It didn’t occur to her to knock at the hospital room door, and later she would wish she had.
Spike was sitting up in bed, his bare back turned to her, the pajama bottoms bunched low around his waist. She froze. I didn’t plan for this. I should have had a speech. Some flowers…A card! I should have gotten a card! New, from Hallmark: So glad you’re not a vampire any more! Except you liked being a vampire, and might not want to be human! And then there’s---
“Sorry! I pushed the wrong button---“ And then he turned, and saw her. His face changed, and it seemed that there was nothing in the room visible to her but his eyes. She could hear perfectly the squeaking of the nurses’ shoes going by in the hallway. Somewhere, an intercom beeped, but her eyes never wavered from his. The room seemed to be roaring around her, but she heard a man laugh out in the hallway. She was afraid to take her eyes off him. If I look away, he might vanish. He swallowed, hard, as if there was something in his throat. “Buffy.” Not a question, but a statement.
She nodded, as if her identity had been in question somehow, and his next demand would be for ID. She wondered, insanely, if her ID was in her pocket. Behind her, beyond the hospital room door, voices chattered and other peoples’ lives went on. Hers seemed to be frozen here, immobilized forever in one crystalline moment. The utter impossibility of saying anything adequate came to her again. Why, yes, it’s me. How’s the living thing working out for you? How are you? What are you?
He slid off the bed slowly, as if he wasn’t entirely sure there’d be a floor there. Carefully, like a man walking across ice shards, he made his way around the foot of the bed. He was bare-chested, hair loose around his head. Her fingers curled with the desire to touch him. “Did you do --this?” He had both hands on his chest in the same tentative way he’d stood up, as if he wasn’t entirely certain that there would be anything of substance greeting his fingertips.
Buffy shook her head mutely, her hands rising, echoing his gesture. “Are you okay?” she whispered.
Frozen, his eyes bright, he shook his head. Then he nodded. “I don’t know.” He shook his head again. “Can’t talk at all, that’s for bloody certain.”
“Is your throat sore or something?” Buffy blurted out.
Spike shook his head again. He spread his hands helplessly, then laid his hand over his heart. “Not my throat,” he whispered. Her own throat felt like it had been sandpapered. “What happened to me?”
She had to open and close her mouth a few times before words and brain worked at the same time. “I don’t know.”
“But I’m here.”
“You’re here,” Buffy whispered.
Spike shook his head again, his eyes wide. “But not there.” He tried to smile, but he looked too shaken to manage it. He nodded at where she stood, across the room from him, and she blinked as it hit her. She seemed to have forgotten how to walk, because it felt like she was doing something else, something that didn’t involve muscles or floors or stupid things like reality. “No,” she breathed. “Not there any more.”
Rush and stop, run and freeze. She was in such a hurry, she was moving through quicksand. His skin was so warm that she could only touch him with her fingertips, familiar and alien all at once. Her touch made his jaw drop, and she had to hesitate for a moment, her fingertips skimming his face, his lips, his throat. He sagged against the wall, but reached out for her so she came with him, his hands seeking her curves as if it were for the first time. There were moments of clarity in the rush, in the sloth, moments where she could see, moments where she was almost blinded. Everything about him was fresh, but haunting. His hair clutched in her hands as she buried her face in his neck. That sensation was old, but the shiver that came with it was brand new. She looked for something old, found something new instead. Oh, the back of his neck beneath her hand. She leaned into him, melting and changing, trying to brace her weight off of him, and then giving up that struggle with a sigh. She sagged against him, forearms against the wall on either side of his head, lips brushing his as they moved. Too much. One more twist, one more turn, and then they were sliding down the wall together, mouths coming together at the bottom with a shock.
Oh. Oh. His mouth was new to her, everything changed subtly so that she had to explore. He was panting between kisses, much more intensely than he had as a vampire, and it was exciting, this evidence of his eagerness. She had to pull back now and then, her fingers laced through his hair, startled. There were too many new impulses to experience all at once, and she retreated, stared at him, her eyes huge.
A tap at the door signaled reality, and she jumped to her feet, yanking Spike with her. He stumbled, and she automatically steadied him, reluctant not to be touching him. Skin. Warm, soft skin. Spike blew hair out of his eyes and she stared at him, realizing it was a gesture she’d never seen before. “Okay,” she called.
“How are you doing?” It was a doctor, a rumpled professorial-looking man with wildly curly gray hair. He had a neatly-trimmed beard and mustache, but the hair on his head appeared to be rebelling. “Much better, I see. Ready to go home?”
“The police---?” Spike asked. “And---clothes?”
Good thing one of us can think, Buffy said. She had to cross her arms on her chest to keep make her hands behave.
The doctor shrugged off the questions. “They’re Sunnydale police. I’ve already told them what I think. I’ll tell them again if necessary.” He rolled his eyes, as if to indicate that he believed this was unfortunately likely. “They know perfectly well I’ll be the one treating whatever no doubt self-inflicted wounds they might endure. All I have to do is let them know that I control whether or not they get anesthetic. And clothes? The nurse can get you some sweats. If you have any other questions---?” His tone, while acerbic, was kind, but hinted that the very idea that there were problems he couldn’t solve was almost amusingly presumptuous.
Buffy meekly raised her hand. “The officer out there?”
The doctor glanced at the ceiling, as if beseeching some deity for patience. “That department thinks they have the power to put an officer in my hospital. It was just free extra security.” He made a note on his clipboard, then looked up. “I’ll take care of that personally. Anything else?”
Silence. Hospital, Buffy thought. Reality. Reality meaning what?
She turned to him. “That’s it? What did you tell them?”
“The truth,” he said slowly. “Part of it.”
She had to smile. “Which part? The whole vampire thing?”
He leaned against her, studying her face, biting his lip. “Left that part out.” Her hands were shaking, and something seemed to have changed with the doctor’s interruption. Just another girl with her boyfriend, Buffy thought. Except that’s not me. That’s not us. We’re---what? The way he was looking at her, she found it hard to care, harder still not to flush. It was like being a virgin again, she was so nervous. He touched her nose with his, eyes drifting down, hands cupping her face. She could see his chest moving faster as his breath got tighter, and she smiled a little breathlessly herself. She wriggled backward, up on the bed, pulling him between her legs by the string of his pajamas. This loosened the knot, and she shivered suddenly, as the fabric slid down far enough to reveal the dark edge of his pubic hair. He planted his hands on the bed beside her hips and his mouth on hers, and kissed her so thoroughly that she gave serious thought to whether or not the door was lockable.
This question was answered in the negative when another knock came, just seconds before the door squeaked open.
Buffy straightened, and bonked her forehead into his, but it at least gave him a moment to pull his pants up. He took a deep breath and stepped decisively to the door, where a nurse bearing a pile of folded-up gray material was eyeing Buffy curiously---a little too curiously, Buffy thought. “Thanks, that’s very nice of you.”
She glanced from Buffy to Spike and back again, then smiled. “You might not feel that grateful when you see how much they charged you for them.”
“Thanks,” Spike said tightly, putting one hand on the door. She smirked at him, then backed out. She ought to have one of those beeping things that trucks have for when she does that, Buffy thought, the memory of the nurse’s expression smarting beyond reason.
“So what did you tell her?” Buffy asked dryly.
Spike leaned against the door, frazzled by the interruption, then caught her words. He looked as if the possibility of jealousy had never occurred to him before. It only took a moment to sink in, and then he stared at her, a look of frank amazement on his face. “Are you jealous? Really?” He looked as if he wanted to write it down somewhere.
“No, I’m not,” Buffy said. “Because---“ And then it hit her. Human meant all sorts of things---huge things. But little things as well. Spike’s love for her had made him special amongst vampires. Among humans, it was normal, and apt to change. Her jaw dropped with the thought. She could have gotten him back again, only to lose him to someone else. What was there to keep him from falling prey to all those human emotions?
“I didn’t mean it,” Spike said quietly. “I was just teasing.” He fumbled with the sweats, turning his back to her, and dropping the bottoms to the floor.
“I didn’t---I was just startled---“ Buffy said. “I’m still kind of in shock here, you know---I guess less than you.” She was too bowled over to appreciate the site of his naked body, where minutes before it had left her breathless. Something about saying these things across a room struck her as wrong, and she swiftly stepped in front of him, grabbing his hands and tossing the clothing aside. “It’s a shock, okay? I thought it would be easier for me than it would be for you. I don’t think that’s true any more.” She kissed him deliberately then, pressing him against the door, bringing his hands firmly to her breasts. He stiffened for a second, then pushed her backward, and for a second she thought he was pushing her away. The second bed in the room was behind her and she understood only she bumped down onto it. In a second, he was on top of her, and she pulled him, wrapping her legs around him to get him as close as she could, seeking out his mouth for a gasping, back-clawing kiss.
The intercom sounded outside, and they stopped, staring at each other’s flushed faces. Regretfully, Buffy sat up, thinking, that didn’t change. A glance revealed an erection that the sweats only accentuated. Neither did that. Another glance revealed that Spike looked chagrined at the fact that he had less control of this body than the old one. Buffy reached out and touched his arm. “Some things don’t change.”
Spike pulled the sweatshirt on. “That’s not comforting.” She pulled him closer, intending to soothe his ruffled feathers, and was rather startled—shocked, even,---when he shook off her arm. “I can’t go out like this,” he muttered. He eyed her with a little of his old humor in his eyes. “And you’re not helping.”
“Oh, I’m not?” She reached out and cupped his penis through the soft fabric, catching her breath as he jumped at her touch. “I’d love to.”
“What, here?” he whispered, and he sounded almost dismayed. She tightened her grip, and realized he was shaking.
“Yes, here,” she said precisely. She kissed him, slow and wet, and knew then that she wasn’t exaggerating to make him feel better, even if she’d intended to. There was something going on with him, and, she thought, why wouldn’t there be? It had to be a tremendous shock. She wasn’t good with putting things into words like he was, but she knew how to show her feelings at least. “Anywhere---for you. Any time. You think it was the Big Bad I wanted, don’t you?” She kissed him again, but he pulled away to look at her, to see her eyes. “It was always you. Still is. What do you want me to do?”
“It’s not---“ she slid her hand beneath the fabric and touched the soft skin of his erection. He shuddered as if she’d shocked him. “God. I’m not---I’m not just ordinary now. There’s rules. Before, I was---I was a rebel for loving a Slayer. Now I’m just another---“
“No, you’re not.” She traced his contours with a fingertip, her own pulse jumping. Oh, my, he was close. “You’re you.” Another kiss, her hand moving faster, and then he stepped back.
“Buffy,” he said, and then shook his head. “It just feels different now.”
“Oh,” she muttered. “Worse?”
“No---God, no.” He glanced down, lips twitching as he beheld the wreckage. “Why do you think I was so glad to be a vampire?”
“I have no idea. You said you were such a—a git when you were human, but guys are so stupid about stuff like that.”
He looked at her, startled. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, why did you think you were a git? You seem perfectly okay to me.”
“It’s been an hour. Part of that we spent kissing.”
“Something wrong with kissing?”
“Are we talking about our relationship?” Buffy asked.
“I don’t know.”
“That means yes, doesn’t it?”
“It means, I don’t know.” He looked at her as she’d hit him over the head. “See? That thing you did just right there. That girlfriend thing.”
“What girlfriend thing?”
“That girlfriend thing. That thing where you said ‘that means yes’, girlfriends do that all the time. That is so---human. Vampires don’t do that. Why waste time on that?”
“When there’s killing to be done, I guess.” Buffy hopped down off the bed, more than a little annoyed. “So---what?” She stared at him, trying to get her thoughts in order, all of which were pretty unpleasant. “Aren’t I---?”
“Before, you were the Slayer and I was a vampire. It was---different.”
“You---Are you breaking up with me or something?”
“No! No, I’m not, but---it’s weird.”
“Spike, our whole lives are weird.”
“Especially the part where I didn’t have a life. I had a---an unlife.”
“But that’s good? And even then, I died twice. Really, there’s weird and then there’s--“
“I think I overtook you in the weirdness sweepstakes, luv.”
“I think we’re even.” She leaned against the bathroom door. “You’re not a git.”
“Thank you,” he said sarcastically.
“Even if you were, it wouldn’t matter to me.”
“I’ll remember that when people start---“
“What are they going to do, Spike? Laugh at you? Did it ever occur to you that maybe, just maybe, all the people who thought that about you---and told you, too, I guess---were just complete and utter assholes? The Nineteenth Century version of the Cordettes?”
“The what?” He shook his head as there was something blocking his ears.
“Cordelia’s fellow….people. Things. Mean people.”
“I wrote awful poetry.”
“You told me. I don’t care. You stayed with my sister after I died.”
That drew him up short and he stopped for a minute. “I, uh---had awful hair.”
“You’re lying,” Buffy said flatly. “I love your hair.” She stopped for a minute. New, improved, potty mouth Buffy coming up, she thought. “Everywhere.”
Oh, she thought, he turns colors now, and the knowledge that she had to rediscover him all over again made her knees weak. “You weren’t there,” he shot back.
“Well, you’re not there now, and I am---I mean, here, that is--- and I really, really want you, so---? Unless you don’t want me.”
“Buff, that’s never going to be a problem. You know that.”
“Okay, so why is it a problem now, then? Huh?”
“I’m not sure,” he said tiredly.
“Oh, wait, is this just because you’re human?”
“Buffy, I love you, but where have you been this whole! bloody! time?!”
“I’ve been listening, but no, I mean---did the sarcasm come from the demon? Or what?”
“No, the sarcasm came from the sheer exasperation of----“
“Oh, okay, that sounds like you.”
“No, it doesn’t,” he said sulkily. “I don’t even sound like myself. I don’t even---“
“Well, whoever you are, whoever you think you are, or aren’t, or---whatever, you’re still you,” Buffy snapped. “And you’re confusing me, which ought to be comforting, because that’s what you did before.”
“Both of us can’t be confused.”
“Oh, yes we can.” Buffy stepped forward and grabbed his hand, yanking him into the bathroom. She snapped on the light, and guided him in front of the mirror. “That’s you. I want to sit and look at you forever, because I thought I’d lost you.” She stroked his hair, brushed his lips with one finger tip. “You know, it’s harder being human. I’ll give you that much. And I expect a lot---because of what you’ve already done. What you’ve done for me.” And to me, added Potty!Mouth Buffy, but Buffy bit her lip and forged ahead. “It’s harder being human,” she repeated. “Less weapons to work with. And you think—even though you’re wrong---that you weren’t that great when you were human. I wish I’d been alive back then.”
“No, you wouldn’t,” Spike said dryly. “They’d have tossed you out on your bum first time you---“
“First time I did what?” Oh, my, look at the lock on that door. “First time I did this?” She shoved both hands into his sweats and was terribly gratified when he jumped. “Or this?” She dropped to her knees before him, pressing him to the door. To lock it she had to take one hand off him, but it did give her a chance to push his sweats down. That done, she took him into her mouth, swirling her tongue and finding all sorts of new flavors to explore. Spike froze for a second, then gasped as she sucked as hard as she could, his hips twitching once as he went rigid with shock. Then he reacted.
She let his penis slip out of her mouth, horrified at the look of utter misery on his face. “What?! You—I---“ She backed away, hitting the edge of the bathtub and sitting down on its edge numbly. “You don’t want me.”
Spike laughed weakly, pulling his pants up. “Evidence to the contrary, pet.”
“Oh, God,” he sank down next to her, put his head in his hands and laughed. “When I woke up, the first thought I had was that I’d lost you, that I’d failed. And then my second thought was…” He waved at all the mauve porcelain. “How do I tell you….certain things?”
“Hah,” Buffy scoffed. “Try making me care about certain things.”
“I want you to care,” Spike said quietly, and she flinched a little.
“Spike---Don’t get me wrong, please, but---Don’t you think it’s kind of an insult that you’d think I’d care that you were a dork? You tried to kill me all those times, but you changed, and I got over it. Killing is a lot more serious than being a dork. And I haven’t seen any evidence of inherent dorkhood.” You’re sweet, she wanted to add, but she knew enough about male sexuality to know she might as well tie a pink ribbon around his penis and call it something like a ‘pretty little thing’ if she wanted to offend him more successfully.
He looked at her seriously for a moment, and she could see him gathering his nerve. The idea that he would do this in front of her gave her some hope. He still trusts me, whether or not I deserve it. “Well,” he said quietly. “How about virginity, then?”
It took her a moment to realize what he meant, and that gave her a moment to think. “You mean..you?”
“Right. Go ahead.”
“Go ahead…what? I was going ahead,” she said sarcastically, “and then you stopped me.”
“In a hospital bathroom,” Spike pointed out.
“Oh? Oh! Oh,” She muttered finally. “God, now I feel like a dirty old woman.”
She looked at him closely. “No, you’re not.”
“Sort of,” he shrugged.
She took a deep breath. “Is it me?”
He looked around, and gave a disgusted snort. “What do you think?”
“Well, I feel like the Whore of Babylon now, so---“
“I just---“ he shrugged uncomfortably. “It’s a bathroom. I don’t want---“
Something in her heart turned over. Her feelings for him were composed of many different elements, but she’d never felt this bewildering touch of compassion before. She’d hated him, found him irritating, alluring, mysterious, scarily intoxicating, but that admission for the first time gave her a glimpse at the real individual beneath all the layers of his history. And she was startled to find that she liked this person, very much. He started when she kissed him on the cheek. “You’re going to hate me, and you’re going to get all guy like about this, but you’re sweet.”
He winced, and she felt that twinge of pure affection again. “Thanks. I’ll go kill myself now with something pink.” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “I think there might be frills involved.”
“No, you won’t. Let’s go home.” She leaned closer to his ear, suspecting that might make him more comfortable. “And guess what’s going to happen then?”
He gave her a narrow-eyes Spike sneer, and she had to laugh out loud. “Monopoly? Charades?”
“Charades?” She got to her feet and he followed. “How old-fashioned.”
“Have some respect for your elders.”
“Just wait,” Buffy said gleefully. “Talk about respect, old man. We’ll see.”
Continued in Chapter 8