Cross posted to spuffyness and my regular journal.
Innocence Found – Chapter 4 – When the Chips are Down
Morning came with no relief for anyone in the Giles home. Willow had attempted to sleep on the couch, while Xander slouched in the wing-backed chair, eyes red and chin stubbled.
Finally, they decided to leave, after one more check on the children. They left a note for Giles saying they’d gone home to try and get some actual sleep, with a request that he call them if anything changed.
Giles had quietly entered the guestroom every half hour or so to see if there was any change in Spike’s condition, and to see if Buffy required anything. But outside of Spike, who hadn’t twitched so much as a muscle, the only one to get any sleep at all was Buffy. Except for potty breaks, the little girl hadn’t left the vampire’s bedside.
Several times he found her singing quietly – nonsense words – meant to catch Spike’s attention should he rise to consciousness. Other times she would just hold his hand, or brush a platinum curl from his forehead. And just once, he found her cuddled up to the boy like he was a life-sized doll – head on his chest and her arm around his belly.
Even Giles wasn’t immune to an attack of the the childish innocence of the situation, and rummaged around until he found Buffy’s camera. Praying the flash wouldn’t wake the little girl, but would wake Spike, he shot a handful of pictures. Neither budged.
Two small children in pajamas; a sight adorable enough to almost make him reconsider fatherhood. Almost, mind you. At least in his dreams.
The last time Giles checked his bedside clock, it was three a.m.; right in the middle of a vampire’s normal waking cycle. The simple fact that Spike hadn’t awoken in over six hours was worrisome. His mind made up, Giles strode into the guestroom, and noticed Buffy was indeed awake and sitting up once more.
“Buffy,” he said, sitting down on the bed to try and break the news gently to her, “I’m not happy that it’s taking so much time for Spike to wake up from his accident. There is nothing else I can do for him, but make him comfortable… and that’s just not acceptable.”
The little girl’s eyes were red-rimmed and swollen. It was obvious that she’d been crying on and off when she was alone with Spike. “You have to fix him, mister. He’s only a little bampire and needs to grow up to be big and strong.”
Oh God. If he’d thought Buffy was manipulative as a teenager, she apparently had nothing on her genuine self as a little girl. If he could erase the heartbroken tears from her little eyes, he’d offer his soul to the very devil himself.
So, decision made, he told Buffy that while there was little he could do, Spike’s grandfather, Angel might be helpful. Leaving the girl to her bedside vigil, Giles called Angel Investigations from his room.
“Good morning, Angel. I apologize for the hour, but I was hoping to find you awake. We have an emergency that requires your expertise.” The Watcher held his breath. Angel hadn’t been too forthcoming with his life in the past two years and might not want to come back to Sunnydale, chancing a run-in with Buffy.
“I was just getting ready to go to bed, Giles. Had a long night fighting some Grishook demons.” Angel sighed. A call from Sunnydale at this hour of the morning was never a good thing. “What’s the problem?”
“Well, it’s about Spike…” the elder man began.
“Perfect, just perfect. The perfect ending to a perfectly miserable night. What did that idiot do now?”
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Angel. Spike didn’t do anything. He’d been injured while out on a run with Buffy, and he’s been unconscious for the past seven hours or so.”
“And I’m supposed to care… why? Last time I saw Spike, he was responsible for several lengths of rebar being shoved through my body. Come to think of it… why do you care? And what’s he doing with Buffy, anyway?” The suspicion was rolling through the phone wire in waves.
“Why can’t anything be easy?” Giles groaned, shaking his head. “You remember that Spike can’t hurt humans, right? Well, we found out he can fight and kill demons. He patrols with Buffy on a regular basis, and I find I’d rather not lose someone invested in protecting my Slayer’s back for whatever reasons.”
“Buffy’s a big girl, Giles. She can handle patrolling all on her own. Spike will either come to on his own, or eventually dust. He’s no longer my problem.”
Giles was furious. “Listen here, you berk! Spike was affected by demon blood two days ago, as was Buffy. If you don’t care enough to help another of your own line, then perhaps you’ll want to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to her.”
“Fine.” He said, tersely. “Let me shower, and I’ll be over as soon as I can.”
Buffy walked into the room, staring intently at Giles. “Are all the guys you know poopy-heads?”
“Spike’s um… grandfather can be notoriously difficult to deal with, but he’s the boy’s best chance of getting better.” He smiled, then – a little, wicked grin creased his face. “And yes, Angel is most assuredly a ‘poopy-head’.”
A knock on the door less than three hours later heralded Angel’s arrival. He stood stiffly at the door, covered by an old comforter, unsure as to his invitation into Giles’ home.
“Please come in, Angel.”
With the formality out of the way, Angel stepped over the threshold. “So, where is the pain in my ass?”
Giles grabbed the vampire by the front of his shirt, his eyes cold with fury. “Listen to me, you sanctimonious bastard.” His voice was low, and dangerous. “If there’s anyone in this world that I should have a reason to hate, it’s you. Need I remind you of the hours you spent delighting in my agony? Of the woman you took away from me? Get off your damned high horse and do something humane for a change. You’re supposed to be a champion of the helpless, and right now, I’d put Spike in that position.”
Releasing Angel’s shirt, the elder man wiped the spittle from his lips. “Upstairs, first door from the landing. And if you frighten Buffy, I swear I’ll have your dust.”
Turning swiftly, Angel went upstairs, scenting Buffy and Spike as he neared the guest room. The sight that greeted him was not what he expected.
Sitting on the bed, a little girl seemed to be reading to a sleeping little boy. Unable to reconcile his senses, Angel went back downstairs to confront Giles. “Who are those children?” he demanded, quietly. “And why do they smell like Buffy and Spike?”
“That’s the part I couldn’t explain to you over the phone. They had an encounter with a demon two days ago. Its demise splattered them both with it’s blood. Buffy told me Spike became disoriented before going to sleep, and awoke as a five year old vampire... with no memories other than age appropriate ones, like his name and birthdate. He didn’t remember her at all.”
“Do I even want to know why Buffy was aware of Spike’s condition before going to bed?”
“She simply extended him the courtesy of a shower and a place to stay. The blood was obviously caustic to him. Certainly you’ve been on the receiving end of her clemency before.”
Angel had to concede that point. “But… you make it sound like she wasn’t affected.”
“No, that honor was reserved for me. The first night of his transformation, Spike refused to let her leave. Actually went gamefaced from crying so hard. The only way he would even deign to close his eyes was if she were in the room.”
“And you found Buffy changed in the morning.,” Angel concluded.
“Yes, and as expected, had no memory of Spike or any of her life past the age of five.” Giles shook his head, amazed at how absurd this all sounded. “Spike, on the other hand, had no problems recognizing Buffy. I’d have to assume he could tell by her scent, as did you. In the short course of the day, they’ve grown extraordinarily close. I must warn you, Angel. If you do anything to purposefully harm the boy, or withhold treatment, you might just find yourself on the wrong end of a stake, and I won’t hold the girl back.”
“I give you my word. I can always dust him when he’s back to his annoying self.” Angel muttered.
They walked up the stairs together, and entered the guestroom. Giles stroked the boy’s forehead, then spoke quietly with Buffy for a few moments. Scooping her up into his arms, the Watcher attempted to leave the room, when the little girl reached out and grabbed a hold of the elder vampire’s shoulder.
“You a bampire, too?” When Angel nodded, Buffy said, “You take good care of my bampire, mister.” Her little chin quivered, and Angel was struck with just how familiar he was with the sight. “Please, help him wake him up.”
Angel melted at the sight of the small, pitiful face. In that moment he would have promised her anything.
Gently gathering the little vampire into his arms, Angel couldn’t help but be reminded of his infant son. Small, helpless – totally vulnerable to the world’s evil. He would have given up everything for the chance to raise Connor to this age.
The artist in him couldn’t help but seek out comparisons between the adult Spike and this immature version. He ran his large fingers over the high cheekbones and full lower lip he’d have recognized blindfolded. Unable to help himself, he ran his fingers through the boy’s hair, gently exploring every inch of his delicate skull, finding a pea-sized lump near the base.
Angel was puzzled. A head injury of this type shouldn’t incapacitate a vampire… of any size. He could see purplish shadows forming in the delicate skin underneath Spike’s eyes, and found it profoundly upsetting. Using both hands, he pressed a little harder into the skull, and felt… yes... felt a tingling in his fingertips. Continuing his exploration, the elder vampire felt several sharp points just underneath the skin.
Shit! Those Initiative bastards. Between the fall and the shrinkage, it had to be the damned chip firing that was keeping Spike comatose. It had to be removed.
Gently placing the boy face down on the bed, he removed a penknife from his pocket, and relocated the sharp points of the embedded object. He made several shallow incisions, feeling the bite of each one as if they were made in his own skin. Mercifully, the boy hadn’t fed recently, so the bleeding was minimal.
His stomach turned as he shifted back the little flap of tissue and hair, which was odd, considering he’d done far worse to Spike when he was fledged. Sitting there was a piece of clear plastic with silver bits of metal… sending out miniature sparks on a steady basis. The chip was free floating, and easily removed. Angel threw it to the floor and ground it under his heel. Only when it was dust, was he satisfied. Then, he replaced the small piece of skin on Spike’s scalp, applying pressure and hoping vampire healing would begin immediately, now that the blasphemous piece of electronic circuitry was removed.
Sure enough, within fifteen minutes, the wound had begun to heal. Still, there was neither sound nor movement from Spike, and Angel slowly became worried about the prospect of permanent brain damage. That chip had been firing directly into his brain for at least seven or eight hours, and who knew how long before that.
A slight brogue colored Angel’s softly spoken words. “T’is not right to wish it so, lad, but if ye never regain yer old self, I could do right by ye this time.”
Rubbing a bloody finger against Spike’s lips, he hoped for some sign, some movement – that the demon was undamaged on some basic level, at least. Several seconds after the limp little body tasted blood, the elder vampire was rewarded with a slight twitch… and then another.
A quick shift into gameface and Angel scored his wrist on one of his fangs, placing it against the little vampire’s mouth. Anxious moments later, Spike responded, dropping his own fangs and latching on.
He didn’t nurse for long, retracting his small teeth several minutes later. Then, just as a baby would, he settled into Angel’s embrace… with a soft, rumbling purr emanating from his chest.
Giles stood at the door, announcing his presence with a slight cough. He was once again holding Buffy, whose eyes widened at the sight of the blood on the bed.
“Any change, Angel?” The elder man’s voice was shaky and rough, trying to hold back his emotions.
“The good news is that he’s fed. The demon is still alive and functioning… we just don’t know on what level yet. The original contusion is almost gone.”
“And such a simple bump was enough to keep him unconscious for so long?”
Angel shook his head, pointing to the powdered mess of silicon he’d ground under his foot. “No. That was.”
“Oh dear Lord. The chip?” The Watcher in Giles reacted, and badly. “What will this mean when he regains full consciousness? Will he have any control over his demon as a child? If he returns to his adult age, will he revert to killing?”
“Giles… how long has it been since Spike’s been a serious threat to you? Even at the beginning, he could have worked his way around the chip to cause some serious damage if he’d had half a mind to.” Asking this of the man, Angel was forced to admit the truths to himself, as well. Spike was no longer the vicious demon Angelus had conditioned him to be, unless forced to defend himself or those he cared about.
“We’ve all been worried about that chip for so long… what would happen if it suddenly stopped working or if he managed to get it removed,” Giles reflected, softly. “I suppose we never acknowledged how much he’s changed.”
Buffy had had enough of being ignored. Pushing against Giles’ shoulder until he put her down, she ran to the bed, wanting to see for herself if Spike was better. “Look! He’s breathing again.” She placed her little hand on his chest, and sure enough it rose and fell, albeit at irregular intervals.
Content that all was right with her world now, she settled onto the bed, once more falling into the pattern of the previous night, anxiously awaiting her friend’s awakening.