Of all the alleys in all the worlds, she had to walk into his. Or something like that. She was the last person he’d expected to see standing here tonight, though he should have known that sooner or later she’d find her way here, to this place.
It was one of the reasons he’d left L.A. after it all went to hell in this alley.
He focused his attention back on his cigarette he’d been trying to light to give himself a moment to pull himself back in check. The mousy brown thing that had walked into this alley had shimmered away and there she stood in all her glory, beautiful as ever.
He took a long drag and then allowed himself another look.
Gained a bit of weight, she had, looked all sleek and shiny like a well-fed house cat. Better than she had those last few months in Sunnydale, when she’d gotten as thin as an ill-fed back alley tabby. Life in Rome had suited her. He watched as she narrowed her eyes at his silence, flipping her long blonde hair back over her shoulder. He’s always loved that hair, the way it framed her face in sunshine, those eyes . . .
He let himself meet those eyes for a moment, lock gazes with her for the first time since she’d stepped forward and revealed herself. No doubt about it, it was her, but some of the fire he remembered had faded, as though the sum total of all she’d lived through had finally taken its toll. He started to take a step towards her, drawn by those eyes, until he caught himself.
Chit had probably just been partying too many nights into the wee hours with the bleeding Immortal was all. No need to feel sympathy for the party girl. No, key here was to be civil, then send her off. This was his mess to deal with, after all.
He took one more calming nicotine drag, then nodded politely.
“Well, well, the Slayer has come to pay a visit, has she? Not much in these parts for you, love, nothing to compare to your new toys.”
Her brow crinkled in confusion as she stepped closer. “What? Spike, I-”
The attack seemed to come out of nowhere, and Spike cursed as he realized that he’d been so wrapped up in bloody Buffy that he’d failed to notice the shifting shadows behind her that materialized into three more vamps. His lip curled as he growled and launched himself past her surprised face.
He ground out his cigarette in the chest of the first vampire he encountered, laughing gleefully as the ember caught in the fabric, sending the vamp bursting into flames.
The second was a little tougher. Short and compact, older than the fledges he’d encountered in the last few weeks. Must have been one of the first Dru turned. Spike blocked a punch and leveled the smaller man with a swift roundhouse kick. “Sorry, mate, no time to play today.” He wasted no time in plunging the stake into his opponent’s chest.
He knew Buffy had shifted into fight mode as well, could hear the grunts and punches behind him as he rose to his feet and looked across the alley to watch the third vamp dissolve around her stake.
Their eyes met for a brief moment and he saw the fire he remembered there.
“Buffy-” he began, as another vampire suddenly slipped from the shadows behind her, and raised an iron pipe, smashing it into the head of the Slayer from behind. She dropped like a sack of bricks and the vampire swooped in for the kill, only to find himself facing Spike’s stake planted firmly against his chest.
“No way to treat a lady,” he snarled. “And speaking of, how’s Dru?”
The vampire was either too young or too stupid to realize his predicament as he sneered, spitting around his fangs, “Mistress Drusilla rules us all-”
“Bollocks – just as brainwashed as the rest. Guess her standards have slipped in the past century.” Spike muttered, as he cut off the diatribe, leaving the alley quiet again.
He knelt and gently rolled her over. There was a large knot on her head, but her breathing was steady and her pulse regular.
“Slayer? Buffy? Love, open those eyes for me.”
He rested her head on his knee, as her eyes fluttered open, still unfocused. Her hand raised unsteadily and touched his cheek.
“You’re not a dream,” she whispered, lips barely moving before her eyes fluttered shut again.
He stared at her tranquil face for a long minute, debating with his inner demons, then rose and gathered her into his arms and started down the alleyway.
He sat in the stiff chair, slippery with its cheap plastic seat covering, with his knees apart, supporting his elbows, in turn supporting his steepled hands that cradled his chin. Needed that support to hold himself in place as he stared across the room at the unmoving body on the small worn bed.
It was really her. The Slayer. Buffy.
Somewhere over the Atlantic months ago, he’d convinced himself that he’d seen the last of her in that club in Rome. Completed that chapter, locked that door, all that rot about closure. Just a flash of bright hair, bouncing round her shoulders as she shimmied to the beat, and he’d known. The girl she’d once been was back again. Just not for him. Never for him.
Knew he’d made the right choice then, staying put in L.A., fighting the good fight with Angel and what all. Not trailing after her again, laying himself across the alter of Saint Buffy to receive the crumbs she might deign to cast his way, if she ever grew tired of the poncy Eurotrash git she’d taken up with.
His cigarettes were on the battered table near by, waiting for him. He reached over and plucked one from the pack, unable to look away as he flipped his lighter out and methodically lit the tip, inhaling slowly as he realized he was shaking.
He should have known she’d come. Rumblings of the army of Slayers and their doings reverberated through the demon world, more than just tales to frighten the baby vamps these days. And quiet as Los Angeles had been these past six months, news of half the Scourge of Europe painting the city red would have to register on their monitors.
He just hadn’t thought it’d be her, and so soon. Should have know the Slayer wouldn’t leave others to deal with her messes. He rubbed a hand across the back of his neck, tapped the growing ash off his cigarette as he stared again at her unmoving body. Just . . . hadn’t thought she’d come alone.
He hesitated for a moment, then stubbed out the cigarette and grabbed for his jacket, decision made. He headed for the door, careful not to disturb the intricate markings drawn there, and moved out into the night.
Her mouth felt like wooly cotton sheep had taken up residence. Buffy opened her mouth and struggled to swallow, before gingerly prying her eyes open and struggling to sit up, focus on something besides the pain in her head.
“Take it easy, Slayer, bit of a blow you had. Got some ice, here.”
He was beside her in a second, easing her up, a pillow behind her back, an ice pack wrapped just the way she liked it at her neck as she swayed against him. She relaxed for a second at the feel of the arms around her, supporting her, before she jerked back, suddenly aware of whose she was cuddling against.
She scrambled away in a blind panic, desperate for space as she pushed him back and fell over the end of the bed on to the floor, trying to catch her breath. She scrambled to her feet, swaying slightly as she felt her vision blur, and caught herself on the edge of the nightstand, holding still for a moment as a few factors registered.
Spike was in front of her, holding an ice pack. Had been helping her. Was alone.
The wave of nausea hit before she could process further and her knees buckled as she found herself stumbling the few steps into a tiny bathroom and upchucking onto the cold and worn linoleum floor, the gold flecked squares covered with the remains of bad airline food like some modern art commentary on life.
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and looked up, focusing on his face as the world slowly stopped spinning and she found her focus. Spike. The alley. A fight.
“What happened?” she finally managed.
He handed her the cloth that had been wrapped around the ice in his hand, and she took it gratefully, wiping her mouth, slowly rising to her feet.
“Group of vampires ambushed us, you took a blow to the head.” He toyed with the ice cube. “Believe you might be a bit concussed, but didn’t know whether to take you to hospital . . .”
She swallowed, grimacing at the acrid taste, and took the glass of water he passed her, gulping it down. Whatever was going on in this bizarre world, he wasn’t planning on hurting her at the moment, she concluded, as she sat the glass down beside the sink and managed to stagger back to the bed. He seated himself gingerly on a chair beside her.
“Are you . . .” she trailed off, suddenly overwhelmed by the rush of emotions that seemed to descend like a loosened sandbag, leavening her almost breathless as the reality before her.
She’d spent hours on the plane trying to prepare herself for the moment she’d have to face him, do what she had to do. Promised herself she wouldn’t be drawn in or let him draw it out, just be swift and clean. Her Slayer duty, the thing she was always preaching about these days.
She hadn’t thought she’d face him like this though, wounded and vulnerable, nearly knee to knee with him as his eyes searched hers, and his hand slipped round back her neck as he leaned closer.
“Spike?” she finally finished, half question, half demand - for what she wasn’t sure.
He placed the cool ice back on her neck and for a brief moment she thought he meant to kiss her, her breath catching before he pulled back.
“Yeah, that should help. Always did before. Got you some aspirin and some juice when you’re up to it.”
He moved away then, gathering up a few things from the nightstand, retreating to the safety of the small kitchenette as she watched in confusion, holding the ice in place. He’d remembered. It was really him.
He was busying himself, not looking at her, burrowing in the small fridge, tearing open a bag of blood with his teeth, then pouring the thick liquid into a cup that he slid into the microwave. The whir of the appliance felt like the buzzing of her brain as she watched him watching it, the small carousel cycling round and round.
If Dru had revamped him, if he and she were . . . he wouldn’t be bagging it, would he?
“Where is she?”
He glanced over his shoulder.
“Drusilla?” He shrugged. “Still haven't quite pinned her down. She's been a naughty girl, she has.”
She started to rise, felt her stomach flip, and sank back down. “So . . . is this some kind of thing for you two? Some kind of sick game, her making those vamps that look like you? And why are you drinking that?”
He raised an eyebrow as the microwave dinged and he pulled the container out, pouring it into a cracked mug.
“I'm hungry. Bloke's got to eat.”
“Can you, can you not bite then?” she asked, her head aching, trying to put this together. Could that be a side effect somehow of Dru bringing him back?
He took a sip and licked at the ring of blood left on his upper lip. “You offering?” He tilted his head, his eyes sweeping over her. “You got a taste for it now? Don't see any fang marks, but as I recall, that ponce liked to hit veins that were a little more . . . intimate.”
“No. No one's biting me,” she declared flatly, more confused than ever. “And who's the ponce? And how did she do it? Bring you back? I wouldn't have thought Dru could manage that. Is she working with someone?”
“Dru?” He started to chuckle. “Don't think so. Bit of a mystery how it happened, me coming back, but I'm dead certain Dru wasn't a part of it. Though she'd have enjoyed the look on Angel's face when I popped out of that package.”
Buffy groaned and dropped the ice bag. What the hell was he talking about? “Angel's gone, Spike. Since last year. As you know – why else would you pick Los Angeles for you and Dru to take over?”
He started to laugh. “What the hell are you blathering on about, Slayer? 'm here to stop Dru, since you and your little cadets can't be bothered with this town, what with partying with the Immortal and all.”
She stood in a huff, her stomach feeling more settled. “I have not been partying with the Immortal.”
He moved closer, eyes narrowed. “Sure you haven't. Angel and I both saw you, dancing with him. Knew your taste in men was questionable, present company excluded, but really, Slayer. You can do better.”
“When were you with Angel? What is going on here?” she asked.
He stared at her for a long minute. “You don't know, do you?”
“Know what?” she fumed, arms crossed.
“Anything, apparently,” Spike replied. “What happened here, with Wolfram & Hart, and the Black Thorn.”
She shook her head. “I . . . No. Giles told me there was a fight, that Angel got involved on the wrong side and was killed.”
“Wrong side, indeed. Leave it to the Watcher to spin things round like that. Maybe if you'd come like he asked, things would have been different.”
“What do you mean, like he asked?” Buffy echoed. “Angel didn't ask the Watcher's Council for help.”
Spike scoffed, then drained his cup. “He bloody well did. Guess they didn't bother to tell you about it. Didn't tell you about me either, did they? Little Andrew managed to keep his mouth shut after all.”
She could feel her pulse pounding as she shook her head, suddenly wondering what else they'd kept from her. “Why don't you tell me then? Tell me everything.”
He shrugged. “Let's take a walk.”
She followed him to the door of the low rent efficiency, watching as he carefully rechalked the wards along the exterior doorframe, before a sudden shock of electricity rendered her unconscious again.