DISCLAIMER: Not mine, which is a shame because usually we're nicer to them than Joss was.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Dr. Guerrero tried to call Security, but when Lindsey stopped her, she flung him against the wall, prompting him to leave; Wesley called Giles and learned more about what had happened to Faith in Cleveland, and realized it was likely she’d been poisoned and untreated; and a restless Buffy went off to patrol, got lost, and ran across a vampire in Watts – Spike…

* * *

Chapter Seven: Standing on the Corner of Civilization

The room was devoid of windows, small and cramped with the twin bed positioned in the middle of the opposite wall. It didn’t look like the other rooms Buffy remembered or had recently seen at Watts, but she was too invested in the unconscious figure strapped to the mattress to worry about comparisons.

His face looked fuller than he looked when he made appearances in her dreams, and the shoulders that were visible above the blankets were noticeably bulkier. There wasn’t a single bruise or blemish on his pale skin, but that didn’t stop from drawing Buffy closer, pushing the door shut behind her to guard against interruption. This was worse than seeing him on a tiny computer screen. This was seeing up close and personal how healthy he’d been living. Without her. Without any inclination to come and see her.

Her stomach twisted. He had been the one person to offer her comfort after she’d been brought back from the dead. Was she that awful that he’d think it was better to be with Angel, who he hated, than with her?

Buffy swallowed down the desire to let loose the tears of exhaustion, relief, and anger she’d been bottling up. He was alive. He wasn’t dust. Whatever was on that bed back at Wolfram & Hart wasn’t Spike.

She frowned.

Why was he at Watts? And how on earth had he gotten there?

The straps around his chest and biceps said it probably hadn’t been voluntary. And the fact of the matter was, Watts was a psychiatric hospital, not a surgical one. He didn’t belong here, and she had to get him out while she had the opportunity.

Her hands flew to the leather straps, her eyes widening when she saw the small crosses crudely stitched onto their surfaces. Someone had been serious about Spike staying restrained. As soon as she had them undone, she snatched up the file that hung from the end of the bedframe and flipped it open, looking for a clue about who might have approved his admittance. It was a small modicum of relief when she didn’t find Angel’s name, but the unknown signature only raised more questions. But the rest of the information was clear – Spike’s full name, notes from the recent surgery, even the fact that he was a vampire. There was also a detailed record of the medications he’d been prescribed.

She didn’t recognize them, but they were most likely sedatives, she thought. It would explain why Spike hadn’t moved a muscle ever since she’d walked into the room.

Her whirlwind emotions clicked off, and the Slayer part kicked in. She had to get Spike to safety, because this was not in any way a good thing that he was tucked away with a building full of Slayers. Her mind raced as she tried to think about where she could take him, but everything she came up with left her less than satisfied.

Angel was out of the question. His name might not be in the file, but until she knew for sure what had happened back at Wolfram & Hart, she had to keep the two vampires as far away from each other as possible.

Wesley was a remote possibility, but in spite of his reassurances for Spike’s safety, he was still affiliated with both Angel and the evil law firm that she was sure was at the root of all this. Until she was certain he wasn’t doing all this to stab them in the back, she had to filter what information she passed to him.

The only other people in LA that she knew were Andrew, the Slayers, and Dr. Guerrero. Besides the fact that all of them were here at Watts, she didn’t know any of them well enough to trust with something this serious. Well, she knew Andrew, and maybe his hero worship of Spike could come in handy, but she sure didn’t trust him to keep his mouth shut about anything. That only left hotels, which she could charge on the Council card in a pinch.

She noticed the personal information at the top of the first page then. There was an address there. And an apartment number.

Spike obviously had his own place.

With her mind made up, Buffy tore the pages she wanted out of the file and wadded them into her pocket. Her next problem presented itself then. She couldn’t haul an unconscious man dressed in a hospital gown away from an asylum without someone noticing. She needed Spike awake.

Her gaze caught on the pale skin of his hip, bared from his gown gone askew.

Clothes would be a good idea, too.

A quick search of the room revealed no personal effects. Though she didn’t want to leave Spike alone, she had to find something to dress him in. An orderly’s uniform, maybe, or…would Andrew’s clothes fit him? Sweats would probably be okay, and a t-shirt was a t-shirt. It wasn’t like Spike had ever complained about something being too tight. And street clothes would look more normal on the outside.

Pressing her ear to the door, Buffy confirmed that nobody was in the hall before slipping back out. She jammed the lock to prevent anybody without superhuman strength to get in or out and took off in the direction from which she’d come, retracing her steps until she was back in the Slayer wing. Andrew had his own room, easy to find at the end of the corridor, but he would be in the lounge where the TV was until the early hours of the morning, probably with enough of the young Slayers to make it easy for Buffy to slip in and out without detection. All she needed was five minutes.

She did it in two. For someone who didn’t appear to care how he looked, Andrew was a neat freak about organizing his belongings.

Buffy grabbed her purse before heading back, ducking into a closet once when a nurse turned a corner and walked straight toward her. For one brief, heart-pounding moment, when she came back out again, she thought she was lost, that she’d never be able to find Spike’s room, but a familiar scuff on the tiled floor rooted her again, and she doubled her pace in order to get there.

The door was just as she’d left it, and Buffy snapped it to get inside, uncaring that it would now be useless. Spike was still asleep, his lashes dark shadows across his cheeks, and she blocked out the wave of nostalgia that washed over her, the memories of that last night on the Hellmouth when he’d held her as he slept threatening to overwhelm her. She closed the door and set to work, stripping him out of the gown and working the clothes she’d brought onto his lean frame.

It was as she was trying to pull the shirt over his head that she felt his muscles twitch beneath her hands.

Buffy froze. The twitching was followed by a low moan.

With a sharp yank, she got the shirt on just in time to see his eyes open to slits. His throat worked, as if he was parched, and his tongue darted out to moisten his lower lip. “Slayer?” he rasped.

Relief flooded through her. “It’s me,” she confirmed. “I’m getting you out of here. Can you walk?”

He paused to consider the question, but said, “Thought someone was trying to smother me. Was goin’ to say, I’m already dead.” He licked his lips again. “But guess you know that.”

Though she was glad he was with it enough to try and make jokes, Buffy knew they couldn’t waste any more time. “I was getting you dressed,” she explained. “As nice as your ass is, I don’t think we’ll be able to get a cab with it waving in the wind.”

She’d meant it as levity, but for some reason, Spike’s brows drew together in a pained frown. “There some reason you’re breaking me out of Evil, Incorporated?”

“Because you’re not there any more. You’re in a psychiatric facility called the Watts Institute. Only nobody knew you were here until—” She shook her head. “I don’t have time for explanations right now, Spike. I have to get you out of here before somebody realizes I’ve found you. Now, can you stand up, or do we pull the ‘this is my drunk friend’ routine?”

The shirt was still pooled around his neck, waiting for him to slip his arms into it. When Spike started to sit up, he reached to finish pulling it on, only to see the bandages wrapped around his hands and wrists.

“Bugger,” he muttered. “Forgot about that.”

“Let me,” Buffy offered.

Before he had the chance to argue, she slid an arm around his back to help him sit up and maneuvered the t-shirt on the rest of the way. As soon as he was dressed, though, Spike slid his legs over the opposite side, putting the bed between them. He swayed as he found his balance, but when Buffy moved to help him further, he skittered away, heading toward the door on wobbly legs.

“Where’s my coat?” he complained.

Buffy hurried to get to the door before he could. “Angel’s got it, I think.”

“Figures. Wanker.”

She held up her arm to block the way, though his wrapped hands made it impossible to open the door himself anyway. “I don’t think it’s safe for you to go back there,” Buffy said. “I was thinking—”

“Got a flat of my own, Slayer. That’ll do.”

“Is it this one?”

She pulled out the folded records from his file and showed the address she’d found to him. Though he nodded right away, his eyes grew steadily darker as he scanned over the rest of the form. She waited for him to comment on what was clearly bothering him, but Spike never uttered a word.

“Follow me then,” she said, pulling the door open and peering outside. There would be time enough for explanations once they were free of Watts.

* * *

Lindsey didn’t want to go back to his apartment. He wanted to go out and get rip-roaring drunk. He wanted to forget about fucking up at Watts, and he wanted to do it with beer. A lot of it. And if he found a pretty blonde to help him get to oblivion, then all the better.

Except one pretty blonde had already gotten to him once tonight. If he wanted to get past Gemma Guerrero, he needed to know what her deal was, and better, where he’d find her Achilles heel. He needed that file on Dana Jameson if anything was going to work. If things kept up like this, he might actually resort to sending Spike after it once the vampire was up and biting again.

It was with leaden feet that he unlocked his apartment door, pushing it open into darkness. Eve wasn’t home yet. That was for the best. He got more work done when she wasn’t around providing distraction, and tonight, he needed to concentrate.

While his laptop was booting, he bustled around his apartment getting comfortable for a long night’s work. A beer from the fridge, a few more put in to chill, some music playing lightly in the background. Rolling his neck, he sat down and opened his e-mail first, letting that load as he opened the back door he had to Wolfram & Hart’s security. It only offered the most basic of surveillance, but he had Eve for the fine details anyway. This gave him the broad strokes to be able to plan appropriately. It was how Lindsey had learned of Dana, and it was how he was going to find out when Spike would be getting released. After all, Lindsey had been back to work the next day after getting his new hand; even with the more extensive operations, Spike’s vampire healing should have him ready any time now.

His hand froze over the touchpad when he saw the general alert Angel had issued only hours earlier. How the hell had Angel managed to lose Spike? The vampire stuck out like a drag queen in a nunnery.

He was reading Harmony’s e-mail, trying to find out if the gossip mill had any hints about what had happened to Spike, when he heard the front door open. “Please tell me you’ve got better news than what I’m seeing here,” he called out.

“Depends on what you’re seeing.” Her keys jangled as she dropped them on the table in the hall, and then Eve was sliding her arms around his chest, setting her chin on his shoulder. “Whatcha reading?”

“All my plans going down in flames.” Closing Harmony’s e-mail with a sharp tap, he twisted in his seat, forcing Eve to stand back. “What the hell happened today? Why didn’t you call and let me know the second Spike went missing?”

Eve held her hands up in surrender. “Slow down there, big boy. I’m not even the messenger here.”

“Exactly my point. You haven’t been telling me a whole lot of anything lately. Like the fact that two of the Slayers keeping an eye on Dana are Buffy Summers and Faith Lehane.”

Her eyes widened in surprise. “Isn’t Faith the Slayer you hired to try and kill Angel?”

Lindsey grimaced against the reminder. Was this whole day going to be about his failures? “Faith’s not the one I’m worried about,” he said. “Summers is the one with the influence over Spike. If she’s here, I lose him. End of story.”

“And you don’t think it’s just a little too coincidental that she showed up on the day Spike disappeared?”

For a second, he contemplated it. It was coincidental, but Harmony’s gossip had also talked about Buffy and Angel’s fight. It didn’t make sense for her to show up at all if she was the one who’d released Spike.

“So why didn’t you call me?” he demanded, changing the subject back.

“You said you were going to Watts to meet with Dana’s doctor,” she replied without pause. “I know how vital that was for you and I didn’t want to interrupt.”

Eve stepped up to him, reaching to run her palm over his chest. Normally, he found the contact soothing, but his nerves were too frayed to appreciate it, especially in light of her inability to keep him updated. Grasping her lightly by the wrist, he pushed her off, ignoring her moue of disappointment.

"You should have told me,” he said. He turned back to the laptop and locked it down. “I have to go do some damage control. Don’t wait up.”

Lindsey felt Eve’s eyes on him as he grabbed his coat. “You can’t go to Wolfram & Hart,” she said. “I know the cameras won’t see you, but Angel has everybody hopping. Somebody’s bound to – what’s all over your back?”

He glanced over his shoulder. Plaster clung to his jacket. “Don’t know,” he said. “Must’ve brushed up against something.”

Telling the truth didn’t feel like the smartest thing at the moment. If Eve couldn’t be bothered to do her part, then he didn’t feel the need to share the fact that he’d been slammed around by a female shrink.

He even walked out without a goodbye kiss. He just wasn’t in the mood.

* * *

Getting out of Watts was easy compared to sitting next to Spike in the taxi she finally found. As soon as they were alone in the back seat, he scooted over until he hugged the door, folding in on himself and keeping his gaze fixed on the scenery outside his window. Buffy’s feeble attempts at conversation were met with stone silence, and she quickly gave up in favor of staving off her encroaching headache.

All that mattered was that Spike was alive. At least, that’s what she kept telling herself. The closer they got to their destination, the less sure she got about that particular assertion. Because his withdrawal was feeling way too familiar. It felt like last year all over again.

“Can drop me off here,” Spike said abruptly.

Buffy frowned as the cab pulled up to the corner. “You live in an all-night Korean market?”

He didn’t even look at her as he barked, “Need beer.”

When he didn’t get out right away, she realized he was stuck without her help in opening the door. Buffy pulled two twenties out of her purse and handed them to the driver, then deliberately opened her door instead of Spike’s. “Alcohol awaits,” she chirped, more brightly than she felt.

Spike pushed past her and headed straight for the front door of the store, only to grind to a halt less than a yard away. His shoulders bunched, and his head drooped, and a few seconds later, he began heading away, around the corner and further down the street. Buffy raced to catch up.

“Don’t tell me you changed your mind,” she said. She stole a glance at his profile, firm and proud in the moonlight. Why wouldn’t he look at her? “I’ve got plenty of money. Being the Senior Slayer has more perks than just getting to boss everybody around, you know.”

It took a few more steps for him to growl in frustration and whirl to face her. “What’s this all about?” he demanded. It was the most life she’d seen from him since he’d woken up. The drugs must have finally cleared out of his system. “I get you’re probably in town to pick up your Slayer, but I’m not your business any more.”

“Not my…?” She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “You died, Spike! And then you were alive again! How is that not my business?”

“So you’ve got a monopoly on resurrections, is that it?” He resumed his march, more furious this time, and waved her off. “Thanks for the so-called rescue, but be a good little Slayer now and sod off.”

Buffy felt like she’d been slapped in the face. Andrew had said Spike didn’t want her to know he was alive, but the reasons had been unclear. She’d assumed – well, she hadn’t assumed much of anything, she hadn’t really had a chance too, but it sure as hell wasn’t this. All remnants of her good mood at finding him sizzled away, and she darted forward to grab his arm, heedless of whether or not she hurt him.

“So that’s it? After everything we went through together, you’re just walking away? Jesus, Spike, what was the point of going through all that shit together last year if you’re just going to run away because you got a little scared? Unless all of this is your way of trying to keep me from finding out you’ve lost your soul and you’re killing again.”

His anger shifted into guarded confusion, brows thick as he frowned at her. “You’d like that, would you?” he said. “Me without a soul. Give you an even better reason to put a stake through me. Tough luck, luv.” He lifted his hand as if to point a finger at her, but when he saw the bandages, Spike snarled in frustration and began tearing them away. It exposed inch after inch of pale skin, smooth and unmarked, until the gauze lay in ribbons around his feet. Once his fingers were free, he flexed them once, grimacing in pain at the movement.

The reminder of his surgery cut Buffy’s tirade short, and she watched him examine his arms, turning them this way and that as he tried to find evidence of the stitches. Without knowing what had happened, nobody would ever be the wiser. Without having seen the operation herself, Buffy would never have suspected.

“I just wanted to talk,” she said. “That’s all. And then when I thought Angel had dusted you…” With a sigh, she rubbed her eyes. That image was going to haunt her for a long time, regardless of Spike’s presence. “It’s been a long day. If you don’t want me around tonight, fine. I’ll go. But I’m coming back tomorrow. And you’re going to tell me why you wouldn’t let Andrew tell me you were alive. No more running away.”

She turned on her heel and headed back to the main street. She’d only gone a few feet before Spike’s voice trailed after her.

“Who the bloody hell is Andrew?”

 

To be continued in Chapter 8: Somebody Else's Life