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Spike stared into his glass, thinking of what he’d told Harmony. The dozy chit had scarpered off, leaving him alone at the bar with his thoughts and his old friend Jack. It had been three months since he’d sacrificed himself for Buffy and the entire world. Three months minus nineteen days – and however long it was that he’d spent in a drunken stupor after the whole Cup of Tormented Mountain Bloody Dew debacle – where he’d been naught but a ghostie, haunting his grandsire for lack of anything better to do that he actually could do.

It had been for the best, he supposed, that no one who actually had her number had been willing to ring Buffy up for him. What would he have told her, anyway? Hey there, Slayer, remember how I died in a blaze of glory so you and kid sis could survive, along with your mates and all those nummy little potentials? Yeah, well, I got better.

Intangible and stuck in L.A. and being dragged into hell for part of it, but still and all…. And then he’d gotten that box of flash in the mail, and he’d been even more better. God, his life sounded like a bloody Monty Python sketch, didn’t it? And one of the crappy ones at that.

Spike knocked back his shot and asked the bartender for another. That was what he’d told Harm, and he supposed that was part of it, but the truth of it was… well, he was scared, wasn’t he? He knew Buffy had come to care about him, but beyond that, he just didn’t know. He closed his eyes, shivering slightly as he remembered that moment before he’d died for the second time.

I love you. No you don’t, but thanks for saying it. He’d needed to hear it, even if it hadn’t been true. It couldn’t have been, right? Sometimes, he wanted to believe, but no. He wasn’t the magnificent poof with his magnificent dissociative disorder. Shove a soul up his arse and he was still Spike. Maybe with an extra dimension or two and the ability to give a toss about people he didn’t even know, but still Spike. The same unlovable thing he’d always been, even before becoming a vampire.

Even if she had meant it, it had been three months, hadn’t it? She was over him by now. Moved on, and sure as sodding hell didn’t need him swanning back into her life to poke at the scabs. She was gone for longer than three months after the Tower, and you didn’t get over her, the happy little optimist that had always lived in the back of his head piped up. Bloody wanker. He finished off his drink and ordered again in an attempt to drown the voice.

Of course he hadn’t gotten over her. She was Buffy. You didn’t just get over a person like her. Him, though? He was the type you used and discarded without a second glance, and always had been. Even Dru had done it, despite how long he’d taken care of her while Angel gallivanted about. The instant the smarmy sod had come back, the glittery soul that was so fond of itself shat out like so much crap, Spike had been tossed aside. Naught but rubbish.

“It’s hard to remember what she is sometimes.” Fred’s voice drifted through the crowd, pulling Spike from his morose thoughts. “Harm always seems so… well, Harmless.”

He glanced over his shoulder and saw Fred and Lorne walking together. She caught sight of him and smiled, veering towards him with Lorne in tow.

“What are you doing here? I thought you’d be on a boat to Europe by now,” she said, sitting down beside him at the bar.

“You doing okay, Spikester?” Lorne asked as he settled in on the other side of Fred and ordered a sea breeze. “You look like someone ate your puppy and then tossed their cookies all over your favorite shoes.”

Bloke certainly has a way with words, don’t he? Spike thought as he shrugged and looked away. “Fella’s gotta find himself before he can go haring off to find someone else, yeah?” It sounded as good as any other excuse he could think of. “Reckoned I’d check the nearest bar first, see if I’ve been hiding in the bottom of a whiskey bottle.”

By this point, he’d checked quite a few of them, enough to affect even his vampire constitution. Which wasn’t really the best idea, now that he thought on it. He tended to be a bit of a weepy drunk. Sometimes giggly, but that was more when he was drinking from lack of anything else to do rather than already depressed out of his bleeding mind. He wasn’t at the blubbery stage just yet, but his body felt nice and loose, the alcohol in his system turning him into an overcooked pot noodle. His head was sort of spinny, and he was barely fighting the urge to start singing one of those silly songs from the Monty Python movies. Brave Sir Robin, indeed….

He smiled suddenly – a bittersweet twitch of his lips – as one song playing over the sound system ended and another began. They’d talked a lot those last few months, he and Buffy had. About everything and nothing, constantly circling ‘round the important stuff. She’d mentioned this song when her friend Ford had come up.

He closed his eyes as the song played, chiming in at the last line of the first verse. “I forget myself. I want you to remind me.” He didn’t shout along with it like he would with a lot of the punk songs he liked. He actually sang, like he used to when soothing Dru. Like he had when the idiot boy had summoned that song and dance demon. He was vaguely aware of a pained sound from nearby as he continued on. “I don’t want anybody else. When I think about you, I touch myself.”

He glanced at his two companions. Lorne was staring at him, looking like he was the one with vomited puppy on his shoes. What was wrong with him? Not a big fan of the Divinyls? Oh, right, empathy demon who sensed emotions through music. Poor sod.

He lifted his glass in salute. “Sorry about that, mate.” He tossed it back and stood up. “Not the best for company right now, so I’ll be on my way.”

His eyes stung as he headed towards the door. God, he was getting to the weepy phase already. He needed another drink. He’d stop by the liquor store on his way back to the crappy little motel he was currently calling home. Home…. Images flickered through his mind. A cot in the basement, a kitchen stuffed full of teenage girls, a young woman with golden hair and world-weary hazel eyes….

Yeah. He really needed another drink.

 

 

Lorne gazed down at his perfectly made sea breeze and sighed. That had been painful. Not physically painful like Angel’s singing – Spike actually had a fairly nice set of pipes – but the emotions and destiny he’d read…. Forever in Angel’s shadow, being diminished and belittled and made into nothing but a pawn. Unless someone stepped in to change things.

“Poor Spike,” Fred said beside him, watching over her shoulder as the vampire left the bar. “He seems so sad.”

“You don’t know the half of it, Freddykins,” he muttered with a sigh before taking a sip of his drink. “That is one seriously crumbly little crumpet. He’s missing his tea something fierce, and she’s all the way off in Europe, while he’s still moping around here for some reason.”

Some reason, like he didn’t know exactly why Spike had stayed. The little bleach blond cutie was a raw bundle of insecurity and feelings of inadequacy and guilt. He felt like he didn’t deserve any kind of happiness, especially not with Buffy. He thought he’d only bring her down.

Lorne knew better. When Buffy and her ragtag group of survivors had stopped at the Hyperion on their way to the rest of their lives, he’d caught the senior Slayer singing along to a peppy little number on the radio. She’d felt such horrible, aching loss for Spike, mixed in with wonder and pride.

She deserved to know he was back. They should have told her. Someone should have contacted her the instant Spike had come out of that amulet. The poor thing had been so scared and confused, desperately calling out for Buffy, needing to know where she was. Instead of doing the right thing, they’d all followed Angel’s lead.

“Some reason, huh?” the bartender said with a snort as he ran a cloth over the already cleaned section of bar in front of Lorne and Fred. “He told that other vamp something about his big, grand exit not mattering if he went back to the girl he supposedly sacrificed himself for.”

Fred frowned at her own drink as if it had personally offended her in some way, even though a Bahama Mama was a really inoffensive sort of thing. “That’s… that’s stupid,” she announced. “Really, really stupid.”

“Yeah,” Lorne agreed. It really was pretty dumb. They both loved each other, and Spike was letting his own self-doubt throw it all away. “The saddest things tend to be the stupidest.”

“We have to fix this,” Fred insisted.

He raised a brow at her and took another sip of his drink. “And how exactly are we going to do that, cupcake? It’s not like we can bash him over the head and mail him to Buffy.” The sudden gleam in her eyes made him uneasy. “Uh, Freddykins? We really, really can’t actually do that, you know.”

“Well, no, of course not,” she said in that adorable accent of hers. Her face got that sort of excited, faraway look she got when she was doing some serious thinking. “Hitting him over the head would be too imprecise and the mail just isn’t practical. Here’s what we’ll do instead….”

 

 

Three days after his decision not to go to Buffy, Spike found himself in Fred’s lab, staring at something on one of the tables. He had no idea what it was or why she’d wanted him to look at the bloody thing, but it was Fred. She’d asked him to come and look, so here he was, even though he’d much rather be drunk.

He poked dubiously at the thing with one of the glass sticks on the table. It jiggled unappealingly. Yeech. He’d been a vampire for over twelve decades, so not much grossed him out anymore, but that thing was just disgusting. All slimy, squidgy, and purpley-green. It looked like it might have been a demon organ of some sort, though it didn’t appear to be from any species he’d personally eviscerated.

He glanced over his shoulder at Fred. She was carefully filling a syringe. Huh. Planning to inject it with something, was she? Weird girl. That was one of the things he liked about her.

“What am I meant to be doing, exactly?” he asked as she came over with the filled syringe.

“Being distracted,” she said cheerfully.

Then she jabbed him in the neck and depressed the plunger. He had a second to stare at her in betrayed confusion before his knees went weak and a wave of darkness crashed down on him.

 

 

Buffy didn’t want to be at the airport. Honestly, she didn’t really want to be anywhere, but especially not here. Not after the cryptic phone call insisting she had to come here personally and get something from the baggage claim. The caller had sounded suspiciously like Lorne, but he had refused to identify himself. He had just said there would be a bag at the airport that needed to be claimed, and only she could do it.

She was sick and tired of things only she could do. Why couldn’t the world save itself for once? Or just go ahead and go straight to hell like it seemed to want? No, she thought with sudden determination. It wasn’t what he would have wanted. He’d given his life for the world. For her. She wasn’t just going to waste that.

She took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders before marching over to the baggage carousel. She was supposed to look for a big black suitcase. She checked a couple that looked about right, but the tags didn’t match the information she’d written down. Finally, she found it. Yeesh, it was heavy. Well, not for her, but she imagined anyone who wasn’t a slayer would have a hard time with it. What had they done? Stuffed a live demon in there?

The bag moved suddenly, as if whatever was in there was trying to get out. There were sounds that seemed suspiciously like muffled curses. Oh god, she thought in dismay. They really had sent her a demon. At least it wasn’t through the mail, she thought inanely as she looked around the baggage claim area. No one seemed to be paying too much attention to her.

She walked out towards the long-term parking garage, going as fast as she could without looking suspicious. It wasn’t easy, with the way the bag was twitching and jerky, but she managed to get out there without anyone calling security. She ducked back behind a support pillar, pulling a stake out of her purse – she never left home without at least one weapon – and holding it at the ready before she unzipped the bag and flipped it open.

Everything froze for a split second before Buffy’s entire world shattered into a million pieces. Oh god, it couldn’t… this couldn’t…. She’d gone insane. That was the only explanation, wasn’t it? She slowly reached out and touched the thing in the suitcase. It was real. He was real.

The world reformed, and he was still there, bound with heavy duty chains and gagged with duct tape, but there. He looked confused and sort of groggy and wonderfully, beautifully alive. She threw her arms around him, the tears she’d been holding back since his death pouring out now that he was there.

“How the hell are you alive? And why are you in a suitcase?” she demanded, pulling back to rip the duct tape off. Not that it really mattered right that second. All that mattered was that he was alive.

“Ow.” He sat up and rubbed a hand over his mouth once she’d broken the chains. “Don’t actually have a sodding clue on either of those, love.” His voice was rough with emotion, and he was staring at her like he was afraid she’d disappear if he looked away, even for a second. “I was in L.A.” He frowned, trying to remember something. “Fred tricked me. Then she drugged me, and then I was stuck somewhere small and dark.” He shuddered.

“It doesn’t matter right now,” she said. “Just kiss me.”

Despite her words, she didn’t wait for him to initiate, she pressed her mouth against his, sliding her tongue between his lips. Oh god, it felt like finally coming home. Like she’d been wandering lost and aimless since Sunnydale. She broke the kiss only when the need to breathe intruded. The tiny bit of distance that put between them seemed to be too much for Spike. He leaned in to nibble at her neck.

“Buffy,” he whispered against her skin, breathing in her scent.

“I meant it,” she said, holding him tightly against her. “I really meant it.”

He was quiet for a moment, then said, “Know that now. Thanks for saying it.”

She’d let him go in the Hellmouth. She’s run away and left him there to die alone, thinking he was unloved. She didn’t know what miracle had brought him back to her, but she did know one thing. She was never, ever going to let him go again. The little scrap of paper she’d written the tag information on fluttered to the ground, unneeded now that the baggage had been claimed.


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