Spike looked at Buffy as she lay propped up on pillows in his bed, a sidelong glance that lingered until she caught his eye, and then flicked away. He had never seen her like this and it was bothering him more than he wanted to admit. He reached over to pat her hand tentatively for the tenth time in two minutes, reassuring himself that she was there. Buffy’s eyes rolled. “Spike, would you stop that?”
He stood up, glad of the chance to release some of his turbulent emotions. “I can’t bloody well help it! Seeing you like this, how I found you tonight – it’s doing my head in. Suppose I hadn’t come along in time? Suppose I’d gone back in for a weapon, or had another beer? You’d be dead now. God, I hate this.”
He leaned his forehead against the wall, resisting the urge to bang his head against it. One of them was clearly brain damaged. Be a pity to make it a matching pair.
“I’ve got a bad cold from getting soaked the other night. It’s not the end of the world. And I would have managed to fight that vamp off, I think. Not that I’m not grateful –” Her voice faltered as the memories clawed to the front of her mind, impossible to ignore but too painful to face.
Spike had gone out to meet her as she patrolled, intending to help her tidy up the cemetery in record time so he could take her back to his place to do all the things he’d dreamed of doing to her for so long. Except ‘to her’ had changed to ‘with her’ and reality had exposed his dreams as the crayon scribbles of a toddler, enthusiastic and imaginative but destined for the trash. He had pictured Buffy writhing beneath him, skin sheened with sweat, lips hungry and hands demanding. He’d got that, and more. But had his dream girl ever gone on to demand a box of tissues by the bed so she could mop up afterwards? He’d have to say no. He grinned to himself as he walked along, eyes busy, listening out for any sounds of fighting. Bossy little madam she was at times, and he loved it when her assurance dissipated with each kiss, each caress.
He turned down the path that led to the main gate and saw her, his feet rooted as the seconds dripped away in a slow, syrupy stream. Then he began to run, feeling his face shift and change, hearing himself growl, a detached sense of heightened unreality cushioning him from the sight before him.
Buffy. His Buffy. On the grass, a vampire lying on her, head up as he prepared to bite. Spike knew that moment of the hunt so well, had thrown back his own head in a mindless roar before plunging fangs deep and drinking deeper. She had no chance to escape. Her struggles were weakening as he watched. Even as he drew near, he could see the vampire grip a fistful of her hair, using it to wrench her neck into position.
Three steps to go and he was screaming mindlessly, his anger requiring an outlet before he exploded with fear and rage, challenging the other, hoping to distract him, for a moment, just a moment -
Two steps to go and yes, the head was twisting round to gape uncomprehendingly at approaching death.
One step and his hands were on him, rending and tearing, meting out punishment, granting merciful oblivion only when her weak voice called his name, brought him back from the edge, and claimed all his attention.
“I just can’t believe you went out patrolling when you’re sick like this. Didn’t anyone tuck you up with a toddy or hide your stakes so you couldn’t go out to get bloody killed?”
“What’s a toddy? It sounds naughty. Never mind. Yeah, Dawn fussed and Xander offered to go instead, but I’m the Slayer, Spike. I don’t get time off for sniffles.”
“’Sniffles!’” He began to pace again. She wished he wouldn’t. There wasn’t room and it was making her dizzy watching him take two steps, whirl around and pace back again. “Slayer, your face is whiter than mine. If I speak above a whisper you wince because your head’s aching so badly, you can barely talk and your nose is –” He paused, debating his choice of words, “it’s a snotty red mess, is what it is.”
“Oh!” Her face crumpled as she pictured what he was looking at and she looked moments away from tears. Knowing that he couldn’t bear it if she cried again he flung himself at her, pulling her onto his knee and cradling her to him.
“You’ve never looked more beautiful. You’re alive. It’s all that matters. Ignore me, I’m a stupid git. I’m just not used to this being poorly lark.”
She twisted to look up at him, sniffing rather comprehensively, groping about on the bed for the tissue box. They were getting through them very quickly for one reason or another, she reflected. “So I’m guessing vampires don’t get colds?”
He shrugged. “I never have, so I’d say the odds were against it.”
“Turn me. Turn me now,”
“Well,” she said, her pout disappearing as she enjoyed the rare sight of a shocked and disapproving Spike. “It’d be worth it to never go through this again. I can’t taste, I can’t smell. I feel like death so I might as well be –” He tipped her off his lap unceremoniously. “Hey! Invalid here!”
“If you ever joke about me turning you again, I’ll – no, don’t cry! Anything but the crying!”
“Make me feel better,” she begged.
He bent to kiss her. It lasted fifteen seconds before she squirmed away, panting. “What’s the matter, love?”
She gave him a patient look. “What happens when you kiss me, Spike?”
“You moan a bit and usually your hand ends up on my backside.”
“If I didn’t feel so sick I’d make you pay for that. No, I can’t breathe with my nose like this. Think about it.”
He thought and his face fell ludicrously. “I can’t kiss you when you’re sick? Isn’t there a spell Willow can do?”
“Way ahead of you. No. There’s nothing she can do.” Her voice was fading, the brief flash of animation receding, racing away, leaving her stranded and gasping.
Spike looked at her anxiously. “Let me get you home.”
She shook her head, suddenly drowsy, leaning back and snuggling down. “No. They’ll fuss and it’s too hot there. Nice and chilly here.”
He stroked her forehead and she murmured gratefully as his cool hand stole the heat from her burning skin. “You feel really hot, Buffy.”
His voice seemed to float just out of reach but the concern reached her. “Get me undressed then.”
It was easier than he had expected. Her eyelids fluttered but she was sunk deep in sleep, her body reacting to the stress of the night, retreating into oblivion to heal. He stripped and joined her in bed, lying spooned beside her, his arm curled protectively across her stomach. As she snuggled against him her hand brushed his, latching onto it, holding tightly.
Spike sighed, the tension leaving him.
She woke not in stages but in an upward dive towards awareness. She was still cut off from taste – and that was a good thing as she had slept with her mouth open, gasping, fishlike for air – and her nose was stuffed so full that not even a microscopic smell atom could wriggle through. Her eyes were closed against the pain that lay tight across her forehead and her body had burned away to ashes that would disintegrate if touched by one probing finger.
Sensory deprivation and overload at the same time.
The voice was a background hum, as unremarkable as the motor on the fridge, white noise to match the roaring pain in her head. Focusing on it was impossible, answering it an effort quite beyond her but she let it slide over her as his hands had done earlier. A cooling stream of consciousness.
“ – poetry I’ve memorised over the years? Thousands of verses and you know what? It’s all about love. It’s all we think about, living or dead. Love and killing. Both the same. I want to hold you like this and recite it all but you’d die of boredom I suppose. And I shouldn’t borrow their words, should make up my own but they never seem to fit, somehow. ‘Deep as first love, and wild with all regret.’ That’s not me; it’s you, you and him. Do you regret it still? ‘Ere seen I loved, and loved thee seen.’ That’s me. Knew who you were and I should have hated you but I didn’t. Couldn’t. You scared me. Think I always knew you’d win, one way or another. ‘That I should love a bright, particular star’. My star, my Venus, my evening star. My North star, guiding me, showing me a different way. Sometimes. Sometimes it felt like you were watching me drown. But if we’re picking stars, I’m Lucifer, Star of the Morning. A fallen angel. Oh, back to him again. He fell but they picked him up. Me, I lie in the gutter and no one cares. Do you care, love? My love, my sweet Slayer -”
I care, she tried to say but the words were stuck in her throat and she lay helplessly listening as he laid out his thoughts, flinging them around her feet for her to trample or ignore. She wanted to lie on them instead, roll in them, clutching them to her for warmth, the warmth of being loved, being desired, being known so thoroughly and so well.
She sank back into dreams, still clinging to his hand.
She woke hours later, moving from dream to reality in a decisive snap. Her head was clear, as was her nose – she took a blessedly fulfilling sniff – and she felt better. “I’m better,” she said firmly.
“Whu –” Spike’s arm jerked, tightening around her as he woke. “Buffy. You’re back in the land of the living. About time too.”
She twisted round to face him, moaning as the blood rushed into her arm. “Ow. Pins and needles. Ow.”
He took her arm and began to rub it. “Your nose is pink again,” he discovered. “Thought you’d be sick for days.”
“Slayer mojo. If I get something, I get it bad but it’s over fast. Concentrated ickiness to get me slaying again in no time.”
He considered this and nodded. “Makes sense.”
She paused, searching his face. He looked back, a slight smile on his lips, giving nothing away. It took all her courage to say it, but she had never lied to him and pretending that she’d not heard what he said would have been a lie. “While I was out of it –”
“Yeah?” he drawled, his hand sliding up her thigh to rest in the curve of her waist.
“I heard you talking to me.”
“More like talking to myself, Slayer. Thought you were asleep.” His voice was mildly chiding and she almost let it drop.
“No. You were telling me how you feel. I, it was – I’ve never had anyone say things like that to me before.”
He would have looked away but her hand slid up to his face, holding him in place. “Tell me more.”
He grinned reluctantly. “You’re bossing me around. Must be better.”
She snuggled closer and kissed him, a long, lingering kiss. When she paused and looked at him with raised eyebrows, waiting, he reached around and moved her hand up. “Told you,” he remarked.
“You’re not going to do it are you! Talk more to me; tell me sweet things - William.”
He rolled her onto her back and straddled her in one fluid movement. Taking her wrists he pushed them above her head, then brought them together. He let go of one and captured it with his other hand. She lay still, held by a grip she could break with one look, one word. His cock was rigid, swollen with need and he pulled back, spreading her legs so that it could nudge inside her. He stayed like that as she began to squirm, his face unreadable. Then he began to talk to her, low voice regaining the cadences of youth as he slid slowly inside her, his strokes matching the rhythm of his words. He released her hands and let her hold him, let her bite and scratch, kiss and lick but he kept talking to her, until the words were as deep in her head as he was in her body, until he faltered and his measured words became incoherent pleas until silence was all that was left for him to say.
When she left, he was sleeping, sprawled out, the red quilt tangled around his hips. His hair was rumpled, his face defenceless, the sharp angles softened by his dreams. She smiled at him and turned to go.
“Love you,” she whispered, words she had never said to him while he was awake. She turned to go and missed Spike’s smile.
He waited until he heard the door close behind her and then murmured, “Love you too, Slayer. Always did.”
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