"As I un-live and don't breathe, if it isn't Titania queen of the fairies."
Cigarette in hand, Spike leaned back on the nearest gravestone, gazing at the eerie cavalcade before him with eyes as stony as the stone angel at his shoulder.
"You're slummin' it, aren't you, love?"
The vision of filigree-crowned loveliness poised in front of him in a pool of liquid moonlight matched his disdain and tripled it. Her own eyes were the chill blue of centuries old ice cores.
"Begone, foul creature," she intoned. "Bar my way at your peril."
Spike stuck his cigarette in his mouth, took a long drag, and blew smoke into the chill night air. At Titania's left shoulder, one of her retinue - Cobweb, probably, from the musty look of him - stifled a discreet cough.
"Oh, I'm not barrin' your way." Spike's lips tightened in the parody of a smile. "Just wonderin' why you're here in old Sunnyhell, that's all. I mean, s'not your usual stamping ground, is it, pet? You're more for country living, so I hear? Hollow hills, forest glades, all that shite. Sounds boring as fuck to me, have to say, but takes all sorts I 'spose."
Out of nowhere, a wind sprang up, sending clouds scudding across the face of the moon and lifting the silver hair from Titania's shoulders. Her expression grew stormy.
"My comings and goings are none of your business, you disgusting low bloodsucker. Get out of my way or suffer the consequences."
"Speakin' of consequences..." Lightning-fast, a sword appeared in Spike's left hand. It was old and rusty, its blade dull, but even so Titania shrank from it with a serpentine hiss of fury.
Spike smirked at her.
"The old cold iron has some consequences for your kind, so I understand? Not easy to come by these days, but I like to keep a bit handy, on the off-chance. You never know when some lah-di-dah fey, like you, or that poncy husband of yours, Oberon, or whatever he's calling himself this century, might decide to put in an appearance."
He flourished the sword above his head a few times, while Titania's retinue shrieked and wailed like banshees (which some of them probably were), then grounded its point in front of him and rested his hands on the pommel.
"Bugger off," he growled.
Titania rounded on her followers, and at once they fell silent. When she addressed Spike again, her voice was more placatory.
"There is no need for conflict between us," she soothed. "My business here is not with you but with your mortal enemy, the Slayer. When it is concluded, you will thank me, I am certain."
Spike frowned. "Thought as bloody much. What about the Slayer?"
Titania smiled at him. At the same time, the wind died down and clear moonlight shone on the scene again, softening her features.
"As queen of the fey, I must make a tribute to the hellgods every seven years, as I'm sure you know."
Eyeing Spike's sword warily, she took a step towards him and her voice took on a confiding tone. "It's a terrible bore, but one has to comply of course. Usually, I give them a mortal child I've brought up as my own, or possibly a poet or musician I've enticed into my power. But I thought this time I might ring the changes, as it were, and give them a Slayer. I'm sure they've always wanted one, and I understand this one is particularly troublesome."
Spike's lips twitched. "Can't argue with that assessment."
Titania took another step forward, eyes the summer blue of cornflowers, hips swaying seductively.
"This Slayer is a strong one, so I hear," she purred, "but she is grieving for her mother, which has weakened her. It is the perfect time to strike. Let me pass, vampire, and I will rid you of your enemy, giving you and your kind free rein in this...this..." Her nostrils flared in distaste.
"...hellhole?" Spike finished for her. He gripped the sword tighter. "Sorry, love, No can do."
At once, the wind sprang up again. There was a sound from some place not visible, like glaciers sliding past each other. Titania frowned in bewilderment. "But why not? Why would you wish to prevent me?" Her eyes narrowed. "What hold does she have on you, vampire?"
Just for a moment, Spike looked caught out, but then he sneered at her.
"None at all. S'just...the Slayer's mine. Anyone gets to off her, it'll be me, not some jumped up queen of the fairies who people've only heard of because some bloke in a ruff wrote a play once."
"Which isn't even about her," he added, after a moment, when Titania only stared at him.
There was a long, frosty silence, filled only by the wind and the distant glacial creaking. Then Titania smiled, which was even more chilling.
"I understand. I, too, once cast my affections in an...an inappropriate direction." Her voice dripped with fake sympathy. "I was going to be-spell you, vampire, and make you part of my seven year tribute - the hellgods are always looking for new minions - but I see there is no need. You are already under an enchantment which will drag you to a hell of your own making."
"Dunno what you mean." Spike gave her a belligerent glare. "I'm not bloody enchanted, an' I'd like to see any bastard even try it. Just bugger off, will you?"
Titania laughed a tinkling laugh. "I will go. Not because you tell me, but because your fate is too amusing to interfere with. Farewell. Though you will not."
She and her retinue began to fade. Soon, they were just silvery shapes in dimming moonlight, and a mocking voice whispering on the wind.
"'They wilfully themselves exile from light, and must for aye consort with black-brow'd night.'"
Spike's shoulders slumped "But she is a spirit of another sort. Yeah, I get it, all right?"
He kept watch until sunrise.