Author's Notes:

This story is a future fic based on season nine, number six, which means it will go off canon when number seven comes out in March 2012. Some of my ideas have been taken from speculation by others on various boards. Thanks for the inspiration!

Warning! Spoilers for season nine. You probably need to be familiar with seasons eight and nine, as well as the comics from IDW to really get what's going on. Please feel free to correct me on any major (cannon) plot points I've messed up.

Disclaimer:Joss Whedon is really cool and created all these characters. I'm borrowing them because my happiness depends on Spuffy happiness, even if it's only in my mind.

Chapter 1

I was in the middle of paying for the snacks we'd picked to help keep awake during our night-time cross-country drive when I heard Annie screaming at the top of her lungs. Dropping everything, I flew outside, scenarios racing through my mind. We were in the middle of Colorado, some small rest stop, which was as non Hellmouth-y as you could get. I couldn't imagine it being anything supernatural, but still. Annie wasn't a screamer, especially when her big brother Billy was with her. It had to be bad.

As I skidded around the corner toward the girl's bathroom (stupid gas stations always having their bathrooms out near the back where it's dark), I could hear Bob's feet pounding from the other side. Yeah, bathrooms in the back and on opposite sides of each other. Smart plan for keeping travelers safe. Even though he'd been closer, I got there first. The advantages of supernatural strength.

What I saw brought me to a sudden stop. Annie was still screaming her head off, but from behind the safety of Billy's back. Her big brother had her pressed up against the brick of the building, and both of them held crosses out, waving them in the face of the man (vampire?) in front of them. From behind, I couldn't see his face to tell if he really was a vampire, but he was sniffing at the children, weaving subconsciously to keep away from the crosses in his face. Crosses: never leave home without them ran through my mind with a bit of a hysterical giggle.

The tinglies confimed it. Definitely not human. Not a zompire either, because they were snarling, snapping, feral creatures, not calm like this. On the other hand, vampires were very rare now. No new ones had been created since the destruction of the Seed 13 years ago, and the ones who had survived were usually too smart to show their faces. This must be one of the few dumb ones left, then.

I'm not sure why I didn't dash right in. Maybe it was because I knew I could stop the creature before he could do anything. Maybe it was the way he was acting. He was just sniffingmy children, like a curious dog, and not at all in a hungry, predatory way.

Or maybe it was the size and build of his body, the long black leather coat, the fact that his head was cocked to one side, all of which conspired to make my heart clench. The soft brown curls on his head did nothing to dispel the sense of familiarity that had rushed through me. I knew him, knewhe wasn't a threat.

But then Annie shrieked again, and that split second of hesitation was over. Children! my mothering instincts screamed. Vampire! my Slayer instincts screamed in unison. I reached the vampire at the same time as Bob, and together we spun him around and threw him against the wall.

My hand was pulling out the stake from my back pocket, a snarl of anger roaring through me that he had dared to corner my children (dared to remind me of that other - ).No quips for this one. I raised the stake over his heart, prepared to finish him off - and then looked at his face, and promptly fainted.

When I came to, I could feel the hard concrete under me, hear Bob and the children murmuring over me. I didn't dare open my eyes though. I was pretty embarrassed about having fainted. Definitely notpart of the Slayer response system, you know? And I remembered why I'd fainted. I suspected that if I opened my eyes and saw the vampire again, I might do a repeat.

Not him not him not him my mind repeated over and over. Can't be him. Okay, so there were the cheekbones and the blue eyes, and the soft (kissable) lips, but it wasn't him. He'd been dead for 12 years. Really dead. Not just undead, but dead dead. Ever since just before Billy was born.

He's been dead - gone - before, and come back unexpectedly my treacherous mind whispered. It had whispered that for the first several days, weeks, months, years afterwards. It didn't seem that long ago that I had finally stopped looking. Finally quit starting every time I heard a British luvin passing. Finally refrained from rushing up to men of his general size and shape, trying to get a look at their face - whether it was daylight or not.

I tried to picture the face of the vampire I'd just seen. Had the eyebrow been scarred? I thought so, but it could have been my imagination playing tricks on me. If I opened my eyes again, then I would know for sure.

I realized the tinglies on the back of my neck had subsided. Was he gone? I suddenly and fervently hoped not. How would I know -?

My eyes popped open and my family swam into view. I saw Bob's face, dark eyes worried. I saw Annie, sucking her thumb and holding onto her daddy, long dark hair curtaining her face. And I saw Billy, looking away into the darkness, the light from the gas station cutting shadows across his sharp cheekbones, bringing his soft dusky blond curls into sharp relief. The tilt of his head hid his bright blue eyes from my view, though.

What was Billy focusing on? Was that where (not him not him not him!) the vampire had gone?

I sprang to my feet. "You guys ok?" I asked. They nodded. "Billy, that way?" I pointed in the direction he'd been gazing. He nodded again, mouth a thin line.

"Buffy..." Bob began, but I gave him no chance to continue.

"I'm fine," I snapped. It wasn't Bob's fault. I shouldn't have snapped. But the suspense was killing me. I took off, running into the dark, hoping my senses would pick something up. How far away had he gotten?

I could hear Bob telling the kids to go into the crowded dining area and get a table, and then running after me. He was still in great shape after all these years, but no Slayer. I quickly outdistanced him, searching desperately in the woods. I wasn't worried about Bob. He was well trained to handle vampires and other things that went bump in the night.

One minute passed, then two, five, ten. No sign of the vampire. Had I lost him? I could hear Bob panting in the distance, and I suddenly sat down on a log, breathless, shaken, and exhausted. A small noise rustled not too far off. Probably just a squirrelI thought to myself, but I still couldn't help it.

"Spike?" I called out.