Clark was pacing in the hallway, teeth clenched, trying not to eavesdrop on Buffy. Obviously this was easier said than done what with the teen's super hearing.
She couldn't get herself to move as he got in the shower. Neither one of them had uttered a word, the memories of what had happened between them in that room still much too raw.
Buffy had turned on the shower herself as he painfully stripped off his dirty and bloody clothes.
She expected to be bombarded with flashes and feelings from that day but got nothing. She felt anxious and uneasy and the loud buzzing of the floodlights felt like it was coming from inside her head. She couldn't stop staring; it was too surreal.
He didn't look the same to her. He didn't feel the same. He was weak and thin and pale in a way that made her think he was ill. He looked so tired. He hobbled into the tub and she finally allowed herself to take a full breath and swallow.
After a few minutes she stopped searching. There was obviously nothing either of them could say.
As she nervously looked around the room, she unconsciously picked up his clothes, catching a look at herself in the mirror. That was ludicrous; she wasn't going to do his laundry, not after what had happened. Not ever. She was just going to have to stand there until he was done because she couldn't seem to get herself to move beyond the broken door.
"How are you healing?" She ventured, her voice squeaking.
He turned the shower off and stepped out, struggling on his broken leg.
"I'm not," he answered through clenched teeth, watching the towel she had given him turn pink.
"You have any blood back at the crypt?"
"Clem bought some. I haven't…. yet."
They stood there staring at each other, the intimacy of their situation weighing heavily.
"I have to go to work," she said, shaking her head to get back to reality. She took one last look at him and walked out.
Clark met her in the hall.
"Chloe'll be okay. Pete's in there with her now."
"Great," she said curtly, barely registering Clark had even spoken. "Look, he needs blood, lots of it; I need you to go to his crypt. It's in the cemetery we were in earlier."
"Which one is it?"
"You can't miss it, Clark, it's the one with the fridge," she told him without humor.
"Right. Buffy?" He said tenderly, grabbing her arm as she walked past.
"See the uniform? I have to go to work," she reiterated, not turning to meet his gaze. She snatched her bag from her room and ran out of the house trying her damnedest not to burst into tears.
Clark had stayed away after saving her, again. She could hear him pacing the hall, every step he took resonating in her head. She was glad when he finally stopped.
Pete was, of course, trying to convince her to leave. It would have been annoying had she not been privy to the fact that he was in love with her; now, his deep and genuine concern for her wellbeing was touching.
She still wanted to throttle him for keeping his mouth shut though, but that was beside the point.
Needless to say there was no way she was going to leave, at least not until she understood what was going on. Her heart was still beating wildly and she was very queasy. This type of brush with death was not exhilarating like going after a story you know could get you in hot water.
It had been extremely frightening.
She needed to have at least a semblance of control over herself and the situation and she needed to try to keep things in perspective. How else would she be able to be the kind of journalist she wanted to be? She would have to go against heads of corporations and politicians and famous people and their posses.
She heard the bathroom door crash to the ground, followed by a strangled: 'bloody hell'. She watched the vampire named Spike slowly walk past the room, a tiny towel wrapped around his waist, dirty clothes tucked under his arm. He was limping and bleeding everywhere. He didn't even glance her way.
She was going to get the truth out of them if she had to move in.
At first she was alternating thinking about Spike and the fact that Clark's nosy friend had been the target of an attack but when she burnt herself walking past the grill for the third time, she had to push it all out of her mind. She had to get through this one day. And wasn't that the story of her life? One day at a time- one moment even, sometimes?
She was to never take something for granted. Nothing was ever sure or certain or what it seemed. She would never have anything figured out and she would just have to ride the wave… It seemed lately all she was doing was trying to let go. Of grudges, of feelings, of pre-conceived notions, of dreams and of a lot of the rules she had been trying to follow. She needed to break free off all that was holding her back from being okay with herself and what she REALLY did for a living. She just would have to learn to appreciate the adventure, to live on the fly. She needed to think outside the box and fashion her life to fit her (own) needs.
When she dropped an order of drinks bumping into the manager she knew she would have to do better at not thinking.
As the sun came up and more and more people appeared for their morning double-egg-muffins and coffee her mind went on autopilot. This was the last day of her double life. She'd have the rest of her debt-filled existence to over-think.
Pete was pretty much resigned to his fate. He had no choice but to stay in the freaky-ass town filled with supernatural psychos. Nothing he could do about it. The glint in Chloe's eyes had returned and now made her look almost frightening. She kept saying "Vampires Pete! Real ones! Do you know what this means?" and he kept resisting the urge to say "yeah, it means we're dead". She kept asking him questions about what he though of it and taking notes. He knew she was imagining herself breaking the story for the world. Of course, she not only wanted to tell the world but she wanted to prove it with science, witness accounts and have an exclusive interview with the real thing. She wanted to know about government and law-enforcement cover-ups. About demons and slayers and cemeteries.
He didn't have anything against the blonde dude saving his girl, but he was not happy about how giddy the idea of an interview with him made her. She didn't forget about the dangers, but dismissed them completely. This could turn out as badly as her uncovering something about Lionel Luthor- maybe it was selfish, but he liked his friends alive.
Clark snuck back in the house after breaking into Spike's crypt. Clem had been very helpful. His red eyes and fangy teeth were a little hard to get past at first but since Clark had caught him shedding a tear while watching the Virgin Suicides he figured Buffy had been right with the 'harmless'. He could not believe the kind of things he'd been doing recently; and of his own free will. He knocked on the door to the basement and started down the stairs.
"Unless you want to see a naked vampire I suggest you go fetch me something to wear."
"Already picked up a few things. They seemed clean enough," he said bounding down the last steps.
Spike was still bleeding and naked, and the washing machine was making a sound that he had never heard any appliance make before. He looked at the clothes he had brought and looked back at Spike. He blushed when Spike leered at him, holding out his hands so Clark could get a good look.
Clark shook his head and turned around. "Hey, I'm sure you're cute and all, but I was looking at the blood not the body. I figured you wouldn't want to put on the clothes I brought you till after you'd eaten and healed a little," he explained, handing the blond the blood he had picked up.
He could hear Spike slurping quite loudly and tossing the bags aside. The vampire finished them all in under 2 minutes, although it seemed like an eternity to the alien.
When Clark turned to face him Spike was still in game face, licking the remaining plasma off the plastic of his last bag.
Clark held out the pile of clothes and Spike took them, quickly getting them on.
"So… is there a reason you're still here?" Spike asked him.
"Yeah, look, I don't know how to thank you."
"What?" Like that was the last thing he thought he'd hear from the boy.
"Look you saved Chloe tonight and for that I have to thank you," he said uncomfortably. "I should have known she couldn't resist the temptation to uncover things on her own. Well actually I did know that, I'm just surprised she went off half-cocked like that," he said, then reconsidered. "Well, maybe I'm not surprised."
Spike was going to unleash a scathing comment about the reason the girl was out there in the first place but recognized the boy was not only sincere, but taking responsibility. The kid had no idea why the girl had left the house it seemed, "she saw you in a rather intimate moment with our fair Buffy… Luckily for you I'm not the murderous fiend I was."
"Oh look, we didn't- I mean… We're friends."
Spike scoffed. "You're not friends. You can't be friends. Nobody can be just friends with her. She ensnares every male she meets! We have no control." Clark thought Spike was done, but he continued, his voice just above a whisper. "She creeps in, uninvited, and touches something inside us that makes us something other than ourselves, or maybe more ourselves than ever. She makes us all believe in something. Makes us see the world as less then hopeless. She doesn't understand her power. She just gets us. She gets us so we would do anything to be recognized by her. To be validated. She gets us so we want to crawl inside her."
Clark had moved aside to let Chloe down the stairs. Spike was having a moment and he didn't feel right interrupting. Clark was wondering though, was it really like that with all the males? And was what they shared not special? All the things they have in common, how much they understand each other? How much he wanted her to be… his home maybe. He shook himself out of it as Chloe came to stand in front of Spike.
"Ew, you want to crawl inside her?"
She told the manager about her abrupt departure on her lunch break and after her shift ended, shut her locker for the last time. She opted to walk home to give herself more time.
God knows the mess she would find back at the house.
Chloe wanted to ask the vampire about Sunnydale, but he looked like he was stuck on Buffy, and that served her just as well. Clark had stayed with them, clearly playing bodyguard. He knew she had a tape recorder hidden in her shirt pocket, and he couldn't really do a thing about it.
Spike was sitting sideways against the wall, smoking an old crooked cigarette. His hair was mussed and he kept pushing it back. He looked almost drunk from the blood-loss. His shirt and pants were too tight to wear over wounds and his broken leg was not even close to healing. He had put his towel over his privates and kept talking like his state of undress meant nothing.
"You see, pretty boy, we're all in the same boat. You feel like no one understands you more than she does, and you want to make things easier for her. Lift her burden. Hang on to her till she can't live without you. Except that she can, and will. Look at Xander, well, he'll never get to touch her but he'll spend his short insignificant little life pining over her. And G.I. Joe… That complete git will think of her every time he takes a demon down but does she ever really think of him? And Angel, please! He's probably still brooding about her as we speak. Oh, my true love sent me to hell! Oh, I killed a bunch of people after we shagged and we can never be happy! Oh, start the bloody violin music and hand me a barf bag." The vampire went quiet with contemplation after that. Clark didn't know what to say.
"What about you?" Chloe asked, taking a seat next to the blond.
"I'm beneath her," he whispered. "Way beneath her."
"You're still bleeding," Clark offered. The vampire looked like he was sweating and had a green tinge to him that really unsettled Clark.
"I'm hungry. I need blood. A lot of blood."
"You could have some of mine," Chloe offered, but Clark caught her arm and pulled it away from Spike. "Well, the guy's gotta eat and it's not like I'll turn into a vampire, right?"
Spike had gone to game face, the idea clearly getting to him. He was looking down, ashamed.
"You wouldn't, but don't; I need it so much, I can't be sure I could stop myself in time."
"If I go get some blood, Chloe, promise me you won't do anything stupid out of curiosity. Please?"
"Fine, whatever. Oh my God, what happened to the washing machine?" She asked when the thing made thrashing noises, sputtered and shut down. "Did you put your boots in there?
Clark came back a few minutes later with blood bank blood. Chloe was still trying to get Spike talking, while also trying to figure out how the washing machine could be salvaged.
For a practically skeletal and starving man, getting him to drink human blood was proving difficult. Clark couldn't argue he knew much of how vampires worked, but he didn't understand the big deal.
"I don't need it," he kept saying. "I'm stronger than that."
"You're withering away. The blood is pooling around you and expect us to just stand here?" Chloe finally said. "You saved my life. You said you needed blood. Take it."
Spike was getting woozy. His head had not been easy to keep upright and it finally fell against the wall to rest. His eyes closed. He didn't want to be weak. He didn't want to be pathetic. A chipped vampire with a soul who can't pay for anything or feed himself… He was a disgrace. He should have had the dignity to end his own life. Go out in a blaze like a man. Now he sees them, all the faces. Now he hears them, all the screams. With his eyes closed he can just make out his mother singing a song. His mother whom he killed. His own mother.
When Clark ripped the first package open and the smell hit his nostrils he knew his face had changed by the gasp it elicited and the heartbeats in the room speeding up. He whispered "don't tell Buffy" before he let Clark pour the life-saving red stuff down his throat. He couldn't be sure that they heard.
He moaned and took hold of another packet. Clark stepped back and pulled Chloe with him.
Pete was fixing himself a sandwich when Xander and Dawn walked in, laughing and teasing each other. They stopped when Pete dropped the pot of mayonnaise and it splattered all over the floor.
"Well, that's not good," Xander said, getting a mop to clean up the place.
"Oh, yeah. I'm an idiot," Pete said.
Xander moved his hands in front of Pete's face. "I think he's broken."
Dawn smiled and stared right back at Pete.
"Ah Dawnie, he thinks you're super cute and stuff."
"Well, he's not so bad himself."
"Teenagers. Looking at linoleum makes them hot."
"Ew Xander. What are you taking about?"
"So that was just me? Hum."
They all smiled. Pete could barely lower his eyes to pick up the broken mayo pot.
While Xander took the trash out to the curb Dawn went directly to the refrigerator.
"So, what's up?" She asked, eying some funky looking yogurt.
"Your sister's at work and there's a vampire in the basement."
"Welcome to my life."