Part II: The Only Constant
He found himself in an unfamiliar bar, the weight of grief pressing down on him heavily. Spike had known grief before, when Buffy had died, but this was different. This felt as though a piece of himself was missing.
Spike knew that Drusilla was dust, and he understood finally what Buffy had meant by saying that she’d felt like two people at once. He remembered what it was to be in Los Angeles, missing Buffy—but right now, right here, that didn’t matter. All that mattered was that Drusilla was gone, and he hadn’t yet managed to drown his sorrows sufficiently.
“You want some company?”
The thin woman who slid into the booth across from him was wearing a skimpy dress and so much makeup, he was fairly sure she’d used a trowel. On another evening, Spike might have taken her up on the comfort she was offering, but he’d tried that.
Even sinking his teeth into a woman’s jugular while she was in the throes of passion wasn’t enough to wipe away his grief; all he could think about was how she wasn’t Dru.
“Get lost,” he advised.
She pouted. “You’re looking lonely over here.”
“I said get lost,” he growled, flashing a little fang.
Instead of running away, scared, she leaned forward, and Spike could smell her arousal. “I like my men with sharp teeth.”
Spike had never been a fan of vampire groupies; in his experience, they were nothing more than a pain in the arse.
“An’ I like my women without a pulse.” He rose, realizing that he wasn’t going to get any peace if he stayed. Spike had stayed on top of his tab, so there was nothing that would prevent him from leaving.
Unless, of course, you counted the woman.
“Oh, come on, baby. Don’t be like that.” She grabbed the lapel of his coat as he tried to pass her. “I could show you a real good time.”
“Sod off,” Spike snarled, throwing her hand off and pushing her away, sending her sprawling on the floor.
“Hey!” A rather large vampire in biker leathers rose from his table. “Don’t be treating her that way.”
He delivered his best sneer. “What? She your pet? I can see why you’d need to pay a human for sex.”
Spike knew he was throwing the gauntlet down, but if he couldn’t drink in peace, a good brawl was the next best thing.
He got what he wanted.
Although not all the bar’s patrons jumped into the fight, there were quite a few—more than he could probably legitimately handle. Spike had never claimed not to employ dirty tactics, however, and a chair leg made a damn good stake.
He probably wouldn’t have survived, but the demons and vampires in the bar weren’t all focused on him, and they started to fight—and kill—one another.
In the midst of it all, when Spike knew he would either have to leave or be killed, he ducked out a side door. He wasn’t quite ready to end it all. Not yet.
Wiping the blood from his lip with the back of his hand, Spike felt his jaw for any breaks. “Guess I’ll live another day,” he muttered, shoving his bruised hands into the pockets of his duster. As he wandered down the street with no particular destination in mind, he wondered once again if he might have saved Drusilla. Maybe deciding against going to the Hellmouth had been a mistake, but taking her where both a Slayer and Angel were had seemed like a bad idea.
As he passed a diner, several blocks over, Spike’s eye was caught. He paused, seeing a girl waiting tables. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and her eyes were weary. One of the patrons grabbed her arse as she passed his table, but she didn’t even appear to register the contact.
He could just make out the voice of one of the men. “Come on, sweet thing. You just need some loosening up.”
The girl ignored him, putting a couple of ceramic mugs in front of a young couple at a nearby table, then depositing a carafe of what Spike could only assume was coffee. “Thanks,” the young man said, digging around in his pocket and dumping a handful of change on the table.
The waitress spared a smile for him and his date, but it fled her face as soon as she turned back towards the kitchen. Normally, even a face as pretty as hers wouldn’t have turned his head, but there was something there—
Making an impulsive decision, he entered the diner, sliding into a booth. After a few minutes, the waitress came to stand by his table, her nametag reading “Anne.”
“Do you know what you want?” she asked in a dull tone.
“Coffee, if it’s not too much trouble.” Spike tried using his most charming tone, but she didn’t even glance up from her pad.
She tucked her pen and order pad back in her apron pocket. “It’ll be right out.”
Spike drummed his fingers on the table, then pulled out his cigarettes and lighter. He’d just lit one up when Anne came out and set a mug on the table in front of him. Glancing up, he caught her eyes for the first time, and he felt a shock go through his system as he realized that he was looking at the Slayer.
She seemed to recognize what he was for the first time as well, because she leaned in close and hissed, “Look, I have a live and let live policy. If you don’t cause any trouble, you don’t get staked. Is that clear?”
Spike took a drag off of his cigarette and watched her hurry away, a slow smirk forming. The girl had fire, and it occurred to him that he might have found a new purpose in life.
Hunting a Slayer had just become a little more interesting.
“What are you doing here?”
The irritation in her voice was payment enough for his trouble. “Wanted a cup of coffee,” Spike replied with a smile. “Bring it quick, an’ maybe you’ll get a tip.”
Her glare was hot enough to start a fire, but Spike just leaned back and raised an eyebrow, as though daring her to make a fuss. With a huff and a flounce, she walked away from his table, to return shortly with a mug and a carafe. “Here.”
Spike knew what she was doing—by leaving the carafe on his table, she could get out of serving him again, and he’d wind up paying more. “An’ a piece of pie,” he said.
She stared at him for a moment, then hissed, “Vampires don’t eat people food.”
“This vampire does.”
They engaged in a staring contest, with Anne as the loser. “Fine. Peach or cherry?”
He leered. “Cherry.”
Her nostrils flared, and she said in a very tight voice, “I’ll be right back.”
When she put the plate in front of him, he said quietly, “Thank you.”
Anne froze, then replied—her voice marginally warmer, “You’re welcome.”
Spike couldn’t have explained why, but when the diner closed that night, he left two twenty dollar bills behind.
He knew he was being followed by the Slayer; although she was attempting stealth, Spike had been in this game a lot longer than she had, and he had caught sight of her a time or two. Although Spike had been tempted to confront her, he’d decided against it, wanting to know what she was going to do.
The third night after he’d noticed her presence, she finally confronted him. “Who have you been feeding off of?”
Spike leaned up against the building he’d been walking next to. “What now?”
“You’re a vampire,” she replied. Out of her work uniform, she wore jeans with holes in the knees and a threadbare t-shirt. It wasn’t quite what Spike had expected; he’d sensed that the girl was a clotheshorse.
Granted, what she’d like to be, and what she could afford to be, were probably two completely different things.
“Yeah, I think we already covered that,” Spike said slowly, waiting for her to continue.
“You haven’t killed anybody in the last three days.”
“Might have done it while you weren’t lookin’.”
“No, you didn’t. I would know.”
“Would you really?”
“Stop it!” Anne glared at him. “What the hell do you want?”
“Who said I wanted anything?” Spike crossed his arms across his chest. “Maybe I’m just tryin’ to live my life.”
“You’re not alive. You’re a fucking vampire.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Temper, temper.”
It was a sound of pure frustration, and hearing it made Spike back off—just a little. “I’ve got better things to do than killin’ people,” he said, adding silently, “Especially when there’s a Slayer following me everywhere.”
“Do you have a soul or something?” Anne asked, her voice uncertain.
Spike’s eyes widened. “What? No! What the hell gave you that idea?”
“I knew…” Anne trailed off. “Never mind. Look, just leave me alone, okay? I’m—there are things I’m trying to forget, and you’re not helping.”
“Who said I wanted to help you?”
“Just—leave me alone.”
As she walked away, Spike suddenly had a sinking feeling. “What you’re tryin’ to forget? Wouldn’t be somebody named Angelus, would it?”
She stopped, her back going stiff and straight. “What?”
“It was him, wasn’t it? The bastard got to you.”
Angelus had been his mentor, but the older vampire had also made it clear that he had and always would come first in Drusilla’s affections. Besides, Angelus was the only vampire he knew of with a soul, and the fact that she’d asked if he had one told Spike that she’d known of Angelus.
And something in her eyes told Spike it was more than just knowing about him.
“What do you know about Angelus?”
Something told Spike that it was probably not in his best interests to reveal all. “I know he was a right bastard without his soul, an’ not much better with it.”
She whirled to face him. “You don’t know what you’re talking about! Angel was—”
When she stopped, Spike took a step towards her. “Is that what he’s callin’ himself now?”
“It’s what he was calling himself,” she said in a low voice.
There was sorrow in her eyes and voice, and Spike felt a pang himself. He’d heard through the grapevine that Darla was no more, and now this confirmation of Angelus’ passing told him that he was the last of the Scourge.
“Who killed him?” he asked.
“I did.” The girl’s chin tilted up defiantly. “It was the only way to save the world.”
“He was going to send the whole world to hell.”
“An’ he would have killed you if he had a chance.”
Anne’s eyes dropped to the ground, then she looked up. “Yeah, he would have.” Her eyes bored into his. “How did you know him?”
“We were family—of a sort.” He dared her to attack him with his eyes. “He made my sire.”
“What happened—” Anne stopped. “Never mind.”
“She got sick and died,” Spike replied, answering the question she’d stopped herself from asking.
“How long ago?”
He thought that there might be sympathy in her gaze. “’bout six months.”
Spike thought she meant it. “What about you? How long ago?”
There was a moment when their eyes met, and Spike thought that a connection was made, and he wondered at it. “Not long enough to ease the grief, yeah?”
“No, it’s not.” She sighed. “Look, I’m not really a Slayer anymore. If you don’t—”
“I’m not interested in killin’ anybody,” Spike said. He hadn’t realized how true that was until the words left his mouth. He had no desire to spill more blood, not when he knew that killing someone would end up with the Slayer staking him.
Since he didn’t want to kill her, that wasn’t something he wanted to risk.
“Don’t much fancy a fight to the death, pet.”
“And again I say, why not?”
“Because I don’t want to have to kill you.”
“What makes you think it wouldn’t be the other way around?”
“Not to brag, luv, but—” He smirked. “Hell, what am I saying? I love to brag. You wouldn’t be able to kill me. I’ve come out on top my fair share of times.”
Anne crossed her arms across her chest, which just emphasized her breasts, in his personal opinion. “And I haven’t?”
“Don’t know what you’ve done. It’s not like you’ve sent in a CV.”
“Think you call it a résumé.”
“I killed Angelus, I think that qualifies.”
“Yeah, s’pose it does.”
They were in a stand-off now, and Spike wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but he knew that she wasn’t going to make the first move. Her scars might be older, but he sensed that they were hardly healed. “Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” he finally asked.
“Yeah. I think I’d like that.”
Spike smiled, thinking that it was strange, but hunting a Slayer was no longer his first priority.
Buffy picked up the phone absently. “Yeah?”
“I have someone I want you to meet.”
She recognized her sister’s voice immediately. “I’m not interested, Dawn.”
“Come on, Buffy. It’s time to get back on the horse.”
“I’m not ready.”
“And I’m really not interested.” Buffy made sure her voice was as firm as she could make it. “I’m serious, Dawn.”
“Come on, Buffy. You know you’re going to have to get back out there sometime.”
“Maybe, but I think I’m the only one qualified to make that decision,” Buffy shot back. “I’m serious. I’ll get back in there when I’m ready.”
Her sister sighed. “Fine.”
“When are you going to be home?”
“Late,” Dawn replied. “I’ve got a date with Daniel tonight. It was his brother I wanted you to meet.”
“Thanks for the thought, but I’ve got some stuff to do for Giles.” Buffy was lying through her teeth, but she was hoping that Dawn wouldn’t call her on it.
Thankfully, Dawn seemed to be willing to take her words at face value. “Okay, well, have fun.”
Buffy hung up the phone, wondering when her sister had developed a richer social life than she had—not that she was sorry to see it. Dawn finally seemed to be settling in, and to be happy with her life. It was something she was grateful for.
If Spike were here, if he could see them, what would he think? Buffy wondered. Would he insist that she get back out there, would he be angry or impatient with her grief? Buffy thought that perhaps he would understand, maybe better than anyone.
Spike understood grief.
“Even if I’d never gone to Sunnydale…” Spike said quietly, staring at Casamir through the smoke. “Buffy—”
“I think she preferred Anne in that incarnation.”
“It was her middle name,” Spike said softly.
“You love her.”
“Always.” Spike stared into the dying coals as though they would explain it all. “Love isn’t always enough.”
“Perhaps not,” Casamir agreed. “But it is more than many have.”
He swallowed hard. “I suppose that’s true enough.” There was a long pause, and Spike looked up into Casamir’s dark eyes. “So, when do I get my next question answered?”
“I thought you only had one you wanted to ask.”
“I changed my mind,” Spike admitted.
Casamir scattered a few more wood shavings and blew on the dying coals. Spike watched as the flames flared, and Casamir nodded. “Now.”
Spike threw the next slip of paper on the fire.
“What if I had never gone after my soul?”
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/248675.html