Knew It Was You
It was purely by chance that she happened to glance in that direction at the exact moment he stepped through the doorway leading into the busy café. The place was crowded, full to the brim with laughing, chattering people of all descriptions, enjoying the night and the warmth that persisted after dark and the light, refreshing breeze that carried with it the scent of the ocean. Southern California in late spring was something she hadn’t even realized she’d missed until she’d returned to it in all its glory. Sitting on the patio at the far side of the courtyard beneath an enchanting string of paper lanterns, Buffy sipped her iced coffee and cooled her bare feet on the stone tile beneath the table, observing the people around her in their carefree enjoyment, revelling in the overwhelming nostalgia of returning to her roots for the first time in years.
She wasn’t entirely certain what made her turn her head around to look toward the open café door behind her. It wasn’t her slayer senses; there were plenty of vampires out and about tonight – including the one at the next table over devouring a jelly donut and frappuccino – but thus far none of them had made any trouble and she’d promised herself that she’d not intervene until one of them started flashing some fang. So it wasn’t the tinglies that made her look, but something much more divine than that.
No matter the reason, she had looked, and in that instant, she’d known. Though she’d caught only the briefest of glimpses before he disappeared into the building, and the light brown curls and blue jeans were foreign to her eyes, Buffy had known immediately that it was him.
She would know him anywhere.
Even, apparently, back from the dead.
Head buzzing, heart thundering urgent, terrifying hope, Buffy rose from her seat, feeling almost dreamlike as she slipped her feet into her flip-flops and moved slowly toward the entrance, weaving her way through tables and around people she barely noticed. Her vision narrowed to the dark opening in the white-bricked façade in the distance, her brain telling her simultaneously that he was dead, it wasn’t him, but that it could be no one else.
She felt him the moment she rounded the final table; that special tingle at the back of her neck, somehow wholly different from any other vampire, something she’d never thought she’d feel again. It sent a thrill of anticipation down her spine and a wave of panic through her chest. It was really him . . . and she had no idea what that meant.
Shaking now, Buffy moved through the doorway, standing just inside a moment, blinking, adjusting her eyes to the brighter light indoors and scanning the interior. The tingles had grown stronger now, but she couldn’t see him. Running her hand along the painted brick of the half wall, Buffy moved deeper into the café, eyes darting to every table, scrutinizing each dark corner. A shiver ran up her spine and she stopped, mid-stride.
A soft gasp sounded from behind her, followed by a quiet, unmistakable rumbling, and she turned in the suddenly thickened air, moving as if in slow motion, to face the source of the sounds.
Spike’s face was a mixture of surprise and reverent awe, lips parted, familiar blue eyes wide and astonished beneath a head of unruly, unfamiliar curls. If he hadn’t been a vampire, Buffy knew his heart would be pounding as violently as hers.
She didn’t know how long he had been back, or why, but clearly he’d never expected to see her again.
“Buffy . . .” he breathed, just as her own whispered, “How?” floated into the air between them.
How long they stood, frozen, two feet apart and staring at each other, lost in the overwhelming emotional storm of this chance reunion, Buffy didn’t know. The waiter passing beside them, calling gruffly for them to quit blocking the path, jarred the both of them instantly from their trance. Holding her eyes with his fiery gaze a moment, Spike tossed his head in the direction of the courtyard and spun around, heading out into the night. She followed, a phantom on his heels, as he led the way outside and unerringly to the table still holding the remnants of her snack.
Dropping silently into chairs, they faced each other over the tiled tabletop, Spike’s hand darting across it to grip hers the moment she started to reach for him. The contact was electric, and they gasped, feeling the ghost of the flames that had engulfed them the very last time they had touched. The time she had looked into his eyes with fierce pride and undeniable sorrow and told him she loved him as the world crumbled around them.
Buffy stared at their hands, her small, golden fingers wrapped around his strong pale ones, then flicked her eyes to his face. A hint of a smile was brewing there, and his eyes sparkled with unshed tears and the same innumerable, consuming emotions she knew must be radiating from her just as strongly.
“It’s . . . it’s really you,” she whispered, reaching across to cup his cheek in her other hand.
He leaned into her touch, his eyes falling shut as he inhaled deeply, scenting her. “An’ it’s really you,” he replied. “God, Buffy . . . I never thought, but then . . .” He slid his fingers through the loose ringlets of her hair, cascading over her shoulders and longer than she’d ever worn it, and the threatened smile broadened into the real thing. “Knew it was you. I’d know you anywhere.”
An answering smile broke out on her face, which had grown suddenly and completely wet with tears. The hand in her hair drifted to her cheek, cool thumb catching the tears and circling in a light caress. “How?” she asked again.
As one they moved, leaning over the table until their foreheads met, her hand sliding around to cradle the back of his head, fingers stoking the soft curls.
He breathed out heavily, still caressing her cheek. “Long story, love,” he replied. “But I’ve got the time if you do.”
Buffy grinned, though he couldn’t see it, and squeezed his hand tightly. “I do, Spike,” she answered.
He pulled back to smile softly at her before feathering a light kiss across her lips. “That so?”
“That’s so,” Buffy murmured, lips still barely touching his. “If you’ll have me.”
“If I’ll . . .” He paused, and she heard the hitch of his breath and felt the tremble of his fingers as he continued to stroke her tear-wetted cheek. “You really meant it, what you said?”
“I did,” Buffy said, immediately, fiercely. “And I still do. I love you, Spike.”
“Never stopped loving you,” he whispered, pressing his lips to hers in another lingering kiss full of promises. When they parted, he again leaned his forehead against hers, his unneeded breath tickling her face. “We should go an’ talk.”
“I think we have a lot of it to do,” Buffy agreed.
“Where to?” he asked.
“Anywhere,” Buffy replied, nipping lightly, teasingly at his full bottom lip. “Absolutely anywhere, as long as I’m with you.”
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