Bright lights. Long white hallways. Nowhere to hide. He could only run. But never enough. Never enough to get away from it. And never, ever enough to get away from the things it had put inside of him.
Still, he ran, gasping for the breath he didn’t need as the things growing inside of him stole his air. There. A sound. It had found him. It….
Spike jerked and fell over the side of the cot, landing hard on the floor of the Slayer’s basement. He kicked free of the blanket and jumped to his feet, the panic and dread from the nightmare still clinging to him. Steady on, then, old son, he told himself. Safe as houses here, with all the spells Red and her girl layered over the place. Adam can’t find you. He took a slow, deep breath, the panic starting to ebb, despite the pain in his lungs…. Until he looked around and noticed the Slayer’s mum there with a basket of laundry, staring at him. Bloody hell.
“Morning, Joyce,” he said breezily, as if he weren’t completely starkers. He’d been staying in her basement for two weeks now, so she’d known to expect to see him. Just not quite so much of him, most likely. “Bit of unexpected laundry today, is it?”
No response. Just a closed, unreadable expression as her gaze traveled down his body. He glanced down, pausing for a moment at the sight of the thick, jagged scars over his chest. Slayer’s blood had been speeding things along, but he was still far from healed from what Adam had done to him. He shuddered and continued his quick look over. Toned abs, and on down to a reasonably impressive knob, if he did say so himself. Not exactly standing at attention after the dream he’d had, but that was for the best, considering who else was looking. He flicked his gaze up a split second before she did.
Tight-lipped. Something lurking in her eyes. Her expression still closed off and mostly unreadable. He was fucked.
“Right then,” he said, trying to keep the gibbering panic at bay. If he left the house, Adam would find him. He would find him, and…. “Suppose I should gather my things. I’ll be out your hair just after sundown.”
The memory wriggled and writhed through his mind. Adam’s mouth pressed against his, something forcing its way past his lips, forcing them too wide, tearing at the edges. Things wriggling and writhing down his throat, cutting off his air. Wriggling and writhing and….
“That won’t be necessary,” Joyce said, pulling him out of his memories.
She set the basket of laundry down with more force than needed, then turned on her heel and marched up the stairs.
“Stupid vampire,” Buffy grumbled, hefting the mattress again and carrying it into the house.
She’d had plans for the day. Sexy, romantic plans with Riley. She’d even been painting her toenails for their date when her mom had called, using that carefully controlled Angry Mom Voice.
“How long exactly is Spike going to be staying in the basement?”
Buffy froze, the phone held between her head and shoulder and the little brush paused on its way out of the bottle of nail polish. “Um…. Well, I didn’t think it would be this long, but until we find Adam….”
Clipped, icy tone. Mom was seriously not pleased. What the hell had Spike done? He couldn’t have attacked with that chip in his head. And, as far as she knew, vampires didn’t need the bathroom, so he wouldn’t have peed all over the floor. Had he lunged at her despite the chip and scared her?
Before she could ask for details, Mom started talking again. “If he’s going to be staying under my roof for an indefinite amount of time, he’s going to have some privacy. Is that clear?”
“…what?” Wait, was Mom mad at her? It sure sounded like it, and not just because she’d taken Spike there after he’d basically exploded in her dorm room.
“Spike deserves a safe, private area of his own where he can heal in peace. Also, I’d like to be able to do laundry without startling a naked man awake.”
Startling a naked…? Oh, jeez. Images flashed through Buffy’s mind, the kind of embarrassing images that had invaded her thoughts from time to time after she’d first met Spike. She hastily shoved them back down into her subconscious.
“I… uh, I guess we can hang some curtains or something, or maybe some scre–”
“No,” Mom interrupted. “You’re going to come over this afternoon and use that Slayer strength of yours to set up a bedroom in the basement.”
“What? No, I’ve made plans–”
“What part of this sounds like a request? You brought Spike into my house, and you will make it a comfortable place for him to be. So, I suggest you unmake those plans, because I’ve already ordered everything you’ll need for one-day delivery. Otherwise, I’ll cancel that order and get some blackout curtains instead. That way, he can stay in your room.”
And that’s why Buffy was hauling a mattress through the house instead of getting ready for a date. Like it would have happened anyway, she thought sourly. Lately, Riley had flaked on pretty much everything that didn’t involve hunting for Adam or trying to find Walsh, and sometimes he skipped out on that first one, too. His obsession had gotten bad enough that she hadn’t even bothered to call him and cancel their plans.
She glanced down at her feet, wiggling her toes in the strappy white sandals. The polish shimmered in the kitchen lights. Seafoam with sparkles. Would Riley have even noticed? Probably not.
She sighed and positioned the mattress to go down the stairs. At least Xander had agreed to help. He wasn’t exactly Spike’s biggest fan, but he’d been pretty sympathetic after seeing how badly he’d been hurt. She’d given Spike some of her blood and had patched him up with staples and duct tape – wrapping the whole mess up with all of the gauze from her first aid kit – but he’d still looked pretty gruesome when she’d called everyone over to her dorm.
She got the mattress all the way down to the basement, then peered around it to look at Spike. He was awake and – thankfully – dressed, sitting up on the cot with a book in one hand while he watched her.
“What’s all this then?” he asked, head tilting to the side as he studied her and the mattress.
“’All this’ is the mattress that’s part of the bed that is part of the new bedroom set that’s going to be part of your new bedroom.”
He blinked at her, looking like he wasn’t sure he’d heard her right. “Part of the–”
“Mom decided that you need a room,” she interrupted, leaning the mattress against the wall. She wanted to give him a solid punch to the nose and blame him for it all, but knew she couldn’t, no matter how much she wanted to. Instead, she just grumped over toward his cot, looking around at the space she was supposed to be working with. “And since I’m the one who brought you here, I get to be the one doing all the heavy lifting while we get the furniture set up and then put in some walls and a door. Yay me.”
“Huh….” Spike blinked again, then looked down. “Seafoam, eh?” he said quietly as he stared at her toes. “Good color on you. Could do without all the glitter, though. Bit gaudy, innit?”
“Sometimes that’s what you need to get noticed,” she muttered.
Spike’s eyebrow rose, his mouth twitching into a smirk. “What’s this I hear? A spot of trouble in paradise?”
She wanted to glare at him and tell him off, but she had the horrible urge to spill it all out instead, to tell him about all of the problems lately. About how she’d been feeling neglected and sometimes like Riley resented her for her strength.
“Buffster, you down there?”
Oh, thank god, she thought, turning towards the stairs. Xander to the rescue.
It felt good, working with his hands. Building something. Even if that something was for a vampire. Xander finished putting the frame for the twin-size bed together, then glanced over to where Spike and Buffy were putting up a section of wall, using the already existing support posts as anchor points. He’d kind of expected Spike to just sit back and “supervise,” but he’d pitched in, getting the wardrobe and nightstand set up on his own.
Though maybe he shouldn’t have, he thought, frowning slightly. The other man looked kind of pale. And not just “hi, I’m the undead, ask me how” pale. This was closer to how he’d looked back at Thanksgiving. Not that he really cared, but Spike had been seriously messed up by Adam only two weeks ago, going all chestburster in Buffy’s dorm after getting away from him. It was hard not to feel at least a bit bad for the guy. Especially when he looked like he was about to keel over any minute.
“Hey,” he called out, “maybe you should–”
Too late. His suggestion that Spike rest for a bit was interrupted by the vampire staggering back a step with a bunch of gross, wet coughs that sent blood dribbling down his chin. Eugh. That was seriously nasty. And painful sounding. And didn’t seem to be stopping.
Spike doubled over, clutching at his chest. Before Xander could even think of doing anything to help, Buffy was there, wrapping her arms around Spike to steady him.
“Whoa, hey. Take it easy. Don’t try to breathe. You don’t need to, remember? It’s going to be okay.” She looked up and over at Xander. “Could you…?” She glanced towards the empty bed frame.
He wrestled the mattress over and onto the frame, barely aware of the sound of someone thumping down the stairs. Then he turned to help Buffy get Spike settled and saw Riley standing there, looking pissed. Oh boy.
“What the hell is going on here?”
Buffy jerked away from Spike like she’d been burned, leaving the vampire to drop onto the bed with a pained gurgle. Then she stared at Riley like a deer in a pair of oncoming headlights. It was kind of disturbing. Like she’d been caught doing something she shouldn’t have. She hadn’t done anything wrong. She was just at her mom’s house, helping an injured guest. Okay, so the injured guest was an annoying, neutered vampire, but still…. She was Buffy. Helping those in need was sort of her thing. Riley knew that. Didn’t he?
“I, um, I was just….” She trailed off, the wide eyes narrowing suddenly as she frowned. “What are you even doing here? How did you get in? I’m pretty sure Mom’s not back yet.”
“The lights were on, but when I knocked, no one answered. I was worried, especially since the door wasn’t locked.” He sounded earnest. All protective and sincere. Then went back to ticked off like a switch had been flipped. “But that isn’t important. What are you doing here?”
“What am I doing here?” Oh, yeah, all traces of frozen deer Buffy were gone. Xander almost felt sorry for Riley. “This is my mother’s house. Did you look up her address and just decide to stop by? That’s really creepy…. And kind of stalkery. Did you think she’d stashed Walsh up in the attic, or something? Sorry, but we’re a one monster household, and Spike called dibs.”
Wait, had Riley even met Buffy’s mom yet? It didn’t sound like it. It would have been kinda weird for him to just drop by if he had, but if he hadn’t, then Buffy was right. That was super creepy. He opened his mouth to say as much or to at least do something to stop the brewing fight… and nothing came out.
Come on, Xan-man. Something witty to break the tension. He couldn’t think of anything over the sound of his parents arguing in his head. Always screaming at each other until all he wanted to do was get away. To hide. To–
“She’s not a monster.” Riley’s words pulled him out of his own head and back to the present situation. “She’s just–”
He was cut off by a wet, raspy laugh. “Beg to differ there, mate,” Spike gasped out. “Frankenstein’s not the name of the monster… but Doc Frankenstein’s… bloody well the sodding monster.”
Riley looked like he was about to say something, but before he could, Buffy whirled to face Spike. “You,” she barked, pointing her finger at him, “shut up and rest your damn lungs.” She turned back to Riley. “And you, answer the damn question. What are you doing here?”
“We had a date, remember?” He sounded sullen, not at all like the confident soldier he’d once been. Walsh apparently making a monster and going AWOL had really gotten to him. Or had it just peeled back a layer to show more of what was underneath? “I talked to Willow, and she said I could find you here.”
Buffy’s expression softened… then her eyes narrowed again as she crossed her arms. “Uh-huh. Right. I’m not falling for that, Mr. Distant-and-Preoccupied. You went to ask Willow to look something up for you, and she mentioned the date, didn’t she?”
A flash of guilt from Riley, followed by something Xander couldn’t quite get a handle on. Bitterness? Disgust? Really bad gas?
“Maybe I’ve been distant lately, but that’s because I’ve been trying to find Walsh to get some damn answers! You blew me off to play home decorating with the undead.”
Xander glanced back and forth between the two of them. It hadn’t exactly been all sweetness and light so far, but he knew how these kinds of arguments went. Things were about to get really nasty. Like, Dad after a couple of six packs nasty. Witty wasn’t going to fix this. Not now. Maybe it never would have.
“Buffy’s mom is going to be home any time now,” he said quietly, taking a step towards Riley. “Do you really want her first impression of you to be that you barged in uninvited to yell at her daughter for doing what she asked her to?”
“Ooh, there’s an idea,” Spike piped in from the bed. His voice sounded a bit stronger and less gurgly. “Pull up a chair and stay awhile. I’m sure Slayer’s mum would just love to know you don’t approve of Buffy spending time in the family home without your permission.”
“Shut up, Spike,” Xander said in unison with Buffy.
His own voice was just mildly annoyed. Buffy, though…. She sounded sort of affectionately exasperated. And if Riley’s expression was anything to go on, he wasn’t the only one who had caught it.
He looked like he was about to say something. Instead, Riley just clenched his jaw before turning and storming back up the stairs.
Stealthily lugging heavy, awkward objects around wasn’t exactly easy. The lugging part was. She could seriously do that part in her sleep. She was the slayer, lugging machine extraordinaire and all that. No, it was that whole “stealthily” thing that was the problem. Especially when she wanted to start yelling a bunch of those words that her mother thought she didn’t know.
“Shit. Damn. Fuck,” she muttered, attempting to navigate over a hundred pounds of really nice recliner down a flight of stairs without falling down them and breaking her neck.
Could a slayer heal from a broken neck? Probably, assuming it didn’t kill her right away. That didn’t mean she wanted to try it. A neck brace so didn’t go with any of her outfits.
She managed to get the chair down the steps without too much noise, then dragged it towards Spike’s door. It was morning, so he was hopefully asleep. She turned the knob as quietly as she could and slipped inside…. And then she just stared.
Spike was awake. Spike was awake and stretched out on top of the covers. Reading a book. While naked.
Scars all over his chest. More of them than there was unmarked skin. Still part of a toned, sleek torso. And further down….
“Don’t you ever wear clothes?” she blurted out, feeling her cheeks heating.
“Don’t you ever bloody knock?” he snapped back, not bothering to cover himself.
She forced her gaze away, like she hadn’t already gotten the full viewing experience. He looked different from Riley. Not circumcised, she thought, trying to banish the image from her mind. Trying not to think of the fact that he’d had over a hundred years of experience and how that might compare to the bland make-up sex with Riley the night before. No. Bad. We do not think about the sexy undead. And sex is about love. It’s okay if it’s kind of boring.
She took a slow, deep breath and looked back at Spike, keeping her eyes focused on his face. “I brought you some more furniture. It shouldn’t be too hard for you to position it where you want it.”
Then she fled.
Joyce had bloody fantastic taste in chairs. The recliner was the perfect mixture of soft and firm, just right for a bit of a rest after pushing himself too far. Or for sleep when his damaged ribs and lungs couldn’t handle lying down flat anymore. And it was perfect for reading. He settled in with a trashy romance he’d borrowed from Joyce, popping out the footrest so he could stretch out.
Antoinette’s bosom heaved, the rise and fall like the swells of his one true love. The sea. How could a mere human woman compete with such a thing? And yet…. She captivated him, this woman he had stolen like the other treasures from her ship.
“Listen to me, wench,” he ground out, pulling her roughly against him. “You have no say in what goes on on my ship. I rule here. You will do as I say.”
Spike snorted and rolled his eyes. Jean-Pierre clearly knew nothing about women. Well, he supposed that was the whole point, wasn’t it? He’d have to learn. Though with this type of book, it was more likely that he’d just gentle his pirating ways while making Antoinette “learn her place.”
If it were me writing it, she’d march the pillock right off the plank, then take over, leading the crew on a bloody swath through –
Someone knocked at the door.
Spike waited a moment to see if pigs would fly into the room, then called out, “Not bloody decent, but I’ve clothes on, at least.”
Joyce walked in with a slight smile on her face and a small tray in her hands. There was a teacup on the tray along with a mug. “I brought you some blood and tea. And yes, I made it the way you showed me, and added two sugar cubes and a splash of milk.”
“’Preciate it, Joyce.”
She put the tray down on the nightstand set between the bed and chair before looking around the room. “Buffy was right,” she said, clearly pleased. “The chair really brings the room together and makes it more cozy.”
“Buffy was….” He blinked, not sure if he’d heard her correctly.
“Yes. She’s the one who insisted you needed it. She thought it would help keep you more comfortable while you heal. Do you need anything else before I head into the gallery?”
“No, I’m good,” he said absently. “Ta.”
He took a sip of the blood once she’d gone. Lamb, with some crushed-up painkillers mixed in, no doubt from the Watcher’s stash of medicines for when his slayer got hurt. The only human he got was when the slayer herself donated, but they weren’t expecting him to heal up proper on sodding pig.
The slayer…. Buffy had picked out a nice, comfortable piece of furniture for him. She gave him her blood at times. Her mum was looking out for him, and one of her best mates had helped set up a private place for him to hole up in.
Spike’s hand pressed against his chest. Adam was still out there. Still looking for him. Still haunting his dreams with nightmare scenarios twisting the attack with what he’d endured at the Initiative.
But for now, he was safe. Here, he was safe.
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