It tickled, he thought. How strange. As the Hellmouth imploded and sunlight was shooting through every part of his body, toasting him into ash, all he could think of was that it tickled like mad. A momentary image of the grim reaper with his trademark scythe replaced by a feather duster popped into his head, and he let out an actual giggle as he dissolved into nothingness, preparing for oblivion to swallow him whole.
Except, of course, that wasn't quite what happened. Spike didn't exactly jump for joy about that, either. After all, if there was an afterlife, he was betting harps and fluffy white clouds weren't exactly in the offing for the likes of his kind. Besides, there was no force in the universe that could make him wear one of those foofy white dresses. No, he told himself as he stared at the swirling mists around him, you're about to meet the First on a personal, one-to-one basis for the rest of eternity. Well, let's see if I can make it at least as unpleasant for him as for yours truly. At least in this dimension, maybe It had a physical form he could pummel.
Which was why, when Drusilla's form appeared in the distance, running at top speed towards him, it was perfectly understandable that he proceeded to give her a good slug in the jaw when she came within reach, causing her to fall to the ground with a small cry.
"Bit of a tired disguise, there. Thought you'd have come up with something more original. After all, you spent a couple weeks trying to drown me as her, and it didn't work, now did it? By the way, what was the point of that? It was bloody annoying, I grant you, but vampires don't have to breath, you know," he said to the form lying at his feet.
Rubbing her jaw soundly, Drusilla got up, taking a good-sized step back in the process, but she did manage to give him a smile.
"William, dearie, it's really me," she said with a twinkle in her eyes. "Give yourself a moment and it should all come back to you."
"What the bloody hell are you... talking... about..." Spike said as the scenery slowly changed into a strangely familiar green field covered with wildflowers. "I'm... wait... Something isn't right here. Where's the pitchforks and eternal fire?"
Drusilla laughed wholeheartedly at his confusion, then smartly tweaked his nose. "I have missed you, old friend."
Shaking his head thoroughly as though trying to clear remnants of the fog from it, he began to understand.
"Dru? I've... I've been here before, haven't I?"
"Of course, William dearest. You're back in Limbo again," she said with a smile. "I know it's a bit selfish of me, but I am so glad to see you. I've been watching you, of course. We're all so very proud of you."
Spike suddenly found his arms quite full of a surprisingly warm Drusilla, and, to his surprise, he did indeed start to remember this place and the time he had spent here. Buffy had been here, and Darla, and Harmony and... yes, he remembered Liam and Bertie and dozens, even hundreds, of others as well. But there was something different, a feeling that hadn't been here before.
"It's not the place that's changed, William, but you," said Drusilla in answer to his unspoken question. "Spike is a part of you now. Well, bits of him are part of you, the bits that earned peace. He really did turn out to be a remarkable being."
Spike blinked hard and looked around, then, experimenting a bit, he recalled his old study where he had spent so much time, and as swiftly as he had remembered it, he and Drusilla were there, the fire crackling welcomingly in the hearth and the wind setting the long grass dancing on the moor outside the window.
"Well, I never expected to see this place again," he said with a smile. "Much nicer accommodations than I was thinking I'd get. Dru, old girl, how've you been?"
"Oh, she's been doing just fine," said a familiar voice from behind him. "I've been keeping her busy, redoing her wardrobe and getting her to listen to music from years doesn't start in 18."
He spun around quickly and Harmony was lounging happily by the fire, warming her bare feet near the grate.
"Harm! Well, it's been a while, hasn't it?"
She giggled and nodded happily before launching herself at him and giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"So, why'd you go and get yourself killed?" she asked in the same tone of voice as though she were inquiring what he'd had for dinner last night.
"Ehm, that wasn't really my intention," he said with some embarrassment. "Which brings up the question. What exactly am I doing back in Limbo? I'm quite well and truly dead this time. Or is this just a visit?"
Drusilla sighed softly and shook her head. "We're not sure why you're here yet, William. There's been a great deal of confusion up in the higher realms as well. You see, there seems to have been several rather major... well, goofs, to put it kindly."
"But Buffy," he asked quickly. "She's alright, yes?"
"Far better than when you last saw her, William. Your return healed her, and her soul is now completely back in her body, joined together again," she explained, hoping that the loss of Buffy, even if it was only her unconscious soul, on this plane wasn't going to hurt him.
"Should have known," he said with a nod. "She was more... well, alive this year than the one before it. Not so vacant."
"Indeed," Drusilla agreed heartily. "William, I am sorry that the two of you won't be able to be together here. You must know that her soul still loves you very much, even if the rest of her isn't quite ready to understand that."
William nodded, his eyes a bit full. "At least some part of her loved me after all."
"And always shall, dear heart," Drusilla said kindly, sitting beside him on the sofa and patting his hand. "And always shall."
"Are you guys hungry?" asked Harmony out of nowhere. "I am."
A sudden banquet was spread on a checkered tablecloth on the carpet before them. Bags of Doritos, a few gallon tubs of Hagen Daas in various flavors, Twinkies, and some extremely large chocolate chip cookies were dotted around the cloth, and a pile of pink and purple, butterfly decorated paper plates stood nearby. Grinning, the blonde grabbed a newly materialized spoon and dug into a carton of strawberry ice cream.
William looked at a plate dubiously, then quickly willed it black. There was simply no way the more Spike-ish part of him was going to eat off butterflies. He did not, however, have the least bit of trouble downing half a dozen oatmeal cookies, which had always been his favorite, at more than top speed.
Drusilla merely sipped a cup of tea, no sugar, no cream, and gazed at the other two silently through its steaming vapor. Her Sight told her that William was not here for very long, of that much she was certain, but the choice of where he went was entirely in his hands. Of course, their two unusual guests of the past year would undoubtedly play a hand in the events to come, but she wondered if he was ready for that piece of information yet.
"So, you saved the world," Harmony said conversationally. "What's that like?"
William choked a bit on a rather large raisin at the unexpected question. "Better than not saving it," he said rather lamely.
Drusilla smiled fondly at William, pleased beyond all telling at how he had handled the entire situation. He had managed to deal with Spike's guilt, been an ally to Buffy in her darkest hours, and given his life to protect innocents. His soul had always been dazzling, but now it shone so brightly that when she viewed it with her other eyes it was like having a small sun in the room. With a sly smile, she couldn't help wondering what the addle-pated Cecily would say if she knew what the man who she'd called beneath her had become.
"So, like, does it feel weird being Spike and William at the same time?" asked Harmony bluntly. "Do you keep trying to decide whether you should dress in leather or tweed?"
"No tweed for me, thanks," said Spike firmly. "But, yeah, little odd. Got two sets of memories now. Wonder if this is how Liam feels."
He seemed to be adapting pretty well to the situation all things considered, Drusilla thought. Her brow furrowed as she considered all that he was still going to go through. Well, she mentally told herself, it might be nice if there were no problems, but this isn't Heaven; it's Limbo. A sudden burst of enlightenment hit her as her Sight abruptly decided the time was right to tell her the meaning of the strange series of events that had happened recently.
"Cat got your tongue, Dru?" Spike asked, breaking through her reverie, and she startled back to herself.
"No, William dear," she said. "I'm just beginning to understand something. You see, you're not our only unusual guest of late. There are a couple of others who, by all accounts, really shouldn't be here. One should be on earth still, and the other should have moved on towards heaven."
"I don't remember that ever happening before," Spike said slowly. "Is my memory still full of holes? Or maybe they've got the same split-soul thing that Buffy had?"
"No on both counts. Both are highly unusual situations," Drusilla explained. "However, one is here by choice, so that explains at least part of it."
"Choice?" Spike said, raising his eyebrows. "Why would anyone choose to be here?"
"She might explain that a bit better than I can. The other, however, the one who is still alive, seems to be directly related to you being here," Drusilla said. "Would you like another few hours to rest or shall I call them now?"
Spike glanced over at Harmony, who had tuned both of them out completely and was happily making the flames in the fireplace morph into the faces of Antonio Banderas, Brad Pitt, and Orlando Bloom. Somehow, he didn't think if these two unknown spirits showed up it would interrupt anything of great importance Harmony had to say.
"Best get it over with now," he said with a sigh. "Won't sleep properly until I know what's what."