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Chapter 3 – Helpless
Buffy walked home as quickly as she could, shaking her head continuously. What could have done that to him? Although she would never admit it to him or anyone else, she had always loved his body. Even when they were enemies, those lithe muscles and striking features had given her a bit of a rush in a look-at-the-hot-guy sort of way. After that night in the abandoned house it was even worse, since she not only knew each sculpted muscle like the back of her hand, but she knew exactly how he could make her scream in ecstasy with those muscles. To see him lying there, helpless and completely wasted away was beyond horrifying. She fought back tears of pity and shame at the memory of his eyes, begging her for death, loving her despite everything that had happened. I can’t believe he wouldn’t ask for help. When he got that chip he came to us for help. Why would he let himself suffer now? The answer came to her immediately on a wave of guilt: You treated him like a sex toy and broke his heart, that’s why. She started trying to run down her usual litany of denial: he was evil, the relationship was bad for both of them, she needed to stand on her own and face life, and so on. But the image of his emaciated frame kept intruding on her attempts at denial and forced her to face the truth – she had been horrible to him, to the point that he would rather suffer pain and death than allow his pride to be wounded by coming to her for help.
By the time she reached her house a plan had formed in her mind, and she flew into the house intent on making it happen. “Buffy?” Willow called from the kitchen as Buffy made her way past the witch to the basement door. When Buffy didn’t answer, Willow followed her downstairs. “Hey, where were you? Dawn’s really upset about something and she won’t talk to me.” Buffy was rummaging through some of the boxes stored in the basement until she came up with a collapsible cot. She started setting it up with slightly shaking hands. “Buff? Want to tell me why you’re in frantic mode?”
Without stopping, Buffy said, “Spike’s sick. He’s… it’s like he’s starving to death, even though he’s been eating. He looks awful. He can hardly move.”
“Oookayyy,” Willow said. “So is that why Dawn’s upset?”
“Yeah,” Buffy replied. She finished putting the frame together and started rolling out the mattress and hunting for the spare bedding. “She’s been bringing him blood behind my back for two weeks.”
Willow started to say that it couldn’t be possible. Then she realized guiltily that she hadn’t really been paying attention to exactly when Dawn came home from school, so it was definitely possible. As she watched Buffy still getting the bed all set up, she asked, “Okay, but why the high-speed bed making?”
“I’m bringing Spike here,” Buffy stated flatly. “He’s a sitting duck in his crypt, and we need to figure out what’s wrong with him.”
“But I thought you said that… whatever it was… was over between you two,” Willow said, confused.
“It is,” Buffy replied, finally finishing and facing Willow. “But he’s one of our allies. I can’t… I can’t just leave him there to die without trying to help him. It… it wouldn’t be right.” She could think of no better explanation at the moment for why it was such an imperative that she help Spike.
“But Buffy, you want to bring a starving vampire into your house? Does that seem like a good idea?” Willow asked nervously.
“Willow, when you see him, it will be pretty freaking obvious that he can’t hurt anyone,” Buffy said, her voice wavering a bit. “Besides, it is actually my house, and I think I can say who stays here.” She turned and went upstairs, leaving Willow blinking in her wake.
Buffy went upstairs and knocked on Dawn’s door. “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Dawnie,” Buffy said. “I just wanted you to know that as soon as the sun goes down I’m going to bring Spike here.”
A quick patter of footsteps and the door flung open, revealing Dawn’s tearstained face. “Do you mean that?”
“Yeah,” Buffy said. “You… you were right to tell me. He needs help, whether he wants to ask for it or not. I promise you – I’ll help him.”
Dawn hesitated for a moment, then flung herself into her sister’s arms. “I’ve been so worried about him, and I didn’t want you to be mad…” she sobbed.
“Shh, it’s okay,” Buffy said, soothing the hysterical teen. “It’s going to be alright. Everything’s going to be alright.” I hope, she added silently.
“Tell me again why we’re doing this?” Xander said as he drove Buffy to Restfield that evening.
“For the last time, Xander, something is really wrong with him. He needs our help.” Buffy had called Xander earlier that day and explained that she needed help getting Spike to her house. The conversation had been an endless repetition of ‘he’s a vampire’ and ‘he needs help’ with no particular resolution. Finally Buffy had said, “Look, all I am asking is a ride. A favor. For a friend. Can you do that for me, or not?” Xander had relented reluctantly and had picked her up shortly after nightfall.
Now that they had arrived, Buffy dashed out of the car almost as soon as it stopped. Shaking his head disapprovingly, Xander followed in her wake as she made her way to the crypt. “Spike?” she called as she opened the door. Hearing no response, she called louder, “Spike?”
A slight moan answered her. The candles were nearly burnt out, and the tomb was darker than usual, but she could just make out the faint figure lying on the coffin. His eyes half opened as she reached his side. “You came back,” he whispered in a barely audible tone.
“I told you I would,” she said. “You’re coming to my house. No arguments.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Spike replied. It looked like it was taking all of his effort to speak.
“Holy Moses,” Xander said as he finally got close enough to see Spike. “What the hell happened?”
“That’s what we need to find out,” Buffy said. She gently worked her arms behind Spike’s shoulders and knees and lifted him. Although the Slayer strength helped, she hardly needed it. If he weighs a hundred pounds I’d be surprised, she thought, her heart breaking for him. “Hold on best you can, Spike,” she said quietly. Spike tried to wrap his arms around her neck, but couldn’t quite manage it.
“What can I do?” Xander asked.
“Grab his coat from the chair there,” Buffy said, nodding at the duster lying draped across a beat up kitchen chair. “Then get the door.” Xander did as he was told, saying nothing for once as Buffy carried Spike effortlessly toward the car. Xander opened the back door and Buffy settled Spike in gently, trying not to knock him into the door frame. She ran around the other side of the car and climbed in beside Spike, holding his hand for reassurance as they made their way back to Revello Drive. Spike managed to half squeeze her hand before closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the seat. Xander tried once to ask a question but his tentative “Buffy, what..?” was silenced by Buffy interrupting to say, “Not now, Xander. Just drive.” Buffy was holding herself together, barely, but the more she looked at Spike the more she struggled not to burst into tears. All his bones. My God I can see every one of his bones. Her brain fixated on that horrible fact until she bit her lip hard enough to draw blood. Keep it together, she told herself.
When they reached the house Buffy got out and went around the car to Spike’s side. “Almost there, Spike,” she said softly, but Spike didn’t respond. She hoisted him again, moving carefully so as not to jostle him more than strictly necessary. She waved off Xander’s offer of help and made her way swiftly to the door. Xander held the door for her as she threaded her way through. “Spike!” Dawn said, leaping up from her perch on the couch and running to the door. When she saw him in Buffy’s arms, looking ten times worse in the bright lights of their hallway she froze and covered her mouth, fighting the rising nausea. Even Willow let out an astonished “Oh my God!” at the sight of him.
“Get the basement door someone,” Buffy said, adjusting her grip on the unconscious vampire. Dawn hurried to comply, and Buffy carefully made her way down the stairs with her burden. She laid him on the cot and covered him up, but he didn’t stir at all. Don’t you dare die on me you stupid vampire. She chewed her lip while she mulled over the situation, then went back upstairs to join the others.
“He really does look terrible,” Willow said as Buffy entered the kitchen. The others were hovering uncertainly, unclear on what they should do to help.
“What can we do for him?” Dawn asked, twisting her fingers nervously.
“We need to get into research mode,” Buffy said. “We’re looking for spells or poisons that work on vampires. He said it started soon after Riley left, so that’s a few weeks now. That means it’s slow acting and…”
“Buffy, are you sure this is worth the time?” Xander asked quietly. “I mean, look at him. I don’t know if he’ll last the night.”
Buffy wrapped her arms around herself and turned away, fighting for control. “I’m going to give him some of my blood tonight. When Angel was poisoned, that was the cure. Maybe that’s the case here as well.”
“Hello? Bad idea coming full speed!” Xander exploded. “Did you suddenly forget how Angel’s cure almost killed you last time?”
“I’ll give it to him in a cup. You don’t need to worry about me,” Buffy said, turning back to face him. “I know what I’m doing.”
“But why are you doing it?” Willow asked. “I mean, Angel was the love of your life. It sort of made sense then. You’re going to risk yourself for Spike?”
“This isn’t up for discussion,” Buffy said, grabbing a knife and a coffee mug.
Xander grabbed her arm. “Buffy, stop. This is crazy.”
Buffy looked up at him with steely, determined eyes. “Get your hand off me and get out of my way.”
Xander held his hands up and stepped back. “Fine. Whatever. You’re the Slayer,” he said in a frustrated tone.
“Exactly,” she said. She made her way toward the stairs, but when Dawn started following her she said, “Dawn, can you please wait here? I’ll call if I need you, okay?” Dawn started to protest, but the look on Buffy’s face stopped her. Buffy was concerned for Spike and his needs, and Dawn realized that Buffy needed to deal with this her own way. Dawn locked eyes with her sister and nodded her understanding.
Buffy closed the basement door behind her and made her way down to Spike’s side. She knelt on the floor next to him and with a swift movement slashed the meaty part of her forearm. Grimacing a bit from the sting she held her arm over the cup, watching it fill with the red fluid. Spike’s nostrils twitched a bit as the coppery smell wafted through the air. When the cup was full Buffy grabbed a towel from a laundry basket and wrapped it around her arm, tucking it in to make a makeshift bandage. She slid her good arm under Spike and held him up while she brought the cup to his lips. “Spike, wake up. You’ve got to drink this.”
Spike’s eyes half opened. “Where…?” he asked, sounding utterly confused.
“You’re safe, but you need to drink,” Buffy repeated. She touched the liquid to his lips and he started to drink, slowly.
After a few sips his eyes opened wider. “Buffy? What is this, love?” he whispered.
Buffy rolled her eyes in complete exasperation. “Look, drink now, interrogate later, alright?” Spike obeyed, being too exhausted to do anything else. Buffy held the cup patiently until the last drops had passed his lips. She laid him back down carefully when he was finished and asked, “You with me?”
Spike nodded faintly. “That was your blood,” he said. “Why?”
Buffy found she couldn’t quite meet his eyes, so she pretended to tend to her own wounded arm. “When Angel was poisoned once, the cure was Slayer blood. Just thought it was worth a try.”
“Where are we, pet?”
“My house. I put you in the basement because it’s easier to block the sun here.”
Spike reached out a shaky hand and touched her arm. “I’ll ask again. Why?”
Buffy addressed her remarks to her own lap. “Because I couldn’t just leave you there defenseless. It just… wouldn’t be right.”
Spike closed his eyes. As he had suspected, it was pity and her inherent White Hat nature, not any feeling for him, personally. At least none that she would admit. “Thanks, Slayer,” he said finally, his disappointment hidden by the overall weakness of his voice.
“Does the blood seem to be helping?” she asked. He was speaking and moving a little, but he still looked completely wasted.
“Hard to tell,” he replied. “Still feel really out of it.”
Buffy collected her supplies and stood up. “Get some rest, okay? I’ll come check on you in a little bit.” She turned and went upstairs, leaving Spike to lie there in the dim light, fighting the despair that threatened to overwhelm him.
The others were still in the kitchen. Willow had made herself a cup of tea, Dawn was picking idly at a paper napkin, and Xander was pacing back and forth, agitated. When Buffy reappeared, Dawn jumped to her feet and anxiously asked, “Did it work? Is he cured?”
“I don’t know if it worked,” she said. “He was talking, which is more than he was doing when we got him here. But he’s still pretty weak. I’ll go check on him again later.”
“So what do we do now?” Xander asked. He clearly was still unhappy with the idea of Spike under Buffy’s roof, drinking Buffy’s blood, and he made little effort to hide it.
Buffy regarded him with narrowed eyes. “Xander, if you want to leave, leave. I’m not going to force you to help if you don’t want to. But if you’re going to stay then keep your unhelpful comments to yourself.”
“Fine. If you want to waste your time and put yourself in danger for a soulless vampire, be my guest. I’ve got other things to do.” With that Xander turned and stomped out, slamming the door.
“What’s his issue?” Dawn asked.
“Probably just residual crabbiness from the wedding,” Willow remarked. “He’s not dealing with it all that well.”
“Oh poor baby,” Dawn snapped sarcastically. “He leaves his fiancée at the altar and we’re supposed to feel sorry for him? Yeah, right.”
“Please, can we have that particular argument later?” Buffy cut in. “If he doesn’t want to help, fine. Willow, are you with me?”
“Um, sure,” Willow said. “But most of the stuff is at the Magic Box.”
Buffy looked at the clock. “I’m going to go patrol. When I get back, we’ll see how Spike is. If he’s still bad, we can go to the Magic Box early tomorrow morning and start in on the research.”
“Should we call Tara?” Dawn asked. “I mean, she’s good with healing spells and stuff like that. Maybe she can help with the research.”
“Sure. One of you can do that while I’m gone,” Buffy said. She grabbed her jacket, checked her stake supply, and headed out into the darkness.
As soon as Buffy left, Dawn turned to Willow. “Can you call Tara while I check on Spike?” She turned to head downstairs before Willow could answer.
Willow paused for a moment, then picked up the phone. She and Tara had gotten along fairly well at the wedding, and Willow hoped it was a sign that their relationship would soon mend. Dialing the number from memory she played with her hair nervously as she waited for Tara to pick up. “Hello?”
“Tara, it’s Willow,” she said. The thrill of hearing Tara’s voice never quite went away, and the sound was made more precious by the fact that she didn’t hear it on a daily basis anymore.
“Hi. What’s up?”
“It’s Spike. Buffy brought him here to the house. He’s sick or something,” Willow began.
“How can vampires get sick?” Tara wondered.
Willow explained the whole story beginning to end, finishing with, “Do you want to join in the research party tomorrow? We’re going to the Magic Box first thing in the morning.”
“Of course,” Tara said. “Spike’s a member of the group. We need to help him out if we can.”
Willow frowned a bit. She had rather hoped that Tara would mention spending time with her as a reason for joining the research. She didn’t exactly share the ‘Spike’s a member of the group’ sentiment. But rather than debate that point she said, “That’s great. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
“Tomorrow,” Tara agreed as they both hung up.
Dawn had made her way down to Spike’s cot. She sat down next to him and reached out to clasp his hand. He opened his eyes slowly and said, “Hey, Nibblet.” His voice was still a scratchy whisper, with barely a trace of his warm, rich accent.
“Hey, yourself,” she said lightly, trying to hide her fear. “How do you feel?”
“Like I’ve been run over by a truck,” he said. He fought to keep his eyes open and focused.
“Did the Slayer blood help?” she asked.
“Some,” he admitted. “I can stay awake a bit longer than before. Still feel like I haven’t fed in ten years.”
“We’re going to go into research mode tomorrow, so we can find out what’s wrong with you,” Dawn explained.
“I appreciate that, Bit,” he said.
“Spike, I’m… I’m sorry I told Buffy. I know you said not to. Are you mad at me?” she asked nervously.
“You did the right thing,” he said. “Sometimes us guys are too stupid and stubborn for our own good.”
“Not arguing with that statement.”
Spike half smiled. “Watch it, Nibblet.” He closed his eyes again. “Sorry, I’m still so tired. Not much of a conversationalist.”
“Go back to sleep,” Dawn said, tucking him in. “Buffy will come to you when she gets home.” He was asleep again before she got half way up the stairs.
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