One-hundred and forty-seven days. Almost five months. It didn’t really seem like that much time, but so much had changed. Even the college campus.
When Buffy had been a student there, the Raddison dorm had been rundown and abandoned. But sometime during those five months of being blissfully dead, they’d spruced the place up and opened it back up. From pretty much ready to be condemned to fully functional in roughly five months. Not bad. Though it could have done without the small herd of cop cars and the ambulance. And without the body bag being loaded up into that ambulance.
Some people have all the luck, she thought wistfully.
It was the same thought she’d had when she’d first seen Katrina’s body, before the horror she should have felt from the start. The horror and sadness she should be feeling now. Katrina and the person in the body bag had been cut down in their prime, while Buffy had lived past her expiration date. She’d been finished. Done. Finally at peace. Before her friends had yanked it all away….
She took a deep breath and slowly let it out, fighting back the rage and pain. What had happened had happened, and there was nothing any of them could do about it. But she could do something for whoever had been killed here. She could figure out who had done the killing and bring them to justice.
She easily slipped past the police and into the building, with the vague thought that maybe she should pretend to be a dorm resident and ask what was going on. But her feet took her farther in and up a flight of stairs. There, halfway down the hall on the second floor, was an open door with crime scene tape across it. Room 212.
She ducked under the tape, taking a few steps before freezing in place. “What the hell are you doing here?” she blurted out before her brain had even fully processed what she was seeing.
The only other one in the room was Spike, standing there and staring at the rumpled, slightly blood-stained bed. His hair was brown instead of the usual platinum, something about the light in the room making him seem less pale. And there was no trace of the brutal beating she’d let loose on him only yesterday.
“That’s a better question for you, innit?” he snapped. Anger, hurt, and something darkly bitter chased each other across his face before it settled on… sympathy. “Someone you went to classes with, then, I take it?” His voice was gentle now. Soft and soothing, like it had been when she’d returned to the house after…. “Any reason you came back to town to check on Cynthea tonight?”
“Who?” Okay, she really needed to stop with the blurting things out, but something seriously hinky was going on. Any reason she’d come back to town? Why was he making it sound like she’d been gone for a while? Something was very strange here. Off-kilter.
Spike’s expression changed again, the sympathy and compassion gone in an instant, swallowed up by anger. “So, what, you just waltzed back and decided to invite yourself to the first crime scene you came across?”
He stalked towards her, and some of what had been bothering her came into sudden focus. She couldn’t feel Spike. Her ability to sense vampires wasn’t the best, but she should have been able to feel him. And something about the way he was breathing…. He always did that, but there was a different quality to it now.
“You’re alive.” Again with the blurting.
“So that’s the way of it, then?” Utter disgust and contempt. “Try to get yourself locked up because you thought you’d killed someone, but thinking you’d beat a cop to death was too much for you? Just buggered off for a few years so you could ditch your responsibilities to Dawn without having to deal with being a cop killer in jail?”
What. The. Hell? Cop killer? Years? Maybe the beating — which he had literally asked for — had been a bit extreme, but it hadn’t been years ago. Or enough to even come close to killing him. (Unless he didn’t get out of that alley before the sun came up, a little voice whispered in the back of her mind). And he sure as hell wasn’t a cop. Or a living, breathing human.
As for ditching Dawn… She would never do something like that. She…. (Isn’t that exactly what you were trying to do before you realized Warren killed Katrina?)
“Look, something very weird is going on here,” Buffy said, trying to ignore that inner voice. “None of this,” she gestured vaguely around the room, “is right.”
“Something very weird? Story of your life, innit?” Spike gave her a look like she was something gross on the bottom of his shoe. “And nothing is bloody well ‘right’ here. A girl died.”
He laughed, a dark sound without a trace of actual humor. “Beaten to death, actually,” he continued. “No official cause of death as yet, but it was obvious. And according to some of the witness statements and what evidence we’ve managed to collect, the beating happened somewhere else. Someone beat her, and the poor girl dragged herself through the streets. She came back to her dorm room, bruised and bloody. She curled up in her bed, hurt and alone. And she died.”
He took a deep breath, eyes squeezing closed for a moment. Then they opened, the vivid blue seeming to bore right into her soul. “If Anne hadn’t found me that night, I…” Another deep breath before he turned away from her. “Get the hell out of my crime scene. We caught the bastard who killed Katrina, and I never reported what you did to me. Just… go home. See Dawn. And stay away from me.”
He walked away, back towards the bed where a young woman named Cynthea had died.
“My name,” he turned back towards her, expression cold, without a shred of affection for her, “is William. Or Detective Pratt to you.”
The world seemed to tilt, colors spinning crazily together. Then she was falling, her eyes snapping open as she hit the ground.
Dust on the floor. A dimly lit room with peeling paint on the walls and a few patches of mold. Cobwebs up in the corners. She was right next to a bed, as if she’d been lying in it and had fallen. Despite the look of the rest of the room, the sheets seemed clean and fresh. She reached out to touch them as she pulled herself up to her feet. Warm. Like someone had just been sleeping at the very edge of the bed. Someone….
Me, she thought, absolutely certain of it. The last thing she remembered was putting on her yummy sushi jammies before tucking herself into her own bed. She glanced down at herself. Her normal clothes, like she’d gone out for patrol. Like she’d then broken into a condemned building and stretched out to sleep. The dream she’d had didn’t feel like it had been a slayer dream, but it hadn’t been a normal one, either.
She shivered and hugged herself before heading for the door. She wanted to just bolt. Head home and forget whatever weirdness was going on. Instead, she paused after leaving the room, looking at the outside of the door. It was faded, but she could just barely make out the numbers.
She’d been in room 212.
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