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Spike tried not to listen in on Buffy’s conversation with Captain Tightpants, he really did. But either she’d forgotten about vampire hearing, or sound just happened to echo perfectly down the stairwell and straight at him.

Overhearing their little exchange didn’t do much for his mood, which was already zooming quickly towards irritable and irrational. Now that he’d realized he was hungry, hungry had become an understatement. Famishment had dug its claws in with all the force of a demon’s rapaciousness. Add in the similarities to his confinement by the Initiative, invisible barrier and all - yes, Spike had agreed to this, but he hadn’t thought getting his body back would actually work - and the understanding that his presence had interfered with Buffy’s life for the worse, again, and he wasn’t at his noblest when she came back downstairs, wrapped in the other man’s dinner jacket.

“So, you’ve quit screwing around with cardboard imitations and gone straight for screwing the real deal this time, eh Slayer?” he said.

“Huh?”

“You and the super soldier. Riley two point oh. Captain bloody America himself.”

Buffy blinked at him, her mouth an ‘oh’ of surprise, and then her eyes narrowed and her shoulders tightened. “I’m going to give you a pass, if only because I remember what it’s like to come back from the dead. But can we not? Do this? Because I actually missed you, you know, and -”

Spike slumped onto the bed. “Yeah, I’m a prize wanker, I know. Sorry. Just feeling a little -” he waved at the space between them. “Trapped. Not my best self at the moment. And, uh, for what it’s worth, you weren’t supposed to know I was back. Yet.”

“Free history lesson: secrets still suck, even in the future.” Buffy sank into the metal chair in front of the invisible barrier, shifting uneasily in it until she found a tolerable position. She slid her arms into the jacket’s sleeves, and pulled them up until her hands were visible. “Why not?”

“Wanted to avoid this sort of bad timing, for one.”

“Is there any such thing as bad timing for finding out somebody you love has come back to life? Life being relative, of course.”

Spike took note of that love, something she’d avoided confirming to the muscled one earlier. “I suppose not. But there was some question of whether I’d survive the procedure. Still no guarantee I will. And Willow was supposed to wait until we were sure I would before fetching you,” he said in disgust.

Buffy furrowed her brow. “I get the feeling I missed a lot of key information in the madness of the last -” She looked at her watch. “Has it really only been a half hour?”

“Sorry, pet, my inner clock’s off by a decade or so,” Spike said.

“Yeah, that’s got to be weird. I took me months to recover, and I was only gone for -”

“A hundred and forty-seven days,” Spike said automatically.

Buffy looked down. “I’d forgotten how long it was, exactly.”

“It’s fresher in my mind, I’d wager.” Spike hoped she’d forgotten because that wound had healed, or at least dulled. Did one ever get over losing Heaven?

“So, splainy about the whole waiting to make sure you survived thing.” Buffy still wasn’t looking at him, which suggested maybe the answer was no.

“I came out of the amulet with a bit of an incorporeality problem. Something like a ghost.” He refused to say hologram. “The boy wonder rigged up a machine to get me my body back, but no guarantees it would work. And even if it did - which, obviously it did - Willow thought I might not survive on account of being a vampire in this vampire-less world. I’m not supposed to exist, right?”

Buffy looked up at that, her eyes wide. “That - no. Oh god, do you think -?”

Spike shrugged. “Willow seemed to think the anti-demon mojo would take me right quick if it was going to. Since it didn’t… odds are I’ll make it.”

“But only odds,” she said, standing to pace. Her heels clicked against the floor, echoing in the silence. “That’s -” She faced him, face scrunching up in misery. “I don’t want you to die. Again.”

“And that’s why I didn’t want you to know,” Spike said softly.

She pointed an angry finger at him. “No. You were wrong. I’d rather even a few minutes -” Buffy put her hand up against the barrier and waited, until he stood and did the same on the other side. She leaned her cheek against the shield too, the orange grid between them. “I ought to feel bad that Willow got herself in trouble for me, but I’m glad she did it. She was right, I needed to be here.”

With a sigh, Spike leaned his cheek against her where her head would be, wishing he could touch her again. Maybe take the pins from her upswept hair and watch it tumble free, then comb his fingers through it. The ten years she’d aged, seemingly overnight for him, didn’t show, other than in the fine lines around her eyes. But the rest of her had only settled more firmly into her beauty, enough to take his breath away.

He closed his eyes, and settled for breathing in her scent. At least his cell door let that through. He hadn’t wanted Buffy here, but now that she was…

They stood like that, until a cough interrupted them.

“Hey,” Willow said with a finger-waggle. “I got let out of the principal’s office just long enough to bring you something to eat. Everybody else was feeling too… squeamish,” she said, holding up a thermos.

At the thought of food, the hunger he had managed to subsume while talking with Buffy redoubled, and Spike slid into game face, unable to stop himself. Nostrils flaring, he slunk from one end of his cell to the other, uncaring of how much he resembled a caged animal.

Hungry. Kill, feed, devour -

“Hold still a sec would you,” Willow said, frowning at him.

When he’d forced himself to a quivering halt, she snapped her fingers, and the thermos disappeared from her grasp and reappeared on the cot. Spike did his best not to lunge for it. “Bless you, woman,” he rasped, unthreading the cap with shaky hands.

Willow went to the stairs, then hesitated and said to Buffy, “I could let you back in with him if you want. Might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, right?”

“Oh, Willow,” Buffy said, rushing to hug her. “Coulson’s an all-around sweetheart, considering he’s the director of an organization that makes it their business to keep tabs on people like us. I’d take him over good ol’ Quentin Travers any day, but I still wouldn’t push him if I were you. And, thank you, by the way. You did the right thing, coming to get me.” She pulled back to look Willow in the eye. “I really hope Phil doesn’t go too hard on you.”

Buffy looked up, scanning the ceiling until she found the camera. “She did the right thing,” she said to the camera.

“I doubt he’s watching. Too busy trying to fix the mess I made with Cap,” Willow said ruefully. “But thanks for the support.” She sighed. “I guess I better get back up there.”

Turning to Spike, Willow added, “I’ll try to bring you some more soon.”

Spike grunted, his attention on coaxing out the last drops with his finger. It was human blood - kept on hand for transfusions, he wagered - and he wasn’t about to waste it.

“And I’m glad you didn’t poof.”

At that, he looked up. “Me too, Red. Though you and I will be having a conversation later.”

Willow grimaced. “Get in line.”

“Think you ought to be a bit more worried about what I’m going to do to you than the director,” Spike said, letting his eyes flash yellow to emphasize his point, though he wasn’t feeling quite so vengeful now that his hunger was temporarily sated.

With cocked eyebrow, she snapped her fingers, and the thermos reappeared in her hand. “You were saying?”

Spike chuckled. “I always did fancy a bit of danger in a woman.”

“Yeah, I don’t think anyone here is surprised to hear that,” Willow said, and mounted the stairs with a laugh.

He looked at Buffy, to find her rolling her eyes at him.

“Feeling better now, blood breath?” she said.

Touching the shield so it flared orange and gave lie to the lack of cage door, Spike said, “Maybe when I get out of here.” The similarities to The Initiative were still giving him the wiggins, as Buffy would say, not that he was about to admit it. At least this lot wouldn’t be experimenting on him, or shoving bits of things in his head.

He really would kill Willow if she’d lied about that.

Buffy placed her hand opposite his, looking wistfully at the grid between them. Then she dropped back into her chair, and he returned to his cot. “I bet,” she said. “Any thoughts on what you’re going to do after this?”

“Not really.” He hadn’t given it that much thought. He hadn’t expected to survive.

“Well, the world is your oyster.” Buffy pursed her lips. “Except, you know, Sunnydale. It’s out of the running, on account of you turned into a giant crater. Thank you for that, by the way. That was -” Her face pinched up for a moment, but before Spike could reply, she shook herself and continued. “We’ve all scattered - I’m doing the whole Big Apple scene now. Um, a lot of the Avengers live in New York. It’s a convenience thing. Dawn’s in Cyprus, with her husband. Willow’s -” She stopped when she noticed Spike nodding along. “Did Willow fill you in on all this already?”

“Bits and pieces. She neglected the most important bits, though. Like whether Manchester United won the cup while I was in limbo.”

She stared at him a moment, then snorted. “Well, um…” Cheeks pinkening, she said, “They won a FIFA something cup about five years ago. And there were some League cups. It’s sort of all jumbled,” she said, waving her fingers around her temple. “Giles would’ve been able to keep it straight, but…”

“Oh, so you watched it with him?” Spike couldn’t figure why football, of all things, was making her blush.

“No, I just always paid attention - halfway paid attention, at any rate - after you…”

Buffy had kept track of his favorite team in remembrance of him? If Spike could’ve, he would’ve blushed too. He certainly felt warm enough. She’d turned even redder at her admission, so he side-stepped and said, “I expect Rupert can fill me in properly.”

All that lovely red fled in the blink of an eye, leaving her pale. She got up to pace once more, not looking at him now. The jacket’s sleeves flapped down to her knees, and Buffy shoved them back up and crossed her arms. Spike wished she’d take the damn thing off so he could properly admire her again. As Neanderthal as the feeling was, he didn’t much fancy seeing her in another man’s jacket, either.

“That would be one of the things Willow neglected to tell you, I guess,” she said.

“What?” he said, wrenching his mind off of Buffy’s slinky red dress and back onto the conversation.

“He’s - he’s dead. He -” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I can’t, um. I need to go get some water, or something. I guess the shock’s catching up to me,” she said, gesturing vaguely at him. “That and the lack of dinner. Willow grabbed me right as our plates were being served.” Eyes sliding past his face and over his shoulder to focus on the wall behind him, Buffy said, “Will you be okay if I go grab something from the kitchen? I can see if there’s more blood too.”

Spike had barely nodded before she was gone, practically racing up the stairs and out the door.

A lot of bad has happened, Willow had said.

Apparently a lot more than she’d told him, judging from Buffy’s reaction. Spike stared up the stairs, wondering just what it was Buffy hadn’t wanted to remember, and wishing he could go after her.

He touched the shield, then quickly dropped his hand. Forcing himself not to give in to panic, he slumped backwards onto the bed, arm over his eyes.

Buffy would be back.

He had to believe somebody would be back.