Bruises

Chapter 37 – I'm Quick

Spike slowly blinked as Buffy's fingertips trailed across his forehead. He'd finally become vaguely aware of her presence and the fact that they were in motion, but he simply couldn't get his body to respond in any constructive way to the commands of his brain. It was like the wires had been cut somewhere along the line and he was stuck riding along; a passenger in his own head.

He gave up trying to get his body to move and decided to concentrate on what had put him in this state to begin with. His complete shit of a father. 'The son of a bitch beats me, whips me, terrifies, degrades, and humiliates me for almost a bloody year and then has the wrinklies to say he's sorry for it?' He tried to clench his left hand into a fist, but all he managed was a slight twitch of his pinky. 'He's sorry all right. Sorry he got caught and can't get his hands on me anymore. And he wants to give me money?! Thinks he can buy me off?! That I'll forget everythin' that bastard did to me for a bit of dosh?! Well, fuck that and the bloody horse it rode in on. I'll not be bought. I can take care of myself and I can take care of Mum. Even if I have to start sellin' my soddin' body parts, I'll never take a penny from that scum. Never.'

The motion stopped and Spike was a tiny bit aware of Buffy moving away from him and then he was in motion again, bumping and jostling for a bit then tipped for a few seconds before the motion became smoother. He hardly felt himself being maneuvered and lifted before he was laid down on something soft. The bustle in the room barely filtered through his dimmed consciousness and he tried to chase it, tried to make some sense of what was going on around him, but he couldn't. It was like trying to catch smoke, so he gave it up as a bad job and retreated back into his thoughts.

'Angel's Da was right… the whole thing's a ploy. That disgustin' wanker's tryin' to play the ruddy judge… actin' like he's remorseful so the judge'll take pity on him. He's realized how big a hole he dug for himself by blatherin' on 'bout everythin' and now he's tryin' to fill it in a bit. Least Mr. O'Connor didn't fall for it. I'll have to remember to thank him for that if I'm ever in control of my soddin' body again. And what the hell was that wink right at the end? Was he threatenin' me? Warnin' me not to talk? Like that'd make a difference. Accordin' to Faith, he's already told 'em his entire life history and every single thing he'd ever done to me… and planned to do to me… so why threaten me?'

His eyes widened – well, not really, but if he'd been in control of his body then they would have – as the words his father had spoken after the wink flared brightly across his mind. Spike had been so floored by the seemingly heartfelt apology and the incongruous wink that followed it that his brain hadn't registered the rest of what James had said… until now. 'That unbelievable tosser! He can't beat me anymore, so now he's gettin' off on messin' with me! Playin' with my mind! Bloody pillock offers me money then bloody 'apologizes' knowin' what it'll do to me. He's just usin' me the only way he still can and I'm lettin' him. I hurt so pretty he says. That's why he was laughin'. It'll get back to him somehow that I practically swooned like some ruddy chit with a case of the vapors and he'll know he still has control of me. That a few words and a soddin' wink from him can send me sailin' right over the edge. I'm bloody pathetic. The bastard didn't even lay a finger on me and I still collapsed like a cheap foldin' chair.'

He tried to sigh, but only managed a weak gasp that was noticed by only one occupant of the room. 'Not doin' such a bang up job of provin' how strong I can be just now, am I? Don't know why Buffy puts up with me. God knows she could get any bloke she wanted and she goes and picks the most damaged and high maintenance specimen in the lot. Either she's a closet masochist or she's got a heart the size of Jupiter.'

He felt a tear slip out of his eye and track slowly down his cheek. Or he thought he did… could just be something his mind had cooked up, but considering how many times he'd cried over the past week, he sincerely doubted it. 'And here I go with the nancy boy break down again. God… I should just stay here in this place, locked up in my own head. Let 'em stash my worthless carcass in some mental ward somewhere so she can forget about me and get on with her life. A life without some weak, pathetic sod clingin' to her skirts who's only redeemin' quality is his ability to imitate a punchin' bag. She doesn't need me. Nobody needs me. I'm a useless twat that isn't even loved by his own father, much less anyone else.'

With that thought, he let go and stopped trying to fight. He let his mind drift, just letting it float wherever it would for what seemed like ages. Images would flash brightly every so often, making him blink his non-existent eyelids. Some made him smile, some made him laugh, some made him cry, and some made him cringe, but the ones that made him smile and laugh seemed to outnumber the ones that didn't. Several images kept popping up over and over… his mum, healthy and laughing and looking at him with eyes full of love, Angel looking at him with pride when he'd mastered his first throw, Xander welcoming him to the Scoobies, Milly's look of certainty that he'd make her proud, Dawn with a bit of ice cream on her nose, even Willow threatening him with a shovel. But the one he saw the most… the one that kept shouldering the others out of the way to get to the front of the line… it was Buffy. Buffy getting ready to leave for practice with her face lit up in joy because he'd told her he loved her.

The feel of a small hand squeezing his pierced the hazy gray barrier that had been blocking almost everything out and jolted him back to whatever passed for awareness in his current state. Dozens of images of the people in his life flickered past at lightning speed and he reeled, shame suddenly flooding him at how easily he'd given up. He smacked himself in the forehead – metaphorically, of course – as he berated himself for his cowardice. 'You git. What the hell are you doing? You're surrounded by people who care, people who believe in you. You are loved and you are needed and, punching bag imitations aside, you have a lot to offer. You must, if someone like Buffy can love you. And she does. She does.'

Deep down he knew all that – and several people had reiterated those facts to him over the last week – and yet he'd just packed it in with barely a struggle, letting his bastard of a father get the better of him. And that's just not cricket, William James Pratt, so you will get your shite together and you bloody well will not let him win! Those bones running up the middle of your back? That's your spine, you nit. Use it.'

He took a deep breath – again, metaphorically – then gave himself the resolve face to end all resolve faces. 'I can do this. I'll not let him or what he's done to me rule my life any longer. He said I missed it… missed the things he did to me. Well, he's wrong… and I'm going to show him just how wrong he is. He can say whatever he likes, do whatever he likes, laugh himself into a bloody stroke like the nutter he is, but it won't make any difference. I'll be unflappable… untouchable… a man. I'm stronger than he realizes and I have people who love me and will help me stay strong. I'm in control of me… not him. I can do this. I can. Just have to…'

He concentrated with every fiber of his being and squeezed back, clearly hearing the gasp from whoever was holding his hand. Suddenly a flood of stimuli assaulted him – the noise of several people talking quietly in the next room, warmth and slight weight all along his right side, something soft under his head, and his left hand being held tightly by a hand much smaller than his own as he clearly heard, "He squeezed my hand, Buffy! He knows I'm here!"

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Buffy was lying next to Spike, propped up on her elbow as she watched him sleep. He'd come out of whatever that was pretty quickly then had spent almost half an hour assuring everyone that he was fine, just tired. After Tara had done a quick series of neurological tests, checking for cognitive function, he'd thanked them all for their concern and their assistance then Dawn and Buffy had helped him upstairs to his room. Dawn had stood next to him, keeping her arm protectively around his waist as he'd been hugged by everyone, including Lilah. Even Mr. O'Connor had squeezed him in a quick one-armed hug before Buffy had shooed everyone out, only getting Dawnie to leave by promising that they'd both be there when she got home from school the next day and they'd hang out and watch some more Firefly.

She'd been able to tell that he was barely holding himself together, even with the 'muting stuff' sedative coursing through him, as she'd helped him out of his clothes and into his sleep pants. She'd crawled in beside him and tucked them both in, wondering if he was going to talk about it, but he'd just laid there for a long time, silently gazing at her face until his eyes had finally drifted shut.

Suddenly he stiffened, his hands clenching into fists, and he shouted, "No!" Buffy sat up, watching him carefully even as she smiled slightly. This nightmare was different, she could tell. Yes, his muscles were tense and he was trembling, but it was from anger this time and not fear. His voice when he'd shouted had been full of fury and Buffy fervently hoped that he was pouring a fifty-five gallon drum of whoop-ass all over his waste of skin father.

She had to duck when Spike suddenly shot to a sitting position, his fist flying out in a vicious swipe. She kicked the blanket off their legs and dove off the end of the bed, narrowly avoiding a nasty punch that would've probably taken her head clean off. She rolled to her feet and spun to face the bed just as his face twisted into a furious grimace and he launched another full-powered punch, his fist whistling through the air. Uh… yeah. I think it's pretty safe to say that Spike is pissed. Good. Kick his ass, Spike. Make him sorry.

She stood at the end of the bed, watching as he fought the man who'd tormented him for so long, his fists and feet flailing wildly. Her mouth curved into a proud smile when he flipped to his knees and started pounding his fists against the mattress over and over. He was mumbling curses under his breath that were getting steadily louder as he continued to vent his rage on the pillow-top mattress.

A quiet knocking drew her attention and she snagged her robe, shrugging into it as she stepped quickly to the door. She glanced back over her shoulder just as Spike collapsed face first to the bed, his fists still pounding weakly into the soft surface. She pulled the door open and slipped through the crack, coming face to face with her worried parents. She held a finger to her lips then whispered, "He's ok. He's having a nightmare where he's beating the crap out of something… hopefully his dad."

Giles reached for his glasses then smiled sheepishly when he realized he wasn't wearing them. "He is acting out physically? While still asleep?"

Buffy nodded. "Yeah, but it's cool. The mattress might end up with a few bruises, but yeah… he's ok. He'll be ok."

They both nodded and Joyce whispered, "Just keep out of his way until he wakes up, Buffy. He'd be devastated if he hurt you, even accidentally."

Buffy pulled them into a quick hug. "I know. I'll stay out of range and just watch until he's done with the pummeling." She let them go and gripped the doorknob. "I'll yell if I need anything. Love you guys."

She slipped back into Spike's room and moved quickly toward the bed. Spike was laying flat on his belly, breathing hard as he gripped the rumpled sheet tight in his fists. She stopped just out of range in case he decided to start swinging again and whispered, "Spike?"

He raised his head just enough to turn his face toward her and opened his eyes. "Yeah."

"You ok?"

"I will be." He turned his head, pressing his forehead into the mattress. "I will be." He slowly released the sheet and pushed his torso up, raising himself to his knees. He looked around at the twisted bedding and the divots his fists had left – mostly on Buffy's side of the bed – then his eyes widened and his gaze snapped to Buffy. "Oh God, I didn't hurt you, did I? Please tell me I didn't hit you."

Buffy sat down on the edge of the bed and reached out, lightly laying her hand on his knee. "You came close, but I'm quick. I'm fine, Spike. I'm fine."

He pulled her tight against his chest for a few seconds then pushed her back, closely looking her over. "You're sure?"

"I am. I was awake when the nightmare started so I was able to get out of your way when you started wailing on him. It was your Dad you were pounding on, wasn't it? And you completely wrecked him, right?"

Spike nodded as he dropped his gaze to the bed. "Yeah. I beat him worse than he'd ever beaten me. Kept hitting him even when it was obvious he wasn't getting up. I couldn't stop, Buffy, I couldn't stop." He looked up at her with haunted eyes. "What kind of person does that make me? I'm just like him, aren't I? Just as demented, just as sick."

Buffy wrapped her arms around him and pulled him into a tight hug. "It was a dream, Spike. You're nothing like him. You didn't hit him because you like hurting people. You fought back against someone who was hurting you. You'd never do the things he did… NEVER… because that's not you. You're a good person, in spite of everything that's happened to you, you're still a good person."

Spike wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her tight. "Yeah." He pushed her back and looked her over again. "You're sure I didn't hurt you?"

Buffy leaned close and kissed him gently. "I'm sure. The bed might be a little sore in the morning, but I'm fine." She leaned back and nodded toward the scattered pillows. "Think you can sleep some more? We've still got a few hours before I have to get up for school."

He nodded and they both climbed off the bed to straighten the bedding and put the pillows back in their original positions. When everything was fixed, they climbed back in and Buffy snuggled up to Spike, wrapping her arm over his waist as she laid her head on his chest. He pressed a light kiss to the top of her head and whispered, "I love you, Buffy."

She murmured, "Love you, too, Spike."

He lay there quietly until her even breathing signaled that she'd fallen asleep. His own eyelids were drooping and trying to close, so he kept pinching himself hard on the inside of his thigh as he fought against slumber. He had to stay awake, stay alert. He wasn't safe to be around as long as he could be taken over by his nightmares. His pinches got fewer and further between as sleep snuck up on him and his hand dropped off his leg and thumped to the mattress.