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How You Remind Me

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Fred stared at her office door for a long moment after Spike sauntered out of it. He’d seemed pretty accepting about the whole still stuck as a ghost thing, but she’d come to know him fairly well in the short time since he’d come out of the amulet. He’d learned a few new tricks, and yeah, there were worse things than being a ghost, but she knew he had to be devastated.

All that fear and confusion since being brought back and then having to deal with Pavayne doing who knew what to try to force him into hell. A place that she was convinced he didn’t belong. He didn’t deserve the limbo of ghostiness either, but that’s where he was, and he’d asked her not to try anything else. Not that there was much else she really could try.

And that left Spike as he was. What they were all calling a ghost, even though he didn’t match the specifications of one. At least things had gotten a little better for him, even though Pavayne had been the one brought back to being solid instead of him.

He could influence things on the physical plane a bit, now. So that was one thing he’d gained from it all. Of course, he still didn’t have his sense of touch. Or smell. Or taste. Just sight and sound. It had to be a type of hell all on its own, really. But he’d given up his chance to be corporeal again to save her, and now he was putting on a happy face about everything so she wouldn’t feel as bad.

He really was worth saving, no matter what the others seemed to think. It was too bad there was nothing she could really do for him. Except… maybe there was. Fred bit her lip, conflicted over what had just occurred to her. He hadn’t said anything about it lately, but she remembered when Spike used to ask all the time if someone could call Buffy for him. Fred had followed the party line there, thinking that Angel had to be right.

But the man she’d come to know wasn’t the monster Angel had been telling them about. Angel may have saved her, been her hero in her darkest time, but that didn’t make him infallible. And according to both Wes and Cordy – her heart ached at the memory of her friend, still in a coma in the medical ward – their boss wasn’t always a clear thinker when it came to Buffy. Maybe he was wrong and she’d actually want to know Spike was alive.

Then again, though, maybe Angel was right. Fred had no idea what kind of relationship they’d had. Spike was charming, and not above using that charm to get his way. Maybe Buffy was better off without him in her life. But was that really her choice to make? No, it wasn’t. And it wasn’t Angel’s, either.

Her mind made up, Fred dug out her cell phone. She didn’t have Buffy’s number, but she and Willow still kept in touch. She’d call the witch and ask her to pass along the message. And then…. Well, then the ball would be in Buffy’s court.

 

...

 

Buffy lay sprawled across the bed, staring up at the ceiling. Everything was supposed to be good now. There were all kinds of baby slayers out there, fighting the good fight for puppies and Christmas and discount shoe shopping. She was supposed to be enjoying a fantastic European vacation while Giles and the other surviving Watchers gathered up their resources and contacted all those new little slayers. They’d have it all explained to them and get set up with a support system of other girls with their powers and duties.

Yay for them. And she meant it. Being the One Girl in All the World really sucked. She was glad no one else would be saddled with it. Or as glad as she could be when she mostly just felt numb about everything.

At first, she’d embraced the new feeling of freedom. She could go anywhere, do anything. She wasn’t tied to Sunnydale and its Hellmouth anymore. And the person who had helped make that a reality…. Well, she knew from experience that the dead wanted their loved ones happy and living life to the fullest. Death was only a tragedy to those left behind. For the dead, it was moving from one thing to another. If she wanted to honor Spike’s sacrifice, she had to enjoy herself, right?

For the first few days, she’d lived out that mindset. But then things had started sinking in. Sunnydale was gone, along with her mother’s grave, all of the family photos, Mr. Gordo. And Spike. He’d been a part of her life for a while, first as a thorn in her side, then the one always by her side. Enemy. Punching bag. Lover. Friend. Hero. Dust and gone.

And it didn’t matter what the dead wanted for the living, because she was the living, and to her, him being gone was a tragedy. He’d gone off and gotten a soul for her, all on his own. No one had forced him or cursed him. He’d just decided to go and do it. That had been big. Seriously, majorly big, and she hadn’t had time to really process it. To process him and how she felt about everything.

And now he was dead. Deader. She’d raged for an entire day, calling him every name she could think of and then just screaming random harsh sounds at his memory before sobbing into a pillow. Now she was just numb. Numb wasn’t too bad. Numb didn’t hurt.

Numb was gentle and sleepy, and let you shrug with a fake grin at everyone who was concerned about how much you were sleeping. Hey, just making up for lost time. You know how hard it is get a good night’s sleep when you have to slay and go to high school? I never really had a chance to catch up on that good old beauty sleep even after graduation.

And they bought it, because they wanted to. Because they’d all lost things in Sunnydale, and no one wanted to reach out past their own shell of misery if they had an excuse not to. So they all dealt with things in their own ways. Willow was out partying every night with Kennedy, letting the rich girl spend money and shower her with gifts. Xander had retreated to some sort of workshop Giles had set up for him, working out his grief and loss – of both Anya and his eye, though it was Anya that had to hurt the worst – by shaping chunks of wood to his will. And then there was Dawn, who barely spoke to anyone, just holed up in her room, studying ancient texts like she thought they’d vanish away in a puff of smoke. Just like….

Buffy let her eyes flutter closed. Tired. She was so, so tired. Too tired to even bother taking off her clothes and getting ready for bed. She’d just nap for now, get enough energy so she could sleep properly after she woke up. She’d almost drifted off when a knock on the door snapped her back to being fully awake. Damn it.

Go away, she thought, turning her head to glare at the door. But she didn’t say it, since it might have been Dawn, and she was still responsible for her.

“What’s up?” she called out, forcing herself to sit up and look like she cared. Just like riding a bike. You never really forgot how to fake being okay.

Willow opened the door and walked in, wearing high heels and a vibrant green dress that complimented the red of her hair beautifully. Hair that had been styled in an artfully careless way that had either required magic or the skills of an expensive stylist. Buffy was pretty sure she was also wearing makeup, blended perfectly to look like she wasn’t at all. She looked like some rich person’s trophy, not a smart computer girl who had grown into being a powerful witch. She looked like Kennedy’s girlfriend, not like Willow.

She also had a strange expression on her face as she stared down at the cell phone clutched in her hand. “I, uh… I just got a call from Fred,” she finally said, looking up from the phone. Her eyes held a lost, sort of stunned expression, like this Fred person had hit her over the head with a hammer.

Fred, Fred, who was…? Oh, right. That scientist girl who worked for Angel. A vague, sluggish feeling of dread stirred in Buffy’s gut, but it was mostly smothered by irritated exhaustion. She so didn’t want to deal with Angel or any of his problems.

She sighed heavily and pinched the bridge of her nose. “What’s Angel gotten himself into now?”

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t exactly fair. Once he’d gotten off on his own in L.A., he hadn’t exactly needed her to save his butt all that much anymore, but still…. She blinked as she thought that over. Huh. She’d never really considered it that way before now, but yeah, she’d been the one to save Angel a lot. When she’d needed him, he’d usually been all crypto-guy. Not important right now. Nothing was, though she still had to pretend.

“It’s not Angel,” Willow said. “It’s…. Buffy….” She paused and took a deep breath, then continued in a rush. “It’s Spike. He’s back.”

She kept talking, something about the amulet and Spike being stuck in L.A. as a non-corporeal being, but it all sort of washed over Buffy as she stared blankly ahead. Back? Spike was….

“How long?” she asked quietly, breaking into Willow’s rambling. “How long has he been in L.A.?”

She wanted to think they’d been told right away that Spike was back (Alive! He’s alive, oh god, Spike’s alive! part of her cried out in giddy disbelief, but most of her was too stunned to fully process it yet), but this was Angel and his people. He liked to keep things from her for “her own good.” Anger flickered somewhere deep inside.

“Um… a little over a month, according to Fred.”

And there it went. That little flicker roared up into a searing flame of rage, burning through Buffy’s apathy. A whole. Freaking. Month. She got to her feet and strode to the closet, methodically stuffing both clothes and weapons inside.

“Buffy?”

“Tell Dawn to get packed,” Buffy said without looking up from her task. “We’re going to L.A.”