It might be clichéd, living in the Englishmen’s cemetery, but as he made his way past the tombstones in the pre-dawn light, rubbing his fingers over names such as Shelley, Browning, and his own personal favorite and current domicile, that of a certain John Keats (1795-1821), Spike didn’t much care. A vampire had to hang his hat somewhere, and this vamp was all basement-ed out. It was time to get back to his roots. Plus, living rent-free? Bonus. Sure, crypt screamed “creature of the night”, and maybe it wasn’t something he wanted to remind her of but…
Wasn’t like there was any reminding going on. Nor lurking, nor stalking. If he happened to (most nights) catch a distant glimpse of her as she patrolled, it was a coincidence. As was his settling in Rome post- L.A.
He’d chosen the location for the crypt itself, untouched above but already linked to a network of tunnels below by some other enterprising demon, with chambers so cozy not even the hordes of trampling turisti could wake him. Spike hadn’t realized upon claiming that it was only blocks away from Buffy’s flat.
Closing in on his crypt, his nostrils flared. She’d patrolled here tonight. And there was the proof, a scarf draped over a tombstone, forgotten in the heat of battle. He picked it up, inhaled. Brought it home to fuel his waking dreams.
Days later he found a copy of Keats resting on a nearby bench and smiled at the dog-eared pages. It was one of the few books he’d owned in Sunnydale and he sat upon the bench now, imagining her reading and (such foolish hope) thinking of him. Using a leaf to mark his favorite poem, he hurried to her place and propped the book against her door, returning home just as the sun burst over the horizon. He patted the good man’s sarcophagus before descending below, wishing as always for some of the poet’s brilliance to rub off on him.
The partially consumed bottle of Jack he found on Keats’ sarcophagus one night gave him pause. Was she… drinking? Alone? The worry didn’t stop him from closing his own lips about the rim, searching out the lingering essence of her mouth, recalling that long ago night and those adorable faces she’d made.
Discovering his old silver Zippo in the same spot, still warm from her hand, was a whole different story. The leavings began to feel more like a pointed message and less like absent-minded reminiscence.
Tearing outside, he searched the empty night, but she was gone. He knew where to find her if he really wanted to. T’would be easy enough to get at the truth.
If he wasn’t such a bloody coward.
Maybe he’d try a message of his own. Something subtle, in case he was mistaken. He settled on leaving a handful of cigarette butts under the tree in her courtyard. When several packs of his preferred brand appeared in the crypt, he knew the game was afoot.
He left a gauzy scarf on her dresser (grateful for Andrew’s invitation months ago); she left a Sex Pistols t-shirt on the sarcophagus. He stocked her freezer with ice cream; she left a cooler full of blood. He tacked a sketch of Angel on her tree, similar to the one he’d once taped to a punching bag; she left a bottle of baby oil.
Once, he thought he heard her laughter on the night air, but he never caught her, never even managed to catch one of those (accidental) glimpses of her anymore. But the games continued. A book for a CD. A box of hair bleach for a pretty hairband. He ordered pizza delivered to her flat every night for a week; she left him a warm blooming onion (where in Rome the girl had managed to find one of those, he never did suss out) and a case of beer.
He stayed in for several nights, waiting and hiding like a child hoping to catch St. Nick, but she never showed. Things changed after that. When he quit waiting on her, there was a note with her offering: I wouldn’t be happy to see you.
Learn how to use one of these, asshole. This came with a cell phone, her number pre-programmed in. He sent her poetry in response, borrowed poems that spoke of repentance and longing and faithfulness and cowardice. She, in turn, left a photo (photoshopped, he hadn’t sported that look in years so it must have been from some old Watcher’s diary, but who gave a damn) of the two of them together.
This gave him the nerve to call, but his throat seized up, letting nothing out. She didn’t hang up. Didn’t speak either. He listened to her breathing deepen and even out, the phone pressed against his ear until it died.
Their (courtship? game?) interactions changed again, leaving him uncertain. Spike had no desire to get it wrong, he’d done that already. New silk sheets on his bed seemed a mite… intimate… but could have been nothing more than a thoughtful gift. He didn’t dare return in kind. Finding one of his t-shirts on his pillow, recently slept in by somebody most definitely not him, was more promising. Still…
He sent her a silk robe, something feminine but demure. Is this okay?
She texted him a photo in response, one of her modeling said robe and a Mona Lisa smile, revealing nothing, suggesting everything.
Well, yes. Courage in place, Spike waited impatiently for sunset, ready to march to her flat and-
His phone buzzed. I might be happy to see you after all.
No more games?
You started it. Stupid stalking-not-calling-guy.
Even before the sun had left the sky, he was hurrying to her place, only to find a note taped to the door.
Gotta catch me first. Stalker guy.
Spike smiled. She wanted to play one last game?
Very well, he’d play.
As the night wore on and he didn’t catch her, didn’t even find her, his smile faded. Heading to her place with the intention of waiting her out was quickly discarded in favor of stomping home. He was bloody well through playing games, let her come to him.
Spike was so busy indulging in his snit he almost missed the scarf draped over a bench. A few gravestones over he found a glove, then another, followed by hat and then a jacket; a trail of clothing leading home. The smile returned.
She was perched on a marker, kicking her booted heels against the stone, watching his approach. Spike stopped short, staring, drinking her in. Long-distance sightings had done nothing to prepare him for the reality of her.
“Finally. I didn’t think you’d ever figure it out.”
“Uh.” Eloquence, thy name is Spike.
“You’re not as good at the stalking as you used to be.”
He found his tongue then. “Not the same man I used to be.”
“Fair enough,” she said with a smile. “But not too changed I hope.”
He looked away, afraid for a moment, then stepped closer, took the chance. The old Spike had never been a coward, not when it came to his heart. “Still love you. Need you. Want you... If that’s what you’re asking.”
Her grin got wider. “Well, good. Because see this?” She twirled her finger about her face, indicating her brilliant smile. “This has only made a recent reappearance. Ever since I caught sight of radioactive hair following me around.”
He took another step. “There were no smiles before?”
“Eh, not many real ones. Lots of real tears, though. And mopey-faces.”
His heart might have been beating. It was doing something painful in his chest. “And why was that?”
Rolling her eyes, she said, “Do you even have to ask, you big jerk?”
Another step. “Might be nice to hear it.” He could almost touch her now.
“Nuh-uh.” She kipped to her feet and darted away, calling over her shoulder. “You haven’t earned it yet. You were supposed to catch me first.”
He stood staring after her, his mouth hanging open in confusion until his brain caught up, and then he was after her, streaking through the night, new-ish leather duster flapping out behind him, following her giggles over gravestones and around trees.
“Gotcha!” he cried, grabbing hold of her shirt, only to find himself with a fistful of material and no Buffy.
“You’ll have to do better than that,” she taunted from several feet away, hands on her hips, glistening chest heaving under her thin camisole. Spike leapt towards her and she took off again with a shriek, scrambling to the top of a crypt and looking down at him, squirming.
He curled his tongue. “What’s wrong, love?”
A quick shimmy, and suddenly a pair of panties came flying at his face. “Thongs. Not the best choice in fashion for evading vampires.” She took one look his face, frozen in surprise, red panties clenched in an upraised fist, and burst into laughter. “I’m chaffing where I don’t want to be chaffed. Yet,” she added. “What’s the matter, vampire? I’m starting to think you’re not really trying.”
He finally caught her outside his crypt, tackling her to the ground and pinning her with a growl. “You have something to say to me, Slayer?”
Buffy stared up at him with luminous eyes. “I have a lot of things to say. A lot of things I need to say, and I’m thinking so do you. But can we skip the awkward talk for now? Just get right to the loving? Because I’m afraid one of us will say the wrong thing and I’m tired of being pissed at you, and I’m tired of missing you.”
“You missed me?” he asked, hating the insecure note in his voice.
“Duh. Stupid vampire. Of course I did.” She reached up to touch his face. “And you earned this years ago: I love you.”
“Spike. Kiss now. Talk later.”