Ch. 3, 4, 5 of Together Again

This entry is part 2 of 3 of the story Together Again

Next three chapters of my fic for today. I hope to have the last two ready to post before the round ends…

CHAPTER THREE

True to his word, by the wee hours of the following morning, Spike was on his feet and greeting the slayers as they returned from that night’s patrol. He was still gaunt-looking, but no longer clutched his side and seemed to be steady on his feet.

Buffy and her scythe had accounted for two Turok-hans, but she’d been unable to get close to the hellmouth. The slayers she brought with her had spread out with their local counterparts and made short work of any normal vamps or demons they encountered. By previous agreement, they only concentrated on clearing a path to the hellmouth, rather than going throughout the city. She acknowledged Spike with a nod then addressed the slayers.

“Good work, girls. There might be enough of us now to begin taking back parts of the city. Everybody get something to eat and some rest. We’ll work out a strategy before we go out again tonight.” She turned to go to the kitchen and find something to eat herself when she saw that Spike was watching her.

“Hey. You’re looking better.”

He nodded, his expression less than welcoming. “Told you I would be.”

“Well, don’t rush it. Give yourself at least one more night before you jump back into the fray.”

He surprised her by letting out a low growl.

“What?”

“Nothing. Just… looks like General Buffy’s in charge again. I’ll just be in my room.” He turned and vanished down the hall.

Buffy frowned and asked Rachel, “What flew up his butt?”

She looked uncomfortable, then sighed. “I think… maybe….” Rachel shook her head. “Spike and Faith were pretty tight. They did all the planning and they did it together and just kind of asked us for input once they decided. And now that she’s gone… It’s been just him. We kind of depended on him to tell us what to do as soon as he regained consciousness and could focus. But he struggles with it sometimes. Maybe he thinks you’re taking over his job?”

Buffy frowned, pushing down the bolt of jealousy at hearing how close Spike and Faith had been in favor of evaluating his attitude since she arrived.

“He asked us to come,” she said, glaring toward his closed door and raising her voice. “And he’s hurt. If he wants to be part of the strategy session, he needs to say so. If he’s going to stay in his room and pout — I guess I’ll just leave him to brood….”

Spike’s door flew open and he snarled, “I heard that!”

Buffy couldn’t resist a small smile at his predictability. “You were meant to. Do we need to talk?” She looked around the now-empty lobby, nodding at Rachel when she mouthed a silent “I’ll be in the kitchen”, then back at Spike. “Do we?” she repeated.

He emerged from his room and limped to an overstuffed chair pushed up against a wall. He dropped into it and sighed.

“I reckon we do,” he admitted. He looked up at her from under his lashes. “I’m sorry. Actin’ like a spoiled brat, aren’t I?”

Without answering his obviously rhetorical question, she sat in the nearest empty chair. “So, what’s wrong? Is Rachel right? Do you think I’m trying to take away your job?”

He shook his head. “You’re welcome to my ‘job’, Slayer. Never wanted to be responsible for so many little girls. It was easy when Faith was here. She was the boss and they all knew it. Now they expect me to tell them what to do… and that makes them my responsibility. I don’t like sending them out to fight when I can’t be with them to keep them safe.”

“Okay. Well, in the first place, these girls are slayers. And yes, they probably aren’t as… independent… as Faith and I had to be. There’s no reason they should be. They’ve always been part of a group and had others to depend on….”

She grew thoughtful. “That might be something we’re doing wrong in training. They fight well in groups, and follow orders, but they don’t learn to think for themselves.”

“Told you years ago, Buffy, that part of what makes you so good is the creativity and unpredictability you bring to the fight. It’s what makes you special. I don’t think you can teach that.”

She blushed at his matter-of-fact compliment, but continued, “Maybe not, but if we give them more chances to be on their own, with no one to depend on but themselves….” She exhaled sharply. “Well, that’s a worry for another day. Right now, you need to stop worrying about being responsible for them, and just assume they can take care of themselves. It’s what they are. And in the second place… you’re more than welcome to take part in any strategy or planning. I never said you shouldn’t be there. You just got all huffy and walked away before I could hand you your engraved invitation.”

“Said I was sorry,” he growled, slumping back in the chair.

“You did. And look… I know I said we weren’t going to have a…. I don’t even know what kind of a conversation to call it—personal I guess?—until this was over. But, we need to be able to work together. It won’t be like whatever you and Faith had—” Buffy’s tightened lips didn’t go unnoticed and Spike grinned, then quickly lost it when she glared at him.

“Those pretty hazel eyes are looking a little green right now, luv,” he said, using a pet name for the first time. Buffy relaxed a fraction, even though she heard the difference between his generic “luv” and the “love” she’d been used to hearing from him. “Turned out Slayer number two and I worked well together. Two of a kind, in some ways…. not alike at all in others. But neither one of us was stupid enough to start something you might object to. She wasn’t suicidal – her words, not mine – and I’m just as much a one-woman man as I’ve ever been. It was a working relationship and that’s all it was. Mutual respect and all that, but nothing else.”

“If you’d stopped talking at ‘not starting something I might object to’, I might have believed you. Now it just sounds like you’re trying to convince yourself and me.”

“Just tryin’ to get that issue out of the way so we can work out our situation.” She couldn’t tell from his stoic expression if he was confirming her guess or not, but he didn’t meet her eyes.

“And what is our situation? You’re here. I’m here. We have other slayers, Turok-han butt to kick, and a hellmouth to close. Been there, done that. We know what to do.” She stared at him. “You don’t think I’m going to expect you to set fire to yourself to do it this time, do you?”

He snorted and shook his head. “Not worried about that this time. Don’t have the right equipment for it.”

“No gaudy jewelry?”

He shook his head, wincing as he did so. “Not the equipment I’m talking about. I need for you to know….” He hesitated. “Was hoping we could put this off until I’d made sure you knew you could trust me….”

“Why wouldn’t I trust you?”

“Because somewhere along the way – between popping in and out of that amulet a couple of times – the soul went walkabout. That precious little spark that’s so important to you is gone.”

Buffy flinched, then put her hand on his arm. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry, Spike. You worked hard for that soul.”

He shrugged, then picked up her hand and kissed her knuckles. “I’m okay without it. Made me a bit too wimpy, to tell the truth. My demon’s a lot happier now. But it matters to you. You know that, and I know that.” He put her hand back down on her own leg, giving it a little pat before shifting as far away as he could get without leaving his chair.

“And now you think I won’t trust you,” she said without expression. “As if all those years before it, when I trusted you, don’t matter anymore.”

“You trusted me because of the chip. It’s gone. No chip. No soul. There’s just me.”

Buffy raised an eyebrow at him. “Who’s been running around the country helping slayers and who’s been living here with them without helping yourself to the blood that would heal you overnight….”

“We’re not talking about other slayers just now. We’re talking about you.”

“Do they know?” Buffy tried to ignore the implication.

“Faith did. She didn’t much care. She’d seen too much of the big poof’’s on again/off again shenanigans to put much stock in a soul. The other girls don’t know. All they know about William the Bloody is what they’ve been taught in Slayer School.”

“We teach them about souls,” Buffy said, head back and eyes shut. “We use you and Angel as examples.”

“And that’s why they don’t know,” he said, rising to his feet. “We’ll be fine, Buffy. We know how to work together – soul or no soul. It won’t be important until the job is done. You need to go eat and get some sleep. I’ll see you tonight for planning.”

She brought her head forward and watched him as he walked to his room without looking back. When he’d disappeared behind his closed door, she dropped her head back again, her mind whirling. After several minutes of trying to cope with the idea of working beside soulless Spike, remembering his status as soulless and evil the first time they formed a truce to work together, as well as how he’d cared for Dawn while she was dead, Buffy shut down that line of thought and got up to take care of her body’s need for food and sleep.

XXXXX

The younger slayers trickled into the small meeting room designated for meetings, glancing at the end of the table where Buffy, Willow, and Rachel were sitting, with Spike leaning against the wall behind them. One of the original Cleveland girls frowned and glared at them.

“Is there a problem, Jessie?” Rachel asked, her expression making it clear she understood what the problem was.

“Spike’s our leader. Why isn’t he sitting down? Isn’t he part of this?”

Buffy nudged Rachel before she could respond, saying, “Let me.” She stared at the defiant girl, noting the warmth of her gaze every time her eyes went to Spike, and sighed. She glanced over her shoulder to glare at him, knowing he was smothering a smile when he ducked his head. She rolled her eyes, then turned her attention back to Jessie and the other girls, some now lined up behind her in solidarity.

“He isn’t sitting down because he didn’t want to,” Buffy said. “He is very much a part of this, and I’ll be depending on his knowledge and experience with this hellmouth the entire time I’m here. Was that all?”

Jessie looked somewhat abashed and shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah. I guess so. I just wanted to be sure you weren’t kicking him out or something.”

“I’m not. Any more questions?”

Her back-ups having quietly found seats around the room, Jessie mumbled her agreement and found a seat herself.

Beside Buffy, Rachel addressed the room. “Does anybody else want to express an opinion about the help we asked for and got?” Her glare made it obvious it wasn’t in anyone’s best interest to air any negative opinions. There was some muttering and squirming, but no one mentioned anything.

“Okay then. Let’s look at our options.”

 

CHAPTER FOUR

As the slayers gathered weapons and went over last minute instructions, Spike stood near the door. His lack of coat and weapon made it obvious he wasn’t going to be going with them, and his expression made it equally obvious he wasn’t happy about it.

Buffy slipped up behind him to hiss at him, “Be mad at me all you want, but don’t let these girls go out there thinking you don’t believe they can fight if you’re not there. They don’t need that from you.”

The local slayers kept sending less-than-subtle glances at Spike, their unhappiness about leaving him behind keeping them separate from the girls who’d arrived with Buffy. When it looked like there might be harsh words exchanged between the two groups, he sighed and forced a smile. Stepping to the door, he said, “Come on, troops. I’ll be waiting to hear how many of those ugly buggers you make dust tonight. If you’re really good, I might even throw a party for you when you get back. The girl who slays the most vamps gets to sit next to the sexy vampire that doesn’t want to eat you. Probably…” He wriggled his eyebrows at them, watching the older girls who got the double entendre blush. Grinning, he waved them out the door with a personal comment for each girl. Not until they’d all left the building – now protected by Willow’s boost to the simple no-entry spell they’d had in place before – did he lose the grin and turn away.

“Thank you,” Buffy said quietly. “Those girls obviously think you hung the moon. Your confidence in them is important.”

He growled under his breath. “I know that. Shouldn’t have needed you to kick my arse in gear. It won’t happen again, Slayer. I know my job.”

Buffy sighed. “It’s not a ‘job’, Spike. It’s just that they want to please you. Let them.” As the rest of the slayers filed out of the building, she put a hand on his arm. “I know you want to be there with us. But I also know if you’re not giving me a hard time about staying back, it’s because you know you shouldn’t be out there. If you don’t think you’re healed enough to fight, that’s all I need. You’re grounded until further notice.”

His answering snarl was only half-hearted and he didn’t throw her hand off, nor did he bother to argue with her. “Best get outside before they start without you,” he said. “I’ll be here when you’re done for the night.”

“’K. I’ll be back later.” She turned away, pretending she didn’t hear his “You’d bloody well better be.”

XXXXXX

He turned as he felt Willow come up behind him.

“Not being a good patient?” she said with a sympathetic smile.

“I’m tryin’,” he grumbled. “There’s just no pleasing some people.” He cocked his head at Willow and gave her one of his little-boy smiles. “Don’t suppose you could magic me all back together?”

She wagged her finger at him. “I could make you feel better, but that would get us both in trouble. You just rest and drink your blood like a good little vampire.” She smiled at him again. “We both remember how long it took for you to get back on your feet after one Turok-han had been beating on you. Even with Buffy sneaking you her blood—”

“I never asked her to do that!” he said quickly.

“I know you didn’t. She wanted you to get better fast. It creeped me out at the time, but I understand it better now. She’d been so afraid she wasn’t going to find you in time. And then you were so trashed…. All she was thinking was the man she loved had almost died and she needed to make him well.”

Spike flinched at her words, but nodded. “I s’pect she was also thinkin’ her next strongest fighter needed to get back in the game.” He didn’t comment on being the man Buffy loved.

“That too,” Willow admitted. “But I think she’d have done it anyway. I mean, we all knew she loved you… but—”

“Been nice if somebody shared that with me,” he grumbled, starting toward the kitchen.

“She couldn’t,” Willow said to his departing back. “I think she was afraid to let herself feel anything but her responsibilities for all those girls… and the world. But after you were… gone…. That wasn’t a good time for her, and that’s when we realized…. She was proud of you, but she was mourning too. And then you—”

“Don’t remind me,” he groaned as he turned to look at her. “I let the big poof talk me into thinking she was better off without me. And I still believed it when she tossed me into the sun. We never got time to settle anything before Twangle needed killin’ and she shoved me away. Which I’m choosing to believe was because she knew the bugs were going to grab me before I turned to toast….”

“Uh huh. And what’s your excuse this time? You do know everybody thought you were a myth, don’t you?”

“This time she really is better off without me,” he said flatly. “I’ll help her close this hole into hell, but that’s it.”

Willow stared at him. “Don’t do that, Spike. Don’t disappear again.”

He didn’t respond, just turned and continued in to get more blood from the freezer.

“Don’t do that to her, Spike,” Willow whispered as he walked away. “Please don’t do that to my friend…”

XXXXXX

When the girls began coming back in, several hours later, Spike was at the door to meet them. As was Willow, with a maid’s cart she’d appropriated for the medical supplies. As the girls entered, they were greeted and sent off to shower if they seemed fine, or to sit down and have their wounds treated if they had visible injuries.

Spike had a pleasant word for each of “his” slayers, commenting upon everything from demon goo in their hair to how deep a wound looked. He also had welcoming words for the girls who’d arrived with Buffy, none of whose names he knew yet. But he’d already begun giving them nicknames, and soon had them smiling at him. Without being asked, several of the uninjured girls dropped their weapons and began helping Willow with the first aid where it was needed.

Even as he nodded his approval, and chatted with ‘his’ girls about who won the coveted seat next to him, his eyes scanned the empty doorway for the two slayers he hadn’t seen yet. He gave an audible sigh when Buffy finally followed Rachel through the door, closing it behind her before dropping her scythe on a chair. Spike and Willow noticed almost simultaneously that Buffy’s left arm, which dangled at her side, was bleeding through a makeshift bandage.

Willow started toward Buffy, but halted when Spike spoke.

“Buffy?” was all he said as he waited for her. Their eyes met and exchanged silent communication before she nodded and waved Willow off.

“I’ve got this,” Spike said, taking the first aid supplies and bandages from Willow. He began to follow Buffy who was already walking toward his room. She opened the door with her good hand and walked in, standing in the middle of the floor uncertainly.

“Let’s do this, love. You need to stop bleeding, and I need to be well enough to get out there with you.”

She nodded and moved to the bathroom. “It’s bleeding too much to unwrap it on a rug.”

As he watched, she stepped into the tub and slipped what was left of her shirt off to the side. Spike reached in and tugged it over her head, ignoring the blood spattered sports bra. He carefully began unwinding the bandage that had obviously once been someone’s sweatshirt. He gave a hissed “Bloody hell” as blood began welling out of it almost immediately and dripping into the tub. He ripped the rest of the bandage off, lowered his head, and began swallowing blood as fast as he could. He held Buffy’s arm over her head with one hand, applying pressure on the brachial artery until he no longer felt her blood filling his mouth.

As soon as he felt the blood stop gushing, he began licking the wound, cleaning in and around it and at the same time, slowing down the bleeding even more. When he had it almost closed, he lowered her arm and reached behind him for a gauze pad. He pressed it against the wound, asking her, “Do you think you can hold this here? Just for a second or two.”

Buffy nodded, but her face was pinched and pale, and she knew she wasn’t going to remain erect much longer. Before she could warn him that she was feeling dizzy, he was spreading antibiotic ointment on the wound, and replacing the gauze with a new, clean pad. He’d just finished wrapping it when she began to sway. “Spike….” she breathed just before she collapsed, only falling a few inches before he had both arms around her.

“I’ve got you, Buffy. Hang on, I’ll get you to the bed.”

With no noticeable effort he picked her up and carried her to his bed, laying her down and frowning at her ashen face.

“I’ll be right back. You stay here.”

“No problem,” she whispered, her eyes already closing.

Moving faster than he had in days, Spike ran to the kitchen, grabbing bottles of water, two different kinds of juice, and at the last minute, a piece of fried chicken. He ran back to his room to find Willow standing in the doorway, her face crinkled in worry.

“This can’t be good,” she muttered, staring at Buffy’s seemingly lifeless body.

“She’ll be fine,” he snapped. “Heartrate’s good and steady, the bleeding’s stopped. She just needs some liquids and some protein. Something better than this chicken leg. Steak would be good.”

“You might want to wipe your mouth and chin before you let anybody else see her lying on your bed looking like she’s dying,” Willow said, taking the water from him and walking toward Buffy. He flinched and ran into the bathroom to wash Buffy’s blood off his face. Willow flicked a glance at him when he came back, then put her attention back on Buffy.

“You sit up and drink this or I’m going to have to stick a needle in your arm and get it in that way,” she threatened when Buffy made a face at the juice Willow was holding to her lips.

Without comment, Spike sat on the other side of the bed and slipped an arm behind Buffy, lifting her just far enough that she could drink without choking. She gave him a bleary glare, but opening her mouth and began to swallow. When she’d drunk half the bottle, she stopped and shook her head. Willow pulled the bottle back and Spike let Buffy lie back against the pillow he shoved behind her.

Willow and Spike exchanged small smiles as some faint color came back to Buffy’s face. Even with her eyes closed, she was looking less near death than she had only minutes before. Willow stood up and handed the bottle to Spike. “I guess you’ve got this. I’ll go check on the other girls and make sure everyone’s doing what they need to do.”

Spike nodded as he took the juice from her. “Ask Rachel to come in and report, would you? Need to know how this happened.”

“It happened because she’s a slayer and she puts herself in harm’s way, Spike. You, of all, people, shouldn’t need a reminder of that.”

“Don’t like reminders that involve this much blood loss,” he growled. Buffy’s light tug on his sleeve shifted his attention back to her and he immediately softened his tone. “You want more juice?”

“Yes, please,” she whispered, struggling to sit up by herself.

“Hold on,” he said, putting his arm behind her again and lifting her until he could put the bottle to her lips. He held her in place while she gulped down the rest of the bottle of juice and relaxed against him. Buffy gave herself a few seconds to enjoy the position she was in, then, taking a hint from his rigid posture, she sighed and said, “You can let me go now. I think I need to rest.”

She glanced down at her blood-soaked body and made a face. “I think I also need to get out of these disgusting clothes. They’re starting to solidify.”

He frowned, then got to his feet and went to a dresser, opening a drawer and pulling out a tee-shirt. He carried it back to the bed and stood there, confusion making him frown. “This would do a fair job of covering you, but…”

Ignoring his obvious embarrassment, Buffy said, “That’ll work until I can walk back to my own room. Just help me out of these gross jeans and this bra.” When he didn’t move, she looked up. “What? It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Or don’t you remember how to take my clothes off?”

“I remember,” he growled, but obediently dropped the shirt and reached for the button on her jeans. While Buffy shut her eyes, he unfastened her jeans, then went to the foot of the bed to take off her boots and socks. He tugged on the legs of her pants, but they didn’t move, being too stiff with dried blood. With a sigh, he went back to her side and began to pull them off her hips, trying very hard to both avoid touching her skin, and jostling her enough to hurt her arm. By the time they were off, Buffy seemed to be sleeping or unconscious, so he took them to the bathroom and threw them in the still blood-spattered tub. He came back with a warm wet washcloth and began to carefully sponge away the blood drying on her upper body and face. He carefully smoothed back her hair, whispering, “You can wash that out when you feel up to it, Slayer.” He stared at the bloody sports bra in indecision, then exhaled hard and reached under her, grateful to find it was the kind that fastened and not one that would have to be pulled over her head and bad arm.

He got it off, carried it to the bathroom, and threw it into the tub with the jeans and his own somewhat bloody shirt, before returning to stare at the almost-naked woman on the bed. Shaking his head at himself, he went back to the shirt drawer and got a clean tee-shirt for himself before trying to figure out how to get the other one on an injured and sleeping girl.

Buffy took the question out of his hands by opening her eyes and muttering, “Why am I naked? And cold?”

“Sorry, pet. Didn’t think about drying you off.” He grabbed a towel and brushed it over her everywhere he’d washed off. Then he took the tee-shirt and said, “Okay, I’m going to slip this over your bad arm, and then you’re going to have to sit up so we can get it over your head and the other arm. Are you with me?”

“Yeah, yeah. I need to drink some more anyway.”

She watched with interest as he very slowly and carefully worked the shirt over the bandaged arm until he got it to her shoulder.

“Okay, here we go, you tell me if I’m hurting you.” He pulled her into a sitting position and wrestled the neck opening over her head, smiling when she raised her other arm herself and stuck it through the armhole. He tugged the shirt down until she was covered from her shoulders to her thighs.

“Thank you,” she said. “I’m sorry you had to do that.”

“Didn’t mind,” he said gruffly. “Jus’ didn’t want to hurt you.”

“You didn’t.” Her voice was soft, but sounded stronger. “May I have some water?”

“Of course. You can have as much as you want. Here.” He held the water out, not sure if he should hold it for her or not, but she smiled and took it from him with her uninjured arm. She tipped it up and swallowed as much as she could at one time, catching the expression on his face as she lowered the bottle.

“What?”

“Nothing,” he said, grinning. “It’s just that I think you could give me a run for my money in a chugging contest.”

She snorted, but smiled. “We both know that’s not true.” She handed him the half-empty bottle, which he set beside the bed within easy reach. “I think I need to sleep again….” she said, sliding down against the pillow, her eyes already closing.

He frowned, but nodded when she murmured, “My body knows what it needs. And right now it needs to sleep and do some repair work.”

He watched as her breathing became deep and even, then saw gooseflesh on her arms. He pulled the covers from underneath her, shaking them out, and then gently dropping them on her sleeping form. He stood, staring at her head on his pillow, then shook himself and left the room.

 

CHAPTER FIVE

He found Willow in the kitchen, dispensing herbal medicines along with food and drink. She raised an eyebrow at Spike and moved to his side.

“Do you need me?”

“Don’t think so, but you might want to check in on her before you turn in for the day. She told me she needed to sleep, so I let her, but she’s only had the juice you gave her and about half a bottle of water.”

Willow shrugged. “Buffy’s been a slayer for a long time, and she’s been hurt bad before. She probably knows more about what she needs than we do. But I’ll look in on her,” she added when he started to frown. “Where will you be?”

“Dunno. Feel pretty good from that bit of slayer blood I had before I got it stopped. What I’d really like is to go out and dismember whatever did that to her. But I don’t guess my sun allergy is going to allow it, so I’ll just look over the supplies Buffy brought with her and then sit with her till she’s ready to go back to her own room.”

Willow nodded, giving him a sideways glance. “What makes you think she’s going to want to go back to her own room?”

“It’s where she belongs,” he said in a tone that said he wasn’t interested in more discussion. Willow ignored his tone, saying as she began to walk out, “Just so you know, I don’t think she’s going to see it that way.”

XXXXX

Willow peered in the door of Spike’s room, having already decided she wouldn’t wake Buffy if she was still sleeping. When she saw her sitting up and struggling to reach the other juice bottle, she dashed in and grabbed it. Shoving it into Buffy’s hand, she scolded, “You shouldn’t be moving around yet. Let one of us take care of you.”

“You’ve got other girls to worry about,” Buffy muttered as she sank back against the headboard with a sigh of relief. “It’s not like there’s a bell I can ring for service.” She upended the juice bottle and drained it, handing the empty back to Willow. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Do you want more?”

Buffy shook her head. “That’ll hold me for a while. I’m feeling a lot stronger. A little more rest and I’ll be ready to—”

“You’ll be ready to go back to your own room and rest there,” Spike’s growl preceded him into the room. “Don’t even think about finishing that sentence any other way.”

Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. “Who died and made you God?”

“You came closer to it than I ever want to see again. That makes me… maybe not God, but definitely the bloody boss!”

“You. Are. Not. The. Boss. Of. Me.”

He sighed, his shoulders slumping in defeat as he sank into a chair. “No one knows that better than me, Slayer,’ he said in a soft voice. “If I ask you nicely instead of yelling, will you please just do the smart thing?”

Willow looked back and forth between them, and said, “I’m just going to….” When they paid no attention to her, she walked out the door, saying to herself, “… to leave now.”

“And the smart thing is to get out of your room and your bed?” Buffy’s voice was carefully controlled as she schooled her face into a non-committal expression.

“It is. Best thing for both of us.”

“Were you always this stubborn?”

He snorted. “Hello, Pot. My name is Kettle.”

Buffy shook her head, wincing when it jiggled her sore arm. “No. No I’m not. I can take a hint.” She tossed the linens off and swung her bare legs to the side of the bed, getting to her feet before even Spike’s speed could stop her from rising. He did get there in time to catch her as she collapsed.

Swearing in several languages, he ignored her weak protests to place her back on the bed and pull the covers up over her feebly kicking legs.

“Goddammit, Slayer, stop all your wiggling around and stay put!”

“If you don’t want me here, I don’t want to be here. Let me go!”

“You can’t walk yet. You haven’t eaten anything and you’re too weak to get yourself there.”

“Then you can carry me to my own room!”

“Not lettin’ you out of here till I know you’re getting better,” he growled. “So just shut up and have some more water. And use it to wash down these iron pills.” He held out two little round pills in one hand, and the water bottle with the other.

Muttering to herself about miserable bastards who thought they could tell her what to do, she grabbed the pills and threw them into her mouth, then snatched the water bottle from him and gulped down as much of it as she could. She handed it back, then sat back with her arms across her chest – holding the injured on with the other hand.

“Does it hurt?” Spike asked, watching her face as she gingerly rubbed the bandage. “Do you want some pain meds?”

She sighed and closed her eyes as she tilted her head back. “I think I need some food. Raw meat would be good.”

He snorted. “Would you settle for a piece of chicken while I go back and see what I can find in the kitchen?”

She waved her free hand. “That’s fine. Give me the chicken and see if you can find me something else. Protein and carbs – sugar would be good.”

“Are you going to stay put?”

She opened one eye and glared at him. “I’m not going anywhere. If you don’t want to stay in the same room with me, you can go sleep in my room.”

“If I don’t—” He growled. “I plan to stay in the same room… but only as long as I have to, to make sure you’re gonna be alright.”

She didn’t answer him, just sat up straighter and took the chicken from him, gnawing on it without looking at him again. With another growl, he left the room, leaving the door open.

“Don’t you trust me?” she shouted.

“No!” he yelled back as he disappeared down the hall.

Buffy finished the few bites of meat on the chicken leg and threw the bone across the room and out the door. She whimpered when the action pulled on her still-healing wound, peering under the bandage to see blood oozing out again.

“Dammit,” she hissed, holding her hand over it and hoping it wouldn’t bleed through to where Spike could see it. She hadn’t counted on his ability to smell fresh blood, though.

“What the hell did you do?” he growled, pushing a cart with covered dishes on it with one hand, and holding the gnawed chicken bone in the other. He tossed the bone on the cart and went directly to the bed where he yanked her hand off the bandage, his nostril flaring. “What did you do?” he repeated.

“Turns out throwing something isn’t as much a one-armed activity as I thought it was,” she muttered. “It’ll stop in a minute.”

“It’ll stop right now,” he said, unwinding the bandage and holding her arm to his mouth. He passed his tongue quickly along the scar, pausing at the place where the skin had pulled apart. “Here it is. Just a little tear.” He licked it quickly, nodding when the bleeding stopped and it began to close again. “Now try not to do anything stupid until I get it bandaged again.” He gave her a glare as he set the arm down and turned to get another bandage.

“Can I be stupid then?” she asked, more meekly than he would have expected.

“No!”

“Spoil sport.”

He didn’t respond, coming back with more gauze and bandages. Still not speaking, he wrapped the wound again and stood up. He silently pulled the cart closer and took the covers off the dishes.

“What do you want first?”

Buffy looked over the selection and jerked her chin toward the middle plate. “The hamburger, please. And the chocolate milk.”

Spike waited until she’d wriggled her way back against the headboard, then set the plate on her lap. He opened the carton of chocolate milk, inserted a straw, and set that close enough for her to reach with her good arm. He recovered the other dishes, and sat down to watch her eat.

Buffy wolfed down the hamburger and drained the milk carton before attempting to speak again.

“That felt good,” she said, giving him a small smile. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, placing the empty plate and cardboard milk carton on the cart. “What else do you want?”

“I want to be better… now.”

“And I want to get a suntan. Guess we’re both out of luck, Slayer.”

“Seems like. Is everybody sleeping now?”

“Mostly. A few girls taking turns as guards, just in case.”

“Help me decide what to eat next, and then you can get some sleep too,” Buffy said, not looking at him.

He didn’t respond except to look through the food and find a roast beef sandwich. “Here you go. With mayonnaise, just the way you like it.”

“You remember that?”

“Apparently,” he said. “Don’t really know where that came from. Just knew it. Here, take this too.” He handed her another bottle of water, then pushed the cart a short distance away.

While Buffy tore through the sandwich, washing it down with gulps of water, he took off his boots and stared at the floor.

“Don’t even think about it,” she said quietly as she moved over closer to the far side of the bed. “It’s your bed.”

He nodded and went to close the door, standing with his back to her for a moment.

“Spike? We can do this.”

“Know we can, Buffy. Jus’ not sure if we should.”

“Contrary to what you might like to believe, I am perfectly capable of sleeping in the same bed without molesting your body. You’re not all that, you know.”

He snorted. “I suppose I’m not. And you’re too hurt to be molesting me anyway. Reckon it’s safe then,” he said, lying down on his side and putting the pillow over his head. “Night, pet.”

“It’s 10 am,” she responded as she slid down until her head was on her pillow. “Not night.”

“Always have to have the last word, don’t you,” he growled, pulling the pillow down around his ears.

“Yep.” With that less-than-brilliant comeback, Buffy shut her own eyes, made sure she wasn’t close enough to touch him, and fell into a healing sleep.

XXXXXXX

Buffy slept until late afternoon, getting up to use the bathroom and drink some more water. She stared at Spike’s inert body, then looked at her own tee-shirt clad body and sighed. Opting not to attempt to go to her own room for clothes wearing nothing but her underwear and Spike’s shirt, she carried the water bottle back to the bed and sat up to finish drinking. She carefully remained far enough away that wouldn’t accidentally touch him.

While she had the time, she gazed at him, unable to really see anything but a shape under the linens and the pillow still over his head. Cocking her own head, she gave serious thought to what he’d said about his soul, trying to decide how she felt about it. While she’d long since acknowledged that she’d been in love with him when he was soulless, she also still cringed at the thought that she could have been.

With a sigh, she shook her head at herself, knowing that between Angel’s complete personality changes between souled Angel and unsouled Angelus, and the lessons the Council was still instilling in new slayers about the importance of recognizing that vampires were soulless, and therefore never to be trusted, she was more than a victim of her own prejudices. Prejudices that were exactly that – pre judging of individuals based on whether or not they had a nebulous quality with which many thousands of horrible human villains through the centuries had been blessed.

She was lost in memories of evil humans she’d known and non-evil demons, as well as ambiguous ones like Dracula. She reminded herself that both Angel and Spike had their souls when the First was controlling them, and that Angel had his soul when he became Twilight and tried to end this world. Spike without his soul had been easier to trust than Angel, or Amy, or…. She blinked back to the present time to see Spike staring at her.

“Oh. You’re awake. Hi.”

“So are you,” he replied. “Feeling better?”

Buffy nodded. “Not quite ready for round two with a crowd of ubervamps, but, yeah. I’m feeling a lot stronger. I was just about to check to wound – want to do the honors?”

He sat up, rolling shoulders in lieu of a full stretch. “Sure. Let’s see it.” He carefully unwrapped the bandage, smiling when he took off the gauze and saw only a trace of old blood on it. He switched the light over the headboard on and scrutinized her arm, poking the new skin gently.

“Looks pretty good, pet. Slayer healing at its best.”

“Not to mention vampire blood clotting saliva – or whatever it is that goes on when you decide to heal something instead of ripping it open.”

He flinched at her description, but nodded. “It has its uses,” he said. “Especially if you have a … friend… who’s always getting herself cut up.”

“I probably don’t want to know what other uses it has,” she said, shuddering, then smothering the urge to ask if he’d healed any wounds for Faith.

“You don’t,” he said tersely. “And I didn’t.”

“Didn’t what?”

“What you didn’t ask me. If I’d tasted Faith.” He sighed. “I was planning to as soon as I got enough pressure on it to get the bleeding slowed down, but then one of those wankers tried to remove my scalp with something heavy and it was lights out.”

“How did you know what I was thinking?” She glared at him, narrowing her eyes even more when he laughed.

“You’re pretty easy to read sometimes. ‘specially when you’re wonderin’ about something, but don’t want me to know it.” His laugh tapered off to a bemused smile. “And other times I haven’t a bleedin’ clue what’s going on in that brain.”

“Hmmph!”

Buffy flexed her arm, wincing when the action pulled on the recently closed wound.

“Hey! Don’t be undoing all my hard work there!” he said as he got up. “I’m going to wrap that up again so you don’t accidentally pull it open or bump it on something tonight. Just stay put.”

“I can walk to the bathroom, Spike. I’m not crippled.” She suited actions to words and followed him, silently holding out her arm for him to put a protective bandage on. “You do good work,” she said as he tucked the ends in neatly. “Maybe you have a future career as an EMT or something.”

He just rolled his eyes at her and shook his head. “I can see that now – me trying to stop bleeding by drinking from some poor sod, and then ending up with pieces of wood sticking out all over my body.”

Buffy giggled. “I just meant the bandage-wrapping part, but yeah, you’d be like a secret miracle cure, as long as nobody saw you.”

“Speaking of people seeing things…” he said as they went back to the bedroom. “I’m going to go get myself some much less tasty blood and you some more liquids and food. Do you want me to ask Willow to bring you some clothes, or do you want to take your chances going down hall in my shirt?”

“That’s what I was thinking about while you were sleeping – that I probably shouldn’t leave your room in my underwear. One of your little hero-worshippers is liable to try to kick my ass.”

He snorted. “Doubt any of them are that stupid, love, but there’s no sense makin’ it look like something it isn’t.”

“Right.” Buffy’s expression faded from amusement to a blank mask. “Because it isn’t. A something.”

“Exactly.” He didn’t meet her gaze, just pulled on his boots and left the room, taking the cart with him. “I’ll be right back.”

In spite of his words, it was Willow who came in next, carrying another roast beef sandwich and two more bottles of water. She had a bag hanging on her arm which she dropped on the bed after Buffy had taken the food from her.

“So – as fashion-forward as you look in Spike’s old tee-shirt, I thought you might want your own clothes.”

“You thought I might, or Spike told you to get some clothes for me?”

Willow sighed. “I know you’re probably both too beat up for smoochies, but I kind hoped staying in the same room all day might—”

“Nope. He’s still acting like he wants nothing to do with me. Except when he’s yelling at me for not resting or eating or taking care of my arm.” Buffy looked into Willow’s sympathetic eyes. “He’s convinced I won’t want him without a soul. And I don’t know what to do about it.”

“So it is gone, huh? I thought that might be it. I’m not that great at reading auras, but I thought it might have gone missing. But it’s Spike. He didn’t have one for all the time we knew him except that last year in Sunnydale. Why is he so sure it matters to you?”

“Because he’s an idiot? I don’t know. But he does.” She raised her eyes again. “I’m afraid we’re going to finish this fight and he’s just going to disappear before I can—”

“Maybe he won’t. You’ve got some time. He might think he’s all supervamp now that he’s had some of your blood, but I don’t think he’s 100% yet, and you obviously need at least another night and day before you think about heading back out there. He’ll come around.”

“I hope you’re right, Will.” Buffy stood up and stretched, picking up the bag of clothes. “I’m going to take a shower before I put these on. Thanks for bring them.”

“No problem. Just come on out to the lobby when you’re ready – if you feel up to it.”

“I feel fine. Can’t really use the arm yet, but I’ll be able to by tomorrow. I think I might give the girls a lesson in using rocket launchers. If I can get a few more of them out of Graham, we might be able to take out a lot of those creepy things without anybody having to get close enough to get hurt. If nothing else, they could clear the way for an assault on the hellmouth.”

“’K, see you in a little while.”

Buffy stepped into the shower and noticed that her bloody jeans and the other bloodsoaked things were gone from the tub and the blood had all been washed away. “Guess Spike or Willow took care of that while I was sleeping,” she muttered as she let the warm water flow over her head and face.

As good as the hot water felt, she forced herself to wash her hair and scrub her body quickly, turning it off as soon as she’d rinsed. She wrapped one towel around her head and used the other to dry off. Along with the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash in the shower, she saw that the hotel had included lotion and even a moisturizer and toothpaste on the sink. She found a toothbrush in one of the drawers, as well as deodorant, a comb, and a hairdryer.

Feeling much more like herself once she was dressed and properly groomed, she opened the door and let the steamy air out into the room. She was somewhat disappointed not to find Spike waiting for her, but put her boots on and headed for the lobby where she found him surrounded by the local slayers while Willow and the girls who’d come with them were spread out around the room. As soon as Buffy walked in, Rachel broke away and came up to her.

“You look great! How do you feel?”

“I feel fine,” Buffy said, smiling at the genuine concern in the other slayer’s voice. “The arm’s not completely healed yet, but I’ll be ready to go by tomorrow night. And I have a plan for tonight.”

She huddled with Rachel and Willow, gesturing for Spike to join them. She ignored the glares from “his” slayers and waited for him to sit before she repeated what she’d told Willow about using the rocket launcher.

“Here’s what I’m thinking – we’ll go out tonight, but not very far, and try to draw a couple of them to us. I’ll need a couple of girls who are comfortable with guns—”

“Why not let the soldier boys make themselves useful?” Spike interjected. “The girls can keep them safe enough while the ones who actually know how to use those weapons do the firing. If they can clear the way, and we have the explosives ready, we can be in and out and back to safety without risking a lot of lives. Then all that’s left is the clean-up of whatever uglies didn’t get caught.”

Buffy stared at him, her mouth open. “That’s… that’s just…”

“Brilliant? Amazing? “Common sense?” Stop me when I get to the right word, Slayer.” He smirked at her as she flushed and nodded.

“Brilliant works,” she said. “Okay, so, tonight we rest. I’ll call Graham and tell him what we’d like to do. He can ask for volunteers tomorrow.”

TBC

 

For those who might be interested in the current wip, which is also about a reunion and new beginning of sorts, you can find it in my tags here (not sure that link is going to work – the fic is entitled “I Would Still Have Loved You” and can be found in my LJ tags and/or on various archives)

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/559943.html

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