By OneTwoMany (Sabre)
Lying in the pale morning light, Spike watches his Slayer sleep.
She lies sprawled across him, her head resting below the curve of his shoulder, her ear against his silent chest, her legs entangled with his. His chest quivers slightly where her warm breath touches his cooler skin, and her upper arm is soft and slightly sweat-misted beneath the gentle caress of his fingers. Despite the weight of his guilt and his soul, and the knowledge that this must end, Spike knows he's grinning like an idiot.
Spike wonders what he could sell, what price he would pay, to freeze this moment, to hold back the sun and lie with her forever beneath the soft, pale light that divides day from night. But there's no one to bargain with. Morning is rushing toward them, he can feel its approach in his bones, and sense it in the more material indications - the first call of birds, the silence of insects, the distant noise of early rising humans going about their morning business. Strange that he is almost oblivious to the passage of years, yet in moments such as these even individual seconds pass in such intense detail.
Buffy shifts slightly, demanding his attention even in sleep. She murmurs softly, and Spike stills, but she doesn't wake. Deliberately, with concentrated effort, he times his intake of breath to hers. He's done this before, on those rare past occasions when she'd allowed herself to fall asleep beside him. Taken comfort, then as now, in the knowledge that they could move in harmony in the calm quiet of sleep, just as in the hectic chaos of battle. But this is the first time he's ever felt a connection beyond the simultaneous rising and falling of their chests; the first time he has ever lain with her hand clenched in his or her blood in his veins.
Her blood, rushing inside him. Warming and enlivening and healing. A bloody miracle, that. He still can't quite believe it.
Running his tongue across his lips, Spike can still taste the marvelous, tangy taste of her blood. Rich, satisfying, evocative. It's probably why sleep was so elusive; he's still buzzed, pumped on slayer blood and the lingering affects of arousal and adrenaline. Except the memory of their bloodletting and bonding results in a jolt of intense, almost painful arousal, lighting every nerve of his body again, rousing the demon within. His hand involuntarily tightens around hers. Closing his eyes, Spike tries to get a grip on his body.
Daring a quick glance down, Spike confirms that his morning erection is present as always, and dangerously close to his sleeping slayer. He shifts uneasily.
Startled by the movement, Buffy stirs slightly, mutters something in a sleep-hazed voice. He freezes. But it's too late. Swallowing the sudden lump in his throat, the rising fear, Spike manages to say that only thing that comes to mind.
Buffy's mussed head rises from its place on his shoulder, her hooded eyes unfocused as she struggles to shake off the lingering lethargy.
Time's up, and he waits for the blow. Watches her face intently as the various emotions flit across it: first surprise and confusion, then relief, and finally something truly surprising, something rare and golden, something he doesn't quite dare believe might actually be happiness.
Eyes bright and face open, Buffy smiles; a wide, deep smile that awakens old memories of sunrises and bluebells and Helen of Troy. It's all embarrassingly sappy, but in that moment Spike hardly cares. He could almost write poetry again, except that would require paper and he doesn't want to move. He just wants to lie and stare.
Buffy's inquisitive voice breaks the silence.
"Did it work?"
"My blood. You all healed?"
Spike blinks. Of course, the wounds. He'd forgotten about them. He supposes the blood must have done something if that were possible. Or maybe it was her presence. The night had been so perfect; perhaps his frayed nerves were lethargic and lazy from carrying other, more pleasurable sensations?
Licking his lips, Spike looks down at his chest and tentatively moves one leg. No crippling agony.
"Er...yeah. Think so..."
Buffy beats him to it, her little hands pushing up his T-shirt as she quickly sits up.
"Let me see..."
He shivers slightly beneath her touch, but she doesn't seem to notice, intent as she is on examining his wounds. Her fingers work gently over his stomach, his chest, and Spike again shifts nervously. Prays she doesn't pay too much attention to his other parts. .
Impromptu assessment finished, Buffy pronounces him fit.
"They're all scabby and yucky, but not bleeding anymore."
She flashes him a winning smile; big, big eyes filled with happiness and, he thinks, satisfaction.
"And that's very much of the good."
Oh yeah, definitely satisfaction.
Her hands linger on his body, gently caressing the skin surrounding the nastiest gashes. Unfortunately, the effect her touch is having on him is something quite different. His body, already reacting to her nearness in impossibly inconvenient ways, now begins to betray him completely. He's painfully, and obviously, hard; the throbbing beguiling and he can feel his hands begin to tremble in that annoying way they do when Buffy gets too close.
The words, whatever they were, disintegrate in his mind, and it's like he's human again, stuck in that Victorian parlor, nervous and tender and trying to think of something to say that wouldn't embarrass him further.
Buffy's silent too, still looking at him with that stunningly open, indescribable expression.
A sudden flash of panic flushes across her face, and before any words leave her mouth, he feels his heart shatter and crumble.
"Shit! It's Inservice day. I so can not be late."
She pushes herself off him fast, and he doesn't know whether to be angry and disappointed or simply immensely relieved.
"There's this Nazi bitch from hell at work, she's just waiting for me to screw up..."
He watches Buffy hop around the room, searching for the shoes she'd kicked off the night before. She's delightful, all vibrant and glorious. Effulgent, his mind offers, but he pushes it away. She flashes him another grin.
"Want anything? Need anything?"
Spike shakes his head, still shifting through his dancing emotions. This friendly, business-like efficiency is something entirely new, and he's not entirely sure how to deal with it. She reaches the bottom of the stairs, then turns back to him, all pulsing energy. He guesses he should at least be relieved that she showed no signs of ill effects from the blood-loss.
"Okay, anything you want, I think you can get upstairs for now. There's blood in the fridge. Er...pig, of course."
Her voice hitches only a second, but her fingers go instinctively to her wrist. Spike can't hold back a slight wave of pride, that he'd marked her there and she'd let him. But the moment passes, and she moves to the foot of the stairs.
"Giles and Dawn and everyone are home at the moment, but I'll talk to them before I leave. So, don't freak out. You could watch television ... or maybe, you know, take a shower."
She adds the last part pointedly. Not exactly a suggestion. Spike flashes a soft grin in reply, but she's not looking at him, really. Her eyes dart around the room as clutches at the handrail and continues her frenetic little on-the-spot bouncing.
She must have caught his look of hurt and confusion after all, because in the next moment, she is back beside him, fingers tracing his cheek and chin as she touches her soft, warm lips to his forehead. There's a moment's hesitation and she kisses him again on the lips, gently and briefly but rich with meaning. They both tremble slightly as she pulls away.
Meeting her fathomless eyes, Spike can see only see only kindness and caring, and he feels again that horrid stirring of hope. It's unfurls deep in his belly, stretches and crawls through his body and into his limbs; paralyzes him worse than a tazer blast.
"I'll be back later, 'kay?" Buffy whispers. "And we'll talk."
Spike thinks he nods, but he's really that not sure. He can do nothing else but stare after her in silent shock; the sensation of her lips on his forehead, on his mouth, and her fingers on his cheek, lingers long after she is gone.
Finally, goofy smile back on his face, he lies back against the sheets and sleeps soundly for the first time in weeks.
When Spike wakes a second time, it is to the bright light of late morning and the blaring of a stereo in an upstairs bedroom. The music is tacky and witlessly irritating. British Pop. Bloody offence against good taste and good reason. Probably belongs to one of the ankle-biters. Spike briefly entertains the thought of storming upstairs and ripping the ears off the mini-skirted, glitter-nailed bint that was listening to it. But the image gave him significantly less pleasure than it should.
Bleedin' soul. Puts a damper on all his fun.
Lying back, Spike tries to recapture the elusive remnants of sleep. He's not ready to wake quite yet; not if there is any chance of snatching back the dream-like memories of last night. His mind is still awash with a kaleidoscope of images that hardly seem real; that he would not have believed could be real were it not for the feel of warm, potent slayer blood rushing through to his extremities. He inhales deeply, relieved to find the scent of their encounter still lingering in the air and attempts to drift into blissful fantasy again.
A squeak from the upstairs door draws him rapidly back to full consciousness as his acute senses scream awareness of a new presence making her way down the stairs. Smells like Buffy, but different, a touch lighter yet older... and darker.
The rush of adrenaline and a slight whiff of fear are not quite masked beneath the ozone-like scent of her spray-on deodorant. One of them flowery scents advertised by wankers giving flowers to some random bird on the street. Nothing spontaneous about this, though. Despite her fluttery heart, Dawn takes the steps with cautious determination.
Gonna say her piece.
Spike braces himself for what he knows will be a draining conversation.
When she finally speaks, her voice is steady, only a slight quaver hinting at underlying fury.
"I saw her leave here this morning."
With a sigh, Spike opens his eyes and turns to face her. His Little Bit, perched on the stairs as nervously as a bird on a wire.
"Did you now?" he asks, carefully keeping his voice neutral.
His fingers itch for a fag. Been a while since he'd thought about one of those. Strange he didn't crave one last night.
Her large blue eyes meet his is an icy stare.
"You're fucking again, aren't you?"
There is still something faintly Victorian about Spike, enough that it stills shocks him slightly to hear such language from the lips of such a slight girl. All thoughts of the cigarette are gone.
"What?!" he chokes out as he sits up abruptly. He regrets the move immediately as a small sliver of pain cuts its way through his ribs. Not entirely healed, then. "What the heck kind of a question is that?"
She remains silent, crossing her arms, but never dropping her eyes from his. Girl could outstare a tiger.
Spike sucks in his cheeks, searches for an answer that isn't gonna get him staked by someone.
She's having none of it.
"I'm not your 'Niblett,' your 'Little Bit' or anything else. I'm Dawn Summers. No, you're not even worthy of that honor. It's Miss Summers to you."
"Well, pet, if we're getting all Victorian, you'd actually be 'Miss Dawn...'"
"Fine with me."
He'd rather not answer her questions anyway.
Spike knows he's usually good with words. Good with most folks, but 'specially clever when it comes to this girl. Treat her like an adult, say something clever and little saucy, win a grin that lights stars in her eyes. All so easy. But there's nothing he can say that'd make this right. Her hatred feels so real, so thick he can feel coating him like tar. He's not sure he even blames her.
Fuck. He tried to rape her sister.
So Spike decides instead not to talk, not even to think. He lies back, stares at the ceiling. Floorboards, cobwebs, nothing much different from home, really. Or what use to be home. Doesn't really have one of them anymore, does he? Another problem.
Why won't she leave so he can get some more sleep?
Dawn's shuffling a bit, nerves rising and heart pounding faster. Her script wasn't going to plan, and she was probably wondering whether to wing it. She decides it's worth the risk
"Are you sorry?" she asks.
Spike flinches slightly. God, how could she think he was not? He sits up again, swings his legs over the side of the cot and tries to assume a posture approaching dignified.
"Am I sorry? Nib-I mean, Dawn... 'Sorry' doesn't begin to cover it. It's just a word. People say it all the time. Doesn't mean anything; just something that makes the speaker feel better 'bout themselves."
Dawn shakes her head. "I don't get that. Sounds like a totally lame excuse. Isn't everything just a word, really?"
"'Tis different". He pauses, shakes his head, grips the sheet and tangles it around his fingers as he tries to find the words.
He's never been reluctant to share with Dawn before. She, alone of the Scoobs, always understood his darkness, his conflict, accepted his weaknesses without ridicule or disdain. But so much has changed ... Spike notices he's torn a hole in the bunched fabric. It can be patched, but never truly made right. Never restored to what it was. Probably the same with him and Dawn. But he still wants to try.
"That night, in the bathroom, I wasn't thinking...let everything get the better of me. I was weak and desperate, and pissed out of my brain. Not excusing myself, just saying, I didn't go there with the intention of... of doing that."
She's still watching him with those intense, cobalt eyes; face unreadable. He continues in the steadiest voice he can manage.
"I've never been one for introspection, Dawn. Just kinda do it, you know, live with the consequences. 'Cept, couldn't live with that. So I went and got the soul. Like I said, I don't believe in saying sorry. I believe in doing something 'bout it. That's why I can't apologize to your sister, why I certainly can't apologize to you. Cause words aren't good enough. But I'm gonna do something, do something right. Act better. Promise it. I'm never gonna hurt your sister again." Spike paused, meets her eyes with a fervent intensity "And Dawn, I keep my promises."
She holds his gaze for a long, frozen moment, as she weighs his words.
Then time melts. The smell of salt rises in the air as her lip trembles, her eyes fill with glistening liquid and a sob escapes her pink-glossed lips.
"Except you don't, do you?"
She's crying now, words cracking and uneven.
"You weren't there when we needed you. You went away and you didn't say anything and...and you went away because of Buffy... and now I know it was all about Buffy. You never thought about me, only about Buffy."
In that brief space of moments, Dawn's simmering fury has collapsed into a messy puddle of tears and soaking misery. She's really crying. Crying her eyes out because of him. Another victim of his foolish ways.
Instinctively, he opens his arms and draws her willowy frame to him. She resists for only a moment, before melting into his embrace. And it's not awkward like it was before, his movements no longer guided by distant memories, but by a genuine understanding of human need that spills from his soul to his heart. The need to comfort is suddenly so natural, so real, so stunningly intense, and the words pour out in rapid, unconscious, and, most likely, incoherent succession.
"Oh, God, Dawn. I'm sorry. . . . So sorry. . . . I'm a bad man, Dawn. A stupid, rash, bad man. I didn't think. I should have said goodbye, wished I could. But I couldn't. . . . Not after that. Couldn't see you again. Not, . . . not after that...so, so sorry..."
Time passes, and Dawn's sobs slow and then stop. Finally, she sniffles, and allows her thin arms to slide around his waist, and she clutches him to her. Oh, it's good. Warm and wonderful and so completely unlike what he has with Buffy.
Spike toys with the word in his head. Examines the wondrous feeling of satisfaction when he says it. He'd thought he'd grown to love this girl before, but it was but a glimmer of what he felt now. She's his friend and she cares for him and there was no shame in that, no uneasiness or secret horror. It feels natural and right, and, sod dignity, it's suddenly also very important that she knows what it means to him.
"Die for you, I would, same as for your sister." He murmurs the words into her hair. "I love you Dawn. I know you don't believe me, nor reason to, but I'll prove it again. You'll see."
Her voice is muffled against his soggy shirt.
"I do believe you."
All he can do is grip her tighter.
She begins to struggle against him, but it's good-natured. Spike releases her slowly, and she pushes herself back, sits up and straightens her clothing dramatically. Wipes her face on the back of her sleeve. It's almost comical, her attempt to present a picture of maturity despite her red-rimmed eyes and snotty face. He's tempted to laugh, but it would probably ruin the moment.
"Okay," she says, as authoritatively as possible. "I'll give you one more chance. But that threat? The fire? It still stands"
"Don't doubt it."
Another moment of silence, but this time Dawn's eyes are brighter, that star-like sparkle is back. He can see the mischief rising.
"So, now we're like friends again and all, and there shouldn't be secrets between friends..." She raises an eyebrow, and her pink-glossed lips curl in an almost-smile.
"...are you and Buffy fucking again?"
Spike snorts, shakes his head. Pushes himself to his feet and stalks past her onto the stairs.
"That, Niblett, is something you're gonna have to ask your sister."
She'd changed the shower-curtain.
It's bright yellow now, or white, but with large, printed daisies. Glaringly, almost insultingly cheerful and ugly as sin. Soul or not, it almost made him nauseous. But... it's probably better to start the days with an eye full of offensive décor than to be reminded of an attempted rape.
Grinding his teeth and closing his eyes, Spike manages the single step from carpet to tile. Strange, that he should be so distressed, when it is Buffy who was attacked. Seems almost an insult to her, a parody of her pain. Not that he is surprised. He'd always been too emotional for a vamp, and for a man; too readily caught up in the ebb and flow of passion. Never easy to live like that. But not half as hard when he had was guilt and conscience free.
Still, only right that he should suffer this torment.
Moving to the middle of the bathroom, Spike casts his eyes over the scene of his most blistering memory. The rest of the place looks the same. Sink, lavatory, basin laden with all kinds of girly products and several different soaps. His observations bring a strange uneasiness. The room is a vivid symbol of humanity in all its weaknesses and strength and propensity for change, where the most base of human functions are transformed into something almost luxurious by the antiseptic efficiency of the modern world.
Introspection may not be his thing, but Spike's not short on imagination or dreams. He wonders, sometimes, what it would be like to be human again. He'd even contemplated it briefly on that agonizing flight to Africa. He doesn't know for certain, but he suspects Lurky'd probably have given it to him, had he asked. Wouldn't that have given the Poof a shock? Still, he'd come down on the side of no. Spike can hardly remember what it was like to be William, but he knows he didn't like it. When it came down to it, he didn't think that Buffy would've been impressed either.
'Sides, what would have been the point? It wasn't the just the demon that forced Buffy onto the cold tiles, that thrust its legs between hers. It wasn't the demon who hadn't heard the word 'no.' It was the man. The selfish, dependent, willfully blind man who'd been so desperate for love and affection, so truly pathetic and delusional, that he'd devoured the slightest crumb, hung on to the most flimsy thread, and pulled the woman he claimed to love down with him.
Spike leans over the sink, white knuckles gripping the edges of the basin. He feels the strong urge to vomit up everything in his stomach, but is even more revolted by the thought of loosing even a drop of slayer's blood. His undeserved gift; his most precious possession.
"She's moved on mate, so can you."
Determinedly, Spike walks to the shower, turns on the spray and steps inside, oblivious to the cold. He feels the water begin to wash away the grime and blood. Imagines that it can clean his soul.
This, at least, is a start.
Continued in Chapter 5a