Author:  Meltha

Rating:  PG for one semi-naughty word

Feedback:  Yes, thank you.

Spoilers:  Through "Empty Places" in season seven.

Distribution: and the Bunny Warren.  If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary:  In the aftermath of "Empty Places," Buffy is left with nothing except one ally.

Author's Note:  This is my take on one of the lines from the preview for the next episode.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy.  Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you.  Thank you.


            For several days following Buffy's eviction, she had remained completely invisible.  Not, of course, in the sense that she literally became invisible.  In Sunnydale, one needs to stipulate these things.  She simply refused to be seen.  Vampires and various and sundry different hostile demons turned up dusty or dead with regularity over the next few nights, almost more so than usual, but it might as well have been the shadows that were slaying them. 

            Eventually, though, she resurfaced.  Frankly, she had no other choice.  It was embarrassing, even humiliating, but she had absolutely nothing to her name.  She had been thrown out of the house without even her wallet, so she had no money and only the clothes on her back.  The last thing she wanted, and it was always the last thing she wanted, regardless of the circumstances, was to ask anyone for help.  But when she found herself actually digging through the dumpster behind the Bronze in hopes of finding something to eat after the very last of the spare change that had been in the bottom of her pocket was gone, she knew she didn't have an option anymore.

            The knock had come on the crypt door one night, and it was the knocking itself that told him how badly off she was.  She never knocked.  Buffy barged in with a flounce and a smart remark.  It's what she did.  But the quiet tapping did belong to the Slayer, and Spike opened his door to see a very dirty and defeated-looking girl on the other side.

            They had stood looking at one another awkwardly for a few moments.  Spike had no idea what to say to her that wasn't either obvious or stupid.  When the silence was broken, he was completely convinced of how bad things were.

            "I need help," said the soft voice as she scuffed the toe of her shoe against the flagstones, her eyes on the ground.

            "Come in, pet," he said in the tone he reserved only for those who were already aware his tough-guy exterior was a veneer.

            She walked in with a strangely uncertain step, almost as though she wasn't sure if this were really happening.  The vampire regarded her with an equally tentative gaze.  For a moment, he wished it was a year ago and he could at least offer to shag away her problems for a few hours, but that wasn't where things stood now.

            "So, um, care for a glass of water?" he asked.  "I'd offer more if I had it, luv, but truth is I only just moved back here myself.  Clem cleaned me out of food before he left, but I've still got that water pipe tapped in the basement." He laughed hollowly.  "Not much in the way of hospitality, I suppose, but better than nothing."

            She gave him a very weak smile.  "Thanks.  Water would be great."

            A minute later, they were sitting atop an old sarcophagus, each with a glass of water, and the silence had returned.  The Slayer sipped at her drink slowly, and as the level of the water went down, her embarrassment went up.

            "Buffy, what would you like me to do for you?" he finally asked, figuring the direct route was probably best.

            She set the now-empty glass down with a dull clink and looked him full in the face.  She took a deep breath, then began.

            "Look, I sorta need my stuff back.  My purse, some clothes, that kind of thing.  But I can't face them just now.  I don't," she paused for a long moment before she finally forced the words out, "I don't know what to expect if I go back there.  If they tossed me out again, I don't think I could take it."

            Spike nodded in understanding.  He hadn't spoken to the others about what had occurred.  Instead of going straight back to the Summers's house after his trip to the monastery, he'd dropped off Andrew and headed out to check on a rumor he'd heard about a new group of demons in town.  When he'd gone back to good old Slayer Central a few hours later, Andrew had been sitting on the back steps, a puzzled look on his face.  He'd blurted that Buffy had been kicked out of the house by the others for being unreasonable, and then the strange kid had gone back inside.  Spike had stood in the yard briefly, weighing his options, and after deciding that it probably wasn't the wisest choice to walk into a house where at least two of the inhabitants actively wanted him dead and where he was unsure of any allies at all, he'd headed back to his old crypt.

            "Want me to pop over and pick up your things for you?"

            She gave him a half-smile and said, "Would you?"

            "No problem.  I may be persona non gratis over there myself, but, hey, any excuse to rifle through your knickers-drawer again, eh?" he said, giving her a devilish grin in hopes of lightening the mood.

            She rolled her eyes, then reached in her pocket and handed him her key.  "Thanks.  I don't want to seem like a coward, but I've really had enough of the whole yelling thing.  I just don't want to go back right now."

            Spike shook his head in disbelief and grabbed the keys.  "If there's one thing you're not, it's a coward.  I'll be back inside an hour or so.  Feel free to use the shower while I'm gone."

            The journey to Revello Drive was not without incident.  Rioting and mayhem were still the order of the day, and there were far more vampires walking the streets than normal.  Spike passed at least three different demons he couldn't identify, but he was willing to bet none of them were followers of Gandhi.  Even with the detours and the two fights he ran into, the familiar white house was still within sight fairly quickly.  It was about three in the morning, and for once it looked like the Scoobies and the Slayers in training were keeping human hours.  The lights were off, and the house was deeply quiet.  Good, he thought.  With any luck, I won't even wake any of them.

            He popped Buffy's key into the lock of the back door and opened it silently.  He moved with as much stealth as he was capable of, which was a considerable amount, as he stepped into the kitchen.

            Except that he couldn't.

            Disbelief made his jaw drop open as he tried again, only to find exactly the same outcome.  The barrier to the house was back in place.  He had been uninvited.  He rested his forehead against the invisible wall and lightly pounded his skull against it, inwardly bemoaning the added complication.  How could it get worse than this?

            Even though the comment hadn't been voiced, Spike immediately cursed himself because the situation had, in fact, gotten worse. 

            "Coming to slit our throats in our sleep, bleach freak?" Rona asked.  She'd apparently decided to raid the fridge, and she was currently standing in the middle of the kitchen, a pair of Sylvester slippers on her feet and wearing a green terrycloth robe covered in eye-searing orange flowers.  "That's one of the first things we took care of after the blonde bitch got Pucked."

            "You don't call her that, kid," he growled at her ferociously, his features rippling slightly in the moonlight.  "You don't even get to think it."

            In spite of the barrier, Rona suddenly found herself feeling very nervous, and she rushed into the living room.  A few seconds later, a very groggy Giles came into the kitchen.

            "Go away, Spike," he mumbled at the vampire.  "You're no longer welcome here."

            "Yeah, got that bit, what with the inability to come inside.  Buffy sent me to get her things, though, so if you don't mind, let me in the bleeding house already," he snarled at the Watcher.

            "I rather think not," Giles responded almost lazily.  "Buffy is the only one who ever actually believed you weren't a threat.  I'm not about to let you have free access to this group of girls again.  One of her many, many mistakes."

            Spike glared at him murderously.  "What you do, Rupert?  Sell her stuff to pay the rent on the house she no longer gets to live in?"

            A brief flash of guilt crept into the man's eyes, and he looked vaguely uncomfortable.  "No, of course not."

            Spike regarded his posture and then realized.  "But someone did suggest it, didn't they.  Which one?"

            "Ehm, not that it matters, but Kennedy did put forward the possibility yesterday," Giles admitted, rubbing the bridge of his nose in the absence of having his glasses to clean.  "I refused to allow it, obviously."

            "Right big of you, that.  Buffy saves the world how many times?  Seven, eight?  And you actually stood up and refused to allow the brats to auction off her things to the highest bidder so they could buy Twinkies.  My, my, what a picture of loyalty you are," Spike said, the words dripping venomous sarcasm.

            "Yes, well, all things considered, perhaps it would be best if you took her belongings with you.  We can always have Willow put the barrier back tomorrow," Giles agreed.

            "And just who is going to invite me, pray tell?  Gotta be one of the people who actually lives here, you know, not just a squatter… like you," Spike asked coldly.

            Giles narrowed his eyes to slits, then disappeared back through the kitchen.  A few minutes later, Dawn's voice called through the second floor window.

            "Spike, I invite you," she yelled, her words tinged with the hoarseness of sleep.

            The bit didn't even want to talk to him.  Well, things had gone pretty much full circle since two years ago.  Back then, she was always pestering him.  What he wouldn't give to have her drop in at his crypt again like in the old days.  Too much damage had been done, though.

            No sooner had he walked into the kitchen when Giles reappeared, a stake in hand.

            "Gonna be my escort?" Spike said with a shake of his head.

            "Just keep your mouth shut, take what she needs, and leave," he replied, falling into step behind him.

            Buffy's room was cluttered with the sleeping bags full of a veritable United Nations of girls, but Spike managed not to wake any of them.  He opened the closet and pulled out a large duffle bag under Giles's sharp gaze.  Then he set to work at her dresser, opening drawers and quickly dumping them into the bag with remarkable speed and efficiency.  The closet was emptied in short order, and the battered shoebox that contained Buffy's cash joined the rest of the items in a jumble.  Moving to her jewelry box, Spike quickly added it, then carefully picked up the chain that held the cross looped over her mirror.  He knew exactly where it had come from, but he also knew she'd want it, which was more important.  With a sigh, he grabbed the final item he knew she'd miss:  the little pig sitting on the bookshelf in the corner.  The stuffed animal seemed to gaze up at him with a bittersweet smile, and for moment, he actually found himself blinking back tears.  Her whole life fit in a single bag… except…

            He motioned for Giles to follow him to the hallway.

            "What about weapons?" he asked bluntly.  "She could use something to defend herself.  The Bringers are still after her, you know, along with that Caleb git."

            Giles considered Spike's request, then headed for the stairs.  In the living room, he opened the weapons box Xander had given Buffy for her birthday last year and sorted through the contents.  When he turned back to Spike, he held out a small ax and two stakes.

            "I'm afraid that's really all we can spare," he said quietly.  "The weapons cache has to support a great many people now."

            "Right.  Tell yourself whatever you want to," Spike snarked as the paltry assortment disappeared into his coat's voluminous pockets. 

            He was halfway out the door when he heard Giles say softly "Do take care of her, won't you?  Tell her to be cautious."

            Spike turned around and looked at the other man before speaking.

            "Giles, I know things turned out badly with Buffy.  I may be in love with the girl, but I'm not completely blind.  She made some bad choices, and maybe you had good reason for saying she wasn't the best person to be in command anymore.  But the way you did it, tossing her out like a sack of rubbish on the sidewalk after all she's done—"he snorted rudely. "And she called me a soulless thing."

            With that, he strode out into the night, Buffy's life slung over his shoulder.

            When he walked into his crypt, she was sitting on the floor with her back against the wall.  Her hair was still damp from the shower, and her fingers were closed tightly around her stake.

            "Would have been back sooner, but thought it might be a good idea to stop off and get you a bite to eat first," he said, producing a bag filled with tacos.  "It's an odd thing, but demon like these at least as much as humans do.  Maybe more.  The Mexican joint down the street has been doing a booming business the past three months or so."

            "Evil likes tacos.  You learn something new every day.  Nice to know somebody's benefiting from all this," Buffy said as she picked up one of the tacos and unwrapped it.  "Uh, thanks, for everything."

            "Like I said, not a problem," he said, sitting down next to her with a taco of his own and biting into it.

            "Did you have any trouble?" she asked uncomfortably.

            "Nothing that couldn't be handled.  Watcher told you to look out for yourself," he added quickly.  No need for her to know the rest, he thought.

            They finished their very late dinner or very early breakfast, then stared at the opposite wall.

            "I'm, uh, not moving in, just so you know," Buffy said softly.

            "Figured as much," Spike acknowledged.  "There's a decent motel across town.  Rates aren't bad.  Probably about as safe as anywhere else now."

            "Yeah, that's where I planned on going," she said quietly.  "But, would you mind if I…"

            "If you what, pet?" he asked softly.

            "Could you, maybe, just hold me for a little while?" she asked in a voice that was almost ashamed.

            Buffy's head was soon resting on his chest, his arm circling her loosely, and he felt a tear or two dampening the cotton of his shirt.

            Whose tears they were, though, he couldn't say.