Render the Extra Mile

Disclaimer: These characters are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. They do not belong to me.

…..

Chapter 9

As Spike's statement floated over the air in the Summer's breakfast area, an unnatural quiet settled over the room. In response, everyone looked nervously at one another. Buffy leaned over to Giles, who raises his hand to stem her question as he leaned forward to listen to Dawn and Spike. Buffy frowned as she waited, stifled by Giles' hand from discussing the ramifications of Spike's last comment. When the waiting for Spike's next comment had become too tiresome, Buffy decided to take action.

"Spike, who's going to take you back?" Buffy's voice brashly interjected as she took a step behind Dawn to peer around her sister. "Is something dangerous after you? If you put Dawn in danger again, I am going to beat you so hard, you're gonna think that episode with Glory was just a kiddie ride at the fair."

Dawn straightened and looked back over her shoulder at her sister, her irritation clearly displayed to all in the room.

"Buffy!" Dawn snapped at her sister. "Would you stop?"

Dawn gave her sister such a hard look, that Buffy knew she had better keep her mouth shut. Looking around to the adults in the room, she was shocked to see similar expressions on their faces. Buffy cleared her throat and shifted uncomfortably on her feet.

"Dawn, see if you can get Spike to tell us more about who's coming." Giles prompted, looking around Buffy whose face looked like a thundercloud.

Dawn turned her head back to Spike and, taking a deep breath, she tried to recreate the atmosphere between them before Buffy had interrupted. She smiled gently at Spike as she gently laid her hand on his arm.

"Spike, it's alright. You can tell me." Dawn stated as she repeatedly smoothed her hand down Spike's forearm. "Who is coming to take you back?"

At the sound of Buffy's voice, Spike had pressed his lips together and looked away. He looked down as he closed his arms around him in agitation as Dawn laid her hand on his arm. He looked briefly back at Dawn and slowly made a broken sound of "SHHHH" as he could not maintain eye contact with her. He shut his eyes and turned his head away.

"Spike, please." Dawn pleaded, her voice becoming anxious as she went down on her knees beside the vampire's chair. "Please tell me."

Spike slightly raised his head to look up at Dawn with an unsettling calm in his eyes. "Doesn't matter, pet. I won't put up a fuss."

"Spike, I'm not going to let them take you back. You're back home with us now." Dawn said as she grabbed Spike's hand with both of her own. "I won't let them."

Spike's eyes did not register the comfort she was offering, as he continued to sit there unmoving and silent, staring at the floor. Dawn turned back to the Scoobies, looking for help, the distress on her face plainly visible.

"Dawn, perhaps it would be better if we let it lie for right now." Giles noted as his eyes went from Dawn to the vampire in the chair. "I don't think getting upset is going to do anyone any good."

Nodding, Dawn took a step away while trying to contain her ragged breathing. Saying nothing, Buffy placed her arm around her sister as she came closer. Taking a moment, Dawn looked back at the vampire, once she had calmed down slightly.

"I am not going to let anyone take you away, Spike." Dawn declared with such vivid certainty that Scoobies all turned their eyes to her. "They're going to have to go through me and I'm not budging!"

"It won't matter. Payment is past due and they've come knocking..." Spike muttered as he stared at the floor. "Said too much. No more talking."

For the rest of the evening, the mood remained uncertain as everyone's eyes traveled back to the vampire. Dawn sat next to him encouraging him to drink the blood in the mug she had set in front of him. She had pulled up a chair next to him, so she could balance her hand on the back of his chair. All her attention was focused on the reclusive vampire. The mug sat on the table in front of him untouched.

As midnight came and went, Giles, Xander and Anya said their awkward goodnights as they kept glancing to the vampire and the girl sitting at the table. As they left the house, each stated their intention to return the next day. Giles whispered to Buffy his concern about the vampire, but she nodded and patted him on the back signaling that everything had been taken care of.

…..

It was several hours later after everyone had gone to bed that Tara crept quietly into the kitchen for a glass of milk. Unlike Willow who had no trouble dropping off to sleep, Tara had not been able to relax enough to go to sleep. She pulled her mouth back in a grimace as she tried to walk as carefully as she could in order not to disturb the vampire in the basement.

Dawn had begrudgingly put the vampire in the basement at Buffy's insistence. Although Dawn had wanted to put the vampire on the sofa, Buffy used the fact that sunlight would be pouring on the vampire in the morning as the foundation of her argument that Spike belonged in the basement. Dawn reluctantly led Spike down to the army cot the girls had set up for him in the basement. After getting a nod from the vampire promising that he would be there in the morning, Dawn went upstairs to bed.

It was no wonder that Tara had difficulty going to sleep that night; Spike's pain was absolutely tactile to the young empathetic witch. It wore on her so that she was unable to get her mind to relax enough so she could go to sleep. She had spent the last hour tossing next to Willow, who remained steadfastly undisturbed by Tara's calisthenics next to her. Finally giving up, Tara decided that she would go downstairs to the kitchen to get a glass of milk. After replacing the jug of milk back in the refrigerator, Tara turned to pick up the glass of milk from the island. As she turned, something unusual caught her eye through the glass panel on the door. Hesitantly creeping up to the door, Tara peered through the glass to see a figure sitting on the edge of the porch, looking up at the sky.

"Spike?" Quietly opening the door, Tara's voice gently calls out. "What are you doing out here?"

No answer came from the vampire. Seeing the innate loneliness in his posture, Tara felt compassion for the tortured being sitting alone on the edge of the back porch.

"Is it okay if I sit with you?" Tara asked as she carefully pulled the back door closed behind her.

Still no answer came from the vampire. A moment later, Spike turned his head away and gave a small nod. Tara swiftly padded over to the edge of the porch to sit a few feet away from him. For a couple of minutes neither spoke as they sat quietly on the porch. Tara watched the vampire as he stared at the sky. Eventually, following his line of sight, her eyes also went up to the stars.

"It's a lovely night, isn't it?" Tara comments as her gentle voice carries like a soft breeze to the vampire.

"Stars." Spike murmured as if he had rediscovered an old favorite toy from the back of the closet.

"Yeah, you can really see them tonight." Tara commented as she looked back down from the sky to the vampire sitting a few feet away.

"Dru… Dru used to say they talked to her." Spike said, his eyes never leaving the sky.

"Really? What did they say to her?" Tara asked, tilting her head with a gentle expression on her face.

"Mostly nonsense; b...but nice, you know." Spike slightly stammered as he eyes flitted over to her for a moment.

"Yeah, I can understand that." Tara commented and sighed. "It's nice to think that someone is watching over us."

"They're like little pinpricks." Spike said as he tilted his head. Then becoming aware of Tara, he cleared his throat slightly, looking down and admitted. "Don't see them regular."

"Are there no stars where you've been?" Tara asked, as casually as she could.

"Don...Don't know." Spike answered. He then paused and added with a small shrug. "Don't see much."

"Spike, where you've been…I know it's bad." Tara whispered to him.

"You m...manage to suss that out all on your own, pet?" Spike pulled his eyes from the stars down to his hands.

"Would you like to talk about it?" Tara asked as she offered her ear to the vampire.

Spike shakes his head as he does not move his eyes from his hands.

"Okay. We'll just sit here and look at the stars." Tara said without judgment in her tone.

Quiet settled between the two before one of them said anything.

"Thank you." Spike's voice carried over to the witch.

"For what?" Tara asked.

"Letting it be." Spike sighed, as if a great pressure had been taken off him.

"No problem..." Tara acknowledged with a small grin at the vampire.

She slowly moved over closer to the vampire and gently pulled one of Spike's hands over to her. Holding his hand palm up, Tara traced a blessing on his palm and said a few words. Spike watched the witch as she places her hand over his. Raising his eyes to look in her face, she can see his puzzled expression.

"I just asked someone to watch after you." Tara gently closes Spike's palm with her two hands. Spike's eyes momentarily clear and he tilts his head as he looks at her. It was like the old Spike peaked out for an instant and then it was gone again.

"I'm a demon, luv. Don...don't merit help." Spike muttered as he looked back down.

"Shush. My friends do." Tara said as she placed his arm back across his bended knee. "I know what I'm doing."

"You can't consider me…a friend?" Spike uttered in disbelief.

"Yes, I do. Ever since you punched me in the nose and risked hurting yourself." Tara smiled as ducked her head to catch the vampire's eye as she continued. "I never really thanked you for that."

Spike stared at Tara in silence for a few slow seconds. He then slowly retreated back from Tara as he leaned away from her. He started shaking his head as he shut his eyes closed as emotion started to well up in him.

"Shouldn't ...Don't say that." Spike coached himself as he pulled a hand to his forehead and then closing it into a fist that he held there. The back of his fingers pressing into his forehead as he bent his head down.

Tara tilted her head as she watched the vampire wrestle with the impact of what she had just said.

"Spike…" Tara softly entreated the vampire.

"Don't give me anything!" Spike's voice carried the ragged plea as he continued to sit there, unmoving. "It will hurt less when they will take it from me."

"Please, Spike, we're here with you now. You're not going back." Tara tried to comfort the distraught vampire. "Even if they come, we won't let them take you."

"Hands like hammers. Fingers like knives. You try…try to resist. No use. They put you in your place, they do." Spike rambled as he pulled his fist down and clasped it with his other as he rested his elbows on his knees as he tried to collect himself. Then with a breathless laugh, tilting his head toward Tara, he added. "Out of sight, out of mind. Isn't it poetic? Blighted says Mrs Lytton; but I think she understates."

"Who's Mrs. Lytton?" Tara asked, not getting the jest as her face wrinkled in confusion

"Time is slipping. Sometimes in weakness, I think I would like to greet the sunrise and escape them." Spike says wistfully looking at the sky. Taking a deep breath, Spike leaned over and confided. "But then who would they take then for payment? Promises to keep, you know.." He sat back and looked back up at the stars dancing overhead..

"Oh, Spike." Tara placed her hand on his shoulder.

Spike froze for a moment as he felt her hand on his shoulder with mild surprise. He continued to sit there, allowing her hand to remain. Emboldened by the acceptance, Tara leaned her head against his shoulder as the pair continued to look up at the night sky.

...

It was late the next morning, when Spike made his appearance again. He had obviously slept in his clothes which provided the evidence by the sheer amount of wrinkles. Buffy, Tara and Willow were sitting around the island in the kitchen. Dawn who had staked out the basement door like a swat team from the living room jumped forward to greet the vampire as he closed the door behind him.

"Good morning, Spike." Dawn stated as she smiled at him, wrapping her arm around his.

"M…morning." Spike quietly responded, still astounded by the amount of good will being aimed toward him by the teenager.

"You have to be starving. Come on in to the kitchen and we'll get you settled." Dawn said as she pulled the vampire to the kitchen.

"Morning, Spike." Willow said as she set down her coffee mug and offered him a small uncomfortable smile.

"Morning." Buffy flatly stated as she was wiping the countertop with a dishrag.

"Morning, Spike." Tara said softly, as she stood to the side of Willow. Her eyes betraying a new understanding between the two of them.

"Mornin." Spike responded as he eyes flitted between the floor and the women.

Wanting to avoid any more untoward Buffy drama, Dawn pulled Spike over the kitchen table and pushed him into a chair as she returned to get him some blood. Dawn presented the mug to Spike and sat across from him as he dutifully consumed it. When the mug was empty, Dawn volunteered to make a refill which Spike declined.

"So, what are you two going to do today? " Buffy asked as she stood by the entrance from the kitchen, wrestling with the dish towel between her two hands.

"I thought we would just hang around the house today." Dawn responded, looking to the ceiling at her sister's comment. "You know, veg in front of the TV."

"Just to let you know, Giles should be here pretty soon." Buffy stated as she turned to go back into the kitchen. "Oh, by the way, if you want to add anything to the grocery list, I am going to the store this afternoon."

"I'm fine." Dawn called after her sister. "Spike, is there anything you want?"

Spike who kept his eyes on the mug in front of him, almost imperceptive shook his head. Spike slowly got up from the table and walked over to the hallway by the basement door. The four women in the kitchen followed him with their eyes. He turned back to look back at them with a longing in his eyes as if he was about to say something.

Suddenly he was flung back against the wall. Then he was bashed in the wall in front of him as the air was expelled from his lungs. He was instantly flung back against the opposite wall as he seemed to struggle for breath. As he gasped, his arms seemed to be drawn up and pressed over his chest as he fought against an unseen enemy.

"SPIKE!" Dawn called as she flew up from the table to try to reach the vampire. Tara, Willow and Buffy stood frozen as their eyes watched the vampire's battle. As her eye caught the movement from her sister, Buffy flew into action when she saw her sister tear across the kitchen to get to the vampire. Running around the island to halt her sister's progress, Buffy caught her sister midway in the kitchen and held her back by wrapping her arms around her.

As Dawn struggled to pry Buffy's arm in the middle of the kitchen, she screamed when she saw Spike disappear.