- In the End -

Chapter One

The letter was simple enough in the end. Half a page, handwritten. Spike couldn't help but think it should have been a bloody epic, considering the time he spent composing it. Fourteen months of missed opportunities.

Hello, pet. Yeah, it's really me. How about that, eh?

On it went. Short, pitifully constructed sentences that didn't say quite what he meant. It was possibly the worst thing he'd written in his life, and that was saying something. The letter explained little and resolved nothing, save that now she would know the truth.

In a weak moment, he scribbled down a phone number at the bottom of the letter – right before he sealed the envelope and slid it into the mailbox. No turning back after that. Including the phone number had been a particularly difficult decision, but he figured that if she really wanted to talk to him, she would discover what it was sooner or later. Might as well come from him. One less thing she'd have to yell at him about later.

And oh, how she was going to yell.

But as he walked home from the post office, he couldn't help wondering – what if she never called? What if she already knew he was alive and didn't care in the least? What if she was perfectly content with her new lot and didn't want him around making things complicated? Or what if she was so hurt that he hadn't contacted her sooner, that she couldn't bring herself to speak to him?

Spike took these concerns and more to Gentleman Jack. He found no answers, but at least the alcohol helped him sleep. The days passed with agonizing slowness. His apartment had never felt quite so small, and he paced the floors like a caged animal. Even took up smoking again so that he would have something to do with his hands. The nights were worse, with nothing good on television to keep his mind occupied.

He refused to leave his apartment to patrol, worried that he might miss her call. He made the mistake one night of watching the evening news and heard about a grisly double murder that took place just down the street. Couple of little kids. He took the news hard.

On the eighth day after the letter was mailed, he made a decision. He wasn't going to allow his feelings for her to rule him any longer, regardless of how much he still loved her. That was what this year apart had been about. Finding out who he was. Proving to himself that he could be something apart from a woman. Doing the right thing because it was the right thing – not because Buffy would smile upon it. No more 'WWBD?' bracelet for him. It was his turn to stand on his own two feet and get the hell on with his life. Get back on the path of redemption and do what mattered.

It was quite simple, really. If Buffy wanted him in her life again, she would call. If she didn't, well … then she didn't. It would hurt like hell, but he would get over it. Eventually.

That night's patrol was glorious. Had the nasties pissing all over themselves, they were so terrified. Spike's face and duster were painted in several different shades of blood, very little of it his own. Who knew toting a worn battle-axe down the streets of Los Angeles could be so liberating? He felt better than he had in years. More complete than he had in decades. Nothing could bring him down.

The phone was ringing when he got home. He tripped over his feet twice, bruised a rib, and tore one sleeve of his duster completely off trying to answer it in time. Love's bitch, indeed.

"Hello?" he said frantically, holding an arm tightly across his throbbing ribs to keep the pain to a minimum.

Silence greeted him. After a moment, Spike heard the tiniest hint of a breath on the other line. The phone trembled in his bloodied hand. "Buffy?" he asked, his voice cracking. "Pet?"

Distinctly, he heard a sob, and then …


A moment later, a recording suggested he hang up and try his call again.


To be continued. Soon.