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Fumbling Towards Ecstasy by TalesofSpike
Chapter 4.18
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Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.


I love the time and in between
The calm inside me
In the space where I can breathe
I believe there is a distance I have wandered
To touch upon the years of
Reaching out and reaching in
Holding out and holding in

I believe
This is heaven to no one else but me
And I'll defend it
As long as I can be
Left here to linger in silence
If I choose to
Would you try to understand?

(Sarah McLachlan, Album - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy)
Thanks also to Emma for suggesting this way back
when I started FTE, even if it did take me three
months to follow through.
Hope she's still reading.

Chapter 4.18
Sunday, May 19th, 2002

"The decision is yours. If you don't want her involved, then I understand."

"I don't. I don't want her involved. More specifically, I don't trust her anywhere near you."

Spike's lips curved upwards in a tight smile that told Buffy that was okay with him and he gave a single nod. "That's settled, then."

Buffy, however, continued to look troubled. She shook her head and tried to sit up slightly, only for the vamp to gently push her back into the softness of the couch's cushions though he bent over so that she could clearly see his face.

"No, Spike, it isn't. I don't want her involved, but you being well is more important to me than what I want... So-o-o, if we have to... if it turns out that a couple of pints from me and a couple of pints from Dawn isn't enough, then, yes, before we start with the diluted stuff, we use her. God knows she owes me more than that, but I'll settle... and I might not trust her any further than Dawn could throw her, but you, I trust. Even if she tries, she's not going to be able to make trouble between us... Well, she probably will... somehow, but nothing we can't cope with."

"You're sure? 'Cause if it's going to freak you out, then we can work our way 'round it."

"I'm sure. I mean if we don't need her I won't exactly be overcome with remorse but if I say no, then it's like saying I don't trust you... and I do, Spike, I really do."

Spike's mouth twisted into a teasing grin as he stroked her cheek with a knuckle. "Now I know we better get that doc back down here and get you topped up. You've got to be light-headed to be sayin' that out loud."

"Definitely light-headed, and all for nothing, too, since you haven't even started on the first bag... Go get yourself a mug and you can break the news to F while you're there." She treated the vamp to her own wicked grin. "Then, when you get back we'll work out what to do with Angel."

"I guess since we're on about the best terms we've been on in the better part of a century that tying him spread eagle out in the back yard an' waitin' for the sun to shift is out of the question?"

Buffy shook her head at her vamp's teasing and waved him toward the kitchen with her free hand. "I hate to think what you two used to be like if this is you on good terms."

"That's easy, pet. In the bad old days I wouldn't have been jokin'."



"We're back." Wes gave Bee a smile. "Thought I'd lost you there."

"No such luck."

"I'm going to go check where Buffy wants Rogue. With your friend ending up watching over Tara and Giles, I suspect Buffy, Spike and Dawn will have ended up at my place, too."

"I better fetch Rupert and then see how..." Bee strung together a series of clicks and tuts that Wes assumed was her doctor's name. "...Is doing. I should only be a minute and then if you need any help I'll be back. It looks like Buffy's got company, anyway."

Wes noticed the cars in front of the DeSoto for the first time and his mood darkened visibly. "Yes, it rather appears that she does."



"Bee!" Brandon was obviously relieved by the woman's presence. "I don't suppose you could take over here while I check on Dawn?"

Bee shook her head. "Just came to pick up Rupie before I go check on the doc. He gets kinda nervous when you leave him alone with a whole bunch of strangers for too long." She scanned the room as Rupert jumped down from his windowsill perch to weave around her legs.

"When Dawn went over she said to keep an eye on everybody and she'd be coming more or less straight back, but then she didn't."

"Actually, I do need to borrow you for a while. The vet had to sedate Rogue to do the x-rays and she's kinda groggy. I could use a hand getting her out of the car and it's better if it's someone she knows." She gave the teenager a wink unseen by the others in the room.

"Nice 'meeting' you all," she told the AI crew in a tone of voice that didn't entirely hide her coolness toward the group who simply by their presence had managed to dampen Wes's spirits. Then, just as she was about to leave, for no reason that Brandon could discern, she turned, pinning Connor with an unfriendly glare before walking out, Rupert strutting elegantly alongside and Dawn's boyfriend grabbing a sheet of paper from the coffee table and then rushing to catch up.



Spike opened the door from the kitchen onto the back porch, unsurprised to find the missing slayer there, squeezing in time for a cigarette while she waited for the kettle to boil.

"So," he started as he lit a cigarette of his own. "Buffy hasn't had much of a chance to fill me in on the background between the pair of you but I think I've had the highlights.

I'm assumin' since Soul Boy brought you all the way up here that he somehow heard what was up and he thinks you're goin' to be amenable to bein' a blood donor. Is he right?"

Faith shrugged. "Guess so. I mean he didn't exactly take the time to explain what the plan was..."

Spike snorted. "Just like gramps. Never was big on consultation.

Look, situation is this. Buffy and Bit are both set to give a couple of pints... at which point the doc will top them up with normal blood before they give any more. If it turns out that that first batch doesn't do the trick then we'll be lookin' to you to step in an' give a pint or two. Otherwise, you're off the hook.

Now, before he gets back, why don't you enlighten me as to how come you turned white as a sheet at the very mention of the Junior Watcher? The last thing we need in the middle of all this are any unpleasant surprises."

"It's a little late for that." The slayer froze in place as Wes joined them on the porch. "Isn't it, Faith?"

"Wesley, I- I know there's no way to apologise for what I did but I am sorry."

"Spare us the melodrama," Wes interrupted. "You stayed in prison until your life was under threat. That at least shows a degree of contrition in excess of any your sponsor has ever shown, but you're right. There is no way to apologise for what you did so perhaps you should refrain from insulting us both by trying.

I must say that I didn't expect to see you here and it might even scrape into my top ten worst moments of a particularly bad year but since your presence is at least potentially useful I dare say that I can tolerate it for an hour or two. After all, I've endured far worse."

He turned his back on the two smokers, but only to go as far as one of the kitchen cupboards from which he pulled a mug, setting it on the bench by the back door with a loud thump. "I believe that was what you were looking for, Spike."

By the time the blond flicked away his half-smoked cigarette he and Faith were alone once more.

"Guess we'll have to leave that little story for later, wildcat. Sounds like it's a doozy."



"So... Angel?" Buffy asked as Spike began drinking from the mug that now held half of the first pint of blood that Buffy had provided.

"What about him? As far as I can tell he's on escort duty an' that's 'bout it."

"Yeah, but since he's here and Giles is here maybe we can... you know, get them talking... before the wedding." Buffy looked at the vamp with pleading eyes.

"Why do I get the impression that we means me ?"

"Because if I try to get them drunk enough to talk I'll be ill for a week."

"You want me to get the watcher drunk?"

Buffy nodded her head. "Believe me, if you want to get rid of that stiff upper lip and get Giles to say exactly what he's bottling up, drunk is the way to do it... And since it's your fault that I know that, Mr Troublemaker Adam Accomplice, you get to supervise."

"And if it doesn't work?"

"No one can say we didn't try..."

"And Broody and Wes? I'm not even goin' to touch that one with a barge pole. Soul Boy is real big on the forgiveness deal, just so long as it's not him doin' the forgivin'."

"That one might still be just a little bit raw, but if you can square things between Giles and Angel... I'll take Angel and Wes duty."

Spike gave a smirk. "I'll take my half of that deal any day. Of course, that idea I had earlier would solve both." Spike drained the mug and tipped in the rest of the first packet just as Bee and Wes pushed open the front door for Brandon to carry in Rogue.

As soon as the boy put the dog down, she began to stumble in Spike's direction, finally lying down with her head in his lap.

Bee made her way over to where Tara lay, tilting her head slightly to one side as Rupert jumped up onto the back of the girl's sofa and purred like a small lawnmower engine. "Spike?" she asked.

"Yep, you're right, breathin's changed. Sounds like she's thinkin' 'bout comin' round." The vampire subconsciously stroked the dog beside him as he spoke. "Best get the doc."

Bee looked over at the other two blondes as the doctor made his way downstairs in any case, carrying what she assumed was the first pint of Dawn's blood. "Seems to me like you need to do less organising and more drinking. You're two pints adrift already, so shut up and drink up and let me and Wes take charge. Wes, you want upstairs or down?"

Wes gave the woman a shadow of a grin. "You seem to be doing such a good job motivating Spike, I think I'll take upstairs."

"Okay, doc, looks like the lady here's filled a bag, and I'm guessing that along with what he's drinking that makes her ready for her first top up. Why don't you help her out and I'll see what's to be done with our white witch here? And Spike, like I said, if your brain can't cope with stroking the dog and lifting a mug at the same time, then I'm pretty sure Rogue will wait." Spike gave a guilty pause in his attention to the mongrel as if ashamed of being caught before he seemed to give up on appearances and went back to work, making sure, however, that he kept up with his drinking. Wes decided to head for the stairs before Bee started giving him orders, too. After a glance around Brandon followed Wes, passing him the piece of paper with all the AI group's names and blood types on it and explaining what it was for.

Wes scanned the list before screwing it up and throwing it in the waste paper basket in the room where Dawn was lying.

"None of them are a match," he explained.

"You haven't even checked what group she is."

"I used to be her watcher. I know... So, Dawn, how're you feeling?"



Buffy wasn't entirely convinced that Bee's motives for getting Spike to remove his shirt were solely to do with observing the healing process, but she wasn't about to complain, so long as the other woman did no more than look. To be fair, she had spent more time tending to Tara than the vampire, bringing her herbal teas and an ice pack for her head, though she had managed to prod the vampire into finishing off all four pints of blood that Buffy and Dawn had so far provided in record time, and the effects were beginning to show.

The cruciform burns that had adorned Spike's back were gone and the palms of his hands had likewise healed. The cuts and abrasions from Wood's beating of him had disappeared even more quickly and the bruising seemed to be fading from his face and extremities as the group watched and waited, but slowly the healing process seemed to be coming to a halt. The bruises on Spike's torso clearly remained to show that his cure was far from complete.

Buffy grudgingly conceded that they were going to be forced to accept Faith's offer of help. "Bee, d'you mind fetching her in and getting your friend to do his thing?"

"Nah, wait a minute, doll," Spike suggested. "Maybe if we give it a bit longer to... well, not circulate it'll do the trick in its own good time. I mean, Angel Arse can't have taken much more than four pints from you or you'd have been a goner. I know an average bloke is meant to have eight pints or summat, but you're not a bloke and you're... dinkier than the average. There's no way you've got more than about six pints in you altogether. An' if that was enough for him..."

"Spike, I know what you're trying to do but believe me you were in a far worse state than Angel was," Buffy argued.

"Besides, didn't I tell you all you have to do here is drink what we tell you to drink?" Bee berated him. "Why do you think we're going to want your medical opinion when there's a doctor in the house?" Everyone looked over at the grey skinned demon, who was currently sitting cross-legged on the floor drinking a cup of hot chocolate. He cast his eyes briefly over the obvious bruising and issued some more clicks and tuts that had Bee heading for the kitchen and Spike rolling his eyes at being overruled.

Buffy looked up as she heard Tara move from the sofa where she had more recently been sitting rather than lying. "Are you okay to move around?"

Tara tucked her hair at one side behind her ear and gave her an asymetrical smile as she took a seat on a thick rug. "Other than the headache, I'm fine. If I need to lie down again I can always keep Dawn company in the spare room and if the doctor sets up Faith down here it saves him having to carry more stands and scales and stuff upstairs."

"Not that it makes any difference now, but do you know why the spell went wrong? Giles said as you were the main spellcaster and he was just like an extra battery that he only got a teeny bit of the backlash and he couldn't say what went wrong."

"I think I know..." Tara began uncertainly. "That thing you and Spike saw in your vision, the talisman, he was in the same place as it, wasn't he?"

"That'd be the place."

"It sounds stupid to say this... but it didn't want to be found. Somehow, even though it wasn't the spell's target, it knew what we were doing and it hit back. I don't know what that thing does, Buffy, but it is powerful, truly arcane, and it is evil and if you try to use magic against it, then it will warp it and twist it and throw it right back at you."

"But I saw it. I mean it was using the claim rather than a spell but it's still magic... isn't it?"

Bee and Faith had returned to the room as Tara spoke, unnoticed by the rest of the group and when the WIccan admitted that she didn't know why Buffy hadn't suffered the same fate she had, Bee stepped in.

"It's different," the half-demon explained. "The claim is mystical and it draws on the supernatural power inside you and Spike. Most magic derives its power from the fact that deep down everything in this world and every other is connected. In magic everything is one, so the caster draws power from the world around her, leaving traces in the ether to show what she's done. The bond between you and Spike doesn't. Magically speaking, it's pretty much invisible."



By the time Faith was stretched out on one of Wes's sofas with a saline drip replacing some of the fluid, if not the plasma she had donated, Dawn had insisted that she was well enough to head downstairs and see what was happening. Her entourage of watchers had carried her and her drip stand down to the living room under Brandon's supervision and they had all joined the group waiting to see whether Faith's blood would be enough to tip the scale.

Beneath their gazes Spike's bruising retreated, first from his upper chest and then far more slowly from the carved planes of his abdomen.

Faith gave a low wolf-whistle. "B, hon, now I see why ya go for the dead guys. If I found me a honey who's gonna look that cute forever, I think I'd keep him, too."

"Do you ever like hit on a guy that doesn't belong to someone else?" Dawn asked irritably.

"Just makin' conversation. If I was hitting on him you could tell by my being on his lap. Why? Wondering why I'm not hitting on Cat Eyes, there?" Faith responded with a glance in Brandon's direction.

"So, are we done?" Faith asked. "'Cause eight months of lying still with tubes everywhere is enough for me."

Spike looked over to where Buffy was also still hooked up to a drip. He gently levered Rogue's head from his lap, grimacing at the drool marks she had left behind but declining to say anything that might draw attention to that particular area of his body. He leaned over Buffy, angling his head so that only she would be able to see his face and as he kissed her, he deftly slid the pouch with the orbs into her hand. The time had come to try working without a net.

"I guess if we give it an hour or two and it doesn't get worse again, then we'll know, won't we?" the platinum blond replied.
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