Three days earlier…
Buffy stared out the window of the posh hotel suite at the soft rainfall, absorbing the grey fall of the moonlight on the graceful stone structures of the elegant street. Nice what a credit card financed by the Watcher’s Council’s apparently limitless bank accounts could get a girl. Bastards.
She should enjoy the high thread count sheets and fluffy towels while she could though. Tomorrow she and Andrew would be headed back north to the drafty castle that had become Slayer Central.
At least they’d been successful this time. Chalk one more up for Slayers United. Even after a year and a half, they still hadn’t found all the girls, though the reports of new potential slayers had slowed in the last few months. This one had been fourteen, quiet and reserved, probably hid the new strength and power from everyone after it happened. She’d been reluctant, but Andrew had once again proven surprisingly persuasive at convincing teenage Slayers to join up with the rank and file of the new and improved Watcher’s Council.
Buffy had to give it to him; it was one of his strengths. She’d finally decided, after an excruciatingly long stakeout with him and a group of five of the younger slayers, it was probably because Andrew shared the thought patterns of a fourteen-year-old girl.
And apparently something about leaving her teens, possibly coupled with assorted apocalypses, deaths, personal and otherwise, and the otherwise general mayhem that was her life had completely robbed her of the ability to speak teenage girl. Her hand twisted a little more tightly in the curtain. Sometimes it felt like she was just the poster child for Slayers these days – all symbol, no substance.
“Buffy, look, there’s satellite!”
She glanced back over her shoulder at Andrew, who was practically vibrating off the couch.
“Oh! It’s a Star Wars marathon! Don’t you love it when Hans-”
She turned and cut him off, “Uh, Andrew, you know what, I think I’m going to go out for a walk, get some fresh air to help me sleep.”
His face fell. “But I thought we could celebrate things going so well today. Maybe watch the show, order some room service?” Andrew held up a menu. “They have ice cream sundaes!”
Buffy edged towards her room, trying to ignore the puppy dog eyes. Even after more than a year, there was still something about Andrew that set her nerves on edge.
“Thanks, Andy, but I’ve been having some trouble sleeping lately. I think I need the walk.”
He was instantly alert, his eyes wide. “Slayer dreams? Buffy, do you want to talk about them? I am officially trained now, you know.”
“I know, Andrew. But no, not Slayer dreams. Just . . . dreams. I won’t be gone long, just around the block.” She had already crossed the room and grabbed her coat and umbrella off the door. “You go ahead and order something. I’m sure Giles won’t mind. You did really well with Arianna and her parents today.”
He brightened and nodded, already distracted by the screen where light sabers were flashing and clashing in a swirl of colors.
She didn’t really mind the rain. There was something soothing about the soft shush of the showers, and the way it cleared the streets as people scurried under their umbrellas to their destinations, leaving her alone.
She walked slowly, tipping her face up now and then to catch a drop or two. This recruiting trip was supposed to be a chance to get her head clear, get refocused. Things were good. Way better than they’d been in Sunnydale. No more worries about money. No more stupid jobs. No more being the one and only girl bearing the burden of saving the whole world.
What more could she ask for?
Not being the role model for hundreds of Slayers and target de jour for the demon world, maybe, for starters. What good was losing the role of Chosen One when you still had to be… well, The Original Chosen One?
She stopped and stared through the bars of a wrought iron fence surrounding a small park. It was pretty damn lonely up there on display, too. Working with Giles and Willow and Xander should have been great. Kind of a revival of the original Scoobs, new and improved with bigger budgets and more firepower. But all work and no play Buffy… not with the big fun.
She let out a sigh and started to resume her walk when the rain suddenly gained intensity. She ducked through the gate of the park and headed towards the shelter of a large tree in the far corner.
Sometimes she didn’t even know if she knew how to play anymore – how to just be happy. The way she’d used to take for granted that she could fit in homework and slaying and Bronzing and mooning at the window with Angel, that things like a new leather jacket or a good hair day could make her bouncy, regardless of if the end of the world was looming. She could barely even remember being that girl through the filter of the last few years.
Buffy found a bench shaded beneath the low hanging tree that deflected much of the rain and sat, her hand automatically going to her pocket to pat the stake tucked there. Life had been of the major sucktitude for the last few years there in Sunnydale, but shouldn’t she have moved on by now? Found some peace? Be grateful for this new life, where she didn’t have to go it alone anymore?
She was starting to think she never would. It might have been cellular sunburn, but a part of her, the carefree, mall-loving, shoe-hogging, blonde valley girl part of her who knew how to have fun, to love, to just be, hadn’t made it back in her resurrection. Essence of Buffy wasn’t quite the same after that. Very little had distracted her from the twin specters of the repo guy and mortgage man those last few years in Sunnydale, followed up by an extra helping of the First Evil.
She wondered occasionally if Willow had done another charm, though she swore she didn’t do that sort of thing without consent anymore, because her dreams were the one place that carefree Buffy came back more and more. She’d dream of her Mom laughing as she tried to teach her how to make a cake, and Angel when they were still in the hugs and puppies stage, all soulful eyes and sweet kisses and innocence.
And sometimes . . . sometimes she’d dream of Spike. Those were the ones that seemed most vivid somehow, even though they weren’t the x-rated sex romps she’d have thought her subconscious would call up for him.
No, they were stupid little things. The time he’d taken her to play kitten poker and they’d gotten falling down drunk, toasting each other in the candlelight of his crypt. His eyes had burned brighter than the candles that night, a softness in them she hadn’t wanted to acknowledge, but that the alcohol had let her appreciate.
Or when she’d fallen fighting the blah-blah demon, tripping over a root as she’d made the final swing of the axe. She’d wrenched her neck, and he’d taken her back, set her in the center of that incongruous large bed he’d dug up from somewhere and held ice against her neck, his fingers working out the tension until she’d fallen asleep there for the first time, lulled into peace.
And the night he’d found her in that deserted house when she was at her lowest, held her in his arms, gave her the courage to fight the good fight one more time.
The one that always jarred her from sleep though, was of those last moments, memories of his calmness as the flames had begun to lick at him, the fire that had warmed but not burned her hand as she’d finally managed to say the words and mean them.
Sometimes the dream ended differently. She’d pull the amulet off and it would keep working as they both raced away from the caving crater of the Hellmouth. Somehow the sun never burned him in those dreams as they made it together to the fleeing bus, and the sensation that he was there with her, lying next to her in the bed, waiting for her to wake up, would be so strong she’d reach out for him. But there was only a stack of pillows.
The clang of the iron gate jarred her to alertness beneath the tree where she sat, still and deep in thought. The small park was secluded, and the few passersby she’d noticed had hurried on, eager to get out of the rain. A couple entered as she watched from beneath the leaves, their arms wrapped around each other in a way that made her feel hollow inside. She could hear the woman’s laugh, high and girlish, and the man’s lower murmur.
Then they’d passed beneath the one lamp that provided scant illumination and she sat up straighter. Fashion victim at eleven o’clock. Always such a dead giveaway.
The couple ducked under a tree on the opposite side of the path, and Buffy could hear the unsuspecting girl’s laugh turn to a shriek as her date got bumpy and made with the necking. Said unsuspecting vamp never noticed her right behind until she tossed him back, pulling his now thoroughly frightened date from his grip.
She shoved the girl back towards the street with a quick command to run, as she circled the vamp, stake at the ready, suddenly more alive than she’d felt in weeks. Maybe this was what she’d been missing. Slayer, solo, vs. vamp. Mano e mano.
She twirled and whirled, thrust and parried, moderately surprised at the vamp’s level of skill, but sure enough that she could take him to play with him a bit, stretch it out and enjoy the fight.
That is until he called her name.
“You’re the original, aren’t you? Buffy, is it?” he asked, almost conversationally as he leapt to void the sweep of her leg. She paused for a fraction of a second, surprised and maybe a teensy bit flattered. There were so many of them now… well, it didn’t hurt the ego.
“Guess I still have a rep,” she replied, weaving to find an opening.
“Oh yeah, that you do, love. Buffy the Vampire Layer.” He smirked. “What vamp doesn’t want a slayer who’ll shag’m, not stake’m?’
There was a haze of red that descended and she unleashed a flurry of fists, the goal of dusting forgotten in the desire to block out the twisty face leering at her.
She pinned him in a corner within minutes, stake at the ready for the final blow, when his words stopped her again.
“Wait, I have information you’ll want, if you’ll let me go, Slayer.”
She rolled her eyes. Even the newest Slayers had heard that one before. She reached for her stake, ready to sink it in as he scrabbled harder against the wall, his beady yellow eyes flooded with fear, and raised an eyebrow without loosening her grip.
“So talk already.”
“Okay, okay,” he wheezed against her chokehold. “The Master’s line rising again, going to take back Los Angeles.”
“Drusilla and Spike.”
Her fingers tightened around his neck, pinning him more firmly as she pressed the stake into the soft flesh over his heart. “Everyone knows Spike’s dead. Tell me another one.”
The vamp struggled harder. “No, it’s true.” She eased back a fraction as he babbled on. “Maybe she brought him back, I don’t know, but they say it’s really him, William the Bloody.” Even with a Slayer’s stake pressed to his chest, she could hear the worshipful tone. “They, they say the city’s wide open now, after last year, that Wolfram and Hart debacle, word’s out that their recruiting, building an army. Gonna be the Master of LA, I reckon. I could-”
He lunged then, trying to twist away and the stake had slid home by reflex, leaving her with a pile of dust and unanswered questions. She tried to draw a breath, but her lungs weren’t cooperating, and her whole body seemed frozen.
Spike was back.
How was it possible? She’d seen it, seen the fire begin to consume him, seen his face, set in sacrifice and something else, almost a sanctification as he channeled the light and crashed the gates of hell.
She staggered to her feet and towards the gate, mind racing. It had to be Drusilla. Crazy bitch must have resurrected him the way they had Darla, though Angel had glossed over that story quite a bit in their brief reunion after her own round trip for deadsville. How else could he have returned?
She walked blindly back towards her hotel. Would he be the same? Could he be human? Or would he still have the soul? Would he remember… everything?
Either way, she couldn’t rest until she’d found him.
Andrew chattered for most of the train ride north the next day, and she managed a polite nod here and there, but she stayed lost inside her head for the entire trip.
Spike wasn’t dead.
Or wasn’t dead dead.
Spike was undead. Again.
Spike was killing. Again.
Spike was with Drusilla. Again.
She felt a little queasy as those thoughts rolled over and over, clacking like the wheels on the train. He’d been done. He’d sacrificed himself, died for them. Maybe for her. She didn’t like to think about that much, about the whys and whatfors of she and Spike and the twisty messy thing they’d had or hadn’t had that kind of was bigger than any other thing she ever not had.
Her head hurt.
He wouldn’t have wanted this. Not her Spike. The one who’d won back a soul, fought the good fight, tried to save her sister, kept her from losing her mind.
It had to be her fault. Drusilla. She should have killed that nutjob in Sunnydale when she had the chance.
If Drusilla brought him back, revamped him, maybe he was back to square one. Maybe he didn’t remember everything from before. Would it be the same demon? A different one? He’d have lost the soul again, probably. That seemed to be how it worked. She rubbed her temple. She should have paid more attention in that lesson on new vamps Giles gave a couple of months ago for the new recruits.
Giles. What would he say about this? After all that Spike did, surely he’d be willing to give her a chance to find him first, try to find out what happened. She could do what was necessary, if she had to.
She sighed. In the last few months she’d seen Giles less and less. He’d been out and about, almost a different person from the retiring librarian who’d been her Watcher in Sunnydale – making the rounds to the right people who were in the know about the Watcher’s Council, reestablishing their new role. She’d gone to a few dinners with him in her role as Slayer spokesgirl, watched him at work.
He was different now. Focused. Colder. She got it, but she missed him. Missed them all. Nothing was quite the same now, with the organizing, and mission statements, and fancy gadgets, and the paperwork she was supposed to fill out when she infrequently led a mission. It was a job, right down to the paycheck she got each month.
She’d hated the Watcher’s Council when she was the only chosen one, and she wasn’t sure she liked them any better now that she was them.
She stared out the window, watched the countryside flying by as Andrew prattled on, occasionally showing her a page from his X-men comic, and realized what she had to do.
Spike wasn’t some random baddie that they could sit around a conference table and strategize about, a target to send a team of well-trained recruits after. If he was back, if what that vamp had said was true, she would take care of it. Herself.
She sat in the airport terminal, a ticket clutched in her hand, hoping she could pull this off. Willow had insisted on teaching a few simple spells to all the slayers, including a basic glamour, and while she generally sucked at anything magical and left it to the experts to do before she traveled, she’d been willing to give this one a try. She glanced at the passport she’d borrowed without asking from the housekeeper’s daughter. Clara was away at school and would never miss it.
She felt wrong in this subterfuge. Maybe she should have talked to Giles or Willow or someone about where she was going. But something had stopped her. Spike was hers. It was that simple. And if this vamp in L.A. was him, if he was the ruthless killer he’d once been, she owed it to him, to who he’d been, to stop him herself, not leave it to some team of new Slayers who wouldn’t understand what they was dealing with. And if he was an imposter? She’d be happy to put him down too.
And she knew they wouldn’t have let her go. No one ever talked about Spike around her, or what had happened there at the end, but she could see the disapproval on their faces now if anyone ever skirted the topic. Better they know nothing about this.
It had helped that the original Scoobs had all been out and about when she and Andrew had returned to the castle. Lying to Andrew had been easy enough – he ate up her tale of going on a vision quest in the Highlands that would require total solitude.
She knew the dangers of traveling alone – being the original Slayer in a Watcher’s Council that was starting to really make inroads in the demon population made her a bigger target these days – a prestige kill. So she’d taken the proper precautions – until she got to Los Angeles, Buffy Summers didn’t exist.
The voice echoed in the Heathrow terminal announcing that boarding had begun for the flight to Phoenix, Arizona, and she stood and made her way towards the flight attendant, handing over her ticket.
“Have a good flight, Ms. Drennan.”
“Thank you.” Buffy squared her shoulders and walked down to her seat, ready for what was to come.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/380616.html