Title: WHAT REACHES UP TO YOU
Author: Ivytree
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, UPN, Mutant Enemy, etc.
Feedback: Please!
Summary: Spike's holidays
Setting: Between Bring On the Night and New Year's Day, 2003

A/N: All quotes from "Pippa Passes," by Robert Browning, a dramatic poem that takes place entirely on one New Year's Day. (Sorry, the chapter lengths are a bit wonky, but this was a tad time-dependent!)

There *will* be new chapters of Samaritan and Return, soon!


What Reaches Up to You, Part 3


* * * *


"How Love smiles through Hate's iron casque,
Hate grins through Love's rose-braided mask, --
And how, having hated thee,
I sought long and painfully
To reach thy heart, nor prick
The skin but pierce to the quick –"


* * * *


Spike heard the bedroom door open. Which one was it this time? So far, as regular as clockwork, Willow, Dawn, and even Anya had arrived to ply him with blood every few hours. He hadn't seen Buffy in several days, but he knew she'd visited, while he slept.

"Man, I thought you looked bad last time," Xander's voice said.

"Lucky for me I don't have to see myself, then," Spike replied. He pushed himself up on one elbow, squinting, and saw Xander standing awkwardly in the doorway. "Though that hasn't been a problem for quite a while now. Come to stake me, have you?"

"Uh, no. I don't know if you've got any idea what's going on…"

"Not really." He suspected that the situation was not only complex, but also extraordinarily ominous. But none of the ladies had felt it necessary to explain, so far; he realized that they were sparing his impaired intellect from any further strain.

"…But we need all the help we can get, at this point. Maybe later, though."

"Oh, sure." Spike dragged himself into a semi-sitting position. "I'm a lot of help to the Slayer in this state, all right."

"Well, you'll heal up fast, I guess."

"'S'pose I will, with a pack of women forcing pig's blood down my throat every five minutes," Spike grumbled. "That reminds me – what's Giles doing here? And who are those others in the house? The other females, I mean. Besides ours."

"How did you…?"

"Heard 'em chatting. Incessantly."

"Oh. Yeah. I forgot about the super-senses thing. Well, see, that's the point." Xander ran his hands through his hair. Spike couldn't help noticing the shadows under his eyes. "They're the slayers. Or future slayers, I should say."

"Come again?"

"While we've been having our merry romp chasing you around beautiful downtown Sunnydale, with occasional excursions to rescue doomed teen poets, thwart love-charms, and hunt down half-witted minions, it seems Evil has gotten way out of hand, in Technicolor, Cinemascope, and Dolby Digital. First It went after the slayers-in-training, the girls who might become the next slayer. Then It went after the Council."

"The Council of Wankers? But there must be dozens of 'em, right? What could It do to them?"

"It killed them. All of them. The girls, too. The potential slayers. They're all dead. A few strays are heading for Sunnydale, with a few surviving watchers, but they're the last." Xander let out a breath. "That's what It wants – to open the Hellmouth, release evil into the world, and, oh, yeah - end the line of slayers, for good."

"'Strewth!" Spike exclaimed, stunned. This was beyond anything he'd imagined. Buffy was right. They needed all the help they could get, even that of a half-crippled, soul-addled vampire. Well, at least he still knew how to fight. He needed his strength back, and quickly. "Come on, then, help me up," he demanded.

"Oh, yeah, right," Xander scoffed. "And have my own personal internal organs sliced and diced by four Florence Nightengales when you bleed to death, or something? No, thank you. I was just checking to see if you, like, turned to dust on your own." He turned and went out the door, and then poked his head back in. "And don't try getting out of bed by yourself, because Buffy will be pissed as hell if you get vampire stains all over the carpet."

On that note, he shut the door behind him with a smug thump, leaving Spike helpless and fuming in the dark.


* * * *


"No mere mortal has a right
To carry that exalted air;
Best people are not angels quite:
While -- not the worst of people's doings scare
The devil; so there's that proud look to spare!"


* * * *


"Spike?"

Spike sighed. Why did they always say his name just that way? Who else in the Summers house was bedridden in a darkened room? This time, he sat up, with considerable care, and turned on the bedside light himself.

"Hello, Rupert," he said.

"Good Lord," Giles remarked, approaching the bedside and pushing his glasses up his nose. "You do heal remarkably quickly. The last time I saw you, you resembled nothing so much as several pounds of uncooked liver."

"Thanks so much for THAT image," Spike said.

"Now all the black bits are purple, and the purple bits are green," Giles went on, eyeing him with scientific interest. "You look like a Turner sunrise."

Spike bit back the snarky reply he'd come up with. Instead, his gaze dropped to Buffy's comforter, and he said, "Sorry about your mates, and all, Rupert. I remember that Lydia girl, and Imran Cumberbatch seemed like a decent bloke. Didn't hold a grudge when the Slayer nearly took his head off." And it was true, he was sorry. Poor old Rupert must have lost a lot of friends when the First struck at the Council.

Giles was strangely silent, and after a moment, Spike stole an uneasy glance at his face. He was standing there with his mouth slightly open, looking absolutely gobsmacked.

"No offense," Spike offered. "Though I can't work up much regret for old Travers – made Buffy's life hell, didn't he? But the others seemed decent enough."

"Good Lord." Giles seemed to be speaking almost to himself. "Buffy was quite right. I can see it for myself."

"Excuse me?"

"Oh, um, yes," Giles came back to himself with a visible start. "Thank you for your condolences, Spike. Or – would you prefer to go by William, now?"

"No." Not that he hadn't thought of it. But 'William,' the name he'd heard on the lips of his mother and sisters all his life, didn't ring true anymore. "I can't go back. I'm not the man I was."

"I can understand that."

"Anyway," Spike said, and this time it was he who spoke abstractedly, almost to himself, "I SHOULD remember what I did – what 'Spike' did – all those years."

"But was that your fault?" Giles eyes were penetrating, although he also seemed quite pleased to be able to engage in a philosophical discussion (not exactly a Scooby specialty), for a change. "You're a different person now."

Spike spread his hands before him. "The things I did – these hands did them. This brain thought of them." He looked up. "I FEEL the same."

"Well, perhaps that's just as well, at the moment," Giles said, reverting to practicality. "I don't know what your skills might have been, as a human…"

"Bloody limited," Spike muttered.

"…But I imagine your vampiric, ah, capabilities, are what we need right now."

"That's what I thought." Spike rubbed the back of his neck with one still-purple hand, and winced. "What day is it? Boxing Day?"

"No, you slept right through; it's New Year's Eve, in point of fact."

Damn. It was getting late. Whatever it was would surely come soon. "What's going on, Rupert? Where's the Slayer? What's our battle plan?"

"The plan – such as it is – is a bold one. Buffy has decided to gather our forces, the potential slayers, the remaining watchers, and, of course, you – and then, as soon as possible, despite the overwhelming odds, to, ah…"

Spike's heart lifted. Rupert didn't really have to tell him; he'd been studying Buffy's ideas of strategy for too long. He grinned. "Don't tell me. Attack?"

"Attack."

"That's my Slayer!"


* * * *


"And now what am I? -- tired of fooling.
Day for folly, night for schooling!
New year's day is over and spent,
Ill or well, I must be content."


* * * *


It was New Year's Day. Spike clutched the banister at the top of the stairs. Willow stood beside him, holding his arm in a firm grip, and Dawn hovered behind. Giles stood at the bottom of the stairs, to catch him if he fell, apparently, and peering over his shoulder were two wide-eyed teenage girls.

Spike had essentially browbeaten his caretakers into helping him get up. Willow had found some old gray sweatpants and a tee shirt that, mercifully, lacked cartoonish embellishment, to replace his ruined clothes. His bones had knit, his contusions had largely healed; he was also bored beyond even vampire endurance. More importantly, he needed to see his Slayer and find out what he could do to help her.

Now for the stairs, which suddenly seemed high and remarkably steep. Steeling himself, Spike took the first step downward. Just put one foot down after the other, that was the ticket. A faint wave of dizziness swept over him, but he mastered it, and continued his descent, Willow and Dawn trailing solicitously. He didn't really NEED to be coddled like this, and it made him feel edgy as hell, as a matter of fact. After all, he'd suffered injuries far worse than this - when Buffy dropped the pipe organ on his spine, for instance. And he'd rehabilitated himself quite nicely without any help. Of course, he was evil then, but still. He didn't need everybody looking at him and holding his elbow as if he were a little old lady.

Right, then. He'd made the landing. Pausing for a moment, he saw Xander rise from the sofa in the living room; Anya stood beside him, but didn't take his hand. Hmmm. Behind them, the big picture window was simply gone, its empty frame boarded up. An unprepossessing blond guy sat tied to a chair in the living room. He supposed that must be the famous Andrew. For some reason, the bloke was staring at him with great intensity, which was odd, because Spike couldn't recall ever seeing him before. Though there was something…

Down just a few more steps, and he'd reached the front hallway – on his own steam, too. He shot a small glance of triumph at Willow and Dawn.

"Remarkable," Giles said, standing back. "I never would have believed you'd come this far in little more than one week. I'm simply astounded."

"I'm not."

They turned to see Buffy standing in the kitchen doorway. Spike had known she was there, of course. He never took his eyes from hers as she approached the little group standing at the foot of the stairs.

"I'm not astounded," she said. "Whatever it takes, Spike can do it. You should know that by now, Giles." She stood quite near him, her arms folded, gazing at him steadily. After one brief glance, he was almost afraid to look in her eyes again – what he saw there was too overwhelming.

"Um, excuse me, but your friend here – isn't he a vampire?" one of the potential slayer girls said to Giles, in a stage whisper.

"Yes, Kennedy, but he's on our side now," Giles replied. "We've been over all that."

"I thought you meant he was, like, not a vamp anymore," Kennedy pursued. "Not that he could still bite us."

"Well, he can't bite us, anyway, even if he wanted to," Giles said irritably.

"How do you know?" the girl said, in a skeptical tone.

"That's right," the other girl chimed in. "You aren't just taking his word for it, are you?"

"Really, girls, I've been dealing with vampires since before you were born - I think I know what I'm about…"

The young slayers-to-be didn't seem about to give up on their doubts anytime soon. As they argued back and forth, Giles began to sound quite exasperated. But Spike didn't resent the girls for it; they were right to be suspicious. They'd live longer that way. Their bickering voices faded away into background noise as he took a step closer to Buffy.

"What do you want me to do, Slayer?" he asked, steadying himself against the wall. "How can I help?"

Her face was drawn and tired; there was a bruise across her forehead, and she moved as if her muscles were almost as sore as his were. She was dressed for battle, in plain pants and a close-fitting turtleneck, and her hair was pulled severely back from her face. But her eyes were glorious, luminous and deep, and in them, he saw confidence, pride, and – could it be? – real, living warmth.

"You're helping just by being here," Buffy said, in a quiet voice. He stifled a gasp as she put her hand on his arm. "Having someone I trust to watch my back, when the time comes, is just what I need."

"If you can trust me again," he began, and broke off. The generosity of her words staggered him. How could she forgive so much? "Buffy, it's so much more than I deserve…"

"Spike." She smiled a little. "Under these circumstances, with, you know, an all-powerful enemy I can't fight, and the end of the world coming - not to mention a house full of teenagers - I can't give you what you deserve. I wish I could. But if we all survive this…"

Ever so lightly, he touched the back of her hand with his fingertips.

"Whether we do or not, you've given me more than I ever dreamed of," he said.

"If we do survive, it will be the start of a whole new year. And we can both begin again." She took his hand, threading her fingers through his. "So, whatever happens, happy New Year, Spike."

Was anyone watching? Well, they could mind their own sodding business if they were. He raised her fingers to his lips for one brief moment.

"Happy New Year, Buffy."


* * * *


"…You creature with the eyes!
If I could look for ever up to them,
As now you let me, -- I believe, all sin,
All memory of wrong done, suffering borne,
Would drop down, low and lower, to the earth
Whence all that's low comes, and there touch and stay
-- Never to overtake the rest of me,
All that, unspotted, reaches up to you,
Drawn by those eyes! What rises is myself,
Not me the shame and suffering; but they sink,
Are left, I rise above them. Keep me so,
Above the world!"


* * * *



END