Everything was about instinct.

Instinct in fighting a battle Spike shouldn't have walked away from, a battle he was the only one that walked away from. Instinct that had him blocking jabs and taking blows while his friends around him dropped or dusted. That had him moving in slow motion, his mouth always open and battle cries, growls, and taunts always flowing out of it as he sunk himself further into the wall of Hell on Earth in the form of every demon type imaginable.

Gunn had dropped first. Lasted about as long as Blue had said he would. Instinct had Spike seeing Gunn's final minutes. He'd been watching him out of the corner of his eye the minute the battle began, knowing that it wouldn't last long for him. Watched Gunn as he staggered about, battle axe swinging wildly, all in the sake of just hoping to prolong the inevitable. Saw the terrified look skirt across Charlie's face when a sword was thrust into his gut. Watched him clutch helplessly at it, desperately trying to pull it out of him, hoping no harm was done. Saw him fall to his knees, eyes wide and mouth open. Turned away when he finally fell. Spike had a lot of respect for him in that moment, knowing that Gunn had everything to lose going into this fight. Gunn was human, a mortal. Ticking away with a pulse, and he'd willingly aligned himself into this, knowing it'd all end tonight.

It was instinct that had Spike charging on, eventually stopping again mid-fight, just in time to see Angel's shocked face before the Champ exploded into a pile of dust. Guess that old wives tale about dragons breathing fire rang true, because up he lit. Not before slaying the dragon, of course. But Spike was too numb to fully feel the weight of Angel's death, to let it stop him. And yeah, weight over the dusting of the Poof, something he'd been swearing for a century plus he'd never give two fucks about. But he did, even if it just was because the git had to go out in a literal blaze of glory, being the drama queen that he was.

Instinct drove Spike until there was nothing left, until even Illyria had decided that fighting was pointless and gave in. The attacking demons surrounded her, swarm to her, and she took it. Took the beating showing no emotion, except for maybe disgust. Probably had to piss her off a bit that her great God-ly ending was coming at the hands of muck scum and what-all. But she didn't fight back, and Spike didn't run over to help her.

With Illyria gone, it dwindled down to just him, and instinct had his muscles tensing, his chest tightening. Had his every nerve screaming in a way he'd only felt fighting Slayers before - that thought of impending death, that knowledge that it was about to end, that excitement in knowing that he was doing something so utterly stupid, so incredibly moronic, he had to choke back laughter. He'd stood with his fists held high and just accepted his fate. Watched as the beasties huddled around him, their eyes all lighting up in a way he knew mirrored his own.

And then they just stopped. Backed off of him in some unvoiced agreement and disappeared from whence they came. Left him still standing tense, still ready to fight, his fingers still curled into fists held against his chest. Left him alone, and confused as hell.

That was then. Weeks ago, maybe. Hard to tell, what with the newly felt sobriety. And the entirely unconstitutional hangover that came with said sobriety. He'd left the alleyway after... well, hell if he knew how long he'd stood there. It was when the rain had eventually stopped falling and the reality of the situation finally set in. They weren't coming back to finish him. He'd looked around, and gone were Gunn and Illyria. Disappeared completely, like it'd never happened. Gone was any trace of dust that would've been the remaining bits of the forehead and hair gel that was the Champ. There weren't massive piles of demon parts, weren't the scattered and left behind weaponry-- Gone was everything.

Except for Spike.

And if it wasn't for him knowing that the sun was about to rise, he'd probably have stayed in that alleyway. He had nothing left in him. Was exhausted, sore and stiff from the previous hours of a demon war - but the thought of dusting in a way as anticlimactic as being caught in the sunrise had his feet moving. Instinct came into play again, and where he eventually ended up was at his apartment. His apartment with its cold emptiness in the form of a bare, empty room. With its reminders of what'd just happened as he stared blankly at the extra pieces of weapons that'd been left behind. On his bed, on his table, on his couch.

He'd left there, too. Couldn't stand being in that place, frozen in some memory with the knowledge of everything he'd just been through. He was beyond numb, beyond feeling anything. Bolted after a few minutes, and ended up wandering through the sewers, half-consciously headed towards Wolfram and Hart. Found nothing when he got there, of course. Collapsed building. Media surrounding the place in the ever-predictable fashion that was typical in LA.

Spike watched from the shadows as a group of suits stood in front of the dozen or so set of camera crews, no doubt trying to explain exactly why it was that the building was gone. Imagined their excuses in his head while he fumbled through his duster pocket, pulling out his pack of cigarettes and a lighter. Chuckled a bit to himself when his hearing picked up and they were going on about shifting tectonic plates, confined to the likes of that one building alone, and -- wide smiles, dodgy glances -- thank God for that, right? Nods and appreciative grins from the reporters.

He'd gone back to his apartment when his cigarette had dwindled down to nothing but a stub in his hand, burning forgotten between his fingers. He'd rummaged under his bed until he found what he was looking for - a sealed box that contained a passport for him and every other member of Angel's little group of avengers. He thumbed through it, idly backtracking-- Spike wasn't one of the bloody avengers, he was his own man, but that thought faded as he picked up the thick envelope hidden at the bottom. It had enough money enclosed to get what was supposed to be the group of them safely out of LA. Laughed bitterly at that, reminded again that he was the only bloody one left. Decided that that thought was just a bit too morbid, so he'd grabbed what was his, pocketed the dosh, and put the box right back where he'd found it.

And then he left again. Without looking back, without a second glance, he was gone.

Where he ended up was on a plane, heading to Rome. Evening and night flight, secured in some back corner away from any windows so as not to get a wakeup call from Mr. Sunshine and the fun little following burst-into-flames. He knew it was entirely predictable that Rome was the first place he'd thought to go. Was the only place he knew to go, though. Instinct.

Of course when he got to Rome, discontinuing the current trend of predictability - he'd stayed away from Buffy. Stayed away from her building, with its apartment 34 and its housing of two Summers' women. Stayed away from clubs where he might run into her and her boyfriend of sort. Instead he'd found himself a place to stay -- old acquaintance, didn't ask much questions, just accepted the bit of money Spike had offered and showed him to an extra room.

And every night since then, Spike had hit up a new bar. Would drink until he was numb, because there was nothing else to do. Drank until he felt like confiding in the nearest body next to him, and would share his stories. Told anyone who'd listen about what happened in that alley. Would even refer to those now gone as his 'mates', his Foreheadness included. Got pissed off when they wouldn't believe him, and had to be escorted out a time or ten.

And this is where the story catches up. This is where he got tired of it. Just stopped, mid-step, on his way to another bar. Stopped and finally let it all hit him. The death, the pain, the hunger, the depression, the grief of every bloody thing that had systematically gone wrong the past decade of his existence. He stood there like some sodding wanker in the middle of some bloody street and thought about how royally fucked up his life was so hard that it choked him.

Instinct finally had his feet moving again, taking him in the direction his mind was screaming at him to back away from. Instinct had him stepping into an elevator and pressing the buttons that lifted him up three floors. It had him securely by the balls now, and he couldn't have stopped moving even if he would've wanted to. Grip so tight, it had him stumbling drunkenly out of the elevator, staring down a hallway at a door he knew he had to move towards. Except he wasn't drunk, and that made it all the more painful. Instinct gave him a good shove and pushed him towards that door. It had him halting to a stop in front, so as not to keep walking passed. Was probably a bit of instinct that lifted his hand up, made him knock once, twice, louder the second time, right below the tacked on numbers of '3' and '4'.

Instinct decided to flee him the second his knuckles lost their connection with the door, and his hand had dropped back to his side, replaced entirely with an uncharacteristic feeling of fleeting terror. The hallway was lit by only a few bulbs lining the walls, and it made everything darken around him except for that door. Everything was quiet, so... gone. Just him and the door and silence screaming at him as words played tauntingly through his head.

Evil, soulless, disgusting.

His hands went to his duster pockets then, needing them to be doing something besides just hanging there.

Ask me again why I could never love you.

Turned his head and stared at the elevator. Thought about walking back to it before anyone had noticed he was even there.

You're beneath me.

Swallowed hard at that particular thought. Breathed in deep to push it away.

I'm not ready for you to not be here.

Felt a familiar presence behind the wood. Saw the doorknob twist a bit, heard it rattle. Held his breath as the door swung open.

I love you.

Could've swore his heart ticked in that moment.


He smiled then, for the first time in weeks, months. His girl, standing there in front of him, looking every bit as beautiful as he remembered and more. "Hello, Buffy."

There was a pause, a few moments of silence that was filled up with the two of them just staring at each other. "Spike," she said again, less breathy this time, with just the bit of a frown on her face.

His smile widened, turned into a soft chuckle at her confused look. "Yeah," he replied, answering every question he knew was coming. Yeah he was here, yeah he was alive, yeah he wasn't planning on leaving anytime soon despite soulless Immortal wankers-- if she didn't want him to.

"I thought--"

"Bit miraculous, innit?"

Few more seconds of silence fell between them, and she continued to just stare at him. Almost again felt like leaving, just because the silence was so deafening. She swallowed, and that brow of hers drew together. "Giles said... he said there was a battle..." And he knew then that she knew. She knew that he'd been alive all that time, knew what went down. He started to expect her anger to come shining through any second now. Prepared his face for her fists, because that's how they worked. "In Los Angeles, at Wolfram and Hart," she kept on saying, muttering it disbelievingly. "No one made it out alive. Angel's gone..."

Flick of a switch, and his momentarily felt humor was gone, replaced instantly with guilt. Knew what that little jut of her lower lip meant. She was mourning someone else. He wanted to comfort her then, tell her he was sorry that he was standing there when she wanted it to be someone else instead. Sorry he was her consolation prize, that he'd been passed over when Angel and the rest hadn't.

"You were gone," she finished quietly.

And that blindsided him completely. Felt like an admission, though he didn't know to what. "I'm here now."

Few more seconds of silence, and again he wanted to leave. He hadn't really thought it'd be like this, their reunion. Had expected maybe... maybe relief or happiness, anger and self-righteousness. Casual acceptance. Awkwardness hadn't played out once in his mind, and it's what he was getting. Was almost ready to apologize to her for coming, knew he shouldn't have, but he couldn't help it. Couldn't just stay in that city, knowing she was there on that time schedule all Slayers are living on, and not see her. He couldn't live like that, not without knowing how she felt.

Spike was ready to pull back and step away, to say goodbye, give himself that hard push that would help him finally move on. But then her hands reached out and were pulling him to her, and he resisted, but only for a second and only from surprise, before he gave in and let her draw him to her. She wrapped her arms around his neck, and instinctively his own arms curled around her waist. He pulled her to him, buried himself into her, and felt every bit of tension, every muscle wound tight with pain and worry, loosen.

"You're here," he felt her say into his neck, and his only response was to clutch her harder.