Anyone who missed the previous chapter - I know LJ went down for a while shortly after I put it up - or who has been refraining from reading it because it was a WIP, can find the beginning here or the index here.
The very last section of the chapter hasn't been beta-read in detail, so it is possible that it might get changed slightly tomorrow or have errors corrected.
It's Got to be Perfect
Chapter Eighteen: The First of a Million Kisses.
There was a confused babble of noise. Flashes of light. Words that made no sense. Someone was talking about ‘Vital Signs’ being good, and he tried to join in, to say that no, there were other tracks on the album that were much better, ‘Tom Sawyer’ and ‘Limelight’ and ‘The Camera Eye’ and most of all ‘Red Barchetta’, bloody classic that was, but he couldn’t get the words out. The noises became meaningless again, CT scans and trauma and haemodynamic stability, and it all began to blur into a drone of indistinguishable sound.
“The other one?”
DOA? Dead On Arrival?
“Easy, easy there!”
“Shit! Cardiovascular stability is going all over the shop! What the fuck? I thought we had him stable. Gonna have to be sonographic assessment, can’t do the CT unless this eases off.”
“Keep still! Don’t try to move.”
I failed her, he thought. Again.
“Easy, pal. Relax. You’re gonna make it. Just lie still. We gotta do a scan, check you out, okay, but you gotta keep still.”
Nothing matters any more.
“… see her! Let me see him!”
“Sorry, kid, no way. You can’t go in.”
Faint, distant, but unmistakable. Dawn. He had to live for Dawn.
“He’s stabilising. Maybe we can risk the CT.”
“Multiple gunshot trauma. Ain’t seen that since my time in LA. Hey, only one neck trauma, and in daylight and with an actual weapon for once.”
“His hand’s a mess. Might be tendon damage.”
“Leave it for now. First things first. It’s his left, anyway. How are vitals now?”
Spike tried to speak, tried to say “I’m left handed, you dozy gits,” but he couldn’t manage anything coherent. Anyway, yeah, they were right, his guts were probably more important.
“Lookin’ good. Okay, get him to the CT. Pretty sure about the visceral damage but I don’t know about free fluid.”
“How’re they doin’ in OR?”
“Sucking chest but no blue lips. Seems he kept her oxygen up. Wilkes looks happy, must be doin’ okay. This guy’s a fuckin’ hero. Sure hope we can pull him through.”
“Man, this guy’s in shape. I think we’ve got a good chance.”
“Two outta three’s a win, and the other guy was DOA so we’d really be two for two. Okay, no subhepatic fluid.”
The other guy was DOA. Warren. Buffy’s alive. Buffy’s alive. I saved her.
Spike allowed himself to slip back into blissful unconsciousness.
* * * * * *
The first people allowed in to see him were the police.
His first real visitor was Dawn. “Jeez, Spike, you look like crap,” she greeted him, and then blushed. “Sorry.”
He laughed. “I probably do, Bit. Apparently I was a bit of a mess. They didn’t actually have to cut any bits of my intestines out, though, and they say I’m going to be fine. Not allowed to eat anything yet. Tomorrow, but I bet it’ll be scrambled egg or something boring like that.”
“Yeah, they told me I couldn’t give you chocolates or grapes. Am I allowed a hug?”
“You betcha, Nibblet. Be gentle with me.”
She was excessively gentle, touching him tentatively, until he laughed and hugged her tightly with his right arm.
“Is your hand gonna be okay?” she asked worriedly, looking at the drips and bandages on his left.
“No problem,” he assured her. “Bet I could do without the bandages now, but I’m healing a bit faster than they expect.”
“Good.” She had put down a bag to hug him; she picked it up again and pulled out a wrapped parcel. “I brought you some presents.”
“You’ll have to open it for me, pet.” He indicated his bandaged hand.
“Sure thing.” She tore away the paper to reveal CDs by System Of A Down and Bowling For Soup. “Okay, not so much for saving my sister’s life, but, thought you might like them.”
“You mean you thought you could have them once I’m outa here, right?
“Guess you know me too well, Spike.” She grinned, and pulled a book out of the bag. “Gotcha this as well. Tarantula says you don’t have this one.” Terry Pratchett’s ‘Carpe Jugulum’. “It’s all vampires and witches and stuff.”
“What, you couldn’t find any Fantasy?”
They laughed together for a moment, and then Dawn turned serious. “You nearly died, Spike.”
“Didn’t, though, so it’s all turned out okay.”
“You saved Buffy. I know you had a big fight and Buffy was all ‘he’s never going to speak to me again, I did something so bad’, and you still nearly died saving her. Are you, I mean, whatever she did, are you okay with it? Are you two friends again?”
“Far as I know, but I haven’t exactly had much chance to talk to her. How is she? The doctors told me she’s out of danger, but they won’t give me any details.”
“They took her off the ventilator day before yesterday. I’ve only seen her once so far and she wasn’t up to much talking. She was mainly asking about you. She told me what you did. I’ll be visiting her next. Anything you want me to say to her?”
“Think I’ll leave it till I can say it to her myself, Bit.” Spike frowned. “To be honest, at the moment I’m not quite sure what I want to say. But you can tell her I was asking after her.”
* * * * * *
There were other visitors, filling all the moments that the hospital allowed over the next couple of days. Tara and Willow. Xander and Anya. Richard and Tarantula. Giles, who had flown over as soon as he had been told what had happened. Clem, wearing a hat and with a scarf hiding much of his face. Angel, Cordelia, Wesley, and Harmony. Janice tagging along with Dawn. A brief visit from Halfrek. The Dean of the University and the Professor of Classical Studies. Andy.
She was lecturing him about his stupidity within seconds of her arrival. He sent her away with a flea in her ear and asked the staff not to let her visit him again, not that he thought she would; it was fairly obvious that she was calling purely because she felt it was expected of her, not because she actually cared.
Xander had arranged for the repair of the broken window. “You know, Spike, those things open,” he pointed out. “No need to smash through it.”
“Well, it had a couple of bullet holes in it already, didn’t think it mattered. It was going to need replacing anyway. Married life still working out okay?” No need to go into the desperate need for speed; they understood each other very well.
And then, eventually, he was declared fit enough to visit Buffy.
* * * * * *
An orderly took him there in a wheelchair. His right foot was in plaster; he had broken two bones when he jumped from the window. They would be healed by now, he knew, but the medical staff were expecting him to heal at normal human rates and were insisting on the plaster, the wheelchair, and on his getting plenty of bed rest and adhering to a strict diet.
The same no doubt applied to Buffy. She was sitting up in bed, looking healthy, fit, and frustrated. Their initial greetings were cautious, stilted, restricted to enquiries about each other’s health. When that topic was exhausted they sat looking at each other for a long, uncomfortable, two minutes that seemed more like twenty.
Buffy broke the silence. “I’m sorry. I was on my way to see you when it all happened. I was going to grovel. I know what I did probably can’t be forgiven; I just wanted to ask you not to hate me for it. Still be my friend, and I won’t try to force it into anything else. Okay, I love you, and I know it must be, like, real awkward for you now that you don’t love me any more, but I managed before, not that I was really as much of a friend as I should have been, but we got by. Until I fucked it all up. You loved me, and I never realised how lucky I was. Like, you know, the best thing about Heaven was knowing I was loved, and I came back, and I hated everything, and I had your love and I just brushed it off. Guess I was just too dumb to know a good thing when I saw it.”
She paused, swallowed, and took a deep breath. Spike opened his mouth to speak, but she held up her hand to stop him. “Wait, let me finish, please, Spike. I was going to say all that, and then there was Warren, and you saved me. I mean, you’d already come to fight by my side, even after what I did, when I had no right to expect anything from you. You gave me more than I could ever deserve, and then you saved me one more time, and it’s just too much. There isn’t any way I can thank you. I’ve been lying here planning this speech, but when it comes to the thanks bit I just give up. I just owe you too much.”
“You saved me, too, pet,” Spike pointed out. “If you hadn’t put the squeeze on the tosser’s foot he’d have put another bullet or two into me. Killed me for sure. I hadn’t reckoned on breaking my ankle when I jumped out the window, couldn’t have got to him quick enough if not for you. Plus, he was probably on his way to kill me anyway when he saw you, not like he would have expected to find you hanging around outside my place.”
“I wasn’t hanging around,” she pouted. “I was lurking. It’s a whole different vibe.” She watched Spike break into a smile in reply and then smiled herself, pleased that he had caught her reference.
“I was just thinking of coming down and challenging you about it, y’know, tell me what you’re doing in five words or less, wondering if you’d tell me I had stupid hair, when I heard the shots,” Spike told her. “That made coming down a bit more urgent.” The smile twisted as he mentioned the shooting, and then vanished altogether. “Not the worst moment of my existence, love, but pretty damn close.”
Buffy wanted to ask what had been the worst moment of his existence, but held herself back. She reached out her hand to his, tentatively, wary of touching him unprompted, but he took it and squeezed gently.
“Think you know what the worst was, love,” he said softly. “Never want to go through that again. Never.”
“You still care something for me, then? I’d ask you to give me a crumb but, hey, maybe not so good memories there. We’re still friends?”
Spike’s brow furrowed as he searched his memory. “We’re not friends,” he told her, causing her a momentary stab of pain and sorrow. “We’ll never be friends. We’ll be in love until it kills us both. We’ll fight, and shag, maybe once in a while hate each other till it makes us quiver, but we’ll never be friends. Not just friends, anyway.”
“In love? You love me?” Buffy’s voice trembled.
“Told you so, didn’t I, kitten?”
“I – I thought you were just saying it because I was dying. You’d been so big with the not loving me.”
“Wouldn’t have lied to you then, pet. I love you. Realised when I saw you lying there, I was so terrified. Knew the world wouldn’t mean a thing to me if it didn’t have you in it.” He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it softly. “When I was going out with Tarantula, and that Andy bint, it never felt right. Something was missing. They just weren’t you. You can be b-b- very infuriating, pet, but I’d rather be fighting with you than shagging anyone else.”
“Mutual,” she breathed, and leaned towards him. “Sorry about the no swearing thing, yeah I know I’m ‘bloody’ infuriating. But hey, isn’t ‘shagging’ swearing?”
“Pretty mild swearing, or ‘shagged’ couldn’t have been in the title of that god-awful Austin Powers film. A shag’s a seabird, a kind of cormorant.”
“Cormorant? ‘The Spy Who Cormoranted Me’? We’ll fight and we’ll cormorant?” Buffy collapsed into giggles. “Cormorant me, baby.”
“Love to, pet, but the nurses might kick up, and the plaster would get in the way. Wouldn’t object if we just cut to the kissing, though, love.”
Buffy threw her arms around his neck and pulled him close. “You’re sure about this?” she checked.
“Never more sure,” he assured her, and pressed his lips to hers.
She leaned into the kiss. His lips were gentle but firm, the kiss passionate but almost reverent. He brought his hands up and took hold of the back of her head, sliding his fingers through her hair, pulling her to him. Their tongues sought each other out, touched, caressed, entwined. A low moan came from Buffy’s throat and her hands dug into Spike’s shoulders, rhythmically squeezing at his muscles, her motions mirroring the thrusting of her tongue.
Eventually, by mutual consent, they broke apart and gasped for breath.
“Wow,” Buffy panted. “That was, well, incredible doesn’t even begin to cover it. Like, when they talk about that kiss in ‘The Princess Bride’, now I know what Buttercup felt like.
“I’d say I know what Wesley felt like, but you might get the wrong idea,” Spike grinned.
“That’s ‘Westley’, Spike.” Buffy rolled her eyes.
“If you say so, love,” Spike smirked.
Buffy eye-rolled again and punched his shoulder, very gently, a mere token love-tap.
“Not made of glass, pet, I won’t break,” he assured her.
“Yeah, well, hitting you is a bad habit I should break,” she said. “Spike, that kiss, that perfect, perfect kiss, that was how you always wanted to kiss me, wasn’t it? And I kept pushing you away, not letting you show what you felt. God, what I was missing out on.”
“Would have kissed you like that long ago if you’d let me, yeah,” Spike admitted.
Buffy lowered her eyes. “So stupid of me. I’ve got so much to make up for. So much remorse.”
“Didn’t think you knew that word,” Spike said. “I always thought you’d think remorse were those fish that hitch rides on sharks and manta rays.” The twinkle in his eyes showed her that he was teasing.
“The original sucky things? No, I know the difference between remorse and remoras. I’ve seen the Discovery Channel enough with Tara, I know lots about fish.” Her forehead creased, and then a smile came to her lips and she broke into song. “When a fish that can suck, uses sharks as a truck, that’s remora.”
“Full of surprises, you are, love,” Spike chuckled. “Hang on a tick. Right. When a long narrow eel, gives a bite that you feel, that’s a moray.”
They both burst into laughter, and were still laughing when a nurse came in to tell them that Spike would need to return to his own room.
“You two are obviously both doing well,” she remarked. “I guess you’re probably pretty well ready to go home.”
* * * * * *
The gang had organised a big party at the Bronze to celebrate their return from hospital. The Angel Investigations team came over from Los Angeles; even Gunn, Fred, and Lorne, who had only met Buffy and Spike once. Giles was there; all the other Scoobies of course; Janice, Richard and Tarantula, Clem, even Halfrek. The announcement that Spike and Buffy had patched up their differences was greeted with rapturous applause from most of the guests; even Angel forced a smile to his face, and Dawn’s squeal of excited joy made Spike glad they were in the Bronze rather than his apartment where she might have put his newly repaired windows at risk. The party continued long into the night. Dawn and Janice were packed off to bed at Janice’s house eventually, but the adults stayed on, relocating to Spike’s apartment when the Bronze closed.
“Spike loves me again, which I thought was pretty much out of the question,” Buffy said to Halfrek. “Did you do something with the spell?”
“Nothing to do with me,” the Vengeance Demon assured her. “I told you I couldn’t reverse it, and I was telling the truth. It’s all genuine. Congratulations.”
“How come, then? Is it that it’s, like, true love and predestined and even your spell couldn’t affect it? Or did he fall in love with me all over again? ‘Cause, surprised if it was that, I was being bitchy Buffy and maybe not so loveable.”
“I really don’t know,” Halfrek confessed. “I rather suspect that he never really stopped being in love with you, that the ‘get over you’ part of the wish just gave him the ability to stand up to you and be his own man, but I might be wrong. I’m not a love demon. Maybe he did fall for you again. He loved me when I was being a bitch to him, and if I recall correctly you weren’t exactly his biggest pal when he fell for you in the first place.”
“So, does this wreck your big scheme? All the awards you were going to get, are they all out the window now? ‘Cause, forgive me for saying so, but really not sorry.”
“Oh, no, I’m still in for the awards. In fact D’Hoffryn has hinted that I should start writing my acceptance speeches. A happy ending is perfectly all right. You’ve been through lots of angst, lots of pain, and learned some important lessons. A little ‘ahh’ factor at the end didn’t harm my chances at all. Demons can like a little moonlight and roses as much as anyone else. Some of us think kittens are cute. Of course, others eat them.” She looked at Clem, who smiled and waved.
“Hey, Buffster!” Xander called, coming up hand in hand with a happily smiling Anya. “No more College for you until after Spring Break, right? Plenty of time to party.” He frowned. “Unless you have to work to pay off medical bills. I could help out some if you’re short; we’re doing great right now.”
“No need to rub it in about me being short,” Buffy grinned. “Dawn’s definitely way taller than me now, which kinda sucks. No, I’m fine for the medical bills. The armoured car people paid for it, a thank you for stopping the robbery thing, and Spike has med insurance through the College. He got a percentage of the money as his reward. Partying during Spring Break, no problem.”
“I’d go for that,” Spike agreed, joining them.
“So, maybe we could do a party like in that Jimmy Eat World video, remember?” Xander harked back to the idea he had come up with in the Bronze on the night that had ended with the rescue of Connor. “Party in our undies. You up for that?”
“Xander is magnificently toned these days,” Anya said approvingly. “He lost a lot of weight during our honeymoon and built up his arm muscles doing naked push-ups.”
Buffy blushed. Spike leered at her and waggled his eyebrows. “So, not above taking lessons from me, then?”
“Yeah, I know what you two were doing,” Xander replied. “Took me long enough, but I came out of the land of de Nile once I’d had enough clues. So, party?”
“If we’re going to do the ‘jumping out the window’ bit of the video, then you’d better get busy organising a swimming pool to land in,” Spike advised. “The grass isn’t soft enough from three floors up, and I’ve got a plaster cast covered in signatures to prove it.”
“Yeah, and you could take it off after just a few days, we don’t have that advantage. No window jumping. Just underwear and dancing and maybe hiding in the refrigerator.”
“Dawn doesn’t get to come,” Spike said firmly. “Not having my Nibblet prancing around in her bra and knickers.”
“If I say yes, and I’m not making any decision right now,” Buffy remarked, “I’m afraid that would be one party to which Clem definitely doesn’t get invited.”
Xander winced at the thought of the floppy-skinned demon in boxer shorts. “I’m with you there, Buff.”
“That’s prejudice against demons,” Anya frowned. “He’d make a perfect date for that Andy woman.”
“No, pet, that’s cruelty to demons,” Spike grinned. “Maybe Halfrek.”
“Or Harmony,” Buffy suggested.
Harmony heard her name mentioned and looked over at the Slayer inquisitively from where she was listening to Angel and Gunn relating to Giles the story of their recent battle against hideous slug demons. Cordelia and Harmony left them to it and drifted to join the Slayer’s little group.
“I mean, those slugs were just icky,” Harmony moaned. “Squishing them wasn’t fun at all.”
“But you did your part,” Cordelia praised her. “It’s great having you on our team. Like us being friends at school, only better.”
“Hey, I’d blush, only hello, vampire, can’t do that,” Harmony grinned. “Although, maybe you’re only saying that ‘cause I saved you from the headaches.”
“Headaches?” Buffy asked.
Cordelia explained that the visions from the Powers That Be, passed on to her by Doyle, had been inflicting her with devastating headaches and starting to endanger her life. She had been informed that she needed to either pass the visions on or become part demon herself. She had considered transferring them to the Groosalug, warrior prince from another dimension, but he was returning home and the visions would thus be lost to Angel Investigations. On the verge of accepting the demon into her body, she was saved by the arrival of Harmony, who had willingly accepted the burden.
“Hey, if you had become part demon, that would have made Xander’s record as a demon magnet a hundred per cent,” Buffy observed.
“Hey! Faith, remember,” Xander pointed out.
“And your point would be?” Buffy retorted.
Xander put his hand to his throat. “Well, she did try to strangle me, so, okay, you win.”
“I haven’t really got the hang of the visions yet,” Harmony said self-depreciatingly. “I got one about you and Spike getting shot, and I phoned Spike, but I was a couple of minutes too late. I took too long discussing it with Angel first.”
“Not your fault, Harm,” Spike soothed her. “I heard the phone ringing, and yeah, you were only too late by minutes. It all worked out for the best in the end. Painful, scary, but if it hadn’t happened I don’t know if we’d have got things between us sorted out. What I’ve got with Buffy now is worth any amount of pain. Better luck next time.”
“So, the visions get passed on by a kiss?” Buffy commented. “Doesn’t that cramp your style a bit, Harmony?”
“No, you’ve got to actively concentrate on passing on the visions,” Cordelia informed her. “And the kissing has got to be pretty intimate; she’s not going to spread them around just with a few kisses under the mistletoe.”
“Intimate?” Buffy raised her eyebrows. “Just how intimate?”
Harmony grinned wickedly, and Cordelia blushed.
“Cordy!” Buffy smirked. “Hey, is there anyone here who hasn’t slept with Harmony?”
Her remark coincided with the System Of A Down album on the CD player coming to an end, and everyone heard the question. The room fell suddenly silent. Buffy looked around inquisitively.
Xander raised his hand immediately, closely followed by Angel, Gunn, Fred, and Lorne. Richard and Tarantula raised theirs a moment later, then Halfrek, and Clem eventually realised what was going on and raised his too.
Buffy looked at Wesley, who lowered his eyes. Harmony smiled.
“Willow and Tara, I’m surprised at you,” Buffy smirked.
The two girls had been staring into each other’s eyes and hadn’t realised what was going on. Hastily they raised their hands. “I hadn’t realised we were taking a poll,” Willow explained.
“Give me time,” Harmony muttered. “I might not be evil any more, but I can still be naughty.”
Giles coughed. “Fascinating as this topic might be, I think perhaps more music might be in order,” he suggested. He held up a CD. “I’m a little surprised to find this among your collection, Spike. A little gentle for you, I would have thought.”
Spike looked across to where Giles was displaying ‘First of a Million Kisses’, by Fairground Attraction. “Yeah, not my normal style, even with the changes Buffy made, but I was thinking of getting one of the tracks played at Xander and Anya’s wedding. Thought they might like it, y’know, seemed sort of appropriate for them. Never got round to it then; but if me and Buffy ever tie the knot it’d make a better first dance than that slushy ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’. Stick it on, mate. Think you can guess the track I mean.”
“It’s hardly my scene either, but it does have a certain aptness. Very well,” Giles agreed, and loaded it into the stereo.
Spike extended his hand to Buffy, and guided her into dance steps as the music began to play. She let herself go with the rhythm, listened to the unfamiliar lyrics, and smiled at her lover as other couples began to dance beside them. “You’re a big softy,” she told him. “I love it. And hey, never officially broke off our engagement from two years ago. First dance, yeah, I could go for this. I think it fits us pretty well. I love dancing with you.”
“And me with you, love.” He kissed her forehead as they danced. “It’s all we’ve ever done.”
I don't want half hearted love affairs
I need someone who really cares.
Life is too short to play silly games
I've promised myself I won't do that again.
It's got to be perfect
It's got to be worth it
Too many people take second best
But I won't take anything less
It's got to be
Young hearts are foolish
They make such mistakes
They're much too eager to give their love away.
I have been foolish too many times
Now I'm determined I'm gonna get it right.
It's got to be perfect...
Lyrics quoted are from ‘It's Got To Be Perfect’ by Fairground Attraction.
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.