Spoilers: through Same Time, Same Place
Summary: Spike and Buffy help each other out
Disclaimer: Buffy The Vampire Slayer and all characters owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, grrr, argh, and all that.
Notes: I was left rather unsatisfied after last week's episode. Here's my attempt to resolve some things
Feedback: always appreciated
Thanks: as always, to Kelly for the great beta
"Don't move, love."
"Ha, ha. Very funny," she said out of the side of her mouth that was not pinned against the tree. "Glad to see you're having a lucid moment, Spike. I must say, it's good timing on your part."
"Yeah, well, what can I say, I work best under pressure. And about the not moving? Seriously, the thing breathes fire. Don't want to rile it. Wouldn't want to have barbecued Buffy on our hands."
"I thought I was the one who was supposed to be quippy. So, what, you're going to ask it nicely to back off? Write it a poem, perhaps?"
"Thought I'd distract it with its favorite nummy treat." Spike held up a large gray cat.
"Oh, no. What is it with you and cats?"
"Never fear, love. Spike will defend the feline. She's just bait."
Spike shouted at the Helix, and when it saw the cat, it started to salivate.
"Eww! Demon drool is going down my shirt!" Buffy shouted.
The demon struggled to free its horns from the tree, and then took off after Spike and the kitty. Spike feinted left and tossed the cat to safety. He was a step slower than he should have been, though, and when he turned to face the demon it was already charging. He tried to dodge it, but the demon's horn pierced his side and he screamed in agony.
"Spike!" Buffy shouted. She leapt at the demon, landing on its back. Grabbing it from behind by the horns, she felled it with one quick twist, breaking its neck. Buffy pulled the thing off Spike, then knelt at his side. "How bad is it?" she asked, attempting to pull up his shirt to take a look. He rolled away from her and groaned in pain.
"Just a flesh wound." He forced himself to his feet, and when she tried to help him, he flinched away again, stumbling and nearly falling.
"You're coming home with me," she said.
"No, I'm not," he said through clenched teeth.
"If you don't, I will throw you over my shoulder and carry you. And you know I can."
His eyes flashed angrily at her, and this made her surprisingly happy. Pissed off was much better than sad or crazy. When he started shuffling off toward Revello drive, she knew she'd won the battle.
There was very little talking on the way. His steps got slower and his limp more pronounced the closer they got to her house. Only the porch light was on. Dawn and Willow had already gone to bed. Buffy led Spike through the house to the kitchen and pulled out a chair.
"Sit down and take your shirt off," she ordered. He did as he was told, if only because he was too weak to object, or stand up, any longer. In the meantime, she took the first aid kit from beneath the sink, ran a basin full of warm, soapy water, and got out clean towels. When she took his shirt from him, she saw that it was dripping blood onto the floor. "You've lost a lot of blood. With the black shirt I didn't realize..." He didn't say anything, and she tossed the shirt into a bucket and ran cold water on it. Then she knelt down in front of him.
"Look, it's obvious you find my touch repugnant, but I've got to get you cleaned and bandaged up here before you stain the grout."
"I, it's not, you're not...repugnant, not in any way. It's me, I'm...I'm so..." Tears filled his eyes and he pressed the palms of his hands against them. "Cook just cleaned the floor, Will. Get out of here with your muddy feet," he whispered.
Buffy sighed and dipped a towel into the soapy water, ringing it out thoroughly. "I'm going to clean you up now. Let me know if it's too hot." She approached him slowly, careful not to spook him further. His hands were still over his face, but he could sense her coming near, and his abdominal muscles tensed in anticipation. He forced himself not to move away from her touch.
The blood was dark, almost black against his porcelain skin, but the flow had already slowed considerably. As she cleaned the blood away, she saw that the spiral nature of the demon's horn had left a nasty, ragged wound. Spike winced as she cleaned it as gently as she could, but didn't say anything except for the continuous mumbling under his breath that she couldn't understand.
When she'd finished bandaging him up, she tried to get his attention. "Spike? I'm all done. Spike?" When he didn't answer, she gently took his hands and pulled them away from his face. He stopped his mumbling and looked at her with wide, moist eyes.
"Sorry," he said.
"Well, you saved me from becoming a crispy critter, the least I can do is bandage you up. No biggie," she said, releasing his hands and standing up. She dropped the towel into the basin, and water splashed out and onto the floor. Spike just sat looking at his hands for a moment, then raised his eyes and looked at her with something like awe. "What?" she asked, taking a small step backwards.
"You. You glow," he said.
She smiled sadly. "You said that before. That's, um, a very nice thing to say."
"And now I do," he said, glancing back at his hands. "Did. Fleeting, though."
Buffy pulled out another chair and sat down across from him. "Spike, there's something I don't understand. How come sometimes you seem the same, like back in the cemetery tonight, and now you're...not."
"He's the one who knows how to fight. I think I slow him down."
"You mean, the demon part of you? He takes over sometimes?"
"We're the same," Spike answered, "but not."
"Well, thanks for clearing that up, Sybil," she sighed.
"I'm sorry I'm so weak," he said, tears filling his eyes again. "Weak and stupid and useless..." he continued, his voice rising on each word.
"Stop!" He jumped a little at the harshness of her tone. "Just...stop. Please?" she pleaded, her voice more gentle this time. "You're not any of those things."
He looked her in the eyes then, and suddenly he was the Spike she knew, the Spike only she had ever seen, during all those hours they'd spent alone together. His feelings laid bare, naked and vulnerable. When he'd tried to tell her, show her he really loved her, tried to be a man for her. She'd refused to even look then, let alone see.
"I don't think I can do this, Buffy," he said, biting his lip. "It's too much. I'm really just not strong enough. I can't do this, be like this. I'd be better off..."
"No, I don't believe that," she interrupted, not willing to let him complete that thought.
"I'm not getting any better. I just keep getting worse."
He just kept looking at her, his eyes filled with pain, struggling to hold it together for her, and she wanted so badly to look away. This wasn't her responsibility, was it? It wasn't like she'd asked him to do this. Except, that wasn't exactly true, was it?
*ONE vampire got me hot*
*you're not a man*
*you don't have a soul, there's nothing good or clean in you*
She took his shaking hands in hers. "When Willow got hurt by that demon you helped us find? I gave her some of my strength, to help her heal. I'm thinking, maybe that would help you too."
"You want to...help me?" he asked, his voice shaking as much as his hands.
"You shouldn't just be giving your strength away, should you, pet?"
"No, see, that's the beauty of it."
"What do you mean?"
"The more I give away, the stronger I get." She smiled tremulously and squeezed his hands. "So, what do you say?"
Spike squeezed back. "Thank you, slayer."