Chapter Thirteen: Shadow of a Doubt
As Spike waited for the ambulance time seemed to slow; each second ticking by on the clock was as loud as thunder. Everything else was still and silent, so silent you would have been able to hear each breath rasping harshly in and out, except that neither one of the two people in the room was breathing. That thought caused Spike to break the eerie silence with an anguished cry. In the distance there was a siren and suddenly time rushed forward and everything became a blur as the paramedics burst in firing questions at him, one after another while they quickly worked on her.
They managed to get a weak, thready pulse and then Dawn was being strapped to a gurney and loaded into the rig. They rushed to the hospital, and Spike was forced to follow behind on his own, barely aware of the surrounding traffic. How could this have happened? He’d only been gone a few short moments; why would she have invited a stranger in? She was so strong; how had they been able to overpower her? Most of the vampires they had encountered in the area were fledglings; Dawn would have had little trouble dispatching one of them. Something about this didn’t fit. It might be too late. She could die. He shook his head. If he started thinking like that he wouldn’t be able to make the drive to the hospital.
He pulled in, parking haphazardly before he rushed into the ER. When he got inside they were already working on her and he wasn’t allowed in the room. Spike paced around the waiting room watching the clock, stopping as he realized the others were probably waiting at the restaurant by now. He walked slowly to the pay phone; he picked up the receiver and stared at the buttons without dialing until someone asked whether he was going to use the phone or not. He muttered an apology, punched in the number for the restaurant, and had them page Giles. Somehow calling them seemed to make it more real; when he heard the Watcher’s voice on the line he despaired at having to pass on the devastating information.
“Giles, I-” he stopped, unsure if he could go on.
“Spike? Where are you two; we were beginning to think something had happened.” Spike’s face twisted into a mask of grief at the unintentionally hurtful words, but he managed to choke out what he had to say.
“Something- I can’t, something did happen. I’m at the hospital with Dawn.” Tears ran down his face again as he held himself up against the wall. “You guys better get down here; I don’t know… she might not make it.” There was stunned silence and then,
“We’re on our way; you can explain when we get there.” Spike gave him directions and then hung up. He walked to the chairs and sank down with his head in his hands. She had to make it; if she died he had no reason to go on.
Twenty minutes later the gang charged into the hospital looking around wildly until they spotted Spike hunched over in his chair. In a moment they were at his side. Anya dropped down in front of him and hugged him tightly. She drew back and whispered,
“What happened?” Spike’s eyes were bleak, his voice nearly inaudible.
“I was barely gone ten minutes. I forgot my key and came back. She was on the floor…not moving…” He trailed off as he looked blankly at the floor. “Tried to talk to her, but she…unconscious. I didn’t see…there were bite marks. Why would she invite…?” He shook his head. “Makes no bloody sense; she would have known better. She knew better. She wasn’t breathing…nothing I could do, I had to wait. Waited forever.” He looked up at them. “I couldn’t do anything.” Anya sobbed and held onto him. Giles stepped forward.
“Are you saying,” he glanced around and lowered his voice before continuing, “this was a vampire attack?” Spike nodded grimly.
“I don’t get it,” Xander said. “Why would she have invited some stranger into the house? She’s dealt with enough vampires to know better than that.”
“That’s what I don’t get.” Spike shook his head. “I was only gone for a few minutes. Dawn is an extraordinary fighter; she can fight off and take down a vamp with the best of ‘em, but somehow this one managed to gain access to the house and overpower her in a ridiculously short amount of time. The only ones we’ve run into around here are young; most of them are fledglings barely out of the ground. There’s no way they’d be able to do this.” Giles was thoughtful before replying,
“Something new in town, maybe?” Spike nodded.
“I still don’t understand how it got in the house.”
“I’m sorry to interrupt the theorizing, but have you heard anything about how Dawn is doing?” Willow asked somberly.
“No, the bloody doctors won’t tell me anything. I haven’t even seen her; she was already in with them when I got here.”
“I’ll go see what I can find out,” Giles said and headed for the desk. They sat in silence and watched him speak with the nurse. Soon he stormed back over with an angry look on his face. “Apparently she’s very busy, but she’ll tell us if she hears anything.” He dropped down into a chair and they all sat and waited.
After what seemed like an eternity the doctor finally came to speak to them.
“Is she okay?” Spike asked desperately.
“Well, there was trauma to the face resulting in several minor injuries, but our biggest concern was the damage caused by the neck wound. She suffered what we call a Class IV hemorrhage; that’s when there is a blood volume loss of more than forty percent. The sudden loss of blood sent her into hypovolemic shock. We’ve managed to stabilize her for now, but she’s still in the ICU and she’ll need more tests before we know if there is any permanent organ damage. She hasn’t regained consciousness yet so I’m afraid you can’t see her right now, but I’ll keep you informed of her progress.”
“She’s comatose?” Giles queried. The doctor looked reluctant.
“For the moment, but as far as we know there’s no reason to assume she won’t come out of it.”
“But she might not?” Xander asked. “Come out of it, I mean.”
“That’s always a possibility. We’ll know more after we’ve finished our tests. The fact that she’s even alive after such a beating and the loss of so much blood means she’s very strong so there’s hope that she’ll pull through this.” The doctor looked at them sympathetically and when they had no more questions he took his leave. They all stood as though frozen until Spike turned, stumbling towards the door.
“I have to get out of here; I need…” Anya reached to touch him.
“You want some company?” He shook his head as he shrugged her hand off his arm.
“I need to be alone.” He took off and they all exchanged worried looks.
“Xander,” Anya said pleadingly and he nodded in understanding.
“I’ll make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.” Willow looked uncertain.
“But he said-”
“Don’t worry; I’ll keep out of sight. He won’t see me.”
He followed him for miles. At first Xander worried that the anguished vamp would sense him, but when Spike didn’t turn around and give him hell for the stalker impersonation Xander figured grief was causing Spike to be a little careless. It went on like that for hours; Spike wandering aimlessly through the darkened streets, Xander trailing cautiously behind. He was trying to decide if he should say something or just leave him to his thoughts when two guys stepped out of the shadows to block Spike’s path; a third stepped out of a doorway behind him with a crowbar. Xander could see they were human, and he knew Spike wouldn’t be able to fight back.
He prepared to charge in to help, but before the third guy could strike with the crowbar Spike spun around and caught his arm. Spike kicked out behind him, knocking one of the other guys down before punching the one wielding the crow bar. Then as the third one rushed him Spike grabbed him and tossed him effortlessly into a dumpster. Spike stood there staring at the ground, his game face still in place, while Xander looked on in shock. He quickly ducked back out of sight as Spike suddenly glanced up. Xander waited a second and when he peeked back out Spike was walking away from him. What the hell was that? he thought in confusion. Spike can hurt humans? Xander stood there thinking and then he rushed back to the hospital.
Anya looked up as Xander rushed into the waiting room and headed straight to Giles.
“I think I figured out how a vampire managed to get into the house.” Willow stood up, saying,
“Well, we’ve overlooked a very obvious explanation; she lives with one!”
“No. No way!” Anya said. “He would never do this to her! Never!”
“Yeah, Xander,” Willow agreed. “Besides it couldn’t have been him. Chip, remember?”
“I think it stopped working. I just saw him get attacked by three human men, and he beat the crap out of them,” Xander explained. Willow shook her head in disbelief.
“You probably just misunderstood the situation. They had to be vamps or something.”
“I know what I saw, Will! He’s been lying to us; I bet Dawn didn’t even realize she was living with a monster,” Xander raged bitterly.
“How can you say that?” Anya whispered bleakly. “Don’t you even know him at all?”
“I know what he is and a demon doesn’t just suddenly change!”
“Suddenly?” Anya demanded. “You think ten years or however damn long it’s been is sudden? He’s grown and changed over a period of years! He would never do something like this to Dawn, and if you don’t know that after all this time…” She shook her head. “I don’t even know what to say.” Giles ran a hand wearily through his hair and tried to intervene.
“I’m sure he would have told us if the chip had stopped working.” Xander just shot him a cynical look. It wasn’t long before Spike came back from his walk; Xander watched him as he came over.
“Clear your head?” he asked sarcastically. Spike gave him a funny look.
“Not really. I thought there might’ve been more news.” Anya shook her head no.
“I have a question,” Xander said loudly. Anya put a restraining hand on his arm and pleaded quietly,
“Don’t do this. Please.” Without looking at her he turned to Spike.
“How’s that chip of yours working these days?” A guilty looked passed across Spike’s face.
“Well, it’s not really,” he replied hesitantly. “It stopped working awhile ago.”
“And you didn’t want us to know.”
“It wasn’t like that. I-”
“You did this to her, didn’t you?” Spike jerked back and then noticed the way Xander, Giles, and Willow were looking at him, the suspicion in their eyes.
“I would never hurt her! She’s-” Xander stepped closer.
“I want you out. You lied about the chip; who knows what else you’ve lied about!”
“Xander, stop it,” Anya demanded. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” She turned to look for support among the others. Giles and Willow wouldn’t look her in the eye and Tara seemed unsure of what to do. Spike held up his hand to Anya.
“Don’t bother, luv. Once this lot gets a bloody idea into their heads no one can shake it loose. I’ll go for now, but I will be back. I’m not going to desert her.” He looked bitterly at Xander. “Nice to see you’ve reverted to type; you always were a judgmental, bigoted git. Glad you decided to show your true colors, seems like old times.” He glanced at Anya. “Thanks for sticking up for me.” He looked at the rest of them then shook his head and left.
“That was really great you guys,” Anya said. Willow looked upset and said defensively,
“Well, why wouldn’t he have told us? If he wasn’t hiding something why didn’t he tell us about the chip?” Anya looked at all of them with disgust.
“I wonder why?” she responded sarcastically before going after Spike. By the time she got outside he was halfway across the parking lot. “Hey! Wait up.”
“Look, I’m not in a real chatty mood right now.”
“I understand, and I’m sorry about Xander, about all of them. I just wanted to tell you that I’ll make sure you know Dawn’s condition, no matter what happens.”
“I appreciate that. I’ll come by when they’re not around; I don’t have the strength to deal with the lot of them right now or else I’d be throwing them out.” Anya gave him a hug and watched as he left. For the first time in her relationship with Xander she was ashamed of him. It was a horrible feeling.
Tara and Willow sat huddled together in their seats talking in lowered voices so the others wouldn’t hear.
“Do you really think he did this?” Tara asked Willow.
“I don’t know,” Willow muttered. “I know he loves her; maybe they were, you know, fooling around and things got carried away. Maybe it was an accident.”
“And then he punched her repeatedly in the face?” Tara asked in disbelief.
“Yeah, that doesn’t make sense. He wouldn’t do that.” Willow glanced over at Xander. “I think maybe we made a terrible mistake. I don’t think Spike would ever do something like this to Dawn, accidentally or otherwise.”
“Did you see his face? He was so hurt.” Tara looked sadly at Willow. “That’s why he didn’t tell us; he knew we would do this to him.”
“Xander honestly believes Spike did this. I don’t think he’s going to change his mind.” Willow whipped around to look at Tara. “Oh, god! We’re staying at his place; should we leave?”
“I think we should stay, maybe apologize or something.” They sat silently until Giles came over.
“They said they won’t know anything until tomorrow so I was thinking maybe we should all go and get some much needed rest.”
“Giles,” Willow whispered, glancing surreptitiously at Xander. “I think we made a mistake with Spike.” Giles looked uncertain so Tara spoke up,
“You don’t really think he would do this to her, do you?” He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose wearily.
“I didn’t think so, but I’m not the best judge; I haven’t been around as much as the rest of you. You think Xander may have overreacted?”
“We all know Xander’s the first to suspect the worst, especially when it’s Spike. Anya clearly disagrees with him, and Dawn tells her everything. I think she would know if there was any indication that Spike was capable of this.” Willow stood up and took Giles’s arm. “Do you really think Spike would beat Dawn unconscious and feed off her?”
“No. No, that doesn’t seem likely,” Giles sighed.
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know what we can do.”
“Shouldn’t we talk to Spike, tell him we believe him?” Tara asked.
“Well, that’s a start, but I don’t know what to do about Xander. He’s not going to change his mind, and even if he did, I have serious doubts that Spike would forgive him.” They all looked to where Xander was standing, arms crossed, staring furiously out the window. Spike had been right; once Xander got an idea in his head it was hard to make him see anything else.
“Maybe Anya can get through to him.”
“Would you take a second and think about what you’re saying,” Anya demanded angrily on the drive back to Dawn’s.
“The more I think about it the more sense it makes! He had access to the house; he could easily overpower Dawn, especially since she probably wasn’t expecting it. It all makes perfect sense.”
“Yeah, if you’re thinking like a pea-brained idiot! First of all, we all watched Spike take care of Dawn for three years. You saw how tender he was with her, how protective. Second, you listened to him talk and worry about her every month for five damn years! You are actually going to sit there and tell me that all that emotion, all that concern, was a lie? That he just suddenly decided, for no apparent reason, to beat the hell out of her and make her a meal? Just like that? That is what you seriously think happened?” Xander looked at her.
“He’s a vampire, Anya. They eat people. For food. That’s what they do.”
“This one doesn’t; not anymore, and you know it,” Anya declared vehemently. “Spike was right; you’re a bigot.” Xander slammed his hand against the steering wheel.
“I don’t want to discuss this any more, Anya! I know what happened. Don’t expect me to blindly trust a vicious monster just because you do.”
“I don’t expect anything from you anymore. I learned that lesson the hard way, but don’t think that that means I’m going to turn my back on him. He is my friend and Dawn loves him. She would want someone to be there for him. You think you know what happened, but I know that you’re wrong and I won’t blindly follow you!”
“You’re risking your life if you go anywhere near him.”
“I doubt that very much.” Xander looked at her furiously.
“You’re choosing him over me?”
“I’m not choosing anybody over anybody! I’m just telling you the way it’s going to be. Why? Are you going to make me choose?” Xander shook his head in frustration.
“Look, I don’t want to argue about this right now. Can’t we jus get some rest and discuss this in the morning?”
“Fine, but if you think I’ll change my mind you’re wrong.”
“Fine!” Anya stared sullenly out the window. If Xander made her choose… Well, she couldn’t think about that now, but she had a feeling they would all be making some tough choices very soon.
Spike roamed the streets, unsure of where he was going, filled with pain and anger. It was nearing sunrise. He should really get inside, but he couldn’t seem to care. He was probably going to lose Dawn, not too many people recovered when they were nearly drained by a vampire, and they thought he did it. They thought he could do something like that to Dawn. He had actually begun to think of them as his friends, to trust them and they had turned their backs on him.
Deep down he had known; that was probably why, after all this time, he still hadn’t had the courage to bring up the issue of the chip. Well, it’s all out in the open now, he thought bitterly. At least Anya was on his side, but how long before Xander managed to turn her against him. He was brought abruptly out of his thoughts as someone knocked him down from behind. He rolled quickly and sprang to his feet, coming face to face with Drusilla. She gave him that daft grin he remembered so well and as she came closer she cooed,
“Hello, lover.” Spike eyed her suspiciously.
“Hello, Dru. Didn’t know you were in town.” She clapped her hands gleefully like a child.
“Didn’t you get the present I left for you? I picked it out special.” Spike looked at her quizzically.
“Present? What pres-?” His expression became murderous. “You did that to Dawn?”
“Mm, yes. Too bad you came home so soon and spoiled all the fun,” Dru pouted. “She was quite delicious; I hope you won’t miss her too much!” Spike grabbed her by the throat and slammed her up against a nearby building.
“You, bitch!” Dru laughed at his anger. “I’ll kill you!”
“I doubt that very much, my love,” she replied confidently.
“You think I won’t do it?” She laughed at him
“Oh, I know you have no problem killing your own kind these days. You’ve become so good; it’s sickening, but did you really think I would come alone?” She asked condescendingly. Before Spike could comprehend what she was saying he was hit over the head and fell unconscious to the ground. Drusilla glared at his fallen body. “Pick him up; we’re bringing him with us.”