Michigan International Speedway, Michigan/ March 2002
Cruising around the track, doing 150 and in first place by three seconds, William ‘Spike’ Giles was in Heaven. Just ten short laps away from his first victory of the season, life didn’t get any better than this.
“Spike, look out at the bottom of turn two. The number 8 and the number 15 got into each other. There’s a lot a smoke.” The tinny voice of Rich Sanders squawked in his ear.
“Just get me through it, Rich.” Spike bit back at his spotter, the accident coming into sight.
“Go straight through the middle.” Rich replied. Spike slammed on the accelerator, and prepared to just that, when Rich’s voice came back through the ear phone. “Shit, Spike, go high. GO HIGH!. 10 Car just got tangled up. GO HIGH!” But, it was too late. Just as Spike veered the wheel, the 10 car came spiraling at him through the smoke.
“Bloody hell!” He spat, yanking the wheel hard. The screech of wheels and metal hitting metal, along with the smell of burnt rubber and smoke filled the air around him as the 10 car careened into him. The car went into a spin, and Spike struggled to regain control. The last thought he had before he hit the wall was a name.
The small group gathered in the Summers living room watched in horror as the crash wiped out fifteen cars. The announcers were talking rapidly, trying to find out any information they could on the drivers involved. The yellow flag had come down, signaling the caution, and the other cars that had made it through began to make their pit stops.
But, all their attention was riveted to one car. The black #29 Grady Hardware car. The one that was crumpled like an accordion in the wall at the top of turn two. The one that nobody was getting out of. The one surrounded by ambulances and rescue workers.
Buffy sat on the couch, eyes riveted to the screen, hands clamped over her mouth as her mind screamed NO, over and over in her head. This was why she let him walk away. She couldn’t take the fear slamming into her, the tears threatening to spill, or the scream raging to be released. Her attention was focused solely on the tv, her brain not registering the feel of her sister’s fingers digging into her shoulder, or the stunned faces of her friends. Giles sat in the recliner, terror clawing through his chest as they peeled the hood of his son’s car back in a desperate attempt to get him out before it exploded from the gas leak.
He prayed silently, begging God to listen. He’d already lost his wife, please not his son, too.
They watched silently as the unconscious figure was pulled from the wreckage, and his helmet removed to reveal his ever present spiky, white hair. Blood stained the pale locks on the right side of his head and across the sharp planes of his face to mingle with the soot covering his handsome features. The black clad figure was then placed gingerly on the stretcher, then hurried to the ambulance.
As the medical vehicle sped off the track, Giles pushed himself up from his chair and walked to the phone to find out where they were taking his son.
Buffy, Dawn, Willow, and Xander continued to stare silently at the screen as the race was red flagged so they could clear the debris of the track.
“‘ello, Dad.” Spike said, his voice a little slurred from the painkiller they were giving him. Giles nearly staggered with relief as his eyes searched his child’s face. Aside from the bandage covering the whole right side of his head, and the scar in his eyebrow from a wreck five years ago, his face was perfect. The crystal blue eyes were foggy with medication and pain, but, there was no sign of trauma in them.
His body, however, hadn’t fared to well. Thick, white bandages encircled his chest, securing his three broken ribs. A cast covered from his wrist to just above his elbow on his right arm, and his left leg was similarly encased to immobilize the crushed limb.
Giles removed his glasses, and began rubbing them furiously, the nervous habit causing Spike to smile.
“How are you feeling?” Giles asked carefully, his voice controlled. Spike looked at his father, finding comfort in his usual stiff British ways.
“A bit of alright.” He said with a ghost of his smirk. Truth be told, he hurt like hell. The meds they gave him only half controlled the pain, and they wouldn’t give him anymore before their little charts told them to.
“Well, that’s. . .er. . well, you bloody well don’t look alright. You nearly got your foolish self killed. And for what?” Giles lost his hold on his fear and anger. He pushed his glasses back up on his nose, his hand gripping the railing of the hospital bed. He had brought his son to this country in hopes of a fresh start after the death of Rosemary. Not so the little git could get himself killed racing a car around a track.
Anger flashed in Spike’s eyes at his father’s outburst. This was the same old tune, just sung by a different person. Buffy had said something similar to him before he left Sunnydale.
“Don’t start.” He said through clenched teeth, the action making his head throb.
“Why not? You want to kill yourself, why don’t you find a less flashy way of doing it. You scared me.” Giles finished quietly, averting his eyes when they started to swim with tears. “I’ve already lost your mother.” Guilt sliced through Spike with a crippling force, and he had to close his own eyes against tears.
“I’m sorry. There was nothing I could do to get out of the way.”
“I know.” Confusion marred the younger man’s face at that. His father NEVER watched him race. Thought it was undignified and uncivilized.
“How’s that?” Giles looked back at his son, a look caught between pride and shame crossing his face.
“We usually get together to watch.” He admitted.
“Willow, Xander, Buffy, Dawn and myself.” Spike flinched at the sound of Buffy’s name, and smiled at Dawn’s.
“How’s the Nibblet?”
“Scared to bloody death if you must know. She was crying her eyes out when I left the house to catch the plane to get here.” Spike’s jaw clenched yet again, and he looked away.
“Yeah, well. You can go home and tell ’em I’m fine. Be right as rain in a few weeks.” His voice was thick as the face of his friends swam through his memory.
“Why don’t you tell them yourself. Come home.” Wide blue eyes met older, lighter ones at that.
“Go home? Why? There’s nothing there for me. Plus, I’ve got to make sure those wankers fix the car properly. And, they aren’t going to let me sit on my arse forever. Don’t get paid for warming the sheets in a hospital bed. I get paid to win races.” Giles had looked away during Spike’s speech, his heart constricting at what he had to tell his son. He had talked to the doctors before coming in, and the prognosis was not good. “So, thanks for visiting. Tell them all I said hello.” The blond finished.
“William, I am afraid that I have some bad news.” He began, taking off his glasses once more. The younger man’s eyes narrowed in to slits, and he felt his heart start to pound painfully in his chest.
“Wha?” He didn’t want to know, he could tell by the look on his father’s face. His whole world was getting ready to crumble. Heaving a sigh, Giles moved around the bed and gently sat on the edge. He refrained from reaching for Spike, as the boy didn’t feel any more comfortable with affectionate displays than he did. Spike eyed him warily, blinking to try to clear the fuzz out of peripheral vision. Deciding that the best course of action was just to tell him, Giles began.
“The doctors told me that it will take close to a year for your leg to heal properly. They had to reconstruct the bone, and there are five pins holding it together. But, I am afraid that is not the worst. The bump to your head damaged some of the nerves behind your eyes and your vision has been permanently altered. You will never be able to see clearly in your peripheral again.” Spike stared stoically at his father through the whole report, never blinking, never grimacing. No expression whatsoever crossed his face until he was done.
“They’re wrong.” He said quietly, taking deep breaths, fighting the tears again.
“Will, I know. . .”
“You know nothing.” He spat, jerking his head to the side. He stared blindly down at the cast on his arm, the names of his crew covering the surface. They blurred as he looked at them, one lone drop falling to splash on the plaster.
“William, I am sorry. They were very specific. The chances of you ever racing a car again are slim at best.” Giles told him firmly. He softened once more as he watched his son struggle with the information. He hated to be the one to crush his dreams, but, he figured that Spike would take it better from him, than any one else. Save Buffy. But, they had burned their bridges long ago. “Come home. We have some of the best rehabilitation centers in the country, there. Come home.” He said again, hoping his voice didn’t sound as pleading to Spike as it did to his own ears. Spike’s eyes never returned to his father, they stayed, staring at his arm, his jaw clenched tight, his entire body shaking. When the tears refused to be stopped, and slid down his face despite his attempt to control them, Giles hazarded pulling Spike to him. As soon as he felt his father’s arm around him, the blonde just gave in. The room filled with the sound of grief ridden sobs, and soft whispers as he broke down, everything he had ever wanted falling from his grasp.
Buffy stared out the kitchen window, and into the night drenched back yard. Her hands were still emerged in the soapy water she had been washing dishes in. She had just hung up the phone with Giles, and her world had just been spun on its axis. He was coming home. With Spike. It would take a couple of months, the doctors wanted to casts off before they would clear him for travel, but, the prodigal son was returning. She didn’t know how to feel about that.
“Buffy?” Dawns quiet voice broke her from her thoughts, and she pulled her hands out of the water, turning to dry them.
“Hey. What’s up?” She asked her sister, plastering on a false smile.
“What’s wrong?” Dawn demanded, the look of sixteen year old petulance on her face.
“Nothing. Why do you ask?”
“Don’t give me that. I know that was Giles on the phone. He’s coming home, isn’t he?” The younger girl asked hopefully. She missed Spike, and she had never quite forgiven her sister for breaking up with him. Sighing, Buffy put the towel down on the kitchen table.
“Yeah, he’s coming home. But, Dawnie,” she started, talking loud to be heard over the sixteen year old’s delighted squeal. “He’s not going to be the same.”
“What do you mean?” Worry marred the young face staring back at her. Quickly, Buffy told her the extent of his injuries. Horrified blue eyes locked with sad hazel ones as the seriousness of the situation sunk in. “Oh, God. Poor Spike.” She breathed. Tears sprang to her eyes at the thought of what he must be going through.
“So, when he gets back, you might want to give him some time. This is not going to be easy for him. Let him decide when he wants to see you.” Dawn looked like she was going to argue, but, she just shook her head, her long, shiny hair slipping off her shoulder. Nodding herself, Buffy gave into the urge of wrapping her sister in her arms, heartened that the girl didn’t stiffen or turn her away like she had been doing since their mother died the year before. After a few minutes, she did pull away to give Buffy a watery smile, then turned and walked away. Watching her go, Buffy let out a sigh, and turned to check that the house was locked for the night. She wearily climbed the stairs, her young body to tired for a girl her age. She was twenty two years old, and raising a sixteen year old alone, with a crap job. At least they had the money from her mother’s gallery coming in. And thank God for Giles. Without him, she would have had to sell it, and watch her mother’s dream die. Just like Joyce had. Dawn seemed to be interested in art, so, maybe one day, she could take it over, and continue where her mother had left off.
Tossing restlessly, Buffy tried to get comfortable, memories of another time swooping in to torment her now. Tears leaked from her eyes as she gave into them, her heart breaking once again.