Walking After Midnight
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“The final tests are back. They don’t know if she will ever walk again.” Joyce told everyone, then promptly fell into one of the lime green chairs of the hospital’s waiting room. She buried her face in her hands and sobbed; for her daughter, for the bruises that covered her and for the prognosis that would forever alter the course of her life. “And she still won’t eat. Until she does, she has to stay here.”
Giles would have moved to comfort her, but he was too busy trying to comprehend it all for himself. He walked away from the sobs and headed toward room four-eleven. Buffy’s room. The place where she was resting as comfortably as could be expected. It was never meant to happen this way. She was stronger than any other slayer he had read about and she was smart on her feet, not apt to make mistakes. Nevertheless, here she was, lying in a bed with an IV tube in her hand and an untouched meal on the tray in front of her. He sighed and lifted the lid on the tray. “Buffy, you need to eat.”
“I won’t walk again, will I?” She didn’t look away from the window. Outside, rain beat hard against the glass, making it impossible to see anything, but she stared at it. “I can tell by how the nurses look at me and whisper to one another. My hearing is still fine, you know? I hear what they say. It’s such a pity. She’s so young. She won’t have a life. They’re right.”
“You mustn’t think like that.” Giles told her, opening the carton of milk and sticking a straw into it. He held it out to her and slowly sat it back on the table when she made no move to take it. “You can’t go home until you start eating.”
“I don’t want to go home.” Buffy mumbled without inflection.
He lifted the plastic fork and knife and began sawing into the dried up piece of meat that the hospital liked to call pepper steak. “What would you like to do then? Stay here and be an invalid?”
“Why not? That’s what I am, isn’t it?”
“Certainly not. Think about your mother. She’s been worried sick about you and you can go home as soon as you show them that you’ll eat.”
She turned to face him and shook her head. “Home? There are stairs in my home, Giles. My room is at the top of those stairs. I’m not going to crawl around like some kind of slug to get there and I’m not going to let my mother try to carry me. I don’t want to go home.”
Giles slammed the fork down and shoved the table out of the way. Gripping her shoulders, he forced her to look at him. “You are not going to give up. Do you hear me? You are a Slayer and if they say you can’t walk again, then you show them that you will. You heal faster than anyone does, Buffy. A bone breaks and it’s fine within days. You get a cut and it closes within hours. This will not beat you.”
Buffy shoved him away angrily, ignoring the pain in her back. “You don’t know anything. You aren’t the one lying here telling your legs to move. You aren’t the one who was slammed over a headstone so hard that it ruined your back. This didn’t beat me, Giles. Those vampires that did this beat me.”
“You’re alive! They didn’t beat you.”
“I’m alive?” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Where am I alive at, Giles? My spirit is dead, my soul is dead, my hope is dead and my legs are dead. Who cares if I can still breathe?”
Buffy reached for the table, grabbed her tray and threw it across the room, barely missing his head. “I said get out.” She told him through clenched teeth as pain seared up her back. She only felt it from the waist up. From the waist down, there was nothing and she never wanted to feel pain more in her life.
Giles turned and walked out the door, bumping into a nurse who was rushing to see what the problem was. He heard the woman try to soothe Buffy, heard Buffy swear at her, and then he walked slowly down the hall. Nothing would be the same again.
<><>Two Months Later<><>
Buffy sat silently in her seat as Joyce drove her toward their house on Revello Drive. The smell of flowers was threatening to choke her and one of the balloons from the bouquet that Willow had brought her kept hitting her in the back of the head. It floated into the front seat and Buffy grabbed it, squeezing it with all of her strength. It popped and Joyce shrieked, yanking the steering wheel to the right and hitting a curb. Buffy dropped the ribbon that the balloon had been attached to and stared out at the road, not even flinching when Joyce barely missed hitting a speed limit sign.
Joyce clutched her chest as soon as she got the car under control. Her first instinct had been to shout at her daughter, but one look at her pale face and dark eyes had silenced her anger. Instead, she reached out and touched Buffy’s hand. The girl jerked away as if she had been burned and crossed her arms. Undaunted, Joyce patted her leg and spoke softly. “I wasn’t supposed to tell you this, but your friends are at the house. They want to throw you a surprise party.”
“And you let them?” Buffy snapped, glaring at her mother briefly. “Thanks, I ’m fucking thrilled to know that people will be there to gawk at me.”
“You won’t take that tone with me, Buffy, and you won’t use that word in my presence.”
The rest of the drive was traveled in an uncomfortable silence that wasn’t broken until Joyce turned into the driveway and Buffy groaned. There was a colorful banner hanging on the front porch and Xander and Giles were putting the finishing touches on a ramp that ran halfway down the sidewalk. As Buffy watched, the front door opened and Willow and Anya came rushing toward the passenger side. “Great. Just –fucking- great.”
Joyce was already out of the vehicle, pulling the wheelchair from the backseat, but she heard and cleared her throat. “I meant what I said.”
Buffy took her seatbelt off as Willow yanked the door open. “Hey, Buffy. It’ s so good to see you in street clothes. Those hospital gowns are so depressing.”
“And you look good.” Anya supplied, taking the blanket that Joyce held out.
Xander laid his hammer down and made his way to the vehicle. He exhaled tiredly, and brushed his hair back from his sweaty forehead. “We’re not finished yet. I don’t think it’s safe to push her up the ramp. I’ll just carry her in.”
“Okay.” Joyce closed the chair and lifted it, heading toward the stairs.
“Mom!” Buffy called angrily. “Hello? I think I should have some say. I don't want to be carried!”
Xander shook his head and reached into the car. “You’re outvoted and out optioned.”
Buffy closed her eyes as he hooked his arms under her legs and around her back. She couldn’t bear to look at him. She couldn’t bear to look at any of them and see the pain in their eyes and the pity that they tried to hide. Their Slayer was gone, replaced by the wisp of a girl who was being carried by her best friend; carried instead of walking tall beside him, where she should be. She opened her eyes in time to see Giles and immediately looked away. He had stopped hammering and was watching her intently.
And his disappointment in her was written on his face.
Once inside, Joyce ushered Xander into the living room, where she had put blankets on the sofa. Buffy looked back, over his shoulder, at the stairs and her throat constricted. She used to run up and down them, taking them two at a time. Now she would be lucky to ever see the top floor of her house again. Xander put her on the sofa and pulled a blanket around her legs, then he patted her head. Buffy pushed his hand away angrily. “What am I, your puppy?”
“Sorry, Buffy. It’s just good to see you home.” Xander glanced at her, then at Willow, who motioned him to go outside. “Well, I’m going to go finish that ramp.”
“I’m going to watch.” Anya said quickly. “I bet he’ll strip down to his wife beater before the day is done.”
Rolling her eyes, Willow sat down in a chair beside the couch. “Some things never change.”
“And some do.” Buffy said, trying to shift into a more comfortable position.
“Do you need some help?” Willow got to her feet and reached for Buffy, offering her a hand to pull up on.
“Did I ask you for help?”
Willow stood upright quickly and then moved back to her chair. “I’m sorry.”
“God, if one more person tells me that they’re sorry, I’m going to scream.”
“Buffy, it’s just that-.”
“That what? You’re sorry you can walk? You’re sorry I can’t? You’re sorry you weren’t there to help me? You’re sorry I’m a Slayer? Get over it, Willow. I don’t care.”
The redhead’s chin quivered and she got to her feet, hurrying into the kitchen to help Joyce. Giles had tried to prepare them, going so far as to rent a video about dealing with paralysis victims. Buffy’s attitude wasn’t rare. It was actually common and Willow couldn’t hold it against her. It didn’t make it hurt less though. As she stepped into the kitchen, she saw Joyce leaning against the refrigerator, sobbing softly. “Miss Summers?”
“Oh, Willow!” Joyce dabbed at her eyes with a paper towel and tossed it in the trash. “Does Buffy need something?”
“I think she’s doing better than you are.” Willow crossed the small distance and gave the woman’s hand a squeeze. “Have you told her yet?”
“No.” Joyce patted the younger girl’s back and then stepped away, busying herself at the coffee pot. “How do I tell my child that I can’t afford the kind of care that she needs? How do I tell her that insurance won’t pay for someone and I can’t quit my job or we’ll lose what little the insurance does cover?”
“Well, the offer still stands, Miss Summers. I can take a semester off from school and take care of her while you work and travel for the gallery.”
“No, Willow. Buffy’s a handful. You’ve seen how she is coping with this.”
“I love her. I think I can handle it.”
“It out of the question, honey. You’re only nineteen and you have studies and a life to live. I’ll think of something.”
“What about Giles?” Willow pulled one of the stools away from the island and clasped her hands. “I know he offered to help.”
“He has a new business to maintain. If it folded, he would lose everything.” Joyce poured herself a cup of coffee and pulled a soda from the refrigerator for Willow. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Xander would do it if he and Anya weren’t together. You know how jealous she is of Buffy and how Xander used to feel about her.”
“I know. I wouldn’t allow him to put his life on hold either. You’ve all been such good friends for Buffy.” Joyce blew her coffee and took a small sip. “I’ll call some agencies and see if I can find some cheaper nurses. Until then, I’ll just have to take the time off. Maybe Hank will pitch in.”
“Why would he? He didn’t even come to see her. This is so awful.” Willow took a small drink of her soda and burst out crying. She glanced nervously toward the living room and stood, walking out the back door until she could collect herself.
Joyce walked into the living room and glanced at Buffy. She was sleeping peacefully on her back, one arm thrown aimlessly off the sofa and the other over her head. Asleep, she looked young and vibrant. It was only when she was awake that you could see how dead and vacant her eyes were. Her legs weren’t the only things taken from her, her will to live was gone as well. Joyce pressed a kiss to her forehead and pulled the cover up over her.
There had to be an answer somewhere.
“Spike.” Giles bumped into the vampire when he walked into his house. “What are you doing in my house?”
“You didn’t uninvite me.” Spike said with a shrug, then flopped down on the sofa. “And there’s a movie on I’ve wanted to see for months.”
Giles glanced at his television and his eyes widened. “You ordered pay per view?”
“Is that what it’s called?”
“Did you pay for it?”
“No, you did.” Spike lifted a credit card off the table and held it over his head.
Giles snatched it and grabbed his wallet, shoving the card in one of the empty slots. “How did you find this? I only use this for emergencies.”
“This was an emergency.” Spike shrugged and lay back, stretching out like a content kitten. “Angelina Jolie gets bare assed naked in this movie. That’s an emergency.”
Giles shoved his wallet back into his pocket and stalked into the kitchen. He frowned when he yanked the refrigerator door open and several bags of blood fell out. “Spike, why is there blood all over the place?”
“It’s not all over the place, mate. It’s in your refrigerator. Put it back if that’s what I heard hit the floor. It doesn’t grow on trees you know.”
Giles hefted one of the bags and stomped back into the living room. He tossed it, smacking Spike on the side of the head. “You have a home now. Go there.”
Spike grabbed the blood bag and bit into it, ignoring the sounds of disgust that came from Giles. He drained it, fired off a belch and glanced up at the man. “I can’t.”
“These vampires I knew way back when have taken to stalking me. They go into my crypt and break things, rough me up and threaten me, then they rough me up some more.”
“Why don’t they just kill you?”
Spike’s eyes widened. “You’d like that wouldn’t you? They’re keeping me alive because they have this crazy notion that I would make a great gopher. They plan on beating me into being their minion and to hell with that!”
“And why don’t you fight back?” Giles perched on the arm of his recliner and scratched the side of his face. “You can defend yourself against demons.”
“I can’t, okay?” Spike motioned him away and looked at the television again. “Now leave me alone.”
“Why can’t you fight back, Spike?”
“Because if I do, then I’ll be on every demon’s hit list that comes to this town. These vampires are connected. They have their finger in everything.”
“So what are you going to do?”
Spike shrugged, then hollered at the television when the dark haired Angelina Jolie graced the screen. “I’m thinking I’ll stay here. At least until this mess blows over and they find someone new to pick on.”
“Oh, christ!” Giles went back into the kitchen and fumbled around for an icepack. His head was already aching from all the hammering he had done that day. Spike being there was just enough to add insult to injury.
“How’s the Slayer doing?”
“Why do you ask?”
“I’m just curious.” Spike replied, muting the television with the remote. “Word on the street is, she got it pretty bad.”
Giles came into the living room and dropped into his chair, placing the icepack over his eyes. “Word on the street is right. She’s in a wheelchair.”
“Broken legs?” The blond asked, studying the man intently.
“You could say that.” Giles lifted his head and glanced at the television when a woman shrieked loudly. “She’s in the chair indefinitely because some vampires injured her spine severely. They don’t know if she’ll walk again.”
“Bloody hell!” Spike shook his head and picked at his torn jeans. “She’s paralyzed?”
“Forever?” He glanced up at Giles.
“We don’t know.” Giles moved the icepack and glared at Spike. “Why? Do you want to laugh now?”
“The vampires who did it to her are the ones after me too. They were bragging about it to me. They didn’t know they had paralyzed her, but they knew she was hurt. If the Scooby Gang hadn’t shown up when they did, they were going to turn her.”
Giles swore softly and put the icepack back over his eyes. “She’s not handling it well.”
“I didn’t either when I was crippled.” Spike grinned when a woman on the television was brutally shot and killed. “I wanted to take it out on everyone. I wanted to cripple everyone and make them all feel what I felt. No one knows what it’s like to be confined to a wheelchair until it happens to them. You’re mad and you’re pathetic and you can’t help it.”
Giles listened carefully to every word the vampire was saying. Spike had been crippled for months. He had been exactly where Buffy was emotionally and was describing everything the Slayer must be feeling. An idea began to form in the back of his mind. The vampire needed a place to stay. Somewhere safe and private, where the other demons would not find him. Joyce needed someone to look after Buffy when she was working or had to go out of town for her gallery. Spike was harmless, unable to bite anyone and unable to hit anyone. It had potential.
It had the possibility of Buffy staking the annoying vampire. She could still use her hands, after all.
“Spike, I have a proposition for you.” Giles leaned forward and put his icepack on the coffee table.
“Look, I know that this movie is dead sexy and stuff, but I’m not that kind of man. Thanks anyway. I’m flattered.”
“Not that kind of proposition, you stupid blighter.” Giles reached toward the television and flipped it off. “Another one. I think we may be able to help one another out.”
“Absolutely not!” Buffy shouted, rolling her wheelchair around the couch and toward the kitchen. “I would rather die!”
Joyce glanced at Giles, then followed Buffy through the house. “It’s only for a few hours a day. Spike will stay in the basement and only come out to make sure you’re comfortable and have breakfast and lunch. I’ll take care of everything else, honey.”
“No!” Buffy bumped the island in the middle of the floor, bounced back, and found herself stuck between the stove and the sink. She swore loudly, yanked her wheels back and almost flipped, causing Giles to jump forward and grab her. “I don’t need your help!” She cried, grabbing a glass from the dish drainer. She rolled to the sink, locked her wheels and leaned forward, struggling to fill her glass.
Giles watched her for a few painful seconds and moved forward again. He was pushed aside by Spike, who had been listening from the doorway of the basement. The vampire unlocked Buffy’s wheels, rolled her away and snatched the glass, filling it with cool water. He held it out, waiting patiently for her to take it.
Buffy smiled gratefully at the blond, took the glass, then threw it at him, hitting him square in the chest with it. Spike caught the plastic glass before it could hit the floor. He filled it under the tap, smiled down at her and did the same to her, soaking her t-shirt. Astonished, Buffy could only stare down at her soaked body.
Spike filled the glass again and sat it on the countertop. “If you get thirsty enough, there it is. If you throw this out, you can just suck on your shirt to keep from dehydrating.” He turned to look at Joyce and nodded at her. “The basement is fine, Joyce. Thank you for the fresh linens and the refrigerator.” He turned his gaze back to Buffy. “I think this is going to work out just fine.”
Buffy watched him walk out of the room and down the stairs and shook her head. “You can’t leave me with him! He’ll kill me!”
“He can’t harm the living, Buffy.” Giles replied, trying to give her a hand towel to dry her face with.
Snatching the towel, she threw it on the floor. “You think that stops him from striking a match and setting the house on fire?”
“He needs a place to live as much as you need someone to look after you.” Joyce told her, picking up the towel and wiping at her daughter’s face.
“I don’t need anyone!” Buffy cried, wheeling backwards and successfully maneuvering around the island. “You saw what he did to me! He’s only here to make fun of me!”
“He’s staying.” Joyce replied, using the ‘mother-tone’ that she had not used since Buffy was injured. “And I won’t hear another word about it. Do you understand?”
“Fine.” Buffy spoke through clenched teeth. “But whatever he does to me is on your conscience, Mother!”
Giles could only shake his head as she rolled out of the room. A few minutes later, he heard the television come on and he moved to lay a hand on Joyce’s arm. “Perhaps you should explain the financial situation to her. Perhaps if she knew, she would be more cooperative.”
“She knows. I told her everything.” Joyce sat at the table and dabbed her eyes with a tissue. "If it’s possible, I think it made her hate me more. For failing to keep her safe, for failing to provide what she needs, for failing to keep her family together.”
“She doesn’t hate you.” Giles poured two cups of coffee and sat one in front of her before he pulled out a chair. “Buffy has always been self sufficient, Joyce. She has been stripped of who she was and what she was capable of. Imagine that. Imagine how hard it must be to go from being stronger than five men, to being as needy as a newborn.”
Spike poked his head out of the basement suddenly. “Whoa, newborn? Is she wearing those adult diapers? I don’t change diapers.”
“No.” Joyce motioned for Spike to join them. As soon as the vampire was seated, she spoke again. “Buffy isn’t completely helpless or reliant on others. She can still use the restroom, but you’ll have to wait outside in case she falls. I had rails installed and she’s got great upper body strength, so she can get around in there and take care of her business.”
“Oh. Good, cause I’d hate to have to quit on the first day.”
“You should get fired after what you did!” Giles snapped, then lowered his voice. “I better not hear that you are being mean to her.”
The vampire pointed at the front of his soaked shirt. “Hey, if she can still dish it, she can still take it. I don’t plan on letting her run over me. If I don’t make that clear right off the bat, she’ll won’t let me help her.” Spike glanced at Giles and then toward the living room. “Great upper body strength, huh? Have you made sure that it’s a stake free zone around here?”
Joyce lifted Buffy from the tub and sat her on the towel that was spread over the toilet. Buffy quickly pulled the edges over her lap and grabbed another towel from the sink, wrapping it over her hair. “I can do it myself.”
“I want to help you, Buffy.” Joyce said softly and lifted a third towel, rubbing down her daughter’s feet and legs. That was the first time that Buffy had spoken to her since the Spike fiasco in the kitchen and the silence was beginning to ache. Her hands were tied as far as work and taking care of Buffy was concerned and she had no other options. And it had pushed her even further away.
Cringing, Buffy swallowed her pride and allowed her mother to dry her off. She blushed slightly when her mother kneeled before her and lifted her feet, putting them into her panties. Joyce urged her to put her arms around her and pulled her upward, sliding her panties into place. Buffy felt tears of humiliation burning behind her eyelids as Joyce lifted her nightgown, slipped it over her head and then picked her up and moved to put her in her wheelchair.
Holding Buffy firmly around the waist, Joyce paused before she sat her in the seat, enjoying the only physical contact Buffy allowed her to have since she had been injured. This was as close to a hug as she was allowed. “When you were little, I had to beg you to take a bath. Your grandma let you watch Jaws and you were convinced that a shark was in the tub.”
Buffy had her arms around her mom’s neck and she relaxed a little. “I remember. You used to promise to make me popcorn if I would let you wash my hair.”
“If I offered to make you popcorn, would you quit giving me the silent treatment?”
“If you tell me that you’re going to get rid of Spike, I’ll-“
“I can’t do that, Buffy.” Placing her in her chair, Joyce stood and ran her hands through her hair. “Do you understand that I have to work to provide for us and keep our insurance? As it stands, the parts that the insurance didn’t pay are through the roof. There is no one else and Spike can’t hurt you.”
“Can’t hurt me?” Buffy narrowed her eyes. “He can damn well drive me crazy though! I hate him!”
“My hands are tied. I’m out of options.”
“Well, one day when you come home to find me hog tied with a million railroad spikes through me, you’ll realize how many other options there were.” Buffy wheeled herself out of the bathroom and down the short hallway into the living room.
Spike was folding up the blankets that constituted her bed on the sofa and he turned to look at her. “Your mom said for me to carry you upstairs. I’ll bring you back down when she leaves tomorrow.”
“I don’t want to go upstairs.” Buffy replied, grabbing the blankets he had folded and tossing them to the floor. “I want to sleep here.”
“Pick those back up.” Spike told her, sitting on the arm of the sofa and crossing his arms.
She lifted her chin defiantly and stared at him. His cheekbones caught her attention as he ground his teeth back and forth and she was struck, not for the first time, by how good looking he was. His black t-shirt clung to his chest and she rolled her eyes, willing herself not to go there. Ever since Willow had done the marriage spell, she had found herself ‘going there’ more and more. Especially since she had been injured and had nothing but time on her hands. “You pick them up.”
“I didn’t throw them in the floor. And don’t you roll your eyes at me, Slayer!”
“Put them back on the couch, Spike. I’m sleeping here.”
Spike got to his feet when he noticed Joyce in the doorway. She was listening intently to them and he shook his head slightly, telling her not to intervene. “I’ll tell you what, Slayer. I’m going to go into the kitchen and see about my dinner. If you want to sleep here, you remake the bed. If you don’t, I’ll carry you upstairs.”
“My bed was already made here, asshole. Remake it!” Buffy cried, grabbing a knickknack off the table. She drew it back to toss at him, but he caught her wrist and twisted, forcing her to drop it. “You bastard!”
“Let’s get something clear right now. You don’t give me orders. You don’t throw things at me and you don’t treat me like you do the other people around you because I’m not going to take it like they do. I’m going to give as good as I get, Buffy.”
“My mom won’t allow you to mistreat me.”
“Your mom won’t allow you to mistreat Spike either.” Joyce replied, coming into the room all the way. “This has to work out, Buffy. It has to.”
Spike took Joyce’s elbow and led her toward the kitchen. “Don’t worry, Joyce. It’s going to work out. I’ve been putting up with her venom for a while now. I’m immune.”
“We’ll see about that!” Buffy shouted. She rolled toward the sheets on the coffee table and pushed the table out of the way. Rolling back and forth in front of the sofa, she smoothed the sheets in place and then retrieved the blankets. Once her makeshift bed was back in order, she pulled herself out of the chair and struggled to get her legs up onto the couch. After several attempts, she finally won the war and flopped back, totally out of breath.
Spike watched from the doorway and applauded noisily. He walked into the room and leaned over the back of the couch, smiling down at her. “Now, was it worth it? You went to all that trouble to keep me from taking you up the stairs for nothing. You didn’t hurt me at all and all you succeeded in proving is that you can do more for yourself than I thought.”
“Piss off.” Buffy growled, rolling away from him. She almost rolled off the sofa and he caught her, pulling her back in place with one arm. “Get off me.”
“Joyce wants to know if you want a snack.”
“I want you to go to hell.”
“Sorry, ducks. Free cable television, warm shelter, a nice lady who can actually carry on a conversation and you to keep me entertained. I think I’ ll stay here. Hell can wait.”
Buffy glared at him for a few long seconds, then turned toward the television. The remote control was lying on the coffee table, quite a few feet away. “Get me the remote, Spike.”
“What was that?” He had leaned over the couch again and was watching her closely. “Did you want to –ask- me to do something for you?”
“I said get me the remote.” Buffy sighed and waved toward it. “It’s all the way over there.”
“And over there is where it will stay unless you rephrase.” He smiled sweetly when she glared up at him. “You decide.”
“Spike, Roswell is going to be on in three minutes!”
Buffy swallowed her pride and glanced back at the remote. “Will you please get the remote control and give it to me?”
Spike nodded and made his way around the sofa. He grabbed the remote and handed it to her. “God forbid you should miss Max and Liz acting out the Buffy and Angel torment hour.”
“Hey!” Buffy growled, turning on the television. “We did not brood and mope all over the place. And we didn’t fight it and whine so much.”
“Yeah, you keep believing that.” Spike raised his eyebrows and flopped into the recliner near the couch, throwing an arm over his eyes dramatically. In a high pitched voice, he wailed, “Oh, Angel, you are so dashing in your leather and the envy of every other hormonal teen girl in the Bronze and you ’re mine, mine, mine.” Then he sat up and exhaled, looking pained. “Oh, Buffy, my heart, my soul, my loins ache for you, but no, we have to fight it. We can’t give in.” He leaned back again and whimpered, “But, but, Angel, my forbidden fruit, my demon boytoy, who will I shag now?” Sitting up, he looked pained again. “Please, Buffy, don’t mention that to me. Don’t remind me of what I can’t do. Remain celibate, Buffy. If nothing else, let our one night teach you that sex is evil and bad. And it messes up your hair.” Spike stood and bowed, “Ta-da.”
Buffy watched him for a second, too stunned to say a word. When he fell back into the chair and stared at the television, she cleared her throat. “What the hell are you doing?”
“The cable isn’t working in the basement yet.” He shrugged.
“Oh, wonderful. I have to put up with you at night now too?”
“Sod off, it’s starting.” Spike waved his hand at her, silencing her, and leaned his head back.
Buffy frowned, but focused on the television instead of him. Instead of his blond hair, his smooth skin and piercing blue eyes. No matter how many comments he made or how many opinions he had about where the show was heading, she did not reply. By the time the show ended, she had no clue what had happened, but she did know that Spike was going to be an interesting installment in the house. Maybe it was the medication, maybe it was the fact that he was so annoying or maybe it was the fact that he stood up to her without a moment’s hesitation.
Whatever it was had her attention.
And she hated it.
Cool air blasted her in the face and Buffy propped herself on one elbow, glancing over the arm of the sofa in time to see her mother close the front door behind her. She blinked several times, wiping the sleep from her eyes, and looked at the clock. It was after eight. Five months ago, she would have been walking to her first class of the day at UC-Sunnydale. Willow would be beside her, probably quizzing her on the content for a test and Buffy would have been half listening and half contemplating her hair and wardrobe.
Five months ago, she would have gotten up on her own, walked to the bathroom and taken care of her business. Now she had to roll there. Reaching for her chair, she pulled it as close as she could, locked the wheels and crawled up into it. Her legs made a disgusting dragging sound and Buffy squeezed her eyes closed, unable to look back at them dangling behind her. After several attempts, and almost tipping her chair over, she made it in and rolled down the hallway.
Her mother had safety rails installed in the bathroom and with her extra strength, Buffy had no trouble hefting herself out of the chair. She used the restroom quickly, then moved back to her chair. As she fumbled for her toothbrush and cup of water, she stared at her reflection. Her hair needed to be bleached again. There were dark roots at least two inches long and she could use a trim. Her features were sunken and her eyes appeared to bulge, contrasted against the pale skin and dark bags that had become commonplace on her face.
She brushed her teeth and studied her reflection again. Her shirt was pulled to one side, twisted from her attempts to get into her chair and her collarbone protruded grotesquely, threatening to break through her thin layer of skin. Glancing downward, she lifted the front of her shirt and stared at her stomach. It shocked her to see her ribs so visible and her stomach curving inward. It had been five months since she had seen herself nude or really looked at herself in a mirror.
With a flick of her wrist, she tossed water on the mirror, momentarily blurring her image and giving her a chance to escape without seeing it again. She rolled back down the hallway and into the kitchen. Her mother had moved most of the snack food to the lower cabinets and Buffy opened and closed several, looking for pop tarts. She found an empty box and tossed it across the room and into the trash, when Spike cleared his throat behind her.
“You’re supposed to wake me up.” He said, walking into the kitchen. His hair was sticking out everywhere, he had no shoes on and he pulled a light blue T-shirt over his naked chest as she watched. It matched his boxer shorts, which depicted beach scenes.
“Nice ensemble.” Buffy said, not bothering to stifle her giggle.
Spike ignored her and pushed her out of the way. “What do you want. Eggs? Toast? I can probably even make an omelet.”
“Pop tarts are fine.” Buffy replied, wheeling around to watch him sort through the cabinets. She studied his back, drinking in the cool muscular lines that she had never been able to see under his coat. Her gaze lowered, roaming the curve of his backside and then the toned muscles of his legs. When they had made out, under the marriage spell that neither spoke of, she had been shocked to feel how hard his body was. Now, she was seeing it for the first time and it was causing her to replay that night in her head. He was a really good kisser. Really good.
“Slayer?” Spike asked for the third time. “What the hell are you looking at?”
“Oh, uh, your boxers. I was wondering why a vampire would wear underwear with beachballs, sandcastles and a big yellow sun.” She spoke rapidly, blushing a little. She couldn’t possibly tell him that she was admiring his body. “Oh, that’s right, you aren’t a vampire anymore.”
“I stole them from Giles and yes I am a vampire. It’s probably a good thing you’re no longer a slayer, right? I might be in trouble if you were.” Spike shrugged when she didn’t reply and grabbed a box of oatmeal from the pantry. “You like this, yes?”
“No, not really.”
“Today you do. This can’t be that hard.”
Buffy sighed and rolled away, making her way to the living room again. She busied herself with flipping through the TV Guide and listening to the sounds coming from the kitchen. Pots and pans banged, his bare feet slapped back and forth on the linoleum and it was accentuated by a swear word every few minutes, usually followed by ‘Slayer’ or her name. She grinned, wondering how this had become her life and how she could find it funny that a vampire was cursing her name.
The smell of something burning assaulted her senses and she frowned. The smoke detector went off suddenly and she jumped, tossing the TV Guide onto the sofa. She rolled herself into the kitchen quickly and stared at the smoke boiling from the pan on the stove. Trying not to giggle, Buffy watched Spike fan the smoke out of the way and climb into a chair to yank the battery out of the smoke detector. She lost the battle and snorted when his boxer shorts fell low, exposing half of his ass.
“Laugh not, Slayer.” Spike ignored his boxers as he stepped off the chair and lifted the pot off the burner of the stove. He lifted the lid, slammed it back on quickly and shuddered. “You’re the one eating it, not me.”
Still chuckling, Buffy shook her head. “Even a Slayer can’t digest rocks. What did you do to it?”
“I cooked it.” Spike picked up the box of oatmeal and shook it. “This is instant, right?”
“Did you add enough water?” Buffy lifted the lid herself and craned her neck to peek over the rim. As soon as she did, she slammed it back on tightly. “Why is it black?”
“I was supposed to use water?” He grinned sheepishly. “I thought since you like chocolate milk so much, you’d like the flavor.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose and shook her head in disbelief. “You boiled oatmeal in chocolate MILK?” And how did he know she loved chocolate milk?
“What do I know? My food usually comes in O positive! Or it used to, back in the day.” Spike glanced at Buffy pointedly. “It burned anyway, so now what?”
“I’m not hungry.” Buffy replied, clutching her wheels and propelling herself forward. Despite how cute he was in his morning wear, he was still an asshole.
“Not so fast.” He caught her chair and blocked her, not letting her through the door. “I have a job to do here. I intend to do it well. Now, you’re supposed to eat twice a day and stay out of trouble until your mom gets home. You’re going to do just that.”
“You can’t make me do a damn thing.” Buffy tried to roll past him, but he gripped the chair tighter and locked the wheels. She struggled, trying to push him away, but he pinned her wrists to the arms of the chair. “Let me go!” With all of her might, she tried to will her legs to kick him, to lash out in any way possible, but they didn’t comply.
Spike waited until she stopped struggling and shook his head. “See there? If you would eat a decent meal every now and then, you might have a little strength. As it is, you couldn’t fight off a newborn baby.”
“I hate you.” She growled through clenched teeth.
He winked at her. “And you can’t do a thing about it.”
Using every ounce of her strength, she wrenched an arm free and let her fist fly. He caught it right before it connected with his jaw and held it firm. She shrieked again, yanking on her arm and said, “You just wait until I tell my mother about this.”
“About what? Me trying to feed your bony ass? Or about how you wouldn’t cooperate with a damn thing?”
Buffy pulled her arm loose and shoved him away, barely causing him to move an inch. “I hate you!” She screamed again, her voice breaking this time. “I hate you so much it kills me.”
Spike stood and stared down at her. “No. What’s killing you is the fact that you can’t walk. Now, roll on out of here and let me clean up this mess.”
“I hope the blind falls off the window and you fry.” She rolled away fast so he wouldn’t see the hot tears that were blinding her.
Spike waited until she was out of earshot and glanced at the dirty pans on the stove. “Fry? Hmm. Maybe that’s easier than boiling.”
Buffy’s stomach growled loudly and she clenched her jaw, hoping that Spike had not heard it. It was almost four in the afternoon and she had not eaten or had anything to drink for the entire day. A glass of cola sat on the coffee table; condensation making a million beads of water roll off the sides. She eyed it for several seconds, then looked at the sandwich that was beside it on a plate. He had given her eggs and toast that morning after the oatmeal fiasco and had taken it away, untouched, at noon. He replaced it with a ham and cheese sandwich at one-thirty, then flopped into the recliner beside the sofa and stayed there, staring at her intently.
“Why don’t you watch television instead of me?” Buffy asked finally, tired of having to concentrate on the carpet or the walls to keep from looking at him. The remote control was on the table beside his chair and she wasn’t itching to get close enough to him to retrieve it.
“Because, watching you wallow in self pity and starve is far more interesting to me than what’s on the telly at this time of day.” He leaned forward and pushed the plate of food toward her. “And you’re more fun to listen to, with the stomach noises and all, but I’m pretty tired of hearing it now, so why don’t you eat?”
Her stomach rumbled again and she looked away, glancing at the clock on the wall. Her mother wouldn’t be home for at least another hour. “I would rather faint from dehydration than touch anything you make for me.”
“Is that right?” Spike leaned back in the chair and shrugged. “Fine. Could you hurry and faint though? You might fall out of your chair and I could use a good belly laugh at your expense.”
Buffy bit her lip and backed her chair up, rolling it around the sofa and out the door. She rolled into the bathroom, pulled herself up on one of the rails and moved to sit on the toilet. As she turned, she saw him leaning against the hallway wall, watching her closely, and she shoved her chair back through the door and slammed it. For several seconds, she didn’t move, and then she pulled herself up beside the sink and turned the water on. It was hard to support her weight with one arm, but she was finally able to wrap one arm behind the faucet and bring handfuls of water to her mouth.
Spike pushed her chair, which had toppled onto its side, toward the door and knocked lightly. “Your chair is right here when you’re finished, okay?”
“Go away.” Buffy called, letting herself drop down to the floor and scooting back to lean against the tub. “I’m not coming out until my mother gets home.”
“That could be a while. She said she had a lot to do today.” Spike replied and moved around to sit in her chair, ready to wait her out. The minute he sat down, he was taken back to a place that he didn’t want to go to. The minute he felt the soft seat mold around him, felt the leg supports behind his calves and laid his hands on the wheels, he was repulsed. He stood quickly and ran his hand over his face. “Come on out now, Slayer. Your mom told me not to let you sit in your chair all day."
“I’m not in my chair, freak.”
“If I have to take the hinges off of the door, I will.” Spike ran a hand over the hinges and nodded. “It wouldn’t be hard. It would only take me a couple of minutes.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” Buffy snapped. “I am a woman and I need privacy and if you just broke in here-,” She heard him click something that sounded like a pocket knife, then heard loud squeaking as he began to work the bottom hinge loose. “Spike!”
“Just a minute, Slayer, and you can talk to my face.”
“Just turn the fucking door knob.” She shouted, throwing her hands in the air. She waited until he swung the door open and then she shook her head. “You’re not the sharpest tool in the shed, are you?”
“Your mouth is getting too big for your muzzle.” Spike told her, and leaned to pick her up. “Why are you on the floor?”
“If ignorance is bliss, you must be orgasmic.” Buffy shook her head and pushed his hand away. “Where else should I be? Standing in the shower? Standing at the sink? I’m pretty limited in options, just in case you failed to notice.”
“I didn’t fail to notice. I’ve actually been there, in case you failed to remember.”
Confusion wrinkled her forehead and then Buffy gasped. “I put you in a wheelchair.”
“I was there.”
“That’s why you took this job! Poetic justice for you to get to see me in the same boat!”
“No, I took this job because I needed a safe place to stay and I’m willing to put up with your ass to save mine.”
“It’s that bad, huh?” Buffy made eye contact and held it. “What? Are you hiding out from demons? Some big bad monster want you for his plaything? You owe money to someone? Or wait, maybe the demon world finally realizes what a liability you are and they want to nuke you. Am I getting warm?”
“It’s vampires.” Spike told her, rubbing his palms up and down his thighs. “And I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You’re running from vampires? That’s kind of pathetic.” Buffy smiled cruelly at him. “You’d think you could take on your own kind. Wimp.”
Spike cupped her jaw and leaned down, a few inches from her face. “You’d think you could take on my kind. You are the Slayer after all.” He watched her face cloud and continued. “Those vampires who did this to you are the same ones after me. If you couldn’t take them in your peak, then what in the hell makes you think I can take them with the way I am?”
“Why don’t you just leave town?” Buffy shoved his hand off her face and pulled herself to one side, trying to get away from him.
“And do what, Slayer? I can’t just take food when I need it anymore. I can’t bite anything. I have to buy my dinner and to do that, I need money. And I’m not leaving this town until those idiotic soldier boys fix my head.” Spike gripped her under the arms and pulled her upright, holding her in front of his face as he stood. “The chance of me surviving out there the way I am is zero. I can still fight a demon, hell so can you, but I’m not like them anymore and they want to make me pay for that.”
Buffy said nothing. He stared at her for a few more seconds, then stalked with her to her chair and put her down. She watched him lean against the doorjamb and for the first time in months, she felt sorry for someone other than herself. He was just as crippled as she was. The chip in his head, or wherever it was, had left him just as broken as the vampires had left her. Sure, he could walk, but the thing that set him apart, the thing that made him a vampire, had been stripped away. Just like the thing that made her a Slayer had been stripped away. For the first time in her life, she relied on others for everything. She was dependent on –him- during the day and he was dependent on the safety of her home.
She cleared her throat and started to roll away, then paused and glanced back at him. “People shouldn’t have to be in a wheelchair.”
“Is that your way of apologizing for putting me in one?”
“No.” Buffy shook her head and clutched her wheels tighter, hating him for making her feel anything at all. “I said people. You aren’t a person. You’re a thing and you’re a broken thing.”
“You should talk.” Spike brushed past her. “I’ll be in the basement if you should decide you need something.”
Buffy watched him go, hating him for walking, hating him for standing up to her and hating him for saying what no one else would say to her. And hating herself for respecting that he could do that.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Tara asked, watching as Willow began to light candles. “I mean, the human spirit isn’t really something you want to mess with, you know?”
“Buffy has no spirit. You said yourself that she’s hollow inside.” Willow lit the final candle and blew out the match. Motioning Tara to sit down across from her, she took a deep breath. “It has to work.”
“We’ve been doing it for three days and it hasn’t worked yet.”
“We didn’t have all the ingredients, that’s all.”
Tara sighed and took the hand that Willow held out. “I just think that it’s wiser to let her heart and soul come to terms with her body’s limitations on its own. You can’t manufacture closure and magick can’t resolve feelings, Willow. Not really.”
“Tara, we’re just opening her up to her unresolved feelings and letting her admit it to herself. That’s it. She’s in denial about her disability and she ’s not willing to accept that she needs help. We’re just going to open her mind to all the possibilities. It’s going to be okay.” Pulling several petals from a wilting rose, Willow dropped them into a bowl and used the thorny stem to stir the concoction she had mixed. “Are you ready?”
Nodding, Tara dropped a strand of Buffy’s hair into the potion. “Wilting rose and candlelight, open up her mind tonight, make her recognize her fear and let her strength begin right here.”
Willow used a dropper to add vanilla into the mixture and spoke softly. “I offer the sweetness of vanilla and rose, to call upon the one who knows, shine a light into the dark and let the truth speak to her heart.”
“Willow!” Tara cried, leaping to her feet. She grabbed a book off the bed and flipped the pages. “You aren’t supposed to speak to her heart! You were supposed to shine the light into the dark and let it show her where to start.”
“Oh no.” The redhead took the book and stared at the spell. “What do you think will happen?”
“Nothing.” Tara said quickly, closing the book. “You did it wrong so nothing should happen, but-.”
“Well, we asked for her to recognize her fear. Those are matters of the mind. When you get her heart involved, it can confuse it. Confuse the magick.”
“Confuse it how?”
“Well, if she wants to care about someone again, and stop pushing them away, and is scared of that, it will be less scary now. We’ve given her strength to admit her pain and the feelings in her heart. At least to herself.”
“The rose isn’t wilted anymore.” Willow held it up what had been the dying flower, turning the stem in her fingers to show the deep crimson petals on the full bloom.
“Oh, boy.” Tara took the rose and sniffed. “It smells like vanilla.”
“Buffy’s favorite scent.” Willow bit her bottom lip and glanced at the photo of Buffy on her nightstand. “Next time I want to do magick, please turn me into a toad.”
“You got it.”
Joyce half expected to find a pile of cinder, smoke and ash when she pulled into her driveway. She breathed a sigh of relief to see that her house was still standing and stepped from the car carrying two bags. One was full of Chinese take-out, Buffy’s favorite, and the other was full of plasma for Spike. Giles had taken it upon himself to secure Spike’s blood, ordering it from out of town. He had explained how important it was not to leave any sort of trail to Spike back to her door. If the vampires who were looking for him found out that she was having blood delivered from one of the butchers in town, they could piece it together. This way, no one would find out at all.
She balanced her bags and opened the front door, nervously glancing around the foyer as she stepped inside. After Buffy had mentioned railroad spikes and mutilation to her, she had been compelled to speak to Spike about his previous hobbies. She had regretted it immediately, since he held nothing back. Joyce was happy that she didn’t see her daughter’s body parts dangling from anything and cleared her throat. “Buffy?”
“In the living room.” Buffy called.
Joyce began to walk around the corner and met Spike coming out of the kitchen. “Oh, Spike, hello. I brought home Chinese food.”
“Mmm.” Spike grinned at her and took the bags. “Did you happen to bring me home the cook?” The woman paled and her eyes widened, causing Spike chuckle loudly. “Relax, Joyce, I was kidding.”
Joyce smiled, still looking perplexed, and walked further into the living room to see Buffy. She noticed the uneaten food immediately and frowned. “Have you eaten today?”
“No.” Buffy replied and sat up further on the couch. “I haven’t eaten at all and I haven’t had anything to drink either. And that, MONSTER, tried to take the hinges off the bathroom door when I was trying to have privacy.”
Joyce glanced up at Spike. “For future reference, the door doesn’t lock.”
“The door doesn’t lock? That’s all you can say?” Buffy shouted, pushing herself into a complete sitting position. “Mother, he came into the bathroom not knowing if I was half naked or using the restroom or anything else.”
Spike shifted uncomfortably and clutched the bags tighter. The little bitch was really going to try to get him fired. He shook his head and spoke up quickly. “She told me she was going to stay in there until you got home and I didn’t know how long that would be.”
“Spike, why don’t you take those bags into the kitchen for me?” Joyce asked, not taking her eyes off Buffy. She waited until the vampire had left the room and then cleared her throat. “I spoke with our insurance company today. Given our situation, they would be willing to pay for care for you.”
“Good. Fire Spike.” Buffy flopped back and crossed her arms. “I refuse to stay with him.”
“Buffy, the only way they will pay is if I have you institutionalized. I can do that because I can’t physically take care of you like you need or afford home care. It’s an option.”
“You want to put me in some home now? Some sterile facility with horny orderlies and mean nurses who let you sit in your own piss for days?” Reaching for her chair, Buffy’s voice rose. “I told you I can take care of myself! I don’t need anyone.”
She forgot to lock her wheels and when she put her weight on the chair to pull herself into it, it tipped to one side, causing her to fall off the edge of the couch. Joyce grabbed her shoulders before she fell completely and pulled her upright, shaking her angrily. “No, I don’t want to put you in a home, but I want you to be safe, Buffy. I want you to have someone here who can make sure that you are getting enough to eat and haven’t fallen. Either you help me out here or--.”
“You don’t want me here. I know that now more than ever.” Buffy yanked her arms loose and fumbled to pull her chair upright. “Go ahead, put me away. Then you can forget me just like dad did! You can’t take care of me, right? That’s your reason? Well guess what? You never could.”
Buffy managed to get herself into her chair, knocking over the coffee table in the process. She rolled toward the dining room and her voice rose. “You never could take care of me. You never stopped to ask me why I was bruised and bloody half the time. You never asked me why my clothes were always torn and why I had bags under my eyes. You never noticed the pain that I was in, inside and out, and when you finally did, you kicked me out! Go ahead, do it again!”
“Buffy!” Joyce had risen to her feet and was walking toward her daughter with her hands out, as if to pull her into her arms. “You can’t believe that. I never wanted you to leave, honey. Never.”
There was a knock at the door and Buffy rolled her eyes. “I don’t care what you do with me. Put me away, leave me with Spike, or toss me out again. I just don’t care.”
She rolled away, leaving Joyce standing with tears streaming down her face. Spike, who had listened from the kitchen doorway, followed her into the makeshift office that her mother used in the back of the house. Buffy realized he was behind her and stopped rolling. “What do you want?”
“I want to know why you’re such an ass, but wait, I’ve always wanted to know that. So that’s not new.” He stepped into the room and flipped on a lamp that was on one end of a computer desk. “What I want to know is when you’re going to stop thinking with legs that don’t work and start thinking with your head.”
“I don’t want to hear this.” Buffy closed her eyes and pressed her fingers over them, begging her emotions not to betray her and make her sob. “You don ’t know anything about it.”
“Yes, I think I do.” Spike leaned against the desk and crossed his arms. For several seconds, he collected his thoughts, and then he spoke again. “I sat in your chair today when you were in the bathroom and I couldn’t take it. The minute I sat down, I remembered vividly what it felt like to be stuck there. I remembered how I hated everyone around me who could walk. I remembered how I hated myself for not being strong enough to get up and most of all I remembered how it felt to feel like you weren’t good enough. Weren’ t worthy enough to be alive anymore.”
“You should feel like that all the time.” Buffy snapped angrily. “After all, you are a freak, just like me.”
“And your friends?” Spike didn’t flinch and kept talking instead. “You’re pushing them all away to make it easier for them to leave you. You’re afraid that they’re going to run out on you and you can’t catch up.” Spike saw the tears begin to roll down her cheeks and walked into the kitchen, grabbing a role of paper towels. When he went back into the room, Buffy was sobbing, her breath hitching in the back of her throat. He ripped one of the towels loose and handed it to her, kneeling beside her chair. “I don’t like you and you don’t like me, but this is the hand that we’ve been dealt. Now, you can accept that and get over it or you can pack up your things and go to a hospital with horny orderlies and if you think my cooking is bad-.”
“What do you know about hospitals?” Buffy blew her nose loudly and mopped at her eyes with her sleeve.
Spike glanced down at the floor, wondering if he should tell her the truth. She was the type of person who would most likely laugh at him and call him names. Deciding to tell her just enough, he shrugged and said, “Well, you know, I was a mortal once and one thing you can guarantee is the fact that hospital food is going to suck, no matter how much time passes.”
“I don’t want to have to go away.” Buffy’s voice broke again and her chin quivered. “I’ve lost everything. I don’t want to lose my home too.”
Spike watched her, hating the fact that he was going to have to hug her. She was staring at him like she expected it and if he wanted to keep the ‘job’, he would have to make sure she stayed there instead of some facility. If there was going to be a truce, he would wave the white flag, but this would not become a habit. Absolutely not. Shifting closer to her, he patted her on the shoulder uncomfortably, then slid his hand around her back. He felt her lean her head against his chest and gritted his teeth. This was not happening.
Buffy sniffled against him and pushed him away. Spike was pulled from his thoughts and looked up at her, still kneeling beside her chair. “So, what’s it gonna be, Slayer.”
“I hate this.” She said softly, staring at the tissue in her hand. There was a big difference between being trapped with a demon and being trapped inside yourself and Buffy was facing both. Hate was putting it mildly.
“I hate it too.” Spike looked at her distastefully. “Being cooped up here with you all day and night isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, but I can just about guarantee you that it’s a lot better than the other alternatives that either of us have.”
“Buffy?” Willow suddenly poked her head around the doorway and gave her a smile. Her features fell immediately when she saw the tears on her friend’s face and she stepped into the room. With her purse, she slapped Spike over the head and pointed at Buffy with her free hand. “What the hell did you do to her?”
Spike caught her purse and yanked it out of her grasp. “I didn’t do a damned thing, Red.”
“It’s okay, Willow.” Buffy dried her face and nodded at her. “It’s fine. What’s up?”
Willow glared at Spike, causing him to throw his hands in the air and walk out, then she pulled a chair up beside Buffy. “How are you feeling?”
“You came here to ask me that? You could have just called. It’s dark out and without a Slayer in town-.”
“Right, I know.” Willow exhaled and ran a hand through her hair, wondering how to broach the topic of another possibly spell gone awry. “So, uhm, do you feel any better about, you know, what happened?” Buffy stared at her blankly and Willow fidgeted in her seat. “Are you happier or anything?”
“Do I look happy at all to you?” Buffy held up the tissue in her hand and pointed at her legs. “Do I look jovial in the least?”
“Well, no, but I was just curious.”
“And you came here to ask me that?”
“And to see you.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes. “What did you do?”
“Do? Me?” Willow felt every bit of the nerve she had built up start to diminish. “I didn’t do a thing. Mmm mmm, no way. Nothing at all.”
Spike stepped into the room and put his hands on his hips. “Are you doing some kind of magickal mojo on her, Witch?”
“Spike, quit eavesdropping!” Willow got to her feet and pushed him out of the room, closing the door behind him. She took a deep breath and went to her seat again. “Buffy, let’s just say, hypothetically, that if you do start to feel a wiggins, don’t ignore it. Let me know.”
“You did do a spell!” Buffy tossed her tissue angrily and rolled her chair as far away from Willow as she could. “You –would- use magick to deal with me. You can’t accept me this way so you have to try to change me.”
Willow’s face flushed red. “You would think that. You have absolutely no faith in me as your friend at all. I want to help you, Buffy, but I’m not going to let you keep doing this to me. You can’t keep making me feel bad for wanting to help you.”
“Then go. It’s simple.” Buffy turned toward the door. “Spike!” The door opened immediately and she shoved the blanket off her legs. “I want to go to my room now. Please?”
Spike nodded and brushed past Willow, lifting the Slayer from her seat. He paused before he got out the door and glanced back at Willow. “You can’t fix everything. Some people are better off with friends instead of sorcerers.”
Buffy said nothing as Spike carried her back through the house, past her mother and Tara, who watched them as they made their way up the stairs. She turned the knob on her door and flipped the lightswitch. She noticed that Spike was staring around her room and pointed toward her bed. “Just put me on the bed.”
Spike nodded and sat her on the edge of her bed. “Do you want me to bring up your chair?”
“No. Just leave me alone, okay?”
“How about your dinner?”
“Please. Leave. Me. Alone.”
Spike turned on the heel of his boot and left the room, leaving her door open. Walking down the stairs, he paused at the bottom of the stairs long enough to watch Willow and Tara leave, then glanced at Joyce. “She wants to be left alone.”
“She needs to eat.”
“She needs to learn that she gets what she asks for.” Spike walked around her, into the kitchen, then turned and came back. “And just for the record, telling her that you were going to have her committed was a really low blow.”
Spike held up a hand and interrupted. “No. There was no excuse for that. She needs to know that people are not going to take the easy road out of her life, Joyce. No matter how intolerable she is, you have to tolerate her and be there.” He took a deep, unneeded breath and nodded toward the kitchen. “Dinner?”
Joyce followed him into the kitchen, pondering what he had said. “I was only trying to scare her into complying.”
“Scare tactics don’t work. Especially on a Slayer.” Spike rammed a knife through the tip of his blood bag and emptied the contents into a mug.
Joyce regarded him for several seconds. When she spoke again, her tone was thoughtful and her eyes had misted over. “You know, Spike, granted, I haven’ t been around many vampires or demons for that matter, but speaking with you like this, I wonder why there needs to be a Slayer.” Joyce opened the cartons of Chinese food and dipped several spoonfuls onto a plate.
“Because we’re evil.” Spike stuck his cup into the microwave and turned to face her, shrugging indifferently. “That’s how it works.”
“Well, I think there is an exception to every rule. You’re the exception.” Joyce lifted her plate and nodded toward her office. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go over some paperwork.”
“Of course.” Spike waited until she was securely confined in her office and pulled a plate from the cabinet. He filled it with contents from every container and grabbed a glass of juice from the refrigerator before he made his way up the stairs.
The door was open and he paused, staring in. She seemed to be asleep, lying on her back with her arms tossed over her head. She was still on the foot of the bed and her legs dangled over the side. He put the plate on top of her dresser and gently tugged the cover down on her bed. Lifting her slowly, he positioned her in the bed and pulled the cover up, then put the plate and drink beside her bed so she could reach it.
He decided to bring her chair up and left the room. Joyce sidetracked him, asking him to retrieve a box of paperwork from the basement, and when he finally found the time to take her chair, the plate of food he had left was empty and Buffy was snoring. He pushed her chair close to her bed, locked the wheels and lifted the dirty dishes. Shaking his head, he growled low in his throat, cursing himself for keeping a slayer, of all things, alive.
Joyce cleared her throat behind him and he walked toward her. She pointed at the plates. “What happened to her getting what she asked for? I didn’t hear her ask.”
Spike chuckled. “There’s an exception to every rule, just like you said.”
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