Title: A Fairy Tale, They Say
Summary: Buffy receives anonymous gifts that lead to questions she doesn’t have answers to.
Author’s Note: And now for part 2. Thank you for letting me share this today!
The first time Spike asks about Buffy, Angel doesn’t even blink when he says, “Europe, last I heard from her.”
For a brief moment, Spike contemplates calling him out on the lie, but he’s not sure what the point would be. Angel’s groupies flank him like good little tin soldiers—and what bloody hell has he dropped into that Harmony is right there with them? —while the tosser himself wears his I’m not in the mood face. It doesn’t matter that Spike has more than a century’s worth of knowledge regarding Angel’s tells or knows better than anyone that Buffy would never drag her kid sister around the world without the threat of an apocalypse when she’s been working so hard to provide a stable home for the Niblet. The lie doesn’t matter, either.
So he lets it go, ignoring all the questions—where his body is, why he’s back at all—to concentrate on the only one he truly cares about.
Locating her isn’t as hard as he thinks it will be, mostly because Harmony is as dim as ever. He finds the address scribbled on the back of an old Cosmo, and his heart leaps when he sees Buffy is still in the States. Granted, Ohio might as well be on the moon for as easily as he can get to it at the moment, but there’s no ocean separating them, nothing but road that he can easily travel once he can get beyond the city’s limits. He has time to plan how he’ll get there, too, time to suss out what to say without sounding like a right git.
But that’s where his initial joy fades. What can he say? Buffy thinks he’s dead. Angel has made that perfectly clear. Spike’s sacrifice saved the Hellmouth, and everyone has moved on. She might still be putting in the good fight, but the Slayerettes are there to give her a well-deserved break if she wants it.
Does she want it? Does she want to put Sunnydale behind her?
His initial poking around suggests yes. Angel won’t talk about Buffy, but once he’s corporeal again, Spike befriends one of the secretaries whose sister does freelance soothsaying for Wolfram & Hart. All it takes is a spot of flirting and an endless flow of fried plantains, and the girl is more than happy to share what she can see.
Like the fact that the Summers women aren’t alone, that the whole gang has settled in Cleveland and Buffy and Dawn share an apartment with Giles. ‘Bout time, Rupert.
Like the fact that Buffy spends most of her time with Dawn and Willow, harkening back to more halcyon days. It doesn’t escape his attention that he hadn’t been around for those.
Like the fact that Faith seems to be carrying the slaying load, while Buffy focuses on researching Midwest colleges.
She can finally go back and show the world she’s better than flipping burgers. All she needs is the dosh to pay for it.
Once the idea hits, he runs with it. Money spills from everyone’s pockets within Wolfram & Hart walls. Nobody misses the five he nicks from petty cash or the tenner he pockets from the pool taken up to buy a retirement gift for an entertainment lawyer Spike is convinced is the one responsible for unleashing Michael Bolton into the popular consciousness. Soon enough, he’s amassed quite the haul, enough to at least give Buffy the safety net she needs to take the scholarly leap.
The flower petals are a whim, though leaving the package unsigned is not. Buffy has never been good at accepting his aid outside of the fight. He doesn’t want to give her an excuse to turn this down, too.
He’s quite chuffed about the whole thing until he overhears Angel and the Watcher chatting about Buffy and her anonymous benefactor.
“But why would she think you sent her money?” Wesley asks.
“Because I’m the only one who knows where she is.”
“Well, technically, that isn’t true.”
“Are you saying you did send it to her?”
“No, but Harmony has access to all of your correspondence, doesn’t she?”
“She hates Buffy.”
“That doesn’t preclude her having Buffy’s address.”
The moment Angel stops, Spike knows he’s sussed it out. He’s halfway to the lift when Angel’s door flies open.
He stops, hooks his thumb in his belt loop, and cocks a brow. “You bellowed?”
Gold flashes in Angel’s eyes. “Get in here.”
Over Angel’s shoulder, he spies Wesley, hovering in the background. “You fancy a threeway today instead? And here I thought the Watcher didn’t care to share.”
“That’s not—” Angel growls and steps toward Spike, only to be stopped by Wesley’s hand on his shoulder. It’s almost remarkable how tame Angel can get when Wes intervenes. More than once, Spike has wondered if he’s got some magic he keeps under wraps to explain how he does it. Neat trick, for those who can master it. Spike certainly never didn’t. If anything, his is the sort to whip Angel into a frenzy, infinitely more entertaining though ultimately a frustration since it gets them absolutely nowhere. “I need to talk to you,” Angel tries again, though the growl is still there in the back of his throat.
The lift slides open, and Gunn exits. “Actually, I’m on the way out,” Spike replies, backing up. “Raincheck, yeah?”
He darts onto the lift and jabs the button to close the doors before Wesley’s magic wears off and Angel resumes his charge. Might be time for a bit of a break from the grand ol’ grump, give him the chance to forget about his suspicions. Spike has little doubt Angel will keep them to himself. The last thing Angel wants is for Buffy to know Spike is back. All Spike has to do is wait him out. Surely, enough evil will pass over his threshold to help him move on from brooding over Spike’s little monetary intervention.
And maybe it’ll give Spike the time he needs to decide whether or not there’s a place for him in Buffy’s new world order.
To say he’s a little brassed off when he ships the book about the Vorit demon to Buffy is an understatement. His decision to stay away from her had been based on his assumption she was off to uni again. That’s what the money had been for, anyway. Instead, his favorite soothsayer had upended that particular barrel to announce Buffy was back on the slaying path and currently struggling to vanquish a difficult foe.
Not only that, she only had Faith to help.
What other choice does he have but to sneak into the law firm’s archives and steal the book she needs that will solve the Vorit problem without getting her killed in the process? He even pays extra to get it there sooner.
But with the book gone, the question of whether he should follow it rears its head again. He wants to go. He misses her, every single day. His dreams are full of her, of starlight gleaming in her eyes as she takes down another vamp, of power firming her shoulders as she rises victorious from a difficult fight, of the smiles and frowns and laughter and shouts that painted the hours he was blessed to have with her. Turns out, being on the other side of the country doesn’t make the memories fade. How can they? He relives them over and over again, even when it will hurt less if he lets them go.
Then, there’s the wanting.
He wakes up hard, whether the dreams are quiet or loud. There’s not a lot to be done about it, though the offers to help are abundant, but he’s not ready to bury himself in an unknown body, not sure if he’ll be ready for a long, long time. His soul still belongs to Buffy, and to offer anything resembling intimacy to someone else feels like cheating. He has no illusions Buffy feels the same. Even discounting the fact that she thinks he’s dead, he knows his place. One astonishing night before opening the Hellmouth is hardly going to change the awful history they’d shared before the soul trials.
Maybe it’s that knowledge that begins to sway him to stay in Los Angeles. Handling his libido is hardly a new problem. Missing her is his own issue. While Buffy might have grieved for a while, she also knows how to move on, and Spike’s not sure he wants to taint the high note they ended on. It would be a first for him—to have someone look back and smile at the memories of him. Is his selfishness about wanting to see her worth more than that?
He’s still debating the question when Angel storms into his flat and shoves him into the wall.
“I should’ve staked you the second you showed up in my office,” Angel snarls.
Spike pushes back, breaking the contact, and makes a show of nonchalance by shoving his hands into his jeans pockets. “Except I didn’t have a body then, you nit. Can’t stake what you can’t touch.”
“Nothing stopping me now.”
When Angel tries grabbing him again, Spike barely ducks in time. He darts out of the way, putting the couch between them. “What’s got your knickers in such a twist today? I haven’t darkened your doorstep for yonks.”
“But you’ve still been at the office.” Angel jabs a finger in his direction. “I know you stole that book from the archive to send to Buffy.”
Ah. Now it all makes sense. Little else infuriates Angel more than the combination of Buffy and Spike in the same sentence.
“So?” Spike challenges. “It’s not like she didn’t need it.”
“And you know that how?”
“Better question is, why didn’t you?”
That stops Angel for a brief moment, long enough for Spike to barrel forward.
“You’ve been playing at bein’ Buffy’s guard dog for months now, but when she actually needs a spot of help, who’s the one who came through for her? Me. Not you. All that big talk, and the best you’ve managed for Buffy is to not get in her way again. Great job of that, by the way.”
“Did you even know Red and Rupert had buggered off to leave Buffy on her own to deal with a Vorit demon?” Spike demands. “You know as well as I do that if you let them finish their nesting, you might as well say sayonara to any chance you have at not turning into baby Vorit food.”
Angel’s mouth pinches at the corners. Spike’s struck a nerve. “I’m not Buffy’s babysitter.”
“Except you claim to be protecting her by lying to me about where she is. Or barging in where you’re not wanted to tell me to stay away. So which is it? ‘Cause you can’t have it both ways.”
For a long moment, they simply stare each other down. Spike’s right about this. He knows he is. Angel would see that if he wasn’t so damn jealous that he hadn’t been able to help Buffy first.
Spike breaks the silence first. “How’d you find out about the book?”
Another moment of Angel’s heavy regard, and then… “Buffy called me.”
Because who else from this godforsaken city would want to help her? It stings, but Spike can’t deny the assumption isn’t fair. “I s’pose you took credit for it, too.”
“No.” Angel glances away before admitting, “She caught me off-guard.”
It’s a small concession, this pettiness Angel always tries to hide from others, but Spike will take it. It means Buffy still doesn’t know the truth, and he has more time to make the decision about going out there.
Turning on his heel, he heads toward his tiny kitchen. “Fancy a drink? I could definitely use one.”
Behind him, Angel sighs. “Sure.”
Uneasy détente seems to be their default setting these days. Pro or con for sticking around?
Spike doesn’t know the answer to that question, either.
Discovering Buffy is moving to London to live with Giles snaps Spike’s resolve to keep his distance. He’s been good about no more gifts, keeping busy as best he can in order not to think about it. But the news makes him wish he was there to show her all the best spots. Rupert will be rubbish at it. He’ll probably insist on the bloody tourist traps or a cruise along the Thames. It’s up to Spike to set her straight on what’s worth doing in her newly acquired home.
He even types this one up himself, sneaking onto Harmony’s computer one night when Angel is out of town. The hardest part is dropping it into the post instead of delivering it in person like he aches to do.
He does his best to forget about it until the Watcher tracks him down one day.
“I’m supposed to deliver a message to you,” Wesley says. His features are inscrutable, his pulse slow and even. “About that book you borrowed from the archive a couple of months ago.”
Spike rolls his eyes. “Thought Angel finally let that go.”
“The message isn’t from Angel.”
The world tunnels around him as Wesley’s meaning sinks in. Only one other person knows about the book. He doesn’t want to hope, but yet…he does.
“Yeah? What is it?”
“Apparently, there’s a bit of confusion about why you failed to convey it personally. Its recipient said there aren’t any hurt feelings if that’s what you were worried about. Everything you gave…you have to believe that they surmount any other obstacles you might have perceived kept you away.”
Spike doesn’t miss the fact that Wes is studiously avoiding saying Buffy’s name. The walls have ears, and he’s opting for discretion. Why, Spike has no idea. Wesley is one of Angel’s staunchest supporters. It might be a trick of some sort, but Spike can’t find the angle. And if it’s not a trick, the message has to be from Buffy.
He has to be sure, though. “And what did Angel have to say about that?”
“Nothing.” Wesley’s voice softens. “I was requested to keep this private. I made certain to honor that.”
Spike blinks. Once. Twice. Three times. The tears hover behind his eyes, just the same.
Buffy wants to see him.
That’s all Spike needs.
That’s all he’s ever needed.
“Thanks, mate,” he manages to say. “Appreciate it.”
Wesley nods. “What are you going to do?”
For the first time in days, Spike grins. “What do you think? I’ve got to see a girl.”
Operation: Get the Hell out of LA doesn’t get off the ground until the day before Christmas. Literally.
Somehow, Angel finds out about Spike’s plan before he can even get out of the building. Two of Wolfram & Hart’s beefiest security guards haul him up to Angel’s office where he has to listen to the wanker rant for over three hours about all the reasons he shouldn’t go to London. Every time he tries to leave, the door slams in his face, courtesy of a little spell Angel has had waiting in the wings for just this moment. Not even Wesley’s calm voice on the other side is enough to talk Angel down.
It takes an emergency from Fred to interrupt the tirade. Spike’s not convinced Wesley didn’t put Fred up to it, just to get Angel to stop.
Spike stays away from the office as he makes plans. He can get across the country, no problem. It’s the ocean that’s the issue. A plane will be fastest, but stowing away isn’t as easy as it used to be with all the added security they have these days. A boat won’t have the guards, but that trip takes a week. And now that he’s made up his mind to do this, Spike wants to get there yesterday.
He settles for leaving on a direct flight from LA. It’ll land him in London while the sun’s shining, but it’s England in December. It can’t be any worse than running around Sunnydale under a bloody blanket.
The last thing he expects is for Angel’s goons to pick up him at LAX.
And he’s right back in that damn office, exchanging glares with an equally frustrated Angel.
“I’ll make you a deal,” Angel says, arms folded over his chest. “I will let you fly to London on Wolfram & Hart’s private jet if you allow me to talk to Buffy first.”
Spike’s eyes narrow. “Nothin’ you say will make a difference. She’s already seen the worst of me, and she still wants me there.”
“She only thinks she wants you there.”
“And you think you’re goin’ to change her mind?” Has Angel always been this daft when it comes to Buffy? “It’s no wonder she kicked you to the curb.”
“That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”
For a second, he debates trying to walk away again. He doesn’t need this nonsense. Then, reason takes over. It doesn’t matter if Angel talks to Buffy. All Spike needs to do is get to London. And if he can get there without any of the fuss, he’ll have that much more energy to face Buffy and Dawn after he arrives.
“Fine. I’ll take it.”
Turns out to be the best deal he’s ever made. Because he’s sitting there, finishing off a pint in a posh leather seat, when Buffy hangs up on Angel. Even better, she tells him to bugger off until after the holiday. Spike can’t help but grin when he says, “Looks like we’re doin’ this my way, after all.”
For all his bravado, his stomach is in knots as he waits by the lamp post. He rolls his neck, jumps up and down once or twice to work out some other kinks, and shoves his hands into his pockets to hide their shaking. It started when Rupert agreed to fetch her, and Spike’s afraid it won’t stop even after she emerges. He’s waited for this moment for what feels like forever, and yet, it’s all come to a head too quickly.
Then she steps out of the house, and time freezes.
She’s as radiant as ever. Practically vibrating with fury when she spots Angel’s car parked farther down the road. There’s so much life beating inside her skin, Spike wonders how he thought he could’ve stayed away. It draws him closer, the moth to the flame, and though he is ready to die all over again just to be in her proximity, he stops to lean against the post.
Her turn to face him is slow, as inexorable as the seconds that have passed. He waits for the anger to be unleashed, bracing for the brunt, but her eyes widen, her jaw softens, and she utters the next without an ounce of venom.
Hello. Not Where have you been? Not What do you want? Hello.
A beginning, not an end.
He doesn’t move. He needs the strength of the lamp post more than he realized. “Got your message.”
Buffy edges forward a step. “I got your gifts.”
The corner of his mouth lifts. “That last’s more of an itinerary than anything else.”
“Still a gift.” And she’s still approaching. Taking her time with it but steadily filling the space in front of him until she’s all he can see.
Hasn’t that been their story from the start?
“Are you why Angel called earlier?” she asks.
“Yeah. Part of the trade in bringing me here.”
“So why’s he sticking around?”
The query comes without a glance toward the car. Spike thrills that she can’t look away, either.
“Glutton for punishment, I reckon.”
She laughs, that little half-snort she gives when she finds something funny but doesn’t think she should appreciate it. God, but he’s missed that sound.
“You’re really here.” All the distance between them is now gone, taken away by time, by effort, by her quiet, deliberate pace. She lifts her hand, then hesitates, as if she needs permission to go any farther.
“I didn’t expect to be,” Spike murmurs.
“I know,” she replies.
It breaks her stasis, draws her forward to finish her fingers’ path. She touches his jaw, climbs upward to his temple, grazes along his brow to trace down along his nose. Fingertips come to rest on Spike’s parted lips for the scantest of seconds, leaving his mouth burning when they skim down, down, and rest over his unbeating heart. There, they stay, as does her gaze, lost in memories he wishes she didn’t have to live through.
The next is a whisper. “Did it hurt?”
They both know what she’s referring to. There’s no point in lying. She would see right through him. “Yeah. But it would’ve hurt worse if it hadn’t helped you.”
“I never got to say thanks for that.”
“And don’t you be thinking you have to now.” When he grasps her wrist, the echo of her heart thrums through their skin to calm his own fears. He has the strength to reach up with his free hand and touch her chin, coaxing her attention up again. Her eyes glow under the streetlight, luminous and full. Dealing with all of the anxiety and indecision of the last six months was worth it to drown in her aspect here, under a London moon. “It’s all done, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Always promised to have your back, didn’t I?”
Her smile is a sonnet, winding through his soul. “Even when I didn’t know it was you.”
“But you figured it out.”
“Eventually. All of the pubs on your list kind of gave it away.” She cocks her head. “Do I want to know how you managed to send me exactly what I needed every time? Because long distance lurking is quite the feat.”
He shrugs. “Just a friend I asked to look in on you, once in a while.”
“It better not be Faith.”
Now, he laughs. Something else he hadn’t realized he’d missed—that jealous streak she’d done everything to hide those last couple months before Sunnydale fell. “Nobody for you to fuss over.”
Her lashes duck, and her fingers start playing along his shirt. Her thoughts have started to stray, but he doesn’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
“What happens now?” The warmth of her breath as it carries her words does little to stave the chill that creeps into his veins. “Are you working with Angel? Is that why everything came from LA?”
“You remember he runs an evil law firm, yeah?”
“But that book—”
“I nicked it.”
“Wesley found you pretty easily.”
“He’s a resourceful sort.”
“And Angel flew you here himself.”
Spike sighs. “He kept getting in my way. This was easier.” Grasping her by the shoulders, he pushes her back enough to force her to look at him again. “Except for the odd job, no, I’m not working for Angel. Give me a little credit. He hired Harmony, for bloody sake.”
Her mouth twitches. “And the building is still standing?”
“So I’ll ask again. What happens now?”
Out of the corner of his eye, he catches a flicker of the curtains in the front room as someone peers out. “Well, that’s up to you.”
“I’m here, with you, because I’ve finally sussed out I can’t be anyplace else. Tried it. Didn’t take. But you, you get the choice of how much of me you actually need. I know my coming back wasn’t what you planned. And I know you’re trying to get on with your life. I won’t get in the way of it. But whatever you want from me, you’ve got it. Patrolling. Keeping my ear to the ground for you. Even research if you can convince Rupert to let me anywhere near his books.”
The glow in her eyes is back. “And what if I need you to wear a big, shiny bauble again?”
He answers without batting an eyelash. “I’ll dust a thousand times over if it means you get to live, Buffy.”
She surprises him with the slide of her arms around his waist, a tightening around his ribs as she presses her cheek to his chest. Right where her hand had been before. “I just want you here,” she whispers. “I’ve missed you.”
His throat is too thick to form words, so he returns the embrace and presses a kiss to the top of her head. The curtain falls, granting them their privacy.
“Did you want to come in?” Buffy says, her voice muffled against his shirt.
She finally peels away, but catches his hand to entwine their fingers. They take two steps before she jerks her chin toward the idling car. “Do you have to get anything before Angel takes the hint and leaves us alone?”
Spike shakes his head. “Everything I need is right here.”
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/709632.html