"Before mine eyes in opposition sits grim Death "
-- John Milton
"Yes, I'm blind. Happy now?" At that moment, Buffy's knees abruptly gave way and she found herself sliding down the side of the marble tomb until she was sitting limply on the ground. With a shudder, she leaned her head back against it and closed her eyes. Waiting.
Silence. Spike hadn't moved. A few more heartbeats passed then the stillness finally became too much for her shattered nerves to bear any longer. "Well?" Buffy asked tautly. "Aren't you going to say it?"
"Say what?" Spike's voice sounded odd. Flat somehow.
"I don't know. Some crack. How this really makes your century, maybe. I don't know..." Her voice trailed away and she shifted a little, cradling her left arm in her lap, wishing the waves of pain that were rolling across her body would go away for a while. Wishing he would go away...
"How?" Spike's question abruptly brought her wandering mind back to the present.
Buffy didn't pretend not to know what he meant. "Acid-spitting demon. Ducked right when I should have dodged left. End of story."
He really was a vampire of few words. Or syllables. "Last Tuesday. And no, there's nothing anyone can do. I'm blind. For life. However long that turns out to be." This time her words were laced with bitterness.
She heard him shift his weight, sensing the slight movement of his feet on the hard-packed dirt, and braced herself for the...no, not sympathy. She didn't expect sympathy from Spike -- despite that moment on her mother's porch a week ago when he had...when he had been kind. No. She couldn't deal with any more kindness right now. She'd had more than enough from her friends and family, and it was killing her. Insults, threats, demons trying to murder her -- those she could handle. But not kindness. Not now. And not from him. Buffy opened her eyes -- not that it made any difference -- and straightened her shoulders. "And don't bother saying how sorry you are, because I won't believe you," she snapped.
There was another long pause and then: "Not likely. I was just going to say that you're bleeding all over my bloody... uh...coat."
Oh. Buffy reached up with one hand to the leather that was still wrapped around her. For a moment her fingers tightened around one edge, then she doggedly began to pull it off, trying to jar her left arm as little as possible. A moment later hands were touching hers, helping to slide the leather duster off her shoulders.
"Always figured I'd get to undress you one day," he said tauntingly.
Buffy tried to bat the vampire's hands away but failed miserably. "In your dreams," she muttered.
"Yeah," he breathed, so quietly that she almost didn't hear him. And then he was pulling the coat aside, causing a fresh wave of agony to shoot through her, and she decided she had misheard.
"Can you stand?" Spike's voice was calm, matter-of-fact, as if he didn't care one way or the other. He probably didn't.
Buffy frowned, then shook her head, not even trying to make the effort. She knew she couldn't stand. The dizziness was back with a vengeance and she was colder than ever. So cold she felt as if she were turning to ice. Buffy the Snow-Slayer. Funny. She could no longer feel the ground beneath her, she realized dimly, and the world was becoming distant and remote. Blood loss and shock, part of her mind supplied...but she couldn't really find it in her to care. Maybe this was it. This was how she would die -- not in battle as she had always thought, but bleeding to death in Spike's crypt -- which was ironic in a way that pretty much redefined the word 'irony'. Still, maybe that would be ok. She didn't think she'd ever have the courage to try this again. If it didn't end tonight... Buffy's eyes began to flicker shut.
A resounding cuff across the face banished the oblivion that was beginning to enfold her and the Slayer's eyes flew open again. Without warning she found herself being dragged to her feet then tossed roughly onto the top of the tomb. Buffy gasped, wincing at the pain in her jaw which now rivalled that of her arm. "Ow. What are--?" she started to say, but Spike's words overrode hers.
"You are so damned...pathetic, do you know that? God, any more nobility and self-sacrifice around here and I'm going to throw up."
"What..." she tried again but he ignored her, reaching out to give her a shove so that she fell backwards, laying full length on the top of the tomb.
"Just shut up and keep still," he said. His voice was practically vibrating with fury and for a moment the clouds in her mind rolled away. Chip or no chip, Spike was still dangerous. Always would be. Buffy froze as she sensed him moving closer...but then he went around the tomb, heading across the crypt where she could hear him rummaging for something. Then he moved back towards her and she tensed again, wishing for the millionth time that she could see what was happening.
"If you think you get to bleed to death here you're off your rocker. I don't want your gang of Scoobies staking me because I let you die. And I certainly don't want the next Slayer coming along, out for revenge and a little Spike-slayage -- not while I've got this chip in my head at any rate."
"So throw me out in the rain and don't get involved," she said weakly.
"Don't tempt me. No, I'm going to patch you up -- only to keep you from dripping blood all over my floor, mind -- and then I'm taking you home where you can be somebody else's problem. Anybody else's problem."
"No!" Buffy tried to sit up but he held her down easily. "Spike, you don't understand..."
"Don't I?" He reached for the collar of her shirt, yanking open the top button. "And before you get any ideas, I'm taking this off so I can fix your arm, is all. So don't get excited."
"Like this would excite me. Listen, you don't know..."
He undid the next button and then the next, wrenching her shirt open. Buffy flinched and her shivering increased as a cold draft played over her bared skin.
"How 'bout I tell you what I know," Spike was saying, pulling her right arm through the shirt sleeve. "Like how you probably spent the last few days deciding that the world needs a Slayer, a new Chosen-bloody-Whinger. Since the other one's, what? Doing ten to twenty for murder?" He succeeded in freeing her right arm and moved on to the left. "So heroic little Buffy decides to go out and get herself killed so the next Slayer can be called and fight the forces of evil, blah blah blah. How'm I doing so far?"
She said nothing. Partly because he was right, partly because she was in too much pain to do more than clench her teeth and try not to scream -- and partly because she was way too aware of the fact that Spike was undressing her. Which was more than a little surprising, given that she was in agony, frozen to the marrow, and hanging onto consciousness by a thread. What the hell was the matter with her anyway?
Spike's fingers brushed against her bare stomach and she inhaled sharply, then shook the bizarre thoughts away, concentrating instead on remaining awake.
He was still talking. "Bet you planned everything," he said derisively. "Wrote all the Scoobies tragic little goodbye notes. Probably shagged your boyfriend one last time and then went out demon-hunting. Right?"
A small shaft of anger went through Buffy and for a moment she forgot everything else. How come Spike got to be the one who could always get inside her head? Why could she fool everyone else but not him. Never him. It wasn't fair...
"Well, am I right? I like the lacy lingerie, by the way," he added, almost as an afterthought as he pulled her injured arm through the shirt sleeve then let the blood-soaked garment drop to the floor.
Buffy didn't answer. Couldn't. The sudden jolt of pain in her arm was overwhelming and she felt as if she were being pulled backwards and downwards, sinking ever deeper into shadows. 'Can't faint,' Buffy thought desperately, a tremor going through her. 'Won't...' But her grip on the world was failing. For a fleeting moment the Slayer thought she felt something soft brush against her hair -- Spike? -- and then even that was gone and she was alone in the dark.
Continued in Part 5