Disclaimer: Don't own em, just wanna make em feel loved.
Summary: What can I say? It's the last chapter.
Reviews: Yes, please. You all have been amazing over the entire life of this fic. Thank you very much for all those awesome reviews. Readers Rock but Reviewers RULE!
A/N: Many, many thanks to Wayward Childe for his continued encouragement and help.
Spike felt a surge of hope. Could Lorne read his thoughts? He knew the Pylean was an empath. But he was certain that the whole thought reading thing was not in the talents.
Lorne talked softly to the motionless vampire. "I see your aura, Precious. I know you're aware of what's going on. I'm sorry I didn't come see you sooner. I could have told them."
'Don't call me 'Precious' that's what Hell Bitch called me. I'll take any pet name you wanna give me, just not that.' Spike thought acidly.
Lorne chuckled. "I bet you've heard all kinds of interesting things today. Well, I do have one more tidbit I'm sure you're very interested in. They've identified the demon that tagged you. It'll only be a little while before they have the antidote. We'll have you up and annoying the Broody One in no time."
'Okay, no thought reading.' Spike told himself. 'But he knows. He knows I'm in here. Wish there was someone who used mental telepathy. Wait. Red. That battle with Glory. She sent her thoughts to me and could hear me. She used it that whole horrid summer. Come on, Barkeep, go get Red. Please.'
The Pylean gave Spike's pale face a last little pat. He moved carefully off the bed. "I don't want to leave you alone." He began.
'Then don't.' Spike thought. It didn't matter that just minutes before; he was begging Lorne to go get Willow. He felt Lorne drawing away. 'Noooo!'
"I'm just going to see what's keeping your cure. Won't be but a second." Lorne promised. He noticed the change in Spike's aura reflecting the vampire's increased panic. "Don't panic, Sweetness. I won't be but a step out of the door."
Lorne left Spike alone; he had an idea and was in a hurry to get downstairs. Everyone was gathered in the lobby; Wesley was in the center of the group reading intently from an ancient text. The Pylean gently took Willow's arm and pulled her aside.
"I need you upstairs right away. Sleeping Beauty needs your unique talents." He drew her swiftly up the stairs before anyone noticed they were leaving.
The redheaded witch cautiously entered Spike's room. She didn't have a clue why she was there but she liked Spike and wanted to be able to help him. The second she got closer to the comatose vampire, she realized that comatose was not the correct term. Spike was very awake and very aware and at this moment very panicky. She took the space next to him, knowing he desperately needed contact.
'Spike?' Willow tentatively projected, picking up his hand.
'Red? Oh my God! Red! I've been going insane here. I can't do this any more. Tell me you guys can fix this. Please tell me it won't be much longer.' Spike told her frantically.
'Shhhh. It's okay, Wes is translating the text now. We know what the demon was and in just a few more minutes we'll know what the antidote is. Are you okay otherwise? Do you hurt?' Willow stroked the slender hand soothingly. Lorne slipped out to go get some more blood for the stricken vampire.
'No, don't hurt much. Pretty much numb. Can feel you holding my hand but that's about it. Never felt anything like this before and I never want to again.' Spike told her. 'Sense of humor took a hike about three hours ago. If I'd had to listen to the Great Broody Git any longer I would have had to break this spell or whatever the hell it is just so I could stake myself. Who let that sodding wanker in here in the first place?'
Willow snickered. 'Sorry, but everyone else was busy researching for your cure. And he insisted. We didn't want you to be alone for long. We felt we should keep feeding you. Are you hungry? I think Lorne went down for more blood. It's human, you know.'
'Yeah, I got that. Freaking good it is too. Yeah, I'm a bit hungry, Niblet was right. It's too slow to fill me up. I can't tell you how hard it's been today, listening to everyone who decided to stop in and unburden on the poor defenseless vamp. You wouldn't believe what people will say when they don't think anyone is listening.' Spike was babbling but seemed powerless to stop.
Willow laughed out loud. 'I can imagine. Poor Spike. It won't be long.' She told him. She began telling him why they couldn't identify the demon from the body and everything they'd done over the last twenty-four hours. He listened with pleasure, inserting completely Spike-like comments and making her laugh. When Lorne came back he was struck with the incongruity of the girl sitting there laughing at the silent vampire. He sat in the chair and began feeding Spike the much-needed nourishment.
Wesley looked up from the book he'd been translating. "The antidote is here. Fred, could you write down the antidote as I read it, please." He waited until the slender brunette returned with paper and pencil.
"Okay, it says here that the 'Sleeper Demon', that's not it's real name but that is a loose translation, paralyzes its victims so they are aware of their surroundings but unable to move or speak. Oh, dear. Poor Spike." Wes looked at his companions not noticing the uncomfortable shifting being done by several members of the group. He went back to the book.
"It isn't from this dimension and must be summoned, usually by someone who wishes to use it as an assassin. It especially likes to prey on vampires. It leaves the infected vampire in the sun and watches as it incinerates. Barbaric." Wes shuddered, blithely ignoring that a few years ago he would have enjoyed that act.
"Right, Fred, this is what we need. The blood of the Sire, Angel that would be you. Mixed with the blood of the slayer, Buffy I guess you're needed as well. And…oh dear. This doesn't make any sense. I don't understand." He paused.
"What is it, Wes?" Buffy demanded.
Wesley reread the passage. "There is no mistake but I'm afraid the cure is impossible because I don't know where or how to obtain something called 'Tears of the Key'."
The Fang Gang groaned in disappointment. Fred buried her face in Gunn's shoulder as sorrow overtook her. Cordelia slipped her arm through Angel's thinking the thunderstruck look on his face was grief. Susan looked at Wes with tears standing in her large gray eyes. He curled his arm around her shoulders and hugged her comfortingly. He studied the text sadly, frustrated to have gotten so close to the answer
Jake and the Scoobies had a drastically different reaction to the news. They laughed. Dawn got up and began squealing in glee as Jake swept her up into his arms and swung her around. Buffy burst into happy tears at the relief she felt. Giles cleaned his glasses and pretended that he had a speck of dust caught in the corner of his eye. He pinched the bridge of his nose as his relieved chuckles erupted. Xander and Faith merely beamed at each other.
Angel's crew gaped at the seemingly hysterical Scoobies. Finally Gunn couldn't stand it.
"Man! That is too cold. English tells you he can't save your buddy and all you can do is laugh?" He demanded heatedly.
Xander realized that Dawn was shedding happy tears. "Faith. Honey, go get a paper cup. We can't waste those."
The dark-haired slayer nodded and used slayer speed to dart into kitchen for the cup. She handed it to Jake who held it flush against the teenager's cheek, catching the stream of salty fluid that was essential to bringing Spike back.
Wes, Susan, Fred, Cordy and Gunn watched in total confusion as the artist encouraged his girlfriend to cry as he caught the liquid in the cup.
"Does it say how much we need?" Jake asked.
Obediently, Wes looked back down at the book. "No, there isn't any quantity specified. What are you doing?"
Giles replaced his glasses with a smile. "He's catching the 'Tears of the Key'.
"I don't get it." Cordy spoke up.
Quickly, the Scoobies told their LA counterparts the story of monks, magic, energy and a teenage girl who was the key to another dimension.
"Oh, my." Wes murmured. "Why weren't we told of this?"
"After the fight with Glory, it didn't seem necessary. The Hellgod was destroyed and Dawn's usefulness as a key was past." Giles explained.
Faith ran back into the kitchen and brought out a sharp knife. "So, B. Who's gonna do the honors?"
Buffy took the knife from the other slayer's hand. "My vampire, my blood." She stated.
Faith grinned at her. "Can't say as I blame you there."
Fred got out the first aid kit so the knife could be sterilized with the alcohol they kept for that reason.
"Wesley, are there any instructions or do we just put it all in one container and feed it to him?" Xander thought to ask.
Wes consulted the book once more. "Hmmm, well. It seems that all we do is combine the three components into a container and feed them to the victim."
Buffy nodded as she took the sterilized knife from Fred and made a small slice on her wrist, dribbling a stream of her blood into the cup. Angel took the knife from her and added his blood to the mixture. Faith handed Buffy a clean straw from the kitchen and the petite blonde went upstairs to rescue her vampire. The entire group followed close behind, chattering amongst themselves happily.
Spike heard the approaching crowd. 'Red, what's going on?'
Willow turned to the door as Buffy, followed closely by Dawn, Jake and Susan walked into the room. 'Guess they found the cure. Are you ready?'
'Do vamps drink blood? Bloody Hell! I'm so far past ready it's not funny.' Spike told her, happiness suffusing each thought.
Everyone crowded into the room. Wesley came up behind Susan and slid his arms around her waist. He rested his chin on her shoulder so he could see. Jake took up a similar position behind Dawn as both couples stood at the foot of the bed. Willow got up and moved aside so Buffy could take her place on the bed. Angel stood behind Buffy, anxiously watching her as she stirred the mixture with the end of the straw. She looked up at Giles who was standing not far from the bed. Willow was next to the elder Watcher. Krista, who'd been quiet and withdrawn for much of the day, hovered near the door. Cordy stood between Angel and the bed. Xander and Faith found spots not far from Giles. Lorne had taken a position next to the dresser, leaning against it in relief. The room was getting rather crowded at that point.
"There's not enough to pull up into the straw." Buffy said. She carefully held the cup to his open mouth and slowly let the precious fluid drip in. After the first few drops, Spike was able to swallow. He pursed his lips to suck in every tiny drop. For the first time since the attack, he inhaled. He caught a sharp unneeded breath as the pain from his gouges flared through his torso. As the last of the antidote filtered through his body, the effects became apparent. Blue lightening sparked across the angry claw marks on his abdomen. As the group watched in awe, the gouges sealed over and disappeared. A gasp of relief burst out of Spike as the pain went away. He opened his eyes. His beautiful slayer was the first thing he saw. A smile lit his face and shone out of his sapphire eyes.
"Hello, Cutie." His voice was raspy and low. Buffy thought it sounded like he'd smoked too many cigarettes.
Everyone started talking at once. They all bombarded Spike with how happy they were he was back. Spike closed his eyes but opened them immediately. He'd spent way too much time with them closed.
"Okay, everyone calm down." Spike tried to make himself heard but his voice was hoarse from disuse. He put two fingers in his mouth and released an earsplitting whistle. Instant silence fell over the group.
"Right. Okay, I need for all of you to get out." Shocked exclamations erupted again as they all gave him reasons why they should be allowed to stay, Spike resorted to the whistle again. Silence resumed.
"Not that I have an objection. But I think Buffy might have a problem with the lot of you checking out goods that rightfully belong to her." He made to lift the sheet and get up causing a mass exodus out of the room as everyone remembered he was bare under the sheet.
"Can I talk someone into bringing me some clean clothes?" He found himself talking to an empty room. "Hey!"
Angel stuck his head back in. "I'll get your clothes." He offered and disappeared again.
Spike threw off the sheet and unconcernedly walked into the bathroom nude. He turned on the shower and found himself leaning on the wall for support as muscles that had been paralyzed for more than a day decided they objected to the exertion. He decided it would be a good idea to finish the mug Lorne had brought up and made his way back into the bedroom to locate it. He drained it and felt much better. Steam began to seep out of the bathroom and he gave in to the urge for a hot shower.
Feeling much better, he found the clean clothes Angel had promised had been delivered. He dressed and made his way downstairs. He took the empty mug hoping for a refill. The hotel lobby was empty. He was impressed to see that the damage caused by his fight had been completely erased. Following the sound of happy chatter, he went into the kitchen. Buffy stood just inside the kitchen door and he crept up behind her and slid his arms around her waist, nuzzling her neck. He held the empty cup out and waggled it in an effort to get someone to fill it. With a giggle, Dawn stepped over and took the cup.
"Hey, Spike. I see you're feeling better." Faith greeted him from her chair at the table.
"Much. Thank you." Spike winked at her from behind Buffy. The petite blonde turned in his arms and kissed him.
"Yum." Spike murmured. He released her and accepted his drink from Dawn. Gunn walked over and held out his hand.
"Good to see you up and about." He said as Spike shook his hand.
Spike grinned. "Feels good."
Fred came up and hugged the stunned vampire. "Welcome back."
"Thanks." Spike told her, bemused.
"We're going to leave. See you tomorrow." Gunn told the group. He steered his girlfriend out to a chorus of 'goodbyes'.
Krista gave Spike a hug. She pulled his face down so she could look into his eyes. She nodded in satisfaction. "Welcome back." She murmured.
Spike grinned. "Thanks, Sprite. Sorry I've been a bugger of a patient."
"Don't let it happen again. I'm leaving too." The pixie stated. "I've got real patients to check on." She made the rounds of the room collecting goodbye hugs before leaving.
After Lorne said his goodbyes and departed, Spike looked around the room in confusion. "Was it something I said?"
The remaining people in the room laughed. Buffy turned around and snuggled into her vampire's embrace. "No one got much sleep last night. We were trying to fix you." She told him softly.
Spike looked at each one in turn. Xander, Giles, Willow, Faith, Cordelia, Wesley, Susan, Dawn, Jake, Buffy and Angel had all supported him not just over the last twenty-four hours but during the painfully lonely last few weeks. He glanced down at the floor, abashed at his recent behavior. "I'm sorry for the way I've acted recently." He apologized.
Xander grinned. "I think I speak for all of us when I say you've been a pain in the ass." Laughter erupted as Spike winced at the description. "I also want to go on record as saying that you had good reason but we want to request that explanations be allowed before you go off into another self-destruct mode."
Spike grinned sheepishly. "Okay. Next time I hear something I don't like I'll beat an explanation out of you." More chuckles sounded at the look on Xander's face.
"Now wait a second…oh right, you're kidding." He realized. Faith smacked her boyfriend lightly on the back of the head. He rubbed it ruefully and groaned in pain. Faith felt guilty, swung her legs over his lap and settled down to kiss it better.
"And speaking of hearing things I don't like…" Spike let go of his slayer and stalked over to Angel. He landed a solid punch to the elder vampire's nose.
"Ow! What was that for?" Angel demanded as Cordy handed him a kitchen towel to stem the bleeding.
"For being a Poof." Spike told him cryptically. He walked over and grasped Jake by the arm and swung him into a bear hug. He thumped the artist affectionately on the back a couple of times. He put his mouth up to Jake's ear and whispered. "Poof."
Jake grinned as he returned the hug briefly. After letting go of his friend, Spike walked over to stand in front of Giles. The elder Watcher held Spike's gaze steadily. Silence fell over the room as everyone remembered the events of the previous year. Slowly a smile lit Spike's eyes. He held out his hand to Giles and after a moment of stunned surprise, Rupert shook Spike's hand.
"It's okay, in your place I probably would have done the same thing." Spike said quietly.
"If I had it to do over, I wouldn't." Giles told him seriously. Spike nodded and released the handshake.
Spike looked around the kitchen. "Are there any snacks? Feeling kinda peckish."
Dawn and Willow began searching the refrigerator and cupboards in search of some of the things they knew Spike liked, quickly building an impressive array of munchies for the entire group. They snacked and chatted happily for several hours until the need for sleep began to take its toll on them all.
Spike pulled Buffy into his lap and nuzzled her neck. "Was gonna go for a run but I could be persuaded to stay in." His cool breath tickled her ear as he spoke.
Cordy slid her slender arms around Angel's neck from behind. Her white teeth nibbled his ear, making him shiver. "I'm tired." Her tone indicated quite the opposite.
He suddenly realized it had been a long time since… He broke off the thought and kissed her fingers. He kept hold of her hand as he stood up and turned to face her. "Yeah, me too." He said huskily. The temperature in the room seemed to shoot up at the promise in his dark eyes.
Faith stood up and dragged Xander from his chair. "Let's go, Lover. Time for bed." She announced brazenly. The former carpenter followed her in a daze, belatedly waving good night just before they disappeared through the door.
Dawn and Jake watched the couple as they departed. Noticing that Buffy appeared none too ready to leave Spike's arms, the teenager looked up at her boyfriend. "Where's Spike's box?" She asked.
Spike's head popped up from his renewed nuzzling of Buffy's neck. "Box? I have box?" He looked at Dawn in confusion. Jake left and returned quickly with the box Buffy had saved. He handed it to his friend with a smile.
Spike recognized the rectangular package. "Oh my God. I thought it was gone. I left it in your basement. Think I knew I wasn't leaving the Hellmouth. I can't believe you kept it." He touched the cardboard with trembling fingers. He pulled the flaps open and rummaged around the contents for a few seconds, giving a small grunt of satisfaction when he found what he was looking for. He removed a small box from the interior and closed the box back up. He held it up, flipping the lid open with his thumb. The slayer gasped when she saw the antique ring inside.
"Buffy, I wanted to give this to you so many times but I never quite found the right moment." Spike's voice shook as she lifted the beautiful heirloom out of the box. He set the box on the table and took the ring. He looked into her eyes. At her nod, he slid it onto her finger. He crushed her to him in happiness before kissing her senseless.
Susan watched the couple enviously. Wesley glanced at her, then took a closer look. He cleared his throat nervously. "May I escort you home?" He asked rather formally.
A brilliant smile lit her lovely face. She nodded wordlessly. She walked over the Spike. He stood up at her approach. "Will."
He smiled and held out his arms. "Susie-Cutie." He said affectionately. He pulled her into a hug. "Don't let the watcher go, he's a good one." He whispered.
She kissed him and pulled back slightly. "Don't plan on it." She smiled.
"Good. Go get 'im tiger." He teased.
She moved back over to take Wesley's arm. "What did he mean?" Wes asked.
"I'll explain it later." She told him with a sparkle in her eyes.
"Oh, well. Lead on then." He smiled. They left amid a round of distracted goodbyes.
Angel and Cordy walked over to Spike and Buffy. Cordy began oohing over the lovely ring while Angel held his hand out to his Childe.
"I can't believe you kept that." Angel told him as they shook hands.
"It belonged to my mum. Wasn't ever going to let it go. Thought I'd lost it." Spike beamed as Buffy and Cordy made appropriate girly noises over the size of the diamond. Dawn and Willow joined them to get a closer look.
Giles joined them and watched the girls in amusement for a moment. Jake thumped his friend on the arm.
"Damn it, Will!" The artist complained.
"What did I do?" Spike wailed.
"You gave her a ring. How are we gonna compete with that?" Angel answered him dourly.
"Not my problem, Poof." Spike smirked while Giles laughed.
The elder Watcher glanced at Spike. "Do I need to give you the required 'father-in-law to be' speech?"
"No, Rupert, I think we covered all that already. I hurt the slayer and the Ripper comes out to make me fit in an ashtray." Spike's sapphire eyes were drawn to Buffy as she held up her hand to make the stone catch the light.
Giles felt a lump come to his throat when he saw the full extent of the love shining in the dark blue depths. He cleared his throat in what he hoped was a threatening sound. "Yes, I believe that just about covers it."