This fic is in response to a challenge over at Elysian Fields, by
Kittenshift17. One of the rare times I've attempted to follow someone else's muse. Her original title was Shattered,
but she gave her permission to rename it something else, so I did.
As usual, this fic has been betaed by the delightful triad of Twinkles, micrindle23,
and Stalwartsandall, all located at Elysian Fields.
Banner by the uber-talented Twinkles
Summary: Buffy shows up on Spike's doorstep one night. She's shivering, bleeding, and scared. There's a dazed look in her eyes - she looks drugged. She looks like she's been through hell. (full challenge will be revealed at the end of the story) AU set just after Something Blue
Spike breathed in the homey smell of the dirt and old bones, enjoying finally having a space of his own to putter around in. No tweedy Watcher glaring at him, practically up his arse with every step he took. Afraid he’d get his vampire cooties on his precious books. Or the couch. Or Satan forbid Spike should touch his bloody Laphroaig 32-year-old Islay single malt Scotch.
Admittedly, the crypt was a bit of a fixer-upper… but he had nothing else to occupy his time, right? And a snoop around the dump would probably yield enough furniture to make the place habitable. It was a disposable economy, after all – people always chasing the newest and latest thing – and Spike wasn’t above scooping up society’s castoffs.
He was ticked off, however, at being tossed about from one babysitter to another like an unwanted puppy who couldn’t be trusted on his own. He’d been defanged (thanks to the American military borrowing freely from long-buried Nazi research), couldn’t harm a fly, and yet his former prey had decided he needed monitoring day and night!
And the less said about spending time in the Slayer’s boy’s basement, the better. Spike shuddered at the humiliation. Even as a vampire, he was repulsed by the mold and bleach combination that overwhelmed the darkened space. That the git was stuck there – paying rent – said a lot about his parents… none of it complimentary.
As Spike paced around the sarcophagi, he got more and more pissed off. So the Watcher had wanted him gone, wanted to get laid. Same with the sniveling whelp. Everyone was gettin’ some except for him, thanks to Dru hooking up with every slime-covered demon with antlers she could find, the bloody bitch.
Even the uptight, stick-up-her-arse Slayer was getting hot and heavy with her soldier-boy.
And wasn’t that something? Fleeing the commandos, Spike’d gone to the Slayer out of desperation, only to find the stupid bint was in bed with one of the bastards! What’s more, Spike was pretty sure the starched-up git had been front and center to some of the more “uncomfortable” procedures he’d been forced to endure during his captivity.
Then, just as Spike was working up a good head of disgruntled steam, the crypt door slammed open and the self-same Slayer he’d been mentally railing about stumbled into his new abode.
The scent of her blood – tangy and potent – grabbed Spike’s attention and he moved in for a closer look.
“Now is this really fair,” he mocked as he reached the girl. “I came to you for help and had to parboil in the sun before you let me in. And you come to me – invade my new home, smelling like a tasty snack – without a hint of civility. No invitation, no barrier – just barging in without my say-so.”
When no snarky comment was forthcoming, Spike moved closer still. Buffy was wild-eyed, panting like a horse run too hard and too long. Her skin was littered with bloody scratches and dirt. Her clothing was askew and ripped. Something was very, very wrong.
“Slayer… what happened?”
“I don’t know!” Buffy cried out in distress. “I-I… the last time I felt like this was just before my Chrysanthemum.”
“What the bloody hell do flowers have to do with anything?” Spike asked, puzzled.
“Not flowers,” Buffy spat back. “That thing where Giles stripped my powers and I had to fight a lunatic vampire.”
“Your Watcher put you through that archaic ritual?” Spike fumed, angry on her behalf. No warrior should be diminished intentionally. “A bleedin’ Cruciamentum? What the hell was he thinking?”
“That’s what I said,” Buffy whimpered, shivering like mad in her wet clothes.
Spike shook his head and took a deep, unnecessary breath. “You might as well come all the way in before you catch your death,” he said, rummaging about in the box that contained his belongings. Handing her a towel and a ruby-red satin button-down shirt, he continued, “Get out of your dripping rags and dry off.”
Meek as a lamb, she went off into a corner and changed. When she appeared in front of him next, he almost lost his non-existent breath. The Slayer was a vision: her hair tousled, wearing nothing but his button-down, which came to her mid thighs and left her legs bare.
He wasn’t exactly known for his self-control, but he had it in spades – when he needed it. It was put to the test however at the sight of the young woman in front of him. There wasn’t a man alive or dead who could resist his woman wearing his kit.
Wait a minute. The Slayer wasn’t his. Well, except to kill!
“Go sit down,” he said gruffly, trying to appear unaffected. “Sorry I don’t have anything to offer you – not even heat.”
“But you’ll let me stay for a bit?” Buffy asked, looking up at him with unshed tears glittering in her eyes.
“Tit-for-tat,” Spike said, shrugging his shoulders as nonchalantly as he could. “And I won’t even chain you to a bathtub like when I came seeking asylum.”
Buffy had the good grace to blush, little hot spots of pink high on her cheeks obvious in her pale face. “Thanks, Spike,” she said softly, still shivering slightly. “I-I just didn’t know where else to go.”
“And why’s that?” He scanned her torn flesh. “What the bloody hell happened to you, Slayer?”
“I’m gonna say this once – slowly – so even you can understand,” Buffy said, pointing her shaky finger at his chest. “I was patrolling tonight, as I always do. Came across a trio of totally dirty-behind-the-ears vampires. ‘Easy peasy,’ I thought. The first one rushed me, fangs bared… nothing special, right? Well, not so right. I panicked! Spike, I totally just lost my nerve and couldn’t even think of how to defend myself.”
“And you think someone shot you up with the anti-slayer juice again?” Spike asked, unable to comprehend how else a simple fledge could flummox the Slayer.
“I-I don’t know!” she stammered, fear still evident in both voice and posture. “All I know is: I was afraid. The vamp barreled into me, and I went flying into some spiny bushes. I pulled myself out, tearing both my skin and clothing, which got the other two fledges drooling and chasing me. I ran like a coward. A freaking coward!”
Spike shook his head in disgust… no, sympathy. No… disgust! “Slayer I know wouldn’t turn tail and run,” he muttered.
“I know that,” Buffy retorted. “It’s not like I expected you to be sympathetic, but I hoped you’d at least understand. I couldn’t go back to Giles; in case he was responsible again. I couldn’t go home, either, looking like this; Mom would have a cow.”
“And you came to the Big Bad instead of your Scooby pals because…?”
“I don’t exactly know, alright? I just thought… I hoped…” Buffy threw up her hands in exasperation. “Look, I don’t know what I thought, exactly. Obviously, I made a mistake coming here, thinking that maybe you’d –”
“Maybe I’d help you find out what’s happened to you?” Spike asked incredulously.
It really clicked then, for him. The helplessness, the feeling of despair. It’d happened to him when he’d been electronically de-fanged by the bloody Initiative. It was enough to make one forget everything… all sense of survival stripped away, leaving behind unfamiliar vulnerability.
The idea of helping the Slayer was antithetical to his entire vampiric existence, but looking at her, shivering and expectant, he heard himself say, “Fine, let’s see what we can suss out.”
Her expression turned faintly hopeful. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” he confirmed. Not quite meeting her eye, he added, “Know what it feels like to lose all power and purpose in one fell swoop. No one deserves that.”
He looked up then, watching the slayer with new eyes. For the first time since she arrived at his crypt, Buffy stopped shaking and smiled.