Disclaimer: Standard rules apply.


Chapter VII : Surprise At Its Worst

…Julia.

It was the soft hue of familiar gold that first got Spike's attention. He never knew anyone else who donned that same length and style of blonde hair, and he was sure that he never would again see that same shade of shine. He inwardly shook his head and reminded himself that Julia was no longer living, and that the lights were playing tricks on him. So he went back to regarding the menu, though he wasn't really going to order anything.

But it swished in his peripheral vision and he felt the presence of a body standing nearby, so he felt compelled to look up. Maybe it was the dim lighting, or the way her golden hair shined that reflected the light in his eyes that skewed his correct vision; hell, maybe his brain was acting delusional at the moment.

She was here.

She was here?

Spike, usually rational when it comes to serious matters, didn't conceive anything in his head other than the very verity of Julia standing before him. In effect, his clouded vision took in the tall woman with the familiar face shape and what he knew to be blue eyes shied away by her bangs.

He didn't know how long he sat there staring at her, but he knew that something wasn't right when instead of the proverbial and sad, loving smile given to him by Julia, this…woman smiled brightly and suddenly his eyes focused and he realized his bitter mistake.

Don't be stupid, Spike. Julia's dead, you're overreacting.

Brown, not blue, eyes gazed down at him and without breaking the structure of her wide smile, the woman spoke, and her light tone signified the contrast between herself and his ex-lover.

"Good evening sir, I'm Madeline and I'll be your waitress tonight. I see you started with a glass of Bordeaux. Would you like to have a refill, sir? If not, are you ready to order?"

The longer he stared, the more he saw the blunt difference, and the more flustered he started feeling. He didn't want to digress, and he couldn't resist with her still standing there.

Spike shook his head and smiled politely at the woman. "Actually, I'm waiting for someone," he lied and she nodded. She offered her assistance and left though not before giving Spike a fleeting look, one that he knew women gave him upon their impression of him.

After she left, he sighed deeply and buried his head in his hands, gripping the roots of his hair tightly. He brewed in annoyance briefly, wondering about his previous misgivings. He didn't think; he didn't take into consideration the danger of Julia working at a restaurant that Red Dragons go to frequently, or of the fact that she shouldn't be alive and breathing, as morbid as that sounds.

He persuaded himself that from that point on, he hated all blondes. Because of a stupid shade of gold, he let his guard down past even his neutral balance of defense, making his vision blurred with the image of someone who was now just a memory.

And it was at that point that he bolted upright, shocked at the lack of grievance he felt, or should be feeling. That left him scowling; angry that he had forgotten about her and that the slight resemblance of her didn't have him aching for his own death.

Then that automatically had him looking towards a pair of green eyes that was regarding him with a mixture of emotions that he couldn't depict, or rather, didn't dare to. He knew that the way she was looking at him exuded the feeling that she was confused and distraught, and that made him happy and frustrated; it was like being shot, the feeling of hot and cold all at once. Faye had thought that she was Julia. And the heated stare she was giving him offered Spike the notion that she was jealous. Which in turn gave him the notion that he liked Faye jealous. Because it meant that she felt something for him, and that gave Spike some ounce of spark that he didn't know existed but welcomed. He had thought his body had been hollowed out when his life was to be ended, but like a well, it unexpectedly filled with waves of emotions.

It happened the day he slept with Faye, and again when Cailin was born, for he had diligently emptied out his well to rid of any emotions regarding his relationship and status with Faye. He knew he shouldn't have done it, but the onslaught of feelings pushed his heart out of the acids of his stomach and into his throat. Faye triggered the flood in more ways than he can count, and he was still drenched.

Now, it was grief that was passing him shortly, but for a different reason. As the resemblance of his past love brought back memories, he expected himself to give in to the misery of having lost her, but all that came was a slight truffle of wind whistling a sweet tune once hummed by her voice. After nearly seeing her all he could conjure up was the slight lullaby of her ­voice? He ensued into a grief of not grieving over her, because the guilt bestowed in him was starting to peek through.

She was the only thing he wished for after his hard months of re-jointing his limbs, and yet she was the last thing on his mind.

He cursed Faye for occupying his mind all those months.

And then he cursed himself for remembering that he had allowed her to twist her way into his heart.

He called for the bottle of wine.


I watched in dismay and shock at the scene that was transpiring a few meters away from me. From the look on his face, I knew she was captivating him again and my heart sank at the forward scene of Spike leaving with Julia. I knew things up until this point were too good to be true, even if they weren't even good to begin with.

The minutes seemed endless. I looked on as Spike stared at Julia incredulously, as I had expected, but the more they talked the more I saw his face regain its aloof persona. I was confused, because I was more than ready to feel the cold, steely texture of my metaphorical knife stabbing through my heart when I saw Spike's face erupt in happiness. I wasn't expecting the scowl that was slowly filling out his features.

Then suddenly, she walked away. I followed her with my eyes and after she left my view, I turned my vision to Spike and watched him as he seemed to be in a dismal mood. his head down in his hands. I was more than confused; I was flabbergasted. I resisted the urge to go there and start demanding questions from Spike.

This whole happenstance was not what I was expecting.

My heart thudded against my ribs and I realized that I was anxious along with being a tinge hopeful. I felt stupid, sitting here and staring at Spike, waiting for something to come.

"Faye."

I panicked for a second and turned my eyes to Alecto, afraid that he caught me. "I'm sorry, what?"

He smiled a small yet brilliant smile. "No, I was just going to tell you that I'm going to make a quick run to the restroom."

"Oh." I laughed lightly. "Alright."

I waited until Alecto before looking at Spike again, trying to sort out my feelings. I was in a mess, but it seemed that Spike was even more in a shithole than I was. I noticed how his hands held onto his hair tightly, and the deep furrow across his brow. I knew I was looking more into this than necessary, but I needed to know what happened. I kept staring at him, hoping that he would look up sometime soon, preferably before my date came back.

He did, finally. His eyes were potent with anger and humility and my confusion slowed into acute sympathy. His gaze was unwavering and direct, and I didn't dare break away from him. Spike never showed this kind of candidness to anyone voluntarily, and to catch him in that state is a rarity that's almost impossible to uncover. Again I say; I'm not an expert on being able to read Spike's emotions, mostly because he almost never has any to read, but I could pinpoint a single sense of anguish. Only because I've seen that same look in my eyes whenever I looked in the mirror.

Spike kept staring with a strong gaze, and I felt my heart flutter at each second. It seemed that he was trying to read my emotions as well, and I knew that I stupidly left my façade out of this battle and that everything was spilling out of the tight-lipped bottle I dearly held my reservations in. Either my emotions were easy to decipher at the moment, maybe because of my current display of vulnerability – which I adamantly try to cover – or Spike had this uncanny way of knowing how I felt.

Maybe it's because I've long forgotten the hiding place in my heart, as it was now stuffed with this stupid feeling called love.

Either way, I knew that my eyes were showing my swirl of emotions and I knew that Spike was taking them in with his standard stoic and very intent gaze, giving me more of a chill than the air-conditioned atmosphere.

After his gaze was starting to become almost unbearable, and I knew that Alec was going to return at any moment, I blinked and looked away. A few seconds later I looked back at Spike and I knew that that was the last time I would see him look so defeated in a long while.

Alec returned a minute later, and the delicious scent of his cologne wafted into my nose as he sat back in his seat. I smiled at him and we finished our dessert quietly, with Alec commentating once in a while, but my thoughts were nowhere near the topic. My heart was still rattling from the whole thing that happened, and it was leaving my mind relentless and troubled.

As the night wore down, I willed myself to engage into conversation with Alec. I knew that my participation was half-hearted, and I hoped that this would hurry on.

I looked at the clock and noticed that we've been on this date for close to two hours. At the moment, Alec and I were discussing the growing population on Mars, and if it weren't for his milky voice and my obligation to detain him, I would have promptly left the restaurant. Who in their right minds talk about the rise in criminals and wealthy people on this planet?

"Oh geez, look at the time," I heard him say and I looked at him as he was looking at the expensive watch on his wrist. He then pulled his sleeves back down and smiled apologetically. "I didn't realize that we've been here for such a long time."

I flicked my hand frivolously. "You know what they say: 'Time flies when you're having fun.'"

"Shall we head on out?" he asked, and I nodded, resurrecting the bounty huntress. As much as I would have liked to wallow in my confusion and slight misery, I had a job to do, and emotions certainly didn't serve as a lasso.

I wrapped the sheer shawl around my shoulders and while Alec busied himself with paying the check, I opened my purse and took the handcuffs out, hooking them onto the holster underneath my dress. A minute later he was now at my side, helping me out of my seat. I curved my mouth graciously at him and allowed myself to loop my arm around his.

As we exited the restaurant I glanced back to the table and wasn't surprised to see that it was now unoccupied. I sighed inaudibly and readied myself.

Before Alec called on the valet boy, I grabbed his arm and swerved us into the dark alley alongside the restaurant, slamming him against the bricked wall and deftly covered his mouth with mine. His brief surprise was apparent before he responded eagerly, kissing back with the same force I exuded.

To say he was a fabulous kisser is a blatant understatement. He expertly guided me to a near-bliss feeling with his soft-hard kisses and incredible scent.

But I knew better.

Before he could switch positions and I was the one against the wall, I took action. I took the handcuffs from the holster with one hand as the other was busy clutching at the lapel of his designer jacket. I took his bottom lip between my teeth and when I knew I had him fairly distracted, I slid my hand from his chest down his arm until his hand was in my grip.

I pulled away a few seconds later with a smug grin on my face.

I was surprised; however, when Alec didn't have the shocked look on his face as he experimentally tugged at the shackles binding his wrists.

"You are a clever one, Ms. Valentine. To say the least, I was not expecting such a diversion," he said calmly and my eyes narrowed at the smirk gracing his lips which I was nearly abusing not a minute earlier.

"You knew I was after the bounty on your head?"

He shrugged and even in the darkness I saw the gleam in his blue eyes. "Online date services show no mercy in revealing one's true identity, am I right? I mean, that is how you found me, right?"

I stared at him, confusion and annoyance swirling together in a violent storm within me. Not to mention I was already in an emotion marsh as it was. "Then why the hell did you agree to go on the date? Do you enjoy being put into jail?"

Alec's face lost all traces of arrogance and his mouth was no longer set in a derisive smirk; in place was a straight line, hardening his features. He almost reminded me of Spike. Almost.

"Faye, there are some things you need to know. You and Spike are both involved in this twisted game that's being played," he said and I froze at Spike's name. I was ready to ignore everything he was saying, pretending to be interested to appease his weird satisfaction of being detained, but I was no longer pretending.

I looked at him hard in the eyes and pointed my gun - I had removed it from underneath my dress along with the cuffs – at his face. He stood there unflinching and staring back at me sternly.

"You know something, and you're going to tell me everything. Got it?" I shoved the gun into his shoulder.

Alec shook his head and leaned towards me. "This isn't the time." His eyes flickered toward my chest. I scowled. "More than likely your comrades are listening to every single word being said at the moment between us, am I right?"

In all honesty, I had forgotten that the microphone was clipped on me, and he was right; in about five minutes Jet would be arriving with the ISSP to take him away. That also meant that Spike was listening, and I knew he was more than curious as to how his name was brought up in conversation – if you could even call this verbal standoff that.

"Faye," he called my name and I flickered my eyes back to his. "In about two week's time, you're going to have some questions for me."

"I have some questions now," I interjected but he shook his head.

"Now's not the right time. You have to trust me."

I scoffed. "Trust you? Why the fuck should I?"

"You're going to have no one else to turn to," he replied. I opened my mouth to answer, but the blaring sirens cut off anything that was to come out of my mouth. I growled and leaned away from him. My mind was now shrouded with the heavy pain that I knew would soon form into a headache. Nothing was making sense tonight.

"Faye! Faye, where are you?" Jet's voice was shouting above the sirens and I rolled my eyes at his insistence.

I glanced at Alec.

"In the pocket inside of my jacket, there's a card with my number on it; don't ask any questions – you're going to need that number, and you're going to need to call me."

As wary, pissed off, and puzzled as I was, I reached into his jacket like he told me and quickly pulled out the card. I tucked it into my dress and grabbed his arm, pulling him away from the wall and pushing him towards the street. I decided to go along with everything, and when I had the time – and the right frame of mind – I was going to assess this whole goddamned situation.

We exited the alley and Alec was ushered into the ISSP vehicle without a fight, and Jet rushed towards me with a concerned look upon his weathered face.

"Faye, we heard everything. What the hell's he talking about?" he asked quietly but I shrugged and put my gun away, ignoring him for the moment. I watched as the uniformed officers got into the car and drove away, then my eyes switched to the backseat, looking at Alec in cynical amusement.

"Do me a favor, Jet?" I asked a little while later as the excitement around the restaurant was slightly subdued. Jet glanced at me with his brows raised.

"What?"

"Can you watch Cailin for a little while longer? I'm not going home; I need to clear my head."

Jet characteristically rubbed his hairless head and sent me a withering look. I stared back at him, hoping he wouldn't put up a fight.

He sighed and dropped his mechanical arm. "Alright. Spike's with her now, though he went off somewhere earlier." I held back my scoff.

I turned to go, seeing as how my spacecraft was waiting for me along with the slightly dazed valet boy with my keys. Jet called my name, though, and I turned back around, looking at his worried face as he faltered with his words.

"Be careful, alright?" he finally said and I smiled a little, appreciating the deep concern the man had for me. As detached as I was from him and everyone those months before Spike left, I found Jet to be an actual good person, endearing almost.

I nodded my assurance. "Thanks, Jet." And with that, I turned back around and left him watching me as I boarded my ship, revving it up and taking off with my thoughts squished together in a failed attempt of me making some sort of conclusion of the night.


Twenty minutes later I landed at a convenience store that conveniently had a bar inside a few miles away from the high-life – as low as it is – and in the mellower district. Well, mellow enough where no one seemed to mind as I parked unceremoniously in front of the entrance.

I did however receive impious looks from the few men loitering around the store as I walked past them on my way to the bar, their stares not unlike the ones I was given at the restaurant. I ignored them all and sat down in a huff on the barstool, not particularly caring whether my dress hitched up or not.

Now settled down and away from any potential disaster – I unclipped the microphone from my dress – I was able to bathe myself in whatever thoughts that were festering in all corners of my mind. I went backwards in my mind and focused on the issue with Alec, and whatever it was that he was trying to warn me – us – of. Remembering that he had given me a way of direct contact, I reached into my dress and pulled out the card that I retrieved from his pocket.

I flicked it between my fingers, my thoughts now merging onto the date itself and how it was all a lie for both of us. Regardless of how gentlemanly he acted, or how much I had to resist enjoying it fully, it was all just a job for us.

But what in the world was he going on about? I'm no good with puzzles, and I get impatient easily. Two weeks with this lingering heavy on my mind will cause serious damage.

I sighed and tucked it back away, my mind now latching onto another important issue at hand.

Julia.

And why Spike refused her like that. Or maybe… he wasn't refusing her and they were planning to have some rendezvous some other time, just to get away from everything. And everyone. Get away from me, from Cailin. He was going to run away with her.

I scowled and rested my elbows on the table, my hands rubbing at the ache pounding against each side of my head.

How the hell did my life get so complicated?

The sound of a dull thud was more surprising to me than it should've been, and I jumped away from the bar counter, my eyes wide with panic. I looked at whatever made the sound and saw a glass in front of me, and then I raised my eyes to see a kind-looking woman looking down at me with smiling and amused eyes.

I watched silently as she took a bottle and filled the glass up for me.

"You looked like you needed something hard," she said and I gratefully took the drink and drank halfway before setting it back down. The burning of the whiskey was delightfully soothing as it made its way down my throat, scratching at the fleshy walls.

"Thanks."

She leaned her voluptuous self against the bar and peered at me speculatively. "Now, what's a girl like you doing here dressed like that?"

I sighed and played with a strand of hair hanging sneeringly in front of my face. "Life," I said and the woman smiled gently, easing her features to an almost maternal guise.

"Life isn't meant to be wallowed over. It's meant to be taken in stride. I've seen how life deals bad cards to people," she said and I looked over at her. "You're too young to be looking so distressed about life though, honey."

I scoffed gently. "Believe me, I've lived long enough that I've been dealt plenty of shitty cards by life," I said disdainfully, shaking my head.

Something came over me at that moment and that bottle I've been keeping so tight-lipped seemed to be shaking fiercely, threatening everything to come spilling out in one crashing wave. I heaved a deep breath and prepared myself for something that probably would resemble a soul-bearing session. Seemed pretty whiny of me, but either that or I was going to do some physical harm to something pretty soon.

"Can I tell you something…?" I left the question hanging and the woman smiled.

"Karen."

I nodded. "Faye. Well Karen, can I tell you something?"

She looked behind me and I turned my head to see the store now empty except for us and when I glanced at the clock above the shelf behind her I noticed that it was close to eleven.

Karen turned back to me and gestured openly. "Sure thing, Faye. What's on your mind?"

It was then that I took the cue to have a verbal mudslide, relaying practically every single problem I've had with life since awakening, first by telling her what had transpired this evening to going backwards and to the stiff relationship Spike (I left out names for good measure) and I have at the moment, to how we accomplished said relationship, including everything from Cailin being born to our one night together and further back to his leaving and entering back into our lives. I told her how deep into shit love I was and how I would never expect to have his heart when it was still far off somewhere in the cold past hidden in his eye.

I didn't ask for her sympathy, just a lending ear, and I got it. It was nice to know that she was listening and taking it all in with a wise ear and a hard heart.

I finally finished, my mind somewhat clearer yet hazy from the various anecdotes I provided, the drawn memories swirling like smoke in my head and allowing me to relive all those damn emotions. I took a deep breath.

After a minute, Karen smiled sadly. "Dear, if you don't mind me saying," she paused and glanced at me, continuing when I nodded, "But you've set yourself up for heartbreak."

I shook my head and laughed, the words sounding more true and bitter coming from someone else's mouth.

"Don't I know it."

I called for another shot.


A/N: Well, that should answer the imperious question following chapter VI concerning Julia's state of living. She's dead - it was all just an honest mistake on both parts, hah.

Really, three months isn't too bad. It's yet again four in the morning when I'm updating a story, but it's routinely by now. Hopefully I'll keep this up, and hopefully (pray for it) the update intervals will slowly decrease, maybe down to one month?

...Yeah right.

Thanks again for the lovely reviews!