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The Body – Chapter 4 – There’s No Place Like Home
Full of teenaged fury and taking advantage of the pity factor, Dawn bullied Xander into making the basement livable for Spike: boarding up the windows, setting up a cot and making some drawer space and clearing the floor as much as possible.
She claimed it was only fair. After all, it was thanks to Spike’s intimate association with the medical staff that made Buffy’s homecoming possible in the first place.
Sue Norris picked out a team of volunteers that would help with Buffy’s transition from the hospital to her home. Deirdre Allen, an exceptional nurse, good with young women, having three teenaged daughters of her own, Lynette Marcus, trained in physical therapy, as well as an advocate for homecare. The last one, Becky Levin, wasn’t a nurse, just a volunteer – a mother who’d recently lost her only daughter to a vampire attack. She jumped at the chance to help Buffy and Dawn.
Becky proved to be an absolute blessing. She shopped once a week with money that miraculously appeared in the Summers’ cookie jar – Joyce’s old mad money hiding place. At the same time, she insisted that Dawn help with the housecleaning and laundry. After all, she wasn’t there to be a maid.
Lynette worked with Spike on Buffy’s personal care. Since she was the only patient, they could finally lavish her with the attention and time that she needed. Soon after arriving home, Buffy was given her first tub bath since her attack, filled with unscented bath oil was used to ease the dryness of her skin. Spike then held her out of the tub so Lynette could wash and condition her hair, using fresh water.
Once she was re-settled into her bed and toweled dry, Lynette began to work on a combination of exercises and skin treatment. Using massage oil, she taught Spike how to work the muscle groups in arms and legs that had begun to atrophy from disuse. It was a painstaking task, but as Spike said, he had nothing but time.
The nurse’s next task was demonstrating the insertion and maintenance of the urinary catheter. Not that Spike was squeamish or unable to seat it properly, but the catheter was going to be the first thing he got rid of once the nursing staff was gone. He’d rather deal with those adult nappies if it wasn’t a health issue.
Also, as might be guessed, Spike also had no trouble finding a vein for the IV feeding tube. He did, however, pay close attention to the most comfortable spots and the schedule for changing sites.
As for Dawn, she was absolutely thrilled to have her sister home. She couldn’t abide the hospital’s stark nature and smells or the caring, but brusque treatment given to Buffy. Home at last, the teenager could talk freely and hug her sister at will.
When Dawn got the weepies, she would run to Deirdre. On her broad shoulders, she ranted and raved about the unfairness of it all. Bemoaned the loss of her mother. Cried over all the harsh words she’d ever said to her sister. Railed about her absentee father and being left alone to fend for herself.
But when she needed comforting, Dawn wound up with Spike. She would pull every single photo album out, and they would sit and pore through them, picture by picture. It brought her security and a sense of family when she told all the stories behind it to her vampire “brother”.
Oh, she knew Spike would prefer to spend his time with Buffy. He could be as single minded as she’d been warned when focused on a goal. Dawn was thrilled and grateful that he chose to take time off from sister duty – that he’d arranged for it whenever one of the volunteer staff was in residence – to make sure Buffy’s little sister was okay.
Dawn liked to think that their time together was good for the vampire, as well. He needed to laugh and joke around as much as she did. The Scoobies were just too somber. They walked into the house as if Buffy had already died. They wore their mourning heavily enough to bow their heads.
Deirdre, Becky, and Lynette all came to the house for a couple of hours each, twice a week. Dr. Norris would stop by on Sundays, spending the entire afternoon, and sharing dinner with them. All in all, the first month found the house on Revello Drive constantly bustling with activity and visitors.
The second month after Buffy’s homecoming told an entirely different tale.
Medical support was pretty much finished. Deirdre needed to spend more time with her family. Lynette assured Spike that he was fully capable of continuing with Buffy’s care alone, and left her personal pager number should he run into an emergency situation.
Pinching his cheek as she left to go home, Lynette gave him a wicked grin. “You know, Spike – anytime you decide to make an honest demon out of yourself, I’ll get you a night shift position as our token vampire phlebotomist.”
He smiled sadly as she left the house for the last time. Dawn was going to miss the motherly presence Deirdre and Lynette provided. He was forced to admit that so would he. Spike had gotten used to being treated as if he were worthwhile, and he certainly wasn’t getting that same consideration from that old gang of Buffy’s.
Dawn’s enthusiasm for life dimmed somewhat after the nursing team left, but armed with reassurances from Spike and the knowledge that she was always welcome to call or visit, she bravely soldiered on.
Xander couldn’t stand being in the same house with Spike and Dawn: watching their hopeful outlook day after day, knowing that Buffy’s condition remained basically unchanged. Anya finally told him that if visiting made him so unhappy, he could either get his information in a five minute conversation or just wait for someone to call him one way or the other in regards to Buffy.
In the end, he took the coward’s way out. Eventually, he stopped the phone calls as well, knowing that he would hear from Dawn when her sister finally passed away.
Giles tended to ignore Spike when he visited, speaking only to Dawn. Nearly five months in a coma and Buffy was holding on to life as tenaciously as she ever had. The Watcher in him was worried that his Slayer would turn into a wizened mass of papery skin and bones, damned near ‘outliving’ them all.
It was too cruel a fate to contemplate for such a vivacious young woman, and the urge to walk into her room and simply smother her was overwhelming. Yet he knew he’d never get past her vampire guard dog, however, and Dawn would never forgive him.
He began to stay at home, promising himself he’d go back to visit… later. Bloody coward that he was, he’d taken to drinking himself into a stupor on a nightly basis.
Willow and Tara still visited twice a week, but the length of their visits had decreased dramatically; from several hours to barely half an hour. Tara would sit with Buffy, burning sweet-smelling herbs to promote healing and restfulness, and Willow would chat with Dawn, making sure the big, bad vampire wasn’t doing anything ‘naughty’ with either of the Summers girls.
Those were the days it took all of Spike’s very limited patience not to eviscerate the redhead, irregardless of the pain it would cost him.
After the witches’ last visit, a visibly upset Dawn asked the vampire to sit with her on the couch. “I-I can’t d-do this anymore, Spike.”
“Can’t do what, pet?” Wary of the emotions rolling off his Niblet, Spike kept his hands to himself, figuring she needed her personal space to get to the crux of what was eating at her.
“I can’t stay in this house anymore,” she whimpered. “Day after day we talk to Buffy – hoping she’ll wake up – hoping she’ll come back to us. Every day she loses another little bit of herself.” Burrowing into Spike’s embrace, the teenager found the strength to tell him what she wanted. “It’s not you. I mean, I don’t want to leave because of you in any way. I just can’t watch her die.”
Spike’s heart broke at the catch in her voice. He should have known this was coming. His girl was just a youngster, after all. So much loss in her short lifetime. There was only one thing he could do for her.
He finally called Angel.
It wasn’t a pleasant call; the elder vampire’s screaming could be heard two houses away through the receiver. To say Angel wasn’t pleased at being kept out of the loop was a massive understatement. In the end, however, he allowed Spike to get to the nuts and bolts of the situation.
And he agreed that Revello Drive wasn’t the best place for Dawn anymore. She needed to start moving on or she would be crushed when Buffy finally died. He wanted to come for her immediately, but Spike insisted that she have a week to settle her affairs in Sunnyhell, and be allowed to cut her ties to people who had all but abandoned her.
Spike listened with half an ear as his grandsire rattled on; the other half of his attention was fixed on Dawn, gauging her reaction to the plans being made on her behalf. She simply nodded her acquiescence.
When the time came, he kept his distance as Dawn said her last goodbyes to Buffy, giving her the respect and privacy to end things as she needed for the time being.
Sitting down on the bed, Dawn picked up her sister’s hand and entwined their fingers, gently. “I’m so sorry, Buffy. I-I’m not st-strong, like you,” she sniffled, wiping her tears away with her other arm. “I want to believe you’re coming back to me so much. Spike is so sure. But… but… I can’t handle it anymore. I need you to get up and yell at me. Call me a brat and tell me you’ll never forgive me for spilling nail polish on a shirt I borrowed without your permission. Anything, Buffy, Anything but the silence,” she begged in vain.
Finally, kissing Buffy on her forehead, Dawn made her peace and left the room.
Spike called the Scoobies and Giles together for the all important tell-all some time after noon.
“Just wanted to let you know that Dawn’s leavin’ for Los Angeles this evenin’,” he said when everyone was seated. “The Poof’s pickin’ her up to stay with him an’ his for awhile. Hopefully she’ll get to see her old man and let him know what’s up with his firstborn.”
Xander barked out a harsh, bitter laugh. “I knew you’d give her up, Fangless. You don’t have the stuff it takes to care for the living…”
Dawn cried out in distress, realizing he wasn’t counting Buffy in amongst the living.
“Nice, Harris,” Spike snarled. “I’m not givin’ her up, you bloody git. I’m givin’ her the space she needs to survive. Unlike you, who’ve already abandoned both Summers girls.”
“Oh, Dawnie,” Willow said softly and reached for the girl’s hand. “If you needed to get away from Spike, you were always welcome to stay with me and Tara. Or Xander would have put you up.”
“You must be reasonable, Spike,” Giles tried. “With Dawn gone to Angel’s care, you’ve no reason to continue with this. It’s time to let Buffy go. Let us move her to a hospice as we’d discussed earlier and you’ll be free.”
For one fleeting moment, Spike closed his eyes and thought of freedom. Freedom for Buffy’s soul only if her body ceased its imitation of life. Freedom for him to… what? That was the question. If she were to die, he’d have no reason to continue his unlife. Effectively neutered by the chip, he would be unwelcome as ever with demons or humans.
Was he keeping Buffy alive under selfish pretenses? Just busywork to make his unlife mean something? No! If he weren’t absolutely sure that she would one day return, he would let her rest in peace. She more than deserved it.
“I’m already free, Watcher,” the vampire said, rousing himself from his thoughts. “I do as I please… mostly. I know the Slay… Buffy’ll be back. I feel it in my bones. You think she’s done for, then get the hell out of here and don’t look back. And that goes for the whole lot of you. I don’t need you, and neither does Buffy.”
“That’s hardly fair, Spike.” Willow was in tears, being held gently by Tara. “We were… are her friends.”
“Fair weather lot if you ask me.” Spike scolded, knowing he was pushing things. He was tired, he was heartsick at losing Dawn to Angel no matter what the reasons, and being polite took too much effort. “Just make with your goodbyes an’ get the bloody hell out of here.”
Dawn mulishly refused to accept any parting hugs or words. Instead, she burrowed closer into Spike’s embrace, storing up his strength and affection for her imminent departure.
Mindful of the IV stand and line, Spike nestled Buffy back onto her bed after her bath, gently toweling her dry.
If he closed his eyes, Spike would see her healthy; his Golden Goddess. Well, at least she was his in his mind. Buffy’s skin was sun kissed and smooth, her breasts high and firm, and her bottom softly rounded. And her hair? Shampoo commercial perfection; softly waved and bouncy.
When he would open them, he’d watch his dream image fade ever so slowly into the reality of Buffy’s condition:
She lay naked on the bed, pale and totally exposed before him. She couldn’t weigh more than eighty-five pounds. Arms and legs were far too thin; no hint of the muscles he’d often been on the receiving end of.
The only good thing that came from Spike’s massages and exercises was her limbs were no longer being drawn up tight. The ligaments were relaxed and Buffy’s body was at ease.
Spike sighed. This was all too familiar to him. He’d watched Drusilla fade away before his eyes for months after Prague. He thought he’d never have to deal with anything more painful than that. How could he know he’d be so wrong?
Knowing time was running short, he rubbed her body down with moisturizer, giving Buffy a perfunctory massage and dressing her in a shift with snaps at the shoulders. No sense in giving Angel a free show. Gently cupping the back of her head, he worked through the knots in her hair, wishing he had more time.
When Angel arrived, Spike sent him up to Buffy’s room without a single word of warning. The cry of pain that rent the air brought him absolutely no pleasure, and he gave his grandsire the dignity of privacy.
The shaken vampire walked slowly down the stairs, several shades paler than normal. He sought out Spike, silently asking if there was anything he could do to make things better for her.
“You’re doin’ the best possible thing, Peaches; taking care of her most precious possession.”
Dawn ran over and hugged Spike around the neck, crying as she murmured her ‘goodbyes’, ‘I’ll miss yous’, and ‘love yous’. Picking up one of her suitcases, she followed Angel out of the door.
Angel returned a few moments later to hand Spike a large manila envelope.
“These the papers we talked about?”
“Everything you asked for. And seeing what the situation is for myself, I might just be inclined to add a few more things to the mix.”
“No need, mate.” Spike clapped the older vampire on the back, herding him towards the door. “Fair warning… if you hurt my girl in any way, I’ll hunt you down and dump your dust in the loo.”
Angel turned before leaving to face his grandchilde. “I assume I don’t have to bother saying the same to you?” The look on Spike’s face was enough to assure him that Buffy was in the best of hands.