Love, Give, Forgive


by Cody Nelson



Buffy paused just outside the door to the crypt with her hand on the doorknob. She took a deep breath and gave herself a little shake. She'd never hesitated to enter Spike's crypt before; why start now? It was still just Spike, an annoying but mostly harmless vampire with a chip in his head. Just Spike, who, out of boredom or isolation or depression or whatever had become stupidly obsessed with her. Just Spike, an enemy too helpless to kill.

But Spike wasn't an enemy any more. She didn't know what he was, but she could no longer call him an enemy. Spike had gotten himself tortured nearly to death for her, to save Dawn from Glory. She could still barely believe it. Didn't really understand it. She had been so sure, so absolutely sure that he'd give Dawn up in a heartbeat (if he had one) to protect himself. That whatever he felt for her in his soulless heart wasn't real love. Well, she'd been wrong.

It hadn't been easy to find that out. Of course, she'd been relieved beyond words to know that Dawn was safe. So relieved that she'd leaned in to kiss his bruised and swollen lips. But telling him that she wouldn't forget what he'd done -- that was one of the hardest things she'd ever had to do.

The others -- Giles, Willow, even Xander -- had offered to help. Check on Spike, give him some blood, make sure Glory's minions were leaving him alone. They were all pretty thrown by the news, too. All willing to thank him for what he'd done.

But they weren't the ones he was in love with.

Buffy took another deep breath and opened the door.

Spike was just where she'd left him an hour before, on his sarcophagus in his torn and bloody clothes. His bruises had continued to swell and discolor in the meantime, and he looked even worse than he had before. She wondered how long it would take for him to heal. He was a vampire, of course, but vampires rarely bruised at all. It had taken some force to hurt him like this. She shivered a little. What if Glory had gotten hold of one of her friends? Would any of them have been able to withstand her torture?

She let her bag slide from her shoulder, and stepped up to the sarcophagus. "Spike," she said softly.

His head turned towards her, slowly, and the eye that wasn't swollen shut half-opened. He managed a dazed smile. She remembered the feel of his bruised mouth on hers. Soft. His lips were so soft. And his kiss had been gentle and sweet. No doubt as much because of the bruises as anything. But the way he'd talked to her when he thought she was the robot -- he'd been patient with her, and kind. Not what she would have expected from a man with a sex toy. But maybe from a man hopelessly in love, making do with the best he could get.

"Buffy." Even her name was soft, coming from his swollen mouth.

Something shivered inside her. "Um, I brought you some blood." Would it be so terrible to kiss him again? Just to make him feel better, nothing more.

He struggled to get an elbow under himself, winced and sucked in air. Buffy put her hand on his shoulder and urged him back down. "Don't get up." His shoulder was rock-hard, and flexed under her hand. _Compact but well-muscled,_ Xander had said. Yes, he was.

She got the container of blood out of her bag. Just pig blood from the butcher's, but she'd heated it in the microwave at home so it would be warm. The bending straws were left over from when her mother was sick. She'd felt a pang when she pulled the box out of the cupboard, but there were no tears. Strangely, she was almost getting used to it now -- being in a house full of her mother's things, but not her mother. Buffy's mom had liked Spike. She'd have been happy to share her straws with him. She'd probably have brought him hot chocolate and "poor baby"'d him until he purred.

Buffy slid a hand behind his neck and held his head so he could get his swollen lips around the straw. He sucked the blood into his mouth, his hollow cheeks sinking so deep they nearly disappeared. His hair was thick and matted in her hand. She found herself wanting to scrub the goop out of it, fluff it into soft curls. Why did he plaster it down like that? He didn't even know what he looked like, without a reflection.

Spike drained the container, eyes closed. He released the straw with a small sigh. "Right. You're being awfully nice. Which Buffy are you?"

She smiled. "Sorry. It's the not-so-pleasant Buffy."

She lowered his head to the stone top of the sarcophagus, feeling strangely reluctant to pull her fingers out of his hair. The hard stone didn't look very comfortable. She knew it was where he slept, but he wasn't always this beat up. Too bad he didn't have a softer place to lie down. Maybe she should have moved him out of the crypt. Taken him home, let him take a hot bath. She pictured herself leaning over him in the tub, gently washing the blood from his wounds, drying him with soft towels, then tucking him into a soft, warm bed. Not that she would do it, but.... They'd talked about whether Spike might still be in danger, whether Glory might decide to snatch him again. They'd decided he was probably safe -- Glory would be too busy finding a new base of operations for the time being, and she'd probably realize there was no percentage in trying to break a vampire. Still, Buffy wondered if she should have at least given him a bed to sleep in. Didn't he deserve a little more for his suffering than a cold, hard slab of stone?

Spike was watching her. She felt her face heat. "Spike. Do you know why Glory grabbed you?"

He looked away. "Glory's little rat-demons saw me with the robot. Saw how she was... protecting me. They thought I was the Key."

Buffy stifled a laugh. "Oh, Spike. Was it worth it?"

He smiled a little ruefully. "Yeah. Not the robot, though. You... not hating me."

Oh god. Tortured nearly to death -- for nothing more than not to be hated. Suddenly, she was ashamed of the way she'd treated him. Impulsively, she leaned down and kissed him.

She felt him start, a tiny flicker of movement in his body. His unswollen eye widened, then drifted shut. His fingertips brushed against her arm, as light as feathers. Then he lay still and let her kiss him. She wanted to press his mouth harder, but knew she would hurt him. So she ran her tongue along his lips, and he opened his mouth with a tiny groan. There was blood in his mouth, but it didn't seem to matter. She kissed him slowly, softly, for far longer than she should, then finally pulled away.

"Buffy...," he sighed. She felt that shiver again when he said her name, a tingly feeling behind her breastbone. _He really loves me,_ she thought. How could it be possible? But there was no denying it. He was hers. She could have him if she wanted.

And be sorry for it after. Buffy took a slightly shaky step back. Getting way too carried away. She'd come here to bring him some blood, and make sure he was all right. That was all. "Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything?"

Foolish question. Funny how much longing he could express with one half-open eye and a puffy, bruised face. But after a moment he made a small gesture to the side. "My pillow... s'over there somewhere."

She found the pillow, along with a rumpled sheet and comforter, on the other side of the crypt. He and the robot had apparently played up one side of the crypt and down the other. She felt a brief stab of... what? Revulsion? Amusement? Jealousy? Well, at least the robot had gotten to have fun. Without any moral dilemmas.

She hesitated. He'd only asked for the pillow, but... gingerly, she picked up the sheet and comforter, too, hoping not to find any more evidence of their fun. Did robots and vampires even have bodily fluids? She couldn't really remember about Angel, and she didn't want to think too much about it, anyway. To her relief, the sheet looked clean enough.

She brought the armful of bedding back to Spike. "Do you want to make your bed?"

The pause was excruciatingly awkward. His glance flitted away, then back, his face stricken with embarrassment. He struggled to speak. Buffy stepped back, dropping everything to the floor. God, what was she doing? The fantasy images once again danced across her vision: _Take him home, tuck him into bed...._ This was _not_ why she was here. "Spike, I...."

Then he was struggling to get up, too fast, wincing and gasping in pain. Buffy took his arm and helped him slide shakily to his feet. His flesh was icy cold -- or was it just that her own hand was burning hot? "I'll do that," he mumbled, tried to bend over to pick up the sheet, then stopped with a strangled moan, clutching his ribs.

"Spike -- " She put an arm across his shoulders to lead him away from the sarcophagus. She couldn't help noticing how sinewy his back was, all hard ropy muscle. Her whole body was burning now. "It's okay. Let me do it." She propped him against the back of an easy chair, then returned to the pile of bedding, relieved to be able to turn away. She felt her temperature drop as soon as he was out of her sight.

"You sure you're the not-so-pleasant Buffy?" His voice was teasing, but a little ragged.

Without turning around, she shot back, "If you can't tell me from a robot, you're going to find out how not-so-pleasant I can be." She busied herself making up the sarcophagus: sheet tossed across the hard stone, pillow at the head, comforter laid down then turned back for him to slide beneath. And now the sarcophagus was a bed, not just a big stone box, and she was standing in his bedroom, and her body was once again ablaze.

Spike, when she turned back to him, was struggling to get out of his torn tee-shirt. God. She should have realized -- she wasn't going to be able to just turn her back and let him undress himself. He was going to need help. And she just kept getting herself in deeper and deeper.... With the shirt up around his armpits, she could see the horrible purple bruise across his ribs. No wonder he couldn't bend over. How many ribs were broken? He must be in terrible pain. Now she wished she'd brought him some aspirin, too.

She went to help him get the shirt off, pulling it over his arms and head. He let her, but stared awkwardly at the floor while she did it. "It's okay," she said again. "Let me help you." There was more than embarrassment on his face now: there was shameful need and desire. Her hands on him, undressing him -- he must want it so badly, but not like this. Not because he was helpless and couldn't do it himself. Not out of pity.

But it wasn't pity. Not _only_ pity. It was gratitude. It was amends. It was.... _You should see him naked,_ the robot had said. Buffy felt her hands grow hot again, as if somehow his cold body was setting off some sort of chemical reaction in hers. This is ridiculous, she tried to tell herself. The robot had been _programmed_ to say things like that. Of course, the _robot_ thought Spike was sexy. It didn't mean.... The fantasy danced across her vision again, Spike in the tub, all warm and wet and slippery....

This was a horrible mistake. She should have just fed him the blood and left. She should have let Giles or one of the others come and put him to bed. She shouldn't have kissed him again; she shouldn't have brought him his sheet and comforter, but she was in the middle of it now and it was too late to turn back. She'd just have to ignore his arousal, ignore her own, get it done and get out of there.

Getting his tee-shirt off, though, was the easy part. No way he was going to be able to get his own boots off, and they, at least, had to come off. He could sleep in his jeans, or take them off himself, but she wouldn't make him get into bed with his boots on. That would just be admitting that this enormous tension that had suddenly sprung up between them was real.

Buffy sank down to her knees, and began to untie his bootlaces. She heard his sharp moan, saw his knees tremble. His fingers brushed across her hair. Determinedly, she tried to ignore his body's responses, concentrating only on easing the boots off his feet. Tried, but his desire was so white-hot it seemed to pull the oxygen out of the air, leaving her throbbing and gasping for breath at his feet.

Had the robot done this? Desperately, she tried to push the image away, but it burned itself into the back of her eyes. The robot (or was it Buffy herself?) kneeling before him, unbuckling his belt, pulling his zipper down (would she take the slide in her teeth?), reaching into his jeans, taking him into her mouth....

There. His boots were off. She fell back on her heels, breathing hard, not daring to look up at him.

She heard the clink of his belt buckle, the metal purr of his zipper. Heard the short hisses and soft exclamations of pain as he worked his way out of his jeans. Maybe she should be helping, but she couldn't bear it. She didn't think he could bear it, either. She heard, rather than saw, his jeans puddle on the floor in front of her. He was naked, and she was still on her knees in front of him. Oh god. It was like a bad dream. Or a really good one. How had she gotten herself into this?

With her eyes closed, Buffy rose to her feet, then finally looked at him, and nearly gasped in shock, heat temporarily forgotten. "Oh, Spike." There were dark bruises and cuts on his thighs, on his hips, across his shins. One long bruise that looked like the links of a chain snaked over one leg and around the other. Glory'd worked him over from head to foot.

He was leaning back against the chair, bracing himself on his arms, trying and failing to appear unconcerned. He shrugged, the slightest movement of one shoulder, and even that made his swollen mouth tighten in pain. "Didn't think she'd ignore an entire half of me, did you? Too many possibilities for pain down there."

There was something raw in his tone, something that made her ache. "I'm so sorry," she said. "At least she didn't...." She glanced down, and quickly away, at his genitals, thankfully spared.

He half-smiled at her, dismissing his pain, and pushed himself off the chair. "Not much of a torturer," he said lightly. "For a god, she's a prancing idiot." He made no attempt to cover himself, and she understood that he wasn't shy about being naked in front of her, only about being weak, and she found it terribly sweet.

She took his arm and walked him back to the sarcophagus. He accepted her help as gracefully as he could, but she could see that it was costing him. Every step brought him more pain, and every step he tried harder to ignore it. She sighed in relief when she finally eased him into his bed and drew the comforter over him.

And now she really had to go. She'd done what she'd come to do, and more. He was safe and fed and tucked in his bed. And if it had been horribly strained and awkward getting him there, well, at least he wouldn't be lying on bare stone in his tattered clothing when she left.

But she couldn't quite make herself leave. He should be comfortable now, at ease, but he just looked drained and miserable. He wouldn't even look at her. It had taken too much out of him. She should have just left him to recuperate until he had the strength to take care of himself.

God, she didn't know what to do with him. It was so much easier when he was pure evil, and all she had to do was hate him. Now he'd done this thing, this wonderful thing for her, and she had no idea what to do about it. Except that she felt responsible for his pain and wanted to make it better. But there was part of his pain, the being in love with her part, that she didn't know how to make better. She almost wanted to give him his robot back. Almost. But even that would be cold comfort.

She bent down, once again, and kissed him. Which was certainly not a good idea, and besides, if she ended up kissing him every time he confused her, she might as well be the robot. But before she could draw back, he put his arms around her and kissed her so hard he let out a muffled cry of pain, even as he clutched her tighter. She put her hands on his shoulders and tried to urge him down, but he wouldn't let go. And she couldn't bring herself to make him. The steel strength in his arms, the desperate passion in his kiss were heady, delicious. He'd gone through so much for her. It was amazing to her what he was willing to endure for such an unlikely love.

And wasn't that what the Guide had told her? Love is pain. She would lose it only if she refused to risk the pain. Spike was certainly willing to take the risk. So was she getting lessons in love from a vampire now? The Guide told her she was full of love, brighter than the fire. That was wonderful, but not if it stayed locked up inside her. The Guide had told her she must love, give, forgive. But Spike -- she couldn't have meant Spike.

But there wasn't anyone who'd be a bigger risk. Or who had more for her to forgive.

She eased onto the sarcophagus beside him, still holding him, still kissing him. There wasn't much room for her there, but she pressed herself against him, the length of his body against hers, separated only by the comforter and her clothes. His swollen lips were like ripe fruit. She ran her tongue along the edges of his teeth, knowing they could be fangs. His tongue pushed back at hers, eagerly entering her mouth. He began to pull at her, trying to get her on top of him, flinching and whimpering in pain as he did so.

This time she pushed him back firmly, then propped herself up on her elbow to look down at his battered face. "Spike. I don't want to hurt you."

"I don't care." His words were slurred by swollen lips, already further bruised by his fierce kisses.

"But I do."

He groaned in disappointment and turned his face away, the glint of a tear in his eye. And she hated upsetting him again. But there was no way she was going to climb on top of a guy with broken ribs and bruises all over his body. She was pretty sure that wasn't the kind of pain the Guide was talking about. But she had to do something. She couldn't leave him like this. "Spike... I don't know what to do."

He closed his eyes. "Touch me."

She could do that. She could do better than that. Buffy slid off the sarcophagus, quickly pulled off her clothes, leaving them in a pile at the side of the bed, and got under the comforter with him. Skin to skin this time, she stretched out next to him. She liked the way his body felt -- silky smooth between the cuts and bruises, cool and dry, like an autumn breeze. He sighed at her touch, smiled, and the single tear in his eye released and fell to the pillow. She smiled back. She stroked his chest with the lightest of touches, felt his ragged breathing under her hand. She felt a sudden rush of affection for him, this ridiculous lovesick vampire.

He moaned and reached for her, tried to shift onto his side, and grimaced in pain. She took him by the shoulder and pushed him back down. Then she leaned in and murmured softly into his ear, "Am I going to have to tie you down so you won't hurt yourself?"

He chuckled then, and sank back quietly. "Got some rope downstairs...."

"I bet you do." And chains, too, she remembered, and wondered if he'd ever been in them himself, then quickly dismissed that train of thought.... She kissed his cheek, nibbled gently on his earlobe. "Now be good."

And that worked, finally -- he lay still as if in bonds, and let her have her way.

She didn't try to make it last. He was too worn out, and she was too bemused by her own presence in his bed. She just snuggled up against him, and petted him, and kissed his cheek and his neck and his shoulder, and slid her hand down between his legs and curled her fingers around his penis, and began to stroke him. She played with pace and pressure, touching the length of him, taking the slick pearl that formed at the opening and using it to slip and slide, until he squirmed and whispered, "Yeah, like that." So she kept that motion until he arched and moaned and came, a pretty spill of warm liquid spasming onto his belly.

She lay with him for a little while, holding him in her hand, until he fell asleep, then she slid out of bed.

She found a tissue in her bag and cleaned him up, then dressed and collected her things. She paused a moment to look down at him. He slept peacefully, a contented smile on his face. She thought the bruises might be beginning to fade already, although it might just be that she was getting used to seeing them. In any case, he was a vampire -- he'd heal quickly enough.

And then? The days stretched out ahead of her, blank and formless. She had no idea what to expect. And she was strangely at peace with that. She'd lost so much... but she'd gained something today, something she would never in her wildest dreams have expected. Maybe it was okay not to know what tomorrow would bring.

Buffy bent down one more time and kissed Spike's cheek. Deep asleep, he didn't even stir. She smiled and turned toward the door.

As she left, she said out loud to her Guide, "That a big enough risk for you?" And she laughed.


end.

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