-1a/n: This story is complete with eleven chapters written. I will post chapters as soon as they come back from my betas: spikesdeb and slaymesoftly. Alwaysjbj made an awesome banner for this fic, but I can't post it here. The artwork is posted in my lj. See my profile for the link. Reviews, including con-crit, are welcomed.
Chapter One: Welcome Back
The motorcycle roared down the deserted two lane highway. The helmeted rider hunched down low with the moon reflecting off his brown leather bomber, leaned to the right and took the Sunnydale exit. He slowly made his way through the twisting, poorly planned streets and came to a stop at Restfield Cemetery where he tossed the helmet down, grateful that he wouldn't need it now that he was back where the police looked the other way.
Spike ran his hands through his platinum hair and dismounted. He stomped his boots and jumped up and down to get things flowing again. It had been a long road trip starting at sundown and before that, eighteen hours in the cargo hold of a plane. What he needed was a bit of kip in his own bed.
He opened the crypt door and was annoyed to find that it no longer creaked. How would he tell if some undesirable was sneaking in? Clem house sat a little too well. The place was spotless, except for the snack bowl and cup on the end table. All his lovely cobwebs were gone.
"Clem!" No answer. "Must be out playing poker," Spike muttered. He shrugged out of his jacket, tossed it on the chair and went to the fridge. Yogurt, butter, RC Cola and a jar of green olives. What did he expect? It's not like he had called ahead and warned the guy that he was going to be in the neighborhood.
He ventured downstairs expecting to find the space cleaned like the upper lever, but it was in still in shambles. Debris and odds and ends were piled onto the comforter and he had to step over rubble to get to it. He rolled the comforter with all the junk off the bed to land with a muted thud. The sheets beneath were clean but musty. They'd do for now. He was too tired to care.
He slowly came to consciousness hours later, hearing activity above him. It was most likely Clem, but he was cautious just in case. He poked his head up through the opening. Clem's back was to him and the demon was singing off key. The scent of pine hit him and he gagged, but Clem was oblivious because he had headphones on. Spike frowned; Clem was so trusting. Any creature could come in here and attack.
It was surprising that the demon hadn't croaked a long time ago with his poor survival skills. Clem was humming and scrubbing the makeshift counter with a sponge. Spike tapped him on the shoulder, which he realized was a big mistake when Clem screamed and tossed the open bottle of pine-sol up and behind him. The bottle hit Spike on the face and the contents ran down his front, soaking his t-shirt.
"Spike! Wow, I'm sorry man." Clem got a towel and held it out for him. "It's good to see you."
"Yeah, you too." Spike grimaced while using the towel to mop himself up, then tossed it on the ledge.
"I wasn't expecting you, but I'm glad you're back." Clem looked at Spike with kind and sympathetic eyes. It made Spike very uncomfortable. He followed the demon to the couch and sat with him. Clem settled in the seat and adjusted the folds of skin on one arm before asking, "Are you here to see the Slayer?"
"No. I wasn't planning on coming back so soon, if at all. Had some crazy things go down in Africa. Two days ago I got a funny feeling." Clem looked confused, maybe a little sad, but Spike continued. "My blood was calling to me and I answered. It led me back here."
"I thought maybe you heard about the Slayer." Clem shook his head slowly. "It's a pity really, because she's the only one who would watch Knight Rider with me."
"What happened to Buffy?" Spike was on the edge of his seat now, with his fists clenched.
Clem flinched at the violence in the vampire's eyes. "See that's the thing. Nobody knows for sure. She disappeared four days ago and no one's heard from her since. Word on the street is she's dead." Clem held up his hands when Spike growled low. It was obviously time to go. "Don't kill the messenger." He got up and put his winkled arms out wide. "I'll just leave you for the time being. I'll come back tomorrow and see how you're doing."
Spike stood too. "No. Stay here if you want. I've got to go out and I appreciate what you did here, keeping my place." He grabbed his jacket off the chair and made for the door.
"She asked about you all the time, you know." Spike turned at Clem's soft words and stared at him as if he was speaking a foreign language. "Buffy. She came here at least once a week. She played it off like she just wanted to watch classic TV with me, but I know better. She always managed to ask after you. Had I heard from you? Did I know where you were?" Clem shrugged. "I hope you find her."
Spike gave him a slight nod and hurried towards his bike.
Revello Drive was a deceptively quiet street with its quaint little houses and typical American families tucked safely inside for the night. He walked the bike and parked it a couple of houses down, wanting to keep his options open. Using his ingrained vampire skills, he moved with stealth to the backyard. He rounded the corner with the purpose of finding an open window, only to be pulled up short by what he saw. It was a good thing he didn't have a heart.
There she was. Strangely enough, she was doing the same thing he had intended to do. The light from inside the house cast a surreal glow on her concerned face. Muted voices drifted from the open windows. She was crouched down low like she was trying to avoid being detected, her faded, light blue jeans dirty and her wispy brown top frayed and torn in places. Her blond hair was dragged up in a messy pony tail.
Spike watched her from around the corner having no idea what he should do next. His relief at seeing her there almost overcame his belief that she couldn't possibly feel the same. He hung his head, and the guilt was so heavy, he didn't think he could walk if he tried. He clung to the side of the house and squeezed his eyes shut.
The voices inside got louder as they came closer to the open window on his side of the house.
Dawn was in hysterics and he winced when she spoke. "It's not true. She's out there and she needs our help."
"I'm sorry Dawn, but the Council, they just know these things," Giles said in a soft soothing voice.
"Well, they're so wrong!" Dawn was shouting, obviously distressed.
"Then where is she?" Xander's voice cracked. "I'm not one to believe those guys, but we haven't heard from her in days. If she was alive, she'd find a way to contact us."
"The Council has no reason to lie. We have to do some thing for Faith if we can't help Buffy." Giles hated himself, even as he spoke.
"Tell me again why we need to help her? She tried to kill Buffy and she's went to the dark side." Xander complained.
"Buffy. That's why. She wouldn't want them to kill her. No matter how bad things got between them, Faith is still a slayer. In fact, she's the only slayer now; but if what I overheard is right, maybe not for much longer. The Council is talking about eliminating her to get a more...shall we say cooperative slayer activated."
"That makes sense. If...I'm saying "if" here...If Buffy is dead and Faith is the only slayer alive, the world's in a whole heap of trouble."
Outside, Spike stared at Buffy, who made no move to go in and correct their belief that she was dead. Dawn was sniffling and he could hear her walking away. The others followed and he could no longer make out their words. Buffy backed away slowly, staying in the shadows until she was at the gate, but she didn't go far. He could see her through the gaps in the wooden fence as she leaned against the other side and slowly slid down until she was sitting.
Something was way off here and a growing feeling of dread propelled him forward, bugger the consequences. He made his way in the shadows as she had and stood beside her. She looked up quickly and stood in a flash of inhuman speed, backing away from him with her movement stirring the warm summer air. Something smelled familiar, prickling his senses, but he let the thought pass.
He whispered, "Buffy? I'm sorry I scared you. I'm sorry-" He backed up when the realization hit him. His eyes went wide and he fought the urge to go to his knees. "Oh, god. No!"
She frowned at him and turned away. She hesitated before walking off. He watched her round the corner and go between the houses out of sight. He was frozen to the spot until his brain finally kicked into gear and he took off after her, sure that she would be running by now; but she was only at the sidewalk just walking past his bike.
He grabbed his head in both his hands and stopped. He couldn't think. It was all too much for him and the word "no" was rushing at him like a jet plane taking off. His vision blurred and he watched her figure getting further away. He steadied himself and ran to catch up with her.
She stopped and he nearly bumped into her as she turned to look at him. Her eyes were haunted. "Am I Buffy? I need a new name. What should I call myself? Liam became Angelus, William became Spike, and it's only fair that I get a new name too." She placed her palm where her heart used to beat. "I know, how about Morticia? I could dye my hair black." She looked at Spike as she touched her hair.
"You came back," she said in a flat tone. "They never do that."
"I didn't think you wanted me to come back here. You made it clear you didn't need me, and that finally sank in when I tried to..."
"Tried to what, Spike? Violate me?" Her eyes lifted to the sky. "How many times did we attack each other like that and worse? I was just as bad as you."
"But you said no and I had no intention of stopping."
"Yeah, whatever. I went to talk to you about all the crazy stuff that went down before, but Clem said you'd left." He started to talk but she held up her hand to silence him. "I'm so past it, Spike. That was nothing compared to what's happened since you left."
He broke eye contact with her and looked around suddenly aware of their surroundings. "Where were you going?"
"Back to my cave."
"You're coming with me." Spike made his words a command, grateful when he walked back to his bike and she followed without a word of protest.
His skin crawled when she put her arms around his waist and he touched her hands. There was no warmth.
Clem was gone when they got to his place. They sat on the couch and she told him about the events that transpired after he left. "So Willow went with Giles and things calmed down some, like they do every summer."
He listened quietly, but couldn't get past the fact that Buffy had been shot and again Willow kept her alive. "So Tara is dead and you should have been too?" If he'd stayed maybe he could have done something.
"Yes, well, I seem to have the uncanny knack of dying but not staying that way because of my friends. Willow can't do anything about it this time though." It scared him that she could say that without any emotion.
"So this." He pointed at her. "How? Who?"
She closed her eyes and when she opened them, they flashed from amber and back to green. It was the most emotion she'd displayed since he'd seen her in the backyard. She was beyond angry.