In Need of a Friend
Spike peered through the window and watched the woman fill the kettle and then sit down as she waited for it to boil. He shouldn't be here. He knew that. But he just couldn't help it.
Moving from the window towards the door, Spike glanced nervously around the yard. If the slayer caught him here… With a snarl, he stood up straighter and squared his shoulders.
Stop being a bleeding ponce. If the slayer turns up – I'll just… his shoulders slumped again, get the shite beaten out of me. Most likely.
Before he gave himself the chance to wimp out altogether, Spike sighed and rapped loudly on the back door. As the handle turned, he took a step backwards and began to find his feet very interesting.
"Spike? Is that you?"
Raising his head, he resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He knew he was pretty unforgettable. His beloved duster and bleached hair made people remember him. That and the fact he could usually be found snacking on someone in an alley somewhere.
"Who else, love?"
"I thought you'd gone back to your girlfriend in Brazil. Dolores, wasn't it?"
"Drusilla," Spike corrected wearily. "Her name was Drusilla."
"That's right." Joyce frowned. "You caused a lot of trouble when you came here last time."
"I know, but I'm a vampire, yeah? What seems an okay thing to do for us, isn't for humans – can't help it – 's just my nature."
His body language didn't back up his confident words and he stared down at his scuffed boots again.
"But kidnapping children—"
"Teenagers," interrupted Spike, as if that made it all right.
"Threatening to kill them. You can't just ignore that. Cordelia nearly died!"
"Hey! I don't know any bloody Cordelia! You can't pin that on me!"
"She was Xander's girlfriend and was rescuing him from the factory when the stairs gave out. He was devastated when she refused to see him anymore."
A little thrill ran though Spike as he thought of the pain he'd caused the boy, but when he looked up at Joyce again to his horror his eyes were threatening tears.
Buffy's warning about never trusting the vampire if he showed up again was forgotten and Joyce moved closer to him.
"What on earth is wrong, Spike? You look terrible."
The vampire's skin was so pale as to appear almost translucent, and his sunken eyes were ringed with dark shadows.
"Shouldn't you stay inside? Nice and safe behind your threshold – I'm evil – I could bite you."
"Oh, don't be silly," said Joyce, putting a hand on his arm. "You won't bite me."
"Couldn't if I wanted to," he muttered almost inaudibly.
"What was that?"
"I'm in trouble, Mrs. Summers." He met her eye properly for the first time since she'd opened the door.
Smiling at his formal use of her name, Joyce said, "Well, if you're looking for Buffy, she's not here."
Spike shook his head. "Not looking for her – looking for you." He smiled weakly. "Found you, too, didn't I?"
"Why don't we go inside? It will be more comfortable then standing out in the yard."
She turned and walked into the kitchen. Spike couldn't decide whether the woman had balls for turning her back on a vampire, whether she was just bloody stupid, or whether she had actually heard his earlier words and knew that he was as dangerous as a kitten. Actually, less so because those little buggers could still bite and scratch.
He glanced up to see Joyce looking at him quizzically as she beckoned him to join her.
"Need a bit more of an invite than that – you need to say the words."
"Just come inside, Spike. Your invitation has never been revoked."
"Really?" His eyebrows rose.
"Really, now come inside, I was just about to make myself a cup of coffee – would you like one too?"
Again she turned her back and moved away from the door. Tentatively, Spike stepped inside, not quite believing that he could simply enter the slayer's home like that.
"Sit down," said Joyce as he hesitated.
He gratefully sat on the stool near the counter as Joyce turned the kettle on again. Truth be told, he'd been worried that he might pass out. Absently, he picked at the chipped black varnish on his nails.
"So, what will it be?"
"Um…do you have hot chocolate?"
Smiling, she nodded. "One hot chocolate coming up."
The kettle boiled again and Joyce busied herself making a coffee and Spike's chocolate.
"Oh, Spike, there are some mini marshmallows in the cupboard," she inclined her head to show which one, "if you'd like some."
Spike wobbled as he stood up a little too fast and grabbed at Joyce to keep from falling. Some coffee splashed on her hand, "Spike! Be careful! Ouch! That's hot!"
To her astonishment, Spike let out a cry, flung his hand to his head and collapsed in a heap at her feet. Quickly putting the cups on the counter she knelt beside him.
"Are you all right? Stupid question! What happened?"
Spike rolled onto his back and looked up at her, his tortured eyes making her breath catch in her throat.
"I didn't mean to hurt you," he whispered.
"I know that. And it was only a few drops. It only hurt for a moment."
Closing his eyes at the implication that even the slightest pain caused to a human was capable of making his head sear with pain, Spike couldn't help but tremble.
"Do you think you can get up?"
Spike opened his eyes, began to nod, but though better of it and so muttered, "Yeah." He scrambled to his hands and knees, then refusing Joyce's outstretched hand, for fear of inadvertently holding it too tightly, used the counter to help himself to his feet.
"Come into the living room." Joyce placed a hand on the vampire's back and guided him as he walked unsteadily to the couch. "Now you rest there and I'll get the drinks."
He hitched until he was sitting more or less upright, when Joyce returned with the cups, handing him one before she sat in the nearest armchair. She waited until he had taken a couple of sips, noting how badly his hands were shaking, before speaking.
"So what happened in the kitchen?" she asked gently.
"I made you get scalded."
"It was an accident, but come on, Spike, you know I'm asking about why you yelled out and collapsed."
"I am telling you." The cup suddenly felt too heavy and he set it on the low table to the side of the couch, leaned his head against the back of the couch and closed his eyes. "They've done something to me."
"They?" prompted Joyce, her coffee forgotten as she leaned forwards.
"The soldier boys. They caught me and when I woke up I was in a cell." He shuddered at the memory. "My head was hurting like hell, but I reckoned it was just an after effect from being tasered."
"But it wasn't?"
"No, it really wasn't." He opened his eyes and rolled his head to the side so that he could look at her. Lifting his head off the back of the couch, Spike rubbed a hand over the sore spot that had been present when he'd woken up in the cell. "I think they've put something in my head. I can't hunt."
To her credit, Joyce only paled a little at his declaration. "By hunt, you mean…"
Spike dropped his eyes to his hands wondering why the thought of upsetting Joyce upset him so much. "I'm a vampire. I need blood. Whatever it is that they've done means I can't even slightly hurt anyone let alone bite them."
"So just now…"
"I made you spill the coffee – you got scalded – I got punished for it," he said bleakly.
"When did this happen to you?" asked Joyce.
"I'm not really sure. I-I'm getting a bit confused – haven't slept in case something jumps me. But I think it's a couple of weeks."
"So you haven't…eaten for two weeks?"
He shook his head.
Joyce looked at him for a long time and then sat up straight. "You need to eat. Why didn't you get some animal blood like Angel drinks?"
"Um…honestly? I never thought of that. Been too busy focussing on the whole "the government put something in my head thing" to think straight. I don't want to be like Angel. I just want to be put back to how I was." He cringed a little at his whining tone.
"Well, until we work out a way to reverse whatever they've done to you, you need to eat. You can stay here."
"But the slayer—"
"Is my daughter, but this is my house," said Joyce firmly. "Now just rest there for a moment. I'll get you a bed ready."
For the first time since his escape, Spike allowed himself to relax and was asleep before Joyce left the room.
Being gently shaken woke him up. Disorientated, he vamped out and snapped at the hand on his shoulder before screaming as pain ripped through his head and he fell off the couch with a thud.
"Oh, goodness! Spike, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you," said Joyce.
Panting, Spike looked up, features returning to human as he did. "Sorry, didn't know it was you."
"That's all right. I suppose shaking a vampire awake isn't the most sensible thing to do," said Joyce with a rueful smile.
"I'd never hurt you. Not even if I could."
"I know that, dear. Now can you walk? I've got your room all set out and ready for you."
She led him into the kitchen and down the steps into the basement.
"This is the only room that I knew I could guarantee no sunlight. I hope you find it comfortable enough."
Spike raised an eyebrow at her. "I've lived in a lot worse places than a basement." He glanced around the room and swallowed hard when he saw the cot up against one wall, with blankets and pillows. A stool had been used as a bedside table and a battery powered lantern was on it along with a couple of paperback books. "Um…I didn't mean to put you to any trouble."
"It's no trouble at all. I put the lantern there so you don't have to have the overhead light on all the time. Thought it might be a little bright for your eyes," said Joyce. "Now go and get comfortable and I'll bring you some blood."
"You got me blood?" asked Spike, his stomach growling loudly at the thought of finally being fed. "How long was I asleep?"
"A couple of hours," said Joyce as she walked up the stairs.
Spike went to the bed and sat down; the smell of the freshly laundered bed clothes reminded him of summer in England just after a shower of rain. He took his boots off and the slipped beneath the covers – he hadn't felt warm since he'd escaped.
With a shudder, he recalled the welcome that Harmony had given him when he'd gone to her hoping that she'd help. He heard the faint ping of the microwave and moments later, the scent of warm blood reached his nose. It was nice to be the one being cared for instead of being the carer. He'd loved Dru but at times had felt more like her nurse than her lover.
"I've just done two mugs for now. If you haven't eaten for two weeks, having more may make you ill. Oh, can vampires vomit?" Joyce said giving him one mug and putting the other on the stool.
"Not sure," he replied. "I never have."
"Well, I'll leave you to get more rest. There's more blood in the fridge when you want it."
She was halfway up the stairs when Spike called after her. "I really appreciate this, Mrs. Summers. Thank you. You – you remind me of my mum."
Joyce chuckled. "Call me Joyce and I'll take that as a compliment – even though you're almost a century older than me!"
"She was a lovely lady, was my mum," said Spike softly. "Thank you, Joyce."
She nodded and continued up the stairs, closing the door behind her.
As Spike lay there, his belly full of pig's blood, which he had to admit, didn't taste half so bad as he'd thought it would, he felt safer and more welcome than he had in an awful long time. Even hearing the slayer come in and yell at her mother for letting him in the house didn't worry him unduly. But he would have given anything to have seen the slayer's face when Joyce told her that Spike could stay in the basement for as long as he wanted.
With a contented sigh, he turned onto his side and fell asleep, knowing that he had a safe haven, a home.