Five Words or Less
A/N: My final exams make Angelus seem as nice as Clem. :'(
Couple random things: I changed the genre to Hurt/Comfort and Romance, since the story has meandered in that direction. To stay true to the characters, the Spuffy fun in the last chapter has to backpedal a bit. I know, I know. Fret not, more Spuffy smoochies will occur soon enough. ;)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. This chapter draws on "Shadow", "Crush", and a tiny bit from "Intervention".
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Well, things heated up quickly for a certain grieving Slayer and a certain bruised up vampire. But now Buffy has to rush Joyce off to the hospital for her C.A.T. scan, and Spike is left hiding in the Summers basement. And when Riley's not thrashing Spike, he's secretly prostituting out his blood at a vampire dump, but only Spike knows about that.
Chapter 6: Secrets
As she walks across the hospital waiting room and hands her little sister a soda, Buffy can't stop thinking about Spike. She'd never really considered how a vampire's undead body would react to being beaten up, since the vampires she fights are dusted long before they have time to bruise. Sure, she'd made his nose bleed plenty of times, but that was nothing compared to how he'd looked this morning, beaten to within an inch of his unlife. The violet marks as the blood pooled beneath his ivory skin, the vicious gashes where Riley's pounding fists had ripped his face apart, his angular cheekbone shattered and reddish-purple . . . the coppery taste of his icy lips . . . No! Bad thoughts! Do not think about Spike's lips!
"What's a CAT scan , exactly?" Dawn asks in a hollow voice.
"What?" Buffy looks over at her, distracted. "I . . . I'm not sure. An X-ray, I guess."
"But where'd they get 'CAT' scan from?" she continues, fidgeting. "I mean, did they test it on cats, or does the machine sort-of look like a cat?"
"Dawn . . ." begins Buffy, but the look in her sister's brown eyes reflects her own fear. Instead of insisting for her to be quiet, Buffy drapes her arm around Dawn's shoulders and sips her soda. The silence scares them both, so Buffy broaches the topic she'd been unable to bring up while their mom was in the car with them.
"I know what you think you saw, but you have to believe me when I said nothing happened with Spike. You do believe me, right?" Buffy asks tentatively.
"If you say so," the teenager grins wickedly. "Just kissing and groping . . ."
"There was no groping!"
"So there really was kissing?"
"Dawnie, please, this is not a joke. It . . . it was an accident. He . . . he was just . . . there. I needed someone to talk to about Mom being sick, and he . . . he listened. It was nice."
"Plus he was covered in sexy wounds . . ."
"I won't tell Riley, promise! Sacred Summers sisters promise!"
"Dawn, if Summers girls were good at keeping secrets, you wouldn't even know that I'm the Slayer. Last night . . . I was just really fragile about Mom, and I kinda . . . didn't think about what I was doing. But I don't have any feelings for Spike. It will never happen again. I'm repressing it from my memory as we speak."
"Sure, ya are," Dawn smirks.
They wait, listening to a nearby conversation as Ben and another intern discuss the increase in mental patients over the last two months. Buffy takes another sip of soda, the cool fluid reminding her of cold, malleable lips, her tongue exploring his . . . Shuddering, she sets the offensive soda can down on the table next to her chair.
"Spike's cooler than Riley, anyhow," Dawn shrugs after another few silent moments. "At least he doesn't treat me like some dumb kid."
"Spike is not cool, Dawn. He's a killer. He's dangerous."
"Uh-huh. Dangerous at what, kissing?"
"He's a vampire."
"So? You dated Angel for, like, three years."
"Angel was different. He has a soul."
"Spike has a chip. Same diff."
"It is not the same at all," Buffy insists. "Now, we're going to drop this conversation and not discuss it again. Are we clear?"
"Fine. Clear," Dawn huffs reluctantly, wriggling deeper into her chair.
It's Ben, waving at her from the receptionist's desk and holding out the phone. "You've got a call from a Rupert Giles."
"Stay here," Buffy murmurs to Dawn as she springs up out of her seat and hurries to take the phone from Ben. "Giles?"
"Buffy, I called as soon as I found out. How is your mother?"
"Uh . . . she's having her test done right now. I'm not sure when . . . wait, how did you find out I was at the hospital? I didn't think to call anyone."
"Um . . . this may sound rather strange," replies Giles. Buffy hears a distinct squeak that is undoubtedly the lenses of her Watcher's glasses being scrubbed clean. "Well, to be perfectly honest . . . I received a telephone call . . . from Spike."
"Spike called you?"
"Yes, I'm as astonished as you are. He called from your home, no less."
He's still at my house? Did he not find the blanket? What else had he told Giles?
"Um . . . so what'd he say?"
"Only that he'd happened to drop by this morning right as you were leaving for the hospital. He, um . . . told me the nature of Joyce's test."
"Bad of the real life, non-Slayer kind," Buffy sighs into the mouthpiece, drumming her fingers on the wall. "Anything else?"
"No, Spike was succinct and boorish, as usual. He even had the nerve to hang up on me."
Buffy smiles, imagining the gleeful expression Spike must have worn when he'd ended the call. Though she'd been confident in his promise of secrecy, she's overwhelmingly thankful to hear that Giles remains ignorant of her vampire-kissing mishap.
As she's pondering, Buffy hears her friends' voices arguing in the background of the Magic Box. The loudest is Xander, who says animatedly, "Yep, Captain America blowed it up real good. All by his lone wolf lonesome."
"What did Xander just say?" Buffy asks Giles. "What blew up?"
"Nothing, just a slight incident during last night's patrol. No one was harmed. We're continuing to research your mystery woman, but so far our efforts have been fruitless."
"Well, thanks for trying. If any leads come my way, I'll holler at'cha first thing."
"Likewise. For now, focus on your mother and Dawn, Buffy. Your priorities lie there today."
"M'kay. Bye, Giles."
Clicking the phone back onto the receiver, Buffy returns to her sister's side and ignores the suspiciously emptier weight of her soda can and the sneaky grin on Dawn's face.
Spike lingers in the basement until he's sure he hears the car pull out of the driveway, then he furtively opens the door, deposits the stained and slightly singed blanket at the foot of the stairs, and steps back into the kitchen to call Giles, knowing Buffy will feel better if she's surrounded by her mates. As soon as he mentions Joyce, the Watcher takes him seriously, accepting his story without argument. He rubs his sore cheek, tries to move his face as little as possible as he talks, and snaps the phone down on the hook when he's said enough to let Giles know how to contact Buffy. Then, shrugging his duster over his stiff shoulders, he gingerly climbs the stairs to Buffy's room.
When he opens the door, her scent wafts over him instantly. He pauses on the threshold, drinking it in, memorizing it, letting it warm his face like a healing balm. Her bed is already made, of course, since his shoulder served as her pillow last night. Moving reverently into the room, he brushes a hand across her sheets and grins as he spots Mr. Gordo, Buffy's treasured stuffed pig, nestled between her pillows. If anything is going to be positively dripping with her fragrance . . .
He leans over the stuffed animal, inhales deeply, and is instantly rewarded with the scent of Buffy's neck, stronger than a drug. He groans with desire, gripping the headboard so he doesn't fall over and muss her covers, drawing breath after breath until his aching ribcage is too wracked with pain to let him take another.
Pushing away from the bed, Spike opens the drawers of Buffy's dressers and dives one hand inside, tumbling her clothes around so that her scent is churned up afresh. He pulls out an item at random – a thin, pale pink sweater – and holds it to his face. Closing his eyes, he lets a soft, low "Mmm . . ." escape his lips.
"What are you doing in here?"
Spike whips around and freezes, the scent of Buffy's clothes so overpowering that he hadn't caught a whiff of the other intruder until now. Riley stands in the doorway, eyeing him sternly.
"What, me?" stammers Spike, his mouth going dry. "I was, uh . . . uh . . ."
He clenches the handful of sweater behind his back, staring Riley down, counting the seconds. It's Buffy's room, so naturally there are stakes everywhere, a dozen ways Riley could end him before he could get to the door. His only consolation is that Buffy will probably never be able to get his dust out of the carpet.
"What are you doing in here?" he blurts out, stalling.
"Looking for the girl who's going to rip your arms off when she finds out you were in her bedroom," Riley replies flatly. He clenches one of his hands into a fist and glares, eyeing the fabric behind Spike's back. "Were you . . . were you just smelling her sweater?"
"No . . ." Spike scoffs, awkwardly holding the evidence and wondering for a split-second why Riley is interrogating him rather than just stabbing him into oblivion, like he seemed so keen on doing last night. "Alright. I did. It's a . . . predator thing. Nothing wrong with it. Know your enemy's scent. Whet the appetite for the hunt."
He wrinkles up the pink fabric into his face and dramatically sniffs it, growling aggressively. At least he'll go out with his lungs chock-full of Buffy's scent.
"Yeah, that's the stuff. Slayer musk. It's . . . bitter and aggravating . . . Rrrr!"
Riley's eyes narrow. He reaches out, rips the sweater from Spike's hands, and grabs him by the collar.
"Out," he says gruffly, hauling the vampire towards the hallway. As he's pulled away, Spike swipes at the top drawer of a smaller dresser, but the tenderness in his ribs restricts him, and the bit of lace he barely manages to snag just slips through his fingertips and drops to the floor. Riley yanks Spike by the neck of his coat and manhandles him down the stairs.
"Watch it! Easy! You're bruising the leather! Already did your fair share of bruising last night, you pillock!" he mutters as he tugs his duster free of Riley's grip and takes several steps away from the boy. "I know for a bleeding fact the Slayer wouldn't mind me being here."
"Right," Riley nods sarcastically. "What's a little sweater sniffing between sworn enemies?"
To Spike's surprise, Soldier Boy isn't livid with rage, just irritated and slightly bored, as though he's decided to ignore last night's fight.
"Your girl in the habit of lettin' her enemies buy her drinks?" Spike asks cockily, knowing his attempt at looking tough is severely hampered by how swollen and purple his face is. "'Cause she spent the better part of last night with me – doing just that."
Riley snorts at the ceiling. "'Cause you two are such tight pals. Tell me another."
"'Kay. How 'bout this one? The Slayer was the one who patched me up this morning, after you had your merry fun."
"What fun? I didn't see Buffy last night."
"I know that, I was talking 'bout . . ." Spike pauses, giving the human a quizzical look. "What, you don't remember?"
"Oh, come off it! You're yanking my leg, right? You don't recall rearranging my face, pretty as you please, not a care that thanks to 'Chips Ahoy' in here, I couldn't so much as lift a pinkie finger to defend myself?"
"You're saying I did this?" Riley negligently twirls his index finger at Spike's heavily bruised countenance. "Hmm. Really wish I could remember. I was . . . very drunk last night, couple of old friends from the Initiative."
Being drunk from, is more like it, Spike nods knowingly, seeing right through Riley's fib. He guesses that the adrenaline from being repeatedly bitten at the vamp-whorehouse is the cause of Riley's reckless behavior and subsequent amnesia.
"Well, yeah. This is your work," says Spike in a surly tone. "You'd have done me in for sure if Tara hadn't walked by and shouted some sense into you."
"Well, what a crying shame," Riley muses, back to his acerbic attitude. "At least I was thorough. Nose and cheekbone, two-for-the-price-of-one. I bet I really did have fun."
"Sod off," Spike huffs.
"Well, mortal wounds or not, Spike, it doesn't change the fact that I'm throwing you out of the house."
"Yeah? I can waltz back in anytime I like, seein' as Buffy doesn't seem keen to take my name off the guest list."
"That's because you're harmless," Riley retorts, clearly affected by this reminder that Buffy has no problem allowing Spike into her house.
"Yeah. Right. Takes one to know, I s'pose. Least I still got the attitude." Emboldened by the memory of Buffy's kisses, Spike ignores Riley's glowering look and gives him a snarky grin despite the residual pain in his cheek. "Face it, White Bread, Buffy's got a type, and you're not it. She likes us dangerous, rough, occasionally bumpy in the forehead region. Just because you sneak off for a little nibble in the night doesn't make you–"
Riley lets out a feral snarl, closes the distance between them, and hauls Spike to the open doorway by his coat lapels.
"How do you know?! What have you told Buffy?!"
Spike thrashes in Riley's grip, half his body exposed to the late morning sunlight.
"Hey! Hey! Bloody pull me back in, you sod! I'm starting to sizzle!"
"What have you told Buffy?!"
"Haven't said a thing! She's got enough on her hands as it is! Lemme back in!"
Riley hurls Spike back onto the stairs, then grabs a handful of his shirt and snarls into his face, "What do you mean, Buffy has enough on her hands?"
"Her mum's sickly. Buffy took her to the hospital for a little prod and probe. Bite-sized one went too," Spike answers, patting the smoke from his coat and smiling cheekily at Riley. "Funny her not calling you about it. I've known since last night." Because she trusts me . . .
With a final glare, Riley throws Spike out the door onto the lawn.
"Oi! Blanket! Blanket!"
Riley reluctantly chucks the singed blanket at him, and Spike hides himself under the dappled light of the tree in the front yard, adjusting the tarp until it sufficiently covers his exposed face and hands before he heads hurriedly for the nearest sewer entrance.
The door to her mother's examination room is as formidable as almost any demon Buffy has ever come up against. She rocks back and forth on the balls of her feet, marshalling her courage, when a hand suddenly touches her shoulder. She turns and inhales sharply at the sight of Riley, his green turtleneck sweater bunched up oddly around his neck.
"Hey," he says soothingly. "I heard."
Before Buffy can react to his presence, he draws her into a hug. She returns it hesitatingly, trying not to feel frightened by his touch. She had never considered that he would show up here and hadn't given a single thought to how she'd act when they finally came face to face again. After seeing the aftereffects of his violence towards Spike, she's scared by him, even a little repulsed, and it seems as though their relationship's skeletons in the closet have reanimated into havoc-wreaking zombies.
Ever since Riley unthinkingly slept with body-snatcher Faith, their closeness has never really healed. Plus, he'd behaved so rashly in response to Dracula's thrall on her, as though she'd done it on purpose to remind him that he wasn't a vampire, wasn't Angel. He doesn't trust her, and now he's gone all the time and she has no idea where, leaving Spike to be the one at her side, guarding her from the shadows. Spike, whose shoulder she can cry on, who can share the secrets she wouldn't tell anyone else, who – if he wasn't hampered by the chip – is her equal in a fight, a real challenge, no holding back . . .
Buffy pulls herself out of Riley's arms.
"I . . . I've got to go in and find out . . . Can you stay with Dawn for a minute while I talk to Mom?"
"You got it. Buffy . . ."
But she turns away and enters the darkened examination room before he can see the tears forming in her eyes.
A shadow . . . a brain-tumor . . . magic can't help . . . another unsuccessful fight with 'Glory' . . . the tears in Mom's eyes as the doctor pronounced her sentence . . . the Cobra-demon in the Magic Box . . . and Riley's gone once again.
The graveyard seems chillier than usual as Buffy walks purposefully toward Spike's crypt. Her face is a mask of dazed misery, her steps slightly uneven due to the injuries Glory inflicted on her. Her strength of mind is at its breaking point – half of her thoughts shouting at her to just give in and be vulnerable to the only person she trusts, but the sensible half responds with equal gusto, reminding her that once she starts, she won't be able to stop . . .
She pauses at the crypt door and considers knocking, but knows her willpower is crumbling by the second. Instead, she turns the handle and pushes the door open, compromising by not kicking it down like she typically does.
"Buffy . . . come on in," says Spike nervously as she enters. Though his face is still a purplish-color, his eyes are less swollen and he sits comfortably in his armchair, his ribcage mostly repaired.
"Y-you look a little better," Buffy notes pleasantly.
"Yeah, been restin' mostly, couple cups of blood." He sniffs the air – sensing the fresh cuts from Buffy's brawl with Glory – and stands up, his eyes full of concern. "You're hurt, pet."
"Minimal damage of the fighting kind. It's all . . . the other kind," she mumbles, looking down at her hands.
"What sort of beastie–?"
"Glory, the . . . the demon-woman that's after Dawn. She transfigured a snake that attacked the magic shop."
"Everyone a'right? Lil' Bit?"
"Safe. I killed the snake before it could report back to Glory."
Spike steps closer to Buffy, trying to read her expressionless face.
"Somethin's eating you, Buffy. I can tell. Is it your mum? Did the doctors suss out what's been givin' her the migranes?"
"They . . . they found . . . No! I'm not here to talk about that." She blinks away tears, feeling her fear return afresh. Spike watches the conflict in her – knowing that she's struggling with the desire to disclose her pain to him again – and so he backs down, not wanting to push her.
"Suit yourself, luv. To what do I owe the visit?"
"I . . . it's about . . . this morning . . . us, together . . ."
Greatly surprised, Spike's eyes light up, and his smile is dashing.
"Yeah? What about this morning?" he asks playfully. "Not sure any of these coffin slabs are as comfy as your countertop, but . . ."
Her response is so harsh that his grin vanishes immediately, wildly wondering what he's managed to do to upset her. Has Riley told her about finding him in her bedroom? Would she really be angry about that if he has?
"I . . . I've had time to think about . . . this us thing . . . it's not . . . it can't be anything. I know you said some . . . things about how you feel, but . . ."
"Buffy, what I feel for you . . . it's real."
"We . . . we can't do this. I can't love you. You're a vampire."
"So what was sodding Angel, then? An orangutan?"
"Angel had a soul. He was good."
"And I can be too. I've changed, Buffy."
"You mean the chip? That's not change. That's just holding you back."
"So you'd rather I had a cursed soul holding me back instead, tying my arms out of guilt?" he demands, voice rising. "You don't get it, do you? Did the chip make me help you lot get Tara out of the clutches of her freak family? Did the chip force me to save you from the Lai-Ach demons or from that ugly poofter who staked you? Did the chip keep me by your side last night, holding you until sunrise nearly fried me? Eh?"
He steps forward assertively, claiming her eye-contact. "Well, I'll tell you . . . the chip didn't make me do one sodding thing. I. Love. You. It's all for you, baby. I'd do anything for you."
"I don't love you, Spike."
"Sorry, pet, I'm not buying it. You can float down that Egyptian river all you like, but after last night I know you must feel–"
"I do not love you."
"Please, Buffy, just . . . give me something . . . a crumb, the barest smidge . . . tell me someday, maybe, there's a chance . . ."
"I l-l-love Riley," Buffy whispers, tears welling over, caused by both the wince that crosses Spike's face and the sick feeling in her stomach that forms as the lie leaves her lips.
"Do you? Truly? Even after what he did . . . to me?"
Her answer stings in Spike's ears, more painful than the electric bolts from the chip, but he shrugs them off and stares into Buffy's gleaming green eyes.
"So . . . what, you're saying I mean absolutely nothing to you? I'm just the outcast of your precious Scooby Gang, the neutered vamp who gets in your way? The shoulder to cry on when a bit of cold comfort suits your fancy? A nice breakable punching bag for dear ol' Soldier Boy?"
Buffy takes a shaky breath and tries to speak, but her throat closes in. So she just nods helplessly, two more tears slipping down her cheeks. Spike exhales sharply, then bites hard on his tongue until he tastes a spurt of his own blood. His head is screaming, begging him to tell her Riley's dark secret. But he can't, not while she's so worried about Joyce's health and the mystery demon-bitch, Glory, who's after Dawn. He has to bide his time, wait for Soldier Boy to flub up on his own.
"Well," he sighs, yielding, "then you're a cruel bint for leading me on like that, Summers, warming the cockles of my cold, dead heart."
Buffy chokes down another sob, ashamed. "I know, William. I used you."
"The hell you did."
They stand, eyes locked on each other, facing off as if waiting for the bell to chime and the next round of battle to begin. Finally, Buffy swallows the knot in her throat, looks away, and begins walking toward the crypt exit.
"Doesn't change a thing on my part, you know," Spike says to her back, itching to follow her but respectfully staying put.
"Goodbye, Spike," Buffy whispers without turning around, her hand on the doorknob.
"Anytime you need to let it out, I'm right here, pet. Even if you're just using me."
His voice is bitter, stiffly hiding how much her words have hurt him. The crypt door closes with a creaky thud, and Spike sinks back into his chair and lays his head in his hands.
To be continued . . .
A/N: Picture Spike on his knees during 'Rest in Peace', serenading you . . . and imagine he's asking for a review for this fanfic. ;) But for real, I'd love to know what you think, especially about these last two chapters, since this is where it has really started going AU.