Title: Never Say Never

Prompt: Blind Date

Summary: AU future - no comics, Buffy is "retired" - in her forties, divorced, no children. Works part time in a fitness center/ self-defense classes. One of her co-workers sets her up with man she thinks Buffy might enjoy meeting...

NEVER SAY NEVER

"Come on, Buffy. You're too young and pretty to be a nun. You know what they say, if you fall off, just get back on the horse."

"I'll bet 'they' never had a horse kick them in teeth while they were down on the ground," Buffy muttered, smiling in spite of herself. "I know you mean well, Terry, but blind dates just aren't my thing."

"You don't have to actually date him yet. Just let me introduce you; on-line if that makes you feel safer. You can get to know him a little bit and then decide if you want to go out with him."

"What if he doesn't want to go out with me? Did you think about that? Huh?"

"Honestly? No. You're beautiful, you look ten years younger than you should, you're fit, and you and he have some of the same hobbies. He'll be falling all over himself to date you."

"Hobbies?" Buffy narrowed her eyes. She'd been very careful not to let anyone in her current life know about her habit of slipping out one or two nights a week to walk through the local cemeteries. The small city hadn't had its own slayer for over a year, and Buffy was trying to pick up the slack until the Council could train and place another girl.

"Well, okay, maybe not hobbies, exactly. But you're both into martial arts, and you're both instructors in self-defense classes. It's a starting point, right?"

"Why will he be falling all over himself to date me? Is he ugly or something?"

"God, no! If I wasn't a happily married woman..." Teresa shook herself. "But I am, so not going there." She sighed at Buffy's dubious face. "Look, he's just a really nice guy, easy on the eyes, about the right age... What's the worst that could happen?"

Buffy tried very hard not to choke on the sip of Diet Coke she'd just taken. Once she had swallowed it, she managed to gasp, "Oh, Terry, you have no idea. No idea at all!"

An hour later, Buffy was staring at a name on her computer screen and steeling herself to click on it. Before she could work up her courage, the name lit up and the message light blinked at her.

"Here we go," she said, touching the screen and allowing her network to receive the incoming message.

"Hello, Ms. Phillips. Teresa tells me that I'm a bloody fool if I don't at least talk to you, so forgive me for the intrusion, but I've been a fool often enough in my life not to want to add to the count if it's at all possible to avoid it."

"Hi. She kind of told me the same thing. LOL So, look at us. We're talking!"

"Good for us. What shall we talk about?"

"Um..." Buffy stared at the screen, her mind going blank for a minute. "How about, what do you do for a living? Not terribly original, I know, but sometimes tried and true works."

"Fair enough. My day job is as the editor of a small, overly pretentious literary magazine. I work primarily on line from my home. You?"

"I'm semi-retired, I guess. I teach self-defense and fitness classes at a gym near my home. That's where I met Terry. She's my boss, I guess. Where did you meet her?"

"She and I have attended many of the same seminars recently. I also work part-time in a dojo that offers fitness classes along with the martial arts. I try to keep up with the current thinking as the owner is really not terribly interested in that side of the business."

"Those fitness classes pay the bills," Buffy offered.

"They do! Exactly what I've been telling him."

There was a brief lull, during which Buffy chewed her lip and wondered if she wanted to keep going. "In for a penny, in for a pound," she muttered, pressing the button that would send a friendship request to "William Smith" 's network.

The response came back so quickly, she wondered if they'd pushed the friending button at the same time.

"I see we had the same thought."

"Great minds..."

"I really have to get off here and go to work, but I'll be looking over your profile tonight if that's all right with you."

"That's fine. I wouldn't have clicked if it wasn't okay with me. And I'll be looking at yours. Anything you want to warn me about first?"

"LOL There are probably many things I should warn you about, but the only one I'm going to mention is that I remain friends with my ex-wife, so you may see some messages from her. We split, but we stay in touch. Oh, and I should probably mention... I'm curious about your name."

"My name?"

"It's quite unusual... I knew a girl with that name, many years ago."

"Well, I'm sure I'm not the only Buffy in the world. Just like you aren't the only William."

"To be sure. I just thought I'd mention it. It's possible I will... nevermind. I'm sure it will be fine."

"Why wouldn't it be fine?"

"No reason. I'm being foolish already, you see? It's something I do."

There was a pause into which Buffy inserted, "LOL"

"May I suggest a rule?"

"A rule? There are going to be rules?"

"Not many, I'm not fond of them myself."

"Me neither. What is this 'rule'?"

"Can we promise only to read about each other and not to look at any photos yet?"

"Terry promised me you weren't ugly... do you have horns or something?"

"That's not as funny as you may think."

"Trust me, I'm well aware of how not funny it could be."

"All the more reason to avoid the photos until we've talked more. Please?"

Buffy frowned at the screen and bit her lip. It seemed like a pretty strange request, considering they were supposed to be thinking about dating.

"All right," she typed. "For now, no photos. I'll just lock mine up and you do the same, that way neither of us can cheat."

"Sounds like a plan. I do have a reason for asking. I promise to explain it later."

"Okay. Talk to you later, William."

"I sincerely hope so. Good afternoon, Buffy."

Buffy got up and changed into her workout clothes, bookmarking William's page for later. She just smiled and said "no comment" when Teresa badgered her about what she'd thought about William.

"What's with the 'William'?" Buffy asked. "Is he too good for Bill or Billy?"

"He's British," Terry said. "I think they do stuff like that. I think he has a nickname, but I don't know what it is. Something rough-sounding, although he looks nothing like a thug."

Buffy's stomach clenched and she sat down abruptly. "No! It's not possible."

"What isn't possible?"

"Nothing. It's insane and... nothing. I'm being paranoid and crazy."

Buffy rushed home after her classes, not bothering to undress or shower. She kicked her shoes off as she sat down at the computer and pulled up William's profile page. It told her nothing she didn't already know. He was forty-five years old, divorced, no children, worked for some magazine she'd never heard of and lived alone. There was no mention of hobbies, family or any history other than the marriage.

She brought up her own information page and stared at it, wondering what he might be able to glean from the small amount of information she shared. She didn't give her age, only the year she'd graduated from high school. She didn't discuss her occupation, other than to call herself a fitness instructor. She kept any other information concealed – no list of friends in common (even Teresa), no birth date or place, and no mention of where she'd lived before.

"Looks like we've both got something to hide," she whispered, going back to his page and searching for some clue as to where he'd come from. When the message light went on, she stared at it briefly before realizing he could probably tell that she was on line. She clicked on the message with one finger, almost as if afraid it would hurt her.

"Buffy?" was all that was written on the screen.

"I'm here."

"Looks like neither one of us has been terribly forthcoming about our past."

"Looks like, William."

"I guess we need to talk."

"Ya think?"

A local phone number appeared on the screen. "Or, I can call you, but I thought maybe you'd prefer not to give out your number to a stranger."

"Are you?"

"Am I what?"

"A stranger."

"I don't know. What do you think?"

"I don't know either. You don't really sound much like... but I keep getting these vibes..."

"Call me, pe—Buffy. Please?"

She was already reaching for her phone and punching in the numbers. It rang only once before it was picked up.

"Buffy?"

"Wil—Spike?"

"Bloody hell..." She could barely hear his whisper. "It is you."

"Wha— Where—" She shook her head in disbelief. "I want to see you."

"When and where, love?"

"Tonight. Now. Anywhere."

"I'll come to you. Where do you want to meet me?"

"There's an all-night coffee shop down the street from my house. I can meet you there." She quickly typed out the names of the streets at the intersection.

"It'll take me about twenty-five minutes. I'm across town from you."

"It's been twenty years. I don't think another half-hour is going to kill us."

"Suppose not. See you soon, Buffy."

"Drive safely," she whispered, hanging up the phone and falling back in her chair.

What do you wear to meet the man you thought had been dead and gone for the past twenty-some years?

Buffy walked down the street, having settled for her normal evening wear – jeans that showed off her toned body, a red blouse and a black leather jacket. She assured herself that it was only coincidence that the colors used to be Spike's favorites. Although she tossed her head and ignored the wolf whistle from a passing car, she smiled to herself and hoped Spike would have the same reaction. As she approached the coffee shop, she slowed down.

What if he's already here? What am I going to say? What are we going to do? Should I hug him? Kiss him? What is he going to expect from me? What is he going to want?

A small voice in her head told her Spike would be fine with anything she did, and that he probably had no expectations. She told the voice to 'shut up' and went back to worrying. Pushing the door open, she stood just inside, scanning the room. Motion caught her eye and she watched as a slender man with light brown hair rose to his feet, his startlingly blue eyes never leaving her face. Her chest felt tight and she found herself blinking back unexpected tears when he broke into a smile. A smile, she suddenly realized, she'd been missing for two decades.

They stepped toward each other, each clearly unsure of what to do next.

"I don't know what to say," Buffy whispered. "You... you're..."

"Human," he finished for her. "That I am. Have been for a long time."

She cocked her head and studied him. Other than the hair, and the blue tee-shirt, he didn't look much different from the last time she'd seen him. Well, except for the whole not being on fire now, thing. His workout-hardened body was easy to see under the tight shirt and jeans, the leather sport coat he wore did nothing to hide the trim, muscular torso beneath it. A few wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and certain world-weary set to his mouth were the only real signs of aging.

"You... you look good," she stammered.

"And you look bloody gorgeous," he breathed, his eyes having never left her face since he'd stood up.

Buffy reached out a hand and Spike took it in both of his, raising it to his lips.

"I've dreamed of this day, but never thought I'd live to see it."

"What are the odds we'd end up living in the same city?" Buffy clung to his hand when he tried to let hers go, walking with him back to the table at which he'd been sitting.

He snorted and shook his head. "Not even going to touch that, love. You know odds have nothing to do with our lives. If we're both here, chances are something – somebody – somewhere had something to do with it."

She smiled and shrugged. "So, apocalypse on the way?"

"Gotta figure it," he grinned. "Can't say I care all that much if it brought you back into my life."

"Yeah. As apocalypses go, so far this one's pretty awesome."

They sat, still holding hands and beaming at each other until Buffy realized that the other customers and the girl behind the counter were trying and failing to hide their indulgent smiles. She blushed and tugged her hand away.

"I guess we should order..."

"Of course, love. What would you like?" Spike jumped to his feet and waited expectantly.

"I'll take a double mocha latte..." She gazed up at him. "To go," she finished softly.

Spiked nodded, unable to hide his joy. "To go it is," he said, walking to the counter to give the grinning waitress their order. Buffy stood by the door, waiting with poorly concealed impatience as her drink was prepared, paid for and put into her waiting hand, Without a word, she went out the door Spike was holding open and stopped on the sidewalk.

"My house is only a little way up there," she said, jerking her head to the right. "Where's your car?"

"My car is fine where it is. I'll come back for it later." He took her free hand and they began walking down the sidewalk. It felt eerily familiar to be strolling through the night with Spike beside her, although she knew her memory was playing tricks on her when it tried to imagine them holding hands as they walked through Sunnydale.

As if reading her mind, he said softly, "Bit like old times, isn't it? All we need is scream in the night, or a—"

As if on cue, they heard a muffled shriek and a scuffle down a narrow walkway between two buildings. Without comment, they set down their drinks and moved silently between the houses, stopping and coughing with embarrassment when they surprised a young couple in the process of shedding their clothes.

"Get lost, this is our alley!" the barely adult boy snarled. His girlfriend gave an embarrassed giggle, but added, "We were here first."

"You know," Buffy said primly, "this is really not a very safe place to—" She didn't finish as Spike grabbed her hand and pulled her back out of the darkened alley.

"What? It isn't!"

"Don't think they really wanted to hear that right now, love. Anyway, this isn't Sunnyhell. They'll probably be fine."

Buffy picked up their drinks and handed Spike's to him. She started marching down the street, then slowed when she realized he wasn't keeping up. She turned and looked at him over her shoulder.

"Well come on," she said with a small smile. "We're both too old to be making out in an alley. My couch is a lot more comfortable..."

The End (or the beginning of a beautiful friendship...)

Title: The Bloody Awful Poet

Prompt: Greeting card

Rating: PG

Summary: Spike has a unique way of letting Buffy know he survived NFA...

The Bloody Awful Poet

Sword in hand, although concealed behind her back – No sense in spooking the neighbors – Buffy opened the door and stared at the empty space. Too wary to step outside into the darkness, she reached for the porch light and illuminated the small cement stoop in front of the narrow house. Something fluttered in the open door, landing at her feet. She used the point of the sword to pull it closer, then bent her knees and picked it up, never taking her eyes off the empty space outside.

Huh, a card? Buffy stepped back and turned the envelope over in her hand. The handwriting was eerily familiar, although old fashioned and not from anybody she could imagine knew where she was. She tore open the thick, lined envelope and gasped when the beautiful card fell out. Although the lovely drawing on the front of the heavy card, and the delicate lace decorations were clearly manufactured, the inside was blank except for a hand written message. She smiled when she realized it was a poem, and began to read, fully expecting something sweet and sugary to go with the beautiful handwriting and card.

"Roses are red, violets are blue,

You're lovely covered in demon goo.

You won't believe me, I've been a wanker

But for your touch, I'll always hanker.

My dead heart your beauty long since slew,

And now your favor, I needs must woo.

I'll be bearing gifts and bottled wine,

If you say you'll be my Valentine."

Buffy gaped at the card, her brain refusing to believe what she'd just seen.

"That has got to be the worst poem I have ever seen!"

"Not one of my best efforts, I'll admit. But I mean it all the same."

She whirled, the familiar voice floating in the open door making her gasp in disbelief.

"Spi... Spike?"

He stepped into view, a bottle in one hand and flowers in the other. His eyes were sunken in his head, his blade-like cheekbones in sharper relief than she'd ever seen them. Although his voice was strong, he swayed on his feet as he waited for her to recognize him.

"Buffy? Love? Much as I'd like to sweep you off your feet right now, I think I'm goin' to need to sit down first..."

He toppled forward, the flowers and wine dropping to the carpet in front him while the invisible barrier prevented him from following them to the floor. Shaking herself out of her shock, Buffy rushed to grab him under the arms, saying, "Come in, Spike."

His full weight fell onto her shoulder as the unconscious vampire tumbled through the door. Buffy dragged him to the couch and laid him down, putting a pillow under his head before going back to close the door and pick up the flowers and wine. She set them on a table, adding the card before going back to sit beside the man she'd thought had died again trying to save the world.

The reports from LA had been grim. Wesley dead. Fred long gone. Gunn dead, Angel and Spike missing and presumed dust. Only the Old One that had taken over Fred's body was unaccounted for, although stories from eye witnesses said she had opened a portal and pulled all the demons in, closing it behind her.

Buffy had searched the burned and battered alley for days, but finally had to admit that there was no way to tell if any of the dust coating the floor belonged to either of her vampires. She'd shed her tears, then gone back to her life and the small house she'd bought in Rome.

She sank down beside the still body and ghosted her hand over his thin and battered face. At her light touch to his cheek, his eyes fluttered open.

"Hello, cutie."

"Hello, yourself," she whispered back. "You're here."

"Where else would I go?"

She shook her head, unable to speak as he put his arms around her and she curled up beside him, her head on his chest.

"Where else would I go?" he repeated before lapsing into unconsciousness again. The last thing he heard was Buffy's muffled, "I love you, you stupid vampire."

The End

Title: Twi-who?

Prompt: Reunion

Summary: Prompt says it all

Twi-who?

"Spike?"

He ignored Buffy's open mouth and bewildered eyes, talking to Willow, Dawn and Xander in short bursts as they got themselves organized. Finally, when everyone had agreed that getting out was the most important thing to do, he turned to where she was still standing, dumbfounded, whispering his name over and over.

Ohmigod! He's alive! Spike is alive. And he's here. He's here and that means he knows... Oh no. No. No. No. Please, God, let him not have seen or heard—

Spike raised a sardonic eyebrow, wearing his "I can see right through you, Slayer" look as he gestured toward the vehicle in which he'd arrived.

"Come on, then, Slayer, time to beat a strategic retreat. You too, Twangel," he threw over his shoulder as he took Buffy's arm and maneuvered her into the hatch. "'less you'd rather stay here and deal with the mess you made all by yourself."

Angel frowned at the way Spike assumed Buffy would do what he asked her to, and the way she willingly did it. He hurried after them, barely squeezing in before Spike slammed the hatch closed. Spike quickly made his way to the control room where Willow and Xander were trying to make sense of the blinking lights and levers.

"I've got it," Spike said shortly, sitting down and flipping several identical-seeming switches. The vessel shook, engines whined, and then they were hurtling away. As soon as they were safely gone, Spike set the autopilot, sternly instructed Xander not to touch anything or "let that other pillock touch anything".

Angel glared, but was too busy trying to get Buffy's attention to respond to Spike's obvious baiting. He touched her arm, blinking in shock when she threw him off and moved away.

"Buffy? What's wrong?"

She turned large, damp eyes to him. "Did you know Spike was alive?"

Angel shrugged and managed to look both offended and guilty at the same time. "What difference does it make now? After what we've shared—"

Buffy's face flamed red and her hands covered her mouth as she gave a moan. "Don't remind me! Suppose he heard... No wonder he doesn't want to look at me. You... me... we..." To Angel's astonishment, fat tears began to roll down her face. Before he could say or do anything, Spike was between them.

"Hey, now, Slayer. None of that. We've got a world to save." He took her face in his hands and rested his forehead against hers. "We'll work this out later, yeah?" He licked the tears off her cheeks, ignoring Angel's snarl and Xander's "Yuck!"

"You're not mad...? You didn't see...? It's all ri—?" Buffy couldn't finish a coherent sentence. It was taking all her emotional strength not to throw herself into his arms begging forgiveness for the actions she was hoping against hope that he hadn't heard or seen.

"Am," he said quietly. "Did, and it's not alright. You can't possibly think it would be... But we've got things to do, and I have to accept my own part – not being here, not letting you know I wasn't any deader than usual." He dropped his hands from her face to her wrists, taking one hand in his. "If you want to work it out now, let's do it without the audience." He tugged her with him through an open doorway and into a well-lit corridor.

"It's... bigger than it looks." Buffy stared around in astonishment at the long corridor with other hallways branching off and doors leading to who knew where.

"Lotta things are like that," he said with a shrug as he showed her into a small room and closed the door.

He turned and faced her, dropping the cocky facade he'd worn since he'd burst through the floor to rescue them. He just stared at her, his eyes containing a combination of sadness, rage, pain, disappointment and joy. He raised one hand tentatively toward her face, then dropped it before he touched her.

"Spike..." Buffy began. "I'm so sorry. If I'd known you were... I wouldn't have... I would never have hurt you like that."

He shrugged his shoulders, attempting to appear unconcerned and calm. "Yes, you would. You had a chance to walk away from your miserable life and you took it. Don't blame you for it, love; jus' wish you hadn't done it quite so publicly. Made it kinda hard to pretend it wasn't happening, what with the fabric of the universe tearing and all."

"But I didn't know. I'm so sorry. I didn't know..." Suddenly her voice trailed off. "I didn't know! Why didn't I know, Spike?" Gone was the tearful, apologetic girl who'd followed him into the room and in her place was the Buffy he knew –eyes flashing and fists clenched at her sides. "Why the hell didn't I know?"

He shuffled his feet and edged toward the door, stopping when she moved to block his exit.

"There's a really, really good explanation, love," he ventured. "Several of them, actually. One for each time I could have—"

"Should have!" Buffy interrupted.

"Right. Should have. No question about it. I was a wanker and a coward and a... a..."

"Moron? Jackass? Inconsiderate jerk?"

"All of those things," he agreed quickly. "Was an idiot – and then we had that battle, which I think we kinda lost – and I—"

"You could have prevented this."

"Wha—? Whoa there, Slayer. Wasn't me shagging the great poof into another world."

"No, but... and ewww for that image... But if I'd known, if you'd been here, with me..."

"You saying you wouldn't have taken him up on his offer?" Spike's face reflected both hope and disbelief.

"Of course not! Why would I want to— with him, if I had you in my life? I thought you were dead! I thought I'd never have you again and when Angel offered..." She stopped and stared at Spike. "Do you have any idea how long it's been since anyone touched me? Not counting people who were trying to kill me... or people of the non-male persuasion," she finished in a mumble.

"Oh, Buffy. I had no idea." He moved closer to her and raised a tentative hand to her face. "Thought you'd be doing fine without me in your life, and then when Blue whisked us away... I came as soon as I knew you were in trouble." He stroked her cheek, smiling when she leaned into his hand and held it in place. She turned her head and kissed his palm.

"I missed you so much," she murmured. "I needed you and you weren't there."

"I'm sorry, love." He slipped his arms around her waist and pulled her into his body. "Never meant to hurt you. Never would. Love you too much."

Buffy slid her arms around him, inhaling the scents she'd never thought to enjoy again. Spike continued murmuring in her ear, his hands stroking her back gently as basked in her presence. Suddenly he froze. "What did you mean 'of the non-male persuasion'? Who's the bint?" His eyes were flashing yellow and she gave him a little shake.

"Not going to tell you. It's over and done with. And none of your business, Mr-I-wasn't-around-to-object-to-it."

"Point," he admitted reluctantly. "So, where does that leave us? What are we doing now?"

"Probably causing a ship-wide search," she said with a wry grin. She reluctantly pulled away from him. "As for where we are... I think we're okay." She raised her eyes to his. "At least I hope we are. Really can't do anything about it while there's world save-age to do, but when we're done..."

"When we're done," he whispered, leaning down to brush his lips across hers, "I'm going to put you in the shower and wash you down until I can't smell him on you anymore." He slid his lips over to her ear and murmured, "And then I'm going to make love to you until you can't remember his name."

"Who's name?" she whispered back, grabbing his face with both hands and pulling his mouth back to hers. "And doesn't this ship have showers?"

The End