Chapter 1

Boring. There was no other word for it. Sure, living forever was a dream, even if one wasn't technically 'living', and usually the world offered more than enough excitement to fill even a vampire's un-lifetime, but there were times when it was just...boring. He'd given up terrorizing, maiming and killing, and that was bad enough, but now there weren't even any demons to fight, or poker games to bully his way in to, nothing on TV, and worst of all, with Buffy off in LA, not even much chance the Scoobies would come to him for help. "Good enough to save their bloody necks all the time before, when she was gone," he thought, "but now it's back to the old 'we don't need no stinkin undead'..."

Spike glared at the black and white television, but refrained from kicking it, knowing he'd regret it by the next day at the latest. "Oh God!" he thought—"On top of everything else, am I getting OLD? Since when do I care about tomorrow? About consequences?"

Most days he accepted his new role in life; he hadn't chosen it, really, but he had come to feel that the rewards outweighed the losses—but it had only been a couple of years, out of a very long life, and sometimes it felt very short. This was one of those days—when his situation felt like a new low in a series of lows he could never have imagined, let alone imagined getting worse.

So when the door slammed open with a familiar crash he breathed an unnecessary but heartfelt sigh of relief, savoring the familiar scent of his Slayer without bothering to look around. "So," he began, "I guess LA-"

"Shut up Spike," she interrupted. "Never mind about LA. I need to talk to you and if you don't know why you should."

Now this was interesting! He looked around to find her standing a few feet away, clutching a stake and looking—teary? His brow furrowed as he looked more closely. Her clothes were rumpled and she looked completely distraught, though she'd clearly tried to hide it. What was going on?

"Buffy?" he said softly, "What happened? What do you mean I know..."

"Oh give it up!" she yelled, somewhat shrilly, "just stop! It's over!"

"Now doll, you're gonna have to give me a little more to go on that that, right? I'll get into whatever it is you need me to, but I really don't have the first notion what you're on about here, luv..." Spike said in his best soothing, mature voice. Some people didn't think Spike had it in him to be patient, let alone mature, but if there was one thing he'd had practice at it was soothing hysterical women. Mostly from his years (decades!) with Drusilla of course, but he had come to that relationship well prepared, having come of age in an era when fainting at the least thing and general flightiness were expected of a lady. He hadn't missed it; but he was prepared.

However, the old standby voice didn't seem to be working. Buffy looked, if anything, more upset, and though she was trying to hide it, she was really beginning to tear up, though he couldn't tell if it was with sadness or frustration.

"Stop!" she yelled; "just... and don't call me that! Don't call me any of that—my name is — don't call me that either! Since when do you even use my name? I'm the Slayer, you're a vampire, that's it! God, I don't know why I even came here!"

And she spun around, wiping her face with her arm, stake still clutched in her fist, forgotten, as she barreled back out the open door she'd come in barely a few minutes before. Spike leapt up and went after her, only to be brought up against the last rays of the afternoon sun slanting across the doorway. He teetered on the edge of the shadow indecisively as she gathered her things from outside and sped off over the grass. Was that luggage she was hauling around? Had she come to the crypt straight from the train, or bus, or... the point was, without going home first? Just what in hell was going on with her now?

"Buffy—Slayer—hey! Where d'ya think you're GOING?" he called after her ineffectively.

She'd reached the cemetery gates and he still hadn't figured out what to do. He tried to figure how long until the sun dipped that last bit below the horizon—should he wait? Or just run after her now? Should he go to the magic shop? Would the witches fill him in? Did they even know anything? Anya would tell him what was up... No. He spun around, making sure to close the door so no meandering demons would notice his posh set-up—and oh god he really was becoming a proper geezer—and crammed his feet into his boots, tying them sloppily, shrugged his duster on crooked while pulling smokes out, dropped the 10 or so feet to the lower level and lit up as he headed out into the tunnel. More than likely this would all turn out to be some kind of trivial Slayer kerfuffle brought on by contact with dear old Angelus, oh I mean Aaangel— pfft—, but if nothing else he was intrigued to see her so animated. She hadn't exactly been cheerful, these weeks since her, ah, return, but she hadn't seemed actively agitated like this either, with the yelling and the kicking and the crying, even. Mad at someone else would've been a lot more fun to watch, but it was good to see a flash of liveliness nonetheless. And now he had a mission—a mystery!—and a Slayer to placate, if he could get her to tell him what the hell was on her mind.

By the time Spike's bleached locks peeked out of the manhole on Revello Drive, the sun had gone and dusk set in. He looked around cautiously, then slunk out and over towards Buffy's house. Positioning himself behind his customary tree he went still, stopped breathing, and focused all his attention on listening to the sounds coming from the house. At first he could only hear the neighborhood sounds— a dog somewhere nearby, a muffled argument in the house across the street— but after a moment he could pick out the voices of the Slayer and her friends.

It seemed pretty ordinary—how was your trip, fine, is Dawn OK, she's at her mates house, blah blah blah, Angel—Spike tensed and focused even more, which helped not at all. Buffy was saying something in a quiet voice to Tara, which he could make out barely at all due to someone — Willow it seemed — bustling around and about like a sodding moth, picking things up and setting them down noisily. What the hell was she so antsy for? Why couldn't she just sit down and ask Buffy how her trip was and then shut the hell up and listen? Spike edged closer to the house, sliding around the side towards the back of the house, where windows were opened onto the mild evening. He found he could see in a bit, as well as hear, and went still again.

"Seeing Angel... he was so... I don't know what I thought it would be... I mean, he was so happy to see me and everything, you know, but I thought it would be— different. It was like I never even— like every time I see him. Except, you know, I always forget— I think it'll be more— that we're more— no, I mean— I just never know what he thinks! About anything! And...oh, I don't know, never mind."

"It's okay, sweetie, I get it. Something so huge happened to you, but it didn't really change anything, right? He still has his life in LA, and..."

"And I have my life here? Yeah. Forget it anyway," Buffy got up from the table and wrapped her arms around herself. "I'm gonna go unpack and patrol, or, you know..." she trailed off, leaving the room. Tara watched her go, looking worried.

Well, that was unenlightening! thought Spike. And she was right back to normal, or her new normal at least. It was as if the episode at his crypt had never happened. It was nice to know the big dramatic reunion had been a bit of a flop at least...He made his way back around to the tree in front thoughtfully, and settled in to keep an eye on the things as the last light faded from the sky and the streetlights came on.