Author’s Notes: A happy birthday fic for Kallysten! *many smooches* Discussions about the evilness of being sick led to this little plot bunny (which quickly mutated into a rather large plot bunny). This is set somewhere early in S6, before ‘Once More With Feeling’ but after ‘Life Serial’. So Buffy’s, y’know, being nice to Spike and actually treating him like a worthwhile person and all that. *misses early S6* So, yeah, here it begins. Just some mildly amusing fluff, with some smut eventually, too. ~_^
Spike wouldn’t quite say he was hurt as he approached the Summers’ home that cool autumn night. After all, it wasn’t like tonight had meant anything to Buffy. It had just been a comment in passing, really. “Why don’t I stop by at eight to pick you up for patrol?” Perfectly natural and normal for two co-workers. Nope, it wouldn’t mean anything to her at all.
Of course, to Spike, it was a whole different matter. Especially given how she’d been coming to him lately, visiting him at all hours of the day, chatting about meaningless nonsense at times and how painful it was being back here on earth at others. Hell, sometimes she’d just sit herself down on his couch and watch him. He’d even blushed and looked embarrassed the first time he’d caught her at it, and she’d giggled and made some lame comment about vampires with red cheeks. Real friendly-like.
So, really, was it so crazy for a bloke to think that maybe he had a chance after all? That maybe tonight had been a date in more than just his own mind?
And the answer, of course, was yes.
He should’ve learned his lesson by now, known that nothing she said or did with him would ever mean anything more than that she begrudgingly tolerated his presence. It was the most he had any right to hope for, really. But still…
Did she have to stand him up?
Not quite sure whether he was pissed or hurt or just plain stalking her again, he pounded loudly on the front door. He could hear voices from within, some scrambling, something breaking. He frowned, wondering if the household was under attack, until suddenly the door burst open to reveal a very flustered looking Willow.
“Oh good,” she said without preamble, “you’re here.” And yanked him into the kitchen.
“Uh, yeah…” He said, feeling a bit stunned by the whole situation. “I was s’posed to meet the Slayer for—”
“Here.” Willow cut him off, brandishing a wooden spoon. He took a nervous step back, and belatedly she realized that to a vampire, her gesture could look very much like a threat. “No, no, I need you to stir.” She offered him an apologetic little smile, placed the spoon in his hand, and shoved him over to the stove.
“What the bloody—?”
“Willow, we need you up here now!” Dawn’s voice shrieked from upstairs.
“Coming!” Willow shouted back. She turned back to him – “Stir,” she repeated firmly – and dashed up the stairs.
Blinking in surprise, Spike turned to the pan on the stove. It appeared to be soup. At least, he hoped it was soup. Because if Willow was making him cook one of her little magical concoctions, he wanted no part of it. And, preferably, to be halfway across the world when the spell blew up in her face, rather than right in front of it.
Curiously, he sniffed the steaming liquid. Soup. Chicken soup. How very…odd.
“Will, we’re going to need to call the cab soon, and—Oh!” Tara started in surprise when she practically crashed in on him on her way through the kitchen, an incredibly foul-smelling garbage bag in one hand. “You’ll be here to help Dawn, then. Good.” With uncharacteristic brusqueness, she brushed past him, heading for the dumpster out back.
Spike scratched his scarred eyebrow absentmindedly and slowly stirred the soup. His somewhat puzzled mind began to try to piece things together and, frankly, he was getting nowhere. Willow and Tara were making soup for a cab. From the smell of that garbage bag, someone had tossed their cookies. And he was supposed to help Dawn. He shook his head and continued to stir. It could be a bit of a game, actually: Just how long could they bustle about away from his questions before he figured out what the fuck was going on?
At that moment, to his amused smirk, Tara reentered the kitchen. Nothing like a nice, contorted distraction to get his mind off his heart’s troubles. “What are you—?” he began.
Tara turned the hot water in the sink all the way up and began scrubbing her hands furiously. “What?” she shouted over the loud running water.
“What’s goin’ on here?” he repeated more loudly.
“I can’t hear you.” Apparently, human ears couldn’t pluck out distant sounds when there was something really loud right near them. He’d known that once.
“I said,” he repeated at the top of his lungs, “WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS GOING ON HERE?”
Of course, Tara turned off the water right before he started yelling. She winced at the volume. “No need to yell…”
He would’ve laughed, if he hadn’t been so exasperated.
“Did you call the cab, sweetie?” Willow’s voice shouted downstairs.
Tara started. “I’m doing it right now!” she called back. She gave Spike an apologetic smile and gestured for him to wait just a minute.
He got tired of stirring the soup clockwise and switched to counterclockwise.
“Uh-huh. Uh-huh. No, that’s Revello Drive,” Tara corrected the dispatcher, telephone receiver pressed to one ear. “As soon as possible.” Pause. “The airport.” Another pause. “Five to fifteen minutes? Right.” She hung up. “You’ve got five minutes!” she shouted up to Willow.
Rather vibrant cursing followed Tara’s proclamation, and Spike found himself impressed that the little redheaded witch even knew some of those words. It was always the quiet ones…
“Oh, er…right.” Tara turned back him. “Uh…s-sorry about the chaos, b-but…” She blushed and looked anywhere but directly at him.
Spike smirked. He liked Tara, actually, but there was still something very satisfying about the Big Bad still being able to intimidate at least one human.
“Y-You see, Willow and I are headed up to San Francisco for the weekend, t-to the…um…”
“That Wiccan festival you were talkin’ ‘bout last month?” he suggested.
“Right.” She smiled shyly. “And our flight is in less than an hour. And then M-Mister Giles is in England this week procuring orders.”
Spike added a little internal ‘wanker’ at that. It was clear to him, at least, that Buffy’s Watcher was once more planning to run away from all the troubles and responsibilities of the Hellmouth. Coward.
“A-And…” Tara continued, growing flustered.
“Tara, I’m ready!” Willow shouted from the living room. She stuck her head into the kitchen. “The cab’s out front. Hurry!”
“Bye!” Tara gave Spike a little wave and dashed out the door, snatching up the suitcase beside it in the process. “Bye, Dawnie!” she shouted up the stairs.
“Bye!” Dawn shouted back.
Spike watched, somewhat dumbfounded, as Willow yelled out her good-byes in a similar manner, toting a large duffel bag as she fled the house. “Oh,” she paused in the door. “That soup should be done by now,” she informed him. And then she was gone.
Spike looked down at the soup. “Who’s—?” he began to ask, but it was pointless, of course. Only one person left to answer his questions. Fortunately, she at least responded to volume. “Dawn!” he demanded angrily. “Get down here and tell me what the bloody fuck is happenin’ before I rip you limb from limb and use your blood to water the lawn!”
Dawn’s feet stampeded down the stairs, and she came to an abrupt halt. “Oh, thank god,” she sighed. “You’re here.” She frowned. “And: Eww much?”
“Bit,” he repeated with a falsely sweet smile, “what on earth is—?”
Not for the first time that evening, he was cut off. But this time he finally got his answer:
“Disaster.” She gulped, looking terrified. “Buffy,” her voice dropped to a low whimper, so that she practically squeaked out the words, “has the flu…”
* * *
Now, Spike hadn’t realized the gravity of Dawn’s statement when she said it. Yeah, he had dim recollections from his human days about being ill. Mostly what he remembered was his mother’s coughing and the like. Now, that had been serious, nothing like a little bout of flu. And, the way Dawn talked about being sick most of the time, his more recent impressions had been that the modern flu consisted of staying home from school and enjoying yourself in front of the telly.
“You made the soup,” Dawn insisted, handing him the tray. “You give it to her.”
He was about to protest that someone unknown individual had merely passed the soup on to him but shrugged it off. After all, time alone with his Slayer was never to be wasted.
“Hey, Buffy! Hot male nurse coming in!” Dawn shouted up the stairs ahead of him. “But we couldn’t get him to wear the outfit! Sorry!”
“Outfit?” he exclaimed in horror, turning back to look at her.
She stuck her tongue out at him unabashedly.
He scowled in response and stalked past her up the stairs. If the Summers women thought they had him whipped into playing their wet-nurse, they had another thing…
The voice was quiet, subdued, and uncharacteristically meek.
“Slayer?” Head cocked to one side, he approached the bed. “Christ, you look awful…”
She coughed. “Should’ve known you’d have no bedside manner,” she grumbled sleepily, propping herself up on the pillows. “Is that soup?”
“Uh, yeah.” He handed over the tray. “And orange juice, and… You all right?”
He knew his initial reaction had been a bit too blunt, but he hadn’t been able to hide his surprise. After all, he’d seen this girl through the best and worst of everything. He’d watched her bleeding – but not quite broken. He’d watched her laugh and smile. He’d watched her suffer, still half dead, putting on a brave face for her friends as she pretended everything was all right. He’d seen her happy, sad, vibrant, and depressed. But never had he seen her like this, with that spark that was so uniquely Buffy gone from her eyes. A few germs were all it took to bring down the best warrior he’d ever seen. Hard to wrap his mind around that concept.
“No,” she whimpered slightly.
When he set the tray down in her lap, she set upon the soup with shaky but single-minded vigor. Didn’t even seem to notice he was there. Didn’t take the opening for a quip or two or some nice, old-fashioned sarcasm. He began to panic.
“Is there…? Is there anything I can do?” he ventured hesitantly.
“Mm-mmm,” she shook her head negative as she finished her soup. One last deep swig of her orange juice, and she lay back down.
Hastily, and without any clue what else to do, he picked up the tray. She turned over lazily in bed, wrapped up in the covers, and buried her nose in the pillow.
“Buffy…?” he whispered softly.
“Mmm,” she stirred slightly and blinked. “Oh yeah.” Her voice sounded hoarse and wheezy like she was all stuffed up. “Can you patrol for me tonight?”
“’Course, luv. Is there—?”
The even rhythm of her breathing let him know that she was already asleep.
Still carrying the now-empty tray, he went downstairs to find Dawn on the couch, doing her homework. “Oh Bit,” he said anxiously, “I think she’s dyin’ in there.”
Dawn chuckled slightly. “She’s just a little si—”
“She asked me to patrol for her,” he insisted.
Dawn froze, eyes wide. “OK, I’d better check her temperature.” She leapt to her feet and ran for the hall cabinet.
Spike watched her dash about and then clomp back upstairs. Slowly, he followed after her in time to see her yanking the thermometer back out of Buffy’s mouth.
Dawn winced. “102°.”
“It’s not fun,” Dawn retorted. “But it’s not ‘we have to rush her to the hospital right now’ bad.” She passed him on her way back out into the hall and nabbed a bottle from the medicine cabinet. “Can you get a glass of water from the bathroom?” she called back to him.
He did as she asked, unquestioning. After all, human illness wasn’t exactly his specialty.
“Buffy?” Dawn shook her sister’s shoulder lightly.
“I need you to take these.” She held out two Tylenols.
Buffy frowned at them, puzzled. “Where’s Spike?”
“He’s right here. He’s about to go on patrol for you.” Dawn placed the pills forcefully into one hand and put the glass of water in her other. “Now, take these.”
Buffy did so. “Hang on.” She turned to Spike. “Give me a minute, and I’ll go with you…” She looked around, although he couldn’t guess for what.
And Spike and Dawn breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was all right in the universe as long as Buffy stuck to her stubborn belief that she could do everything by herself all the time, sickness or no. They both mentally downgraded her status from ‘imminent death’ to ‘very sick’.
“You,” Dawn countered sternly, her hands firmly on her hips, “aren’t going anywhere.” She pressed down on Buffy’s shoulders, forcing her back into bed. “Now get some rest.”
“Yes, mother,” Buffy grumbled somewhat sarcastically, closing her eyes once more.
Dawn bit her lower lip in response and headed back downstairs. Spike followed her.
“Sure she didn’t mean to remind you of mum like that,” he half grumbled. Why the hell did he always get caught doing this girly comforting bit, anyway? Oh yeah, because he was the world’s biggest sucker for round, teary Summers’ eyes.
“I know.” Dawn sniffed and washed out the thermometer in the sink before returning it to its place in the closet. “It’s just that mom always took care of us when we were sick, y’know? And now she’s gone and…” Another sniff.
“Oi now. I get enough of that ‘’m not as good as mum’ shit from Buffy. Don’t need you tryin’ to fit into the finest shoes ‘ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, too.”
Dawn smiled softly at that. “Big softie,” she accused lightly, returning to the living room and curling up on the couch.
He snorted and sat himself down on the chair across from her, adjusting his duster and jeans until he was comfortable.
She gave him a look.
“What?” he protested innocently.
“You’re such a freak.” She just shook her head and turned on the TV. Her eyes lit up when she saw her precious ‘Leo’. It was Romeo and Juliet, too.
“You’ll be all right, then?” He quickly got up.
“Coward,” she teased, her eyes smiling once more.
There was no arguing with that. He fled from the house. He figured a good three hours of killing things should be enough to avert the terrifying threat to his masculinity. That, and there was no way in hell he was letting Dawn scare him away in order to stay up late on a school night. He’d learned that trick well enough over the summer, and she was out of her mind if she thought she’d get away with it now…