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Buffy frowned at the white convenience store bag that lay innocuously near the grave of one Fiona Wellsport. She crouched to check its content and found 3 bags of blood, fresh from the Butcher's.
Spike. She sighed, then frowned again, puzzled this time. It wasn't like Spike to leave his blood lying around outside like this, or to be this absent-minded. She figured he must have dropped it during a fight and forgot to pick it up again. The grass looked crumpled and stomped on, but other than that there seemed to be no other sign of a fight: no blood, no weapons and definitely no dust. Of course, she told herself, the dust could have blown away already.
Spike wouldn't go down so easily, she told herself, it was stupid worrying. Still, it bugged her. Buffy grabbed the bag and made a beeline for his crypt. She was going to return his blood, make sure his undead ass was still undead, and leave. Nothing more, nothing less. After she had attacked him with her lips in the Bronze, she had been avoidy-girl and it was obviously really bothering the vampire.
Buffy's stomach lurched guiltily at the thought of their kissing. God, it had been wrong in every way possible. It was Spike, the vampire who tried to kill her and her friends, who stalked her and made a sex toy out of her image. But he was also Spike, the vampire who would let himself be tortured by a Hell God to protect Dawn and her, who promised and did look after Dawn with everything he had, and the only one to understand. That was what made it so messed up, what made it really wrong—because none of it made sense to her in the way it was supposed to. She didn't know whether she wanted him gone or if she wanted to…well…
Buffy bit her lips and shook her head in an attempt to halt her train of thought.
When she arrived at the crypt, Buffy found the door ajar. She entered with caution, calling out his name. The usual lights and candles were out, and the room was illuminated only by the moon. Buffy looked around, squinting in the dark, until her eyes fell on a crumpled figure at the other end of the room. She glimpsed the bleached white hair in the moonlight.
"Spike?" No answer. Buffy placed the bags of blood on top of the TV and walked over to him. He was lying on his stomach, one hand curled underneath him and the other on his above his head. "Spike?" She nudged him gently. It wasn't for the absence of the smell of alcohol, Buffy would have guessed he had fallen into a drunken stupor. Frowning, and frankly a bit worried, Buffy turned him over.
He looked so innocent in his sleep, she realized, noting the soft lines of his eyes and lips, even with those sharp cheekbones. She remembered distinctly running her hands over those cheekbones in one of her spur of the moment make out session. She had always wanted to touch them, to feel his cheeks and lips. The cold didn't bother her at all; on the contrary, the coldness of his kisses inspired an addictive energy she had not felt since after she crawled out of her grave, an energy she was now constantly craving. Sometimes the need was so bad that she only felt anger when he was around. Anger because she could not get what she wanted. Anger because he was not giving it to her. And anger at herself for craving it at all. How many degree of screwed up was that?
Buffy knew she couldn't see Spike because all she wanted to do when he was near her was to throw himself into his coolness, into his passion and his kisses to take what she craved by force. But not really by force, because Spike was willing to give her what she wanted. But, she couldn't do that, could she?
Hand trembling a bit, Buffy gently touched his forehead, letting his skin cool her burning fingers.
Buffy jumped, quickly pulling her hand away. Blue eyes met hers, questioning, but they glazed over again as Spike let out a pained groan.
"Spike? Are you alright?"
"Bloody hell! My head feels like…ugh…fuck…" Spike pushed himself upright and rubbed his temples. "Where am I?"
"Uh, your crypt," Buffy answered, frowning at him, "Had a bit too much to drink?"
"No, Slayer, haven't had single drop today, unfortunately," he moaned, looking around dazedly, "I don't remember how I…got back."
Buffy frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Went to get blood and smokes, and I came back…but…don't remember anything after that. Well, I remember dragging myself…right, in here."
"Well, do you remember the grave of a Fiona Well-something?"
Spike gave her a questioningly look. "Wha?"
"You left your bag of blood by her gravestone," Buffy sighed, motioning to the bag on the TV, "Brought it back."
Spike glanced at the TV, and his eyes glazed over. He took to staring at the bag like it was the strangest thing he has ever seen. Buffy watched him, brows furrowed in confusion at his sudden fixation on the bag.
"Hey, Spike!" She waved a hand in front of him, which snapped him out of his trance.
"Uh, wha? Slayer?"
"You ok? What's with all the spaciness?"
Spike frowned, blinked hard and shook his head. "My head's a bit wonky Slayer. Can't remember anything since the sun set. Give me a mo, willya?"
"Wow, something hit your head hard didn't you?" Buffy said teasingly, "Surprised you still remember me."
Spike looked at her, his expression soft and surprised. "Could never forget you, Slayer," he told her, his voice tender and quiet, like the time he told her how he saved her. Saved you every night. It startled Buffy, and she felt her throat go dry. He wasn't making it easy for her. No, she needed him to be angry with her. To spit venom at her, to hate her so she could hate him back and not want him.
Realizing what he had said, Spike cleared his throat loudly to save her the awkwardness. "Uh, well, thanks…for the blood. I think I'll call it night, Slayer. Still seeing in doubles. See you next night, yeah?" Maybe?
"Yeah," she answered quietly, watching mournfully as Spike staggered to his feet and disappear down to the lower floor. "See ya."
Tara bit her lips as she stapled her renting ad for her apartment on the bulletin board of the Espresso Pump. A week had passed since she moved out of the Summers' residence, and a couple of days since the girl who she was supposed to be sharing a two bedroom apartment with near UC Sunnydale bailed on her. She apologized profusely to Tara, saying that the Bad Wolf Corporation had suddenly given her a job and she had to move up north to Silicon Valley. She couldn't turn this down, she explained. Tara understood, of course, even if it left her in a bit of a bind. Frankly, she was still too numb from her break up with Willow to feel anything else at the moment.
"Hi, are you Tara Maclay?"
Jerked out of her thoughts, Tara turned around, nearly dropping all of her flyers. A young, pretty blonde woman stood next to her, smiling sweetly and holding up one of Tara's flyer.
"Um, uh, yes, that's me," Tara managed after a bit.
"Oh good. The room hasn't been taken yet has it?" the girl asked, looking concerned. Tara noted her British accent in surprise. It sounded more like Spike's than Giles's, which, she supposed, made sense. Giles brand of English was pretty exclusive. And she looked way young to speak like Giles, anyways, and looked to be more around Tara's age. Perhaps another UC Sunnydale student? They didn't get many internationals.
"Oh no, i-it hasn't," Tara replied, "I've just started to put the ads up, today."
A brilliant smile lit up the woman's face. "Oh good. I'm interested in taking it! I can pay several months worth with cash."
"Oh," exclaimed Tara in surprise, "W-well I—"
"Oh god, I'm so sorry," the woman said with a nervous laugh, "Forgot to introduce myself! God, I probably seem like a nutter. In a bit of a bind, I am, so you hafta excuse me. 'M name's Rose Tyler."
"Oh, no worries. Um. I'm Tara Maclay, of course you already knew that."
The woman shot her a reassuring smile. "Nice to meet you Tara."
Tara smiled back. "Um, do you want to see the apartment first?"
"I'd love to!" Rose replied, "I have time now and the rest of the day. So, whenever you're free?"
"Okay," Tara breathed, nodding, "We can go now. It's a short walk from here."
"Okay, allons-y then!" Rose twittered happily. Tara laughed shyly at Rose's exuberance, and motioned Rose to follow her as she exited to café. Rose did so with a bounce in her step.
At first, Tara was a bit too shy to say anything. She had forgotten how awkward she was socially, having been so comfortable when she was with the Scoobies. Rose, for her part, seemed perfectly at ease. Her eyes were curious and roving, observing everything with an amused grin. She often asked questions about various streets and stores and seemed genuinely interested in the smallness of Sunnydale.
Finally, Tara found enough courage to ask her own questions. "You're…not from around here?"
Rose laughed. "What gave me away?" she teased, "Nah, 'M from London."
"Oh. So…you just moved to Sunnydale?"
"Yup." She popped her 'p'. "Though I wasn't planning on staying long at all. Arrived here yesterday night. But, things didn't work out, so I think I'm gonna have to stay for a bit."
"Oh. F-for how long do you think you're staying?"
"If things get better, at least a month, if not…could be here for a while." Rose frowned, lost in her thoughts. Tara, as much as she found Rose interesting, was not happy to hear she wouldn't here long. This meant that she might have to find a new flatmate in a month. But, Tara didn't have the heart to turn Rose down when she needed a place. She was so far away from home as well.
"But I'll still pay for a couple of months," Rose reassured her, "Even if I stay for just one."
"Oh, you don't have to—"
"No, it's nothing. I've got a bit of cash to spend. I don't want to leave you hanging while you look for a new flatmate."
Tara only nodded. It would be nice if Rose could pay a couple of months; Tara too was in a bit of bind because of her rather unique circumstances with the Scoobies and her parents.
She stopped in front of a small apartment complex and waved her hands towards it. "This is it. 42 Lykos St, apartment 10." Tara was rather proud of finding this apartment in such a short amount of time. Well, she didn't actually find it; an odd email was sent to her with the ad for the place. It was a perfect two bedroom apartment—spacious but set at a good price for two students to share. The manager was a sweet old lady, and all her neighbors were, so far, gracious and kind.
Tara let Rose and herself into apartment number ten, giving her new companion a short tour and a stop at the empty bedroom. Rose seemed more than happy to accept.
"This is fantastic, Tara, really is! Room hunting can be a bitch, and I'm so happy to find a good one so fast. And bonus with a great flatmate!"
Tara blushed at the compliment. "It's no problem. I won't be here a lot anyways. Um, I usually study at the library at UC Sunnydale."
"Oh, you're a Uni student?" asked Rose, her interest piqued, "What's your concentration?"
"I haven't decided yet. I was thinking about psychology, actually."
"Hm, psychology is a great subject," Rose said with a satisfied nod, "Sometimes I wish I had gone to University." Rose sighed. "Me, I didn't even finish secondary school. Dropped out."
"W-well, it's not too late, you know," Tara suggested with an unsure smile, "You could still go."
Rose grinned at her. "I could. In fact I was, studying physics. Never thought I'd even touch the stuff when I was 16, but now I'm more or less obsessed with it. Funny how that works."
Tara agreed with a nod. "But, you're not studying it anymore?"
Rose shook her head. "Nah. Got a job to do. More like project, but…work for a company that keeps me moving, so…here I am."
"What do you do?"
Rose blinked, and stared at Tara for beat or two. She seemed unsure about how to answer. "Um, testing certain things. It's sort of secret, you know, companies don't want their ideas getting copied. Copyright laws. It has to do a bit with physics, that much I can say."
"Oh," was Tara's only reply. She nodded in understanding at the reluctance in Rose's voice. "So, um. If you can give me the first month's rent, I can give you a key and you can move in right away."
Rose grinned, and started digging into her bag. "Perfect! Thanks Tara! In fact, I have cash for two months right now…"
Spike woke up, his mind finally lucid. He was still missing a stretch of memory from last night, but he distinctly remembered Buffy being here. Her scent still lingered around him.
But more importantly, what in bloody hell happened? He had obviously left his blood outside, but he had no recollection of it all. There something on the edge of his mind, something tugging at him, just waiting to be remembered. When he tried to reach for it, it fluttered away, leaving his mind infuriatingly blank.
At most he could remember color—pink—but he figured he was only thinking about the pink graffiti outside. There were other snippets that came and gone, including a memory of odd smells, and words—rose…roses, and…Torch-something. Torches? Sod it, he groaned, as long as he wasn't dust, he was happy.
Rose didn't have much to move. She hid her Model 10 Torchwood gun in a large, wooden trunk salvaged from the nearby thrift shop, which held the rest of her Torchwood things as well. She would need more secured holdings for her items, but now the classic iron lock would do. Before she went to find Tara, Rose had run to the bank and withdrew $3,000 American dollars with the transdimensional, trans-temporal interplanetary credit card that the Doctor gave her years ago. It still worked, and Rose had discovered in her previous jumps she had access to most forms of currency in limitless amounts. If she wanted to, she could have gotten herself a house or an apartment to herself without sharing. The only thing that kept her from doing so was receiving an anonymous email which contained an ad for Tara's place. The leasing agency was named Mal Loupe Real Estate. Rose had snorted in amusement when she made the connection. So the Bad Wolf was leading her to the apartment. If it were anyone or anything else, Rose might have resented being manipulated like this.
After she paid Tara for two months in advance, Rose had a little under $2,000 to spend on necessities, such as parts to repair her dimension cannon jumper she had with her, as well as the rift energy detector and manipulator. This was going to take more expertise than she had, which either meant that she had to find someone who was experienced in temporal physics and alien technology, or she had start studying.
But what Rose was really looking forward to was going shopping; she desperately needed a new wardrobe (well, a wardrobe, full stop). Southern California, she realized, was a much hotter place than Pete's London.
When Dawn knocked on Tara's apartment door, she was surprised when a blonde stranger answered, wearing a wide, friendly grin. For a moment, Dawn thought perhaps she had the wrong room number until the woman said, "Oh you must be Dawn!"
Dawn nodded, noting the accent. Heh, like Giles and Spike! "Yeah…who are you? I mean, is Tara here?"
The blonde nodded. "She's getting ready. And…I'm Rose, Tara's new roommate as of today. Come in, Dawn!"
Rose ushered Dawn in and shut the door behind them.
"Do you wanna cuppa?" asked Rose, leading Dawn into the living room.
"Tea? I know Americans aren't tea people, but it's all about how the tea is made; and I've been told I make a brilliant cup. I've converted Tara into a tea drinker already!"
"Oh, no thank you. Tara and I are going to get dinner after the movie." Dawn grinned. "The British really like their tea, huh? I swear Giles drank more tea than he does water."
Rose glanced at her, "Giles?"
"Family friend," Dawn answered, looking around the living room apartment. The furniture hadn't changed since Tara's old roommate left, but she could see a few trunks of Rose's things. The TV was turned on, volume low, showing the local news station. "He was very…British-y."
"Can't blame him, Dawn," said Rose with a short laugh, "It's what we British do—be British-y. And there's nothing more British-y or even English-y than tea. The world can be on the verge of ending, and we'll still have time for tea, us Brits. I've done it."
Dawn giggled. She decided that she like this Rose. She was funny and seemed nice. And, Dawn liked her accent: it was not stuffy sounding like Giles's, or hard like Spike's.
"What film are you and Tara seeing?" asked Rose, sitting down on the couch.
Dawn shrugged. "Haven't decided yet. Maybe something funny? I need more funny in my life."
Rose gave Dawn a small, sympathetic grin, "Don't we all? Is Tara your sister?"
Dawn shook her head. "No. Tara and Willow—er...Tara's girlfriend. Ex. Ex-girlfriend. Anyways, they helped take care of me when my sister was…sick. So Tara's like a sister to me."
"Oh, is your sister alright?"
"Yeah. She's…good." Dawn paused, thinking about Buffy's behavior in the last few days. "I think."
Tara appeared from the hallway before Rose could say anything further, and greeted Dawn with a hug.
"Rose, you could come with us if you'd like?" offered Dawn, "We could show you around Sunnydale."
Tara nodded in agreement. "That's a good idea. Would you like to come?"
Rose smiled apologetically at them. "Oh, that sounds great Tara, Dawn. Thanks, but I have some errands to run tonight. Another time?"
"Okay," said Dawn, "We'll see you later then."
Tara and Dawn said their goodbyes to Rose, and left for their night out.
Rose turned to the telly after Tara and Dawn left, which was now reporting on some incident at a museum. The headline 'Security Guard Found Frozen' caught her attention, and she quickly turned up the volume.
"The security guard was found flash frozen in place. Experts say that because of the nature of the freezing itself, the guard is still alive and they will be able to thaw him. The security cameras show the culprits to be three black-clad figures who were after the Diamond on exhibit. The Sunnydale Police is looking…"
Well well…this smells like trouble…
Grinning, Rose leapt up from the couch and raced to her bedroom to grab her tools.
Allons-y, right Doctor?
Next stop: museum!