(Don't) Call Me Love
Much thanks to starrynights24 for the beta'ing. Any remaining mistake is my own.
But the good ones? The souls of the too few fighters who had never faltered, who had always been true to them, who had sacrificed themselves to their cause? Of course they would use the poor things, over and over and over, granting them only a few years or decades of rest before they shoved them into a new body and sent them back to the frontline.
(Don’t) Call Me Love
Spike’s yearlong cruise had taken him halfway to Jupiter when he got the call.
The kids never understood how he could remain on his own for so long without turning batshit crazy. For them staying in contact with each other, with their families, with their Watchers at every moment of the day or night was second nature, and they cringed at the thought that communication could be anything other than instantaneous. He only shook his head when they asked, wide-eyed and shuddering, how he could bear the silence. There was no point in trying to explain to them.
He didn’t go on these trips around the solar system to be alone, to enjoy the silence or even to taunt the sun from behind necrotempered glass. On the contrary, he went to get close to the people he had lost. In a too loud world, he sometimes forgot the sound of their voices; with too much to see, he forgot what their smiles had looked like; after too many fights, he forgot how soft or harsh their hands had been. But once he was alone on that ship, with nothing but the purring of the engines and an ocean of stars beckoning, they came back to him, one after the other. The people he had saved, and those he hadn’t. The ones he had loved, and those he had loved to hate. The ones who had forgiven him in the end, the ones who had asked him to go away, the ones who still waited, somewhere, for the day when they would meet again and be able to let the past rest undisturbed. And also, of course, the one he was waiting to see reborn.
No one had ever asked him his opinion about it, but if they had, he would have ranted that of course the Powers were bastards, he had never doubted it. Of course eternal peace earned with countless battles, blood and tears was anything but eternal. Of course they wouldn’t hesitate to send souls back – not tarnished souls like his or Angel’s, no; champions or not, they had one chance, and that was it. That was why he was still hanging on after all this time. But the good ones? The souls of the too few fighters who had never faltered, who had always been true to them, who had sacrificed themselves to their cause? Of course they would use the poor things, over and over and over, granting them only a few years or decades of rest before they shoved them into a new body and sent them back to the frontline.
No one had ever asked his opinion, and Spike was glad they hadn’t. Because every word of outrage and recrimination would have been a complete and utter lie. Of course he was glad she would be called back. She had earned her rest more than most, but he was nothing if not selfish. His soul wouldn’t have a second chance to earn peace, but his heart might.
At full speed, it took him almost three months to come back. He bounced off the ship’s walls the entire time, wishing he knew more already, replaying the all too brief message from HQ. Laila had teased him countless times about it, but she had looked straight at the camera as she said simply, “She’s been activated, Spike. We know where she is.”
By the time he reached New London she had been brought to the training facility there. All new girls were, whether they were merely Potentials that had been identified early or Slayers who had been activated without prior warning. She had been one of the latter, and Spike couldn’t help being a little relieved at that. It would have been just plain wrong if he had first met her as a big-eyed, pig-tailed twelve years old Potential.
“Twenty,” Laila said when he asked how old she was, and without looking at her he could hear the frown in her voice. “Old, to be called.”
Spike shrugged, never taking his eyes from the girl behind the glass. “Older ones were chosen before her.”
The girl’s hair was black. Jet black, like a raven’s wings. He tilted his head this way and that, as though a different angle would change the odd color, but it remained the same, and he couldn’t help but frown a little.
“If she’s that special,” Laila insisted, “why would they call her so late? She won’t last—”
He turned a cold glare to her at that, and the words died in her throat.
“She’ll outlive us both, pet,” he said calmly, and she could interpret that however she damn well pleased.
Turning his eyes back to the training room, he watched the girl run through a series of balance exercises. “Who’s been coaching her?”
“We’ve taken turns,” Laila said. “We all wanted to know what was so special about her.” She snorted quietly. “And we all still wonder. She’s not extraordinary, not like—”
“You didn’t teach her that.”
The end of the girl’s tightly woven black – black! – braid swung back and forth as she executed a perfect series of somersaults across the entire room, her last twirl bringing her just inches from what, to her, was a mirror.
“She was a gymnast,” Laila said, but Spike barely heard her.
The hair was wrong. The height, too; she was barefoot and he was in combat boots, but their eyes were level when, her hands framing her face, she leaned in very close to the glass as though she could see right through it. The tinted glass darkened her eyes, and while he could see they were green, he couldn’t see any spark of life in them.
“I know you’re watching me,” she said, and even with the distortion from the microphone there was the smallest lilt of an American accent in her words.
Spike laughed, but the sound was uneasy to his own ears. “I guess she’s ready for her first lesson.” He knocked twice on the glass to let her know he had heard her, and took long but unhurried strides to the door on the left. He shrugged his shoulders before opening it, missing the once familiar weight of leather more than he had in quite a few decades.
“Spike?” Laila called out, and waited until he was looking at her to ask, “Don’t you want to know her name?”
With a slight grin, he shook his head and entered the training room. The girl was at him before he had taken three steps in, her training sword stopping just an inch from his neck. Spike blinked. She looked at him with a satisfied little smirk.
“Not exactly the introductions I had imagined,” he drawled, and proceeded to show her that she had no reason to smirk quite yet.
Taking hold of the sword necessitated two seconds; forcing her to let go, three more. He threw the pseudo weapon away and faced her barehanded – the way it had always been meant to be. She fell into position: legs spread out for balance, arms raised defensively, fists closed and ready to take the first opening. Damn Watchers had been training her all right. That much more work for Spike to undo.
“I know you’re a vampire,” she said when he didn’t immediately attack again.
“Do you, now? So you’ve gotten used to the tingling already. Good girl.”
He lashed out with a roundhouse kick – a move that had been hers, in another life. She blocked it with her crossed wrists, pushing Spike back with a snarl. “Don’t you fucking patronize me!”
He clucked his tongue. “Language, luv.”
Her eyes narrowed and she took her turn, straight out punches that were all too easy to avoid. “I’m not your—”
Focused as she was on her attack, she didn’t see his foot, and Spike doubted she knew how she ended up flat on her back. Dropping to his knees, he straddled her thighs and caught her hands when she tried to hit him. He pressed each wrist on either side of her face and leaned in close. Her eyes widened even as her breathing accelerated. She tried to buck him off her, never giving up even when the fight was all but lost. He peered into her eyes, searching for he wasn’t too sure what. Little bits of gold danced through them, reflecting the light, but that wasn’t what caught his breath and pulled a slow smile to his lips.
“Have you ever heard the expression, ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’, luv?”
She glared at him as though she were the one pinning him down. “I said, don’t call me—”
“Don’t call you luv, yes, I heard.” As she started struggling harder, he jumped to his feet and took two steps back before she could retaliate. “I suppose it’s a bit too early, at that, seeing how we haven’t even been properly introduced.”
He waited until she was standing again before he held out his hand to her. “The name’s Spike. I’m your Watcher.”
She frowned slightly and considered his hand for a long moment before taking it.
“You’re my Slayer,” he cut in as gently as he knew how, and squeezed her hand. “That’s all I need to know.”
The first month after two men in tweed had showed up at her doorstep was the most confusing in Cameron’s life. She couldn’t deny that something had changed inside her, that she was now able to do things that no twenty year old – that no one, period, ought to have been able to do. She was so spooked that she didn’t even think of telling anyone else about it all. Still, she needed some time to wrap her mind around their explanations as to what exactly had happened. When she finally did, she accepted their invitation to come to New London to learn more.
The month after that, once she slowly came to terms with her new abilities and what she was expected to do, was a whirlwind of emotions. Denial was first, then fear when she read between the lines and understood why there were so many Potentials at the facility, then anger that this had been thrust upon her without a warning or any chance to refuse. She took out her frustrations on the nightly rounds the Watchers had her do around New London, and couldn’t deny that somehow, having a stake in her hand felt right. She even started having dreams about staking vampires and killing odd demons she had never seen before. The Watchers told her they were prophetic dreams. She was going to have quite an interesting life. She almost looked forward to battling that giant snake thing.
The third month was the worse. The Watchers were still training her, she was still going out every night, but she was growing restless. Her boyfriend, her school, her entire life were in Seattle. She talked with John every day on the phone, and the Watchers had arranged somehow for her to get credits from this ‘study trip’, but that didn’t change the fact that she missed her home and her routine. From what she had been told, there were vampires and demons to slay everywhere. Laila had promised she would be able to go home, but before that could happen, she had to wait for her Watcher to arrive. She wasn’t sure why one of the others couldn’t come with her. What was so special about this guy anyway?
She understood the moment she first met him.
She had been warned that he was a vampire. An old vampire. But they hadn’t told her he would be able to kick her ass so thoroughly in just moments. She had thought she was good after training with the Watchers. They had told her she was good, even though they always seemed to expect more from her than what she could do. But Spike…
He started training her the first day they met, and continued to push harder and harder for the two weeks after that. Morning and afternoon, they sparred, until she was so sore she refused to go down to the training room. Then he taunted her, and got her so mad that she went anyway just to prove him wrong. It seemed that all she did anymore was fight with him, and she even started dreaming of it. In her dreams, though, he smiled a lot less – and he seemed to want to kill her a lot more. She tried to convince herself that these weren’t prophetic dreams, just regular dreams brought on by her tiredness, but it was hard to look at him without frowning, sometimes.
On top of the increased training he went out with her for patrols every night, although she wasn’t sure why he bothered. He never helped her stake any vampire. All he did was smoke cigarette after cigarette, and watch. Although he was her Watcher, so maybe that was all his job entailed. It wasn’t like she needed his help staking vampires anyway.
That night she was brushing off her third vampire’s ashes from her jeans while he looked on, amused, when she asked yet again the question she had asked him and Laila just about every day for the past month.
“So why can’t I go home yet?”
His smirking expression didn’t change one bit. “You will. When you’re ready.”
She scowled at him and crossed her arms. “I am ready.”
“No you’re not,” he said, flicking his cigarette stub to the ground. “You still need more—”
She didn’t want to hear that she needed more training. Without warning, she attacked him, like she had the first day she had met him. She didn’t have a sword this time; she didn’t even pull out her stake. All she did was put to use what he had taught her in the past weeks. She kicked high toward his chest, and while he jumped back in time to avoid the full impact of her foot, she still managed to touch him. For a moment he seemed as surprised as she felt. And then he chuckled.
“Think you can take me, Slayer?”
She had given up on having him stop calling her that. Whenever she protested, he would stop for a little while before starting again. Besides, Slayer was better than the alternative. She was no one’s pet, and least of all his. She didn’t want him to see her as a little girl – or a pet. She wanted him to see her as his equal. And she knew exactly what she had to do for that – best him.
“I know I can take you,” she said, attacking again. “Want to know why?”
He parried her fists with his hands, moving back as she advanced, but never lost his smile. “Why?”
She continued to drive him back as she answered, using her hands and feet. Sooner or later, he’d make a mistake, and she would show him. “Because you wouldn’t hurt me, but I haven’t been given a reason yet for why I shouldn’t stake you. You’re a vamp. Soul or no soul.”
Rather than push her hand back, he grabbed her fist on her next blow and held it tight in his hand. She gave a start when he shifted to his game face.
“You’re really sure I wouldn’t hurt you?” He sneered. “You’re ready to bet your life on it?”
He started fighting back rather than simply parrying her attacks, and quickly regained the ground he had lost until they were back to where she had first attacked him. Cameron realized with a flash of pure, raw fear that she had never seen him fight to the extent of his full strength before. He had kicked her ass plenty of times, but his speed, now, his kicks, the way he moved, were all on an entirely different level.
She could do one of two things – call a truce and admit defeat, or fight better than she ever had until that moment.
She never even considered the first option.
Drawing on reserves she hadn’t even known she possessed, she pushed herself a little more, tried to gain that fraction of a second, that eighth of an inch that would mean a world of difference between almost and smack on. She also used the terrain around her, something she had never done, never thought of doing, using a low branch from a tree to gain momentum, tripping Spike when there was a tombstone at his back to cause more pain. It broke at the impact, and she could almost feel pain radiating in her back in sympathy as he lay on the shattered stone. She remained on her guards, waiting for him to jump back up, but he looked up at her and she realized it was over.
“There you go!” A bright smile lit up his face. “That’s what I’ve been waiting to see! Knew you had it in you, Slayer.”
He held out his hand to her. She hesitated before taking it but finally did, helping him get back to his feet. He held on to her hand too long, like he had that first day. It felt strange to hold his hand like this. It was cool, not cold as she could have expected – but she had known it wouldn’t be cold. It was a very strange feeling, and she wondered if it was yet another Slayer thing; knowing odd little things about vampires had to be useful, she supposed.
“You’ll go home soon,” he said, grinning. “Give me a day to get on Laila’s nerves and she’ll put us in the first plane.”
Cameron laughed. She had no trouble believing he’d infuriate the Head Watcher in no time if he tried even half his best.
Cigarette, check. Glass of scotch, check. Tight t-shirt, check. Dirty boots on Laila’s pristine glass desk, double check. If she didn’t kick him out of her office and out of the country before they were done, Spike would make himself a monk.
Laila would soon be fifty, and she had spent most of the past thirty-five years at headquarters, first as a Potential, then as a Watcher, and finally as Head Watcher. Spike had known her long enough to be able to push her buttons in his sleep.
She sighed and shook her head, coming back to the same argument again. “You know we’re going to need her here.”
“No,” Spike said in his sweetest voice, the one he knew grated her nerves the most, even though his patience was wearing thin. “I don’t know that because I don’t know when that prophecy will take place and neither do you.”
It seemed to be a recurrent flaw in all Head Watchers he had known. They all assumed that the worst possible events would take place under their watch – and they all did stupid things trying to stop these supposed events from happening.
“It’s got to be why she was called back,” she insisted. “The Powers want—”
Losing his temper as he always did when the Powers That Sucked were brought in the conversation, Spike threw his glass across the room. It shattered against the wall, leaving long trails of scotch to slither down toward the floor.
“They want to fuck with our lives!” he growled, standing and leaning across the desk. “And it’s time they learned that we can fuck them right back.”
Laila didn’t even bat an eyelash at his outburst. Apparently she had learned to control her emotions better since their last altercation. “You’re ready to risk the world on that?” she asked, her voice as cool as though she had asked whether he wanted another drink.
“If it’s really why she’s here,” Spike said, the words slow and detached, “I’ll bring her back. And if it’s not, the vamps in Seattle need staking just as much as the vamps here.”
He straightened up as she observed him, their eyes clashing as they had many times in the past.
“You’re letting who she was color your judgment,” she said at last, and didn’t manage to fully hide the old bitterness in her voice.
Spike snorted. “Damn right I am. Do you know how long I’ve waited for her?”
“I do,” she said with a quiet sigh. “And I’m telling you: she’s a Slayer first and foremost. Everything else she is, was, or might be is second. As for you—” Her voice and gaze hardened. “You’re a Watcher. So start acting like it.”
“I am acting like it,” he replied coldly. “I’m acting like the only Watcher I ever knew who was worth his Slayer. He got fired for it, too, if memory serves right. And if that’s what needs to happen here, it’s not like I need your money anymore.”
Laila watched him coolly over her linked fingers. Her eyes were as icy as a winter draft. “Is that a threat?” she asked after a few moments.
Spike sat back in his armchair and kicked his feet back up onto the edge of her desk. A muscle in her jaw clenched but she didn’t say anything.
“I don’t know, Laila,” he said slowly. “You tell me. The last time she was around, the Council was blown to smithereens and had to be rebuild from scratch.” He smiled, showing too many teeth along with just a flash of fangs. “How attached are you to your job?”
Feeling extremely confused, Cameron walked away from Laila’s office. She had come to look for Spike and ask when they would be leaving as he had promised. She had found him – or rather she had heard his voice – but she had stopped with her hand an inch from the door panel that would let her announce her presence. She hadn’t heard everything, only when Spike had been too angry to control the volume of his voice, but what she had heard had raised so many questions that she forgot why she had even come there.
As she returned toward her room one of the older Potentials fell into step with her. She had sparred with the girl a couple of times, though she couldn’t remember her name. The girl said hello and Cameron nodded and smiled in greeting, her thoughts already drifting back to what she had heard.
“So we’ve been wondering,” the girl said as though picking up a conversation. “What did you do to land Spike as a Watcher?”
Startled out of her thoughts, Cameron stopped walking. The girl stopped as well and gave her a curious look.
“What I did?” Cameron repeated. “I don’t understand, I didn’t—”
“No one remembers him ever being a Slayer’s Watcher,” the girl said, crossing her arms. “He trains us, and he patrols, and I’ve heard he’s fought in just about every big battle in the past hundred years, but he’s never just a Watcher. So why you?”
There was just an edge of jealousy piercing in her words, and Cameron didn’t like it one bit. She raised her chin, standing at her full height so that she was staring down at the Potential. “I don’t know,” she said blankly. “I didn’t ask for special treatment. I’m just a Slayer like any other.”
The girl gave her an incredulous look. “Yeah, right. Keep telling yourself that.”
She walked away with a shake of her head. Cameron watched her go, frowning. Why was Spike her Watcher, if what the girl had said was true? From the way he had been talking to Laila, it had been as though he were on equal standing with her, not her subordinate. If he was that important, why would he spend so much time training her – why would he be her Watcher?
She didn’t know much about him, she realized. All she knew was what she had been told while waiting for him – he was an old vampire, and he had a soul. If he was coming to Seattle with her, maybe it was time for her to learn a little more.
She had been shown the holographic hall on her first day at Headquarters; it was where she had learned about the history of the Council, and what it meant to be a Slayer. She couldn’t think of a better place to find answers.
After closing the door behind her, she sat in front of the console and typed Spike’s name in the research box. A long list of documents sprung up on the screen, some of them identified as text, others as video. She chose the first video, for no other reason that the name in the title - Buffy Summers Interview - was odd. All that came up, however, was a request for a passcode. She soon realized with some annoyance that all the videos were locked the same way. Coming back to the first list, she picked a text instead, and held her breath as she waited to see if it would come up.
For the next hour and half, she read entries from the Watchers’ Diaries, jumping from one to the other through cross-reference links. The entry about Spike led her to another one about a Slayer called Nikki Woods. That led her to a list of Slayers and their killers. Spike’s name appeared twice on that list. She jumped back to his entry, and this time followed a link to an entry about the town of Sunnydale. She had visited the crater with her school as a child, learning about earthquakes and their dangers, but in the Diaries the demise of the town had an altogether different reason. The town’s resident Slayer until the end had been the same Buffy Summers whose video Cameron hadn’t been able to open. She read her entry instead, stopping halfway through when she came to the part about Buffy forging an alliance with Spike, and jumped back to his entry again to finish reading it.
When she walked out of the holo hall, she was more confused than ever. She went down to the cafeteria for dinner, and almost jumped when she came across Spike on her way there.
“Our flight’s at seven in the morning,” he said, smirking. “Told you I’d convince her.”
Cameron nodded absently at that, trying to reconcile this man – this vampire – with the killer she had read about. “You always hold your promises, huh? I’ll see you in the morning, then.”
He frowned at her as she walked away; she supposed he had expected her to demonstrate more gratitude. It was hard to, though, now that she knew what he was capable of. She was still thinking about it all when she went to bed that night, and, when she woke up the next morning, she wasn’t surprised to realize she had dreamed about him. Her mind had pieced up the pictures and tidbits of information she had gathered from the Diaries, drawing up a strange scene in which she had been patrolling in Sunnydale, Spike following her despite her requests that he leave her alone, arguing with her that she trusted him and he knew she did even if she claimed otherwise, and eventually fighting with her – or had that been more sparring?
She had woken up in a jump at the moment she crashed her mouth onto his and kissed him.
It was a good thing she was going home to her boyfriend, she thought, feeling slightly guilty.
The Council private jet took them back to Seattle, where a necrotempered car waited. Cameron, Spike discovered with an inward laugh, did not know how to drive – or at least, she admitted after he teased her about it, she didn’t know how to drive well.
An apartment had already been rented in his name on the outskirts of the city. It was reasonably close to Cameron’s apartment, he realized as he drove her home. It was late already, and he could tell she was tired, so he gave her the night off and told her he’d pick her up for patrol the next evening. She nodded absently, already rushing to her building before he had finished talking. Spike’s mood soured considerably.
Five minutes after entering his new place he was walking out again, already bored out of his mind. A little walk would help, he decided, but it wasn’t entirely an accident if he ended up walking back to Cameron’s place.
It wasn’t an accident either if he set himself across the street, lit up a cigarette, and observed the silhouettes behind the few windows that were still lit.
It didn’t take him long to learn that Cameron lived on the second floor – and not much longer after that to realize that she didn’t live alone.
His jaw clenched, he walked away, shoulders hunched under the thin, drizzling rain that had started falling. She had never mentioned a boyfriend, but he should have known. That was why she had been so impatient to return home.
He was a bloody idiot.
He hunted through Seattle that night, taking note of the places where he’d bring Cameron the next evening. Waiting for an entire day, alone in his apartment, was sheer torture. It was only minutes after the sunset that he knocked on her door the next day.
She opened and immediately stepped out, pushing him back as she closed the door behind her.
“You don’t need to come up,” she whispered. “Just wait in your car from now on, all right?”
As he followed her down the steps, an odd feeling slithered on Spike, so old that he didn’t recognize it at first, or why it was so familiar. When he identified the mix of anger and shame, he shook his head, smiling bitterly. Of course he was going to be her dirty little secret. There really was no reason to be surprised about it.
He kept quiet until she had taken down her first vamp if the night, but then he had to ask.
“So where did you tell him you were going?”
She looked at him with surprise. “Tell who?”
“Your boyfriend. Didn’t he ask where you were going tonight? For that matter, didn’t he ask where you had been for the past three months?”
Her gaze hardened. “The other Watchers said I wasn’t suppose to tell anyone about what I do. Aren’t you going to remind me I must keep it secret?”
Spike shrugged. “Secrets can be fun. But if you live with the guy, he’s going to start wondering where you disappear every night. You’d better decide what you want to tell him.”
“I will,” she muttered, looking away. Hands in the pockets of her jacket, she started walking again. Spike fell into step with her and let the subject drop.
The Council thought secrecy was best; he personally didn’t. Slayers were stronger for all the support they received. He understood the Council’s position, though. Parents often tried to stop their daughters from patrolling. Boyfriends often decided to tag along. Both were also prompt to refuse to believe that things that went bump in the night existed. Both had been known, also, to cut off all relations with their daughters or girlfriends.
Part of Spike hoped Cameron’s boyfriend wouldn’t be the supportive type. He hated himself for his pettiness, hated how hurt she’d be if it happened – but he still hoped.
He had been hoping for too long to stop now.
As Cameron finished talking, John looked at her incredulously. “And you really expect me to believe all this?”
For the past two weeks Cameron had tried to figure out the best way on how to tell him that she hadn’t really joined a health club, and where she truly went every night. In the end, she had decided that the simple, unadorned truth would be best.
Apparently she had been wrong.
“It’s the truth,” she insisted. “I went to England to train, not for school, and—”
“And next you’re going to tell me the guy who picks you up every night is your vampire hunting partner?”
A chill ran down her back. He had never said a thing about Spike before, but he had been growing more distant since her return. She had thought he was still upset she had been gone for so long, but now she realized that it was something else entirely that had troubled him.
She took his hand between both of hers and tried to fill her words with conviction. He had to believe her.
“Technically, he’s my Watcher,” she said quietly. “He’s supposed to keep an eye on me and train me but Spike is not the type to—”
John abruptly pulled his hand free and glowered at her. “Spike, huh?” He snorted. “Of course. And you’ve been saying his name in your sleep because he trains you so well. And you’ve been too tired to do more than sleep next to me because killing vampires—” He stopped and let out a burst of cold laughter. “Vampires. Honestly. Do you really think I’m that dumb?”
“Of course not!” she pleaded. “I swear—”
“Don’t.” He raised both hands palm out toward her. “Don’t swear. I’ve heard enough lies already. We’re done.”
Her chest tightened painfully until she started having trouble breathing. She barely saw as he walked through the apartment, picking up a few of his things here and there, barely heard him say that he’d come in a few days to pick up the rest. When the front door banged shut on him, though, she flinched and started crying. She knew, she just knew he wouldn’t be back, not until it was too late. They always left her, and they never came back in time. Why did this happen to her again and again, why—
She gasped when she realized what she was thinking, the flow of tears ceasing in her shock. What was wrong with her? John was the first boyfriend she had ever had, and their relationship had had some ups and downs, but they had never broken up before. Where were those thoughts coming from?
Feeling very hot and a little lightheaded, she went to the bathroom and pressed cold water to her face, washing away the tears. When she looked at herself in the mirror, she felt like she was looking at a stranger. Her life had changed when she had become a Slayer – for better or for worse. There was nothing she could do about it, except embrace that change and be who she was supposed to be. If John couldn’t accept who she was, there wasn’t much she could do about that either. Maybe in time she’d find someone who would accept her, all of her, the old parts along with the new ones.
She needed a change, she decided. A change on the outside to reflect the changes on the inside. Maybe a new haircut would help her move on.
When the passenger door opened and Cameron climbed into the car, Spike was so shocked that he could only gape at her, eyes wide and mouth open. He could barely believe what he was seeing, and he wasn’t far from thinking he was hallucinating, or maybe looking at a ghost. He couldn’t help reaching out for the short, blond hair that danced on his Slayer’s shoulders, couldn’t help asking in a whisper, “Buffy?”
She turned her face to him, frowning deeply. “Do vamps start losing their mind after a while?” she asked, the edge of a mocking laugh coloring her words. “I’m Cameron, remember? Jeez, did they give me the only Watcher old enough to forget who he’s supposed to watch?”
Spike’s hand dropped, but he still couldn’t look away from her. In the dim light of the moon she looked just like—
“What did you do to your hair?” he asked, choking a little on the words.
She patted her hair even as she chuckled softly. “Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of bleaching. Your hair color isn’t exactly natural.”
“Why would you…” Spike started, but the words failed him. Was this a coincidence? Could it even be a coincidence? It was hard to believe that, decades later, completely by accident, Buffy’s reincarnation would color and cut her hair in such a way that she’d resemble Buffy on the edge of her twentieth birthday.
“Why not?” she said, shrugging. “I just felt like it, that’s all. Was I supposed to check in with you first?” She laughed again, but now it sounded forced. “Do I have to get your approval on new colors of lipstick and nail polish too?”
Finally shaking himself out of his stupor, Spike tightened his hands on the wheel.
“Let’s go,” he said gruffly as he started the car. “The night isn’t getting any younger.”
They were halfway through their patrol and with no dusted vamp to show for it when Cameron asked out of the blue, “Wasn’t she a Slayer?”
“Who now?” Spike asked, distracted.
“You called me Buffy.”
Hearing the name on Cameron’s lips sent a shiver down Spike’s spine. He froze and pulled out his cigarettes while she continued, oblivious to the shock she had given him.
“Wasn’t she a Slayer? I think I heard her name at the Council’s Headquarters.”
She finally realized he wasn’t next to her anymore and turned back, frowning slightly as she watched him take his first drag.
Spike thought for a few seconds. That was certainly the strangest question he had ever been asked – not because of the question itself, but rather because of the person asking it. He eventually decided for the truth, if only part of it. “Yes, she was a Slayer.” And then, because he couldn’t just leave it at that, he added, “She was the best I ever knew.”
Twirling her stake between her fingers, Cameron walked back toward him. “Why? What made her the best?”
Spike felt some confusion at the question. He had helped train many Slayers, had discussed training methods with many Watchers, but none had ever asked why Buffy had been so good. He hadn’t thought about it for a long time himself; it just was one of these truths that everyone accepted. “I’m not sure,” he said with a small shrug. “She just was. There was something in her, something that drove her. She went through some pretty hard things but she kept fighting. Can’t say she always made the right choices or that she was always noble, but when it counted, when it was the world hanging in the balance, she always found the answer.” He smiled to himself as memories surfaced, and added in a whisper, “She always won.”
“How did she die?”
The words jerked him out of the moment. He stared at Cameron, and suddenly he could see Buffy there, looking back at him, asking him why her, what made her special, why she was the one. He shook off the past, focusing on the Slayer in front of him.
“The one way I couldn’t help.” His voice grew harder with each word. “No one could help. She got sick.”
Cameron could hear the pain in his voice, she could see in his eyes how much the conversation was affecting him and she felt bad about bringing up a sore subject, but she had to get to the end of this.
“You sound like you…” She stumbled on the word that first came to her lips. If he had loved her, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. “Like you knew her really well.”
He shrugged, affecting nonchalance. “I thought I did.”
There was more, still, that she wanted to ask, but he pointed ahead of them before she could say anything more. “Vamps. Three, I think. Mind if I join that dance?”
She shook her head, wary of the dark edge in his voice. She had a feeling he would attack whatever she said. “Sure. Knock yourself out.”
At first she intended to stand back and let him deal with the vamps, but as he staked the first one, she couldn’t bear to stay away. She jumped in and helped, easily finding a rhythm than complemented his. By the time they were done, she was surprised to realize that fighting by his side felt much more familiar than fighting against him.
Their eyes locked over the dust swirling around them. Something passed between them, a spark, a feeling that Cameron was sure she could recognize – but Spike looked away, and the connection was gone.
“Let’s get you home,” he said, his voice void of expression. “Your boyfriend’s going to wonder why you’re late.”
“That won’t be a problem.” The words rasped her throat but she pushed them out anyway. “I told him that I’m a Slayer.”
Spike sighed. “I figured you would, yeah. The Council doesn’t agree, but way I see it, it helps when Slayers have the support of the people they love.” He paused and gave a rueful shake of his head. “Helps them last longer.”
She winced. “You might not keep your job very long, then, because he thought I lied.” She forced a smile to her lips, but it felt like a grimace. “He noticed you waiting for me and I guess he thought I was having an affair with you.”
A flash of gold passed through Spike’s eyes, gone as fast as it had appeared. “His loss,” he said darkly, “But I wouldn’t count on retiring so soon if I were you. I’m not letting anything happen to you. “
There was such intensity in his words and eyes as he said it that Cameron knew at once. He wasn’t just trying to reassure her. He meant every word. It was as good as a promise he had just given her. Whatever he had to do, he would keep her safe.
That night she dreamed that he was dying, engulfed in flames.
It was the middle of the afternoon when Spike’s phone rang.
He really, really hated the damn thing.
Every few months, whenever the Potentials somehow managed to get a hold of his number and started texting him at all hours of the day or night, he’d ‘lose’ the phone, and place an order with the Council for a replacement. So far, only Cameron and Laila had this number. He glared as he picked up the darn thing; it wasn’t playing “Wind Beneath My Wings”.
“Laila,” he grunted as a greeting.
“Spike. How are things going in—”
“Laila,” he repeated, and this time it was a warning.
She sighed, sounding exasperated. “I was right, you were wrong, the prophecy is about to go down, I want you two back in New London within two days.”
He hung up. He didn’t need to ask for details, or ask if she was sure. They had been talking about this for years. She wouldn’t have called if she hadn’t been sure.
The one good thing about his phone, and the reason why he didn’t ditch the thing altogether, was that the thing was linked to the Council’s bank account and he could buy anything with it.
Over the years, he had bought anything and everything.
An hour before sunset, the phone rang again. This time, it was Cameron. Spike didn’t pick up, and neither did he check the message she left. He merely waited a few minutes before sending her a text message.
Just put it on and be ready in an hour.
An hour later, when she opened the door to him, he had to pause and take it all in. The short blond hair, now that the shock of it had passed, was very cute – though he wouldn’t have said so aloud. The red dress below that – the dress he had picked on the tiny screen of his phone – looked absolutely smashing.
Or rather, Cameron did.
Up to that moment, he had only ever seen her in jeans or training pants. But now he could see that she had beautiful legs. Lovely hips. Plenty of curves. And the most beautiful smile – except, she wasn’t smiling.
“Are we going on some kind of infiltration mission?” she asked as she looked at him from head to toe, but without commenting on his suit.
“No. Just to dinner. You’re ready?”
She blinked in surprise, but allowed him to take her arm and draw her out.
“Why?” she asked when they reached the car and he opened the door for her. “Why the clothes, why are you taking me out?”
He shrugged. “Why not? You just got dumped—”
She glared at him. “Thanks for reminding me.”
“–so I thought you could use some pampering.”
The glare melted away and she gave him a surprised look. “You’re trying to be the rebound guy?”
Spike sneered. Leaving her to stand by the open door, he walked around the car. “Thanks but I’ll pass,” he said before getting in.
He had to wait a few seconds before she got in and closed the door. “So what?” she asked.
Spike started the car. “So nothing. I’m your Watcher, I’m taking care of your mental health. Or trying to. Stop asking so many questions.”
The words came out more sharply than he had meant them, and from the corner of his eye he could see her tensing and sitting up very straight. She took him to his word and kept quiet after that, only speaking to order when their waiter had given them a few minutes to read the menu.
“Do you like champagne?” Spike asked after he had ordered a bottle.
She rolled her eyes at him. “I’m not old enough to drink champagne.”
“Pity. I guess I’ll have to drink it all myself.”
When the bottle arrived and the waiter filled Spike’s glass, she made a point of advancing her own. The waiter hesitated. Spike took the bottle from him, suggesting that he check on their food, and served Cameron.
“To the finest things in life,” Spike toasted, raising his glass. “And to those who know how to enjoy them.”
For the first time that night, she smiled. Their glasses chimed like bells when the clanked together.
“Why do you do it?” she asked after she had taken a small sip.
Her silent phase hadn’t lasted very long, Spike thought, a little amused. “Why do I do what?”
The server came back with their food at that moment, and she waited until he had left again before she answered. “All of it. Eat food. Drink champagne. Work for the Council. Try to keep me alive.” She drank deep before she added, more quietly now, “I know you killed Slayers before.”
He raised a surprised eyebrow at her. “Been snooping behind my back? I’d have told you if you had asked.”
“I’m asking now,” she said, not looking apologetic in the least. “Why?”
Spike shrugged. Picking up his glass, he took a sip of champagne. “Because I can. Food tastes nice, I can eat it without adverse effects, so why wouldn’t I? Same things for alcohol. The Council… I wasn’t really a part of them at first, just helped whenever I ran across a Slayer that needed a hand. And then they moved their headquarters right down the street where I lived, and I started running across Potentials all the time. Started training them. Pissed off their Watchers something terrible, too.” He chuckled at the memory and refilled both their glasses. “And then one of them decided to be a little less idiotic than the rest. He asked if I would train them officially, give them a taste of what a real vamp was like. Said he’d pay me, too, and at the time I didn’t have much cash on hand. I said I would. And I did, all the way to this day. You have it. The last few decades of my life in two minutes or less.”
She had been picking at her food while he talked. She emptied half her glass before asking, “What about me?”
“What about you?” he repeated, unsure what she meant.
She finished her glass as though to give herself courage. “Why are you so determined to keep me alive?”
Spike shook his head. “You know better than to ask silly questions, luv.”
She let the nickname pass without protest. They continued eating and sipping on the champagne. By the time her dessert came around, they had emptied the bottle and had half a glass left each.
“I think…” She wet her lips with the tip of her tongue and lowered her voice. “I think you’re going to die protecting me.”
Spike gave her an amused look at that. “Am I?”
She nodded and dropped her gaze to her plate, taking another bite of the chocolate treat. “I saw it. In my dreams.” She glanced at him, a question in her eyes if not in her voice. “They said I’d get prophetic dreams.”
Propping his elbow on the table, Spike rested his jaw against his closed fist and considered Cameron thoughtfully. “I bet they did, yes. So how am I going to die?”
There was no urgency in his words; no fear either. He had lived a long life – more than one, in a way – and he had long since left behind his fear of death. He didn’t risk his life needlessly, but he didn’t run away from danger either. Dying to protect her would be a fine way to go.
She cut another piece of cake with her fork but didn’t bring it to her mouth, staring at it instead as though she were afraid to look up at him again. When she finally did and met his gaze, she flinched. “Burning,” she whispered. “In the sun, I think. There was light. A lot of light. It almost looked like it was coming from you and—”
“Was I wearing a necklace?” he cut in as soon as he realized what she was describing.
Her brow furrowed in confusion. “What?”
“A pendant?” he said, a little impatient now. Thoughtlessly, he traced a circle on the tablecloth with his finger. “Bit of crystal in a gaudy golden setting?”
“How do you know?”
Spike slouched back in his chair and considered her for a moment. There had been times since he had met her when she had said something that had sounded extraordinarily familiar, or looked at him in such a way that he had thought that, maybe, just maybe, she remembered. Every time, he had called himself an idiot and dismissed whatever had happened as nothing more than a coincidence. This though, he couldn’t ignore. His throat felt very tight but he pushed the words out anyway.
“That’s not the future, luv. That’s the past.”
Her frown only deepened. “But I saw you die,” she said, slurring the words a little.
Spike nodded. “I did.”
“And you’re here now.”
He smiled. “I am.”
“And I loved you.”
His eyes widening in shock, Spike stared at Cameron for a long time. Her voice had dropped to a hesitant murmur. She didn’t sound very certain of herself anymore; of course not. Picking up his glass, he finished the last of his champagne before shaking his head. “No, Slayer. You didn’t.”