Title: Tainted Blood
Spoilers: Up to "Normal Again"
Summary: Set directly following the events of "Normal Again." Spike is sick, and when the gang finally figures out that only Buffy can save him, she has to decide how valuable Spike is to her.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. They belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and UPN.
Author's note: This is my first actually FINISHED Buffy Fanfic. It's more of a Buffy/Spike
friendship piece than an actual romance
Spike was distinctly out of place in the meticulously clean hospital waiting room. A few nurses and orderlies in green and blue scrubs gave the tall, pale man in a beat-up black jacket a strange look as he tapped his foot impatiently while waiting in line for the pay phone, but none of them risked getting close enough to shoo him out.
After making sure that the doctors staffing the emergency room understood how seriously Buffy was hurt, and giving them a story about having found her that way, he was faced with the most unpleasant task of calling her 'family' – Willow, Tara, and Dawn. The phone barely had time to ring once before Willow's edgy, frantic voice answered.
"Willow? This is Spike. I think you'd all better come down to the hospital," was all he said. Willow responded by placing the phone back on the hook. Spike nodded to himself. They would come quickly. Willow didn't have to say anything to assure him of that.
Spike stared longingly across the invisible barrier that seemed to have been erected in the hospital waiting room. He was alone on his side, while a few feet away, Tara and Willow sat close together, hands intertwined. Dawn dozed lightly, her head resting on Tara's shoulder. None of them had said a word to Spike since they had arrived, and only Dawn had been able to look him in the eye, and then only for a moment.
They don't blame you, he tried to tell himself. They know you did all you could for her, and they know it was her choice to... do what she did. Still, the silence that imposed itself between him and Buffy's friends told him otherwise. Buffy was in danger, and he was the cause. The weight of it threatened to crush him, and he wanted nothing more than to have several good stiff drinks and end up crying until he fell asleep and it didn't hurt anymore. However, to do that, he would have had to leave the hospital, and there was no power on the earth that could have made him walk through those doors. He liked to think he was being there for Dawn, letting her see that her sister's sacrifice had done something... but even more he wanted to be there when Buffy woke up. To talk to her, to somehow tell her how much it meant to him that she had chosen to let him live.
The doctor that had gone with Buffy into the inner rooms of the hospital reappeared, and Spike was on his feet. The others followed his lead, and the doctor found four very concerned friends of his patient surrounding him.
"Your friend is going to be fine, but I am very concerned about her. As I told you when you brought her in," he said, addressing Spike, "I strongly believe that her wounds were self inflicted. This was a suicide attempt, folks." They all knew better, and Dawn took advantage of her youthful lack of tact and interrupted him.
"Can we see her?" she asked.
"She is awake, but she's only asking for her sister," the doctor told them. "Which one of you is Dawn?"
Dawn timidly raised her hand, stepped forward, and followed the doctor through the doors. Willow and Tara, looking a little disappointed, sat back down. Spike simply stared at Dawn's back, too hurt to respond.
"Spike," Tara called his name softly. "Come sit with us." She patted the chair right next to hers. He took her up on her offer, and even smiled a little when Tara lifted her free hand and held onto his.
"She's asking for 'Spike' now," the doctor announced, having hurried through the waiting room on his way to see another patient. "I would like it better if she would get some rest, but was quite upset when I suggested you wait."
"Guess I'd better go calm her down, then," Spike said, and laughed bitterly. The doctor gave him an odd look, but led him to Buffy's room anyway. They passed Dawn in the hallway, and she gave him a bright smile and a thumbs up. Niblet's happy. That must be a good sign.
Hospital rooms, Spike decided, had to be some of the most depressing, ugly places that humankind had ever come up with. Like much of the rest of the hospital, the room that Buffy occupied was painted a horrid, dingy green, which seemed to make the bright metal of the machines that whirred and beeped around her even more ominous. Buffy lay in the stark white bed with one arm wound in bandages and an IV connected to her other wrist. She had the pale, anemic look of one who had lost a lot of blood, and her eyes were red and puffy.
She said nothing when she realized he was standing in the doorway. Instead, she lifted her eyes to meet his, and the two of them stayed locked in an uncomfortable silence until at least a minute had clicked by on the noisy clock mounted on the wall.
"The doctor said you wanted to see me," Spike finally said. "The least you could do is say something." Buffy blinked and looked hurt, and Spike was immediately sorry. That had come out more angrily than he had intended it to.
"And what did you want me to say?" she shot back, summoning enough inner fire to be annoyed.
"You could start with telling me why..." he indicated himself, "why I'm still here. I didn't mean to be cross with you, Pet, but I don't understand. You could have been rid of me. You could have freed me from my pitiful existence once and for all. But you didn't." He broke eye contact and looked down at his shoes. "Thanks."
"You're welcome," Buffy murmured. It seemed like a silly, inconsequential thing to say, but she could think of nothing better. Spike's sudden switch from anger to contrition had thrown her off balance. "I should be thanking you, Spike. You got me here."
"I couldn't do any less. You know that," he reminded her. She was silent for a long time as she studied the intense, hopeful expression on his face.
"I remember, you know. The choice you gave me. I wanted to tell you... that I appreciated it – being able to make my own decision. It was a really... human thing to do." And it let me know that I'd done the right thing, Buffy added to herself. Any creature that could so unselfishly let something it loved go MUST deserve to live.
"Just wanted you to be happy," Spike said simply. Buffy took a deep, ragged breath, and he saw the tears start to fall down her face.
"I know," she whispered. He touched her cheek.
"Don't cry, Luv," he said gently, and when her eyes met his, she saw the overwhelming, unconditional love that she always found there. She shook her head. He's already starting to get the wrong idea, she thought. I have to explain before I hurt him more...
"Spike, I know you want me to tell you that I saved you because I loved you..." Buffy started to say.
"I'd rather you told me the truth," he said, but the place where his beating heart should have been felt as if it had turned to ice. He steeled himself for the unpleasant shock of reality he knew was coming.
"When I let you drink from me... it was because I didn't want to lose a friend. I couldn't imagine not having you around," she admitted. "I mean, who would look after Dawn when I couldn't? Take me to play weird kitten poker? Give me the lowdown on the demon underworld?" It was now her turn to look away. "Who would listen to me when no one else could accept what I was saying?" Seeing the doubtful look on his face, she insisted, "We are friends, Spike. Friends take care of each other, listen to each other. You do that for me, even if I don't always see it..." She waited for him to throw back some sarcastic comment about how they could 'never be friends,' but none was forthcoming. He simply nodded in understanding.
As he rose to leave, Spike kissed her lightly on the forehead and whispered, "Get some rest, friend of mine."