All About Spike
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Blood Kin
By Nan Dibble

Sequel to Old Blood

SECTION V: INTO THE DARK



Chapter Nineteen: Revamping

Nothing of Spike that Buffy could recognize remained.

His voice was silent. His eyes had been replaced by hideousness. His smooth ivory skin was wrinkled beige, slack and tissue-thin over apparent bones. White hair like short dead grass. No grace, no strength, no energy. No motion of any kind. Not even breath. His face was lipless, like a skull. His ears were shriveled. He looked like something that had been in a coffin in the ground for months.

She’d often thought that sleeping, he looked dead because he was still and breathed only occasionally if at all. The only time his skin felt warm was when he’d just fed, or had a hot shower, or absorbed some of her heat directly, skin to skin.

She’d had no idea.

This was dead. This was Death itself. She had only Willow’s word for it that Spike was in any meaningful way still alive in this horrible husk and still couldn’t bring herself to wholly believe it.

Dawn had held his hand. Sitting in a chair by the bed, Buffy felt a kind of panic at the thought of touching him and only stayed in the chair by force of will.

Vamps dusted so neatly. A breeze, and nothing was left. Very seldom was Buffy required to confront death’s true and commonest leavings.

He looked, Buffy thought, about the way she herself must have looked before Willow’s resurrection spell had flooded through her, plumping tissues, rounding contours. Restoring eyes, nose, lips. The pretty parts. The soft parts. The capacity for smiles, glances, expressions. Kisses. Before that, this was how she had looked.

And beyond question she knew that if she’d risen like that, Spike would somehow have known her and changelessly loved her and still impossibly believed her beautiful. Because what he mostly loved was the fact of her, not the appearance. The connection itself, that defined each of them in terms of the other.

The one unchanging fact in her world, welcome or unwelcome, these past years, had been that Spike hearts Buffy, even if she was calling him filthy names and beating the crap out of him, even when his idea of courtship was poking her with a cattle prod, chaining her up in his crypt, and threatening to feed her to Dru if she wouldn’t give him some glimmer of hope.

Ah, Romance.

They’d come such a long way to come together, even if it had mostly been like two produce trucks colliding and squawking chickens everywhere.

It seemed to Buffy she’d been presented with an ultimatum. If she couldn’t love Spike now, like this, she would never love him at all. If she kept the distance her physical revulsion commanded, she’d never break out of her isolation or truly touch him. And she’d never see anything other than this. Because this was the truth of what Spike was: a barely animated long-dead corpse. All the rest was pretty smoke and mirrors. And magic. Just as she was.

She had been such a thing as this. And still was, underneath it all. She had to somehow convince herself to feel, toward such grotesque and minimal meat, the fondness that soul owed to soul outside of time and appearance.

The prospect terrified her.

She spoke to him, hoping he’d answer, hoping for some present contact to focus on to let her try to imagine the rest in place of what she saw. No response whatever. It was all up to her.

Feeling that any moment she might faint or vomit, she began undressing. Each button in its methodical turn, each fastening undone, each garment removed, folded, and laid aside. She didn’t allow herself the cowardly separation of pajamas or a knee-length sleeping T. This was about flesh.

She stood for nearly five minutes at the far side of the bed, waiting to be ready. Finally knowing she’d never be ready. She slipped into bed, thinking Dawn touched him, held his hand: it’s possible, like a mantra. The other, more hysterical mantra was At least he doesn’t smell.

As a matter of honor, she’d left a light on, and she kept her eyes open. She made herself stroke her fingers slowly down the length of his right arm. Although she was certain he couldn’t hear her, didn’t even know she was there, she whispered, “If you can stand to be this, I can stand to be with this. You said you’d come to me when you could, and you have, and you will. There’s nothing here that’s not to love. It’s all in the learning how. And the wanting to.”

Carefully resting no weight on him, she turned on her side and gathered him close and believed as hard as she could until she slept.

**********

It had all gone away. He wondered where the other had gone who had been with him through it all. It didn’t hurt so much as before but it was lonely.

Water was sometimes and then was not. Like a very slow but steady drip in a desert. On the surface everything dry, gritty, easily blown away. Deeper though, his body sipped and diffused the moisture by tiny slow degrees. Absorbed and used every least molecule until there was no more and halted then as it was. Afterward waited through what felt like an entire season of pitiless drought until the water came again. Never much. Never enough. But always some as he waited for it, too deep in need to yet feel it as thirst, only as an undifferentiated ache that was everywhere, that was waiting.

He was accustomed and resigned and content to have life rationed to him. So when it presented itself and bade him drink in the voice that he knew, the voice that gave permission or withheld it, he changed and bit and fed, rapt in the power and the astonished sweetness of it but releasing when the voice bade him stop. Not nearly enough. He understood that he was to feed from no other, that this was the gift to him and it would be given again in the proper time.

He waited for it to be time.

**********

Dawn knew that any kind of severe submission was traumatic. She’d seen the effects in Michael, seen how long it had taken for him to begin to regain his balance, his sense of self, his initiative. And that had been under the almost constant care of a senior vamp who knew what he was doing and viewed the younger vampire with affection. And that was without the added strain of extreme starvation.

So although everybody else cleared out of the front room when Angel arrived in the twilight, literally turning their backs on the intruder, Dawn stayed quiet by the doorway and watched. And saw the tension of Spike’s blindness sag into ease, and saw how Angel offered his arm for Spike to feed from him and was quiet and gentle with him, stroking his hair, both of them silent until, at a word, Spike quit feeding and slumped back in the big armchair he’d been installed in by Willow’s directions.

Watching, trying to set aside preconceptions and see what was actually there, Dawn knew the two vamps were completely at peace with one another.

She believed Angel would have stayed longer, for Spike’s sake, if Buffy hadn’t made it clear Angel was welcome at Casa Summers strictly on a business-only basis: in and then out as soon as possible.

So when Angel came out, stern and expressionless, rolling his sleeve down over the bite, Dawn got ahead of him and said, “I’d like to understand better. Would you talk to me a little?”

He gave her a glance and kept going. But when Dawn followed, he’d stopped at the stairs, his back to her. Not friendly, but not leaving, either. Dawn put her back against the porch railing. “Nobody here really knows how to take care of a vamp. I’d like to learn.” No response, but still not leaving. “If the problem is fluids, why can’t we give him more?”

“Adhesions. Surfaces healing quick and wrong, healed tight to each other. Have to rehydrate very slowly. Let the adhesions pull away gradually or he’ll lose more to internal bleeding than he can take in. And that doesn’t mean anything to you at all.”

Dawn didn’t react to the contempt and bitterness. She kept everything very calm and on topic. “How long until he can have more?”

“Another two days. Maybe you could tell someone.” (Implication: she was nobody but might serve to carry a message to Somebody, presumably Buffy, who actually had some authority worth his notice.) “Then six twelve ounce glasses of water, two about every eight hours. Gradually. Not all at once. City water in Sunnydale has always been putrid.”

“I can get good water for him. And good blood. Live blood.”

Finally, Angel consented to look around at her. “That would be better. But he won’t feed from anyone but me. No humans.”

“Why?”

“Because I’ve forbidden it.” He was frowning at the side yard now. “There’s a vamp out there.”

“I know. His minion. He’s no danger.”

In angry exasperation, Angel demanded, “Has every vamp in Sunnydale been invited in?”

“He’s not invited. He’s just waiting. When can Spike have more blood? And how much?”

“Another four days. Then, as much as he can take. Water, too. I’ll come each day and feed him until then. If I’m allowed.”

Absolutely volcanic rage but furiously and absolutely controlled. Courtesy as armor. If permission was needed, he’d ask it--to properly care for his childe, now that time for torture was done and apparently utterly put away, except for its effects, by both of them. As the torture had been, this too was a vampire matter, alien and beyond common understanding. Knowing she didn’t understand it, Dawn suspended judgment. She returned Angel’s courtesy and offered herself as ally on the basis of shared concern.

“I’ll see that you’re allowed. Spike needs to be taken care of by someone who knows how.”

“All right.” Not agreement. Just a noise of acknowledgement.

“Let him feed from vamps. When it’s time.”

Another grudged, considering look. “Vamps can’t feed from one another--”

“--unless it’s right after a kill, or the vamps are of the same bloodline, the junior feeding from the senior. Yes, I know. Tell him that’s allowed.”

“Is that minion his get?” Angel demanded incredulously, waving at the yard where Dawn could not see Mike but still knew he was there.

Apparently Angel also knew of Spike’s reluctance and then refusal to turn dinner into a companion.

“Something will be arranged,” Dawn responded with serene vagueness. “And you’ll be able to confirm that it’s done him no harm. How long will it take…for his eyes?”

“It depends. Not less than two weeks, and probably more.”

“Everything else will have healed by then,” Dawn reflected, dismayed. “He’ll be absolutely climbing the walls!”

“He’ll need to train. Get back his strength and coordination. Maybe…something could be arranged with those Potentials he’s been…working with.”

Dawn refused to speculate about what Angel thought Spike had actually been doing with the SITs. “I’m sure it could. If you think of any other way I could help while you’re shut out, I want to. I love Spike. And I try to understand.”

The near-vamp bluntness about his situation startled him: Dawn could tell. She thought it probably had been too long since he’d been around vamps: too long among humans and their self-serving pussyfooting.

“Watch out, child. Somebody might come to the conclusion you’re on the wrong side here.”

“I’m on Spike’s side. That makes everything very simple and usually prevents misunderstandings.”

“Right,” said Angel dubiously. “Good night, then.”

“Good night, Angel.”

When Angel’s big car had pulled away, Dawn went out into the yard to where Mike waited.

“It’s hard to tell,” she reported, “when he’s sleeping and when he’s not. But I don’t think he knows any of us are there yet. Except Angel. He knows when Angel comes. And he’s not afraid of him.”

“No,” Mike agreed, as though that was self-evident.

“Why not, Mike? I see it but I don’t understand it!”

“Well, it’s settled now between them. Where they stand. So no need for anybody to be afraid or mad anymore.”

“Oh.” Dawn tried to get her mind around it. “But Mike, Angel tortured him!”

“There’s a joke,” Mike said, “about a mule and a two-by-four. Don’t remember all of it. But the point is, the two-by-four is to get the mule’s attention. Spike got my whole attention by breaking a good many of my bones and busting my nose. I couldn’t see, the better part of two days, they were swole shut so bad. And knowing if I didn’t submit, he was gonna dust me, no doubt whatever about it. You saw. If they been at odds, Spike and Angel, a hundred years or more, and never settled things between ‘em, might take a good bit to get Spike’s whole attention off all the grudges and quarrels and onto now. Vamps heal, Dawn. So we play real rough, a way humans don’t. You got to take that into account. Let me go in, Dawn.”

“I’m sorry, Mike. It’s not up to me. Tomorrow night, a couple of the SITs will bring him out on the porch for awhile. Then--”

“Why not tonight?”

Dawn thought a minute, then admitted, “I don’t know why not. I know how to do tomorrow, I’m not so good at now. I don’t know any reason. Let’s go over to Casa Spike and ask them. I think we could come up with a few volunteers. I think at this point I probably weigh more than he does.”

“Good idea, Dawn. Let’s do that.”

**********

By the time four more days had passed, Spike was still mostly fogged. But there’d been visible improvement: he’d gone from looking like a zombie to looking like a ninety-year-old concentration camp survivor. He was awake more. He could respond to simple questions about his comfort if you spoke really slowly and avoided big words. But energy level was about zero: he seldom moved and never spoke on his own initiative. Lawn ornaments had more animation.

“Doesn’t smoke,” Dawn remarked to Buffy, who was on the point of leaving for work, “doesn’t drink, doesn’t gamble, doesn’t swear, doesn’t chase other women. In short, the perfect boyfriend.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and looked as if she was thinking of several other things Spike didn’t do that she wouldn’t mention. Hustling to his chair where he’d been installed for the day, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Off now, Spike. Don’t get into too much mischief. Get better.”

She didn’t wait for a response. You could grow several layers of moss waiting for that.

Dawn perched on the overturned bucket by his chair and started reading to him. She’d finished The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy; now she was reading from The (In)Complete Book of Failures, a compendium of snippets of egregiously dumb stuff including such items as builders constructing a wall and omitting any way to get their truck out; a vet lighting a pipe while examining a flatulent cow, resulting in second degree methane burns to his face and the cow’s posterior; and selected excerpts from “English As She Is Spoke,” the world’s most incompetent phrase book. Dawn didn’t know if Spike paid the least attention but at least it kept her entertained.

In reserve remained The Stuffed Owl, containing abysmal poetry of the last couple centuries, and Thurber’s My Life and Hard Times, both excellent invalid fodder.

Pretty soon the SITs started drifting in. Each did The Greeting, which consisted of coming over to Spike’s chair, touching his hand for a moment, and saying Hi, so he’d know who was there. Leaving, they’d do the same, except the word would be Bye. Occasionally he’d react and startle somebody but mostly he didn’t. They did it anyway because Oracle Willow had delivered the revelation that he preferred people around him but undemandingly, busy with their own interests and pretending he was furniture.

Rona worked crosswords Willow had downloaded and printed out for her. Vi started a Monopoly game, the players flopped down in the middle of the floor. Amanda took up her counted cross-stitch, a picture of a sappy, big-eyed kitty cat with a necklace of daisies. Kim sharpened weapons. JoAnne read a cookbook. Kennedy tried out some new ghastly color of nailpolish on her toes.

After the lunch break, when she resumed reading a selection of really stupid reviews of classic movies, Dawn was startled and delighted to feel Spike’s fingers alighting on her hair like a flock of butterflies. Holding otherwise very still, she lifted an arm, waved frantically from the wrist, and then stabbed the air backward with her thumb until everybody had noticed, all of them grinning like maniacs, shoving one another, doing high-fives, rolling on their backs and kicking, and otherwise displaying unrestrained glee in utter silence. With some difficulty, Dawn found her place and read on.

At first dark, when Angel came to provide the evening feed, he carried in and opened a wheelchair. He motioned Dawn outside to direct in a whisper, “Don’t tell him who brought it.” When Dawn raised her eyebrows and looked a question, Angel frowned uncomfortably. “It would be awkward.” When Dawn’s question didn’t go away, he added, “He was in a wheelchair once. It…wasn’t a good time.”

“He noticed me today,” Dawn reported happily. “That’s good, right?”

“This will be the last time I feed him. I assume there’s blood laid in.”

Figuring that was a question, Dawn nodded. “About what I asked…?”

“You want to explain about that?” Angel asked sternly.

“Nope. Just an idea. Can’t hurt to try.”

“I suppose not. All right. I’ll tell him. After I leave, all the fluids he can take.”

“Right.” Dawn saluted smartly, and Angel gave her a look but also something that might have been a smile if you looked really hard and weren’t too particular.

Dawn had set herself the task of learning how to tease him. She couldn’t yet claim much of a success rate but she was nothing if not persistent.

After Angel went inside again, Dawn went to the yard, where Mike, Amanda, and Kim were playing three-way catch with a luminous Frisbee. Coming toward her, Mike pitched a cigarette, which Dawn found odd--she’d never noticed him smoking before--but not worth remarking on.

Amanda brought and opened one of the plastic lawn chairs, and Dawn sat down.

“You scared?” Mike asked solicitously. “You smell scared.”

“A little,” Dawn admitted. “Not your fault.”

“I’ll be careful. Like I promised.”

Dawn hitched a shoulder. Although they’d discussed it, there were factors involved that nobody knew but Dawn. She figured Mike would find out when he found out.

“We don’t have to,” Mike said. “I’m all fed up good.”

Dawn didn’t try to explain to him why that wouldn’t work. Not as she intended it to, anyway. She just gave him her arm. The next second, he’d gone vamp-faced and bit just above her wrist.

It felt scary and wonderful. As though everything in her had jerked into alignment with that one point of contact and burned there, waves and waves of throbbing pleasure in heartbeat rhythm bursting back through her from that point as her life was drawn away.

Then it stopped. And it hurt that it had stopped. She found herself bursting into tears.

Kneeling in the grass, still vamp-faced, Mike looked dazed and completely rattled, staring at her. After awhile he shed game face and Dawn was able to choke back to gulping sniffles, both of them still staring.

Mike scraped his wrist across his mouth. “Dawn. You should have told me.”

“Well, I didn’t know how it would be, I’ve never done this before, how would I know?” Kim stuffed a wad of tissues at her and Dawn swiped her eyes and blew hard, horribly sorry to have flashed out at Mike like that.

“Good they stopped me,” Mike said very softly. Head bent now, eyes averted.

Kim said, “Don’t think this was such a great idea after all.”

“No,” Dawn burst out, “don’t you see? That’s the power in it. So what if it scared me? So what if it scared you? Big things are scary, that’s how it is!”

“Wouldn’t say precisely scary,” Mike muttered. “Gonna have to talk about this. No use in wasting it, though. This ain’t for me anyway. ‘Manda, soon as Angel’s gone, see to getting Spike out onto the porch.” When Amanda hesitated, looking from him to Dawn in obvious concern and uncertainty, Mike burst out, “Jehosephat, girl, go on! I’ll stand off by the corner, striking distance and then a bunch. Jesus H. Christ!” He sprang to his feet and stormed off, muttering to himself, going where he’d said: clear to the far side of the house.

Kim asked cautiously, “What was that all about?”

Dawn shot back, “It’s spooky and scary and none of your business!”

“I think maybe it is, Dawn. I came that close to having to taser him. If you figure on doing this again and you want me to be minder, I need to know what’s going on.”

Dawn scrubbed at her eyes again and sniffed. “I’m sorry, Kim. It’s just really upsetting. I’ve heard of people paying to have vamps bite them. Now I know why. It’s…very scary.”

“I noticed. And that’s not all I noticed.”

“Well, it’s personal. Very personal, all right?” Dawn clasped her hands in her lap, feeling very dim and let down. “My blood. It’s the same as Buffy’s. Basically, the snack food a vamp dreams about. Slayer blood. Reportedly pretty strong stuff. I wouldn’t know, myself. I figured it wouldn’t take much…to make a difference.”

“I think you should use a mug next time.”

“But then it’s dead. Or dead-er. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ll talk to Mike. I scared him. Or whatever.”

“I think quite a lot of whatever. I’d hate to have to do him over this,” Kim remarked somberly, looking off to the porch as Angel came out and went down the walk to his car.

Dawn couldn’t bear to think about Kim’s remark.

Some SITs brought Spike out onto the porch in the wheelchair. Mike went and stood partway up the steps, one foot higher than the other and his body leaned forward--almost a pose of interrupted attack. He was saying something to Spike but Dawn was too far away to hear what or know if Spike made any response. Going the rest of the way onto the porch, Mike bent down by the chair, offering his arm. No reaction. So Mike opened his own arm and offered it again. That time, Spike latched on and began feeding. After some minutes, Mike appeared to have a certain amount of difficulty getting him to stop.

Mike came back down the steps and crossed to where Dawn was sitting. He looked, well, drained. Exhausted. He said, “I’m gonna go hunt now.” When Dawn looked up wanly, Mike said, “You always smelled real good. Now I know why…. Don’t think anything would have been different if you’d told me. No talk is anything like the thing itself. And I understand. This is because he’s yours. And I’m not. Ain’t for me, it’s for him, and that’s right. That makes the best sense. Next time, I’ll do better. Seems like a fine thing, to be somebody’s. Might think about doing that myself sometime.” His eyes warmed. “Don’t fret, Dawn. No harm done. I just was a bit…startled, is all. You mind if I kiss you on the face?”

Kim tensed, but Dawn said, “That’s OK.”

Mike bent and kissed her very lightly on the cheek. And then hard and sudden on the mouth. When he stood up, he was halfway game-faced, but that faded almost immediately, and he smiled. “Take some of that fine smell with me. Doesn’t cost nobody nothing, nobody’s the poorer for such a thing. ‘Night, Kim. ‘Night, Dawn.”

As they watched Mike head off toward the break in the hedge, Kim whispered, “He kissed you.”

“Yeah.”

“And you let him.”

“Guess so.”

“Does that mean he thinks you’re, like, hot?”

“God knows what a vamp thinks.” Dawn touched her burning cheek. And then her lips, that felt numb. “I smell nice. I have tasty blood. I may never leave the house again.”

That was the one and only time the wheelchair was used. The next day, Spike was on his feet, swearing when he bumped into things, and making himself an all-around misery to anybody who came within twenty feet of him. The only mercy was that he tired easily and slept a lot.

**********

Fucking hell.

He was gonna have to carve Michael and Dawn into tiny collops, the both of them, for what they’d been stupid enough to do. The problem was that he didn’t know how he’d ever wait until they did it again.

Everything made sense. Only it wasn’t any of it sense he liked.

Well, he wasn’t supposed to like it, was he? The new sense was walls he banged into every way he turned. The walls of Angel’s commands and forbiddings, which all were compulsions, no choice left to him whatever. He was under Angel’s hand and Angel’s word now, as he’d never been in the whole of his unlife, and that had been most of the battle between them from the start, that he’d slide off if he could or take his beating if he had to, but he would not submit, which just made Angelus try to beat him down harder, and back and forth and round and round, and it still never settled between them when Angelus disappeared, just was gone. When, Spike had learned long afterward, the cursed soul had been forced upon his Sire and him too ashamed to show his face, no wonder to that.

So now it was settled. That had been the price, and he’d agreed to it, set himself to it, and paid it. And had slowly come back to awareness to find himself duly installed, blind and helpless and useless, back in Casa Summers with nothing he was allowed to touch. Of course the whole house stank of Slayer, he’d even been sleeping in her fucking bed, not that he was yet capable of doing anything much in the usual way, there were still a score of ways he could have brought her off, pleasured her, renewed the connection. He knew she wanted him to--could smell it rolling off her, practically taste it. And not only couldn’t do a thing about it but couldn’t even truly want to. Although he could form the image in his mind, it wouldn’t spark. Would bang into that wall of forbidding and die.

And though the children were constantly around him, he could no more have fed from them or even accepted what they could bring him in a mug than he could have bitten a windowpane and taken nourishment there. Humans and their blood were behind and beyond one of those walls.

They were all safe from him. Everybody on the entire fucking planet was safe from him. Because Angel made do chaste as a eunuch and supped dead blood out of a mug and called it feeding, he figured that the world would be a much better place if everybody did the same. And in this respect--hell: all respects!--Spike’s surrendering his will to Angel meant that Angel’s incredible self-restraint restrained Spike too. Couldn’t truly want anything different, much less actually do it. Couldn’t even voice a forceful objection. That impulse, like all the others contrary to Angel’s requirements and prohibitions, would just hit a wall, fade, and die away.

Who’d have ever thought that the Scourge of Europe would end up as some kind of tight-assed ascetic Puritan who successfully fought off, every fucking day, anything with the least prospect of making him happy? The man didn’t even bloody drink, or hardly.

The only reason Angel hadn’t prohibited what Michael and Dawn had contrived was that it hadn’t occurred to him anybody would be daft enough to voluntarily feed themselves to a vamp so he in turn could let another vamp feed off him. The heavy admixture of cannabinoids, that had to be Michael’s idea. Another little surprise treat, along with the hefty dose of Slayer blood. They were both hiding out, nowhere to be found, that was plain. If there was mercy in the world, not hiding out together because Spike was certain Michael would eat her up in a flash, now that he knew what ran in her veins. Or maybe just keep her as a bloodcow, snack a little from time to time until, inevitably, it was all gone.

Nothing he could do about it, it was broad daylight. He could feel it: the presence and angle of the sun. Yet he couldn’t just leave the problem and hope for the best.

He could make it across the room if he went slow and rested a couple of hours before and after. But the stairs, he knew, might as well have been Everest. He thought of sending one of the children to fetch the witch but instead focused his mind on her and wanted her. Now.

He heard her come downstairs and stop in the doorway. She said in a smiling voice, “You yelled?”

“Who’s here besides us? Never mind: anybody who’s not Willow, bugger off.” He heard assorted feet moving, then one set approaching. “Red, they all gone?”

She settled on the weapons chest, moving the phone to make room. “Well…. Yeah, now they are. So what’s up? You’re looking a lot better today, by the way.”

“Hell with me, pay attention here. Dawn’s scarpered because she’s done something she shouldn’t. Something dangerous. An’ she’s hiding out from me ‘cause she knows I’ll call her on it. Well and good. But maybe I’m not the vamp she should be worrying about. Can you find her some way, don’t care how, and send a few of the children to fetch her?”

“I think that can be arranged.” Willow left.

One of the children, Kim, came from the hall to sit where Willow had been. “I know where she is, Spike. I’ll go get her. I know: you’re worried about Mike, and Dawn’s OK, but if you need to know that for yourself, I’ll get her.”

Kim left and other children came back in, Rona and Amanda and…Kennedy and Vi, all girlsmell, bloodsmell, and he tried very hard not to notice or let that affect him, they were past the wall, out of reach, forbidden. And after a time Willow came back, close enough that he knew who she was, saying to him pleasantly, “I gather the problem has resolved itself.”

“Not quite--” Spike broke off because Dawn had just come in the door.

She crossed the room in long swinging strides, saying, “It’s no big deal, Spike, except I was pretty sure Angel would freak. I wasn’t even anywhere around Mike, I do have half a brain, you know. If you wanted it, no need to go into panic mode, all you had to do was ask.”

And she stuck herself in his face, where Mike had set his mark on her, he knew just as clear and plain as sight, and he was tight focused there; and his demon that had been all coiled and furious within him, denied at every turn, exploded beyond his control, wild with jealousy and need, and then nothing.

His mind started working before his body could move. One of the children had tasered him: he could feel the numb-and-prickling aftereffects. And he’d been able to go for Dawn, she was right on the edge of the prohibition, because Angel had ordered him to it in the before that was all so dim to him, but he remembered that, remembered the witch shouting in his mind, and going for her, for Dawn, because he had to, no choice whatever about it, a weapon to another’s will. And his demon had known that, felt the least edge of a chance and taken it, gotten past him. And he’d gone for Dawn.

And he thought, The sleep of reason breeds monsters. Again, Blake had known what was what.

It hadn’t been Dawn worried about the wrong vamp. It’d been him.

When he had enough control back, he straightened in the chair. “You there, Bit?”

“Yes.” Her voice sounded shaky. Like she was crying, maybe. Spike hung his head and breathed awhile.

“Did I hurt you.”

“Not really, I just was…surprised.”

“Well, I was surprised, too. That was in me, all the while, and I swear I didn’t know it. Red. Take from my mind what I want. Tell the children. And after that, don’t you come in my mind again.”

“All right, Spike,” Willow said, puzzled. Then she said, “Oh.”

They all went away. And presently they all came back with blood only beginning to die, fragrant and strong. And because he couldn’t so much as will to take it, Dawn came and sat by him on the chair arm and fed it to him a little sip at a time, patting his arm and gentling his demon down that was all locked in on the blood. And they all did that twice more. The next time, something broke and Spike could take the mug in two hands and drink it himself, carefully not dropping it and not choking from having his throat so tight. And then the last time, as well, when the demon had had enough and consented to settle, grumbling at the constraint.

Spike held up the empty cup until somebody took it. “’Manda. You see that everybody knows: nobody never comes within striking distance of a starving vamp. We’re not to be trusted. An’ whoever came in with her taser, good on her. Bit, I’m all fed up now for awhile. You can come back, if you will.”

There had been some of her blood, a seasoning worth all the rest, in each of the filled mugs.

He felt her settle back on the chair arm, leaned warm against his shoulder. Not hard enough or enough weight that he couldn’t keep steady against it.

“Bit, you recall my telling you how I made those fledges. An’ started killing again. Awhile back. Before the First took me. You remember that.”

“Yeah. Spike, don’t be all upset, nobody got hurt--”

“You hush now till I’m done. Bit, that’s how it was. My demon got past me and did what it does. Caught me by surprise, it did. All I knew was I was worried you wouldn’t take enough care with Michael. Never had a thought of that other till it was done.”

He felt her fingers on his face. “You’re not gonna try and do something dumb, are you?”

“As compared to what?” Spike responded, feeling on the one hand emptily destroyed and on the other, full of that really excellent food given freely and in kindness and concern for him. The two of them all tangled up and enough to undo him completely. “Bit, my demon minds me. We generally get on fine. But I’ve put it through sore trials lately an’ we’re not on good terms anymore. And it just got past me before I knew. Till I can see proper again, at least that long, nobody is to come near me except right after I’ve fed. I can’t be answerable. Can’t be trusted. I don’t mean you no harm whatever, but starving, my demon’s not particular. ‘Manda.”

“Yeah, Spike.”

“Think we’re gonna need that roster again, if everybody’s still agreeable to it. Go half and half with the pig’s blood because it’ll have to be more than once a day. And whatever you do, don’t give the least edge of clue about it to Angel. Somebody fetch a glass of water, big glass, and set it here where I can get it. Don’t believe I could manage a pitcher, but I think a glass I could handle all right…. And Bit, you keep what’s yours to yourself hereafter. Done me all manners of good, but that’s not a thing for everyday. I’m so sorry, I don’t have the words to tell you.”

“I know,” said Dawn, her breath warm against his face. Then the touch of a dry little friendly kiss. “Sick people get cranky. You were just cranky.”

“Cranky doesn’t begin to describe. How terrible do I look?”

“Really awful freakin’ terrible. I just about know it’s you. And your roots are starting to show.”

“Yeah. Well. Have to do something about that when I can…. I won’t trust nobody else to be in charge of my demon except me. It won’t mind nobody else. Shove it back, deny it, it just gets sneaky and comes back twice as hard when I’m not looking.”

“Like a fledge. Like Mike was,” Dawn suggested.

“Very like that, yeah. Gonna have to rest here soon, but if you will, I’d like to know how Michael’s been doing.”

They all told him with great enthusiasm until he slept.


Continued in Chapter Twenty: Demon Relations

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