Here’s my entry. It didn’t turn out quite like I’d planned, but I think it’s fairly decent. Hope you all enjoy. The rest of the parts will be up shortly.
If you like, you can go here or here to see the lovely graphics that itmustbetuesday made for this fic. She was also kind enough to beta this story for me and reassure me that it didn’t suck. So thank you, sweetie!
Thousand Mile Wish
Archive: If you wish, just let me know.
Summary: Set after Grave in a First Evil-less world. Written for the livejournal community seasonal_spuffy, this is one part fairy tale, one part ghost story, and one part me being an incorrigible optimist.
A/N: The title is taken from the Finger Eleven song of the same name.
“Forgive me if now I wear the face of worry. This time alone would never cause any doubt, but I’ve been cold too long. Such a strange time to find myself coming down as the rain, with all these holes, my love, to fill up from the middle. This storm could stay all night now. So can you stay until we close our eyes, ‘til your dreams hold mine. Just stay until we know we tried one more time…” ~Finger Eleven, “Thousand Mile Wish”
Part I: Return
She wasn’t quite sure what to think the first time she saw him again. It was partly the shock of it, partly that he seemed to coalesce out of thin air. The only reason she was certain he wasn’t a ghost was that his face was solid when she punched him.
Even then, Buffy wasn’t convinced that it was truly Spike. The Spike she’d known would have yelled at her, told her to watch the nose, and brushed himself off. Then, depending on the night, he might have either stalked off or talked her into going back to his crypt. It was what they did.
Of course, things were different now.
That didn’t matter so much. What mattered was that Spike didn’t do any of those things. He stayed on the ground where she’d laid him out, staring up at her as though he was waiting for something—or maybe like he was measuring her. Like he was comparing what she was now to his inner vision of what he thought she should be.
Buffy wondered if she measured up. She wasn’t sure she did.
They stood there, staring at each other. Buffy was waiting for him to say something sarcastic or angry or even apologetic—just something. She had no idea what Spike was waiting for. The silence was killing her. “What are you doing here?”
“Came to see you,” he admitted quietly. “Are you going to stake me?”
“What? No,” Buffy replied. “Get up, Spike.” When he didn’t move right away, she reached down and hauled him up by the front of his t-shirt. “What is wrong with you?”
“Nothing.” Spike hesitated. “Buffy, I’m sorry.”
Buffy looked at him for a long moment, and then she sighed and shook her head. “I know you are, Spike. Look, let’s just—forget it, okay? We can forget it happened.” Spike opened his mouth to argue, but she cut him off with a quick shake of her head. “It’s fine if I see you on patrol or something, but do me a favor and stay away from the others and the house. I think it’s better if you keep your distance.”
“Whatever you want, Slayer.”
And then he was gone.
Well, okay, maybe Spike didn’t quite disappear into thin air. There had been times when Angel had seemed almost ghostly in the way he was there and then not-there from one moment to the next. Spike could have just been using his speed to get away from her. After all, if he was worried about her staking him, it was possible that he wanted to get away before she changed her mind.
Still, Buffy could have sworn that she took her eyes off of him for only a split second, not long enough for even a vampire to get away.
She shook her head, dismissing the chill she got as a reaction to seeing Spike again. It was only natural that she be a little jumpy around him after what had transpired. Even if she was ready to forget—if not forgive—it had still happened. They were no good for each other; that night in her bathroom had proven it.
That’s all it was.
The others had differing reactions to Spike’s return, of course. Xander was prepared to start sharpening stakes, although he didn’t appear ready to actively hunt Spike down. Willow made her concerned face and asked Buffy if she wanted her to revoke Spike’s invitation to the house. Dawn was defiantly angry, saying that she wasn’t going to talk to him, and if Spike came near her she was going to hurt him.
Buffy dealt with each of them as she always did. She placated Xander by telling him that she’d warned Spike to stay away, while also reminding him that no one but her got to dust Spike. She notified Willow of approximately the same thing, and said to leave the invitation alone. Buffy told Dawn to stay away from Spike’s crypt, and then told her that she’d ordered Spike to keep his distance.
The Slayer wasn’t certain, but she thought she’d caught a look of dismay in her sister’s eyes.
That was yet another thing that Buffy didn’t want to think about. She knew Dawn and Spike had been close at one time, and she didn’t want to think about how that had been ruined. If she thought about it too hard, she got depressed, and she was trying to not be depressed these days.
Most of the time, she did a pretty good job of it.
At least Spike made it fairly easy to ignore his presence after that. Buffy could sense him on occasion while she patrolled, but she never saw him. Oddly enough, it made her feel safer. She had asked him to keep his distance, and Spike was acceding to her demand.
Plus, she knew he had her back. That was something she had missed while he was gone.
It was early October before he reappeared again—literally. It had been almost a month since Spike had first shown up, and Buffy wondered if she would have ever seen him again if she hadn’t tripped.
Looking back on it later, Buffy knew she wouldn’t have.
It was stupid, really. Spike had made fun of her penchant for wearing high heels while patrolling more than once. Typically, Buffy didn’t have any trouble with them, but her boot heel hit a divet in the grass and she went down. The vampire she had been struggling with immediately took advantage of her upset, straddling her waist and wrapping his hands around her neck.
Buffy liked to think she would have managed to get free on her own, but she wasn’t ungrateful for Spike’s help. Especially since it meant that the vampire was dust before it got a good grip on her.
He stood there looking down at her, a stake in his hand, for a long moment, and then he turned and walked away.
Buffy scrambled to her feet, still stunned by the abruptness of it all. “Spike, wait!” He didn’t even pause. “Spike!”
He stopped then, and she hurried to catch up with him, noticing as she did so that he was looking sort of—pale.
That was a really obvious description for a vampire, but this was different. Spike looked—less lively. It wasn’t quite like he hadn’t been feeding. Buffy remembered that he’d looked seriously ill when he came to her for help. He looked—
Buffy couldn’t think of an appropriate description. Spike was definitely not looking like himself, though. Pair that with his actually staying away from her and his lack of response last time she’d seen him, and Buffy knew that there was something seriously wrong.
She didn’t bother asking herself why she cared. That was part of the whole not-thinking-about-it thing she’d been trying lately.
“What’s wrong with you?”
The question came out a little harsher than she’d intended it, but Buffy didn’t bother trying to soften her stance. There was a part of her that wanted to, but it wasn’t the part in control. Not when Spike was around.
That one word was heavy in the air. Buffy suddenly felt as though she was drowning in emotion—feelings she’d ignored all summer because Spike hadn’t been there. He had been the one to make her feel last year, to make her angry, to make her—
No. Not that. Buffy hadn’t loved him. She didn’t do those kinds of things to the people she loved. Buffy wasn’t that kind of girl.
“Fine.” She turned away, suddenly tired of it all, wishing that Spike would just go away and never come back. If she never saw him again, she would never have to deal with the way he made her feel.
Buffy turned to tell him just that—that he needed to leave town and not come back—when she saw him disappear.
Into thin air.
“No! I’m telling you, Willow, he really did just—poof!”
Willow watched as Buffy made a gesture that she assumed was supposed to illustrate Spike’s disappearance. To her, it appeared more as though her friend had been drinking a little too much coffee recently. Not that she could blame her. Buffy’s hours at the Doublemeat Palace had sucked of late. “Buffy—”
The Slayer huffed, knowing from Willow’s tone of voice she was about to try placating her again. “Why won’t you believe me?”
“I do,” Willow assured her. They were in the Slayer’s bedroom. Buffy had pulled her inside as soon as she’d returned home from patrol. “I believe you thought you saw Spike disappearing, but—none of us have seen Spike, Buffy. Are you sure—maybe you’re seeing him because you want to.”
Buffy glared at her. “Spike isn’t dead.”
“I didn’t say he was,” Willow said, although she had been thinking it. “I just think that maybe it’s wishful thinking.”
Buffy shook her head stubbornly, rising from her seat on the bed to start pacing. “You know how Spike is, Wills. He always comes back.”
“He’s always come back in the past,” Willow corrected her gently. “What would he have come back for this time?”
It was something Buffy had asked herself, but she wasn’t willing to discuss it. “Will you just do some research for me?”
“Research what?” Willow asked. “We don’t know anything.”
“Into spirits or ghosts or anything else that would make it so he would just disappear like that,” Buffy said. “Please, Willow.”
“I’ll do it,” Willow promised, although she had no idea what she was supposed to look into since she didn’t have any actual information. She still owed Buffy, however. It would probably be years before she worked off her load of guilt from trying to end the world. “I can’t promise any results, though.”
“That’s fine.” Buffy sighed. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe Spike wasn’t there. But I felt him!” She plopped back down on the bed. “I hit him, and then I yanked him up by the shirt. You’re not supposed to be able to do that with a ghost.”
Willow frowned. “No, you’re not. Maybe something else?” Her wheels were already turning. Off-hand, she didn’t know of anything that was ghostly and tangible. She knew that there were demons that could teleport, but that didn’t include vampires. “I’ll check it out.”
“Thanks, Willow,” Buffy said.
There was an awkward silence. Where once Willow would have coaxed Buffy into telling her exactly how she felt about Spike, now she didn’t feel as though she had the right. She figured you lost your best friend privileges when you tried to destroy the world.
“Well, good night, Buffy.”
Willow got as far as the door before Buffy’s question stopped her. “Would you think I was a freak if I told you I didn’t hate Spike?”
Willow turned to look at her. “You’re not a freak.”
“What if I told you it was more complicated than that?”
“It’s always more complicated than that,” Willow replied. “That’s just life.”
Buffy sighed. “I didn’t want to like him, Willow.”
“I know.” She hesitated, and then offered. “When Tara and I—you know, started being more than friends, I wasn’t sure I wanted to like her either.”
“Are you glad you did?” Buffy asked, a wistful note in her voice.
“I wouldn’t trade the time we spent together for anything,” Willow said. “The only thing I regret is that I hurt her, and we spent all that time apart.” The Slayer visibly winced, but she didn’t say anything in reply. Willow left quietly after that, although with a lighter feeling inside. She felt as though she and Buffy were connecting for the first time in a long time.
Buffy went searching for him the next night. She checked all of his old haunts: Willy’s, the crypt, the gas station where she knew he liked to buy his cheap cigarettes—anywhere she could think of. When she inquired at each place, she got the same story, however.
No one had seen Spike for months.
Buffy finally sat down on a park bench. Her feet hurt from walking and her brain hurt from thinking. It just wasn’t fair. Last year, she hadn’t wanted Spike around, and yet it had been impossible to get rid of him. Now, she wanted to find him and he was nowhere to be seen.
Then Buffy felt the little tingle that told her he was somewhere nearby. “Spike! I know you’re there!” she called, feeling like an idiot talking to thin air. “Get your undead ass out here where I can see it!”
He didn’t appear right away, and Buffy slumped against the park bench, shrieking a little when she caught sight of him sitting right next to her. “Don’t do that!”
Instead of making some smart remark, Spike just watched her, his eyes holding a peculiar sort of weariness. “Sorry, Buffy.”
Buffy wanted to tell him not to do that either. Spike wasn’t supposed to apologize in that mournful tone of voice. He was supposed to leer and maybe suggest a collar with a bell. He wasn’t acting at all like himself. “What is up with you?” she demanded.
“It’s nothing,” he said, sounding almost sullen. “I’m sorry I’ve been botherin’ you. I won’t any more.”
For a moment, Buffy thought she almost saw him begin to fade, and she latched onto his arm. “Don’t you dare.” She stared at him. “You disappeared.”
Spike shifted uncomfortably. “Had to, Buffy. After what happened I couldn’t stay.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Buffy said impatiently. “Last night, you disappeared into thin air. Poof!” She would have made the hand gesture, but she was afraid that if she let go of him, he’d vanish again. Buffy wanted some answers first.
Spike shook his head. “Don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, you do. I saw it. And you were going to do it again just a minute ago,” Buffy accused. “What happened to you, Spike? You’re different.”
“Had to be different, didn’t I?” he asked, his voice so low Buffy could barely make out the words. “So I changed.”
Buffy nearly said that she didn’t believe him, but she slammed her mouth shut. The evidence was right there. She was the one who had called him on it. There was no way she could claim that demons didn’t change when she was touching material evidence to the contrary.
It was just that she’d become so used to tearing Spike down that actually thinking about what came out of her mouth before she said it was hard.
“Changed how?” she asked finally.
Spike shook his head. “Doesn’t matter.”
“I think it does.”
“Didn’t ask you, now did I?” he returned. “Look, Buffy, I promised I’d stay away. I’ll keep clear.”
“No, Spike.” Buffy struggled for words, realizing that she had no reason to ask him to stay. She should have kicked his ass or staked him or something, and she hadn’t.
She hadn’t yet let go of his arm either.
“Just tell me what happened last night.”
He looked down at his hands. “Told you I’d changed.”
“So you’re like—what? A ghost?”
“Feels that way sometimes,” he admitted. “But, no. Not quite. It’s too hard to explain. Suffice it to say I’m not the man I was.”
Buffy again had to swallow the quick retort to that statement. Spike might not be a man, but she was the one who’d been acting like a monster most of the time. “Okay. Are you going to stay around Sunnydale?”
“Yeah,” Spike replied. “For as long as I can.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Buffy asked suspiciously.
“Nothing,” he responded. “It’s just you never know what’s goin’ to happen, yeah?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Buffy replied, still feeling as though she was missing something really important, and yet not knowing how deep she wanted to delve. “Do you want to patrol with me? It’s going to be tomorrow, because, you know—it’s late.”
“It is,” Spike agreed. “You probably ought to be getting home then.”
“Where are you staying?” Buffy asked. “I didn’t see—I went by your crypt.”
Spike shrugged. “Here and there. It’s not important.”
Buffy wanted to argue with him, but she figured if she was any nicer to Spike, she’d have to start asking herself some hard questions, and she wasn’t quite ready for that yet.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” she started to walk away, and then turned to ask Spike where they were going to meet.
He was gone again.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/12388.html