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The Body – Chapter 8 – Forget Me Not
Spike stroked the side of Buffy’s face, trying to keep her calm. “Give me a minute, pet. Let me try and get things sorted.”
He turned to Giles, ignoring the scowling man hovering over him. “Why’d you call the bleedin’ pack to arms? I asked you to call me back, nothing else.”
The elder man flushed, not used to being called out by the vampire. “I-I was just so sure that the only reason we’d hear from you would be…”
“Be what, Giles?” Buffy’s eyes blazed in her too small face. “You think me good as… dead?”
“Dear girl,” he began again, finding it most difficult to come up with the words. He’d already begun to mourn her passing and was having a hard time with the realization that she was alive, if not entirely well.
Nudging Spike aside, she pushed back the blanket and slowly staggered to her feet. “Look at me, Giles,” she demanded softly. “When did you last see me?”
It had been so long, Giles actually had to count back in his head. Lying wasn’t an option. He was sure Spike knew to the exact minute the last time he’d visited, and would call him on it.
He tried to explain himself. “It’d been very difficult, watching you lie there, losing so much of yourself as the weeks went by. The hospital sent you home with the firm belief that you were not going to recover.”
With a stubborn tilt of her chin, Buffy stared her Watcher down. “Not an answer, Giles. How. Long?”
“Nearly three months, I’m afraid,” he said quietly, taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I’m not proud of it Buffy… I’ve been in active mourning since your… accident.”
The sound of feet pounding up the stairs caught everyone’s attention. As one, they turned their attention to the door.
“Accident, my ass,” Dawn yelled as she burst into the room, glaring at the crowd of people gathered there. “Buffy didn’t have an accident. She was ambushed because of all of you. You took away her protection. You insisted she patrol alone.”
She turned her accusing eyes on Spike. “You begged me to stay away because it was too hard for Buffy, but suddenly everyone else is here? She’s my sister. I have a right to be here. Not any of them.”
Buffy’s soft voice worked like magic, startling away her sister’s anger for a moment. She shuffled haltingly over to Dawn and wrapped her arms around the teen’s waist, hugging her gently. “Don’t be scared. Still me, here.”
“I-I’m not scared, Buffy.” Dawn sniffled into her older sister’s bony shoulder. “You forget I’ve seen you without makeup in the morning. That’s scary.”
The teen gently urged Buffy back towards the bed, sitting on her left side, unwilling to be far from her side after so long apart. Spike took up his place at her right hand side.
“I didn’t start off calling anyone but the Watcher, Niblet. Trust me, I didn’t set out to make a circus of all this. It’s too much for big Sis, but… they’re here, an’ we might as well deal with them all at once.” He reached out to take Dawn’s hand. Buffy slipped her own hand into the mix, and lay with the three held clasped in her lap.
Spike shook Dawn’s hand gently. “And just how the bloody hell did you get here? Angel promised to keep you safe until -”
Dawn blushed, remembering the screaming hissy fit she’d thrown until Angel caved in to her demands. “Um… after telling him I’d find a way to get home with or without his help, he asked his friend Gunn to drive me. At least this way he’d know I got home safe.”
Spike couldn’t help but laugh. “A girl after my own heart, you are. Can’t say I’m not glad to see you.” He smiled. Both his girls were home and safe. It didn’t get much better for him.
“Uh… hate to break up this little slumber party, girls, but we were in the middle of an important discussion when the Dawnster showed up.” Xander wasn’t at all happy seeing Spike so up close and personal with the Summers girls. Even though he knew Spike had been alone with Buffy for months, not having to watch them… together… had made denial easy.
“Okay, fine. My call.” Buffy felt the need to be in control of this madness; where her mortal enemy was her savior and her friends were unknown quantities. “Giles… gave up on me?”
Looking deeply ashamed, Giles faced the girl he’d considered to be his daughter head on. “Yes, God forgive me. After five months of hoping and praying that you’d awaken, I gave up. I-I’m so sorry, Buffy,” he said, his whole demeanor honestly begging for forgiveness.
Buffy had already refocused her attention. “Xander… you give up, too?”
“I wish I could have stayed with you, Buff.” He tried to meet her gaze but couldn’t hold the contact. “But while Fangless had all the time in the world on his hands, I had my job, and other obligations, and Anya, and… and… life went on,” he said, throwing his arms in the air helplessly.
“Not mad you have life, Xander. I understand. But you call Spike, right?” she asked hopefully. “See that I’m still here?”
His silence condemned him and Buffy tightened her grip on the hands she held, upset at discovering how quickly she’d been forgotten.
Buffy felt as if she’d fallen through the looking glass. Her head hurt from trying to remain awake and think for the first time in forever, the tension in the room and the hostility aimed at Spike was growing by the second, and nobody was acting like they should.
So many things were on her mind. “Need to thank you all,” Buffy managed, rubbing her temples to ease the headache that was getting worse by the moment, “for… paying bills. For saving house for me and Dawn.”
Still more silence from the group, and they were looking decidedly uneasy now, shifting back and forth on their feet, looking anywhere but directly at her. Buffy frowned. They… they hadn’t…
“Anyone call Spike to check on me?” she pushed, glancing around the room, her voice rising with each question. “Anyone come to help, to give Spike a… break? Anyone patrol?”
With a heartbreaking little squeak, Buffy asked one final question: “Anyone remember me at all?” before passing out in her sister’s arms.
Dawn caught and rocked her. At Spike’s alarmed look, she motioned that he should go. He, in turn, gestured for them all to leave the room silently; knowing Buffy was in the best of hands for the time being.
Willow was the first to speak once they’d reached the livingroom. “Goddess, she looks like a Holocaust survivor.”
With preternatural speed, Spike grabbed the little redhead by the arms and shook her. “Don’t. You ever. Talk. ‘Bout that woman in anything less than glowin’ terms, Red.”
Each time he shook Willow to punctuate his words, Spike flinched in pain, the chip firing over and over again until a small stream of blood trickled from his nose. Before his anger could escalate further, Giles wrested the out of control vampire away from Willow, while Tara cuddled and soothed the frightened girl.
“You’re damned lucky I’ve taken your obvious exhaustion into account, Spike, and didn’t stake you out of hand.” Giles was livid, shaking the vampire in much the same way as he’d shaken Willow moments before. “If you ever lay so much as a finger on…”
The sensation of cool liquid on his finger stopped the elder man’s rant mid-sentence.
“Blast!” he spat. “Xander, help me get Spike to the couch. Tara, if you’d be so kind…”
“Ice cubes, c-cold water and washcloths,” the quiet woman finished for him, going to collect the aforementioned items.
“Maybe he’s finally fried his brain,” Xander offered dryly, half-hoping and half-joking. “Or it’s some kind of karma, like a cosmic price paid for Buffy coming out of her coma – the bleached wonder slips into one.”
Spike moaned and stirred in Giles’ arms. “You wish, droopy boy,” he spluttered through the blood dripping from his nose. Droplets sprayed into the air. “It’d take more’n that bloody chip to put me out.”
Tara kneeled beside the bleeding vampire, tilting his head back gently and handing him a wrapped ice cube to hold on the bridge of his nose. As she wiped the blood gently from his face and neck, she sighed.
“You know the only reason you’re not a vampire toad right now is I know you really didn’t mean to hurt Willow, did you?”
Spike had the grace to look ashamed. “Sorry, Glinda. Just…”
“Hush now, Spike,” she soothed. “Let somebody else talk for a change.” The soft smile she gave him took the sting out of her words. “You’ve been one hundred percent focused on Buffy for a long time, haven’t you? And with her finally awake, she’s the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen, isn’t she?”
Spike nodded his head, amazed at the girl’s insight. It’d been a long time since one of them had taken the time to see what he’d truly thought or meant. It both scared and delighted him.
“You have to know Willow didn’t mean anything bad by what she said. It was just an observation, and you know it’s been far too long since any of us have been here. You’ve been here every single day for all these months. Perspectives are different, Spike. You need to understand.”
Tara removed the ice cube, and with a final swipe of the washcloth, was pleased to note the nosebleed had stopped. She brushed a few errant curls back from the vampire’s forehead and spoke quietly – intimately – sharing something precious and rare with him. “We all love her, Spike. Nobody wished her dead. You’ll just have to forgive us; we’re only human, after all.”
Willow, Xander, and Giles stood there in shock. They’d never heard so many words from Tara’s mouth at one time before.
Whatever spell she wove, Spike was much calmer when Tara walked away. “Thank you, luv,” he whispered, knowing that she heard him – and understood.
He stood to go back upstairs, to Buffy and Dawn, when Giles laid a hand on his shoulder; unasked questions obvious in the man’s face.
Ah, God. Not yet. “Later, Watcher,” he asked wearily. “I’m tired an’ I need to check on the Slayer an’ Niblet.”
Halfway up the stairs he turned and addressed them all: “See yourselves out, lock the door behind you. Call tomorrow an’ I’ll answer whatever other questions you might have.” And with that, he headed up the remaining steps without another word.
Dawn wandered through her house, trying to get a feel for it after being away for nearly six weeks. It felt good to be home, if even for a little while. She knew there were no options – she’d be heading back with Angel either that evening or in a few days.
Buffy needed time to recover; Dawn could see that now. They’d talk on the phone at least once a day, if not more often. Soon… soon they’d be back together again. The two Summers girls. And with any luck at all…
Hello! What’s this? Rooting around in the desk by the front door, Dawn came across a soft grey leather checkbook cover caught her eye. Peeking inside, she saw one name written over and over again, and wondered who William Bennett was. Skimming through the register, she figured it out and ran upstairs, clutching the checkbook in her hand.
Standing by the door, Dawn rapped the checkbook against the door and tapped her foot, waiting for Spike’s reaction.
He eased away from Buffy, attempting to leave the room and meet Dawn’s questions out of earshot, but it was not to be.
“This is yours, isn’t it, Spike? Part of all that stuff Angel brought over when he picked me up, right?”
“Keep it down, pet,” he shushed. “Sis needs her sleep.”
“I will not! She deserves to know who’s been taking care of her all these months. I can’t believe nobody said different when she thanked them for paying our bills. And you allowed it!” The teenager smacked Spike in the chest, annoyance radiating off of her lanky frame. “For such a blabbermouth, when did you develop such a case of lockjaw?”
Buffy groaned, attempting a full body stretch and only half heartedly succeeding. “Should sleep more often,” she yawned, looking at the guilty pair by the door. “Hear very interesting things.”
“Please, pet… you have to understand I didn’t want to upset you.” Spike said, flustered. He hadn’t wanted to tell her about everything he did behind the scenes to keep her safe.
“No lies, Spike. No hiding.” Buffy was adamant. There had been too much that made no sense to her at all, and she wouldn’t take being kept in the dark any longer. “Makes no sense. You save me. You care for me. You pay bills. You, you, you! Where you get money? Steal it?”
Spike was incensed. Of course she’d think the worst of him. “I bloody well did not steal it. Just because I mooch off you lot don’t mean I have none of my own.” He snorted, throwing his head back with a sharp bark of laughter. “Been around a long time, luv. Angelus might’ve been a right bastard, but he knew his way around money. He took William’s meager stash and invested it along with his own. Could say I’m wealthy enough in my own right to be comfy for another couple hundred years.”
“Truth? Honest truth, Spike?” she whispered, unable to believe that Mr. Hands Out was a wealthy vampire.
“Least you couldn’t refuse my help when you were unconscious, Slayer. It’s all mine, honest earned. It’s what you deserved, innit? My best.”
Buffy held out her arms, beckoning the vampire to sit next to her on the bed. She gripped his shoulders and looked deeply into his eyes. “Don’t understand you, Spike,” she sighed, unable to comprehend all that’d gone on in her absence. “But I want to. Tell me everything.”
Looking into her eyes, he could see he’d get away with nothing – no lies, no more secrets, nothing but the plain truth. “All right, love,” he sighed. “But remember, you asked for it…”