Walking After Midnight

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When Joyce announced that Buffy was still sleeping at nine o’clock that night, Spike stopped helping Giles pull up the damaged rug in the Summers’ living room, and went up to Buffy’s room. He didn’t bother knocking, and just stepped inside, flipping the light switch on. She was on her side, in the exact same position he'd laid her in when he had found her sleeping in her chair earlier that day. The pizza that Joyce had ordered for everyone sat on her table untouched, and Spike knew that her lunch had been left on the plate as well.

He stalked over to the bed and shook her roughly. “Slayer, get up. You need to eat your dinner.”

Buffy’s response was to snore loudly and tuck her hands under the cover. Spike sighed and shook her again. “Buffy! You’ve slept all day.”

She moaned softly and her head lolled, but she didn't wake up. Her breathing deepened again and a light snore rumbled in the back of her throat as he let her go. The Slayer was obviously oblivious to his presence. Frowning, Spike scratched his head and then noticed the open bottle of pain pills beside her bed. She must have had another episode. He stared down at her for a few more seconds, put the lid back on her pills, and left the room.

Buffy rolled over when she heard the door click and knew that he had gone. She had woken up when he shook her, but couldn’t bring herself to sit up and talk to him. Glancing at the clock, she realized that she had not yet gotten through what had been one of the worst days of her life. She exhaled loudly and fumbled for her pills again, taking two more and chasing it with the watered down cola that sat next to a plate of food. Rolling onto her back, she stared at her ceiling and waited for peaceful oblivion to claim her once more.


“Are you sure you don’t mind me going out of town early?” Joyce asked Spike as she made her morning coffee. “If Giles had any doubts about this protection spell, I wouldn’t go, but I could really use the money.”

“I don’t mind at all.” Spike drained the last few drops of blood from his cup and rinsed it in the sink. “This is a big chance for you. Take all the time you need.”

“It’s just ... This is the first time that I’ve ever been invited to put anything on display. If I am able to sell some pieces then that would give me at least two months of being in the clear, and I could figure out my next move.” She nibbled on the edge of her toast. “But with so much happening here—“

“Joyce, you have to do what you have to do. Things will be just fine.” He glanced at the clock and then at her robe and messy hair. “Aren’t Giles and Xander meeting you in an hour to load crates?”

“Mm!” Joyce almost choked on her coffee. “I completely forgot!” She grew thoughtful suddenly and looked at Spike. “Will you really be okay here?”

“We’ll be fine.”

“What are we going to do without you?” Joyce wondered as she made her way around the island. Before leaving the room, she glanced back at him. “You take good care of my baby.”

“Count on it.”


Buffy was in an earthquake. It had to be an earthquake. Her entire body was being shaken roughly and someone was shouting her name. She could hear it, but her eyes wouldn’t comply and open. The shaking continued and finally stopped as abruptly as it started. Her mind wandered briefly, then sleep claimed her again, opening its jaws and swallowing her whole.

Spike stood next to her bed and stared down at her. Something had to be terribly wrong. She had slept through her mother’s goodbye and had not responded to him shaking her at all. She was breathing. He could see the steady rise and fall of her chest and she was no paler than usual. He took a step closer to the bed and felt something crunch under his shoe. Looking down, he saw a pill on the floor, powdered on one end from him stepping on it. Several more littered the table beside her bed, the overturned bottle precariously close to the edge.

She wasn’t sick, she was over-medicating.

Growling, he walked into the bathroom and turned the shower on cold. He strolled back across the room and lifted Buffy, letting her body dangle in front of his instead of cradling her. She babbled something about an earthquake and he growled again, stepping into the shower and shoving her back under the stream of cold water.

“Ahhh!” Buffy screamed, her eyes popping open in fear and confusion.

“Are you awake now?” Spike yelled, moving her further under the water so that it rinsed over her head. “Because I can toss your ass to the floor and get ice if you need that.”

“Spike, stop it!” she cried, her teeth clanking together as she sputtered and coughed.

He pulled her closer to him, letting the water pound against her back. “How many pills have you been taking?”

“None of your business.”

“How many?” Spike shook her, his eyes shifting to a deadly yellow.

“I don’t know!” The chills were wracking through her body now, causing her to shake all over. “What do you care?”

“Are you trying to kill yourself?” he shouted, angrier than he'd been in a long time. He wanted to shake her until her head flew off, and was amazed that he wasn't doubled over in agony for handling her so roughly.

“Maybe I am!” she screamed at him, her eyes awake with fury. She slammed her fists against his upper body, twisting and turning as he held her firmly. “Maybe I should!”

“Stop it! Don't you ever say that again!” He turned and put her down on the floor of the tub and pinned her wrists in one of his hands. The cold water slammed him on the back and he jerked around, quickly shutting the water off. She yanked a hand free and he grabbed it, gripping both her wrists. “Now, I don’t know what’s going on in that head of yours, but it stops now! Do you hear me?”

“You’re hurting me!” Buffy twisted her arms, trying to make him let go. “And what do you care anyway? You’re leaving. If I’m dead or alive, you’re still going!”

Her words froze him, and Spike leaned his head back, stared up at the ceiling, damning Willow’s spell. That was the only way to explain Buffy’s actions and her need to keep him there. He turned his attention back to her, saw the tears streaking down her face, and knew he would have to give in. He would have to let her believe that he would stay with her for as long as she needed him, and he would have to tell Willow to undo the spell. He grabbed a washcloth from the towel rack and dried her face. “It’ll be okay, Slayer.”

“It’s never going to be okay,” she sobbed, finally pulling her wrists free. “I am never going to be able to walk and you are never going to—“

“Don’t. You'll hurt yourself.” Spike gripped her hands, examining the bandages that were coming off. “Oh, Bloody Hell!" he sighed. "I’ll stay. I’ ll stay for as long as you need me.”

“Y-you’ll stay?” She asked tremulously, her teeth still clanking together. “Really?”

“Yeah.” He lifted her again, holding her the same way he had when he was wetting her.

Buffy wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face against his chest. The ache in her own chest had diminished, and she clung to him, trying to find the words to express how happy she was. “Thank you,” she murmured, her hand stroking the sensitive skin at his nape. “Thank you so much, Spike.”

Spike tightened his jaw, still cursing Willow, and let his hands move around her back. He hugged her lightly, then scooped her up in his arms so he could carry her more easily. “Your mum has gone to Atlanta early. She came in to tell you good-bye, but you slept through it.”

“How long will she be gone?” Buffy wiped her face and shivered as he carried her through the cool hallway and into her room.

“For about six days.” Thinking better of sitting her on the bed in her wet dress, he sat her on the vanity chair, and turned to go get a towel.

“Six days!” she cried suddenly. “Spike!”

“What?” He paused at the doorway and looked back at her.

“Who will give me my baths?”

With a shrug, he exited fast and went into the bathroom. This wasn’t good. This wasn't good at all. He hadn’t even considered that Buffy would still need to be bathed and have help getting dressed everyday. He supposed he could call Willow and get her to do it, or possibly even Xander --- no, hell would freeze before he’d let that bloke see her naked. Grabbing the towel, he turned to go, and bumped his groin against the sink.

His very hard groin.

“Son of a--” He leaned his forehead against the mirror and sighed. He had gotten a hard-on just thinking about the Slayer naked and wet in the tub. If he had to actually see it, he’d be stuck wanking himself in the basement all hours of the day and night.

“Spike, I’m freezing!” Buffy called from her bedroom.

He made sure that his shirt was long enough to cover what was bulging in his pants and made his way back to her room. Handing her the towel, he turned his back and said, “What are you going to wear?”

“Look in my closet. I like wearing dresses because it makes it easier to—well, you know.”

“Right.” Spike opened her closet and sifted through the garments. Each one seemed to be made of less material than the previous one, and that wouldn’t do at all. Finally, he found a lime green number with a high collar and long sleeves. He yanked it off the hanger and held it out toward her. “Here.”

“Eww!” Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Spike, that is a bridesmaid dress.”

“Sorry, didn’t know.” he grumbled.

“Did the taffeta not give it away?” She smiled up at him, then glanced past him at her open closet. “Just hand me that blue one.”

~ The one with the thin little straps and neckline to the navel? ~ he thought, swallowing hard as he took it from the closet. “You’re cold, remember?” He waved the green one back and forth in front of her. There was no way he could find her remotely attractive in the green one. “Don’t you want to be colorful? Make a bold statement?”

“You mean a blinding statement? I’ll wear the blue.” She grabbed the bottom of the dress she was wearing and started to pull it over her head. “Oops, I’ m sitting on it. Can you help me?”

Wordlessly, he moved to help her and pulled the material out from under her. She raised her arms, indicating that he should pull it over her head, and he froze for a second.

Buffy looked up at him. “What?”

“Shouldn’t you dress yourself?”

Shaking her head, she blushed slightly. “It throws me off balance and I’ll fall. Plus, it bunches around me if you don’t do it and then lift me and smooth it down the way it goes.”

“Right.” He grasped her wet clothing again and gently tugged it over her head. He tried to focus on the posters on her wall, but he could see her bare breasts out of the corner of his eye and dared a peek. ~ Of course I have to look, I’m evil!~

Buffy put her arms through the underside of her dress and waited for him to tug it down. Her face was so hot she imagined that she looked sunburned. Shaking slightly, and not from the cold, she pointed toward the dresser in the corner of her room. “Uhm, I need underwear too. Top drawer.”

He willed his feet in that direction and opened the drawer, frowning when he saw all the delicate laces and silks neatly folded inside. She apparently didn’t own anything cotton and practical. Gingerly, he lifted a lacy blue number, the thing closest to him, and slammed the drawer shut. Holding it out to her, he waited for her to take it. When she made no move, he put his hands on his hips. “What?”

“Spike, when you were in a wheelchair, did you dress yourself?”

“Drusilla helped me. Why?”

"Did she help you with your underwear?"

"I don't wear any." He shrugged, hiding the flirtatious smirk that wanted to accompany that statement.

“Oh." She flushed at the image that suddenly flashed through her head and struggled to maintain her composure. "Well, I *do* and I need help. I can’t just stand up and peel them off and I really don’t want to roll around on the floor and get all wrinkled while I try to change them. It’s hard enough just to pull them down to use the bathroom.” She gave him a pointed look.

“Oh,” was the only response he could muster and he kneeled in front of her. Careful not to touch too much of her thighs, he skimmed toward her waist until he felt the top band of her panties. She instinctively leaned over his shoulder, letting him lift her bottom easily. He carefully slid them down her legs, finally clearing her feet. He trailed his tongue out over his lips as he imagined the possibilities. ~It would be so easy,~ he thought to himself. ~To lift her up, put her on the bed, and bury my face between her legs. So easy. So fucking easy and good and---~

"Spike?" Buffy nudged him, wondering why he was staring at her knees. "What are you waiting for?"

"What? Oh!" Grabbing the dry ones quickly, he slipped them upward, trying to think of anything other than what he had been. Buffy put her arms around him suddenly, and he half expected her to try to kiss him again; instead she looked annoyed. ~Oh god, she knows what I was thinking.~ "What?"

“Here’s the part where you stand and I hold on and you pull them up.”

“I was getting to that!” Spike lied and stood, dragging her up with him. His fingertips glided over her skin, and he closed his eyes as his body hardened in contrast to her softness. Slipping his hands behind her, he pulled her lacy panties into place and tried not to notice how firm her backside was, how easily her hips would fit into the palms of his hands as he thrust into her. He yanked his hands out from under her dress, disgusted with himself. He was supposed to be taking care of her, not taking advantage of her. “Okay, I’m done.”

“Thanks.” Her stomach rumbled when he sat her back down and she glanced at the clock. “God, it’s noon already?”

“You hungry?” he asked, anxious to have an excuse to put some distance between them.

“Starving. Can I come down with you while you make lunch? I want to see what all that noise was about yesterday.” She grabbed her brush from the table and dragged it through her hair, then twisted it, clipping it at the nape of her neck.

“Fine,” he replied, watching her movements. “Why do you pull your hair back like that?”

“It’s drab and my roots are showing,” she said with a shrug. "Why leave it hanging for everyone to see?"

“It looked beautiful when you had it down yesterday, all shiny like gold.” Spike admitted, as he lifted her. He had no doubt that it was going to be a very long six days.

~ Well, now you tell me, ~ she thought, but inside, her heart was singing. She had his promise that he wouldn’t leave her for as long as she needed him ... and six days alone with him to show him that she needed him for good.


The afternoon passed uneventfully. Spike and Buffy kept conversation to a minimum, with the exception of idle chatter about the damage to the house, or what Spike should make for dinner, neither spoke. Spike made it a point to find a million things to do in the kitchen and Buffy sat on the sofa, staring blankly at the television. She was about to call for him and ask for a soda when an emergency flash went up on the screen.

Spike heard the loud beeping from his perch on the kitchen counter and leaped off, hurrying into the living room. “What’s happening?”

“Bad weather,” Buffy replied, shushing him with a wave of her hand.

He moved around the couch and sat beside her as a meteorologist began to speak. “At four p.m., the tropical storm that was traveling a few miles off the coast changed its course and is now heading north, toward the town of Sunnydale and the neighboring communities. Residents of Sunnydale are advised to use extreme caution. This storm has been unpredictable and fierce. Flooding, strong winds, and lightning are expected, so please stay in your homes and seek appropriate shelter should the need arise.”

Buffy studied the doppler map that the woman was pointing at. Sunnydale could be seen on the coast, and a large, red patch was circled a few inches away. Swallowing hard, she glanced at Spike. “You think Mom’s okay?”

“She’s probably already in Atlanta, luv,” Spike said, leaning forward as he listened to the rest of the weather report. The patch on the doppler looked big enough to stretch from Sunnydale to Los Angeles and back again. “Damn, that’s a huge storm.”

“We have lanterns and candles and stuff in the pantry.” Buffy nodded toward the double windows and bit her lower lip. “It’s already dark outside and it’ s only six.”

"My kind of day." Spike stood and peeked through the blind. The broken window had been boarded up by Giles, who had predicted rain. Glancing toward the coastline, he sighed. “If it gets really bad, we’ll go the basement.”

She nodded, chewing her thumbnail nervously. “I guess we’ll just wait. Right?”

“Nothing else to do.” Spike narrowed his eyes when he noticed her shaking hands. “Scared?”

“I don’t like storms.” Thunder rumbled in the distance, and she crossed her arms, hugging herself tightly. “I was in a boat once and-“ Trailing off, she closed her eyes.

“And what?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Shaking her head, Buffy pulled a throw from the back of the sofa and wrapped it around her shoulders.

“The boat capsized and you fell in the water? Poor baby.” Spike chuckled and flopped back down beside her. “Did you flail around like you did in the shower this morning?”

Pulling the cover tighter, she focused on the television, willing herself not to cry. “Still not wanting to talk about it.”

Spike picked up the remote and flipped to the weather channel. It was showing hurricane footage from a few years back, complete with a pier that was crumbling and boats splashing back and forth in the water. “I hope it doesn’t get that bad here. High wind, stinging rain, flooding waters. We’ll be up the sh--”

“Stop it!” Her nostrils flared as bile began to rise in her throat. "Just shut up."

“Oh, lighten up,” he snapped, flipping back to the local news.

He could not possibly know the blind panic that was coursing through her veins. Or maybe he did and didn’t care. He was, after all, nothing more than a demon. She felt the couch shift slightly and dared a glance at him, just in time to see him stand and walk toward the kitchen.

She moved her hands and laid her head back, casting a weary eye at the window. The wind had begun to howl as it whipped around the house, and one of the shutters, a loose one near the dining room, slammed back and forth. Buffy turned the television up louder, hoping to drown out the sounds and the memories that she had repressed for so long of that fateful night in her grandfather’s boat.

Why was she feeling the pain so vividly now?

Was it because she was just as helpless now as she had been that night?


Spike frowned as he stared across the table at Buffy. In the twenty minutes since he had prepared her dinner, and sat it in front of her, she had not eaten a bite. The sky lit up outside the window and Buffy jumped, almost knocking her glass of milk off the table. Spike grabbed it before it could do more than slosh and moved it to one side. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

Buffy felt like she was suffocating. She could feel a thin bead of sweat on her forehead and dabbed at her face with her napkin. “I’m fine.”

“Well you don’t look fine.” Spike leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, watching her closely as she eyed the windows. “I can’t imagine a Slayer being scared of a little rain. You do realize how pathetic that makes you, yes?”

Slamming her fork down, she rolled back and started around the table. “Why can’t you just leave me alone? You don’t always have to hurt my feelings, you know.”

Spike grabbed her wheel and stopped her. “Hurt your feelings?”

“Yes, you hurt my feelings! You called my leg a chicken bone, you didn’t bother to acknowledge the fact that I kissed you, and you make fun of me for being terrified over something I can’t help.” She shoved his hand away. “Stay away from me.”

She rolled out of the room and he leapt to his feet, following behind her. “Okay, first of all, I was just teasing you and second, how was I supposed to react to you kissing me?” Buffy kept her back to him, saying nothing. Spike stalked around her and gripped the arms of her chair, leaning down low. “Tell me. Tell me how to react. Tell me how you meant it. Tell me something.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She swallowed hard and chewed her bottom lip.

“You brought it up.” Spike saw her turn her gaze toward the television and he stood, putting his hands on his hips. “Fine. We won’t talk about it. We’ ll just go on pretending that it didn’t happen and you can sit there and have a nervous breakdown because of a little thunder. Which, I might add, is something else you brought up and don’t want to talk about.”

Buffy heard him flop onto the couch behind her and she rolled slowly toward the other room, wishing more than anything that she could get up and run away. Away from him, away from the storm that was raging outside, and the one that was raging inside of her. She paused before she entered the dining room and half turned. “Spike?”


“I was boating with my grandfather. We had heard the storm warnings, but I begged him to take me out anyway. Just for a little while, I said. The boat capsized and we fell in. I had on a lifejacket, but my grandfather didn’t. He got a cramp after about thirty minutes of treading water. One minute he was there, telling me that it was going to be okay, and the next minute he was gone.” She closed her eyes, recalling her Grandfather’s wrinkled face, and his big hands holding her in his lap as they had fished that day. “They never found him.”

Spike rose slowly, dropping the remote on the couch. He rammed his hands into his pockets, searching himself for the right words. “Buffy, I’m sor—“

She held her hand up, silencing him. “I thought that I had worked through it all a long time ago. I mean, I went to therapy. But today, that storm warning and that wind outside – I feel the hurt again like it happened yesterday. I have never felt it so strongly. It feels like my heart is breaking.” She put a hand over her mouth to stifle the sob in the back of her throat.

Spike narrowed his eyes, recalling Willow’s words about the spell. ‘Buffy will have the strength to confront her fears and admit the truth to herself. She can admit what’s in her heart, but we don’t know that it worked.’ He heard her sob again and moved around her, kneeling in front of her. Pulling her to his chest, he rubbed his hand up and down her back, and whispered softly in her ear, trying to soothe her.

The spell had worked. She was admitting what was in her heart and confronting her fears. Admitting what was in her heart? Spike blinked several times as he tried to comprehend it all. Maybe, just maybe, there was a part of her that actually did want to kiss him. Maybe it wasn’t just the spell. ~Yeah right, Spike.~

The lights flickered several times and then the power went out. Buffy’s grip on him tightened and he lifted her, taking her to the sofa. His demon emerged, enabling him to see in the dark, and he sat down safely, straightening her legs out, and cradling her in his lap. He could hear her heart slamming in her chest, could hear her ragged breathing, and laid his head on top of hers. “We’ll be fine. I promise.”

She took his hand and laced their fingers, moving her face into the hollow of his neck. Her lips skimmed the cool curve of his jaw line, then his cheek, finally fluttering briefly against his mouth. “I wanted you to react by kissing me back. I wanted you to hold me and not let go. I wanted—“

He felt her hand move toward the buttons of his shirt and he grabbed it. “Buffy, you shouldn’t—“

“I know what I want.” She trailed her fingers over his lips. “Do you know what you want?”


Part Eight


Spike pulled her free hand into his, effectively preventing her from roaming back to the buttons of his shirt. What he wanted was to shag her rotten. What he wanted was to take every advantage of her disability, get his rocks off, and then storm out of her life. That was the evil thing to do. That was the Spike thing to do. Silently, he cursed the day that he had blown back into Sunnydale for that blasted Gem. If he had never returned, he wouldn’t have been captured by commandos and he definitely wouldn’t be in the predicament he was in. He would also not be feeling grateful that at this very moment her crippled legs couldn't feel the erection pressing against them.

He felt her blow hot air against his neck and spoke rapidly, hoping to distract her. “I want to stop fighting with you.”

“Then let's not fight,” she replied softly, brushing her lips over his. There was so much she needed to tell him. She needed to tell him why she had been in the cemetery the day she was injured. She needed to tell him what she had planned on telling him as soon as she arrived at his crypt and he needed to know what was on her mind now. “Spike, I don’t know what it is that makes me want to--”

There was a sudden loud knocking on the door and Spike could have danced in joy. Instead, he laid her on the sofa and made his way through the darkness. The sky was illuminated by lightning as he pulled the door open and saw Giles standing drenched on the front porch. Moving aside, he ushered the man inside, then leaned against the door, closing it against the wind from the storm.

Giles pulled off the hat that was plastered to his head and stood in the foyer shaking water from his hair. “It’s quite dreadful outside. Several roads are already flooded and the radio said that La Bonita pier got washed away a short time ago. Where’s Buffy?”

“I’m in here,” Buffy called from the living room. “Spike, could you get some candles and flashlights from the pantry? They’re on the second shelf from the top.”

Giles listened as the vampire shuffled away and took a few tentative steps into the living room. “Buffy?”

“Yes?” Peering over the back of the sofa, Buffy could just make out his shadow. “Just keep walking straight, Giles.”

His thigh brushed against the recliner that sat next to the sofa and he fumbled his way into it, sighing with relief when he finally sat down. “That ’s better.”

“What are you doing out in this weather, Giles?” she asked the darkness.

“I wanted to stop in and make sure that you had all that you needed.”

“You should have called. No one should be out in that kind of storm.”

Giles pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. He had been caught out in the storm; he had not ventured into it of his own free will. There was much going on and without the Slayer to maintain a balance, he was forced to do what he could to bridge the gaps. “I was visiting Willy.”

“Willy?” Buffy’s forehead creased in momentary confusion. “Willy the snitch?”

“Yes.” Giles put his glasses back on as light flickered from the kitchen. Spike had apparently found the candles. He waited until the vampire came around the corner with two candles before he spoke again. “Spike, you may want to listen to what I have to say.”

Spike paused for the briefest moment, feeling a sense of dread beginning in the pit of his stomach, before he put the candles and their holders on the coffee table and sat beside Buffy. “What is it?”

Taking a deep breath, Giles leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs. “I went to Willy to discuss those vampires that attacked you. I recognized one from a photograph in an old Watcher’s Journal and wanted to find out if Willy knew anything of importance.”

“The suspense is killing me, Giles.” Buffy raised her eyebrows.

“At the start of the nineteenth century, the Watcher’s Council began to collect notorious vampires. Most of the captures were unsuccessful and cost many a Slayer’s life, so the acquisitions eventually stopped. However, the vampires that they did keep were used to train Slayers, and proved to be a useful tool for Watchers, as well.”

Buffy held up a hand. “And let’s not forget that whole ritual when a Slayer turns eighteen and gets to fight a demented vampire to the death with no weapons and no power.”

“What?” Spike sat forward, staring at her intently. “What are you talking about?”

“It's not relevant, Spike. Buffy can tell you all about that later.” Giles stood up and walked to the window, then refocused on the task at hand. “Buffy, telling you this is not easy so I’m just going to say it. The Council was here in town, right around the same time that the vampires attacked you. According to Willy, these vampires were supposed to kill you in return for their freedom. They were specifically chosen for the task because they have been trained and conditioned by the Council. When they failed, they had no choice but to run to avoid being recaptured.”

“Why did this happen now?” Buffy had clenched her hands into fists, ignoring the jolts of pain that came from the cuts on her palms. “I mean, I quit the Council over a year ago.”

“And in that year the Council underwent some changes. I wasn’t privy to that information because I had been excommunicated, but after I spoke with Willy, I called a friend in England.” Giles sat down again and stared at Buffy intently. “Because of the things that happened with Wesley and Faith and you and I, the head of the Council was removed and a new head was elected. His name is Darren Walsh and his daughter is Maggie Walsh.”

“Professor Walsh?” Buffy’s eyes widened. “But I don’t—“

“Maggie Walsh is apparently the head of a special operation here in Sunnydale called the Initiative. She had been trained to be a Watcher and introduced all sorts of scientific data which, of course, was summarily ignored by those in power at the time. When her father took control of the Council, she found herself with millions in financial backing and she moved her organization, the Initiative, here, to the only active Hellmouth.”

“And what exactly is the Initiative?” Spike asked.

“They’re the reason you have that chip in your head. They pull young soldiers from their government training for special ops and basically brainwash them into fighting demons.”

“But-“ Buffy swallowed hard, trying to digest the information. “The Council isn’t military.”

“The government has known about the existence of demons for years, Buffy.” Giles’ tone was soft. “They choose to keep it from the public for safety reasons and by doing so, they’ve given the Initiative far too much power.”

“I don’t understand why they would do this to me, though.” Buffy’s voice cracked and she struggled to maintain her composure. “Why do they want me dead?”

Sighing, Giles stood again and moved to kneel beside the sofa. “Maggie Walsh knows who you are. She knew when she came here that you were the Slayer. I’m going to assume that she wanted you out of the way. I mean, you’re aware of the existence of her organization and she most likely saw that as a threat.”

“So, what do we do?” Spike had subconsciously moved his hand to cover hers and wasn’t aware until he noticed Giles’ gaze resting there. He moved his hand away quickly, not making eye contact. “Are they going to try to kill her again?”

“I don’t think so,” Giles stated, glancing from Buffy to Spike. Something was different between them. What was it? He pushed that thought aside and directed his attention to the matter at hand. “It’s been months since Buffy was injured. I think that if they were going to try anything else, they would have. You’re not much of a threat now, Buffy.”

Buffy visibly flinched. “Right, I’m not much of anything.”

“I didn’t mean that.” Giles reached his hand up, trying to take hers, but she pulled back. “Buffy—“

“I’m tired,” she stated flatly. “Spike, could you take me upstairs?”

Spike nodded and pulled the blanket from her legs. She slipped her arms around his neck as he lifted her, then took the candle that Giles held out to them. Avoiding his gaze, Buffy laid her head on Spike’s shoulder. “Goodnight, Giles.”

Giles followed them to the foot of the stairs, wringing his hat in his hands. “I apologize, Buffy. I should have kept these findings to myself. I had no right to--”

Tightening her grip on Spike, she said, “Spike, stop.” When he paused, she looked over his shoulder at Giles. “It’s about me, Giles. I had a right to know. Just because I can’t do a damn thing about it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be told. I am still the Slayer, dammit, and it’s still my life! Don’t you dare make my decisions for me.”

“I only meant that—“

“Goodnight, Giles,” she snapped, and turned her attention back toward the stairs. “Spike, take me up.”

When they cleared the top step, Buffy heard the front door click shut and squeezed her eyes closed. Spike took her into her bedroom and sat her on the bed, not bothering to pull the cover back. Buffy reached behind her and began to tug the comforter down, but Spike stopped her. “Tell me.”

“Tell you what?” Buffy felt him tighten his grip on her hands and relaxed her instinct to lash out at him.

“All of it. Tell me what happened with the Council to make you quit and what happened with this Initiative.” He moved to sit beside her, still holding her hand.

“I’m tired and my back hurts,” she replied, stifling a yawn with the back of her hand.

Spike stood up and eased her all the way on the bed, then rolled her onto her stomach. He rubbed his palm up her spine and began to knead the flesh above her shoulder blades. “Better?”

“Mmm,” Buffy moaned.

“What was that you were saying about being eighteen and having no power?”

Rolling her eyes, she propped herself up and stared back at him. “You’re not going to give up, are you?”

“Nope.” Spike smiled at her. “I like to know everything.”

“Fine.” Buffy crossed her arms under her chin and relaxed again, staring at the way the candle sent dancing shadows flickering on the wall. “When a slayer turns eighteen, she gets stripped of her power with a special drug, and locked into a house with a crazy vampire that she has to defeat the vampire with just her wits. No weapons, nothing.”

“You’re kidding me!” Spike stopped massaging her back and moved around the bed so he could see her face. “Are you kidding?”

“Do I look like I’m kidding?” Her face was somber as she met his gaze.

“They do that to their own Slayer? That’s barbaric. I mean, they strip away all of her ability to fend for herself, after she’s been reliant on it—“

“And they’ve done the same thing again.” She bit her bottom lip, working it back and forth between her teeth. “They’ve taken away my ability to fend for myself.”

“Ah, but there’s a difference.” Spike brushed a lock of hair that had come loose from her clip away from her face. “Last time, you had to fight a vampire to win. This time you have a vampire willing to fend for you.”

Tears welled up in her eyes and she smiled. “That’s the nicest thing anyone’ s said to me in a long time.”

Spike cleared his throat, realizing he was on dangerous ground. "Yeah, well, don't read too much into it, Slayer. It's not like there's anyone else out there willing to put up with you."

Buffy suppressed a smile as he moved beside her again and rubbed her neck. His half assed attempt at insulting her hadn't fooled her for a minute. He'd shown concern for her well being enough times now that it was getting easy to see through his tough-guy ruse. She relaxed into the massage, ignoring the chill that moved through her body.

Spike felt her shiver slightly and realized that she was wearing a sundress with no shoes or socks. "You must be freezing."

“I’m a little cold,” she admitted.

He pulled her into a sitting position, pulled back the cover, and retrieved a gown from her bureau. He changed her quickly and soon had her beneath the cover. “I’ll just go downstairs and let you get some sleep.”

“No,” Buffy caught his arm. “Stay with me?”

“Buffy, I don’t think—“

“Just until I go to sleep?” She pointed at the window. “The storm is still so bad and I don’t want to be alone.” Grinning, she patted the bed. “I promise, I’ll keep my hands to myself.”

He found himself grinning at her in return and slipped his shoes off, lying next to her on top of the cover. “So, you quit the Council because of that bloody test?”

“Nah, they fired Giles because he interfered with the test. They said he loved me like a daughter and that's against the rules.” Her face softened, recalling the way Giles had treated her wounds that night. She would definitely have to call and apologize to him for the way she acted earlier. “They sent me a new watcher named Wesley and I pretty much hated him.”

“Is that the reason? You didn’t like the new watcher?”

Buffy rolled slightly, positioning herself in the crook of his arm. She didn ’t want to bring up Angel, didn’t want to relive the despair she felt when he had been poisoned and the Council had refused to help. “Yep, that’s it. They wouldn’t reinstate Giles, so I quit.”

“They won’t get away with this,” Spike told her, rubbing his thumb over her arm. He leaned his face into her hair, letting it tickle his chin, and shook his head. “No, they’ll definitely pay for what they’ve done to you.”

Buffy smiled. “We’re alike, aren’t we? Neither one of us are willing to admit our limitations and both of us got our limitations from the same place.” She was silent for a few seconds before she spoke again. “The only difference is that you’ll probably outlive that implant in your head and get to go back to what you were. I’ll always be this way.”

“You don’t know that.” He tightened his grip. “Maybe one day you’ll wake up and be able to jump out of the bed and slay demons again. You won’t need me. Hell, you’ll probably stake me before I can get this chip out.”

She stared into his eyes, suddenly serious. “If I got my legs back, Spike, I wouldn’t stake you.”

He tried to ignore the way her statement made him feel. If she got her legs back ... He shook his head. “You wouldn’t catch me, luv. I’d run like hell.”


Across town, Tara lit the final candle and glanced at Willow. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

Willow took the flower from her dresser and nodded, peeling several of the petals off. “Spike definitely implied that something’s wrong with Buffy. We have to reverse it.”

Tara glanced at her thoughtfully. “We don’t know if the first spell even worked.”

“So we’ll do a universal removal spell to be sure.” Willow took a deep breath and began to mix ingredients.

“That will remove any spell that’s been done to her, Willow. Protection spells, luck spells. Everything.”

Willow poured powder into her bowl, sending up a plume of white smoke. “But the house will still be safe, right?”

“Well, yeah. You’re just reversing the spell on her person, but still—“

“It’s fine.” Willow took the rose stem and began to mix her ingredients, her chanting drowned out by the storm that raged through the night.


The thunder rumbled and rain splatted hard against the window pane, waking Buffy with a start. Spike had rolled toward her, both of his arms around her, and as she stirred, he pulled her closer, mumbling that it was okay. She let one of her hands rest on top of his hip and sighed in contentment. He made her feel safe, safer than she had felt since she had been injured.

They had not spoken about the kisses she had given him or made any mention of the fact that she had been very willing to sleep with him. For whatever reasons he had, he'd stopped her, but wouldn’t broach the subject. It should have hurt, but a part of her was relieved that he had prevented her from going too far too fast. Whatever was happening between them right now felt like enough. The feel of his arms, his assurances that he wasn’t leaving her, and the similarities in their situations soothed her in a way that nothing else could.

The rain seemed to get harder and Buffy squeezed her eyes closed, concentrating on anything but the storm. She pondered the myriad of emotions that she had been having since Spike came into her life. Since before she had ever been injured, there were things, just below the surface, that she had not even dared to entertain. There had always been a part of her that thought he was attractive, even during their worst battles. That was the only explanation for the fact that he wasn’t dead. She’d had a million chances to stake him.

And no one had ever kissed her the way he had. When Willow had done the spell and they were ‘engaged’, it had been so powerful, so real, that she had lost herself in it all. Of course, she had been forced to pretend when it was over that she hated every minute, but she caught herself staring at his mouth far too often. And she had been ready to tell him all of that when she had headed to his place that night. Maybe if she had not been concentrating on what she needed to say, she would have been aware of the vampires and--

A loud clap of thunder forced her to jump again and she pulled herself into a tight ball, drawing her knees upward toward her chest. Spike rolled onto his back, taking away the arm that had shielded her from seeing the lightning. She watched for a second before she stretched out, rolling onto her back.

Then it hit her.

She had moved.

She had drawn her legs up to her chest, then put them back. Her first instinct was to reach for Spike, to shake him awake and scream his name. She sat up, started to do just that, then stopped.

~If I got my legs back, Spike, I wouldn’t stake you.~ ~ You wouldn’t catch me, luv. I'd run like hell. ~

Spike sat up beside her, brushing her hair back. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” Buffy jumped when she felt his hands on her. “I- I was- I had a nightmare.” The lie came easily. Her mind refused to admit, for even a split second, that she had moved at all. It was in that instant that she decided to wait and say nothing. She needed to make sure--

“Are you ready to get up?” Spike rubbed his eyes sleepily, getting to his feet beside the bed. It suddenly struck him, how natural it felt to wake up there. “I’m going to go get myself some breakfast. What do you want?”

“Uhm, nothing right now. I think I’ll sleep a while longer,” she said as she forced herself to smile up at him. “I’ll call you when I wake up.”

“Lazybones.” Spike grinned down at her as he pulled the cover back up. “I’ll check in on you in a bit.”

“Okay.” Buffy waited impatiently as he slipped his shoes on and staggered across the floor. When she heard his feet on the stairs, she shoved her cover back and stared down at her feet. Leaning down, she squeezed her toes and gasped. She felt it just fine. Sitting back up, she wiggled her toes, then bent her legs at the knees. Holding her breath, Buffy turned and lowered her feet to the floor and stood up.

Fully erect, with all of her weight on her feet for the first time in months, the Slayer began to cry. Taking several steps, she clapped a hand over her mouth to keep from calling out to Spike. She couldn’t tell him - not right now - no matter how great her need was to share the news. She would wait until he knew how she felt about him and then, assuming he felt the same way, she would stand up and walk to him.

‘No, I can’t do that,' she thought. ‘I can’t hide it. My mom will be so happy!’

But, she’s out of town. You have a few days to get it all worked out, another part of her pointed out.

Sighing, Buffy slumped on her bed and held her legs out in front of her, rotating her feet and popping her ankles. Nothing had ever felt better in her life. It felt like every single inch of her body had been reborn: her limbs, her mind, her heart. She ran a hand through her hair and swallowed hard, trying to make sense of the situation. On the one hand, assuming her paralysis was permanently gone, she would be free to fight the vampires and remove the threat to Spike. But on the other hand, she would be setting him free by doing so. Buffy flopped back on the bed and buried herself in the cover. The only logical thing to do would be to bide her time and see what happened with Spike. She could let his actions dictate hers.

Rolling onto her side, she watched daylight creep from the dark. A new day should have been dawning for her, but instead, a raw fear had taken hold of her gut and twisted it. In her mind’s eye, she saw herself rising from her chair and reaching for Spike, only to find the room empty.

She couldn’t let that happen.


Part Nine


Buffy was lying on her back, staring up at the ceiling, when Spike tapped on the door and poked his head inside. Swallowing hard, she propped herself up on one elbow, holding her legs perfectly still beneath the cover. For the past hour and a half, she had alternated between throwing her legs off the edge of the bed and walking toward the door, then losing her courage and crawling back beneath the cover. It felt odd to be able to feel the warmth of the cover on her lower limbs. It felt even stranger to be able to roll onto her side and draw her legs up, cradling her pillow the way she used to.

Before the vampires.

Now there was a vampire smiling at her and mumbling something about hair color. She watched as he made his way toward her, holding two boxes in his hands. Taking one, she glanced at it. "Hair dye. Where did you get this?"

"Your mum had it. You mentioned that you didn't like your hair much these days, right? So, let's get you up and get your lunch and then I'll bleach it out again and help you into the tub." Grinning triumphantly, Spike sat the boxes on the table beside her bed and rolled her wheelchair closer.

Buffy said nothing as he peeled the cover back and scooped her up. The feel of his muscular arms behind her knees silenced her, and she concentrated only on the sensations that coursed through her body from feeling his platonic touch. She could only imagine what it would be like to feel him touch her with more on his mind.

Once she was settled in her seat, Spike stepped back out into the hallway and brought in a brightly wrapped package, which he put on the foot of the bed. He watched as Buffy eyed it curiously, then wagged his finger at her. "No touching until you have your lunch and we do your hair, okay?"

"Where did you get that?" Buffy looked up at him, marveling at the many surprises he always had up his sleeve. Not only had he saved her life and taken care of her, he was proving himself to be quite a bit more thoughtful than she had given him credit for.

"You remember that night that Giles took me shopping?" He waited for her to nod. "This is the package that was left in his car. I just found it in the downstairs closet."

"Thank you," she said, casting her eyes downward. Guilt washed over her in a chilling tide, causing her to shiver. She stared at her legs for several long seconds, wondering if she should just move her foot off the metal resting pad and stand up.

"You okay?" Spike unlocked the wheels of her chair and knelt in front of her, trying to gauge the emotions that were playing across her features. She was quiet in a way that he hadn't seen in a long while.

"I guess I'm just tired," she replied, rolling her chair back so she could avoid his concerned gaze. "The thunder kept me awake all night."

"You sure that's it?" He looked at her steadily, squatting near her chair so he could see her face better.

"Yes! God!" Buffy pushed her left wheel, turning herself in a circle so she could move past him. "You sleep in my bed and suddenly you have to give me the third degree?"

Spike stood, watching her bump the wall as she tried to go through the door. Grabbing the handles of the chair, he guided her safely through, frowning when she snapped that she could do it herself. Once she was safely in the bathroom after slamming the door behind her, he sighed and scratched the side of his head.

Sudden mood swings. Sullen behavior. Had to be PMS.

Leaving her to do her business, he walked down the stairs to make her a sandwich.


Buffy stood in front of the full length mirror, eyeing herself critically. Her hair was long, coming almost to her waist, but any luster that it had once had was gone, replaced by stringy strands of half-blonde and half-dark brown. Turning to the side, she pulled her gown tight around her and wondered where her figure had gone. The curves that she once had had disappeared, and her once ample bosom was practically non-existent. With a sigh, she turned and bent over the sink, splashing water in her face.

She avoided looking at herself again, unable to stare at the girl she had become -- the thin, lying, deceitful girl with hollow eyes and pale skin. Gripping the edge of the sink, she squeezed her eyes closed tightly. Would she ever be a Slayer again? Did she even want to? For as much as she kept telling herself that she was keeping her recovery a secret because of Spike, she knew that deep down there was a part of her that feared her old life. The life that had caused her to be injured to begin with. If she walked back into that life, she could lose more than just Spike ... she could die. No, she would die. Those were the rules. The time that she had spent out of the darkness, although tinged with shame and regret on her part, had been safe and she had been able to be a semi-normal girl with a lifeline that didn't splinter and break. In the chair, she had a future. Out of it, she had -- what exactly?

She was just sitting in her chair again when Spike knocked. "Just a second," she called.

"Your lunch is ready. I hope you don't mind tuna again."

"Anything's fine," she replied, gripping the wheels of her chair. This was it. She had to decide whether to walk out of the bathroom or roll out. Gnawing her bottom lip furiously, she stared at the door.

Spike walked into her room and put her tray down, then glanced back into the hallway. "Are you coming out or what?"

Standing up, she reached for the knob and turned it, opening the door just a crack. As soon as she could see the hallway, she slammed it shut and sat back in her chair, wringing her hands in her lap.

Spike dropped the stuffed animal he had been looking at and walked across the hall, poking his head into the bathroom. "Why'd you slam the door?"

Buffy shrugged and pointed at her chair. "My chair hit it. I don't usually bring it all the way in. This room's too small."


Thirty minutes later, Buffy was sitting at the vanity table, watching in the mirror as the bottle of bleach floated magically through the air. Spike's lack of a reflection made for some interesting viewing as he separated and massaged the dye into different sections of her hair. Trying hard to forget the lie that she was literally sitting on, Buffy pointed at the mirror. "You know, I can see why vampires would make bad hair stylists. You would scare the hell out of patrons with the no reflection thing."

Spike glanced up from what he was doing and stared at the mirror. Grinning a little, he lifted a lock of her hair straight up, making it stand on end. "With hair like this, that fear could go both ways. Even I know how to keep my roots in check."

"Hey!" Buffy frowned and reached upward, trying to pat her hair down, but Spike stopped her. "That's not funny."

"Don't touch it with your bare skin! It will burn!" He nudged her hand away and continued working.

"Spike, I hate to point out the obvious, but it's already touching my bare skin."

"Smart ass," he replied, massaging his fingertips over her scalp.

Buffy closed her eyes, enjoying the way his hands felt. Suddenly, it dawned on her that she would have to rinse her hair somehow and her eyes flew open. "Oh my god! How am I gonna rinse my hair?"

"I'm a step ahead of you, luv." Spike glanced at the clock on her table and began timing the coloring. "As soon as this is almost finished, I'll go and get the shower ready."

"Shower? How am I supposed to stand in the shower?"

"Your mum had a shower massager installed. The hose is really long. You'll sit in the tub and use that to rinse, then we'll run you some bathwater."

Relaxing a little, Buffy nodded. "Yeah, that sounds okay."

Spike was glad that she couldn't see his reflection. He was anything but okay with the situation. It was going to be hell on him to see her naked again. Naked and wet and sitting in the tub like some kind of delicate mermaid. Glancing at the clock, he willed himself not to react to it. He had been trained to take care of people and see to their needs. He had been a good doctor and this was no different than any of the patients he had seen before he had been sired by Angelus. Sure, it had been over one hundred years ago, but he still retained the memory of his schooling and training.

And he only had fifteen more minutes to get himself mentally prepared for it.


Buffy sat in the hallway, watching Spike adjust the temperatures inside the shower. He turned after a few minutes and moved toward her, reaching for the hem of her gown. Turning a bright red, Buffy caught his hand as he brushed across the fabric. "I want to wear my gown."

"I've already seen you naked, Slayer," Spike replied, gathering a handful of the fabric. "Besides, this is a nice gown and you'll just ruin it if the bleach gets all over it. It will stain." It suddenly struck him that he sounded exactly as he had when dealing with Dru. He'd never been able to walk away from a beautiful woman in need, and here he was again, playing nanny to the Slayer.

"I don't care," she stated, moving his hand again and smoothing out the material he had wrinkled. "I want to wear it."

Spike stood up, assessing the situation. Whatever it was that was bothering her had begun to bother him too, and he could feel his patience being stretched to the limit. "You can't always wear a gown in the tub, Buffy. If you want me to stay and take care of you then you have to learn to let me. You can't be modest and you can't be stubborn and headstrong. You're paralyzed, Buffy, and that gown could tangle up and drown you within minutes."

"That would never happen," she said, shaking her head. "I can pull myself up."

Narrowing his eyes at her, he lifted her roughly and let her slip to the floor. Moving quickly, he stuffed her gown around her and pulled it tight, stepping on the bulk of the fabric. "Pull yourself up," he growled.

Buffy had to force herself to use just her arms. She struggled for several seconds and then sighed in defeat. "I can't."

Gripping her under the armpits, he pulled her upright and quickly pulled her gown over her head. Letting her fall back on her elbows, he slipped her panties over her hips and legs, then tossed them on top of her gown. She kept her head lowered, half attempting to cover herself, and he took the opportunity to stare down at her, drinking in her petite curves and small breasts. She glanced up at him suddenly, questioning what he was doing with her eyes, and he snapped out of it. Keeping his gaze anywhere except her body, he lifted her and took her into the bathroom, where he deposited her in the tub.

Buffy felt a blush spread over her face and neck and quickly grabbed the shower head, turning it to the highest pressure. She turned the spray toward her head, using her free hand to work the dye through. The chemicals seeped into her still healing cuts on her palm and she yelped.

"What did I just tell you?" Spike grabbed the massage and rinsed her hand. "Let me do it."

"I'm not helpless," she mumbled, crossing her arms over her chest, the truth in her statement making her cringe. She closed her eyes as he rinsed her hair and soon he was satisfied that the water was clear. She felt him rinse the tub around her and watched as he turned the shower off and stopped up the tub, letting it fill around her. "I can bathe myself."

"No, you can't," Spike said evenly, squatting next to the tub. "What happened? Buffy, why are you being like this?"

"I- I just- I hate this." Buffy noticed a bottle of bubble bath on the ledge of the tub, and dumped half of it under the running water, needing to hide herself. Nude in front of him, with her body coming to life in ways she never imagined, she felt as though he could see right through her ruse.

Spike watched the bubbles foam up and come around her, swatting a few away before he turned the water off. "Is it because I stayed in your bed all night?"

She gasped and jerked her head up, meeting his eyes fully for the first real time that day. "Oh, god, no. Spike, don't think that. I asked you to stay. I guess I just woke up cranky." Silently, she added, 'and able to move my legs and terrified that you'll leave. Because I can walk, because I am lying to you, because it changes everything. Because with me crippled, I'm a normal girl, but the second I walk again I'm the Slayer and your kind is my prey.'

"Well, why don't we turn the crank the other way?" Spike lifted a washcloth and lathered it with soap. With one hand, he pushed her hair over her shoulder and began to soap her back. "You don't have to be embarrassed to let me do this, okay?"

She reddened again, despite the conviction in his tone. "I can't help it."

Spike dipped the cloth in the water and soaped it again, then handed it to her. "Wash your face." He waited until she took it and began to scrub her face before he spoke again. "Slayer, I'm going to tell you something, and you'd bloody well better not laugh."

Wringing the rag out, she splashed her face and glanced at him. "Okay."

"Do you remember the other day, when you mentioned your back pain and I told you some medical things and you asked me when I got my medical degree?"


"I didn't lie to you. I went to medical school and worked in a hospital for three years."

Buffy's eyes widened and she sat up straighter. "You're serious?"

"Yes." Spike took the washcloth again and pulled her leg out of the water.

Biting her lip, to keep from cackling as he soaped between her toes, Buffy spoke quickly. "Were you happy?"

Nodding, Spike soaped her calf and knee, working upward toward her center. Part of him wanted to toss her the rag and tell her he'd be right outside the door. Her skin was so soft, so smooth under his touch and it was driving him crazy. She was driving him crazy. He paused at the apex of her thighs and reached for her other foot, soaping it the same as he had the other. Moving to her chest, he worked the washcloth in a circular pattern as he spoke again. "I was very happy at the hospital, but I was transferred to an asylum at the end of my third year. It was impossible to be happy there."

Buffy tried with all of her might to pay attention to the story he was telling her, but as he kneaded her breasts, she found her lower half responding, a throbbing ache beginning to surge in her womb. She wanted more than anything to squeeze her legs together and apply some kind of pressure to the part of her that had been dormant for so long, but instead, she found herself pulled back into his story at the mention of Drusilla.

"Anyway, Dru had apparently been picked up and she was all disoriented. I found out later that she had forgotten to eat for a few days. Vampires get a nasty case of dementia when they don't eat."

"So all this time, she's been starving?"

"Very funny." Spike paused and let the washcloth dangle between his fingertips, debating whether or not to attempt to completely bathe her. He had no idea how far Joyce went or how capable Buffy was. When she made no move to take the rag from him, he figured that he should continue and soaped it again as he continued his tale. "She fed on a couple of orderlies and then came at me. It was right around that time that Angelus figured out where she was and all kinds of hell broke loose when he brought a few minions in to get her back. I did the gallant thing and tried to protect her from the deformed men, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up a vampire and she was cooing over the pretty new pet that her daddy had given her."

"So, Angel sired you for Dru?" Buffy watched as his strong hands soaped the rag. She knew exactly where he was about to go with it and there was no way she could handle the feel of his hand *there*. She was capable of doing it herself. She could have shooed him out the door, should have, but instead she bit her lip and waited patiently to feel his hands move lower on her. She should have felt guilty, but all she felt was a breathless anticipation as he laid the soap down.

Spike nodded and reached under the water again, sliding his hand down her stomach until his thumb brushed against her dark nest of curls. Swallowing hard, he concentrated on the wall behind her head and hoped that she had no idea what she was doing to him. Turning his hand palm down, he slid along her inner folds, careful with the pressure he was applying, although he was almost positive she couldn't feel it. No one had told him how severe her paralysis was. His cock was at full attention, stabbing into the edge of the tub, and he continued his story, hoping to take his mind off what he was doing. Clearing his throat, he said, "He figured that she needed a doctor around all the time to tend to her needs and prevent her from winding up in the hospital again. I became everything for her. Her surrogate father, her caregiver, her lover, her life -- and I never looked back."

Buffy felt a line of sweat forming on her forehead as his hand ran all over her inner thighs. His face was expressionless, as if he was unaware of what he was doing, but Buffy knew that the way he touched her had nothing to do with washing. His thumb brushed over her clit, then lower, his fingers dragging the rag along. She felt him trace the length of her and barely dip into her ... once, then twice. Every muscle of her body tried to betray her by arching against him, and she struggled with her breathing, trying to keep it semi-normal instead of ragged. As he brushed against her swollen clit, she cleared her throat and slipped her hands beneath the water, pinching her legs to pull the attention away from what he was doing. "Until now."

Spike yanked his hand away, dipping the cloth several times in the tub. Oh, he had been so caught up in what he was doing ... in the feel of her, in how she had clamped around the tip of his thumb, that he had forgotten what he was saying. "Until now. It's only fair that I tell you about me. You told me about your grandfather." Satisfied that he couldn't stand much more, no matter how much they talked about his past, he rolled her slightly and washed her backside, then hit the drain before he turned the shower on again to rinse the bubbles away.

Her arousal began to slowly recede, replaced by humiliation from the fact that he had washed her -all over- and she had felt every brush of his hand. Rinsing was simple and soon enough, Spike was spreading a towel on her chair and lowering her onto it. He grabbed another and quickly scrubbed her body down, needing to see her dry and dressed as fast as possible. She covered herself with her mother's terry cloth robe and sat silently as Spike wheeled her back to her room. He told her a few more things about his past, mostly about his early kills and what Angelus had been like, as he brushed through her hair and used the dryer on it. And she could feel his hatred for Angel coming through in every word he uttered.

When he was finished, Spike stood back and admired his handiwork. Her hair was shiny now, curling delicately around her breasts and parted deeply on one side. It was a little lighter than it used to be, and it was beautiful. "You look lovely," he told her in a quiet voice.

Buffy patted her hair and started to roll toward her vanity, only to find the path blocked by Spike. "Don't I get to see?"

Nodding, Spike handed her the package at the foot of her bed. "Open it."

Smiling broadly, she tore the paper from the box and lifted the lid. Inside there was a silver handled mirror, ornately designed with rose patterns and vines around the handle. Buffy gasped and turned it over, running her fingers over the back. "It's beautiful."

Taking it from her, Spike turned it so she could see her reflection. "No, *that* is beautiful."

Buffy stared at her reflection, shocked at her own image. Gone was the helpless girl who had felt sorry for herself and felt comfortable seducing Spike. The Slayer had re-emerged, pushing away the victim and trying to reclaim her life. A life that both scared and hurt her. Forcing herself to smile, she whispered. "Thank you, Spike, for everything." Buffy glanced at him over the mirror, but looked away just as quickly. A pit formed in the middle of her stomach as guilt weighed heavily upon her. "I- I don't feel very well. I think I should lie down again."

Spike frowned and took the mirror from her, helping her into the bed. "Do you want me to call Giles?"

"No. I'll be okay." She made a great show of tugging her legs so she could roll onto her side. "I just need sleep."

After Spike left the room, she sobbed silently, her tears dampening her pillow and causing her body to shake uncontrollably. What was she supposed to do? Just go back to being a Slayer? Spike loathed Slayers. He hated everything about her sacred duty. If she told him she could walk, he would leave her because she didn't need him anymore, and if she kept pretending and he found out, he would hate her for lying to him.

She was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Quite literally.



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