supersoaker in the trunk?"
"Yes." He stopped the car halfway down the block and stepped out.
Xander met him at the trunk and grabbed a stake and the watergun. "I do hope you had it blessed."
"Always." Giles grabbed the crossbow and headed toward the Summer's house.
They moved as one, keeping close to the shadows. As soon as Buffy's lawn was in sight, Giles kneeled down and quickly dusted two of the vampires. It caught the attention of the others and Giles nodded at Xander. "You move as fast as you can, get the water hose turned on and feed it through that broken window. We have to worry about the fire as well."
The vampires were advancing fast and Xander nodded. "Not before I smoke these." He aimed and fired, sending a steady stream of Holy Water into their faces. As he pumped and sprayed, he moved around them closer to the house.
The vampires began to howl as the water burned them and Giles did a quick count. There were seven in all. Xander had effectively sprayed all of them, causing a momentary pause. He used that to his advantage and reloaded the crossbow, quickly dusting another and taking the odds down to six against two.
Xander moved fast as he got closer to the water spigot and heard voices inside Buffy's house. He turned the knob and grabbed the hose, trying to toss it through the broken window. A hulking vampire tackled him, knocking the water gun out of his hands and sending him sprawling. Xander clawed for it, trying hard to stretch far enough to retrieve it, but the vampire kicked him in the gut. He rolled onto his back, pulled the stake from his pocket and held it upward when the demon lunged for him. A plume of dust fell around him and he grabbed his gun again, just in time to spray two vampires that were advancing.
Rolling fast, he grabbed the hose, which was gushing water and fed it through the window. He heard Giles scream at him, felt hands grip him from behind, and was tossed through the air like a rag doll.
Inside the Summer's home, the fire was crawling up the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen. Joyce hacked roughly, using the fire extinguisher she had retrieved from the kitchen. Spike had one as well, but wasn't bothered by the smoke. He heard Joyce choking beside him and pushed her away. "Get out of here! I can get the rest!"
Joyce nodded and turned. She made her way back toward the front door, blinded by the smoke. "Buffy!" The spot beside the door was vacant and she screamed again. "Buffy, where are you?"
Spike looked over his shoulder, trying to see what was happening, when he heard Buffy coughing behind him. He spun, just in time to see her crawling toward the water hose. "She's here! Get her to fresh air!"
Joyce stumbled into the room and gripped Buffy under the arms, dragging her into the kitchen. She opened the back door and pulled Buffy as close as she could without making it possible for the vampires to grab her. Together, they lay side by side, both coughing so hard they could barely breathe the clean air. Finally, Buffy wheezed out, "Giles. Xander. Front yard."
"What do you want me to do, honey?"
"Put me in my chair, Mom. Give me my crossbow." Buffy pulled herself upward and tugged at Joyce. "Please? Just open the front door and let me do something!"
"No." Spike spoke up from the doorway, his face covered with ash. "It's too late."
“Too late?” Buffy fanned the smoke, trying hard to see Spike’s face. “Giles? Xander? Are they—“
She heard loud coughing coming from the living room and craned her neck to see. Relief flooded through her when she saw two silhouettes appear in the doorway. Her mother got to her feet and turned the kitchen light on and Buffy latched onto Spike as he lifted her and sat her in one of the kitchen chairs. Bathed in the light, Xander and Giles both looked as if they had been hit with a car. One side of Xander’s face was bloody from a gash in his forehead and Giles had a nosebleed and purple bruises along one side of his jaw.
Clearing her throat, Buffy glanced at her friend. “Xander, are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine.” He took the icepack that Joyce held out to him and allowed the woman to mop at the blood with a towel. “For about thirty more minutes. After I call Anya and let her know what’s happened, she will kill me.”
“Why?” Buffy cringed along with him as her mother checked his head.
“It’s fine.” Xander held a hand up to Joyce, then looked at Buffy. “We had a ten a.m. picture taking session in the morning.”
“I’m sorry.” She bit her lip and looked at Giles, who was massaging his forehead with his fingertips. “I’m sorry, Giles.”
Giles glanced at her, squinting to see her clearly since his glasses had been broken in the fight. “It’s fine, Buffy. It wasn’t your fault.”
Spike spoke up for the first time. “It was mine.” He had been leaning against the island in the middle of the room, watching the others, and as he spoke, he headed toward the basement door. “They must have seen us at the shopping mall and followed us here.”
“Spike.” Buffy watched him open the door and take a step inside. “Where are you going?”
He stopped walking and sighed. “It’s me they want. As long as I’m here, they ’ll keep coming.”
“You said you would help me,” she quietly pointed out.
Spike turned on his heel and came back into the kitchen. “Did you see what they did to your house?" He shouted at her, leaning over her. He pointed to Xander and Giles. "And what about your friends? They're lucky to be alive, no thanks to me.”
Xander stood up abruptly and walked out of the room, mumbling something about calling Anya.
“They want me too!" She yelled back at him. "It’s not just about you and you said you would help me! You gave me your word!”
Spike pushed away from the table and looked away. “I’m a vampire, my word doesn’t count for much.”
Giles leaned against back in his chair and watched as the vampire headed back toward the basement. He noticed Spike's closed off expression and cleared his throat." “I have something to say.”
Buffy looked at the floor, trying to focus on the linoleum through her tear filled eyes. Spike stood in the doorway of the basement, his jaw clenched tightly as he waited for the man to speak.
Taking a deep breath, Giles collected his thoughts and said, “This was no one’s fault. The threat of these vampires finding out Spike's whereabouts was always there. This rather unfortunate occurrence has not changed the fact that Buffy still needs to be cared for and Spike still needs a place to stay.”
“I can’t stay here,” Spike growled, his face masking into that of the demon inside of him. “Just because they have to be invited in doesn’t mean I’m safe." He pointed at Buffy and Joyce and shook his head. "It doesn’t mean that they are safe. They will come back and who knows what they will do next.”
“They’ll come back with you gone, too. What would we have done if you weren’ t here tonight, Spike?” Joyce asked. She knew her daughter well and she knew that Buffy *needed* him to stay. The change in her in just the past few days was remarkable.
“You would have gone to bed without almost being burned alive.” Spike forced the demon away and walked back into the kitchen. “There is nothing we can do. They know where I am. Unless I leave—“
“Fine! Just leave! Go! Everyone always does!” Buffy shouted and pressed her palms down on the table, almost as if she had forgotten she was paralyzed and was going to push herself up. Her hands made contact with the wood and she hissed in pain, snatching them away and examining her flesh. Both palms had cuts in them, but her left one had a piece of glass wedged just below the skin.
Spike beat Joyce to where Buffy was sitting and took one of her hands in his. “You’re hurt.”
Buffy snatched her hand away. “You don’t work here anymore.”
“Just let me see it.” He reached for her hand again, only to have her glare at him.
“I’d tell you to bite me, but you can’t.” She squared her shoulders and stared the blond vampire in the eye. “And, Giles, I want you to perform that uninvite spell on Spike. If he wants out, he's out for good.”
Giles’ eyes widened and he jumped to his feet. “Of course! That’s it! A spell!”
Xander came back into the room with the ice on his head. He moved aside as Giles rushed past him and grabbed the phone, then he turned to speak to Joyce. “Uhm, Ms. Summers, I can’t find Anya and my mom won’t come and get me, even though I told her I’m practically comatose. Could you maybe give me a ride home? I’d ask Giles, but those vampires took out their frustration on his car as they ran away.”
Joyce nodded. “Of course.”
“Mom!” Buffy held up her hands. “Could you help me first?”
“I’ve got it,” Spike told Joyce. “You get him home.”
Buffy watched her mother walk away and then glared at Spike. “You aren’t touching me with a ten foot pole.”
He smirked at her, turned as if he was going to walk away, and then spun and lifted her from her seat before she even realized it. Without the use of her lower limbs, all she could do was punch him, but after two attempts, she stopped and settled for scowling at him as he walked up the stairs. Spike took her into her bedroom and sat her on the bed. “I’ll be right back.”
“Thanks for the warning," she called after him. The second he disappeared around the corner, she broke down. It would be unbearable without him there every day. Since he had mentioned leaving in the kitchen, she'd had a dull ache in her chest. It wasn’t logical, it wasn’t wise, but she needed him. He had to stay.
Spike took the first aid kit from under the sink and waited for a small basin to fill with warm water. He glanced at where his reflection should have been in the mirror and slumped against the sink. The prospect of leaving after he had made so much headway with Buffy would have been unthinkable if the circumstances were different. He felt at home here and he had not felt that in ages. And he was a fool to let himself believe that he would ever fit into her world.
The basin overflowed and he dropped a towel onto the floor, then made his way back to her room. She was still in the same position, with her hands cradled in her lap, but her shoulders were shaking with silent sobs. He pulled a chair from under her vanity, sat before her, and put the bowl in his lap. Saying nothing, he took the hand with the glass still in it and dipped it into the water.
Buffy watched as he used a pair of tweezers to work the glass free. Fresh blood flowed and she groaned when he pressed his finger against the small hole. It didn’t hurt badly, but the contact of his cool flesh against hers reminded her that this could be the last time he touched her at all. Another sob caught in her throat and she didn’t even bother to choke it back.
“I don’t mean to hurt you.” He glanced up at her, then back at her hand, loosening the pressure he was applying.
“Then don’t go.” She put her free hand in the bowl on top of his. “Please?”
Spike put the tweezers on the night table and brushed his thumb over her cheek. “You’ll be fine. Your mum will get someone else.”
“I won’t be fine. I can’t do anything! I couldn’t even help Giles and Xander!” She took a deep breath. “I want *you*!”
“Buffy, anything that I can do for you can be done by someone else.”
“No.” Her voice cracked again. “Aren’t you listening to me? I. Want. You.”
Spike felt her thumb on the back of his hand, massaging small circles, and he glanced down at it. Surely she couldn’t mean that in the literal sense. She was saying that she wanted him to stay, not that she wanted him. He felt her take the towel he had draped over his shoulder and then her hand was on his cheek.
“Look at me, Spike,” she whispered.
He raised his head and she leaned forward, pressing her lips against his lightly. For a split second, he was too stunned to react. She leaned closer, running her hand up his shoulder and behind his neck, increasing her pressure. Spike relaxed against her and opened his mouth, letting her tongue dance across his as he inhaled the sweetness of her skin.
Buffy heard footsteps on the stairs and pulled back, coloring slightly when she realized how bold she had been. Spike sat upright, and busied himself with washing off the last of the blood, as Giles stepped into the room. He dried Buffy's hand absently and pretended to study the wound, anxious to do anything other than make eye contact with her.
“I have wonderful news.” Giles smiled proudly. “Tara and Willow are on their way to do a hallowing spell. We’re going to put a ward on the house and make it impossible for any demons to step into the yard without an invitation.”
“Can demons be in the house?” Buffy glanced at Spike shyly, then back at Giles. “I mean, can Spike stay?”
“Yes, his invitation will stand as long as he is inside when the spell is performed.” Glancing over Spike’s shoulder, he watched as the vampire carefully applied ointment to the cuts and began wrapping the wounds on her hands. “Buffy, are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Just a few scratches,” she replied with a shrug. “You should go make sure that mom gets in the house okay. I don’t want her outside alone when she gets back.”
“Right you are. I'll go watch for her.” Giles turned quickly and retreated down the stairs.
Spike secured a final piece of tape on her hands and wiped his own with the towel. A million different thoughts ran through his head, none of them making any sense. She had *kissed* him. Not a thank you kiss, not a friendly kiss, but a kiss full of passion and heat. His lips were still numb from it, but his mind was racing.
“Spike?” Her eyes searched his face, silently begging him to relent. “Will you stay?”
Standing, he glanced down at her, trying to weigh his options. Outside this house he faced the threat of his own kind, but inside he faced the threat of the Slayer, a vampire’s worst enemy. In her given state, she couldn’t do much damage to him physically, but mentally, she could destroy him. She was reaching out to him because he was the closest thing she had to reach for and if he allowed her to do that, she would wind up resenting him for it. No, he had to leave. Leave the house, leave the town, leave *her* before it was too late.
“Please don’t say no,” Buffy pleaded.
He let his gaze wash over her face, taking in her pouty lips, her trembling chin, and finally locking on her clear green eyes.
It was too late.
Buffy awoke the next morning to the sound of a saw and hammering. She glanced at the clock and sighed, wondering why anyone would be using power tools at such an ungodly hour. Then she remembered everything: the damage to her house, the vampires attacking Giles and Xander, and most of all, the kiss she had given Spike. He had reciprocated, she was sure of that, but he had walked out of her room without even saying a word afterward and she had cried herself to sleep.
She had been wrong to assume that he would welcome her advances. She was crippled, unattractive, and capricious. He had every right to just walk out on her. It wouldn’t surprise her in the least if someone came up and told her that he had packed his things and gone during the night. That thought caused another wave of panic and she sat up. “Mom!”
Willow, who was at the foot of the stairs watching Giles and Xander tear down the wall that had been burned, heard Buffy calling and walked up the stairs. She rapped twice on her friend’s door, then stuck her head in. “Hey, Buffy. Sorry about all the noise downstairs.”
“It’s fine. Is Spike still here?” Buffy asked casually.
“Yeah, but he’s down in the basement helping your mom get some paint and stuff ready for the walls. Ooh, good news -- it didn’t mess the floor up much. Of course, your mom will have to get new carpet, but the wood wasn’t really damaged. Just the wall.” Willow took a much needed gulp of air. “And we did the spell at dawn and tested to see if we could throw something into the house.”
Buffy digested everything Willow had said. “And could you?”
“Nope. To coin that lady in Poltergeist, which Tara and I were watching last night, ‘this house is clear’. Nothing’s gonna hurt you guys.” Willow bowed dramatically, hoping to draw a laugh from Buffy. When she heard no laughter, she stood back up and glanced at Buffy, who was fingering her cover. “Hey, are you okay?”
“Yeah, just tired.” The slayer ran a hand through her hair and then glanced down at her clothing. “Ugh, could you maybe go and help Spike maybe so my mom can help me into the tub?”
“Sure,” Willow replied and headed toward the door, pausing before she was in the hallway. “Hey, are you hungry? I brought donuts, just like I used to in high school when we were doing research.”
Buffy’s stomach rolled and her heart ached at the memory of bounding through the double doors of the library and seeing her friends with their noses buried in thick books. “No, thank you." She shook her head. "I don’t want anything.”
Willow shrugged and headed back down the stairs and into the basement. Spike and Joyce were both digging through boxes and she cleared her throat. “Ms. Summers, Buffy wants to know if I can take over here and you would come help her with a bath.”
“Oh, sure.” Joyce glanced at Spike. “The paintbrushes are brand new and I’m fairly certain that they are in one of these boxes on bottom.” She indicated a row of boxes underneath a set of shelves.
“I’ll keep looking.” Spike nodded and continued his search through the box in front of him.
Willow joined him and rifled through the box that Joyce had been going through. She watched Spike out of the corner of her eye as he put his box on the floor and grabbed another one. “So, Spike, how’s it going here? Are you and Buffy getting along?”
Too well, he started to reply. Instead, he shrugged and tried to look indifferent. “We lock horns occasionally, but for the most part, things are okay.”
“Is she eating and stuff?” Willow pushed her hair away from her face and pretended to be engrossed in looking for paintbrushes. She was trying to segue into asking if Buffy was acting weird at all. The rose that she had us ed to do the spell with Tara was still in full bloom and it had not even been put into any water.
“She eats like a bird, but you can tell that just by looking at her.” Finding nothing, Spike swore and grabbed another box.
Willow spotted the paintbrushes in the bottom of her box, but continued to move the contents around. “How is she acting? Is she treating her mom any better? I mean, is she more agreeable?”
Spike stopped what he was doing and stared at the wall opposite them, wondering if she was getting at what he thought. “Does this game of twenty questions have anything to do with the fact that you did *another* spell?”
“Ooh! Found them!” Willow yanked the brushes from the box and waved them triumphantly. “I’ll just take them to Joyce.”
“She doesn’t need them yet.” Spike caught the red-head by the arm as she started up the stairs. “I need to know what you did to her.” He silently added, because she kissed me last night and it made me weak in the knees, but I knew there was something more to it.
With a small sigh, Willow sat down on the stairs and looked up at him. “I was worried about the fact that she wasn’t resolving the issues she has. She wasn’t facing her paralysis and stuff and I opened her mind.”
“Opened her mind?” Raising an eyebrow, Spike crossed his arms. “Is that it?”
“Well, no.” Willow felt herself blushing and glanced down at her shoes. “I got a little confused with the wording and got her heart involved.”
“I’m not following,” he said, his eyes narrowing.
“Well, wh-what Tara said is that if the spell worked at all, Buffy will have the strength to confront her fears and admit the truth to herself. She can admit what’s in her heart, but we don’t know that it worked.” She remembered the rose and frowned suddenly. “Only I think it did.”
“Bloody hell!” Spike wagged his finger in her direction. “The next time you want to do a spell, do something that doesn’t involve your friends. Because as much as I am loathe to admit it, what happens to people around here happens to me and you don’t want me on your bad side.”
“Are you threatening me?” Willow asked, raising one eyebrow.
“No, I am promising you! The next time you want to do something witchy, how about you stick to the stuff that you can’t muck up.”
Willow gasped and shot to her feet. “I just spent all morning making sure that you have a safety net here, so I’d be a little less quick to criticize if I were you!”
“Safety net? Willow, you and your stupid tricks have made a mess of everything.” Spike stopped talking before he said too much and pointed up the stairs. “Go on, give Joyce the paint brushes.”
“What are you not telling me?” She eyed him suspiciously. “What have I made a mess of?”
“Can I fix it?”
“If I so much as smell incense on you or even think that you have done another spell with her on your mind, I will—“ He paused, rethinking the death threat he was about to issue. “Nevermind. Don’t do a thing because you could just make it worse. Leave it like it is and don’t screw around with her emotions or her feelings again. I mean it. She’s strong enough without you interfering and if you were any kind of friend, you would have known that.”
Spike crossed the room and sat on his bed, turning his back to her. She lingered for a full minute, then turned and went up the stairs. He sighed and laid back, putting the pillow over his head to drown out the sounds coming from the living room. For the first time, he admitted to himself that a part of him had wanted the Slayer's feelings to be real. A part of him had wanted that kiss to mean that she realized how lonely he was and was reaching out to him, inviting him into her life.
He had wanted it badly. That was the only logical reason that the truth was bothering him so much. Willow had caused it. Whatever she had done wrong with the spell had to be the reason that Buffy had grown so fond of him. He had definitely noticed a change in her. The previous day, when he had massaged her back, she had engaged in very civil conversation and seemed to enjoy his company. It had carried over to that night, when she had invited him to watch a movie with her.
Now it was all explained.
Except for the parts about his own feelings. Why had he been so bothered when he stumbled onto the vampires killing her in the first place? He should have been thrilled. He should have taken off his shoes and danced all over her bloody body, but instead, he stopped them and made sure Buffy was safe. Why? What made him try so hard to help her and to see to it that she was fed and comfortable? He could tell himself that it was to save his own life, but he could have easily left town and avoided the trouble.
He would have to tell Joyce that he would stay on until she could find someone else and until then, he would have to see to it that he didn’t give Buffy any false hope. Since there would be no spellcasting to reverse it, he would have to make her feelings go away on his own.
He was evil.
He could do it.
Joyce was pleasantly surprised when Buffy asked to wear one of her old sun dresses. Her daughter had explained that it was easier to do what she needed to do in the restroom if she wasn’t wearing shorts or pants with snaps and zippers. Joyce helped her dress and stood back to watch as Buffy grabbed a big round brush from the vanity and began drying her hair straight. Smiling, Joyce left her to her business and turned to go down the stairs.
Spike met her at the top and said, “Can I speak with you privately?”
“Sure.” Joyce took him into her bedroom and closed the door. “Is everything okay?”
“I don’t think so.” Spike ran his hand through his hair and shifted uncomfortably in the stiff new shirt he had purchased the night before. “I’m officially giving you notice to find someone else to care for Buffy. I’ll stay until you do.”
Gasping, Joyce sat on the edge of her bed. “Well, I wasn’t expecting this now. I mean, the spell worked.”
“I realize that and I realize that this is probably going to put you in a bind, but I really think that it would be wise if I moved on.”
“Did something happen? Did you and Buffy argue again, because I can talk to her about it.” Joyce had begun to wring her hands nervously. The supplies for repairing her wall and new carpeting would definitely take a huge lump from her savings, which was already dangerously depleted.
“No, please don’t say anything to her about it. It’s my choice.”
With a sigh, she nodded. “I had a trip planned for later this week. A four day trip to Atlanta to purchase some pieces for a buyer in Santa Monica. I’m really relying on the money so if you could possibly wait until I get back, I’d appreciate that.”
“Anything you need, Joyce, and I do apologize.” Spike nodded at her and stepped out into the hall. He heard the hair dryer going in Buffy’s room and knocked on her door.
Buffy clicked the power button and glanced in the mirror. Her hair, despite the roots that had grown in, was full and shiny and she smiled at her reflection. Dabbing on a bit of lip gloss, she called out, “Come in!”
Spike stepped into her room and put his hands into his pockets. He watched as she backed her chair away from her vanity and rolled to face him. When she turned, he stared her up and down, wondering if she was even remotely aware of how beautiful she was. “Hey.”
Buffy smiled at him and pointed at his outfit, gray denims and a gray and white shirt. “I like the ensemble! I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in anything except red, black and blue.”
He wanted to comment on how pretty she looked, how pretty her skin looked against the pale straps of her dress, but he forced himself not to. “I’ve given your mother notice. She is going on a trip in a few days and after that, she will be finding someone to replace me.”
Blinking rapidly, trying to disguise the pain that wanted to cloud her features, Buffy nodded. She had expected things to be awkward. She had expected him to have questions or tell her that it couldn’t happen between them, but never did she expect this. Her Slayer reflexes kicked in, the reflexes she relied on to protect herself. She nodded again. “Good. I was going to suggest the same thing.”
Spike was caught off guard. “You want me to go?”
“The sooner the better.” She chose a spot on the wall to focus on so she could avoid the cool blue of his eyes. “As a matter of fact, you don’t have to wait.”
“I gave your mother my word that I would stay until she found someone and I am going to do just that. She’s got a trip coming up and she needs me to--”
“Whatever,” Buffy shrugged and shooed him away with her hand.
“So that’s it? You’re not going to ask me why I’m going?”
“After last night I don’t need to.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” He raised his voice in frustration, then silently damned her for making him react to her statements at all.
Buffy turned her chair and went to her vanity, absently brushing her hair. “You have all the answers, you figure it out.”
“You know what? I’m not going to do this.” Spike threw his hands in the air. “Do you want to come downstairs?”
“My mom’s home. Take a day off.” She continued brushing her hair until she heard the door click. She turned to make sure that he had gone and then grabbed a tissue from her desk, wiping off the lip gloss she had applied. Glancing at her hair, she mussed it and then twisted it into a tight knot, securing it with a pin.
Hot tears scalded her cheeks and she rolled toward the window and raised her blind. The sun filtered through the trees, bathing her in the mid-morning warmth. Looking down at her lap, she stared at her prone legs and let the blind fall. She was repulsive, and it was wrong to be surprised that Spike had rejected her. He may have been in love with a psychotic demon, but at least she could walk and didn’t have to slither on her belly like a snake.
Her stomach growled, reminding her that she had not eaten, but Buffy ignored it and rolled toward her night table. She took two pills from the bottle and made her way to the bathroom, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t see him again. She could hear him downstairs, laughing at something Xander had said, and the sound only served to upset her more. Tossing the pills into her mouth, she downed them with a swig of water and rolled back into her room.
Spike was leaving her and she couldn't run after him. She couldn't even roll after him.
Sleeping was the only thing she had left.
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