passion4spike wrote in seasonal_spuffy

Mortal Allies Series, Season 3. Postcards From the Edge, Chapter 1: Hate You, Too (1/?)

Story Title: Postcards From the Edge. Season 3 of the Mortal Allies Series
Chapter Title: Hate You, Too
Note: You might miss a couple of 'inside jokes', but do not have to have read prevoius stories to follow this (at least that is my goal! If you find it too confusing, I would love to know. I tried to, through the chapter, explain in broad strokes what's happened thus far). But if you are intrested in the previous episodes, you can find them here.
Author: Passion4Spike
Banner by: PaganBaby
Rating: PG (for series so far, for language)
Season/Setting: Season 3 after Band Candy but before Faith's new 'watcher', Mrs. Post, shows up.
Summary: Yeah, Spike, the master vampire, had joked that he’d send her postcards, and he had left that one on her door before he screeched out of town, again, with Dru, again. But would the Slayer of Slayers really send the Slayer of Vampires postcards? And would she even read them, if he did? Teetering on the razor’s edge between friends and enemies, which way will they fall?
 


** X-X-X-X-X **

They call me Spike. I’m a good boi. Everybody says so.

My hooman is Buffy. She is the Slayer. She is my very bestest fren and I am hers. We are slaying buddies. We run and fight and crunch the bad rabbits. She calls them ‘vampires’, but they crunch like rabbits. They are very, very yummy. It is my favorite thing – crunching rabbits!

There are good rabbits, too, like the white rabbit, he has same name as me – Spike. He gave me to my hooman when I was just a little bity boi. I’m a very big boi now – everybody says so. My hooman and I went on a wonderful adventure with white rabbit and he fed me yummy burgers, which are even better than rabbits, but not as crunchy. He is my fren. We chased rats and fought a bear and rescued the skinny rabbit. It was very much fun.

The skinny rabbit sings to stars and gives good ear scratches. She belongs to the white rabbit, so Buffy-fren says no crunch. I am not sure this is good idea, but my hooman is smart, so I try to listen.

The white rabbit took the skinny rabbit away. I miss my Spike-fren. I miss the yummy burgers. He also gave me fries. My Buffy-fren says I will get fat with burgers, but I think I am not getting too fat. I think my hooman also misses the white rabbit – he got her yummy burgers, too, and she did not get fat.

There are confusing rabbits, too, like the brown rabbit. My hooman calls him ‘Angel’. I do not like the brown rabbit. I think he is not a good rabbit, but my Buffy-fren says no crunch. The white rabbit and I are in agreement – brown rabbit bad. White rabbit and I growl whenever we see brown rabbit. I do not crunch – hooman says no. She says also no chewing and no peeing, but I find ways to keep brown rabbit away. He makes my hooman feel bad. I do not like him. Not at all.

But I still try to be a good boi.

I go with my hooman on a new mission today. It is to a place we have been before – the big building with the smell of many hoomans. I feel buzzing on my fur when I am in this place – it is not a good place. Very much evil. But my hooman is the Slayer, and she goes into not good places very much. I go too. I am her fren. I will crunch the bad things with her.

Spike is a good boi. Everybody says so.

** X-X-X-X-X **

Her dog’s warning growl rumbled through the still morning air as they approached the building, which stood silent and ominous on this Saturday. Buffy reached her hand down and buried her fingers into Spike’s thick, soft coat, whether to soothe him or herself, neither knew. The coppery highlights of the long lion’s mane of fur around his neck and shoulders shone in the sunlight as if they were made from new pennies, standing out against the dark, nearly black, undercoat. Spike’s tail, usually a flailing weapon of mass dust-bunny destruction, went rigid and still, and his whole body grew more tense with each step.

“It’s okay, Spike,” Buffy assured him as they neared the doors to the dreaded, evil lair known as Sunnydale High. “It’s only Giles … I hope.”

“Grr-rawrf!” Spike pointed out, his eyes flashing with an inner fire; hot, blue-white lightning dancing behind the gentle brown exterior.

“I know, he wasn’t too happy with us for going off with Spike – the other Spike – on that mission to save Dru, but he’s not going to actually hurt us,” she assured the huge dog, shaking him a bit by the scruff of his massive neck to calm him.

The little puppy she’d first met had grown and grown and grown over the last several months, and the vet said he wasn’t done yet. He was a gentle giant most of the time, but when he sensed danger or evil, he could be downright scary – and deadly. Right now, he was clearly torn on which to be – fierce or cuddly. “He’ll just say words, probably big, unpronounceable Giles-words, in a disapproving tone, scrub at his glasses, and tell us not to do it again. As if that stupid vampire showing up and blackmailing us to go on a mission would ever happen again.”

Buffy looked back out toward the road and Spike followed her gaze, whining softly. Buffy sighed. “No, he’s not here. He’s gone with Dru – again … like he promised – again.”

Buffy shouldn’t feel bad about that. She so didn’t need Spike and Dru here in Sunnydale. That would be of the bad. The truce – the second one – was over. Those two in Sunnydale would mean only one thing – she’d have to dust them. Dru? Yeah, well, maybe that wouldn’t be so hard. But Spike? How do you dust a vampire you were sort-of friends with? A vampire who bought you M&Ms? A vampire that was just so un-vampire-like that it made you question your whole mission in life? A vampire that told you things about your ex which had your head, and your heart, reeling? A vampire with lips that could curl into an annoying smirk at a moment’s notice, and brilliant blue eyes that saw everything, and cheekbones that were sharp enough to slice cheese, and abs that could convince her to do her laundry on them, and ….

“Bad Buffy,” she muttered, shaking her head and looking back at the high school. “So, so bad.”

She sighed and looked down at her companion. “I don’t think Spike’s gonna drive up and save us from Giles. We made our bed, so it’s time to face the medicine.”

** X-X-X-X-X **

Buffy was happy to see that no one else was in the library when she pushed the door open and entered.

She half-expected Giles to have assembled all the Scoobies here, awaiting her arrival, intervention style – maybe even Angel, too. That hadn’t worked out so well for any of them two nights ago. She couldn’t help smiling at the memory of her mortal enemy taking every one of them to task for their hypocrisy and lack of gratitude for all she’d done for them over the last year and a half.

Of course, she wasn’t any damsel, she could fight her own battles – even against her friends – but watching the blond master vampire defend her honor had felt, well, kinda nice. Not really damsel-y, just … nice. He could see her so clearly, see her struggles and her strengths, and just zero right in on the target, pulling the righteous indignation rug right out from under her friends’ feet.

The words he’d written on the postcard he’d left on her door before he’d skipped town flittered through her mind, ‘You might not be a damsel, but you deserve to be treated like a princess. Hate you. Your friend, Spike.

Her smile grew wider as she thought, ‘Hate you too, Spike,’ and dropped down into one of the chairs at the research table.

“Is there something you find amusing in this?” Giles chided, coming out of his office, carrying a steaming mug of tea and his Watcher’s journal. “Because, I assure you, your behavior was … well, reckless, comes to mind.”

Buffy’s smile faded and she buried her hand into Spike’s thick coat again as he sat down on the floor next to her chair. The low rumble of a growl began again as Giles came up to the table, setting the cup and his journal down opposite her.

Giles arched a brow at the massive dog. “And you, sir, may desist with that. I understand you went along with the scheme to rescue Drusilla, siding with a master vampire in the process. I am quite disappointed in you.”

Spike’s growl faded to a chastised whine and he slid down until his belly was on the floor and settled his chin onto his paws.

“It wasn’t his fault,” Buffy defended, mostly to the dog. Her tone slipped into baby-talk as she looked down at him, leaning over to run a hand along her big dog’s back. “He did what I said. Yes, he did. Cos he’s a good boy. Who’s a good boy?” she cooed to him.

Spike’s tail thumped loudly against the chair leg, the whining coming to an end. He lifted his big head, his mouth dropping open, tongue lolling out as he looked up at her, clearly pleased with the praise.

“I’m fairly certain you did not instruct him to befriend Spike,” Giles continued, looking back up at her.

“We had a truce – I told him to … be truce-y,” she pouted, turning her attention back to Giles, crossing her arms over her chest. “Can we just get on with this?”

“Just as soon as the others arrive,” the Watcher replied, pulling a chair out to sit at the end of the table.

Buffy groaned, rolling her whole head back to look up at the ceiling. Of course he’d called the whole gang. What fun is beat-the-Buffy without the whole gang ready to tag in? She’d thought she’d gotten away without an intervention meeting, but no, apparently not.

“Despite what happened upon your return the other evening, this is not meant to be a confrontation. I simply believe it would be easier to get the whole story into the open at once, don’t you?” Giles asked placatingly. “This way there will be no misunderstandings or second-hand accounts floating about.”

“Fine,” Buffy huffed out, though her tone indicated it was anything but ‘fine’. “But it really wasn’t all that interesting. We drove to Wyoming, we got Dru from the gypsy, we drove back.”

“Just that simple?” Giles asked skeptically, opening his journal to a new page and pulling a pen from his shirt pocket.

“Well, there might’ve been a bear … and some rats … and elk blood, and a Waffle House, and car-karaoke,” she admitted.

“Yes, well, let us wait for the others then, shall we, as I’m sure they would be interested in the full details.”

Buffy sighed. Again.

** X-X-X-X-X **

“So, let me get this straight,” Xander interjected when Buffy stopped talking to take a bite of her donut sometime later.

The right side of the boy’s face was a massive, swollen bruise from Spike – the vampire – bitch slapping him two nights ago. Xander had said exactly the wrong thing about Buffy’s choice of lovers and road trip companions, and the master vampire had taken exception to it. She was honestly shocked Spike hadn’t punched him with a powerful closed-fist … possibly killed him. It’s what she had wanted to do in the heat of the moment. Buffy thought that it had to be painful for Xander to talk at all, but that, apparently, wasn’t stopping him.

“The puppy that Spike – the vampire – gave to your mom before leaving town after the whole Acathla thing, is some kind of mystical demon-fighting dog…”

“’Guardian of the Twilight’,” Giles interjected.

“And Drusilla stole it from some Romani gypsies...”

“Apparently the same ones that cursed Angel – Jenny Calendar’s people,” Giles added.

“And they’ve been breeding these dogs for centuries to protect their villages from vampires…”

“And werewolves,” Giles clarified.

“Which explains why he doesn’t like Oz very much,” Willow mused.

“And he has healing saliva … which, kinda gross, gotta say, but also … cool,” Xander continued. “And the guy that kidnapped Dru to get him back, just let you keep him … and gave you Dru, too?”

“Pretty much,” Buffy agreed around the cruller in her mouth. “He said it was ‘kismet’ – Spike said that meant ‘fate’ – for us to end up together. I don’t know why the guy didn’t just say ‘fate’, I mean, wouldn’t that be easier than ‘kismet’? Why do people have to use such big words when little words work perfectly well?” she asked, looking pointedly at her Watcher.

“Be that as it may,” Giles sighed, cutting off any further ramblings. “Did he give you any further information about the dog’s powers?”

“No, not really. In fact, it was Spike that noticed the healing thing. The gypsy guy didn’t tell me anything about it,” Buffy replied. “But Spike – my Spike – saved vampire-Spike from a bear in Wyoming. So, pretty strong, right?”

“What!?” was the combined chorus of voices from Giles, Xander, and Willow. Buffy had been interested to note that they hadn’t brought Cordy or Oz to this meeting. She wondered if it was because William The-Bloody-Perceptive-Vampire had busted Xander and Willow for apparently playing kissy-face behind their respective partner’s backs. Her friends’ horrified and guilty looks, along with spluttered negations of the accusation Spike had leveled at them during his defense of Buffy’s honor, told the Slayer he was right. Something was up with them … something that should not have been up, since they were both dating other people.

Buffy shrugged nonchalantly. “Yeah, a bear had broken into Spike’s car and stolen the cooler of blood when we were stopped for a potty break. My Spikey saved him … and ran the bear off.”

“Fascinating,” Giles muttered, making notes in his journal, then he looked up, brows furrowed. “Was Spike badly injured?”

“I saw parts of Spike I never wanted to see – like his literal guts,” Buffy confirmed.

Giles’ brows rose and he bent down to look beneath the table at the dog.

“Oh! No … my Spike wasn’t hurt at all,” Buffy clarified. “The stupid vampire who decided he could fight a bear had all the damage.”

“I see,” Giles muttered, leaning forward and leveling his gaze on Buffy. “He seemed quite healed the other evening,” the Watcher pointed out warily. “If the bear stole the blood, then …” he let his voice trail off, his eyes drifting to Buffy’s neck.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “He didn’t bite me. No Slayer blood was spilled in the healing of Spike,” she defended with a huff. “We got to the next town and I got him elk, moose, and buffalo blood … and we had Dru after that. I think maybe sire blood is a thing?”

Giles sat back in his chair, eyeing his Slayer speculatively. “But he … suggested you donate?”

Buffy shrugged. “Well, duh! He’s a vampire. I told him ‘no’.”

“And he simply accepted that?” the Watcher asked incredulously.

“Yeah, actually, he did. No means no,” Buffy retorted, tilting her head to the side to make sure Giles could see her neck clearly. The old scar from The Master was the only thing marring her flesh. “I know it’s super-weird, but Spike’s … he’s like, honorable or something. We had a truce – if I donated, he would’ve taken it, but he wasn’t going to, like, attack me. Not that he could’ve – cos totally trashed, but that’s not the point – he wouldn’t have. Even when we had to share a room—”

“I beg your pardon!?” Giles spluttered.

“Oh … um, didn’t I mention that?” Buffy cringed – she hadn’t meant to mention that.

“No, I don’t believe you did,” Giles said through gritted teeth.

“Sooo, I was right,” Xander began, scorn dripping from every word. “Maybe not by fangs, but there was penetr—"

“Finish that and it’ll be the last thing you say for weeks,” Buffy snarled. “For the record, I hit way harder than Spike.”

Xander had wisely stopped talking mid-word, his mouth going dry and throat tight under the Slayer’s hard, furious gaze.

The temperature in the room seemed to drop by several degrees. Buffy had to force her hands to uncurl from tight fists, flattening them on her thighs with considerable restraint. “Spike and I are friends,” she said after a few tense moments, her tone forced into a frighteningly cool calm. “And enemies. We’re … we’re frenemies, and nothing more. You can tell by the fact that he has a girlfriend. She’s a complete ho, and a whole box of marbles shy of a Happy Meal, but he loves her. And honorable people don’t fool around on their partners.” Buffy arched a brow, letting her gaze shift between Xander and Willow a moment before adding, “Do they?”

The two teens both dropped their eyes to the table and began mumbling agreements as they shoved their chairs slightly further away from each other. Buffy still didn’t know exactly what was going on with those two, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. She’d have to talk to Willow about it later – Willow would spill the beanie-weanies – she was a horrible liar.

“Can we move on now?” Buffy sighed impatiently. “Because there is something else we need to talk about – it concerns Angel.”

“Oh? Are you going to let us know now why you didn’t inform us of his return?” Giles asked coolly.

Buffy blew out a dejected breath. “I know I screwed that up,” she admitted, her anger and feeling of superiority melting like Jell-O in the microwave. “I didn’t say anything at first because, well, I wasn’t sure if it was just … like, a mistake, and he’d be taken back. I didn’t want to open all that up again if he’d be gone as soon as someone figured out the clerical error and issued a recall. But then … he was still here, but he wasn’t totally lucid, and he was weak, and … well, I was afraid you’d …”

“Dust his murdering ass?” Xander interjected angrily.

Buffy grimaced, but nodded.

“He seemed perfectly lucid when he came to me about your impromptu mission with Spike,” Giles pointed out, holding a hand up to forestall more comment from Xander.

“When his memories came back, he asked me to wait before telling you. He had his soul back – he had it when I sent him to hell. It wasn’t Angelus that came back, it was Angel, he wasn’t any danger to anyone,” the Slayer explained, looking up at Giles. “I know it was wrong, and I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you, but he … well, he’d helped us before … helped me when I needed it—” Xander made a scoffing sound, but Buffy kept talking. “And I just … I …” She sighed. “I screwed up. I get it. I’m sorry,” the Slayer admitted. “But that’s not what we need to talk about.”

“No? Then what is?” Giles asked, still sounding disapproving and displeased with his charge’s actions.

“Spike has a theory about Angel and the gypsy curse,” Buffy revealed, sitting forward and leaning her elbows on the table, regaining her composure. “He thinks that … well, that Angel might’ve known how to break the curse for a long time. That it wasn’t just … you know … that was the key to perfect happiness, but having a Slayer give herself to him – heart, mind, soul and … and, errr … body.”

Giles’ brows lifted and he removed his glasses, reaching for the handkerchief to begin scrubbing them. “Indeed?” he prompted, not looking up at Buffy. Thankfully, he was just as uncomfortable talking about ‘S-E-X’ with her as she was with him, so skimming over that part with euphemisms was a silent, but mutual, agreement.

“Spike said he knows of two times since the curse that Angel was in the same city at the same time as the Slayer was – 1900 in Beijing, and 1977 in New York … and then, of course, Sunnydale in 1997,” Buffy related.

The Slayer stopped and let that sink in a moment before continuing, “I mean, if it was just … you know … that brought him perfect happiness, you’d think, well … that seems sort of reckless of the gypsies. How many guys do you know, guilt-ridden or not, who will go forever without … you know?”

“So, you are saying that Angel has been … stalking Slayers for the last hundred years?” Giles asked, putting his glasses back on, his previous annoyance replaced with concern.

Buffy shrugged. “Maybe it was just coincidence, but it does seem like … well, like it should take more than a normal ‘happy’ to break such a powerful curse? Like, maybe it would take a Slayer – a symbol of … I don’t know – goodness or purity – to give herself to him, to…” Buffy swallowed, looked down at the table, and said very quietly, “To … sully herself?”

Xander made a disgusted noise but Giles stopped whatever the boy was going to say with an icy glare. The Watcher turned back to his young charge and reached across the table to lay his hand over hers. His voice turned compassionate, assuring her, “That is not what you did, my dear. You are very much a symbol of goodness and purity – you simply shine with it. It is your greatest strength … and perhaps your greatest weakness. You follow your heart, which is not always the most sensible of guides, though I’ve seen you use it as an incredible source of power.” Giles squeezed her hand reassuringly before continuing, “I have said it before and will say it again: what happened with Angelus was not your fault. His actions are his own. I do wish you had told me that he’d returned, however. Your lack of trust in me is … hurtful.”

Buffy blinked tears from her eyes before looking up to meet his solemn gaze. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” she rasped.

Giles nodded. “I know. We sometimes say and do things that hurt those we care most about without ever meaning to,” he allowed, patting her hand one last time before withdrawing.

Buffy nodded and looked back down at the table, taking special interest in the swirls and lines making up the woodgrain. Beside her, Spike let out a low whine and pushed up to a sitting position, dropping his big head onto her legs beneath the table. Buffy’s hand brushed through his thick fur, taking the comfort he always offered so freely. Like his namesake, furry Spike seemed to always be able to read her mood, her emotions, to see inside her right to her core.

It was one of the things that made her furry friend so comforting. It was also what made the master vampire so dangerous, plus infuriating, annoying, irritating, frustrating, unnerving, and exasperating. Not to mention snarky, flirty, piggy, funny, sweet, smart, thoughtful, and surprisingly kind. Add in the fact that he fed her and her dog lots of yummy treats – chocolate (for her) and beef jerky (for the dog), and hamburgers and onion rings (for them both) – and that made Spike, the vampire, the perfect frenemy.

Giles cleared his throat, recomposing himself and pulling Buffy from her inner thoughts. He looked back at his journal and made a couple more notes. “Well, this new theory does seem to be something that may require further inquiries and research.” He looked back up at Buffy. “May I count on your assistance in this?” he asked, looking up at Buffy.

Buffy raised her eyes to his and nodded resolutely. If Spike’s theory was right, if the key to breaking the gypsies’ curse was getting a Slayer, any Slayer, to give herself to Angel – mind, body, heart and soul – then it could happen again. As Spike said, when you’re immortal, what’s a century one way or the other? If one Slayer didn’t fall for it, then just find another.

Beyond that, she needed to know. Her heart needed to know if Angel had ever loved her, or if his demon was pulling the strings behind the scenes, maneuvering them both to its own ends. She wasn’t sure her heart could take the answer, but she had to know.

Her soul still ached for what had been lost. No, not lost. Willingly given then horribly destroyed. She’d still loved Angel when she’d sent him to hell. She’d still loved him when he’d miraculously returned. During the intervening months, she’d mourned him with every fiber of her being. Without Spike, her little furball, she was sure she would’ve been lost, broken and bleeding. But the puppy had saved her. Of course, her friends and her mom had helped, too. It had taken them all to get her through those dark days. Spike staunched the bleeding with doggie kisses, her mom mended the shattered pieces of her heart with hot chocolate and pints of Ben & Jerry’s, and her friends – mainly Willow – allowed her to find hope with long talks late into the night.

But here she was, getting ready to rip all those old scars open again, just to find the truth. Had her young, naïve heart just been used and then tossed aside like so much garbage? She gritted her teeth, swallowing back the hurt and pain that rose at the thought, threatening to spill from her eyes. She would not cry. Would not spill more tears because of Angel. She absolutely refused.

“I suggest we begin with research,” Giles said, breaking into Buffy’s thoughts once again. “The sooner the better.”

For once she didn’t moan at the suggestion, but instead nodded again.

Giles stood up, heading for his personal library in his office. “I-I believe we can piece together something of a-a timeline of where the active Slayers were deployed in what years from the Watcher diaries I have. I-I may need to contact the Council to fill in blanks,” he muttered almost absently, the research plan coming into focus in his mind.

“I guess that means we need Scooby snacks and plenty of caffeine for fighting the research-induced narcolepsy,” Xander offered, dropping back into his normal role of sustenance procurement officer as he popped up out of his chair. “Supreme pizza with all the toppings?”

“Extra cheese,” Buffy suggested.

“No anchovies,” Willow added, before turning her attention back to Giles. “How will we know if Angel was in those places once we get that all done?”

Giles stopped and looked back at Buffy, his brows raised.

“I think that’ll be my job,” the Slayer sighed in resignation. “Interview with a vampire.”

** X-X-X-X-X **

“Mom! We’re home!” Buffy called later that afternoon as she closed the door after Spike ambled in behind her. Joyce appeared in the doorway from the kitchen as Buffy dropped down heavily onto the couch, rubbing her tired eyes. Apparently, Slayer strength did not include the ability to slay pompous old man handwriting for hours on end.

“How’d everything go?” her mom asked as Spike greeted her with a friendly shoulder-block to the thigh. Joyce reached down to scratch the big dog’s ears as she stumbled back slightly from the greeting.

“Okay, I guess … as well as could be expected,” Buffy sighed, slumping back against the cushions, her eyes still closed. “I still don’t know exactly what’s up with Willow and Xander. Every time I tried to get Wills alone, she totally blocked me. On the good news front, Giles thought it was worth looking into Spike’s theory about Angel and Slayers. On the bad news front, we got to try and decode Watcher’s diaries all afternoon. I’ve met and exceeded my reading quotient for life. I never want to even see another written word.”

Her mom laughed lightly at the joke before asking, “Did you get finished?”

Buffy huffed out a tired sigh and shook her head against the couch back, letting her eyes rest as she spoke. “Not even a little bit,” she admitted. “It’s gonna take a while.”

A reasonable person may have assumed there would’ve been a monument to all the girls who had died in the war against evil. Something like the Vietnam War Memorial would’ve been good, with all the Slayers listed on it – dates, cities, names … but no. No monument existed. There wasn’t even a comprehensive list. Apparently, the Council was too busy ruining young girl’s lives and cutting them tragically short to bother with remembering who they had been.

So, Buffy, Giles, Willow, and Xander started a list, with a goal to at least cover the last couple of centuries. Willow set up a chart on the computer with dates, cities, and Slayer’s names so new information could be easily added or inserted as it was uncovered. The process had been slow, and they were going to have to get more information from the Council, more diaries, to make a comprehensive list. And, of course, Buffy would have to talk to Angel at some point and find a way to get him to open up about the past – a subject that generally turned him into Mr. Avoidy.

“Did Xander apologize for being so rude the other night?” the older woman wondered as Spike leaned against her, basically pinning her against the door jamb and extorting more scratches and rubs, his tongue lolling out happily as she obliged him.

“Pffft,” Buffy snorted, opening her weary eyes to look at her mom. “I don’t know what his malfunction is—” she began, but her mom gave her a knowing look. “Okay, maybe I know what his malfunction is,” the girl admitted. “But he needs to get over it. It’s just not happening between us. I just don’t feel that way about him. There’s no sparkage. We’re just friends.”

“Like you and William are friends?” Joyce asked, her tone light with a hint of teasing as she gave Spike one last pat on the top of his huge head and slipped past him. The big dog huffed in resignation, turned around three times in place, and plopped down on the floor with a thud that rattled the windows.

“Will—?” Buffy started to ask, before realizing who Joyce was talking about. “Oh, Spike. Yeah, exactly like that,” she asserted with a firm nod of her head. “Friends … actually we’re frenemies, with complete lack of sparkage.” ‘No matter how blue his eyes are or how much cheese could be sliced on those cheekbones or laundry done on those abs.’

Joyce sat down next to Buffy on the couch. “And you’re done reading for life?” she continued, a small smile playing on her lips.

“So done,” Buffy agreed, rubbing her eyes again.

“Well, I guess you won’t want this then,” Joyce said with resigned gravitas, holding up a postcard and waving it casually in the air. “I’ll just toss it…” she continued, starting to get up.

Buffy’s eyes flashed open and focused on the colorful cardboard that her mom was waving under her nose like smelling salts. A surprised squeal sounded from her throat, excitement showing through her normal defenses, and her hand started to dart out to snatch it from her mother. She stopped the motion just in time, lifting her hand and tucking her hair behind her ear instead.

“What’s that?” Buffy asked, doing her very best to sound uninterested.

Joyce shrugged and turned the picture to Buffy. “Apparently someone with the initial ‘S’ sent you a postcard.”

Buffy cleared her throat and pushed down the giddy butterflies that suddenly swarmed though her, forcing herself to nonchalance. The always-perceptive dog raised his head from the floor, the sudden change in mood drawing his interest. “Spike? What does he want now?” Buffy grumbled, barely restraining herself from grabbing the card from her mother’s hand. “Has Dru gotten herself abducted by aliens or something?”

Joyce smiled at Buffy’s attempt at annoyance, but she’d been a teenaged girl once, and Spike was, well … Spike. “One way to find out,” she pointed out, handing the card to Buffy.

With a put-upon sigh, Buffy took it, flipping it over to read. ‘Miss me, yet?’ was scrawled across the left side of the card. She could see his smirk, hear the confident, teasing rumble of his voice in the words. Her address was written in a shaky hand on the right of the card, as if he were driving and writing at the same time. Beneath his message were the letters, ‘HYYF —S’

Buffy covered a giggle with an exasperated huff and rolled her eyes, though inwardly her heart did a funny little skippy thing. A reaction that was completely not sparkage – the evil vampire sending her a postcard absolutely did not rate sparkage! She turned the card over to look at the picture again. It was the iconic Hollywood sign with the words, ‘Greetings from …’ above it and ‘Movie Capital of the World’ below done in a throw-back style from the fifties or something. Spike had drawn fangs and eyes on the first ‘O’ in ‘Hollywood’, turning it into a vampire.

Trying to stop the grin that threatened to split her face was almost painful. But the Slayer managed to maintain an outward calm while the fluttering butterflies in her tummy were making her whole body thrum with a pleased satisfaction. She checked the postmark – he’d mailed it just the day after he’d left Sunnydale. One day. One day and he’d sent her a card! Just who was missing who, huh? A growing, smug warmth suffused her from head to toe at the thought.

Her resolve slipped a bit and a small smile quirked her lips as she ran a hand over the thick card that had been in Spike’s hands only a couple of days ago. He’d stopped, picked it out, bought a stamp (she hoped! Firmly blocking out an image of him draining a postal worker for a stamp), remembered her address … he’d been thinking of her that whole time.

The wooly mammoth of a dog heaved his considerable bulk to his feet and padded over to Buffy, his brows furrowed, soft brown eyes curious. “Look!” Buffy said to the dog, holding the card out for him to examine. “It’s from Spike. You remember him, right?”

The dog sniffed it, then sneezed, his whole body jerking with the explosion of air from his nose.

“Ewwww! You don’t have to be jealous,” Buffy chastised. “He addressed it to you, too – see?” she cajoled, showing the dog the address. “Buffy and Cujo Summers,” she read aloud, unsure of the dog’s ability to read – she wouldn’t actually put it past him.

Spike sat down next to his hooman, leaning against her legs, and let his mouth fall open in a doggie grin, apparently placated.

Buffy sank one hand into her friend’s thick coat, turning the card over in her other hand, unable to completely wipe the smile from her face or stop the tingling joy from making her heart thud faster than strictly necessary.

“Yeah, I can see there’s no sparkage there,” Joyce teased, patting a hand down on her daughter’s leg before standing up. She’d missed seeing her girl’s smile. The several months since Buffy’s seventeenth birthday had been so hard on the teen – there had been few smiles and way too many tears. Maybe now, with her eighteenth birthday on the not-too-distant horizon, Joyce hoped that Buffy could start to move on from those dark days. If it took another vampire sending her postcards from the fringes of her life to help Buffy do that, then Joyce welcomed them. She liked Spike. She even trusted him. She’d never gotten the creepy vibes from him like she had Angel. And, anyway, he was safe. Not only was he far away, he was utterly and completely devoted to Drusilla. Whatever sparkage there may be would never turn into an actual fire. It was just a phase, a school-girl crush that would fade with time. It was one of those things everyone went through – a normal rite of passage for all teens.

“Oh, no … totally not,” Buffy agreed, trying to force her lips into something more serious and less elated.

“Just friends,” Joyce added.

“Absolutely. It’s just a friendly postcard, which friends send each other, like … people of a friendly persuasion,” Buffy rambled.

“Just like Xander,” Joyce continued as she started for the kitchen.

“Uh, yeah, exactly like that,” Buffy continued with a firm nod, though she cringed inwardly. Xander did not induce butterflies or skippy heartbeats … but then, Spike shouldn’t either, right? Cos, well, evil vampire, for one. With a girlfriend, for two. And, they were just friends … well, frenemies, for three.

“Well, I’m glad to know you have such a thoughtful friend,” Joyce said, stopping to look back at her daughter. “One who would send you a postcard just one day into his trip.”

“Oh, well …” Buffy excused with a flippant wave of her hand. “He probably just thought I hadn’t seen the Hollywood sign before.”

“Oh, yeah, that must be it. It was so hard to miss, growing up in L.A. and all,” her mom continued teasing.

“Exactly. You know, way up there on the hill in the smog – so easy to miss!” Buffy agreed, also standing up, the postcard clenched in her fingers as if it might simply vanish if she released it. Spike rose too, preparing to follow her.

“What do those letters at the bottom mean?” Joyce asked. “HYYF?”

Buffy furrowed her brows, doing her best to look confused, and turned the card over to examine it. “Oh, huh,” she said, as if just noticing them. “I’m not sure.”

Joyce rolled her eyes and shook her head, clearly not buying it, but not pushing. She started for the kitchen again. “Dinner will be ready in an hour,” she called back over her shoulder.

“Okay!” Buffy replied as she turned and raced up the stairs, her furry friend at her heels.

In her room, she pulled the first postcard that Spike had given her from the frame around her mirror. With a gleeful bounce, she threw herself onto her back on the bed with both cards clutched in her hands.

The girl turned the original postcard over to look at the picture. It was from the vibrant and exciting city of Metropolis, Nevada – where they’d stayed over during their last day on the road during the mission to save Dru. It had a glossy, colorful illustration of a Waffle House on the front. The yellow restaurant was poised atop a green hill with a blue sky above and bright rays of sunshine glowing behind it. The words, ‘There is a light that never goes out,’ were at the bottom.

Turning it over, she read the note he’d written in flowing, elegant handwriting, ‘You might not be a damsel, but you deserve to be treated like a princess. Hate you. Your friend, Spike.

Buffy turned the new card over, her smile widening again, she couldn’t help it now. Unbidden sparkage flashed like tiny fireworks in her chest and fluttered joyfully in her belly. Buffy didn’t even try to squash it or stuff it back down into the river of denial where she knew it belonged. It felt good to be remembered, to be thought of, to be … missed.

‘Hate you. Your friend, Spike.’

‘HYYF –S.’

“Hate you too, Spike,” she whispered back, still grinning like a loon.

**X-X-X-X-X-X**

End note: Thank you so much for reading!! I had hoped to have this whole story completed, or nearly completed before I posted this, but it's just not happened. I have only two chapters completely done and beta'd, and I don't like to post before the story is completely written (it just stresses me out too much to have people waiting for updates). When I get there, I will begin posting on EF/AO3/FF — there will be several more postcards!  And, **spoiler alert** just for YOU .... Spike will come back to Sunnydale! (duh!)

You can find Chapter 2 of this story here.

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