Early October 2004
Spike had been spending a lot of time reflecting on the past that day.
It had begun around the time he’d finally managed to board the plane; that was a challenge in itself, what with all the dodging of stray limbs, tentacles, and unknown bodily fluids from the demons all around him, together with all the usual fuss that getting on a plane means. Still, he was glad to find it in the first place, since the vague “I know a guy” that Betta George had given him hadn’t really convinced him; but he’d come through after all, and so there he was, vampire with a soul surrounded by a horde of mostly friendly demons, sitting in a low-cost airplane and flying to the other side of the pond. That was when he started reflecting, yes, and just while the demon next to him sneezed over his precious coat — at least he hoped that had been only a sneeze — he was thinking about the Sunnydale sign, his old De Soto smashing it down, his Big Bad attitude all shiny, back then, when he’d stepped foot in the crazy little town for the first time. Ah, the glory days , he thought, while growling the sneezing demon away from him.
And then the plane landed, and he was surrounded by yet more annoyingly loud and lumbering demons, and he had to pay for a taxi to get him to the city from the airport. While sitting there, he thought about his second arrival at Sunnydale — still as much property damage, quite less style. But he thought about those days as mostly good days, while paying the grumpy taxi driver a ridiculous amount of money between fare and tip; good days when he didn’t have to pay for any damn thing he wanted, thank you very much. If you forgot about the deaths and rapes and horrors on his hands, really, that’d been a bloody cruise of a life.
After that, he stopped with the reflections, because Betta George’s assurances about that part of the trip had been even less convincing — “I know a guy who knows a guy” — and he needed his full wits to find the right, demon-friendly train to get him to Edinburgh from London. Thankfully, he managed it, and the train ride was mostly peaceful — if you could ignore the roars and growls that passed for snoring from the other sunlight-allergic demons he shared the coach with. At that point though, he started reflecting again, and quite a lot at that; it wouldn’t do for him to start thinking about the present, or worse, while moving towards Edinburgh and a certain blonde lady currently living around there, in a train under the sunlight for a good portion of the ten-hour trip. Strange, suicidal thoughts might come to mind, and his past of sinful deeds was a sweet balm compared to any thoughts about his present and near-future situation.
His past was what kept his mind occupied even when he did arrive in the city, and started meandering about it. He told himself he was just taking advantage of the night to walk back through places he hadn't been to in far too long; told himself that if he went into what was clearly a 24-hour bar it was out of curiosity, not out of stalling; told himself, after several beers, that he was just enjoying the feel of the city. In the end though, he could feel dawn just a couple of hours away and finally got out of there: he pummelled down his inner coward, got on a cab, and left the city.
And now here he was, in a little bit of a town close to Edinburgh, in a dark alley right next to a pub, just a few minutes from dawn, doing what he did best: getting beaten to death.
Good luck I’m already dead. Heh.
That unhappy joke died before he could say it out loud, though, since one of the merry gang of demons he was facing punched him right between his shoulder blades, knocking the breath out of him; the one in front of him didn’t waste a second to grab him by the hair, scrape his face through the floor’s dirt and send him crashing against one of the alley’s walls, to the chortling laughs of his two companions.
Just like that time the Initiative got me , he barely had the time to think, while he lightly shook his head, trying to get rid of the birdies flying around it. Except now I’m a white hat, so things have to go my way, right?
The memory of Los Angeles in hell hit him, his failures and the deaths and pain of so many he’d wanted to protect like a well-aimed punch to his gut. He finally shook himself off the daze — just in time to dodge one of the three demons and let him crash to the wall instead of against him.
He roared away any remaining wish to keep on reminiscing on the past and headbutted the demon now approaching him. It was a tall, lanky guy, his greenish arms too high to protect him from the bleached headbutt, and Spike heard him utter a satisfying oomph of pain right before he fell to the ground. Spike didn’t stop his advancing motion and used it to roll fluidly to his side, so he was ready to use his arm as a support and double-kick the third demon under his flabby chin, sending him tumbling towards the first one, who was trying to get up, leaning on the wall. The demon he’d just kicked was kind enough to let go of the knife in his hand, so Spike took it, and in one slashing motion he plunged it in Tall and Lanky’s throat. The vampire growled in triumph, telling himself that he did not at all care about the dark green-black blood the demon had just splattered his face and hand with, no matter how much they stank, and he slashed the knife back out of the demon’s throat in a violent movement.
He turned around just in time to be punched in the face by Flabby Chin, but again he rolled with it, and he used the momentum of his body to let the knife in his hand cut the demon in front of him. He gave a bark of a laugh through the pain of his broken nose, remembering all the times a much prettier enemy had used her small, powerful hand to smash it, and turned back to the growling, bleeding demon with a crazy grin. He feinted, making the demon offer his flank to him, and then jabbed his knife in his stomach; Flabby Chin gave out a choking gasp of pain, and Spike felt the sudden desire to make him pay for dragging his face through the floor’s dirt. But he only shook his head and used the knife to cut the demon’s flabby throat and end the fight.
He raised his head at that point, his chest heaving, letting his crazy grin show again, and looked straight in the third demon’s eyes. They were wide and scared, and the fellow seemed to be undecided between trembling to death then and there and making a run for it.
“Just between you and me, mate… this ain’t the right town to be on the evil side.”
The demon’s whole body jerked at his voice, and he mumbled something to the effect of ‘rugged vampires’ under his breath; then he seemed to shake himself, make a decision, and he fled out of the alley, towards the country outside of town.
Spike almost considered going after him, but he could feel the skin on the back of his neck crawling with discomfort: dawn was very nearly there, and it would take him a couple of minutes to run to the hotel where he’d left his stuff. He shook off his demon face and gave one wistful look at the nearby pub; then he muttered a curse against stupid evil demons and started jogging towards the hotel. He’d had a long day after all, he deserved some sleep.
And besides, there’s still years worth of memories to revisit. Anything to avoid thinking about her, and this, and my stupid idea of getting here in the first place.
But even as he thought that, he couldn’t help but hope he’d see her at every turn of the road, and have his hopes crushed every time. He got to the hotel just when the sky was bright and the sunlight threatened to reach him in another minute. He managed to sneak past the guy at the reception desk without letting him see the green blood all over himself and got to his room. There, he was sorely tempted to just crash down on the bed, but his conscience forced him to take a shower and clean up before that; he muttered the whole time, against souls and consciences and stupid blond girls who led stupid masochistic vampires to make stupid bloody decisions. By the time he got to bed, he was so exhausted that he hardly had to do any reflecting at all before falling asleep. Unfortunately, his brain found that thoughts of bright green eyes and joining fiery hands were sleep-appropriate, and he dreamed of them throughout the whole night.
Spike came to slowly at first, with a weird feeling in his gut, until his eyes snapped open to look at his surroundings. The bedside table was barely visible in the dark, as was the rest of the hotel room. He briefly considered the benefits of high-tailing it out of there, back to LA and the safety of annoying Angel and toasting to the past with a floating, resplendent fish. He rubbed his face, shook his head slightly and then got up from the small bed. The weird feeling in his gut had now become a flashing red light of I’m going to fuck this up warning, but he ignored it and stubbornly put on his clothes, and finally grabbed the room’s keys to leave the place. Sod all warnings, he was gonna put things right and he was gonna do it tonight.
Right after a pint , he thought, changing his course to lead him to the little pub he’d fought by that morning. Or maybe two. Yeah, two drinks of liquid courage, that’s just what I need — no whiskey though, or I’ll get nothing done.
The door to the pub rang a bell when he opened it, and he breathed in a full whiff as he stepped inside: alcohol, sweat, and deadly slayer scents surrounded him, making his senses tingle in tension for a fight.
He ordered a tall glass of beer, chose a little table in the back, and started nursing his drink. His thoughts, by now fully in the present, were jumbled by the slayer scents around him — slayer, slayers, prey, hunters, fight . His gut was screaming at him to get drunk, get back to the hotel and never show his mug around here again; he frowned at his midsection, trying to stare those feelings off.
Sod all that. I’m gonna stay, and I’m gonna find her, and I’m gonna explain myself. Offer my help for anything she needs. Ask her why she hasn’t contacted me, if she damn knew I was alive... and possibly get staked for that, yeah, brilliant idea. No, not that, but I’m gonna stay and I’m gonna find her, I am, and if she doesn’t want anything to do with me then I’ll just move on, just as the fish said, and it’s gonna be fine... it’s all gonna be fine...
He ended up lightly thumping his forehead against the tall glass, self-pity at his pathetic state warring with his body’s undercurrent of tension to fight. In the end, he chugged down the rest of the beer, got another one, and sat down again at the table, scowling at the wall and its uninspiring wooden tiles.
Just one more... one more drink and I’ll go find her. I will.
The scowling went on for quite a bit more — although of course he wasn’t brooding, because that was Peaches’s job, not his. Still, somehow the Scottish ale was tasty rather than useful as liquid courage, and soon enough he was scowling at the wood-covered wall with his third beer in his hands. He hadn’t even gotten half of it down when someone tapped him on the shoulder and he turned a wary eye to the barman, who was offering him a glass of whiskey.
“Didn’t really order that, mate. Think you got the wrong person.”
“It’s on the lady.”
“What lady?” he asked, the feeling in his gut roaring up again.
“The lady in the hat,” the barman answered with the annoyance of one forced to state the overly-obvious, and after almost forcing the glass in his hands, he strode off back to his bar. Spike was left with a new object to scowl at, but only for a second.
“Haven’t thanked you for the world-savage yet, right?”
Spike felt a twinge in his chest, and for a second, he could swear he’d almost felt his heart beat again. He turned and looked at her: there she was in all her sports jumper-and-hat glory, leaning on his little table opposite him, and he couldn’t even speak. She’d had to have sneaked there while he was talking, and his muddled senses hadn’t picked her up. But now there she was, looking at him, and suddenly all the scowling in the world felt very stupid, when he could have spent that time looking at her instead.
“Well, here it is. Thank you, in whiskey form,” she said, gesturing to the glass in his hands. “Welcome to the hero club. We don’t have t-shirts yet, but I’m sure Andrew could fix one for you real quick!”
Her light tone contrasted with her strained expression, and he managed to tear his eyes away from hers for a second to look at the rest of her. Her clothes were stained with dirt and what was most likely blood of some kind, and she was leaning her weight on the table; she was clearly exhausted, and definitely not dressed for a social outing.
He cleared his throat and gathered all his strength to force himself not to whisper her name like a lost puppy.
“Want to sit down, pet? You look a mite tired,” he managed to say instead, his voice only marginally choked.
At her put-off expression, he realised that probably didn’t sound flattering, and he grimaced slightly just as she climbed on the stool and sat, giving a bit of a huff. His gut took that moment to give him the very bad feeling that his every interaction with her was going to be awkward at best, right down cringy at worst. He really started thinking he’d made a mistake.
“Yeah, it’s good to see you too, Spike, lovely of you to make a call and visit right after you came back to this plane of existence. Oh, wait... not really, I guess.”
He set his jaw in a firmer grimace, and his gaze lowered to her hands, folding on the table. Why oh why did I do this?
“Yeah, uhm... about that...”
That hung in the air for a few silent seconds, and then her voice broke his jumbled thoughts, impatience and annoyance and something else he couldn’t quite name yet lacing her words.
“What, let me guess. There were no phones in Los Angeles, you were too busy living your own life, you couldn’t spare a second for your friends all over here, you didn’t have time for a phone call. It makes sense, really.”
By the end of it he could name what was lacing her words all right, and that was sarcasm, her old weapon of choice for non-slayable foes; but his brain had stopped at one word in particular, and he seemed to have stopped hearing anything after that.
He was looking up at her eyes at that point, her beautiful eyes, and she was the one who lowered her gaze to her hands. He had just the time to feel a pang at that, because Christ, he had missed those eyes.
“Well, yeah, maybe. I mean, yes. Yes, all right? Friends, I think I could have used that term at some point, but then you went and got resurrected and didn’t say a word of it, and so maybe the word’s not so appropriate after all, is it? So, I don’t know. I thought so, but I don’t know, and sorry for thinking such a horrible thing of you, OK?”
By the end of her little monologue she’d gotten all incensed, and her eyes were on his again, all righteous fury and deep irritation, and Christ, he had really missed those eyes.
“I meant... friends, as in plural?” He asked with a much quieter tone than hers. She had the grace to look taken aback, at least, but he wasn’t so sure he was happy about it. Fury really looked good on her. “I thought, maybe you, but... well... yeah. Just didn’t think anyone else of your Scooby lot ever saw me quite that way, yeah?”
Comprehension dawned on her and her eyes softened, understanding and cautious all of a sudden. He had the feeling he could look at her, at her eyes, for days on end and be a happy vamp. She seemed to be carefully thinking about her words, and that almost more than her cautious eyes told him she’d done some growing of her own.
“Maybe... maybe back then, Spike. But after your sacrifice...” There her eyes went again, hidden ‘neath her full lashes, going in hiding to look at her hands... I even think like a pillock now, ’fuck’s sake! “After that, you were pretty much considered a hero by everyone. Even Xander,” and at that she looked at him again, a smile finally gracing her lips, “it took me a while to make him admit it, but even he said you were cool.”
“He did, did he?” He was smirking then, because why the hell not, she was looking at him and she was smiling at him and life was beautiful again, sod all his plans of moving on, they were stupid anyway.
“Well, not in so many words. And he may not have used the word ‘cool’ at all, more like, ‘not bad’.” She wrinkled her nose while looking up and his heart could just start beating again. “Basically, he stopped insulting your name every time it came up, but coming from him, that’s high praise, really.”
“That it is, yeah,” he answered with a smile and look at him, not even a minute of contemplation of her face before his answer, he was all smooth grace, he was going to be perfectly good at this...
“We’ve missed you. I mean, Dawn’s missed you, and I haven’t had the heart to tell her about you being actually alive, what with you being all secretive about it and me not wanting to ruin it for you till you were ready to come out with it, and really, what made you finally finally make up your mind and be a normalish person and come here to say hi?”
He sat, and he looked at her, and his brain just refused to work. ‘We’ve missed you’? Well, good riddance to being good at this.
“Well that is, if you’re even here to say hi. Which I guess I’m not really sure about, since I’ve approached you and all and not the other way around, but really, what else could you be doing here in the middle of nowhere, Scotland?” She’d worked herself up to quite a bit of nervous energy by then, her hands wringing and her eyes going all over the place but on his own. “I mean that’d be such a coincidence it really seems unlikely and hey, look at me rambling! Any thought of helping me out here, hero to hero?” She finally did look at him, an embarrassed smile in her eyes, and he was sure his heart was one gaze away from beating and beating right out of his chest.
A few seconds passed, his stunned gaze on her increasingly embarrassed one, and he finally said farewell to any pretence of smoothness.
“Uhm... yeah. Thanks for that, Bu— uhm, slayer.” Her name would have been too sweet on his lips; he was good and buggered. “I’ll... I guess I’ll tell her myself. Dawn, I mean,” he added, probably uselessly. Who else might have really been that interested in his tale? And speaking of... “About that. How’d you get to know about... uhm,” he looked down, trying to hide the shame he suddenly felt at his stupid choice, “about me being back with the unlivin’ an’ all?”
“Please,” she huffed, a small eye roll making his breath hitch, “as if you could stop the capital-S-Slayer from knowing about the fate of one of the two souled vampires on this planet.” He just raised his brow at that and she shrugged slightly. “I asked around, kicked some asses, got my answer. I have a feeling Dawn actually suspects something, she’s seen me change and how I just stopped answering questions about... well... anyway, I think she has a feeling about it.” She frowned and shot him a glare from narrowed lids. “Which means she’s definitely gonna be pissed about it when she sees you. That is, even more pissed than I was, when I discovered it.”
He kept staring at her for a while, his brain going over and over her words, unable to pick a topic over the other. Dawn was angry, Buffy had been upset about his death and then was angry about him being alive, they’d missed him, she’d missed him, she knew about him being alive... he burned to ask her why she hadn’t contacted him, but even he understood that would end up worse for him than anything else. He finally settled on a question that might bring him marginally less grief.
“Why didn’t you tell her, then?” She looked at him with what was unmistakably irritation and he rushed to add, “you said she’s probably figured it out anyway, why not share it at that point? Make it a whole sister-bonding moment and all? That’d have been good for you...”
The more he went on, the more he saw from her expression that he was probably getting it very, very wrong, and that this question wouldn’t avoid any grief at all.
“Ah, yes, sister bonding.” Her smile was bitter and she looked to the side. “Right, because we’re all with the bonding, me and Dawn...” He decided to give her time to elaborate and after a few seconds and a rueful sigh, she did. “You’ve been missing out on some stuff, including my continued inability to have a decent relationship with my little sister. What did you think,” she added after a beat, “that we’d just forget and forgive all that happened between us and be all chummier than ever?” She laughed lightly and shook her head. “No can do.”
He felt the sudden urge to take her hand, touch her arm, do anything to comfort her, but he restrained himself to just looking at her with what he hoped wasn’t too pathetic an expression.
Whatever he was going to say got interrupted by a beep coming from her and she set her jaw and brought up a phone to her ear.
“Found them?” A beat. “Yeah. Yeah. Good. I actually have backup, so no, they can sit this one out. What do you care what backup,” she added standing up with a grimace and making a gesture at him to follow her, “mind your own damn business!” She smiled while saying that though, which made Spike a jealous, jealous bloke. “Yeah, see ya later, bye.” She almost started walking to the exit but then she turned back to look at him, her brows lifted. “Well? Do you need a written invitation?”
Spike just stared at her for a couple of seconds, then he shook himself and got up to follow her out. Maybe this could be an opportunity to make up, if just slightly, for all the times he wasn’t there, being too busy wallowing in self-pity in LA... he glanced at her, striding forward to their unknown location, her face set in an unforgiving expression for whatever nasty was out there waiting for her wrath.