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The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth.

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He came to just half an hour before sunrise.

Correction. He first came to not long after she had stalked out of the alley. He even moved a little. A sort of crawl-cum-roll, like climbing the North Face of Main Street, but much harder. He’d made it all the way to the wall before passing out again. Threw up a little, by the looks of it. Probably why nobody had tried to rouse him. Drunks weren’t so common in Sunnyhell as they were in LA, say, but battered drunks? Always worth avoiding, in case they were still drunk enough to fight back. He even had a sort of sympathy for that point of view, these days, with that sodding chip inside him.

It was a useful wall, if you had to be comatose at the foot of any wall. It had rough bits where bricks had been chipped off, so he had handles of a sort to haul himself up on. Only five minutes later and he was standing up. Then with a bit of care he staggered to the corner in less than five more minutes.

Now what? Launch himself across the road and hope he could stay upright long enough to hit the kerb on the other side? Perhaps he could use that sway to advantage, build up a bit of momentum. He pushed away a little, fell back, pushed off more strongly, bounced back and he was off.

OK, so he must have looked like a right pansy, tittuping across the road like that. Some sort of stupid poncey dancer with a limp. Still, he got there, didn’t he? More or less upright too, for which, bonus marks.

He had a little lean against the wall for a minute. Cool, rough texture felt good against his face. It was tempting to stay right there, watch the sunrise. But the girl might need a punch bag again. Or something else.

That thought pushed him on a few more steps, round the corner, along the road to Restfield gates. He was able to grip onto those, knuckles whitening even more than usual, arm over arm hauling himself along to the entry till there was no more gate and quite a lot of space. Definite red in the sky over there, too.

He didn’t quite remember how he got as far as his crypt, but there was a familiar sizzling sound and just the beginnings of a fried bacon smell when he finally staggered through the door and fell across the cold slab.

He lay on the slab, which was about right for the raw meat he felt he was, for several hours. The dance of a sunbeam across his outstretched hand finally made him move, so he was half-sitting when the door banged open and his girl. No, not his girl, never his girl. Strode in. He groaned, then clamped his mouth shut as he struggled partly upright.

“Hello there, pet. Not banged up in chokey yet, then?” He managed a grimace that was halfway to a smile. Buffy glared back.

“No, Spike. I am here, as you can see.” She gulped. Odd, that.

“Yes, love, I was joking. Just a bit. No need to get your luscious knickers in a twist.” Somehow he managed the lascivious tongue-thing to go with the innuendo. No dice, though.

Buffy stared around the crypt, at the window, at the cobwebs, pretty much anywhere but at him. Par for the course that. Then she stiffened her spine, stuck out her chin and inhaled deeply.

“I came to tell you something. I didn’t kill that girl. Neither of us did.”

His lips parted, his eyes widened, that intense blue gaze never wavering from her. ”So?”

“So nothing. It was some sort of demon. Rawalpindi or some such. It made the time go all fuddled.”

“Rwasundi, you mean?” he exhaled. He hadn’t realised he’d been holding any breath. Hadn’t realised he’d inhaled any. That explained a lot. “So that’s why things went all timey-wimey for you? So what did happen, then?”

“Warren. You remember, your geeky sex-toy maker of choice. Looks like he and his pals got careless and his ex caught the backlash.”

Spike really, really didn’t want to think about that bloody bot now. Instead he focussed on important stuff. “So, not big confession time with Mr Plod this week, then? Can’t say I regret that.”

“No, no confessions from me. Warren and his boys, though, they are going to pay. And, Spike, this has to be the end. Of, well, whatever this is, I mean.”

He smiled, slowly, and moved, just a little, towards her. “That’s not exactly a new one on me, pet. D’you think now’s the best time, with me so sore and you so short of sleep?”

She blinked, paused, and finally took in the extent of the bruises on his face. Glory had made that sort of mess a year ago. This time it was no Big Bad. Spike waited, watched her work that out, think through what her next move had to be.

“I think I need to apologise. No, no more of, well, of that. But I’d better help you get downstairs, wash some of those cuts down. No fondling, though. And definitely no sex.”

As she busied herself about the crypt, getting the ladder ready, finding a bowl and a cloth to take down, then turned to lift him, she didn’t see his little smile. It was a rough path, OK, he knew that. But true love was like that. Much more of this and she’d see he was right for her, good for her. Destined for her.

Buffy grasped him beneath his armpits and heaved. He passed out, briefly, from the pain. But it was worth it.