Timeframe: At the end of Pangs, after everyone has killed the Vengeance-Spirit-guys, what if Xander’s syphilis hadn’t cleared up all on its own? What if a cunning plan had been called for? What if we could work Spike into the plot in some way?
Rating: Overall, R-ish.
Disclaimer: All characters, along with the original and superior plotlines belong to Joss Whedon. I’m just having a little holiday fun.
Huge thanks to the beauteous and magnificent Rori who beta’d this when she should have been doing her Christmas shopping.
“Wow. We did it,” Buffy congratulated her Watcher, sounding mildly surprised. “Shape-shifting vengeance bears gone poof.”
“Yay us,” concurred Willow, “But Anya’s right….” She paused, seeming surprised by her own words. “If we did successfully persecute the indigenous vengeance Americans, shouldn’t Xander be not losing consciousness right about now?”
“Uhhh,” groaned Xander, in contribution to the conversation. He gestured feebly in the direction of the couch, where Willow and Anya gently rested him. He groaned again, his eyes closing.
“Giles!” Anya stamped a foot petulantly. “Do something!”
“I don’t understand it,” Giles admitted, looking at the now violently shivering form on his couch. “I presumed that the elimination of the cause of the spell would, well, remove the spell.” He frowned, considering the evidence to the contrary.
“Nice euphemisms, colonial guy,” muttered Willow, to a glare from Giles. “But, yeah, the spell should have ended by now so….” She shrugged helplessly at Anya.
“Don’t stand there and argue about it,” ordered Anya. “Do something! Xander could die. Or worse, could lose the use of his….”
Holding up one hand in a gesture of pitiful self-defence, Giles hastily insisted, “Nothing will happen, I promise. We’ll find a way to reverse the spell.”
“If I still had my powers….” Anya threatened vaguely, eyes flashing dangerously as she glared around the room, before fixing her sights upon Giles. “You’d better fix him!”
“If you’re all quite finished yammering,” Spike piped up, “would anyone like to think about taking these bleedin’ arrows out of me? Can’t really do it myself what with my hands being tied behind my back and all.” He nodded his head at the collection of arrows protruding from his chest.
“Oh, Spike, are you in pain?” asked Buffy, shocked concern filling her face. “You should have told us.” She paused, and smiled. “We could all do with a laugh around here.”
“Stupid bitch, when I get out of here….” He tugged futilely on his restraints, rocking the chair with his struggles.
Buffy patted his head patronisingly. “Yep, threatening the Slayer when you’re tied to a chair and completely helpless sounds like a plan, Spikey.” Her hand dropped to pull on one of the arrows and he howled in pain and anger.
“Syphilis!” yelled Anya angrily, and all heads swivelled instantly. “Xander has syphilis and you aren’t caring enough! You have to fix it!”
“Sorry,” said Buffy, glaring at the eternal distraction that was Spike. “Willow, can you unmagick the spell? Or - something like that that makes more sense?”
Willow shook her head thoughtfully. “I don’t see how. Reversing someone else’s spell isn’t the sort of thing….”
“It’s extremely difficult,” Giles agreed, grimacing as he looked to Xander.
“Giles, we’ve gotta do something,” urged Willow, feeling the patient’s brow and turning worried eyes to the Watcher. “He’s getting worse, he’s burning up.”
“Willow, can’t you do a magickal antidote?” asked Buffy, “Or is that covered in the same rule as not reversing spells? Stupid magick laws.”
“It’s all going to take too long,” despaired the witch. “I don’t think we have that sort of time. If we could just…” Her voice trailed away. “We need more time.”
“Then do a spell to stop time and then *save* *Xander*!” shouted Anya, haughty insistence giving way to near-hysteria.
“And while you’re at it, you could reverse time to last week,” Spike put in eagerly. “Maybe I could avoid those wankers and just skip over this whole nightmare.”
“Maybe you’re not helping.” Buffy clipped him around the head and he yelped indignantly.
“None of you are helping,” complained Anya tersely. “And I have to tell you, when you all get smallpox and syphilis, I’m gonna stand around and have a tea party too. See how much time you find for polite conversation then.”
“We are trying,” said Willow irritably. “Could we, maybe….” She paused, deep in thought. “Transfer it out of him?”
“I don’t understand.” Giles shook his head.
“We could transfer the spell, take it out of Xander – in layman’s terms,” added Willow. “I think I can manage a translocation spell.”
“To where?” Giles asked. “You’re talking about millions upon millions of microscopic germs. How do you contain them safely?” He considered this further. “I for one would rather not be responsible for the spread of syphilis, smallpox and what was the other – malaria? throughout Sunnydale. Or, for that matter, the world.”
“That’s the tricky bit,” Willow admitted. “But there is one way. Translocation directly into another vessel.” She tried to convey the idea using complicated hand gestures. “Another person.”
“How does that solve anything? Then someone else is ill.” Anya wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Not me!” she quickly informed them. “You’re not giving it to me.”
“Wasn’t thinking of you,” Willow assured her. To the questioning looks of the gathered group, she turned to gaze meaningfully at the chair-bound vampire.
“No way!” he shouted, as all heads turned to contemplate him. “No fucking way! I come to you in a gesture of trust, and of, of, of friendship dammit and you wanna give me syphilis?”
“Among other deadly diseases,” Buffy assured him. “We don’t really know the full list. And since none of them can kill you, I don’t know what you’re moaning about. Also, it’s probably worth keeping in mind that what *can* kill you is *me*.” She smiled at him sweetly.
“You’re going to let them do this?” The vampire turned his plaintive appeal to Giles. “Watcher, mate, I always thought you were a reasonable sort of bloke.” Giles snorted in amusement. Spike whipped around to plead with Willow, “Wicca, Willow, you wouldn’t do this to me! Think of all the times I didn’t kill you?”
“Gee, why wasn’t I thinking of that?” Willow asked herself laughingly. “Yeah, all those times you didn’t kill me, but you tried.” Her voice hardened, “Like last week. Mister, you’re gettin’ syphilis.”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find a way to cure you afterwards,” Giles told him, with unconvincing cheer. “It will just give us more time, since there’s no chance it will kill you.” His manner made it abundantly clear that this was more in the way of a regrettable necessity than a relief.
“Well, the syphilis won’t kill you anyway – just make you blind and insane. I guess in the case of a vampire, even smallpox won’t be particularly fatal,” mused Anya happily. “Good thinking, Willow.”
At ‘blind’ and ‘insane,’ Spike began to rattle his chains furiously. At the term ‘smallpox’ he began to shout incoherently about ‘government plot’ and ‘foul murdering fiends’ and ‘evil slayer bitch.’
He went generally ignored.
“We should have most of the stuff for the spell here,” said Willow, full of enthusiasm now. “Let me just get everything together and we can sort this out.”
“And then we can get to have dinner,” said Buffy in relief, throwing an anxious look in the direction of the kitchen. “Maybe we can save Thanksgiving yet.”
“I’m going to be in PAIN!” bellowed Spike in utter frustration, banging his feet repeatedly against the ground. “Don’t any of you people even care?”
“In a word,” said Buffy casually, pulling another arrow from his back and causing him to howl in furious pain, “no.”
“I’m in *pain*!” he shouted. “You’re all evil. I’m going to starve to death out here and I can smell – that - fooood!” His voice dropped to a wail.
“Shut up, Spike,” called Buffy, with a half-hearted pretence at patience. “He’s putting me off my dinner,” she explained sotto voce to the others at the table. She was answered with a sorrowful, “It bloody hurts! The least you could do is feed me!”
The perfect Thanksgiving dinner that Buffy had slaved over all day was being spoiled by the endless complaining of Spike. And leaving him tied up in the other room had not solved the problem, due to vampiric hearing and vampiric lung-power, both of which seemed unaffected by syphilis, smallpox or malaria.
“Perhaps if you give him some food, he’ll be less annoying,” suggested Giles. “Oh, this turkey is excellent, Buffy. Or at least, he might be less loudly annoying.”
“He’s just trying to spoil my Thanksgiving,” she complained, throwing a furious look in the direction of the moaning and wailing. “I bet it doesn’t even hurt him, I mean, he’s already dead, right?”
“God, I hope you get syphilis and smallpox and malaria and what all and we can see how much it hurts you!” shouted Spike from the other room. “Bloody bitch.”
“Gee,” said Buffy sarcastically, “Now I feel like looking after him real well.” She poured some more water. “Can I torture him for information later?”
“This isn’t FAIR!” Spike roared, causing Willow to jump, and drop potato on the table. She raised an eyebrow at Buffy. “Maybe we should feed him? Feed him food?”
“Vampires don’t need food,” replied Buffy with an air of serenity. “So I think we shouldn’t bother. We could close over the door so we can’t hear him, though.”
“This food is way too good to share,” agreed Xander. “Boy, do I have my appetite back – cheers, Will!”
“I’m starting to feel a little tiny bit guilty,” worried Willow, listening to the groans of pain coming from the other room “It’s good that we saved Xander, don’t get me wrong,” she nodded apologetically at her friend, who continued to shovel food into his mouth. “But…ugh, now I feel like I helped kill native Americans and gave syphilis to a neutered creature all in one day.” She hung her head.
“Vampire,” Buffy corrected her, helping herself to more turkey. “Spike. Giving pain to Spike is a worthwhile and worthy goal in life and…why are you looking at me like that? He’s a pig. He deserves it.” Sanguinely, she added, “He’d kill us all in our beds if he still could.”
“Damn bloody right!” shouted Spike, with renewed vigour, before relapsing into a pitiful whimper of, “I need blooood.”
“We shall have to think about obtaining blood for him,” sighed Giles. His brow furrowed at the continuing wails from the next room.
“Yes, but not while we’re eating,” Buffy decreed.
“Well I gotta say, in the spirit of Thanksgiving and all, I’m feeling pretty darn grateful to Spike right now.” Xander looked about happily, revelling in his newfound syphilis-free status. “I’m mainly feeling grateful to Buffy for saving the world and Willow for doing the spell, but yeah, there’s definitely a teeny-tiny bit of gratitude in there for Spike. Hey Spike?” he called loudly, “Thanks for gettin’ syphilis for me!”
A sinister growl was his only reply.
“We could be nice to the guy,” suggested Willow. “We have kinda taken advantage.”
“Could, should, won’t,” said Buffy firmly. “He deserves everything that’s coming to him and a gag besides. In fact, Giles, can I just gag him now, till we’re ready to ask him questions?” She looked pleadingly to her Watcher, who wrinkled his brow in concern.
“Buffy, I think you’re missing the Thanksgiving spirit,” said Willow nervously.
“Am not!” Buffy looked outraged at the suggestion. “Guys? I’m the very embodiment of the Thanksgiving spirit! I cooked dinner for crying out loud!”
“You did,” agreed Giles, “And a very nice dinner it was. But – I do think Willow might have a point.”
“And I have a hundred pointy stakes with his name on them so I’m thinking he could just be grateful for the hospitality and lack of splintery death,” said Buffy resolutely, shaking her head in disgust and helping herself to more vegetables.
“Couldn’t I go lie down somewhere?” called Spike, piteously. “The room’s all spinning and my head hurts.”
Willow dropped her fork with a clatter, guilty concern etching her face. “We can’t just leave him in pain,” she said, looking from face to face. “Buffy?”
Buffy shrugged, seemingly unconcerned. “Teach him a lesson.”
“And what lesson is that exactly?” asked Giles sternly. “As you may have noticed, I generally have little if any sympathy for ruthless vampires, but I do think in this case you may be taking thoughts of vengeance a little far, Buffy.”
“What exactly is your problem with vengeance?” asked Anya frostily. “Xander, your friends are casting aspersions upon my former profession!”
“Some of us are still in recovery from the little matter of vengeance-induced syphilis here,” her boyfriend reminded her gently.
She sniffed her disgust at his lack of support. “I think you’re all extremely mean,” she informed the group. “Picking on helpless ex-demons.”
“Hey! They were saving me!” argued Xander. “And my…manhood!”
“And at this festive time of year,” continued Anya, oblivious. “Oh, the lectures I’ve had to listen to about holiday spirit and so on and so on and so forth. If I have to make an effort with pathetic human traditions, at least the rest of you could too!”
“It does seem unfair to leave him tied to a chair if he’s in great pain,” said Giles, uneasily. “And we can’t just leave him like that all night, on his own and ill. It would be unnecessarily cruel.”
“Just the right amount of cruel, if you ask me,” muttered Buffy, resentfully. For one who had slaved over a hot stove all day, what seemed unfair was that Spike of all people was monopolising everyone’s attention.
“Buffy,” Giles remonstrated, looking disappointed. “I hope you’ll be prepared to help.”
“Help you, yes. Help Spike? Not so much.” Buffy crossed her arms. “And why do I have to help anyway? Xander feels grateful to the bleached idiot, he can help out.”
Xander shrugged, and returned to his dinner.
“Xander is recovering from many serious diseases,” Giles pointed out. “Also, we still have no idea of the veracity of Spike’s claim to be harmless. I would prefer that someone more – well, that you - were watching him.”
“I doubt he would have sat there and let us give him syphilis if he could still fight,” Willow offered, still looking guilt-stricken.
“True, true, but better safe than sorry.”
“Also,” added Anya, “if by any chance he’s contagious, it would be better if the person with super-slayer-powers was in contact with him.”
Buffy turned to Giles in outrage. “Contagious?!”
“I’m quite sure he’s not,” Giles assured her, ducking behind his napkin. “None of us has caught anything from Xander so far today, but again…”
“Better safe than sorry?” squeaked Buffy. “Looks like you all get to be safe and I get to be sorry! And where exactly in the holiday spirit does it say I have to be *nice* to *Spike*?”
“Like the Grinch,” said Willow, shaking her head sadly.
Buffy jaw dropped. “You’re calling me the Grinch?” she asked in horror.
“No, I’m saying you wouldn’t want to be the Grinch,” Willow clarified, quickly and nervously.
“The Grinch is at Christmas,” argued Buffy sulkily.
“You could be a Thanksgiving Grinch too,” replied her friend. “And you don’t want to be that either.”
“I have no idea what either of you is talking about,” Giles told them testily, “but I do think that Spike should be allowed to rest if he is indeed ill. Seeing as how we made him ill. And I also think that I would rather not have him roam free about my house, whether he is indeed helpless or not.”
“I have to untie him and watch him?” asked Buffy, a whine creeping into her voice as she recognised a trap.
“That would be very helpful,” Giles agreed, adding a soothing, “It should only be for tonight. Tomorrow we’ll begin to look for a way to cure him again.”
“Yes,” Willow assured her, “I’m sure we’ll find something tomorrow.”
“And Buffy,” called Giles as she got up, “try to be, well, nice.” He looked at her hopefully.
“I think this is a plot,” grumbled Buffy. “Spirit of stupid Thanksgiving indeed. And I think you’re faking, you big…faker.” Circling his chair, she glared at Spike as she poked him in the shoulder.
“Given that you and yours have just given me seventeen fatal diseases, I don’t think now is exactly the time for your wild accusations, pet,” he told her, with a touch of his old snarkiness.
“Given that you’re tied to a chair, I think now is exactly the time to do and say anything I want,” she replied with evident satisfaction.
“Aren’t you supposed to be untying me?” he enquired, and for the thousandth time in her short career, Buffy cursed vampiric hearing. She hesitated, and he sighed loudly, “C’mon, it’s not like I can do anything.”
“It’s not like you wouldn’t try,” she retorted, making no move to free him.
“Yeah, I would if I could,” he conceded wistfully, quickly adding, “But I can’t so I won’t. Now come on, let me off this cursed uncomfortable chair before I tell your friends about you being the spirit of Scrooge past, present and future.”
“I hate you so very, very much,” Buffy groaned. Glaring at him, she considered that she as Slayer probably ought to command greater respect from a neutered, shackled, smallpox-infected little shit of a vampire. But then again, this was Spike. “Just you remember I can tie you back up again quicker than you can bug me. And I’m still thinking that a gag is a really important component of having you as a house-pet.” With great reluctance, she bent behind the chair and began to release Spike’s bonds, accompanying the process with loud, exaggerated sighs, but managing to refrain from random acts of violence.
He shook out his hands as she freed them, casting the discarded rope to the floor, then jumped to his feet, full of energy and enthusiasm once his legs were untied. Surveying the room, he threw himself onto the couch with a loud hum of satisfaction.
“Don’t look too sick to me,” she commented suspiciously.
He stretched out full length over the seat, his dirty boots marking the light fabric. “Well for your information, I’m weak and starving and seventeen kinds of ill and *you* are a mean-hearted miserable bitch,” he informed her.
“Deal with it,” she said quietly.
“Watcher said you were to be nice,” said Spike, loudly enough for his voice to carry through to the next room. Buffy pursed her lips in annoyance.
“I am being nice, Giles,” she shouted quickly, “Spike’s being overly demanding!”
“We did give him syphilis,” Willow called from behind the door. “You should cut him some slack, Buffy.”
Buffy collapsed into an armchair with a heart-rending groan. Slayer. She was a vampire slayer. She who slays. She who kills vampires with wood and fire and beheading and a merry quip. Why? Why? Why was she reduced to looking after Spike on Thanksgiving?
“Why can’t I have blood?” grumbled Spike, adjusting a cushion under his head and making himself comfortable.
“Because I hate you,” she replied succinctly.
“Slayer, I’m cold,” he whined.
“You’re dead,” she argued. “You’re supposed to be cold. You have no body temperature. You are a vampire.” She regarded him for a moment, realised that he was indeed shivering and considered the very likely possibility that he was faking. Then reluctantly contemplated the unlikely possibility that he was not. “What do you want me to do about it?” she grouched, throwing her arms in the air.
“Would some sort of blanket kill you?” he asked indignantly.
Yes, she realised, as she went to fetch a blanket for the vampire, it was entirely possible that being nice to Spike was going to kill her.
“Where’s the one you came with?” she asked, upon her return, carrying an old blanket of Giles’ with her. With some displeasure, she noted the blaring noise of the television.
“Huh?” he asked, barely glancing up from the TV.
“Blanket,” she said stonily, throwing the bundle at his head. “You had one earlier. Where is it?”
“Oh yeah,” he said innocently, gesturing to a point two feet away. “It’s just over there on the floor.”
She resisted the temptation to scream. She would not give him the satisfaction of seeing how much he was irking her. Instead, she removed the remote control from his possession and switched off the TV.
“Oy! Watchin’ that!” he argued and she raised an eyebrow.
“You’re going to be quiet and not annoy me anymore, and that way we’re not going to have a little accident involving you and the business end of a stake. It would be a shame, sure, but it would also be an accident. We quite clear?”
“Where’s my coat?” he asked petulantly, arranging the blanket over his body.
“What?” Apparently not quite clear.
“My coat. Need my smokes,” he told her impatiently. “And if this is meant to be you being nice – pretty pathetic, pet.”
“You can’t smoke in the house,” she informed him. “Giles! Spike wants to smoke in the house!”
“Spike can’t smoke in my house!” shouted Giles, from the next room. An ‘ick’ from Willow could also be heard in the background.
“What happened to spirit of Thanksgiving?” grouched Spike loudly. “What happened to Christian charity?”
“Hey!” called Willow, indignantly, “Jewish charity too. And – still no smoking!”
“Ha,” said Buffy smugly, to the scowling vampire. “And you know, given what a diabolical invalid you turn out to be, I wouldn’t want you getting lung cancer too.”
“Glass of water, then,” he stated, with the air of a simple and obvious command.
“What?” she asked, scrunching her face, unsure if she could quite believe his cheek. What did he think she was? His personal slave?
“A glass of water,” he repeated slowly. “I’m thirsty. I think a glass of water is covered under basic human rights.”
“You’re not human,” she retorted, irritation rising and turning to raging frustration.
“So by rights you oughta be givin’ me blood, but I’ll settle for a nice glass of water in the meantime. And since I’m not supposed to be a-wandering round the house….” He finished complacently, expectantly; and Buffy was overwhelmed by the urge to punch his smug face.
As she rose reluctantly from her seat to fetch water for the pest, she began for the first time to consciously regret whatever had happened to Spike that had forced him to seek refuge with old enemies.
Because apparently, Spike was less annoying when homicidally and insanely violent than when he was ill.
“Slay-er!” he called, from his comfortable position on the couch.
Summoned, she thought, silently seething. The cheek of him. “What’s wrong?” she asked curtly, the fragile thread of her patience worn to breaking.
“Don’t feel well,” he revealed. “Super-bitch and friends gave me syphilis. My dick could be rotting away as we speak.”
She returned to her magazine, ignoring him.
“Wanna check for me?” he asked with a leer, and she wondered if shoving the rolled up magazine through his heart would do the job. After all, paper was made out of trees, right? All the same really, it would just take a bit of brute strength behind it, what with the incredible bluntness of the thing.
“Slayer?” he sing-songed again, drumming his feet against the couch until she looked up, the full force of her death-wish evident in her glare.
Spike didn’t seem unduly concerned.
“What?” she uttered harshly, through gritted teeth and a tense, clenched jaw.
“Water,” he replied, matter-of-factly. She knew by now that this was all a plot to drive her insane. She seriously doubted if he was feeling any ill-effects from the spell, and was quite sure that he had simply found an excuse to get treated like an invalid and persecute her at the same time.
It was working very well.
“In the jug,” she answered brusquely, indicating the floor. Having been sent on three missions to fetch him glasses of water, it had come to her attention that vampires had unlimited capacity when it came to fluid consumption, and that Spike was happy to take advantage of this in order to send her running from room to room for the rest of the evening. So she had filled a large jug.
“‘S heavy,” he whined, flopping an arm in the direction of said water. “Pour it for me, Slayer. My arms hurt with the typhoid.”
“Typhoid?” she enquired nicely.
“Yeah,” he confirmed, with a pout. “Reckon I got some typhoid in the mix too. Bloody hurts.”
“You know what else hurts?” she asked with forced calm, moving to pour the drink. “Fire. Beheading. Being staked through the heart.”
“Which would be scarier if you were allowed to do any of those things. But Watcher-boy’ll be pissed off if you touch me so we’re even-steven here, Slayer. I can’t hurt you, you can’t hurt me.” He grinned happily at this summary of the situation. And didn’t look at all sick.
“Shut up,” she told him, for the seventieth time that evening.
“Never thought I’d end up with syphilis,” he pondered. “I mean, if anyone, then maybe – Angelus.” The light of anger in her eyes sparked a broad smile on his face. “’Course if he’d got syphilis, I’d have got it….”
“Just….” She held aloft one hand, closing her eyes at the idea. “Shut. Up.”
“Guess he never really told you about……Ow! What’s your problem?” he howled as Buffy hurled an empty glass at his body.
The sight of a furious slayer silenced him for all of thirty seconds. “Pity he didn’t stop by for dinner,” he finally chanced, carefully watching for her reaction.
Buffy, caught between ignoring him and slaughtering him, found herself asking, “What?” before she could stop herself. Yeah, she berated herself, let’s just encourage Spike to talk.
“Angel. Sire-boy. Love of your sad little life. He who loses his poncy little soul when he looks at your lovely self. Oh, come to think of it, maybe that was why,” he pondered, raising innocent eyes to the ceiling.
Tilting her head, Buffy managed a high-pitched, “What the hell are you talking about?” while her brain kicked into some high quality denial.
“Angel. Hangin’ around this place all day. Just saying, it’s a bit rude not to even say hi.” He pouted. “He could have said hello to you too.”
“Angel,” stated Buffy, in disbelief.
“He who broods and sulks and wanks off in dark miserable mansions while whinging about atrocities past,” supplied Spike helpfully. “You remember him?”
“Like I wouldn’t notice when *he* was within a three mile radius,” scoffed Spike. “Can smell it, sense it. And I still think he’s a miserable fucker not to pop in and send his sympathies.”
Torn from her dazed thoughts, Buffy threw him a look of enquiry. “Sympathies?”
“His beloved childe just got neutered,” he explained scathingly.
“Yeah, I’m sure it’s killing him that Spikey can’t murder and maim anymore,” retorted Buffy uneasily. “Or, I don’t know, maybe he doesn’t care!”
“All I can say is, he might have a soul and a conscience and all that shit, but he’s a bad-mannered son-of-a-bitch,” said Spike, glancing slyly at the distracted slayer.
Angel. Angel had been here? “I knew it!” she exploded suddenly. “I knew it *all* *day*!”
“Good for you,” said Spike simply. “So did I.”
Turning her bad mood on the vampire who was actually within shouting distance, Buffy threatened, “If you’re feeling so very much better, you can be gagged and go back in the chair.” Taking a steadying breath, she carefully explained, “If you’re still pretending to be seventeen kinds of ill, then you should be too sick to *talk*!”
For all of five minutes, silence reigned.
Rolling her eyes in irritation, she raised her magazine to cover her face, hoping to block out the sight, if not the sound, of the vampire.
“I’m too hot,” he groaned, twisting and turning on the couch, kicking his blanket to the floor.
“Would you just give up already,” said an exasperated Buffy. “We’ve been through this before. You – vampire. Ergo no body temperature.”
“I have a fever,” he insisted, so pathetically that she was forced to look at him.
“Shut up, Spike,” she responded sympathetically. “Or I will shut you up.”
“My head hurts,” he moaned, rubbing a hand over his brow. “And you have a shitty beside manner, Slayer. Did anyone ever tell you that?”
She continued to pretend to read.
“Angel never tell you what a bad bedside manner you’ve got?” continued the vampire, eyeing her, waiting for the predictable reaction. “Cause I would have thought he might have mentioned how bloody awful it is.”
Buffy gripped the magazine more tightly, one page ripping slightly.
“Cause if your bedside manner with Peaches was anything like this…Hey, don’t get your knickers in a knot, Slayer, I’m only saying. And can’t you get me something for this fever?”
“You’ve got a pain in your head? How about I cut it off?” she asked irately, advancing across the room. “That should fix it nicely.”
“I bet if Xander had a fever you’d be more sympathetic,” he grumbled, fidgeting and adjusting the cushion that acted as a pillow. “Miserable bitch.”
Hands on hips, she glared down at him. “You have a fever, huh?” He nodded. “You’re too hot?” He nodded. “You’re just driving me mad, you know that?” Picking up the heavy jug of water, she poured it over his head.
With a howl of fury he jumped to his feet, snarling at her as he vainly tried to brush water from his shirt before it soaked through. “What the fuck was that for?” he yelled, hopping about the room.
“Doncha feel cooler now?” Buffy asked nonchalantly, sitting back down and crossing her legs casually. “Cause I gotta say, you look like you’ve got your energy way back up again.” Demurely, her eyes dropped back to her magazine.
He shook himself violently, like a dog, thought Buffy, watching in amusement as she dodged the spray. Wiping his face and smoothing back his wet and tousled hair, he surveyed the couch, now pooling with water and no longer looking like a particularly appealing bed.
“Where the hell am I supposed to sleep now?” he demanded, tugging irritably at his wet, clinging t-shirt and shaking it futilely. Drops of water fell to the floor.
Buffy looked up, feigning surprise. “Oh, sorry. I think you’re mistaking me for someone who cares.” Seemingly engrossed in her reading, she ignored his cursing and ranting.
Surreptitiously, she hazarded a glance over the top of the magazine, watching as he tugged the t-shirt over his head, ground into a small wet ball and hurled it at her. She deflected the sopping missile with ease, adding to his rage.
“Get me some more clothes!” he raged.
Without a sound, she gestured to the t-shirt on the ground.
“Dry clothes!” he insisted, pacing furiously. “And somewhere to sleep that doesn’t need a goddamn *ark*!”
“Ah-ha,” she replied vaguely, showing no intention of moving. “Anything else?”
“Now!” he roared. “Or I’m telling your little friends just what a malicious bitch you are.”
“Ah-ha.” Buffy seemed spectacularly unconcerned by the threat. “You can sleep on the ground. You can be quiet about it.”
“I’m sick!” he wailed in outrage. “You fuckers make me sick and then you want me to sleep on the *floor*? I don’t believe you people.”
“And I don’t believe you,” said Buffy, calm and composed.
Spike stamped his foot. Buffy, with difficulty, refrained from smiling.
“Vampires don’t get sick,” she explained carefully. “Vampires don’t get fevers. What vampires do, in my experience, is *lie*!”
Without a further word, Spike lay on the floor, covering himself with the blanket he had arrived in. Without so much as a moan or a groan, he closed his eyes.
Buffy watched this, confident that it was yet another piece of performance art, designed to win sympathy – ha! Or win a bed, or just guilt-trip her.
And when he still hadn’t moved five minutes later, she tried to relax, ignore him, not think about it any more, but it was difficult because she was beginning to realise something very, very unpleasant.
As undeniable as it was undesirable.
Buffy twisted and turned uncomfortably in her chair. Sleep was as far away as ever, which made the sight of Spike’s peaceful slumber all the more annoying. Every time her eyes began to droop, her instincts jerked back into action and she was wide-awake once more. It was unnatural for a slayer to sleep in the presence of a vampire, she had decided. Her spider-sense was tingling irritably, constantly nagging and provoking her. At least, that was what she told herself.
And Spike slept on.
It took a while before it came to her attention that Spike’s sleep was less peaceful than she had imagined. Alerted by his soft groan, she sat forward.
Ha, that was more like it, she thought. Now he was going to be an almighty nuisance again. Somehow, strangely, that seemed easier to deal with.
And yet – the whimper than rumbled from deep in his chest seemed genuine, not the put-on, put-upon long-suffering complaining of before. One hand moving over his face, catching in his hair, he began to rock gently from side to side.
Buffy sat watchfully, nervously. It would be just like him to have some stupid fit on her watch. Just to make sure she got into trouble and never got to sleep.
His agitation increased, his face losing the calm of before as he tossed restlessly from side to side.
Getting to her feet, she approached him cautiously. Peering down at his still seemingly sleeping form, she waited for a reaction.
“Yeah,” he moaned softly, and she frowned.
“What?” she asked, resisting the instinct to kick him sharply in the stomach. She wasn’t at all sure that he was faking this and the feeling was unnerving.
He groaned low in his throat, thrashing from one side to the other and clutching the worn and burned blanket closer to his bare chest. Buffy watched with vague unease. What exactly was with the not-complaining routine? An annoying change of tack on his part, nothing more, she reasoned. And even more annoyingly, it was working.
“Spike?” she called clearly. “Spike!”
No response, unless the twisting of the blanket between his hands was intended as a reply.
For a moment she worried. This was unnatural. This was strange. He might really be ill, and if he really was ill he might really get worse, and if he got bad enough he could die, or worse, be no use for questioning. And then Giles would grumble incessantly in the morning. This was all wrong, she thought. Why didn’t he wake? Vampires didn’t normally sleep like the….dead. “Spike!” she repeated, in a tone of command.
Rolling onto his stomach, he rubbed himself against the ground, his right arm hitting the ground above his head.
Hands on her hips, Buffy attempted to maintain a façade of impervious distain, but concern was now fighting annoyance. Spike seemed actually ill. Feverish.
Damn it, she was going to get into trouble over this.
She contemplated feeling his forehead, and quickly reconsidered. His forehead was rubbing against the bare floor, in what looked like the throes of pain. And anyway – ick.
She considered calling Giles. Giles, who left her with all the ultra-crappy jobs. Giles, who got to sleep through this whole stupid ordeal. Giles, who would ask why the smallpox-infected prisoner was sleeping semi-clothed on the hard floor.
Having turned full circle, Spike faced her again, his eyes still closed tight. His head lolled back a little and his mouth opened:
“What?” she asked sharply, the sound of her own determined voice startling her in the quiet night. Well, she mentally corrected herself, mostly quiet. Spike was continuing the weird rumbly-growly thing, like some kind of big cat. The kind of big cats that got locked in a cage in a zoo.
Oh, for a big cage.
For a moment, she was sure the sound of her voice had had no effect. Then, barely audible, a quiet, “Slayer, yeah.”
“Spike.” She looked at him suspiciously. “Are you awake?”
“Mmmmmm.” And yet, somehow, it didn’t sound like a reply.
In horror, she watched his right hand slide under the ancient rag of a blanket. The world seemed to slow for a moment as she watched his face contort, his hips roll forward, heard a…..button pop?
Oh. God. No.
Spike was….Spike was…..Just. No.
Her hand slapped feebly over her face as she uttered a groan of, “Why me?” She tried to collect herself, steady her nerves that were able to deal with demons and apocalypses and gruesome injuries and, and….not this.
Against her better wishes, Buffy’s brain processed the proof that syphilis had not, in fact, ‘caused his dick to rot away.’ She shook her head in angry revulsion at the unbidden thought, yet somehow, found herself not-turning-away.
“Oh my God,” she whimpered softly, her words echoed by a soft, “God, Slayer, yeah…”
“No,” said Buffy aloud. With an air of firm purpose. She was not going to let him just lie there and cry out her name, or her title for that matter, while he jerked off on Giles’ floor.
No freakin’ way.
And yet….she wasn’t moving. And he wasn’t waking.
“Noooo,” she whined quietly, beginning slowly to acknowledge the reality of the situation. Her brain was already making tracks for the door, yet somehow her eyes remained fixed on the vampire.
And, and, and - where was that pitcher of cold water when she needed it?
More importantly, why exactly was she still standing there?
Fascinated, spell-bound, she watched him writhe and invoke her name. Spell-bound? Yeah, it must be a spell, she desperately considered. A very evil spell.
“Oh, God, Buffy, Yeah.”
Maybe he was thinking about killing her, she thought, with a sense of desperation. Please, please, oh god please, let him be dreaming about killing her……
“Ah, pet, like thaaat….”
No, not killing her. She stared in wide-eyed horror at the vision before her. And its stomach-churning implications.
What had she done, what had she ever done to deserve this? What had she ever done to make Spike think about her like that? This was what Spike thought about her? This was what Spike thought about when he……
She clutched her own hair, suddenly aware of the speed of her tripping heart, her breathing panicked and uneven. It was a ridiculous reaction, she scolded herself, taking a deep, slow breath. It wasn’t like she had never seen…Okay, so she had never seen. And just because Spike, the evilest, most annoying dead guy ever to mess up her life, secretly got off on thoughts of, well, her, that was no reason for the weird butterflies that seemed to be performing some sort of rain dance in her stomach, nor for the weak and trembly knees.
Hello? Slayer here.
Which was a fine argument, she realised, except for the fact that her body wasn’t listening. It was watching.
“I’m going to kill you,” she hissed, as quietly as she could, while injecting maximum venom. If vampires had such great hearing…. “I am *so* going to kill you!”
The jerky staccato movements of his hips only increased, his breathing (Breathing?) sounding forced and laboured. The look of agony on his face…
I’ll give him agony, Buffy grimly promised herself. Tomorrow. In the harsh light of day. Spike would pay for this. She’d make sure he was crying her name for very different reasons.
Although, she realised, cringing, that could prove difficult since she was never going to be able to look him in the face again.
She was only half-aware of her fingernails digging into her palm, leaving deep, white, crescent indents. But she was painfully, achingly aware of his free hand doing something similar with the much abused blanket, scrabbing and clawing.
“Spike,” she intoned softly, “I swear to god, if you are faking this I will hunt you down and make you sorry you were ever born, sorry you were ever sired, sorry you ever laid eyes on me, never mind heard my name.”
And with those words, he groaned his release, his head tipping backwards against the wooden floor. And with a loud exhalation, he turned away from her, rolling over onto his side.
Closing her eyes finally, she let go of the breath she hadn’t realised she was holding. “I’m quitting,” she promised herself quietly, her voice barely audible to her own ears. She noticed that her hands were shaking slightly. “They ever make me do this again and I’m. Quitting.”
The only possible thing to be grateful for was that Spike didn’t know what she had seen. Watched. Thanking the gods for that tiny, pathetic, but face-saving mercy, Buffy crawled back to her chair and tried to put the whole sorry evening out of her mind.
Spike had returned to restful sleep, a seraphic smile on his face.
“Buffy,” said Giles with the cheerful air of one who has had a good night’s rest. “Good morning!”
From her slumped and uncomfortable position in a chair, Buffy scowled sleepily.
“Everything alright?” he continued. “And how is our patient?”
Buffy threw a glance at the vampire, who was sleeping peacefully and thankfully, thank-whatever-powers-looked-after-slayers, showed no sign whatsoever of fever, or feverish rantings. She shrugged at Giles.
“You are going to cure him today, right?” she asked grouchily. “I’m not doing this another night.”
“Of course, of course,” Giles assured her. “Willow and I shall begin work on the problem this morning. Then we can begin to look into the issue of the commandos. This should all be most productive.”
“Well, you’re on your own.” Buffy tried to hide the panic in her voice. “There will be no minding, no watching, no examining, no cross-examination. I am sick to death of him. I am sick of him up to here.” She indicated a point several feet above her head. “I have had enough of him for the rest of my life. And the life after that. I could die and come back and die and come back, and I will still not want to see Spike. Worst Thanksgiving ever.”
“Was he terribly tiresome?” Giles asked sympathetically.
“It was fine,” insisted Buffy, looking neither at Giles nor Spike. “But all I want for Christmas? No. More. Spike.”
Lying on the ground with the blanket covering his head, Spike smiled to himself. It hadn’t been such a bad experience, all in all. He had successfully managed to freak the Slayer out. Had given her nightmares to end all nightmares. Score one for the neutered vampire.
And if somewhere in the back of his head was a vague, unclassifiable and thoroughly undesirable feeling, he had no intention of acknowledging its existence.
Because now he knew. He still had it. He could still cause trouble.
And for that he was prepared to give thanks.