Present Day - Sunnydale, California
Buffy sat on the headstone, her left foot crossed over her right ankle, her hands clutching the headstone's edge. She had a stake in her right hand, her left hand was empty. Her senses picked up on the fact that she was being watched. She had felt his presence over the past couple of weeks, but her efforts to look for him had netted nothing.
She had gone to his crypt the first time she had sensed his presence only to find it looked just as it had since his absence. Clem had done his part to make sure that no one took over the crypt. When she realized Spike was gone, possibly for good, Buffy had gone there with boxes to gather all of Spike's belongings and bring them back to her house. She would not have it on her conscience if something happened to Clem that resulted in something happening to Spike's things.
She had tried calling out to him, she was beyond being angry with him now. She was still hurt, yes, but his absence the past four months had given her an opportunity to think on things. Lots of things. Five years of things that had led up to the incident in her bathroom. As much as she would love to lay the blame for that night's events entirely at his feet, she could not. And what was more she missed him, his friendship.
She had tried explaining it to Xander and Dawn, but she just couldn't do it. Explaining it to them would mean explaining the whole entire twisted relationship she had shared with Spike. Buffy was not ready to talk about that to anyone, admitting what she had to Tara was hard enough.
"Where are you," she called out. She did not know why she bothered, in a matter of minutes she would no longer sense his presence indicating he had left as soon as she spoke out. She stood as she felt tears form in her eyes and threaten to fall. She would not let him see her cry, again. Sadly, the thing that tore at her heart most was not that their physical relationship had come to an end. No, she missed the friend, the confidante, the understanding person she had gained in Spike. He apparently wanted to remain out of her life other than the ghostlike appearances he continued to make. Not that it surprised her anymore. Men ran from Buffy as if she had some incurable disease. If she had learned one thing over the years it was that she was unable to keep a man around, even her father had left.
Maybe she did have some incurable disease, the inability to give of herself completely. She had tried once, giving Angel her heart, her soul, her trust, her innocence, her love, and even her blood. She would have given her life for him if she had been able to. If her blood could have stopped Acathla she would have gladly given her life for him. She had given him the precious commodity that was a Slayer's blood, had let him drain her to within an inch of her life, and yet he had still left her.
Her night's patrol done, it was time to go home and stop thinking about the blonde vampire who had also left her. She had never known Spike to run away from a problem. Sure, he had played these lurking games a couple of years ago but this was different. She did not feel stalked right now merely watched as if he was just checking up on her. She wished he would stop, it reminded her of Angel coming into town the few times he had behind her back in an effort to protect her.
She did not want to go home. Going home brought with it the dreams. They had been plaguing her nightly, making her will herself to stay awake until exhaustion overtook and she had no choice but to sleep. Dreams of young girls much like herself being brutally killed all looking at her with lifeless eyes as if reaching out to her. Every time she had the dreams she would get the feeling that there was something she was supposed to be doing to help these girls, but she had no idea how, where they were or even who they were. She knew enough by now to know that these dreams meant something. She was not prophecy girl, but her dreams did have a knack for possessing hidden meanings.
Calling Giles was not an option for her as much as she might want to. He was moving on with his life and had told Buffy more than once over the past year that she no longer needed a watcher. So she was stuck dealing with the dreams on her own, keeping them to herself, unable to share the torment and guilt she experienced every time she had one with anyone. Where were these girls? Were they truly dying? She had a sinking feeling in her gut she knew who they were, so she did not bother to think much on trying to identify them.
Spike would understand, Spike would listen to her, and Spike would know something or someone to get information from. Buffy was not research girl. Dawn, while willing to help and certainly more computer literate than Buffy or Xander, was no Willow or Giles.
She took one last glance at the cemetery once she had reached its edge. "Why are you doing this to me," she called out. "You know I know you're here, so why don't you just show yourself and be done with it?" She no longer felt his presence, so she was probably talking to herself but she could not contain it any longer. "I'm not mad at you, okay. I'm hurt I won't deny that but I'm not mad."
She waited a few minutes but as expected nothing happened so she made her way home. The cycle would begin again, another night of little to no sleep, another day tomorrow at work, another night of patrolling. Buffy knew that Dawn and Xander were worried about her. Buffy had not been to the Bronze or anywhere else outside of the house on Revello Drive that did not involve work or patrolling in months. What a lame summer she had had, but she did not mind.
At home, she heated the leftover spaghetti Dawn had left for her, took a bath, and took a seat on the couch with the TV on hoping there would be something good on to delay her slumber as long as possible. Her attention was drawn to a photo album on the table that she did not recognize. Her curiosity peaked, wondering who Dawn had had over that would bring a family photo album, Buffy brought the heavy, thick and dusty photo album to her lap.
She opened the yellowed pages and realized at once what it was and where it had come from. Dawn had been missing Spike and had gone through the boxes of his things in his basement. There were not many photographs in the album, all but two of the pages were empty. Buffy recognized Spike from over one hundred twenty years ago, only he had not been Spike then he had been William.
He had been handsome in a geeky sort of way. Buffy recalled Giles or someone saying that he had been a poet and could not help but look into the eyes of the young man who had died over one hundred twenty years ago and wonder whether he regretted it. The other pictures she assumed were of his family, so he must have cared for them to tote around pictures of them for over a century.
What had happened to them? Had he killed them as Angel had killed his family? No, Buffy thought to herself, she could not see Spike doing that. He was capable of many things and she had no doubt that up until three years ago Spike had managed to stifle and strangle whatever goodness was left inside of him, but Buffy did not see him murdering the man and woman who had given him life.
Her fingertips grazed over the photograph, wondering what his hair would have felt like then. It had probably been soft, no dye in it but hard to run through with the disheveled curls. She could not help but laugh lightly at the sight of him with the longer locks, curls no less. He had probably been an adorable little boy. Did his parents know what happened to him?
She had tried to imagine more than once what life had been like for Spike. She had done it with Angel years ago, too. It was hard not to when you were involved with someone who had been alive before cars and the telephone. In Angel's case there were a lot more things he had been alive before they had come into existence, electricity being one of them.
Understanding these facts was a lot easier than beginning to actually comprehend them. Buffy thought life without a microwave was difficult. Sometimes she wondered what Angel and Spike saw in her, they had to both think she was incredibly spoiled. Willow, on the other hand, would have probably found them both fascinating to talk to just to find out what life had actually been like as compared to textbooks.
Strangely, she was never overly curious about what Angel had been like before he had been turned. She knew he had been someone Buffy probably would not have liked. Spike on the other hand, now that she had gotten to know some things about him, she imagined had been a likeable man.
Buffy drifted off to sleep her fingers tracing lightly over the grainy black and white photograph of William. She wondered what his life might have been like had Angel, Darla and Dru not come upon him that night. She did not know the circumstances surrounding his turning, how, where or when other than he had been at a party Buffy thought he had said once. Would he have gotten married? Had children? Her eyes opened slightly, taking one last look at the picture of William. She could picture this man married, for the right reason, love. He had proven over the years to be loyal to those he cared for, first Drusilla and then to Buffy. But as she thought of him married with children she found it left an unsettled, sour feeling in her stomach.
Buffy was sure there were others who had earned his loyalty and gotten it in earnest, Clem and Dawn among them. "It doesn't undo the years of pain and suffering he caused," she murmured to herself, her words slurred, sleep induced. "Doesn't undo that he's a vampire."