Whoever owns Buffy owns it. I own "compare to Buffy by Whedon."

As soon as Spike walked out of the demon bar, he missed the stench within. Because as soon as the outside air hit his nostrils, it brought with it—

Citrus. Flowers. Dime-store perfume. Some kind of beer smell layered over by soap—no, by sodium lauryl sulfate. Pain—laced with plastic blueberry. Envy—no, "compare to Envy by Gucci." Cheap substitutes. Never the real thing.

Film noir starring the Avon Lady instead of Ingrid Bergman.

Harmony instead of Buffy.

Wrong. So wrong.

He took a deep breath, in through his nose. The scents were different, but the idea was the same. The same degree of…wrongness. Whatever—whoever—it was, it knew his haunts. It was following him.

Spike laughed bitterly. Two could play at that game. He took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair. "Bring it on, Avon," he snarled.

"Huh, gotta rhyme." He shook his head. "I've still got it."

Easing his way into a casual slouch, Spike strolled blithely out of the doorway, suddenly the picture of nonchalance. He sauntered down the street, heading for the nearest alley. He hummed under his breath—"Don't know what I want, but I know how to get it/ I wanna destroy passers-by"—which he certainly did. Some more than others.

Spike looked calm. But he was seething. Seething.

It wasn't as if he was asking a lot of the world. Just to be left alone. To drink and stew in peace. Maybe to fight evil now and again--or at least to defend the maybe a little less evil than the other side. To dream of Buffy and try, night after fetid, sordid, paint-stained and pig-blood-filled night, to figure out what would have to happen for him to be able to say it. To be able to say without fear of disappointing her, "Look, pet, I'm not dead anymore—but that's not necessarily a bad thing."

The thing was, since when she'd last seen him, he'd literally gone out in a blaze of glory, saving the world and denying her love like the noble prick only she could bring out in him—Buffy wouldn't be so impressed with his track record of helping the guilty, whether in the law firm or in the back alley.

But still—he could dream.

He couldn't bloody dream, though, with berry-scented pop-songs springing up on his walls at all hours of the day or night. The assault with fresh scents was too much. It was belittling. It was fiendish, cruel—and totally lame at the same time.

It had to finish. It ended here, in this alley.

Spike paused, as if to light a cigarette, but really to listen. Then he heard it. A heartbeat, fast and a little uneven. Human, he thought, but something was off about it. Even still, he felt a strange sensation in his own limbs, as if the ghost of a pulse was trying to quicken in response.

The pace of the heart was too fast. Child?

Pity, that. Or perhaps—atypical human—but still. No hope of a fight unless . . . rogue slayer.

He thought back to the last one, the psychotic bitch who'd sliced his bloody hands off. Literally, his bloody hands, what with being sliced off and all. Thank God for satanic lawyers and their laser surgery technology. Strike that--maybe not God's department, satanic lawyers.

Still. Might be more like that out there, and there were some parts he was none too keen on having rogue slayers or laser technology get any where near.

He snarled as an old King Missile song snaked its way through his head. Sod off. Detachable Penis, my ass.

Scratch that last comment, actually.

But. Rogue slayers. A possibility. There were armies of them now, apparently. Too soon, then, to relax totally.

His heightened senses were attuned to every rat and mouse that twitched in the alley, to every passerby—those he wanted to destroy and those he didn't—to every slightest gasp of breeze.

Where was . . . whatever it was?

Behind him, to the right and . . .up? Again there was that strange flicker in his limbs, now reaching to his chest and—his groin. His entire body felt . . . alive. Itching for the fight, or . . . something.

On the roof, then, scaling down a fire escape. The twang of boot on metal echoed in the cool evening air and mingled with the tang of . . . fruit.

Bloody hell.

Just get it over with.

His body was tense, but he kept the meandering pace, trying every bit to look as casual and innocent as any other unsuspecting blond in a dark alleyway at the wrong time.

He heard another twang of metal, but this one—ahead of him. He shook his head. How was that possible? Somehow Fruity Pebbles had gotten the jump on him.

Mesmerized, fascinated, and extremely pissed off, Spike watched a black form drop from a fire escape about twenty yards ahead of him. It landed almost silently despite the height and took off running, far too fast. Too fast for a human. But the form looked—bulky. Too bulky for any Slayer he'd known. One thing about Slayers, they didn't tend toward the chubby.

In fact, she—he—it—looked too bulky to be running anywhere near that fast. But it—she, he thought, it had to be, a hint of female arousal hit him even mingled and masked with. . . . mountain freshness? Hell. It made him ache. But he couldn't place it.

Whoever it was, though, was clearly getting off from running away from him.

Spike took off. So much of this was familiar, the stale beer, stale cum, fresh rat piss. The garbage piles flying by as he ran past them. The reek of adrenalin in the air.

And then, the rest of it that made this alley his special hell. The fresh, fruity parts. The artificial musky parts. The twisted, horrible, treelined mountain medly parts. Foreign laced with familiar, odors that never should have been familiar but were getting that way.

It made him furious, which sped him on. What made him even more furious was that he was turned on by it.

No, not that. It must be the alley, residual memories of feeding, fighting, insulting Buffy. Getting beat up by Buffy. Being left for dead by Buffy. Yeah, any of that. That, or the chase. That, or the vague sense of déja-vu his dumpy yet incredibly fast quarry was giving him.

Any one of those memories or some combination of them all, a combination that absolutely excluded fresh scents.

Because fresh scents did not now, nor ever would in the future, cause a man reaction in William the Bloody.

Spike put these thoughts in the back of his mind, needing his concentration. He was gaining on her, whoever she was, but the breaths his body kept taking out of habit drew the horrific combination of scents deeper and deeper into his lungs, either through his nose or his mouth, which was worse, because he could taste them there. He fought to keep from breathing, but it was not only exertion, but desire and rage that kept him panting.

At last he was within striking range. He leapt forward, closing the distance between himself and his quarry, his tormentor in a single bound.

In a second he had her pinned facing the brick wall. She felt tiny underneath her clothing—the clothes were ridiculously large, bulky, cheap sweats and polyester hat. There was no reason, no reason this non-outfit should be a turn-on, but he couldn't help pressing himself slightly into her as he leaned into her ear. "Quite the chase, there, wasn't it. I love a little run before a kill. Now suppose you tell Spike what the bloody hell you think you're playing at."

He knew he sounded menacing, could hear its effect. The heart beneath the black was racing even faster than before, and in seconds, Spike could swear his was too. The smells, the sounds were all wrong, but a lock of blonde hair fell from the black stocking cap and made his heart that was not beating skip a beat nonetheless. He shook his head. His memory, the scene, his slayer obsession, all playing tricks. Something was off, though. There was no struggle, and then, before he knew it—

She whipped around, turning in his grasp. She smiled, gooey, and dewey-eyed, and sweet.

"Spike," she cooed, sweetly surprised, "you're back!"

Spike could not form words. Everything was still, everything was moving. Slayer. Not rogue. His. Her. His her.

She'd been—what was she doing here? Was she also stalking the—fruit-scented stalker? Incognito—but she smelled—awful, it wasn't her, he was losing his mind. She never sounded sweet. She never smelled—like this. She never looked dewey-eyed—except maybe in his dreams.

That's it! He'd been wrong. He could bloody well dream. And he was dreaming again, but that sodding fruity stalker had even messed up the way she dream-smelled.

He shook his head. Suddenly something flickered behind her eye. It looked—extremely pissed off. That made something in him flicker—in hope, in want, but then she shifted back to sweet again.

Still, it didn't do to just stand there gaping. A bloke should greet his dreamgirl, even in his dreams.

"Buffy?" he whispered, his voice soft and wavering.

"Spike?" she said sweetly, too sweetly, and then shifted in his grasp. She moved her hands up gently over his chest.

It felt amazing. Her hands were on him. On him. He looked at her.

Was this real? She looked thin, felt thin, even under the completely nondescript and unfashionable clothes she was wearing. The stain on his wall was thin too. Had someone in the demon bar drugged him? Was he hallucinating? But she felt so real.

If it was real, must be an incognito assignment, he thought through his shock. And her heartbeat—it was all wrong. He'd recognize that rhythm anywhere—and this was not it. If he dreamed her, wouldn't he get that right? Was she sick? Was that what had brought her to LA? Or was there some new danger? Was it his stalker? Was it more dangerous than he'd thought? Was she here to warn him? Protect him?

No—she didn't know he was alive. Well. Less dead, anyway.

Right. Now she did. Did she look happy to see him? She did. That was wrong. What was wrong? Was she a fake? A better Buffybot? The First Evil again, taunting him by taking her shape but somehow gone all corporeal now? All of these thoughts fired through his brain but over and around and beneath it all there was just the sensation.

Her hands were on him. Her hands. On him. He didn't care, then, what the explanation was. "Buffy," he whispered, closing his eyes.

And then he was flying backwards fast and hard across the alley. He landed hard on pavement. Buffy landed hard on him.

Buffy was there, straddling him, eyes flashing and pissed off. Tired looking. And a little crazy. The ugly hat had fallen off and her beautiful blond, Breck girl hair was—well, a little hat-headed, maybe, but beautiful and blond as ever. Mouth big and curving. Face too thin. Didn't matter. Never did. She was everything he ever wanted to see.

Her eyes tore into him like they wanted to eat him whole. Then they shifted, mocking, then cold rage. She ground herself slightly into his hips as she shifted positions, as if settling in. Spike fought back a sigh. Not just any dream, then, the good kind.

Quick as lightning, Buffy pulled a stake from the pocket of her coat and held it poised above his heart.

"Spike?" She shoved the point a little into his t-shirt. Smiling widely with a side of crazy in a voice that was happy, girly, snide, and flat-out furious, she explained, "I'm back, too."

AN: Thank you so much for the reviews and the favorites and alerts and communities. That's so much fun! A word to chapter length, which some of you asked about: This fic has short chapters, mostly. That's just how they come. I write chapters in what seems to be the natural length. In my Breakfast Club fic, I have chapters that are literally 6 or 7 times this long sometimes, and hence the updates are much slower. So, it's not that I oppose long chapters. Lots of people do, as it happens (as I've learned) but I personally love them. I'm just not feeling them right now in this fic. If I do, though, you all will be the first to know.

But for now, reviewers get not just any dream, the good kind, starring Spike or Buffy, whatever floats your boat. So her awesomeness zanthinegirl should be having *quite* the active nightlife. Thank you so much!