“We two have run about the hills/And pulled the daisies fine:/But we have wandered many a weary foot/Since auld lang syne./We two have waded in the stream/from dawn to dinner time:/But seas between us broad have roared/Since auld lang syne./And there’s a hand my trusty friend!/And give me a hand o’ thine!/And we will take a large draught/For auld lang syne.” ~Old Scottish ballad
“How are you feeling?”
Spike hadn’t been expecting any other visitors. Angel had dropped by right after the Wolfram & Hart docs sewed/magicked his hands back on. Fred had popped her head in, and Wesley had already come by once. Seeing Wes for a second time surprised him.
Although, his melancholy mood might have had more to do with that than anything about the ex-Watcher. Seeing Andrew again had put Spike’s within arm’s length of Buffy in a sense, and he was missing her again. And feeling less than worthy of her.
It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. Spike usually tried to bury those insecurities as deeply as possible.
To have Wesley come by for a second time felt good. It felt as though the other man actually cared, rather than performing the visit out of duty.
“Better,” Spike admitted, looking down at his hands. They were mostly working as he wanted them to, but he still had a ways to go yet. He was damn lucky they’d been able to sew them back on at all. “Feel like a bit of an idiot still.”
“You couldn’t know what she would do, Spike,” Wesley pointed out. “I don’t think any of us were aware of what she might be capable of.”
“Doesn’t make it much better,” Spike replied. “I was s’posed to be helpin’ her. Instead, Angel had to come to my rescue.”
Wesley’s lips twisted into a smile at the distaste in Spike’s voice and face. Spike and Angel still weren’t getting along. He had to admit that he found their spats highly amusing at this point. “When are they discharging you?”
The vampire shrugged. “Dunno. ‘s not like I really have any place to go. Might as well stay here just for the bed.”
Wesley frowned. It wasn’t right that Spike was still without a place to live. The rest of them all had a home, either in the Wolfram & Hart building or elsewhere. “Why couldn’t you stay at the hotel?”
Spike looked back at him sharply. He’d managed to get back into his clothing, which was an improvement over the hospital gown they’d insisted he wear. It allowed him to stand at the window, where he didn’t feel so closed in. “What hotel?”
Wesley knew that Angel had kept the Hyperion. Angel had, in fact, made certain that it was paid off and free from meddling. He had no idea why the new CEO of Wolfram & Hart had felt it necessary to keep a building they never used, but it was there and it was empty.
Briefly, Wesley wondered why Angel wouldn’t have informed Spike about it. “The hotel, which was our headquarters, before we came here,” he explained. “It’s not being used, and there’s plenty of room.”
Spike hesitated and then shook his head. “’s Angel’s place. It’d piss him off if I was stayin’ there.”
That one word stiffened Spike’s spine as he realized exactly what he’d just said. Using the hotel would royally piss his grandsire off. It would also give him a base of operations. Spike was tired of sitting around on his duff, with little purpose. Wesley had sent him on a few errands—Spike thought it was probably out of pity—but it wasn’t enough.
He needed to be doing something. If he had his own place, maybe he could.
“Where is it?”
“I can take you,” Wesley offered. “It might be best if you not drive yourself for a while.” He hesitated. “If you’d like to stay at my place until you’re fully recovered, you’d be more than welcome, Spike. It’s the least I can do.”
“It’s more than anyone else has done,” Spike replied dryly.
Wesley smiled. “Yes, well, I still need to repay you for introducing me to Monty Python. A few nights on my couch will hardly cover it.”
Spike grinned and shook his head. “We’re still not caught up.”
“No, we’re not,” Wesley replied. “Good thing I was planning on making it an early night. Are you ready?”
“What, now?” Spike asked, surprised. Then he shrugged. “Why the bloody hell not? The smell of this place was beginnin’ to drive me crazy anyway.”
Buffy leaned back into her seat on the airplane, forcing herself to relax. She still couldn’t quite believe she was doing this. Jumping in a plane, flying back to L.A., with no plans other than to see Spike.
The Slayer was grateful for Andrew’s inability to keep his mouth shut for once. She hadn’t even minded his announcement that Giles had suggested he stay in Rome for a while. Any other time and Buffy would have been on the phone to her former Watcher posthaste, demanding that he re-assign Andrew. Possibly to Madagascar. That seemed like it might be far enough away.
It didn’t matter, because she was on her way to L.A., and she wouldn’t be seeing the pest. Buffy would be assuring herself that Spike was in one piece with all parts accounted for.
If he wasn’t, she was going to kick some ass, big-time.
Buffy still wasn’t sure how it had all happened—events had moved so quickly. Andrew had called, crowing over his success at retrieving Dana, and Buffy had only been half-listening. In fact, she’d tuned him out completely until what he was saying finally registered. Something about “Spike at his side, still striving for redemption, separated from the woman he loved,” blah, blah, blah.
It had been the use of the present tense in that part of the story that had finally caught her attention. Andrew had obviously been hit on the head really hard, but when Buffy had stopped the boy and reminded him that Spike was dead, he’d blurted out the first thing that came into his mind.
“No, he’s not! I’m not crazy, and it wasn’t the First! Dana chopped off his hands.”
That little tidbit was too wild for even Andrew to have made up, and Buffy had started pumping him for information. Fifteen minutes later she had hung up the phone, started packing a bag, and called Giles to let him know where she would be.
Giles had suggested that perhaps she wait until they could discover a little more about Spike and what he was up to, but Buffy was beyond caring at this point. If he was alive, she wanted to see him. End of story. Don’t argue.
When Giles had tried arguing a little more, Buffy pointed out very calmly that as he had tried to kill Spike without her knowledge, she wasn’t inclined to trust him at all. Not where it concerned the vampire anyway.
So Giles had wished her a safe trip, and hung up.
Buffy still winced when she thought about what a shambles their relationship had become. She wasn’t quite sure when everything had changed, or even why. One day Giles was there, solid as bedrock. The next day he’d turned into quicksand, ready to destroy the one person who was keeping her sane.
These days, Buffy was less inclined to let anyone do that to her.
She had stayed at the apartment just long enough to let Dawn know what was going on and where she was going. Her sister had scribbled off a note and asked Buffy to give it to Spike. Then Dawn had hugged her and said, “You do what makes you happy, Buffy.”
It had been enough.
Still, Buffy now found herself on a transatlantic flight with no idea of what she’d find when she arrived. There was every possibility that Spike had managed to move on, or that he wasn’t interested in her anymore. They had never really spoken about their relationship.
She hadn’t given him the chance.
“Maybe when,” she’d said, holding hope just out of his reach. Buffy really had believed that either they would both die or they would both live. The possibility of Spike dying had never crossed her mind. Buffy had done the same to Angel, knowing at the time that it was horribly unfair.
It wasn’t Angel. It would never be Angel again. Spike, on the other hand, had a fighting chance.
If she’d had it to do all over again, Buffy would have taken Spike right there on the kitchen floor and damn the consequences. She would have told him then that she loved him, that she wanted to be with him, that they were both going to make it out.
Buffy would have made Spike promise to survive.
But, no. She’d chickened out, and as a result, Buffy had watched him dust—or start to.
In the last few months, Buffy had managed to convince herself that Spike had known she loved him. He had believed her, but he’d said what he had to get her out of that cave.
Knowing that he was back and hadn’t told her—that he’d been back for a while—made Buffy think that she’d been lying to herself again. Spike hadn’t believed her, and thus he hadn’t tried to find her.
Which brought her full circle, thanking her lucky stars that Andrew never had been able to withhold information.
Maybe there was a God.
Now she was on a plane, not knowing where Spike was or how he was doing, with only a small overnight bag and no return ticket. Buffy didn’t know where she was staying, or who with, or even what she hoped to accomplish.
If Spike didn’t want to come to Rome with her, would she stay in L.A.? If he did come with her, would he fit into their lives?
Should she even be doing this?
They were questions to which she had no answers.
“Nice place,” Spike commented as he entered Wesley’s apartment. It seemed to suit the ex-Watcher with its piles of books and slightly gloomy décor.
Wesley shrugged. “I don’t use it much these days,” he confessed. “I haven’t ever really except for—” He stopped, unable to remember when it was he’d spent nearly all his time at his apartment, but just knowing that he had. He shook off the feeling in the next moment.
Spike wandered over to the TV, raising an eyebrow at the electronic equipment. “A Playstation, huh? Didn’t know you were into that.”
“I’m not,” the other man replied quickly. At Spike’s smirk, Wesley realized it was hopeless. “Gunn and I used to play,” he finally admitted. “Sometimes Angel and Fred. Before—” He stopped again, wondering before what because he couldn’t remember. It must have been before his relationship with Gunn had faltered as a result of their rivalry over Fred.
Spike started flipping through Wesley’s games, noting that he had some good ones. “Too bad my digits aren’t workin’ like they should,” he said, pulling out Mortal Kombat with a grin. “I’d kick your arse.”
“That’s what you would like to believe,” Wesley returned, joining in the familiar banter. He’d known how to do this once upon a time. He had been able to joke with the best of them, holding his own. His mood had been so dreary for so long it was a relief. “I’ll have you know that I’m an expert at mortal combat.”
It was a deliberate play on words, and Spike’s lips quirked upwards at the meaning. “Is that right? I think I’ll have to see it to believe it.”
“As soon as you have full use of your hands,” Wesley replied. “I wouldn’t want it to be said that I took advantage of an invalid.”
“Not invalid,” Spike returned. “’s merely work-related injuries. I’ll be right as rain in another day or two.”
A silence fell. “You were lucky.”
“I know.” Spike looked down at his hands. He couldn’t seem to stop doing that, as though he needed to continually double-check to ensure they were there and attached. “You heard anything about that Slayer, then?”
Wesley shook his head. “No, and I doubt we will. Andrew seemed certain that our involvement with Wolfram & Hart disqualified us from being on the side of good.”
“Doesn’t it, though?” Spike asked. “No offense, mate, but that place isn’t good for you. It’ll suck your soul faster than a Fyarl shoots snot.”
It was an interesting analogy. Wesley paused a moment over that image before he replied. “We have more resources. I’m sure that once we get settled—”
“You’ve been there how long?” Spike asked. “You’re as settled as your gonna get. This really what you want to be doin’ for the rest of your life?”
It wasn’t. Spike had once again managed to see clear to the heart of the issue. Wesley was already tired of the routine, tired of the paperwork. At first, he had been able to maintain the belief that they could make a difference from the inside. Perhaps they would cause the beast to implode, or even better, turn its evil for good.
Wolfram & Hart was too big, though. A few people were just more grist for the mill, no matter how highly placed they might be. He wanted out, in a way, and Wesley had begun to thank his lucky stars that he’d never signed a contract.
He wondered if any of the others had.
They had all followed Angel into the belly of the beast, lured by things that were sure to appeal to their various weaknesses—or strengths. Not for the first time did Wesley wonder what exactly it had been that Angel received in exchange for taking the position.
“No, it’s not.” Spike was one of the few people he could be honest with, Wesley thought. The vampire wouldn’t accuse him of selling out, or demand that he promise to stay. Spike wouldn’t try to place a load of guilt on his shoulders for his thoughts. “I honestly don’t know what I want these days, Spike. It’s not this, but I’m not sure what else it would be.”
Wesley shot him a dirty look. “For once, Fred doesn’t enter into this. I would like to see her beyond the reach of Wolfram & Hart, but that is a decision that she will have to make on her own. Unlike some, I respect her right to make those choices.”
“Unlike who?” Spike asked, sensing a good load of gossip.
Wesley hesitated. “Last year, Fred discovered that her professor was the one responsible for sending her to Pylea.” He waited until Spike’s nod told him that the vampire had heard at least some of the story. “She wanted revenge. Angel and Gunn were going to prevent her from going after him herself. I told her what she was getting into and the likely results, and then I let her go.”
“Big of you,” Spike commented blandly. “Are you sure that wasn’t to show up the other two?”
Wesley’s smile was sardonic. “A little. I have always respected Fred’s ability to choose for herself, however. It was one of the reasons I didn’t fight it when she chose Gunn, and why I’m not pursuing her now.”
Spike wasn’t so certain that Fred wouldn’t be amenable to Wesley’s advances at this point, but he had decided to keep his mouth shut. They were both his friends, and until he had a better idea of Fred’s feelings for the Englishman, it would be better to keep his nose out of it.
Of course, if he did find out that she had a yen for the man, Spike was more than willing to stir things up.
“Right then. It’s your decision, mate.”
“Bloody right it is,” Wesley replied. Tired of the discussion and the direction it was going, he changed the subject. “Did you still want to watch a movie? I have a few to choose from.”
Spike raised an eyebrow as he looked through Wesley’s collection, unimpressed. “This is right pathetic, you know that?” He pulled out Notting Hill. “You own this?”
“Cordy liked that one,” Wesley said quietly. “She always wanted to rent it, and after a while I bought a copy just so she could watch it when she was here.”
Spike’s face softened, the derision changing to understanding. “You want to watch it, then? For old times sake, like.”
Wesley nodded quietly, appreciating Spike’s sensitivity and his willingness to indulge a friend his time of remembrance. “For old time’s sake,” he agreed.
Spike nodded, and then smirked. “But we’re watchin’ something manly right after, you hear? I won’t be polluting my brain with this shite if I can’t purge it after.”
Wesley smiled. “I also have the Lethal Weapon movies,” he said. “Will that be manly enough for you?”
“Might do,” Spike agreed. “That might just do.”