For your enjoyment, I bring you Chapter 7, in which our favorite Slayer asks the fateful question, and the Scooby gang is at an eventual loss for words.
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The Body – Chapter 7 – Getting to Know You
With the oddest look on her face, Buffy handed the receiver back to Spike.
“What the hell did you say to her, Spike?” Angel roared. “If you called here to cause trouble, I swear I’ll…”
“You’ll what, you wanker? Throw a hissy fit?” Spike snapped, worried about both of his girls. “You know I wouldn’t do anything to hurt the Bit.”
“Dawn fainted, you idiot. I want to know exactly what you said to her that caused her to hit the floor.”
Covering the phone, Spike whispered to Buffy before handing the phone back to her. With a smile, she brought the receiver back to her ear and repeated: “Dawnie.”
“Buffy? Is it really you?” Angel found himself truly stunned. Never in a million years had he expected Spike’s blind faith to actually pay off.
“F-first try,” she managed. Then, wearily, she handed the phone back to Spike.
Smiling at Buffy, Spike proceeded to rib Angel mercilessly. “Happy now, Poof? I told you I didn’t say anything to shock the little one’s socks off. ‘Course I didn’t mention her sister might’ve.”
“It’s not that I’m not pleased beyond measure that Buffy’s come back to us, so don’t take this the wrong way, Spike, but what’s the matter with her? She sounds… wrong.” Angel’s voice caught in his throat as he contemplated the worst. “It’s not brain damage, is it? From the injury or the coma?”
Taking pity, Spike did his best to dispel the fear he could practically taste through the phone line. “Doc says it’s temporary… a couple days at most ‘til her speech improves. It’s already better than it was this morning.”
Taking comfort in Buffy’s presence relaxed him enough to explain her condition further: “The rest is a bit rougher, mate. You remember what she looked like when you were here last? She’s not much changed from that. It’s goin’ to take some time to build herself back up, so I’m hopin’ you’ll be able to keep the Niblet a little while longer.”
“You know how unfair that is? And probably impossible. She’s going to insist on seeing her sister as soon as possible.”
Spike snorted. “You think I don’t know that? You’re goin’ to have to keep a close eye on that one. She tends to try and slip out in the middle of the night when she thinks nobody’s lookin’.”
“Then how can you ask me to keep them apart?”
“And how can you ask Buffy to subject herself to the pity brigade? She’s barely talking, bed bound to boot, and worried about scarin’ the bloody hell out of everyone until she packs on a couple of pounds. Girl’s got a right to preserve her dignity.”
“Shit. Just… shit!” Angel found himself at a total loss for words. A vampire who could wax eloquent on any given subject, came to a loss at this. “I’ll do the best I can, Spike… but you’d better explain things to Dawn yourself. She’s insisting on talking to you.”
It sounded like Dawn snatched the phone from Angel’s hands. “Oh my God! She’s… she’s… back! Oh, Spike! Can I talk to her again? Please?” Dawn wheedled, needing confirmation that her sister was indeed back amongst the living.
“Dunno if she’s up to talking again, Bit, but we can try. Hold on now,” Spike said after careful thought. He handed the phone back to Buffy.
She smiled. “Love y-ou,” she managed. “Sorry…”
“Pet,” Spike cut in, taking the phone from Buffy’s lax fingers. “She’s exhausted. Speakin’s hard for Sis at the moment. I promise she’ll call you back as soon as she’s up to it.”
“I’m coming home, Spike. I have to see her.”
Spike’s heart ached as he tried to explain how that wouldn’t be a good idea. “Sweet Bit, don’t do this,” he asked quietly. “I know you want… need, to see Buffy, but she’s not in a good way right now. You’ve got to give her a little time to come back to herself. She’s been gone for such a long time…”
“She’s not worried about how she looks, is she? Please!”
Spike laughed. “Of course she is, pet. But it’s much more’n outer looks. You have to try and understand that Buffy wants to be more herself before seein’ anyone, so’s she can talk to you good and proper, not stuck in her bed.”
Dawn sniffled, trying to control her disappointment. “But I’m not just anyone, Spike. I’m her sister. It should make a difference.”
“Pet, it does. For you more’n anyone. She doesn’t want to scare you,” Spike stubbornly insisted, though he knew the teenager wouldn’t really believe him. “If she can manage the words, you want to hear it from Buffy?”
“I-it would hurt her to tell me to stay away, wouldn’t it?” Dawn suddenly felt way older than her years. “I don’t want her to hurt anymore because of me. Tell her I’ll wait for her call, Spike. Tell her I love her.”
“I promise, Bit. Even if it’s just a few words, you’ll hear from big Sis tomorrow. Tell Peaches the same.”
Buffy curled her hand around Spike’s when he hung up the receiver, fairly sure hurting her younger sister had been exceptionally hard on the vampire. “Be okay, Spike,” she said, feeling her words coming back moment by moment now. “Summers women… are tough.”
Spike smiled at her through unshed tears, not caring about exposing his tender side to her any longer. “Yeah, luv. That they are. Turn Big Bad vampires into mush, they do.”
Buffy turned on her side and patted the mattress beside her. “Rest now, big bad mush.”
What else could a willing slave to do? Spike crawled into bed, gently pulling Buffy up close against his body as they fell asleep.
Judging by the light coming through the curtains, it was past noon when Spike woke up – alone. A quick glance around the room found Buffy sitting in a chair at the foot of her bed. Apparently she’d managed to shower and change her clothes. Her hair, however, remained wet and hung loose, the moisture being absorbed by a towel draped around her shoulders.
“Morning, lazy vampire.” She smiled. Then, pointing to her wet hair, asked, “Do… favor?”
It wasn’t perfect, but her speech sounded like the purest poetry to Spike’s ears. He got out of bed and went to her side, unable to stop himself from touching her. “Bloody hell, pet. Listen to you. Look at you! One day an’ you’re movin’ an’ talkin’ like a bleedin’ miracle.” He shook his head in awe. “You want the blow dryer or the towel for your hair?”
“Towel and brush?”
“Your wish is my command, luv,” he said, as he briskly began to towel dry her hair. It was so much easier with her sitting up. So much more rewarding, too, when she closed her eyes and leaned in to the brush strokes as he gently untangled her tresses.
Soon her hair was tied back in a loose ponytail that wouldn’t get in her way. “Gorgeous, Slayer, if I must say so myself,” Spike approved. “Now, how’d you like a lift downstairs for a little brekkie, Spike style?”
“Why what, Slayer? Why breakfast? Just thought you might be hungry after sleepin’ all night. Gotta do my best to fatten you up.”
She shook her head. The look in her eyes told him she needed to know the answers to her question. “No. Why help me? Why you? Just you?”
Uh oh… here it comes. Buffy brain switches back on and old Spike gets kicked to the curb “Well, I’m the one with the most time on my hands, pet,” he stalled. “And haulin’ your featherweight carcass from bed to bath wasn’t a problem.”
“But why? Why stay?” Buffy repeated, looking frustrated at having to repeat herself yet again. “Not friends,” she said, pointing at Spike. “Not nice,” she said, pointing at herself. “I die… you brag, three Slayers, gone. Who know… you not kill?”
Spike stood floored. She really had no clue as to how much he cared for her, did she?
He stalled again. “Can we save this discussion for a time when you no longer sound like Tonto and I’ve gotten a decent breakfast into you?” he pretended to grumble, squirming just a little under her scrutiny.
“No You… save me, Spike. Tell me now. Short version fine.”
Spike rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. “Short version, right? Why I stayed and helped? Just remember, pet. You asked, I’m tellin’. You don’t get to hit me for tellin’ the truth this time.”
After a pause, Buffy nodded in agreement,
“I stayed because Dawn needed someone who believed you’d come back. She needed someone she could count on. I stayed because I love you.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “No! No love me!” she insisted. “No soul, no love. Told you before.”
“You can tell me that until you’re blue in the face, Slayer, and I’ll tell you it’s not true until my heart starts beating again. Vampires. Can. Love. An’ if it’s not most vampires, then this vampire certainly can.” He strode over to Buffy and raised her chin with his fingertips. “Get this through your head, you stubborn bint. I loved Dru for well over a hundred years, and it took you for that to change. When I tell you I love you, I bloody well mean it.”
Buffy groaned, holding her hands up in defeat. She just didn’t have the strength to argue with him. Neither could she argue the fact that he was there, helping her, no matter what she thought. “Okay, fine. You believe. You help. Enough for now.”
That’d have to do, Spike thought unhappily. For now. At least she didn’t demand that he leave her alone and never darken her threshold again. “No more fightin’, pet. Time for eating, and then we’ll call the Watcher. Kick this show into high gear.”
Buffy made her careful way from the kitchen to the livingroom, at first leaning on the wall, then grabbing onto whatever furniture she could grasp. She had no rhythm to her gait, but at least she wasn’t crawling. As Spike said, it’d only been one day.
She gave Spike an unhappy glance as he reached for the phone. “I’m only goin’ t’call the Watcher, pet,” he reassured her. “We’ll take this slow, like. Not too many wankers to deal with at once.”
He left the same message at both The Magic Box and at Giles’ home: “Call me back as soon as you get this message. Spike.” Plain and simple… no chance to be misunderstood.
Right. He sighed as he hung up the phone, imagining all the ways that this could go wrong.
Two hours later, when Giles and the rest of the Scooby gang walked into the house, Spike wasn’t in the least bit surprised.
“When did she pass on, Spike?” Giles asked quietly. He’d obviously been crying, as had the rest of the little minions. “We’d like to see her before making final arrangements.”
Balls! Buffy was going to be furious. “Let me make sure she’s decent before you come up.”
“Like you’d know from anything decent, Fangless,” muttered Xander.
Willow hissed under her breath: “Not. The. Time, Xan.”
They heard Spike’s summoning whistle and sadly climbed the stairs for what they knew was the last time.
The outraged gasps heard from everyone when they saw Spike sitting on the bed with Buffy pulled flush against his body were almost enough to make the vampire burst out into laughter.
“Spike, you must let her go, man. This surely isn’t healthy – not even for a vampire. She’ll have to be buried…” Giles made as if to take his Slayer from the vampire’s arms – and Buffy played her hand.
“Hey, Giles,” she waved weakly, more a wriggling of her fingers than a full fledged wave. “Tales of death a b-bit early.”
“Holy mother of Pearl!” Xander’s astonishment rendered him momentarily immobile. Then, with a great flurry, he and everyone else converged on the bed.
Spike felt Buffy stiffen in his arms as they all drew near, and knew she would bolt if she could. His sub vocal growl reverberated throughout the room and stopped everyone in their tracks.
“Hey, Fangless. Enough of the watchdog routine.” Xander swaggered over to Spike’s side of the bed, fully intent on dragging the vampire off the bed. “Why don’t you go away now and let her friends get close?”
This time Spike tensed up, and his growling intensified. It took Buffy’s hand on his arm to restrain him and keep him from attacking.
“Stay, please,” she whispered in his ear, desperately hoping to avoid a confrontation. Turning to her friends she said: “Back off. Sit down. Spike stays with me.”
“Buffy, dear,” Giles tried. “We’ve missed you so terribly much. You’ll have to understand that…”
“That’s the problem,” she cried. “Don’t understand. Spike, vampire, stayed to help. You, friends… where have you been?”
And in answer to that, the silence was deafening.