Once again, as always... thank you willa_writes for the lovely beta.
The Body – Chapter 6 – Bring Me To Life
‘Keep your head, Spike, and think this through. When you went to sleep, you spooned up behind the girl. When you opened your eyes, she was facing you. And her eyes were open. Bloody buggering hell, she’d done it… she’d come back.’
He opened his eyes again, and looked at Buffy. Sure enough, she was still staring at him, her eyes holding a faint tinge of amusement. Yet she hadn’t moved again, nor had she spoken a single word. Spike worried… what kind of damage could have gone on in there?
“Buffy, pet… do you know where you are? Do you understand me?” He spoke softly and slowly, scanning for any response to his words.
He could see her trying to gather her thoughts, but she didn’t speak. She barely moved her lips. It was as if she was trying, but couldn’t figure out how.
“Luv, you’ve been sick quite awhile. I’m gonna call your doctor an’ see if we can figure out what’s going on in that head of yours.”
Spike got out of the bed in search of the phone, and heard a short bark of sound from the bed. Buffy’s eyes were wide and she was pointing at him.
It took the vampire a few moments to realize he was parading around without a stitch of clothing. “See somethin’ you like, pet?”
When Buffy rolled her eyes, Spike’s knees buckled and he all but wept. The indefinable something that was Buffy Summers, Californian Girl was still inside the weakened shell of her body. Whether she returned to being the Slayer was something that only time would tell.
He quickly located his jeans and slipped them on, not bothering with anything else. Grabbing the phone off the dresser, he left a three word message with Dr. Norris’ service: “She’s back, Sue.”
Less than an hour had passed when the front door flew open; Sue Norris having used the key Spike had given her months ago. After staring into the eyes of the young woman she’d all but given up on, Sue turned to the grinning vampire and hugged him tightly.
“You son of a syphilitic whore,” she whispered in awe. “You really did know she’d be back, didn’t you?”
Spike said nothing. The joy shining from his eyes, however, spoke volumes.
Shooing the vampire out of the room so she could concentrate, Dr. Norris gave Buffy as thorough an examination as possible in her home, without all the equipment she’d normally have access to. It didn’t matter. The woman was awake and alert… and a tad headstrong, as she ripped the IVs out of her arm despite Sue’s protests to wait.
She might be dangerously underweight and overly weakened, but Buffy was certainly stronger than Dr. Norris at her best.
Unable to wait outside any longer, Spike burst into the room, throwing questions like fastballs:
“How is she?”
“Why can’t she speak?”
“Can she walk?”
“Is she hungry?”
It was the last question that caused Buffy to react. Another grunt and she grabbed at her sheets, attempting to pull them around her. She tried to swing her legs off the bed to sit up, but was unable to do so. Spike was at her side in a flash.
“You hungry, kitten? Would you like me to bring you somethin’ to eat?”
Buffy’s eyes glittered with desire. She was absolutely ravenous.
“Something light, Spike,” Sue warned. “Perhaps just a scrambled egg to see how that sits.”
He was back as soon as possible with a plateful of eggs, the smell clearly intoxicating to Buffy. She followed the plate with her eyes until the vampire sat directly in front of her, fork in hand.
Buffy had a little trouble opening her mouth when she wanted to, but she wasn’t worried. She seemed to know Spike would give her as much time as she needed to get the job done.
She didn’t so much chew as swallow, but the egg slid down her throat with ease. Her stomach didn’t rebel when the first food in eight months hit bottom. In fact, she closed her eyes in ecstasy at the taste treat. Though she managed to work her way through half a plateful, Buffy shook her head regretfully when she’d had enough.
When Buffy was once again reclining against her pillows, Dr. Norris explained her speech problems. “I’d say you were experiencing something known as ‘transient aphasia’, otherwise known as ‘temporary aphasia’. It’s not uncommon after head trauma or coma episodes,” she reassured them. “The degree and length of the aphasia varies with individuals, and I would say that judging the remarkable way you’ve come through your injuries, your can expect this to last anywhere from several hours to several days.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed at the thought of being handicapped for so long, until she glanced at Spike.
“I know you want to be out there, quippin’ an’ stakin’, bein’ your own self right away, Slayer. It’s not gonna happen,” the vampire said, kindly. “You’ve been gone from us for eight months now, an’ even I figure it’s goin’ t’take some time for you to heal.”
At her pout, Spike laughed. “It’s not like I can feed you full of blood and watch you heal before my eyes. One of the advantages of bein’ a vampire, luv. If you’re in that much of a hurry, I could always turn you…”
The weakest little pop to his nose from Buffy’s fist rocked him like her hardest blow never had. “That’s my girl,” he whispered. “Welcome back, Slayer.”
Dr. Norris stayed for the rest of the afternoon, and well into the night. From what she’d already seen, the doctor knew Buffy would be giving Spike a run for his money. She’d push herself well past what her weakened body could endure, and the last thing Sue wanted was for the vampire to be rewarded for all his troubles with a cranky bitch of a patient.
She must have spoken those last words out loud, because Spike answered with: “And what makes you think Buffy wasn’t always a cranky bitch of a Slayer?”
This time he received a slight kick in the pants for his words.
Spike threw back his head and crowed. “Oh yeah!”
“Did anyone ever tell you that you’re insane, Spike?” Sue marveled at the glee that possessed Spike every time Buffy struck out at him. “Do you want her to beat on you?”
“Ah, pet, you don’t understand,” he said. “Me an’ the Slayer’ve been beatin’ on each other for years. It’s normal for us. I’ve just spent eight months of my unlife watchin’ the chit do nothin’ but breathe. If she wants to beat on me, she’s got my blessing.”
“I’ll never understand vampires,” Sue muttered. “Nobody should enjoy being beaten.”
Out of his deep respect for the doctor, he tried again, making one final effort to be understood. “It’s like this… you have a young’un who’s a hellion. Makes you miserable with the back talk day after day. One day the bit gets sick and lays a-bed with a fever. Doesn’t sass back, doesn’t run you ragged. By the end of the first week you’re wishin’ for a bit of lip again. S’all I want… the Slayer, back to normal.”
This time, she got it, in all its beautiful simplicity.
A slight noise sounded behind them. Both turned sharply as Buffy tried to make herself understood. “P…” was all she managed to vocalize, looking distinctly uncomfortable.
Not getting through to Spike, she turned to Dr. Norris and managed to repeat the sound. “P-p!” her brow wrinkling with the effort of trying to get her needs across.
“Oh!” A switch flipped on in Sue’s head. “You have to pee, Buffy? Do you want me to take you to the bathroom?”
A grateful sigh of relief escaped Buffy’s lips. She knew she was wearing a diaper, but she’d die again before she’d mess herself now that she was awake.
Carrying the featherweight Slayer in her arms, Dr. Norris looked over at Spike. “I’ll tell her,” she mouthed silently, figuring it would be easier hearing the details of her care from the doctor than from the vampire.
When Buffy was returned to her bed, she was dressed in a tank top and a pair of sleep pants, which hung loosely off her overly thin frame. She refused to look at Spike, blushing deeply every time she caught sight of him.
He wasn’t going to let her get away with acting coy. Spike sat on the bed, tilting Buffy’s crimson face up to meet his. “Now look here, Missy,” the vampire began, realizing he was taking the proverbial bull by the horns. “I’ve seen an’ touched every inch of you for months. Nothin’ I can do to change that.”
Buffy began to cry, silently at first, turning into ugly, rasping sobs. She burrowed into the crook of Spike’s neck, and wouldn’t budge for love nor money.
Wrapping his arms gently around her bony shoulders, Spike cooed and shushed, trying to calm her down. “Don’t cry, pet. I-I was good... didn’t play around. Honest,” he swore, close to the breaking point, himself.
Sue Norris laid a hand on Spike’s shoulder. This had to stop before irreparable damage was done to either of them. “Spike,” she coaxed the vampire. “You have to take a break. Go feed, or smoke, or kill something if it’s dark enough outside.” With light shoves, she urged him to get off of the bed. “Don’t come back for several hours. I’ll stay with Buffy, I promise.”
As upset as Buffy was, disentangling her from Spike was tricky business. Being careful of her fragile bones, Sue finally managed to extricate him from her grasp.
“I’ll be back later, Buffy,” he wheezed, tension making him unable to take in enough air to speak clearly. “I-I’ve got to get out of here.” He dropped a kiss to the top of her head, and left without looking back.
Buffy’s anguish was heartbreaking. There was so much she wanted to ask… needed to say… and no way for her to do so. Patience was never her strong suit and not knowing when she’d be able to speak or express herself was making her crazy. The thought that she’d finally driven Spike away again was the final, overwhelming straw. She closed her eyes and slipped back into oblivion.
Sue was relieved when Buffy fell into a deep sleep. It would be the best thing for her right now. That she was anywhere near being in her right mind after an eight month coma was a miracle. Once the aphasia passed, things would be easier for everyone.
When Spike returned to the Summers’ house, he was covered in muck and blood, much like the first time Sue laid eyes on him. His body language was relaxed; as if he’d found his center.
“That must have been a hell of a fight, Spike. You’re looking a bit worse for wear… do you need anything patched up?” Sue knew she was being overly solicitous, but it couldn’t be helped. He brought out the mother in her. Alright, sometimes the naughty, perverse mother in her… but again, that was something she kept to herself.
“Nothin’ a nice hot shower won’t fix, luv. I’m fine,” he said, raising his arms behind his head and stretching his torso until the vertebrae popped. “Ripped up a few things Sunnyhell won’t miss. Felt damned good to be movin’. How’s Buffy?”
“She’s been asleep since you left. I’d say she’s doing just fine.”
Momentary panic flashed across his face. “Are you sure she’s just…”
“Who’s the doctor here, Spike?” she joked, though it fell flat. “Yes, she’s just sleeping. The emotional overload is going wreak havoc with Buffy’s system for awhile, especially until she’s able to communicate. You’ve got to be strong enough to let her rant and rave. Most of what she says or does will be over-reacting. Can you handle that on your own?”
“Whatever she can dish out, I can take,” Spike resigned himself to a few days of sheer hell if that’s how it had to be. “As long as she’s here with me, there’s a chance to work things out, right?”
Sue nodded. “Go shower. I’ll be leaving when you’re done. Spend some time with the girl and see what happens. I’m always just a call away should either of you need me.”
A grateful nod from across the room, and Spike headed for the hottest shower he could stand.
Walking into Buffy’s room, a clean pair of jeans slung low on his hips and his hair a riot of towel dried curls, Spike felt like a new vampire. He’d have to do something nice for Sue… the woman had done much more than taking care of Buffy – she’d taken care of him. Reminded him of Joyce, in a way. Faced with the unbelievable, she just accepted things as they were and coped.
He sat on the edge of the bed and traced the contours of Buffy’s face in the air. Still so bloody beautiful after all she’d been through. How he wished that his biggest battle would be forcing her to eat enough to fatten her up – however, he knew full well that dealing with her friends and Dawn would by far be the more difficult. As soon as she was capable of talking, those phone calls had to be made.
With his head in his hands, trying to make sense of what was to come; he almost missed the soft whisper:
It was the warmth of her fingers on his cheek that roused him. “Spike,” Buffy repeated, as if she’d been practicing in her sleep.
He smiled, kissing her fingertips. “What is it, pet? Something you want me to get for you?”
She shook her head and repeated: “Spike,” once more, before falling back to sleep.
Sitting in the kitchen Spike drank his blood, wondering who to call first. Should be Dawn, but that meant talking with Angel again… something he was not looking forward to. Then, of course, there was the Watcher. Giles needed… would want to know, which would lead to his calling the others and then everything would spin out of control… his control.
He knew better, of course. Buffy wasn’t his. He may have been the only one not to have given up on her, but she belonged to herself. She wouldn’t cotton to being kept isolated and coddled. So, he’d have to do the right thing, wouldn’t he? He’d call Angel later in the evening, after…
Spike ran up the stairs to find Buffy sprawled on the floor, inching her way towards the bathroom. Immediately he ran to pick her up, but was stopped in his tracks by her strident cries of: “No! Me!”
Helping would only further humiliate her. So, despite how it hurt him, he stood back and watched her painfully creep like a baby learning to crawl for the first time… her knees moving forward first, then her bottom poking into the air… followed by her arms shuffling forward and her lower half following suit.
A half hour later, despite his best intentions, after listening to her grunt and groan with the pain of hauling herself up onto the toilet with muscles that fought her every step of the way, Spike had had enough. He tore into the bathroom, fully expecting a fight… and was floored by what he saw: Buffy sitting on the toilet, sweat pouring down her face and neck, smiling for all she was worth.
“Me!” she said, proudly.
“Yeah, pet. You certainly did it all by yourself.” He smiled, holding out his arms to her. “You ready for your ride back to bed?”
She smiled, raised her arms and answered: “Done. Ready. Bed,” well and truly pleased to have put a sequence of words together.
As soon as she was safely tucked into bed, Spike knew it was time. “It’s time to let people know you’re back, pet. Little sis, for one. Are you up for this?”
Buffy began to shake. She could barely express herself, and dealing with Spike was hard enough. How would she handle well-meaning friends and Dawn swarming all over her? It had to be done, though. And it was just the phone. She could always disconnect the line if it became too much for her.
She drew a deep breath. “Yes. Call.”
“It’ll be okay, pet,” Spike promised as he placed the call to Los Angeles. “Oi, Peaches… need to speak to Dawn.”
Angel froze. Spike never, ever called and Dawn hadn’t bothered calling home in more than a month. This could only mean… “Is… is it over, Spike? Is she gone?”
“Are you deaf? Just get Dawn to the phone… now!” Waiting for the two sisters to reconnect, Spike’s nerves were making him jittery, as well as Buffy, and the pleasantries would have to wait for later.
“S-spike?” Dawn spoke hesitantly. “Oh God… I’m so sorry I haven’t called you. I-it’s been too hard, and I miss you and…”
“Slow down, Niblet, and hold on to your knickers for a moment,” Spike urged, handing the phone over to Buffy.
Taking a deep breath, Buffy took the receiver into her hands. Deep concentration evident on her face, she held it to her ear and as clearly as she could, said: “Dawnie?”