For the lovely lipsofspike
Buffy Summers was a fighter.
She had fought Vampires since Middle School. She’d seen some of the most gruesome demons (and had a fair few of them explode on her too) in the world. She’d been a warrior for good for all of her adult life; and most of her teenage one too. Hell -she’d died. Twice.
But losing an arm was something she just couldn’t deal with.
The losing the limb itself was blurry. Sort of numb and fuzzy around the edges. She remembered Spike scooping her up. She remembered him saying, “God, Buffy” in that annoying British accent which nowadays she found less annoying and more comforting. She remembered the darkness turning into bright fluorescence as they entered the hospital.
The hospital stay was a little clearer. Lots of waning in and out of consciousness at first, lots of waking up and forgetting only for a pit to open in her stomach as she remembered and looked to see that her arm just wasn’t there. Not being able to cry because she was so damn scared. Spike disappearing as Willow, Dawnie and Xander arrived with lots of platitudes and I’m sorry’s…and it was just like when they’d brought her back from Heaven and they’d crowded and crowded. And just like then it was Dawn who saw that Buffy needed some peace and told everyone to back off. The drugs helped; softened the pain. But just a little.
Spike came back sometimes, at night and mostly when he thought she was sleeping, but she suspected he spent a lot of time in the hospital, waiting. She wondered why he didn’t just stay in her room. Dawn stayed a lot, and Willow did when Dawn didn’t. Xander was supportive and in a way he got it better than anyone because hello - remember the other eye he was supposed to have?
So there wasn’t much time for her to be alone. But when she was…well that was the worst. Because those were the times when it really hit her; when her friends weren’t there to say about Andrew working with prosthetics and robotics and sure he could fix everything and Willow talking about medical science and leaps and bounds whilst Xander said living without a piece of yourself wasn’t so hard and Dawnie just giving lots of brave smiles…when there wasn’t all of that there was the knowledge that she’d lost an arm.
How was she supposed to fight evil with one arm? How was she supposed to open jars or serve coffee or hold anything big or hold something big off? How did she wash her hair or put on clothes or eat with a knife and fork?
Because no matter how much everyone said that it could be fixed a part of Buffy said it couldn’t ever be fixed. She couldn’t be fixed. And this was just the beginning. That was the scariest thing. This was just the start - because she was only getting older and maybe slower and tireder…and next time it might be a leg or a hand or an eye or…next time it might be it. And there’d be no going back, not that time, third time’s the charm. Next time she dies it will stick.
And the scariest thing is that a part of her doesn’t mind that so much.
Coming home is harder than hospital. Maybe because everything is clearer and more real at Dawn and Xander’s, where she’d been taken for major R and R. Being somewhere familiar but everything being different is scary. Buffy keeps trying to pick something up or turn something or open something with her right hand and not being able to because it just isn’t there. And then there’s a pain in her chest so big it almost feels like a hollow, as though something’s gone which will never come back. Which is true.
And Buffy has never wanted Giles more than she does now. She wants her father figure, the person who watches out for her and looks over her and would do anything for her. She wants Giles. She wants her Mom.
Spike is sitting on the balcony again.
It’s Friday night and after much prodding from Buffy Dawn and Xander have agreed to go out together to eat - just for a couple of hours. Because Buffy’s been staying there a week and a half and despite their best efforts she knows it’s putting strain on them. The flat is too small for two normal people; let alone a barely there couple and a broken Slayer. Buffy feels tired all the time these days and rarely moves from the couch. She just can’t find the will.
Spike has been watching her a lot; like back in Sunnydale where he’d stand outside the house chain smoking as he watched her from afar. Except now Buffy actually wishes he’d come in. She actually wants him around. He never really spoke in the hospital; just a quiet hello or a half assed joke which barely raised a smile from him though made the corners of her lips turn up. She wonders whether he thinks differently about her now; now she’s less than she was. Has she lost his respect? It hurts more than it should.
Heaving herself up from the couch and the mass of pillows and blankets she’s been cocooned in there Buffy drags herself to the window and, with a great deal of effort, pulls it up with her one hand. He doesn’t move from his leaning against the railings stance and watches her with something she doesn’t really get. It’s like his eyes are darker than usual. Maybe it’s just the shadows.
“You wanna come in?” she asks before she can stop herself, “I’m sure Dawnie won’t mind considering…” she stops. Even though she knows it’s stupid she still can’t really say it.
“Yeah,” he answers finally, “Yeah. Thanks.”
She steps back and he steps in and they’re really close to one another. Outside he looked even paler than usual, like there was a whiteness beneath his skin shining through, and his hair was slicked back so hard it was like a helmet. Now Buffy is kind of scared to look him in the eye - but that’s stupid because it’s Spike and hasn’t he proved already that he cares about her enough to not judge her? So she looks up to find him looking down at her.
“You haven’t been around.” she says, again speaking before she knows she is.
“I have,” is his simple reply, “You just haven’t seen me.”
She nods slowly, moving to scratch an itch on her nose only to find that her arm doesn’t move and realising she’s gone for the right again. The pit in her stomach comes back and she quickly uses the left, hoping he hasn’t realised what she did.
“I’m sorry.” he says quietly, in a soft voice.
“Yeah,” she answered in an equally soft voice. “Yeah, me too.”
She doesn’t have to ask what he’s sorry about. What else could it be? He’s sorry he wasn’t able to stop it, sorry he didn’t get there a moment sooner, sorry he couldn’t save her the pain and the loss. He’s sorry he couldn’t have taken the hit for her. He’s sorry he hasn’t been around properly, hasn’t spoken to her about it, hasn’t been there. He’s been punishing himself. She gets it now. He’s gone back to that time before the First but after the soul. He thinks he’s not worthy.
“You want some snacks?” she asks because what else is there to say? “I’ve got spicy dips and chips…or Xander does.”
“Chance to steal from the whelp? How can I refuse?”
And his mouth turns upwards into one of those almost bad smiles that he has - except for his eyes which are soft as they look at her. But unlike with Willow and Xander and Dawn the softness doesn’t make her feel breakable.
It makes her feel stronger.
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