Spike pushed the door open as he carefully steered Buffy into the house. He had ripped up the previous door beyond the point of it being salvageable and so it was a shiny new door and a bloody expensive one at that. He’d been somewhat leery of even staying in the damn house with people coming after him and, by default, his daughter. Buffy had assured him that the call she’d made to her ex had settled things but Spike was not so sure. They’d wanted his blood. It wasn’t the first assassination attempt on him but it was the first in a long while and they’d never come for him at home, probably out of some sense of not getting the innocents – Mya and his wife – involved. Of course, that had all gone out the window now and he couldn’t help but feel that maybe all bets were off.
“Where’s Mya?” Buffy asked, an arm thrown over his shoulder to steady her.
“At a friend’s house,” he informed her, kicking the door closed behind them with a loud crash. “I was supposed to go pick her up before sundown but someone spent so bloody long flirting that notion is long gone.”
The Slayer looked at him, eyes wide in innocence. “I was not flirting. I was talking. You should try separating the two.”
“Oh sure, like Jedediah didn’t want to take a poke.” Spike’s voice came out sounding petulant even to himself.
Buffy shoved him lightly in the ribs. “Okay, firstly – that’s gross. Secondly, his name was Jeremiah and he was just being…”
“….friendly.” Buffy shrugged, disinterested. “He’s just one of those types of guys. Talks too much, smiles too much, wears too much plaid.”
“I like that in a man.”
Spike pointed at her. “So you were interested.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” She waved him off, pushing away to stand on her own accord.
“You need to rest. Sleep. Dream of handsome cowboy-vampire patients.”
Buffy took her turn to point at him. “So you thought he was handsome, huh?”
“Bed.” He folded his arms.
She smiled and stepped into him, arms looping around his neck. “Yes please.”
Spike returned the smile but removed her hold on him. “Alone. To sleep. Guest room.”
“Oh. Well, that’s less fun.” Buffy sighed. She looked around covertly then whispered. “Carry me?”
Spike rolled his eyes but nodded nevertheless and his heart warmed at the grateful look she gave him. He scooped her up into his arms and carried her down the hallway to the guest room. Buffy didn’t like to admit weakness to anyone so she must have been almost dead on her feet to make the request she had.
“I made another call,” she noted as she looked up at him.
“To Michael at HU. He said your job is still open…”
Spike glanced down at her as he kicked the door to the room open. “Did he? Surprised he hasn’t nicked my chair; he’s been after that thing for months. Had great lumber support.”
“The chair is gone,” she admitted “but the job remains.”
He walked over to the bed and laid her down gently. “No, Buffy.”
“I can’t just go back.”
“You can. I made a call.”
He stood up straight, folding his arms and frowning. “You ‘made a call’? Is that your catchphrase now? Do you have some kind of Slayer Hotline that connects you to the ‘Man’? Is it shiny and red?”
“Only when excited.” Buffy smiled brightly. “You start on Monday.”
“Do I get a say in this?”
“You love your job.”
Her tone was soft but also held a warning in it – don’t cut your nose off to spite your face. It would be against his sense of pride to walk back into a job he had left for a matter of integrity. But pride had never been his strong point and it always lost out to love. And he did love his job.
He just nodded and she snuggled down into bed to sleep, apparently satisfied that he would do the right thing. Spike debated for a long moment about whether he should join her but ultimately pulled away, leaving the room quickly and quietly. She was still healing and he was never good at resisting temptation.
Spike walked back into the hallway, looking down at the spot where he’d killed a man. It had been a few years since he’d had the occasion to take a human life. When it came down to it he’d kill every single time if it meant protecting Mya or Buffy. Even the police agreed that it had been well within his rights. Still, it bothered him.
He shook off the feelings as best he could as he grabbed up his coat from the hook and shrugged it on. He had to go and pick up Mya.
Life, after all, went on.
+ + +
When Spike awoke the next morning it was to the sound of Giles’ voice. He sounded irate and echo-y. Sitting up, he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and looked around confused. The voice carried on. It was drifting from the living room and down the hallway to his room. Spike couldn’t tell what he was saying but then other voices were chiming in and they sounded…girly.
He forced himself out of bed and towards the sounds, still dressed in pyjama pants and pulling on a clean-ish t-shirt. Since having a kid he had learnt that sleeping naked was never an option. He’d missed the freedom initially but had adjusted to domesticated life frighteningly well for a vampire. Spike wasn’t sure what that said about him but it often made him question what sort of life he would have ended up with if he had just stayed human.
He peered around the doorway into the living room curiously. Buffy, Mya, Willow and Xander were all cuddled up on the couch with a soft throw blanket covering them. They were all watching the television.
On the screen the Potentials were training with Giles in the Slayer’s backyard.
Buffy’s gaze was fixed intently on the Watcher and though her face held little emotion, Spike knew she was still grieving.
The tapes were clearly courtesy of Andrew and Spike wondered absently how the kid was doing. Not so much a kid anymore but still behaving like one, no doubt.
“Kennedy, keep your arm level.” Giles instructed.
Mya glanced at Willow. “That’s the ex?”
Willow nodded eyes still on the screen. “Very.”
Giles was pacing around the dozen or so recruits they had amassed at this point. His face appeared to be set in a permanent frown as he concentrated on their form and technique. The camera zoomed in on him so that his face filled the screen. The Watcher turned abruptly and noticed the attention, appeared exasperated.
“This is hardly the time, Andrew,” Giles sighed. “Go and point that thing somewhere else. Somewhere….dank and lonely, preferably.”
The picture wobbled and then switched jarringly to the dank and lonely Summers’ basement. Spike felt a lump in his throat as Anya appeared on the screen. She was holding a fan of playing cards and concentrating far too intently upon them, her brow creased and her eyes narrowed.
“That’s Anya.” Xander noted for the benefit of Mya.
The girl nodded. “She was pretty too.”
“Beautiful,” Xander agreed quietly.
“I think imaginary kittens are stupid currency. Can’t we play with something more money-like? US Dollars for example?” Anya complained.
The camera panned out to show her sitting cross-legged on the small and incredibly uncomfortable cot. Spike sat in a mirrored position on the opposite end of the foldout bed and he looked bored. Mya tittered at the reappearance of the glowing hair and Spike smiled fondly at her from his position in the hallway.
“I don’t have any money, Anya. No one does, remember? We’re in the middle of Apocalypse 2003. And the Slayer won’t let me go out and loot. So.”
Anya turned to the camera. “What about you, emaciated-weasel-boy? Got anything worth playing for?”
“I have a Spider Man issue 12 –” Andrew started.
“Forget it. Imaginary kittens it is.” Anya looked at her cards.
Mya frowned. “Why are they in a basement?”
“That was where Spike slept,” Buffy explained.
“In a basement?”
“He liked it. It was homelier than it looks.” The Slayer pointed to the screen enthusiastically. “There was a dryer and a sink and…a couple of shelves….yeah, I got nothing.”
“I miss money.” Anya moaned.
“Yeah, well I miss the days when I didn’t hang out with a geek and an emotionally unstable Vengeance Demon in a Vampire Slayer’s rotting basement,” Spike deadpanned, shuffling his cards. “We all have places we’d rather be.”
Anya nodded in agreement. “Vegas.”
“Comic-Con.” Andrew added.
“Upstairs.” Spike murmured quietly.
In the living room back in 2033 Spike winced at the pitiful tone of his voice on the tape. He didn’t miss Willow turning to look at Buffy with a rather saccharine expression on her face. Buffy, for her part, hadn’t taken her eyes off the screen. She seemed incredibly interested in the whole conversation. Spike knew why – it was barely a few months since she’d been there and she hadn’t been privy to much of his heart back then because she’d simply been too busy and he’d been too closed off.
Luckily for him the camera cut to bright sunlight streaming through the kitchen window and Dawn making pancakes. Spike’s heart ached at the sight of the girl, so young back then and so bright. He saw Willow take Buffy’s hand and the Slayer didn’t shrug her off. On screen, Dawn was dishing up the pancakes to the hungry wannabe-Slayer horde. Xander strode into the room, both eyes intact, and elegantly swiped a plate from the next girl in line.
“Domesticated Dawnie,” he noted. “Buffy is one lucky puppy.”
Dawn frowned.“Just trying to be helpful. Doing what I can, you know? Turns out making breakfast is what I’m good for.”
Xander gave the camera a guarded look and his voice dropped a couple of octaves as he spoke to the girl, “And a lot more besides, I bet. You know, Buffy is all about the mission. But she’s all about you too.”
“If you say so.”
“I say so, ’cos I see it. Slayers are always gonna be hard to reach.” Xander shrugged, leaning against the counter. “They close themselves off the most to the ones they care about the most. It’s hard and kind of sad… but it’s how it is. That’s how she is.”
Dawn paused for a long while as the camera zoomed in and out on her face, her shoulders set before she shrugged.“Like I said; just doing what I can.”
“I think you’re very useful, Dawn.” Andrew informed from off-screen.
She smiled. “Thanks, Andrew.”
Another quick cut brought on another change of scenery. The focus remained on a full moon in the sky for a few seconds before swinging down quickly and uncertainly to alight on the features of a rather brassed-off Slayer. Buffy was stalking towards the camera, arms folded but with stake in hand. She was dressed in a thick coat and a hat and her breath was billowing out in icy puffs. Spike guessed that this was filmed just before she had disappeared; it had started to get cold when she left. He didn’t miss the poetry in that.
“Andrew! Get that thing outta my face,” Buffy growled on the television, her voice tinged with annoyance. “I’m trying to patrol. We’ve talked about this. Remember how I threatened to stab you? Remember how you cried like a tiny child?”
“I just think it’s important to document…this. I promise not to use Windows Movie Maker to construct an epic music video of your life this time! I’m totally into the whole ‘gritty-reality-handheld-camera’ thing now, anyway. It’s much more rugged.”
“Go stalk someone else before this stake gets ruggedly shoved up your –”
The camera went black for a second before coming into focus again. The Slayer was no longer in sight and Spike guessed that the boy did have some sense after all.
Buffy spoke from the couch. “I think I remember that. Was I always that harsh?”
“Yes.” “Always.” Xander and Willow spoke simultaneously and Mya laughed.
Up on the television screen the camera was jostling about from side to side presumably from Andrew walking. There was at least a full minute of this before he saw something that caught his interest and dramatically zoomed in on it. To Spike’s consternation it was himself back up on the screen. It was a distance recording of him fighting some sort of demon. It wasn’t uncommon for him to tag along on Buffy’s patrols and for them to split up to cover more ground. They did better work when they stuck together but on slow nights going it alone often afforded them something to keep themselves busy.
Besides, Spike remembered he sometimes liked to get away from her so he could think things through. Looking back it had all been a bit maudlin. Still, he was a vampire so that sort of came with the territory.
He finished the demon off on screen and Mya gave a little cheer from the couch that made him smile. Andrew clearly found him a captivating subject as he began to stalk him through the cemetery. Spike didn’t remember this particular incident and it pained him to realise he’d been followed by the lanky nerd and not noticed. Spike was trundling through the graveyard at a leisurely pace when he came across the Slayer. The camera panned out to show Buffy a little way away fighting a vampire. It was a one on one fight that didn’t look to be any hassle to the girl and Spike had clearly thought so back then too because he simply leaned against a mausoleum and watched. Buffy landed a roundhouse kick to the vampire’s head that Spike could feel even thirty years in the future. The vamp tumbled to the floor and Buffy reached down to stake it. The demon wasn’t quite done though and grabbed her wrist, kicking her in the gut at the same time, the force of which sent her flying.
Spike caught her from behind and he’d moved so fast the Andrew hadn’t managed to follow the movement smoothly. Buffy reacted instinctively and turned and decked him in the face. As he tumbled to the ground on screen, off screen Spike laughed intentionally loudly.
On the couch they all jumped and someone paused the television as they turned to observe him standing in the doorway like some creepy lurker.
“How long have you been there?” Mya asked.
“Not long,” Spike said. “Anyone want tea? I’m making.”
Mya frowned. “Uh, no. It’s just getting good. Come here. Watch. Reminisce about your hair and intriguing fashion sense.”
He shook his head and turned away. “No, thanks. I know what happens next.”
“Oh, come on, Spike.” Willow groused. “Don’t you get nostalgic?”
Spike turned back. “Fine. Play it. I can see from here.”
The television clicked back into life and on screen Buffy was whipping around quickly to stake the vampire who’d come up behind her. As he was still turning to dust she’d spun back to Spike who was laid out flat on the ground. Andrew was too far away for them to hear what was being said but she looked apologetic as she held her hand out to help him up. Spike took it reluctantly and was pulled to his feet. The camera zoomed in a little overzealously on their hands entwined and then back out.
It was Buffy who let go first. It was always Buffy who let go first. His hand reached out for hers even as she moved away, just ghosting her fingertips. The Slayer walked away. Spike remained. A couple of beats passed before he very visibly sighed and followed.
Mya looked over the back of the couch at him apologetically. He shook his head and shrugged as if to say ‘It doesn’t matter’.
Buffy stood and stretched. “That’s enough nostalgia for me today. Spike, you said something about tea?”
“I did,” he took the out and made his way to the kitchen.
He wasn’t alone for very long, the Slayer slinking up to his side to watch him intently and cautiously. Spike wasn’t sure what the caution was for but if she thought he was going to break down and sob because of her apparent indifference to him thirty years ago, then she underestimated him. Sure, it had burned to get the cold shoulder but he had deserved it. He’d deserved far worse after the things he had done to her. Spike was under no illusions that he was some sort of victim of Buffy’s cruelty. He’d made his bed and he’d had to lie in it; alone.
And it had been good for him, in a way. It had certainly taught him fortitude and a degree of humility; things he had never particularly been good at prior to meeting and falling for the Slayer. It went without saying that she had been the making of him. So, no, he didn’t hold a grudge that she had been hard on him thirty years ago because he had needed it. And a part of Spike told him that she had known that and that she had been pushing him to be a better man for a long time.
“Thank you,” Spike said.
Buffy looked at him. “For what?”
“Not loving me,” he shrugged, pretending to be busy with what he was doing, his eyes focused on the movements of his hands. “Until I deserved it.”
He felt her staring at him for a long time whilst she remained quiet. He finished up making the tea and finally looked at her. Buffy’s face was blank but her eyes were unguarded. Spike looked at her and saw himself. And for the first time in a long time, he didn’t hate what he saw.
He swallowed and turned away, calling out as he made his way back to the living room, “Tea is served, you bunch of wankers. And Mya.”
Buffy didn’t follow him out.
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