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Midnight Hour

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She only has a short time to say everything she wants to say.

Giles is coming later. And Spike. They’ll have news of Angel- they always do. So, she has to say everything to Satsu before her past rushes forward to fill in the gaps.

On top of that there’s training and patrol. They have to figure out this latest threat: wolves and vampires. That’s a combination you don’t see every day. She has to figure out a way to get everyone to stop talking about her love life. She has to figure out a way to scrub Xander’s brain.

Satsu has applied more lip gloss and is focused on the stake she is sharpening.

“Look,” Buffy says.

Satsu lifts her head a little, not quite meeting Buffy’s eyes.

“There’s some stuff you should know.”

“Like back story?” Satsu says.

“Yeah. Like a prologue. Or an epilogue. Or something.”

“I know more than you think I do,” Satsu says. “And everything else is just filler.”

“I’m not sure Spike’d agree with that,” Buffy laughs.

“Or…”

“You know about him, too?” She rushes to say this, so Satsu won’t say the name.

Satsu’s mouth curves into a beautiful smile. “Everyone knows about him. It’s kinda required reading. I know about Riley, too, in case that was the next name you were going to drop.”

“I was actually kinda hoping to leave his name out of the mix.”

Buffy sits down at the table with her mug of tea. The thing about living in Scotland - you almost always needed something in your hands to keep them warm: well, ten months of the year anyway.

“Satsu, I like you,” Buffy says.

Satsu rolls her eyes. “There is clearly so much more to that sentence.”

“No. Maybe,” Buffy says. “I don’t have much time to explain my whole life and it’s probably better if you come into this whole thing…or back out of it, whatever…it’s better if you understand.”

“One girl in all the world. Oldest living Slayer. Shared her power with all the didn’t-know-we-wanna-be’s. I read the memo.”

“There was a memo?” Buffy smiles so Satsu knows she is only joking. There wasn’t a memo. Unless they forgot to tell her. They’d done that before, like with the Slayer Handbook. Remembering that makes her think of Kendra and her heart aches a little.

Anyway.

“Everyone has baggage,” Satsu says reasonably.

“Not everyone’s baggage has fangs, though,” Buffy counters. “I just don’t want…”

“Me to get hurt,” Satsu finishes. “I get it.”

“No, you don’t get it. I don’t want me to get hurt.”

Satsu narrows her eyes and purses her lips.

“Look, being the Slayer, even if I’m only one of a hundred Slayers, means staying focused. The other night was a vivid reminder of all the things I can’t have. At least not right now.”

“Can’t or won’t let yourself?”

This was going to be more difficult than Buffy had bargained for.

*

Giles looks well. Older and tired, but well. At this point, with everything that’s been going on, just to see him standing upright is a blessing.

“I’m so happy to see you,” Buffy says.

“And I you,” Giles replies. His eyes crinkle around the corners and Buffy can see how delicate and papery the skin is there- the fine lines which signal worry and age.

“Faith is?”

“Well.”

“Good,” Buffy says. Brief is better. “Where’s Spike? I thought he was coming with you?”

“Oh, he’s here. I think he’s giving a quick lesson on staking technique.”

Buffy laughs. “There’s irony for you.”

“Indeed.”

“Do you want something to eat or drink?” Buffy asks.

“No thanks. We had a lovely pub lunch on the drive up.”

“Can you actually say ‘lovely’ and ‘pub’ in the same sentence? Is that even legal?”

“You just have to know how to find the real pubs,” Giles says. “Spike and I are natives, after all.”

“Spike hasn’t been a ‘native’ for a hundred or so years,” Buffy says. “I’m guessing lots has changed.”

“Oh, lot’s changed, all right,” Spike says from the doorway. “More’n just the beer, too, I’d say.”

His smile is bright and Buffy feels it down to her toes.

“Hello, Slayer,” he says.

“Don’t I even get a hug?”

“Didn’t think it was your thing anymore.”

Buffy presses her lips downwards. Does everyone know? Geesh, Spike’s been here like a minute. A glance over at Giles reveals that he is clueless. Thank God.

“Come on then,” Spike says. He crosses the room and pulls Buffy into his arms. Buffy feels the solid weight of him, the muscles in his chest and arms, and relaxes against him.

“I was going to say I missed you,” she says against his chest. She tips her head up and the movement brings his head down, so they are looking at each other. “Don’t make me not want to say it.”

Spike flings his head back and laughs. “I’ll consider myself warned then,” he says.

“Are you having a problem with wild dogs?” Giles says. He gestures to the leather sofa and matching chair and they all make a move to sit.

“Wolves not dogs,” Buffy says. “And bees. And fog.”

“Well, this is Scotland, after all,” Giles says. His grin tells Buffy that he is pleased with himself.

“Um. Okay I don’t know what this being Scotland has to do with bees, but the fog was previously a vampire so I’m thinking it’s not actually your typical run of the mill mist.”

“Oh, well, yes, that is unusual.”

“And,” Buffy says leaning forward. “They got my scythe.”

“Oh, dear,” says Giles. He pulls a handkerchief from his pocket and reaches for his glasses. Buffy’s delighted grin stops him and he stuffs the handkerchief back in his pocket. “There was a wager, I’m guessing.”

“Yep,” Buffy says. “Xander owes me ten bucks.”

“I really must stop being so predictable,” Giles mutters.

“I’ll tell you what we know: wolves, bees, fog, stolen ax.”

“That’s it?” Spike says.

“Oh, and a name. Um. Radar. Or Raid.”

“The bug killer?” Giles asks.

“Raidon?” Spike says.

“Yeah, that could be it.”

Giles and Spike exchange a look.

“Not good, right?” Buffy says. “You two are easier to read than fanfiction.”

“Fan what?” Giles says.

Spike lifts a conspiratorial eyebrow at Buffy and mock-whispers: “You would not believe the stuff Timmy got up to over at Passions Fanfiction dot net.”

“I’d ask you to speak English, but I suspect it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference.”

“So,” Buffy says, turning her attention back to Giles. “Raidon. What do we know?”

“Very little,” Giles says. This time he can’t resist the urge and he begins polishing his glasses. “I believe he belongs to a group of particularly nasty Japanese Goth Vampires whose whereabouts were, until you encountered them here, unknown.”

“I’ve had a couple run-ins with them,” offers Spike. “Never cared much for them – too showy.”

“Yeah, that’s what we thought,” Buffy says. “It sorta reminded us of another show-off.”

Spike holds his hands up in self-defense.

“Not you,” Buffy says. “It’s not always about you.”

“Well, Angel was never one for show,” Spike says. “He’s more of the tell tell, bloody, tell variety.”

Buffy smiles a little and looks down at her lap. There’s the name. Said out loud the first time, it always stings a little.

“Not Angel,” she says.

Giles shifts in his chair, realization dawning. “Surely not?”

“We sent Xander to ask at any rate.”

“Alone? Do you think that’s wise?” Giles asks.

“I couldn’t go, obviously. Renee went with him.”

“I wish I could’ve gone. Bloody ponce still owes me eleven quid, plus interest.” Spike says. “Say, do you have anything to drink?”

*

It is always exhausting to see Spike. Buffy never remembers this until it is too late. Until he is sucking up all the air (not literally, of course) in the room. She hopes the tap on the door will be Satsu – and that’s weird enough - but she knows it will be Spike.

And it is.

“Come in,” she says. She’s fresh from the shower and her hair is still damp.

Spike nods once and then steps past her, into the room.

“I just thought I’d check in,” he says. His eyes say more.

“It would be nice to see each other some time there wasn’t a big crisis brewing,” Buffy says. She crosses the room and picks up the towel she’d abandoned, starts to squeeze the last of the moisture from her hair.

“Do you mind if I smoke?”

“Since when do you ask?” Buffy drops the towel and picks up a comb. “Maybe out on the balcony.”

“Yeah, sure.”

Spike reaches into his pocket for his smokes and heads out the open French doors onto the little balcony that looks out over the yard below and, beyond that, the scrubby Scottish moor. Buffy finishes combing her hair and joins him.

“Never did like Scotland,” Spike says, lighting his cigarette. “Too remote.”

“You mean too hard to dine and dash,” Buffy says.

“Something like that.” Spike exhales and then turns away from the landscape and looks at Buffy.

“Ask away,” he says.

“Pardon?”

“C’mon, Buffy, I know you want to.”

Buffy crosses her arms and leans back against the thick stone wall. She does have questions, but she knows that the answers aren’t going to satisfy her.

Spike finishes his cigarette and lifts his foot, grinding the butt out on his heel. “Right. Well, how ‘bout we shake things up a bit, then, and I ask you the questions.”

Buffy grimaces. This isn’t actually a better option.

“You and Satsu did the horizontal mambo, eh?”

“Do you have to be so,” Buffy searches for the right word. “ -- coarse?”

Spike shrugs. “It’s a gift.”

“Anyway, it’s none of your business,” she says.

“Not saying it is. Never stopped me before.”

“That’s true,” Buffy says.

She hates the way Spike is looking at her, his eyes sparkling with knowledge.

“I’m not judging,” he says.

“Oh, that’d be rich,” Buffy laughs.

“I just wondered—if you’re happy. Does she make you happy?”

“I don’t even know what that means anymore. Happy: it’s just a word, right?”

“Not just a word,” Spike counters. “Some people actually live it. Walk the walk, so to speak.”

“But not people like us, right?”

Spike moves to stand next to Buffy and slings his arm around her shoulder, drawing her close. This feels right: Spike’s solid beside her; he smells of smoke and earth. If she holds her breath, the air is still and silent. He’s familiar.

But it’s not just that. She knows it and so does he.

*

Satsu is wearing Hello Kitty pyjamas.

“Did I wake you?” Buffy says.

“No,” Satsu whispers. “But you might wake them.” She twists her head to look back at the two other girls, asleep in their narrow beds. Buffy has her own room; the other Slayers do not.

“Come into the hall,” Buffy suggests.

Satsu does, pulling the door shut behind her.

“We didn’t get to finish our talk,” Buffy says.

“Well, I figured with Mr. Giles showing up--”

“And Spike?”

“Sure, of course. I just figured you might be preoccupied.” The way Satsu says ‘preoccupied’ makes Buffy think that she means something entirely more sordid.

“No!” she says. When in doubt, deny. That’s always the best policy.

“It’s okay, Buffy. I understand.”

“I know you think you know all the details, but I’m here to tell you that you really don’t.” The words sound harsher than Buffy intended.

“I’m sorry.”

Buffy takes a breath.

“No, look, I’m sorry.”

Satsu is smaller than Buffy; she fits into her arms perfectly. The act of holding her reminds Buffy of what it felt like to be cradled so carefully against someone bigger than her: Angel and Riley, certainly, but Spike, too.

At the end of the hall, the hulking grandfather clock begins to chime midnight. Buffy imagines the clock’s hands, separated for a full twelve hours, finally coming together in a not altogether chaste kiss.

Satsu pulls away, her eyes luminous in the dark.

“Do you want to kiss me?” she asks.

“I want what I always want,” Buffy whispers, pressing her hand against Satsu’s smooth cheek.

“What’s that?” Satsu says.

“Less back story.”

THE END