The fall from the tower couldn’t kill him; vampires don’t die from falling. He would file that under ‘curse’ because he was left conscious, broken but able to raise himself onto his knees and see Buffy follow him, see her land as he had on the jagged debris. But slayers, they could die from falling. She looked peaceful, only a thin trail of blood in the corner of her mouth. He fell then, sobbing loudly, uncaring what anyone saw or thought.
He kept falling, until he awoke in a basement. Someone had carried him away – busted knees and broken feet from the fall – no one ever taught him how to fall right.
That’s what Giles says, and even demonstrates; there’s a way to FALL RIGHT. So you don’t jam your shins up through your knees and break all the bones in your feet and end up dragged into the basement because they don’t know where else to put you and Bit’s scared out of her mind you’ll walk into the sun. Not that you have the guts or feet to do it.
Spike supposed he had been out of it for a while. At some point, even grief isn’t enough to keep a mind occupied. You wake up, and know, suddenly, that you’re hungry, that it’s mid-afternoon, and that you can’t stand the sight of the basement walls one second longer.
He was thin, he could tell, his legs felt like sticks, and he felt so dried up and hollow he couldn’t imagine the weight would be anything at all, even on broken feet. But setting his feet on the ground had been torture. He fell. This time he fell as Giles had shown him, or a close approximation. He laughed at himself, lying on the cold basement floor.
Dawn ran down the stairs with more noise than one teenage girl should have created. “Spike! What are you doing up?”
“’Up’ she says,” he laughed, crawling to the cot so he could pull himself back on it.
Dawn’s human-hot hands grabbed him and her hair fell like silk all around him as she grunted and tugged. Her efforts half helped, half got in the way. Somehow it evened out and he lay on his back again, gasping and blinking the pain away.
“How long have I been down here, Bit? How many weeks?”
She looked guilty. “Eight days.”
Eight days. “Hell,” he said. “Eight down. Eternity to go. Can you help me get up out of here, Niblet? I’ve been staring at that washing machine a week now and it’s starting to stare back.”
His voice sounded hollow to his own ears and Dawn’s smile was perfunctory – acknowledging that a joke had been made and, in happier times, would have been laughed at. “I’ll see what we can rig,” she said.
What they rigged was to have Xander and Tara – deemed the two strongest of the scoobies – carry him up the stairs and deposit him on the livingroom couch with much swearing and complaints about vampiric weight gain from Xander.
The livingroom became his new convelescent room. At least it smelled better than the basement, and people came and went, making it not feel so much like being locked up. Tara checked his bones now and again and shrugged. Dawn or Willow or even Xander brought him blood. Plus there was cable.
Dawn leaned back, at one with the couch cushions, only her hand with the remote moving as she flicked idly through channels. She was wearing pajamas, though it was nearly four in the afternoon, and cereal bowls and empty bags of snack food littered the coffee table.
Spike realized she’d been sitting there almost as long as he had. “Hey,” he nudged her with his foot. “Niblet. Don’t you got school?”
“It’s summer,” she said.
“Not studying at home, then?”
“Don’t got any chores to do?”
She rolled her eyes.
He sat up and snatched the remote away.
“Hey!” she shouted as he turned the TV off. “I was watching that.”
“No, you really weren’t. You’ve been neglected.”
“I have not. This is normal, Spike. This is what I do in the summer.”
“What, spend all day watching soaps with a vampire?”
She crossed her arms and sank back into the cushions. “Everyone expects me to act normal. I can’t even tell my best friend what’s going on because the authorities might take me away. What am I supposed to do? I can’t hang out with Janice and not tell her!” Fresh tears fell down old tracks on her cheeks.
Spike swung his legs off the couch and scooted closer to her. “Maybe,” he said quietly, “Maybe the authorities should take you away. Eh? Maybe won’t be so bad. Not like they’re gonna throw you into a work house or somethin’.”
“They’ll send me to my dad.” She turned her face away. “He’s not even my real dad.”
“HE doesn’t know that.” Spike brushed the hair back from where it stuck to her wet cheek.
She shrugged his hand away. “Sometimes I think he does. If he did, it would make sense, the way he ignores me. He doesn’t care. Why couldn’t HE have died?”
“You don’t mean that, Bit.”
“Of course I do!” She stood and rubbed her eyes. “What do you care? I’m not even real! I’m not grieving. All these memories, all this love I have for… it’s not real.”
He grabbed her wrist and she struggled to free herself from his grip, but he held on and she had to stop, glaring down at him. “I’m not real, either,” he said. “You’re talking to a guy died a hundred years ago, okay? So let’s stop. Who’s to say what’s real and what isn’t. What you feel… that’s all that matters; all that really exists. You feel. An’ so do I. So as far as that, our feelings are real, and so are we.”
“You’re stupid,” she said. And sniffled a smile, because she couldn’t say childish things anymore without irony.
“Yeah. And you’re not spending the summer on the couch. Go put some clothes on.” He let go of her wrist and grimaced in sympathy as she rubbed the reddened skin.
While she ran upstairs he decided to stand. He ran a worried hand over his knees and then his feet, but he couldn’t tell if they felt proper or not. He grabbed onto the arm-rest and slowly put weight on his feet.
Dawn came down the stairs in a sundress to see him standing with his hands out like he was balancing on a tightrope. Her smile was genuine now. “Willow! Tara! He’s standing!” She whooped and ran for the kitchen.
“Hey! Little help for the invalid!” he called after her. “Don’t bloody celebrate my recovery without me!” He took a wincing step, nearly fell, and hung onto the edge of the couch.
The next day he woke from his nightmares as usual, but didn’t lay back wallowing in them. He got up as soon as he realized he was awake and walked a circuit of the first floor of the house. When Dawn finally emerged from her room, he had two slim books waiting for her.
He watched her read the titles. “You had Herodotus yet?”
“Yet?” She furrowed her brow. “You’re asking me if I’ve read this dusty old not-in-English thing YET?”
“They don’t torture kids in secondary school anymore?” Spike raised an eyebrow. “Anyway, you’re reading that this summer. This is the best Latin primer I could find.”
“Excuse me? Why?”
“Come on, I’m not making you do Greek! Because you need something to do.”
“No. I don’t. I can do nothing all day, every day. Easily. Watch me.”
“Bit!” He caught the books as she tossed them over her shoulder. “Niblet!” He swore under his breath as she easily outpaced him to the kitchen.
She’d already gotten herself a bowl of cereal by the time he’d gotten into the room, and he was limping a bit. He threw the books down on the counter beside her. “You NEED something to do. You can either learn Latin or get a job.”
“Because you’re going stir-crazy, Bit, and you’re taking me with you.”
She rolled her eyes. “No. Why Latin?” She poked the books with her spoon.
“Because it’s the only thing I learned in school that I found halfway useful.”
“Yeah, but you went to school a million years ago. No one SPEAKS Latin anymore.”
“They didn’t speak it when I was alive, either. How old do you think I am? Look, trust me, it’s useful. Half of everything lawyers say is in Latin and they don’t even know it.”
Dawn shook her head and stabbed her cornflakes.
Spike sighed. “’Bout two-thirds of Rupert’s books are in Latin.” Dawn looked up. He smiled and added the clincher, “And just about all of Red’s spells.”
She pulled the book closer to her bowl. “Okay,” she said, flipping the cover open. “But just because I have nothing better to do.”
“We’ll start real slow. Just a few words at a time. Best part is, when you know Latin, everyone thinks you’re smarter than you are.” He settled onto the stool opposite her, arms crossed on the counter.
She fiddled with the book-cover. “You just want something to do, yourself.”
He sighed. “Like soddin’ oxygen, pet. I’m about to chew the walls.” He smiled. “Besides, I’m supposed to be taking care of you.”
“Are not. Willow and Tara are taking care of me. I’M taking care of YOU.”
“That you are, pet. Now, let’s get started. That page you’ve got open…”
They leaned together over the book, both smiling at the quiet sensation of doing something that wasn't grieving.