This ficlet was written for the July 2009 guest character (Fred) prompt at the Live Journal community nekid_spike. The setting is post-AtS Season 5.

Deja-Bleu

It's 4:57 by the old clock on the wall…Spike notes the time as he staggers to his feet in the convenience store's doorway and rakes his gaze over the aisles of candy and overpriced toilet tissue. The angry young warlock who'd slammed the whole building with a mystic blast of god-knows-what when Illyria slapped the gun from his hand ("Insect! We require our dollar bills for GASOLINE!") has flown off in a huff, leaving behind a botched robbery and a trail of sparks and wounded ego. His companion in crime is a wildly pissed-off female vampire, and she snarls and throws herself at Spike, and there's a violent, screeching fistfight until finally he knocks her to her knees and sets her hair on fire with his lighter. She explodes in a screaming fireball.

Be morning soon; gotta get the fucking petrol 'n be on our way. Wincing from his fresh new bruises, he limps to his motorcycle and pulls it upright against the pumps. As he finishes filling the tank, he calls out to the Old One: "All right, Periwinkle? Oi, that little bastard packed a wallop. I'm still seein' stars." No one answers.

"Blue?"

He spies her on her bottom beside the store's front wall, hunkered down in the narrow space between the newspaper racks and the ice machine. She appears to have crawled there.

"Illyria?"

It isn't her. In the bug-swarm ghostly light of the gas pump island, the skin is pale and naked...and pink.

The hair…is brown.

The eyes…the eyes are pools of horror, staring at the smoking ash that was recently a person, and her body trembles and then he knows.

The comment "I've seen the bloody Fred routine before" dies in his throat.

Moving slowly, as though in a dream, he crouches down before her. The eyes have begun to dart now; here, there, and everywhere. She whines. It's a horrid sound, like the cry of a trapped animal.

With infinite care he reaches out and takes her hands in his. They're scratched and raw and gritty from (Clawed her way out of a coffin, that's how) slamming and crawling across the pavement. Her knees are in bad shape, too. He slides his coat off and eases it around her, and something in her loosens and she sobs with fear and burrows into the shelter of his arms, and it's at the same time awful and heavenly. The kid; whatever was in that wad of magic shit he threw at them must have done something. Knocked Fred back into place. Sent Illyria packing, maybe. Set things straight again.

Has she come back wrong?

"Hell, no," he scolds himself. Not his fetching mad scientist. If five years in a slave dimension couldn't crack her…although it did crack her a bit, so they said…but look how she'd pulled herself together…

I don't want to be lonely anymore.

The store's clerk -- this is the fourth time he's been robbed this year – comes out, looks at them without a word, and goes back inside.

An odd sense of peace comes over Spike. He smooths her hair as he used to smooth Dru's and longed to smooth Buffy's. If she is wrong, is broken, he can handle it; he's been down this path before. This time he'll do it right.

He suddenly realizes he's missed Fred desperately.

I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course. But after that. Every night after that.

Somehow he gets her onto the back of the bike; buttons her into the coat and pulls her arms around his waist…and then they're out on the highway, wind whipping their faces, and the cold, white stars fill the dome of the sky.

~end~