Exposition Part 1
Spike was afraid. Constantly afraid. Of her. It was ridiculous, but there it was. He was afraid of Buffy Summers. Not afraid of her in the traditional scream and run sense, that probably would have been easier. He could scream and run quite well.
No, he was afraid of what he would say, of what he might do to screw things up. He didn’t know how to be around her. He’d just gotten used to being without her. Well, no, that wasn’t exactly right. He’d never be ‘used to’ the absence of her. He used to see her sometimes, when she wasn’t there. For a time he thought it was her ghost. And then he realised it was just his own insanity.
The strangest of things would remind him of her. Tequila, for example, or Bette Midler. Spike laughed aloud to himself. He was sure Buffy would like to hear that. His laughter stopped abruptly as his thoughts turned serious again.
To say he had missed her would be the biggest understatement in the world. He didn’t miss her, he craved her. Not in the carnal sense. It was deeper than that, so much deeper. He would physically hurt from thinking of how it was his fault she was gone. How it was his fault he was without her, how Dawn didn’t have any family left at all. Spike would refuse to acknowledge Hank Summers as her family. In fact, he’d told the man so when he’d shown up one night shamefaced and sozzled.
But he was getting off track again and Buffy was waiting for him. He pulled some jeans on and glanced at the door. Buffy was waiting. That, in itself, was a miracle. He’d gone looking for her in the past couple of days just to make sure she was still there. Calling out to her when she was in the shower and making himself seem like a complete moron. He didn’t care though, he was trying to get used to saying her name aloud again. It had been a long while since he’d discussed her with Mya, and anyway it wasn’t the same as calling out ‘Buffy?’ and getting an answer. That was still very much new. Or old, depending on how he looked at it.
And, bloody hell, was it awkward. He was insanely happy she was alive and that she was around but it was hard to know how much of that happiness he should show. He was never sure how much to say or whether it would be alright of him to touch her. He wanted to touch her. Whenever she was close his fingers would tingle with the urge but he didn’t know if that was okay. He didn’t know if it was okay for Buffy, or for Mya.
His daughter was another big reason he didn’t know how to act around the Slayer. He didn’t want her to see the gravity of what he felt for the woman because although Spike had discussed it with her, he’d left things out obviously. And hearing about your dad loving another woman and seeing it were two very different things.
Spike was proud of Mya, though. Of how she was handling it all. In fact, she was probably handling the situation a lot better than he was. She wasn’t hostile towards Buffy as Spike might have feared. He was grateful for that. She was so mature for her age, not that she got that from him. That was all Claire.
Spike slipped a white T-shirt on and wandered over to the nightstand. He picked up the photo on it and looked at his wife. He missed her something chronic, the grief of losing her still fresh. Five years was almost nothing to a vampire. Spike sat down wearily on the bed, picture in his hands. He’d put her through so much shit, he didn’t know why she’d put up with it.
They’d met in Rome on one of his visits to see Dawn who’d been studying over there. A chance meeting, as all great meetings are. They didn’t meet in a bar or in a bistro, nor by some romantically crafted fountain or what have you. The first time he saw Claire was when she threw up on him. Needless to say, it wasn’t love at first sight.
She’d stumbled out of a nightclub as drunk as a badger up a tree and hurled all over him as he’d been out on one of his skulky creature of the night walks. He cursed like a sailor at her and, to his immense surprise, she returned it. They spent a good twenty minutes – in the middle of a Roman street under the moon and stars – calling each other all sorts of names.
Eventually Claire’s drunken state had gotten the better of her and Spike, now a little bit taken with her, offered to walk her home. She declined the offer and promptly fell flat on her face. So, instead he carried her home.
Spike smiled at the memory and set the picture back down. It hadn’t been easy for either of them. Spike felt the need to tell her about Buffy right at the beginning, he thought that only fair. To his surprise, she stuck around. Even through the nights when he didn’t come home. He did that sometimes. Not for anything untoward, just to be by himself. Claire understood and Spike was thankful for that, thankful for her.
Spike cleared his throat and ran his fingers through his hair, gathering up his nerve. He was annoyed at himself for being so scared. After all, it was only Buffy. Only Buffy. Spike snorted to himself. As if she could ever be described as ‘only Buffy’.
Still, as he stood and left the relative safety of his bedroom he could feel a small tremor in his hands and he scowled. It shouldn’t have been this hard, it should have been easy. He shouldn’t be thinking about how to react to her, he should have just been reacting. Over the years he had grown more cautious, though, he wasn’t the same vampire she had left behind all those years ago. He had responsibilities now; he couldn’t just rush over and grab her.
But god, she was beautiful. Just as he remembered her – which, of course she would be – sitting on the couch and looking around the room curiously. Spike halted in the doorway and watched her. Buffy yawned and threw an arm over her eyes casually.
He wasn’t entirely sure how long he’d been watching her when she spoke.
“You ever going to announce your presence?”
Spike jolted and stepped into the room. “I’m here.”
“Really? Wow,” Buffy removed her arm from across her face and locked eyes with him, smiling. “You haven’t lost any of your stealth.”
He stood in the middle of the room unmoving like a lemming.
Buffy sat up straighter. “Uh…aren’t you supposed to be telling me something?”
“I missed you,” he blurted out.
Spike regretted it as soon as he said it. The look on her face was one of confusion and he wasn’t surprised. He was confused as well. Hadn’t he just been thinking how ‘missing her’ had been too trivial for the depth of his strife? God, he probably sounded like some teenage wanker.
“Er, what I mean to say is –”
“I missed you too,” she replied, smiling softly. “Those few hours without you were utter heartache.”
Spike let out a breath. “Sure, mock the guy from the future. Or…are you the girl from the past?”
Buffy shifted over on the couch. “I like to think we’re people of our presents. Time-wise and not gift wise. ’Cos that would be strange. Although, hey, gifts are nice…”
Spike laughed and walked over, sitting down in the armchair opposite her instead of next to her. “You have a way with words.”
“It’s my talent.”
“One of many,”
Buffy put a hand to her heart. “You’re too kind.”
“It’s my talent.”
She smiled and pulled her legs onto the couch, getting comfortable. He cleared his throat again, leaning forward and starting to speak. He hadn’t even gotten the first word out when the Slayer jumped, interrupting him and announcing she had something for him. When she started rifling around in her cleavage, Spike’s eyebrow arched.
“I’m sure that’s a very nice gift but…”
Buffy shot him a glare as she pulled a rumpled up bit of paper from her bra. Spike frowned. She handed it over. It was still warm from being close to her heart. He unfolded it. It was a scrawled list.
Giles – big crowd.
People strapped to beds. Looking spooked.
Partially eclipsed sun painted on wall.
He looked up at her.
She shrugged slowly. “I guess none of that makes much sense but I thought I’d ask.”
“No, no it makes sense.” Spike looked back at the paper. “But how…?”
“The Shadowmen. They showed me…things. Images. All a blur, really. There was more but that’s all I could remember.”
He nodded. “Well…I guess it’s easier to explain the last one first. That logo – eclipsed sun…that’s H.U’s logo.”
“H.U. People kept mentioning that at the police station. That’s where you work, isn’t it? What is it? And why did they hire you?”
He folded his arms and answered defensively. “Because I’m a very hireable prospect, that’s why. Not many people can say they’ve got a couple of hundred years of experience on their CV.”
“Experience of what? Maiming?”
“Of being a vampire,” Spike replied. “A vampire who turned ‘good’ of his own accord. They head-hunted me. H.U stands for Humanoids United.”
“Crap name, good intentions.”
“The path to hell is paved…”
Spike waved a hand. “Yeah, yeah. They fighting for equal rights for vampires in all areas of society, so I consider them the good guys. I wouldn’t work for them otherwise.”
She pulled a face. “Spike…vampires are evil, remember?”
“So I’m evil?”
“Well, no, but you were.”
He shrugged. “Some vampires are evil but then again so are some humans. I’m under no illusions - vampires are conditioned to commit acts of evil. But there are some things you should know.”
“Well, firstly, they’ve developed a blood substitute. Vampires are all put on a register and are issued rations of it to get by on every month.” Spike explained. “So, that means they’ve got no excuse for chowing down on a nice neck.”
Buffy’s eyebrows rose. “A blood substitute? Like meat substitute…but for blood?”
Spike grimaced at the comparison. “I suppose. Willow and Andrew developed it. She must have enjoyed being stuck in a lab with him for over a year.”
“Willow and Andrew!”
“Yeah, they do the odd bit of work for the H.U and the Council,” Spike nodded. “If they need something magical they’ll call Willow. Something geek? Call Andrew. For this they needed both. And a team of about three hundred people working non-stop for a year and a half.”
She took a moment. “Okay, what else is there?”
“Vampire’s are fully acknowledged under the law – both as criminals and as victims. Hence your spot of bother,” he told her. “They’ve got equal billings as humans on matters such as employment, immigration, adoption, crime and marriage.”
Buffy sighed. “See, there’s the thing. I don’t get it. Vampire’s are considered dead so –”
“Not anymore. Not dead. ‘Undead’. It’s been decided that vampires are still, essentially, humans. They just happen to have a demon living in them. In fact, some psychologists are arguing it’s just a severe form of split personality disorder.” Spike chuckled.
The Slayer’s eyes bugged in disbelief. “You are kidding?”
“I’m not. The old rule of – ‘you can kill a vampire because the person they once were is no longer in there’ doesn’t hold any weight anymore.”
“So…I’d…I mean, in terms of today’s laws I’m a…killer. A serial killer.”
Spike let out a breath, shaking his head. “You shouldn’t look at it like that, Buffy. Those slayings were committed before the new laws came to pass, you won’t be held accountable for them.”
“But I will for the vampire I killed when I came back.”
“I’m working on getting you off on that, trying to find a loophole…annoyingly, time travelling Slayers aren’t in any of the books. But I’ll find a way. The Council will understand. And so will H.U. I hope. It’s the man’s family that might kick up a fuss.”
She looked down at the floor. “He had a family. I thought he was attacking that girl.”
“You weren’t to know,” Spike wanted to go to her but didn’t. “You didn’t know any different, it’s in your instincts to slay vampires. It’s in your blood.”
Buffy locked eyes with him suddenly. “And now none of that matters. I’m a vampire slayer, Spike. This kind of makes me redundant. I don’t understand how this all came to pass in the first place. How did everyone find out about vampires and demons?”
“About the time we caved in the whole of Sunnydale, leaving behind a big crater. Attracted a bit of attention.”
“In the battle against The First.” Spike told her. “I wore this necklace thing that caved in the Hellmouth and burnt me up to ashes.”
Buffy’s frown deepened. “A necklace.”
“Sounds less impressive then it was. Well, I mean, the necklace was god-awful but the whole battle was actually quite thrilling. For a violence lover like myself, that is. You’d have loved it,” Spike beamed.
He cleared his throat. “Right. This has got to be…a lot.”
“Yeah…that’s what it is.” She nodded. “You destroyed the whole of Sunnydale?”
“I did. Quite an achievement. Done my fair share of damage over the years but taking out a whole town? That was new.”
“All those people, Spike…”
Spike’s eyes widened. “Oh, no. Buffy, no. The town had been evacuated. People felt the Big Bad brewing. There was no one left but us. And the Turok-hans. And The First.”
“Ancient kind of vampire. Strong, rabid and much less pretty than the kind you’re used to.” He paused. “So, anyway, I destroyed the town and that sort of made the world’s ears perk up. Demons fleeing all over the place, not bothering to hide themselves…people couldn’t pretend anymore. It was all out in the open, for better or worse.”
Buffy looked at him, waiting for more.
Spike didn’t disappoint. “And, of course, it was for worse. People went mad. Demons went madder. And I missed it all. What with the being dead, you understand. I was mightily pissed off about that.”
“So…how did we get from that to…this?”
“With a long struggle. With treaties and talking and all that political bullshit. Oh, and the help of a handsome and debonair spokesman for vampires,” Spike grinned.
Buffy arched an eyebrow. “You?”
“Yes, me! Don’t have to sound so dubious, you know.” He grumbled. “Of course I was a ghost at that time but it didn’t seem to –”
Spike’s brow creased. “I didn’t mention that? Oh, well. Sod this. I need tea laced with something a lot stronger. I’m forgetting things in my old age. Tune in for more exciting exposition when I return…”
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