Slow Like Honey
A/N: This is somewhere just after The Killer In Me, and a bit before Get It Done. It was written for wisteria, who wasn't feeling so good either.
There had been a lot of close calls in Buffy’s life as a Slayer, but she had never before been so certain of the stark, plain truth that underlay it all.
She was going to die.
And it was going to be horrible. When she’d allowed her mind to touch on the idea, there had always been a glorious battle and a worthy opponent, or some kind of valiant sacrifice saving the world. She’d already done that - done both, in fact, come to think of it - and she had an idea of how dramatic and noble it would have been.
She’d never imagined it would be like this. Huddled under her quilt, alone in her room, coughing herself into oblivion. Everything hurt, from her raw throat to her leaden, achy limbs, and she was starting to wonder if it was possible to drown in snot.
Yes, this sucked. At this point she was hoping for the end to come quickly, before her overactive Slayer muscles made her cough up a lung. Sweet, sweet oblivion. Maybe if she asked nicely, someone would fetch her something pointy.
Willow had come by intermittently to deliver tea - emphasizing each and every time the essential innocence of the gesture - which was appreciated, but which didn’t really help much. And Dawn had brought soup and Nyquil, but Buffy couldn’t bring herself to eat more than a couple of bites of the soup, and the Nyquil just added floaty and disoriented to the cocktail of miserableness that was her life. She vaguely suspected that her Slayer metabolism was working overtime to clear the cold medicine before it had a chance to work, and wouldn’t that just be perfect? Further proof that some power out there in the universe thought it was funny to watch her suffer.
Dawn had sat with her for a while, but the teenager’s antsy energy had only made Buffy feel worse, and it had been a relief when her sister had finally left, making excuses about homework.
Except, that had been hours ago, and now she was alone, and some small, childish part of her really wanted someone to come in and make it all better.
Just at that moment, almost as if she’d spoken aloud, the door cracked open a fraction.
"Go away," Buffy muttered, huddling deeper into her blankets. "You’ll catch my plague."
"Hardly think so, love."
Spike. She burrowed out of her cocoon of sheets just enough to get a better look at the door as it opened the rest of the way, and he came inside. He was looking a little tired himself, she thought. Paler than usual, and his hair mussed into wiry curls instead of slicked-back. He’d been sleeping a lot since she'd brought him back from his bout of brain surgery in the Initiative caves, and it was something of a relief to see him up and about.
"Hey," he said softly, crossing the shadowed room on bare feet. "Thought I’d come see how you were. And I wanted to give you this."
For the first time, Buffy noticed the mug cradled in his hands. Steam rose gently from the top of it as he held it out to her.
"Willow put you up to this?" she croaked, excavating a hand from the covers to take it from him. "’Cause mint tea is nice and all, but--" She dissolved into a coughing fit.
He shook his head, offering her the ghost of a smile as the coughs subsided. "Not tea, love. Tea’s not really the thing for the 'flu anyway."
She frowned, petulant in her discomfort. "Not flu. Told you I have the plague."
He transferred the mug to her outstretched hand, carefully wrapping her fingers in his own to tighten her grip. "I’ve seen the plague," he informed her gravely. "This is not it. There are pustules. Big, nasty blackish things--" Seeing the look on her face, he broke off, tightening his fingers around hers. His hands were warm from holding the mug, and something about the gesture was profoundly reassuring. "You’re not going to die," he told her gently. "You look like hell, but you’re not going to die."
"Thanks," she said a little sourly, making a face. "You always know just what to say."
He grinned a little, quirking an eyebrow. "I try."
Letting go of her hands, he sat down on the edge of the bed, and she raised the mug to her lips. It smelled of lemon, hot and sweet, and as she took a sip and swallowed, it seared across the back of her ravaged throat. But in a good way. When it had passed, she actually hurt a little less.
In response to his anxious look, she managed a small smile. "What is this?" she asked.
He smiled back, ducking his head a little, boyishly pleased. "Little lemon juice, a little honey. Dash of brandy I nicked from your mum’s liquor cabinet. Figured she wouldn’t have minded, under the circumstances. My mum, she used to make something like this for me, when I was little. Always helped."
"Including the alcohol?" she asked dubiously.
Spike shrugged. "Different times." He lapsed into silence, watching her drink with a steady, quiet gaze that reminded her suddenly of how he had been, after she came back, when everything was so bright and painful and disconnected. Which, come to think of it, was not that much different from how she felt right now, except that now there was the added mucus-y bonus.
She pushed some of the blankets back, uncocooning her arms and shoulders. The cold chills were in the process of swinging back up to feverish heat, but Spike’s drink seemed to be helping with some of the other stuff. Miraculously, the ever-present urge to cough was gone for the moment, and it seemed to be a bit easier to breathe.
"I should go," he said, after a minute or two, gathering himself to stand. "Let you sleep."
"It’s okay," she said, a little too quickly, and he shot her a querying look. Buffy looked down, breaking eye contact. "Um, if you wanted... you could stay a bit longer."
She inched marginally to the side on the bed, making a little more room, and after a moment he accepted the half-voiced invitation, scooting himself up a little to settle more comfortably beside her. He didn’t say anything, just sat there, with all the patience of a man who had no place he’d rather be.
Taking another sip from the mug, she looked sideways at him. He was leaned back against the headboard, slouching a little against the pillows, legs off the side of the bed and propped on one elbow to stop himself from slipping. Almost beside her on the bed, almost watching her, almost touching, but not quite. Despite the slight awkwardness of the pose, he radiated a kind of ease and quiet that felt... nice. Comforting.
She drained the last of the lemon drink, and handed it back to him.
"Thanks," she said softly. Placing the mug on the beside table, Spike turned back to her and smiled the soft, shy smile that always made something in her gut do rebellious little flops, despite all her past efforts to the contrary.
"No problem, love." He raised a hand to her cheek for a moment, and it was wonderfully cool against her fevered skin. She leaned into his touch, letting her eyes drift closed.
It was just possible that she might survive this after all.