And a hearty shout out to my sweetest willa_writes, for beta work above and beyond the call of duty when she's feeling peaked. **smooches her**
The Body – Chapter 3 – Night and Day
Dr. Norris pulled the curtains around Spike’s cot, pinning a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the outside. It wouldn’t do to have someone attempt to wake him up and find no life signs. Having her guest hauled off to the morgue would not be a good thing.
Spike drifted towards sleep with only the knowledge that Buffy had survived the first night for comfort. Girl was an utter wreck. It wasn’t her battered looks that unnerved him… she could have one eye, no hair and gain thirty pounds and still turn him on. Her looks were just window dressing. What distressed him was the sight of her lying there, paler than any vampire, and still as a corpse. His Buffy was vibrant and full of piss and vinegar… especially when punching him in the nose. Lately though…
He shook his head, wiping away the last of his tears and finally passed out from exhaustion.
Giles looked up from his seat to see Xander, Willow, Tara, and Dawn enter the waiting room, panic evident on every face.
“All right, G-man. We’re here and we’re worried and nobody at the desk will tell us anything at all.” Xander threw his hands in the air. “What the hell’s happened to Buffy?”
Dawn sat down next to Giles and took the man’s hands into hers. “I-is Buffy gonna be okay? Please tell me she’s gonna be okay. Giles… I just lost Mom. I can’t lose Buffy, too.”
“Maybe she lost her Slaying powers,” Willow added. “I mean there’s no way she could have been beaten by a couple of puny vamps or demons.”
“Unless she was ambushed,” ventured Tara. “I-I mean, it’s why she always goes out with back-up. A-an extra set of eyes is always a good thing.”
Giles swallowed hard; the guilt overwhelming him. “Why don’t we see if at least Dawn can get in to see her sister? Intensive Care has very strict visiting rules.”
Halfway to the nursing station they were met by Dr. Norris, who introduced herself as the head of the team of doctors on Buffy’s case. Only Dawn would be allowed to see Buffy for the time being, and the doctor promised to stop by the waiting room before she left to let them know of her condition.
“I can’t tell you not to worry,” she said to Dawn. “Your sister’s condition is very, very grave. However, the very fact that she’s made it through the night is a testament to her strength and gives us all hope for her further recovery.”
As they walked towards room 17, Dawn hesitated. “How did Buffy get to the hospital? I mean, ambulances usually don’t pick up patients in…”
“If you were going to say cemeteries, don’t worry honey. I know about your sister, and Spike brought her in. Thanks to him, she has a chance at surviving.”
Dawn was floored. “You’re telling me you know Buffy’s a-a- and Spike’s a --.”
“Yes, Dawn. I do. Spike and Buffy were responsible for saving my life during a vampire attack not all that long ago. Like I told Spike, not everyone in Sunnydale is blind.”
As they stood in front of Buffy’s room, Dr. Norris tried to prepare the girl for what she would see. “It’s not pretty, Dawn. Buffy was beaten badly and had multiple surgeries last night. Her condition is critical, but stable at the moment. Don’t be afraid of all the machines and their noises. Each one tells us something vital about your sister.”
“I-is she in pain?”
“Buffy is in a coma. She’s also hooked up to IV’s that give her a constant source of pain medication. We believe she’s as comfortable as humanly possible for someone in her condition,” the doctor gentled. “Don’t be afraid to talk to your sister, or touch her where she’s uninjured. We never know exactly what coma patients can hear. Are you ready to see your sister now?”
Dawn took a steadying breath and walked into the room. If Dr. Norris hadn’t been standing right behind her, the shaken girl would have crumpled to the floor as her knees buckled at the sight of her sister. She calmed herself enough to shake off the doctor’s hands, and brought a chair to Buffy’s bedside.
“I-I’m here, Buffy. Giles called and said you’d been hurt, and we all came to see you,” she whispered. “He never told us it was this… Anyway, the doctor said you might be able to hear me, so I’m just gonna talk as long as they let me stay.” Dawn’s voice gained strength the longer she spoke, willing herself to be heard over the sounds of the machines. “I guess it doesn’t seem like it, what with you being so hurt and all, but you’re really lucky you had Spike with you. I told you he cared about you. He got you to the hospital in time to save your life.”
Her fingers were drawn to the same unblemished hand that Spike had held several hours earlier. “Oh, Buffy,” Dawn sobbed, unable to hold back her tears any longer. “You’ve got to get better. I can’t lose you, too. It’s too much. First Mom, and if you… if you… where would I go? Dad doesn’t want me, and…”
A technician’s hand on her shoulder stilled her tears. Dawn kissed her sister’s hand before she ran from the room, headed to the sanctuary of the waiting room and her makeshift family. As she walked down the corridor trying to compose her words to convey her sister’s condition, Dawn heard voices coming from the waiting room.
“You’re telling me that bleached freak had something to do with Buffy’s winding up in the hospital?” Xander was furious. “Giles, I thought we had this taken care of. You told me that Buffy wouldn’t patrol with that… that… thing anymore.”
Giles tried to calm the boy down before the situation got out of hand. “Look, Xander, I said Spike got Buffy to the hospital. He wasn’t patrolling with her, which is why she ended up in such dire straits in the first place.”
“Everyone needs to get this straight because I’m tired of having to justify his actions.” Dr. Norris looked around at the youngsters who had joined Giles. Anger warred with worry on their faces. “Whatever your argument is with Spike, you need to drop it. That vampire saved your friend and Slayer. That’s the bottom line. Trying to keep them apart damn near killed her. Get over it and move on, kids.”
“I-is it t-true, Giles?” Tara asked, looking at her friends over her shoulder. “Are we responsible for Buffy’s getting hurt?”
“We can’t say for sure, Tara… but without Spike to watch her back, Buffy never stood a chance with the demons she encountered last night.”
With a heartrending cry, Dawn stormed into the little room. “M-murderers!” she shrieked. “If Buffy dies it’ll be on your hands. Y-you know Spike helps her patrol. He loves her. No matter what you say about vampires being unable to love, he does. Spike would have kept her safe,” she insisted.
“C’mon, Dawnie. You need to calm down. Getting this upset isn’t going to help Buffy.” Willow led the teenager to a chair and pushed her hair back behind her ears. “We’re all doing the best we can, and it isn’t possible to protect anyone all the time. Even a Slayer.”
With a snort, Dawn pushed the redhead away. “Are you part of this? Are you one of the people who made my sister go out all alone to fight against vampires and demons when she had someone willing to help her?”
No words were necessary; Willow’s guilty look was enough.
Facing Dr. Norris, the teenager asked: “Where is Spike? Why isn’t he here?”
“He’s sleeping in the doctors’ lounge. He was exhausted from fighting before he brought your sister in, and from the wait to see her a few hours ago.”
“I knew he wouldn’t just leave her. And… and… h-he’ll be worried about me. I need to see him.”
“You’ll do no such thing, Dawn.” Giles interrupted before Dr. Norris could lead the girl to the lounge. “You still have school. I’m sure your sister would want you to keep up as normal a life as possible while she gets better.”
“You’re sure? You’re sure? Like I’m supposed to believe anything you say?” Dawn burst into tears. “I saw what your being sure did to Buffy. She’s lying in that bed hooked up to a machine that breathes for her. She’s got tubes and wires and needles in her all because you were sure she’d be better off without Spike on patrol.”
Dr. Norris decided enough was enough. “That’s it, folks. Time for everyone to go home. Nobody else will be allowed in ICU today except Buffy’s sister. My shift has ended and I’ll stay with her until Spike wakes up in the doctor’s lounge. Between us, we’ll make sure Dawn gets back home.”
Giles was infuriated once again at the doctor’s seemingly reverential treatment of the vampire, not to mention her sticking her nose in family business. “Now see here, Dr. Norris. You might make the rules here in the hospital, but you have no say over a minor child…”
“You may be listed as Buffy’s next of kin, but you’re not listed as Dawn’s. If she doesn’t want to go with you, she’s perfectly free not to do so.”
The girl narrowed her eyes at her sister’s friends and Watcher, and, feeling utterly betrayed on her behalf, let them know it. “I wouldn’t follow any of you out of a burning building right now,” Dawn spat, and followed Dr. Norris to the lounge.
Spike awoke several hours later, finding Dawn crying silently in the cot next to his. His hesitation in reaching out to comfort the girl was overcome when she flung herself into his arms, sobbing for all she was worth.
Spike accompanied Dawn to see Buffy once more before Dr. Norris took her home. The vampire was relaxed and easy with Buffy, talking to her as he did before. It put Dawn at more at ease than she’d been before as she spoke to her sister again.
“Thanks, Spike,” she murmured as they left the room. “I know it’s bad. Real bad. But she has a chance ‘cause you brought her here.”
“I’d do anythin’ for her, Niblet, and that includes watchin’ out for you. You need to go home and work things out with the Watcher and the rest.”
“No ‘buts’ Bit. Bad as it turned out, they meant well. And let’s face it; a vampire’s not fit for raising a kid on his own.”
Giving in to the inevitable, Dawn gave him one last hug, and allowed the good doctor to drive her back home.
Spike realized he was falling hard for the littlest Summers. His girls! He’d do anything to protect them.
Several weeks had passed and the changes in Buffy’s appearance were remarkable. The swelling and bruises are all gone. All that remained on her face to show of her ordeal were the faint pink scars from the Ognir’s claws. Eventually those would vanish, as well.
MRI’s showed that her bones had set properly and re-knit. The casts were removed, making Buffy seem even smaller. Her brainwave patterns hadn’t altered since the initial surgeries. Strong and steady, but she remained comatose.
For three weeks Buffy’s group of visitors was constant. Giles, Xander, Willow, Tara and Dawn were there twice a day without fail. Visits were staggered so there were no problems being allowed to see her. They’d tried to reach her father, without success. He never bothered answering the messages they’d left. There was also no sign of Spike, though even Dawn seemed too preoccupied to notice.
On the one month anniversary of Buffy’s admittance, her respirator was removed. Miraculously, she began to breathe on her own. The hospital staff broke into spontaneous cheers. Moving Buffy down to a private room on a regular floor was the highlight of their day.
By the sixth week, though, Buffy’s hospitalization had begun to take its toll. Xander was the first of the Scoobies to cut back on his visitations. Anya was unhappy that he was spending all of his spare time sitting at the bedside of a woman who wasn’t her; making the argument that he would be notified if she came to and they would both go and visit.
Willow and Tara cut down their visits to once a week. School schedules had picked up again, and the women had to focus on things that were within their power to change.
Giles and Dawn had mended their fences by agreeing to not mention Spike at all. Buffy’s incapacitation has been hardest of all on them. Dawn came every day after school, doing her homework to Buffy’s favorite music played on a portable boom box. Every once in awhile one of Spike’s favorite CD’s would show up: The Ramones, Dead Kennedys… Giles had no clue, but it made Dawn’s face light up. She knew they hadn’t been abandoned.
Buffy’s third month in the hospital found everyone gathered in the waiting room once again for a meeting with Dr. Norris, including Spike. The room was split predictably into two camps: Spike and Dawn on one side, Giles and everybody else on the other.
When the doctor walked into the room, she could sense the hostility building. She knew what she had to say would make it worse, but there was no way around it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I need your full attention. We have a lot to discuss this evening, and it’s not going to be easy for anyone. I’d appreciate you all holding your personal feuds for another time and place.”
Looking around the room, she noticed Dawn being held in the vampire’s protective embrace. She already feared the worst. Best get this over with as soon as possible.
“You’ve all seen Buffy’s physical appearance improve over the past three months. Her broken bones have healed, her skull has remarkably pieced itself together enough that she doesn’t need metal plating. Her breathing is strong and steady. With a little care and attention, she can spend her remaining time in her own home.”
Dawn was shaken by the news. They were going to send her sister home to die. “There’s no hope for her, is there?” she whispered. “No chance that she’ll come back to me?”
The doctor sat down next to the crying teenager, taking her hands into her own. “I’m sorry, Dawn. Medical science has done all it can for your sister. She could continue in this state for another week, or for years. There’s no way to tell. Either way, the hospital will be unable to keep her. The bed is needed for other patients.”
Giles stood and walked over to the distraught girl. “Perhaps it’s time to consider placing your sister in a hospice, dear. Somewhere she’ll be cared for around the clock until… until…”
“You must be mad, Rupert. You’re talking of putting the Slayer away in a hole somewhere to die out of sight of everyone she ever loved?” Spike stood, shoving the older man backwards and wincing from the chip’s reaction. “If Buffy has to die, she deserves the right to die in her own bed. She’s earned it. Most Slayers don’t get that dignity.”
“Something you should know about, eh, Spike?” Giles said coldly. “You’ve killed two of them yourself. Took them away from their families and loved ones.”
“You right bastard! We’re standin’ here, discussing the life of your Slayer an’ you’re bringin’ up a past I can’t change. I know what I did, and I know what I’m doing now. Two different things, old man. I’m tryin’ my best to work with you. Most important thing to consider is the bit, here. Dawn is her sister. She should have somethin’ to say about where Buffy ends up.”
Xander pushed his way into the argument. “You talk big, Junior. Yeah, Buffy deserves to go home. Oddly enough I agree with you. But nobody is qualified to care for her twenty-four/seven and we can’t afford the private duty nurse.” Turning to Giles, he asked: “Slaying doesn’t have an insurance policy to cover terminal care, does it G-man?”
Dawn’s gasp caught everyone’s attention.
“God, Xander, can’t you have a little more tact?” Willow chided. “Dawn is sitting right there and you’re talking about her sister like she’s a problem.”
“I don’t see what the problem is, really.” Anya had her own solution, and for a change, she wasn’t going to keep quiet. “Spike’s so interested in letting Buffy go home, why doesn’t he take care of her?”
“Ahn!” Xander yelped. “Are you insane? Letting that… pervert touch Buffy all over, and bathe her and deal with personal fluids and everything?”
“I don’t see why not,” she sniffed. “And you’ve given way too much thought to Buffy’s personal needs. Were you planning on doing it yourself?”
“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” Dawn stomped her foot on the floor, trying to get everyone’s attention. “You’re all talking about Buffy like she’s a burden… nothing more than a body to be turned and washed and wiped down. She’s my sister! I love her more than anyone. She’s all I have left of my family and I want her home. With me!”
Not caring about anyone else in the room, Spike drew the girl into his arms. “It’ll be all right, Niblet. I promise. I’m sure I can talk one of the nurses into helpin’ out. I’ll just turn on the old Spike charm, and they’ll be trippin’ over themselves to take care of big sis.”
“This is ludicrous, Spike,” Giles scoffed. “You’re not capable of taking care of a goldfish, much less the needs of a comatose human. And in a month, when your insane desire to play undead nurse wanes, where will Buffy be?”
Spike threw his hands up in frustration. “I give up on the whole bloody lot of you. I gave my promise to always watch her back, and will do – no matter what. Short of stakin’ me, I’m not leavin’ her side again.”
He stormed out, flanked by Dawn and followed by Dr. Norris.
“I don’t know about you guys, but I feel a need to go and see Buffy.” Willow hung her head with embarrassment. “I-I haven’t spent nearly as much time with her as I should. If we have to make a decision about her care, I think it should be in her presence.”
Not another word was spoken as they walked down the corridor to the bank of elevators that would take them to Buffy’s floor.
Nobody stopped them as they made their way to her room. All the day shifts were familiar with Buffy’s visitors.
The sight of her in bed from the doorway always hit them hard. With the covers pulled up to her chest, Buffy looked like she was asleep and the urge to shake her gently was hard to restrain. It was when you got up close that the differences began to make themselves known. Buffy’s weight loss was obvious, and her once flawless skin was dry and ashy. Her muscle tone had suffered and her limbs were slack. Her beautiful hair was dull and snarled, despite the evidence that someone had tried to care for it.
It was more than her friends could take. They huddled in the far corner of her room, grateful for the distraction when a technician came in to check the machines monitoring her life signs.
“This girl must have been someone very special,” the tech said, stroking Buffy’s hair gently as she read the LED displays. “I’ve never seen such a devoted boyfriend. All night, every night he stays with her.”
“W-what are you talking about?” demanded Giles. “She has no boyfriend,” he said with wavering conviction and a sinking feeling in his gut.
“Must be a boyfriend, honey. You know, that blond cutie that brought her in? Been here every night since. He’s practically taken over caring for her after visiting hours. William’s the darling of the night shift. He gets really pissy when he feels someone’s falling down on the job of caring for his girl.” The tech finished adjusting the displays and marking down the readouts and left the room, leaving a roomful of stunned people behind in her wake.
“E-every n-night? He’s been here every night?” Willow was flustered that a soulless demon showed more attention to her best friend than she did. “I thought for sure he’d eventually just give up and walk away when she didn’t get better.”
“You mean like you did? And everyone else?” Dawn’s disdain cut through the air like a knife as she walked into her sister’s room. “When Spike cares about someone, he doesn’t abandon them. Not even when things get hard.” With vicious glee, the teenager informed them that Buffy was coming home. Dr. Norris and a few of the nursing staff were going to help settle her sister into a routine.”
“And Spike’s staying, too. Buffy needs him,” was her parting shot, as she headed back to the nurses’ station to make the final arrangements for her sister’s release.