Chapter 1: A Change of Perspective
Chapter Notes: I had this image in my head that I couldn’t get rid of, and finally had to do something about it. The first chapter is potentially disturbing, but the rest of the story should be pretty fluffy.
Buffy slammed her fist down on the counter, hard. “Enough, Willie. You’re going to tell me what I want to know, or I’m going to rearrange your face.”
Willie believed her. Everyone knew the Slayer was on edge lately. It showed up in her increased taste for violent confrontation. And everyone knew that Glory was the cause. But, while Willie would have loved to help her, if only because he happened to like his face the way it was, he didn’t have any info on the Hellgod or her scabby minions, and he’d told the Slayer that. Repeatedly. It wasn’t getting through. “Look, Slayer, I’d love to help,” he whined. “I don’t know anything. So she’s dropped out of sight. Be grateful for the breather.”
“The day I need your advice is the day I retire, Willie,” Buffy snarled in reply. Three weeks had passed, and no word from Glory. She was beginning to get a little nervous; silence did that to her occasionally. “Fine. Be happy you get to stay in one piece.”
“Wait,” Willie called. He glanced around nervously, not wanting to be overheard. Everyone knew he snitched sometimes, but they didn’t have to know what he said. “Look, you might want to look after your friends, Slayer.”
Buffy frowned and peered back at Xander, who shrugged. He had happily followed Buffy to Willie’s bar, especially since Willie was about the only person he had a shot at successfully intimidating. “My friends are fine.”
“What about Spike?” the bartender asked, more nervously still. “You seen him lately?”
Buffy actually laughed at that one. “Spike’s not my friend.”
“Oh yeah? Well, what he done the other day would seem to say otherwise, and there are some people out there who weren’t real appreciative, if you get what I’m saying.” Willie leaned in and looked Buffy in the eyes.
For Buffy’s part, she was both suspicious and a little concerned. Not that she was worried about Spike, but he was her next line of defense in the fight against Glory, and he’d been fairly helpful lately. She wanted all her fighters in one piece. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I owe him, and this pays the debt,” Willie said, satisfied that he’d gotten through to her as much as he was able. “So get out of here, Slayer. You’re scaring the customers.”
Buffy left, but only because she figured she’d gotten as much information out of the little scumbag as she was going to get. Xander was at her heels, and he looked at her uncertainly as she considered the information she’d been given. What she’d wanted was an update on Glory’s doings and whereabouts; what she’d gotten was the cryptic message that something may have gotten to Spike. She sighed. That vampire was nothing but a pain in her ass.
“So what now, Buf?” Xander asked.
The Slayer shook her head and looked down the street in the direction of Spike’s crypt. “I guess we go check on Spike. Not like I want to, but he’s about the only person who has a prayer against Glory except for me, and it would be nice if he were in one piece.”
Xander looked disgusted. “I don’t know, Bufster. Can’t the bloodsucker take care of himself?” At Buffy’s face, he laughed. “Okay, strike that. Can’t we pretend that he can take care of himself?”
She shook her head. “No. If Willie’s right, and something is after Spike, then we should probably check it out. If Willie thinks he’s on our side, that something may be coming after us next, and I want to know about it.”
They made their way to his crypt with little trouble. Not that the undead population had taken a vacation, but Buffy easily staked the two vampires they came across. In her heart of hearts, Buffy knew Spike had been right that night at the Bronze. She was much more vulnerable when she was distracted, and she’d been more distracted than usual lately. Her mom, her sister, her friends, were what tied her to the world, and with her mom sick and a Hellbitch after her sister, she hadn’t been nearly as focused as she needed to be. But things were better now, and she was focused. Intent. Right now she was intent on making sure that Spike hadn’t done anything so stupid as to get all of them killed.
Buffy didn’t bother knocking, she never did. And as she swung the door open, the smell hit her hard, and she took a shaky step back. “What is that?” Xander asked from behind her, his face pale in the moonlight.
She shook her head. “It’s blood.” With a sinking feeling, she entered the crypt. It didn’t smell as it usually did, of dust and dead things. Right now it had the sweet, coppery smell of blood. Not new blood though, old blood, with the edge of decay to it. There wasn’t any light to see by, as the moon was not bright enough to find its way through the small windows or the doorway, but she remembered well enough where the television was supposed to be, and she stumbled over to it in the dark, hopeful that it would work and could give her a little light to see by.
It did. The picture was all snow, but it lit the room enough to outline the still figure who hung on the wall. Buffy didn’t like Spike; she never had, and she strongly doubted that she ever would, but she’d never wanted this. A quick stake through the heart maybe, but not this. He hung by his arms, crucified, two thick pieces of rebar piercing his wrists and the stone wall behind. Buffy didn’t even want to meet the thing strong enough to do that, to get him up there in the first place.
The blood was his, of course. His chest had been carved to pieces; there hardly seemed to be an intact piece of skin, and his face was swollen out of all proportion. She heard Xander make a soft gagging noise behind her and had to agree. “My God,” he whispered, coming up next to her. “What did this?”
“I don’t know,” she replied softly, feeling the same need to whisper. “But I don’t want to find out. We need to get him down from there.” They came up next to him, and Xander braced the lifeless body against the wall as Buffy strained to pull out the metal spikes.
“Buf,” Xander said. “Look, I don’t think it would hurt him anymore than he is already to just pull him off.”
The Slayer winced, even as he said it, but nodded. The rebar was straight metal, and it would be just as bad pulling the metal out as it would to pull Spike off. “All right.” Between her and Xander it was a matter of minutes before he was off the wall and slumped between the two of them. He hadn’t even stirred, and the only indication that he was still unliving was that he wasn’t dust. “Now what?” Xander asked.
Buffy considered. She really didn’t like her options here, but there was only one that made sense. “My house.”
Xander argued with her all the way there, of course. And Buffy had to agree with most of his reasoning. Spike was a dangerous vampire, he had something dangerous after him, he was a bad influence on Dawn, all of it was true. Except maybe for the him being dangerous part. On the other hand, Buffy was completely certain that the only safe place to leave him right now was where she could keep an eye on him. Plus, there was the small issue of him actually having been of help recently, and not asking to get paid for it. Not that Buffy thought he deserved anything from her at all, because, hello, vampire, but she couldn’t help but remember the way he’d sat with her on her back porch the evening she’d found out her mom had to go to the hospital. And how he’d agreed to babysit both her mom and sister. And how he’d helped her look for Dawn after her sister found out she was the Key. She didn’t owe him anything, of course, but there was some small part of her that felt like maybe she did.
She at least owed him a place to stay until she could find out whether or not she needed to worry about something else coming after them.
Buffy opened the front door of her house as quietly as possible, not wanting to risk disturbing any of the other occupants. “I guess we can put him on the couch for right now,” she whispered quietly to Xander. “We’ll need to get him some blood, and-“
“Honey? Is that you?” Joyce’s voice floated down from the upper story. “Is something wrong?” Buffy wanted to tell her mom to stay upstairs, but Joyce was in the foyer before she could say anything. The older woman’s hand flew to her mouth at the sight of the battered vampire. “What happened?”
“I don’t know,” her daughter replied truthfully. “I heard from a source that Spike might be in trouble, and this is how we found him.”
Joyce’s face hardened, getting much the same look as Buffy’s did right before she went into battle. “Put him on the couch.”
“Mom, I don’t think-“
“The couch.” There was no room for argument or negotiation in her voice, and Buffy and Xander did as they were told. “What does he need?”
The Slayer stared at her mother. “Mom, I’ve got it.”
“What does he need, Buffy?” Joyce asked again
“Mrs. Summers, it’s just Spike,” Xander broke in. “You don’t need to worry.”
Joyce favored him with her patented “disappointed mom” look, guaranteed to reduce a person to a puddle on the floor. It worked on Xander too. “Spike is a guest in my home, and he’s been injured. What does he need?”
Buffy shook her head, but gave in. “He needs blood.” She quickly checked the clock, noting that it was still relatively early, not yet ten. “The butcher shop should still be open. They don’t close till late.” And then, remembering, she sighed. “Of course, Spike probably still has blood in his fridge. I can check there too. Are you sure you’re okay with this?”
“I’m fine, Buffy.” Joyce met her daughter’s eyes and held her gaze for a long time, before the Slayer finally nodded and urged Xander out the door. Once alone, Joyce turned to look at the battered figure, still unconscious on her couch. She would need first aid supplies, and a lot of them, she realized. She gathered what she needed and began her work, starting with the puncture wound on his right wrist.
Cognitively she knew that Spike was a vampire, that she was helping one of the things her daughter fought every night. But Joyce had always had a small soft spot for Spike. Perhaps it was because he had no pretense whatsoever. From almost the very beginning he had been honest with her.
“Have we met?”
“Uh, you hit me with an ax once.”
Her lips twitched up in an involuntary smile. It might have been the night he showed up on her front porch, half-drunk and demanding to see Buffy. Spike had been disappointed that she wasn’t at home, and she half-wondered if he’d planned on killing her then. But he had looked so despondent that she had asked him if he was all right, and then asked him in for cocoa. She remembered that his face had changed in that moment, as though he couldn’t quite believe she cared if he was okay or not. Really, as though he couldn’t quite believe that anyone cared.
Ah, that was the moment. His face had changed in that instant, and he’d reminded her of a boy she knew once, a neighbor of theirs when she was a child. He had been a few years older, and hadn’t given her the time of day, and he was rebellious and angry. Dangerous, everyone had said. But she’d found him on his front porch one night, watching the stars, and he’d looked so lonely that she’d asked if everything was alright, and that’s when he told her that no, it really wasn’t. His mother was dying.
Joyce had smoked her first cigarette with him that night, just a puff or two off of his when he offered it to her, while he told her about the stars and the constellations, and his mother’s illness. He had been a very different boy with her than he was with everyone else, but he was back to his old ways the next day. And then they held the funeral a week later.
She had no idea what had happened to him; she’d heard that he’d gone into the Marines only a week after he’d graduated, probably because he didn’t have any other choice, and Joyce had a feeling that he’d probably done very well for himself. Either that or he was dead or maybe in jail. There was no in between for a man like that, and she thought Spike might be the same way. He would never be in between anything; it wasn’t in his nature.
Both wrists bandaged, Joyce began on his chest, gently sponging away the crusted blood to reveal deep cuts. And as she cleared more and more of his chest, she began to realize that there was a pattern there, that someone had carved something into his flesh and bone, though she couldn’t make it out. Wincing involuntarily, she made sure the deep gashes were clean before she began on his face, wiping away the blood, careful of the bruises. Not until then did he stir at all.
She knew he was regaining consciousness when he took a deep breath, almost a gasp, and she hurried to soothe him. “Shh. Spike, it’s okay. You’re safe now.”
His eyes were too swollen to open at all, and she could tell that his blindness, however temporary, frightened him. “Joyce?”
“That’s right,” she said gently. “You’re going to be just fine.”
“Where am I?” The tone was almost desperate, his fear tangible, his voice a mere rasp from disuse and torture.
She went back to work on his face, trying to comfort him with touch. “My house. Buffy brought you. Don’t try to talk now.”
But he shook his head. “How?”
“Someone told her you might be in trouble, and she said she found you like this.” The silence held after that, and she finished cleaning his face. There was no chance of cleaning him up any more tonight; he was too broken to stand for long, and she wanted to get him to bed since Buffy wasn’t back yet. “I’m going to set up a bed for you in the basement,” Joyce informed him. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
Joyce found the old Army cot easily, and quickly set it up with clean sheets and blankets. Then she headed back up the stairs to get Spike. He was weak, barely able to stand, but they managed the trip with him leaning on her heavily as they made their way slowly down the stairs. “Rest now,” she said softly, once she’d gotten him settled.
“Stay, please,” he whispered, grabbing at her hand blindly.
Joyce sat obediently on the edge of the cot, understanding his need to not be alone. Even if he was supposed to be a bad ass vampire.
She left her hand in his, marveling at the inhuman coolness of his flesh. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was strange. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”
He gave a humorless chuckle. “I was stupid.” There was a long silence, and then he continued. “Heard a rumor ’bout a warlock doin’ some ritual. Sounded bad, like somethin’ the Slayer should know about it, but she’s been busy with that Glory bint.”
“And you thought you’d do something about him.” Joyce couldn’t read the expression on his face, not with the swelling, but she could hear the amusement in his tone.
“Yeah. Disrupted the ritual fine, thought I’d gotten away without the bloke seein’ me, but he tracked me somehow. You can see the rest of the story for yourself.” Spike fell silent then, and Joyce could see that he was fighting a losing battle with sleep.
“Rest now,” Joyce said quietly. “I’ll be here.”
Buffy slipped into the house, brown paper bag in hand. “Mom?”
“In here, sweetheart,” Joyce called, directing her daughter into the living room.
The Slayer frowned when she saw her mom on the couch and no Spike in sight. “Where is he?”
“The basement,” Joyce said quietly. “I set the cot up for him.”
Buffy came and sat by her on the couch. “Did he say anything?”
Her mom quickly told her what Spike had said, and Buffy shook her head. “He’s lying.”
Joyce frowned. “Why? He’s certainly in bad enough shape to be telling the truth.”
There was a long silence as Buffy considered her words, realizing that there was some truth to them. Plus, he had been helping out more recently. “All right, so maybe he’s not lying, but he’s not telling us something. Why would he want to help, without getting paid? And why on earth would this guy do what he did and not kill him? It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Maybe,” her mother allowed, “but maybe you should wait and ask him yourself.”
Buffy nodded. “He’s going to need the blood tonight though, to heal. I guess I’ll get him fed and then call Giles. He’ll know what to do about Spike.” The Slayer took the blood downstairs after saying good-night, and gently shook the vampire awake. “I’ve got blood,” she said shortly. “I’m going to let you eat and sleep, but tomorrow you’re going to tell us what happened. I mean it, Spike. I want the whole truth.”
Too tired to do anything but nod, he reached for the plastic container of blood blindly, but his wrists had been too damaged to allow him to grasp it properly. With something nearing compassion, Buffy brought it up to his lips and watched as he drank deeply, trying not to get too grossed out. “Thanks,” he gasped as he finished it up.
“Whatever,” she replied, a trifle ungraciously. “Get some sleep, Spike.” And then she left him alone.