Disclaimer: I didn't create these characters and don't own them. I am very grateful to Joss Whedon for his imagination and generosity in allowing us to take them out for a spin.
Chapter 1 Anne
"Yo! Sweetheart! Can I get some clean silverware?" The man was holding up a spoon as if she didn't know what silverware was. She in turn wondered if he knew what sleeves were since they were missing from both his dingy t-shirt and the even dingier plaid flannel shirt he wore over it.
"Yes, sir. I'll be right there." Buffy replied with the best smile she could muster. Picking through the flatware, she refused to call the poorly pressed bits of metal silverware, it took her two tries to get a complete set that seemed clean. She had always thought the term "greasy spoon" was a euphemism, but since coming to LA and becoming a waitress in one she decided "crusty fork" would be equally apt. "Here you go sir, sorry about that." she offered as she took the dirty utensils from him with one hand as she placed the clean ones in front of him with the other. "Anything else I can get you?'
"Sure thing honey, but it ain't on the menu." He said with a laugh as he slapped her butt. It took all her willpower to not slam the guy's face into the table. But she needed this job and after doing that her first night working, Mitch, her boss, made it clear she'd be fired if she did it again. So she fake-laughed and walked on.
The night wore on, as each night that summer had. Waitressing was harder than slaying. Physically, she would be aching by the end of the night. Sure she had ached pretty bad some nights after slaying, but she had always given as good as she got or she wouldn't still be here. This was just wearing, her feet, back and wrists were always sore and stiff. She constantly felt like she was coated in a fine layer of grease. The worst part was having to smile through the lame jokes, the vulgar passes, and the rude customers, all in an effort to keep her job and get a decent tip. Nor did she have the release of beating up some evil creature.
Then she saw Angel, not Angelus, looking at her in shock, but still reaching out to her, even with the sword pinning him to the statue of Acathla, as he was sucked into the hell vortex. The sugar shaker she was holding shattered as her hands clenched into tight fists. The shards cut into her palm and the physical pain was enough to banish the memory for now.
"Damn it Anne!" She heard Mitch's voice from behind the counter. "What did you break now?" Her gruff boss lumbered around the bar and swore again when he saw her hand. "Shit, that's going to need stitches, now what am I going to do for a waitress for the rest of the night?"
Mr. Compassion, Buffy thought, but she didn't want to lose the night's pay. "No, they're not deep. Let me just go wash them up and put some band-aids on, I'll be fine." She assured him, heading towards the restroom, stopping to grab the first aid kit from under the counter.
"We'll see, take your break to get them cleaned up. I guess I'll have to clean-up this mess." he grunted as he headed to the back to get the broom.
Cleaning the wounds, Buffy scolded herself for her lack of control. This wasn't the first time that she had been blind-sided by that memory and it wasn't getting any easier. She watched as her fingers were already starting to heal, but she was going to have to put bandages on anyway and probably wear them for several days. How long does it take someone who isn't a slayer to heal from cuts like this? And again she wished that she was one of those lucky people who weren't slayers, really, anybody but her. Slaying had ruined everything in her life. She was sure her parents' marriage wouldn't have fallen apart like it had if it weren't for all the trouble she kept getting into. That had made her move from LA to Sunnydale, where she had been asocial pariah, not one of the popular kids like she had been before slaying. And now it had cost her the man that she loved, her home, and her family.
No, this, even though it seemed awful, was better, she would get through one day after the next just like everyone else. She was done with slaying, this was the "normal" life that she had always wanted.
The next night Lily came in to the restaurant again, her tattoo buddy Ricky in tow, she looked panicked, he just looked confused. They didn't sit down, instead she came running up to her. "Anne!"
"I'll be right with you." Buffy replied, refilling napkin holders at the counter.
"Buffy!" Lily said emphatically.
Buffy's head shot up, her eyes wide. "I think you have me confused with someone else."
"No, you saved me once from vampires. I know it's you. You have to come." Customers were looking at the street girl and Ricky. Buffy could hear them muttering, most were sure the young couple were high. She wasn't entirely convinced that wasn't the case.
"There is no such thing as vampires. I think you need to go home and sleep it off." It went against every slayer instinct to deny this girl's cries for help, but she couldn't go back to slaying, not again.
"Is there a problem Anne?" Mitch called out from the kitchen.
"No, no problem she was just leaving." Buffy called back. She faced Lily and spoke low. "You're going to get locked up if you keep talking like this and get me fired and I need this job."
"But I saw one of the vampires, one of the ones from that night. You have to come!" Lily was really scared and she was wringing her hands. Buffy's resolution faltered.
She grabbed Lily's wrist and started pulling her from the restaurant. Once she got her outside she turned the girl and spoke to her quietly. "Look, I get off in an hour, I'll go check it out then. In the meantime go home, lock your door and don't invite anyone in." Ricky had followed them out.
"But we don't have a home, or a door. We've been living in an abandoned building."
"God, I'm going to regret this." Buffy muttered as she dug through her apron pocket. "Here are the keys to my place, wait there, don't let anyone but me in. You got it?" She gave them the address.
"Yes, thank you!" Lily looked so relieved.
"Don't cut down any alleys on the way there, main streets only." She said to their backs as they hurried off.
"Buffy, you're an idiot." She muttered to herself as she reentered the diner. Mitch was waiting for her when she came in.
"What was that all about?" he asked,
"I don't know what she was on." Buffy lied. "I just figured I would humor her to get rid of her faster. Worked didn't it?"
"What did you give her? It wasn't money was it, because if it was you'll never get rid of her."
"No, it was an old cross necklace, it had broken the other day and I had left it in the apron pocket. I told her it would keep the vampires away." she shrugged to make it no big deal.
"Vampires." Mitch scoffed. "You'd think if you were going to take something that fried your brain, it would at least make you see pleasant things. I mean otherwise why bother?"
"Yeah, pleasant things would be nice." she murmured as she turned back to face her customers.
She stood outside the door of her apartment, took a deep breath, inflating her cheeks, then huffed it out. If she opened that door she would be committing herself to hunting down a vampire, if indeed Lily wasn't hallucinating. She tried the knob, but the door was locked, at least they had enough sense to lock the door. Hopefully they hadn't just stolen her few belongings and taken off. She knocked, not having a spare key.
Nothing happened, "Lily open the door it's me A... Buffy." The girl obviously knew who she was, no reason to keep up the pretense.
"Oh thank God!" Came Lily's voice from the other side and then the rattle of the chain and the flipping of the deadbolt. "Come in quick."
"What, did he follow you here?" that was all that she needed some vampire stalking around her place. Buffy closed the door.
"No, I don't think so, I don't think he followed me."
Buffy noticed then that Lily was wrapped in one of her towels and her hair was wet. She could hear the shower running and realized it was probably their first chance to shower in a while.
"Here." Buffy went over to her dresser and grabbed a t-shirt, shorts and underwear, any pants she had would have been much too short on the taller girl. "You can wear these, I'm afraid I don't have anything for Ricky."
"Really?" Lily looked like it was Christmas. She grabbed the clothes and ducked into the bathroom coming out less than a minute later clothed.
"Okay, Lily, tell me about the vampires. When did I rescue you?" Buffy didn't remember the girl and she had been trying since the other day.
"I was a friend of Ford's, he said the vampires were going to gift us with immortality, but they just wanted to hurt us."
Buffy remembered now. How her old friend from LA had shown up with a scheme to "cure" his brain tumor by becoming a vampire, offering up Buffy and a bunch of vampire wannabes in trade.
She hung her head. "Great, part of Spike's old gang. Which one did you see? Describe him to me."
"It was the one who bit me. The one with blond hair, I think he was in charge."
Buffy grabbed Lily's shoulders. "Spike? Spike is here in LA? British accent? Leather coat?"
Lily nodded. "Yeah, him." She was obviously freaked out by Buffy's reaction. "Is it bad?"
"Bad? It's way past bad. We passed bad three exits ago." She grabbed another t-shirt and jeans out of the drawer. "Can you tell Ricky to hurry up? I've got to change and get out there." She turned toward the mirror on her dresser, brushing back her hair into a pony tail.
"Okay." Lily again ran into the bathroom and the water stopped. "He'll be right out." she said quietly.
Buffy was grabbing a stake and a cross out of her duffel bag. "Where did you see him?"
"Like I said it was with Ford..."
"No! Tonight, where did you see him tonight?" Buffy had no patience for the girl's ditziness, not when William the Bloody was involved.
"By that closed down gas station about a block from your restaurant. He was leaning against the wall smoking and Ricky was going to try to bum some cigarettes off of him, but I recognized him and yelled at Ricky to run. So we did, but he didn't chase us. When I looked back he was just kind of laughing. Then I came to find you because I know you know what to do and I never know." She flapped her arms to her side, like a helpless bird.
Ricky came out of the bathroom with the towel wrapped around his waist. "Sorry."
"S'okay." Buffy said as she hurried past him to the bathroom. In less than five minutes she was back out. All she needed were some shoes. She grabbed a short pair of boots, that had a solid block heel. If she was going to kick Spike, she wanted him to feel it.
"Sorry Lily made such a scene, I tried to tell her she was being silly. That there was no way that guy was a vampire." Ricky looked vaguely embarrassed, standing there in the towel, not looking at Lily.
"Sorry Ricky, she's right. If it is Spike, he is a two can stay here tonight. Fix yourself something to eat." Then she left.
She started her search for Spike where Lily had last seen him. But he was long gone, she silently berated herself for not listening to Lily when she came into the restaurant instead of brushing her off. If Spike kills anyone tonight it will be her fault, just like it always was. She was never where she needed to be, never fast enough, clever enough, strong enough to keep everyone safe.
Searching the ground there were a lot of cigarette butts, but some did look fresh. But lots of people smoked, that didn't prove Spike was here. She would just have to start looking. She went up and down the streets and alleys looking for any sign of Spike. She actually woke several homeless people who were sleeping in alleys or doorways, making sure they weren't dead. This would be a great place for a vampire to hunt. So many nameless people who wouldn't be missed, who didn't fight back, just cringed at any attention or contact. She came across several people who said nothing but "I'm no one." when she tried to talk to them. These people were broken.
She had been searching for almost two hours when she saw a blood bank. That was a possibility. She had fought off vampires from blood banks and hospitals before. Spike had always seemed the type to prefer a good hunt, but it was worth a shot.
Of course at this hour, it must be close to midnight, it was closed but she tried the front door anyway. It was locked, but she thought she heard movement inside. She went around to the back and the door there was propped open. She listened at the opening, no sounds of a fight, or the place being tossed, but definitely movement. She almost went in, but stopped when she thought of how much damage a fight with Spike would do inside the building, so she waited behind the door. Soon she heard footsteps and humming. Peeking carefully around the door, she smiled when she saw it was him. Pulling back, she waited until she saw his bleached blond hair and punched him in the jaw with everything she had.
"Bloody hell!" he shouted as he stumbled to the side with the force of the blow. But he quickly spun around in a defensive stance. The shocked look on his face when he saw who hit him was almost comical. "Slayer!?"
"Yep, lil ol' me." she feinted with her fist then kicked hard at his knee. "What are you doing in LA Spike? Geometry was never my best subject, but I'm pretty sure California is part of the US."
He managed to grab her arm on her next swing and flipped her. She landed on her feet but just barely, "I think you mean geography, luv." he chuckled as he kicked her in the side.
"I knew that," she said defensively, Damn, why did she have to make herself look like an idiot in front of him, and why did she care? "just making with the funny."
"Uh-huh." he didn't sound convinced. They traded several flurries of punches, unfortunately, his seemed to land true more often than hers. "What are you doing away from Sunnyhell? Aren't the slayerettes going to pine away without you?"
"I'll be asking the questions here Spike, I'm the interrogator not the interrogatee." Her round house kick barely grazed him. She went the whole summer without punching anything but her pillow, taking on Spike might have been a gross miscalculation.
"Looks like the only thing you're slaying tonight is the english language, pet. Are you sure you're from an english-speaking country?" His right hook connected with her jaw and she almost went down. She danced back a little ways to give herself time to shake off the effects of the blow.
But Spike gave her no break and pressed his advantage, coming at her swinging so she could only defend herself as she backed away. He began chuckling and stopped his assault, he half turned away from her, "Slayer, Slayer, Slayer."
Then she made the rookie mistake of dropping her guard and he kicked her square in the chest, knocking the wind out of her and sending her flying against the alley wall. She slid down the bricks as she gasped for air. He stepped up and towered over her. This is it, she thought, Spike 3, slayers 0. She braced for the killing blow, instead he tilted his head to the side and asked, "What's wrong with you Slayer?"
She glared up at him "Knocked..." gasp "..."the wind..."
"Aware of that." he replied rolling his eyes. "Fancy I cracked a few ribs too." He smiled proudly. "But what's wrong with you that I was able to? Last time we fought you would have dodged that kick easy."
Finally she had caught her breath."You just got a lucky kick in is all." She worked to get her feet under her, confused that he didn't go in for a kill.
"Bollocks." He stepped back and let her stand-up. She did so warily, trying to figure out what he was playing at. "You're off your game tonight, luv. Why?" While he looked like he was standing there casually, she could tell he was ready for any attack.
"Can we just fight?" She really didn't want to have this talk, especially with Spike. She took a swing at him that he easily dodged.
"Are you sure that's what you want Slayer? I've already had you dead to rights once. Way you're fighting tonight you aren't going to win." He then drove the point home with a series of kicks and punches, most of which she failed to avoid. Then he spun her and pulled her in so her back was pressed against him. She struggled but couldn't break his hold. Making a show of vamping out, he lowered his mouth to her throat. She gasped as his teeth scraped her neck, but he didn't bite her, instead he whispered in her ear. "That's twice dead." Then spun her away, chuckling.
He's kicking my butt and he hadn't even vamped out yet, she thought. I'm so doomed. She pulled her stake out of her back pocket. If she got even the slightest chance she would have to use it. She couldn't afford to let this fight go on any longer than necessary.
"What do you think you're going to do with that?" he scoffed as he slowly circled her.
"Well the pointy end goes into your heart..." And she dashed forward, punching and kicking him. Or at him would be more accurate since he blocked every one easily. Then, to add insult to injury, he managed to knock the stake from her hand. He took a step back, indicating with a broad sweep of his arm that she could fetch the little piece of wood, a smug look on his face.
Okay now he's just making me mad. Not trusting him she did an acrobatic roll to pick up the stake and land on her feet. He hadn't moved, he really wasn't afraid of her, and he was right, she just didn't have the skills tonight. She had always complained about Giles' training sessions, convinced that it was her supernatural slayer abilities that let her defeat the bad guys, but it had been too long without her exercising her skills. She took a deep breath to focus, willing Spike to give her any kind of an opening, but he didn't. Thinking about her attack this time, she took a few steps around him. He stood in place but followed her with his eyes. His eyes drifted down and he tilted his head slightly.
She stopped. "Did you just check out my butt?"
"What?" His head shot up, his eyebrows raised. "No! I was just making sure you weren't tensing to kick me is all." But he looked sheepish.
"You were checking out my butt." Then while he was shaking his head to deny it again she did a high kick, catching him in the jaw, but not nearly as hard as she hoped it would. While he was still leaning back from the kick, she tried to stake him, but he was ready. He grabbed the wrist of the hand holding the stake and twisted it back. She gasped in pain.
"Buffy, third time's the charm." he said softly,
"Hunh?" she struggled to try to figure out what he was saying through the pain, she turned to look at him. He tugged on her twisted arm and she stumbled toward him. The last thing she saw was his fist a split second before it collided with the side of her head.