Ficlet #4 of my Cycle Series. Sequel to A Time to Gather Stones Together. Spike/Fred; rated PG-13 for cussin'; set post-Not Fade Away.

She's Come Undone

"Spike. Whoa. You look… Come on in."

Willow's eyes are wide as she steps back to let him through. He's arrived on her doorstep as per their phoned arrangement (she asking how he'd gotten her number, he too tired to explain), and he looks as disheveled as a cat in a blender. In the 3:00 AM darkness she can just make out the black hulk of a motorcycle parked in her driveway.


Two thin hands appear on the edge of the porch where it drops off to the ground a couple of feet below. Between them, inch by inch, the top half of a face emerges.

"Oh, my god," Willow murmurs, as she and the Kilroy Was Here eyes stare at each other.

"It's all right, Pet," Spike says to the hands and half-a-face. "Safe to come out. No bugaboos here." Faith chooses that moment to join Willow in the doorway, and he adds under his breath, "'Least none whose ass I can't eventually kick."

"Nice to see you, too, Scooter," Faith replies…and then does a double-take as Fred slowly rises into view and creeps across the porch on her belly.

Not until she reaches the security of the living room, with the front door shut and locked behind her, does Fred finally relax enough to stand upright. Then she crams herself against Spike as he sinks onto a couch. His eyes close wearily, and Willow's a little alarmed. Here in the lamplight he looks even shittier than he did outside: gaunt and rumpled; his usually natty hair an unkempt riot of curls. He looks… she thinks, He looks like he did when Glory was after us.

"Are you hungry?" she blurts. "I – I can maybe teleport some blood in from somewhere, or there's some uncooked pork chops in the frig that are kinda leaky, or-" She pauses. "I guess you could slurp some out of our arms, as long as you don't take too much. If you're actually starving, that is." She can't suppress a grimace at this, and Faith snorts aloud. Willow shrugs at her helplessly.

Suddenly Fred speaks.

"I remember you."

Slayer and witch simultaneously start a little and look at her. She peers up at them from where her face has been buried in Spike's shoulder; raises her hand from under his arm and cautiously points to them.

"I know you, and I know you. You were from before." She spanks her forehead with the heel of her hand; tries to concentrate. "I rang a bell and marched in a circle. Ting, ting, ting! And then y'all put Angel in a jar. Or out of a jar. Somethin'."

Her gaze drifts away from them and out to someplace only she can see. "I tried to make an additive for the gas tank so we could drive here faster, but I couldn't collect all the ingredients. Alka-Seltzer was not a good substitute."

"Shit, she really has gone non-linear," Faith says softly. She kneels down so that her face is on Fred's level. "So there's a big Blue Meanie chasing you, huh?"

Fred nods. "Wants to catch me bad. And I can't think how to stop her, 'cause I can't…think. It all got scrambled and now I'm nuttier'n a squirrel turd."

Without opening his eyes, Spike chuckles just a little. Fred adds in a whisper, "I got so lost."

There's a sudden, harsh gasp, and Spike opens his eyes in time to see Willow clamp a hand to her mouth. Her face contorts with some grief that he doesn't understand. There's a moment's silence, and finally she draws a shaky breath.

"You can leave her here with us," she tells him, and with a watery smile she takes Fred's hand. "Giles is flying in next week for a council conference, and Xander'll probably be with him, and we'll all take good care of her-"


Spike snatches Fred's hand out of Willow's and pulls her tight against him, and now it's his turn to look…grief-stricken?

No. Angry.

"You lot aren't runnin' me off! Not this time. You brought her back before and wouldn't tell me; didn't care that I loved her, too, or that I'd fought alongside you and protected her sister and was stupid enough to think that with a soul I'd finally be considered one of y-"

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Faith yells, and Fred shrieks at the sound and rushes to the picture window across the room and hides by winding herself up in the draperies. Spike's on his feet, with gritted teeth and furious tear-filled eyes, quivering with the pent-up rage of rejection and loneliness and old, raw grievances.

And finally, finally, Willow understands.

And remembers a bouquet of flowers with an unsigned card.

And is a little ashamed.

"You're welcome here, too, Spike," she tells him quietly.

He stares at her for one long, wild moment, and then his voice becomes one of desperation.

"Help her."

They're given a bed in one of the spare rooms and Spike collapses into it and is asleep within seconds. The drive to Cleveland has been a long and exhausting one, made even harder by the constant looking over his shoulder for Illyria, and the relief he feels from his outburst at Faith and Willow has drained him of his last bit of stamina.

He sleeps hugging Fred close to him.

"You bite your nails," she whispers to him hours later. She's holding his hand in both of hers, examining each finger minutely. They're still curled up in the bed together, and he's still groggy with sleep…and she's still crackers.

"Nope, that's from changin' the tire yesterday, remember? Tore 'em down to the quick."

"Oh." She chews her lip, trying to recall that, but instead she remembers something else.

"You gave up on me."

He comes wide awake then; rises up on one elbow and looks at her. "Gave up? Luv, when?"

"All of you. You all stopped looking for me. Charles, Wesley, Angel…you, Lorne. You quit trying. You let her have me." Her expression is flushed with hurt, and she's begun to cry. "I was there and I saw. Why did you stop trying? I never stopped trying to bring back you."

"Oh, Christ, oh, Fred…" Guilt rips through his gut and into his heart. "We thought – no, that's not right; we tried not to think, because it hurt less that way…" He trails off, not knowing what else to say to her.

"You won't give up anymore, will you?"

"God, no," he says fiercely. "Never again."

"Okay." She wipes her eyes on her sleeve and snuggles back against his chest. "Hydrochloric acid: clear colorless to light yellow; melting point minus twenty-seven point thirty-two degrees Celsius…"