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The Body – Chapter 2 – Absent Without Leave
Stunned into speechlessness, it took Giles a moment to get his bearings. He stood, facing Dr. Norris, and calmly began to try and reason with her.
“Dr. Norris, I’m quite sure you’re excellent at your job, but you don’t know Ms. Summers. She’s a remarkable young woman, and she tends to have a rather… fast metabolism. She’ll heal from things rather quickly and leave you to wonder how --”
Spike tried to get his attention; however, Giles was too focused on his own emotions to notice.
Dr. Norris looked vaguely amused. “I have read her records, Mr. Giles. She is, indeed, phenomenal. That she was alive at all when her boyfriend brought her in…”
That is not her boyfriend,” Giles spat, stabbing a finger in the vampire’s general direction. “You have no idea how evil that creature is. You must get him out of here and post security around Ms. Summers’ room immediately.”
The doctor’s amusement faded quickly. “Do I need to remind you to keep your voice down? I threatened Spike with sedation earlier, and I have no qualms about doing the same to you.” She looked at him sternly, yet with a little pity. “I know exactly who and what Spike is; after all, he’s a vampire of some renown. As for Ms. Summers being special… I know that from personal experience. She saved my life several months ago during a vampire attack on the hospital’s blood delivery.”
“That was you?” Spike couldn’t contain his surprise. He’d been with Buffy when they broke up the attack on the delivery. Of course he’d nicked a couple of bags for his own use, trying to remind himself he was still evil after all.
“That’s part of the reason you’re still walking around. Otherwise you’d have been a pile of ashy sludge in the showers.” The doctor winked at the outrage that flitted across his face. “Trust me, Spike… you were in no condition to defend yourself when you brought the girl in. And just for the record, she’s the other reason you’re still here.”
Giles fumed, glaring at Spike. “What is it with you that turns women into mindless…”
And with that, Dr. Norris had had enough. “If you finish that sentence, I’ll have you tossed out on your bloody British ass and kept out, Mr. Giles. If it weren’t for Spike, your precious Slayer would already be dead.” She held up a hand to keep him from speaking. “As to the important issue -- Ms. Summers’ condition --”
“When can I see her, Doc?” Spike asked softly, ignoring Giles altogether.
“Not right now. She’s in recovery. She’ll be moved to ICU within the next few hours if she stabilizes. If she survives the night, you might be able to see her for a few minutes in the morning.”
“Lucky for us you won’t be around in the morning, Spike. Nothing like all that sunshine to clear away the pests.” Giles taunted, fully expecting to agitate the vampire into getting himself thrown out of the hospital.
“For the man who saved Ms. Summers from the gang of whatever they were, I’ll provide one very dark doctor’s lounge for the daylight hours. There are also no windows in ICU, so if it’s feasible, he can see her in the morning,” Dr. Norris snapped. “Mind your manners, Mr. Giles.”
She turned to leave the small waiting room. “Gentlemen, I trust I can go check on Ms. Summers without worrying about death or destruction in my absence?” She looked from man to man, assessing the wisdom of leaving them unsupervised. “I’ll be back as soon as I have some news to report.”
As the door closed behind her, Giles fumed, incensed by the doctor’s free and easy treatment of Spike. He was listed as Buffy’s next of kin. He was the Slayer’s Watcher. And how dare that foul beast presume to have a place in her…
Blast! Wasn’t that the kind of thinking that had caused his Slayer to go up against eight… what did he say? ah, yes… eight Ognir demons by herself? Dear lord, the poor girl had never had a chance with those odds. If she died, her blood was on his hands. He’d been the one to finally get Buffy to push the vampire away.
“May God strike me for the words about to fall from my lips, Spike, and you can be fairly sure you’ll never hear them from me again… but thank you for getting Buffy to the hospital.” Giles felt the words fairly stick in his craw, but he forced himself to do this. “Perhaps it’s best to call a truce until we’ve seen Buffy in the morning.”
Spike shrugged. “I’m not the one ‘causin’ trouble, Rupert.”
Again, it grated, but Giles had to admit: “No, indeed, you’re not. I’m afraid I let my worry over Buffy get the better of me.”
Both men slumped back into the hard plastic chairs, neither one looking directly at the other. And there they stayed, stubborn in their patience. Several hours ticked by with no word from Dr. Norris. At last, the silence was oppressive enough to loosen Giles’ tongue.
“I suppose your bloody persistence actually worked in our favor this time,” he offered, realizing he wasn’t exactly being polite. It was, however, far more pleasant than anything he usually said to the vampire.
A sure sign of boredom displayed itself with Spike actually answering back. “Not like I actually listen to you tossers. Should’ve just followed the silly cow from the beginning like I wanted to.” He swung his legs back and forth like a petulant little boy; with a pout adding to the illusion.
Giles gestured to the scrub pants that he wore. “Not your usual attire, Spike. Were you planning on sneaking in to see Buffy?”
“What do you think I looked like after dismemberin’ four Ognir demons, you stupid git? Was covered head to toe in brown blood an’ guts, not to mention what drained from…” The vampire shuddered at the memory of Buffy’s lifeblood soaking into his clothing in amounts large enough to drip from the sodden fabric. “Bad enough that I had to toss the kit and scrub the smell of Slayer from my skin.” He shivered. “First time in my unlife the smell of blood made me sick to my stomach,” he admitted softly. “First and only time.”
From the look on the Watcher’s face, he could feel the next question coming. “If you even come close to voicing the words, old man… I’ll find some way around this chip to kill you. You know how I feel about the Slayer. You won’t admit I do, but you know it even so.”
Giles had the good graces to look embarrassed. Sometimes the Watcher in him precluded any human decency -- and wasn’t that the oddest thought when dealing with a vampire? To wonder how the Slayer of Slayers could resist the lure of so much Slayer’s blood… despite himself, he found it rather remarkable and revolting at the same time.
The question answered itself, if he allowed himself to believe the obvious – if unappealing - answer. Spike had been able to resist for one reason, and one reason only; it was Buffy. Not the Slayer, but the girl, herself. He truly must care for her in his own twisted way.
Again, he lapsed into quietness. The silence grew deeper, and the clock ticking the minutes by on the wall seemed to echoed louder and louder in the little room. And as time passed with no further news forthcoming, both men fell into a light sleep.
They were awakened several hours later with a tap to the shoulder from a grim-faced Dr. Norris. “Time to wake up, gentlemen.”
They sat upright, rubbing the sleep from their eyes. “Doc?” Spike asked, groggily. “Buffy, is she…”
“I want you both awake for this.” Dr. Norris shoved her hands in her pockets, waiting for Giles to finish cleaning his sleep-smudged glasses. Once she was sure she had their full attention, she began to speak bluntly:
“The good news, gentlemen, is that Ms. Summers is still with us. The bad news is that we almost lost her several times during the night. She’s had several seizures. If she does pull through by some miracle, there’s almost a certainty of brain damage due to severe head trauma. We’ve repaired the depressed skull fractures to the best of our ability. Again, if she pulls through, we may need to go back in and insert metal plating to protect her brain where the fractures were, since the skull doesn’t regenerate.”
Giles paled as the litany of her injuries went on and on. Under conditions such as these, what would be the Council’s policy? If they were to find out about her condition, would they order the cessation of all extraordinary measures to keep the girl alive without any guarantee that she’d return to fighting form?
The Slayer line no longer ran through Buffy. Whether she lived or died would have no consequences other than leaving the world only temporarily unprotected. Certainly, Faith would quickly be murdered in jail to allow another Slayer to rise. One who would be more malleable to the Council’s whims, no doubt.
Spike recovered from the shock first. “So, can we go an’ see the girl? That’s what we’ve been waitin’ all night for.”
“Only for a minute. And I do mean a minute. Got that?”
When both men nodded, Sue Norris led the way, carefully avoiding the sunlight filtering in from the windows along the corridor to Intensive Care. She opened the door to room 17, unaware of the irony inherent in the number, and stepped out of the way to allow the men entry.
The sight that greeted their eyes stole Giles’ breath and caused Spike to stumble. Buffy lay in the center of her hospital bed, looking woefully tiny and as pale as the sheets she lay on. Blinking lights and beeping machines filled the room, registering everything from heart rate and blood pressure to urinary output. IV bags of saline, antibiotics, pain-killers, and blood hung on a moveable pole, with needles jabbed into several spots in the crook of her left elbow. Her right arm was in a plaster cast from above the elbow to her knuckles; both legs also bore casts from mid-thigh to toes.
The worst invasion of her person was the respirator hose secured in place by strips of white tape over her mouth. Her eyes were swollen shut; bruised and jagged scabs ran down the right side of her face, indicating that she’d been clawed.
Giles felt as if he’d been punched in the guts. His girl could have died… should have died, and it was partly his fault. Spike was no guarantee that Buffy would survive forever, but she’d never been so badly hurt when he’d been out on patrol with her.
Spike’s shock lasted only a moment before he pushed past the Watcher and pulled a chair up to the side of the bed, mindful of all Buffy’s wires and tubes. He slid his fingers under her left hand, which was in relatively pristine condition, save for her ragged, torn nails.
“Poor lamb,” he soothed. “You’d have a fit over the state of your manicure.” He stroked his fingers gently over the back of her hand, Spike was careful not to dislodge her heart monitor. “Come back to us, luv. Little sis loves you, and your Watcher ‘ll have nothin’ to do but bury his nose in his books without you. Wake up an’ I promise you the salon nails of your dreams. You can even do mine. Fancy the Big Bad’s in Niblet’s Princess Pink. That ought to wake you up with giggling.”
Giles snapped out of his shock at last, and, alarmed, hissed: “Spike! Get away from her.”
Dr. Norris laid a hand on his shoulder, preventing the older man from pulling Spike away from Buffy. “Spike’s fine where he is, Mr. Giles. He’s not disturbing the wires or tubes, and coma patients have been known to hear people talking even though they’re unable to respond. Familiar voices and physical contact are a good thing.”
Giles passed a weary hand in front of his face. “I-I’m sorry, Dr. Norris. I’m sure Spike has told you we’ve had our differences. She deserves more than him, and it’s not always easy for me to keep my own council, especially when I’m this worried about her.”
She regarded him skeptically. “Is that a fact? Well, you’ll both have to leave in a moment anyway. Ms. Summers needs to rest, I’m sure you have other people to call and Spike… I’m sure he needs to feed and lie down before he passes out. Looks like he’s running on fumes.”
Sure enough, there were purple smudges under the vampire’s eyes, and his hands were shaking. It had been a rough night for everyone involved, and him especially.
The vampire placed a kiss on Buffy’s forehead near her hairline; the only unbruised place he could find, and left the room without another word.
After Giles said his goodbyes, he found the vampire leaning against the wall, wiping furiously at his eyes. “Not a word, Rupert. Not a bleedin’ word from you.” With a sniffle, he turned to the doctor. “You said there was a place I could rest? Then lead the way, Doc.” He laughed grimly. “I’m dead on m’feet.”