Fic: The Mired Path (3/3 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 3

She’d walked many times; she’d strolled and skipped and plodded. She had even walked alongside Spike before. They’d held hands, planned campaigns, eyed each other suspiciously, all while walking like experts. Now she found putting one foot in frontof another required a level of concentrated effort that had started to hurt her brain.

The restaurants and bars of the entertainment district were behind them and they had entered darker streets lined with bungalows and family homes. Buffy checked her watch; 02:40, too late to message Dawn or Xander.

Spike nodded to the watch on her wrist, “Too early for a scoobie visit?”

“Once they see you, time will be meaningless,” she grinned up at him and immediately tripped over her feet. His hand shot out, grabbed her and stopped her falling on her face. His arm snaked around her and she pressed herself against him, his body as solid and cool as she remembered. She lifted her head, her lips brushed against the softness his throat and she wanted so badly for him to lean down and kiss her, open mouthed and wet with longing. Suddenly his grip on her arms tightened and pushed her away.

“I need your help to find Angel,” his voice was low and dangerous, “then I’ll be on my way.”

“I get it,” she said with feigned indifference, “but you put your arm around me.” She slapped his hands away and marched ahead of him hoping he didn’t realise her insides were squirming with humiliation.

They didn’t speak again until they reached the house. Buffy walked up the front steps but Spike remained on the pavement. She looked back and saw how anxious he was, shoulders hunched, hands in pockets, not certain of the reception he’d get. She was reminded of her return from LA, when she’d stood in front of her own house, not knowing if her mom would ever forgive her but knocking on the door anyway. It was a wretched feeling and she desperately wanted to reassure Spike that he was welcome here.

“Joycie’s so big, you wouldn’t recognise her,” she said, reminding him there was nothing here to be afraid of, “and Xander’s got a beer belly.”

“Always knew he’d run to seed.” They shared a smile and he relaxed a little. “And Nibblet?” he asked quietly.

“Fat.” Buffy blew out her cheeks and waddled down the steps. “Huge. Like an adorable beached whale.”

She waited as Spike appeared to consider his options. He massaged the back of his neck, rolled his eyes and stared at the heavens. Finally, he straightened his shoulders and purposefully marched up the porch steps.

“C’mon Slayer, what you waiting for?” he grinned as he passed her. Buffy looked towards the heavens but she couldn’t see any sacred signs, just thousands of stars glinting down on them. She joined him at the door and using her key she let them into the house. Spike stood a moment at the doorway then slowly lifted his foot across the threshold. He looked to Buffy in wonder and her heart ached for him. They hadn’t rescinded his invitation and he was able to enter their house anytime he pleased.

They walked quietly to the kitchen, Spike opened the fridge and helped himself to a beer. Buffy shook her head and sighed as he raised the bottle in cheers before gulping down the contents. She knew it was much needed fermented courage so said nothing. Leaving him to drink his fill, she climbed the stairs and went to wake Xander and Dawn.

“Hell of a time to come calling,” Xander said in greeting, as the two men shook hands. Spike offered Xander one of his own beers and Xander jovially accepted.

Dawn was far more effusive, and threw her arms around Spike, burying her tearful face in his chest. Spike wrapped his arms around her, closed his eyes and rested his cheek against the top of her head. Buffy turned away, the look of serenity on his face almost unbearable. She felt a stab of jealousy that it was Dawn and not she, who had let him know he was still loved.

Dawn gushed about all the changes her clever fiancé had made to the house since Spike had last visited and Xander glowed. She chattered about how Joycie had grown, how Giles commanded the new Council, Faith’s romance with a television actor who’d been in that godawful miniseries, oh you know the one, about the house fire… they talked about their upcoming wedding and the new baby, Xander’s promotion and how they hoped to move soon…

Buffy helped herself to a beer and stood watching them from the doorway. Dawn kept talking but didn’t ask Spike where he’d been or why he’d returned, while he said very little, seemingly overwhelmed by Dawns constant chatter. Buffy was thinking how crazy the situation was when suddenly Spike looked straight at her, making her start. His eyes were wide and pleading. She playfully raised her hand and studied her fingernails for a moment and when she looked back his eyes flashed vampire yellow. She rolled her eyes in reply but couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this happy.

“Dawnie, I’m sorry,” she stepped into the room and halted her sister’s ramblings. “We need your help. Those papers that Angel left, do you still have them?” Spike, eyes human again, smiled thankfully at her.

“Sure, they’re in my office, I’ll get them.” Xander disappeared upstairs and quickly returned with an ornate wooden box which he handed to Buffy. The four of them moved automatically to the dining table, programmed by years of scoobie meetings. Buffy opened the box and one by one removed the items; a few letters, an old video tape, photographs, a passport in the name of Liam O’Connor, a notebook, a small ornate dagger, and a baby’s hospital bracelet bearing the name Connor Angel.

As she took each item from the box, she passed it to Spike. He flicked through the passport, “Must have come from Wolfram and Hart, it’s real enough.” He opened each letter carefully, read them silently and replaced them in the envelopes. There was a love letter from Darla, written as if by a Victorian lady, a thank you from Winifred Burkle in which she calls Angel a handsome man who saved her from the monsters. The third letter, little more than a note was from Cordelia Chase, telling Angel that she thought he was a great father and was very proud of him. This note made Buffy especially sad, Cordelia had been her friend and had died far too young.

The dagger and the hospital bracelet gave nothing away. The notebook had a few drawings, some of which were quite detailed, especially one of Dawn holding baby Joycie. When they’d first seen the contents of the box, just after Angel had vanished, Dawn had seen the drawing and said she’d frame it. Seeing it again, she tore it carefully from the notebook and passed it to Xander, who would make a suitable frame.

There were scribbles in the notebook, dates and words, but nothing that meant anything to Spike. Until he saw the letters ‘e v e’ written in Angel’s scrawl at the bottom of an otherwise empty page.

“Do any of you know an Eve?” he asked. The others shook their heads. Spike turned the rest of the pages, but there was nothing more of interest. “There was an Eve bird at Wolfram and Hart,” he said slowly, “She was immortal, until she wasn’t.”

“What happened to her?” asked Buffy taking the notebook from him and running her fingers over the letters ‘e v e’. Where once they’d meant nothing, now she was sure they spelt a name.

“Well that’s just it, I don’t know Slayer. But I do know the wolf, the ram and hart don’t like to let a good lawyer go, so if that scrawl is Eve’s name, I’m guessing she’s still toiling away in one of their offices.”

“So how do we contact this Eve?” Buffy felt suddenly exhilarated. This was the first time they’d discovered even the smallest clue to Angel’s whereabouts.

“Don’t you have some super powered witch on your payroll, or has she vanished too?” Spike glanced down at Buffy’s hand, laying on his arm. She’d touched him without thinking, but she quickly removed her hand once she saw what she’d done. Things between them were already precarious and she didn’t want to push him further away.

Willow was particularly grumpy at being rung at 5am, but said she’d join them in an hour. It was suggested that she could teleport herself there to save time, at which point she put the phone down on them. Dawn and Xander took the opportunity to get showered and dressed and Buffy went to the kitchen to prepare some breakfast.

Buffy felt more positive than she had in a long time.  She’s been foolish last night in the alley, trying to force a lover’s reconciliation, when she just needed to remind Spike that he was a scoobie, and scoobies stuck together.

“No more beer for you,” she sing-songed putting the empty beer bottles in the recycling. Spike pulled a face, but sat at the kitchen table, flicking through one of Joycie’s story books. “Sorry, no blood,” Buffy apologised, “I’ll go to the butchers when they’re open. Or maybe Will can magic some up.”  She turned her focus to making breakfast, breaking six eggs into a bowl, she began to whisk.

“So how do you know Connor?” she asked conversationally, opening cupboards until she found a frying pan.

“We work together,” Spike replied, giving little away.

“Yeah?” she put the pan on the stove to warm. “Isn’t he a social worker or something? Willow’s met him. But you know that I guess?” She found the butter in the fridge and sliced a large nob into the frying pan where it sizzled. She turned down the heat.

“It wasn’t enough for him, he wanted to do more. Help more. He’s strong, vampire strong, maybe even slayer strong,” He sounded proud, he admired the boy. “He can brood like Angel though, he’s gotta watch that.”

“You’re training him?” Buffy asked, pouring the eggs into the pan. Spike had been a good teacher and the potentials had learnt a lot from him.

He was suddenly beside her, slicing bread for the toaster. Her body tensed as she watched his hands work, those long delicate fingers, how they used to touch and stroke her, how she’d sucked on those fingers, covered in her own juices … She squeezed her thighs together and blushed, embarrassed that just the sight of a domesticated Spike could turn her on.  She quickly turned back to the eggs, sprinkled some salt and pepper into the pan and hoped he’d think it was the heat from the stove making her face red.

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