Title: One Hundred, Forty-seven Days (6/15/06)
Word count: 1900
Disclaimer: Just tweaking Mutant Enemy’s version of things. The characters still belong to them and their creator, Joss Whedon.
Distribution: Just let me know
Summary: Ficlet set just after Spike finds a newly resurrected Buffy walking down the stairs behind Dawn.
“How…how long was I gone?”
“One hundred and forty-eight days, counting today. But today doesn’t count, does it?” The vampire’s voice was soft and gentle, his disbelief and joy more evident on his expressive face than in his words. “We need to fix these hands, luv. Need to clean them up and get the dirt out.”
“Okay.” Buffy’s uncharacteristic compliance and the way her hands remained listlessly atop his own palms told him all he needed to know about her state of mind.
“It’ll be alright, pet,” he soothed as he watched her brow wrinkle in confusion. “We’re going to make it alright.” He nodded at Dawn who had just arrived with the first aid kit, reluctantly releasing Buffy’s hands to take the kit and open it. When her hands dropped listlessly onto his denim-covered thighs, his hand shook so hard he almost dropped the bottle he’d removed.
Recovering quickly, he poured antiseptic onto a piece of gauze, then paused, thinking about how much the abraded skin was going to hurt. Setting it down carefully, he once again took her hands in his and stood up.
“Come on, pet. Let’s get these washed out real good and then we’ll worry about the ointments, yeah?”
He led the silent slayer to the closest bathroom and gently put her hands under the warm water. The way she allowed him to move her around and manipulate her – so uncharacteristic of the independent slayer he remembered – worried him more than he was willing to let on in front of a hovering Dawn.
“She’s going to be all right, isn’t she, Spike?” Dawn’s anxious voice showed that she had also noticed Buffy’s unusual behavior.
“She’ll be just fine, Niblet. Jus’ a bit of a shock, innit? Being all dead and in the grave and then back to life an’ all. She’s going to be just fine.” He put as much assurance into his voice as he could when his own stomach was clenching with fear.
“Bright,” Buffy said suddenly, squeezing her eyes shut. “Too bright.”
“Too much light, luv? We’ll fix that, won’t we, Bit?”
He jerked his head at the light switch, nodding when Dawn turned it off. The light coming in from the hallway was more than enough for him to see what he was doing as he gently washed the dirt off her fingers and from under what was left of her fingernails. When her hands were clean enough to suit him, and the soap had been rinsed down the drain with the mud, he gently patted them dry before holding out his hand for the antibacterial ointment Dawn was clutching. He quickly spread the soothing ointment over the cuts and ruined nails.
“There you go, pet,” he continued in the same calm tone he’d been using since she came down the stairs. “All fixed up.”
The grateful look Buffy cast his way went straight to his unbeating heart and he risked using one hand to gently push her hair out of her face as he repeated softly, “We’re going to make it alright, Buffy. I promise you.”
“Don’t promise something you can’t deliver, Spike,” she answered quietly, sounding more like herself. “You can’t make this right.”
The vampire and her sister exchanged stricken looks at the Slayer’s calm statement, delivered as she turned to leave the bathroom. Before they could ask for an explanation, she had put a hand over her face, flinching from the bright light in the hallway and Dawn hastily ran ahead of her, turning lamps off as they made their way back to a now-darkened living room.
Buffy’s brief moment of lucidity seemed to have passed as she sat on the couch, her knees pressed together, ointment covered hands folded primly in her lap. She seemed to be waiting to be told what to do next and without thinking, the vampire sat beside her and began gently rubbing her back. Her sister sat on the other side, her leg pressed against Buffy’s as though the physical contact could prove that she was really there.
As the trio sat in the dim room, two of them basking in their joy at having Buffy back in their lives in some fashion, the Slayer began to relax slightly. With a small sigh, she leaned back against the cushions, patting Dawn’s hand with one of hers and squeezing it gently when her sister gave in to the tears she’d been holding back since finding a confused Buffy near Glory’s tower.
On the other side, Spike slipped his arm out from behind her as she sank back into the couch, clasping his hands awkwardly in his lap to keep them from the constant, reassuring touches they craved. He almost wept along with Dawn when Buffy put her other hand on top of his and whispered a quiet, “Thank you.”
“Anything you need, love,” he whispered back. “You know that. Just ask.”
Her sad smile did nothing to alleviate his concerns about her mental health, but he raised her hand to his lips and repeated, “Anything.”
There was no response, although she didn’t pull her hand away as he would have expected, leaving it resting in his as though holding hands with Spike was an everyday occurrence.
The quiet tableau was loudly interrupted as the door burst open and the Scoobies poured into the room, all talking at once.
“Dawnie! You’re all right! We were so worried…” Voices trailed off as Anya threw on a light switch and they saw who was sitting between Dawn and the vampire.
“Bright,” Buffy whispered so softly that only Spike heard her. “Loud. Too loud.” Her face scrunched up as her hyper sensitive senses were assaulted by the multiple voices screaming her name and the lights that were immediately turned on so that they could see her more easily.
When she began to whimper in pain, curling into Spike in an unspoken plea, Dawn rose to her feet to glare at the excited Scoobies.
“Be quiet, you idiots!” she hissed. “And turn those lights off. She doesn’t like noise or bright lights.”
“Well, that’s just ridiculous,” Xander huffed. “This is Buffy! She loves bright lights.”
“Not right now she doesn’t,” Spike growled, not moving from his place beside the Slayer who was still trying to hide her eyes against his shoulder and whimpering about the noise.
“Well, why wouldn’t she? She’s back from the dead! Unlike you, Spike.” Venom dripped from the boy’s tongue as he finally realized why Spike was still sitting. “What are you doing touching her, anyway? Get away from her, now!”
Xander reached for the vampire’s arm, yanking the smaller man to his feet and evoking a bloodcurdling snarl that temporarily shook the boy until he remembered that Spike could not follow through on his threat. Spike allowed himself to be pulled away from Buffy, not wanting her to get caught in the middle of a physical confrontation so soon after being resurrected.
As the vampire was shoved towards the door by the eager humans - each hoping to be the first to hug Buffy and receive her thanks - he could see the Slayer shrinking back into the barely conscious state she’d been in when he first saw her. His chip began firing as he prepared to wade back through the Scoobies and rescue her from their well-intended but overwhelming attentions; however, before he could cause himself a full-blown headache, Dawn was standing protectively in front of her sister.
“What the hell is wrong with you guys?” she yelled, cringing apologetically when she felt Buffy wince behind her. Lowering her voice she continued, “She doesn’t like loud noises or bright lights. Leave her alone!”
“But…but…WE brought her back,” Xander blustered. “We have a right to—“ He was cut off as Spike, ignoring the pain lancing through his head, grabbed his arm and squeezed it painfully. “You stupid gits are responsible for this?”
Shaking off the vampire’s already weakening grip, the boy snarled, “Yes! WE brought her back. And don’t try to tell me this isn’t the happiest day of your life, too, fangless, so just back off! The Slayer’s back; we don’t need you anymore.”
“She does,” Spike answered quietly, pointing to the girl on the couch who was staring back and forth between them fearfully.
“She doesn’t need you. She needs us. Her friends. We’re the ones who brought her back.”
“And left her to dig her way out of her own grave.” The vampire’s voice was as cold and menacing as anyone had ever heard it, and they all shrank away from him in spite of their faith in the chip.
“No…we…I mean, we did…but we didn’t know…and there were motorcycles…and…” Willow turned desperate eyes on her best friend. “You didn’t have to do that, did you, Buffy?”
The blond silently held out the hands she’d been hiding in her lap and allowed everyone to see the missing fingernails, swollen knuckles and torn skin.
There was a collective gasp, followed by the first real silence since the group had entered the house. Without otherwise responding to them, the slayer’s eyes went to the vampire, now standing by the open door.
“Tired?” she said softly.
He was by her side again too fast for the humans to see or prevent. “Sure you are, pet. You want to go to your room? Where it’s dark and quiet.”
He glared at the still-reeling Scoobies, Dawn backing him up fiercely as he took Buffy’s hands and pulled her gently to her feet. He gave her a little shove towards her sister who put an arm around Buffy’s shoulders and began to lead her to the stairs. As Dawn escorted her up the stairs to the relative quiet and safety of her room, Buffy sent one last grateful glance towards the vampire before she disappeared from his sight.
Knowing without asking who had worked the spell that pulled the Slayer from her grave, Spike focused on the red headed witch and growled softly, “Magic has consequences, Red; it always has consequences. And dark magic has dark consequences. You should have known that.”
“There’s nothing wrong with her,” Willow insisted stubbornly. “By tomorrow she’ll be all with the happy and the gratitude. After all, I DID rescue her from hell, didn’t I?” She glared at the vampire triumphantly.
“I guess we’ll find out, won’t we?” was his only response as he slipped out the door, leaving a silent group of humans behind to contemplate his words. Only Tara murmured, “Oh Goddess,” as she realized what the other possibility could be; the others stubbornly refused to entertain any other thought than that they had pulled Buffy from a hell dimension and would be basking in her happiness and gratitude as soon as she felt better.
Smoke drifted slowly away from the roof as Spike settled himself in for a long night. He watched impassively as Buffy’s friends left the house, arguing among themselves about how much time they should give her before they asked her to take up slaying again. Resting against the still-warm boards outside Buffy’s room, he noted idly that they could use a new coat of paint. He heard Dawn tiptoe around her sister’s room, double-checking that she had not imagined the entire evening and reassuring herself that Buffy was really back. The former Key smiled to herself when she smelled the familiar aroma of cigarettes from outside the open window, whispering, “Good night, Spike,” as she walked to her own room, confident that her newly returned sister would be protected for the night.
The vampire grinned at how well the girl he’d cared for all summer knew him; then leaned his head against the house to await the inevitable nightmares.
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