Fic: The Mired Path (2/3 today)

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Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Rating: PG
Warning: Spike/Other
Word Count: 1900
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it’s because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can’t stop re-writing.

Chapter 2

She thought him radiant as he stood in the shimmer of a nearby streetlight. It was such a perfect placement for his body, she couldn’t turn her eyes away, not caring that he would think her parched for the sight of him.

He no longer wore his duster, but a short black jacket that emphasised the broadness of his shoulders and narrowness of hip. Her eyes were drawn to the softness of his mouth. His lips slightly parted as he lit a cigarette and took a drag. He glanced towards her, a sweep of billowing smoke drifting between them.

He greeted her with a nod, “You out alone tonight?” He looked beyond her into the shadows, as though expecting someone else to emerge from the darkness.

“Lone wolfing it,” she confirmed, feeling more rabbit than wolf. His closeness made her skin prickle with anticipation.

“No Angel?” he asked as he took another glance at her, threw down his half-smoked cigarette and extinguished it with the toe of his heavy black boot. “He’s not here to help with the nasties?”

Unsettled by his question she hesitated to answer. Did Spike believe that Angel was still part of her life and they spent their evenings patrolling together?

“Where is the wanker then?” he asked with familiar attitude. Met by silence, eyes narrowed, he repeated, “Buffy, where is Angel?”

She realised with a sinking heart, that Spike hadn’t been looking for her at all. She was just an obstacle in his way, holding hostage the information he needed to find Angel. Not wanting to appear as hurt as she felt, she dug her hands into her pockets and said accusingly “If you’d been here, you’d know where he was.” She felt even more disheartened when Spike moved further into the shadows, as though deliberately keeping his distance from her.

“Christ Slayer, you don’t make it easy.” He lit another cigarette. The flare of the lighter illuminated the scar above his eye, the curl of his lashes and the curve of his mouth. The undead shouldn’t be so pretty she thought, nor should they expect a Slayer to make their un-life easy.

Taking a long drag, he tilted his head the way he invariably did when focusing solely on her. Feeling strangely weak under his serious gaze, she reminded herself that she was not the swooning kind, no matter how vulnerable she felt. His eyes never left her face and she hoped he was contemplating his words carefully.

“We broke up Buffy,” he said, as if that justified anything. “What was I meant to do?”

You were meant to keep loving me Buffy wanted to shout, though she knew how selfish she’d have sounded. At first, he’d stayed by her side and helped her as he always had.  She’d presumed he’d stay forever, never imagined he’d ever leave. But they had begun to argue… She tried to remember actual conversations, but the past had become so jumbled with Dawn and Joy, Willow and the Centre and Giles making his plans and then Angel was at the door and they had to rush off and save the future… They had saved the future, for everyone except themselves.

“But still I couldn’t leave, not at first,” he said, pulling her from her reverie. “I still loved you of course. You’re not a habit easily broken Pet.” The shock of hearing that endearment after so long must have shown on her face, because he continued more gently. “It wasn’t just that. I could have lived with that, you know?”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak, knowing he could love without expecting reciprocation. He hadn’t believed her the first time she told him she loved him but the second time… they had been up on the rooftop, celebrating a victory with the rest of the scoobies… it had been so easy and natural, no fanfare or fireworks, none of the trombones he’d once predicted… just acceptance of what they both already knew, that they loved each other…

“But things changed and I couldn’t keep up,” he was saying. “Changed in ways I couldn’t get my head around. I always was a bit slow ‘eh?” Suddenly, as if to prove the opposite, he was on his toes like a boxer, circling her, making her turn and twist to keep sight of him. They hadn’t fought each other in many years, but she steeled herself, ready to block if he struck. She had grown to enjoy this unpredictable side of his nature, but in the dark of this alley after so long apart she started to feel hemmed in and claustrophobic. No longer cool and detached, he had become the wounded lover, too close for comfort and taking pleasure in hurting her.

“You joined the old bill, Buffy. Became one of the boys in blue,” he said scathingly. “Wearing a uniform and carrying a gun. You hated guns. And uniforms, you hated that Doublemeat uniform. Riding around in a cop car and eating doughnuts, how could I fit into that world…?”

“I like doughnuts,” she interrupted, desperate to throw him from that high horse he had galloped away on.

“And then there was Angel,” he said, deliberately ignoring her. “Brooding away in the bloody basement, like dry rot.”

“You were jealous!” she bit back, stopping him in his tracks.

“I was not,” he snarled, hands curled into fists.

They were both still now. So close, her fingertips buzzed with the thought of touching him. She wanted him to touch her, not caring if it were a blow or a caress.  They stared at each other in the half-light and the air crackled between them.

“I missed you.” she said, exasperated by his attitude and hoping he’d hear in her voice how deeply she’d felt his loss.

“Missed you first,” his bitter reply.

He took out his cigarettes and made to light another, changed his mind and stuffed the packet back into his pocket. “You left me, long before I left.”

He fell silent then, his face drawn, his shoulders sagged. By contrast Buffy felt energised, flooded with emotions, her body buzzing. He would drive her crazy with this arrogance and self-pity, but he had been her best friend and she’d missed him more than she could say. She cared deeply for him, but he was also the only person who could make her want to commit extreme violence upon their person.

She struggled for control, turned away and walked further into the alley, sure his eyes were on her at every step. She balled her hands into fists, then stretched out her fingers, desperate to release some tension. She wanted to punish him, hit out but also pull him close. She wanted to hug him and welcome him home, wanted to cry but didn’t want to break in front of him. Perhaps she could understand why he’d walked out on her, but how could he leave Dawn? He’d promised…

“So, where the hell is Angel?’ Spike asked again.

“Why do you need to know?” she snapped, vainly trying to order her thoughts. She immediately regretted her irritation but he shook his head as if he despaired for them both and she felt a moment of scorching anger. “Remember you used to love me,” she pleaded silently. She couldn’t fathom where this enmity between them had come from. Three years apart had done nothing to soften his feelings towards her, if anything, he’d become more resentful.

She took a deep calming breath and thought of Dawn and how happy she had been to find out Spike was alive. Buffy knew she should be happy too, but his angry words had been so painful to hear.  She supposed that at least he’d been honest, so she needed to become the rational Slayer and return that honesty.

“He found a way to rescue Illyria.” Spike started; his eyes wide with surprise. “He said he’d contacted someone who could help him. They had the co-ordinates and could open a portal.”

They both knew Willow had tried to find Illyria, but it had been an impossible task, even for someone with her power. There were so many hell dimensions and without exact co-ordinates it was like trying to find one hell in a haystack of hellishness.

“Why didn’t you stop him Slayer?” He sounded frustrated with her, as if she hadn’t fought hard enough to make Angel stay.

“Why didn’t I stop him?” she replied sarcastically, hurt and astonished at the absurdity of the question, “and how was I to do that Spike? Tie him up? Stake him? Lock him in my non-existent dungeon?”

He turned on her and barked “While he’s had an attack of Catholic guilt, his son needs him here.”

“Connor?” she asked, confused by the swerve the conversation had taken.

“Yeah, that’s the one.” Seeing her at a disadvantage seemed to renew his energy. “He’s been hurt. Thought Angel’d want to know. Maybe see him before it’s too late.”

Buffy’s mind was spinning but she was grateful for the distraction, happy to admit she didn’t want to devote another second to discussing her many failures as a girlfriend.  She forced herself to focus; Connor was hurt, badly by the sounds of it and they needed to find Angel.

“Trust Angel to get all dramatic and forget about those he leaves behind,” Spike grumbled. 

“We have his papers,” she said thinking aloud, drowning out Spike’s continued list of Angel-based grievances. “Or Dawn does, at the house. You could see them. You might notice something we missed, a clue maybe.”

“A clue ‘eh? How very Pepper Anderson of you,” he smirked. “All that police training certainly paid off.”

“Shut up Spike,” she bit back. “Do you want my help or not?”

He pursed his lips as if debating the best course of action. She crossed her arms and wondered idly who this Pepper Anderson was. After just enough time had passed to annoy her, he said “Alright Slayer, lead on.” They walked out of the alley into the street and turned left towards Xander and Dawn’s house.

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