What to Expect
What to Expect, Part Two
Buffy's shadow-filled front porch must be heaven. . . not that I will ever know heaven unless it's heaven on this great green earthly plane.
She drove an SUV straight back to her house from my crypt, using a bloody umbrella to get me to the car. My hand almost went up in smoke when the breeze took hold of the underside of the shade, but Buffy closed her palm over my fingers and took care of that little danger straight away. She met my eyes in that instant but looked away again almost as quickly. . . same as she's been doing since she snuck into my tomb and woke me. And although my leg hurt like a bugger, she managed to take away every ounce of pain by simply being ever present at my side. . . assisting me from the crypt to the auto and from the auto to the porch.
Now that we've ascended the steps to her porch, she steps away. I'm left wobbly and confused. The blanket she used to cover me in the car falls from my shoulders to the floorboards.
What am I doing here?
My head hurts, my ribs ache, and my foot feels like it might fall off any second, and I can't begin to count the small cuts and bruises that envelop my skin.
This must be a dream. . . another worthless pipe dream about the unwelcome Slayer who haunts the hallways of my heart.
Not a dream.
Having opened the door to her home, she stands poised in the doorway, looking at me as if she's lost her voice. Maybe I'm unsure because she is. I don't know.
Fundamentally, I know that we are different creatures with dissimilar motivations but the uncertainty is the same. . . the feelings are alike.
Tilting my head to one side, I squint my one non-blood-tinged eye at her and hobble forward to lean against the doorframe. I'm too worn out to hide my fatigue.
Her green eyes flash with memories, and I immediately know what she's remembering. . . .
She regards me. . . cool confidence slightly more cracked than in the past. . . inwardly shattered by the infestation that is Angelus.
Any other night, I would have used her vulnerability against her, but tonight, I have my own agenda. Any other night, a stake would have already penetrated my heart, but she has her own agenda as well.
We both want Angelus dead. I'm not sure if I should be flattered or insulted that the plan does not include killing me.
"Come in, Spike." To my surprise and chagrin, there's a form of trust in her words.
My eyes flick to present-day Buffy. She's definitely a changed Buffy. . . less naïve. . . harder but somehow more vulnerable.
"What?" Did she already ask me inside? If a vampire doesn't hear the invitation to enter a dwelling, is the invite still valid?
Keeping her gaze locked with mine, she steps backward into her house. Tentatively, I follow, arms tingling in anticipation of being knocked to the ground by the mystical barrier she recently erected.
And somehow, I can't believe she's allowing me back.
My ankle caves without warning, and excruciating pain shoots up through the muscles to my brain, sending sparklies dancing across my vision. Gritting my teeth, I hold back the cry pressing through my lips.
Buffy grasps my arm to prevent my inevitable collapse and ushers me to the sofa.
She kneels at my feet, pulling up the bottom of my jeans to untie my boots. Still overwhelmed, I hardly notice when she slips the boot and sock away from my foot. With a tenderness I never would have expected, she prods and touches and inspects my ankle with slender, warm fingers.
Funny how naked I feel with just one shoe gone.
"I think it's broken," she finally concludes.
"It's probably just been twisted, pet," I insist, ever defiant.
"It needs to be set before it heals funny. . . not that I wouldn't mind hobble-some Spike. Make you easier to keep track of if you were all limp-y." She's keeping her voice even. . . light.
"I can set it myself." Bloody hell, woman, I just need to go back to sleep.
She lifts an eyebrow at me. "Second rule of Slayer wound care: set broken bones ASAP. I assume the same holds true for vampire bones."
I match her toe to toe. "Vampires aren't like Slayers in all ways, pet." I think I might have made the opposite argument at some point, but I can't recall.
"You're right; they're monsters."
I recall my little conversation with Xander before Glory snatched me up. Really, what do I care what that whelp of a man thinks anyway? Yet. . .
I'm not a monster.
Yes, you are a monster! Vampires are monsters. They make monster movies about them!
Well, yeah, you got me there.
And with that, she grasps my ankle and sets the bone.
Agony reigns, and this time I can't bite back the scream.
An immeasurable amount of time passes before I can focus properly again, and the first thing I do is glare at the petite woman sitting beside me.
"Do you think I should have warned you?" Her brow furrows in worry.
"You think?" I meant to use a harsher tone of voice, but the words barely come out. My ankle aches. For the first time, I'm glad I don't have circulation or my whole leg would be throbbing.
Buffy presses something cold, wet, and smooth into my hand.
"Drink," she commands.
"Fellow gets banged up, and the first thing you do is. . ."
"Set his broken bones for him so his bones don't grow together back together all backwards?"
"Yeah." The corner of my mouth pushes up despite my attempts to maintain my scowl. "Thanks."
Although she tries to hide her feelings, she seems startled as if she can't fathom how a vampire could be grateful for something. "You're welcome," trips out of her mouth before she can restrain herself.
Then, she throws me off. Standing to her feet, she towers over me. "Lay down."
Setting the untouched drink aside and sprawling back, I can't help myself, "Like to be on top, do you?"
A wall slips back into place, and her face is impassive. Well, that didn't take much, did it? Way to go, Spike.
"That was uncalled for." Now that's quite different from her usual reaction. Normally, I'd have a stake over my heart and some vague, unsubstantiated threats thrown at me.
"What else did you expect?" Digging myself deeper and deeper.
She picks up a pair of scissors. She meets my eyes earnestly. "I don't know."
Maybe she expects to have Soldier Boy here. . . all puppy-eyed and tortured by Glory. . . in need of her ministrations. Somehow, that bothers me, but I can't exactly explain why.
The force of her gaze silences me. . . but not for long. "What're you doing, pet?"
She lifts up the bottom of my shirt, and in doing so, her fingertips brush over my lower abdomen. My body reacts automatically. I inhale sharply but cover just as quickly, "Ow. Watch it."
"You say nothing to getting your bone set but complain when I lift up your shirt?"
I grin sheepishly. "Yeah, well, the shirt lifting hurts. 'Sides what about my privacy? You ever heard of personal space?"
"Baby," she teases, eyes sparkling with humor.
She opens the scissors and proceeds to cut off my shirt. "You got some pretty bad wounds under there. You need to get out of the shirt before your skin grows together with the cotton," she informs me.
She's right. I've just been too exhausted to do anything to take care of myself. I don't really relish the notion of picking fibers out of my skin later. "Right, love," I acquiesce. "Go ahead."
The Slayer uses her hip to push my legs to one side. As she does, she notices the sofa, and a faint spark of sorrow flickers across her features. I recall vaguely that Dawn said Buffy found her mother dead on this very couch.
I can't exactly say that I know much about what she went through, but I can imagine how she felt when she found out her mum was sick. My mum was sick once, too. "Thank you."
She acts confused, "For what?"
Surrendering myself to the contradictory icy sliver of the scissors and the heat of her hands, I try not to groan with desire. Swallowing my hunger, I say, "For this. You didn't have to do it, you know. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
"I know." The tip of the scissors grazes the soft underbelly of my jaw.
She says nothing more, so I fall silent myself, wondering what her actions mean. I know perfectly well that she expected the Soldier Boy to be laying here on this couch. . . or Angel. Maybe she supposes that if she studies me close enough, she'll find a little bit of Mr. Soulful in me, being that he's technically my grandsire and all.
Maybe the kiss was all about memories of kissing Angel. . .
A bright flash of anger races through my brain, and I almost jerk away from her at the same time as she begins peeling off my blood-caked shirt.
"Hey," she whispers with a mix of trepidation and wonder. "What happened here?"
The anger drains away, and I lift my head a bit to watch her feather touch the stab wounds on my chest. I wince at the vibrant memory of Glory burying her claws in my flesh and peeling up layers of skin.
"Hell goddess dug her fingers into me, trying to find out about the Nibblet."
She reaches for her doctor's kit then, and as she turns her head from me, I notice the sheen in her eyes. I blink and stare again. Must have been my imagination.
"I'm sorry," she says, clicking open the box and pulling out antiseptic, medicine, and gauze.
I have no reply, so I merely watch her and relish the heat of her body next to mine. Despite the recent dampening of her spirit, she warms me as no sun ever could.
After applying the alcohol with a puff of white over each of the wounds, she patiently blows on my burning skin, sending drafts of her breath to tantalize my senses. Then, she dips her finger into the cool cream and deposits little refreshing oases over the deepest injuries. The bandages come next, and as she applies the last bit of tape, I realize I've forgotten about the pain in my ankle.
She pats my stomach with her clean hand and smiles at her work. "There."
Now, I find myself having to ask. Call me sick in the head. . . and heart, but I have to know. Willing her to raise eyes to meet mine, I steady my voice, risk laying my hand atop hers, and ask, "Why?"
Green collides with blue, and she stammers, "Why what?"
"Why did you kiss me?"
"Who kissed Spike and what the hell is the evil undead doing in Buffy's living room?" a masculine voice bellows from the doorway, rising in volume with each syllable.
Buffy practically jumps to her feet, spilling the tubes and rolls in her lap to the ground. As if magnetized, I sit up, ripping extra tears of pain through my body.
The whelp, the witch and the little sis stand in the living room doorway.
None of them are smiling.