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Old Growth

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For Giles, it is much easier to acknowledge Spike’s accomplishments and true reformation after he’s dead. After all, the vampire had acquired his soul and died saving the world. Yes, he truly was a hero. A hero who was dead and therefore could not possibly lay another finger on Buffy ever again. When Spike was a pile of dust with all the other large piles of dust that used to be Sunnydale, Giles found plenty of room in his heart for Spike the Champion.

However, when Andrew returns from Los Angeles babbling about white wizards and resurrections, that room in his heart suddenly shrinks to about the size of a cubbyhole. Within hours a crisis surfaces in the heart of Africa. Andrew is dispatched immediately, his expertise being viewed as quite essential. Upon his unfortunately precipitous return, Giles is informed that the site of the incident was curiously cut off from outside communication. No phones, you say? Yes, curious, very curious indeed.

She finds out eventually, however. Sooner or later these things just come out. It does not help matters when said vampire goes out and starts an apocalypse with the only other vampire Giles might actually loathe more. It only irritates him further when the fight turns out to be one they cannot finish. How bloody typical. He’d rather been hoping they would stay in that horrible city for the rest of their eternal lives. Stay and perhaps not start fights with multidimensional beings. He supposes that’s asking a bit too much considering the parties involved.

Buffy’s reaction is oddly calm when news reports start pouring in on the LA hijinx. Instead of leading the charge, she sends the troops out under Faith’s direction, a clear sign of, as Xander later told her, “her own brand of pretentious inner turmoil.” She still tends to take these end-of-the-world things a bit personally, never mind that she isn’t exactly the Chosen One anymore. What could she say? Old habits die hard.

Let’s be honest. She doesn’t go, because he didn’t call. He didn’t believe her when she said “I love you,” and he didn’t call when he came back. She still isn’t all that sure how she feels about comes-with-a-soul Spike.

So she stays in Italy, living footloose and fancy free with Dawnie. It never even crosses her mind to dial up that number she has burned into her brain. Giles offered to give it to her but she said no, she didn’t need it. She waited until she could slip into his office alone, and memorized it right there. She never puts it in her phone. Can’t look at it, can’t scroll past it every time she wants to call Riley or Willow. But she knows it. And she knows how it never shows up under incoming calls.

Dawn never brings him up. She thinks about him all the time, though. You can tell by that look she gets in her eyes, and the way she’ll say, “Nothing,” if you ask her what she’s thinking. She knows that she’s the only one that misses Spike just as much as Buffy does. Just like she knows that not calling Spike is one of those things that’s going on the ‘What I Will Never Forgive Buffy For’ list. Top of the list? Dying.

It doesn’t seem to matter how old she gets – she’s hardly a kid anymore, and it’s been three years since Sunnydale fell into the ground; she and Buffy just get closer and closer, even as the rest of the Scooby gang heads out to the corners of the globe.

It seems like no one can stay in one place anymore; changing time zones like seasons. Dawn knows the reason everyone moves around so much is because the only place they’ll ever call home is a big hole in the ground. They say they like to travel. They’re lying.

So Dawn stays with the bit of home that’s still left to her, Buffy, while thinking about the other part of home that’s restlessly roaming the streets of LA. The other parts? Mom, Tara, the Magic Box? All gone. She focuses on what she still has and helping out the Slayers, trying in the mean time, very hard, to forget the fact that she’s a key. This last bit is very important to maintaining focus while translating demon languages. A break in concentration can lead to negotiations, prophecies, or histories being mistranslated in a very serious way. Things go from being ‘the Slayer’ to ‘a Slayer.’ That’s how Kennedy almost lost an arm. It turns out that for some things in life, Buffy is still the Slayer.

Things, for example, like Spike. Even after one of them succeeded in removing his hands for a short period of time, it was still Buffy – Slayer comma the. Only other two who really ever mattered, even a bit, were dead. And they only mattered because they were dead. There was just Buffy now. Just her to know who and what he was. So when he goes missing after the big brouhaha down in the City of Angels, Buffy’s the one who decides that he should be found.

Whether he wants to or not.

******

Around the world, to give you my love. Even if you don’t want it anymore. That’s what they all try to tell me you know. Everyone except Dawnie. Two and a half years now with no word? They say maybe you don’t want to be found. I don’t really care. It’s been two and a half years of finding you gone, disappeared, poof up in smoke as soon as a Slayer gets a whiff of you in the area. Every time I get a new lead, it’s only to find you’re just a step ahead. Sometimes the TV’s still warm. Or the bed. Humans? Or maybe you found some new Slayer to obsess over. Someone willing to play the rogue.

Everyone says that maybe your feelings have changed. People’s feelings do change over time. Except when they said it, it was more like “Even a psycho, formerly evil, ex-stalker vampire’s feelings change." But imagining a world where you don’t love me is remarkably hard. Hard as in, not possible. Not possible in a world where nothing has proved to be impossible. I can remember when I first found out. About how you felt. Dawn had to tell me, cause I just couldn’t see it.

They say you don’t love me anymore. They’ve been saying that since we all heard about the LA fight and found out you were back. But I don’t believe it. I won’t believe it until I hear it from you. And maybe not even then. I will go round the world to give you my love.

******

Of all the exotic places we’ve gone, and by ‘we’ I mean this wild goose chase Spike has led me on, I can’t believe I find him in North Carolina. I can think of all sorts of reasons to find him in Moscow, Venice, Rio de Janeiro, New York… but North Carolina? I have no idea.

1213 Birmingham Road. Apartment #4B. The outside has so many windows. Trees are all around, but the leaves are turning colors already. They’ll fall off and the trees and his windows will be naked. Doesn’t matter how cold it is outside, sun in the wintertime will burn just as quick. How could he be safe here? I can walk right into the lobby and get on the elevator. The building really should have some kind of security.

Each floor is like a year dragging by. The elevator finally dings open. Two doors on either side of the hallway. It’s not exactly the Price is Right. I ring the doorbell. I ring the doorbell even when I know he’s not going to be there…. If only because of all the nights I used to just let myself in with a storm and a bang.

But things don’t change that much. Five seconds pass and I’m about to force the door open when it opens without my help. Standing there is someone I could have died happy without seeing ever again.

Large brown eyes, pallid skin that was once dark. Long brown hair and an old-fashioned dress smelling slightly of mothballs. The slender figure cocks her head to the side and murmurs languidly, “Oh, dear.”

Drusilla.

My entire body tenses and my balance shifts automatically, just a hair’s breadth away from launching into action when a voice from deeper within the apartment stops me cold.

“Who is it pet?”

That’s when the world stops. The door pulls open wide, and there he is. And it’s the old Spike.

The old Spike. Not comes-with-a-soul Spike. I couldn’t tell you how to save my life, but I can tell. It’s in the way he’s leaning against the doorjamb, black t-shirt, black jeans, all skin and bones. It’s the way he looks slightly bored as his lips are curling into a sneer. I was prepared for a lot of things when I eventually caught up with Spike. Drusilla and no soul were not among them.

 

“Well,” he drawls, his face mean, “isn’t this a kick?”

And that’s exactly what it is. It’s a kick to the gut, and suddenly there’s nothing inside of me. Between my ribs, underneath my lungs, there’s nothing. I redefine the word ‘cavity.’

“What’s the matter, Slayer? Cat got your tongue?” If I open my mouth, I’m going to throw up. “C’mon, Slayer. You’ve been tryin’ so hard to find us, and here we are. Had to have had a right good reason to use up that precious Chosen One time of yours. Never could spare much of it in the early days, could you?” He’s taunting me now; cruelty in his voice and eyes. He hasn’t wanted to cut me this bad in a long time.

By his side, Drusilla makes a pitying noise as a smile slides upon her lips. “Ooh, I don’t think I was expected, my Spike.”

Spike’s eyebrows lift as if he were in consideration. “Oh, didn’t I mention, Slayer?” His hand snakes around her waist and tugs her hard against his hip. “We’re forever, Dru and me.”

Drusilla’s smile widens in glee. “Come back to his mummy, he has. Where he always belonged.”

Finally, I find my tongue. “I don’t… understand.” My brain is still flat-line, however.

“Ah, you never do, do you? Well let me explain things for you one last time. Now, I think – ” Oh, he’s enjoying this, “I think that not being the one and only Chosen girl hasn’t sat well with you. Used to be, you’d near kill yourself just to be ‘normal,’ and now all you want is the whole Scooby gang back and crying for you to save the day.” He pauses and smirks. “Bet Dawn doesn’t even need you now, does she, pet?”

Now he smiles, small and mean, his eyes narrowing. “So you came looking for the one person that always wanted you, that would’ve crawled on glass just to please you.” The smile completely drops away, and he just stares, face blank. “Well guess what, baby? Unlike you, death has always done me worlds of good. And this time around, I got my balls back.” As if to prove his point, he gives Drusilla’s hips another sharp tug, making her bark with laughter. Then, slowly leaning forward, he says very softly, eyes watching for my reaction, “I don’t want you anymore, Slayer. So why don’t you go out and find that death wish of yours? Cause if you don’t leave Dru and me alone, I’ll find it for you.”

Beside him, Drusilla’s eyes widen, “Oh, can we? It’d be such fun. The girl in the door would cry and bleed such terrible things.”

Spike’s eyes cut to her briefly before sliding back to me. “Door girl, right.”

A million questions crowd my head, and it takes all my might to keep my shaking fists at my side. “What – ” I lick my lips, struggling to form a coherent sentence. “What about Angel? You were working with him?”

“Why do you think he never left that alley, Slayer?”

That clicks in place. Suddenly the fog lifts just a little, just enough. My feet find solid ground. “You always were a crappy liar, Spike.”

He doesn’t react for a moment, and then sniffs. “Bully for you. Then you should be able to tell how very much not a lie the rest of this little chat has been.”

“All it tells me is that you think it’s the truth. Which makes me wonder,” I turn to look at Drusilla, “where she comes in, in all this.” Her face shifts and she gives a small hiss.

Spike’s face hardens to stone and his grip around her tightens. “Tread very fucking lightly here, Slayer.”

I look back at him and smile. “Oh, this is far from done Spike. If you try running again, I’ll just find you ...again.”

A low growl tints his voice. “I’m not going anywhere, super bitch. Thinking ‘bout bagging my third Slayer after all.”

“Good, then it’s agreed. I’ll be seeing you, Spike.” I glance at Drusilla, who’s still in game face. “That goes for you, too, slut-bag.” Oh yeah, real mature Buffy. I turn on my heel and walk away, incredibly conscious of having two of the most dangerous vamps I know at my back. After a second or two, I hear the door slam behind me. The triumphant, strategic withdrawal lasts only until the elevator doors close. Then I fall slumped against the back wall, arms braced on the handrails.

Something hard and huge catches in my chest and I can’t breathe. I gasp, desperate for breath and that wave of nausea overwhelms me again. But I don’t cry. There’s still the chance that Drusilla is doing… something, anything. That she’s the cause of all this. So I won’t cry. Not yet. ‘Cause I think he’s still in there. The Spike I love. The champion I knew. And I’m going to jar him loose.

End Part One