I, for one, am totally relieved to have finished another wip... which means there's hope for the rest of the stories lingering in limbo's folder.
Please read and enjoy, and once again, comments are chocolicious!
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The Body – Chapter 11 - Legacy
~~One Year Later~~
“You have no idea what you do to me, love,” Spike groaned as he watched Buffy maneuver a sheer stocking past her ankle; up her well-toned calf; over a dimpled knee… to be attached to four lacy black garters surrounding her firm thigh. “One foot on a chair, waving that sweet arse of yours at me like a bullfighter’s cape…” He stalked across the room, sidling up to said wriggling derriere, not so gently plucking at the taut garters. “Who would blame me for not resistin’ the urge to take m’girl off to bed instead of some stuffed-shirt affair?”
Buffy snorted her annoyance. “Touch me again and you’re dust, Mister. I’m already on my second shower and third and last pair of stockings, thanks to your total lack of self-control. And besides,” she murmured, grinding her rump into Spike’s groin in a less than delicate manner, “you wouldn’t want to disappoint Sue, would you? This fundraiser thingie is important to her.”
“Bloody tease,” Spike muttered, reluctantly backing off to adjust his burgeoning erection. Tuxedo trousers weren’t made to hide his obvious excitement. He hoped the jacket would do its part to cover his part.
“Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to let Dawn stay with the others,” Buffy continued, hopping about as she slipped her foot into her new, strappy, stiletto heels.
As she shimmied into a clingy black dress, wriggling until it fell just right and hugged her very feminine curves, Spike growled, once more prowling up close and personal.
“I think it’s a bloody good thing Nibblet’s gone.” Spike growled again, low in his chest… the one guaranteed to melt his love’s resistance. “Wouldn’t wanna scar her for life with our antics, yeah?”
He barely managed to duck the pillow Buffy’d chucked at his head.
“You mean as opposed to last night, when we knocked the pictures off the wall, or the other day when the neighbor’s dogs started howling?” She snickered, trying repeatedly to push the posts of her diamond studs through her lobes and failing miserably.
Spike calmly offered his hand, waiting for her to put the two heart-shaped earrings into his palm before smoothing the strands of her honey-blonde streaked hair behind her ears.
“The only reason the hounds were baying, love,” he whispered into the shell of her ear as he secured the first earring back in place, “was in answer to your high-pitched shrieks when I made you come.” He ducked the expected slap to his head, laughing as he darted past her reach.
“Nuh-uh, pet. Not the hair,” he crowed, dashing for the door. “Never the hair!” Spike snatched the invitation from the dresser-top, tucking it into his jacket’s inner pocket. “Come on, Slayer… you’re gonna make us late for the do!”
Buffy’s muttered “Poof” kept him in a good mood all the way to the hospital, even as he ran his fingers around the stiff, white collar; loosening the bloody bowtie.
The closer they got to the hospital, the more withdrawn Buffy became. She must have been broadcasting her fears on all frequencies, because Spike’s grip across her shoulders noticeably tightened.
“S’all right, love,” he murmured, fingers stroking the bare skin of her arm. “If it’s too much t’handle, I can think of several very interesting distractions to…”
Buffy seemed to snap out of her fugue, pushing Spike away. “And have me show up looking like you found me in a bordello? No thanks. I’ll be okay, Spike. Honest. It’s just…”
“Yeah, I know, love. I know.” He pulled over to the curb, drawing Buffy’s eyes to his with a palm to her cheek. “Think of it this way… without ol’ Sunnyhell General, I’d be sittin’ here, talkin’ to myself.”
She nodded, going quiet once more.
“There’s more to it, isn’t there?” he asks.
Damned vampire… how does he always know? Buffy nods and sighed deeply. “It still doesn’t feel right, ya know?”
Spike looked at her, perplexed. Was she talking physical or mental?
“We’re going to a party. I should be looking forward to seeing my friends there,” she clarifies. “I know things are better… somewhat… but as much as I love being with you, Spike, I miss having my best girlfriend to confide wardrobe worries with. Girl stuff.”
“And I even miss Xander… we used to joke about him and formal wear. He used to be rather hot when he cleaned up.”
“Should I be jealous, love?” Spike asked, quietly.
“Don’t be silly,” she said, tousling his hair free from its gelled prison. “I told you we used to joke about it.”
“You could have called Red. M’sure she would have been happy to plough through your closet and watch you preen.”
“You’re right. I could have, but I didn’t.” She chewed on her pinky nail, absentmindedly. “I guess I’ve gotten used to having my life in boxes. Before-the-coma Buffy and After-the-coma Buffy.”
“And where do I fit in?”
“Any box you want, Spike,” she said, then blushed when she ran the words back through her mind. “You know what I mean,” she snarled, slapping him on the thigh.
Spike laughed. He couldn’t help himself. His girl was too adorable for words.
Spike drove his DeSoto into Sunnydale General’s parking lot at six forty-five. “Nice way to cut it close, Spike,” Buffy grumbled as she slid out of the seat. “Just because the invitation said seven o’clock, it doesn’t mean we have to get there on the stroke of the hour.”
“Didn’t exactly hear you complainin’ at home, love.”
“Then you weren’t listening, you lust-addled vampire.”
“Make that love-addled, and I’ll concede the point.”
Buffy smiled, linking her arm in Spike’s. “Well, let’s not make ourselves any more late and get inside, mister. We have an entrance to make and I don’t want to waste this dress.”
Spike smirked. “You couldn’t if you tried, kitten.”
Making a small adjustment to Spike’s bowtie, Buffy smirked as well. “You don’t clean up half-bad yourself.”
They find the conference-turned-reception room with a uniformed security guard standing in front of the double doors. “One moment, please,” he said, holding out his hand. “I need to see your invitation.”
Spike took it out of his jacket pocket and handed to the guard, who opened the door slightly, and flicked a light switch on and off. Spike heard the crowd hush inside and grew suspicious as the guard finally opened the doors and ushered them inside.
From inside the dimmed room, a spotlight focused on the couple, as Dr. Sue Norris’ voice rang out through the loudspeaker system. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and greet our guests of honor, Mr. William Bennett and Ms. Buffy Summers!”
The applause was thunderous as Spike and Buffy were led to a table, also in the spotlight. Buffy’s posture was stiff, uncomfortable with the attention and unsure as to why she was anyone’s guest of honor.
Spike looked around the room, able to see clearly now that the shock of the spotlight faded. He spotted familiar faces besides Dr. Norris’; Lynette, Deirdre, and Becky were both there. More disconcerting was the fact that the Scoobies were also there. And Dawn, the little minx. They’d been set up good and proper.
“It’s okay, love,” he said to Buffy, wrapping his arms around her shoulders, urging her to relax. “Little sis is here, and your friends.”
“Let’s listen to Sue and see what this is all about.” He kissed her gently on the lips, and settled her close against his side.
“This is the young woman who put our hospital on the map,” Sue continued. “She was brought in here almost two years ago, by the gentleman at her side. She’d been beaten to within an inch, no – a half-inch, of her life, and the prospects for her survival were slim-to-none.”
“Our emergency room did their best; gave her all that medical care could offer and then some. Her wounds healed, her bones knit, yet she remained comatose. No matter how much the staff wanted to help her, they still had a hospital full of other patients to attend to.”
“And this is where our hero came in. Mr. Bennett rarely left her side except to eat and sleep, usually falling asleep holding Ms. Summers’ hand. In between nurses’ rounds and doctors’ tests, he was the one to talk to her, to brush her hair, to massage her limbs to keep them from seizing up… eventually he nursed her more than our staff did.”
“He did all this in spite of a tremendous handicap – Ms. Summers’ family and friends were antagonistic and against Mr. Bennett having any contact with the young woman. In spite of threats made, he stood his ground and took good, constant care of the young lady, so much so, that we were able to discharge her into his care, with the help of some very special staff members – Deidre Allen, Lynette Marcus and Becky Levin.”
The three women stood to applause of their own and waved to the audience of their peers.
“With their help, and the cooperation of Mr. Bennett, an extreme level of critical care was achieved, and whether it was science, time or the miracle of faith, Ms. Summers awoke from a months’ long coma, and over this past year recovered completely.”
“Buoyed by her success story, Sunnydale General launched a series of fundraisers to garner money for more personalized critical care, and an upgraded emergency room. This evening celebrates our success – tonight I’d like to announce that the hospital has agreed to break ground on the brand new Summers-Bennett Critical Care Unit.”
This time the round of applause was led by Dawn, along with foot stomping and whistling thrown in for good measure.
When the applause died down, Dr. Norris spoke again. “We have several speakers yet to hear – doctors who will describe the course of action that was taken with Ms. Summers, and what is planned for the upcoming critical care wing and emergency room. And then,” she said, rubbing her hands together, “we eat!”
Buffy tuned out the doctor at the podium and looked around the room. She finally decided that the Scoobies sitting so close to her but pretty much ignoring her was an intolerable situation, but before she could stand, she was surrounded by the trio of ladies that were responsible for her homecare and her sister’s wellbeing.
“You, my dear, are a sight for sore eyes,” said Lynette, embracing Buffy gently. “So alive. So vibrant! There really is no place like home.”
“I can’t say thank you enough,” Buffy murmured. “What you did for me… what you taught Spike… I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for your help.”
Deidre was next in line for hugs. She reached up and stroked Buffy’s long, blonde hair with tears in her eyes. “Such a beautiful girl,” she said, taking hold of Buffy’s hand. “You’re not much older than my daughters. It’s a bona fide miracle to see you up and around after what you went through. Your sister must be thrilled at your recovery.”
With a soft smile, Buffy gripped Deidre’s hand. “Dawn still speaks so highly of you. I’m grateful that she had someone to turn to… someone who understood what it’s like to be a teenage girl.”
“It was my pleasure, Buffy. Dawn’s a good girl and a delight. I’m truly glad Spike’s faith in your recovery came to fruition.”
Becky was last with the hugs but held on the longest. “I’m so happy your family got you back,” she sniffed, giving Buffy one last squeeze.
“And I’m glad to be back,” Buffy replied. “I heard about your daughter. I’m sorry we weren’t around to save her.”
“It’s impossible to be everywhere at once,” said Becky, kindly. “I’m sure you’ve saved innumerable others from my daughter’s fate.”
“She most assuredly did,” said Spike, who’d been silent way too long. “And she continues to do so. Only now, she goes nowhere alone. I make sure of that.”
Buffy decided he looked entirely too smug and glared at him, a look that promised he’d pay for that remark later. As to the form of the payment… well, that depended on how the rest of the evening went.
One last hug and the women bid a fond farewell and headed back to their table. “Spike…” Buffy began and stood to leave.
“Go, love. It’s something you need to do.”
She took a deep, steadying breath and headed in the direction of her friends’ table… only to run into Willow halfway there.
“H-hey, Buffy,” she stammered, forcing herself to look directly at her once best friend.
“It’s so nifty that the hospital named a wing after you.”
Buffy raised a well-manicured eyebrow.
“A-and Spike! They named it after you and Spike!” Willow added hastily.
“We certainly spent enough time here,” Buffy said, “and I hope that the new intensive care unit will help save lots of people. Sunnydale has more than enough people needing critical care at any given time.”
Silence grew awkward between the two young women, until Buffy pushed forward. This crap had to stop. She walked towards her friends’ table. “Hey, guys. Is there room for me?”
Xander stood and grabbed an extra chair from an adjacent table. “Sure. Put it there, Buff,” he said.
“So, what’s new?” Buffy asked, sounding chirpier than she felt while looking around the table.
“Pretty much the same old, same old,” said Anya. “Oh, except for the fact that Xander is no longer covered in bruises almost every night. It can be a little disconcerting when making love… unless you like that sort of thing.”
“Uh, thanks Anya, but I was thinking about somewhat less personal things.”
“Willow and I are taking a class in middle-eastern cooking,” offered Tara. “Too much pizza was giving us the strangest Italian accent.”
Buffy smiled. Leave it to Tara to get things back on track.
“Aa-and Dawn,” Tara asked. “How is she? How’s she doing in school?”
“Dawnie’s just super! She’s doing great in school and always does her homework. Spike’s a great help with her European History class and he doesn’t let her slack off.” Uh oh… awkwardness level ramped up to eleven at the mention of Spike. Buffy stiffened at the silence. Maybe coming to the table was a big mistake.
“That’s great,” said Willow, a saccharine smile on her face. “It must be nice to have someone else to enforce the study rule around the house. So you’re not always the bad guy.”
Well, at least she’s trying, thought Buffy.
“It also doesn’t hurt that he was around for most of that history,” Xander snorted. “I’ll bet nobody else in her class has firsthand accounts of what actually went on.”
Buffy looked up sharply, fully expecting a Xander diatribe.
“What? I’m just sayin’,” he said, a wounded expression in his eyes.
“Where’s Dawn?” Buffy asked, changing the topic. “I thought I saw her sitting here, with you.”
Tara pointed to a table to her left, and felt a twinge in her gut that usually signaled… sure enough, there was her sister… sitting with Angel, Wesley, Gunn, and Cordelia. Looking back to her own table, she signaled Spike, who had certainly been watching her like a hawk, to come join her.
She stood abruptly and without another word left her friends’ table with Spike’s arm around her waist and joined her sister’s table.
“Hey, you guys,” Buffy said softly. “This is a surprise.”
Dawn snickered as only a younger sister could do. “You should have seen your faces when Sue announced you as guests of honor. I didn’t think Spike could actually get paler than he normally is.”
Angel arose gracefully from his seat and embraced her with a gentle hug. Spike, being unusually accommodating where his grandsire was concerned, sat down next to Cordelia.
“I’m impressed, Blondie,” she said, patting him on the back. “Normally there’d be growling and posturing – the usual five year old territorial behavior. What gives?”
“Don’t have to worry ‘bout my place anymore, Legs,” Spike said, grinning widely. “Slayer and I are tight these days.”
Angel held Buffy at arm’s length, a soft smile on his face. “I can’t believe how beautiful you are,” he murmured, still remembering the image of the comatose Buffy from the previous year. “It’s as if nothing ever happened.”
Buffy gently removed Angel’s hands from her biceps. “Except that it did, Angel. And it’s something I won’t ever forget. Getting better was miserably hard work, and I’m more than grateful that Spike was there to see me through it all. Sometimes it pays to love a bull-headed vampire.”
If possible, Spike’s grin grew wider as he tipped his chair back on its two back legs and sprawled comfortably. For a smallish man, he took up an enormous amount of space.
“Well, we have to give credit where credit is due,” said Wesley. “I daresay without Spike’s diligence, Miss Summers would not be in the peak condition she appears to be today.”
“I so agree,” Dawn chimed in. “Everyone had given up on Buffy. All her friends, Angel, even me to some extent. As Buffy said, ya gotta love a stubborn vamp.”
“And Spike is most certainly one of the stubbornest vampires ever sired,” Angel said. “And I should know, having been there from the beginning. Trying to tell him anything resulted in a headache that lasted for days.”
Dawn raised her glass. “Then I say we toast the world’s most stubborn vampire, ‘cause he gave me back my sister.”
“Hear, hear!” Wesley clinked his glass with Dawn’s, followed by the rest of the table. Spike looked insufferably pleased, and Buffy just smiled.
“Just this once,” Angel warned. “His head’ll get so big he won’t fit through the door.”
Spike curbed his tongue for once, willing to choke on the ‘big giant forehead’ comment he wanted to make. The pouf was making nice, and had really helped out when Buffy needed him, and if there was anything he learned over this past year, it was patience.
“I think it’s time for me an’ my lady to head back to our table,” is what he said, instead. “Wouldn’t want her to miss a meal now, would we?”
Buffy melted a little into each hug, knowing they were all really happy for her… and Spike, too, though those words wouldn’t ever be said. And she wished… well, who knew what could change given time, right?
The meal wasn’t bad. Spike had the rarest of sirloin steaks with fried onions, and Buffy had steamed salmon with veggies.
There were a few more speakers in between courses, but Buffy paid them no mind. As the affair drew to a close, quite a few of the hospital staff stopped by to congratulate both her and Spike, which they both accepted with good grace and smiles.
Angel and his crew stopped by, letting them know they were always available if help was needed. Dawn pulled up a chair and stayed until it was time for them to go home.
Dr. Norris was the last of the well-wishers. “So, what did you both think of our little surprise?” she asked, eyes sparkling mischievously.
“You got us, Doc,” Spike said. “Didn’t have a bloody clue what you were up to.”
“You were both such inspirations to our staff. You, Buffy, for your determination to live against all odds, and you, Spike, for your devotion and faith.”
“Just what you’d expect from a vampire,” Dawn laughed. She would never get enough of her sister and ‘big brother’ being happy together.
“That’s my Spike,” murmured Buffy. “Always defying what’s expected of him. My rebel.” She ran her hand through his hair and kissed him gently.
“Time to get my ladies home.” Spike rose from his chair and pulled Buffy’s and then Dawn’s out from the table. “And I need to get out of this penguin suit.”
Dawn went straight upstairs when they got home, claiming last minute schoolwork called. Spike motioned to Buffy, and they sat down on the porch step, uncaring about the dirt in their formal wear.
“There’s something about sitting here that clears the mind,” said Buffy, leaning against Spike’s tuxedo-clad shoulder. “It’s like you can share your thoughts with the cosmos.
“Sat here many a time with you, love. All peaceful like… even when we weren’t exactly on friendly terms.”
“I remember,” she said, a wistful smile gracing her lips. “I was so worried about Mom, and then you came clomping into the yard, waving a shotgun around.”
“Couldn’t do it, though, could I? Seein’ your tearstained face… all thoughts of blowin’ your head off flew away.” Spike returned her smile, and patted her on the back, following the old script. “Can imagine you crying in the cemetery and unhinging all the vamps. You’d never need a stake again.”
Buffy couldn’t contain the laugh that burst forth at Spike’s silliness. “Like that works for all the other girls dragged into the cemetery by stupid fledges.”
“You’re not like all the others, love,” Spike insisted. “Wouldn’t have fallen for you if you were.”
“You say the nicest things, Vampire.”
“You do the naughtiest things, Slayer.”
“Not on the porch, Spike!” Buffy squealed as Spike’s fingers attempted to work their magic. “Dawn could peek out the window.”
“Or Dawn could hear you morons from her room,” Dawn called out from her window.
“Could go for a cuppa, Slayer. You?”
“Cocoa, if you’re making. You make it almost as good as Mom did, and I’m in the mood for a little comfort.”
“Still upset about the lack of warm fuzzies from the Scoobs?”
Buffy nodded. “But I’ll get over it,” she said. “Or try again. Whatever strikes my fancy.”
“That you will, love,” Spike said, as he rustled the pots and pans and rounded up the ingredients for the cocoa. “Whatever you decide, Nibblet and I will support you one hundred percent.”
Buffy sat on the chair, resting her chin in her arms on the table, a smile of contentment gracing her lips. If there was anything in the world she could count on, it was Spike’s support. And love. And she looked forward to many more years of the same.
~ fin ~