"I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame"
-- Old Testament
They stopped to pick up his coat. Actually, it was Spike that stopped, braking suddenly and bending forward so that Buffy was almost pulled with him into a nosedive back onto the grass. She braced her legs, struggling to remain upright while still holding onto the vampire. "What do you think you're doing?" she asked through clenched teeth, biting back a curse.
"Getting my sodding coat."
For an instant Buffy seriously debated letting go, just dropping him on his head and leaving him there. But she couldn't. He had saved her life. Of course she had saved him too, so maybe they were even. Life would be so much easier if...
At that moment, Spike straightened, his duster in one hand. Wordlessly he pulled it on, flinching as the leather came into contact with his burns.
Buffy shot him a look. "Isn't that painful?"
"Well yeah. Why? Enjoying the view, were you?"
She purposely misunderstood him. "Unlike you, Spike, I don't enjoy watching people in pain. Although I'd probably be willing to make an exception in your case."
He laughed briefly then moved forward again, slowly and painfully. "Looks like it's your night then. 'Cause I feel bloody awful."
"You look it."
"You're not exactly a picture yourself, darlin'."
That much was true. Buffy glanced down at herself, relishing the fact that she could do so, that she could actually see again -- then sighed. She looked as bad as she felt. Her pants were ripped, her shoes soggy, and the black t-shirt she was wearing was definitely the worse for wear. On the plus side -- her socks did match, she discovered. Her hair though, appeared to be one big tangle; multi-hued bruises and/or bandages covered the bits of her body she could see -- and probably most of what she couldn't...and then there was the bite mark on her neck. Gonna be really hard to explain that one to Giles. And to Riley...
Riley. A pang went through her. What was she supposed to say to him? How could she ever explain this night? It was no good telling herself that nothing had happened, that she had only let Spike bite her in order to save his life. It wasn't true. Something had definitely happened between them. A whole lot of somethings. And Riley was already so twitchy about Angel...and Dracula. She couldn't imagine what he would say if he knew that she and Spike had...
"Wondering what Captain Cardboard is gonna say about all this?" Spike's voice broke in on her thoughts.
'What, can everyone read my mind tonight?' Buffy thought, a flash of irritation going through her. "His name is Riley," she said out loud.
"Yeah. Whatever. So what's he gonna think about this then?" He flicked the hand that was resting on her shoulders up to her neck.
"He'll...understand. He's very understanding."
"Oh yeah. Regular bloody saint, that one. 'Course, you ever consider that a saint's just about the last thing you really need?"
"My love life is so none of your business, Spike."
He laughed once, sharply, then winced and held his ribs. "I'm just saying..."
"You know," Buffy interrupted, her voice as calm as she could make it, "if you irritate me enough I'm going to just drop you and leave you here. You do realize that, don't you?"
"Think you'd make it back without me?"
"Actually, yeah. You're only slowing me down."
"Right then. Off you go." With that, Spike stepped aside, removing his arm. With his presence gone, Buffy found herself staggering, barely able to keep her footing. She hadn't realized quite how much she had been leaning on him...and how weak she still was. A second later though, he was back, his body preventing her from falling.
"You were saying?" the vampire said smugly. "Face it Slayer -- we need each other. Least for now."
She really, really hated it when he was right.
* * *
The journey back to the cemetery was a nightmare, the kind that went on and on and didn't stop until you woke up in a cold sweat. The kind where you seemed to walk forever but didn't make any progress at all. Every step was written in agony until Buffy was almost reeling from it. 'We must be a sight,' she thought through an exhausted haze as they rounded a corner together. Dirty, injured, staggering as if they had both had too much to drink, and Spike half-naked under the coat. And barefoot.
"Why didn't the Valet give your boots back?" Buffy said abruptly, staring blearily down at his feet.
"How should I know? Maybe he's got a fetish."
A pause. "Only about as much as walking on cut glass. Why? Worried about me?"
No. It wasn't that. It was just... Buffy didn't know what it was. Maybe the loss of blood was beginning to get to her at last, or perhaps she was losing her mind. Whichever, it bothered her that he had had to walk all this way with no shoes. And it bothered her that she was bothered by this. And... No. She was getting confused. Again. Dazedly, Buffy walked onwards, still looking down.
"We're here." His voice interrupted her thoughts.
With almost the last of her energies, Buffy looked up, trying to focus on her surroundings. He was right. The cemetery was just ahead. And not before time, she realized with a growing sense of alarm. The pre-dawn light that had been growing steadily for the last while was now so bright that she could see the shadows receding, almost before her eyes, as a thin line of radiance glowed on the eastern horizon.
They didn't have much time.
* * *
Spike opened the crypt door with one hand and practically fell through the doorway, dragging the Slayer along with him. He managed to stay upright, but it was a near thing. With the very last of his strength he tottered the final few steps towards the easy chair in the corner of the room and collapsed into it...dragging the Slayer down too. The vampire found himself looking down at her in some surprise as she fell forward with him, ending up sprawled halfway across his legs. 'Must've forgotten to let go,' he thought blearily. Still, this was nice. Home again. Hadn't gone up in flames. Slayer on his lap. Could be worse.
"I know, I know," he said, his voice practically shaking with exhaustion. "'Let me go, get off me or I'll stake you', blah-bloody-blah. You know, for someone who's supposed to hate me, you seem to end up on top of me pretty damned often." A pause, then: "What say we call a truce, blondie? You stop threatening to kill me and I'll..."
"I...uh...I don't know. You think of something. I'm just gonna have a nap now." His eyes were beginning to close, almost against his will, his arms tightening automatically around her waist. "Wake me up later."
A thump on his shoulder. "I am not staying here with you," Buffy said, her voice almost as weak as his. "I'm going home. Now."
"You'll fall on your face before you get three feet."
"And thank you so much for the vote of confidence."
Spike sighed, shifting in the chair a little, enjoying the feel of her on his lap. "Nothing to do with confidence, pet. Facts are facts."
"Yeah, well, fact one -- I'm going. And fact two -- you...you really need someone to look at those burns."
"Why? You offering to play doctor?" He opened his eyes and gave her a hopeful look.
"Spike, you are so..." Her voice trailed off, words failing her.
"Yeah. I am." His eyes began to slide shut again and he abruptly let go, his arms sliding away from her waist. "Shut the door on the way out," he said shortly.
* * *
That was it? No innuendo? No clever Spike quipage? Buffy blinked. He must be in worse shape than she had thought.
She really wasn't surprised she had ended up on his lap again. Not with the way the night had been going. This made -- what? Three? Four times she had ended up in close physical proximity with Spike? More? 'The Fates must really be getting a kick out of all this,' she thought sourly as she tried to lever herself up and off the vampire. Unfortunately, her strength chose that moment to desert her and she collapsed back against his chest, unable to move, gasping for air while the world spun in several directions around her. Oh yeah. Definitely having fun at her expense...
For a long moment the Slayer considered just staying put, curling up on Spike's lap and...
No! What was she thinking? Bad brain! Bad! Buffy took a deep breath then, with a superhuman effort, hauled herself out of the chair. Her legs immediately threatened to buckle beneath her but she locked her knees and gritted her teeth, waiting for the dizziness to pass. When it finally did she took a step towards the door...and stopped.
She wasn't sure what made her halt. Something inside her -- something she didn't want to examine too closely -- was making her turn back to the motionless vampire, her eyes running across his still form.
The coat had fallen open a little, enough to see some of the burns on his chest. They were bad. Worse than bad. But -- they were beginning to fade now. Weren't they? And surely the cut on his eye was no longer quite as jagged, or as deep? He was healing. She could go.
Any minute now.
He would be fine.
'Well, he should be,' Buffy told herself crossly, 'after a full-course meal of Buffy.' Nevertheless, she found herself walking back toward him, almost against her will. And the same something inside her made her reach out to touch the side of his face, just beneath the cut. He didn't stir. For several heartbeats Buffy stood there motionless then she slowly pulled her hand away, swallowing deeply. "Thank you, Spike" she whispered softly...and then she turned and headed for the door, her legs unsteady but her shoulders set and determined. This time she didn't stop and she didn't look back...
...and so she didn't see Spike's eyes open again, didn't see him watch her as she went back out into the daylight... and didn't see the unguarded look of naked longing on his face.
Continued in Part 16