Spike had never been more aware of the fact that he was no longer immortal than he was while riding in the passenger's seat with Buffy sat behind the wheel.
The beating of his heart was completely apparent as it banged in panic against his rib cage.
He loved Buffy and new she was amazing at many thing – driving was not among them.
"Hey pet, take it easy, eh?" he implored. "A hospital ain't gonna do me much good if I'm dead by the time I get there."
Buffy just made a sort of dismissive grunting noise.
Spike held tight to the dashboard, his eyes clenched shut as Buffy made a sharp left turn. His life was flashing before his eyes, and then his unlife, then his life again. His human constitution wasn't holding up very well to the speed. He kept silently praying that Buffy didn't turn into a roundabout.
Finally, they made it to the hospital. Spike patted himself, breathing a sigh of relief finding he was still in one piece. He closed his eyes and rested his head against his seat, gulping in air. He fumbled in his pockets for his cigarettes and popped one in his mouth.
"Uh, I don't think so," Buffy said reaching over and grabbing the cigarette from his mouth. She tossed it out the window. "You're human now; smoking can kill you. No way I'm going to let that happen. I just got you back, I plan to do everything in my power to keep you around for awhile. So, NO SMOKING."
Spike would have argued but he was too pleased by the fact Buffy had admitted to wanting him around, the words died on his tongue. "What ever you want, pet."
Buffy looked uncomfortable again after a moment of looking at him and hustled herself out of the car. She came around to Spike's side and helped him out.
"Hi, we need a doctor," Buffy promptly informed the nurse behind the desk when they walked in.
"What seems to be the problem?"
"It's... my husband, he's been sick – with a fever– and earlier he... sort of fell and hit his head. He was unconscious for about ten minutes."
"Here," the nurse handed Buffy a clipboard with papers on it, "just need you to fill in these forms, love, and we'll see to him."
"Thank you," Buffy murmured.
"Husband?" Spike asked when they were clear of the nurse.
Buffy shrugged. "They'll only give information to family members. Did you want to be my brother?"
"No," Spike smirked. "Husband's good."
Buffy's head snapped up to the man in the white coat. "Yes?" she confirmed, getting to her feet.
The doctor smiled at her reassuringly. "Well, there doesn't appear to be any severe damage to your husband's head – he's got quite a bump," Buffy cringed with guilt, "but no signs of concussion."
"Oh, that's good." Buffy remarked with relief.
"He does appear to have flu, howeve," The doctor went on. "It'll be good for him to keep in bed and get plenty of fluids."
"I'll make sure he does," Buffy vowed.
The doctor gave her a small smile. "Good,"
"So then," Buffy ventured. "Can I take him...home?"
"I don't see why not. We gave him something to bring down the fever, but if it comes back or he gets worse in a couple days bring him back in."
"Thank you. I will."
The doctor gave her a departing smile and took off down the hall.
Buffy let out the breath she had been holding and sank down into the plastic waiting room chair.
Oh, thank god, he's okay, she internally rejoiced. He's here, he's alive, and he's okay.
She sniffed back some tears and pulled herself together, then got up to fill in the release forms and take her husband home.
"You know, you don't 'ave to do this," Spike said, not for the first time, as Buffy unlocked the door to her flat. "I can really take care of m' self. I can get a room somewhere."
"Don't be silly," Buffy replied, "You're sick and Dawn isn't going to be home tonight so you can have her room. Besides, I signed that form that said I was responsible for you and I take my responsibilities very seriously. So I don't want to hear anymore about it, all right?"
Spike's lips twitched. "All right."
Buffy smiled. "Good." She pushed the door open.
"Sit," She instructed Spike pointing to the sofa. "The doctor said plenty of fluids, so I'm going to put the kettle on. Make yourself comfortable. That's an order," she added sternly.
Spike gave her a mock salute.
Buffy rolled her eyes and disappeared into the kitchen.
Spike, doing as he was told, ambled over to the plush sofa and sank down. He let out an Ahhh of pleasure as his weight was taken off of his aching muscles. He kicked off his boots and put his legs up, leaning back.
Buffy did say to get comfortable after all.
Only a moment after he sat down, Spike's eyelids started to drift closed.
Must be that medicine they gave me at the hospital, he figured, his limbs feeling heavy.
He was nearly dozing when Buffy came bustling back in.
"It'll be ready in a minute," she announced, her voice snapping Spike to attention.
"Oh, good," he mumbled, sitting up and rubbing his eyes.
"Oh god, were you sleeping?" Buffy asked. "I'm so sorry. If you wanna just go ahead and crash that's fine..."
"No, no," Spike interjected. "I don't wanna go to sleep. Not yet. 'M not ready for the day to end yet."
"There'll be another tomorrow just like it."
Spike smiled. " 'm not so sure of that."
Their gaze held for a moment.
"So," Buffy broached into the pause. "Can I get you anything besides tea? Soup maybe, I open a mean can of chicken noodle."
Spike chuckled. "I'm fine, love. But maybe later."
"Okay." Buffy settled herself in the chair across from him.
A bout of silence lapsed.
Buffy took in a breath then let it out. "Okay," she ventured. "Now that we know you're not going to die, I can ask you some questions."
Spike took a breath, leaning back and nodding; he’d expecting this. "Okay."
"Okay," Buffy repeated. "First of all, why didn't you tell me you were back?"
Spike blew out a breath and rubbed his hands together. "I wanted to – it was the first thing I wanted to do, actually. But like I told you earlier when I was explainin' about the Shansu business, I couldn't leave at first. And the not being able to take action like I was used to, gave me the time to think. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised that... I left your life in a blaze of glory. I was a champion. I didn't want to ruin that image you had of me. And I figured, sooner or later, if I came back I would end up doin' somethin' that would. So..."
"Well," Buffy remarked after a moment of letting Spike's words sink in. "That's one explanation – it's not a very good one – but it's an explanation. So, next question, how long after you were Shansu'd did you wait to come and find me?"
Spike hesitated a moment. "About six months."
"Six months!" Buffy spluttered. "What the hell?"
Spike sighed. "I needed time," he defended. "I had to adjust to the whole being human thing. I needed to figure it all out. I didn't know if I could fit into your world now that I don't have super strength anymore."
"Okay," Buffy said slowly. "I guess I can accept that. So what made you decide to come and see me now?"
Spike shrugged. "I realised that having a heart that beat was useless unless I was with the person it beat for. I took a chance."
Tears threatened to spring into Buffy's eyes.
"Was I right to?" Spike asked, nervous.
Buffy nodded slowly. "Yeah, I think you were."
They smiled at each other.
This time Buffy didn't baulk when her emotions began to overwhelm her. "Spike, I just want you to know that I really am – "
The whistling of the tea kettle cut her off.
She cleared her throat and stood up. "I should get that." she mumbled and went to the kitchen.
Even though Dawn's bed was unoccupied, when Spike started yawning, Buffy ushered him into her own room.
He quickly fell asleep. Buffy lay down next to him and just watched him sleep. The way she had done that night when he found her in that house after she had been thrown out of her own; that had been the night she finally started to admit to herself how much he meant to her, that she loved him.
She brushed a wayward curl from his eye and whispered the thing she had been prevented from saying earlier, "I'm really glad you're here." She kissed his forehead– it was warm, but normal human warm; the fever had gone.
She hunkered down and laid her head on his chest. With the combination of his beating heart as a lullaby and his chest's gentle rocking as he breathed steadily, Buffy too, was soon fast asleep.